- On the Parliament site
Last in Parliament October 2000, as Bloc MP for Beauharnois—Salaberry (Québec)
Lost his last election, in 2000, with 42.39% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Petitions October 18th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition on behalf of the residents of my riding asking parliament to have Environment Canada do an environmental assessment of the proposal by Material Resource Recovery SRBP, Inc. to burn PCBs and pharmaceutical products in its Cornwall incinerator.
The petitioners also request that the department reinstate funding for the Saint-Anicet atmospheric environment station in order to measure the pollutants that might be emitted from the Cornwall incinerator.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, the bill on fiscal arrangements for the health sector. Earlier, my colleague, the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, presented the Bloc Quebecois' views on this bill.
First, it is important to stress that the Bloc Quebecois endorses the criticisms that were just made by the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. The Bloc Quebecois agrees with a number of criticisms addressed to the government in view of the fact that this bill is being introduced on the eve of a general election, and in view of the incredible harm caused to the health system across the country, including in Quebec, by the government's cuts to transfer payments to the provinces.
It is surely because of the fight led by opposition parties in the House, including the Bloc Quebecois, that the federal government has finally heard the voice of reason. The Liberal Party finally realized what terrible consequences its cuts have had, not only on the health program, but on its users, on sick people in hospitals and other health care facilities. Indeed, their situation got worse because of the drastic cuts made by the Liberal government.
It is easy to show what impact these cuts have had on Quebec's health program. As members know, between 1994 and 2000, the government made cuts of $1 billion each year, that is, six years of cuts of $1 billion, $500 million of which could have been allocated to our health programs.
These cuts resulted in the elimination of more than one quarter of the budgets of Montreal's hospitals, more than one half of the budget of all the CLSCs in Quebec, almost the whole budget earmarked for home support, four times the annual budget of Ste-Justine hospital for children, more than three times the budget of the Royal Victoria Hospital, or over one quarter of the cost of the prescription drug insurance plan.
This is the real impact of the federal cuts to health, the cuts it had to re-examine. That re-examination was possible only because of an agreement and a coalition of the provincial premiers, and Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard played a pivotal role. He supported until the end the desire of the provinces to assume their responsibilities.
Unlike the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the government of Quebec have always insisted that the lead role in the health field be given back to the provinces, and thus to Quebec. The present constitution of Canada requires Quebec's jurisdiction over health to be respected.
Faced with this common front, these objections and this effective opposition from the parties in the House, the Bloc Quebecois in particular, the government was forced to enter into an agreement at the last minute. This would not have been the case, if there had not been a federal election looming. That same federal election also appears to have prompted the government to table a last-minute bill aimed at implementing that commitment.
We have examined the bill. We have studied it, although we did not have much time to do so, but the Bloc Quebecois finds that, even if its intention is to implement the agreement and the commitments arising out of the press releases issued in the aftermath of this agreement and the first ministers' meeting, there appear to have been a few little slips, a few little problems that the government ought to resolve itself by making some amendments. We are going to propose some amendments ourselves, if it does not listen to reason on this.
Two of the provisions in the bill present a serious problem and need to be brought to the attention of all hon. members, because they do not appear to properly implement the agreement reached between the first ministers a few weeks ago.
First, there is the very basic question of the amount of the funds that will be paid to each province under the commitment made by the Prime Minister of Canada and the provincial premiers. Subclause 2(2) of this bill indicates that the amounts will be determined in accordance with the terms of the trust indenture establishing the trust into which will be deposited the amount of $1 billion for medical equipment.
This is not very clear for a government that calls for clarity in other matters. This provision is silent on the amounts that were agreed upon during the first ministers' meeting. We have cause to be concerned about the fact that the government could use the establishment of the trust and use the discretion given it by this bill to change the amounts if that were its intention. This is why we in the Bloc Quebecois will insist that the bill mention the amounts agreed upon by the first ministers and that they be clearly established within the text of the bill.
There is a limit to the trust that may be put in the Liberal Party of Canada in these matters. It cut its health care transfers without consulting the provinces. It might want to use this bill and its subclause 2(2) in order to change the rules of the game as set by the first ministers.
