Madam Speaker, Bill C-22 establishes the new Department of Social Development over which presides the Minister of Social Development. This bill amends or repeals certain related acts. It sets out the rules applicable to the protection and the making available of personal information obtained under departmental programs, other than those governed by similar codes found in the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.
The focus of the Bloc Québécois is to promote the sovereignty of Quebec and to defend the interests of the nation, the people and the state of Quebec. Under the premise of defending this consensus reached in Quebec, Parliament cannot confirm the creation of a department with a mandate to interfere in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces.
The new department created by the Prime Minister on December 12, 2003 has some 12,000 public servants who are responsible for managing close to $53 billion “to secure and strengthen Canada's social foundations while respecting federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions”. The Minister of Social Development was taken from human resources development, which is becoming a department that coordinates the activities of the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers.
Quebec does not need an administrative structure or an additional federal policy. Its social programs are already largely more advanced than throughout Canada. What Quebec truly needs is the money it is being denied because of the fiscal imbalance created by the Liberals, in order to properly fund Quebec programs.
Out of a $53 billion total budget, $51 billion was allocated in direct subsidies to individuals through two main programs: the Canada Pension Plan and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.
In order to better understand the nature of the Bloc Québécois position on the creation of the department, just look at the list of benefits offered by the department, which is claiming to respect provincial jurisdictions, while its mandate is full of intrusions into provincial jurisdictions.
The Auditor General was quite critical in her remarks about the government's practice of netting, or offsetting expenditures against revenues. She was especially critical of the government's apathy toward the many warnings it has received.
In previous fiscal years, both gross and net amounts were shown in the Public Accounts of Canada. Thus, the government used to charge certain expenses against revenues in the operating statement. This did not have any impact on the annual surplus, but the statement presented lower expenses and revenues for the year. For several years, we have objected to this practice. The items in question are the Canada child tax benefit, the revenues of certain Crown corporations and the GST credits.
I am very disappointed and I find abusive that the government should keep using net amounts in its analysis of revenues and expenses in the annual fiscal report.
Obviously, any department has programs and additional expenses. It is essential to make a systematic analysis of each program of the new department.
The retroactive payment of guaranteed income supplement benefits is a fight the Bloc Québécois has been waging for years. The federal government has unfairly deprived and is still depriving many Quebeckers and Canadians who are among the most vulnerable in our society, from benefits they are owed. In my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry alone, the federal government owes $6 million to needy seniors.
In December 2001, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities made public its report on the guaranteed income supplement. It was revealed that more than 270 Canadians and 68 Quebeckers were entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, but did not get it.
From 1993 to 2001, almost $3.2 billion in Canada and at least $800 million in Quebec were kept from low income seniors who were entitled to these benefits. Thanks to the efforts of the Bloc Québécois, at least 25,000 more seniors now meet the conditions and benefit from the guaranteed income supplement.
This represents at least $100 million in recurring funds for Quebeckers that the federal government tried to deny low-income seniors.
Despite a Liberal promise in the 2004 throne speech to increase guaranteed income supplement benefits, the federal government still refuses to agree to one of the Bloc Québécois' most important demands: full retroactivity for seniors who were entitled to benefits and never received them, because they failed to receive adequate information. Currently, the federal government has limited this retroactivity to just 11 months, thereby penalizing seniors in need yet again.
In the 2004 budget, platform and throne speech, the Liberals made the disabled a major issue. They announced a number of measures, such as tax deductions and other measures for the integration of the disabled.
In 2002, the Bloc Québécois had actively participated in the work of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, in order, among other things, to improve the disability tax credit. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of improving the living conditions for the disabled through tax deductions and tax credits provided that Quebec's jurisdictions are respected.
The Bloc Québécois believes, however, it would be easier to integrate the disabled into the labour market if the Quebec government was made responsible for this client group. The federal government's direct involvement with community organizations, through the social development partnerships program, the voluntary sector initiative and the new horizons program, is blatant interference in areas of jurisdiction belonging to Quebec and the provinces, which have ties to these organizations through the Quebec health care and social services network.
It is obvious that the Quebec government is much better equipped to assess their needs and prevent the scattering of federal funds, since Quebec operates in accordance with a clear and well-defined social policy and stable, long-term funding.
The early years centres program is an experimental initiative to help communities determine the educational development of young children by examining the quantity, quality and scope of programs and services required to meet these needs.
