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

Excise Tax Act February 6th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate, which has not surprisingly attracted a great deal of interest. I would first like to address a very important aspect of wanting to bring in the sort of reform being proposed in Bill C-70, the bill dealing with the GST. I want to talk about the confidence the public must have in our institutions if the decisions the government takes are to become reality.

As I have said, this element of trust is a basic principle in many of our institutions, particularly in the area of taxation. We know that it is a basic principle of tax law that a citizen must file his tax return, and it is presumed that this return is accurate until proven otherwise.

The same is true in the justice system. A person is considered innocent until proven guilty. This principle also applies here in the House, where our rules of procedure prevent us from calling a colleague a liar, and require us to presume, particularly during oral question period, that when a minister gives a reply, he is telling the truth.

Clearly, this element of trust is a fundamental part of our institutions. Unfortunately, when it comes to this extremely important bill, the element of trust is missing. It is missing, and this will have enormous consequences, because members of the public, who are watching us and who must suffer the terrible effects of this bill, will quite rightly rebel, because they do not have confidence in our institutions or in the elected officials who must make decisions.

They have many reasons for expressing this lack of trust. I will give a few well known examples still in the public eye right now. There is the Airbus affair, which has shown us the Minister of Justice tangled up in something that looks more like a settling of political accounts than a real case that supposedly needed clarification.

The reputation of former Prime Minister Mulroney was attacked. The current Prime Minister and Minister of Justice got so deep into trouble that, on the advice of their own solicitors, they eventually made amends and apologized. After dickering for months and wasting millions of taxpayers' dollars in legal fees, they ended up apologizing, saying that a mistake had been made in the Airbus affair and that former Prime Minister Mulroney not only had done nothing wrong but that his conduct should never have been called into question.

The same thing is happening in the tainted blood scandal, with the Krever commission. Documents were destroyed. Obviously, the commission can no longer have access to these documents and use them to make recommendations in its upcoming report.

The same thing is also happening with the Somalia inquiry. The defence minister has just put an end to the mandate of the Létourneau commission, in a highhanded way, in my opinion. He has just decided that the hearings would have to be completed by the end of March and that the commission would have to submit its report by the end of June. However, several witnesses have yet to be heard, and the public is convinced that more remains unknown than known.

These examples show the impact of trust in our institutions, or the lack of it. This is why Canadians no longer believe in their representatives and, more often than not, are cynical about the electoral and political processes. This threatens the future of our institutions.

Bill C-70 is a case in point. During the last election campaign, the Prime Minister himself, the Deputy Prime Minister and all the Liberal candidates kept repeating that they would scrap the GST. Not only was the GST not scrapped, but it was maintained and, through Bill C-70, it will be made even worse. The bill establishes two tax systems: one for the maritime provinces and one for the rest of Canada. This is unbelievable.

This will destroy the confidence that is so necessary for our institutions. Mr. Speaker, you are impartial, but I am convinced that your Liberal colleagues think this is all a figment of my imagination. They think I am making these comments just because I belong to the Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, and must therefore criticize the government. They say we are trying to destroy the Liberal government's good image every chance we get.

Be that as it may, yesterday, a Gallup poll showed that 29 per cent of Quebecers believe the Prime Minister of Canada and member for Saint-Maurice is doing a good job. Merely 29 per cent of the people in Quebec believe he is doing a good job. This means that 71 per cent believe he is not doing a good job. Therefore, the people do not have confidence in the Prime Minister and his government. In Quebec, in the upcoming election, once again, the people will express this lack of confidence in the Liberal government by re-electing members of the Bloc Quebecois.

Hopefully the Bloc Quebecois' performance will reflect the people's lack of confidence in the government expressed in this poll. I have no doubt that the people of Quebec are fully aware of the bad, unfortunate decisions made by this government, which will adversely affect our fellow citizens in their daily lives. Just

think of the unemployed, whose benefits have been cut every year since the Liberals came to office, just to reduce the deficit.

