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

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

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in this House to speak to an important bill that is being presented at second reading.

Bill C-9 is important because it concerns the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, which works on behalf of the entire population of Quebec. The purpose of this agency is to encourage the implementation of projects throughout Quebec that will provide our fellow citizens with development opportunities.

The bill before us today is a good example of this government's vision for the future, a vision in which our current and future entrepreneurs are encouraged to turn their innovative ideas into projects and can count on the Government of Canada to help make these projects a great success.

The purpose of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec is to promote the development and diversification of the economy of the regions of Quebec. It focuses particularly on regions where economic growth is slow and there are not enough jobs. It seeks to improve regional employment opportunities and prosperity for the long term.

In carrying out its mandate, the agency helps the Government of Canada fulfil its commitment to promoting equality of opportunity for all Canadians in the pursuit of their well-being.

As part of its core mandate, the agency targets two key strategic outcomes to contribute to the economic development of the regions of Quebec. The first is enterprise development and the second is the improvement of the environment for economic development of the regions.

We all know that in Canada, enterprises are the main driving force behind economic development and wealth creation. There is no doubt that the economic development of the regions involves the growth of enterprises.

For this reason, to contribute to building a 21st-century economy founded on innovation, the agency provides Quebec SMEs with a continuum of support necessary for innovation, from access to financing for the startup of innovative enterprises to the commercialization of innovative products via the adoption of new technology and more productive equipment.

It is in that context that SKL Aluminium Technologie in Saguenay was granted repayable financial assistance of $243,125 for the establishment of an aluminum heat exchanger and radiator plant.

I draw your attention to this announcement, because when this was done, it was to help an Ontario business that provided materials for vehicles to the United States and that was previously buying its products in the United States. Thanks to the commitment of Canada Economic Development, we have helped a business from our region to provide an Ontario business with products for vehicles built in the United States.

This project, besides creating eight jobs, has led to the development of a strategic partnership with various businesses in the region that specialize in the processing of aluminum. Financial support to this project was a priority in the efforts of Canada Economic Development to consolidate and increase the favoured position of the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region in the secondary and tertiary processing of the white metal.

In Carleton-Saint-Omer, in the Gaspé Peninsula, the thalassotherapy centre Aqua-Mer benefited from a $1.938 million contribution to expand its facilities. The centre attracts a lot of foreign tourists and its activities have a ripple effect on other businesses in the region. It is now better positioned to help making Carleton-Saint-Omer a most valued destination both at home and outside our borders in relation to health tourism.

This project, which will increase the number of cure-days, fits well with one of the priorities of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, which is to increase tourism development in Gaspesia-Magdalen Islands.

Let me give the House another example of what we were able to do with Canada Economic Development, and we often work with other departments to ensure that our interventions are more effective. Just think about the aluminum technologies centre, where the Government of Canada made an investment of $57 million, including $25 million from Canada Economic Development, to recruit 80 researchers to help develop aluminum and particularly secondary and tertiary processing.

In collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada and the Department of Industry, this $57 million project has already had considerable economic impact on the region, Quebec and Canada. Through Canada Economic Development we were able to invest $2.9 million in a planned automotive parts factory, which enabled Alcan to obtain a contract for manufacturing aluminum bumpers for Cadillac cars. This contract could have gone to either of two cities, Jonquière or Detroit. Therefore, because of the investments by Canada Economic Development, with its partners in the Government of Canada, we were able to help create this project that provided some 50 jobs.

In the centre of Quebec, the agency joined with Industry Canada to provide total support of $4.7 million to VisuAide in Drummondville, to support the development of assistive technologies for persons with visual disabilities. This project, aimed at developing innovative digital devices for persons with visual disabilities, will further the development of accessible and affordable technology for these persons.This is not only a promising project in terms of technological innovation and optimization of the innovative capacity of local businesses, but also a technological application that will provide a clear improvement in quality of life for many of our fellow citizens.

Here are some examples of the grants made by the Canada Economic Development Agency that demonstrate the diversity of its activities and its commitment to support projects that blend into the existing economic fabric of the regions of Quebec.

Moreover, these projects share a common outcome: to create more dynamic, more competitive businesses with a greater ability to create prosperity and employment in their own regions. Regional economic development is not only about SMEs and entrepreneurs. The whole community must participate and take ownership in order to make it a success.

