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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

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act December 7th, 2004

I would ask the hon. Bloc member to listen to me, as I have listened. The hon. member could do likewise on the other side.

This is important; this bill gives greater autonomy. We have committed to doubling Canada Economic Development budgets within five years, for what we want to do, and we do it well.

The hon. member referred to the CLDs, and there are the CFDCs, or community futures development corporations. With these, the local people are working with Canada Economic Development to meet the needs of the people and the regions, paying particular attention to regions with specific problems. This is important.

From the other side of the House, the Bloc side, we are hearing that this is an international problem and hence a federal responsibility, and we ought to be putting programs in place. I am thinking about softwood lumber. Then they are telling us that it needs to be transferred to Quebec and they will deal with it. Yet if it is an international matter, then they will be asking us what the federal level is doing about it, and we are powerless to intervene.

They seem to be two totally opposite stances here, and I find it a bit mind-boggling. The Bloc Québécois member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou got it in the neck, as the public told him that they wanted Canada Economic Development and pointed out the Bloc's position. The people of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean—not a particularly federalist area—say that they want Canada Economic Development to remain because it works with the community and with the Government of Quebec. Everyone works together to meet the needs of the people.

I think the Bloc Québécois members ought to have another look at their positions, look at what can be done, and work along with us to ensure that economic development is addressed in the spirit of harmony in our regions. That is what the people need.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act December 7th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, there are considerable contradictions in my colleague's comments, so many that it is dizzying. He says that Bill C-9 is going to end up disconnecting us from the regions, whereas Canada Economic Development, with its 14 regions, is all over Quebec.

We have taken strategic regional initiatives in conjunction with the local people in order to ensure that the programs in place will meet the need. That is what Economic Development does, and will continue to do under the new legislation.

Supply December 2nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to my colleague that I am a new member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and that, unfortunately, I do not have much of a green thumb. However, this is an area which is of great interest to me. My riding in particular, and all of Quebec and Canada, need the contribution of such an economic sector as agriculture and agri-food.

Having talked to several producers and UPA members, I know that what is needed is not necessarily aid in cash. The previous colleague had alluded to that in the form of a floor price. The Quebec government works very hard to find a solution. It is negotiating.

What has to be hoped for with all our hearts is that, together, we succeed in solving part of this problem so that when our borders are re-opened, our farmers are in a good financial situation and they are able face global competition.

Supply December 2nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, we have said right from the beginning that we supported a floor price. However, the Government of Canada must first get the consent of the other provinces, which does not seem to have right now.

However, according to the information I have, and the member will tell me if it is correct, the Quebec government could do it for the province of Quebec and regulate the operation of slaughterhouses. Intensive negotiations are currently going on between the Minister of Agriculture, Mrs. Gauthier, the Colbex plant and the UPA to try and find a solution. We really hope that one will be found and we support them in their efforts.

We are keeping the doors open, but we are determined to help our agricultural industry get through this crisis as quickly as possible.

Supply December 2nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise concerning the most important challenge our producers are faced with. I thank the mover of the motion, who submitted this issue to the House. However, I cannot agree with the first part of this motion, because the money was there, but it was a new stabilization program. Provinces and territories as well as the people who deliver the program have had to adjust and that delayed the payments and affected the aid that was directed to the farming industry.

There is no question that the situation has been disastrous for the beef and ruminant animals producers in Canada. The figures recently received from Statistics Canada on revenue show that, in 2003, the net farm income dropped to its lowest. This situation is mainly attributable to a reduction in sales that followed the discovery of a single case of BSE.

This problem affects all Canadians, whether they live in a rural area, whether farming has always been part of their living or whether they live in an urban setting. All these people live in a country that produces food ranked among the best in the world.

However, BSE affects our producers first and foremost.

The government has not stood idly by. It has not left the producers to bear the entire burden of the situation that has existed since the case of BSE was discovered. The government has listened, responded and acted.

