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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Bloc MP for Brossard—La Prairie (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 18% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Hazardous Materials Information Review Act March 29th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon I will speak about Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act. This bill originated in the Senate and had already been tabled. It was formerly called Bill S-40. It has been renumbered and is now S-2.

This bill aims to improve the current process of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act, and it has three main objectives.

The first objective is to allow companies that want to be exempted from the general rules concerning the listing of hazardous ingredients to make a declaration that information in respect of which an exemption is claimed is confidential business information, and that information substantiating the claim will be provided on request, rather than de facto providing all information.

The second objective is to allow companies to voluntarily give an undertaking to the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission to modify and to bring a material safety data sheet or a label of products containing hazardous ingredients into compliance with the provisions of the Hazardous Products Act or of the Canada Labour Code.

The third objective is to allow the limited participation of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission before an appeal board.

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, or WHMIS, combines an assortment of legislation, regulations and procedures whose objective is to protect workers by preventing illness and injury that could result from the use of certain hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

Quebec, the provinces and the federal government are all part of WHMIS.

Under WHMIS, manufacturers and distributors of controlled (hazardous) products must provide information on the health and safety risks associated with their products, together with instructions for safe handling, storage, transportation, disposal and first-aid treatment. This information is conveyed by the product’s mandatory Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and label—

Each product's MSDS must include a number of elements. It must list all hazardous ingredients in the product, its toxicological properties, and the precautions one must take when using the product. The MSDS must also indicate the necessary first aid measures for anyone exposed to a product.

When the indications that must appear on the MSDS involve trade secrets—and this is where the problems begin—and disclosure of these secrets could have serious consequences, a mechanism is in place to, on one hand, assess the pertinence of not disclosing all the information and, on the other hand, ensure that workers' rights are protected. Therein lies the conflict between trade secrets and workers' rights. The mechanism in question is the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission.

This commission was formed in 1987 and consists of quite a few people. That is the beauty of the commission, which has about 18 people on it. There are automatically two representatives of worker interests, one representative of suppliers, one employer representative, one representative of the federal government, and various representatives of the provincial and territorial governments for a total of about 18 people, who form a review committee.

Simply put, the commission’s mandate is to “help safeguard both workers and trade secrets in Canada’s chemical industry”. So when a company wants an exemption from its general obligations in order to safeguard confidential business information—this could be the identity or concentration of a hazardous ingredient in one of its products—it must apply to the commission for an exemption. The claim is registered and it is up to the commission to decide whether an exemption is called for.

The commission’s mandate may also cover evaluating whether certain data sheets and hazardous product labels are in conformance.

There are certain problems with the current legislation. It mandates the council to make recommendations to the health minister on the methods for reviewing claims, the appeal procedures, and the fees to make a claim.

In November 2002, the council officially and unanimously recommended the amendments in the current Bill S-2 to the health minister at the time.

There are three kinds of problems: the complexity of the economic information, the lack of a voluntary process for correcting the data sheets, and finally the lack of flexibility in the exchange of information between the commission and the independent boards in the appeal process.

That is why the bill proposes three amendments. The first amendment in clauses 1, 2 and 8 proposes a change to the obligations in section 11(4) of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act in order to specify that when companies claim an exemption, they do not need to provide all the documentation previously required. This is intended to reduce the complexity of the claims, especially when the information does not really help the commission very much in judging the economic aspects of the claims.

Under the current process, companies claiming an exemption must submit detailed information on what they have done to safeguard the confidentiality of the ingredients used to manufacture their product and on the financial impact of the possible disclosure of this information.

In her testimony given to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology in 2006, Sharon Watts, vice-president of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission, specified in which cases the commission would require full documentation.

