Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Bellechasse (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Extension Of Sitting Hours June 9th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, after what the hon. Leader of the Government in the House said earlier about the opposition leaders and especially about the Leader of the Official Opposition, I should return the compliment. I also want to underline the leadership the hon. Government House Leader has exercised-in co-operation with the opposition-and his always pleasant dealings with us regarding the agenda of the House. It is easy to understand, when we look at the actions of the Government House Leader, why he has survived a 32-year career in politics.

Now that the compliment has been returned, allow me to have a slightly different vision from that of the hon. Leader of the Government, especially with respect to the business of the House.

We in the Official Opposition were elected on October 25. After the election writs were returned in the following days, we asked that Parliament be summoned immediately because we saw our friends waving the red book and demanding action.

As early as mid-November, we were ready to meet here to consider government policies, initiatives and bills, and to implement the program they were elected on.

Despite repeated requests, we had to wait until January 17 to meet. Of course, we worked in our ridings, met with our constituents and prepared our arguments, but we could not deal with any legislation because the government had decided not to convene the House.

I must say that, when the House first met, it looked like a larger, more visible Spicer Commission. It introduced motions on various issues which we debated, but where was the legislative agenda? Where was the beef then and where is it now?

We then had bills without deep significance which generated little debate because many or all members could easily agree to them. We are now coming to the end of the session and they table a motion to extend sitting hours. It is standard parliamentary procedure. It gives the public, the voters, the people of this country and of both countries, the impression that there is much to be done in the home stretch in this country.

If the parliamentary agenda had been planned differently, if we had started sitting last November, we would not have to extend sitting hours during the last two weeks, so that members will have to work for 12 hours in the House and the committees, respond to their constituents' requests and lead rather hectic lives here.

However, we will do it. The Official Opposition does not at all intend to oppose the motion tabled by the Leader of the Government in the House, but it must be recognized that the planning of our agenda could have been done in such a way that this motion would have been unnecessary, especially since the government is announcing, somewhat hastily and at the very end of the session, bills which have not yet been tabled.

The Government House Leader referred to the Young Offenders Act, an omnibus bill which should be tabled shortly. He also announced legislation on lobbyists, as well as a bill on sentencing. Moreover, the government may want a second reading vote on these bills, some of which are not even on the agenda yet. As you know, it is not always a good thing to take on too much, because you sometimes end up not being able to do everything.

We must dispel the impression that we have to hurry because we have not done anything so far. The opposition is at the mercy of the government's agenda. Every day, we have worked with what the government put before us.

The government, through its House leader, referred earlier to Bill C-18, which we will look at for the last time this afternoon. This legislation on electoral boundaries readjustment and its impact is another example of bad planning. Indeed, Bill C-18 was tabled a bit late, with the result that, in some cases, provincial electoral boundaries commissions had to redo some of their work, while others had to start from scratch. This is an example of the mess we are in.

Mr. Speaker, what really surprised me, in a pleasant way, was to hear the Government House Leader say that he wanted us to have full dress debates, and that this House was the place to have such discussions. I am pleased to hear this from a person who has so much authority, because I was somewhat perplexed

yesterday when I read and heard that the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, who is the Deputy Government Whip under the Government House Leader, was encouraging people to sign petitions to keep us from debating the real issues for the two countries which are to be found in Canada.

I am therefore reassured and pleased to hear the hon. member for Windsor West and Government House Leader say that he has absolutely no intention of setting aside major issues so as to avoid a debate on them.

Mr. Speaker, the Official Opposition will do its job to the very end, and will work the extra hours required to fulfill the mandate given to us by our constituents, in spite of the disruptions to our daily schedule.

Consequently, if there is a vote, we will support the motion tabled by the Government House Leader.

Political Parties June 6th, 1994

Supplementary, Mr. Speaker. Would the Deputy Prime Minister not agree that the government should introduce legislation limiting party financing to voter contributions, that is to say excluding corporate donations, the way it has been in Quebec for 17 years?

Political Parties June 6th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister. A few days ago, some federal public servants received, at their place of work, a letter signed by the Prime Minister and the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, asking them to contribute financially to the Liberal Party of Canada.

