Mr. Speaker, I wish to bring to your attention that I am sharing my time with the member for Halton-Peel.
There are two issues I would like to focus on in this debate on the throne speech.
The first one deals with the openness shown towards Quebec, and the second one with the way cultural issues are addressed. The two are similar in that they are equally important for the future of our country.
When one listens to Quebecers, it does not take long to understand their concerns, their confusion and even their anger, if I may say so, when faced with the problems the Quebec society has to deal with.
Quebecers are concerned about job insecurity and job loss. They are worried about the way the major social services are deteriorating, whether it is the unemployment insurance program, the health system, education or the social safety net.
They are concerned about the future of the regions and the price they will have to pay for the excessive debt incurred by the governments. They complain about the very few tangible effects brought about by the business restructuring and the new high tech industries whose merits they hear so much about. They express their frustration through their strong will to change things.
Quebecers are all the more anxious to change things since they have the talent, the entrepreneurship and the adaptability to catch up with the front runners. They are asking for change so that they can resume their place and take advantage of the social and economic benefits stemming from dynamic growth. Quebecers have had it with double talk, gimmicks, scapegoats and so-called winning questions. They do not like politicians who avoid talking to them about what they cherish most, that is their quality of life and their opportunities.
Faced with these challenges, the Parti Quebecois government, so far, has only come up with a policy resembling the squaring of the circle. On one hand, the supposedly inescapable road to separation from Canada and, on the other hand, the recovery of the Quebec's economy and finances in partnership with that same Canada.
The inherent contradiction in that policy creates a climate of uncertainty that paralyses economic growth in Quebec. Moreover, that policy, which is based on an irreversible break with Canada, causes division among Quebecers. In turn, this division fosters uncertainty. One day, Lucien Bouchard sings the praise of separation and promises yet another referendum, and the next day, he is calls for economic recovery and fiscal consolidation in Quebec which, in turn, require stability and confidence.
We know that it is this squaring of the circle that caused Jacques Parizeau's political demise. We must get out of this dialectic before Quebec itself is destroyed by it.
The speech from the throne offers an alternative to Quebecers, a partnership that affects not only economic and social issues, but also the method of government.
Let us not be mistaken, this speech speaks to Quebecers in a language fraught with consequences; that may be the reason why the opposition rejected it offhandedly, fearing that the message would get across.
Basically, the speech proposes to modernize the Canadian federation, together with the provinces, to meet the needs of the 21st century. It invites the government of Quebec to participate in this process so that Quebec's interests are better served. The message is clear: this adjustment will not be done by increasing the powers of the federal government to the detriment of the provinces. The federal government will limit the use of its spending power, obtain the consent of the provinces and create joint management systems if necessary.
It will withdraw from areas under provincial jurisdiction such as tourism, mining, forestry and recreation and will continue to withdraw from transportation and manpower training. The speech from the throne does, however, propose increased partnerships with the provinces and a common effort to ensure our security by strengthening our economic and social union and preserving the quality of our environment.
These new partnerships are possible without these endless constitutional debates that have taken up so much of our energy. This is possible without the trauma of Quebec's separating. Nothing would be better for eradicating the uncertainty than this new beginning in an atmosphere of confidence and co-operation. This is the opening now available to the people of Quebec.
If we wish to work together to create a Canadian society for the 21st century that can serve as a model for the rest of the world, clearly that society cannot be anything but pluralistic, with each part recognizing and respecting the distinct identity of the others. In this we are no different than any other large country in which different languages, ethnic groups and religions live alongside each other.
But we are far advanced over most of these because of the common values of open mindedness, understanding and generosity which have characterized our history and still prevail. Such values are diametrically opposed to the parochialism and intolerance which lead to division, fragmentation and weakness. For these reasons we can rejoice in the fact that the Throne Speech confirms the government of Canada's desire to recognize the distinct character of Quebec society and to have it acknowledged.
I would like to conclude with a few comments on the commitments to the cultural sector expressed in the speech. It can never be repeated too often that cultural creation is essential to our identity. We abound in creative talent and enjoy a widely diverse cultural industry, but there is still need for further development in this area.
Our biggest challenge in the years to come will be to ensure a strong Canadian presence on the information highway. We are already facing competition from foreign products, mainly American. In the future, regulations protecting the Canadian audio-visual market will gradually lose their effectiveness, and our political will will be undermined by American threats of punitive measures. We will have to create our own high-quality products to maintain control over our own space and even better, to export these throughout the world. This strategy has a better chance of success than a protectionist strategy. It will, however, require increased financing for Canadian content.
In addition to fiscal measures encouraging the investment of private capital in our cultural industries, few options open to the Government of Canada will be as effective in their impact on the cultural sector as creating a consolidated fund of audio-visual productions. Thanks to this initiative, the consumer will be able to choose from foreign products, which are always available, and domestic products which, without this new financial support, would never see the light of day. Cable companies and satellite-television distributors already contribute considerable amounts of money as a condition of operating their services. This type of contribution could be used to provide better financing for the production of Canadian content.
In the past, we have always opted for strategies that would support our artists, our creators and our cultural industries and provide a buffer against the tide of American culture. We are aware that this sector, which is critical to establishing our distinct identity in the world, would not come into its own if market forces alone were allowed to prevail. That is why we have put in place policies and institutions that serve to maintain a balance between our own identity and foreign perspectives.
The throne speech is in line with a tradition that has confidence in the talent of our own citizens.