Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was tax.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for La Prairie (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 8% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions February 12th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour of tabling in the House two petitions signed by residents of La Prairie, my riding, and various communities on Montreal's south shore.

The first petition calls upon Parliament to urge the federal government to co-operate with provincial governments on improving the national road network.

Public Service February 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, as its name indicates, Motion M-263, presented by the member for Brampton, would protect public servants against reprisals for having, confidentially and in good faith, reported certain abuses by federal public servants.

This motion does not set a historic precedent as such. Our neighbour to the south, the United States, is increasingly favouring legal protection for employees who blow the whistle on unlawful practices. Whistle blowers in the American civil service are afforded some protection under the Civil Service Reform Act.

From state to state, in the U.S., protection varies considerably, with some states having legislation that covers both private and public sector employers, some having legislation that covers just one of these sectors, and yet others having legislation aimed only at certain specific problems or industries.

In many countries, particularly in the Commonwealth, there is more specific legislation concerning such areas as employment, health or the environment, that protect employees against reprisals to which they might be subject for availing themselves of the rights conferred on them under such legislation.

Ontario is the only province in Canada that has brought in legislation to provide general protection for whistle blowers in the public sector. The 1993 public service and staff relations amending legislation contains a part IV dealing with protection for whistle blowers. Although the bill received royal sanction on December 14, 1993, this part IV is not yet in effect, and since the Conservatives came into power in that province, no one knows when it will be.

All bills comparable to Motion M-263 presented to date in the House of Commons have shared the objective of protecting federal public servants who make allegations of wrongdoing by their employers.

Since 1987, there have been four such legislative measures debated in the House. I would like to list these: Bill C-229 by the former Conservative member Bill Vankoughnet; Motion M-57, by the former Solicitor General of Canada, the Hon. Bob Kaplan; the motion by the former Conservative minister, the Hon. Alan Redway, and finally Bill C-293 by former NDP member Joy Langan.

In addition to these legislative measures in the House of Commons, several organizations have made submissions, or indicated their agreement in principle with a bill such as the one proposed by today's motion. Those publicly stating the necessity of such a measure include the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, and the Auditor General of Canada.

On the other hand, certain political parties have taken a stand in this debate on ethics in the public service. The Liberal Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party and, of course, the Bloc Quebecois, have stated their intention to propose or support such a measure. As for the Reform Party, they have been endlessly stating since their election that they will support any measure aimed at eliminating waste by government institutions.

The doggedness of the Public Service Alliance of Canada in promoting such a legislative measure is certainly undisputable. On a number of occasions, it has criticized the situation and recommended passing a bill proposing the same objectives as Motion M-263.

In November 1994, in its document "In the public interest", one of the recommendations the Alliance made was:

That the Government of Canada pass legislation aimed at protecting members of the Public Service who disclose government wrongdoing, reprehensible practices and waste.

In a press release dated May 12, 1995, the Alliance stated that speedy passage of the bill on whistle-blowers promised by the Liberal government during the election campaign would go far towards resolving the ethical dilemmas facing federal public service employees.

On May 11, 1994, the Bloc member for Portneuf tabled Bill C-248 in this House for first reading.

On June 19, 1996, the hon. member for Portneuf tabled Bill C-318 for first reading.

We feel there are a number of reasons why the auditor general should be allowed to receive and investigate complaints referred to as whistle-blowing.

The auditor general is by law responsible for the internal audit of the federal administrative apparatus. The auditor general is also known for his professionalism and the relevance of his reports.

Finally, the auditor general's office operates at arm's length from the government and politicians, which gives it a certain status and impartiality.

Considering the number of bills tabled previously by members of all parties; considering the election promises made by the Prime Minister and his Liberal colleagues regarding the introduction of such a measure; considering that all other political parties support such a proposal; considering that the unions are unanimous in their support for a tool including provisions that would allow whistle-blowing; also considering the number of government agencies that recommend this type of legislation and, finally, the urgent need for increased transparency and integrity in federal institutions, we should support Motion M-263.

For all the reasons just mentioned, the Bloc Quebecois will support the motion tabled in the House by the hon. member for Brampton.

Excise Tax Act February 6th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Group No. 3 of motions concerning the fiscal arrangements between the federal government and the maritimes, specifically Motions Nos. 118 to 124, which are of interest to us at this time.

