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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

Supply October 28th, 2004

We are rigorous and responsible says the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

Let us do a bit history here. My father was a history teacher in Victoriaville, and I have always been interested in what happened in the past. We talk about mistakes in the past, but we should avoid repeating those mistakes. This is something that members opposite should understand.

It was 48 years ago already that the Tremblay commission proposed that federal and provincial authorities agree on a new distribution of tax fields to reflect the needs of the public and the public administration and to respect the spirit of federalism and of the Constitution. That was in 1956. To this day, we wonder what is going on. Since that time, Quebec has always asked for independent revenues to meet its obligations. It is still not the case.

In 1964, the year I was born—I did not want to say my age, but so be it—another federal-provincial conference was held, and Quebec asked for greater access to personal income tax to fund its needs. Lester Pearson and Jean Lesage came to the following agreement, and the current government should use it as a model: the federal government withdrew from certain shared-cost programs, with full financial compensation. When we talk about financial compensation in this House, we often refer to the issue of tax points. This is what we mean. Ottawa should lower its taxes to create more tax room for Quebec, so that it can fund its own programs. It is as simple as that. What was true in 1964 is still true 40 years later.

This is what is unfortunate. Considering all that happened with these commissions, it seems to me that the government should have learned. After all these years, it should have understood and solved these issues. But this was not done, far from it.

What is fiscal imbalance? There are revenues in Ottawa. We are talking about $60 billion surplus since 1997-1998 et $166 billion by the year 2015, according to the Conference Board, which is certainly not a sovereignist organization. Ottawa has too much money for its responsibilities, while Quebec and the provinces do not have enough to fulfill their own. We are talking about a combined deficit of $68 billion by the year 2015. These are the figures given by the Conference Board.

While it is difficult to understand such big numbers, we can reduce the whole picture to a more local perspective. I will tell you later what fiscal imbalance means in my riding.

If the Liberal government does not understand this definition, we can always read what the dictionary says under “imbalance”. I called my assistant a little earlier and asked him to read for me what the brand new “Petit Robert” that we have here in our central source in the House of Commons was saying under “imbalance”. We can all have a copy in our office. I do not think that it costs anything. We have that privilege. The members can go get one. I encourage Liberal members to do it. The dictionary talks about disparity, distortion, lack of proportion, inequality.

The Prime minister prefers to talk about financial pressures. The dictionary does not mention that expression under “imbalance”. However, if that can make him happy, we can talk about “financial pressures”. For us, it is the same thing as fiscal imbalance. Anyway, what really counts is that the Bloc Québécois succeeded in having the expression “fiscal imbalance” added to the Speech from the Throne in the same sentence as “financial pressures”. It is like six of one and half a dozen of the other. It is really the same thing. We are very pleased that the Prime Minister recognized it then. However, he does not seem to want to recognize it again.

As I was saying earlier, I would like to say a few words about the fiscal imbalance with respect to my riding. In my riding, there will be a shortfall of roughly $28 million a year until 2007-08. Imagine the positive impact an additional $28 million a year could have on health and education in the riding of Richmond—Arthabaska. We could do the same calculation for each of our ridings.

Too bad the member for Beauce has left. He blew up at my colleague earlier and said we were making things up. I am sure that if the people in Beauce knew there was a fiscal imbalance of roughly $30 million a year, he would not be so proud and use such fiery language. He has been representing the Liberal Party for a few years now. Too bad he was re-elected; we were close to winning that riding. I doubt people would be very proud to hear their MP utter such nonsense in this House.

He is grasping at straws if he is has to blame former PQ governments to make his argument. He should be telling people, the unemployed, that the fiscal imbalance in his riding of Beauce amounts to $29.9 million a year until 2007-08. I invite him to do so. He could make this calculation during the next break week, since everyone knows that a break week is not a week of vacation. We go back to our ridings to do work.

In Quebec, apart from Liberals in the Outaouais, everyone agrees that there is a fiscal imbalance. The three parties in the Quebec National Assembly, all the provinces in Canada, all the opposition parties in this House, everyone, except the Liberals, accepts and understands that there is a fiscal imbalance. We do not accept it, but we understand that there is a fiscal imbalance and we are asking that it be corrected.

