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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Bloc MP for Champlain (Québec)

Won his last election, in 1997, with 44% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Agriculture May 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to answer the honourable colleague seated across from me. At present, leases are not in use.

I would like to go back to some statements I made. When I defend the farmers of Quebec, I am also talking about small farms. In the West and in Ontario, they are used to seeing large producers. In my constituency, I want to defend the small farms.

At present, dual jobholding is common, with spouses forced to look for work. We are moving toward globalization of markets, and we know that the big farms are indeed ready for global markets, even with the GATT agreement. However, we also have to think about small farms, which are fighting to survive. I personally believe that we are going to have to allow products to be processed in our regions and to develop new local and regional niches.

When I talked about standards, I did not mean that I have anything against standards, but sooner or later, the government will have to reach a decision on this issue. I am in favour of having standards now, but not in favour of having them applied immediately. Two or three years could be allowed before they are implemented.

Agriculture May 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, farmers are prepared to meet the challenge of globalization, despite the loss of protection with respect to the marketing of products on which quotas apply and the mandatory elimination of certain government subsidies as a result of the GATT agreement. Like all good entrepreneurs, they want to know what kind of support they can expect to receive from the government.

Producers recall the inertia of the federal government which failed, during the signing of the GATT agreement last November 15, to obtain assurances that the numerous trade disputes pitting Canada against its main trading partner, the United States, would be resolved. Canada therefore finds itself in the position of having to negotiate under pressure in an effort to resolve numerous trade disputes in the agricultural sector. The government has left itself in a tenuous position and must now adopt a defensive posture in order to limit the damage.

The negotiations currently under way with our neighbour to the south are going nowhere. The dispute, you may recall, centres on our main products, that is ice cream, yogurt, Western wheat and the new Canadian tariffs on poultry, milk and eggs. The government must not cave in to pressure from the United

States. It must stand its ground and think first about the future of Quebecers and Canadians.

In addition, the government must reduce the inequities between east and west. If past practices are any indication of what lies ahead and if inequities increase, producers will come to expect a double standard in the case of eastern and western farmers. The competitive position of Quebec farmers is directly affected by this practice.

In the past, producers disciplined themselves and worked together to ensure that production levels were geared to the needs of Canadian consumers.

Quebec farmers fell for it. Take chicken production for example. Each province would have to produce chickens to meet the provincial demand. In 1990, taking advantage of its geographic location and the impending abolition of quotas, British Columbia decided to go it alone to get ahead of the other provinces and increased its production capacity. Now Ontario would be prepared to follow suit and saturate the market in Quebec.

In parallel with this trade liberalization on the Canadian market is the concentration of enterprises within the industry, which unfortunately will take place at the expense of producers. Certain processors also own hatcheries and flour mills, thereby controlling the price of farming inputs as well as prices paid to producers when poultry is sold. Producers are wondering how long this little game will go on and what the government intends to do in its role as partner in this changing environment?

This turmoil created uncertainty among Quebec producers who have seen the share of the federal budget for agriculture allocated to western Canada increase from 42 per cent to 64 per cent since 1980, while Quebec's share dropped from 30 per cent to 10 per cent during the same period. In spite of this inequity, our producers are working enthusiastically and manage to keep agriculture in Quebec profitable and this, even though their indebtedness ratio is the highest in Canada.

The government should do whatever is necessary to stabilize the farmers' economic environment. After all, the agricultural industry accounts for 15 per cent of jobs and over 8 per cent of the GDP in Canada.

The government should start by reducing the number of assistance programs. Agriculture Canada is administering approximately fourty, another 22 are co-managed with the provinces and 286 more are administered by the provinces alone.

In the area of agricultural finance, the federal government intervenes through the Farm Credit Corporation and the Quebec government through the Société du financement agricole. The terms of reference of these two organizations are amazingly similar, yet both are maintained. In terms of visibility in Quebec, it is in the interest of the government to maintain an organization of its own, but in terms of customer service, it will prefer a single-window approach to agricultural financing. You can be sure this would be the approach preferred by Quebec producers.

