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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

Defence Policy February 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I think that we must see the question in a broader perspective. Major geopolitical changes are taking place on this planet, and within Canada, budget cuts have already been under way for several years. I illustrated it in my statement. Spending decreased by about 48 per cent, with the effect of cutting about 11,000 jobs in Quebec, including high-tech jobs.

Governments and politicians must develop a broader vision. I do not think that we can limit ourselves to the short term; we must consider the medium and long term. Of course, some sacrifices may have to be made, but one thing I want to emphasize is that it will be done case by case. I do not think that it will be big government programs designed here in Ottawa; it will be decided case by case, factory by factory, using an instrument with which I am familiar, labour committees. These have been successful in all kinds of situations, especially one case which I am told is already a model for this planet. All kinds of people, including academics, are studying how Expro, which was known for labour conflicts of all kinds, strikes, lock-outs, all sorts of rather negative things, became a company with exemplary labour relations that is once again profitable.

I think that we must favour this kind of approach, which is not magic, but is necessary: maintain good labour-management relations. The secret of this mechanism is information, no denying it.

Defence Policy February 17th, 1994

This committee, which obviously will cover the same ground as the Standing Committee on National Defence, will be a superb example of wasted time, energy and public funds, and of overlap.

This debate is even more useless in that it does not even reflect-and that was the least we could have expected-what is stated in the red book with respect to industrial conversion, an area that especially interests me as industry critic.

The red book was clear and explicit, and I quote from page 55: "The defence industries today employ directly and indirectly over 100,000 Canadians. The end of the Cold War puts at risk tens of thousands of high-tech jobs. A Liberal government will introduce a defence conversion program to help industries in transition from high-tech military production to high-tech civilian production".

But today, not a word. Not a word either in the throne speech, in the address in reply to the speech from the throne or in the defence minister's opening remarks in this special debate on Canada's defence policy. The issue of industrial conversion was entirely left out of the discourse and concerns of this government.

Most armament production industries are high-value-added manufacturing industries. This makes jobs in defence production valuable. It is therefore important to preserve theses jobs because a decline in the manufacturing industry of Canada and Quebec could be extremely detrimental to the economy.

An estimated 46,000 workers depend on armament production in Quebec. Over 32,000 of these jobs are listed in industrial fields. This is to say that industrial conversion is of particular relevance to Quebec. From 1987 to 1992, sales of weapons produced in Quebec have dropped by over 48 per cent, from $1.6 billion in 1987 to $810 million in 1992. During the same period, 11,000 jobs were lost in that industry.

The geopolitical situation, combined with a decrease in defence procurement contracts have resulted in a substantial drop in defence production, particularly in the Montreal area. Businesses associated with this kind of production are going through an extremely difficult period, and the transition does not guarantee the preservation of many jobs.

For example, the cancellation of the EH-101 helicopter contract translates into a significant shortfall for the Quebec economy. Defence companies work in very high technology sectors where costs are high. In other words, if conversion is to be achieved, it must favour civilian production with a very high added value and a very high technological content, and certainly not the manufacturing of stove pipes or common consumer goods.

If there was a real political will in this government, it could act almost immediately in two areas where industrial restructuration could be achieved in a tangible way. I mentioned earlier the helicopter deal and the government's decision to cancel production, with the support of the Bloc Quebecois. We must remember, however, the compensation suggested at that time by the Official Opposition to soften or completely avoid the negative impact of this decision. It was to transfer the scientific and technological budgets and expertise associated with the helicopter production project to the high-speed train project between Quebec City and Windsor, which has very important economic and technological benefits and the tremendous advantage of meeting a need of the civilian population, and whose technology could then be exported.

So far, the Liberal government has turned a deaf ear to this suggestion despite the statements in the red book. It took the same attitude toward the MIL Davie shipyard. This shipyard, which used to specialize in military shipbuilding, is now threatened with closure. In fact, it had to lay off 600 workers since the beginning of 1993. If nothing is done, it could be forced to close after delivering the last ship to the Canadian Navy. This shipyard has embarked on a process to convert from military to civilian production. It has started this process. In this context, in order to survive, MIL Davie must be awarded the contract to build the Magdalen Islands ferry and receive assistance in developing a new kind of multifunctional ship called smart ship.

