Last in Parliament November 2005, as Bloc MP for Lévis—Bellechasse (Québec)
Lost his last election, in 2006, with 29.02% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Transportation Amendment Act November 28th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague for his brilliant comment.
I too have followed the events surrounding the Québec Central train. The stakeholders have discovered that such a projet could still have an economic value. The efforts made allowed the export of a good number of finished products to the American side. We can therefore only rejoice to see such an initiative, just like the Kyoto agreements.
Because we live by the St. Lawrence River, we hope that cabotage will one day be allowed again, particularly for raw materials.
Transportation Amendment Act November 28th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I did not hear a question in what the member across the way said. However, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the hon. member for her dedication and for the work she has done for her country. I am sure that most members, if not all, will say that she has devoted heart and soul to this. I wish her the best retirement which I hope will be much more quiet than what she has been used to until today.
Transportation Amendment Act November 28th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, first, I want to thank my colleague for his question. I know that he visited some sites, including the Charny railroad yard. I also know that that yard is in the heart of a residential development. The problem has become really alarming for people who live in the immediate vicinity of that yard.
Furthermore, I know that the railway that goes through the heart of the city is also a problem. At any time of night we can hear the train whistle, whose sole aim is to wake everybody up. Even though people have been pushing for action, nothing ever changes. I had hoped that the bill would alleviate the problems.
I am also perfectly aware that we cannot enforce existing regulations in cities and towns and that the federal legislation takes precedence. But the fact is that we remain stuck with the problems. What is more upsetting is that, in my riding, the railway makes a loop that comes very close to a village to facilitate delivery of a liquid product in Montreal. At any time of day or night, we hear whistles—more like non-stop whistling—because the number of trains is constantly increasing.
In conclusion I will say that, despite its positive elements, the bill does nothing to alleviate the noise problem. There is practically nothing in it other than a complaints processing mechanism to guarantee that the complaints are heard. I do not think that this bill will satisfy the people who have been complaining for a number of years now.
Transportation Amendment Act November 28th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, this is a bill which I feel I have to be more vigilant about, because it concerns me. I am the member of Parliament for a riding where rail transport issues are very important, and my constituents are really anxious for certain irritants to be resolved.
When I read Bill C-44, I can see that the government is trying to substantially improve the legislation. We must recognize that there is a lot of room for improvement at present. If passed, this bill will amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act. It will also enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and make amendments to other acts directly affected by the new provisions we are about to vote on to ensure that the efforts put into this will not be thwarted by any contradictions.
In principle, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-44. Without overlooking the legislation as a whole, my remarks will focus mainly on rail transport because, as I indicated, this is an issue that is very important to the riding of Lévis—Bellechasse.
There are three major rail transport issues in my riding, including the riding's largest city, Lévis. Needless to say that the infamous engine whistle is extremely disruptive, especially in the middle of the night. In the daytime, it is bearable, but at night, it often lasts longer than necessary and is even less desirable.
In my humble opinion, the legislation should encourage railway companies to leave the 19th and 20th century behind and resolutely move into the 21st century. There are now alternatives to whistling to announce an incoming train and make railway crossings safe. What once was necessary no longer is, especially since the population in urban centres has grown tremendously and railway traffic has increased outrageously in frequency.
In this era where stress is becoming the norm, the impact of sleep disruption, among other problems, should not be underestimated. This is also the era of job performance. How can we balance one against the other?
The second problem in my region, as in many other regions in Quebec and in Canada, is the yard. It is a pain, a real headache for the urban planners and the citizens of a city built around or near the station, as is often the case in North America.
Fortunately, the new act will give the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to examine complaints about noise. The agency could, for example, require the railways to take measures to reduce as much as possible the harmful effects of noise during the construction of a railway or, what interests me even more, during its operation.
By taking the operational and service needs of the railway companies and the interests of the affected communities into account, we are definitely going in the right direction to find a solution to the disputes related to the operation of a yard.
I am therefore pleased to see that clause 32 of the bill gives the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to examine complaints about noise and to require the railways to take measures to reduce as much as possible the harmful effects of noise. And God knows how much noise there is. I am especially happy that the criterion of minimal damage caused by the operation of a railway, the old section 95, is found in Bill C-44, giving the agency a real power that it did not have, contrary to what many believed.
