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

Foreign Affairs February 18th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, members of the Ben Ali family are expert money launderers and the Conservative government knows it. Every day of respite we give them is another opportunity for them to transfer their money to tax havens.

Does the government realize that its failure to act makes it an accomplice to those who stole from the people of Tunisia?

Foreign Affairs February 18th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative House leader knows very well that that is not true.

This government, which claims to be tough on criminals, still has not frozen the Ben Ali family's assets. Everyone knows that the former dictator pillaged and extorted money from the people of Tunisia for years. Now Tunisians are demanding justice and have asked Canada to freeze that crook's assets.

Does the Minister of Foreign Affairs realize that, by refusing to freeze Ben Ali's assets, he is sending a message to the dictators of the world that Canada is a safe haven for anyone who wants to escape justice?

Older Workers February 11th, 2011

Madam Speaker, in preparation, I have drawn upon the excellent work done by the member for Saint-Lambert, our critic for older workers.

I would like to tell the Conservative member who just spoke that the Bloc Québécois will support motion M-515. However, we maintain that an assistance program for older workers would be one of the best tools for helping workers aged 55 and older who have lost their jobs. Such a program would help them to find other employment and would provide them with income that could cover the difference between the wages they were earning and the wages of their new job, as was the case when such a program existed.

The Conservatives think that when people lose their jobs, they simply need to retrain and find new ones. With this retraining program, all of our forestry workers will end up being computer experts. That is how the Conservatives work, but the trees continue to grow. Forestry operations must continue. We should be ensuring, instead, that we hold onto these workers who have lost their jobs so that they can be put to work again when the economy is doing better. That is why the program for older worker adjustment, which was abolished, was so important. It was abolished for two reasons. At the time, the economy was doing better and the Liberals had a lot of trouble with their own spending and never saw fit to get it back on track. The Conservatives are heading in the same direction, which is sad.

Motion M-515, regarding older workers, states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should continue to recognize the vital role of older workers in the Canadian economy and ensure its labour market programs and policies encourage older workers to contribute their skills and experience in the Canadian workforce.

We will support this motion, even though it seems incomplete. We agree that older workers actively contribute to the economy. In moving this motion, my colleague is surely making reference to the targeted initiative for older workers, or TIOW. This program was designed to improve the employability of participants from 55 to 64 years of age, and assist them through activities such as prior learning assessment, skills upgrading and experience in new fields of work. But this measure is in no way an income support measure for older workers who are unable to find a new job. As I said in the beginning, this is far from being the program for older worker adjustment we once knew.

In fact, this Conservative government continues to ignore the needs of older workers who are the victims of mass layoffs or plant closures. The Bloc Québécois has been fighting in the House for years to give these older workers an income support measure to help them through the transition until they receive their pension benefits.

In fact, the Bloc has been defending this position since 1997. We must remember that in 1997, the Liberal government at the time eliminated POWA, the older worker adjustment program. In the same way it misappropriated employment insurance funds to pay down the deficit on the backs of the unemployed, that same Liberal government eliminated POWA to pay down the deficit on the backs of older workers.

Since that time, the Bloc Québécois has not relented in calling for a support program for older workers who cannot be retrained.

In 2005 we even convinced the House to unanimously adopt a motion asking the government to implement a strategy to help older workers who were losing their jobs due to factory closures in the wake of globalization. This strategy was to include income support measures. Let us remember that the Conservatives, who were in opposition at that time, supported this motion. As for the Liberals, they did not reinstate the program they had eliminated in 1997.

In April 2006, the House unanimously adopted the Bloc's subamendment to the Conservative government's Speech from the Throne. This subamendment once again called for a strategy to help older workers who were losing their jobs. Again, this strategy was to include income support measures. And, just like the Liberals, the Conservatives did nothing to help these workers. They continue to refuse to implement this type of program, saying that it does not help older workers return to the workforce. However, workforce reintegration measures and income support measures are not mutually exclusive.

We agree that these workers should have access to assistance programs in order to reposition themselves on the labour market. However, we also need to provide income support measures for those who cannot retrain. Age does present a certain challenge after losing one's job, because employers are more reluctant to hire older workers. Moreover, although people aged 55 and over are less affected by unemployment than younger people who are unemployed, it is usually for a much longer period than the average.

