House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was federal.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Québec (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Democratic Representation Act March 22nd, 2011

Madam Speaker, I listened to the speech by my colleague from the Liberal Party. We have sat in the House together for several years.

He has raised a number of issues that speak to me particularly: the ability to do our work and to have the best tools for representing our citizens. He even said that there was cynicism among the public. We can also acknowledge that the public service feels demoralized because of the low regard in which its work is held.

The member did not tackle the heart of the debate about Bill C-12, which is the under-representation of Quebec that will result from it. The Bloc Québécois and the people of Quebec—nearly 71%, and the consensus in the National Assembly—want this bill to be withdrawn and not sent to committee.

The member said that we must listen to the voters. We listen to our voters, and that is what they have told us. We are not opposed to an increase in seats in the rest of Canada, that is not what offends us today. We are offended by the fact that no effort was made to balance the reduction in the representation of Quebec in the House. Regardless of who is elected—the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party or the Bloc Québécois—the result of Bill C-12, if it were adopted after consideration in committee, would be underrepresentation, and we oppose that.

The public is asking us seriously not to send this bill to committee because they know what is going to happen. I would have liked to hear the member this morning on what he thinks about the fact that they recognize the Quebec nation but they disregard all consensuses in Quebec. We can present the consensus of Quebec in the House because we listen to the majority of the population of Quebec.

Democratic Representation Act March 22nd, 2011

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. In the Charlottetown accord, it was agreed that this representation would never go below 25%. We are far from that. With this bill, Quebec's representation is being reduced to 22.3%.

There is cause for concern. Since 1867, Quebec's representation has decreased over the years. It was 36%, then 26% in 1976, and if this bill were to pass, our representation would drop to 22.3%.

If I were the Conservative Party, I would wonder about the contradictory thinking of the Conservative Party's detractors with regard to my party's vision. That is what they are called and that is how they are viewed and perceived. Why are people like the constitutional expert Benoît Pelletier and Louis Massicotte from Laval University studying what the representation should be and how our people and nation should be represented here in the House of Commons, regardless of the party in power or the political party that wins the next election?

That is not how this should be viewed. I know they are practising short-term politics, but while Quebec is represented here, its representatives have to be spokespeople for what is happening in Quebec. We see how the spokespeople seated on the Conservative benches remain seated when it is time to speak for Quebec.

Democratic Representation Act March 22nd, 2011

Madam Speaker, he says there has never been an exception to that principle, and that is totally false. There are in fact exceptions to the principle of one person, one vote, or the principle of increasing and decreasing population. We need only look at the Northwest Territories or the Maritimes. The Northwest Territories did not have a large enough population to be represented, and an exception was made to the principle.

I note that section 52 also provides that the number of members of the House of Commons could be increased, as long as the proportionate representation of the provinces was not disturbed.

I would like to tell the member that 75 members out of 308 is not 75 members out of 338. I know that the Conservative Party dreams of the day when it will form a majority government and can do as it likes. Today we have seen a charge of contempt of Parliament against the Conservative Party. Now imagine how the Conservative Party would govern if it formed a majority government. We know perfectly well that it wants to get all the votes in the rest of Canada and work to make sure their candidates get elected in all ridings in the rest of Canada.

During that time, Quebec’s political weight in the House of Commons will decline. This is important when you want to defend a nation.

Democratic Representation Act March 22nd, 2011

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to reply to the question from the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. If there are contradictions in what I say, there were contradictions in what the National Assembly says as well. There are federalist members of the National Assembly. Benoît Pelletier is neither a Péquiste nor an avowed sovereignist, far from it. He was a cabinet member with the Liberal Party of Quebec. He says he is opposed to Bill C-12. So there are a number of people in Quebec who, like us, are opposed to the House passing this bill.

The contradiction really comes from the Conservative Party. It wants to recognize the Quebec nation, but it takes away the means for it to be better represented or represented according to its population. The Conservatives are exhibiting bad faith. They are free to tell the members of the National Assembly that they are contradicting themselves. If there is a contradiction in what I say, it exists elsewhere, because I speak for the majority of Quebec's population, who object to this bill.

A moment ago the member referred to the partisan Senate, where a large number of representatives from Quebec also sit. Over 75% of Quebeckers are opposed to this partisan Senate. It is not a Senate that represents the entire population, because it is not elected. We are opposed to this unelected Senate, which the Conservatives have made partisan, too. Senators are not even able to look at a bill because the Prime Minister forbids it. The Senate is the long arm of the Conservative Party, and we oppose it.

