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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

Montreal Economy February 1st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Prime Minister. Yesterday, he announced that the days when the federal government neglected Toronto were over. Does the Prime Minister remember that a little further to the east, there is a city that has just received the dubious honour of being named the poverty capital of Canada? Does he recall the position of his Minister of Finance who proposed the striking of a special Cabinet committee to oversee Montreal's economic recovery?

Can the Prime Minister give some assurances to the disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Montreal and unveil today the strategy he intends to put forward to spur Montreal's recovery?

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Of course, we want to review the whole role of the Canadian armed forces before making these 25 per cent cuts.

It is not simply an accounting exercise. Of course, we must think before we act. Nevertheless, I tell you that we will come to a conclusion. We must set a target of a 25 per cent cut; otherwise, more and more defence-related jobs will be lost, because the arms market throughout the world is shaky. That is exactly what Bill Clinton did in the United States. He made incredible cuts in the defence department, but set up an industrial conversion fund of some $29 billion. France and Great Britain are doing the same. Remember that 50 per cent and more of the weapons made here and exported went to the American market. Since they cut their spending, and given state secrecy surrounding national defence, they will buy at home and that is quite normal. We cannot blame them. Now we have unemployment here. If we do not cut, we will have more unemployment, and that is exactly the opposite of what my hon. colleague wants.

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, when you talk about national standards, to really understand what Quebec feels about Canada, I must tell you right away that our society, the country that we want, will in no way be superior or inferior to Canada, just different.

To properly understand how we react to national standards, ask yourself why you have national standards that are different from the Americans'. You will answer, "Because we are Canadians, because our national sovereignty is important to us, because we have different values, not better or worse than the Americans, just plain different." It is the same for Quebec.

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I too have learned to work together with the hon. member and, yes, I think that we can co-operate on many things.

We want to make this Parliament work as well as possible. We have made suggestions for this purpose and I think that with this election, we have just created a real dialogue for the first time in the history of this country, because, you know, a dialogue cannot be based on anything but the truth.

I am not saying that all Quebecers are for sovereignty, but I do say that pro-sovereignty feeling exists. For the first time we can debate it here. I think that it is something new for Canadians to hear it discussed here. It puts the debate in its proper place, so that it can be done right. In that sense, such a contribution, with Parliament working better, would ultimately lead to a better attitude to the political problems we face. It does not mean that federalism would work better because, as I said, I do not believe that federalism in itself is bad, but the federal arrangement in the present political context cannot be reconciled with the needs of Canadian people and Quebecers.

We must move towards a political and economic framework involving both national sovereignty and common markets, as we see in Europe and will see, I am sure, with NAFTA, which will grow and not be limited to Mexico and the United States but within fifteen or twenty years will include all the countries of Central and Latin America. We must move in that direction.

On the other question, what will we do if the referendum is defeated? I answer you: what will you do if the referendum passes?

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, it can only be one of two things: either the Liberals held an untenable position before the 1992 draft agreement because your leader, your party was saying: "Canada's political structures do not enable us to meet the current economic challenge."

Today they tell us that there is no need to change our structures to meet this challenge. Either you were telling the truth in 1992 and you are lying today, or you were lying in 1992 and you are telling the truth today. It is one or the other but it cannot be both. That is obvious.

We see two great trends in the world: one where peoples and nations become countries that co-operate. That is what is now preventing Canada and Quebec from functioning. Canadians want a strong central state with national standards, a stronger regional presence in the central state. That is the triple-E Senate demand. Canada needs it, but Quebec does not feel comfortable with it, will never be able to work with it, will never accept it. That is one demand that will never be met as long as we are here.

We are preventing you from functioning just as you are preventing us from functioning. We should be thinking about agreements similar to Maastricht; must I remind you of it?

I favour the European Economic Community model but I would like to hear the Prime Minister go to Westminster and say to the British people that Canadian-style federalism is the way of the future and that Great Britain will no longer be a sovereign country in ten years or so. I would like to hear him deliver the same speech in the French National Assembly or go to the Bundestag and tell them that Germany will no longer be a sovereign country ten years from now. Just you try!

I am telling you that agreements such as Maastricht are the way of the future.

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the throne speech raises the employment issue in a very vague way. The government also tells us that it does not want to discuss the constitutional issue and will certainly not propose possible solutions. Our party, on the contrary, constantly raises this issue in the House of Commons. We do so because it is at the root of all the debates on every other issue.

We cannot seriously discuss the problem of employment without asking who has the power to act and who controls the political and economic levers necessary to tackle unemployment. Unemployment is the major problem, not only in my riding, but also for the whole region of Montreal.

