House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2003, as Independent MP for Témiscamingue (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Government Contracts May 9th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, now that the auditor general has uncovered the dubious practices of the Liberal administration, the government's strategy consists in having Liberal members discredit the auditor general, the very one whose work the minister of public works said not so long ago was of unimpeachable integrity.

Are we to understand that in order to save its hide, the government has been reduced to the oldest strategy in the book, that of blaming the messenger?

Supply May 7th, 2002

Madam Speaker, I invite the member to repeat publicly, directly to those affected, what he just said about their idea of loans being irresponsible.

I do not think we can say that it is impossible to find a way of providing loans without violating the rules of international trade. We must show some imagination in our way of doing things.

However, we cannot say, “But what if we displease the Americans?” I do not like the idea that we will not do something just because we do not want to displease them. They will hurt us even more. We can be creative.

If there is anything we can do that is in keeping with international agreements, let us do it. However, let us act now. Let us not wait indefinitely. We want to see some action now, because people are really concerned, and rightly so, since we do not know exactly where the government is going.

Supply May 7th, 2002

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to take part in today's debate. The region I represent, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, is home to many people who earn their living in the forest industry. There are numerous companies, including a couple of the major players like Tembec, which is one of the companies that has decided to sue the U.S. government.

There are a lot of small businesses, small sawmills, so there are a lot of people involved. Because we are so close to the resource, and for a number of other reasons, lumbering has developed into a major industry.

Today—and not for the first time, because the softwood lumber dispute with the Americans has gone on for some time—here we are again, only days away from a very serious threat that is hanging over our heads, which is that the Americans are going to crack down on us with a tax on our softwood lumber exports to the U.S. market.

A lot of jobs in our region depend on this, and today we find ourselves faced with a situation where a lot of people are worried. We have a situation that is going to happen within weeks, and no response from the government is forthcoming, no message of, “Come on now, we will be there to support you and this is exactly how”. All they were told is, “There is a whole series of government programs and you can just sort through them and maybe come up with something that will help you get through this”.

But this is a very unique crisis. The federal government is responsible for negotiating international agreements. Canada has entered into an era of free trade with the U.S., except that now we are faced with a situation where, when our industry is performing, doing really well, the Americans have decided this does not suit them and so they are going to impose a tax on us that will slow down our exports, whereas whenever we got into a legal wrangle in the past over softwood lumber, we were the ones who won out.

The problem is that the government negotiated agreements with the Americans, agreements that have always benefited the U.S. government and American businesses.

This is an agreement that has expired, and we have voluntarily limited our exports to the United States. We had a system of quotas whereby the provinces were subjected to a limit in terms of what they could export on the U.S. market. This system was based on choices that were often made randomly, in terms of who would get the quotas and who would not. It was not fair.

Only four provinces, namely Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, were affected by the export limit and the quotas. The other provinces could sell their products to the United States as they wished. So, a series of terrible inequities led to the situation in which we now find ourselves.

What I deeply resent in all this is to see how the Canadian government is down on its knees when dealing with the U.S. government. It did not raise its voice to say, “Listen, this does not make any sense”. The minister did it once, outside the House of Commons. He tried to act tough by telling the Americans “Wait a minute, this is not the way it is going to be”.

This means taking real action, such as saying “Yes, we will stand behind our industry”. There is an idea going around that I find interesting: it is to give loans to companies, so that they can continue to sell their products on the market. These loans would allow them to pay the duties.

Sure, some will say, “Is this truly in compliance with international agreements and so on and so forth?” The Americans did not ask themselves whether their action was in compliance with these agreements or not. They told themselves, “We will take measures so that companies in Quebec and in Canada will be destabilized for two or three years, and we will see the outcome of the legal battle. We will try to intimidate them, so that they will accept an agreement that will benefit us”.

We, being nice people, are saying, “Yes, we will challenge this all the way”. We must do so indeed, but we must also strengthen our position.

