Mr. Speaker, with your permission I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.
I am pleased to take the floor to cast light on what I consider to be some of the most troubling aspects of the federal budget of last February 16. Although my time is too short, I will begin by addressing the underlying trends of this budget, which are evidence of a growing desire by the federal government to invade areas of jurisdiction defined by the constitution as provincial.
Then I shall attack the myths being spread by the federal government about Quebec's receiving its fair share of Ottawa's spending, every year in every budget. To do so, I merely need to refer to the insufficiency of job-creating spending by Ottawa in Quebec on the one hand, and on the other the orgy of spending on federalist propaganda in Quebec, spending that is anything but job-creating.
The Martin budget confirms the Ottawa government's strong tendency to use its spending power to gradually centralize all power within its hands. The federal budget for 1999-2000 fits within a continuing trend which is most revealing of the long-term political objective of the Liberal Party of Canada. Some editorials have rightly described this as a political budget.
Once again this year, the federal government's spending power is being used as a Trojan horse in order to sneak into areas of provincial jurisdiction. After education, this year it is health care, and this time there is no attempt at disguise.
The Canadian Constitution ensures that health is an exclusively provincial responsibility. Yet this budget is taking away funds the provinces need to administer their health systems so that it can create bureaucratic monsters that will usurp provincial powers and duplicate programs. The obvious purpose of this is federal exhibitionism.
I was amused to hear my colleague from St. Paul's say ,in response to a question from my Bloc Quebecois colleague on social union, that health services were certainly a provincial matter, but the establishment of standards was a federal matter. I find that revealing. My hon. colleague considers therefore that the establishment of standards is a federal responsibility, while carrying them out is a provincial one. This is an original view of an area of jurisdiction.
In invading the health care field, the government did not trot out a single Trojan horse, it released an entire stable of them. These Trojan horses are the national health surveillance network, the Canada health network and the Canadian institute for health information. This last one is the most insidious, since it amounts to putting Quebec and the other provinces under guardianship in the area of health care.
The Canadian institute for health information will monitor, diagnose and provide treatment to these health care networks, unilaterally and against their wishes.
Furthermore, programs such as the research and evaluation fund for nursing staff, prenatal nutrition, rural community health and the telehealth pilot project represent very costly and totally useless Canadian flags planted beside Quebec government programs in these areas.
On the political level, it is remarkable that this slow job of sapping provincial responsibilities has produced no major reaction from the provincial governments, except that of Quebec. Despite the commitments the provinces made in Saskatoon, they signed the social union agreement without balking, selling the birthright of their jurisdiction for a plate of federal largesse lentils.
I come to the second part of my remarks. Ottawa has for years claimed that Quebec receives more than its share of federal budget spending. We must take the wind out of this statement once and for all.
First, let us talk about equalization. What is the equalization program? It is a federal initiative designed to compensate the relative poverty of certain provinces. Sure, we get money under that program, but why are we poorer in the first place? It is easy to find at least one reason. It is well known that, given its demographic weight, Quebec receives much less than it should when it comes to productive investments and the procurement of goods and services by the federal government.
Indeed, while Quebec accounts for 24% of the Canadian population, it always gets less than 15% of the federal money for research and development. By comparison, beloved Ontario, which accounts for 37% of Canada's population, gets close to 60% of that money.
This lack of productive spending is a fundamental cause of Quebec's relative poverty. Now, Ottawa is trying to justify its reduced social transfers to Quebec with this compensation under the equalization program. However, by its very nature, that compensation is absolutely not guaranteed in coming years. This strange calculation clearly sets a precedent which might later be used to justify the reduction of overall federal spending in Quebec. This will happen as soon as our province's economic situation changes, at which time Quebec will become a contributor instead of a receiver under the equalization program.
Like me, members probably wonder how Ottawa hopes to impress Quebecers with this budget. While we do not have the federal government's recipe to promote its visibility, we know those who are trying to use it.
We also know of some of the ingredients used in that recipe. There is the Canada Information Office, a propaganda tool with some $21 million to spend this fiscal, the Treasury Board, and the Department of Canadian Heritage, which have explicit instructions to bury Quebec deep in directives and programs all sporting bright red maple leaves.
How are we to explain that Ottawa spends close to 60% of its Canada Day budget in Quebec every year? Flags, flags, and more flags. They are the only thing the federal government gives us way more than our share of.
In conclusion, I would say that the reaction, or non-reaction, to this new federal budget in other provinces once again proves that there are two incompatible visions of government in Canada: Quebec's, calling for decentralization, and the rest of Canada's.
Quebec being in a minority in Canada, about the only option left for Quebecers is to choose sovereignty or go along with a vision of government at complete odds with what they believe in.