House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

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

Foreign Affairs April 27th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs had not yet read the ruling in the Omar Khadr case when he announced his decision to file an appeal. A few hours later, the department announced that a final decision on appealing the ruling had not yet been taken.

Has someone notified the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the final decision made by his deputy minister?

Holocaust Memorial Day April 21st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, today is Holocaust Memorial Day, when we remember the World War II tragedy that resulted in the unjustifiable and arbitrary death of more than six million Jews.

More than 60 years later, it is important that we retain the lessons of these tragic events. We must remember the courage of the survivors and also the fight against racism. But most importantly we must ensure that such a systematic and organized massacre never happens again.

Therefore, on this day we should focus on current challenges faced by a number of peoples. Our responsibility remains to provide support to those who defend the right of nations to exist. In this context, we must hope for the recognition of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples and the creation of two separate countries.

Business of Supply April 21st, 2009

Madam Speaker, about the costs, we are being told to the contrary that the registry works well and that 7.1 million firearms are now registered, of which 90% are hunting rifles. On average the registry was consulted 6,700 times a day in 2006, and since December 1, 1998, a total of 1,125,372 firearms have been exported, destroyed, neutralized or withdrawn from the Canadian information system, therefore reducing the risk of a firearm being used.

It has been shown that, as far as costs are concerned, the system is now under control and that, indeed, to maintain the present moratorium introduced by the Conservative government would not save a significant amount of money, but would make the registry much less effective. The motion from the Bloc needs to be passed by the House, so we can move forward. The government must finally understand how important it is to make the firearms registry fully operational again.

Business of Supply April 21st, 2009

Madam Speaker, a few weeks ago I went to see the movie Polytechnique, which will be shown here tonight and which is a painful re-enactment of the Montreal massacre that devastated the victims' families.

After that tragedy, in early 1994—I arrived in 1993—the legislators in this House began to look for solutions to these problems and to try to put in place as comprehensive a system as possible to keep unwanted guns out of circulation.

In rural areas such as mine, which are not exempt from the possibility of violence, especially spontaneous violence—domestic or family violence, for example—there has been a very significant reduction in the number of deaths caused by guns after the registry was established and the system implemented.

Today, the Bloc Québécois has a consensus to inform the government through the motion moved that states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should not extend the amnesty on gun control requirements set to expire on May 16, 2009, and should maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety.

To ensure the effectiveness of registration, we must maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety. I believe it is important to be able to continue doing so.

This morning we heard from representatives of police associations, among others, who showed us how useful this tool is for police. It allows them to intervene in a much more sensible and logical way, and to have as much information as possible about the state of the people they will encounter and the potential presence of guns in a given situation. I believe we absolutely must be able to continue gong in this direction.

In the second part of my speech, I will attempt to debunk some of myths that exist around this. First there is the supposedly high cost of the gun registry. In her first report on this, the Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, indicated that costs of the gun control program have been under control since 2002. So that problem no longer exists. The annual costs of the gun control program has markedly decreased, from $200 million in 2001 to $73 million. What is more, while the program costs $73.7 million a year, the annual cost of registration is $14.6 million, or $10 million less than the upper limit of $25 million set in 2005-06. So that deflates the first argument: gun control is not all that costly, given the results it allows us to achieve.

Then there is the second myth: abolishing the registry would enable the government to save millions of dollars, which could be invested in more effective crime prevention programs. This is not so. According to the plan announced by the Conservatives, amendments to the registry to exclude long guns should allow the government to save a little over $10 million annually, because the registry would continue to operate for handguns and prohibited weapons. That is not enough money to fund better initiatives to reduce crime. In the end, the effect would be a negative one.

It is not true that abolishing the registry would allow the government to save millions which could be invested in more effective programs. The registry's very existence is an effective prevention program in itself.

