Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of today's debate, we have come to realize that the fiscal imbalance is recognized by the whole society. We think of the current minister of finance, Mr. Yves Séguin, who in 2002 chaired the fiscal imbalance commission in Quebec—the report was made public on March 7, 2002—all political parties in Quebec and all Canadian provinces. The imbalance is thus recognized by all opposition parties in the House of Commons.
These last few years, the fiscal imbalance has been of such a magnitude that it is literally choking Quebec and the provinces. However, the federal government continues to deny that there is a problem. The Bloc Québécois must then continue to demand that the federal government recognizes this imbalance, but mostly that it solves it. The federal government collects revenues that widely exceed its responsibilities with regard to programs. It accumulates significant surpluses despite the reduction of the debt burden as a percentage of the domestic gross product. The provinces administer health programs and other social programs whose costs are very much on the rise and they have to deal with an increasing demand for services. In other words, as the member for Saint-Lambert and many others have said, it is Ottawa that has the money and the provinces that have the needs, and the gap between the two is widening.
The consequences are significant. This imbalance jeopardizes health and education systems. Service delivery is not as effective as it should be, due to a lack of funds. The decision-making and budgetary autonomy of Quebec and the provinces is compromised.
Every year, Quebeckers send tens of billions of dollars in taxes to Ottawa. They are entitled to demand that this money be managed properly. But, as was clearly demonstrated by the first part of the Léonard committee's report, this has not been the case over the last five years. This is the symptom of a much deeper ill. The federal government, we repeat, has too much money for its responsibilities.
In this whole issue of fiscal imbalance, I would like us to talk a lot about children, the impact on children, parents and seniors.
We know that social development requires, among other things, a stable financial situation and recurrent budgetary envelopes, so that all social stakeholders can work in a calm atmosphere and efforts can be targeted to the real needs of young families, of vulnerable people and of seniors. In a situation of budgetary instability, concerns may very well prevail over primary objectives.
I will mention three social measures that are either very popular or very much in demand in Quebec, because they are fulfilling an obvious wish of a good part of the population.
The Quebec affordable day care network, recently recognized in an OECD report, represents about 40% of the regulated child care spaces. Its experience will be very useful when Canada sets up a public and universal early childhood system.
To be able to continue its good work, the Quebec government must have the necessary resources. The federal government must grant Quebec an unconditional right to opt out with full financial compensation. Such compensation would certainly be appreciated particularly since the government has saved close to a billion dollars in tax credits not given to families benefiting from the Quebec program.
We have to understand that beyond the figures, a day care program can also have a tremendous impact on the quality of our children's development. In the medium and the long term, we will avoid very high social costs. Just think of the learning and delinquency problems that these children might avoid through quality attention in day care centres. This affordable day care network should thus be considered as a solution to many of our young families' social problems.
Let us now turn to home care for seniors. This is recognized as an effective measure because it reduces hospital costs and is more beneficial to many people who prefer to recover at home after an illness.
Here again, a more equitable distribution between the federal government and the provinces could help ensure that long-awaited progress is made. Home care is best, for the seniors as well as for the support workers, who are often overworked, and for the caregivers, who need respite. Whatever the case may be, it is well known that home care for seniors is much less expensive than hospital care.
In education, there are growing needs. They can no longer come after health needs. We must keep improving health services, but it is essential to help young people receive the best possible education so that they are able to meet the challenges of our time. The future of our society is at stake.
There is a crying need for special education teachers, books and computer equipment. It is indecent to be accumulating extravagant surpluses in Ottawa when school boards are struggling to trim already very lean budgets. It is unacceptable for there to be surpluses here in Ottawa when there is a shortage of books in our schools. The needs in the areas of health, education and community organizations are in the provinces. It is there that decision-makers who are closest to the needs of the people must be found.
We must have budgets that permit the priorities set to be carried out. There is currently an imbalance between Quebec's capacity and its legitimate aspirations. This has to stop.