Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Bloc MP for Jonquière (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2004, with 6% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Softwood Lumber Industry June 13th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, in the Chaudière—Appalaches region, represented by the Secretary of State in charge of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, nine mills and 389 jobs were affected during the week of May 30.

How can the Minister of Industry care so little, considering how much the crisis has affected companies and workers, when his hon. colleague's region suffered badly that week?

Softwood Lumber Industry June 13th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the week of May 30 was devastating to the softwood lumber industry. During that time, 34 mills and 2,000 workers were affected in some way by the crisis. Clearly, Quebec's regions are the hardest hit by this situation.

Is this devastation not sufficient to convince the Minister of Industry that he must take immediate action to support this industry by offering loan guarantees, so companies can avoid bankruptcy?

Supply June 12th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised, shocked and upset by what the member across the way said. It was like a step back to the 1930s. It was all about federal supremacy and the servitude of the provinces. That is even lower than what Trudeau used to say.

That is not what we are talking about today. We are talking about an Alliance motion that seeks to remove the 1.5¢ that was levied in 1995 to cover the deficit. In 1998, the former Minister of Finance said that the objective had been reached. There is no reason for this tax still to exist.

We would agree if they stopped there. However, they are saying that it is conditional on the provinces allowing their jurisdictions to be trampled on and there being additional taxes.

From Quebec alone, the federal government collects $4.7 billion in excise tax. What does it do with this money? Nothing. We do not know what it does with this money. It is a tax grab.

There have been negotiations in the past on infrastructure. There have been two agreements. Quebec was prepared to renew the agreement, but the government thought it did not have to do anything with the money it takes out of the taxpayers' pockets.

Is the hon. member from the Liberal party going to sit down with people and discuss facts or is he going to make things up?

Supply June 12th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I thank the NDP member for his question. We keep coming back to the same thing: fiscal imbalance.

Yes, transfer payments have been cut to Quebec, as government transfers to the provinces have been cut.

It is easy to be arrogant when one's pockets are full of money stolen from others, money that one has appropriated, when there is a duty under the Canadian Constitution to redistribute tax transfers to the provinces for normal needs in areas of jurisdiction that do not belong to us. But that duty has not been met. It is all very fine to pat oneself on the back, but I would not like to be in his place and to be patting myself on the back over this.

The government is here, not to manage Canada like a private business, but to meet the needs of the taxpayers. And this government is not doing so.

Supply June 12th, 2003

I would rather address you, Mr. Speaker, because if I were to address that member, I would not be very nice.

I quoted figures earlier. I indicated that, in the past year, 2002-03, Quebec, along with the municipalities, invested more than 117% of the gasoline tax revenues, plus money from its own transport department. If that is not cooperation with the municipalities, I do not know what is. Who has the money in Canada, with the fiscal imbalance? The federal government. And it has the gall to want to negotiate directly with the municipalities.

That makes no sense. The parliamentary secretary should do his homework and take this issue seriously. It is very important; people's lives are at stake. We are talking about water and sewer infrastructure. We know what happened in Ontario with the water system and water treatment. It is only natural to want to upgrade our infrastructure.

This is not the kind of attitude that will lead to an agreement or to progress on major issues. We are talking about health. The fact is that infrastructure has a direct impact on the health of Canadians and Quebeckers.

Let us stop talking nonsense and start dealing with reality. I do not accept such things from him. I can understand where he is coming from, since he is here to defend his government. But the taxpayers do not give a hoot about party politics when it comes to meeting their real expectations. As far as health is concerned, their needs are directly linked to the infrastructure situation.

Supply June 12th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate finally being able to speak to set things straight. Unfortunately, one of the members to whom I wanted to direct my remarks is not here. I would have liked to give him the real figures, but he is gone.

I will begin by telling the member from the Canadian Alliance that the members of the Bloc Quebecois will not support the Canadian Alliance motion. We might have been able to support it if it had stopped after “gasoline taxes”, because the rest is nothing but interference in areas of provincial jurisdiction, making the reduction conditional on the provinces doing certain things and raising money.

Quebec is not a local government. Quebec has full powers. I do not see why, as a federal member of Parliament, I would tell the provinces, and Quebec in particular, to do as they please when it comes to their highway infrastructure. We know that this 1.5 cents per litre gas tax, imposed by this government in 1995, was introduced to fight the deficit and eliminate it. We know that in 1998, the former Minister of Finance said that the fiscal imbalance had been addressed, yet he continued to pocket this money. We do not need any lessons from the parliamentary secretary. This is a serious issue.

Mr. Speaker, I forgot to advise you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Lotbinière—L'Érable.

We know that, with just 10¢ in excise tax in 2001-02, the Liberal government of Canada collected $4.758 billion in fuel taxes in Quebec. That is a lot of money. And what does the government do with that money? We do not know. It seems to me that when taxes are collected on fuels, it is to take care of infrastructure matters. But no, the federal government takes this money and we do not know what happens to it.

