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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Bloc MP for Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 66% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Parliamentary Telecommunications February 22nd, 2002

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to enjoy such support; I did not expect that.

Everyone agrees that it is important to have such infrastructures. But I remind the House that my initiative must be seen in an international context, not just a national one. Be that as it may, my colleagues supported my motion in their speeches.

I also note that all parties agree. Apparently, according to my colleagues, this is a good idea, except that it cannot be made a votable item. Given this situation, allow me to say that our parliamentary system is a little odd.

I explained to my constituents the process that applies to a private member's bill, how the member's name is randomly selected and must appear before a committee. I should point out that none of the motions proposed by the parliamentarians who have appeared before a committee to see if their motions could be made a votable item was selected for that purpose. This parliamentary system is somewhat obsolete.

It is strange to talk about the future and about technology when we are stuck—and we are stuck indeed—with an archaic and obsolete parliamentary system. The result of this is that my fellow parliamentarians, whose job it is to vote and give their opinions, will not be able to do so.

This is why I am seeking the unanimous consent of the House to have that motion adopted.

Parliamentary Telecommunications February 22nd, 2002

moved:

That this House do install an accessible and functional telecommunications infrastructure so that virtual meetings between parliamentarians from here and around the world may be held for the purpose of participating in regular debates on matters of mutual concern.

Madam Speaker, as you may have noticed, this motion may look somewhat futuristic and appear to be coming straight out of Star Trek . I wish to explain why I have moved this motion, which unfortunately is not a votable item.

I believe that most of my colleagues are aware of my interest in issues relating to the globalization of economies and its consequences.

It is important to understand the globalization process and I have been trying to do just that since 1998. I call upon my colleagues to continue to ponder on this, examine the consequences—and there are several of them, especially when we deal with global economy. At the same time, the nature of the power of governments remains national.

We need to have some international organizations capable, to a certain extent, of overseeing globalization. At present, many international organizations have left themselves open to criticism on several fronts. One of those is their lack of democracy. Let us take for example the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank or the World Trade Organization. There is no perfect organization, but we must recognize that international organizations are playing an increasingly important role and that they are bound to do so increasingly in the future.

Over the past few years, international economic agreements, like the free trade area of the Americas that affects us so much, have taken on a new importance.

For several years now, negotiations on this very important agreement have been going on. All those international organizations and international agreements have one thing in common: the negligible role parliamentarians are allowed to play.

Of course, there are here and there some committees and parliamentarians are being invited to take part in some international meetings. However, the question we must ask ourselves is the following: we only talk and do not act, but as we are debating parliamentary reform and the role of parliamentarians, should we also turn our attention to globalization?

Twenty years from now, with the increasing globalization of the economies, what would it mean to be a parliamentarian? How would the world be governed? A number of questions could be raised.

I believe there is a consensus among parliamentarians, at least I hope so. I have heard several parliamentarians complain about their very limited involvement in international agreements. At the first forum of the parliamentarians of the Americas, held in Quebec City, the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Americas, participants expressed their concern about the fact that too few parliamentarians take part in these debates. Business organizations are involved, but unfortunately civil society is mostly absent and parliamentarians do not have enough say.

In the current system, parliamentarians are still in the best position to bridge the gap between the people and the decision makers or the executive branch of the governments. There are a lot of parliamentarians' associations throughout the world, and the Conference of Parliamentarians is growing. I could talk about the Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas, even if I have many criticisms regarding this even. My hon. colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and I attended the first meeting of the forum held in this House. Even if parliamentarians from all over the world are eager to work together, there is still a problem. I think that, more than ever, parliamentarians from each and every country need to work together on issues that go far beyond their national borders.

I am thinking about economic agreements, environmental agreements, financial markets and world democracy. We would like to deal with these issues in this parliament, but a lot of questions go well beyond our borders. Should the ministers be the only ones to try to solve these issues? I think we should all be involved.

For all the reasons, I think parliamentarians should work together to balance and monitor everything that is going on. In this House, we have members constantly putting questions to the government and government members being held accountable.

