Elsewhere

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Bloc MP for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2006, with 29.64% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act November 25th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to speak today on Bill S-36, in which I have a special interest. In fact, I had the opportunity, during various parliamentary missions, to visit countries and meet people living in countries affected by war. Often “war” means “money” and “buying weapons”, which was unfortunately the case in some African countries.

If I may, I want to come back to Bill S-36, which makes essentially administrative amendments to the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act. Essentially, this bill will have two effects. First, it will authorize the government to compile and distribute data on international trade in diamonds. The adoption of this amendment, which would make the diamond trade more transparent and easier to control, is necessary for Canada to remain in compliance with its international obligations pursuant to the Kimberley process. Second, it will exclude very small diamonds from the Kimberley process requirements.

In number and in weight, the great majority of the diamonds dealt on the market are tiny. They are not used to make jewellery, but have more of a utilitarian function. They are to be found, for example, in turntable needles, in watchmaking and in certain industrial knives.

Unlike large diamonds whose scarcity makes their price exorbitant, these diamonds are of no great value, and the administrative burden associated with the Kimberley process can be prohibitive. I might mention that Canada recently became the world's third largest diamond producer. In Quebec, even though no diamond mine is yet active, seven mining companies hold licences on such mines, basically in Abitibi, Témiscamingue and the Northwest.

Deposits of kimberlite, the ore in which diamonds are found, have been discovered in five sub-regions of Quebec. As far as the Kimberley process and conflict diamonds are concerned, I will read an excerpt from Partnership Africa Canada:

In 2000, the international diamond industry produced more than 120 million carats of rough diamonds with a market value of $7.5 billion U.S. At the end of the diamond chain this bounty was converted into 70 million pieces of jewellery worth close to $58 billion U.S.

Of total world production, rebel armies in Sierra Leone, as well as in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are estimated by De Beers to traffic in about 4 per cent. Other estimates place the number higher.

The Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act ensures that Canada is in compliance with the Kimberley process, an international agreement which has established a process for certifying the origin of rough diamonds. The Kimberley process is basically designed to limit the trade in conflict diamonds, which are sold by armed factions to finance their wars.

At the beginning of my speech I mentioned these countries that have gone through harrowing wars, and that often have a high poverty rate.

Because they are small and highly valuable, the diamonds are easy to market and can be very profitable.

Now I will provide some statistics on wars funded by diamond trafficking. In the 1990s, this trade was a veritable scourge, and a major component in the funding of wars that displaced about 10 million people in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

When this issue first came up, only NGOs were critical of this funding. In 2000, the UN broke the story and published a report on the funding of the war in Angola, confirming everything that the NGOs had been proclaiming for years: the diamond trade was being used to finance the war.

These two events, that is publication of the UN report and of other information on the war in Sierra Leone, demonstrated that African conflicts and their connection with the diamond trade had now, unfortunately, become common knowledge.

That is when countries and companies that produce diamonds began to be concerned. Obviously, when this became common knowledge, everyone started wanting to solve the problem. But it was already too late. The moment that diamonds become synonymous with war, rape and murder and not with dreams and wealth, they lose their core value.

Responding to the invitation of two NGO groups, 37 countries and the principal diamond merchants agreed to sit down together with the NGOs to find a solution to the problem.

Continuing with the historical background, the first meeting was held in May 2002 in the city of Kimberley, South Africa: hence the name the Kimberley process. At the end of a series of meetings, they agreed that the best way to civilize the diamond trade was to put in place a system for certifying the origin of diamonds. Under this system, all diamonds exported from a country participating in the Kimberley process must be placed in a sealed container and accompanied by a government-issued certificate of authenticity called a Kimberley certificate.

There is plenty I could say about Bill S-36. I will, however, raise a few of its minor weaknesses before closing. First of all, the bill ought to have been evaluated, and this was not done with the first version. Now we are coming to amend the bill but it has not yet had a concrete evaluation in this Parliament.

The law will have been in effect for three years this coming January. The government wanted a prompt evaluation of its application and any shortcomings, but that was not done.

