House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was federal.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Ahuntsic (Québec)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 44% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994 April 12th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time I rise on electoral reform. First I would like to apologize to our friends the interpreters for not bringing them my speech, as I usually do. Unfortunately, if the people listening to us could see the wilderness in which we are preaching today, they would understand that sometimes we must be ready to respond quickly.

So this is the second time I rise on electoral reform. I did so as chairman of the Montreal Island caucus. I questioned my Bloc colleagues and tried to gather information on this reform, and today we are discussing the amendments proposed after the report was tabled. The main amendment-the first one-would reduce from 24 to 12 months the suspension period for electoral boundary readjustment. The second and third amendments are a logical consequence of the first one and would let the readjustment proceed while the committee drafts its report so that the commission can do its job.

When I spoke-I will come back to my first speech on this-it was important to me, and many of my regional colleagues spoke of the importance of representing the socio-economic, socio-political communities in their ridings; in the regions, they talk a lot about regional county municipalities, while in the Montreal area, they talk about districts. It is important for members to represent these communities, to have a political representation as integrated as possible at the provincial, federal, municipal, or school level.

In fact, I think that when we talk about the opportunity for politicians to act with the increasingly scarce or limited resources at their disposal, such actions must be better co-ordinated at every level of government. In this respect, there are administrative units that must be represented.

In my first speech I spoke about a fuzzy mathematical logic because, in my opinion, the proposed reform has nothing to do with real life. I told you about problems in the eastern part of Montreal, in Mercier, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Papineau-Saint-Michel, the riding of the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs, that will disappear, the riding of Saint-Léonard that will expand considerably, as well as the riding of Saint-Denis and my own riding of Ahuntsic. By the way, "Ahuntsic" is an Indian word that dates back to the beginning of the colony. Mr. Ahuntsic was a young ferryman with the first settlers and it is

the Iroquois who gave him this nickname. So, that name goes back to the very beginning of the colony.

I re-examined the map and discovered another problem with the riding of Bourassa-Anjou-Rivières-des-Prairies, which seems to me quite significant when you consider only the figures.

The riding of Bourassa encompasses the city of Montreal North, a developing area facing hard times and trying to regroup its community organizations as well as its political demography. The area is pretty well integrated.

Given the proposed readjustments, from a mathematical point of view only, we will add to this riding, which encompasses a whole city, about ten streets taken from the riding of Anjou-Rivières-des-Prairies. Now, Rivières-des-Prairies is a neighbourhood in the city of Montreal. In other words, we will be adding to a politically and economically homogenous entity a tiny area, made up of ten streets, only to respect some mathematical criteria. I will come back later to the spreads, because there are some things which are totally absurd.

I thought I would address the issue of "juggling" figures, and since our friends, the translators, do not have copy of my speech, I am looking forward to seeing how they will translate this nice Quebec French expression, zigonnage , which says exactly what I mean.

In my hands, I have a map which I want to show you. I want to talk about the population spreads. In Quebec, there are about 91,500 constituents for every seat and the ridings are drawn according to this average ratio.

If you look at the previous map, in the area of Montreal made up of 23 ridings, 11 ridings were below the average ratio. Now, on the new map, we have 17 ridings which are 5 per cent over the average ratio. So, we went from a minimum scale which we were not following to another scale which we are still not following, since the variations are very large.

In fact, on the former map, the spread was of 20 per cent in three ridings and 10 per cent in four other ridings. With the new map, the spread in 17 ridings on the island of Montreal is over 5 per cent. We even have some pretty obscure spreads, some incredible turnabouts. In Laurier-Sainte-Marie, the spread went from minus 13 to plus 4, for a difference of 17. In Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, we went from minus 14 to plus 10, a difference of 24 between the two maps. In Rosemont, it varied from minus 5 to plus 12, a difference of 17. The two champions in this respect are Anjou-Rivière-des-Prairies, which changes from +20 to -0.54, a spread of 21, and the riding of Vaudreuil, which will go from +20 to -8, a spread of 28.

Why do we have these wide swings? I do not know where the riding of Vaudreuil will be on the next maps, because it will no longer be part of Montreal Island.

