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

Premier Of Quebec April 20th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, there will soon be an general election in Quebec, and the federalist troops, terrified at the prospect of being swept from the Quebec political scene, are using underhanded tactics to convince Quebecers that their option is the right one.

Premier Daniel Johnson, with the hounds of sovereignty nipping at his heels, went before foreign investors with a message of gloom and doom, predicting political instability in Quebec if the Parti Quebecois came to power.

These desperate and highly irresponsible tactics are unworthy of someone who is supposed to defend Quebec's best interests, especially when he is in another country. Now that die-hard federalists can no longer scare Quebecers, they are trying to scare foreign investors.

Budget Implementation Act, 1994 April 14th, 1994

Bill C-17 proposes many amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act. One of the first occurs in clause 21 and aims at defining the word "disentitled", "inadmissible" in the other language. It explains in a very specific and pragmatic way the reasons or conditions why someone could be disentitled to unemployment insurance benefits according to the government. The Minister of Human Resources Development and his advisors have gone to a lot of trouble to define a very simple word.

If the minister had simply looked in the dictionary to find the meaning of the word "inadmissible", he would have recognized the very essence of his bill.

Allow me to quote Webster's New World Dictionary , in the hope that this will give the minister the inspiration he needs so badly before his bill is passed. I ask the hon. minister to listen carefully to the universal definition of inadmissible''. In the third edition of the Webster's, they say:not admissible, not to be allowed, accepted, granted or conceded''.

Therefore, that term defines Bill C-17. In drafting the legislation, did the minister wonder about what is really "inadmissible", according to the unemployed of this country?

These people are deprived of one of their most fundamental rights, the right to earn an honest living, the right to contribute proudly to the economic development of their community.

What is "inadmissible" for these people, more than anything else, is their inability to meet the conditions set forth in paragraph B of section 28.3 of the Unemployment Insurance Act. No, what is "inadmissible", what they cannot accept, is that the government, on top of standing idly by as far as job creation is concerned, is once again targeting the disadvantaged as the solution to its debt and deficit problems.

During the election campaign, the Liberals kept promising that they would not touch social programs. The last federal budget contained some surprises in this regard. Of course, old age pensions were left alone, but some tax credits were cleverly eliminated.

The same thing happened to federal transfers for social assistance: transfers were not reduced, but access to the UI program was, which in turn increases the social assistance bill for the provinces. In Quebec, these measures will not only result in a loss of revenues for the unemployed, but also in a series of additional expenses that all Quebeckers will end up paying for sooner or later.

A recent study by the economics department of the Université du Québec à Montréal revealed that the changes the minister intends to make to the Unemployment Insurance Act and the resulting transfer of expenses will cost the Quebec treasury more than $280 million, or 28 per 100 of the $1 billion bill which was dumped on the provinces.

Has the government not yet understood that it will only solve its financial problems by creating permanent jobs? Instead of constantly bearing down on senior citizens and unemployed Canadians, the government should focus its energy on creating jobs that would allow it to increase its revenues in a healthy fashion.

The closure of the Hyundai plant in my riding of Brome-Missisquoi is a good example of the confusion that exists within the government with regard to maintaining stable and high-paying jobs, like those that the Bromont plant offered until recently. We are talking here about 850 jobs that were lost.

The government does not know which way to turn and adds to the confusion since Hyundai has announced that it does not intend to reopen the Bromont plant.

The Minister of International Trade, like a heroic avenger, rushed to Korea to obtain all the details concerning this matter. Upon his return, he made a reassuring announcement, saying that everything was settled and that the Bromont plant would reopen in the not too distant future.

The next day, Hyundai announced that it did not intend to resume its activities in Quebec until 1997-98. Who should we believe? While the government is treading water on this matter, the employees of the plant and their families and the entire population of the Eastern Townships are waiting for real answers about their economic future.

All they have learned until now is that if they manage to find a temporary or seasonal job, it will be more and more difficult for them to get unemployment insurance if Bill C-17 is passed.

