Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was city.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Bloc MP for Louis-Hébert (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2006, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada Labour Code November 25th, 2004

moved that Bill C-263, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois and my other colleagues from the House that it is a pleasure for me to lead off the debate on the second reading of Bill C-263. I introduced this bill myself in this House on November 4. It provides for an anti-scab law.

Much could be said about this bill, but I will come straight to the point. First, the Canada Labour Code needs to be amended in order to harmonize it with the Quebec Labour Code. This would ban once and for all the use of scabs.

Every effort must be made to pass Bill C-263, which aims at banning the retrograde practice, for that is what it is, of using scabs during strikes and lockouts.

For the Bloc Québécois, this is not a new focus of interest. We have been fighting for years about this. We believe that all political parties in the House will be interested in this bill to make labour relations more civilized.

Anti-scab legislation is essential in negotiations where both parties to a dispute, that is to say management and the workers, have to abide by the bargaining power. That is what an anti-scab bill is all about.

Anti-scab legislation also promotes industrial peace. Businesses, big or small, benefit by it. It is, so to speak, the cornerstone of balanced bargaining power. This can never be over-emphasized: there has to be a balance of bargaining power between employers and employees; otherwise, things do not work too well.

Moreover, it would put an end, among other things, to the existence of two separate categories of workers in Quebec. On the one hand, there are those under Quebec's jurisdiction who have this right. We will remember that Quebec passed anti-scab legislation at the provincial level in 1977, under the René Lévesque government. On the other hand, there are those who are denied this right because they work in businesses under federal jurisdiction.

The beauty of this bill is that it benefits workers in Quebec as much as their counterparts in Canada. I call upon the honour of all the hon. members of this House to ensure that all workers in Quebec and Canada enjoy uniform protection across all the provinces and territories, where the Canada Labour Code is concerned.

I mentioned earlier that the Bloc Québécois' interest in this kind of legislation is not new. We have lost count of the attempts made in the past 15 years or so to have anti-scab legislation passed.

But time after time, over the years, MPs, unions, associations, lobby groups, that is to say many people, have had their hopes shattered because, in many cases, bills die on the Order Paper. We do not want this to happen again. We hope all the members of the House can agree on that.

Allow me to give a specific example. A petition signed by tens of thousands of citizens was laid before the House by my hon. colleague from Rivière-du-Nord, in support of the workers who are asking the government to pass the anti-scab bill.

Let us take a quick look at the situation in Quebec and in Canada. Right now, only Quebec and British Columbia have legislation prohibiting the use of scabs. In Quebec, anti-scab legislation was adopted in 1977 under the René Lévesque government. Everybody is still agreed today that undeniable progress was made regarding labour relations. It is mentioned in every labour relations study and in labour circles.

What I am now wondering as a member of this House is this: why does Canada not follow Quebec and British Columbia and become the North American leader in labour relations? The Bloc Québécois is offering the parties of this House a wonderful opportunity to regain leadership in labour relations.

For example, in New Brunswick, the union leaders have demanded for some time that anti-scab measures be included in their provincial labour code. The situation is the same in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where unions are trying to convince their governments to adopt anti-scab legislation.

Let us take a closer look at the Canada Labour Code. Under section 94, specifically subsection (2.1), there is a ban on replacement workers but only if the employer uses these replacement workers, or scabs as they are often called, in order to undermine a trade union's representational capacity.

I believe that this provision is very weak. In such a case, the employer only has to say that he recognizes the trade union that is in place. Thus, an employer only has to ensure that the trade union's representational capacity is not undermined to be entitled to use scabs. This is quite an easy scenario. In other words, if an employer systematically refuses to negotiate while using scabs, it is only then that the Canada Industrial Relations Board may prohibit the use of scabs.

This is a ridiculously weak measure that opens the door to the use of scabs.

In June 2002, in this House, the then Minister of Labour confirmed this interpretation of the provisions. She even said that the Canada Labour Code does not prohibit the use of replacement workers during a work stoppage.

We see that the issue remains alive. For workers who greatly suffer from this in areas where the Canada Labour Code still applies, we need anti-scab legislation. Why is this important? There has already been a widespread consensus over the years, but more is needed, both for workers under provincial jurisdiction and under federal jurisdiction.

On today's labour market, anti-scab legislation is a necessity, because it would bring more transparency when there is a labour dispute. I do not think any worker or employer is against transparency.

The main benefit of such a bill would be the elimination of violence, which is unfortunately a frequent occurrence, and the bullying on picket lines when disputes drag on and on. I am not making this up. It has been proven over the years.

