House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Bloc MP for Trois-Rivières (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply May 15th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, when we speak of pre-emptive strikes, I think this is very much to the point. Means are being put in place for defence against potential attacks from where? We need to be realistic. What country on this planet can believe it has the capacity to seriously attack the United States, even at this time, without anti-missile missiles and with a missile defence plan in place as well? I think that there is something reprehensible about this when one thinks of other ways the funds could be used. This is what needs to be kept in mind primarily.

If we put the $60 billion to $100 billion we are going to put into the military-political complex into some just cause, famine in Africa, drinking water in Africa, we would achieve our goal promptly. That is obvious. So we have the wrong target here.

As for the other aspect, saying that our government has done this, our government has done that convinces me that we need to elevate the debate somewhat. The Liberal Party is being attacked on its lack of democratic transparency. I believe that, as a fellow human being, the member for Brossard—La Prairie should be able to feel that my words are not partisan. I think that what is at stake here is humanity.

We must all elevate the level of this debate in order to address the leaders of this world, those who are in the spotlight, as well as all those who are backstage, out of sight, the ones that remain unseen, ghostly presences, but human beings nonetheless. The leaders need to be reminded that these invisible others have children and that those children will have children and wonder whether the sun will end up killing them instead of providing them with the means to live on an equal basis with others.

As my colleague from Champlain has already pointed out so eloquently, the sun is going to kill us pretty soon, if we continue—and this is one of the issues—to let pollution run rampant, to allow the environment to deteriorate.

Supply May 15th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie.

Second, I wish to commend the hon. member for Saint-Jean on the relevance of bringing this issue forward for debate in the House today. Clearly, this is a debate this Liberal government wanted to avoid, given the internal tensions. This illustrates the culture of this truly unique party in Canada. Being in office 69 years over the past 100 years is taking its toll, there is no doubt about it. We are witnessing a trademark of this government and this political party.

I congratulate the hon. member for Saint-Jean because this is a very important debate. This issue is causing anguish. The more I hear and read about it, the greater my concern, especially with my understanding of the context in which antimissile defence is being contemplated. Given the recent history of the United States, it comes at what seems to me to be a pivotal moment.

To give a brief historical overview, the 1960s saw the threat of the use of nuclear weapons. We are familiar with the tragic incidents at the end of the war in 1945 at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These are sad memories in the history of humanity.

So we find ourselves in the 1960s with two superpowers, the USSR and the USA. In 1972, wisdom dictated the ABM treaty. This was a 30-year treaty signed by Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev banning the development of antimissile missiles, ensuring nuclear parity and balance, and limiting the number of offensive nuclear weapons allowed in each country to 100. This created some balance and lessened tensions considerably.

Things went relatively well except that in the 1980s the Reagan administration decided to get involved in a nuclear initiative that would upset the balance if taken to the extreme. Concern heightened. Apparently in response to pressures from the other nuclear powers, the Americans were obliged to back down on this aggressive approach which had the potential to upset everything that had already been discussed.

Now, moving on to 2002, things got really worrisome. The Americans called for the 1972 treaty not to be renewed when it reached the end of its 30-year term, that is in 2002, and refused to proceed any further with the country that had by then become Russia.

So the situation now is one of open doors and the rather terrifying concept of the so-called pre-emptive strike. We saw that concept put into use in Iraq. Now we see it behind the missile defence plan.

Fortunately, as has been already touched on, there appears to be an important debate going on within the U.S. itself, among the Americans who see how dangerous it may be to get involved in initiatives of this type. With the post-war situation in Iraq, we find ourselves in a world where there are no controls and world public interest is non-existent. With the unilateral action of the Americans, no one at present is in a position to lecture them or to have any negative reaction such as telling them not to go too far.

The U.S.S.R. no longer exists, and China has not reached that same level. Actually, in this debate, China is not only expressing its displeasure in whatever way it can, but it is also suggesting a complete demilitarization, so that all nuclear arms would be prohibited, and all weapons of mass destruction would be destroyed. This is the position of China at present.

After the aggression against Iraq, the Americans rule the world unchecked. That is another sign, obviously, of what has inspired them. The American doctrine of manifest destiny has led the U.S. from victory to victory, to the point that they are now a dominant force not only militarily but also economically. And while they are at it, they want to control space as well.

This attitude is not very wise. This is just the political-military instincts or interests talking. This does nothing to enhance a sense of security. When we think about the political-military complex and an investment of $60 to $100 billion in this plan, should it be carried out, we are far from talking about the Tobin tax or its equivalent or about the unequal distribution of wealth between individuals, countries and continents.

