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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was finance.

Last in Parliament September 2007, as Bloc MP for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 56% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Budget Implementation Act, 2006 May 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse for his question.

I would just like to rectify one thing. I did not say that it was a very positive budget, but that it was a budget that included a commitment in a fundamental area for Quebec. I also added that we were keeping a close watch on the government. We are worried about the fact that, on the weekend, the Prime Minister backed down from his resolve to fix the fiscal imbalance. If I were in his shoes, I would not get too cocky or too arrogant, the way some of his colleagues have done. He did not do so this morning, but I wish to warn him. Our support for the government actually depends on this commitment.

Equalization, as far as Quebec and the other Canadian provinces that benefit from it are concerned, is the only program entrenched in the Constitution. This means that public services of equivalent quality can be offered from east to west in Canada. It is in the Constitution. On the other hand, in order to measure the ability of the provinces and Quebec to offer these uniform, equivalent services from east to west in Canada, there has to be a true measurement of the various governments’ capacity to collect taxes from their citizens.

At present, however, the equalization formula presents several problems, given that it is not meeting this objective. First of all, a Canada-wide average is calculated, which determines whether or not a province or Quebec is entitled to a per capita equalization payment. Currently, this average is calculated on the basis of five provinces. Why not take the 10 provinces into account? If we want to know the true fiscal capacity, the 10 provinces have to be weighed and each one’s fiscal capacity assessed in relation to this Canada-wide average established on the basis of the 10 provinces and even the two territories.

Furthermore, some parameters do not work. Unbelievable intellectual somersaults are performed to measure property tax, for example, when—it is easy to check—property tax is real in every municipality.

This is the sort of correction that has to be made to equalization.

I would simply like to remind my colleague of one last thing. The positive measures contained in the budget are acceptable as far as short-term transfers are concerned, for such things as post-secondary education. The amounts provided fall far too short of the mark, however, to correct the fiscal imbalance as the Prime Minister has undertaken to do. We are talking about $10 billion to $12 billion a year for all of Canada. Equalization that allocates $285 million more falls short of the mark.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006 May 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, this morning I am pleased to speak on the subject of Bill C-13, the bill to implement certain provisions—those concerning taxes—in the budget tabled by the Minister of Finance nearly two weeks ago.

In light of this bill, part of this budget is positive, but the Bloc Québécois considers part of it to be very negative. As we have said, eliminating the fiscal imbalance is, of course, not part of the bill to implement fiscal measures. Rather, it is a commitment on the part of the government—a commitment that seemed firm two weeks ago—to settle this issue by the next budget in spring 2007 at the latest.

When a friend or an acquaintance promises you something and puts it in writing, it is difficult for you to say you do not believe him. Spoken words may fade away, but written words remain. You have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The fiscal imbalance is Quebec's top priority. Reaching comprehensive, definitive, short-term solutions to this issue was one of the things we demanded from the new government. That is why we supported the budget. Otherwise, we would have been inclined to vote against it because the other measures it puts forward do not coincide with Quebeckers' top priorities and issues.

As for the fiscal imbalance, the Prime Minister's disappointing statements this weekend cast some doubt. We hope that this is only temporary and that the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party will pull themselves together and speak more firmly about eliminating the fiscal imbalance.

On the weekend, the Prime Minister said that the provinces had not agreed among themselves, thus complicating the debate and making it harder to reach a solution. This is the first thing he said on the weekend. I remind him, simply, that there was no consensus because of one province, Ontario. That day, the representatives of Ontario left the meeting of the Council of the Federation whining that Ontario was not getting any benefit from its membership in the Canadian federation and that there had been a considerable shortfall every year. As Ontario does not receive equalization payments, it was shortchanged by the group statement, which concentrated on the reform of equalization payments.

I remind Premier McGuinty—I think everyone knows it—that, if there is one province that benefits from federal economics, it is Ontario. Year after year, it generates incredible trade surpluses, because Quebec, the Maritimes, the West and British Columbia buy goods and services from Ontario much more often than Ontario buys them elsewhere in Canada. Federal economics is very profitable for Ontario. It is not a poor province. It is rich thanks to its trade relations with Quebec and the provinces of Canada. So Mr. McGuinty can stop whining that Ontario is losing while the other provinces get special treatment. It is totally wrong. I hope the Prime Minister will put Ontario in its place when the day comes to propose a definitive solution to the fiscal imbalance.

