Madam Speaker, I went over all the points raised by the hon. member for-
Won her last election, in 2008, with 56% of the vote.
Social Security System January 31st, 1994
Madam Speaker, I went over all the points raised by the hon. member for-
Social Security System January 31st, 1994
Madam Speaker, I would like to start by thanking the hon. Minister of Human Resources Development for his kind remarks. Unfortunately, that is about as far as it goes. Since the very beginning of the session, the minister has shown no sensitivity to the specificity of Quebec as a nation, a distinct nation, one that has been hit particularly hard by federal policies. Quebec's backward economy and poverty cannot be measured against the economic conditions and poverty found across Canada, as the hon. minister did in his speech. To insist on doing so would be an insult to history, and even more so to refuse to yield to facts, facts which are measured and compared better and better by the day. Many people deny these disturbing facts because they would call for an explanation and, today as in the past, they constitue a strong incentive for action.
You would think that statistics were conspiring to break the whole truth to the House of Commons about the relative economic backwardness of Quebec and the extent of poverty in Quebec. We have before us the annual reports that allow comparisons to be made and conclusions to be drawn.
When the second largest province in Canada ranks first in terms of low-income families, it is out-of-place to state, as the minister did, that there is poverty in Quebec like everywhere else in Canada. The truth of the matter is that Quebec has only recently won this title, although it had always been in the running. It is the first time that Quebec takes this dubious honour away from New Brunswick or Newfoundland. Just for the sake of comparison, let us say that there are as many families below the low income cut-off in the Montreal area alone as in all of the Atlantic provinces combined.
Let us take a look at the significance of this. If Quebec, with a little over 25 per cent of the population of Canada, has 31 per cent of low-income families living within its borders, this means that the rest of Canada, all of Canada minus Quebec, with 75 per cent of the population, accounts only for two thirds of low-income families anyway. Poverty in Quebec weighs more heavily on Quebec than over-all Canadian poverty on Canada.
We all know that unemployment and poverty are rampant almost everywhere in Canada. Millions of Canadians are without hope, if not to say living in despair. Without being unique to Quebec, the phenomenon has nonetheless hit Quebec the hardest in terms of intensity and numbers of people affected.
We could expect the standard of living to be about the same for all the people living below the low income cut-off, thanks to the social safety net we have in place in Canada. For that to be true, the concentration of poverty would have to affect neither the people nor the region, which is not the case. The higher the
level of poverty and unemployment, the more destructive the effects on the affected communities.
These just-released census data show that, of all Canadian metropolitan areas, Montreal also comes first for the proportion of low-income families. These figures apply to the entire census area, so that we can say that the concentration of poor people in metropolitan Montreal is quite alarming.
The concentration of poor people in large and small communities or provinces has a significant effect on the services these communities need and on their ability to pay for and obtain these services. It impacts on their ability to keep their young people and their more dynamic elements and, in turn, on their demographic development.
The regions of Quebec are emptying faster because they are in a vicious circle of impoverishment.
I want my position on the fight against poverty to be clear right from the start. As an Official Opposition critic and member of Parliament, I will make every effort to speak on behalf of those who are not here but whose hopes and future depend on the work done in this House and, in the end, on the vote of the majority.
It is too easy for those whose income is a lot higher than that of the average Quebecer or Canadian, whose jobs are secure for at least five years, like the hon. members opposite and beside me, to look at budget constraints and forget about ordinary people who work for minimum wage or a little more, who would like to work for minimum wage or a little more but who cannot find jobs or who would not be able to raise their children on so little.
Because of their insecurity and inability to plan ahead or to save money, a large number of Quebecers and Canadians depend on collective support. This support is being questioned by the government, and any attempt to sugar-coat it for Canadians would be misleading. The government got elected by promising jobs. It did not say that the unemployed themselves would be held responsible for not having jobs.
Let us talk about poverty and unemployment, not in terms of statistics but of living conditions. Let us try to understand. When we talk about poverty and unemployment, we see two scenarios: the first is a low income level but the second must be called poverty.
