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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Bloc MP for Saint-Maurice—Champlain (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 55% of the vote.

Statements in the House

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments June 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, listening to the debate this evening has been most educational. I have been doing so patiently for two hours. I have a number of questions. It has even been said that the Bloc Québécois ought to be ashamed to vote against such a budget. I can tell you that I will do so with pride, and there are two or three reasons for this.

If the government really wanted to give money, we could tell it where to put that money. We have, in fact, already done so. There was reference to the fiscal imbalance, for instance. I can tell you that, as far as seniors, my area of specialization, are concerned, the $3 billion stolen from them could be given back. I do not see that in this budget.

Then there is a bit over $1 billion for social housing. I would like the Liberal member who has just spoken to tell me whether he is aware that it is the same with social housing as with everything else; the poor are being made to pay off the government debt.

Canada Mortgage and Housing has a surplus of $3.7 billion. If social housing is what is wanted, there is no need to add $1 billion: just spend the money there is, and spend it properly. That is not happening at present, because the surplus is being applied to the government's debt. This is already happening with seniors, those who need social housing, and the unemployed, to the tune of $45 billion.

So, if we were to vote in favour of a budget, it would be one where the money goes to the people it belongs to, the ones from whom it was taken. It is not just a matter of putting down some figures.

Carmel Paquin June 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, some people touch our lives because of their dedication, or their love for others, the arts, artists, young people and life in general. These big-hearted people make us wonder what we would do without them.

I know of such an exceptional man. His name is Carmel Paquin and he is a parish priest in Lac-à-la-Tortue. He has touched my life and the lives of the people of the Mauricie and all of Quebec during 50 years of religious service.

His dedication, work and concern for others are proof of an unwavering open-mindedness that has made a lasting impression on the hearts of everyone he meets.

Carmel Paquin, we wish you a happy anniversary and many more years among us.

Supply June 9th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have just heard something that is of particular interest to me. A Liberal member is asking if we should do something to make employee pension funds safer. I find it quite strange to hear such a comment from this member. I do not think that there is one pension fund that can be considered as an employment insurance plan. However, there is one plan that can theoretically be used and that could be very useful for the POWA, the program that was created to help older workers who are laid off and who have a hard time finding new jobs. That is the subject before us today.

This plan is managed by the government. Would the government not agree to first make the employment insurance fund safer and then to create an independent fund? It is interesting that they want to get involved in private pension plans when there is a public plan in which the government has not invested a penny. It prefers to usurp the whole Employment Insurance fund, depriving workers of the benefits to which they are entitled. What do they think about that?

Department of Social Development Act June 8th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague and I learned a lot from him, even though I was familiar with a number of things he was talking about. He confirmed what I already knew.

One thing I notice about this government, and that I find totally absurd, is that, in my personal opinion, it is paying off the national debt on the backs of the poorest in society.

For example, the government took $47 billion from the employment insurance fund. Over the past 11 years, it has deprived the poorest of our seniors of $3.2 billion. In addition, as my colleague already mentioned, there is a $3 billion surplus in social housing that has not been used. There is no point in adding to the budget since it is not being spent. The government is paying off the debt on the backs of the poor.

I want my colleague to indicate whether I have truly grasped the meaning of his speech.

Maison Claire-Fontaine June 7th, 2005

For the third year in a row, La Maison Claire-Fontaine, a B&B in La Tuque, has been named best in its region in the Grands Prix du tourisme québécois.

This B&B fits perfectly into the tradition of Haute-Mauricie, the birthplace of Félix Leclerc. Haut-Saint-Maurice is a wondrous part of the country, striking in its vastness, its natural resources such as the Saint-Maurice river, and its recreational and tourism potential.

This magnificent residence, classified “four suns”, was built in 1917. Many guests have praised the personalized hospitality of owners Marie-Josée Hébert and Eddy Georges, which has added to the tourism reputation of the region and fuelled the pride of those who live there.

Congratulations to Marie-Josée and Eddy.

Supply June 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, once again, I appreciated the speech of my friend from Laval.

I do not know whether we will succeed some day in making the federal government understand that the funds it wants to distribute out the back door for all the services should go directly to the provinces.

My friend mentioned how much people depend on various services when they are sick. For myself, I had the same experience as she did. Between the detection of my illness, cancer, and the ultimate operation, there was a maximum of two months. When this time gets any longer, it is because of a lack of money, not a lack of competencies. When will the federal government get it through its thick skull that this money does not belong to it? This money belongs to the provinces, which have jurisdiction over the development of the health sector and the progress there.

I would like to ask my friend from Laval a question on Canada-wide plans. I was once agriculture critic. At the time, we were taken in by a Canada-wide plan to provide security for farmers. All the farmers in Quebec regret this plan. No Canada-wide plan really works.

