Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 32.65% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Income Tax Act May 4th, 2004

Madam Speaker, I will speak in French. The hon. member will understand.

I think that it is important to mention that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency had some say on this specific clientele. As I said in my speech, it is in trouble and we must do everything possible to help it.

The Department of Agriculture and Agri-food must create programs for this clientele. The problem that we have at this point is that compensation programs that we have are more for farmers. It is not that woodlot owners are not in trouble. This is why the minister will do everything possible to ease the situation.

We must also understand that the minister must work with his own programs. In this sense, to be quite honest, I agree that our program criteria do not respond to this specific clientele that needs help.

It is not because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency deals with a specific clientele that the department automatically creates a program affecting this clientele. This is the whole problem and we are aware of it.

I sympathize with my colleague who is facing this difficulty. We will examine the situation and, if we can help this clientele, we will do so, because we know that it is deserving.

Income Tax Act May 4th, 2004

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to respond to the question the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester posed regarding the effects of hurricane Juan and the brown spruce longhorned beetle eradication program on woodlot owners in Halifax.

Hurricane Juan downed thousands of trees, some of which are located on a number of woodlots within the brown spruce longhorned beetle ministerial area. Woodlot owners within this area are unable to harvest the trees damaged by the hurricane because fallen timber within the brown spruce longhorned beetle regulated area must be processed in a way that stops the spread of this devastating pest.

Over the past four years, three separate regions of Canada have been affected by the introduction of invasive pests. In all three regions the CFIA has carried out aggressive eradication actions resulting in the removal of many trees. We are currently reviewing our options in terms of compensation for trees ordered for removal and destruction in order to control these invasive forest pests.

I understand that this is a very difficult time for woodlot owners in Nova Scotia and we are doing what we can to help them. The CFIA is working with all parties involved to determine acceptable salvage methods to prevent further spread of the pest. To date, many of the options are not economically acceptable to the various parties.

Many feel that the restrictions in place do not allow for the harvest of timber within the zone. The CFIA has taken the position that all of these restrictions are in place to ensure that the spread of these pests is stopped. In doing this, the CFIA is keeping within its mandate to protect the forests and the forest industry of Canada.

To assist woodlot owners, the CFIA is actively assessing all proposals to move wood from the ministerial zone on a case by case basis and is continuing to assess various options, including chipping. In addition, local CFIA staff have been working with the provincial and federal authorities in identifying areas of infestation in support of the disaster relief initiative by the province of Nova Scotia for hurricane Juan. However, the brown spruce longhorned beetle has the potential to devastate Canada's spruce tree population. We must do all we can to ensure it does not spread.

Small Craft Harbours Program April 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I was delighted last week to be able to announce, on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, an investment of $275,000, which must have also delighted the fishers of the Gaspé Peninsula.

This investment, within the Small Craft Harbours Program, will be used for dredging at the fishing harbours of Gascons, L'Anse-à-Beaufils, Cloridorme, Saint-Godefroi and Sainte-Thérèse-de-Gaspé.

As I have pointed out before, this investment is vital to the fishing communities of the Gaspé Peninsula. Local fishers require a well-maintained, operational harbour in order to successfully undertake their fishing season.

The dredging to be undertaken with the funding from our government will ensure that vessels have adequate water depth for safe navigation.

Dredging will begin in May, and harbour authorities should shortly be receiving work schedules so that they may inform the fishers of the expected dredging dates.

Avian Flu April 20th, 2004

Mr. Chair, it is a pleasure to speak tonight in response to the motion by my colleague from British Columbia on the outbreak of avian influenza.

This outbreak has devastating consequences on the poultry industry in British Columbia and the many people whose livelihood depends on this industry. So it is vital to halt the spread of this disease, eradicate it and get the industry back on track.

One of the primary ways to help this industry is to encourage the resumption of trade in Canadian poultry and poultry products. In 2003, Canadian poultry and poultry product exports represented approximately $275 million. British Columbia contributed approximately 10% of these exports.

