Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was colleague.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2006, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply May 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, before the hon. member has a chance to get too comfortable, I would like to ask him if he thinks it is right for the Canadian Labour Congress, in its scientific analysis of employment insurance, to include people who have never worked, people who have never paid premiums, formerly self-employed workers and students? Does he think it is right in an insurance context to include in our statistics people who have never contributed to the program?

Supply May 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to point out, in addition to the preliminary information and considering the errors that they continue to make, that they mentioned three different percentages.

Supply May 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his intervention.

I understand that my Bloc colleagues are happy here, in Canada's Parliament. They want to be re-elected. However, whatever the issues they have occasion to deal with, their figures are never right.

They always include Quebec. I am also a Quebecker; I am from the Saguenay. I am keen to be involved in the next election campaign with them. We will talk about the real numbers. Every time I have the opportunity to talk with them, unfortunately, I am obliged, not to be disrespectful, to try to correct the facts about the numbers.

In the past 20 years, our fellow Quebeckers have contributed $73 billion to employment insurance, and we have provided $86 billion in benefits. Not only that, but in the past 10 or 11 years, the amounts collected and distributed were about the same. We are not taking into account here the contributions that were reduced by several billions of dollars.

Also, this does not include manpower training programs. For 25 years, Quebeckers asked for them. In the past seven or eight years, we transferred $600 million a year to the Quebec government. This does not include reductions in contributions, which amount to several billions of dollars a year.

Members opposite keep going back to that $40 billion surplus, but they forget about the investments in initiatives that contribute to creating jobs and are important for the future of our regions.

It is unfortunate members in the Bloc are ready to stoop to anything just to get elected. It is really unfortunate. They indulge in demagoguery just to keep their seat in this great democratic institution, the Canadian Parliament.

Let us take, for example, the issue of employment insurance. The leader of the Bloc came to my region and told the public that $157 million were missing. I checked, and it was $239 million. I thought they would have a good research service by now, with the Election Finances Act, and that their researchers could come up with accurate figures.

They even make mistakes about the softwood lumber issue. In health care, they were talking this week about a 4% federal contribution. Then, it went up to 14%. They should raise that to 40%, because that is the reality.

I would simply like to ask my colleague why it is they always come up with the wrong figures in our discussions.

In conclusion, I would like to say this. We improved the Employment Insurance Act and we will continue to do so year after year, in spite of the demagogy we hear from Bloc members who do not want to lose their seat in the Canadian Parliament because they are very happy here.

When they come to my area, they talk about unemployment but when the time comes to invest they go somewhere else, to Gatineau, for instance.

Supply May 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, fortunately, exaggeration does not make one sick, because my colleague would have trouble staying healthy.

We never hear a word about all the progressive measures that have been taken within the employment insurance program and with all the government revenues. Let us think, among other things, about the whole issue of manpower training, which has allowed Quebec, for the past six, seven or eight years, to receive $600 million a year.

I would like to ask my colleague whether it is important to deal with these issues, for example, the reduction in premiums for the 14 million contributors. Is it important for employees and employers to contribute to a program where rates have been reduced by almost a third in the last few years? I would like to know, because this goes into the general fund.

I would like to ask my colleague this simple question. Is she aware that, for the past 20 years, Quebec has contributed approximately $73 billion to the unemployment insurance fund, now the employment insurance fund, and that we have provided a total of approximately $86 billion in benefits? Where would the money have been found to pay off the debt had there been a surplus in Quebec in the EI fund? Can my colleague confirm that, in the last 10 or 12 years, the contribution level has been about the same as the collection level?

In short, this is a Bloc strategy. When there is an issue, they take it and exaggerate it to the limit.

We made improvements to the EI program and we will continue to do so during the next weeks and the next months. Next year, after five years, there will be a complete review of the program.

Unfortunately, Bloc interventions always tend to worsen an issue rather than seek constructive solutions.

I would like to ask my colleague a question. If, over the past 20 years, Quebec has had a surplus of $13 billion with respect to all of its premiums, why does she say that the premiums paid by Quebeckers have been used to repay the total debt or pay down the deficit? If she wants to talk about imbalances in taxation one day, we will talk about this question, but using the actual numbers.

