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

Marine Liability Act February 23rd, 2001

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate you on your position of Assistant Deputy Chairman of the Committees of the Whole, and the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound on his election as chairman of the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations.

I would just like to inform the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River that the procedure in the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations is, obviously, the same as the one adopted when the Reform Party was the official opposition, and when the Bloc Quebecois formed the official opposition. So it is high time certain people stopped putting on airs. Obviously, we have adopted the same standard and the same procedure as in the past in the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations.

We are here today to discuss the bill on marine liability. This is an example of a bill on which all parties in the House were virtually unanimous. Why then is it not yet passed as we speak? We need to take some time to look at this, for it brings the whole Canadian parliamentary system into question.

Hon. members realize that the bill originated in the Senate. It could just as well have originated in the House of Commons. Then it would probably have had a chance to get passed before the last election. Once again, this is an example of how the parliamentary system complicates things, particularly for a bill of such benefit not only to the people of Canada but to people everywhere. Members understand because this bill deals among other things with oil spills, a major environmental concern.

Contrary to what the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt kept saying this morning, members know that any reform of the Canadian parliamentary system would require a close look at the Senate and at the millions of dollars it costs the parliamentary system, as well as all the endless delays without which Bills S-17 and S-2 for instance would have been passed much more quickly in the best interest of the people in Quebec and in Canada.

For the benefit of Quebecers and Canadians, I would like to briefly review the purpose of Bill S-2. The first part deals with personal injuries and accidents. It would allow the dependants of any person injured or killed in a marine accident to recover damages, which is not possible under the current legislation which will be replaced by this bill as soon as possible, hopefully in the days or the weeks to come.

Members will surely understand that, in the interest of all families, the Bloc Quebecois agrees with these new provisions that would allow, as I said, dependants of any person injured or killed in a marine accident to recover damages, as is often done under civil law.

The second part sets the rules for the appointment of liability. Obviously, this is based on the principle that, if several persons or ships were responsible for an accident, their liability should be proportionate to the degree to which they are respectively at fault. If it is impossible to determine who was at fault, then the parties involved should be jointly liable for losses and damages, as is the case in Quebec civil society.

The Bloc Quebecois cannot be against such a principle, which respects the logic of Quebec law.

Part 3 of the bill deals with the limitation of liability for maritime claims. The purpose of these provisions is to limit maximum liability in terms of cash amounts or units of account. Obviously, this can be somewhat complicated for the general public.

Units of account are special drawing rights issued by the International Monetary Fund under the 1976 convention concluded in London and under the Canada Shipping Act. This liability in terms of cash amounts or units of accounts will now cover owners of docks, canals and ports who are responsible for an accident. Again, this would ensure that all parties responsible for an accident assume their share of liability.

The Bloc Quebecois totally agrees with this position with regard to maritime claims.

Part 4 of the bill deals with liability for carriage of passengers by water. The objective is to apply the liability of carriers that was included in the 1974 Athens Convention regarding the carriage by sea of passengers and their baggage to the carriage by water under a contract involving passengers or passengers and their baggage from a place in Canada to any other place in Canada, and which could even transit through a destination outside the country.

This includes compensation for passengers and their baggage. Therefore, from now on, all those who engage in the transportation of passengers by water will be responsible for damage caused to passengers and to their baggage under any contract or tour that would begin and end in Canada, even if the purpose of the tour is to go outside Canada, or to travel to foreign destinations. If they come back, these carriers will be held responsible for the passengers and their baggage.

The Bloc Quebecois supports this proposal, which is in the best interests of Quebecers and Canadians.

Part 5 of the bill deals with the liability for the carriage of goods. The idea is to implement the Hague-Visby rules and the Hamburg rules to the transportation of goods by water. This applies to a much more commercial type of transportation that involves ships and large shipments. In this bill, carriage by water is the same as carriage by sea. Shipowners will be responsible for marine transportation in Canada's territorial waters.

Part 6 deals with liability and compensation for pollution. Pollution is among the most important issues in this bill.

The goal is to make shipowners responsible for damage caused by an oil spill but that liability is limited in the case of shipowners governed by the international convention on the limitation of liability, the 1969 Brussels convention which was amended in November 1976 and in November 1992.

Ships governed by that convention are required to provide a compliance certificate that compels them to have an insurance contract or a guarantor who shares with them responsibility for any damage. This would permit those suffering damage to take action against the shipowner, the insurer and the guarantor.

