Mr. Speaker, there has been a tax centre in my riding of Jonquière since 1983. More than 1,000 people currently work at this centre. There are full-time and temporary workers. We must remember that the majority of these people are the breadwinners in their families.
I would like to thank all my colleagues from the Quebec NDP caucus. We worked together and did excellent research to support the resolution adopted at our last convention. Our objective was to determine, following discussions with unions and workers, whether a single tax return could be introduced without causing job losses. The idea itself may be commendable, because people in other provinces file a single tax return.
The most difficult task was determining what would happen to the 5,500 people working in Jonquière, Shawinigan or the tax services office in Chicoutimi if a single tax return were implemented. That is a considerable number of jobs. The NDP was the first party to consider the future of the workers. It is an important issue that affects many people.
It is all well and good to throw out ideas and proposals. We are people with strong opinions, which is commendable, but we need to do the research and meet with the people who will be affected so that we can understand the importance of their work and what they do. In this specific case, we would have to visit the Jonquière Tax Centre, which I have visited three times, or the tax services office in Chicoutimi, which I have also been to several times. That is why the NDP reconsidered this idea. When we put the workers first, we hit a wall. What will happen to their jobs?
I will come back to Jonquière, which is home to 1,000 employees. These are men and women with families to support. Furthermore, these people keep our economy going. The jobs in Jonquière, including all salary levels, represent a total payroll of $40 million for the Saguenay region. That is quite a lot of money.
In my region, we always want to foster development, offer good working conditions and create high-quality jobs. There are problems with housing. People are having trouble finding a place to live. The solution to this problem involves providing good jobs, like the jobs at the Jonquière Tax Centre and the Shawinigan National Verification and Collections Centre. These jobs help improve families' quality of life.
This proposal is creating concern among the workers. I have had a chance to follow the debates today, especially the comments made by Conservative members. They do not appear to be very concerned about these hard-working people. It is true that no one likes paying taxes. However, when we see the quality of the service provided, especially in Quebec, we understand that the successful growth of our beautiful country and, if I may say so myself, my beautiful province depends on this common good and our collective strength. At no point today did I hear the Conservatives show any regard for the workers' concerns. I want to emphasize that, because the Conservatives have been calling us every name in the book all day long.
I met a father of four on Sunday. He told me he is the main breadwinner and that he is worried and very anxious. With the election approaching, people are wondering if politicians will care about them. That is what he told me. He has worked at the Jonquière tax centre for 15 years, and he is wondering if he will still have work next year or two years from now. What is going to happen to him?
Today's motion is not making people feel optimistic. There is no real plan, no proposal for working together, and that worries people.
As parliamentarians, it is our responsibility to care about people. We have had many debates in the House of Commons. Earlier, a member talked about GM workers in Oshawa who have good jobs. The same holds true for workers in Quebec.
I am especially concerned for working families in my riding, Jonquière. I just mentioned the father I met with. He is worried. Hundreds of people are worried too. I hope everyone will listen to reason, and I hope the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois will eventually do the same work we did.
It is easy to say that no jobs will be lost and to repeat it 10, 15 or 20 times. It does not bode well if we cannot even put it in writing that workers have to be protected and that no loss of employment within the federal public service should occur, as my colleague for Sherbrooke asked for in his amendment this morning.
At some point, we have to walk the talk. Action must be taken. It is important. I will not hesitate to sign a document if I am truly and deeply convinced that it is the right thing to do.
The rejection of the amendment moved earlier today by my colleague for Sherbrooke to ensure that there would be no loss of employment for workers in Quebec, including in the tax centre in Jonquière, was a good example of that. Clearly, it does not make any sense.
Again, as parliamentarians, we have a responsibility. I believe we should review our tax system and improve the way we do things. There is a lot to do for SMEs. There is a lot of room for improvement. We still have a whole world to build. We have our entire future ahead of us.
It would be nice if Conservatives understood the importance of caring about workers. Words are not enough. We need action. We need a plan. As I was saying, the important thing is to work together and try to move in the direction Quebec wants, to communicate with the province and see where things can be improved. Opportunities do exist. One thing I can say for sure is that, as the member for Jonquière, I will always stand up for workers and defend their interests in the House and in my riding. Most importantly, I will make sure their jobs are protected.
I hope that the Conservatives, the Bloc Québécois and everyone in the House will listen to reason. We must make sure that no job is lost and that we are able to look for solutions. Partisanship is not the way to go. We cannot go into an election campaign making promises that we know we will not be able to keep. In particular, we must not try to balance the budget by cutting 5,500 jobs in Quebec. Even though that is a lot of jobs, it will not be enough for the Conservatives to balance the budget, and I do not want that to be done on the backs of workers.