I would like my friend to say more about the health care services available in Quebec to show how close we are to the people of that province.

Supply June 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I just heard a speech that gives me an opportunity to react. We are discussing a very important and serious motion, although at the same time, I would not want the people listening to us to become too depressed.

Cancer is indeed something we talk about more and more. Life expectancy is steadily increasing, and we will therefore hear even more about it in the future. I can tell you that I number among those who have been stricken. Three years ago, I learned that I had cancer. Four other members close to me also learned that they had cancer over these three years, and all four of us, myself included, have managed to beat it.

That does not mean that more research is not needed. I just wanted to add this personal experience. At this very moment I can think of someone, whom I know very well, who learned around noon today how serious her cancer is and what will have to be done. This word should therefore not terrify us. Cancer must be beaten and it can be. I agree that the motion before us today could increase the possibility of preventing these illnesses.

This also gives me an opportunity to ask my colleague a question. We are speaking about the importance of the fiscal imbalance. When speaking about a matter as important as what we have here today, we must realize that it is more than high time for the federal government to give the people who are responsible for health the money that they need. Health is at the heart of an important issue. This is true as well of education and other things.

The motion that we are discussing today asks the federal government to take the place, to a certain extent, of the provinces, but it should, instead, be asking the federal government to return the money to the people who have a mandate for health care. It should be going in that direction, and then we would move more quickly toward the achievement of our objective.

Department of Social Development Act June 6th, 2005

Madam Speaker, the member for Laval is 100% correct. We had said that we would support the budget under certain conditions. Those conditions are quite simple. For example, the money belonging to the unemployed has to be put back in the EI fund and the money for seniors paid retroactively.

Unfortunately, I will be voting against the budget, because the government does not keep its promises. It have invested too heavily in visibility and not enough in individuals. But the latter are the ones who need money.

The government is the only one who has not acknowledged the fiscal imbalance. I doubt that the minister has even acknowledged it to himself. If only the federal government had fixed this problem and returned the money to the provinces so they can develop their areas of jurisdiction, instead of meddling in them, we would support the budget. However, we know this will not happen.

Some day, I will invite the minister to come to the Quebec nation, where we will keep our money and spend it as we see fit.

Department of Social Development Act June 6th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I see the minister has a desire to change things.

I thank him too for giving me the opportunity to brag a little. To his question, “What did he do?”, I answer that I travelled around Quebec. I even went beyond Quebec, as far as Vancouver. We learned that 270,000 Canadians, including 68,000 Quebeckers, had been deprived of the guaranteed income supplement. We passed this information on, so that today the number is less than half. Indeed, efforts are still being made to find some 100,000 Canadians and 25,000 Quebeckers.

An effort was also made to get the minister to improve contact with seniors. The the GIS application form was too difficult for even an accountant to complete. Even an accountant found it difficult. Seniors are often at a disadvantage for various reasons. Still, they were being asked to complete a form that made no sense.

There was a phone number to call to request the guaranteed income supplement, but, at the other end, there was an answering machine. People had to wait sometimes for as long as two hours to get an answer. Imagine a senior needing information and having to wait so long.

Once when I was interviewed on Radio-Canada in Montreal, before introducing me the host said that his researcher had dialed this number the night before and waited two hours without getting a hold of anyone. That is how seniors were treated.

Today that has changed because the Bloc Québécois took care of it by doing a tour of Quebec. We will take care of it until seniors get their due.

You say that you are investing money in the future, well that is great, but this should have been done a long time ago. There is room for improvement. You should also invest the money that you took from them in the past. It is money you owe them. The 11-month retroactivity does not exist. Often those people are sick. They have ended up in situations where they are unable to ask for what they are owed.

I visited Msgr. Clément, a parish priest in Champlain, three weeks before his death. He died a year and a half ago. Msgr. Clément was a canon lawyer. He was an extremely knowledgeable man. He said to me, “Marcel, I understand your case. I have had three strokes. I can no longer see and I can barely hear. If I did not have good people around me, who would inform me of my rights?” These are your clients.

We have to find a way to get back to these clients and give them their due. When they are lucky enough to discover that they are owed money and that the government is accountable for it, then they should at least receive retroactive payments immediately. It is simple.

Mr. Minister, if you want to do as much work as my colleagues from the Bloc and I have done in the opposition, let us embark on this together and reduce the number to virtually zero.

Department of Social Development Act June 6th, 2005

Madam Speaker, it seems to me that we are repeating ourselves and that we are not done repeating ourselves, although, personally, I am confident that within a matter of months or years all this will change and we in Quebec will be doing our own thing. In fact, we have been repeating ourselves for quite a while. Today, we are talking about fiscal imbalance. A case in point is the establishment of a new department which I call the department of social encroachment. The government is taking steps to get involved in all the provinces and in Quebec in particular. It is unpleasant to have the government interfere in Quebec, which is increasingly autonomous and can do so well, as some members have pointed out, that it is sometimes a model for the other provinces.

