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

Employment Insurance Act May 14th, 1996

Madam Speaker, I have a short question for the hon. member. First, I remind him that there are many people who are unemployed in this country, and many more, perhaps twice as many, who are on welfare. In the answer he just gave to my colleague, the member essentially said that the federal government should continue to do what it is doing, namely to dump its responsibilities onto the provinces and let them fend for themselves.

The government wants the provinces to provide job opportunities to the unemployed and welfare recipients, through their programs. However, it reduces its transfers to the provinces by $7 billion.

Does the hon. member agree that the federal government should constantly offload onto the provinces the problems that it cannot solve?

Francophone Communities May 6th, 1996


Employment Insurance Act May 6th, 1996

Sure. It wakes certain people up when they are told that. Of course it is upsetting. It is distressing for them to be reminded of one of their promises. The one that brought them to power was the promise to create jobs, but they have not created any. Of course, it is hard to accept.

I am really wondering about how we could make this government understand that a majority of Canadian citizens do not want this reform. How can we go about it? Everywhere we go, we are told this reform is inequitable, unfair and inefficient. Those are terms we often hear.

It is a reform which will make citizens poorer still. And who are those who are becoming poorer? Mostly young people, women and those who will be left out. People will be stuck in the same vicious cycle: a small project here, an odd job there, then UI benefits, welfare and so on. It will become impossible to get out of this vicious cycle.

This reform is ruining collective instruments we had elaborated here, based on a social consensus. People accepted to share some of the common wealth. Today, they do not care anymore about this great principle. They even use the UI fund surplus not to create jobs but precisely to reduce the deficit. This money would be better spent and more profitable if it were used to create jobs, all the more so since the government is no longer contributing to the fund. As a consequence, it now belongs to workers and employers.

We have no right to take money in this fund belonging to those who pay into it. If we do so, it should not be to erase a deficit but to try to improve things for workers.

I was in my riding last Saturday. I walked with union leaders, priests, seniors, young people, board of trade representatives, city councillors, business owners, men and women of common sense.

They were demonstrating with me to tell the government they did not want this UI reform.

So there was another demonstration. I did not see any activist behind it, although they say that all these demonstrations are organized by people who are paid to do so. I did not see that. It was organized by social services, humanitarian organizations and community groups, all ordinary people.

However, not one single Liberal Party representative was present at that demonstration. None. There were no Liberals to answer people's questions. What I saw were ordinary people, people who want to change their lives, people who think restructuring work and the labour market is important, but that it should not be done the way it is being done now, with this bill.

There was also a group which seized that opportunity to bring me a petition, a group of people from Ferland-et-Boilleau in the Chicoutimi riding, a town of approximately 680 people. More than three-fourths of them signed the petition. Unfortunately, I know we will have to vote on the bill this week and maybe there will not be time to have the petition certified by the clerk and tabled in the House. Therefore, I am speaking on their behalf. They said: "Please ask the government to abandon its unemployment insurance reform".

These small-town people are honest, hard-working and a good part of them do not have a steady job as we say. They do not have that opportunity over there. Why? Because most of them find their livelihood in logging and a few others in tourism. You will have understood that they are seasonal workers, and we know what the bill has in store for them. They know full well, they do understand that this reform will push several of them onto welfare. As welfare recipients, they will no longer depend on the federal government, but on provincial governments.

This is another way to shovel the deficit and an ever increasing debt into the provinces' backyards. Seasonal workers can be found just about anywhere in the country. I say it again, they are the ones who are going to be the most severely penalized by this reform. Why? Because they cannot find work year round, a permanent job is a thing of the past. It does not exist any more, and the present reform does not take this fact into account.

Sure, there are other kinds of seasonal workers: forestry workers, people working in the tourism industry, construction workers; we cannot say that the construction industry is very healthy in Canada right now. The housing sector is a bit like the fleet of taxis around here, it is going to ratchet.

This means that the value of houses is decreasing because people can no longer afford to keep them in good repair, which has a domino effect on municipalities since they have to lower the assessment. We cannot say that the construction industry is healthy. Work in this sector is truly seasonal.