The commission will require full documentation to support a claim for exemption from disclosure when an affected party challenges a claim or when a claim is selected through a verification scheme that we will set up to discourage false or frivolous claims

The second change is proposed at clauses 3 and 4 of the bill which amend sections 16 and 17 of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act in order to establish a new mechanism for the voluntary revision of material safety data sheets by the companies. With this new mechanism, when a company files a claim for exemption, a screening officer may “send an undertaking to the claimant setting out the measures that are required to be taken for the purpose of ensuring compliance” with those provisions governing dangerous goods contained in the Hazardous Products Act and the Canada Labour Code.

The purpose of this second change is twofold: to ensure that changes to material safety data sheets and labels are made more quickly and that companies acting in good faith will not be issued an order by the HMIRC, as this could be misleading about their willingness to comply.

In comparison, current legislation requires the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission to issue a formal order for compliance, even if the company seeking an exemption is prepared to comply and to make the necessary corrections after having been notified.

The legislation also provides for a rather strict and time-consuming process. Thus, where non-compliance is found, an order is issued to the company seeking an exemption. This order is then published in the Canada Gazette and it does not become binding until 75 days after its publication. Other time limits are specified in the event that the company decides to appeal the order, or to allow the company to comply with the order and submit a new data sheet.

Finally, the existing rules would still allow orders to be issued to uncooperative companies in case of non-compliance with the rules and in the absence of a voluntary undertaking.

The third amendment proposed in Bill S-2 is contained in clause 7 of the bill, which amends the former section 23 of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act, to enable the commission to provide clarification in respect of an appeal that has been submitted to an appeal board. Clause 8 amends section 48 of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act to permit the making of regulations “respecting the participation of the Commission in an appeal heard before an appeal board”.

According to representatives of the commission, the third amendment seeks “to improve our appeals process by allowing the commission, at the request of an appeal board, to provide factual clarification of the record to appeal boards, when needed to facilitate the process. Appeals are heard by independent boards with three members drawn from labour, industry and government. The government member acts as chair of the board. Most appeals heard to date would have benefited from additional explanatory information from the commission, but this is not permitted under our legislation”.

In short, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill S-2. The Bloc believes that when it comes to hazardous materials, it is vital to keep in mind worker safety and to base all decisions on that imperative.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes that the amendments to the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act contained in Bill S-2 were unanimously approved by the members of the HMIRC council of governors.

The Bloc, therefore, supports Bill S-2 so that the amendments called for by the principal stakeholders in this kind of workplace can be adopted.

In all its actions, the Bloc seeks to protect the interests of workers. That is why we tabled Bill C-257, which, unfortunately, died on the Order Paper; a bill dealing with preventive withdrawal would have enabled pregnant Quebec workers in companies operating under federal jurisdiction to receive the same benefits as Quebec workers—another bill that died on the Order Paper; and Bill C-269 to improve the employment insurance system.

World Water Day March 22nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, World Water Day is celebrated each year on March 22. Coping with Water Scarcity is the theme for 2007. Water resources are scarce and it is important to take into account cultural and ethical considerations when addressing equity and the right to have access to water.

Our societies are built on access to water. The goods we buy and sell are all linked, more or less directly, to water. We could not imagine living without the water around us, without humidity in the air, without the power of a current, without water being available from a tap. Water is no longer a sacred trust. It has become a consumer good that we waste. This day should serve to heighten our awareness of the growing impact of the scarcity of water in our world in order to ensure its sustainable management both locally and internationally.

Maher Arar and Monia Mazigh February 15th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Quebeckers and Canadians of the Muslim faith or of Arab origin reaffirmed their commitment to creating a better society by contributing to its sociocultural and economic development.

The community paid tribute to Maher Arar and to his wife, Monia Mazigh, as part of a parliamentary evening to recognize their struggle to obtain justice and reparation from the Government of Canada.

In recent years, a number of disturbing events have created situations that we can unfortunately associate with terms such as “Islamophobia” or “Arabophobia.” The members of the Arab and Muslim communities of Quebec and Canada declare their firm resolve to promote peace and to contribute to building a society based on the values of solidarity and social, economic and cultural prosperity.

