House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was energy.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Timiskaming—Cochrane (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 62% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions November 21st, 1994

Madam Speaker, the third petition contains 76 signatures. The petitioners ask that Parliament ensure that the present provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada prohibiting assisted suicide be enforced vigorously and also that Parliament make no changes in the law which would sanction or allow the aiding or abetting of suicide or active or passive euthanasia. I would like to add that I also agree with the petitioners.

Petitions November 21st, 1994

Madam Speaker, the second petition contains 82 signatures. The petitioners pray that the government act immediately to extend protection to the unborn child by amending the Criminal Code to extend the same protection enjoyed by born human beings to unborn human beings. I would like to add that I agree with the petitioners.

Petitions November 21st, 1994

Madam Speaker, I want to submit three petitions.


The first petition deals with sexual orientation. The petitioners pray that Parliament not amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase of sexual orientation. The petition contains 77 signatures.

Department Of Natural Resources Act November 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-48 and on the amendment tabled by the hon. member for Abitibi.

For one year now, I have been hearing Bloc Quebecois members talk about duplication, overlapping, waste and the need to make cuts. I find it very disappointing, and also very prejudicial to Canada, to see Bloc members use any bill to try to promote their only objective, namely the separation of Quebec, instead of dealing with the real issues and improve the situation of Quebecers.

Bill C-48 amalgamates two previous departments, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and Forestry Canada. This is a logical and practical step that demonstrates the government's commitment to Canada's resource industry and to good government.

I understand that the amalgamation of these two departments has already saved some $16 million, c'est ça couper dans le gras, messieurs les députés.

In the debate on Bill C-48 it is essential that we keep in mind the vital contribution that the energy, mining and forest sectors make to Canada's economic health and to the high standard of living that Canadians have come to enjoy. Together, these industries represented $86.2 billion or 13.4 per cent of Canada's GDP in 1993.

Canada's advantage in international trade is tied almost exclusively to natural resource based goods. These three sectors provide jobs for 700,000 Canadians and sustain the economies of almost 500 communities across the country. In many regions of Canada, natural resource industries are not only the principal vehicle for economic development, they are the only vehicle for highly skilled jobs.

Energy, mining and forestry are high-technology industries which are essential to Canada's prosperity in the future. If only we can have an adequate policy developed and implemented by a single department, these industries will keep contributing to job creation and economic recovery for a long time to come.

Bill C-48 sets out the minister's duty to promote sustainable development regarding energy, mineral and forest resources in Canada. This means that the economic, social and environmental objectives of the government will have to be taken into account in every decision related to the development, the management and the use of resources.

In its quest for sustainable development, the new department will rely, among other things, on the work done in these scientific sectors. The Canadian Forestry Service, the Geological Survey of Canada, the Canada Centre for Mineral and Energy Technology, and Geomatics Canada will remain dynamic activity centres in the field of science and technology.

Bill C-48 officializes the grouping of two statutes of the Parliament of Canada which exist, under one form or another, since many years. Consequently, that legislation does not in any way increase the power of the government of Canada. The duties, the authority and the functions of the Minister of Natural Resources will only apply to those areas that come under the jurisdiction of Parliament.

This new department will continue to work in partnership with the provinces to make our natural resource sectors both sustainable and competitive.

There are many examples of such partnerships. For instance, the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers has recently agreed on a framework for future co-operation in the areas of science and technology, international and trade issues, regional development, aboriginal forestry and national co-ordination.

In the mining sector, the Whitehorse mining initiative represents a valuable partnership that unites the efforts of federal and provincial governments, industry, labour, aboriginal people and environmental groups. In fact, for Canada's mining and mineral sector, the Whitehorse mining initiative demonstrates the commitment by all the stakeholders to co-operation and dialogue to improve the future prospect of mining for the country.

On this point, I am proud to note that on September 13, 1994 the Whitehorse mining initiative leadership council accord was signed in Victoria, British Columbia. This accord sets out principles and goals designed to assist all stakeholders in their efforts to ensure a prosperous mining industry that is committed to sustainable development.

