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

Defence Policy February 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the speech which was just made and I must say that for the first time this morning we seem to be hearing a different tune from the other side of this House.

The hon. member spoke of a white paper, a question that was raised this morning. I would like to remind him of a statement the present Prime Minister made when he was Leader of the Opposition in March 1993: "Canadians deserve a government which can lead the way, a government which brings new ideas and new strategies, a government which helps them adapt to change".

This debate and the approach which this government has taken in the past 100 days are at variance with what the Prime Minister said. So that my colleague can answer about what he said on the white paper, I ask him whether he is prepared to ask his caucus to have the Liberal government table its white paper on national defence as soon as possible and let the existing parliamentary committee on defence do its job and not create a new committee.

Defence Policy February 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have the feeling that the member had a little more time than planned. I do not know if I am mistaken.

Defence Policy February 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I hope that I will have the time to make my comment.

Defence Policy February 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the previous speaker. He gave us a very eloquent overview of national defence. However, I do not fully agree with him, especially since he did not stick to the motion before us today.

As for the motion tabled this morning by the Minister of National Defence, I do not see the need to hold a special debate on our national defence policy, since the government has yet to table its white paper. With this debate, is the government playing for time and trying to bring the public on side? What I just said also goes for the cutbacks affecting military bases and for the peacekeeper training centres.

I was hoping the debate would focus mostly on ways to lower defence spending, even before the budget is tabled, rather than on a joint committee made up of a specific number of people, with specific terms of reference, which will undoubtedly cost Canadians an unknown amount of money. Earlier, the hon. member raised many questions, and I think that we have received enough information from our military strategists and our military staff and we have had enough discussions with these people to know where we should be going with our national defence policy.

I wonder of course how much this review will cost. I also wonder about the committee membership. I do not see why we need five senators on this committee, since they would only increase costs. But anyway, I am against such a committee.

In this debate on national defence, I have much more confidence in our military strategists. We have to trust someone, otherwise we should stop sitting in this House and start spending all our time consulting department after department. For example, CFB Bagotville is designed to be involved in Canada's territorial air defence, airspace control, drug enforcement, international forces as well as support for our land and naval forces.

CFB Bagotville can provide air defence since it already has all these elements. It can respond to all our anticipated needs in relation to NORAD. Bagotville is located 245 miles from Gagetown, 240 miles from Tracadie, 370 miles from Clearwater, 85 miles from Valcartier and 290 miles from Petawawa. Its central location makes it ideally suited to provide, with optimum efficiency, the services to which Canadians are entitled. The only thing that this base, which is 99.9 per cent francophone, needs to be really efficient is an air to ground weapons range.

I hope that the government will take these remarks into consideration and will take action instead of constantly telling us to wait, to wait for the creation of jobs, to wait for the budget. Communities that are concerned about base closures want to know. This is the question that I want to ask my colleague: How long they will have to wait before the government makes a decision. Will they have to wait one more year or even two more years? Will the government let this uncertainty drag on? If they knew that they were going to lose their base, they could start working right away with labour unions, with the industries that will be affected and with the people themselves in order to come up with a new project to replace that base. That is my question.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I will make a brief comment since I realize the time for questions and comments is about to expire.

I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary to consider the questions I raised in my speech. I do not want to turn this into a nationalist debate. I am sure that the Department of Public Works will look at each of these issues and try to deal with them, and that a special committee of the House will be appointed to monitor the entire project.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Madam Speaker-

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

We did not refrain from saying and explaining that during the election campaign. Our leader and other members are ready to explain this position throughout Canada.