Clause 32 confers upon the Transportation Agency the jurisdiction to settle disputes. Thus, the need to allow rail companies to do business and the right of people living along rail routes to peaceful enjoyment will be placed on equivalent levels. The agency will be able to require rail companies to take steps to limit the noise related to their activities. Financial imperatives will be taken into consideration, but will no longer necessarily take precedence.
Orders by the agency will be enforceable in the same manner as an order from a superior court, so people will need to proceed with caution. Non-compliance will lead to charges of contempt of court and the possibility of a prison sentence.
I myself feel that the provision on excessive noise ought perhaps to have been more extensive. It does not, for instance, allow restriction of other nuisances, although that would not be very complicated to do now. Like my Bloc colleagues, I feel that the Transportation Agency has the necessary legislative framework to be given jurisdiction over other types of nuisances such as vibrations. This would, among other things, be useful as far as oil and gas emissions are concerned, which are not covered by this proposed legislation.
It does not take a lot of imagination to understand how disagreeable those two substances can be when there is an unfortunate spill. We find our hands tied, because there are no provisions for helping people who are victims of such spills, nor to oblige prompt action by those responsible and, and more importantly, preventive measures.
This bill does not really have any teeth in it as far as operators are concerned in numerous negative situations.
This leads me to the third problem in my riding, which will clarify my previous criticism, I hope.
In order to facilitate the shipping of liquid cargoes to Montreal, a kind of semi-circular route had to be set up. One section travelled runs right through a marshy area, which makes daily operations even more vulnerable. There have been three derailments in recent years, and harmful substances have been spilled. Hon. members can well imagine the results. Will the agency have the power to force operators of a rail line to ensure that anyone using the rail service can do so without the risk of constant derailments and the hazards and inconveniences they entail?
There is more to environmental protection than air quality. Soil pollution, in this case, or in similar cases, is dramatic because there is always a risk of groundwater contamination. And this is only one problem that must imperatively be prevented in the future.
This is not the only inconvenience that we have with the bypass. The train has to go further and make a loop in order to come back in the other direction. This involves grade crossings and, thus, mandatory stops when the train uses this route.
In one area, vehicles may have to stop twice to let the same train pass. Worse than that, they may be stuck in the loop for many minutes, depending on the length of the train.
What do we do in an emergency? What do we do for ambulances carrying a very ill patient that remain stuck inside the loop? What do we do for firefighters responding to a fire alarm? What do we do for the police? We have to wait for the train to pass. This is a problem that I would have like to see resolved through this bill, to ensure that this never happens again. It seems to me that people's safety should be a priority.
To add to my previous statements, I hoped that the bill would be more binding on VIA Rail and give it a better legislative framework. This is a Canada-wide public utility and, consequently, it should be under more scrutiny, while maintaining some autonomy.
Upon its creation in 1997, VIA Rail was incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act. Today, clause 74 of Bill C-44 enacts the VIA Rail Canada Act. The constating documents of the Crown corporation are changed and its mandate is defined. This mandate is to manage and provide a safe and efficient passenger rail service in Canada. At least, this is what clause 8 of the proposed act says. As a whole, the rights and obligations of VIA Rail are maintained, but, under clause 7, the Minister of Transport is the appropriate minister in relation to the corporation.
The head office continues to be in Montreal. I am concerned about the fact that the governor in council can change that simply by order. This does not seem very democratic or very respectful to me. Let us hope that this situation never comes up.
On another matter, the fact that VIA Rail is not subject to the Access to Information Act is not the best idea. Although some commercial regulations may need protection, that is not a compelling enough argument to exclude this company from accountability in all other areas having to do with information.
At least the new VIA Rail legislation, because of its flexibility, will provide greater autonomy to make more appropriate decisions, which should make the administrators' task easier as it gives them a better framework. We made a wise decision in maintaining VIA Rail's rights and obligations; instead of a break with the past, we are ensuring continuity.
For these reasons that I have just outlined to my colleagues in the House, I will support the principle of separate legislation for VIA Rail.
Air transportation is not my chosen field, but I will give my opinion on it nonetheless. I am glad that marketing is heading toward being more truthful and accurate. Airlines will have to change their advertising methods and that will be for the best, I am sure. By requiring these companies to list the full fare including all related fees from now on, air travellers will be better able to assess the real cost, which can only be beneficial to everyone involved, including the carriers.