Since you are indicating that my time is running out, I will stop. On Saturday, I was asked to do something else; people told me to make sure that the government would not adopt this reform. I could not make such a promise. When I make a promise, I try to keep it.

There are a few hours left before we are called to vote on this reform; members opposite should be thinking about what has been happening in the last year and a half or two years since we have been talking about this reform, and realize people are going to be forced onto welfare because of it. They should change their mind.

For the sake of all these people, of all the workers who do not waste their time drinking beer-

Employment Insurance Act May 6th, 1996

They have not created any, they have created jobless individuals.

Employment Insurance Act May 6th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague opposite and I would have thought that, following consultations with the various groups and organizations which appeared before the human resources development committee, he would be tempted to try to change the attitude of his government on this reform.

The bill before us-and I am sure my colleague will agree-is based on very dubious assumptions. First, the government tells us that claimants abuse the system. This is totally wrong. When there are no jobs anywhere, when the campaign promise to create jobs is not kept, it is pretty hard to ask people to work. So it is not surprising that the number of unemployed has been continually rising since the 1993 election.

Another assumption of this bill is that jobs are available.

Yes, and about those jobs that are available, we would like to know where they are, who they are for and how they could be filled.

When we have no control over job training, we can ask why jobs are available, because training will be provided in areas where there is no need. Therefore, for this very reason, shortages develop in certain areas, in certain types of jobs, resulting in there being no takers. Is it the fault of the workers? No. I say no it is not the fault of the workers. It is the fault of the federal government, which cannot agree with the provinces to relinquish the field of job training to them.

Training belongs to those closest to the people. We are too far removed here to know exactly what is happening in my region. So, let us leave it up to people in the regions to decide what sort of training they are going to give. So, let us leave it up to the provinces to look after things. That way, we can avoid useless expenditure.

This bill, therefore, is not focussed on the real challenge of the social programs. There is only one way to meet the challenge of the social programs, and that is by creating jobs, and they have not managed to do so. Jobs, jobs, jobs is what they promised. There are none, and they have not created any either.

Employment Insurance Act May 2nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member for Malpeque, but I did not understand the allusion he made to the bill at the beginning of his comments. I will simply remind him that, when his government formed the opposition and the former Conservative government proposed an unemployment insurance reform, Liberal members made a big fuss to show that they could not support the Conservative government.

Today, this bill includes just about the same measures. Today, the Liberals feel that these changes are appropriate, while before they fought them tooth and nail. This is a case of double standard; the Liberals' outlook changes depending on where they sit in this House. Such is the true face of this government.

When legislation is introduced, it should apply to all concerned. However, this bill will not apply to all jobless people in this country, since more than half of them will not be eligible for unemployment benefits. More than half are excluded. What will happen to these people?

These 50 per cent will find themselves in pretty dire straits, and will include people from all groups, including young people, women and single parent families. Again, what will happen to these 50 per cent of unemployed people who will not be eligible for unemployment benefits? They will end up on the welfare rolls, of course.

And who will have to pay for this reform? The taxpayers in every province concerned. Consequently, in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, governments will have to increase social assistance budgets to deal with this new problem.

If the bill is passed, it will be disastrous for the country as a whole. Year after year, my region and my riding win the prize for the highest unemployment rate in the country. On behalf of my constituents, I have to say that enough is enough. We can no longer tolerate this situation.

The unemployment insurance issue has much more to do with the current lack of jobs. Did the members opposite propose programs, initiatives or ways to create jobs? No. The government prefers to introduce measures such as this one, which, incidentally, will not cost it anything, since employers and employees are the ones making direct contributions to the unemployment insurance fund.

Of course, all the money collected does not necessarily go to those to whom it belongs, the people who contributed. A fair proportion of it is even used to reduce the deficit and the debt of our country. That is something the people in my riding will not put up with. What the people want most is a bill or programs that will create jobs. The bill before us does not deal with the real challenge we face concerning our social programs. The real challenge is, of course, to create jobs.

