Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Chicoutimi (Québec)
Lost his last election, in 1997, with 42.94% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Canada Endangered Species Protection Act April 24th, 1997
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take a few minutes to speak to Bill C-65, although everyone knows obviously that we are simply keeping the House occupied.
We expect the election to be called at any moment, and today, yesterday, the day before yesterday and for the past week, the government has been using every means at its disposal to gain time, to pass the time. Now they put before us a bill we know full well will not get beyond the walls of this House. It will never receive royal assent or come into force.
While it contains a mechanism for inclusion on the list of species at risk and a recovery plan for species at risk, the bill contains over 100 clauses that should be completely reviewed and returned to the drawing board, because they bear no relation to the expectations of those consulted.
The committee consulted many organizations. However, it did not take the representations and observations of these consultations into account. This is not the first time the government has behaved this way. We have seen this behaviour in the case of other bills, where consultation was simply a matter of form, and served either to spend money or to expend people's energy. In terms of time, it cost a lot. Were the opinions considered? Absolutely not.
This bill should be totally reworked for other reasons as well. It is not only a matter of consultation. The bill does not honour a fine promise the government made as enunciated by the Prime Minister, who said, in the speech from the throne on February 27, 1996, and I quote: "The federal government will propose to the provinces a much strengthened process to work in partnership, focussing on such priorities as food inspection, environmental management, social housing, tourism and freshwater fish habitat".
The action taken by this government was totally contrary to the remarks of the Prime Minister. Instead of including provincial authorities in the process of designating and re-establishing threatened and endangered species, the government is excluding them. Yet another broken promise.
Bill C-65 does absolutely nothing in that regard. Worse still, the actions of the Liberal environment minister seem very suspicious. First, he convenes a meeting of the provincial ministers of the environment to get an agreement in principle on the protection of endangered species. However, just four weeks later, the minister tables his bill which, in many respects, is totally contrary to the agreement in principle that he just obtained.
Let me quote Quebec's Minister of the Environment. Even though he attended the meetings and signed the agreement, the minister said: "We could not remain indifferent to the fact that this agreement opens the door to overlap between some future federal act and the legislation which has been in effect in Quebec since 1989 and which works very well. We risk creating more red tape instead of dedicating ourselves to what really matters to us: the fate of endangered species". This is what the Quebec Minister of the Environment wrote to his federal counterpart.
Time proved him right. Just look at the bill before us. It creates all sorts of overlap. The main objection from Quebec to this bill is that the federal government keeps changing the rules by extending the territory where a given species is found. This is important when it comes to determining the applicable jurisdiction. The federal government even tries to gain more power by extending the scope of the definition of "federal land".
The bill requires co-operation between the federal government and the provinces when, in fact, several provinces oppose this legislation. Once again, the federal government wants to impose its own jurisdiction, after promising harmonization. Therefore, this bill directly threatens the jurisdiction of the provinces, under the pretence that the government wants to meet the requirements of the international convention on biological diversity. The Liberal government is trying to interfere in an area of provincial jurisdiction.
This government is increasing overlap. In all areas, particularly regional development, there is extensive interference by the federal government. It goes over the provinces' heads. It negotiates
directly with municipalities and with community, humanitarian and tourist organizations. It has no use for provincial jurisdiction.
This bill is also troubling because it leaves the way open for the federal government to negotiate directly with municipal administrations, as I was saying earlier. This gives the minister the power to interfere in environmental matters because the implementation, and I do mean implementation, of measures and programs related to wildlife conservation can cover a wide range of activities without necessarily respecting constitutional authority.
More specifically, the minister will be able to sidestep provincial governments by once again negotiating directly with municipalities. The Bloc Quebecois introduced several amendments in this regard providing for greater provincial involvement, but they were ignored by the Liberal majority.
I would also like to speak about the discretionary authority this bill gives the minister. In fact, the Minister of the Environment calls all the shots with respect to implementation. He may make appointments to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. He has the authority to decide whether or not species are included on the list. He decides whether or not to implement a recovery plan. All decisions therefore rest with him.
The minister himself is responsible for the composition of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. We know that it will have nine members and that the minister may appoint whomever he wishes. This is another opportunity for this government to reward friends of the regime, major contributors to the Liberal Party slush fund, or perhaps to cheer up Liberal candidates defeated in the election.
Committees Of The House April 24th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, a dissenting opinion on public service renewal is appended to the report by the Standing Committee on Government Operations.