There is one serious objection the government absolutely must take into account if it wants our party's support: if it introduces no amendments, we ourselves will move, at the appropriate stage, an amendment to correct a very significant failing of this bill.
Our party is also very concerned about certain words used in the bill, which are not at all consistent with the agreement reached by the first ministers. I am referring to clause 3 of the bill in which the Minister of Finance is invited to make a payment for health information and communications technologies and to allocate, as agreed by the first ministers, the sum of $500 million. But this amount will go to a corporation to be named by order of the governor in council for the purpose of developing and supporting the adoption of Canada-wide standards.
We had thought that this idea of Canada-wide or national standards had been sorted out during the discussions at the first ministers meeting. Participants had said that the bill should talk about common standards, which was much less at odds with federal principles. Once again, we must remind the government that health is a provincial jurisdiction. It is the provinces who must assume leadership and jurisdiction in the matter of health care.
Here again, we see the federal government's intention to interfere in this jurisdiction by pushing for Canada-wide standards. Perhaps it is just a translation error, and if so, we would hope that the government would make the necessary correction. Canada-wide information standards has been rendered in French by normes pancanadiennes. If this is not an error of translation and the intention is that national Canada-wide standards must be adopted, we cannot agree. The Bloc Quebecois has always fought the idea that there ought to be national standards across Canada in an area that falls exclusively under provincial jurisdiction.
If this wording is maintained, it will be in violation of the agreement to which Premier Bouchard gave his approval at the first minister's meeting. Let them not try to do in an underhanded way what they did not succeed in doing openly. The provinces managed at the conference to impose the point that health is a provincial jurisdiction in which the federal government ought not to interfere, as it always seems to have the intention of doing.
The Bloc Quebecois position is that this bill needs corrections to two of its fundamental provisions, because these are incompatible with the agreement on which a consensus was reached, an agreement between the provincial premiers and the Prime Minister of Canada.
If these amendments are not adopted, the Bloc Quebecois reserves its position, when the time comes to vote on this bill. It will always be mistrustful of a government which has shamelessly slashed transfer programs in the health field. The government has caused suffering to Quebecers and to many other Canadians, and sought to stifle the provinces at the very time that health care costs were increasing exponentially.
With these remarks I shall conclude my speech, trusting that the government will understand that this bill needs amending before it can earn Bloc Quebecois approval or assent.
Petitions September 27th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present, on behalf of over 400 constituents in my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry and on behalf of the Comité ZIP Haut-Saint-Laurent, which is under the leadership of Marthe Théoret and Claire Lachance, a petition to the effect that the release from the PCB incinerator in Cornwall is a threat to property owners along Lake Saint-François and therefore to the St. Lawrence Seaway, because of the prevailing winds blowing toward the south shore of the river in Quebec.
The petitioners are asking parliament to take all necessary measures to have the federal Department of the Environment conduct an environmental evaluation of the project and restore funding for the Saint-Anicet weather station so that pollutants that may be released from the Cornwall incinerator can be measured.
Youth Criminal Justice Act September 25th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, at the request of our justice critic, the member for Berthier—Montcalm, who for the past few years in this House has been trying to make sure that pieces of legislation dealing with young offenders are the best, and in keeping with the fact that young people are not the criminals they are believed to be in some parties.
In this regard, I would like to remind the member who spoke before me of a few statistics he is trying to hide because, somehow, he agrees with the government's approach, which is not based on a fair and reasonable appreciation of what is really going on across Canada, especially in Quebec, and which shows to what extent the reform brought about by the justice minister and her government is purely political and is a vote-seeking initiative. It seems that it will have to be implemented before an election is called, which looks like it could be very soon.
The minister's very own statistics, which appear in a fact sheet dated March 1999, show for instance that between 1991 and 1997, the charge rate for young people dropped by 25%, and that the charge rate for violent crimes among youth has decreased by 3.2% since 1995.
According to the most recent statistics, the crime rate fell for the sixth consecutive year in 1997. The 5% drop resulted in the lowest police-reported crime rate since 1980. This decrease applies to most offences, including violent crimes which seemingly would justify a tougher approach and legislation, especially sexual assault, for which the rate fell by nearly 1%, robbery, which dropped 8%, and homicide 9%.