These initiatives are a clear duplication of educational programs in Quebec. Quebec already has extensive expertise, thanks to its network of health care professionals and public education network, as a result of which it has full jurisdiction in this area.
So, the Bloc calls on the government to withdraw from areas of Quebec's jurisdiction and give it back the money it is putting into these programs so that Quebec can improve its day care system, because this system has proven itself and is well suited to the needs of Quebeckers.
The national child benefit provides financial support to low income families with children through a program of national child benefits calculated on the basis of income and paid out under the federal child tax benefit program.
Under the terms of the national child benefit, the federal government also provides additional financial support to low income families with children through the national child benefit supplement, which is an integral part of the Canada child tax benefit.
The thinly veiled aim of the federal involvement in this sector is Canada's visibility, as in the sponsorship scandal. As the member for Don Valley West and the chair of the subcommittee on children and youth at risk put it: the main aim is to have the public and history remember the Liberal government. As this member puts it, the government has done nothing worth remembering.
To justify its action, the government is pointing to the social union agreement. Quebec did not sign this agreement, it will be remembered. If the government really wants to honour what is being done in Quebec, it should not only recognize it, but should provide financial compensation when the program, which already exists in Quebec, is set up.
Quebec did its own consulting nearly 20 years ago. There is a consensus in Quebec and it is respected by the government. A Canadian policy on family and early childhood that includes national standards, would be paternalistic.
The example of the $5 day care speaks for itself. Some families lose more in deductions than they earn because of day care measures. Quebec has called for tax harmonization for these families. Ottawa, however, has refused, saving itself $70 million on the backs of Quebec families, which need it more.
At the present time, the Canadian taxation system has no universal measure which recognize and takes specifically into account the responsibilities of parents with dependent children. Canada is one of the few developed countries that does not provide tax benefits to certain families with children.
The Bloc Québécois feels it is self-evident that the responsibility for a comprehensive family policy is incumbent upon the Government of Quebec. The federal government can, and must, make an additional fiscal effort for parents in need.
This is why the Government of Quebec is proposing the inauguration of a refundable tax credit for all families with dependent children under the age of 18, including those whose income is too low for federal income tax. Low income families paying little or no income tax would thus also be able to benefit from a lighter tax burden.
The $7 a day child care system, which has provided Quebec parents with child care at reduced rates, has also saved the federal government considerable sums, but these have not been passed on to the Government of Quebec, nor will they ever be.
Since parents are paying only $7 a day for each child in care, as opposed to the actual cost of $25, their federal tax deductions and therefore their refunds have decreased accordingly.
Consequently, the federal government has saved close to $1 billion since Quebec brought in its $5 child care in 1998. In the first year of the Quebec program, the federal government saved $108.6 million for only 82,000 $5 child care spaces in Quebec.
As the number of child care spaces increases in Quebec, Ottawa's tax savings increase as well. In 2003, federal savings totalled $235 million.
So, over six years, this makes close to $1 billion Ottawa has saved at the expense of young Quebec families, families in need.
The Bloc Québécois calls for Quebec to retain its right to opt out with compensation as far as child care services are concerned, and also for the federal government to modify its taxation system in order to allow the full deduction based on the actual cost of the child care spaces, not the parental contribution of $7.
In closing, the Bloc Québécois cannot support the creation of a Department of Social Development that, by definition, interferes in the jurisdictions of Quebec. This government keeps promising to respect the jurisdictions of Quebec, but, in fact, it does just the opposite.
The government must agree to the Bloc Québécois subamendment requiring that it fully respect provincial jurisdictions while putting more money into social programs and imposing Canada-wide rules for the allocation of funds.
The Bloc Québécois has always defended the interests of Quebecers, and in that regard, it is essential that Quebec's areas of responsibility be respected.
The consensuses reached in our National Assembly have recognized that the Quebec government has full jurisdiction in the areas under its responsibility because it has the structure and the institutions needed to link all bodies. The Quebec government can recognize the real needs and develop a fair policy and detailed action programs to meet them.
We believe that the federal government must recognize once and for all that Quebec, although its leeway has been considerably reduced by the fiscal imbalance, has still managed to implement internationally renowned quality programs.
Quebec has been successful because it listens to people and because it has a responsibility to create relationships with the stakeholders in targeted areas in order to effectively identify the needs. The Bloc Québécois will never agree to the creation of a department that not only has the mandate to duplicate and copy Quebec's avant-garde policies, but that also prevents Quebec from fully developing its own social programs.
This is not about visibility, but about respect for the integrity, security and health of all Quebeckers.