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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was finance.

Last in Parliament September 2007, as Bloc MP for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 56% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House October 18th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his excellent presentation. I also congratulate the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska, my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. Farmers, and the UPA in particular, must be extremely proud to have such an articulate spokesperson and one who is showing so much interest in the system we have been using for at least 35 years. I wanted to congratulate him.

As a former economist with the UPA, I know what I am talking about after hearing my hon. colleague describe quite eloquently his understanding and convictions about supply management, the power of the Canadian Wheat Board and the will, the democratic will of producers which we would like to see become reality.

I would have a question for my colleague from the NDP. We have an orderly system. In light of the international situation which is in total disarray and the American policy which is a total fiasco but that Canada wants to copy, despite the fact that our systems are working well, why are the Conservatives trying to scrap everything and offer a dogmatic vision and a free market system that never worked in the agrifood sector, particularly at the international level?

Business of Supply October 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I will briefly answer my Liberal colleague. He is talking about a tool to help deal with a labour shortage. We are offering him a tool worth $100 million a year.

In many companies, especially in my riding, if older workers had had the opportunity to leave first when half the workforce was laid off, and the employer had kept the younger workers, some of the older workers could have worked part-time to train the younger workers and make them more productive. The older workers could simply have stopped working until their retirement.

Now we have a shortage of specialized labour. Why? Because we are not giving young people the opportunity to train. A program like this one would give them that opportunity. Older workers, not younger ones, would be the first to leave the company. The younger ones would stay and form a productive workforce for the future, until the company recovered after boosting its productivity and competitiveness.

This is an ideal tool, especially for the regions, and we need to use it. The Liberals did not understand this before the Conservatives came to power. We hope that the Conservatives will be more on the ball.

Business of Supply October 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am now starting to understand the Conservatives a little better. When it suits them, they act immediately. This is often a matter of ideology. They act immediately and they have no hesitation about spending billions of dollars for defence, for hiring new police officers, for law enforcement, and so on. But when it does not suit them, they talk about studies and they talk about refocusing the motion and the program.

You do not have to be an Einstein to understand what was there before the older worker adjustment program was abolished in 1997. The very simple idea was to provide assistance for workers who were 55 or over, to provide them with a bit of a hand up, particularly when they had been hit by a massive layoff, a plant closing, often in one-industry regions. Spouses lost their jobs at the same time. The couple then had to liquidate all their assets, everything they had managed to put away over 30 or 35 years of working for the same company.

That program cost $60 million a year. Today I heard that the government had incurred an $800 million penalty for fast-tracking its purchase of military aircraft to meet American security requirements. That represents eight years of assistance for older workers. It costs $100 million a year. That means that with the amount of that penalty, the government could give 57-year-old workers dignity for eight years, until their retirement. They would not be forced to sell everything.

Is $100 million a year too much to ask when the government has just invested billions and billions of dollars in military weapons? It is shameful to try and refocus a motion when couples are struggling and are asking us to act quickly to help them.

Business of Supply October 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, to start with, I wish to announce that I will be sharing my time with my distinguished colleague, the member for Joliette, with whom I have had the pleasure of sitting for many years.

I did not think that today, October 5, already many months after the first Conservative budget, we would still be discussing the merits—and the possibility—of introducing an assistance program for workers aged 55 or over.

Before the budget was drafted, I took part in various discussions with the Minister of Finance, with the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and with other representatives of government. These discussions left me with the hope that an assistance program for older workers would be put in place in the weeks following the budget. We are in a national emergency situation in this regard. The factories are closing, there is no longer a soft sector, there are only sectors hit by foreign competition, hit by unfair competition and acts, as we have seen at the hands of the Americans in the softwood lumber sector.

Now, various industries are under attack: furniture, textiles, clothing, agri-food and soon the high-technology sectors will also be the victims of often unfair competition. I will come back a little later to unfair competition by the so-called emerging countries.

When one is a victim of this competition a few times—and the number of times has been increasing in the past three years—factories begin to shut down, early retirements take place or quite simply there are mass lay-offs of workers who have held their jobs for 30 to 35 years at the same place, in the same region and in the same sector.

Today is October 5, and I remember what we read in the budget, that is, that the government undertook to conduct a feasibility study with a view to setting up an assistance program for older workers. This program would be similar to the one that existed until 1997, before the Liberal Party—and the member for LaSalle—Émard, who was finance minister at the time—cut this program.