Violent youth crime is still on the decline. Fewer charges are laid, yet the government wants to pass new legislation and get rid of the Young Offenders Act; it actually wants to repeal it even though it has proven to be effective when implemented properly, like the Government of Quebec has done in recent years, and when a real effort is made to show the kind of compassion the courts and those responsible for enforcing legislation passed by parliaments to deal with young offenders ought to have.
As a matter of fact, the Bloc Quebecois tried to stop and will continue its fight to stop the federal government from passing legislation that, according to all stakeholders in Quebec, will in no way solve the problems nor help those who must not only sentence young people, but also try to rehabilitate them and facilitate their social reintegration.
The Bloc Quebecois has succeeded in creating awareness among all stakeholders dealing with young offenders. Not one of these stakeholders supports this bill.
On the contrary, all groups joined in a coalition around our party to indicate to the minister that this legislation should be withdrawn, that it is not good for Quebec or the rest of Canada and that, as it is, the existing Young Offenders Act meets our needs and provides the necessary tools to prevent youth crime or to ensure that crimes are punished and that rehabilitation and social reintegration of young offenders are not threatened.
For the benefit of all Canadians and especially of young offenders, the Bloc Quebecois will continue to plead for this legislation to be withdrawn or at least for it to provide an opting out clause, since not only the players I mentioned earlier and my colleague from Saint-Jean listed oppose the bill, but all Quebec MNAs unanimously adopted a resolution to that effect. They all wanted to indicate to the government that they do not want this legislation to apply to Quebec.
In this sense, the right for Quebec to opt out would be a lesser evil if, as some members say, Canadians they represent elsewhere in Canada want stricter and more restrictive legislation for young offenders.
For the purpose of this debate, I would like to add a more personal note that I find interesting as an international law professor. The bill itself makes reference in its preamble—I am referring to one of the preamble's last paragraphs—to the fact that Canada is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since Canada has ratified that convention, the bill must meet Canada's obligations stated in the convention.
This convention forces member states to get Canada to make a commitment to the international community as a whole, as this convention is one of the few treaties to have been signed and ratified by almost all the members of the international community.
More than 180 of the 191 states, within the international community, have ratified the treaty. Canada appears to be ignoring one of this treaty's basic provisions that says that one of the most important considerations in any decision concerning children, and also teenagers who are still children, is the best interests of the child.
As we know, this bill does not seem headed that way, since it focuses more on the protection of society, which should not be neglected of course, on the protection of victims, than on the best interests of the child, a notion that has the same importance in our human rights law as in international conventions, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In this connection, I would like to remind hon. members that article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which codified the rule of best interest of the child is one which Canada has invoked specifically, claiming that the Young Offenders Act respected that principle.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child reminded Canada, when it tabled one of its reports on the application of the convention, that the principle of best interests of the child should be better reflected in Canadian internal legislation. This is far from the case with this piece of legislation we have before us.
It is important that I finish my presentation. I would like to point out in closing that in the Jasmin report in Quebec—a totally remarkable report on young offenders—within and beyond the law, an appendix titled “Adolescence, from turbulence to independence” concludes with the words of a psychologist, Louisiane Gauthier, which are very much worthwhile quoting to this tribunal of the people that is parliament:
From the time a child leaves his mother's body until he becomes a member of the social body, the identity he will construct for himself will reflect the significant adults whom he encounters. These adults, by the authority of membership in the generation of those who begat him, are the beacons that light the way for the child, through their kindnesses, their mores and their rules. Adults provide him with the ability to respond to the major questions encountered in life.
We in this House are adults, let us act as adults. Let us give precedence to the best interests of the child. Let us not pass this legislation which this government wishes to have us pass.
Youth Criminal Justice Act September 25th, 2000
Motion No. 2624
That Bill C-3, in Clause 188, be amended by deleting lines 43 to 48 on page 156 and lines 1 to 8 on page 157.
Youth Criminal Justice Act September 25th, 2000
Motion No. 2619
That Bill C-3, in Clause 187, be amended by deleting lines 36 to 42 on page 155 and lines 1 and 2 on page 156.
Youth Criminal Justice Act September 25th, 2000
Motion No. 2602
That Bill C-3, in Clause 181, be amended by deleting lines 31 to 33 on page 153.