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

Finance December 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I have listened carefully to my colleague's speech. I cannot let some of her remarks pass without comment. It is a pity, because I had the impression that my colleague had a heart, and could be moved from time to time by child poverty or the situation of single parent families.

It is clear from her speech that she is prepared to go to great lengths in this area in order to do something for the poorest members of society. But she has made a colossal error in her remarks about social housing. I am sorry, my dear colleague, but despite the promises made by the Prime Minister in 1993 during the election campaign, and the promises made by the Minister of Finance during the same period concerning social housing, nothing has as yet been done.

They were going to give money to housing co-operatives so they could make improvements. But, since 1993, nothing more has been heard. There has been nothing. No money has been made available. The same thing goes for construction of new social housing.

Since 1993, this government has not come up with a red cent for building new social housing. It is therefore incorrect to tell Canadians that this government is trying to do something about the problem of social housing. It is true that the budget shows it is paying a certain amount for social housing, but this is for existing housing. It therefore has responsibilities towards those residents.

Now, this responsibility has been transferred to the provinces, but minus the tax points or the money that should go with it. The result is that now the whole social housing policy in Quebec must be reviewed because the federal government is not meeting its obligations, even though they were renewed during the election campaign. I would therefore ask my colleague across the way simply to rectify what she said about social housing.

Finance December 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, is it not the Bloc Quebecois' turn in the rotation? The Liberal Party had its turn, and so did the Reform Party. I think it is now the Bloc Quebecois' turn.

Finance December 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Are we still rotating speakers, or are we now at questions and comments?

Finance December 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of his remarks, my hon. colleague congratulated the members of the Standing Committee on Finance on their work on a report he described as excellent. He failed to mention however that this was a majority report that ignored to a large extent the official opposition members' input.

I would like to draw his attention to the title of this report, which is "Finish the Job". Does finishing the job, as he said, mean less money for research and development, an area he seems to like and in which Canada has taken a tumble in terms of its ranking among OECD nations? Canada now ranks 18th, while it used to do much better than that.

Does finishing the job mean bleeding the Canadian public service? Does it also mean bleeding Canada Post? Does the report's title mean bleeding and taking advantage of the unemployed across Canada?

I would like my hon. colleague to tell us what he would be prepared to do to help the unemployed find a way out and live with a degree of dignity instead of being forced onto welfare in a few weeks. Will the government just keep shovelling its deficit into the provinces' backyards, as it has since taking office?

Finance December 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to my colleague with interest. Naturally, he was not able to paint the full picture of the government's financial situation, or we would have spent the whole night here discussing it, particularly since, financially speaking, the economy of this country has a great deal wrong with it. Many changes must be made.

Moreover, the Bloc Quebecois had, via its members on the finance committee, suggested a host of ways to turn the economy around. But that is not what my question is about.

My point concerns unemployment insurance. My colleague has already touched on the question a little. I would, however, like to know his opinion, because, with the present unemployment levels, which are unacceptable regardless of what the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have to say, the government has not set itself any objective for job creation, despite its campaign promises. In addition, the government is presently using the unemployment insurance fund surplus, which came out of the workers' pockets, to do away with its deficit.

I would like to hear my colleague's comments on this lack of awareness of unemployment in Canada and of the unemployment insurance surplus.

Excise Tax Act December 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I have just listened to two members from across the way who have told us about all sorts of things that do not, or will not, exist with respect to this bill.

I will naturally take a moment to try to place the effects of Bill C-70 in perspective. Everything we have heard during the last two speeches has been nonsense. Things must therefore be put in perspective.

First of all, Bill C-70 is a collection of amendments that are going to complicate even further what Canadians had to contend with in the previous legislation. Just now, they were trying to tell us that this would make it easier for businesses to collect the GST, but this is not so.

Bill C-70, introduced by the Minister of Finance, is a striking example of what this government can do to make a mockery of democracy.

First, there is the manner in which this voluminous bill was tabled, without allowing time for the official opposition to examine

its contents. The official opposition had less than 24 hours to read and examine the complete bill. That is a mockery of democracy.

The Minister of Finance would do well to change his ways, for the benefit of Canadians. A bill as technical as this, with so many amendments, deserves to be examined in greater detail.

This is not the first example of the contempt in which democracy is held by members across the way, nor, I am sure, is it the last we shall see before the coming election. They will be trying to pull some fast ones on Canadians.

This bill is proof of the failure to keep the election promises made in the famous red book by the Prime Minister himself, by the Minister of Finance, by the Liberal government, which has forgotten, without a shadow of a doubt, that it is governing on behalf of the public.

