Last in Parliament May 2004, as Bloc MP for Trois-Rivières (Québec)
Won his last election, in 2000, with 46.67% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Member for Trois-Rivières May 13th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I want to take advantage of my last intervention in this House to thank the people of Trois-Rivières for their trust in me and to share my feelings ranging from disappointment to confidence.
I am disappointed that after more than 40 years of activism, we still have not reached our goal; Quebec is still just a province within Canada. The Quebec nation is not recognized by Canada nor by the international community. Only in song is Quebec a country.
I am worried about the future of the Quebec people, whose survival is seriously threatened if it does not react quickly and decide to take full control of its destiny.
I am proud of my track record as the member for Trois-Rivières in terms of my initiatives and the role I played in many issues.
I am confident that a solid majority of Quebeckers will soon realize that the only decent and honourable option for them is sovereignty.
Vive le Quebec, vive le Quebec souverain.
Supply May 13th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, with your permission and knowing how courteous you are, I would like to make a statement before putting my question to my colleague from Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans.
Since this is my last day in this House, I would like to pay tribute to everyone in my staff who has worked with me over the years since 1993: Lise Goulet, Lyne Valade, Lucien-Pierre Bouchard, Pascal Harvey and Jérôme Bouchard, who is currently working in my Ottawa office. Also, and in a very special way, I would like to pay tribute to Claire Lapierre and Pierre Duhamel, both of whom have with me since the beginning, in my riding of Trois-Rivières. I wish to thank them one and all for their dedication and loyalty and for working so well with me since 1993.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for your courtesy.
I would like to ask a question of my hon. colleague. In the debate on the sponsorship scandal and the work of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, I was surprised to learn that this business had been going on since 1993-94, before the referendum. We learned—and my hon. colleague alluded to it—that the federal government used every available billboard, at a cost of $8 million. Then, in 1995, a referendum year, it invested approximately $40 million.
This, in spite of the Quebec referendum act, which allowed $2 million or $4 million in expenses on each side—the yes side, and the no side—for a total of $4 million or $8 million, I do not remember which it was. The point is that there were very democratic guidelines in place to ensure a balanced playing field.
I would like my hon. colleague to comment on the fact that the government barged in, in spite of Quebec's legislation, while our approach was very democratic. Where does this Canadian democracy get off behaving like a banana republic? It is acting like the third world countries we talk about on the subject good governance.
Supply May 11th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I will begin by congratulating my colleague for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve for again demonstrating his expert knowledge of this matter.
I would, however, like to ask him whether perhaps there are not two ways of looking at things. My colleague for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve is right to criticize the federal government for its attitude over the years and its cavalier, authoritarian and irresponsible attitude. As hon. members are aware, there have been attempts ever since 1867 to gain more and more control, particularly over health, which is such a crucial aspect of our collective lives.
Are there not, however, grounds for seeing the situation as even more threatening? The federal government can be faulted for its cavalier and disdainful attitude, except when it has a post-referendum game plan to ensure that things will be done here in Ottawa, where all national standards and objectives will be determined for the provinces to adhere to or be penalized. This can be seen from a negative angle, as my colleague has done, but it can also be seen from a positive angle, which is even more dangerous.
I would like to have my colleague's impressions on this. Where are we headed, Quebec in particular? It is no doubt a good thing for Canada that all decisions are made here, once and for all. But what happens to the Quebec difference then? What happens to the Quebec genius in health, as in other sectors, when the huge federal steamroller comes along? What is happening in health is also happening in education, culture, and with the municipalities. Where will it end? What would become of Quebec if it were to remain within Canada?
Patent Act April 29th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I too want to commend my colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve for his very good speech. He knows what he is talking about and is very sensitive to the problems facing developing countries.
Does he not think that this is a great example of what can be accomplished where there is political will to tackle a problem and try to solve it within our means, that is the means of Canada?
Also, yesterday, at the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, I had the privilege to meet a senior representative of the World Health Organization who reminded us that 6 million people die every year of HIV-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, that is 6 million deaths. There are currently no war or genocide causing as many deaths. It is almost a structural issue.
Although we may want to congratulate the Government of Canada for his actions, on a more structural level, given that the UN had recommended that international assistance reach 0.7% of GDP and that it does not even stand at half of that in Canada, far from it actually, should we not decry the government's lack of political will to uphold its international responsibilities, since we know what our country can do, as shown by this bill?
The Budget March 30th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague from Beauce what he thinks of our political mores and the integrity of our institutions with respect to the situation today and that which prevailed in 1993, at the time the Liberals took power.
