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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was infrastructure.

Last in Parliament August 2017, as Conservative MP for Lac-Saint-Jean (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Finance March 23rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, as usual, our government has put in place a number of measures to spur the development of the province of Quebec, and we will continue to do so. Once again last week, I had the honour to visit many areas of Quebec. I was able to see for myself just how much our measures are being welcomed by the people of Quebec. I understand that this might not please my colleagues across the floor, but we are doing the work we were elected to do.

Forestry Industry March 23rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, as we said recently, the issue of the loan guarantees provided by Investissement Québec and Ontario is currently in arbitration. We will therefore not comment any further here.

The legal opinion my colleague just referred to has, of course, been turned over to the government's legal counsel, and they are examining it. We will have their decision at a later date.

Rural Regions March 12th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, we intend to do it by investing in each of the regions in Quebec, by being on the ground as we always are and by bringing in programs that will help the regions recover. Yesterday and again this morning, we met a number of representatives of the forestry industry. Next week, I will again have the pleasure of visiting the regions of Quebec in order to announce some very good news in various regions.

Rural Regions March 12th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the department it is my pleasure to head will continue to support the regions in Quebec through a series of programs that we will announce by March 31. Some $1 billion will be distributed countrywide, and, of that, over $200 million will go to the regions of Quebec for economic diversification. We are very concerned by what is happening in the forestry industry, as we have already said. It is a market issue, unfortunately. Our products are selling less than before. We must be ready for the recovery, and that is what we are doing with all the regions in Quebec.

Forestry Industry March 12th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to quote someone who was at the same committee this morning, Avrim Lazar, President of the Forest Products Association of Canada. During the meeting of the subcommittee, Mr. Lazar said that solutions for the forestry industry needed to reflect the real problem, which is the market. The help the industry needs during this period of crisis is access to credit, work sharing for employment insurance purposes, and assistance for communities, and these are all measures contained in our economic action plan.

He also spoke of helping Canadians to keep their jobs when the market picks up, with new products and new markets, measures that are also included in our economic action plan.

Forestry Industry March 11th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

As we have said, our government has put in place numerous measures, within the agreements we have, to support employment and encourage and assist workers, among other things with $170 million to diversify the economy. My colleague must be well aware that the industries are currently having trouble selling their product. That is the main problem the industry has at this time. We will therefore continue to develop new products and new markets and will try to revitalize this industry, whose interests all members of our party take to heart.

Forestry Industry March 10th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, as always, our Prime Minister is playing a leadership role for the entire Canadian economy. We all know that the Canadian forestry industry has some serious problems, and the recent London ruling should prompt elected members of all parties to take a very serious look at the situation. Given that all loan guarantees provided by Quebec and Ontario are now subject to arbitration, I will not comment further at this time.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I know that the pine beetle is a major problem in the west, not only in British Columbia but also in the neighbouring provinces.

I am confident that our Minister of Natural Resources and my colleague fromIndian and Northern affairs—because these are the areas concerned—will handle this file perfectly well. In my region, my riding and the aboriginal community of Mashteuiatsh, we have achieved great things working together.

As for the future of natural resources, we are working with them on a daily basis wherever possible and we will continue to do so in the best interest of all workers. We will continue to seek the most sustainable solutions in keeping with the principles of sustainable development.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am on the ground every weekend. The hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord mentioned the people of my riding but he never went to these plants and these shops. I was there and I met the people.

Of course, I cannot say they are 100% happy. We have to keep on working. There is an economic crisis, there is a crisis in the forestry industry and it is a question of market. If these people can sell their lumber, they will not ask for any loan guarantees. Trucks will be running, the forest industry will be prosperous and companies will cut even more wood.

These people know that it is a market issue. Some would like to make a political crisis out of an economic crisis. People know very well that we are working for them and they want us to do more. We will keep on doing our work, fully aware of the problems these people have to contend with. I for one have chosen to be where the action is and where decisions are taken to make a difference in our future.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today because it will help me set at least a few things straight. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse.

For a few weeks now, the Bloc and its allies have been engaging in another witch hunt, this time on the backs of workers in the forestry industry, in order to score political points. That is how they operate, as we all know, regardless of the subject or the people they use. They try to divide people, turn them against each other, in order to separate “us” from “them”.

Before and during the last election campaign, the favourite ploy of the Bloc and its allies was to set Quebec against Alberta. Now they are trying to turn Quebec against Ontario. It is always the same ploy, only the names change.

I myself am from one of the regions and return there every weekend. And every weekend, I am visiting the villages we are discussing today. The working people there know very well what they are facing and what we are doing for them. I can understand they want more. I am with them in the field every weekend. The economic health of my riding depends to a large extent on the forestry industry, which is currently in such difficulty. We are fully aware of the problems that the families of working people have been dealing with for several years now. People should not be fooled, though, and take as gospel truth what the Bloc and company say because their real aim is to divide people, stir up quarrels regardless of what they are about, in order to promote their desire to separate Quebec from Canada and get elected or re-elected.

This crisis is nothing new, as we all know. There has been a crisis in the Quebec forestry industry for a number of years, as can easily be seen by the general context. First there was the Coulombe report, which recommended a 20% reduction in the allowable cut. Then there was the chief forester, who basically confirmed this and even imposed more in percentage terms for certain regions and species. A northern limit was also imposed. In addition, there have been the anti-forestry campaigns of Greenpeace and other groups. We have also had all the losses due to the pine beetle in western Canada and the spruce budworm.