Another of the department's agencies, the Canada Centre for Mineral and Energy Technology, has set up a successful partnership. In an editorial published on November 7, the newspaper The Northern Miner reported that co-operation projects undertaken by this agency positively contributes to our economic growth and job creation in Canada.

Also, partnerships between federal and provincial governments in the goematics area allow Canada to help other countries. For example, last month, the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced new initiatives to help the Ukraine.

Among these initiatives was a $2.3 million contract awarded to an Alberta company for the second stage of an important land registration project in the region of Kossiv, in the Ukraine. Following this project, private interests in this country are expected to be able to purchase land. This project is the result of close co-operation between the industry, the Alberta government and Natural Resources Canada.

In closing, Bill C-48 demonstrates the government's commitment to good government. It is a bill that emphasizes progress toward sustainable development of Canada's energy, mineral and forest resources. In addition, Bill C-48 emphasizes co-operation, la coopération entre les provinces, which own the natural resources, on le reconnaît, so Canadians can move together into the next century and beyond.

I urge all members to defeat these amendments.

Department Of Industry Act October 26th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to address the House on the subject of Bill C-46, the Department of Industry Act.

I would not be doing justice to my own feelings on this bill if I did not state at the outset my firm belief that this is good legislation, a measure of which the government can be proud.

Bill C-46 and other organizational legislation introduced in this session are clear evidence that the government intends to live up to its commitment first stated in the campaign that saw it elected to power to restore and renew our administrative machinery. I am convinced that Canadians will view it as a positive step that will help restore public faith in the way our country is governed.

I have been listening to the discussion on the bill with considerable interest and have noticed that a constant focus of debate by the opposition has been the topic of regional development.

Here we have a bill, as the members opposite have themselves acknowledged, that deals with a tremendously broad range of responsibilities. The department has responsibility for industry and technology, trade and commerce, science, consumer affairs, corporations and corporate securities, competition and restraint of trade, bankruptcy, patents and copyrights, packaging, telecommunication, investments, small business, tourism. I have to pause and I have not yet exhausted the list.

All these responsibilities are vital to Canada's industry, trade and economic development. They affect all Canadians in every province and region, including Quebec. I, for one, think it would be unfair to my constituents to focus on a single aspect of the bill and ignore all other very important elements.

The arguments raised by opposition members are seriously flawed. First of all, according to them, since the Constitution does not define regional development as a federal responsibility, it therefore comes under Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction. The federal government has a special responsibility to the regions of the country whose economy is growing more slowly, as provided for in Section 36(1)( b ) of the Constitution Act, 1982. This section requires the federal and provincial governments to further economic development to reduce disparities in opportunities throughout the country.

The way these responsibilities are discharged has changed over the years, just as the various regional requirements have evolved. The federal government used to try to reduce regional disparities, but it now emphasizes small and medium-sized business competitiveness and regional development.

Contrary to what some critics claim, the government remains very active in Quebec regional development. The Economic and Regional Development Agreement, or ERDA, with Quebec has not been renewed yet but it only expires in December, despite the opposition's allegations. The ERDA agreements will remain in force long after they expire, in some cases in 1996 and 1998.

If we stick to the facts, no one can say that funding for Quebec regional development is drying up. Between 1989-90 and 1993-94, federal contributions to Quebec regional development rose by 15 per cent, compared to the previous five-year period, to $1.4 billion over five years. I would like to see northern Ontario get part of that; it is not even in the same ballpark.

I admit that by making a commitment to reduce spending and to lower the deficit, the federal government was forced to cut the amount allocated to regional development. We made a special effort, however, to ensure that these cuts are spread fairly among all regions of the country.

That being said, the current approach to regional development in Quebec does not require the same level of funding as in the past. Business clients of FORD-Q were quite clear during recent consultations: they do not want any more grants. They want assistance in a form that helps them realize their potential and they want the government to reduce the size of our deficit.

There is a contradictory aspect to the opposition argument on regional development in Quebec. On the one hand, the federal government is faulted for not establishing a separate department or agency for Quebec as is done with WED and ACOA. On the other hand, the federal government is criticized for wanting to ensure that all regions of Canada benefit from economic development.

