Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-71, the Tobacco Act. This gives me the opportunity to explain to constituents in the riding of Châteauguay where my party and I stand on this bill.
Concerning the principle of this bill, as we have said many times, we voted for it at second reading. Indeed, I feel it is important to inform and educate people and eliminate the subliminal propaganda aimed at children. We know that tobacco use has an impact on the health of Quebecers and Canadians. That is why the Bloc Quebecois gave its approval in principle at second reading, as long as changes were made to the way the products could be displayed in the stores, that the regulations were tabled immediately and that more leeway was given for sponsorships, but this is not the case.
We intend to vote against this bill at third reading. While we support the principle of regulating the use of tobacco, we do not agree with the measures associated with signs, particularly with regard to sponsor identification. We also have a problem with the future regulations, because they give the minister too much leeway in the implementation of this bill and the way the products are to be displayed in the stores does not meet our demands.
As I was saying, the negative impact of tobacco use on the health of Quebecers and Canadians has been proven and demonstrated. This Liberal government is mistaken if it thinks that banning sponsorships is the solution. Moreover, we know that many Liberal members, and also senators, have their doubts about the bill this government is getting ready to pass. However, they do not have enough backbone to defend Quebec.
The government must be really out of touch to think that smokers will give up their habits if Benson & Hedges stops funding the fireworks. How can it imagine that non-smokers will start smoking simply because events such as the Grand Prix in Montreal are sponsored by tobacco companies? We do not need advanced courses in marketing to understand that sponsorships are an extra advertising tool for the brand, and not for the decision to start smoking.
Would it be dreaming in technicolour to think, as the labour minister told Liberals gathered in Quebec City last weekend, that other sponsors could take over from the tobacco companies? That will not happen and, contrary to what the minister said, it is not blackmail on the part of tobacco companies. We, in the Bloc Quebecois, believe that several international events are threatened.
I would like to give us more food for thought in debating this bill. Little has been said about the therapeutic aspect of the various cultural and sports events sponsored by tobacco companies. Has consideration been given to how beneficial these events bringing the people of Quebec together can be? These are excellent opportunities for communities from various backgrounds to meet at one given place to share each in their own way experiences that are often quite meaningful.
Often, families and other groups that make up Quebec's society get together for such events. There is no doubt that all these events provide a break from routine, rest and entertainment. It would be most unfortunate that such festive reunions would be killed in the name of ensuring the well-being of Quebec's society. The Minister of Health should be sensitive to this reality, because it affects the mental health of an entire community.
Let us not delude ourselves into thinking that we will be able to undo the harm done after losing the only Formula I Grand Prix race in North America. Bear in mind that, in stubbornly rushing this bill through, the Liberals are forgetting their promise for jobs, jobs, jobs. I agree with my hon. colleague from Rimouski-Témiscouata, who suggested that the Minister of Health was out of touch with the reality and economy in Quebec and that the Prime Minister should get involved.
Is there anyone in this government who takes Quebec's interests to heart? I hope to see Liberal members from Quebec rise for the first time to oppose this bill that will seriously affect Quebec's economy.
Do not tell us that this bill has the support of the people of Quebec. It is not true. For example, a SOM- Le Soleil poll conducted last December showed that close to three quarters of the adult population in the Quebec City region were opposed to the provisions contained in this bill. Moreover, at noon today, merchants from downtown Montreal held a protest against this bill, which will adversely affect the restaurant, tourism and business industries. The Montreal Chamber of Commerce stated its opposition to the Liberal government's bill by calling it a fundamentalist measure.
We must say it loud and clear to Quebecers: this bill goes beyond the laudable goal of fighting tobacco consumption. It will directly affect Montreal's sports and cultural events. It will make them disappear, thus eliminating a whole industry in the city's economy.
This is a sad record for a government that is about to call a general election. Chances are the upcoming polls will be very revealing for the Bloc, which really looks after the interests of Quebecers. The bill also reflects a favourite tactic of this Liberal government. I am referring to the postponement, until after the general election, of certain irritants such as the implementation of clauses 24(2) and 24(3) on sponsorship. This is a tactic frequently used by the Minister of Finance, and it most certainly inspired his colleague, the Minister of Health.
Even though some measures are being postponed, international events such as the Montreal Grand Prix will be in jeopardy as early as this year, because of certain clauses of the bill dealing with issues such as broadcasting and communication media.
For all these reasons, I will oppose the bill at third reading, and I urge all members to do likewise. We will vote against this bill at third reading.