I came back from Africa last week. I went to the Ivory Coast and I was fortunate and unfortunate enough to leave the luxury hotels we were staying in--you know how these things work Mr. Speaker--and go to the shantytowns. I was with a colleague, a member of Parliament from Benin. Again I explained my reaction. I had been to Abidjan a few times before, and I always say that it is terribly sad to see such poverty and idleness, to see people wander around with no place to go. People just walk. Some sell apples, others sell pineapples or old tires. They live in dirt and dust. I told my colleague how terrible and unacceptable those conditions were and he replied, “My dear colleague, it is even worse in my country; at least ,people here have shoes. They have a little white vest. They have a place where they can sleep. In my country, things are much worse”.

So ours is a time of development of the underdevelopment. And yet, we see projects that, clearly, are just toys for the privileged few in this global society.These people are preying on the rest of the world and want to prey on it even more; they never have enough material wealth and never have enough power. We stand by, powerless to deal with this form of political and economic chaos. We are among the privileged few. At least we can speak out. I hope we can still do so safely, because even parliamentary democracy could be threatened one day.

Where will it stop? It is just like the airline industry after September 11. We are killing this international public service. It is getting increasingly complicated and uncomfortable to fly. Not only are the security checks getting more and more thorough before boarding, but on deplaning we are informed that there will be further passport checks. Imagine 200 to 300 tired passengers. It is 5 o'clock in the morning, in Paris, and they are getting their magnifying glasses out to check passports. Is this the kind of world we want to live in? Is this tomorrow's society? I am happy I am the age I am and not 20 years old. What kind of a world will we end up with if this kind of mentality prevails? Where is all this going to lead us? There is no collective reflection. There is no concern for social justice in this world. Even though the United States are sucking up the world's wealth, there are 50 million poor in that country, and nobody seems to care.

With projects like that one, we have every right to be worried, unless things change and we have a frank discussion, however limited our means to do so are as human beings.

The government should abide by the recommendation made by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs in its report made public last week.

Recommendation No. 12 states:

The government should not make a decision about missile defence systems being developed by the United States, as the technology has not been proven and details of the deployment are not known. However, the government should continue to monitor development of this program with the government of the United States and continue to oppose the weaponization of outer space.

That is what Liberal members and others said. It is to their credit, and I believe we should proceed with calm, wisdom, reflection, and a concern for social justice and a better distribution of wealth. There is no other way.

Railway Transportation May 6th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, as of today, nearly 1,500 citizens and over 40 organizations in the Mauricie, including a good number from the riding of Saint-Maurice, have publicly supported the creation of a high-speed train line between Quebec City and Montreal, with a stop in Trois-Rivières.

My question is this: since the cabinet committee on economic union recently recommended that this high-speed train project be brought forward, does the Prime Minister intend to take advantage of this opportunity to leave his region with a tangible legacy, and could he tell us if he might accept its findings?

Supply May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Saint-Jean for another very clear speech.

I would like to ask him how he explains the fact that, despite all the bills that have been introduced in the House, at least since 1990, both by the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party, this government and its predecessors never showed any concern about this gaping hole in the Canada Labour Code, which allows the use of replacement workers and which I think completely upsets the balance of bargaining power.

My second question would be this. I do not know if he heard the minister this morning, but she almost praises—either because she is acting in bad faith or because she is naive, I do not know—the sort of consensus that supposedly exists in Canada in favour of the status quo, claiming that there is indeed a balance of bargaining power with regard to labour relations in Canada, even during a strike, even with—she apparently admitted it in the House—the use of replacement workers.

I would like my colleague to explain how the minister can say that there is indeed a real balance of bargaining power during strikes, even when scabs show up.

Supply May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate my NDP colleague on his speech and thank him for the support that his party will give to the bill introduced by my colleague from Laurentides.

I have two questions for my colleague. First, how does he explain the fact that this is not the first time that the Bloc Quebecois—and no doubt also the New Democratic Party—is introducing anti-scab legislation? In 1990, it seemed that my colleague from Richelieu introduced a similar bill. This has happened three or four times in the Bloc's history, since we have been here in large numbers, since 1993.

Consequently, I would like to ask my colleague how he can explain that, since 1993 or thereabouts, the Liberal government and the federal administration has not made any commitment and has not realized that such legislation would simply make good sense in terms of power balance.

My second question is, what does he think of the minister's reasoning when she says that, despite everything, in Canada, parties end up agreeing and the important thing is to have a fair balance of power between both parties?

In Quebec—and no doubt also in Canada—we have labour disputes that go on forever because of problems with the balance of power. I am thinking of Vidéotron, Cargill, Radio-Nord. In light of these disputes, what does he think about this kind of comment by the minister?