There is no system of checks and balances at the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank or the World Trade Organization to review all the decisions being made. Of course, these are huge institutions, but at some point in time, we will have to establish some kind of opposition to make these agencies more transparent.

I think the role of parliamentarians has to evolve and all parliamentarians should co-operate with their counterparts from other countries and, in our case, the Americas. Of course, it is easier said than done because of one major obstacle, the distance.

I have just returned from Porto Alegre, where 55,000 participants from the civil society and approximately 1,000 parliamentarians met with goodwill. However, the problem is that we cannot continue this work before next year, in another forum of parliamentarians. Imagine, when one meets once a year, one cannot make much progress.

This explains my motion. Of course, this is a proposal and I do think that we have the telecommunications infrastructure needed. We were beginning to consider implementing the technology infrastructures that would allow parliamentary committees from all over the Americas to communicate.

Take for example the issue of genetically modified organisms. This issue must be resolved not only within a country, but all over the world. This issue involves all human beings.

It would be possible to have debates involving parliamentarians from every country, maybe 50 countries to start with. If we allowed a parliamentarian from each country to take part in a debate with the best experts in the world, and if that debate were on Internet, for example, thus easily accessible, I think that this would be one step toward the process of democratizing the whole debate. I am not saying that this will solve everything overnight. Of course, that is not what I think, but we would have the means to do much more serious work with the parliamentarians in the rest of the Americas.

I sit on one parliamentary committee a week, but perhaps I could sit on a second one that would be international. Of course, I would stay here in Ottawa and my colleagues from other countries would all be in their parliament. Through televirtuality, we could, once a week, go deeper into issues, make recommendations, promote some issues and serve as a counterbalance to this government. I believe this would help democracy a little.

Some people will ask me “Yes, but how do you want to implement this system?” This is not the issue today. The issue is not to ask what kind of instruments or technological infrastructure we will get. The question to ask ourselves, as parliamentarians, if we want our work to evolve with globalization, is this: if we were able to communicate, to share information regularly through video and audio means, what would be the result? Would we be able to do more work?

I believe so. All I say today is, let us get some new kind of telephone and then we will be able to talk to one another. When we are able to do so, then we will see the result.

If the economy is globalizing, parliamentarians' work and democracy must also globalize. This is what I am proposing today. My objective is to get a consensus from parliamentarians so we can say “Yes, we have the political will to give ourselves such an instrument”. Then, it will be up to computer engineers, or whoever.

They will be the ones to propose possible solutions. It has to be understood that attending a continental or international forum is very costly, takes time and reduces the effectiveness of parliamentarians. Stress added to jet lag reduces everyone's performance level.

We must invest to some extent in such a system. Maybe the telecommunications infrastructure does not permit such virtual communications right now. However, in four or five years, I think it will be possible. Technology evolves at light speed. We must prepare for that. This is why I submit this motion today.

What will the future be? It is clear that such a system will exist in the future. It is only a question of time. Some members might smile today when they hear my proposal, but it has happened before that people have laughed at what I have said to the House, for example when I proposed that we speak more extensively about globalization. Now we are doing it. I am not saying that I am responsible for that, but I think I was part of a trend. We must maintain the momentum. We must look ahead. We should not wait for others, but we should be proactive. This is why I am moving this motion today.

However, I am disappointed to see that it is not votable. It would certainly have been appropriate to have the members look into this matter and give their opinion on the subject. I cannot imagine that members would not want tools to make the communications with their foreign counterparts easier.

What form will this ultimately take? Does it mean that the work of the parliamentarians on this virtual committee would be formal? It is a little early to suggest any advance solution. In the beginning, it could all be done very informally. But with time, this informal work could become more formal, just like what happened in the European Union.

The European Union was not created in one day. Lots of preliminary meetings and exchanges took place. At one point, it all flowed together and we finally saw the establishment of a European parliament.

Could we not imagine a virtual or global parliament? I am not talking about a global government, but rather a global parliament, in which all parliamentarians in the world could have regular contacts? I believe we could.

Therefore, I am floating this balloon, so to speak, and I really look forward to seeing my colleagues reaction, particularly since I have already proposed this publicly by sending a letter to the 300 parliamentarians in the House. The very next day, during the Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas, the idea was presented again and supported by the Mexicans.

