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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was federal.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 43% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Government Contracts February 16th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, in June 2003, as a Liberal member of Parliament, I tabled a question in the House concerning sponsorship programs so that the people of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik could find out the answer today.

I have received an answer from the House of Commons which reads as follows:

The amounts shown represent the amounts committed, including the commissions paid to the coordinating agency—3%— and to the communications agencies—12%—for the events approved before May 27, 2002.

Here is an example: the Liberal riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik received only $65,000 under this program, while the riding of the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, received over $5 million. Is that what they call a parallel culture for those in the Bloc Quebecois, who received 500 times more in sponsorships than the remote regions?

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply February 12th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. There are the large urban centres, but let us take for example the CED, Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, which looks after resource-based regions. I have been advocating for several months that small communities in resource regions should take part.

The best example we have is FedNor, in northern Ontario. We would really like to have an economic development agency for the resource regions and the small communities, and even the larger ones, in those regions.

There is one example in Quebec at present. One in all of Quebec. Speaking of the large urban centres, they are grabbing projects worth $24 million.

There is western diversification; we know how that works. In the Maritimes, there is the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, or ACOA, and in Ontario, FedNor. But we in Quebec would like our smaller regions to have an agency just for the resource-based regions with appropriate criteria for development.

What is most important—and I am coming to a conclusion—is getting up-to-date criteria. People must not wait a year. Decisions must be made the same week or the same month as the file is submitted. Because, when our bank manager loans us money to make a purchase, he makes the decision in one or two weeks. Right now, the big agencies make people wait between three and a half and five months. Promoters are exasperated. What is important is to listen closely and give an honest answer immediately. Do not keep promoters waiting for nothing. In my opinion, 30 days is long enough. It is possible to give the resource regions a positive answer for a good project.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply February 12th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to take part in the debate on the throne speech. As we know, the objectives of the Government of Canada are very clear.

We want a Canada, and that includes the regions, with strong social foundations, where people are treated with dignity, where they are given a hand when needed and where no one is left behind. We want a country for Canadians. But we also want these vast regions of the country, and the individuals, families and communities that live in them, to have the tools they need to find local solutions to local problems.

We want a strong economy for the 21st century, with well-paying and meaningful work; ready at the forefront of the next big technological revolution; and built on a solid national foundation.

To this end, the Government of Canada is committed to a new deal for Canada’s municipalities, always in cooperation with the provinces, and this deal includes our large region of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik.

Our region covers an area of some 802,000 square kilometres and has a population of about 100,000. The distance from the south to the north, is 2,000 kilometres. Ours is a vast Nordic and semi-urban region.

The Speech from the Throne talks about health issues. We already know that some projects are truly based on cooperation. We also know that a pilot project is currently underway in Val d'Or, in the Vallée de l'Or. The purpose of the project is to help address the shortage of doctors, because we know this shortage is a problem in remote areas.

Nonetheless, we know that the institutions, the committees set up in northern hospitals in Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, have found solutions. They are going to put together a multidisciplinary team of health professionals. This team will be responsible for monitoring the health of patients who require special care.

The Val-d'Or project is consistent with Quebec's desire to create an integrated services network, along the lines of hospital mergers, and always in cooperation with the Government of Canada.

Let us come back to our great region. We are talking mainly about regional and rural development. The Government therefore remains committed to supporting economic development through the regional agencies where the focus must be on strengthening the sinews of an economy for the 21st century, building on indigenous strength.

The government will develop a northern strategy, ensuring that economic development related to energy and mining is brought on stream in partnership with people in the know, in other words by forming associations with the provincial governments.

In November 2003, I wrote to the Minister of Natural Resources, who responded today, telling me that with respect to the Prospector's Association or the Quebec Mineral Exploration Association, its president, Pierre Bérubé, has made several interventions in the past few months to discuss mineral exploration. That is an example of how the government can find solutions in cooperation with people in the know.

However, we should look at the Speech from the Throne, which says we must work in partnership with northern Canadians. Agreements should be entered into by Quebec and Canada, like the ones that existed several years ago, which were made for the long term; these were five-year agreements.Cooperation with the provinces should be sought in order to be able to move forward with specific mining projects.