An income support measure like the one we are proposing would stop these workers who cannot retrain from having to dip into their hard-earned retirement savings. Such a measure would give them some income support after their employment insurance benefits end and before their retirement pension begins. It would serve as a bridge for them while they are waiting for another job or for their pension. It is simply a matter of social justice and that is precisely what the Conservatives do not understand. A perfect example is the member for Jonquière—Alma. In the December 2, 2007, issue of the weekly newspaper Le Réveil, in response to urgent calls to restore the POWA, the member suggested that workers should move to Alberta. He said:

—in Alberta, there is a labour shortage and they do not know what to do to find workers. In the meantime, we cannot pay people between the ages of 50 and 55 to stay home.

On October 28, 2009, the House adopted Motion M-285 moved by my colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, which read:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should as quickly as possible implement a genuine income support program for older workers who lost their job in order to ease their transition from active employment to pension benefits.

Again, the Conservatives have not lifted a finger. They prefer to ignore the requests of workers and unions. As the Minister of Natural Resources and member for Mégantic—L'Érable put so well recently:

I am the spokesperson for, the voice of th2is true of all my colleagues. That is the big, big difference.

Indeed it is different, and that is precisely the problem. As it is for my colleagues in the Bloc, it is an honour for me to represent the concerns of my voters, of Quebeckers. We are the voice of our constituents in Ottawa, not the other way around, like the Conservatives.

That is why, election after election, Quebeckers elect a majority of Bloc Québécois members. They want their voice to be heard in Ottawa, they want their concerns conveyed to Ottawa. It is also for that reason that the Bloc Québécois continues to defend older workers in Ottawa.

The crisis in the manufacturing sector and the economic crisis have led to the closure of businesses, which in turn has hit older workers hard. Providing them with access to training is one thing; however, those who are unable to find a new job are left to fend for themselves. If they are still unemployed after exhausting their employment insurance benefits, they are forced to turn to social assistance. To access social assistance they must deplete their assets. The Conservatives remain insensitive to these situations and prefer to deliver Ottawa's message: income support does not provide an incentive to work. But establishing an income support program is a matter of social justice, dignity and respect for these workers who helped build the Quebec we know today.

We will support motion M-515 but we are still calling for an assistance program for older workers. These people have made major contributions to our economy. I am thinking particularly of the forestry sector, which accounted for 45% of Quebec's economy. Now, it amounts to approximately 22% of the Canadian economy. These people have lost their employment for economic reasons. We cannot simply tell them that they need to retrain. At age 55 or over, it is not easy for people to find a job and to retrain because of their age and because of employers' restrictions. An assistance program for older workers would enable these people to receive a decent income after their employment insurance benefits end and until they retire.

That is why the Bloc Québécois will fight every day for older workers. We will support motion M-515 but the Conservative government must understand that, if it had $10 billion to help the automotive industry, it should be able to help older workers. It has the resources. The Bloc Québécois will continue to work toward this goal.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act February 11th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking about Bill C-59, and I do so with the hope of enlightening my Liberal and NDP colleagues.

In 2007, the Bloc Québécois, through its excellent justice critic, the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and former Quebec attorney general, introduced a bill to abolish parole after one-sixth of a sentence. The Bloc Québécois always acts with a great deal of caution when it comes to amending the Criminal Code. We are very aware of that. However, crime is constantly evolving. There are crimes today that were practically unthinkable a decade ago. Now there are white collar criminals, whereas it used to be mostly people selling poor-quality products. Sometimes certain criminals were able to extort small amounts of money.

Over the past decade or so, globalization has resulted in an explosion of financial products on the market. Crooks, criminals, figured that there was money to be made by fooling honest people out of their hard-earned money. These criminals promise incredible interest rates and astronomical returns.

I had the opportunity to speak with a victim of white collar crime. It is not always easy to recognize this kind of criminal. Often, these criminals will do their work when it has been announced that a mutual fund or investment fund has had incredible returns.

People who have seen this kind of news on television are offered a product with similar returns by an acquaintance or a friend of a friend. The would-be victims do not say yes right away. People protect their savings; they are tight-fisted and take their time. White collar criminals take a step back and wait for more media reports about returns.

