Mr. Speaker, I did not hear the question.
Lost his last election, in 2011, with 29% of the vote.
Supply February 3rd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I did not hear the question.
Supply February 3rd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I will point out before I begin that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle.
The Conservatives have launched the debate on the federal government's inability to deliver financial relief to struggling farmers.
My colleague, the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant and Bloc Québécois agriculture critic, spoke this morning about the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization program and the urgency of abolishing the mandatory deposit.
Producers are in fact obliged to use their operating credits for this deposit and some of them are left wondering whether they will have enough money to keep their farm in operation. This is just one more proof of the federal government's abandonment of the agricultural sector. Now more than ever, the producers are under-supported when they are in the midst of an agricultural crisis caused by plummeting prices and the mad cow crisis.
The Liberal government ought to abolish this deposit requirement and put emergency measures in place in Quebec to help all the farmers who are crying out for help. As the member for Berthier—Maskinongé, I represent a riding in which agriculture plays an important role. There is a very broad range of agricultural operations. Dairy, swine, beef, cereal crops and tobacco account for 75% of agricultural incomes, but there are no fewer than 28 different types of animal or crop operations.
Many new farm products are emerging, often in response to changes in consumer tastes or new requirements for production methods, such as organic farming. Still, the number of farmers in Quebec has dropped dramatically.
For example, in the regional municipality of Maskinongé, part of my riding, in 1957 there were over 955 working farms. Today there are only 788. Of course, shrinking farm incomes and the aging of the farming population explain this drop. Furthermore, there are no young people coming into this sector. In fact, according to the 2002 analysis, Profil de la relève agricole au Québec , on more than 200 farms there is no family member ready to take over and these farms are likely to be handed over to someone who is not related.
The Bloc Québécois is proposing practical solutions to improve the situation of agricultural succession in Quebec. For example, in order to make it more attractive to transfer a farm than to dismantle it, the Bloc Québécois proposes increasing the allowable capital gain for farm property from $500,000 to $1 million, but only for transactions where the farming operation continues.
We also propose extending the rollover rule to transfers other than those between parent and child. The Bloc Québécois suggests extending the transfer rule to other immediate family members under 40 years of age: brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces, for example.
In addition, we encourage the establishment of an agricultural savings transfer system to enable farmers to build up a tax-sheltered retirement fund. Governments could make a contribution as they do for registered education savings plans. This contribution would be conditional on maintaining the farm after a transfer.
The third proposal from the Bloc Québécois is to relax the rules of the home buyers' plan to enable young farmers to acquire, in whole or in part, a larger share of a residence held by a company, and to use their RRSPs to purchase a business.
Finally, we suggest that the federal government transfer recurring funding to Quebec to encourage agricultural renewal.
For example, the Government of Quebec could extend eligibility for start-up subsidies, improve interest rate protection and increase eligibility ceilings.
As you can see, we have interesting proposals that are suited to farmers' needs in Quebec and sometimes in Canada. All we need is the political will, but the Liberal government is not budging.
I want to talk about another area where the government is lacking political will, and that is the federal program for tobacco farmers in Quebec. I agree with my colleague, the member for Joliette and Bloc Québécois critic for international trade, globalization and international financial institutions, that this industry is very important to our region.
On November 23, 2004, the federal government announced with great pride the conditions and deadlines for the aid package for tobacco farmers that would provide them with compensation for the decline in tobacco production in Quebec and Ontario. However, a week later we learn that the program for the public sale of quotas was delayed and no new deadline was set. According to the flue-cured tobacco farmers in Quebec, the situation in Ontario suggests there will be no agreement on this. Accordingly, an already difficult situation for Quebec farmers just might get worse.
In conclusion, this file, like many others, shows how the Liberal government's inaction and wait and see attitude threatens the survival of Quebec farms. When this government does intervene, it is to implement Canada-wide measures that do not respond to farmers' needs in Quebec. Farming in Quebec is organized differently than in Canada and does not have the same needs.
La Francophonie December 9th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I attended the 10th summit of La Francophonie, which was held in Burkina Faso. The theme this year was “La Francophonie, a community that supports sustainable development”.
Some of the negative effects of globalization, such as increased inequality and poverty, require our attention.