The principle of Quebec civil law permitting proceedings against all those responsible, including the insurers and the guarantors is applied to the principle of shipping and marine damage. The Bloc Quebecois fully supports the bill's recommendations.

The second section of part 6 of the bill concerns compensation for pollution. It involves the implementation of the international oil pollution compensation fund. The public must understand that the transportation of oil will be covered by an international compensation fund. Clause 73 provides as follows:

  1. If a claimant commences an action against the owner of a Convention ship or the owner's guarantor...the International Fund may appear—

The international fund is required to pay compensation through the fund administrator drawn on a compensation fund opened from a Government of Canada account and known as the ship-source oil pollution fund.

Clause 88 of Bill S-2, under the heading “Claims for Loss of Income”, enables an individual deriving income from fishing, the production of fish or the culture of marine plants, the owner of a fishing vessel and the individual processing fish on shore, who suffer a loss of current or future income or a loss of supply as the result of a discharge of oil from a ship to be compensated by the said fund.

All citizens, all workers in the fishing sector, all those who benefit from the product of fishing, may now, in the event of an environmental disaster resulting from a shipping accident causing a discharge of oil, be compensated by a special fund, the ship-source oil pollution fund. This is a bank account opened by the Government of Canada. I will explain later how shipowners will deposit money in this account.

The Bloc Quebecois agrees fully with this provision of the bill. It is time that not only all those who depend on products of the fishery for their livelihood are provided with some security, but also all those who benefit from commercial fishing, even those who farm aquatic plants, those who may benefit from the ocean's resources. These people will be compensated if ever there is spill resulting from a shipping accident.

Even though we are in agreement with the bill, there are always important questions to ask. We will no doubt have an opportunity to discuss these in committee before the bill is passed.

Clause 91 sets a maximum on the amount that the ship-source oil pollution fund may pay. This maximum is the same as the maximum in effect on March 31, 1990. This bill adds annual indexing based on the “Consumer Price Index, excluding the food and energy components”.

It is all very fine and well to decide to have a fund, to pay compensation and to set a ceiling, but the problem is that this is the same amount that applied on March 31, 1990, indexed but “excluding the food and energy components”.

It is inconceivable that the energy component would be excluded for a company or industry whose business involves energy, petroleum products and their transportation, given the millions and billions of dollars in profits they have made in recent years.

I hope the government will have the courage to force them to pay compensation that is indexed to include the energy component in the consumer price index.

Under the heading “Payments into the Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund”, sections 93 and following require shipowners to pay a levy of 40 cents per metric ton in excess of 300 metric tons for shipments of oil imported by ship into Canada as bulk cargo or shipped by ship from any place in Canada in bulk as cargo.

Obviously this amount of 40 cents can be considered important, but once again we are back with the same problem as with the maximum amount. It is the same amount the industry was paying back on March 31, 1990. The bill states that the amount will be indexed annually according to the consumer price index, but again excluding the food and energy components.

The Bloc Quebecois will be insisting in committee on an amendment to this part of the bill so as to include the energy component for shipowners who are precisely the ones drawing benefit from this industry, which has become highly profitable in recent years.

This would represent a simple gesture of good faith toward all those who might incur damages and would like to see added to the annually indexed 1990 figures the cost of the energy component, which in this country has been one of the major causes of the increased cost of living.

Those who are listening will surely agree with us that the energy component has been the one most responsible for the rise in the cost of living, in the higher costs for Quebec and Canadian families. Energy costs have in large part been responsible for the increase in household costs in the past year and one-half, if not longer.

Moreover, the Government of Canada has even acknowledged this with the cheques it recently issued. This got a poor reception from the people who actually have to pay energy costs, who have to buy fuel oil, but many of whom were not included in this Liberal government largesse. Once again, because of the elections, they made another promise without calculating the impact on the good citizens of Quebec and of Canada. We trust that the energy component will be included.

I take the opportunity to pass the following message on to the Liberal government. Correct this error as quickly as possible. It is serious for anyone heating with oil, anyone facing increases in heating costs and should have received a cheque, regardless of their income.

These people have had a significant increase, sometimes as much as 80%, in the cost they pay for heating in recent years. Once again the industry benefited and not the public of Quebec and Canada.

We will agree with part 6, apart from the fact that, according to the consumer price index, the energy factor should be added to this indexing and not excluded from it.

The seventh part of the bill validates certain regulations, including those of the Canada Ports Corporation Act of 1983 and 1985, in addition to the regulations made under the Pilotage Act, the Laurentian Pilotage Tariff Regulations, 1992. We fully support the bill, which validates the tariffs for the Laurentian Pilotage Authority.

