Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Shefford (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 1997, with 35.82% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Armed Forces April 25th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious that the answer will not be forthcoming this morning. What the parliamentary secretary is doing at the present time is rerunning an old tape we have been hearing over and over for the past two or three years. We have asked questions about the Somalia inquiry, we have made proposals to the government, but it is obvious that nothing works; no answers are forthcoming.

Does the Minister of Defence, or his parliamentary secretary who is here today, agree with us that, out of concern for openness, his government ought to give thought to creating, in accordance with Professor Albert Legault's proposal, a position of parliamentary military ethics commissioner reporting to the House of Commons, who could carry out a totally independent investigation into the Armed Forces?

Canadian Armed Forces April 25th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, in the wake of these troubling revelations about the events in Cambodia, the minister ought to agree with us that the government has made a mistake in terminating the work of the Somalia Inquiry, when it would have put an end to all this secretive attitude which is so common with Canadian Armed Forces staff.

Can the minister, or his parliamentary secretary, tell us why the Armed Forces staff persist in worrying about the possible political fallout of the abuses committed by personnel becoming public knowledge, and in denying the public's right to the truth?

Quebec Contingency Act (Referendum Conditions) April 23rd, 1997

Madam Speaker, Hyundai has been in the news a great deal in our area since this firm closed its plant in Bromont.

The former Bloc member for Brome-Missisquoi, Gaston Péloquin, had predicted during the last election campaign that the Hyundai plant in Bromont would close. Of course, everybody then believed that he was not telling the truth.

After getting a $23 million loan from Ottawa and the same amount from Quebec, Hyundai set up its plant in Bromont with the objective of producing 100,000 cars a year. We know that this objective was never reached.

When the closing of the plant was announced, Mr. Péloquin and I got together to try to find out more about the future of the Hyundai plant and the 800 jobs that would be lost. We are talking about 800 direct jobs, 800 quality jobs, 800 well-paid jobs. These 800 direct jobs and the contracts that were awarded generated significant economic benefits throughout the Granby-Bromont region.

These jobs were held by people between 25 and 30 on average. We know how difficult it is today for young people to find quality jobs. Our young people were hit hard.

At that time, I urged the government, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, to act as quickly as possible to save these jobs and, more importantly, to ensure that this situation does not reoccur.

The Prime Minister does not miss an opportunity to brag about job creation. In this case, the federal government failed miserably. I also attended a few meetings held by employees of the Federal Office of Regional Development for Quebec, in Montreal. Nothing could be done. The Liberal government across the way did nothing to save this plant other than take part in unsuccessful meetings.

What we know now is that all the equipment was taken out of the plant and that the executive is challenging the City of Bromont's assessment roll to have their municipal taxes reduced.

Yet, the solution for the future is obvious. We must find another destination for this plant. We should find buyers, a company willing to acquire this infrastructure, a modern plant. We have to recognize that Hyundai will not change its decision. A responsible government claiming that it is stimulating employment should do its utmost to revive the plant.

On April 16, I asked the Minister of Industry whether discussions had been initiated with his Quebec counterpart or any potential buyer who could take over this idle plant and get it running again. I was told that the question would be taken under advisement. Can you imagine that. Not a very impressive answer.

They claim they can run a country, and their stated objective was job creation. Remember: "Jobs, jobs, jobs"? What did they do? Just about nothing. Of course, my Ottawa office has not had an answer yet, even though the parliamentary secretary undertook to give me one. We did not get anything, but it is not the first time, we are used to it. Liberals talk a lot and make lots of promises but, unfortunately, they do not deliver much.

Therefore, I put my question again to the Minister of Industry or his department. Do they have solutions to propose to the people of my riding and the neighbouring riding of Brome-Missisquoi, which is not appear anywhere, on this issue. Are there talks between the government in Ottawa and the one in Quebec City to look for potential buyers who could get this idle plant running again?

People in my riding have the right to know what the federal government is doing for them and I expect an answer on their behalf.

Hyundai Plant In Bromont April 16th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Industry.

On several occasions, I have risen in this House to question the minister on the future of the Hyundai plant in Bromont. We have now learned that Hyundai has moved all its automobile assembly machinery out of the plant. More than 800 direct jobs in my region are at stake.

Can the minister say whether discussions have been initiated with his Quebec counterpart or any potential buyer who could take over this idle manufacturing plant and get it running again?

Employment Insurance April 11th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, once again the Bloc Quebecois has made major gains. We are often in the House to push this government to do things, and we do that on a regular basis.

Since the minister agrees that the government should change the regulations for members of the reserve, will he promise that he will take action as soon as possible, in other words, by the end of this month?

Employment Insurance April 11th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of National Defence.

Before the Easter recess, in answer to my question about employment insurance benefits for members of the reserve, the Minister of National Defence said he would let us know as soon as possible why members of the reserve did not pay premiums for service in class A or for contract jobs with a duration of less than 30 days.

