Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Chicoutimi (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 1997, with 43% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Social Housing March 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, since Quebec has faced a $120 million annual shortfall for more than ten years in this area, can the minister promise during the negotiations under way that Quebec will receive fair and full financial compensation?

Social Housing March 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

For nearly a year now, the minister has been announcing that she was on the verge of negotiating with the provinces the transfer of all federal social housing programs. When questioned on this by the Bloc Quebecois, close to ten months ago now, the minister stated that negotiations were progressing well, and implied that an agreement was imminent.

Now that her government has settled with Saskatchewan, and is exhibiting all sorts of good intentions on the eve of an election, will the minister act in good faith at the negotiating table, in order to finally reach agreements with the other provinces, Quebec among them?

Petitions March 18th, 1997

Madam Speaker, the second petition points out that the availability of sources of affordable fuel is a natural advantage to Canadians in reducing the high cost of shipping over long distances between source and market.

In addition, Canadians are paying approximately 52 per cent of the cost of a litre of gasoline in the form of taxes and the excise tax went up by 1.5 cent a litre in the last budget of 1996.

Constituents in my riding therefore request that Parliament not increase the federal excise tax on gasoline in the coming year.

Petitions March 18th, 1997

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have two petitions to table this morning.

The first one deals with the national highway system, 38 per cent of which is substandard. The petitioners point out that the national highway policy study identified job creation, economic development, saving lives, preventing injury and, more importantly, improving Canada's competitiveness on international markets as benefits of the proposed national highway program.

Therefore, constituents in my riding are calling on the federal government to join with the provincial governments in upgrading the national highway system.

Supply February 17th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's speech. I believe he overlooked several facts. He concealed some figures.

He did not mention the fact that his government has cut $20 million from the French radio network of the CBC, nor that it has also cut $7.5 million from the Canadian centre for magnetic fusion in Varennes. However, this same government found $23 million for its heritage minister's flags. It also found $550,000 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Canadian citizenship and passport. I could quote more figures in other areas where it failed to mention how it is going about its propaganda activities.

In Canada and Quebec, we have artistic creators. Current guidelines from Heritage Canada require that people wanting to deal with Canada in that area do so not on the basis of their artistic talents, in every aspect of artistic life, but on the basis of whether or not their work promotes Canadian unity.

Their talents are evaluated according to their capacity to strengthen Canadian unity. I ask my colleague if he believes that using artists to promote Canadian unity is a good way to meet this objective?

Supply February 17th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to my hon. colleague opposite that he neglected to address the issue raised in the Bloc Quebecois motion. He did not speak to the motion, he drew us a picture that has nothing to do with the motion. The motion put forward by one of my hon. colleagues this morning reads as follows:

That this House denounce the use of public funds squandered on propaganda activities sponsored by Heritage Canada, such as the Canada Information Office and the One Million Flags Operation, at a time when cuts unprecedented in the history of Canada have been imposed on cultural institutions in Canada and Quebec.

This is the issue, this is the motion before the House today. As further evidence of this shameful waste of money, take the $98 million taken from taxpayers in Canada and Quebec to pay for this propaganda campaign.

Today, February 17, the Canadian Flag Day, is indeed a sad day for Canada. How sad it is to see such a waste of money, when the unemployment level keeps rising, the number of jobs keeps decreasing, more and more people are out of work and more than 1 million children are currently living below the poverty line.

Could we not have used this $98 million to better ends, to support better programs? Let me give you some examples: the celebrations surrounding the 30th anniversary of the Canadian flag, which cost $1.1 million; the 600 billboards, 300 of which were put up in Quebec; the production of TV segments like the Heritage Minutes, a $2.2 million expenditure which was pointless.

My question is the following: Could we not have used this money to help the children living in poverty? Why did the government not choose this option instead of undertaking propaganda activities for Canada?

Excise Tax Act February 6th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to speak today to Bill C-70, which, among other things, makes some amendments on harmonization of the GST with the tax in the three maritimes provinces.

It will be remembered that, just before Christmas, the official opposition deplored the way in which the finance minister had tabled the documents relating to this bill. The opposition had less than 24 hours to examine a very technical bill, in which this whole reform was set out in 300 pages, without any explanatory notes.

However, in January of this year, we witnessed an even more revolting spectacle for anybody who believes in the quality of democratic life in Canada. First, the Liberals allowed only three

days of public hearings for such an important bill. And we know this bill is very important to the maritime provinces.

The opposition tabled a motion calling for an extension to consultations, and even for the committee to travel to the maritimes to listen to the people. The government wanted none of this. It is clear, therefore, that this government has no regard for democracy.

