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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

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

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 31% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Softwood Lumber April 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the executive vice-president and general manager of the Free Trade Lumber Council, Carl Grenier, has said that yesterday was a very sad day for the softwood lumber industry in Quebec and Canada.

The federal government's stubborn refusal to provide solid support for the softwood lumber industry led to the situation we are in today.

Softwood lumber companies are not to blame for caving in to pressure from the Americans. The current and previous federal governments are to blame for refusing to put in place a serious aid program for the industry, including loan guarantees, as the Bloc Québécois, companies and workers demanded. Such measures would have put us in a stronger negotiating position and resulted in a better agreement.

In addition, by accepting an agreement that goes against the principle of full free trade, the Prime Minister weakened NAFTA and its dispute settlement mechanisms.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the voters of the riding of Manicouagan for having granted me this fifth mandate.

Like many of my colleagues, I received the introduction to the Speech from the Throne. I am still looking for the Speech from the Throne.

This introduction to the Speech from the Throne included of course the five promises and commitments of the Conservative government.

Where, in the Speech from the Throne, are the Conservative government's policies on employment insurance, the creation of an independent commission and improvements in this program? Employment insurance is insurance in case of loss or termination of employment.

Where, in the Speech from the Throne, are the initiatives aimed at reducing poverty, helping low-income families and senior citizens, and increasing public housing?

Where, in the Speech from the Throne, are the means of redressing the fiscal imbalance and funding the health and education systems in the provinces?

Where is the assistance for municipal and highway infrastructures? There is nothing in the Speech from the Throne.

Nor do we find anything about regional development, aboriginal peoples, job training and job creation, the Kyoto protocol and the environment.

Where is the Speech from the Throne?

Unanticipated Surpluses Act October 27th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, in connection with Bill C-67 in which the government concerns itself with the allocation of surpluses, it certainly does not want to make this a vote of confidence. The surpluses that we have now could easily have been foreseen by the Minister of Finance. If he knew about them, there is a problem. But if he did not know about them, there is an even bigger problem.

This morning during a question that I was asking, I referred to employment insurance. Every year the government pockets $4 to $5 billion of the surplus in the employment insurance fund, which it invests in its consolidated revenue fund but on the backs of working people and the unemployed. In the regions, this is of major importance.

In a second question, I referred to the lack of maintenance on federal infrastructure and facilities in the regions, including ports and airports. In the fishing industry in the Lower North Shore, the seaports belonging to Fisheries and Oceans or Transport Canada are very important.

Finally, I would like the member to tell me whether he thinks it is all right for the government to feel it has to pass a bill today on the equitable allocation of its surpluses when there are corrections officers at Port-Cartier penitentiary who have been without a collective agreement for four years and have had to take to the streets in order to assert their rights. They do a very dangerous job, but the government does not recognize its responsibilities in their regard. These public service employees have been without a contract for four years. This is immoral and not all right.

Unanticipated Surpluses Act October 27th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I must commend the hon. member for his excellent speech. Allow me to make a brief comment before asking a question.

I am lucky enough to represent a very large riding in Quebec, the remote riding of Manicouagan. I find it somewhat disastrous that the minister has to introduce a bill on behalf of the government to set out a way to spend the surplus when this same government does not even maintain its own infrastructure and equipment in the regions.

On the North Shore, and the Mid North Shore as well as the Lower North Shore, there is equipment belonging to the federal government, to Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I am mostly referring to the piers.

The fishing industry on the Mid North Shore and the Lower North Shore rely on significant infrastructure. In the 12 years the Liberals have been in power, the only investment they and the Department of Transport have made in these piers consists in installing gates and signs that read, “Dangerous pier. No trespassing”.

My question is for the hon. member from the NDP. Before putting surplus money toward the deficit, should the federal government not only maintain its own equipment, but at least respect its maintenance programs for its own infrastructure, namely the ports and airports since these are very important for the regions of Quebec?

