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

Jean Charest April 29th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, on April 14, 2003, Quebeckers elected a Liberal majority government. This Liberal victory belongs primarily to the hon. Jean Charest. We must salute this man who, for the past five years, has been remarkably tenacious, recovering from a number of heartbreaking defeats without ever getting discouraged, always supported by his wife Michèle Dionne, his three children, his father Claude Charest, and the people of Sherbrooke.

Jean Charest rolled up his sleeves and got his party back on the rails. He listened to the people of Quebec and he created a network that enabled him to attract men and women of high calibre.

For the first time in recent history, Quebec will have an elected premier who knows English Canada and knows how to talk to it. Today, hon. Jean Charest will be sworn in as Premier of Quebec. Jean Charest has proven that he is the little guy from Sherbrooke.

Pita Aatami April 3rd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, March 28, 2003, was a wonderful day for the Inuit of Nunavik. They have re-elected for the second time and with a strong majority Pita Aatami as the President of the Makivic Corporation.

Mr. Aatami received 1,745 votes, or 64% of the total votes. Annie Popert received 668 votes, or 25% of the total votes, and John Oovout received 254 votes, or 9% of the total votes.

This victory is due to the personality of Mr. Aatami, a hardworking, available, affable man, who has always spoken sincerely in his dealings with the Government of Canada to secure an excellent quality of life for the Inuit of Nunavik.

The Minister of Justice of Canada and Liberal member for Outremont was in Kuujjuaq on March 29, 30 and 31, 2003, to congratulate Pita Aatami on his great victory in the election and to meet with him and Johnny Adams, the Chairman of the Kativik Regional Government, to talk about a number of government bills, the economy, infrastructure and social projects, with members of both boards in attendance.

[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Inuktitut as follows:]

Nakurmiimarialuk, Pita Aatami.

Parental Leave March 24th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, mothers in Canada and Quebec are very pleased with the parental leave program introduced by the Government of Canada. They are now staying at home twice as long as they did two years ago after giving birth. Fathers are also doing their share, with 10% of them temporarily trading their jobs for the pleasures of caring for the baby.

The Minister of Human Resources Development, who was behind these reforms, said that having a good start in life is wonderful for children. The federal Liberal minister and member for Brant said she was very touched to receive letters and pictures from new parents thanking her for this extra time they can spend with their children.

International Trade March 17th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, Canada successfully passed a review by the World Trade Organization, which gave it an enviable grade for its trade policies. Canada's trade practices and policies are among the most transparent and liberal in the world.

All countries are regularly subject to a review of their trade policies. The resulting report takes stock of their policies and highlights certain shortcomings and progress achieved in terms of market openness.

The World Trade Organization, through its member countries, suggests, however, that Canada seek new trade opportunities rather than depend on its ties with the United States.

The Minister for International Trade replied that Canada is making great efforts in this regard, but that the proximity of the Americans makes the situation more complex.

The Budget March 17th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am taking good note of the question of the hon. member for Peterborough, but first I want to discuss the issue of tides. People often wonder which area has the highest tide in the world. I want to point out that the highest tide is not in the Bay of Fundy, but in Tasiujaq, which is located in Nunavik, a few kilometres north of Kuujjuaq. This is where they have the highest tide in the world.

As regards the issue of turbines, we know that the President of Makivik Corporation, Pita Aatami, has been around for a number of years. Mr. Aatami is a leader who finds all sorts of ways to get the government moving and also to get me moving.

It is with people like Pita Aatami and Johnny Adams, who are active in the area, that we will improve the hydro situation. It is not just the issue of dams in Nunavik. It is with leaders such as the ones we have right now in Nunavik that solutions will be found.

The Budget March 17th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Ottawa—Vanier.

With respect to the budget policies announced by the Minister of Finance, we know, when we return to our ridings, that this budget is good for Quebeckers.

We know that by investing to support Canadian priorities and values, our government will make our society one that is even more equitable and more supportive, while remaining the only G-7 country to maintain a balanced budget that will invest in the future of our families, regions and environment.

My riding is the largest federal riding in all of the ten Canadian provinces. It covers over 800,000 square kilometres and there are 63 mayors in the riding. Indeed, when we return to our ridings during the breaks, we have the opportunity to talk with people.

Last week, I was talking with Pita Aatami, the president of the Makivik Corporation and an economic leader in the community. Since he took office, he has shaken things up a great deal in Ottawa when it comes to economic and social issues. There have been a number of examples. Because of the pressure he exerted on our government, we invested in economic development in this budget.

Pita Aatami has been directly involved in a number of issues, including marine infrastructure, social housing and especially, of late, readjusting electoral boundaries. In April, a ruling will be handed down by the commission that is responsible for the boundaries.

I say this because some of the economic leaders in our region live in outlying areas. We know that the Inuit contribute to the economies of Quebec and Canada. They are the only ones in Canada to pay direct taxes to the federal and provincial governments. They pay taxes.

