House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was million.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Beauce (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Caroline Faucher June 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have this opportunity to pay tribute to a young woman from Beauce, 19 year-old Caroline Faucher.

At this May's WorldSkills Competition in Finland, she was named the world champion in graphic design technology. This international competition brought together 800 competitors from 42 different countries in 39 different skill areas.

This richly deserved honour is well worth our recognition. The talented Ms. Faucher rose to this challenge with great flair. Beauce and Canada are proud of her.

Congratulations must go not only to Ms. Faucher but also to the great staff of the Centre d'imprimerie de la Chaudière, in Beauceville, where she learned her trade.

This printing centre is operated under the auspices of the Beauce-Etchemin school board and does an excellent job of providing the young people of Beauce with the tools they must have to excel in their chosen trades.

Committees of the House April 4th, 2005

Madam Speaker, one of the questions that is sometime raised in debates and questions on the whole issue of hepatitis C is the substance of the settlement agreement. Based on what we are hearing, there is huge fund in place, but those who need that money do not have access to it.

We hear statements to the effect that the federal government intends to get its hands on the huge surplus in that reserve. However, one should be careful with the opposition's comments. These allegations are often preposterous.

This is why I would like to take a few minutes to talk about the settlement agreement fund for people who were infected with hepatitis C between 1986 and the mid-nineties. I specifically want to comment on the false notion that the federal government will siphon off any surplus.

First, allow me to point out the basic facts concerning this fund under the settlement agreement.

In 1998, the federal, provincial and territorial governments agreed to provide financial assistance to Canadians who were infected with hepatitis C following a blood transfusion between January 1, 1986 and July 1, 1990, and to persons with hemophilia who received blood products during that period.

This led to negotiations involving the federal, provincial and territorial governments, as well as the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in class actions before the courts in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

These negotiations resulted in a settlement agreement, thus probably putting an end to legal battles that would have lasted a decade. All the parties to the dispute, and the courts, approved the settlement.

In so doing, they agreed to set eligibility criteria that are based on consultations with Canadian medical experts on hepatitis C.

Many stakeholders had the opportunity to review the settlement agreement and they provided information to the courts before the latter gave their approval, in December 1999.

The hepatitis C settlement for the 1986-1990 period totals $1.118 billion. The federal government contributed $875 million, or eight elevenths of the total amount.

The provinces and territories are putting the rest of the money in a trust fund set up for compensation and related monthly costs.

Once the settlement agreement was reached, it was widely made public. Announcements were published in Canada's newspapers in April 2000 and once again in January 2001, to tell people who might be eligible for compensation how to obtain the applications or to exclude themselves from the agreement.

Within the settlement agreement, an independent and non government administrator was appointed by the courts. This administrator was Crawford Expertises Inc./The Garden City Group. The administrator establishes the application process. It makes decisions on applications and determines the payments made to applicants according to established criteria.

Thus, people who are eligible for payments and who are the most sick receive the most money. Furthermore, applications may cover loss of income, care costs or other particular expenses.

The first payments were made to applicants on June 20, 2000. The most recent data available are from March 4, 2005. Consequently, at the beginning of that month, the fund had already paid more than $427 million.

But what was the status of the fund and what about a surplus?

On the face of it, it is possible to see something in the applications for compensation. After all, when a report was made on the assessment of the trust fund on December 31, 2004, it indicated there was $890 million left.

The funds must be invested to allow the trust to make payments to eligible people during what is expected to be the next 70 years, since it is easy to imagine that a child who contracted hepatitis C before birth—you understand that he can then have it later on—let us say in 1988, would live much longer and would be eligible for compensation at some point during his life.

Second, we must understand that current levels of payment do not automatically guarantee future levels of payment. The conditions resulting from a hepatitis C infection can worsen or improve. Whatever the case may be, the fund must be able to provide adequate compensation. It must be able to provide compensation for lost income, until these individuals reach the age of 65.

Third, we do not know, currently, just how many people may be entitled to compensation. We continue to receive new applications, and this could continue until 2010.