To date, 45 trading partners have taken measures in response to the avian influenza outbreak. Twenty eight of these, including Japan and South Africa, have imposed trade restrictions on all of Canada. Seventeen others, including the United States, have imposed restrictions solely on live poultry and poultry products from British Columbia.

The Government of Canada has taken measures to normalize trade relations. The Canada Food Inspection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and Canadian embassies abroad are working in collaboration. Canada is keeping its trading partners fully informed of new developments through direct contact from Ottawa and in Canadian missions abroad.

First, the head veterinarian at the Canada Food Inspection Agency, Dr. Evans, sent a letter to key foreign counterparts confirming the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza in British Columbia. He indicated to them, among other things, that a surveillance zone had been set up in the Fraser Valley, British Columbia.

This measure is consistent with internationally approved animal disease standards. Given the establishment of a surveillance zone and the implementation of strict control measures, we are able to ask that any measures taken by our trading partners be on a regional basis.

The government took even more energetic measures when the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced the depopulation of all commercial poultry flocks and other barnyard birds in the control area in an effort to eradicate avian influenza. This decision is based on the recommendation of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in consultation with the Province of British Columbia and the poultry industry and it was not easy to make.

We understand that destroying 19 million birds will have enormous repercussions on the poultry industry. We also realize that the situation will be very difficult for many people, particularly those who keep barnyard flocks as pets.

As we have seen, this highly contagious virus spreads rapidly. We must therefore take aggressive steps to eliminate it.

I know that some people fear that avian influenza may present risks for human health. As has been said in the House, I would like to point out that it is not the same virus as the one which is now spreading and causing serious human health problems in Asia. Nevertheless, Health Canada and its federal and provincial partners are taking the avian influenza in British Columbia very seriously and are implementing firm and coordinated public health measures.

I would also like to mention that there is no public health danger associated with consuming cooked eggs or poultry meat because of those cases. In addition, Health Canada points out that poultry and egg products from the regions where avian influenza has been detected present no danger to human health.

While the risk for the general public is low, it is very important that people who are in close contact with infected poultry follow protective measures such as wearing protective clothing and glasses, and frequent hand-washing. So far, there is nothing to suggest that the virus can be transmitted to humans.

Foreign authorities have been advised that the avian influenza in Canada poses no risk to public health. We shall continue to keep the foreign authorities informed of developments in the situation and we will supply them with additional information as needed.

I want to acknowledge the importance of the open communication we have with our trading partners. Openness, transparency and trust are vital in our exchanges. Canada is known internationally for the quality of its health and food safety systems and for its openness to its trading partners. We earned this reputation over time, even in the most difficult periods.

Our system has a scientific foundation. Our willingness to share our scientific evidence with our trading partners reassures them that we will not hide anything likely to present a risk to their health and food safety systems. They trust our system and in the long term, this translates into a trust in our Canadian products.

The openness and transparency of our initiative have had some positive results. In March, for instance, the European Union was one of the trading partners that decided to set restrictions on importing poultry and poultry products from across Canada. Now, thanks in large part to the information provided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, these import restrictions apply only to products from the area under surveillance in British Columbia. In fact, Canada once again has access to the European Union market and to Mexico, for some products.

This is good news for the industry in other regions in Canada and I am certain that Europeans will trust the information we release when the time comes to lift the restrictions on the area under surveillance.

Furthermore, I want to remind the House that Canada imposed its own restrictions on live poultry imports and poultry products from regions where this disease exists. We imposed restrictions on Texas as a precautionary measure following the confirmation of high pathogenic avian influenza in that state in February. On April 6, we lifted the restrictions when the United States Department of Agriculture, the USDA, announced that the outbreak in Texas had been completely eradicated. Canadian animal health officials reviewed the information provided by the USDA and acknowledged that the measures taken by the United States to fight the disease had been effective and that this country was free from high pathogenic avian influenza.

