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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Poverty October 31st, 1997

Mr. Speaker, let us take a specific example.

Let us look at the case of Louise from Montreal. She worked as a clerk for five years. Her employment insurance cheque was cut by 27% because she took an unpaid three-month leave to look after her sick mother.

What is the minister's response to Louise's situation?

Poverty October 31st, 1997

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

A few weeks ago, anti-poverty groups gave a cry of alarm. Even the women in the Saint-Michel district, in the riding of the Minister of Human Resources Development, took to the streets in protest against increasing poverty.

When will the minister finally realize that these senseless cuts to employment insurance are simply increasing poverty?

The Environment October 30th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, since the Canadian position must be supported by the provinces, they being the ones primarily responsible for this matter, what strategy does the federal government intend to implement in order to obtain a consensus on the position to be defended in Kyoto and on its subsequent implementation?

The Environment October 30th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

Most countries have made their positions known on the objectives for greenhouse gas emission reduction to be presented at the Kyoto conference to be held in a few weeks.

Since the Canadian position is not yet known, my question is: When does the Canadian government intend to make a final decision on the position it will be presenting in Kyoto?

The Environment October 29th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

Canada remains the only G-7 country that does not have a position on the reduction of greenhouse gases in preparation for the Kyoto summit next week.

My question is a very simple one: How can the Prime Minister justify Canada's not yet having a position in preparation for the Kyoto summit, when the European Union, which is made up of 15 sovereign countries, managed long ago to reach agreement around a clear objective?

Toxic Metals October 29th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, scientific analyses that have been unearthed by Greenpeace indicate that PVC plastic items manufactured for use by children contain dangerous concentrations of two toxic metals: lead and cadmium. The list of such products that can be bought in Quebec and in Canada speaks volumes: toys, rain wear, backpacks, and video game cable coverings.

Lead poisoning is widely recognized as one of the most serious threats to children's health. Exposure to even extremely low doses causes permanent nervous system damage and decreased intelligence.

In this context, how can this government explain that, this very morning, thousands of children went to school carrying toxic backpacks? It is unacceptable for there to be only voluntary measures in this area. The government must take its head out of the sand and concern itself with children's health, not only through the anti-tobacco legislation but also through legislation to protect them from products containing toxic metals.

Customs Tariff October 24th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue with my speech on Bill C-11.

The Liberals would only be too happy today to forget about the 1993 election campaign, in which they stated time and time again that they were prepared to tear up the free trade agreement between Canada and the United States if this agreement was not renegotiated. In this context, it is surprising to see the Liberals going at it again in red book II, where, on page 34, they try to pass themselves off as the great champions of trade liberalization.

Unlike the Liberal Party, which fiercely opposed free trade in the 1980s and changed its tune once in office, the Bloc Quebecois has always supported free trade.

We believe that trade liberalization has always been essential to the economic prosperity of Quebec and the rest of Canada in its present form. Just think that more than 3.5% of Canada's GDP depends on exports. In Quebec alone, exports account for 40% of all the goods and services produced.

I feel it is important to spend some time looking at how trade has evolved in Quebec. Some federalists seem to think that, by constantly putting down Quebec's economic performance, they are furthering their cause. I personally think they are shortsighted individuals who put their parties' interests before the greater good of Quebeckers.

There are currently 16,000 exporters operating out of Quebec. These are mainly businesses, commercial concerns, boards of trade and individuals doing business in foreign countries. The top 260 exporting firms alone sell for more than $10 million abroad. This performance is the result of a gradual and steady rise.

Indeed, between 1984 and 1996, the value of Quebec's exports abroad more than doubled, growing from $17.3 billion to nearly $49 billion. During the same period, Quebec's imports rose from $19 billion to $40.9 billion. Because of this strong and sustained growth of exports, in 1996, Quebec showed a large trade surplus, amounting to $8.1 billion. In 1995, the trade surplus was $8.7 billion.

When we take a close look at Quebec's economic structure, we notice that international exports of goods and services account for more than 25% of the GDP in Quebec, which is twice as much as in Japan and 2.5 times higher than in the US.

On the international markets, Quebec ranks among the top 30 exporters and importers in the world. This ranking sets us far apart from a mere province without any economic vitality at the international level. Quebec is actually a leader in the export of certain products. It does particularly well in the export of aluminium, being number one in the world, and the export of asbestos. In the area of newsprint export, Quebec ranks second in the world. In fact, in 1994, Quebec was among the 10 leading exporters in the world for some 20 products.

Add to that interprovincial trade within Canada and Quebec ranks 17th in the world in the export of goods and services, before countries like Norway, Korea and Australia. It would rank 23th in the world, just before China, for imports. Overall, approximately 50% of what is produced in Quebec is sold abroad.