The first situation, simpler for lawmakers, is when people earn less money for a while because they have lost their jobs but hope to find new employment; because they are students in a sector where jobs are available; because they are ill or have just given birth. People temporarily earning less or no income: that is the kind of problems governments like to deal with. This lack of money does not mean poverty but, combined with other problems, it can lead to it. That is why we must make every effort to prevent people from getting caught in such a horrible trap.
The second situation facing lawmakers could be called "true poverty"; it is a horrible vicious circle experienced by people whose health, education, housing, addictions, repeated failures, depression, solitude, harassment or family responsibilities only aggravate their feelings of failure and powerlessness.
In such cases, and they are becoming more and more numerous, lack of money turns into a chronic problem and life becomes worse than jail because many prisoners have a hope of getting out. Prisoners have the means to study or occupy themselves and even, ironically, a sense of security.
This poverty is worse than jail because the outside world is there, just beyond the door but, with all its attractions, it remains out of reach. Except perhaps on the evening of payday, but those who want to forget for one night will have to pay the price all month. Yes, hundreds of thousands of Quebecers and Canadians are experiencing these awful feelings of failure and powerlessness.
They accept and often internalize the judgment which they know is made against them, and they isolate themselves in their silence. These people need to be helped and not threatened with being deprived of the small pittance which is their only security.
When we, members of the Official Opposition, defend existing social programs it does not mean that we oppose any amendment or reform of those programs merely for the sake of opposing them; rather, in these times of crisis and deficit cutting, it is to defend with constantly renewed energy our social security mechanisms and the principle of fairness, and also to reinforce social cohesion. To defend the existing programs is to oppose duality, to oppose the fact that hundreds of thousands of Quebecers and millions of Canadians will be left to fend for themselves with a pittance barely sufficient to ensure their mere survival.
This is what fighting for existing programs is all about. But to do a good job at it, we must constantly demand that the government introduce an economic policy which will foster job creation, otherwise any social program, any new training, however good, will only be a makeshift solution which could make things worse, since people will be even more desperate if there is no job after this training and all their efforts prove futile.
For more than 20 years Quebec has been asking for control of all social and revenue protection programs to make them more effective. The reasons mentioned today by the minister to justify his reform are far from being new ones. In fact, the Liberals, who today find nothing better to do than to undertake a restructuring of the social security system in Canada, were the ones who refused to give Quebec full responsibility for the tax points, something which Jean Lesage had negotiated at a time when the
Liberals were still willing to negotiate, that is before the arrival on the scene of former Prime Minister Trudeau.
A social security system, no matter how good, cannot of its own give back hope and dignity to Quebecers and to Canadians. What we need more than anything is a true employment policy.
Since 1990, the employment growth rate, to which research services in Ottawa do not often refer to but we will do so, is diminishing. Indeed, the number of Canadians able to work increases more rapidly than the number of jobs available.
Why is this reform of our social security system suddenly so urgent? Why is the Minister of Human Resources Development, who is accountable to Quebecers and to Canadians for fostering job creation, not desperately trying to introduce a true employment policy, which is the only solution to give hope to young people and workers who have very little hope left indeed.
Among all the testimonies to which he referred, the minister surely remembers that of the former deputy minister of Employment and Immigration, Mr. Arthur Kroeger, who strongly criticized Canadian governments. His comments were reported in the Globe and Mail , last week. This is not a quote; it is an excerpt from the
Globe and Mail.
He said, "Canada has never had a real employment strategy, even though the unemployment rate, especially long-term joblessness, has been climbing since the 1950s and the labour market is polarizing into well-paid jobs for those with solid skills at one end and low-paid jobs for those with little education at the other".
Later, he added, in his own words:
"What we are seeing is a growth of a Canadian under-class".
In another article, which was reproduced in Quorum by the way, yet another expert, Mr. Lars Osberg, told the hon. Minister of Human Resources that social program reform is not what will create jobs, that reform and job creation should go hand in hand. He insisted on the necessity of an employment policy.