How many times did they promise during the 1993 election campaign to scrap the GST outright? The present Prime Minister said that he was going to scrap it. In 1994, he also said that the Liberals, i.e. his own government, detested this tax and that they were going to get rid of it.

Today, with the tabling of this bill, we have come to the moment of truth. The worst part of all this, however, is that the Liberals used the taxpayers' money, yes the taxpayers' money, to pay for a byelection on this matter. The Deputy Prime Minister treated us to an appalling demonstration of how not to keep one's promise. Yet making the GST disappear was an election promise.

The only disappearance in this bill is that the GST has been made to disappear from view, has been camouflaged. It will be camouflaged, it will be hidden from view. The government ought to know that the people are not fools. The public knows very well that this government does not keep its promises.

In Quebec we have a motto, one which the people of Quebec will put into application when the time is ripe. That motto is "Je me souviens", and yes, we will remember. I shall speak shortly on what Quebec has done to harmonize its sales tax.

This brings us to Bill C-70, where the Liberals end up doing exactly what they themselves have criticized. The new GST is a hypocritical tax, and that makes a lot of people's hair stand on end. It is a hypocritical tax, that is true. From now on, it will be hidden within the cost of goods and services.

However, in a report of the Standing Committee on Finance which dates back, not to 1990 but to 1994, the Liberal majority, these people sitting in front of us, took a position that was clear and to the point on what the GST should be. They said in the report 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. This is straight from the report of the Standing Committee on Finance. I repeat, the date is very important. This was in 1994.

What happened since that time? Today, we are hearing a very different message. I think the Liberals, the members of this government, are suffering from amnesia. What does this mean? It means saying one thing today and saying the opposite tomorrow.

Personally, this is an attitude I could not tolerate. We cannot change our minds overnight, just like that, especially when everything we buy nowadays costs Canadians an awful lot of money. Has power made members opposite deaf? Being in power means being hard of hearing, speechless and asleep. That is what is happening now.

Here is another example of the amnesia of members opposite. In 1989, they were in opposition. The position of the Liberals on hiding the GST in the sales price was that if the GST was hidden in the sales price, it would be much easier for the government to increase it later on. That is what they were saying in 1989. Today, they dismiss this out of hand. They have reversed their position. So they say one thing when they are in opposition and something else entirely when they are in power.

Is that what Bill C-70 is all about? Is the Liberal government proposing to hide the tax to make it easier to increase later on? Later on meaning a few months from now, after the election, for instance? Considering the selective memory of members of the current government, we have every right to ask these questions. And there is one I would like to ask especially: What can the public expect now? The Liberals, the people opposite, talked about doing away with the GST, but now they want to hide it. Can we expect any increases in the GST in the months to come?

We also know that 76 per cent of Canadian businesses are against hiding the GST in the price of goods and services, although the opposite was implied just now. Personally, when I pay my bills, I want to know where my money is going. I want to know the price of the product or service. I also want to know how much I will be sending the government and what it will do with it. I want the government to be accountable. I am sure that my constituents agree with me. Some members would do well to return to their riding and talk to those who elected them to see whether they approve of this bill.

Rest assured of one thing. I am going back to my riding to talk to the people. Every time I have the opportunity, I tell them that the government reneges on its promises, that the GST will be hidden

and that this government can do what it likes with it. It can do with it what it likes.

I would also like to look at another aspect of this bill, the most undemocratic element and one that, yet again, tramples the rights of Quebecers. We heard endlessly during the referendum campaign, and even afterward, that all Canadians were equal. This bill provides a fine lesson in equality. Just a fine lesson.

Quebecers are denied the compensation paid the maritime provinces. Is this the government's idea of equality among Canadians? Is this what it is? One law for the maritimes, one for Quebec. The Minister of Finance's election promise costs $1 billion. On top of it, they are calling this harmonization. I find this very confusing.

Naturally, someone is going to have to come up with this $1 billion. Although Quebec harmonized the sales tax with the federal government, it is going to have to pay $250 million. All the other Canadians are going to have to make up the difference. Is it in the public's interest to have double standards in government policies? I think not.

When will the Minister of Finance inform us of the criteria applying to his compensation package? This is very important. When will the Minister of Finance show us that Quebec is not entitled to this compensation? There must be a debate on this question. Quebecers are entitled to this debate, because they will be footing the bill.

I am telling you nothing new when I say that Quebec harmonized its tax with that of the federal government. Quebec administers the tax. Quebec acted very responsibly. Why then are Quebecers not entitled to the compensation the federal government is giving to the maritime provinces? I am wondering. The people opposite are hiding behind power.

