House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Brome—Missisquoi (Québec)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Party Fundraising May 6th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue the debate in this House this afternoon on the motion of my hon. colleague from Richelieu concerning financial contributions to political parties.

Mr. Speaker, we all know how important the financing of political parties is when elections come. Clearly, an election campaign takes money. But do we really have to let just anyone or anything finance our political parties? Canada's electoral system has serious shortcomings that allow multinationals, even American ones, to meddle in Canadian public affairs. If this electoral system does not soon acquire strict rules on the financing of political parties, it is in great danger of no longer being representative.

The Bloc Quebecois, which applied Quebec's rules on public financing during the last election campaign, is the only federal political party represented in this House which can boast that its election expenses were financed solely by individuals and that

it is accountable only to these same people. Not to interest groups, not to corporations or multinational conglomerates, but only to the people whom it proudly represents. We are dealing with the very principle of democracy today. But what do the members opposite fear?

When the Parti Quebecois introduced the legislation on political party financing in 1977, some feared that the Quebec Liberal Party would not recover. The party was cut off from most of its financing sources and had to make some adjustments. It had always depended on large corporations to fund its political activities. The party's financial position, although weakened at first, adapted to the change and is doing very well today, relying exclusively on private donations. Political parties in Quebec can survive without corporate financing, and it is much better this way.

What did happen for individuals to start making small donations to their favourite political party? It is simply that, once private donations were accepted, individuals slowly regained confidence in their elected representatives. Voters realize now that their 10 $ or 20 $ donations can make a difference. Quebecers know that election results and government decisions no longer depend on the mood of large corporations. The average Canadian, such as the one that we should be representing as parliamentarians, knows that he has a say in the state's business.

When in their ridings, members of the Bloc Quebecois are not afraid of being asked THE question so feared by members of other parties, which is the following: "Whose interests are you promoting in the House of Commons?" the Bloc Quebecois members simply answer: "The only interests that we promote are those of Quebecers". The least we can say is that the answer from Liberal Party members is likely much more complicated. If you look closely at who funded their election campaign, you soon realize that they are accountable not only to the people, but to others as well.

To find out whom the Liberals are indebted to, one only has to look at Elections Canada's report, which reveals that in 1991-92, nearly 50 per cent of contributions to the Liberal Party of Canada's election fund came from businesses and from various commercial and other organizations. How can Liberal Party members say they protect people's interests when half their funds come from companies? Let us not delude ourselves: these big corporations do not give tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to that party just because of its great democratic values.

French-Canadians used to say, "No taxation without representation." The Liberals and the Tories have made a few changes to this famous sentence over the years. Today their slogan would be: "No representation without contribution". Those who want their voices to be heard in Parliament should realize that they must make substantial contributions to the election fund or else their demands will disappear under the millions of dollars given to the national political parties by the big corporations. So much for the great democratic principles Canada is so proud of.

Some companies do not take any chances, like CN, which gave tens of thousands of dollars to each of the two big parties last year. They expect something in return, such as favours, contracts or legislative amendments favouring them. We should not think that these companies, which are not used to spending their money needlessly, are motivated solely by noble intentions. If we let these corporations influence through their donations the results of elections in this country, the decisions our governments will make may be biased by their debts, moral or otherwise, to these very companies.

The political parties taking office in Ottawa are supposed to represent the Canadian people, but until the federal government amends, as Quebec did over 15 years ago, its legislation on political party funding, people will always wonder whose interests the government in office is trying to protect. Quebecers have understood the meaning of the word "democracy" for a long time. Today, the federal government has an opportunity to show us it understands it too. It is up to it to seize this opportunity offered by the Official Opposition to restore the democratic reputation of Canada as a whole.

Pearson International Airports Agreement Act May 6th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-22 is a perfect example of these "scorpio" bills to which the Liberal Party has accustomed us. Innocuous at first sight, it can become disastrous if one is not careful. Bill C-22 is only four pages long and contains only twelve short sections. But beware! The fatal sting is in clause 10, which provides that developers who lose a deal as a result of public pressure may be entitled to compensation. Liberals could not really drop their

old friends. They found there a particularly deceptive way of giving them satisfaction.

By introducing Bill C-22, the Liberal government gives even more strength to the Bloc Quebecois' campaign slogan which roughly translates as: "Giving ourselves real power". Indeed, last october 25, Quebecers gave themselves real power in Ottawa. Not the power to favour friends of the government, not the power to grant lucrative contracts to companies that gave money to the party or are able to hire the services of large lobbyists firms. No, Mr. Speaker, real power! The power to defend the interests of real people, the interests of all those who are indignant about questionable initiatives such as Bill C-22.

