Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Beauharnois—Salaberry (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Youth Criminal Justice Act May 28th, 2001

Yes. We still wonder why. For what fundamental reasons? We still do not know why.

Youth Criminal Justice Act May 28th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recall the facts about Bill C-7 now under consideration.

In the last parliament, the government introduced a bill to amend the Young Offenders Act.

We already had a Young Offenders Act which was enforced differently in different regions of our country. Each province would enforce it in its own way and Quebec is a model in that regard. Quebec has its own culture and thus its own way of approaching problems.

The Bloc Quebecois was very much opposed to the first bill tabled at that time. It had even received the unanimous support of the Quebec national assembly, which had passed a motion in November 1999 asking the federal Minister of Justice to suspend passage of Bill C-3 and to allow Quebec to continue implementing an intervention strategy based on prevention and rehabilitation.

The Bloc Quebecois had moved almost 3,000 amendments. In fact, it had moved 2,977. That was a lot of amendments for one bill, to delay what we call at home—in political language or at least in parliamentary language—filibusters. We came back and we moved amendments; we moved them to play for time and to prevent passage of the bill.

In February 2001, the Government of Canada introduced in the House of Commons Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice Act. There was also a reason for this. Most of us, Liberal members here in Ottawa had met with some members of the Quebec national assembly to know about the inherent objections to passage of Bill C-3.

Of course, after some discussion, five points stood out and we made representations to the federal Minister of Justice. A specific answer was given to the five points raised by the members of the national assembly in their letter. Of course, not all the members of the national assembly signed the letter. We did not have consultations with the sovereignist members of the national assembly. We had consultations with the federalist members of the national assembly because this is also a federal bill. We really wanted to know their position.

We answered the five concerns raised about Bill C-3. We have amended the bill to completely resolve these issues.

We now learn Quebec's national assembly has unanimously agreed to another motion expressing its opposition.

International Nurses Day May 11th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, this Saturday, May 12, is International Nurses Day. The theme for 2001 is “Nurses, always there for you: united against violence”.

This will be an opportunity for us and Canadians to recognize the important work these health care professionals do for each of us and all of society. Whether they work here or abroad, nurses make a difference in the quality of care provided.

With the new developments in health care, they are increasingly called on to work together with other professionals in health care. Their expertise and know-how often make them the central workers in the community. In the current context of resource shortages, they are creative and innovative.

I wish all nurses an excellent day.

Francophonie Games April 26th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, will the minister responsible for the IVth Games of La Francophonie in Ottawa-Hull give his reaction to the comments by Minister Facal to the effect that Quebec was not consulted in connection with previous games, and that Quebec is completely absent with respect to the vision for the upcoming games?

Charitable Organizations March 19th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of this House to the significant step taken by the Solicitor General of Canada and the Minister of National Revenue in introducing a bill on March 15 on the registration of charities.

Under the current system, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency cannot either refuse to register or revoke registration of a charity on the basis of confidential information, even if national security is threatened. As a result, terrorist groups are registering as charities.

In addition to making the funding of terrorist groups more difficult, this bill will make it possible to preserve the integrity of the Canadian charitable organization registration system.

This bill is in response to the commitments made by the federal government in the Speech from the Throne and on the international scene to combat terrorism. Terrorism is a world-wide problem and the federal government is proud to be able to make its contribution to the solution.

Standing Orders February 27th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the debate on this motion is very specific, and that is what we must look at.

After everything that has been heard in the House recently, I think we have reached the point where the record really needs to be set straight. We must really dot the i 's and cross the t 's,because the impression is being given that the House, at some point, is being used by certain people not to improve the work of MPs in the House or in parliamentary committees, but to prevent debate.

I interpret this as the result of the fact that certain people often talk just to hear themselves speak, but no attempt is made to let others say how they think a bill could be improved. These people take advantage of a loophole in the Standing Orders to block debate.

I think that the House should allow all members to express their views in order to improve a bill.

The problem right now is that members keep accusing the government of wanting to gag the House, but there is no doubt in my mind that the House is run not by the government but by a Speaker elected by all members of the House.