We will support our industry and we will not let things happen as we are doing right now. In other words, we will support workers if jobs are lost, not with the regular programs, but in a special and specific way. We must show that we mean business.

When the government commits money to the fight, then we will know that it really does have the will to go all the way and reach a settlement.

When it decides to lend large sums of money to support the industry, it will be because it is confident that it will win in the end. It will not lose much, just what it cost in interest payments. Even there, the Americans will compensate us if we win this conflict.

Everyone here seems to agree that we will win the legal battle. This is a case of minimal financial risk. The idea is an interesting one. The government is saying, “We are going to wait until there are job losses, a few more job losses. We are not really sure what the impact is yet, if it is the market slowing, or normal restructuring”. The minister seems satisfied to say, “We will wait and see”.

There are people who are wondering if, in a few weeks, they will be working of if they will have lost their job. We are going to see lumber pile up in the yards, and people will say, “What is happening? Are we selling our products”.

For us, the lumber market is something real. We see it is doing well when we look in the plant yards. When they are full, we know what to expect and what that means. We are experiencing this now.

Obviously, there are normal cycles over the course of the year. There are periods of layoffs and slowdowns. The layoffs that we are about to see will be because of a political crisis caused by American businesses that lobbied politicians hard, and they responded. Here, we are very shy to respond to the industry.

In our region for instance, Tembec is one of the major players in the coalition for free trade. This company has decided to take the U.S. government to court under the trade agreements, using the argument that there will be losses associated with a political decision in the United States. I think it would be nice if business people could stick to business and the government could do its job in the field of international relations and ensure that, when it negotiates free trade agreements, it can support our industries when there are problems and litigation. This is a major issue with a significant impact.

This holds true for many regions in Quebec, and in northern Ontario. Our neighbours will be in the same boat. There will be major economic repercussions. In recent years in my region, we have been through a major crisis in the mining industry, which cost us many jobs.

In my riding—multiply this by two to get a picture of the region, because there are two ridings there—, between the 1996 and 2001 censuses, 5,000 people left the region. This has a definite impact on our ability to maintain adequate effective public services, such as schools, hospitals and so forth. There has to be economic activity. Fortunately, the price of gold and metals—particularly gold—is coming back up, which is pumping new life into the region. At the same time, forestry is an extremely important industry in the area. It cannot be abandoned like this.

There are other parallel measures that should be taken. There must be more support for forestry research and development. I remember the technology partnership program. Back then, the government invested heavily in the new economy. It was impossible to apply for projects from the natural resources sector. There was no program providing adequate support for the activities of these industries.

The reaction from Ottawa was “no”, but fortunately the Government of Quebec had supported research activities, particularly in the case of Tembec in Témiscamingue, and in others as well. Here in Ottawa, the answer was, “No, no program”, but we invested and placed a great deal of store in new technology. This was justified, but at the same time traditional sectors of the economy are also extremely important. This could be seen in the drop in high tech in the past two years, the stock market share and bond losses in this area. It can be seen that the same is not true as far as our economy is concerned. There are sure values and these must not be forgotten.

Certain myths notwithstanding, the productivity of the natural resources sector is very good. It must continue that way; we must maintain our competitive edge.

During the two years the industry is likely to be destabilized, are businesses going to continue to invest as much in R and D? Are they going to plan investments for modernization? They will be under heavy financial pressure. This will have impact in a number of areas and cannot be allowed. A clear message needs to be sent to our industry, to our workers, to our people, the men and women who earn their livings in this industry, that we will be with them.

We must also send a signal to the U.S. government that we will not give up, that we will do whatever it takes. One way to show how serious we are would be to table immediately, without delay, an action plan that would make them realize that we are ready to go far, to fight to the end.

If it is possible to reach a settlement that would bring us back to free trade, only then would we consider signing an agreement with the Americans. Otherwise, let us fight to the end and let us support the industry and the workers in the meantime.

Government Contracts May 6th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the problems are much broader than what is covered by the ongoing investigation. This situation reminds us of the scandal at the Department of Human Resources Development, which the government tried to downplay in the same way.

