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

Government Agencies February 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada recently made public a report detailing the shameless waste of public funds in the management of the Canadian Museum of Nature. Glaring cases of contract antedating and contract splitting as well as many other irregularities, especially with regard to management salaries, were reported. This has prompted the Institute to ask the minister to intervene.

Can the minister indicate whether he intends to intervene to put a stop to this case of mismanagement and how exactly he plans to do that?

Supply February 21st, 1994

I would like to know the position of the hon. member for Châteauguay on Quebec's referendum legislation. Would he agree that this legislation, which provides for creating umbrella committees during referendums, for the yes side and the no side, and gives the same amount of money to both and prohibits corporations, unions, and other corporate entities from contributing to the campaign funds of the yes committee or the no committee, is, in a democratic society, the most sensible and practical approach we have in Quebec for settling a matter that concerns the entire population?


Petitions February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the pleasure of submitting a petition signed by the postmaster of my parish of Sainte-Claire-de-Dorchester, and by residents of that parish. The petitioners ask not for an indefinite moratorium on postal services in rural areas, but for a permanent policy regarding postal services. They also ask that postal services be reinstated in rural parishes where it was eliminated because of the previous government's ineptitude.

Supply February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Ontario for his question. The fate of French speaking minorities has been a concern of mine ever since I was in grade school and we were asked to give a silver coin for the survival of French. In those days, that silver coin was a nickel or a dime we could have used to buy a chocolate bar or a pop, but we brought it to school because we knew it was for a good cause. Everybody pitched in.


Today it is gratifying to see the member express himself in perfect French.

Think of all the money they collected in Quebec, and not only money; think also of all the Quebec clergy who went to other provinces as missionaries in dioceses where sometimes their work was far from easy. Let us pay homage to those men and women who worked outside Quebec.

In conclusion, I would like to remind the House that a few days ago, the Bloc Quebecois, elected only by Quebecers, gave proof of a great openness and understanding of the problems in Eastern Canada and particularly those of the Atlantic when it voted in favour of the constitutional resolution allowing for the construction of a bridge between Prince Edward Island and the mainland whereas our Reform colleagues voted against that project. . . .let us ask ourselves: who in the opposition best defends the interests of all Canadians from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the Bloc Quebecois or the Reform Party?

I think if we asked the people of Atlantic Canada today we would get a very clear and precise answer to that question.

Mr. Speaker, allow me to mention also the extremely positive comments we received from the press and from distinguished personalities from western Canada when we took position on the issue of the lockout in Vancouver harbour.

Supply February 21st, 1994

Naturally, Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois is devoted to the defence of Quebec interests, but voters gave us the role of Official Opposition and we have, therefore, the mandate to speak for all Canadians irrespective of their province of residence. We have already demonstrated that fact in this House by giving our consent to the passage in one day of the bill to end the strike of longshoremen at the port of Vancouver.

We have been actively involved in the business of the House, we gave our consent, we asked questions on bills and other matters of interest to Canadians from the maritimes, the prairies or the west. Of course, our basic mandate comes from Quebec, the hon. member is right about that, but nobody can accuse us of refusing to defend the interests of Canadians when action was necessary to protect justice and fairness.

Supply February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my honorable colleague for his remarks. Perhaps I have not made myself clear or perhaps the member misread what I said. It has to be one way or an other. Maybe we could make a compromise and say there is a shared responsibility.

Throughout my speech, I talked about the legacy of the British Parliamentary system and the chance we have had to live in a democracy. The idea of granting sovereignty to Quebec simply by casting a vote, by counting the ballots and by declaring that the majority shall decide is a legacy from the British democratic tradition. Without such a legacy, we could not hold this debate about the sovereignty and the future of Quebec, and also about the future of Canada because our destinies are closely linked. We just could not hold such a debate.

If we have a civilized debate, I think it due to the fact that for 200 years now we have had free and democratic elections-some more free and democratic than others-and we have been able to capitalize on them.

The question asked by the hon. member and my answer complete my speech and lead me to a point raised by the main motion of the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest. I was wondering about petitions, about special interest groups and about paying to organize the signing of petitions. Who would pay?