There can be no sales tax reform without personal income tax reform, corporate tax reform, social security reform, nor without the participation of other levels of government.

Canada must undertake a tax reform which encompasses all forms of taxation and all the levels of government involved. Why, then, have the Liberals systematically refused, since they have formed the government, to carry out such a total reform of the Canadian taxation system, despite the numerous suggestions from the Bloc Quebecois which has just tabled a second document on tax reform, via my Bloc Quebecois colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot? That document was tabled this week and addresses personal income tax in particular.

Quebec harmonized its own sales tax alone and without financial assistance. The costs of this reform were assumed by Quebec businesses.

Quebec companies have yet to benefit from all the advantages of a fully harmonized sales tax. It is intolerable that the federal compensation formula should help the Atlantic provinces to compete fiercely with Quebec for new investment. The Maritime provinces are advertising in newspapers in Quebec and the other provinces that are not harmonized in order to attract companies from those provinces.

Furthermore, the $400 million in federal compensation paid to New Brunswick will be used to finance the tax cuts announced last December by the province's Minister of Finance.

If the federal government is really serious about wanting to boost Quebec's economy, it could put its money where its mouth is by giving Quebecers the amounts to which they are entitled. According to information provided by the federal government, Quebec would be entitled to compensation worth not $1.9 billion but $2 billion. And even if we apply the more restrictive federal formula to the data currently available, Quebec would be entitled to $1 billion in compensation.

Harmonization is costly for businesses in Quebec. At this time, the QST is not refunded on certain inputs of large companies, and it was necessary to increase corporate taxes in order to finance this reform. Harmonization will not cost Maritime companies a penny. They are entitled to a full tax refund on inputs, without any increase in income tax, since the federal government compensates these provinces through the harmonization agreement.

This may be a political ploy to make unemployment insurance reform as it applies to seasonal workers in these provinces more palatable to the Maritimes. Otherwise, why would Ontario, Quebec and the other provinces not be entitled to compensation?

The Bloc Quebecois is against the GST harmonization plan in the Maritimes. This bill was rushed through. It is based only on political and electoral considerations. It is poorly drafted, and is not the model of harmonization that citizens of the Maritimes deserve and asked for from the federal government.

If the federal government can come up with $1 billion for the maritimes, let it also find the $2 billion Quebec is entitled to. All the provinces must be treated fairly, and the federal government must stop funding New Brunswick's zealous raiding in Quebec with the tax money of Quebecers.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois is asking the government to redo its homework and this time take the time it needs to introduce a responsible bill and especially to listen to what people have to say on harmonizing the GST with provincial sales tax.

We are talking about an agreement between the federal government and the three maritime provinces, which account for some 15 per cent of Canada's population. This is the model they say they want to apply to all provinces in Canada.

Right now in Canada, most people oppose the minister's proposal and the establishment of a single 15 per cent tax, which would be managed by the Canada revenue commission the government intends to set up and which would result in an increased tax burden for Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. Everyone agrees that the Minister

of Finance is mistaken in thinking that all the provinces will agree to his harmonization proposal.

Knowing the history of Quebec and of its struggle for independence in tax matters, especially since the 1960s with Jean Lesage, I know Quebec will never agree to be part of a federal plan of this sort.

Excise Tax February 5th, 1997

Indeed, as per usual.

Just before Christmas, we criticized the manner in which the Minister of Finance tabled these documents. The official opposition-I remember, I was there-had fewer than 24 hours to examine a technical bill over 300 pages long, for which we had not received explanatory notes before debate at second reading.

But last January, we witnessed a spectacle that was even more disgraceful for anyone who still believes in the quality of democratic life in Canada. First, the Liberals allowed only three days of public hearings on a bill as vital to the maritimes as Bill C-70. This was last January 20, 21 and 22, you will recall.

The opposition parties asked the government to extend the consultations and to travel to the maritimes to be able to hear what these people have to say, but the Liberal majority on the Standing Committee on Finance, including the parliamentary secretary, defeated this motion in committee.

I also remember tabling this motion in the finance committee last January 22, at the end of the day, and the Liberals simply brushed it aside. Yet the Liberals came up with 13 important amendments-those were their words, "13 important amendments"- to Bill C-70, the very evening of the third and final day of public consultation, claiming that these amendments were a response to the complaints heard during the three days of hearings.