It is no wonder that some members opposite question the legitimacy of the Bloc Quebecois. It is difficult for them to accept the presence, in this House, of members whose party did not get any financial support from large corporations. It is not necessarily because of ideological or political differences that the financial establishment did not support the Bloc Quebecois during the electoral campaign. In fact, several companies have clearly expressed their support to the Bloc and wanted to give it funds. Our party simply refused to play the games of the lobbyists. Our legitimacy rests on people, not on corporations.

As you know, when a company or an association asks to meet a member of the Official Opposition, that member does not have to follow the same ritual than a Liberal member. It is not necessary to look on the electoral list to decide upon the length of the interview or the interest that must be given to it. The only criterion which is used to determine the political agenda of a member from the Bloc Quebecois is the defence of the interests of the people from Quebec. Do the Liberal members really think that people are stupid enough as to believe that a person who contributed five dollars to the Liberal Party fund is going to get the same attention as a multinational which contributed $100,000?

I would like to clarify one thing just to make sure I am not going to be misunderstood here. I am not saying that the ministers and government members who received contributions from companies are all corrupt and ill-intentioned. Not at all! I rather look at those poor Liberal or Conservative members as victims. They are the victims of a legislative tradition that allowed the institutionalization of a patronage system in which only the rich can be heard. The only way to restore the system would be to eliminate the donations companies make to political parties by amending the legislation.

The old parties reject such a measure. According to them, there is no need to amend the federal legislation on political financing which is so beneficial to them. If people want to be heard, they can turn to a lobbyist firm. This mentality is so deeply entrenched in Canadian political habits that the government members feel they have to do things as usual in order to be true to tradition. I can understand that, but I do not understand why they refuse to amend the rules that force them to figure out all kinds of schemes to please their generous donors.

As our dauntless Prime Minister often says, it is a question of dignity. I would even say it is a question of public morality. Not an obtuse and puritan kind of morality, but one that is based on honour and respect for the most fundamental principles of a democracy such as ours.

By giving compensation to those who tried to swindle the country, Bill C-22 confirms the opinion of some who are increasingly convinced that the House of Commons is there to defend the interests of the rich like Power Corporation and Seagram's and not those of the ordinary people.

If the original sale of Pearson International Airport was a flagrant mistake on the part of the Tory government, the compensations provided for in Bill C-22 are nothing short of criminal. As the member for York South-Weston rightly said in this House, it is a sting of the worst kind. I say to the government it should be careful because, as dangerous as it might be, a scorpion can always be crushed. As we have seen on last October 25, Quebec's population knows very well where to stomp.

Pearson International Airports Agreement Act May 6th, 1994

We should follow the right order, Mr. Speaker, if you do not mind. According to the list, I think you should recognize the hon. member for Louis-Hébert.

Pearson International Airport Agreements Act April 29th, 1994

All those people were more or less implicated in the secret dealings surrounding the sale of Toronto Pearson International airport up to this point. Because of their political contacts those lobbyists succeeded in having the government sign a bad contract. In order to thank them, our government is now considering compensating them because they could not carry their shady deal to fruition.

That is exactly the kind of situation that confirms the population's cynicism towards politicians. According to a popular saying, a politicians's promise is a broken promise. This brings the credibility of the whole Canadian parliamentary system into question. Bill C-22 will certainly be adding to the contempt and scorn with which Canadians regard politicians. In fact, Cana-

dians should not be surprised to see the Liberals act exactly the way they do each time they form the government in Ottawa.

Pearson International Airport Agreements Act April 29th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, before I was interrupted by Question Period, I was mentioning that Stanley Ryerson, a political scientist, was arguing some fifteen years ago that the Canadian federation was created, in 1867, because of pressure by certain interest groups. I would like to quote him.

"Macdonald and Galt were representing the general interests of English Canadian business circles. And Brown was the spokesman for Toronto's commercial and industrial circles. Finally, Cartier represented the conservative wing of the French-Canadian bourgeoisie and of the clergy. The new political structures were tailored to the economic and politic interests of the dominant social groups".

Our proud Fathers of Confederation were therefore Canadian bankers, financiers and businessmen pressuring the British Parliament to unite the Canadian colonies in order to widen their markets and protect themselves against the economic threat posed by the U.S. According to that view, Canada was created by lobbyists, and successive governments have perpetuated that long tradition of favouritism. Since then, the two main national parties have always relied on large corporations to finance their political activities.

The Pearson airport privatization proves that things have not really changed since Confederation, except that interest groups have gained more and more influence on the decision-making process in the Canadian government.

