House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Bloc MP for Terrebonne—Blainville (Québec)

Won his last election, in 1997, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Budget February 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Finance.

In his budget speech, the minister chose to target the middle-class and particularly middle-income seniors. He has decided to take $490 million out of their pockets over the next three years.

Does the Minister of Finance realize that he is adding unacceptably to the fiscal burden of 800,000 seniors by digging into the pockets of every senior earning over $35,000 to find an extra $560 over two years?

Defence Policy February 17th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague and I totally agree that changing international circumstances demand that we diversify the role of our armed forces and, hence, that we expand the types of training of our military personnel.

My colleague was right in pointing out the role played by the Canadian Forces in humanitarian aid. As a Quebecer, I could also point out that they had an opportunity to show a total control of the situation during the Oka crisis.

I would like to stress the fact that during the two first wars, our forces were able to show their real capability and, in the last few years, they have won the admiration of the world in peace missions.

I would like to give my personal testimony to my colleague. I was in Belgium during the liberation of some Belgium cities by the Canadian army. I was also in Katanga, now Zaire, in 1963, when the Canadian Forces took part in a UN mission of transition that is quite forgotten now in Katanga. So I had the opportunity to admire the Canadian Forces both in their military role and their humanitarian role.

What I would like to stress is that we should not forget in this diversification that eternal peace is not guaranteed. Nothing proves that our role will ever be limited to separating warring parties or bringing humanitarian aid. Nothing proves that we will not be dragged into conflicts of direct concern to us.

The end of the cold war is certainly a good thing, but, though I am neither a soldier nor a strategist, I do not feel that the present situation in Russia is more reassuring than the situation that existed in the former USSR. There are other potential conflicts in which we could be directly involved. The role we should assign to the bases, in order not to close them, should continue to be partly military in addition to the new responsibility, with which I fully agree, of diversified humanitarian help that they should be taking over.

My question to the hon. member is this: Does he not agree with me that we should continue to consider the strictly military role of defence of the territory and participation in democratic alliances involved in possible conflicts, besides this new and purely humanitarian role?

Supply February 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member who just spoke for his approval, basically, of the motion we tabled.

Before answering him, I would like to point out that, as one of my fellow Bloc members said just now, the committee that we are calling for would meet one of the promises made by the Liberals in their red book to examine spending thoroughly. If the Reform Party agrees with our proposal, why are we arguing with each other? We all agree.

Now, to answer the question about the difference between the public accounts committee and the one that we are calling for, as I just said, this is to be a committee with a specific time-limited mandate and increased powers which would go beyond the annual auditing routine done by the public accounts committee and which would tackle a specific current situation that the hon. member said was urgent and current.

It would be an ad hoc committee for the present situation, with increased powers to meet their objective, which, like ours and the Liberals' objective, is to track down unnecessary spending.

Supply February 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, this is at least the sixth time today that we have been told that the committee we are asking for would duplicate the work of the public accounts committee.

The committee we are calling for is an ad hoc committee with a specific time limited mandate and more power than the public accounts committee; in particular, it could look at some aspects of provincial accounting to gauge the overlap between federal and provincial authority. These two committees do not duplicate each other. One is permanent with a specific but relatively limited mission; ours has a precise mission and we want increased power for it.

Supply February 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, in any country, when the tax rate reaches excessive levels, as is the case in Canada now, the ordinary, even traditional discontent of taxpayers towards taxation turns into resentment. And when the people learn that their hard earned money is mismanaged and wasted, such a mess transforms their resentment into frustration.

When taxpayers witness financial mismanagement in a country, there is always a threshold, a limit it would be dangerous for any government to cross.

When, in this country, people see part of the population break the law with complete impunity, they see it is necessary to act illegally to have an unreasonable tax reduced, they see that very rich people are legally exempt of income taxes while others are crushed under the tax burden, social uprising is not far. I am not saying we are there already, but I think, in spite of the infinite

patience of Quebecers and Canadians, it could very well happen. History is full of such cases.

Without going back to the beginning of times, let me remind you of an event we all know about very well. The French Revolution was triggered by nothing else but excessive taxes and the squandering of the royal court. Remember that the main point in the list of demands drawn up by the Estates-General was the existence of a privileged class which paid no taxes.

