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  • His favourite word is bilingual.

Conservative MP for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Official Languages June 15th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Canadian Heritage claimed that she was part of an exemplary government that is leading the way when it comes to official languages.

If that is indeed the case, how does she explain the fact that the Commissioner of Official Languages received 40% more complaints in the past year and that, yesterday, her colleague, the Minister of Environment sent my office here in Ottawa a letter written in English only about my riding, one of the most francophone ridings in Canada?

Can the Liberals spend less time appointing their friends to important government positions and—

Business of Supply June 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, my thanks to my colleague for his question.

Of course, whether in a Parliament or in a political party, leaders clearly set the example for all their troops. The same principle applies in business. In this case, the Prime Minister has set a very bad example. What is even more troubling at the moment is our time in Canadian history. The Commissioner of Official Languages is appointed for a period of seven years. As I said in committee, we would have been in a position where the committee lacked confidence in a commissioner whom we knew to have close ties to the government. The repercussions on our work and on the way we stand up for the people we represent would have been incredible.

It was mentioned that the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and various key government positions would be vacant in the coming years. I hope that we will not end up with bad appointments, because I remain hopeful that the Liberals have learned something from what just happened and about the process that should be in place. It is all well and good to say that the process is open and transparent when a website is built and people can apply online. Anyone can do that. We need to go much further. The same goes for officers of Parliament and for port and airport administrators. There needs to be some distance between them.

Business of Supply June 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I will try to answer in English. I am on the official languages committee and I speak English a bit. Therefore, I will try to do my best to answer my colleague's question.

In this process across Canada and in the official languages committee, people asked that Parliament do a better job. They also asked that the Liberals to do a better job on this file. The problem is that has put a big black cloud over Parliament. We are in 2017. We should be going forward, not backward. In 2015, the Prime Minister said, “We're in 2015”. We are in 2017 now. It is time to move forward and do things the right way.

Business of Supply June 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Meilleur. She appeared before the committee as part of the process, and gave a very good presentation. I want to make it clear, especially to the Liberal members who keep saying that we have no regard for her qualifications, that no one questioned Ms. Meilleur's competence. On the contrary, we acknowledged her qualifications throughout the process. When she appeared before the official languages committee, members from all parties recognized from the outset that Ms. Meilleur was qualified for the position. That was never the problem.

The problem was in the process. It lasted five weeks and was a complete mess. It was still going on today at the Standing Committee on Official Languages. My colleague from Drummond, I believe, moved a motion. The minister told this House categorically that the Standing Committee on Official Languages is independent. When someone says that I am independent, that means I can do whatever I want. Committee members from the governing party obviously did not feel independent enough today, despite what the minister said clearly and unequivocally, because they voted against the amendment moved by one of my committee colleagues to strengthen the motion.

Members from each party represent minority language community associations from across Canada at the committee. Our job is to represent them at the committee and move forward on issues that affect them. That is what we are striving for. Unfortunately, again today, the Liberal Party voted down an amendment to a motion, and we could not vote on the motion itself since the vote has been postponed until next week.

The associations representing the country's francophones and anglophones in minority situations have made requests to the opposition parties, by way of letters and calls. In fact, they sent a request to the PMO to meet with the Prime Minister. Their request having remained unanswered thus far, they asked the committee for assistance in order to gain the moral support needed for their request to meet with the Prime Minister to be granted.

Honestly, the motion is very simple when you think about it. It simply states that the committee is calling on the Prime Minister to meet with the associations asking to meet with him, to speak not of Ms. Meilleur, but of the process going forward. We have to look at how we can make the process of appointing a Commissioner of Official Languages or any officer of Parliament totally non-partisan.

The case of Ms. Meilleur perfectly illustrates the point we are making. Despite her absolutely stellar career, Ms. Meilleur ended up being the government's fall guy, which is unfortunate for her. I have no doubt that she probably would have been a very good Commissioner of Official Languages. Unfortunately for her, the government's supposedly open and transparent process meant that she ended up in a horrible mess, which is really unfortunate for her. Honestly, it is ending her public career on a terrible note.

Let's go back to last fall when, at the end of her career in provincial politics, Ms. Meilleur decided to continue to serve the public. No one saw a problem with it. It is very common to see politicians, former mayors or former provincial or federal members of parliament to serve their communities in all kinds of ways.

Ms. Meilleur expressed her wish to be appointed to the Senate. The PMO told her that the Prime Minister did not want to make any more partisan appointments to the Senate. To summarize, Ms. Meilleur wants to become a senator to continue to serve Canadians; she is told she is too partisan; she meets Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford in the PMO; she goes out for coffee and makes a few phone calls; and then she turns up on the list of candidates for the position of official languages commissioner.

Good for her, but how is it that the PMO thought that she was too partisan for a Senate appointment, but not for the position of official languages commissioner? From the outset, that did not pass the smell test. That is unfortunate, but that is how it happened.