Today, our society is organised around a corruption system perfectly institutionalized. The voice of the people is getting weaker in the hallways of the Parliament of Canada, and Bill C-22 does nothing to prove it is not so. On the contrary, it makes the system even more susceptible to manipulation by interest groups.

The names that keep cropping up concerning the sale of Pearson airport show how the system works in Ottawa. Here is a list of friends of Mulroney and Conservative organizers: Otto Jelinek, former Conservative minister; Don Matthews, former president of the Conservative Party; Bill Neville, Joe Clark's former chief of staff ; Hugh Riopelle, lobbyist and friend of Mr. Mazankowski; Fred Doucet, former chief of staff of Brian Mulroney; John Llegate, lobbyist and friend of Michael Wilson; Pat MacAdam, lobbyist and friend of Mr. Mulroney; Bill Fox, lobbyist and friend of Mr. Mulroney; Harry Near, lobbyist and Conservative faithful; Scott Proudfoot, Conservative lobbyist.

On the Liberal side we have: Herb Metcalfe, former organizer for Mr. Chrétien; Leo Kolber, a Liberal senator.

Pearson International Airport Agreements Act April 29th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, with its Bill C-22, the Liberal government is reviving the debate on what is now commonly known as the Pearson affair. However, the provisions contained in this bill take the debate one step further than a mere discussion on the sale of Pearson International airport. They bring to light one of the biggest flaws in the Canadian political system.

The Pearson airport issue, which may only be the tip of the iceberg, is a perfect example of the influence of lobbyists and various pressure groups on government decisions, which have the unfortunate tendency of always favouring special interests rather than the public interest.

It is important that Canadians finally realize what goes on behind the closed doors of their federal Parliament. In fact, it is the whole decision-making process that must be called into question. Right now, the most effective way to make your grievances known to the federal government is to hire a lobbying firm which, for a few thousands dollars a day, will put you in touch with the highest government authorities. Needless to say, only large corporations and very rich people can afford to hire a professional lobbying firm.

There is another effective means of establishing contact with the government in office, and it is, of course, by making a substantial contribution to the election fund of the party that will form the government. As for ordinary Canadians, after having had their say in the federal elections, they must now sit and wait to see how the government will manage its resources. People do not always realize that their vote does not carry much weight compared to the powerful corporations and the rich friends that the government will support during its term. The Liberals and the Conservatives have certainly helped to reinforce the image of lobbying as an obscure phenomenon.

But what is a lobbyist? The image that most people have is that of a mysterious individual who, in a dark corner, hands over a big envelope to a minister or a senior official to obtain some favour from the government. Unfortunately, reality is much more subtle than that since very often, the lobbyists who are active today behind the scenes are former ministers, deputy ministers or lawyers of political parties who, thanks to their contacts inside the government, are able to make the case of those who hired them.

Their work is made easier by the fact that, most of the time, their bosses contributed richly to the campaign fund of the party in power. The lobbyists' task is to remind the government of its political debts towards those interest groups. In fact, the real elected representatives, that is the hon. members of the government side as well as those from the opposition side, collectively get less of a hearing from ministers than any of those obscure professional lobbyists. That tells us a lot about their clout in the decision-making process of government.

About fifteen years ago, political analyst Stanley B. Ryerson argued that the Canadian federation had been formed in 1867 in response to the demands of some interest groups. If you allow me, I would like to quote what he said: "Macdonald and Galt were representing the general interests of English Canadian business circles".

Prescription Drugs April 28th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec and it concerns the status of the Hyundai automobile plant in Bromont.

As the minister already knows, more than 850 workers lost their jobs when the plant closed. On March 23 last, I put a question to the minister asking him if he could provide any information to the residents of Brome-Missisquoi as to how the government planned to handle this matter. At the time, the Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec informed us that he wanted to work closely with the Quebec government in an effort to find a way of reopening this plant located in my riding.

Today, nearly one month after putting this question to the minister, I am again asking him for a status report on the efforts made thus far to bring this matter to a happy resolution.

For over a month now, all kinds of rumours have been making the rounds about the possible reopening of the Hyundai plant. It has been rumoured that work will resume either in 1998, in the year 2000 or in the year 2002, that the plant will close permanently, that other companies have agreed to buy the building. And I could go on. Furthermore, the employees received very little severance pay from the company.

You will agree with me that the situation is already quite difficult and that it is essential for the Hyundai workers, their families and those around them, as well as for all the taxpayers of Brome-Missisquoi, that we avoid creating still more confusion on this issue.

It is time for the Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec to tell this House what he has done and what he intends to do so that the Bromont plant can reopen to make cars or any other product that would put back to work the 850 workers who are waiting to use their talents and dedication.