According to the third myth, the Auditor General has supposedly indicated that the gun registry is useless. The Auditor General said nothing of the sort. She did identify certain flaws in the quality of the data contained in the gun registry. She did raise those points but she could not have made it any clearer as far as the registry's effectiveness is concerned: “We did not examine the effectiveness of the Canadian Firearms Program or its social implications.” The claim that the Auditor General indicated that the registry is useless is absolutely false.

It is important to dispel these myths because we are dealing with an issue about which the public hears all kinds of information, even things that have nothing to do with the reality. The motion brought forward by the Bloc today gives us an opportunity to dispel these myths.

Here is the fourth myth: there is an increase in violent crime, which shows that the registry simply does not work and that more effective measures need to be put in place. That is totally false. Even though the media coverage of violent crime may lead us to believe that the number of such crimes increases every year, the reality is totally different.

We see a disproportionate number of reports on violent crime in relation to what is really happening. In the 1990s, there was a steady decrease in crime in Quebec as well as in Canada. Statistics Canada even confirmed recently that, for 2006, the overall crime rate in the country was at its lowest level in more than 25 years. And that is not all. Quebec had its lowest homicide rate since 1962. Another myth dispelled.

The fifth myth is that gun registration is a long, costly and complicated process. That is not the case.

I am having a problem with my voice and I will have to end my remarks before my time is up. However, it has been shown that the situation has improved thanks to the gun registry.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act April 20th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned about this issue. I want Canadian companies to have access to other countries under reasonable conditions, but I do not believe, for example, that we have to give those companies rights beyond the existing rights in those countries. We need to negotiate longer to make sure that there are appropriate concessions on both sides.

We know from our experience with the North American Free Trade Agreement that chapter 11 gives companies excessive power. We are making the same mistake in this case. It is inappropriate. Often it is American companies that have gone to court in Canada. We are going to find ourselves in the same situation in the case of Canada and Peru.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act April 20th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, that is the crux of the problem. Mining companies have to comply with the existing laws in both countries. The Conservative government is saying that it will not follow the round table recommendations, that it will not give the necessary authority, that it will not appoint an ombudsman. As a result, companies will be subject only to the laws of the host country.

Developing countries do not have the structures or the strength necessary to negotiate with companies on an equal footing and therefore agree to environmental conditions or working conditions they should not agree to. We have to admit that we did the same thing in Quebec 50 or 60 years ago. This is unacceptable. We are giving companies too much latitude and an unfair advantage.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act April 20th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I heard the answer to that question from a Peruvian Quechua representative, an indigenous representative. She explained to us that her people had been there for hundreds, even thousands of years before the Spanish. She said that the Quechua had organized their lands and found ways to transport water, among other things. Under this kind of agreement, if the Government of Peru decides to restore lands to indigenous peoples, companies affected by direct or indirect expropriations can submit complaints, the matter could go to court, and the company could be entitled to compensation.

What is the Government of Peru supposed to do with that? It would spell the end of social change. The Conservatives have chosen to put the interests of private companies before the common good. That is what is missing from this agreement, and that is what we are against.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act April 20th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I would say to the hon. member that the Bloc has a pragmatic rather than dogmatic approach to issues. That is often the difference between the NDP and the Bloc.

How did we come to that position? We went to Peru. We met people from Colombia when we studied an agreement with that country. As for the softwood lumber agreement, many businesses in my own riding were affected. We took part in the consultation process to see if we should support the agreement. Companies and unions told us that the agreement had to be signed and that the companies needed the money as fast as possible to avoid bankruptcy. That was the position of all regions of Quebec and not only of my own. That was a pragmatic position that took the context into account. We never said that the agreement was a great deal. We said that entrepreneurs and all other partners wanted us to support it. Unions and communities wanted us to take the position we took and so we did.