In addition, the Ottawa area and the involvement of Ontarians in the public service and contracts awarded by Public Works and Government Services warrant an examination. There are more research centres on the Ontario side than on the Quebec side. Mr. McGuinty is bellyaching without cause. He has no reason to complain about Ontario being given poor treatment. Ontario wins on all counts through its membership in this system.

If Ontario continues to whine like this, the Prime Minister will have to be firm and come up with a solution that will be accepted by all Canadian provinces, including Quebec, to correct the fiscal imbalance.

The surprising thing about the Prime Minister's speech this weekend was that he was setting the scene by suggesting that the federal government has much less of a surplus than in previous years.

In that context, Quebec and the provinces would not want appear too greedy in their demands.

I would simply like to remind the Prime Minister that we are following him closely and we will stay hot on his heels until he finds a comprehensive solution to the fiscal imbalance. Such a solution will involve reform of federal transfer payments in the areas of post-secondary education, health, welfare and so on. They will be transformed into transfers of tax fields that are much more predictable and stable, and much more likely to deliver stable tax resources to Quebec and the provinces so that they may meet their core mandates.

Second, correcting the fiscal imbalance must be based on equalization reform. In calculating the per capita equalization payment for Quebec, the reform should ensure that the base is the average of the 10 provinces; that is, the tax capacity of the 10 provinces to collect income tax from their citizens and not the average of only 5 of the 10 provinces. If this is to be representative of our entire country's wealth, in order to determine whether equalization payments should go to any province, we need a true average, not an average that has been miscalculated for the past 25 years, based on only 5 provinces.

Parameters such as property tax must also be changed. Something is wrong here. For 15 years, Quebec has been fighting against Statistics Canada's calculation method, which makes for muddled, incredibly complicated assessments worthy of the cleverest economists I have ever known. Yet it is easy to determine the actual property value of a province or Quebec using the real figures. This approach shortchanges Quebec in particular and gives an unrealistic picture of each province's land wealth. Reform is needed.

We must be guided by these two parameters as we reform the tax system involving the federal government, Quebec and the provinces, in order to correct the fiscal imbalance.

Once again, if the Prime Minister tries to backtrack, he will hear from us. He has claimed since he was elected that he always honours his commitments, but this is the most important commitment of all.

I am also referring to a major disappointment directly connected to the budget: the payment of $1,200 for every child under six.

My colleague from Trois-Rivières worked very hard to try to persuade the government, and I did the same with the Minister of Finance. We would have liked the $1,200 to be converted into a refundable tax credit, simply because the government would not be interfering in the jurisdictions of the Government of Quebec and the provinces with a direct transfer that impinges on the prerogative of Quebec, in particular, with regard to family policy, and because families would not have to pay tax on the $1,200.

The government opted for the suggestion to pay $1,200 in cash, $100 a month, for every child under six. It exempted the national child benefit from the cuts in family benefits. But the national child care supplement, which helps the most disadvantaged families, will be abolished starting next year.

I was rather struck by the speeches of my Conservative colleagues, the Prime Minister, even the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, who stated that their principal clientele consists of families with a stay at home parent. When we examine the specifics of the budget, it is precisely these families who will suffer because of the elimination of the national child care supplement. The family without day care expenses and by implication the one with a stay at home parent—the family focussed on by the Conservatives--will be losing out on $486 per year, plus income tax, because of the disappearance of this program next year.

With one hand they are giving and with the other they are taking away. They claim to be helping this type of family, but really it is the main victim of this budget. If this $1,200 transfer had been a tax credit, three things would have happened.

First, the $9.6 billion budget for this measure would have been respected, without going outside the fiscal framework. Second, low, middle, and moderately-high income families would have paid practically no tax on the $1,200 per child. Third, the families targeted by this measure would have benefited from it. Now we are in the situation where richer households are the main beneficiaries. This is not acceptable. They cannot say one thing and do another. This is a major disappointment.

