Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Québec.
Not surprisingly, I am speaking today to express my disappointment with the current government's budget, which ignores Quebec requests.
When we released our budget expectations in January, we made it clear that certain measures were crucial if the government wanted our support.
For example, one essential condition for our support was that Quebec be given $2.2 billion for tax harmonization. Unfortunately, unlike Ontario, British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, which was a pioneer in harmonizing taxes—it did so 19 years ago—has been shortchanged. And that was a Conservative decision. The Bloc will propose an amendment to the Conservative budget in order to put an end to this chronic injustice.
When it comes to social issues, the Conservatives have shown that they do not care about the less fortunate. Their budget does nothing to address the well-demonstrated need for real employment insurance reform to reflect the reality faced by workers.
Instead of offering long-term solutions, the Conservative government would rather continue plundering the employment insurance fund, to the tune of $17 billion over five years, and will only commit to pilot projects. In that regard, this government is simply repeating what has always been done in the past. In the end, the employment insurance fund is the government's cash cow, to the detriment of workers.
In particular, Quebec and its regions also needed a real program to assist older workers who have lost their jobs, in order to support them until their retirement. Clearly, there is a huge gap between the Conservatives' rhetoric about the regions and what they are actually doing as a government.
Furthermore, the Quebec manufacturing sector cannot count on any substantial federal policies to help it develop. We submitted some concrete proposals, however, such as funding for research and development for all innovative companies. For example, instead of presenting a real policy for the aerospace industry, which just happens to be concentrated in Quebec, the budget proposes simply reviewing policies.
The Conservatives also continue to favour the wealthy. In order to finance our requests, the Bloc Québécois had submitted a plan that would have allowed Ottawa to increase revenues by $16 billion without dipping into the pockets of middle-class workers.
In particular, we proposed a surtax on the richest taxpayers, who could easily give a little more, the elimination of tax havens, which are liberally allowed in Canada and are costing Canadians billions of dollars in lost tax revenue, and the end of gifts to oil companies, which always benefit from tax cuts. That plan provided more than enough to pay the money owed to Quebec and to meet its most pressing needs.
In addition, the government is maintaining its centralizing agenda, which will have an impact on Quebec's economy. It must abandon its plan to create a single securities commission, a measure that goes against the interests of Quebec and infringes on Quebec's jurisdictions. I might add that it also flies in the face of a unanimous vote in the Quebec National Assembly, yet the government continues on that path, completely ignoring all requests from Quebeckers and the Quebec nation, despite having recognized that nation.
The Bloc Québécois is calling on the Conservative government to back down immediately and put an end, once and for all, to its plans for a single securities commission, which is designed to do Montreal out of what it has for Toronto's benefit and which infringes on Quebec's jurisdictions.
I would now like to talk about a matter that is very important to me. I have been a member for seven years and, throughout that time, the lack of social housing in Laval has been an issue. More than 16,000 Laval households are facing a crisis. They spend more than 30% of their income on housing and represent 36.6% of all renters in Laval. What is even more serious is that 7,400 of them spend more than 50% of their income on housing.
The federal government owns a penitentiary in the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul area of my riding. It has been closed for 21 years, since 1989. Since that time, the government has been considering solutions for converting the penitentiary facilities and the grounds around the old building. Since 2006, I have been formally requesting that the government include affordable or social housing in its plans for the site. In 2007, people sent hundreds of reply cards in support of this request to the minister responsible. This is not a recent file.
In 2009, in the absence of a positive response from the government, I circulated a petition formally calling on the government to proceed with the conversion of the old penitentiary and to work with the Government of Quebec to include affordable or social housing. The petition had 2,813 signatures and was presented here on June 15, 2010. I was very surprised to hear the response of the Minister of Public Safety when Parliament resumed last fall. He unabashedly stated, “the CSC [which is under his authority] is open to the sale of the property to a third party...the development of affordable or social housing is outside the mandate of the CSC.”
I understand that it is outside his mandate, but the petition was addressed to the government, which is responsible for the facility.
And that is the point we have come to with this government. It is not meeting the needs voiced by the people. But the people of Laval will not forget. The government is showing complete disinterest in the needs of the people, but at the same time it recently announced that it would spend $40 million to incarcerate an additional 96 prisoners in the Laval Federal Training Centre, which is located near the former penitentiary. This all stems from the government's repressive ideology. This government has millions of dollars to house inmates, but it cannot find money to house needy families.
In keeping with the needs expressed by the people, the Bloc's budget expectations called for the following measures. First, the Bloc called on the federal government to gradually reinvest in social or affordable housing until it reached approximately $2 billion in additional funding per year. It also expected the government to commit to eventually allocating 1% of its revenues to social housing, a total of $2.6 billion for 2011-12, over and above current funding levels.
In addition, the Bloc wanted the government to introduce a system to manage the CMHC surplus and bring an end to the systematic accumulation of that surplus, which will reach more than $10 billion in 2011. This surplus should be used, in part, to fund the gradual reinvestment that the Bloc is proposing.
Since homelessness is often caused by a lack of social housing, the Bloc is also calling for improvements to the homelessness partnering strategy. It is appalling to see how little the 2011 budget offers in this area. No new funding was announced for construction, conversion or renovation of social housing. The Conservative government boasts that it has invested in construction, but it is the first to government that has not reinvested anything in social housing. The Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain is decrying this situation. It says that a single F-35 fighter jet is the equivalent of 6,400 subsidized housing units. That proportion is astonishing.
To conclude, the Conservatives have chosen to turn a blind eye to Quebec's requests and will have to answer to the voters.