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

Department Of Health Act April 22nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address this bill which seeks to create a superfluous department-

Petitions April 22nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I wish to table a petition bringing to the attention of the government the fact that Le Patriarche Inc., a toxicotherapeutic organization, is currently having a hard time bringing volunteers into the country since the visas required are either refused or granted with overly long delays.

The organization's operations are therefore jeopardized. A review of Immigration Canada regulations is desirable to allow foreign volunteers wishing to come to Canada to work to do so with complete peace of mind.

The Budget April 15th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to discuss the budget recently tabled by the Minister of Finance.

I feel quite comfortable doing so, because I since had the opportunity to consult my constituents and to hear their comments, which I will convey to this House.

First, taxpayers and residents in my riding of Chicoutimi feel that the Minister of Finance totally missed the boat. They simply ask the government to get its revenues-since the revenue minister is here-where the money really is, starting with family trusts.

They also want the government to review the whole corporate tax system and to abolish tax shelters.

The Minister of Finance is ignoring these calls from ordinary citizens. With the support of all government members, he continues to take what little is left in the pockets of the poor, the unemployed and students.

By contrast, no measure is proposed to recover the $6.6 billion owed to Revenue Canada. Nor is there any plan to review the whole tax system. In this budget, we note that, in terms of income tax, more than $5 billion will be collected from individual taxpayers this year, as compared to a mere $700 million from corporations.

Several of my colleagues have mentioned the fact that, as part of its deficit reduction effort, the government was helping itself to money that workers and employers have contributed to the UI fund, thereby creating an artificial deficit reduction. This astronomical amount could have been put to other uses, such as creating employment.

By his actions, the Minister of Finance is disguising his deficit. He even went so far as to say that he would continue to dip into the UI fund in coming years. It is a disgrace.

Incidentally, business people, workers and unemployed people will be holding a protest march in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, on May 4, with the support of the Conférence des chambres de commerce du Saguenay, to show the Minister of Finance that they disagree with his action and also to let the Minister of Human Resources Development know that they disagree with his reform. I can assure you that no activist will be taking part in this demonstration.

The fact is that the Minister of Finance is completely blind to the reality, and he is pulling his government along in his wake.

This budget also contains some measures which endanger another sector of activity that is very important in my area, in Quebec. The announced cuts to the dairy industry place it in jeopardy. Quebec's agrifood industry will be facing cuts of some 32.3 per cent.

For some years now, we in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean have seen the number of dairy farms decrease. Federal government funding, estimated at some $8,000 per farm, allowed milk producers to keep production costs low. You can see right away what will happen. You can guess what the results of this cut will be: increased cost to the consumer. Production will likely be lower because of that.

According to a number of people in the region, quotas could leave the region because dairy farmers will not be able to support their operations on their own. Once again, more unemployment in a region that has long been number one in the country for unemployment, a dubious honour we could readily do without.

Yet, when the Liberal government announced abolition of the Crow benefit, it automatically included a $3 billion compensation for western farmers. Here, the subsidy to the dairy industry is being abolished, but where are such measures this time? Nothing has been planned. A fine country, is it not, with equality for all? The true face of those people across the floor is a two-faced, double standard.

Comparisons are unavoidable. Thus the Liberals have always had two speeches: one for Quebec and one for the rest of Canada. Things are different from one place to the other. Things are watered down. There is, for example, no more mention of distinct society status for Quebec. Now they are talking simply of a cultural homeland in North America, a homeland where the Americans may perhaps have something to say. Why not state right now, clearly, that Quebecers are a people, yes, a people?

Now, I would like to go back to taxation. The minister did promise a review of taxation. But no. What better thing did he come up with? He came up with the clever idea of setting up a committee with people coming from very important companies that have the pleasure of using tax havens. It is ludicrous. However, until this committee makes its report, money is flowing out of the country causing unemployment to rise.

This budget, which we in the Bloc described rightly as a mediocre make-up session, hides the truth about Canadian finances. It makes promises whose fate is the same as those the famous red book made. When will jobs be created? When will the GST be abolished? When will real steps be taken to improve the economy? Nothing. Not even a glimmer of hope.

However, people were hoping for something better. Everything is falling on their heads at the moment. They were especially hoping for jobs. So the famous promise of jobs is a smoke screen. The Minister of Finance has announced he would double summer jobs for students. He is simply putting back what was there before.

Last year, in my riding, half of this funding was cut. This year, it is being doubled, so we are back where we started from. This has happened all over Quebec. Once again, it is window dressing.

