Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add my comments to those of the other hon. members who have spoken so far, especially my hon. colleague from Laurentides—Labelle. I would like to congratulate her on her speech.
For the benefit of those watching us, I would like to repeat the text of the motion before us:
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.
We could name many more airports within our borders. I would like to reiterate that I am speaking here today out of solidarity with the Quebeckers who live in that area and with my hon. colleague, the member who represents that riding. It is an important topic for all communities that are trying to revitalize themselves, take matters into their own hands and enhance their economic development. These communities and the people of Mont Tremblant, or elsewhere, are taking action to succeed. It is appalling that this cannot be resolved because the Minister of Public Safety refuses to make a decision.
As a brief aside, the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber was talking about the other members from Quebec—mainly Conservative members—who do not seem to care about the well-being of our fellow Quebeckers. I would like to assure him that other members from Quebec are doing a good job and care about the problems facing the people of Quebec. This is not exclusive to the party of the member in question.
What is the problem? What is the Gordian knot? It is a matter of treating a region, an airport infrastructure and an economic sector fairly. Why do I say “fairly”? Because in the committee report, in the presentation given by the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin to the committee on May 26, he began by saying:
The Mont Tremblant Airport is the only Canadian airport where passengers who land on regular commercial flights during working hours, which are generally from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., have to pay a customs fee.
Further in his presentation he added:
—the situation is the same for Canada's other 200 small airports,
He meant that those airports are not victims of undue charges. He continued:
—but none of them charges customs fees to commercial flights—
Obviously he was referring to the same core hours.
Why, all of a sudden, in the Mont Tremblant case, does the government, which made a mistake and knows it, not remedy the situation as soon as possible?
For the Conservative government, in my view and in the view of others making similar observations, it is simple. It is a matter of this government showing a concern for fairness. It is a matter of this Conservative government showing an interest in resolving an impasse. First it must recognize that there is an impasse; it has to have the willingness, the intellectual honesty to say that it made a mistake, that it will right the wrongs and resolve this impasse.
What more do they need? They need the willingness to sit down with people, agree to the requests for meetings made by the colleague who spoke to us this morning and by other stakeholders. The minister and his representatives have to sit down at the table and find a solution. That is called working with stakeholders. It is nothing extraordinary. It is the duty and responsibility of any government to do so. Every government is responsible for managing the common good and it is part of the common good to try to find a solution when they know there is inequity. Finally, they have to be motivated by a vision of the good of the communities, wherever those communities may be.
As an aside, earlier I asked the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer a question. I was truly under the impression that for commercial and economic reasons—it is an impression but I believe it is justified—if there were an airport providing commercial flights from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Fort McMurray area or in other regions of Alberta where a regional airport would be economically very profitable, a solution would be found. I suspect that would be the case—and I am entitled to my opinion. This government is giving us indications that it quite often favours certain regions or certain economic sectors at the expense of others. I will now come back to the matter at hand.
What are we really talking about here? Once again, it is about economic development. It is about a very important catalyst: a regional airport. I and those of my colleagues who are fortunate enough to have one or two in their regions know what it means.
Infrastructure of this kind generates a lot of benefits, for example jobs. It provides a gateway to particular regions, helping not only tourism but other very vibrant sectors as well. In our case, in the Lower St. Lawrence region and in Rimouski, I am thinking mainly of all the research centres, the university and the knowledge-based institutions. There is a tremendous amount of coming and going. We have the Rimouski regional airport, in addition to the one in Mont-Joli. This is very important infrastructure for key sectors of the economy, whether in industry, commerce or tourism.
So what is it all about? It is about economic development and fairness, or lack thereof in this case. It is also about service from the Canada Border Services Agency, which is responsible for the people and goods that come into our region and for protecting the border. This agency, like all federal departments and agencies, is responsible for providing services. Providing protection is obviously one part of its responsibilities.
We have to be open to the people who come to our regions. We have to recognize what an important contribution they make, in this case to the Upper Laurentians. The people who go to Mont Tremblant are usually far from poor and their presence has spinoff effects that are felt not just in this region but as far away as the large cities. The ripple effect is all the more important therefore.
When we take this example, what is it really all about from a wider perspective? It is unfortunately about abandoning the regions once again. We have gone through a lot of this over the last two years and a half since this government came to power. It is not a new government any more but it still does not have enough experience to make wise decisions and make them quickly. I said it is abandoning the regions because we have already seen a lot of situations where the government was not only unwilling to act but did not even respond. There are many examples.
I am going to go a bit beyond the airport question to talk about our region. A lot of our infrastructure is still in bad shape. There is the wharf in Rimouski East, for which Transport Canada is responsible. We are still waiting for some dredging to be done. We are waiting for Fisheries and Oceans Canada to take care of the marina. We wait and wait because nothing gets done and there are no new decisions we can tell the people back home about.
There is also the whole area of deregulation. Two and a half years ago deregulation began. Personally, on behalf of a whole coalition from the Bas-Saint-Laurent, on behalf of my fellow citizens, I have denounced this and criticized it, and I will continue to do so. Deregulation of basic telephone charges will mean that over the years people in remote regions will pay a staggering amount for the service they receive.
I am talking about abandonment. There was also the matter of the infamous trust. Unfortunately, once again what we have witnessed in our regions is the implementation of an entirely inadequate measure. Members will recall that the trust was allocated equally across Canada instead of meeting the specific needs of populations in crisis, in the forestry sector, to be specific.
To add to what I am saying about the abandonment of the regions, I will say that this trust completely ignored a very important sector of Quebec’s forestry economy, and that is the private woodlot producers. It is as though they did not exist.
Finally, to come full circle, there is Canada Economic Development for the Regions of Quebec. The minister, we know, is determined to put an end to the recurrent funding of not-for-profit organizations before making sure that there will be a plan for them to obtain the funds they need. We heard him say yesterday in this House, in answer to a question I asked, that research centres, for instance, can always turn to Industry Canada. Are not-for-profit organizations now expected to start shopping around among the various agencies for funding?
We know that these organizations fuel the economy, generating jobs and new technologies. They are often cited as examples not only in Quebec, but also in Canada and internationally. But the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec says he is fed up with people leaning on him—and he has shown us often enough what he means—so he has decided to drop this responsibility, though he said there would be a little transition period of a few years.
These are some examples—and I am drawing a parallel with the Mont Tremblant airport—that show that, when the time comes to make appropriate decisions, to sit down at the table with stakeholders and find a solution, we may make mistakes. Making a mistake does not matter. What is important is to admit it and then to take the necessary corrective action. That is what is vital for the individuals, communities and businesses we represent.
So I hope that my colleagues in this House will vote in favour of adopting this report. It is important for Quebec. Obviously this affects me since I live there and I know it well. Be it the airport at Mont Tremblant or another airport, I am just as concerned. We have to find a solution.
I invite my colleagues in this House to vote bearing in mind that tomorrow it could be the place where they live. We have to vote in favour of this motion for concurrence.