Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was made.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Portneuf (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply April 27th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the opposition motion calling upon the government to take steps to hold elections on a fixed date.

I will, however, make no secret of the fact that I have some serious reservations about the wisdom and appropriateness of such a change. I would add, and I will return to this point later, that the opposition's sudden desire to make such a change with no further ado does raise some questions.

First of all, I would like to raise the point that it is important to make sure that changes to our electoral system are not made lightly and without sufficient thought. This is particularly the case when it comes to the ability to call an election, since this is at the very core of our Westminster-style parliamentary system.

There have been past studies of this issue, including the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing, better known as the Lortie commission, which recommended in 1991 against the introduction of a fixed date for elections. The Conservative party of the day had what I consider the wisdom to follow that recommendation. As hon. members are aware, the government has initiated a consultation process in order to advance its program of democratic reform.

Today's motion calls upon the government to turn its back on that process and move ahead without even consulting Canadians or taking the time to weigh the pros and cons of the proposed change. A question arises as a result. Reference has just been made to giving Canadians the opportunity to express their opinion, yet if a fixed date for elections is decided upon, as the motion today suggests, Canadians are not being given that opportunity. We must find out what they think.

What is more, if I remember correctly, the policy of what was until just recently the Canadian Alliance was not to move immediately to put in place a system for elections at a set date, but rather to consider the question after consulting Canadians in a national referendum.

That approach at least had the merit of acknowledging the importance of such a change, which ought not to be made lightly and even less so without seeking Canadians' point of view.

The motion before us today throws all caution aside and seems more motivated by a desire to avoid an election and to back the government into a corner than by any real desire for constructive public debate.

I do not mean that the question of fixed dates for elections is frivolous or unimportant, or that it should not be publicly debated; quite the contrary.

However, I think it is important to remember that changes to our electoral system, particularly serious changes that may have a significant impact on our system of governance, should not be made in a hurry, on the eve of an expected election, or for reasons of election strategy.

We must ask ourselves what effect a system of fixed election dates would have on ministerial accountability. Some people claim that fixed election dates would bring greater accountability. But it was precisely the fear of a lessening of government accountability that led the B.C. Civil Liberties Association to object to fixed election dates. In November 2000, its opinion appeared in the National Post , and I quote:

Legislation requiring fixed terms would either permit the house or legislature to call early elections or it would not. If it did, the result would differ little from our current system. If it did not, such legislation could hardly be said to increase government accountability.

Fixed election dates have some advantages. The primary one is that they make it easier for governments to govern...But such advantages are similar to the advantages of a blank cheque, and thus typically come at great cost.

For anyone who favours reform that increases, rather than decreases, government accountability, the idea of fixed electoral terms will not be an attractive one.

Today's motion recognizes the need to maintain the principle of responsible government, thus allowing elections to be held when the government loses the confidence of the House.

Without a doubt, this is an essential element, but one which to my way of thinking fails to address all the concerns I have just listed.

Even if an exception were specifically provided recognizing the principle of responsible government, I am not sure that in practice the introduction of a fixed election cycle would not diminish the accountability of the executive and the ability of the opposition to force the dissolution of the House.

This is not just a change in the electoral and parliamentary machinery. This is a change that would affect the political culture and conventions of our system by introducing a foreign element.

This type of hybrid system was also rejected, as I said before, by the Lortie Commission.

According to the commission, even if there were agreement on the constitutional amendments needed to introduce fixed election dates, it is far from clear that the results would be satisfactory and would lead to greater government accountability; quite the contrary.

Aside from the principle of responsible government and the related constitutional issues, the commission was concerned about the consequences of a system with fixed election dates on the duration and cost of elections.

Taking the U.S. experience as an example, the commission found that fixed election dates might contribute to prolonging the campaign process and compromise the effectiveness of election spending limits on parties and candidates.

Adopting a fixed election cycle would deny Canadians major democratic advantages related to the flexibility that our current system allows.

It is not unusual for a new prime minister to be appointed following a change in the governing party's leadership. In this context, it is not uncommon for a new prime minister to call an election and thus obtain a popular mandate.

Similarly, a government wanting to present a new platform or an important initiative may feel the need to obtain a clear mandate from the electorate beforehand.

These are perfectly legitimate choices in terms of democracy and would be impossible in a fixed election date system.

The motion before us today for fixed election dates may seem appealing at first glance. However, I fear that it is merely an illusion of progress.

We must resist adopting an easy solution that would create more problems than it would solve. Above all we must avoid hastily making changes to our electoral system that would have profound consequences and possibly adverse effects.

Even if I thought introducing a fixed election cycle were a good idea, which I do not, and putting aside any constitutional difficulty this might create, I would nonetheless be opposed to this motion for procedural reasons.

The spirit of democratic reform demands that we first consult the public on major changes to be made to our electoral system. Wisdom demands that we make reforms in a reasoned manner.

The motion before us does not satisfy either of these two criteria. That is why I intend to vote against it.

The Environment April 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, today I admit I must take my hat off to the Minister of National Defence.

Since the year 2000, I have been defending the people of Shannon in the issue of the high TCE contamination of the groundwater. Since that time, the government has been seeking a long term solution to this problem. Last Friday, the minister came to make an announcement at Shannon.

