Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Ottawa—Vanier.
With respect to the budget policies announced by the Minister of Finance, we know, when we return to our ridings, that this budget is good for Quebeckers.
We know that by investing to support Canadian priorities and values, our government will make our society one that is even more equitable and more supportive, while remaining the only G-7 country to maintain a balanced budget that will invest in the future of our families, regions and environment.
My riding is the largest federal riding in all of the ten Canadian provinces. It covers over 800,000 square kilometres and there are 63 mayors in the riding. Indeed, when we return to our ridings during the breaks, we have the opportunity to talk with people.
Last week, I was talking with Pita Aatami, the president of the Makivik Corporation and an economic leader in the community. Since he took office, he has shaken things up a great deal in Ottawa when it comes to economic and social issues. There have been a number of examples. Because of the pressure he exerted on our government, we invested in economic development in this budget.
Pita Aatami has been directly involved in a number of issues, including marine infrastructure, social housing and especially, of late, readjusting electoral boundaries. In April, a ruling will be handed down by the commission that is responsible for the boundaries.
I say this because some of the economic leaders in our region live in outlying areas. We know that the Inuit contribute to the economies of Quebec and Canada. They are the only ones in Canada to pay direct taxes to the federal and provincial governments. They pay taxes.
We know that the budget that has now been in effect for several days strengthens the health care system thanks to several measures, including an $34.8 billion investment over five years, the 2003 health care services accord that was just signed by first ministers.
It is important not to talk only about numbers, but also about what is happening in our hospitals, whether they are in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, outlying areas, or in large urban centres. We know that this reform is being carried out and will help all governments.
It was not just the Minister of Finance who was involved in the recent reform. We can thank the Prime Minister of Canada, the Liberal member for Saint-Maurice, who negotiated and worked with the provinces. We know this was not easy but he stood firm to ensure that taxes were used to help the health sector.
Another truly important sector is the help given to municipalities. For instance, $3 billion is being invested in infrastructure and $2 billion will be invested in major projects. This leaves $1 billion for all Canadian communities and municipalities, including those in Quebec.
We know that $1 billion divided among several provinces and territories represents a few hundred million dollars for each province or territory. We know that with the infrastructure agreements, Quebec analyses and the federal government does its part.
We could also ask ourselves what could be done to help Quebec. People ask us questions such as: What about the federal transfers? I always tell people in my riding that the transfers are our taxes that are being returned to our municipalities and outlying regions in Quebec.
There will be a transfer of $2.5 billion to the provinces. Quebec will receive roughly $587 million, which will immediately be invested to ease the current pressures through the Canada health and social transfer supplements. This means that the provinces will have flexibility in using this money based on their needs until the end of 2005-06.
There is also the health reform fund. It is definitely important. Families and communities have not been forgotten. We know that in the budget there is an annual increase of $165 million for the national child benefit supplement until 2007. This measure is similar to the socio-economic measures that the Government of Quebec is using to fight child poverty.
Nonetheless, in terms of tax benefits, there is one thing that bothers me in Quebec: people know very little about these issues.
People never ask, even when there is an election, where the Government of Quebec gets those $5. Not from taxes, I will tell you where. It takes them from the family allowances of Quebec families. It takes $5 directly off family allowances, which means that Clémence Côté of Val-d'Or, Abitibi, whose 10 children do not go to day care, loses $32. So she is helping out her neighbour, whose children do go. This is something I find regrettable.
Quebec will find a solution, regardless of what party is elected the next time, as to where that money can come from. I know they could go to Loto-Québec, and we all know how much they are making these days with the video poker machines. There is talk of $10 million a day, which certainly adds up, after several years.
Then there is the development of aboriginal businesses. Several million dollars is going into aboriginal communities, and particularly aboriginal businesses. The James Bay Cree, the Inuit of Nunavik, the Algonquin in the area and elsewhere in Quebec have been heavily involved in setting up new businesses. They are business people capable of finding solutions and to move forward.
We hear much talk in the regions of the price of gas. It is not an easy situation. I share the concerns of the people of my area and the Quebec City area. I have an aunt, Monique Lavigne, in Saint-Romuald, and she tells me, “Guy, gas is too expensive”. In June 2002, they were paying 69¢ or 70¢ a litre for regular, and now in Saint-Romuald they are paying 87.5¢. And what is located in Saint-Romuald? Refineries. People living next door to refineries are still paying the same high price for gas.
To give an example, the place in Quebec and perhaps in Canada where fuel is the most expensive is Kuujjuaq, in the territory of Nunavik. The Inuit pay taxes and they are paying $1.22 a litre. A solution must be found in order to move forward.
Locally, assistance must also be provided for manpower training. There is funding, and transfers have been made to Quebec for vocational training. These millions of dollars will help the workers. The universities will find ways of moving forward to innovate with research projects, but the tax system must also be improved. We know that this measure included in the budget will result in an increase in after-tax gains of up to $9,000 per year. which will help businesses to expand.
I have seen a number of budgets over the 15 years, or 14 years and several months, that I have been sitting in this House. Under this government, not to mention the previous one, many budgets were brought down, and I must say that this budget is one of the best I have seen as the member of Parliament for the vast riding I currently represent.
A number of improvements are required, however. For example, a solution must be found with respect to the cost of diesel fuel for forestry workers. It is very expensive. So is heating fuel; we have had a very cold winter, and households are paying very high prices for heating fuel.
Let me tell you that this is an excellent budget. Improvements can be made without going the budget route, through an order. The mining industry made a number of gains in this budget, but alternate solutions must be found in order to move forward.