Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to reiterate comments I have already made in the past during a similar debate about a report tabled by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on the same topic.
I also rise to say that the Bloc Québécois supports the adoption of the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Status of Women, which recommends that the government reinstate the court challenges program. Why do we support it? Because we feel that this government has room to manoeuvre, given that it has the luxury of a surplus of billions of dollars, and that it should have cut operating expenditures rather than programs affecting the most disadvantaged citizens.
We all know that the Conservatives have made what are generally called ideological cuts, and it is not impugning their motives to say so. They target the disadvantaged and minority groups. In England, Mrs. Thatcher taught us a great deal and left a rather interesting legacy in this regard.
The Conservatives target programs that provide checks and balances to the government, programs that facilitate the expression and practice of democracy in a country that calls itself free, sophisticated and developed. It refuses to consider possible savings at the Department of National Defence, for example. I wonder why. I do not know. The question must be asked.
Why is it that there were no cuts to the Department of National Defence when it is one of the departments with the largest budgets, about $14.7 billion in 2005-06?
During the election campaign in January 2006, we saw the Conservative Party slowly progressing like masked turtles. I did not come up with this image; it was provided by someone else. But I thought it was appropriate because we could not see the true face of the government. We did not yet know it as we do today.
The masks have been set aside. We have a tendency of pointing that out. It happens every day when we debate and defend positions and values in this House.
With all these cuts, the Conservative government—as I have already said here—is stirring up a lot of discontent in Quebec. If the members of the Conservative caucus are incapable of seeing this, I can only say that they are out of touch with reality in Quebec. The values of the Conservative Party are not the values of Quebeckers.
Quebec is about solidarity in all areas of life. That is the very essence of the soul of the Quebec nation: solidarity, mutual aid and compassion. I defy anyone here in this House to convince me that the measures taken by this government, whether using its machete, sabre or chain saw to slash programs such as the court challenges program, are in any way in line with the values I just mentioned.
The Conservative government, as I have already said, is directly attacking the disadvantaged and minority groups. I will give other examples, in addition to the elimination of the court challenges program, which, incidentally, gave a voice to linguistic and gender minorities, which would include women and homosexuals.
Furthermore, we know that the court challenges program funded groups that challenged the positions taken by current members of this Conservative government. Was cutting this program—the question must be asked—an unhealthy sign that all groups opposed to this government's ideology are in danger of being gradually silenced?
Perhaps our potential insensitivity to this ideology would soon cause these groups to disappear or become weaker. Fortunately, we are here. To respond to some of the foolishness across the floor, I would say the Bloc Québécois is here to denounce this dangerous ideology.
I spoke earlier about other programs that are at risk or are going to disappear, including the Canada volunteerism initiative, and the program that advocates for women and women's rights, a fight that is far from over. Those involved in the women's movement in Quebec, who have been fighting for years and for generations, know what I am talking about.
We may be far removed from the values that this government stands for, but it is not taking a strong stand. It is unable to say without circumvention and hypocrisy that women and minority groups have to make do with what they have. Women, minority groups and those who are unable to read—the illiterate—have to make do with what they have.
If the Conservatives would use clear speech, if they would be transparent and have the courage to be upfront and take a strong stand, I think the entire population of Canada—not just in Quebec, because in Quebec we have made up our minds, there is a clear consensus—would wake up and chase the Conservatives out of government.
Now I would like to address those who are watching us on television today. Wake up. There is still time. You have seen what they are capable of as a minority government; imagine what they would have done if they had formed a majority government.