The Bloc Québécois has a message for families with regard to the $1,200: put aside a few hundred dollars because, next spring, there will be a nasty surprise when they fill out their income tax forms. At that point, after having spent the $1,200 per child, they will realize that they have to pay tax on that amount.

With regard to social housing, the Bloc would have preferred the government to be more generous. Clearly, the $800 million taken from the 2005 and 2006 surplus is a good start. Not a penny had been invested in social housing by the government since 1993. So $800 million is better than nothing. However there are billions of dollars—nearly $4 billion, I believe—going to waste at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. That money could be used to develop social housing. In any case, the Bloc has not waited for the government. My colleague from Quebec City, who has to compensate for the inertia and incompetence of the new members for the Quebec City region—in particular, Conservative members—will be tabling a bill which would put the CMHC surplus to use to build social housing.

Let us now speak of employment insurance. We were expecting at least some awareness of this issue on the part of the Conservative government. We know that it is not part of its core philosophy, but it seems to me that we have been fighting for employment insurance reform for quite a long time. When the Conservatives were in opposition, we even fought certain battles together. Sixty percent of the clientele, a figure which is rising where women and young people are concerned, has been excluded from the EI program since the previous government decided in 1996 to put the axe to it, tighten the eligibility criteria and set up a totally brutal program which strips the dignity from people already suffering from the scourge of unemployment. There is nothing on employment insurance.

The Bloc and the government have been discussing the POWA for three weeks. I myself have been in conversation with the Minister of Finance in particular. The aim was to persuade this government to reintroduce the program for older worker adjustment as it existed in 1997. This is urgent. In his budget speech, the Minister of Finance made a commitment to consider this program. It must not just land on his plate and stay ignored for years. He made a commitment to doing a feasibility study. As we see it, the purpose of a feasibility study is to estimate the annual costs of this program, to ascertain whether those costs could explode in more and more spending, year after year. This cost study must be done quickly.

In 1997, when the POWA was abolished, it was costing Canada $17 million per year. That money was used to rescue households composed of persons aged 55 and over who were victims of mass layoffs. Had this program been in place this year, its projected costs have been estimated at around $100 million for Canada as a whole. That is a generous estimate. In fact, the amount could be some $75 million or $80 million more than $100 million. That is not expensive, and it could help to prevent tragedies, especially in single-industry regions or regions that rely on virtually one industry, where there is only one principal employer.

Because of emerging countries and globalization, there are massive layoffs. It is obvious that companies have to re-organize, become more competitive, and prepare to face these new emerging countries and international competition. The victims of this, though, are often older workers.

Last week, a citizen from Acton Vale wrote to me about this. An Airbus employee, she had worked for 28 years for the same company. However, because of the need to upgrade and become more competitive, the company had to reduce its workforce, quicken the pace, and ensure that employees produced more than before, one and a half times more.

These people have given 28, 35 or 40 years of their lives to a company where the work is tough, like companies that manufacture textiles, clothing and footwear—military footwear in particular. They have devoted all those years to a company. They are tired out and on the verge of retirement at 55 years of age or more. They cannot find another job very easily because they have always done the same work—and their spouses have always done the same for the same company. So they find themselves in difficult situations. These people, who worked all those years, exhaust their meagre employment insurance benefits and are then forced to liquidate all their assets to survive the period between 55 and 65 years of age, when they can retire.

As a result, they lose all their dignity. After having contributed to corporate profits and to the development and growth of their regions, they find themselves terribly squeezed at 55 years of age. They are told they are on their own and no one shows any appreciation for them.

In my view, we should show more gratitude and compassion for them than we do now. I cannot believe that there is no way to find $100 million in a budget of $198 billion to help these older workers victimized by mass layoffs.

In the manufacturing sector, we expected to see an assistance plan to improve competitiveness and help these companies along. The sectors that are considered weakened, like furniture, clothing, textiles and softwood lumber, need a little help in view of all that has happened over the last few years. But there is nothing for them in the budget. That is a big disappointment for us.

The same is true for the Kyoto protocol. Canada is currently losing all credibility when it comes to dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. In economic terms we have always referred to the Kyoto protocol as a minimum minimorum accord. Minimorum is the smallest minimum on a curve. The budget needed to go much further in order to ensure that future generations are not penalized for the way we have destroyed the environment in the past.

