Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was tax.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Bloc MP for Portneuf (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2006, with 26% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Budget Implementation Act, 2005 June 15th, 2005

Madam Speaker, the member for Acadie—Bathurst has a lot more experience in this House than I do. I do not think it is necessary to explain to him the difference between a bill and a motion.

However, through his comments he has given us the perfect example of why we should vote against Bill C-48. Practically in the same breath he said that Bill C-48 will lower tuition fees and student debt.

I would like the hon. member to show me where it says that in this bill. This bill is very vague. In committee some people thought it would lower tuition fees, others thought it would increase loans and bursaries, while others still thought it would increase investment in school infrastructure and research chairs. We have no idea what the government's intentions are with this bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005 June 15th, 2005

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary makes a point of repeating that many provincially elected representatives recognize the fiscal imbalance as a problem. And not only in Quebec. I can think of Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, and of the tour I went on with the Subcommittee on Fiscal Imbalance, where there was this very broad consensus in almost every province we visited about the existence of a fiscal imbalance.

The worst part is that not only does this fiscal imbalance exist, but it is also turning into a political imbalance, where decisions made by the federal government have a very serious impact on how the various provincial states and Quebec are run. The members of the various legislative assemblies and the National Assembly are not the only ones to recognize the fiscal imbalance.

As far as I know, our colleague from Acadie—Bathurst—the name of his riding came back to me—is not an MLA; he is a federally elected representative. As far as I know, the Leader of the Opposition and our Conservative colleagues, who recognize the fiscal imbalance, are not MLAs. Clearly, we in the Bloc Québécois do recognize the fiscal imbalance. We may not always be in perfect agreement on how to resolve this very serious problem, but it must be agreed that there is a problem.

I will give the parliamentary secretary a quick example, and then come back to the phasing out of the corporate capital tax. At the time Bill C-43 was tabled, the federal government was planning to withdraw from that field to some extent. Shortly after, Quebec's finance minister tabled his budget and, in light of the direction the federal government was taking, also decided to reduce the capital tax, and raise the corporate tax rate slightly for larger corporations. All in all, this was intended to result in a tax reduction for corporations in Quebec.

The problem is that, by changing its mind now about the capital tax, the government is completely messing up Quebec's corporate tax strategy. That is what the fiscal imbalance is about. The federal government's decisions have a direct impact on legislation at other levels.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005 June 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, we have now reached third reading of Bill C-43, which implements the government's 2005 budget. I would like to point out, first—because it is hard to avoid it—that we cannot talk about Bill C-43, without talking about Bill C-48 at the same time.

I want to clarify something right from the start. The Bloc Québécois, unlike our NDP colleagues, did not wait until the last minute to make proposals to the government to present a budget bill that meets Quebeckers' expectations.

Right after budget day, we presented the government with a number of points along the lines of the prebudget consultations in the Standing Committee on Finance. Some points were also suggested to us when the Bloc Québécois toured through Quebec to confirm with Quebeckers what we would ask the government.

We offered these points immediately after the budget presentation. We did not wait until several weeks later, nor did we make a last minute deal in an attempt to rescue this government, a deal that totally left out the unemployed, providing no increase in EI benefits, nothing on setting up a truly independent EI fund, nothing to improve accessibility to this very important system, for the unemployed, those in need, those in crisis. Immediately following the budget presentation, we informed the government of our intentions. We told them we were prepared to work with them and even vote in favour of their budget. However, they had to listen to the priorities of Quebeckers, because that is very important. We did make these points clear during the prebudget consultations in the Standing Committee on Finance and during a tour of Quebec. There was unanimity.

I will start with the first point: the fiscal imbalance. Out of 200 elected representatives—that is, 125 at the National Assembly and 75 in the Parliament of Canada—only 21 fail to recognize the fiscal imbalance. It so happens that these are members of the Liberal Party of Canada. In Quebec, fiscal imbalance is almost unanimously recognized as a matter that has to be addressed; there is at least a very broad consensus to that effect. Tax fields have to be transferred to allow provinces like Quebec to provide the services the public has come to expect. Transfers for education and social programs have to be increased. A fundamental reform of equalization is also in order.

