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

Supply December 5th, 1995

Madam Speaker, first of all, I would like to remind the members of this House that job training has historically been an area of provincial jurisdiction.

The federal government sneaked in through its jurisdiction over unemployment insurance and put in place a multitude of employability development programs. Over time, and given the costs involved, the federal government has decided to restructure its authority, reduce its financial involvement, and increase its visibility. This is probably the basis of the reform proposed by Minister Axworthy.

However, for several years now, there has been in Quebec a consensus to repatriate manpower training powers. The government, labour unions, and the Conseil du patronat du Québec are hoping the federal government will take a concrete step in this direction in the interest of users, both employees and employers, as outlined in a 1991 letter made public by Quebec employment minister Louise Harel and signed by her Liberal predecessor, André Bourbeau, which condemns any attempt by the federal government to fund labour training through groups and organizations.

The Prime Minister of Canada is using the principle of decentralization to play politics by sending directly to Quebecers cheques allowing them to adapt their training to the new realities in the labour force. He has just missed a good opportunity to establish constructive relations between the Canadian federation and its provinces.

The federal government's position in this area denotes a lack of respect for Canada's provinces and supports its efforts to centralize powers. By acting this way, the federal government is trading effectiveness for visibility while contributing to anarchy.

The minister's bill specifies that he will try to conclude with the provinces official agreements on the implementation of four manpower programs designed to put people back to work. However, should he be unable to come to an agreement with the provinces, he reserves the right to implement his programs with or without their consent. The federal government gives itself the right to bypass the provinces, in case no agreement can be worked out. Does the Minister of Human Resources Development agree with us that the provinces will negotiate with a knife at their throats?

The fifth program announced by the minister provides for the establishment of a job creation fund amounting to $300 million over three years, which is not distributed among the provinces. To obtain federal funds, the provinces and perhaps even the municipalities will have to inject an equivalent amount. This type of funding favours the richest provinces. This goes against the objective of the fund, which is to create jobs in high unemployment regions.

On the one hand, the minister is promoting overlap between the various levels of government and supporting the costs, and on the other hand, he is tightening UI qualifying conditions and reducing UI benefits.

For the second year in a row and in spite of the UI account surplus, the Minister of Finance announced in his February budget speech that the funds allocated by the Treasury Board to the Canadian job strategy administered under the unemployment insurance program would be cut by an additional $1.1 billion for fiscal years 1996 and 1997.

At the same time, the Minister of Human Resources Development is announcing that $800 million will be allocated to training programs to promote job readiness. This new resource envelope being funded through the UI fund, the government is able to save $300 million on the backs of employers and employees just by shifting the load.

By introducing in his reform the notion of weekly hours of work and by increasing the number of weeks of work required to qualify for benefits, the minister is going after part time workers, most of whom are women, and seasonal workers, the most vulnerable segment of our society. By acting this way, the minister is giving a one-way ticket for social assistance to a larger number of Quebecers, as more than 40 per cent of new welfare recipients were previously on UI.

Once all of minister Axworthy's proposals will have been implemented, they will represent a $640 million shortfall for the people of Quebec. In my riding, the economy is heavily dependent on the expansion of the tourist, forestry, farm and business industries, all of which provide mostly part time and seasonal employment.

On the whole, UI reform represents a shortfall of approximately $7 million just in my riding.

The federal government is drawing its inspiration from the cuts Alberta and Ontario made on the backs of workers and the disadvantaged. The Chrétien government could show some initiative and daring in cutting tax benefits for large companies and the best paid members of our society, but apparently he would rather disguise his deficit reduction effort as a social program reform.

According to a document released by the HRD department, the reform making the unemployment insurance into an employment insurance is designed, among other things, to help unemployed workers meet the challenges of new job requirements and career renewal.

Could the minister tell us how, concretely, his reform proposal will resolve the persistent disparity between the ever increasing number of unemployed and the 300,000 jobs that remain vacant every year in Canada, because the unemployed lack adequate training?

This reform will certainly perpetuate overlap between levels of government and the associated costs, but it will also force all those who are looking for a job or for further training to go back and forth between their Canada employment centre, the regional office of the Société québécoise de développement de la main-d'oeuvre, educational institutions and aid agencies. The people of Quebec and Canada will not only have to bear the brunt of this reform, but they will also have to put up with the drawbacks of overlap. That is the real impact of the Axworthy reform.

The Constitution November 27th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, at the time of the referendum, the Prime Minister of Canada promised Quebecers change. All solutions had to be considered, including, and I quote: "administrative and constitutional". As of October 31, the Prime Minister's reassuring words gave way to chaotic ones.

