House of Commons photo

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 April 17th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on Motion No. 176 put forward by my colleague for Kindersley-Lloydminster, who is urging this House to support the creation of an environment in which agricultural producers make their own decisions as to how their products are marketed.

First, let me point out the vagueness of the motion. Its purpose is not easy to identify but I will nonetheless try to bring out what, to me, are its most important features.

First, I am very proud to quote the example of Quebec where farmers are largely responsible for the marketing of their products. Obviously, this is possible because they are well organized and well represented.

That is why there are, in Quebec alone, 34,600 agricultural producers who are members of agricultural co-operatives. I think we, Quebecers, get a great sense of pride from this. The Coopérative fédérée and Agropur, to name but a few, have a turnover that is more than 50 per cent of that of all non-financial co-operatives put together, that is, more than $3 billion. The mandate of the Union des producteurs agricoles or UPA is to organize and represent all Quebec agricultural producers, whatever the size and structure of their farms, the nature of their production and the place they live.

Obviously there is no problem as far as representation is concerned and members of these cooperatives seem satisfied with the mandates of their organizations. We could mention as an example the dairy producers of Canada and Quebec who, after evaluating changes in international trade, felt compelled to put in place a market sharing quota for exports in order to take advantage of new opportunities. This is a good example of producers making their own marketing decisions. This was made possible by the fact that the marketing board gave these producers a powerful marketing instrument: supply management.

Another advantage that marketing boards give the producers is that not only do they control marketing decisions, they also control the cost of inputs since prices negotiated for the marketing of their products are based on production costs.

The motion certainly has the merit of recognizing that producers must have a say in the marketing of their products but, as I have demonstrated, it is already the case in Quebec. Therefore, I wonder if, by bringing forward this motion, my colleague from Kindersley-Lloydminster wants western producers to be given the same environment that dairy, egg and poultry producers enjoy for the marketing of their products. If so, I have to congratulate the member for recognizing that the Quebec model could be applied to agricultural products in western Canada.

In this context, it is easy to understand the criticism expressed in western Canada with regard to the Canadian Wheat Board, for example. Members of the board are appointed by the government without producers having anything to say about it.

It has often been proposed that the advisory committee be composed mainly of producers, and that applies to both elected and appointed members. Maybe it would be interesting to propose that the appointments be submitted to the standing agriculture committee. It would certainly give some independence to the appointment process.

Western producers feel uncomfortable with the Canadian Wheat Board. Indeed, some argue that the commission does not advocate farmers' interests anymore because it refuses to change an obsolete management system that is more than 60 years old. Moreover, the recent plebiscite in Alberta has shown that more than 60 per cent of farmers think their ideas are not taken into consideration or are bluntly disregarded by the commission. That could easily be explained.

The farmers' concern is easy to understand, considering that the commission controls or greatly influences all aspects of grain marketing, transportation and handling, that it controls the price and sale of wheat and barley, the allocation of cars, the decisions on storage and shipments by grain companies, the value added processing and resource allocation. I believe we have reason to be concerned because the commission, which is not accountable, could make an improper use of its power. The risk is that an organization which exercises so much regulating control could be accused of patronage.

Do not get me wrong, we are not accusing the Canadian wheat board of incompetence and of misuse of power; rather, we are trying to show that the risk of abuse exists and that it might be preferable to review the process of appointing commissioners, who are designated by the gouvernement, and of members of the advisory board, who are designated by western farmers, in order to ensure a more equitable representation of the interests of western farmers.

Unfortunately, the interests of farmers and producers are often neglected, and not only in the west. We need only to look at the consultation process of the government to realize that, more often than not, the government consults only for show. Take for instance the recent cuts in dairy subsidies. Of course, the government consulted dairy producers in Quebec and Canada, but they were nevertheless faced with a done deal. No more subsidies, period.

Now, what arrangement would be the least painful to you? Decision: spread the cuts over five years. Conclusion: the government consults, fine, but does what it wants anyway.

Another more recent example is the issue of raw milk cheese. I cannot resist this little aside, given my background. The government is preparing to propose that the food and drug regulations be modified to improve the protection of public health. The proposed change involves unpasteurized cheese made from raw milk.

