- 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
Business of Supply March 10th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with the member. The facts are there. Besides, the ruling the Speaker gave yesterday regarding the Minister of International Cooperation is very clear. This whole affair is enormously vague and opaque. I just read the contradictory statements that she made to the committee and to the House. When people engage in this kind of trickery, there is no choice. The British parliamentary system is based on trust, which is no longer there. She does not have the House's trust and so she should resign. The same is true for the Minister of Immigration, and I would even say that, in his case, it is even worse. As Minister of Immigration, he should take care to be above this partisan battle when it comes to all the cultural communities. But we know that the money he raised using the House's resources was to be used for an advertising campaign that targeted certain ethnocultural communities and disregarded others. What message does this send? It was not the Conservative Party, it was the Minister of Immigration who, as a Conservative organizer, decided to focus on four ethnocultural communities because he thinks they are perhaps more open to the Conservative ideology and ideas. The others, he is going to toss aside.
Does this mean that, as Minister of Immigration, he is going to focus on the four communities that the Conservative Party has identified and toss aside the others? Why create two classes of newcomers to Canada? It is completely unworthy of a Minister of Immigration. He should resign for that reason as well.
Business of Supply March 10th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member from the New Democratic Party for his question.
I think he raised an indisputable fact. The only party whose expenses were rejected by Elections Canada is the Conservative Party. The only party whose headquarters were raided by the RCMP was, again, the Conservative Party. All the other parties are well aware of the rules and followed them to the letter. Again, these are misleading statements, especially by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, who has been coming up with information on the NDP, the Bloc and the Liberals that has nothing to do with the matter.
They are trying to evade the issue. They committed fraud. Let them return the money and stop going after Elections Canada unnecessarily.
Business of Supply March 10th, 2011
That this House denounce the conduct of the government, its disregard for democracy and its determination to go to any lengths to advance its partisan interests and impose its regressive ideology, as it did by justifying the Conservative Party's circumvention of the rules on election spending in the 2005-2006 election campaign, when the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism used public funds to solicit donations to the Conservative Party, when the Party used taxpayers’ money to finance a pre-election campaign under the guise of promoting Canada’s Economic Action Plan, when it changed the wording in government communications to promote itself, when it showed that it is acceptable for a minister to alter a document and make misleading statements to the House, when it refused to provide a parliamentary committee with the costs of its proposals, and when it improperly prorogued Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Québec.
It would be impossible to go over all of the abuses listed in this motion in just 10 minutes. I will not bother rereading the motion, since you just did such a good job.
First of all, I would simply like to remind the House that we think it is very clear that the Conservative government's ideology is harmful to democracy. We see this every day.
Second, it is also very clear that the Conservative Party does not like to abide by democratic rules and that it sees Parliament as an obstacle to be circumvented. In fact, we saw this twice when the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament and once when an election was called, all just so the Conservatives could not be held accountable to the opposition, to parliamentarians.
Third, the government likes to take an autocratic approach. We have seen several examples of its utter disrespect for parliamentarians and democratic institutions. Such examples include its recent refusal to hand over documents needed by the Standing Committee on Finance to carry out its work, its refusal to hand over uncensored documents concerning allegations of torture in Afghanistan, until the Speaker issued a ruling on this in April 2010, and its refusal to allow ministerial staff to testify before committees. These all show a clear lack of respect for parliamentarians and democracy.
Again yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you issued two rulings concerning events listed in the motion. I hope I have time to come back to them later. If I do not have time to revisit them, I am sure my hon. colleague from Québec will have the opportunity to discuss them further.
And fourth, that entire regressive ideology can be seen not only in this contempt for democracy, but also in the government’s desire to advance a hidden agenda. We can sometimes see aspects of that hidden agenda peeking over the horizon, for example when backbench MPs are used to try to reopen the debate about pregnancy choice and when they use backbench MPs to promote the government’s desire to dismantle the firearms registry.
Instead of holding open debates, they prefer to bring changes in through the back door. Here is another example: bills dealing with changes to the Senate, changes that are totally unconstitutional, as virtually all our experts have told us. Because the Conservative government is not able to do what it wants to do directly, it does it indirectly, constantly using half-truths and approximations and never hesitating to misrepresent the facts. Unfortunately, we often see examples of this during question period and statements by members.
