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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was position.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Progressive Conservative MP for Sherbrooke (Québec)

Won his last election, in 1997, with 60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Charitable Organizations December 4th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I wrote to the prime minister asking him whether his government would not see it appropriate to extend to the end of the month of January 1998 the period for charitable donations, to allow all charities in Canada a chance to solicit funds for the cause they defend given the postal strike we have just experienced.

Could the prime minister give us an answer today?

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act December 4th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques for his question, which is a good question, an honest question. In fact, I asked myself the same question, I talked about it with colleagues, and this is what I can tell him.

First of all, amending the Canada pension plan legislation requires the approval of a number of provincial governments. You are no doubt aware that this, fortunately, cannot be done unilaterally by the federal government. It requires the agreement of two-thirds of the provinces representing at least two-thirds of the Canadian population, which explains why the federal government has limited scope for action in making such amendments.

We discussed such changes with the provincial governments as openly as we could. I must admit to the member today that we did not succeed in convincing them of the need we saw to bring about a number of changes.

However, and I want to add this so that it is clear to him and also because the other members will be interested to know this, they were determined to stop going around in circles. How could they break this logjam? Since they could not arrive at an agreement, they included in the last series of statutory amendments a clause providing for an automatic increase in contributions, so that the provincial governments were faced with an alternative that was even less attractive than a potential agreement. And then there was a change of government.

What I am telling my colleague for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques is that, if there is an agreement today, it will be due in large part to the fact that, as we expected a deadlock, we included in the bill a provision for a mechanism that was going to force the parties—

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act December 4th, 1997

He denounced NAFTA and the FTA and then he went on to implement that.

Personal taxes and income taxes have gone up under the government relative to the GDP. There are more poor children in Canada today than since this member was elected as a member of the government in 1993. That is his record. At one point I hope he will grow up and face his responsibilities and stop blaming others and stop saying—

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act December 4th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is any amount of huffing and puffing coming from the hon. member that will change the tax.

As I was saying a little earlier, if there is some confusion in his mind on where they stood, there rightfully should be some. This is the same member who in 1993 guaranteed Canadians health care. He stood in his place and voted for a 35%—

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act December 4th, 1997

The member is shaking his head. Is he for or against the GST? Of course, his prime minister said they had created the GST, right?

Is the member confused? Yes, he should be confused. Is he thoroughly confused? Yes, he is thoroughly confused, and I can see why. This is the same group of parliamentarians who fought tooth and nail any idea of deficit and debt reduction and now this has become the new mantra.

As we say in French, if there is one thing that we can say about this Liberal government—and my colleague, the hon. member for Chicoutimi, is well aware of this—it is that they have been very consistent in acting on our ideas, not their own but our ideas.

The hon. member is confused. Let me enlighten him. He said we increased employment insurance premiums—

When the member for Scarborough Centre said we increased employment insurance premiums, what he forgets to add is that we did it also in a period of recession when there was a need for money in the fund.

The difference with this government is that it is creating unnecessarily a $12 billion to $13 billion surplus for the purpose of paying down the deficit for which this fund was never created.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act December 4th, 1997

This is the same member for Scarborough Centre if I understand correctly, like the member for Mount Royal, who said they were opposed to the GST.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act December 4th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am not surprised that the member for Scarborough Centre would be confused. He should be. I want to use his own words. He says he is confused. How else could he be confused?

Like the member for Mount Royal, they ran in 1993 on a red book that said that they were opposed to free trade and now we implemented free trade.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act December 4th, 1997

One might have expected that the government, which wanted to borrow a good idea from Quebec by taking the structures of the Caisse de dépôt et placement as a model, would also have paid attention to the Quebec auditor general, who is complaining about it.

No, instead they seem to have got it backward. They told themselves “Hey, in Quebec, it looks like the Caisse de dépôt et placement was able to hide behind that screen. Let us follow that lead and hide behind the same screen”. While the normal thing to do would have been to designate the auditor general as the auditor of the new board of directors responsible for investing funds, they did not do so.

In fairness to the government, I must say that it opened a door by providing that the auditor general may conduct an audit. Granted, it has come some way on this issue, but the responsibility should have been assigned directly to the auditor general so that he could look after the financial auditing.

The same goes for the Access to Information Act. Whenever we raise this issue, we are told “But there are investment decisions to make.” Let us be clear. The Access to Information Act itself provides for exceptions that would easily allow the board to protect itself against the disclosure of sensitive information while making the operation of the fund transparent.

This is not a secondary issue. I submit to the House that, to enhance credibility, to ensure that those in charge of administering the fund enjoy credibility with the Canadian public, it is important, very important indeed to make this fund transparent.

