House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Laurier—Sainte-Marie (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

House Of Commons Standing Orders February 7th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, when the government leader introduced his parliamentary reform agenda this morning, he said that there were much dissatisfaction in the population about the work the hon. members were performing in this House. On that I agree.

There are several criticisms regarding our work and while some are justified, others do not withstand a critical analysis. Nevertheless, some changes have to be made. It is on this basis that the leader in the House spoke of renewal.

However, before we proceed with what he calls the parliamentary renewal, we have to make sure it is based on the foundations of the British parliamentary system. When I say that, I mean that we have to consider collective sovereignty-that is the sovereignty of the people who elect us to this House and therefore send here members of different parties.

Therefore, we have to reconcile collective sovereignty and government efficiency, that is the capacity for the government to act in a normal, unhurried and also consistent way. We do not want to go through, for instance, the unfortunate bell incident we experienced a few years ago. I know that the same incident could still happen in the Senate, but we must live with that.

When we talk about the foundations of the British parliamentary system, we talk about a balance between the role of the government, which is to govern, and the role of the House of Commons, which is to monitor the action, activities and proposals of the government.

Needless to say this must be done openly and the Official Opposition definitely supports that wish, that will for a greater openness of all the mechanisms and operations of this House. But it is not enough to talk about openness, we must also talk about the principles behind any bill because, in the end, we must judge the proposals we receive. Who better than Beauchesne can define for us the importance of the discussion on the principles behind any bill. Beauchesne says: "The second reading is the

most important stage through which the bill is required to pass; for its whole principle is then at issue and is affirmed or denied by a vote of the House".

We may question this reform plan because the debate and the vote on the principle of a bill are the best way the opposition members have of controlling government bills. The debate and vote on principle allow them to question the very appropriateness of presenting such a bill before it is examined and debated clause by clause.

The proposals in this reform bring a few questions to mind. Will members really have the opportunity to criticize a bill before it is passed? I do not question the government's intentions on this issue, I am simply saying that, if we accept what is proposed, we will still be far from our objective. Maybe we will reach it, but only experience will tell us if such is the case or if we have missed our goal altogether. The possible consequences of these modifications lead me to believe it will be hard for members to debate, in the House, the suitability of government bills.

We will have 180 minutes to determine if it is relevant to send a bill to committee; but then we will be discussing the appropriateness of sending the bill to committee and not the bill itself. Let us not kid ourselves, everyone knows that we can talk about something even if we do not have the right to do so, that we can do indirectly whatever is forbidden directly. Therefore, that 180-minute period will in fact be devoted to discussing the principle of the bill. If we do not agree with the principle, we will question whether or not it should be referred to committee. But we would have to use a round-about way to debate what is most fundamental.

Moreover, since members will have the opportunity, in committee, to get involved in the actual drafting of a bill, clause by clause, they will certainly be more involved in general, but here again, the government will have to exercise a lot of caution. Some members, although opposed to the very principle of a bill, may still try to improve it. They should not be told afterwards: "You proposed an amendment which was adopted, and now you are voting against it". They still want to be able to vote against a bill, even if they have drafted, asked for the adoption of or voted in favour of an amendment to a given clause, in order to limit the subject matter of a bill they intend to fight. That should be made perfectly clear so that opposition members are not used to rubber stamp a bill they disagree with.

I do think that the government will have a huge responsibility in that matter. Democracy should not be held hostage by cunning manoeuvring. As I said before, only time will tell how good this reform really is. It does have some positive aspects such as the review of estimates by the standing committees. It will allow members to review the estimates of each department and to table reports regarding the government's future expenditures. We totally support such an initiative; as a matter of fact, we of the Official Opposition, have been demanding a debate in the House for the past three weeks, to review each department's budget, item by item, envelope by envelope. Therefore, you can be sure that we support this committee. Still, it falls short of the fundamental request we have been making since the start of this Parliament.

A second positive point certainly is the idea of pre-budget consultations by the Standing Committee on Finance. This committee will consider and report on proposals regarding the budgetary policy of the government. I think this is an important step, one that should have preceded the tabling of the current budget. I think that, before all those consulting firms that have organized conferences across Canada, the primary stakeholders are the members of this House. We were not consulted, but this change will remedy this shortcoming.