What is pretty unbelievable is that during the 2005-2006 election campaign the Conservatives and the Prime Minister portrayed themselves as the ones who wanted to distance themselves from the obfuscation and lack of transparency of the Liberals. They wanted to make themselves the champions of transparency, integrity and accountability.
After the sponsorship scandal, the Conservatives wanted to show that they were an honest alternative to a party that had agreed, for no reason other than to try to buy off Quebeckers after the 1995 referendum, to divert public funds not only for partisan purposes, but also to enhance the federal government’s visibility, in addition to greasing the palms of a number of advertising agencies.
The Conservatives portrayed themselves as the ones who were going to wash whiter than white. The fact is that the Conservative washing machine has been broken for several years, since 2006. Not only is the machine broken and no longer getting things so white, the opposite is in fact true; the works have come apart and there is oil on the clothes. The longer it goes on, the dirtier the clothes in the Conservative washing machine look, and the dirtier they will keep getting. It all started with the 2005-2006 election, when a scheme was put in place to exceed the national limits on advertising spending by using the space left over by 67 candidates who all, to my knowledge, come from Quebec.
So we have transfers made from Conservative Party headquarters to ridings, which in turn paid bills, because of decisions made at the national level. There are no problems transferring funds from the national level to the ridings, or vice versa. We do it all the time. But the law says that those transfers must be made in accordance with the Elections Canada rules. That was not the case in this 2005-2006 situation. So we hope the Conservative Party will pay back the $200,000 it got itself, fraudulently, from Canadian taxpayers, and that it will also drop its legal actions. This is not an administrative dispute, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons say. We are talking about fraud here, I would remind you. The director of public prosecutions has called it fraud and producing fake invoices, and on that point, former Conservative candidates have testified to illegal acts committed to obtain illegal refunds, as I said just now.
There was another misleading statement made, in particular, by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. He said that if the Chief Electoral Officer was aware of the Conservatives' scheme, it was because the Conservative Party gave him the information. What does he take us for? We all remember watching the news and seeing the RCMP raid on the Conservative Party's headquarters—clearly at Elections Canada's request—to retrieve the papers and emails necessary to expand upon existing evidence.
The Conservative Party never co-operated with Elections Canada. It did everything it could to try to delay the final decision, particularly through court action. The Conservative Party's failure to co-operate is the most obvious evidence of its guilt. Sooner or later, the Conservatives must be accountable for their actions.
I would like to read several excerpts from the Federal Court of Appeal's recent ruling, which dismissed one of the Conservative Party's cases against Elections Canada. Paragraph 93 reads as follows:
A key concern of the CEOC was the failure of the candidates to submit documentary evidence of the existence or terms of a contract with RMI [Retail Media Inc.] under which the advertisements were purchased by the candidates directly, or by the Party as the agent of the participating candidates. Indeed, the Party conceded that no contractual document between RMI and the candidates or the Party existed.
Hence, the scheme had absolutely no legal basis. I will read two other paragraphs. Unfortunately, I realize that I am going to run out of time. Paragraph 102 states:
The CEOC could reasonably regard the bases on which the costs of the RMB [regional media buys] were allocated as indicative more of a cost-shifting arrangement than an agreement by the participating candidates to purchase advertisements from RMI, either directly or through the Party.
The last two lines of paragraph 103 state:
...when the Party asked candidates to participate in the RMB, it was close to its permitted spending limit, a consideration that would make attractive a scheme to shift to candidates the cost of additional advertising with national themes.
Clearly, this is very serious. It is just as serious as the use of House resources by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to solicit funds in order to target certain ethnocultural communities. I hope that a number of my colleagues will have the opportunity to come back to this over the course of the day.
It is just as serious as the misleading statements by the Minister of International Cooperation, who flip-flopped. On April 23, 2010, in response to a question on the order paper, the minister said that the decision not to fund KAIROS was made by CIDA. On December 9, 2010, in committee, she said the opposite, that it was her decision.
