- On the Parliament site
Last in Parliament September 2008, as Independent MP for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques (Québec)
Lost her last election, in 2008, with 4.98% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Mr. Speaker, thank you for informing me that points of order may not be raised during adjournment proceedings.
I find the parliamentary secretary's comments in the course of an honest adjournment debate scandalous and appalling.
I came back to a question that I raised as an independent, and he used it as a launching pad to toss verbal hand grenades at the official opposition. I do not care about the official opposition. I asked what the government will do for public transit in rural areas because he says that he understands the situation.
I do not want to hear that he met one of his constituents who told him that tax cuts, a reduction in the GST and reduced exemptions will do something. In my region, when there are forestry or agricultural crises and people are not able to take care of their families, those things will not help them. But can we come back to the subject—
Mr. Speaker, in this House on May 5, 2008, I asked a question that I feel is very important and for which I did not really receive a satisfactory response. I asked the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities what he intended to do to help consumers who have been taken hostage by the rising price of gas and the absence of alternatives such as public transit.
Not enough is being done to resolve this issue. In Rimouski, for example, there is no public transit per se, although there are alternatives such as carpooling and the taxibus program. It is a good start, but it is not enough and students in particular are lobbying municipal representatives. That is not all. The RCMs in my riding do not offer any public transit. There are 88,000 people in my riding, which is a significant number. It would therefore be useful, economically sound and more ecological to offer public transit between the municipalities and the larger centres.
Let us hope the government does not turn around and tell us that it has already invested and is sharing some of the gas tax with the municipalities. We know that. We want to know the government's new plans, mainly to deal with this crisis and the rising price of gas. In my region, as in many others, the RCMs do not have public transit.
In other words, the government's tangible actions are rare and inadequate from an economic and environmental standpoint. We know that the provinces and the municipalities are in a tight fiscal situation. Municipal governments have to replace aging infrastructure with a precarious tax base, maintain the roads, the wharves and waterworks and supply the towns with water. When all that infrastructure comes to the end of its useful life, it consumes a big part of the municipal budget, which is quite often small, and from which municipalities are expected to invest in public transit.
The investment required across Canada is around $31 billion to upgrade water treatment, $21 billion for transport, according to Professor Saeed Mirza, from the University of McGill, and $22.8 billion for public transit. The government's investment in these sectors pales in comparison and the annual $2 billion from the gas tax fund even more so.
Accordingly, can the parliamentary secretary explain why his government voted against my motion? Why did he and his colleagues reject my proposal to redistribute the wealth between the oil companies, who are making huge profits, and the people who are victims of a lack of infrastructure?
What is this government waiting for to implement public transit projects in the regions with provincial partners, including Quebec, to encourage energy efficient initiatives and considerably reduce our dependence on oil? That is the path to take, so why not do something to reduce this dependence and transition toward a green economy?
In light of the needs in the regions and the major environmental challenges, this government's responsibilities are overwhelming. When will there be responsible funding for public transit in the regions?
Quebec National Holiday June 17th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, today, seven days from the Quebec national holiday, I wish to address all the people of Quebec, and particularly those in my riding.
On June 24, we shall celebrate our identity and our culture.
Yes, let us celebrate this new enriched identity, honouring everything that has given us the strength and courage to speak French, but to welcome the world's languages as well.
Let us celebrate this new culture, reinforced and enriched by our hospitality.
Let us become a single people as we celebrate 400 years of history, of openness, of shared values that are the envy of others.
My wish for us is the right to be, to welcome, to protect, to look far into the future together.
Bonne fête nationale to all Quebeckers.
National Defence Act June 17th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, first I want to mention something that I believe is important although it is not related to this debate. Yesterday, in my speech on Bill C-29, I talked about the lack of consideration and the unfairness that independent members have to endure. Our presence in this House is just as legitimate as that of the 304 members with party affiliation.
The Conservative government, among others, regularly seeks the unanimous consent of the House to deal with certain issues as quickly as possible. All parties and independent members should at least be informed. It is essential if we want to do our job. I repeatedly—and being as persistent as I am, when I say repeatedly, I really mean it—asked both the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Chief Government Whip to have the decency to inform all four independent members. They just chose to be stubborn and took a malicious pleasure in not doing that, even when other independent members or myself were in the House when a motion was introduced.
