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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

Public Service May 17th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for Public Service Renewal.

In its budget, the federal government announced that the public service would be reduced by 45,000 positions over three years, including more than 12,000 in the Ottawa-Hull area. The Minister responsible for Public Service Renewal seems to be unable to give specifics about the extent of these cuts, stating that it should be a rather large number, but that he does not know the exact number because it varies from department to department and from day to day.

Are we to understand from what the Minister responsible for Public Service Renewal said that the decision to eliminate 45,000 public service positions was an impromptu, last minute kind of decision?

Canadian Dairy Commission Act May 16th, 1995

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague opposite, the member for Vaudreuil. We can see how consistent the Liberals are in their approach. They continuously resort to the same scare tactics against Quebecers. What I want to say to the member for Veaudreuil is that we, on this side, have guts, we have courage, we are willing and able to trade with any country, and we want to maintain provincial agreements. I believe it will be in the best interests of everybody in Ontario and in the western provinces.

Canadian Dairy Commission Act May 16th, 1995

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to rise and speak today to further the interests of farmers in Quebec and Canada, and more particularly in my riding of Champlain.

It is all the more pleasant to do so since Bill C-86, an act to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission, shows that, for once, the government has understood how important it is for our agricultural producers to adjust to the new international trade rules.

We all know that agriculture is an industry that cannot be compared with any other, especially in Quebec. For example, virtually all farm production in Quebec comes from family farms. Agricultural performance depends on the weather and, for most products, marketing is done jointly by producers. Those few points illustrate the distinctive features of this local industry that has to compete on world markets.

With GATT and NAFTA, farmers are thrown onto a free market and have no other choice but to succeed. To do so, they must prepare, and we must set up systems that are allowed under those agreements and provide independent producers with a framework that is both flexible and competitive.

Bill C-86 is a step in the right direction, but the government should keep in mind that producers must constantly adjust and keep their production costs as low as possible, to be able to meet the challenge of world competition. Farmers have realized as much in the last few years, and they do whatever is needed to succeed. In Quebec, let us just mention the establishment, in 1992, of the Quebec dairy industry recovery fund, which has, as one of its prime missions, the funding of research projects on dairy products or of marketing projects aimed to increase sales.

This recovery fund is partially financed through a levy on each hectolitre of milk produced and on processed products. The fund was set up by the Quebec milk producers federation, Agropur and its subsidiaries, the Lactel Group and a number of associated co-operatives, as well as a company belonging to private manufacturers members of the Dairy Council.

This example shows the innovative spirit of producers and others involved in the Quebec agri-food system and, in addition, it reflects their capacity and willingness to work together to face common challenges. It is no longer possible to ask producers alone to constantly reduce their production costs without asking the other people involved in the agri-food system to do the same.

This reality is the basis of our collective approach and competitiveness on the world markets. Emphasis is now put on total quality and the implementation of research results not only throughout the Quebec and Canadian agri-food systems, but also by all the stakeholders involved, including the federal government.

As for the government, it must make the legislative framework more flexible and maintain the assistance measures allowed under the international trade agreements, as requested by the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture during the last general assembly of his organization. The government and the Minister of Agriculture must constantly ensure that their action does not harm the agricultural industry.

The budget recently tabled by the Minister of Finance took away some of the basic resources our farmers need and undermined the growth of our agricultural industry. Under the February budget, Agriculture Canada stands to lose 2,000 jobs, including 900 in the research sector, one of the most important sectors in agriculture, and the farm support programs will be

reduced by 30 per cent. More specifically, milk producers will sustain over a two-year period a 30 per cent cut in the subsidies for industrial milk. These producers live for the most part in eastern Canada, which includes Quebec, and the government has made no provision to compensate these producers, although it plans to compensate western farmers for the elimination of the Crow benefit. The producers will have no other choice but to pass part of the bill on to consumers. And producers will again be accused of having increased the price of dairy products.

As the president of a farmers association, Laurent Pellerin, said in an article which appeared in the weekly La terre de chez nous : ``The Martin budget singles out rural regions''.

The government cannot, on the one hand, change the rules applying to the dairy industry and, on the other, gradually withdraw its support. I would hope that both measures are carried out with the same outlook on our agricultural future and that the Minister of Finance has consulted the Minister of Agriculture before proceeding with these cuts. I would also hope that they have assessed the impact because it would be a shame for the farmers to see the efforts of the Minister of Agriculture wiped out by his colleague, the Minister of Finance, year after year, budget after budget.