In my first presentation, I assumed that the riding of NDG no longer existed, which is not the case. NDG is now Lachine-NDG. The riding of Lachine-Lac-Saint-Louis is now Pointe-Claire-Dollard; Pierrefonds-Dollard will be Pierrefonds- Beaconsfield and Saint-Henri-Westmount will be Westmount-Ville-Marie. Ridings that ran east-west will now run north-south, which creates a juxtaposition of small towns on the West Island, which consists of medium-sized towns. It takes two to make a federal riding, but instead of the usual east-west twinning, they now run north-south.

It is rather messy, and I think we are just perpetuating a system that did not make sense to start with. We have had the same system for the past 30 years, and it led to an incongruous situation that to us in Montreal was really incredible, and I am referring to the riding of Laval-des-Rapides which straddled the Rivière-des-Prairies, being half on the Island of Laval and half on Montreal Island. When you realize, as I do, that the people of Ahuntsic often wish the metro would be extended to Laval, so that the people of Laval could leave their cars at home instead of polluting our neighbourhoods, I find it hard to understand why we should group two communities that so often disagree on major political issues.

So far, four ridings in the region have not been affected: the three ridings of Laval, where Laval Centre is at +11.52, Laval East at +12 and Laval West at +18. A subsequent readjustment would normally create a fourth riding on the Island of Laval. However, considering existing figures and population growth, we can assume that for the next census, a fourth riding would have to include more than just the north shore, on Île Jésus.

Are we to assume, after seeing what it means to have a riding straddling two islands, that according to the same system, we will get another incongruous situation when the next readjustment creates another riding straddling the shores of two islands?

That sounds rather far-fetched, but in any case, I would like to point out that the riding of Saint-Laurent-Cartierville will not change. This is the only riding out of 23 on the Island that will not be affected in any way. Therefore, if we can presume the member is thinking in electoral terms when she talks about the map, we can certainly presume that our hon. colleague, the Acting Speaker, will have no partisan motivation whatsoever when she votes.

This brings us to the amendments. I see myself having to defend this in front of the commission simply because we could not meet the deadline, because here in the House we follow a very peculiar kind of procedure to say the least. To the commission I will say: According to the present rules, you should do this for my riding and according to other rules, you should do that.

It is somewhat incongruous when you think that, whatever happens, this whole process will and must disappear because it is not logical for me to defend bits of Montreal districts that will be taken away to be added to another riding for socio-demographic reasons. One thing is sure: if I win, my neighbour will lose; according to demographic and mathematical criteria, someone somewhere has to lose.

On that point, I agree with the bill and I disagree with the amendments because 12 months will not be enough. I agree with the member for Beauséjour that we need 24 months and that, after the committee has tabled its report, we will need time to come back to the question and analyze it thoroughly and not in a rush as I have to do it today; we will need to take the time to study the issue properly.

Employability Development Programs April 11th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the minister that community groups are often front-line groups that are interested in and help people in difficulty.

How can the minister justify the fact that, with Quebec's very high unemployment rate, his only solution is to cut the EDPs and reserve the right to allocate funds as he wishes? Is he preparing for the referendum?

Employability Development Programs April 11th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.

As the federal budget creates unemployment and attacks the unemployed, all community groups were very concerned to learn that there will be no new employability development programs or EDPs in most regions. It seems there is no more money.

Can the minister confirm that the reason there is no new money for regular EDPs is because he has decided to keep a discretionary fund estimated at $40 million for Quebec alone?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act March 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have been in politics for about 20 years, and I have never seen such a mess. I must admit this is the first time I been particularly aware of the social and economic impact of adjusting the federal electoral map.

When I was quite young, my mother used to get bored while my father, who was a travelling salesman, was away, and she would do jigsaw puzzles. After looking at the proposed electoral map, my impression was that the people who drew this map must have been very bored indeed to perpetrate this proposal, pardon the expression.

I found it hard to understand the logic involved in this electoral boundaries readjustment proposal, and I did some quick research on ridings in East Montreal that were affected by this proposal. One conclusion is be that the proposal ignores socio-demographic and socio-economic factors to all intents and purposes. The proposal shows a complete disregard for any concept of community. In other words, it was botched.

A riding should first and foremost represent a community. We cannot get around this social fact. It is foolish to alter the boundaries of a riding and blindly carve up natural communities to satisfy the demands of fuzzy mathematical logic and administrative efficiency.