I will close by saying that, these past few years, not only did the Bloc Quebecois denounce bad decisions-and we will keep doing so for the rest of this government's mandate-but we also proposed major changes which, if implemented, would improve our tax system.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the outstanding work done by our colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, with the help of the hon. member for Anjou-Rivière-des-Prairies and the hon. member for La Prairie, so they could table a second report this week. This is unprecedented in Canadian history. I see that Liberal members agree. This is a precedent; the official opposition tabled a realistic, practical tax reform proposal.

1997 Special Olympics February 3rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, all this week, the Special Olympics for athletes with mental disabilities are being held in the Toronto area.

This year's Winter Games bring together more than 2,000 athletes from 73 countries in five disciplines: downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, ringette, figure skating, and speed skating. From the first Special Olympics, held in Chicago in 1968, our athletes have always brought honour to us.

I send a particular greeting to the only member of the Quebec delegation, Josée Bournival of Saint-Étienne-des-Grès in Mauricie. I encourage everyone in Canada to follow the progress of our athletes in Toronto.

We wish the best of luck to each and every one of these athletes. They certainly deserve our full admiration and encouragement for their participation in these special Games.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act December 13th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of this debate the thrust of this bill has become increasingly clear. I think it is important that we keep it in mind. I will briefly review all the comments made by the opposition up until now.

This is what we have been trying to show all along, this bill, despite its main thrust, which is quite laudable, namely to streamline food inspection, bringing all responsibilities and prerogatives pertaining to food inspection under one single agency, the means used to reach this objective are totally unacceptable. They are unacceptable and will be counterproductive.

We have already shown, quite eloquently I believe, that the fact that the president is to be appointed by the governor in council is par for the course, but that chances are he will be chosen more for his political affiliation than for his ability to do the job.

Moreover, we have shown how extensive his powers will be, including selecting his own advisory board, in other words the power to be consulted on issues of his choice, to ask for advice of his own choosing that will go along with what he and the government, regardless of its political stripe, want.

Moreover, it was decided, under clause 10 or 12 of the bill, not only to exempt the hiring of employees and inspectors of the agency from the Public Service Staff Relations Act, but also to set the terms of employment the president would see fit to set. In other words, this amounts to eliminating the labour code and the long standing tradition we have in this country to entrust negotiating

labour agreements to a credible association controlled by its members.

We have seen, a little further on, under clause 24 I believe, that the agency will be able to hire whomever it pleases, including outside professionals. We know what the hiring criteria will be in such cases. Of course, this is going to be about consultants, whether legal or otherwise, who will have contacts, people who are on good terms with the agency and known as loyal servants, not of the government, but of the Liberal Party.

In the motions in Group No. 8 which we are discussing now, there is a reference to the report. There is an action plan the agency will have to submit and that will be subject to public scrutiny. How are they going to proceed? As I said earlier, it will be all behind closed doors, to speed up the process, so no one will realize what is going on and they can do things on the sly more often than not. The agency will have absolute control over the action plan it wants to develop. In other words, the agency will not seek the advice of the advisory board or the local people when preparing its action plan, but will seek the advice of outside consultants, which it is free to choose.

That is totally unacceptable and that is why the hon. member for Frontenac and agriculture critic has put forward amendments which hopefully will be considered on the basis of their merit and accepted. What do these amendments say?

First, when agency officials produce an action plan, we do not want this action plan to be put on the shelf and forgotten as soon as it is tabled in this House; it should be referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture instead.

The members of this committee, government members and opposition members alike, take the future of the farming industry to heart, as, we assume, everyone else does. They want to ensure that the right decisions are made.

These members will scrutinize the action plan submitted by agency officials and will be in a position, at least we hope so, to make the necessary changes before the plan is tabled in the House, put on a shelf and forgotten by everyone. That is what our amendments are all about.

We want the agency's action plan to be referred to the agriculture committee for consideration and approval. This is not too much to ask. I cannot see how the Minister of Agriculture or the members of the government party could object to such a sensible motion.

