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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Bloc MP for Beauharnois—Salaberry (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 51% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Older Workers October 26th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, workers are seeking concrete action from the minister. In the last election campaign, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs came and promised textile workers in Huntingdon that her government would be putting the POWA back in place . Since the minister made that commitment, in excess of 850 more jobs have been lost in my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry. Many of the affected workers are no longer receiving employment insurance benefits and they are feeling abandoned.

What is the government waiting for to honour its commitments to older workers?

Public Works and Government Services September 30th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the list keeps getting longer and longer. After the Ouellets, the Dingwalls, and now the Taddeos, it is obvious that the criteria governing crown corporations need to be seriously tightened.

What is the government waiting for to mandate the Auditor General to conduct an investigation into all the practices of crown corporations?

Public Works and Government Services September 30th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, after the sponsorship scandal, after the Dingwall affair, now it is the turn of several departments to suffer because of this government's inaction, as computer theft is skyrocketing and deceased employees continue to be issued pension cheques.

In the face of such troubling revelations, what does the government intend to do to put an end to this squandering?

Supply June 9th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas for his question.

Indeed, the situation in the Haut-Saint-Laurent RCM, which includes Huntingdon, Ormstown and surrounding areas, is critical. The last plant shut down on May 27. The workers who were first laid off have now used up their employment insurance benefits. These people now find themselves with nothing, with no income.

Last weekend, I met people who told me that they had sold their house. Many houses are up for sale. These older workers have nothing left, they have no income, no savings. They find themselves in a very critical situation.

Tensions run fairly high in that region. We sense a feeling of despair regarding the help that the government can bring to these people. They feel forgotten and ridiculed. Generation after generation, these people gave their lives working for these plants. They paid municipal taxes and they paid income tax. But, right now, they are being abandoned, they are left to fend for themselves.

Let us not forget that this is an agricultural region, not far from the Jardins du Québec. This means there are not many businesses hiring people, with the result that these workers cannot retrain in other fields.

After I tabled petitions in the House, the former minister replied that HRSDC was providing active programs. However, we cannot ask a 55 year old person who, as is the case for 43% of the population in that region, has not completed a high school education, to go back to school. The education level is very low to start with.

We cannot ask them to start a business either. These people are manual workers, which means they need some outside help, as soon as their employment insurance benefits run out, to meet their needs until they reach retirement.

POWA would be an ideal solution for them, since the region has already experienced a similar situation. Indeed, Dominion Textile, in Valleyfield, shut down a number of years ago and such a program was put in place. This is why POWA is critical for that region.

Supply June 9th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

I am pleased that the Bloc has brought in this motion today on the program for older workers. The textile and clothing industries are seriously affected. The situation is alarming and the numerous closures will keep on happening. The Bloc Québécois is delighted to have the support of the present minister for this motion.

As we know, the government has been slow to act and has not provided enough assistance, particularly for the workers who lost their factory jobs in the Huntingdon area.

More than 800 jobs were lost and the measures announced will not be sufficient to replace them. I have great difficulty in understanding the Minister of Finance's statement that the Bloc Québécois was impatient to get this settled, when it was an urgent matter.

These factories were the source of income for couples, for entire families, from one generation to another, and were a true economic force for all the surrounding municipalities. Seventy-five per cent of the working population of Huntingdon and the surrounding area was employed there.

The region is undergoing a serious crisis because of the announced textile mill closures. The workers have sounded an alarm and are calling for an immediate emergency plan. More than 43% of the workers affected have not finished high school and are over the age of 50. You will therefore understand that it is not very likely they will be returning to work. Whole towns and villages are at risk of disappearing. These factories are their only hope.

Many such factories have closed and many more will in the weeks and months to come. My riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry and several others in Quebec have been hard hit.

On December 13, 2004, two factories closed down in Huntingdon, throwing 800 people out of work. That was 40% of the manufacturing sector jobs in the region. Today, they are all closed. In Huntingdon, 30% of the population is below the poverty line, and 70% of the working population used to be employed in the factories that have closed down. These two factories paid out $25 million in wages annually and contributed $600,000 to the municipality in taxes.