In the event of a problem, the transportation agency can require a carrier to take the necessary measures to compensate those affected when sales or transportation conditions are not respected. This a step forward since the commissioner could only make suggestions before.
Unfortunately, the transportation agency, which gained more authority when the complaints commissioner position was cut, will no longer be required to submit an annual report on the complaints or how they were resolved. On the downside, life will be easier for those in the wrong because it will become more difficult to address their lapses. Let us hope to find a corrective measure for this.
The commissioner had the authority to require a lot of information from the carriers when complaints were lodged against them. The transportation agency does not have as much latitude.
So, I wonder whether it is a good thing that the public no longer has access to a commissioner.
Perhaps we could have transferred all the powers of the commissioner to the Canadian Transportation Agency. We will see where this will take us.
Once again, the interests of transparency, to which we refer so readily, are still not protected in the proposed legislation. This is why I deplore this weakening of the role of the Canadian Transportation Agency in terms of its power to investigate and its visibility.
I want to talk about one last negative aspect of the bill. The regulations on international bridges and tunnels are almost dangerous. The government is being given quasi police powers that are simply unacceptable. There is no other way to qualify a power to investigate without a warrant. And what about such an authoritarian power of seizure?
As regards the protection of the environment, the bill proposes to review the transportation policy so as to bring it closer to the objectives of the Kyoto protocol. Indeed, by contributing to the promotion of railway transportation, we aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is something that all taxpayers will appreciate. If, in addition to that, we manage to reduce noise pollution, we will have made very significant progress.
I want to stress another positive aspect. I am referring to the provision which provides that, if a company wants to dispose of a railway line, it must first offer it to those in charge of transportation services in the cities concerned, particularly municipalities.
These changes would allow public transit companies to receive such offers. Some urban sectors that provide services to several municipalities would undoubtedly be very pleased at such opportunities. They would be able to get these corridors and use them for public transit purposes. This would be a judicious use of these abandoned railways.
If this is approved, it will probably help avoid many misunderstandings, problems and criticisms, while also saving time, work and energy.
For all these reasons, I will support the bill, even though I think that there is still room for a lot of improvement and that it would have been better to make these improvements before going further ahead.
For example, the minister could take the opportunity provided by the new VIA Rail Canada Act to promote transparency and accountability for this crown corporation, particularly as regards the appointment of its board of directors and its advertising which, unfortunately, is often confused with propaganda.
I must say that, as someone living in the heart of Lévis, I would love it if we could silence the train's whistle once and for all.
Canada Labour Code November 22nd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my previous remarks, working women are a source of skilled labour who deserve our respect and our full attention. Those who set out on the great adventure of procreation should enjoy a status appropriate to the valuable task they are undertaking.
Unfortunately, they often feel penalized because, upon returning to their careers, they do not always return to the same working conditions they had before they left when pregnant. In particular, when they have to leave early as a precaution, either because of the workplace or because of the mother's health or that of the fetus, the professional insecurity experienced by these mothers-to-be is understandable.
That is not how it should be. And it is incumbent upon us, in this House, to change things. If we come to an agreement, Bill C-380 should allow us to take a few steps forward.
I repeat that pregnant women whose wrok is under federal jurisdiction and who need to leave their jobs earlier than expected to prevent pregnancy-related problems could opt for their provincial or Quebec legislation, instead of the federal code, in order to maximize their benefits under the system best suited to them.
Quebec's workplace health and safety commission, the CSST, allows an employee to receive her regular salary during the first five working days after stopping work. Then, for the next 14 days that would normally be worked, she is entitled to 90% of her net salary, which is paid by her employer who, in turn, will be reimbursed by the CSST.
We would like all working women to benefit from these conditions. I am talking about workers subject to the Canada Labour Code and who are not, therefore, entitled to conditions set by the CSST.
Bill C-380 is an excellent opportunity for us to correct this situation. It is clearly better to get 90% of your salary instead of the 55% provided under the EI program. It is also fairer and provides greater security. Finally, these workers would not lose a single week of vacation or parental leave because they had to go on preventive withdrawal, as they do now under the Canada Labour Code.
So I am asking the House to support Bill C-380, so that these measures benefit rather than penalize pregnant women.
I ask too that the pilot project, under which the necessary adjustments between the CSST system and the Canada Labour Code system could be made, be extended, because it was an equitable solution with regard to preventive withdrawal due to a pregnancy.
