House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament November 2006, as Bloc MP for Repentigny (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 62% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Federal Accountability Act June 21st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question, which will perhaps give me an opportunity to correct some perceptions that are very soon going to be expressed in this House. When it came time to work on Bill C-2, every political party exhibited the best will in the world and wanted to make a positive contribution.

Strangely, and this is the first time in 13 years that I have seen a committee like that one, all parties agreed with Bill C-2 in principle, and it was the most litigious committee I have ever had to work on. Why? Because from the outset, the sword of Damocles was hung over our heads, when we were told that we had to pass this bill post haste. We could have passed Bill C-11 to create a safety net for whistleblowers and taken the time we needed. Taking the time we need does not mean using stalling tactics.

When we began consideration of the bill, the government got into bed with another political party to ensure that rather than sitting for normal committee times, or even double time, which we wanted to do at the outset, the committee would have to increase its time significantly. The situation was such that we could not get any research documents, or documents prepared by the library, to enable us to do our job conscientiously. Then we were told that if we did not finish by June 21, we were going to sit after that; if we did not finish after that, we were going to sit through the night. It was threat after threat, because, it seems, they had heard enough about it. I am eager to see how speedily they will be wanting to consider the access to information bill.

Nonetheless, working under extremely difficult circumstances, we tried to do it carefully and seriously. Today, as a result, we have a bill that is acceptable, if imperfect. Very fortunately, we were able to pass an amendment about reviewing the act after five years. If there are parts that have been forgotten or that might not be consistent with the objectives of the act, because of the speed with which we had to consider this bill, we will be able to rectify them then.

The working conditions and the circumstances of that consideration, however, were not normal. We should have had the time to consider this bill conscientiously.

Federal Accountability Act June 21st, 2006

The answer, Mr. Speaker, is yes.

More seriously, I thank my colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Actually, I did not talk much about the returning officers in my speech because I talked about the Bloc’s victories and we had many. Still I should have mentioned that we in the Bloc submitted to the appropriate committee an amendment to the Elections Act on the appointment of returning officers. It was to have returning officers appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer.

At the time, we told the Liberals we were sure that some Liberals would be competent enough to stay if returning officers were appointed according to their competence rather than their allegiance. So we did not understand why they so stubbornly refused. For us, competence should take precedence over political allegiance. I think this is the message that the Conservatives understood.

As for the prompt enforcement of this amendment in an upcoming election, I will reassure my colleague. The Chief Electoral Officer has been awaiting this possibility for so long that he has put in place all the structures with a view to proceeding very quickly—he has confirmed this to us—with the appointment of returning officers by means of competitions. Probably many returning officers in place today will be able to continue their work. I cannot guess the percentages, but there will surely be a good number.

There are some competent people among them who did a good job in the last election or in earlier ones. They will be able to apply for the position and take part in the competition, and they will be able to keep their positions by showing their competence. As for the incompetents appointed only because they had been members of a party, not ours, for a long time, they will keep themselves busy with a pastime other than working in the service of our democracy.

Federal Accountability Act June 21st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, before that brief interruption, I was talking about the Bloc Québécois' victories with respect to Bill C-2. For the edification and pleasure of all members of the House, I will continue to list the Bloc's victories following the referral of Bill C-2 to committee.

Earlier, I highlighted the work of my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord, but I left out my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. Her presence reminded me. I would like to thank my colleague for her great contribution to making this bill even better. I would like to thank her for her ideas and her support during discussions on Bill C-2.

I mentioned some of the Bloc's victories before being interrupted to make way for private members' bills. I would like to list some more. We did not want to create a tattletale culture, so we succeeded in eliminating rewards for whistle-blowers.

Federal Accountability Act June 21st, 2006

And for democracy, indeed.

The powers of the Auditor General have been strengthened. Since the sponsorship scandal, everyone is aware of the reputation and respect that the Auditor General enjoys. Bill C-2 strengthens her powers by giving her oversight over a greater number of crown corporations and agencies where the federal government invests money.

