House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament September 2007, as Bloc MP for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 45% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Justice November 1st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the government realizes that one of its primary constitutional responsibilities is to look after people who are destitute.

Indeed, it is the government's responsibility to look after 60-year-old workers who have worked in the same factory for 40 years, only to be let go due to a mass layoff.

However, these workers have been abandoned by the government, which refuses to assume its responsibilities.

Justice November 1st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is in the process of trying to pass a bill that would grant members of the judiciary a very generous salary increase, specifically, 7.25%, plus full indexation, which would mean an increase this year between $14,000 and $21,000.

How can a government grant such generous increases to judges, while refusing to help older workers who have been the victims of mass layoffs and do not have enough money to live at home while awaiting their retirement?

Committees of the House October 24th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I hope that there will be no price to pay because I will not tell you who will be sending the bill. We are going to agree on this. No one is going to pay the price, for having the right to debate the nature of Standing Orders. If there is a price to be paid, we will talk about it, but I will not tell you who will be signing the bill and who will have to pay it. That is the answer I wanted to give.

Very simply, I am not aware that there is any problem whatsoever. Of course, I tend to be available. During the time when Don Boudria was the Liberal House leader, we called each other four times a day. When it was Tony Valeri, we called each other four times a week. Now, unfortunately, we are calling each other four times a month. Certainly we understand each other less. However, in all sincerity, I know of no problem and I have never been told of any. The Chair is indicating to me that I have no time left for the answer.

I am sorry but I do not have the time to answer the hon. member. I will speak with my friend if he comes outside.

Committees of the House October 24th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I consider that to be a laudable effort. It is very kind of the member to try to bring his own contribution to the debate. However, I will point out to him that it is not my responsibility to raise points on which there is no longer consensus. In my view, and in the view of most of the people I have consulted, there is still consensus regarding the reform: we all want it to be applied. There is therefore no problem. That is the answer: there is consensus on all points.

The government whip is therefore the only person who does not support this. I understand why this may be, since there are some things he may not be happy about. But why, in his amendment, is the only change he is proposing for the committee that notice go from five to 10 days, knowing that a majority of committee members want to meet?

This is a detail. We can agree on that with no problem. But still, if there is no consensus on such a number of things, it is not my job to say so. In my opinion, there is consensus on everything and I support all aspects of it. The NDP and the Liberals also support all aspects of it. Only the Conservatives do not agree on all aspects. It is therefore up to them to tell us so.

However, let them not tell us that this is a matter of going from five to 10 days and that this question absolutely has to be examined. This thing is a dog’s breakfast. They are looking for reasons to try to delay adoption of the Standing Orders.

These Standing Orders were instituted by the Conservatives and represent one of the most worthwhile things they did when they were in opposition. We like these Standing Orders and we will be keeping them, at least as far as I am concerned. If there are other things that the Conservatives do not like, let them say so. Myself, I do not see any at the moment.

Committees of the House October 24th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, that should not take long to sort out.

True, we agreed to an extension of these Standing Orders to November 21. I agree with that. However, the only new element that the government has brought to this file since this morning is an amendment proposing to replace the words “five days” by “ten days”, when a committee is convened by the majority of members. This is the government's only contribution. I therefore have a question for the government and I expect an answer.

What exactly does it not agree with?

Does it no longer agree with the fact that the Prime Minister or the leader of the official opposition can be questioned after a speech? That is one of the provisions of these Standing Orders. Does it no longer agree with the fact that members may share their time? This is another result of these Standing Orders. Does it no longer agree with the fact that motions to adopt committee reports can be considered here and resolved once and for all, rather than being left in the hands of the government? That is one of the provisions of these Standing Orders. Does it no longer agree with the fact that five hours of debate, instead of three, are required for referral to committee before the second reading of a bill? That is one of the provisions of these Standing Orders. Does it no longer agree with the fact that the NDP has an additional opposition day and that all opposition motions on such days are votable? That is one of the provisions of these Standing Orders.

These Standing Orders can only be beneficial. The only thing the government has come up with to persuade us that we should not adopt them quickly today is that the timeframe for convening a committee should be extended from five days to ten days, when a majority of members call for it. Well, this seems fishy to me.

What provisions does the government not agree with? I would like it to rise and tell us, to present amendments, indicating what sections it does not like. Yet, the people listening to us feel that everything is excellent. Facts are facts, and these are the facts.

Committees of the House October 24th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that it is easy to solve the problem before us, and I do not understand the government's strategy at all. The idea is to make a major change to our Standing Orders official. This change has been tried over the past year or more.

Before we get to the bottom of things, hon. members need to understand that the sole purpose of the amendment that was just introduced is to delay acceptance of the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. That is its sole purpose: to make sure these amendments to the Standing Orders are not accepted within the timeframe allotted by the House, thereby giving the government the wiggle room it needs to postpone consideration of this issue by the House of Commons indefinitely.