The Bloc Quebecois would like to point out the work of the Canadian Marine Pilots' Association and the International Maritime Pilots' Association, including the work of the lower St. Lawrence pilots and the pilots of central Quebec, who have had to fight for over 30 years for their profession.

Shipowners and members of the industry are constantly harassing pilots in the St. Lawrence Seaway and in central Quebec, in an attempt to eliminate their work, on the grounds that it is an excessive cost for their industry.

When a ship plies the St. Lawrence River and its affluents, it is taken care of by a pilot who is a member of the pilots' association to which I just referred. This pilot has the experience, skill, wisdom and knowledge required to avoid marine disasters.

It is important that in the bill we accept and recognize the Laurentian Pilotage Tariff Regulations.

I take this opportunity to ask the Liberal government to stop listening to shipowners who, again, are trying to make profits at the expense of pilots from the maritimes, the St. Lawrence River and central Quebec. These pilots are competent and they take charge of ships precisely to avoid natural disasters and oil spills in the St. Lawrence River.

We must stop criticizing and instead consolidate the work of these pilots, who are not the only ones in the world doing that job. There are pilots' associations on the Mississippi and elsewhere in the world, including in countries with large rivers and affluents.

Once again, we must try to send a clear message to these pilots, whose role it is to protect our environment and particularly to be responsible for a ship, regardless of its destination, whether it is Canadian or foreign owned, that they must take responsibility for it and ensure its safe arrival at ports along the St. Lawrence and all its tributaries.

I think that this is the best security we can obtain as Quebecers and Canadians. We must ensure our constituents, the people we know, Quebecers and Canadians, those around us, that there are people who are working to try to stave off future environmental disasters, the human errors made by captains unfamiliar with the difficulties of the St. Lawrence and its tributaries.

We are therefore taking this opportunity to pass this message on to the government and also to congratulate and thank marine pilots of whatever allegiance—because there are several marine pilots' associations—but especially those working on the St. Lawrence and its tributaries, the St. Lawrence and central Quebec pilots' associations, and all those doing a good job of trying to protect the environment of Quebec and of Canada.

The Bloc Quebecois is in agreement with part 8 of the bill concerning transitional provisions.

It has been my pleasure to present my position on a bill which, I repeat, should be passed as quickly as possible.

As I said at the beginning, it is sad that the Canadian parliamentary system, such as it is, delayed the passage of this bill before the last election. This is a bill originating in the Senate, with the result that there are very tight deadlines. The result was that a good bill, supported by all parties in the House, was significantly held up.

Saint-Placide Festi-Vent Sur Glace February 22nd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, at Saint-Placide, on the shores of Lac des Deux-Montagnes, last Sunday marked the end of the third annual “festi-vent sur glace”, a celebration of kites on ice. This is the biggest kite-related event of its kind in Canada, and the second-largest winter event of its kind in the world.

This year, the theme of the festival was; “Let the child in you take wing and soar”. Once again it was a great success with an attendance of some 15,000 people.

I extend my congratulations to the municipal council of Saint-Placide, its mayor, the army of volunteers, all of its citizens, as well as the multitude of participants. Together, they made this third edition the great success it was.

The people of Saint-Placide, working together on a voluntary basis, have again shown the strength and spirit of leadership that characterize the Quebec people.

My wishes for a long life to the Saint-Placide festi-vent sur glace.

Employment Insurance Act February 13th, 2001

Madam Speaker, we are all here in this House to represent the people in our respective ridings. I am sure my problems in this House are far from over.

Throughout the entire election campaign triggered by the Prime Minister, I have heard colleagues admit openly that a mistake had been made with the Employment Insurance Act. The reform of 1996 was a mistake for all the workers of Canada, the workers of Quebec in particular. This reform has only given the government the opportunity to make profit at the expense of the workers.

A while ago, I heard a member across the way telling us this was a social program. Employment insurance is not a social program, it is insurance, one paid into every week by workers from their paycheques, in order to be covered if they run into difficulty.

During the campaign, we saw this government exhibit a flagrant lack of humanity. With the holidays close at hand, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois wrote to the leaders of all the other parties asking that the House sit December 19 in order to try to settle the employment insurance problem.

That lack of humanity became evident when the only leader to refuse to come to the House to discuss the employment insurance problem was the leader of the Liberal Party. Since we would have come to this House to settle one single question, we would have had time to debate and resolve this issue of employment insurance that is so important to all Quebecers and Canadians.