How do you expect our young people to complete their education in a decent fashion if we do not make it possible for them to find a good job when they graduate, not a precarious and low paid job like we see too many of these days, but a worthwhile job? They should be able to get jobs that will allow them to work enough hours to earn a decent salary, enough to pay back their student loans and live normally. By that I mean being able to take on new responsibilities, such as having a family of their own and being able to provide for their children's education. I do not mean having children just for the sake of having children and not giving them anything, or just leaving them with a debt and deficit; I mean giving them the collective tools they need to grow and prosper.

In my region, this bill has been criticized by community, humanitarian and social groups, by workers, by unions, by less organized people, by everyone. Does the government not hear all these people? Despite what the government would like the public to believe, these people are not all extremists, they are not all militants and they are not all lazy. They are not all separatists either. There are federalists who have opposed this legislation.

Why are we unable to reach those people across the way? Why do they not listen to their hearts instead of engaging in a reform that will involve so many technicalities that the most experienced officials will have difficulty finding their way through them? They will have difficulty solving problems that are submitted to us on a regular basis. We are the ones who deal with people who have problems and who do not know where to go to be treated fairly.

In closing, I would like to share with you an experience from the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. Alcan workers there have implemented a formula that creates jobs, and I urge the government to take advantage of that experience. It is a job sharing formula that will create, in the short term, close to 110 jobs and, of course, many indirect jobs.

If the job sharing formula initiated by Alcan workers was applied to all businesses of 20 employees or more in Quebec, it could create 120,000 direct jobs.

The government could follow this example and implement a job sharing formula without dipping into the unemployment insurance fund. We could then spend the unemployment insurance fund surplus. I am sure all Canadians would support such measures which would help us create jobs.

Unemployment Insurance Reform May 1st, 1996

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday May 4, every resident of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region is invited to participate in a solidarity rally. This general mobilization was called for by the regional coalition against the unemployment insurance reform.

According to Michel Desbiens, of the diocesan pastoral board: "The goal is clearly to give the public a chance to express, loud and clear, its disapproval of this reform, which is once again geared toward impoverishing a great many people who would be only too pleased to work. Knowing how precarious the situation of the unemployed in our region is, we can only be outraged by the oppressive and discriminatory measures the federal government

wants to put in place. The people must be able to vent their legitimate anger, and the only peaceful means remaining is a public demonstration".

Budget Implementation Act, 1996 April 25th, 1996

Madam Speaker, in his speech the hon. member talked about many things and nothing at all. He forgot to tell us that the federal government was having all Canadians and all Quebecers pay for harmonizing the GST with the maritime provinces. We will have to pay almost $1 billion for this harmonization. I repeat that Quebec, when it harmonized, did not get any compensation.

Another thing he could have talked about, because we did not learn anything, is that by harmonizing the GST the federal government is interfering directly with the provinces' autonomy since they will lose full control over the taxation rate and the tax base.

In preliminary discussions, the Bloc Quebecois had suggested to the government that it could solve two problems at once in this area. First, abolish the GST and give the whole field of indirect

taxation to the provinces, and then obtain some form of compensation for the federal government's losses. The federal's compensation could have taken the form of reduced cash transfers to provinces.

In this way, the federal government could have maintained its financial balance and the provinces would have regained control of their fields of taxation, therefore their autonomy. Then, we could have done away with the Canada social transfer and each of the provinces would have had the right and the power to manage, and manage completely, the areas of health, education and social assistance.

I would like my colleague to answer the following question: Why have they brushed aside this solution which would have been much more equitable for all Canadians and all Quebecers?

Budget Implementation Act, 1996 April 25th, 1996

Madam Speaker, my colleague opposite was very brief, she addressed only two points in Bill C-31. She forgot quite a few others. She kept silent on many issues this bill is trying to hide.

I would like to remind her that this bill contains provisions on unemployment insurance that were supposed to be in Bill C-12 originally. This morning's gag orders will prevent us from really discussing Bill C-31, also dealing with unemployment insurance, and Bill C-12 at committee stage. So when will we have the opportunity to address these issues?

Bill C-31 amends the Unemployment Insurance Act so that, retroactively to January 1 1996, maximum weekly benefits will drop from $445 to $413. Why is this government introducing the same measure twice? Why use two bills, C-31 and C-12, to enact the same legislation? Is the government afraid of some kind of complication? Does it fear it will not be able to respect the deadlines set in the budget?