In conclusion, I would just like to add that the principle of Bill S-36 is a highly important one and that the Bloc Québécois will continue to follow developments in this sensitive situation with interest.

Supply November 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have always had doubts about the Liberals, this for obvious reasons.

Let me explain. In my remarks, I mentioned that, in October 1997, in my maiden speech in this House, I talked about supply management. Not long after, I took part in the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. At that time, we were told that the issue would be settled quickly and that the World Trade Organization was the essential instrument to arrive at a solution.

Again, for the benefit of the ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, what is needed is a page with something written on it and two signatures, in other words, something concrete. What I have heard on supply management since I have been here is just rhetoric. Now, I want something concrete, a written document. Then, I might trust the Liberals.

Supply November 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague opposite for her comments. I have enjoyed working with her as well and I know that if there is an election we will not see her here in this House again, since she has decided to retire. It will be a loss to Ontario because she has always defended the rural regions so well. In any event, that was in this morning's papers.

To answer her question, it is quite simple. I have always asked the Canadian government to show leadership. When it decided to decrease export subsidies and domestic support and let the Europeans and the Americans carry on with their large subsidies, that created imbalance. We have been saying that from the beginning. I find that if the Canadian government wants to show leadership then the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Trade should have the courage to sign this letter openly saying that the government promises to defend supply management. All we ever get for now is a verbal promise. I want something in writing. Then, when we have it in our hands and we know that the federal government will support supply management, we will be in a better position to tell the Americans and the Europeans to lower their subsidies because that is not fair practice in a free market.

Supply November 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in this House on a subject that is particularly dear to me, and one I have doggedly defended since I was first elected in June 1997: supply management.

When I first arrived in the House of Commons in the fall of 1997, the creation of the WTO was under discussion. This new trade organization was going to settle every issue. Supply management was a matter of months only. Here we are now in 2005, and still waiting for the federal government 's response on that.

The motion I am defending here today, which comes from my party, is particularly apt at this time. Agriculture is the focus of the current round of WTO negotiations. What is more, a number of the proposals being discussed at this time place supply management in a dangerous position, since some of the WTO members want to see Canada put an end to it and open up its borders.

Over the years, our party has always staunchly defended the supply management system, which has a double advantage. It makes it possible for our milk, egg and poultry producers to have a decent income, while also providing border measures against subsidized farm products from other countries.

If we constantly bring this issue up in this House, it is because the Liberal government will not make a firm commitment to our farm producers to support supply management. The current Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is serving up loads of rhetoric about Canada playing a leadership role in this round of negotiations and wanting to eliminate export subsidies, among other things. But at the same time, in spite of a motion unanimously passed in this House last April, he continues to refuse to state that, as far as Canada is concerned, supply management is not negotiable and will not be compromised on in this round of negotiations. That is the reality.

If the minister does not grasp the importance of maintaining the supply management system for our farm producers in Quebec, I will give him the example of my riding to show him that this system is vitally important to the economy and development of our region.

In the Lotbinière component of my riding, where dairy production is very important, the total farm income is $233 million, or nearly 20% of the total farm income for the entire Chaudière-Appalaches region. Some 818 farms make up 45% of the total area and 46% of the agricultural zone, which accounts for 98% of the territory. In addition, according to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, more than one-third, or 36%, of goods-producing jobs in my riding are actually agrifood jobs, and the GDP generated by the agrifood industry in my riding totals $173 million. These figures speak loudly and show how important it is to maintain the supply management system.

Statistics like these ought to open the eyes of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. As has been said, he needs to not only defend the supply management system at the WTO, but also to consider it a non-negotiable item. I would, moreover, like to refresh his memory on the Bloc Québécois motion passed unanimously last April in this House. It read as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, in the current World Trade Organization negotiations, the government should not agree to any concession that would weaken collective marketing strategies or the supply management system and should also seek an agreement establishing fair and equitable rules that foster the international competitiveness of agricultural exporters in Quebec and Canada.

