House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

National Airports May 2nd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the latest trick of the federal government is to hold the sovereignists responsible for the decline of Aéroports de Montréal.

According to the Minister of Transport, ADM's problems are due to the sovereignty project.

How can the minister make such an offensive statement as that, when the problems of Aéroports de Montréal are the direct result of a series of very bad decisions by the federal government, including one that made Toronto the new gateway to Canada, which was previously Montreal's role?

Employment Insurance Act April 4th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, my question is for my colleague for Acadie—Bathurst.

Earlier, the government representative said that employment insurance was a social security system. It is not a social security system, it is an insurance plan. I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that.

Université Du Québec À Rimouski April 2nd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, in September of 2001, the Université du Québec à Rimouski will be the only Quebec university to offer an undergraduate degree with a major in maritime shipping and a minor in administration, as well as the only North American university providing this course in French.

The program will be available to graduates of the Institut maritime du Québec who are interested in working in maritime shipping administration and hold a master mariner or marine-engineer officer certificate.

The objective is to ensure a supply of well-trained replacements in a sector where the workers are ageing. The course fits in with the true shipping policy to be adopted by Quebec between now and May.

Congratulations again to the Université du Québec à Rimouski for its leadership and sense of initiative.

Employment Insurance Act April 2nd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, I know I must address the Chair, but I also want to address unemployed Canadians, particularly those from Quebec who are listening and especially the 60% of them who could not benefit from the EI plan. They were excluded for many reasons. That is why many amendments to the bill were requested by the opposition parties.

When a government amends an act as important as the Employment Insurance Act, there are always questions to be asked. First, why is it amending it? Because there are pressing demands, which often come from the opposition parties.

Let us remember that in 1996 the Liberal government made major changes to the Employment Insurance Act, which included the infamous intensity rule. With that rule, seasonal workers were virtually excluded from the plan, to the point where today only 42% of workers who could use benefits are eligible for benefits.

This was a change made in 1996 by the Liberal government. It directly contributed to the increase in the EI fund surplus. Since the 1996 changes, a surplus of $5 billion was added to the fund each and every year. At the present time, this surplus is close to $32 billion.

Once more, in 2001, the Liberal government is proposing a legislative amendment. We should always ask ourselves why the government would change this legislation. The answer should be that it is for the good of the unemployed in Canada, and particularly in Quebec.

We know, of course, that the intensity rule, the purpose of which was to make sure that almost no seasonal unemployed worker could get employment benefits, will be abolished. In ridings such as Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, where 65% of the economy is based on agriculture, forestry and tourism, more workers will be made eligible for employment benefits.

It must be said that this is something the opposition parties have been requesting since 1996. The opposition parties have been asking the government for this for five years.

Finally, it is not the workers of Quebec and Canada who are seasonal, it the jobs that are seasonal. It is not the workers' fault they do not have access to an EI plan.

It must be understood that I am talking about an EI plan. On many occasions I have heard members of the government describe the employment insurance plan as a social safety net. The employment insurance plan has never been a social safety net. It is an insurance paid for entirely, half and half, by the workers and their employers. Since this plan belongs to the employers and the employees in Quebec and Canada, the $31.4 billion surplus belongs to them also.

We would have expected that the amendments to Bill C-2 would include, on top of the elimination of the intensity rule for seasonal workers we wanted, important changes to the plan because it belongs to the employers and the employees in Quebec and Canada.

I will repeat, for the sake of workers and especially the unemployed in Quebec and in Canada who are watching this debate, that the bill does not improve the plan and does nothing to correct the decades old inequities under the Employment Insurance Act.

We still have a waiting period, the infamous two week penalty for workers. They do not get any benefits for these two weeks. They just have to wait.

I find this most unfortunate because it does a lot of damage, in view of the fact that an increasing number of businesses in Quebec, among others, are hit with damage or fires, as a result of which there are temporary closures for many reasons other than the going out of business.

