Madame Speaker, I take some comfort in your presence because I was feeling very lonely in my corner and I want you to know that you are my favourite speaker.
As I was reading my colleagues' motion yesterday, I wondered what the intention behind it was. When you look at it, there is more form than substance, but what are they trying to prove and what are they trying to accomplish with these measures?
During the pandemic, as the government responded extensively with the Canada emergency response benefit or CERB, and the Canada emergency wage subsidy or CEWS, it seems to me that this contrasts with the narrative that the NDP wants to develop as a progressive party in this assembly. To reinforce this image of a progressive party, the NDP moved a rushed, flashy motion.
I do not know whether my NDP colleagues truly stand behind the motion that they have moved, but judging by their high turnout, I figure that their conviction must not be as strong as it should be. I am simply putting that out there.
The motion contains references such as “the wealthiest one per cent” and social measures. When we talk about that, generally speaking, we are talking about progressivism.
Since I am talking about progressivism, I would like to try to define what it means to be progressive. We often hear these words. For me, one of the most obvious examples of progressivism is certainly feminism, the struggle of women to define by themselves, for themselves, what their future will be. Women have succeeded in doing this. It is not up to men to define female identity. This is a clear example of what progressivism is over the course of history.
Another essential example is the struggle of labour movements. Workers managed to change the course of society so that attention is paid to their particular status. It is somewhat similar. I see a progressive as someone who says that someone's social standing should not be set in advance. There should not be pre-assigned positions that people cannot get out of. That is the case for people from modest backgrounds. If education and health care were not universally accessible, these people could be stuck in advance in a position.
I see a progressive as someone who is aware of this situation. Not having much capital usually makes it harder to thrive.
Earlier, I was listening to my colleague from Carleton, who is a staunch defender of wealth creation. However, that wealth must be distributed. Personally, I do not believe in trickle-down economics—the theory that when wealth is created, it is passed along to others. I do not believe in meritocracy either. Progressives do not buy into the idea that working hard necessarily means we will thrive or succeed in this business world. We know full well that Bill Gates's son probably has it much easier than the son of a single mom. Progressives know that being “the son of” helps a lot. I say this sincerely; I am not talking about the Prime Minister. I am not that mischievous.
Another essential example to help define what it means to be a progressive is the Quiet Revolution. That marked the moment when Quebeckers realized that religion had too big a role in our society because it limited our horizons and defined for us what we should be. There was a broad push for secularism, which gave rise to a new society. In short, being a progressive means struggling to decide your own future and striving to empower each and every individual to do the same, according to what makes them unique.
I remember, last week, we were talking about the War Measures Act. There is a wonderful poem by Miron called La route que nous suivons, or the road we take, in which he writes, “And through our efforts, our hatred of all forms of servitude, we will have become ferocious beasts of hope.” For me, progressives are ferocious beasts of hope.
I think my friend from Timmins—James Bay did not quite understand, since he abstained from voting on our motion regarding the War Measures Act, but that is okay.
In my view, a progressive is someone who understands that there are groups of people who may have difficulties in society, and that they need to be given opportunities that will help them overcome those difficulties.
I think one group the NDP often overlooks is national minorities. There are several in Canada, including indigenous peoples, but there is one that is constantly written off by the NDP in its proposals, namely the Quebec national minority.
In my view, it is clear that the Quebec national minority is constantly seeking greater political autonomy. The New Democrats seem to think “nationalism” is a bad word. However, Quebec nationalism is not combative; it merely seeks to allow Quebec society to thrive.
I would like to come back to an essential notion of federalism, which is respect for areas of jurisdiction. Under the principles of the Canadian federation, if an issue directly affects people and the way they organize themselves in society, it is under provincial jurisdiction. We are familiar with this division and immediately think of social programs, health care, the organization of society in general and cultural issues.
Conversely, if an issue does not directly affect people, but the internal organization of society, it may fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Examples include monetary policy, international trade and the regulation of industry in general. This division is specified under the Constitution.
