- On the Parliament site
Last in Parliament March 2003, as Independent MP for Témiscamingue (Québec)
Won his last election, in 2000, with 50.15% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Agriculture December 6th, 2002
Mr. Speaker, the farmers of Quebec fear that they will be hard hit by the federal government's unfair policies, and by one more fight started by Ottawa because of its inflexibility.
When is the minister going to understand that the agricultural reality of Quebec requires tailor-made policies and that these policies must be administered within Quebec using tools developed by the farmers of Quebec that reflect their reality and their needs?
Agriculture December 6th, 2002
Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Agriculture attended the Union des producteurs agricoles conference, he got a pretty chilly reception for his presentation of the main funding thrusts for the new federal agricultural policy. This confirms farmers' fears, because the minister plans to have Ottawa make the decisions regarding Quebec's agricultural development.
Does the minister understand that he would do far better if he demonstrated some real flexibility and transferred the federal funds to the Financière agricole?
Supply December 5th, 2002
Mr. Speaker, members of the Bloc Quebecois will be voting against these motions.
Supply December 5th, 2002
Mr. Speaker, members of the Bloc Quebecois will be voting in favour of the motion.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act December 3rd, 2002
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address the motion of the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, asking for a federal electoral constituency for northern Quebec.
The hon. member described in some detail what those who live on this territory go through. Theirs is a rather special way of life that is difficult for us to imagine, because we do not live on this huge territory. The conditions there are rather unusual, and the way of life is very different from the one we know.
I am well aware of this whole situation. However, we must take into consideration what the creation of an electoral constituency for northern Quebec implies. When I say northern, I mean far north. This region is north of the Abitibi, even further north of the Abitibi than the Abitibi is from Montreal. This is a very remote region and there is a domino effect.
The establishment of constituencies is a process based on vested rights and the Constitution. There is a mathematical formula and, currently, it provides that there must be 75 ridings in Quebec. Generally speaking, there is a principle to the effect that ridings must have a similar number of voters, give or take 25%. However, it is possible to make exceptions for certain territories.
In the case of Quebec, it seems rather obvious to me that the whole region located further north, from east to west, is a special case, just like a region such as the Magdalen Islands, where they also have a very distinctive population that is concentrated on a territory with its own specific realities. I am not saying that other regions do not have specific realities. We all have some in our various ridings.
Making an exception for this region would create a domino effect; there are 74 ridings left in the rest of Quebec. This raises questions, such as how to strike a balance.
For the Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik region, there are currently two ridings. I represent part of the Abitibi and the whole Témiscamingue region, while the hon. member opposite represents another part of the Abitibi and northern Quebec. Would this mean that we would have one riding for Abitibi—Témiscamingue and another one for northern Quebec? That is a possibility.
Otherwise, this creates a domino effect that would, and this is something I do not wish for, create rather arbitrary electoral boundaries, such as merging the Témiscamingue with the Outaouais. I would have a problem with that.
This may result in us having the Abitibi—Témiscamingue in one riding and northern Quebec in another, given the current number of ridings. Perhaps the debate must begin with a prior discussion on the number of ridings allocated to Quebec. This is a possibility that must not be ignored either, if we want to consider a number of characteristics.
Let us see the average number of constituents in Quebec. It is obvious that there are provinces where the number of constituents is higher; I am thinking of Ontario, for instance. But there are provinces where the average number of constituents is much lower than ours, such as Prince Edward Island, where the population is approximately the same as the RCM of Témiscamingue alone, which represents 20 to 25% of my riding.
I think that we have to be open-minded about such a proposal, while being aware of the domino effect. Within the current parameters, it would imply many changes elsewhere. Commissions were created to establish the new electoral map and are holding consultations; they will be in the Abitibi—Témiscamingue soon.
Unfortunately, I do not think that these commissions will go further north. I do not know if the member mentioned this in his speech, but I know that he talked about it to the chief electoral officer personally and even publicly, in committee. This has given rise to some questions in the rest of the Abitibi—Témiscamingue, that is whether we will have only one member of Parliament instead of two with such a proposal.
Personally, at first glance, I have nothing against it, but it deserves to be looked at more thoroughly, and I am convinced that he will present his arguments to the commission. However, I cannot help but criticize him a bit.
As we are debating this motion, he is publicly proposing to create four ridings in the area; I am now told it is three ridings. I do not know how we will bring all this together later on. We now are in the last straightaway and we will not be able to change position very often. The region will have to reach a consensus before the commission; failing that, the commission will impose its own. If there is no consensus, the commission will impose a new map. So there is a challenge to be met here.
I agree with the idea that the commissionaires may make exceptions for certain areas instead of them having to justify their exceptional character every time.