This is an urgent problem around the globe. Mr. Suzuki, among others, keeps saying so. We have to implement measures that go further than the Kyoto protocol. We currently have a government that thinks that the challenge of achieving this minimum minimorum is too great.

There is another irritant. I will not have enough time to go over it all. Let us talk about the Canadian Securities Commission. For 15 years now they have been harping on about the Canadian Securities Commission, which, as hon. members know, comes under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. The federal government needs to keep its nose out of it. The Canadian Securities Commission would only promote Toronto and Bay Street. In fact, it is the only province that has been completely stuck on this idea for about 13 years now.

I could have mentioned culture, which is also a great disappointment. My colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Lambert, said enough about it. We expected $150 million, but got $50 million for two years.

If it were not for the firm commitment on the fiscal imbalance, we would have gladly voted against this budget. For the rest, we hope the government will understand and not go back on its plan for the fiscal imbalance, that it will implement measures on employment insurance, and set up POWA quickly, including the special EI pilot project, which will end on June 30.

The Budget May 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of Transport a question about two subjects.

The big oversight in the budget is the matter of employment insurance. There are two urgent issues in this file. I have already discussed them with the minister and his colleague, the Minister of Finance. First of all, I would like to know whether the government will continue the pilot projects set up by the previous government to bridge the infamous seasonal gap encountered by employment insurance beneficiaries in the regions of Quebec and the rest of Canada. Also, has the minister given any thought to allowing older workers who are victims of mass layoffs to benefit quickly from what used to be called the POWA, that is, the Program for Older Worker Adjustment? This program was abolished in 1997.

Mr. Speaker, you granted four minutes to my colleague. I hope you will be equally indulgent with me.

Business of Supply May 4th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is shameful to hear the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard speak as he has done.

We have before us the father of the fiscal imbalance. He did not hesitate in the 1995 budget to make savage cuts to transfers for post-secondary education. The result has been that colleges and universities today find themselves faced with problems.

Neither did he hesitate to slash programs for the most disadvantaged people of society by savagely cutting transfers for social assistance. He has never invested in social housing. He stole $50 billion from the surplus in the employment insurance fund.

He speaks about poor children. We have poor children today because we have poor parents. He is the artisan of that poverty.

When he was finance minister, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard did not hesitate, from 1994 to 1998, to change the tax laws and change the regulations to favour international marine shippers, including his family company. Thanks to that he has saved himself over $100 million since 1998. How then can he come and lecture us today?

The Budget May 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, before putting my two questions to the parliamentary secretary, I would like to add something for my Liberal colleague. Of course, we defeated the Liberal government. And we realized later that the voters shared the same opinion as us, since the Liberals are now sitting on the other side of the House. The voters threw the Liberals out. We were not wrong about this.

I have two questions for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

First, she says that her government can help families, especially those with one parent who chooses to stay at home and not send the children to day care. However, since the Conservatives did not make this $1,200 allowance into a refundable tax credit, these families will have to pay income tax on the amount they receive for each child. Furthermore, as of next year, the Conservatives will get rid of what is known as the national child benefit supplement. That will directly affect the people they wish to help. In fact, this will affect first and foremost the people who do not have to pay for child care. As soon as they have to assume these expenses, their national child benefit supplement is not reduced. Otherwise, if they have two children under six, they will lose $486 a year. The Conservatives are thus making life hard for those they wish to help.

Second, I would like to put a question to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food through his parliamentary secretary. In the redefinition of the CAIS, that is, the Canadian agricultural income stabilization program, would it be possible, to his mind, for the amounts provided for Quebec to be transferred directly to La Financière agricole du Québec? That would avoid a lot of red tape in connection with the new federal program and that would more directly help the agricultural producers who really need it.

The Budget May 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, we are getting caught up in details here.

In reality, there are two reasons why the Liberals and the NDP are opposed to this budget.

First, there is political opportunism. They know that since the Bloc supported the first measure, that is to say the fiscal imbalance—and nothing else, Mr. Speaker—they can strut around and say that they oppose this budget.

