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

Alpine Skiing March 14th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all Quebecers, I would like to extend today my heartfelt congratulations to one of our own athletes who won the giant slalom yesterday at the world junior alpine skiing championships in Lake Placid. I am referring to, you have guessed it, young Mélanie Turgeon.

It was not Mélanie's first medal at the championships either. She had already reached the podium twice before; first winning a silver medal in Super G, and then bronze in downhill.

Yesterday's victory puts Mélanie in the overall lead at the championships. Another event is scheduled for today: slalom. I want to wish her, personally and on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, the best of luck. We are proud of you, Mélanie. Go for it!

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95 March 7th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday, February 22, the hon. Minister of Finance delivered his budget speech in this House. That day, announced a few weeks earlier, was awaited with interest by Quebecers and Canadians alike. The people of Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans, who elected me to represent them in the House of Commons, were also expecting a lot from this budget. They expected the government to start by living within its means and allow people to earn a decent living for themselves and their families, as every citizen is entitled to. They also expected the government to respect seniors who contributed to the development of Quebec and Canada, which, a few years ago, was among the most prosperous countries.

Like myself, the people of my riding are disappointed and cannot understand how, after democratically rejecting a government that did not meet their expectations, they are now governed

by Liberals who are proud to have the same policies as the previous government, the Tory government.

The real solutions to restore the confidence of Quebecers and Canadians lie in tackling the deficit, reducing departmental waste and duplication, reviewing tax measures, and creating permanent jobs.

This government put in place, before the budget, a municipal infrastructure program, which will create some 45,000 temporary jobs. Once the roads and sidewalks have been paved, the workers will go back home to live off whatever is left of the unemployment insurance program. However, this program will cost Quebecers and Canadians $2 billion in federal taxes, $2 billion in provincial taxes and $2 billion in municipal taxes.

Quebec and Canada need stable permanent jobs that generate progress and development. Has this government thought of developing the transportation industry in Canada? As transport critic for the Official Opposition, I listened carefully to the finance minister's speech. When I heard him present his forecasts to us, I said to myself that a government cannot build the future of a people on temporary projects. Maybe in a few minutes, he will announce a major project, something that will excite the people's enthusiasm, one that will serve several provinces or all of Canada, but the speech ended and I heard nothing, except the following paragraph that I quote from Hansard of February 22: ``The Minister of Transport will implement needed improvements to the surface freight transportation system with his provincial colleagues and stakeholders''.

When the Minister of Finance presented the government's policies for the next few years to this House, I expected him to give more importance to one of Canada's basic industries, namely transportation. Since this House opened, we have suggested possibilities to him.

Several projects could develop the economy, and I mention some that I would have liked to see in the budget speech: the future of the rail system, the high-speed train, the future of air transport and the future of the merchant marine in Canada.

The Minister of Finance had no concrete solution in his budget speech for improving transportation and thus solving the problems of economic development and unemployment.

If you allow me, Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell this House about the benefits of these projects for economic development.

First, there is the rail system. Canada's railways have brought the people together from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They developed the Canadian West. They also enabled Canada to become one of the world's largest wheat producers and to transport this product from coast to coast across the country. Yet today, at a time when other countries use railway transport as the basis for their development, the Canadian government is abandoning it everywhere in the country and particularly in Quebec.

The National Transportation Agency authorizes the dismantlement of numerous lines by CN and CP while, as I said earlier, these two carriers keep coming up with projects, especially in Quebec.

Without a drastic move to support railway transport, both for passengers and for freight, Quebec and Canada are going to be stuck with a spiralling increase of costs, not only because of the maintenance of the road network and the accidents which occur, but also because of the energy inefficiency and the pollution associated with automotive transport. The government, and the Minister of Transport in particular, must urgently develop a policy which will first take into account the public interest and which will be firmly turned towards the next century. Most industrialized countries, including the United States, are already doing so. I formally ask for a moratorium on any new abandonment of lines, as well as for the setting up of a parliamentary task force to conduct an in-depth review of the impact on the economy, tourism and especially the environment, of transport services as a whole in Quebec and in Canada.

Let us now talk about the high-speed train. I mentioned that our party had made suggestions to the government to develop the transport sector and improve the economy. Yet, the government and the Minister of Finance did not take our suggestions into account in the budget. What a surprise to hear the Minister of Transport tell a CBC reporter that setting up a high-speed train link between Quebec and Windsor was not a priority. Yet, on February 1, I described to this House all the benefits a high speed train along the Quebec City-Windsor corridor would have for Quebec and for Canada.

I have read and reread the report the Working Group submitted on May 31, 1991, to the Premier of Quebec, Mr. Robert Bourassa, and to the Premier of Ontario, Mr. Bob Rae. This report bears the signature and meets the approval of key figures known to be influential members of the Liberal party now in office.