Once again, workers who find themselves without a job overnight because of a fire or other disaster are subject to the qualifying period, the famous two week penalty. They lose the first two weeks and do not receive any compensation in spite of the fact that they bought insurance that they have been paying 50:50 with their employer, an insurance policy called the EI fund. There is still a waiting period.

This is the terminology the Liberal government found to try to convince them to accept this two week penalty. Notwithstanding the fact that they have an insurance, they still have a two week penalty. These two weeks inevitably contribute to increase the fund. This surplus, this revenue from the EI fund, now totals more than $31 billion.

Once again, the bill tabled did not contain any of the amendments put forward by the Bloc Quebecois. This particular amendment was rejected. We still find in the bill the two week waiting period, the penalty the workers are facing for losing their job. Even if the business does not shut down, even after a disaster, they are still subjected to this two week loss, which is used, among other things, to increase the EI surplus. So, there are no major changes.

Let us talk about the $31.4 billion surplus. Why has the government introduced this bill? As members may have guessed, it is because the Liberal Party, the government, covets the $31.4 billion that belongs to workers of Quebec and Canada.

Clause 9 of the bill would allow the government to get its hands on the surplus of the employment insurance fund. The government wants to do that for its own ends, that is to spend the money in any other program it deems appropriate but which will not necessarily serve the interests of workers in Quebec and Canada.

Why does the bill not provide for an independent fund, which would belong, since half of it is paid for by workers in Quebec, to workers as well as employers and which would be administered by workers and employers, who could then choose the appropriate way to use the fund?

Since I only have a minute left, I will use my time to try to promote awareness among members on the other side, who too often take the employment insurance fund, which actually is an insurance fund, for a social security fund. This is where the problem lies.

They want to turn employment insurance into a social security fund, which the government wants to get its hands on and use in a totally different area, which government members call social security, while in fact employment insurance is an insurance fund that belongs to workers and should only be used for them. We should have an independent fund administered by workers, in their own interests.

Prime Minister March 28th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, according to the Commission des affaires municipales du Québec, any citizen may lay a complaint against an elected representative suspected of conflict of interest, and the person who has committed the act is not the one to judge it, but rather the courts, who can judge it independently. If the Prime Minister were an elected municipal official, he could not be the judge of his own actions.

Is the fact that the Prime Minister is both judge and party to this affair not another conflict of interest?

Prime Minister March 28th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, a Toronto alderman stated yesterday that “the Prime Minister is not allowed to be involved in any issue affecting interests adjoining his properties”.

Ethics expert Arthur Schafer said that the Prime Minister is in a conflict of interest situation according to every municipal bylaw in Canada. He went on to say that he has also probably breached most provincial codes and possibly even his own federal rules. I know of what I speak, having been president of the Union des municipalités du Québec.

Will the Prime Minister agree with me that, had he been a mayor instead of Prime Minister, he would have already been called upon to step down?

Supply March 15th, 2001

Madam Speaker, first of all, with all due respect, I will address my comments to you, because the rules require so, and I will also address them to workers in the lumber industry, to the thousands of workers who, as we speak, have lost their jobs, temporarily, we hope.

In Quebec in the last six months 20 businesses all related to the lumber industry have shut their doors temporarily, we hope.

There may be talking and pussyfooting in the House, but in the field, there is a lumber crisis. This crisis is obviously the result of the 1996 agreement, but it is also fuelled by the economic recession that is forthcoming in the United States. Consequently lumber prices have dropped by 17% in the last six months while stumpage fees imposed on businesses have not been reduced accordingly.

Since 1992 stumpage fees in Quebec have gone up 117%. Since 1996 these same fees have increased by 53%. In 1992 the U.S. department of commerce, a venerable institution, said that if stumpage fees were calculated as subsidies the benefit gained by Quebec producers would be only 0.01% compared to American producers.

Therefore I will let the workers in the lumber industry be the judge of Canada's efforts.

Today in the House the minister and a bevy of members on the government side said they agree to support the motion put forward by the Bloc Quebecois, which has been fighting for months for a good outcome for the softwood lumber agreement, due to expire on March 31, 2001, for the implementation of free trade as of April 1, 2001.