When I was an MNA in Quebec City, I saw foreign governments come to study our legislation. Quebec is a leader in social development, as in every other field. The problem however, and it is a major one, is that 45% or 50% of our revenues go to the federal government. That is our money, but, as my hon. colleague from Laval said, we have to beg for every little bit we can get back. This money hardly makes it to us because the federal government finds ways to duplicate services in order to assert its presence in Quebec, which is having a discouraging and demoralizing effect.

As I said, this is nothing new. I will not hide my age. I am 69, and the first political speech I heard was one Maurice Duplessis made in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. I was with my father and I heard Maurice Duplessis say he needed a strong mandate to get back our share of the spoils. I asked my father what he meant by that, and my father explained to me how the federal system worked. He said, “We give money to the federal government, but it is not easy to get it back, and when the government agrees to give it back, it is based on its priorities, not ours”. Ever since then, I have become more involved in politics. So, Duplessis was getting back his share of the spoils.

There was also Jean Lesage, who had a huge mandate and who changed things in Quebec. He spoke of being master in our own home. He knew full well that we needed to stop sending our money to the federal government.

Then there was Daniel Johnson senior, who said, “It is equality or independence. Give us back our money or else.”

Then there was Robert Bourassa, whose knees were shaking a bit. However, in 1971, he slammed the door in Victoria when the federal government did not want to give Quebec its due.

This continued with the sovereignty association of René Lévesque and continues today. In fact, if the last referendum, in 1995, had not been stolen from us—and we now know that it was—Quebec would now be a country. Nevertheless, despite the fact that it was stolen from us, the referendum result was 49.4% for the yes side.

With everything that happens to us and every time we speak here, every time services are developed that encroach on provincial jurisdictions, we are humbled more and more. It makes us realize that we will be handling our own affairs in Quebec one day. Personally, I hope still to be in politics when it happens, even if it is my last mandate. I can assure you that I will still be there to work on it.

We talked about this a lot. I have spent my life on the road. I have seen human misery in every sense of the word. The hon. member for Laval also spoke about this earlier and she knows what she is talking about. It is unbelievable to see the extent of services that are close to those who need them and that are at the ready. There are some 7,000 social economy enterprises in Quebec.

There are CLSCs in the picture. The municipalities are increasingly able to deal with at risk or vulnerable individuals.

However, instead of giving the money to the Quebec government to distribute in keeping with the priorities of Quebeckers—and this is true in the other provinces too, I am sure—the federal government has just created the department of social interference or social duplication. It has come to set up house in our jurisdiction, establish parallel offices, wave a maple leaf and show that the federal government is there to provide services. Unfortunately, once they are well established, there is little money available and no more services. However, public servants have been hired.

The study by Jacques Léonard has proved that, over the last five or six years, the public service has grown by 49,000 employees. Thanks to this new department, there will be 12,000 to 14,000 more public servants. This will cost the federal government close to $10 billion more per year.

For the 10 provinces, this represents approximately $1 billion per province. Some provinces would get more than others, because the population differs in each province. Just think what the provinces could do with the extra money, since they know what services are needed. They have the expertise and are familiar with the public. It is appalling to see a government waste our money and energy and try to outmanoeuvre us.

If Quebec creates a good policy, the federal government copies it. Child care is one such example. It is amazing to see what Quebec has done in this field. We have absolutely no objections if others want to benefit from our experience. We are generous by nature. But our rightful share, however, is not forthcoming.

The Prime Minister said that Quebec was to be the model for the child care system throughout Canada and that Quebec would get its money unconditionally. We now know that four or five provinces have already signed. Quebec still has not signed. Why? Because Quebec would have to agree to conditions. Although the feds followed our example and benefited from our expertise, they are now imposing conditions on us before we can get our rightful share of the money.

I can tell you that this could have been so simple, but it has become demoralizing. I recall something I heard at some meeting. The question asked was “How is a country administered?” The answer: “You run a country like you run a family”. Families take their income or incomes, and then distribute it according to priorities. That way, there is money for leisure activities, education, health, and probably for holidays. In short, for all the family's needs. The same needs to apply to government.

No one here could run a family, because they cannot run a government. We have lost track of all the energy, the money and the time we have wasted to try to get the message across that the money needs to go back to those who need it most. The Liberal Party may be in power but it does not own this country. It acts as if it did, though.

One needs only look at the sponsorship scandal to see how they have shamelessly had their palms greased. In the parliamentary committee we are inviting para-governmental bodies to come and tell us about their situation. It is scandalous to see the extent to which the government is using the country's funds as if it owned this country.

