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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was bridge.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Louis-Hébert (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 24% of the vote.

Statements in the House

St. Patrick's Day March 15th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, this year, like every year, March 17 is when we celebrate St. Patrick's Day, the national day of the Irish people.

These celebrations include the traditional St. Patrick's Day parade, the oldest of which in North America is in Montreal. This year, after a hiatus of over 80 years, Quebec City is also having a parade.

It is estimated that up to 40% of francophone Quebeckers have Irish ancestors.

Let us take this opportunity to commemorate the men and women who, fleeing the potato famine, joined the largest wave of immigration from Ireland to Quebec. In fact, a monument has been raised in their honour on Grosse-Île, the island off Quebec that was the main gateway to Canada for the Irish.

In their memory and in honour of this important community's contribution to our society, I invite everyone to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

In closing, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would like to offer condolences to the family and friends of the young man who died during the parade in Montreal.

Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games March 4th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, of the 50 athletes from Quebec who proudly attended the Vancouver Olympic Games, 24 came home with a medal. Among them are Jasey-Jay Anderson, Alexandre Bilodeau, Charles Hamelin, Clara Hughes, Joannie Rochette, Marianne St-Gelais, François-Louis Tremblay and Jennifer Heil. In addition to those athletes are all the Quebeckers who won medals in team sports.

Quebec's talented athletes turned in some exceptional performances. It is nice to see role models like these win a place in people's hearts, especially the hearts of young people.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I want to congratulate all those who represented the nation of Quebec in these events and whose talent and success brought much delight to their fans.

Olympic Flame in Ottawa December 10th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the Olympic flame, the symbol of the Olympic ideal, is on Parliament Hill today. The torch relay, an Olympic Games tradition, represents peace, fraternity and light.

The Bloc Québécois would like to take this opportunity to reiterate its support for the many athletes who, through their perseverance, strength and determination, will be taking part in the 21st Winter Olympic Games.

We would also like to express our support for the letter some of them have written to the Prime Minister to urge him to adopt an ambitious and “aggressive” plan to fight climate change. Global warming is a threat to winter sports.

Best of luck to all the athletes at the Vancouver Olympic Games.

Quebec Bridge December 1st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. In fact, this is a very complex issue.

When the government sold the Quebec bridge for a dollar, CN had not been privatized. Ordinarily, the government should have taken possession of the bridge again when CN was privatized.

I agree completely with my colleague. The problem at present is that a private company owns the Quebec bridge and does not want to have anything to do with heritage maintenance. It looks after regular maintenance, but I believe that it is not responsible for heritage maintenance of the bridge.

Quebec Bridge December 1st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I am not completely familiar with it. I know a little about the current agreement between CN and the federal government regarding the Victoria bridge.

I would like to remind my colleague that we are talking about the Quebec bridge. What matters to me is that the Quebec bridge issue be resolved as quickly as possible. Without trying to change the situation, regardless of the agreements concerning the Quebec bridge that have already been signed or that could be proposed, I think the main solution is for the bridge to be bought back so that the government can resume work.

Quebec Bridge December 1st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, this is another attempt to divert attention. I did not say that the bridge was built by Mr. Eiffel; I said that it was built by a disciple of Eiffel. Naturally, many people helped build the Quebec bridge, including a number of aboriginals. I could give a history lesson today, but I do not think this is the appropriate place.

I encourage the member opposite to consult some history books. I can even suggest some if he wants some good references. It is pretty clear that the government's strategy is to divert attention yet again.

Quebec Bridge December 1st, 2009

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should purchase the Pont de Québec for one dollar and commit to quickly finishing the repair work so as to respect its importance as a historical monument and vital transportation link for the Quebec City region.

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to move Motion M-423 concerning the Quebec bridge. I will reread it to ensure that everyone understands it.

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should purchase the Pont de Québec for one dollar and commit to quickly finishing the repair work so as to respect its importance as a historical monument and vital transportation link for the Quebec City region.

The riding of Louis-Hébert is situated alongside the St. Lawrence River in the west end of Quebec City. It includes Sillery, Sainte-Foy and Cap-Rouge. The Quebec bridge is at the heart of the city. It is a main artery through the Quebec region and critical in terms of the economy, trade, tourism, history and heritage.

The Quebec bridge is the longest cantilever bridge in the world. Built in 1910 and 1917 by the Government of Canada to connect both banks of the St. Lawrence River, two major tragedies occurred during construction. Twice, in 1907 and 1916, part of the structure collapsed, killing dozens of workers.