If the minister is preoccupied by jobs, why did he increase unemployment insurance premiums as of January 1 instead of freezing them for now, while recovery is so slow, and increasing them later on when recovery has reached the level that economists are promising him? They all agree that these repeated increases have a negative impact on employment, that they constitute an employment tax.
The answer is simple; with all its generous statements the Liberal government has but one purpose and that is to reduce the deficit. No, I am sorry, they have two main purposes: to reduce the deficit and to implement a system, and I quote from Mr. Axworthy's speech, on page 7, a typically Canadian system that will "give Canadians a sense of their own uniqueness".
Therefore, it is not surprising that today, in the area of occupational training, as was the case yesterday with family allowances and as it will be tomorrow with welfare, Quebec is confronted with arrogance and an ever present desire for centralization. The important thing is not to find efficient solutions for people, it is to find a system "which will give Canadians a sense of their own uniqueness". Quebecers do not need programs to help them discover their own identity. Indeed, the central government and especially the Liberals have consistently tried over the years to suppress the very existence of that identity.
Consider the incredible refusal on the part of the central government to give Quebec control over occupational training. I listened to the hon. Deputy Prime Minister talk to us about the great benefits of occupational training. We and indeed all Quebecers do not need to be convinced of these benefits and we have been waiting and we will have to wait two years. Because the most implausible of all detours is being taken, namely a comprehensive review of social and training programs, Quebec is being denied the means with which to launch a serious assault right away on some of its major problems. Yet, if we look at the Liberal program, we can find nothing in what Quebec is now doing that goes against what is advocated in the red book, except for one thing. Quebec wants control because it knows that the current mess only leads to wasted resources and energy and to dashed hopes. Quebec cannot afford to wait. In the face of Ottawa's refusal last week, labour, business and provincial government representatives had some very harsh words for the amazing ineptness of the government which is seeking "a typically Canadian system".
Do we need to remind the government, or perhaps say it for the first time, that an employment policy is urgently needed, in Quebec more than anywhere else, because it is in Quebec that the employment/population ratio reflects a largely inadequate level of business activity.
To clearly grasp the difference between Quebec and Ontario, let us say that if Quebec and Ontario had the same rate of employment, there would be hundreds of thousands more jobs in Quebec today.
No doubt it is not merely a coincidence that for many years now in Quebec, labour, business, social agencies and governments have been working together to tackle serious problems and improve the situation. Responsibility for occupational training falls to them and to the Société québécoise de développement de la main-d'oeuvre to which the government refuses to hand control over training.
Together-and this was not obvious at the outset-they have come a long way and acquired the necessary expertise. The only explanation for the minister's refusal can be found in his speech where he says he is looking for a "typically Canadian system, one which gives Canadians a sense of their own uniqueness".
To delay action for two years on such a critical, fundamental matter as occupational training is a slap in the face for Quebecers. What kind of trust should they place then in the aims of the social security reform process?
The Minister of Human Resources Development wants to carry out a comprehensive reform. He wants the proposals and suggestions put forward to be Canadian solutions. He wants to institute a social security system that gives Canadians a sense of their own uniqueness. If the Minister of Human Resources Development refuses to see that the people of Quebec have their own identity which requires a made-in-Quebec solution, if he persists in wanting to encroach upon provincial areas of jurisdiction such as education and training, if he steadfastly refuses to transfer quickly to the Government of Quebec full responsibility for manpower development, well then he should expect vigorous opposition on our part.
In point of fact, the Minister of Human Resources Development is in the process of demonstrating that Quebec is right to claim, as it has for many years, the right to manage its own income security system. That is what the minister wants, for reasons of efficiency. Yet, the same reasons can explain Quebec's position. The only difference is that Quebec wants a Quebec-style administration, while Canada wants a typically Canadian system.
Social Programs January 31st, 1994
Mr. Speaker, despite his generous observations, is the Minister not of the opinion that his government is putting the cart before the horse by putting into question the social security net-despite all the good intentions he expressed towards Quebec and Canada-before doing anything to put an end to federal waste of money and, in particular, before proposing a job creation strategy?
Social Programs January 31st, 1994
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.