For the benefit of those who are watching, all the amendments before us here were introduced by the Conservative Party, by Conservative members—with rallying speeches and talk of consensuses and discussions among the parties—when the Conservatives formed the official opposition. I would not want the people who are watching to think that the Liberal opposition, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP are trying to pull a fast one on the government. One gets that impression, listening to the government whip, but it is absolutely not true.

I have here a memo dated September 7, 2004, in which the then opposition leader, now the Prime Minister, asked the leaders of the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party to proceed immediately with the amendments to the Standing Orders that have been introduced. Everyone who is watching needs to understand that all the amendments before us today originated in the office of the Conservative leader a year and a half ago, when he was the leader of the official opposition.

We are not trying to turn everything upside down or put the government in a difficult position. We are trying to make permanent something that all the parties had agreed to try temporarily, at the suggestion of the then leader of the official opposition, who is now the Prime Minister. We want to implement something that was introduced by the Prime Minister.

Let us stop this hypocritical chatter suggesting that we are trying to quibble, to engineer a conflict. This is something that was done with the consent of everyone and that, I repeat, originated from the office of the current Prime Minister when he was the Leader of the Opposition. Moreover, he worked on this with the same advisors he has now. I have the advantage of being an old parliamentary leader; I have been here for a while and I have seen them at work. These same advisors are still around today. They are the ones who drafted the changes to the Standing Orders, and pleaded for the Bloc Québécois and the NDP to support them. They are also the ones who pleaded for the Liberal government at the time to approve these regulatory changes.

Today, we are hearing that it is terrible, outrageous, that the spirit of cooperation is gone and that our workings had always been perfectly harmonious. I was about to use bad language. There is a limit to spewing nonsense. These provisional Standing Orders make the life of the official opposition easier. Indeed, this change to the Standing Orders allows the official opposition to better play its role. Take for example this debate we are having today at the instigation of this Parliament's official opposition; it could not have been held had the rules not been changed.

I would like the people watching us to suggest what they would call a group of politicians who say one thing while in opposition and the opposite once in government. That is what we have here.

The very people who proposed these changes to the Standing Orders and convinced everyone to approve them are now reticent to say too loudly, for fear of ridicule, that they oppose the Standing Orders. Still, they keep looking for ways to prevent these Standing Orders from being permanently, officially adopted.

Do they think we cannot see right through them? I was not born yesterday. I am most senior parliamentary leader in this House. It is clear to me what they want to do: they want to buy time so that these provisional orders will fade away come mid-November. Then we would no longer be able to debate them here in this House or to consider this report, because it is in the new Standing Orders. After mid-November, we will no longer be able to discuss this issue. Under the old Standing Orders, only the government can put the debate back on the agenda, if and when it chooses to do so.

I doubt the government has any intention of bringing back the debate. It no longer wants to hear about changes to the Standing Orders even though it proposed them when it was the official opposition. This behaviour is unacceptable. There will be collaboration in this House once we start talking to one another.

I have been a parliamentary leader for 13 years. Never have I had such little discussion with my counterpart opposite and my colleagues in opposition about parliamentary strategy. These people talk about dialogue. They do not want anyone to talk about the strategy they themselves came up with when they were in opposition. I would like to tell the Liberal opposition, which was in power at the time, that it could have put up more of a fight against the application of this Standing Order. The government House leader at the time, Tony Valeri, was aware that we could force their hand, in a way. So he invited us to discuss a number of things, and we discussed them. This Standing Order was the result of that discussion.

This is a big improvement that, among other things, makes it possible for our friends in the NDP to have an additional opposition day and enables Parliament to vote on all opposition days. All parliamentarians, all citizens with elected representatives in the House of Commons, want motions introduced in the House to be voted on, passed, or taken into consideration by all members of the House. That is a big improvement for democracy.

In return, members of the opposition agreed to make known in advance the subjects that would be debated here in the House of Commons. Why would we not accept such a change? They want to muzzle the NDP and remove one of their two opposition days; they want to remove the right of the official opposition or the Bloc Québécois to bring motions to a vote. That won’t hold water. That is the reason why when we are in opposition, we are better parliamentarians.

Indeed, these amendments, which are all excellent and essential to the good operation of Parliament, were introduced by a Conservative government in opposition.

It appears that we will be obliged to ask them to return to the opposition to regain those qualities that they had only a few months ago. That is the reality.

I would simply like to say that my colleague, the whip, makes me blush with shame, by proposing a motion such as this one, five days instead of ten.

Do you know what we told them? We will tell you: yes, there are some details that we are ready to discuss. There are some small points that we could examine if you like, now that you want to talk. There are some little things that we can do. We are prepared to examine the amendment to five days from ten.