We have been telling the government for many months that the agreement will expire on March 31, 2001, and that the transition for that industry is provided for since 1996. The softwood lumber agreement was a transitional agreement that was supposed to expire on March 31, 2001 and free trade was supposed to apply as of April 1. Sadly, that is not what is going to happen.

Here we are just a few days away from the expiry of the agreement and although free trade is supposed to come into effect as of April 1, the minister responsible and the Prime Minister still cannot assure us that, in spite of the implementation of free trade, there will not be any retaliation by the U.S. government.

This is the main cause of concern for workers who are currently jobless. This is cause for concern because, in my opinion, it will demonstrate that Canada is no longer effective.

If the Canadian government cannot get our American neighbours to agree on an issue that has been ongoing for 20 years, we will no longer have any reason to stay within this country because its only strength is its negotiating power. We will see what happens on March 31. We will have proof that the Canadian government has failed on the issue of softwood lumber.

As one of my colleagues said, Canada is in the process of showing its ineffectiveness in an economic field of utmost importance for Canada from coast to coast to coast. The agreement expires on March 31, 2001, but over the last 20 years, and more specifically over the last five years, the Canadian government has been unable to find a satisfactory solution for the softwood lumber industry.

I will say it again, 20 plants have closed and thousands of workers still do not know if these plants will reopen one day. We cannot be absolutely sure that reprisals will not keep these workers from getting their jobs back. The economic climate is clouding over in the United States and free trade is the true solution. We have given proof of that here in this House.

My eminent colleagues have established today that the Canadian softwood lumber industry can compete with any other around the world, in all categories. If Canada cannot protect its own position in a field where it is one of the best in the world, it is showing its weakness. We will let them go ahead, but I am convinced that they will, once again, prove that Canada cannot protect the interests of Quebecers.

I have heard several comments in this House these past few weeks. The Prime Minister spoke to President Bush to discuss the lumber issue and was told to talk about energy.

As an hon. member said earlier, I hope they will not put all of Canada's natural resources on the table to negotiate the lumber agreement. The lumber issue has been discussed for 20 years now and it must be settled by March 31 in the evening. It must be solved.

If Canada cannot do it, I hope they will not tell us that they intend to use other natural resources, for example our energy or water, as leverage in the lumber negotiations.

It would be a catastrophic error. Given the lumber agreement signed by Canada in 1996, it would be a disaster for the energy industry and the hydro industry that Quebecers are doing their very best to protect. The government must not be allowed to use natural resources as leverage to negotiate the lumber agreement. We have had a problem for 20 years now and it is time for Canada to prove that it is strong and powerful enough to protect the interests of Quebecers and of all Canadians.

After listening to the Prime Minister and the Minister for International Trade these last few weeks, I am convinced that Canada will not be able to reach an agreement by March 31. Once again, it will show that it is not the power it says it is and that it does not have the respect of the Americans.

Obviously, the workers of Quebec will once again pay the price. I am talking about the thousands of workers in Quebec who, as we speak, no longer have jobs in the softwood lumber industry. Even though, since 1992, the industry has increased countervailing duties by 117% as the Americans requested, even though 53% of countervailing duties have been increased since 1992, and even though there has been a drop of 17% in the selling price of softwood lumber, countervailing duties have barely dropped by 3%. Obviously, this industry will once again be abandoned by the Canadian government.

That is why I am proud to support the motion by the member for Joliette. I hope that members of all political parties in the House will be unanimous when it comes time to vote on such an important position for an industry that is one of the most important in Canada today.

Obviously, Canada is facing a considerable challenge. Pardon me, but I am not confident that our minister and our Prime Minister have the political strength to be able to defend the interests of Quebecers. I am certain that, the day after March 31, we will see the U.S. government once again imposing duties, tariff barriers, and quotas on our industry.

