House of Commons photo

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

Won his last election, in 1993, with 67.62% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Air Transportation November 8th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, at least, the minister was not being hypothetical when he clearly stated yesterday that he did not intend to provide financial assistance to Canadian International.

However, we were told that his government awarded an extension of 30 days for the repayment of a loan granted in 1992. Is the minister about to financially assist Canadian International, by giving it an extension of 30 days to repay the money it owes the federal government?

Air Transportation November 8th, 1996

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

Yesterday, the minister said he could consider relaxing the rules to allow American Airlines to acquire a bigger share of Canadian. He said he was waiting for an application before reviewing the matter. However, yesterday, the Canadian Auto Workers who represent 4,000 employees from Canadian International urged the

federal government to relax foreign investment rules so that American Airlines could buy a bigger share.

Can the minister give us the assurance that if the rules are relaxed he would give Air Canada equal access to destinations currently served by Canadian International, thus putting an end to its partisan patronage in favour of a company which will be getting more and more americanized?

Speech From The Throne November 7th, 1996

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for Carleton-Charlotte on his speech. It is a very fine Liberal speech. He has listed for us the things that are going well in his riding, and the things that are going a bit better in Canada with respect to putting our finances in order and reducing the deficit.

What struck me at the beginning of his speech was his reference to three objectives in the throne speech: getting government right, bringing order to our financial house, and reducing the deficit.

I wish to address the first point. I think he perhaps did not speak much on it: getting government right. There is much talk of this, in the newspapers, in books, in magazine articles. They all say the state must change, must be defined differently.

Our Reform colleagues often tell us that we need less and less government, that the state has no role in certain economic or social areas. On the other hand, it ought to play a heavy role in suppressing crime, and other such things.

The question I would like to ask my colleague is not a loaded one. I would just like to know how much it can be claimed that the Canadian government has re-examined the role of the state since the Governor General's reading of the Throne Speech? Does this mean less involvement in the economy, less involvement in social measures? Does it mean government involvement in job creation?

Reference is often made to job creation, and sometimes the impression is given that the government is boasting of having created jobs. There is talk of 600,000 jobs, yet certain ministers sometimes tell us that the government is no longer the one creating jobs, it is business.

Having made these few comments, I wish to ask the following question: How has the federal government met the objective it set for itself in the throne speech to get government right? How has it re-examined the role of government, and what are the differences today between the federal government's concept of government before the throne speech, and now, five or six months later?

Air Transportation November 7th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, there may be no request, but in January something is going to happen. We know that Canadian announced last week that the company will have a liquidity problem starting next January.

Does the minister still intend to demand that Canadian continue to pay back the remainder of its $120 million loan from the government, as agreed, and will he refuse to delay the payback so as not to give Canadian special treatment?

Air Transportation November 7th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Prime Minister.

Canadian is about to come back and pass the hat for more taxpayers' money to deal with its financial problems, but year after year, the same company continues to pay a very expensive $150 million annually for its service contract with American Airlines, and will do so for 20 years.

Before even considering the possibility of injecting one cent of federal money into Canadian, could the minister give taxpayers the assurance that he will make sure that Canadian's contracts with American Airlines have been revised to make them much fairer to Canadian?

Air Transportation November 6th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I note that the minister gave no guarantee.

But could the minister at least guarantee us that Ottawa will not amend its foreign investment regulations to allow U.S. interests to take over Canadian airlines, which is less and less Canadian?

Air Transportation November 6th, 1996

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

Since Canadian airlines' restructuring plan was announced last Friday, divisions have appeared within the Canadian government. On the one hand, the Minister of Industry was willing to consider a request for financial assistance from Canadian; on the other hand, the Minister of Transport reiterated yesterday that his government would not invest another penny in Canadian.

