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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

Forestry Industry Support March 31st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak here today, during this second hour of debate. For the benefit of those watching at home, and since we are at this stage of the debate, I would like to read Motion M-414 presented by the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should introduce a series of measures to assist businesses, communities and workers hard hit by the forestry crisis, including: (a) an economic diversification program aimed specifically at communities that depend heavily on the forest industry; (b) tax measures that encourage the development of processing activities in the region; (c) a government loan and loan guarantee program for business modernization; (d) a refundable tax credit for the research and development of new products; (e) the establishment of absolute reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions, allowing businesses to sell emission credits on an exchange; (f) a program to support the production of energy and ethanol from forest waste; (g) improvements to the employment insurance plan; and (h) an income support program for older workers.

In my speech, I will cover each of these points. With regard to the employment insurance plan, I will talk about a specific case that occurred in Charlevoix last year and serves as an excellent example. I will also show that a worker of 57 or 58 who has been laid off and is receiving employment insurance does not necessarily have an easy time finding a new job.

The forestry crisis is hitting Quebec especially hard, because of the loss of 88,000 jobs in sawmills and pulp and paper plants. More than 230 cities, towns and villages depend primarily on the forestry industry. I will also come back to each of these points. A further 160 cities, towns and villages depend exclusively on the forestry industry. Nearly half of the forest communities in Canada depend on the forestry industry, which has been a key factor in settlement patterns in Quebec.

A region such as the North Shore—the large riding of Manicouagan, which extends from Rivière Betsiamites to Blanc-Sablon, including Anticosti Island, Fermont and Schefferville—owes its development largely to the forestry industry. Forestry is a Quebec industry, because we have the forest resources. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, the more forestry workers that have jobs in the forestry industry, the more the forest recedes. What the forestry industry needs is a comprehensive plan. But one gets the impression that the Conservative government cannot see the forest for the trees; it cannot see all the problems in the forestry industry.

The crisis in the manufacturing and forestry industries in Quebec is very serious. Since the Conservatives came to power, the manufacturing industry has lost 78,000 jobs, the majority of all jobs lost in Canada. Since 2005, the forestry industry—including related services such as transportation and forestry equipment—has lost 21,000 jobs, half of all the jobs lost in Canada.

When we talk about the forestry and manufacturing industries, but mainly the forestry industry, we think about the people who work in the sawmills. But beyond the sawmills there is a whole system: people work in the forest; transportation companies take timber from the forest to the sawmill for secondary or tertiary processing. Today, with modernization, paper mills use chippers to turn wood residues into pulp.

Since the Conservatives came to power, more than 25% of forestry jobs in Quebec have disappeared. Between 2004 and 2007, the forestry industry in some regions of Quebec has experienced devastation and catastrophe.

It is important to highlight these revealing figures, which date from the summer of 2007. The situation has deteriorated since then because, within the forestry industry, many sawmills have closed or cut their hours of operation.

In the Upper Laurentians region, for example, 58% of forestry jobs have been lost. In Abitibi-Témiscamingue, 38% have disappeared. In Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, in the riding of my Conservative colleague for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, 34% of forestry workers have lost their jobs. On the North Shore, where forestry gave rise to and fostered the development of the regions, 32% of jobs have been lost. In Mauricie, 29% have disappeared. These figures are from the summer of 2007. We are now coming up to the summer of 2008 and the problem has grown.

In addition, 160 cities, towns and villages—but mainly villages—rely exclusively on the forestry industry. Take for example the municipality of Rivière-Saint-Jean in my riding. The only industry we had in Rivière-Saint-Jean—I said “we had” because it is no longer in operation—was a softwood lumber mill. People from Minganie, Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, Rivière-Saint-Jean, Rivière-au-Tonnerre and Sheldrake worked at the only industry in the region. Due to the softwood lumber dispute, the company was not making a profit and had to close its doors. From one day to the next, many workers—more than 100—found themselves on unemployment insurance. Today, the majority of these workers who went on employment insurance are now welfare recipients because EI benefits run out after 35 to 38 weeks, or 40 in some cases.

