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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

NATO March 3rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the next NATO summit should also be the occasion for throwing out the idea of an international summit on Afghanistan, which would go beyond the limited framework of NATO. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, made up of China, Russia and five former central Asian soviet republics, could be included.

Does the Prime Minister intend to take such a proposal to his NATO partners?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 3rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of pay equity, what is ridiculous about this bill is that it creates one group of women who will be subject to the federal equitable compensation legislation and another group, employees of certain crown corporations, who will have to use the ineffective complaint system in the federally regulated private sector. Under the guise of creating more equity, the government is creating more inequity. The answer is there in the wording of the bill.

As for the whole issue of equalization, Quebec wants no more of this mechanism that, year after year, gives it unpredictable payments. It is like a sword of Damocles the federal government is dangling above Quebec's head. This time, it has major consequences. The cuts will be in the order of $1 billion, and when the effectiveness of the overall federal budget measures is assessed, it will come to light that the provinces, and especially Quebec, have not been able to spend the necessary money, because they will have had to make up for the decrease in equalization funding.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 3rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, pay equity is a right. It is not a measure to revive the economy. It is a woman's right, a right that the government should respect and put in practice through appropriate measures.

This budget sets up a three tier system, according to the type of employer a female employee works for. It is hard to see how this sort of arrangement will improve the situation of women. In the end, there will be no economic impact, obviously, because recovery will take a long time. There will still be important court challenges. Pay equity must not be made dependent on its effect on the economy. It must be seen as the right to equal pay for work of equal value. All women are entitled to the same wage as men when they do work requiring similar skills, effort and responsibility, in similar working conditions. To link this recognition to employer type, to create different categories according to the place of work—the public, private or para public sectors—is not the road to the future. A forward step must be taken with a pay equity measure that would translate to full equality and that would enable a woman to earn an equal salary for equal and similar work.

So, in the budget, the government should have set this approach aside and instead include a real plan for economic recovery.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 3rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, we are at the report stage for the budget implementation bill. In the group of proposed amendments today, there are two types of amendments that do not belong in the budget bill. In terms of equalization, the federal government has tabled an economic stimulus budget that, with one hand, is taking from Quebec what it is giving with the other.

The equalization system, as Canada has developed it, is financed entirely by the federal government with the help of taxes paid by Canadians and Quebeckers. It is based on a fundamental commitment to equality, so that citizens have access to public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation. In other words, the formula that has been determined over the years aims to measure a province's fiscal ability to offer public services. But it does not take into account the various factors that could influence the volume or cost of public services in a province, with the exception of its size and population.

In this case, the decision was made to unilaterally change the procedure. Quebec ends up with a shortfall of some $1 billion, while Quebec, like the other provinces in Canada, is coping with major problems, reduced consumer spending, and a need to jump-start the economy. On the one hand we are told that money will be invested, in infrastructure for example, in order to stimulate consumption, while on the other they are taking away the leeway Quebec was counting on in order to be able to have access to it. Moreover, the Quebec finance minister wrote a letter objecting to this and calling upon the federal government to reconsider its assessment of the situation and to put on the table what was really important. To that end, the Bloc Québécois has introduced some motions to get that part of the bill deleted.

The fact is that the Conservatives can count on Liberal support. This coalition of the blue and the red is a bit like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. No matter which one is in power, we have the same centralizing federal government steamroller. This is particularly the case for this matter of the cuts to equalization, which will hurt Quebec a great deal.

Another important aspect concerns the whole issue of pay equity. In this block of amendments, there are also ones aimed at restoring the important status of pay equity. We are, moreover, amazed to find measures like this in a bill to implement the budget. We have seen this sort of model in the U.S. Congress, particularly under the Republicans, when they were adding amendments onto omnibus bills with undesirable results.

The Bloc Québécois is, of course, in favour of pay equity and considers it a non-negotiable right. In order to ensure that pay equity exists for all Quebec and Canadian working women, proactive federal legislation is necessary that will cover all women in areas under federal jurisdiction.

In the present bill, rather than give each worker equal rights, an additional category of women is created who are not covered by the same conditions. One protection is given to women in the public sector, and another to those not covered by this bill. This strikes us as unfair to the women affected by this bill.

The Bloc Québécois opposes the part that makes pay equity a negotiable right within a collective agreement. The Bloc would rather see the creation of sectoral committees on pay equity, as has been done in Quebec. We take exception to the fact that this bill creates a third category of workers in Quebec. As I was saying earlier, one category falls under Quebec pay equity legislation, another falls under federal legislation on equitable compensation and the remaining category is in the federally regulated private sector and certain crown corporations and has an ineffective complaint system.

Thus, there are three different categories of citizens in this pay equity legislation. Something does not make sense here. The federal government should not have ventured into this territory. It has put forward measures that will create more inequities, rather than solve any problems.