Second, neither of these parties believes in a proper, lasting resolution of the fiscal imbalance. The Liberal Party members have never even been able to say the word without breaking out in hives and they turned green whenever they heard it.

Insofar as the NDP is concerned, it is very centralizing. When I chaired the select committee on the fiscal imbalance last year, I proposed some measures that would have transferred tax points to the governments of Quebec and the provinces, just as Mr. Pearson did for Quebec in the 1960s with Mr. Lesage. He offered them as well to all the provinces. The NDP was totally opposed to this idea and insisted on keeping the firm fist of a strong central government, with financial transfers used to bribe the governments of Quebec and the provinces with Canada-wide standards and all sorts of conditions. That is what he finds frustrating.

Moreover, one of the candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Party did not hesitate to say yesterday that we were destroying Canada by trying to find a solution to the fiscal imbalance. What ridiculous nonsense, when people are waiting in hospitals for operations, the college and university education system is crumbling everywhere, particularly in Quebec, and disadvantaged people are being left in the street! What sort of conception of the country do they have?

Because of this symbol, a strong central government, they are prepared to let people die in the street. For heaven’s sake! Let them use their heads a little. I no longer understand the reasoning of the ultra-federalists. Something is not working right somewhere.

On thing is for sure, and we said it earlier: the Bloc has never given up on the unemployed. Last year, the NDP abandoned the unemployed with Bill C-48. They were no longer one of their concerns. But the Bloc has always gone on caring. The Bloc has never given up on older workers who are victims of massive layoffs. We have always been consistent. We have never given up the battle against the fiscal imbalance, in order to provide proper services with a transfer of tax fields and equalization. We have always been consistent. Unfortunately, we cannot say as much of the other two opposition parties.

The Budget May 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I too have very great respect for my colleague. However, he is also advancing an opinion based on false premises.

First, Bill C-48 had some unbelievable weaknesses. It did not even oblige the government to move on its promises.

Even if we had voted in favour of this bill and even if it had passed and received royal assent, it would still be true that the NDPers were conned like amateurs. There was a line in all these commitments—to international assistance, to social housing and to post-secondary education—saying that the expected surpluses over the course of the year would have to exceed $2 billion. It is easy to fiddle with the expected surpluses to circumvent a fiscal year and avoid having to fulfill one’s promises.

In addition, under Bill C-48, the scheduled amounts were only invested if the government did not have any other priority. The NDP was conned, therefore, like a school kid. I have a lot of respect for schoolchildren, of course. But that does not change the fact that the NDP was had.

In the budget today, on the other hand, we find approximately the same amounts as in Bill C-48, except that this time they are invested. Does the NDP really want to abandon post-secondary students now and abandon the colleges and universities that are applauding this billion dollars? The NDP would be bringing down the government because it no longer believes its own positions from last year.

Are we also to understand that the NDP is opposed to the most disadvantaged people because it voted against the $800 million invested in social housing? All the stakeholder groups are happy to have at least this $800 million, while waiting for the $2 billion that is supposed to be invested annually.

Are we to understand today that the NDP no longer believes in international assistance? Just a second. Last year the NDP abandoned the unemployed and this year it is abandoning students and poor people. I ask my dear colleague at least to be consistent.

The Budget May 3rd, 2006

That being said, my message is now addressed to the Conservatives.

During question period, I heard the Prime Minister say: “I am pleased to have the Bloc Québécois' support in our efforts to improve the Canadian federation”. The thought came to me that I hoped that the Conservatives would not become as arrogant as the Liberals were after 13 years in power, particularly not after only a few months in government.

The Conservatives must know that we would have rejected this budget had it not been for their formal commitment to solving the fiscal imbalance, with a specific timetable for a meeting of first ministers to discuss it and find solutions, and a specific timetable for the solution, that is, the next budget, in the spring of 2007.

We would have voted against it, with all the consequences that might have involved, but we would have voted against it.

Were it not for there being a solution to the fiscal imbalance, this budget, with a few exceptions, to which I will come back at the end, is unbelievably flawed in terms of the decisions the Conservatives should have made regarding the problems we have been working on for years. Decisions should have been made that could have had an even more positive effect on the welfare of the citizens of Quebec and the rest of Canada. Those decisions were not made, and I will take the next few minutes of my time to talk about them.