With plenty of history behind it, the Quebec bridge was declared an international historic civil engineering monument in 1987. The only one of its kind in the world, this imposing structure designed by a disciple of Eiffel has attracted the admiration of many. The Quebec bridge was also designated as a national historic site by the Canadian Heritage minister in 1996. The government needs to acknowledge that it, and it alone, is responsible for ensuring the future of this heritage structure.

The Quebec bridge was built primarily for economic purposes, and it was used exclusively for rail transport for 12 years. In 1923, it was decided that Quebec could build a roadway across it. An agreement between the governments of Canada and Quebec regarding usage of the route took effect in 1928 and will expire in 2012. Under the agreement, Quebec leases the bridge for $25,000 per year, in addition to maintenance expenses that come out of the Government of Quebec's pocket.

More than 110,000 people use the Quebec bridge every day. In 1993, the Government of Canada sold the Quebec bridge to Canadian National for the token amount of $1, with bonus parcels of land estimated at $104.2 million at the time of the sale. The government would not reveal the reasoning behind that decision, even when asked by the Auditor General.

Canadian National committed to funding a major maintenance program on the bridge and to installing and maintaining architectural lighting. But in 1995, the Government of Canada privatized Canadian National by issuing public shares. In 1997, a $60 million deal was signed. Canadian National contributed $36 million, the Government of Canada contributed $6 million, and the Government of Quebec contributed its share of $18 million. The objective was to complete the restoration of the bridge over a period of 10 years. The project promised a Quebec bridge that would draw the eye the way one might expect for the 400th anniversary celebrations in Quebec City in 2008. That of course was last year.

From a more practical perspective, the agreement obviously also aimed to ensure the long-term viability of the Quebec bridge structure. The first phase of the work went as planned, in terms of the costs and the repair schedule. The second phase, however, which included sanding, cleaning and painting, was stalled, mainly because of new environmental requirements that sent the completion costs skyrocketing.

Now, 12 years later—I repeat, 12 years later—only 40% of the work has been completed, and the project is at a standstill. For the 400th anniversary celebrations of Quebec City, the bridge was grey, green and rust coloured, and went unnoticed. Work stopped in 2005 because the money allocated had already been spent.

Since then, subsequent governments have run into trouble on this file which, having hit a dead end, was brought before the courts and swept under the rug to squelch further publicity.

The dispute between the Government of Canada and CN is mainly about the difference between the 1993 agreement and the 1997 agreement. The situation is rather complex and I will try to be as precise as possible in my explanations.

The conditions of the 1997 agreement have been respected. However, under the 1993 agreement, CN is responsible for the long-term viability of the Quebec bridge. The company maintains that the 1997 agreement voids the previous agreement. The government, naturally, is of the opposite view that the previous agreement remains in effect.

It has become habit to say that nothing more can be done about the Quebec bridge issue because it is currently before the courts.

Legal matters take a long time. It could take another five or ten years before this issue is resolved in court. We have to wait for the court to appoint stewards before any action can be taken.

In the meantime, last January, the Delcan report that I have here, ordered by the current Department of Transport, revealed that the condition of the Quebec bridge structure is good to fair.

I want to reassure those who are taking the Quebec bridge this evening or tomorrow morning that there is currently no risk in crossing it. However, if nothing is done, the situation could change.

The Delcan report also states that areas showing significant corrosion are deteriorating. The restoration technique that was chosen to save a few pennies, is already outdated. The problem is not only that the work has not been completed, but that the government is not taking its responsibilities.

As far as the protection of historical and cultural heritage is concerned, it is well known that that is the least of the government's concerns, but it is very much on the minds of the citizens.

And what about concern for the safety of those who use the bridge? I do not believe that the Quebec bridge is currently unsafe, but when it comes time to vote on the motion it is important that we take our responsibilities so that this bridge not only can maintain its stature as an historic monument, but is safe for those who use it.

What is preventing the government from regaining possession of the Quebec bridge, shouldering its responsibilities and looking after the bridge before it collapses a third time?

I have here a letter from CN, which is willing to transfer the bridge to the Government of Canada at any time. The government has to stop hiding its head in the sand, which is absurd. It has to take responsibility for this issue, which has been dragging on for too long, unfortunately.

That is why this motion proposes that the government purchase the bridge and refurbish it so as to respect its importance as a historical monument and vital transportation link for the economy of Quebec.