The Liberal majority report indicates the need for public service renewal, particularly since 70 per cent of all public service executives will be eligible for retirement within the next eight years. In 1996, only 1 per cent of staff were under the age of 25, compared to 15 per cent in 1976.
The Liberals could have continued in the same vein and reminded people that, during their mandate, the government has made drastic cuts to the public service in the past three years. It was not smart enough to be concerned with ensuring the transmission of knowledge and the retention of the collective memory within the departments. This unfortunate state of affairs is, in large part, nothing more than the outcome of poor strategic decisions by the Liberals during their mandate, which thankfully is coming to an end.
As for the question of the under-representation of young people within the public service, we again note the incompetency and shortsightedness of successive federal governments, from Pierre Elliott Trudeau's first government right down to that of the present Prime Minister. With the calling of the election only hours away, the Liberals are feeling a sudden need to act.
The young people of the Outaouais region have borne the burden of this, no doubt about it. After three and a half years of Liberal indifference, they now have trouble believing that this same government has taken a sudden interest in them. When the Liberals came to power in October 1993, the unemployment level in the Outaouais for those under the age of 25, was 20.6 per cent; it has now risen to 21.6 per cent. The Liberal report insists on finding excuses for the way the federal government has treated young people in the difficult cuts it has had to make.
According to the government, by 1998-99 the program review will have had the effect of reducing program expenditures, and the size of the federal administration, by 22 per cent. It is, moreover, estimated that, after 1999, the government will save more than $3 billion yearly in salaries. What the Liberal report has forgotten to mention is that, in the meantime, the provinces have been forced, because of the cuts in social transfers, to reduce staff by more than 25 per cent in the areas of health, education and social services.
Broadcast Act April 22nd, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I do not know what has gotten into our colleagues opposite, whether it is the
upcoming election making them nervous, both in the House and in committee, but I would like to come back to the issue of federal government procurement, which has naturally interested the official opposition for a long time now.
Like most members of the Standing Committee on Government Operations, we have heard many criticisms of government contracts, which have been described as unfair and ineffective. Despite the fine talk of this government since it came to office, things are pretty much the same as they were in the dark Conservative past. Of the $8.6 billion spent by this government in 1994-95, 37 per cent was on sole source or non-competitive contracts. This is very troubling. The Liberal majority, like us, was left staring at the same sad figures.
Therefore, in the present tendering system, it is important to make some very minor changes. It would not even take very much time. These changes were proposed by SMBs that appeared before the committee. To name but a few, first of all small and medium size businesses are complaining about lack of information on tenders. They have no way of knowing what the government wants to buy.
They also feel that the tendering process has its shortcomings. They experience great difficulty in contacting the user of the product or service, or the true purchaser of goods and services. Reaching these people, or not reaching them, can make the difference between having the winning bid, or not.
The tendering process is an extremely complex one, which discourages the small and medium size businesses from bidding. They have trouble filling out the necessary forms. There is too much unnecessary red tape. As well, the small and medium size businesses fear, and rightly so, that contracts are awarded on the basis of nepotism and political favouritism, and favour Ottawa-based companies.
I have made a list of the comments made by certain small and medium size businesses in my riding. This is what I heard: "We are registered suppliers but we are never asked to tender our services", "we have to know the buyer to be able to sell a product or a service". That is par for the course in my riding, at CFB Bagotville. I also heard this: "We are not informed of requirements or products", "we are not asked to bid, although our names are on the lists, although we are qualified". Others told me: "I tried my luck recently, but I have serious doubts about the integrity of the system".
There is another aspect I would like to discuss, since you are signalling that my time is up: Quebec's share of the procurement of goods and services. In 1994-95, there was a shortfall of 22,000 jobs in Quebec because the federal government did not give Quebec its fair share of the procurement of federal goods and services.
Bell Science Fair April 22nd, 1997
Mr. Speaker, the Quebec finals of the Bell super science fair was held this past weekend at Collège Jean-de-Bréboeuf in Montreal.
Among the many young men and women winners at this event, I would like to congratulate Catherine Martel and Hélène Hallé of Polyvalente Charles-Gravel in Chicoutimi for their project on polygraphy called "The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth".
This accomplishment will send them on to Lyon, France to participate in the science fair at this year's Entretiens Jacques-Cartier .
My best wishes for good luck to the school administrators, the teachers supervising the team, Catherine and Hélène.
