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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was federal.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Joliette (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply February 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind my colleague of the approach suggested by the hon. member for Laurentides. We are not asking for sanctions or standards. We want these agreements to uphold fundamental rights while respecting the culture and the heritage of each of the nations concerned. We favour a collaborative approach.

For instance, although child labour is unacceptable, it cannot be eliminated overnight. As one of the wealthier countries in the world, we have a duty to help the poorer countries to solve their problems within a deadline. What we need to do so is a strong political will that the government seems unable to express except in its empty rhetoric.

It looks like the government is ignoring what everyone in Canada, in Quebec and in most parts of the western world is decrying. There are some democratic shortcomings to this free trade area of the Americas proposal but also to globalization.

There is more and more talk of executive democracy. It will no longer be parliaments that make decisions but executives. What is being proposed to us with rejection of the Bloc Quebecois motion is to sanction or institutionalize the fact that democracy is now being exercised through the executives around the PMO, with parliament no longer having a role to play. I do not accept that view.

I think that by rejecting the motion, the government is going to send the signal that our concerns, needs and demands are no longer to be channelled through parliamentarians, and that we now have to find the means of being heard out in the street. This is irresponsible, in my opinion. Thus, passing our motion is a gesture of responsibility, one that adds value to the role of parliamentarians and one that I would call the democratic way of resolving problems.

Does the hon. member admit that democracy is getting short shrift in the creation of the free trade area of the Americas?

Free Trade Area Of The Americas February 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has already said, with respect to the negotiations on the free trade area, “Canada believes that openness and transparency are vital to building public acceptance and legitimacy for our undertakings”.

How can he make such a speech and refuse to table the basic documents to be used in the negotiations?

Free Trade Area Of The Americas February 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, in early January the Minister for International Trade announced a period of public consultations with business people and the public in preparation for discussions on the free trade agreements with Central American countries.

Now, a month and a half later, the Minister for International Trade informs us that a free trade agreement is about to be signed with Costa Rica, and may even be signed for the summit of the Americas.

Can the government confirm this information, and is this the type of transparency, opaque to say the least, we will have during negotiations on a free trade area for the Americas?

Supply February 15th, 2001

Madam Speaker, I wish to tell the hon. member that the MAI was referred to the foreign affairs commission long after the texts were released on the Internet by a group of American citizens, thus creating an uproar, particularly among western countries, but also worldwide.

It is because of actions taken by civil society that we were able to have that debate here. What would the hon. member think of a union that would not ask its members to ratify the collective agreement negotiated for them? Would he not say that this sort of thing would not fly?

In our motion, we are simply asking that a basic principle of democracy be respected. I am taking this opportunity to ask the hon. member to clarify a statement made by the Prime Minister of Canada to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States on February 5:

By the same token, we understand that it cannot be about trade alone. It is not just a contract among corporations and governments. First and foremost, it is an agreement among—and about—people. It must be holistic in nature. It must include—

I want to stress the word “include”.

—improving the efficiency of financial markets, protecting labour rights and the environment, and having better development cooperation.

Based on that statement from the Prime Minister of Canada, am I to understand that the Canadian government supports an agreement on the free trade zone of the Americas that would include provisions to protect workers and the environment in particular?

Supply February 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, before asking my question, I would like to point out a number of facts.

First of all, the Bloc stands up for the consensus in the Quebec civil society, and among parliamentarians. I have had the opportunity to address this issue. The institutions committee of the National Assembly published a report with which we totally agree and which I commend to the hon. member.

Our position is not to be against economic integration or market openness, since developing countries in the south are as much entitled to development as developed countries in the north. However, this economic integration must follow some rules, and we want those rules to be included in the agreement and access to the benefits of the agreement to be given in the respect of those rights.

Before asking my question, I will conclude by saying that Mr. Parizeau has been one of the fiercest opponents to the multilateral investment agreement. He even wrote a small book on the subject, which I would gladly offer to the hon. member.

I would now like to return to the issue of social and labour rights. I am wondering what the position of the New Democratic Party is on the inclusion of those rights in the current negotiation.

Supply February 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I wish to comment briefly on something that was said about the relationship between trade, economic development and jobs.

After World War II and until quite recently, it was true that trade, economic development and jobs went hand in hand. Usually, when people had jobs, poverty receded and social rights improved.

Nowadays, this is no longer the case. Trade, economic development and jobs can all be on the increase, and poverty can still continue to grow.

While growth has been exceptional in the United States over the past 10 years, the number of poor remains the same. Poverty rates in the United States stand at 21%, compared to an OECD average of 12%.