I would like to come back to the Sherbrooke declaration that my NDP colleagues adopted in 2005. They presented themselves as people who wanted to respect Quebec's jurisdiction to the letter. I do not know what has happened since then, but the motion the NDP is proposing today is very far from respecting Quebec's jurisdiction to the letter. Is that because the NDP has only one member left in Quebec?
This motion infringes on provincial jurisdiction. For example, the implementation of a dental care system is not at all within federal jurisdiction. None of the measures set out in today's motion fall primarily under federal jurisdiction.
What does that mean for me as a person who would describe himself as progressive? It means that there are valid concerns for left-wingers. I completely agree that we need to stand up for the less fortunate. However, there are other subjects that my NDP friends will not speak out about that surprisingly still affect the national minority in Quebec.
We know very well why this distinction was made in the Constitution. It was to ensure that the francophone minority was not swallowed up by the anglophone majority because we are a francophone minority in a sea of anglophones. We need these types of safeguards. If a society is not defined by its social programs, then I do not know what defines it.
When I was a teacher, a major study was conducted that asked Canadians what differences they saw between Canadian and American identity. The first things francophones said were culture and language, which goes without saying, and the fact that Canada favours multiculturalism while the United States takes more of a melting pot approach. However, the answer that English Canadians gave was very different. Most of them said that the health care system is what makes Canada different from the United States.
What does this tell us? It is true that a social measure shapes the identity of individuals. However, I sometimes get the feeling that the NDP takes issue with Quebec's identity since it is proposing federal social measures that do not respect provincial jurisdictions.
Quebec is a progressive society and it has demonstrated that on many occasions. What was the first level of government to implement a child care system? It was the Government of Quebec. The Government of Quebec also grants much more generous parental leave than what is offered under the employment insurance program.
Who instituted the pharmacare our NDP colleagues are talking about? Wait for it: the Government of Quebec.
Over time, Quebec has proven itself to be a progressive society. We have shown that we are a progressive society. Let me share a classic example of how the federal government's actions can create imbalances in social policy and how this has happened in the past. Some progressives, even some in Quebec, promptly condemned Lucien Bouchard. Why? Because, in their view, the birth of neo-liberalism in Quebec happened when Lucien Bouchard made the shift to ambulatory care.
We need to put things into perspective. Why did Lucien Bouchard initiate that shift to ambulatory care? Because at that time in the House, in 1996-97 and 1997-98, Paul Martin repeatedly cut $2.5 billion from health transfers. The Government of Quebec therefore had no choice but to cut costs. What did Lucien Bouchard do during those years? He created $7-a-day child care.
The federal government has created an imbalance. We do not have adequate health care funding, but we are making choices that are consistent with Quebec's identity. We can develop our own programs that will enable us to emancipate ourselves. Earlier I talked about what I believe a progressive is. What bothers me is that our NDP colleagues do not seem to understand it.
Getting back to the motion now, it mentions a guaranteed livable basic income. I said in my introduction that this is more form than substance. It is something we need to think about, but the issue is figuring out how to implement it.
The devil is in the details, as they say. How will this be implemented? What does that entail? Quebec already has livable basic income programs. For example, social assistance is a livable basic income. The support provided by the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail is a livable basic income. The Quebec pension plan is a livable basic income. Parents of children with disabilities have access to other types of livable basic income programs. What happens to those? Do they all get thrown out? How would that work?
I am not trying to be mean, but I think the NDP presented this motion because they see the Liberals swerving to the left and looking a bit more progressive than them. This is what we would call a dog and pony show. The NDP figured they would put on a show and move a motion. That way, they could say that the Liberals and the Bloc voted against it and that the NDP is the only leftist party.
They make unrealistic proposals and claim to be the only ones on the left. Not only are these proposals unrealistic, they do not respect the constitutional rights of one of the core minorities in Quebec, the Quebec minority. This falls under the jurisdiction of the Government of Quebec.