To better understand these figures in the context of free trade, we must clearly identify where this economic activity is taking place. While Quebec's trading activities span the whole world, they are primarily concentrated in North America. In 1996, over 86% of its exports went to the North American market. The second most important destination, western Europe, received 10% of Quebec's exports.

For these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois feels that expanding the free trade zone to include all the Americas is essential to increase our trade, including Brazil and Argentina, for instance. A step has already been taken with the signing of a free trade agreement with Chile. Canada must keep going in this direction.

In this context, it is not surprising that Quebec's movers and shakers are in favour of gaining access to new markets. Quebec has established successful economic ties with its main trading partner, the United States, but also with other partners overseas, such as Germany, France, Japan and Italy.

Therefore, we reiterate our general support of free trade. Bill C-11, which we are debating today, is a step in the right direction. Needless to say it will not arouse passions. It is a very small step, as the Prime Minister likes them. We do not expect any better from a government that has always lacked vision as regards the future of this country, preferring once again to go “one step at a time”.

To be sure, it is not easy to find a balance between the importance that must be given to human rights and the opportunity for Quebec and Canadian companies to do business in those countries that violate human rights the most. Still, the Bloc Quebecois is convinced that international trade is not incompatible with promoting human rights. Unfortunately, it is clear to me that this government did not do enough to promote human rights in the context of its international and trade relations.

As for the trade agreements themselves, I stress once again the lack of concrete measures to provide protection that goes beyond merely protecting the rich in our society. It is essential that all trade agreements include adequate clauses to protect labour and the environment. Canada will continue to negotiate international agreements until Quebec becomes sovereign and should protect the effective provisions of labour and environmental standards with our trading partners.

Certain bilateral agreements already contain parallel accords that provide for such provisions. However there is no such accord in multilateral agreements Canada has signed. Environmental protection and social protection clauses provide more benefits to a greater number of people and are to be viewed in the context of sustainable development.

The government must stop hiding behind confidential reports in order to justify its lack of action in this area. We want the government to raise the issue of human rights in its meetings, during its discussions and on its trips abroad. It is high time this government publicly condemned, not only in camera, human right violations committed in foreign countries and, more specifically, in countries that trade with Canada. This government continues to drag its feet in establishing a code of behaviour for Canadian businesses active abroad.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that the Bloc Quebecois supports Bill C-11. However, this government cannot use this initiative as a substitute for developing an overall international trade policy.

Customs Tariff October 24th, 1997

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to state the Bloc Quebecois position on Bill C-11 on the customs tariff.

The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of expansion of the free trade zone to all of the Americas, essentially to enhance our trade exchanges with other countries, Brazil and Argentina in particular.

We have already taken one step in this direction with the Canada-Chile free trade agreement. We believe Canada must continue along this path, which is a continuation of a long history of market liberalization, one which is accelerating as we approach the second millennium.

Free trade agreements in our time bring numerous questions to the fore. To provide a clear picture of the Bloc Quebecois position on this, I will begin with a reference to the steps leading to the recent liberalization of markets. I shall then move on to the sad record of Liberal promises on this subject. Lastly, I will set out the Bloc Quebecois position on Bill C-11.

On numerous occasions we have referred to the essential nature of the free trade agreement. We have often said that a major shift in direction is needed, and I believe we must continue to say so.

A review of numerous events in our history shows us that markets need to be opened up, as we have always believed. As far back as 1950, American capital was flooding into Canada. Since the War of 1914, the United States had replaced Great Britain as our principal source of foreign capital, funds which Canada could not do without. But the British contributed to the bonds issued by Canada and even to subsidiaries wholly owned by the Americans. So many Canadian companies were bought up by American interests in 10 years that the 1950s will be remembered as the decade of the big takeover. Entire industries, created by English Canadians to be sheltered from the tariff, fell into the hands of the Americans.

The Canadian government was facing two problems at the same time. Unable to rely on customs duties to direct industrial development, it had to abandon any initiative in that area or find new means of achieving the same ends. Also, with the Americans apparently set on buying everything out, should they be allowed to carry out their initiatives or should measures be contemplated to hold them back?

The answers came from the 1960s up until 1988. The policies that were set reflected a consistent effort to direct industrial development and to erect barriers against foreign control. Starting with the 1960 federal budget, the purpose of fiscal policies and subsidies was twofold: to direct investments toward preferential activity areas and to encourage investment in regions where both unemployment and the rate of growth was particularly high.

In this context, Canada was built and the early experiences were never forgotten. Without the government, the railways could never have been built in a country with such a small population. When people saw where commercial aviation was headed and set up Trans-Canada Airlines, the development of Hertzian waves for transmission purposes resulted in the creation of the CBC. The telegraph, and telecommunications could have developed along north-south lines, while railways were looking after the east-west link. Building a country by means of customs tariffs is inevitably a form of schizophrenia.