Speaking of shortcomings, I believe that there are a few more. I am referring for instance to pre-screening for order-in-council appointments. On page 92 of their platform, the Liberals accused the Conservatives of making a practice of choosing political friends. Well, there is nothing in here to stop such a practice. As the Minister of Canadian Heritage said, and the appointment of the president of the CBC reflects that reality, the red book is a thing of the past and we must look to the future. We can see that it is indeed a thing of the past, because the proposal made, as I said, on page 92 of the Liberal red book is nowhere to be found in here.

There is also the issue of special debates. It was also raised. The Liberals had raised it at the time they were in the opposition. There should be a procedure to allow special debates to be held in a timely manner. Many people wonder why the members of the House are debating some obscure matter with little connection with current events sometimes, while major events can happen in our society that seem to go unnoticed in this House. The fact of the matter is that special debates would allow the House of Commons to be attuned to reality. Yet there is nothing with regard to that in the proposal before us.

We must see why such a proposal was made, and I refer to my colleague from Kingston and the Islands who said in 1991: "We believe that our country works well with a strong and efficient opposition". Now can we conclude that this reform will really enable the opposition to be strong and to function effectively? This reform in itself does not necessarily enhance the role of members of Parliament. I repeat, experience will show whether the fundamental principles which I think are endangered by this reform are respected or not. I hope that the government will have the wisdom to assess whether the reform will achieve its objectives or not. If the reform does not have the intended effect,

the government should come back with something else and not stubbornly keep the reform as it is.

I do not think that we should consider this reform to be permanent; rather, it is subject to improvement at any time. We are trying to use new mechanisms. Experience and practice will show whether it has met the objectives.

I will close with some suggestions that are not found in this reform. First, I am thinking of this mechanism for an inquiry which exists in Quebec City whereby the leader of the official opposition can question the premier on a specific issue for an hour, with the Speaker of the House present, to get to the bottom of an important subject, which cannot be done in the daily question period. This exchange between the premier and the leader of the opposition helps the people form a better idea of the issues involved in a debate, which can only be healthy in a democracy. This exists and goes on in Quebec City, not every week but occasionally, and we could do it here.

A second suggestion concerns the ban on reading our speeches in this House; that is why no lectern is provided.

Everyone knows that members read their speeches to all intents and purposes. They have notes and they read them. In reality, it is rather hypocritical. The Solicitor General, who is the Leader of the Government in the House, read his entire speech on the proposed reforms, whereas this is prohibited, Mr. Speaker. Of course you did not stop him, because everyone does it. Only the budget speech can be read, because the Minister of Finance cannot be expected to recall all of the figures. I would point out that once the budget is adopted, very often he cannot recall the figures.

The point is that in reality, things are quite different. One thing must be recognized: members are not supposed to read their speeches because they should speak spontaneously, from the heart. Well, I have nothing against members reading their speeches. Everyone does, so why not recognize this fact. It would be a lot simpler than having to carry around books on which to prop up our speeches. It would be much simpler if members had a lectern.

My third suggestion is this: except for emergencies, votes should be held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays because some members are in their ridings on Mondays and Fridays. We divide our caucus in two because we must also work in our ridings. A number of members from more remote ridings must leave on Thursday after oral question period.

We must recognize this fact. I do not see how concentrating the votes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays impedes democracy. On the contrary, it would help to create a better balance between House and riding work and the parties already agreed to this so far, that is up to week three.

One final suggestion. I realize that it is against the rules for you to have a list of speakers. Yet, I gave my list to you at the beginning of the debate, as did the others. Again, the rules do not correspond to reality. Everyone knows that the Speaker has a list of those members who will be asking questions during oral question period. No one says that this is prohibited. Yet, we exchange lists and submit them to you every day so that you can refer to them during statements under Standing Order 31.

In my opinion, the time has come to dispense with this pretence. It would be much easier if we knew exactly who was planning to speak. Each party could submit its list and you could work with that. Then everyone would know who was planning to speak and when. Why not recognize what actually happens? Why not let people know when their members will speak, instead of pretending that I do not give you a list? By the way, in one hour I will be submitting my list for oral question period, as I do every day.

These are just a few suggestions which would help us do away with old habits that no longer correspond to reality.

Cigarette Smuggling February 4th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, it is strange to hear this government talk about action, considering that to this day only one minor bill was tabled, but we did hear a lot of lip service.