We believe that the gaps, omissions and false premises, including the notion of a market economy in this bill, make it unacceptable and out of sync with Quebec's values.

If the Conservative government believes that equitable compensation is necessary in the government, why would that not also be the case for private businesses under federal jurisdiction, unless it believes that this principle is too costly and harmful to private enterprise?

Equity is established not based on the rights of the workers in question, but rather based on the interests of the employers who hire them. This is a very unacceptable practice and I believe the Conservatives should have reversed their position. That is why we, particularly as members of the Bloc Québécois, have strongly held beliefs on the issue of pay equity in Quebec, a practice that has not been sufficiently developed. We would like to see the Conservative government reverse its stance on this issue. Otherwise, it will have the public to answer to.

Part ll of the bill deals with equitable compensation and enacts the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. The term pay equity never appears in the bill. It speaks instead about equitable compensation, without ever defining it. This terminological fuzziness could well present problems when it comes to legal interpretations and we may find ourselves facing one of the obstacles that the Conservatives claimed to eliminate, that is to say, endless battles before the courts which will ensure that female workers never get justice.

The bill applies strictly to employers in the public sector: Treasury Board, the RCMP and certain agencies and crown corporations. Companies under federal jurisdiction are not covered, nor are certain other crown corporations, for example Canada Post and the CBC. They are therefore creating a great muddle that ultimately will do nothing to improve the situation.

The government could have forged ahead in this budget with steps that would have really helped Quebec’s economy, especially forestry and manufacturing. We see once again today how much these sectors need help but have been abandoned by the government. We need action, loan guarantees, and some original thinking. The Bloc Québécois suggested some measures last fall. It was also the only opposition party to come up with some specific suggestions.

In addition to the things that are missing from this stimulus budget but are so important to Quebec that the Bloc Québécois must oppose the bill, the government has included various measures that are not really related to the budget and, most importantly, should not be changed in any case in the way they want to right now if we want to be fair toward the provinces and if we say they have the funding they need to jump-start their economies.

When the Finance Minister boasts of having invested billions of dollars in infrastructure to boost the economy while at the same time he cuts Quebec’s equalization payments, he creates a situation in which Quebec will not have the funds it needs to activate the tripartite programs requiring federal, provincial and municipal participation. If Quebec had been left some leeway with its equalization payments, there would have been a lot more positive effects on the economy and we would really have had a stimulus package to counter the economic downturn.

In that regard, the Conservative government has not been able to kick its old laissez-faire habit. Even when told that a change in approach is needed to deal with the situation, we see several typical Conservative behaviours. One of them is to penalize Quebec by cutting equalization payments. This has draconian consequences for the Government of Quebec, which will have particular difficulty preparing its budget.

I am being signalled that I have only one minute left. We also realize that this approach is one of main factors that has led an increasing number of Quebeckers to consider that if they controlled all their taxes—an important aspect of sovereignty—they could make decisions as an adult nation. They would not be required to conduct such debates or to depend on a government that, from one year to the next, changes the funding provided by equalization. In my opinion, both Canadians and Quebeckers would be much happier with that sort of arrangement.

While waiting for the time when the Quebec people decide to pursue the sovereignist project, the Bloc Québécois is here to defend the interests of Quebec. We are doing so again with the proposed amendments to the bill and by the Bloc Québécois' position, which is unlike that of the Liberals who have chosen to be associated with a Conservative budget that is harmful to Quebec. We have clearly defended the positions of Quebec and we will continue to do so.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 2nd, 2009

Madam Speaker, I listened to the speech given by my hon. colleague, whom I knew in the past as the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance when Mr. Martin was the finance minister. Today he is telling us that a good securities commission system is needed. He is not specifying exactly what kind of organization is needed.

Does this mean that he finds the current system to be effective, as the OECD has said? The OECD ranked our system as second in the world in terms of efficiency. There is a consensus in Quebec to the effect that the existing securities commission should continue its work. That is the unanimous consensus of the three parties in the Quebec National Assembly and the entire business community.

Does he not find it inappropriate that this federal government decided to include the creation of a centralist approach to securities regulation in a budget implementation bill? Will the path of non-participation, the voluntary choice of companies, not simply nullify the jurisdiction of the Commission des valeurs mobilières du Québec as it currently exists and as desired by Quebec society as a whole?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 2nd, 2009

Madam Speaker, we are at the report stage for the budget implementation bill, and the group of amendments currently before us includes amendments about tax havens. The Conservatives have decided to do a 180 and go back to the old way of doing business, which resulted in billions of dollars leaving the country. Paradoxically, they have decided to set up a Canada-wide securities commission, which is unacceptable to Quebec. This group of amendments also includes the Conservative government's decision to exempt several foreign corporations buying Canadian companies from review. In these troubled economic times, when we should be tightening up the rules, the Conservative Party has, as always, opted for total laissez-faire and wants the market to handle everything. What a paradox. We all know how that worked out; we are living with the economic crisis now.