The Liberals tell us that the constitutional issue must be set aside if we want Montreal to develop and get a new start. However, the municipal authorities of Montreal came to the following conclusion during the hearings of the Bélanger-Campeau Commission, and I quote: "Not only is the constitutional status quo obsolete, but it has disqualified itself, not only for Quebec, but for the rest of Canada." The municipal authorities in Montreal came to that conclusion because, as they said, and I quote again: "In the current political context, Montreal finds it difficult to have access to the levers which would enable it to contribute the way it could to the development of Quebec and of Canada."

Thus the city of Montreal proposed the adoption of a national policy for Quebec, a policy which demands the patriation of just about every jurisdiction for Quebec. Two solutions were possible: either a sweeping reform of federalism or a sovereign Quebec. It has now been demonstrated that Canadian federalism cannot be renewed. As for the status quo, we agree with the municipal authorities that it is harmful to Montreal. And, Mr. Speaker, uncertainty and the refusal to decide are the worst possible things for investors and for the economy in general. The brief submitted by the city specified that the choices made by Quebec would be endorsed by Montreal. Quebec has only one option left, sovereignty, and the future of Montreal is contingent upon that choice.

We must talk about the future and we must change the present situation. Let us not forget that Montreal was once the metropolis of Canada, as well as the industrial, financial and banking centre of the country.

Today, Montreal is the poverty capital of Canada. Thirty per cent of Montreal families live below the poverty level, and that is simply unacceptable. But does this mean that until Quebecers can democratically decide to have their own country, there is nothing to do? We, Bloc Quebecois members, do not think so, but it seems that the government does.

Yet, when the Liberals were in the Opposition, there were quite vocal when it came to defend the interests of the citizens of Montreal. One need only recall their fight against Bill C-113 on unemployment insurance.

The Liberal members from Montreal were telling us then, and rightly so, that the combined effects of the unemployment insurance reform of 1990 and that of 1993 would cost, over five years, close to $490 million to UI claimants in the Montreal region, adding that those figures did not take into account the impact of past and future employee contribution increases.

And what have the Liberals done now that they form the government? They were quick to increase those contributions without cancelling the anti-social measures of the previous government. The two governments are like two peas in a pod. And let us not forget also that those $490 million which are not being distributed to claimants is also money which is not being poured back into the Montreal economy.

The Minister of Human Resources Development told us that all social programs will be reviewed in the next two years. The men and women who live in poverty in Montreal cannot wait two years. They need help now and they demand it immediately. There are solutions to the problem and the Liberals know those solutions.

For example, there is the Program for Older Worker Adjustment or POWA, which is a program for older workers who have been laid off in large numbers following plant closures. To be eligible for that program, the workers in Montreal must have worked for companies employing more than 100 people. Why should it not be 20 employees as is the case in the vast majority of regions? After all, this is what the Liberals demanded when they formed the Opposition.

The Liberals now form the government but they are simply pursuing the policy of the Conservatives. No, the appropriate solutions are not to be found in the throne speech. Rather, those solutions were put forward by the Liberals when they were in the Opposition.

Let us take social housing. How many times have I heard the Liberal members from the Montreal region criticize the decision made by the Conservatives to eliminate all forms of subsidies in the social housing sector? Yet, no corrective measures are proposed in the throne speech. The lack of such measures means that all the social housing projects for the city of Montreal are in jeopardy.

I also think of those grants in lieu of taxes, which the federal government froze last year. The Montreal urban community criticized that decision, just like the Liberals did when they formed the Opposition, because it translates into a shortfall of close to $10 million for the taxpayers of the Montreal urban community. What are the Liberals proposing now that they form the government? Nothing. Is this not a very bad example to give to taxpayers in general? How can a government which is a bad risk demand of taxpayers that they behave like good citizens? Should that not be an easy decision to make? And this is not a measure that would not require any constitutional reform, I assume.

Does this government realize that, to quote the Minister of Finance and member for LaSalle-Émard, a Montreal riding, Montreal as the economic heartland and major engine for development must be put back on track, because otherwise, its economic decline will signal that of Quebec.

Is remaining silent on the high-speed train project going to help Montreal? This project was an opportunity for Quebec and Canada to get a head start in this new technology. We must not forget that the North American market for this type of train is said to be worth more than $200 billion over the next 20 years. This means spin-offs totalling an estimated 120,000 person-years in strategic industrial sectors. It would be a smart way to fight unemployment, because these are durable jobs involving advanced technology. The project also means tax revenues in the range of $1.8 billion during the construction period alone. Would reducing the deficit by increasing tax revenues not be better than taking money away from the neediest in our society? There would also be indirect economic spin-offs for the Quebec-Windsor corridor, in services, trade and, of course, tourism. In fact, this kind of transportation is available at rates that are cheaper than the conventional air fare, and it is also environmentally friendly.

Do we need more consultation on top of the many studies that have already been done and which all agree the project is viable? This government seems to be suffering from acute "consultationitis", a disease that was already endemic among the Tories. After striking the Conservatives, the Spicer syndrome is now spreading among the Liberals. Nevertheless, the high-speed train project meets all the criteria for genuine economic renewal aimed at the future.