Bill C-31 does, in a roundabout way, what the government should be doing directly with Bill C-12. With each new bill, we should be discussing new issues. Will my colleague be happy this weekend when she meets her constituents? Will she be able to explain what is happening with unemployment insurance?

Department Of Health Act April 22nd, 1996

Yes, superfluous. This bill will allow the House to spend over $1 billion and to hire 8,000 people before even treating one person and taking one medical action regarding a patient.

I can understand that members opposite are a bit touchy when questioned about the establishment of such a department, which brings nothing new and which favours overlap more than anything else.

These people of course are very sensitive; they get touchy when we raise this issue. All the more so because a debate like this one allows us to point out some electoral promises in the red book that have still not been kept. When we do that, they fidget and get upset.

The establishment of this department shows us once again that the federal government seeks to act in an area of jurisdiction where it has no authority. I say it once again because this is not the first time this happens, since the House has considered bills to establish other departments also.

Yet, the minister would have us believe that this is an act without much importance, that this is no big deal, as we say where I come from, and that the bill's aim is simply to change the department's name. Nonsense. It is more than that. I will take a few minutes to demonstrate that this is not true.

When we read the bill and look at paragraph 4(2)( a ), describing the minister's powers, duties and functions, we have to pay attention, because that is what the whole bill is about.

This provision says that the promotion and preservation of the physical, mental and social well-being of the people of Canada will be ensured by the department. What a fine plan of action. With such a mandate, however, the minister is using the physical, mental and social well-being of the population to interfere even more in the area of health. This is the federal government's excuse for claiming a legitimate authority over a matter of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. This issue has already been raised in this House, and it has also been raised in other legislatures throughout Canada.

Discussions over this intrusion clearly show that everybody is fed up. The BNA act of 1867 provides for provincial primacy over health. That provision has not been amended, as far as I know. The federal government does not have any power over health except what flows from its spending power, which it interprets in a such a way as to set up departments in areas over which it has no jurisdiction whatsoever. The federal spending power is a licence to do as it pleases.

It is also because of this spending power that this government and the previous one have accumulated a huge debt. While driving us ever deeper into debt, this government is reducing transfer payments to provinces. These payments are being constantly reduced, yet they are made under certain conditions. The provinces can lose them if those conditions are not met. And successive budgets have made cuts.

Let us consider what happened recently in British Columbia, where new welfare measures and structures were put into place. Since these structures and measures did not meet national standards, the Minister of Human Resources Development told the provincial authorities that they would suffer the consequences if they did not move toward those standards, because there would be cuts.

In fact, I do not think that this situation has been resolved. In fact, negotiations between the federal government and that province are still going on. These negotiations are time-consuming and extremely costly. In the meantime, the recipients, the people in need, are getting low quality, substandard services. Therefore, within specific programs, the money allocated to the people in need is not totally spent on them. If we take into account all the money that is spent on management and on discussions at various levels, what is left? Very little, only half of what should have been allocated to the programs and gone directly to the citizens.

However, a lot of existing acts ensure that the doors are wide open-and I say wide open-for the health department to intrude on areas under provincial jurisdiction. There are, for instance, the Criminal Code, the Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drugs Act, where the central government is getting fully involved.

Of course there is duplication in health care. I have always wondered why members of the armed forces were not treated by the same physicians as everybody else. Why was this kind of health care system created within the armed forces? You certainly know that the army has its own physicians, its own dentists and its own psychiatrists. They have a parallel system for every type of health care service found in a province.

Imagine the costs. Imagine the savings we could make if these people used the services provided by the provinces. But no, the army had to build this large structure that cost a lot of money. Moreover, the army had to have the required infrastructure to accommodate these people, so it built military hospitals across the country.

Let us not forget about the social health services that are mainly for aboriginal people and residents of northern Canada. This is all duplication. Since aboriginal people are under federal jurisdiction, the health department is responsible for them. Duplication, overlap, and at what cost?