I repeat, the constitutional provision to promote economic development exists so as to create a more level playing field. The field we are talking about is not only Quebec but all of Canada.

I am confident the people of Quebec will demonstrate their confidence in the federal government's plans for encouraging economic growth and job creation.

There are practical reasons FORD-Q does not have separate legislation. The main preoccupation, the main priority of the government is job creation, not creating new administrative structures. Bill C-46 is intended to consolidate, not separate. Therefore it retains existing provisions regarding regional development. As is currently the case, control of regional development in Quebec will again be transferred to the Minister of Finance by order in council.

I am sure that the opposition wishes, as do all members of the House, to see the Quebec economy prosper. The government is steadfastly dedicated to that objective. Bill C-46 creates an organization that will assist Quebec and all of Canada move toward that goal.

I urge the House to give it speedy passage.

Bankruptcy Act October 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today and discuss Bill C-237. This bill proposes to change the priority of payment of claims provided for in the Bankruptcy Act so that employees be the first to be paid in case of their employer's bankruptcy.

The hon. member for Portneuf is proposing to pay these claims, up to a limit of $9,000, to each employee of the bankrupt business. I congratulate him for this very commendable initiative.

At first glance, and before thoroughly examining the consequences of this bill, I would have been tempted to support it. However, after some deep thinking and research on the issue, I came to another conclusion, at least for the time being.

I would like to remind the hon. member that the contents of Bill C-237 have been proposed many times in the past. And each time, that proposal or another one such as this has been thoroughly examined. I am alluding here to seven pieces of legislation that have been moved since 1970 on the issue of employee protection, as well as seven other reports that were tabled on that issue since that time.

Finally, these failures led the previous government to forgo the provisions relating to the wage claim payment program in order to have other provisions of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act adopted. There should be a clear message here.

There is still room for improvements, but the present situation is better than the one which prevailed in 1992, when the act was reviewed.

At that time, employees could expect only $500 if they lost their jobs when their employer went bankrupt. Now, workers have a privileged claim up to $2,000 for the six months preceding the bankruptcy. The new provisions of the legislation provide that no tribunal can approve a proposal unless it includes payment of wages owed to the workers up to $2,000 per worker.

Bankruptcy and insolvency are complex issues, but the general picture is easy to grasp. There is a single cake of finite size. If you cut a bigger slice for one group, let us say the employees, clearly the remaining slices will be smaller. If a super-priority is given to one of the parties, it will be more difficult to pay the others, including secured creditors.

We have no other choice but to look at the whole picture, which requires time, expertise and concerted efforts. We must, at least, have a good idea of the impact one priority will have on all the others. Even if all parties co-operate and work harmoniously, a certain balance will have to be struck when dividing the cake.

Who should carry the burden of paying the employees up to $9,000 in the present difficult situation? What would the consequences of such a measure be on credit institutions, when fledgling or shaky companies come knocking on their doors with a potential debt of $9,000 per employee? What will they say to these companies who might employ more people than they should? Can we accept that they be penalized because they created jobs in an economy where jobs are difficult to come by?

Moreover, should employees show solidarity and assume, with those who really benefit, part of the financing necessary to protect a large work force? Briefly, let us say that we do not know precisely what measure would protect the workers more effectively, but Industry Canada continues to collect data, while the debate goes on. At the very least, establishing a super-priority, whether for employees, creditors or consumers, would have serious implications for everybody concerned.

The whole economy will feel the consequences. Until the government has answers to these questions and many other crucial and closely related questions which directly affect the superpriority issue, it is useless to try to deal with the complexities of specific priority claims. The claims of employees are part and parcel of the larger issue of bankruptcy reform, that we will be debating in upcoming months.

I would be hard-pressed to choose between the priority rights of the employees, or those of the suppliers, who have the right to take back their merchandise, or those of the buyers who made their purchases in good faith, not knowing that those goods were about to be repossessed. Again, if we put companies in such a position that they have to close down or if we create a situation where their available capital will disappear, their employees will have to look for jobs somewhere else.

