Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Bloc MP for Louis-Hébert (Québec)

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

Statements in the House

Supply November 6th, 1997

Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I take part in this debate on the opposition motion by the Bloc Quebecois, which asks:

That this House condemn the government for blatant unfairness to Quebec in the matter of the GST, the government having denied it compensation without letting it submit its arguments to an independent arbitration panel made up of three experts, the first to be appointed by the federal government, the second by the government of Quebec, and the third jointly by the first two.

Let me outline the background for the motion moved today in the House of Commons. In 1990, Quebec and the federal government signed a memorandum of agreement on harmonization of the provincial sales tax and the goods and services tax at 7%. Compensation was calculated for the calendar year during which the federal government and the province signed the memorandum of understanding.

Quebec did what it had to and harmonized its sales tax. It did so without any financial assistance. There were of course considerable financial costs involved. These costs were absorbed by increasing the tax burden for corporations and by applying restrictions to input tax refunds.

Under the Quebec sales tax system, large corporations can apply for an input tax refund only on certain goods and services acquired to conduct their business. For these corporations, this represents additional costs totalling $500 million annually.

So those who are in fact being penalized by the federal government, which refuses any financial compensation for the Government of Quebec, are Quebec businesses. These still cannot benefit from the tax breaks that harmonization gave to competing firms in the three Atlantic provinces. This situation is especially unfair when you consider that the tax benefits given to corporations in the Atlantic provinces were in part financed by the taxes paid by individuals and businesses in Quebec.

With this compensation, the Atlantic provinces were able to harmonize their sales tax in one single operation. In Quebec, harmonization is not yet completed; it is being phased in over several years due to the fact that it is impossible to remit the input tax refund to businesses because this would entail, according to conservative estimates, a loss of around 10% in provincial sales tax revenues.

On April 23, 1996, the federal government announced the signature of memorandums of understanding with the three Atlantic provinces, whereby their respective sales taxes would be harmonized beginning April 1, 1997, at a combined rate of 15%. To compensate financial losses in these three provinces, the federal government will grant them, under a readjustment program, compensation totalling almost $1 billion, the equivalent of $423 per capita. The federal government also announced that Quebec, the only jurisdiction to have harmonized its tax, could not benefit from this new readjustment program.

Questions are being raised concerning this financial compensation program. Was it designed so that only certain groups could receive this funding? The financial assistance program that is benefiting the Atlantic provinces does so at the expense of Quebec. It only considers sales tax revenues instead of the whole tax base representing the provinces' global tax policy.

It should be noted that the share of provincial sales tax revenues compared to total tax revenues for 1994 was 8.6% for Quebec compared to 12.9% for the Atlantic provinces. These figures are real and can be verified, since they come from statistics on government revenue published by the OECD and Statistics Canada.

The federal government established that the compensation is equal to 100% of the cost of harmonisation exceeding 5% of the provincial sales tax returns before harmonisation for the first two years, 50% for the third year and 25% for the fourth year.

Quebec believes it is entitled to compensation and the Bloc Quebecois supports that claim. On Friday, December 13, 1996, Bernard Landry and Jacques Brassard held a press conference to demand that Quebec receive compensation of $2 billion for having harmonized its PST to the GST. Quebec acted alone and without any financial support. This compensation would represent an amount of $273 per person, which is clearly less than the amount of $423 paid to the Atlantic provinces.

Yet, the federal government still refuses to pay compensation to Quebec on the ground that harmonization of the PST and GST has cost it nothing. Now, one only has to look at the public accounts and budget documents to see the magnitude of the costs involved.

The annual conference of premiers of August 1996, which was held in Jasper, supported the position of the Quebec finance minister by saying that all provinces should benefit equally from the agreements on harmonization, including compensation. We have had support from various sources. Participants to the 1996 socio-economic summit, even the Leader of the Opposition in Quebec, whose political leanings are well known, supported Quebec's position. Last but not least, premiers meeting in St. Andrews in 1997 renewed their support for Quebec's position.

On the strength of such overwhelming support, the Bloc Quebecois would like the federal finance minister to admit his calculations are flawed. This is the reason why, during the last federal election campaign, the Bloc Quebecois leader asked the Liberal government to create an independent arbitration panel to put an end to the deadlock.

To this day, the minister has turned a deaf ear to this request. He insists his numbers are accurate and says that he has taken the right decision. Why then is he so afraid to face independent experts and show he is right when Quebec's deputy premier and finance minister are willing to compare their numbers with Paul Martin's so that justice may be done?

