Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean, who gave an excellent speech on Bill C-8. I thank him for sharing his time with me. It was wonderful to listen to him, and I might have been very happy just to continue listening to him.
I do have a few things to say about Bill C-8. One of the first things we can talk about is how this bill was presented. When the government provides an economic update, it is often referred to as a mini-budget, and everyone has expectations and wants to see what is in it.
When we saw Bill C-8, the economic update implementation bill, there was not much to it. Let us say that we were not impressed, but that does not really matter.
We expect better from a government. We expect a government to do important things and make important announcements. We expect the government to do serious work, since it has public servants and staff. There are all kinds of people making requests, sharing ideas and wanting to change society. Bloc Québécois has all kinds of good ideas. The members across the way do not often take these good ideas, but they do from time to time.
Today we are debating Bill C‑8, which contains different elements divided into seven parts, and I am going to focus on one of them. The Bloc Québécois had some questions about the other parts and was prepared to send them to be studied in committee, which is what happened.
We had serious concerns about part two of the bill regarding the tax on underused or vacant housing belonging to non-residents or non-Canadians. The government wants to impose a 1% tax on vacant housing to help address the housing crisis. Will that make a difference? I am not sure. Could the idea of a 1% tax on vacant housing curb speculation to some extent or prevent these properties from being left vacant? It is possible.
However, the most important question here is whether it is the federal government's role to implement this tax. Normally, when we think about housing and property taxes, we do not think “federal government”. In fact, if we take a step back, it becomes increasingly clear that this tax is nothing more than a federal intrusion into an area that is not under its jurisdiction, specifically municipal affairs and the property value of buildings. This was also pointed out by witnesses in committee, particularly the constitutional expert Patrick Taillon.
Generally speaking, we expect that everything municipal will be handled by the municipalities, which are under provincial jurisdiction, not federal jurisdiction. If there were a tax to be imposed, perhaps Quebec should do it, but certainly not the federal government.
I think we can discuss whether this is a good measure. There may be interesting ideas that warrant discussion in the context of such a measure. When we see who is behind it and wonder how it would be implemented, however, it no longer works, and that is the problem.
This means that, unfortunately, we may have to vote against Bill C-8. There is not much in the bill to begin with, but it does contain something that is just unacceptable.
In general, federal intrusion in one of Quebec's jurisdictions is often done through the government's spending power. This, however, is a different case, because this is not how the federal government usually interferes in Quebec's jurisdictions.
For those who do not know it—which I do not believe is the case for the members on other side, who are very familiar with this strategy, as they often use it—the federal government's spending power lets it do indirectly what cannot be done directly under the Constitution.
Essentially, the government will send a cheque, which it is not supposed to do, but people are going to take it because they need the money. There will be many strings attached. In the end, even though it is our jurisdiction and we should be making the decisions, the feds will be the ones deciding, because with all the conditions attached we are going to lose any possibility of truly controlling our levers and jurisdictions.
Quebec's jurisdictions include our education and health care systems. Year after year we ask for more funding, but it seems that we hit a wall in Ottawa. We are told that we are being given more funding. The government will increase funding by 3% a year, but system costs are increasing by 6% a year. They are making fun of us. We continue to hear the same nonsense from them.
The last budget was even worse. They basically added another layer, stating that “Any conversation between the federal government and the provinces and territories will focus on delivering better health care outcomes”. When they say “any conversation”, that is not about funding, it is about telling us how to manage our health care system. That is basically what they are saying. It is somewhat insulting to be told that. It is indicative of the direction that this government is taking, always encroaching on Quebec's jurisdiction. The health care system is a good example, but there are many, many more.
We could take, for example, the infamous fight over pensions in the 1960s. I am too young, as my father was not even born in the early 1960s. When the war over pensions was being waged, some will remember that the Quebec government wanted to set up a system where people would contribute a portion of their money to a shared fund that would one day pay out a pension when they retired. It would be a big pool of money that would generate returns. That is what gave rise to the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.
The federal government did not like that. It wondered how Quebec managed to plan for such a big pot of money so it could have more control over its own destiny, which is why the federal level tried to bring in another regime that would compete or at least move faster. In the end, that did not work. The federal government ended up having to recognize the Quebec system because Quebec had been quicker. The federal level wanted to impose its own system to prevent Quebec from controlling the money. Perhaps the federal government wanted to provide better conditions for seniors, but we all know that, in the end, the aim of that battle was to determine who would manage the pot of money. Would those funds be invested to serve Ottawa's interests or Quebec's interests? That was the big question.
Thank goodness that big issue was dealt with, because now we have problems again. Take the finance issue, for example. Who remembers the Canada-wide securities commission? How many courts ruled that that was under Quebec's jurisdiction? It is not up to the federal government to create a national securities commission, but they did it anyway, both the Conservatives and the Liberals, they really pushed it. Fortunately, after multiple attempts and a lot of hard work, the Bloc Québécois succeeded in sending the commission packing. Its funding was axed. That feels good. It gave Quebec's financial system some relief.
What I just cannot fathom is the federal government's constant desire to get bigger. It is like a kind of spiderweb always out to suffocate the provinces, bit by bit. That is what it has done yet again with Bill C‑8. The federal government is going to take up all the space until there is none left for us.
The Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords sought to restore the balance. That was the original objective. Every time the federal government reviewed areas of jurisdiction, it would say that it could not give this or that to Quebec, and there was ultimately almost nothing left. Quebeckers voted against these two accords because the offers were ridiculous, it has to be said. The federal government never seems to want to make concessions but is always trying to get more.
We are seeing the same thing with Quebec's Bill 96. Ottawa, with its Official Languages Act, is finding ways to try to undermine this legislation and restrict it from applying to federally regulated businesses.
I vehemently disagree with this and with the proposed centralizing measures they want to impose with their pharmacare and dental care programs. These may be good measures, but the problem is that they are not well intentioned.