House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Last in Parliament September 2007, as Liberal MP for Outremont (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 40.94% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Québécois November 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the difference between the member and me is that my word means something and when I make commitments, I honour them. As for him, everyone knows that his word has no value and that no one can have confidence in him.

I believe that in the development of federalism and the development of my own beliefs, I have remained consistent. I remember the period when the Bloc Quebecois was established—the minister was here, I believe—it was a rainbow coalition. I remind him that throughout all that period, I had my membership card in the Quebec Liberal party and every week I spoke with Robert Bourassa. It was at his request, a request from the federalist premier of Quebec that I stayed here for two years. Personally, I had decided to abandon politics in 1990 after the collapse of the Meech Lake Accord.

I believe that this week I am the member who has been the most consistent in my position on the Québécois nation. Several of my colleagues have had to go through all kinds of contortions in trying to revise their positions. For my part, my position has always been consistent.

The Québécois November 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I know that this debate does not lend itself to partisanship. However, when examining the Prime Minister's leadership style, this is not the first of his ministers who was totally ignored. I am told that in this government there are one and a half ministers, that is the Prime Minister who occasionally will deign to consult one of his ministers.

In the case of this motion, I am told that even his Quebec lieutenant was taken by surprise, as was the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. I am told that, on that morning, the latter was wondering if he would still be a minister at the end of the day. I was even told that the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Quebec lieutenant, was writing an article for La Presse to explain why he was voting against the Quebec nation when all of a sudden he arrived in Parliament and the Prime Minister told him he was in favour of the Quebec nation. Thus, it was a surprise all around. I am under the impression that the federal-provincial relations minister was just as surprised.

In these circumstances, I can understand that a minister wonders what he is doing there. If he is not consulted in the least, if he is not in the loop, it is not worth being a minister. There are rumours circulating in the House that the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs may tender his resignation. If he was completely ignored on such a fundamental issue, I can understand his sense of isolation. However, that does not mean that this motion does not have merit and, for my part, I hope that the majority of members in this House will vote for the motion without it bothering their conscience. We must also bear in mind the symbolic value of this motion, the message sent of openness and of reaching out, and that is all. For that reason, one day the country will want to reform its institutions and at that point we will draw inspiration from the discussions we have had these past days.

For the time being, I am not surprised to see that some ministers and some Conservative members are somewhat frustrated. This is not the first time. I am told that since this government was elected, they have been kept in the dark. The government is led by one minister, that is the Prime Minister. The others follow behind somewhat sheepishly, but they do not have a choice unless they wish to lose their jobs.

The Québécois November 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, four minutes is not very long, but I will use what time I have.

Before question period, I was saying how flexible Canadian federalism had been. In addition—and I am dating myself a little here—for those who have followed the constitutional issue and remember what we went through with the Meech Lake accords, each of the concepts has gradually resurfaced in the past 20 to 25 years. In recent years, we have witnessed another expression of this flexibility with the development of the concept of asymmetrical federalism.

During the term of the government led by the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, we witnessed the signing of an agreement on health that the current government is forever boasting about. This Conservative government constantly wants to take credit for this wonderful agreement on health, which provided for a major transfer of $41 billion over 10 years. When the agreement was signed, we saw that the government was able to play a national role, with what I would call jealous respect for the provinces' jurisdictions.

I want to pay tribute to my colleague from Westmount—Ville-Marie, who presided over the signing of many agreements with Quebec.

I will never forget the day we signed the agreement on parental leave, a long-awaited agreement that, once again, enabled Quebec to provide more generous parental leave for our fellow citizens, within the Canadian model, Canadian federalism, and at the same time respected Quebec's jurisdictions.

There was also an agreement on child care, which recognized the major progress Quebec had made and its leadership on that issue. Quebec was the inspiration for many other jurisdictions.

Again, this was a model of the flexibility of Canadian federalism, and here again, provincial jurisdictions were respected. Unfortunately, given the ideology of the party opposite, that party did not see fit to continue the program. This is now going to cost the province of Quebec $800 million, and that is regrettable. It is regrettable because for a party that supposedly wants to restore the fiscal balance, it has dug an $800 million hole. If we add another $328 million hole, to bring us up to date in terms of the Kyoto protocol, that makes a hole of over $1 billion. For a party that has made major commitments regarding the fiscal imbalance, its record cannot be said to be especially glorious. But with this we must recognize that federalism has evolved somewhat. We have managed to sign infrastructure agreements, once again amounting to over $1 billion, while respecting provincial priorities.