Obviously, given this government's lack of a firm position on supply management, our agricultural producers are getting more and more worried. Moreover, in October I was with a dozen or so producers from my region. These included Bernard Fortier, mayor of my home town of Joly. He inherited the family farm and now is getting ready to pass it on to his two sons. This demands a great deal of sacrifice from a farmer as all the measures we have been calling for for intergenerational transfers have been turned down.

Now to give you some information on GO5, this is a coalition of close to 30,000 members, not only farmers but also business, financial institutions, consumer associations, unions and municipal, provincial and federal politicians, as well as private individuals. In short, this is a coalition of all people and organizations with a belief in a strong agricultural sector and a prosperous food sector in Quebec.

The Liberals need to understand that all parties in this House must support our motion today. It is vital for all regions of Quebec, including the riding I represent, Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

In order to demonstrate its importance, I would like to propose an amendment, reading as follows:

That the motion be amended by replacing all the words after “quotas” with “and also ensure an agreement that strengthens the imarket access of Canada's agricultural exporters so that all sectors can continue to provide producers with a fair and equitable income”.

This amendment is seconded by the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord with the consent of my colleague, the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska.

International Trade November 18th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the minister that the tribunal tabled its decision in September and concluded that the rapid increase in imports of bicycles under $400 threatened the survival of the Canadian bicycle industry.

Is this an example of government impotence, as has been the case with clothing, textiles, shoes and softwood lumber, or will the minister finally decide to do something and save the bicycle industry and the 800 jobs it generates in Quebec?

International Trade November 18th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, in response to a question by my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé on October 20 as to whether he intended to follow through with the conclusions of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, which recommended that the government apply safeguards to protect Canadian bicycle manufacturers facing competition from China, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade was evasive.

I ask him once again whether the government plans to act on these recommendations and impose safeguards.

Supply November 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, my question is for my colleague across the aisle.

It is amazing to see how afraid the Liberal ministers are these days. First I saw the Minister of Foreign Affairs afraid that he would not be participating in the WTO meeting. Then the Minister of the Environment is afraid that he will not be going to the conference on the environment in Montreal. The Prime Minister is also afraid—the great Prime Minister who travels. The last time that a Prime Minister travelled like this, his name was Brian Mulroney, it was in 1984, and we all know what happened. Judging by the way the Prime Minister is travelling, there could be change in the air.

I would just like to ask my colleague: if these ministers are so worried and nervous, would the normal thing not be for them to accept the NDP proposal and keep to their program, do their work, and allow Quebeckers and Canadians to have a good holiday season. We will be waiting for them afterwards, to defeat them.

Supply November 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, my colleague gave conclusive examples that should convince us that we need to improve this legislation. It is time to remove the veil of secrecy over what parliamentarians really do, especially the federal Liberals.

Supply November 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I was saying earlier that we are against merging the two commissioners' offices. It is increasingly evident that the two organizations have different mandates and cannot work together. People try to convince us of the opposite, saying that unification would save money and so forth. But in both cases, what is really needed is additional personnel and more tools to improve the services provided.

Both commissioners have said in this regard that they are currently battling with Treasury Board to obtain the resources they need to do their jobs.

I would point out that these two organizations do totally different work. Things have changed since 2001 and we have to respond now to the expectations of our modern society.

Supply November 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, that is what I said in my presentation. Based on the way in which the Liberals on our committee act sometimes, we wonder whether they really want to move in the right direction. I fail to understand why the government is introducing draft legislation when we already have all the tools and documents we need to make a decision.

I have a good story to tell. A former Supreme Court judge, an eminent jurist, was hired to study the unification of the offices of the Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner. Most members, including the Liberals, thought that this was pointless. Our knowledge of the two offices and how they had developed left no doubt in our minds that this would not work. So they ordered a study to show the advantages or disadvantages of this kind of unification.

It is also evident in view of the arrival of a preliminary draft on the verge of an election campaign that we must renew our efforts. The opposition parties, including mine, the Bloc Québécois, will continue their efforts to obtain this legislation, which will give people real access to information.