Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Longueuil.
I would like, if I may, to begin by speaking to my constituents in the riding of Rosemont. I would like to thank the people of Rosemont and Petite-Patrie, as well as all of my riding volunteers, for the trust they have given me in the last federal election.
I thank them in particular for the confidence they have shown in my generation and in the future of Quebec, a Quebec which we wish to be modern and sovereign, a Quebec that reflects my generation, open to the world and master of its destiny.
I would also like to offer thanks on their behalf to the man who defended them with vigour throughout the previous two mandates, Benoît Tremblay. Mr. Tremblay always had an attentive ear to the needs of his fellow citizens of Rosemont—Petite-Patrie.
The throne speech again shows that the voters of Rosemont—Petite-Patrie were right in their choice. By electing a representative of the Bloc Quebecois, they have made sure that any threat to the democratic interests of the Quebec people will be condemned. With their support solidly behind me, I rise today in the House of Commons to react strongly to the thinly veiled desire of the government across the way to put Quebecers back in their place.
My fellow citizens who still had any doubt could see in this speech that the Liberals have dropped the commitment they made in the 1995 referendum to recognize Quebec as a distinct society. They dropped this description of Quebec because Canadians felt it gave too much to Quebec. Rather, they adopted the notion of unique character proposed in Calgary. So they want to force Quebeckers to choose between being like Pacific salmon or facing the threats of plan B.
Never has a government in a Speech from the Throne so openly questioned Quebec's right to decide its future alone. Naturally, after the action taken in the supreme court, it would be surprising if the government were to change its tune and try to accommodate Quebec.
The Prime Minister said during his address on the Speech from the Throne that elections were fascinating, that they provided him with the opportunity to meet Canadians of all walks. He said that the dreams and aspirations of young Canadians were a source of inspiration for him.
Today I would like to say to him that young Quebecers dream of freedom and aspire to sovereignty. Nothing in the government's legislative agenda meets the political expectations of the young people of Quebec.
This throne speech is an outstanding example of a strategy for centralization. After slashing budgets for health care, education and social services in Quebec and the provinces, this government now claims to be concerned about the well-being of our citizens. In fact, this is just the logical continuation of a long federal offensive to interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction.
My colleagues previously condemned many examples of this interference in the throne speech. I would rather use the time I am allowed today to discuss a matter of the utmost importance to members of my generation.
Protecting our environment is important to all of us and it is a matter of concern for Quebeckers. I was astonished to see this government allowed this important question, the environment, only two short paragraphs. And since this government is extremely vague about its intentions and would rather not discuss its far from outstanding record in this area, I would like to recall some of the main points.
The Liberals have often claimed that their strategy for the environment was a perfect example of enlightened, open and decentralized federalism. However, during the previous mandate, they had no compunction about tabling bills that were a direct intrusion in the jurisdiction of Quebec. There are plenty of examples.
First of all, the Environmental Assessment Act, which came into effect during the previous mandate, impinges directly on provincial responsibilities and in many ways duplicates Quebec's legislation in this area.
Then this government tabled a bill to replace the existing Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The proposed legislation would once again have given the federal government greater power to interfere in order to protect the marine environment and reduce atmospheric pollution, to name just two sectors.
Finally, this government tabled a bill for the protection of endangered species. Enforcement of this legislation could have been extended to provincially held land, and all provincial environmental ministers opposed it. This government rejected the amendments suggested by the Bloc Quebecois to uphold the provinces' jurisdiction.
Returning to the throne speech, I read and reread it, but did not find a single line telling us what this government intends to do with these two bills, which died on the Order Paper in the last Parliament. I am, however, pleased to note that the throne speech raised the problem of the emission of greenhouse gases. I am still, however, trying to find out exactly where the government stands on this issue.
I do not need to remind anybody that, in under two months, this same government will be representing Canada and Quebec at the international conference on greenhouse gases in Kyoto. With only two months to go, there is still no news on where Canada stands on this issue. Worse yet, it looks like the Liberals want to develop the entire Canadian policy on greenhouse gases behind closed doors. This would perhaps be less disturbing if the government's track record in this area were not so disastrous.
In 1992, in Rio, the Canadian government made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the 1990 level by the year 2000. In addition, in 1995, the Liberal government repeated this commitment at the Berlin conference on climate change. On that occasion, it introduced a framework of voluntary measures in its national action plan regarding climate change in Canada.
What must be pointed out is that the most recent data, including those from Environment Canada, show that Canada has not respected its commitments. In fact, the Royal Society of Canada estimates that, in the year 2000, greenhouse gas emissions will exceed the 1990 reference level by 9.5 percent.
It is not surprising therefore that the former environment minister tacitly admitted before the UN Commission on Sustainable Development last April that Canada was falling short in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, Canada is still lagging behind OECD countries as a whole.
This government must now stiffen its resolve and meet its responsibilities. The consequences of global warming are too serious to be taken lightly. Also, we must bear in mind the economic implications of the commitments that will be made in Kyoto. In that sense, it seems unacceptable to me that the position that will be put forward as Canada's position be taken by a mere handful of Liberals and senior civil servants.
We are dealing with an environmental, political and technological problem that leaves no room for improvisation. In that context, I am puzzled by the priorities of a government which, in its Speech from the Throne, seemed to give as much importance to celebrating the coming of the next millennium as to the challenge of global warming that faces humanity.
The young people in Quebec want to build a fair and responsible society, while at the same time taking an active part in the great international currents of the third millennium, and they want to do so with all the tools available to a normal country or society. That is why we are convinced that sovereignty is the only option for the future of Quebec.
Subtopic: Speech From The Throne