Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 1997, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Divorce Act February 14th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, again, it seems to me I answered that question. First, I want to express my surprise at hearing the Reform Party member rave about the Conservative and Liberal representation in the Senate. It seems to me he should hope instead that some Reform senators would be present, as was the case previously.

We, Bloc Quebecois members, say that the Senate is a completely useless institution in our parliamentary process. Moreover, in my speech I made reference to our party's political option, which is known throughout Quebec, since we were elected by discussing it openly. Once Quebec achieves sovereignty, the issue of whether the Senate is useful or not will become moot. The Senate will simply disappear.

Once this happens, our Canadian friends can certainly choose whatever institutions they wish to have, through whatever process they select. If they want an elected Senate because it would better meet their concerns and expectations, we will certainly not object. We will take note of that, and we will watch the implementation of such a measure. We, Bloc Quebecois members, have absolutely no use for the Senate, now or in the future.

Divorce Act February 14th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I thought I had answered that question, but I thank the hon. member for asking me to clarify my point. It is very simple: we are opposed to the Senate getting involved in this matter. We do not object to the fact that a committee should follow up on these issues.

On the contrary, I pointed out that, while we do not think the proposed formula, that is the establishment of a joint committee of the House and the Senate, is the appropriate solution, we certainly intend to take part in the work of that committee and to state our point of view, in the best interests of our fellow citizens.

Divorce Act February 14th, 1997

-and which continue to serve one or the other of these parties, or as my colleague from Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup has just pointed out, both, more often than not. These people, who totally lack the legitimacy of having been elected, hinder things at every turn.

I referred to the comment my hon. colleague for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup made earlier, and I will take this opportunity to call attention to his efforts regarding the uselessness, not the usefulness, of the Upper House. My colleague was the spark behind a petition tabled in this House after doing the rounds of Quebec. You will recall that in excess of 30,000 of our fellow citizens called for total abolition of the Senate.

In the years since 1993, every chance it gets, the Bloc Quebecois has initiated this debate, or taken part in debates calling for the abolition of the Upper Chamber. In reference to the very option of the Bloc Quebecois and the reason for its existence, that is Quebec sovereignty, we feel that the Upper Chamber is not the only thing that is superfluous. So is our presence here in the House of Commons

We therefore hope that, as soon as possible, a new country will appear on the North American scene, a country to be called Quebec, which will be able to establish good relationships with its neighbours, not just to the south, but to the east and west as well. Then, we will be able to concentrate on debates focussed on finding solutions, instead of wasting time discussing the uselessness of the Upper Chamber and, more often than not, having to do as we are today, pick up again on something that they have decided to demolish.

Since we are talking about the Senate and its purpose in life, although more often than not, what it does in the legislative sphere is pretty useless, the Senate does have a purpose. As I said, it is a kind of Club Med for former Liberal and Conservative party organizers which allows them to travel all over the world at government and taxpayers' expense.

It also allows organizers with the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party to work full time on organizing and fundraising for their respective parties. In the case of the Conservative Party, if it had not been for the presence of Conservative senators in the other place during the past three years, not much would have happened on the political or organizing side in the party, since here in the House, it has only two members, including the hon. member for

Sherbrooke, whose salary is largely paid by the taxpayers of Sherbrooke so he can act as director general of the Conservative Party.

And more often than not, the hon. member is not in the House, because he is too busy rebuilding a party which in any case will disappear in the next election. And the same applies to a large number of senators whom I will not identify, since everyone knows who I mean.

The fact remains that Bill C-41 is extremely important for all families with children which, for various reasons, have to separate. These children do not only suffer the emotional shock of separation but also suffer economically as a result of a decision made without their consent and often without consulting them. I repeat, they suffer the impact of such decisions, justified though they may be.

Bill C-41 is an attempt to deal with a problem that has been severely criticized by many people across Canada and especially in Quebec. The government wanted to deal with a problem that came before the Supreme Court with the Thibaudeau case, and the court's decision is well known, because as a result, support payments paid by a spouse are still deducted from that person's taxable income and added to the income of the person receiving them on behalf of the children, an important point.

