March 24, 2011 (40th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Daniel Paillé

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Daniel Paillé (Hochelaga, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, two days ago I had the opportunity to share my initial reactions to the budget. I said that there was nothing, nothing and nothing in the budget for Quebec. Quebec is nowhere to be seen, and I repeat that today.
Last year Quebec was left out. Only the oil companies, banks and the automotive sector benefited in the budget. This year, even though it was Quebec's turn, we are nowhere to be seen. The Conservative government could not care less about Quebec. It has dropped Quebec from its priority list and soon, the people of Quebec will drop the Conservatives.
The Prime Minister has marked a big x on Quebec, and Quebeckers will certainly not put an x on the ballot for him or any of his puppets. I can guarantee that.
We essentially asked for three things in the budget: fairness for Quebec, consideration for Quebec's economic needs and support for the people who need it. To finance all of that, we proposed measures that are simply fair: ending tax giveaways to those who do not need them and asking more from those who have more. It is simple. What did the government do? Nothing. The tough times will come after the election, and the little guy is the one who will continue to pay.
First, we called for fairness for Quebec. There is a series of issues between Quebec and Ottawa that have been dragging on and on, some of them for 20 years. Ontario harmonized its sales tax with the GST and received $4.3 billion in compensation. It was the same for British Columbia, which received $1.6 billion in compensation. The Maritimes received $1 billion in compensation. Quebec has been waiting 20 years for our due: $2.2 billion.
For the benefit of the Conservatives, I would like to do some basic calculations. Since Quebec pays a quarter of federal government expenses, we can easily say that Quebeckers paid a quarter of the three compensation amounts I just mentioned, for a total of $1.75 billion. We can also assume that Quebeckers will pay a quarter of the $2.2 billion that Ottawa owes Quebec, which is approximately $550 million. So Canada's share will not be $2.2 billion; it will be $1.65 billion.
What we must understand is that Quebeckers have already paid their share of compensation to the other provinces, which is $1.75 billion. Quebeckers have paid off their debt to the other provinces. It is time for the other provinces to also do their part. It is time for Quebec to receive its fair share.
The Government of Quebec feels that all of the important points of this issue have been settled. It even sent a draft agreement to Ottawa. The only thing missing is the Minister of Finance's signature at the bottom of the page. But he will not sign it. Since it does not appear in the budget—it is not even mentioned—we can assume that he has no intention of signing this agreement in the coming year. That and that alone means that we cannot support this budget, and the government has known that for a long time. It wanted an election and it will get one because it has written Quebec off.
There are other disputes that are still not settled. For example, the government changed the way in which natural resource revenues are calculated. This will cost Quebec $250 million.
Here is another example: the government is refusing to make protection payments, which would have allowed Quebec, and the other provinces, to avoid significant reductions in equalization payments. That might be fine for the other provinces, but it is not fine for Quebec. That is another $250 million to add on to the first $250 million, which is on top of the $2.2 billion. Still on the subject of equalization, the courts ruled in Quebec's favour and ordered Ottawa to pay $137 million in compensation for losses in the 1990s. And yet the government refuses. Despite the court orders, it has not paid.
The ice storm happened 13 years ago. Just because it happened that long ago does not mean that we should not get paid. Quebec has been owed $421 million for 13 years, and that money has been frozen. Manitoba was compensated for its floods years ago. It has been years and Quebec still has not been paid. And I have not even mentioned cuts to higher education transfers, which have yet to be cancelled. It is high time that Ottawa start paying its debts to Quebec. Yet, it is not doing so. In fact, it is refusing to sign agreements with its creditors. How can that be fixed? Should the Government of Canada be put in default? No, we will just pull the plug and that is that.
We are also asking that the government take Quebec's needs into account. Our economy does not depend on oil or automobiles. In order to prosper, our economy must do various things, such as produce goods. Our manufacturing industry needs to be modernized; it needs to increase production, innovate and invest. Our economy needs increased tax credits for research. Are these things included in the budget? No. Our economy needs an investment program for new product development. Is this included in the budget? No. Support is needed for new business start-ups, for SMEs, one of the main sources of job creation. Is this is included in the budget? No. There is nothing in this budget, nowhere.