We are right back where we started, and there is talk of a possible one-year pilot project. But that is not what we asked for. We did not ask the government for statistics and assumptions. The introduction of this income support program for older workers was a condition of our support for the budget, as much as the issue of fiscal imbalance. We did not want a pilot project or a one-year program. What we wanted was a program similar to the one that was cancelled in 1997.

What did that program do? It enabled workers age 55 and older, victims of mass layoffs, to benefit from financial support, not generous but appropriate, from the time of that layoff to the time of their retirement.

The program enabled those workers—often couples working in single-industry areas—to maintain a decent lifestyle until their retirement, without being forced to apply for social assistance benefits, without having to abandon their dreams of a lifetime by selling off their home, car or cottage.

Since this program was abolished by the Liberals in 1997, every member of the Bloc Québécois has met working couples in his or her region where both spouses were laid off at the same time. These couples were forced to sell their homes and all the assets they had accumulated over many years of work, including registered retirement plans, etc. They had to give up their dream of a decent retirement, in dignity, because the federal government decided in 1997 to put an end to a program that cost nothing to keep dreams alive. At that time, it amounted to $60 million per year for these older workers. These were workers who often could not find new jobs because they had little education or because they lived in single-industry areas where the entire industry was hit at the same time.

These people were often left in great distress. I myself have known workers who killed themselves because the government had let them down by robbing them of their dignity. The government decided it was worth shattering the dreams of thousands of residents and older workers to save $60 million a year.

We did an evaluation. The government talks about a feasibility study, but all that is needed is a simple rule of three, it is not very complicated. It cost $60 million a year in 1997, given the layoffs at the time. After adjusting for these layoffs and taking a certain indexing into account until today, we arrive at a maximum of $100 million a year for a program like this to prevent broken dreams and loss of all dignity among working people 55 years of age or more. But this government is still dragging its feet. It wants a feasibility study and a pilot project.

The last fiscal year ended with a $13 billion surplus. The Minister of Finance and the President of Treasury Board appeared, as pedantic as can be, in front of a beautiful big fat cheque saying that more than $13 billion were being invested in paying down the debt.

Could not $100 million of these $13 billion have been used to help older workers?

They are turning their backs on workers, as we saw in the softwood lumber issue. How many times have we in the Bloc Québécois asked for loan guarantees to save jobs and plants all over the regions, in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada? But the current government would not listen, just like the previous government.

How many times have we asked the government to investigate dumping, countervailing duties and unfair competition, which has been proven? In Europe, they are looking at unfair competition and just proved in a recent report that there was unfair competition and predatory practices on the part of countries like China, India and Brazil.

What are predatory practices? Countries like China or Vietnam have planned economies. They are not free markets. Real production costs and competition are the least of their concerns.

These countries engage in predatory practices, that is to say, they sell their products for less than the regular cost of production. They kill our industries, throw thousands of our citizens out of work, and when the industry is completely shattered, knocked flat, they seize the market and move in. These are predatory practices.

The Canadian government—be it Liberal or Conservative—is probably one of the governments in the world that conducts the fewest investigations into the unfair competition practised by its trading partners. There have been no investigations undertaken by the federal government into the unfair competition engaged by China or Brazil in the agri-food sector, for example. One might say that Canada is afraid to conduct such investigations. It was very proud to welcome China into the World Trade Organization. That is all very well, but China, like the other members of the WTO, is going to have to abide by the fair competition rules and abide by the most favoured nations rules. That is not the case at present.

The federal government sits idly by and calls this normal competition. It is not normal competition! When it is cheaper to bring bentwood in from China and make plywood out of it here, than using lumber from our forests in Quebec or Ontario or British Columbia, the situation has reached the disaster point.

I would like me to send the federal government this message: in my region in particular, working men and women have been laid off from Kimberly-Clark, for example, and from Olymel as well, because of competition in the pork industry, and from AirBoss in the textile and shoe manufacturing industry. Those companies, and the men and women who work there, are affected by competition and they need us. They need us to make things easier for them. Entrepreneurs need our help too, because often, when massive layoffs like this happen, younger workers are the first to go because they have no seniority. And then the older workers follow them.

If we brought back a program like POWA, which existed until 1997, entrepreneurs could keep their younger workers; as for older workers, it would up to them to decide to leave and make room for them, and companies could invest for the future in a qualified, younger workforce, for a number of years.

We talk about the workforce shortage we have today, but it will be even worse in the years to come.