A member of Parliament is elected to serve the interests of his constituents, not those technocrats who very often have no concept of the practical needs of community groups. A member of Parliament must defend the interests of individuals, community groups and businesses and promote the development of economic activity in his riding.

The proposed administrative boundaries transform a number of communities into a meaningless expanse of statistical data and arbitrary geographic divisions. Let me explain. All this has no connection with the activities of these communities. I am talking about neighbourhoods, urban districts, people living in a naturally homogeneous environment, which may be cultural, ethnic, religious or economic, a living community, organized in human terms and not for administrative purposes alone.

As I said before, I made some enquiries among my colleagues in East Montreal to assess the impact of the proposed readjustment. Here are a few examples. I may recall that Montreal is divided into administrative units referred to as arrondissements or districts.

In the riding of Mercier, the urban district of Mercier-Ouest is cut in two. This means breaking up a natural demographic unit for the sake of mathematical considerations. From now on, three federal members will be working to promote the interests of the same social groups and the same economic organizations, while at the provincial level, a single member is able to take care of the same needs in the provincial riding of Bourget.

In the federal riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve we see the same lack of logic. Why cut the provincial riding of Bourget in two? This arbitrary division is as distasteful to the people of Mercier as it is to the people of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. Once again, this means fracturing a natural urban district.

Furthermore, the proposal adds onto the northern part of the riding a population which has no natural affinity, other than geographical, to the riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. It would be more appropriately added to the riding of Saint-Léonard, in terms of socio-demographic affinity.

In Rosemont, the riding will get part of the riding of Saint-Michel which, again, has no social affinity to the population in Rosemont, while, the riding would welcome the annexation of part of Outremont, so that its boundaries would coincide with those of the LCSCs-local community service centres-and urban districts.

The case of Papineau-Saint-Michel is rather peculiar. The riding of the Minister of Foreign Affairs has been struck off the map. What is the reasoning behind this decision? Part of the population of this homogeneous riding, which includes the former town of Saint-Michel, its parishes, recreation services, health care institutions and community groups, has been moved to the riding of Saint-Léonard, a riding which practically coincides with the town of Saint-Léonard. We now have a situation where the population of the former town of Saint-Michel will be a minority, in the new riding.

The other half of Papineau-Saint-Michel has been moved to the riding of Saint-Denis, which will extend to Acadie Boulevard. People in Montreal realize how ridiculous this is. The community resources of two districts in Montreal's centre north will be disorganized as a result.

In my riding of Ahuntsic, the results are positively outlandish. Parishes are being cut in two and communities divided, just to align the riding on the Laurentian Autoroute. For the sake of geographic convenience, part of the northeast corner of Ahuntsic is transferred to another riding. This area, which is isolated from all other areas with the exception of Ahuntsic, has a large Italian community, which in the process would also be isolated from its natural centre, the Italian parish of Notre-Dame-de-Pompéi. This community would no longer enjoy integrated federal representation. Between this area and its new riding lies the vast Miron quarry dump.

Saint-Sulpice, where I live, is faced with a similar situation. The parish is separated from its community organizations, and so forth. Yet, this neighourhood portion is isolated from its new riding by the Metropolitan Boulevard, a high-technology centre, schools and recreational centres. The government is destroying an integration process that has been patiently developed for the last ten years.

In the proposed project, we find the same lack of logic that appeared in the case of the riding of Laval-des-Rapides, between 1976 and 1989, when it overlapped Laval and Montreal. It had to be seen to be believed!

May I also point out that the numerous divisions of employment centres do not fit electoral boundaries, which undoubtedly contributes to maintaining the confusion among people towards services provided by these centres and by the federal government.

I would also wish to remind you that the very concept of a one-stop window implies harmonization, at all levels of government, of administrative divisions, so that we can provide services and grants from the same social, demographical and economic territories. That is a major demand by the economic and community development co-operatives, the CDEC of Montreal.

We cannot ignore the map of disadvantaged areas that was drawn by the Island of Montreal School Board, major social and economic data. It is more than desirable that Montreal be given, at the federal level, effective electoral representation which takes into account the indicators of disadvantaged areas.