When Ms. Meilleur appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages, the leader of the second opposition party asked her if she was still a member of the Liberal Party. She hesitated for a second, and then said that she thought her card had expired and that she was no longer a member as of December or January. It was then early May, even mid-May. After verification, because Ms. Meilleur had no other choice than to provide that information, it turned out that she was a member until April 7. She was as close to the party as anyone could be.

That made it clear how close to the party this person was, a person the government definitely wanted to place somewhere, although this was a position had to be absolutely apolitical. The rights of the country's language communities must be defended by someone completely impartial. In this process, unfortunately, Ms. Meilleur really bit the dust, because the government completely botched the job. The way the process unfolded is unspeakable.

Let me digress a little. The minister had the final word on Ms. Meilleur's appointment. She also had the nerve to say, here in this House, that Ms. Meilleur did not talk about her nomination when she met with Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford, among others. That was the day when I genuinely believed that the minister was taking the 338 members of the House for idiots by telling them that a candidate with close ties to the Liberal party had not spoken about her nomination during a meeting with people from the Prime Minister's Office. It is completely incredible to make such a statement. It makes no sense at all.

I would also like to recognize the work of my colleague, the member for Drummond, because it is important. He has done outstanding work on the Standing Committee on Official Languages for a number of years. He is very familiar with all the processes, and with the Official Languages Act. He regularly introduces motions intended to improve the quality of our work, as we do for him, so that we can have the best processes possible.

I would like to go back to the motion that was debated at the Standing Committee on Official Languages this morning. The minister says that the committee is independent, but, unfortunately, the committee members who fought tooth and nail for the appointment and the supposedly open and transparent process for five weeks have not been up to the task, and they were not up to the task again this morning. We are going to debate the issue again next Tuesday and I hope that they will vote for the motion.

Business of Supply June 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague whether he knows the difference between being informed and being consulted.

In the case of Ms. Meilleur’s appointment, the government boasts, as it has done again today, of having consulted the opposition parties. In fact, that is completely false, assuming that they know the difference between the words “inform” and “consult”. In any event, I know the difference. I think that the 338 parliamentarians here share my opinion. There is a difference between informing someone and consulting them. I think that in Ms. Meilleur’s appointment process, in particular, they tried to tell us that they consulted us, and that is completely false.

Can my colleague tell us what he sees as the difference between “informing” and “consulting”?

Journalistic Sources Protection Act June 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-231, which was introduced by my colleague, Senator Carignan, who did an exceptional job as opposition leader in the upper house for our party. Mr. Carignan is from the Montreal region, so he is very familiar with what is going on in the media sector in our greater metropolitan area.

I am also glad that the government decided to support this bill, which is so important for our democracy.

Last year, like many Quebeckers, I was shocked to learn that police forces, whose job is to protect us, had a number of journalists under surveillance. Naturally, I have a lot of admiration for this country's police forces and law enforcement agencies, whose members, for the most part, choose to work in policing because they want to keep us safe and protect our families and our rights. For them, it is a matter of principle, honour, and ensuring a healthy democracy.

We need to ensure that our law enforcement officers continue to serve all Canadians, rather than just one branch of a political office, whether it be that of a mayor or MP. We need to avoid the embarrassments we have seen over the past few years, and still recently, in certain regions of Canada.

We are not a communist country like China or Cuba, despite our Prime Minister's willingness to sing the praises of some of their leaders. One thing is certain; Canada is a democratic country. In a country like ours, everyone should ensure maximum freedom of expression so that the rights of all Canadians are protected.

The resources available to the state, especially when it comes to surveillance and wiretapping, are supposed to be used only in situations where they are deemed essential, specifically in order to thwart an attack that is imminent or in the works. The fact that an employee working for a municipal, provincial, or federal government wants to blow the whistle on an embarrassing situation is clearly not a matter of national security that would require police forces to set aside important investigations to sound the alarm. That is what we believe on this side of the House, and of course all parties agree on this.

The most blatant example in Canadian history is that of the Gomery commission. Journalist Daniel Leblanc from The Globe and Mail uncovered a story that caused quite an uproar and ended with the investigation that we are all familiar with today. The whole thing started with an informer known as “Ma Chouette”. We never found out the person's real name because Mr. Leblanc went so far as to go to court to protect his journalistic sources. This helped Canadian society to make significant advances.

It is therefore essential that we be able to protect those people. Senator Carignan, who sponsored this bill, was aware of the importance of striking a balance so as not to create a free-for-all where government secrets would be leaked in violation of the law.

It is important to point out that this bill still allows the courts to authorize the disclosure of information, even if they do so only in rare cases where the public interest in the administration of justice outweighs the public interest in protecting confidentiality. Under clause 39 of the bill, the court must take into account the following three factors: the essential role of the information in the proceeding, freedom of the press, and the impact of disclosure on the journalistic source.

Judges are required to think carefully before issuing wiretap warrants, and obtaining such warrants will not be a mere formality that is automatically rubber-stamped. Judges cannot issue such warrants unless they are absolutely necessary.