The Bloc Québécois is pleased to see that some of its proposals have been retained. I am referring to the secret ballot in particular. In Bill C-2, everyone would have been appointed by secret ballot. It is normal for the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the House to be elected by secret ballot. It is a parliamentary tradition. However, appointing everyone by secret ballot would diminish the independence of every independent officer of the House, and the current process for appointing independent officers—

Federal Accountability Act June 21st, 2006

We improved it during the 40 hours a week we sat in committee.

I would like to talk about what the Bloc Québécois gained. The Bloc is happy to see that some of its proposals were incorporated into Bill C-2. The bill was flawed. We worked to make it better, and we made some progress. All the parties can congratulate themselves on that. The Bloc's gains include the requirement that Elections Canada appoint returning officers on merit. My colleague from Québec, our whip, had already introduced a bill on merit appointments of returning officers, something we managed to obtain in this bill.

Initially, the bill said that the Chief Electoral Officer could appoint the returning officers in our ridings. We amended this proposal, stating that the Chief Electoral Officer could choose or appoint them, but only after a competition based on merit. We think that the worst situation was where the governor in council appointed his buddies as returning officers. This is rather strange in a modern democracy. But requiring the Chief Electoral Officer to appoint returning officers on merit, after a competition—something he had been requesting for a long time—will make for greater impartiality during elections, and this is one notable gain for the Bloc Québécois in Bill C-2.

Independence of the lobbyists registry is another gain. We will have a lobbyists registry with an independent commissioner. That way, they cannot divert the focus by appointing people who are in complicity with the government. Political party financing legislation is another major gain. The Conservatives told us, kindly and candidly, that they wanted to use as a model the Quebec political party financing legislation, which was introduced by the Parti Québécois in 1977, if my memory serves me correctly. Some 30 years later, the federal government says it wants to use it as a model. This is a fine victory for the Bloc and a fine victory for Quebec.

Federal Accountability Act June 21st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak for what I believe is the last time about Bill C-2. We have discussed Bill C-2 frequently, at length and in detail, and we have analyzed it from every angle. Today, we have before us the final version with the amendments made at third reading.

With the permission of this House, before I speak directly about Bill C-2, I will talk about its origins and what brought us to this point today, when we are discussing Bill C-2 at third reading. What prompted this bill?

We could talk at length—and we have—about the sponsorship scandal. A few years ago, thanks to the invaluable work of the Auditor General, people became aware that, unfortunately, some people had misappropriated taxpayers' money to try to buy the hearts and minds of Quebeckers. I am not talking about the majority of public servants, but certain people. Today, justice is taking its course.

At the time, the Liberal government made a token effort to correct these deficiencies, for which it was itself responsible, having created the culture of entitlement. At that point, three interesting and important tools were put in place. First, there was the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons and Bill C-24, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act (political financing). There was also Bill C-11, the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.

Earlier the hon. member for Mississauga South indicated how important Bill C-2 is. It is a step in the right direction. It reaffirms existing rules, but does not reinvent the wheel.

In its legislative framework, this bill includes previous important legislation such as Bill C-11, the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. For roughly a year this bill was put on ice. It had gone through all the legislative steps and in short order could have protected public servants who witness wrongdoings. This was delayed strictly for political reasons and that is sad. We could have enacted Bill C-11 as soon as the Conservative government took office. This would have provided a safety net, perhaps imperfect, but a safety net nonetheless that public servants did not have until now. This was delayed and that is sad.

What were the Conservatives trying to achieve when they introduced Bill C-2? One of their objectives was to restore public trust in politicians and in Parliament. We believe this objective will be met.

However, when the Liberals introduced the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons—they may not have been the right ones to do so—their objective was to restore public trust in politicians and Parliament. When the Liberals introduced Bill C-24, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act (political financing), it was to restore public trust in politicians and Parliament. When the Liberals introduced Bill C-11, the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, it was to restore public trust in politicians and Parliament.

