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  • Her favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Bloc MP for Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2000, with 60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Member for Rimouski—Neigette-et-la Mitis May 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, just hours away from taking my leave, I want to express my gratitude for the moments of intensity we have shared in this place with its words, images and sounds, where my words could echo the passion of my thoughts, based on my convictions and my desire to serve my fellow citizens, whom I thank for having put their trust in me three times, and doing so each time wonderfully.

To those who are carrying on, I wish rewards to match the demands of this sometimes chaotic service, which also has its moments of lack of alternatives or vision, as well as moments of renewed delight.

I thank everyone who has assisted me—my family, my colleagues, my staff and every service on the Hill—and one and all for your thoughtfulness, regardless of political or personal opinions.

Supply May 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and for his kind, comforting words.

I think the government would be in a much better position had it kept its word. You will surely remember, Mr. Speaker, since you were a candidate in the 1993 election campaign, that Mr. Jean Chrétien had made a promise in the first red book. “We will stop the reform proposed by the Conservatives, it is an aberration, that reform makes no sense at all. Elect us and you will see that we will never go ahead with that reform, which goes too far and makes no sense”. Canadians believed Mr. Chrétien and his representatives and gave them a Liberal majority government.

In 1997, he sang the same tune again. “Re-elect us and we will reform the employment insurance plan”. There had been a lot of criticism with regard to the reform that had been undertaken. The Liberals, who had condemned the EI reform proposed by the Conservative government when they were in opposition, went a lot further than the Conservatives intended to go in their reform when they were in office.

So, in 1997, Mr. Chrétien said, “Trust us and we will carry out the EI reform”. But it did not happen in 1997, there was no reform. They waited on the eve of the election to send an army of ministers across the country to say, “Stop the protests, we have not done the reform but I promise you that we will do it after the 2000 election”.

We are on the eve of the 2004, or perhaps 2005, election, and we are still waiting for the reform. But this time, the workers and the unemployed no longer believe in the Liberal Party and, the next time, they will send them to the opposition benches.

Supply May 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the first thing to point out is that the transfer of responsibilities from the federal government to Quebec—Emploi-Québec—occurred five years ago, not eight years ago. Second, this system is working tremendously well. This week, we heard testimony at the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. These people are frontline witnesses. They agreed to testify and to tell us simply and spontaneously that this system was working very well.

There is another important thing that my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord must consider. First, it is true that it bodes well for the campaign, because I am convinced that we will win the riding back and the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord will sit with us in the next session. Unfortunately, I am even willing to give him my seat. He can sit here so the member opposite can see him well on television. Perhaps he will be sitting in the first row.

In any case, my colleague should realize that employment insurance is currently a hidden employment tax, which targets mainly the neediest and the least fortunate in our society, since EI premiums do not increase for people whose income exceeds $39,000.

It is a tax on the poor and the less fortunate that creates surpluses in the billions of dollars, which the government uses to pay off its debt even though it has never discussed this with anyone, that is, how long it might take to reimburse it, how quickly it should be done, to whom it should be reimbursed and so on. This is another thing that it does surreptitiously by hiding its surplus when it tables its budgets.

The government is bragging as though it were a good manager. It is saying, “Surprise, surprise, the surplus is not $3 billion as we said it would be, but $10 billion. Since it is too late to use it on something other than the debt, we will use $7 billion to pay down the debt”. This was planned from the beginning. The government thinks we are stupid. We have been seeing the same scenario for 11 years. The Liberals have not changed and, until they do, from year to year, Canadians will continue to lose confidence in them and they will clearly show it in the next election.

Supply May 6th, 2004

I appreciate your comment, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to emphasize again a very important process which the hon. members must understand. Reference was made to the democratic deficit. We do have a democratic deficit in Canada, and a huge one at that.

The events of the past three or four months have made one thing clear: it is essential to have a fixed election date in order to know when an election will be called.

I could be making my last speech in this House and not be aware of it. Then again, I may get to make another speech next week, in September or in January 2005. No one can tell. If only I knew when I will be able to go on holiday, that would be just great. Instead, I have to wait, as the election call depends on what the polls and pundits have to say.

In 2000, just before the election, people were told not to worry, that changes were forthcoming. Since 2000, we have been saying and proving to the government, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the situation of seasonal workers makes no sense. It makes no sense to create such hardship for our fellow citizens who pay taxes, allowing the government to accumulate astronomical surpluses.

If we talk about lost revenue, it is because in every single one of the regions of Quebec, in all the ridings surveyed, the average loss is $40.5 million. That is the average for 75 ridings, ridings such as Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, Ahuntsic, Beauce, Bourassa and so on. As an average they lost $40.5 million.

Our numbers are different from those of the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord because we do not have the same reference point. We take into account those 60% of workers who are not eligible to EI. It is a real number which creates hardship for 60% of the people.