I do not have the statistics before me, but from memory I would say that over 90 per cent of the time women are the ones receiving support for children in their care and the ones obliged to add this support to their income.

Their former husband, who has often faded into the woodwork or is hard to locate, often fails in his responsibility. When he does fulfil his responsibility, he gets a tax deduction, whereas his former wife, who has custody of the children, has an increase in her income and is obliged to pay tax on much of the child support.

This is unfair. Bill C-41 wants to put an end to this. When the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice spoke in the House, he repeated what the representatives of the Liberal government had said, and what had been said of course by the members of the Bloc Quebecois. In Quebec, we have been aware of this situation for a number of years and, as we have in many areas, come up with solutions that are not only original but fulfil the needs and expectations of those concerned. I am speaking obviously of the guidelines that will be given to accommodate the establishment of the support payment.

In Quebec, we have already set a number of criteria. The federal government can do the same. The bill provides that the government may order that provincial criteria apply. This would avoid a double standard in the distribution and calculation of support payments.

My colleague from Lévis mentioned this earlier. In the case of divorce, federal law obviously applies, because divorce is under federal jurisdiction. In the case of separation, the Civil Code will apply as it does to marriage. As we have said on many occasions, the situation is a bit of a paradox, but nevertheless not unlike the constitutional issue. Whereas marriage, or union, comes under Quebec law, divorce or the break-up of the union is under federal jurisdiction.

This is the very thing we have been trying to explain to our colleagues across the way for decades, and we seem to be having a bit of a problem getting the message across.

Coming back to the bill per se, Bill C-41 provides an opportunity to include the criteria established by the provinces. The Bloc Quebecois spoke out publicly against this. It is not that we disagree, on the contrary; we insisted that the criteria established by Quebec or any other province should take precedence over those established by the federal government. We feel there is no need for the kind of paternalistic attitude the federal government displays more often than not in different areas in the name of imposing national standards.

As I indicated at the beginning of my speech, the Senate made three amendments. The first one provides for the establishment of a joint committee of the House and the Senate on child custody and access. The Bloc is opposed to this amendment for a very logical reason. We believe the Senate should not interfere in any way with the preparation or consideration of this bill. There is no need for a committee on child custody and access.

For this provision to make its way into the bill, it has to have been approved by the government through its justice minister. The Bloc Quebecois will make sure to sit on this committee to defend the views of our party of course, but also those of the people of Quebec.

Another Senate amendment would lift the legal obligation to pay for the children's education until they turn 25 and let the courts decide instead. The Bloc Quebecois agrees with this amendment. In Quebec, this issue was settled by jurisprudence following an interpretation of the civil code. For us, it is a matter of fact. We certainly have no objection to the inclusion of this provision in the bill.

Finally, the third amendment made by the Upper House would have both parents provide for the child instead of just the parent paying alimony. Again, the official opposition agrees with this amendment. The problem was raised in committee by Bloc members. Furthermore, in its own guidelines, the Government of Quebec looks at the income of both parents.

That is the position of the Bloc Quebecois on the Senate amendments. I will conclude my remarks by saying a few words about the need, in this kind of debate, to focus on those we are most concerned about, and I am talking about children of course. It was with our children in mind that we wanted to settle this matter.

It is important to point out that the child support we are talking about in discussing the determination of the amount and the need for it to be fair and equitable is the support paid to ensure what I would call the optimal development of the children, and not to support the spouse.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, children have no business paying for the decisions made by their parents, even if these decisions are warranted to ensure the well-being of the children as well as the adults.

In other words, we must make sure every precaution is taken not to penalize the children, who already have to deal with the emotional trauma of separation.

I do hope that, this time, the House will pass this bill, with amendments, so that it can be implemented as soon as possible.

Divorce Act February 14th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-41, which, as was mentioned earlier, has been sent back to us by the Upper Chamber, the Senate, where it was amended, after having been passed by the House of Commons a few months ago.

We therefore find ourselves once again in the situation that has arisen on several occasions during this Parliament of having to go back over debates we have already had because senators, more often than not for lack of enough to keep them busy, decide to review a bill and make amendments to it.

In this case, three amendments were proposed by members of the Upper Chamber and I will come back to them during my speech.

