- On the Parliament site
Last in Parliament May 2004, as Bloc MP for Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière (Québec)
Won his last election, in 2000, with 41.85% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Citizenship and Immigration February 21st, 2003
Mr. Speaker, since January 30, 353 refugee claimants have been temporarily sent back to the United States while waiting for their meeting with Immigration Canada. Of the 94 files reviewed, 34 claimants did not show up for their interview, and some of them are on the list of people detained by U.S. immigration authorities.
In light of this situation, how much longer will the minister wait to reinstate the directive requiring U.S. authorities to ensure that asylum seekers in custody will indeed be able to attend their interview with Immigration Canada?
Iraq February 18th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, a secret UN document obtained by an American NGO predicts that 1.5 million people will be displaced in Iraq in the event of a war. Worse still, 30% of Iraqi children under the age of 5 could die from malnutrition, yet no assistance plan has been developed.
Can the Minister for International Cooperation tell us if the government is ready to put as much energy into helping possible civilian victims of war in Iraq as it is into preparing for war by sending officers to Qatar?
Petitions February 17th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, I have here a petition signed by 4,000 persons wishing to see the Canadian government, and the Prime Minister in particular, take the courageous stand of opposing any attack on Iraq.
The wording of this petition does not comply with all the required criteria, but given the urgency and importance of this matter—it being a petition for peace signed by the people of the Outaouais region of Quebec—I would ask for unanimous consent so that I can table it today.
Canada Elections Act February 17th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the government House leader carefully, and his speech was a very good one. I must acknowledge that he is sometimes capable of recognizing the merit of other parties. In particular, he has acknowledged the worth of Quebec's legislation on political party financing, enacted in 1977 by the Parti Québecois.
It is not a regular thing for the government leader to do in the House, but during his time as Minister of Public Works he even acknowledged the work done by an opposition member. I would now like to ask him a few questions.
This time he needs to realize that it is not the Bloc Quebecois that is being obstructive, but the Canadian Alliance. That is quite obvious. We in the Bloc are in agreement with the spirit of the bill, although of course there are changes we would like to make. That we will do in committee.
We have the impression that the current Prime Minister is in a bad position as far as implementation of this bill is concerned. We find that January 1, 2004 is too far away. Why not do as is done with other laws, let the legislative process take its course? In this connection, the role of the government House leader is a very important one. Things must be allowed to take their course. Perhaps as early as the end of this session, the bill might be passed and given royal assent. Then the legislation could apply before the Liberal Party leadership race. I realize the Prime Minister may be in an awkward position on this, but since this proposal is coming from the opposition and not from his party, how does he feel about it?
Supply February 13th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, obviously, this is a question that requires a detailed answer. The member's question is twofold.
I will answer the first part briefly. It is like in research. How do we find what we are looking for when we do not know what we are looking for?
This is to some extent the minister's problem. We get the impression that he is asking all and sundry for their opinion. It is hard to find something when one does not know what one wants.
Second, there is the issue of the card. When it comes to showing ID to prove who we are, there are many other ways to do so, such as a passport, driver's licence, and what not. The Quebec health insurance card has a picture on it. Student cards also. And, for even greater certainty, there are eye and finger prints.
This card could actually become very valuable to would-be fraud artists, who may want to steal this card which will contain even more information than the others. Is this not counterproductive? I think it is.
Supply February 13th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, I would like to reply that there are surely public servants and people within the government who are thinking about this issue. I must be brief, but I will say that the minister responsible for services to citizens, Rémy Trudel, opposed the idea of a compulsory identity card, for a number of reasons after consulting his public officials.
I should also add that, in Quebec, debates have taken place regarding this issue. Of course, there are a number of cards in use, including the health insurance card. I remember that when a chip card was being considered, many people were strongly opposed to the idea.
When people know more about the issue and realize that there is not just an identity card, but also a smart card, there is a lot of opposition, as we will see during the consultation process.
Of course, at this point, the whole issue of costs has yet to be raised. This will require an in-depth study that has not yet been conducted.
I thank the hon. member for his question. In Quebec, this issue was examined. Some are in favour while others are opposed, as is the case elsewhere, but so far those who oppose the idea have been successful in ensuring that this option is not pursued any further.