At the moment, psychological and economic distress hangs over the entire region: Huntingdon, Ormstown, Valleyfield and the RCMs of Haut-Saint-Laurent Beauharnois. The whole area is affected. In both cases, the workers who were laid off are having difficulty finding a job. Nearly half of them did not complete their final year of high school.

On December 9, 2004, I tabled in this House a petition signed by 2,845 workers from the region of Huntingdon, which was intended to make the federal government aware of the increasingly obvious problems in the textile industry. No help was provided in response to this cry of alarm by the workers of my riding.

On December 14, 2004, following pressure from the Bloc Québécois, the government hastily announced three measures to help the industry.

We asked a number of questions in this House, and the minister—the former minister—even added insult to injury by saying that older workers did not want passive measures. That is an indication of the extent of this government's irony and disdain.

On February 8, 205, we presented a motion in this House to establish a POWA, among other things. Most of the members supported it. Unfortunately, the government put paid to the will of the members and did nothing.

Contrary to what the former minister said, the workers in my riding want active measures, but the older ones want passive measures, such as a program of assistance for older workers. They feel the government has abandoned them.

On March 24, I tabled another petition with over 5,300 names calling for the return of POWA. The government's reaction was the same: nothing.

In my riding, the work of local stakeholders will probably make it possible to reclassify many of the workers in various business that will be set up in the region later on. One serious problem remains, however, with the so-called older workers. There is a consensus in the region that older workers need a government program to bridge between EI and retirement.

The Bloc Québécois is concerned at the moment about this and has had discussions with local stakeholders to resolve it. On behalf of the workers whose factory doors have closed, I call on the federal government to act, as I have done since the start of this session of the House, to help the older workers in my riding.

The worst thing about this is that the federal government has known for a long time what was brewing and did nothing. The Bloc Québécois has been talking for months about the serious danger of massive job losses in the textile industry and had been demanding transition measures. But Ottawa has always turned a blind eye.

The first POWA started in 1983 to help the workers at Dominion Textile, which had a plant in Valleyfield in my riding. The federal government slaughtered the employment insurance system and ended the second POWA in March 1997. And now it is accumulating huge budget surpluses of $9.1 billion on the backs of workers in the provinces.

In the textile industries in the Huntingdon area, about 170 jobs out of the 800 would be eligible for a possible older workers assistance program, or about 21% of the laid off workers. It will be essential to provide assistance for textile workers who lose their jobs because there will inevitably be companies that close their doors. The workers in this sector are often older and do not have much education, and many of them will not be able to find other jobs. The laid off workers need a program like POWA more than ever to enable older people to bridge the gap between employment insurance and retirement. The future of an entire region depends on it.

If the government does not want to assume this task, it should transfer the money to Quebec City so that Quebec, like the provinces, can meet the needs of older workers.

The Bloc Québécois believes that Ottawa should provide the maximum amount allowed under the Employment Insurance Act for training and give Quebec its share. The Government of Quebec's annual shortfall is more than $200 million. The current situation in the textile and apparel sector is a perfect example of the need for a program to assist older workers and pay benefits to those who could possibly lose their jobs in companies that are affected by this situation.

The solution is very simple: institute an older workers assistance program that would bridge the gap between employment insurance and retirement. The Bloc Québécois estimates that the cost of establishing a POWA in the textile sector all across Canada would be $50 million.

Older workers currently receiving employment insurance benefits are desperate. After the benefits run out, what awaits these older textile workers? Social assistance maybe? Some of these workers have come to see me, very discouraged, and even talking about suicide. Others wondered how they would survive after their benefits run out.

The slaughter is continuing, and the government must be sensitive to the cries of despair coming from these workers. It is important and essential therefore that the government come to the assistance of older textile workers by establishing an older workers assistance program.

Department of Social Development Act June 6th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, in my view, the reason why the government is interfering in areas under provincial jurisdiction is very simple--to increase the visibility of the federal government, Canada. It is interfering in our areas of jurisdiction and telling Quebeckers that Canada is there to help them. This is nothing more than a trick because nowadays Quebec is capable of meeting all its own needs. The federal government is duplicating Quebec's areas of jurisdiction in order to interfere and to take over from Quebec's programs. This duplication serves no useful purpose and just confuses people. People are calling us to say that they are faced with two programs, one provincial and one federal and want to know which one they should choose. These programs are often split in two and they have to apply to both to receive a fair amount.

