Mr. Speaker, as I begin, please note that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Trois-Rivières.
Since this is the first opportunity when I will have a longer time to speak here, I would also like to thank my constituents in Saint-Lambert, who have elected me to defend Quebec's interests on their behalf on Parliament Hill.
The fiscal imbalance, the financial pressures, the systematic retention of money by the federal Liberals for more than a decade—this has been told and retold and will be repeated and repeated over again because it is a big story—have a great impact. The human costs and harm done by the fiscal imbalance and the way it has shredded the entire social fabric of Quebec and the provinces are known to all.
Nevertheless, the federal Liberals, in their nihilistic approach and their stubborn denial that the fiscal imbalance exists, have inspired many of us to diagnose this as a behavioural problem rather like political autism. Everyone here, all the political parties represented here, recognizes the existence of the fiscal imbalance—except them. Everyone in Quebec, all political parties in the Quebec National Assembly, recognize the existence of the fiscal imbalance—except them. If that is not political autism, what is it?
As is the case in many areas hurt by the fiscal imbalance in Quebec and other provinces, the situation in the cultural area is critical. It is an emergency, because the fiscal imbalance creates a lot of precariousness and disarray in this field.
This fiscal retention deprives Quebec and other provincial governments of their ability to implement their choices, their specific short, medium and long term visions and their policies with peace of mind and a concern for fairness.
The federal government uses fiscal retention to increase its intrusions in areas that are not under its jurisdiction and that beyond its capability, thus weakening the Quebec nation and imposing on Quebec disembodied choices made in Ottawa. There can be no democracy under these conditions. Some will probably question the relevance of culture in the fiscal imbalance debate, along with other recurrent issues, like health, education, social housing and so on, which of great public concern.
I would say it is very relevant. Indeed, culture, far from diverting our attention from other files, can help us deal with them to their full extent and with every resource of our soul and mind. Quality of life necessarily includes culture, which is the dignity of life. When the financial means are lacking, culture is absent from the lives of our fellow citizens when it should rightly be part of it.
I remind this assembly that it would be absurd to envision culture without arts and letters, theatre, music, dance, literature, art crafts, and visual and media arts. Culture, arts and letters are the soul, the psyche of nations, the heart of every people.
For your information, in Quebec, the Mouvement pour les arts et les lettres, the MLA, which represents 15,000 professional artists, has been campaigning since the very beginning in favour of increased support for artists. It has been waiting for a long time. It too is very hopeful that the Liberal government will act with wisdom and foresight and will not be so tightfisted. Right now, the majority of those 15,000 professional artists are living below the poverty line. The money is here, the needs are there.
It might be that for the Liberal government culture is only a tool, an instrument of propaganda. Only the least enlightened dictatorships we know see it as such. This is not Quebec's view of culture. Life teaches us that to cultivate is to be born, work the land in the hope of reaping a harvest, it is to endure by conveying, it is to protect in order to receive.
Societies find their place in history and in the hearts of the people only through culture. However, in Quebec and the other provinces culture is jeopardized by fiscal imbalance.