It is the hope of the summit organizers to encourage conditions that will foster shared growth and progress. The disadvantaged member countries of La Francophonie are calling for support from the more advanced member countries to help them develop more quickly.
We call upon the Canadian government to accelerate its policy of reducing the debt of the poorest countries and to commit to a realistic plan that will enable it to achieve the aid target of 0.7% of GDP by the year 2015.
Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act December 7th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to explain why we are opposing Bill C-9, an act to establish the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. I will also speak to the reality of socio-economic development in the regions of Quebec.
Why are we opposing Bill C-9? This bill establishes a department for regional development. For Quebeckers, this is a new form of duplication and federal infringement which does not meet the needs of local communities. As a matter of fact, the government's bill would place the development of the regions of Quebec under the discretion of the federal minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.
This bill clearly identifies all the regions of Quebec as areas in which the federal government is responsible for development. Yet, Quebec already has a regional development department responsible for planning, organizing and coordinating development activities through CREs, the Conseils régionaux des élus, which replaced CRDs, CLDs, CFDCs and many other local programs and agencies. RCMs are also playing an increasingly important role in terms of local and community economic development. Therefore, we have a number of players. We have a large development structure which meets the needs of our communities. Why fix what is not broken?
Under the Constitution, Quebec is responsible for most areas pertaining to the development of regions. The fact that there are three levels of government with different development goals has made it difficult, in recent years, to have a common vision for regional development and consistent local development practices. As you know, these three levels are the federal, the provincial and the municipal governments.
Many years have passed—I, for one, have been involved in local development for several years—and many consultation meetings were held before all the stakeholders and agencies in one region could know and understand each other and their respective goals, whether at the federal, provincial or even municipal level.
The decentralization of powers to citizens, a new local development strategy implemented about 20 years ago, has been very successful. Over time, every organization faced with the same socio-economic issues in our areas have managed to develop a shared vision for action in their communities. It was not easy at first. We had the CFDCs, which had their own local development policies and practices and which were under federal direction. We had the LDBs which were under provincial direction. Finally, the RCMs arrived, with their direction often coming from municipal institutions. There were months of consensus building before all these people built a shared vision for the development of their territories.
It has now been realized. The tools are there. What we now lack is money to support the various local community initiatives. Bill C-9 is disrupting this cohesion, this consensus built along the way among stakeholders and organizations. This bill introduces new rules that are not wanted in Quebec.
What we want is for the federal government to respect Quebec's jurisdiction and expertise and to adapt its federal programs to the reality of the regions. The federal government should adapt its policies to the reality of Quebec regions, and not the other way around, as is currently the case.
Allow me to give a few examples. Federal programs are often aimed at large cities, and thus exclude regional participation. The strategic infrastructure fund is a good example since its objective is to fund projects of such magnitude that small rural municipalities are excluded.
In this regard, the Quebec government adopted in December 2001 a national rural policy to support the development of the Quebec rural communities.
Instead of creating yet another new institution, the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, and investing in new institutions, should the federal government not simply transfer money to Quebec, and invest for example in these rural development funds that support initiatives called rural pacts? These projects lack funds. The federal government could simply transfer money to these institutions because they do have a lot of projects. The socio-economic development structures already exist. The addition of new structures is not a solution.
Moreover, if the federal government wants to support regional development, often referred to as local development, it could start by supporting the introduction of a new infrastructure program for municipalities and providing them with better financial support. Our small rural municipalities are having a very hard time renovating their water and sewage systems and their infrastructure. We really need a good infrastructure policy. This would help to promote regional and municipal development.
Furthermore, it could also overhaul employment insurance, because the regions have paid heavily as a result of decisions made by the Liberal government. This government's EI policies have excluded a significant portion of rural populations and led to an exodus of young people to major urban centres as a result of cuts to EI and the inaction of the federal government with regard to its EI policies.
A good EI policy, adapted to seasonal workers, could be part of a federal intervention and would doubtless be more successful than Bill C-9, which simply duplicates Quebec's regional policy.
Cuts to EI have swelled the exodus of young people, as I mentioned, in addition to causing recruitment problems for companies providing seasonal employment. As for these EI cuts, when people ended up with 15 weeks of EI benefits in one summer or one winter, they had to go on welfare. Instead of turning to welfare, some people are moving to the major urban centres, which creates a void in rural areas. This contradicts a regional development policy. I suggest that the federal government begin addressing these issues before developing a so-called regional development policy.