As for the agreement with Peru, I am glad to hear my colleague say that he thinks our position is interesting. Personally, I would hope that next time there are preliminary consultations so we can support agreements that are beneficial to both parties. We are not here to vote down measures, but rather to come up with good agreements. Unfortunately, in this case, the agreement is not in the best interests of Quebec and Canada, particularly when we know the impacts of chapter 11 of NAFTA, which gives private companies unacceptable rights over the power of governments to impose conditions, namely to protect the environment.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act April 20th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today to Bill C-24, the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act.

A few weeks ago, I took part in a parliamentary mission to Peru as part of the activities of the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas. I had the opportunity to meet Peruvian parliamentarians, government representatives, representatives of the Canadian mining industry and people involved in international cooperation. I found that there were many potential affinities between the two countries and that it would be useful to develop ties with Peru.

But a red light went on in my head when the Peruvian parliamentarians invited us to take a close look at the contents of the agreement. It is a good thing to want to engage in trade and create wealth in both countries, but the Canadian government has decided to incorporate the equivalent of chapter 11 of NAFTA into this agreement. This chapter allows a company to sue a government if it is not satisfied with an application or a new law.

In this case, it is said that these regulatory or legislative amendments must be comparable to direct or indirect expropriation or a measure equivalent to expropriation.

We understand the Conservative government's rationale even better. I am somewhat surprised at the Liberals' position on this. The Conservative government wants to allow Canadian mining companies to operate in Peru with virtually no restrictions. They have financial power, and they are faced with a democratic country that wants to carve a place for itself, but does not have our abilities.

There is another argument. For example, if the Peruvian government were to decide to reorganize how the lands of the indigenous Quechua people are distributed and wanted to improve ownership for the indigenous people who have lived in Peru for centuries and were there even before the Spanish came, the agreement as written would allow a company to say that the government cannot do that without compensating it. That is a fact. I am not making anything up. NAFTA already has such a provision. The Canadian government itself, under the Liberals, was taken to court over its ban on MMT.

MMT is a gasoline additive, a known nerve toxin. The Canadian government had banned that additive. The American company went before the courts and won its case, and the Canadian government had to pay compensation to that company. That is the tail wagging the dog. Including a provision in an agreement like this one will simply ensure that republics like Peru stop putting forward protectionist measures because it could never compete with companies like we have in this country.

This visit was also an opportunity to realize how important it would be for such free trade agreements to follow consultations among parliamentarians from each country.

Had the parliamentarians in the House of Commons and their Peruvian counterparts had the chance to discuss before the drafting of the agreement between their two countries started, I think there would have been lessons to be learned and the agreement eventually signed would not have included such a provision.

It does not make much sense and does not reflect well on Canada's reputation. Canada signed an agreement with northern European countries. We supported that agreement which did not include a provision like chapter 11. These being developed countries, it was agreed that our countries would deal with one another as equals and that no increased powers would be given to companies. When signing bilateral agreements with developing countries, we take the liberty of creating a framework that is not in line with the will and development of each country.

During my visit to Peru I saw that that there was a will to change things. People also hoped that the agreement, which had been negotiated during economic good times, could survive the economic slowdown. Experts who made presentations warned us against the impacts of the agreement on agriculture in Peru and also in Quebec and Canada. The supply management system has been protected. It is not included in the agreement per se, which is a good thing, but the agriculture sector will continue to be treated as any other market sector. That is not good for the future of our agriculture and of the Peruvian agriculture.

I also had the opportunity to visit the beautiful village of Chincha Baja, which has suffered greatly from natural disasters, including an earthquake. CIDA has a house building project there. The village is on the fringe of Lima, the huge capital city with 8 million inhabitants, where we can see all levels of poverty and wealth. In the village's rural setting I could witness the importance of giving the agriculture sector in a country like Peru the opportunity to organize itself well enough to be able to access our market, but on a level playing field.

I was reminded of the situation in Africa. Some African countries produce cotton that is more expensive than the cotton they could import from the United States because of the subsidies the U.S.A. gives to its producers. Agricultural producers in Peru could find themselves in the same situation because we have a well structured agricultural sector and unions. Over the years, we have developed some tools that they do not necessarily have in Peru.

