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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

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997 February 3rd, 1998

Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to address Bill C-28 which, as you know, seeks to amend numerous acts. Obviously, in order to speak on this complex issue, one has to be a tax expert or else have some common sense. Since I feel I do have some common sense, I will make my comments along those lines.

On Monday, journalist Claude Picher from the daily La Presse made a very sensible observation during the television program Salut Bonjour . He said “The Minister of Finance should use the expected surpluses to try to reduce the debt and individual income tax, and not pour money in new or existing programs”. This is a statement that makes a lot of sense and it is also sound advice to the Minister of Finance.

Like me, Mr. Picher could have pointed out that the GST was set up to take money from the taxpayers' pockets and use it to reduce the huge deficits of the central government. Since there is no longer a deficit, common sense should tell the government to reduce, if not abolish, the GST, and thus fulfil one of the promises made in the infamous red book of 1993.

Like me, he could also have talked about the transfers to the provinces. Everyone knows that the government, in an effort to reach a zero deficit and even generate surpluses, shamelessly cut billions of dollars in transfers to the provinces. These cuts hurt the provinces, which have had to deal with crises in the sectors of education, health and social programs.

So, common sense would dictate that this government restore transfer payments to their original level instead of talking about implementing new programs that would allow them once again to interfere in provincial jurisdictions.

What is the logic in this government implementing new postsecondary education programs when, as we know, the cream of our young achievers university-trained at public expense are leaving for the United States or other countries because the Canadian tax system is inadequate? What would common sense dictate, given that this drain of scientists, computer specialists and other professionals leads to the drain of a large part of our capacity to innovate and, ultimately, our capacity to create jobs in the future?

This is a worrisome situation on which no one, not even the Minister of Revenue, the Minister of Finance or the Prime Minister of Canada, can put an exact figure. In economic terms, the loss of the most dynamic, the most talented future members of our society is a disaster, an impoverishment of our society. Where is the sense in that?

This brain drain makes taxation reform all the more important. It is high time our governments seriously addressed an in-depth reform of personal and small business income tax.

According to Canada's taxation statistics, in the 1950s, individuals and corporations accounted for the same percentage of federal income tax revenues. In the decades since, fiscal policy has changed increasingly in favour of big business, so much so that in recent years individuals' contributions have increased eightfold. Where is the sense in that?

It is worthwhile pointing out that the corporate share of federal tax revenues dropped from about 43% in 1961 to a meagre 10% in 1995. The main explanation for this is the proliferation of tax expenditures available to business, the major corporations in particular. Where is the sense in that?

Is the Minister of Revenue in agreement with the Minister of Finance, his colleague, who claims to be able to solve the deficit without increasing corporate income tax? Why do the corporations manage to shelter income from tax by influencing taxation legislation? Why are they allowed this legal strategy, while the strategy of individuals who decide to do work under the table without paying tax is deemed illegal? This situation represents a serious threat to social equilibrium, Where is the sense in that?

It is easy to understand why the disadvantaged, the people with little or no income, try to get out of paying taxes by every imaginable means. The Bloc Quebecois has long been calling for a job-oriented Canadian corporate tax reform. The Bloc Quebecois has long been after the federal government about its taxation policy, and will continue to do so, particularly where family trusts, the GST, tax havens etc. are concerned, so that this taxation system becomes fair and equitable for all.

Let us speak of family trusts. This is a shortcoming in the federal legislation.

The auditor general's report and pressure from the Bloc Quebecois have only partly succeeded in eliciting a reaction from the Minister of Finance on the subject. It is still possible to leave the country without paying taxes owing to Revenue Canada, since an acceptable financial guarantee is sufficient. Furthermore, no reporting limit nor method of interest collection is provided for this guarantee.

Since the October 2 amendment to the Income Tax Act, the minister has been unable to report the tax plans this change has occasioned. Where is good old common sense?

The Liberal government should use the grab bag that is Bill C-28 to make the necessary changes to employment insurance contributions. It is vital the government reform the current employment insurance system in order to put an end to the inequities it gives rise to and to better protect workers, including seasonal workers.

The Bloc Quebecois also wants the Minister of Finance to substantially reduce the levels of contribution to the employment insurance plan, conditional on the job creation performance of business. The reduction in contributions could be 40 cents per $100 of insurable payroll.

The Minister of Finance must also create an employment insurance fund separate from the federal government's consolidated fund, as the Auditor General of Canada proposed, to prevent money belonging to workers and employers being used as a discretionary fund by the federal government. It would make sense for the government to move quickly to pass an anti-deficit law like the one passed by the Quebec National Assembly.

