Last in Parliament November 2005, as Bloc MP for Jonquière—Alma (Québec)
Lost his last election, in 2006, with 39.30% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Supply November 22nd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I would like to salute my colleague and to thank him for his support for this motion.
First, in his question, he raised some concerns. I found an excerpt from a cabinet document that, at the time, confirmed farmers' fears that they were being betrayed.
Allow me to quote briefly from this document:
Negotiations involve compromise. Sectors of the economy benefiting from protection which shelters them from foreign competition will object to any change in the status quo, particularly if it comes during an economic downturn. Supply managed producers of eggs, poultry and dairy products, the textile and clothing industry, and certain service sectors will probably object to any changes that would lead to increased competition.
Here is what the government strategy was:
The government will recognize that multilateral trade negotiations require Canada to consent to certain measures to open up markets to its trading partners. The government is working in close collaboration with the sectors most likely to be affected in order to define the priorities and objectives for negotiations. A more thorough examination is also required of how to manage the ongoing transition to a more globally integrated economy and the related costs of adaptation. At the same time, we will emphasize the overall gains the new negotiations will bring for Canada's economy, businesses and consumers.
What this means is that the government is prepared to compromise, but it will try to make us pay the price in other ways.
My colleague asked what solutions we could ask the government to put in place. At least this motion reinforces Canada's position in this House. We are also asking the government to ensure that the supply managed sectors can continue to provide producers with a fair and equitable income. To this end, the motion says that supply managed products must be included on Canada's list of sensitive products and that Canada will accept no increase in tariff quotas. This means that there can be no increase in the percentage of supply managed products subject to free trade, which is about 5%. The motion furthers asks that Canada refuse to negotiate a reduction in tariffs imposed at the border for foreign supply managed agricultural products. These over-quota tariffs are those tariffs imposed on imports that exceed the 5% quotas.
Those were three ways of showing a certain degree of assertiveness. However, this system is way too fragile for us to start negotiating it and taking it apart. Therefore Canada's position must be firm.
Supply November 22nd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in the House to speak to the motion brought forward by the Bloc Québécois, which reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should give its negotiators a mandate during the negotiations at the World Trade Organization so that, at the end of the current round of negotiations, Canada obtains results that ensure that the supply management sectors are subject to no reduction in over-quota tariffs and no increase in tariff quotas, so that these sectors can continue to provide producers with a fair and equitable income.
As I was saying, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to this motion because it shows once again how much we, the members of the Bloc Québécois, care about agricultural producers and about the regions of Quebec. Indeed, one of our priorities is to defend full use of the land in Quebec so that our regions cease to disintegrate. This can be done through various means, including by addressing major issues such as this one and by protecting certain industries.
Allow me first of all to salute the work of the men and women who, day after day, by their work on the farm or in businesses, provide us with this produce, this high quality food that adorns our tables every day. These people work very hard. Farming is not an easy profession, because it keeps people busy on the job 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
I know what I am talking about, as I had the good fortune—and I do say the good fortune—to work for six years on a farm in my home town of Métabetchouan.
I would also like to take this opportunity of congratulating these farmers who work on their farms every day, in addition to making us, as members and parliamentarians, aware of these major issues through their representations.
I would like to mention by name in this House the people whom I have had the good fortune to meet recently, who have once again made us aware of this issue of protecting supply management: Daniel Côté, Réjean Maltais and Yves Lapointe. Mr. Lapointe is a young man around the same age as myself. He is not naive. He has chosen to work, day after day, at this noble calling, even though he has grasped all its inherent demands in terms of work and commitment, particularly in the current context, despite the major crises of recent weeks and years.
The aim of their representation was to raise our awareness of this supply management protection system. Allow me, for the benefit of our listeners, to remind us what supply management consists of.
The lion’s share of farm incomes in Quebec are generated by supply managed sectors, especially the dairy industry. This system offers the dual advantage of generating decent incomes for our producers and not causing distortion in world markets. In fact, it deserves to be better known abroad and could even constitute one element of a response to the world farm crisis.
Here again it is essential that Ottawa believe in it, as Ottawa is the player that is responsible for the negotiations. It is basic.
I will also address the concern that exists on the part of these producers. Why? First of all, because my own region, and probably several regions in Quebec, have experienced ups and downs related to the declining economy.
Let me explain. In Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, the softwood lumber industry has experienced serious problems. As we know, the Americans are imposing export duties which prevent us from exporting to our full potential to the United States: the countervailing duties. This region, which derives its living from three major sectors, lumber, aluminum and agriculture, has seen two of these industries hit hard: softwood lumber and specifically agriculture. As a result, people are right to worry about the problems to which they are exposed.
Let us look at the importance of agriculture in our region: there are 3,000 indirect jobs that depend on agriculture, meaning about 16,000 indirect jobs in this sector of activity. This is important for Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean: it represents some 12% of jobs.
It is interesting to see the producers who want to do more and who opt for other market openings, such as the cheese dairies and other agri-food sectors. We see a lot of vitality there. Yet this is not easy. These people need help in developing their farms. It is precisely through strong stands taken here, in this House, that these farmers can be given the confidence to engage in this industry and to pursue their activities with peace of mind.
But at present, that is not the case; they are worried, for all sorts of reasons. There are certain signs that are keeping them worried, and forcing them to take up this fight and intervene.
I cite the example of butter oils. The Ontario chemical ice cream industry wanted to stop using cream to make its ice cream, to reduce its production costs. It wanted to be able to buy an American blend of milk by-products and sugar, known as butter oil, as a raw material. Bowing to the industry lobby but abandoning Quebec dairy producers, the federal government decreed that these butter oils were not dairy products, thereby opening the border to these imports. The result was that in five years, between 1997 and 2002, imports soared 557%, representing a loss of a half billion dollars for Quebec’s dairy producers. That is a substantial loss of revenue.