In northern Ontario, FedNor, the Federal Economic Development Initiative in Northern Ontario, is collaborating very well with the people of the area to find solutions. That is what we want for Quebec. We have CED, Canada Economic Development, but that includes the big urban centres. We know that these large urban centres receive nearly 75% of the money available for regional development. We do not want to be a part of it.

In my riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, the paramount issue is communications. The people are talking about telecommunications and technology. But there is a problem in these vast regions, in the matter of broadband and the Internet. We know that, in smaller communities, the government is spending millions—so it has announced—but we must find a consensus.

We are seeing something else as well. There is the issue of licence renewal for Radio Nord Communications. The unionized employees have been on strike for over a year. Radio Nord has been closed since then. The union is demanding separate newscasts, better separation between radio and television, and adequate staffing covering the whole territory.

We know that the CRTC is responsible. When people come to talk to us in our region, they always say, “It is up to you, the government, to fix this”. But, in telecommunications, the CRTC makes the decisions, at arm's length from the government. The only thing we can do is to speak, as I am doing now, to pass the message along.

We know that the CRTC is very aware of what is going on in the House of Commons. It is important that the CRTC demand that the minimum number of minutes produced locally each week be increased. This is what business people in remote regions, and not just the union, want.

But let us get back to another issue that is really important in our vast region of 802,000 square kilometres. Ours is the largest federal electoral district in the ten provinces of Canada. I represent the only riding located north of the 60th parallel. It includes northern communities called northern villages, where the Inuit are currently living.

We are talking primarily about aboriginal and Inuit people. We know that we want to fully share our country's prosperity, but we also know that, as a whole, aboriginal people, be it the Cree, the Naskapi, the Algonquin or the Inuit, contribute to the economy. Everything that gets to their communities comes from the south, which means that people in the south also contribute to the economy. Some might say that the Inuit do not pay taxes, but that is not true. The Inuit from Nunavik pay taxes like all of us, like all the members of this House. They pay school taxes, federal and provincial income tax, and they contribute to the economy.

There are problems in that vast region of ours. We know that, in the Chapais-Chibougamau area, people really want to be involved in the mining and forestry sectors. The problem that we are currently experiencing with the United States regarding our softwood lumber is slowing down the economy. Currently, we may have fewer layoffs in our region because companies do not want to shut down. They want to put people to work and so on.

Even though our government says in the throne speech that we will be involved in the mining and forestry sectors, a long term solution must be found regarding softwood lumber and agriculture. The United States has been trying to get at us for 50 years through our softwood lumber. They have imposed a tax and anti-dumping duties. Still, in our regions, whether it is Val-d'Or, Senneterre, Lebel-sur-Quévillon, Matagami, Chapais-Chibougamau or James Bay, the forestry sector is really important.

When we take a close look at what is going on with agriculture in a northern region such as Abitibi-Témiscamingue, we realize that there is a national crisis. It happened in western Canada, but the situation back home is really serious. I often ask my government to create programs that do not have a set duration, but rather an indeterminate one. This national crisis could last two or three years. The government is aware of what is going on in other countries.

The throne speech says that the government will work to foster a technologically advanced agricultural sector and find solutions to ensure the survival of farmers. Therefore, I am telling the government that a permanent program is needed, not one with a specific end date; for example, saying that it will end December 31 this year, and then start all over again. As always, action must be taken in collaboration with the provinces.

Currently, in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the situation with regard to farming and the mad cow crisis is not the same as in southern Quebec. We know what is happening. I was talking with Alain Richard, the President of the UPA, who said that the issues are not the same. The governments of Canada and Quebec have done everything possible to ensure it is the best program. That is what we want. We know this is a national crisis. It is going to last two or three years.

An agreement regarding the James Bay Cree was signed on November 11, 1975. The government should respect the James Bay agreement. The great chief, Dr. Ted Moses, and all the chiefs of Cree communities along James Bay have been making demands for several months now, particularly with regard to housing.

In these communities, housing is critical. Even nowadays, in Cree communities in James Bay and Inuit communities in Nunavik, 15 to 18 people can share a two-bedroom house. Approximately 5 or 6 kids will share one room. The throne speech said that housing solutions must be found, and not just in the major urban centres. We need to think about housing in aboriginal communities, both Inuit and non-Inuit.

You know how it works. Everything comes from the south: wood, windows and all manner of other things. In other words, the aboriginal people and the Inuit are part of this economy along with the people in the south.