The present government House leader, the leader of the government party and the leader of the MPs who are in the majority in this House, speaks on behalf of his members, as the leaders of all opposition parties in this House speak for theirs.

When the leader of the Liberal majority in this House rises and tables a motion, he does so on behalf of all members and not on behalf of the government, as there is a tendency to believe.

When ministers are in this House, they are answerable to the House. They are across the way from the members of the opposition, who can question them. It is not, however, the ministers of the government who run this House.

This House is, in fact, independent. It is run by a Speaker elected by all members of this House. There is, however, a standing order which establishes the framework of intervention for the entire deputation of this House.

We must ask ourselves: Is the House leader of the majority bringing in a motion to amend the Standing Orders of the House of Commons? No sooner asked than answered, and the answer is no.

The purpose of the motion is not to amend the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. It is to enable the Speaker to use the power vested in him, specifically to make a choice of motions, which has not been done for some time, a number of years, nearly thirty in fact, in the name of tradition.

The motion we are debating today has a purpose. It is not to contest, not to speak of closure and not to say that the House leader of the party with the majority wants to amend the standing orders. There is a reason this motion was introduced. The role of an MP is to take part in a debate, to improve a bill. We have established a procedure in the House and in all legislative assemblies in the provinces and the different governments for the very purpose of enabling members to intervene, to debate a bill or a motion tabled in a House.

The procedure is as follows. A bill is introduced, sent to a committee, a standing committee or the appropriate committee considers the bills clause by clause, motions are made and then a vote is taken in committee. When the bill is brought back to the House at report stage, we should not try to do what is indirectly impossible, because the amendments are to be moved in committee. The amendments rejected in committee must not be introduced in the House as well at report stage. In other words, we cannot do indirectly what we are not entitled to do directly.

This is when the Speaker can intervene to choose to permit or reject motions, to group motions. When we see, because the House has been around for a number of decades, what is being done today with the legislation on young offenders, for instance, we get to the point where we say “Enough, already”.

We can talk about the 3,133 motions in amendment that were brought in, 400 of which, namely Motions Nos. 2,646 to 3,029, were aimed at changing the date of the coming into effect of the act. These motions were moved by 44 MPs. At some point, given my age and my experience, I tell myself that I do not want to spend my time, and that is not what I was sent to this place to do, voting all night long, night after night, on trivialities.

We can talk about the motions moved by former MP Jean-Paul Marchand, Motions Nos. 2,657 and 2,658, proposing different dates for the coming into effect of the same provision of the act.

This is an abuse of time. I could go on. There are about 100 motions on the duration of a provision of the act. That is how things went during that whole debate. When we reach report stage and motions are brought in that have already been rejected in committee, someone must put his foot down.

That is when the Speaker must use the discretionary power that was vested in him upon the recommendation of a committee which reviewed the Standing Orders of the House of Commons back in 1968.

Since then—there had probably not been any abuse at that time—things have slipped. The sole purpose of today's motion is to reconfirm the power of the Speaker of the House to select the motions that will be debated at report stage. What we are asking today is that the Speaker proceed as he was expected to when the current parliamentary procedure was adopted, some 32 years ago.

The purpose of the motion is not to gag the opposition or to change the rules of the House. It only seeks to support the application, by the Speaker, of a custom, a tradition or at least an amendment to the rules intended at the time to allow the Speaker to keep things under control, to prevent debates from getting out of hand and to avoid having motions dealing only with punctuation symbols such as commas, semicolons, exclamation marks, question marks and periods.

This is what this motion is all about. In addition, motions must seek to improve the bill or to amend it to make it easier to implement, and not merely to interfere with procedure. For these reasons, I will support the motion of the government House leader.

Guide-Scout Week February 23rd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the House that this is Guide-Scout Week.

It is essential that Canadians support the activities of the Guide-Scout program. In Canada, this program began in 1910. Since then, it has enriched the lives of many young Canadians. Together, the Association des scouts du Canada and the Boy Scouts of Canada have close to 253,000 young members.

