House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was liberal.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Air Transportation June 20th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transport. The status of French at airports has not improved much since Quebec aviation workers waged their famous fight and managed 20 years ago to obtain the right to communicate in French in Quebec airspace. Let us take, for example, a Transport Canada order on air navigation which barely tolerates the use of French at Canadian airports.

Since the ability to speak in both official languages is at the heart of the Canadian duality, how can the minister justify banning the use of French in air traffic operations in Canada, except in Quebec, while closing Quebec City's terminal control unit, one of only two French-language air control centres in Canada?

Air Traffic Control Communications June 16th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, does the minister not agree that if the coverage of airspace over the North Shore and the Magdalen Islands were transferred to the Quebec control unit, traffic control would be sufficient to keep it operational and Transport Canada could then offer quality services in French to all regions of Quebec?

Air Traffic Control Communications June 16th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, 25 years after passage of the Official Languages Act and 20 years after the debate on the use of French in air traffic control communications, French-language air traffic control services are still not available everywhere over the Quebec territory.

Airspace over the North Shore and the Magdalen Islands is covered by the Moncton control unit which offers services in English only; it takes eight to fifteen minutes to obtain services in French.

My question is for the Minister of Transport. Can the minister tell us why some regions of Quebec still do not have access to effective and fast air traffic control services in French and does he not agree that those regions would be better served by a control centre or unit offering bilingual services?

Producers On Orléans Island June 16th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, on June 7, the shore regions of Beaupré and Orleans Island, near Quebec City, were battered by torrential rains and hail.

The municipalities of Saint-Laurent, Saint-Jean and Sainte-Famille on Orleans Island and Château-Richer on the north shore of the St. Lawrence were particularly hard hit by this downpour. The strawberry and potato crops are the most seriously affected.

Damage reports indicate that potato farmers suffered the heaviest losses. Surface runoffs completely destroyed all of the work which potato growers had done in recent years to control soil erosion.

This torrential rain swept away years of hard work. Potato growers are looking to the federal government and the Minister of Agriculture for support to which they are entitled to repair the heavy damage caused by this disaster-damage which I had occasion to view personally when I visited the area on the weekend.

Pearson International Airport Agreements Act June 15th, 1994

I apologize, Mr. Speaker. In the heat of the moment, I forgot the rules, most likely because of my lack of experience.

I was speaking about Mr. Ramsay Withers, a Liberal lobbyist with very close ties to the current Prime Minister, and a deputy minister of transport during the tender process for Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport.

Let me also mention a member of the other place, Mr. Léo Kolber, who also happens to be a member of the board of directors of Claridge, according to the Financial Post Directory of Directors. This same person hosted a $1,000-a-plate dinner at his Westmount home. On hand for the occasion were, among others, Charles Bronfman and the current Prime Minister, who was in the midst of the election campaign.

Finally, another player in the deal is Mr. Peter Coughlin, a senior official with Claridge Properties who has twice refused to testify before our committee. I suggested that we subpoena him, but my proposal was defeated by the Liberal majority on the committee. The same thing occurred when we wanted to subpoena former minister Otto Jelinek.

So, since the witnesses did not appear, and since we had unsuccessfully asked the committee chairman to insist that the witnesses appear, I asked the transport committee to employ the means provided by our ancestors to find out the truth, namely to subpoena the witnesses and thus force them to appear. The motion was again defeated in committee.

Even if we would have had to take the matter again before the House, even if the Sergeant-at-Arms would have had to take the necessary steps to bring the witnesses before the committee, even if it had cost a million dollars-which I seriously doubt-, we should have made use of the tools at our disposal to shed light on some worrisome facts, as the Nixon report indicates.

Democracy has its costs. If we want to preserve democracy, we must be prepared to assume those costs. It is the only possible way to protect society from certain abuses by individuals who would do anything for their own personal gain.

To prevent certain people from appropriating public assets to which they are not entitled, it must be made clear to those people that the government will use whatever means are available to it to "air out the dirty laundry", so to speak.

By failing to act like a responsible government and to assume its responsibilities, the government is encouraging certain groups to bypass normal channels and to try to turn quick profits without worrying about tomorrow.

Why is the present government in such a hurry to pass this bill? Is it worried about having to pay a few dollars in interest on unpaid invoices? But perhaps there will not be any compensation. How could there be any interest if there is no compensation? Or is the government rather afraid of losing contributions to its election fund?

The government cannot, for partisan political reasons, suppress such a scandal that might impact upon previous and future generations of politicians. We must clear up this matter. We must show that we act openly. We must restore the trust of Canadians. The money owed to the government must be recovered, and we must stop making handouts in this matter.

For the sake of social justice, we must let the public know the truth.

Pearson International Airport Agreements Act June 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today somewhat disappointed, but not beaten. On Tuesday, June 14, this House adopted the report of the Transport Committee, despite the amendments proposed, warnings given and negative vote entered by the Official Opposition and the third party. Yet the amendments we presented would, we hoped, have enlightened our colleagues on the compensation which the government intends to give to the former directors of Pearson Airport, namely the Pearson Development Corporation.