So it is evolving, although too slowly for some. I too have had my impatient moments, but ultimately, I have to say that, today, this is the end result of a lot of discussion. It is the end result of a broad political will that has been expressed in various terms. Sometimes we have talked about distinct society; other times, we have talked about the Quebec people; and now we have come to the concept of nation.

At some point, when we may one day be ready to consider constitutional talks, who knows what terminology we will want to use to recognize Quebec’s difference? Because basically, we can play semantics all day, but ultimately, the intention is to recognize Quebec’s difference, a difference that can be reconciled with Canada’s differences. Basically, it is the sum of our differences that makes this country a country respected throughout the world and a country where each one of us can be comfortable with our own personality, with our own history.

That is why I said at the beginning of my speech that this is not a debate we would have wanted, because basically, asking someone else to define one’s identity is not necessarily the best thing to do. And it is surprising that it should be the Bloc Québécois asking for that identity to be defined. The most disappointing thing has been to see that the Bloc Québécois, which thinks that it has a different definition of Québécois identity from ours, would decide to come to the rest of Canada seeking that identity. It has been hoist on its own petard, and today, the three federalist parties find themselves offering their hand and saying that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada—

The Economy November 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the minister cannot act on impulse and decide on foreign investment to suit his mood.

Will he ask the House for certain specific power? He does not at this time have the power to use this type of control. Will he ask this House for such power?

The Economy November 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, we know how this government has already spoiled our relations with China. In the past few days, the Minister of Finance has put out feelers about wanting to use harsh measures against certain foreign investment.

What legislative measures does he intend to introduce in this House to control certain foreign investment, and what type of investment?

The Québécois November 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for York Centre.

I am pleased to take part in this debate, although we Quebeckers in the House find ourselves in a very strange situation. The House is being asked to define our identity. It is as if we had come here searching for it, and all that just because the Bloc Québécois wanted to play petty politics on the backs of Quebeckers. That is too bad, but while the Bloc claims to be their servant and the trustee of their interests, it actually wanted the House to say no to Quebeckers, to say that they do not constitute a nation.

Confounding their tactics, the hon. members of this House—the federalist members—decided to say that Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada. Now that the federalist members have decided to join forces, we see the Bloc members going through contortions that could earn them a job with the Cirque du Soleil. They do not know which way to squirm and wriggle any more.

In light of this situation, I think that Quebeckers are being recognized here. I met a lot of people over the weekend who said it was nice, and that this helped them feel comfortable with their dual identity. It helped them say they are both proud Quebeckers and proud Canadians.

That is what this motion gives us today. I would not want people to nurse any illusions about the meaning or huge import—other than symbolic—of this motion. In addition, the issue of Quebec signing on to the Canadian constitution has not been resolved. In my view, that is on a future agenda. I know that the C-word, Constitution, is banned for now, but some day we will obviously want to find a way to bring Quebec back into the bosom of the Canadian family—if that vocabulary is not too antiquated—with honour and enthusiasm.

I think, therefore, that our colleagues realize today that they have to recognize the Quebec nation. I know that some are making an effort to do this because it is hard for them, and I can understand that. Ultimately, though, this is an olive branch extended from an outstretched hand.

Some day we will have to remember this. I may have too much personal experience in the House, but I remember the Meech Lake era very well. Looking back at the five elements we had at that time, ultimately we can say that things are quietly progressing. At the time, we spoke about a distinct society. Then, all of a sudden, the House passed a motion recognizing this wording. The vocabulary has evolved now: distinct society, people, nation. Who knows how our children will want to define themselves in 10 or 15 years?

Insofar as what we wanted in the area of immigration is concerned, it has been achieved and Quebec has power over the selection of immigrants. Some other provinces have taken on the same power because they think it is important.

Our discussion about spending power is still hypothetical, but this is an important element, nevertheless.

Perhaps the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities remembers former premier Robert Bourassa and the many speeches he made about spending authority. He repeated them so often we know almost all of them by heart.

With respect to the Supreme Court justices, that is a fact.

On the subject of veto rights, even this House passed a law saying that every region has a veto. As such, Quebec has a de facto veto right.