I will conclude with this last point. On December 9, 2010, in committee, she said she did not know who added the word “not” to the document on funding for KAIROS. On February 14, 2011, in this House, she said that the word “not” was added at her direction.
That is the true face of the Conservative Party. The Conservatives have spun a web of deceit just to stay in power. That is unacceptable.
Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act March 10th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, we were very pleased to delay our opposition day in order to fast-track Bill C-61. As you know, the Bloc Québécois has been asking for weeks, during question period and in committee, that the government freeze the assets of Ben Ali and his family, who live in Quebec, notably in the Montreal area. Just recently, Ben Ali's brother-in-law was conducting transactions without repercussion.
We believe that the government has for several weeks now had the means to freeze these assets under the Criminal Code of Canada and the UN Convention against Corruption, but passing Bill C-61 means that the government will have to act and freeze the assets of this dictator and his family as well as any others who find themselves in a similar situation in the future.
Let us hope that the Senate moves quickly on Bill C-61. I am anxious to speak to the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher in a few days and see what has been done. The Bloc Québécois is pleased to be supporting Bill C-61.
Privilege March 9th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I, too, will be brief. The Speaker's ruling says it all, especially when he states, as he did in April 2010, that committees, like the House, have the right to order the production of documents needed for their work.
It is appalling to see that the government did not learn its lesson last April. Once again, not only did it try to keep members of the Standing Committee on Finance from having access to all of the information they needed to do their work, but it tried to cover up this attempt at non-transparency by tabling documents in the House that in no way answered the members' request. That was like adding insult to injury. So I think that the ruling is welcome.
We will be supporting the Liberal member's motion. We hope that the government will agree to work democratically with the committee. My colleague from Outremont could testify to the fact that over the past few days we have seen the Conservatives use every kind of delaying tactic, including filibustering, to keep committees from coming to conclusions.
I invite the government to take note of the ruling by the Speaker of the House and to commit to working with us so that a report can be tabled by the deadline set out in the motion, namely April 21.
The Bloc Québécois will support the motion that was moved following the Speaker's ruling on the question of privilege.
Amnesty International March 9th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, this year, Amnesty International is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
This organization is dedicated to defending human rights around the world and today has 3 million members in more than 150 countries and territories on five continents.
During the first international meeting, delegates from Europe and the United States decided to found a permanent international movement in defence of freedom of opinion and religion. The organization's activities have expanded since then.
In 1977, Amnesty International was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having contributed to securing the ground for freedom, for justice, and thereby also for peace in the world. Amnesty International also pushed for the creation of a permanent international criminal court, the principle of which was adopted by the United Nations in 1998.
I also want to commend the work done by the Amnesty International group at the Thérèse-Martin secondary school in Joliette to campaign for the repatriation of young Khadr. This agency's list of human rights initiatives is impressive and, by all accounts, the coming years will be just as busy.
The Bloc Québécois wishes Amnesty International a happy 50th anniversary.
Points of Order March 8th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I do not want to take up too much time because I want to ensure that the Liberal Party has enough time for its opposition day.
I would simply like to add that, in addition to the quotation from page 854 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, as cited by my NDP colleague, there is the following quote from page 100: “The practice has evolved so that it is the Speaker who decides what jurisdiction the Chair has over matters sub judice.”
For weeks now the opposition has been raising the issue of the in and out scheme.
Mr. Speaker, you have never found that to be a problem during question period, even though part of this issue is before the courts.
And by extension, I believe that the motion presented by the Liberal Party is entirely in order. My reasoning is supported by the quotation on page 854 as well as the fact that over the past weeks you have not intervened during question period to say that our questions about the in and out scheme were out of order.
I urge you to accept the Liberal motion so that we can move on to the debate.
Political Financing March 4th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of International Cooperation has been telling us for weeks that ministers are the ones who make the decisions. It was his decision, his responsibility, his mistake. The mistake is even more serious considering that as Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, he was asking for money from his Conservative colleagues so that he could then use that money as a Conservative Party organizer to try and attract certain ethnocultural communities.