Could the minister finally explain why members of the reserve are excluded from the Employment Insurance Act, while all other workers are not?

Income Tax Act April 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, a laundry in the city of Granby, in my riding, recently bid on a contract to service the Granby and Brome-Missisquoi-Perkins hospitals. Buanderie Shefford has been providing laundry services to these two hospitals for eight years now.

On December 19, 1996, Buanderie Shefford received a call for tenders. After the Granby company posted a $200,000 bond, it realized, when the tenders were opened, that it was the lowest of the four bidders.

Strangely enough, the Corporation d'achat régionale de biens et services de la Montérégie decided to issue another call for tenders without giving any explanation whatsoever. This time, my constituent came out second, behind the Centre correctionnel de Laval, CORCAN, which, strangely enough, had not submitted a bid the first time around but did this time, knowing in advance what the prices of its competitors would be.

The private company, Buanderie Shefford, might lose a contract to a company funded in large part by taxpayers.

One has to wonder whether CORCAN includes all of its costs in the bids it summits and respects the same ground rules as its private sector competitors.

This is obviously a blatant example of unfair competition on the part of the federal administration, taking major contracts away from companies which are at least as competitive as Corrections Canada.

CORCAN employs, on a regular basis, some 1,800 offenders whom alone, I might add, cost Canadian taxpayers close to $90 million a year. The tax burden should not be made heavier, it is bad enough as it is. The result would be a further 15 workers out of a job. This is a fact, and it is unacceptable.

Fifteen jobs are in jeopardy, 15 families may have to suffer the disastrous consequences of unemployment. While the Liberals promised jobs, jobs, jobs, just the opposite is happening in this case.

I sent letters to the solicitor general on two occasions. I have questioned him in this House and, on March 21, he told me he would be most pleased to look into the matter and to report to me as promptly as possible. Here we are three weeks later and nothing has been resolved in this matter. Time is of the essence. Will the minister take action to redress this injustice?

Our local entrepreneurs have a right to operate in a free market setting where the rules of the game are not altered by the interference of government agencies whose financial resources are totally unconnected to their economic performance.

The government must act responsibly and act as quickly as possible to resolve this unfair situation. The government has one responsibility: it must withdraw its bid. That is the only conceivable solution.

Otherwise, law abiding citizens whose taxes pay for correctional facilities will end up losing their jobs. That is unacceptable. It makes no sense.

Battle Of Vimy Ridge April 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, from April 9 to April 12, 1997, we are commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Vimy Ridge victory by the Canadian expeditionary force, which included the 22nd Regiment.

That impregnable fortress had resisted for over two years. Canadian troops distinguished themselves by winning one the greatest victories. However, this was achieved at the cost of 11,000 human lives.

Today, in this House, I want to pay tribute to the courage and fighting spirit of the soldiers who took part in the Vimy battle. I want to remind everyone that their sacrifice was not made in vain. The road to the greatest victories is always paved with tombstones.

All of us remember the heroism of these soldiers and have learned a lesson from their sacrifice. Our ultimate objective must be, now and forever, to achieve a lasting world peace.

The Budget March 21st, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Lévis. He also works very hard on these issues. We have only 10 minutes to talk about the budget, and of course, we cannot say much in 10 minutes. But the Liberals will get their comeuppance. There will be an election soon and then we will have our say. We will talk about their achievements, about what they have done, but mostly about what they have not done and how they went about it. They picked on the poor, the disadvantaged in our society, those who need to feel that we are here to help them. But not the Liberals, they are hiding from these people.

I remember listening to the Minister of Finance talk about poor children. What has he done for poor children? He merely injected $70 million. Now, $70 million may look like a lot of money. Mr. Speaker, you and I would feel like rich men if we were to win such a huge amount. It may look like a lot money, but it is peanuts in a country like ours, it only amounts to $30 per child every year. It is a shame. When the Liberals took office, there were 1 million kids living in poverty, now that figure is up to 1.5 million, that is 500,000 more poor children since the Liberals took office.

To resolve this issue, we need to get rid of the Liberals and to replace them by something else. By what exactly, I do not know. But one thing is sure. Historically, the Liberal Party has cared about the disadvantaged, but now they are worse than the Conservatives. The decisions they make are worse. The friends of these two parties are often rich people, contributors, people with money to support them. The poor do not have any money. However, they want to improve their lot. Their children are in an even worse situation. They have rights too.

In our society, we have parents who do not know if they will have a slice of bread the next morning to put into their kids' lunchbox, and that is unacceptable. It is unacceptable and shameful. There is no word strong enough to describe that whole situation.

As official opposition, we will continue to work hard. We will continue to criticize the people opposite. They are not all the same, but they are very much alike. We have to make the decision makers and the ministers aware of the measures that need to be taken in our society and that cannot wait any longer.

The Budget March 21st, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to participate in the debate on the Minister of Finance's budget. A great many things could be said, but I shall restrict myself to analyzing certain parts of the budget which I feel are unacceptable to the population.