Meanwhile, the Quebec government is contributing 20 times more than the federal government to agricultural financing. Furthermore, only 16.7 per cent of the Farm Credit Corporation has gone to farms in Quebec, as compared to 35 per cent in Western Canada.

In their agriculture policy statement, the Liberals promised to create for farmers a long-term mortgage, with two thirds of the interest sheltered from fluctuating rates, a guarantee plan for farmers whereby the government would guarantee the loan made by a farmer selling his farm, thus ensuring a stable retirement for sellers and helping established farmers and newcomers obtain capital at reasonable rates, and thirdly, a farm leasing plan whereby farmers whose property had been seized or who were starting out could rent land under long term leases from the FCC, with the rent credited toward possible future purchase.

But what has become of these good intentions? Is it only pious wishes? We may well ask, the farmers are still waiting.

I am not calling for the abolition of standards but for an adjustment to the new agri-food environment where companies will have two choices: to compete on international markets or to serve specific niches in local and regional markets. Our small businesses must be allowed to develop and our entrepreneurs must be given an opportunity to carry out their business ideas and thus develop our regions, all this without threatening food quality.

However, we find on our grocery shelves beef from Nicaragua with no identification of origin on the package. As a result, consumers cannot encourage our own producers and buy a better quality product.

Although the government says in its agricultural policy that it intends to apply Canadian standards to imported food, it has no control over sanitary conditions where the food is produced and processed and over environmental standards on foreign farms.

Quebec has developed a seal of quality, "Qualité Québec", that is placed on products to encourage people to buy local products.

I therefore call for the strict application of present regulations on the identification of the origin of agricultural products; this is another measure that could maintain and even create jobs at no great cost.

Our farmers and processors must not only adjust to the various standards but above all meet consumers' needs and requirements. Again, through its policy statement on agriculture, the government wants to promote and reinforce our marketing strategies under GATT and any other trade agreement in order to preserve a system beneficial to consumers and producers alike.

Producers are still waiting for these great principles to be applied and in the meantime most of them, especially in Quebec, must deal with a crumbling quota system and the opening-up of our markets to foreigners knocking on our door.

Along with the many changes occurring in the Canadian and Quebec agricultural environment, the profile of consumers is evolving. Families are smaller. People are looking for more refined products with less fat and added value whose quality sets them apart from the competition. All businesses are based on consumption and Agriculture Canada seems to spend a great deal of energy on applying standards and not enough on advertising and marketing.

If the government is a partner of the agri-food sector players, it must do its job by adjusting quickly to the new realities and making its presence felt instead of keeping a very low profile as it does now.

Producers must face another reality: the protection of natural resources that has become necessary because resources are not inexhaustible and because of their apparent degradation. Producers are determined to promote and adopt sustainable agricultural practices combining resource preservation with farm performance.

It is up to all the stakeholders in the agricultural sector to take the necessary measures to pursue sustainable development while minimizing output losses for producers. The government's role in the quest for a sustainable agriculture should be to support the changes decided by producers, and not impose such changes through regulations.

Although the Canada-Quebec subsidiary agreement on sustainable agricultural development provides for the implementation of several research and technical innovation projects over the next four years, the results do not benefit those who are primarily concerned. The government must ensure that research conducted by the Department of Agriculture in Canada is shown to producers and-

Pearson International Airport Agreements Act May 9th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would ask my colleague to reread my speech; I attacked the party, not the members.

Pearson International Airport Agreements Act May 9th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, we are dealing today with Bill C-22. I have done my homework and read lots of material on the subject of the Pearson airport privatization, but all that still does not answer all my questions.

I must admit that the more I read, the more questions crossed my mind.

With all those unanswered questions, as a taxpayer, I cannot help but roar with indignation when I see the political scheming powerful financiers close to the two old Canadian political formations may have used to achieve their ends, that is the privatization of the airport, a transaction that is so contrary to public interest and to the air transport plan.