In the past part of my speech, I will go back over certain points.

The case pertaining to the Quebec bridge and involving the federal government and CN is before the courts. The motion I am introducing today has nothing to do with what is happening in court at present. As I said earlier, it may take five or even ten years to settle this matter.

We are asking the government to shoulder its responsibilities, regain possession of the Quebec bridge and finish the repair work as soon as possible.

If the court rules that CN is responsible for repairing the bridge, all the government will have to do is send CN the bill for the repair work in five years.

However, if the court rules that the government is responsible for repairing the bridge, the government will have saved money. Taxpayers will have paid less because the longer we wait the higher the costs due to inflation.

Furthermore, Canada and the whole world are currently in the throes of a recession. It would be even more advantageous to contribute to repairing the Quebec bridge, which would create jobs and stimulate the economy in the Quebec City region. As I have already mentioned, in the long run we would be saving money on repairing the bridge.

I will repeat that this matter has been dragging on for 12 years. The House now has the opportunity to shoulder its responsibilities in this matter. When we are elected as members, when people vote for us, they expect that we will make decisions and carry out our responsibilities. The Quebec bridge is the perfect example of elected members taking responsibility for settling a matter that has dragged on for a long time. When the court hands down its decision, the government can either send the bill to CN or just cover the cost knowing that it could have been higher had they not gone ahead.

When a situation like that of the Quebec bridge drags on like this and is not taken care of by the elected officials of this House, that is the perfect recipe for feeding people's cynicism. Every time people use the Quebec bridge in their travels, they see that the bridge is grey, it is rusty, it is green. People are losing confidence in their elected officials and wondering exactly what we are doing about this. That is why I am proposing a simple solution here today, namely, that the government buy back the Quebec bridge and complete the work that is needed as soon as possible, so that we may resolve this issue once and for all, instead of waiting for it to be settled in court.

I will close by saying that, at this time, the government is showing an appalling lack of leadership, when all its needs to do is show some political will. We will hear some questions about this matter in a few moments. I will be very surprised if the government supports my motion, but I would be delighted. I do hope that the Conservative members from Quebec will support this measure, especially the two members from the other side of the river, right across from my riding, where the Quebec bridge ends. I am referring to the ridings of Lévis—Bellechasse and Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, which are home to part of the Quebec bridge. I really hope that the Conservative Party members from Quebec will support my motion, which should be put to the House in February.

In closing, some political will is all that is needed in this case. I hope that all members will support my motion so that some of its former glory can be returned to the Quebec bridge, an extraordinary bridge that deserves our respect.

National Defence November 30th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, about a hundred families in Sainte-Foy are worried about losing their homes. The Minister of National Defence has decided to tear down their houses and relocate the families to the Valcartier base 30 kilometres away. The Association des conjointes de militaires canadiens, a group of soldiers' wives, hopes that the government will reconsider this decision, which will have a negative impact on military families' independence.

Will the minister responsible for the region of Quebec advocate on their behalf to the Minister of National Defence?

Laval University's Rouge et Or November 23rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to congratulate Laval University's football team, Rouge et Or, for an excellent season. Last week the team won the Dunsmore Cup by defeating the Université de Montréal Carabins. The Rouge et Or were defeated, 33-30, by the Queen's University Golden Gaels in the Mitchell Bowl.

Football fans in the Quebec City region are very fortunate as the Vanier cup, the Canadian university football championship, will be held at Université Laval's PEPS sport complex.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I congratulate the top-ranked Canadian football team this year, the Rouge et Or. We also wish the best of luck to the Vanier Cup finalists, Queen's Golden Gaels and Calgary's Dinos, as well as to the Montreal Alouettes who will be facing the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Grey Cup next weekend.

Soldiers from Valcartier November 16th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, 115 soldiers from the Valcartier base returned home to their loved ones on Saturday evening from a mission to Afghanistan. These soldiers, assigned to the Aviation Batallion, were responsible for transporting soldiers close to combat locations. They participated in 33 missions and their expertise provided support for the work of all coalition soldiers present in Afghanistan.

The community of Valcartier was particularly hard hit this year with the loss of 13 soldiers in Afghanistan, bringing the total to 23.

These men and women will have to return to their regular lives after a long and trying mission. It is important that they are not left to their own devices and that they are given all the resources needed to resume a normal life, away from war zones.

The Bloc Québécois would like to salute the courage and commitment of these soldiers. We wish them all the best as they return to their families.