I suggest that the Conservatives put that in their pipe and not start being arrogant with us, because they will find us on their heels on every issue I am going to name. We will be in their face whenever they present bills dealing with matters that are fundamental for the citizens of Quebec. We will work relentlessly to achieve progress on these issues, and to win.

If they think they have found allies, they should know that we are temporary allies and that we are giving them the benefit of the doubt on the fiscal imbalance, one of the most important issues of concern to Quebec and one of the top priorities. They have been warned.

For the rest, and until then, we will be watching them closely. We will be on their heels. We will oppose their decisions when they do not reflect Quebec’s difference and our deeply held convictions.

I assure you that they will find us everywhere they go, and in particular to make sure that they reform employment insurance, the big thing left out of this budget. Have we not been talking about this for long enough? The Liberals sabotaged the employment insurance scheme.

We have at times worked with the Conservatives, who seemed to agree with some of our proposals for reform. Now that they are in power, they have nothing to say and they are not talking about employment insurance any more. Today, 60% of unemployed men and women are still excluded from the employment insurance scheme.

If we look to the budget tabled yesterday, the theft of the employment insurance surplus is still being perpetuated. This has got to stop.

The Conservatives are no longer talking about an independent employment insurance fund. And yet they made a commitment to create such a fund. The Bloc Québécois will continue to fight for justice for unemployed workers, so that the 60% who are excluded are covered properly and with dignity by the employment insurance plan and the systematic looting of the EI fund surplus stops.

As for the POWA, the Program for Older Worker Adjustment, it is not difficult to understand. I have an invitation from the Prime Minister. I met with the Minister of Finance several times to explain the priorities of the Bloc Québécois: employment insurance, followed by the POWA. An assistance program for older workers is not difficult to understand: there are older workers who have been victims of mass layoffs, especially in single-industry regions.

We are talking about regions where there is one dominant industry.

As soon as things go wrong on the international scene, for example, because the Canadian dollar is too strong and we have to reduce our exports to the United States or elsewhere, there are mass layoffs and even plant and company closures.

For older workers, retraining and job re-entry programs do not work. Ninety-five percent of workers over 55 years of age are not eligible for retraining and job re-entry measures. Why? Because when you work in a single-industry region, if the company closes, workers cannot be hired by another employer because there are no other employers.

As well, some employers will not hire workers who are going to work for only another five or six years before they retire. They will invest in younger workers, who will stay with the company for 25, 30 or 35 years, as the older workers who were dismissed en masse did before them.

In the regions, often couples have worked for the same company for 30 or 35 years. They have little education and have accumulated some assets over the years, such as a house and an RRSP.

Ten years or less from retirement, having run out of employment insurance benefits, these people are required to liquidate everything—house, RRSPs, etc. They end up going on welfare before they are entitled to their pension. What a terrible and tragic end. It is not hard to understand. I explained all this three times to the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Transport and the Deputy Prime Minister. I think it is easy to understand.

The human resources development committee worked very hard on this in order to develop a new aid program for older workers. This program existed until 1997 when it was abolished by the unfeeling Liberal government.

Since then, there has been nothing and we have been fighting to reinstate an aid program for older workers. This program is highly important, especially in a context of globalization. There is no mention of it except in the minister's speech when he says a feasibility study will be done. The word “feasibility” suggests looking at what it will cost to implement such a program. This is encouraging. At least the government recognizes the need to implement such a program and is looking into the cost.

We have had enough of feasibility studies. This program costs roughly $100 million a year. When it was abolished in 1997 it cost $17 million a year for all of Canada. It cannot cost $2 billion today. There is nothing on this in the budget. We wanted to have this immediately.

In terms of the allowance of $1,200 per child under six—my colleague from Trois-Rivières will say more about this—why could this amount not have been a refundable tax credit? This would have the same effect except that it would target low and middle income families. They would not have to pay a dime in taxes on this $1,200.

Yesterday, the Minister of Finance proudly announced that they would protect the national child benefit, that it would not be touched, even with the $1,200 per child under six. Yes, but what about federal tax? Federal tax will still be charged on that amount.

