Mr. Speaker, for almost three years now, our party has been actively fighting for a single tax return for Quebec. Our position goes back a long time.
For a political party like ours, which respects provincial jurisdiction, listening to the provinces and collaborating with them is crucial. After all, we are the party that gave Quebec its UNESCO seat, that recognized the Quebec nation and that fixed the fiscal imbalance. We are the party that fought for the Meech Lake accord. In short, the Conservative Party has an excellent record when it comes to respecting the provinces and their jurisdiction.
The provincial government and Quebeckers themselves responded very positively to the idea of a single tax return, which our party advanced in 2018. Currently, Quebec is the only province with two tax returns, one for Ottawa and the other for Quebec. This situation dates back to the Second World War. In 1941, the provinces agreed to temporarily hand their power to tax personal and corporate income over to the federal government. That situation ended up being permanent, not temporary.
However, in 1954, the Government of Quebec created its own personal income tax and started administering its own income tax system. The ability to administer its own system is critical to Quebec's autonomy.
Just as Quebec marked Canadian history in 1954, we have the possibility in the House of Commons to simplify life for Quebeckers and continue the march toward a single tax return for Quebec, administered by Quebec. It is an idea we have been presenting for nearly three years now. At first Bill C-227 provided its sponsor the opportunity to take a positive step in that direction and bring us together around his bill, but now it is a different story.
First, the deadlines set out in the bill are unrealistic. Did it ever occur to the member for Joliette that the party currently in power is the Liberal Party of Canada, a party that is hostile to provincial demands?
As currently worded, the bill calls on the federal Minister of Finance to enter into discussions with the Government of Quebec within 90 days of the passage of the bill. What is more, the bill recommends discussions on an agreement within a year. Do they honestly believe that the Liberal Party of Canada will negotiate in good faith with the Government of Quebec to allow it to have a single tax return?
It would have been wiser for the Bloc Québécois to wait for a Conservative government to be elected before initiating such discussions, since the Conservatives are much more in tune with the needs of the provinces. There is no doubt that an agreement negotiated by the Conservative Party of Canada and the Government of Quebec would have been much more beneficial for la belle province than one negotiated by a Liberal government.
In fact, recent events show that the Liberal government is not very responsive to Quebec's demands. Quebec is calling for an increase in health transfers with no strings attached. The federal government responded by seeking to impose Canada-wide standards in Quebec's long-term care facilities. That shows a complete lack of trust in Quebec.
Fortunately, the Conservatives not only want to increase health transfers in a stable, predictable way with no strings attached, but we also want to take action for Quebec in other areas, namely by applying Bill 101 to federally regulated businesses, such as banks, and by giving Quebec more authority over immigration.
Second, rather than sticking to one bill to obtain a single tax return for Quebec, the member for Joliette chose to use this opportunity to promote a completely different agenda. That should not have happened.
Nowhere in its unanimous motion to support the creation of a single tax return did the Quebec National Assembly request negotiating powers with tax administrations in foreign jurisdictions in order to amend the tax treaties and agreements regarding income tax and Canada's tax information exchange agreements. That is a whole other debate that is hindering the passage of the bill.
Although we support Quebec's autonomist vision, foreign relations are definitely a federal jurisdiction. Why, then, include this in the bill?
Is the Bloc Québécois really set on having a single tax return? Did it not know that including this clause would derail the debate? The Bloc Québécois's position on this issue is unfortunate, but not surprising.
The Bloc Québécois is using this clause to have it both ways. The single tax return is in itself a huge win for Quebec. The Bloc Québécois always has to push the envelope.
Third, the bill provides no guarantee that Canadian public service jobs will be maintained following this change. The people of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord know me. I have always said that the single tax return should be brought in without causing any job losses. I can say that this bill does not provide any guarantees about that.
The public service has quality, well-paid jobs in the regions. The Conservative Party has always wanted the regions, and not just Montreal, to develop and have their fair share of the pie. It is in the same spirit that the provincial government has a plan to move public service jobs to the regions.
Unfortunately, if our Bloc Québécois colleagues had paid attention to what was said by the stakeholders who appeared before the committee, including the union representing the workers, they would know that the bill, in its present form, does nothing at all to protect jobs.
This bill jeopardizes an important sector for regions like Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and the Mauricie. We are in the midst of a pandemic; now is not the time to jeopardize jobs. Now is the time to take action for our families, our workers and Quebec.
If the purpose of Bill C-224, in its present form, was to encourage the creation of a single tax return, then it misses the mark. The Bloc Québécois should leave managing to managers and let the Conservatives finish what they started with respect to the single tax return. In other words, the Bloc should let the Conservatives introduce, negotiate and implement the single tax return. The Bloc Québécois's bill is a very good illustration of the expression “give someone an inch and they will take a mile”.
Rather than proposing effective solutions for Quebeckers to make their lives easier, the Bloc Québécois's bill just stirs up quarrels between Ottawa and Quebec. The Conservative Party will continue to push for a pragmatic and effective solution to give Quebeckers the single tax return they deserve, while respecting workers and the regions.
I will close by saying that the Conservative Party will not need a private member's bill to take action. We have every intention of forming the next government, of picking up the phone to call the Government of Quebec and of negotiating and creating a single tax return for Quebeckers.