The same applies to the conversion of our military industry. We all agree that the international situation has changed. The cold war is over. The role of Canada's armed forces must be reviewed. The Bloc Quebecois proposed a 25 per cent cut in the budget of the Department of National Defence. However, such a decision must be accompanied by a policy for conversion of the military industrial complex, as was done by President Clinton in the United States, and by France and Great Britain. The issue of converting our defence industry directly concerns Montreal as a major centre for the production of defence equipment. And Montreal has also become increasingly dependent on contracts from the Department of National Defence.

However, we must not forget that Quebec never received its fair share of government spending on the equipment procurement, defence payrolls and maintenance of military bases. The government certainly did the right thing when it cancelled the helicopter contract. It is no good wasting money, in Quebec or anywhere else. However, the Bloc Quebecois asked and is still asking the government to compensate for the cancellation of this contract by injecting the same amount of money in military conversion and advanced technology projects; two sectors that create durable jobs. Montreal cannot afford to lose the jobs of the future because the military industrial complex is shrinking. The government must table an industrial conversion plan, as it promised during the last election campaign.

I would like to give you another example of the harmful effect of the Canadian federal system on the development of Montreal: the environmental co-operation commission under NAFTA. Montreal, must we point it out, has acquired through its academic institutions significant know-how in the field of environment. Let us not forget the agreement on the ozone layer or the role played by the mayor of Montreal at the Rio Summit. Yet, the Minister of the Environment hesitates, pussyfoots, strikes a committee-one more, Mr. Speaker-instead of making the right decision and setting up this centre in Montreal. Are we going to see a remake, a repetition of the stupid decision to establish the head office of the Canadian Network of Toxicology Centres in Guelph, Ontario, when the critical mass of knowledge in that area is in Montreal. The same kind of decision was made about the banking centre. The Montreal business community had expected an international banking centre to be established in Montreal, but the federal government decided that there should also be one in Toronto and another in Vancouver. In the end, there was to be one centre and three peripheral centres. This a somewhat geometric expression of the Canadian federal system. Imagine that, one centre with three peripheral centres. The

banking centres are not working effectively, not in Vancouver, not in Toronto and not in Montreal.

Basically, nothing in this throne speech meets the needs of Montreal, except maybe for the infrastructure program, provided that-and this is important-the Government of Quebec reaches an agreement with Ottawa on the major issue of project management. But an agreement has yet to be reached by Quebec and Ottawa, while many are being signed with the provincial capitals outside Quebec. At any rate, this program alone cannot give Montreal the thrust required to escape the horrendous cycle of unemployment. More needs to be done, and better. But it cannot be done if we do not find a way to change Quebec society on the one hand, and Canadian society on the other.

I will conclude on this common finding made in 1992, a rarity, as it is, in Canadian politics. The Liberals, the Reformists, the Bloc members as well as two parties that were official parties at the time, the NDP and the Conservative Party, all agreed on the eve of Charlottetown that Canada was unable to face the challenges of the new global economy with its present political structures. Everyone agreed on that, but responses varied. Charlottetown demonstrated that our responses were totally at variance. Canada rejected the Accord because it gave Quebec too much, while Quebec rejected it for the opposite reason, because there was too little for Quebec in it. The finding still holds and we still have the same structures. The constitutional status quo has been maintained and we are no better equipped today than we were in 1992 to face modern-day economic challenges. And that is what we will be emphasizing during this entire session.

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for unanimous consent so that the House can continue with its business during the lunch break, between one o'clock and two o'clock.

I would also like to ask that the ministerial statement scheduled for this morning be delivered between speeches, after one member has finished speaking and before another begins, so that neither need interrupt his or her remarks.

Business Of The House January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, our party has indeed granted consent, and I would like to point out that we may have created a precedent in holding the vote in the evening of Tuesday. I hope that we will have an opportunity to discuss, within the framework of parliamentary reform, the issue of concentrating votes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays so as to allow hon. members of this House the opportunity to work in their respective ridings on Mondays and Fridays, which would make it a whole lot easier for all of them to do their job.

Cigarette Smuggling January 25th, 1994

All well and good, Mr. Speaker. I now ask the Solicitor General whether the RCMP has given him evidence that smugglers have been acting for months in full view and with the full knowledge of everyone in Akwesasne, Kahnawake and Kanesatake? If he has such evidence, why does he not act?

Cigarette Smuggling January 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Solicitor General. The professional cigarette smugglers who have been active for many months are doing great harm to convenience store owners and to the public treasury. The government's inaction is only worsening the situation, and the demonstration in Saint-Eustache is damning proof.

My question is as follows. The Solicitor General told us yesterday that he had not intervened directly before to collect sufficient evidence. Therefore I ask him today whether he has evidence not only for Saint-Eustache but also for Akwesasne, Kahnawake and Kanesatake?