I would like to take a few minutes to deplore the state of affairs I have just described. The House of Commons is made up of representatives from throughout Canada, who have been elected by their respective constituents to represent them in this House and to introduce and pass bills meeting the needs and aspirations of the public.

The nature of our parliamentary system is such that another Chamber, the Upper Chamber, or the Senate, whose members are not elected, may, for all sorts of reasons, more often than not partisan, hold up the legislative process by intervening to amend bills, thus delaying their implementation, often with unfortunate and even disastrous consequences for many members of the public.

We must speak out against this meddling by representatives of the Senate who are, I repeat, not elected. They have been appointed by various governments. We know how senators get to the Upper Chamber. In the great majority of cases, they were selected for purely partisan reasons. There are exceptions, of course, and most senators are men and women who have served the Liberal or Conservative parties at some time in the past-

Petitions February 14th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of submitting a petition signed by 44 constituents. This petition is timely, since the budget will be delivered in a few days and also because the Minister of Finance happened to be with us when it was signed. This petition points to the level of taxes on gasoline. The petitioners ask Parliament and the Minister of Finance not to raise the federal excise tax on gasoline in the upcoming federal budget.

I do hope this government gets my constituents' message.

Supply February 13th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I have two points to raise. First of all, the results of this infrastructure policy, or rather program, to which our colleague from Ottawa-Centre alludes, are not necessarily what he says they are, as far as job creation is concerned. One might challenge the figure of 100,000 jobs created by the infrastructure program.

But I do not want to get into that, for I have just two things to point out. First, of course the infrastructure program has had a beneficial effect, but it has been a limited effect, both in the number of jobs created and, especially, in their duration. The jobs were created for very short periods, that is the length of time it took to construct or renovate certain infrastructures.

As for the proportions, that is the regional distribution of infrastructure spending, here again, Quebec did not get the share it was entitled to expect, as is the case for all federal spending. I would say that, if the action of the federal government were fair and equitable for Quebec, we would not need an infrastructure program, modern programs of various public works. We would have the jobs Quebecers really need, quality jobs, permanent jobs, to ensure that our families can develop and live decent lives.

That is what we expect of our governments and, unfortunately, that is not what we have received from the federal government.

Supply February 13th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I do not think, unfortunately, that you will allow me to repeat my entire speech, but I would have to do so to explain to our colleague that, no, I do not agree with his claim that the government's planning was marvellous and resolved all the problems in the area of transport.

Quite the opposite. I have shown that the government has no transportation policy and that its decisions served simply to transfer responsibilities to other levels of government.

When our colleague for Ottawa Centre says we must trust in the community and that it is a good decision to allow local people to decide the future of their equipment, I agree with him. However, it must not happen any old which way. The government has resolved its budget problems on the backs of the provinces without regard to the consequences.

I repeat the example of what is happening in Montreal at the moment. A court handed down a terrible decision yesterday. Huge delays will result from this decision preventing the local community from restructuring Montreal airport services.

The Minister of Transport was questioned outside the House. In response to a question on what he intended to do about ADM's situation in Montreal, he said it was not his business, that he had set up a local group and that decisions were to be made by these people. This is typical of this government's policies: it transfers responsibility without regard to the consequences.

No, I do not agree with my colleague's assessment. On the contrary, I think real policy should be formulated on co-operation with all levels of government and take financial consequences into account first, to ensure the future of transport.

Supply February 13th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to take part in this debate on the Reform motion criticizing the Liberal government for its transportation policy, if we can call it that.

After listening to the remarks made by the Minister of Transport in this debate, I too wanted to say a word or two. I ventured a question to the minister, but I will come back to that later, because I was not satisfied with his attempted response. The people in my region who are interested in airports in the Eastern Townships will not be satisfied either.

I would like to raise two points. First, I would like to address airports, because, to listen to the minister, the Liberal government has resolved just about every problem there may have been in that area, when the reality is, to say the least, quite different, especially nowadays.

Just look at what is happening in airports, particularly in Montréal, where there is a real farce being played out; this is the only way this situation, which has jeopardized the future of airport operations in Montreal and has had a negative impact on all of Quebec, can be described.

