Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Longueuil (Québec)
Lost his last election, in 2000, with 7.05% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Criminal Code April 8th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I vote yea.
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
Criminal Code April 8th, 1997
I vote yea, Mr. Speaker.
(The House divided on the Motion No. 1, which was negatived on division:)
Privilege March 17th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I want to inform you that I have decided to resign from the caucus of the Bloc Quebecois and to sit from now on as an independent sovereignist member.
I entered politics in 1984 to promote decentralization, personal responsibility, sound public finances and national reconciliation. I was re-elected in 1988 for the same reasons and to finalize the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Meech Lake accord.
I resigned from the Progressive Conservative Party on June 26, 1990, when English Canada refused to ratify the Meech Lake accord. On the 29th of the same month, I invited other former Conservative members to my office in Longueuil to discuss our future and our contribution to sovereignty plan for Quebec.
At that meeting, we chose Lucien Bouchard as the leader of our parliamentary group. In the fall, we set up our caucus so as to be more effective in the House. On September 20, I was given the position of president of the caucus and became the group's main organizer.
When it was decided to establish the Bloc Quebecois party in early February 1991, I agreed to be interim director general and to be responsible for the party's organizing activities in the Montérégie.
In Tracy on June 15, 1991, the Bloc Quebecois became a party, and I had the honour of being the signatory vice-president. Subsequently, I was on the winning team in the 1993 election. Our party's platform was twofold: to defend the interests of Quebec and to promote sovereignty until a majority voted in favour of this concept in a referendum.
Unfortunately, after the 1993 election, decision making within the Bloc Quebecois became rigid and authoritarian. Opportunities to promote my own ideals and those of the business community, especially those of Quebec's small businesses, which is my background, were steadily dwindling.
During the recent leadership campaign, the hon. member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie, who was a candidate, confirmed that he would maintain the same rigid policies. As we all know, the hon. member was elected leader and will continue to promote his political vision, which is diametrically opposed to my own.
But that is not all. In fact, some fairly reliable rumours lead me to believe that the hon. member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie headed the group of members which brought about the departure of the former leader, the hon. member for Roberval. We have never had a satisfactory explanation of this situation.
For all of these reasons, you will understand that I can neither come to terms with nor support the leadership of the hon. member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie. After spending so much time and energy on the party and our cause, I sincerely regret that I must resign from the caucus of the Bloc Quebecois.
Several colleagues and party members very sincerely insisted that I should let bygones be bygones and continue to sit with the Bloc Quebecois, even if this meant staying home, so as to avoid tarnishing the image of the party and our cause just before a major election.
Keep silent, me? Me, a member of Parliament from Quebec for nearly 13 years, and in a party I founded? Certainly not. Never.
Others accused me more openly of putting my own insignificant self before the cause. I say to them: does the greatness or insignificance of an individual depend on the person's ability to be a sacrificial lamb or on moral and ethical integrity?
Can they not understand that the rules of morality and ethics are not so many obstacles that we can circumvent at will?
I cannot remain in the caucus of the Bloc Quebecois. This would only lead to tension and conflict that would be just as bad.
My constituents in Longueuil, who have known and supported me since 1984, know that to me, honesty and frankness are sacred.
I am sure they will realize, although they may not like it, that this decision was inevitable and is in the best interests of all concerned.
I would like to say to my colleagues who honoured me with their trust and friendship that I appreciate their co-operation and wish to express my sincere thanks.
As for the future, I will continue to work where I feel I will be most useful to defend the interests of Quebec.
The Budget February 19th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote remarks by Alain Dubuc, a journalist and economist, in La Presse . He said he was a federalist in the last referendum.
Just to give his remarks a little credibility, because there are people in the government and in my party who say that we behave this way because we are separatists, he himself said that the federal government has cut $6.8 billion, including $2.5 billion this year, in funding to the provinces over the past three years.
That means that the provinces have to face this cut and continue to pay the same percentage of taxes. If the government is cutting money to the provinces, it should also cut the taxes and revenues it takes out of the provinces. The provinces are getting it both coming and going. And, in return, they get what Alain Dubuc of La Presse describes as the big box of Smarties. In other words, they sprinkle little treats here and there just so they can say they are doing something for health, for poor children, and so forth.