Supply May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, Canadian parliamentarians are aware that Quebec is an advanced society, including in the agricultural sector. We have the privilege today to welcome UPA representatives, egg, chicken and milk producers. Quebec is one of the most advanced societies in the world when it comes to supply management, a concept which originated in Quebec. It has been a model for many countries in this area.

We have a similar situation as far as labour relations go. Quebec broke new ground many years ago when it passed anti-scab legislation. The result is that the balance of bargaining power is maintained, and, more often than not, the parties feel like settling the dispute quickly, since they are more or less equal in power. But if the employer can hire strikebreakers, disputes last much longer, as we have seen recently with federally regulated companies.

The end result is that we have two classes of workers. One enjoys the protection of anti-scab legislation in Quebec, but the other, the unprotected workers, suffers because of the traditional indifference of the federal government in this great country.

What is my colleague's position on the disadvantages, for Quebec workers, of working in a federally regulated sector as opposed to one regulated by Quebec?

Iraq April 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the following statement was made in a press release from the organization “Enfants du Monde”.

The key United Nations documents protecting civilian populations are being swept aside, ignored, violated. The entire world is a powerless witness to these crimes against defenceless human beings. Who can speak of victory in such circumstances?

In response to such a cry of alarm, can the Prime Minister stop waffling and take an unequivocal stand so that humanitarian aid can be distributed and the population protected?

Iraq April 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the greatest concern at this time is certainly the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq. Decisions must be prompt and efficient, since so many lives depend on them.

Will the Prime Minister admit that the expertise in this area lies with the NGOs and the UN, not the U.S. Army, and consequently everything possible must be done to ensure that humanitarian aid is distributed under the UN umbrella?

Supply April 3rd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague, the member for Saint-Jean, for his excellent speech. For the benefit of those who are listening, I would like to read the motion moved by the Canadian Alliance. It reads as follows:

That the House of Commons express its regret and apologize for offensive and inappropriate statements made against the United States of America by certain Members of this House; that it reaffirm the United States to be Canada's closest friend and ally and; hope that the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is successful in removing Saddam Hussein's regime from power; and that the House urge the Government of Canada to assist the coalition in the reconstruction of Iraq.

I would like to begin my comments by talking about what the motion does not contain. It makes no reference to the heart of the matter, which is whether or not international law is being complied with.

This type of conflict was supposed to have been solved following the terrible second world war by the establishment of the United Nation, in 1948. As such, it became illegal for a sovereign state to attack another sovereign state without the permission of this great assembly, known as the United Nations, which was technically represented by the Security Council.

Those, then, are the rules of civility that were set out to require that states no longer act arbitrarily, that they no longer act unilaterally and based on their own aggressive interests. That is the spirit of international law on this issue. And the depository of international law in this case is the United Nations.

What is worrisome here is that those who were asked to demonstrate the need for this aggression, as the Vatican has described it, were not at all able to do so. The Vatican stated that if a country took upon itself to intervene in this matter, based on its own authority and without the support of the UN, then it was an aggression and not a war. These words are important words. And neither Colin Powell, during his presentations, nor by Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, managed to demonstrate the need for, let alone the legitimacy of, this war. The inspectors, who were on site in Iraq, mandated by the UN to verify if Iraq had the capacity to use weapons of mass destruction, were even less able to demonstrate the need for or legitimacy of this war.

Up to now, all the inspections have showed that there was no cause for concern. Perhaps, with time, if the inspections had continued, weapons of mass destruction would have been found. However, none were nor have been yet—we must remember this—even during the current aggression against Iraq. Never did we hear about any weapons of mass destruction being found.

Since this war is not legitimate and the need has not been proven, there is a universal and international outcry. Millions of people have physically manifested their disapproval of this unilateral gesture. It is important to remember this, because institutions and international law are being ignored. Neither individuals nor sovereign states have the right to take the law into their own hands.

Obviously, on September 11, 2001, the Americans suffered a terrible blow. They are still suffering. Their national pride has taken a beating, but this does not justify—not for states nor for individuals—taking the law into their own hands. It is essential not to forget this.

As for the motion as presented by the Canadian Alliance, I too have reservations. I am glad that my hon. colleague, the member for Saint-Jean, said what he did about the offensive and inappropriate statements. In fact, the right of members to speak is protected, but this privilege must be used properly. However, it is also dangerous for a political party to point fingers and jeopardize freedom of expression. It becomes essential, in situations as sensitive as these, to respect the freedom of expression of the people's elected representatives. I hope that the Canadian right considered that before writing this.