I salute the contribution of the scouting movement to our society. Since their creation, boy scouts' and girl guides' organizations have been helping young people thrive. At a time when we are so concerned about the health of young Canadians, the scouting movement helps them develop physically, intellectually, socially and morally.

I invite Canadians to show their support for a movement that does an excellent job with young people.

Supply February 20th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the difference between my hon. colleague and I is that I am not afraid to make commitments and to fight to uphold them.

I would tell him this: I could ask all the Bloc members here in this House to show what they have done for their ridings since 1993;. How have the people in their riding benefited from Canada's economic growth?

Back home that was our priority during the election campaign. People realized that the economy was growing in Quebec and in Canada, but that they had yet to reap any benefits in their riding.

I would go even further than that. I even challenge them to read all the speeches Daniel Turp, the Bloc member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, made in this House. I challenge them to find in all his speeches in his three and a half years here the number of times he mentioned highway 30, used the words “riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry”, “of my fellow citizens”, “at home”. I would like that. This is where the difference lies.

I will talk about home. And, here in the House of Commons, I will talk and represent the people of my riding. I will represent all Quebecers. I will defend their rights. I will defend Quebec's interests, but I will not represent the separatists. I will represent all of the people.

I hear them saying all the time in the House and everywhere in public that they speak on behalf of Quebecers, when they got barely 36% of the vote compared to the federalists, who got 64% of the vote. And, in the case of the Quebec provincial election of 1998, the Liberals in Quebec got 200,000 more votes than the PQ, and yet they are still saying they speak on behalf of the majority of Quebecers.

If democracy is to be the subject, then the rules of democracy must be followed and applied, especially.

Supply February 20th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, first, if my approach is circular, it covers all of Canada. It goes beyond a regional vision.

In the last election, the Liberal Party of Canada won 41% of the vote, the Canadian Alliance 26%, the Bloc Quebecois, 11%, the Progressive Conservative Party, 12% and the New Democratic Party, 9%. So the people spoke.

Italy has an electoral process. It has approximately one government a year. It is therefore always dealing with coalition governments. I think a government should not constantly be blocked by silly games being played in the House because when a political party goes to the people it presents a platform and makes commitments. If it is elected with a majority, it has four or five years to honour those commitments.

Having a majority government gives that party a better chance of honouring its commitments and following up on its platform. That means it is also assessed on its platform at the end of its mandate.

Should we ignore that? The electoral process has evolved both at the federal and provincial level. I remember when candidates could run in two or three ridings during a campaign. That has changed. Now there is one candidate per riding. No candidate can run in more than one riding.

There was a time when candidates could be both a member of parliament and the mayor of a municipality at the same time. Today, the system has been changed so a member of parliament can no longer hold any other position.

The Canadian electoral and parliamentary systems have evolved over the centuries as a result of pressure coming from the people. It is not only because of individuals expressing ideas here and there. It is often when these ideas are accepted or assimilated by the general public that our system starts to change gradually. That is something we can see in the provinces as well as here, in the House of Commons.

I always come back to the expression “What is feasible is not necessarily desirable”. It should be demonstrated that the present system does not meet the aspirations of Canadians. Canadians should be asked if they want changes in the parliamentary system because, if they can vote, they can say what they want.

Supply February 20th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this debate on the motion by the NDP on proportional representation.

I always like to speak following a member of the Bloc in the House of Commons. It is rather amusing to see how these people demean democracy. They are very good in speeches, but in practice, they do not necessarily serve as a model.

They say “Why have voting percentages dropped in the country as a whole?” This sort of speech, where they say any old thing, contributes to people's impressions that politicians do not in fact have much to say.

However, on the plus side of our democracy—I will use the Bloc Quebecois member's example—who elected our candidate in the riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord? The people did. They decided André Harvey was the candidate they wanted to represent the people in that riding.

André Harvey appeared to be the most competent person. So, democracy as such always finds expression in our system.

Let us return to the NDP motion. The question that perhaps should be put at the outset is, why are we questioning our electoral system in Canada? There is always some reason for doing so. I have never seen a party in government advocate proportional representation. It is always the opposition parties that do.