In response to this unprecedented challenge to this key sector of our economy, the federal government is working with the provinces and territories to help the producers cope with the pressures in the short term, while laying the foundations of a viable, profitable sector in the years to come.

I want to emphasize that the government has reacted vigorously and has kept its commitment to support the producers in these difficult times.

Last year, a record $4.8 billion was paid out through government programs. During the first nine months of this year, farmers have received more than $3.1 billion from the government.

In response to the BSE crisis, governments have invested at least $2.5 billion to help cattle and ruminant producers get through these difficult times.

In March, the Prime Minister announced $995 million in federal aid for 2004, mainly through the Transitional Industry Support Program. To date the producers have received some $821 million under this program.

On September 10, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced an additional $488 million to facilitate the increase in the domestic slaughter capacity. He had recognized the importance of acting in the medium and long terms to diversify slaughtering, help the producers cope with cash flow and liquidity problems, and expand access to beef export markets.

The minister also announced special cash advances for ruminant producers in 2004 through the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization program.

With these new special advances, breeding cow and ruminant producers can obtain funds from the program quickly and easily. Under the program, eligible beef and ruminant producers receive up to $100 a head.

The government is determined to put this money in the hands of producers as soon as possible and I am pleased to announce that it has already started.

So far more than 10,300 producers have applied for a special advance. Applications are being processed. In total, more than $45.5 million in special advances have been granted to more than 7,000 producers.

I would also point out that the federal government has invested in business risk management, which includes CAIS and crop insurance. To help Canada's producers, including cattle farmers, to manage risk and deal with a drop in income, the federal government has allocated $5.5 billion over five years to business risk management.

It is important to mention that we no longer have an annual cap on the money set aside for business risk management. In fact, funding is subject to demand and varies according to the needs of producers.

For the 2003 program year, close to $355 million in interim or final payments were disbursed under CAIS. For the 2004 program year, over $105 million has already been paid out to producers.

CAIS is working well for cattle producers. According to our analysis, close to three quarters of cattle farmers who took part in CAIS in 2003 received payments.

I would like to remind the House of the steps the Government of Canada has taken to restore our reputation as exporters of top quality beef products.

We are making great strides at the international level, especially in Asia. Very few people realize that Japan, Korea and Taiwan were the third, fourth and fifth main export markets for our beef and beef products before the discovery of one case of BSE in Canada in May 2003.

Were are very pleased that Hong Kong agreed the day before yesterday to immediately reopen its border to Canadian beef.

This welcome news for Canadian beef producers was announced yesterday. Hong Kong will resume the importation of boneless meat from Canadian cattle under 30 months of age. Hong Kong inspectors are happy with the steps the Canadian government has taken to make sure beef products are safe.

This news comes in the aftermath of a recent visit by the Canadian agriculture and agri-food minister to Hong Kong where he energetically represented Canadian interests. Since the start of this crisis, he has been tireless in his advocacy of Canadian interests and the search for solutions. He deserves our congratulations.

At his invitation, a delegation of technical experts from Hong Kong will visit Canada to observe the security measures we have taken. We are making inroads in Japan as well. The Canada-Japan working group on BSE had its second meeting. Tokyo officials at this meeting confirmed their commitment to go on with technical discussions and the sharing of information in order to resume trade in beef and beef products with Canada.

More important, Japan again confirmed that, when a final decision is made on the resumption of the beef trade with the United States, the same conditions will apply to Canada. Technical consultations between Japan and Canada are ongoing. Canada offered to host the third meeting of the BSE working group.

The work done with Taiwan also reflect the efforts of the government to resume the Canadian beef trade, and increase its volume. We have made another big step in anticipation of the reopening of the border with the big Asian market.

Taiwan has confirmed its intention to allow, with certain conditions, access to its market for Canadian boneless beef products. It has undertaken to send a technical team to observe the measures taken by Canada to ensure food safety and animal health.