So we must do more than merely rely on economic growth and globalization. There is a need for mechanisms to ensure that each society, each country, each jurisdiction, has the means to ensure that social rights are respected. In this regard, Canadians and Quebecers should be worried, as should all the Americas. We must ensure that social rights are part of these agreements.

I would like the member's opinion on the following statement made at the second general conference of parliamentarians of the Americas held in Puerto Rico in July 2000:

We hope that the process of continental integration is strengthened by the participation of parliamentarians from all jurisdictions on the continent, by the transparency of debate on the creation of a free trade area of the Americas, and by the regular dissemination of the results of ongoing negotiations.

Clearly, all parliamentarians of the Americas want the process to be more transparent.

What does the member think?

Supply February 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, since the beginning, the Bloc Quebecois has been trying to initiate this debate on the free trade area of the Americas, but government members pretend they do not understand our questions or views.

We do not have a problem with the Canadian position, even though the texts to which we have access seem particularly generous but also vague on the specific contents of the negotiations.

What I said in my speech, and I repeat it, is that we are not able to assess the validity and appropriateness of the Canadian government's position if we do not have access to the basic texts on the issues that are being negotiated by the 34 governments at the nine sectoral tables.

In that sense, there is a lack of transparency. Quebecers and Canadians are suspicious of the process and, as long as the government does not do something about it, that process will be flawed. Every day, various public groups express their concerns.

Just today we were told that a people's summit would be held. This does not go only for Canada. The whole process must be reviewed and our country must be a leader in that exercise. The Prime Minister said so, and I think that we must put words into action by making sure that this House plays an active role in the whole process.

We want to have access to the basic texts on which the negotiations will be based, so as to be able to assess Canada's position.

Second, and I am pleased that the hon. member mentioned it, parliamentarians in the United States have the privilege of debating the issue first and demanding a number of things before allowing the president to fast track the process. Democrat senators and representatives have made it clear to President Bush that there will be no fast tracking if the agreement does not include clauses on labour and the environment.

Unfortunately, we, in this House, do not have that possibility. If they have these guarantees, they will allow the American president to effectively use a fast track procedure, which will allow members of Congress to vote without amending the treaty, something which does not exist here in Canada.

I am asking for the equivalent of what exists in the U.S. Congress. In fact, any democracy should have these same rules.

Supply February 15th, 2001

I apologize, this is due to my inexperience.

Canada believes that it is through openness and transparency that we will convince the public of the legitimacy of the agreement. As host of the first summit of the Americas in this millennium, Canada will do everything in its power to promote openness and transparency. It is time to put our money where our mouth is and pass the motion I have introduced.

Supply February 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to pay tribute to André d'Allemagne who was not only a friend, but a colleague of mine. We both taught at the Collège Maisonneuve for over eight years.

He recently passed away at the age of 71. He was a pioneer of the sovereignty movement and an educator, not only in his capacity as a teacher but also at the political level. Quebec has lost a first class citizen to whom I wanted to pay tribute today.

This being my maiden speech in the House, I would also like to thank the people of the riding of Joliette for the trust they put in me last November 27. I can assure them today, as I did during the election campaign, that I will defend the interests of Quebec and of my fellow citizens of Joliette.

Introducing this motion today offers me the first opportunity to ensure that their interests are defended. The motion reads as follows:

That this House demand that the government bring any draft agreement on the Free Trade Zone of the Americas before the House so that it may be debated and put to a vote before ratification by the Government of Canada.

From April 20 to 22, the 34 heads of state and of government of the Americas, with the exception of Cuba, will be holding the third summit of the Americas in Quebec City. This will be an extremely important event as far as the process of creating a free trade area of the Americas is concerned. The related agreement is slated for around 2005. Creation of a free trade area of the Americas is both an extraordinary challenge for all the states and peoples of the Americas and an extraordinary opportunity. It can, however, involve considerable risk.

Creation of a free trade area is far from being a guarantee, a cure-all, for all our woes, whether economic or social. This we have seen, moreover, with the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the NAFTA area encompassing Canada, Quebec, the United States and Mexico. For example, its creation did not prevent the crisis of the peso and the widening of the social gap. In our societies—and this applies to Canada, the United States and Mexico— more and more people are living not only in poverty but in abject poverty. We must therefore be extremely vigilant in negotiating or creating these free trade areas, while still remaining open to the process.

This process must be the result of democratic debate. That is why the Bloc Quebecois, through me, is today introducing this motion, because we have concerns. We are concerned for Quebec's rights first, because obviously it is always troubling to see the federal government negotiate on behalf of Quebecers on the economic, social and cultural front. But we are also concerned for all Canadians and Quebecers as far as respect of social and environmental rights is concerned.

