Mr. Speaker, this is my eighth throne speech in ten years, and I must say that, once again, it is meaningless, if not totally useless, where Quebec is concerned. In fact, the more things change, the more they stay the same. This is always a much anticipated speech, but it is always a very disappointing one.
Since the prorogation of the House was announced, there has been a lot of griping from all parts of Quebec, and back home, in Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, people had much to say.
First, I must say that the conditions set by the Bloc Québécois in anticipation of this speech truly reflected what the people have told us throughout the summer, particularly in my riding, where many of my constituents came to me with their concerns about the environment, the federal spending power and Afghanistan.
Allow me to stress the fact that the environment is a central concern for the young and the not so young, who are worried. Young voices can be heard calling us to order where it comes to looking after our planet. I think that is very encouraging. The people in my generation understand, as do those in older generations, and as I just mentioned, the younger generation is very sensitive to the issue. The Conservatives are the only ones in society who do not understand.
I cannot believe that, once again, the Prime Minister is siding with the Americans and adopting the same policy, when there are so many indications that the public is opposed.
I cannot believe that the Prime Minister is siding with the big oil companies instead of the people.
As if repudiating their signature were not enough, the Conservatives are also silent on the issue of a territorial approach. One understands, however, that such an approach would cost Alberta too much and, more importantly, that it would be too profitable for Quebec industries. How cynical.
Once again, Quebec distinguishes itself through its difference, having already gone a reasonably long way to achieving the objectives in terms of the targets set in the Kyoto protocol, yet it is totally ignored by the federal government.
Another thing that makes us realize that the Liberals and the Conservatives are cut from the same cloth is federal spending power. In 1996, Jean Chrétien wrote the same lines on this that we see in last week's speech.
Need I remind this minority government that there is a consensus in Quebec on eliminating federal spending power? Need I remind them that Quebec has been disputing this federal spending power'a existence for more than 50 years? Need I remind them that, regardless of their political stripes, every Quebec government, without exception, has expressed their desire to defend the integrity of Quebec's jurisdictions?
We are far from it with the Conservative Speech from the Throne. In that speech, Quebeckers now have concrete proof that open federalism is a sham.
What bothers me the most about this Speech from the Throne is that, without asking the opinion of the House, the Prime Minister clearly announced his intention to pursue the current mission in Afghanistan until 2011, without first doing what he said he would on June 20; here are his own words:
Mr. Speaker, the government has made it clear that the mission will end in February 2009. A new mission after that date would have to be approved by this Parliament.
The purpose of the mission in Afghanistan was above all to be a mission of reconstruction, a mission in which Canada promised to resolve problems, not create new ones.
For some time now, this mission has taken a rather worrisome turn. More and more military resources are being sent to Kandahar and more and more soldiers are dying on Afghan soil.
In addition to all that, the NGOs on the ground are complaining about the bad management of money being sent by the Canadian government for humanitarian aid. If the objectives of this mission are to improve the quality of life of Afghans, the message we are hearing from the NGOs is quite simple: we have failed.
The Conservative government is clearly aiming to be as much like the Bush administration in the United States as possible. The reputation of our neighbours to the south is constantly criticized by the international community.
It is certainly not by copying our neighbour's warlike policies that we are going to improve the quality of life of Afghans. Take Iraq for example: there is nothing to be proud of there.
Now let us talk about the new Minister of International Cooperation, a new minister in the new Conservative government who is not doing anything really new. In the past, flags were being handed out; now it is cookies.
This minister has nothing new to offer. She has not done a better job than her predecessor, nor has she done a better job than the previous government.
Let us not forget that before taking on her current role, the Minister of International Cooperation was the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women. She did not take it seriously. In fact, the minister lost that role because the whole production was turning into a tasteless vaudeville show. The entire artistic community was disgusted with the minister's lack of leadership. Moreover, with this minister at the helm, women also lost ground.
In response to what was, at best, a poor performance and at worst, a complete failure, the Prime Minister put her in charge of International Cooperation during the last cabinet shuffle. That goes to show how unimportant he thinks this critical portfolio is.
People are expecting a lot from the minister, but they do not have a lot of faith in her. We are very concerned about the announcements in last week's Speech from the Throne. We are also very concerned about the kind of announcements the minister has been making. I should point out that this government's modus operandi has been to announce new programs without announcing new funding.
The total budget for international development assistance has been set, and there has been no new money since. The Conservatives' tactics are appalling.
For years now, we have been urging the government to support the millennium goals and dedicate 0.7% of GDP to international aid as recommended by the UN special committee. Unfortunately, we are still a long way from that goal. We expect more from the government. In light of the surpluses they have announced, what is stopping them?
It is practically impossible to get any answers to our questions. It is also very difficult to get information from the minister about what is happening with the money sent to Afghanistan.
The NGOs on the ground voiced their displeasure, but the government did not respond. It did not even comment, which is not very reassuring.
Too many letdowns give us no choice but to vote against this Speech from the Throne, which contains nothing new or tangible for Quebeckers.