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

Canadian Wheat Board Act October 7th, 1997

Madam Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, I am very honoured to take part in the House of Commons debate on Bill C-4 to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act.

I would like to begin by saying that, strictly from the standpoint of principle, the Bloc Quebecois supports Bill C-4, with a few reservations that I will mention.

First of all, it is good to see the decision making power of the Canadian Wheat Board put in the hands of farmers, who represent ten of the 15 members on the board of directors. In addition to making them accountable, their presence means the Canadian Wheat Board is more plugged in to what they actually experience.

The level of trust and agreement between people in the same profession is very high. Quebec farmers are no exception to the rule and want to see their colleagues in the west benefit from this new arrangement of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The fact that elected producers form the majority on the CWB will leave the Board less vulnerable to challenges regarding international trade rules from our trade partners.

Quebec, which prides itself on promoting orderly and harmonious marketing of agricultural products, can only be glad that the Canadian Wheat Board has greater flexibility in marketing its products.

There are, of course, major advantages to streamlining the Canadian Wheat Board's operating method and making it more functional. However, with billion dollar transactions involved, what mechanisms will be introduced to ensure good risk management?

In addition, Quebec taxpayers are not ready to see their tax dollars go toward making up the Canadian Wheat Board's deficits. It will be recalled that these deficits were in the several hundreds of millions of dollars in 1991. Business is business. This is a marketing agency that must be able to assume its deficits in the long term if there are annual losses. Let us hope that the reserve fund does enough to allay that concern.

It is worth pointing out that Quebec wheat purchasers, that is the mills and the bakeries, have appreciated the consistent quality of the products delivered under the auspices of the Canadian Wheat Board, and they hope those same quality standards will be maintained in future under Bill C-4. There are provisions for implementation of quality control.

A reading of the bill raises some questions. This is a bill for western Canada, since 95% of the volume administered by the CWB comes from the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and parts of Ontario and British Columbia, that is the region designated in Bill C-4.

The Bloc Quebecois must, however, look after the agricultural interests of Quebec, both its present and its future interests.

A reading of clauses 24 through 26, which indicate that the CWB may, under certain conditions, recommend that certain types of grains be excluded from or added to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Canadian Wheat Board, leaves one confused. The bill states that the minister may not make the recommendation for exclusion unless the board of directors so recommends and the Canadian Grain Commission has approved a procedure for identifying the grain in question, so as to preserve its identity. If the board is of the opinion that the exemption is significant, the producers will also have to vote on this.

First of all, who are these producers? How will they vote? And most of all, can they be from outside the designated region? In this connection, Quebec is justified in asking questions, since it has to go through the Canadian Wheat Board if it wants to export. What if Quebec were to become an exporter of any of these products?

The federal government retains considerable control over the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board. Let us hope that opening it up to the producers is something real, and not just caving in to community pressures.

Bill C-4 contains a good 60 references to the minister. The federal government is, therefore, maintaining considerable control over the Canadian Wheat Board. For example, the federal government is the one to decide how farmers will be elected to the board of directors. The president of the board of directors is appointed by the governor in council on the recommendation of the minister. Why can the elected directors elect the president of the board but not the president of the commission? The president holds office for the period of time set by the federal government. The government is also requiring the Canadian Wheat Board to prepare a corporate plan annually, under clause 19. Obviously, the Minister of Finance must approve the plan.

With this right of review, the Minister of Finance retains control. How much autonomy will the Canadian Wheat Board have? On the one hand, the government allows farmers to speak when it can no longer stand the pressure from the farming community. On the other, the government is keeping the decisions affecting them centralized. You wonder who really has their hand on the tiller.

We in the Bloc Quebecois will be on the watch.

Speech From The Throne October 3rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I endorse, with great pride, what my hon. colleague just said.

He spoke of his generation and we, who are of an older generation shall I say, share the same concerns and feel more acutely the urgency of finding a solution to these problems. He discussed at length the greenhouse gas issue, but that is not the only issue.

It is very important that all that is done be done under the national urisdiction, without affecting all that comes under provincial jurisdiction. I must say that one of the Quebec government's priorities is indeed to protect the environment. I consider that we have gone far enough in that direction to know something about agriculture, for instance. We have exceeded by far every national standard and do not wish to lag behind, but at the same time we expect a great deal of transparency in that area.

Speech From The Throne October 2nd, 1997

Madam Speaker, my answer will be very brief indeed. If it were not for all these cuts to transfer payments, maybe poverty would not be so acute in the Montreal area.

Speech From The Throne October 2nd, 1997

Madam Speaker, fortunately, my hon. colleague's concerns are not shared by investors around the world. We are experiencing healthy growth in investment, and hence in the number of potential partners in research and development.

If I may refer to the terms recently used by the metropolitan Quebec chamber of commerce, concerning an investigation on the job losses in the public service resulting from early retirement policies, it said that the research and development sector was so vibrant in the Quebec City area that those jobs losses were gradually being offset by new jobs in research and development. This is what we call the new economy.

At this time, everything is fine and investors from around the world—I will not go through the list of the most recent investments, although I could if you were to ask me to—are much more concerned with the quality of researchers and the development sector than they are with any other problem. For the time being, they are very positive about Quebec.

To conclude, I would like to say that each dollar invested in research and development creates jobs.

Speech From The Throne October 2nd, 1997

Madam Speaker, it is with a great deal of respect that I take part in the debate on the throne speech.