I am also surprised to hear the Deputy Prime Minister complain because we raise the issue of smuggling on reserves, since she herself made a statement yesterday on national television, regarding that problem.

Since other statements were also made on the national networks yesterday, does the Deputy Prime Minister intend to follow up the request for an urgent meeting made by Mohawk officials? As you know, some of their spokespersons have threatened to stage a major confrontation if the RCMP tries to enforce the law on their reserves.

Will the government meet with Mohawk officials from Akwesasne, Kanesatake and Kahnawake to discuss cigarette smuggling? Yes or no?

Cigarette Smuggling February 4th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, are we to understand that the government will intervene everywhere, including in Akwesasne, to ensure that the law is respected even though the Mohawk authorities in Akwesasne declared yesterday that the RCMP had no right to intervene on the reserve territory?

Cigarette Smuggling February 4th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister.

While it refuses to divulge its plan of action to put a stop to cigarette smuggling, the government expressed its intention to enforce the law everywhere in Canada, including on Indian reserves. In fact, the Deputy Prime Minister herself said that living on a reserve does not give the right to violate Canadian laws.

Mr. Speaker, my question is: Will the Deputy Prime Minister reiterate in this House her intention to enforce the law, and will she promise to take necessary action to ensure that the law is indeed enforced everywhere, including on Indian reserves, in spite of the reservations expressed to that effect by the Solicitor General?

Foreign Affairs February 3rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, we must be glad that the government has finally made a first decision after many days of consulting on various subjects. We are waiting for one on cigarettes, if that appeals to you. You are welcome.

Could the Minister of Foreign Affairs give us the details of this agreement and table it in the House?

Foreign Affairs February 3rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. A little while ago in this House, we had a special debate on cruise missiles on Canadian territory. The American government was to receive an answer by the end of January.

Can the minister tell us if the government has made a decision? What is he waiting for to let us know his position?

Social Security System February 3rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I was surprised by some aspects of the hon. member's speech. For instance, he used the word separatist instead of using the term sovereigntist. I suppose he is unaware of the fact that in international law and political science, the term sovereigntist should be used. There is no such thing as a separatist doctrine in international law, but that is not my main objection, and I imagine he can always read up on the subject.

What surprised me most was that he challenged the Bloc's eligibility for funding on the same basis as other political parties.

The hon. member should realize that Quebecers pay taxes like anyone else. This is what more experienced colleagues in the hon. member's own party realized when they decided the Bloc was entitled to have Parliament pay their legal fees in the lawsuit brought against them by a Mr. Aaron. The hon. member's colleagues are apparently more democratic in outlook than he seems to be.

Finally, the hon. member may or may not know that the Quebec Elections Act says that only individuals may finance political parties. Now that is democratic legislation and it is a legacy of a sovereigntist party in Quebec. And I would ask the hon. member whether, for the sake of the image of politicians and so people will realize that integrity does exist in politics, it would not be better for Parliament to pass legislation providing for grassroots financing of political parties instead of fund-raising dinners at $1,000 a plate at the Laurier Club, a Liberal club,

or taking donations from the wealthy who often have access to family trusts which his government is reluctant to tax. I would appreciate the hon. member's thoughts on the matter.

Manpower Training February 2nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, we do work together, but we generally do not have much to show for it.

Can the minister confirm that the two to three month deadline announced by the Quebec minister yesterday-because he did mention that yesterday as well- is the same for Ottawa? Are we to understand that these negotiations are nothing more than a smokescreen put up by the two ministers to prevent this issue from being discussed during the public consultations that will be held at the same, as it were, as a possible election campaign in Quebec? Is that the minister's strategy?

Manpower Training February 2nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development. The game goes on between Quebec and Ottawa regarding an agreement, yet another agreement, on manpower training. Yesterday evening, the Quebec employment minister announced that an agreement was imminent, a statement that the Minister of Human Resources Development immediately denied. This morning, the Minister from Quebec qualified his statement.

Can the minister confirm that no agreement on job training was reached with Quebec, in spite of what the Quebec minister of employment said?

Montreal Economy February 1st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister has stated that the City of Montreal is well represented in Cabinet, I would like to ask him if he is prepared to announce today that he is setting up the special Cabinet committee to oversee Montreal's economic recovery, an initiative which he promised during the election campaign and which is contained in the red book, a promise that the voters heard him make many times during the election campaign. Is he prepared to make this announcement, Mr. Speaker?