Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to apologize for my hair. It is raining outside. If members want to see a member of Parliament who is willing to get wet to speak up for their constituents, that is what I am offering.
I feel privileged to speak to the opposition motion, which gives us yet another opportunity to debate solutions to help our constituents go about their daily lives despite rising costs.
I had a meeting with a seniors' subcommittee. I created it to help the seniors of Abitibi—Témiscamingue find solutions, and I would like to commend those who are participating. We are looking at solutions for income, taxation, local services, federal jurisdictions that affect seniors. We are able to collect data and consider potential solutions. I thank those involved and I am sorry I cannot be there with them.
It is time to think about better financial conditions for seniors. There needs to be an increase to the amounts they receive, and the tax system must be reviewed so as not to penalize those who still go to work and want to work.
I would like us to take a moment to think hard about the kind of future we are building for seniors. I am thinking of the Bloc Québécois petition sponsored by my colleague from Shefford. We circulated it to take the pulse of the population. I myself sent out a bulk mailing, and I will get back to the House with the results, but what I can say is that there are already thousands of signatures. Meanwhile, the Conservatives thought they found solutions for seniors. Unfortunately, the motion before us leaves something to be desired.
This motion focuses on the impact of agricultural input costs. I can assure all members that I am painfully aware of this issue. Just last Sunday, I was at the Témiscamingue agricultural fair in Saint‑Bruno‑de‑Guigues, where I had the opportunity to talk to farmers and take the pulse of the community.
People understand that this situation is global and that we need to take action. Some potential solutions deserve our consideration, but the idea is to ensure sustainable progress over time. We do not know how long this economic disruption will last, which is yet another reason to think hard about how we get through this and achieve our goals.
My constituency office conducted a study on the agriculture situation in Abitibi—Témiscamingue, at all stages of the production chain, and there are serious shortages everywhere.
A few weeks ago, I released the results of the study on local agricultural infrastructure in my region. Agricultural development is obviously about more than just buying fertilizer or the price of gas. It relies on the availability of every link in the supply chain. Transporting a calf 800 kilometres to an abattoir is obviously not profitable with current gas prices, and this illustrates why we need to have abattoirs in the regions, so we can create local distribution channels and ensure our food sovereignty. This type of solution can help develop local agriculture, but other links in the supply chain are missing in order to be able to set up a structure that would ensure local production, which would help combat inflation in the agri-food sector.
Climate change is also having an impact on agriculture. As we have seen, droughts in western Canada and the southern United States have caused prices to soar. Meanwhile, the Liberal government wants to plant trees on fallow lands in our region. That would be a big mistake.
The current situation fully warrants creating an assistance program for the agricultural sector, and my colleagues have conveyed the demands of the Union des producteurs agricoles to the House. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has in hand the demands concerning farmers and agriculture-related businesses. When will there be action on this file?
I will name them because I think it is important. I had an exchange with the people from the UPA back home. There was talk of the excise tax, at 4¢ a litre in Quebec. I propose a compromise. Could we abolish it in the agriculture sector? This is a solution that would affect the fuel tax but would apply to the agriculture sector, which may have an impact on the price of food. We know that when it comes to profits and things being more expensive, it is not the farmers who are making more money. There is a need for special assistance, a bit like the Canada emergency business account that was created during the pandemic. Can we help our farmers in the current context with this idea?
The funds would be provided in the form of cash that could be disbursed quickly and would be repayable. Anything that is not repayable would help ensure that our farmers remain profitable, because that is important. There is also the current 35% tariff on inputs from Russia. Canada may be one of the only countries in the world that is still applying that surtax. We need to give that some serious thought.
Everything is going up. There is talk of 50% inflation in the agriculture sector in Quebec. Fuel, lime, fertilizer and foodstuffs are their own sort of pandemic. This is having a serious impact on the profitability of cattle farming.
When we hear that there is unused money sitting idle in agri-invest accounts, I can guarantee that that is not the case in Abitibi—Témiscamingue. There are few opportunities to pass the cost on to consumers. Prices are going up for producers, but no more money is going into their pockets. Think about that.
Lastly, there are advance payment programs. Cash flow is a very serious concern, so we need to keep in mind that if that amount could be increased to $2,000 per business, this might give farmers a little more breathing room. I encourage my colleagues to think about that as a concrete solution.
I want to talk about how we can better work together. That is my entrepreneurial instinct at work here. I think it is appalling that we cannot get people to work, that we are letting our businesses think about relocating their operations and that we are preventing people from working because the government cannot provide them with a work permit or even permanent residency. We are missing out on business opportunities and having to turn our backs on all the golden nuggets we worked so hard to get during the pandemic.
The challenge right now is about cutting red tape and removing the obstacles that are undermining our businesses' productivity. The Standing Committee on Industry and Technology is currently studying this issue. The big problem facing farmers is their debt levels. What can be done with their loans? Could emergency assistance for the agricultural sector be reconsidered?
These are all important questions, as are the questions about temporary foreign workers and workers who want to come for the long term.
I want to talk about some other concerns. Critical and strategic minerals have immense potential. We could try something else as we search for a solution, instead of fighting over whether to hike the price of gas and increase oil company profits. We could focus on electric vehicles. We conducted a study on critical and strategic minerals. Some proposals were made, and our regions are bursting with potential. I look forward to having this study released because it contains some worthwhile proposals.
The Bloc Québécois is proposing, among other things, to work with SMEs and find the weaknesses in their supply chains, put them in touch with Canadian suppliers, and propose new ways of managing their inventories that will make them less vulnerable.
The Bloc Québécois is proposing to work with its North American partners to rebuild, on the continent, critical links in the supply chain, such as semiconductors, the processing of strategic minerals and essential goods, particularly for health care and food.
The Bloc Québécois suggested a number of measures that would provide relief to businesses hit hard by inflation. We will continue to put forward our ideas and to pressure the government to implement assistance measures that have also been suggested to help producers face the increase in the price of inputs.
For some time now, I have felt that we are again having to address important issues, but I deplore how some ideas are being discarded. It seems to me that we are straying from our values, from what brings people together. I find it hard to imagine that the government is still trying to hand out gifts to banks and oil companies.
The Bloc Québécois has that concern, and I believe that the response to the points set out in the preamble to the motion moved by the Conservatives could be quite different from the solutions they list. They are using pretexts in an attempt to convince us they are not trying to find a way to help the oil companies and banks again escape the energy shift. The Conservatives are trying to impose their priorities and play politics on the backs of hard-working citizens.
This runaway inflation is real and pervasive on every front, from gasoline and housing to food and cars. We need measures that are far more comprehensive than today's populist proposals. Do they realize how upsetting it is to work so hard and watch the banks walk away with huge profits yet again? Paying these prices for gas is not much better.
It all seems so unfair. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the CFIB, seems to agree. It issued very specific demands about exorbitant credit card fees and bank fees.
I will not shed a tear for oil companies that are pocketing billion-dollar profits and still finding ways to collect subsidies from the Liberals with the Conservatives' blessing. As for banks, whose profits jumped during the global pandemic, I like them even less.
I could go on and on about this, but I will just wrap things up here.
The Bloc Québécois has put forward a series of balanced approaches. On the one hand, it is important to target aid programs at individuals and businesses that need it without driving prices even higher. On the other hand, it is important to identify the factors driving inflation so we can tackle it sustainably and prevent it from becoming structural and permanent.