Naturally, without the burden of customs duties, factories sprang up, jobs were created, foreign companies that otherwise would have been content to sell to Canada, set up business here so as to avoid paying duties. From these perspectives, a protectionist policy helped increase provincial production and at the same time contributed to trade.

It is also true, however, that the consumer paid more than would otherwise have been the case if he had bought goods directly outside the country duty free. In addition, the establishment of many factories in a small Canadian market, with consumers demanding the same diversification of products as American consumers, meant that factories' production costs were much higher than in American factories, with correspondingly higher unit production costs.

As it developed, the Canadian manufacturing industry cut itself off from most export markets. It existed for the domestic market, but in most cases, it was not able to compete on international markets, and it should come as no surprise that attempts were sometimes made to point out the advantages of free trade over those of national production.

The attempts made by the Laurier government, before World War I, and those of the Mackenzie King government immediately after World War II, make no sense otherwise. But the imperatives of building a country and a national economy won the day.

The fifteen years following the end of World War II, however, were to profoundly, decisively, and in some ways irreversibly, alter the policies of organizing and developing the Canadian economy. The great depression of the 1930s led most national industrial economies to resort to extremely restrictive protectionist measures. With 20%, 25% or even 30% of the labour force unemployed, governments did not hesitate to reserve what was left of the domestic market for national businesses, by drastically increasing custom duties. Such a measure encouraged trading partners to do the same, with the result that, in the decade which preceded the world conflict, tariff wars proliferated.

From 1930 to 1935, protectionist hysteria between Canada and the United States knew no limits. Some traditional trade activities between the two countries completely disappeared. The same was happening all over the world. This period will be remembered as a crazy time when every country was trying to ruin its neighbour and ended up going bankrupt too. Nations came out of the war with a firm resolution to never let this happen again.

In 1947, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT, was established. The setting-up of that remarkable organization resulted in a gradual lowering of custom duties, first among major industrial countries, and then between them and an increasing number of developing countries. Suffice it to say that, by the end of the second world war, average U.S. customs duties on American taxable imports stood at 30%, compared to barely 5% today. This gives you an idea of the progress that was made.

In Canada, changes may have been less spectacular but they were nevertheless significant. Eventually, it was realized that the very nature of the GATT agreements made it impossible to use customs duties to structure the Canadian economy. In fact, if the government still needs an industrial policy, it has to rely on instruments other than those that have been used so rigorously for close to 100 years. Customs duties are bound to be reduced or to remain at their current level.

To be sure, GATT regulations contain any number of derogatory clauses. We gradually learned how to use them, which was no small feat.

I have just described a significant part of the development of trade in Canada and in Quebec with other countries and between provinces. I feel it is important to specify as well that the federal government has not shown great efficiency in this connection, has not demonstrated any desire to move further with it, despite its lukewarm support of free trade in the past—we need only recall the battle over the free trade agreement.

Where improvement of dispute resolution mechanisms is concerned, for example, the three partners announced in March of this year that no progress had been made. In addition, the United States indicated that there would be no further discussions on this matter. By so doing, they drew attention to the false statements the party across the way was still making on the matter of free trade.

The same goes for energy. Canada has never obtained similar protection to what Mexico has under NAFTA. Instead, it has released a declaration setting out its interpretation of the NAFTA clauses relating to energy. This declaration, of course, is not an integral part of NAFTA, unlike the special Mexican reservations and clauses.

In response to Bloc Quebecois questions on the matter last winter, the Minister of International Trade at the time could do no more than take refuge once again behind the work of the task force, which was still incomplete. He told us in his response that he had not yet been able to meet with his U.S. and Mexican counterparts to examine the NAFTA committee report.

In his testimony before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the minister recognized that he needed more time to come to an agreement with the U.S. over antidumping and countervailing measures. I need not remind you that such measures were often taken against Canada and that the so-called efforts of this government, which was looking for reforms in that area, never produced any concrete results.

The government's strategy, as stated by the minister responsible, was to sign a similar agreement with Chile, and later with Mexico, to put a little more pressure on our other trade partner, the United States. He added that progress was made and that a report will be tabled, which he will release as soon as he is given the green light.

I urge the government to table this document in the House of Commons now, if eight months was long enough to seek the necessary permissions to share this information with the elected representatives of the people of Quebec and Canada who are sitting in this House. However, it seems rather—

The Environment October 23rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment.

In preparation for the Kyoto conference, the federal government is getting ready to redefine its strategy to reduce greenhouse emissions. This morning, we learned that one of the main victims of global warming will be the St. Lawrence River, with all the catastrophic effects that one would expect.

Does the minister admit that Quebec might be at a serious disadvantage because of its inability to agree with Canada's

Search And Rescue Helicopters October 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, in view of the very negative impact of the government's 1993 decision on the Montreal area, does the minister not agree that the government should seriously look at the offer that would result in the greatest spinoffs for Montreal and surrounding areas?