When other provincial legislatures introduced similar measures, it was to restore trust. When other countries introduced similar legislation, it was also to restore trust. When we look at whether this objective has been met where similar legislation has been introduced, we come to the unfortunate conclusion that no, it has not. In countries where legislative measures on ethics and transparency like this exist, there is still a large gap between the will of the politicians and public trust in them.

It is my hope that this bill will somewhat correct this perception. However, much more will have to be done to that end. In fact, the government also will have to do a great deal more to correct this perception.

When the sponsorship scandal broke out, the Auditor General stated that all the rules had been broken. That means that there were rules, that they were in place but that the Liberal government decided to circumvent them.

The Conservative government is proposing new rules. Will it respect them? Therein lies the problem. A plethora of rules can be put in place but without the tools or the political will to ensure compliance, the message that we wish to give to the public—the desire to address the problem and restore trust—will be lost. At the first infringement by the Conservative government of its own law, trust will be further undermined and it will become even more difficult to regain it.

Earlier I referred to a private members' bill tabled by the member for Simcoe North, if my memory serves me well. This bill called for government investment in an Ontario waterway in order to revitalize tourism and so forth.

The member who tabled this bill owns the main hotel located in this tourist area and he is asking for the government to invest in his tourist industry. It seems that he is not covered by Bill C-2. That is what we were told. In fact, it seems that he is complying with the bill because it refers to ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

We have often seen people bending the rules. The government must ask its members to respect the letter and the spirit of the law, which states that they must have no real or perceived conflicts of interest. It is important for ministers and parliamentary secretaries to respect this law. Moreover government members of Parliament must also abide by it and ensure that their conduct does not give rise to a real or perceived conflict of interest.

I opened the door for my colleague—I believe he is the new member for Simcoe North—by suggesting he check with the President of the Treasury Board to see if he was respecting the spirit of the law. If he did check with the ethics counsellor, and if his bill does not place him in a conflict of interest, then the Bloc Québécois is prepared to re-evaluate its position. We are not accusing the member of a conflict of interest. We are just saying that it bothers us to see this kind of bill introduced just as the Conservative government introduced its bill on transparency and accountability.

I think I have shown pretty clearly why the Conservative government introduced the first bill of the 39th Parliament, Bill C-2: for political reasons, among other things, and for honourable reasons too, I hope.

Bill C-2 was discussed in special committee, in legislative committee, actually. Thanks are in order with respect to the legislative committee. I would like to thank all of my colleagues from all parties who contributed to improving Bill C-2 in committee. At times, there was some political posturing from the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP. Not all members were necessarily on the same wavelength. Some sharp remarks were made.

We all knew there was some jockeying for political position during committee meetings. Once the work was done though, I am sure that we all recognized our collaborators' efforts and qualities. I really wanted to emphasize that. Finally, I must highlight my colleague for Rivière-du-Nord's contribution. She was there during the committee's long working hours.

I would also like to mention the work done by two people in particular. It is sad, because I am going to forget other people, but I want to mention Annie Desnoyers and Dominic Labrie. They are thorough, hard-working Bloc Québécois staff, and they supported us—and put up with us—throughout the review of Bill C-2.

Now I would like to talk more specifically about Bill C-2. The Bloc is in favour of the bill, as you know from our presentations and our support for the amendments. It is important to remember that ethics were central to the most recent election campaign, when the Liberals were thrown out of power, especially in Quebec. We took part in the Gomery commission, which produced a number of recommendations that must now be implemented and are included in part in Bill C-2. Not all of the recommendations are reflected in the bill. Notably missing are the ones concerning the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Federal Accountability Act June 20th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I noticed that the President of the Treasury Board spoke mostly about the amendment on the National Capital Commission, but I thought—this did not surprise me—he was saying kind words about the hon. member for Ottawa Centre and that was why he talked about it.

