Madam Speaker, it seems to me that we are repeating ourselves and that we are not done repeating ourselves, although, personally, I am confident that within a matter of months or years all this will change and we in Quebec will be doing our own thing. In fact, we have been repeating ourselves for quite a while. Today, we are talking about fiscal imbalance. A case in point is the establishment of a new department which I call the department of social encroachment. The government is taking steps to get involved in all the provinces and in Quebec in particular. It is unpleasant to have the government interfere in Quebec, which is increasingly autonomous and can do so well, as some members have pointed out, that it is sometimes a model for the other provinces.
When I was an MNA in Quebec City, I saw foreign governments come to study our legislation. Quebec is a leader in social development, as in every other field. The problem however, and it is a major one, is that 45% or 50% of our revenues go to the federal government. That is our money, but, as my hon. colleague from Laval said, we have to beg for every little bit we can get back. This money hardly makes it to us because the federal government finds ways to duplicate services in order to assert its presence in Quebec, which is having a discouraging and demoralizing effect.
As I said, this is nothing new. I will not hide my age. I am 69, and the first political speech I heard was one Maurice Duplessis made in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. I was with my father and I heard Maurice Duplessis say he needed a strong mandate to get back our share of the spoils. I asked my father what he meant by that, and my father explained to me how the federal system worked. He said, “We give money to the federal government, but it is not easy to get it back, and when the government agrees to give it back, it is based on its priorities, not ours”. Ever since then, I have become more involved in politics. So, Duplessis was getting back his share of the spoils.
There was also Jean Lesage, who had a huge mandate and who changed things in Quebec. He spoke of being master in our own home. He knew full well that we needed to stop sending our money to the federal government.
Then there was Daniel Johnson senior, who said, “It is equality or independence. Give us back our money or else.”
Then there was Robert Bourassa, whose knees were shaking a bit. However, in 1971, he slammed the door in Victoria when the federal government did not want to give Quebec its due.
This continued with the sovereignty association of René Lévesque and continues today. In fact, if the last referendum, in 1995, had not been stolen from us—and we now know that it was—Quebec would now be a country. Nevertheless, despite the fact that it was stolen from us, the referendum result was 49.4% for the yes side.
With everything that happens to us and every time we speak here, every time services are developed that encroach on provincial jurisdictions, we are humbled more and more. It makes us realize that we will be handling our own affairs in Quebec one day. Personally, I hope still to be in politics when it happens, even if it is my last mandate. I can assure you that I will still be there to work on it.
We talked about this a lot. I have spent my life on the road. I have seen human misery in every sense of the word. The hon. member for Laval also spoke about this earlier and she knows what she is talking about. It is unbelievable to see the extent of services that are close to those who need them and that are at the ready. There are some 7,000 social economy enterprises in Quebec.
There are CLSCs in the picture. The municipalities are increasingly able to deal with at risk or vulnerable individuals.
However, instead of giving the money to the Quebec government to distribute in keeping with the priorities of Quebeckers—and this is true in the other provinces too, I am sure—the federal government has just created the department of social interference or social duplication. It has come to set up house in our jurisdiction, establish parallel offices, wave a maple leaf and show that the federal government is there to provide services. Unfortunately, once they are well established, there is little money available and no more services. However, public servants have been hired.
The study by Jacques Léonard has proved that, over the last five or six years, the public service has grown by 49,000 employees. Thanks to this new department, there will be 12,000 to 14,000 more public servants. This will cost the federal government close to $10 billion more per year.
For the 10 provinces, this represents approximately $1 billion per province. Some provinces would get more than others, because the population differs in each province. Just think what the provinces could do with the extra money, since they know what services are needed. They have the expertise and are familiar with the public. It is appalling to see a government waste our money and energy and try to outmanoeuvre us.
If Quebec creates a good policy, the federal government copies it. Child care is one such example. It is amazing to see what Quebec has done in this field. We have absolutely no objections if others want to benefit from our experience. We are generous by nature. But our rightful share, however, is not forthcoming.
The Prime Minister said that Quebec was to be the model for the child care system throughout Canada and that Quebec would get its money unconditionally. We now know that four or five provinces have already signed. Quebec still has not signed. Why? Because Quebec would have to agree to conditions. Although the feds followed our example and benefited from our expertise, they are now imposing conditions on us before we can get our rightful share of the money.
I can tell you that this could have been so simple, but it has become demoralizing. I recall something I heard at some meeting. The question asked was “How is a country administered?” The answer: “You run a country like you run a family”. Families take their income or incomes, and then distribute it according to priorities. That way, there is money for leisure activities, education, health, and probably for holidays. In short, for all the family's needs. The same needs to apply to government.
No one here could run a family, because they cannot run a government. We have lost track of all the energy, the money and the time we have wasted to try to get the message across that the money needs to go back to those who need it most. The Liberal Party may be in power but it does not own this country. It acts as if it did, though.