In concluding, I would point out that the criteria for the division of these federal electoral maps have not been reviewed in almost 30 years. These criteria should be developed on the basis of social demographical and social economical data, rather than on the simplistic basis, should I say, of raw and blind mathematical data! On the basis of administrative and/or geographical convenience that has nothing to do with the real areas where people live.

Participating in public hearings on the basis of this redistribution would amount to saying that we view it as an acceptable basis for negociation while it is not.

Negociating on an individual basis, county by county, would cause other Montreal ridings to lose their homogeneity.

The overall proposal made by the commission is unacceptable. The parliamentary committee has to start from scratch again. Dealing with the same commission and doing all over again what has already been badly done would only lead to the same results.

The system has to be changed and this is why I will vote for the bill.

Supply March 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I found the hon. member's comments very interesting. I am not a lawyer or a notary, and I have no particular interest in judicial matters, but I represent a constituency that includes the inmates of Bordeaux, a well-known prison in Montreal. In fact, I heard several remarks during the two previous speeches made by members of the Reform Party which seem to reflect some prejudice against the penal system, in that they call for yet more legislation but ignore the lack of resources endemic in the system.

Bordeaux prison is a provincial institution, in other words, for offenders sentenced to two years or less, and it is full of so-called weekend inmates. The penal system does not provide enough prisons, and often when inmates who serve their sentence on weekends come to the prison, they are told: No room, come back next week. And this can go on for two years.

We do not need more legislation. We need resources, as my colleague argued earlier.

I heard some remarks by my Reform Party colleague-speaking of prejudice-who referred to nice, warm jails. I do not think they are nice, warm jails. This smacks of demagogy, and we can do without that. I think we should concentrate on improving the availability of resources.

I have a more specific question about the hon. member's speech. He made a presentation on a private member' bill concerning compensation for victims of crime. At the present time, victims can go to civil court to sue criminals. However, criminals usually do not have any income or resources to pay fines and that sort of thing.

Could he explain how this would be dealt with in his bill, to give victims a better chance to sue criminals for damage arising from their crimes?

The Budget February 24th, 1994

I thank the hon. member for Beauséjour. Indeed, entrepreneurship in Quebec is alive and well. In my riding, attempts were under way for many years to set up an economic development corporation. Federal and provincial members of Parliament and municipal councillors persisted in telling us that this was impossible. But, we took matters into our own hands and established such a corporation, because we had the will to succeed.

There are many examples of similar successes at the provincial level. However, we also encounter obstacles and when I spoke about unemployment insurance in particular, I mentioned that we needed some oxygen. Until such time as all of these problems are resolved, and the Minister of Human Resources Development sits down with his provincial counterpart and settles the question of manpower training as best he can, until such time, we need some oxygen in Montreal to help the disadvantaged who are gasping for breath.

This afternoon, the minister quoted from a newspaper clipping. Undoubtedly, he overlooked an article on unemployment insurance which appeared on page C-1 of today's edition of La Presse . It quotes Mr. Claude Forget, a former provincial Liberal minister who once put forward a major proposal for unemployment insurance reform.

Mr. Forget is reported as saying that the introduction of a different benefit level for persons with dependants will complicate matters and increase the costs of administering the legislation which is already highly complex.

With two different benefit levels, namely 55 per cent and 60 per cent, the system will be absolutely impossible to administer. This will create major problems and complicate the system. In addition, as reported on page C-3, the budget proposes vague fiscal measures. Even the experts are confused. Moreover, it is reported on the front page that Mr. Paul Martin was visibly disappointed with the frosty reception given to the government's financial plan and was prepared to accept part of the blame.

Perhaps the most interesting of all the articles appearing in La Presse -

The Budget February 24th, 1994

The "beau risque", as we say in French, did not work. Even Bourassa's five minimum conditions did not work. To start with, these five minimum conditions with a patriation of power, respect for our jurisdiction, even that did not work. The government tells us that as far as the Constitution is concerned, it is business as usual, the problem will disappear by itself. That is not true. The federal government is involved in all spheres of activity. There is not one department, except possibly defence, where it is not involved.

The economic development projects that it presents to us, the Youth Corps program which resembles Katimavik is a provincial program. It has no business being there. This is a cultural program, an educational program, it has no business being there.

