Last in Parliament May 2004, as Progressive Conservative MP for Richmond—Arthabaska (Québec)
Lost his last election, in 2008, with 16.36% of the vote.
Statements in the House
The Patent Act November 7th, 2003
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in what is probably the last day in the current session to speak to an extremely important bill.
During our life as parliamentarians, we often make mountains out of mole hills even though there are no mole hills in this dignified House. But here we are dealing with an extremely important bill in the dying days of a session.
Regrettably Bill C-56 was put forward at the very last minute. It could already have been reviewed in committee and disposed of, sent to the other place where it could have been reviewed, amended if necessary, and passed.
A political agenda has taken over a humanitarian agenda. This is what is going on here. For the past few days, even weeks, various opposition parties, several government members and some ministers also, I hope, various stakeholders in Bill C-56, including brand name drug companies and generic name drug companies, as well as humanitarian and community groups involved in this issue have been urging the government to go ahead.
As a matter of fact, the office of the Minister of Industry had invited members to a briefing session on the bill, but it was postponed and was only held this week. It makes one wonder.
This week, the Prime Minister answered a planted question on Bill C-57, reading a prepared text saying that it was a priority. We might stop sitting very soon. Yesterday, the government House leader, before leaving for a warmer climate as a result of an appointment, said good bye to parliamentarians although Bill C-56 has not passed yet. Once again, the partisan agenda has taken over the humanitarian agenda.
For several weeks now the government has tried to blame the drug industry as well as the opposition parties, including the Progressive Conservative Party, the sponsor of the Drug Patent Act, accusing them of delaying matters. The holdup is not with us; it is with the government.
I will not talk about the benefits of Bill C-56, as everybody is in agreement on that. However, as my Bloc Quebecois colleague said, now that Bill C-56 can be discussed, as we are doing now, we see that there are people on both sides who have reservations, be they the brand name drug companies or the generic drug companies, humanitarian groups or non-governmental organizations.
We are ready to take a few hours or a few days to study the bill in committee, very quickly. We will not be the ones holding the process up. The problem is that every time there is a delay, there are more deaths in these countries, every day.
Let us imagine the possible and probably scenario of an adjournment and a prorogation in the next few weeks. We should be called back sometime in February. However, if there is a prorogation, all the bills will die on the Order Paper, unless there is an agreement among the parliamentary leaders of all the parties represented in the House. This could represent a delay of three or four months.
I would not want to hit a nerve here, but how many hundreds of thousands of people will contract these diseases, tuberculosis, malaria or AIDS, in that period? How many hundreds or thousands of people will die? It could be interesting to air the Liberal convention in Africa next week to make sure people realize that, because of a leadership convention, everything is being put on hold while people are dying.
We all agree with the bill. Yes, we support the pharmaceutical companies, and we also support the Patent Act since we introduced it. As one of my colleagues was saying earlier, what is interesting in all this is that we can be compassionate while doing business.
We can do it. The big bad World Trade Organization was able to arrive at a compromise, to strike a delicate and complex balance. It can be done.
That being said, we are stuck in a situation that we cannot control. The four opposition parties are in agreement about speeding up the process, but not at any cost. Our party does not have on its agenda a leadership convention that will be broadcast on all major Canadian networks on November 14 and 15.
We are lawmakers. We are here to finish any job that we start. Certain bills are frivolous. In fact, they exist just to make a minister or a government look good.
Bill C-56 is a very important bill. The Minister of Industry has made a number of blunders when he was justice minister and when he was health minister. We all remember the blunders he made on the hepatitis issue. At least here, with the credibility given to this file by the Minister for International Trade, he had a chance to speed up the process. But no. We are getting a new prime minister.
People dying in Africa are not a priority after all. Surely something can be done. We, in the Progressive Conservative Party, are in contact with our colleagues and our leader in the Senate. He and the PC team in the other place are ready to do the job quickly, but properly.
Will we have time to finish the job? While reading a letter, the current Prime Minister was boasting about the fact that we are the first country to legislate on the WTO decision, but the legislation may not be passed because of the partisan agenda of this government.
Yes, maybe it is time we had a new leader. Yes, maybe it is time we had a new prime minister. I agree with that, but surely there can be better planning. It is so important. Surely it would be possible to give the House, the committee and the other place the opportunity to look at this issue.