We have worked diligently with our Asian trade partners, but we have also made progress with other countries. Our experience with Mexico has turned out to be quite positive. That country has shown itself quite open to the idea of reopening its market to a wide range of ruminant products. As a matter of fact, Mexico has expressed its interest in accepting Canadian breeding cattle. We are very happy about that.

This being said, though, we are concerned by the fact that the United States is considering lowering the BSE risk rating for Mexico, should it decide to authorize Canadian live beef imports. In fact, Canada and Mexico have voiced their disagreement with the policies of the U.S. government, which prohibit the movement of certain bovine products on its territory. In effect, those policies prevent Mexico from authorizing breeding cattle imports from Canada.

Although the United States has not changed position, there was some progress at a recent meeting between our respective representatives. We are still working very hard to have the U.S. border reopened to Canadian beef and beef products. Last month a major step was taken towards the normalization of our trade with the United States.

On November 19, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forwarded a proposed rule on BSE to the Office of Management and Budget for final approval. It is the last step in the U.S. review of regulations. The review may take up to 90 days, but the process can be expedited. Once the review is completed, the rule is published in the U.S. federal register and it can come into effect after a 60-day period. The president of the United States told us that he would try to speed up the process.

We are making progress both in the United States and elsewhere in the world. The government has shown commitment and dynamism. We have made numerous representations in a number of markets. We sent eight missions to Asia. Our efforts are paying off for the Canadian beef industry. On top of the progress I just mentioned, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Israel, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago as well as Saudi Arabia have all partly opened their market to Canadian beef.

Macao's market is fully open. Other countries such as Chile, Russia, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates have reopened their markets to beef embryos or semen, or both.

We will keep on doing everything we can across the world to help the Canadian beef industry regain its major share of the market, as it should.

Also, we will keep on working very hard with our provincial and territorial partners as well as farmers to find solutions to this crisis.

Department of Social Development Act December 1st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, a Bloc Québécois member raised an interesting point about regional development. Since I had the privilege of being the Secretary of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, I could see that regional offices throughout Quebec were aware of the regional development dynamics. They had teams of 15 to 17 people, which did a fantastic job.

I think they want to keep doing it, and they have the wherewithal to do it. The Liberals made a commitment to provide even more tools to them to do their job. If I understood the hon. member's allegation correctly, the Quebec government centralizes too much and is not present enough in the regions.

However, the hon. member should know that the Canadian government is working with the regions. A good example is the Centre des technologies de l'aluminum in Saguenay--Lac-Saint-Jean, where 80 researchers are working full time on the development of second and third stage processing of aluminum.

What are the actual results of this centre in which the Canadian government invested $57 million? Alcan won a contract with GM to manufacture aluminum bumpers for Cadillacs. Two cities were in contention, Jonquière and Detroit, and Jonquière got it because the Canadian government had been visionary and made sure it set up this centre in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean area.

I could give similar examples in all Quebec regions. Another one is the Institut des matériaux industriels in Boucherville. The Canadian government is supporting development.

Department of Social Development Act December 1st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat surprised by the comments of the Bloc Québécois member. There is a lot of talk about the Government of Canada's interference. However, the hon. member should at least have the courage to recognize that manpower training was transferred to Quebec, this at a time when the Parti Québécois was in office. This shows openness on the part of the federal government and a firm will to respect provincial jurisdictions.

Infrastructure programs are also an area where, again, the federal government respects provincial jurisdictions. These programs are implemented in cooperation with the governments in place. Then, there is the daycare program. We recognized that Quebec had good expertise and said that we want to cooperate with the province and let it provide the service. What I have a hard time understanding is that when we listen to the hon. member, it sounds like everything is perfect, everything is just fine.

Did the hon. member talk to people in his riding to learn that there are single parents who earn a little over $7 per hour, who signed up for the $7 per day child care program, but who are forced to pay the full amount, because there is a shortage of spaces available.

What the Government of Canada wants to do is to improve the situation to allow these single parents to have access to the $7 per day child care program. The Bloc Québécois member should congratulate the Government of Canada on its initiative, because the money will go to Quebec to help it provide a better service. It seems to me that this is the obvious thing to do.