I have no reason not to do my job by letting bills or motions go through by unanimous consent without being consulted, which means without even knowing what it is about.
As members of Parliament, the essence of our work continues to be to develop legislation that is fair and equitable. Therefore, it is only normal to know what it is that the government wants to ram through the House of Commons. That is what I wanted to say on this.
Bill C-60 seeks to correct a problematic situation created by the court martial appeal court in the Trépanier case. The fact that an accused cannot choose before which court he can defend himself was ruled inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the chief military judge more or less lost the power to convene a court martial. The government wants to break this impasse before the end of the session, to allow courts martial to be convened.
The bill also introduces other procedural changes. Most of them are clarifications made necessary by other judicial decisions, such as clarifying the limitation period with respect to summary proceedings.
Yesterday, the bill was referred to a committee, which heard experts. The committee did its job. Its report is published in the blues. The committee cancelled the transitional provision in clause 28 and ordered a mandatory review, within two years of this bill becoming law.
This not only makes perfect sense, it is also good insurance. Given the speed at which we are proceeding to deal with this issue before the end of the session, at least we can be assured that, in two years from now, this issue is going to be re-examined and it will be possible to take action.
In conclusion, I believe that legislative work can be done diligently and respectfully, and I think it is important to point this out today.
Committees of the House June 17th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
It makes me smile. We need to take a look at the past and remember one thing. Everyone here should remember, even if they have not been sitting here since 1980, that there never used to be such a thing as private members' business. How can a government have vision and suggest new ideas to help communities, if not with the assistance of the members who work very hard and introduce private members' bills and motions?
In response to my colleague, the people who have been listening to us and following politics and our debates for two and a half years will not be surprised to hear that we do not rise day after day in this House simply to attack the government. We do this because day after day, the government shows a complete lack of vision.
It has no coordinated vision for economic development. We have a minister responsible for western economic diversification, one responsible for Atlantic Canada, and another one responsible for Quebec. The latter has just made some decisions that completely fail to meet the needs of the regions of Quebec, and that are unfair in terms of economic development.
Once again, it is not well thought out or put together. When a government that is responsible for governing a country lacks vision, it is not only worrisome, but it is also literally a tragedy.
In conclusion, I would like to tell my colleagues that I see a link between adopting this committee report and passing the Bloc member's excellent bill to revitalize our regions. We need to revitalize our regions. The members opposite need the vision to make this happen.
Committees of the House June 17th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I am going to repeat some of the things I said, because it may be that he missed a couple of my comments.
We are talking about regional airports, whether it be Mont Tremblant, Rimouski, Mont-Joli, Bromont or others. Right away, people who know Mont Tremblant are going to think about tourism.
That is indeed very important, because large numbers of tourists come to Mont Tremblant and the surrounding area, given the tourist infrastructure that is available year-round. They come to admire the fall colours, or, as my colleague from Hull—Aylmer was just saying, to fish or to hunt, with a lens, or with an actual hunting weapon. They come for the skiing, for all the sliding sports, and they come for the fresh air. They can go hiking, walking, mountain biking, and so on.
For the tourism industry, this is very important and it generates the usual benefits in terms of employment, in particular in food services and accommodation.
As well, we must acknowledge that people who travel by air generally have a few dollars left to spend. They do not arrive with a limited budget and they have a few dollars that they invest in our region, and we are happy about that.
To answer my colleague, that is not all, as I said earlier. There are economic benefits for business and industry. In a regional airport, there are people—I was just talking about knowledge institutions—who are in the business world, who come to sign contracts, to hold meetings, to get training, and so on. These are people who are engaged in trade. Similarly, there are times when, depending on the size of the plane and the space reserved for cargo, there are also commercial products being moved, and not just the individuals sitting in the plane.
All of the economic aspects have to be considered when we talk about a small or medium-sized regional airport. All of these benefits are of crucial importance, and that is why I cannot agree, as I am sure a majority of my colleagues cannot agree, that there is no solution to be found on the question of what the Canada Border Services Agency is charging this airport authority.