Our action and our position today is not to destroy what exists but to ensure that there is some fairness. There was something unfair about Prince Edward Island's treatment. Today, we are trying to repair that error which has lasted over 100 years. So we are also seeking this same fairness for the province of Quebec in various fields and social areas from the federal government. I think that is what our distinguished members on the government side do not like; for once, the voice of Quebec is being heard in this House defending and safeguarding its interests and giving all of Canada clear, precise, unambiguous positions.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I must sincerely tell you that I thank the hon. member for his comment. Throughout the election campaign-and it was publicized in English Canada and in French Canada, in Quebec and elsewhere-we said that while we were here in the House, the Bloc Quebecois's mandate was to prepare for Quebec sovereignty.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this constitutional amendment which the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency put forward under section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

I am one of the last members scheduled to speak. I hope that the parliamentary secretary of the government party will listen to what I have to say. While I will be going over some ground that has already been covered, toward the end of my speech, I will be voicing several opinions which subsequently will have to be analysed.

The amendment in question provides for a fixed crossing joining Prince Edward Island to the mainland to be substituted for the ferry service between Cape Tormentine and Borden. It should be noted that one of the terms of Prince Edward Island's entry into Confederation was that efficient steam service for the conveyance of mail and passengers be established and maintained between the Island and the mainland, winter and summer, thus placing the Island in continuous communication with the Intercolonial Railway and the railway system of Canada.

In 1873 the realization came about that the terms and conditions for admission into Confederation, namely the promise of efficient steam service, were not being adhered to.

In 1877 Ottawa agreed to pay a subsidy for the operation of a steam ferry boat. The Northern Light was put into service in the Northumberland Strait.

The idea of building a tunnel under the strait to maintain year-round communication was first bandied about in the early 1880s. However, with the introduction of ice-breaking ferries in 1917-18, the problem of ensuring continuous communication was resolved and the idea of establishing what we now refer to as a fixed link was abandoned for the moment. Only then were ferries pressed into service twelve months of the year.

The amendment in question provides for a fixed crossing joining Prince Edward Island to the mainland to be substituted for the ferry service between Cape Tormentine and Borden.

Let me start by saying that it is rather significant that we find ourselves having to debate a constitutional amendment, since the present government refuses to discuss any amendments to the Constitution which, as noted in section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, is the supreme law of Canada.

In a famous ruling, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London compared the Canadian Constitution to a tree capable of growing within its natural confines. History has proven otherwise. It has taken more than a century for us to get around to debating here in the House the construction of a fixed link between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

As much as we want to muzzle debate on the Constitution, the subject keeps coming up because it is part of an evolving process. A country is not frozen in time. It is constantly evolving. The constitutional amendment sought under section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982, is an integral part of section 38 and subsequent sections which set out the process for amending the Canadian Constitution. We cannot help but recall 1982 and the painful memories it conjures up for Quebec. We cannot help but remember the rejection of the Meech Lake Accord and the rejection by all Canadians of the Charlottetown Accord.

This amendment put forward by the government shows us that constitutional talks cannot be relegated to the back burner and that it is impossible to artificially stop a process which, by definition, is constantly evolving.

This constitutional amendment will put Prince Edward Island in contact with the mainland through the establishment of a fixed link. And I am very happy for island residents.

Representatives of the federal government and Strait Crossing Development Inc., an international consortium, have signed a contract valued at $840 million for the construction of a bridge. It will cost approximately $800 million to build the bridge, while $40 million will go to cover interest charges during the three-year construction period.

Since the debate began this morning we have heard the same speeches. However, the facts cannot be disputed.

The proposed bridge will be 13 kilometres long. This superstructure will replace the ferry service between Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick, and Borden, Prince Edward Island.

It is a fact that the province was given guarantees under the Constitution regarding links with the continent. Today, a ferry service is provided by Marine Atlantic, a Crown corporation. Responsibility for financing, building and operating a bridge connecting New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island was given to Strait Crossing Development, a Canadian company. The company will receive an annual federal subsidy of $41.9 million in 1992 dollars, this amount to be indexed for 35 years, starting in 1997. This works out to a total of nearly $1.5 billion. The company obtained financing through a private bond issue worth $660 million. The bonds have a triple-A rating, the best guarantee the banks can have.