Democratic Representation Act March 22nd, 2011

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-12, which has to do with democratic representation and which would reduce Quebec's political weight if it were passed. My Bloc Québécois colleague from Joliette proposed an amendment urging all of the parties to oppose this bill, which would reduce Quebec's representation to a level below its proportion of Canada's population.

This is not the first time, since 2006, that we are voting on this issue in the House. Here, in this House, we passed a motion that had to do with the recognition of the Quebec nation. The government is intent on bringing forward bills that would reduce Quebec's political weight. First, we had Bill C-56, then Bill C-22, and now we have Bill C-12. The consensus in Quebec is that this bill must not pass.

Bill C-12 would amend the formula set out in the Constitution to determine the number of seats allocated to each province. There would be a considerable increase in the number of seats in the rest of Canada. We are talking about five seats in Alberta, seven seats in British Columbia and 18 seats in Ontario, for a total of 30 new members of Parliament in the rest of Canada, not to mention the fact that Quebec's number of seats would not increase.

I would simply like to remind the hon. members that Quebec's electoral map is being redrawn. We are trying to strike a balance and resolve the dilemma between urban and rural communities. We want to give special status to rural communities that, by and large, are being threatened. We need only consider the Magdalen Islands or the Gaspé, where there are communities whose populations are dwindling with the passing years. We would like to see a balance: one person, one vote. We would also like to see the specific character of communities reflected in the National Assembly. Accordingly, a number of constitutional experts, including Benoît Pelletier, a former minister in the Liberal government, are working on just that. The Parti Québécois put forward a proposal to keep segments of the population from disappearing and to ensure that they are represented during votes in the National Assembly or where their priorities are concerned. We know that the economies and realities are different. We are trying to find a solution to strike a balance.

I can see today that we are looking for that same kind of balance that the Bloc would like to see, to ensure that all votes are equal and that there is effective representation. That is what all of the parties in the National Assembly are trying to do in Quebec so that there is a balance between urban and rural communities.

Here in this House we are not talking about urban and rural communities. We are talking about a nation, the Quebec nation, which has been recognized, and the nation of Canada, which is the rest of Canada's reality.

We can see that there are not many members in this House who will speak today, be they from the party in power—the Conservative Party, which introduced the bill—or from the opposition parties. We hope that they will explain to the people what is pushing the different parties to vote for this bill. They wanted to recognize the Quebec nation, and it must be recognized for what it represents, for the consensuses in the National Assembly, for the polls showing that 61% of the people are opposed to this bill. And when push comes to shove, we will see how this House really feels about recognizing the Quebec nation.

Many seats would be added: 30 new members would sit here in the Canadian Parliament.

As I was saying earlier, one person equals one vote. The government claims this bill is based on that principle. In a moment I will show how this principle has often been ignored over the years, since the Constitution was first created.

The Bloc Québécois, which represents Quebeckers, opposes this bill. The Bloc Québécois defends Quebec's realities and we are consistent in our commitment. We are the voice of Quebec and we oppose this bill.

It shows a lack of respect for democracy, and the recognition of the Quebec nation is therefore a sham. We were promised open federalism, but instead, muzzling seems to be the norm when we vote on bills in the House of Commons.

The principle of one person, one vote has been breached several times since Confederation. That is why we are seeking absolute equality, in terms of each vote and effective representation. For instance, certain commitments have been made to the maritime provinces and the Northwest Territories. Thus, the fact that they have been granted special protection goes against this very principle.

Now why does Bill C-12 not grant special protection to the Quebec nation regarding its potential for representation in the House of Commons, which will be reduced by about 2%? Over the years, Quebec has never been granted this special protection. Since 1976, I believe, our population has been under-represented.

Bill C-56 and Bill C-22, which were introduced in the last two Parliaments, were very similar to Bill C-12. There was a consensus in the National Assembly and among the population on this issue. The government has introduced Bill C-12 most recently—with an election campaign probably right around the corner—in order to please Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

The proposed amendment to the Constitution determines the number of seats in the House of Commons allocated to each province after a decennial census. That is set out in Bill C-12.

Readjusting the number of seats, as set out in Bill C-12, would give only three provinces more seats: Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. There would be 30 new seats. The total number of members in the House of Commons would increase from 308 to 338.

This new reality would diminish Quebec's presence, even though some would have us believe that Quebec will still keep its 75 seats. Quebec will keep its 75 seats, but 75 seats out of 308 does not represent the same percentage of the population as 75 seats out of 338. That is easy to understand. There will be 30 additional MPs and the same 75 MPs representing Quebec in the House. Quebec's current representation is 24.3%, a percentage that would decrease to 22.9% if Bill C-12 is passed.