I would ask my colleague to comment on this example. According to Alain Dubuc, and it is easy to calculate: In the case of poor children, the federal government and the Minister of Finance say they are helping poor children, but the figure works out to be $28 a year per child. That is, 53 cents a week per child. It hardly pays for a litre of milk per child.
So you can see how ridiculous it is to gloat that, as $2 billion is being taken away from Quebec, poor children are being given 53 cents a week. My colleague made an excellent speech. I would like his comments, because I find this way of going about things totally ridiculous.
The Budget February 19th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I would like the hon. member to comment on the request made by the Government of Quebec to receive the same compensation as the maritimes for harmonizing the GST with the provincial sales tax. We all know that the maritimes received a gift of approximately $1 billion in compensation from the federal government.
Since the share of federal expenditures borne by the Government and the people of Quebec amounts to about 27 per cent, this means that Quebec is giving approximately $300 million to the maritimes, which I feel is totally unfair. To claim that the federal government did not reward them is inaccurate. Because in some of the maritime provinces the provincial sales tax was relatively high-9, 10, 11 or 12 per cent-the federal government said: "Set the harmonized sales tax at approximately 15 per cent and we will make up the difference". If that is not a gift, what is?
It was said also that the maritimes did not have the funds required to make up the difference, while all they had to do was increase other sources of revenue, income tax for instance.
I would like the hon. government member to tell me if, in her opinion, it is fair and equitable to have the Government of Quebec pay, through the federal government, $300,000 per year as a gift to the maritimes, when New Brunswick Premier McKenna is setting up an office in Montreal and using money Quebecers paid to Ottawa, which Ottawa in turn gave to the maritimes, to lure Quebec businesses to his province.
That is right, with our own money, Quebec's money, the Government of New Brunswick is stealing our businesses away. Does that seem fair and equitable to her?
Petitions February 19th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I also have a second petition. This one too is from a group of people on Montreal's south shore asking Parliament to exert pressure on the federal government so that it will work with provincial governments in order to improve the national highway system.
Petitions February 19th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition from a group of people on Montreal's south shore asking the government not to increase the federal excise tax on gasoline.
Industry February 12th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the Bloc Quebecois' dissenting opinion on the interim report by the Standing Committee on Industry.
We have a few recommendations which I would like to briefly explain. I have always promoted research and development, but I must advise the government to be careful about its marketing of R and D. When it speaks of a future coast-to-coast strategy, I must also warn the government that this policy has not worked in favour of Quebec on the tokamak project. We find the coast-to-coast aspect extremely alarming.
Some of our other recommendations have to do with the fact that Canada has made more cuts to research funding than any other G-7 country. We also know that Quebec obtains only 19 per cent of federal funding for R and D.
We must therefore point out to the government that there are few recommendations regarding the report it is submitting to the Minister of Finance.
Excise Tax February 5th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-70 this afternoon. I am all the more pleased, and I am not doing this out of spite, to say a word about the experience I had when the federal tax was changed.
When the federal tax was changed, we had an all-out war from the Liberal Party, which was then in opposition. Liberal members were adamantly opposed to the tax they were calling the new federal tax, although this was completely untrue. It was not a new tax, it was a tax reform.
We must remember that there was a federal tax before. Having been in business for 20 years, I know how much federal tax I used to pay during those years. We were paying a 13 per cent tax on goods. The manufacturer billed the retailer for the tax. It was a hidden tax for the consumer. The consumer did not see this tax.
The Liberals, then in opposition, started saying that this new tax should not be hidden. They tried to convince people that the Conservatives, at the time, were creating a new tax. They made such fiery and intelligent speeches-I think what they did was smart, but dishonest-they managed to convince people that the Conservatives were creating a new tax, while the 13 per cent manufacturing tax went down to 7 per cent at the retailing level.
The end result was about the same. In 1989, for example, total federal tax revenues were about $18 or $19 billion, while the reformed tax, which we now call the GST, brings in about the same amount. The difference is that, at the time, the Liberals were still saying that this was a totally dishonest tax because it applied to books, food and drugs. They made a big fuss, saying it was an immoral tax, an absurd, unacceptable, outrageous tax.
