House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

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

Budget Implementation Act, 2005 May 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the former mayor, who is now a member of Parliament, has shared with us his experience of municipalities lacking money. In my opinion, the federal government must not go over the provinces' heads to deal directly with the municipalities. They simply lack money because the provinces do. If they have more, then all the better. However, why create another level when the government could simply give money to the provinces to help the municipalities?

The Infrastructure Canada Program is a major program. Montreal is not the only city with an infrastructure problem. For cities like Trois-Rivières or Shawinigan, it is the same thing. There is indeed a major infrastructure problem and it needs to be resolved. However, the money is here, but I do not think the federal government is in any position to give a province or a municipality lessons on administration.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005 May 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am perfectly aware of that. The reality is that there is an imbalance, no matter what they choose to call it. There is too much money going into the federal coffers and not enough to the provinces compared to the respective needs. It is as simple as that.

Education and health are provincial. Instead of constantly trying to duplicate services, it would just be a matter of giving the money back to the people it belongs to, that is, to those whose mandate it is to deal with the matters under their jurisdiction.

The federal government is good at beefing up the bureaucracy. Once this new department is in place, with its 14,000 positions, it will have added close to 60,000 public servants in the past six years. At the same time, the total payroll has increased by close to $9 billion a year.

Rather than duplicate services, it would have been simpler to fix the fiscal imbalance and to hand back to each province the money that would enable it to solve its problems. It is unfortunate fact that the federal government has a predilection for putting its foot in everywhere and fattening up its bureaucracy instead of delivering services. That is something we see constantly.

In committee, we were presented with a study proving that things are going to get worse. The provinces are heading toward a serious deficit for the next 10 to 12 years, while the federal government will have hundreds of billions of dollars in surplus. That makes no sense, and the problem must be fixed. Regardless of the label put on it, this is, in our minds, fiscal imbalance. That is what it needs to be called and that is what, in fact, it is.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005 May 17th, 2005

These sorts of things are important in human terms. I have no qualms asking people to tell me where the money is that is being denied them. It is easy enough. A person need only follow some of the proceedings of the Gomery commission. The people in the Liberal Party have lined their pockets. This money belongs to the taxpayers, and they are having problems, but we are having to say no to them, because this money was wasted.

When I am asked to approve a budget like this one, I cannot. It is not my aim to precipitate an election. Whether or not we had joined forces with the Conservative Party, we would have opposed the budget, because it makes no sense. The government must return to a modicum of honesty and compassion for the public and begin distributing and spending money as it ought.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005 May 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate today on the budget which is to be adopted, or not, this Thursday. Truly, the future of the government is at stake with this motion.

I have been in politics pretty close to 30 years. In 1975 I was about to become the MNA for Champlain, and since then I have worked with a number of premiers and Prime Ministers, both in Quebec City and here on the Hill. Despite all those years in politics, this is the first time I have seen discussions on a budget that, in my opinion, is not a budget at all.

We, both the party in power and the opposition, held rounds of consultations to find out what people hoped to see in the budget presented to us. I know we consulted numerous people before making our suggestions to the government on the budget as we wanted to see it.

This is one of the first times in my career that I have seen a budget spread over five years. We do not have any clear idea of what amounts are going to be committed. We know, for example, that promises have been made for the next two, three or four years, and the public is being led to think that this money is going to be spent right away. Take the business of seniors for instance.

There is talk of increasing the guaranteed income supplement, of billions of dollars to be invested in this program, but they neglect to say that this amount is over the next five years. It will start in 2006, and the supplement will gradually increase. By the end of the next five years, if they keep their word—which, as far as this government is concerned, is not a sure thing—people will have recovered some $2 billion in guaranteed income supplement. They also neglect to mention the fact that some people have been deprived of the GIS for the past 12 years. That amount is twice what they will get back over the next 5. Knowing that makes all the difference.

The government calls itself a good administrator. It is relatively easy to manage things the way they do. Take money out and 15 years later, return less than the full amount. They come across as generous, but they are not. The guaranteed income supplement will be increased in the coming years, but it is the seniors—many of whom, unfortunately, will no longer be here—who will have paid for it.

We see this is many areas. For example—this may be a pre-election period; we will know for sure on Thursday—in exchange for its vote, the NDP demanded a number of things. Among other things, it demanded $1 billion for social housing.