In Canada and Quebec we have our own kind of aristocracy, a class of people who pay almost no income tax. The marquesses of today are the family trusts. I do not want to get too sordid, but I suggest there is in our country, as there was in France in those days, a toiling and struggling population which is shocked by such injustice and incompetence.

Please do not misunderstand me, Mr. Speaker. Once again, I am not saying the two factors of frustration I mentioned, mismanagement and an unfair taxation system, will lead us directly to a revolution. We are two very patient nations, too wise to let the situation reach that point. In our country the individual is far from ready to attack the state, but to escape taxes, he is quite ready to hide from the system and hide his activities.

That kind of behaviour is spreading and, because of that, our government is losing control over, even knowledge of, a complete section of the economy. Civil disobedience is no longer reproved by public opinion. What a failure, Mr. Speaker, what a decline!

Year after year, the Auditor General, without succeeding in shaking the government out of its lethargy, displays for the public, who eventually becomes blasé, damning examples of carelessness, shortsightedness and waste on the part of previous federal governments. This year takes the cake. And, to my knowledge, the Auditor General, when reviewing our finances, stays strictly within the federal jurisdiction and consequently, does not look into this generous source of administrative abberation and squandering of public funds which is the overlapping of jurisdictions.

Here is a particularly painful example of this mess, in view of its victims, old age pensioners. Let us see what the Auditor General has to say about that. This meagre pension which is, as you know, the only source of revenue for a lot of people, could be increased, without dipping into the public purse, if the $200 million or so in overpayments were clawed back or, better yet, if they were never paid out, thanks to a better managed fund.

If, at least, old age pensioners could be heard by the government when they have a problem! But the Auditor General tells us that there are 17,000 inquiries on a waiting list and sometimes, it takes more than a year before they are answered. And that is not all. Service centres and regional offices receive 4 million telephone inquiries a year, but 7 million calls are either cut off or dropped by the caller, out of despair, I guess.

Overlapping and duplication of services are another source of waste and paralysis, exposed time and time again but always in vain.

A study done by the Treasury Board of Canada in 1991 indicates that in five provinces at least there was duplication in 60 per cent of federal and provincial programs. That situation being obviously profitable to some officials, it is doubtful they would readily propose to eliminate those duplications.

As for those elected, they have ignored to date a situation which they find politically beneficial since it enhances their visibility.

I would now like to talk about duplication, particularly in Quebec. The hon. member for Joliette recently made a declaration in this place and I find it useful to repeat it. "The Bélanger-Campeau Commission has estimated that the elimination of duplication resulting from the sovereignty of Quebec would allow a saving of $233 million in transport and communication costs. This is therefore a potentially important issue, although there is no recent study evaluating the cost of present duplications in provincial and federal programs". The hon. member went on to say that some sources estimate the total cost at close to $3 billion. Those figures come from the Bélanger-Campeau commission whose recommendations were accepted, namely by the provincial Liberals. It was five billion according to them. This is why we ask this House to give the Auditor General, without any political partisanship, the mandate to conduct a serious and comprehensive study on duplication and overlapping in all those spending programs.

In conclusion, it is imperative that we regain the confidence of Canadians in the government's expertise and sense of justice. If not there will be no revolution but we will see the rise of an underground economy in Quebec and Canada. Tax dodging would become socially acceptable, still illegal perhaps but legitimate. Elected officials would be despised. In a word, our model democracy we pride ourselves on, and rightly so, would slowly deteriorate.

To win back the trust of Canadians, we must first have a parliamentary committee review mercilessly all public expenditures, particularly areas of unnecessary overlap between federal and provincial jurisdictions.

Second, the government must put an end to undue tax privileges for the Canadian tax aristocracy. Like the aristocracy which once caused the fall of monarchy in France, these lucky few are not only undermining our finances but are also threatening our institutions, since the public feel treated unfairly in the face of these privileges.

Such is the double price we will have to pay, that is review of expenditures and suspension of privileges, in order to restore in the population the minimum of respect that institutions and governments should command. Without such respect, institutions are in danger.