Health was mentioned as an exclusive provincial jurisdiction. Perhaps this is due to a lack of experience, but the Bloc Québécois member should know that health is a shared jurisdiction. However, the provinces must provide services to their population and that is there exclusive domain. We respect that. Asymmetry was a great initiative on the Government of Canada's part to show that we want to cooperate.

The Bloc Québécois member should recognize this and he should have the courage to say that, indeed, some measures are being taken. We are positive and we want to cooperate with the provinces to improve services to the public.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act November 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the minister's comments are really important, and I would like to thank him for his fine words.

What he said is important because, in effect, the question is as follows: How can the Bloc Québécois be hurt by the fact that Economic Development Canada is independent and no longer part of the Department of Industry? What is wrong with that?

Is that going to adversely affect the regions? No. Can we work for the betterment of the people, as the minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency so aptly said? Yes, and that is what the members of the Bloc Québécois should be interested in doing--working for the betterment of the people with what is presently on the table.

We are in a united Canada. We are working for all the provinces and all the territories, and they should respect that and make sure that communities get what they are entitled to in all the regions of Quebec.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act November 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the comments made by the Bloc Québécois member are a bit much.

Why did it take so long? Because we wanted guarantees and we wanted to make sure that the project would work. Unfortunately, stakeholders applied a lot of pressure and the timetable had to be moved up. I would also point out to the hon. member that I was not there at the time. However, I support the decision made because we wanted to help the Gaspésie and Îles-de-la-Madeleine region. We had to make sure that all the necessary tools were in place for the project's success.

Unfortunately, we probably went a bit too fast and, today, the project has come to an end. Hopefully, it can be revived. Hopefully, companies from outside the region will give it new life, because that is what counts for the Gaspé and Îles-de-la-Madeleine region. That is what we, as the Government of Canada, want to do through the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec--help this region and all other regions in the province of Quebec, by working with the community.

That is the way we are going to succeed.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act November 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if my colleague from the Bloc, when he mentions provincial political efficiency in regional economic development, thinks about the Gaspe. I hope not. It is a fiasco, with which the Government of Quebec and the Société générale de financement were closely linked. Mr. Blanchet and Mrs. Marois were partners. Is it the example of a regional success story the hon. member wants to give?

We hear about duplication. I find it curious that the Government of Quebec created a revenue department. It is a choice they made, and we respect that. However, the other provinces did not make that choice. It is duplication. We respect that too. Elsewhere, we had the RCMP; they decided to have Sûreté du Québec, not that we are complaining.

Competition is not exclusive to the private sector. It exists between departments or between levels of government in an effort to provide better service to Canadians. Since 1997, I have had the honour to sit here as the member for Beauce. I was here during the manpower training issue. There was a healthy competition between provincial and federal departments then.

Today, we avoid duplication. We transfer annually $600 million to the Province of Quebec. Now, there is no more duplication, but people have to take a number and wait for their turn. Do they have better service? I am not sure, but this is what stakeholders wanted and we accepted it.

However, we are able to work together. If the Bloc member is here to defend the interests of his constituents and of Quebeckers, he will help us implement an independent agency with the tools to contribute to the economic development of the regions. That is what we are doing.

I remember that, during the softwood lumber crisis, the members of the Bloc were asking us to do something, because the situation made no sense. We accepted, we contributed approximately $300 million to help in that file, but we could not support the industry. I asked the members of the Bloc what the PQ government did. Was it not there to help? They answered that this was an international issue. Are the men and women living in regions international? No. They need support. What did the PQ do? Absolutely nothing.

Would that mean it is not perfect? Indeed, it is not perfect. Have they done good things? Yes, they have. We also have done positive things, we want to work with the Province of Quebec. With a liberal government at the federal level and in Quebec, it is much easier because we both have the same interest: that is, the Quebec people.