They may have two to date. There is one who refused to give unanimous consent yesterday so that we could all start campaigning and live up to the mandate Canadian voters gave us in 1974. His refusing unanimous consent is hard to understand. Does this mean the right hon. member for Prince Albert (Mr. Diefenbaker) is apprehensive about the next campaign? Or is it his contention that the present government is doing so well now that its mandate should be extended? Those questions are worth asking. Anyway, in the Province of Quebec as in most of the other provinces, Canadians support this government. We had evidence of that. People appreciated the government's action when, for example, we introduced compensation payments for oil products, which allowed the Eastern consumers in Quebec, the Maritimes, the Atlantic provinces, the province of my hon. friend from St. John's East (Mr. McGrath), to buy oil at Canadian prices. And that does credit to the generosity and understanding of the people in Alberta. I say the same thing in the province of Quebec, Mr. Speaker. This is further evidence of the great benefits of Canadian confederation: a part of the country, a part of the population is willing to provide temporary assistance to another which does not enjoy similar economic benefits.
All the same, this program was first endorsed by the people in Alberta, by their government, to the benefit not only of the Atlantic provinces but of Quebec as well. The figures which were released this morning suggest that by the end of 1978, the province of Quebec will have received $3 billion under the petroleum compensation program. That is quite an amount of
The Budget-Mr. Dupras
money which not only helped people who drive their children to school or to deliver the goods they manufacture but which has contributed to keep our industry competitive, the agri-food industry which is so sick in the province of Quebec and elsewhere, and all eastern industries which have enjoyed a Canadian price as well as the rest of the country.
There are also all the Quebec-Canada programs under which agreements have been entered into with the province of Quebec. I refer more often to the province of Quebec that to other provinces, because I am trying to make my colleague from Joliette (Mr. La Salle) aware of the advantages of the Canadian Confederation. First of all, he is not convinced of that and I would ask him to commend the generous policy of the Canadian government to his colleagues in his party. That is his weakest point. Indeed, he does not manage to uphold the generosity, the openness of mind shown by the Trudeau government for the economic development of the province of Quebec.
I said a few moments ago that agreements representing investments of $200 or $300 million for the province of Quebec have just been signed. These agreements provide for road construction, the creation of parks to stimulate the tourist industry and a set of other measures which I hope will help eradicate the unemployment that plagues mainly Quebec. One could have foreseen, Mr. Speaker, that following the election of a separatist party in 1976, unemployment would strike very hard in my province. No matter how much money the federal government may inject in industry and the public sector for job creation, if the provincial government does all it can, through ill-advised measures, to thwart economic development, there is not much we can do. It seems also that people are encouraged to refuse the kind of work only people from foreign countries, mainly the Caribbean islands, are prepared to do.
Also, Mr. Speaker, if the current slide of the Canadian dollar is deplored by several sectors of our economy, I know of some industries in my riding that are pleased with it. Of course, I would not say that the dollar must stay low or under the 90 cents level compared to the U.S. dollar. But I dare not think of the problems and the unemployment we would have if the Canadian dollar had not been devaluated. In fact, the dollar has not been devaluated, but was subject to the law of supply and demand, and the value of the dollar today, as the Prime Minister pointed out during the question period this morning, is based on the productivity and performance of the Canadian economy.
This allows Quebec industries, some in particular such as fine paper, to recover the markets lost during the strike in the fine paper industry in 1976. This also allows other industries to develop business in the U.S. and in Europe with the hope of retaining such business when the dollar regains its true value which, when compared to the U.S. dollar, is certainly not 100 cents to the dollar. But in the short term, Mr. Speaker, this had definite advantages for Canadian products in that it promotes our exports and job creation.
April 14, 1978
The Budget-Mr. Dupras
Naturally, there are other causes for the fluctuations of the dollar, if one considers, for example, the performance of the tourist industry in Canada, with a deficit of almost $2 billion in 1977, and this could double in a few years if drastic measures are not taken. Mr. Speaker, we should be very happy with the provisions contained in the budget which will indeed help promote the tourist industry.
This leads me to consider the provision contained in the Quebec provincial budget which removes the 8 per cent tax on hotel rooms. The budget brought down by the Minister of Finance aimed at stimulating the economy and creating jobs. The removal of the 8 per cent tax on hotel rooms will only attain those aims in a few years. Allow me to explain, Mr. Speaker. The tourist industry has suffered, especially in Montreal and in Quebec City, from the lack of major conventions. As we all know, conventions are prepared years in advance so that the people who will be holding conventions in 1980 and 1981 have already signed agreements and made reservations either in North America or in Europe. So this tax cut is only window-dressing, because if you look at the facts, it is very impressive, as it will not really prompt Canadians to visit the province of Quebec unless other corrective action is taken and other measures adopted.
There are two other things, Mr. Speaker, which I could say about the Quebec budget, since they are trying by that new scheme to undermine the strong conviction held by the Canadian people that the Canadian confederation is really working well for all Canadians throughout the country. More than ever in Quebec, the people have such a conviction, as I realized Wednesday last, Mr. Speaker, at my nomination meeting. My fellow citizens, my constituents, are looking to the Canadian government which they consider as their own, with which they can hold a dialogue, a government that listens to its electors and the people of the province.
One only has to consider, for example, the treatment given to the Quebec Council of municipalities at its last convention, where all kinds of tactics were used to keep the Minister of State for Urban Affairs (Mr. Ouellet) away, because he had indeed developed a credibility with the civic authorities who found out that this federal minister listened to their grievances and tried by every possible means to help them disprove the arguments put forward by the Quebec premier.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment briefly on the decision of a distinguished member of the opposition not to seek re-election. It is no wonder that the hon. member for Don Valley (Mr. Gillies) has decided not to run again.
Subtopic: THE BUDGET