That said, there is a process for examining the fund's financial status. For example, a group of lawyers representing the claimants, called the joint committee, is overseeing the settlement agreement. This committee is made up of lawyers representing Canadians with hepatitis C in the negotiations on the settlement agreement. This committee, under court supervision, oversees the administration of the agreement.

The joint committee is preparing to present an actuarial analysis of the fund based on the most recent data and experience acquired to date. It will provide the three courts that approved the settlement agreement with the information they need to determine whether or not the trust fund has a surplus.

The date for a hearing on this issue will be set considerably later than June 2005. A decision about scheduling will be made by the courts, but the Government of Canada will try to request that a hearing be held as soon as possible.

What will happen if the courts determine that there is a surplus? Could the federal government, as some seem to be suggesting, grab that money? The answer is simply no.The trust fund does not belong to the federal government. Its purpose is to respond to the needs of the beneficiaries of this trust, and it is up to the courts to determine how the surplus is to be divided.

The courts will make a decision based on a number of factors, one of the most important ones being the range of options included in the settlement agreement to deal with this type of possibility. Should there be a surplus, the courts might decide to allocate it to those covered by the trust fund or to measures that would benefit these beneficiaries the most, such as support for research on hepatitis. It will be up to the courts to decide.

Naturally, they could just leave the surplus in the fund. Whatever happens, it is clear that there is a special process to deal with any surpluses in the trust fund. The federal government is currently preparing for these hearings, in order to be able to put forward a reasonable and responsible position to the courts when the fund sufficiency hearings are held.

This motion is not appropriate, since the Minister of Health has already started to explore options to compensate those victims who contracted hepatitis C before 1986 and after 1990. And I am absolutely delighted by that.

Agriculture April 4th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, if our farmers needed any more proof that the Liberal Party defends their interests, they received it on March 29. That is the day our government announced $1 billion in aid under the Farm Income Payment Program in order to ease cashflow pressures on farmers in Canada.

This new measure is in addition to the federal, provincial and territorial programs currently in place to help the agriculture sector, which paid out a record $4.9 billion in aid to our farmers last year. In addition, our government has addressed farmers directly through national consultations to discuss ways of developing the sector and improving sales revenue.

Our government has been helping Canadian farmers for over 10 years when there have been income crises and it will continue to support them in the short, medium and long terms.

Supply March 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, we treat the provinces fairly and the hon. member must acknowledge it. I mentioned that in my speech.

Think about the GST rebate or the infrastructure program set up with the gas tax. The purpose of these measures is to keep people in Saskatchewan. That is what we want to see happen. We will continue to work with Saskatchewan and all the provinces and territories in order to help them keep their populations, grow and have a good quality of life. That is the commitment of the Government of Canada.

Supply March 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member is criticizing me for not speaking about the motion, I could criticize him for having misunderstood my speech because I did indeed refer to the motion. Furthermore, I said that agreements on health and equalization are measures aimed at helping all the provinces.

Can we agree that Saskatchewan does not have the same concerns as Newfoundland and Nova Scotia? Considering that the unemployment rate is almost 20%—which is not the case in Saskatchewan—do these provinces not deserve special attention? I hope the hon. member agrees and that he will be able to tell Labrador and Nova Scotia that he is in favour of the agreement. If we want to have a balanced budget, we have to work together to find solutions. That is what we are doing on this side of the House.

Supply March 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my allotted time with the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

I appreciate this opportunity to speak today in response to a motion of the hon. member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre to the effect that the benefits of the accord on non-renewable resources signed by Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador should be extended to all the provinces.

This motion raises a question often debated in this House, namely the so-called fiscal imbalance. It is appropriate that I now address it in the context of this specific motion. With all due respect to those who believe that such an imbalance exists in Canada, I say they are wrong, and there are several reasons for that.

First, I think that all our critics have to recognize that there is one fundamental difference between Canada and most federations: the Government of Canada and the provinces have access to the same major sources of revenue to finance their operations. The provinces also have exclusive access to several sources of revenue in their jurisdictions, such as natural resource royalties and gaming revenues.

Second, under the Constitution, the provinces have full jurisdiction over the tax bases under their control. They also have a free hand to develop their own tax policies, set personal and corporate tax rates and decide how to use their tax revenues.