We know that the budget that has now been in effect for several days strengthens the health care system thanks to several measures, including an $34.8 billion investment over five years, the 2003 health care services accord that was just signed by first ministers.

It is important not to talk only about numbers, but also about what is happening in our hospitals, whether they are in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, outlying areas, or in large urban centres. We know that this reform is being carried out and will help all governments.

It was not just the Minister of Finance who was involved in the recent reform. We can thank the Prime Minister of Canada, the Liberal member for Saint-Maurice, who negotiated and worked with the provinces. We know this was not easy but he stood firm to ensure that taxes were used to help the health sector.

Another truly important sector is the help given to municipalities. For instance, $3 billion is being invested in infrastructure and $2 billion will be invested in major projects. This leaves $1 billion for all Canadian communities and municipalities, including those in Quebec.

We know that $1 billion divided among several provinces and territories represents a few hundred million dollars for each province or territory. We know that with the infrastructure agreements, Quebec analyses and the federal government does its part.

We could also ask ourselves what could be done to help Quebec. People ask us questions such as: What about the federal transfers? I always tell people in my riding that the transfers are our taxes that are being returned to our municipalities and outlying regions in Quebec.

There will be a transfer of $2.5 billion to the provinces. Quebec will receive roughly $587 million, which will immediately be invested to ease the current pressures through the Canada health and social transfer supplements. This means that the provinces will have flexibility in using this money based on their needs until the end of 2005-06.

There is also the health reform fund. It is definitely important. Families and communities have not been forgotten. We know that in the budget there is an annual increase of $165 million for the national child benefit supplement until 2007. This measure is similar to the socio-economic measures that the Government of Quebec is using to fight child poverty.

Nonetheless, in terms of tax benefits, there is one thing that bothers me in Quebec: people know very little about these issues.

People never ask, even when there is an election, where the Government of Quebec gets those $5. Not from taxes, I will tell you where. It takes them from the family allowances of Quebec families. It takes $5 directly off family allowances, which means that Clémence Côté of Val-d'Or, Abitibi, whose 10 children do not go to day care, loses $32. So she is helping out her neighbour, whose children do go. This is something I find regrettable.

Quebec will find a solution, regardless of what party is elected the next time, as to where that money can come from. I know they could go to Loto-Québec, and we all know how much they are making these days with the video poker machines. There is talk of $10 million a day, which certainly adds up, after several years.

Then there is the development of aboriginal businesses. Several million dollars is going into aboriginal communities, and particularly aboriginal businesses. The James Bay Cree, the Inuit of Nunavik, the Algonquin in the area and elsewhere in Quebec have been heavily involved in setting up new businesses. They are business people capable of finding solutions and to move forward.

We hear much talk in the regions of the price of gas. It is not an easy situation. I share the concerns of the people of my area and the Quebec City area. I have an aunt, Monique Lavigne, in Saint-Romuald, and she tells me, “Guy, gas is too expensive”. In June 2002, they were paying 69¢ or 70¢ a litre for regular, and now in Saint-Romuald they are paying 87.5¢. And what is located in Saint-Romuald? Refineries. People living next door to refineries are still paying the same high price for gas.

To give an example, the place in Quebec and perhaps in Canada where fuel is the most expensive is Kuujjuaq, in the territory of Nunavik. The Inuit pay taxes and they are paying $1.22 a litre. A solution must be found in order to move forward.

Locally, assistance must also be provided for manpower training. There is funding, and transfers have been made to Quebec for vocational training. These millions of dollars will help the workers. The universities will find ways of moving forward to innovate with research projects, but the tax system must also be improved. We know that this measure included in the budget will result in an increase in after-tax gains of up to $9,000 per year. which will help businesses to expand.

I have seen a number of budgets over the 15 years, or 14 years and several months, that I have been sitting in this House. Under this government, not to mention the previous one, many budgets were brought down, and I must say that this budget is one of the best I have seen as the member of Parliament for the vast riding I currently represent.

A number of improvements are required, however. For example, a solution must be found with respect to the cost of diesel fuel for forestry workers. It is very expensive. So is heating fuel; we have had a very cold winter, and households are paying very high prices for heating fuel.

Let me tell you that this is an excellent budget. Improvements can be made without going the budget route, through an order. The mining industry made a number of gains in this budget, but alternate solutions must be found in order to move forward.

The Budget February 21st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, during the throne speech, the Government of Canada announced initiatives to improve the quality of life of aboriginals and Inuit in Canada.

The 2003 budget provides for significant investments, among other things, for the needs of aboriginals and Inuit in urban areas; for education, training and employment opportunities; for initiatives supporting aboriginal cultures and languages, and health care for first nations and Inuit; for the improvement, maintenance and monitoring of sewer and water systems on first nations reserves; for the first nations and Inuit police program; and for initiatives supporting the creation and operation of a new aboriginal cultures and languages centre that will be run by the aboriginal community.

These Government of Canada initiatives will enable aboriginals and Inuit to play a direct role in their community and to obtain a better quality of life.