This would involve requiring all cheeses intended for sale to be pasteurized. This would mean that the specialty cheeses would no longer be available in our stores. Do you see how absurd this is? Just from the health point of view, if raw milk cheese were as dangerous as that, why would we have authorized its sale since 1991? The only case of poisoning linked to a dairy product in Canada dates back 61 years.

Alcohol and tobacco are hazardous consumer products, yet they are not banned from our store shelves. Go ahead and smoke two packs a day, knowing that you are likely to eventually get lung cancer, but under no circumstances eat raw milk cheese. There is no sense to this whatsoever, particularly since it hurts a fledgling industry in Quebec capable of developing products that would make our European friends green with envy.

In fact, the bulk of the raw milk industry is located in Quebec, as are most of those who eat raw milk cheeses. We have discovered that there is more to life than Kraft cheese, so this is not the time to take the pleasures of the table away from us.

One wonders if, as the hon. member for Frontenac said recently, some sort of excessive fear of food poisoning, or rather pressures from large dairy producers afraid to lose their share of the market, did not motivate the government to act on this issue. It remains to be seen what results the consultation process will bring.

Who knows, maybe the government will come to its senses and not go forward with its attack against raw milk chees. Today it is cheese, but tomorrow it could be chicken salad or tuna which will be banned. As a matter of fact, there have been in recent years cases of epidemics caused by the same bacteria as the one found in some raw milk cheeses.

The Budget April 16th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member across the way for his comments and his question. In connection with redistribution of income or old age pensions, I must point out that the hon. member did not really listen to my speech, since I did also refer to the unemployment insurance fund, with its $5 billion surplus, which the government is using to attack the least well off in our society. There is also the whole question of milk subsidies, which our Quebec farmers will no longer be getting.

What the province of Quebec wants is a fair redistribution of income, because that income affects people, the least advantaged segment of the population and the health of the people in our ridings,

Then there is the disappearance of universality in 2001, which will penalize those who have contributed to the pension plan all their lives.

In my opinion, the Martin budget makes a poor distribution of income.

The Budget April 16th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, our economy is faltering. The unemployment rate is still at harmful levels. The tax system must be reformed. Very few jobs are being created, and only by the private sector.

In such a context, the government must show its leadership. Recently, Mr. Chrétien and his team missed a good opportunity to change our economic environment and adjust it to the realities of this century's end. The budget tabling process is a public management tool that must include adjustment and stimulation measures that will help us reach our collective goals.

But Mr. Martin chose to bring down a budget which closely resembles an election budget containing watered down initiatives and lacking concrete job creation measures. The Liberals have soon forgotten the promise to create jobs they made during the last election campaign. In the past year, the unemployment rate went down by only 0.1 per cent. Concretely, this year's budget proposes a summer job creation program for students and a technological investment fund aimed at preserving jobs.

But in order to do so, the government is reducing tax benefits for workers' investment funds, a favoured job creation tool. Moreover, the cuts in research and development announced last year are being implemented this year, which is slowing down all the more innovation and research in Quebec and in Canada.

Indeed, job creation is not the Liberals' priority at the moment. Moreover, they are determined to go forward with their unemployment insurance reform, which they have the gall to call "employment insurance" in spite of all the public opposition and demonstrations.

With this bill the government should be able to give workers the tools they need to get the jobs available on the market. In fact, every year, 300,000 jobs remain unoccupied in Canada because of a persistent lack of consistency between the training given in our institutions and the needs of employers.

The government's objective is clear: increase UI fund surpluses and take them over at the workers' expense. It is time those funds were administered by the people to whom they belong and served the purpose for which they were collected. Only then could we speak of a real employment insurance. Without changes in that direction, the government must withdraw its bill.

The government continues to insist on making the poorest elements of our society finance its overspending and its inability to put public finances on a healthy footing. The reform, in its present form, in unfair because the conditions of eligibility are tightened and it creates two categories of unemployed: frequent users and

the others. Moreover, by lowering the benefit rate, it will throw more and more seasonal workers into poverty.