There was no end in sight to the problems in the forestry industry, no light at the end of the tunnel and, unfortunately, the private owner of the Rivière-Saint-Jean sawmill announced that he was not resuming operations and that his equipment was for sale. This is a hard blow for workers and their families because it demolishes their plans. These people have to pay their mortgages, their monthly power bills, their phone bills, their municipal property taxes and school board taxes. They also have to buy groceries at least once a week to feed their family.

That is the situation in Rivière-Saint-Jean and also in Rivière-Pentecôte. What I described for Rivière-Saint-Jean also applies to Rivière-Pentecôte. The sawmill that was located in Rivière-Pentecôte was the lifeblood of that community. There was a time when people who came to that municipality to settle there and work in the forestry, in the sawmill, really put down roots there. Gradually, from generation to generation, these people built homes and settled in Rivière-Pentecôte. The owner of the sawmill in Rivière-Saint-Jean also owned the sawmill in Rivière-Pentecôte. He tried his best to keep the industry going in Rivière-Pentecôte, but he had to close both sawmills.

Mr. Speaker, am I already out of time?

I wanted to talk about the Saint-Hilarion sawmill and Joseph Bergeron in Saint-Hilarion who is currently unemployed, which makes him very nervous. He is experiencing stress-related problems. He cannot sit around and play computer games. He is unemployed. He is nervous; he has received a number of fines and he has even had a small accident. At Easter he forgot to buy flowers for his girlfriend. Then there is Simon, a young man who has lost his job. His situation is similar to the example given by the hon. member who spoke earlier.

Simon lost his job and he is being told he is not entitled to employment insurance benefits. There has been a lot of back and forth in this case. Nonetheless, I took care of it and the young man managed to get his—

Committees of the House February 14th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today during the debate on small craft harbours. We all know the terrible state that regional harbours are in. I have the good fortune to represent the people of the North Shore, in a riding that spans 1,350 kilometres along the north shore of the St. Lawrence and the Gulf, and is divided into 74 municipalities, including aboriginal reserves. We are taking about a major investment of $400 to $600 million to safely reopen the wharves and small craft harbours, primarily on the North Shore.

The federal government's only investment so far was for the installation of a sign, about 18 by 24 inches, that says: Dangerous wharf. No trespassing. What we have in our ridings are houses of cards and crumbling infrastructure. Fishermen, shippers and users of these wharves cannot safely be on them.

I have had to intervene a number of times, during the time of the Liberals as well as the Conservatives. But as I said, we are helping developing countries build roads and create infrastructure, but unfortunately, we do not even maintain our own infrastructure. It is not a matter of money; it is a matter of bad faith on the part of the government, which does not invest in its own facilities.

There was a port divestiture program. The problem is that there is no money in the program. The government would like to hand these harbours over to the harbour authorities or the municipalities, but unfortunately, no one is interested in acquiring a white elephant or a house of cards. It takes money. We know there is a municipality in Quebec that would like to acquire a harbour infrastructure. This has to be done through an order in council, and the municipality does not necessarily have the means to maintain, manage and operate these wharves.

I was jokingly saying that the federal government helps developing countries build roads and infrastructure, but, unfortunately, it does not even maintain its own infrastructure. We see that with harbours and also with airports.

Do you know how the federal government settled the deficit at the Baie-Comeau airport? It closed the control tower, eliminated the airport fire fighters and removed parking security.

At the time, the materials used for building the harbours were not protected by breakwaters. There is a dredging problem, a safety problem for loading and unloading, and problems launching the boats. We are asking the government to maintain its own infrastructure and the wharves. It is the federal government's responsibility and property.

On the North Shore, in the large riding of Manicouagan, and mainly in the Lower North Shore, there are no roads. The only access to these towns is by water in spring and summer, and everything comes in and goes out by boat.

