Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Charlesbourg (Québec)
Won his last election, in 1993, with 59.01% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Military Bases April 14th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, the figures I mentioned may not have been released by the Canadian government but they are accurate. The agreement with the United States is clearly inadequate.
I wish the Minister of National Defence would tell us which scenario we should expect. Either the government completely decontaminates U.S. military facilities on Canadian soil, in which case Quebec and Canadian taxpayers will bear the cost, or decontamination will be only partial or non existent, and Quebecers and Canadians will have to live with the environmental damage caused by the American army on Canadian soil.
Military Bases April 14th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Prime Minister or his substitute.
The government is apparently incapable of enforcing its principle of the polluter pays. First, it has been unable to make Irving pay back the cost of refloating the Irving Whale , and second, it failed to convince the United States that it should pay the full cost of cleaning up the military facilities they occupied on Canadian soil.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that the total cost of cleaning up former U.S. military facilities on Canadian soil may exceed $500 million, which is well in excess of the agreement for $100 million just signed with the United States?
Somalia Inquiry April 7th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, clearly, the current Minister of National Defence has been subject to the same pressures from the military establishment as his predecessor who resigned.
Will the minister agree that his shocking decision to change the terms of reference of the commission will leave several fundamental questions unanswered, questions that were the very reason why the commission of inquiry was set up in the first place?
Somalia Inquiry April 7th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of National Defence.
On March 27, Federal Court Justice Sandra Simpson stated that the government's decision to impose a time limit on the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Somalia was unlawful, considering the extent of its terms of reference. In response to this judgment, the minister maintained his decision and went so far as to change the terms of reference of the commission to include only what happened before the Canadian troops arrived in Somalia.
By unlawfully cutting short the commission's proceedings and subsequently restricting its terms of reference, is the minister not only to trying protect the military establishment but also some Liberal friends who are close to the government, such as, for instance, Bob Fowler, former Deputy Minister of National Defence and currently Canada's ambassador to the UN?
Criminal Code April 7th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-369, which was introduced by my colleague for Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans. First of all, I would like to make a few comments on the comments made by the last two speakers.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice got himself lost in a maze of legislation, private lottery schemes, supervision of lotteries, all manner of things which might be surreptitious, might be illegal. He did not agree with the bill, arguing that it needed to be studied in its entirety, as it somehow threatened public safety.
Then the other Liberal member from the Toronto region said that this was a worthwhile initiative on the part of my colleague for Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans, but that it essentially opened up the debate. They did not deal with the basic issue, but claimed that, on certain cruise ships, owners kept casinos open to illegal betting and so on.
That is not really what is being debated. What the hon. member for Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans has stated very clearly is that there are licensed casinos on board cruise ships in international waters. The comparison with the Canadian Criminal Code relates to certain ports on the Atlantic or Pacific coasts. When a cruise ship is on its way to Vancouver, for instance, it can be in international waters and then, only an hour, or an hour and half later, be tying up in Vancouver. The same holds true for Halifax or St. John's.
The difference is that the cruise ships plying the St. Lawrence do so for all of the reasons given by my colleague for Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans: the majesty of the great river, the possibility of seeing whales, sometimes even the endangered beluga, the immensity of the Saguenay River fjord, and the magical fall colours.
Furthermore, international cruise ships sail for about one thousand kilometres on the St. Lawrence and throughout that time
cannot open their casinos. The sole purpose of the bill presented by the hon. member for Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans is to allow casinos to be operated until one hour before the ship is berthed. The legislation cannot be compared with legislation that applies to Vancouver or Halifax because this is within Canadian territory.
True to form in this Canadian federation, the government wants to have the same legislation apply to all parts of the country, although quite obviously, the economic situation, accessibility and natural resources are not the same. The bill presented by the hon. member is clearly specific to the St. Lawrence, if you will, but it could also apply to the Great Lakes. If this bill were adopted, perhaps some cruise ships would go as far as the Great Lakes on some of their longer cruises.
We must stop saying, as the hon. member from the Toronto area has done, that this could create certain legislative problems. He even referred to legislation in Quebec which allows the operation of casinos on international cruise ships. Unfortunately, we live under a federal system, and this is covered by the federal Criminal Code. As soon as a cruise ship enters Canadian costal waters, its casino must be closed.
The hon. member from the Toronto area said that he knew or people had heard that casinos can be operated even if this is prohibited by law. This means lost revenue for the government. And as far as advertising these cruises is concerned, for wealthy passengers there is an additional attraction in the fact that, as they sail along the St. Lawrence for more than 1,000 kilometres, after admiring the landscape they can relax with a variety of games in the casino. That is all the hon. member for Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans is asking.
