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

The Constitution June 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois' position is very clear. First of all, we gave our support to the motion tabled by the Government of Newfoundland, because we want to respect the referendum. The people have expressed their opinion and we respect the majority. However, we have some concern about minority rights.

That was brought to the attention of the Government of Newfoundland. It was told that minority rights should be further protected when it proceeds with its reform. But it is up to Newfoundland to make this school reform. That is up to the provinces. But we are asking Newfoundland to respect minority rights. However, the amendment proposed by my colleague brings absolutely nothing to the debate. It brings absolutely nothing, except that he is simply trying to make political hay for himself, at the expense of the people of Newfoundland.

The Constitution June 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, following the example of my colleague, I would like to take part in this debate. We know that on September 5 of last year, the province of Newfoundland held a referendum, and that this consultation dealt with the reorganization of the school system in that province.

Fifty-two per cent of the population voted in favour of the government's proposal.

The consultation was carried out in an entirely legitimate manner. However, in order for it to be implemented, an amendment by the House of Commons is essential. We must therefore amend a section of the Constitution.

For the province of Newfoundland, going ahead with the reform approved in this referendum will mean important changes to the system. In discussions, this government relied on a number of arguments, including the one that the existing system has led to a proliferation of small schools, often located very close to one another, and having very complex administrative structures.

The issue of denomination also came up in this connection. However, with respect to the issue we are debating today, because everything concerning education comes under provincial jurisdiction, we need not concern ourselves with the actual manner of implementation.

We should concentrate, I think, on how things were done during this referendum. The Government of Newfoundland submitted this question to the population. The latter responded to the question, and we know the results. It is therefore entirely legitimate for Newfoundland to expect the federal government to agree to amend its Constitution so that this plan can go ahead.

Of course, many of the Liberal MPs who have spoken today, and on Friday as well, have refused to acknowledge that this referendum has any legitimacy. I am thinking, for instance, of the hon. member for St. Boniface, who has made a great song and dance about the question not being the right one. There are always questions about what is the right one. When will someone finally ask the right question, regardless of what referendum it is?

It is the outcome which determines whether a question is good or bad. He interprets it as bad because it did not meet his expectations. If the Newfoundlanders had voted differently, the question would have been the right one, in his opinion. He has also referred to the fact that the financial outlay of the two camps was not equal, and so on, the same story over and over, and the same story that repeats itself when Quebec is asking questions about its future.

Of course, we know that the federal government has already recognized, in 1948 for example, that 52.3 per cent of the population of Newfoundland had said yes to joining Confederation. Why then today would we claim, as the hon. member for St. Boniface has said, that this figure is not sufficient? He will reply that not enough people voted.

So when, do you think, can we satisfy these people? It is very difficult. We might as well say no other referendum should ever be held again. We might as well say: "Let us allow the courts to decide our future for us. Let us allow the House of Commons to adopt whatever it wants, and not to take public consultation into consideration".

As a Quebecer, I must wonder a few things about this motion. Last September 5, for example, did the Prime Minister, or his Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, or some MP in his group describe the question as the right one? Did they analyze it? Did they put it under a microscope? No. In the course of discussions, we have not looked at the question. Today, we are to consider the matter and then vote on an outcome. Now, however, is the time to analyze it. I think it is a bit late to do an analysis.

Did the Prime Minister of Canada tell Newfoundlanders whether he considered the question legitimate or not? No. He did not raise a finger over it. There was no mention of it either in any debate in this House. The 52 per cent was accepted.

Today, however, the figures are being questioned. Of course, when it involves Quebec, does this country called the finest in the world have a double standard-and I think we have to ask the question? I think so. When a province besides Quebec is involved, a double standard is acceptable.

Quebecers of all stripes, with a few exceptions perhaps, agree that they alone may decide their future.

Of course, we know the leader of the Liberal Party in Quebec. He is probably the exception to the rule, because, recently, he voted against Quebecers' right to decide their own future. Will a rule be made because he said these things? I think not.

On a number of occasions, the current Prime Minister also said he would see about the question put to Quebecers at the next referendum. Did he write the question for Newfoundland's referendum on September 5. We are entitled to ask ourselves. They want to take a stand when Quebec is concerned, but do they do the same thing for other provinces?