In Quebec, where are these areas? I am not sufficiently aware of the reality in other places in Canada to be able to engage in an exercise. However in Quebec, at first glance, the area that comes to mind is Bas-Saint-Laurent—Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine where there is a particular dynamic; it is a riding which deserves to be categorized as exceptional. The same goes for northern Quebec, and we should look into this.
Maybe we should build on this exercise, namely take two or three places that need to develop their specific characteristics and then we could work at creating ridings with the best possible average, taking into account regional realities, areas bounded by a traditional sense of community, areas defined by the boundaries of MRCs.
True enough, exercises are never perfect and we must take into account our political system since, for citizens to be equal, their votes must be more or less equivalent. So there should not be too many exceptions, but in some areas it is necessary.
Where more internal debate is needed, when there are territorial realities such as may be seen in large ridings, is when what is involved is the means at our disposal to do our jobs as MPs. For the voters, this is what counts, the services he or she gets from the MP's office in real life. And those services are many, in our area.
For those who may not know this, in the real world, passport services are provided through the MPs' constituency offices, in regions such as ours. In the peak periods from now through January, there is one person in each office who deals almost full time with passport applications and issuing passports.
Someone may point out that immigration business is done in Montreal. That may be true, but a lot of services are provided by the constituency office when there is no departmental office in the region. We are therefore the federal presence to many citizens.
For us, then, this is a more administrative, internal debate on the means available to us for doing our job. I remain convinced that the way budgets are distributed at this time does not reflect that reality properly.
In my case, for example, I should have had three constituency offices to start with. This was a campaign promise, but unfortunately I came face to face with reality once I got to Ottawa. I was unable to keep them operating that way, which caused a problem. I did, of course, manage to reach agreement with the municipalities to have their cooperation in providing services, but this is not sufficient to provide proper service.
At the same time, if funding cannot be allocated as we would like, we must at least have the means to do our jobs properly. There is no perfect indicator for that, but I am convinced that there is not such a great gap between MPs' current operating budgets, at any rate not as wide a gap as there is between citizens' expectations of us and what we can actually provide.
These are the aspects that I wanted to raise at this stage of the debate. It is not really in this House that this matter will be pursued, but rather before the electoral commission. That is where the decision will be made. Members of this commission will make their recommendations, which will then be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Ultimately, the commissioners will determine what the new electoral map will look like.
When the commission comes to my area, I will certainly appear before it. I will also raise the matter that is before us today. I will also have the opportunity to appear on behalf of my party by submitting a national brief to the commission in which I will talk about the special ridings that could be created throughout Quebec.
That is where we are at now. I hope that this new map will be drawn in a way that reflects everyone's needs and everyone's reality. We must show some openness with regard to those people whose living conditions are very unique. I think that we have heard about that earlier. Northern Quebec deserves special attention, as do certain other regions to which I referred.
Health December 2nd, 2002
Mr. Speaker, while the secretary of state is thinking, there are people waiting.
Jennie Skene, the president of the Fédération des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec said last week that immediate efforts are needed for the sick, that Ottawa should provide available funding for health without any strings attached.
Is the federal government planning to keep on ignoring calls by Quebec's physicians and nurses, which echo the resolution passed by Quebec's National Assembly?
Health December 2nd, 2002
Mr. Speaker, the Quebec Medical Association, through its vice president, André Senikas, has said very plainly that it is concerned about the federal government's follow-up to the Romanow report, and is worried that as long as the squabbles and frustrations continue, the backlog and accessibility problems will increase.
Would it not be advisable for the federal government, in the best interests of the sick and out of respect for the Quebec Medical Association, to announce right away that it will drop the conditions that it was going to attach to new funding for health? This is the voice of reason speaking.
Health November 29th, 2002
Mr. Speaker, in Quebec the Romanow report has already rallied universal opposition. All stakeholders, whether in politics, the labour movement or the health care field, are worried on behalf of patients that the federal reinvestment has strings attached. The Prime Minister's statements confirm their fears.
Will the Minister of Health admit that imposing conditions, to which everyone in Quebec objects, also means a delay in federal reinvestment in health, whereas patients could benefit immediately, if there were no strings attached?
Health November 29th, 2002
Mr. Speaker, after severely weakening the health care system by slashing funding, the Prime Minister is now saying that the federal government will be forced to impose conditions upon Quebec and the provinces for any reinvestments in health.
Does the Minister of Health, she who so loudly praises the virtues of cooperation, realize that the best way for Ottawa to avoid squabbles is to inject massive amounts into health, with no strings attached, as physicians, nurses, CLSCs, unions and all of Quebec's political parties are demanding in the best interests of patients?