Disputes drag on because of the lack of a level playing field. That is why disputes sometimes get worse. When we consider the outcome of disputes, and the violence and vandalism in the past, nobody wants that to occur again.

Those are the perverse effects of strikes and lockouts. There are more. With a closer scrutiny, we realize that in a dispute, a strike or lock out, the employer's revenues go down. These disputes are not good for governments either.

The income of workers also go down. So does their purchasing power. And this impact is not limited to a small community or region. The more a dispute lasts, the more its negative impact is visible. The same thing goes for disputes that drag on and generate serious social trouble. We have seen that in Canada in the past.

In Quebec, we also had very long disputes that had a considerable impact long after a settlement. Families affected directly by the dispute have a heavy debt load. There also family problems and psychological disorders because disputes are not settled fast enough.

When we researched this bill, a few figures gave me food for thought. In Quebec, we have an anti-strikebreaking legislation since 1977, thanks to René Lévesque. Going from there, I have a few data that are quite interesting.

In Quebec, the average number of working days lost due to labour disputes dropped from 39 days in 1976 to 32 days in 1979, two years after the anti-scab legislation was passed. Later, in 2001, this figure had dropped to 27.4 days. Generally speaking, thanks to the anti-scab legislation, there has been a reduction in the average number of working days lost. From 2002 to 2003, the number of workers involved in labour disputes in Quebec dropped by 18.8%. Those are figures which make us think or should do.

As I was saying, British Columbia passed anti-scab legislation in 1993, with significant results.

As a matter of fact, from 1992 to 1993, the percentage of time lost has dropped by 50%. We can see, therefore, that this type of legislation brings concrete results. One wonders why, after so many years, we are still hesitating to apply the Canada Labour Code to this type of legislation.

I have more significant figures, which speak for themselves in terms of the average number of working days lost from 1992 to 2002. Under the Quebec Labour Code, it is about 15 days, compared to 31 days under the Canada Labour Code. As we can see, there are significant losses in the case of the Canada Labour Code. Under the Quebec Labour Code, the number of days lost for every thousand employees, from 1992 to 2002, is 121 days. During the same period, under the Canada Labour Code, it was 266 days. Therefore, the number of working days lost under the Canada Labour Code is 119% higher than under the Quebec Labour Code.

So we can see we could go on and on citing figures for hours to comprehend that, for instance, the Vidéotron dispute, so much in the news, left deep scars and lasted over 10 months, resulted in over 350,000 days of work being lost in Quebec in 2002. At Sécur, another work dispute caused the loss of 43,000 workdays. These are worrisome numbers.

It is easy to understand in the light of what I have just stated that any parliamentarian who wishes to associate their name, no matter how closely, to a modern, just and fair measure should vote in favour of this project, because it is a legislative measure which can make a world of difference between the law of the jungle and a society which is truly respectful of the rights of working people.

What is needed, first and foremost, is to go beyond mere partisanship. I call upon the goodwill of parliamentarians, because, after all, even though it is put forward by a member of the Bloc, anti-scab legislation is resolutely progressive; and it is also both liberal and democratic at the same time. Indeed, everybody faces that kind of situation. It is thus important to remind people of how urgent it is to act.

Let us take some specific examples, such as Vidéotron. As we know, that conflict lasted over 10 months. Indeed, 2,200 employees of that cable company were on strike or locked out from May 2002 until March 2003. This was a long labour dispute. Things deteriorated. Scabs were used and the company's facilities were vandalized. That whole mess could have been avoided if there had been anti-scab legislation governing the Canada Labour Code. There are many other examples.

In the case of Sécur, after 99% of the employees voted against the employer's offers, they went on strike in July 2002. At the time, Sécur held 75% of the market of valuables transport in Quebec, with an annual turnover of $55 million.

Sécur employees were delivering cash to thousands of automatic teller machines in Quebec. During the labour dispute, this task was fulfilled by other workers, business managers or replacement workers, as they are called. The result was that, once again, the situation deteriorated and ATMs were vandalized. That conflict lasted over three months.

There is also the case of Radio-Nord Communications, in the Abitibi. Here again, things were not very pretty. Scabs were used, with the result that the conflict lasted a long time. I could go on.

The Bloc Québécois raised this issue many times over the years, often through the voice of the hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord, who never gave up.

I will conclude by saying that the battle continues. Today, it is the Bloc Québécois critic on labour issues and member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert who is taking over. Myself, as the member for Louis-Hébert, and the hon. member for Shefford, who is our deputy critic on labour issues, will also continue the battle because, in our opinion, it is important to bring the Canada Labour Code out of its great darkness. It is also important to act before it is too late.