A similar fiasco has also occurred with the importing of cheese sticks.
These are not our only concerns, concerns which the government has left hanging. I am referring here to a memorandum to cabinet which has galvanized the fears of producers, who felt betrayed. According to this memorandum, which dealt with the mandate for the WTO negotiations, Canada was prepared to get rid of supply management. That was the drift of certain of its comments. The secret document, made public by the Council of Canadians in September 2002, raised the ire of 10,000 Quebec producers of milk, poultry, hatching eggs and table eggs, four supply managed sectors.
Another concern has been raised by Mr. Steve Verheul, director of the International Trade Policy Directorate at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Mr. Verheul spoke at a special general meeting of the UPA for Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. His presentation was in no way reassuring to the diary and farm producers of that region, even though he seemed to be softening the blow of the coming WTO negotiations in saying that they would try to minimize the losses that Canada might incur in that forum.
What this government has to do is to stand up once and for all and make sure that in no case does it give in to any compromise on the supply management issue. It has the chance to do this, and this is crucial. In fact, in this sort of negotiation, when you lose something, it is lost for a long time. The government therefore has the opportunity to report for the negotiations, be firm in its demands and positions, and show leadership. That is what we in the Bloc Québécois want for the farmers, and what they themselves want.
Today, in this House, I ask this government not only to support the motion of the Bloc Québécois, but to move from words to action and ensure that the protection of supply management is maintained.
Supply November 22nd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate my colleague on his fine speech. It covered the main concerns of the Bloc Québécois. I would like him to provide me with some clarification on the situation in the regions.
I myself have a number of farms in my riding. I actually live in an area where there is a lot of agriculture. The farming community has seen some rough times over the last few years. There was the mad cow crisis, which resulted in major financial losses for farmers after the embargo was imposed on the export of beef, and so forth.
The farmers in the region even met with leaders of this government who will be at the negotiating table. There are a number of signs that supply management might be dropped.
I would like my colleague to provide me with some information that might exist, either in his region or in Quebec, about this loss or at least this government back-down from protecting supply management.
Softwood Lumber November 18th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, for Tembec alone, we are talking about $320 million in countervailing and anti-dumping duties that are lying dormant in the United States.
Can the government assure us that the plan it has been announcing for the past three years, which, incidentally, does not require any legislation to take effect, will include enough loan guarantees to compensate companies for all the duties that are unfairly being kept by Washington?
Softwood Lumber November 18th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's softwood lumber strategy merely consists in criticizing the Americans' attitude abroad, while neglecting the plight of our domestic industry. Yet, Tembec's CEO underlined his company's difficulties in borrowing money from the banks because of the government's refusal to provide loan guarantees, as it could, through Export Development Canada, for example.
Will the minister continue to ignore this plea by the softwood industry, which is fighting for its survival? What is he waiting for to provide loan guarantees, as the industry has been asking for?
Supply November 17th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I come from a sparsely populated and beautiful region of which I am extremely proud. One day, I decided to settle there, to try to improve its economy and contribute to that region. However, this beautiful region is grappling with serious economic problems, due to the softwood lumber dispute, in particular, but also agricultural problems and cull cows, not to mention plant closures.
This government has a number of means at its disposal, but over the past three years, no measures proved effective or at least were taken, particularly to resolve the softwood lumber crisis.
When people pay 50% of their income taxes to Ottawa, they have the right to expect that the government will assume its responsibilities. However, over the past year, they have witnessed one of the worst scandals in Canadian history.
When I take part in activities or meetings, and when I talk to people on the street, I realize that they are disgusted with what is happening here. They believe that this government should no longer be in power, because it no longer has the moral authority to govern.
I want my colleague to tell me what people in her part of the country are feeling with regard to this scandal. How is this party, whose motion we are supporting today, justified in asking the government to call an election? In my opinion, the NDP's offer is a way out for this government. Why not seize this opportunity?
I want to know what the people in her riding think about the sponsorship scandal.
Softwood Lumber October 21st, 2005
Mr. Speaker, the government's recent actions have no connection whatsoever with the softwood lumber crisis, as the minister has said. It is all very well to create support programs for secondary and tertiary processing, and there is nothing bad about these in themselves, but the urgency right now is to save the companies and workers affected by the softwood lumber crisis.
What is the government waiting for before at last making available the loan guarantees the industry has been calling for?
Softwood Lumber October 21st, 2005
Mr. Speaker, the government does not realize that the softwood lumber crisis has, in the past three years, cost the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region 3,000 jobs. The equivalent in Montreal would be 30,000.
What is the government waiting for before creating a real assistance program to support the businesses and workers in our region affected by the softwood lumber crisis?
Finance September 30th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Coalition to protect fuel consumers organized a protest in Saguenay. This coalition is demanding the immediate adoption of measures to stop subjecting fuel consumers to the spiralling costs of retail gas prices.
Does the minister intend to develop a plan that would, among other things, extend the $3.75 daily tax credit, up to 10% of total earnings, to the residents of regions such as mine? Very remote regions already benefit from this tax credit.
Gasoline Prices September 26th, 2005
I am sorry, I do not know if I understood the question correctly. It is important to understand the nature of the credits that are proposed for households, for example. All moderate income households, no matter what source of energy they use, could receive a $250 refundable tax credit. That is important for 2005-06 because there is an urgent need. We are only reacting to the crisis and we must find short-term solutions. Of course, the maximum eligible revenue for the tax credit would be determined by Revenue Canada so as to include about 6 million households having a moderate income.
I will finish by pointing out that the credit would apply to households earning less than $30,000.