I want to go back to the issue of transfers and fiscal imbalance. The federal government must absolutely transfer to Quebec the money that is owed to us, because we are the only province that can meet its own needs, that knows exactly what is going on in the field and in these organizations. This must also be done to avoid a useless bureaucracy. Having another department, another program, means that non-profit organizations, which often have limited resources, will have to do more paperwork. Their resources are often volunteers. They spend time filling out all these forms, but this takes a lot of the time that they should spend to do the important things for which they are there. It is important that the federal government transfer these funds to the provinces.

I also want to talk about the federal government's claim that it never has any money to meet our needs. However, when it wants to put the word “Canada” everywhere, it does find money to do so. In my riding, the workers affected by the loss of 1,000 jobs in six Huntingdon plants are asking for a program for older worker adjustment. It is estimated that, for all of Canada, such a program might cost at the most $50 million. The government is telling us that it does not have any money to help textile workers. In 1997, that program only cost $26 million.

Instead of creating all sorts of new departments, why does the government not follow up on these requests, which would definitely help people in the field?

Department of Social Development Act June 6th, 2005

Madam Speaker, indeed, I am convinced that the federal government is once again out to trick the people of Quebec and the other provinces. The will is not there. We know full well that this government only makes promises and keeps very few of them.

As to the parental leave, these are just that, promises. The current government is constantly at odds with Quebec's jurisdictions. Quebec is in the better position to meet the needs of its population. It knows exactly what is going on in the field, because it is there constantly. The Liberal government should undertake the necessary transfers to counter the fiscal imbalance in order to help people in need.

As the Bloc Québécois youth critic, I toured Quebec and was able to see firsthand what was happening everywhere. Non-profit organizations all over Quebec have little resources available.

The taxes paid by Quebeckers to the federal government are kept here in Ottawa and are not redistributed as they should. This deprives many needy organizations that have a hard time making ends meet and that try to help young people, who represent our future.

In fact, we are setting a bad example for them, in the sense that we are paying taxes to an institution that does not redistribute the money as it should. It is important for the federal government to realize that, by doing so, it is depriving a number of educational institutions and organizations in the field that really need this money.

For example, the summer career placements were recently cut. In the riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry, a 40% cut was made to youth services. This 40% cut in a riding located just outside Montreal has the effect of encouraging young people to leave their region and move to large urban centres. This is money that communities need.

Another example is the region of Huntingdon, in my riding, which was severely affected by the closure of the textile plants. In that region, 53% of the people do not have a high school education. Young people are not inclined to stay in the region, because the summer career placement program cannot help them get a job, and this encourages them to leave. So, young people are leaving the regions, because there is no incentive for them to come back and work there.

Therefore, it is very important for the federal government to understand that, instead of splitting up departments at a cost of millions of dollars, it should invest this money where needs are the greatest. The provinces, including Quebec, know which sectors need money the most. The federal government should transfer this $53 billion to the provinces, which will truly deal, on a long term basis, with existing problems in the field.

Department of Social Development Act June 6th, 2005

Madam Speaker, Bill C-22 establishes the new Department of Social Development over which presides the Minister of Social Development. This bill amends or repeals certain related acts. It sets out the rules applicable to the protection and the making available of personal information obtained under departmental programs, other than those governed by similar codes found in the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.

The focus of the Bloc Québécois is to promote the sovereignty of Quebec and to defend the interests of the nation, the people and the state of Quebec. Under the premise of defending this consensus reached in Quebec, Parliament cannot confirm the creation of a department with a mandate to interfere in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces.

The new department created by the Prime Minister on December 12, 2003 has some 12,000 public servants who are responsible for managing close to $53 billion “to secure and strengthen Canada's social foundations while respecting federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions”. The Minister of Social Development was taken from human resources development, which is becoming a department that coordinates the activities of the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers.

Quebec does not need an administrative structure or an additional federal policy. Its social programs are already largely more advanced than throughout Canada. What Quebec truly needs is the money it is being denied because of the fiscal imbalance created by the Liberals, in order to properly fund Quebec programs.

Out of a $53 billion total budget, $51 billion was allocated in direct subsidies to individuals through two main programs: the Canada Pension Plan and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

In order to better understand the nature of the Bloc Québécois position on the creation of the department, just look at the list of benefits offered by the department, which is claiming to respect provincial jurisdictions, while its mandate is full of intrusions into provincial jurisdictions.