The Bloc Québécois joins with the Muslim and Arab communities in paying tribute to Maher Arar and to Monia Mazigh.

Business of Supply February 8th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel on his presentation.

I would just like to have his opinion on a statement I found in a Department of Transport report that is a few years old. It would be a good idea for our minister to reactivate this report. Experts hired by the Department of Transport were saying that the 10¢ excise tax that the federal government is collecting on gasoline is accumulating substantial funds, funds totalling billions of dollars. The report said that most of the proceeds of this 10¢ tax should be reinvested in Quebec and Canadian infrastructures suffering from underfunding, such as municipal infrastructures, roads and bridges.

Does my colleague have any figures that might tell us how much of this 10¢ is going back into Quebec or municipal infrastructures?

Transportation February 8th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, Montreal's Agence métropolitaine de transport commissioned feasibility studies for the construction of light rail transit linking the South Shore to Montreal via the Champlain bridge. Such studies have been available for some time now.

Why is the Minister of Transport refusing to release these studies?

Business of Supply February 8th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that we invest so little in the development of new technologies for an electrical car. These technologies need to be refined. The weather we have in Quebec creates a few problems, such as a shorter life span for batteries. Scientists are aware of these problems and are looking for solutions.

We should also understand that there is a link between commuter trains and cars. We need incentive parking lots for the cars that carry passengers between the train station and their homes. These parking lots are an integral part of the public transit long-term solution.

We could also consider incentives for carpooling. Five people who live in the same area could share a car to go to the incentive parking lot and take the train. We should encourage carpooling, incentive parking lots, and public transit.

Business of Supply February 8th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned a lot of figures. Unfortunately, since I do not have these numbers in front of me, I will be very cautious in commenting on them. The figures that I mentioned are from studies by chambers of commerce on the south shore, which are very active on this issue. It goes without saying that a project on the south shore will not solve the whole issue of greenhouse gas emissions across the province. In our opinion, public transit and then automobiles are very important factors in the reduction of these greenhouse gas emissions. The number of automobiles must go down, while the number of hybrid and electrical vehicles must increase. The figure of four tonnes per vehicle may be based on old technologies, and vehicles of the future will consume less fuel.

Business of Supply February 8th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

Although Canada ratified the Kyoto protocol on December 17, 2002, after a majority vote in the House of Commons, and the government thereby committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Canada by 6% from the 1990 level between 2008 and 2012, Canada's record on greenhouse gas emissions is not a glowing one.

In 2004, Canada emitted 26% more greenhouse gases. To reach the target of 6% less than 1990, Canada will have to eliminate over 200 megatonnes of greenhouse gases, or nearly 32.5%. Liberals and Conservatives are both to blame for this sorry situation.

Quebec itself has made very different choices. Between 1990 and 2004, it experienced an increase of barely 6% in its greenhouse gases, four times less than the Canadian national average. Quebec continues to show leadership, with its plan to combat climate disturbances, which incorporates all of the targets in the Kyoto agreement.

The greenhouse gas emissions picture is often cited. Quebec still holds the record when it comes to greenhouse gases, in terms of the minimum produced per capita. It produces approximately 12 tonnes per capita, about half the Canadian average. If we exclude Quebec, for what is called the ROC, the rest of Canada, that 23.7 tonnes per capita average climbs to 27.2 tonnes.

While greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec were rising by barely 6%, they grew by 39% in Alberta, and by 61% in Saskatchewan. It is often said that the decision to opt for hydroelectric energy has contributed greatly to Quebec's enviable performance. The collective choices made by the public, by their industries and by the National Assembly, however, are also contributors.

Emissions from Quebec manufacturing industries fell by 7% from 1990 to 2002. The pulp and paper industry reduced its emissions by 18%. The Quebec inventory of greenhouse gases in 2002 illustrates how emissions are distributed in Quebec by industry. We see that the transportation industry is the largest source of emissions, representing 38% of total emissions in Quebec. Road transportation alone accounts for 85% of emissions in the transportation industry, which is why it is important for Quebeckers to target motor vehicles, our dependence on oil and public transit.

