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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

Main Estimates 2003-04 June 12th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the NDP member for Churchill for her excellent speech. She gave an accurate description of the facts that we see in outlying regions.

I am happy to have an opportunity to talk about the importance of re-establishing the funding requested by VIA Rail, as laid out in the main estimates for 2003-04.

In April 2000, the Government of Canada made an historic announcement to maintain national rail travel by investing $401.9 million in major capital projects by VIA Rail to modernize the corporation and make it more attractive and reliable for Canadians. This investment was to be made over a five-year period, from 2000 to 2005.

This investment was in addition to the commitment made by the Government of Canada to provide VIA with long-term, stable funding of $171 million per year over the next ten years, until 2010.

The reason VIA has had good budgets in recent years is because of the whole support team, the VIA Rail team, with people like Jean Pelletier, Marc LeFrançois, and all of the employees. It is not just because of the president. The president relies on employees to budget during the year.

Since this announcement, the House approved the main estimates for VIA Rail for fiscal 2000-01, 2001-02, and 2002-03. The capitalization plan for $401.9 million is part of the funding approved for 2000-01. A reduction in the funding requested for the current fiscal year will have a significant impact on the ongoing implementation of this investment, depriving Canadians from all regions of improved passenger rail service.

I want to touch briefly on the scope of the benefits resulting from this investment.

The 2000 announcement preceded the renaissance of passenger rail service in Canada. It was made in response to recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Transport, which asked the government to provide long-term stable support to meet the objectives for passenger rail service in Canada.

The new money was to be spent in key areas such as renewing the rail fleet, modernizing train stations, improving infrastructure, signalling along the Quebec City-Windsor corridor and implementing a environmental waste management system for the current fleet.

This five-year investment demonstrated the government's long-term commitment to maintaining a national passenger rail service, a service that linked the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Great Lakes to Hudson's Bay, a truly Canadian service.

It must also be kept in mind that VIA Rail has been trying for some years to improve its service in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, or in other words that part of its route that runs from Montreal to La Tuque and Senneterre. The train stops at Senneterre, but VIA Rail has been doing its level best to improve its service to the Val-d'Or to Rouyn-Noranda sector and Northern Ontario. They are currently being blocked by Canadian National. As hon. members may know, VIA Rail leases the track in certain sectors, but at present CN is charging VIA too much for using its tracks, and thus is blocking the plans for Senneterre—Val-d'Or and Val-d'Or—Rouyn-Noranda.

We all know that our national railways have always made a contribution to the building of this nation. Here in Canada rail is a vital link, not only geographically, but also historically. It is also vital for our very identity as Canadians. The investment of $401.9 million is helping to strengthen those ties by providing Canadians with a revitalized VIA Rail service, a truly Canadian service.

Canada has many transportation challenges facing it, one of the greatest of which is to provide Canadians with a safe, economical and ecological alternative to automobile travel between cities. This is a promise other countries have already kept, particularly in Europe and Asia.

One excellent solution to the congestion we see daily on our city and suburban streets and our highways is to encourage people to leave their cars behind and take the train. Rail travel can also help us reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in Canada because it is far less polluting than the automobile. Since over one-quarter of our emissions are from transportation, any measure we can adopt to encourage a more environmentally friendly option will be welcome.

For many Canadians in the north or in distant regions of this country, rail transportation is essential, particularly in places where there are no other options.

The hon. member for Churchill, from the NDP, said a while ago that the remote regions were important. The transportation system has to be efficient for the whole population.

For 20 years, VIA Rail has offered travellers economical, high quality, safe and reliable transportation.

In recent years, VIA Rail has done excellent work to reduce and control its costs, while maximizing its revenues, providing high quality service and relying on the inherent market forces of passenger rail service as one of the safest and most efficient means of transportation.

In the past 10 years, VIA Rail has worked hard to support the government's efforts to put its financial house in order. Its success is due to the whole VIA Rail team, as I was saying, from the president to the passenger service agent on the platform.

VIA Rail has considerably reduced its operating costs and increased its revenues. VIA Rail now produces twice the revenue with each train and does it at lower cost, offering what is arguably the best service in its history.

The figures attest to this. Since 1990, VIA Rail has worked hard to cut over $250 million from its annual budget, and it has done so while continuing to improve its services and add new products.

In 2002, its revenues were more than $270 million, $17 million more than the previous fiscal year. It achieved this despite the fact that government funding to VIA was at an all-time low, at 63% of 1990 levels.

Last year, VIA Rail had over four million passengers and registered 948 million passenger miles, for its best performance in a decade.

These figures testify to the enormous potential for future growth. However, this potential can only be properly tapped with the help of this significant and urgent investment in operating funds announced in 2000. That is why it is essential to re-establish the funding requirements for VIA Rail as set out in the Main Estimates.