The Auditor General was quite critical in her remarks about the government's practice of netting, or offsetting expenditures against revenues. She was especially critical of the government's apathy toward the many warnings it has received.

In previous fiscal years, both gross and net amounts were shown in the Public Accounts of Canada. Thus, the government used to charge certain expenses against revenues in the operating statement. This did not have any impact on the annual surplus, but the statement presented lower expenses and revenues for the year. For several years, we have objected to this practice. The items in question are the Canada child tax benefit, the revenues of certain Crown corporations and the GST credits.

I am very disappointed and I find abusive that the government should keep using net amounts in its analysis of revenues and expenses in the annual fiscal report.

Obviously, any department has programs and additional expenses. It is essential to make a systematic analysis of each program of the new department.

The retroactive payment of guaranteed income supplement benefits is a fight the Bloc Québécois has been waging for years. The federal government has unfairly deprived and is still depriving many Quebeckers and Canadians who are among the most vulnerable in our society, from benefits they are owed. In my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry alone, the federal government owes $6 million to needy seniors.

In December 2001, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities made public its report on the guaranteed income supplement. It was revealed that more than 270 Canadians and 68 Quebeckers were entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, but did not get it.

From 1993 to 2001, almost $3.2 billion in Canada and at least $800 million in Quebec were kept from low income seniors who were entitled to these benefits. Thanks to the efforts of the Bloc Québécois, at least 25,000 more seniors now meet the conditions and benefit from the guaranteed income supplement.

This represents at least $100 million in recurring funds for Quebeckers that the federal government tried to deny low-income seniors.

Despite a Liberal promise in the 2004 throne speech to increase guaranteed income supplement benefits, the federal government still refuses to agree to one of the Bloc Québécois' most important demands: full retroactivity for seniors who were entitled to benefits and never received them, because they failed to receive adequate information. Currently, the federal government has limited this retroactivity to just 11 months, thereby penalizing seniors in need yet again.

In the 2004 budget, platform and throne speech, the Liberals made the disabled a major issue. They announced a number of measures, such as tax deductions and other measures for the integration of the disabled.

In 2002, the Bloc Québécois had actively participated in the work of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, in order, among other things, to improve the disability tax credit. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of improving the living conditions for the disabled through tax deductions and tax credits provided that Quebec's jurisdictions are respected.

The Bloc Québécois believes, however, it would be easier to integrate the disabled into the labour market if the Quebec government was made responsible for this client group. The federal government's direct involvement with community organizations, through the social development partnerships program, the voluntary sector initiative and the new horizons program, is blatant interference in areas of jurisdiction belonging to Quebec and the provinces, which have ties to these organizations through the Quebec health care and social services network.

It is obvious that the Quebec government is much better equipped to assess their needs and prevent the scattering of federal funds, since Quebec operates in accordance with a clear and well-defined social policy and stable, long-term funding.

The early years centres program is an experimental initiative to help communities determine the educational development of young children by examining the quantity, quality and scope of programs and services required to meet these needs.

These initiatives are a clear duplication of educational programs in Quebec. Quebec already has extensive expertise, thanks to its network of health care professionals and public education network, as a result of which it has full jurisdiction in this area.

So, the Bloc calls on the government to withdraw from areas of Quebec's jurisdiction and give it back the money it is putting into these programs so that Quebec can improve its day care system, because this system has proven itself and is well suited to the needs of Quebeckers.

The national child benefit provides financial support to low income families with children through a program of national child benefits calculated on the basis of income and paid out under the federal child tax benefit program.

Under the terms of the national child benefit, the federal government also provides additional financial support to low income families with children through the national child benefit supplement, which is an integral part of the Canada child tax benefit.

The thinly veiled aim of the federal involvement in this sector is Canada's visibility, as in the sponsorship scandal. As the member for Don Valley West and the chair of the subcommittee on children and youth at risk put it: the main aim is to have the public and history remember the Liberal government. As this member puts it, the government has done nothing worth remembering.

To justify its action, the government is pointing to the social union agreement. Quebec did not sign this agreement, it will be remembered. If the government really wants to honour what is being done in Quebec, it should not only recognize it, but should provide financial compensation when the program, which already exists in Quebec, is set up.

