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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament November 2009, as Bloc MP for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Postal Service January 31st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, who imposed a moratorium on post office closings by Canada Post. This decision is partly due to the memorable fight by Saint-Clément residents to receive adequate postal service. Could the Minister tell us how long this moratorium will last?

Canada Post Corporation January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, when the Auditor General of Canada examines Canada Post activities in 1994, I invite him to check the relevance of this agency's advertising budget, sponsoring costs and contract allowance methods.

This should also help us to appreciate the effectiveness of the Canada Post privatization policy, which is based solely on the postmasters' age of retirement rather than on the number of customers.

Last, the Auditor General could evaluate the impact of such a policy on the development of our rural communities.

Foreign Affairs January 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I enter this debate as the member for a riding and a region represented by people named Côté, D'Amour, Babin, Dumas, Gagnon, Grand'maison, Laliberté, Landry, Morel, Pelletier and Paré in the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

Soldiers from the riding of Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup and Rimouski-Témiscouata are in Bosnia on a voluntary basis, with the Fusiliers du Saint-Laurent, of the Rivière-du-Loup and Rimouski garrison.

The questions people ask themselves, especially the relatives and friends of the soldiers who represent Canada in this very complex international operation are: is the safety of our troops ensured? Is their role well-defined? When will they come back? In short, is it worth it?

The question regarding the safety of our troops is an obvious one, especially since the operation in the former Yugoslavia is totally different from the previous ones in which the Canadian Armed Forces were involved.

Indeed, maintaining peace like we did in Cyprus and like we are now doing in Croatia is very different from escorting humanitarian aid convoys and protecting Muslim areas, as is the case in Bosnia. Those are totally different operations.

Moreover, the voluntary participation of militia members raises the issue of the role of the regular force and the militia in the context of international operations.

In that regard, the government should take a close look at the recommendations made in 1993 by the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.

This committee recommended providing our military with the kind of training that would prepare them for their role in international missions, by creating reserve units for logistics, transport and communications, that would be used for peacekeeping operations rather than strictly war-time operations.

The issue of the security of our troops cannot be dissociated from the transparency and relevance of the mission with which they are entrusted. I believe that we have here the reason for the uncertainty among Quebecers and Canadians about the effectiveness of our operations in Bosnia. Canadian diplomacy which, in the past, has been instrumental in developing the image of Canada as a peacekeeper in the international community, would do well to learn from the past and return to a genuine defence of the cause of peace.

I believe the mission in Bosnia should continue until negotiations are able to reach a settlement. However, it is important for our operations to contribute directly to resolving the crisis and above all to avoid perpetuating the current imbroglio.

I wish to point out that the people in my riding support the Canadian government's involvement in international missions if there is evidence such operations are necessary, our troops are adequately prepared and our diplomatic efforts are effective, because the diplomatic front is also very important.

The people in my riding, and especially the families of the soldiers involved, hope there will be no more of the uncertainty that arose as a result of the Prime Minister's comments that it might be appropriate to withdraw Canadian troops, comments he made in public on his last trip to Europe. Any statements on the subject should not be the kind of improvised remarks that raise doubts about the relevance of operations and their duration.

In the broader perspective of the current debate on our policy on peacekeeping operations, I would favour setting up a multinational force, with Canada contributing more specifically to the mission logistics, an area in which we have developed expertise and which would give us a defensive rather than an offensive mandate.

I believe it would also be appropriate to table regularly a clear and detailed report on our participation in international missions.

Finally, by giving our troops better instruction in the history, culture and traditions of the countries where they will be sent on peacekeeping operations, we can avoid situations of the kind we experienced in Somalia and also in the former Yugoslavia, where not knowing the customs of the country is a major source of friction and undermines the effectiveness of the operations of our troops.

I want to thank you for your attention, and I would like to take this opportunity to commend those members of my riding who have volunteered to help resolve a crisis situation that requires patience, tact, a profound sense of history and, we might as well admit it, a little luck.

Foreign Affairs January 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's remarks have made me wonder about the reasons why this question of whether or not to withdraw from Bosnia is creating so much tension in Canada.

I wonder if we should not also reflect on the value of providing the people of Canada with complete and factual information on the situation in Bosnia.

In our day-to-day dealings with people, when they talk about the Bosnian conflict or any other international situation, they often mention the atrocities broadcasted on the news, the casualties, the costs involved, the money spent on that aspect of our international involvement. They are far from having have a comprehensive view of the impact of such activities or their importance.