The Chamberland commission on the wiretapping of journalists is currently under way in Quebec, and it is causing quite the stir.

This is further proof that the bill must be passed, so that all of these things can change and that journalists are able to conduct the necessary investigations to advance democracy.

That said, as he acknowledged himself before the Chamberland commission this week, the officer responsible for wiretaps in the case of Mr. Lagacé, of La Presse, acknowledged that despite the lack of urgency, he had no trouble obtaining a wiretapping warrant. Had Bill S-231 already been in place at the time, things would have played out entirely differently, and for the better.

I would like to reiterate that freedom of the press is fundamental in a free and democratic society such as ours. The press' role is to question, to investigate and to ensure that governments at all levels respect their commitment to openness and transparency. Incidentally, I would like to digress for a moment by touching on the events, starting last week, that led to the withdrawal of Ms. Meilleur's candidacy this week for the position of Commissioner of Official Languages.

MPs and journalists alike worked on this file. Journalists uncovered the facts and presented them to us. Certain individuals, some under the cover of anonymity, spoke to journalists and expressed reservations about Ms. Meilleur’s appointment. Not only did this spark controversy, but it also prompted us elected representatives to action. Though people would not necessarily have contacted us directly, they were comfortable enough talking to journalists, who then publish the news in a neutral way. Neutrality is very important. We all have our contacts and our networks, that is the nature of politics, but I think that people will still regularly supply information that may move certain matters forward or even allow all the facts to come to light, as the Gomery commission did. Sources often prefer to supply information anonymously to a journalist, as journalists are neutral and not tied to any particular political party. That makes it possible for them to speak freely, which is not always the case.

The government has boasted for a year and a half about being open and transparent. Transparency is not creating a website where people can enter their name. Over time it was revealed that Ms. Meilleur made contributions to the Liberal Party. There were still some dots to connect, however. As more time passed, we became aware of mounting evidence pointing towards the fact that this was indeed a partisan appointment. There was still more digging to do.

The press' role is to question, investigate and ensure that governments at all levels respect their commitment to openness and transparency. Without the press, Canadians may not have become aware of scandals such as the sponsorship scandal, the Prime Minister's wheeling and dealing, cash-for-access fundraisers, or partisan appointments such as that of Ms. Meilleur.

Despite Liberal promises to be open and transparent, Ms. Suzanne Legault, the Information Commissioner, concluded in her report yesterday that government is more secretive than ever.

I am pleased to support this bill, which recognizes the importance of journalists and sets clear safeguards to prevent the government from pushing too far with the powers that Canadians have given it.

I would also like to note, as my colleague from the NDP has just done, that there are also local media venues in our ridings. The local community media can also receive information in a neutral manner. I would like to list them: on radio, there is CIEL FM in Rivère-du-Loup, CHOX FM in La Pocatière, and CIQI FM in Montmagny. For newspapers, there is Le Placoteux, Info Dimanche and Journal L’Oie Blanche. On television there is CIMT and CMATV. I am firmly convinced that all these communications networks allow for better democracy. I support them and I would ask them to continue their good work. We need them, as they are essential to Canadian democracy.

Criminal Code May 31st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague mentioned in her presentation, rural areas still do not have access to all health services, which would undoubtedly be useful for blood analysis. Some of these communities are quite remote.

My colleague is quite right in saying that municipalities will have to cover most of the cost and there is little or no provision in the bill especially for public education and information.

The bill provides for $9 million over five years, which is less than $2 million a year. That is totally ridiculous given the size of our country. We are not talking about just the province of Quebec, but of the entire country.

I would like to ask my colleague what she thinks of the ridiculous amount allocated to training and information.

Government Appointments May 19th, 2017

Madam Speaker, the Liberals promised an open and transparent appointment process for the new official languages commissioner, but what they delivered was the most partisan appointment ever.

Madeleine Meilleur, who was angling for a Senate seat while at Queen's Park, told the committee quite plainly yesterday that she contacted her former colleagues, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, the two people in the Prime Minister's Office with the most clout in the selection process. That is what you call coming up with a plan B.

Will the government finally admit that this appointment was nothing more than a $315,000 consolation prize to help a good friend—

Ethics May 17th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, first, the Prime Minister accepted an invitation from the Aga Khan to visit his private island. Then, we learned that the island in question does not in fact belong to the Aga Khan but to four companies that have been linked to tax evasion.

Given this blatant conflict of interest and all of the questions that have been raised about this over the past few months, is the Prime Minister still happy about his choice?

International Trade May 12th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, last November, the Prime Minister said that he would be happy to renegotiate NAFTA with President Trump, without knowing what sectors the American administration would target in those talks.

After meeting with dairy farmers in my riding, I can say that their biggest fear is that they are going to be used as a bargaining chip. After the American president attacked our dairy producers last month, can the Prime Minister assure us that producers under the supply management system will not be treated like they are unimportant or, even worse, used as a bargaining chip in the negotiations with the United States?