Let us adopt the new Standing Orders as a whole, because they are a great deal broader than this little motion, than this small change that is proposed.

This is a pretext. It smells like a pretext. Let us adopt the new Standing Orders. Everybody likes them, except the Conservatives who produced them. Nevertheless, they will have to live with them. Sorry but when you are virtuous in opposition, you can also be virtuous when you are in government. I apologize to the Conservatives. They will have to live with their Standing Orders, and we will make them swallow it because we are all agreed that this is a good standing order; it is a one from which no one gains any special advantage.

We believed that the Leader of the Opposition at that time, who is now the prime minister, had produced a good text, which we supported for that reason, and which the Liberals and the NDP agreed was a good text, and because Canadians are better served by a good text. When we have one, we adopt it; and we are going to adopt it. That is what we want to do.

If there are changes to be made, from five days to ten, or commas, or minutes to move, we will be as open as the Liberal government was at the time to accept this text. We will have the necessary openness and we will ensure that the citizens are better served than ever. We will not allow the government to prevent us from adopting what we consider to be a good text. We will vote against the motion, against the amendment that says this will be sent to committee. The government wants to buy some time. We will not allow it to buy time at our expense—and especially not at the expense of the Standing Orders. And I asked citizens, throwing it back in their face: what do you think of a group of parliamentarians who behave one way when they are in opposition and another way when they are in power?

It was funny at the time to the Leader of the Opposition, the now Prime Minister, and his group of advisors, and the whip who was leader, and the leader who was whip. It was the same clique. They thought it was funny to impose this on the Liberal minority government. They found it funny and they liked it. They were pleased and happy that the Bloc and the NDP were in favour of it.

Today, we are the ones who find it funny to throw back in their faces the Standing Orders they came up with at the time and on which we collaborated. I am sorry, but this allowed the opposition to do its work better and I hope it does not bother the government to think that if we did our work better as the opposition, this might prevent it from making the gaffes that would send it straight to the opposition benches at the next election. The Conservatives should consider themselves lucky: things are working, the House is doing well, the Standing Orders are a good text and there is unanimity among the other parties to keep what they came up with in the first place.

I call this great unanimity. They should vote with us instead of using stalling tactics to put off this motion long enough so we can no longer pass it or have the chance to force them to accept it.

Older Workers October 23rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, what would be a good thing for Canada is the establishment of a true older workers support program, a program that would allow them, when they lose their jobs at age 62, to bridge the gap until retirement.

Is it so hard for the federal government to understand that its program is not helping older workers? Moreover, it excludes workers from Montreal, Quebec City and Gatineau, which account for over half of Quebec's workforce.

Older Workers October 23rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the government completely failed older workers by refusing to bridge the gap between job loss and pension plan eligibility, when these workers are hit by mass layoffs.

Should the federal government not review its position, considering that its offer is so inadequate that the Quebec government itself had to make up for it?

Privilege October 19th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege to do with the fact that an extremely serious incident occurred during oral question period. This incident involved the Minister of Industry.

In his usual fashion, the Minister of Industry used comments made by others to illustrate his own argument. This time, he went too far.

The Minister of Industry misled the House by saying he had the support of Claudette Carbonneau, the president of CSN, on the older workers assistance program introduced by the government yesterday.

I have before me two extremely specific quotes by Ms. Carbonneau, who said precisely the opposite of what the minister said today. In my opinion, this constitutes a breach of parliamentary privilege. I will read these two quotes by Ms. Carbonneau, which are quite clear.

For years the CSN has been calling for an income support program for older workers unable to find work after losing their jobs. The federal government delivered precious little today in its targeted initiative that in no way responds to the real needs. The CSN is extremely disappointed.

That is exactly the opposite of what the Minister of Industry said here in this House.

Ms. Carbonneau also said:

—there is another class of workers, those 55 and older who, no matter what active measures are offered to them, have no chance of retraining. What they need is an income support program to bridge the gap between the end of their employment insurance benefits and their retirement. There is nothing for them in the program announced today [Tuesday].

That is what Ms. Carbonneau said in a press release.

What gives a government minister the right—knowing the very clear and categorically expressed opinion of someone like Ms. Carbonneau, who is leads thousands of unionized workers in Quebec—to knowingly misrepresent the comments of such a person by saying strictly and precisely the opposite of what Ms. Carbonneau said. It was in all the papers and all the media.

I maintain that the minister misled the House and breached parliamentary privilege. He should apologize, not only to Ms. Carbonneau, but also to this House and the people he misled.

Older Workers October 18th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, this minister is completely disconnected from reality. I met the Whirlpool workers in Montmagny during the election campaign, workers who have sent out 25 or 30 or 40 job applications and been told “I am sorry, you are too old”.

How can the government justify having hundreds of millions of dollars for its friends the oil companies, and not have a few million dollars to preserve the dignity of the older workers who have built what we have today?