In an economy built on small enterprises, farms and small retail stores, like in my riding, there is a lot of seasonal work. The people occupying temporary jobs do not do so because they want to. Why then penalize them as if they had a choice?

The proposed reform is eroding the buying power of our workers.

During the 1993 election campaign, the Liberals talked about eliminating the GST. Now they are talking about replacing it, about harmonizing it with provincial taxes. They are slowly setting the stage for the introduction of a national sales tax.

The federal government should transfer to the provinces the tax room occupied by the GST. The government is quick to forget its campaign promises, especially now that it seems more preoccupied with the next election. But Canadians have a good memory.

Fortunately, the Martin budget contained no tax increases for individuals but, indirectly, consumers will have to absorb part of the cost of the dairy subsidy. This budget provides for the phasing-out of the dairy subsidy over a five-year period starting next year. This will result in a loss of $76 million for Quebec dairy producers, who produce 47 per cent of industrial milk in Canada.

For farmers in my riding, this means an annual loss of about $1,500 each, or more than $7,500 between now and August 1, 2001. Members will recall that the dairy subsidy was introduced in the early 1970s to lower the selling price of dairy products and make them accessible to the largest possible number of consumers because they are good for their health. Once again, in a roundabout way, the government is making our small businesses and consumers pay the bill.

On another subject, the new seniors benefit, which will replace the old age security and guaranteed income supplement programs in the year 2001, will be based on the family income of pensioners. On the one hand, the government is encouraging people to invest in RRSPs and, on the other hand, it is saying that seniors whose family income exceeds $45,000 will be penalized.

For a couple, this represents an annual income of $22,500 per person, a figure which is relatively easy to reach for individuals who contribute $2,000 a year to their RRSP for about thirty years.

The Martin budget changed the situation for all those involved in the long term planning of their retirement. There will no longer be a universal old age security system. The minister just said that such a universal system will have disappeared by 2001.

In conclusion, the government is restricting access to programs and is quietly passing on the bill to low-income people. The noose is getting tighter and tighter. Enough is enough. We will not be fooled by this collective impoverishment strategy. The government must ensure a fair distribution of the present tax burden. The social and financial security of our children depends on it.

Refloating The Irving Whale March 1st, 1996

Mr. Speaker, in February, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans asked for new studies on the Irving Whale issue, which could very well challenge the validity of the operation under which the barge is to be refloated.

According to the most conservative estimates, the government's dithering may have cost, for last summer's aborted attempt alone, at least $12.5 million. So far, not one penny has been recovered from Irving.

Due to the incompetence of some officials and the former environment minister, the Irving Whale issue has become an environmental, administrative and financial scandal.

The Bloc Quebecois is hoping that the solution chosen by the new ministers in charge will be based on unbiased studies and not on some officials' whims, and that it will take into account the environment, the economy and the health of the people in the Magdalen Islands and Prince Edward Island.

Satellite Dishes December 13th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, since every company awaiting the CRTC's decision on the granting of licenses will have its own technology requiring a large investment by each consumer, what steps will the minister take to protect consumers in case one of these companies goes out of business?

Satellite Dishes December 13th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Industry.

Thousands of consumers in Quebec and Canada are angry because their expensive satellite dishes that receive TV signals have now become obsolete as a result of inadequate regulations and technological changes.

Since the minister helplessly watched the development of an unregulated market without informing consumers of the risks involved in buying these satellite dishes, what steps will he take today to address this problem?

Supply December 5th, 1995

Mississauga. Fine. I will now continue. The member opposite told us that the new UI program is beneficial to those who never collected UI benefits. He referred to people working 14 to 15 hours. However, if we multiply those 14 or 15 hours by 52 weeks, we realize that it is impossible for these people to be eligible for UI benefits. The numbers do not add up.

Supply December 5th, 1995

I understand, Madam Speaker. It is because I do not have the name of the hon. member's riding.

Supply December 5th, 1995

Madam Speaker, I will remember that. One of his colleagues said that a person working 14 to 15 hours a week for 52 weeks would benefit-

Supply December 5th, 1995

Madam Speaker, earlier I listened to the speeches made by several members opposite. I listened carefully. One of them mentioned that, under the new program, a worker unemployed for 52 weeks would-