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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

Social Security System January 31st, 1994

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister for her speech. She drew a very interesting and penetrating, albeit alarming, picture of the social situation prevailing in Canada at the present time. However, I am concerned by the fact that when it comes to solutions, she is less than forthcoming, to say the least.

As far as I am concerned, I see three different options and I would like to know what she thinks of them. First, you cut social programs, as some recommend, that is to say that you go after those who are already in a weakened position.

Second, you increase taxes, affecting the middle class who, as we know, is already heavily burdened. Finally, you can, as the member for Davenport suggested with a lot of courage, lucidity and insight, go after the rich who, in Canada as in the rest of the world, are hardly affected by incentives to fill the public purse. It takes a lot of courage for a government to tackle this segment of our society. First of all I would like to know where the Deputy Prime Minister stands on this issue.

Then, I would like to know where she stands, in reference to the remarks made by the member for Davenport, regarding the two main avenues offered to us concerning public expenditures and revenues. In other words, is the government spending too much or is it short of revenues? We know that in the last three years, it has shown that both spending and revenues have been decreasing.

Finally, I would like to know what she thinks of an opinion held by some analysts to the effect that the hidden agenda of this gigantic exercise of co-operation, upgrading and restructuring we have been invited to participate in, is to suppress the middle class in the Western world so that there only remain a few rich and powerful people and a lot of poor ones, just as in the under-developed countries. Is it not what we can expect in Canada and, consequently, in Quebec?

Social Security System January 31st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech of the member from the other side and I would like to ask a few questions in order to find out more about his way of thinking. Is he one of those who believe we should cut government spending even further or does he think we should strive to find new ways of increasing government revenues?

I admit that I draw my inspiration largely from the speech my colleague, the member for Davenport, made in this House last January 20, a speech I find very enlightened. The member for Davenport is among those who think we should make every effort to increase revenues, since everything has decreased over the recent years in this government, revenues and expenditures alike.

If we are to restructure and modernize every program pertaining to the redistribution of wealth in Canada, I would like to ask my colleague if we should not think about taxing lottery and games winnings. As the member for Davenport said, this would bring in $860 million a year. Should we not tax capital gains, a measure which would bring $665 million a year to the Treasury, and re-examine grants given to multinationals investing overseas, and particularly exemptions for foreign currency deposits which would represent a revenue of $500 million?

I for one think we should reconsider very seriously the issue of revenues rather than throw around words like modernize and restructure that will only lead, in the end, to a widening of the gap between the rich and the poor.

Speech From The Throne January 28th, 1994

Madam Speaker, since this is my maiden speech, I would like to congratulate the Speaker on his election and all members of his team on their recent appointment to their distinguished positions.

I would also like to thank the people of my riding of Trois-Rivières for having elected me as their representative in this House last October 25. The riding, with a population of about 62,000, includes seven municipalities, namely Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières-Ouest, Pointe-du-Lac, Yamachiche, Saint-Sévère, Saint-Barnabé and part of Saint-Thomas de Caxton. Located halfway between Montreal and Quebec City on the north shore of the majestic St. Lawrence River, my riding is highly urbanized but its western part includes very beautiful farmland.

Founded in 1634, some 360 years ago, under French rule, the city of Trois-Rivières is not only the major centre in the riding but also the regional capital of the Mauricie-Bois-Franc region stretching from the city of La Tuque, to the north, to Victoriaville and Drummondville, to the south.

Trois-Rivières is the site of a university with growing influence, two colleges, one diocesan centre, three hospitals serving the surrounding area, three television stations, four radio stations, a deep-water port, as well as a regional airport. It was long considered the pulp and paper capital of the world. However, with the decline of that industry, Trois-Rivières has been suffering and its unemployment rate now hovers between 13 and 14 per cent.

Trois-Rivières also boasts two historic educational institutions, currently serving as high schools, namely the Ursulines' College founded in 1700, whose well-preserved main building has become a major tourist attraction, and Saint-Joseph Seminary of Trois-Rivières where I completed my classical studies just like the former Quebec Premier and MLA for Trois-Rivières, Maurice L. Duplessis, and the current member of Parliament for Saint-Maurice and Prime Minister of Canada.