As far as Nunavik is concerned, in that huge riding, fishing is an issue. Fishing, shrimp fishing in particular, is a means of survival for the Inuit of Nunavik. We know there are quotas. In the north, there are beluga quotas. The Inuit have a limit of 14 per community, but would like that number to be 20. We know there is overhunting. However, I think the government should increase the quotas for the communities in Nunavik, because if they are too low, people are just going to hunt on the sly. I would rather see them hunt in the open, with improved quotas.

In the throne speech, the Government of Canada stated the intention to seek solutions for all the aboriginal communities in my riding.

Now, to go back to the mining sector, since we are talking about local problems. This is an opportunity to speak about what is going on in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, James Bay and Nunavik. People will say that is far away.

Mining is important there. It takes seven years to get a mine up and running. There is a problem in Matagami at this time, one to which the people are trying to find a solution. They know that one of the mines is about to close. Mines are closing all over Canada. If the ore is exhausted, then a new mine must be found.

The people at the Noranda mine already have a project called Espérance, but they are waiting for the price of copper or zinc to go up enough before they start up. The workers in that region are really far—approximately 250 kilometres away—from any big city in the south. A way must be found for Noranda to get this project under way in order to ensure the people of long term employment.

The throne speech contains many wishes, but we know nothing will be fixed right away. A budget is needed. The government, through the Minister of Finance, can put a program in place at any point in the year, as far as mining operations are concerned.

In conclusion, it is really important to find solutions for remote areas. If we look at the issue of primary resources, in the forest industry, 68% of our primary resource in softwood lumber is processed in major urban centres. It is transported over 500 kilometres to the south. In its Speech from the Throne, the government supports us with respect to secondary and tertiary processing.

It is not easy for a promoter who wants to bring a project to the table. We need to find new ways of handing the financing. The Business Development Bank of Canada can help with loans, and also with the softwood lumber crisis. People are talking. There is $2 billion in an account at the border. The United States said, in an agreement in principle, that it is prepared to reimburse 52%. If it is prepared to say we will get 52% back, I am all for it. Let them free that money up and return it for Canadian industries to use. As much as $1 billion could be made available for the industries to use.

In the end, with respect to the softwood lumber crisis, I would still prefer action, a specific judgment, a legal result so that we can win in the long run. Nonetheless, in the meantime, if they want to repay 52% of the money that has already been paid out, they could return it to Canadian forest companies. We are talking about $1 billion that is sitting somewhere. It could help the forest companies. Many of them do not lay off anyone. The employees continue to work at the expense of profits.

In the Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister of Canada clearly said we would move forward and find new approaches. Together, we will be able to find solutions. It will not be easy, but we must work together in cooperation with all the political parties, for the future of our young people in particular.

Senator Marcel Prud'homme February 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, Senator Prud'homme is one of the most senior members of this Parliament and a former Liberal member of the House of Commons, elected nine times in a row by those whom he still terms “my people”. Some may hate him, some adore him, but all respect him.

Having been the Liberal member for a Quebec riding such as Saint-Denis for 30 years has given him a depth of experience, the experience of a man who is totally connected with the people.

Right from the time he was first elected on February 10, 1964, he quickly became a speaker in demand all over Canada. For the 10 years that he has been in the other place, he has been regularly able to stir up that upper chamber with his well thought out and often provocative arguments.

Forty uninterrupted years in political life. Good for you, Senator Marcel Prud'homme.

Cree of Northern Quebec February 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, in the Toronto Star of Sunday, February 1, 2004, reporter Peter Gorrie quoted Jean Gagné, Ottawa's chief negotiator with the Cree of Northern Quebec as saying that Quebec's recognition of the Cree as a nation has no real significance and is a question of terms.

Such a comment by Mr. Gagné is inappropriate at this point, as well as unfair to all the James Bay Cree. SInce he describes the Cree-Canada file as merely a matter of terms, he will not have anything more to say on this file.

The James Bay Cree no longer trust this federal negotiator, and neither do I. I am calling upon the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to appoint a new federal negotiator for the Quebec Cree-Canada file.

Electoral Boundaries February 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. Is the minister going to introduce a bill next week in this House based on the former Bill C-53 to change the name of certain ridings? For instance, Nunavik—Eeyou would become Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou in April 2004.