A last word, inspired by this morning's newspapers. Put in headlines over four columns, La Presse states ``Martin's first budget will hurt''. We knew that. A lot of people are afraid the budget will hurt the have-nots, sparing the rich once again. If the awaited elimination of abuse-ridden tax shelters turns out to be nothing but a snow job, while social program cuts turn out to be too real, the resentment of taxpayers could lead to social behaviour that would make us all sorry.

Social Security System February 3rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, obviously, the question that was just asked is extremely interesting. Would it be appropriate to have common standards? And I presume that the hon. member is wondering whether it would be useful to have the same education standards from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

My answer is no. Of course, there are some common principles but, as I was saying, beyond the virtuous general statements to the effect that education must be aimed at educating and that the language must be good and so on, I do no see the need for Vancouver and Quebec to have the same objectives. I am still saying that it is not necessary for Quebec's education goals to be established in Ottawa.

Social Security System February 3rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, reading, writing and understanding even a very simple text is still a problem for many of our fellow citizens. The problem is even worse for the illiterate and has a negative impact on the development of our society as a whole. In my speech I would like to expand on the various aspects of this problem.

In this country, one adult out of four can neither read nor write sufficiently well to meet the requirements of daily life. It may seem hard to understand that in 1994, this kind of problem exists, even among young people, since schooling has been compulsory for more than 50 years. In fact, today, a whole generation is paying the price of the school reforms that took place in the 60s.

However, schools are not the only culprits. The current trend towards family dislocation is also to blame. Well-known authors have stressed the major impact of the family environment on the child's ability to learn to read and write.

Finally, the private sector has not played the role assumed by its counterparts in other industrialized countries. Seventy-six per cent of Canadian businesses with more than 50 employees in Canada have no policy for training human resources.

And last but not least, there is the federal government's responsibility regarding the high rate of illiteracy in Canada.

I would like to start by commenting on the negative impact of federal involvement in this area.

I condemn the almost inevitable inefficiency of a policy where responsibilities and resources must be shared, discussed and fought over by two levels of government: one which has legal jurisdiction over this area, in other words, the provinces, and the other which for years has insisted on invading this area of responsibility in a totally illogical way which also has been very detrimental to our financial resources. This is typical of the federal government.

Ottawa's failure to support literacy in this country includes the poor allocation of federal resources as a result of jurisdictional overlap.

The hundreds of millions of dollars wasted annually as a result of this overlap could have been used, for instance, to create a pre-school network similar to those that exist in many western countries. The positive correlation between early socialization of children and academic achievement has been stressed repeatedly. As the Deputy Prime Minister said last Tuesday, the years between zero and five are critical.

With the money saved, Quebec, if it had a free hand, would have been better able to help organizations engaged in literacy training and occupational training.

In my own riding, for instance, we have a regional adult education and occupational training service provided by the Sainte-Thérèse, Deux-Montagnes et Saint-Eustache school boards. Their budget has just been cut by 13 per cent, despite the magnificent job they are doing.

Changes in the family structure, as I said before, are also responsible for illiteracy. But does Ottawa do enough to adapt to these new structures? To working mothers? To single-parent families? What is the federal government doing to create a genuine daycare network, as an alternative to pre-school establishments? The private sector is not doing enough? That is pretty obvious. But is there not a case for giving them better incentives to do their share in retraining manpower?

In any case, looking for scapegoats is not going to solve the problem. It is high time to put in place what is needed to fight illiteracy.

Need we recall why action is urgently needed; and why illiteracy is a scourge? First of all, illiteracy cuts people off from their culture. That is clear. Knowing how to read and write is the

key everyone needs to open that door, and the illiterate person who does not have that key cannot enter that world.

Second, there are the practical requirements of daily life in our society which include a minimum knowledge of reading and writing. I am sure the Minister of National Revenue, and it is too bad he is not here, would be very upset if we were not capable of completing our income tax returns and then writing him a cheque. You have to be able to read and write to do that. We also have to be able to read our contracts, bills, and so forth. Need I go on?

Finally, and this is a particularly urgent question today, there is the matter of getting a job. Illiteracy has always been a handicap in this respect. It has barred individuals from the better jobs. Today, the consequences are far worse. In today's society, occupational skills, including literacy, are no longer a guarantee for getting a good job. They are an absolute requirement for any job at all.