Let us see now where the support will come from. The idea is now public knowledge and we now have to debate how to make it feasible.

Globalization February 22nd, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the second world social forum was held in Pôrto Alegre, Brazil, this past January 31 to February 5. With a view to counterbalancing the traditional Davos economic forum, some 55,000 people from all over the world met at Pôrto Alegre with the common objective of humanizing globalization.

In addition to being an ideal forum for the exchange of views and for contacts between the members of civil society, this forum provided more than one thousand parliamentarians with the opportunity to address potential solutions for certain problems, such as the controversial chapter 11 of the FTAA.

For me, this was an opportunity to speak of virtual parliamentarism, and to defend the inherent concepts of corporate social responsibility. Quebec was strongly represented, with a contingent of close to one hundred from civil society, labour unions, and representatives of government and of parliamentarians. It demonstrated that it is more than ever before one of the nations that supports a more human face for globalization.

Ethical Investing December 14th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I suppose that the Minister of Finance knows that $1 out of every $2 dollars traded on financial markets comes from pension funds.

It seems clear that billions of dollars belonging to workers are one of the major forces driving globalization but workers are largely unaware of the social and environmental impacts that their savings are having.

Since countries such as Great Britain, Germany, Australia and France have already introduced legislation to encourage socially responsible investing, does the Minister of Finance agree with the principle that the managers of pension funds should operate more transparently and publish the human, social and environmental criteria taken into account in their choice of investments?

Bill C-394 November 30th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, a few minutes ago, I held a press conference with Ken Georgetti, the president of the Canadian Labour Congress, a group that represents some 2.5 million workers.

Mr. Georgetti was there to support my bill on socially responsible investment, the objective of which is to increase corporate transparency and accountability with respect to the use of the billions of dollars invested through pension funds.

By requiring pension fund administrators to provide an annual report describing social, ethical and environmental considerations made when choosing investments, Bill C-394 will foster a growing interest among workers in how their pension fund savings are being used.

In addition to my bill, it is important to mobilize workers in order to implement socially responsible investing, which could turn out to be a significant tool in influencing globalization.

Anti-terrorism Act November 27th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, as far as Bill C-36 is concerned, clearly we want efficient legislation that can adequately meet the needs of an emergency situation, but it must not disturb the delicate balance between people's safety and their rights and freedoms.

We stated unequivocally that any legislation sacrificing freedom would be tantamount to capitulating to terrorism, and that terrorists would get their way.

The choice before us as legislators is obviously a choice about security, but first and foremost, it is a choice about society. We must make decisions which, at the end of the day, are responsible ones, decisions that guarantee the safety of the women, men and children that we represent in this House, but which are also clearly protecting their rights and freedoms.

There are many aspects of this bill that are open to criticism. In order to begin studying the group of motions that are of interest to us, let us say that the bill allows the governor in council to put entities on the list of terrorists without any legal authorization.

What is more, there is no mechanism allowing anyone on the list access to evidence against them, which makes it impossible for them to challenge their inclusion on the list. The consequences of being put on the list are very serious. By virtue of being on the list, anyone unfairly listed would be precluded from renting an apartment, opening a bank account, and so on.

We were also calling for a three year sunset clause to apply to every clause of the bill. This legislation is in response to a situation that can only be described as exceptional, and we accept that. We must act responsibly, and the government must resort to certain powers that will not be required after a certain amount of time.

The minister agreed to include a clause which, in our opinion, is not a sunset clause, since it only applies to two provisions: preventive arrest and investigative hearings, and this for a five year period.

As for the legislative review, we proposed an annual review by an independent commissioner who would report to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which could then make recommendations to the House. This bill is an exceptional bill in response to an emergency situation, hence the importance of setting up a review mechanism that is thorough and appropriate.

Unfortunately, the minister preferred instead to have the ministers responsible for implementing the act report only on the number of preventive arrests and of investigative hearings.

