Mr. Speaker, at the end of my speech yesterday, I talked about programs favouring Ontario. I mentioned that when the government funds GM to close its only plant in Quebec, a plant that was planning to produce auto parts with Quebec's primary resources--, it helps Ontario with Quebec's money and primary resources.
When the Liberal government spends billions of dollars to fund oil industries of the west as well as of Atlantic provinces, it helps these provinces with 25% of Quebec's contributions, but it stubbornly refuses to harmonize the financial support to Quebec's mining industries with flow-through shares that favour research.
Then, they quickly say to Quebekers that they benefit from charity that equalization payments represent. That is what distressing. You understand of course why, today, we firmly oppose this bill, which is a step in the Canadian nation building process in Quebec.
This is another case of interference in the fields of jurisdiction of the Quebec nation and of other provinces, that do not consider that to be duplication since they do not have a regional development department like Quebec.
Quebec, with its regional development department, the oldest in this Confederation, has a vested right in its territorial development.
The argument put forth by the Minister responsible for the Francophonie, that this government could claim any jurisdiction not specified in the Constitution, will not fly. This Constitution was not, in fact, signed by Quebec.
The development strategy must include such diverse elements as natural resources, education and training, municipal affairs, land use and infrastructure, among others. None of these come under Ottawa's jurisdiction.
This bill goes way beyond EDC's mandate. We are talking about a real federal department responsible for the development of Quebec regions.
One has only to look at clauses 4(3) and 4(4) and at clauses 5, 6, 10 and 11. In fact, in clause 11(2), there is another secret door that enables the agency to take on any other role as the governor in council sees fit. However, beyond these powers of intrusion in Quebec's jurisdictions, Economic Development Canada's authorities, programs and budgets remain unchanged.
In the information document provided with the bill, the department states that there should be no impact on the agency's current programs and clients. How useful can this agency be, then, except for its additional encroachment powers?
We recognize that the Quebec regions need an integrated development strategy that only the state of Quebec can put in place. We do not think that the federal government has the capacity or the right to infringe on Quebec's jurisdiction in the establishment of an integrated federal development strategy for the Quebec regions.
We have in my riding a strange situation that does not require a lot of federal funds. It has to do with the first nations' post-secondary education. The former Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development--and I am sure the philosophy has not changed much since we are still dealing with the same old party--preferred to waste more than a million dollars a year to remove first nations students from their communities and their families, paying their travel and living expenses in order to relocate them thousands of kilometres away from their families rather than investing less than $3 million on a native university building to allow these students to attend university in their own region or nearby.
Given the time it took to process this request, this building could now be operational. Instead, the university is now forced to refuse first nations students' applications due to a lack of space. Thus, the government prefers to keep wasting millions of dollars annually, rather than investing a fixed amount of money that would certainly be far from the amount involved in the scandal that is badly tarnishing the credibility of this government.
In this very file, stakeholders, including myself, have rightly turned to Canada Economic Development which, according to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, was responsible for infrastructure. They received just about the same answer as that from the Department of Indian Affairs, namely that nobody has the mandate, or the budget, or neither one nor the other. Actually, all ministers of this government seem to have but one mandate, that of assuming as their own all jurisdiction over the powers of Quebec and of the provinces, despite their chronic inability to fulfil their responsibilities in their own jurisdictions.
Whether or not the other provinces put up with this, I am always glad for them and I will always be happy to support them in their approach. However, believe me, I am a Quebecker, elected by Quebeckers, most of whom--and it is even unanimous in the Quebec National Assembly--have the same vision of the needs and aspirations of Quebec, regardless of all the respect and friendship we have for all the inhabitants of the provinces that surround us.
Just as we did not do in their case, we ask representatives of the other provinces to avoid supporting the unjustified interference of this government in Quebec's jurisdictions.
Sure, occasionally, we compare ourselves to them, but this is by no means out of jealousy or envy. It is simply to say that we have respected their difference, we have agreed to participate in their development and their evolution, or we wish to back up a comparison and to request our fair share in this system, for the time we have participated in it and that which remains for us to participate in it.
The example I would like to mention at this time has to do with the University of First Nations in Alberta, which required some ten million dollars, compared with the lesser amount we are calling for, an amount we know to be relevant and justified currently. For that purpose, it should not be necessary to have the Canada Economic Development Agency. It would suffice to have a Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development possessing the programs, budgets and tools necessary for the development of its communities until the transfer of those responsibilities to the Quebec government, with the adequate and necessary budgets for their administration.
When Her Excellency the Governor General recommends to the House of Commons the establishment of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, it concerns the assignment of political issues. I read the bill, and it does not mention any change concerning the investment of new money. At any rate, I do not think Her Excellency paused a single moment to think about her own ignorance and that of previous governments about the needs of Quebec.
To illustrate my point, let me simply refer to clause 10 in Bill C-9. It says that the object of the agency is to promotethe development and diversification of theeconomy of the regions of Quebec throughspecial measures, and through the advocacy of the interests of Quebec in national policy. Could anybody tell us, for once, what the national policy is on Quebec?