House leaders on this side met and they had discussions with the government House leader, or at least the person who will be in that position probably for another few hours. Rumour has it that he is going to Brazil. They can send him wherever they want. The fact remains that he always was a good soldier for the Liberal Party.
However, what are we going to do now? We will be back in our ridings next week. In my riding, I have organizations lobbying to have this bill passed. In Quebec there are organizations lobbying to have it passed. They are going to ask us what we are doing. And we will have to answer that we are currently on break. Their next question will be, “So will you be able to deal with it next week?”
We do not know whether or not we will come back. Regardless of the fact that the Order Paper is calling us back on November 17, we do not know if that is what is going to happen. We are ready. I am ready, as a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, to come back next week to review the bill, to bring in people concerned with Bill C-56 and speed up the process.
We can do it. However, in some respects, we wonder if we should lend credibility to the Liberal partisan agenda. Should we do it? They tried to put the blame on us, “We know full well that the Conservatives favour the big drug companies. In the 1990s you introduced the Patent Protection Act and so on and so forth. You are against it. You are the bad guys in this Parliament.”
We are not the bad guys in Parliament. The bad guys are those who are unable to get their priorities straight with regard to their own legislative agenda. That is the problem.
With better planning and cooperation when they introduced Bill C-56, it could have passed today. Today, we are realizing that the big mean drug companies are not the only ones to have reservations. The generic drug companies also have reservations regarding the implementation of the bill. As I said earlier, without sounding like I am repeating myself and rambling on, organizations have reservations regarding Bill C-56. We would like to hear from them in committee. I can guarantee we will speed up the work, but we will do it.
If it were only pharmaceutical companies that had reservations, I would not be making this speech today. But stakeholders on both sides have reservations about the application and the applicability of this legislation.
Members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology discussed this issue, and we would like to see the regulations. A bill is often 3, 4 or 5 pages long, whereas regulations are often 3, 4 or 5 inches thick. We would like to see what would be in there.
We must protect tens of thousands of jobs in Canada. In fact, we must protect the delicate balance between Canada and the United States with regard to pharmaceutical research and the distribution of pharmaceutical products.
Therefore, this bill must go to committee quickly. I am sure that, on this side of the House, we would agree to do this right now. Members on this side of the House, or at least members of the Progressive Conservative Party, are ready to sit down in committee and do a good and credible job.
Today, we can help those who are suffering, those who have had enough and those who will contract these diseases. We can tell them that Canada's commitment is more than a statement made by a Prime Minister at the end of his reign. Parliament will take its responsibilities.
At the same time, if the government has not done a good job in terms of legislative planning, that is its problem. It is not the opposition that is the big bad wolf here, but the government.
Bill C-56 is one of those bills that gives goose bumps. Yesterday, we were watching the Prime Minister who was boasting about Bill C-20. It gave me goose bumps, but not for the same reason. It gave me a negative feeling, whereas Bill C-56 gives me a positive feeling. If everybody agrees, we could look at this as early as next week, unless the partisan agenda prevails again over the humanitarian agenda, unless the government is willing to wait three or four months and have a few thousand more sick or dead people on its conscience. We are ready to move quickly to do a credible job.
Statistics Act November 6th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, I will be brief since several of my colleagues who spoke to Bill S-13 summarized it very well. As my Liberal colleague was saying, it is not the first time that we debate this issue. Having been here since 1997 also, I know that it has been discussed on several occasions, either through private members' initiatives or through bills from the other place.
Essentially, it must be understood that, with Bill S-15 and Bill S-12 and numerous private members' bills considered previously, this issue has been thoroughly researched. A bill is never perfect. Its regulations will determine how it is implemented.
There is really nothing new in Bill S-13. What it does, however, is that it responds to Statistics Canada, which had refused to release census records on the grounds that people had provided that information under a confidentiality clause. There was indeed a 92-year rule. Five or six amendments were made to the act since the beginning of the last century, but the 92-year rule did exist.
I may also correct something my hon. colleague from the Bloc Quebecois said, if I understood correctly. Under Bill S-13, after 92 years, all basic information may be disclosed, as set out in the bill. As far as the rest of the information is concerned, we have to tack on another 20 years to that. A 20-year lead is given to family members, historians and genealogists conducting research. After 112 years, the information enters into the public domain anyway. No census information is confidential 112 years after the census was taken. We must be clear on that. If a document was signed, requesting that the information not be disclosed, the period is 112 years. In the absence of such a document, the period is 92 years.