In the past our governments, and this is true for the federal government, but also for the U.S. and Mexican governments, were not vigilant or, I would say, were not overly concerned about the social, environmental, political and cultural consequences of these trade agreements.

As an unionist, I was able to follow these debates from the start, in the mid-eighties. I recall very well that in 1989—and the federal Liberals were by the way in agreement with us on that— we were not taking into account the fact that the negotiation of free trade agreements with the United States was going to have social and environmental implications. We can now see that. For example, Bill C-2 on employment insurance is a direct consequence, and this is not the only reason, of the free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico. We now know that our employment insurance plan reflects more or less what exists in most of the states in the U.S.

In 1989, during the negotiation of the free trade agreement with the United States, we did not want to recognize that there were social, environmental and cultural implications. In 1994, because of public pressure in Canada, Quebec, the United States and Mexico, governments were forced to adopt, at the same time as the North American Free Trade Agreement, side accords on environmental and labour standards. These accords were signed because of public pressure and pressure from parliamentarians, particularly in the United States.

Recently, in 2001, the Prime Minister made a speech in which he alluded to the possibility of introducing social clauses in the agreement. This is a step in the right direction, in my opinion. However, we must not give up. The public and parliamentarians must continue to exert pressure to ensure that the free trade agreement of the Americas will include clauses that protect our social and environmental rights and also Quebec's interests.

Canada and Quebec have open economies. We have a vested interest in trade liberalization. These agreements are also extraordinary opportunities for co-operation with countries from the south and even within our societies. However, this integration of the economies and of the markets must be controlled by introducing social clauses, particularly to protect labour rights.

Let us be clear. When we talk about protecting labour rights, we are not talking about standards. We are talking about fundamental rights that are recognized by the International Labour Organization, rights such as the banning of child labour, forced labour and discrimination, and the recognition of the freedom of association and of the right to collective bargaining.

How will each country in the Americas implement these rights? It will be up to them, based on their respective histories and cultures. I often give the example—and I will do it again here in the House—that in Canada, the United States and Quebec we recognize the freedom of association through very specific forms of union certification. In Mexico and in Latin American countries, this may be done in a different way. It is also done differently in Europe. The important thing is for governments to pledge to respect those fundamental rights in the way that will better suit these societies.

Likewise, the approach that we favour is not a punitive one. In this respect, Latin-American countries need not fear the emergence of a new form of social protectionism. It is rather by co-operation that we want to help those countries, as well as our own North-American countries, respect those rights. Let us not forget that we are in no position to lecture anyone. We sometimes have things to learn from others.

It is therefore a co-operative approach that we favour, not one of sanctions. The same applies for the environment. We have to ensure that the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas will clearly indicate the common desire of all the populations of the Americas to promote a sound and sustainable environment.

To that end, civil societies and parliamentarians have to play an active role in the negotiation process. The texts on which negotiations are based should be made available so that Quebecers and Canadians, as well as the members of the House, will be able to evaluate the validity and accuracy of the Canadian government's positions regarding what is being done in the free trade area of the Americas negotiation process.

It seems to me that we should have learned from what happened with the multilateral agreement on investment that was secretly negotiated for two years at the OECD. Sooner or later the basic texts will be made public. A citizen group is sure to release them. This will give rise to a negative reaction against the whole process, even though the process could have been well defined.

Transparency is therefore very important. So there is reason for concern, particularly with statements like the one made by the Minister for International Trade in the House on February 1.

As for the negotiating documents, obviously there are 34 parties to it. It is not up to Canada to share it if other countries do not want to share it. Canada would support sharing it at this stage. However our partners do not wish that. We will respect them.

We are extremely concerned that, even though we are only at the negotiating stage, already the Canadian government is not assuming a leadership role with respect to this minimum requirement of transparency. As for contradictory statements, we could add this one by Mr. Lortie, the Prime Minister's personal representative throughout the preparations for the summit of the Americas: “Too much transparency would be chaotic at this stage in the preparations”.

Is it possible to be too transparent? Is it possible to be too democratic? I do not think so. Parliamentarians must be able to debate these issues. That is why the Bloc Quebecois tabled this motion. We must ensure that the free trade area of the Americas agreement is discussed in the House. I urge the members of all political parties to ensure that we have some way of being able to evaluate the negotiations that will take place.

Recently, Mr. Chrétien stated—

Supply February 15th, 2001

moved:

That this House demands that the government bring any draft agreement on the Free Trade Zone of the Americas before the House so that it may be debated and put to a vote before ratification by the Government of Canada.