I would like to make a connection here with the Liberal Party's platform. Throughout the last campaign and even today, they have said: jobs, jobs, jobs. I must say that tourism brings a larger number of cruise ship passengers to the port of Quebec. Quebec City has in fact passed a resolution to support this initiative, and my colleague from Quebec City also intends to speak in support of this proposal. Charlesbourg also passed a resolution supporting my colleague's bill.
Clearly, with lots of cruise ships entering the ports of Montreal and Quebec City and the Saguenay fjord, direct and indirect jobs will be created. Reference was made earlier to piloting. I would also point out that, when the cruise ship passengers visit cities like Montreal and Quebec City, they spend and thus help the economy.
With the Liberal Party in sub-committee denying my colleague's bill the opportunity to be voted on and setting it aside for a general study, I have a hard time understanding their convincing anyone that they want to create "jobs, jobs, jobs". I could even call that a sort of aggressive treatment, given, for example, the proposals of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, whose coast guard bill proposed increased fees for dredging and coast guard services.
Perhaps this too is intended to hobble the tourist industry by its effect on cruise ships.
In closing, I simply want to say it is clear that, when federal legislation-whether it involves the Criminal Code, the environment or some other area-applies to the entire country, certain locations are bound to suffer. In terms of tourism, it is the St. Lawrence region and the Province of Quebec that will lose tourists and the economic benefits they provide.
This is why my colleague from Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans introduced this bill and why I dare to think that the members opposite will not only consider it but will want to consider it so it may become a votable bill.
Excise Tax Act February 11th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, in response to the hon. member's question, I must say it is, once again, going overboard a bit to say that harmonization has generated billions and billions of dollars for Quebec's coffers.
Yes, I am aware that some input taxes are reimbursed, but as he said himself, Quebec had to raise corporate taxes to compensate. Businesses have been taxed more heavily than in the other provinces, contrary to the situation in the maritimes, thanks to the compensation and subsidies they are given.
Furthermore, I think it is completely wrong to say, as the hon. member has, that harmonization has generated billions and billions of dollars for Quebec's coffers. What has happened is that all of this harmonization has been done at the expense of small and medium sized businesses, with no financial assistance, as well as at the expense of the Government of Quebec.
I would like someone to give me an explanation. The GST was, and still is, 7 per cent, and that portion goes to the federal government, as in the maritimes. When there is talk of having harmonized the GST, that is not totally true. It is still 7 per cent, except that the provincial sales tax has been harmonized with the GST. If we look at Newfoundland as an example, its sales tax was 13 per cent, which was brought down to 8 per cent in order to make a harmonized tax of 15 per cent. The shortfall in provincial tax will be made up with equalization payments.
Is this what they call harmonization? The federal government will make up the shortfall in provincial taxes with equalization payments. That did not happen in Quebec with respect to input taxes, because there were exceptions in that area.
I believe it is totally erroneous to state that harmonization has generated billions and billions of dollars for Quebec's coffers. To be fair, since $961 million was paid to the maritimes, the same compensation would have to be offered to Quebec. Moreover, last August, when the provincial premiers met in Jasper, they were all in agreement that, if there were harmonization, compensation would have to be equitable for all provinces, but that is not what is being done.
Excise Tax Act February 11th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier that, with Bill C-70, the Liberal government was trying to make us forget the promises made by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.
I also drew a parallel between these and promises made by Liberal Party guru Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who, in the late 1970s, promised to abolish the gasoline tax. This most unfair and inequitable tax was hampering economic growth. But when the Liberal Party was elected, Trudeau, far from abolishing the gasoline tax, raised it.
It is clear that this Prime Minister and his government have taken a similar course of action with the GST. They had promised to abolish it and, with Bill C-70, they are trying to disguise it through the so-called harmonization process, thereby enabling the Liberal government to renege on its promises. This also creates some unfairness or inequity.
The agreement signed with the provinces provided for $961 million in compensation to be paid to the three provinces concerned, namely New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Since Quebec had harmonized its sales tax with the GST a few years earlier, Quebec Deputy Premier, Bernard Landry, asked for some compensation. He also wanted to know the specific formula used to work out this $961 million compensation package for the maritimes and what would be an equitable amount for Quebec.
Some mentioned $1.2 billion, while others pegged the amount at $1.9 billion or $2 billion. At any rate, it is clear that, in this case as in many others, when Quebec asks to be treated as fairly and equitably as the other provinces, its demands are inevitably denied.
Between 1972 and 1974, Quebec justice minister Choquette, a Liberal minister, asked his Liberal federal counterpart, who is now the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, for $1.3 billion or $1.4
billion to cover costs incurred for RCMP services. Costs were incurred in all the provinces for the services of the RCMP and these costs were paid by all the provinces together, even though Ontario and Quebec made very little use of that police force.