Once again, the Government of Canada has delivered on its promises.

Petitions February 20th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition signed by hundreds of residents of Nunavik communities, namely Akulivik, Inukjuak, and Kuujjuaq. The petitioners point out that the federal government, through one of its departments, ordered the killing of Inuit sled dogs in New Quebec, now called Nunavik, from 1950 to 1969.

The federal government did not hold public consultations with the Inuit communities in New Quebec. The killing of these dogs had a tragic social, economic and cultural impact on the Inuit in Nunavik. We are requesting a public inquiry, and the federal government has made no attempt to implement corrective measures to help the Inuit in Nunavik preserve their way of life.

Dairy Industry February 18th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, on February 14 in Val-d'Or, I met with a number of farmers from the Syndicat des producteurs de lait de l'Abitibi-Témiscamingue, including president Gabriel Rancourt and vice-president Édith Lafond, about their concerns over the federal government's delay in recognizing their right to recover their production costs as well as ensuring greater protection against imported dairy products.

Foreign countries such as the United States and others have created substitutes to get around tariff quotas. These substitutes are used increasingly in food production but, because of current labelling rules in Canada, consumers are unaware of the composition or origins of such foods.

After softwood lumber, Bush is now imposing illegal butter oil on us. The Canadian government must close the U.S.-Canada border to such products and put the truth back into food labelling for the health of Canadians.

Canada Elections Act February 18th, 2003

I must point out here that the applause from the Bloc Quebecois is because they know what an excellent financing bill there is in Quebec.

Various countries such as the United States and France are also imposing ceilings on political contributions. Bill C-24, which would limit contributions, follows up on the commitment to ensure clear and full reporting of contributions and expenses.

Canadians have the right to be informed and to have access to this information, just as Canadians and Quebeckers are learning today how members of this House have been spending public moneys for their office and on travel to the House of Commons and around Canada and Quebec for many years.

The government must show leadership in order to restore the foundations of our democratic government. The government intends to exercise this leadership.

As legislators, we have an interest in tackling this issue head on, not only for the good of our government, but also for the good of future governments, no matter what their political stripe.

Many people have said that the Prime Minister has taken up where René Lévesque left off; that is true. For the first time, Ottawa is limiting donations to political parties. Big business no longer has the right to give a dime to political parties, and contributions from individuals will be capped. Ottawa has finally decided to follow the lead of Quebec and Manitoba in developing a framework for financing the electoral process.

Individuals will have to limit their donations to $10,000 per year. Business and unions are almost totally cut out of the system. They will be entitled to make contributions of only $1,000 per year and only to individual canditates or riding associations. They can no longer make direct contributions to a political party. The $1,000 limit will apply to all subsidiaries of a company or locals of a union.

The idea is to discourage big business from financing elections, while allowing small local merchants, corner stores or your brother-in-law's drycleaning business to encourage their member of Parliament.

The Prime Minister and the government House leader clearly explained it. The minister responsible stated:

It is a small amount for big business. Say I represent Imperial Lord and there are 301 candidates in Canada. What difference would it make if I send $12 to each of them? It is a small amount, but at the same time it allows the corner store owner, who is incorporated, to buy two tickets to the member's annual dinner.

For those of you who are using the increasingly frequent examples of people circumventing the Quebec law to prove that such limits do not work, Ottawa's answer to you is that it has perfected René Lévesque's model.

We looked at what happened in Quebec in 1977. The limit was $3,000. In real dollars, that represents about $10,000. Some say this is a mistake, but in the end, it is not because if we consider indexation, it represents about $10,000 today.

The bill contains measures to discourage circumventing the law. The penalty will be a fine of up to $5,000 or five years in prison. This seems steep when we know that the average donation was $591 in 2001 for both corporate and individual donations.

There is also increased transparency. The bill seeks to plug the infamous black hole so often denounced by the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley.

The limits will also apply to nominations and party leadership races. Riding associations, until now exempt from having to report their sources of revenue outside of election campaigns, will now be required to report all of this information.

I agree with this. In our riding association, there will have to be yearly reports to the Chief Electoral Officer as to how money from contributions is spent.

In these three cases, yearly reporting is required to the Chief Electoral Officer. All of the money that goes directly or indirectly towards elections will be accounted for publicly.

Our most important principle is complete disclosure. The bill puts an end to black holes and money given under the table. The government leader in the House referred to this. He gave an example of a numbered company, ABC1234 Inc. making an election contribution. “How is that transparent?”, he asked, in reference to contributions from numbered companies.

To offset these limits, the state will increase its funding for political parties. Public financing currently costs Canadians $39 million. That figure will increase by $23 million per year, and by $40 million during election years.

Candidates will need to receive 10% of the votes, instead of 15%, in order to qualify for a refund of half of their election spending. As well, political parties will receive a 50% reimbursement on their election spending, compared to the current 22.5%. This is a complete overhaul at the federal level.

If a political party receives over 2% of valid votes cast, it will receive $1.50 for each vote obtained every year after the next federal election.