Their victory will surely benefit their entire school. I am proud to have been involved in education myself for over 30 years.
Congratulations to Catherine and Hélène and to everyone at Charles-Gravel.
Social Housing April 16th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation just woke up and realized that federal and provincial overlap is nothing but a waste of time and money.
At the signing of a Canada-Saskatchewan social housing agreement, the minister stated that having a single level of government in charge of administering social housing would maximize the use of taxpayers' money by simplifying existing arrangements and encouraging the development of a single window concept.
When will we see powers transferred to the provinces in areas like forestry, tourism and mining? After three and a half years, it is time this government recognized that the Bloc Quebecois was right about the need to eliminate overlap.
Canada Labour Code April 15th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, this evening, I would like to come back to the question I asked recently concerning social housing.
At that time, I asked the Minister of Public Works and Government Services about the progress of negotiations now under way between the federal government and the Government of Quebec concerning the role she had in mind for Quebec with respect to social housing.
The presence of the federal government in housing, an area under provincial jurisdiction, means that for 30 years there have been two administrative structures, that of the federal government and that of the Province of Quebec.
This situation naturally leads to unnecessary and very costly overlap. We also note that, of the $2 billion spent annually by the federal government on housing, Quebec receives only 19 per cent, a percentage much lower than the percentage of households in need of social housing in Quebec and also very much lower than Quebec's demographic weight.
This has been a matter of very great importance for Quebec since the federal government announced these negotiations. What is at stake in this transfer is the recovery of the responsibilities now assumed by the federal government over Quebec's territory. Overlapping jurisdictions and responsibilities would thus be eliminated and the effectiveness of government intervention in the housing sector would be improved.
If I may, Mr. Speaker, I will tell you exactly what Quebec is asking for in these negotiations. The one thing Quebec does not want is to be reduced to dispensing services for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Quebec wants to recover full responsibility for social housing, which is now assumed by the federal government.
It also wants to obtain fair and equitable financial compensation that will cover the shortfall in federal spending in the social housing sector in Quebec over the past several years and that will ensure continuity of funding in the long term, in the form of the tax points that go with these transfers.
In return, the Government of Quebec would be given responsibility, through a service agreement with the federal government, for managing the present activities of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, be they mortgage insurance, mortgage backed securities guarantees, social housing research or statistics.
There could then be an agreement between the two levels of government, with the Government of Quebec, through the Société d'habitation du Québec, becoming the single service point and sole
stakeholder for citizens and partners with respect to all housing activities throughout Quebec.
Quebec should therefore be made the sole point of service for social housing. Later on, with the help of people in the sector and through a partnership with the community, RCMs and community organizations, we could certainly provide better service to the people who must take advantage of these measures. The people who must take advantage of them are those in need, the disadvantaged. I therefore submit this point of view for your attention.
Petitions April 14th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to table a petition on behalf of the residents of the riding of Chicoutimi on the prime rate charged by banking institutions, which is currently at 4.5 per cent. These same institutions charge some 18 per cent on their credit cards, while department stores have charged some 28 per cent on their credit cards, since 1981.
The residents of the riding of Chicoutimi call on the Government of Canada to legislate as quickly as possible and establish standards on the rates of interest applicable to credit cards issued by banks and major department stores.
Government Contracts April 14th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.
Last week, all of the members of the Standing Committee on Government Operations, including those from the Liberal majority, vigorously spoke out against the fact that federal departments were awarding close to 40 per cent of contracts without calling for tenders. The committee members reached that conclusion after close to two years' study of the federal tendering process.
How does the minister explain that, after three and a half years, her government has been unable to obtain compliance with the
government's policies and directives, and has allowed $3.2 billion worth of contracts to be awarded annually without any tendering?
The Budget March 18th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, my colleague has just pointed out that, in a number of areas, Quebec is not receiving its fair share of federal government spending. The result is a shortfall of hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars that businesses could use to create jobs.
We have only to think of the field of research and development where, relative to its population, Quebec is seriously underfunded. There is also the area of military activity: Quebec receives less than 18 per cent relative to its population.
This afternoon, in asking a question to which, as usual, I did not receive an answer, I pointed out to the minister responsible for social housing that Quebec had come up $120 million short every year for the last ten years. That is over $1 billion in ten years.
We could have revitalized construction with this money. As they say, when the construction sector goes well, so does the economy. Factories would have developed materials, produced services, our engineers and architects could have put down plans on paper. It would have meant work for people.