Nonetheless, this government acts with forethought. It has done nothing for social housing. In my riding, there are people suffering because of a desperate shortage in housing. In Wemotaci, there is 15-member family living in a single, unsanitary, barely livable house. The government has not done what it should have, if it had any respect for these people. It has not built social housing.

The NDP says it is pleased to have succeeded in obtaining an increase. However, it should be noted that CMHC has a $3.7 billion surplus for social housing. This amount could have been spent. Adding a billion dollars for social housing will not change much if there is no intention of spending it.

I think the NDP could have required the government to draft a quick policy to spend the money already accumulated for social housing.

It would have made more sense, in my view, to say that we will build housing for Aboriginals over the next year and at affordable prices for the people who need it.

I was one of those who consulted people, along with our colleague here. He went around Quebec, while I went around my riding. It is unbelievable to see the needs we have on all sides. There is talk about a budget increase, but there is no information about how the money will be spent and whether there will be surpluses at CMHC. I can tell you that an increase does not result in much and does not meet the needs of the people who are waiting impatiently for suitable housing.

The member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier went around the various municipalities to see what people thought about the fiscal imbalance. People in Quebec are unanimous that the fiscal imbalance is nonsensical. We absolutely have to get back to common sense. We have to ensure that the money stops going to federal coffers when the needs are in the provinces.

Everyone rails against the fiscal imbalance: the Liberal party in Quebec City, the Parti Québécois in Quebec City, and all the political parties. In the provinces, everyone involved in finance decries the fiscal imbalance. The only one who fails to acknowledge it is the party currently in power, the minority Liberal party.

And yet this fiscal imbalance is extremely serious because, in a few years, the provinces will be unable to cope any more with their health problems and education problems. They are already having tremendous difficulty, but no one in the government thought about fixing the fiscal imbalance problem, and they do not even acknowledge it. They are the only ones who fail to see it. They give this situation all sorts of names, anything to ensure that they do not have to adjust the funding for the provinces and the federal government.

We consulted like never before and there was unanimity. But they do not want to recognize the situation, which results in the incredible overlap that we have now. People are talking about it. I do not know how many speeches I have heard here about the fiscal imbalance, but it does not seem obvious to the people opposite, they do not want to recognize it.

Some provinces, as I mentioned, are hurting from the lack of funding. Their needs are enormous. The federal government is wasting money and does not want to acknowledge the needs of the provinces—and this is true in all sectors.

I think that this is a good time to talk about wasting money with the Liberal government, in fact, anytime is a good time for that. We need only follow the Gomery commission inquiry into the sponsorship scandal, and every day the revelations get bigger and more unbelievable.

When taxpayers' money is being wasted and wonderful programs have to be cut, we must realize that, of all the taxpayers, the poor are paying the highest price.

I want to tell the House a story. In an Amerindian community north of La Tuque, Wemotaci, alcohol and drugs are a problem, not just for the residents, but for first nations in general. Anyone who wants to can check into a treatment facility. When they check out, they are supposed to be sent to a rehab centre, because if they go back to the reserve, they will immediately see the person supplying the drugs or alcohol and it starts all over again. They went to rehab for nothing.

We want our own homes. We are prepared to build in La Tuque, but we do not have $20,000. No one will give us the money. When I look at the sponsorship scandal, I can tell you that many Liberal organizers had that $20,000 in their pockets. It should be used to help people, but this is not going to happen because this money was wasted.

I could talk so much more about this, but the time allotted me is running out. Every time a problem arises in my riding and my constituents come to see me, I have to tell them I can do nothing for them.

If I had leave, I would like to continue my speech. I have a few facts to relate. I therefore request leave of the House to continue my speech.

Committees of the House May 9th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I was listening very closely to the speech that was just delivered to the House. I must say quite honestly that I had difficulty following it. At one point, it was a matter of building roads, transporting gravel and all sorts of other things, but I do not know exactly what the hon. member was trying to say. I do not know whether some of my colleagues managed to grasp the meaning of this speech.

Nevertheless, my colleague spoke of wasting time. A good example of this is the time he wasted delivering his speech, since he did not really know what he was talking about.