Therefore, considering all the workers whose rights were denied over the years, considering all these victims of a totally obsolete Canada Labour Code, we do not have the right to forget and, more importantly, we no longer have any excuses not to act.

Université Laval November 23rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, Université Laval has added a new jewel to its crown. It has just received a prestigious award from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the Scotiabank-AUCC Award for Excellence in Internationalization.

This latest honour recognizes its excellence in providing students with experience in developing countries while earning credits towards their degrees through Le stage international et interculturel.

After three years in existence, Laval's program has established 22 partnerships in 11 developing countries. So far, 137 students have benefited from this program, and have helped their host countries reap over $215,000 in spin-offs and services.

Congratulations to Laval, a university with its roots in the riding of Louis-Hébert and an international reputation that is the pride of all Quebeckers.

Aliments de santé Laurier November 18th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, as this is National Health Food Month, I would like to recognize an initiative by Aliments de santé Laurier to protect the environment.

Eager to help protect the environment, this business announced the introduction of a plastic bag that is completely biodegradable through bioassimilation. The material it is made of disintegrates within six months to a year on exposure to heat, humidity or UV light.

In spite of the additional cost of using this type of bag, Aliments de santé Laurier decided to take the extra step to promote health by protecting the environment.

The Bloc Québécois congratulates the owners and staff of this business located in the riding of Louis-Hébert on this worthwhile initiative.

Canada Labour Code November 4th, 2004

moved for leave to present Bill C-263, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers).

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely proud to introduce an anti-scab bill this morning. Its purpose is to ban the use of strikebreakers by companies under federal jurisdiction.

René Lévesque gave Quebec such legislation in 1977. It is high time to fill the gap left by the Canada Labour Code. In particular, this bill is intended to avoid any more labour conflicts involving intimidation and violence. Examples of these are Vidéotron, Cargil, Sécur and Radio-Nord.

The intention of this bill is to civilize labour relations in the event of strikes or lockouts. I would invite all members of this House to support this totally non-partisan bill, in order to eliminate the use of scabs, which is still permitted by the Canada Labour Code.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Citizenship and Immigration October 29th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, Soraida Sabbah, who is a Palestinian citizen, has been invited to attend the Arab World Festival for a presentation of the documentary film in which she is not just an extra, but the main character. The event will be held in Montreal on the weekend. However, the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv still has not issued her a visitor's visa.

Since there is only one day left before the event to which Ms. Sabbah was invited, is the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration planning to take the necessary measures to issue the visa as quickly as possible?

Supply October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the remarks made by my colleague for Thunder Bay—Rainy River were very interesting. Nonetheless, I find it somewhat peculiar that someone so familiar with marine terminology can deny the existence of an imbalance. Maybe it is only a matter of vocabulary.

I am very familiar with the Thunder Bay area. This beautiful area in northwestern Ontario has a sea port. Maybe we have a hard time understanding each other because of the vocabulary. Some talk about financial pressures while others talk about fiscal imbalance.

If we look at the issue from a marine point of view and take the example of a large ship, it might be easier to understand. I think that the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River would understand the notion of imbalance if it suddenly happened on a ship. Fiscal imbalance is like having a surplus of $60 billion on port side. We agree, these figures are indisputable. On starboard, the provinces would show a combined deficit of $68 billion. In other words, on one side of the ship, there is a load of $60 billion, and, on the other side, a load of $68 billion. Even the Prime Minister, who is very familiar with marine terminology, could understand that this is not an exaggeration, but rather an imbalance.

If this is true for a ship, it could apply here. A ship with such an imbalance would not be able to follow a straight course, even a Canada Steamship Lines' ship--

Financial Administration Act October 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I admire the eloquence of my colleague from Repentigny, who did a good job defining the essence of the legislative initiative in Bill C-8. He raised negative points, which is understandable. The Bloc Québécois supports this legislative measure, but with hesitation, as my colleague indicated quite well.

I want to ask him a question, since he is an expert. He has devoted his life to promoting linguistic duality and respect for francophone communities, which the government seems to forget at times—be it the Commissioner of Official Languages or others. Does the member for Repentigny not find it a little ironic that the person responsible for this new agency, who is in a way the sponsor of all of this, in other words the President of the Treasury Board of Canada, is himself a unilingual anglophone? Should the person responsible for supervising the respect of linguistic duality and bilingual positions not, first and foremost, be himself bilingual? That is my question for my colleague from Repentigny.

Supply October 21st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I think at this stage the debate might be on the wrong track. I was just listening to my Conservative colleague and several others before him. Fortunately the interventions suggest that there are inaccuracies in the Conservative party's proposal. My colleagues in the NDP noticed it earlier and I agree with them.

