Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Ottawa—Orléans (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2008, with 38.82% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Cultural Diversity November 25th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the Minister of Canadian Heritage for her excellent work in connection with cultural diversity at UNESCO. Unlike the party over the way, she does more than talk; she has acted and achieved some concrete results.

In a world context as favourable as this, our artists cannot help but flourish, and yet the minister has done still more for the cultural community.

Can she tell the House how she will be supporting our country's artists more than ever through the Canada Council for the Arts?

Orléans Francophone Involvement Movement November 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, for 27 years, MIFO, the Francophone involvement movement in Orléans, has been showcasing francophone culture and promoting the cultural expression of the Orléans community. It meets artistic, cultural, social, community and educational needs by providing a variety of services in French for francophones and francophiles of all ages, from the very young to the not so young.

To show how much MIFO is appreciated, I wish to inform hon. members that during the recent Francophonie Gala put on by ACFO Ottawa, MIFO, its general director and its president won the Grandmaître award for the organization that has made the greatest contribution to the development of the Ottawa francophone community.

Ottawa—Orléans is pleased and extremely proud of this jewel of our Franco-Ontarian heritage. We wish MIFO many more years of success.

Public Service November 23rd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, constituents in my riding are concerned about the under-representation of visible minorities in the federal public service, government agencies or as appointees on boards of crown corporations. What action does the President of the Treasury Board intend or plan to take to correct this situation?

Official Languages November 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, this morning's papers reported that official language communities are quite worried that there was no mention of them in the government's economic statement.

Can the minister responsible for official languages indicate whether these communities can expect additional funding for priority projects that promote their vitality and support their development?

Official Languages November 4th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the government has just tabled its mid-term report on the implementation of the action plan for official languages.

Given that the development and vitality of official language communities are a priority for our government, could the minister tell us how the communities reacted and what should be the next step in acting on this important issue and speeding things up?

People's Choice Business Awards November 1st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday, the Orléans Chamber of Commerce hosted the fourth edition of the People's Choice Business Awards.

This event is a means to thank the business community and welcome the input from the community at large. It also represents a mechanism for the collectivity and the businesses to work together for the betterment of the Orléans community.

This year, more than 9,000 people took part in this event by voting on the Internet for their favourite local businesses. The 15 winners were chosen from a wide range of businesses and entrepreneurs who were celebrated at the gala event.

I want to join the residents of Orléans in congratulating all the nominees and of course the winners. They are directly responsible for the economic development of Orléans and we are very grateful to them.

It is a job well done by the Orléans Chamber of Commerce.

Official Languages Act October 27th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure, but even more a privilege and an honour for me to speak to this important bill, Bill S-3, an act to amend the Official Languages Act.

I would also like to give credit where credit is due and say a few words about Senator Gauthier. He has spent his whole life defending the French fact in Ontario. It would certainly be an achievement for him to see his bill, coming from the Senate, being adopted in the House of Commons and sent back to the Senate for royal assent.

I also want to say a few words about the sponsor of the bill, the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. We know that it is thanks to his hard work and conviction that this important bill for the official languages communities has made it so far, to third reading at this point.

I would also like to thank the parliamentary secretary, the member for Saint Boniface. We were in a cold sweat more than once during the discussions held at the Standing Committee on Official Languages. At one time, we wondered if the bill would make it to the House. The parliamentary secretary was very patient with his colleague and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

Much has been said about section 41 and section 43, which was not amended in the end. On the other hand, the most important point in Bill S-3 is certainly the amendment to section 77 of the Official Languages Act. It ensures the justiciability of part VII of that act. Hon. members must keep in mind that parts of the legislation already are justiciable. The set of obligations of federal institutions, that is ministers and Crown corporations, were declaratory rather than justiciable, as the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell has said.

Some may wonder, if the government was that keen on doing this for the official language communities, why the legislation had to be changed. It is because, in another 30, 40 or 50 years, the party currently in power might not form the government. Another party might be in power. The official language communities wanted a guarantee, wanted assurances, and that is what Bill S-3 is about.

Like the Official Languages Act, the bill has been a long time in coming. First of all, in 1995, there was a government policy statement giving the Privy Council, among others, the responsibility for creating provisions for application of the former section 77. Then of course came the official languages action plan, which we are familiar with mostly by the author's name of Dion. A few hours ago, the interim progress report required by the Official Languages Act was tabled. It was positive, and very well received by the communities.

What we are doing at this time is moving on to the ultimate step: making the government's obligation justiciable. For the official language communities, this will be cause for almost as great a celebration as the promulgation of the Official Languages Act back in 1968 or so.