That is the context in which, as I said before, the agency works at improving the environment for regional economic development. In order to do so it supports development organizations that provide services regionally. It also supports non-profit agencies and businesses with plans for projects to develop a region's competitive advantages and spirit of entrepreneurship.

Through its funding of such organizations, the agency seeks to create a network of businesses that can take full advantage of projects to improve the economic development environment, so that the expansion of these businesses creates increased economic activity, employment and income.

Allow me to give two examples to illustrate the role played by the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec in improving the economic development environment in the regions.

In recent years, several studies have demonstrated the wind power potential in the Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine area. This potential explains the interest shown by a number of regional stakeholders in the development of the wind power industry, which could generate billions of dollars in investments in the Gaspé Peninsula.

As a result, a non-profit organization, the Technocentre éolien, was created. Its role is mainly to gather and distribute information to its members. For example, the organization is working on setting up in the area a research and development centre identified as necessary for industrial development. The operations of the technocentre are funded by Canada Economic Development and the Government of Quebec on a 50-50 basis, which, once again, shows the importance of collaboration and of serving the well-being of the public.

In addition, the agency provided $1.5 million in support to the Quebec Wood Export Bureau, commonly known as Q-Web, to promote, over a three-year period, the value-added wood products of Quebec on export markets.

We need not emphasize the importance of this action, considering the crisis that the softwood lumber sector is going through because of the tariffs imposed by the Americans. Canada Economic Development helps ensuring that we reduce our dependency on one market and increase our exports in order to promote jobs in this country.

This contribution will allow the organization to establish a commercial vigil on the certification of forest products on foreign markets. Moreover, the contribution of the agency will allow Q-Web to develop the American market for value-added products for new exporters. Representing 185 manufacturing companies in the exports industry, Q-Web is opening international markets for wood products from Quebec.

This is again representative of what Economic Development Canada is doing in the regions of Quebec. I would be remiss if I did not mention the Crossroads for Industrial Materials Innovation in Boucherville, i which the government, through the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, invested $6 million, again in cooperation with NRC and Industry Canada. This allows Quebec researchers to innovate, to find new ways of developing products to start businesses or to create jobs and wealth here in our regions.

I have visited the Industrial Materials Institute in Boucherville and I recall seeing researchers developing a porous metal that could be injected in patients' spines to prevent a second hip operation. It cuts costs and promotes speedy recovery. This is a Quebec product that can be exported worldwide.

This shows the importance of the Economic Development Agency and government allies in the development of Quebec's economy. These examples show that the federal government is committed to give the regions the tools they need, not only to face new market conditions, but also to take advantage of them for the benefit of the Quebec population as a whole.

I wish I could give you many more tangible examples from all the regions in Quebec to illustrate the importance of Economic Development Canada. There are examples in connection with the environment, where we help our businesses to go green and to be more efficient and more environment-friendly, while saving money. Success was achieved thanks to help from Economic Development Canada and partners like the Department of the Environment and other departments. Businesses all over Quebec appreciate the environment clubs that were created for the purpose of helping them.

As far as the development of businesses owned by women is concerned, the CFDCs, in all regions of Quebec, contribute to economic development, in cooperation with Economic Development Canada. CFDCs are our proud partners in the creation and development of female entrepreneurship. I can testify to the fact that they achieved great successes. They must be encouraged and thanked.

Programs in the areas of softwood, textiles and clothing are currently going through a terrible crisis. We must work together to find solutions. Can we say that Economic Development Canada did anything about that situation? Of course, they created programs aimed at supporting communities and industries when possible.

In conclusion, allow me to pay tribute to our 14 regional and central offices, their staff and the women and men who are dedicated to the well-being of Quebeckers and all Canadians.

Municipalities November 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Welland, who, like all the members on this side of the House, has always shown a great interest in helping communities and cities.

As for the GST, last year we promised $7 billion in concrete assistance to cities and communities over a period of 10 years. We have made commitments to them in the order of $12 billion. The Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities is negotiating with the municipalities and cities to implement new programs, including the gas tax transfer over several years. These are just some of the significant measures for supporting the development of our cities and communities.

