Last in Parliament November 2005, as Bloc MP for Portneuf (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2006, with 25.88% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Transportation Amendment Act November 28th, 2005

Madam Speaker, of course, I wish the same to my valiant colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour and I thank him for his good words. Likewise, I am convinced that constituents of this wonderful riding—where I had the pleasure to go most recently to celebrate the member's 20 years in the political arena—will trust him once again with a new mandate.

My colleague mentioned a number of irritants. I must say that I totally agree with him in this regard. Too often, agencies, quasi-public or semipublic businesses take advantage of the fact that they are not directly under the control of the government to exempt themselves from the Access to Information Act. This is very unfortunate. Indeed, quite often, many of these businesses get public funds and very large sums of money.

Consequently, when we talk about the democratic deficit, about transparency in government spending, in politics in the noble sense of the word, it would seem normal to me that VIA Rail, for example, would be subject to the Access to Information Act.

We had a good example of this recently. I certainly do not want to bring back the sponsorship scandal to the House, but everyone remembers what happened at VIA Rail and the dismissal of its president of the board. Since this case is still before the courts, I will certainly not deal with it any longer.

As my colleague mentioned, there are still a number of things to clarify about Bill C-44. We will do so in the next Parliament.

Transportation Amendment Act November 28th, 2005

Madam Speaker, first, I wish to point out that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.

Madam Speaker, I understand that you are retiring from public life. It was an honour, every time, to hear you call the name of my riding. Had we been here longer, maybe one day you would have done it without hesitating. Anyhow, I was very pleased to hear you every time.

As has been mentioned on numerous occasions, we support the principle of Bill C-44. I wish to speak specifically to the part concerning rail transportation.

A railway line runs through the entire Portneuf RCM, in my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. Indeed, rail is a critical component of intermodal transportation. Earlier, my colleague for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel talked about the importance of the St. Lawrence Seaway. There is a good example in the Portneuf RCM which, with the Portneuf wharf, combines very successfully sea transportation, rail transportation and trucking. I think of a number of businesses in my riding that rely on these three transportation modes, including Ciment Québec and Alcoa.

I wanted to talk to you more specifically about the railroad part, because one of the aspects of this bill involves trying to resolve certain irritants relating to intermodal and railway transport of goods. I can confirm, as can all of the people of Pont-Rouge and its environs, that the railroad runs very definitely on time. Every evening at 10 p.m., a train passes within a kilometre of where I live. It and its whistle can both be heard very clearly.

I know when I hear it it is time to turn on the television for the national news. It does not bother me all that much, because my house is some distance away from the tracks. However, a few years ago, I lived much closer to them. So, in addition to the noise of the train, there was the problem of the vibrations. We can all see glasses clinking together in the cupboard, in our mind's eye. It is annoying sometimes.

In principle, as I was saying, we support Bill C-44. Unfortunately, one of the negative aspects is that the provisions governing excess noise do not permit the limiting of other annoyances. I think the agency has the legislative framework needed to be given authority over annoyances. It does not perhaps go far enough in terms of oil and gas fumes and vibrations.

It will be noted that, in the context of C-44, and more specifically clause 32, reference is made to noise of a railway and more specifically, the noise near marshalling yards, which is an irritant met in a number of Quebec ridings. As I mentioned that can be a problem not just near marshalling yards. It occurs in the many villages along the shores of the St. Lawrence Seaway. I mentioned Pont-Rouge earlier as an example, but I could have mentioned the towns of the Portneuf RCM.

Clause 32 of the bill gives the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to examine complaints about noise to order the railway company to take certain measures to prevent unreasonable noise. It should be pointed out that, in its mediation, the agency must consider the railway company's economic requirements.

Consequently, again, as is often the case, we must find a balance between the comfort of residents, the comfort of citizens, the right to a relatively quiet private life and certain economic and commercial factors.

In fact, up until 2000, pursuant to section 95, the agency believed it had an extended power allowing it to force a company against which a complaint was made to limit disturbances to a minimum. However, the agency was using a power it did not have.

This is why, when certain people say that, and rightly so, section 32 of Bill C-44 does not give the agency as much power as in 2000, we must keep in mind that the old act did not allow it any recourse, either.

Moreover, section 95 is not amended by Bill C-44, and the requirement for minimal disturbance during the operation of a railway line stays the same. This section empowers the agency to reconcile the need to allow rail companies to do business with the right of residents to live in a reasonably peaceful environment. Accordingly, the agency will be empowered to order a railway company to undertake any changes in order to prevent unreasonable noise, but it must take financial factors into account.

The orders of the transportation agency are like orders of a superior court. Anyone who contravenes such an order may be guilty of contempt of court and may be liable to imprisonment.

Accordingly, as I said earlier, the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C-44. Indeed, there are a number of provisions, especially in this section, that allow the agency to regulate, up to a point, the noise aspect of rail transportation.