You will recall that the same member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell complained about such a practice when used by the Conservatives in 1986. Could the Deputy Prime Minister tell us whether the government intends to ask Liberal members to apologize to civil servants who might have received, at their place of work, letters asking them to contribute to the Liberal Party of Canada?

Pearson International Airport Agreements Act May 9th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on this bill and on the motion tabled by the Leader of the Opposition. I listened carefully to the hon. member for Saint-Denis and, before her, to the hon. member for Portneuf.

Before pointing out a few ill-chosen comments made by the hon. member for Saint-Denis, I will briefly discuss the general provisions of Bill C-22, and particularly clauses 9 and 10. Clause 9, which reads as follows:

No one is entitled to any compensation from Her Majesty in connection with the coming into force of this Act.

It is absolutely clear. No recourse is possible against the Crown. If Bill C-22 is passed, an individual will not be allowed to go before the courts, explain how he suffered a prejudice, and ask to be compensated following a measure taken by the Parliament of Canada under the powers granted to it by the Canadian Constitution.

However, the following section has the effect of undoing what is established in section 9. In fact, section 10 goes even further, since it provides that the Minister may provide for the payment of such amounts as he considers appropriate. In other words, the government is saying: Do not sue us; we will give you something. There is no need to sue the government. People who have, or who claim to have suffered a prejudice, will simply submit their claim informally, without any legal proceedings, by simply making a phone call, or through a behind-the-scenes lobbyist, and they will receive a cheque from the government of Canada. It is much more faster than an open process, either court proceedings or public hearings, that can be appealed to the highest courts, so we close that door.

We should be more honest and clear about section 9. Instead of saying that no one is entitled to any compensation from Her Majesty, we should say that no one is entitled to compensation from the courts, because the companies seeking compensation can always go directly to the minister. To say that no one is entitled to compensation is not exactly true. No one is entitled to compensation from a court of law.

I would bet a few dollars that the compensation that will be awarded by the minister will probably be much more generous than any that would have been granted by the courts, because it is so much easier to come to an agreement between friends about any loss suffered. When we talk about friends, we always come back to the same basic question: "Tell me who pays you, and I will tell you who you work for". Who is financing the current government? The current government is being supported, although to a lesser degree, by the same backers than the previous Conservative government.

Why do these big companies and corporations give huge amounts of money to political parties? Because they support the leader or his or her colleagues, or even the party's platform? Of course not! They do it in order to have access to the government. They want a good return on their investment.

The Leader of the Opposition gave us, in the Bloc Quebecois, a meaningful demonstration of that when he demanded that each and every contribution to our party be made only by people who can vote in Canada. The Bloc Quebecois is financed only by individuals; we do not take contributions from legal entities, which are not always good citizens, especially when it comes to the funding of political parties. Indeed, one can wonder why they finance political parties.

We in the Bloc Quebecois can freely discuss this bill, since our hands are free. Individuals who give $20, $50 or $100 to the Bloc Quebecois know very well that they will have no influence on their member of Parliament or that they will not be able to blackmail him into doing anything. If voters wanted to blackmail us for their $200 or $300 contribution, we would simply write them a cheque for $200 or $300 and bid them goodbye. It is as simple as that in the Bloc Quebecois.

Thus, the motion recently put forward by my friend, the hon. member for Richelieu, and aimed at limiting the public financing of political parties to a maximum of $5,000 per person would allow for great progress in the control of their elected representatives by voters, giving them reasons to regain confidence in this institution.

The hon. member for Saint-Denis mentioned earlier in her speech that the Leader of the Opposition had made remarks about Paramax, among others, to the effect that people must be compensated. Quite on the contrary, what the Leader of the Opposition demanded in the Paramax issue was that the funds which were not invested in the helicopter contract be reinvested in the development of a high-speed train. That is quite different. We asked to reinvest the same amounts, not to pay lobbyists or to compensate speculators for anticipated losses. We asked the government to reinvest that money in high-technology industries so that it is not lost for Quebec. We never ever asked that money be paid to people who had stood to gain in any form.

For me, the most difficult provision of Bill C-22 to swallow is that some people who remain anonymous will be compensated because their speculative scheme failed. The previous government, the Conservative government, had decided to privatize the airport. People thought that it was a good opportunity to make

money but now that their deal failed, they will be compensated for any lost profit, if the bill is adopted without amendment.