We are still at an early stage, maybe not so early if one considers the history of Canadian workers, who had been expecting for a long time what they finally obtained in 1992, but nevertheless it is early in the context of the new legislation and of the related review process which should be completed by 1995.

It was a fierce battle from the beginning, and it took 40 years before we could get a revision of the Bankruptcy Act in 1992. There was widespread consultation of the people concerned because lots of diverging interests were at stake.

Perhaps those questions should not even be discussed in the context of general legislation on insolvency. The government must consider a debtor company's capacity to negotiate its successful restructuring.

Again, this is a web of very complex problems. In order to devise legal options that really work, the people concerned and the government must co-operate. We must all work to maintain the process by means of a review after three years and people must inform the government of any aspect which is of importance to them.

Another way to protect the reform, in political terms, is to try to guarantee government the largest possible consensus among stakeholders on any future reform. That is what we are trying to do with our consultation and partnership approach.

I am convinced that the member for Portneuf has no desire to introduce a bill that would imperil the jobs of those very workers that he is trying to protect. I am equally convinced that he would not want to help a small number of workers at the expense of the majority. In no way am I questioning the good intentions of this bill's promoter. I am not necessarily taking sides in this matter. I am merely trying to obtain more information in order to understand the real effect of this superpriority.

In my opinion, the House should consider employee protection in the larger context of bankruptcy, and to do so, it should wait for the results of studies already under way. I also feel that it is too early to evaluate the repercussions of the priorities which, as I said, are mentioned in the new Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. We must tackle the various aspects of bankruptcy, ranging from the international to the individual level.

The House should go ahead with its review and allow the government enough time to receive its advisory committee's recommendations on the matter. Consequently, the House should reject Bill C-237, at least for the time being.

Social Security Program October 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, this will be very short. I thank the hon. member for his statement.

I can summarize their philosophy very briefly. I think that they want to keep Canadian and Quebec families in perpetual poverty because that is what you do when you give them a cheque every month and tell them to stay home and do nothing. For a year, I have heard members of the Bloc Quebecois tell us to stop duplication, that is how we will save money. That is what we are trying to do with these reforms.

For a year, I have heard Bloc members tell us to tax the rich. That is what we want to do with the education reform. We want to stop subsidizing the sons of lawyers and give to those who really need it.

Social Security Program October 24th, 1994

I thank the hon. member for his support. We need reform but we do not need the Reform Party.

But having said that, I have had occasion to talk to the hon. member many times on a lot of issues and we share similar views.

The government certainly believes that job creation should be the number one priority. This is what reform is all about, not only this social policy reform but the document tabled by the finance minister and the upcoming document of the Minister of Industry. All our red book and other programs are geared toward creating jobs, creating opportunities.

We moved in the first budget to remove some of the disincentives that impact on job creation. We reduced UI premiums, and hopefully with constructive suggestions from both opposition parties and from government members, we will find better ways to put Canadians back to work.

It is not only a question of dollars. I know that members of the Reform Party always think money. We Liberals think about people. Putting people back to work is not only saving a dollar or getting more revenue in income tax, it restores to Canadians the dignity of being able to be self-sufficient. To do that, we have to give them the tools.

Right now, as I mentioned in my speech, people have many disincentives to going back to work. They are discouraged from going back to work. Hopefully, with these reforms, we will be able to give them the tools they need to get back to work.

Social Security Program October 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to address the House on this most important matter of reforming our social programs.

I would like to congratulate the hon. Minister of Human Resources Development and his parliamentary secretary for having the courage to put forward this most-needed initiative.

I will restrict my comments to two areas. First, why do we need social policy reform? Second, what are the principles which should direct these changes and what are the objectives we want to achieve?

On October 14 and 15 I held two sets of public consultations in my riding of Timiskaming-French River, one in Kirkland Lake and one in Haileybury, probably the first public forums on the social reforms in the country. About 100 constituents attended the forums and 26 individuals and organizations presented briefs.

There was unanimous agreement on the need for social reform and toward the objectives outlined in the minister's discussion paper. There was also a broad consensus on the kind of reforms needed to achieve these goals. The best way to demonstrate the need for reform is to give three examples of situations which came up at the hearings.