I bring this situation to the attention of the House, because I feel that it is important to reassure Canadians, particularly the representatives of the industry in the Fraser Valley, and tell them that this crisis will pass. We will stop the disease from spreading; we will eradicate it. Our trade relations will resume, as they did for the United States following the outbreak in Texas.

How can we be certain that we can eradicate the disease? When will our partners know that it is again safe to import poultry and poultry products from the Fraser Valley? Certain standards were established in this regard by the international agency responsible for animal health, the World Organization for Animal Health or OIE. In countries such as Canada, where a program has been implemented to eradicate the disease, the OIE standards state that a country can be considered free of highly pathogenic avian influenza six months after the slaughter of the last animal infected.

However, the disease eradication program must be extremely rigorous to meet OIE standards. This includes the humane depopulation of all animals infected with or exposed to the disease; the surveillance and tracking of potentially infected or exposed animals; the strict quarantine and control of the transport of animals; the rigorous decontamination of infected areas; the establishment of infected regions and disease-free zones. These standards and criteria are extremely rigorous.

Everyone within the control zone can do their share to help prevent the disease from spreading. We depend on the collaboration of poultry producers and residents of the Fraser Valley to apply the appropriate bio-safety measures and help stop the disease from spreading. The movement of people and goods likely facilitates the spread of avian influenza. That is why the Canada Food Inspection Agency is distributing public notices and holding information sessions on measures that residents can adopt to help eradicate the disease.

Producers in the control zone are legally required to affix a notice at the entrance of their property prohibiting unauthorized entry to their farm. These notices are supplied by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Before allowing anyone to enter their farm area, producers need to ensure that appropriate bio-safety measures are in place. These include thorough cleaning and disinfection of all equipment and articles of clothing that might have been in contact with an affected operation.

I should emphasize that it is illegal to enter an operation without authorization. This is a serious disease and we are taking stringent measures to eradicate it.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has imposed strict movement restrictions in order to prevent avian influenza from spreading beyond the control zone. Inspectors check for the presence of birds or poultry products on board vehicles at ferry terminals, highway weigh stations and toll stations. People travelling in these areas must pay careful attention to these restrictions. Birds, including pet birds, and other affected products may enter the zone but may not exit.

These are stringent measures, but they are necessary if we are to eradicate this disease from Canada and resume trade relations.

In the meantime, while we are taking the necessary precautions to get the poultry and poultry product export market back to normal, we want to ensure that the Fraser Valley poultry producers are going to be looked after.

The control zone contains five federally registered poultry processing plants, handling most of the chicken processing capacity of British Columbia as well as the only turkey processing facility and the only egg processing facility. The restricted circulation of products outside that zone has resulted in a glut in the region and storage facilities have reached capacity.

On April 10, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reacted to this by announcing that it would allow fresh and frozen poultry products under federal permit in the control zone to be shipped to other regions of Canada under prescribed conditions. This will make it possible to move the excess production from that zone. As far as we know, no trading partner will be making changes to its import policies as a result of this decision to allow product outside the control zone.

The government is also helping individual producers. The Canadian agricultural income stabilization program is now in place and the government is committed to explaining to producers exactly how they can access this program. Producers of supply-managed products are protected under this program if their production margin goes down by 30% or more. In addition, all farmers whose poultry are subject to a destruction notice from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will be compensated through the Health of Animals Act.

The spread of avian influenza in the Fraser Valley has had serious consequences for the poultry industry, whose exports are valued at some $275 million. We are taking the measures that must be taken in order to halt and eradicate this disease and ensure the return of commercial activities. Canada's food health and safety system is internationally recognized and this reputation is now being seriously put to the test. I am confident nonetheless that we will get through this crisis. Our trade relations will be restored and our reputation will be protected thanks to the professionalism and rigour with which we are meeting this challenge.

Fisheries and Oceans October 31st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I think it is completely normal for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to be in the process of re-evaluating all the duties of everyone who works in the department, in order to ensure, in any event, that money is being spent efficiently.

