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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

Fairness at the Pumps Act October 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I see that my colleague was paying attention to what I was saying.

I sit on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, not on the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. My riding is Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord. The hon. member is confusing me with my namesake from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. I sit in the first row. If he looks at the seating plan, he will see that my colleague sits in the fifth row. That is okay, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the effort my colleague from Toronto makes to speak French. His French is excellent. He is originally from Italy. We both have Latin roots. Many of my colleagues in this House arrived here at the same time I did, in 1993. It was 17 years ago today that we were elected. He has improved his French by spending time with francophones in this House, just as my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster has. His French is extraordinary, but he studied at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi so it is no wonder. Other colleagues would benefit from speaking French like my colleague who just asked the question.

I simply want to say in closing that I would not go so far as to talk about wasting the House's time because we live in a democracy and it is up to the government to introduce whatever bills it wants. We, as members of the opposition, have no choice but to receive the bills the government decides to introduce.

I am not perfect, but I am a democrat. We consider the bills the government introduces, even though they sometimes lack teeth. This bill has more the teeth of a chihuahua than a doberman.

Fairness at the Pumps Act October 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, could you ask the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans to calm down? Perhaps it is because he is going to be on the losing side in the municipal election in Ottawa this evening, but I find him overexcited.

It is true that with the new legislation, Petro-Canada, Shell and Esso have not contributed to Conservative campaigns. However, I would like to point out that individual contributions of $1,100 quickly add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars and millions of dollars in campaign contributions. That is how they do it. We just have to look at how the Minister of Natural Resources suddenly changed his story about the cocktail fundraiser, which he now admits he should not have attended. Those people contribute money to Conservative coffers. The guy gave $1,000 but in return got a contract to renovate the West Block. The minister did not see any problem with that. However, on two televised current affairs programs last weekend, he said that maybe it was not such a good idea for him to go to that cocktail fundraiser. Now the tables have turned.

Fairness at the Pumps Act October 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the House adjourns at 6:30 p.m. I will go get some documentation. I agree with the member—

Fairness at the Pumps Act October 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I thank the NDP member for his question. That is precisely the principle to which I was referring earlier: One must not bite the hand that feeds. The Conservatives—that is not the case for the NDP nor for the Bloc Quebecois—get hundreds of thousands of dollars in election campaign contributions. The $1,100 limit is respected, but there are many $1,100 contributions. The Conservatives receive funds from oil companies located in Calgary, in all of Alberta and in other regions. So, it is not true that the Conservatives will give more teeth to their legislation. A lax approach suits both the oil companies and the Conservatives. That is why they keep a low profile and do not make waves, instead of looking after the consumers' best interests, as the hon. member aptly pointed out. In the end, people cannot do without their cars, they have no other means to travel. They cannot go back to the horse and buggy days, before the automobile was invented.

For goodness sake we must soon have access to the electric vehicle to free ourselves from our dependence on oil.

Fairness at the Pumps Act October 25th, 2010

Some NDP members did not like my “poof”. I do not know what else I could have said. Whether by magic or miracle, there is a major hike in gas prices on the eve of the construction holidays. Why?

Here is further proof of collusion. In a number of medium-sized or large cities, it is commonplace to have gas stations on each corner of a traffic circle or other intersection. I see my colleague from Trois-Rivières behind me. I regularly pass through Trois-Rivières as I travel from my riding, on the Beaupré coast, to Ottawa by car. I often stop to fill up in Trois-Rivières, a magnificent city with very welcoming people. There are often gas stations on every corner of an intersection.

She and I could go there together, stopwatches in hand. When one station increases its price by 3¢, 5¢, 10¢, 12¢ or 15¢ per litre, we could count the number of seconds that elapse before the other three increase their prices. Is that open competition? Why does Shell feel the need to increase its price at the same time as Esso? Why increase the price at the same time as Petro-Canada? Why do the increases happen almost simultaneously within a span of seconds? If we had real competition, one service station would charge $1.038 per litre, another would charge $1.019 per litre, and yet another would have a different price. Then we would have real competition.