I do not think that I have to convince anyone in this House that Canada does need short-term jobs to boost the economy, but it also needs long-term jobs to solve the economic problems it is facing. The Working Group mentioned in its comments that it had the distinct impression, like a great many representatives of the industry, the business community and the population in general, that a high-speed train providing hourly service between the cities of Quebec, Trois-Rivières and Montreal and the cities of Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, London and Windsor would

encourage interprovincial travel and reinforce business and travel activities.

The success of high-speed trains in other countries was proportionate to the will of the governments to change the attitude of consumers by regulating mass transit and providing direct financial support.

It is also important to note that improvements to the commuter-rail system and regional rail services could reduce the use of private cars, particularly where there are traffic jams on highways close to urban areas.

When we analyzed the proposal for construction of a fixed link between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, we agreed, while pointing out that certain precautions were necessary because of the strong involvement of the private sector. We approved of the proposal for a high-speed train for the same reason we approved of building a fixed link between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, because this project will help inject $5.3 billion in private investment into the Canadian economy, and this does not include indirect spin-offs.

There is another very important component of Canada's transportation industry, and I am referring to air transportation. Our two major carriers are now restructuring after reaching agreement on a number of contentious issues. We must now do everything we can to help them get ahead and become major players on the world market.

I believe we have two dynamic companies that are capable of opening up new markets and participating in Canada's economic development, and we must give them every opportunity to do so. For instance, would it not make sense to speed up and facilitate Air Canada's access to Hong Kong, a market that is bigger than all European markets combined? There are forecasts that in the next five years, there will be incredible growth in air transportation to and from Hong Kong, the most significant source of air traffic in Asia.

Finally, I would like to mention marine transportation. The budget speech refers to improving surface transportation but does not say how.

Mr. Speaker, you are signalling that my time has expired. In concluding, I want to say that together we can prepare the future of the generations of tomorrow and leave them a legacy that will be more useful than a deficit of over $5 billion.

We must work together in the interests of our fellow citizens and ensure that future generations will have a better life. For the first time in North America, statistics tell us that our children's standard of living will be lower than ours. We cannot accept that without doing anything to change it, and change it we must, not by attacking the weakest members of our society but by building on the legacy of past generations.

Snow Surfing World Cup February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, for the second year in a row, the Parc du Mont-Sainte-Anne in the magnificent riding of Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans will play host to the Snow Surfing World Cup from March 9 to March 13, 1994.

The 1993 world cup drew more than 10,000 spectators to the site and the event received extensive media coverage.

Millions of television viewers in Europe, Asia and America watched the competition and in the process, they became better acquainted with Quebec, and in particular with Côte-de-Beaupré and the Parc du Mont-Sainte-Anne.

The second Snow Surfing World Cup at the Parc du Mont-Ste-Anne should once again focus world-wide attention on Quebec as a region, highlighting its distinctive character and the extent of its sports and tourism facilities.

From March 9 to March 13, 1994 the whole world will be watching the Parc du Mont-Ste-Anne.

Mil Davie February 16th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, can the minister tell us today, now, although he answered the same question I put to him on January 26, when he intends to make a decision on this?

Mil Davie February 16th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transport.

On Saturday, February 12, the Quebec City daily Le Soleil reported that the mayors of the Magdalen Islands were putting on pressure for a new ferry. The same newspaper reported the next day that the Premier of Quebec was urging the federal government to give the work of building the new Magdalen Islands ferry to MIL Davie. This would kill two birds with one stone by reviving the MIL Davie shipyard and providing the Magdalen Islanders with the ferry they need.

Can the minister tell us today whether he is still considering buying a used European ferry as a serious alternative, even though it would create no employment here and its performance in the ice-bound St. Lawrence is questionable?

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the answer is no, the project must not be stopped, it must go forward. I think that our stand is clear on that. On the other hand, if the project has no impact on local lobster and scallop fishermen, why did the government feel the need to compensate them? This would mean that compensation is paid for nothing.

I am not saying that the concerns of the group were futile, just this: even if its action was dismissed by the courts, the group will have to keep a watchful eye on things to make sure that the project will be as environment friendly in reality as studies claimed it will be. That is the point I was making about the environment.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I was in full oratorical flight, since I am a passionate man, but you are right to call me to order.

Yes, we agree that tourism will develop on Prince Edward Island as a result. The question is, given that it is an island, is the tourism structure limited by geography? I agree with the hon. member that there will be development, no argument on that point, but I was talking about the temporary jobs building the bridge.

As for open-mindedness, I am sure that my colleague understood what I meant. When the time comes to discuss in this House or in committee the need for a high speed train between Quebec City and Windsor and to give the MIL Davie shipyard the contract to the Magdalen Island ferry, which will maintain 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Quebec City region-we are talking about maintaining jobs. It is important to create jobs, but it is also important to maintain them. The Official Opposition has shown that it is not narrow minded. It has shown openness and I am sure that hon. members opposite will show the same openness when the time comes to discuss the two issues that I mentioned, the high speed train and the ferry.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

You were? Great.