In closing, I would like to say to the Minister of Human Resources Development that he should consult the dictionary before asking the House to pass his bill. Maybe he would see that the word "inadmissible" applies to the way his bill is drafted and maybe he would be more inclined to listen to the recommendations put forward by the hon. member for Mercier on behalf of the Official Opposition.

These amendments to Bill C-17 would perhaps help chase the word "inadmissible" from the mind of every unemployed man and woman across Canada.

Product Packaging April 12th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party's position on old age security is so complex and unclear that we cannot make any sense of it. Contrary to what the Minister of Human Resources Development suggested when I asked him questions on that matter, the Official Opposition is not alone in its concern over this confusion.

This confusion is not a figment of our imagination. It is the result of contradictory statements by the Minister of Human Resources Development and the Prime Minister. Senior citizens associations also reacted strongly against the government's hidden agenda. Our senior citizens demand clear answers on the future of their social programs.

Last month, when I asked the minister about that, I asked him to apologize to seniors he had upset. Indeed, after the minister indicated that Canadians could have to choose between old age pensions and youth training programs, he was rebuffed by the Prime Minister who said that his government had no intention of touching old age pensions.

The federal government is brutally attacking the seniors' meagre income by taking $490 million out of their pockets. Not only is the minister refusing to apologize for having upset these people, he is now increasing their tax burden when they cannot do anything to increase their income. This measure will affect more than 800,000 seniors, 600,000 of whom earn between $25,000 and $50,000.

Besides, statistics show that the vast majority of these 600,000 seniors have income of about $25,000. The government should stop saying that only the well-to-do seniors will be affected by these drastic and unfair fiscal measures.

How could seniors regain the $200, $300 or $400 they lose every year and that they need to survive? Will we force them to go back on the job market? Will they have to cut back on their outings, their housing or their food? Can the minister give us a clear answer as to the future of the income security programs for the people who built this country?

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

Mr. Speaker, today's debate on electoral boundaries readjustments brings out two basic elements of the mini-reform the governments wants us to swallow. There are two things that really bother me in all of this. Although I really wonder about the very relevance of today's debate, I must say that I am more than puzzled by the provisions and directions stipulated in Bill C-18. I have a feeling that not only is the Liberal government not doing much, but it has the bad habit of going backwards.

First, let us talk about the relevance for us, members of Parliament, to go over the readjustment of Canadian electoral boundaries. I really wonder if this issue is very high on the list of priorities of most Canadians. The government brags about listening to the people. The Liberals hold public briefings and national consultations in order to establish their priorities and we end up today, in this House, discussing the number of ridings we should have in Canada. What a crucial debate that is for the political, economic and social future of our country.

Has the minister taken part in these public consultations? If not, there must be some way to provide him with a report on these hearings. If so, then it is very disturbing. Either the consultations took place on another planet or the minister does not give a damn about what Canadians think. If the minister asked the people of Brome-Missisquoi what the federal government's priorities should be, I do not think that many would say the readjustment of electoral boundaries. I want to tell the minister that the people want the government to take action, and what the real priorities they would like to see on the agenda of the House are.

I will conclude by appealing to the reason of a government which seems to have no more compassion. The issues that should be discussed in this House are job creation, control of expenditures and preservation of social programs. The slow economic recovery, the astronomical unemployment rate and the disastrous state of public finances should convince the government of the need to act quickly. And if, despite everything, the government sticks to its idea of electoral boundaries readjustment, let us at least hope that it will do it intelligently and reduce, not increase, the number of members of Parliament. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Hyundai Plant In Bromont March 23rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, does the minister agree that the closure of the car assembly plant in Bromont will put Quebec at an even greater disadvantage, compared to Ontario, regarding subcontracting in the auto industry, and that a real strategy must be implemented to correct this situation?

Hyundai Plant In Bromont March 23rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development in Quebec.

Yesterday, the big three American automakers clearly indicated that they had no intention of taking over the Hyundai plant in Bromont. In answer to a question from the media, the Minister of Finance said that if the big three persist in ignoring the Bromont facility, the government might decide to look up companies from other sectors.