Alphonse Desjardins November 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, today, Friday November 5, 2004, marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the caisses populaires, Alphonse Desjardins, considered the father of the cooperative savings and loan movement in North America. It is therefore important to note the birth of this great builder.

The Mouvement des caisses Desjardins is today the largest financial institution in Quebec and the sixth largest in Canada, with 5 million member-clients and total assets in excess of $100 billion. Its strength depends on the skill and commitment of its 38,000-plus employees and close to 7,500 elected directors.

The model designed by Alphonse Desjardins has spread to the United States and English Canada, where there are several major networks of credit unions.

In Beauce alone the caisses Desjardins employ 737 people and have contributed this past year close to $1 million to the community development fund and in sponsorships and donations.

Alphonse Desjardins was a man with a strong vision for the world, and his vision lives on.

Supply October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the member has just said that something was stolen. That is unparliamentary. Moreover, she knows full well that we had to transfer the surplus at the request of the Auditor General. She is not going to mention the period when the EI fund had a deficit. She cannot use those words in the House.

Supply October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if my colleague has skipped a few of the things that happened in the House or if she voluntarily chose not to talk about them, but there are some important aspects that need correcting and that other new Bloc members should learn.

The equalization formula is calculated on the basis of five provinces—excluding the Atlantic provinces and Alberta, the richest province—to make an average and guarantee that the population is not be penalized, or as little as possible. Quebec has received equalization payments since the beginning of this program in 1957.

Very often, the Bloc tries to make Quebeckers believe that Quebec contributes more to the program than what it gets out of it. However, through equalization, the federal government redistributes money to make sure that wealth is distributed as fairly as possible.

The hon. member is telling us that we are interfering and that we are getting involved in provincial jurisdictions. I would like to hear what she has to say about manpower training. We are transferring $600 million annually to Quebec, and we did it with the Parti Québécois. We, Liberals, agreed to transfer $600 million annually and we are negotiating a parental leave agreement with a Liberal provincial government, because we recognize that Quebec is in a better position to provide that service. This is a responsible government that takes action.

The hon. member talked about the debt. She said that we should not use all the money to reduce the debt. We are not doing that. We have our current accounts. We meet our budgets year after year. At the end of a year, there may be surpluses. So, far, we have paid $61 billion toward the debt. Out of the $9 billion that was mentioned, $3.5 billion is interest saved, thanks to our sound management.

If there is money left at the end of a year, after all the expenses have been paid, a wise father or mother may apply the money to the mortgage. This sound investment will result in less interest to be paid.

I hope the Parti Québécois will take note of that and, if it ever takes office again—something we hope will be a long way down the road—it will reduce the debt, instead of increasing it.

The hon. member is telling us that we do not want to transfer powers to Quebec, when in fact we are negotiating a parental leave agreement and we gave money for manpower training. As for day care services, we recognize that Quebec has implemented a very good program. We will transfer the money and we want to develop this program across Canada, because this is what people need, and we federal Liberals recognize that.

Supply October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask one or two questions of the Bloc member.

First, he said that the Government of Canada is not sensitive to the needs of Quebec and the provinces with respect to equalization. I wish he had been honest enough to say, here in the House that, when provincial and territorial premiers met in Niagara-on-the-Lake, they had set the bar at $10.9 billion. Moreover, they wanted stable and predictable funding. This is exactly what the federal government did, at the request of the premiers. However, they decided to change their request when they saw that we had an additional surplus. This is what we are seeing in the newspaper today. The Premier of New Brunswick, Mr. Lord, tells us, “We have an additional amount of $100 million, but we will not overreact; we will act like a responsible government”.

This is exactly what we are doing here: we are acting like a responsible government. If the Parti Québécois had acted like a responsible government, it would not have increased the debt by $11 billion during its two mandates, by trying to introduce all kinds of programs that it could not afford. We are acting like a responsible government.

How can the member tell the public that we did not keep our promises when what the provincial premiers were asking for was $10.9 billion?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 7th, 2004

Madam Speaker, I greatly appreciate the opportunity afforded to me by my colleague from Glengarry—Prescott—Russell to explain exactly where the danger lies. This runs counter to what the population wants and what it asked for this past June 28, to see its best interests served as well as possible, without partisan politics.