Telecommunications April 27th, 1994

The Supreme Court decision handed down yesterday with regard to telecommunications did not surprise anyone in Quebec. For the third time since 1993, Quebec is having powers in the area of communications torn away by the federal government. After broadcasting and cable television, Quebec is now losing control over telephone companies, control which is essential to the province's social and economic development as we embark on the electronic highway.

Once again, the Supreme Court takes a "Canadian" and centralizing view of the Constitution to continue chipping away, little by little, year after year, at the powers of the Quebec National Assembly. That is the true face of federalism in Canada, Mr. Speaker.

This Supreme Court decision confirms the necessity and urgent need for the people of Quebec to have a sovereign state of their own.

International Trade April 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois is concerned about the way trade relations between Canada and the United States are developing, in particular with regard to Canadian exports of durum wheat and barley.

The Bloc Quebecois condemns the intimidation tactics used by the U.S. government to end this dispute and asks the Canadian government to remain firm with its trading partner.

Thousands of Canadian and Quebec producers expect their government to defend their interests with authority, and the Bloc Quebecois will support the federal government's representations as long as it stands up to the unacceptable pressure exerted by the U.S. and does not let itself be led into bargaining at the expense of other agricultural sectors such as dairy products and poultry.

Foreign Affairs April 21st, 1994

Madam Speaker, I rise this evening to take part in the special debate on the situation in Bosnia not only as the member for Brome-Missisquoi, but also and most of all, as a human being. It is impossible not to be outraged when one sees atrocities like those that have been perpetrated in the former Yugoslavia during the last few months. We all agree that the situation cannot go on and that we must take steps to put an end to those horrors.

How then can we explain why Canada and the international community have let that conflict deteriorate to the point where Bosnia is now the scene of such savage and barbaric acts? The present situation did not appear overnight in Bosnia. It has evolved steadily since the beginning of the conflict while the international community merely observed from a distance.

In the beginning, we were puzzled by the situation in the former Yugoslavia, but there was no cause to send in troops yet. Later on, rumours of ethnic cleansing made the conflict much more disturbing. But there again, we preferred diplomatic disincentives and negotiations. Afterwards, the bombing of Sarajevo raised the confrontation to an unacceptable level of unwarranted violence but still the UN forces refrained from launching a massive intervention.

The international community's hesitation and procrastination are the reason why we have reached a situation which is totally unacceptable in a so-called civilized world. In fact, I find the recent actions of the Serbian forces particularly revolting. How can we let these people bomb residential areas and hospitals? How can we still claim to try to solve this conflict by sending in peacekeeping forces and advocating negotiations? After all, Serbs showed long ago what little respect they have for the agreements they sign. In fact, as the leader of the opposition said earlier, they failed to keep their word 57 times in less than a month. I cannot see how we would still want to negotiate with such hypocrites.

Peacekeeping troops in Bosnia are no longer safe. The UN Security Council must order air strikes on Serbian strongholds. It must also send ground troops to help our peacekeepers in their efforts to establish peace in that country. We can no longer be content with observing from a distance without reacting. Serbs have had every possible opportunity to prove their good faith, and each time they turned around to attack civilian populations even more viciously. The lives of hundreds of young children and old people have been needlessly sacrificed.

Canada's position must be very clear. We must let the whole world know that our country is prepared to take the necessary measures to put an end to that conflict. So far, peacekeeping forces may have managed to save lives, but their current mandate is too restrictive to allow them to continue to do so effectively. Indeed, the attitude displayed by Serbian forces compels us to consider large-scale operations. We can no longer give Serbs the benefit of the doubt, for too many human lives have already been sacrificed because of our excessive tolerance.

The destruction of Sarajevo was not enough to convince us of the need for a strong military intervention. Today, it is the city of Gorazde that is paying the price.

The American and Russian presidents have agreed to hold a summit on this issue in the next month. How many schools and hospitals will Serbian troops destroy during that period? Yesterday again, 28 people died after the hospital in Gorazde was bombed. We must therefore immediately put pressure on those countries, because it is urgent for the innocent victims of this conflict.

We just learned from a press report that one of the 10 speakers invited to address the opening of a Security Council session confirmed that the Bosnian Serb offensive in Gorazde is now going from house to house. That is horrible.

In closing, I would like to remind the government that, beyond our political differences, we as parliamentarians of a peaceful country must show a powerful solidarity in this House when the time comes to save human lives.

I am convinced that the people of Quebec and Canada will support us without reservation in our effort. It is no longer time for discussion; we must now act by hammering the Serbian positions and forcing them if necessary to honestly negotiate an agreement that will end this conflict which has already gone on too long.