The Minister just created uncertainty for millions of Quebecers and Canadians by putting into question the future of our income security system.
Is the Minister of Human Resources Development not using consultation to lead people into accepting cuts in social programs, exactly as his colleague the Minister of Finance did?
Job Training January 24th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, that is the problem. Nothing has been decided. A decision must urgently be made because we have an emergency in Quebec, where 26,000 people are waiting to get training and this may be their last chance.
We have learned that for the first time in history, Quebec has won the poverty award. The Liberal Party ran on an employment platform, and when you have jobs for a slogan, you have no time to lose.
My question is as follows: does the Minister not agree that the only explanation for such an unacceptable and costly delay is this government's resolve to impose a Canadian solution rather than the one suggested by Quebec?
Job Training January 24th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development. All of Quebec, beginning with their Premier, is scandalized by the federal government's refusal to begin negotiations on job training before reform of the income security system has been completed. In Quebec, industry, labour and government came to an agreement a long time ago and put the Quebec labour force development agency in charge of managing training, using the same model as the one found in the Liberal Party's red book.
Here is my question: would the Minister of Human Resources Development not agree that, all things considered, nothing serious is stopping them from making a deal right away with Quebec on job training?
Speech From The Throne January 20th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, let the Minister of Human Resources Development know that we will keep a watchful eye on him and demand the reforms that are needed.
Speech From The Throne January 20th, 1994
I would say that on the contrary, globalization shows that we need to go ahead with this plan in Quebec. Wherever we look, the way to react to these new requirements is to decide locally, on the basis of the local advantages which we
must put to good use. As History has shown, this globalization of the economy will be matched by regional specialization.
We are not at all going against the current. I would say that on the contrary, look at what is happening now where they are organizing to compete. European countries are still sovereign. They have kept their sovereignty but are working together. As a sovereign power, we would be delighted to agree with you on standards that we would consider necessary.
I would like to say a word if I may about the management of the unemployment insurance program. Mr. Speaker, you know that there is a consensus in Quebec to get this jurisdiction, although not all of it in the present context. We know Quebec needs to go on developing its economy and make the necessary investments to that end. It is certainly going to do it.
There is one point I would like to respond to. I will not abdicate my prerogatives and I will not back down one single inch in the defence of the rights of my fellow citizens in Quebec and of the Canadian citizens for whom I have accepted to be the official critic, but, in my maiden speech, it is important to explain to members of this House why things change the way they do in Quebec. Just pretending they do not change does not mean they do not.
Speech From The Throne January 20th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, first of all I have to say that we have given a lot of thought to the questions you have raised. If Mr. Bouchard was able to speak so forcibly yesterday, it was because it seems to us that the economic situation is evolving in such a way-with culture being more and more closely associated with the major issues-that the solution we are proposing is increasingly called for.
You said yourself about education that the OECD keeps saying that what is important now above all is education and that performance-oriented countries invest in education. That is right, education is under the jurisdiction of Quebec. The federal government however is the only level of government to have the spending power, even if it has been using it to put us all deeper and deeper into debt, to force provinces into arrangements.
It is therefore obvious that the federal government will want to have its say in the area of education, while we, in Quebec, we will want them to interfere as little as possible because our very survival depends on it. In fact, we want to get away from survival and start to live. That is what we want. We have had it with survival. We have had it with overlapping responsibilities and the fights surrounding the issue. We cannot wait to get projects under way.
We are in a real mess right now. I am only expressing a wide- spread opinion. There are people literally fidgeting with impatience. We are frustrated because things are not moving. The SQDM is getting nowhere these days for lack of funds and agreements. The Deputy Minister assured me last week that all was well-read nothing is happening. Education is indeed a major issue. What do they do about it? They cut.
Of course, the issue of mobility is important too. But you have to understand that what we want in Quebec is development. Francophones account for 2 per cent of the population in North America, most of them concentrated in one area. So, to be able to live as francophones, we need to develop the labour pool to its fullest. We have developed plenty of means, projects I would call them. What we need now to implement them are funds. It is not that funds are not available, but they are often earmarked for other things, and we want to be able to spend them as we see fit.