Bill C-86 is a very praiseworthy initiative of the Minister of Agriculture, who wishes to establish a national pooling system of market returns which will help sustain dairy product exports. This new system is consistent with international trade agreements and gives producers the same advantages as a deduction system. However, I hope that the minister has thought of a reply for the American government, which has the habit of challenging Canadian agricultural policy and could be tempted to accuse Canada of dumping, since this system favours a lower price for milk used in export products.

We must not forget that the bill before us has been introduced right after six provinces, including Quebec, signed an agreement in principle on the pooling of their milk supply systems. That means that, in these six provinces, producers will get the same price for their milk and that the provinces will administer a common quota. Put together, these six provinces account for 85 per cent of all the industrial milk produced in Canada. That consolidation will allow them to implement a single milk marketing system under which interprovincial barriers to milk supply will be phased out in the medium term.

Moreover, the consolidation of the milk supply system will help these provinces make the adjustment to competition from further-processed foreign dairy products. The agreement is the culmination of lengthy negotiations in which Quebec played a leadership role.

Quebec is the main stakeholder in the dairy products supply management system. Without Quebec, the Canadian dairy policy collapses. The Canadian dairy producers understood that. This agreement proves indeed that, even in the middle of a referendum campaign, dairy producers from the other provinces have recognized the importance of economically integrating their industry with that of Quebec in order to protect their interests.

By their actions, dairy producers have shown that economic reality prevails over emotional debates. This is proof once again that all the dire scenarios that federalists spread about will simply not materialize once Quebec becomes sovereign.

Quebec will not lose its present share of quotas. On the contrary, like the other provinces, it will maintain the supply management system in the interest of all dairy producers in Quebec and in Canada. Quebec's success in dairy production is an economic reality hard won by producers, not a gift from Canadian federalism.

I wanted to mention these facts because they are important in order to explain the role of each player, to understand fully the economic dynamics of the dairy industry and to clarify the role of the government, which must follow suit and work with producers toward a shared vision of tomorrow's agriculture and the actions needed to get there.

The government's contribution to the development of our agricultural economy is mainly through the creation of a favourable environment. It must act as a guide and help all those who want to consolidate their markets or to develop new ones.

Let us hope that Bill C-86 is only the beginning and, as the member of this House for the riding of Champlain, where agriculture is very important to our economy, I must support such initiatives.

Minister Of Labour May 16th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, now we know what cynicism really is. After relentlessly condemning the federal government's interference in the health sector, and after strongly criticizing the national standards imposed by that same government, the Minister of Labour is now making an about face and claiming that Quebecers want national standards.

She says that the government must make sure that everyone can benefit from the social programs which give Canada its distinct character.

What irony. After defending the idea of Quebec as a distinct society, which implied the rejection of Canada-wide standards, the minister now claims to want to protect Canada's distinct society with these same standards.

This is mind boggling.

Cn Commercialization Act May 15th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-89, which seeks to privatize CN. First, it should be remembered that the Canadian National was always a symbol of unity, with its lines crossing the country from east to west and going deep into remote regions. However, that symbol is disintegrating, just like federalism, and no longer meets the aspirations and needs of Canadians.

I agree with the Minister of Transport when he says that, given its current structure, CN is not a profitable venture. And CN must remain competitive. Maintaining our national railway in the long term implies government ownership in the short term.

For reasons of profitability, and in an effort to find solutions to eliminate CN's growing deficit, the government must ensure the maintenance of an adequate service, particularly in remote areas which are not served by any other public means of transportation.

Let me give you some figures. My riding of Champlain is served by two CN-operated railroad lines, Montreal-Senneterre and Montreal-Jonquière. According to a 1992 Via Rail survey on the origin and destination of travellers, 56 per cent of passengers on the Montreal-Senneterre line were either going to or coming from a remote destination. Twenty two per cent of the respondents said that their point of departure or their destination was otherwise only accessible by bush roads. In the early nineties, Transport Canada found that 38,000 trips were made on that line, with over 60 per cent of them originating or ending in remote communities or places otherwise only accessible by bush roads.

The same survey showed that 26 per cent of all passengers on the Montreal-Jonquière line were going to or coming from a remote community. Seven per cent of respondents said that bush roads were the only alternative. In 1992, Transport Canada found that close to 20,000 trips were made on the Montreal-Jonquière line, with over 26 per cent of them originating or ending in remote communities or places otherwise only accessible by bush roads.