I wonder if the member who spoke before me could tell us how he would feel about asking our soldiers and higher-ranking officers presently serving in Bosnia to take part in some of the public debates in Canada and tell us what they actually saw and experienced, without any partisan bias. They could share their thoughts on the action they saw over there and perhaps even suggest ideas without having their loyalty questioned or risking disciplinary action. I would like the hon. member to tell us what he thinks of that idea.

Foreign Affairs January 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Pierrefonds for illustrating how complex the situation is and how difficult it is to make a decision. In one hour, we will come to the end of a debate during which members of Parliament will have provided the government with useful information. We will have the choice between a withdrawal of our troops, the status quo, or a solution which seems more appropriate to me, namely to restore the conditions for success. It is very encouraging to know that according to the Stoltenberg-Owen plan, thus named since Mr. Stoltenberg took over from Mr. Cyrus Vance, we could be very close to a solution. Indeed, we could be extremely close to an agreement and negotiations will resume on February 10. Conse-

quently, any decision made by the Government of Canada will have an influence on those negotiations.

I want to ask the hon. member for Pierrefonds if he thinks that the Canadian government should take a stand in the next few days, or if it would be preferable to wait until shortly before April 1st, when our commitment will end, to announce, based on the status of the negotiations, if it is appropriate to maintain our presence in Bosnia, given the very significant impact of that role for Canada's reputation as a peacekeeper, a reputation which it has developed over the last few decades?

Foreign Affairs January 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra on his excellent presentation. If we had heard

such an analysis before intervening in the former Yugoslavia, our approach might have been better planned.

However, the same cannot be said of our Prime Minister who, during his trip to Europe, made public comments about the advisability of withdrawing our troops from Europe. At the local level, in ridings like mine where some 15 young servicemen and women are participating in the peacekeeping effort in Bosnia, his statement made people hope for a swifter return of their sons and daughters but fear for their safety. On the national and international level, it prompted everyone to question the firmness of the Canadian position.

In my opinion, that move marked a departure from the Canadian diplomatic tradition, which helped create Canada's image as a peacekeeping nation. That kind of gesture would also prevent us from learning lessons from the Yugoslavian crisis in order to better react to such conflicts in the future.

I think we should search for comprehensive solutions like those put forward by the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra. I may even suggest a few myself, such as the creation of a multinational force that could deal with that kind of situation in a permanent fashion with a crisis centre, thus avoiding a piecemeal approach.

Many of the soldiers deployed overseas in these situations are members of the reserves. The Senate committee on foreign affairs studying the issue was wondering whether the training given to reservists, which tends to focus on offensive actions, qualifies them to intervene in such operations.

It is important, perhaps strategically, for Canada to establish a mission specialized in logistics, dealing especially with transportation, equipment, everything that facilitates the military operation itself. It is in fact an area where we have acquired considerable expertise.

I also learned in today's debate that the Minister of Foreign Affairs regularly tables clear and detailed reports on our involvement in international missions. That seems very appropriate to me.

Finally, as the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra showed us in his presentation, we must educate our soldiers about the history, culture and traditions of the countries where they must intervene. The peacekeepers deployed in Somalia, not necessarily the Canadians, were clearly in need of such training. It is important for our peacekeepers to know what they are getting into.

Those were the comments I wished to make on the speech delivered by the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra. I would have liked him to elaborate a bit further on the kind of solution that could be applied in the former Yugoslavia with its complex ethnic mix. If possible, I would like him to tell us the kind of solution he envisions.

Foreign Affairs January 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member for Central Nova. I get the impression from her statement that she does not have a very high opinion of the reputation Canada has developed in the field of peacekeeping in the last forty years, since the end of World War II. What about the initiatives of Mr. Pearson and the Nobel Peace Prize he received? I am wondering if her suggestion that Canada withdraw its troops from Bosnia now-a suggestion which may seem totally justified given the prevailing climate of uncertainty about the mandate of our troops there-may be somewhat premature and whether it might lead to regrettable action which could tarnish Canada's image abroad. Did the hon. member for Central Nova take into account this aspect of the issue before calling for the withdrawal of Canadian troops?

Speech From The Throne January 24th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I would like to react to the speech of the first Reform member who spoke during the 20-minute period.