I heard my Conservative colleague say that improved defence requires more money. This remark has been made many times. We are told numbers need to be increased and money needs to be added. We in the Bloc Québécois are against the Conservative motion because it seems like an exercise in reverse. It puts the cart before the horse. Let me explain.

Instead of investing more in defence, we have to start by re-evaluating Canada's foreign policy; we have to read it and understand it better. It is very important to grasp the nuances.

During previous interventions, I heard Conservative members say that it was very important to have a better army with more money because, in fact, the purpose of the army is to raise Canada's status and influence.

I think we would need a lot more than an army to enhance the reputation, status and influence of Canada. First, we need a long term vision. It would also be a good idea to have a government from time to time. That could be what is missing in Canada and my Conservative colleagues might agree with me that we may not be addressing this issue the right way.

We, in the Bloc Québécois, think that we need to have a debate on the plans for the future of our armed forces. We like to remind people that we are committed to improving the living conditions of our troops. It is important, and we are not just paying lip service. We believe that a better army begins with giving its members their due. But please, let us not pour in more money right away without developing a comprehensive policy and examining the whole situation.

This brings me to a quick discussion of the missile defence shield. This is an option we absolutely have to avoid. It is probably more important to talk about it than to continue to fund it.

Let me conclude by making a comment and asking my Conservative colleague a question. To ensure peace and security, we certainly have to focus more on development assistance. Should that not start with peacekeeping missions?

Eye Health Month October 19th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, during this, Eye Health Month, I am pleased to have this opportunity to draw hon. members' attention to the important work of the Fondation des maladies de l'oeil. This not for profit organization collects funds with the help of numerous volunteers for research on diseases of the eye.

The organization's mission is three fold: to prevent eye disease and blindness; to promote an interest in research; and to inform and educate the public.

Over 250,000 Quebeckers have vision problems that cannot be corrected with eyeglasses, and this is why research into cornea disease and transplants is so important. There are many degenerative diseases that affect vision: glaucoma retinal degeneration, which is linked to ageing and diabetes; and amblyopia. Three people in a thousand, in fact, are considered legally blind.

My congratulations to those behind the foundation, its volunteers, and the research teams working so hard to find treatments or cures for diseases of the eye.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 12th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, although she was not the first to mention it, I want to commend our Conservative colleague for pointing out how disappointing the throne speech was, not for what it said, but rather for what it did not say about the people who were overlooked. She mentioned, for instance, our farmers.

A lot of things went unmentioned in the Speech from the Throne. This is surprising from this government, which is never at a loss for words at the talking stage, but fails to deliver when action is required. The Speech from the Throne was unusually silent on a lot of issues.

Let me take this opportunity to thank the constituents from Louis-Hébert, since this is the first opportunity I have had to publicly thank them for their support. They can rest assured that I will represent them well. Since I defeated the former heritage minister, I fully expected not to see another of those Heritage Minutes which say almost everything there is to say about the state of the nation in just one minute.

But there are many of those Heritage Minutes in the throne speech, especially minutes of silence. My hon. colleague mentioned some of the issues that were not mentioned. One of them has me particularly worried. I find it more troublesome than the others, and I am talking about parental leave.

This Speech from the Throne can be examined from all angles and in both official languages, but nothing will be found about parental leave. And yet, parental leave is something that exists; it is tangible.

Just a few months ago, the Prime Minister of Canada claimed, boasted, I would almost say crowed, about the special agreement in principle he had reached with the Government of Quebec. Words are cheap. At such times, words come easily to our Liberal friends—our friends in government. But all at once, the search for fiscal ways and means begins. How will this partnership actually work? What will the actual effect be of this agreement in principle on parental leave?

I looked and looked for myself, and could not find one word. Mum's the word. There is nothing about it in the speech. Yet it is as clear as spring water. The federal government was going to recognize Quebec's jurisdiction over parental leave. That is not hard to figure out. It can be done, even in a speech that consists of intentions, a Speech from the Throne. You can turn it over and over in all directions; there is nothing there.

It may be important for the Government of Canada to distance itself a little from the temptation to go to court all the time. It should give up such proceedings and simply transfer to Quebec its due, some $700 million per year for parental leave. That is something concrete that does not appear in the Speech from the Throne.

Once again, I congratulate the hon. member who rose before me, because she precisely identified this complete lack of content. Since my hon. Conservative colleague pointed out the poignant silence on the subject of farmers, does she believe it would be useful to move from words to action, to say more things a little more specific about the fate of thousands of people in this country, to put some meat on the bare bones and come up with tangible achievements?