Let us take a look at food and clothing. Food is a good example of a sector where we can compare the price of identical products. We will not look at products such as beer or milk, as their prices are regulated. I believe that they do not have the right to sell milk for a very low price. Milk is a bad example. Take, for instance, Oasis orange juice. If we checked with the four largest food chains, it is very likely that the prices would be different. That is true competition because there is not necessarily collusion among the four major grocers in Quebec.

And that is what we are seeing with gas prices, which is why I began my speech by saying that there has been a lot of work for not much of a result. Bill C-14 is better than nothing, but the government is not addressing the root of the issue. For one, we hoped that the government would use this bill to propose that the Competition Act allow the Competition Bureau to conduct inquiries on its own initiative, as I mentioned earlier, instead of always having to wait for a private complaint before beginning an inquiry.

In addition, the Bloc Québécois has proposed that a petroleum agency be created to monitor gasoline prices and respond to any attempt at collusion or unjustified price hikes. I gave our reasoning earlier. With this type of agency, we could act as soon as prices increase. Instead, the Conservative government keeps telling us—and it was no different under the Liberals—that there is nothing that can be done because the Competition Bureau found that there was no agreement among oil companies to fix prices; therefore, there is no problem. The Bloc Québécois was hoping that the bill would address the real issue.

On May 5, 2003, Konrad von Finckenstein, then the Commissioner of Competition, now chairman of the CRTC, told the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology that even though there were problems with the law, as Commissioner of Competition, he had no choice but to enforce it. Like us, he recognized that the law had loopholes. What we need is a government with the political will to take action and stop oil companies from doing this.

Mr. von Finckenstein said:

...while the Bureau's mandate includes the very important role of being an investigator and advocate for competition, the current legislation does not provide the Bureau with the authority to conduct an industry study.

That is basically the point I wanted to make. Once again, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, the Bloc Québécois industry critic, for his work on this file and for keeping the people of Quebec and Canada informed about loopholes with respect to the price of gas, loopholes that Bill C-14 does nothing to close, unfortunately.

The Bloc Québécois supports the bill in principle and will send it to committee. We will see what happens after that. We should not just be talking about the system of measures at the pump and silly fine increases. Oil companies make multi-billion-dollar profits. This bill would fine them $25,000 instead of $10,000, yet they will have made millions using these tactics. We do not think that this bill goes far enough.

Fairness at the Pumps Act October 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-14, which deals with an amendment to the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act and the Weights and Measures Act.

As my colleague before me, the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and Bloc Québécois industry critic, said, the Bloc Québécois will support this bill in principle. However, I would like to say that this has been a lot of work for not much result. I will explain why. If the government thinks that with this bill it has done a bold stroke of business, to bring the oil companies into line, that it has come up with the most important thing since sliced bread, it is sadly mistaken. That is why we will agree that it should be considered in committee, subject to our later position over the stages to come.

I listened with interest to the discussions—if I may put it that way, the puck passing—among the NDP members in their speeches and questions and comments. Those discussions were very appropriate, very much on point, and very much in tune. My NDP colleagues have also recognized the private member’s bill introduced by my colleague in the Bloc Québécois. However, everyone will acknowledge that Bill C-14 does not allow for a direct response to the problems of collusion such as have recently been brought to light in Quebec, or for effective prevention of sudden gas price increases. The government thinks the solution is inspections of the pumps and penalties imposed by the courts, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 for minor offences and from $5,000 to $25,000 for major offences. We should not be fooled. Those fines are peanuts for oil companies raking in billions of dollars in profits. I certainly do not think the oil companies deliberately alter the way the pumps work, to steal a half-cent more per litre sold from us. I certainly do not think that is done. But we do agree that there should be more in-depth inspections. We are not against motherhood, any more than we are against apple pie. With fall upon us, we all agree that apple pie is a good thing. During apple season, I have the apple growers on Île d'Orléans and Isle-aux-Coudres in my riding, and they are very skilled and efficient.