Since the federal government has already done more than its share for Canadian, notably by guaranteeing a $120 million loan, buying back three Airbus planes for $150 million and awarding it the lucrative Asian market, can the Minister guarantee us today he has no intention of injecting more tax dollars into a company that has lost over $1.3 billion in the past eight years?

Speech From The Throne November 1st, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question, because it gives me an opportunity to answer those who blame Quebec's economic problems on the fact that the national debate remains unresolved.

I should point out that the issue of Quebec sovereignty has been around for many years, if not decades. If we look at the economic fluctuations, we can see that these cycles do not always follow Quebecers' fluctuating interest in giving themselves a country.

In the 1980 referendum, Quebec sovereignists were clearly defeated with 60 per cent of the people voting no and 40 per cent yes. People looked at this 20 per cent gap and thought the battle was over. They thought the sovereignist movement would not recover.

The sovereignist movement did have trouble throughout the 1980s until the Meech Lake accord was rejected in 1990 after many people in Quebec-I was not among them-tried once again to negotiate a new alliance with Canada.

If Quebec's economic problems are indeed linked to political uncertainty, how come there was no economic boom in Quebec in the 1980s? We did not have a boom in Quebec. What we had, beginning in 1981-82 was a major economic crisis. That was followed by the election of a Liberal government, headed by Mr. Bourassa, which should have led to great things, because what we were essentially saying to financial markets was: "Quebecers said No in 1980, they elected a government that was clearly federalist". There should have been an investment boom in Quebec. But there was not.

This means that Quebec's problems are not directly related to the political environment. Perhaps there is a link, but perhaps there is not. It depends. Economists will tell us one thing, others will tell us something else, and in the field of economy, even if it is a science taught in our universities, the accuracy of forecasts and the various theories still often leaves a lot to be desired.

I do not think that a close examination of Quebec's economy and politics over the last 15 years justifies saying that Quebec's current disastrous economic situation is, in some ways, related to the

political climate, which is in terrible shape according to my colleague from the Reform Party.

Speech From The Throne November 1st, 1996

Mr. Speaker, before I was interrupted by the question period, I was making a parallel between the throne speech and the budget speech. I was outlining some elements of rhetoric, still believing that the budget speech is intended to update, clarify and give shape to the throne speech. I will then continue, in my presentation, to refer to the budget speech.

The Minister of Finance claims in his speech to ensure our financial future. He says that to us with a straight face. Given our current situation and also the fact that we are in a world where the economy is open, where major changes are occurring rapidly, I think it may be somewhat pretentious for the finance minister to say that he will ensure our financial future. Perhaps we would have preferred to hear him say that he would do his best to ensure that Canadians can benefit from the development of the world economy, without giving too many assurances that he cannot pay, as I believe to be the case.

I noted in the budget speech and also a little in the throne speech that many things are muddled up. The finance minister is playing over several years, 1994-95, 1995-96, and goes back to 1993-94 for some statistics. He even goes up to 1999. For all the issues relating to the deficit, the figure goes from 3 to 2 per cent, but it is 2 per cent in 1999. We see that the finance minister muddles many things up.

He muddles up concepts of financial needs, he adds numbers and talks about the GDP, the past one and the future one. After reading all of this, we get the impression that the minister knows what he is talking about and that we have no other choice but to trust him, because it is sometimes hard to check the debt levels and the financial requirements that he mentions for 1999. What can we do but trust him.

I think the Minister of Finance is not really sure that everyone trusts him, which is why he has laid down some principles. The throne speech, for example, contains a number of principles, which the previous speaker, the hon. member for Shefford, listed. First, the Minister of Finance said his mea culpa. He stated that governments are responsible for the deficit. This is very interesting coming from a Liberal minister whose party has been in office for 36 or 38 years over the past 50 years. He was probably talking about the Conservatives, and forgot about the Trudeau years.

The minister also talked about jobs and growth, just like the governor general. This is all fine, except that the average citizens and the economists have now realized that job creation does not necessarily keep pace with growth, and this is a very serious problem. I am not blaming the Minister of Finance for not having the solution to this problem. If he had the solution, Ministers of Finance from around the world would be in meetings in Ottawa, right here, right now.

