Mr. Speaker, obviously I plan to talk about the whole issue of the amendment, but I will also take this opportunity to speak on Bill C-50, the budget implementation bill, and share some more general but, I believe, nonetheless very important thoughts.
Coming on the heels of a budget that is timid, to say the least, Bill C-50, Budget Implementation Act, 2008, confirms this government's vision and essentially incorporates a bill on immigration that is totally unacceptable in terms of both its content and the way it is being introduced.
On reading budget 2008, I felt that seniors and the poor were the big losers. I voted against this budget largely for this reason. Now, by adding immigration clauses, the government has done something totally unacceptable, in my opinion. These clauses give the minister absolutely extraordinary discretionary powers. There will be other big losers if we accept this. If this goes through, all newcomers to Canada, especially people who want to sponsor family members, will have a hard time living with the new reality of arbitrary decisions.
I want to talk about more general issues, as I said previously. In this Budget Implementation Act, 2008, regional economies—an issue I feel strongly about and one that will always be close to my heart—and environmental concerns are really given short shrift. The measures in the bill are too timid to give clear, targeted help to the thousands of people across Canada with urgent, pressing needs. It is shameful that, once again, the government has not chosen to act for the common good and redistribute wealth when it can.
The government has chosen to use $10 billion to pay down the debt instead of looking after the people for whom it is responsible and redistributing wealth. Because it has decided to pay down the debt, the government is using smoke and mirrors and more often than not presenting us with budget measures spread over two years—measures it is not giving much attention to. Sometimes, the figures look quite promising, but when they are cut in half, they are much less attractive.
Very few people are fooled by this scheme. As I said last fall in criticizing the economic statement, it is precisely because, quite frankly, there was not much to it and nothing substantial for seniors and businesses in our region that I obviously decided to vote against the statement, as I did against this budget and as I will continue to do against this budget implementation bill, which I find unacceptable. It is only logical.
Today, the government is implementing some of the claims regarding provincial jurisdictions. We had questions about the elimination of the millennium scholarship and the creation of an independent employment insurance commission. All these steps taken by the government are baby steps and their significance should not be exaggerated, as it is quite limited. The people in our regions want to see real, detailed changes, which they do not often see from this government.
The people who need help from this government, people in my riding and throughout Quebec, are truly being left out in the cold by this budget and this budget implementation bill. I am talking about seniors and forestry workers in particular.
As far as seniors are concerned, this government recently had the opportunity, as many in this House will recall, to take a look at our least fortunate seniors and study the entire issue through the motion I presented, which, I am happy to report, was adopted by a majority vote. The only members who voted against the motion were the Conservative members.
The government thus had an opportunity to address the issue, to do things differently, to try to eliminate poverty among our seniors, those who built our regions, our country, our nation of Quebec and the rest of Canada. It had an opportunity to lift these people above the poverty line.
My motion did not ask for much. In it I asked that our seniors be lifted above the poverty line and be allowed to work 15 hours a week at the minimum wage established by their province of residence without being penalized with respect to the guaranteed income supplement. It was not much, but it was well-meaning. We know what this government decided to do.
The Conservatives have taken some measures. No one can be against the good things or against virtue. They announced $13 million to fight violence against seniors; that in itself is important. Furthermore, they announced the creation of a TFSA, that special account. This is good, if the seniors have any money. My main focus was help for poor seniors. If seniors can save a maximum of $5,000 per year in a special savings account, good for them.
But before helping those who have resources and pensions, the government's responsibility and obligation is to take care of the people who need it most. In this case, I will continue to hammer home my demands, the demands of the people, of seniors and of those who fight for seniors' rights and needs, because they need more than what the government offered in its budget.
I will not have a chance to discuss all the sectors of the Quebec economy, but there is one in particular that affects everyone, at least on this side of the House: the manufacturing and forestry sector.
It is completely unacceptable that despite the creation of a special fund intended to help these regions and sectors where many manufacturing and forestry companies are experiencing a crisis, there are still huge job losses. The government had the opportunity to help these foresters and to give them a boost.
In my region and in Quebec in particular, I am thinking about private woodlots and the foresters who own them, who cultivate our forests, who look after them competently, successfully taking environmental concerns into consideration. The Conservative government completely forgot about them. It completely ignored the reality in the forestry sector, and particularly the private forestry sector, in Quebec and elsewhere.
For all the reasons I mentioned—and I am sorry I must stop, because I could have talked for 20 minutes—it is clear that I cannot support this budget implementation bill, and will vote against it.