Mr. Speaker, as I begin, I would like to tell you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques.
Today we are engaged in a debate of capital importance for all the provinces, Quebec in particular. We know that the biggest challenge for all provincial and territorial governments is to manage their spending and investments in health care. We know that the average amount invested in health is around 38 or 40% of all expenditures by each of these governments.
According to the Conference Board—who is not a group of nasty separatists—by 2005, nearly 45% of provincial and territorial spending will go to health investments.
The motion by my colleague, the hon. member for Joliette, says that the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chrétien, promised $2 billion. Let the government give this $2 billion to the provinces and let them divide the current year's surplus in half and invest it in health. For example, we in the Bloc Quebecois believe that the federal government will have a surplus of $8 billion this year.
I would like to remind the House of some history here, namely the estimates made by the Bloc Quebecois since 1998, when I was a new member of this House, having been elected in 1997.
We will remember that in 1998-99 the government across the way estimated that it would have a surplus of $3 billion. That was the same amount the Bloc Quebecois estimated. In reality, it was $3.1 billion. In 1999-2000, the government came in with the same estimate of $3 billion. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot estimated it would be $11.5 billion. What was it in fact? It was $12.7 billion.
Remember that in 2000-2001, the people on the other side predicted a $4 billion surplus. The Bloc Quebecois estimated $18.2 billion. The real number was $18.1 billion. In 2001-2002, the folks across the way predicted $1.5 billion while we predicted $8.3 billion. The actual number was $8.9 billion. In 2002-2003, the Liberals estimated $3 billion and the Bloc $7.5 billion; in reality it was $7 billion. For 6 consecutive years, the Bloc Quebecois has been on target in its estimate of the surplus.
Therefore, this year we firmly believe that the amount will be roughly $8 billion. Last week, the Conference Board—another non-separatist institution—predicted that the Government of Canada would have a $10 billion surplus this year.
Where does this $8 billion come from? First and foremost, it comes from the change brought about in the transfers to provinces for health, social services and so on. That change was implemented unilaterally. I remember when the present Prime Minister and former finance minister decided to change the formula for transfers to provinces. In doing so, he impoverished the provinces. He carried out the will of the former president of the Treasury Board, who used to say, “Let us starve the provinces; we will have the money and, thus, have a hold over them”.
That is what this government is doing. Where did the $8 billion surplus come from? The government keeps grabbing the surpluses in the employment insurance fund. It keeps dipping in union pension funds. It keeps clawing back the tax on school bus transportation, and so on.
This $8 billion surplus could be even higher. It could be, if the government opposite managed its finances prudently and responsibly. It is not even able to estimate what the surplus will be for a given year. We in the Bloc Quebecois have to tell the government.
My colleague, the member for Joliette, who is a financial expert, could tell the government that the real estimated amount for this year's surplus is $8 billion. I am sure it would be a pleasure for my colleague, the member for Joliette, to help the finance minister—