That being said, I will now speak to amendments 28, 29 and 30, the last three amendments of the fourth group. I want to tell my hon. colleagues that for amendment 29, the amendment introduced by the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, it will be our pleasure to support it. Once again we have a meeting of the minds. I will be pleased to see how they intend to specify, with dollar amounts, which communications will be required in order to enhance transparency. We believe that, in the context of a bill on transparency, it would be a very good idea to enhance this transparency. I hope that the government will be in favour of this amendment.

We do, however, have a bit of a problem with Motion No. 30. I think that the member of the Liberal Party who spoke before me has explained very well the reality and the problem. At present, negotiations are underway between the office of the Auditor General and aboriginal communities to establish a position of aboriginal Auditor General. The intention is to ensure accountability from those aboriginal communities who receive grants. Members will recall that, two or three years ago, the Auditor General told us that these are the communities that have to produce the largest number of reports. This means that there is already accountability. It should be improved, not increased. In addition, the office of the Auditor General is currently discussing with these groups to ensure that efficient accountability is in place.

It is also very pertinent and important to remind the House that aboriginal communities must ensure effective accountability. However, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs must also be entirely transparent in terms of truly effective accountability. Year after year, the Auditor General reminds us that the most problematic department with respect to accountability is the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. We then meet the various deputy ministers on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. Curiously, this reminds me of a bank manager. Every time we hear from a deputy minister about their problems, he or she replies that they have only been in the position for a month or two, and that their predecessor did not do a good job, but the next time they come before us, they will have corrected the situation. Two years later, there is another deputy minister responsible for Indian and Northern Affairs, who will in turn say that his or predecessor did not do a good job, but when we meet them again in two years, the situation will be corrected. The same thing is repeated over and over.

Thus, following the money trail is a good thing in this case, but greater accountability is needed from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

Federal Accountability Act June 20th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would like the President of the Treasury Board to explain the background of his Motion No. 30.

Federal Accountability Act June 20th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I first want to note the collaboration of the President of the Treasury Board. After a bad start, this has proceeded well and appears to be reaching a positive conclusion. When the time comes, it must be said, and I am saying it.

Indeed, a few amendments have required unanimous consent. With both the NDP and the Liberals, we have managed to agree relatively well in this regard.

As for the changes in the third group of amendments, we are coming to amendments that are a little more technical, which, although technical, are important for the implementation of Bill C-2.

I hope that those who have followed today’s deliberations have noted the seriousness with which we have once again attempted to amend the bill to make it even more efficient, more effective for the people protected by this bill.

The most important thing, I believe, is the five-year review clause proposed by Mr. Shapiro, which has been accepted and adopted by all the parties. This is laudable. I would nonetheless like to recall the comments of the auditor general regarding the sponsorship scandal, which were that it is fine to have strict rules, but one must also be willing to follow them. That is what she said about the sponsorship scandal.

With regard to Bill C-2, if a problem should eventually arise, it may be that we have been too restrictive toward certain categories of persons. At that time those aspects will have to be corrected. I am sure that the committee will then have a little more time to correct the aspects that need correcting.

With regard to Motions No. 10, 12 and 16 which have been reviewed today, they do not cause us too many problems. We still question certain aspects, but we are certain that as the bill is applied it will be possible to have more accurate interpretations of these parts of the bill.

I am now eager to read the fourth part, that is, the fourth group of amendments.

Federal Accountability Act June 20th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, we are moving quickly ahead and I have a clarification to ask of my friend and colleague, the President of the Treasury Board.

In Group No. 3, Motion No. 11 on the grandfather clause, it seems to me to have obtained unanimous consent a little earlier, but my memory fails me and I do not recall whether this was decided in the House.

Therefore I would like to ask the President of the Treasury Board: when we refer to Group No. 3, is this outside Amendment No. 11? If so, I thank you. If not, does the President of the Treasury Board wish to seek unanimous consent?