All kidding aside, this is not the discovery of the century. The Bloc Québécois would have expected the government to take responsibility, pull up its socks and address the root of the problem in the oil industry, namely collusion between companies. We did not expect to be told that the Competition Bureau looked into the situation and it cannot conduct an investigation itself because that requires accusations and well-documented cases. As far as the case brought to light in Lotbinière, Arthabaska and the Eastern Townships is concerned, fortunately someone from the oil sector blew the whistle. That is how we came to find out about this. However, it is just the tip of the iceberg.

The problem is much more serious. I hope no one will be surprised to learn that the Conservatives are doing nothing to rein in the oil companies and to discipline them. Just look at who is financing the Conservative Party. It is mostly the oil companies. Who needs tax benefits to explore and exploit the oil sands in Alberta? The Conservatives need the oil companies to finance them in the next election campaign as they needed them in previous elections.

Increasing the retailers' responsibility by imposing mandatory periodic inspections of the measuring devices is truly very important, without a doubt, but it is also highly ineffective. We were hoping and we continue to hope that the competition commissioner would be given more powers. The Bloc Québécois has introduced Bill C-452 as a clear response to gasoline price increases.

Mr. Speaker, I hope you understand. I know that your role as Speaker requires you to be completely neutral. You are listening to what I say. You can do two things at once: speak to your colleague on the left and listen to me. You are clearly talented. I will continue to address you, but I will also address the people watching us at home. Do they realize that in Quebec, increases in the price of gas generally happen on Thursdays, when people get paid? Increases can be seen before a long weekend, when there is a statutory holiday. Before Thanksgiving, prices in Montreal jumped by 10¢ or 12¢ just like that. Nothing happened, and the price per barrel around the world is decreasing. Why did the price in Montreal jump by 10¢, 12¢ and even 15¢?

In the past, the oil companies would tell us that the prices were based on what was going on around the world, on the rising price of a barrel of oil, on the wars in Iraq and the invasion of Kuwait. Any excuse would do. We could understand it if there were instability in the countries that produce oil, or if something specific happened. But in this case, nothing happened. On the contrary, the price per barrel is decreasing, but the price at the pump is going up. That is what makes us say that the oil companies are gouging us.

I will give some more examples for the people at home and for my colleagues in the House who are listening. I do not think there is an equivalent in the other provinces, but in Quebec, the last two weeks of July—sometimes up to the beginning of August—are usually what we call the construction holidays. Hundreds of thousands of construction workers are on vacation at the same time. Generally, construction workers are people who work hard. They get up early, and they are at the mercy of the elements and the weather. They are subject to stress on the construction site, and must meet the deadlines on these construction sites, whether they are residential, commercial or industrial. They must complete the buildings and finish their work on time. In Quebec, construction workers take the last two weeks of July to unwind, and many take that opportunity to travel throughout Quebec.

In Quebec, we are naturally attracted to New England, the coast of Maine and the beaches. Some construction workers take long distance or interprovincial buses, some take the train or plane, but the vast majority generally travel by car. If my colleagues would like proof, they need only travel on Quebec roads during the construction holidays.

It is funny that a few days before July 15, 16 or 17, poof, prices suddenly go up. How can that be? What happens?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act October 19th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question surprises me. He is a seasoned parliamentarian, a veteran of this House.

We might agree with the principle of a bill at second reading, but that does not necessarily mean we will support it at third reading. That is precisely why our parliamentary procedure dictates that after passing second reading, bills are referred to committee to hear from witnesses, specialists and experts.

If, because of his experience, my hon. colleague could claim the title of expert, he could appear before the committee, enlighten us and give us the benefit of his wisdom. That is why I do not see any contradiction in the Bloc Québécois' position. In 2001 we were in agreement, to some extent, with Bill C-44, in cases where landing and take-off did in fact occur.

We think this now goes just a little further. Does it go too far? Is it too much? What information will be disclosed? Was the same thing asked of other countries or was it only the United States? I cannot answer these questions today, which is why we are sending this bill to committee.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act October 19th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right to wonder about this. However, I respectfully suggest that we should not be looking at reciprocity or at the thousands of American flights that go through Canadian airspace and vice-versa. That is not the approach we should take.