The process is currently under evaluation. No decision has been made. The minister will inform us of the decision once it is made.

Fisheries October 30th, 2003

Madam Speaker, I would also like to thank the member for St. John's West who raised this very important question in the House. This is not the first time we have discussed this issue. We have had other opportunities to talk about this.

As my colleagues mentioned, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has reviewed at length this issue which is so crucial not only for the people of Newfoundland, who are directly affected, but also for all Canadians.

It is absolutely true that the situation beyond the 200 mile limit in the Atlantic is one of overfishing. Nobody in the department, not even the minister, denies that the situation there is unacceptable. This situation directly affects the stocks and the fishing industry in Canada, especially in Newfoundland where they have fish plants.

The proposal by the member for St. John's West is unacceptable for our country, both from a legal and an international standpoint. This proposal is asking us to unilaterally impose our laws in international waters. We know there is a problem with overfishing, but unfortunately, deciding that Canada will unilaterally control fishing activities beyond the 200 mile limit is not realistic.

NAFO did not have the status of an organization until now, but substantial improvements have been made. Management by NAFO has not so far alleviated the problem. That is why the member is putting forward this motion.

The alternative he is proposing is unacceptable and could have some serious consequences for our country at the international level.

I will refer to the former member for St. John's West, John Crosbie, who was also Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for a while as you know. I think the present minister succeeded Mr. Crosbie. This Conservative member and minister said repeatedly that this solution was not realistic. Therefore, that is the point of view we must adopt when we look at it.

This being said, Canada is an active member of NAFO, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization. Through Canada's leadership within the organization, some changes have been made in recent years. These changes were not made as fast as we would have liked. However, in the last two years, specific measures were adopted to ensure that the situation improved. We recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done, but as far as we are concerned, opting for such an extreme solution will only have an even more negative impact in the short or medium term.

I will not list all the meetings that have been organized by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization since 1995, but important improvements have been made in the last two years. At the September meeting held in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, NAFO member countries agreed unanimously to establish a long term halibut conservation plan. This plan provides for a 60% reduction of the quota. Because of the leadership shown by Canada, the participants really realized that if we do not respect this resource, it will soon disappear. That is something tangible that clearly demonstrates that improvements need to be made.

As for the monitoring and surveillance of vessels, we have taken concrete measures over the past year, closing our ports to fishing vessels from the Faroe Islands. When boats are caught in contravention off the 200-mile limit, Canada has to have measures in place to make sure that these countries are penalized.

On the other hand, with the stopping of the Santa Mafalda about a month ago, the control of this overfishing has been greatly improved. The vessel was brought to St. John's Harbour, in Newfoundland, if my memory serves me well. Portuguese inspectors caught in the act a vessel that had illegal quantities of fish while there was a moratorium in place. We saw that the Portuguese, among others, really co-operated on this issue.

Consequently, the situation is not simple or easy. There are a lot of improvements to be made. However, we must definitely and very objectively admit that, in the last few years, there has been a considerable improvement concerning NAFO.

With regard to the alternative suggested by my colleague from St. John's-West, he is the first to say that people do not have enough resources for custodial management, despite the fact that they do some remarkable work. If we were to unilaterally impose Canadian management in international waters, imagine how we could control such action. It would take absolutely enormous amounts of money. Yet, the action as such is not legal on the international level.

I understand the members and people of Newfoundland. They are really the victims of completely unacceptable situations. Canada is known internationally for its respect of rights and as a society which is governed by the rule of law. Unfortunately, I do not think it is realistic to suggest the proposal before us can be implemented.

That is why we should keep working hard within the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization to assert our leadership. We are one of the major contributors to this organization. We should not shy away from taking the leadership inside this organization and enforcing our legislation.

As I already said, recent meetings have shown some improvement. We should continue to work in this direction. We should also become international leaders. In Canadian and interior waters, we have taken our responsibilities. Even if we impose sacrifices and quotas on fishers, we can understand their frustration when the same restrictions are not respected by those fishing in international waters. It is frustrating for Canadian fishers, and we understand that. Of course, it is frustrating.