In 2002-03, Quebec collected $1.6 billion in fuel taxes and invested over 117% of that money. The government looked for money in other budgets within the transportation department. Quebec is doing its job.

The parliamentary secretary spoke of the infrastructure issue. I am the Bloc Quebecois critic for infrastructure; I have attended all the negotiations. I also was present when all the cities submitted their projects. It is understandable that it would come from the cities because municipally elected officials are the first point of contact for the public. They know what they need to improve their infrastructures, from sewers to water mains to roadways.

An agreement had been negotiated. For the last two infrastructure agreements, which involved the federal, provincial and municipal governments, it was agreed that Quebec would run the show. The municipal governments sent in their latest proposal for an agreement to the Government of Quebec. They had over $4.3 billion in projects, but in the negotiated agreement the federal government put $1.9 billion on the table. There was a shortage of money. The projects are waiting. What this government wants to do now is to go over people's heads. I think it is going in the same direction as the Canadian Alliance. I think it is just more of the same. It does not respect provincial jurisdictions.

In Quebec, the municipalities are creatures of the provincial government. So, when a creature belongs to one level of government, I do not see why a higher level could go over the head of the person or entity to whom the creature belongs, to go and negotiate with it instead.

This parliamentary secretary has said some very odd things. The Bloc Quebecois has provided the real numbers, while the parliamentary secretary has pulled them out of thin air. The real figures are here.

In speaking about the needs, he even mentioned the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He says that he spoke with its representatives. After the last federal budget, that federation took a stand.

In the throne speech, the federal government said that infrastructure had to be put in order. The current situation is serious. It was announced that needs in Canada required investments of $57 billion over the next 15 years. How much did the government offer? It put $100 million on the table, when it had pocketed $4.7 billion from the fuel tax in 2002-03 alone.

Any child of five, six or seven years of age can calculate the difference between a need for $51 billion over the next 15 years and the $100 million actually offered, without including the $4.7 billion being pocketed each year. This is proof of the fiscal imbalance that the Bloc Quebecois condemns. The PQ government has also spoke out against it, as has the current Charest government, in Quebec City, and all the other provinces.

This government will take the money from the taxpayers, as it has done with employment insurance. The fund has $44 billion. The government took that money. I call this a payroll tax. Workers pay employment insurance premiums. This means that when you work, you pay an additional tax. In my opinion, workers want to enjoy their salary and to pay taxes normally. They do not want to pay additional taxes.

In terms of employment insurance, only 37% of workers are entitled to benefits. Furthermore, when they do receive benefits—which is quite difficult—their premiums are only about between 50% and 55% of what they should be.

Whose idea was this? The current Minister of Finance has picked up where the former Minister of Finance, the member for LaSalle—Émard, left off. The latter ran Canada like a financier would. It is not surprising. He owned ships and did not pay taxes to Canada or Quebec. Imagine the millions of dollars he has not paid. With that kind of money we could have done things to help the workers, built infrastructures, helped the poor and the homeless. Imagine what we could have done with the money that was not paid by the former Minister of Finance, the member for LaSalle—Émard.

The way infrastructure funding is handled is preposterous. There are immense needs not only in Quebec, but in Canada. Everyone agrees. The Canadian Alliance has put forward a motion. They are saying that the government should reduce the excise tax on gasoline by 1.5¢ per litre, on condition that the provinces come up with additional money themselves. That is not what the provinces want.

The provinces want the fiscal imbalance to be resolved. If this were done, if the federal government invested the money it takes in from the fuel tax—last year it collected $4.7 billion—if it helped the provinces shoulder the cost of infrastructures, everyone would be happy. There would be modern infrastructures and the taxpayers' true expectations would be met. The taxpayers want something to show for their money.

However, what is currently happening at the federal level is that the government is pocketing or accumulating money and we do not know what they are doing with it. In the meantime, infrastructures are deteriorating. Moreover, the parliamentary secretary has the nerve to accuse the provinces of not doing their work. On the contrary, they are doing their work very well despite all the cuts that the federal government has been making for many years.

The federal government is the one that should be putting out the money. I suggest to the hon. member from the Canadian Alliance that he take out what follows the words “gasoline taxes” in his motion. If he takes out what makes it conditional, the Bloc Quebecois will support the motion.

Softwood Lumber June 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, did the minister just answer that he does not wish to help this business? The time to act is now, because our businesses need help now.

The Prime Minister's political legacy will be unemployment in the regions, an exodus to urban areas and the shutting down of municipalities that depend entirely on the softwood lumber industry.

How long will this government continue to turn a deaf ear to softwood workers and businesses that are crying for help to save their jobs and their businesses?

Softwood Lumber June 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, one month ago, the Coopérative forestière de Laterrière announced that it would be claiming protection under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act; this threatens the savings of 450 members and the jobs of 600 workers, 450 of whom have already been laid off.

