House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was missisquoi.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for Brome—Missisquoi (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 44% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Sir Wilfrid Laurier June 19th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, on June 23, that is four days from now, in Arthabaska, in Saint-Lin des Laurentides, in Québec-Est and in Brome-Missisquoi, we will commemorate Wilfrid Laurier's election victory as the first Quebecer to become Prime Minister of Canada.

Remembering our roots 100 years later, on the eve of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, is a fitting way to honour one of Canada's great Prime Ministers. He was the one who gave a definition of Canada that allows the Quebec Liberal Party and experienced politicians in Ottawa alike to talk today of "two founding peoples forming one nation".

On the basis of the ten provinces, the five regions and-we will remember the right of veto-the two founding peoples and the nation they form, I state loud and clear in this House:

Long live Quebec, Long live Quebec within Canada, and Hail to Wilfrid Laurier.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier June 13th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the election campaign is well under way. Wilfrid Laurier is just days away from an election which he will win on June 23, 1896.

At the time, the problems were somewhat similar to those of today. Laurier was an staunch Liberal protector of the rights of the provinces, lambasting the centralizing policies of Sir John A. MacDonald, who had a tendency to view provincial governments as subordinate institutions.

Wilfrid Laurier favoured an optimistic and positive approach. While in the opposition the previous year, he had said, in Morrisburg, Ontario: "If it were in my power, I would try the sunny way".

It is in this spirit of openness that I join the hon. member for Québec-Est and all my friends in this House to say, like Wilfrid Laurier did: "Let us try the sunny way".

Sir Wilfrid Laurier May 15th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the electoral campaign is in full swing. It is vigorous and exciting from one end of the country to the other.

This was one hundred years ago. Wilfrid Laurier was going back and forth from Victoriaville, on his way to becoming the first Quebecer to be elected Prime Minister of Canada.

In the region of Victoriaville-Arthabaska, one hundred years later, people are gathering to make a multi kilometre bicycle path, on the right of way of the railroad Wilfrid Laurier used to use. This project will be completed thanks to federal-provincial-municipal financial co-operation and regional fundraising activities.

Today, like yesterday, people look to their elected representatives at all political levels for co-operation.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier May 8th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, we are in May 1896, and in approximately five weeks from now Wilfrid Laurier will be the first Quebecer to become Prime Minister.

He said, at the time: "I look forward to the day when Canada will have a population of 30 million people and when its word will shape the destinies of the world".

This and Canada's future were the subject of discussions by the people of Brome-Missisquoi last weekend at a forum bringing together the members for Burlington, Ontario, and Fredericton-York-Sunbury, whom I wish to thank.

Vigour, conviction and sincerity are what Laurier has to offer to those who would hear him. The same message may be heard today in Hamilton East.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier May 1st, 1996

Mr. Speaker, on this day, a century ago, Canada was in the middle of an election campaign. On May 1, 1896, Wilfrid Laurier was campaigning to become the first French Canadian Prime Minister from Quebec.

And what a campaign it was. Everywhere he went, he attracted flocks of people, unleashing their enthusiasm.

Laurier used to say: "I am of French origin and proud to be; knowing my Anglo-Saxon fellow citizens as well as I do, I have no doubt that, were my heart not filled with pride for my origin, they would just look down on me with scorn, and I would deserve it". And he added: "I have no intention of losing sight of my origin but I am, first and foremost, a Canadian".

That said, I tip my hat to Sheila Copps for her courage; she has not lost sight of her origins either and she is, first and foremost, a great Canadian.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier April 24th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, when the federal election campaign kicked off on April 25, 1896, Wilfrid Laurier, the Liberal member for Québec-Est, was Leader of the Opposition. He said at the time that Canada could accommodate more than one race; he was referring to French and English Canadians. Today, he would probably say more than one people.

However, Laurier also added: "But there must be only one nation".

From Saint-Lin-des-Laurentides to Arthabasca, from Cap-aux-Meules and Halifax to Vancouver and Victoria, let us follow, in the coming weeks, Wilfrid Laurier's election campaign.

The people of Brome-Missisquoi would now say to the then member of Québec-Est: "Good luck, Wilfrid Laurier".

Sir Wilfrid Laurier April 17th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, on April 16, at 2.30 a.m., in this House of Commons, the government of the day yielded to pressure from the Liberal Party. The date was April 16, 1896. That was 100 years ago yesterday.

Nine days later, a general election was called for June 23. Today, it is important to remember that, for Canada, the 1896 election marked the beginning of a new era.

Wilfrid Laurier, who was born in Saint-Lin-des-Laurentides, spent all his life in Arthabaska. He was the Leader of the Opposition at the time. Two months later, he became Prime Minister of Canada, the first of many Quebecers to do so.

At the time, Laurier said that Canada could accommodate more than one race. He was referring to French and English Canadians. Nowadays, would we talk about peoples instead of races?

However, Laurier also added-

The Budget April 16th, 1996

Madam Speaker, at what price? I think two or three levels of government can very well co-operate together. My colleague from Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans knows full well that there is a program that worked very well last year and the year before, and that is the infrastructure program.

