House of Commons photo

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Gatineau (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 51.45% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada Elections Act June 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, we are all aware that Bill C-24 will bring significant changes in the way political activities are financed and the way all participants in the political process report on their financial operations.

I would like to point out to the House that five or six years ago, I introduced a private members' bill in the House, a bill which unfortunately was not voted upon. I based my argument on a thesis by a doctoral student at the University of New Brunswick, a Mr. Stewart. He proposed a revolutionary change that was really quite simple. He felt that it was time for the state—the government, the people—to finance the political parties.

Why? Because the democratic process is such that political parties are the most fundamental part of our democracy. If the method we use to elect our representatives is not transparent and clear, democracy will suffer.

In any case, the private members' bill that I introduced in the House was inspired, as I said, by his thesis that the state should foot the entire bill for an election. It may seem like a large amount, but I did some research before introducing that bill. I gathered information from Revenue Canada, Elections Canada, and even the Department of Finance, in order to find out how much the current system was costing us with tax credits, corporate tax deductions, and so on. To my great surprise, the total was over $25 million per year.

Thus, we will have gone through all that paperwork and all those procedures, when it would have been simpler for the government to take responsibility, saying that if it already costs over $25 million, it would be much easier to have an equitable system, as Bill C-24 recommends.

Obviously, this is a step in the right direction. I was well aware that the state was not going to provide funding overnight. I reasoned that if ten people were stopped in the street and asked, “Do you believe that the political party financing system is fair, just and transparent and that the wealthy have no undue influence?”, obviously, nine out of ten people would say, “Hey, do I look stupid?” Everyone knows that there are minor problems and that there is a lack of transparency.

So, my argument was as follows. If the electorate is not convinced that the political party financing system is open and transparent, we have the obligation to change it. If we believe that it is just, then we must defend it and prove to our fellow citizens that it is fair and transparent. But this is not the case. So, we have bills such as this one. The argument is quite simple. We represent the people, but if they have a very poor perception of something, it must be changed.

But, it must be said that Quebec was the first province to have taken the initiative to introduce such changes. I remember, in 1964, the Lesage government took the first steps. It limited nomination expenses per riding. Previously, there were slush funds. People know a little bit about our provincial history in this regard.

In any case, this turned out to be the first step in limiting riding expenses.

Later, in 1977, the year René Lévesque came to power, the government set limits on the donations individuals could make to political parties. These were all steps forward.

Of course, when I proposed my private member's bill at the time, I thought there was eventually going to be a much more open and transparent system. If we believe profoundly in our democratic system—I do and I am convinced that we do have a democracy—we must ensure that the party financing process, which is the very basis of democracy, is fair, equitable and above all, transparent. The whole idea of the wealthy or large corporations unduly influencing the government is no longer valid. I am convinced that this will be a great step forward.

As I indicated, in preparing my bill I consulted many people and organizations not only in my region but also across Canada. I spoke to a number of people and everyone said the same thing, “It goes without saying that, in our system, people have a perception that must be changed”.

Bill C-24 marks a step forward. There is no doubt the day will come—I hope I will live long enough to see this—when the state will take over party financing and fund-raising campaigns will no longer be necessary. I know that for many of my hon. colleagues, this is a big burden. We spend a great deal of time raising funds for election campaigns. All this could end.

I will conclude by saying that it is not complicated at all. In fact, it is very simple. We must correct the misconception our fellow citizens have. This is a step forward. I hope that in coming years, in spite of the great many problems experienced in the past, we will be able to show that our system works. It is a start. Let us hope that this is the beginning of a future party financing system that will be the most equitable and democratic in all democratic countries.

Student Employment May 9th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, school will soon be out, and students are looking to gain experience on the labour market this summer.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of Human Resources Development tell us what the federal government is doing to promote the hiring of these qualified and, more importantly, enthusiastic, students this summer?

Supply March 24th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, for the sake of the reality check, as the member was mentioning, I have a question I would like him to answer.

I read somewhere not too long ago that once Iraq is invaded, it will help democratize the region. I have some fear about this for the following reason.

Let us look at the southern doorstep of the United States for over the last 50 years. The Dominican Republic had a dictator. There was a dictator in Haiti, Papa Doc. There was a dictatorship in Guatemala. There was a dictatorship in El Salvador. There was a dictatorship in Nicaragua. All those places had dictatorships that surrounded the southern doorstep of the United States.

If it was not possible to bring democracy there, how are we going to bring democracy to such a turbulent area that surrounds Iraq?

Supply March 24th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I agree fully with the hon. member. If the UN and the world community do not do the reconstruction, there will be resistance and that will complicate things. The only approach is for the UN to oversee the reconstruction. This will provide hope for bolstering the United Nations so that it may play an enhanced role everywhere there is conflict. We must realize that this is the only instrument available to us. We must help the United Nations as much as possible, and ensure that they are an instrument of peace, regardless of the consequences.

Supply March 24th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate the fact that we are proud of the exemplary courage demonstrated by the Prime Minister. He felt supported by Canadians, by the colleagues in his party and even by members of the opposition.

As for the issue of reconstruction in Iraq, I am one of those who feels that Canada will play a role in it. In articles appeared in the United States last week, it was said that it would be private sector companies that would do this reconstruction. The role of other countries was not mentioned. We know that most of these private companies will come from the United States.