Health February 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, according to a study by the Public Health Branch of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services on the health of young children in northern Quebec, the mortality rate of Inuit children under five years of age is five times higher than that of young Quebeckers.

In Nunavik, many more newborns suffer from respiratory distress or serious hearing problems. Babies are born healthy; problems develop later. There are several theories about what causes respiratory problems, including the dryness of homes and the fact that so many people smoke.

According to Serge Déry, “The lack of housing in this area often results in three generations living under one roof. This not only promotes the spread of infection, but also other social problems”.

During the winter months, in Nunavik, there are sometimes 16 to 18 Inuit living in a two-bedroom house.

Business of the House February 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I took note of the comments of the opposition member.

The Prime Minister of Canada effectively said that he will meet with representatives from the provinces to discuss and find reliable solutions. Indeed, we know what mayors in municipalities are saying, in my region as well as in a number of municipalities across Canada. Even in your region, they are very happy with the Speech from the Throne.

There is also the gas tax. We know how this tax works. It is sent directly through cheques, and so on. It costs almost nothing to the federal government to collect gas taxes. We know what is happening.

However, I want to tell you that we must always keep cooperating with the provinces, particularly in their jurisdictions. We must not quarrel too much and we must move forward. This is the mandate that was given to the Prime Minister of Canada. He wants to move forward without any quarrel, to make taxpayers very happy.

Business of the House February 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Nunavut.

After the Speech from the Throne yesterday, I did some checking in my riding. The first thing we members of Parliament do, here in the House of Commons, is to go find out what the people in our ridings are saying. That is what I did.

I would like to mention to the House that my riding, Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, covers more than 800,000 square kilometres; it includes Nunavik, the Inuit, the James Bay Cree, the future Chapais-Chibougamau sector, and to the south, the Abitibi-Témiscamingue, with a total population of about 100,000. It is important to mention this, because Quebec is a big place.

I listened to the Radio-Canada news broadcast where stakeholders were interviewed. The municipal elected officials were very pleased with the throne speech, especially the fact that Ottawa promised to completely absolve municipalities from paying the tax on goods and services, the GST. The possibility of returning part of gasoline taxes to municipalities will also be considered.

In total, the amount being invested to help Canada's cities is around $7 billion over 10 years.

I was listening to the comments from the mayors. The mayor of one big city, namely Val-d'Or, Fernand Trahan, said that it is important and that the Government of Quebec should also take this kind of initiative to help Quebec's towns and cities, especially in remote areas. This year, in Val-d'Or, it will mean an additional $458,000 in revenue. That is significant for the remote areas.

We also heard that the mayor of Rouyn-Noranda is very happy. He says it is a very useful measure because there is an immediate return, and that is true.

The Government of Canada is still expecting to sign a tax agreement with the municipalities in order to share a part of its billions of dollars in revenue from the GST or the gasoline excise tax. We know that the Quebec government of Jean Charest opposes this.

In any case, our Prime Minister, the Liberal MP for LaSalle—Émard, intends to sit down and begin negotiating with all the provinces and with the Government of Quebec before he transfers any money at all, even if it means negotiating individual agreements with each one of them or using other fiscal measures that would produce the same results.

The Government of Canada is committed to a new deal for Canada’s municipalities. This is not the first time we say so. For several months now, the Prime Minister of Canada and member for LaSalle—Émard has been saying that we will negotiate and move forward to find new ways of helping municipalities.

This new deal will target the infrastructure needed to support quality of life and sustainable growth. This new deal will deliver reliable, predictable and long-term funding.

The Speech from the Throne also deals with the environment. We want to develop an equitable national plan, in partnership with the provinces, to meet and even exceed the Kyoto targets requiring Canada to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6% from 1990 levels by 2012.

We are also asked to put our own house in order. We are responsible for contaminated sites. The Government of Canada will undertake a $3.5 billion program on 10 years to clean up federal sites.

We have contaminated sites in our big area of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik. Even in the Nunavik territory there are over 100 contaminated sites. We have to find solutions, always in cooperation with the province of Quebec, but also with the Inuit from Nunavik and the Cree from James Bay, depending on the agreement that can be reached.