It should be noted that, after a decrease in the number of users in 1990, there has been a significant increase, in the last two years, in the number of travellers on these two lines, in spite of a lack of marketing and poorer services, a well-known fact. Just think of the environmental disaster resulting from the derailment in the Tawachiche ZEC, close to the municipality of Sainte-Thècle, in my riding of Champlain.

Of course, the railway service in the southern part of these two lines has to compete with other means of transportation. Given the length of the trip, the unaccommodating schedules, their infrequency and our individualized travelling habits, the train in its current incarnation is not competitive.

However, it does contribute to the autonomy of residents of remote areas, it is an efficient evacuation method in case of natural disaster and it could be at the heart of economic development or promote tourism, if it were more enthusiastically supported and its publicity campaigns better targeted.

After reading Bill C-89, one has to wonder how the privatization of Canadian National will affect the maintenance of infrastructures in remote areas and one has to ask oneself if the Minister of Transport can guarantee these people access to public transportation where roads are not adequate?

This question is even more pertinent, since clause 16 of the bill before us gives the federal government the right to meddle with the property of short line railways. It is particularly unacceptable and even economically inefficient and unjustifiable for the federal government to take over all or even some of these small operations.

One of the main reasons that these short line railways can make a profit operating short lines is that they are not heavily regulated by the federal government. These operations need the flexibility which they enjoy under the jurisdiction of the provinces. This federal initiative could discourage the creation of short line railways and limit their numbers. We must not forget that each of these operations saves a railway line from abandonment.

If the government impedes the development of these small operations, an increasing number of kilometres of track in Quebec and in Canada will be abandoned.

Another aspect of Bill C-89 which makes me fear for the future of remote areas is the lack of controls regarding foreign takeovers of CN holdings.

The aim of the Minister of Transport in presenting this bill is highly praiseworthy, but his prime obligation is to ensure that all Quebecers and Canadians, who paid the cost of building and operating the national railway, continue to have the service available to them. One way for this to happen would be to limit ownership of CN to Canadian interests.

Clause 8(5) is unacceptable in its present form, because it allows a foreign group of associated businesses to acquire a majority of CN shares. The only thing blocking an effective takeover in such a situation is the decision by CN directors that the companies in the owner consortium will stand by their statutory declaration to not act jointly. A company acts first and foremost in its own interest and in the interest of its shareholders. If the companies owning CN's shares have common shareholders, they would not need to act jointly in order to achieve the same end.

Therefore, clause 8(5) must be deleted in order to limit ownership of CN to Canadian groups.

In closing, I would remind the Minister of Transport that he is responsible for keeping control of Canadian National within Canada, because it was built with the tax money of Quebecers and Canadians. With billions of dollars of public money already poured into this rail system, it would be intolerable if it were now to be taken out of the hands of Quebecers and Canadians. Furthermore, if we are to keep CN rail traffic from heading south to the American rail systems, it is vital that CN remain under Canadian control.

In the past two quarters, CN has recorded profits of over $200 million. Now that it is beginning to make money, we sell it. CN must be well managed, serving the needs of its clientele and of the remote regions.

Rwanda April 24th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, are the incidents which happened at the Kibeho refugee camp likely to lead the government to reconsider its help and support to the new government of Rwanda, considering also the numerous rumours that circulate as to the diversion of Canadian help by Rwandan authorities?

Rwanda April 24th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Rwandan army has committed a real carnage on Saturday when it opened fire with automatic weapons and grenades at the Kibeho refugee camp. According to several sources, the army killed several thousand Hutu refugees.

Could the Minister of Foreign Affairs tells us whether his government made representations to the Rwandan authorities asking for an end to this kind of behaviour, in Kibeho and elsewhere?

Supply April 4th, 1995

I want to thank my colleague from Frontenac for his question.

We know that all the farmers in Quebec really need research and development activities.

I have here a research and development federal strategy report. Each year, the federal government invests almost $6 billion in research and development, not including the tax credits which account for $1 billion each year. Almost 60 per cent of the federal contribution to research and development, excluding the tax credits, are invested in domestic research done by federal laboratories, which include all the departments. The rest is broken down as follows: industry receives $977 million; universities, $960 million; foreign researchers, $286 million; and others, $210 million.

On the whole, federal spending in research and development benefits Ontario. In 1990-91, Ontario received 53 per cent of the federal spending, while Quebec got 19.5 per cent. Yet, Quebec's industrial structure does not warrant such small investments by the federal government.