Two-thirds of the jobs created by the year 2000 will require at least grade twelve. This means that illiteracy wastes part of our human resources. It undermines our economic development and diminishes our competitive position vis-à-vis countries that are more concerned than we are about the training of their labour force.

In accounting terms, providing sufficient funding to fight illiteracy today is a good investment for the government because it means fewer welfare recipients and a broader tax base tomorrow.

To get a maximum return on this investment, how it is used should be determined locally. Aside from the fact that it is pretty useless to have an army of officials in Ottawa make general, high-sounding statements, it also does not make sense and it is counterproductive in the extreme to claim there should be common standards for a literacy policy from coast to coast, for Canada and Quebec.

Who could claim, unless it is for partisan reasons, that it is not in Quebec, with its distinct culture, that such a policy should be implemented if we are looking for efficiency and not electoral visibility for the federal government.

The best way to avoid overlapping is for the federal government to withdraw from that field. To come closer to that ideal situation, Quebec and Ottawa should at least sign that agreement giving Quebec control in that area.

To conclude, I would like to congratulate the hon. Deputy Prime Minister for the pathetic plea for the unemployed she made on Monday. She said that our society was sick with unemployment and that one of the causes of the disease was the lack of training of part of the population. I agree with that, but what I do not agree with is the method she proposes to find and then apply the treatment capable of curing society of unemployment.

For Quebec, she says, the disease could be beaten if the two doctors, Quebec and Ottawa, would stop quarrelling, would agree on a treatment and would apply it together. Ever since Molière wrote his play, we know what happens when one or more physicians are called to the bedside of a patient: the fees are high and the funeral director is never far behind.

What we propose is that the Ottawa doctor leave promptly, before it is too late, and leave the patient in the hands of his Quebec colleague who, being closer to the patient, is in a better position to treat him efficiently.

Social Programs January 31st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources Development has announced extensive public consultation with a view to restructuring the social security system. The government gave itself two years to review social programs as a whole, and the odds are that the issue of transfer payments to provinces will be raised.

We believe this is merely a way to gain time as well as to open the way for increased federal interference. We are strongly opposed to any interference from this government in education, which is an exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the other provinces. Moreover, overlaps are costly and inefficient and generate waste. We have to address the issue of employment, and employment is dependent on manpower retraining and education. The efficiency of the campaign for job creation therefore requires that these responsibilities revert to the proper authorities, the provinces.

Foreign Affairs January 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, it is with interest and emotion that I listened to what the hon. member had to say. I say emotion because I myself participated in a UN operation during four years, in the Congo, from 1961 to 1965, and I was lucky enough to get out of there in one piece.

I appreciate the concern shown by the hon. member who is wondering if our soldiers should risk their lives or not. From this issue arises another rather technical question for which I have no answer and on which I was hoping this debate might shed some light. Should we or should we not ask the UN to give our soldiers broader powers to defend themselves when they are attacked, should we or should we not give them the right to retaliate and even patrol certain areas, at the risk of alienating the people and leading them to misinterpret our role, since retaliation would of course be seen as an act of aggression?

If we decide to give our soldiers broader powers to defend themselves, we are putting their lives in danger since retaliation does involve some risks. But then, if we decide not to give them more leeway, we are also putting them at risk, since they will be left defenceless during an attack.

Cigarette Smuggling January 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my astonishment at the persisting inaction of the government with regard to cigarette smuggling. Obviously the adverse effects of this situation are serious.

First of all, the government is losing hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes.

Second, Canadians feel more and more that a segment of the population is above the law. Respect for public authority is being threatened.

Third, tobacco smoking is not being curtailed since smokers can easily get cigarettes at a lower price than if they were reasonably taxed.

Fourth, business people are getting outraged by this. In fact, we are facing a tax revolt.

The demonstration planned for next Monday by the MATRAQUE movement in Saint-Eustache in my riding could be repeated if Ottawa does not take any action.

The premier of Quebec has already made it clear that he intended to lower taxes on cigarettes and asked the federal government and the government of Ontario to do the same. Ontario has indicated an openness to that proposal.

Reduction of taxes on cigarettes is the most effective way of rapidly eliminating this problem.