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec does not make a lot of noise when it suffers a loss, but when the returns are amazing, it does not hesitate to hold press conferences. And I am not even talking about corporate and bank profits.

People pay attention to the news. These days, information travels at light speed. Something that happens on the other side of the world will be reported on our little devices. I will not name them, because I do not want to advertise them. Our little hand-held computers allow us to access information very quickly. People of all ages, people who are not necessarily financial experts, but who have worked hard for their money, can have their life savings stolen from them by crooks.

The criminals are then caught and put on trial, and this gets lots of media attention because it affects a lot of people. They do not swindle just one individual.

When people are exploited and realize that they were not the only ones, this means that whoever swindled them knew what he was doing. In order to cheat dozens if not hundreds of victims, criminals need to have a good sales pitch, and they often use the media to make their pitch.

When these criminals are sentenced, the sentence can be considered important. The problem is that since the entire parole system is based on reintegration and how violent the crimes were, our judicial system is not set up for criminals who are not physically violent. These criminals are mentally violent, but not physically. In order to steal the life savings of honest people who worked their whole lives, one would have to be very psychologically violent. This is not physical violence; it is another kind of violence.

Obviously, the entire parole system has not been able to adjust to this because the principle of social reintegration still prevails. The criminal goes to prison, behaves very well, and in any case, the system has ruined him and that is just great. Often, the criminal has declared bankruptcy. He no longer has any assets. He has nothing left. We try to find out whether he hid anything in a tax haven. When we see the agreements the Conservative government is signing with Panama, a country on the OECD's blacklist or grey list of tax havens—it does not reveal the names of people who invest there, and there is no tax agreement with Panama—these questions remain. People always want to know whether the criminal has managed to hide money away. Most of the time, when the individual leaves prison, he is ruined. He no longer has any money and he leaves with his tail between his legs to try to reintegrate into society. And he gets parole after serving one-sixth of his sentence. It is very difficult to find out that someone like Vincent Lacroix can get out after serving one-sixth of his sentence, after he has ruined lives and admitted during his trial that he spent exorbitant amounts of money at strip clubs and the like. The judicial system will adapt.

I hear the Liberals and the New Democrats getting all worked up and saying that some criminals who would have been entitled to parole will not be, but a criminal is a criminal. He receives a sentence and he has to serve that sentence. There will still be parole, but not after one-sixth of the sentence has been served. Judges will adjust the sentences accordingly.

That is why the Bloc Québécois is very reticent about minimum sentences. We want to leave sentencing up to the judiciary, to judges. A judge is a neutral and competent person who often is called on to hear a number of similar cases and is able to hand down a sentence that fits the crime. Now the judge will know that the criminal can no longer be released after serving only one-sixth of his sentence. We will see how the courts adapt.

One thing is for certain: this must stop. Parole after serving one-sixth of a sentence is no longer acceptable given the new crimes that have been committed in our society over the past 10 years. Clearly, the biggest losers will be the criminals. Are we going to cry over what happens to criminals? I have heard the Liberals and the New Democrats crying, but I will not. These criminals were sentenced and they must serve their time. That is life and, as I was saying, the judges will adjust sentences accordingly.

Once again, the Bloc Québécois is prepared to support any measures that are reasonable and acceptable to our society, and Bill C-59 falls into that category.

The types of crimes that have evolved over the past 10 years have led us to where we are today. We can no longer allow criminals who are said to be non-violent but who are extremely psychologically abusive to be released simply because they behaved well in prison. The problem is that their behaviour before they went to prison was intolerable. They must serve their sentences.

The Bloc Québécois has given the Liberals and the New Democrats the opportunity to adjust to the crimes of the 2000s since it is now 2010. Not surprisingly, they prefer to live in the past and they will have to live with that. We will support Bill C-59—

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act February 11th, 2011

Madam Speaker, the Conservative member provided a good explanation. For once, we actually agree with the government; it is important to truly focus on the issue of serving one-sixth of a sentence. The Liberal member would like us to discuss many other topics when, in fact, we already have before us a fine bill.