Our advice to parents receiving this $1,200, or $2,400 if they have two children under six, is to put the money aside to pay their taxes at the end of the year to avoid any surprises. This government did not agree to convert this $1,200 annual cash payment into a refundable tax credit, which would have avoided all these problems.

With regard to the Kyoto protocol, it seems to me that for quite a long time, while the Conservatives were in opposition, they criticized the establishment by the Liberal minister of the program for achieving the Kyoto targets. They said there was another alternative. They could have immediately put that alternative on the table, instead of driving everyone wild by shelving the $2 billion provided for in the previous plan, with no indication as to how it will be used.

The Conservatives will find themselves obliged to deal with the issue of Kyoto. If there is one issue apart from employment insurance and the POWA that deserves all of our energy, it is surely Kyoto, because we are in favour of protecting the environment. The Bloc Québécois, including my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, would even like to go beyond Kyoto. If the Conservatives think it will be easy, if they think they have bought us because of a commitment on the fiscal imbalance in the budget, they are mistaken. They have not bought us. They will have to deal with us as they move ahead. What is more, we are not for sale.

As for the manufacturing sector, we know that the Conservative philosophy dates back to the end of the last century, even the 19th century.

At that time, it was said that the market could solve everything, the market could regulate everything, nothing was necessary. It was said that we had to achieve balance between supply and demand, and then the labour market would organize itself.

That is not how it works these days. Draconian measures are necessary in the sectors threatened by globalization and by the emerging nations, sectors such as textiles, furniture and apparel. Now there is agri-food as well, for Brazil and Chile are entering the traditional markets, especially with the Canadian dollar above 90 cents.

We have to help these sectors survive. We were successful at this in the mid-1980s thanks to the free trade agreement with the United States. There were restructuring measures. In so-called soft sectors, such as furniture for example, certain companies did very well. They modernized their equipment and boosted their productivity. They are able to pull through. But it is not the market that is going to do it.

We cannot compete with countries on an uneven playing field, such as China for example, which does not have a market economy. It has a controlled economy where you can play with prices as you wish, and so push down the competition. Once the competitors are down and out, you take their market. That is not fair competition. The government has to assume its responsibilities in this area.

There is also the whole arts and culture sector. The cultural community had high hopes. My colleague, the critic on heritage issues, will address this more specifically later. Those hopes have been dashed. Instead of the $150 million increase for the Canada Council, this budget is content to invest an additional $50 million over two years in the Canada Council.

To my mind, an effort could have been made. I cannot believe that there is not one Conservative who has not gone to the theatre, who has not seen shows, who does not visit art galleries and who does not encourage artists. I cannot imagine that Conservatives are all calculators. They must consider culture to be important. It is one aspect of peoples' vitality, the peoples of Quebec and Canada, naturally. I cannot understand that greater priority was not given to the arts and culture.

Let us talk now about the Canadian securities commission. What a crazy and detestable idea. Since I have been here, since 1993, they have been trying to pull the wool over our eyes. They say a supranational body is needed to ensure the requirements for securities commissions are standardized and to encourage investors. Really. For 10 years, the securities commissions, including Quebec's Autorité des marchés financiers, have harmonized their practices. And they continue to do so. There is no need for a big league player to oversee everyone.

The fact of the matter is that a Canadian securities commission would totally ignore the jurisdictions of the provinces and Quebec in this matter and support Bay Street. Its head office would be in Toronto. Toronto would be on the investors' circuit. Everything would go through Toronto. Instead of individual traits reflecting the particularities of each of the provinces and Quebec, there would be one standard. They want the rules to be the same everywhere, just so it can all be centralized in Toronto.

We will fight, as we have since 1993, to prevent the creation of this Canadian securities commission. They cannot say, as the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance are saying, that they will respect the jurisdictions of the provinces, and dare at the same time to propose a securities commission like that in opposition to Quebec. It will not fly.

This is why we asked the Prime Minister the question. If Quebec were the only one to oppose it, would the government still establish a Canadian securities commission? The government has given us evasive responses. Nevertheless, we know that if this were this case, nothing would change. Everything would happen in Toronto. Eventually, the Autorité des marchés financiers would gradually lose its power in an area of provincial jurisdiction.