In fact, we know that, as a result of the sponsorship scandal, the government is trying to change its image and give itself a makeover. As for integrity, the government has announced certain measures in the latest budget speech in order to establish the Office of the Comptroller General of Canada, for example. It will appoint professionally accredited comptrollers to sign off on all new spending initiatives in every government department. Moreover, it will try to reorganize and strengthen the internal audit function on a government-wide basis.
Nevertheless, it is interesting to see what was said in the red book of 1993, which, it appears, has been tossed out the window by the supposedly new leadership of the Liberal Party and the government. In the introduction to the chapter entitled, “Governing with Integrity”, it says, and I quote:
Yet after nine years of Conservative rule, cynicism about public institutions... is at an all-time high.
They are referring to the voters, the Canadian public, the people of Quebec.
—cynicism about public institutions, governments, politicians and the political process, is at an all-time high. If government is to play a positive role in society, as it must, honesty and integrity in our political institutions must be restored.
The most important asset of government is the confidence it enjoys of the citizens to whom it is accountable. There is evidence today of considerable dissatisfaction with government and a steady erosion of confidence in the people and institutions of the public sector.
That is how we see it. This was written by the Liberals in 1993. Later, speaking about order-in-council appointments, the Liberals add:
The Conservatives made a practice of choosing political friends when making thousand of appointments to commissions and agencies—
Here, I think that the government took its inspiration from that nasty habit of Canadian culture when it named—for example—André Ouellet to Canada Post, David Dingwall to the Royal Mint, Jean Pelletier to VIA Rail, as Paul Tellier's successor.
Therefore, I would like to hear from my colleague, the hon. member for Beauce, what he thinks of the real changes that may have happened between the Conservatives' fiasco—which was about integrity—and the public fiascos we have just been through, to the point where it has become an international embarrassment to see this government acting like the government of a banana republic, as I am sure he will agree with me.
Therefore, I would like to know what my worthy colleague from Beauce thinks of all this.
The Budget March 25th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to my eminent colleague from the NDP. He made many references to the first nations, the aboriginal nations, but he never mentioned the existence of the nation of Quebec, no more than the budget speech did.
We see that the budget speech undoubtedly takes its inspiration from the social union framework of 1999, by which the government gave itself permission to deal more directly with citizens and corporations, bypassing the provinces.
Does my hon. colleague agree with the fact that the government, probably with the goal of constructing an increasingly unitary and increasingly centralized country, is making direct interventions with regard to students, the handicapped, early childhood, and wants to deal more and more with municipalities, or set up a national securities commission, to which Quebec is opposed, because Quebec is a nation? What does he think will be the fate of the nation of Quebec in this big, beautiful Canada, if, in his opinion, the Quebec nation does exist?
The Budget March 25th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, for his proverbial fiery style.
Throne speech after throne speech and budget speech after budget speech, I detect a story line, a backdrop, theme developing within this government, this national Canadian State, which closely resembles the 1999 social unions framework agreement, whereby the Canadian State increasingly ignores the provinces, dealing directly with organizations and individuals instead.
In this case, the last budget talks about early childhood, students, people with disabilities and municipalities, as well as the creation of a national securities regulatory structure.
I would like to ask my colleague if, like me, he feels that the provinces, including Quebec, are now caught in a sort of funnel where, given Quebec's distinctiveness and its desire to form a nation, which was unanimously recognized by the National Assembly of Quebec, but trampled and scorned here a few months ago, Quebec will lose itself, unless the people of Quebec reflect on their future very soon.
Customs Tariff March 23rd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to point out to my colleague that I never mentioned the Government of Quebec as such. On the contrary, I spoken about the federal government, provincial governments, the municipal level and crown corporations in general, who should pay particular attention to Canadian and Quebec products.
One example I could give is from the apparel sector where, it seems, Canada's Department of National Defence has a buy-Canadian policy, but the Department of Immigration shows no awareness or sensitivity in this regard.
It is not fashionable to be a protectionist. We must open our borders, but we must not be naive, all the same. We must also look at what our western competitors are doing. We must ask ourselves if all our western competitors are playing by the rules. If we are the only ones, we must not be naive, nor should we be overly optimistic as it seems the former Minister of International Trade was.
We must be vigilant and make certain that the public interest of Quebec and Canada is respected, without having people laugh at us, as we enter fully into the new globalization and free trade game.
Customs Tariff March 23rd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to take part in this debate which, as you know, deals with an important and complex issue.