In the beginning he said there was no respect for aid to developing countries. I was a little insulted by that. What about the work the Liberal Party has done for developing countries? Over 50 years ago, Lester B. Pearson, who was a Liberal, won the Nobel Peace Prize. He gave the United Nations the idea that developed countries should give 0.75% of their GDP to developing countries. For that excellent idea, he received the Nobel Peace Prize. That was 50 years ago, but Canada still has not reached half the amount it should be giving to developing countries.

The hon. member said there is a lack of respect toward aid to developing countries. I would like him to talk about what his government has done in that respect.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Act May 9th, 2005

Madam Speaker, we never changed our mind. In fact, we have always thought that the way the federal government works is bad for Quebec. It grabs more and more money, but never seems able to give it back.

Indeed, this weekend, the member for St. Hyacinthe said that the fiscal balance should not occur by pieces; it should occur globally. The federal government must give back to the provinces what is rightfully theirs. The Liberals have complicated things. Do they believe that if there was an independent employment insurance fund, it would be more complicated? It would be less complicated. They would not be able to take money from the fund instead of providing benefits to workers.

When I toured Quebec about the guaranteed income supplement, I received a nice letter from Jane Stewart, who was the minister at the time. She wrote me that she had given all she could, that she had improved the information in order to be able to give more, that she had given us all that we had asked for, but that there was only one thing that she could not give us: it was retroactivity.

Do we need a department to offer retroactivity? No, we need honesty. All they have to do is admit that that money is not theirs. It is not by establishing a department, by making the administration bigger, that we will have money to offer retroactivity. We do not need a department to offer retroactivity. And Mrs. Stewart's letter proves it. It is the same thing with employment insurance.

Since my time is up, I will conclude by saying that, in terms of employment insurance, it is not true that we need a department to improve the system; we only need to take it out of the hands of the Liberals.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Act May 9th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am still puzzled. We have just seen an example. It looks like we always need a bigger machine to provide services. If we only respected the areas of jurisdiction, we would not have to increase the number of public servants. It is quite simple.

It has been suggested that an independent EI fund be created. Employment insurance does not concern you, except for regulations. Again, the federal government is not putting any money into the EI fund, but it is taking money out of it. Do not tell me that it is because we lack services that we are not giving EI benefits to a worker who loses his job. About 39% of the workers who contribute to employment insurance can expect to receive benefits if they are let go. The federal government took the rest of the money. What will an extra 14,000 public servants do? There is simply no will to provide services to the workers who qualify for employment insurance.

Why was there no new department for seniors? There were 270,000 seniors who were not receiving the guaranteed income supplement. That is now down to 100,000 people. No new department was created. The process was rationalized, forms were simplified and proper information was given. Instead of making things more complicated, they simplified them. They have shown a willingness to provide the necessary services. With 60,000 more public servants in the last five years and an increase of more than $9 billion in salaries for the Government of Canada, services are getting worse, not better.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Act May 9th, 2005

I will be pleased to do so, Mr. Speaker.

Because of the sponsorship scandal, we lost much more than a referendum. We also lost our reputation in the eyes of many Canadians. They say this is normal, this is the way people do politics in Quebec. But that is not true. If there is one place where measures are being taken to clean up politics, it is Quebec.

Mr. Lévesque worked tirelessly on this issue and Quebeckers are able to be involved in politics, while respecting everyone's interests. However, when money is taken to voluntarily buy people's consciences, as was done, this is confirmation to us that the only way that Quebec can really be its own master in the future is by achieving sovereignty. As far as I am concerned, this should happen as soon as possible, and I will be very pleased to participate in the process.

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Act May 9th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this bill. In fact, I am doubly pleased, since this is probably one of the last speeches I will make in the House. If the rumours prove to be true, there could be an election very soon. It is time for me to throw in the towel. I will be moving on and going home after 25 years of relatively active political life.

In all those years as a member of this House, I have had the opportunity to defend various files. Among others, the one that affected me most and into which I threw all my time and energy, the one of which I am most proud, is the guaranteed income supplement for seniors.

The House will recall that, when we took on this issue affecting the poorest seniors in Canada and Quebec, most had been deprived of the guaranteed income supplement to which they were entitled. The Bloc Québécois travelled around Quebec meeting with seniors and showing them the extent to which they had been deprived of an essential income. I met people with all kinds of conditions and I was surprised that the government had so little concern for the most vulnerable members of our society.