I have said it before and I will say it again: if it were not for the Conservatives' pledge to correct the fiscal imbalance, we would have voted against them. We will be keeping an eye on the government and every move it makes between now and the first ministers' conference this fall. We will be keeping an eye on it as it puts together its next budget. Given all the negative effects of this budget, we are not their allies.

That said, in terms of that commitment, this side of the House, the Bloc Québécois, cannot demand—and employment insurance will be our first target—that the government move forward, make commitments, find solutions to this problem, develop a process and a set a deadline, and then say that we will bring them down anyway.That would be ridiculous. We are not electioneering.

Some members of this House are electioneering: the Liberals and the NDP. What did they do when they found out there was something on the fiscal imbalance? From the start, the Liberals were against correcting the fiscal imbalance, so they opposed the budget. The NDP, which is closer to the centre than any other party in the House, also opposes our suggestions for correcting the fiscal imbalance, which is by transferring tax fields and reforming equalization. The New Democrats' attitude toward the Conservatives' budget is natural, opportunistic, and entirely to be expected.

The budget sets out other positive measures that the Bloc Québécois has supported for years. We are pleased that the Conservatives have paid attention. It does not make up for all of the gaps and problems I mentioned, but it is a band-aid solution until the next budget. We think of it as a transition budget.

The budget provides $1 billion for post-secondary education. We had asked the government to take immediate, concrete action in this area, given that this sector was suffering from the drastic cuts made by the previous government, the so-called government of the common good. The budget now provides $1 billion for post-secondary education. We can applaud this measure.

The budget also allocates $1.5 billion to help farmers. This is also good news. These investments must be continued, however, for years to come. Until subsidies are restored, as long as the Americans and Europeans offer their farmers higher subsidies, we will not be able to compete with them on equal terms. This cannot be a band-aid solution; we need to maintain assistance until the question of agricultural subsidies on an international scale is resolved. This is, however, a good starting point.

The budget also provides $800 million for social housing. We called for a first step, an initial investment, which we see here.

As for public transit, on three separate occasions, the Bloc Québécois tabled a bill aimed at creating a tax credit to promote the use of public transit. My colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher tabled another one last week. We are pleased that the government understood the message being sent concerning public transit. This represents another battle led by the Bloc.

Action has also been taken in the budget on longstanding demands such as exempting scholarships. It was not right, in fact it was completely ridiculous that a student who received a scholarship from the Government of Quebec or Ontario would pay federal tax on it. It was absolutely ridiculous. These scholarships are no longer taxed. We fought for this for seven years.

With regard to microbreweries and the excise tax, we have also won after battling for five and one half years. Our microbreweries create hundreds of jobs in the regions. They can now compete favourably with their American and European competitors.

I repeat, no measures are planned for the following: employment insurance, POWA, changing the $1,200 allowance to a tax credit, the Kyoto protocol, arts and culture, the weakened manufacturing sector and the Canadian securities commission. I can assure the House that the Bloc Québécois will fight with all the energy for which it is known.The Bloc will oppose the government if it goes against the interests of Quebec in these matters. We will propose solutions for each one of them. We will convince the other opposition parties and the government. The Bloc Québécois' action and zeal will not stop at this budget. We will be on the heels of the Conservatives until the next budget.

The Budget May 3rd, 2006

Before getting to the heart of the matter, I would like to address a remark to my Liberal colleague who spoke before me.

I think that the Liberal Party members as a group should look to their reputation. They are not credible when they talk about the common good or when they talk about using public funds properly, particularly with the sponsorship scandal in the background. They are not credible when they talk about the welfare of the regions, because they devastated the regions, particularly with the employment insurance cuts, the theft of the surplus in the employment insurance fund. They left the fishers out in the cold, just as they did the farmers.

So it seems to me that they should be a little less arrogant, and a little less cynical too, and hold their peace for quite some time. I think that this would be a good thing for everyone.

Taxation May 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the government stated over and over that the $807 million Quebec lost when the daycare agreement was scrapped will be taken into account as part of resolving the fiscal imbalance.

Can the Minister of Finance confirm that the $807 million will be part of such a resolution?