For this agreement to become acceptable, we would have to remove the clauses that are similar to NAFTA's chapter 11. Those clauses give excessive power to companies, which can sue governments if their operations are adversely affected. In this case, this is a serious matter, because we are talking about the mining sector. In Peru, Canadian companies are the main stakeholders in that sector. This agreement is going to give them more power, and that is dangerous. This comes at a time when the government itself refused to follow up on the round tables asking to adequately regulate the operations of extractive mining companies. We reached the point where a member of Parliament had to table a bill saying that the government's position was inadequate, and that we want something that reflects more closely what was proposed by the round tables. The Bloc Québécois also drafted a bill along those lines. Today, the Conservative government is going in the exact opposite direction. It is opening up the floodgates, so that mining companies can really do as they please.

Earlier, a Conservative member talked about the reputation of Canadian companies abroad. The vast majority of Canadian companies have a good reputation, but a number of them have really engaged in excessive things, and we should be able to discipline and control them. One way to do that would be to follow up on the recommendations made by the round tables. Another would be to at least ensure, in agreements such as the one before us, that we do not give them increased power, such as what the chapter similar to NAFTA's chapter 11 is going to give them.

Let us not forget that we are talking about a country that is a democracy and that is trying to move forward, but that is also experiencing difficult circumstances.The Sendero Luminoso organization, or Shining Path, is a terrorist group that is still active and that did things just last week. We must be very careful before going ahead with agreements that will exacerbate existing problems. We must provide more opportunities for these problems to subside and disappear, so that we have a much more rational and concrete reality that will achieve the desired results.

Why is the Bloc Québécois opposed to this agreement, not to mention the issue of investment protection?

Bilateral agreements often lead to agreements that put richer countries at an advantage over poorer countries. That is what is happening at this time. We would much rather see the development of multilateralism, in other words, a group of countries around the world that agree on conditions so that negotiations are more balanced. A group of developing countries could get together, thereby strengthening their bargaining power. There may be common interests shared by one developed country and one developing country that are not shared by other countries. Ultimately, this would allow for a much more balanced agreement.

A bilateral agreement like the one with Peru is not the most problematic; the one with Colombia is much more so. There are problems in Colombia related to a failure to recognize workers' rights and environmental rights. That is a part of daily life in Colombia, although it is not the case in Peru. But we hope to see that situation improve, rather than deteriorate.

The agreement signed by the Canadian government almost seems to suggest that the government is a corporation. It is looking solely at the economic advantages for Canadians in the short and medium term, but is not considering the impact it will have on the other country and is acting like an invader, which is not Canada's tradition. As members of the Bloc Québécois, we have a responsibility to hope these things will be corrected.

The problem is that a free trade agreement such as this cannot be changed. We must decide whether or not we will support it. It is an important issue. Naturally, we will debate it and show that we find it lacking. In the past, ancillary agreements have sometimes mitigated negative effects, but they do not have the same force. In this case, the agreement in its present form is unacceptable for the reasons I gave, especially on the issue of investments.

It is unfortunate because Peru is a country with abundant resources and a great deal of potential. It may not previously have developed the structures for distributing wealth such as we have in Quebec and Canada. During my stay, I was very surprised to see that it does not have any type of employment insurance or social welfare. The informal economy is very pervasive and there is no declaration of income or payment of taxes. There is barter, which does not contribute to collective wealth. Other practices should be developed in this regard.

If, in the future, we wish to sign agreements that foster globalization with a human face, they should contain provisions ensuring that both countries will agree, for example, that the developed country will help the developing country establish a better support system for the distribution of wealth and that it will provide the developing country with the expertise required to accumulate this wealth.

Peru's economic growth is presently in the order of 7% to 9%. This is a very good rate of growth that is closely tied to the mining sector. When the economy slows down, as it has in recent months, the situation becomes much more difficult. We are facing a very paradoxical situation. We are signing an agreement at a time of increased economic growth. Canadian firms and the Canadian market needed these resources, but now there is a slowdown and we find ourselves facing a new reality.