The minister talked about a frugal, trimmed down government. It is all well and good to say that the government is too big and involved in too many things. Maybe what we should say is that the government has been mismanaging some of these areas. However, the fact that the government is withdrawing from some areas might cause problems in the years to come.

The Minister of Finance even implied that some government operations may not be efficient. I think everybody knows that some government operations probably need to be reviewed. Like in any other area, when we keep doing the same thing, even though it is a good thing, we become inefficient because their is no innovation. It is high time the minister decided to innovate in the area of finance, as the governor general asked us to be more innovative and creative in the throne speech.

In terms of principles, the finance minister talked about justice and compassion, as did the governor general. It is with a tear in his eye and his heart on his sleeve that the minister then proceeded to make his budget speech.

But I noticed that he did not talk about money right away. He lingered on the perspectives. He used a new trick, which I have seen different finance ministers use in several provinces. They go as far ahead as 1997, 1998, 1999. They confuse people. We think we no longer have debts, but they are talking about 1999 or 2000 or 2002.

In a way, these budgets become what I would call crystal ball budgets prepared by people who try to predict the future, but when we read newspapers from previous years, we can see that most finance ministers, as well as economists from the major banks and from the academic world, were wrong in their predictions. Some have received the Nobel prize in economics, but we notice that it is often given to people who have worked in the field for a very long time. That minimizes the risk of error.

The finance minister mentioned two urgent needs. I am talking about the throne speech and I keep referring to the finance minister because I was under the impression that the throne speech was supposed to state certain principles, to tell us where we are headed as a country, and that, since we are in the economic age, the

finance minister was supposed to provide us with the solutions, to translate into reality the general directions outlined by the governor general.

We heard about the need to increase revenues and to cut expenditures. Of course, the official opposition agrees with these objectives. Regarding the need to increase revenues, we might perhaps have expected the minister to announce a reform of our tax system, but he talked about tax equity instead. Then he went on to talk about the banks, about the progressive tax, and said a few words about tax loopholes. He talked about family trusts, but that was before we learned that $2 billion was taken out of Canada before Christmas without any taxes being paid on it.

The minister did not talk about keeping the surplus in the unemployment insurance fund, which has become the employment insurance fund. Of course he knew that a reform was forthcoming, that the fund was growing and that he needed that money. But he never told us how he would increase the revenues without raising taxes. I think that, today, a minister of finance who would propose raising taxes directly, rather than indirectly, by asking taxpayers to make a certain contribution would be severely criticized rather than congratulated.

As for expenditure reduction, cuts are never mentioned and the role of the government is never openly questioned, although its role is under review and things are changing. Basically, a throne speech or a speech by the finance minister are always optimistic and little concerned with issues.

Last weekend, I heard a reporter put this question to the President of the Treasury Board: "Sir, are there problems in Canada?" The minister was flabbergasted. In Canada as a whole, in Quebec or in my own area of Chicoutimi-Jonquière, there is still a huge unemployment problem.

Unemployment rates are 9.9 per cent in Canada, 12.6 per cent in Quebec, and a staggering 14.6 per cent in Chicoutimi-Jonquière. Thus I would say that the throne speech as the budget speech are only rhetoric, claptrap and fine words that lead to naught. It has been six months since they were delivered,-the figures I have mentioned were for September 1996-and Canadians are still unemployed. Both these speeches propose no solution to put Canadians and Quebecers back to work.

Consumer Protection November 1st, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the Globe and Mail reports that this bureau would require only about 20 hours' work per week to deal with all of Canada, in other words, half the workload of a single civil servant. How can the federal government justify this additional intrusion in an area which in any case is the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces? Does the government want to give the impression that it protects its citizens, although it is obvious that this bureau will be useless?