He seems to think we need a new federal economic leadership. I have my doubts on that matter. I could mention many examples in my riding of situations where when the federal government took part in an operation, it became more complicated and less efficient.

I referred to a few such cases in my speech as critic for regional development. Let me stress the importance of reducing duplication in this issue. The best leadership the federal government could show would be to withdraw from certain areas in which it has been floundering for years while doubling the costs.

During question period we spoke about training. I think manpower training is one of the best examples. But there are also many areas of federal jurisdiction to consider. For example piers along the St. Lawrence. The federal government reneged its responsibilities in that area for over 20 years while spending money on matters that should have come under provincial jurisdiction. I think that it could easily have spent the necessary money to ensure that we have installations that meet the required standards instead of the opposite.

I therefore feel that it is important, when reflecting on the throne speech, to make sure that this government really has the will to reduce overlapping of jurisdictions. The issue is mentioned in the throne speech, but without any details on how this would be done. I believe it is very important for the House to seriously consider ways to reduce overlapping.

As far as I am concerned, in the end, real initiatives are taken at the local level. I would like to point out that, in some areas, we should give ideas a chance to bloom. For example, in La Pocatière, in my riding, there is a research centre on public transportation and a centre specializing in physical technology. If those centres had been planned by national thinkers, they never would have been located in La Pocatière, but probably somewhere in the Montreal area, or worse yet, outside Quebec.

So, what I wanted to tell the member is that, ultimately, the federal government might best show leadership by staying within its own jurisdiction.

Speech From The Throne January 20th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to have this opportunity to reply to the speech from the throne. The constituents of Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, the men and women living in the regional municipalities of Kamouraska, Rivière-du-Loup and Basques ridings as well as the municipality of Pohénégamook, gave me the mandate to express to the federal government the will of the population of Quebec which wants fundamental changes in the relationship between Quebecers and the rest of Canada.

Since 1980, I have chosen to live in Eastern Quebec, more specifically in La Pocatière. Everywhere I went, I noticed that the needs of rural Quebecers are not quite understood. Government members do not seem to recognize the urgency here, since no regional development strategy is mentioned in the throne speech.

On behalf of the neglected rural and urban populations, I would like to say how disappointed I am about this omission.

Given the insensitivity of the government to our specific development concerns, whether it is in Rivière-du-Loup, Amos, or Lotbinière, we have lost all hope of seeing the government respond quickly to the situation. Hence the need for Quebecers to get back all necessary political and financial powers to make sure measures are being taken right away.

Even if it is not included in the Constitution, regional economic development is a jurisdiction on which the federal government has impinged without taking into account the will of the Quebec government to take full responsibility in this area.

For over 30 years, Quebec regions have been used as laboratories for tests which only proved that the present federal system does not work.

At first, the federal government opted for economic centralization, as shown in the Higgins-Raynauld-Martin Report. This devastating approach was reinforced by the creation of the Department of Regional Industrial Expansion, whose decision-making process focused on sectoral concerns, instead of regional characteristics.

In 1987, even the Standing Committee on Regional Industrial Expansion of this House of Commons recognized the fact that the federal programs did not meet the needs of the people, because the criteria being used were not suited to the needs of the regions. Because of a lack of participation from the regions, the money was given to useless projects, instead of some local and worthwhile initiatives. Take for example the magnificent $7 million drill hall which was built in my riding. Fascinating, but if the people in the area had had a word in the matter, I can assure you they would have found other much more interesting projects to subsidize with that $7 million.

The federal government made some adjustments by developing a new strategy based on framework agreements. That does not work either, as shown by the unemployment rates. Regions can and must do more to supply domestic and foreign markets with raw materials. To create jobs, we must develop processing industries and make use of local resources. The government's role in putting GATT in place will also be judged by what happens here. Its defence of GATT was not very convincing, I must say. The government accentuates regional dependence.

The federal government might as well admit that its actions in the area of regional development are inappropriate. The economic base is crumbling, the social fabric is falling apart, the exodus from rural areas continues, with young people among the first to leave.

The number of municipalities whose population is shrinking has increased at an alarming rate in the past 25 years, so that today, their numbers exceed the number of communities where the population is growing. Nevertheless, the people in the regions are doing something about it. A first step was taken by the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec and 25 groups that signed the déclaration des États généraux du monde rural at their meeting in 1991.