For the benefit of the Chair and of those who are listening to us, I will mention the fundamentals of this legislation. This bill extends to June 30, 2014 those sections of the Customs Tariff that allow Canada to provide a preferential tariff for imports from WTO member states and from the least developed countries.
The fact that we are talking about the WTO, the World Trade Organization, about less developed countries and about foreign trade shows that globalization is increasingly present, whether it is through the trading and exchange of goods, contacts between parliamentarians, or global communications.
This situation impacts on the role of a sovereign government such as the Canadian government with regard to two of its main responsibilities. The first of these responsibilities is the fight against poverty that should take place on this planet, in this world, but is not conducted properly. We know that the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing, possibly because of this globalization. So, the fight against poverty must be a concern for this government.
There is a second responsibility and it is economic development, the development of prosperity, raising the quality of life, improving the well-being of the population, and thus encouraging a better distribution of wealth within Canada itself.
In a context like this, with respect to a bill, we can see that sometimes these two responsibilities can clash. They are not necessarily complementary, not at all.
On the one hand, we must be aware that the international war on poverty is a necessity. When we now speak not only about developing countries but also about the least developed countries, it means that we have become more subtle in our approach or analysis of the situation that exists on the international scene with regard to the balance between wealth and poverty, knowing that, as I said just now, unfortunately and for reasons that have nothing to do with the Holy Ghost, we are watching the widening of the gulf between the rich and the poor.
Thus, the situation is becoming more and more dramatic. When we talk about the least developed countries, we mean 49 countries, of which 34 are in Africa. I had the privilege and opportunity of travelling to Africa once again last month, at the invitation of the International Development Research Centre, which is an agency of CIDA, if I understand correctly. We went to Senegal for a meeting of African parliamentarians from a dozen countries. One of them—if memory serves, it was a colleague from Senegal—in his speech at the end of the deliberations reminded the assembly that, and I quote, “Africa is not poor; Africa has been impoverished”.
That being said, Africa having been impoverished—and I agree with the statement that Africa is not poor but has been impoverished—that is where Canada comes into this impoverishment and where it has an obvious moral responsibility to take the necessary steps to try to improve the situation.
The figures vary, but we know that, at the very least, there are millions of Africans whose average salary is $1 per hour, in our terms. That is one example that illustrates the unacceptable nature of the situation. This is the kind of poverty that has been growing in recent decades.
The reasons seem obvious when you are there. There are very few processing plants, yet there is an abundance of natural resources. In addition, the prices for products such as cocoa are set in Western capitals and fluctuate constantly. Accordingly, Africans end up entirely at the mercy of irresponsible decision-makers.
These people report to no one. Furthermore, they are practically unknown. It is because of market forces that we have quickly ended up with the situation described to me, in which the cost of production exceeds the sale price of certain products on the market. The situation is becoming really terrible.
Globally, there is an increasing realization that Africa is going through a type of decline. In terms of international gross national product, Africa is trailing behind. This is absolutely unacceptable, especially when we know what natural resources are available in this wonderful and captivating continent.
I had the privilege of visiting Gorée Island in Dakar. We must not forget that the development of the Americas, especially North America, was due in large part—much to our shame—to the contribution of millions upon millions of Africans who were made slaves and transported here in unspeakable and revolting conditions. America must never forget the disgraceful past that was instrumental in its current development, development which continues to the detriment and on the backs of nearly all the other continents in the world, South America and Africa in particular.
The Canadian government's first responsibility is to implement measures to fight world poverty. Its second responsibility is to promote the economic development of Canada and its people. This is where there may be conflict between these two major responsibilities. The government must do this in the current context, according to international accords and trade agreements. In my opinion, it must do this by taking measures to try as much as possible to protect jobs and help workers adapt to such economic and socio-economic upheaval.
If nothing is done, if the market is left to its own devices, we run the enormous risk of seeing the globalization of poverty, as others have already written and described. We must fight against this phenomenon.
I want to talk about what is happening just in my region. I am the member for Trois-Rivières. I can name the companies that have closed their doors since the 1970s—I was testing my memory earlier—in greater Trois-Rivières for reasons that might be attributed to globalization or international trade, since this is not a new phenomenon.
I am thinking of Associated Textile in Louiseville or Wabasso in Trois-Rivières and Shawinigan. I am thinking of Rubin and Utex in Victoriaville. I am thinking of Le Culottier in Batiscan, which was a very important jeans manufacturer. I am thinking of Fruit of the Loom, which closed its doors and had employed 600 women in its textile mill in Trois-Rivières. These are only five or six companies. This amounts easily to 4,000 to 6,000 jobs lost for reasons related to international trade.