As we all know, the RCMP has, for years, been acting as the local police force in some municipalities. All Canadians pay for this service, but Quebec and Ontario have their own provincial police forces. A claim in excess of $1 billion was made. Again, Quebec's request was rejected, even though it had been made by a Liberal government to another Liberal government. It is clear to me that Quebec does not receive equal treatment. This is again very clear and obvious with the harmonization of the GST.
Why, when the maritimes decide to harmonize their tax with the GST, do they get compensation or a subsidy? This system, in a federation that is supposed to be fair, generates unfair competition.
Recently, during Team Canada's trip to Asia, the premier of New Brunswick used some of the tax benefits related to the $400 million in compensation his province will receive to attract Quebec and Ontario businesses to his province.
This, to me, is unfair competition. When federal money is used by a province to attract businesses from another province that does not enjoy the same tax benefits, it can only be called federal unfairness. And Bill C-70 is a good example of that.
I also want to discuss certain technicalities. It was mentioned that an harmonizing process had taken place and that there would be a four-month adjustment period, so that the tax could be integrated into the price of the goods or services being sold. You will remember that, around October or November 1994, when they were still saying that the GST would be abolished, that it was unacceptable to try to hide the GST in the cost of goods or services, that Canadians had to know how much tax they were paying, so they could see what the government did with their taxes.
The Liberals are now singing a different tune; they want to hide the GST in the price of goods, which is just the opposite of what they used to say. In any event, from what we can see, this government often does the opposite of what it says, and here we have the proof once again. I like to think, I am even certain, that when another election is held the public will remember false promises, hollow commitments that are not being respected.
All we have to do is look at the distinct society issue, the wonderful declarations of love at Verdun just before the referendum, this promise to scrap the GST, how the government is being run, and so on.
Or even look at the Somalia inquiry, and their assurances that they would get to the bottom of things. This even came up in oral question period. It is certain that we will never get to the bottom of things in the little time remaining, because the Department of National Defence and the armed forces have boycotted this inquiry for almost a year so as not to provide it with information. They are boycotting the inquiry. They are getting ready for an election. They hope to bury the promise to scrap the GST. They are winding up the Somalia inquiry. They tried to cover up the tainted blood scandal. They are spending millions to solve the Pearson Airport problems. They even settled out of court with the former Prime Minister in the Airbus affair.
They are busily getting ready to bury all the issues they have not really delivered on, or that involve promises they want Canadians and Quebecers to think they have kept when they have not.
I do not think these misrepresentations or supposed solutions are going to wash with the public.
I would like to add in closing that companies such as Sears Canada, Canadian Tire, Woolworth and others in the maritimes which also do business across Canada point out that, if Bill C-70 is passed as it is, despite the Liberals' becoming aware at a certain point that the bill had been prepared in such a rush that 113 amendments had to be made-and even then there was not enough consultation, it was done too quickly-they will have to prepare a product pricing system for provinces where there is harmonization and another for those where there is not.
When we think about the fact that the Canadian federation was supposed to have a certain efficiency across its entire territory, how can it be that, within different areas, standards are established which do not apply to all locations? That is somewhat what we are experiencing with this bill. When these companies attempt to have a price with tax and a price without tax for the period of transfer to the provinces where there will be no harmonization, they will be forced to make new catalogues or to set up some new system.
We should not forget, when this measure comes into force, that the government mentioned a transition period of four months with respect to services. When a lawyer, a notary or a labourer advertises an hourly rate, like a notary who works for $100 an hour, he may include the HST, the harmonized sales tax. In that case he would indicate $115, while his competitor, since he has three or four months to adjust to the situation, can simply advertise a fee of $100 an hour.
There are other examples. A plumber or an electrician who works for $25 or $30 per hour has the option of including or not including the tax, for a certain period of time. Imagine the
administrative headaches for all these small businesses, and meanwhile, the consumer who tries to make sense of it all.
I am sorry, but I think this bill was drafted far too quickly, without sufficient consultation. Large companies like Sears say that it will cost them several million dollars more to make adjustments in the catalogues that are distributed across Canada. Parliament should at least think twice before adopting this kind of legislation and make sure that all intervenors agree.
The Bloc Quebecois has repeatedly pointed out that not enough time was allowed for debate. Just 24 hours before we started second reading, 13 amendments were brought in. Now we have 113 amendments. We had only three days of public hearings. The government decided that was enough. Enough said about the GST.
It is time the public was aware of all the so-called promises that were not kept. And when they are not prepared to admit they made a mistake, they create a diversion and try a different strategy.
In concluding, I want to say that the public will judge this government on the commitments it was not prepared to keep and its lack of respect for all intervenors who came to discuss this bill but did not have sufficient time to express their views.
Excise Tax Act February 11th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-70 for various reasons. Several of my colleagues and members of the Reform Party have pointed out that, through this bill, the Liberal Party has completely reneged on an election promise.