I would also like to take this opportunity to once again express to the Prime Minister my sincere congratulations on his election in the riding of Saint-Maurice adjoining that of Trois-Rivières and assure him of my co-operation on any regional issue that we may have to resolve together in the best interest of our respective constituents.

As the Official Opposition critic for Industry, I would now like to address a very important issue for Quebec and Canada, namely industrial development. The Minister of Industry is in the House.

Job creation must be based on a consistent industrial policy that will allow the Quebec and Canadian economy to stay competitive. The government's throne speech contains vague statements about helping small and medium-sized businesses by working with financial institutions to improve access to capital for these businesses. What they need is concrete immediate action and not policy statements. Small and medium-sized businesses have been hard hit by the recession and the single-minded inflation-fighting policy pursued by the Bank of Canada. It is a well-known fact that, during an economic slowdown, banks tend to turn their backs on small and medium-sized businesses.

In Quebec, small and medium-sized businesses generate 46 per cent of all private sector revenue, 1,200,000 jobs or 46 per cent of private sector employment, and 52 to 54 per cent of private sector salaries.

Quebec has always been especially sensitive to the needs of small business. Many small businesses that started off in their founder's garage have now become global enterprises, like Bombardier, Cascades and others.

The problem is that Canada does not have a consistent industrial policy. It is in fact impossible for Canada to adopt such a policy because economic conditions vary from one region to another. This situation locks the government into a piecemeal strategy suitable only for damage control and partial solutions. However, it insists on retaining economic powers that the provinces need in order to develop their own industrial policy.

We saw it clearly when the Quebec government tried to put in place its industrial cluster strategy. To carry out this strategy, the Government of Quebec did not have the powers it needed, like occupational training and unemployment insurance, to name only these.

We must admit the obvious: Canadian federalism does not work. Quebec can only achieve its full economic potential if it is sovereign. Only then will it have all the economic powers to implement a real industrial policy.

I think that I can already hear our federalist friends telling us that Quebec sovereignty would mean isolation and turning inward. Nonsense, Madam Speaker. Quebec is a trading nation: about 40 per cent of its gross domestic product is exported to Canada and other countries. Why would it turn in on itself? Indeed, Quebec could even improve its access to its Canadian partners by becoming sovereign. The Minister of Industry himself said in his speech in this House last Friday that the rules governing interprovincial trade were rather like those of the GATT in the late 1940s, and that under NAFTA, it was easier to deal with the United States than with the other Canadian provinces. That means that a sovereign Quebec could trade more easily with the Canadian provinces. We are in favour of opening international markets and Quebec was a great supporter of the free trade agreement and of NAFTA.

Quebec industry is active in leading sectors like aerospace, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology in general, where Quebec is at the forefront of technology and compares favorably with any country in the world. Nevertheless, some Quebec industries have some catching up to do to remain competitive.

These industries are usually labour-intensive-textiles, furniture, clothing-and will have to adapt to face foreign competition resulting from the GATT and NAFTA. The negative impact of globalization of markets on companies and on workers in these industries must be minimized. We would have wanted to find in the speech from the throne conversion or modernization measures to help these industries remain competitive in a world of global markets.

Let us talk about industrial conversion. While the Liberals' red book made a big issue of it in the election campaign, there is not a word about it today or in the speech from the throne or in the speech by the Minister of Industry in reply to the speech from the throne. In this context, the danger facing us is that the federal government will show the same disregard as it showed by failing to help manufacturing companies adjust after the free trade agreement with the United States was signed.

Nevertheless, the red book said, "The end of the Cold War puts at risk. . .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." Since then, not a word. This lack of action by the government regarding assistance to the less competitive sectors which will be affected by NAFTA and the GATT is not a good omen for the reconversion of military industries.