There have been debates in the Senate, and I encourage members to read them, particularly the ones in which Senators Comeau, Kinsella, Murray and Lynch-Staunton, the leader of my party in the Senate, spoke. They made some extremely impressive points about the bill. The bottom line is the confidentiality issues involved in taking a census. The debate is about whether or not information released should remain confidential. How far should confidentiality go? And for how long? I am not talking about the secrets of Fatima. I am about talking about information contained in census records in Canada. How long should this information remain confidential?
In spite of certain questions raised, I personally find that Bill S-13 makes a great deal of sense. As my hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance said, it does, as long as no one is tempted to ask too many questions and Statistics Canada does not ask questions that could embarrass individuals, their family or descendants or cause problems for them.
There is definitely the whole issue of the census questions, but what control does Parliament have over these questions? Will those individuals who, during the 20 years, can authorize census information to be collected have their say about future census questions? In a census, any question may be asked, but one may choose to answer only some of them. Everyone has to fill out the census forms, but no one is forced to answer every single question.
We will have to be careful not to include in the census any new questions that could be a problem. I give this example as a joke. The end of the session is near, and we will have new ministers, new ambassadors and perhaps new senators. This tradition is being upheld.
For instance, fidelity is an issue that could be addressed. It is the in thing now, with all the reality shows on television. If asked in a census, “Have you ever had an affair?”, a person could answer yes because the census is supposed to be confidential.
Can you imagine the stir that could cause among grandchildren or if family law and alimony provisions were to change in the next 92 years. I am kidding, of course, but flawed examples and analogies such as this one bring us back to what is truly at stake here, which is the confidentiality issue.
We agree that, with proper authorization, the basic data could be released 92 years after the census took place. However, release of all the information and all the answers to all the questions will not be authorized. This data will be made public only 112 years after the census. Once that is made clear, we can be for or against the bill.
That is what we need to discuss, not only with the experts, the genealogists, the historians, but with everyone. It will have to be explained in the next censuses if Bill S-13 is passed. And between you and me, that is not a done deal. However, if it is passed in a future parliament, we will have to inform the public properly. Members of Parliament will have to closely monitor the questions that will be asked, as well as the ones whose answers will be made public, at some point after you and I have retired.
Bill S-13 is the result of all the questions that have arisen since the decisions Statistics Canada made about the 1906 census. It is a much more comprehensive and professional bill in terms of its content and of the debate that it will generate.
We, in the Progressive Conservative Party, look forward to the debate on this bill, which is a step in the right direction for some and a huge question mark for others.
Canada Labour Code October 21st, 2003
Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the Bloc member for Laurentides on her work. She has made us aware of the need for balanced labour relations, not only in Quebec but in Canada. This balance must be achieved.
Quebec's experience should serve as an example. Once again, Quebec is a model for labour relations in Canada.
My Progressive Conservative colleague, the hon. member for St. John's East and our party's critic on the Canada Labour Code, made a speech in the House in support of the Bloc member's efforts. I support this, and the Progressive Conservative Party supports this interesting, constructive and positive bill.
Perhaps I am not objective when it comes to this bill; my hon. colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador was more objective than I. I am from Asbestos. Those who know their history, particularly Quebec history, will remember that 1949 was the asbestos strike in Asbestos. A lot of things happened during that strike.
The Jean Marchands and the Pierre Trudeaus of this world intervened, particularly the latter; he started to be visible because it could be good publicity. He did not do much, unlike Mr. Marchand, but in any case, he came to tour Asbestos.
The scabs were the main problem during the strike of 1949 in Asbestos. I am not going to call them “strikebreakers” or “replacement workers”; they were scabs. There were fights, and the provincial police were there. People suffered. It took years to strike a balance between the workers and the employers. Several laws were adopted in Quebec, but in 1977, a balance was achieved.
Things evolved on the federal scene, as my hon. Liberal colleague said too, but not enough. The principle behind labour relations is bargaining power. The employer and the worker both have to participate. Any interference between these two powers is illegitimate in my view.
The possibility of using replacement workers or scabs creates interference between the partners. The worst thing I heard this evening was from my Alliance colleague. He said that, ultimately, there is no need for unions or even employers, since an adjudicator will decide. Where is the bargaining power?
It would be like an election campaign, but without an election. We have a list of candidates from the left, from the right, from the centre, from above and from below, and an arbitrator will decide who will be the member of Parliament. There must be bargaining power, there must be a way to prove that workers are being had. Even the employer must prove to these workers that he is in a difficult situation and that there needs to be compromise.
