Mr. Speaker, we are discussing the implementation of a budget that never would have passed if the Liberals had not been so complicit or passive. Some showed up in the House to vote against the budget, as did the hon. member for Madawaska—Restigouche in New Brunswick, but there were not enough of them. That was a form of complicity, which is why we are here today talking about the budget implementation bill.
Before I get to the heart of the matter, I must say, I am concerned about several current issues, particularly what is happening in the crab industry in Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the riding I represent.
Earlier there was discussion about employment insurance measures that are missing from the budget. If the budget had truly met the needs of the public, the impact of the crab fishery crisis on the people of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine would not have been as great. They would have felt supported by a government that has their best interests at heart during such a difficult time. Some 1,000 jobs in Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine and 2,500 jobs in New Brunswick are at stake.
To give hon. members an idea of what that means, 1,000 jobs in Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine is equivalent to roughly 20,000 jobs in Montreal and even more in Toronto. If it were a matter of losing several thousand jobs in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver, there would probably be an emergency debate held today.
We have to take the time think about these people who are in difficulty as a result of mismanagement by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which has reduced the crab quota by 63% this year. Such a reduction will have an impact: less money will circulate in the economy.
We heard today that Michel Chartrand died. I had the chance to meet and get to know Mr. Chartrand. If he were to deliver a speech today, his language would undoubtedly be quite colourful. If I were to describe the budget using the names of symbolic objects generally found in a church, I would be called to order. As hon. members know, tabernacles, chalices and hosts are found in a church.
In addition to his rather colourful use of language, Mr. Chartrand was a passionate man. He defended people in difficulty, like the workers in the crab fishery who are in crisis right now. That is why it is important to pay tribute to him today.
I know that the people in my party will be paying tribute to him later on during question period and members' statements, but I think it is important to take the time to acknowledge him right now.
In any case, we have a budget and an implementation bill. We are examining some aspects of the budget implementation bill, but we must also look at items that, unfortunately, are not mentioned in the budget, especially tax havens and employment insurance.
I would like to talk about tax havens. What does this budget actually do?
It ignores the fact that, if we changed the laissez-faire approach to tax havens, we could stop the budget hemorrhaging, which will fatten companies and individuals who no longer know what to do with their money. They go to the Bahamas or elsewhere and put their money in the banks' vaults to avoid paying Canadian or Quebec taxes. That hurts because this is not done by just a few.
I was listening to some supposedly distinguished economists who have done major studies and concluded that taxing the rich will not change much. Excuse me, but it will yield many millions, even billions. And remember, one billion is 1,000 million. We could recover billions of dollars if we truly tackled the problem of tax havens and tax loopholes. That is what should be highlighted and considered when presenting a budget. In fact, measures have been introduced but there are other measures that have been forgotten, relegated, ignored, clearly set aside, and that could help to balance the budget, even just a little, and result in interventions that more closely meet needs.
Speaking of needs, I wish to linger a little longer on the employment insurance issue. It is frightful what is going on there. It started some time ago with the Liberals and the Conservatives of the period, when they used to call themselves Progressive Conservatives.
On this issue I think in particular of Gaétan Cousineau, of the Mouvement Action Chômage Pabok. This is a person who has always been dedicated to the cause of employment insurance and the injustices in that field. I remember working with him and others when I was waging the employment insurance battle in community and union organizations.
That battle continues for me as a member, but at the same time, there have been what one might call “mini-measures” on employment insurance announced right and left by the Conservative government and by the previous Liberal government. I say “mini-measures” because one’s final impression, if I may be permitted some colourful language, is that of a drop of justice in an ocean of injustice. That is really what is happening.
The regions of Gaspé and Îles-de-la-Madeleine, like other regions in Quebec and Canada, have had to absorb cuts and to suffer them at the same time, for those cuts have impacts. When this sort of decision is made to cut employment insurance, to slash benefits, to arrange that fewer EI benefits are provided or that eligibility is made more difficult, the money is recovered somewhere, but there is an impact that can be felt across many regions.
Such an impact affects individuals as well as communities. Yes, it can affect individuals. I heard someone talk about people who earned their living at the minimum wage. Consider, for example, a wage of $9 an hour for someone in the tourism industry who has to work as a cleaning lady,or in a restaurant or elsewhere. These people work split shifts for the minimum wage. This is not a job where you work 40 hours a week and everything is fine. On the contrary, there are situations where people have to work 20 hours during the week. Other times it is 35 hours or 60 hours a week, depending on what is happening in the tourism industry. These people must be available to work seven days a week during tourist season. That is why it is important to consider this issue.