Some day, the government will need to come up with an answer, in terms of equality and not of campaign promises. We have proof that this government's campaign promises are not being kept. They did not keep their promise with this bill, where harmonization of taxes was concerned, just as they did not keep their main promise regarding job creation.

It is all very fine to pitch all sorts of figures at us, but when everything is weighed out, it can be seen that job creation in this country is stalled.

If the maritime provinces have additional costs to pay in harmonizing their sales tax with the federal one, so does Quebec. If the maritimes are entitled to compensation, to the tune of $1 billion, then Quebec too is entitled to compensation. Once again, the Minister of Finance must show some fairness. Good for the maritimes and their co-operation with the federal government, but what about the other provinces?

The maritimes represent 15 per cent of the Canadian population. We cannot, therefore, say that harmonization is in place from sea to sea. The Minister of Finance is proposing a single tax to be administered by a national revenue commission. This commission would, for want of a better word, simply squeeze out the provinces. Once again, and every time a bill is tabled here, provincial rights are getting it in the neck. Here again, provincial autonomy is at stake. As we well know, the people on the other side do not give a hoot about provincial autonomy.

Since I have only a minute left, I would like to talk about the famous tax on books. People will remember the Bloc Quebecois debate here on the book tax. In Quebec, there is no provincial tax on books, whether they are bought by students, self-employed workers or anyone else. The sales tax does not apply to books in Quebec, but here, with this bill, sales tax will apply. There are, however, exceptions for certain institutions.

It is not true that the tax is 100 per cent abolished. Only clearly designated institutions, such as municipalities and libraries, will be entitled to deduct this tax. Canadians must not be taken for people who will swallow just anything. They will not. This bill does not eliminate the sales tax on books; only certain institutions will be exempted. In my opinion, the mere fact of taxing books promotes ignorance.

Canada Elections Act November 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, although the hon. member did not mention political party financing and did not answer the question as to whether financing should be provided exclusively by voters or by large corporations, nevertheless, there are certain grey areas in the Canada Elections Act with respect to other expenditures in the course of an election campaign. For instance, certain related expenditures may be made before, during and after an election.

This represents an enormous amount of money for the traditional parties. It may be as much as $4 million or $5 million per election, and this is to pay for certain expenses which cannot be specified. I am thinking of polls ordered by political parties and research on which a party like the Liberal Party of Canada or the Conservative Party will spend nearly $1 million, on both counts, during an election campaign, without any of this appearing in the books of the riding associations or in a candidate's statement.

I would also like to mention volunteer work, not the grass roots volunteers who belong to the organizing committees, people who come and work because they believe in a political party, but the volunteers provided by large lobbying companies. We are given some very striking examples in the Lortie report.

Some companies like Public Affairs International, who are lobbyists, told the Lortie Commission that they had lent as many as six to eight experts in various fields to do partisan work for the benefit of the traditional parties. This work could be worth $1,000 or $2,000 daily. Why, when this bill was introduced, did the government not consider revising these grey areas which create an imbalance between the various political parties in this country?

Canada Elections Act November 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, if I have understood what my colleague said, he feels that, in Canada, there are two sorts of contributions under the existing elections act and even with the bill before us. There are political financial contributions and there are ideological financial contributions.

Here is an example. In Canada, in recent years, only about two per cent of the population has contributed reasonable sums to political parties. This may be described as ideological funding. These people give because they believe in the party's program, its intentions and its policy.

On the other hand, always during this time and under the former elections act, new contributions, political financial contributions, were made. For example, 40 per cent of the top 500 companies made contributions, and 35 per cent of the top 155 financial institutions contributed in the same period.

When the bulk of a political party's funding comes from these major financial institutions, and this is my question to my colleague, does their contribution affect objectives, policies and the legislation introduced in this House? Do these people not expect, and this is my other question, some sort of return on the exorbitant amounts they contribute to the traditional federal parties?

Canada Elections Act November 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, in response to my hon. colleague's question, let me say, first of all, as I indicated earlier, that every chance we have had since coming here in 1993, we in the Bloc Quebecois have defended funding of political parties as we know it in Quebec.

We have also strongly criticized funding by big business, these large corporations that make huge profits every year and can easily afford to make substantial contributions to the traditional parties such as the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. Any government receiving such funding has no choice but to return the favour at one time or another. For one thing, what this means for democracy is scary.

Will bills introduced in the House under these circumstances truly reflect the wishes of the people or those of the lobbyists and financial backers? That is the first part of my answer.

Now, as to whether the people opposite had enough courage or not, I have to say that they lacked courage in introducing this bill. For once, funding of political parties could have been put in the hands of those who should have it, the voters, with a cap on contributions.