I did not have time to mention it, but let not us forget the issue of individual rights and privacy. We are talking about a right. A right is not something that is negotiable. It is impossible to have half of a right. A right is a right. I think the minister should seek legal advice on this issue.
To my knowledge, and based on what I have seen and heard this morning, there is a lot of room for improvement in the minister's comments.
Supply February 13th, 2003
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is a pleasure for me to rise today to speak on this motion moved by the New Democratic Party. This is not a votable motion because it was presented on an opposition day, and some motions are votable and others are not. The motion reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of this House, the introduction of a national identity card offends the principle of privacy and other civil rights of Canadians and this House therefore opposes this motion.
First, I would like to inform the Chair that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Mercier.
This motion is being moved today because, last November when the federal government and Manitoba were signing a bilateral agreement, the minister publicly mentioned this idea. Since the media more or less ignored it, he brought it up again during an interview. Last week, he mentioned it again, but this time before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
The committee wanted its members—currently travelling across Canada regarding a bill under consideration—to consult with Canadians. I have absolutely nothing against the government conducting consultations. Consultations are good, in my opinion; this is a democracy.
However, many years ago, before becoming a member, I studied consulting and communications. Being somewhat of an expert in this field, I would say that, normally, hypotheses and proposals are submitted. Alternatives are sometimes proposed during certain consultations.
In Quebec, for example, I remember having worked with the Minister of Agriculture on estates general on the economy. The minister or the government would mandate public servants to study the issue. If the public servants did not have the expertise needed to examine certain issues, then the government would usually consult experts.
Why am I talking about experts? Because, at first glance, a national identity card—several already exist—seems like a harmless idea. But, in this case, the minister is talking about a smart card, a card with a silicon chip able to store personal information. The minister is not setting guidelines or limitations. He is submitting the entire thing to consultations, in an ad hoc sort of way, which is unusual, at least when it comes to something so serious.
The principle of an identity card is a subject for debate on its own, but what about the personal information they want included on such a card?
If its creation is in reaction to the events of September 11, one may assume that its purpose is to be forewarned of terrorists. But does anyone really believe that a terrorist's card would bear the identification “I am a terrorist”? We are talking of biometric data, and I know that the eyes are the mirror of the soul, but can being a terrorist show up in a person's eyes? That is impossible.
There are other aspects as well. One could raise the question of DNA. Do they want to go that far? The minister does not say. I do not want to get carried away and end up putting words in his mouth. Then there are fingerprints, but the minister does not talk about what the cost of this will be.
We know what is happening with gun control. The Bloc Quebecois agreed with the principle of registering firearms, but the problem lies with administering this. They were after information, asking for instance “Do you have a gun, and if so what type?” But we see now that it is costing way more than expected, $1 billion even, when the initial figure was $2 million.
People say we ought not to always mistrust government, but we will recall that the Auditor General, in 1998 I think it was, reported that there were 3.8 million more SIN numbers than people in Canada. I am not talking hundreds of thousands, but 3.8 million. That is one example.
Two years ago, the Minister of Finance of the day wanted to give Canadians a gift to offset the increase in heating costs. He sent cheques to dead people. One is therefore justified in questioning the administrative aspect.
I am sure that if the member for Mercier has time, she will broach the subject of Bill C-54 and the fight she led at that time. Like her, I was a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. We wondered who would manage this type of personal information and how it would be linked. We know that today, with computers, with data being linked with other data, there are few things that people can keep private. Will this go so far as to include medical data?
What I condemn is the fact that the minister appears open to holding consultations, but everything is so broad that much of the detail gets lost. In my riding, people have asked me why this is being done now.
The minister seems to be making it up as he goes along, which gives us the impression that he is a bit of a puppet. With the pressure since September 11, we know what the government has done in terms of public security. Public security measures have been strengthened. We have seen a shift take place. People have serious questions. They want to know how far the government plans on taking this. We may also wonder just how far the American government will ask us to take it and what changes it will ask us to make in order to meet its requirements.
I remember a time when you did not even need a passport to enter the United States. All you had to do was say you were a Canadian citizen and you could get through the border without any problem. I understand that there needs to be more control, but should this extend to an identity card for citizens? You have to wonder. The need should be demonstrated, and that has not been done yet.