As for occupational training, no subject brings such nearly unanimous agreement among Quebecers. Even the very federalist Conseil du patronat and its president, Ghislain Dufour, who is not a sovereigntist, agree. It is up to the SQDM, the Quebec labour development corporation, to act in this field. When we get to this point in other subjects, we can raise specific issues where the federal government does not even recognize programs that qualify for the SQDM, there is all that duplication. We are wasting our energy while we cut help for the unemployed. You said yourselves that by cutting unemployment insurance, you would put pressure on welfare. Now that you are in power, you say the opposite.

The Budget February 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, through you, I thank the hon. member for his nice comments. Earlier I quoted unemployment figures from 1989 to 1993. As far as I know, there was no sovereigntist government in Quebec at that time.

I would like to talk about a study done by Professor William J. Coffey and Mario Polèse-it could be tabled if someone asks for a copy; this document is available at the Library by the way-on the city of Montreal; it is called Le déclin de l'empire montréalais: regard sur l'économie d'une métropole en mutation . The authors are not sovereigntists. Their analysis shows that Montreal's decline is mainly due to what they call the loss of the hinterland. The market gradually moved to Toronto. Our industries got older. The Lachine canal region, which was a cradle of industrial development in Canada, is sinking into obsolescence; major investments are needed to revitalize it.

I was involved in creating an association to promote economic development in Montreal. In the end, we must take ourselves in hand at the local level and this, in turn, will lead us to do the same at the national level. I am a Montrealer and a "Montrealist" and, in that sense, we cannot propose to use the means at our disposal while leaving important tools in the hands of the federal government, which does a very poor job of managing them.

During question period this afternoon, the minister, in a flight of partisan oratory, talked about the RRAP. The RRAP was supposed to be a social housing program. The first part of the program is aimed at homeowners and the second part, at handicapped people. The part of the program designed for handicapped people can be compared to social housing, obviously.

We know that Montreal has a problem, mostly because of single parent families and the large number of new residents, who often live in apartments. Toronto probably has the same problem to some extent. But these people are not eligible under that program.

This government, which was a great advocate of social housing when in opposition, throws us a few peanuts and tells us

it is providing social housing; it is outrageous. When the minister adds that we should applaud the Minister of Finance, who is responsible for Montreal's economic development, that is the last straw.

So this study, that will be made available to you-again, it is called Déclin de l'empire montréalais -identifies the Quebec political option as a minor factor. It is a minor political factor at this stage. I would guess that William J. Coffey is not a sovereigntist.

It is important for Quebec's main city to give itself tools and to recognize that these tools must belong to the Quebec government. The federal government did not fulfil its mandate and I myself have lost hope.

In 1988, I was among those who supported the Conservatives for the nice worth-

The Budget February 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, as a Montrealer from way back who represents Ahuntsic, a Montreal riding, I would like to talk about my city, the city of Montreal.

A number of years ago when I was still in elementary school, our teachers taught us, with barely disguised pride, that Montreal was Canada's metropolis. We were the residents of a city that was Canada's financial and banking centre. The port of Montreal was Canada's major port, handling goods from Ontario and the Prairie provinces and imports from Europe and Africa. Those were the good old days, but times have changed.

Montreal has now become this country's poverty capital. In the metropolitan area, 18.5 per cent of households live below the poverty line. And with the first Martin budget, Montreal has become the capital of despair. During the past ten years, poverty has been gaining ground, and not only undermining the moral of Montreal's residents but also their ability to face the major challenges it must overcome to be competitive on the market. Business arteries formerly crowded with shops, boutiques and markets, now show signs "for rent", "going out of business" or, tersely, "bankruptcy". I am not dramatizing at all. This is a fact of life in Montreal.

But what these shop windows tell us reflects only a fraction of the experience of Montreal residents. According to a study conducted by United Appeal to improve the way it targets funding to the neediest in the organization's territory, half the low-income residents surveyed in the United Appeal's territory live in the city of Montreal. Montreal Island has a poverty rate that is higher than the average rate for the greater United Appeal district, which also includes the suburbs. In Montreal, Montreal North, Verdun and Ville-Saint-Pierre, one resident out of three lives below the poverty line.

