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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

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

Won his last election, in 1997, with 45% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Indian Affairs March 7th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

According to an internal report of the Department of Indian Affairs, the government did a very poor job of managing the estates of aboriginal people of which it was the trustee.

Can the minister confirm that the funds invested were misused because the federal government's monitoring was inadequate?

Supply February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments. I would like to make some very brief remarks on an example just given of a petition to recall members. I find this extremely dangerous. I agree with the hon. member opposite who just said that it would be possible for a


party to put pressure on a member who did not agree on a certain subject and force him to resign. That is the first point.

The second point, also extremely important, would be to limit a member's foresight. In this House, around 1990, we saw five or six Conservative members leave that party to sit as independents; later, they formed the Bloc Quebecois. If the members had had to be recalled by law, I think that we would have simply prevented those people from exercising their foresight, because it was not just five or six members who saw that things were no longer working; in the last election, all of Canada voted that way and eliminated the Conservatives from this House.

For these two reasons I think that it would be rather dangerous to put that position into law.


Supply February 21st, 1994

I think the hon. member is absolutely right. And I think that once again, Quebec, as it has done in so many other areas, has led the way in seeking truly democratic solutions.

I remember the last referendum on the Charlottetown accord, where money was being spent left, right and centre. If only, and I think the hon. member answered the question I was asked earlier, if only this policy had existed across Canada instead of letting people be inundated with all this advertising, because sometimes, getting too much information is just as bad as not getting enough. I think this policy ensures that people really get the information they need, and I am convinced this will get the desired result in Quebec.

Supply February 21st, 1994

No, Mr. Speaker, I do not think so. I do not think people were poorly informed, because there was certainly no lack of resources during the referendum. In fact, people were so well informed that in places where there was no money, people voted no just the same. I think there is a tremendous difference. A petition is a request. Constituents ask for something, and a petition is a way to get that request to the government. In a referendum people make a decision, and the majority decides.

Supply February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, no, but I appreciate the hon. member's question. To me, a referendum and a petition are two entirely different things. We should realize that a petition more often involves a small group of constituents, unlike a referendum. For instance, the referendum on Charlottetown involved the whole country, not just a small group. At the time, millions and millions of dollars were spent, and if these people did not get the yes they wanted, it was not because people were not informed. It was simply because an attempt was made to impose a solution people did not want.

To me, there is quite a difference between a petition and a referendum, but I am afraid pressure groups are using petitions to force the government to consider their real issues, their real demands.

Supply February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the first provision of the standing orders of the House of Commons that we should deplore is of course the one that allows a political party to table around two o'clock on Friday afternoon a motion to be debated the following Monday morning.

Standing Order 43, which allows such little notice, should be the subject of today's debate because it shows the weakness when some groups in Parliament are not guided by a sense of fair play. But let that pass. This motion gives us an opportunity to dwell on our role as members of Parliament. We do not intend to deal with specific cases that were presented as examples in support of the motion today.

What I want to do today is to deal with the nature of a petition, its meaning, the origin of such a form of representation to Parliament and the attitude we should have toward such means of communication which more often than not show that considerable effort was made to reach us as elected members.

When the parliamentary system began in Canada with the Constitution Act, 1791, citizens' groups clearly understood that they could express their grievances and demands by appending their signatures to a joint declaration. Petitions are an integral part of the political system, whereas the actions of members and


their respective parties are not influenced either by the electronic media or by laws governing lobbyists.

In the purest sense, a petition is a mechanism employed by a group of citizens who agree on a problem and on how it should be resolved. Quite often, sound ideas translate into co-operative efforts. In many cases, petitions have reflected a good deal of common sense and quite aside from broad expert analyses, they have often brought to light alternatives that legislative assemblies had not thought of or had not dared contemplate.

We must, however, consider the flip side of this issue. We are not fools and each one of us has seen petitions supported by organizations with significant resources, and capable therefore of producing a disproportionate number of petitions, more than could be processed.

In today's highly technological, computerized and mediatized society, it is more important than ever to distinguish public interest from personal interest, and actions taken in good faith from those taken with a personal goal in mind. The whole issue of petitions opens the door to a much broader issue, namely that of representations made to those who wield legislative power.

Last week, a documentary called "Les chemins de l'influence" was shown on Radio-Canada's Le Point . This program clearly showed how lobbyists are organized and how they go about influencing decision-makers. When compared to such specialized lobbying techniques, petitions come across as the poor relation, to say the least. Yet, lobbyists are never directly quoted in the House of Commons, even though we know full well what kind of influence they have on those in power. The program I just mentioned gave the example of the pharmaceutical industry which succeeded in securing commitments from the Mulroney government and from the Minister of National Health and Welfare, Benoît Bouchard, by dangling before their eyes the promise of job spinoffs and major investments.

Would a petition have been as effective in this instance? Would it have produced the hoped-for results? Certainly not! Why then do people persist in using petitions to make requests of the government? No doubt they do so for two reasons. First, for lack of an alternative, because this is the only means available to them to get the government's attention. Then, since it is probably preferable, from a moral standpoint, to act openly through a very public request instead of going through the corridors of power.