Unanticipated Surpluses Act October 27th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-67 concerns the allocation of surpluses. Why are there surpluses? It is because the Minister of Finance inaccurately forecasts his budget. He inaccurately forecasts the surplus. Each year, the Bloc Québécois proves that the Minister of Finance never fails to underestimate the anticipated surplus.

Why is there a surplus? First, $4 billion is taken each year from the EI fund. Now, we wonder how the surplus will be allocated. Given that fact, the minister should at the very least have improved EI and returned to seasonal workers the $48 billion he has taken from the fund over the past decade.

Today, the minister has had to introduce a bill setting out how the surpluses will be allocated, knowing full well that, every year, $4 billion is being taken from the unemployed, seasonal workers, women and the jobless. He is increasing the poverty level in the world and especially in Canada.

I want to ask the following question of the Conservative Party member who just spoke. Would it not be logical, in his opinion, for the government, which has taken $4 billion each year from the EI fund, to improve the EI program and give back to the workers the money—$48 billion according to figures provided by the Auditor General—that it has taken over the past decade?

Unemployment Insurance Act October 26th, 2005


That Bill C-280, in Clause 1, be amended by replacing lines 4 to 26 on page 1 and lines 1 to 38 on page 2 with the following:

“1. Section 65.3 of the Employment Insurance Act is repealed.

1.1 Sections 66 to 67 of the Act are replaced by the following:

  1. (1) Not later than November 30 in each year, the Commission shall set the premium rate that the Commission considers will, to the extent possible, over a business cycle,

(a) serve the best interests of the contributors and beneficiaries under the employment insurance system;

(b) ensure that there is enough revenue to pay the expenses authorized to be charged to the Employment Insurance Account;

(c) maintain stable rate levels; and

(d) ensure that the difference between the assets of the Employment Insurance Account and its liabilities does not exceed fifteen billion dollars.

(2) On the first day of October in each year, the Commission shall cause a report to be sent to the Minister containing

(a) the reasons for setting the premium rate for the year;

(b) any change to the amount of benefits that the Commission considers will, to the extent possible, over a business cycle,

(i) ensure that there is enough revenue to pay the expenses authorized to be charged to the Employment Insurance Account, and

(ii) maintain stable rate levels;

(c) a detailed description of the assets of the Commission on the first day of September in each year;

(d) a detailed description of the amounts that have been paid into or paid out of the Employment Insurance Account since the previous report;

(e) an estimate of the amounts to be paid into the Employment Insurance Account under this Act for the following year, calculated on the basis of the premium rate set by the Commission in the report;

(f) an estimate of the amounts to be paid out of the Employment Insurance Account under this Act for the following year, calculated on the basis of the amount of benefits to be paid set by the Commission in the report;

(g) any recommendations that the Commission considers necessary for the improvement of the employment insurance system, including amendments to Acts, regulations and policies with respect to employment insurance; and

(h) any other information that the Commission considers necessary.

(3) The Minister shall cause a copy of the report to be laid before each House of Parliament on any of the first five days on which that House is sitting after the Minister receives it.

66.1 Notwithstanding section 66, the premium rate for the year 2004 is 1.98%.

66.2 Notwithstanding section 66, the premium rate for the year 2005 is the rate set for the year by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister and the Minister of Finance.

  1. Subject to section 70, a person employed in insurable employment shall pay, by deduction as provided in subsection 82(1), a premium equal to their insurable earnings multiplied by the premium rate set under section 66, 66.1 or 66.2, as the case may be.”

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take the floor as sponsor of Bill C-280, which is concerned with the creation of an autonomous fund.

To begin, I would like to say to all those listening to us that employment insurance is primarily insurance that is paid for by workers while they are working, in case they lose their jobs or stop working. The problem is that workers pay premiums thinking that they are insured, yet they are not. Since the 1994 Axworthy reform, under the Liberal government, insured persons who have paid premiums in order to be insured in case of job loss or separation have not in fact been insured.