White collar criminals are always eligible for parole because they have not committed violent crimes. However, they have been very psychologically abusive to the people against whom they committed fraud. I would ask the hon. member to explain to the Liberals and the Conservatives the benefit of supporting this bill.

Conservative Party of Canada February 11th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the piece on Enquête identified a number of MPs, including the member for Winnipeg South and the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, who are members of the religious group MY Canada.

Does the government not find it disturbing that so many fundamentalists gravitate to the Conservative Party to stack the government and impose their religious values?

Conservative Party of Canada February 11th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, yesterday on the show Enquête some disturbing issues were raised. We learned that Faytene Kryskow, the representative of MY Canada, a powerful evangelical group that lobbies members of the Conservative government, has received privileged access to Parliament thanks to an exclusive security card, a sort of VIP pass.

Can the government explain how many of these cards exist, what criteria need to be met before such a card is issued and how Ms. Kryskow managed to get one?

Business of Supply February 10th, 2011

My colleague is quite right. The member for Lévis—Bellechasse, like any good Conservative, has the annoying tendency of always trying to score political points. In this case, he is celebrating the 40th anniversary. He is calling it a reconciliation and using it as opportunity to score political points. The Conservatives are making a huge mistake by always trying to score political points. We are asking all parties in the House of Commons to join together to adopt this motion here today. We would like it to be unanimous and hope that we will not even have to vote on it. If all parties give their consent, this motion could be unanimously adopted and we would be very pleased.

So I ask the House: do I have the unanimous consent of the House to adopt this motion here today?

Business of Supply February 10th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Gatineau for his question.

Throughout its remarks today, the government talked about the good things it has done. At the request of the families, it has offered passes for three generations. The families had actually asked for passes for five generations, but they were granted passes for only three. The Conservative Party's problem is that it never finishes anything it starts. The same is true of the Mirabel airport situation. It is good that the government has begun and is continuing to give back the land. The government must give back what it unfairly expropriated. I think that this goes without saying. However, above and beyond that, when the government realizes that it has made a mistake, it must apologize. As politicians, we must not be afraid to apologize. That is the problem with the Conservatives. They never make any mistakes and they refuse to acknowledge that other politicians, perhaps other Conservatives before them, may have made mistakes. For all those watching, once again, I believe that what is great about the action that will be taken today is the government's acknowledgement of the mistakes that were made in the past. Today, the Conservatives acknowledged in their remarks that serious mistakes were made in the past. They should therefore be polite enough to apologize to the people who were wronged.

Business of Supply February 10th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Gatineau.

Today, as the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, I am pleased to participate in this debate on the motion moved by the Bloc Québécois. I will reread it:

That this House issue an official apology to the people whose properties were expropriated to create Forillon Park for the unconscionable manner in which they were treated, and that the Speaker of the House send the representatives of the people whose properties were expropriated and of their descendants an official copy of the Journals of the House of Commons indicating the adoption of this motion.

One of our popular singers wrote a song about Sainte-Scholastique and Forillon Park. As you know, it is a metaphor. When he wrote the song, Paul Piché was describing two major events, two abusive, large-scale expropriations carried out by the federal government on Quebec soil.

Naturally, an expropriation is never easy; it is difficult for the families who have to go through it. I will try, in the ten minutes at my disposal, to tell you about the two expropriations—Forillon and Mirabel, which was known as Sainte-Scholastique at the time. Municipalities were amalgamated by force, by decree.

In the case of Sainte-Scholastique, the neighbouring municipalities of Saint-Hermas, Saint-Benoît, Saint-Augustin, Saint-Janvier, Saint-Canut and Sainte-Monique were affected.

In 1969, the federal government decided to build an airport. Many citizens who lived in these municipalities had to leave their homes when their villages were merged into a single legal entity, a city known today as Mirabel. I will talk later about all the stress and the major debates caused by expropriation that citizens have to endure.

Forillon Park covers an area of 244 km2 located entirely within the City of Gaspé, and which includes the Forillon peninsula, located between Gaspé Bay and Honguedo Strait. It was a decision made by the federal government in 1963. This led to the Governments of Quebec and Canada, in 1970, to issue decrees that resulted in the introduction of the Expropriation Act on July 22, 1970, to the consternation of the landowners and the 225 families living there. In addition to the families who lived within the boundary of the proposed park, there were also families who lived elsewhere, but who owned land and woodlots on which they continued the work of their ancestors. The government wanted to create a national park. In the case of Mirabel, they built an international airport, but that is another matter.