On March 17, 2004, in the Quebec National Assembly, a motion was passed unanimously:

That the National Assembly demand that the federal government recognize the existence of the fiscal imbalance and that on March 23, 2004, it adopt budget measures to counter the effects on provincial finances.

A few minutes later, during a press briefing, the Prime Minister of Canada stated that Quebec would not get one more penny in the March 23 budget. I have to admit that, this time, he kept his word, unfortunately.

Members opposite boast about the health agreement, but we should hasten to add that we can hardly talk about an agreement on equalization. Just ask the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador what he thinks. They suggest with great pride that enormous progress has been made in health care. The health agreement has not been bad for Quebec, but figures should be put in perspective. It gives Quebec about $500 million more this year out of an annual health care budget of more than $20 billion. This is just 2.5%. But we still have a major step to take, and that is to sort out the fiscal imbalance.

The federal government still has impressive fiscal resources, compared to those of Quebec and the other provinces. In the last fiscal year, it ran a $9.1 billion surplus, and we know that, in the current year, the surplus could reach $12 billion. It is up to its neck in surpluses. Federal health transfers, the fiscal imbalance and equalization are closely related issues.

To conclude, the federal government should make a commitment to improve the equalization formula soon to make it fairer and more generous, something it did not do on October 26. That is our request. The federal government should not take back through lower equalization payments what it gives in transfer payments.

Supply October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that I will share my time with my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou.

We are dealing today with the opposition motion introduced by the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. I am very pleased to take part in the debate on this motion. Before being elected on June 28, I was the parliamentary assistant to the member for Joliette, who was the Bloc Québécois critic for finance. Consequently, I am particularly aware of the fiscal imbalance. I worked very hard, not on the fiscal imbalance itself, but on the file. I would really like the government to work on solving the fiscal imbalance, but this is not the case.

If you will allow me, I will read the motion. I see, with the speeches that we hear from members on the other side of the House, that they did not fully understand what this motion was about. I would really like them to understand it correctly. Since I usually read quite well, they should get it:

That the House regrets the attitude of the Prime Minister of Canada at the First Ministers' Conference on October 26, 2004, and that it call on the federal government to recognize the existence of a fiscal imbalance in Canada and that, to this end, the House ask the Standing Committee on Finance to strike a special subcommittee to propose tangible solutions for addressing the fiscal imbalance, and that its report be tabled no later than June 2, 2005.

This is very concrete. The Bloc Québécois has always been careful to propose concrete solutions in this House. We are criticized for all sorts of things. However, instead of proposing far-fetched ideas, we present concrete solutions, and this is one of them.

Marielle Chevrier October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, we were saddened to learn of the recent death of Marielle Chevrier, a resident of Sainte-Hélène-de-Chester in my riding of Richmond—Arthabaska.

Marielle Chevrier was a well known artist. A pioneer of Quebec television, she played an important role in my childhood and possibly that of many hon. members. She dressed many of the characters in children's programming, including Pépinot, Bobinette and Paillasson.

Working in wardrobe at Radio-Canada in 1953, and later with Radio-Québec, she created the first costumes for La Souris verte, Gobelet and Mandibule, among others. What a lot of memories.

She was also active in theatre.

When she retired, she moved to the Bois-Francs region, where she lived until her death. She got involved in the community, for example, by designing Grand-Maman Fami, the mascot for the Fête familiale de Victoriaville.

To her children, Daniel and Yan Constantineau, and to her brothers and sisters, I offer my most sincere condolences.

Criminal Code October 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on Bill C-10, as my distinguished colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois have done before me. The Bloc Quebecois supports referring the bill to committee before second reading.

Bill C-10 is the Act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. It is the former Bill C-29, which had reached second reading in the last Parliament before dying on the Order Paper with the election call in June. On the issue of Bill C-29, I would like to acknowledge the work of our justice critic, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

We are of course in favour of the principle of this bill and of referring the bill to a committee before second reading, but we have to ensure that the proposed amendments will effectively protect the rights of people suffering from mental disorder, while protecting society. This is important also. Amending the Criminal Code is always a sensitive issue. We are dealing with subjects that are difficult for the victims or those close to the victims, who were affected by a crime. Those people have to be protected too. The amendments to the Criminal Code must be carefully measured.

The recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness were not all accepted by the government. We will have to pay special attention when the bill goes to committee. I have no doubt that my colleague, the justice critic for the Bloc Québécois, will be able to keep things in perspective and to do a good job as usual.

We had another example of democratic deficit—my colleague from Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière mentioned this earlier—when the unanimous report was not followed up in its entirety. It was followed up, but not entirely. I would answer that, even though it was almost entirely agreed upon, too often in the past we have seen the government ignore a unanimous report. I am thinking of what affects many people, about the unanimous report on employment insurance. This is deplorable.

However, now, there is an amendment that is quite important and interesting: committee reports will be voted on. Fortunately, we have a majority in the committee. Let this be a warning to the government.

The recommendations that were not followed up will then have to be examined once again in committee. In C-10, 5 of 19 are not there. We will be very vigilant in this regard.

At this time in my short speech, I would like to summarize the bill for the many people who are watching us and the House.

This enactment amends Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code governing persons found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The amendments, among other things, include

(a) repealing unproclaimed provisions related to capping, dangerous mentally disordered accused and hospital orders;

(b) expanding the authority of Review Boards by enabling them to order an assessment of the accused, adjourn hearings and protect the identity of victims and witnesses;

(c) permitting the oral presentation of victim impact statements at disposition hearings and adjournments allowing the victim to prepare the statement;

(d) permitting Review Boards to extend the time for holding a review hearing to a maximum of 24 months in certain circumstances;

(e) permitting the court to hold an inquiry and order a judicial stay of proceedings for an accused found unfit to stand trial, if the accused is not likely to ever be fit to stand trial and does not pose a significant risk to the safety of the public and a stay is in the interests of the proper administration of justice;

(f) specifying that the transfer provisions require the consent of the appropriate Attorneys General in all cases and enabling transfers of an accused who is not in custody; and

(g) allowing peace officers arresting an accused who is in contravention of an assessment order or a disposition to release, detain, compel the appearance of or deliver the accused to a place specified in the order.

This enactment also makes consequential amendments to other Acts, including the National Defence Act.

This bill applies to people with mental disorder, people who are declared not criminally responsible or unfit to stand to trial on account of mental disorder.

I studied law for a year and a half and I remember some of my courses. I switched majors and went into communication and became a journalist. This got me into courthouses nonetheless—as a journalist of course, not as a client. I had the opportunity to hear a number of cases including some that were very difficult because, as I was saying earlier, the victims or the accused did not even know they had been involved in a crime.

In criminal law, for an accused to be declared not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, it must be shown that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the offence that rendered him or her incapable of either appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission or of knowing that it was wrong.

We in the Bloc Québécois feel it is important that the bill protect the rights of people declared not criminally responsible or unfit to stand to trial on account of mental disorder. We also have to protect public safety. It bears repeating because it is very important. I am convinced, as I was saying earlier, that we will have the opportunity to be very vigilant about this in committee.

We have to avoid a repetition of such tragedies as those mentioned by the Canadian Association of Community Living in the brief it submitted on January 25, 2000, to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We talked for instance about some people with developmental disability who were held without cause at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, in British Columbia.

Let me quote one of the examples I found on the association's Web site. A 30 year old aboriginal man with a developmental disability was charged with mischief in 1997 and found not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder. He has been held at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital since then and has appeared regularly in front of the BC Review Board. At his June, 2000 hearing it was confirmed that the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital was not an appropriate setting as the hospital is not geared to deal with individuals with developmental disabilities.

Recognizing that this individual had been kept in custody for a minor offence for more than three years in an institution that was not appropriate to meet his needs, the Review Board ordered a conditional discharge to the community. To date, appropriate community care and treatment has not been forthcoming and he continues to be held at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital.

This case and many others “stress some of the shortcomings of Canada's criminal justice system to properly address the rights and needs of all citizens. Some people, especially people with intellectual disabilities, fall through the cracks of the system”. That is what the Canadian Association for Community Living said in its brief to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on January 25, 2002.

In conclusion, the report of the standing committee confirmed that the 1992 Criminal Code provisions regarding persons found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible because of mental disorders needs improvement. You can count on the Bloc Québécois to do what is needed to ensure that the bill reflects the real wishes and needs of persons with mental disorders and the organizations that support them, and that it also safeguards public security.