Peru, which depends heavily on exports, has signed numerous agreements of this kind. It has agreements with various countries. When I went there a few weeks ago, it was negotiating an agreement in principle with China, which wants to get natural resources by the same method. Obviously this aspect, the fact that the rules of the marketplace alone govern the situation, places an additional responsibility on the Canadian mining industry, which has a major presence there, to ensure that our corporations conduct themselves ethically and serve as a model.

This is the case for some corporations, but not for all corporations. For example, it is the case for junior mining companies that are most often involved in mining exploration. Often, the corporations do the mining themselves, but small companies that do not comply with the basic requirements are also tolerated by the system.

We would have liked to see Canada impose standards, in signing this kind of free trade agreement, that could then become a model. We hear that argument when we are being sold the free trade agreement, and we are told that with this kind of agreement we will have to fix the situation here at home. In fact, however, the provisions that govern investments and the right of corporations to bring suit will have the exact opposite effect. It will give corporations more power in relation to governments, which certainly need to be on firmer footing and be in more control.

We have seen this in Quebec. There is nothing new under the sun. Fifty or 60 years ago, as the members from Lac-Saint-Jean and the North Shore know, we frequently made very major concessions to attract businesses. It took years to try to fix that situation, and even today we can see that when companies are sold, these kinds of concessions are still being made.

They did it when Alcan was sold to Rio Tinto under secret agreements, under a Canadian law that lacked the teeth to impose conditions regarding employment. In any case, the Conservative government did not want to.

As regards Peru, a country I visited very briefly, I tell myself it should be given an opportunity to avoid this type of situation, rather than increase the risk of the same thing happening.

It was the same for trade with Costa Rica. In the present matter, even if trade between Quebec and Peru and Canada and Peru were possible and substantial, there are businesses on location there, and also some international cooperation. However, following my meetings with various international cooperation NGOs, I note that they are very careful to ensure a clear distinction between purely capitalist market-oriented companies—such as the mining sector—and aid to communities, so that no link between the two can take away their independence of action.

The Canadian government is no example. We saw it remove some countries in Africa from its aid list, in order to do business with Peru and Colombia.

Does that mean that Peru and Colombia do not need aid? No. We agree, and, in any case, the Canadian government could have done more in the area of international aid. What is unacceptable is taking aid away from Africa, which is desperate for it, in order to turn a policy of international cooperation into a policy of support for economic development rather than a true policy on international aid. The Canadian government is acting as if it managed a private company rather than a government. I do not think Canadians and Quebeckers expect this type of behaviour from their government.

I will conclude my remarks on this point. Peru is a country that deserves solid cooperation. This free trade agreement will not do it. And because the agreement as such cannot be amended during negotiations, the Bloc prefers to vote against the bill for a free trade agreement with Peru, even if it means calling on the government to redo its work to ensure that the rules of the game are clear and will benefit both countries involved—both Peru, a developing country, and Canada and Quebec.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act April 20th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague’s speech with interest.

I myself have just returned from a mission of the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas to Peru, where I was in contact with parliamentarians, the government and the public. I observed that there was somewhat the same kind of distance as we have here in Canada and Quebec, between parliamentarians and the government, that is, when it comes to preparing agreements such as the one some would like to adopt today—there is perhaps not enough consultation of parliamentarians. We end up with an agreement negotiated between the two governments that contains elements that may be difficult to accept. For example, in this agreement we have the equivalent of Chapter 11 of NAFTA, which in my opinion gives corporations improper powers.

Does my colleague not believe that if we had developed a practice of prior consultation, we might have achieved a more balanced agreement with Peru, that would have precluded this kind of agreement? Essentially, it is not free trade that is bad, it is the way it is applied. Agreements are made that do not properly reflect the objectives of free trade, including bringing greater prosperity to both countries.