I could refer to Quebec. Between 1970 and 1976, there was a party called the Parti Quebecois advocating proportional representation. When it was in office, between 1976 and 1985, nothing more was said. In 1985, it was back in the opposition and began talking about it again.

As we know, this is an issue that was discussed by the Bloc Quebecois. At one of their conventions, they even considered including it in their platform. But I think they were told by their head office in Quebec City to take it off the agenda as quickly as possible.

Proportional representation has a beginning and an end. But in fact there should be no limits regarding proportions, because we are talking about numbers of parties and numbers of votes.

Earlier, my colleague also mentioned the lists of candidates and the proportion of women on these lists. That could also apply to ethnic groups. It could apply to the number of women from each ethnic group. It could apply to languages. It could apply to a number of elements. Therefore, this concept should not be restricted to proportional representation.

The fundamental question is: Why are we proposing to establish a multi-party committee to take another look at the possibility of establishing a new electoral process whereby anyone in this place may speak on the behalf of whom? The majority, the minority, the minorities of the minorities? This is what we must ask ourselves.

This is basically what it is all about. This is a problem in just about every house of every legislature. Studies are conducted, usually after each electoral process. Commissions are set up, and committees do studies, organize public hearings, and consult the parties in the House and the public. After every election, the same conclusion is always reached here in Canada, and that is that the Canadian electoral system, our electoral system, is perhaps not perfect, but that so far—as Churchill said—none better has been found.

The system of proportional representation has also been tried in other countries, and people went back and changed their system. Why always go back and keep asking the same question?

Does our electoral system allow all citizens to express their views in an election? I can compare two electoral laws. I can compare the electoral laws of Quebec and of Canada. I was pleasantly surprised to see how Canada's law encouraged Canadians to vote. If an individual citizen does not wish to vote in Canada, and does not vote, it is because they have decided not to do so.

People can register at any time. They can register when they arrive at the polling station. They have only to show identification and say “I am a Canadian citizen; I live at such and such an address; here is my identification” and they are registered and allowed to vote. This is not the case with Quebec's electoral law. It is more limiting in this regard.

So, as far as the Elections Act is concerned, I find that our legislation is a model compared to other democracies around the world. Let us draw a parallel with the election of the U.S. president, where there is no popular vote per se. The president is never elected directly by popular vote, but rather by an electoral college. In this country, however, the people decide who is going to represent them in the Quebec National Assembly, or in the House of Commons in Ottawa. Thus, anyone can vote, provided he or she is a Canadian citizens with identification.

The Elections Act, therefore, is not restrictive. In fact, it is extremely permissive. We are going to refer to those who administer it, and say it is up to the returning officers in each area, because they are the ones running the show.

I have had experiences. As far as I know, I represent the Liberal Party of Canada, but the person in charge of the election, the returning officer for the riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry—I do not know what happened on election day—did not rule in our favour on many points in applying the legislation.

When someone is appointed to this position, on the face of it, that person is objective and has only to apply the legislation. Overall, this is done in a highly satisfactory manner. Often, when there is a problem, it is with the political organizations and the riding level, not with the administration of the act itself.

Why then this idea of proportional representation? I keep coming back to this point. Our electoral system allows all citizens in all ridings throughout the country to voice their opinion on the candidates. There is no limit on the number of candidates in one riding. In some ridings, we can find up to 12 names on the list of candidates and on the ballot. So anyone, if a citizen, is free to run for election. There is no limit.

We can say today that, obviously, only one person per riding will get elected. That person is usually chosen by the majority of the voters in his or her riding. A person is elected when a majority of voters decide to vote for the candidate of the political party whose message and agenda appeal to them, and this is true right across the country. A majority elects a candidate who is part of a team representing a political party and its leader. Of course, a political party is made up of many supporters.

If we look at the results of the last election, we see that the Liberal Party of Canada was elected in all the provinces. Liberal candidates were elected in Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, the Maritimes, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, everywhere. The question is, and that brings me back to the motion before the House, why should we once again examine the merits of proportional representation? What political party is raising this issue?