This bill has been introduced several times in the House. Perhaps we should ensure that any interference is removed in the Canada Labour Code. I know that there would be concerns about the reaction if there was a debate on the Labour Code. My Liberal colleague said so. I understand that, when there is a debate on an issue, everything is open for discussion. I understand that.
However, a scab interferes with labour relations. This leads to absolutely nothing except animosity. Some will say that the company maintains production elements that are necessary to its revival and competitiveness. I am sorry, but I did not read the report that my Liberal colleague talked about. I will read it quickly, but if I look at the Quebec experience, this is absolutely not the case.
Some will say that, in the cities, plants have closed because of strikes. I would presume that they would still have closed, but to the detriment of workers.
The other important element when we remove the interference is that we ensure that things function well.
Take the example of the essential services council. It makes sure that the employer and workers provide basic services to the public and clients. It is not a perfect system, but it keeps labour relations clean, while at the same time protecting collective interests during negotiations. It works well.
Of course there are consequences for the company's clients and for the public. That is bargaining power; without it, what is the point? Consequently, the bill before us gives us an opportunity to refine the Canada Labour Code and to send a message to the provinces that there is no room for scabs in Canada.
I would like to digress a little. In Asbestos, the strike took place in 1949. The only people who got married during the asbestos strike in Asbestos were scabs, because everyone else was starving.
In mining towns like mine, we celebrate what we call jubilees. When someone has worked at the mine for 25 years they receive a watch. There is a party with all their friends and the company, which is often American, picks up the beer tab. In Asbestos, as elsewhere, we celebrate 25 years of marriage. Vows are renewed and there is a big party at the church. It is a big celebration. Twenty five years after the strike of 1949, there were no celebrations because they were all scabs.
Still today, when a scab passes away, the only people at the funeral home are the priest and a few members of the Knights of Columbus to pray for the scab's soul. This shows that the wounds run deep. There was also interference at the time. There was also Maurice Duplessis, but that is another issue.
The bill states that we will be cleaning up, but at the same time, if we want to introduce other elements relating to essential services, we can do so. There is no problem. However, the ultimate objective is really to clean up labour relations and to maintain the existing bargaining power, the lock-outs and the strikes. No advantage will be given to one side over the other. We will rather remove an advantage from the employer by prohibiting scabs. I agree with that. Labour relations will improve. Quebec's experience is there to prove it.
I come from a unionized city. I am a member of the Progressive Conservative Party. There is a good balance. I applaud the work that has been done and I congratulate my caucus. We all know that this is not easy to do. In our caucus, people say “Yes, but we have to pay attention to how things are perceived.” The idea is simply to standardize labour relations that come under federal jurisdiction. I do not see why we would hesitate to review legislation if there are elements in it that need to be improved.
I had a small discussion with the minister of Labour. I certainly do not want to make her feel uncomfortable, but her colleague from the government party was also repeating the same arguments. I believe that we should not be afraid of a confrontation or an discussion between the various stakeholders concerning the Canada Labour Code. We still have to challenge some ideas to be able to choose the best ones. As for the bill being debated today, I urge all members to support it. This will send a very clear message to those who need it and who work in companies under federal jurisdiction. It will also reassure the companies under federal jurisdiction, by letting them know that this bill will ensure the balance so sought after by the government.
The Environment October 3rd, 2003
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois for his amendment. We know the federal government has a tendency to poke its nose where it does not belong, especially when there are grey areas in so-called shared jurisdictions. This is an essential safeguard. It should be included in every text, or at least make them clearer. Perhaps it could act as some sort of extended warranty on the respect of jurisdictions.
My colleague from Fundy—Royal, who is the Progressive Conservative critic for the environment, supports the motion put forward by the hon. member for Windsor West and has spoken to it.
I would like to make a brief comment. I listened to the remarks of my colleague from the Canadian Alliance. He used the humour he has been known for in this place for a number of years to somewhat discredit the NDP motion, describing it as unclear. I think we may have lost track of the ground rules of the House. Some motions are wake-up calls for the government and this House; others inform the public of shortcomings in certain areas, such as the environment.
I hope that people will understand that it is necessary to have a sense of humour, particularly in politics. But in dealing with serious issues like the environment, I think that a sense of responsibility must come before a sense of humour.