We proposed amendments to limit the definition of terrorist activity. The minister's promised open-mindedness and attentive ear resulted in their rejection. Even with the minister's amendments, it is still possible for people demonstrating during a strike, for example, to fit perfectly into the definition of terrorist activity in the bill, so here is some impact.

In the case of access to information, to ensure greater transparency we wanted the information commissioner to have full authority over the application of the Access to Information Act. However, the attorney general will be able to remove information without any safeguard provided, something the information commissioner roundly criticized.

What about the complaint of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, who called for a sunset clause too? What happened to the opinion of a number of important witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, who warned the minister against an abuse of power and a lack of transparency in the application of the law?

What about the testimony of the president of the Quebec bar association, the president of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, the Canadian information commissioner, the privacy commissioner and the Canadian Bar Association?

Warnings came from his cabinet colleague, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. In the light of what happened in committee, clearly the minister did not heed or hear the testimony of experts during committee deliberations.

I was very much in favour of the bill's consideration in committee, so that we might have a real debate and hear the views of experts like the ones I have just referred to.

To our satisfaction, the amendments proposed by expert witnesses and their criticisms were more or less in line with the Bloc Quebecois position. Then, when the minister introduced her amendments, the total opposite happened. It is clear that the minister is doing as she pleases.

We have shown nothing but good faith from the start of the debate on Bill C-36. We could see, however, that we were dealing with a minister who is doing just as she pleases, not just once, but twice. She has shown that her mind is made up and it has nothing to do with rights and freedoms and transparency. She took us in with her talk of open-mindedness in committee, but then our 66 amendments ended up rejected.

She also did just as she pleased in connection with Bill C-7, when all of Quebec clearly indicated to her that she was on the wrong track. She chose to dismiss out of hand Quebec's expertise, the best there is in connection with young offenders, imposing on Quebec a system that is totally the opposite of the Quebec way of doing things.

Given the way things went in committee, the Bloc Quebecois will be voting against this bill, because it goes far too far and is therefore unacceptable.

International Aid November 20th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, will the government make a commitment to increase humanitarian aid at least to the level it was at when it came to power, in other words, 0.45% of the gross domestic product?

International Aid November 20th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Finance tried to tell the House that the federal government had increased spending on international development assistance. That is not the case.

Will the Minister of Finance admit, that in real dollars or as a percentage of GDP, the result is the same: international assistance has been cut significantly by this government, between the time it came to power in 1993 and today?

Softwood Lumber November 6th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I wish to dedicate this speech to all the workers in the lumber industry, in the Scierie Martel, the Scierie Tremblay, the Scierie Lac-Saint-Jean, the Scierie Lachance and many, many other companies. In short, my thoughts are with those who will be affected by the present litigation, because litigation is what it is.

It will be remembered that when the agreement expired early last April, the American industry filed complaints against the Canadian industry, accusing it of receiving subsidies and dumping—yes, dumping—its product on the U.S. market. The U.S. department of commerce handed down a preliminary ruling in early August. It concluded that the industry was receiving subsidies and accordingly imposed temporary duties of 19.31%.

The October 31 ruling and the preliminary anti-dumping ruling by the department of commerce imposed a duty of 12.58%.

Since I have dedicated this speech to the workers in my riding, it would perhaps be appropriate for me to explain to them and to the public, because it is now almost 11 p.m., what countervailing duties and anti-dumping duties are.

A countervailing duty is a special duty imposed by a country to protect its domestic industry from the negative impact of imports which have received subsidies. In this case, the American government is saying that the Canadian government subsidizes its softwood lumber industry.

It must be remembered that basically, economic rules require that companies engaged in international trade must not be subsidized. If one of the companies engaged in international trade is subsidized by its government, and another company in another country is not, it can say that trading with this company is unfair because it is subsidized.

This is where there is an imbalance with respect to international trade. It is in this connection—I remind the workers who are the victims in this dispute—that the Americans have said to Quebec producers “Your stumpage, the cost of development and many other factors make it extremely advantageous for the Canadian industry to export softwood lumber compared to the American softwood lumber industry”.