It must be realized that the end of the cold war has already had a major impact on the level of employment of that industry, both in Quebec and in Canada. According to the research group on military industries, in the five years between 1987 and 1992, the

military industry in Quebec lost 48 per cent of its total sales, as well as 11,000 direct jobs. This puts numerous businesses in high tech sectors such as aerospace and telecommunications in a precarious situation. These businesses urgently need help to develop civilian applications for their products.

Take for example the case of the MIL Davie shipyard, in Lauzon. This company, which specialized in building warships, is now threatened with closing. In fact, it has already been forced to lay off 600 workers since the beginning of 1993. If nothing is done, this shipyard could well be forced to shut down after it delivers its last ship to the Canadian Navy. Yet, the company has undertaken a process to enable it to switch from military to civilian production. Under the circumstances, in order to survive, MIL Davie in Lauzon desperately needs the federal contract to build the Magdalen Islands ferry along with some assistance to design a new multipurpose or smart ship. This is the exclusive responsibility of the federal government.

Given the current situation, the construction of a high-speed rail link along the Quebec City-Trois-Rivières-Windsor corridor is extremely important since this undertaking could have a considerable impact, from both an economic and technological standpoint.

In the throne speech, the government pledged to eliminate overlap and duplication in the different levels of government. In the industrial sector, the need to streamline programs and eliminate duplication is particularly glaring.

According to a paper commissioned in September 1991 by the Treasury Board Secretariat-so it must be accurate-on overlap and duplication of federal and provincial programs, overlap is, listen to this, Madam Speaker, a major problem affecting industrial sector programs. The vast majority of these programs have not been not legislated, but rather have been established pursuant to the federal government's spending power. The National Research Council, the Federal Business Development Bank, financial aid programs and business services programs, to name but a few, fall into this category. And these are facts contained in a federal government report.

The situation is serious. In its brief to the Bélanger-Campeau Commission, the Quebec section of the Canadian Manufacturers Association wrote: "The confusion caused by this duplication leads to a massive waste of energy, time and resources and creates a permanent climate of uncertainty, while industries expect their government to maintain a stable climate and establish clear rules so that they can make plans for their development."

Madam Speaker, it is not only the waste of public funds, which is itself a serious problem. Our businesses' competitiveness is being undermined because they must work their way through a bureaucratic maze. The services that we offer to our businesses must be subjected to a program-by-program, in-depth review. The federal government must understand that massive decentralization of the main economic levers is in the national interest of Quebec and Canada is needed and that it must stop interfering in areas where the provinces are better able to meet the needs of the population.

In the throne speech, the government also makes a commitment to present legislation to increase the transparency of the relations between lobbyists and the government. We are waiting with great interest to see what it will do in this regard.

I cannot conclude this speech without addressing, even if only for a few minutes, the basic reason for my presence here in this House. I have been fighting for Quebec's sovereignty since 1961. I have been both a player and a witness in the evolution, sometimes difficult, sometimes dramatic, of Quebec's sovereigntist movement for the last 33 years.

I would therefore like to pay tribute not only to those who have worked behind the scenes but also to the main pioneers who, from the early 60s, have succeeded in persuading thousands of Quebecers like myself of the merits of Quebec's political sovereignty.

I am thinking of Raymond Barbeau, founder of the Laurentian Alliance, of André D'Allemagne, founding president of the Rassemblement pour l'indépendance nationale (R.I.N.), of Marcel Chaput, a former federal civil servant, leader of the R.I.N. and founder of the Quebec Republican Party, of Pierre Bourgault, who became president of the R.I.N. and dissolved his own party to join, in the best interests of the cause, the Parti Québécois, newly formed in 1968 by René Lévesque, the great unifier who made the sovereigntist movement credible.

We must not forget another visionary Quebecer, Marcel Léger, who died last year. He set up the Quebec Nationalist Party, for which I ran in the riding of Trois-Rivières and which as early as 1984 offered Quebecers, especially sovereigntists, an alternative to the federalist forces to represent them in Ottawa. At that time, Quebecers preferred to try once again to renew Canadian federalism.

The speech from the throne says that the government will work vigorously to ensure that federalism meets the needs of Canadians. Madam Speaker, I will not hide my surprise from you on reading such a statement in 1994, as if it were something new.