The documents mentioned this morning in the media refer to problems of mismanagement, administrative flaws, political interference, double billing, overbilling, inadequate follow up and monitoring, and bad practices.

What more does the government need to order a public inquiry?

Government Contracts May 6th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the government silenced a public servant by telling her to mind her own business when she questioned the relevancy of spending $3 million to fund agricultural fairs and hunting and fishing shows all over Quebec. This example shows the mismanagement and political interference that afflict the sponsorship program.

What is the Minister of Public Works and Government Services waiting for to order an independent inquiry on all the activities of his department, not just on Groupaction, but on his whole department?

Excise Act, 2001 April 30th, 2002

In addition, I am told that for a year and a half, the finance minister has refused to even meet with them. Clearly the big breweries seem to be worried by the arrival of new players in the market. However, we should not be fooled, essentially Molson and Labatt are the ones holding huge shares of the market.

Our role is not to represent only these major businesses who have their own interests. I can understand why they would be lobbying. However, the government has to stand up to them. Small businesses are trying to develop and could become extremely interesting players. They could create jobs.

In the past few years, big breweries have experienced some problems. Time and again in Montreal, there were closures and job cuts. This was to be expected with more foreign competition. However while local players are struggling to develop, the government does not help them, claiming it has to support the major players that are left. This makes no sense.

It should send a clear message. At the very least, the government could have acknowledged that we are right, and promised a new bill before the summer recess. We could co-operate, and the bill could go through very quickly. There is no problem if the government wants to rapidly pass a bill to help microbreweries. But that was not to be. They will pass Bill C-47, and that will be the end of it.

In committee, when the Bloc raised the issue, its amendments were ruled out of order. This raises major questions about the ability of the committee to work properly. Moreover, we have an extremely important ethical problem here because the chair of the committee is the spouse of a man who is involved in lobbying for Labatt. It is beyond me.

The chair of the committee is hiding behind the fact that she had an opinion telling her that everything was fine, but she kept it to herself during all the committee proceedings. She never told the committee from the outset that if the microbreweries were discussed, she might be in a conflict of interest. Had she done so, the committee could have decided what was to be done.

What kind of message does this send to people watching this? They say to themselves “Things were rigged from the start. The large breweries had lobbied. They had done whatever was necessary to ensure the debate would not go any further, that the tax for microbreweries would not be included in the bill and that nobody could add it afterwards”.

Now the end of the session is near. We will soon be leaving for the summer and next fall we will work on something else. However, these people from the microbrewery industry need support right now.

At one point, when they came here a few years ago, I was under the impression that the government would automatically listen. What was being asked was only common sense compared to what was being done elsewhere. Now, a few years later, we have not moved forward a single bit.

Hopefully the members on the other side will show some sense in the last hours of this debate and bring forward amendments to this bill. It is not difficult. We only need to pass an amendment or table a new bill that says, “Here, we will amend the regime”. We would be pleased to co-operate on such an initiative. In any event, the legislative agenda is not exactly overloaded. We have the capacity to do it. So let us do it and the committee will have all the time to perform its work correctly if it has to hold a few hearings on the subject. Ultimately, I think we could even dispense with that stage.

We now have to decide if we are going to help the microbreweries or not and, judging by their silence, I think the Liberals have already made up their minds. They will favour the large breweries over the microbreweries. We will not, however, be able to support the government in this instance.

Excise Act, 2001 April 30th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, it is my turn to speak to Bill C-47, which is a missed opportunity for the government to introduce measures to help microbreweries in this bill.

Like several of my colleagues, there is in my region a microbrewery that sells a commercial beer under the appellation 8. The administrative region of Abitibi--Témiscamingue being region 08, that is the name the investors gave their beer.