Although I agree with this amendment, since we are bound by one of the terms of union under which Prince Edward Island entered Confederation in 1873, I nevertheless have some reservations about the project. The cost of the ferry service operated today by Marine Atlantic, a Crown corporation, is around $28 million. There are some substantial differences here. The bridge subsequently becomes the property of the federal government. The agreement provides that the federal government will acquire ownership of the bridge in 2032. In what condition will the bridge be at that point? That is certainly a question we can address in the House. Does the government have sufficient guarantees that the bridge will be handed over in good condition and that it will not have to invest in extending its useful life?

During the first year, tolls will equal the rate charged for the ferry, which is $11.05. Subsequently, increases should not exceed 75 per cent of the rate of inflation. The promoter will collect the toll fees. At this point, one wonders whether this is a firm commitment or whether the door is still open for renegotiating rates if traffic remains below the forecast levels.

Economic spin-offs will include about 2,675 person-years of work during construction, or 900 to 1,000 jobs annually with a construction season of about nine months. As we said earlier, 96 per cent of the labour force will be from Atlantic Canada. However, what will happen after completion of the project? Is it back to the vicious circle of unemployment insurance and welfare? Will tourist revenues be sufficient to prevent this?

The government admits that about 420 permanent employees with Marine Atlantic will lose their jobs when the bridge is opened to traffic and that only 60 jobs will be created. This means a net loss of about 360 jobs. Further costs are expected, including negotiating service allowances and funding for re-

training and relocation, if necessary. We do not have the answers to these questions yet.

It will cost $10 million to compensate fishermen. A federal-provincial agreement respecting the construction of the fixed crossing was entered into by the Government of Canada and the provinces of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick will each receive $20.4 million toward upgrading their road system. Is equal treatment to be expected for all of Canada? Finally, the communities of Borden and Cape Tormentine will receive a special development fund of up to $20 million.

Some 70 per cent of the construction materials for the bridge will be purchased in Prince Edward Island. The delivery of fish and farm products will no doubt improve. Tourism is expected to increase by 25 per cent. Are these estimates based on genuine studies, studies demonstrating the feasibility of this project? And the island's shipping industry will save $10 million a year according to the Liberal Party. I doubt it.

Of course, we must not overlook the effects of building such a structure will have on shipping, wildlife, fish, migratory birds, agriculture and ice.

God forbid that this project become another Hibernia, a project which has swallowed up in excess of $1 billion in public and private funds to date, for the federal government contribution to that project presented some fundamental flaws as the Auditor General pointed out in his 1992 report. He described the Hibernia project as high-risk due to the uncertainty of prices as well as technological and environmental factors. We hope that the construction of the bridge will not be plagued with the same problems.

With regard to the bridge project, Parliament and more importantly the public should be provided with quality reports throughout the project so that corrective action can be taken immediately, as required. A work schedule should be submitted to Parliament and a special House committee should follow the progress made in all areas-financing, construction per se, deadlines, environmental studies-and report to the House at specific times.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that taking these comments into consideration and supporting this amendment will take care of a long-standing request. I hope that the Prince Edward Island bridge project is built on solid ground because we will be the rightful owners of this infrastructure 35 years from now.

To be a good deal, this project must be accompanied by a comprehensive set of clear and measurable objectives; sufficient co-ordination of monitoring of industrial benefits must be put in place; environmental damage must be kept to a minimum throughout the project and the rights of the fishermen must be preserved during the entire process.

We, in the Bloc Quebecois, hope that the minister will take into consideration the points I have just raised and, in the near future, respond favourably in this House to the suggestion of setting up a special House committee, as major investments are at stake and it is essential to monitor carefully the use made of Canadian taxpayers' money and hopefully preserve steady, structuring and paying jobs for the young people.

Railways February 10th, 1994

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

The Canadian government has decided to pull up railroad tracks without knowing what the impact of such a measure would be and has penalized eastern Canada more than the other regions by allowing branch lines to be abandoned. Half of the railway network in eastern Canada will be either closed or sold off by 1995.

Would the minister tell us if he will support the merger of Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways in eastern Canada?