Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was regional.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Richmond—Wolfe (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Francophones Outside Quebec September 25th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Canadian Heritage told us without blinking an eye that francophones in western Canada would be better served by a one hour national newscast than by four 30 minute regional bulletins. What she was saying was that an hour is more than 120 minutes.

My question is directed to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. Does the minister apply this kind of arithmetic to Radio-Canada's radio stations in Vancouver, which will experience cuts totalling 45 per cent, in Regina and Edmonton, with 50 per cent, and finally in Windsor, Ontario, with 60 per cent?

Francophones Outside Quebec September 24th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, everyone understands that French language radio programming will increase, if there are cuts of $20 million and 240 jobs. Everyone understands that.

How can the heritage minister show herself to be so insensitive today about the fate of the francophone and Acadian communities, while being so sensitive to their cause when there are referendums?

Francophones Outside Quebec September 24th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, for decades now the government has been dealing out hard blows to francophones outside Quebec. Their lives are becoming increasingly difficult. They are losing ground. The rate of assimilation keeps on growing. And the government picks this moment to strike another hard blow to francophone and Acadian communities in Canada through the CBC cuts.

My question is for the heritage minister. How can she agree to be the one to add yet another blow to the history of francophones outside Quebec, one which will help to hasten their assimilation?

The Television Production Fund September 17th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, if it is a step in the right direction, here is my supplementary for the minister. Speaking of direction, the new board of directors will, for all practical purposes, be a board of cable companies.

Does the minister realize that as a result, Téléfilm Canada will be run by the cable companies and the decision-making power will be transferred from Montreal to Toronto?

The Television Production Fund September 17th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, be patient. It is not Wednesday yet.

When she announced the television production fund, which will get 75 per cent of its budget from Heritage Canada, the minister told us that from now on, her department would sit on the fund's board of directors, which is unprecedented for a department with a cultural role to play.

My question is directed to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. How does the minister think she will improve cultural production by doing away with a long tradition of independence vis-à-vis government in the distribution of funds to creative artists?

Government Spending September 16th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, clearly we are referring here to the minister's flags and patronage. If this is not propaganda, how can the minister justify the fact that the usual hiring procedures for the public service were set aside so that she could reward her federalist friends?

Government Spending September 16th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, in these days of budget restrictions and high unemployment throughout Canada, the heritage minister is becoming an expert in frivolous and useless spending.

My question is for the heritage minister. How can the minister justify the fact that, starting today, she will spend $20 million on the Information Canada office, a propaganda tool, in addition to the $23 million that she is wasting on flags?

Broadcasting Act September 16th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, first of all, speaking on behalf of the official opposition and all fellow members of the Bloc Quebecois, now we are all gathered here at the beginning of this session, I would like to express our sympathy and solidarity with all the people in Quebec, in the Saguenay, on the North Shore and in the Eastern Townships, who went through such difficult times as a result of the natural disasters that struck this summer.

Our sympathy and solidarity are also with those who went through much the same experience in Nova Scotia and St. John's, Newfoundland, as a result of this hurricane.

I think it is important to show our solidarity with our fellow citizens, and that is what I wanted to do.

There were also some very serious incidents in Quebec this summer, including the killing of a number of women in Quebec. We are witnessing an increase in violence in our society, and the official opposition urges this government to provide for greater justice in our society so that our fellow citizens will not find themselves in these desperate and tragic situations.

The official opposition extends its sympathy to all the victims.

The following concerns Bill C-216 introduced by the hon. member for Sarnia-Lambton, which would prohibit negative option billing by cable distributors, a practice that leaves it up to the consumer to specify whether he wants to keep the service for which he is billed by the company.

Unless subscribers send a notice of refusal, the company goes ahead and bills them. This is called negative option billing. Our

colleague from Sarnia is focussing on a real foundation of our society, which is that companies must not have business practices that harm consumers. In this regard, the bill put forward by our colleague from Sarnia is aimed at protecting consumers.

Beyond that, however, there is a problem because this bill meddles in provincial areas of jurisdiction over marketing.

Second, this bill as tabled will make it more difficult to provide services to francophone communities in Quebec and elsewhere. Since the market is smaller in Quebec, business practices will have to be clearly identified, as services must be much more widespread to become profitable. Third, this bill is totally inconsistent with the structure of cable distributors.