To conclude, I have to say the minister will do his best to take a leading role. We have demonstrated that recently, and we will continue. We will also make sure the Canadian vision is shared by all other partners in NAFO. We cannot force it on other partners. In the medium and long term, we will prevail if we can persuade our partners.

With the kind of mounting evidence we have that many countries do not abide by the rules, we are making some progress. We are taking a leading role. Let us keep working in that direction. In my view, it is the most realistic and fair solution to this problem.

Criminal Code October 23rd, 2003

Madam Speaker, objectively, the hon. member should recognize that the government is investing over one billion dollars to supply National Defence with additional equipment.

I have been told that the Aurora aircraft destined for surveillance use are part of a program that has not been cut. I have also been told that the minister is very concerned about this issue and will soon make announcements about it. Investments will be made.

Very objectively, if the hon. member would like to debate whether the Coast Guard is receiving sufficient funding, that is another thing. At the moment, we are talking about who is responsible for the safety and security of Canadians along our coasts. That responsibility falls to National Defence. With the amounts invested by this government, I do not think anyone can accuse us of not taking this seriously.

Criminal Code October 23rd, 2003

Madam Speaker, I am pleased that the member raised the issue tonight so that we can clarify the facts. Indeed, people sometimes get confused about the mandate of certain government departments.

If the member wants a debate on whether the various organizations are adequately equipped, this is one thing. However, if he asks me specifically who has the mandate to patrol the coasts and the territorial waters of Canada, I can tell him that it is the Department of National Defence. This is quite clear. If he wants a debate on whether it is adequately equipped, this is another matter.

When the member says that problems might have occurred not far from the Halifax harbour, perhaps this is true, except that the Halifax harbour is an important harbour of the Canadian navy. With the frigates and the vessels that are there, we can certainly say that Canadian territorial waters, particularly in the Atlantic region, are very well protected, and that the Department of National Defence is doing an absolutely extraordinary job.

The role of the Coast Guard is simple. It includes search and rescue, boating safety, ice-breaking services, assistance to vessels underway, marine communications and traffic services, aids to navigation, environmental protection, response to pollution incidents, navigable waters protection, safe use of ship channels, support to conservation and habitat protection programs, support to scientific programs and assistance to other departments.

What matters from a government point of view is that the various departments with a capacity to act with respect to our territorial waters can work in a coordinated fashion. The Coast Guard's traffic, radio and service centres are working closely with the Department of National Defence.

If there is any indication that our security could be threatened, information is systematically directed to DND, and the RCMP may also become involved. This ensures a concerted action, under the auspices of DND whose role this is. This is how we can respond. Since the events of September 11, 2001, international security has become a greater concern than ever.

Within the government, we have an interdepartmental committee chaired by the Minister of Transport. Around the table where we coordinate our actions, we have National Defence, Fisheries and Oceans, because it concerns the Coast Guard, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and the RCMP.

All this demonstrates that the government is very concerned about the safety of our navigable waterways. Still, the mandate of providing security on Canada's coasts belongs specifically to the Department of National Defence, which works in collaboration with various parts of the government to ensure the safety of all Canadians.

Shipping Industry October 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on the excellent contribution made by the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière with respect to the shipping industry. He is a real asset to us in the caucus and on this side of the House.

With respect to dredging, we have met with the industry. As you know, since 1996, all costs have been borne by the industy. The industry has made a number of requests, including one that we guarantee that costs will be stable in future years.We agreed to this request, as of last year, in order to make the industry more competitive.

Fisheries October 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I cannot presume to know what the minister's decision will be, but we realize the urgency of the situation.

As I indicated in my first answer, I agree that a very transparent process was put in place last year. The fishers alluded to this, I think.

As a result, there is no problem with regard to the process, and I can confirm that a decision will be made in the very near future.