In the words of the Prime Minister, what is the acceptable majority? With only 52 per cent of registered voters in Newfoundland exercising their right, the resulting majority was enough for the province to consider the referendum legitimate.

In Quebec, 94 or 95 per cent of the population voted, and a favourable outcome would not have been accepted. One thing is sure, when Quebecers say yes to a sovereign Quebec, we will have to remember that a majority there has always been simply 50 per cent plus 1. We will not let a minority decide our future.

The Constitution June 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, again, I have to congratulate my hon. colleague for his first comments, when he put us on the track by saying that such a resolution should not be passed blindly and that every step needed should be taken to debate it. So, today, the debate held in Newfoundland is now in this House and everyone wishing to take part can do so. This is a principle I recognize and I am proud to tell him that I liked his comment.

However, he avoided a basic issue, that is the recognition of the referendum held in Newfoundland on September 5. That is important. It is okay to talk about a school system and about minority rights, but it is out of the question to talk about a basic principle such as the recognition and the legitimacy of a referendum held according to the rules of democracy. Therefore, I ask my hon. colleague why so many members in his caucus are trampling on such a fundamental right, the recognition of a referendum held by citizens.

The Constitution June 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I have listened attentively to what my colleague has had to say. As you know, we in the Bloc Quebecois are rather concerned about francophone minorities.

The hon. member has spoken reassuringly, and I trust that the government of Premier Tobin will take his words into consideration, and that the Bloc's concerns about this minority will be lessened as a result, when the time comes to effect the reform. School reform is a provincial responsibility.

Despite his support of the project, the hon. member has not mentioned the referendum held in that province. That is what I want him to tell me. I would have liked to find out what my hon. colleague considers a democratic majority in a parliamentary regime such as ours. Normally, a democratic majority is a plurality, that is 50 per cent plus one. Is my colleague questioning the legitimacy of the public consultation held by the Government of Newfoundland last September 5?

The Constitution June 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Delta started off on the right foot, when he began his speech by saying that education must be the responsibility of the provinces. We, in Quebec, consider that education is indeed a matter for the provinces.

However, this is not the issue we have to debate here today, and that is where the hon. member went wrong. He said that the referendum held on September 5, in Newfoundland, was simply not legitimate and for several reasons. First, there was the question. Was the question clear? Was the question easily understood by everybody? Was the referendum held at an appropriate time? Was September 5 convenient?

He came up with several reasons why it was not convenient. So, his position has drawn him a bit closer to the Liberal member for St. Boniface, who stated the same thing. There is never a good time to hold a referendum.

Did both sides have the same financial resources at their disposal? That was one of the questions he asked. In his speech, he

constantly questioned the legitimacy of referenda, wherever it is held, here, in another province, or abroad.

My question is the following: What does my hon. colleague need to recognize the outcome of a referendum, when in the past, in 1980 and again in 1992, the federalists always said and indicated that an absolute majority was enough and that they would react accordingly? Why is it that, along the way, when we do not like the outcome of a referendum, we want to change the rules. Is that what the hon. member intends to do?

Gliding School May 29th, 1996

I have a supplementary question, Mr. Speaker.

The department has never succeeded in proving that it could achieve substantial savings. If he has nothing to hide, will the minister promise to release all the studies prepared in this matter, including the additional costs taxpayers will have to bear to effectively lower the noise level of tug aircraft?

Gliding School May 29th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence.

Two days ago, the minister was roundly criticized for allowing the gliding school to move from Saint-Honoré to Saint-Jean-de-Richelieu. The department refused to hold a public hearing on this project despite its highly controversial nature.

How can the minister justify his authorizing this move without a public hearing, when this project, which is already causing a fierce public controversy, will have a significant environmental impact?

Social Housing May 27th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, the Minister of Finance promised housing co-operatives that there would be secure, stable funding for social housing.

Can the minister give us a guarantee that her government will continue to honour its financial commitments to existing social housing by transferring the amounts that were promised to the provinces?

Social Housing May 27th, 1996

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

Three months ago, the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation told us she was about to negotiate with the provinces the transfer of all federal social housing programs.

Can the minister tell us what is the status of these negotiations and whether the federal withdrawal will come with fair and realistic financial compensation?

Employment Insurance Act May 14th, 1996

Madam Speaker, from here on, all those speaking on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois will limit their speeches to 10 minutes.