It is not a program from one government, it is a program that called for the co-operation of the federal, provincial and municipal levels and it was set up quickly. It has worked properly, and I am even sure that his riding must have benefited from this infrastructure program. I think the solution for the future-I was talking about young people earlier-lies in young people, but also in co-operation and joint action. I appeal to all my colleagues of the Bloc Quebecois to show willingness to co-operate and to take joint action, so that we can now revitalize the economy and ensure that we live in a province and a country that are even more prosperous.

The Budget April 16th, 1996

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the budget. The theme of this year's budget is "securing the future". I think that securing the future is exactly what is needed in these difficult times.

In the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to tour my riding of Brome-Missisquoi, to visit every town and village and talk with the people. I can tell you that the main concerns or needs of the people of Brome-Missisquoi-which are probably similar to those of other Canadians-are as follows. I will try to list them in order of frequency.

Their first concern is taxes. I will get back to this in a minute to compare public expectations with what is in the budget. Second, bureaucrats and their red tape. Third, duplication between the federal government and the provinces and how it can be eliminated as quickly as possible. Fourth, how to decentralize the management of certain programs. Fifth, how to achieve recognition of Quebec's distinctiveness.

I will now go back to the people's first four concerns in light of the finance minister's last budget. The budget starts out by stating that we must secure our financial future.

One year before the Liberal Party came to office, budget figures pegged the deficit at $42 billion. The deficit fell to $37.5 billion one year later and to $32.7 billion two years later. The new deficit forecast is $24.3 billion, then $17 billion for next year.

I mentioned earlier that political choices have to be made, and political choices are important. We could have cut the deficit down to zero tomorrow morning. But what about social programs? What about the most vulnerable in our society? I think we must go ahead without forgetting the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.

We will eventually eliminate the deficit, but the new Canada social transfer will help the most vulnerable in our society make it through. I think that this is important, in the choices the government made.

The second point is rethinking the role of government. I was telling you earlier about the concerns of the people of Brome-Missisquoi, about the need to reduce duplication.

Let me give you an example. The speech from the throne provides for the establishment of a national food inspection agency. Now, this is a measure that will help eliminate duplication. Currently, when it comes to food inspection, we have inspectors from Agriculture Canada and Health Canada at the federal level. At the provincial level, we have inspectors from the Régie des marchés agricoles du Québec, as well as from the Fédération des producteurs, which administers the joint program for that sector. Then, if we are talking about restaurants in Montreal, there are city inspectors who make regular visits to these establishments. That makes a lot of inspectors in the food inspection sector.

An agency like that will allow us to offer a partnership to all the other levels of government, because it is in the best interests of the

citizen. The citizen at the end of the process will not get the visit of five inspectors dealing with five different issues during the same week. This is an example of how to streamline operations and help eliminate duplication between the federal and provincial governments.

A similar example is the proposed revenue commission. Again, and this is particularly true in Quebec, the GST and the TVQ are harmonized. Agreements were signed by the federal and Quebec governments and things are going well. However, if we can increase the number of such agreements between Ottawa and the provinces, so much the better. Again, this will benefit citizens and taxpayers. In that sense, I believe the Canadian government is making great efforts to eliminate or reduce duplication.

A budget is about the moneys to be allocated or to be spent in a given year. Earlier, I stressed the importance of protecting seniors, as well as those who need to get an education and those who need health care services. As I said before in this House, thanks to the new Canada social transfer, the federal government will no longer send three cheques to the provinces, that is one for education, one for health and one for social security. It will be a single cheque. Provinces will be able to take that single cheque and spend it according to their own priorities.

Last year, when this was announced, the big cheque which combined the previous three cheques was cut about 4 per cent. But we should look at the facts. The federal government cut its program spending by 7 per cent, but transfer payments to the provinces by 4 per cent only. Better than that, the Minister of Finance announced in his last budget that the federal government had agreed to a new five year funding framework for the Canada social transfer, starting in 1998-99.

The first two years, the federal contribution will be kept as its current level. Then, in the following years, the transfers will increase at a rate linked to economic growth. What this means is that the federal government will not, as other governments are doing, transfer its deficit to the next level of government. The federal government will continue to assume its responsibilities, under the Canada social transfer, for health, education and social security. This is important.

I have the privilege of sitting on the public accounts committee of this House, where we can examine the way senior officials and deputy ministers manage, one after the other. This allows the Canadian government to be managed as well as can be, to cut spending and streamline operations to stay within budget, to see where we are going with our budgets from the inside, and to monitor those who spend money week after week and month after month. This allows us to save. These savings do not penalize the citizens who, I repeat, are the reason we are here in this House.

In conclusion, I want to speak about the best part of this budget. The best part is the job creation program for our youth. We have

increased the resources allocated to the youth summer employment creation program from $60 million last year to $120 million this summer, for all of Canada. This is a real investment in the future, it is a measure that will help young people across the country who represent our future; therefore it will foster our progress as a society.

The Francophonie March 21st, 1996

Mr. Speaker, this week is the Semaine internationale de la Francophonie. To show how important la francophonie internationally is to Canada, allow me to quote what the current premier of Quebec said when he was Canada's ambassador to France.

He said that Canada's commitment towards the French speaking community came quite naturally, that federalism requires the central government to project our country's linguistic duality at the international as well as the national level.

We agree with Lucien Bouchard on the role Canada plays in la francophonie internationally. Our government considers it an honour to be part of both the Commonwealth and the Francophonie and we do intend to remain active within both of these communities.