This is not true. Neither the Liberal Party nor the federal government own Canada. We are the ones our money belongs to. Each province provides its share, as does each individual, and one day they will realize that we are going to take back what is ours and to stop handing it over to them because they are wasting it. I am discouraged by the whole situation. As I have said, we have been hearing the same thing for 50 years. We are getting closer and closer to a solution, but things have not changed in the past 50 years. Flashing the Canadian flag everywhere, putting emblems here, there and everywhere, that was what the sponsorship scandal was all about. And filling up their own pockets is perfectly fine, because they think they own the country. That is basically what they are telling us.

In committee, we interviewed André Ouellet, formerly of Canada Post. He became angry because someone called him a thief. Perhaps the word was a little strong. His answer was painful to our ears. He was at Canada Post. He told us not to get upset over a $2 million expense account. The costs of hotel rooms and meals had to be taken into account. True, there were no receipts for 15% of the expenses, but he had forgotten them. Fifteen per cent of $2 million is only $300,000; that is not much. An ordinary worker has to earn $600,000 to get $300,000. He laughed, he teased us, it was pretty awful. It was hard to know what to ask that would be logical. While he was a Liberal, he owned this Canada; it was his business. That is the way we see it. You can see it in other parliamentary committees. It really offends me. Things have to change one day, and I can predict that, one day, Quebec will change it. One day, in the not so distant future, we will tell the federal government that no more Quebec money is coming to it. We will hang on to it. Up to now, we have shown we know how to manage things. Whatever the government in Quebec City, it is always infinitely better than what there is federally. Sometimes there is waste in Quebec, but I can tell you that Quebeckers are keeping a close eye on it.

Our current government, the Charest government, has made mistakes. Not for too long. When it makes a mistake, it is forced to look at its position. Why? Because Quebeckers take to the streets and say what it wants to do makes no sense. It has to take another look at its position. But here, whatever message we send is unheard. I find that really difficult.

I have looked into the seniors issue. There are—as my colleague has said—270,000 Canadians who have been deprived of their guaranteed income supplement over the past 10 or 12 years. Of that number, 68,000 were Quebeckers. I have toured Quebec and attended 42 meetings on this. I have seen the terrible poverty. I was with the member for Sherbrooke in his riding, where we learned of one senior who died at age 88 after having an income throughout her old age of $6,000. The government pocketed $90,000 when she died. Imagine if she had had that money. She was no one of importance, just someone who raised a family of ten or so children, and surely did not work, so presumably was not seen as entitled to what was coming to her. I met people like that all over Quebec.

It makes no sense that they are coming up today with a bill that will merely complicate things, add more public servants, increase the visibility of the federal government, when this money could have gone to the seniors who have been deprived of $3.2 billion over the past 10 years. That is very close to $1 billion for Quebec alone, $80 million to be exact. Just the structure, the mass of functionaries, the wasted energy could have gone to pay seniors what is owed them. But no, they will not do that.

Conversely, when the federal government is owed money, the retroactivity goes back 10 years. And if the government finds a person at fault, the period of retroactivity then extends indefinitely and there are fines and interest to pay.

In our region, an older couple realized, when they were 70, that they had been deprived of $4,000 a year. These are regular people. I was able to get $4,000 for them for the past 11 months. This brings their total loss down to $16,000, $16,000 that the government is keeping in its coffers and using to build structures.

I have had enough, really enough, of this system. The government side never listens. We are asked questions, but when we answer in accordance with the wishes of the people, they do not pay any attention. The Liberals own the country and almost own its inhabitants. I am sad to see that we cannot advance issues further.

Seniors have been robbed of $3.2 billion in recent years. They will not be taking this money with them when they die. I pledge that, as long as I and the Bloc Québécois are in this place, we will pursue this. The day will come when the government has to agree to grant retroactivity to seniors, because they have earned that money and it belongs to them. Unfortunately, I can see that it is in the interest of the federal government to delay payment. The people involved are old; they are not youngsters. Those 75, 80 or 85 years old have precious little time left. The government is saving money with each passing day by constantly delaying payment. The day might come when it is generous enough to pay what it owes, but by then all of those who were owed the money will have died.

For now, the government has generously announced that payments will be made over the next six years, although the money was taken over the past 12 years. It is no longer exactly the same people. The government will be giving back $2.7 billion over the next six years, but took away $3.2 million over the past 10 years. Those involved will have changed in the meantime. We cannot really call that social justice.

There is no doubt that I support my colleague. So long as we can, we will oppose this bill. In fact, it creates a department of social encroachment. We have enough encroachment. We are going to fight it with the energy of the desperate, until we have hope of keeping all our marbles at home and making Quebec the country of our dreams.