Third, despite the significant progress made in recent years by this government in reducing the debt, the federal debt remains twice as high as that of the provinces. As the father of four and grandfather of five, that is not the legacy I want to leave to my family and to Canadian families. It is important that we reduce this debt.

Finally, we have to take into account that the Government of Canada and the provinces are partners in many areas, including several over which the provinces have full jurisdiction. Take health, post-secondary education, social services, infrastructure and housing for example. The federal government has been contributing more and more in these areas over the past several years. Its contributions are currently at an all time high. That is right, an all time high, and they will continue to grow.

When we factor in the federal transfers, we can see that the provincial and territorial revenues clearly exceed federal revenues. This has been true for more than 20 years, and is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.

Let us look at the benefits derived from this cooperative form of governance. The 10 year plan to strengthen health care is one of the best examples of cooperation involving the various levels of government. In fact, the Prime Minister of Canada and his provincial and territorial counterparts have all signed it. The Government of Canada has promised to spend more than $41 billion over ten years to support the plan, thus acting on all the financial recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, the Romanow commission.

An additional sum of $700 million over five years has also been announced for aboriginal health care programs, along with $150 million for health care services in the North.

The Senate is currently studying Bill C-39, which implements the 10 year plan to consolidate health care. Once this bill has been adopted, the provinces and territories will be able to respond to the concerns of Canadians in such important areas as wait times reduction in order to ensure that Canadians have access to essential health care in a timely manner, and they will be able to fund the purchase of essential diagnostic and medical equipment.

Then there is the new framework for the equalization formula and the territorial funding formula or TFF. In October, the Government of Canada established a new framework for equalization and the territorial funding formula, which provides for the transfer of $33 billion in additional funding over the next 10 years.

This additional funding for the provinces and territories will mean that all Canadians will have access to reasonably comparable public services at reasonably comparable rates of taxation, no matter where they live.

This framework includes the five following elements: first, a minimum funding floor of $10 billion for equalization and of $1.9 billion for TFF for 2004-05; and complete protection for provinces and territories against declines in payments in 2004-05 below the amounts estimated in the 2004 budget.

There is also a guaranteed increase in funding for 2005-06, to $10.9 billion for equalization and $2 billion for TFF, and a guaranteed growth rate of 3.5% per year compared to this level over the next 10 years.

Finally, for the first time the government is creating an independent panel to advise on how legislated equalization and TFF levels should be allocated among the provinces and territories. The provinces will be represented on this panel. The legislation establishing the new equalization and TFF framework recently received royal assent, and the provinces have started to receive the amounts allocated. One of the things the provinces and territories had demanded was stable and predictable funding. This is exactly what the Government of Canada has provided.

However, the government did not stop there. I want to mention a few of the positive initiatives in the 2005 budget for Canadians or the communities in which they live.

These funds will be allocated to health care professionals and resources for healthy living, the prevention of chronic disease, flu epidemic preparedness, drug safety and environmental health. These funds reinforce the $805 million the Government of Canada is investing directly in its responsibilities.

The Government of Canada is committed to enhancing its assistance to regional and sectoral development. This year's budget gives priority to strengthening support for innovation and local capacities to meet the challenge of adaptation, investment in northern initiatives, and targeted investments to increase the contribution of certain key sectors of the economy to Canadians' standard of living.

More specifically, the 2005 budget helps to strengthen the economies in the regions through the following initiatives: $800 million more in funding to regional development agencies in Atlantic Canada, western Canada, Quebec and northern Ontario. Having been the minister responsible for this portfolio in Quebec, I can state that this funding will be extremely useful for the economic development of all of Quebec's regions. In addition, $120 million will be allocated to an overall northern development strategy, and there will be additional investments in certain key areas of the Canadian economy, such as agriculture and the space industry.

Hon. members will recall the new deal for the communities which was inaugurated as part of the 2004 budget. With it, the Government of Canada implemented the preliminary measures of the new deal with the reimbursement in full of the goods and services tax, the GST, as well as the federal portion of the harmonized sales tax, the HST, to the municipalities. This initial step will make it possible to provide the municipalities with more than $7 million over 10 years to help them finance their fundamental infrastructure priorities, particularly roads, public transport and water purification.