Let us have a look at the system we had before. I am not a supporter of the overly generous system we had before where you needed 10 weeks of work to get 42 weeks of benefits. The Bloc Quebecois does not want to get back to that either. That is not what it wants.

The Bloc Quebecois has worked in good faith with members of all parties. That work resulted in a report containing 17 unanimous recommendations. What we want, among others, is an end to the discrimination against young people, women, and the elderly. We want to see an end to discrimination. It does not make sense, in view of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that people be the target of discrimination. It is a shame. We demand an end to this kind of discrimination and equal treatment for all.

We ask the government to make an effort on behalf of workers who are the victims of the seasonal industry. When he was on this side, the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord was singing from the same song sheet as us. Now that he has crossed the floor, he is singing a different tune. Are we here to be blind to the needs of our constituents or to represent those who put their trust in us and voted for us?

How can people in his riding have any confidence? He may change his mind again after the next election and find it makes no sense. If he lands up in the opposition as a Liberal member, will he go back to his old Conservative buddies, since they will be forming the government next time around? At least, I sincerely hope so, because we have had enough of a bunch of people who won't understand anything. I say this openly.

How many times have we risen in this House to state the need for a special program geared to older workers, those aged 55 and over?

A number of plants are closing all over Quebec and Canada because the government has decided to engage in free trade, for example. In the case of cotton, it decided to open our borders to products from Bangladesh and China, and this has brought about plant closures. People who have served their employers for 30 years have reached an age where they are no longer able to do a different job.

In the past, we had this kind of program for older workers. It was tailored to their needs and worked just fine. We also had pilot projects that worked extremely well. It is not as if the government does not have examples of what can be done with the billions of dollars of surplus it is stealing from the fund for purposes other than those of the people contributing weekly to their employers. They pay premiums to get insurance. But then, somebody comes along and says: “This is a nice pile of money. I can put it to some other use. I can use it as I like.” Part of the EI fund was put into the Canadian unity fund. Anyway, we do not know were this money came from.

This does not make any sense. Older workers need support from the government because they do not have an easy time. They are good citizens who served their country well and paid taxes for 25 or 30 years. When they lose their job, we should support them.

We also asked for an increase in the mean benefit rate to 60%. When you buy insurance for your home or your car, the insurer asks you what deductible amount you would like, $250, $500, $1,000 or whatever. Several things can make the insurance more or less expensive. Workers are being told this: “Your premiums will be so much, and you will have a two-week waiting period.” But they are not paid 100% of their salary. The two-week waiting period is similar to the deductible I choose in my insurance plan. It is like a two week waiting period, so I should get at least 60%. Workers are not asking for so much. They are asking for benefits that will replace 60% of their salary. They are really quite generous not to ask for more. The government pockets the difference. Right know the benefit rate is 55%.

In my opinion, and this is the basis of the reform, the fund should be managed by those who pay into it. The government withdrew in 1990. Before that, it paid one third, employers paid one third and employees paid one third. Now, employers contribute 50%, and employees contribute 50%. The government does not contribute to the EI fund anymore, but it says that that money belongs to it. It is shameful. That money belongs to the employers and employees who contribute to the fund.

Since when does the money in your bank account belong to somebody else? You may have agreed to share a joint account with your spouse, which is perfectly normal, and that is what employers and employees do. They agree to share a joint account, but the government has nothing to do with it. So it is clear and simple, it is the basis of the reform: we need an independent employment insurance fund managed by those who pay into it. We want an independent fund that is separate from government operations.

We want a fund similar to the pension fund. We want a fund that will capitalize surpluses and that will be managed by contributors, that is employers and employees. We want the premium rates to be established in a way that will create a balance between debits and credits.

Recently we became aware of a letter sent by the Prime Minister to the provinces, including Quebec. He told them to increase taxes, to get the money they need to discharge their responsibilities. What employers and employees want is to be able to manage the fund, to balance debits and credits and to build a reserve. The government's actuaries have always said we should do so. There would be no problem in taking all these things into account and in building the kind of reserve that would help us through tough times.

We are calling for an indepth reform of the employment insurance plan, which needs to be rethought from a to z .

I remember hearing a minister—who is now responsible for health—say that what they wanted to do in fact was to send everyone back to work. It is ridiculous.

Currently, one of the negative impacts of the employment insurance program is that it contributes to young people leaving our regions. This is disastrous. The Liberals must stop their nice rhetoric to the effect that they wanted to put everyone back to work. When a young person from the Gaspé or the Lower St. Lawrence region has worked 600 hours at a summer job, he or she is forced to go to Montreal or to Quebec City to complete the required number of hours of work, if he or she wants to be able to get his or her job back in the region the following year. Quite often, a young person who left the region to be able to continue to work does not come back in our region.

The government should stop wearing blinkers and look at the negative impacts of its reform to truly be able to conduct the in-depth employment insurance reform that is needed in Canada.