In fact, the MIL Davie case was the subject of a unanimous consensus during Rendez-vous 93, an event held in Montreal by the private sector on September 15 and 16, 1993. Eighteen associations were gathered at this meeting on the economy, which took place at the suggestion of the Conseil du Patronat du Québec, including the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Front de solidarité des travailleurs du Québec, as well as the four main labour bodies in Quebec.

During this Rendez-vous, a resolution proposed by the École polytechnique de Montréal, regarding the opening of a high-speed train line between Quebec City and Windsor, was also unanimously passed by the participants. In the same vein, I would like to mention that, last week, residents from my riding and from the Trois-Rivières region sent me a petition signed by close to 6,700 people asking for a substantial reduction of military expenditures and the reinvestment of a good part of the resulting savings in the creation of good jobs. Those 6,700 petitioners are to be added to the 5,000 who have already expressed their disagreement regarding the helicopter contract. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the tenacity of all those who participated in this initiative, and I will be proud to table their petition in this House in the weeks to come.

If industrial conversion is necessary, it will be done on a case by case basis. There are already a few success stories, one of which I find particularly interesting, that is the Expro plant in the Montreal region. I want to tell you briefly about the instrument which brought about this success, namely the setting up of a manpower adjustment committee.

I am all the more pleased and comfortable to discuss this issue because I worked with these committees for 11 years in my region, when I was with the Quebec Department of Manpower. I can therefore attest to the strength and the power of these committees in a business, when their presence and their role are well understood. That strength is gained through the information, often confidential, which circulates within the committee, and is also linked to the common cause at stake and to the interest for the parties of finding common solutions to common problems.

It is very rare that a situation does not improve when employers and employees work together, are supported by governments, and are assisted by a neutral and independent third party who diagnoses the strengths and weaknesses of both sides of the company and who, after the two sides have approved that diagnosis, proposes a binding work plan.

As in the case of Expro, this should be the government's preferred structure if, some day, it should decide to make good on its election promises regarding industrial conversion.

In conclusion, we have to realize that a whole sector of the high-tech manufacturing industry is in jeopardy. The economic future of Canada and Quebec is largely dependent on our ability to react positively to this structural change. The government must get its act together and clearly show its political will to take energetic and consistent measures to ensure the industrial conversion of our military businesses.

Defence Policy February 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am relatively pleased to speak in the House today on this matter.

This special debate initiated by the government on Canada's defence policy bears a strange resemblance to the other special debates that have taken place in this House since January 17 last. We have had debates on social programs, on Canada's role in Bosnia, on cruise missiles, on parliamentary reform, on pre-budget consultations, and so on and so forth. All of these debates, which appear to have no common thread, illustrate the extent to which the newly elected government lacks the political will to see things through.

Strangely, the government's actions seems to contradict the claims in the Liberal Party's red book. Page after page, the Liberals led Canadians and Quebecers to believe that they were capable of grasping and resolving the enormous economic and social problems gripping the country today.

This debate does not seem to fit in with any particular plan. Yet, it should be part of an overall review of Canada's foreign policy, of its role with respect to the Third World and disarmament, of its relations with the United States, of the relationship between foreign policy and defence policy, and so forth.

We are being subjected to a special debate on Canada's defence policy, and one of the primary objectives of this debate is to propose the appointment of a joint committee on which the other house would be represented, no doubt to ultimately make it appear more useful and justify a little more its existence in the eyes of the Canadian public.

Canadian Exports February 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister for International Trade.

This morning we learned that Canada's position as an exporting country has been deteriorating for ten years. From 1982 to 1992, Canada's share of world exports was reduced by over 5 per cent. This translates into an export loss of $7 billion in U.S. dollars and, according to Claude Picher of La Presse , represents a 300,000 job loss for Canada.

What concrete measure does the government intend to take to correct the disastrous situation of Canadian exports, which is an important reason for the collapse of our job market?

