Mr. Speaker, I appreciate finally being able to speak to set things straight. Unfortunately, one of the members to whom I wanted to direct my remarks is not here. I would have liked to give him the real figures, but he is gone.
I will begin by telling the member from the Canadian Alliance that the members of the Bloc Quebecois will not support the Canadian Alliance motion. We might have been able to support it if it had stopped after “gasoline taxes”, because the rest is nothing but interference in areas of provincial jurisdiction, making the reduction conditional on the provinces doing certain things and raising money.
Quebec is not a local government. Quebec has full powers. I do not see why, as a federal member of Parliament, I would tell the provinces, and Quebec in particular, to do as they please when it comes to their highway infrastructure. We know that this 1.5 cents per litre gas tax, imposed by this government in 1995, was introduced to fight the deficit and eliminate it. We know that in 1998, the former Minister of Finance said that the fiscal imbalance had been addressed, yet he continued to pocket this money. We do not need any lessons from the parliamentary secretary. This is a serious issue.
Mr. Speaker, I forgot to advise you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Lotbinière—L'Érable.
We know that, with just 10¢ in excise tax in 2001-02, the Liberal government of Canada collected $4.758 billion in fuel taxes in Quebec. That is a lot of money. And what does the government do with that money? We do not know. It seems to me that when taxes are collected on fuels, it is to take care of infrastructure matters. But no, the federal government takes this money and we do not know what happens to it.
In 2002-03, Quebec collected $1.6 billion in fuel taxes and invested over 117% of that money. The government looked for money in other budgets within the transportation department. Quebec is doing its job.
The parliamentary secretary spoke of the infrastructure issue. I am the Bloc Quebecois critic for infrastructure; I have attended all the negotiations. I also was present when all the cities submitted their projects. It is understandable that it would come from the cities because municipally elected officials are the first point of contact for the public. They know what they need to improve their infrastructures, from sewers to water mains to roadways.
An agreement had been negotiated. For the last two infrastructure agreements, which involved the federal, provincial and municipal governments, it was agreed that Quebec would run the show. The municipal governments sent in their latest proposal for an agreement to the Government of Quebec. They had over $4.3 billion in projects, but in the negotiated agreement the federal government put $1.9 billion on the table. There was a shortage of money. The projects are waiting. What this government wants to do now is to go over people's heads. I think it is going in the same direction as the Canadian Alliance. I think it is just more of the same. It does not respect provincial jurisdictions.
In Quebec, the municipalities are creatures of the provincial government. So, when a creature belongs to one level of government, I do not see why a higher level could go over the head of the person or entity to whom the creature belongs, to go and negotiate with it instead.
This parliamentary secretary has said some very odd things. The Bloc Quebecois has provided the real numbers, while the parliamentary secretary has pulled them out of thin air. The real figures are here.
In speaking about the needs, he even mentioned the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He says that he spoke with its representatives. After the last federal budget, that federation took a stand.
In the throne speech, the federal government said that infrastructure had to be put in order. The current situation is serious. It was announced that needs in Canada required investments of $57 billion over the next 15 years. How much did the government offer? It put $100 million on the table, when it had pocketed $4.7 billion from the fuel tax in 2002-03 alone.
Any child of five, six or seven years of age can calculate the difference between a need for $51 billion over the next 15 years and the $100 million actually offered, without including the $4.7 billion being pocketed each year. This is proof of the fiscal imbalance that the Bloc Quebecois condemns. The PQ government has also spoke out against it, as has the current Charest government, in Quebec City, and all the other provinces.
This government will take the money from the taxpayers, as it has done with employment insurance. The fund has $44 billion. The government took that money. I call this a payroll tax. Workers pay employment insurance premiums. This means that when you work, you pay an additional tax. In my opinion, workers want to enjoy their salary and to pay taxes normally. They do not want to pay additional taxes.
In terms of employment insurance, only 37% of workers are entitled to benefits. Furthermore, when they do receive benefits—which is quite difficult—their premiums are only about between 50% and 55% of what they should be.
Whose idea was this? The current Minister of Finance has picked up where the former Minister of Finance, the member for LaSalle—Émard, left off. The latter ran Canada like a financier would. It is not surprising. He owned ships and did not pay taxes to Canada or Quebec. Imagine the millions of dollars he has not paid. With that kind of money we could have done things to help the workers, built infrastructures, helped the poor and the homeless. Imagine what we could have done with the money that was not paid by the former Minister of Finance, the member for LaSalle—Émard.
The way infrastructure funding is handled is preposterous. There are immense needs not only in Quebec, but in Canada. Everyone agrees. The Canadian Alliance has put forward a motion. They are saying that the government should reduce the excise tax on gasoline by 1.5¢ per litre, on condition that the provinces come up with additional money themselves. That is not what the provinces want.
The provinces want the fiscal imbalance to be resolved. If this were done, if the federal government invested the money it takes in from the fuel tax—last year it collected $4.7 billion—if it helped the provinces shoulder the cost of infrastructures, everyone would be happy. There would be modern infrastructures and the taxpayers' true expectations would be met. The taxpayers want something to show for their money.
However, what is currently happening at the federal level is that the government is pocketing or accumulating money and we do not know what they are doing with it. In the meantime, infrastructures are deteriorating. Moreover, the parliamentary secretary has the nerve to accuse the provinces of not doing their work. On the contrary, they are doing their work very well despite all the cuts that the federal government has been making for many years.
The federal government is the one that should be putting out the money. I suggest to the hon. member from the Canadian Alliance that he take out what follows the words “gasoline taxes” in his motion. If he takes out what makes it conditional, the Bloc Quebecois will support the motion.