If it was possible to find 13 amendments in three days, imagine how many we would have had if we had been able to extend the public hearings by one week, as the official opposition had requested.

In their haste to leave behind the embarrassing issue of the GST, the Liberals do not want to hear what people have to say; they are afraid that people in the maritimes will tell them the plain truth: Bill C-70 is a botched job, a very bad bill. The Liberals are standing in the way of democracy by preventing citizens from expressing their views, and by moving full steam ahead, worrying more about their electoral agenda than about doing a good job of serving the citizens who will pay for this new tax.

That is not all. The very evening of the clause by clause study of Bill C-70 in committee, the Liberals introduced, at the end of the day, 113 amendments for a bill that had 272 clauses. This in itself is irrefutable proof that Bill C-70 has received amateur treatment from the Liberal government and that more public consultation is needed if citizens' needs are to be met. We are already at third reading. The Liberals turned down the Opposition's request to continue the hearings; it is therefore too late, unfortunately.

Still more distressing is the fact that the official opposition's research service was given only an hour's briefing by the Minister of Finance's staff concerning the 113 amendments the government was planning to table two hours later in committee, and no document was left with them for consultation.

As a Bloc Quebecois member, I sat on the committee the entire day of January 22, and I was given a copy of the 113 amendments under embargo some two and a half hours before the clause by clause study.

As a result, the Bloc Quebecois was not in a position to play its role as the official opposition effectively and appropriately on the finance committee at that time. In a way, the government was asking us to trust it implicitly, to give it carte blanche, to take it on its word, and above all not to hold it back in accomplishing its game plan before the next election.

The Bloc Quebecois proposed a motion to suspend the work of the committee for a week, allowing it the time to examine the Liberal amendments; this motion was rejected by the chair of the finance committee himself.

Even this week, the opposition had not even received the printed copy of Bill C-70 reflecting the amendments received in committee, 24 hours before resumption of the debate on third reading. On February 3, we learned from the Téléjournal that the chairman of the finance committee was still in the process of reviewing the legislation, and that it was possible the government would back down on its plan to include the tax in the price.

How can anyone do a proper job under such conditions? The Liberals are shamelessly thumbing their noses at democracy. We can be sure they will pay dearly in the next election for their arrogance.

In conclusion, I would like to state that the government is deceiving the public by saying that the GST has disappeared. In fact, the Liberals are not living up to their commitment on this, nor have they ever. The GST is still with us, although it was supposed to quite simply disappear from the books, and to do so as quickly as possible.

Excise Tax February 5th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I wish to address Group No. 1, which concerns the GST on books and which is made up of Motions Nos. 1 and 2.

The Liberals claim that books will no longer be taxed. This is not true and, as regards the GST credit on books, the government does not go far enough. Ever since Quebec introduced the QST, all books have been exempted from the provincial sales tax, not just those purchased by literacy institutions, schools, public libraries and so on. All books are QST exempt, including those purchased by consumers in bookstores, which represent the bulk of GST revenues on book sales.

The measure announced by the Minister of Finance and which the parliamentary secretary explained earlier this afternoon is a half-measure designed merely to enable the Liberals to boast that they have eliminated the GST on books, when in fact they have done no such thing.

Taxing books means taxing knowledge. It means taxing education and, in the longer term, it means taxing employment, given how important education is to finding a job in the new economy that is emerging in Canada.

The Bloc Quebecois has been fighting since the very beginning, even under the Conservatives, to have books exempted from the tax. But this can only be a total victory if all books are exempt from the GST, not just those bought by literacy and educational institutions.

With the federal election looming ahead, this government is resorting to a favourite strategy of the Liberal Party, that of the coverup. Whether it is the Somalia inquiry, the Krever commission, the Airbus affair or the Pearson Airport issue, the Liberals want to hide the truth from Quebecers and Canadians at any cost. They want to sweep everything under the rug as quickly as possible, before the election campaign.

The Liberals display exactly the same attitude, which is something of a tradition with them, toawrd the GST. The Liberal government is obviously embarrassed by the broken promise made by the Prime Minister and the heritage minister to eliminate the GST, a tax which they claim to hate. In order to avoid having to explain this broken promise, the Liberals want to reach an agreement at any cost with the maritime provinces on GST harmonization, so as to be able to claim that they at least did something, however little, to change a tax that is resented by all Canadians.