The objective of the Liberal Party is to generate surpluses and deposit them in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The former finance minister, now the Prime Minister, used to crow that he was realizing annual surpluses of $9 billion, $10 billion or $12 billion. Again this year, revenues surplus to premiums and benefits have been generated in the order of $4 billion to $6 billion.

This motivated the Bloc Québécois, immediately upon its arrival in the House of Commons, to work on behalf of workers, the unemployed and the groups such as the Sans-chemise, and to defend their interests. This is not the first bill on the subject we are discussing in this House. The Bloc Québécois has felt itself obliged to make certain commitments to workers, the unemployed and the Sans-chemise. In the last federal election campaign, the Bloc Québécois promised to table in this House the bill we are debating today at the report stage, namely Bill C-280, which would create an independent fund.

In my riding of Manicouagan, I also have workers, unemployed people and students who pay EI premiums, yet unfortunately are not insured under the present employment insurance system.

I had the opportunity to speak at first reading, that is, when the bill was tabled, at second reading, as well as in committee, when this bill was studied. I was able to intervene, as did the hon. member for Chambly-Borduas and the hon. member for Québec, at the amendment stage. We agreed to huge reductions so that this measure would not be expensive for the government.

For example, we reduced the number of administrators. We would have liked to have seven representatives on the union side, as many on the management side, and three on the government side. As long as this fund is not administered by those who contribute to it, we will be faced with the problem we have today. The government takes the money in the fund and uses it for purposes other than those for which people contributed. It then becomes a disguised tax that is collected on the backs of seasonal workers and the unemployed.

I am now pleased to speak at the report stage. As I was saying, we have tabled some amendments. Our amendment that permits concordance with the budget has been accepted tonight. At the time we intervened in committee, the budget had not yet been passed and we were not able to make the necessary amendments. This evening, at the report stage, the Chair has deemed admissible an amendment we had tabled. This is simply an amendment to align Bill C-280 with Bill C-43, the Budget Implementation Act.

We do hope that cabinet, which has the authority to give royal assent, will give workers and the unemployed the money that belongs to them. For far too long, the government has been using that money for its own purposes and spending it on various programs. One might even wonder if this money from the EI fund—we are talking about $5 billion or $6 billion a year—was not involved in instances of waste of public funds. Put simply, I am referring to the sponsorship scandal. It would be disastrous if the government had taken money that belongs to workers and the unemployed to fund the sponsorship program in an attempt to pad the coffers of the Liberal Party. We are asking cabinet to give a royal recommendation with respect to this bill.

In addition, I hope that the House will get to vote on this bill at third reading stage, so as to show the true face of the Liberals. They keep promising to improve the employment insurance program, but no sooner do they get elected than they do the exact opposite.

The Bloc Québécois promised to introduce legislation. That is what we are doing today. That is what we have been doing ever since coming to Ottawa. If it is not passed and a majority of parliamentarians vote against it, the Liberals will pay the price.

Why is legislation necessary? It is necessary to stop the government from tapping into the surplus, these billions of dollars that belong to the workers, those who have contributed to an insurance fund they do not get to use because the government decided to undertake a much too stringent reform, which is increasingly preventing people from qualifying for EI benefits.

The independent employment insurance account management committee had the power to set premium rates and to pay out benefits, to administer and report to the House. It was also to recommend improvements to the employment insurance program. That is very important. It has the power to recommend improvements to the EI program.

Six women out of ten contribute to the EI fund, but are not eligible for benefits. That is disastrous. We are talking about 60% of women on the labour market, women and young people who are contributing to the fund. Six people out of ten do not qualify.

Why? Because the reforms are too strict. We are talking about new people on employment insurance. They need 910 hours of work. That is 910 hours in seasonal jobs. These are different kinds of jobs, and I find that everywhere in Quebec and Canada.

There are different kinds of jobs in which, as I was saying, six women out of ten did not qualify for employment insurance. These are women and young people. It is all the people who are on call, casual employees, replacements for workers on holidays, contract workers and even students.