In 1973, the Government of Canada even decided, again by order in council, that inhabitants would no longer have to move when a new national park was created. That applied to Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador. It began in 1963, but the expropriation order came into force in 1969-70.

Starting in 1973, the Government of Canada decided that inhabitants would no longer have to move when a new national park was created. My Conservative colleague gave some good examples earlier. Today, all of the members in this House should be well aware of the Bloc Québécois motion. We should apologize for this expropriation, which led to an amendment of regulations so that it would never happen again.

We have been talking about this expropriation since 10 a.m. and I find it hard to understand why the Conservatives still do not know how they are going to vote on the Bloc motion.

The motion asks the House to offer an official apology. Why? Because, as responsible members, we should apologize to the 225 families and their descendants for blatantly abusive expropriation. The fact that regulations were amended proves that it was an abuse. Now when national parks are created, people do not have to move.

The Bloc's motion is in response to these people, who have been asking for an apology for many years. They made other requests, which the Conservative government made an effort to respond to, it is true; announcements were made. But the fact remains that a grave injustice was committed and the House should apologize. I believe that the Bloc motion makes sense today.

And that brings me back to the subject of Mirabel. The Forillon expropriation began in 1963; Mirabel began in 1970. In 1969, the Liberal Party of Canada announced that an international airport would be built in Mirabel. In Forillon, 244 km2 were affected; in Mirabel it was 97,000 acres. And the outcome was that Mirabel airport is the biggest white elephant ever constructed by the federal government on Canadian soil.

Only 6,000 acres were used for the actual airport. Six thousand acres surrounded by fences. It is true that the Conservative government agreed to give back 80,000 acres in 1985. They kept 11,000 because they were not sure of the future of Mirabel international airport at that time.

The decision was made by the Liberal government. All domestic and international flights were to be transferred to Mirabel in 1995. That same year, the decision was made to keep Dorval open. That is what the Liberals decided. In 2002, it was decided that international flights to Mirabel would go back to Dorval. In November 2004, all domestic flights and international passenger flights to Mirabel were closed. There was a motion. I will read the text because at the time, the government refused to provide an apology with respect to Mirabel.

The then federal Minister of Transport, Jean Lapierre, a Liberal minister—he is on television from time to time—, refused to apologize to those whose properties were expropriated in Mirabel. At the time, Prime Minister Paul Martin acknowledged that these people had suffered; there was an acknowledgement. Today, the Liberals tend to have a slightly different opinion about Forillon. Is the prospect of an election beating some sense into them? We will see. The fact remains that the issue of expropriations is a harsh reality.

As far as Mirabel is concerned, in 2005, we supported a motion put forward by the Conservative Party at the time. I was a member of Parliament and we were aware of the situation. We were talking about initiating the process to return the 11,000 acres of land that remained. Just before the 2006 election, the Prime Minister went to Mirabel to make a grandiose election promise. The Conservatives are celebrating five years in power and there are still 8,000 of the 11,000 acres left to transfer back. It is not over yet.

The Conservatives, who are in power today, are reluctant to apologize. In the case of Forillon, that is what the people are asking for, an apology, but the Conservatives are in government. In the case of Mirabel, it was the Prime Minister who made an election promise and went to Mirabel to say that all the land would be returned. There are roughly 8,000 acres left to return and 97 files that are still open, but there is a willingness to work on them.

The purpose of the motion put forward by the Bloc is to acknowledge this injustice. It is our primary role as politicians to do so. We are here to pass legislation, but when bad legislation has been passed by our predecessors, regardless of the political party, we have to be able to acknowledge it and know when to apologize for the decisions made by our predecessors. That is the beauty of the Bloc Québécois motion. We are calling on this House to issue an official apology to the people whose properties were expropriated to create Forillon Park. I hope that all the political parties understand that we owe it to the 225 families and to all those who use these lands, who have suffered a serious injustice and deserve our apology.