Court decisions in Saskatchewan confirmed that any citizen, whether a natural or artificial person, could invest any amount deemed appropriate during an election or referendum campaign, and this could apply to petitions. At the present time we have no clear benchmarks set by law or recognized by the courts. Some day we might have a Supreme Court decision since the Solicitor General expressed the desire to refer to the Supreme Court the decision of the Appeal Court of Saskatchewan.

Personally, considering this lack of benchmarks, I would prefer to keep the status quo and its well known guidelines, rather than follow a risky road.

Supply February 21st, 1994

That is not in Hansard , but may I quote him as saying that it will come soon? So, in the next few weeks, we will see if what the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands has been saying is true. So, since that will be in Hansard , starting February 21-and the hon. member from Kingston and the Islands did not deny that-the government will soon have free votes in the House. Should the Leader of the Government in the House talk to the chairman of the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs? Perhaps we will see that soon.

It will be another way of going about the business of this House, but one where the initiative should come from the government side. We could see this in a lighter way by saying that the Reform Party has yet to put its program into practice; but it is easier for an Opposition party to allow free votes, which would be much less significant. On the other hand, it would be far more significant for the government to allow its members a free vote, a free discussion. When the Prime Minister rises on a bill and states that confidence in the government is not on the line, we will be able to see how this new procedure will work. We will see what transpires.

I assume there will be an adjustment period-perhaps a difficult one. Indeed, one only needs to look at our neighbour to the South to witness the systematic arm twisting that goes on within the same party in the case of certain bills, even though members are supposedly free to vote according to their conscience. Our system, which allows discussions in caucus, may not be that bad. This may be the best place to discuss an issue so that members can agree on a common position and then try and reach a consensus. It may be so. I am asking the question. It is not an answer. However, systematic free voting would impede the quest for a consensus, so important to our parliamentary democracy.

In any case, Quebec will have to consider this matter once it becomes sovereign. I have no desire whatsoever to reform this House. Though a comprehensive reform is necessary, I prefer to live by the rules we have accepted and with which we comply willingly, namely the rules of British fair play we have come to learn and to respect. I feel that, on that score, the Official Opposition demonstrated complete respect for the British parliamentary system which we inherited along with our very first institutions in 1792.

Perhaps this way we feel more comfortable than others members who seeked to be elected with the mandate of changing many things in this House. As far as we are concerned, we want to change many things but elsewhere. We want to change many things in Quebec and as a result, Canada will of course benefit from all those changes we want to make through Canadian and Quebec constitutional reform since there will be an ongoing interaction between both.

This is what I have in mind when I look at the present debate. We have on one side a party which is perpetuating its electoral campaign, a party which is gradually tearing to pieces some pages or some passages of its red book and finally a party which, since it was elected on October 25, says the same thing it was saying before, during and after the electoral campaign.

We have on the other side the Official Opposition party, the Bloc Quebecois, which is dedicated to defend and to promote the interests of Quebec and ultimately, not in the years to come but in the near future, bring about, not a procedural reform or some amendments to Standing Order 36, but a much more exciting project which will consist in creating without animosity and with an open mind our own country, while living in harmony with our most wonderful Canadian neighbours.

Supply February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on the motion tabled by the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest, who represents the Reform Party.

It seems to me that this motion is somewhat premature, considering that the Standing Committee on Elections, Privileges, Procedure and Private Members' Business, which is already looking at one aspect of this issue, has not yet tabled its report but will do so in the weeks to come. Be that as is may, the Reform Party elected to use its allotted day to raise this issue.

This is an important issue since it is directly related to the basic principles of Canadian democracy, parliamentary democracy, as well as representative democracy. In our written constitution, and more specifically the Constitution Act of 1867, the first whereas in the preamble reads as follows: "Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion under the crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a constitution similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom".

Thanks to the constituting authority of 1867, namely the Parliament of Westminster, we have a written constitution as well as institutions, such as the House of Commons, which are, in their very essence, based on the same principle as the United Kingdom's institutions, which is democracy by representation. This means that members are elected for a mandate which, of course, is not fixed but lasts from four to five years, depending on the political situation. During that period, members are not directly accountable to their constituents.