With three days of public hearings, under the pretext that complaints were made, the government moved 13 amendments. Imagine how many amendments could have been made if, for once, the government had been listening to what people had to say. The whole bill would then have ended up in the waste paper basket. It must also be said that this bill is a great source of embarrassment for the government. That is why it wants to have it rammed through.

In December, someone came to call in my region. The Prime Minister came to my riding to tell us that we had misunderstood what he had said about the GST. Millions of us were under the impression that the GST would be abolished. Do these words have a different meaning? I would like to hear the members opposite on this. What this bill does is show that promises were not kept, whether they were made in the red book, by the Prime Minister himself, by the Minister of Finance, by the Deputy Prime Minister and heritage minister or by any past or present Liberal candidate or member. Clearly, the Liberal government has lost sight of the people on behalf of whom it is supposed to govern.

During the 1993 campaign, countless statements were made about scrapping the GST entirely. The Prime Minister himself used the word "scrap". In 1994, he said the Liberals hated this tax and would kill it. A byelection was even run at taxpayers' expense on this issue. That was not so long ago. We all remember. Eliminating the GST was an election promise. But instead of being eliminated, it is being disguised, hidden. This leads us to say that, through this bill, the Liberals are doing exactly the opposite, what they had criticized.

The new GST is a hypocritical tax; from now on, it will be hidden in the cost of goods and services. However, in a report of the Standing Committee on Finance dating back to 1994, the Liberal majority said that it would be improper to hide from Canadians the amounts they paid in taxes to their governments and that making it a hidden tax undermined their ability to make the government accountable for the way these taxes were collected and, to a lesser extent, for the way moneys were spent.

The position of the Liberals on hiding the GST in the sales price used to be that, if the GST was hidden in the sales price, it would be much easier for the government to increase it later on. Yet, we know that 76 per cent of Canadian businesses are opposed to hiding the GST in the sale price of goods and services. Personally, when I pay my bills, I want to know where my money goes. I want to know how much I am paying for the goods or services, and how much I am paying to the government. And I am sure my constituents feel the same way. I sincerely believe that some members opposite should go back to their riding and talk to those who elected them.

I want to discuss another aspect of this most undemocratic bill, that is yet another infringement of the rights of Quebecers. During the referendum campaign, and even after, we were constantly told that all Canadians were equal. Why is it then that, under this bill, Quebecers are being refused the compensation awarded to the maritime provinces? Such is the kind of equality that prevails under our federal system.

Yes, Quebec did harmonize its tax with the federal one; Quebec administers that tax. Quebec acted very responsibly. So why should Quebecers not be entitled to the same compensation that the federal government is giving the maritime provinces?

The maritimes may be facing additional costs to harmonize their tax with the federal one, but so does Quebec.

If the maritimes are entitled to $1 billion in compensation, Quebec should also be entitled to a compensation. The Minister of Finance must act in a fair manner. The term "harmonization" implies that the parties get together and are, for all intents and purposes, in agreement. However, it seems that this concept takes on a different meaning with this Liberal government.

I would have liked to discuss the tax on books, but I will conclude by simply saying this: in Quebec, the provincial sales tax does not apply to books. In Quebec, we realized a long time ago that taxing books means taxing knowledge.

Finance December 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the question is twofold.

First, there is the Canada social transfer. To be sure, the federal government transferred responsibilities in various sectors, including health, housing, as I pointed out earlier, and education, without also transferring related budgets. There is no doubt that the federal government dumped on the provinces, thus forcing the Quebec government to review its social programs, so as to balance its budget.

As the Bloc Quebecois has been telling the government in this House, the whole issue of clandestine work must be reviewed.

Bloc members sitting on the Standing Committee on Finance made a number of proposals on this issue. You can rest assured that, in Quebec, the same thought process is going on and the Government of Quebec has taken steps in certain areas to control this problem. I do not think any politician can oppose such measures. At some point, we must absolutely give ourselves the necessary means to control clandestine work, something which the members opposite are not doing. Yet, they have received, on

several occasions, suggestions from Bloc members sitting on the Standing Committee on Finance.

Finance December 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for giving me the opportunity to address issues I did not have time to mention earlier. I did not have time to elaborate.

The Bloc Quebecois' approach to making changes has been known for some time. Those who have been following the Bloc's performance in this House over the past three years know that suggestions to improve the employment situation were made to the government in several reports, but that, in most cases, as usual, the government ignored our suggestions.

In response to my hon. colleague from the Reform Party, regarding specifically the unemployment insurance fund, if, instead of using the surplus to absorb the national deficit, employer and employee premiums were substantially reduced to ensure this fund is balanced, our businesses could already make use of that money to create new jobs.