Quebec did its own consulting nearly 20 years ago. There is a consensus in Quebec and it is respected by the government. A Canadian policy on family and early childhood that includes national standards, would be paternalistic.

The example of the $5 day care speaks for itself. Some families lose more in deductions than they earn because of day care measures. Quebec has called for tax harmonization for these families. Ottawa, however, has refused, saving itself $70 million on the backs of Quebec families, which need it more.

At the present time, the Canadian taxation system has no universal measure which recognize and takes specifically into account the responsibilities of parents with dependent children. Canada is one of the few developed countries that does not provide tax benefits to certain families with children.

The Bloc Québécois feels it is self-evident that the responsibility for a comprehensive family policy is incumbent upon the Government of Quebec. The federal government can, and must, make an additional fiscal effort for parents in need.

This is why the Government of Quebec is proposing the inauguration of a refundable tax credit for all families with dependent children under the age of 18, including those whose income is too low for federal income tax. Low income families paying little or no income tax would thus also be able to benefit from a lighter tax burden.

The $7 a day child care system, which has provided Quebec parents with child care at reduced rates, has also saved the federal government considerable sums, but these have not been passed on to the Government of Quebec, nor will they ever be.

Since parents are paying only $7 a day for each child in care, as opposed to the actual cost of $25, their federal tax deductions and therefore their refunds have decreased accordingly.

Consequently, the federal government has saved close to $1 billion since Quebec brought in its $5 child care in 1998. In the first year of the Quebec program, the federal government saved $108.6 million for only 82,000 $5 child care spaces in Quebec.

As the number of child care spaces increases in Quebec, Ottawa's tax savings increase as well. In 2003, federal savings totalled $235 million.

So, over six years, this makes close to $1 billion Ottawa has saved at the expense of young Quebec families, families in need.

The Bloc Québécois calls for Quebec to retain its right to opt out with compensation as far as child care services are concerned, and also for the federal government to modify its taxation system in order to allow the full deduction based on the actual cost of the child care spaces, not the parental contribution of $7.

In closing, the Bloc Québécois cannot support the creation of a Department of Social Development that, by definition, interferes in the jurisdictions of Quebec. This government keeps promising to respect the jurisdictions of Quebec, but, in fact, it does just the opposite.

The government must agree to the Bloc Québécois subamendment requiring that it fully respect provincial jurisdictions while putting more money into social programs and imposing Canada-wide rules for the allocation of funds.

The Bloc Québécois has always defended the interests of Quebecers, and in that regard, it is essential that Quebec's areas of responsibility be respected.

The consensuses reached in our National Assembly have recognized that the Quebec government has full jurisdiction in the areas under its responsibility because it has the structure and the institutions needed to link all bodies. The Quebec government can recognize the real needs and develop a fair policy and detailed action programs to meet them.

We believe that the federal government must recognize once and for all that Quebec, although its leeway has been considerably reduced by the fiscal imbalance, has still managed to implement internationally renowned quality programs.

Quebec has been successful because it listens to people and because it has a responsibility to create relationships with the stakeholders in targeted areas in order to effectively identify the needs. The Bloc Québécois will never agree to the creation of a department that not only has the mandate to duplicate and copy Quebec's avant-garde policies, but that also prevents Quebec from fully developing its own social programs.

This is not about visibility, but about respect for the integrity, security and health of all Quebeckers.

Textile and Clothing Industries June 1st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup on the excellent work he has done on the textile issue, and on his motion.

I would like to know how this motion could have prevented 1,000 textile industry jobs from being lost in my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry? I am referring to the 850 jobs at Cleyn & Tinker in Huntingdon and the 150 jobs at Huntingdon Mills and Ormspun.

I want to know how the government could have protected that textile market, since there is currently nothing on the clothes we buy showing where the fabric was made.

Clothing and Textile Industry May 18th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the textile plants that remain continue to shut down in Huntingdon and elsewhere in Quebec. This clearly shows that, in its present form, the government's improvised rescue plan cannot solve the crisis.

In light of the mediocre results of its plan, what is the government waiting for to put forward a true plan that would include, among other measures, safeguards, a program for older workers, and a program to support the modernization of the clothing and textile sectors?