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

The Environment April 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada recently launched the One-Tonne Challenge, which calls on Canadians to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by one tonne, or roughly 20%.

The challenge is to think about the little things we do each day and the more important choices we make less often, such as buying a new lawnmower. Until May 2, Home Depot stores across Canada, through the Mow Down Pollution campaign by the Clean Air Foundation, are offering Canadians the opportunity to get rid of their old gasoline mower and receive a rebate of up to $100 on the purchase of an electric, push power, or low emission gas mower.

In so doing, they will be taking a step toward meeting the One-Tonne Challenge.

The Environment April 2nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Saint-Lambert for her question.

Through the Kyoto Protocol implementation process, we have become aware that Canadians produce on average more than five tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each, annually. In order to achieve the Canadian objectives in terms of GHG emissions, we are calling upon individual Canadians to take part in a campaign to try to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by one tonne--about 20%—per person.

New Homes Month April 1st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House that April is New Homes Month. This is an annual event sponsored by the Canadian Home Builders' Association in order to introduce experts in the construction industry and the products and services they offer.

New Homes Month is also an opportunity to give consumers the facts they need to make informed housing choices.

As the national agency responsible for housing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation helps a broad spectrum of Canadians gain access to quality, affordable housing. CMHC is also Canada's most reliable and objective source of information and knowledge about housing.

CMHC offers Canadian households a mine of information that will help them make choices and decisions concerning the purchase, renovation and maintenance of their homes.

CMHC works in a number of ways to enhance the quality of life for Canadians and create—

New Horizons Program March 31st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, our government recognizes the importance for Canadian communities of the so-called “social economy enterprises”. Not only do we recognize the importance of these organizations, we also follow up with concrete action.

Indeed, in the 2004 budget, our government pledged to allocate $8 million in 2004-05 and $10 million annually thereafter to the New Horizons Program.

The New Horizons Program provides funding to seniors' groups for various projects that are dear to them. In so doing, it helps maximize the impact of the volunteer work done by our seniors across Canada.

Our country can take great pride in the fact that it can count on a large number of volunteers for whom retirement is not synonymous with inactivity and social disengagement. It is critical that our government support their initiatives.

The Environment March 29th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the One Tonne Challenge announced on March 26 by the Minister of the Environment is very important if we want to achieve Canada's goals regarding climate change.

Every one of us produces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. In fact, every Canadian produces, on average, about five tonnes of greenhouse gas per year.

Even though climate change is one of the most serious problems confronting our country and our planet, the good news is that each one of us can help by personally reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. Such initiatives will also provide numerous benefits locally, including cleaner air and more thriving and sustainable communities.

Canadians are proud of the role that they can play to protect the environment, whether it is through recycling, waste reduction or more energy efficient habits. The One Tonne Challenge is an invitation to all of us to take these next steps to achieve the national goal of reducing emissions by one tonne per person, or about 20%.

World Theatre Day March 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, March 27 is World Theatre Day, a day to reflect on the importance of this performing art in the lives of all Canadians who love theatre, particularly our young people.

Theatre allows communities to bring their dreams to life. Its numerous forms respect individual tastes, from classical to avant-garde, popular to abstract.

Energy and diversity are the trademarks of theatre in Canada. It fills us with emotions, laughter and magic. It stimulates our imagination, helps us see the world from a variety of perspectives, and contributes to our country's cultural diversity.

I would like to thank everyone who works on stage and behind the scenes to enrich our lives through this vibrant art form.

I invite my colleagues and all Canadians to take part in organized activities in their regions in celebration of this day.

The Budget March 25th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the hon. member for Champlain has asked me that question.

The people's money belongs to the people; it is managed by governments that are elected by the people. That is our basic principle. We are talking about democracy and they are talking about theft because it is the only word in their vocabulary.

I would like to ask him this question: in his former government, in Mr. Parizeau's time, how much did you steal from the people when you decided to freeze the savings of the people of Quebec in the Caisse de dépôt during a referendum? When you decided to—

The Budget March 25th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the main challenge facing our country in the years to come is demographic. This applies to Quebec equally, the place I live, and the place where I was born.

Our greatest challenge is a demographic one. Canada ranks second, after Russia, in geographic size. We have a population of 31 million. So we have a huge area to cover with that total population.

If we compare that to the United States, they are 300 million strong, or 10 times our population. Quebec's population is close to 8 million, and our territory is three or four times larger than France, with its 70 million. So we have a population problem. That is Canada's problem.

Returning to Quebec, we have the same problem. It makes our lives expensive. Any improvements we want to make are costly. For instance, if we want to put in a highway between Montreal and Quebec City, there are only 7 million of us to pay for it. When one is built between Boston and New York, there are 50 million people to pay for it. There is the effect of mass, the effect of volume.

So, in order to give a more precise answer to my colleague, I must say that the major challenge for Canada at this time is demographic. A heavy stress must be put on immigration. We must open up our borders and welcome people coming from overpopulated countries, so that Canada may become a host country for people from all over the world.

The Budget March 25th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.

It is a great pleasure for me too to speak on the budget speech itself. Obviously, many things included in this budget have not been emphasized by the opposition, because that is not how the game is played. Its role is not to make the government look good.

I want in particular to stress, with regard to the financial management of Canada, certain essential points that ensure that Canada is now and will be able in the future to position itself and fulfill its obligations to Canadians as well as its international responsibilities.