In recent months, we have seen the government, acting on promises, the magnitude of which it had not fully measured, make piecemeal agreements having a very substantial impact on equalization. These agreements might even alter the nature of the equalization system. There has to be a fundamental reform of equalization, including raising the ceilings and removing the floors. It is important that equalization recognize and adapt to the economic realities of Quebec and Canada. Instead of being based on five provinces, the average should be calculated for all the provinces and Quebec. Certain calculations in the equalization formula have to be reviewed, especially with respect to property tax. This has been and still is a priority for Quebeckers.

I will mention in passing that, at the Subcommittee on Fiscal Imbalance, we have arrived at a majority report which includes four very important recommendations.

The government can deny the fiscal imbalance all it wants, this does not change the fact that a House subcommittee has written a report on it.

The second essential element for Quebeckers, which I mentioned briefly earlier, is employment insurance.

We have a new minister. Not so long ago, she said she was in favour of expanding access to employment insurance. Currently, only 38% of all EI applicants manage to qualify for benefits. This is disgraceful and despicable. The feds are collecting surpluses at the expense of a segment of the population in crisis and with real, not imaginary, needs. These people are waiting for benefits to pay for their groceries, rent, mortgage or food for their kids. But only 38% of them qualify. This is really scandalous.

Not so long ago, the minister recognized this fact and also recognized that there should be an independent EI fund, so that the government can never again dip into these surpluses. This is scandalous, too. The government has taken $48 billion. Instead of using that money to meet the real needs of our constituents, it took it in order to continue to accumulate astronomical surpluses.

Last year, the surplus forecast was $1.9 billion; the actual surplus ended up being $9.1 billion. If this is not a disgrace, I would like to know what is.

As for improving access to EI, the House adopted a unanimous report recommending reducing the number of hours required for eligibility. What has the government done? Naturally, the Prime Minister repeats in the House that he wants to eliminate the democratic deficit. But, since June 2004, all the government has really done is ignore the majority, and even unanimous, decisions of House committees, and even ignore the majority decisions of the House itself. I need only remind members of the decision to split the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in two.

The Kyoto protocol has been raised in the House on a regular basis. Quebeckers are concerned about the environment. They have made serious efforts to encourage industries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Much work has been done. Quebec has made a huge effort. But what does the government do? Once again, it introduces a bad plan based on the polluter-paid, instead of the polluter-pay, principle.

The government really needs to be sent back to redo its homework. It went completely off the track in drafting Bill C-43. God knows we tried to help it. We presented it with proposals that were, it seems to me, not only credible but also effective, given the financial means available to the government at the present time. What did it decide to do? It shunted them aside just like that.

Unfortunately, we are often far too creative for this government. To give just one quick example, my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher introduced a private member's bill that proposed a very simple solution, one to foster a better environment and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. It proposed a tax incentive to users of public transit for the purchase of bus passes. This was something so simple and easily applied. But no, it had not crossed the government's mind. We thought of it, though. We presented this bill to the government but we are still waiting to hear its reactions.

Another really simple element could also be readily applied. Why not have a tax credit for the purchase of hybrid vehicles? This would both encourage a major industry and thereby create employment, and result in a cleaner environment. This is exactly in line with the concept behind Kyoto.

But this government is far too concerned with piling up a surplus, with ganging up on the sovereignists in particular. This government realizes it has nothing to gain in Quebec. It has already dumped it and continues to ignore it.