That being said, this motion, even though it is broad, is necessary. Everyone in the country, including various groups and even the provinces, agrees that the federal government, within its jurisdiction—let us take that for granted—has not done much with regard to the environment. Several movements, including the Sierra Club and others, have condemned the government's inaction in that area. This is why the motion before us today is necessary to bring environmental issues to the forefront.
Of course, the government will talk about Kyoto. Between you and me, Kyoto may be the only meaningful measure that we have seen in ten years. On several occasions since 1997, that is since I have had the opportunity to sit in the House, environmental legislation died on the Order Paper. The government's record in that area is less than stellar.
Another important element is the legislation that can be put in place, while respecting existing jurisdictions.
Again, my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois mentioned the issue of large utility vehicles. This is good for those people who use them for work, for those who have a business, for truckers. Certainly these vehicles use more fuel. But some kind of measures could be put in place for those who buy these big 8-cylinder vehicles, or even bigger, that use a lot of fuel.
If someone is driving a large vehicle that pollutes or consumes way more fuel than necessary for transportation, just to look good on the streets of Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver, perhaps it would be appropriate to look at some kind of taxation.
I know there will be a motion—and we will probably talk about this again next week—that gasoline taxes should be handed over to municipalities for their infrastructure programs. If we are prepared to turn over part of the excise tax for infrastructure, we might also be ready to establish a tax incentive or a tax penalty for large non-commercial consumers. It could be done.
The other aspect raised in this motion is the question of sustainable development. The committee must be satisfied that new measures can be implemented in favour of sustainable development. We start from the basic concept that it is better to prevent than to cure, informing people about the very risky situations they may be living in, in the future or right now.
The federal government must also solve its own problems. I know that it is necessary to invest billions of dollars in the environment, in the decontamination of federal lands, for one. The hon. member for Fundy—Royal has pointed out that a number of groups have claimed that $2 billion must be spent at once to begin decontamination of federal sites, followed by a minimum of $100 million more each year. We agree with them. We must get started.
There are numerous examples of places where we know there is a problem, where people are sick. Yet, nothing is being done about it. There are 1,200 to 1,600 contaminated federal sites. This is not talked about enough. People live around these sites without being truly informed. Of course we are talking about Val-Cartier, in Quebec. We are talking about other sites, in Nova Scotia or elsewhere in the country. More than 1,200 to 1,600 sites are listed, but the public does not know about them. If the list of these thousands of contaminated sites were published, people would panic.
That is one of the objectives of the motion put forward by the NDP member, namely to find a way to prepare solutions rather than react to situations and for the committees to have a role. This initiative is essential.
But when we talk about the environment, everyone is scared. Industrial zones, people wonder if the existing industry will be shut down. That is absolutely not the case. There is a way to apply very strict environmental rules and to involve the public.
I come from the Asbestos region. I was the mayor of the city of Asbestos for 11 years. Asbestos is known, of course, for producing asbestos. It is quite a challenge. I had two huge challenges during my lifetime, one as mayor of the city of Asbestos and the other as a Conservative member from Quebec. In both cases, I did quite well.
But in Asbestos, producing asbestos is a real problem since, as we all know, it has been banned everywhere around the world. But with the cooperation of the unions, education and awareness programs were carried out. There are various categories of asbestos. What is being produced in Canada, and especially in Quebec and my own region, is called chrysotile or white asbestos. It has saved many more lives than it has caused trouble.
In fact, with the assistance of the unions, the industrial process and working conditions have been improved. Nowadays, it is totally safe to operate the mine and to use the product.
More recently, the Magnola plant that produced magnesium from residues of white asbestos was closed. Unfortunately, because of a business decision, dumping by China and a 28% countervailing duty--two issues the federal government did not deal with--Noranda had to close the plant after operating it for 18 months and pouring $1.5 billion in it. For six months, the people of Noranda asked to meet with the international trade minister. Their meeting was granted, but only after the closing of the plant had been announced.
I will give an example of what the effect of the motion can be. When Magnola set up operations, since potentially hazardous products were involved, the Government of Quebec, the municipalities, the general public and the workers joined together to say that there were hazards.
The motion does not mean that everything hazardous must be done away with. Unlike my colleague from the Canadian Alliance, we do not feel that skunks need to be got rid of because they disturb one night's sleep. The real environmental issue, however, needs to be addressed publicly and jointly. We have to talk about it.
When a problem is concealed, and then discovered, human health is not the only thing affected; it also impacts negatively on the public's perception of politicians.