I invite the hon. members from the other political parties to speak in the House and tell us where they stand on this. I realize that it might be difficult for the Liberal Party or the NDP to speak in favour of Quebec, but we expect hon. members to rise in the House and tell us what their party's political intentions are.

The Bloc Québécois is disputing this bill that is unfair to Quebec for three reasons. The first argument has to do with one person, one vote. In fact, this principle has never been applied. Historic fact proves that this statement being used by the Conservatives is false. Historic fact proves the contrary. Why not look at what is already happening in the Maritimes and in the Northwest Territories?

The second argument is the harmful consequences of under-representing Quebec in the House of Commons. Many people in Quebec are echoing the fear of this bill being passed.

The third argument has to do with the false impression of democracy that Bill C-12 gives. What the government is saying does not hold water, and the bill does not recognize the nation of Quebec. If the Conservative government wants to move forward with this bill, then it does not recognize the nation of Quebec. Once again, consensus in Quebec on the political intentions of the Conservative Party is being ignored.

In a democracy, there is the very simple principle of one person, one vote. The principle is very straightforward: each voter has the right to express himself or herself by exercising the right to vote, and each vote has the same worth, the same weight. We agree on that. However, in reality, this is not exactly the situation because of the nature of our electoral system. But that is an altogether different debate. One person, one vote. Since Confederation, as I was saying, the rules have been bent to reach compromise and to find a balance between absolute equality and effective representation.

I said I would give a brief historical overview. Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1867 stated:

The Number of Members of the House of Commons may be from Time to Time increased by the Parliament of Canada, provided the proportionate Representation of the Provinces prescribed by this Act is not thereby disturbed.

That is not the case here. We have seen deviations from the principle of one person, one vote in the Maritime provinces. The Constitution was amended to ensure that each province would have a minimum number of members at least equal to the number of its senators. This is known as the senatorial clause. The Northwest Territories have had the right to representation in the House of Commons although, under the rules, their population would not justify it. If, for example, the number of people living in the Northwest Territories had been taken into account, they would not have had the right to be represented here in the House. Therefore, the one person, one vote principle was ignored.

Other changes to section 51, governing the distribution of seats, have been made in order to prevent a loss of more than 15% of the seats in a province with low population growth and to prevent one province from having fewer representatives than a less populated province. We have the examples of the Northwest Territories for the former scenario and the Maritime provinces for the latter, the 15% situation.

The approach set out in the bill, which involves increasing the number of seats in the House of Commons without compensating for the dilution of representation for provinces with low demographic growth rates, puts the government at risk of violating section 42(1)(a) of the 1982 Constitution Act. When the Constitution was repatriated in 1982, Parliament was given the right, subject to section 32, to amend the provisions of the Constitution relating to the House of Commons. Under section 32(1)(a), any amendment to the principle of proportional representation of the provinces set out in the 1867 Constitution Act is subject to the constitutional amending procedure with which we are familiar, namely, the agreement of at least seven provinces that have 50% of the population or the 7/50 formula.

It is also important to remember that section 52 of the Canadian Constitution states that:

The Number of Members of the House of Commons may be from Time to Time increased by the Parliament of Canada, provided the proportionate Representation of the Provinces prescribed by this Act is not thereby disturbed.

We know that such would not be the case were this bill to pass.

In an effort to demonstrate that the “one person, one vote” principle has practically never been respected in the House, I would like to close by citing a study conducted by a political scientist at Laval University, Louis Massicotte. Based on a study comparing our country to other federations, he found that Canada has the highest rate of violation of the principle of proportionality. Clearly, the Conservatives violate this principle when it works to their advantage.

The Conservatives introduced Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation) when it suited them. As everyone knows, this draconian approach is all about winning votes, without considering Quebeckers and their reality. Let there be no mistake about it. Bill C-56 and Bill C-22 were introduced during the last two Parliaments. And the impact of Bill C-12 on Quebec, if it passes, is clear: it would marginalize Quebec even further and diminish its political weight. I have heard the arguments of some members here, including the member for Lévis—Bellechasse. They say there would be more Bloc members if the Bloc members did not sit here in this House. They are giving us another wonderful lesson on democracy. Here is what political scientist Louis Massicotte had to say:

Under the Harper government's new approach, whereby the provinces experiencing population growth would be given fairer representation, Quebec's representation would fall below its proportion of the Canadian population.

We will see how the other parties react to this bill. As we know, for the Conservatives, recognizing the Quebec nation is a sham. They have no idea what issues are at stake in Quebec's reality. I think it is obvious that we will be undermined here, in terms of Quebec's representation compared to the increased number of members from the rest of Canada.

Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons has diminished considerably since 1867. In 1867, 36% of the seats here in the House of Commons were held by members from Quebec. That dropped to 26% in 1976. And under Bill C-12, it would drop to 22.4%.

So why is Quebec trying to strike a balance between rural and urban communities? If our nation were truly being recognized, this same balance could be reproduced, that is, between what it represents, what it is and what it has to defend. It is a province that is mainly francophone, the home of the Quebec nation, and Quebec must maintain a fair proportion of the seats in the House of Commons in order to address its distinct character and particular needs. As we know, the Conservatives often scoff at the particular needs of the province of Quebec, even though they are the ones who recognized it. How hypocritical.

All of the federal partners agreed to what is in the 1992 Charlottetown accord, a guarantee of 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. Today, it is a whole other story. The Conservatives' lack of good faith here is quite clear. They are proposing this to please the rest of Canada. They are abandoning Quebec and could not care less about its reaction. We need only look at the harmonization of the QST and the GST: there is a consensus in the National Assembly and among the public. And I think that in today's budget, the government will ignore Quebec's demands regarding the harmonization of the QST and the GST. We have seen a number of examples where a consensus in Quebec has been completely disregarded here in the House.

Many people are voicing their opposition and believe that Quebec is being muzzled in the rest of Canada. The National Assembly is a credible voice; its members were elected democratically to represent the interests of Quebec. There are 125 members in the National Assembly. There are 48 members of the Bloc Québécois in the House of Commons accounting for two-thirds of elected members from Quebec. This means that 87% of elected members from the Quebec nation are opposed to Bill C-12 and are calling for it to be withdrawn.

I mentioned earlier that Benoît Pelletier, Quebec's former minister of intergovernmental affairs, has spoken out against this bill and is calling for it to be withdrawn. He does not understand why there were no special measures to protect Quebec, which is home to Canada's main linguistic minority and a founding province of Canada that is losing demographic weight. This was done, for example, with the Maritimes and the Northwest Territories. We wanted to create a balance. Why could it not be done with Quebec?

In addition, the National Assembly has adopted a unanimous motion calling for this bill to be defeated.

We would like to see the bill defeated today at this stage.

Shipbuilding Industry March 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, according to a study by Secor Group, the Davie shipyards could generate economic spinoffs worth $2.1 billion and create over 2,700 jobs in Quebec. “...Davie is the only Canadian shipyard with the existing facilities to build the largest vessels...”

Why did the Minister of National Defence change the rules of the game at the last minute, if not to disqualify the shipyard in Lévis?

Shipbuilding Industry March 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, right before a huge shipbuilding contract is about to be granted, the Conservative government has changed the invitation to tender specifications at the last minute in order to exclude the Davie shipyards.

Workers in Lévis cannot count on the Conservative member for Lévis—Bellechasse in this matter. He is complacently accepting the fact that his government is changing the rules at the last minute in order to disqualify the Davie shipyards.

Will the Minister of National Defence admit that the new rules concerning solvency are intended only to exclude the shipyard in Lévis and favour others, outside Quebec?

Political Financing March 10th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, like the Liberals before them, the Conservatives have no problem diverting public resources for their partisan purposes. But instead of shamelessly stealing from the EI fund like the Liberals, they are passing their election expenses on to the people.

On the eve of a possible spring election, can the government at least promise to cancel its partisan budget ad campaign and pay back the $200,000 obtained from Elections Canada using false invoices?

Political Financing March 10th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, unlike the funding for the films that will be celebrated at tonight's Genie Awards, the $4 million the Conservatives plan to spend on budget propaganda will come out of taxpayers' pockets.

After the in and out scandal, the immigration minister's soliciting activities and Conservative Party organizers on the Senate payroll, now the government has found yet another way to pay for its election expenses out of public funds. It is obscene.

When will the Prime Minister learn to distinguish between government business and Conservative Party business?

Business of Supply March 10th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the motion does, in fact, refer to “promoting Canada’s Economic Action Plan”. What we want the hon. member to tell us is why there were 80 events, costing taxpayers $250 million, to promote their economic action plan. During the last adjournment of the House, Conservatives toured all ridings.

Today, we are talking about the conduct of a government that thinks that the end justifies the means. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they denounced this kind of behaviour from the Liberal government. Now that they are ruling this country, they do exactly the same thing as the Liberals did. Remember the promises the Prime Minister made during the campaign. He was going to act differently, things were going to be different in Parliament and the government was going to work differently. This is what we are talking about today. So can someone explain to me why it was so urgent to hold 80 events at a cost of $250 million in a pre-election campaign? We know there is a 50% chance that elections will be called.