There are ways of doing it differently. We know about methods for customs preclearance or customs clearance for travellers on regular flights who can get what we call a “pass”. There are all sorts of ways to go about it so that the Canada Border Services Agency is helping, so that we do not always need customs officer, or four or five people, on site. Today, in this age of globalization, there are different ways of doing things.
We have to find a specific solution for Mont Tremblant. I am told that it is the only airport, out of 201 airports of that size in Canada, that is penalized by the Canada Border Services Agency. So this has to be resolved, it has to be resolved quickly, and no one in this House should stand for anything less.
Committees of the House June 17th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add my comments to those of the other hon. members who have spoken so far, especially my hon. colleague from Laurentides—Labelle. I would like to congratulate her on her speech.
For the benefit of those watching us, I would like to repeat the text of the motion before us:
That the committee recommend that the Rivière Rouge Mont Tremblant International Airport (YTM) be recognized as an airport of entry into Canada, without customs charges being imposed for regular commercial flights, as is the case with the airports in Montreal and Quebec City.
We could name many more airports within our borders. I would like to reiterate that I am speaking here today out of solidarity with the Quebeckers who live in that area and with my hon. colleague, the member who represents that riding. It is an important topic for all communities that are trying to revitalize themselves, take matters into their own hands and enhance their economic development. These communities and the people of Mont Tremblant, or elsewhere, are taking action to succeed. It is appalling that this cannot be resolved because the Minister of Public Safety refuses to make a decision.
As a brief aside, the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber was talking about the other members from Quebec—mainly Conservative members—who do not seem to care about the well-being of our fellow Quebeckers. I would like to assure him that other members from Quebec are doing a good job and care about the problems facing the people of Quebec. This is not exclusive to the party of the member in question.
What is the problem? What is the Gordian knot? It is a matter of treating a region, an airport infrastructure and an economic sector fairly. Why do I say “fairly”? Because in the committee report, in the presentation given by the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin to the committee on May 26, he began by saying:
The Mont Tremblant Airport is the only Canadian airport where passengers who land on regular commercial flights during working hours, which are generally from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., have to pay a customs fee.
Further in his presentation he added:
—the situation is the same for Canada's other 200 small airports,
He meant that those airports are not victims of undue charges. He continued:
—but none of them charges customs fees to commercial flights—
Obviously he was referring to the same core hours.
Why, all of a sudden, in the Mont Tremblant case, does the government, which made a mistake and knows it, not remedy the situation as soon as possible?
For the Conservative government, in my view and in the view of others making similar observations, it is simple. It is a matter of this government showing a concern for fairness. It is a matter of this Conservative government showing an interest in resolving an impasse. First it must recognize that there is an impasse; it has to have the willingness, the intellectual honesty to say that it made a mistake, that it will right the wrongs and resolve this impasse.
What more do they need? They need the willingness to sit down with people, agree to the requests for meetings made by the colleague who spoke to us this morning and by other stakeholders. The minister and his representatives have to sit down at the table and find a solution. That is called working with stakeholders. It is nothing extraordinary. It is the duty and responsibility of any government to do so. Every government is responsible for managing the common good and it is part of the common good to try to find a solution when they know there is inequity. Finally, they have to be motivated by a vision of the good of the communities, wherever those communities may be.
As an aside, earlier I asked the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer a question. I was truly under the impression that for commercial and economic reasons—it is an impression but I believe it is justified—if there were an airport providing commercial flights from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Fort McMurray area or in other regions of Alberta where a regional airport would be economically very profitable, a solution would be found. I suspect that would be the case—and I am entitled to my opinion. This government is giving us indications that it quite often favours certain regions or certain economic sectors at the expense of others. I will now come back to the matter at hand.
What are we really talking about here? Once again, it is about economic development. It is about a very important catalyst: a regional airport. I and those of my colleagues who are fortunate enough to have one or two in their regions know what it means.