That, Mr. Speaker, is the softwood lumber issue in a nutshell.In fact, I address my remarks to the Chair but, at this hour, I feel much more like I am speaking to the citizens affected by this dispute, to workers in the forestry industry.

This happened a few months ago. We will recall that, a few weeks ago now, another duty, an anti-dumping duty that is quite high, 12.5%, was imposed.

What is the anti-dumping duty? Dumping is selling goods on a foreign market at a price that is lower than the price asked for selling similar products on the domestic market or at a price that is lower than the cost of production.

The accusation made by the U.S. government is that, to enter the U.S. market, the Canadian softwood lumber industry is trying to reduce its prices to the maximum to be more competitive. To arrive at this anti-dumping duty, the U.S. government studied certain Canadian companies, including Abitibi Consol and Tembec. According to some assessment grids, it considered that it should impose a duty of 13.6% to 10.7% respectively and that by averaging these, it would arrive at 13%.

All this to say that, when a company, for example, from L'Ascension in my riding carries a two by four and sells it to the United States, if this product cost $10, the company must leave $3 at the U.S. border.

One will understand that after spending thousands or even millions of dollars this amount of money is extremely difficult to absorb for Canadian companies. I say extremely difficult because last weekend I called the forestry companies and sawmills in my riding to know what the impact was. The answer is, in the main, that the impact will be major and devastating. The profitability margin has become so small that companies have to lay people off, and this has a direct impact.

When a company lays off an employee who earns very good wages, it is the whole economy of my riding and, of course, of many regions throughout Canada that is affected. I believe this is why we must absolutely respond to this situation.

In view of this American position, the Bloc Quebecois thinks the time has come to hold a meeting of all stakeholders to take stock of the Canadian strategy on this issue. It is time for a meeting of all lumber producers, for greater dialogue, and for the development of a strategy to be able not to negotiate, but to hold talks with the Americans and help them understand our position. Everybody will agree that the Americans are great free traders, but only when it suits them. In the present situation, it seems it does not suit them. They decide overnight to break all the rules of free trade. This is unacceptable.

In the U.S. congress, some divisions are apparent. On one side, we have the American industry accusing Canada of subsidizing its industry and calling for a more stringent agreement. On the other, we have consumers and other American users of lumber, like Home Depot, which is well known here, suggesting that the Canadian industry is not subsidized and that free trade is in order.

The U.S. government should realize that, as a matter of fact, the Canadian lumber industry is not subsidized. In this context, we would like the international trade minister to discuss these issues with his American counterpart.

Of course, some things are harder to control, given that we do not exactly have any power over American policies. However, there are some policies that the Government of Canada can control, entirely. I am referring to measures that could be used with employment insurance.

Given that we are dealing with a crisis, many workers are going to be affected. In my opinion the Minister of Human Resources Development, who is sitting on a huge surplus from the employment insurance fun, should react quickly by relaxing the requirements for employment insurance so that workers who are affected by this thoughtless American act could be compensated with social security measures such as employment insurance.

The minister must make employment insurance more accessible to the forestry workers who are being so heavily hit. We are therefore asking her to broaden the eligibility requirements for employment insurance and extend its benefit period. The time has come to implement these measures.

Unfortunately that is all of the time that I have. I am going to have to ask my colleague from Verchères—Les-Patriotes to finish the speech for me. I sincerely hope that the Canadian government will be able to discuss this issue in a firm and unswerving manner with the U.S. government.

Airline Industry November 6th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, after employment insurance, the federal government has simply decided to dump all of the seasonal workers in our regions. Now the Minister of Transport is jumping on the same bandwagon.

Last week, he clearly announced that he did not plan to be providing any assistance to regional air carriers. Yet the assistance that has gone to the major carriers will help out their regional subsidiaries, which are in competition with the small regional carriers.

Unfortunately, the latter have been greatly affected by the economic downturn experienced since September 11. In my riding, for example, Air Alma is one of the companies overlooked in the Minister of Transport's assistance plan. Yet Air Alma makes a vital contribution to the development of the Saguenay--Lac-Saint-Jean area.

The way the federal government has handled employment insurance and the regional air carriers are two clear indications of how it is abandoning the regions.