It is not the first time that Liberals make a colossal error which, in the end, ends up costing hundreds of millions of dollars to Canadian taxpayers. However, this time the Liberal government is also making a mockery of democracy by preventing elected members from the opposition to properly carry out their duties as parliamentarians.

Quebec Pharmacare Plan February 5th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, given that the vast majority of employers and insurers in Quebec have already agreed to adjust to the new provincial pharmacare plan, will the minister admit that Ottawa's refusal to co-operate with the Quebec government does, in any case, adversely affect over 100,000 people, including retired public servants and their family members?

Quebec Pharmacare Plan February 5th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health.

On January 1, Quebec's new pharmacare plan came into effect. While the Quebec government managed to reach an agreement with the majority of employers and insurers in the province, Treasury Board, which is the employer for federal public servants, refuses to adjust its employees' insurance plan according to Quebec's new pharmacare plan.

Will the minister confirm that his government refuses to adjust the federal public service insurance plan to Quebec's new pharmacare plan?

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) Act February 3rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the House to the parallel between Bill C-65, which was previously before the House, and Bill C-49.

As the official opposition critic for the Treasury Board and Public Service Renewal, I would like to remind the House that Bill C-65, which was an Act to reorganize and dissolve certain federal agencies, was first introduced on December 14, 1995, and that Bill C-49, debated in the House of Commons in October 1996, deals with administrative tribunals and aims at reorganizing and dissolving certain federal agencies.

Members will remember that Bill C-65 was supposed to change and reorganize 15 federal agencies and dissolve 7 others. The expected changes were to lead to the abolition of 150 governor in council appointments and savings of $1 million, but the federal debt keeps increasing by more that $100 million every day. Bill C-65 was expected to reduce patronage and the waste of public funds; however, as reports published in the Globe and Mail on July 8 and December 21, 1994 indicated, under the Liberal government, political appointments were as rampant as ever.

The savings resulting from the minister's bill, Bill C-65, represented only one-eighteenth of one per cent of the savings associated with the 45,000 public service positions that were abolished.

Why would the minister be interested in reorganizing and dissolving certain federal agencies to realize savings of $1 million a year which have a minor impact on the federal budget compared to the savings associated with cutting 45,000 jobs?

In some cases, eliminating any legal reference to advisory boards in order to reduce the number of political appointments and giving lower levels of authority the liberty to decide if such advisory boards are necessary leave some doubt as to the Liberal goverment's commitment to administrative transparency.

In the case of Bill C-65, which was aimed at eliminating any reference, for example, to the National Library Advisory Board, it seemed that the director of the National Library had every intention of keeping a similar board with more or less the same members. This is just an example. In the case of Bill C-65, there were no savings and a little more power to the director of the Library. Will the House of Commons have the right to examine appointments to such advisory boards, which in fact will no longer be legally constituted? How about administrative transparency in a case like this?

That was Bill C-65, an omnibus bill that created the illusion of transparency and deprived the government of the right to examine appointments to advosory boards which will no longer have legal status. Under the cover of administrative rationalization, this bill reduced the power of Parliament and opened the door to an even greater number of patronage appointments, something the Liberals are very good at.

Coming back to the bill before us today, we can draw a parallel with Bill C-65 which dates back to 1994. Bill C-49, regarding which an amendment has been proposed today, brings major changes to the way administrative tribunals operate.

We are told its purpose is to standardize the disciplinary process in administrative tribunals as well as the procedure for appointing the heads of these tribunals, to dissolve seven federal agencies and restructure or decrease the size of thirteen others, and to standardize pay terminology and make a number of other amendments.

Bill C-49 could have resolved the fundamental problem of partisan appointments to administrative tribunals. Instead, the federal government chose to return to a not-so-glorious past in this regard, rather than modernize the entire appointment process, as the Government of Quebec is getting ready to do.

At a time when the public is so cynical about politicians, the President of the Treasury Board of Canada has introduced even more partisan procedures that will give political authorities increased control over administrative tribunals.

The bill establishes a new mechanism to remove from office people appointed to administrative tribunals by the governor in council. This is in clause 3 of the bill. Also, after certain procedures, the governor in council will have the power to remove these people from office for cause, as specified in the bill.

Only after receiving an inquiry report will the minister have the power to make a recommendation to "suspend the member without pay, remove the member from office or impose any other disciplinary measure or any remedial measure". This is in clause 14 of the bill. The minister's recommendations are entirely at his discretion, regardless of the content of the inquiry report.