I encourage them to listen less to the Canadian Labour Congress. In their employment insurance calculations, I think even the furniture was included.

Supply May 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the interest that she is taking in my riding. This bodes well for the upcoming election campaign.

In politics, I would rather be part of the solution than making situations worse. This is true for everything. I want to ask the hon. member if, as regards the moneys collected by the government through the employment insurance program, through taxes and so on, we should not try to achieve a balance between the 14 million contributors and the 1.2 or 1.6 million claimants who qualify for benefits. It is at this level that a balance must be achieved.

I want to point out again to the hon. member that our role is to improve all existing programs in the country. As regards the employment insurance program, we will continue to improve it.

I want to ask the hon. member if, for example, she views as something positive the transfer of manpower training to the Quebec government, almost eight years ago? This measure resulted in close to $5 billion being transferred from the employment insurance fund to the Quebec government to manage manpower training programs.

I would like to ask her if the decrease in premiums, which were reduced by several billion dollars again this year, is not a valuable measure for the contributors. I would also like to ask her if the income tax cuts of nearly $100 billion for the last four to five years, which were part of the government's agenda, are not a very interesting measure for those who contribute to the collective growth and also pay employment insurance premiums?

Finally, I would like to ask my colleague, whom I respect deeply, if the government's role is not precisely to seek a balance between those who pay for a program and those who benefit from it? It is well and fine to speak about the $40 billion surplus, but one should not forget all the initiatives that were taken and implemented to help the people most in need.

Supply May 6th, 2004

It is always empty rhetoric. Let them all come and debate the issue at home. We will talk about figures.

Supply May 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it will not be as inflammatory from now on because I will be talking about figures. For people who have an extremely sophisticated research bureau, I must say that when Bloc members decide to work on a particular issue, they have great difficulty getting their facts straight.

With regard to employment insurance, everybody agrees that improvements are made regularly and will continue to be made. Some Bloc members came to my riding and talked about a $157 million deficit in the EI fund. We did some research on these figures, and it was in fact $239 million that was paid in the last year for which the financial reporting had been done. As for the softwood lumber issue, it is always the same.

I have the figures for the last 20 years. In Quebec, over that period, there is a surplus of some $13 billion in the EI fund in favour of recipients. And the same applies for the last 10 or 11 years.

We are talking about numbers, and on this topic I would like to ask my colleague if we can also talk about initiatives funded with the employment insurance fund. Let's think about the annual transfers to Quebec and the labour force training programs that have been going on for eight years at an annual cost of $600 million. If we add up the numbers, the total is close to $5 billion. This year, there are also reductions in premiums which amount to $4.4 billion. That is interesting for the 14 million Canadians who pay EI premiums. We support the concept of program improvement and we will continue to do so.

However, I would appreciate my colleagues from the Bloc using actual and verifiable figures for all the issues on which they make presentations. We will also be ready for the election campaign and will come up with actual figures.

I would ask my colleague to explain why a supposedly responsible political party frequently releases figures that were inspired by the Canadian Labour Congress but invalidated everywhere in Canada.

Supply May 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I understand why my colleagues from the Bloc would be offended and upset, because the best job in this country is that of a Bloc Quebecois MP. When the government does something right, it is thanks to them, and when—

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited May 3rd, 2004

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker.

National Forest Week May 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, this week is National Forest Week, and therefore an appropriate time for reflecting on the essential role our forests play in our daily lives.

Canada's Forests: A Fine Balance, is the slogan selected by the Canadian Forestry Association for this year's National Forest Week. This slogan is a clear reflection of the necessity of preserving this precious resource while working unceasingly to maintain a proper balance between our needs and the capacity of our forests to fulfill their ecological role.

Our forests meet our needs on the economic, esthetic and environmental levels. This week, let us think of our forests as a source of income but also as peaceful havens, and let us take a few moments to reflect, as Canadians, on the various ways we can preserve their health and their resources for the benefit of all the generations to come.