Before getting back to these aspects, I would like to put this bill into context. We must keep in mind that this bill results from a consumers' revolt in English Canada, especially in the Vancouver region-and, as my colleague rightly points out, in the Toronto region-that occurred in January 1995 against the new bundling of programming services by the Rogers cable company.

Rogers took this opportunity to modify its service packages and offer subscribers packages completely different from those they had before, at a higher price, placing the onus on them to cancel service, otherwise they were billed extra after a while.

Making the consumers responsible for notifying the cable distributor they did not intend to subscribe to these new channels amounted to negative option billing, which has already been banned in Quebec and in a few other provinces under the Consumer Protection Act.

Take Quebec for example. How was it done there? Vidéotron for instance did not offer multi-level packages or modify its service packages. It just added the new channels to its basic service package at no extra cost. As for Cogeco and CF Cable, they came to an agreement with the consumer protection bureau. They demonstrated the need and merit of penetrating the francophone market to ensure that the services offered were cost-effective. It was all done through negotiation and within the law in Quebec.

I should point out it was not so everywhere and this has led to protest, particularly in English Canada, where there was no consumer protection legislation in force. How are the provinces affected within their own jurisdiction? To set the debate in context, let me quote section 92 of the British North America Act, in which the business relationship between a consumer and a service provider is defined as follows:

In each province the legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to matters coming within the classes of subjects next herein-after enumerated; that is to say-property and civil rights.

Hence the business practice whereby a contract exists between the person who offers the service and the person who buys it. This section of the Constitution applies to all undertakings, including those under federal jurisdiction.

While the CRTC has the authority to grant licences to broadcasting undertakings, the Quebec government, as any provincial government, has the authority to make legislation respecting the business relations between these companies and the consumers.

In fact, this exclusive jurisdiction for Quebec and the other provinces was recognized by former heritage minister Dupuy, in January 1995. But, for greater certainty, we should refer to a Supreme Court decision.

Quebec's Consumer Protection Act prohibits negative option billing, which can be defined as follows: no merchant, manufacturer or advertiser can, in any way, demand any money for goods or services provided to a consumer, when the consumer has not agreed to receive such goods or services.

The Consumer Protection Act even applies to a business which comes under federal jurisdiction, since it deals with a business practice, namely a contract. In the Kellogg's Company of Canada ruling, Justice Martland wrote something very important to define jurisdictions:

Kellogg is not excluded from the application of the restrictions imposed on advertising practices because it chooses an advertising medium which comes under federal jurisdiction.

I already told the hon. member and the committee about this issue, because a federal bill such as this one reactivates the whole debate on federal-provincial jurisdictions and the issue of business practices. Kellogg's tried.

It is easy to see that companies would try to challenge Quebec's Consumer Protection Act by asking the Supreme Court to determine who has jurisdiction. In the Kellogg's Company ruling, it is stated that "the advertising regulations passed under the authority of the Quebec Consumer Protection Act seek to protect children from the adverse effects of certain advertisements. The province can regulate advertising from a commercial business within its boundaries, even if such advertising comes under federal jurisdiction. So, Kellogg's should not be excluded from the application of the restrictions imposed on advertising practices because it chooses an advertising medium which comes under federal jurisdiction".

This is very clear. This is a provincial jurisdiction and the province is the one that regulates the issue of business practices.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, since you are about to tell me my time is up, I would like to say that the Bloc Quebecois has opposed this bill, first, because of jurisdiction, and second, because of the great difficulty that will be experienced by the new services in French to be offered everywhere, since this bill states that a company must obtain the consent of all its subscribers in order to offer a new service.

Where the francophone community is in the minority in a province, I have a lot of trouble seeing how it will obtain services in French. We have seen this in the past. This becomes a very great danger for francophones generally. Third, for penetration of a service to be cost-effective in Quebec, the percentage has to be very high, 80 to 85 per cent. But this bill prevents cable distributors from doing their work and offering services in French in Quebec.

The Bloc Quebecois is therefore putting this amendment forward to have the bill withdrawn.

Broadcasting Act September 16th, 1996


Motion No. 1

That Bill C-216 be amended by deleting Clause 1.

Committees Of The House June 20th, 1996

There was no basis for such a charge.