The Bloc Quebecois believes that voting against this motion means that the arguments used so far by the federal finance minister would not stand the comparison with Quebec's. We want to settle this dispute once and for all so that independent experts may come to a clear and fair decision.

I would even go so far as to amend the motion. Therefore I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting the word “blatant” and substituting the following therefor: “flagrant”.

Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park Act November 4th, 1997

Madam Speaker, I have just listened to the previous speaker and I am very pleased that he approves of Bill C-7, since it is a bill that has its roots in an enhanced community consciousness.

I have also listened to my colleague from Rimouski—Mitis, who explained the mechanisms that will enable local and regional authorities to remain actively involved in this matter.

I have already said, and will repeat it here in this House, for it is a statement that comes from the heart: my roots are in the Bas-du-Fleuve, the lower St. Lawrence, Kamouraska to be precise. This bill touches me particularly, therefore, in some ways.

There has been much reference to the beluga, but there is also much to be said for the beauty of the whales that frequent this region, to the delight of visitors. Obviously the population density is such that, as there is as yet no recognized park, we have visitors who are passing through. But once the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park has been established, I imagine still more will come to enjoy the beauty, dare I say the ecstacy, of this environment.

There has been reference to the beluga and it must also be pointed out in this context that the presence of visitors must be properly managed if we want to still have these animals around and to be able to observe them. In the past, and this may be what has raised people's awareness, there has been abuse, or at least there have been problems in regulating who would show visitors around. Now I believe this is a thing of the past, and we will no longer have such abuse, once there is a regulated park.

The need for environmental standards was also mentioned in the speeches. I think we have no choice but to tighten environmental standards if we are to keep and increase marine animal populations. On this subject, people speak of the mouth of the Saguenay. However, there is an extraordinary population of marine animals and birds along the shore, by Kamouraska. They have already been studied by professors from Laval University and must be preserved. This area too has hardly been touched and is largely unknown by the public, but interest has been shown in the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park in developing this aspect and making it more widely known. The Kamouraska archipelago is populated by wild migratory birds.

One final point has not been raised. I am speaking of the culture of algae, which is part of the ecosystem and perhaps a part of the future. On the coasts of Norway and of Europe, people have come to live on, use and speak of marine algae. These people, who enjoy working with algae, are delighted by the number and variety of algae on the rocks of the Kamouraska archipelago.

For all these reasons, which are partly emotional, I admit, and partly for the pleasure of tourists, I am delighted at the co-operation between the governments of Quebec and Canada on Bill C-7, and I invite all members of this House to support it.

The Environment October 30th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, since the consequences of the greenhouse effect seem particularly serious, obvious and rapid for the St. Lawrence, is it the minister's intention to use this example to convince participating countries in Kyoto, including the United States, of the need for quick action?

The Environment October 30th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment.

We can certainly understand that Canada's position on greenhouse gas emissions must have provincial support, but we are concerned at not knowing the federal government's position.

Would the Minister of the Environment assure us that the federal government's position on greenhouse gas emissions is not likely to mimic that of the United States, which falls far short, in view of the stakes?

Prison System October 28th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, since the minister was not informed about a situation as unacceptable as that involving the warden of the Leclerc penitentiary, what useful guarantee can he give us that there are not other similar cases in his department?

Prison System October 28th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the solicitor general.

For some time now, a penitentiary warden has had a prison clientele that belongs to the same criminal organization as the clientele of the tavern he runs in the evenings. All this is public knowledge, while the solicitor general, whose responsibility it is to maintain the security and integrity of the prison system, has never been informed of this incredible fact.

Does the solicitor general realize that, because of his inability to stay on top of what is going on in the department, he is creating enormous doubt in the minds of the public and adding considerably to the concern—

International Trade October 24th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of International Trade.

Since 1995, imports of oil, butter and sugar mixtures have doubled annually. All dairy producers are concerned about this situation, for makers of ice cream are turning increasingly to milk substitutes. The dairy industry estimates its quota losses at 3%, or $50 million in lost revenue, for 1997-98.

Will the minister admit that these oil, butter and sugar mixtures have been created to get around the tariff measures put in place by Canada, and will he act quickly to resolve the situation?

National Science And Technology Week October 22nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, as the Bloc Quebecois spokesperson on science, research and development, I am pleased to speak in this House to draw attention to national science and technology week, October 17 to 26.

