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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament November 2009, as Bloc MP for Hochelaga (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Defence Industries May 6th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of Finance how he can accept such a turnabout on the part of his colleague the Minister of Industry when he knows perfectly well that if nothing is done in a very near future, thousands of jobs will be lost in the defence industry. Does he accept the declaration, does he agree with the Minister of Industry's statement?

Defence Industries May 6th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, before I address my supplementary to the Minister of Finance who, I can tell, is dying to participate in this debate, I would like to mention to my hon. colleague that one of the headlines in this morning's papers said: "Ottawa will not finance the conversion of defence industries".

Defence Industries May 6th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address my question to the Deputy Prime Minister. It is said in the Liberal Party's red book that a Liberal government will implement a conversion program to transform defence industries into civilian ones. However, the Minister of Industry quite surprisingly said yesterday that the government will not invest in such a conversion. In that sector, more than 10,000 high-technology jobs have disappeared since 1988.

How can the Deputy Prime Minister, who would do me honour if she would listen to my question, how can she reconcile the commitment of her party and the amazing declaration of the Minister of Industry who said during debate yesterday that it is the responsibility of the management and shareholders of those companies to solve their own problems?

Pearson International Airport Agreements Act May 6th, 1994

Almost a single-parent family, I am told, Mr. Speaker.

The second bidder, Claridge Properties Inc., is a company owned by Charles Bronfman, who is not exactly the most destitute of Canadians or the closest to the Optimist Club or the Salvation Army. He is, however, quite close to the Liberal Prime Minister. And we saw during the campaign the tenuous cocktail-circuit links connecting Charles Bronfman to this Liberal family he is still a part of.

The two bidders are going to merge and, whether Tory or Liberal, it all amounts to the same thing. Our two bidders are going to merge into T1 T2 Limited Partnership, which will be the new company responsible for privatizing Terminals 1 and 2. It reeks of scandal, patronage, nepotism. That is why the Official Opposition thinks we must shed light on this issue. And to do it as expeditiously as the government wants-a government that has still not made public the legal text of this privatization deal-we say a commission of enquiry is needed to deal with this blot on, this breach of democracy.

This case reminds us that the federal administration will be faced with this kind of situation until we have, as demanded by the Official Opposition and the Reform Party, a lobbyists law with teeth. The government must resolve the issue.

Pearson International Airport Agreements Act May 6th, 1994

We must not, however, lose sight of the fact that this is a serious issue. Since my hon. colleague is speaking about facts, it would be a good idea to remind him that as we speak, the Liberal government has yet to make the details of this deal public. Yet, we are discussing a transaction that has major financial implications. Our listeners should know that we are conducting this debate without the actual contract in hand, without knowing in detail the contractual obligations which bound the former government to the consortium in question.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to review some of the events leading up to this transaction. They clearly show that in our political system, until such time as we have lobbying legislation with teeth, it will always be possible for a government to indulge in favouritism.

The following question arises then. How is it that this government, when in opposition, stressed many times the need to review the lobbying legislation and even made this issue a priority? And how is it that six months after coming to power, it still has made no attempt to conduct such a review? We are critical of the government for its failure to act on this matter.

While we may agree with its decision to cancel the Conservative deal, we can only wonder why it did not see things through to their logical conclusion. Since the two parties are in agreement, something that does not happen often during the life of a Parliament, why will the government not attack the root of the problem by urgently introducing legislation here in the House to deal with the explosive issue of lobbying? Both the Reform Party and the Official Opposition would be ready to move on this matter immediately and would make themselves available.

There would have been no question of an agenda or of a timetable. We would have devoted all of our energies and efforts to studying this legislation as quickly as possible.

It so happens that, like the Conservatives, the Liberals have their political friends. Therefore, they are duty bound to support them. When you have a national party like the Liberal Party and you are looking for financial backup like they do, it is understandable that you be bound by the election fund that allows you to be in politics.

Of course, we, in Quebec, have freed ourselves from such a thing. This is part of René Levesque's legacy, this great political figure Félix Leclerc said was part of a much too short list of liberators of the people. The main thing we have inherited from the Levesque era was this piece of legislation he gave the National Assembly, one of the very first ones introduced in the Parti Quebecois government's mandate. Those were the days, the early days of the Parti Quebecois government, days that will come back though!