In areas with a real impact on the economy, Quebec is receiving very little relative to what it pays. Of course, if you are talking about UI, we receive quite a bit. In my riding, the unemployment rate is 19 per cent, but this is not the kind of money we want. We want money that will allow us to create stable and well paid jobs.
The Budget March 18th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, following on my colleague, the member for Gaspé, who described the budget brought down by the finance minister on February 18 as lazy, I am in complete agreement with this expression and I would add that, in addition to being a lazy budget, it is an election-minded one.
I am going to limit my remarks to employment. To begin with, it is a topic I am very concerned about. Last month, the human resources development office in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region moved to Jonquière in the neighbouring riding of Chicoutimi. According to this office, there was an unemployment rate of 17.2 per cent in this region. By simply moving offices from one location to another, do they hope to create jobs? This is unacceptable. Furthermore, the only reaction I have heard in my riding is that an unemployment rate of 17.2 per cent in a region like ours is unacceptable, particularly when we know this government was elected in 1993 on its famous promise to create jobs. Every statistic shows they have not delivered the goods.
As for their slogan "jobs, jobs, jobs", the people in my riding have changed it to "We are as poor as Job, Job, Job", meaning the one in the bible. But let us take a closer look at what the Liberals are telling us about employment. First of all, there is the infrastructure program, with $425 million in new money. The question arises: "Did this program create jobs?" The Auditor General of Canada himself said it did not. Of course, when there is construction, there is a bit of activity everywhere. But afterwards, when everything is over, what remains? Do any full time jobs remain? None do.
And here is something worse still, a comment by an alderman in Chicoutimi on the infrastructure program: "This program only puts the cities further in debt". So much for this program, and for job creation.
Now, moving on to what this government could have done for job creation. It is no secret. The unemployment insurance fund has a surplus of approximately $5 billion. This government lowered contributions by 10 cents. Does the Minister of Finance think that 10 cents is enough to encourage employers to create jobs? I think not. I am not convinced that this can reduce unemployment.
As for the unemployed themselves, this budget has just taken away their last hope of getting back into the work force. In my riding, what they are now being offered are precarious jobs of limited duration. Yet people do want to work. Last month Alcan opened up 50 jobs in Arvida. Do you know how many people sent in a c.v. to the various employment centres in the region? More than 30,000. This shows that people want to work. The unemployed are not lazy. They want to work.
It would be hard for me not to have something to say as well about the unemployed paying off the government's deficit. The Minister of Finance could have convinced his colleague to make the UI rules more flexible. Why? Because the accumulated surplus could have given our unemployed a little longer to find work. But he did not. The Minister of Finance has made welfare the only prospect for the unemployed.
Even worse, this government is helping to increase unemployment: 14 jobs were lost in Chicoutimi because the Department of Human Resources Development decided to move the response service for the unemployed to Shawinigan, in the Prime Minister's riding. That is how they create jobs.
We are faced with a government that has given up trying to create jobs. It seems to me that instead of taking the money of needy Canadians to reduce this deficit, it could have created steady jobs for people. Steady jobs mean people who pay taxes. It also means people who buy consumer goods. This is what makes the economic wheel go round. Of course the Minister of Finance is above that sort of thing.
If people had jobs it would be a good way for the Minister of Finance to bring his deficit down. That is what responsible government means.
Yesterday, we all saw the Minister of Human Resources Development announce a major subsidy for a sock manufacturer. Congratulations, but this comes just before an election campaign. One wonders whether it takes an election campaign to have this government do something about job creation. Considering its record during the past three years, I think the answer is yes.
I therefore urge the federal Liberal ministers to come to my riding and announce investments. Come and announce new businesses, come and tell our unemployed workers that you support them, that you are working for them.
In concluding I would add the following. The federal government should mind its own business. Once again, the Liberals are encroaching on areas under provincial jurisdiction. In the health sector alone, new funding approved by the federal government constitutes additional interference. I wonder why this government insists on minding other people's business, replacing and duplicating provincial programs by introducing its own maple leaf programs.
Finally, this budget is just an extension of the flags program of the Minister of Canadian Heritage. This government is interested in its visibility. That is why they do television broadcasts and send flags. I agree that finding a job for an unemployed worker is not
spectacular, unless we oblige the unemployed to walk around with a placard that says "Canada" with the maple leaf on top. Maybe that is what our unemployed workers need for the government to take notice of them.