Instead of digging into the public's pockets, the government should cut all unnecessary spending and programs in its own departments. As an example, I could mention the many millions of dollars spent to change Canada Post's logo. That was the government's most recent stunt.

Other examples include the hundreds of millions of dollars spent rerouting international flights from Mirabel to Dorval, the purchase of helicopters deemed unacceptable by these same Liberals when the Conservatives were in office, the many millions spent by the Department of Canadian Heritage to brainwash the Canadian public, along with the millions of dollars spent on Option Canada, a bogus corporation, during the last referendum.

I will stop here, because the examples go on and on. I hope that the auditor general's recommendations will finally be implemented and a stop put to this scandalous spending. We are entitled to ask whether this government is acting wisely, whether the way it manages makes sense.

No, it does not make sense, because this government's policies are widening the gap between the rich and the poor. A tax system that drives a nation to poverty definitely makes no sense. For this reason, and in solidarity with my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois, I will energetically oppose passage of this bill.

My common sense tells me that it is urgent that the people of Quebec stick together as they move towards sovereignty. That is what really makes sense.

Division No. 49 December 2nd, 1997

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It takes unanimous consent to share one's time. The hon. member asked to share his speaking time with his colleague. He needs unanimous consent to do so.

Division No. 48 December 2nd, 1997

Mr. Chairman, the Bloc Quebecois has moved an amendment to this clause that provides that the arbitrator must maintain the parameters for a public service that must finance itself, which are currently set out in the incorporating act of Canada Post. The parameters provided by the minister to the arbitrator in the bill give him no choice.

Canada Post must be managed as a private business with terms and conditions such as the ones imposed on the private sector, while Canada Post is a public service under its own act. This wording shows that the government is asking the arbitrator to pursue the same objectives for negotiations as Canada Post, that is no increase in postal rates while reducing the costs to Canada Post. However, the only area where such reductions are possible is in manpower.

The corporation has been admitting since the beginning of its negotiations that its objective is to recover $200 million on its manpower costs, which means the abolition of 4,000 positions. This indication from the government is not made at random. Indeed, the government expects that Canada Post will provide it with dividends of about $200 million in the next few years.

Thus, when the government has the choice between creating jobs and increasing its capital, it chooses its own financial interests at the expense of workers. We have seen this choice being made in other areas such as unemployment where, at the expense of the unemployed, the government has been raking in money by the billions. We must also remember the famous rail strike.

Postal Services Continuation Act, 1997 December 2nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, according to the minister, they will make $200 million a year in profits. Will the minister stop at $200 million or will he be greedy and go up to $300 million or $400 million?

Why are the minister and the corporation not willing to invest these hundreds of millions of dollars to provide more services to the public and to maintain a healthy relationship between the corporation and its employees?

Postal Services Continuation Act, 1997 December 2nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, it will not take me very long to answer the hon. member's question.

I believe that, when the government has a choice between promoting job creation and increasing its capital, it opts for its own financial interests, at the expense of the workers.

It made this choice in other areas, including employment insurance, at the expense of the unemployed. Remember the rail strike. I think the government is more interested in putting billions of dollars in its pockets than in resolving conflicts through special legislation.

Postal Services Continuation Act, 1997 December 2nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House today to speak on Bill C-24, an act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services.

At the outset, let me say that the hon. members have to vote on Bill C-24 today because of the incompetence of this government. Let me explain.

When negotiations started, in April, we suspected the government's intentions with regard to Canada Post. The Radwanski report on the future of the Canada Post Corporation, tabled in October 1996, hinted at what the government's priorities were concerning the future management of the corporation.

The report is clear. It reads, on page 4, and I quote: “Canada Post is operating under the constraints of a collective agreement whose provisions, particularly with regard to pay for time not worked, flexibility and job security, are completely out of line with the new realities of today's workplace. The financial consequences of these provisions pose a serious threat to the eventual viability of the corporation and hence to the future of all its employees.”

This is the basis on which the government plotted its course of action in the postal dispute. From then on, everything became a matter of cost-effectiveness. In co-operation with the corporation's senior management, the government set targets in terms of cost-effectiveness and commercial results.

These were easily agreed to since the government had made sure to appoint its friends to the board. Everyone knows that the president today is none other than the hon. André Ouellet, former Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Liberal government.

So there was no problem digging into the Canada Post surplus to reduce the federal deficit.

Of course, such an objective could not be achieved without cutting jobs, without reducing employee benefits, without reorganizing the work done by letter carriers, and I could go on.

That is exactly the result sought and achieved with the introduction of Bill C-24.

Events started to unfold more clearly as soon as the postal workers' collective agreement expired last June. The government's strategy was simple: let things drag on, make sure that negotiations are going nowhere and push the postal workers to strike just as the holidays are approaching. At this time of the year, it is easy for the government to justify the early introduction of special back to work legislation, and that is what it did.