The $401.9 million investment, along with the annual $171 million in subsidies to VIA Rail, put a stop to the deterioration of passenger rail service and gave VIA Rail the means it needed to operate safely and efficiently in the coming years.

VIA's capital investment program responds to the growing demand for a modern, efficient, coast-to-coast passenger rail service. It will provide modern equipment, better infrastructure, better station facilities, improved safety and environmental practices—all as part of a truly modern network of services linking communities across the country, provided CN allows VIA to use its tracks at a lesser cost.

VIA has purchased 139 ultra-modern, state-of-the-art passenger cars, expanding its total fleet by one third. The first new passenger cars were introduced on the Enterprise, the Montreal-Toronto overnight service, in June 2002.

VIA is also undertaking a complete overhaul and refurbishment of rail diesel cars used on Vancouver Island and in northern Ontario. The refurbished equipment will dramatically improve the reliability and comfort of these services.

Infrastructure improvements have already been made on rail lines between Montreal and Ottawa. These improvements will shorten the trip between Montreal and Ottawa by 25 minutes. The trip can now be made in 1 hour and 35 minutes.

VIA's capital investment program produces results for Canadians across the country. Improved facilities, better infrastructure, and new equipment will have a dramatic impact across VIA’s entire network.

By ensuring the continuity of the capital investment plan, Canadians will enjoy better access to trains across the network, more frequent, faster services, refurbished stations, and modern, comfortable equipment.

The Government of Canada, as most other countries, uses public funds because it owes it to the taxpayer, who has been subsidizing passenger rail service for many years, to do its best to make good on their investment by providing them with an attractive method of transportation that they will want to use.

This new major investment will provide the country with a national passenger rail service that is worthy of the 21st century, and one that all Canadians will be proud of.

Restoring the levels of funding requested in the main estimates will ensure that the promises made to Canadians in 2000 will be kept.

Taxation June 11th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the former Parti Quebecois government under Bernard Landry had established a network of five-dollar-a-day daycare centres by making two changes in the taxes that affect Quebec families.

Families with children have borne a large share of the tax burden in the past, and they still do so.

In an article in La Presse , on June 3, 2003, Claude Picher wrote:

The authors of the study concluded that 72% of Quebec families are financially worse off. Essentially, these are the households with incomes over $25,000; below that amount, you win, above it, you lose, and depending on various factors, you may lose between $389 and $608 per year.

The combined impact of the two measures, five-dollar-a-day daycare and Quebec's budget tightening, varies considerably depending on the size of the family, its income, the age of the children and many other factors.

Shame.

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League June 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. On May 28, a mere six days before the annual draft for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, which will take place this week at Val-d'Or from June 4 to 7, Gilles Pelletier, the Director General of the Sponsorship Program, refused a contribution of $15,000 for the event. It will involve organizations from Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and various American states, Maine in particular.

For this provincial, national and international event, will the minister review the decision of her officials, who waited until only six days were left to announce—

Laboratoire Télébec Mobilité June 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has announced funding of $1,531,100 to the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue for its Télébec Mobilité underground communications research laboratory.

This new establishment will carry out its activities in the CANMET experimental mine in Val d'Or.

This project was made possible through Canada Economic Development for the Regions of Quebec, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the CANMET experimental mine, and private partners such as Télébec Mobilité, Bell Canada, Nortel Mobility, Soredem and the UQAT foundation.

The goal of UQAT's research is to perfect a multipurpose underground communication system in order to provide security for mine workers in Quebec, Canada and the world.

Msgr. Gérard Drainville May 26th, 2003

Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister of Canada addressed his best wishes to Msgr. Gérard Drainville on his 50 years of priesthood, 25 years of that as a bishop, which were celebrated on May 18, 2003, at the Amos cathedral in Abitibi.

The Prime Minister of Canada wrote the following:

I have no doubt that this very special day will reawaken many precious memories. In the many years you have devoted to serving the Church, you have done a remarkable job, deserving of respect and admiration.

The celebrations marking this double anniversary attest to the affection and gratitude of those to whom you have devoted so many years.

My congratulations and best wishes to you for the future.

Radio Nord Communications May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the strikers from Radio Nord, members of the Syndicat des employés en communications de l'Abitibi—Témiscamingue, have filed a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Boardconcerning unfair policies.

Despite the strike which began on October 25, 2002, Radio Nord Communications continues to operate its radio and television stations by using strikebreakers.

Radio Nord Communications is using more than 25 individuals or companies on contract to perform part or all of the work of the striking employees. Today, the union's president, André Anglehart, and many of the striking men and women, are here in the House of Commons to demonstrate against Radio Nord Communications, which is thwarting their bargaining power with the presence of strikebreakers.