We will have to put up with what we are putting up with now, which is to say drastic job cuts and factory closures in an industry which is one of the most prosperous and in which we are the most highly competitive in the world. And all because our government does not have the political strength to be able to negotiate with its neighbours.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001 March 12th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, in response to my representations and speech earlier, my Alliance colleague asked me a question on guidelines and on all that does not appear in the bill and, among other things, with regard to shipbuilding, why the government has not analyzed the tax havens available to shipowners in all this concept. I think this is a very interesting idea.

According to what my Alliance colleague told me, we must understand that, concerning the industry of the shipowners, the Minister of Finance apparently has investments in the business. I hope it is not embarrassment that is preventing him from investing and having the Government of Canada give tax credits to shipbuilding.

As I was saying earlier, shipbuilding in Canada is operating at 25% capacity. The Canadian economy is doing without millions and millions of dollars because the Government of Canada has decided not to support this industry. The governments of Quebec, Nova Scotia and British Columbia decided to support the shipbuilding industry in Canada by giving it tax or other forms of credit.

My colleague from the Alliance is exactly right. The shipowners should, through taxes due the provinces and the Government of Canada, do their part in the revival of shipbuilding.

I hope that, if our research went deeper, we would not realize that companies belonging to Canadian shipowners are having ships built in Asia, for example, where they are getting investment credits of 30% more than what they would get in Canada. In Europe, the industry gets 9% in government support.

I hope that we would not discover that Canadian shipowners are having ships built outside the country, where the industry is subsidized, because—

Canada Shipping Act, 2001 March 12th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I am pleased to comment on Bill C-14, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

This bill modernizes the legislation that will improve the safety and economic performance of the commercial marine industry as well as ensure the safety of those who use pleasure craft. Key changes to the existing legislation include improvements to provisions to protect and support efficient crews, ensure passenger and vessel safety and protect the environment. A new administrative penalties scheme provides an alternative means for dealing with certain contraventions.

The enactment clarifies the marine responsibilities of the Department of Transport and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The enactment organizes the contents, updates the terminology and streamlines substantive requirements to make the law much clearer and easier to understand.

The enactment amends the Shipping Conferences Act, 1987 to inject greater competition within shipping conferences, to streamline the administration of the act and to ensure that Canadian legislation covering international liner shipping conferences remains in harmony with that of Canada's major trading partners.

There are 14 parts to this bill. The first defines certain terms and provides details on its application.

Part 2 includes provisions with respect to the registration, listing and recording of vessels. This part comes under the responsibility of the Minister of Transport.

Part 3 includes provisions with respect to the qualifications and conditions of employment of crew members. This part also comes under the responsibility of the Department of Transport.

Part 4 includes provisions with respect to the safety of passengers and crew members. This part also comes under the responsibility of the Minister of Transport.

Part 5 includes provisions with respect to navigation services, the creation of VTS zones and the obligations of vessels in search and rescue operations. This part comes under the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

Part 6 deals with incidents, accidents and casualties. It determines the right to claim for salvage services, the obligations of vessels in case of collisions and the authority to inquire into causes of death. This part comes under the responsibility of the Department of Transport.

Part 7 has to do with wrecks, specifically their ownership and disposition. This part comes under the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Part 8 determines the responsibilities of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with respect to pollution and establishes rules for prevention and intervention.

Part 9 determines the responsibilities of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with respect to pollution prevention.

Part 10, which has to do with pleasure craft, comes under the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Part 11 concerns the application of the act and the various powers given the Minister of Transport.

Part 12 includes a variety of provisions, including provisions on proceedings initiated under the act.

Parts 13 and 14 contain transitional provisions and amendments in co-ordination with other laws.

All that to say the this bill, which died on the order paper at the last session, remains, in our opinion, a fine example of the pointlessness of the latest federal elections. Good bills were being studied, of course. This bill on shipping was one, as was Bill S-2 on maritime liability.

Members have obviously understood that the government is reintroducing, with great show, a bill that gathered dust on the shelves of the last parliament and died on the order paper because the federal government decided to call an election that was too early, according to some, and unnecessary, according to others.

I hope that the government is not waving the flags over these bills that are bursting out in great pomp at the start of this parliament. The work was already done. I know that my Bloc Quebecois colleagues worked on the bill, which appears as C-14, identical to what was introduced in the last parliament and debated then.