These investors came from Belgium are now well established in our community and in our region and they chose—which is not always easy—to invest in a product that appeared to be very promising, with an image of the region that could perhaps be sold everywhere in Quebec, of course, but also outside Quebec, and which would at the same time be an instrument of commercial development for them and of regional development for us, to promote our region.

However, there are a lot of barriers to lower to enter on this market. Obviously, everybody knows the power of the big brewers; I am speak only of their competitiveness for the time being. I am not speaking of their lobbying power; I will come back to that later.

It is therefore not easy because of course when only small quantities are produced, it is a real challenge to keep prices competitive when distributing a product. Businesses have to find niches in various ways. It is obvious that the distribution costs are much higher when small quantities are produced and the product is not sold in large stores.

This also raised the whole issue of the capacity to produce small quantities, at the beginning, while maintaining the quality of the product, because consumers demand quality, and rightly so. This is a real challenge. These people have successfully dealt with it for a long time, but they have had problems. There were some temporary work stoppages, during which they had to close down.

This is why every little bit counts. In this sense, I remember that a few years ago already, other microbreweries that had united had come here to Ottawa. I met them with my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot. There is nothing new here. These concerns have been known for a long time. We all know that the taxation system penalizes them in many ways and that it impedes their development.

In a very simple way, it would not have been complicated to include in a bill like this one some changes to the tax system that could have given a bit of a boost to these microbreweries. I have mentioned the been known as 8 in my area, but there are others, in some other very well known areas, that have succeeded in breaking into the market and filling a need among customers interested in this type of beer. We have the choice between helping our own businesses or letting imported beers take over the whole market in that niche. For some other countries have chosen to support their microbreweries.

Earlier, I was reading in one of my colleagues' speech that in the United States, for example, the size of a microbrewery's production is defined as one million hectolitres. In the U.S., under the tax system microbreweries are subjected to, the sale of 24 bottles yields $1.12 in taxes whereas here the tax amounts to $4.09 and even more when the beer is sold in a licensed beverage establishment such as a bar; in this case, the tax can amount to $6.12.

As we can see, the tax ratio imposed on our products is four to one and even six to one, compared with what is done in the U.S. which has chosen to support this industry.

There are plenty of interesting statistics in the previous speech. It was clearly demonstrated, however, that our taxation system does not suit the present situation.

Yet, it appears that, on the other side of the House there is considerable silence. I am pretty surprised today to see the hon. member for Abitibi--Baie-James--Nunavuk silent. Surprised because the brewery I referred to, which produces La 8 beer, is in that riding, not in the riding of Témiscamingue. It is, nevertheless, a pleasure for me to stand up for the entire region. The brewery is, to be specific, located in Amos.

I would have liked to hear from the hon. member, or at least for him to show some interest at other stages, but I never heard a peep from him, either in the region or here in the House of Commons, or in committee, to bring forth the point of view of the people who work there and would appreciate some support.

Where are the other members from Quebec? I remember a few years back—at political conventions, one can sit in as an observer—I went with one of my Bloc Quebecois colleagues to a convention of the Liberal Party of Canada. In an effort to promote the products, the delegation had organized a tasting of Quebec beers from microbreweries. That is all very fine and well, but when they are here in parliament, where they have been sent by their constituents and where they have the power to do something, where are they all of a sudden? There is more involved than just organizing tasting sessions. They must also support these people if they want to be able to organize more such sessions in the future, because the product still exists and will have been able to develop. It is all very fine and well to make nice gestures, but they now have an opportunity to do something tangible.

It is too easy to say “No, that was not the initial purpose of Bill C-47”. If it was not that, what else is there on the table? Why is there no other government initiative on the table? The Minister of Finance tells us that they are taking this seriously. He is taking it so seriously that no other legislative measure has been indicated. He did not even indicate anywhere that he was prepared to hold a debate.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act April 23rd, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Quebecois vote yes on this subamendment.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001 April 23rd, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Quebecois who voted on the previous motion will be voting in favour of this motion, with the exception of the hon. member for Roberval.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001 April 23rd, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Quebecois vote no on this amendment.