Supply May 1st, 2003

I agree, Mr. Speaker, and I will relay this to the Minister of Labour of Canada. There is no doubt that this would be easy to do, since it already exists in Quebec and in British Columbia, where disputes are settled without difficulty.

What is going on at Radio Nord today also affects families. This has been going on for far too long. In some cases, even a single day is too long, when it comes to not establishing the practice of hiring strikebreakers.

Company officials maintain that they are not using strikebreakers, that the people doing the work are from Hull, among other places, that they are management, contractors and so forth. The people at Radio Nord are very efficient, and we have nothing against them, but we have had it with strikebreakers in Abitibi.

In our region, we have been doing without news for six months. This is a company established in a vast region, the Abitibi-Témiscamingue. The public is suffering, and it feels bad for those employees who are not going back to work.

Supply May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I hope there will be others.

I know that I am a former United Steelworkers of America union president, but that is not the only reason. These facts are important to the other members, even if they have not been union leaders or members.

Now, and for the past several months, there is nothing stopping Radio-Nord or any company from telling its employees, “We are against scabs. You win, we will not hire anyone”. But, for the past six months, Radio-Nord has been hiring people from Hull who come to Val-d'Or with expense accounts to replace inside workers.

But I hope that other members, more than one or two or three or four, will be in favour of including a provision in the Canada Labour Code prohibiting strikebreakers.

Supply May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate, especially since today, May 1, is International Workers Day, and I take this opportunity to salute all workers.

I will go back to November 24, 1992, at a time when private members' bills were a very popular topic. That day, in the House of Commons, I introduced Bill C-376, a bill to amend the Canada Labour Code. I asked for leave to introduce that bill to amend the Canada Labour Code with regard to scabs and essential services. In my remarks, I said:

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to amend the Canada Labour Code to preclude Crown corporations from using scabs during a strike and also to maintain essential services. Indeed, for some time now the major central labour bodies in Quebec have been shifting toward responsible and civilized trade unionism.

This bill will encourage workers to stand up for their rights and interests as members of a society where the improved standard of living of individuals is achieved through consultation.

I want to inform my Liberal colleagues that I will support these provisions, just as I supported the bill that was debated in the House in 1995 and that was introduced by the member for Manicouagan. If I am not mistaken, I believe it was Bill C-317. Today, we have Bill C-328, which was introduced by the member for Laurentides. It has already been debated for one hour in the House of Commons and is the 29th item in the order of precedence on the Order Paper. In a month or so, it will be debated again in the House, and I will support it.

But what should we do about this motion that is before the House on this opposition day? I must say that our society has come a long way since the first International Workers Day in 1886. Together, workers, employers, unions, governments and organizations of all kinds have made Canada what it is today.

We are very proud of and very grateful for this heritage from our ancestors. We all have the desire to continue to improve the well-being of Canadians and to ensure that Canada remains a great country in which to live. This is the goal that we have in mind every time we tackle an issue, including the reform of the Canada Labour Code.

In the case of the Canada Labour Code, we apply the basic principle of labour-management relations that says that employees and employers are in the best position to determine what is more appropriate for them.

We know that two provinces in Canada are against scabs. First, there is Quebec. Today, I salute the new Quebec premier who was democratically elected recently. The hon. Jean Charest spent several years here and will continue down the same path with respect to labour relations. British Columbia is also anti-scab.

Consequently, today, the government's role is to support employees and employers in their discussions and to help them find appropriate solutions to meet their needs. In some cases, it is possible to reach an agreement, as was the case with most of the key amendments made in 1999 to Part I of the Canada Labour Code. In other cases, however, it is more difficult to achieve a compromise. This is particularly so with replacement workers.

As the government says, this is a sensitive issue. But if we follow the same principle as the provinces of Quebec and British Columbia, we will be able to find a solution. Today, we say that this sensitive issue has been debated many times over the years and that, each time, stakeholders maintained their initial position. We were able to see this once again during the extensive consultations that the Canadian government held in 1999 with representatives of labour and management as well as with many people who have a good knowledge of labour policy issues.

Unions almost unanimously support the implementation of legislative provisions prohibiting the use of replacement workers. For their part, employers are categorically opposed to such a measure. What is more, both employers and unions have legitimate arguments.

This is the case, among others, of the communications and transportation sector, where managers and supervisors often replace employees on strike or locked out. We have an example today with the issue of the communication sectors. Right now, and I want to say this, Radio-Nord strikers, who are members of the union of communication employees of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, have filed a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board for unfair practices.

Even though the strike started October 25, 2002, Radio Nord Communications is still broadcasting both on television and radio thanks to scabs. This is 2003, and today Radio-Nord, which is a big company—I cannot deny it, it is very well run—does not know how to manage its employees.