When we talk about economically disadvantaged people, we often refer to poverty and to children living in poverty. Indeed, it is sad to see a child who is suffering from poverty because his or her parents are poor. And these parents are often poor because, again, the government is not fulfilling its duties.

Let us take, for example, the employment insurance account. Instead of paying benefits to workers who lose their jobs, the government has used these funds to reduce its debt. Therefore, it is not surprising to see children living in poverty, because the money is not going to families.

When I see young people living in poverty, it affects me. But I keep thinking that there is always hope and love. Some change could occur. Some miracle could happen.

However, when a person has worked for society throughout his life, has raised six, seven or eight children, and is deprived of his due in the twilight of his life, it is a rather painful thing to see. I remember the day when the hon. member for Sherbrooke and I were supposed to meet someone. We were not able to do it, because that person was dying. However, we met the family and found out that, after raising a family of eight children, that woman, who was 88, had spent her senior years with an annual income of $6,000, and when she died, the government collected $90,000 that was owed.

When we see such things, we can only fight tooth and nail for these people. I can say that we met with some success. The number of elderly who fall through the cracks is still too high, but it has diminished significantly. The government has improved its way of informing the elderly. However, a lot remains to be done.

I would have liked to leave politics only after managing to convince the government that it must pay retroactively the people that it has—I will not use the term “robbed”, because it is too harsh, although I really wonder if it is—fooled and misled. Indeed, the government did not do all it could to locate these people, simply because they are economically disadvantaged.

We often meet elderly people who do not have a good education, and there are even well-educated people who, following some disease or a stroke—I, along with all the hon. members who helped me with this issue, met some—are often no longer able to get the information they need. In my view, if we make it complicated to get the information, we are guilty, if not of robbing people, of acting very irresponsibly towards society's oldest members.

This matter is not closed. Yet, I wish, among other things, that the government would continue to manage the country for some time, if only perhaps to close this matter and to pass this legislation now before the House, which would force the government to pay retroactively the people whom it has swindled.

Instead of solving these problems, what does the government do? It introduces legislation like this. The federal government takes pleasure in complicating what could be simple. Why simplify things when it is so simple to complicate them? We need to get closer to the people, to provide better service, to give more information, not to create another department that will add 14,000 more public servants. And why? To spend money within the government, to expand the whole thing, to increase the size of this government instead of providing services to those waiting for them.

The seniors' issue is somewhat a part of this. Instead of adding 14,000 public servants, the government could perhaps have taken the billion dollars and more that this will cost to pay out the $3 billion retroactively to seniors who are entitled to receive it. In the last six years, the federal government has increased the number of publics servants by 49,000. Here, it wants to add 14,000 more, which means almost 60,000 public servants. The total payroll is about $9 billion a year. Yet, it would be so simple to respect jurisdictions. This bill infringes on provincial jurisdictions. I am helpless before a government that really does not want to improve things.

If you can get your hands on the article in La Presse from three weeks ago, you should read it. In it, Mr. Castonguay, the former Quebec health minister and a Liberal federalist, was saying how much the federal government has missed the mark since the 1960s. In trying to get closer to Quebec, it has pushed it further away. It would have been so easy just to respect Quebec and its jurisdictions. Just read the piece by Mr. Castonguay, a Liberal federalist, in which he explains how badly you have been missing the mark since the 1960s. You are still missing the mark.

I had the opportunity to serve as an MNA in Quebec City and I worked with Mr. Parizeau, a finance minister recognized throughout Canada. He was a smart man. One day, he was to give a speech in my riding at a meeting of the chamber of commerce. Since I was unable to attend, my wife agreed to go and sit at the head table with Mr. Parizeau. This intimidated her immensely. She said she was not really sure what to do, that she was shy. I told her it was simple, all she had to do was ask a few questions and let him take it from there. I assured her the meal would go very well and that she would learn a great deal.

At one point during the evening she said to Mr. Parizeau, it must not be easy to run a country. Mr. Parizeau said he was surprised to hear a mother say that, because it is mothers who run the country. They are the ones who, in the past, took the household income and divvied it up according to each member's responsibilities and plans. It is simple, you have your budget and you allot a certain amount for education, leisure, food and housing. That is how a country should be run. We should go back to the basics and use common sense.