You are aware of the political situation. I will not elaborate on the subject, but some optimism is permitted on this side of the House. The reason we are in this predicament is because we do not have legislation "that has teeth" respecting lobbyists.

So, in March 1992, the government called for tenders-also known as bids in government language-for the privatization of Terminals 1 and 2 at Pearson Airport.

If you were the least bit concerned by the issue, you were already wondering: Why privatize Pearson Airport? In terms of public facilities, can you think of something more common, more public than an airport? Why privatize Pearson Airport then, if for one thing, it was the main airport in Canada and, for another, it was profitable? This was an airport that actually showed profits on its books, an airport that did not carry losses. Already, people were wondering: why privatize a piece of our national heritage which is crucial to the Ontario economy, as we know, when it showed profits?

You will tell me this is typical of the silly way of thinking of a Conservative government in bed with-and almost incestuously so-the private sector. That is what the ideological motivation was.

In the end, in June 1992, two bids were received. Strangely enough, the public tendering process on such a major public stake had produced only two bids, both bidders already having ties with the airport administration. And, let us not forget the time limit potential suppliers were given to submit tenders; the entire process lasted but 90 days. That was the first technical irregularity. Every member who knows anything about administrative law knows, for instance, that the labour standards committee gives 90 days to initiate whatever collective agreement grievance, even for matters much less binding. That is the minimum time allotted in the notice of dispute.

Yet, it was decided to apply this minimum time limit to something as major as a multimillion privatization process. So, that was the first irregularity, and observers did not fail to point it out. That is the crux of the controversy and this is where we really get the feeling of doing our job as the opposition, by raising these facts.

Who were these bidders? Who are they? Paxport is a consortium controlled by Don Matthews group. Don Matthews was president of Brian Mulroney's leadership campaign in 1983. My apologies to Joe Clark for saying this, but Don Matthews was president of Brian Mulroney's leadership campaign. This man is part of the Conservative Party machinery. He is so much a part of it that he was the mastermind behind four or five national fund-raising campaigns. And you know that Tory national fund-raising campaigns generally involve several zeros and that most of the money comes from private enterprise.

So the first bidder is directly linked to this great Tory family, now a kind of nuclear family, we agree, but once a little more extended than it is now.

Pearson International Airport Agreements Act May 6th, 1994

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would also like to acknowledge all those taking part in this debate. I understand that we do not all share the same views. I would also like to remind those listening to us that it was two weeks ago that the Official Opposition undertook to shed some light on the now unfortunate tale of Pearson Airport.

The more we debate this issue, the more this sad tale reminds us of how the traditional political parties equate politics with favouritism and lobbying. Indeed, lobbying, favouritism and politics are often viewed as one and the same thing. That is why the Official Opposition, being the responsible group that it is, wanted to shed some light on this transaction. Surely you have never doubted that we are a responsible party because we have never acted other than responsibly since being elected to sit as the Official Opposition.

Mr. Speaker, could you ask the hon. members to applaud my comments?

Supply May 5th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I will try to keep my cool, but it will not be easy. I will do it out of respect for the Chair.

I feel I have been watching excerpts from a movie which got rave reviews in Quebec. It was called "The Unbearable Lightness of Being". With all due respect to the minister, I cannot understand his discourse. No later than March 26, 1993 A.D., Mr. Speaker, the Liberals, who were then getting ready to assume power, were calling for the solution we are offering in part today.

Because the Official Opposition claims that the government must play an important part in the conversion process, the minister began his remarks as follows: "The hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve-yours truly-suggests that the government make its cheque book available to these companies". In part, Mr. Speaker, in part. We do not see anything wrong in doing so; as a matter of fact, we believe it is acting responsibly. Why do we think that the government should give them money? Because, through DIPP, these companies have become dependent on government funding.

Does the minister not agree that most companies facing the difficult task of converting, have adopted or presented the government with their own conversion program? Today, the minister follows a laissez faire approach and tells us that it is up to the private sector to adapt. Yet, the Liberals were even more interventionist than we were, because in addition to recommending adjustments to the DIPP, they demanded the following in the second part of their press release entitled Liberals Announce Defence Conversion Policy issued on March 26 of 1993: ``The establishment of an Economic Conversion Commission, with the participation of industry and labour, to facilitate and coordinate the process of conversion in the 100,000-job defence industry''.