What else is suggested? That the agriculture committee, in considering the plan, listen to the groups concerned, those representing farmers from coast to coast. They could tell us whether this action plan is practicable and will achieve the stated goals at a reasonable cost.

We could also hear from the consumer associations' representatives to find out whether the inspection procedures meet the standards or whether the inspection should target another kind of industry or product.

We could also hear people from the industry. They could tell us whether the agency's action plan will allow them to operate normally, and whether it will give them credibility with the consumers and guarantee the good quality of food for consumers.

Before we develop an action plan or have it tabled in the House, only to meet the same fate as thousands of reports tabled here, that is being shelved for good, it would be worthwhile, if this process is to be of any significance, to have it referred to the agriculture committee. The committee could hear from all those interested and make sure, even if we have doubts concerning the agency and its executive, the action plan is at least credible and can be examined and judged on its merits.

I hope the government will consider these amendments and recognize the enormous amount of work the agriculture critic and his colleague have done.

Since this is my last speech before we adjourn, I would like to extend to you my best wishes for the season.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act December 13th, 1996

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, are you saying I am right? Are we debating Group No. 8?

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act December 13th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, we are now discussing the amendments in Group No. 8-

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act December 13th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I will ask for your indulgence in allowing me to raise all the points I consider necessary.

Before oral question period, when we resumed consideration of the motions in Group No. 7 amending Bill C-60, I said that the people were really concerned by this bill, as I tried to demonstrate.

I gave the example of my colleague, the member for Richelieu, as well as of my other Bloc colleagues who represent ridings where the people are different but share the same concern, that is the need to have credible institutions, institutions that they can trust. Unfortunately, as we said before and will keep repeating, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that is proposed in Bill C-60 contravenes this objective.

I also said it was important to recall the guidelines underlying this bill. We have clearly shown that the president of this institution, who is appointed by the governor in council, will naturally have to show some gratitude to the government which appointed him. The appointee will undoubtedly also have to prove his political allegiance, and we hope that this person will still be required to have the skills needed to perform his functions.

That being said, if the bill is not amended, the advisory board will, in turn, be composed of members chosen by the cabinet-appointed president, who will use the same criteria to set up an advisory board that will be every bit as political.

As though that were not enough, there is even a clause which has very few equivalents, if any, at the federal level. It excludes the agency from the application of the Public Service of Canada Act.

Why, Mr. Speaker? Is it to save money? Is it to make things easier and the agency more efficient? No, Mr. Speaker. It is simply because they want to have total control over the hiring process, because they want to circumvent existing legislation and get rid of the unions. They want to hire whoever they want.

The very high risk of patronage was clearly established by my colleagues. And there is more. The list of arguments against this bill is endless. What do we find in clause 16, which is what amendments in Group No. 7 deal with?

Clause 16 will exempt the agency from section 9 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act when it hires experts from outside the public service. That section would have fouled up the government's patronage scheme, so out it goes.

Clause 16 circumvents section 9 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act by providing that the agency may, with the approval of the governor in council-that is cabinet-on the recommendation of the Treasury Board-that is a minister and one of the most partisan members of this government, namely the hon. member for Hull-Aylmer-"procure goods and services, including legal services, from outside the public service of Canada".

When I read this clause, I can already see Liberal lawyers in the eastern townships opening their cheque books to make contributions to the Liberal Party since they will be the ones to get contracts from the Food Inspection Agency. That is a fact. We are about to give them a very nice Christmas gift.

Fortunately, our colleague, the agriculture critic and member for Frontenac, was vigilant and saw through it. He too has denounced this situation and proposed amendments which would create a framework for that process.

Mr. Speaker, in the minute I have left, I want to address the amendments put forward by my colleague from Frontenac.