I said that I stand with my party; we are for the project, but I simply said that when it comes to megaprojects, we must be cautious and take some principles or prerequisites into account. I referred to the questioning and the whole process that had been followed before. I mentioned the environmental concerns of Friends of the Earth and others.

In conclusion, I am not against the project; I do not say that it is a bad deal. All I am saying is that we must be cautious about investing 1.47 billion in 1992 dollars in a difficult period like this. It is simply a message of caution that I was getting across. I am not against the project and neither is my party nor was my leader this morning.

About the temporary jobs, it is the same reasoning as for the present infrastructure program. Once the street is paved or the sidewalk is built, there is nothing more to do. The street will not be repaved for years.

What I said is that once the bridge is built, only 60 permanent jobs will be created to operate the bridge and the jobs of the 360 ferry workers will be lost. You mention tourism development on Prince Edward Island and I agree with you that it-

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell the member for St. Boniface that I noted the three points. In the first one, he says that apparently I find it is a bad deal. I do not know if you were here at the beginning of my speech.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the House of Commons is being called on today to approve or reject a government motion to amend the Constitution of Canada under section 43.

This section enables the House of Commons and a particular province to amend the Constitution on various points which, in my opinion, are very diversified and wide-ranging. It would have been interesting if the Canadian government and the provinces had found enabling procedures for Quebec when it wanted to endorse the 1982 Constitution Act through the Meech Lake Accord, in order to become an equal partner.

During this speech, if I may, I would like to go back to the Constitution, because that is what we are dealing with here, despite the fact that the Prime Minister does not want to talk about it any more. I would now like to raise some issues relating to Bill C-110, that passed third reading in September 1993.

Some Islanders have been worried about the fixed or mobile link with Canada's mainland for many years, ever since Prince Edward Island joined Confederation. Others prefer to keep the island as it is and to lead quiet lives in the country of their ancestors.

Our fellow citizens in Prince Edward Island wanted a link with the mainland so badly that they decided a few years ago to settle this issue in a plebiscite. This plebiscite, held in January 1988, showed that a majority favoured the establishment of a fixed link between the Island and the mainland.

No one in the government or the Official Opposition is against the will of the population. But let us not forget that this will is as valid for the people of Prince Edward Island as it is for those living on Vancouver Island, the Magdalen Islands and even Newfoundland, if bridge technology allowed it.

Unfortunately, there are prerequisites to the implementation and development of megaprojects. Allow me to point out five prerequisites I regard as essential. First, the projects must be carried out legally; second, we must have the necessary financial resources; third, the environment must be protected; fourth, this megaproject must benefit the population and help to create jobs; finally, we must ensure that all Canadian citizens can be treated the same way.

I would like to see if the conditions I just listed are met by this project.

As far as legality is concerned, as I was saying at the beginning of my speech, part of the population, in a plebiscite, authorized the Prince Edward Island provincial government to go ahead with the project. But the other side, brought together in the Friends of the Island Coalition, strongly objected to this project for different reasons. First, the dangers for the lobster and scallop fishery, migratory birds, the environment and the Islanders' tranquillity.

We must not dismiss this group which opposes this project. It applied to the Federal Court, which issued an order requiring the Minister of Public Works to conduct an environmental assessment pursuant to section 12 of the Order in Council in relation to the developer's detailed construction plan, before making any final decisions which may have irreversible environmental consequences.

On April 22, 1993, the specific environmental assessment prepared by Jacques Whitford Environment Consultants for Strait Crossing Inc., at Ottawa's request, was presented.

Although this study shows that this project is not harmful to the environment, as we agree, the Friends of the Island do not accept the decision and have appealed. The Court of Appeal upheld the lower court's decision, which apparently means that the project is now legal, but we must raise questions about its morality. The opponents will watch everything the developers do as they carry out the project.

Now let us talk about the financial resources. A few weeks ago, Canada's national debt passed the $500 billion mark, not counting provincial and municipal debt. I will be very brief in my financial evaluation. The federal government now pays Marine Atlantic around $21 million a year for the cost of the ferry service between Prince Edward Island and the mainland. The ferry service is adequate and fits in with the local environment very well.

Several years ago, the federal government announced that it was considering building a fixed link under one main condition: that the costs not exceed the price of the ferry service for the same period. Yet, the federal government is about to give to the private sector an annual subsidy of $42 million, in 1992 dollars, for the construction and management of the bridge, over a period of 35 years. This represents close to $1.47 billion, in constant dollars, for the whole duration of the contract. From that angle, no one can claim that the fixed link project is self-financing. Can Canada afford to spend $21 million a year, this on top of what it is already paying for the ferry service?