Science and technology are the very lifeblood of a modern country, and this national week must make the government aware of the need to invest in research funding councils, rather than sprinkling small amounts here and there, and interfering in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

National science and technology week is an ideal opportunity for the people of Quebec and of Canada to become more aware of the importance of this sector of the economy. Our economic future depends on our ability to rise to the challenge of international competition.

Canada Marine Act October 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, as someone who comes from the Lower St. Lawrence and lives in a riding on the banks of that river, it seems only natural that I should take part in the debate today.

Without waxing nostalgic, I would like to tell you, and members of the House, that, in my youth—this goes back a bit—transportation was generally by boat. Boats took the place of trucks and trains. Things have changed over time, but I still remember those days when any child living along the river knew that its moods changed, just as moods change here in the House.

We in the Bloc Quebecois support the policy to divest and commercialize ports. However, as those who spoke before me have said, certain questions arise.

In Bill C-9, the Canada Marine Act, one of the first questions that comes up concerns the fate of ports. We know that, historically, ports were not necessarily located where they might be today. We know that the facilities in certain ports are completely obsolete, and that others have been transformed over the years from ordinary harbours to deep sea ports. But on the whole these ports continue to serve the public and certain businesses.

Even though a reserve of $125 million has been set aside to help with the restructuring or sale of certain ports, serious questions come to mind. Will the free trade rules mean that people will buy only ports that are ready for use and financially viable? Will other ports, which often contribute to their region's economic development, be completely divested?

I am really concerned and I wish other members would share my concerns about who will buy these ports. Will local disparities be taken into account? Will these ports, as in our case, still be owned by Quebeckers? Since it was mentioned that Americans or people from outside Quebec will be able to buy ports, we do not know how the ports will be managed and what impact this will have on local and regional markets.

Consequently, we would like to have more information on this whole aspect of the port transfer before giving our consent to the bill.

My colleague from Lévis also spoke about shipbuilding. He is concerned about the issue of shipbuilding in the greater Quebec City area. In other areas in Quebec, we are also very concerned about this issue. He mentioned the rig. I will not come back to that, but it is nevertheless a monument which could become a monument to shame if the people opposite do not make funds available to allow the required work to be performed as soon as possible. This would bring—I will not say grist to the mill, that would be too easy—more rig overhaul contracts our way.

Shipyards are also involved in ship refit. There were years when over 2,000 people, or 2,000 families, lived off the contracts awarded by the federal government to repair or overhaul ships. The mood of the people in our region depends largely on the employment situation. Now that only 500 to 700 people work in our shipyards, this is becoming a problem. And what about construction starts? But this is a thing of the past, and I do not want to sound overly nostalgic. There is nothing in bill C-9 on this.

There is another major point, which I will call the interference issue. Bill C-9, the Canada Marine Act, is a fine model of interference. We are familiar with this in my riding, where, following the 1993 election, the defeated Liberal candidate, Margo Brousseau, was appointed to the port of Quebec's board of directors. We would not want these things to go on. We would like people to be appointed to these positions because of their abilities, not because of their contacts.

Under Bill C-9, the government will appoint directors who will have decision making powers within port authorities, but it is withdrawing from any financial involvement. What a nice model of centralization that does not reflect the realities of the industry.

In concluding my remarks, I want to say a few words on the Pilotage Act. My colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques already spoke on this issue, but I would like to add a few words. We know the habits of our pilots on the St. Lawrence and we would like things to stay the same.

Therefore, we are totally opposed to the possible repeal of the Pilotage Act in favour of the creation of a central body such as the port secretariat, for which the government is already trying to find a role. The Bloc Quebecois will keep a close eye on this issue because it is of great interest to us, and we will not let it go.

In conclusion, we will not vote in favour of this bill unless certain amendments are made to our satisfaction.

Foundation For Innovation October 7th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, since the February 1997 budget, there has been talk of the Foundation for Innovation and its magnificent $800 million budget.

Yet we do not know when the Foundation will be truly operational, nor what it has planned for the world of research. According to the information we have available, the funds will be used solely for infrastructure expenditures.

Universities and hospitals are already having to cope with budget cuts, imposed by the cuts in transfer payments in particular. The Minister of Industry must realize that they will have difficulty finding partners who could make contributions equal to 50 percent or 60 percent of the funding from the foundation.

I am therefore inviting the minister to sit down with the Government of Quebec to find the best way to get the most out of these funds while respecting the respective governmental jurisdictions.