If the federal government had done that, then they might not have increased the number of public servants by 59,000 over the past six years only to duplicate provincial jurisdictions and services. Health, education and municipalities are provincial responsibilities. According to Mr. Parizeau, it is simple and very logical. We do not even need any experts. Out of its little budget, Quebec needs x amount of billions of dollars for the health system to work. The same goes for Quebec and the provinces who need a certain number of billions of dollars for education and for every area of need.

However, it currently costs a fortune in administration alone. Money is wasted because we have too much administration.

One need look no further than the sponsorship scandal. As René Lévesque would say, it is not one specific scandal but an atmosphere of scandal, and shameless waste everywhere despite crying needs.

Seniors did not need this legislation; they merely needed to be listened to. I feel we owe it to them to admit they have been fleeced, to have the honesty to admit that they were not given the information they needed and that steps were not taken to see that they could get that information.

One of the parish priests in my riding said that if it is not dishonest, it is at the very least totally irresponsible. That money is not ours. It belongs to the poorest members of society, particularly older women. They generally live longer than men, with a life expectancy of 83 years at present. So they are the ones who suffer the most from poverty and yet they are the ones who have raised families and made our society what it is today. This is completely irresponsible and immoral.

It would be appropriate to add some more public servants rather than putting the money into the big government machinery. I do not see the advantage of making that machinery still bigger and still more complicated, when there are responsibilities in our system that need to be divided. The system is not that badly designed, if there were the will to apply it properly.

We are not in favour of this bill, of course, because it is unnecessary and because it encroaches onto provincial jurisdiction. I would have liked to have felt that my time in politics had enabled me to make things better. If there is one area in which I can say that I have some satisfaction with what we have accomplished together, it is the seniors file. It would be so easy to make this country work better. I know, however, that we will not achieve that goal.

I can say, however, that this was my primary objective when I entered politics, even though I would have preferred it did not have to be done, with the federal government deciding to govern properly.

Perhaps Quebec need not become sovereign, but we can see from Castonguay and many others that the only way out with everything we want—with our money, which means not having to beg, and no more federal scandals—is through Quebec's sovereignty.

Having worked with various governments, I am convinced that Quebec would do a better job if it could govern itself. We would not have to encroach on anyone's jurisdiction. Quebec would be perfectly capable of administering itself. Quebec is promised a great future. René Lévesque once said of Quebeckers that they are something of a great people. I can assure the hon. members that Quebeckers will become a great people with a wonderful, beautiful country before my days are over.

I worked with René Lévesque, as well as with Gérald Godin, Pauline Julien, Camille Laurin. I have had the pleasure, since the 1960s, of working with the people, including Jacques Parizeau and others, who made up the “équipe du tonnerre” in those days. There was Jean Lesage, and his master of our own house theme. That was a truly extraordinary team.

Then came Lévesque's team, preceded by another team advocating sovereignty-association, or rather independence. Then there were the days of sovereignty-association with René Lévesque. I am convinced that there will soon be another referendum. You have amply proven to us to what extent you have trampled our rights. In 1995, you made us lose not only hope but also our name, our reputation. You—

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Act April 6th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the time remaining to me will only permit me to get a start on what I want to say. I can, however, take the time to congratulate my colleague from Québec on her excellent and instructive speech. It is important to keep in mind just how inefficient the government over there is, and how lacking in imagination and honesty. It was very kind of her to give the figure for the EI surplus as $45 or $46 billion, but in fact it has reached $54 billion.

This government is taking possession of money that does not belong to it, and doing it with a smile. If the man next door to me did that, he would end up in jail. Yet they are doing it with a smile. Over the last ten years, the government has also pocketed $3 billion belonging to seniors. They want retroactivity, and are told it is not possible. Retroactivity is possible when the government is owed money, but when the government is the one owing, there is no retroactivity.

It goes into the fund, but that is not the right word for it—since, according to some, the fund does not exist—but it does go somewhere, under some government budget heading. They brag about it, calling it good administration. I find it incredible that departments and structures are being created rather than helping those who are suffering from poverty and giving money back to those who are entitled to it. There have been 49,000 new jobs created in the federal government over the past five years. If you assume the value of one job and all the employee benefits to average out at $100,000 a year, we can imagine that this is money that was not used to help people who are living in poverty and suffering, or given back to the unemployed or the elderly.

I will continue with this subject later.