Is the minister confirming that the big three American automakers do not intend to participate in the recovery of the Bromont plant, and can he specify which type of businesses he was referring to yesterday?

Interim Supply March 22nd, 1994

Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among parties and I now seek unanimous consent for the motion standing in my name, motion M-172, presently in ninth place on the order of priority of Private Members' Business, to be withdrawn. This motion is no longer relevant in light of recent developments in the business community.

Hyundai Plant In Bromont March 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I hope that Hyundai will give these people a better reception than this morning, when it refused to meet with the mayors. Given that Hyundai did not respect the commitments it had made to get government grants, does the minister intend to recoup the $26 million paid by the federal to the company, and will he pledge to reinvest that money to develop sub-contracting activities in Quebec's auto industry, so as to alleviate the impact of the closure of Hyundai's plant, until the facility reopens?

Hyundai Plant In Bromont March 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance, who is also responsible for regional development in Quebec. In answer to a question on the future of the Hyundai plant in Bromont, the Minister of Finance confirmed yesterday that he had begun discussions with the Quebec government and with Hyundai, in order to find an alternative proposal. Today, we learned that none of the big three American automakers showed any interest.

Given the refusal of GM, Ford and Chrysler to take over the Bromont facility, can the minister tell us what alternatives are being considered by the federal government?

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95 March 18th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, every year after the happy holiday season the people of Canada and Quebec enter a period of fear. In fact, at this time of year, people fear two kinds of disasters: snow storms and the federal budget.

In both instances, they are unable to forecast the extent of the impending disaster and they feel they have no control over what is going to happen. The only thing they know for certain is that the two events, whether of natural or ministerial origin, can be costly and have an impact on their quality of life.

To a certain extent, we can protect ourselves against the meteorological vagaries of winter, and we can be philosophical about them, knowing that everything will melt away in the Spring anyhow. The storm raised by the federal budget is another story. The fiscal and budgetary whims of Canadian Finance Ministers are getting less and less predictable and more and more painful.

This year, people were expecting a very severe winter and a very hard budget. In both instances it is as if the sky had fallen. We can get used to the snow and the cold, as we known it is going to end eventually, but the budget has inflicted severe injuries to the country's economy and the scars could be permanent.

The Minister of Finance and the government he represents have demonstrated a total lack of imagination and creativity. Once more the axe fell on the unemployed and the aged who are submitted to dreadful cutbacks by this budget. The reason of this is that the Minister of Finance did not want to tackle the real economic problems of the country and cut into useless spending by the government.

Yet, the Minister of Finance had only two responsible things to do before preparing his budget. First, he should have used the long cold evenings of January to read the report of the Auditor General, and I doubt he did.

Second, he only had to listen carefully to the concrete and progressive proposals brought forward by the Official Opposition. This would have prevented him from racking his brain in search of a scheme that would allow him to attack once again the poorest people in our society.

The Auditor General tabled his report to the House of Commons for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1993. All 800 pages of it! Eight hundred pages of horrible findings on the appalling management of public funds in Canada. Eight hundred pages of concrete recommendations on ways to better manage the Canadian government machinery. I will say it again, I doubt that the Minister of Finance took the trouble to go through such a valuable document as the report of the Auditor General, because the provisions contained in the budget do not reflect in any way the expectations expressed in the Auditor General's annual report for 1993.

The auditor managed to summarize in one sentence the expectations and aspirations of the Canadian people, and I think it is important to quote it in this House so that the government cannot plead ignorance when the time comes for it to find out the

effects of such a pitiful budget on the economy. Here then is the Canadian taxpayers' message that the Auditor General wanted to convey to the government, and I quote: "Today it is clearer than ever, to both public servants and parliamentarians, that Canadians expect them to demonstrate sound and prudent management rather than finding new ways to spend borrowed money".

I must admit the Report of the Auditor General of Canada is not an appealing document. I can see why the Minister of Finance would try to keep away from it as much as he can since the truths we find in there do not always make for pleasant reading. Journalists call them the Auditor General's horror stories and rightly so. Indeed, his report is full of pathetic examples of mismanagement and particularly unwarranted government expenditures which are all equally reprehensible. I will mention only two such stories, two unfortunate situations which show how careless the government can get when it comes to spending public funds.