Following on my colleague, the member for Gaspé, I would also like to add the voices of the constituents of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean to this debate. It is true that today is a sad day for all Canadians and Quebecers. It is also sad for the regions.

This is the last time we will be able to express our views about this plan to reform unemployment insurance. I am therefore speaking from the heart, but I do not expect to be any more successful than my colleagues, who worked tremendously hard on the human resources development committee, in getting the government to budge. I realize that our cries are falling on deaf ears.

I must simply say to you that there is no need to rush at this time. We could-and I implore the parliamentary secretary-we could take the time to review the whole issue of unemployment insurance.

For my region, it will mean approximately $25 million less in the economy annually. And yet, we still have the highest rate of unemployment in Canada, and have had for years. I must tell you that this reform is unfair towards a region such as mine.

This is not what we need in the region. We do not need a blow like this. What we need is help finding a solution. People from my region are proud people who are not afraid to work. We want to find a solution.

This reform is a direct hit on students, women, and seasonal workers. And yet, they made their opinions known, they were consulted, they even sent petitions here. What became of these consultations? All across Canada, these consultations were just a sham. No attention was paid to them, and why not? Because the reform was based on preconceived ideas, on false principles.

They said to themselves "Now then, we are going to reform the system, for too many people are taking unfair advantage. There are people who are cheating the system. We find it hard to understand, there are jobs out there but nobody to take them". Instead of looking at this situation, the decision was taken to try to get at everybody, yet it is not true that everyone is out to cheat the system.

Moreover, at no time in the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, and even less so publicly, has the government laid its impact studies on the reform out on the table. They have been incapable of telling us what the effects of the reform would be on students, on young people. There has been nothing to show what the effect will be on seasonal workers.

It is only when the thing comes into effect that we will see that perhaps somebody has goofed, that this might not have been the way to go, but by then it will be too late. Far too many people will have had to pay, and to pay through the nose, for this unjust reform.

My colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois have said that, yes, reform was needed, a review was needed, but the review needed to be fair and honest and to allow everyone to benefit from it. That is why my colleagues in the Bloc have moved amendments, amendments which I am not even sure have been looked at properly.

I sat through six hours of the committee's meetings, and from what I saw, the folks across the way paid no attention to what my colleagues were saying. The apparent attitude was "No problem, we will just wait and see how it turns out. We have a plan, and that is the way we will go".

I think that they are on the wrong track, for this reform does nothing more than to encourage people to hold down more than one job, and the jobs involved are mainly precarious ones. This reform will also bring pressure to bear on wages, not upward pressure, but downward. This gives you an idea of what can happen.

Under the old system, seasonal workers, for example, had to try to accumulate the required number of weeks in order to become eligible. Under the new system, they will have to negotiate a number of hours of work with their employer in order to reach the required minimum. You can imagine easily what will happen in small industries, in small and medium size firms where there are no unions. This will cause serious problems between employers and employees. This will have a negative impact on the reform as a whole.

This piling on of salaries will inevitably lead to the creation of "McJobs" all over the place. They will say to someone: "I offer you ten hours of work this week, but do not come in next week. Then the week after that you will again work ten hours". This vicious circle will prevent many people from becoming eligible.

The result will be that people will hold simultaneously an increasing number of jobs. One "McJob" here, one "McJob" there, a better one in order to accumulate a sufficient number of hours. This situation will lead to family unrest, since there will be a social impact, because of irregular work schedules for instance. This new work pattern or work schedules will force people and families to adjust. Children and the mother are often the ones who have to bear the consequences of such changes.

Since you are telling me that my time is almost up, I will conclude by saying that this is a sad day, considering that we are going to vote on this bill tonight.

I would like to tell you about three workers from back home who recently explained their situation to a reporter.

These people said, and I will be very brief: "Instead of taking it out on the unemployed, the government could come up with much more effective decisions. It could take the surplus from the unemployment insurance fund and try to create jobs, provide better training and so on, by creating legislation prohibiting overtime for example. Workers at Alcan have shown the federal government that, with less overtime, jobs can be created. In this case, the government must get involved, because the system has to get started.

The workers at Alcan did it. More than 200 jobs were created, and that is not counting indirect jobs. Moonlighting as well must be monitored. The federal government missed the boat in failing to keep its promise to create jobs.