Whether one is a politician or a public administrator, common decency requires exemplary integrity and everything to be done out in the open and without cheating. In the case we are dealing with today, it seems that the interest of a few people has come before public interest. The select few with direct access, through their army of lobbyists, to the office of the then Prime Minister or to the office of the then Leader of the Opposition would have got privileged information thanks to that.

I am not the kind of politician who sees scandals everywhere. I like to analyze, search and reflect. The more I search, the more I analyze and the more I reflect, the more I have serious questions about this whole matter.

In this case, everything seems to have gone wrong from the start. If I can draw a quick conclusion from that, one can say that lobbyists, some of whom unfortunately are feeding at the patronage trough, have done their job well, and that the scheming system does not suffer from excessive openness.

Remembering, as a Quebecer, the sad error the Liberals' grand idea led to more than 20 years ago at Mirabel, I hope that this government's liberalism will not plunge us back into expenditures unacceptable for taxpayers. Allow me to relate some disturbing facts in the Pearson airport case.

What is the ordinary citizen, the taxpayer, to think of politicians and public administrators when the federal government, by putting a time limit of 90 days on its call for tenders, was automatically eliminating any company that had not previously been associated with the Pearson airport privatization project? No honest proposal leading to a contract worth several hundred million dollars and good for 57 years could be entertained.

In this request for proposals, no prior financial analysis has been required by the government. It is obscene that for such a major project, the winning proposal was picked without any financial viability check. A couple of months after the company was chosen, it seemed to be in financial trouble and merged with its only competitor. What a lesson in public administration!

Under a clause in the deal, Transport Canada has to refrain from all alternative airport development within a 75 km radius of Pearson that could take traffic away from Pearson. Who can benefit from that clause? Certainly not the taxpayers in the Deputy Prime Minister's riding.

What of the interests of passengers, since obviously it would have been more expensive for airlines to use those terminals? The fees would have gone up 350 per cent, that is from $2 to $7 per passenger. What of public interest, since the firm to whom the contract was awarded did not have to modernize the terminals for 50 years? Do we know what the needs will be in 50 years from now? What a "sweet heart deal". What of public interest, since the government gives control over an airport to a private firm that could face financial trouble or go bankrupt, or let airport services deteriorate at the expense of passengers and regional development? Is it not the policy of the government that airports be operated by local groups of elected representatives and business people the way it was so successfully done in Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton?

Mr. Robert Nixon wrote in his report: "It is my opinion that the process to privatize and redevelop Terminals 1 and 2 at Pearson fell short of maximizing the public interest". That conclusion is in every regard similar to the position of the official opposition.

That whole Pearson deal is not only a matter of figures and companies. There are also key men involved I would describe as professional schemers, including a former political organizer of the present Prime Minister and well-known lobbyist, a Liberal lobbyist who was a deputy minister at Transport Canada at the time the request for proposals was sent out and who apparently has close ties with the right hon. Prime Minister. Not to mention this dear Liberal senator who, it appears, was a director of the lucky company and hosted key political figures at a $1,000-a-plate dinner at his residence, right in the middle of an election campaign. Some of these guests maybe had special interests in the Pearson Airport deal. Allow me not to refer to the many Liberal as well as Conservative lobbyists, who were involved in this deal. I have little use for them.

In his report, Mr. Nixon emphasizes: "This, together with the flawed process I have described, understandably may leave one with the suspicion that patronage had a role in the selection of Paxport Inc.".

The Pearson Airport affair proves once again the need to review the law on the registration of lobbyists in order to stop scheming and patronage by certain lobbyists, including those who have ties to the party in power.

Knowing the Prime Minister, I hope he will order such a review as soon as possible. Besides, he has already committed himself to this in the Liberal Party's red book.

The people of Ontario, Quebec and Canada as a whole have a right to know what happened. You and I, all my colleagues and all taxpayers entitled to know if they will get their money's worth. When he says that "failure to make public the full identity of the participants in this agreement and other salient terms of the contract inevitably raises public suspicion," Mr. Nixon only touches on the problem. We parliamentarians must go one step further and let the people know what really happened.