The 2005 budget takes this still further by respecting the Government of Canada's commitment to share part of the revenue from the federal gas tax in order to support a sustainable and environmentally friendly infrastructure. This commitment will take the form of a new contribution of $5 billion to cities and communities for infrastructure over the next five years.

The new deal goes further than the commitment on gasoline taxes. It is designed to establish new, lasting intergovernmental partnerships and to find new ways of doing things. The governments have worked together to ensure that our health care system has a future, and we have worked together on equalization and the territorial funding formula to establish a detailed plan enabling the provinces and territories to prepare for the future. There is no doubt that all administrations must continue to work closely together in order to achieve real, lasting change.

In short, it is incorrect to say that the government has and jealously guards an unfair financial advantage. In fact, all administrations have the same duty of providing services of the highest quality to all citizens, no matter where they live.

That is exactly what Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador are seeking to do. The agreement on offshore resources recognizes the special circumstances these provinces are facing. The Government of Canada has seen a need and has intervened to help standardize the rules of the game with respect to other provinces.

After all, Canadians help each other out, right?

Canadians have made it clear that they all want to see their elected representatives cooperating to achieve this goal. Let us set aside these petty quarrels about fiscal imbalance and move on to more positive and more productive debates on practical ways to meet our obligations and on what we can do in the future.

That is how it works where I come from, in the Beauce. When someone has a problem, no one looks for a guilty party; we search for a solution, and that works well. Thank you for your attention.

Question No. 70 March 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, on February 17, 2005, the President of the Treasury Board tabled in the House of Commons a report entitled “Review of the Governance Framework for Canada's Crown Corporations”. The review set out the government's modifications to the appointments process for chief executive officers, directors and chairpersons of crown corporations. These changes are designed to ensure that the appointments process is not only competency-based, professional and transparent, but is also consistent with the ability of the government to exercise its responsibilities as owner.

Specific measures announced in the review that relate to appointments are as follows:

Measure No. 16

Selection criteria for chairs and board profiles will be made public by the government. Similarly, crown corporations will make CEO selection criteria available to the public.

Measure No. 17

The government will develop a central website to solicit potential candidates for director and chair positions.

Measure No. 18

The selection process for the CEO will be determined by the board of directors and will include, at minimum, advertising in either or both the Canada Gazette and the corporation's website.

Measure No. 19

The government will obtain references on all candidates for appointment as director or chair. In the case of CEOs, the board's nominating committee will be required to do the same for any candidate it submits to the government for appointment. In addition, the government will continue to conduct background checks and ensure that candidates are not in a conflict of interest, prior to making any appointment.

Measure No. 20

The government will work closely with parliamentary committees to ensure a workable appointment review process that will not unduly delay necessary appointments.

Petitions March 9th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I wish to submit a petition on behalf of clothing and textile workers in the ridings of Beauce and Mégantic—L'Érable.

Petitions March 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling in this House a petition sent by the Assemblée de Beauce 1043 regarding Bill C-38.

Question No. 59 January 31st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am informed by the Privy Council office, as follows:

a) Solicited, received, recorded, assessed

The rationale for the Canada Millennium Partnership Program was articulated in the 1997 Speech from the Throne with the statement that the government would help to build partnerships to mark the new millennium.

The Millennium Bureau's communications strategy included a web site on which the application guide for the program was available, the 1-800 Inquiries Canada toll-free telephone line, mail-out pamphlets, television advertisements in partnership with stations such as the Weather Network and a toll-free number at the Millennium Bureau (1-888-774-9999). In addition, information was delivered to MPs' offices to help them promote the Program within their constituencies. The application guide and promotional pamphlet were widely disseminated. Applications were recceived by the Millennium Bureau by mail, fax, courier, or otherwise hand-delivered.

Once received, the applications for funding were:

i) received by the bureau's registry, stamped and put in a project file,

ii) the post office stamp was verified to determine if the application was sent within the time frame. If not, a “late arrival” letter was prepared. If faxed, the date faxed was also verified, for the same reason,

iii) the application was input to the bureau's project management database designed specifically for managing a contribution program,

iv) an acknowledgement letter was sent, and

v) a number was assigned to each file for tracking and management purposes.