Women regulated by the Quebec or provincial labour code could chose between getting partial EI payments while receiving preventive withdrawal benefits, or only receiving the latter in order to save their EI benefits and be entitled to a longer maternity or parental leave.
Without this program, these women will not have this option. I am asking not only that it be extended, but that it be made law without further delay.
Supply November 22nd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, in order to answer my colleague's question, I must mention what I heard a little while ago. The minister told us that when there is a negotiating process at the international level, certain difficulties can arise.
It must be recognized, though, that the main difficulty we will have to deal with, as Quebeckers and Canadians faced with any movement or relaxation in supply management, is that we will again be transplanting into our own backyard a difficulty that some other countries are already experiencing. I cannot see how a lessening of demand, in comparison with what is currently required to keep supply management as it is, could possibly have any other effect than to hurt us.
Our farmers have already been hurt enough by the mad cow problem. We must take the necessary action, especially in an area where we have the ability and the tools to control our production in an intelligent way, to ensure that we cannot be accused of flooding other markets. That is a winning approach. It is a winning approach that we can only recommend to all other countries, especially those that would like some day to be able to control their own farm production.
Supply November 22nd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to my hon. colleague that I too represent a strongly agricultural riding and the bulk of its agricultural economy rests precisely on supply management. My riding is massively dominated by the dairy industry, and there are also many poultry and chick operations.
So we need look no further than our own areas. It is necessary that we continue to support this program, and it should even be tried by all of the developing countries. In fact, the supply management formula and its raison d'être starts with self-sufficiency. Setting quotas of self-sufficiency avoids our even having to think of flooding the market in other countries that may need our products, because our availabilities are very limited.
Supply November 22nd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma.
This is a turbulent period, in many respects. Tsunamis, tornadoes and hurricanes have swept through 2005. The planet has mobilized to face these challenges. On the other side of the Atlantic, the rejection of the European constitution by a number of countries has had the effect of a cannon ball. Civil war is devastating Iraq; Afghanistan is collapsing beneath nearly a half-century of bullets, bombs and mines; the Middle East is ablaze with rage, aggression and hatred. Terrorism is plaguing the world.
The mad cow crisis has wreaked havoc that would have been unthinkable only four or five years ago. We are facing a probable flu pandemic which, for now, is targeting flocks of birds. All these problems are having a serious impact on a world of crucial importance to humanity: the world of agriculture, the world that helps preserve life.
The agricultural sector is suffering the adverse effects of natural and political storms.
Globalization has created a wider gap between rich and poor. It is also responsible for an extraordinary mood of solidarity which is gradually taking hold.
We now have the opportunity to show solidarity in helping the very persons who permit the world to feed itself and survive. That is the foundation. If we do not support the fragile balance that farmers have established to ensure the survival of their threatened world, all the riches of the planet will not be able to buy the wheat, milk or meat needed for health. There will be no more food.
Am I an alarmist? I am a realist. Every day brings us new examples of our obligation to share, at the national, continental and international levels. However, in order to share, one must have something to share. Will it always be enough to provide money and blankets? I believe that global trends indicate that it will soon be necessary to ensure that all human beings have access to water and food. Therefore it is imperative to do our very best to preserve the agricultural sector, which is the true basis of our well-being and our ability to participate in globalization.
As a rich nation on a rich continent, it is our duty to guarantee the sustainability of food sources, for who knows whether tomorrow, literally tomorrow, we may not be confronted with a pandemic famine. We are forced to consider this by the natural cataclysms shaking Asia and South America, and by the wars raging in the Middle East and Africa. We are forced to believe this by the environmental problems arising all over the world.
We have a fine opportunity for prevention, as opposed to cure. We can accept this opportunity by supporting the principle and implementation of supply management. This clever mechanism has been devised and established by the dairy, egg, turkey and chicken producers to bring about the greatest possible balance between supply and demand in their products. This is a system which avoids overproduction, which would inevitably lead to selling at a loss and thus diminishing market prices. For it to work, the system has to be combined with import controls, or else the market is flooded with products, forcing prices down beneath production costs, and the round of demand for subsidies begins.
That is understandable, which is why it is so sad. While Quebeckers and Canadians are ensuring the quality and quantity of their production and market supply, many countries skirt around the standard and subsidize their farmers in an unfair manner.