That is not how the Liberal Party said that it would deal with the Pearson airport privatization contract during the election campaign. They said it would be terminated but never talked about compensation. We could compare the situation to some marriages: it is not the same thing before and after the ceremony. Once the Liberals were elected, it was the same old story: they are the servants of those who finance them. So we have clause 10 allowing compensation.

Yet, the situation was clear. The Prime Minister's position was clear, at least as I heard it during the election campaign: Pearson Airport would not be privatized and nobody would receive compensation. Things like that may be partly true while other people are given to understand that there is nothing to worry about, the losses will not be too great. I would almost wish that clause 9 were not included in the bill:

  1. No one is entitled to any compensation from Her Majesty in connection with the coming into force of this Act.

Let us allow people who feel that they are wronged to appeal to the courts. Let people plead their case in court according to the rule of law and the general principles of law, but let us say no to the payment of administrative compensation, no to government by decree acting behind closed doors or negotiating over the phone or in person with party organizers. Let all these people who feel that their rights were infringed on ask the courts for redress, as all other citizens do. I submit that justice by order in council is not justice and it is unacceptable. That is why the Official Opposition cannot support the provision now before the House.

High Speed Train May 2nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday, the Prime Minister mocked the Bloc Quebecois's proposal to go ahead with building a high speed train between Quebec City and Windsor. According to the Prime Minister, it would be hard for a high speed train to have to stop at the border of a sovereign Quebec.

Perhaps the Prime Minister has never taken the Amtrak train between New York and Montreal. If he had, he would have realized that the train does not stop at the Canada-U.S. border. For the Prime Minister's information, planes do not stop at the borders of sovereign countries either. In fact, the Bloc Quebecois does not see why it would not be the same for a high-speed train between Quebec and Ontario.

If some people wanted to build walls around a sovereign Quebec, it would certainly not be Quebecers themselves. Quebecers seem to be more aware than the Prime Minister that the future development of nations depends on openness to the world. Let us stop this demagogy and discuss rationally the real issues for Quebec and Canada.

National Sport Act April 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate the hon. member for Kamloops whose perseverance will be rewarded in a few moments.

I also want to thank the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam, who made a brilliant presentation on lacrosse, a sport which those who will read Hansard tomorrow will be able to learn more about. If the hon. member has more detailed personal notes on this topic, I would be pleased to read them. In the meantime, I wanted to highlight her contribution to the debate.

Later on this evening, most members will watch the hockey game between Montreal and Boston. As for me, I will probably go to Hull to watch the sixth game between the Hull Olympiques and the Chicoutimi Saguenéens of the Quebec junior major league. My interest in hockey stems more from my career as a journalist rather than from the limited skills I displayed on the ice. Indeed, I was better at writing about the game than at playing it. Early in my relatively short career as a journalist, I covered what was then junior A hockey in Canada, since major junior hockey did not yet exist.

I remember all the trips I made for the newspaper I was working for at the time and the playoffs I covered between teams which became famous. I could tell you stories that may have been forgotten in some areas, but are still much talked about in other places.

I covered games between the Quebec Remparts and another great hockey team, the Cornwall Royals, which also played in the Quebec major junior hockey league, and also the east-west finals between the Estevan Bruins and the Niagara Falls Flyers. What was funny about these finals was that both teams had the very same jersey, and I think it was the Niagara Falls Flyers organization which had to lend their visiting-team jerseys to the western team for the Memorial Cup Finals.

I want to point out that the Centennial Cup Series will start on Friday and will be held in Olds, Alberta. I want to wish the best of luck to the team that will be representing Quebec, the Châteauguay Élites, and may the best team win.

If it were not for all these men and women who drive their kids to the arena, or even an ice rink or somewhere else, and stay to entice their children to play their favourite sport, I do not think we would have a national sport. We talked about people playing in the heat and wearing extremely expensive equipment but there are still people playing outside in siberian cold like the ones we had last winter. We must pay tribute to those people of my generation who started playing hockey with elementary equipment, because that sport was for us the soccer of the North. We would build our nets with ice, use hockey sticks worth 59 cents and quite often make a puck out of frozen horse droppings. Imagine how interesting it would have been in the spring to have a slap shot at the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, if you will allow me a joke, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased, in the name of the Bloc Quebecois and of all my colleagues since we share a common interest, whether we are from Quebec or Canada, regarding the two sports we are about to recognize, to support the bill introduced by the member from Kamloops, which we are going to pass unanimously.