I may add, for the benefit of the Minister of Finance, that his own city and his own riding has been struck by poverty as well, since one resident out of four in Ville LaSalle lives below the poverty line.

This is the same minister who gave us a budget that, ostensibly to give the economy a boost, takes the money out of the pockets of those who need it most. They do not need the money to put into family trusts and save on their income tax or to compensate for the fact that they can no longer deduct their business lunches. They need the money for food, clothing, shelter and health care.

Not so long ago, when he was meditating on the opposition benches before becoming Minister of Finance, this is the same person-although he seems to have forgotten this, as we saw in his first budget-the same person responsible for the economic development of greater Montreal, who wrote in La Presse on June 8, 1992, in referring to Montreal: ``As the economic heartland and a major development force, the Montreal region must be given a boost very quickly, otherwise its economic decline will be that of Quebec as well''.

Why did the minister not introduce the kind of measures he proposed last June, which included upgrading or rebuilding infrastructures and a program for home renovation assistance, which, as he said quite accurately, generated jobs and would be very beneficial in an area like Montreal, with one of the highest tenancy rates in the country? Since the only existing renovation program, the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program, is intended not for tenants but for owner-occupants, one wonders who had the most powerful lobby.

Why did the same member, who is now the minister, not talk about creating super economic incubators and implementing a policy for renewal of growth sectors in the manufacturing industry in partnership with Quebec and the city of Montreal?

These are all former proposals made by the minister. Was it all just a fantasy? What happened to the promise he made with other Liberal candidates last October, a promise that included investing $250 million in research and development in Quebec, mostly in Montreal? What happened, since everyone agrees Quebec does not get its fair share of spending on research and development?

How could they promise such measures and many others it would take too long to mention, and not take concrete steps in the Budget, at a time when we are witnessing the pauperization of Montreal? And what are the consequences, in the near and not so near future, of a deteriorating financial situation in a city of 1.2 million with an unemployment rate that rose from 9.1 per cent in December 1989 to 13.8 per cent in December 1993, higher than the unemployment rate in St. John's, Newfoundland during the same period, or in Toronto, where the unemployment rate rose from 4.1 per cent in December 1989 to 11.5 per cent for the same period?

One of the more obvious signs of poverty is reflected in the housing situation, shelter being a very basic need and extremely important in a country like ours with its severe winters-some-

thing we can certainly see these days-like the winter we are going through, which may end some time this spring?

But seriously, the housing situation has been discussed many times in this House, and with good reason. It is a good way to assess the poverty level of a city or any other community. In the last census, we get a very good picture of the rental housing situation in Quebec and Canada. In Toronto, 62 per cent of all units requiring major repairs were occupied by tenants. In Montreal, the figure is about the same, that is, 59 per cent; it is 58 per cent for Ottawa-Hull and 54 per cent for Vancouver.

In Montreal, families in rental housing live in appalling conditions. One household out of three spends more than 30 per cent of its income on accommodation, and one household out of six spends more than 50 per cent. Nearly 20,000 people are considered homeless. According to the Montreal Municipal Housing Bureau, 10,000 households or about 20,000 people are on the waiting list. Most of the requests for low-cost housing come from seniors, single-parent families and people with disabilities, that is to say the most vulnerable segment of our society.

Last Tuesday, merely two hours before the budget speech, when I inquired about the lack of social housing, the Minister of Public Works, who is responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, asked me to be patient, that I would have an opportunity to review the decisions of the Minister of Finance once he had delivered his budget. The fact of the matter is that there is nothing for social housing in that budget.

In Montreal, 63,280 households pay in excess of 50 per cent of their income in rent. That is about one tenant household in five, or 19.1 per cent. Montreal is the Canadian city with the highest number of tenant households paying over 50 per cent of their income in rent, with 19.1 per cent, as compared to 14.5 per cent in Ottawa and 16 per cent in Toronto.

One third of all tenant households forced to devote in excess of 50 per cent of their income to housing, or 194,225 households, live in Quebec, as compared to 583,705 in Canada. With a much larger population, Ontario has about the same number of households in the same predicament: 194,920 households, in a much larger population. There are 77,120 such households in British Columbia.