It is also important to keep in mind that the official languages communities have had some success already, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling on the interpretation of section 23.

This is why this issue is important. During debate members often asked why we needed this court element. Without section 23 of the Official Languages Act, we would probably not have our French school boards across the country. Of course, the provinces had to get on board but the charter guaranteed that. This is exactly what the bill is doing about the amendment proposed to the Official Languages Act.

For over 30 years the Government of Canada has strived to promote official languages across the country with a vision of openness, a vision that ensures that French- and English-speaking Canadians can feel at home wherever they live and wherever they may be. We are able to appreciate the huge benefits of this.

I have always said that there is no such thing as a second-class francophone. Whether it is in Quebec, in Acadia, in Ontario or in British Columbia, the use of French is not a privilege, but a right. French-speaking Canadians are entitled to the services and commitment of their government wherever they are in the country. That is Canada. Perhaps some parties have trouble understanding this.

Barely 20 years ago, let us not forget, many of the provinces—as I mentioned earlier—did not have any French schools. In 1990, with the exception of New Brunswick and a few francophone communities in Ontario, not a single French minority community managed its own schools. Today, in every province and territory, all of these communities manage their schools.

The obligations of the federal institutions could nonetheless be spelled out in a regulation, which is obviously the purpose of Bill S-3.

This regulatory power will be exercised in close collaboration with all the key stakeholders, particularly with the francophone and anglophone linguistic minority communities. When the time comes to determine the methods all these federal institutions will be asked to use to develop the communities, the federal government would indeed like to ensure that the institutions have the opportunity to make their points of view clearly known and that their needs are duly taken into consideration. It is very important that the implementation of this legislation is not done in a vacuum.

That is why more consultations were held last night. The government submitted a report and the communities gave their view on the progress of the action plan. We want to work with the communities, whether they are in Quebec or outside the province, but most importantly the Official Languages Act has to apply throughout Canada.

In this same spirit, I want to reassure those in the House who fear that adopting this bill may weaken the status of French in Quebec. Jurisprudence, particularly that from the Supreme Court of Canada on matters concerning Quebec, is unequivocal: linguistic rights must be interpreted according to the context and linguistic dynamism in each province.

In conclusion, numerous francophone and anglophone communities in Canada have been waiting and hoping for a very long time for this increased commitment from the federal government and for this insurance policy. I invite all the members of this House to make their dream come true. The vitality of official languages communities is at stake. We will be following in the footsteps of Jean-Robert Gauthier, Gisèle Lalonde and, I dare say, Arthur Godbout, who sacrificed everything to ensure the survival of the French language throughout Canada.

Unanticipated Surpluses Act October 27th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member of Parliament for Brant for a very comprehensive overview of Bill C-67. I have been getting positive initial reactions from my constituents on Bill C-67, specifically on the reduction of debt and what is proposed in the legislation. I wonder if the member for Brant could tell us what initial reaction he has had from his constituents, the business community, the community leaders and the residents of his riding of Brant.

Queensway Carleton Hospital October 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I call a point of order. I did not hear a single word during the member's remarks about the amendment to his motion. Mr. Speaker, could you remind him that he is here to talk about the amendment to his motion?

Queensway Carleton Hospital October 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, we have before us today an amendment to a motion recommending that the government should consider amending the lease between the Queensway-Carleton Hospital and the NCC, to make the hospital's rent $1 a year, instead of $22,909.

First, listening to the member for Nepean—Carleton, one would think that the lease is about to expire in a matter of hours or weeks. I would like to remind the House that this lease will not expire until 2013. There is therefore no cause for panic; there is no real rush, no emergency. We have time to examine this whole issue much more calmly and in more depth than the member for Nepean—Carleton might like.

As I told the hon. member in committee, I am not unsympathetic to the idea of looking at all that is involved when non profit organizations lease buildings or lands from the federal government. We may have to review the whole issue.

What we cannot do is take a case by case approach or put a motion before the House of Commons to deal with a contract between an establishment and a crown agency. It seems to me that, if we get into that and start reviewing the hundreds or thousands of lease agreements entered into by the federal government, not much else will get done in terms of legislation for this country.

Allow me to give an overview of the management framework of crown corporations, including the NCC, particularly where real estate transactions are concerned.

The National Capital Commission was assigned by the Government of Canada the mandate of managing federal real property. Subsection 15(1) of the National Capital Act states:

Except with the approval of the Governor in Council, the Commission shall not

(a) acquire any real property for a consideration in excess of a value of twenty-five thousand dollars; or

(b) enter into a lease enduring for a period in excess of five years [including amendments to existing leases of over five years] or grant an easement enduring for a period in excess of forty-nine years.