Income Tax Act February 14th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have to agree with my colleague that transmission of information gives rise to another kind of problem.

On the one hand, there is so much government intervention, and on the other hand, the system is so complicated that even the government does not have the tools to deliver the information.

Small business has to pay to set up a system whereby the information first goes through its tax expert, its accountant, who will hopefully make sure the information goes around. Such systems seem to work in a vacuum.

In a sense, government and small business are essentially parallel organizations. They are like two different worlds that can only meet from time to time, according to the goodwill, the ability, the dedication and maybe also the fees of the specialists hired by the companies.

Speaking of harassment, it seems that business is at the service of the government. In our economic system, things should be different, since the government is supposed to be at the service of the business community. There are undoubtedly changes to be made and we might begin by decreasing government interference in business management. That would go a long way to resolve many problems.

Income Tax Act February 14th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. Having been involved in economic regional development for 25 years in my region of Mauricie-Bois-Franc -by the way, I take this opportunity to pay my respects to the people of that region as well as my constituents-I totally agree with the hon. member when he says that-and this matter was raised by the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood in the Standing Committee on Industry-there is a discrepancy between what the presidents of the major banks are saying and the attitude displayed by local bank managers. Every one is looking after their own interests, but no one is there for the small businessman who is really the one taking the risks.

More and more, especially in difficult times, banks have only one thing in mind, to look after their own interests, to protect what they have. Often they do not hesitate to pull the plug on the other party, that is to say the business, the industrial entrepreneur and the employees.

I think it is a matter of mentality, of attitude. Someone who had been studying the operation of European banks once told me that their attitude and approach with respect to private investment are totally different in the sense that the operating philosophy of the bank is to take a chance with the small business owner.

Perhaps pressure should be brought to bear to foster a change in attitudes, in that respect. While the Canadian banking system is said to be one of the most performing and comforting in the world, there may be fundamental choices to be made by banks.

We may come to realize that our system has its faults, its weaknesses, seeing that unemployment-because that is the ultimate result-is growing steadily from one decade to the next. When I was young, the unemployment rate was 3 per cent and now, I think that Statistics Canada is saying that the best we can hope for is 8 per cent.

It may be this kind of management and operating philosophy that causes banks to gradually discourage people who start up businesses with potential: when the going gets tough, the bank loses any loyalty to its client. That is a question that will be examined by the standing committee on industry.

Income Tax Act February 14th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, as industry critic for my Party, I am very pleased to take part in the debate concerning Bill C-9, an Act to amend the Income Tax Act.

These amendments to the Income Tax Act implement certain measures announced in the Economic and Fiscal Statement of December 2, 1992 and the Budget of April 26, 1993.

Overall, 12 measures are mentioned, nine of which come from the economic and fiscal statement and the last three from the budget. The first nine measures are as follows:

  1. Unemployment insurance premium relief for additional jobs;

  2. Temporary small business investment tax credit;

  3. Extension of the small business financing program;

  4. Abolition of penalty tax;

  5. Labour-sponsored venture capital corporations;

  6. Extension of the home buyers' plan;

  7. Flow-through shares;

  8. Removal of mandatory deduction of Canadian exploration expenses;

  9. Improvements to the tax credit for scientific research and experimental development.

As for the measures from the budget announced on April 26, 1993, they are: first, annual tax credit limit; second, investment tax credit for scientific research and experimental development; and third, instalment payments of income tax.

As you may have noticed, these measures are particularly involved. Just by listing them, you can see how complex they are, not only for the legislator, but also for the small business community.

That is why we think it is erroneous and pointless to undertake a detailed analysis of these measures in the House. These measures should be referred to a committee, and undergo a judicious and in-depth analysis before any necessary recommendations can be made.

It is also clear a thorough review is needed of small business financial assistance programs, to identify any overlap in the administration of these programs and to simplify their implementation.

We must realize what small and medium-sized businesses have to put up with from a government bureaucracy that often interferes with the way they manage their affairs, that sets deadlines, asks for explanations, even intimidates business owners, wastes the time of employees and acts as if small business was at its beck and call.