We are not opposed to the principle that Prince Edward Island is entitled to a ferry service subsidized by all Canadian taxpayers. In fact, this commitment greatly facilitated things when PEI joined Confederation; it was an historic constitutional compromise.

We do not oppose the fact that the federal government continues to fully respect this constitutional right, although I must point out that this same government was not as generous in the past when dealing with Quebec's historic constitutional rights. Remember what Mr. Trudeau did in 1982. It is because of episodes like this one that Quebec is irreversibly headed for sovereignty.

Moving on to environmental concerns, in spite of all the studies conducted and the approval obtained from both the trial and appellate divisions of the Federal Court, there is no question that during construction and most likely afterward, the lobster and scallop fisheries will be disrupted because of the underwater movements resulting from the construction of a fixed link. The proof is that plans have been made to set aside $10 million every year to compensate the 240 fishermen affected by the construction of the bridge. We are only talking here about the construction phase. What will happen to the fishery once the fixed link is in operation? Will the government have to continue paying the $10 million in compensation? Are the fishermen supposed to rely on unemployment insurance to get by? Will they be joining the growing ranks of unemployed fishermen throughout the Maritimes and Quebec?

I would now like to examine the issue of job creation and the benefits to be derived from this megaproject by the residents of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. During the construction phase, more than $1 billion will be invested and normally, this should result in the creation of temporary jobs and bring about some semblance of prosperity.

Initially, the project backer will have to bring in workers from across North America. This is the case with of all megaprojects. Since this is a pan-Canadian venture, we are counting on Quebec construction workers to figure prominently in bridge construction activities. Quebec workers-and there are many of them in my riding of Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans-are known for their skills and willingness to work on megaprojects. Need we remind people that Quebecers worked on some of the largest hydroelectric projects in North America, if not the entire world. I am confident that initially, the unemployment rates in both provinces affected will decline substantially. However, the question we need to ask is this: Does the Government of Canada

and do the residents of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick want temporary jobs?

The municipal infrastructure program provides for the creation of temporary jobs across Canada, including the two provinces just mentioned, the aim being to get the economy going again. However, we cannot continue to let people dream, and then leave them to fend for themselves when the temporary jobs end. Creating temporary jobs causes no great harm, but eliminating permanent jobs is downright criminal.

Currently Marine Atlantic employs 420 persons on a permanent basis. These jobs have been around since 1917. Upon completion of the bridge over the Northumberland Strait, there will be a net loss of 360 permanent jobs. The company will need only 60 people to operate the bridge. Of course this does not include all the jobs lost in the shipyards in the Maritimes and Quebec, including MIL Davie in Lauzon, which builds and repairs the ferries that connect Prince Edward Island with the continent. What are we going to do with these 360 people? Negotiate allowances? Invest in skills upgrading and relocation allowances, if necessary? That is a problem we will have to consider when we vote on this motion.

I mentioned the loss of 360 jobs, but I did not mention the potential loss to the communities in Borden and Cape Tormentine which will see a significant drop in economic activity. A special development fund of up to $20 million will be created to help them. However, $20 million can provide relief only for a limited period of time. Then what will happen to these people? And this amount adds to government spending.

A final criterion: fair treatment of all Canadians. As I see it, we have a mandate to be fair to the people we represent. Although the construction of this fixed link is financed partly by the private sector, the Government of Canada is committed to paying an annual contribution of $41.9 million in 1992 dollars, indexed for a period of 35 years, which, as I mentioned before, works out to a total of $1.47 billion.

This subsidy enabled Strait Crossing Finance Inc. to obtain financing through a private bond issue worth $660 million. The bonds have a triple-A rating, the best guarantee that can be given to the banks. Furthermore, the government agrees not to retain from the subsidy money owing from debtor companies in the case of tax default, for instance, so that potential investors enjoy the same guarantees they would have in the case of government bonds.

Once again, I would like hon. members to remember when they vote on this motion, that we were sent here by our constituents to ensure all citizens are treated fairly. If other provinces have a similar request, are we in a position to give them the same treatment? We do not have to amend the Constitution to have an ultra high speed train in the Quebec-Windsor corridor. One could say the same about giving the Magdalen Islands a new ferry from MIL Davie Shipyards in Lévis. When these items are tabled in the House, we should be as open-minded as we are today about the bridge between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, and our decisions should always be based on the five principles I just described.

I want to say that this House should always be very circumspect when deciding how taxpayers' money will be spent. I am convinced that partisan considerations are inappropriate when discussing projects that will be part of our legacy to future generations.

As the Official Leader of the Opposition said this morning, the House of Commons should take into account the democratic choices made by people in a plebiscite or a referendum.

In concluding, I would like to say the Bloc Quebecois is always glad to talk about the Constitution.