City of Victoriaville October 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am taking this opportunity to congratulate the City of Victoriaville, which is one of the eight recipients of the 2004 public administration awards of excellence recently given by Quebec's institute of public administration.

The City of Victoriaville was honoured in the municipal world for its initiative called “Turning Strategies into Action”.

The strategic development plan of the City of Victoriaville is based on seven components. They include strategic, industrial and commercial development, municipal administration, municipal road services, leisure, culture and community life, and the environment.

The City of Victoriaville has a population of over 40,000. It is recognized for the quality of its environment, and it is proud of that.

The capital of the Bois-Francs region is served by thriving socio-economic networks.

Again, I congratulate the members of the city council and municipal employees on helping to earn this very special award.

Tolérance Zéro October 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, impaired driving is still a serious problem on our highways. The Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec reports that roughly 30% of highway fatalities involve impaired driving.

Since 2000, in the riding of Richmond—Arthabaska, a not-for-profit organization called Tolérance zéro has been providing a safe escort service all year round. In that time, this organization, which is located in Victoriaville just above my offices, has safely escorted more than 126,000 people to their destinations.

In the past four years, it has expanded its operations to seven regions in Quebec and it plans to keep on growing. It has 800 volunteers and 28 permanent staff.

In 2004, Tolérance zéro was awarded the Prix Hommage bénévolat-Québec in the direct service agency category, at an official ceremony at the Quebec National Assembly.

I would like to congratulate the entire team at Tolérance zéro for their commitment to the community and I wish them much success in their future expansion.

Agriculture October 12th, 2004

Mr. Chair, that is exactly the reason behind the request for regionalization. It is to avoid any repetition of this experience in one or another province.

Taking Europe as an example, Italy, which is right next to France, has not been affected by the European mad cow crisis. Yet it is far closer to France than Alberta is to Quebec. The reason is quite simply because it and that region of Europe have regionalized practices. This is something that the federal government has not yet done, although it ought to.

Agriculture October 12th, 2004

Mr. Chair, in the spirit of federalism, I will leave that to my colleagues across the way. What I can say, however, is that there was never a question of giving Quebec privileges. I already said that and even added that to my speech earlier. The parliamentary secretary rose and got quite angry when my colleague from Compton—Stanstead was talking about some specific concerns in Quebec.

Cull is a big issue in Quebec. Regionalizing health practices across Canada would not only be beneficial to Quebec, but to other provinces as well. With such practices, if there had been a mad cow in the Maritimes, Alberta would not have been affected by this crisis.

It is not a privilege for Quebec. We do not want the Government of Canada to give money only to Quebec. We want it to take into account some specific concerns in Quebec. In this case, I am referring to cull; we want fair treatment.

The government recently announced an aid package of only $15 million to $20 million, when what farmers in Quebec really need is $141 million. That is a huge shortfall. I am talking on behalf of producers in Quebec, not just on behalf of sovereignists in Quebec.

Agriculture October 12th, 2004

Mr. Chair, it was very important to me to participate in this take note debate on the mad cow crisis. The major issue for us in Quebec is for the federal government to provide an aid package that addresses Quebec's problem with cull, and also to move forward with the regionalization of the food inspection system.

I wanted to take part in this debate because the region I represent is largely rural. Agriculture is vital to the riding of Richmond—Arthabaska. The Arthabaska RCM is the largest milk and beef producer in Quebec. The region offers many exceptional cheeses, including one called Sir Laurier d'Arthabaska, for your information. There are also hog and poultry farms, and speciality crops such as cranberry, honey and maple syrup.

Centre-du-Québec is a major dairy region with more than 150,000 farms representing 16.3% of dairy production in Quebec. In the Eastern Townships, the other region that overlaps my riding, there are roughly 1,000 dairy farms.

The mad cow crisis affects all these dairy and beef farmers. Last week, I attended Expo-Boeuf in Victoriaville, the main city in my riding. It was a great success again this year, but I must admit that the morale of the producers is quite low these days. No wonder, prices have dropped by 30% to 70%.