As for involving a mix of business people in privatizing public functions, different schemes could be considered. The Bloc Quebecois suggested several. We are of course in favour of making every effort to create jobs. What is happening at present with this government? They are talking about subsidies left and right, but none are actually granted in any area. Businesses go to the business development bank, but nothing happens. There are no programs specifically designed for these businesses. It is a disaster, any way you look at it.

For the time being, what is required is perhaps not so much to create jobs as it is to strike a balance. All in all, there were not that many jobs created over the past three years. Since we have been allowed to speak about Quebec, when Quebec will take over manpower training-and I think this is the key to job creation-we will be able to train people in those areas where jobs are available. All too often, it is in high technology areas where productive and well paid jobs are created that employment can be found. Quebec could easily train people under those circumstances.

Even now, if only Quebec were getting its fair share from this government, it could create jobs in almost every sector. In research and development for example, Quebec's share currently amounts to 16 or 17 per cent. This is a very productive area.

It is the same with defence. Quebec is not getting its fair share in that area either. Give us our share, what is rightly ours, then the Quebec government will be able to create productive and well-paid jobs.

Finance December 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this motion relating to the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Finance.

I must acknowledge the honesty of my colleague across the way for rectifying the facts in response to the question I asked. She corrected herself with respect to social housing, and gave Canadians the truth: that this government has done nothing since 1993 to

build more social housing. She even gave me a scoop, by indicating that she was going to strongly debate in caucus the fact that this government is transferring to the provinces the equivalent of what the entitlement for social housing would be. I congratulate her on the aptness of this remark. I will, moreover, carefully reread today's Hansard in order to get all of the details of what she said.

This motion on the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Finance worries me a little, and the title of the report grabs the reader's attention right away.

The title of the report, "Finish the Job", speaks volumes on the Liberals' intentions. When one reads this report carefully, one sees that they do, indeed, wish to finish the job, the job they are doing on the unemployed, by tightening the requirements for receiving UI benefits. To me, then, this is not a reassuring title, when one knows very well how the Liberals have treated the public since their election. We need only think of the blind cuts this government has made in order to do away with its deficit, unprecedented cuts in areas as important as health, education and social assistance-areas I also care about.

The government's sole purpose is to reduce its deficit by hitting on anything that moves, especially the middle class and the neediest in our society. Not those who take advantage of tax shelters, not the large corporations or the chartered banks. It prefers to attack this part of the population first.

Personally, I agree with deficit reduction. Of course I do. We used to have governments that could not handle their spending power. They would spend taxpayers' money as though it were going out of style, and today we have to pay the bill. So it is absolutely necessary to reduce the deficit.

However, I do not agree with the way the government is going about this. As usual, the government is coasting. It is not meeting all these problems head on. It is trying to avoid them. Its only purpose in life is to tell the public that it is reducing the deficit. This is like having a healthy bank account but not using it to feed your family. It is like going shopping for groceries but not giving these groceries to the people who need them.

The family is the Canadian public, which believed this government, which was elected because it shouted from the roof tops a single word: jobs. Instead of saying it just once, it went so far in its hypocrisy as to say it three times. Everywhere we look in the red book, it says, not once, but three times: jobs, jobs, jobs.

According to the latest forecast given by the Minister of Finance, the federal deficit will have decreased by $25 billion between 1993 and 1998. Let us take a look at how the government managed to do that. Personal taxes, in the meantime, have increased by $23.1 billion since 1993. So there is no longer much of a difference. The money comes from somewhere. We must not fool ourselves.

Obviously, if revenues increase this way, we can certainly lower the deficit. However, have this government's expenditures been reduced accordingly? They have been reduced by only $14.4 billion. So the government is misleading the public to no small extent when it says it has reduced expenditures and that the savings go directly to reduce the deficit. That is not the case.

"Finish the job" simply means that our taxes-direct or indirect-will be increased in the next budget. We run the risk of once again paying for the government's lack of understanding, as the unemployed are already doing.

If people were at least finding work, if our young people were at least coming out of our educational facilities with the hope of finding a job, if parents could at least ensure a modicum of comfort for their children, we could say that the economy is moving and we would not have the social problems we are facing now. However, this is not what is happening.

Our young people are leaving their regions in the hope of finding work elsewhere. I say, "in the hope", because after a while they come back empty-handed.

What we are also seeing is fathers and mothers who must rely on social assistance to survive. What is this government doing? It is reducing its deficit on the backs of these people.

I repeat, we are in agreement with the principle of reducing the deficit, but the way in which this government is going about it, despite its promises, is hurting the public badly.

One approach the Liberal government has taken, and which is still the most unacceptable, is to keep dipping into the unemployment insurance fund over the last three years. This is nothing but a hidden tax on employment.