My conclusion is somewhat bleak. Personally, I wish the government had listened more carefully to what we had to say. We clearly stated our positions during the election campaign. It is in black and white in our election platform. I can even tell you on what page: pages 19 through to 22, for those who are interested.

What does it provide for? To increase rates, yes, but to reduce taxes and employment insurance premiums accordingly so that income tax does not increase. Second, to create an investment fund at arm's length from the government similar to those found elsewhere. Take for instance the Ontario teachers' pension fund, which is a model to follow and from which a few ideas could be borrowed.

Among the things that we suggested in our platform, as I said, can be read on pages 19, 20, 21 and 22. It is there in black and white, numbers included, everything from A to Z on our position. To increase premiums, offset them with tax reductions for employment insurance and tax reductions. Create an independent board for investment, independent in the true sense. Make it transparent. Most of all, do not create a new $11 billion tax grab from Canadians that is going to kill jobs in our economy because this government has lost sight of the fact that 9.1% of Canadians are unemployed, a large number of whom are young Canadians suffering in this labour market. It is about time that we also give them a break.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act December 4th, 1997

The member from Hamilton recognizes that they are sleeping again. I concur with his view. They are nodding off. Nodding off actually explains why they stick to this rule on foreign investment for no good reason.

Think of what is going to happen in a very short period of time. This fund will have close to a hundred billion dollars in it to be invested in Canada's marketplace. How are we to expect a return on this investment if the investors are not allowed to invest where they can get the most on that return?

That is one of the changes we propose. There are also very important changes with regard to accountability and transparency.

As regards transparency, there are some very important issues. These issues are not new, since the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec has had to deal with them for quite a while. Year after year, the Quebec auditor general complains about not being allowed to audit the accounts.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act December 4th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the first point of divergence we have with this legislation the government is putting forward is that there should be offsetting tax reductions to avoid $11 billion being literally sucked out of our economy for the purpose of sustaining this fund, when in fact there should be a reduction in payroll taxes to allow jobs to be created.

Let me add a very important element which we need to keep in mind in regard to these payroll taxes. These are the most damaging taxes with regard to employment, in particular for the most vulnerable in our society: women, lower-income Canadians and young Canadians. They are the ones who are the most affected when we increase payroll taxes in our economy, whether it is through CPP or whether it is through EI.

Another change that we would like to see happening, that we propose, is the change in the yearly basic exemption. The government is freezing that exemption at $3,500 and again by doing that is targeting the most vulnerable people in our society. Who are the people that this freeze affects the most? Part-time workers, students, women, low-income earners. These are the people who will be the most affected by this freeze.

We wanted to be constructive in committee. The member for Markham tried and we certainly felt as a political party, contrary to others, that we should propose some amendments, make some suggestions.

In that respect we proposed a revision of this exemption 10 years after the legislation would have been enacted. Did the government listen to this suggestion? The answer is “no”. There is a very constructive change that could have allowed low-income Canadians a break rather than being left out in the cold by this government.

The other change I mentioned was with regard to payroll taxes. I want to speak specifically to the suggestion that we made through an amendment. We suggested to the government that it could offset in the next three years the increase in CPP premiums with reductions in EI premiums. It could have included that in the legislation to guarantee Canadians that they would not be hurt by these changes.

The member for Markham, our critic, made that suggestion. He did it in good faith. Yet, the government turned it down. At the same time, what do we learn from the chief actuary of the employment insurance fund of Canada? The fund could very well sustain itself with a premium level of $2 instead of $2.70. The government is actually using the employment insurance fund again to reduce its deficit, to try to balance its books. On whose backs is it doing it? On the backs of the unemployed at a time when we have unemployment above 9%. Again, this was rejected.

We presented another amendment that would have forced the government to return to Parliament, to the House of Commons, if premiums went to 10.25%. They are now scheduled to go to 9.9%. Did it listen to that? Is debate something that it wants? No. The answer again was “no”.

Another change that our party proposed to try to add to this legislation was to get rid of the foreign investment rule. Canada in the global equity market represents about 3% of that market. Yet, the Government of Canada, the Liberal government still thinks it knows best and it imposes a foreign investment rule of 20%. More money keeps pouring into the equity markets. Whose money is this, by the way? It is the Canadian taxpayers' money. They should be allowed to get the best benefit from that investment. They should be allowed to have access to the best investors so that this money can grow so that their retirement money can actually benefit them.

To tell you how embarrassed the government is, I even see Liberal members on the other side nodding. They want to nod. They are embarrassed by this, and they should be.