Since Ottawa is suddenly interested in the fate of the regions, it needs to know that EI reform is a concrete way to help them climb out of the poverty into which it plunged them.
As for the $428 million allocated to the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, that money should be transferred to Quebec, because the Quebec government already has a regional development policy. The creation of a federal department would only perpetuate this duplication. The regions need assistance, not quarrels between Quebec and Canada.
In short, this new legislation is a clear step backward for the regions of Quebec dealing with troubled economic growth, declining population and devitalization. This bill, which does not include any new funding, is therefore just one more exercise in nation building by a federal government that, after the 1995 referendum, decided to invest in areas under Quebec jurisdiction and raise its profile in Quebec by using its massive surpluses and its spending power to do so.
The Liberal government must resolve the fiscal imbalance if it truly wants to meet the real needs of the regions of Quebec.
National Defence November 18th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, we estimate at approximately 300,000 the number of shells, of which nearly 8,000 are unexploded, lying at the bottom of Lake Saint-Pierre, a UNESCO declared world biosphere reserve. These shells represent an environmental threat, and the public is tired of waiting for a decision about their removal.
Does the Minister of National Defence not think that the time has come to act and proceed with the removal of the 300,000 shells laying at the bottom of Lake Saint-Pierre?
Department of National Defence November 16th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, from 1952 to 2000, the Department of National Defence fired shells in Lake Saint-Pierre, which is a UNESCO world biosphere reserve.
It is estimated that over 300,000 shells are currently at the bottom of the lake, including 8,000 unexploded ones. These shells are an environmental threat and they also pose a problem to users. They are a handicap for commercial fishermen, shoreline residents and numerous ecotourism projects.
My constituents are concerned about their safety. Moreover, these shells are an impediment to their will to take charge of their region's development.
The government must assume its responsibilities by correcting the situation, particularly since the technology to remove these shells is available.
École du Bois-Joli October 29th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, recently, the École du Bois-Joli, in Trois-Rivières-Ouest, lost its right to use its student radio for educational purposes, this for reasons that seemed mysterious. We looked into this seemingly unjustified measure and we took the necessary actions, so that the student radio could resume its activities.
I also want to mention the hard work done by the media, the students, the parents and the school management to settle this issue.
Now that students have regained the right to carry on their educational activities through the student radio, to the satisfaction of the whole community, I wish to thank all those involved in the resolution of this matter, and I also want to underline how much these people care about students.
Official Languages October 19th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, this morning Dr. Dyane Adam, the Commissioner of Official Languages, tabled her fifth annual report in which she expresses her concern that restructuring at Air Canada has slowed, if not reversed, the progress made by the airline with respect to official languages, as she had mentioned in her last report.
The Commissioner says she is continuing to work actively with Transport Canada authorities so that Air Canada, regardless of the result of restructuring, will always be governed by the Official Languages Act.
The Bloc Québécois shares the commissioner's concerns and will ensure that the Minister of Transport takes the appropriate legislative measures in order to protect the language rights of the public and the airline's employees, whatever the company's eventual structure.
Mental Illness Awareness Week October 15th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, last week was mental illness awareness week.
On Saturday, in my riding, I stressed the importance of this broad public awareness campaign. The main purpose of the awareness week was to dispel the misconceptions about mental illness and its consequences, which often include ostracism.
It was also an opportunity to recognize the many volunteers and agencies that work in this field with limited financial resources. There is a direct connection between funding and service quality and the fiscal imbalance to which the Speech from the Throne will now include a reference.
The fiscal imbalance has to be corrected once and for all, for the well-being of citizens, especially those affected by this growing problem in our society.
Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 7th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, this is my first speech in this House. I would like to react somewhat to what the minister has said.
I am a social worker by training. What brings me here is more or less the same as for the minister, as we have the same background. She too is a member of the Ordre des travailleurs sociaux. What we learn in social work is to defend the rights of the oppressed and to listen to what people have to say.
in the last election, the people of Quebec said that the Bloc Quebecois was the party most capable of defending their interests. Why? Because the people of Berthier—Maskinongé and throughout Quebec were scandalized that the employment insurance fund had been robbed. The jobless were robbed and had to resort to welfare. These are disadvantaged persons.