Supply May 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak today in the debate on the motion by my colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should propose, before the dissolution of the House, an employment insurance reform along the lines of the 17 recommendations contained in the unanimous report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities entitled “Beyond Bill C-2: A Review of Other Proposals to Reform Employment Insurance”.

I would like to take a few seconds to sort out some figures. I hope that the parliamentary secretary is listening carefully. It is rather strange to see the government strutting out a meaningless figure.

When people lose their job, the first thing they do is to check whether they might qualify for EI benefits. They are told that they have accumulated enough hours and that they qualify. This is the famous 80% or so of workers that the government is talking about.

When we talk about the 40% or so of workers who lose their job and who receive EI benefits, we are telling the truth also. It is the same reality that they are talking about.

In fact, a young worker, for example, cannot qualify if he is let go after having worked 800 hours at a first job. He would have needed 910 hours. With their 80%, they forget these people. And what about the woman who comes back to the labour market and does not have the required number of hours and then loses her job? She is not included either in the 80% the government is constantly bragging about.

The much vaunted 80% has to do with people who qualify for EI. But what about young people, older people, women and others who do not qualify? When one stops to consider what they have really put in place, it is a plan where only 40% of unemployed people qualify for benefits. They should stop saying that it is 80%. That is not the right figure. It is not 80% of the unemployed who get EI benefits; it is 40%. Possibly 39% or 41%, but somewhere close to 40%. So let us stop trotting out that figure, because it is a false one.

For the last eight years, we have been hearing the same old song from the government that does not understand a thing. I remember when Lloyd Axworthy was minister. He is the one who launched the reform. For at least two years, he rose to answer questions put by my hon. colleague from Mercier, who thought the reform did not make any sense and went as far as predicting the problems the reform would bring on. During two years, the minister told my colleague that she did not understand anything, that she did not know how to read and that she had not bothered reading the documentation. He kept saying that for two whole years. That is the only thing he told my colleague.

According to the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, they are aware of the problems, they realize that changes are needed; some have already been made here and there and they will make some more. But that is not what he used to say when he sat on this side of the House as a Conservative. He thought the reform brought forward by the Liberals did not make any sense.

We can only hold people hostage and play them for fools for so long. This is probably the last time I have the chance to speak in this House. So, please allow me to thank each and every one who helped me do the work I really enjoyed doing for the last 11 years.

However, the Parliament of Canada needs to come up with answers for the people. Whether the government is red, blue or any other colour, it needs to respect the people and stop lying. There is just so much we can take. Things are getting out of control. The employment insurance reform is a complete disaster.

During the 2000 election, I remember quite well the member for Bourassa, president of the Privy Council and the member for Outremont, who was then a minister, traveling across Quebec and saying: “Please, stop your demonstrations, do not demonstrate. We will take care of you after the election”. We had to wait to be on the eve of an election again for this government to decide to take care of those workers who have lost their jobs. This is nonsense. We are fed up with this system. People are fed up.

During the next election, people will send a clear message to the Prime Minister. In Quebec, at least, they have understood. I hope that in the rest of Canada people will also understand that it makes no sense to be governed by arrogant and incompetent people who line their pockets and empty those of the public. They are the ones who force people into unemployment, into a gap situation and who say that they will make small reforms and that they have already made some, as the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord was saying. This is truly an aberration...

The Environment April 23rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the minister is fully aware that this incinerator may be catastrophic to the water resource of Baie des Chaleurs.

Does the Prime Minister really think that the people of Gaspé are going to wait for the result of your investigation, after the election? Personally, I do not think so. What do you think?

The Environment April 23rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, a month ago, citizens occupied the offices of the Prime Minister in Montreal while others held a demonstration when he went to Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, calling for a moratorium on the construction of a toxic waste incinerator in Belledune. Despite numerous demonstrations by citizens who are aware of the negative impact of the presence of such an incinerator, the federal government is turning a deaf ear and refusing to get involved.

Knowing full well that the minister can invoke the Fisheries Act to prevent the incinerator from being built, will the Prime Minister finally listen to the people of Gaspé and intervene in the Bennett case in Belledune?

Public Service April 22nd, 2004

That makes no sense.

Older Workers April 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member for Montmagny-L'Islet has had the proposal from the Whirlpool workers in hand since last fall and has done nothing about it. In reaction to Bloc Quebecois pressure, Human Resources and Skills Development staff finally met with them yesterday.

Does the minister at last plan to approve federal funding for this project before the plant closes on May 14?

Older Workers April 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, after a press conference called by the Whirlpool workers and the Bloc Quebecois, Human Resources and Skills Development staff met with the workers. These workers have an unusual and original proposal for providing assistance to workers aged 55 to 65 who are about to lose their jobs.

Can the minister tell us whether he intends to give a favourable response to the Whirlpool workers who came here yesterday to denounce his neglect?