As for the bonds of friendship between the United States of America, Canada and Quebec, these are obvious.

Quebec has four U.S. states as neighbours. Quebeckers feel great affection for the American people. Everyone knows how many Quebeckers have property in Florida, or visit there regularly. Our emotional and tourist connections with the entire eastern seaboard is well known, particularly Boston, Cape Cod, Myrtle Beach, Old Orchard and so on. How many of us are familiar with New York City, the victim of the terrible attack we are all familiar with? Some, myself included, have had the privilege of travelling to New Orleans, in Louisiana, a wonderful city with its Spanish-French flavour, Bourbon Street and all the rest.

There are historical connections as well as commercial ones, and the latter are of such importance that, as a result, to echo what my colleague from Saint-Jean has said, we are not going to end a friendship because we disagree with our friend.

In this connection, President Chirac had some marvellous words to say about the historic connection between France and the United States, which ought not to be threatened by France's attitude in advising its friend not to go down this dead-end path, in other words, that victory without risk brings triumph without glory. This is more or less what is happening and is, I think, the message old Europe wanted to pass to the Americans before any physical intervention in Iraq with its longtime friend, Great Britain.

I think, as far as friendship is concerned, there is no ambiguity on this concept. Disagreement does not put an end to friendship.

The third Alliance proposal is a very serious one. To quote:

—that the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is successful in removing Saddam Hussein's regime from power;

Giving support to such a proposal is tantamount to supporting anarchy. This must be realized. Resolution 1441 directly addressed the disarmament of Iraq, not a change of regime. In this connection, the Prime Minister was very quick to act in denouncing the slippage from one concept to the other.

If it is valid today for Iraq, why would it not be valid later for Iran or Syria? It is obvious that there are risks in this. In the same way, why not Korea against Japan or vice versa? Why not China against Taiwan? Why not India against Pakistan and vice versa? Why not the United States against Cuba or against Venezuela? When it is not what they want, will they change the regime?

This is too easy, and it is anarchy. We must stand firmly opposed. When the role of the United Nations is ignored, this is the kind of slippery slope that lies ahead.

Finally, the last proposal, that the House “urge the Government of Canada to assist the coalition in the reconstruction of Iraq”, takes us even farther down that slippery slope. On the day after the victory we know is coming, the coalition will maintain its leadership. Quasi-anarchy will be maintained even though the reconstruction of Iraq ought to be the responsibility of the international community, as represented internationally by the United Nations.

Therefore, we must insist—and this is urgent—that the reconstruction take place under the responsibility of the United Nations—that it be funded by the coalition—this is something I personally want to see—that it be well managed and that we avoid destabilizing the whole region—for that is the risk.

We know that the Muslim world is taking this quite bitterly. We know that Syria and Jordan are near the boiling point and Egypt is in a difficult situation. We are walking on eggshells and this is not the time to put on our heavy boots. We must approach this with diplomacy and ensure that those who are responsible for the task take their responsibilities seriously.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003 April 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak on the budget implementation act, 2003, particularly since this budget—like the budgets of recent years—is, in a sense, very consistent, reflecting as it does a continuity in the building of a new post-referendum Canada, a new Canada that is increasingly centralized, unitarian and standardized.

As I said, this budget, like the previous ones, continues this process. This is a process that is being conducted without any mandate—the federal government was never authorized to act in this fashion—without any debate in Quebec or in the Canadian provinces, without consultations and, more importantly, without any referendum to give real legitimacy to the government to act as it is doing and to completely change the rules of federalism in this country.

This change is being implemented in obvious contempt of the Canadian Constitution of 1867, which provides a rather clear sharing of powers. However, this change fully complies with the letter and the spirit of the social union agreement reached in 1999 between nine provinces and the federal government. As we remember, Quebec bluntly refused to sign this document, and it was right to do so, because it went counter to its interests and, indeed, still does.

So, the social union agreement applies even though there were no debates, no consultations. In my opinion, the social union agreement that governs the spirit of this budget completely changes the rules of the game, including—and this is a key element—the spending power, which, as we know, was officially given, when the provinces signed this agreement, to the federal government. The Canadian provinces, with the exception of Quebec, have accepted that, from now on, the federal government will invest in whatever area of jurisdiction it chooses at any time it chooses, in the name of Canadian public interest.

So, it is not the Canadian constitution that is being applied, but the social union agreement, which is an administrative agreement. The way this agreement is being applied, we feel as though we were hearing a provincial finance minister when we hear the Minister of Finance talking the way he did when he delivered the budget speech.