First, I wish to congratulate you on your appointment as assistant deputy chairman of committees of the whole House, and I also want to take a few moments to thank the voters of Louis-Hébert for putting their trust in me, and also the numerous volunteers without whose support I would not be here today.

Everybody agrees that research and development is a key component for any society wishing to be fully prepared for the 21st century. Economic prosperity is increasingly the result of research and technological development, rather than the development of natural resources. The government opposite may be full of good intentions in its speeches, but we are still waiting for concrete action. For instance, the throne speech is extremely vague on the government's approach regarding this strategic sector. The government only included a few paragraphs to affirm its supposedly crucial role in that area. It is so ironic.

Science and technology are at the core of a modern country's prosperity. The government claims to recognize the primary role of science and technology in preserving the public's health and well-being. It claims to recognize it has a contribution to make to job creation and economic growth. In their red book, before the 1993 election, the Liberals promised to double funding for research and development. However, as always, these commitments turned into cuts of 50 percent to research budgets.

If this government truly cared about research and development, it would at least restore research funding to its pre-1993 level, and as quickly as possible. Even then, Canada would still be trailing far behind other OECD countries. This is how serious this Liberal government is, in its throne speech.

As Mr. Tavanas, the Rector of Université Laval in Quebec City, recently pointed out, “because of the globalization of knowledge-based economies, particularly in the developed world, knowledge is finally recognized for what it is, namely a collective wealth, a tool for economic and social progress, and a competitive asset for nations. The role of universities is particularly important in Quebec, where research and industrial development still lag behind what is being done in other developed countries with which, unfortunately, we must compete”.

Last February, in full pre-election mode, the Liberals, with their sense of the dramatic, announced with much fanfare the creation of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. One election and a few months later, the Bloc Quebecois is still waiting for more information on this tool to modernize research infrastructure.

Questions come to mind. Will there be funding with which to pay researchers? This is vital to ensure the quality of research and stop the brain drain. The question remains unanswered.

The whole scientific community is impatient to see this much heralded foundation become reality. It is not known when it will actually be up and running.

The Bloc Quebecois has already identified a number of weak points. The new foundation's mandate excludes social sciences, a key sector that is seen as secondary to research. The preferred emphasis was on “hard sciences”, leaving universities like the Université du Québec à Montréal, which does not have a medical or engineering faculty, out of luck.

Despite the $800 million investment, an annual contribution of $180 million announced by the Minister of Finance in the February 1997 budget, it is clear that it will not offset the deep cuts made by the Liberals in recent years in R&D.

The Bloc Quebecois has not forgotten that the federal research councils sustained cuts of close to $100 million, or 10 to 14 percent of their budget, and that funding for health and post-secondary education was slashed by $3.3 billion, with a direct negative impact on research in these two sectors.

These blithe cuts in transfers to the provinces, as well as departmental budgets, the latter having lost half a billion for R&D, have been detrimental to the activities of all the country's research laboratories, centres and agencies.

In this throne speech, the government is trying to look generous, but it is in fact interfering in three areas of provincial jurisdiction: health, universities and social programs. This is a sure way to irritate provincial governments, which in turn are forced to make corresponding cuts in these same areas, in response to dramatic cuts in federal transfer payments.

For those who are in any doubt, from 1994 to 1997 federal cash transfers for health, welfare and post-secondary education dropped from $19.3 billion to $14.9 billion. They will drop by another $2.4 billion this year.

The selection of R&D projects will be the responsibility of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, which may, if necessary, resort to peer evaluation. Universities have already expressed their views on the matter by demanding this particular selection process, peer evaluation, without receiving any guarantees in that regard.

Moreover, for new programs, the foundation will require partners to contribute 50 percent or 60 percent of total funding. It is hard to imagine how universities and hospitals, already faced with considerable budget constraints resulting from cuts in transfers to the provinces, will manage to meet this major challenge. We do not know how this foundation will distribute the available funds among the provinces. Can we hope that Quebec's share will be proportionate to its population?

Considering what is at stake here, namely our ability to participate fully in the economy of the next millennium, the shortsighted vision favoured by the Liberal government is cause for concern. Yet there is a sense of urgency because of the fierce competition that exists at the international level in the area of research and development. Therefore, I call upon the government to stop talking and start acting before it is too late.

I should advise the government that, as my party's critic for science, research and development, I will monitor the establishment of this foundation and the funds that will be invested in these areas. I will act as a watchdog for that community, which has contributed more than its share to the government's struggle to put its fiscal house in order. I will be all the more vigilant since my own riding of Louis-Hébert includes universities, CEGEPs, research hospitals and a thriving high tech sector.

All this activity, of which I am very proud, will pave the way for the new economy in our region and in the national capital of a sovereign Quebec.

Algeria September 26th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, Algeria has been a site of bloody conflict for years now, and the situation has been deteriorating rapidly in recent months. Civilians, most of them women and children, continue to meet ghastly deaths. Having lived in that country, I cannot understand how the international community can remain unmoved by the unbearable situation the people of Algeria are in.

The truce announced by the Islamic Salvation Front for October 1 ought not to lull us into complacency. For the desperate Algerians, and for our fellow Canadians who fear for their brothers and sisters, it is vital that action be taken.

Many Algerian immigrants living in my riding of Louis-Hébert are concerned about the relatives and friends they have left behind. It is high time that each of us makes at least a minimum show of solidarity.

I am therefore calling upon this government to speed up the family reunification procedures for Algerian nationals, which are dragging out forever despite the urgency of the situation.