I would like the member to tell me whether he finds the Conservative government's decision to go ahead with this measure paradoxical because it will allow greater foreign ownership of our companies with no controls in place. The government will be giving up control over what happens after that. Is it not paradoxical that the Conservative government, with the support of the Liberal Party, should be going ahead with such a measure?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 2nd, 2009

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's speech. However, there is one aspect of the budget and the group of amendments that bothers me considerably. Although we hear about a desire to bring in a budget to stimulate the economy and really focus on the important aspects of economic stimulus, the Conservative government has decided to take an approach modelled after American budgets, that is, with measures that are not necessarily connected to the specific goal, and, as we say back home, measures that could be used to pull a fast one.

This includes creating a national securities commission, even though a consensus has been reached on this among the Government of Quebec, economic stakeholders in Quebec, all political parties in the Quebec National Assembly, and the Bloc Québécois. This consensus is based, for one thing, on the fact the OECD has ranked Canada second best in the world for securities regulation.

Now, with the support of the Liberals, the Conservative government is using the budget implementation bill as an opportunity to change this system, to change this arrangement and ultimately throw away a system that is working well, even though we are in a time when, if something works in the securities sector, we should leave it alone, instead of replacing it with something else.

How can my colleague explain his party's position, which is to support such a measure?

February 25th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the question is very simple. Does Canada, the federal government, the Conservative government, believe that Mr. Khadr was a child soldier or not? If he was, the government is duty bound to ask for his return to Canada. If he was not a child soldier, that is another matter. Given that he fits the profile, Canada is currently not fulfilling its responsibilities, especially since we know Mr. Khadr was tortured.

Again yesterday, President Obama stated that the United States no longer carries out torture. It was banned when he became President. The Conservative Party should be interested in noting that there has been a change in practice in the United States. They want a right-leaning state but without punitive practices such as those that do not allow deserving individuals to be rehabilitated and to avail themselves of the appropriate legal process.

The Conservative government will have to face the serious consequences engendered by its attitude: it is not fulfilling its international commitments and has allowed a child soldier to be kept in prison for much longer than warranted. In addition, it is an illegal prison. The President of the United States has decided to close it.

I hope that the Conservative government will finally understand its responsibilities and take appropriate action. That is what all Canadians want.

February 25th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, on February 9, 10 days before the visit by President Obama, I asked the federal government to repatriate Omar Khadr, because he is a child soldier. Since then, the government's position has not changed. Today, I would like to take the few minutes I have to try to make the minister and his representative understand that Omar Khadr does have the status of a child soldier. When he was 15, he was accused of a crime. That is exactly what the convention covers. A child soldier is someone who committed acts when he did not have full command of his own will and actions. He is someone who has been brainwashed and made to believe certain things. And today, we are saying that Canada signed the international convention and must honour that agreement, repatriate Mr. Khadr, treat him appropriately and, above all, not turn him loose just like that. Mr. Khadr's lawyers had offered to have him supervised and monitored, a little like young offenders who need to be reintegrated into society. They want to make sure he is rehabilitated, and that is the approach they were leaning toward.

How can the government decide not to keep the promise it has made to the international community? It signed the convention on child soldiers. This is a case of a child soldier. Canada is putting itself in a very bad position with regard to international public opinion. It wants a seat on the UN Security Council, yet the first thing it does is go back on its word in an obvious case.

President Obama has decided to close Guantanamo. The Minister of Foreign Affairs had the perfect opportunity yesterday to tell the American Secretary of State that we are prepared to repatriate Mr. Khadr, that this would free them of the last prisoner from a western country, that we would take him in, put him through the appropriate legal proceedings, as needed, and ensure follow up. Why did Canada not chose to take this approach, one that reflects the values of Canadians and Quebeckers, and is more in line with the practices it has followed in the past in matters of foreign affairs? Why did it not decide to give this individual a chance, instead of hiding behind the fact that he faces serious charges? We know that when the alleged act occurred, he was a child soldier. Amnesty International, the three opposition parties and the Canadian Bar Association all want Canada to ask that Mr. Khadr be repatriated.

How can Canada maintain this attitude, which, in my opinion, shows nothing more than a certain servitude to the Bush period in the United States? We are no longer in that period. Can the government not show the least bit of humanity and ask that Mr. Khadr be repatriated, thereby assuring full protection of his rights as a Canadian citizen?

Foreign Affairs February 25th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, all of the countries that have signed treaties regarding child soldiers are keeping their promises. All but Canada, that is. The minister has not given a straight answer, so I will ask the question again.

What is his definition of a child soldier? As Canada's representative, will he keep this country's word?