Studies on the subject agree that at least 20 per cent of the time and effort that go into small business management and administration is spent dealing with government paperwork.

That is both unacceptable and contrary to the goals of being competitive and efficient, the magic words government officials are so fond of repeating.

We must help small business expand and not crush them under bureaucratic paperwork. We must help small businesses whose names are not on everyone's lips, which do not have an export plan or technology projects and whose equipment does not necessarily have to be updated, but which produce goods in response to local and regional needs. They are often well-managed or may experience problems but, most importantly, provide local jobs for 5, 10, 20, 40 or 60 employees who without this plant would be unemployed, unlikely to find another job and, as a result, have to live on unemployment insurance and then welfare.

I am thinking of door and window manufacturers, machine tool shops, manufacturers of food products, clothing manufacturers and sawmills, for instance.

We must acknowledge the fact that this type of business exists and help them consolidate their position, because they create and maintain the jobs in our regions that make it possible for the government, with the tax revenue from these businesses and their employees, to provide incentives for other businesses to either export or update their equipment or get technological development projects.

I would also like to take this opportunity to remind the government, considering the geopolitical changes that have taken place in recent years, of the importance of encouraging the conversion of our defence industries to the production of civilian goods. The government must help bring about this conversion, otherwise our entire industrial framework may lose its competitive edge to neighbouring economies.

The red book makes this clear, and I quote: "The defence industries today employ directly and indirectly over 100,000 Canadians. The end of the cold war puts at risk tens of thousands of high-tech jobs. A Liberal government will introduce a defence conversion program to help industries in transition from high-tech military production to high-tech civilian production".

That being said, questions arise about the federal government's framework for acting effectively in terms of incentives to streamline operations.

In Quebec, the agency closest to the customer is the Federal Business Development Bank which, oddly enough, reports to the Minister of Finance, although one could legitimately assume that industrial conversion programs would originate from and be inspired by Industry Canada, which has no regional offices, being mainly based in Montreal. One can hardly expect programs that are designed and administered well away from the potential user to be effective.

One also wonders what the FBDB, the Federal Business Development Bank, is doing in the Department of Finance.

To get back to the content of the bill as such, one of the items in the bill refers to labour-sponsored venture capital corporations. I am reminded of one particularly remarkable example, the Fonds de solidarité des travailleurs, a venture capital corporation founded 10 years ago this year by the Quebec Federation of Labour. Today, the corporation has 193,000 shareholders with net assets of $797 million and an investment portfolio worth $414 million, invested in Quebec businesses. Shareholders have seen their businesses revive or expand considerably, thanks to the fund's assistance.

In 1993 alone, the fund was responsible for nearly $175 million in new investments benefitting 43 businesses. The very existence of the Fonds de solidarité and its success illustrate the potential for creativity and innovation of Quebec and the people of Quebec, which in turn explains our confidence and pride in the economic potential of a sovereign Quebec.

Beer Industry February 10th, 1994

On a supplementary, Mr, Speaker. Could the minister tell us what he is waiting for to demand that the United States also open their markets to Canadian beer, something they stubbornly refuse to do?

Beer Industry February 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of International Trade.

Once more, the federal government is under great pressure from the United States to force the opening of our markets to American products. In the case of beer, the United States demand the reopening of the agreement reached last August. They want new concessions from Canada, especially the removal of a minimum price on the beer sold in Quebec.

Is it the position of the federal government to ask provinces to make new concessions in order to meet the demands of the United States, even though the practices of the provinces have been found to be in agreement with the GATT rules?

Beer Industry February 8th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, through the impetus given by the big American brewers, the United States are now trying to force the Canadian provinces to widely open their market to these brewers, despite the beer agreement that was signed by the two countries in August 1993. The Americans are questioning the imposition by the Quebec government of a minimum price on any beer sold in Quebec, when British Columbia and Ontario have already imposed such floor prices.

My question is for the Minister for International Trade. Could the minister tell us whether he supports the position taken by the Quebec government to impose a minimum price on beer sold on its territory with a view to reduce alcohol consumption by 20 per cent by the year 2000?