As for agriculture, we again made some concrete and precise proposals to the government. Agriculture is going through the worst crisis in decades. Mad cow—I hardly need say more. I can remember meetings in Quebec of the Union des producteurs agricoles, when the minister preferred to hide here in the House rather than go out and meet them. The Bloc Québécois did go. In fact, a number of Bloc Québécois MPs left Ottawa and went to meet the farmers in Quebec City. We listened as they told us what they needed, and reassured them that we would defend their interests. We came back here in order to be in the House when there was an opposition day on agriculture.

What did the minister do in the meantime? Said he had been unable to go. Defending the interests of Quebeckers means defending them in this House, defending them in our ridings, defending them at meetings like the one I just mentioned, and bringing word of their true needs back to this House.

There was talk in this House this afternoon about international aid. Again, the UN has set a noble target, whereby Canada should allocate 0.7% of its gross domestic product to international aid. Bill C-48 does provide a $500,000 increase in that respect. The UN's goal is for this 0.7% target to be met by 2015. What is this government headed for? Provided the required investments are made and maintained, this target will not be achieved before 2035. Again, the government is totally off the mark.

Now, let us look at the issue of respect for the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. Understandably, this is an important topic for us. Today, in this House, there were more discussions about early years child care. The Prime Minister had pledged to transfer funding to Quebec with no strings attached. Yet, several months later, he is still negotiating. Can you tell me, Madam Speaker, what is there to negotiate when there are no strings attached? It eludes me. Or did I misunderstand something? There are no strings attached. In that case, what is there to be negotiated? Why does he not simply transfer to the Government of Quebec the funding for a system which he himself holds up as a model?

Where the Canadian Francophonie is concerned, our francophone cousins in the rest of Canada have been completely ignored in this budget. In some ways, I find it somewhat ironic that the Bloc Québécois is far too often the one championing the cause of French-speaking minorities outside Quebec. In this respect, my colleague from the NDP, the name of whose riding unfortunately escapes me, regularly emphasizes the importance of protecting the French-speaking minorities in the rest of Canada. I want to commend him on his work on that.

I said earlier that we cannot talk about Bill C-43 without talking about Bill C-48. Briefly, I will say that, on Bill C-48—and I hope that my words will not be too harsh for this place—the NDP has been royally had. It is as simple as that. Why did that happen? Let me give a quick example.

The NDP said that the reduction in the capital tax had to be withdrawn from the budget and invested in social measures. The government said that, of course, it would do that. In doing so, last week in this House, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said to us that, if we were not convinced, he would invite us to examine the document he had in front of him so that, I paraphrase—although the government is introducing a motion whereby only 40% of businesses will benefit from the reduction in the capital tax, in any case, whether it is accepted or not in future legislation, the government intends to reintroduce this capital tax. So, it will reintroduce it.

The NDP has been had, and that is only one of the ways.

More important still, we heard from Mr. Charles-Antoine Saint-Jean of the Treasury Board Secretariat in the Standing Committee on Finance a few days ago.

On the subject of Bill C-48, my colleague from Joliette pointed out that, with a budget surplus of $2 billion, the government could do the spending provided in C-48. I will quote from Mr. Saint-Jean:

The opportunity is there; it is not mandatory. The bill makes it possible—

The member for Joliette replied: “Ah, so it is not mandatory? Remind us why.” And Mr. Saint-Jean replied:

This bill enables the government—

It enables it. It does not oblige it. A little while later in this committee meeting, I wanted to make sure I understood. I will quote myself, with your permission. I asked Mr. Saint-Jean:

So, if I have understood rightly...the government needs the $2 billion surplus. It can then, if it wishes and if its priorities have not changed, if, in the following year, in a new budget, it does not introduce a bill eliminating the $2 billion, it can allocate up to..., but it is not obliged to do so. In addition, there is the $2 billion, naturally—$2 billion in surplus.

So I want to make sure I understand that, Mr. Saint Jean. The government can, but is not obliged to, spend up to— the amount specified in Bill C-48.