The mad cow crisis has affected dairy farmers who sell their cull, in particular. My colleague, the Bloc Quebecois critic for agriculture and agri-food and member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, said it well at the beginning of this take note debate: the federal government did not consider Quebec's particular problem when it announced its recent aid package. Dairy farmers cull 25% of their cows a year, but the federal government is compensating them for only 16% of their herd.

I know that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food was present at that time. I trust that he paid careful attention to what the hon. member said, since she herself is a farmer and was, moreover, once named Quebec's woman farmer of the year. It is praiseworthy, appreciated even, that the government is pressuring the United States to reopen the border to Canadian cattle and beef. We all realize, however, that the situation is likely to remain unchanged until the U.S. election is over.

So far, all efforts have been unsuccessful, and there are no indications that the situation will change in the near future. The steps taken to increase slaughter capacity and to develop new export markets are also welcome, but the basic issue has not been settled. Recently the Fédération des producteurs de bovins du Québec, the Union des producteurs agricoles and the Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec issued a press release—on September 10 to be precise—in which they stated that the announced assistance was inadequate and did not in any way meet the requirements of the beef and dairy producers.

The two federations and the UPA estimate the need in Quebec at over $141 million, while the transition support measures will total only $15 to $20 million. As I said, the minister was there for the first part of the debate, and I would also have liked him to have been with me in Chesterville a few weeks ago when I had supper with a beef producer. He would have understood that producers are on the verge of financial ruin because of this continuing crisis. He would have been asked by someone from the agricultural community whether his program was really tailored to the particularities of Quebec and the actual needs of producers. I made a promise to the farmer that I would pass on his message, which is why I am here before you this evening for this take-note debate.

A number of my Bloc Quebecois colleagues have, moreover, raised another glaring problem with the federal industry assistance plan, and rightly so: it totally ignores any regionalization of hygiene practices. The mad cow crisis ought never to have affected Quebec producers, who have been subject to more stringent rules than the Canadian ones for a long time. Not only the Bloc Quebecois but the entire industry is calling upon the federal government to recognize this other particularity of Quebec and to enter into discussions with Quebec in order to regionalize the food inspection system, dividing Canada into several regions.

That would make it possible for Quebec producers to be spared in a similar crisis in the future. Why should Quebec's producers be penalized because of one case of mad cow discovered 5,000 km from them, when Quebec has established a system that makes it possible to trace the animal from birth to death? We also banned animal meal four years before Ottawa did.

The former Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food maintained that it was impossible to impose territorial measures within a single country. I hope his successor will be more sensitive to the Quebec context, but unfortunately I have my doubts, based on this government's record.

Canada has , in fact, applied regionalization, less than a year ago in the case of the American chickens with Newcastle disease. Various American states were affected by this contagious viral disease that primarily attacks poultry. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency imposed restrictions only on the four states affected, California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas.

If such regionalization of public health measures had been in place, Quebec's producers would not have been suffering for over a year and a half. They would have been spared. The idea is not to have provinces confronting each other. The same thing would have happened if the case had been found somewhere other than Alberta.

It is obvious to me that if Quebec had been sovereign and in control of its borders and public health policies, it would not be subject to the American embargo today. In the meantime, we must continue to put pressure on the federal government to grant sufficient assistance to compensate for the drop in cattle prices.

Contrary to what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food said earlier this evening, we are not asking for a privilege. Quebec's producers are not asking for any privileges. They are asking for an assistance program that takes into account Quebec's cull cow problem, which is not found elsewhere. It is not complicated; there is no privilege involved; there is only justice.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I share his concerns, as do by many of our fellow citizens in Quebec.

Federal government representatives have had several meetings with American authorities in an attempt to get the borders reopened. We saw what happened. We know that the Americans are busy with the upcoming election anyway. I have a feeling that American lobbies will prevent the presidential candidates from taking any action whatsoever on this issue.

Knowing this, the federal government should have taken the necessary steps to help our farm producers. We have seen how it handled the softwood lumber issue, where something similar happened. The Americans show a little openness once in a while, but not a whole lot, and immediately, the federal government is ready to jump into any type of negotiations.

Clearly, that is not the way to deal with the Americans, not at all. We saw what happened on that issue. I do not see why we would go down the same road with the mad cow crisis.

I hope that we do not get into some kind of trade-off between the missile shield and our problems. It is vital that we have an effective aid plan in this country for our farm producers.