The United States, France and the Netherlands prop up prices by intervening in the domestic dairy market. We know that our sector of this market is particularly fragile.
The 2005 evaluation of the agricultural policies of the OECD countries states that Canada brought farm support back down from 1.8% to 0.8% of GDP between 2002 and 2004. According to the same source, farm support is 1.3% in the European Union, 1.2% in Mexico and 0.9% in the United States. Meanwhile, farm income there has increased by over 4% a year, while here the market is on the brink of collapsing, agricultural succession is decreasing at a catastrophic rate and the income crisis in this sector of the economy is disastrously complicating the situation.
Supply management is not a threat to globalization. On the contrary, it is a logical and effective way to apply it, since globalization must occur according to clear rules in this world where everyone has a hand to play.
By promoting supply management, which is a fair model, we are allowing local economies to expand without risk and to ensure the sustainability of their production. Every country should follow this model, since national self-sufficiency helps provide a significant contribution to the international market with a minimum number of fair rules.
Imagine a world in which eggs or dairy products could only be had through foreign markets because our domestic industry was ruined by a lack of interest among producers who no longer saw the potential for profit. Who would be able to have an omelette for breakfast? How many children would have a birthday cake? I believe I speak for my colleagues; perhaps they think I am kidding. The number of producers is decreasing right before our eyes. Yes, some farms are growing, but nowhere near enough to offset the decline.
Canada absolutely must support supply management in the upcoming WTO negotiations, and why not seize the opportunity to promote this principle? Canada must maintain its current customs tariffs on goods subject to supply management and not give up any of its ability to manage pricing policies.
It could propose that all WTO signatory states allow imports to make up 5% of their market. That measure alone would make it possible to increase the flow of goods on the international market by almost 80% with no customs tariffs. This would constitute a real improvement in market conditions and at the same time would restore balance in the rules and conditions of international competition.
If we look at the dairy industry alone, we see clearly that the norm is to regulate economies in developed countries. The problem lies in the way systems are regulated.
The United States, for example, is a long way from full deregulation, which is the trend we are seeing in Australia. Dairy producers in that country receive assistance in the form of a direct production subsidy program, while the policy of reducing the domestic support price is showcased.
In New Zealand, full liberalization of the dairy industry has been suggested, while a cooperative with state authority to maintain market capacity on the international market manages the system.
Should this conclusion not influence us and encourage us to promote supply management? I think it should.
Factoring in that the revenue of Quebec and other Canadian producers enjoys the best protection, while Canada’s financial contribution to dairy production is the lowest, we can clearly evaluate the positive effects of supply management as it is applied here.
We have a winning formula. It would therefore be irresponsible not to support it, not to develop it, not to promote it. It is not really wise to consider siding with requests that conflict with the well-being of our agricultural producers and consumers in Quebec and the rest of Canada on the pretext of a desire to make a mark on the international stage. We have a great opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are the foundation of our well-being.
Centenarians November 21st, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell the House about some exceptional people from all walks of life in my riding.
I have the immense privilege of paying tribute to six constituents who are turning 100 years of age this year, including Alphonsine Bolduc-Corriveau of Levis; Juliette Carrier of Levis; Marguerite Santerre of Saint-Michel-de-Bellechasse; Alexina Therrien-Lamontagne of La Durantaye; and Alice Savard of Saint-Gervais, whose birthday is today. Next Monday, Sylvio Godbout of Saint-Damien will be joining the centenarian club.
The Bloc Québécois wants to extend its best wishes of joy, happiness and health to all of them. We salute the exceptional contribution each of them has made to our communities.
Let us hope that the secret of their longevity can be passed on to all our fellow citizens.
Rotobec November 4th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, on September 16, the firm Rotobec of Sainte-Justine, in my riding, celebrated its 30th anniversary. More than 350 people took part in the celebrations and visited the facilities.
Rotobec is a family business which employs 220 people and generates $36 million in sales annually.
Because of the dedication of its employees and because it is distributing competitively priced quality products, Rotobec has emerged as a major player on the forestry equipment market.
It distributes products in Chile, Indonesia and New Zealand, among others. Faced with a serious recruiting problem, management developed innovative approaches which set Rotobec apart from its foreign competition.
Congratulations to all the employees, the founders and owners on what they have done for the economic development of our region.