First of all: employment insurance and the future consequences of this budget. An announcement has been made of a 10 cent cut in contributions, 10 cents less per $100. This proposed measure will not have much of an effect, since the reduction could have been50 cents per $100, which might have led to job creation.

At the moment, the jobs that are being created are precarious, poorly paid and short-lived. According to the experts, in the past six years there have been so many cuts in unemployment insurance-renamed employment insurance, which is a hoax, since insurance must insure us when we lose work and are unemployed-that there is a $2 billion annual shortfall in the fund.

This means that, had we maintained the 1989 criteria, we would have had a $3 billion surplus in the fund. What did the Liberal government do? Cut benefits to the least well-off. You will agree with me that people who are unemployed are not considered to be our society's most well-off.

What is sad today in Canada is that there are people who worry about what colour their next Mercedes will be, while others worry about whether there will be anything to put on the table tomorrow. There are fathers and mothers who are constantly worrying whether they will have anything to feed their families with, whether there will be anything to put in their children's lunch boxes. That measure is unacceptable.

I would also like to talk about child poverty. When the Liberal Party was in opposition and debating poverty, there were one million children living in poverty in Canada. The Liberals rose in this House to criticize the fact. Four years later, there are 1.5 million young people and children who lack what is needed to grow up in Canada.

And what did the Minister of Finance do? What provision is there in the budget? An increase of some $30 per child to fix the situation. That is shameful. It is shameful to spend an additional $70 million to help poor children.

We will recall that unemployment insurance was cut by some $2 billion a year. The poor lose $2 billion, and the $5 billion surplus goes to deficit reduction-those worst off pay for this too-and $30 a year more goes to filling lunch boxes. It is a scandal.

I would like to talk as well about the Canada Foundation for Innovation. This foundation will receive $800 million. By chance, transfers to the provinces were cut by $800 million, and here they are going to create a fund.

But, careful, a fund is not spent. The money in a fund is invested, and the interest is spent. So the government will be spending another $180 million a year-on what? It will spend it on education, research and hospitals, all of which come under provincial jurisdiction. Once again, federal Liberals, who specialize in invading areas of provincial jurisdiction, are going to butt in as they always do. This is unacceptable, it must be said.

Members will recall that the red book contained a proposal to create new day care spaces in Canada. The government promised to invest $720 million in day care. They broke their promise. Now there is a plan to invest $600 million of new money in children. As I said earlier, the budget provides for expenditres of only $70 million. Knowing the way Liberals are, we have be wary of what they promise as well as of the promises they keep.

Another point in this budget I did not like at all is the fact the minister refused to compensate us for harmonizing the GST. Members will recall that Quebec was the first province in Canada to harmonize its sales tax. When it did, it received no compensation. And what is the finance minister telling us now? He is saying that, thanks to harmonization, Quebec is making a profit.

Simply by looking at the tax in one province, and in other provinces, how can you say whether or not that province is making a profit? The minister forgot to say that the tax system in Quebec is different from Ontario's and the maritimes'. If the maritime provinces opted for a 10 or 11 per cent tax, it is their choice, but taxpayers there pay lower income taxes, higher sales taxes, but lower income taxes. In Quebec, we pay lower sales taxes, but a higher income tax than anywhere else in the country.

Therefore I think that when the finance minister is telling us in this House that with his new tax, Quebec is making a profit, he is not being honest. He ought to look at the tax system overall, and see how much Quebec has lost. The Quebec Minister of Finance is demanding $1.9 billion in compensation to be on an equal footing with the maritimes, who will be receiving close to $1 billion. I believe that this is important. It is a question of equity with Quebec, and the minister is continually brushing it off as trivial.

Once again, the Liberals are demonstrating that they are sympathetic, that they are willing, but when the time comes to act, they do not. The means were there this year, however, because the annual debt will be lower this year as a result of the lower interest rates, so the minister had the means of doing it, yet he has decided not to. What he is doing is sprinkling a little largesse here and there, a few goodies, just peanuts. What people would like to see, as the official opposition has proposed, is a complete reorganization of the personal and corporate income tax systems. This government has been asleep at the switch for four years, and has done absolutely nothing to improve the situation.

In closing, I wish to state that this is terrible, because there is talk everywhere of sharing, of equity. In Canada at the present time, it is the poor who are getting it in the neck, the poor who are being cut off, in this peculiar view of what equity toward them should be. The poor are bearing the brunt more and more, and receiving less and less. This is totally unacceptable, and I trust that this minister will think things over again, and return with a far more meaningful budget, for this one is a do-nothing budget, with nothing innovative about it. There is nothing innovative in this budget, and the entire population of Canada and of Quebec are bearing the brunt of this.

When the bishops of Quebec speak of poverty, of the role of a member of Parliament, the role of representing the least advantaged members of society, I think that everyone here in this House

has missed the boat here. We are not doing what we were elected to do, and the main responsibility lies with the Minister of Finance.