The government, through the leader of the Liberal Party, refused to take part in this important debate sought by the leader of the Bloc Quebecois.

The position of the Bloc Quebecois on employment insurance has remained unchanged. The debate must be held in two parts, so that the pressing discussions on the applicability of the program may be held and a decision on the use of the $32 billion surplus amassed by the Government of Canada on the backs of workers may then be reached.

What will the government do with this surplus, which is growing by $6 billion a year? Bill C-2 promises a return to workers of no more than 8% of the surplus accumulated annually.

So there is a big problem. The government has again refused to listen to the Bloc Quebecois and to split this debate and this bill so we may debate a separate bill dealing only with the $32 billion surplus and have another bill that would deal only with pressing matters.

My riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel faces significant employment problems. Over the summer, the rate of unemployment was around 8% to 8.5%. With the arrival of winter, the rate goes up. At the moment, the rate of unemployment is around 14%.

Employment is primarily in forestry, agriculture and tourism. Obviously, with the announcement of large investments in Mirabel for the foreign trade zone, major industry is making an appearance in our riding. This, by the way, is the work of the government of Quebec, through its finance minister.

No federal money was invested in the foreign trade zone. These are all tax credits and investment credits from the Government of Quebec. Once again the federal government has done nothing. But let us get back to the topic at hand, the EI bill.

Members have understood that the major amendments sought by the Bloc Quebecois are still relevant and deserve more attention than the limited speaking time we are getting today, because the government has decided to shut down debate. We are still left with the infamous waiting period. Bill C-2 still contains the two week waiting period.

People in the street call this a penalty. Workers are made to wait two weeks. This is a penalty. Everywhere we go, people tell us they have to wait out their two-week penalty. With a $32 billion surplus in the fund, is it not time to reconsider this waiting period, this penalty applied to workers when the fund in fact belongs to them?

Is there not some way for associations of workers in Quebec and in Canada to sit down around a table and say “Listen, now that there is a surplus in the fund, it is time to reconsider this waiting period, this penalty applied to workers”?

Yesterday there was a major fire in my riding that left some forty employees all but out in the street with only employment insurance to turn to. They will have to wait out the two-week penalty period because their place of work went up in flames yesterday.

It is unbelievable in a modern society, with surpluses of $32 billion in the employment insurance fund, that workers who are out of work because their plant burned down would be penalized and have to wait two weeks. It is high time we review this two week waiting period.

Why will the government not do so? For the simple reason that this two week waiting period will allow it to increase its surpluses in the employment insurance fund. We were protected until today. The $32 billion remained in the government's virtual surpluses. That money was not touched. Now, with Bill C-2, the government will appropriate the $32 billion from the employment insurance fund.

It will be able to use the money saved because of this two week waiting period imposed on Quebec and Canadian workers, who work hard to earn a living. The government will be able to take that money and invest it in businesses. Members should look at what has been going on in recent months with investments in the Prime Minister's riding. The workers' money will be used to reward friends of the Liberal Party.

This situation is unacceptable. It must stop. Workers in Quebec and Canada must finally be allowed to take advantage of employment insurance surpluses that belong to them. These workers need a true program that reflects their needs in our modern society, as the Prime Minister says.

It is time Canadian and particularly Quebec workers have access to that money and have a program that reflects their needs, so that they can finally benefit, in difficult times, from a true insurance program that they have funded themselves. No one in the House should ever again say that this is a social program. It is not a social program. It is insurance that belongs to the workers in Quebec and Canada.

Air Transport February 8th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, Air Canada is not only preparing to renege on its commitments with respect to the use of French on its flights in Canada, but, with its government approved monopoly in Canada, is severely cutting back its regional service.

How can the Minister of Transport tolerate the behaviour of Air Canada, which is literally destroying regional air service, as was the case in November, with the Baie-Comeau—Quebec City link? Is the minister going to continue to sit and do nothing for much longer?

Speech From The Throne February 6th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

As he knows, the forest industry has demanded that free trade apply unconditionally to everything it has developed during the last few years. It is important to understand the problems facing the forestry workers and the owners of the logging companies throughout Quebec. Forestry is a huge asset for Quebec, and going back to the free trade agreement would obviously help this industry to prosper.

In answer to my colleague's second question, major improvements are expected to be made to the employment insurance system, because it is the jobs in the forest industry, not the workers, that are seasonal.