I just want to say that this debate is useful to promote understanding between Canadian political parties.
Speech From The Throne January 20th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to talk to the people of the riding of Mercier who gave me and the Bloc Quebecois such a huge majority and such a clear mandate to defend their interests and those of the whole province of Quebec in this House. I want to thank them for the confidence they have shown in me and I will try at all times to be worthy of their trust.
The riding of Mercier is located in the easternmost part of Montreal and it has suffered a great deal as a result of all the changes in the world economy. This riding is currently undergoing major changes and is in desperate need of a good employment policy, and that is what I want to talk about this afternoon.
I cannot help expressing the emotion I feel as I begin my first speech in this House, thinking about the forced union of 1840 when the patriots, companions of Louis-Joseph Papineau, ceased to be Canadians to become French Canadians just as the English became English Canadians.
The patriots who became French Canadians-and we know that Lafontaine was one of them and so was Laurier-had no other choice but to accept colonial government and to try to make alliances with members representing Upper Canada. And that is exactly what they did.
As a person with an active and abiding interest in history, I can testify that French Canadians have done everything to try to take their place in Canada. Individually they were successful, in some cases, although assimilation was sometimes the price they had to pay. As Quebecers they were not.
Mr. Speaker, let me explain, as others before me have done, why so many Quebecers see sovereignty as the only future for Quebec. I think the members of this House would find it worthwhile to listen to what I have to say and I think they should understand what is going on in a part of Canada's territory that has 25 per cent of its population.
The success of the Bloc Quebecois has made it abundantly clear that although placed in a minority positions, the Canadiens, later French Canadians and then Quebecers-in Quebec-were able to maintain their collective identity in the face of series of constitutional set-backs.
Today, members of the Bloc Quebecois form the Official Opposition because they represent a founding people that was never recognized as such. Members of the Bloc Quebecois can neither come to power nor govern Canada but they can testify to a truth that has long been denied and is nevertheless one that all Canadians must face: there are two countries in Canada. Quebec, like it or not, is that other country.
Mr. Speaker, it was not revenge for what happened in the past that led Quebecers, for the first time in their history, to elect as their representatives in the House of Commons a strong contingent of sovereignist members who campaigned as such. It was to prepare for the future in a Quebec with sufficient powers to use its resources to meet its own tremendous needs.
Today, standing before my peers and constituents, the people of Mercier and all of Canada, I want to start by discussing poverty and unemployment in Quebec. As I describe the extent of these conditions, I think you will understand why so many Quebecers became sovereignists in order to deal effectively and quickly with this catastrophe. This is an emergency, Mr. Speaker.
Quebec's pervasive unemployment, structurally higher than in Ontario, does not even give the whole picture of the devastating impact of federal policies. To really understand the difference between Ontario and Quebec, we should talk about the employment rate, the number of people in the labour force and the number of people who have jobs, and then we see the difference in wealth and development that separates the two so-called central provinces which have been indiscriminately attacked by the other Canadian provinces.
Mr. Speaker, high unemployment, a low job rate and an unusually high percentage of Canada's poor: that is the picture, and it shows us how economic conditions have affected social development. Without the economic picture, Quebec's participation in the federation might be seen only in terms of social expenditures. We must conclude that preventing economic development in Quebec has created a condition of apparent under-development which has had a profound impact on society itself.
And now for some history. You will recall that poverty levels in Quebec were measured and compared, probably for the first time, and in any case it was the first time they were compared with the rest of Canada, by the Boucher Commission. Some of you may remember this. In 1963, the commission concluded that Quebec, with, at the time, 28 per cent of the population of Canada, received a little over 36 per cent of the benefits paid in Canada under the new Unemployment Insurance Act.
This week, Mr. Speaker, the Montreal Island School Board published a report containing figures that are absolutely devastating for Quebec. I read the whole report last night.
For the first time since Statistics Canada has been gathering data, Quebec has the dubious privilege of being the poorest in Canada. Quebec has the largest number and the largest proportion of families living below the poverty line. In fact, the situation is worse than Newfoundland and New Brunswick which used to compete for this dreadful ranking. There is, in Quebec, a little over 25 per cent of the Canadian population, but almost a third of low income families.
