Madam Speaker, I am honoured to have this opportunity to reply to the speech from the throne. The constituents of Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, the men and women living in the regional municipalities of Kamouraska, Rivière-du-Loup and Basques ridings as well as the municipality of Pohénégamook, gave me the mandate to express to the federal government the will of the population of Quebec which wants fundamental changes in the relationship between Quebecers and the rest of Canada.
Since 1980, I have chosen to live in Eastern Quebec, more specifically in La Pocatière. Everywhere I went, I noticed that the needs of rural Quebecers are not quite understood. Government members do not seem to recognize the urgency here, since no regional development strategy is mentioned in the throne speech.
On behalf of the neglected rural and urban populations, I would like to say how disappointed I am about this omission.
Given the insensitivity of the government to our specific development concerns, whether it is in Rivière-du-Loup, Amos, or Lotbinière, we have lost all hope of seeing the government respond quickly to the situation. Hence the need for Quebecers to get back all necessary political and financial powers to make sure measures are being taken right away.
Even if it is not included in the Constitution, regional economic development is a jurisdiction on which the federal government has impinged without taking into account the will of the Quebec government to take full responsibility in this area.
For over 30 years, Quebec regions have been used as laboratories for tests which only proved that the present federal system does not work.
At first, the federal government opted for economic centralization, as shown in the Higgins-Raynauld-Martin Report. This devastating approach was reinforced by the creation of the Department of Regional Industrial Expansion, whose decision-making process focused on sectoral concerns, instead of regional characteristics.
In 1987, even the Standing Committee on Regional Industrial Expansion of this House of Commons recognized the fact that the federal programs did not meet the needs of the people, because the criteria being used were not suited to the needs of the regions. Because of a lack of participation from the regions, the money was given to useless projects, instead of some local and worthwhile initiatives. Take for example the magnificent $7 million drill hall which was built in my riding. Fascinating, but if the people in the area had had a word in the matter, I can assure you they would have found other much more interesting projects to subsidize with that $7 million.
The federal government made some adjustments by developing a new strategy based on framework agreements. That does not work either, as shown by the unemployment rates. Regions can and must do more to supply domestic and foreign markets with raw materials. To create jobs, we must develop processing industries and make use of local resources. The government's role in putting GATT in place will also be judged by what happens here. Its defence of GATT was not very convincing, I must say. The government accentuates regional dependence.
The federal government might as well admit that its actions in the area of regional development are inappropriate. The economic base is crumbling, the social fabric is falling apart, the exodus from rural areas continues, with young people among the first to leave.
The number of municipalities whose population is shrinking has increased at an alarming rate in the past 25 years, so that today, their numbers exceed the number of communities where the population is growing. Nevertheless, the people in the regions are doing something about it. A first step was taken by the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec and 25 groups that signed the déclaration des États généraux du monde rural at their meeting in 1991.
Perhaps I may recall some of the main highlights of this declaration: rights of the individual; the community's control over its future; promoting and respecting regional and local values; co-operation between local and regional partners; diversification of the regional economic base; protecting and regen-
erating resources; fine tuning lines of political authority; and promoting alternative measures for sustainable development. The Bloc agrees with these principles and supports this consensus.
Regional development means more than just building roads. Quebecers know that that is not enough. Progress depends on the active participation and creativity of local resources. The government should provide financial support as needed. In this respect, research and development are the way of the future for the regions. Remote locations are no longer an obstacle to attracting high-tech companies.
Haphazard action by the federal government has created bizarre situations, as in the case of its policy of closing rural post offices, which meant that communities were deprived of essential services, while at the same time community futures committees were being set up to provide local communities with the appropriate development tools. When we consider that 83 per cent of the employees in these post offices are women, an excuse for speeches on employment equity, this is a clear case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.
The Federal Office of Regional Development fails to take the comprehensive view of local development. What it does is often more like window dressing. Boosting regional economies means knowing how to use local human resources. Forestry workers who lost their jobs to a machine should be able to go back with dignity and help develop that same forest for the benefit of future generations. When companies increase productivity, the proceeds should be used to create jobs.
Actually, the inefficiency of manpower training programs is most apparent in the regions, where it is harder to get a training program for a group of workers than to relocate them. I had this experience myself on an adjustment committee, when 20 employees from Bombardier had been laid off and it took at least two major political manoeuvres to get these people a training program for welding, although the Bombardier plant, well-known internationally, was only a few kilometres from the training location.
What is there in the Throne Speech that will make life easier for a young entrepreneur from Saint-Hubert or Rivière-du-Loup who wants to launch a new product? Who can help him? The Business Development Centre, the Community Futures Committee, the Youth Enterprise Centre, the Corporation de développement économique , the tourism corporation, the Federal Office of Regional Development, the Industrial Development Corporation, plus two members' offices. The development agencies mean well, but it is a real nightmare for our young entrepreneur to find his way through this administrative labyrinth. Often, after knocking in vain on all these doors, our young entrepreneur has to go back to dreaming about his future. Meanwhile, and this is even worse, agencies in the region compete with each other in a way that is unproductive.
Regional development must also be based on comprehensive projects like the high-speed train in the Quebec-Windsor corridor-that cannot be overemphasized. This project would create jobs in greater Montreal, at the Bombardier plant in La Pocatière and for our Canadian neighbours. This project would have a major impact. It would use the potential of our young people who are skilled in high-tech fields and would develop an expertise which could be exported throughout the world. It would also be a major contribution to the conversion of military industry.
Geographical isolation is trivial compared to isolation from the main decision-making centres. The future of regional development in Quebec depends on respecting Quebec's jurisdiction in that field and recognizing the regions' right to control their own development, as the Bélanger-Campeau Commission said.
Federal intervention in regional development is very costly. Overlapping jurisdictions require such an expenditure of energy that not enough is left to deal with the real problems. By creating intermediate structures, too much time is spent administering the programs in order to co-ordinate decision making among various agencies. Meanwhile, money does not go to the community; it stays in the bureaucratic system.
The share of income collected directly by government through taxes should diminish as local authorities obtain access to revenue sources from these same citizens. The infrastructure program is an eloquent example. What a fine effort the governments seem to be making without putting too much money into development!
But do you not think that ideally, the municipalities themselves should have the ability to collect taxes and raise the funds needed for their development, without asking themselves whether the federal Parliament in Ottawa must be involved in the decision about a garage or a roadway in the Rivière-du-Loup region?
I think it would be much better to decentralize the budgets and available funds significantly so that our local elected officials can decide on these matters.
In the present federal system, a way to do this would be to give Quebec the tax points for the federal investment in this area, over $200 million, and to recognize Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction in this field.
We are in a paradoxical situation, where the federal government which has the right to raise taxes never developed the proper tools to meet the regions' needs in support of their development.
We gather from the 1993 election campaign that people yearn for a way to the future, where only one government will decide
and will have all the power to tax and to eliminate duplication, overlap and inconsistencies among departments. People want to call on the values that already exist in their communities.
This way of the future is Quebec sovereignty, a unique opportunity for a massive transfer to the regions of the $28 billion in taxes which Quebecers pay to Ottawa. We will vote against the subamendment moved by the member for Calgary Southwest because it is out of the question to give the government a blank cheque for deciding on cuts without first setting up a committee to thoroughly study the proposed cuts.