In my opinion, the bill before the House is even more outrageous. We had time to think things over. We heard witnesses, made speeches, informed the people, evaluated all the possible effects of these amendments. We realize, in Quebec particularly, that this tax will, in fact, affect the development of Quebec culture, of Quebec's very sizeable book market.
Quebec is a French speaking country. We have many writers, authors, and creators, whose books are read by a great number of French speaking Quebecers. That is why we, in Quebec, feel that our rights and privileges are being denied.
In Quebec, our approach has always been to use the tax to promote made in Quebec products. Once again, we must observe federal standards. The federal government is dictating which products are to be taxed. Cultural products will be taxed, and this will affect the development of our economy, of our writers and authors. This goes directly and totally against Quebec's wishes.
In Quebec, when we say we want to be our own masters, to decide our own fate, it is because we believe that we will do better if we are allowed to solve our own problems and to promote what we feel is right, if we want to grow, to create jobs, to increase our intellectual and economic potential, and if we can better share our resources. In Quebec, we want to build a better future.
Once again, today, we realize that the federal government just decided unilaterally to tax books, a move that will hurt our creators, our writers, our authors. As we know, there is a tremendous potential in that area in Quebec. A large majority of books are written in our province. A lot of research goes into that.
Whether it is in the areas of new technologies, education or health, Quebecers read mostly books in French that are often written by French speaking authors from Quebec. Our experts will be hurt, and that will thwart the development of Quebec. That is why we oppose this legislation and this change that will be prejudicial to the development of our book industry.
We realize also that we are hurt by the fact that the government gave compensation to the maritimes to get them to agree to harmonize the provincial and the federal sales taxes. Elections are drawing near. Elections were held just recently in Prince Edward Island, and the Liberals were defeated. The current trend does not seem to be favourable to the Liberals. They do not enjoy great popularity. However, this is a great gift the government has given the maritimes. Some say it is as much as $1 billion.
Quebecers will have to pay between 25 and 30 per cent of that billion dollars. That could represent a cost of some $300 million a year Quebecers would have to pay because they have to pay their share of the bill. That is a tremendous amount.
That is why the finance minister requested a few months ago a $1.9 billion compensation for previous years, as well as all the costs incurred by the federal government to generously compensate the maritime provinces who agreed to harmonize.
And not only do we have to pay the bill for harmonization with the maritime provinces, but Mr. McKenna, the New Brunswick premier, is using that money to set up shop in Montreal in order to lure Quebec companies into his own province. He is using the money we gave the federal government to lure our companies away. This is not fair-play.
This is one more proof that Quebec has been striving for years to get more autonomy, but will never get anywhere if it does not have full sovereignty. Quebecers will never be able to develop normally if they do not collect all their tax revenues, pass their own laws and sign their own treaties.
Quebec has great intellectual resources as well as tremendous natural resources. It has more markets than it needs. The only missing thing is that we have not yet taken full responsibility for our economic and social endeavours. The reason we sit here is to protect our interests before we reach full sovereignty. When we cross that threshold, Quebecers will prosper and Quebec will be one of the wealthiest countries in North America.
Excise Tax Act December 5th, 1996
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on this GST bill, especially since I was a member of the ruling party at the time of the federal tax reform. I can clearly remember the whole process, and it is really funny today to see how the Liberals are going about it.
Let us not forget that, in 1988-89, we had a federal tax that, from a consumer's point of view, was a hidden tax. It was known as the manufacturers sales tax and it was charged by manufacturers to retailers. When manufacturers shipped their products to retailers, 13 per cent of the products' sale price went to the government to cover the federal tax.
At the time, there were reportedly some 22,000 exemptions. Many products were neither taxed not taxable. It had been decided that food, drugs and educational material and health products should not be taxed. Many products became tax exempt; there were reportedly 22,000 exemptions.
A large number of manufacturers also argued before the courts that the federal tax should not apply to their products. They felt it was unfair for their products to be taxed when an equivalent product was not. Every manufacturer claimed that his product was similar to a product that was not taxed.