Currently, with regard to public transportation in the immediate region of Montreal, there are feasibility studies on three major projects. First, on the North Shore, there is a rapid commuter train that links Montreal to the region of Terrebonne-Repentigny-Mascouche and which is at a little more advanced stage than the two others. Indeed, the government has already committed $300 million to solve this problem.

Quebeckers are asking for $328 million, and we see already that the money will almost certainly be totally spent on the Montreal-Mascouche commuter train.

Our minister and senator recently came to us with a new project to link downtown Montreal and the Montreal-Trudeau airport, in Dorval. The minister and senator probably has in his pockets some interesting amounts for public transportation.

In my area, the riding of Brossard—La Prairie also has its pre-feasibility studies. Our Minister of Transport could probably tell us more about this project. There is a plan for light rail on the boom of Champlain bridge. The pre-feasibility studies are completed. We are waiting for the results. All the chambers of commerce on the South Shore are anxious to see these results.

A few months ago, the cost of this project was estimated at $1.2 billion. Once again, we see that it would be very easy for the Quebec government to invest in public transportation. There are three projects that would easily reach $1 billion, I would even say $2 billion, if we include all the infrastructures and all the structures to cross the St. Lawrence River. Public transportation is very important in Quebec.

Quebec is trying to free itself from its oil dependency. Here are a few numbers randomly chosen. In 1962, 67% of energy needs were filled with fossil fuels. With the big hydroelectric projects, that percentage was reduced to the point where, in 1981, our oil dependency had dropped to 53%.

In 2002, that percentage fell to 38% thanks to the increase in hydroelectricity production in Quebec. The reduction of our dependency on oil is mainly attributable to the implementation of programs like EnerGuide and the shift towards electric heating.

In 2005, Quebec consumed 200 million barrels of oil a year. We want to reduce that consumption by at least 20% by 2016. So, it is very important that the $328 million we are demanding from the federal government be directed toward public transit. The government must act swiftly and make public the studies the Agence métropolitaine du transport spent $12 million on.

There is a project that is of particular interest to me and that has become a priority for the population of Montreal's South Shore. It concerns highway 10, which has reached its full capacity. Every day, the population must cope with traffic congestion on the Champlain bridge. A light train could transport 20,000 people an hour and reduce the number of cars using the bridge by about 8,000.

In fact, the addition of a train would bring enormous savings for the area. Furthermore, the time lost by workers is estimated at $1 billion every year.

I urge our Minister of Transport to invest in public transit as soon as possible and not 10 years from now, after two or three further elections.

Business of Supply February 1st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for his question. I quoted a document earlier in my presentation. If the government wants tips on how to reduce oil consumption, I suggest that it refer to the document put out by the Government of Quebec, entitled “Quebec and Climate Change, A Challenge for the Future”. This report suggests many solutions, too many for me to list here. I suggest that people consult “Quebec and Climate Change, A Challenge for the Future”, dated October 16, 2006.

Business of Supply February 1st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for that question.

I would like to see the figures for the current government's action plan. The figures are clearly set out in Quebec's plan. We know what the Government of Quebec's plans are for transportation, industry, waste material and agriculture. It is this overall plan we are not seeing.

Quebec's plan, which is very well laid out, as I mentioned, also sets targets. The federal government's green plan has no targets. We are waiting for these targets, which will tell us where the government plans to direct its efforts.

Blame is laid on Canada or the policies of the previous Liberal government and people talk about a 30% to 35% increase, but we also need to look at the different provinces and where this 30% increase is coming from.

I explained earlier that the target in Quebec is 6% and that we can reach it or reduce emissions to 1990 levels and by a further 6%, which was the Kyoto target. But I think that the other provinces need to apologize and say where they are going to target their efforts.

We have heard a bit about Ontario's program, which will target coal-fired plants, but have we heard anything about greenhouse gas emission reductions by oil companies in the west?