However, Quebecers and Canadians have tried just that for 30 years, to ensure that federalism meets their needs. In the past 30 years, they have set up four royal commissions of inquiry to try to do that: in 1963, the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which already recognized the existence of "two solitudes"; in 1977, the Pepin-Robarts Commission on Canadian Unity, hastily set up following the election of the Parti Québécois in Quebec; in 1981, the McDo-

nald Commission on Economic Union, which advocated more centralized control of power in Ottawa; in 1991, the Spicer Commission on the Future of Canada; and also the Castonguay-Beaudoin-Dobbie Committee in 1992. They all tried unsuccessfully to renew Canadian federalism "with honour and enthusiasm".

After 30 years of discussion and Constitution conferences, after spending thousands of hours and several hundred million dollars, after producing a mountain of reports, all we came up with was a miserable little agreement, the Charlottetown Agreement, which was rejected by everyone, but for diametrically opposite reasons.

We have come to a dead end trying to renew the Canadian federation. However, what the Bloc Quebecois is proposing is quite simple; sovereignty, that is the exclusive right within its territory for Quebec to pass legislation, levy taxes and be represented abroad, a right enjoyed by every other sovereign state.

The Bloc Quebecois has not come here to destroy a country, but to build a new one, the state of Quebec.

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank and to congratulate my hon. colleague from Vaudreuil for his speech. Obviously, he is deeply concerned with our youth, especially with respect to job training. I would like to ask him-and this may take a lot of courage on his part, considering his political affiliation-to tell me where he stands as a Quebecer on the issue of job training.

If there is an issue for which there is a consensus today in Quebec, where public opinion is often divided, it is job training. The Conseil du Patronat du Québec, the CNTU, the FTQ, the government of Quebec all agree. The Liberal Party of Canada may well be the only one not to agree that the jurisdiction for job training should finally be given back to the government of Quebec and its natural allies, which are labour and management. Given that, where does the member for Vaudreuil, who has

proven to be sensitive, stand on the whole issue of young people and job training?

Speech From The Throne January 24th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by thanking and congratulating the Minister of Public Works for his speech. He gave us his opinion on a number of questions of public interest, but he kept rather silent on other issues of direct concern to his department.

I would like to ask him first about questions directly related to his portfolio and then talk about infrastructures, which involve several departments, and finally ask him a question about parliamentary life.

I will start by asking him why, as minister responsible for public housing, he does not try and reassure the people of my riding and many other ridings in Quebec and Canada, many of whom have signed petitions reflecting their concern as to the governments's intentions regarding social housing? Will the present government follow in the footsteps of the previous one?

Among the issues he did not deal with, although they are of direct concern to him, there is the recent decision of Canada Post, for which he is responsible, to buy Purolator. I would like to know, given the various ideological trends, where this decision fits in the larger government strategy.

Also, I would like the minister to tell us whether, as a member of cabinet, he feels that the infrastructure program will be enough to bring about a significant reduction of unemployment in Canada?

Finally, something about the last few words of the minister regarding respect towards members on the other side. I would like to know whether he is among those, on the government side and in cabinet, who seem to doubt from time to time the total legitimacy of Bloc Quebecois members in Ottawa, who were sent here by the will of the Quebec people expressed during the elections of October 25.

Speech From The Throne January 20th, 1994

Madam Speaker, on behalf of all my colleagues, I would like to commend the hon. member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup for his excellent speech on regional economic development.

Having worked for the Quebec government in the area of regional economic development for 25 years myself, I fully agree with him on three points. The first point he made concerning regional development, or non-development rather, was the laisser-faire policy we have in this country at this time.

The second point that I endorse at once is that Quebec should get this jurisdiction back along with all the related tax considerations as soon as possible, so that there can a be a semblance of economic planning in that new country to be.

The third point I obviously endorse and the last one he made is that the people of Quebec should make as soon as possible the only rational choice open to them in terms of comprehensive and global development, and that is the road of sovereignty, national sovereignty for Quebec as soon as possible.