Our colleagues across the way missed a golden opportunity to give power and opportunity, equal power and opportunity to all. At present, there is disparity. Some political parties are immensely rich because big business keeps pouring money into their coffers, while the others get the crumbs. This necessarily has an effect on

the debates. All parties are not on an equal footing, there are strings attached. They certainly lacked political courage in this matter.

There is still time to take corrective action. They could do it right now. But they will argue that, traditionally, nothing new is added at third reading stage, that we should either pass or defeat what we have before us.

The strength of the Parti Quebecois is in public funding. You can be sure of one thing: we will get re-elected in the next election and we will have public funding to thank for that.

Canada Elections Act November 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will share my speaking time with the hon. member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup.

Amending the Canada Elections Act is an exercise which, in my opinion, should be taken seriously. It means the entire legislation should be reviewed. It is not a matter of adding a few things here and there which do nothing to improve the legislation.

I noticed that members opposite did not consider this legislation to be very important. The only thing that seems important to them is to pass this bill as quickly as possible, to rush it through Parliament.

The Canadian public wants electoral legislation that is clear and transparent. The public has the right to be well informed. However, the government does not seem willing to pass legislation that would guarantee Canadians the dice are not loaded.

This bill has certain weaknesses. It completely overlooks the fact that campaign spending should be strictly controlled. By keeping spending to a minimum, more citizens will be given a chance to express their views in a given party. Everyone will be on the same footing. There will be a level playing field. Consider Quebec's legislation on political party financing, adopted by the Lévesque government in 1977. I truly believe that since that time, and this has been proven, the public is satisfied with the situation. Quebec legislation provides that only individual voters may help finance political parties.

The Canadian legislation, including the bill before us today, is far more flexible. Businesses and unions have the right to finance political parties. Now seriously, has anyone ever seen a business or a company vote? Never.

Another question that comes to mind is this: Why were companies and businesses given the right to finance a political party? The answer is obvious. These companies and businesses use their contributions to try and influence the government.

If a business gives several thousand dollars to a political party and this party forms the government, the business can expect the government to return the favour. These are the businesses where the government will find its friends, and often, these friends are appointed to positions in various commissions.

In other words, the present way political parties are financed encourages lobbying. When we say lobbying, we are getting pretty close to nepotism and patronage. Legislation that is clear should emphasize the fact that only voters have the right to finance political parties.

What about these big fundraising dinners? In 1993, a few days before the election, there were banquets at $1,000 and $3,000 per plate.

Who in Canada can afford such an expense, except the well-to-do, who arrange for their company to pick up the tab. I think, therefore, that a bill like the one before us must restrict the funding of political parties to voters. It must reflect democracy, and thus equal opportunities for all. In this bill, democracy takes a beating.

Next, the bill proposes a permanent register of electors. I do not think this is a bad idea, except that all the necessary information has to be provided in order to further democracy. The list must ensure that elections personnel are able to identify voters. If they cannot, we could face problems that might topple power on one side or the other.

For example, if the list does not include the date of birth, a person of dubious intentions could represent himself as another individual and deny that person the right to vote. The date of birth is essential to the permanent list. It is vital in helping electoral personnel identify people more easily. In the old days, we used to

talk about floating voters, where, for example, people would vote using the names of the dead. We have to take every precaution to avoid taking a step backwards.

Another factor involves registering a person's gender. It may not appear necessary to everyone, but I consider it very important. You will understand that in a riding like mine it may be necessary. Just think about the name "Tremblay" in my riding. Add to this first names that are as common for women as they are for men, such as Claude, Dominique, Camille or Michel, and it becomes impossible for returning officers to certify that the person before them is indeed the one whose name is on the list. Nowadays, ill-intentioned people can still do aggravating things to voters. Therefore, it is necessary to take into account all these details when making up a permanent voters list.

I agree that the current act must be amended, but not in haste as the government seems intent on doing. An election act affects all citizens, regardless of who they are. Will the government have time, before the next election, to properly inform all voters about this permanent list?

If the bill before us is passed, it should not apply to the next election. Why? Because voters need to know their rights.

Another issue which is not dealt with in the bill is the possibility of legislating a set date for an election. I can tell you that such a measure would save a lot of money and speculation.

In the United States, for example, everyone knows what to expect. In Canada, it is still not the case. Two and half years into a mandate, people already start wondering whether an election will be held in the fall or the spring. And so on.

A lot of energy could instead be devoted to reviewing many bills that we currently do not have time to look at. This period is viewed much more as a pre-election time.