He interferes without restraint in areas of provincial jurisdiction, to such an extent, as I have said, that one would take him for a provincial minister concerned—as would be legitimate for a provincial minister—with matters of health, education, government relations with the family, or direct connections with individuals. These areas are, however, in keeping with the 1867 constitution, termed provincial responsibilities. The federal government is assigned the responsibility for international relations, foreign affairs, defence, international cooperation, postal services and the like. Over the years, however, a policy has developed, that has created a new Canada, the policy of “nation building”, creating a standardized Canada, a unitary entity that is definitively centralized.

To give some examples that stand out in the budget speech, on page 6, the minister states that he wants to establish:

—a plan for timely access; for quality care and for the sustainability of this Canadian advantage; for reform of family and community care; for access to home care; for coverage of catastrophic drug costs; for reduced waiting times for diagnostic services; for innovation; and for real accountability to Canadians.

The last concept is in direct reference to the social union of 1999. There is more and more reference to accountability, but who is to be accountable? The federal government? No, the provinces, who will have to be accountable within their own areas of jurisdiction to a government whose mandate does not encompass those areas.

This basically amounts to changing the rules of the game. The provinces will have to be accountable in the areas they are responsible for. They will have to be accountable to a government that is not responsible for these areas. This makes fundamental changes to the rules of the game without any mandate, without any consultations and without any referendum.

On page seven of the budget speech, it says that in addition to health—an area of provincial jurisdiction—Canadians want their governments to tackle the issues of poverty, homelessness and dependency.

If we were to respect the Constitution, this would refer to a provincial minister who answers to individuals and families and who has to manage the link between the provincial government and citizens.

Further on, the speech mentions child poverty and the national child benefit. This is the federal government, not Quebec. The federal government has so much money at its disposal that it is interfering in provincial matters.

The budget speech refers to persons with disabilities. The government dares to do so despite the fate it has dealt persons with disabilities in recent years. By raising the eligibility criteria for the disability tax credit, the government has significantly reduced the number of people whose disability can be recognized. This has had an impact on the daily lives of people who are clearly vulnerable.

This is reprehensible from a government that, we know, has built up a surplus by stealing from the EI fund by depriving—as my colleague, the member for Champlain, said so well—people who were eligible for the guaranteed income supplement. This is akin to fraud the way they are being deprived of the money. The question needs to be asked.

Now it is even bragging about what it will do for persons with disabilities. The government is saying how much better off they will be.

One would think it was the provincial minister talking when we hear that poor families need more than an income supplement. This is in reference to parents and single parents in particular.

This government is interfering in other areas of jurisdiction and is using money that belongs to others.

On page 8 it says, and I quote:

No approach to poverty will be successful if we do not domore to address the issue of homelessness.

In Quebec, there is the Initiative de partenariats en action communautaire, an initiative that brings together community groups. This initiative is managed by the Government of Quebec. The federal government is duplicating what is already being done. In Quebec, hundreds of millions of dollars is being provided for community groups. It is being carefully managed by the secretariat established by the Government of Quebec for the initiative. There is no need for the federal government to come in and duplicate the work being done by the Government of Quebec.

Further on, the budget refers to education. It refers to innovation and learning. It says that we must provide Canadians with:

—the best universities that produce the best knowledge and the best graduates—.

This is still the federal government saying this. The speech goes on:

We have connected all of Canada’s schools and libraries to the Internet.

There is also reference to the millennium scholarship foundation, and the speech goes on as follows:

This government created the Canada Foundation for Innovation to modernize the infrastructure of our universities.

This is the federal government speaking. The universities are primarily a provincial responsibility, particularly in Quebec, which has always administered the matter fairly.

Reference is made to university research chairs and to the Canada Student Loan program. The system in Quebec—and this is no idle boast—is the best. Our scholarships and loans are the highest, and the debt load the lowest, in Canada. The budget speech also makes reference to the Canada Graduate Scholarships.

In closing, I will touch upon the proposals relating to the municipalities. There is a new development in this connection, and it is grandly presented. To quote page 14:

Virtually every initiative I have described today can be placed in the context of renewing urban and community life in Canada.

The municipalities are creatures of the provinces. Yet we get the feeling that the next great step in the evolution of this centralized Canada will involve the municipalities.

In the meantime, while the federal government has responsibility for international cooperation, it allocates only 0.3% to it, whereas the international standard is 0.7%. This was criticized this morning in committee by Stephen Lewis, the representative of the UN Secretary General. While the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom allocate 1%, this government, while interfering in all manner of things that are not its business, gives 0.3%.

This is the kind of Canada that awaits Quebec if Quebeckers do not wake up. We will be totally swallowed up by a centralized and unitary Canada.