The government has given people too many reasons to be wary of any attempt to collect personal information. We do not know a whole lot on how and where this information will be used. Unlike the minister, we are not sure that it will protect our identity.
As Réal Caouette said, “The government has your good at heart, and it will manage to get its hands on your goods as well”.
Canada Elections Act February 12th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, in my mind, a right is a right is a right. You cannot give a right only to some people or to one group. There should not be a double standard. This is a principle we should all respect.
My hon. colleague talked about the Income Tax Act. I think we could also improve the way this legislation dealswith students and those who do not pay income tax. For instance, it could be amended to ensure that the people who do not pay income tax are entitled to the tax credit on political contributions. Then, these people would be able to make political contributions if they wanted to.
Canada Elections Act February 12th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, there are a number, but let me talk about the main one, the complete ban on contributions from businesses, corporations, non-profit associations or unions.
I said it earlier, but I will repeat it, on principle, it must be individuals and not groups that finance political parties. Second, from a practical standpoint, in an election campaign, how are we going to prevent a business from contributing more than $1,000 when there are 301 ridings?
Let us presume that I agree with this, and receive a $800 cheque in my riding, and the member opposite receives an identical contribution from the Royal Bank. The same could happen to the member for Lac-Saint-Louis. One company could contribute to all of the parties. In my opinion, this is unenforceable.
I think that if we were to make an improvement, this would be the main one.
Canada Elections Act February 12th, 2003
As my colleague from Jonquière says, better late than never.
However, in the current context where the Prime Minister is leaving, there is a leadership race in his own party and he is being observed and criticized from all sides, I think he did not dare make a certain move.
He made one by indicating that the bill would come into effect on January 1, 2004, which is after the Liberal party leadership race. I think the Prime Minister was forced to do this. He did not dare do more, perhaps for fear of seeming mean-spirited towards a certain candidate in the Liberal leadership race, the person who may be his successor.
I would like to do him a favour and tell my colleagues in all the parties that we should acknowledge that the Prime Minister, albeit a little late, had a good idea, that he introduced a good bill and that we agree with it.
However, he did not dare go that far. We all know the legislative process: the bill is sent to committee before receiving royal assent and so forth. Normally we could expect all this to be concluded at the end of June or during the summer. This bill could come into effect as early as this fall, but the Prime Minister did not have the courage for that.
I think that if it comes from another party such as the Bloc Quebecois—I have not had the time to consult my hon. colleagues on this matter; there are some around me—it might be a good idea to give some thought in committee, at the report stage or at third reading, to having the bill take effect when it receives royal assent, as with all other bills.
I think that this would be generally acceptable. There should not be a feeling that this is not in his party's interests. I think that, at the end of his political career, the Prime Minister had wanted to make a nice gesture. I would like to help him out by saying that it will not come from him but from someone else, an opposition member, seconded by the member for Lac-Saint-Louis.
I was listening earlier, and I must say that he made a very good speech today. It is obvious that he is a man of democratic principles. He was a member of the National Assembly of Quebec and saw the good side of this legislation, which, even if the Parti Quebecois was defeated, was retained by Premier Robert Bourassa during two mandates and is still in effect today.
To my knowledge, no political party in Quebec wants to change this, since the results have proven positive.
Let us go over these results. The Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec reported some interesting data. All in all, in 2001, the recognized political entities at the provincial level in Quebec received 58,082 contributions; 82% of them, that is 47,806 contributions, were of $200 or less. So, we are talking about small contributions.
The average amount of the contributions was $171. On average, the contributions of $200 or less were of $67; 8.6% of the contributions were over $400; 1.2% of the contributions were between $2,000 and $3,000. Therefore, I think that a $5,000 limit is quite reasonable.
What is great about legislation on political party financing is that it is based on transparency. The second goal is that members of the House of Commons, whatever their political stripes, will feel more independent—and I did not say indépendantistes—and will not be subjected to pressure coming from right and left. When 1,000 individuals contribute $5 each, you know that it is not the same as if one individual made a contribution over $5,000, for which he will expect meetings and favours. I think that members of this House would breathe easier and be able to work more freely.
We do not do it often, but I think we should give credit to the Prime Minister for bringing forward such a bill at the end of his political career.