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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Independent MP for Richmond—Arthabaska (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Transportation of Hazardous Materials October 22nd, 2013

Mr. Speaker, public safety must not be taken lightly. However, it seems that the federal government has not learned from its mistakes. After the listeriosis and E. coli crises, where deregulation and industry self-regulation were singled out as root causes, a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on the deadly tragedy at Lac-Mégantic has criticized the government for its "regulatory failure".

Researchers found that the rail safety budget was cut by 19% between 2010 and 2014. However, the number of carloads of oil has risen from 500 to 140,000 in recent years and is still expected to increase. In addition, there are currently only 35 field inspectors.

It was this government that gave MMA permission to use a single conductor. The government must now take responsibility and give answers to the hundreds of Quebec communities on rail lines that have legitimate concerns about the transportation of hazardous materials.

Privilege October 17th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleagues who have already spoken, but I disagree with the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, who just spoke to this question of privilege.

The House of Commons is governed by its own rules, found in O'Brien-Bosc. On page 111, it states that no member of Parliament, including the Prime Minister, who is one of the 308 members of Parliament in this House, shall provide misleading information to the House, whether or not it is deliberate.

In this case—and this may also be the case in civil society—ignorance of the law is no excuse. The Prime Minister should be aware of the rules governing the House of Commons.

Mr. Speaker, there is new information that you must take into account. When the Prime Minister was answering questions and when the RCMP was getting deeper into its investigation, some information started to be made public. That information must be brought to your attention.

You must look at the answers the Prime Minister gave about his chief of staff, his senior aide, who gave a large amount of money—$90,000—to a senator for inappropriate expenses.

The government and the Prime Minister must take responsibility. This government introduced an accountability bill—rightfully so—and could not stop bragging about this legislation. Now it needs to be consistent by making sure that elected members of this House are accountable and responsible.

I think it makes sense to consider as a question of privilege the responses given by the Prime Minister and some information that came out before and especially after these events.

I leave this in your hands and good judgment.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act June 13th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

He is absolutely right. The debate did not take very long, because there was a time allocation motion, but public health is an aspect that we really should be talking about.

As I said, we do not live in an ideal world, but probably all of us, except perhaps a few inveterate smokers, wish that cigarettes no longer existed. At one time, we were unaware of all the damage that cigarettes cause. However, that damage is well known today.

Despite of this, there are still people who smoke, and there are cigarettes on the market whose quality is even worse. In terms of the cigarettes that we buy from big companies, telling ourselves that they are higher quality, the fact remains that they are extremely harmful.

I worked with agricultural producers in the Lanaudière area who grew tobacco and we helped them make a transition into growing some other crop. They told us that there was Chinese tobacco in the contraband tobacco market. I do not want to be paranoid and say that everything that comes from China is unsafe but, it is true, that tobacco was really terrible and extremely harmful.

Like my colleague, I totally agree that we should do everything we can to get rid of this tobacco as soon as possible and get it off the market. Unfortunately, it is often young people who smoke and who have this in their hands and in their lungs.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act June 13th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's relevant question.

This government is not used to conducting consultations. Instead it is in the habit of determining what is good for both the public and the provinces. In Quebec—the member is a member from Quebec—we often suffer this kind of affront as the government applies its philosophy of “Ottawa knows best”.

I must say that, apart from the Bloc Québécois, the other parties also tend to forget to ensure that there is genuine consultation and co-operation in all matters pertaining to Quebec and the provinces.

The first thing to do, before even introducing this kind of bill, is to draft a comprehensive bill, as I said in the conclusion to my speech, one that has been prepared with and for the general public. Needs are not always the same everywhere.

In the case of contraband tobacco, however, the same principle applies from sea to sea. The government should therefore strive to engage in more co-operation and consultation.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act June 13th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to participate in this debate about the terrible scourge of contraband tobacco.

In our ridings, people regularly approach us to support causes, and we frequently do just that. It sometimes amounts to moral support. Since coming here in 2004, although I have also worked for some federal members of Parliament since 1993, I have found that this moral support is just not enough. I always try to find a way to provide concrete assistance, to raise awareness about the problems that people in our ridings bring to our attention.