In the period between 1980 and 1990, there was an average annual deficit of $30 billion. In fact, we only calculated ten times $30 billion, for an accumulated deficit of $300 billion. For those listening, each year a government tables its budget and says that, this year, the deficit is $50 billion or $40 billion, this means that this amount has to be borrowed on the market and added to a growing debt. It is as if someone buys a car on credit for $20,000 and also buys other things on credit. That person's debt increases accordingly and will have to be repaid on an annual basis.

When the government's financial structure was reorganized, after the Liberal Party came to power in 1993, the Conservatives had left an operating deficit of $42 billion in addition to the debt. So, the accumulated debt that had to be repaid was nearly $600 billion. This debt was further increased by an amount borrowed annually to ensure a balanced budget.

In the space of six years, the $554 billion debt has been reduced by $52 billion. That is nothing to be sneezed at. Are hon. members aware that, in the recently tabled budget for this year, $35 billion out of $187 billion is earmarked specifically for the debt, the debt charges? That is $35 billion out of $187 billion.

By reducing the debt by $52 billion over the past six years, the Government of Canada has been able to save $3 billion annually in interest it is no longer paying. The objective of this budget is to further reduce the debt so as not to leave that financial burden for those future generations. If we are to guarantee pension funds for Canadians, we must be absolutely sure to have a sound financial foundation, one that is clean and clear, meaning that it will not be necessary to make payments and borrow every year.

In this case, Canada has been able to reduce its debt by $52 billion, which makes for a ratio to GDP that is something of a record. Moreover, the IMF recently described Canada as the country with the best financial management of all G-7 countries in the past 10 years. Those are not our words but the worlds of international bodies which analyze the situation in various countries and hold Canada up as a model.

Among the G-7 countries currently experiencing budget structuring problems, we need look no further than France, which is a member of the European Union. It has to make adjustments in order to meet the criteria for EU membership. Last year's budget was a deficit budget, which leaves it with a larger deficit than the criteria for European membership stipulate.

All of the G-7 countries have been looking at deficits. The only one currently with a balanced budget for the past six years, and about to add a seventh is Canada. So, we are a model to look to.

However, here we navel gaze and we try to analyze the performance of a government by comparing it to that of another government. Of course, we could mention all sorts of things. However, when it comes to the budget, if we make comparisons with all the other countries, I think we are a model for the world. This is what we call to show fiscal prudence with taxpayers' money.

What has been the impact of balancing budgets and reducing the debt over the past seven years? What has been the impact of saving about $3 billion in interests annually by paying off the debt? These measures have allowed us to keep interest rates very low.

I remember that, in 1970, when I bought my first property, I got a 5.25% rate. Now, in 2004, 34 years later, the rates are the same. The bank lowered its rate again in recent weeks. This means that a young person who wants to buy a house now will pay an interest rate that is basically the same as in the seventies. In fact, in real terms, the rate is now lower, because the dollar was worth more in 1970 than now.

So, managing public finances very prudently, gradually paying off the national debt and tabling balanced budgets have ensured that we can now maintain interest rates at a fairly constant level. This benefits Canadians and it allows investors to come and settle here, thus helping our economy grow. Such savings help create wealth, and also allow us to invest in the health and social systems that our fellow citizens truly need.

There is one thing that went unnoticed in the budget. We saw that, according to the New Democratic Party, the Conservative Party and all the opposition parties, the biggest loser is the public. Oddly enough, there is something that the opposition failed to mention about the budget. It is a measure that may not necessarily be included in this budget, because it was announced a while ago, to be implemented over a five year period beginning on January 1, 2001. In other words, this measure is still in effect this year.

The finance minister at the time had announced a $100 billion tax reduction plan over 5 years. Is the House aware how much that represents for that year as a tax decrease for everyone in Canada? It is a decrease of $32.3 billion that the people will be entitled to. That is a tax decrease for this year, 2004-2005, of $22.3 billion for the citizens. That is not mentioned. When they say that the people did not get a tax reduction, it just shows that political memory is very short-term. Something like three or four months.

In 2000-2001, the finance minister—who is now the Prime Minister—announced a plan to reduce taxes by $100 billion over 5 years. This year the same formula applies. Canada will enjoy a tax reduction of $31.1 billion, of which $22.3 billion goes to individual citizens and $4.4 billion to businesses.

It also puts more money in the taxpayers' pockets. It makes it possible for Canadians to get into the market and invest.

A while ago, I mentioned interest rates remaining very low, but I also want to talk about the more than $30 billion decrease in taxes that is going into people's pockets. When we do the math, what does it mean? It enables people to spend.

In recent years, particularly in 2002 and 2003, these measures have led to a construction boom across Canada. So, construction materials were purchased, companies had to manufacture these materials and expanded their operations. This resulted in jobs being created.

All these measures by the Liberal government have ensured that today nearly all sectors are receiving investments to consolidate the Canadian economy and ensure it improves each year.

After September 11, as everyone remembers, there was a major economic slowdown in the United States.

Everyone thought that this would seriously affect Canada. As a result of the budgetary measures adopted at the time by the federal Liberal government, Canada weathered the economic ups and downs affecting North America. Canada's economy stayed on course.

The proof is that our unemployment rate is one of the lowest around. Unemployment is approximately 7%. This is incredible. Canada has created the most jobs per capita of all the western countries. Nonetheless, measures were implemented to ensure that today Canada's economy has a solid foundation. Furthermore, this gives all Canadians hope for the future.

In order to guarantee pensions for future generations fifty years down the road, we need to plan today. In my opinion, this budget is extremely progressive and will ensure that Canadians have a strong economy in the coming years.

Questions on the Order Paper March 25th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.