This parliamentary representation was in effect for centuries, until the end of the last century. I should point out that governments and parliaments were so eager to show that their members indeed represented the public that they would not step down immediately after losing a general election. Instead, they would wait until a formal vote in the House of Commons put them in a minority position, at which time they would resign. Things greatly improved in the twentieth century and the process became much speedier, to the point that when governments now realize they no longer have the confidence of voters, they do not wait for a formal vote in the House of Commons to step down. So, there were some adjustments made, although the process was slow, of course.

I will come back to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest, but let me digress for a moment to mention that the readjustment of the electoral map is being debated in each and every province and is an issue of great concern for our voters. Public hearings on this matter are expected to be held.

As a member whose riding straddles two areas, the region of the National Capital, and by that I mean Quebec City, of course, and Eastern Quebec, let me point out that in Quebec in particular, one region stands to loose an elected representative with this bill. In fact, the riding of Matane will be incorporated into the constituency of Gaspé and my own riding of Bellechasse will see its population grow with the inclusion of nine new municipalities.

For example, in this map readjustment project, for most of the rural ridings, where in the past the number of voters was lowered to compensate for the vast territory-as was the case in my own riding of Bellechasse-this weight coefficient by which larger areas included less voters is not taken into consideration any more. This is an example of an issue which we could have debated, and on which petitions could easily have been presented. All we need to do is ask, and we would get many petitions to be tabled. I imagine that we could have a debate, if a reform like the one the Reform Party is talking about was accepted.


On the same subject, that is the readjustment of the electoral map pursuant to section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867, why did we not use the appropriate constitutional provisions or petitions to deal with such important subjects as the representation of the Magdalen Islands, for example, which are a completely distinct entity under the present system? I think that we could have obtained consent pretty quickly for the Magdalen Islands to become a riding under section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867, that is a riding in which there is a sufficient number of voters without having to include voters from the mainland. And that does not apply only to Quebec; it could be the same for the riding of Labrador.

I wanted to mention this in order to show that we are quite willing to comply with the democratic wishes of our fellow citizens.

As for the wording of the motion of the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest, it is obviously extremely vague since it gives examples such as serial killer cards, the Young Offenders Act, the recall of members of the House and I think I heard the mover of the motion talk about capital punishment in his speech.

I find it a bit unfortunate that members of this House would use a motion to amend the Standing Orders in order to bring back the issue of capital punishment, which was abolished in 1963. It has been more that 30 years since the last execution took place in our country. I find it a bit unfortunate that some people would want to introduce such an issue in this debate today when, as Quebecers and Canadians, we have shown our tolerance and, as a country, we have shown the world that it is not by killing people that we will teach Canadians that it is wrong to kill. This topic has been widely debated, and it would be a pity if, when foul crimes occur, often rousing public condemnation, people were rushed into signing petitions which under our rules would become votable immediately; this would be somewhat like a breathalyser or a heart-rate measuring device that prompts an immediate reaction when a peak is registered.

I think the parliamentary system has to handle situations with a deeper and more extensive consideration over a longer term, because in the heat of the moment, it is always easy to have people introduce motions and table petitions which, under terms that have not been specified, would become debatable and votable in this House. I have to introduce a note of caution, here, because I doubt the effectiveness of such a proposition over the long and medium term.

It should be understood also that the proposition being made comes within a certain policy framework. This one is about petitions, but it has to be related to other propositions made by the Reform Party about the recall of members of Parliament, probably about citizens' initiative for bills and of course about referenda, on which we generally agree since the great referendum in Quebec is expected soon, Mr. Speaker. You know better than anybody else that Quebecers will have the opportunity to vote on their national future.

Since the Charlottetown accord, it is established that, in constitutional matters, major changes will not be decided in a vacuum. No more dealings behind closed doors. No more rolling of the dice. Citizens will be consulted. What happened in 1992 is a clear indication at the federal level, for federal purposes. There should be no federal intrusion in provincial jurisdiction. The federal government should use public consultations on federal matters only. We will never accept consultations on matters that are not part of federal jurisdiction.

Our position has always been, and it has now been accepted that the future of Quebec should be decided by Quebec citizens under laws passed by the Quebec National Assembly and not under some federal law of this House. This is the fundamental right to self-determination. That right was recognized in the San Francisco Charter, which is the basis of the United Nations as we know them.