The federal government did not just build these wharves on the North Shore on a whim; it built them out of necessity. There was a growing desire to use the seaway. Perhaps if it were used more there would be fewer transport trucks on the road, which would be better for the environment, and our infrastructure could be used. It is hard to use the seaway without the necessary harbour infrastructure.

What we are asking for is very simple: that the federal government use money and maintain its own facilities.

Committees of the House February 14th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary has said from the start that the government is managing priorities. Now, in 2008, it has to manage priorities, because the wharves and harbours have not been maintained for 15 years.

It is like someone who wants to save money to pay off his mortgage, but who lets his house go to ruin. The roof and basement leak, but his priority is not to maintain his house, but to pay off his mortgage.

That is more or less what the Conservatives are doing. Even though they have a budget surplus, they are not maintaining federal infrastructure. Airports, harbours and wharves belong to the federal government.

My question is for the member. If Fisheries and Oceans Canada has no money to maintain small craft harbours, should we ask the department responsible for helping developing and war-ravaged countries, the Department of International Cooperation, for money to build roads on the lower North Shore and maintain our wharves?

Prebudget Consultations February 8th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, a member I hope you will get to know better, a very active member here in Ottawa. She is our natural resources critic. She is very devoted to working for her party here in Ottawa, and to working for her fellow citizens in her riding. She is concerned about all kinds of issues, such as natural resources and agriculture. She is doing a great job here in the House of Commons, representing the people who live in the huge riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry.

During the prebudget consultations, the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry contributed her thoughts about all of the concerns related to the areas in her critic portfolio. She talked about the concerns of each and every one of her fellow citizens, as well as the organizations in her community. The Bloc Québécois' six recommendations were drafted following broad consultations held all across Quebec.

Since the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry ended her speech by talking about employment insurance, let us discuss that further. We must not forget that the federal government does not contribute a penny; it simply administers the fund. Money paid out from the employment insurance fund to those who lose their jobs or are laid off comes from employees and employers, from contributions made by those who, unfortunately, have lost their jobs. Six out of ten people who contribute are not entitled to employment insurance. Unfortunately, most of who those who are not eligible are young people and women.

The employment insurance fund generates a surplus of $3 billion to $4 billion per year. The government takes that money, adds it to the budget surplus, and comes out looking like a fantastic administrator because it has a yearly surplus of $11 billion. However, $3 billion or $4 billion of that money is from the employment insurance fund. This means that the funds collected at the expense of seasonal workers are simply a hidden tax.

My question is for the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry. Does she agree that the government does not need a special law and that all we need is a government that governs in good faith, that fulfills its commitments and keeps its election promises right away? Would she agree that a government like that does not need a budget to change the employment insurance regime and give back the money that people contributed as “unemployment insurance” in case they ever lose their jobs?

Prebudget Consultations February 8th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for his excellent presentation. The Bloc Québécois member is very active in his region. It is unfortunate that there are not more Bloc Québécois members in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region.

There have been former Liberal and Conservative members, including Mr. Harvey, who toed the party line and did little for their region. A new member was just elected in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region to replace former MP Michel Gauthier. There is also the member for Jonquière—Alma, who is responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. They represent Quebec in this region.

In view of the $11 billion to $12 billion surplus and another surplus forecast for next year, the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is unfortunately quite right when he says that the guaranteed income supplement for seniors is money that belongs to them.

In the matter of employment insurance reform, even though some workers—seasonal workers; those employed in the forestry, tourism, and fishing industries; all those who work in unstable, temporary, and on-call jobs such as replacing workers on vacation; as well as students who hold down jobs—are not eligible for benefits, the federal government makes them pay premiums pursuant to the Employment Insurance Act.

The employment insurance fund has a surplus. A POWA, or older worker adjustment program, should be established with the employment insurance fund surplus in order to help all workers over 50 who have lost their jobs, particularly in the manufacturing and forestry sectors.

My question is for the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. The government does not have to wait for the next budget. In view of the budget surplus, and if there is the will to return the money belonging to Quebec, could it not take concrete action immediately and demonstrate its good faith?