One needs only look at the sponsorship scandal to see how they have shamelessly had their palms greased. In the parliamentary committee we are inviting para-governmental bodies to come and tell us about their situation. It is scandalous to see the extent to which the government is using the country's funds as if it owned this country.
This is not true. Neither the Liberal Party nor the federal government own Canada. We are the ones our money belongs to. Each province provides its share, as does each individual, and one day they will realize that we are going to take back what is ours and to stop handing it over to them because they are wasting it. I am discouraged by the whole situation. As I have said, we have been hearing the same thing for 50 years. We are getting closer and closer to a solution, but things have not changed in the past 50 years. Flashing the Canadian flag everywhere, putting emblems here, there and everywhere, that was what the sponsorship scandal was all about. And filling up their own pockets is perfectly fine, because they think they own the country. That is basically what they are telling us.
In committee, we interviewed André Ouellet, formerly of Canada Post. He became angry because someone called him a thief. Perhaps the word was a little strong. His answer was painful to our ears. He was at Canada Post. He told us not to get upset over a $2 million expense account. The costs of hotel rooms and meals had to be taken into account. True, there were no receipts for 15% of the expenses, but he had forgotten them. Fifteen per cent of $2 million is only $300,000; that is not much. An ordinary worker has to earn $600,000 to get $300,000. He laughed, he teased us, it was pretty awful. It was hard to know what to ask that would be logical. While he was a Liberal, he owned this Canada; it was his business. That is the way we see it. You can see it in other parliamentary committees. It really offends me. Things have to change one day, and I can predict that, one day, Quebec will change it. One day, in the not so distant future, we will tell the federal government that no more Quebec money is coming to it. We will hang on to it. Up to now, we have shown we know how to manage things. Whatever the government in Quebec City, it is always infinitely better than what there is federally. Sometimes there is waste in Quebec, but I can tell you that Quebeckers are keeping a close eye on it.
Our current government, the Charest government, has made mistakes. Not for too long. When it makes a mistake, it is forced to look at its position. Why? Because Quebeckers take to the streets and say what it wants to do makes no sense. It has to take another look at its position. But here, whatever message we send is unheard. I find that really difficult.
I have looked into the seniors issue. There are—as my colleague has said—270,000 Canadians who have been deprived of their guaranteed income supplement over the past 10 or 12 years. Of that number, 68,000 were Quebeckers. I have toured Quebec and attended 42 meetings on this. I have seen the terrible poverty. I was with the member for Sherbrooke in his riding, where we learned of one senior who died at age 88 after having an income throughout her old age of $6,000. The government pocketed $90,000 when she died. Imagine if she had had that money. She was no one of importance, just someone who raised a family of ten or so children, and surely did not work, so presumably was not seen as entitled to what was coming to her. I met people like that all over Quebec.
It makes no sense that they are coming up today with a bill that will merely complicate things, add more public servants, increase the visibility of the federal government, when this money could have gone to the seniors who have been deprived of $3.2 billion over the past 10 years. That is very close to $1 billion for Quebec alone, $80 million to be exact. Just the structure, the mass of functionaries, the wasted energy could have gone to pay seniors what is owed them. But no, they will not do that.
Conversely, when the federal government is owed money, the retroactivity goes back 10 years. And if the government finds a person at fault, the period of retroactivity then extends indefinitely and there are fines and interest to pay.
In our region, an older couple realized, when they were 70, that they had been deprived of $4,000 a year. These are regular people. I was able to get $4,000 for them for the past 11 months. This brings their total loss down to $16,000, $16,000 that the government is keeping in its coffers and using to build structures.
I have had enough, really enough, of this system. The government side never listens. We are asked questions, but when we answer in accordance with the wishes of the people, they do not pay any attention. The Liberals own the country and almost own its inhabitants. I am sad to see that we cannot advance issues further.
Seniors have been robbed of $3.2 billion in recent years. They will not be taking this money with them when they die. I pledge that, as long as I and the Bloc Québécois are in this place, we will pursue this. The day will come when the government has to agree to grant retroactivity to seniors, because they have earned that money and it belongs to them. Unfortunately, I can see that it is in the interest of the federal government to delay payment. The people involved are old; they are not youngsters. Those 75, 80 or 85 years old have precious little time left. The government is saving money with each passing day by constantly delaying payment. The day might come when it is generous enough to pay what it owes, but by then all of those who were owed the money will have died.
For now, the government has generously announced that payments will be made over the next six years, although the money was taken over the past 12 years. It is no longer exactly the same people. The government will be giving back $2.7 billion over the next six years, but took away $3.2 million over the past 10 years. Those involved will have changed in the meantime. We cannot really call that social justice.
There is no doubt that I support my colleague. So long as we can, we will oppose this bill. In fact, it creates a department of social encroachment. We have enough encroachment. We are going to fight it with the energy of the desperate, until we have hope of keeping all our marbles at home and making Quebec the country of our dreams.