I would even add, Mr. Speaker, that the motion put before the House today has more in common with an election program than with a simple routine question, in the sense that during the election campaign, which ended on last October 25, the Reform Party suggested many of the reforms that are put before the House and on which Reform members asked questions to the Prime Minister and the government House leader. The answers were quite clear and precise. I believe the government said clearly that it would not allow free votes systematically, but rather on a selective basis.

Second, the government House leader clearly indicated that he really wanted questions raised by free votes to be examined by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. We must also take that into account. The government has the political will to do things that way.

What the government has decided after the elections, I feel, is that profound changes will not be made during this Parliament.

The Reform Party may be putting forward a nice and interesting agenda when it speaks of people initiatives, the recall of Members of the House and other such initiatives, like petitions that can be debated as well as voted on. Unless the Reform Party is preparing for the elections that will precede the 36th Parliament, I do not see how changing or trying to change the Standing Orders will reverse a rather well established position by the government with which we can disagree but which was spelled loud and clear.

Oddly enough and unfortunately, the free vote advocates in the House have given us no example of free votes since the opening of the session. If I am not mistaken, none of my


colleagues from the Reform Party stood here to express a personal point of view, unless they always have the same personal point of view or those who share the same point of view stand at the same time. This is not my problem but the problem of the caucus of that party that has to live with its decisions. But I look forward to the day when the Reform caucus will not really reveal a split in its approach but rather allow expression of divergent views, when there will truly be an exchange of opinions on the floor of the House. But that is not what we see now. Perhaps they could give us a foretaste of this by debating freely a given bill. Perhaps they will announce it soon, but we have not seen it yet.

Of course, and I am happy to mention this to my distinguished colleague for Kingston and the Islands, the government has not given us either many examples of free votes in this House. We were told there would be free votes but none has been announced yet.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I am somewhat surprised at the way the debate is developing, especially when you consider that, during the election and 1992 referendum campaigns, the Reform Party was a staunch advocate of a Senate based on equality, political equality, which means equal representation for all provinces, including, we were told, Prince Edward Island.

However, there is also such a thing as economic equality. The hon. member for St. Boniface made a brilliant presentation on the economic aspects, and arguments were made by government members as well as by some of my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois. I really wonder what is going on? In the country that Canada still is, why should some regions be treated differently on the basis of their population. It seems to me that some would want to penalize Prince Edward Island on the ground that its population of 120,000 or 130,000 does not justify building a link which has been the subject of so many studies, environmental assessments, reviews and even court decisions. Yet, if there is a decision which was based on an extensive review of the situation in Atlantic Canada, it is probably this one. As far as I am concerned, whether or not we like the idea of a bridge, a tunnel or some other fixed crossing between Prince Edward Island and the continent is irrelevant.

The residents of Prince Edward Island have made a decision which we must respect. Consequently I ask the hon. member: Why does he not want to respect the decision made by those who live on P.E.I.?

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I am glad to be able to make a few comments on the interesting speech of my hon. colleague who just spoke.

On this side of the House, it is always with interest that we observe what is being done for some provinces of Canada, especially Prince Edward Island which was able to renegotiate its terms of union with Canada and which today sees a project which has long been a source of argument on the Island and in

the rest of Canada. The federal government will finally allocate the required funds.

Considering the expressed desire of the people of Prince Edward Island and the willingness of the federal government to invest in this project, all we can do is acknowledge the democratically achieved decision of the population of P.E.I., which was presented with all the facts. It is not for us to decide what is good for them. We can only respect their will, although we look with some envy at the terms of union of British Columbia, which included a railroad from sea to sea, and more recently at the promises made to Newfoundland, in 1949, after lengthy negotiations.

Unfortunately Quebec never really negotiated its terms of union. We were, through an Act of the British Parliament, incorporated into a union of British colonies in North America. In 1867, we did not have much to say. No referendum was held in Quebec then, despite the repeated requests of the Liberal opposition.

This is why we hope that in a few months, like our friends in Prince Edward Island, we will be able to make a wise, enlightened and positive decision as to our fate as a nation and our desire to negotiate with Canada the terms of Quebec accession to full sovereignty.