Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to congratulate the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle. Everyone listening to us today should know that if we are debating the Rivière Rouge Mont Tremblant International Airport, it is because we have a colleague, the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle, who is doing her job as an elected official and telling us about the initiative taken by people in her community that was related, of course, to economic development and tourism.
There is nothing nobler than to take up a cause, work with the community, and try to correct injustices. I will have a chance to show that there really is an injustice here.
The Rivière Rouge Mont Tremblant International Airport is not a minor issue. First of all, in the history of the regional development of Quebec, the Laurentians are part of our collective imagination. Who, in Quebec at least, has not heard Les belles histoires des pays d'en haut, by Claude-Henri Grignon, who won the Athanase-David award in 1933? It takes determination to accomplish one's goals.
The hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle is another Father Labelle. I am not referring to her looks, of course, but her determination to ensure the development of the Laurentians, which is one of the most beautiful regions in Quebec. Father Labelle wanted to develop Saint-Jérôme and the surrounding area—at the time they spoke about colonizing of course. A railway was needed to connect it to the other more or less urban centres of the times.
It is rather sad to see a government in 2008-09 that is so insensitive to the regions. We are certainly talking about regional development when we have a community that was accredited in 2002 for international flights thanks to an initiative of the local development board, municipalities and private shareholders.
Why is it that we members of the Bloc Québécois are forever up against a government so utterly insensitive to regional development?
I want to take a few moments as a Montrealer to tell the House about the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, who incarnates the crudest, basest, most disgusting incompetence possible. It can scarcely be imagined that this kind of minister still exists.
He decided, with the stroke of a pen, to pull at least $50 million out of the Montreal economy. For what must have been grossly ideological reasons, given his total lack of calibre and the meanspiritedness and pettiness of the policies he pursues, this minister decided if non-profit organizations are getting involved in economic development it is inappropriate because that is not their mission.
There is a connection between the decision this minister made in regard to exporters, the aerospace industry and Montreal International, to take just a few examples, and the decision that the Canada Border Services Agency made in regard to the Rivière Rouge Mont Tremblant International Airport, which was discriminatory.
Why are we dealing with discrimination here? Discrimination consists of different treatment in comparison with the whole.
I have just heard some figures given by a colleague—ones I have not checked but will use as well—saying that 201 comparable airports, that is of similar size, are exempt from charges, but that in the Laurentian region the Mont Tremblant airport had to pay customs charges when an international flight lands there and has to be processed through customs.
How can we explain this to our fellow citizens? How can the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle explain to her fellow citizens, to local developers, that everywhere across Quebec—and in Canada, I would add—there are no customs charges during the time period when there are not supposed to be any, except in her particular region? This is even more serious because everyone in Quebec realizes that the Laurentian region has a very specific tourist character.
All hon. members, of course, believe that their area is the loveliest. I might mention that Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is celebrating 125 years of existence this year. Hochelaga-Maisonneuve was an autonomous Montreal municipality, an area of economic prosperity. People called it the Canadian Pittsburg, because of its burgeoning footwear industry. The town joined Montreal in 1918. My colleague Louise Harel, who is known for her sense of humour, has remarked that there has always been an anti-amalgamation tradition in the east of Montreal.
All that to say that the Laurentians are an extremely special tourist attraction. I do not know whether the minister responsible for the agency has even set foot in the Laurentians. I would remind hon. members that this region boasts 10,000 lakes and rivers, which contribute to its tourism potential. There are numerous outfitters, national parks, nature preserves, and activities such as walking nature trails, fishing, hunting, the fall colours festival and cross country skiing. There is open space for walking, for hikes, for romantic strolls—this is a region that brings out the romantic in people—something you will acknowledge in yourself I am sure, Mr. Speaker —for getting out in nature behind a dog sled or on a bicycle. Tourism is one very vital aspect of life in the Laurentians.
I would also like to pay tribute to my colleague, the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, he of quick wit, and he who has served well in the National Assembly. I believe he has been recently honoured by the Barreau du Québec. This honourable member is well known for his silver tongue. He is an orator, a talented litigator, a man with a strong grasp of effective language. The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who stands strongly behind this region, proposed a motion in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, to which the agency reports and where its estimates are voted on, if my information is correct. I will reread that motion, which has been accepted and has nothing ambiguous about it. It reflects the wishes of the committee and those wishes need to be expressed in the House. The minister must allow himself to be influenced by the committee motion , which reads as follows:
That the Committee recommend that the Rivière Rouge Mont Tremblant International Airport (YTM) be recognized as an airport of entry into Canada, without customs charges being imposed for regular commercial flights, as is the case with the airports in Montreal and Quebec City.
I have to ask: where is the Quebec Conservative caucus when it comes to defending the interests of Quebec? Did anyone besides the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle and her colleagues from the Bloc Québécois stand up? We have a situation here where the future regional development of one of Quebec's finest tourist region is mortgaged. The Conservatives from Quebec should be equally supportive of economic development in Quebec. There are times when partisanship has no place and we have to join forces. When one region of Quebec is under attack in its economic development, it is all of Quebec that comes under attack. Again, as I said, the Laurentians region is a unique tourist attraction.
There is no indication that the ten Conservative members from Quebec have offered any support to the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle. We need everyone in this House to clearly understand how urgent the situation is.
Each time a plane lands at the Mont Tremblant international airport in Rivière-Rouge, it costs the airport administration $1,093.68. Naturally, that is in addition to the airport's regular operating costs, which makes it uncompetitive. That should be troubling enough in and of itself.
All members of this House have to understand that this is a situation unique to that airport, which is not found in Montreal, in Quebec City or in any other similar size airport anywhere in Canada.
I am gripped by anger and indignation. I have no intention of having an unparliamentary behaviour or showing any disrespect to anyone in this House, but I do believe that all parliamentarians have to understand the urgency of the situation.
I will stop here because I am so angry I can barely contain myself.