I was very disappointed to see and hear the Chairman of the Transport Committee tell this House yesterday that he did not intend to spend a million dollars to call witnesses who, in one way or another, would repeat what we already know. He also mentioned that even if witnesses were called, the result would be minimal because the process is too cumbersome and it simply would not be worthwhile. He informed us that the last time witnesses were subpoenaed was in 1913, when the matter had to be taken to the House and the Sergeant-at-Arms was sent to get the witness. The outcome was that the person wound up in jail. This is not what we are requesting. What we are asking for is the application of quite recent precedents, one of which was set on Tuesday, August 20, 1991, before the finance committee, where the following motion was introduced. I will read it in the language of Shakespeare so that everyone can understand:

On a motion by René Soetens, it was ordered, that-Diane Woodruff, from Price Waterhouse, Frank Kolhatkar and James Goodfellow, from Deloitte & Touche, be summoned and required to appear before the Committee.

Another precedent was set on Monday, October 21, 1991, when the hon. member for Windsor, the current Government House Leader, who was in opposition at the time moved:

That Anwar Khan be summoned to appear before the Committee.

After debate, the question being put on the motion it was by a show of hands, agreed to: YEAS: 3; NAYS: 2.

The motion was agreed to. More recently, on Tuesday, December 8, 1992, the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs agreed to summon the Minister of National Defence to appear before the committee on February 2 to discuss the Auditor General's 1992 annual report.

I wanted to set the record straight and I can tell you that both the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport and the chairman of the transport committee were aware of these facts yesterday because I had made the same presentation in committee. The chairman of the transport committee and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport refuse to spend $1 million to make the truth known to Canadians.

At the same time, their party is considering paying as much as $250 million perhaps to friends of the two older parties -the Liberal and the Conservative Party- although we do not even know yet if we should pay a single penny in compensation or if Pearson Development Corporation should not be reimbursing the government instead.

Also, my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport in this Liberal government, has no qualms paying the bills Pearson Development Corporation may submit, because, as he indicated: "The Auditor General has a job to do and he will report any irregularity in the bills paid by the government." Let us not forget that, as is always the case with reports from the Auditor General, observations are made after the fact.

That is why we in the Official Opposition, wanting to prevent such occurrences and ensure that the taxes of Canadians and Quebecers are used wisely, have reacted. We proposed that a commission of enquiry be established to uncover the truth. That is not serious.

I trust the Auditor General and his recommendations but I am not confident that the current government will take them into account and recover the amounts actually spent, even if it was recommended by the Auditor General. If this government is really serious, it should read the Auditor General's latest report and make the requested corrections immediately. We may then believe that it is possible to act first and then to make the recommended corrections.

Yet some members of the transport committee such as my colleague from the Reform Party asked only for incremental measures, a certain openness and a transparency that the Canadian people want to see right away. Liberal members do not seem interested in seeing again Tory ghosts like Otto Jelinek, as my colleague, the hon. member for Hamilton West, stated in response to my speech on June 13.

I am not interested either in seeing these ghosts again. In any case, we only have to look at how often the current leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and hon. member for Sherbrooke sits in this House to be convinced that if we saw him, we would have the impression of seeing a ghost. That is true, but I would like to compel them to come before the transport committee to shed light on the previous government's actions in awarding the Pearson Airport privatization contract.

We are now at third reading and I am trying one last time to inform my colleagues properly on the history of the Pearson Airport privatization. Together let us look at some important dates.

On April 8, 1987, the government published its policy on airport management in Canada and recommended that airports be operated by local authorities. On June 22, 1987, the Government of Canada designated Airport Development Corporation, Claridge, to build and operate terminal 3 at Pearson.

In September 1989, Paxport presented a proposal to privatize terminals 1 and 2 which was rejected by the government. On October 17, 1990, the government invited the private sector to help modernize terminals 1 and 2. No details were provided at that time.

On February 21, 1991, terminal 3 began operations under Claridge Holdings Incorporated. On March 11, 1992, the government officially called for proposals to privatize terminals 1 and 2 at Pearson. A single sentence, no prequalification.

Early June 1992, bidding closed. Two bids were received: one from Paxport, the other from Claridge.

On December 7, 1992, Paxport's proposal was selected; it had until February 15 to show that its proposal was financially viable. This condition was not met.

On February 1, 1993, Paxport and Claridge merged in the T1T2 Limited Partnership. From February to May 1993, the financial viability of the project and Air Canada's lease were discussed.

In May 1993, official negotiations began and Claridge took control of the T1T2 Limited Partnership. On June 18, 1993, a memorandum of agreement was signed on the privatization of terminals 1 and 2. On August 30, 1993, the Minister of Transport announced a general agreement between the two parties and promised a final agreement would be signed in the fall.

On September 8, 1993, the Government of Canada called an election. On October 7, 1993, the legal agreement on privatizing terminals 1 and 2 was signed. On October 25, 1993, the federal election was held. On November 29, 1993, the Nixon report was published, and on December 3, 1993, the Prime Minister announced the cancellation of the agreement to privatize the airport.