Who will pay for this reconstruction? We know very well how it will be funded, given the riches that exist in Iraq. I had hoped that the United Nations would say it was up to the UN to decide how to proceed and what means to use in the reconstruction of Iraq. We must help these poor people who have been victimized by a man who is out of control, there is no doubt about that. It is up to the United Nations to help the Iraqis, to give them a chance to live in peace and to give them hope. None of Iraq's riches were being used to support the most fundamental needs in life.

Supply March 24th, 2003

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I forgot to indicate at the beginning of my speech that I was going to share my time with my hon. colleague from York Centre.

Supply March 24th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. She mentioned a higher value. In case she does not know, the higher value is peace; peace at any cost.

Over the last few weeks and months it has been remarkable how Canadians stood fast with their own government in advocating that the only solution to the problems that we are having is through the United Nations. Many people have criticized the United Nations through the years. There is no doubt that it is not a perfect organization, but nevertheless it is the only thing we have as a collectivity in the world.

Many times we heard that democracy is not perfect, but there is nothing else that comes close to it that we would prefer. It is the same thing with the United Nations.

Through the years after the second world war, the failure of the League of Nations after the first world war gave birth to another attempt, the United Nations. We had great hope that this collectivity of the world powers would protect us against the abuses that we saw through the years.

The United Nations has had many difficulties in this Middle East effort. I could not help but note that the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla stated in the first part of his motion:

(1) endorse the decision of the Allied international coalition of military forces to enforce Iraq's compliance with its international obligations under successive resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, with a view to restoring international peace and security in the Middle East region;

All we would have to do is take out a few words and say, “endorse the decision of the allied international coalition of military forces to enforce resolutions 181, 242 and 380”, and continue. That would have contributed greatly to peace in the Middle East.

The United Nations was confronted with the situation whereby we had a rogue state like Iraq with a leader who nobody disputes is lacking in sanity. We all agree that his own people have suffered. We figured that the time had come and realized that the only solution was peace. It cannot be done any other way if we want to progress and truly become civilized in this world.

The United Nations has many drawbacks, but at least the attempt has been laudable. In this particular event with Iraq, which had been contained, it was going very well. I am sure that the French, Germans, Russians and Chinese had legitimate reasons to feel that they took the endorsement of the United Nations. The Canadian government stood behind that and the polls have shown that the majority of Canadians endorse that. We felt that the time had come that we had to go to the bitter end and find a solution peacefully.

Many years ago, a Canadian journalist wrote a book, in which he was advocating how Canada could be a real powerful agent in the world as a peacekeeper. The book was entitled Peacemaker or Powder-Monkey; Canada's role in a revolutionary world . Obviously we chose to be peacekeepers, and that has not been easy for us.

When this issue dawned on us in the Middle East, where there has been confusion ever since the second world war, we had to stand our ground. It is with great proud that Canadians saw their government take a stand. By far most of the colleagues in the House stood by the government and felt that this was the only solution. We are very happy with that.

For the past few weeks, there have been huge demonstrations, especially in Montreal. It was pleasing and almost surprising to see the number of Canadians who took to the streets to show that they truly value peace. It is difficult to maintain peace. It is not difficult to make people angry and afraid, but maintaining peace is something else.

During the demonstrations that we have seen across the country—and I followed those in Montreal very closely—it was wonderful to see the unity, and the hope that peace, not war, would prevail, because war leads to more violence and other reactions.

We could talk about this for hours in this House, but to sum up, it is important to note that Canadians were behind the government's position that the United Nations is the only organization that can order such drastic measures as declaring war.

We hope to see in this world, and celebrate in this House a day when the United Nations alone will have the power to decide what action to take in circumstances so serious as to require nations to join together in war. We are always going to work toward this goal. However, we must realize what is at stake, and it is very difficult to know what the truth is.

In conclusion, I was very happy to see Canadians from all provinces back the government in its desire to support the measures for peace. It was one of the greatest things I have seen done by our community and I am very happy and proud—more than ever—to be Canadian and to be for peace.

Human Resources Development March 21st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, thanks to a winter skills project, Mission Compétence Hiver 2003, 16 young people between the ages of 17 and 30 in the Saint-Hyacinthe area will be able to acquire the skills sought by today's employers in a work experience setting.

Human Resources Development Canada is proud to provide $15,000 in financial assistance to Gilles Poulin Consultant, a company that plans and carries out activities to assist the young people in that region in entering the work force. The project sponsor has a proven track record of successfully coordinating such projects in the past.

Good luck to all these young participants.

Question No. 122 March 17th, 2003

Besides the land sold to the Vorlage Ski Club, the National Capital Commission sold a number of lots within Gatineau Park between September 2, 1992 and September 2, 2002: ( a ) for what purpose and according to what process did the National Capital Commission determine that the sale of that land was necessary; ( b ) on what date, or dates, in parcels of how many hectares/acres, for what price per parcel and to whom did the National Capital Commission sell this land; ( c ) did the National Capital Commission subject this sale to a public consultation; If not, why not; and ( d ) did the National Capital Commission inform the public about this sale; If so, on what date and by what means; If not, why not?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 124 March 17th, 2003

Concerning the July 15, 2001 fire at the former residence of Roderick Percy Sparks at 420 Meech Lake Road, why did the National Capital Commission not press the authorities to conduct an investigation?