I will be told that the act requires all workers to pay employment insurance premiums. However, the government knows very well that although everyone is obliged to pay premiums when they work because that is the law, the government is not obliged to pay out benefits to everyone.

We in the Bloc Québécois are proposing an independent fund, with administrators who would manage the premium and benefit rates. They would make recommendations and submit reports to the House. We also say that the 910 hours required to qualify for employment insurance should be reduced to 360.

We demand as well that the benefits be increased from 50% to 60%. We want to increase the number of insurable weeks to 50 in order to eliminate the gap.

Between the period when people receive employment insurance and the period when they return to work, there are workers in seasonal jobs in some regions who go as long as two months, two and a half months, often ten weeks, without any income.

There is also the abolition of the two-week waiting period. With a total surplus of $48 billion and annual surpluses of $4 billion to $6 billion, it is impossible to understand why the famous two-week waiting period cannot be eliminated. It really does take two weeks of waiting, two to three weeks if there is no investigation and all goes well. It takes about five or six weeks before people get their first employment insurance cheque.

In some families, when the employment insurance cheque arrives, it is certainly due. The banks do not wait, and neither do mortgages or grocery stores. Everybody needs it.

We also need a POWA program and a program for independent workers. I will let my hon. friend from Chambly—Borduas speak about that.

This bill is supported by unions and employers. Why employers? Because they are having difficulty recruiting employees. There is also the high cost of training employees.

On behalf of working people, on behalf of the unemployed, and on behalf of the Comité des Sans-Chemise, we ask the House to vote in favour of Bill C-280.

Telecommunications Act October 20th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I asked a question earlier, but I did not get a satisfactory answer. I will ask the same question again.

Passing legislation is one thing; applying it is another. Being called to vote on a bill to control, limit and structure such a marketing activity is fine by me. The problem comes afterward. How can the government apply this legislation in a way that is effective in the eyes of the consumer?

I have the following question for the hon. member. Whose responsibility is it to apply the legislation properly? Who should the dissatisfied consumer turn to in order to lodge a complaint?

Telecommunications Act October 20th, 2005

Madam Speaker, first, I want to congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech. I listened to it carefully, and I have some questions.

Earlier, the member for Saint-Jean mentioned a vacuum cleaner salesman who called at 8 a.m., bothering him and his family. I do not know if it was the hour or the vacuum cleaner brand, but he was quite inconvenienced.

The question I want to ask my colleague is this. Will Bill C-37 truly set up some restrictions on marketing representatives making telephone or door-to-door solicitations? I am not convinced that this will act as a brake here.

I have a 16-year-old son in high school. He is in grade 10. He is still living at home, given his age. Recently, a credit card company offered him a credit card. A few days later, this same company called to find out if he had received the offer and if he was still interested. Will this bill restrict this and also the potential risks?

How will we be able to intervene and supervise those who engage in door-to-door or telephone marketing? How will consumers lodge complaints? What bodies will be responsible for hearing customer complaints? What are we talking about? Criminal sanctions? Fines? Who will hear these complaints and inform violators that they are breaking the law? Also, does this include all those engaged in all types of solicitation?

Economic Development October 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, on August 18, in Baie-Comeau, the Premier of Quebec stated that the expansion plans of the Société du port ferroviaire de Baie-Comeau—Hauterive were directly conditional on a decision by the federal government, which has yet to confirm its involvement in this project.

Will the minister responsible for economic development commit to meet with his counterpart in Quebec in order to resolve this impasse and allow this project, which is important to the region, to proceed?

Wage Earner Protection Program Act September 29th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell what he thinks about workers who invested in company pension funds for many years but then lost everything when their company went bankrupt because the contributions from employees and the employer were put into the company's consolidated fund.

Does he agree with me that the pension funds of these workers should be protected by law? These pension funds could be put into trusts, consolidated funds or guaranteed special-purpose funds, so that workers whose company goes bankrupt will not lose the money they put in their pension fund.