These are not empty words. These are very concrete things that affect the lives of our fellow citizens. We must be aware of just how delicate this situation is.
Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting the directors of a clothing company in my region that shall remain nameless. It has been operating for over 100 years. The directors are extremely anxious about the abolition of tariffs in January 2005, particularly with regard to competition from Bangladesh and China.
If no steps are taken, all scenarios will have to be looked at. They are likely, at worst, to resort to heavy lay-offs, if not actual plant closures. This would contribute to a still larger problem; in the garment industry alone there would be 97,000 Canadian jobs affected, 75,000 in Quebec. Hon. members will have grasped the significance these matters have for Quebec. For instance, that company in my region that will be threatened if the government does nothing. The government needs to be aware of the situation, more aware than it seems to be at present, and more aware than it has been, its former Minister of International Trade in particular.
What people are calling for is preferential treatment for manufacturers over importers. Manufacturers are the ones who create added value, who create jobs, and who process raw materials. It seems that textile and garment manufacturers and importers are being put on the same footing. These are very important concepts, and the manufacturers need to receive better treatment in future.
Then there is a second suggestion I have passed on to the new Minister of International Trade, which is that the government just use common sense, while avoiding protectionism. The federal government, like all provincial and municipal governments and government agencies throughout Canada, should encourage buying domestic products. Until some other solution were found, such as a slight percentage of protection—let us call a spade a spade here—it could at least ensure that Quebec or Canadian products were purchased by institutions paid for by the taxpayer.
As for the private sector, it can decide for itself. As far as the government sector is concerned, however, public interest dictates that public funds be used to buy domestic goods and services. This must at least apply to federal institutions and all government agencies.
There are therefore some steps that need to be taken on the domestic front, but it will also be necessary to restore certain programs that were in place before the terrible battle to attain zero deficit resulted in wholesale cuts in 1994. One particular cut was to POWA, the program for older worker adjustment, which was formerly WAT, the work adjustment training program. That, moreover, was only for textile and garment industry workers.
This program was changed to serve older workers in general. It seems that back then the government cared more about the plight of these workers and businesses. There was a program, known as the WAT, designed specifically for workers in the textile and clothing industry. With the liberalization of markets, such a program should be restored to protect the interests of Canadian workers. The government must assume its responsibilities, not only in the fight against poverty at the international level, but also as regards the preservation of social peace, the protection of workers and jobs, economic development and social harmony.
It must also promote, as it did at the time, adjustment measures for workers. The business to which I was referring, whose officials came to see me, finds it all the more frustrating because in recent years it has spent huge amounts of money on manpower training to adjust to the new market reality. It has also made huge investments in more modern equipment. With the changes that are coming all this is put in jeopardy, even though that company assumed its responsibilities while taking into account its corporate interests on the one hand and the interests of its workers on the other hand.
So, as I mentioned, the government must take some measures at the domestic level. It must also do something about international assistance. Canada must do more to achieve the UN objective of 0.7% of the gross domestic product for international development assistance.
We are currently at 2.7 of 1%, or one third of the objective set. Clearly, the Canadian government could make an effort, in conjunction with other countries, to ensure that international assistance is more significant and it could take measures to also ensure that this assistance does reach those who truly need it.
The government could be a better corporate citizen of the world by signing agreements and treaties on working and living conditions, including under the aegis of the International Labour Organization. Canada has not signed some very important treaties on child labour and women's work.
With this legislation, the government is giving access to products that were made by children working under abject conditions. There are treaties dealing with this situation. Some countries have adopted a code to which the Canadian government does not adhere. These are measures that it could take to improve the situation.
Therefore, we must go in this direction. We must be aware that when we talk of globalization, it is possible to see it in a positive light, but if this continues, if globalization is driven by private interests instead of the public interest of the world, we will be talking more and more about the globalization of poverty. It is happening and will happen more and more at the expense of social solidarity in even its most minimal form. That is a very bad sign for the generations to come.
Customs Tariff March 23rd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of the NDP member. I also listened with the same interest to the remarks made by the hon. member for Joliette. My colleague referred to the naivety and “jovialism” of the former federal international trade minister when dealing with the international community. For example, the minister did not demand higher tariffs for underdeveloped countries, as one would have hoped, and he also basically excluded all forms of protectionism, while our western competitors maintain some protectionist measures.
I wonder if the NDP member could comment on the statement made by the hon. member for Joliette, to the effect that the former international trade minister showed naivety and even “jovialism” in his attitude.