I was listening to the hon. member for St. Boniface, who mentioned the added bonuses of the so-called harmonization of the GST. All the hon. members will remember the statements made by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and even the Minister of Finance to the effect that the GST was an unfair, regressive tax which hurt the economy and, in some respects, encouraged work for cash when the tax is applied to services.
We have realized that, after undertaking to abolish this unfair and intolerable tax, the government is now diverting attention by saying that it has been successfully harmonized and that the Prime Minister's promise to eliminate the tax had been misunderstood.
It will be remembered that, in the late 1970s, the Liberal Party guru, former Prime Minister Trudeau, had taken very similar action regarding the gasoline tax. At the time, when former Prime Minister Joe Clark was briefly in office, Mr. Trudeau described the gasoline tax introduced by the Conservatives as an unacceptable, intolerable and unfair tax that would be abolished as soon as the Liberals were in office.
And we all know that Mr. Trudeau became Prime Minister of Canada and that the gas tax was not abolished. Quite the contrary, it was increased. This bears a strange resemblance to the promises made by Mr. Trudeau's disciple, the current Prime Minister, who said he would abolish the GST because it was unfair, regressive and bad for the economy. Again, the promises made were not fulfilled and the government has now found a roundabout means, the so-called harmonization, which it touts as an outstanding solution.
We will never stress often enough what I would call the inconsistent, farfetched promises made over a period of decades by the Liberal Party, a party that makes all kinds of promises but never fulfils them. Such was the case with the gas tax and such is now the case with the GST.
The government talks about harmonizing the GST but, to my knowledge, the GST is still at 7 per cent, under the agreement reached with the maritime provinces. What was harmonized is the provincial tax, which was lowered in Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In other words, the provincial tax was harmonized, thus reducing the total tax, a loss the federal government will quickly compensate through equalization payments.
But the government also gave these three provinces $961 million in compensation, to help them integrate the GST and implement the so-called harmonization. Strangely enough, Quebec was a harmonization pioneer, as mentioned earlier by a Liberal member, who said that having an harmonized tax was good for trade and exports. Again, one wonders what principles of justice and fairness are used by a government that subsidizes and compensates the
three maritime provinces that agreed to "harmonize" their taxes, while Quebec did the same at its own expense.
I was in the private sector when that process took place and I remember that all the costs, such as the acquisition of software to integrate the GST with the provincial sales tax, were supported by small and medium size businesses in Quebec. As for the provincial government, it trained some of its employees and integrated its computer system so as to achieve harmonization with the GST.
Did Quebec get any compensation? Let me use the words of the Minister of Human Resources Development in reference to culture: "Not a bloody cent". We did not get any compensation from the federal government. Now Quebec is asking to be compensated for having harmonized its tax with the federal GST, but this government is turning a deaf ear so that the province might not get anything.
Meanwhile, the maritimes, where, as the government says, the tax has been harmonized, are being subsidized or compensated to the tune of $961 million.
With such compensation, New Brunswick can now be competitive and attract some Quebec and Ontario businesses, by stressing the fact that taxes will be lower in that province, given the kind of subsidy granted by the federal government, through the compensation paid to maritime provinces.
This is a rather curious system when you look at it: the federal government provides a kind of competitive tool to three provinces by harmonizing its tax, to the point that it becomes unfair, since these provinces will benefit from such a substantial subsidy or compensation. How then can we believe that the Canadian federation, with bills such as this one-
Supply February 7th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, there have indeed been changes. There have been changes in ministers and in chiefs of staff. But I do not think the mentality has changed much. My colleague spoke of the standing committee on national defence. True, the Bloc participated and often made very constructive suggestions. Some of my Liberal colleagues opposite know very well that the Bloc members tried to resolve certain problems and to take part in discussions.
The auditor general's report and other reports indicate that the Department of National Defence was often accused of mismanaging its assets, spending unnecessarily and other things.
I am happy my colleague is allowing me to talk about financial matters. On Monday, the new Minister of National Defence said that all this had cost a lot and that the Bloc was complaining that the Department of National Defence was spending too much money. It will cost $25 million to find out the truth, who is responsible in the chain of command, where the problems lie, how improvements can be made and who is guilty.
The defence committee often pointed out that there were too many generals and that these generals often lacked leadership skills or authority over the soldiers. Very often, the corporals and the ordinary soldiers bear the brunt, while the officers get off lightly.
This happened on a number of occasions. The subject was discussed in the national defence committee.
If the mentality as well as the behaviour is to be changed, I do not think the way to go about it is to decide the commission has dragged on long enough and that it will have time to hear the last witnesses, which is not the case. However, we must, for various reasons such as restoring the armed forces' honour or giving soldiers back their pride, stop living in the past and pretending that Canadian soldiers lived in honour and that everyone is proud of them.
If we go back three or four years, not everyone is proud of what went on in the army. I do not think everyone is proud of the money spent for various reasons. With a little effort, the government could change all that.