All chairpersons of administrative tribunals will henceforth be designated instead of appointed. Such an amendment leaves the chairperson very vulnerable to political pressure from the government, which can simply designate a new chairperson as it sees fit. There is a danger that these new measures will further undermine the credibility of administrative tribunals and in particular leave them even more dependent on the political arm.

It is unacceptable to introduce measures that are such a serious attack on the independence and impartiality of administrative tribunals. It truly runs counter to the transparency the public wants from a modern and progressive government.

The two bills I have compared today, Bill C-65 and Bill C-49, dealt successively with the reorganization of certain federal agencies and of administrative tribunals, but the anticipated annual savings of one million dollars in the first case and a reduced right of review by Parliament and an increase in partisan appointments in the second leave us with the impression of another promise not kept by this government.

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to support the amendment put forward today by the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, and seconded by the member for Frontenac, which reads as follows:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after "That" and substituting the following: "Bill C-49, an act to authorize remedial and disciplinary measures in relation to members of certain administrative tribunals, to reorganize and dissolve certain federal agencies and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time six months hence".

Finance December 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague from Chicoutimi put it, it is most regrettable. The Minister of Finance says that, when the Liberals came to office, a little over three years ago, the federal deficit was $42 billion and that he lowered it to slightly less than $40 billion-$39.7 billion, I think-at the end of the first year of his mandate. The objective for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1996 was $32.7 billion.

With a supreme effort, the Minister of Finance brought it down to $28.4 billion. What we must remember is that with the $5 billion annual surplus in the unemployment insurance fund, the Government of Canada's real deficit is not $28 billion, but $33 billion. Last year, it was not $39 billion, but rather $43 billion or $44 billion.

Without the surplus from the unemployment insurance fund, which the minister appropriates to artificially reduce his deficit, the federal deficit has hardly moved since the Liberals took office. I also agree with my colleague from Chicoutimi that our unemployment rate is artificially too high and the money that should go to job creation is artificially and improperly being used to reduce the deficit, which is in fact much higher.

Finance December 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question and comments. I may say that the main reason why I did not speak at length about the economy of Quebec is that we happen to be in the House of Commons where, as parliamentarians, our priority should be to discuss the public finances of the federal government.

As for their impact on the finances of the Government of Quebec, I referred to this a few moments ago, but as far as Quebec's public finances as such are concerned, I think this is a subject for the Quebec National Assembly.

I would also like to say to the hon. member that when he makes allusions to political uncertainty, what keeps political and economic uncertainty alive, both among the general public and among investors is more likely to be the messages sent by federalist spokespersons like the hon. member than the situation as such.

The public and investors are not afraid of a second or a third referendum on the political future of Quebec.

People are far more afraid of the uncertainty or the messages being spread around by people like the hon. member, who wonders what might happen in a sovereign Quebec and tries to frighten people or scare away international investors. The problem is more the kind of talk we are hearing than the fact that a third referendum is scheduled to be held in Quebec in three or four years time. I think that is the problem.

The hon. member also mentioned the governor of the Bank of Canada and monetary policy. I want to tell him that as far as I know, until Quebec becomes a sovereign state, Canada's monetary policy is still determined by the governor of the Bank of Canada.

The federal Minister of Finance also has an opinion to give, which he does every year and which does, of course, influence the governor of the Bank of Canada. What has been very hard on Quebecers so far, especially on the people of Montreal, is the tendency to keep inflation very low, as soon the economy shows the slightest sign of overheating in Toronto or Vancouver, and what we have seen in the past 15 or 20 years is that Quebec, and especially the Montreal region, is always the first to lose jobs when interest rates are raised. As soon as the economy gets up steam again and the Bank of Canada lets interest rates go down, Ontario and the Toronto region are always the first to benefit.

In the end, the Montreal region is always the first to lose jobs and always the last to recover them when interest rates are brought down again.

Actually, I think the hon. member put us on the right track. Once again we have seen why Quebec must become sovereign. It is because Quebec is not the master of its own monetary policy. As long as Quebec is a part of Canada, it will always be the governor of the Bank of Canada, supported by the Minister of Finance of Canada, who determines the cost of borrowing. Quebec and especially the Montreal region will always be at a disadvantage.