I can easily understand why our debt is growing so rapidly. Canadians are making the necessary effort to pay taxes in order to reduce this debt, but the government is not doing what needs to be done. It is creating parallel structures while we can barely pay the interest on the debt.

The federal government has no right to interfere in these areas, but it is doing so anyway. It is doing so with Bill C-18. It wants the right to interfere in the area of health care. This is just one more instrument to launch debates between the provinces, debates that lead absolutely nowhere. Let us leave these rights where they belong.

If members look at the funding aspect, they will see that something is wrong in this bill. Members will recall that transfers to the provinces do not come from the health department but from the finance department.

This is a situation I would call ludicrous. The Department of Health will set its national objectives, the standards to be met if the provinces are to get their money, but it is the Minister of Finance who eventually-although the cost has not yet been calculated-will make the decision, depending on what he wants to have as a deficit or a debt. He will decide what amount will be transferred. He sets the amounts himself without assessing the costs of the national standards.

Putting it more clearly, this means that the Minister of Health tells the provinces what they need to do, and then the Minister of Finance hands over the money: "Manage with that as you can". Obviously, reducing transfer payments indicates a lack of cohesion somewhere. The objectives remain the same, but cannot be met if the financial resources are not there.

In Quebec, what is transferred or not transferred, depending on the mood of the Minister of Finance, is tax points. Naturally, in the aftermath of the massive cuts to health and the Canada transfer to the provinces, Quebec will soon be receiving no more real money, just tax points. What does that mean? It means that the government will have to either limit services or increase taxes in order to provide quality services, yet with less money.

What makes the situation ridiculous is that, once again, the federal government will continue to dictate to Quebec what it must do, while the federal government will not cough up one cent more.

Contrary to what one might think, the Minister of Health plays a very great economic role as well. That economic role has repercussions within each region. When there is a shortfall somewhere, cuts somewhere, the entire population, the entire region feels it. In Health Canada's 1995-96 main estimates, it indicates financial requirements of a little more than $1 billion for operations.

Very often, as I said at the beginning, when that money is spent on infrastructures or discussions here, there and everywhere, there is very little left for medical care for Canadians.

I would also like to focus on the national forum on health, held in October 1994, when we were here in this House.

It was obvious that this government wanted to increase its involvement in the area of public health. Visibility was the watchword of this forum. This government tries to pounce on everything that moves to increase its visibility. Instead of increasing its credibility, it increases its visibility. Flags are going to be flown all over the place; we are inundated with flyers from each department; they are very visible. But when the time comes to provide heath care, the government is no longer visible. It does not believe in high quality care. It would rather have little red flags on paper, brochures, and cheques instead of improving its credibility.

It is no wonder so many people no longer trust politicians. It is very simple. When you do not take any action, when you act solely to be visible, you cannot expect any other outcome.

As a matter of fact, as far as the national forum is concerned, I remind the House that every single province, not only Quebec, openly criticized the government's attitude. Why? Because the government wanted them to play second fiddle with regard to health. In this respect, many people can be quoted. The Conservative health minister in Ontario criticized the federal government, saying that the federal government's attempt to impose its own interpretation of the health care principles should be opposed.

The Conservative premier of Alberta was of the same mind. He condemned the inflexibility of the federal government in that area.

Furthermore, this government reneged on one of the red book promises. Let me quote it. It is said in the red book that "a Liberal government will establish a National Forum on Health", up to here everything is fine, "chaired by the Prime Minister", imagine, the Prime Minister himself will chair the forum, downplaying all other participants, but even that would have been acceptable, "bringing

together for public discussion the major partners and parties involved with the health of Canadians". So everybody was to be on the same level, talking about health problems, with a moderator in the centre who just happens to be our Prime Minister.

In spite of this firm commitment, again stated clearly in the Liberals' red book, the federal government refused to let the provinces participate fully in the proceedings of the national forum on health.

This government wanted to grant provinces observer status only.

As you are indicating that my time is almost up, I will conclude with the following. The provinces are should be the main players as far as health is concerned. The central government should review its intention to cut the Canada health and social transfer. It should no longer offload the deficit onto the provinces. Why? Because this impacts on the quality of health care and adds to the financial burden of each and every Canadian.