Given the disturbing facts in this whole affair, we, members of the Bloc Quebecois, ask for a public inquiry to get to the bottom of the whole situation. Refusing this inquiry, Mr. Speaker, will be interpreted as wanting to hide things and prevent taxpayers from knowing the plain truth. It is only by holding a public inquiry that we will be able to determine if compensation should be paid. And it is Parliament's duty to set the amount, if any. The public interest must prevail and guide our action.

Supply April 28th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, some members of this House often think that we cannot see beyond Quebec but I think we are able to include western Canada in our discussions. We must, however, point out this great inequity toward Quebec in all areas.

We do not want to sound like whiners but we have discovered so many inequities at Agriculture Canada that it must be pointed out today.

Supply April 28th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I endorse the reply my colleague, Mr. Lavigne, gave our friend opposite. I would like to emphasize that the crux of the problem for the people of Quebec is really inequity because from where we stand we get the impression that the government's attention with regard to the Canadian

agricultural industry is centred on the western part of the country.

I would also like to mention a few things my colleague did not have the time to mention earlier. Regarding lamb production, Quebec has been unable to keep up with Western Canada, with its livestock increasing by 8 per cent from 1981 to 1991, as compared with 33 per cent in western provinces. Based on all that has been said so far in this debate in this place, I think we have one more reason to become sovereign in Quebec, to get the legislative tools we really need for things to run smoothly in our future country.

Supply April 28th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak the motion denouncing the government's lack of action and its inequity, as the hon. member said.

The government does not seem to have a specific policy for agriculture, especially considering the post-GATT situation. However, in line with the Quebec development model, several years ago the agricultural industry in Quebec started to organize and conduct round table discussions involving all players in the industry.

The États généraux du monde rural held in February 1991 in Montreal was attended by all Quebecers involved in regional development and the agri-food industry. This exercise produced a series of guidelines for future action. Here are some examples: letting the agricultural community take charge of its own future; respecting and promoting regional and local values; focussing on local and regional concertation and co-operation; diversifying the regional economic base; protecting and regenerating resources; and achieving a better balance in political decision-making from the bottom up.

As part of this process of consultation and co-operation, Quebecers in the agricultural industry organized and looked for ways to pool their resources. Round table discussions were organized on a sectorial basis, including the dairy industry, the pork industry, and so forth. At the summit in Trois-Rivières in June 1992, these discussions produced a consensus on what should be done to promote the development of the agri-food industry in Quebec.

The Trois-Rivières summit, an unprecedent exercise for Quebec, produced a series of commitments which included the following: to increase research and technology transfers as part of a strategy for acquiring new markets; to recognize, promote and support the need for human resources training; to guarantee the continued existence, development and growth of agri-food businesses; to revamp existing income security programs based on production costs by emphasizing risk sharing, productivity of farm operations, sustainable development and an awareness of market signals; to develop income security programs compatible with the rules of international trade; to promote the financing and transfer of farm operations in such a way as to prevent massive debt; to consider assistance for non-viable operations that could be reoriented within the industry and help farmers who retire from the industry.

After this consultation process, what the industry needs now is the right vehicle to make the new strategy for agri-food development in Quebec operational.

People in the Quebec farm community know what they want. They do not need the federal government to come in and impose policies which do not coincide with the priorities and the paths they have set for themselves. These people want to be able to make the decisions in the areas which concern them.

What we are talking about here is a massive decentralization from top to bottom. Is this something the federal government can offer? Is the government willing to give Quebecers the means to make their projects come true?

The agri-food sector needs a reasonable period of time to reach international competitiveness. Unfortunately, the federal government did not do a very good job of defending Canada's interests and Quebec farmers during the Uruguay round of negotiations under the GATT. It was totally unable to preserve article XI which afforded some protection to egg, poultry and milk producers, concentrated mostly in Quebec. Despite repeated promises by the Liberal government, last December, federal negotiators were not able to rally enough countries to defend and preserve article XI.

Although the present import quotas will be replaced by high tariffs which will gradually diminish over time, the disappearance of article XI will seriously shake the Quebec farming community.