The data from the 1991 census show that the Montreal area, among 25 areas considered, has the largest proportion of low income families. I might add that when we talk about the Montreal area, we include not only the island, but also the surrounding suburbs which have been remarkably richer for a long time. This gives you an idea of the standard of living in the city of Montreal and especially in some or its neighbourhoods. The situation is untenable. We can conclude that the years of the quiet revolution, which we are so proud of, although they did produce development, did not alter the distribution of wealth between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Poverty and relative under-development have a great deal of impact on social development.
The Minister of Human Resources will understand the social significance of the Canadian Assistance Plan, which pays 50 per cent of all welfare payments, and other cost-sharing programs of which Canada is so proud. We should add that this program has also contributed to maintain poverty rather than reduce it. Generally speaking it has increased Quebec's dependency on the rest of Canada and the dependency of individuals on society.
The Boucher report highlighted three main reasons why Quebec is poorer: its economic development, its share of the GDP, a poor state of health and mentalities in general. In its conclusion, it called mainly for what we would describe today as a full employment policy. To recognize as fundamental the right
to last recourse assistance could, in no way, contribute to the fight against unacceptable poverty levels.
It remains true; last recourse assistance can only be that. Having stated this truism, I feel compelled to state that the Canada Assistance Plan is partly to be blamed for this dependency. For example, because of the CAP, in the 1980's, Quebec was unable to claim 50 per cent of the assistance it wanted to give low income workers to help them stay in the work force. Under this plan, assistance could not be given to people who did not pass the needs test. In other words, Canada only supports helping the poor as long as they do not try to escape the poverty cycle, lose hope and give up their minimum wage job, and make the smart decision, moneywise, to go on welfare.
The way the federal government has managed unemployment insurance has led to the misuse of social programs, with the blessing of the federal government, since the 1970's; it has set up and financed short-term employment programs with no other way out than unemployment insurance. Lise Poulin-Simon and Diane Bellemare, two writers well known in Quebec for their work on full employment, stated in their first book entitled Le plein emploi, pourquoi? that neither government has any interest financially in investing in job creation since the other level stands to reap more benefits from the spin-off. Quite an important finding!
Beyond the totally negative impact of federal policies on the Quebec economy, redistribution policies have had perverse effects which, far from rectifying disparities, have had a tendency to maintain them and to keep people in a state of dependency and poverty.
I hope the House now has a better understanding of why Quebec has always wanted to repatriate all powers in the area of income security, including management of the unemployment insurance program. Using accountability as an excuse, the federal government has always insisted on keeping complete control over the funds it received and redistributed for social programs; in doing so, it maintained and even increased the gaps instead of decreasing them.
As critic for human resources, as a human being interested in the fate of ordinary people and the poor, wherever they are, I will not fight only against poverty and unemployment in Quebec. To be effective, though, we must first determine how to proceed. The fight against unemployment and poverty is a matter of collective will. Whether we like it or not, we must rely on the authorities in place and count on community participation. The solutions recommended for Quebec will not necessarily be valid for the rest of Canada, but already some broad lines are emerging.
In a recent proposal the Economic Recovery Commission of Newfoundland said, and the premier of that province concurred, that the unemployment insurance program and the various social programs should be managed jointly. In spite of the interest on the part of the Minister for Human Resources Development, I am not sure this reform will be possible without modifying the Constitution and renegotiating the plan in depth.
Even now we can imagine that the Newfoundland proposal would require a joint management headed by regional authorities who would take into account the specifics of each area. Premier Clyde Wells, the gravedigger of the Meech Lake Accord, could find himself asking for more than what he thought then could not be given to Quebec.
A secondary issue, which is nevertheless at the heart of the debate on social policies, concerns the accountability of the federal government for the amounts redistributed under their spending power. I take this occasion to mention that Premier Jean Lesage's negotiation for tax point repatriation in 1964 ultimately led to the establishment of the famous national standards, which caused the aberrations mentioned earlier.