Today, the Prime Minister says the Constitution must not be changed: "I said we were going to make changes to the federation, constitutional changes, if necessary, but I never said they were going to be constitutional". The Prime Minister who said he wanted to act quickly has nothing more to offer and is now saying that he will act in due course-heaven knows when.

As Alain Dubuc put it so well in his commentary on Saturday, the moral of the story is: "Please, Mr. Prime Minister, say no more".

Democracy November 20th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, people in Quebec and in Canada are not surprised by recent statements from the Prime Minister, who is experiencing a severe panic attack. We now know that if the yes side had won the referendum, the Prime Minister would have rejected the democratic choice made by Quebecers.

The Prime Minister also said that he would take all necessary means to ensure that Quebecers are no longer consulted through a referendum on the issue of sovereignty. These two statements alone confirm an absolute lack of political ethics on the part of the Prime Minister and his entourage. But the Prime Minister went even further when he said that CBC's information services do not comply with their mandate, which should be to actively promote Canadian unity.

The Prime Minister's lack of respect for the public consultation process and for those who hold different views clearly confirms that he turns his back on democracy when it takes a direction with which he does not agree.

Minister Of National Defence November 8th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, in response to a question on the unacceptable actions of certain soldiers at Petawawa in celebrating, on at least two occasions, the terrible events at the Ecole Polytechnique, the minister of defence made remarks that were insulting, degrading and unworthy of his position.

Rather than condemning his soldiers' actions unequivocally, the minister unleashed his full contempt upon the Bloc, accusing its members and all sovereignists of racism.

In so doing the minister is insulting the half of the population of Quebec which voted yes in the referendum, continuing the mudslinging campaign begun by the Deputy Prime Minister last week. These statements are odious and demonstrate the minister's insensitivity toward the murder of young women in an incident which outraged all Canadians.

The minister must stop making statements which are unacceptable from a representative of the people, and must provide serious responses to the legitimate questions asked by the official opposition.

Riding Of Saint-Maurice November 2nd, 1995

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's own riding, the riding of Saint-Maurice, voted yes in the referendum. This was a strong yes, with 56 per cent of the voters saying yes, or 9 per cent more than in the 1980 referendum.

The people of his own riding sent the message to the Prime Minister that his vision of Quebec was not the right one. The yes vote in the riding of Saint-Maurice means that people want more than just the meaningless cosmetic changes proposed by the Prime Minister. The yes vote in the riding of Saint-Maurice very clearly shows that the people of Shawinigan want a country, a very different country from the one that the hon. member for Saint-Maurice is trying to sell them.

Canadian Dollar October 5th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, strangely enough, some supporters of the No side are still questioning the right of a sovereign Quebec to use the Canadian dollar. The decision as to which currency can be used as legal tender on a sovereign country's territory can only be made by that country. Even the United States has no control over transactions made in U.S. dollars outside its borders. It must also be understood that if

Quebecers stop using the Canadian dollar, this will have a very negative effect on its value.

As for the monetary policy, Mr. Johnson must be the only one who thinks that it is controlled by Parliament, as he stated yesterday. In Canada as in most industrialized countries, the central bank must be independent from the political powers in order to ensure its immunity from political influence and vagaries.

Canada Transportation Act October 2nd, 1995

Mr. Speaker, like my colleagues for Blainville-Deux-Montagnes and Rimouski, I think this bill lacks both transparency and clarity. This is why I will vote against it.

In introducing Bill C-101, the government said it had three goals. First, it was to modernize legislation on rail transportation. Second, it was to redefine the mandate of the National Transportation Agency, which, in the future, would be called the Canadian Transportation Agency. Third, it was to further deregulate air transportation.

With your permission, I will start with this last point, which, I must admit, causes me considerable concern. Clause 70 of the bill specifically provides that the minister must give his approval for the Agency to issue a licence to operate a scheduled international service.

Thus, the minister is given full discretionary power in the issue or non issue of licences. This is a lot of power. I do not want to impute motives to the minister, but we have to admit that, in certain circumstances, a minister might well act a little less than rigorously and risk striking a nasty blow to this government's integrity and transparency.

By way of example, we might recall the awarding of international air links and the treatment given Air Canada and Canadian Airlines International in this area. Is there some bias in favour of Canadian? I do not know. All I know is that these two companies do not compete on an equal footing.

That same clause stipulates that the Minister shall also issue the same type of authorization to all non-Canadians wishing to hold this same type of licence. At this time, with Quebec sovereignty imminent, we have doubts about the Minister's ability to remain impartial despite all his good intentions. What guarantee do we have that Quebecers will be treated with the same concern for fairness and equality as anyone else? Might there not be another repetition of the double standard to which the federal government has accustomed us Quebecers ever since 1867?