National Sport Act April 27th, 1994

Yes, Mr. Speaker, about the relevancy of the amendment. I respectfully suggest that this amendment should be submitted during consideration by the committee of the whole House, if there is to be a committee of the whole House on this bill, and not at the second reading stage.

Aboriginal Affairs April 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, recently we heard that Mary Anne Kirkby accepted the position of director of communications with the Assembly of First Nations.

Although Mrs. Kirkby is to be commended for deciding to work in an area that is so rewarding, where she will be most useful in improving relations between aboriginal people and non-natives, I would like to draw the attention of this House to some problems around this appointment.

Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Kirkby's husband is the hon. member of Prince-Albert-Churchill River in this House and chairs the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, which is responsible for voting on government subsidies to the Assembly of First Nations.

To avoid a potential conflict of interest, I think the hon. member of Prince-Albert-Churchill River should step down as chairman of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act April 25th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-208, An Act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act.

As noted earlier, this bill comes at an awkward time. It would have been so much easier to have reviewed this subject immediately after the Conservative leadership race, during the summer, a summer when the then Conservative Leader, the hon. member for Vancouver Centre, British Columbia, crisscrossed the country from Halifax to Vancouver to Newfoundland on a pre-election campaign. It would have been easy to recall the House to give the members of the 34th Parliament the chance to debate fully the question of whether the provisions of a bill can apply retroactively.

It is not in our parliamentary tradition to introduce bills which apply retroactively and, when we do so, it is often only grudgingly, after having examined all of the ins and outs of the matter.

The current members of the 35th Parliament were elected in accordance with the rules that prevailed at the time and, clearly, they have some vested rights. It is obvious on reading Bill C-208 that it affects the vested rights of members elected to serve in the 35th Parliament.

If I understand correctly, Bill C-208 would apply only to members elected to sit in the next or 36th Parliament. This is similar to the decision reached by the Quebec National Assembly when it reviewed the members' pension plan.

Therefore, instead of conducting a pre-election campaign at the height of the summer, I think the party to which the hon. member for Saint John, New Brunswick, belongs should have been calling on its leadership, if there was any, to convene Parliament so that the issue could be debated and pension plan reform proposals could be applied to the current Parliament.

Bill C-208 is brief. It contains one provision with which I know most hon. colleagues will certainly agree, that is the provision which states that a former member who is receiving remuneration in whatever capacity from the federal government cannot at the same time collect a pension. Let us take, for example, the case of a former member who is appointed to a federal court bench. Personally, I feel it is wrong and somewhat contrary to common sense when a person can collect both a pension and a salary from the federal government. I feel the same way about persons working for various federal offices and government or parapublic agencies and collecting a pension at the same time.

In my view, the different levels of government in Canada should get together and agree to ban this practice from one province to another. For instance, there is something a little odd about a provincial deputy minister of justice receiving severance pay just because he is appointed to a federal court of appeal. Representatives of the various levels of government in Canada should sit down together to review the administration of public moneys in this area.

As for the second major provision of Bill C-208, namely the age restriction criteria whereby a former member cannot begin to collect a pension immediately unless that member has reached 55 or 60 years of age, this is indeed another matter.

Many will say that a member has no business collecting a pension of $40,000 or so a year after just two terms of office, that is to say eight, nine or ten years depending on the constitutional limits, if he or she was a member of Cabinet and is making a career change. There is something wrong with that picture, however, and I think we should look at it.

Studies have demonstrated that, by the time some members who sat for two terms, having been elected twice, finish collecting the full pension to which they are entitled for life, they will have cost between $2.5 and $3.5 million to the public purse.

However, the bill introduced by the hon. member for Saint John, New Brunswick, has a flaw as I see it. There is a gap between the proposal for a minimum age of eligibility, whether 55 or 60 years old, as suggested in the hon. member's bill, and

the present situation where one can collect a pension immediately upon retiring.