To complete this list of sad statistics showing the poverty level in Montreal, we must take a brief look at Montréal-Nord, a city represented by Mr. Nunez, the hon. member for Bourassa, a neighbouring riding. The level of poverty in Montréal-Nord is such that experts warn that it could turn into a social tinderbox. In Montréal-Nord, a very cosmopolitan city, 10,500 households, nearly 42 per cent of all tenant households, spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing, while 22 per cent spend over 50 per cent. These figures reflect a completely absurd situation.

Again, it must be pointed out that, last October, the Minister of Finance, like the rest of the Liberal candidates, had promised to support co-ops and non-profit organizations involved in providing social housing.

At this point, I must quote statistics from the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada. In 1992, there were 17,400 housing units in Quebec versus 35,000 in Ontario; 17,400 versus 35,000. These figures show once again that Quebec does not get its fair share. One out of two is certainly not a prorated share. This is no doubt another good example of the fairness of the federal system.

Why is it then that the Minister of Finance wrote a coalition of organizations involved in social housing and told them that it was up to the federal administration to ensure that over one million Canadian households have decent and affordable housing? I hope that our colleagues will ask questions about the RRAP program, so that we can cover that aspect as well.

How can a nation which calls itself civilized and boasts that it is the best in the world, as our friends have told us repeatedly, see the desperate situation some of its citizens, people just like you and me, are in because they are unable to find work or have lost their jobs and have us believe that taking $5.5 billion away from the unemployed over the next three years will help put Canada back to work? It is surrealistic. By failing to tackle the deficit directly by reducing duplication and overlap, of which we still do not fully appreciate the magnitude, failing to even impose minimum tax on large corporations and getting cold feet when it should cut federal operating expenditures, the government made the conscious decision to get the money it needed out of the pockets of the most vulnerable members of our society.

With the qualifying period for unemployment insurance benefits increased from 10 to 12 weeks, chances are that all those whose work is seasonal in nature, like farmers, fishermen, gardeners, waiters and waitresses, and summer camp workers, or do contract work, which is the only way for many young professionals to earn a living, will be greatly penalized. Again, the hardest hit by the measures introduced by the Minister of Finance will be the people who already have an employment problem.

Furthermore, beginning unemployment insurance reform before the vast consultation to identify the people's needs even begins will have a downright disastrous effect on the provinces' finances. These measures will put more people on welfare, at provincial expense; the provinces in turn will be forced to cut their programs as a result of the freeze on transfers to the provinces. Part of our deficit is being shifted to our neighbours,

while their funds to meet the resulting new needs are cut. The situation is most alarming. It is quite a program.

Just think that during the election campaign, the Liberal Party spoke only of employment and equity, and this budget provides no remedy for unemployment and poverty; it only offers short-term jobs, which we hope will last at least 12 weeks so that these workers qualify for unemployment insurance. It is clearly insufficient for restoring the dignity of people without work.

The unemployed, especially jobless women, seniors and the poor will pay the price for the Liberal government's social spending cuts. The Minister of Human Resources Development, whom I would call Mr. Axe, tells us that the social program review could lead to more cuts. What an indecent turnaround in the Liberals' social positions from the time they were in opposition until now, when they are in power. Unemployment insurance cuts lead to more people on welfare, the present Deputy Prime Minister said in 1992. Unemployment insurance cuts lead to more people on welfare! She was in the opposition then. If you raise your eyebrows, you can check the news on the French network of the CBC yesterday; it ran that newsclip.

These new cuts still mean shifting the deficit to the provinces. Freezing transfer payments costs the provinces $2 billion more. Montreal is seriously ill, but the Liberal government is still cutting a little more of the oxygen off from its disadvantaged population. We have to thank the Liberals for their generous program of collective impoverishment.

Social Housing February 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works.

On this, the 25th anniversary of the Office municipal d'habitation de Montréal, Mr. John Gardiner, the housing co-ordinator on Montreal's executive committee, has once again condemned the federal government's withdrawal from the social housing field. It should be noted that more than 10,000 families

or households in Montreal are currently on waiting lists for social housing.

My question is for the Minister of Public Works, who is responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Since Mr. Gardiner has once again denounced the federal government's withdrawal from this area, are we to understand that his recent meeting with the minister was unproductive?