Before the final signature, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and present Prime Minister warned the parties that he would not hesitate to cancel this agreement. Following that statement, the chief negotiator asked for written instructions to proceed to the signing of the contract. The then-Prime Minister requested specifically that the transaction be completed that same day. Mr. Nixon found in his report that the lobbyists' role in this matter went beyond the usual normal bounds. In fact, lobbyists were directly responsible for the reassignment of several senior public servants and the request from some others to be replaced.

The 90-day call for tenders was surprisingly short, and it was impossible for groups other than those already involved in the administration of the airport, such as Claridge and Paxport, to submit a valid bid. This explains why only two bids were received. Paxport had previously submitted a privatization plan in 1989, and Claridge was already operating terminal 3.

It is surprising that no prior financial analysis was required in this proposal. It is not usual democratic practice to sign a transaction of this magnitude during an election campaign, thereby binding the soon-to-be-elected government to a policy established by the previous government.

From a financial standpoint, as previously mentioned, Pearson is the only profitable airport in Canada. The agreement prohibits Transport Canada from making investments that might have a detrimental effect on Pearson's traffic in any airport within a 75-kilometre radius of the Pearson Airport; this clause gives preference to Pearson over other airports in the region.

My purpose in reviewing the events of 1987 to 1993 in this matter, first of all, is to make sure that my colleagues in the House are aware of the importance of the decision we will be called upon to make-a decision that will make people aware of the kind of democracy in which they live.

Parliament has all the instruments it needs to find out the truth and decide accordingly. But we must be prepared to forget partisan considerations and to probe some apparently disturbing facts. We have four instruments: the House of Commons, the committees, royal commissions of inquiry and finally, the justice system.

In this particular case, the Prime Minister quickly cancelled the privatization contract because he thought there might be misappropriation of funds. However, since he made that decision, what did we find out? Not much, but it was not because the opposition lacked the political will. Here in the House we asked for a royal commission of inquiry. Our request was turned down. In committee, we invited witnesses. What happened? They did not appear.

Mr. Speaker, with your leave, I will go through the list of 17 witnesses I tabled in the transport committee. We invited Ray Hession, who agreed to appear. We invited Robert Nixon, but our Liberal colleagues said that his detailed report was clear enough. Ramsay Withers refused. Herb Metcalfe refused. Fred Doucet refused. William Rowat refused. Huguette Labelle refused. Former minister Jean Corbeil refused. In the case of Robert Wright, our Liberal colleagues made the point that since Mr. Wright was responsible for negotiations between the parties, it was perhaps irrelevant to invite him to appear before the

committee. We agreed. Jodi White, the former prime minister's chief of staff. Doug Young, the Minister, who agreed. Robert Bandeen refused. Peter Coughlin refused. Don Matthews agreed. Former minister Otto Jelinek refused. Representatives for Air Canada agreed to appear, and finally, Liberal Senator Leo Kolber refused.

That was the list of 17 witnesses I invited to appear before the committee.

When we look at the connections of these people, I understand why my Liberal colleagues refused to let people testify before the committee, when we are talking about certain representatives or lobbyists who are close to the Conservatives. I disagree in the case of people with very close connections with the Liberal Party. For instance, Otto Jelinek, a former Conservative minister who is now president of the Asian branch of the Matthews group, and Ray Hession, a former Deputy Minister of Industry and senior executive at Supply and Services under the Trudeau governments.

We could add Herb Metcalfe, a lobbyist with the Capital Hill group, a former representative for Claridge Properties and a former organizer for Jean Chrétien. We could mention Ramsay Withers, a Liberal lobbyist with very close connections to Jean Chrétien and a former Deputy of Transport.

Petitions June 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling a petition signed by thousands of Canadians asking the government to continue to subsidize VIA Rail.

These Canadians, who are members of the association called Rural Dignity of Canada, demand that the federal government hold public hearings and consultations before making any decision on cuts and abandonment of lines proposed by VIA Rail.

Quebec and Canadian citizens also demand that a one-year moratorium be immediately imposed on the closure of any railway line.

Petitions June 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, since this is my first experience at tabling a petition, I simply want to mention that this petition is not against bilingualism and the Official Languages Act, as is regularly the case with petitions tabled by Reform Party members, and nor is it a petition such as the one tabled by the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, which aimed at-

Flags Of Convenience June 14th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, could you remind the Minister of Transport that the hon. Leader of the Opposition left the Conservative Party in May 1990, while I will inform the minister that the Bluenose was bought in 1982 and the Marine Evangeline in 1978, under Liberal governments.

Since that dubious practice dates from the Liberal governments of the time, will the minister pledge to this House that such practices will no longer be used?

Flags Of Convenience June 14th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, last week, we asked the Minister of Transport to tell us if some federal government ships were flying a Bahamian flag of convenience. On June 11, the director of public affairs with Marine Atlantic, Mr. Ted Bartlett, confirmed that three of his ships were registered abroad and were flying a foreign flag.

My question is for the Minister of Transport. Since we now have confirmation that three ships from Marine Atlantic, which is wholly-owned by the federal government, are flying a foreign flag, will the minister explain why this is the case?