This is important. Last winter we were all in a position to see what solely political considerations and powerful lobby groups can accomplish, how they can influence government decisions. Keep in mind how Air Canada and Canadian Airlines contracts were awarded. Moreover, can we have any certainty that the minister's decisions will place public interest above everything else and, if so, how can we have that certainty?

The government would have been far wiser to have taken advantage of the opportunity available in this bill to mandate the Agency to assess proposals from carriers and to decide on allocation of international routes through an impartial public quasi judicial process.

Bill C-101 also affects the railways, and some of its provisions would benefit from a review. Clause 90 is a perfectly beautiful example of flexible federalism. While this government is unceasingly singing the praises of Canada with this bill, it is once again exhibiting an extremely unhealthy tendency to interfere in provincial jurisdictions. This government's flexible federalism means that the provinces give in and the federal government invades their jurisdictions.

Take the short line railways, for instance, which are a purely provincial matter. Nevertheless, clause 90 of the bill authorizes Parliament to pass legislation declaring any railway, including short line railways, a work for the general advantage of Canada. Basically, this means that provincial legislation no longer applies and that the company is regulated by the federal government.

While Quebec is doing everything in its power to encourage the creation of short line railways, the federal government, with its continuing tendency to interfere with the business and jurisdictions of the provinces, is doing everything it can to discourage or prevent Quebec investors from investing in short line railways.

Clauses 140 to 146 refer to the sale of railway lines. We read that potential investors have only 60 days to indicate their interest.

Sixty days to indicate their interest, to make an assessment of and collect the capital required to purchase the lines available. This is hardly encouragement, unless it is supposed to encourage them to drop their plans.

As a member from a region-the riding of Champlain-where railways are practically non-existent, I think I can say that this government gives no consideration to the development of the regions which, you may recall, were severely affected by the abandonment of branch lines. The federal government is letting the regions die a slow death.

While the Quebec government supports decentralization towards the regions, the federal government is interested in the regions only

insofar as that they give it an opportunity to interfere in areas under the jurisdiction of Quebec.

As I read this bill, I wondered whether the Minister of Transport consulted his colleague, the Minister of the Environment, when the bill was being prepared. At a time when the Quebec government invests millions of dollars so people will "think green", when Quebec schools teach our children at an increasingly younger age about protecting the environment, the bill before the House today does not provide that the agency shall conduct an environmental study before authorizing the construction of a railway line. Why give more power to the auditor general under Bill C-83, if we cannot even ensure protection of the environment in an area relating to transportation?

Is it not our duty as lawmakers to protect the future of our planet and, therefore, any legislation that could have an effect on the environment should contain clauses to ensure this protection.

I cannot support this bill because it is unclear. It is totally vague. Is this government's trademark not its lack of clarity? The fog settles in without clarifying anything about the new Canadian transfer. And yet, the government was saying a few months ago that this was the key that would unlock Quebec's claims. The same was said about unemployment insurance reform.

One thing is sure, Quebecers know the sort of society a yes vote will take them into. Whereas a no vote does not reveal what sort of Canada we will be in. No doubt it will be a foggy Canada, because discussions on this keep being put off.

For these reasons, I will vote against Bill C-101.

Business Development Bank Of Canada Act June 21st, 1995

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-91, an Act to continue the Federal Business Development Bank under the name Business Development Bank of Canada. The purpose of the bill is to replace the Federal Business Development Bank by the Business Development Bank of Canada.

The Liberal government has decided to introduce a totally new piece of legislation, creating a new body, the Business Development Bank of Canada, instead of amending the existing legislation governing the Federal Business Development Bank. We must not delude ourselves. This new legislation is fundamentally similar to the present legislation although it makes some major changes.

As for the mandate, it is changed in such a way that the Federal Business Development Bank will no longer offer only last resort financing, but will now have the power to offer financing to complement that available from other financial institutions.

It will also be easier for the new Business Development Bank of Canada to enter into agreements with private and public partners, at both the federal and provincial levels, to form lending consortiums. The new bank will therefore be able to establish subsidiaries and to use a greater number of financial tools to fulfil its mandate. Clause 20 of the bill gives the bank great flexibility to negotiate agreements with other federal departments as well as with provincial and local agencies in order to fulfil its specific mandate.

By giving the bank greater leeway, the federal government will be able to develop an integrated approach to interfering in every aspect of regional development, in Quebec in particular, where the Federal Office of Regional Development has become the delivery arm for all federal programs.