And subsection 15(2) states:

The Commission shall not dispose of real property for a consideration in excess of ten thousand dollars—

This same provision of the National Capital Act stipulates, among other things, that the transactions must be done in accordance with subsection 99(2) of the Financial Administration Act, whereby the National Capital Commission may sell or otherwise dispose of any property held by the corporation and may retain and use the proceeds of disposition thereof, but only in accordance with the regulations, or on the authorization of the Governor in Council. In similar cases, Crown Corporation General Regulations, 1995 applies.

The legislation and the regulations in place reinforce the need, when there is disposition of real property—including leases—to respect the principle of “market value”, which I will discuss in more detail in a few minutes. Applying this principle to crown corporations also complies with the framework of the Treasury Board policy that governs federal departments and agencies. I must say that, knowing the provincial government of Ontario as I do, this province is acting in an almost identical fashion.

The proposals made by the minister responsible, in this case, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, are governed by a regulatory framework that requires a series of approvals from the special committee of council, the Treasury Board and possibly from cabinet.

The motion before us today outlines a scenario in which the Government of Canada plans to change the lease signed between the Queensway-Carleton hospital and the NCC that would require the hospital to pay $1 a year rather than $22,909, as it currently does.

I must say that, as the former director of education for the French language Catholic school board in eastern and central Ontario, we had similar leases with the National Capital Commission, at the Sainte-Geneviève school, for instance, and we too would have liked to have paid $1. I do not think we can start having a double standard that depends on whether or not an issue becomes politicized by an MP.

Because of possible ramifications, decisions of this scope require high-level approval. As we examine this motion, it is important to clearly understand the underlying principle of market value, and to recognize that a decision concerning one single transaction in the National Capital Region would have repercussions Canada-wide, since this principle applies to all federal departments and agencies, including crown corporations, in keeping with Treasury Board policies.

In 1985, under another government, the Nielsen task force on program review released its report on the federal government property management program. It described property management as one of the most politically-charged functions of government. That was back in 1985.

The motion by the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton would make it even more politically charged. This is even the case already, since we are discussing it in the House of Commons.

The report went on to say that property management issues were behind the multiplication of government programs and were used both in pursuit of socio-economic objectives and in the distribution of governmental largesse.

The task force also found that property management decisions at the time were being made with higher socio-economic objectives in mind, rather than the economic considerations of the best possible use of real property or any consideration of acquisition and maintenance costs . The resulting system was a bloated system and politicized with no controls and no direction.

The current Treasury Board policies on property management were intended to remedy those shortcomings. If we do what the member for Nepean—Carleton is asking, we would end up back exactly where we were then, with purely political case-by-case decisions being made to the disadvantage of the community as a whole.

The fair market value system is a matter of impartiality, equity and above all uniformity. I would also like to draw the hon. members' attention to the fact that the land on which the Queensway-Carleton Hospital is located is part of the green belt and the national interest land mass. It is managed according to the green belt management plan, which sets out policies and principles to ensure the long term management and preservation of this land.

The greenbelt and other federal land that contributes to the capital experience have been designated NILM. They are indispensable to achieving the NCC mandate for the long term, which is to ensure that the capital region presents a physical coherence, works effectively and has a symbolic significance to Canadians.

Let us look at the whole picture. I believe there may be some merit to re-examining the entire issue of property or land that would be sold or leased to not-for-profit agencies. Of course, I have some sympathy for this cause, having directed a school board. Nonetheless, we cannot do this in a vacuum. We cannot do what we are doing right now, which is to target a specific issue and present it to the House of the Commons. If the government took this approach, as I was saying earlier, for each of the 200 building leases and sales, we would end up with 200 individual motions. This issue would become politicized. It is a slippery slope.

Furthermore, a transaction of this kind would lack transparency in terms of projected revenue, which would be hard cash, especially after 2013.

In closing, if the committee were to submit a recommendation, the Minister of Canadian Heritage should first present a brief to the Treasury Board. I respectfully propose that the Treasury Board Secretariat base the advice it will give the ministers and members of the Treasury Board on the strategic and regulatory framework that governs such transactions, by taking into full account the repercussions such a precedent would have.

I will close by encouraging the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the National Capital Commission to negotiate in good faith a lease for this hospital that is so dear to us all, but without the sword of Damocles the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton would like to see hanging over us.