One would think from this press release that the Liberals agreed with our position that state intervention was essential to the conversion process. Therefore, I cannot understand the government's lack of commitment or why it has backed off and flip-flopped on this issue. We do, however, agree with the minister about one thing, and that is that unemployment affects everyone. Happiness, they say, may be the absence of misery. This is the kind of sophistry that is served up to us here today.

I will agree with the minister that unemployment is catastrophic for everyone, but will he agree with me that the money spent by the government on the conversion process will spare some people their jobs and allow them to continue investing in the economy? I fail to understand why no connection is being drawn between implementing a strong, immediate and urgent conversion strategy and the benefits that would accrue from it, in terms of national production and unemployment. I hope that the minister will review his position, that he will take a much more interventionist approach and that he will show some leadership. I have been told that he can count on the co-operation of his colleague, the Minister of Finance, and I know that the two ministers are prepared to work closely together. Their co-operation and the will of the opposition will ensure that we work together on this issue.

Supply May 5th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, in school I was always told I had an exceptional talent to sum things up. My colleague is quite right when he says we should remind the government that three main steps should be taken.

Mr. Speaker, is the hon. member across the way trying to interfere systematically so I have less time to give my answer? So, there are three main steps.

First of all, the government should make tools available to businesses which, in many cases, have specific conversion plans in mind.

Mr. Speaker, I do not understand what the minister is saying.

Supply May 5th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, as you know, it is always a pleasure to debate with the member opposite, probably the most faithful listener I have, but I think the hon. member is mistaken on several counts. First of all, I specifically stated, at the beginning of my speech, that the tightening of the market is closely linked to international conditions. Now, I feel the question put by the hon. member is somewhat partisan, since it implies that the businesses I talked about are a little passive, that they depend on the government and are not really unhappy about the whole situation.

I found that a bit strange, Mr. Speaker. Do you not think that a business which has been operating on a specific market and which has to lay off 600, 700, 800, 900, or 1,000 workers would have, all by itself, considered developing a strategy plan to find some new niches and some new markets?

In fact, in some cases, businesses have, on their own, presented the government with a conversion plan. In a number of cases, the government was provided with conversion plans, and there is supporting material to prove it. However, according to professor Bélanger, whom I hope the hon. member will have the privilege to meet some day, there are structural obstacles to conversion.

First, in many cases, these firms do not know the new markets as well as the ones they used to operate on. Very often, in order to proceed with the conversion process, they need to change their production technology, which requires significant capital expenditures, something they cannot always afford.

But should this whole debate not rather deal with the fact that the DIPP, for historical reasons which cannot be denied, tried to maintain in a state of dependency a number of businesses involved in research and development in the military sector? Is it not socially responsible for the Official Opposition to argue-notwithstanding trade fairs, which I know the hon. member likes a lot-that there will be no conversion without a comprehensive approach, without the government's support?

Nobody says that that conversion process has to be the exclusive responsibility of business; no company says that either. Professor Bélanger interviewed people from over 80 companies. They are ready to play their part, they are aware that there is an element of strategic planning involved, and they also know that it is incumbent upon them to take the first step. No company denies that.

But we have to recognize that the government has a responsibility. It must take a comprehensive approach to this issue, provide a tool that will give impetus to the process and make funds available because of the studies that often have to be conducted. I am not talking here about annual funding. I am talking about funding a process over five to seven years.

I partly agree with my hon. colleague, and I will conclude my remarks by saying that, yes, businesses must take the initiative of looking for new markets, but they have the right to expect the government to provide them with a tool, and we are telling the government that the tool they need is the DIPP.

Supply May 5th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for this breach of order. But you will still allow me to quote these three members whose constituencies I do not remember.

These people were saying, "We must expand the mandate of Industry, Science and Technology Canada's $200 million DIPP from developing defence technology to helping the industry convert and diversify into areas such as environmental technologies and high-tech peacekeeping technologies".

That is smart thinking, Mr. Speaker. And that is what we in the Official Opposition are demanding. We are telling the government that there is an urgent need to act on defence conversion and that this could be done by adjusting a program not currently used for conversion. However, if the government's intentions are serious, there is a program that would allow us to make conversion budgets available to businesses. It is the DIPP or Defence Industry Productivity Program.