For the minister responsible for the Canada Post Corporation, the agenda has been set since last August. The Canadian public knows today that the minister stated that the strike would be short and that back to work legislation would be quickly introduced. It was at a meeting held last August 6 with the president of the Canadian Direct Marketing Association and other large mail users that the minister revealed his intentions.

I am not inventing anything. The details of that meeting are clearly set out in a memorandum released by the postal union at a press conference in September.

Obviously, the government and especially the minister found themselves in an embarrassing situation when the content of that memorandum was revealed. There is no doubt about that. In fact, on September 8, the national union president sent a copy of this memorandum to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

The union had provided proof that there was collusion between the government and the large mail users. That is outrageous.

The large mail users are already benefiting from the lowest postal rates in the world. To preserve these benefits, they supported the government so that it would reduce salaries and benefits for postal workers.

The minister responsible for Canada Post even prepared for a parallel service to deliver government cheques. Again, according to the famous memorandum made public by the union, the minister even declared that “this time, the social benefit cheques will not be delivered by postal workers during the strike, but by another unidentified delivery service that has already concluded an agreement with the government”.

The government backed down on this when this other tactic intended to put pressure on the negotiators was revealed.

To cover up its mistake, the government finally accepted the offer sent by the union of postal workers to the minister responsible for Canada Post on August 7. A few days before the strike, it half-heartedly came around.

It has become obvious that the parties to the dispute are still far apart. But the evidence is there that the government bears a large share of responsibility for the breakdown in negotiations. The minister responsible for Canada Post promised to pass back to work legislation so as to put a wrench in the bargaining process. Well, he kept his promise. We now find ourselves debating Bill C-24, the result of this collusion.

Once again, the government has demonstrated its incompetence and lack of resolve. It has shown a complete disregard for the right to strike provided for under the Canada Labour Code, by forestalling any chance of successfully negotiating a real collective agreement. The government did everything it could to shift the blame for this strike onto the union. The Minister responsible for Canada Post said so himself. This is what it says in the memorandum from the Canadian Direct Marketing Association.

We in the Bloc Quebecois asked the government on numerous occasions not to interfere in the postal dispute. It was up to the two parties to negotiate a new work contract. Through its repeated interference, the government has made a mess of things. The government should not kid itself. The upshot of Bill C-24 will be unhappy people and considerable dissatisfaction on both sides.

At the end of the road, the deterioration in postal service will once again hurt the public. There has even been talk of civil disobedience by postal workers. We have the government to thank for this.

Consideration of Bill C-24 shows clearly that the government has chosen to favour the employer's objectives over those of the union.

Canada Post Corporation is going to become a cash cow for the government. The bill represents much more than the end of a strike. It is also an insurance policy guaranteeing that the corporation will also be a increasing source of revenue for the government's consolidated revenue fund.

There is no getting around it, the government has put itself in a conflict of interest situation in the negotiations. Now, it will make huge profits of $200 million over five years through the corporation, thanks to the savings that will result from implementing of Bill C-24.

The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of resolving labour disputes through negotiation. Imposing working conditions through special legislation does not solve the basic issues.

I agree that the postal strike has a devastating effect on the country's economy. Businesses, particularly small and medium size businesses in Quebec, are deeply hurt by the lack of postal services. Customers are late paying their bills and suppliers do not get the money owed to them. The strike has cost millions of dollars. All this would not have happened had the government acted in good faith and had it not interfered in the negotiations. The government planned the outcome well in advance.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to Bill C-24, which forces postal employees to go back to work, in spite of their legal right to strike.

Canada Post December 1st, 1997

Mr. Speaker, incidentally, as early as August 6, it was clear that the dice were loaded. Will the government admit that postal workers did not have any hope of a negotiated agreement?

Canada Post December 1st, 1997

Mr. Speaker, postal workers are finding themselves in a difficult situation today, with the government planning to take away their right to strike before they can gain any real leverage.

How can the Prime Minister justify the remarks he made last week in support of collective bargaining when the government already had a plan and the Canada Post Corporation knew it could count on the imminent introduction of special back-to-work legislation?

Canada Post November 24th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, did the minister not simply serve postal employees up to Canada Post Corporation with a promise from the start to deprive them early on of their right to strike with special legislation?

Canada Post November 24th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, since August we have known that the situation at Canada Post would worsen, because the minister responsible accidently announced his plan for a special bill, long before the employees decided to strike.

Does the government not realize that it is entirely responsible for the mess Canada Post is in for having taken two different positions, with the Minister of Labour saying he wanted negotiations to take their course and the minister responsible for Canada Post promising special legislation for the past three months?