We are, therefore, pleased to support this motion. I hope the public will understand the idea, the underlying philosophy, which is to ensure that this House and its committees address the environment, that we provide information about it and find solutions before things get worse, that is before people get seriously ill or die. The time has come for action, and I am pleased to support the motion of my colleague from Windsor West.
Musée Laurier October 3rd, 2003
Mr. Speaker, my question has to do with a matter of great concern to me. In a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, among others, the Director of the Musée Laurier in Victoriaville, in my riding, stressed that although Sir Wilfrid Laurier's personal residence has been recognized as a national historic site, it does not receive federal funding, which causes many people to question its importance.
On the eve of the museum's 75th anniversary, can the minister ensure that, finally and officially, the museum's request for approval under Parks Canada's national historic sites of Canada cost-sharing program will be granted and that it will get the necessary funds?
Pharmaceutical Industry October 3rd, 2003
Mr. Speaker, in connection with the current review, all the members agree that developing countries must have access to cheaper versions of patented drugs to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. However, standard procedures must be followed, with indepth consideration of this proposal by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
Given the Minister of Industry's history with generic drug companies, what type of legislative agenda will he propose to the House? Will he use this opportunity to help his friends at generic drug companies or will he implement real measures to help the poor and the sick?
Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions September 23rd, 2003
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate. First, I want to congratulate the Bloc member for Trois-Rivières for putting the issue of federal-provincial relations on the table so we can discuss it.
We have discussed some important issues, such as the leadership of the member for LaSalle—Émard. However, it is important to see that Canada is a federation that deserves to be modernized. It has been experiencing problems for several decades.
Even if it is somewhat late in the day, what the member for Trois-Rivières is doing is bringing up, for a debate that will last about an hour, the issue of federal-provincial relations. That is the crux of the problem.
Where the government opposite is concerned, there is always presumption of guilt and not presumption of innocence. We are afraid, because we have a decade of experience with the Liberal government. Those who care about their province or territory, especially in Quebec, will automatically see the federal government as guilty. It will try to encroach upon provincial jurisdictions.
We can see that right now with regard to the very difficult decisions that the provinces have made on issues such as municipal mergers, among others, which, by the way, are a very good idea. We end up having provinces within provinces. That is the problem. Going back to the presumption of guilt, we can see that the government is thinking of municipal affairs as an election issue.
How many tens of ridings are there in Toronto alone? There may be more that in Atlantic Canada. So the government will leave aside Atlantic Canada and the fisheries issue to take care of Toronto. It will also take care of Calgary and even Montreal. That is what the government has done.
This government has even put in place a partisan committee, a Liberal committee, to study this issue. It has refused to let the House of Commons deal with it. Municipalities are a provincial jurisdiction. That must be said. The federation needs to be modernized.
The other interesting aspect of this motion concerns the issue of Quebec's place within Canada. This is important. People may say whatever they want about the Bloc Quebecois. However, the word Quebec is often mentioned by members of that party, more often than by government members. It is important to point that out.
On the issue of nation, I think there is a distinction to be made. I would humbly suggest to my hon. colleague from Trois-Rivières that it all depends on the dictionary one might be using. My colleague from the Canadian Alliance touched on this earlier.
As far as we are concerned, it is clear, we recognize that Quebec constitutes a nation. However, if I were speaking in English right now, the word “nation” would have a completely different meaning. Depending on whether we are looking in the Larousse dictionary or the Oxford , the definition might not be to the liking of the hon. member for Trois-Rivières. If we stick to the definition found in the Larousse , then we do not have any problem recognizing that Quebec constitutes a nation, quite the opposite.
I would remind my hon. colleague from Trois-Rivières that the Progressive Conservative Party recognized Quebec for what it is a long time ago.
In fact, in 1991, some of his colleagues were still members of the Progressive Conservative Party. At the time, motions were passed to recognize the right to self-determination--that was in 1991--which meant that Quebec constituted a nation--that was in 1991--and the fact that Quebec was a distinct and unique society. That occurred in 1991. It is important to point that out.
I also want to go over the background of the social union. I would remind the House that the Quebec premier at the time was a sovereignist. During the negotiations, before the final agreement was reached, he had managed, with the support of his partners, to come to a basic agreement, a framework agreement, where the right to opt out with full financial compensation was granted to everyone.