We have come to the point where the government has lost all credibility. It is unable to revive the economy, to keep its promises, or to create jobs. Furthermore, the government is about to pass a law that would deprive thousands of unemployed workers of UI benefits. This reform is an admission of failure by the government.

The budget tabled by the Minister of Finance is not a responsible budget. It simply implements what the minister announced earlier and tells us what to expect in the future. For example, if you are 60 years old today, will you remember in five years that you may no longer qualify for the old age pension? Again, this is nothing but a smoke screen. The Minister of Finance must go back to the drawing board so that he can finally meet the people's expectations.

Statistics Canada March 27th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a painful answer. Can the minister explain to us why the census commissioners had to have their priority lists referred through a member of his office, in this instance Franco Iacomo?

Statistics Canada March 27th, 1996

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

Yesterday the Minister of Industry attempted to play down Liberal patronage in Statistics Canada recruitment. Yet, patronage has reached such a point that Statistics Canada management found it necessary on March 25 to issue a memo, of which I have a copy, recommending that its commissioners act with intelligence and discretion in order to avoid, and I quote: "-having people in high places halt the process again".

I call upon the minister to inform this House. Who are the people in high places who halted the process? Are they from his department or his office, because quite obviously they are not from Statistics Canada?

Department Of Public Works And Government Services Act March 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member first raised the issue of businesses which, through public works, should normally be able to bid and participate. As we can see, Bill C-7, clause 16 in particular, creates all sorts of difficulties for businesses wishing to deal with the federal government. Remember that this department handles more than $10 billion a year in supplies, services, equipment, and so forth for the federal government.

No doubt small businesses, whether they are architect or engineering consultant firms, have a very hard time doing business with the government. But if you look elsewhere, you realize that some businesses having many more employees, larger companies, through lobbyists and employees they pay just to gain access to government, go all out to negotiate contracts involving large sums of money and contribute, through lobbyists, to party election funds. Eventually, the party's coffers are well filled, so members of this governement do not have to beg for $2 here or $5 there to fund their activities.

My mother used to say: "They were born with a silver spoon".

The Bloc Quebecois gave itself a transparent way of getting funds, which allows people to contribute minimal donations. Our money comes from the grassroots. As donations must come from individuals and not businesses, companies cannot interfere in the contracting process. The same situation does not apply to companies contributing to the Liberal or Conservative election funds, because these companies expect their favour to be returned some day. For Canadian and Quebec taxpayers, this is where their money goes down the drain.

Department Of Public Works And Government Services Act March 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-7, which is a resurrection of Bill C-52, an act to establish the Department of Public Works and Government Services and to amend and repeal certain acts.

The purpose of this bill is to join the former Department of Public Works and the Government Telecommunications Agency.

This bill could have done a lot more, however, for the people we represent, especially as regards the transparency the government is supposed to display before its electors. I see no transparency in the bill before us, on the contrary.

Since its election, the Bloc has been asking the government to be totally transparent in connection with its expenditures. The Department of Public Works and Government Services is the department where the federal government should be cleaning house from top to bottom. It is a shame this bill does not improve transparency or access to information. Yet this is what the government promised in the red book, but, as we know, the promises in the red book fade.

I would first like to raise the matter of the awarding of federal contracts. At the moment, anyone outside the government or the public service trying to submit a bid must deal with a very cumbersome system. The department has set up a series of impressive obstacles to confound those trying to understand how contracts are awarded under the federal system.

There are in fact innumerable contractors who are looking for contracts from the department and who initially fail to discover and subsequently fail to understand all the intricacies of the government structure. I should have kept track of the number of constituents who complained either to me or to my staff about this, since the elections in 1993. Things are so complicated, the federal government itself paid agencies in order to understand how this administrative approach works.

Here is an example that I personally consider a good one. Last year, the centre d'incubation technologique d'entreprise-Cité 2001-in the Outaouais region trained some 40 business executives to enable them to find their way round the chaos of federal contracts. The centre had noted that only 1 to 5 per cent of federal contracts awarded in the region, totalling some $2 billion, had been awarded to Quebec contractors. Not a very high percentage.

So, Cité 2001 studied the computerized federal bidding system for these 40 businesses. The results were decisive, and a number of these firms now do business with the government. However, we have to ask ourselves why these people did not bid previously. Why were they not doing business with the federal government? Were things too complicated, was there too much paperwork or were bids made and then dropped because the criteria were too difficult to target?