Supply April 4th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague and neighbour of Trois-Rivières. There are cases in my riding that I would like to quote as examples. I refer to small packing plants with between 15 and 25 employees. In the past, the costs of monitoring sanitation of premises and wholesomeness of food were paid for by the government. The last Liberal budget imposed that extra monetary burden on small packing plants. I believe that small plants cannot compete with larger plants and this is an inequity in the federal budget.

Supply April 4th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the opposition motion introduced by my colleague, the member for Frontenac. In Quebec, since the general assembly on the rural sector in February 1991 and following the summit on agriculture in June 1992, we have seen the rural and agri-food sectors begin to join forces with the common goal of gaining a share in new markets. This was the expression used by the then president of the Union des producteurs agricoles, Jacques Proulx, and I use it today because it describes so well the vision which drives our agri-food sector.

The stakeholders in Quebec want to regain local markets and gain access to international ones. In this respect, one of the approaches that the agri-food system favoured at the summit held in Trois-Rivières consists in stepping up research, development and technology transfer, which are part of the strategy to gain a share in new markets. With Mr. Martin's budget, the Liberal government made cuts in research and development, which led to the closing of two research centres in Quebec, the La Pocatière and L'Assomption centres.

Once again, the federal government makes cuts unilaterally without taking into account the consensus of those most concerned. Quebec's agri-food sector is trying to adapt to the challenges it is facing at the end of this century and it will need all the help it can get. Research centres are a valuable tool.

Quebec's milk producers relied on research and development results from different sources in order to increase their herd's productivity, and they were very successful in doing so. As proof of this, Quebec's dairy herds are among the most productive in Canada and rank well at the international level.

This is a good example of Quebec's producers taking results of research and development and incorporating them into their day-to-day operations. The whole rural community benefits from the research and development, which in turn ensures the community's survival.

On another connection, I would like to draw my colleagues' attention to the budgetary cuts made at the Food Production and Inspection Branch concerning the application of Agriculture Canada's activity plan. Since April 1, 1995, slaughterhouses recognized by the government have had to pay part of the cost of food inspections. These businesses must, as a prerequisite to their certification, conform to Canadian standards on the design of slaughtering and storage installations and, subsequently, to standards on the maintenance of sanitation.

Consequently, these are important investments, particularly for small businesses in rural communities which cannot take advantage of the economies of scale and the proximity of a sufficiently large market. Imposing charges for meat inspection is detrimental to small slaughterhouses. Moreover, it will penalize rural municipalities where these businesses are located. The government says it wants to create jobs, but adopts measures which jeopardize jobs. As an example, in my riding, there are two businesses which will have to clear this new hurdle, or close their doors. Some fifty jobs could disappear.

In a recent letter that I received on that issue, the Minister of Agriculture said that he was in favour of talks and cooperation with national sectoral stakeholders so that they could find some options relating to cost sharing, programs restructuring and changes in service delivery.

Should the minister not have waited to find solutions, in cooperation with stakeholders, before applying a tarification? And how will he consider the duplication of inspection services, particularly between the Quebec Department of Agriculture and Agriculture Canada?

At the États généraux du monde rural, Quebec stakeholders as a whole wanted a shift of political powers from the top to the bottom. The minister could take advantage of this people's willingness to put an end to the duplication in this sector and to guarantee Quebecers that they will only have to fund one inspection service and that it will be non- partisan because administered entirely by the government.

Since my riding is made up of agricultural and forest areas, I would like to deal with the impact of the federal withdrawal from the funding of operations in private woodlots. In the Champlain riding alone, private woodlots harvesting provides direct and indirect jobs to several hundreds of people. Also, several municipal governments collect property taxes through developments and value added to private woodlots.

In 1992-93, in Quebec, the federal funding of private woodlots generated $71 million in profits for businesses and operators, $30 million in salaries and $12 million in taxes going back

to the government. So, we can consider that the government's involvement in private woodlots is an investment.

For each million dollars invested in private woodlots, between 40 and 50 jobs are created, whereas the national infrastructure program only generated the equivalent of 10 job-years for each million dollars invested.

The Bloc Quebecois is asking for a transfer to the provinces of federal funds and related responsibilities, which should better serve the interests of forest producers and workers.

In conclusion, I urge the federal government to put an end to the duplication of services and to give back the powers and the budgets to provinces that were able to get organized and to establish equivalent services that better respond to the people's concerns and needs.