Then it was realized that, for Quebec, that right was rather an obligation. To the other provinces, it was a bargaining chip. That goes to show again that Quebec is truly a distinct society.
I am not sure that the provinces have realized yet that they missed the boat by not supporting Mr. Bouchard, who was the Quebec premier at the time.
And that has nothing to do with whether Quebec has a sovereignist government or not. The current premier, when he was in the opposition, said that he would not sign this agreement without a full right to opt out with full compensation; he is still saying that today. It has nothing to do with it.
When a government or a political party, no matter which, dilutes this position, it is a slap in the face in terms of demands—not just for Quebeckers but for all Canadians—it is arrogance. It is not love, not Amour with a capital A, it is Arrogance with a capital A.
A federation is a living and changing thing. Even though Canada has one of the oldest written constitutions, not much has changed. There have not been many constitutional amendments, but there have been agreements that have evolved.
We may remember that in the 1960s, Quebec opted out of 22 federal programs with 7 tax points. Now we are talking about opting out with tax points. It has been done in the past. It is one way of looking at the country.
Then, there was some centralization. The presumption of culpability behind the Liberal's centralization is the heart of the problem. Federalists and sovereignists alike realize that this is not working and that each side of the House has a different vision.
I was listening to my hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance and I think that he did not read the entire web site. With all due respect, he should investigate further. Neither Quebec nor any province has the right to opt out with full compensation. There is no such thing.
First, in order to take advantage of it, Quebec would have to sign it. But it did not. The provinces are so hungry for resources that, often, during negotiations, they accept certain conditions. But some provinces—including Quebec—some politicians—including the Bloc—and some Conservatives at times, rise to say it is not logical.
This system must be re-examined, and I say this with all due respect, because my position on this is clear. We are talking now about the leadership; there are now, officially or unofficially, two prime ministers. As a constitutional lawyer, I am inclined to say this is hardly legal under normal circumstances, but not to worry, the Liberals will work around it.
However, the system currently is not working. We are talking about important issues, of course, but we forget what makes a country: its units and its partners.
Canada is more than just Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Forget that. Ottawa has done wonderful things in remote regions; but it has also caused problems in my own riding.
The social role was to modernize relations, to remove the presumption of culpability behind the federal government's centralization and say to the provinces that it is now to be presumed innocent. I believe in a balanced relationship between the partners in a federation. It is a dog's breakfast. This country is failing in terms of relations between the partners. As soon as a partner becomes strong, the Liberal government tries to appease it.
That is not how the system works because a federation, a country, must also be there to help people facing difficulties and challenges.
What the member for Trois-Rivières has done is perhaps to again raise—on the eve of an election with the king from LaSalle—Émard—the issue of relations between the partners in the federation and I thank him for that. In the coming weeks and months the Progressive Conservative Party will be giving this some thought as well.
I hope all the partners here in the House of Commons will also give this some thought.
A country is more than a name on a piece of paper. It is alive and like the people who live in this country and evolve, the country must evolve too.
Supply September 16th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, in the same vein as my Liberal colleague, I would like to remind my hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance that his leader, after oral question period—not concerning Bill C-250, but rather the bill he will introduce this week—made it very clear that if a church in Canada, any church at all, marries two people of the same sex, that is illegal. Is that what religious freedom looks like in Canada?
After oral question period, the leader of the Canadian Alliance said that if churches marry same sex couples, it is illegal. But for religious freedom to be protected, it goes both ways.
What does the hon. member think of his leader's remarks?
Liberal Leadership Campaign June 12th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, in the beautiful riding of Témiscamingue, both a lake and a town are named Macamic. In the language of the first peoples, Macamic means “lame beaver.”
Does the “Macamic” Minister of Finance not understand that, with the letter from the ethics counsellor, he is really a “lame beaver” for the cabinet and the government?
Now that “Cardinal” Gagliano has been rejected by Rome, is it not time for the Prime Minister to part company with his “Macamic” Minister of Finance?
Liberal Leadership Campaign June 12th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, the ethics counsellor said in a letter that the Deputy Prime Minister “should avoid meeting with personally” companies such as Bell Canada, Bombardier, et cetera, because they gave $25K. What about those who gave $20,000, $15,000 or $10,000?
The finance minister is putting himself in a difficult situation and will not be able to perform his duty correctly. His spokesperson said that we should trust him because he is an honest man. We thought that of cardinal Gagliano and look where he brought us.
When will the Prime Minister ask his finance minister to step down to save what is left--