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

Laval University May 1st, 2000

Mr. Speaker, every day, globalization creates new challenges for workers and business leaders. Everyone must develop new skills. In this context, I pay tribute to an excellent initiative—the creation of a chair in international affairs management at Laval University in my riding.

The chair will help train qualified managers through support to regular programs and through the development of ongoing training activities tailored to the needs of companies. It will offer the services of trainees specializing in international management and student trade missions to explore international markets in partnership with industry.

Initial efforts will focus on the internationalization of technology-oriented SMEs, management of virtual enterprises, economic intelligence, and international marketing of educational products and services.

Congratulations to the founders and partners of this new institution.

Genetically Modified Organisms April 13th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food said that there were no major trade problems at the present time, but we know that many countries are calling for mandatory labelling of GMOs and that farmers are already having trouble selling their crops.

Does the minister not understand that because of his lack of concern farmers may be unable to sell what they produce, thus creating another major agricultural crisis in the country?

Budget Implementation Act, 2000 April 12th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I will now discuss immigration.

The auditor general's report contains some rather startling information concerning immigration, such as the fact that it can take up to three years to process an immigration application. One paper noted the following:

Crushed under the paperburden and the lack of resources, Canadian offices abroad sometimes take over three years to process immigration applications from entrepreneurs or skilled workers.

I continue with another quote on immigration:

It is no surprise, notes Mr. Desautels, that Canada has not been achieving its immigration objectives over the past few years.

While good candidates have to wait for long months, others get ahead by using false statements—a phenomenon that is more and more frequent, according to the auditor general, which is worrisome—or with the complicity of unscrupulous agents.

For 1998 alone, the department's Office of Professional Conduct admitted that some 500 visas had been either lost or stolen. Moreover, there is no reliable computer system—

This is almost unbelievable in the year 2000.

—to track down all the moneys collected by foreign offices for visas.

I continue to quote the article published in La Presse by journalist Vincent Marissal:

Another risk for Canadians is the uselessness of the medical tests imposed on newcomers.

In addition to being overworked, Immigration Canada doctors have been using the same tests for 40 years, namely tests for tuberculosis and syphilis. It is time, says the auditor general, to review the list and, perhaps, to add...new communicable diseases...such as HIV or hepatitis B and C.

Anyone who has travelled abroad extensively is well aware of the risk, in certain countries, of picking up diseases such as hepatitis B and C. I am not talking about AIDS, because I think there is public awareness about this issue.

We welcome these people here and do not have them undergo any of these tests, because we cannot afford them, because we do not have enough doctors and because we are buried under paperwork. I cannot get over it. I am talking about Bill C-32 and defending the interest of Quebecers in connection with a budget containing excessive spending and very substantial surpluses, but, daily, we see absolutely incredible problems.

In my riding, I have the honour to have many immigrants. There are two universities in my riding. I often have occasion to speak with these immigrants. I knew of the complexity of many problems, but I had no idea the inconsistencies of the immigration system were so chronic, so persistent and of such magnitude.

I had a look at what this budget reveals. As members know, my interests lie in agriculture and biotechnologies. I would like to indicate what I found in the budget pertaining these two favourite subjects of mine.

The sum of $90 billion is to be allocated over three years to the federal departments and agencies regulating the processes and products of biotechnology. There is nothing to rejoice about here. As the ministers of finance, health and agriculture seem to live in a bubble, it is a good idea to remind them where things stand in the new biological technologies approval process.

On September 30, 1999, 200 federal experts on food quality and safety wrote to the Minister of Health, Allan Rock, to tell him of significant gaps in research on GMOs, for example, because of the shortage of personnel at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Their letter reads in part:

Risk assessment has and continues to be compromised by a significant lack of scientists.

The letter goes on to say:

The Agency is in a conflict of interest situation because it must, on the one hand, ensure that foods are harmless, while on the other hand encouraging food production and export.

It also states that the system's administration and deregulation strip those involved of responsibility as far as meeting their obligations is concerned.

This is not the first reference made to stripping of responsibility and to impunity.

It was not an easy decision for two hundred federal government scientists to abandon their usual reserve and sign their names to such a letter, thus endangering their jobs. They were so concerned that they felt they had to speak out. These are career scientists; they know what they are talking about. Quoting again from the letter:

We do not test these products ourselves. No Health Canada researcher is assigned to transgenic foods, because there is no funding for such research.

What planet is the Minister of Finance from, if he believes that these $30 million yearly are going to make it possible to solve all problems, including ethical ones?

What is of concern in connection with the new technologies and the GMOs is that, when approving transgenic products, the federal government depends on research that has been carried out by the companies, limiting itself to reviewing or approving them. It does not carry out any systematic counter-expertise on all plants and all food items headed for market, because it lacks the experts to do so. dm

The government uses the concept of “substantially equivalent”, by virtue of which genetically modified plants or foods resembling traditional ones and with similar-appearing composition are not subjected to more detailed examination.

According to the federal deputy minister of health himself, speaking before a Senate committee in the spring of 1999, the government did not, at that time, have any expertise whatsoever in genetics. As he put it, “its labs are not really up to it”.

While the approval of new drugs may take years of in depth studies, the approval of transgenic foods takes only a few weeks. How can the government guarantee the safety of these foods without adequate expertise and independent scientific studies?

In May 1999, this same Deputy Minister of Health said, regarding Health Canada's capacity to evaluate GMOs, that the department was not as ready as it should be to face the enormous changes that would occur over the next ten years—yes, ten years—in the area of human, animal and plant health.

In fact, public resources in the area of genetically modified foods are sorely lacking, as this same Deputy Minister of Health—when you think of it, he is my favourite—said in May 1999 before the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry:

We must strengthen our capacity in the genetics area...We do not, at the moment, have the capacity on board...Some of our labs, in particular in the environmental health area, are not in good shape.

The changes that we will see over the next decade in the field of human health, as well as animal and plant health, will be enormous. You asked whether we are prepared. My answer: Not as well as we should be by any stretch of the imagination, but we are engaged in trying to become better prepared by building up a genetic capacity within the department...ensure that consumers know what they are eating.

I have been advocating this for a long time. I have been asking for the mandatory labelling of transgenic foods for a long time.

Thirty million dollars per year is very little when we have to start from scratch, when we need laboratories, geneticists and experts, and when we need to inform the public.

One thing scared me when I looked at the budget for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. I noted that projected expenditures for the year 2000 are $266 million. In 2002, the figure is down to $261 million; in 2002-2003, it sinks again to $259 million.

Earlier, I mentioned a ten-year time line; what is clear from the figures is that every year spending forecasts for the agency responsible for the food safety of Canadians drop further, although we live in a world undergoing huge changes—this is a rapidly evolving field right now. There is cause for concern.

As the agriculture critic, I must say that the Agriculture Income Disaster Program is aptly named. It was a disaster to administer, first for westerners, who were the first to turn to it, and things went from bad to worse when it came the turn of easterners.

The difficulty of using this program discourages a good number of farmers and, at the end of the road, the resources they obtain are a far cry from what the program promised.

I also wanted to talk briefly about agricultural subsidies. Right now, while Canadian farmers receive $140 a head, American farmers are getting $340; in the European Economic Community, it is $380. We share our entire east-west border with the United States; a Canadian farmer raising the same crops as his American counterpart driving his tractor on the other side of the fence receives $200 less a year.

I can understand that the ideal would be to change world trade policies, but when one is competing on a daily basis, this is very tough.

I had also prepared a brief speech on small farms. According to a study done in the United States, they are the lifeblood of agriculture. The same is true here. Here, they have not even been defined. What are we to make of this? How can there be a policy to help them if they have not even been defined?

I urge the government to include in its coming budgets, to adopt policies that take into account the whole agricultural sector, as well as disparities and the competition we face abroad.

I could go on and on, because agriculture was overlooked in this budget. There are no programs for it. The department's budget is also getting smaller. When we subtract the money for agriculture income disaster programs and income security for our farmers, there is not much left in this budget for the agricultural sector to get excited about.

As a citizen, I have no reason to be happy with this budget. The Liberal government is not controlling its spending. If I were to do the same thing in my family, I would be in big trouble.

It is spending a little here and there to get votes and is doing nothing to resolve the problems it created in the health care and education systems in all provinces, not just in Quebec. We are all demanding a return to the social transfers of 1994.

As the agriculture critic, I am equally disappointed. This budget reveals how little vision this government has in the farm income crisis. Although this is not the subject of my speech, we need only think of the ad hoc injection of public money for western farmers through transportation subsidies.

These are ad hoc measures. They are not long term measures. Farmers in all the provinces are calling for long term policies to ensure their survival, and they have been exemplary in what they have been doing to ensure the sustainability of agriculture.

I am also concerned about the positions this government has taken in the matter of the GMOs, where its head in the sand policy calls into question the system monitoring the safety of our food and our exports.

I have tried to paint a clear picture. As my colleague before me said, we could spend a day talking about the budget. I would like the government to remember the important points. As far as I am concerned, the accountability of those responsible is vital. If the government drags in all sorts of red herrings and establishes all sorts of agencies so no one is responsible, that bothers me. Wastage bothers me just as much. As for the $10 billion hole, we wonder where the money went. The government could bring it back for transfer to the provinces in the areas of health, education and agriculture, which is my greatest interest.

Budget Implementation Act, 2000 April 12th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon to address Bill C-32, the Budget Implementation Act, 2000, at second reading.

The public did not know what to think of a government that has budget surpluses. We heard many things, because budget surpluses give ideas to people.

Some wondered “How will the government strike a balance? Will there be tax reductions? Will the debt be lowered? Will social transfers finally be increased?” Unfortunately people did not realize that the government is secretive and that the Minister of Finance stashes money away like a squirrel. The sharper ones would have expected this budget to contain a number of somewhat misleading elements.

We discovered quite a while ago that the government had much bigger surpluses than anticipated, surpluses estimated at $137 billion. This is not to mention the waste that we keep hearing more and more about when we take a closer look at what is going on in the government's administration.

The Minister of Finance once again mislead the public with truncated budget forecasts. Indeed, most observers agree that the surpluses will be between $115 billion and $150 billion.

The Bloc Quebecois did a conservative estimate of the surpluses and came up with the amount of $137 billion over a five year period. This is a huge amount. It is clear to us that the Minister of Finance could have done a lot more, particularly in terms of tax reductions and transfers to the provinces for health, education and post-secondary education.

I would like to address the matter of transfers for health care and education, because there is nothing or almost nothing for it in this budget. The minister is releasing $2.5 billion for transfers to the provinces. This amount is both inadequate and a one time measure. In other words, the amounts allocated for health care and education are pitiful, when in fact these areas have been shown clearly to be priorities for taxpayers.

And yet the federal government has plenty of money to invest where it feels like. We need only think of recent events, which are ongoing in the House, in connection with the use of the grants made by the Department of Human Resources Development.

For example, it has enough money for various foundations and other organizations parliament has no control over, such as $6.8 billion this year in order to waste money in the Department of Human Resources Development—$1.3 billion annually—and to distribute $1.4 billion in contracts without tender. Despite all, the government still refuses to invest where it cut, namely in health care and education.

To summarize the 2000 budget in terms of transfers to the provinces, $240 million is being made available for health care in Quebec, enough money to run the health care system for two days. And yet the government has the means to do a lot better with the accumulated surpluses. The $2.5 billion announced for the provinces is far from enough. Quebec's share will be $240 million for 2000-01 and $120 million for 2001-02.

Does it know that hospitals cost, for Quebec alone, $3.7 billion a year, or $100 million a day. Clearly, the amounts proposed by the federal government will not enable the provinces to address the problems in their respective health care networks.

We learn as well, in budget 2000, that the $2.5 billion will be charged to 1999-2000. The budget for 2000-01 is charged to 1999-2000. This is a ridiculous level of social transfer, frozen over four years.

As we can see, the minister is continuing his old practices of transparent management. There has been a lot of talk of clarity this spring.

Here again this is a matter of playing with figures in order to convince us that Ottawa cannot afford to give back to the provinces and to Quebec what the Liberals have taken from them in recent years. Quebec comes out a major loser in this entire political masquerade. It has, in fact, borne the brunt of over 50% of total cuts to the Canada social transfer since 1994.

Finally, including the tax points under the CST, the Minister of Finance tells us that, between 1999 and 2004, the total transfer will be $156 billion. This increase is, however, solely the result of the value of the tax points which, for the same period, go from $14.9 billion to $17.2 billion. It must be understood, however, that these tax points are not transfers; they are revenues belonging to the provinces and to Quebec.

Now, moving on the social housing, there is a considerable difference between $54 million and $1.7 billion. The Bloc Quebecois called upon the federal government to inject $3 billion into an infrastructure program, $1.7 billion of which was for social housing.

These demands were the outcome of a broad public consultation, yet once again the demands of Quebecers have been ignored. This government is so arrogant as to totally ignore the unemployed, although they contribute more than $5 billion yearly to the minister's surplus.

Although his colleague, the Minister of Labour, promised a concrete action plan for the homeless, the plan she unveiled with much fanfare in December 1999 contains no tangible measure for improving the situation. Yet the need is there, the public can see it clearly, and social housing can also be improved in various ways according to need.

So the government's inaction was immediately met with a wave of protest. In all this, it appears that the pressures from the Toronto area for short term assistance for the homeless won out over the real needs of the homeless and those with inadequate housing.

Since the early 1990s, those with inadequate housing have lost out to budget cuts and the freeze on budget increases for social housing. Since 1994, the government has been withdrawing from housing completely. In fact, no longer do we hear anything about new social housing. The federal government no longer talks about helping those whose housing is inadequate. All it does is maintain existing commitments.

In the very early 1990s, it was estimated that budget cuts would generate savings on the order of $620 million between 1991 and 1996. Taking the exponential effects of these cuts into account, that is close to $3.5 billion over nine years that has not been spent on this sector. Anyone visiting our ridings or taking a look as they travel through this or other provinces can clearly see that there are urgent needs in the area of social housing.

There is no way $268 million over five years—or $54 million annually—will do the trick. This is ridiculous. For Quebec, this comes to less than $20 million a year. These budgets will not even be allocated to social housing as such but, rather, to renovation projects. I understand that, after years of not investing, the immediate priority is to renovate, because housing units have fallen into disrepair.

One per cent of the budgets, or $1.6 to $1.7 billion more per year, would have been a reasonable investment to provide adequate social housing. While these amounts would not have met all existing needs, they would have allowed us to help the social housing program to adjust to today's realities and to the realities in the ridings and municipalities that have a real need for such housing units.

When he delivered his budget speech, the Minister of Finance referred to “Secure social programs that recognize that real progress is made by reaching for the top, not racing to the bottom”.

Is this to say that, for his government, social housing and those who live in inadequate housing are at the bottom?

During this overview of the 2000 budget, I also want to discuss the indexing of tax tables.

In that regard, we say finally, because the Bloc Quebecois has been asking for that measure since 1993. Since 1994, the federal government has taken $17 billion out of taxpayers' pockets, through non-indexation. It is important to note that non-indexation is not at all the same as tax reductions. It only means that Quebecers will not pay more taxes because of inflation.

We must remind the minister that non-indexation is not a tax reduction. In the 2000 budget, the government follows up on the representations made by the Bloc Quebecois and by groups of citizens to put a stop to hidden tax increases resulting from non-indexation. However, that measure comes a little late. Indeed, between 1993 and 2000, non-indexation will have generated between $12 billion and $17 billion for the Liberal government.

As for tax reductions, they will only come later. We will have to wait. Yet, the federal government has more than enough leeway to redouble its effort to reduce the tax burden, as early as this year.

Let us make no mistake, indexing is not a real tax cut. In fact, with indexing, a taxpayer pays no more or less tax.

The 2000 budget informs us that the annual tax saving in 2004-05 will total $10.9 billion, including $6.2 for indexing. If we subtract the tax savings for business from this amount, indexation represents 60% of the alleged tax cuts. For the year 2000 alone, the estimate is that the real tax cuts will represent only about 20% of the cuts of $3.3 billion the Minister of Finance announced.

Now, I would like to address another matter, which has become a daily matter of interest and that is the management of public finances, a black hole of $10.4 billion.

It is important to address this in the context of a budget, since the savings made could have been applied to such important items as the social transfer, health care and education.

Since 1994, the Liberal government has created no less than 80 agencies that are not accountable to parliament. These agencies spend $6.8 billion annually, without any control. If we add to this figure the contracts given out without tender and the fiasco at the Department of Human Resources Development, we end up with $10.4 billion spent annually with no control.

When the government gives out money and delegates powers to agencies, they have to be accountable. We have to know where the responsibility lies. In order for us to know this, it is natural to insist on control.

The government has come up with this formula of creating agencies. It is no trifling matter. The 80 agencies created since 1994 manage to escape these controls, because they are headed by directors answering to a minister, who answers to another minister, and when we look for ultimate control, we find none. A black hole of $10.4 billion is no trifling matter.

Last November, the auditor general pointed out that over 77 new agencies spending over $5 billion annually were not under the control of parliament and were not accountable. It is almost incredible.

That means $5 billion that are outside the control of the public as a whole. Three new organizations have been added in the latest budget, as well as $1.7 billion. In 2001-02, then, this makes $6.8 billion in public funds outside the control of Parliament and of the public.

On the other hand, there is the black hole of Human Resources Development Canada, which, on its own, represents $1.3 billion. HRDC transfers to businesses and to individuals are absolutely unmonitored. Where has the money gone? Were jobs created? If so, where? Was there political patronage? These are questions without answers, and this budget will not change a thing.

The Minister of Human Resources Development has been asked the same questions over and over again for weeks, always with the same responses; in other words, we have had no response questions like the ones I have just asked, namely: Where has the money gone? Were jobs created? Was there political patronage?

No answers. There were tons of documents, but each time we looked into one in greater detail, we found that what the departmental employees were giving as answers differed from what was in the document we had been given. This is worrisome enough when just one department is involved. Perhaps if we keep on investigating further, more worthwhile discoveries will be made.

In this connection, I would like to bring to hon. members' attention what the auditor general says in the highlights of his report. The auditor general's report is our guide as parliamentarians, whether we are in the opposition or the government, in determining whether public funds have been properly managed.

I will give a few highlights of the auditor general's report, which came out this week. The following comments are from the report:

The federal government must introduce strong control mechanisms in order to eliminate potential fraud in the immigration system.

I will come back to immigration in greater detail.

Education services for aboriginals must be improved in order to clearly define what the federal government's role should be and control spending.

Spending is still a concern. The auditor general has found that there is a complete lack of control over spending. He is sounding an alarm. The report also reads as follows:

The rules for the treatment of scientific research tax credits, estimated at several billions of dollars, should be tightened.

What does tightening the rules mean? It means that somewhere there were abuses, that things were not done according to procedure. The report goes on:

The RCMP's outdated computer system is a cause of concern for authorities, and the turnaround times for crime laboratory analyses are a threat to public safety.

Bills were adopted in this House giving the RCMP increased authority to conduct DNA tests for evidence purposes in rather horrible cases. If the results take forever, there is a problem. It is not a case of spending too much money, but not enough.

The Department of Human Resources Development is getting EI cheques out faster, but the odds of inaccurate payments have increased. Things are just fine: more haste, less care.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors need more information in order to better assess the risks posed by travellers entering the country. If all manner of people can enter the country as they wish, questions are in order. If this is what is going on, it is probably because of a lack of staff and money. Those areas with real, identifiable needs are perhaps where the government should be throwing its money.

Genetically Modified Organisms April 12th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture claims that GMO exports are not threatened.

Yet, farmers have experienced difficulties in selling certain GMO crops, because European and Asian consumers do not want them and support mandatory labelling.

Does the minister not realize that farmers are directly affected by his reluctance to take action on this issue?

Genetically Modified Organisms April 11th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I think the minister is badly informed.

Since we already have the technology in Canada to detect GMOs, what is he waiting for to make labelling mandatory?

Genetically Modified Organisms April 11th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, whatever the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has to say about it, we learned yesterday that labelling of GMOs will now be mandatory in Europe.

These regulations will likely have significant consequences exports of our agri-food products.

Can the minister tell us what he intends to do to avoid negative consequences for our exports?

Genetically Modified Organisms April 4th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, last Thursday, the Mexican senate unanimously adopted a bill that will make it obligatory to label genetically modified foods.

The U.S. senate is now studying a bill that will make it obligatory to label genetically modified foods in the United States.

My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. Does the minister realize that, at the rate things are going, Canada may be the last country in which genetically modified foods are not labeled and that its products will be banned in export markets?

Genetically Modified Organisms March 31st, 2000

Mr. Speaker, how can the minister claim that GMOs are evaluated at each stage, from their design to their marketing, when his records do not indicate either the name of the company, the name of the researchers, the test site, or even the names of the inspectors?

Genetically Modified Organisms March 31st, 2000

Mr. Speaker, in a flyer distributed this week to the public, the Government of Canada states that “Health Canada has a strict process for evaluating new foods developed through biotechnology. A thorough safety assessment must be carnedout before they can be sold in grocery stores or on the marketplace”.

How can the Minister of Health allow the publication of such a statement when 200 scientists contend the opposite and say that no Health Canada researcher is directly involved in the study of GMOs?