Of course, they tell us that it is not, but let us ask the following question: Where does the unemployment insurance fund surplus go? We are talking about $5 billion out of the unemployment insurance fund that the government uses every year to lower its deficit.

They keep trying to make us believe in their discourse that the government wants to build up a cushion, for use in the event of a recession, for example. However, at the rate things are now going, the rate it is taking money out of the fund, the cushion it is trying to build up is more like a mattress, a great big overstuffed mattress, whose purpose is not to provide for the lean years, but to reduce the deficit.

We have only to look to our riding offices. What is going on is very revealing. We in the Bloc Quebecois regularly meet with people in employment centres. I do not know if members across

the way do the same. At the present time, employment staff in the human resources development centres are being given training to explain what the new employment insurance program is all about. We know that it will come into effect on January 1, 1997. A number of questions have been asked on that point, and the responses have been evasive enough to prompt newspaper headlines such as "Minister of unemployment insurance-to call it what it is-not familiar with his own files".

This is a new insurance regime, a word I choose because it describes exactly what we are going to see in 1997: the people will be put on a weight loss regime, a diet. For a number of our fellow citizens, our constituents, this may turn into a starvation diet.

What keeps being repeated in the training courses, what the employees, the public servants, are being told, is that the new "regime" is based on the money saved in the unemployment insurance fund. Is this not scandalous?

This means that as much money as possible must be left in the unemployment insurance fund. This fund must be fattened up as much as possible, instead of being given to those in need of it. The eligibility criteria will be raised so high that, eventually, very few will be able to benefit from it.

When you get elected on a platform of "jobs, jobs, jobs", you can hardly afford to rationalize taking money out of the unemployment insurance fund or premiums. Instead of using the unemployment insurance fund surplus to absorb his deficit, the Minister of Finance should use that money to deal with the unemployment problem.

They are applying bandaid solutions right and left. Have these people on the other side of the House really weighed the pros and cons, have they really thought about the whole unemployment question?

In my region last month, we lost the dubious honour of being the unemployment champions of this country. However, on the weekend, according to the latest statistics, we won the trophy back, with a rate of 15.1 per cent. That was the worst news they got in my region last week.

According to the Labour Market Bulletin for the second and third quarters of this year, many young people are the main victims of the deteriorating situation on labour market.

Among young people in my riding, the unemployment rate is 20 per cent. What is the government doing to turn this situation around? It offers young people absolutely nothing. The exodus of young people will continue. Of course that means that our regional unemployment rate will go down, but the unemployment rate will go up in other parts of the country, in the big cities.

I can hardly ignore the disaster that struck my region and especially my riding last July. In addition to the damage and the buildings that were destroyed, the disaster had an impact on jobs as well. Businesses had to lay off 3,000 persons temporarily. Of that number, many hundreds have yet to go back to their jobs. The tourism industry was hit very hard.

At this very moment, we may be seeing an increase in jobs in certain sectors like the construction industry. And obviously, there has also been an increase in retail sales. That is not thanks to the government but as a direct result of the disaster. When a family loses everything, it has to replace everything it lost. There are hundreds of families in that situation.

With all these job losses, you would have thought the federal government would have set up a special program to provide support for these businesses and the tourism industry and for all those who lost their jobs at that time.

The government provided assistance to non-profit organizations. This assistance came almost immediately, I must admit that. In this sector, the government was indeed present, but in other areas, where jobs were affected most, the only program offered was to owners of businesses who could get federal assistance, provided they hired people to do exceptional work. Let me explain.

Pretend you own a convenience store, a restaurant or a grocery store. You have to lay off your employees, your capital is gone because the business has been closed for six months, and there is an offer to fund a job involving unrelated activities. Try asking a convenience store owner to hire a dressmaker. Try asking a restaurateur to hire a pump operator. It is that crazy.

It is therefore this government, the people opposite, that have lost touch with reality. People do, however, want to work. They want to re-open their businesses. But it has been difficult. We have been unable to find a receptive ear. And yet, we have met these people at all levels, ministers too. The results are not there.

In his next budget, the Minister of Finance will have to recognize, for once, that the people have given enough. They pay enough income tax. Employers need support to keep creating jobs. If the minister sticks to his present course, he will absolutely have to find ways to repair the wrongs he has done.

The Bloc Quebecois has, through its members sitting on the Standing Committee on Finance, submitted a slew of measures this government could use. It is up to you first to read them, examine them, study them in depth and remedy the state of this country's finances.

As I said at the outset, this report "Finish the Job" should join the multitude of government reports gathering dust on the shelves. What this government has to do is not finish the job but get on with it.