I must also point out the Minister of Transport said in a press release on March 1, when this bill was introduced, that its intent was to promote growth in the shipping industry.

Obviously, the Bloc Quebecois mentioned on a number of occasions and reiterated its position that the only way to achieve this objective of promoting economic growth in the shipping industry was to establish a real federal shipbuilding policy and to act in support of the shipbuilding industry.

There is nothing in this bill, which is a carbon copy of the legislation introduced in the last parliament, to support the shipbuilding industry. We, the members of the Bloc Quebecois, have made numerous representations to indicate that the industry is experiencing serious difficulties all across Canada.

Shipbuilding used to be a thriving industry. Today, it is only operating at 25% of its capacity. This means that millions of dollars are not being invested in the regions, and that has significant impact, particularly where there is a shipyard, such as in Lévis, on Île-aux-Coudres and in Les Méchins.

Shipbuilding has become a high tech sector that creates thousands of well paid jobs. However, the number of these jobs keeps decreasing. There are currently 2,750 people working in the sector, compared to over 12,000 at one time. Canada's shipbuilding industry urgently requires new support measures. Canada must be able to face international competition and better position itself in this respect.

The frequent media reports on the problems at the Lévis shipyard may give the impression that this shipyard is the only one experiencing difficulties. We can see, both in Vancouver and in Halifax, the lack of federal involvement. The Lévis shipyard is but one example of the federal government's laissez-faire approach in the industry. The fact that all Canadian shipyards are experiencing problems and are already operating below capacity confirms the need for a true federal shipbuilding policy.

Here are the elements that are to the advantage of Canada's shipbuilding industry and that justify federal assistance to that industry.

First, Canada's manpower is qualified and less costly than that of most competing countries.

Second, the majority of Canadian shipyards use very modern equipment and advanced technology: two of them meet the ISO-9001 standard, while four meet the ISO-9002 standard.

Third, shipyard managers and other stakeholders in the industry have felt for at least ten years that the federal government has abandoned them and they claim that they are penalized compared to other sectors, including the aerospace industry.

Fourth, with direct access to three oceans and to the world's longest inland waterway, shipbuilders and shipowners wonder why Canada chose to let the industry down.

Fifth, marine transportation is the most economical and environmentally friendly means of transportation.

Sixth, a number of shipyards are surviving at the present time because of provincial government intervention, although this is an area of federal jurisdiction. Quebec has tax measures, including a tax credit; Nova Scotia has a specific program of financial guarantees; and British Columbia has encouraged the acceleration of its aluminum ferry program.

Seventh, Canada's shipbuilding industry is at a disadvantage compared to its Asian competitors who receive government subsidies of up to 30% of the amount of their contracts, the Europeans who receive about 9%, and the Americans who benefit from protectionist measures. Yet Canada has neither subsidies nor protectionist measures; we have missed the boat.

On October 14, 1999, the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-213, on shipbuilding. His bill provided a clear illustration of the framework required to assist the shipbuilding industry, as indeed it must be assisted. It drew upon the consensual demands from the various stakeholders in the industry, from the unions to the Shipbuilding Association of Canada.

Believe it or not, the Liberal government succeeded in declaring Bill C-213 non-votable. This bill, intended as it was to promote shipbuilding in Canada and to enhance the competitive capacity of Canadian shipyards, was deferred and struck from the order paper by the government of the Liberal party.

Today, I would like to list the advantages that were offered by Bill C-213 and continue to be concerns for the industry and the major stakeholders.

First, Bill C-213 called for a loan and loan guarantee program, something for which the Bloc Quebecois is still calling. Canada's shipbuilding industry everywhere ought to be able to benefit from loan guarantees.

More specifically, the bill called for the establishment of a program whereby a maximum of 87.5% of the money borrowed by a company from financial institutions to purchase a commercial ship that would be built in a shipyard located in Canada would be guaranteed by the federal government in the event of default in the repayment of the loan, bear a rate of interest comparable to that available for loans from financial institutions to large and financially strong corporations, and be repayable on terms comparable to those usually granted by financial institutions to large and financially strong corporations for the repayment of their loan. Therefore, nothing beyond what other major industries in Canada could claim was asked.