Mr. Saint-Jean's answer was as follows. I invite both my NDP and Conservative Party colleagues, along with the parliamentary secretary of the finance minister and his Liberal colleagues to take note of the answer. It is very important, and our fellow citizens must understand.

Indeed, clause 11 provides clearly that the Minister of Finance may make payments to be taken from the Consolidated Revenue Fund up to the amount of the difference. So that is “may” and not “must”.

And I concluded, “That concludes very well, Mr. Chair”.

So they made a deal with the government. Basically, it involved removing the elimination of the capital tax. The government has already said it did not intend to do so, as it will act, in any case, under future legislation.

The government gave itself a way out by saying that there absolutely had to be a $2 billion surplus accrued at the end of the year. We are not talking about quick investments. There needs to be a $2 billion surplus. However, nothing in Bill C-48 requires the government to pay the amounts mentioned.

It could pay $0 or $1. It could pay half the amount. It could pay the full amount, I agree. Nevertheless, it is not required to. Next year, it will table a new budget. It could decide that it no longer has the same priorities as those mentioned in Bill C-43 and Bill C-48, especially C-48. It could present a budget that might end up reducing the surplus, hypothetically speaking, to $1.5 billion. It would thereby be free from its virtual obligation imposed by Bill C-48. And the NDP will have been had. Even if there is a $2 billion surplus, nothing requires the government to spend the amount stipulated in Bill C-48.

Since I have only one minute remaining, I will wrap up my speech. Unlike the NDP, we did not wait until the last minute to present the government with the priorities of Quebeckers. We presented the government with important and achievable items based on the consensus in Quebec that would serve the best interests of our constituents in Quebec, as well as those in the rest of Canada. We did not make a last minute deal and we were not had by the Liberal government.

National Defence June 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, we know what the government does when it is the one responsible for this kind of thing: it tries to bury it. We do not want another Gagetown.

Does the minister understand that the people of Shannon want access to the report now, because they do not want to be told in 20 years that no one knew?

National Defence June 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence dodges my question and repeats himself whenever we ask him about the contamination of water in the town of Shannon. He says that drinking water is now available, that the facts need to be determined and responsibility established. However, what the public wants is access to the report the government is keeping under wraps.

Will the minister stop hedging and give the public what it wants by making this secret report public? Will he make it public without delay?

Supply June 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, child care is something extremely important to me. Among other things, I was a member of the board of administration of an early childhood centre in Pont-Rouge for seven years. My wife is an early childhood educator. So, obviously, I have a special interest in today's debate.

There has been much talk in this debate about choices made by parents and their participation. In Quebec, there are currently about 1,000 early childhood centres, the CPEs. Each centre is run by a board, the majority of whose members are parents. On average, there are around ten parents per centre. So that means there are 10,000 parents who are directly involved in selecting educational programs and services for their children.

I do not know what the member thinks about this, but is this not a good example of parents making choices in the best interests of their children?

National Defence June 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, despite my speech on June 7 in this House, the Minister of National Defence continues to make reassuring statements about the water contamination in the town of Shannon. Yet, a troubling rate of cancer around the military base is being reported. This situation is reminiscent of the way the government handled the agent orange issue in the 1960s.

How can the Minister of National Defence claim that he is working with the community of Shannon, when he refuses to release the preliminary report that the Department of National Defence has had since February?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005 June 13th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have a few things I wish to say about part 14, which establishes the Greenhouse Gas Technology Investment Fund Act. There are a number of points it is important to raise here in the House.

This purpose of this fund is very specific: to lessen the efforts required of major emitters to meet the targets about to be imposed by the federal government in its plan relating to Kyoto.

As part of what it terms its great green plan, the federal government is committing to setting targets in partnership with the provinces and territories. Hon. members will recall that this bill is based far more on the polluter-paid than on the polluter-pay principle.

The bill establishes a fund for which the minister, of course, has responsibility. The government is thus being handed a blank cheque. This measure provides the Liberals with the powers required to control a number of important elements—such as price and number of technological investment units—without consulting the House, and without Quebec and the provinces being able to maintain their legitimate right to opt out and to administer the targets of the major emitters within their territory themselves.

