So, Mr. Speaker, the federal deficit is the result of a structural problem as well as of particular economic conditions. I will concentrate on this aspect.
The deficit resulting from economic conditions is enormous. It represents roughly half of the federal deficit. We must react right now if we do not want to jeopardize the future of our children. We must invest in projects which will foster permanent employment, as well as in promising sectors which will put our creativity to full use. We must take advantage of our expertise and of the relative lead which we were able to develop over the last few decades. We must promote projects which will give Quebec and Canada an international prestige that will allow them to export their technologies.
Economic recovery is based on projects geared to the industrial sectors which hold the most promise for the future. The Bloc Quebecois proposes a project which meets those two criteria: the development of a high speed link along the Quebec-Windsor corridor.
The Liberal government is aware of how important it is to invest in infrastructure programs in order to foster growth and employment. The Bloc Quebecois is also of that opinion. However, our concept of infrastructures is wider than that of the Liberal government which seems content with upgrading the road system. We recognize the importance of maintaining and repairing roads everywhere in Canada and in Quebec. Canada is a vast territory and it is absolutely necessary for it to have a quality road network to reduce transportation costs.
However, the upgrading of the road system will be totally insufficient to sustain economic recovery. Road maintenance does not generate permanent employment. The high-speed train or HST is an example of the type of investment needed.
A high-speed link along the Quebec-Windsor corridor would cost close to $7.5 billion over ten years. It would be financed at 70 per cent by the private sector, while the remaining 30 per cent, or approximately $2.3 billion, would be provided by the Quebec, Ontario and federal governments. By getting involved in the HST project, the government will help generate a $5.3 billion investment from the private sector in the Canadian economy, not to mention the indirect benefits of the project.
During the construction period, tax revenue generated by the project would reach $1.8 billion. This means that the financing of the project would be quickly made up for. This federal
investment would not increase the national debt and would allow us to make VIA Rail a profitable venture. The HST would create close to 120,000 person-years employment, of which 80,000 would directly be generated by the construction of the link and related equipment. Moreover, there would be 40,000 new jobs upstream and downstream of the project.
In 1991, the task force on a high-speed train linking Quebec and Ontario, which was co-chaired by the hon. Rémi Bujold, the former Liberal member for Bonaventure-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, made an important pre-feasibility study. Wide public consultation revealed that the communities affected by such a project support this initiative.
The crucial impact of the development of such a corridor on the national economy was mentioned on several occasions, as well as the need to make the cities in that corridor more efficient so that they can succeed in a competitive market.
The Bloc Quebecois proposes the development of an environment-friendly technology. Even at 300 km/h, the HST burns almost half as much energy per passenger as an automobile, and four times less than a jet used to transport people.
The use of a high-speed train would reduce government expenditures. A high-speed train would be a much cheaper way of providing inter-city passenger service than would the expansion of the country's road or air network. Rationalizing government spending is a critical factor in the economic recovery.
In a country as vast as Canada, the government must have an efficient public transportation policy. At a time when the government is thinking about dismantling the rail system in Canada, it cannot get around replacing it by a technology better suited to the challenges of our society.
The spin-offs of the high-speed rail project will help drive local economies. The European experience has shown that a high-speed rail venture stimulates job creation and economic recovery. High-speed rail attracts hotels, office buildings, convention centres, restaurants and other commercial or tourism operations.
During the election campaign, the current Minister of Finance acknowledged Montreal's inadequate industrial infrastructure and pledged to focus on ways of remedying the situation. The Minister of Finance diagnosed the problem as follows: Montreal's industrial infrastructure is outmoded and fragile and is not being replaced by new, dynamic and technologically advanced manufacturing firms. What is the government waiting for to follow through on its diagnosis? The Minister of Finance
is now in a position to perform the surgery that can cure the patient.
The government must respect the public's priorities. It must reduce the defence budget by at least 25 per cent and invest some of this money in projects that will be useful to society. The end of the cold war and the crisis in public finances do not justify directing funds to the military.
The $12.3 billion defence budget for 1993-94 represents a 3 per cent increase over 1992-93 levels. Is the federal government prepared to make a commitment to the people that it will slash the defence budget substantially and redirect the money to high-tech civilian projects? Is the government prepared to help companies such as MIL Davie in Lauzon become less dependant on military projects and convert their operations to civilian ship building projects?
The high-speed train represents a major industrial investment for Canada and Quebec. Our standard of living and our competitive position depend on decisions that are being made right now. We cannot mortgage our future by postponing the introduction of the high-speed train. The clock is ticking and time is not on our side. If governments take immediate action, we will have a strategic head start on the North American high-speed rail market. Twenty similar projects are in the development stages in the United States, where the market is estimated at more than $200 billion over the next 15 to 20 years. If we are the first ones in this market, our companies will be the ones to benefit from exports of this technology.
The Canadian government must demonstrate that it has vision and it must get the economy working again by implementing innovative projects.