On the issue of contraband tobacco, I had the pleasure of meeting people from the Association des dépanneurs du Québec who were campaigning a few months ago about the scourge of contraband tobacco. Needless to say, they were representing people who sell cigarettes. As a non-smoker with a brother who smokes but who is trying to quit and a mother who has stopped smoking, I am well aware of the fact that everyone would probably like it better if it were impossible to sell cigarettes simply because everyone decided to stop smoking for health reasons.

I like to talk about my grandfather, a farmer by the name of André Bellavance. One day at the age of 94, in Causapscal, he told us that he had stopped smoking. We all found this very amusing because he had begun to smoke when he was 13. So we asked him why he had stopped smoking. Although he was a little hard of hearing, he eventually understood our question. He told us that it was for his own health and to set an example. We found it extraordinary that this proud man should all of a sudden decide that he would like to live a little longer. And in fact, although he is not yet 100 years old, he is getting close.

Getting back to the point, the association approached us because contraband tobacco was causing convenience store owners to lose a lot of money in Quebec, and no doubt just about everywhere in Canada. With a view to taking real action, I went and spent a few hours working in a convenience store with the owner to see what it was like and what people came to buy.

The issue, of course, was the price of cigarettes. People were complaining as much about that as about the price of gasoline. When people go to a convenience store, they do not often complain about the price of a newspaper or the price of a litre of milk. They complain about the price of gasoline and the price of cigarettes.

I am also fortunate to have my own regional community television program. I therefore invited experts to come and speak about the topic for 30 minutes and to use the small screen to raise awareness. Like all members of Parliament, I can send out householders, which I also use to inform the public about contraband tobacco. These are all concrete actions to inform people that we are very much aware of what is going on and that we can all do things to combat contraband tobacco.

That is not all, however. The government is also making efforts, as are all of the members of the opposition parties. In the case of Bill S-16, it has been decided to refer it to committee, and everyone is in full agreement. Yet I can see once again that the Minister of Justice included minimum sentences in his bill.

That is how the minister proceeds. He continually tells us that he is doing it for the victims and to fight criminals. However, since he was elected to the House and became the Minister of Justice—in fact I believe he has always been the Minister of Justice under the Conservative government—he has never been able to prove that minimum sentences help victims and reduce the crime rate. He has never provided any evidence or statistics in this regard.

As for the victims, I certainly cannot see how a minimum sentence can assist them in any way. He included this in the bill, although there is one interesting aspect, and that is that finally, for once, a government has thought to include sanctions for contraband tobacco in the Criminal Code.

Previously, I believe that this was simply a matter for customs and excise. The police could nevertheless lay charges and people did end up in prison because of contraband tobacco. However, it would be more logical for the Criminal Code to include sanctions for contraband tobacco. That is the good news.

I hope that a number of improvements will be made in committee, including those advocated for some time now by the Bloc Québécois concerning the possibility of doing what we must do as legislators. As I was saying earlier, the idea is to eradicate contraband tobacco or at least combat it more forcefully.

For example, stricter police and administrative measures are needed to put a stop to this contraband. For example, the traffickers’ vehicles should be seized because the black market thwarts the policy on high prices for tobacco. This option is not available to the police. People might well ask me what seizing the traffickers’ vehicles might accomplish. The answer is that if every time a trafficker was caught with cases of cigarettes in the back of his vehicle, and the vehicle were seized and he had to buy another one, this would be a significant deterrent.

Increasing the amount required to obtain a federal tobacco manufacturing licence would be another example. At the moment, a licence to open a tobacco factory costs $5,000. Just about anyone can come up with that much money to open a tobacco factory. Yet perfectly legal companies have recently closed their doors just about everywhere in Canada, laying off thousands of employees. This is unfortunate for the employees, but because fewer people are smoking and less harm is being caused to their health, it is good news.

For $5000, these new plants can manufacture cigarettes that very often end up on the contraband market and can be very harmful. We therefore suggest that the cost of these licences be much higher—in the millions of dollars—because it would appear that making cigarettes is profitable. The idea is to charge a much higher price to at least discourage those who want to open cigarette factories to sell all or some of their product on the black market.