In our area, for instance, Radio-Nord has been cutting jobs for several years. Currently, management and contractors are replacing striking employees.

Radio Nord Communications has hired over 25 persons or businesses on contract to do the work of strikers in part or in whole. This is unfair. It is unfair for their families. Recently, I met one of my good colleagues, who is a journalist, Gilles Hamel, of Radio-Nord Val-d'Or. He came to my constituency office in Val-d'Or and told me, “Guy, the current strike is having an impact on children's school work, and on families too”. Why? Because Radio Nord is using scabs.

Today, the head of the union, André Anglehart, and several workers, men and women, are here in the House of Commons to protest against Radio-Nord Communications, which by using scabs has been denying them their bargaining rights.

A solution must be found. There is nothing difficult about it. We started working on the issue of scabs in 1999. Indeed, the Canadian labour minister should conduct another consultation and hold truly comprehensive meetings, maybe in a few weeks' time, since two provinces in Canada were able to find a solution, to see if the other provinces could do likewise.

However, there must be an outright ban on replacement workers during work stoppages. True, the code considers it to be an unfair labour practice to use such workers to undermine a union's representational capacity rather than to pursue legitimate bargaining objectives.

Under the current legislation, one can appeal the use of replacement workers. We would not need this motion if there were a recourse. It should be banned completely since we know that when an appeal is launched, it takes several weeks or months before the committee renders its decision. But it is always possible for unionized workers to lodge a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

Since 1999, the Canada Labour Code has given employees an avenue of recourse. But we should also state that we are against the use of scabs, and then the employees would not have to wait for weeks for the Canada Industrial Relations Board's decision, and we would save the taxpayers money. If we are against the use of scabs, we should clearly say so once and for all.

The Board is an independent quasi-judicial body responsible for the interpretation and the enforcement of Part I and some provisions of Part II of the Canada Labour Code. It is composed of representatives of the employers and the unions, one chairperson and various independent vice-chairpersons.

We would only have to add one provision against scabs to the Canada Labour Code and that would be the end of it. There are many representations from employees and others today in this regard.

We are often asked why government did not ban the hiring of replacement workers when Part I of the Canada Labour Code was amended. That amendment did not completely ban the hiring of replacement workers during work stoppages.

The use of replacement workers for the demonstrated purpose of undermining a union's representational capacity rather than the pursuit of legitimate bargaining objectives will be considered an unfair labour practice.

The labour and management parties that bargain collectively under Part I of the Code have accepted this approach as being a reasonable compromise. They had in fact accepted a compromise back in 1999, but it is now 2003. We should make another compromise and not accept any scabs.

I know, I do sometimes go to the picket line in front of Radio-Nord in Val-d'Or. Managers are doing the work. Guys like Gilles Hamel come to my office to explain a few things to me. I often meet with a former union leader who is now retired, Antonio Bruno of the United Steelworkers of America. I saw him last week. He spoke to me about this strike that has gone on for six weeks.

In recent years, there have been two strikes in Val d'Or. A solution must be found. Credibility is being undermined, even within families.

We are still asking the same question, “Will the federal government admit that the amendments to Part 1 of the Canada Labour Code concerning replacement workers are ineffective?” They answer, “It is premature to conclude that the provisions on replacement workers are ineffective”.

Listen, we have examples of strikes going on right now. We have one in the communications sector in Val-d'Or. Radio Nord Communications is the best example we have. I am disappointed that they are here today. I am very disappointed that they are here today, on May 1, to defend their rights as workers as this should have been settled at the outset, on October 25, 2002. If the Canada Labour Code had banned strikebreakers, they would not be here today, six months later.

They were on strike in the north in the remote regions of Quebec. They picketed at -40

o

C. It went down to -52

o

C this winter in January and February. These people are diplomats. I met them a while ago in front of the Parliament buildings. I spoke with them and invited them in. About nine of them took me up on my offer. They are fine people, these men and women. They want the government to get involved for the sake of the future.

It is very easy. All it would take is to white-out one or two lines in the Canada Labour Code and write in “no strikebreakers will be permitted in future”.

I am in favour of this opposition day. When it is time to vote on the hon. member's private member's bill, I will vote in favour of it.

Question No. 168 April 30th, 2003

In the case of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, Western Economic Diversification Canada, Federal Economic Development Initiative in Northern Ontario (FedNor), and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA): ( a ) how much money will be allocated to each of them in fiscal year 2003-2004; ( b ) how will it be distributed in each agency by number of person-years and by work location and position; and ( c ) how does Industry Canada allocate funding according to federal transfers for these agencies?

(Return tabled.)