The Bloc Québécois acknowledges that a sovereign country has the right to regulate its own airspace. We acknowledge as well that this request came from the United States and must be taken seriously. As I said in the first part of my speech, the United States is a major trading partner and a popular tourist destination for countless Canadians and Quebeckers, but we should still apply this provision in a way that is sensible and reasonable, not blindly, as the Conservative government does in many different areas, including this one. The Americans want it, so we do it.

In committee, we will hear from privacy experts. I will not be testifying before the committee. I do not claim to be an expert on privacy. We will listen to experts who will tell us whether this request is excessive and unreasonable, and if they say so, we will vote against the bill. In any case, we should not compare the thousands of flights through Canadian airspace to the much smaller number of flights through American airspace. I find it hard to follow my colleague’s reasoning on that point.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act October 19th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague that we cannot change the scope of the bill, which is to say its purpose, direction and objectives. But because it is a very short bill, we can change some things. By way of answer, I would like to read a statement by Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada:

Privacy is a critical element of a free society and there can be no real freedom without it.

Canada is currently on a dangerous path towards a surveillance society. We are beginning to think of more and more everyday situations in terms of “risk” and the previously exceptional collection and use of personal information are becoming normal.

We have been seeing excesses and abuses since 2006, when the Conservatives came to power. They have an approach worthy of Big Brother, the government that sees evil everywhere and wants to invade people's privacy and get its hands on personal information. That is what we have been seeing since the Conservatives came to power.

I am well aware that I am not giving a direct answer to my colleague's insightful question. We will see in light of the testimony in committee. The Bloc Québécois has some doubts going into this. It will decide after the fact whether or not its doubts are warranted, and it will also decide how it will vote at third reading.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act October 19th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I will try to make myself understood in this cacophony. We know that since 2001, in the wake of September 11, a series of measures has been implemented, in the United States in particular, to improve public safety.

Sometimes these measures infringed and still infringe in a real, tangible or perceived way on the right to privacy. In the aftermath came the implementation of what is commonly referred to in the airline industry as the no-fly list. Being on this list means being prohibited from boarding flights. In order for this list to be fully operational, it is important to know passengers' identity ahead of time. That is why, in 2001, at the request of the United States, the Canadian government introduced Bill C-44, which received the Bloc Québécois' support.

That bill was passed quickly. It authorized airline companies to disclose to local authorities all passenger information prescribed by regulation. The next words I am about to say are important, if not crucial, because they make a distinction between Bill C-44 and the bill currently before us. Bill C-44 allowed all information to be given to authorities in the country of arrival or transit, where the plane touches the ground, whereas Bill C-42 before us covers flying through a given country's airspace. That distinction is of capital importance.

The information requested was name, date of birth, sex, and sometimes, passport number. If, at first glance, access to that information seems innocuous, keep in mind the many problems with the no-fly list.

To show just how ridiculous the United States' no-fly list is, I want to mention two cases where the system went very wrong. One of the people whose name appeared on the no-fly list was Ted Kennedy, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, who died just a few months ago. In 2004, he was apprehended and interrogated five times at the airport, even though his name should not have been on the list. Despite his fame and influence, it took more than three weeks for his team of Congressional aides to get his name off the list. That was one of the mistakes that received the most media coverage, but it was not the only one. There is another example of how ridiculous this list is. Last May in the United States, the Thomas family was apprehended at the airport. Why? Because the name of one of the Thomas girls, who was six years old, was on the no-fly list.

People certainly realized there had been a mistake. It was still very difficult, though, to get on the plane. That is basically what I had to say.

I just want to repeat what I said before the members’ statements and question period, namely that the Bloc Québécois will vote for this bill in principle. We will agree to send it to a committee so that it can be studied seriously and in depth, with witnesses, specialists and experts. I want to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Ahuntsic, who is our outstanding public safety critic. She sent me an email suggesting the names of witnesses, groups and individuals who could enlighten the committee with their expertise so that Bill C-42 can be subjected to some serious analysis.

I want to be clear. The Bloc Québécois will vote at second reading in favour of the principle of this bill so that it can be sent to a committee. Regarding how we will proceed after that, though, we reserve the right to change our position on this issue if necessary.