What my colleague is proposing is that before procuring services from outside the government, namely consultant services, we make sure that we do not have the needed resources inside the federal public service. At a time when we are asking all public administrations to cut services and improve efficiency, it goes without saying that when the government needs consultant services it should look first among its own public servants. Many of them are very competent. We should use their services. That is what we are asking.

This is only common sense. It is terrible to have to raise the issue in this House at this time in our history. We understand that when the time comes to dispense patronage, and I will conclude on this, nothing can stop our Liberal friends. The economic context requires that everyone be cautious about the way they spend money, except if they contribute to the coffers of the Liberal Party.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act December 13th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, there are three or four minutes remaining before statements by members. This means I will rise again after oral question period, but I want to start dealing with the amendments moved by the Bloc Quebecois on clause 16, which in fact is Group No. 7 of amendments to Bill C-60.

As my colleagues have been saying since we started our speeches, we see there is a guiding principle behind this bill, which is the establishment of an iron-clad patronage system. We will be able to show this also with clause 16, which will ensure the creation of an agency that will have lost all its credibility even before it is set up. People will not trust the work done by the employees of this agency. Who will be the real losers in this bad decision based only on political partisanship? It will be the people in general, because, if we do not trust the work done by the agency's employees, we will not trust the inspection and this will have disastrous consequences.

The real question we must ask at this stage is whether the Bloc Quebecois' concern I just mentioned is also a concern among the people.

Let me say that I am very proud of my colleagues from different ridings, urban ones, such as the hon. member for Mercier, who just spoke to this bill, semi-urban ones, such as my colleague from Saint-Jean, or rural ones like my own. I am thinking more specifically of the hon. member for Richelieu, who is known to be close to his constituents. If there is a member in this House whom we can say is close to people, it is the member for Richelieu.

You are indicating that my time is running out, Mr. Speaker. I will conclude and resume after question period.

But allow me finish what I was saying in praise of the member for Richelieu. I was saying he is close to people, he is even perhaps the equivalent of the worker-priest in Montreal, a few years ago, who drove a taxi and whom we used to call "the Good Lord in a taxi". Using the example of the Montreal "Good Lord in a taxi", we could say the hon. member for Richelieu is Mr. Democracy. If a member like my colleague from Richelieu condemns this bill, it is because the whole population of Quebec is condemning it.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act December 12th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I rise a second time this afternoon in the debate on Bill C-60 to establish the food inspection agency to point out not an anomaly, in my opinion, but rather a precedent.

At least it will represent a precedent in the federal public service. When I rose earlier, I said that, like my colleagues, I was against the minister having sole responsibility for appointing the members of the advisory board, because of an extremely high risk of patronage, which could discredit the advisory board and, consequently, any study submitted to this board and any opinion provided by the board to the minister.

Clause 12 of the bill, regarding human resources, states that:

The agency is a separate employer under the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

It says "separate", and each word is important because, normally, the legislator is not supposed to use a word or phrase that does not mean anything. When Parliament speaks, it is supposed to mean something.

If clause 12 states that the agency is a separate employer, that means that the agency will not be subject to the Public Service of Canada Act.

It states further, at clause 13, that "the president has the authority to appoint the employees of the agency". It is there in black and white. So, it is obvious that the president, as several members said-and the hon. member for Frontenac just did-who is appointed by the governor in Council, in other words by cabinet,

with all the risks attached to such appointments, such as appointing partisan individuals whose only qualifications would be their membership in the Liberal Party, once this president has been appointed, carefully chosen because he is one of their own-so he will do exactly as told-, this president will be totally free to appoint whomever he wants as an employee of the agency. They are civil servants. We are talking about civil servants who will go everywhere, in restaurants, in businesses, to inspect the food quality, the cleanliness of the premises.

Those are the people referred to. The bill provides:

  1. The Agency is a separate employer under the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

  2. (1) The President has the authority to appoint the employees of the Agency.

(2) The President may set the terms and conditions of employment for employees of the Agency and assign duties to them.