There could also be a ban on supplying raw materials and cigarette-making equipment to unlicensed manufacturers. The government could also revoke the licences of those who fail to obey the laws and introduce an effective system for labelling and tracking cigarette packages to allow much closer monitoring of tobacco shipments.

Why not try to persuade the American government? We have good relations with our neighbour. It could take action against illegal manufacturers on the American side of the border. We are somewhat at the mercy of these manufacturers, who need only cross a river in a boat to deliver illegal tobacco for the contraband market in Quebec and Canada.

I also raised another problem a little earlier, when the subject came up, because we had to deal with a time allocation motion for this bill. I mentioned to the Minister of Justice that the Conservative government's policies were inconsistent. On the one hand, the government has been reducing the number of customs officers and people responsible for catching contraband of all kinds, including cigarettes. On the other hand, it claims that it wants to introduce measures to combat contraband cigarettes. This is inconsistent.

We need to increase the number of people who monitor what crosses our borders, including contraband cigarettes.

While I agree that Bill S-16 should go to committee, I would like the government to take into account the arguments that I have just put forward so that, for once, we end up with a more complete bill, even though there is no such thing as a perfect bill.

I would like the government to show the people and those who complain to us that we voted in favour of a bill which, in our view, will reduce and perhaps one day even eliminate contraband cigarettes.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act June 13th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, all we ever see from the Minister of Justice are bills with minimum sentences. If he is in such a rush, why did he not introduce a more complete bill? The Bloc Québécois, the industry in general and police officers have been calling for stricter measures for a long time. In particular, we have been calling for police officers to have the ability to seize smugglers' vehicles.That is not included in this bill.

Why did the minister not include this type of offence in Bill S-16 to enable police officers to be more aggressive and do their job better?

In addition, there is no increase in the cost of factory permits for tobacco manufacturers. It only costs $5,000 for a permit to manufacture cigarettes, which, in many cases, go directly to smugglers. Why not increase that amount to $5 million?

Those are only a few examples, and here is one more. Why is the government making cuts to border services when it claims to want to put an end to contraband tobacco?

In my own riding, I have worked with the Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec. That is what people want to see and that is not in this bill. I would like the minister to explain why.

Petitions June 12th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, today it is my pleasure to present a petition signed by some of my constituents about funding for Development and Peace.

The petitioners are asking the government to reinstate funding for Development and Peace in the amount of nearly $50 million over the next five years. They are also asking the government to fund publicly supported NGOs whose funding was slashed by CIDA. They also want the government to allocate 0.7% of GDP to international aid, as promised in 2005. As we all know, the federal government is currently contributing barely 0.35% to international aid.

Sport June 11th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, when the Quebec Soccer Federation decides to follow FIFA rules, which prohibit the wearing of turbans, Conservative ministers and the Liberal leader shout about intolerance.

By supporting the suspension of the Quebec Soccer Federation, they are preventing thousands of young Quebec players from participating in Canadian and international competitions. These people are criticizing the Quebec Soccer Federation for following the international federation's rules. Rather than attacking young soccer players in Quebec, we need to ask FIFA to consider changing its rules.

Will the minister responsible for amateur sport intervene and call for the reintegration of the Quebec Soccer Federation, which simply decided to follow the rules?

Intergovernmental Relations June 7th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the government continues to use taxpayers' money to promote its Canada job grant, a program that does not exist and that was created unilaterally by Ottawa, without any input from Quebec.

Two Quebec government ministers have written to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development to reiterate the unanimous position taken by the Quebec National Assembly, which is that job training is Quebec's responsibility and Quebec should remain in complete control of it.

Will the federal government stop intruding and transfer—without conditions and in full—the money that belongs to Quebec for job training?

Ethics June 7th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives refuse to say what the secret one million dollar fund managed directly from the Prime Minister's Office was for.

Was it used to pay back Senator Duffy's illegal expenditures, the irresponsible expenditures of former minister Oda—who was buying $16 orange juice—or the $45,000 in illegal contributions received by former minister Penashue?

One cannot help but wonder whether this secret fund is used to cover up the scandals tainting the Prime Minister and his entourage.

Will the Prime Minister show some transparency and tell us what this fund was used for?