One of the great government extravagances noted by the Auditor General concerns the use of Challenger planes by ministers or other parties close to government. Flying these airplanes costs almost $20,000 an hour. In 1993 alone, the total bill for these travels came up to $54 million and the example given by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs in that respect is certainly not comforting. Just imagine. For one day in the United States, not six months in Japan, but one single day, the travelling expenses of the Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs were in excess of $170,000. Our ministers are travelling in flying palaces while the government takes away a wheel from the inexpensive scooters of the unemployed. Such a situation is totally absurd!

Speaking of absurdities, how can they explain that the new President of Investment Canada has refurbished her office for a total of $132,000? That is the outrageous cost of the new bathroom and new kitchen in the office of Madam President of Investment Canada.

Was there no one in the government who could have put a stop to this foolish waste of money? While the government is busy installing deluxe toilets in the offices of senior officials, it is also literally taking the toilet paper away from senior citizens. Do these two groups not have the same needs, Mr. Speaker?

In all, the Auditor General identified in excess of $5 billion annually in overspending and shameful waste. It was really not necessary for the Minister of Finance to raid the pockets of ordinary taxpayers in order to recoup these billions of dollars. But, that is what he did and the people feel betrayed by this Liberal government which had nevertheless stated in its red book, and I quote: "We want a country whose governments are efficient and innovative".

When we see the results, it is not surprising that this government has already lost all credibility in the eyes of the public. In a mere six months' time, the Liberals have managed to alienate Canadian and Quebec taxpayers, a feat which the Conservative needed many years to accomplish. That is saying something! Were the Liberals really expecting to maintain their popularity rating by leaving family trusts alone, while at the same time targeting the unemployed and seniors and doing nothing to eliminate instances of administrative overlap?

I find it rather alarming that expressions such as "overlapping jurisdictions", "federal interference" and "administrative duplication" have become commonplace, even the norm in Canadian political jargon. We have come to trivialize these expressions because the federal government has, over the years, used its famous discretionary powers to excess to interference in areas of provincial jurisdiction. This has been going on since Confederation and has slowly become the traditional way of conducting federal-provincial relations.

This year's budget carries on this nice Canadian tradition. The Minister of Finance strove to perpetuate the federal government's great centralizing tendency, whereby this government has the power and the duty to interfere more and more in provincial jurisdiction or at any rate never to withdraw from provincial jurisdiction, all in the name of maintaining Canadian unity, of course.

This façade of national unity is starting to cost us dearly. A study by Treasury Board in 1991 showed that 67 per cent of all federal programs overlap provincial programs to some extent. Besides the tens of billions of dollars spent unnecessarily every year, we have a huge bureaucratic and administrative machine that is so complex that these federal and provincial programs become redundant and inefficient when they are not simply incompatible.

The Canadian bureaucracy is like a big beached whale and the federal government is doing nothing to save it. The most striking proof of this lack of federal will is still the issue of manpower training in Quebec. While the Conservatives at the end of their term recognized the need to return all powers for manpower training to Quebec, the Liberals have stopped the process under way. For the Liberals, it is unthinkable to take any action which would reduce the federal government's prestige, even if it meant saving $250 million a year. I think that the federal government's ego is as big and immovable as the beached whale mentioned earlier. We well know that even a dying whale is not easy to deflate.

Yet, the Bloc Quebecois had asked the government to cut the fat. Unfortunately, the government has once again opted for a miracle diet which promises results without pain. Putting our

financial house in order will require real austerity measures, accompanied by painful cuts that are inevitable if we are to achieve our economic aims.

The federal government continues to get into debt, and gets away with it. One fourth of this debt is incurred in Quebec's name. But beware, Quebec will not wait for liposuction to become necessary before doing what it must to ensure its future economic development. The only way for Quebecers to get rid of all these horror stories is still sovereignty for Quebec.