All applications were assessed based on theme and dispersed among project officers. Initial assessments were against basic eligibility criteria and either rejected or subjected to further assessment. Advice would be sought, for local projects, from the local Member of Parliament, federal/provincial/territorial/municipal governments and community leaders.

Proposals could be rejected for several reasons see Part B. Proposals not rejected were forwarded ultimately to the program committee, bureau executive committee, then the minister. Projects could be rejected at any of these stages.

If the project was deemed eligible, a project officer would submit a completed recommendation form for further review. An assessment team would then review to ensure eligibility with due consideration of regional balance, official languages, and potential environmental impacts. Projects under $25,000 could be approved by the director general, programs; those from $25,000 to $49,999 by the deputy minister. Projects over $50,000 must be approved by the minister. Following a decision, applicants were notified.

b) Assessment criteria

The first assessment was to filter out clearly-rejected procjects. Projects were rejected if:

i) the application was not received within deadline,

ii) the application was not an eligible organization

iii) the proposal suggested creation of a new infrastructure (or a purchase of land),

iv) proposals consisted of projects of a commercial nature,

v) the activities would occur in 1999 and not 2000,

xi) information about the project was lacking,

vii) the funds were for the creation of an organizational structure,

viii) the funds were for renovation of buildings, unless deemed an official heritage site by municipal, provincial, federal or another authorized body, and

ix) the funds were for a celebratory event, or an endowment/scholarship fund the funds were for acquisition of capital assets

If not rejected, the projects must meet one or more of the program's themes, as follows:

i) celebrate achievement so that Canadians are inspired to know and appreciate our past, and to welcome the challenges and opportunities of the future;

ii) encourage Canadians and other peoples of the world to explore our vast country and its natural and cultural diversity;

iii) exchange ideas and approaches that strengthen Canada and that reinforce our position in the world;

iv) support a sustainable environment and new ways of showing our respect for nature while we progress as a leading economy;

v) stimulate interest in communities large and small, and bring our youth together to support the evolution of these communities;

vi) advance Canadian innovation that will benefit individuals and communities, contributing to our collective well-being;

vii) demonstrate, through artistic and cultural expression, our heritage, our way of life, and our aspirations for the future;

viii) outline the acticvities to be preformed in pursuit of the objective of the Program;

ix) provide an estimate of expenditures to be incurred, including the share to be borne by partners;

x) describe the results to be achieved and how they would be measured;

xi) highlight the project's lasting benefits to the community. For projects that resulted in on-going activities, it was essential to demonstrate how these activities would be sustained and supoported;

xii) demonstrate that proponents had identified 2/3 finding from sources outside the federal government;

xiii) show how the project was consistent with the organization's aims and objectives;

xiv) demonstrate the degree of community involvement and support;

xv) if the project was eligible for other federal funding, how was Canada Millennium Partnership Program funding complementary to other sources of funds?

xvi) that the project would take place in or would be underway by Dec. 31, 2000; and

xvii) be non-commercial.

c) Number of applications received, by province. The last performance report of the Millennium Bureau indicated the following:

Total number of applications received, by region

Source: Millennium Bureau, Performance Report, 2000/2001.

Further research would be required to provide detail on applications received for the individual Atlantic provinces, prairie provinces, and territories.

d) What was: i. the number of applications approved (by province) ii. the dollar amount of each (by province)

(i) See attached chart.

(ii) The response provided in Q-58, parts a) to e), lists projects funded, not approved. A small number of projects were approved but not funded, due to their being withdrawn, to other sources of funding not being available, or to other circumstances which did not permit their meeting all the terms and conditions of the program.

The chart below provides some of the information requested, but further research would be required for specific total approvals for the Atlantic provinces, for the prairie provinces, and for the territories. As well, the bureau was organized along the geographic divisions below, not by individual province, so further research would be required to provide the dollar amount of approved applications, by province.

Total number of projects approved, by region

Source: Millennium Bureau, Performance Report, 2000/2001.