This is really a first. I would like a member of the government to stand in the House and explain who, when a minister gets such legislation adopted, gives such extravagant powers to an individual who can be appointed on account of his political views.

This means that not only is the advisory committee mentioned previously-which could be essentially partisan-thus discredited, but that the agency as a whole can lose its credibility. This is very serious. This means that any individual, any business owner or institution could question the quality of these inspectors' work.

I am convinced that no union, no shop steward representing public servants was consulted about this clause, which exempts the food inspection agency from the application of the Public Service Staff Relations Act. In other words, these people will not be public servants. They will be employees of the agency and they will always be governed by its terms and conditions of employment. This is what clause 13, which reads as follows, provides:

13.(1) The President has the authority to appoint the employees of the Agency.

(2) The President may set the terms and conditions of employment

This is unprecedented. Such a clause must be condemned. This cannot be tolerated. We must have absolute confidence in the inspectors' work, given the importance of their role in our society, which is to ensure that the food consumed at home or in public places is of good quality, and that it is prepared in a clean and healthy environment.

The agency must not become a haven for patronage. We not let this happen, otherwise the work of all these people, the work of the whole agency will come into question. This would prove that Quebecers are right to demand-not merely ask-that this inspection work be done by inspectors accountable to the Government of Quebec. We experienced a similar situation of distrust in the seventies.

Some will remember the tainted meat scandal in Quebec. At the time, food inspections were not conducted properly, and hardly anything was checked. The situation was brought to light and it was found that organized crime had infiltrated the food inspection sector.

Following a commission of inquiry, the Quebec government took a number of measures to correct the situation, including the grouping of all inspectors under a single organization, and the implementation of strict measures to give credibility to this activity.

The most serious harm that has been done at the time is that, because of some laxness in food inspection, for many years and even still today, some people have doubts when they see the seal "Quebec approved".

After 10 or 15, I do not know how many years, people in some circles still hesitate to put their faith in inspections by the Quebec government. That is exactly what will happen once we have an agency run by the government's buddies, those who contribute to its slush fund. Moreover, inspectors will be selected by these people.

I do not have to tell you what will happen when the time comes to hire inspectors. The first card one will have to show is not the qualification card granted by some college, but a small red card with a maple leaf on. That is the one to be shown. That is the way things will work.

And then, they want the agency to have some credibility. They want inspectors to go do their inspections anywhere they please and would have us believe that, after the officer from the Liberal Party has visited their business, people will feel really secure. That is sheer nonsense.

I cannot think for a single moment that such provisions will be maintained. My colleague from the agriculture committee is right to criticize the way Liberal government is proceeding in that regard. The government seems intent not on dealing with problems but on creating a lot more. They think the solution lies in leaving any future decision making to people they alone have confidence in, that is Liberal hacks. That seems to be the solution.

They could change the title of the bill and call it the Liberal Food Inspection Agency instead of calling it the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Then at least it would reflect a de facto situation and people dealing with those inspectors would know what is what. With the provisions as they are, there will be some doubts. People will wonder if the inspector is qualified, competent, if he took courses and was trained for the job, who hired him, and so forth.

We cannot accept such a situation. That is why, unless the amendments put forward by my colleague are accepted, we will not be able to support such a decision.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act December 12th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-60 which, as was just mentioned, will establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The purpose of this bill is to group under a single agency all the federal government's food inspectors.

First, I want to mention, like the hon. member for Trois-Rivières just did, the excellent work of my colleague for Frontenac, who is the official opposition's critic for agricultural issues. Thanks to his vigilance and to his knowledge of the industry, he has been able to raise basic issues relating to agriculture and more specifically to the creation of this agency.

My first point was mentioned by the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, but it is worth repeating: Quebec cleaned up its food inspection sector several years ago already. It grouped together its inspectors who, until a few years ago, were spread out in several departments of the Quebec government, and at the municipal level. The situation was such that a municipal inspector would go to a restaurant to check certain things.