Where has the Minister of Transport been doing during this time? What has the Liberal government been doing about the situation in Montreal, with people in the industry quarrelling over whether Mirabel or Dorval airport should be maintained? They ended up in court, where a judge made a questionable decision resulting in delays the magnitude of which we do not know but which, I repeat, could have untold negative consequences on the future of airports in Montreal.

What did the Minister of Transport do? He washed his hands of the whole thing. That is the policy of the Minister of Transport and the Liberal government on airports. At least, that is what it is in Montreal; they are washing their hands of it. So, I wonder how the minister can rise in this House and rave about the decisions that he and his predecessors made.

Let me give you another example of the kind of policy that this Liberal government boasts about. The minister's predecessor, who is now the defence minister, is known for his ability to casually destroy what is in place, as can be witnessed on a daily basis during question period and in light of the decisions he has made in every sector for which he has been responsible. We can see how the former transport minister, namely the current defence minister, did not care either about the real impact of his decisions on those concerned.

Let me give you a specific example which involves the Sherbrooke airport. You will remember that, a few years ago, this government decided to give up its responsibilities in the airport sector, particularly as regards regional and small airports. This decision was made primarily to dump the Liberal government's deficit on the provincial governments and on regional authorities. Not only did this government offload its responsibilities onto others, but it did not even bother to make sure the facilities which it wanted, and still wants, to get rid of, are in good enough shape to be used by those interested in taking them over. This is exactly what is happening with the Sherbrooke airport.

I raised the matter in the House. I questioned the former transport minister and the Secretary of State responsible for Regional Development on this issue, and we are still waiting for a decision that would ensure the runway is in reasonable shape before local authorities take over the Sherbrooke airport.

What are local authorities asking for? What is needed to repair this runway so that it is adequate? An amount of $1 million is necessary. Again, we have been waiting three years for a decision. This is the type of policy favoured by this government, which, as we have seen in other areas, simply offloads its responsibilities

onto the provinces, without looking at the real consequences of these decisions.

In the case of the Sherbrooke airport, I am convinced we will get a positive answer, because an election will soon be held. I am also convinced the Secretary of State responsible for Regional Development, who is the member for Outremont, will visit the regions in the coming weeks, probably right after what will certainly be a pre-election budget, to announce that the government will give a $1 million subsidy to repair the Sherbrooke airport's runway.

But why did the government wait for three and a half years to make this decision, considering that the stakeholders have had to wait all that time before proceeding with other improvements? Let the government make its decision.

This is what is being passed off as policy in the area of transportation. In the meantime, while they are refusing minimal assistance of $1 million for the Sherbrooke airport, they are going to spend millions of dollars on the Montreal fiasco in the hope of arriving at a logical, intelligent decision, not to mention the tens, even hundreds, of millions of dollars that the Pearson deal will cost.

We must not forget that, during the 1993 election campaign, the present Prime Minister, who was the challenger at the time, promised to cancel the contract the Conservatives had struck with their friends who had contributed to their campaign coffers and who wanted to take over Pearson and make huge profits.

The Prime Minister said: "I am telling you, if you go ahead with this deal, we will cancel it after the election". That is what they did, but how did they do it? They did it in such a way as to still be able to do everything the Conservatives would have liked to have done, which was to benefit their own friends.

The Pearson affair is still dragging on through the courts, and we are going to find ourselves footing a bill that will easily top hundreds of millions of dollars. Here again, I am sure we will not learn the results during the election campaign. We will have to wait, just as in the case of the events in Somalia, until after the election to really find out what went on.

In the meantime, the present Minister of Transport is telling us that one of the factors in his policy is to recognize that a large percentage of trade is towards the Asia-Pacific region, and that rail transportation in the direction of the Port of Vancouver must therefore be improved.

It is obvious that there has been unbelievable growth in the Asia-Pacific region. It is even more obvious that the Port of Vancouver is located in the Minister of Transport's home province. On the eve of an election, this is the kind of coincidence that can be helpful when meeting with future voters, those who will decide whether or not to renew his mandate; to go and tell them that all funds will be directed towards his province will probably be of help in an election campaign.