By accepting to sign the GATT agreement, the federal government submits farmers, in Canada and Quebec, to a rate and mode of change imposed from outside by our competitors. The agri-food industry must change very rapidly in order to be able to face the new international competition.

The GATT agreement reduces by 36 per cent the amount used to subsidize exports of farm products. This is a step in the right direction, although it is rather modest. Each year, Canadian and Quebec taxpayers will have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars merely to compete on international markets with heavily subsidized grain exports from the United States and the European Union.

While grain exports remain heavily subsidized, the GATT accords have forced the government to review its overall domestic farm support policies.

Clearly, the agreement negotiated in Geneva on December 15 last was not the best possible deal that the federal government could have obtained for Canadian and Quebec farmers. The biggest threat to the interests of Canadian and Quebec farmers is the outcome of Canada-U.S. trade negotiations in the agricultural sector.

The federal government is being taken for a rough ride by U.S. negotiators over the question of tariffs on products subject to quotas-eggs, poultry and milk-products concentrated primarily in Quebec and Ontario, and over the question of durum wheat, yogurt and ice cream exports to the United States.

Government spending in agriculture does not promote structuring. The government should be evaluating the cost-effectiveness of its actions. Agriculture Canada is now involved in the analysis, organization and dissemination of information on agri-food markets. However, the Auditor General notes that the information collected does not necessarily correspond to user needs. The Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food should strive to develop a closer relationship with its clientele in order to avoid wasting public funds.

The government must further define its action areas to ensure that there is no overlap onto provincial initiatives. In Quebec, industry and government have been working together for several years on implementing various market strategies. Since developing new markets seems to have become a federal government priority, it is essential that Ottawa bear in mind the priorities set by Quebec.

The federal government should contribute financially to the efforts of stakeholders in the Quebec agri-food industry, particularly research and development efforts, to ensure that new market challenges are met.

The idea is not just to spend the taxpayers' money, but to invest it so as to promote industrial restructuring while maintaining the family farm system which is pivotal to Quebec's farm economy.

Producers and processors are working together to develop new markets and adapt their products to consumers' tastes. In the agri-food business, competition is fierce and the industry must react quickly to diversify production, all the while making sure it has access to the best suited technology. This means keeping in step with the rapidly changing technologies used by foreign competition.

The government must do more than make funds available for research and development. It must ensure close co-operation between its departments, the private sector and the research community. We hope the government will take positive steps to make sure the money spent meets the priorities imposed by market developments. Also, when it intervenes, it should be fair and give the same importance, relatively speaking, to each areas of the agricultural industry.

One of the best solutions for Quebec farm producers, it seems, would be the decentralization of the decisions making process and related budgets. In a word, it is another good reason for a sovereign Quebec.

Contracts For Advertising And Opinion Polls April 18th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my supplementary is also directed to the Prime Minister.

With its refusal to adopt strict guidelines for awarding contracts to advertising agencies or polling firms, does the government mean that Liberal favouritism is not as bad as Conservative favouritism?

Contracts For Advertising And Opinion Polls April 18th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Prime Minister.

The cabinet has adopted guidelines for awarding government contracts for advertising or opinion polls.

Under these guidelines, a minister will be able to award contracts at his own discretion to an advertising agency or polling firm, without necessarily having to go with the lowest bidder.

Does this new cabinet guideline mean that the government is prepared to waste public funds for the benefit of friends of the party?

Average Income Of Francophones March 23rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, this morning's Globe and Mail reported on a Statistics Canada study which found that the median income of francophone Canadians was more than 10 per cent lower in 1992 than that of anglophones. The gap has more than doubled since 1977 and it is growing wider every year.

Considering that the aim of the Official Languages Act passed by the Liberal Party was to give francophones their rightful place in the Canadian economy, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the legislation has been a failure.

The study also found that Quebec francophones had made up some ground during the same period. The income gap between anglophone and francophone families in Quebec has narrowed from 8.2 per cent to 1.9 per cent.

The income gap can be closed, Mr. Speaker, but one has to conclude that federal policies are not a contributing factor.