A petition, however visible, remains in current practice something that is merely tabled. Since the opening of this Parliament, 84 petitions have been presented in this House, but there has not been a single response yet. Everything is there. The credibility of this provision in the Standing Orders depends in large part on the response provided. Standing Order 36(8) now gives the government 45 calendar days to examine a petition and respond to it. The government should not evade this obligation.

Any member has the right to table a petition. This act of tabling, which is not currently open to debate on the form or content of the petition, enables the member to freely fulfil his or her responsibilities as a representative of the people without having to endorse the petitioners' claims. It would be against my principles to table a petition without endorsing it, but the Standing Orders give some flexibility to members whose top priority is to speak for the people they represent.

Beyond the tabling as such, the possibility of debating and voting on petitions, as suggested by the Reform Party's motion, creates many difficulties. First, the main difficulty would be to decide whether we should debate all petitions. If yes, it would probably be by grouping them, but if some groupings are obvious, depending on the form and origin of the petition, others are not so obvious.

On the other hand, if we wanted to sort or select petitions to be debated and disposed of, what criteria should be used? Should there be a random draw, as provided for in Standing Order 87 regarding private members' business? Should the number of signatures be a factor? What about the purpose of the petitions? Whatever the method favoured, it is clear in my opinion that it would be criticized as a form of discrimination.

Most important today's motion would open the door to a new practice that would put into question our role as defenders of the common interests. Many governments have been accused of governing by polls. This criticism could be extended to any government or Parliament governing by petitions.

The members of this House and the political parties to which they belong have all campaigned by openly promoting various policies and solutions to solve our modern problems. Mr. Speaker, these members have been elected and their first obligation now is to do everything they can to respect their commitments.

How would they always be able to reconcile the commitments they made to get elected with the petitions giving them directions on what to do and even how to vote? If this were possible, what would prevail in case of a divergence of views? Would it be the party line? Would it be the personal beliefs of the member? Would it be the commitments made during the election campaign? Would it be the petitions, and if so based on what: their content, their volume or their origin?

We must make a distinction between our role and that which innumerable sources want us to take on. Being the elected representative of a constituency, as well as a member of a parliamentary group sharing the same political views and a member of the first deliberative assembly of the country, each


member of Parliament must face all kinds of representations and limitations.

It would be a useless constraint to add to the already existing resources in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons and allow debates on petitions. There are numerous other possibilities to review issues, including those resulting from the tabling of petitions. Indeed, petitions are sometimes grouped together in a motion, then in a bill which is reviewed by a committee before finally being passed by the House. This avenue exists, regardless of all its limitations.

In conclusion, I would appreciate it if the sponsors of the motion could answer our questions and propose some solutions to the problems which I underlined.

Defence Policy February 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening for some time now to what the member opposite has to say about defence. I must say I have serious reservations about the need for such a new committee.

Earlier, some members told us how pleased they were because this is the third time the issue has been raised in the last 100 days. That, in my opinion, does not mean we will get better results. If we had been better prepared, we might have needed to address the issue only once.

Also, we have heard a lot about the way this government is doing things, about the way it consults before taking action. I agree that members should be consulted. However, when we are asked to set up a committee without knowing how much it is going to cost, we need to consider the proposal very carefully. Earlier, a member talked about the Charlottetown circus which cost, as we know, millions and millions of dollars.

What bothers me beside the costs of the project is the way they keep quoting the red book. It seems that the red book contains all the solutions needed to improve government management. If that is true, why not simply implement the red book; let the government implement it and we will be able to decide for ourselves. We might not need this committee after all, which plans to travel throughout Canada.

We also heard about cuts and streamlining measures. But what will we do? We will travel throughout Canada to gather suggestions without knowing whether we will get the money and the budget to implement them.

To sum up, I would like to ask my colleague how much he thinks this committee will cost us? What will we get from it? You have to remember that less than a week or 15 days ago, we, in the Bloc Quebecois, were suggesting that a committee be set up to review government expenditures, and that our proposal was turned down. Such a committee was not deemed necessary, because the government thought it had all the tools it needed to do that review.

I think that today the government is not looking just to set up another committee, but it also wants to travel throughout Canada to sound out public opinion. We just came out of an election. First, we should let the government implement the red book, and then, we can see what more can be done.

Supply February 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, in response to my colleague, it is often said that the past guarantees the future. But if I look back in the past, I see that we are now facing a $500 billion deficit. And the existing system does not correct the present situation. What we want, what we are proposing is not another standing committee, but the striking of a special committee that could perhaps allow the existing committee to straighten up, so that we could really take the corrective measures that the Auditor General has been recommending for several years and that have still not been taken.

Supply February 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, but that is not what I said. Indeed, I said-and you can verify that when you read the Hansard -we should maintain the same services and the same volumes. What I am simply saying is that we have identical organizations and systems, both on the federal and the provincial side, that are providing the same services. The same goes

for hospitals. We could give the same services to veterans without requiring two organizations to head the hospitals.

Supply February 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments. No, it is certainly not our intention to close the institution in Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue. In fact, we simply want to thoroughly review the whole system for the veterans at federal level and see if it would be possible to put an end to duplication of services in order to provide the same services to the veterans or to the general population in the provinces.