In this context, Bill C-91 constitutes another centralizing offensive from the federal government, resulting in costly and needless duplication. It completely negates the role of the Quebec government in providing assistance to small business. This is in contradiction with repeated statements by the people opposite, who said they wanted to eliminate duplication and overlap with provincial programs. On the contrary, this a perfect way to perpetuate the problem.

As I said earlier, this is a centralizing offensive based on clauses 20 and 21 of the bill. These two clauses enable the Federal Business Development Bank to enter into agreements with other federal departments or agencies in order to deal directly with small and medium sized businesses, which will allow the federal government to interfere even more in regional development projects.

Clause 20 of the bill also enables the Federal Business Development Bank to enter directly into agreements with a person or agency, which means that the bank could enter into agreements with regional development councils for example. In Quebec, however, the Executive Council Act prohibits provincially regulated agencies from entering into agreements with the federal government without ministerial consent.

One could think that this section is harmless, since it is governed by a Quebec provincial statute. However, in the present context of fiscal restraint, if the federal government offers to fund projects put forward by a RDC, the latter will press the Quebec government to allow a departure from the law, which is common practice.

Once again, Ottawa dismisses Quebec's role in the matter and shamelessly gives itself the power to act without consulting the provinces. This centralizing offensive in regional development runs directly counter to Quebec's regionalization policy. The federal government has always refused to recognize regional development as an exclusive provincial jurisdiction, dismissing this claim in every constitutional negotiation, while implicitly making a commitment to the Quebec government to limit its action in regions through Canada-Quebec agreements.

However, the Economic and Regional Development Agreement, or ERDA, expired in December 1994 and the federal government refused to renew it. This government can never claim to support regional development by replacing essential components of a social plan with direct assistance to small and medium size businesses. By dismissing Quebec's achievements in terms of assisting exporting small and medium-size businesses, the federal government is trying to make Quebec look like the one responsible for the overlapping which it is creating with this bill.

The FBDB is a successful regional development tool which is greatly appreciated by small and medium size businesses. By and large, Quebec's small and medium size businesses get one third of the loans from the FBDB, but they definitely do not rely as heavily on the bank's extension services. Since the bank has no exclusive commercial objective, such as maximizing profits-it only seeks to recover its costs-, Mr. Rémillard, of the Canadian Bankers' Association, says that it helped develop new financial tools which were often used later by commercial financial institutions. The bank acts as an innovator by proposing new forms of financing which other financial institutions can apply when dealing with small and medium size businesses.

Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois will make sure that the bank remains first and foremost a tool for economic development, that it does not compete with other such tools used by Quebecers, including the caisses populaires, the solidarity fund and the CNTU fund, and that it has the means to support Quebec businesses.

The effect that the bill could have on the bank's role in economic development is very worrisome. In fact, two provisions in the bill, when combined, cast doubts on the bank's ability to maintain its role as a tool of economic development: the broadening of the bank's mandate and the bank's ability to obtain private capital financing through hybrid instruments, contingent on certain conditions.

Firstly, the bank would no longer be just a last resort lender: it would be able to offer complementary financing which would be a little different from what existing financial institutions offer. The danger is that the bank could target its activities more towards complementary financing than last resort financing. Since there is less risk involved in complementary financing, naturally the bank will tend to favour this type of financing.

Bill C-91 is another move in the federal government's centralizing offensive, as I mentioned earlier, which only causes costly and useless duplication. Bill C-91 dismisses totally the provincial government's role regarding assistance to small and medium size businesses. It goes against the Liberal government's claims that it wants to abolish overlaps and duplication with the provinces.

Furthermore, clause 20 of the bill allows the bank, the FBDB, to enter into agreements directly with individuals and with organizations. This means that the FBDB could enter into agreements with regional development councils, for example.

But in Quebec, the Executive Council Act prohibits organizations which are governed by provincial law from entering into such agreements. Regarding regional development, the federal government's push for centralization runs counter to Quebec's policy on regionalization.

Peacekeepers May 29th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, more than 370 UN peacekeepers and military observers have been taken hostage or are surrounded by Bosnian Serbs. Seventeen of them are literally being used as human shields.

We would like to express our deep concern for the Quebec and Canadian peacekeepers who are among the hostages and we wish to express our profound empathy with their families in this time of anguish and fear for them.

Of the 2,100 members of the Canadian military currently deployed in the former Yugoslavia, ten have been taken hostage. Eight of these ten are Quebecers, who are members of the third battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment from Valcartier. Forty-five other members of the armed forces are confined to their observation post.

We all hope that the current negotiations will quickly lead to their release.

Public Service May 17th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, if, as the minister claims, this was not an impromptu decision, does he undertake to release the department by department program evaluation report, which resulted in the decision to lay off 45,000 public servants, and to tell us how the work force adjustment program will be carried out?