I think they will be in the majority in committees, and they will be able to work to improve what the Liberal government will be wanting to do. That is where they ought to focus. But instead they are prepared to force another general election, and I find it deplorable that the ones who will suffer will be the taxpayers, considering how much we know an election costs.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 7th, 2004

Madam Speaker, with the arguments made by the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, we have just realized that, no matter what we say on the Liberal side, Bloc members will never support what we are doing, even if it is good for the public. What is important to them are their arguments and how they want to achieve sovereignty, which the majority of Quebeckers do not want.

When we talk about provincial governments, we might as well talk about the federal government. We recognize the provinces, we recognize their jurisdictions and we respect these jurisdictions. The member asked a question; he could listen to the answer. I know that it is difficult for them, but we will try to work together for the betterment of the public. We will respect provincial jurisdictions, as we did with infrastructure programs. We even provided $100 million for the Montreal metro, which shows the importance that we attach to public transit. This is a first for a Canadian government.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 7th, 2004

Madam Speaker, I understand that, if the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas says that commitments have been made by the Prime Minister, then there is no need for the amendment to the amendment. He should therefore fulfill the commitments contained in the throne speech and be happy with what we plan to do in cooperation with the provinces and territories.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 7th, 2004

Madam Speaker, permit me first to congratulate you on your appointment.

I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Brome—Missisquoi for allowing me to join him in commenting on the Speech from the Throne and to congratulate him on emphasizing the importance of collaboration and of what the people expect of us.

As I begin, I would like to thank the voters of Beauce for the confidence they have shown me by electing me for a third consecutive term. I am very proud of that and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

This week's throne speech has shown once again how much emphasis the Liberal government puts on making sure it respects the priorities of Canadians.

First, with regard to health, we saw in the agreement signed by the provincial premiers and territorial leaders—an agreement for $41.3 billion over 10 years, more than the Romanow report asked for— that once again, the Canadian people are our highest priority.

We are going to work in other fields as well—and I underscore this, as did my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi—on the importance of working in collaboration.

Second, we intend to invest $1 billion over 5 years in a national early learning and child care program.We take as our inspiration the program the Quebec government has established and we want to set it up all across Canada, and that again shows the collaboration we want to employ in giving the best possible service to the people of Canada.

Third, we want to increase assistance to caregivers and to seniors. I think nothing could be more appropriate than what we are planning to do now. The throne speech emphasized this well, and I am proud of it. In addition, we will increase the guaranteed income supplement by 7%, which shows once again how strongly we feel about helping the least well-off in our society.

Fourth, our collaboration will extend to equalization. There will be an important meeting in a few weeks, and I am sure that the provincial premiers and territorial leaders will agree with the Prime Minister on a way to have a more stable and predictable equalization program, in order to provide the best service possible to the population. We have already made a commitment to substantially increase the equalization program from which they benefit, beginning this year.

Then there is our commitment to support the cities and communities, which once again demonstrates the possibility of cooperation, with the federal, provincial and municipal levels working together in a shared interest. Since the Liberal government has been in power, $12 billion has been invested with the provinces and cities to help them with infrastructure, which brings the total of assistance to communities and municipalities for their needs to $30 billion.

Then there is our commitment to use 5¢ of the gas tax for the next 5 years to help the municipalities, cities and communities to meet their numerous challenges. I am sure that, in collaboration with the provinces, the territories, the communities and the municipalities, we will again succeed in rising to that challenge.

We are, of course, going to work very hard to resolve the mad cow and softwood lumber problems, both of which are crucial for Canada and Quebec, and particularly for us in Beauce. I can assure you that we Liberals are committed to finding a lasting solution to these problems.

We are also going to help businesses, since they are what drives job creation. In recent years, 90% of jobs created in the country were in small and medium businesses. We therefore want to give more access to risk capital and specifically to start-up funding to help businesses through the Canada Development Bank. This is good news. We must support all areas of industry. We have already done so and will continue to do so within our areas of jurisdiction, in conjunction with the provinces and territories.

In closing, I would just like to express my views on the amendment to the amendment on which we are to vote a little later on. We are accountable here for our management of the public purse. I am sure the opposition will understand that we cannot accept the amendment to the amendment, any more than could the provincial and territorial governments agree to a similar request from major cities. That is why I am obliged to oppose this amendment to the amendment.