April 4, 2008 (39th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Claude DeBellefeuille

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Claude DeBellefeuille (Beauharnois—Salaberry, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon to join the debate on Bill C-50. First, I would like to state the position of the Bloc Québécois on this budget, which does not meet the conditions the Bloc set for giving its approval. You may have heard our position several times, but I want to state it for the people who are listening to us and watching us on television and who may not have heard it.
It is our position that the budget does not provide any direct, immediate assistance for the manufacturing and forestry industries, which are in crisis. It does nothing to help the workers and communities hit by the crisis. It contains no measures to reimburse seniors who have been shortchanged by the guaranteed income supplement program. It continues to take a polluter-paid approach rather than a polluter-pay approach, and it refuses to make a 180-degree turn on the environment.
Clearly, the budget makes no major investment in culture and does not undo the many ideological cuts made by the government in programs such as the court challenges program and the women's program. It also appears—the budget is clear on this—that the Minister of Finance is going ahead with his crusade to create a single securities commission for Canada. This plan has been criticized not only by the Bloc Québécois, but by the entire National Assembly and Quebec's finance minister, Monique Jérôme-Forget, who did not shy away from reacting publicly to the budget in the national media. And I am sure that she has made her views known to the Minster of Finance and the Premier of Quebec.
This bill covers a number of issues. As I have just 10 minutes, I would like to focus on areas I take a special interest in, such as natural resources. As a member of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, I paid special attention to this part of the bill.
The budget allocates $10 million over two years to help the forestry sector break into the international market as a model of innovation. The timing is good, because the committee has just completed a study of the sector. Many witnesses told us that $10 million is a nice gesture, but that it is not enough, given the crisis, and that more money is needed. We agree with the many witnesses who took the time to meet with parliamentarians during our hearings on the forestry crisis.
I am still wondering about this. We did not have a chance to talk to the Minister of Natural Resources because his agenda was too full to appear before the committee members and explain things to us. Apparently, however, he will soon come and tell us about the $300 million in the budget for nuclear energy, most of it earmarked for the new CANDU reactor and for safety upgrades at the Chalk River lab in Ontario.
Naturally, we would not oppose making a facility safer. You all know about what happened recently at the Chalk River lab. The reactor was shut down last winter for safety reasons. Unfortunately, that resulted in the president, Ms. Keen, being dismissed. The Bloc Québécois still believes that the minister engaged in political interference by removing her from her position on the eve of her appearance as president of the facility before the Standing Committee on Natural Resources for a specific study.
As the natural resources critic for the Bloc Québécois, I look forward to hearing what the minister has to say and asking him questions. For now, we have no way of knowing how that $300 million is going to be distributed, how much taxpayers will be asked to pay for the development of the advanced CANDU reactor, or how much of the $300 million will be used to make the Chalk River site safer.
It is rather worrisome. They have started to think—and the Minister of Natural Resources comes right out and says so—that nuclear energy is an energy of the future, a clean energy. But my political party and I do not believe it is a clean energy. Although with this energy there are no greenhouse gas emissions, there is still work to be done before it can be considered clean, since it generates waste, and we are still unsure of the long-term effects of this waste, or how it will be managed.
It is natural that debates are being held in the provinces, since energy falls under provincial jurisdiction. The fact remains that the current Conservative government is promoting nuclear energy in Canada and all over the world. The Bloc Québécois and I do not think this is a good sign. We see that nuclear energy would perhaps cut down on greenhouse gases in the short term, but it also brings about major problems related to the management of nuclear waste, the safety of citizens who live near nuclear facilities, and the possibility that terrorists could use the waste to create weapons.
Now, I will talk about the environment. In the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, we did a study on the oil sands and we came to understand the significance and size of such operations in Canada in terms of the future and the potential of these operations.
Obviously the oil companies, the explorers and the beneficiaries are investing a lot, but in exchange, they make huge profits. One thing is certain, people in my riding have written to me to ask why oil companies, which make huge profits by operating in areas such as the oil sands—the royalties, after all, go to the Province of Alberta—and which have received so much assistance from the taxpayers of Quebec and Canada, are receiving more assistance in order to generate less pollution.
I would point out that $240 million was allocated in the budget for carbon capture and sequestration pilot projects. I truly believe that oil companies and other producers of fossil fuels have the means to invest in green technologies. In fact, I believe that it is their responsibility to do so. It is not up to taxpayers to once again dig into their pockets. The budget already forces them to do that. The money in the budget is not government money but taxpayers' money. More taxpayer's money is being put on the table to help this industry develop green technologies. I believe this is a corporate responsibility they can afford.
In addition, in the last budget, there was a gradual withdrawal of the accelerated capital cost allowance for oil sands operations. We would have preferred that this measure be eliminated altogether, but it was nevertheless a step in the right direction. In this budget, the allowance has been reinstated for carbon dioxide pipeline developers. That means more money in support of polluters, who make large profits, so they can continue their exploration.
This responsibility should be shouldered by producers.
In closing, I will say that the budget allocates $12 million to national parks. There is a federal wildlife reserve in the riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry which could use a great deal of money for its operations and to improve programming so as to become more accessible to the public and provide an appreciation of nature.
Unfortunately, programming for reserves was neglected. We would have liked to have seen a bit more financial support in the budget for federal wildlife reserves.
This bill ignores many groups and issues including seniors, older workers, the homeless, social housing and—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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