Infrastructure of this kind generates a lot of benefits, for example jobs. It provides a gateway to particular regions, helping not only tourism but other very vibrant sectors as well. In our case, in the Lower St. Lawrence region and in Rimouski, I am thinking mainly of all the research centres, the university and the knowledge-based institutions. There is a tremendous amount of coming and going. We have the Rimouski regional airport, in addition to the one in Mont-Joli. This is very important infrastructure for key sectors of the economy, whether in industry, commerce or tourism.
So what is it all about? It is about economic development and fairness, or lack thereof in this case. It is also about service from the Canada Border Services Agency, which is responsible for the people and goods that come into our region and for protecting the border. This agency, like all federal departments and agencies, is responsible for providing services. Providing protection is obviously one part of its responsibilities.
We have to be open to the people who come to our regions. We have to recognize what an important contribution they make, in this case to the Upper Laurentians. The people who go to Mont Tremblant are usually far from poor and their presence has spinoff effects that are felt not just in this region but as far away as the large cities. The ripple effect is all the more important therefore.
When we take this example, what is it really all about from a wider perspective? It is unfortunately about abandoning the regions once again. We have gone through a lot of this over the last two years and a half since this government came to power. It is not a new government any more but it still does not have enough experience to make wise decisions and make them quickly. I said it is abandoning the regions because we have already seen a lot of situations where the government was not only unwilling to act but did not even respond. There are many examples.
I am going to go a bit beyond the airport question to talk about our region. A lot of our infrastructure is still in bad shape. There is the wharf in Rimouski East, for which Transport Canada is responsible. We are still waiting for some dredging to be done. We are waiting for Fisheries and Oceans Canada to take care of the marina. We wait and wait because nothing gets done and there are no new decisions we can tell the people back home about.
There is also the whole area of deregulation. Two and a half years ago deregulation began. Personally, on behalf of a whole coalition from the Bas-Saint-Laurent, on behalf of my fellow citizens, I have denounced this and criticized it, and I will continue to do so. Deregulation of basic telephone charges will mean that over the years people in remote regions will pay a staggering amount for the service they receive.
I am talking about abandonment. There was also the matter of the infamous trust. Unfortunately, once again what we have witnessed in our regions is the implementation of an entirely inadequate measure. Members will recall that the trust was allocated equally across Canada instead of meeting the specific needs of populations in crisis, in the forestry sector, to be specific.
To add to what I am saying about the abandonment of the regions, I will say that this trust completely ignored a very important sector of Quebec’s forestry economy, and that is the private woodlot producers. It is as though they did not exist.
Finally, to come full circle, there is Canada Economic Development for the Regions of Quebec. The minister, we know, is determined to put an end to the recurrent funding of not-for-profit organizations before making sure that there will be a plan for them to obtain the funds they need. We heard him say yesterday in this House, in answer to a question I asked, that research centres, for instance, can always turn to Industry Canada. Are not-for-profit organizations now expected to start shopping around among the various agencies for funding?
We know that these organizations fuel the economy, generating jobs and new technologies. They are often cited as examples not only in Quebec, but also in Canada and internationally. But the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec says he is fed up with people leaning on him—and he has shown us often enough what he means—so he has decided to drop this responsibility, though he said there would be a little transition period of a few years.
These are some examples—and I am drawing a parallel with the Mont Tremblant airport—that show that, when the time comes to make appropriate decisions, to sit down at the table with stakeholders and find a solution, we may make mistakes. Making a mistake does not matter. What is important is to admit it and then to take the necessary corrective action. That is what is vital for the individuals, communities and businesses we represent.
So I hope that my colleagues in this House will vote in favour of adopting this report. It is important for Quebec. Obviously this affects me since I live there and I know it well. Be it the airport at Mont Tremblant or another airport, I am just as concerned. We have to find a solution.
I invite my colleagues in this House to vote bearing in mind that tomorrow it could be the place where they live. We have to vote in favour of this motion for concurrence.
Committees of the House June 17th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I will be brief, because I am certain that my colleague, the member for the riding most specifically affected, will have questions.
Our colleague has talked about common sense, and of course economic development. We know that the tourist season in Mont Tremblant is as busy in summer as it is in winter.
I would draw an analogy here. Does my colleague have the impression that if the member responsible for the Banff and Lake Louise region were having this problem, it would be solved very quickly, or would have been solved a long time ago now?