This would be one way of encouraging training for younger people and allowing older workers to preserve their dignity until they retire.

Securities Industry June 21st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the Constitution is clear: securities are a provincial jurisdiction.

How can the federal government try to convince Quebeckers that the Quebec securities commission is not working and that control should be centralized in Toronto when, according to the OECD, our existing system is the second best in the world? Could it be that the minister's perception is clouded by his desire to favour Toronto?

Securities Industry June 21st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, more than anything, Quebeckers hate being ripped off. They are very attached to their securities commission, which is rightfully theirs under the Constitution.

How can the finance minister justify to Quebeckers his plan to bring together the entire securities industry under a single, Canada-wide commission, in Toronto, when this does not fall under his jurisdiction by virtue of the Canadian Constitution?

Securities June 19th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, what the minister is talking about has already been done. Quebec and the provinces have undertaken to harmonize their practices in the area of securities and have not needed any form of federal intervention in their areas of jurisdiction.

Does the finance minister realize that, by proposing such a commission, not only is he reneging on his government's commitment and going against the Canadian constitution, but he is directly contributing to a major shift of 6,000 jobs, as well as financial and trading activities out of Quebec, for the sole benefit of Toronto?

Securities June 19th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister announced this morning that he intends to create a Canadian securities commission. In doing so, he will be going against the wishes of Quebec and most of the provinces, catering only to Toronto's point of view.

After so often repeating that it will respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, does the government endorse the finance minister's plan, which goes completely against its commitment?

Citizenship Act June 13th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague for the question. I have never heard of such a situation: parents who go ahead with an international adoption and then, after a while, decide that they no longer want the child. I think these are unfortunate exceptions. I have never heard of such cases.

That being said, when you are the legal guardian of a child and an adoption order is made, you have full and complete responsibility for that child. It is as though they were your biological child. Under the law, you have a parental responsibility.

I cannot believe that that can happen. I may be mistaken as I am not an expert. However, it seems to me that the laws, especially in view of the Hague Convention, are in place to protect children. When the adoption order is made, whether in the child's country of origin or here in Quebec or Canada, you become parents and you have exactly the same responsibilities as biological parents. I cannot believe that such cases can occur, except for the one in that television program.

Of course, just as there may be exceptions with biological parents, there may be some among adoptive parents. Some may be poor parents, in one way or another, although that would really surprise me. When you wait for children and really want children with all your heart, and then they arrive, it seems to me that you have a duty. The parents are making themselves happy as well as making the child happy.

That being said, I advise parents who adopt children from another country to obtain dual citizenship. It is easy, it can be done it in Canada, it is permitted. This is just in case, when the child is older, they wish to return to their country of origin to see for themselves where they came from. No one knows what the future holds. I think it would be a good idea to have dual citizenship.

Citizenship Act June 13th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I also hope that he will experience what my wife and I are experiencing now and will soon experience with our second child, at least we hope so. We do not know how much time it may take.

I think that a bill like this one is a small step, like the tax credit for expenses in connection with an international adoption. I think that this is only fair. We cannot say that we have been going through a demographic decline for at least three generations and that we welcome immigrants with open arms, without granting some sort of collective support when parents, citizens of Quebec and Canada, wish to go and seek a child abroad.

We are not asking the population to take our place as adoptive parents or to do the work in our place, but things should be made easier where possible. There will actually be more and more parents in this situation, who will be opting for international adoption. It is really a nice way of ensuring the integration of citizens in our society for the future.

I do not know how it works in the rest of Canada, but I know that there are agencies. In Quebec, there are agencies recognized by the Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale. These agencies are properly accredited and they help prepare files. They do not take the place of the people, but they endorse files and also handle the procedures for sending them, depending on particular ties with certain countries. I think there are agencies in Ontario. In the rest of Canada, I do not know. These agencies deal with particular countries. If someone is looking at Asia, Latin America or Europe, there are specialized agencies that have established a legal network, of course, and this facilitates the process.

This is an experience which I keenly hope the member will have. If he wishes, I will get some information for the rest of Canada. I will be pleased to do this for him, and I hope he gets to enjoy this tremendous experience.

For the past eight years, my wife and I have been experiencing this with Rosalie and we are getting ready to experience it again with our little boy, who is on the way. It is a parental experience, a human experience, an extraordinary life experience.

Being a parent is already extraordinary, but going through this experience, after months and months of waiting, is quite fabulous, as far as my wife and I are concerned.