This prompted the federal government, a member of which I was at the time, to reform the federal sales tax, not to create a new tax in addition to the old one, but to reform the old tax, because it was no longer manageable. There were so many court cases, it was just a nightmare. That tax was really not manageable any more.
The federal tax has been in existence for a long time. It used to be a tax on products only, which the manufacturer himself would charge to retailers and then pay to the federal government. Because it was no longer manageable, the federal government, of which I was a member, decided to reform that tax, which generated about $18 billion in revenues.
Today, it is said to bring in about the same amount, perhaps a little more. So, the idea was not to increase federal revenues, but to reform the tax to make it easier to manage and fairer to everyone.
The federal tax was also difficult to administer in the case of exports. Now that it is directly charged to consumers, it is easier to manage in the case of exports, since these products are shipped before the tax applies. Indeed, most export products are not taxed, which promotes exports and creates jobs at home. This was quite a reform, as you will remember.
However, the official opposition of the time led Canadians to believe that it was a new tax, and that the government wanted to tax them more. I remember that this issue generated heated debates in the House. The Liberals convinced Canadians that it was a new tax when in fact it was a tax reform. But they did convince people that it was indeed a new tax.
They worked very hard. The issue was debated for months. They kept us in the ropes until Mr. Wilson, who was finance minister at the time, finally agreed to make several exceptions.
Some products are exempt from the federal tax. Today, we are still stuck with a tax that does not apply to many exceptions. For example, if you buy an item at a convenience store you pay tax on it; however if you buy a six-pack of yogurt, it is tax free. Similarly, if you buy a cupcake you pay tax on it, but if you buy the same cupcake in a box of 12, there is no tax.
All this is to say that, when the Liberals formed the official opposition, all they succeeded in doing was to further complicate this federal tax, when all we had wanted to do was simplify it.
I sat on the committee responsible for the GST and I was in agreement up until the last minute. I remember very clearly that we met with the Minister of Finance almost every two weeks to discuss the issue and hear how things were progressing. I always supported it, because there was a GST refund for those earning less than $30,000. There was a refund for the neediest, the most disadvantaged, to offset the effects of this tax on goods and services. I always felt, and I still feel, that everything should have been taxed, without exception. All goods and services should have been taxed, whether they came under health, education or whatever, because we had simultaneously introduced a means of compensating poorer Canadians through a GST refund.
You know that thousands of people receive GST refund cheques. So there was a system in place to compensate the poorest members of society. Why then was there a need for exemptions in this case? No, exemptions were not necessary, everything should have been taxed, without exception, because we had seen that the preceding federal tax with its 22,000 exemptions was no longer manageable. In the not too distant future, in a few years probably, we are going to find ourselves facing the same problems as those we had with the other tax.
The difference is that the previous federal tax was 13 per cent on goods, and now we have a federal tax of 7 per cent, or 6.5 per cent, on goods and services, that is services received and goods sold. Before, it was just on goods. It was 13 per cent on goods, now it is 6.5 per cent, but on both goods and services. You can see, then, it comes out just about the same.
During the elections, we saw the Liberals attacking the Conservatives in a deceitful way, if you will, cheating a bit with the whole thing. They had already been very successful as the official opposition in convincing people that the Conservatives had created a new tax. It was, however, not a new tax, but a tax reform, which was completely legitimate and fair. However, when you are in politics and want to get into power, you can say just about anything; you lie to the public. I have always thought, since I started in politics, that the winners in an election campaign are the ones who are the biggest liars. Afterwards, they do exactly what they feel like, and this is obvious to everyone.
I will give you a couple of examples of this. The Prime Minister said "I will scrap this GST", I will do away with the federal tax. This would have been no mean feat. In 1993, during the campaign, the Prime Minister said "I will do away with the federal tax". He tried to convince people once again that this was a new tax, not a reform of the tax created by the Conservatives, no, but a new tax in the mind of the Prime Minister, who said "I will scrap it". And did he? No, on the contrary, he is maintaining it and intends to dump others on us as well.
"We hate this tax. We will get rid of it". Those are the Prime Minister's words. The Deputy Prime Minister said: "I will resign if the tax is not eliminated", and she did.
All of this to tell you that it is somewhat sad for democracy when all manner of things are said during a campaign, and then exactly the opposite is done afterwards.