We can expect the grace periods to be abolished, the workers to be able to hang on to the $32 billion in the EI fund and the national program to be based on the needs of the workers in every industry, including the forest industry.

Speech From The Throne February 6th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, first I want to say that I was very honoured to be elected on November 27 by the people of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel to represent them in the House.

I would like to thank my constituents, my wife Francine, my daughter Joëlle, my son Mario junior, all my political organizers as well as my predecessor in the House, Maurice Dumas, who has retired after seven productive years here.

I entered into the election campaign when Mr Dumas' departure was announced, on the day the election was called. For me it was of course quite a jump. At this time last year, I was president of the Union des municipalités du Québec. It was a big challenge for me, particularly when I heard that I was running in a constituency targeted by the Liberal machine in Quebec.

I am even more thankful to the people of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel when I remember that, during the campaign, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Minister of Public Works and even the Minister of Finance came to help my opponent in his attempt to defeat me. The people of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel were not fooled.

My riding spans more than 6,000 square kilometres between the greater Montreal and the metropolitan Outaouais. The federal system had a harsh impact on this area over the last 30 years.

The riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel is located between two major populated areas, but there still is no highway linking these two important areas within the same province. It is the only place in Canada where such a situation exists.

Moreover, the riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel includes an international airport, Mirabel airport, where no development plan has yet been prepared.

We are also hit hard by an annual unemployment rate that hovers around 10% annually, at 8% in the summer and about 14% in the winter. Members will understand that this riding's economy relies on forestry, agriculture, tourism and, of course, these past years on industry.

Of course, members will also understand that in tourism, agriculture and forestry employment is seasonal, not workers. Consequently, this 10% rate of unemployment is compounded by a 10% rate of people who are able to work yet are receiving income security benefits from the Quebec government.

Thus, as we speak, 20% of the workers in the riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel are not working. This is a situation that has no justification whatsoever, and we have been waiting and still are waiting for changes to the Employment Insurance Act.

Obviously, the strategies outlined by the federal government in the last Speech from the Throne had nothing to impress the citizens of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

The only thing proposed regarding employment insurance is that workers be given back 8% of annual surpluses taken from the federal government's budgets. The government wants to dip into the pockets of the workers in Quebec and Canada to the tune of $32 billion.

During the last election, at the peak of the campaign, the Prime Minister of Canada openly recognized that he had made a mistake with the Employment Insurance Act. The leader of the Bloc Quebecois wrote a letter to the leaders of all the political parties in the House asking that the House be recalled on compassionate grounds before the holiday season to give some hope to the workers of Canada and Quebec who had been penalized by the Employment Insurance Act.

The leader of the Liberal Party was the only one to refuse to have the House recalled on humanitarian grounds before the holiday season, which is absolutely inconceivable and unworthy of a political party.

In the last Speech from the Throne, intrusion into areas such as health and education is still to be found everywhere. The Liberal Party has no intention of putting an end to the war against the provinces, which has been going on for too long. This government has decided once more to intrude into provincial jurisdiction, namely health, education and the legislation on young offenders. My colleague mentioned this earlier; the federal government is still waging war against the provinces. This is obviously a bad thing for economic activity in the country.

Naturally, the whole story of the November 2000 election campaign has been the most shameful in modern Canada, to paraphrase the Prime Minister's words. It was the most shameful, because it was the election of one man, as in Un Homme et son péché . It was a case of power-hungry people who tried to catch the other political parties off guard. This is the only reason we had an election in November 2000. There was no other justification for it.

The last election, which had the lowest participation rate in the history of modern Canada, was the most shameful election of modern times in our country.

On behalf of the citizens of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, I predict that if the next five years, which have been launched by this Speech from the Throne, are similar to the last 30 years, Quebec will no longer be represented in this House when the next election rolls around.

Transportation January 31st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the residents of the Montérégie region want a clear answer.

In the mailer from the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, the Prime Minister said that the options offered would be crystal clear.

We want a clear answer. Will the Liberal government make good on its promise, or will it break it as it did with the GST?

Transportation January 31st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, during the last election campaign, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and organizer for the Liberal Party made the following pledge to the citizens of the Montérégie region, on Montreal's south shore:

Our commitment is a firm one. We want to build both bridges and 14 kilometres of highway.

Only yesterday, the member for Beauharnois said:

We pledged to invest $357 million.

Last week, the Minister of Transport wrote to his Quebec counterpart that the Liberal promise was no longer valid.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Could he tell us whether or not his government will invest the $357 million that was promised?