Our leading industries must be able to count on support comparable to what their competitors are receiving. I am thinking here about the aerospace industry, which has suffered because of the lack of any true aerospace policy. Meanwhile, the government wants to make major military purchases without any guarantee of economic spinoffs for our aerospace industry. How much did the aerospace industry receive in the budget? Nothing. Not one cent. Just a vague promise that it might be considered one of these days. Perhaps the Conservatives can let us know when they return from outer space.
Another industry that has been cheated is Montreal's financial hub, which does not want to, must not and will not be moved to Toronto. If that were to happen, it would be the head offices and decision makers that would leave. This must not happen. Is there anything in the budget to reassure Montreal? No. To make matters worse, the government is bringing back its ill-conceived plan to create a Canadian securities commission. Nobody wants such a commission except Ottawa because it wants to keep Quebec out of the financial sector to its own benefit and, of course, Toronto because it wants to do Montreal out of its financial hub and head offices. Who is the Minister of Finance? A member of Parliament from the Toronto region of Ontario and the former finance minister for that province.
Quebec City, our nation's capital, needs infrastructure worthy of a national capital. We do not need a peewee arena or a bridge that is falling apart.
Once again, crumbs were thrown to the national capital. I acknowledge that the contribution to the National Optics Institute is a good thing, but Quebec City wanted more. Quebec City deserved much more. It especially wanted respect, not clowns dressed up like the former Quebec Nordiques mascot, Badaboum—no offence to Badaboum. The Conservatives have crossed Quebec City off their list.
Our regions also have special needs. The forestry sector is in crisis. Farm income is unstable. Fishers are struggling. Youth are leaving. Businesses that innovate have trouble attracting qualified employees to the regions. What is there for the sectors that sustain our regions? Crumbs. The forestry industry received $60 million, a 40% reduction from what was announced last year. I would like to point out that Ontario's automotive industry has about the same number of jobs; yet it received $10 billion. Thus, there is cause to be—I will say angry, rather than using unparliamentary language.
Our forestry companies need measures that will provide access to capital. Our forestry regions need a little help to diversify their economies; they were given nothing. The forestry regions are nowhere in this budget.
The environment, clean energy, electric cars—that is where the future lies. Where is this mentioned in the budget? Nowhere. Again, Ottawa has taken a step backwards. There is nothing to expedite the arrival of electric cars, nothing for second generation ethanol production. There is still no plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which would allow Quebec to enjoy its extraordinary advantages. What are the only specific measures for clean energy in the budget? Measures for pipelines. Quebec sees a green future, but this budget is mired in oil.
Since the government is out of touch with Quebec, we informed it about our economic needs and which sectors of activity are important to us. Bloc Québécois policies are not dictated by Toronto or Calgary. As usual, the government did not listen; it wrote off the Quebec economy.
Third, we asked that they look after people. Employment insurance has not been any kind of insurance for many years. The majority of those who lose their jobs cannot access it. We asked for major reforms so that employment insurance would again be accessible to those who need it. Tuesday's budget confirmed that this government, like the other one, is going to plunder $17 billion from the fund in the next few years. There is nothing for workers in this cynical budget.
We have been calling for an additional $110 a month for those who receive the guaranteed income supplement. Why $110? Simply because that amount would allow our most vulnerable seniors to reach the low income threshold. So, what is there for the poorest of the poor, those who do not receive the guaranteed income supplement because they do not know that it exists or that they are entitled to it? Nothing. Where are they in this budget? Nowhere. This government is insensitive and heartless, and that is reflected, once again, in Tuesday's budget.
The Prime Minister is stonewalling Quebec. The Conservative leader falsely claims that the economy is his priority, but Quebec and its regions were completely written off in the Conservative budget.
Quebec has been denied what it is owed for sales tax harmonization, as well as for other disputed issues. The forestry industry never gets anything but crumbs and scraps. The government continues to steal from the employment insurance fund, leaving workers in the lurch. In light of this indifference, and considering the interests and values of Quebeckers, the Bloc Québécois has no choice but to vote against the Conservative government at the earliest opportunity.
In closing, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Québec:
That the amendment be amended by adding after the word “families” the following:
and because the budget does not meet the expectations of Quebeckers, in particular as regards the $2.2 billion Quebec is owed for having harmonized the GST and the QST 19 years ago.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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