This has a number of effects. I met recently with an industrialist in the Quebec City region whose business is in cement. He explained to me that, once the plan is tabled, his industry will have a great deal of difficulty meeting the government's targets. There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact that the target is set according to a percentage at a specific date. This company has already expended huge efforts in connection with its greenhouse gas emissions and has therefore greatly reduced those emissions.

Unfortunately, as is the case for many industries, there is a critical point beyond which it becomes increasingly difficult to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. What is more, given the nature of its product, the chemical processes involved in producing cement make it impossible to decrease emissions below a certain point regardless of the technology. Greenhouse gases are emitted when cement is manufactured, regardless of the technology used. Perhaps in some future world of science fiction it will be possible to reduce those emissions further, but unfortunately it is impossible at this time.

That is just one more thing the government has not taken into consideration. Rather than imposing specific reductions in terms of tonnes, the preference was to choose the option of a specific percentage at a specific date. As a result, this creates great difficulties for certain industries, some of them in Quebec.

If Quebec had had more latitude in controlling greenhouse gases, I am sure it would have better recognized the need to manage on a company to company basis and not on a pan-Canadian basis.

Under part 14, permits are tradable. I wonder how a technology investment unit system might coexist with the tradable permits system promised by the government. I sincerely hope that the amendment introduced by the hon. member from the Conservative Party does not pass. In addition to the factors I just listed, this will make matters even worse. As I was saying earlier, there is nothing stopping the government, at this point, from leaving Quebec out completely and letting private companies pay into the fund. The oil companies are the first example that spring to mind.

Earlier, I also mentioned that the fund was created to lessen the efforts required of major emitters. This legislation confirms the agreement reached with the automotive industry by specifying that this industry is exempt from the major emitter definition. There is nothing stopping the automotive industry from creating a fund to try to get around the few requirements of the Kyoto protocol.

From the outset it is a bad plan, which emphasizes the polluter-paid rather than the polluter-pay principle. The proposal the hon. member for Edmonton—Spruce Grove just made will make matters worse.

We opposed this part of the bill in committee and we will do the same in the House.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005 June 13th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to discuss this motion with my Conservative colleague. The Bloc Québécois was under the impression that she needed unanimous consent in order to move the motion, and we were not prepared to give it at this time. The problem, in part, is that this amendment is far too open-ended. It gives the minister far too many opportunities to abuse this provision.

In light of our discussions, I understand the desire to give the government more flexibility in enforcing this legislation. At the same time, however, we have a number of concerns about the kinds of funds that would be created in order to allocate monies to the greenhouse gas technology investment fund.

Our question remains. Could a new foundation be created? We saw what happened with the foundations, where funds are invested but not used in the same way. The motion just moved by the member in no way prevents private funds from being used. For example, nothing would prevent an oil consortium from creating a fund.

So we are not entirely convinced that this is an acceptable motion. It gives the government a blank cheque. In our opinion, Bill C-48 is already much too open-ended and not specific enough about how the money will be spent. The member's motion would make things worse. Perhaps she can explain a bit better the spirit in which this motion was moved? However, at this time, I can say that we will not support this motion.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005 June 10th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, naturally the two motions here lead us, indirectly, to discuss Bill C-48. We have discussed this often in committee. It is a little ironic that it is the sovereignist members who are asking Parliament to respect its own Constitution, the very one that was imposed on Quebec.

The problem with the NDP agreement is that many of these measures interfere with Quebec's jurisdictions. I hope my colleague from the NDP will understand that it is unacceptable to Quebeckers for the government to enter into agreements directly with the municipalities.

Indeed, money is being offered by the government. Their heart is in the right place, but their methods are not. This will worsen the famous fiscal imbalance, since it is an invasion into the constitutional jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces.