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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was well.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Outremont (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 24% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Department Of Public Works And Government Services Act October 5th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am always amazed at how members of the Bloc Quebecois seem to miss the point.

The purpose of my speech was to explain to the public that this bill is in the best interests of all Canadians. What we are seeking to do is to eliminate duplication and to make government more efficient so that the taxpayers get better value for each dollar they invest.

It is obvious that members of the Bloc Quebecois are unhappy about this and that is why they are trying to attack us today on the issue of transparency when there is actually no such problem in this department. There is a policy regarding access to information and it applies to all departments.

Members of the Bloc are missing the boat today. It hurts them to see a government which advocates a cost-effective federalism, a co-operative federalism, a progressive federalism. It hurts them to see a government which is willing to work in partnership with other levels of government, as we did, for example, with the infrastructure program, as we did last June when we signed a domestic trade agreement with an exception for culture in Quebec. It hurts you because you are not here to work for all Canadians. You are here for one reason, and one reason only, that is to try and reach your very partisan goal: the separation of Quebec.

If, instead of thinking about the separation of Quebec, you began right now to think about improving how things are done in Canada and moving towards a viable progressive federalism, I am sure that taxpayers throughout the province of Quebec would be a lot prouder of your work.

I am a bit disappointed to see that the only members who truly represent the interests of Quebecers are the ones on this side of the House, and I mean the government side.

Department Of Public Works And Government Services Act October 5th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the Right Hon. Prime Minister of Canada then. We went even further in the famous red book, and I quote: "This means identifying which level of government can best deliver what services".

No matter what the opposition claims, I can say that since October 25, that is exactly what we have been doing, as a truly responsible government. Day in and day out, we are wrongly accused by the opposition parties of wanting to centralize powers in Ottawa. They keep wrongly accusing us, day after day, of not taking appropriate steps to cut costs. Day after day, they wrongly accuse us of encroaching upon provincial jurisdictions. Today however, they have a golden opportunity to tell us we are on the right track. Today, they have the opportunity to show that their constituents are well represented by supporting Bill C-52.

Canadian taxpayers-as well as ourselves for that matter-have had enough of confused and slow services. They do not have the patience any more to tolerate overlapping and duplication. In fact, they demand that their government serve them better, faster and more efficiently.

That is why, since the House reconvened, we have been looking at restructuring the public administration with a view to reducing costs and improving services.

The government is confident that it can meet these goals by working essentially on four fronts: first, streamline the delivery of many services and programs; second, tackle overlap and duplication; third, define each sector's responsibilities; finally, transfer some activities to other levels of government, when necessary.

Changing systems, work procedures and people's mentality is no easy task. You need energy, patience and a great deal of willpower. But, with good will, it can be done. The fact that, at their very first meeting last December, the ministers agreed that their priority would be to improve the Canadian federation's efficiency is a case in point. We have achieved very interesting results so far and the signing last June of bilateral agreements including an action plan to eliminate overlap is the best proof of that. This plan contains a detailed list of elements and objectives as well as a schedule in some cases.

This intergovernmental agreement is a very important step toward a more rational and effective approach to public administration in this country. It is also a very significant step forward which, at the end of the day, will benefit all Canadians. It will also benefit all Quebecers, which is why the members opposite should, in my opinion, clearly support the government's initiative.

What will be the precise impact of the bill before the House? What are its objectives? The answers are simple and obvious. The bill before us today meets the following goals: first, make policies and programs more effective, affordable and accessible to our clients; then, determine with the provincial governments who is in the best position to deliver a specific program or service; and finally, make adjustments to respect priorities and account for changing circumstances specific to each province.

These goals are precise, realistic and totally focused on improving service to clients. There is no doubt that, with the provinces' co-operation, we can make rapid progress in this area. There is no doubt either that reviewing all our programs and services in order to reduce duplication and overlap is very important for all Canadians. In general, Bill C-52 will simplify administrative procedures so that we can conclude agreements with all provincial governments.

Further to the agreements reached in July, the Department of Public Works and Government Services will soon begin negotiations with the provinces to determine just how government services will be shared. Among the priorities already identified are data processing, supply and real estate. The outlook for this co-operative shared approach is great. We are convinced that it is important to harmonize computer and information systems. We believe that we can save large amounts by sharing premises and services with other levels of government.

Also consider related services like security, storage and reception, which, when combined, can save us millions of dollars a year and give everyone better service as well. All governments at all levels have budget problems. All governments must find solutions to the growing deficit. Of course, in the past, each one wanted to have its own structure, its own window and its own service outlets.

We cannot afford all this infrastructure any more. Even before the recently announced agreements, provincial and municipal governments as well as public agencies asked us to help them get goods and services at a lower price. Indeed, the public sector increasingly realizes that we must be careful with our taxpayers' money.

In fact, we are receiving more and more financial assistance applications from organizations, because the system is working fine in many areas. At present, we have co-operation agreements concerning the purchase of police cars with some municipalities, for example, and similar agreements for the purchase of pharmaceutical products and shared standing offers for goods and services.

This is why this bill before the House allows the department to purchase equipment and services on behalf of other federal government agencies.

Given the high level of international competitiveness, we continually urge Canadian businesses to improve their efficiency and become more competitive on both the national and international markets. These principles must also apply to the government and all the machinery of government. More importantly, it is crucial to put to good use each and every dollar the Canadian taxpayers entrust to us and make some wise investments.

This is why I am particularly proud, as the member for Outremont, to support Bill C-52.

Department Of Public Works And Government Services Act October 5th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, in the light of the hon. member's remarks, I must say that I note a pattern in the Bloc Quebecois policy, which is essentially a double standard policy. Take the list of people who make donations to political parties for example. What is good enough for us -I want to emphasize this point, but I did not intervene when the issue was raised earlier- may not be for them, as we could read in the papers this morning.

Coming back to the bill before the House today, I should point out that during the election campaign we promised to rekindle the spirit of co-operation between the federal government and the Canadian provinces.

As a matter of fact, we made a commitment in the red book, and I quote: "work closely with provincial governments to reduce duplication and improve service delivery".

This motto from the red book was quoted repeatedly by the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada. We went even further-

Marathon Of Montreal Island September 23rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am proud today to commend and congratulate the organizers and all the volunteers who made possible the third Marathon of Montreal Island, held last Sunday in the cities of Outremont, Mount Royal and Saint-Laurent, and in which I myself had the honour to take part.

This international sporting event provides direct economic benefits estimated at several million dollars for the greater Montreal region. Again this year, it drew more than 6,000 athletes, including many from all over the world. In short, the September 18 marathon was a resounding success.

In closing, I wish to especially point out the participation of 1,200 volunteers who worked together to make this major sporting event such a great success. I want to draw attention to the excellent work they did and I thank them very sincerely for it.

Referendum On Quebec Sovereignty September 20th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, Jacques Parizeau, leader of the Parti Quebecois, repeatedly promised during the election campaign that if he was elected, there would be a referendum on the sovereignty of Quebec within eight or ten months following the election.

This is a firm commitment. There was never any question of postponing the referendum, and it is much better that way, since Quebecers want to settle the referendum issue once and for all. However, despite Mr. Parizeau's clear commitment, one wonders, in the light of a recent statement by the Leader of the Official Opposition, who speaks for the Government of Quebec?

Is it the Leader of the Official Opposition, who in his recent statement on the referendum explained that what counts is winning, never mind when the election is held, or is it Mr. Parizeau, Quebec's newly-elected Premier?

Immigration Act September 19th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, listen, we are in Canada, in a society that is called free and democratic and we are also, first and foremost, in a society of law. I think that the bill before this House reflects the intentions of a responsible government.

As you know, some people in society demand the most extreme things on one side or the other. Of course, in this case, some people would not have wanted us to legislate and others would have wanted us to pass draconian legislation.

This Liberal government has chosen a middle way, a solution that we call reasonable. I am surprised that my colleague seems to be shocked by this reasonable solution or seems to find the measures that we are taking extreme. On the contrary, the measures we are taking are meant above all to protect as well those who apply to Canada as a land of refuge so that they can join the great Canadian family.

As I said in my speech, often a single instance of misbehaviour or a single criminal act is enough to tarnish or ruin the reputation of a whole community. As the member for Outremont, I must say that many new Canadians live in the western part of my riding and I am particularly proud of them; they have integrated very well into Canada and they are well integrated in Quebec and in their community; they live peacefully. From being with them, I know how fragile the reputation of these communities is, unfortunately.

I am glad-and I am pleased-to join the minister of immigration in promoting this bill by which people who really need Canada's help as a welcoming country, a land of refuge, will be able to find a fair and equitable society that can receive them well, a country of refuge that can screen out what I would call undesirables at its borders.

I do not fear abuses, far from it. I am still a little surprised that my colleague from Bourassa said that we are letting ordinary officials decide. I want to tell you, Mr. Nunez, that since my election on October 25, I have had the opportunity to frequent what we call public servants and I can tell you that in many cases they are extremely competent people who see things much better than you or I do. I am glad to give them a little more power, provided that it is not used arbitrarily, and the Minister of Immigration has been very careful about that.

Immigration Act September 19th, 1994

Mr. Speaker and dear colleagues, the bill before us is an ideal opportunity to show Canadians that we take their interests to heart and that we abide by our electoral commitments.

I want to speak here not only to members of our government, but also and more particularly to members of the opposition. Since this bill was introduced, practically not a week has gone by without the media mentioning the immigration issue one way or another. Headlines are not heartening, because our system is not judged on its achievements but on its failures. That is unfortunate, because our system has its successes and plenty of them. For each case of fraud or crime that makes the headlines, thousands of cases of successful integration go unreported.

Most of the refugees and immigrants who live with us are so well integrated that nobody notices them. I do not need to give any examples. Just look around you.

The owner of your favourite restaurant, your daughter's computer instructor, your cousin's husband or your dentist, for example, may well be immigrants, but you probably do not notice it any more. Canadian society is often compared to a cultural mosaic, and I think this is confirmed in our everyday life. When you meet all these people, ask them what they think today of the cheaters and criminals who make the headlines.

When a person has left his country to start a new life, when he has started from nothing to build a future for himself, when he has finally succeeded in carving a place for himself in society, it must be insulting, to say the least, to be associated with someone who has committed criminal acts and who, in so doing, shows that he has no respect whatsoever for the country which welcomed him.

This explains why this bill is so important and so dear to our government. Of course, we must ensure that no one flouts our laws and our immigration system. But, more importantly maybe, we must protect the reputation of all decent people, those same people whom we represent, whatever our political affiliation.

Some will say that our bill goes too far, that it could be detrimental to refugees and immigrants acting in good faith. Others will say that it is too little too late, that it will not stop criminals from entering into Canada and staying here. Our government expects such criticism. However, as a responsible government, we had above all to avoid going to extremes, and I sincerely believe that we have succeeded in doing so.

Of course, the law must be merciless for cheaters and criminals, but it must not penalize those who are most in need of our help. The measures we are debating today are aimed at a very small minority of individuals. If we had the slightest doubt that they could be harmful to people acting in good faith, we would not go ahead with this bill, that goes without saying.

On the contrary, what could be most harmful to them is not the measures we are debating today, but the actions of a few criminals. Unfortunately, one instance is enough to tarnish the reputation of all refugees as far as some Canadians are concerned. One instance is enough to lead other criminals to think Canada is wide open.

We do not want to give the impression that immigrants and refugees are a threat to the security of our country. That is not true, and that is why now, as my hon. colleague said before, immigration is not the responsibility of a department of public security but a Department of Citizenship and Immigration. We want to show that we can be open when warranted but uncompromising when necessary.

We are prepared to open our doors to those who really need our help, not to just anyone. First of all, we must prevent criminals from claiming refugee status or appealing decisions by the IRB.

The system for recognition of refugee status was not put in place to delay deportation measures. We know what is going on out there, and we have no time or money to waste on criminals.

We also want to use this bill to deal with the problem of multiple claims for refugee status.

Anyone can make a mistake, and some claimants may assume that if they move, they have to submit a second claim. That we can understand. However, some people think they can confuse the authorities and delay their removal by submitting two or more claims. We must also be able to seize certain documents which those who cheat the system send by international mail. Immigration officers need additional tools to be able to do their job satisfactorily, and we, as a responsible government, intend to give them those tools. Customs officers must be able to search the mail and seize any forged documents they find.

We must also prevent criminals from taking advantage of legal loopholes. For instance, immigration officers can arrest a person who violates the Immigration Act, but in some cases, they cannot issue a warrant so the RCMP can arrest that person. In this area, we need all the help we can get. If cheaters set up networks, we must have the tools to deal with them.

Finally, we believe that the minister is still the best judge of whether dangerous criminals should be admitted to Canada on so-called humanitarian grounds. This makes sense, since in the final instances, the minister has to live with the consequences of his decision to quash a removal order which concerns a criminal. Under the bill, this authority will rest with the minister in the best interest of all Canadians. We believe that these new provisions are fair and equitable. To those who find that this bill does not go far enough, I say: tell us, tell Canadians who else should be included in this new legislation.

I know a few who would undoubtedly have a list as long as your arm of people to send back for reasons which I would call arbitrary. This is not the purpose of the government. As I said before, we are not extremists. This bill deals not with the number but with the kind of people to be deported.

We are going after people who defraud our social services and criminals who truly pose a threat to our security and that of our police forces whose job it is to protect us. The processing of citizenship applications is suspended pending the outcome of the immigration inquiry. People who have nothing to hide will have nothing to fear. Their application will not be turned down, its processing will only de delayed. People subject to an exclusion order, who had already been accepted as permanent residents, will lose that status. Up to now, this applied only to people being deported. It will no longer be true under the new bill.

To those who say that our bill goes too far, I say: Canadians are good-hearted but not weak-hearted. We would do a disservice to everyone, including bona fide refugees, by letting things drag on forever. No matter which side of the House we are on, each one of us represents Canadians who expect us to act now and in their best interest. They also expect us to take the necessary steps to enforce our laws. They are quite willing to open their doors to the victims of the various disasters which devastate our world, but not to criminals. They also expect that the efforts and resources that we spend to welcome refugees benefit those who need them most. The days of time and money being consumed by a handful of wrongdoers are gone forever. Canadians expect us to implement a trust-worthy immigration policy. To this end, we must show them that we know the difference between wright and wrong. In fact, we must show them that our government is a responsible one.

Our government has decided that it needed the means to respond to the expectations of Canadians. Bill C-44, presently before the House, is the one from which we expect the most. The measures we propose are aimed at providing specific solutions to specific problems.

This is not a bill prepared in a hurry, without any distinction between the majority of true refugees and immigrants, and a minority of abusers and criminals. Why go to such lengths for ten, twenty or a hundred unscrupulous individuals? Simply because one is enough to end the life of a person, ruin the lives of his or her family, upset their friends and relatives, and harm a whole cultural community. This is the objective of some of the measures in the bill.

The shock wave is being felt from one end of the country to the other, it reaches the ordinary citizens, as well as their elected representatives and their police forces. Who is to blame: society, you and me, our police? No, the culprits are the ten, twenty, or hundred individuals that we should expel without delay. If we do not do it, Mr. Speaker, ten, twenty or a hundred more will come in.

As you know, our government is convinced of the value of immigration for Canada. We believe that Canada should preserve its reputation of openness towards refugees, but we also believe that our policy towards immigrants and refugees should be strictly controlled in order to protect all Canadians.

I will conclude by comparing these abusers and criminals to the weeds that very often, not to say always, invade our gardens. They very quickly encroach on the space reserved for the vegetables we intended to grow and, when the time to harvest comes and the weeds have taken over, we wonder whether we should not have kept the lawn. Let us not deprive ourselves of the fruit we could harvest. Let us pull out the weeds that are trying to take root and let us make sure that we have the tools necessary to take care of our gardens. This is the way to build a better Canada.

Supply June 2nd, 1994

Let me finish. When the Bloc Quebecois-Remember, I am the member for Outremont and as a member from Quebec, I am very concerned about the hypothetical referendum debate they are trying to launch prematurely, a debate that does not respect the views of the entire population of Quebec.

I will answer this question as soon as they explain what they mean by separation. And as soon as they decide what they want to call it: separation, sovereignty, sovereignty association. As soon as they decide to be intellectually honest with the people of Quebec, whom I represent, we can talk about serious matters. In any case, answering this particular question might take as long as an hour, something like Cyrano de Bergerac!

Supply June 2nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, first of all, members opposite are once again hurling insults, calling me an old style politician. At thirty-one, that is hardly the case. I think my view of the situation is entirely up to date. Nevertheless, I respect the views of the Bloc Quebecois, even if its members do not respect mine.

That being said, I will answer the nation question when the Bloc Quebecois has-

Supply June 2nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would just like to stress how sorry I am to hear opposition members say that, as members from Quebec, we should be ashamed of saying this or that just because they think we do not share their philosophy. I can tell you right off the bat, Mr. Speaker, that, as a Quebecer and a young politician from the new generation, I have always been proud to respect the opinion of my political opponents because even if I do not agree with their philosophy, some of their ideas can certainly result in things that could benefit all of Quebec and all of Canada.

The only thing I ask in return from the opposition party is to respect my philosophy which, of course, puts Quebec within Canada.

Having said that, before I come to the national issue, the hon. member tried to make fun of my position on the European Economic Community. I want to tell you that I studied the EEC for a year in England and if I may-you can thank me if you want-it is obvious to everyone that the 12 members of the EEC-that number may soon go up to 16-are sovereign countries linked by an economic union with the four categories of movement; it is an open secret.

However, what I was saying-and I cannot comprehend why the hon. member does not understand-is that they tried, especially during the Gulf War, to establish non-economic links between themselves to build the Europe of tomorrow.

Whether we are talking about the ECU or the collective foreign policy they put to the test during the Gulf War, I think it is a step beyond the economic links. In essence, what I am now saying is that our economic links within Canada will soon be much better because, by the end of June, we will have an agreement with the federal government and all the other provinces on interprovincial economic trade.

I hope this will lead to freedom of action in the four existing categories of movement. In Canada, we also have political ties provided for in the Canadian Constitution and I say that there is a certain similarity between the two. Europe is building a union which may eventually lead to shared political sovereignty, we do not know.

Now Canada, which has had a very rewarding union, is essentially refining the internal ties. You know, we live in a framework that has proven itself. We have experience with regional development policy so that we can sit down and set appropriate policies for tomorrow, whereas the opposition party talks about separation and sovereignty and anything you want, but when the time comes to say clearly what a sovereign Quebec would be, we run into a Berlin wall; that is, we get no answer because they do not know themselves what a sovereign Quebec would be-it is total uncertainty. That is why I feel somewhat humiliated as a Quebecer when I see Lucien Bouchard cross the Atlantic to ask the French government for its blessing on separation, Mr. Speaker, even before the people of Quebec have voted in the next election and before the plan for separation has been explained to them and they have given an answer in a referendum, which is now very hypothetical.

I feel rather colonized, even though it is a word that disappeared from our vocabulary in the 1960s, when Lesage was in power. I feel rather colonized when I see Lucien Bouchard go to see the French and treat Quebecers like sheep and ask the French government for its blessing for a separate Quebec.