For instance he could check the sanitation of the premises. Then, the health department inspector would come along to check the quality of the food. He would be followed by the agriculture department inspector, who would check the origin and quality of the food items. This meant a series of visits, of forms to complete, and of reports which, more often than not, would not bring about any changes, but would definitely create problems for those trying to do business in an intelligent manner.

Giving a single agency responsibility for all this at the federal level makes sense, but in our opinion, we repeat, the federal government ought to abandon its responsibilities in this area and reach an agreement with the provinces, most of whom, I am convinced, are doing this efficiently, providing quality inspection services and ensuring that our fellow citizens feel secure when buying food for home consumption or when they eat out.

Having said this, passing this bill will not solve the problem. In examining Bill C-60, we note three terrible flaws. Clause 10, which refers to the establishment of an advisory board, as there are in a number of other areas, provides for an advisory body made up of people from a variety of backgrounds, who ought to be competent in the field in which their expertise is sought, people who meet together to study the various issues put before them, in order to

report to the minister and to advise him, so that he may make good decisions. That is self-evident. No one is against the establishment of such an advisory board.

Yet we see in the bill before us that it is the minister who will be appointing these men and women, who will be sought out in related fields, and the minister alone will have the power to appoint them to this advisory board.

That is where we start wondering and having doubts about the credibility of this advisory board. If the minister alone decides who is to be appointed, it seems likely, considering the way the Liberal government operates, that there will be few people on this board who do not already share his point of view.

In our experience, more often than not, the Liberal government will appoint its friends, people who are clearly identified with the Liberal Party, organizers and fund raisers who will be asked to advise the minister.

The hon. member for Frontenac, the opposition critic for agriculture, told me that in the agriculture committee, he put the following question to witnesses who came to share their expertise on a bill. He asked them where they were from and what their ties were with the Liberal Party of Canada. One of them, who was from Saint-Hyacinthe, said quite frankly that he owed his appointment to the fact he was Liberal.

I see the Minister of Health who agrees with me, and who thinks it is quite normal to proceed in this fashion. It is the Liberal way. My colleague managed the incredible feat of having this put on the record of the House. There it is, printed proof of this practice of the Liberal Party. I am sure no one will challenge this.

This practice has an inherent risk, and that is our message. We are very critical of this section which gives the minister so much power. If this advisory board consists of people who are, I would not say subservient, the term is perhaps a bit too strong, but who tend to think along the same lines as the minister because they share the same political views, go to the same political meetings, give funds to the same political party, how can we trust the integrity of these people when the time comes to make decisions and advise the minister?

Will these people, who were appointed because of their political allegiance, have all the freedom, all the independence they need to be able to tell the minister when he gives them dossiers they will have to think about and when he asks for their advice, will they be able to muster the requisite credibility, freedom and independence? Will they be able to tell the minister: "Here are the guidelines you suggested; they do not reflect what the people in this sector want; they do not meet the needs of the public"? Hardly.

This is not to say that being a Liberal means being incompetent. Conversely, to be competent, you do not have to be a Liberal. I think the first criteria should be competence. That is what my colleague mentioned in his speech, and what is reflected in the amendments he is proposing.

In fact, the Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, through the hon. member for Frontenac, suggests that the Standing Committee on Agriculture appoint these people. I think this is a very useful suggestion and I also think that every time the federal government makes appointments, its appointments should be scrutinized by the various parliamentary committees.

In this way, thanks to the way the parliamentary committees operate, because their members represent the government and also the various opposition parties, we have an opportunity to question these people, and I will conclude on this note, and have the assurance that wise choices are made so that the best candidates will be chosen to give the best possible advice to the minister.

Regional Airports December 11th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the same response as I got last week. I get the impression that the hon. secretary of state has acquired the same bad habit as his colleague, the Minister of Human Resources Development, but I will give him another chance to answer a real question.

Since a number of major projects are now on hold, pending a federal government decision, can the secretary of state tell us when he intends to settle this matter of vital importance to the economic development of the regions?