Could he tell the House all about this announcement?

Louise Arbour and Guy Laliberté April 21st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, this week it was revealed that two Quebeckers are on Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Guy Laliberté, president and founder of the Cirque du Soleil, and Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, have made their marks in their respective fields on a worldwide scale. With his creativity, Mr. Laliberté has reinvented the world of the circus. Young and old all over the world have been amazed by the theatricality, athleticism and parallel reality in the Cirque du Soleil.

Ms. Arbour is recognized throughout the world as a leading light in international law. This brave and tenacious woman was able to bring Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic to justice for war crimes in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Canadians are proud of their fellow citizens. I would like to thank and congratulate Ms. Arbour and Mr. Laliberté for their accomplishments.

Canadian Youth April 20th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join with my colleague, the member for Brome—Missisquoi, in acknowledging the presence of 12 young students from the riding of Brome—Missisquoi who have distinguished themselves in various ways.

Some were winners in Expo-Science Bell, including Élodie Nora-Gemme, who took the top prize for the Eastern Townships region; others won distinction in a literary competition, “Le français, un passeport international”, including the national winner, Sabrina Coupal Harnois; and finally, Kate Gasser, who won the Governor General's Medal.

My heartfelt congratulations go out to them all. They are a fine example of the drive and excellence of our young people. Their success is to their credit and their future is very promising. Canada can be proud of its young people.

Jeune Chambre de commerce de Québec March 9th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, last Friday Quebec City's junior chamber of commerce held its Gala des jeunes personnalités d'affaires. The purpose of this event is to highlight the entrepreneurship and drive of accomplished young professionals who are making a name for themselves in the world of business.

One of these talented individuals is Guildo Griffin, president and general manager of Studio Party Time. Mr. Griffin is a native of the Lower St. Lawrence and in 1994, at the age of 18, he started his own business. Today he owns four dance schools, teaches 5,000 students and employs 60 people.

I would like to congratulate all the young people who were honoured at the gala, not to mention all those who persevere to achieve their dreams. Congratulations to the Jeune Chambre de commerce de Québec and its president, Patrick Gosselin, and his team for their remarkable work.

Thousands of young Canadians are ready to follow in the footsteps of Mr. Griffin. Let us support them.

Haiti March 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, for more than one month, the international community has done nothing to stop the situation in Haiti from deteriorating. Now, despite the presence of a provisional international force, the situation there is getting worse.

Could the Minister of National Defence tell the House what the Canadian government intends to do to ensure peace and stability in Haiti?

Agricultural Cooperatives February 23rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, these days, agricultural cooperatives in Canada are faced with a changing business world. Given the globalization of markets and increased competition, a lack of capitalization prevents agricultural cooperatives from making strategic investments in areas such as cutting edge technologies.

These cooperatives make an important contribution to the Canadian economy, generating cumulative sales of over $28 billion and a total of 80,000 jobs. Typically located in rural regions, cooperatives are an important source of regional economic development.

It is important that the various levels of government implement national programs so that agricultural cooperatives can obtain sufficient capital, at lower rates, while preserving their integrity and the fundamental values they hold dear.

The Economy February 19th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, on February 18, 2004, KPMG released the results of their latest study of international business costs. The annual KPMG study is the world's largest objective comparison of operating costs in the G-7.

In this year's version, for the fifth consecutive time, Canada was ranked the lowest-cost country in which to do business. The Minister of International Trade and his colleague the Minister of Industry welcomed these results yesterday at simultaneous press conferences in Montreal and Toronto.

The KPMG study is clearly good news for our economy and our communities. The results show that our country is well positioned to build a 21st century economy that will be a global magnet for capital, creative entrepreneurs and innovative ideas.

Quebec Winter Carnival February 17th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, for the fiftieth year, Quebec's winter carnival has given Canadians an opportunity to experience happiness and a zest for life during the dreary days of February.

The popularity of this event has not waned: initial estimates set the number of visitors at 450,000 during the carnival's 17 days. Most of these visitors made more than one visit to the site.

Even Mother Nature cooperated this year, with generally mild temperatures during the event.

The carnival's organizers were brilliantly successful in providing a fitting celebration of the event's fiftieth anniversary.

I feel it would be appropriate for this House to send its sincere congratulations to the carnival's chair, Danielle Chamberland, and her entire team, in making this 50th carnival a resounding success.

Speech from the Throne February 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to reiterate the pride I felt in presenting my constituents with a throne speech that truly recognizes the priorities of the people of Portneuf.

More precisely, I am convinced that such measures as establishing a new partnership with municipalities, with a GST rebate, will enable them to better meet the needs of the people of Portneuf.

Since a large part of Portneuf is located in a rural area, I am very happy that the throne speech commits our government to defining a renewed and modern direction for economic and rural development.

I cannot help but support the commitments made regarding increased efforts to reduce the delays in health care, clean up contaminated sites such as Shannon, create new, good-quality day care spaces, modernize the student loan programs and create the position of independent ethics commissioner.

Finally, I am particularly pleased with the Prime Minister's determination to improve the role of members of Parliament through democratic reform. That will enable me to defend the interests of the people of Portneuf and make their voices heard in the Parliament of Canada.