Committees of the House December 12th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the current Fisheries Act is a century old. Hon. members will recall that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans introduced Bill C-45, which died on the order paper when the House prorogued.

Now he is introducing a new bill, Bill C-32. In my opinion, it does not make any sense for the government to draft a bill without consulting the fishers, the associations and those who process the fish.

What should happen before the bill reaches third reading, either after first or second reading? There needs to be extensive consultation to ensure that Bill C-32, An Act respecting the sustainable development of Canada's seacoast and inland fisheries, is effective. The current Fisheries Act, which is 100 years old, is open to too much interpretation.

I want to know whether the hon. member would agree, after first or second reading, to having the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans travel across Canada in order to meet with all the associations, fishers, processing plant representatives, all those concerned in the fishing industry, in order to have a bill that is functional and operational.

Infrastructure December 12th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, on August 24, 2006, the Quebec government promised to provide $100 million over 10 years to the Lower North Shore council of mayors to open up the area between Kegaska and Vieux-Fort.

Since then the president of the Corporation de la route de la grande séduction has tried on several occasions to obtain funding from Ottawa for the extension of route 138, a priority project for the region and the Government of Quebec.

Can the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities tell us if the government intends to support the right of Lower North Shore citizens to a road link and to meet their expectations by providing the funding required to provide access to these communities.

Tackling Violent Crime Act November 28th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin on an excellent speech. It is an honour for the constituents of Marc-Aurèle-Fortin to have a member with so much experience, both professional and political. It is to the great credit of the citizens and voters of that riding, as well as that of the Bloc Québécois, to have among its ranks such a qualified member, someone with the skills, qualifications and experience to guide the members of our party. He has done a great job of that in the House today, as well.

The Chair had to interrupt the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin because his time had run out. At that time, I think he was about to give us a few statistics on firearms in the United States and the number of incarcerations. He was going to draw some parallels between what is happening in the United States, a country with harsher punishments, and what is going on here in Canada.

My question has two parts. The federal government can pass all the legislation it wants concerning sentences, but when a judge imposes a sentence of two years less a day, it must be served in a provincial corrections facility. Thus, the legislation can be passed here in Ottawa, at the federal level, but the sentence might nevertheless be served in a provincial facility in Quebec. If that is the case, the incarceration will be paid for entirely by the citizens of Quebec.

CBC Radio-Canada North Shore Programming November 1st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, today, November 1, marks the 25th anniversary of Radio-Canada Côte-Nord. It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I join the entire organization and the employees of Radio-Canada Côte-Nord as they proudly celebrate their silver anniversary.

For all North Shore dwellers, Radio-Canada Côte-Nord is an essential and indispensable tool for the development of our beautiful region.

I hope Radio-Canada Côte-Nord will continue to fulfill its information and entertainment role, and that the federal government will invest more money to ensure the perpetuity and prosperity of Radio-Canada Côte-Nord.

Bravo and congratulations to the entire team that, for the past 25 years, has taken up the challenge of keeping our citizens better informed.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 24th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, our problem right now is that the Prime Minister is trying harder to please the U.S. president than the Canadian people—meeting the demands and obligations and playing a role in National Defence or asking DND to play a role in the UN member countries. There was an agreement, but there was also a deadline: February 2009.

Quebeckers are having a hard time identifying with this situation. The priorities are misplaced. While we talk about a lack of social housing, poverty, crumbling infrastructure, community health services and education, the government decides to invest billions of dollars in armaments and send our troops to play a role they are not used to.

Our peacekeepers are used to peace missions and reconstruction in developing countries or war torn countries. If the government sent a contingent of 2,000 or 2,500 soldiers from Valcartier to rebuild a community health centre or a school or to work with the Red Cross, I would have no problem with that. Quebeckers simply do not relate to sending such a contingent into combat.

As the old saying goes, we reap what we sow. If we sow war, the chances are we will have war.

My question is for the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île. What role could Canada play after February 2009?