However, there are still a number of criticisms. If this bill is introduced again in a future Parliament, one will need to be raised. Actually, besides noise, the clause does not provide for other nuisances to be curtailed. The Bloc Québécois believes that the agency has the necessary regulatory framework to give it jurisdiction in terms of fumes, such as oil and gasoline, and vibrations. It would be very important that these elements appear in any future incarnation of this bill.

Ten minutes go by very quickly. I was talking about the possibility that this bill be introduced again in a future Parliament. Allow me to take my remaining few minutes to thank the constituents of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, who put their trust in me in June 2004. In all likelihood, within the next hour, a very rare event will take place in this chamber: thanks to a very clear motion, the opposition will withdraw the confidence it previously placed in the government. All my constituents in Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier know that I will run again for the Bloc Québécois. I hope that they will put their trust in me again, like they did in June 2004.

Let me conclude by saying that we are in favour of Bill C-44, even if some of its clauses need to be reviewed.

Kyoto Protocol November 28th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, we have learned that Ottawa wants to select from projects presented by the municipalities and towns of Quebec. It is this paternalistic attitude that has caused the public to lose confidence in this government.

Does the government intend to step back, drop its paternalistic approach and let Quebec call the shots on this agreement which comes under its jurisdiction and applies to its own territory?

Kyoto Protocol November 28th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the federal government wants to impose its conditions and choose Quebec's environmental projects while, from 1970 to 1999, Ottawa spent $66 billion on oil, gas and coal development and a measly $329 million on clean energy such as wind energy.

The agreement should be based on the model used for the municipal infrastructure program under which Quebec has the last word on the choice of projects.

How does this government have the nerve to tell Quebec what to do?

Telecommunications Act November 25th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues for two things.

First, he talked about some of the tricks used by people who are into fraudulent marketing. I believe this was very important. He also reminded the government that it had to be diligent to ensure that costs would not escalate.

That being said, my colleague talked earlier about some sectors that are exempted from the bill, including charities and political parties. Perhaps my colleague could explain this a little further, because I did not follow this bill as much.

Also, there is another question which he may be able to answer. Some businesses contract out their telemarking operations. The firm doing the operations is a private business. Within these particular charities operations, will these private businesses be exempted from the bill?

Supply November 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member asked how it came to this. I will point out to him that he will soon have ample opportunity to inquire. Perhaps it came to this because the government failed to ensure that more than 40% of workers qualify for employment insurance, and soon.

It may be that the government is playing with figures and, as a result, has come up with three different budgets since May. It may be that, instead of looking after its own responsibilities, it is trying to take the place of Quebec and the provinces in the areas of education, child care, early childhood, health, and with municipalities. It may be that, when the prospect of elections was raised in May and June, it managed to make commitments totalling $21 billion in 21 days. It is the same scenario all over again. It may be that this government is linked to one of the biggest scandals in Canada's political history.

Its Prime Minister keeps repeating that his priorities are health, education, early childhood and municipalities. Would the Minister of Transport not say that his Prime Minister is simply at the wrong level of government and should run at the provincial level instead?

AlimenTerre Cooperative November 18th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I want to pay tribute to the initiative shown by a group of producers and consumers who have started a food co-op called AlimenTerre cooperative.

Taking place in Pont-Rouge, this initiative is extremely innovative—and the first of its kind within the Portneuf RCM.

Members of this new co-op share a set of values, including, of course, solidarity, but also a concern for environmental protection and the promotion of local resources and products.

Members can obtain various local products at the co-op, thereby helping to sell new agricultural products from the beautiful Portneuf region.

The Bloc Québécois congratulates all the founding members of AlimenTerre. We wish it every success.

Official Languages Act November 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill S-3.

Whereas the government has flip-flopped and hesitated with regard to ways to help the francophone and Acadian communities develop, the Bloc Québécois has long supported francophone communities outside Quebec. For example, the Bloc Québécois urged the federal government to recognize the unique situation facing francophones living in minority situations and to take emergency measures to counter assimilation and foster the development of francophone and Acadian communities.

Over the years, the Bloc Québécois has also filed complaints with the Official Languages Commissioner about the treatment of francophones in the Canadian forces, Treasury Board's failure to ensure that numerous federal institutions comply with the Official Languages Act, the right of amateur athletes to practice their sport in their own language and, finally, Air Canada's obligation to provide service in French outside Quebec.

In all these files, the commissioner demanded that the institutions in question take the necessary measures to fulfill their obligations to serve Canadians in both official languages. In my opinion, those obligations go without saying.

The Bloc Québécois has intervened and taken positions in favour of Canada’s francophones on a large number of issues. Specifically, we have pressured the federal government to increase funding for francophone organizations, to have regional news in French or RDI broadcast in the western provinces and to have the government adopt a genuine development policy for francophone and Acadian communities.

When the Bloc committed itself in 1994 to defending the interests of the francophone and Acadian communities in Ottawa, it also expressed Quebec’s desire to continue this mission when it becomes sovereign. It did so by proposing a reciprocal mechanism in Canada, so that each can verify respect for the rights of the francophone minority in Canada and the anglophone minority in Quebec.