So a publicly funded pilot project was needed in order to look at the system and understand how it works so people could deal with the federal government. If ridicule could kill, I know a lot of people who would be out of it.

Not all regions were as fortunate as the Outaouais. On the other hand, the Outaouais is not fortunate enough to be represented by members of the Bloc Quebecois. So much for that. In regions some call remote, just imagine the hard time our businesses have in dealing with the federal government. Of course they complain to their MPs about the process, eligibility criteria, or the awarding of contracts they consider unfair. This is the case in my riding.

As for transparency, in 1994, my colleague from Richelieu wanted the federal government to pass a law similar to that of Quebec concerning political party funding. Of course, the Liberals refused to go along with this.

Even though it was rejected by the House, the Bloc Quebecois adopted these measures for its own funding. Yet, voters expect elected representatives to serve the common interest, not those of some privileged few. This bill would deny businesses the right to finance political parties.

Voters who give political parties $5, $20 or $40 know very well they can expect nothing in return. But no one can convince me that a business is giving the party $50,000 just because it likes the MP's looks. How can a $3,000 a plate dinner bring together people who expect nothing in return? What goes up must come down.

This political practice hides many dangers. One of them certainly is that friends of the government may be made aware in advance of contracts to be awarded by the Department of Public Works. The same logic applies to lobbyists. Lobbyists have much influence on the government because the companies or interests they represent are more often than not committed to a political party and, therefore, the government owes them something.

Nothing in this bill would add to the openness of the contract awarding system. I hope the new minister will not follow in the footsteps of her predecessor as regards information given to members.

The Bloc Quebecois believes it is very important to encourage accountability of members, to keep them informed and to consult them regarding the awarding of departmental contracts in their ridings. Indeed, whatever their political affiliation, members are elected to represent their ridings in Parliament.

MPs, or at least we members of the Bloc Quebecois, know perfectly well that our responsibilities are not limited to legislative considerations. We have to study the country's affairs. We have to vote on a considerable number of things, but when it is time to check what is going on in our ridings to see if decisions made by the government comply with what was voted in the House, of course we are denied this right.

A number of my colleagues have already mentioned the fact, because I am not the only one concerned with matters of openness, as you very well know. I want to quote again part of the letter the previous Minister of Supply and Services sent me when I requested a detailed list of all contracts over $100,000 awarded in my riding since October 1993.

The minister replied that his department could not produce statistical data on contracts broken down by riding and that no document could provide the information I wanted. Finally, the minister said that, in order to answer my questions, he would have

to make thorough searches in various sectors of his department and that, by and large, this would entail an excessive workload for his department's employees.

Is this not the admission that this department's files are an incredible mess? It is also an obvious lack of collaboration and openness. The government could put in place a public monitoring body whose mandate would be to scrutinize contracts and thus ensure transparency.

Such a body would be asked to list, on a monthly basis, all government contracts, in a simple, accessible and easy to understand manner. These lists would always be available. This is a step a government serious about transparency would take.

As an elected representative, it is my duty to know what the federal government is doing. How can an MP do his job seriously and earnestly in the House if he is denied the means he needs to check if the decisions made here reflect what is going on in the field. Believe me, sometimes, a lot is going on in our ridings.

Giving members on all sides this kind of tool would restore the credibility of the political world, a world which has an urgent need to regain some prestige these days. This would provide people with a new instrument. At long last, the federal government would become accessible to all. I do not know if members opposite work this way, but for my part, when I think that something could be good for them, I tell them as soon as possible.

It is desirable, on both sides of this House, I am sure, for people to have confidence in their elected representatives. Accordingly, the government should make sure such confidence is truly deserved.

I find it deplorable that we, the members of the official opposition, have to intervene on such a fundamental issue. Our position is clear, and I believe it to be extremely important, since it shows the concern we have, and must have as elected representatives, with regard to controlling public expenditures, useless public expenditures which have such an impact on the government's economic health.

We should never forget that we have an inheritance to pass on to our children. It must be worthwhile. It is not by throwing money out of the window, by wasting public funds that we will deal with the problem. In a way, we must, all of us, become auditors of government spending. We must do all we can to stop the haemorrhage that now characterizes this spending. I really do not understand why the government will not innovate. I also fail to understand why it will not seize the opportunity this bill provides and finally practice transparency.