Perhaps I may recall some of the main highlights of this declaration: rights of the individual; the community's control over its future; promoting and respecting regional and local values; co-operation between local and regional partners; diversification of the regional economic base; protecting and regen-

erating resources; fine tuning lines of political authority; and promoting alternative measures for sustainable development. The Bloc agrees with these principles and supports this consensus.

Regional development means more than just building roads. Quebecers know that that is not enough. Progress depends on the active participation and creativity of local resources. The government should provide financial support as needed. In this respect, research and development are the way of the future for the regions. Remote locations are no longer an obstacle to attracting high-tech companies.

Haphazard action by the federal government has created bizarre situations, as in the case of its policy of closing rural post offices, which meant that communities were deprived of essential services, while at the same time community futures committees were being set up to provide local communities with the appropriate development tools. When we consider that 83 per cent of the employees in these post offices are women, an excuse for speeches on employment equity, this is a clear case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

The Federal Office of Regional Development fails to take the comprehensive view of local development. What it does is often more like window dressing. Boosting regional economies means knowing how to use local human resources. Forestry workers who lost their jobs to a machine should be able to go back with dignity and help develop that same forest for the benefit of future generations. When companies increase productivity, the proceeds should be used to create jobs.

Actually, the inefficiency of manpower training programs is most apparent in the regions, where it is harder to get a training program for a group of workers than to relocate them. I had this experience myself on an adjustment committee, when 20 employees from Bombardier had been laid off and it took at least two major political manoeuvres to get these people a training program for welding, although the Bombardier plant, well-known internationally, was only a few kilometres from the training location.

What is there in the Throne Speech that will make life easier for a young entrepreneur from Saint-Hubert or Rivière-du-Loup who wants to launch a new product? Who can help him? The Business Development Centre, the Community Futures Committee, the Youth Enterprise Centre, the Corporation de développement économique , the tourism corporation, the Federal Office of Regional Development, the Industrial Development Corporation, plus two members' offices. The development agencies mean well, but it is a real nightmare for our young entrepreneur to find his way through this administrative labyrinth. Often, after knocking in vain on all these doors, our young entrepreneur has to go back to dreaming about his future. Meanwhile, and this is even worse, agencies in the region compete with each other in a way that is unproductive.

Regional development must also be based on comprehensive projects like the high-speed train in the Quebec-Windsor corridor-that cannot be overemphasized. This project would create jobs in greater Montreal, at the Bombardier plant in La Pocatière and for our Canadian neighbours. This project would have a major impact. It would use the potential of our young people who are skilled in high-tech fields and would develop an expertise which could be exported throughout the world. It would also be a major contribution to the conversion of military industry.

Geographical isolation is trivial compared to isolation from the main decision-making centres. The future of regional development in Quebec depends on respecting Quebec's jurisdiction in that field and recognizing the regions' right to control their own development, as the Bélanger-Campeau Commission said.

Federal intervention in regional development is very costly. Overlapping jurisdictions require such an expenditure of energy that not enough is left to deal with the real problems. By creating intermediate structures, too much time is spent administering the programs in order to co-ordinate decision making among various agencies. Meanwhile, money does not go to the community; it stays in the bureaucratic system.

The share of income collected directly by government through taxes should diminish as local authorities obtain access to revenue sources from these same citizens. The infrastructure program is an eloquent example. What a fine effort the governments seem to be making without putting too much money into development!

But do you not think that ideally, the municipalities themselves should have the ability to collect taxes and raise the funds needed for their development, without asking themselves whether the federal Parliament in Ottawa must be involved in the decision about a garage or a roadway in the Rivière-du-Loup region?

I think it would be much better to decentralize the budgets and available funds significantly so that our local elected officials can decide on these matters.

In the present federal system, a way to do this would be to give Quebec the tax points for the federal investment in this area, over $200 million, and to recognize Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction in this field.

We are in a paradoxical situation, where the federal government which has the right to raise taxes never developed the proper tools to meet the regions' needs in support of their development.

We gather from the 1993 election campaign that people yearn for a way to the future, where only one government will decide

and will have all the power to tax and to eliminate duplication, overlap and inconsistencies among departments. People want to call on the values that already exist in their communities.

This way of the future is Quebec sovereignty, a unique opportunity for a massive transfer to the regions of the $28 billion in taxes which Quebecers pay to Ottawa. We will vote against the subamendment moved by the member for Calgary Southwest because it is out of the question to give the government a blank cheque for deciding on cuts without first setting up a committee to thoroughly study the proposed cuts.