Many members-with the kind of turnover we have here in the House of Commons, there were 200 new members elected in this 35th Parliament- find themselves in a difficult situation. Many of those members who were defeated in the last election-this is true of any election, but particularly of the last one because of the major changes that took place about six months ago, on October 25, 1993-may be finding themselves in dire straights. Perhaps, in fact very likely, we would need a sort of severance pay to help former members find a new job.

Members of Parliament who held professional positions have to quit or at least considerably neglect their careers to serve their constituents while they are sitting in the House of Commons. When they resume their careers after being defeated or upon retirement, they must rebuild their clientele.

Farmers who had leased their farms will also have to get reacquainted with new technology and take operations back in their own hands. This bill lacks transitory provisions, and there should be such provisions.

Members of Parliament who retire or are defeated often have to regain, pardon the expression, some sort of "political virginity". A member who used to work in communications, in a radio or TV station, would not be allowed to go back on air overnight as a political analyst. The station would say that he or she is too closely associated with a given political party, and should stand back for a while and come back a few months or even years down the road. In the meantime, the former member will be handed assignments in areas not closely related to the political arena that he or she knows well. The same thing happens in several other fields. You are told: "Distance yourself from politics; work on your image and, soon, we will take you back".

That is the time frame this bill does not cover, and that is why I find it very hard to say: Let us immediately stop paying benefits or annuities to members who retire or are defeated in an election; let us stop paying upon retirement and wait until former members reach the age of 55 or 60, without at the same time putting transitory provisions in place. I would have liked Bill C-208 to contain something specific in terms of transitory provisions.

We would do well to use Quebec's legislation, the legislation passed by the Quebec National Assembly, as a model to refine this bill in that regard. This government had indicated in its parliamentary calendar that this issue would be debated in the House and I would recommend that the various points I have made be taken into consideration when a government bill on the subject is tabled.

Budget Implementation Act, 1994 April 14th, 1994

At least I am being applauded by my colleague from Laurentides, as well as my colleagues from Berthier-Montcalm, Lévis, Brome-Missisquoi, Frontenac and Chambly and all those whom I could not see or hear, since we sometimes recognize each other by the way we applaud, Madam Speaker.

What do we see in this budget for housing? The Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program, RRAP, is back. It is very nice to have such a program, but first you have to have a home to renovate, and there is no measure for home ownership, especially for a first home. There is nothing for single people and young couples, but they are told to improve what they do not have. What a fine philosophy, putting the cart before the horse! That is the finest example we could give. Our grandparents used that expression. It is still current for describing the government's economic policies or lack thereof.

As my colleague from Trois-Rivières just said, the government is attacking the unemployed as if they were responsible for their condition. The unemployed are responsible for the poor state of the Canadian economy; the government is responsible, because of its ineptness and inaction in this area. There is no political will to fight unemployment in Canada.

All they are doing is to go after UI recipients, blaming them for unemployment. They are being penalized. Their benefits are being cut. The length of time they must work to obtain UI benefits is increased. But hitting the unemployed does not affect unemployment. Just as when a mortician does his work, he does not attack death, he deals with someone who is already dead. The government is the big funeral director of this country and it seems it is about to celebrate a funeral mass for the economy. In the next election, voters in Canada, the remaining nine provinces, will decide this government's fate.

Probably our friends in the Reform Party will have alternatives to propose or other parties will come along, because we see some parties appear and grow like mushrooms in this country.

I am glad to see-again you are signaling me that I have one minute left-with just a minute to conclude, I have to choose between the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean, of which we have spoken a lot, and the Prime Minister's statements in this House that there would be more cuts, although no minister wants to cut in his department. We asked questions yesterday; no minister wanted to cut, but the sum of the parts is greater than the whole because the Prime Minister said that he was going to reduce the deficit.

So in closing, I will say a few words about an issue that I care about, MIL Davie in Lauzon, where 400 of my constituents work. It is high time, and in the 30 seconds remaining to me, I will say that it is high time for the government to stop thinking about reviving the MIL Davie shipyard in Lauzon and to immediately give it the contract for the Magdalen Islands ferry to replace the Lucy Maud Montgomery .