There were a lot of other factors as well, including the changes in the value of the Canadian dollar, the cost of energy, corporate mergers, and the falling prices of wood and paper. These have not all been under the control of a single government.

The current problem with plant closures is linked to market conditions. No company ever closed down plants because they were selling too much. The problem we are facing now has to do with the markets where we sell our products. Ninety-six percent of the softwood lumber exported by Quebec goes to the United States. Eighty-three percent of Canadian lumber goes to the United States. More than a million houses are now up for sale in the United States, and it is easy to see what the impact is on our forestry industry.

Considering all these factors, one understands why, since it was elected in 2006, our Conservative government has adopted a series of measures to support forestry workers. The government’s actions since we came into office must be looked at as a whole, and particularly within our limits for intervention, since the largest part of the forestry sector comes under provincial jurisdiction. Our possible areas of intervention include secondary and tertiary processing, innovative projects—research was mentioned earlier—and the development of new markets, which is essential. Everyone in this House knows that but ignores it when it comes time to assign blame.

Even before tabling Canada’s economic action plan, on January 27, our Conservative government had settled the softwood lumber dispute, which produced $5 billion for the forestry industry, including $1 billion for Quebec, while at the same time ensuring stability for the workers who depend on this sector.

We also took other measures, while respecting the agreement with our American partners. We reduced the fiscal burden on Canadians by $200 billion. We established the community development trust with funding of $1 billion, of which $217 million was allocated for Quebec. We invested $72 million in targeted support for older workers.

In the 2008 budget we added another $90 million and in our economic action plan, we provided an additional $60 million for older workers. We set aside $127 million for innovation and development of new markets. We know how valuable innovation and new markets are.

In our January 27 economic action plan, we added $170 million in support for innovative projects and development of new markets. We have established a $1 billion community adjustment fund to assist communities affected by the economic crisis, and more than $200 million of that will go to Quebec.

That, of course, includes forestry communities that are seeking to diversify their economies and to offer new work opportunities for young people living in those areas.

We have also introduced a green infrastructure fund, which includes forestry biomass and new energy sources, and measures to encourage renovation and construction that should stimulate the demand for lumber.

I am also very proud that our plan responds to the immediate needs of workers and communities. We have targeted an amount of $8.3 billion to help Canadian workers, through improved employment insurance benefits and increased access to training. For example, we have provided an additional $500 million for claimants in long-term training programs. We are also extending work sharing agreements by 14 weeks to a new maximum of 52 weeks. This program is very popular and much appreciated at this time in all regions of Quebec and the entire country.

In addition to freezing employment insurance premiums, we have extended the eligibility period by five weeks to help workers who have lost their jobs over a long period. Our economic action plan also provides more money to help companies through Export Development Canada, which works with some 90% of the forestry companies in Canada.

Mr. Avrim Lzar, president and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, in other words for the entire country, had this to say about the budget:

“The government has clearly heard the message and embraced our vision of becoming the producers of the best quality, most innovative and greenest forest products in the world. And it understands that in order to get there Canada needs to attract investment and secure the jobs of nearly 300,000 skilled Canadians forest workers and the communities they work in... We are very encouraged by the budget measures aimed at ensuring access to credit for Canadian businesses, particularly the expansion of the powers and financing authorities of the EDC, and we look forward to working with the government to determine how these measures can help our companies and workers .

I would remind hon. members that Mr. Lazar represents a large number of Canadian forestry companies, including AbitibiBowater, Canfor, Kruger, Louisiana-Pacific Canada, Tembec, Weyerhaeuser Company, to name but a few. If anyone wonders how important Mr. Lazar is in the world of Canadian forestry products, he is the head of the largest Canadian association.

So we have proof that it is as false as false can be to claim that the government has not done all it could in this sad situation. What is more, it must be noted that the arbitration ruling on softwood lumber has just been brought down, on February 26, and requires Canada, the provinces and the forestry companies to pay $68 million in penalties, and this is a ruling that cannot be appealed. This ought to serve as a reminder of how cautious we need to be when dealing with the forestry industry as well as a reminder of the softwood lumber agreement.

So we must keep in mind that caution is of the essence. Mr. Lazar has also said: —the government cannot do much without the risk of creating new problems at the border”. In his opinion, any direct aid following the model of the assistance given to the auto industry might jeopardize the industry's access to the US market, and that must be avoided at all cost.

I would add one more thing: the forestry sector is, of course, the industries, but it is more than that. It is a natural resource. It is workers, independent contractors, loggers, truckers, and many other people who are often our friends or family members. We are working every day to find better solutions to help those families, and we will continue to do so.

I would like to end with a reminder of something that is of the utmost importance. The Bloc and its allies have chosen to play petty politics at the expense of the workers. That is their choice. I will not play their game, because I feel it is more appropriate to work with people who are looking for solutions to the world economic difficulties that are having repercussions here. I am in favour of bringing people together, not dividing them.

I must, however, reply to the Bloc members, and in particular the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. Can you name a single project or a single job that has been created by your actions , with the exception of your own job and those of the people who work for you, since you became a member? Obviously the answer is as simple as it is short: no. As for me, my priority is people, not partisan interests.