To promote democracy and to provide a greater choice to the people, maybe the political parties should ensure that their agenda is for all the people of Canada. We are elected by the people of Canada. That is what it is all about. Is our message reaching everyone in Canada or is it heard only by the residents of a particular region?

The results lead to the conclusion that some political parties are regional whereas others are national.

First and foremost, we must work with the various political parties to help them develop a message or a platform for all Canadians. If the majority of Canadians across the country decide to choose a particular political party, it should be because their analysis showed that the platform put forward by the Liberal Party of Canada best responded to their needs. Other parties may have more specialized platforms that are more responsive to the needs of a particular region.

Before we think about changing the mechanism or the structure, or the electoral process, we should reflect on what we stand for as individuals and also on what each political party stands for.

In Quebec, there are more than 30 members of the Bloc Quebecois. However, that party's platform does not respond to the needs of Canadians in general nor is it accepted by them.

To have an even more democratic system in Canada—and I should not say more democratic—we could say in the Canada Elections Act that any political party that wants to be active on the national scene must have a federalist vision and not a separatist vision.

One can see how far democracy is applied in Canada. Even those parties whose goals oppose the Canadian federation are allowed to take their place on the Canadian chessboard. Let us see whether, in other countries, such parties, within a federal system, are allowed to take up a position on the national chessboard. It is fairly peculiar to Canada to allow a party, whatever its origins or its vision, to become part of the Canadian electoral process.

In this regard, I think we have done enough studies in the past 20 or 25 years. Reports have been prepared and tabled, softcover reports and others in five volumes.

I think we should first encourage parliamentarians or the members of political parties to give more thought to what they represent, to the message they want to get across to the people of Canada. Let us allow the people, the population as a whole, to decide.

One of our principles is to let the people in a riding decide on the candidate to represent them in the House of Commons. They voted for that person. It must not be a question of mathematics applied after the fact because a political party obtained a percentage of votes and must therefore then be allotted a representative or two. This is not quite how our House should be organized.

We always say that, when a member speaks in the House, it is on behalf of the people in his or her riding. This is why as well ridings are set up with a percentage, an almost identical number of voters. There are a few exceptions, but on the whole there are approximately the same number of voters, give or take 10,000 federally, because the ridings are very large compared to the provincial ones.

When I rise in the House, I represent my fellow citizens, not just those who voted for me, but all of them, all the voters whose names were on the voters' lists. Such is the principle that guides us.

The idea is not to develop new rules that would allow just about anyone to create a political party and to be here in the House because he or she represents 1% of the population. That is not the idea.

Our system works well since there is a rotation. The problem may be that some political parties in this House convey a message that does not meet the expectations of all Canadians. That, in my opinion, is the problem.

The party in office changes the moment another party carries a message that better reflects the views of the majority of Canadians. We must develop national messages and programs, not regional ones.

In conclusion, a good friend of mine, Michel Bélanger, who is no longer with us, held prestigious positions in Quebec, both in the banking industry and in the Quebec government. He was involved in the referendum. He left a message that his son read in church, at his funeral, in which he said “What is feasible is not necessarily desirable”.

I wanted to end on this note, but before I conclude, I would like to pick up on a few points raised by Bloc Quebecois members when they spoke about party financing. Quebec has its own legislation on party financing, but so do other countries. Canada's system allows political parties to receive donations from individuals and from corporations, but this should apply to all political parties.

It makes me smile to hear members of a political party criticizing this form of financing while they use it indirectly. During the last election campaign, the Bloc Quebecois invited a minister of the Government of Quebec, who was bound by the legislation prohibiting corporations from making campaign donations, to a fundraising dinner as a guest speaker. Honestly. They sometimes take a pretty ambiguous stand.

I will conclude by quoting the headline of an article in La Presse , which read “According to Michel Gauthier, the Bloc Quebecois must disappear”. This would perhaps be a little more in line with our electoral process, the representation system we have developed in the House of Commons.