To me it goes without saying that on the issue of a guaranteed livable basic income, the motion is a bit irresponsible. How can they move such a motion in the middle of a pandemic? Do they think that everyone is going to vote in favour of this in the middle of a pandemic when there are a tonne of issues to resolve? They want to shuffle the deck and completely change the social support system without conducting a comprehensive study or asking Quebeckers what they think. I often hear my friends in the NDP claim to be champions of the national indigenous minority, but they did not ask the first nations what they thought about this. That shows that this is just a charade.
Let's be honest: It will take years to get a basic livable income up and running. It will certainly take a lot more than moving a simple flashy motion.
The other element is the national dental care and pharmacare programs. That is the epitome of a centralist vision. It is the epitome of the NDP's centralist vision. It is up to the Government of Quebec to decide if it will establish a dental care plan, not the federal government. Those who are progressive and left-leaning—that is how I view myself—prefer a top-down, or bottom-up, approach.
It must come from the bottom, the social movements and the people. Therefore, a measure such as a national dental care program must come from Quebec. If it decides to have one, it will. It must come from the bottom and not the top. A centralist, “Ottawa knows best” approach will not define how services will be provided by the Government of Quebec to society. That also applies to pharmacare. The Quebec government already has its own system.
I was getting somewhere earlier when I said that we must see how people define their identity. Some Canadians say their identity is defined by the fact that they have a public health care system. We know very well that that is powerful and that we have something powerful when we talk about it. When we talk about something that affects individuals politically, it is easier to talk with them and define their identity.
I think that this practice is not unrelated to the fact that the NDP is trying to be more closely connected to the issue of health care; they may be trying to get more votes. If that is what they want to do, let them run for a provincial legislature, because here is not the right place. If they are truly concerned about health care, let them focus on the fundamental issue of health care funding. Funding is a disaster. In 2018-19, if I remember correctly, 44% of the Quebec government's budget went to health care. The federal government's share was barely 20%. That is what needs to be addressed. When money is transferred to the provinces, then that will yield results. Funding is indexed at 3% when we know that the cost of delivering health care is growing by 5%. Once again, this is not in Quebec's interest and is a bit of window dressing.
On housing, the motion calls for the government to “immediately fund a ‘For Indigenous, By Indigenous’ urban, rural and Northern housing strategy delivered by Indigenous housing providers.”
It is a proposal, but nowhere is it stated how it will be done. If an indigenous housing strategy is to be developed and funded, perhaps they should be consulted beforehand. Were consultations mentioned at all? We have not heard anything about consultations. Have they mentioned the issue before? Do they want to implement it? This is more of the rhetoric I was talking about earlier regarding some of the flashy measures. I do not think that a national initiative involving first nations can be proposed without talking to them first.
Another part refers to taxing the most wealthy. I tend to agree with that. Adding “one per cent” tends to be a flashy move. The “wealthiest one per cent” is a well-understood figure of speech. It is a good communication pitch. Maybe I am for it. We should look into this, but is there not some work to be done first on tax avoidance and tax havens?
With this measure, the NDP is hoping to bring in some $5 billion, when we know that, in Canada, tax avoidance and tax havens costs us collectively between $9 billion and $48 billion. If we want to revive the Canadian economy after the crisis, adjusting public finances and ensuring robust health care funding are perhaps things that we should look into.
Lastly, one thing in this motion bothered me greatly and clearly shows that the NDP is not thinking of Quebec. The motion mentions the recovery for all campaign, which is only in English. That clearly shows that they are not thinking of Quebec. I was even wondering if it was admissible here but, since I am not a petty person, I did not mention it.
To conclude, I am a great admirer of Albert Camus. The NDP will say that the Bloc Québécois is not a progressive party, which makes me think of the quarrel between Camus and Sartre in the 1950s. Camus responded beautifully in the book The Fall with the “judge-penitent” character. He is the one who sometimes confounds others with his inability to intervene.
In this case, the “judge-penitent” is the NDP, who will say that the Bloc Québécois is not a progressive party because it is not voting in favour of the motion.