Second, Bill C-213 sought to have new vessels excluded from the lend-lease regulations. Revenue Canada's lend-lease regulations eliminate lend-lease purchase of ships in Canada. Revenue Canada significantly reduces the amounts that may be deducted annually from taxable revenue as depreciation in the case of lend-lease financing. Under the terms of lend-lease, only the notional principal of the loan may enter into the calculation of the depreciation.

As interest primarily is repaid in the first years of the lease, the depreciation permitted is minimal. It is therefore carried over from the first years to the final years of the useful life of the ship, something that runs contrary to the economic realities of the owner operator, whose major expenses come primarily in the first years, with things improving in the final years.

By increasing from the outset the tax burden of shipowners who use the lend-lease option, Revenue Canada's lend-lease regulations make it rather unappealing if not squarely uneconomic to use a lend-lease option to buy and finance a ship built in Canada. More specifically, the bill proposed to amend the provisions of the Income Tax Act and of its regulations to make tax provisions on lend-lease more beneficial when buying a ship built by a shipyard located in Canada.

The third major component of Bill C-213 was the creation of a refundable tax credit as asked, again, by stakeholders and the industry.

In 1997, the government of Quebec announced tax incentives to stimulate the shipping industry. These incentives are based on a tax credit that the federal government should use as a model. The Quebec government raised the refundable tax credit for shipbuilding, around since 1996, from 40% to 50%. It also introduced a tax credit for the conversion or major refitting of ships, and it extended this measure to oil rigs, in addition to making some adjustments to the measure to reduce capital taxes.

The Quebec tax policy is essentially based on a tax credit. Eligible expenses include primarily salaries relating to the building of a ship, drawings and specifications, and also half of the costs of contracts relating to construction. This tax credit amounts to 50% of eligible expenses, but it cannot exceed by more than 20% the costs at the end of a taxation year that have been incurred to build the ship. A tax credit for similar eligible expenses is also provided for the conversion or major refitting of ships.

The Liberal government refuses to harmonize federal tax measures with those of Quebec, as it agreed to do, among others, for the motion picture and television production industry. By taxing provincial tax benefits granted to the shipbuilding industry, Ottawa eliminates the positive effect of the deductions granted by Quebec to stimulate the industry. Not only does Ottawa not bother to come up with more beneficial measures, it also adversely affects the policy put forward by the Quebec government.

People often say “If you are not able to help, quit always making matters worse”. That is what the federal government is doing right now: it is not helping the industry and it is making matters worse for this industry where Quebec's tax credit is concerned.

Bill C-213 specifically suggested amending the provisions of the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Regulations in order to allow owners of vessels and shipyards a refundable tax credit for a portion of the costs relating to the construction or refit of a commercial ship in a shipyard located in Canada or the conversion of a ship in such a shipyard. Under Bill C-213, these people could have obtained tax credits.

Once again, I repeat, the Liberal government decided to reject this bill. It will not debate it and there will not be a vote. This wonderful initiative by the brilliant Bloc Quebecois member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière has therefore been put off indefinitely. It will not be used by the government. Once again, the Government of Canada is passing up a wonderful opportunity to breathe new life into the shipbuilding industry, which was the pride of Canada and which is now operating at only 25% of its capacity.

Although the Bloc Quebecois agrees with the reference of Bill C-14 to committee for discussion, we regret that the government did not take the opportunity to re-examine this text which had already been considered in the last parliament and which involved no work on the government's part. It could at least have used the opportunity to add a complete chapter on assistance for shipbuilding, which would have eased the plight of this industry in Canada.

Municipalities February 27th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport indicated that the federal government might consider giving large municipalities in Canada increased powers through a constitutional reform.

Does the government share the view of the Minister of Transport, considering that municipalities are created by provincial governments and that their powers have nothing to do with federal responsibilities?