If we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, we realize that things evolve. Little by little, certainly, but this gives us confidence in the future.

When history judges the past few days we have experienced together, it may be said that on this momentous occasion, Canadian federalists were united as never before thanks to the Bloc Québécois.

I honestly did not think that such unity would happen during this session with a minority government and a very strong opposition, not to mention a party in the throes of a leadership race. In the end, it took a major catalyst to make this happen.

That being the case, I would like to thank the Bloc Québécois because it gave us the will to fight. It convinced us that we can have two identities—Quebecker and Canadian—and that those two identities can co-exist and help us grow.

I think that even though nobody wanted it to happen, this debate has strengthened Canada and will enable us to exchange ideas about our deep roots and the very nature of Quebec as it is today.

I know it is very hard for the Bloc to say it—

The Québécois November 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the minister’s speech was interesting. There was a slight partisan side to it that I can forgive today but I noticed that he spoke of a motion that is really symbolic, that it is perhaps an opening gesture and probably an olive branch towards Quebeckers. However, his remarks did not go any farther.

I hope that the member and the minister do not take it for granted that with this motion the work is finished. Reconciliation with Quebeckers and Quebec’s acceptance of the Constitution will require a great deal more work. In my opinion, we are taking a small step today. It is nice, but it is symbolic.

The minister did not talk to us about spending power; for example. I would have liked to have heard him discuss that. Does his government intend to take some action in that area? The minister did not talk about the fiscal imbalance.

Those subjects belong at the top of the agenda because beyond the symbol, there is a reality. I know that our fellow citizens have expectations concerning these subjects. One day, I hope we can be here together to celebrate the final and total acceptance by Quebec of our constitutional laws.

I would be glad if the minister could give some details of his thoughts beyond today’s resolution.

Business of Supply November 23rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the member for Drummond should have talked to her leader a little earlier today. He was ready to add the words “currently in a united Canada” to his own motion. That is what he suggested to the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie. He was ready to add that to his text as long as the word “currently” was in there.

So the leader of the Bloc Québécois was ready to recognize the existence of a united Canada. Frankly, that surprised me, but I thought that maybe he had become tangled up in the intricacies of his own strategy yet again. Still, he made the offer. Mr. Boisclair should be very insulted by the offer the leader of the Bloc Québécois made to the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie with respect to the amendment. He offered to include the words “united Canada” in his amendment.

Mr. Boisclair, the leader of the Bloc Québécois is double-crossing you. Maybe he wants your job.

Business of Supply November 23rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where he got that. The reality is that this debate is taking place because the Bloc Québécois tried to get involved in the Liberal leadership race and tried to embarrass the Conservative government. This is not great strategy. Its strategy is so clear and open that we have all seen that they are caught up in it and do not know how to back out of it now. We have all seen it. All the media watching us know that the Bloc is completely tangled up in its tactic.

The Bloc Québécois has been here since 1990. But they choose this week to ask for a resolution about the Quebec nation, no doubt inspired by the federal Liberal supporters. Come on!

As much as I would like to say that the resolutions in this House are always nobly motivated and nation-building, in this case, it was not noble at all. It was to try and trip us up. The truth is that it has had the opposite effect and I am very pleased with the results. In this sense, the Bloc members have served a purpose. For once, we have had a unanimous motion by all federalist parties and, as a result, they have united us in a cause greater than each of our own parties. That is quite an achievement.

Business of Supply November 23rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am a democrat. Therefore in my opinion all those who were elected to this House are equally legitimate and representative. As much as we may have fundamental differences regarding the Constitution, I still have the same respect for all the members of this House, because they have been elected by their fellow citizens.

Actually the real test is not whether or not there are 51 MPs from the Bloc Québécois; it is knowing whether we are able, as federalists, to make contact with the Quebec population—the francophones in particular—and get it involved in this passionate project called Canada. There have been shortcomings in the past. In my opinion, the existence of the Bloc Québécois—I could not speak otherwise—reflects a vacuum at one point in history. There is nothing accidental here. Thus, as much as I think they have to be combated, I also think they have tried out some little tactics in order to divide us and they have not succeeded. It has created this advantage. In the end, each member is here in this House legitimately. Everyone is democratically elected and deserves our respect.

Finally, whether we are different from you or from others, we have to respect one another in our differences. In a democracy, the people are always right.