In our opinion, the Official Languages Act, in its current form, already included all the mechanisms that the federal government needed to ensure the development of minority official language communities. However, after years of cuts in the funding of official language communities and a decline in the use of French among the francophone population of Canada, the federal government finally acknowledged that action was necessary to promote the development of the francophone and Acadian communities.

The Action Plan for Official Languages tabled by the government in March 2003 had a budgetary envelope of $750 million over five years. It should, we hope, be sufficient to support the development of the francophone and Acadian communities. The Action Plan, however, is not a panacea, as was also noted by the Commissioner of Official Languages in her report published on October 19, 2004, especially insofar as the Liberal government has not made a sufficient effort with regard to the plan. The plan is still, moreover, being implemented slowly. Unfortunately, the Liberal government’s lack of political will has penalized the minority official language communities.

Our Liberal colleagues have on numerous occasions raised the argument that Bill S-3, to amend the Official Languages Act, applies only to federal institutions. Unfortunately I feel compelled to tell them that our reading of Bill S-3 differs from theirs.

Even though we are aware of the importance of this bill for minority francophone communities, we proposed a series of amendments at the committee stage. What we in the Bloc Québécois wanted was to preserve Bill S-3 in its current form for francophone communities in Canada, but to limit its territorial scope in such a way that the new obligations would not apply to Quebec.

This amendment to Bill S-3 appeared reasonable to us in the Bloc Québécois, since it would have allowed us to preserve the linguistic peace that Quebeckers have been able to achieve and thus to prevent the new obligations introduced by this bill from plunging Quebec into a new conflict over language. Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case, to our great dismay, the Bloc Québécois’ amendments were deemed out of order by the clerk of the committee.

What were these concerns? We had some concerns about the judicial scope that might be established by the passage of Bill S-3. I would like to discuss this aspect briefly.

Among other things, section 43 of the current act states:

The Minister of Canadian Heritage shall take measures to ensure the advancement and the equality of status and use of English and French in Canadian society and ... may take measures to—

Hon. members will note that “Canadian society” as used here covers more than “federal institutions”.

Some examples of this are given in paragraph ( d ):

encourage and assist provincial governments to support the development of English and French linguistic minority communities generally and, in particular, to offer provincial and municipal services in both English and French and to provide opportunities for members of English or French linguistic minority communities to be educated in their own language;

One thinks immediately of examples where there may be some grounds for fearing interference in areas under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. We know that it does not always go down well with the government in power, but when there is reference to municipal services, these are clearly under Quebec jurisdiction. As well, education is also, as far as I know, still under Quebec jurisdiction.

Here is something a bit more serious. The federal government is required to get results as far as implementation of the various regulations under this legislation is concerned. It is supposed to encourage and cooperate with the business community, labour organizations, voluntary organizations and other organizations or institutions to provide services in both English and French and to foster the recognition and use of those languages.

Our fear is that some group, for instance, could take the federal government to court some day for not doing enough to make companies offer services in both languages, or that a group like this could take an employers association or a labour organization to court for not necessarily providing services in both languages. In my view, these questions are much more a private matter.

In general, for example, speaking of labour organizations, they already have translation naturally where services are provided in both languages.

There was a fear in Quebec, therefore, that the linguistic peace that has developed over the last few decades could be disturbed. We do not interpret that, of course, in the same way as the government.

We recognize, however, that it is essential to protect the francophone minorities outside Quebec. The federal government has often failed in this regard.

I can understand why the various associations to defend francophone rights and communities, whether in Ontario, Alberta or the other provinces, are demanding that Bill S-3 be passed and find it necessary. As I was saying earlier, the federal government has failed all too often to defend the rights of our fellow francophone citizens outside Quebec.

In addition, as I mentioned earlier, we still have some concerns about the implementation of Bill S-3, if it is passed. Rest assured, though, Mr. Speaker, that the Bloc Québécois and the people of Quebec hope that they are wrong. After we finish reading Bill S-3, we will try to make sure that we are wrong. We hope we are wrong. We hope that the passage of Bill S-3 will not upset the linguistic peace currently prevailing in Quebec and that it will apply solely to federal institutions.

I will conclude by adding that we understand very well how necessary Bill S-3 is for francophones outside Quebec. However, we think it was unfortunate that we could not get the requirement for a territorial restriction adopted in committee, which would have ensured that Bill S-3 did not apply to Quebec.

Education November 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, will the federal government make a commitment that, should there be any transfers for post-secondary education, Quebec will be able to use this money for education as its priorities dictate and with no strings attached?

Education November 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, student associations from Quebec and Canada met today in Ottawa and called on the federal government to transfer an additional $4 billion plus annually for education in order to raise funding to its 1994 level, prior to the cuts by the current Prime Minister, who was trying to balance his budget at the expense of Quebec and the provinces.

Does the government intend to fund 25% of post-secondary education as it did before the 1994 cuts?