The first example is one of a young couple with two children, both earning salaries just above minimum wage. After allowing for child care expenses, travel, income taxes, an increase in geared to income rent, we found that the net income for this couple was $150 less a week than if they had been on social assistance. This is wrong and totally unacceptable. In addition, the young couple have lost their drug and dental assistance plan. Geared to income housing rental is based on gross revenue before factoring in income taxes and all the work related expenses. In effect, a working couple earning a net income of $1,000 a month will pay more in rent than a couple on social assistance receiving $1,200 a month. I find this unfair.

We are telling those Canadians who have the pride and self-motivation to go out and find work that if they do go out and work, we will penalize them.

The second example is one of a man who is married and has four children. He is fairly well-qualified but was unable to find a permanent job. He had to go on social assistance to support his family. He decided to put an ad in the paper to find part time work and earned $800 gross in a one-month period as a self-employed carpenter.

This gentleman reported his earnings to the welfare board. Not only did they deduct all but $50 from his cheque, they did not allow any expenses related to his job, such as advertising. This is very important. They even informed this gentleman that if he put another ad in the paper, he would be considered self-employed and be taken off the payroll altogether. Is this the kind of social policy the country needs at this time?

The third example is one of a young, single mother with two children. This young woman is on social assistance but wants to go to school. She wants to get back into the work force. Because she lives in a rural area where child care is unavailable and she has no means of transportation, she cannot go back to school and re-train.

Our reforms should, and I hope will, address the special needs of those Canadians living in rural areas so they too can benefit from the increased opportunities which will hopefully result from these reforms. It is clear that reforms are badly needed. The response to the government's initiative on my constituents was simple. It is about time.

A recent COM-PAS poll suggested that 91 per cent of respondents want social assistance recipients to be given the opportunity-I am not saying to be forced-to re-train or to do community work. Seventy per cent agreed that social benefits should be re-targeted to the most needy.

What are the principles that should guide us as we embark on these most urgently needed reforms? First, we must ensure that we maintain a social safety net, an income level sufficient for those most vulnerable. We must preserve this compassionate, caring, society that makes us the envy of the world. We must tackle child poverty and encourage self-confidence and personal initiative. We must also ensure these programs are within our means by ending waste, duplication and abuse. We must do this in order to guarantee the future affordability of these programs.

However, the main thrust of these reforms is about jobs and growth. The best social program, as our Prime Minister has said many times, is a decent job that does not only ensure Canadians the means to sustain themselves, but also restores in them confidence and the dignity of work. Félix Leclerc, one of our most prominent singers and authors, once said: "The best way to assassinate somebody is to give him nothing to do."

According to another saying, idleness is the root of all evil. By doing everything to put Canadians back to work or to train them, we will not only ensure the future viability of our social programs but also solve at the same time a host of social problems such as family violence and alcoholism.

This is what these reforms are all about, giving Canadians the tools such as child care, retraining and counselling, so that they can get out of the dependency rut and back into productive society.

This reform is about creating opportunity instead of dependency. This reform is about asking all governments-federal, provincial, municipal, employers, and more important the recipients of social programs-to share responsibility. We need programs that are going to be more flexible, adapted to people instead of to the bureaucrats that administer them.

I believe very strongly in the principles and objectives as set out in the discussion paper. I intend to continue to consult with my constituents so that together we will find a strategy to renew and improve our social safety net. Together we will find the courage to implement the changes needed to build a better society where people will have self-confidence and the dignity of a job. Together we will build a society that will continue to be the envy of the world into the next century.

Gun Control September 28th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, last week, thousands of farmers, hunters and sportsmen, including many Quebecers, came to Parliament Hill to express their concern about new firearms legislation which would affect legitimate gun owners.

Members of the Bloc Quebecois were notably absent. Nevertheless, I know that at least ten members privately oppose such controls, but they do not have the nerve to stand up and defend their constituents' rights and privileges. They prefer to toe the party line and follow their leader blindly. Who will defend the interests of Quebec's rural regions in the House of Commons?

I call on all farmers, hunters and sportsmen in Quebec to put pressure on Bloc members.