Will the Minister of Industry finally understand that the end of softwood lumber operations for this cooperative could very well mark the end of a formerly successful business, unless the government immediately comes up with a new assistance plan to meet the needs of today's reality?

Canada Elections Act June 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today on Bill C-24, and particularly on Motion No. 11 which will make it possible for a review to be carried out after a certain period of time. This is a normal practice; Quebec has provision for it in its legislation governing political party funding.

I have never been prouder to be a Quebecker than I am today. Quebec has set an example for the people across the floor. The Government of Quebec took a real step on behalf of democracy in 1977 on the urging of René Lévesque.

I do not know if it is his approaching retirement that has wakened the Prime Minister of Canada up and moved him toward transparency, but for the second time in only a few weeks I want to congratulate him for taking his inspiration from Quebec legislation.

As hon. members are aware, democracy has many faces. Democracy takes on the face governments want the public to see. At the present time, federal political parties are financed in such a way that the public gets a very negative image. As my colleague in the Liberal Party has just said, we found our constituents discouraged. They told us, “On the federal level big corporations have control over the government, with hidden funds that end up filling the coffers of the party in power”.

At last a new day has dawned in Canada. Things are not perfect, of course, but this is a very important first step. For the years we have been here on the federal scene, all Bloc Quebecois members have been constantly calling upon the government to take action to at least bring in some transparency, for there at last to be some guidelines for political party financing.

Yes, that day is soon to be with us and at last we will be able to speak. We Bloc Quebecois MPs are financed by donations of $5, $10 or maybe $100. As a result, there are no strings attached and we can go and talk to people, ask their opinions on bills, on what is going on in their daily lives.

That is why Quebeckers identify with the Bloc Quebecois. In order to get $5, we often have to go five, six or seven times before we get the chance to talk to someone. We tell people that it is important they fund political parties through a small contribution of $5 to get a membership card, because that is what democracy is about. It assures them that their representative will never be bound by slush funds and big money, as we have seen in federal politics for decades.

There were some serious problems. I do not know why it took the Prime Minister so long to wake up to this, but as they say, “better late than never”. So, this is slow in coming, but it is finally being done and we will finally be able to have democracy. However, I think that we need to keep talking about this because democracy has many faces. For political parties, the first criterion of democracy is transparency when it comes to funding.

Earlier, my colleague, the member for Châteauguay—whom I commend for the work he has done on the file involving Mr. Gagliano—gave us some examples. He was telling us how, in the past, Mr. Alfonso Gagliano, who acted as the Prime Minister's right hand man in Quebec, had set up a patronage system involving funding, cronies and friends of the party. The tentacles even reached to his own son.

How many times—we are doing it still today—have we denounced this way of doing things? This has had an extremely serious impact on democracy and on the accessibility and independence of politicians, given that this was an issue that concerned the fundamental values of an individual.

We need to denounce this type of activity. We must not say that the slate is wiped clean with this new bill and that is the end of the story. We must continue to denounce what happened with Alfonso Gagliano. There need to be independent inquiries; we must get to the bottom of this. In fact, with this bill, people will say, “Finally”.

Still, we cannot say we are turning our backs on the dishonest practices of the past, wiping the slate clean and starting over. No. Things have been done in the past. In January 2004, this bill will take effect and introduce a new mechanism. Then we will have to be very vigilant to ensure that all political parties in this House of Commons are fully onside and ready to follow the new rules. We must not forget that it is not easy to change longstanding fundraising habits.

My hon. Liberal colleague was saying that in Quebec in 1964, under Jean Lesage, some faint questions began to be raised. We must never forget that the Liberal Party of Quebec was a carbon copy of its federal counterpart when it came to such practices.

So we are indebted to the foresight of René Lévesque, whose memory I want to honour today; this man was truly a trailblazer and a guiding light for the people of Quebec. René Lévesque was a democrat in the broadest sense. He was a man who believed that the individual should take precedence over society.

The Prime Minister of Canada is wise to take a page from his book. If Mr. Lévesque were alive today, and sitting in this House, I think he would walk across the floor and say to the Prime Minister, “Bravo. I have been a Liberal in the past, but congratulations”. Sometimes, perhaps, when one is approaching one's twilight years—because the Prime Minister is getting close to his announced retirement—one steps back and regards one's political adversaries in a different light, and can look to them for inspiration. This is a historic moment for the House of Commons as we consider Bill C-24.

The hon. members of the Bloc Quebecois, my constituents in Jonquière, and I, myself, will finally be able to say that all the rules are the same. No one is going to have a slush fund and everyone will be on an equal footing. Finally, we will be able to debate the real issues in future election campaigns and membership and fundraising drives, without our constituents saying, “That person will not speak for me, because his financing comes from the slush fund”.

Bravo. There are other groups of amendments and it will be my pleasure to speak to them at a later time.

Lobbyists Registration Act June 5th, 2003

Six years.