In fact, if the federal government cannot redistribute the wealth without monitoring the application of national standards, it appears that Canada will be forced to choose between two equally serious evils, namely inefficiency which would be costly in economic, fiscal and social terms, or a basic inequality between regions and people in Canada. All the rest is simply talk.
Let us take, for instance, what we call the full employment policy in Quebec, and which could be called a labour-market active policy, a policy supported and promoted by many groups in Quebec and by the Parti Quebecois. Such a policy could not be applied in Quebec within the Canadian framework because the inherent overlapping, duplication and the consequent incapacity to take the right decision at the right moment are an obstacle to the maximization of social and economic efforts focused on employment. Could the other provinces that accept centralization hope for a Canadian policy of full employment that would be efficient? Of course, that is our hope.
It must be said that the prosperity enjoyed by Ontario and, at times, by Alberta, on which the Canadian redistribution system is based, is due only to the fact that all government policies converged to create this industrial complex and the many jobs associated with it that make Ontario by far the richest province, in spite of the tough recession it went through.
For cultural and linguistic reasons, this Canadian strategy does not work in Quebec. These last few years, Quebec has based its development on the creation of many consultation mechanisms. Unions, businesses, regional organizations and
governments have learned to consult with each other. These mechanisms, however, have not yet yielded their full results, far from it, because they are deprived of the decision-making powers which are in Ottawa, whose policies even sometimes work at cross-purposes.
Remember the sad story of occupational training? Many people in Quebec are becoming sick and tired of waiting for projects to materialize, of the waste of time and effort caused by duplication, the incredibly slow decision-making process and this federal-provincial morass that stifles every initiative. Quebec has one project that must be implemented soon.
As the Premier of Quebec said only yesterday, it is absolutely essential for the federal government to transfer quickly to Quebec responsibility for manpower development, including responsibility for unemployment insurance.
The Bloc intends to put up a strong defence of social programs, but bearing in mind that if there are no jobs at the end of the tunnel, all these people who want to stand on their own two feet at last will never be able to do so. We believe our social programs can be improved, but when the Department of Finance discusses social programs in terms of what can be cut and how to reduce the deficit, improvement is hardly the word.
Let us get this straight: if we want to get rid of the disincentive aspect of certain programs without exposing people in need to greater insecurity, we are not saving money, but increasing costs, at least temporarily. When we want to help people get training and create their own jobs and become employable, we have to invest the required money. If we want them to be productive during the time they are unemployed, we have to invest in counselling and training and financial support. And above all, if we want to boost employment, our regulatory framework and our monetary, economic and trade and regulatory policies should be such that they do not undermine the process.
The Minister of Human Resources Development will also have to take a clear stand. Either the reforms he has in mind are aimed at reducing costs, as the Department of Finance says quite firmly in its document, or he really wants to help the unemployed find jobs, and in that case, he will not be able to save money on social programs.
There is a dramatic gap, emphasized by a harsh recession, between those who want to cut social programs and, being rich, have never experienced insecurity or lacked money, and those who want to improve the effectiveness of these programs and who may, at any time, be obliged to use them for a certain period of time. The first group only thinks about the deficit. The second group considers the need to survive in a country going through tremendous economic changes, where there are no guarantees that the loss of many lucrative jobs would be compensated by promises of fantastic jobs in various technology sectors.
Canada must decide whether it wants to be like countries in Western Europe or like the United States, where wealthy neighbourhoods are surrounded by high walls and protected by armed guards, or like European countries where capitalism has realized it is in its interests to have an effective security net.
Mr. Speaker, you can tell the Minister of Human Resources and Development that he can count on my unqualified support whenever he wants to help people in need, but I will make every effort to be as fierce a parliamentarian as he was in the Opposition, whenever he deviates from this path. The people of the riding of Mercier, Quebecers and Canadians can count on my support in this respect.
Our party will vote against the sub-amendment moved by the hon. member for Calgary South West, because we cannot accept conditional limits on government spending, and in any case these spending proposals would first have to be submitted for scrutiny by a parliamentary committee.