Members will also recall that the former Minister of Transport pulled a very similar stunt when he cut the Crow rate for rail transportation, literally throwing western farmers not just millions, but billions of dollars in compensation. The bill has been estimated at something like $3 billion, while an amount of only a few hundred millions of dollars has been mentioned for all of eastern Canada as compensation for ending the program of transportation subsidies. The double standard is obvious.

Meanwhile, what is going on with the railways in eastern Canada? It is obvious that improvement was called for. For years, we have seen CN, a public company, and CP-supposedly private one, listed on the stock exchange, but it thumbs its nose at its stockholders, or so I would say-both doing everything in their power to discredit shipping by rail.

How did they do so? They provided their customers with no service whatsoever, which eventually gave them the opportunity to say that the customers were abandoning shipping by rail in favour of shipping by road. Once that finding was made, there was only one decision that could be made, of course: to abandon a rail line.

I will give you the example of a situation that occurred in my riding. When I was told about it, I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I had to go there to find out for myself. A lumber business in Lac-Mégantic, Industries manufacturières Mégantic, is a major purchaser of American wood. Naturally, it used to used the railway connection with Maine to get its supplies.

When its carloads of lumber arrived in Lac-Mégantic, they were left at the rail yards and another work crew with an engine, working out of Sherbrooke, a hundred kilometres or more from Lac-Mégantic, had to come bringing other employees to pick up the car or cars that had been left there and take them to the company's yard, although this could very well have been done by the other train on its route. This was, supposedly, not possible because of the collective agreements involved.

When they had put up with this for years, with the enormous costs it entailed, the tremendous delays, it is not surprising that decision makers in the industry took another tack. Anyone would have done the same. When we see that a company is not capable of giving us the service we expect, we take our business elsewhere.

It is crystal clear that the sole purpose of this approach was to downgrade railway transportation. Finally, they got much what they wanted. Today the network is being dismantled. We should realize that it was our taxes, the taxes of everyone in this country which for years helped to finance the development of this railway network throughout Quebec. We should also realize that the global trend is not toward eliminating but increasing the use of railways

for the transportation of goods, since people have realized how expensive it is to keep trucks on the roads.

According to estimates by the Société d'assurance automobile du Québec, a single truck did as much damage to the road face as 24,000 or 28,000 cars. When we consider the hundreds and thousands of trucks on our highways, the cost is enormous.

Surprisingly, this is the responsibility of the provinces, so here in Ottawa, they could not care less how much it costs to maintain our highways, since they do not pay for road maintenance. If we really wanted a genuine transportation policy, I heard a Reform colleague put a question to the Minister of Transport about development of networks of SLR or short line railways, which will take the place of the companies I mentioned earlier, CN and CP.

When we consider that this government came to power three and a half years ago and is supposed to have a transportation policy, it is amazing that when the following question is put to the Minister of Transport at the end of this government's mandate, "how will your SRL policy work", the minister cannot give us an intelligent answer. This is proof positive that they do not have a transportation policy. What will be the consequences of this appalling lack of vision?

Today, old branch lines are being abandoned, I see this in my own region, and my Bloc colleagues have seen this as well. Hundreds of kilometres of tracks are being abandoned without any indication of being salvaged for further use. Meanwhile, our highway system will deteriorate even more.

When, 10, 15 or 20 years from now, we have to decide to rebuild our railway network because we realize it makes no sense at all to leave trucks on the road and that we should use our railway lines to better advantage, we will have to spend millions and even billions of dollars to correct a situation this government has allowed to deteriorate.

Supply February 13th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for allowing me to put a question to the minister. Unfortunately, I am not as optimistic as he is regarding his government's transportation policy, particularly as regards airports.

I have a concrete example and I would like to get the minister's answer regarding airport transfers, more specifically the transfer of the Sherbrooke airport, in my riding, which has been delayed since the government implemented its new policy. This transfer is simply not taking place, because those who are prepared to take over the airport, and who have already taken steps to that end, are asking that the facilities be in a reasonable shape. In order for these facilities to be in a reasonable shape, they are asking that, before giving up its responsibilities, the federal government provide $1 million in assistance to repair the runway.

My point is, and I will conclude-

Excise Tax Act February 11th, 1997

In moderation.