We must never forget that this program, which in fact has promoted research and development, has been in place for over 20 years. It enabled businesses to conduct market studies and refine technologies mostly aimed at the defence industry. We think that the program which kept Canadian industries somewhat dependent on defence markets should now help them to pull through.

We say to the government that DIPP, which already had large budgets, $300 million in good years, but today it is more like $225 million, we say to the government that this is the vehicle to use. We will not accept an argument that DIPP is already being used for conversion. Because if they tell us that, we say to the government, "If this vehicle is really being used for conversion, come with us and meet various companies in the Montreal area that are having these problems. You will see that with these funds, they cannot really convert."

We say to the government that any conversion solution must involve regionalization, given the obvious fact that Canada's military industries vary enormously from one region to another. Each region has developed its own military specializations, so that each regional specialization has its own needs.

Obviously, an industry that makes munitions will not have the same needs, the same process, the same expectations for conversion as one that makes telecommunication satellites, for example. The Canadian reality is that each region has developed a very specific type of defence equipment production.

We must keep in mind that this debate is about the future and shows how forward-looking the Official Opposition is. I see my colleague opposite nodding and I am pleased to see that he agrees that we see things right.

One must never forget that conversion is a medium-term process, lasting five, six, or seven years. Now is the time to lay the groundwork for conversion. We must recognize that certain regions are further ahead than others in their reflection process,

because they know, and this is a basic point to keep in mind, that no conversion is possible without hard and constant co-operative work. In Quebec, we have come quite a long way in this regard.

We have come a long way with this co-operative work because, immediately following the recession of 1981, this approach to economic recovery was taken into consideration by the major players in Quebec, including the labour unions, starting with the CNTU, which just this last year organized a seminar on the subject. Even the Conseil du patronat, which can hardly be suspected of having any sympathy for sovereignty, apparently has easy access to ministers. There is also the current Quebec government; we are not talking here about some obscure future separatist government, but rather about a conventional federalist government ready for commitment, and which is asking the federal government to give its businesses access to available funds for conversion.

The government will have no choice because of the direct relationship that exists. That is precisely what the Official Opposition is attempting to show today, namely that there is a direct connection between the dependency of Quebec businesses on defence industries and the lay-offs now taking place.

I will give you six very real examples which should prompt the government to act much more speedily than it has up until now. I could have given about 50 examples, but I will only mention six, because of the limited time at my disposal.

Between 1990 and 1994, Bendix Avelex, an avionics company which depends on the military market for 70 per cent of its production, laid off 35 employees. As you will see, the more dependent companies are on the military market, the more massive are the lay offs.

Expro, which you will soon hear about in great detail, since the hon. member representing the region concerned will later make a presentation, makes ammunition. That company is also dependent on the military market for 70 per cent of its production and laid off 300 employees.

Héroux, an aeronautics firm, is dependent on the military market for 80 per cent of its production and had to lay off 131 people.

MIL Davie, which is well-known and which we talked about several times in this House, depends on the military market for 91 per cent of its production and laid off 2,740 employees-yes, Mr. Speaker, 2,740. This is unacceptable! It is a shame and a social disaster!

Oerlikon, which is well known, builds ground-based and missile systems. It is 100 per cent dependent on the military and had to let go 410 employees. As for Paramax, it is 100 per cent dependent and it laid off 1,000 people.

I do not know if the Minister of Industry is as shaken as I am, but I can hear him. I share his feeling of helplessness and I offer him my co-operation and that of the Official Opposition. We are telling this government that action is urgently needed. Stop procrastinating and let us work together; we, the Official Opposition, are willing to co-operate.

In the past, government members have said that we were only concerned by issues affecting Quebec, that we did not have a national vision and that we did not truly assumed our role. Now, this is an issue which concerns all regions of Canada, and particularly Quebec. And what we are saying is that, if the government is really serious about this, it should recognize that it does have that instrument, which, if improved, could help us to truly support businesses that really want to proceed with a conversion process. And let me remind those who are listening to this debate that this instrument is the Defence Industry Production Program or DIPP. We will see how serious the government is, since important budgets are involved in this program; we are speaking of $225 million.

For the program to be efficient, this budget must take into account local factors as well as local stakeholders, the main people concerned, who must work together and cooperate to achieve conversion.

You indicate to me that my time is up, Mr. Speaker. I simply want to tell the government that we want nothing more than to co-operate on this issue because we truly and honestly believe that time is of the essence.