Like Trudeau said, in a very Anglo-Saxon way, Ontario had the automobile industry, and Quebec the aerospace industry. But he did not specify that this would include added value goods that could be used to produce cars. He did not specify either that when the aerospace industry would be viable, it would be shared with all the rest of Canada.
Nor did he specify that in a premeditated manner he had hoped to destroy thousands of hectares of the most fertile land in Quebec and waste money there that was meant for Quebeckers in a futile and unproductive investment, thereby giving Ontario produce farmers privileged access to Quebec markets, while rerouting most of the airlines to other regions in Canada.
When we read the responses of some of the ministers from Quebec in this government, we have to assume that money and limousines must appeal to some people. That appeal is lost on me. There must be a greater difference than I thought between the need to be a politician and the need to defend the interests of one's constituents.
I take issue with the minister saying that Quebec should learn to share the aerospace sector with Canada, especially considering the person who said this and the fact that it has to do with Bombardier, a Quebec flagship.
I think most of the members of this government do not understand Quebec's needs and the remaining minority do not have the courage to speak up for fear of being marginalized in this wonderful Liberal family.
All Quebec needs is for this agency to be strictly limited to federal jurisdiction. For that reason, and as presented, we cannot support such a bill.
I now would like to talk about Bill C-9 from a constitutional point of view. We believe that this bill is part of a broader plan, namely to give the federal government all the tools it needs to behave as a true national government.
It wants to be the main architect of development across the country. Provincial governments, deprived of any decision-making power, will carry out its orders just like municipalities, universities, hospitals and so on, which will become mere extensions.
To prove that Ottawa is no longer behaving as a federal government, but as a national state government, allow me to list some of the initiatives carried out by Ottawa over the past few years and those being carried out now, which encroach on the jurisdictions of the nation of Quebec.
We are talking, among others, about the millennium scholarships, rural policy, volunteer and community policy, national strategy on rural development, university chairs, sponsorship program, numerous culture subsidy programs, national housing strategy, national homelessness strategy, early childhood assistance, not to mention the current Liberal plan for municipalities.
The current government is no different from its predecessor after all. It is only interested in nation building, promoted by Mr. Chrétien and only Quebec seems to be opposed to it. We did have Manitoba's Louis Riel, but Conservatives may remember they hanged him. It would be more difficult to do the same in Quebec today. It might be time for Conservatives to avoid making the same mistake they made with Louis Riel.
We know that the federal government is embarking in all those initiatives without any constitutional legitimacy. The current government could not care less about constitutional legitimacy as it is focussed on transforming this already deficient federation into a unitary nation state.
Things would be so much simpler if the government across the way had the honesty to tell Quebeckers that the ultimate goal of the federal state is to ensure that in the future everything will be decided in Ottawa and its government will be considered as the national Government of Canada. Canada will have then finally succeeded in provincializing the Quebec state forever, trivializing the identity and aspirations of its people, which is very legitimately developing its claim to nationhood.
Some might wonder where the money the federal government uses to fund all these initiatives comes from. We can already guess the answer. As a matter of fact, it was once again announced today. It comes from the fiscal imbalance and the budget surpluses.
Why does the federal government go out its way to deny the existence of a fiscal imbalance? Actually, the government does not see it as an imbalance but as a financial mechanism allowing it to assume those new responsibilities it has unilaterally conferred upon itself. Is that approach based on the spirit of the social union agreement? As a matter of fact, does the agreement allow this government to play the role of sole national state in this confederation, which has no legitimacy as far as Quebec is concerned? This is a question we must ask ourselves.
In spite of all the powers that most of the government's departments already have, namely in areas like rail transportation, communications, federal infrastructure in Quebec, the federal research institutes, bridges and some highways, shipping and support to natives, this government could have made its presence known in the last 20 years in Quebec.
There was no need for an Economic Development Agency of Canada. The government had all it needed but it did nothing, nor will it with this new agency. It is not even shy about announcing that this agency will only be a means to increase the government's control over Quebec's jurisdiction.
This is also an opportunity to remember that the constitutional status quo that is sometimes used to define the status of Quebec in Canada no longer really exists. On the contrary, Canada is developing in a very dynamic way. The structure of its functioning has been completely reshaped since the referendum of 1995. In that context, talking about the status quo as an option for Quebecers is a deceit.
In that regard, polling firms should drop the concept of status quo from their terminology, because this concept is no longer in line with the Canadian reality, except for those who prefer to put their head in the sand and avoid dealing with the constitutional issue.
In conclusion, I would like to remind this House that Quebec is a nation and must be treated as such. This is why the Bloc Québécois will oppose any federal initiative which would allow the government to interfere in Quebec's national matters. Again, the Bloc invites the elected representatives who are not part of this large Liberal family to respect the decision of the National Assembly of Quebec, as its own elective representatives did for their province.