In the health area, the Government of Canada says it is committed to reducing the wait time associated with diagnostic and treatment services. This is important. There is much talk about health. We all know what the Prime Minister thinks about that. We know the present government's vision on the matter. There is a level of cooperation with the provinces. There is much to do. This will take time, but many things are being settled between the Government of Canada and the provinces or the Government of Quebec.

We also have to invest in research centres. In our area, a remote area, Canada wants to create innovation bases equipped with first class university research centres.

In Abitibi-Témiscamingue, there is the Université du Québec. Smart regulations have to be implemented, as well as innovative financing, in order to make our country a world leader in marketing bright ideas.

Consequently, it is important for small universities in the resource regions to obtain budgets to conduct studies on the environment, the mining and forestry sectors or the boreal forest.

It is also important to have a Canada where all the regions are represented. For example, in regions like mine, there are farms, forests, mines and the fisheries sector. People forget that Abitibi-Témiscamingue is a mining and forestry region. Nunavik has shrimp fishing. We must find ways to help the Inuit.

Often, when we say we are going to help the Inuit, people think we are going to give them lots of money. The Inuit of Nunavik pay taxes like everyone else here tonight. They pay GST, and municipal and school taxes. Many people in Canada do not know this.

With regard to the question about the advantages of the 21st century economy, we cannot talk solely about the fisheries. We have to talk about rural communities where modern technologies are helping to bring people closer. It is not all in the throne speech. Industry Canada implemented initiatives several weeks, even months, ago with regard to broadband technology.

When we talk about broadband technology, we are talking about high-speed Internet for isolated regions like Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the municipality of James Bay and the Chapais-Chibougamau area that are working in collaboration with the James Bay Cree and particularly Nunavik, which is also important. Nunavik could operate with satellites. We must find new ways to help people in these regions.

People in such regions so isolated from the major urban centres buy everything they need from the south. Everything: food, bread, etc. Every day, there are flights to the north to help those living in these regions.

We need to do far more in order to guarantee that our investments in knowledge translate into business income. Often we hear our local small business people telling us that they lack funding. The Speech from the Throne states as follows:

Our small, innovative firms face two key obstacles--access to adequate early-stage financing; and the capacity to conduct the research and development needed to commercialize their ideas and really grow their business.

They need help, therefore, particularly in the resource regions, for secondary and tertiary processing.

We know that the throne speech does not contain everything. The budget will be brought down soon. The government can also table in the House, at any time, an order-in-council to create a new program.

The government will also be helping these small businesses to overcome obstacles through such means as the Canada Development Bank risk capital capabilities.

One other really important point is that the government will make available the whole range of expertise and services provided by the National Research Council. People are saying that this will be not apply in the large outlying regions. I do know that in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue sector, a public servant has been appointed to service the entire region. Jean-Yves Simard really helps small businesses with start-up shortfalls by providing them with the research capacity and expertise they cannot attain on their own.

What is really important, however, in yesterday's Speech from the Throne is regional and rural development. It is of great importance.

I remember a speech made on February 14, 2002 in Acadie by the present Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Liberal member for LaSalle—Émard, then the Minister of Finance. He said that the next budget would truly reflect the major resource regions and the urban centres.

It is important for the people of the north to find solutions, always in conjunction with the government. We must not lose sight of the fact that the great outlying regions must be developed, either with Canada-Quebec agreements or with the assistance of agencies in the resource regions. This is really important.

In closing, we must not forget the other areas of concerns, particularly social housing for the Cree and Inuit. At the present time, I know of families with 16 to 18 members wintering in basic two-bedroom houses. We must work together to find solutions and budgets for those solutions.

Thank you for this opportunity to explain briefly what is going on in the vast region of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik.

Mining Industry February 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, Quebec enjoys a good reputation among Canadian and North American mining companies. According to a survey, directors of mining companies consider it their favourite province.

Quebec ranked fourth on a list which included the Canadian provinces, a number of American states, some of Australia's states, and 20 countries with mining potential, such as Peru, Ghana, South Africa, Russia and Indonesia.

The respondents, heads of 159 mining companies, mainly Canadian or American, want clear, transparent and stable regulations, along with a competitive taxation system.

The federal Liberal government and the Government of Quebec encourage mining development with a competitive tax policy and clear regulations. Those issuing mining permits are clearly in favour of finding solutions, not creating problems.

Quebec has good mining potential.