One of the principles we should all consider is the possibility of public servants blowing the whistle on the squandering of public funds. They know about most of the goods and services acquisition contracts. There is often some waste, it can go unnoticed. Therefore, we must implement a mechanism whereby public servants would have the right to blow the whistle on the squandering of public funds and whereby that right would be recognized and valued. Government expenditures are, for a good part, generated by public servants and that is quite normal given their role within the public service. However, the government machinery is not perfect. The annual report of the auditor general makes very disturbing revelations in that area.

Public servants know very well that decisions are made but that they may be questionable. Let me give you a small example. This is something a public servant told me last week. The Canada Post Corporation launched a complete restructuring of post offices in my riding. They centralized all of their operations in one building. The old post office building will be disposed of. In addition to post office employees, there were also human resources development employees working in that building and they too will be relocated in a few weeks. Last week all the interior doors of the offices of that building were replaced. Where is the logic? The civil servant who mentioned it to me was shocked by that, and he was right. Why is the federal government doing such things? Because this civil servant fears reprisals, he does not intend to go any further in his whistle blowing.

This is a very simple example, a very small one. One can easily imagine that there are many more cases of the same nature.

We can also question all the moves that are planned in various Quebec ridings by the Department of Human Resources Development. The minister responsible announced the closing of employment centres in several ridings. What will such moves cost? In my riding, there will be a refitting of the building where these civil servants will be housed. Are we saving money? Are we consulting the people involved in order to get the best prices? Of course not. Everything is done on the sly. Even managers, those who are supposed to make decisions, very often do not know what is going on: guidelines come from higher up.

Civil servants also deplore another situation, and that is contracting out. In 1992-93, Treasury Board valued at $5.2 billion service contracts awarded outside the federal government. In my opinion this is enormous.

The Bloc Quebecois would have liked the department, in its Bill C-7, to establish provisions forcing the government to regulate contracting out in a proper way. Public servants would agree with such a code. It would guarantee that when the government contracts out it does so only after having exhausted all its resources.

How can you ask a company to put all its people to work on a project when public servants are being fired or shunted into a siding? It makes no sense.

The government must therefore put in place a mechanism to respond to the people's expectations in terms of contracting out. In the present context, government employees and their unions certainly see contracting out as the evil thing to kill. If employees see contracting like this, it is because it is done any which way. The government must therefore clearly set out its policies concerning contracting out and how it uses it.

If such a mechanism is put in place, I am convinced public servants will no longer see contracting out as another way of stealing their jobs. Contracting out is necessary, but I repeat, it must be used advisedly.

Since you are signalling me that my time is up, Mr. Speaker, I will conclude by saying that the Bloc Quebecois, during the study in committee, made some proposals that were worthy of consideration. Naturally, the Bloc Quebecois is concerned with transparency. The government should take in consideration what the official opposition put to it. It would feel that much better for it.

Access to information is crucial to the public, businesses in general and elected representatives. It would be a proof of good faith if the government were to accept putting these principles in its bill, but it refuses to listen. I am forced to believe that it is satisfied with the system. It had condemned it when the Conservatives were in power, but now that it is in control, it is going overboard.

I truly hope that the people will remember that the government is refusing to give them information about its spending. I also hope the people will remember that it voted for a legislation that put it in competition with their businesses.

Like the people of Lac-Saint-Jean, I do not trust this bill. It does not respect the most fundamental principles of democracy. It does not respect the moral values that must be part of each and every one of us. Worse still, this bill gives more power to a minister who already had too much.

Since I was elected to defend the interests of the people I represent, I cannot accept that they be tricked by supporting a bill such as this one. I will vote against the bill, and I invite my colleagues to do the same.

Department Of Public Works And Government Services Act March 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

In the misunderstanding that arose over Bill C-3, you must, at some point, have asked the Bloc Quebecois, through our speaker just a moment ago, the hon. member for Anjou-Rivière-des-Prairies, to speak to Bill C-7, when normally, if procedure had been followed with Bill C-3, I would have had the floor for 20 minutes.

Given the situation, will you allow me to speak for 20 minutes on Bill C-7?

Statistics Canada March 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Senator Hervieux-Payette described the government as totally upright. Would the Minister of Industry say that his actions related to the 1996 census are in keeping with the government's rules of conduct?

Statistics Canada March 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, obviously, the Minister of Industry is in the process of introducing at Statistics Canada a patronage system that is incompatible with the very role of the department.

By taking it upon himself to appoint Statistics Canada's census representatives on a partisan basis, is the minister not guilty of patronage in the performance of his duties?