Are this gender confusion and his voter targeting not further proof that he does not have what it takes to be the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and that he must step down?
Political Financing March 4th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism knowingly broke the rules of the House of Commons by using his letterhead to raise money to fund an ad campaign for the Conservative Party. The departure of his assistant does not change the minister's responsibility in all this, especially since the letter clearly indicates that this partisan fundraising was being done at the minister's request.
Does the minister understand that he bears responsibility for this illegal use of House resources and that he must step down?
Business of Supply March 3rd, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate, which serves to expand our reflections on the democratic institutions we need now and will need in the future. Everyone must recognize that there is currently a crisis in terms of traditional democratic representation, not only in Canada and Quebec, but also around the globe. This crisis in representative democracy is even more evident in Canada because of the continued existence of a completely archaic institution: the Senate.
The Bloc Québécois is not afraid of a debate on proportional representation. Everyone knows we do not have a definitive position on this, but we are very open to listening to all kinds of proposals. In a sovereign Quebec, we definitely would not have an archaic institution like the Senate. Perhaps we would have a proportional system or a house to represent the regions. It remains unknown. This allows me to take part in this debate with an open mind regarding the need to improve democratic institutions in all democratic countries.
The motion we are debating, moved by the member for Hamilton Centre, contains two elements. First of all, it talks about a referendum on the question of abolishing the Senate. Second, it proposes appointing a special committee for democratic improvement, whose mandate would be to engage with Canadians to determine what should replace the current system and to advise the government on the wording of a referendum question concerning abolition of the Senate.
We are comfortable with this motion, but on two conditions. The first is that the Senate be abolished only if voted on through a referendum and that, in Quebec, as was the case with Charlottetown in 1992, the referendum be held in accordance with Quebec's Referendum Act, which has already been used three times. This method of consulting the population has proven itself and should help avoid some of the pitfalls experienced in 1995, when the federal government decided not to respect the Referendum Act and made massive investments to support the forces on the no side.
In the debate among Quebeckers, the rules were followed and both the yes and no sides had equivalent means of expressing their points of view. I want to point out right now that we will support the NDP motion, but we must ensure that, in Quebec, the public is consulted in accordance with Quebec laws and regulations. We also agree with abolishing the Senate and with looking at a new voting system that would include elements of the proportional voting system. No other country but Israel has a truly proportional voting system. Most countries with such a voting system have elements of both representation based on ridings and representation based either on regions or on lists presented by political parties. There are a number of possible models. In Quebec during the time of René Lévesque, Robert Burns did some very important work that led to proposed reforms that, unfortunately, were never implemented.
With respect to the debate on a new form of representation in the House including elements of a proportional voting system, there is a set and established rule that Quebec's political weight cannot be less than its current political weight. That is not just one of Quebec's traditional demands. In the Charlottetown accord in 1992, all parties agreed that Quebec's representation within federal institutions should be at 25%. This is nothing new. We are opposed to Bill C-12, which would add 30 seats for the Canadian nation, because the representation of the Quebec nation within federal institutions—essentially this House of Commons—would be less than its current demographic and political weight, which is completely unacceptable for us.
The second condition is that, no matter which model is decided upon, as long as Quebeckers are part of the Canadian political landscape, their political weight within institutions, particularly the House of Commons and future political institutions—who knows, perhaps there might even be proposals to create a house of the regions—must remain as it is now, approximately 25%. That is the spirit as well the actual text of the amendment proposed by my colleague, the member for Québec, who is our democratic reform critic. We want to make it completely clear: the NDP motion will not be acceptable until it is modified by the amendment proposed by the member for Québec.
I would like to come back to the two major elements proposed by the member for Hamilton Centre. I will start with the abolition of the Senate. The Bloc Québécois has been calling for the abolition of the Senate for a very long time. The institution is completely archaic and dates to colonial times; it is a British legacy. High society has always distrusted the public. When the House of Commons was created, a counterbalance was thought to be necessary, as in London, consisting of representatives from society's elite to balance the decisions of those less thoughtful and rational than the elite. At that time, it was a question of the nobility and the upper classes. Now it is a question of Conservative organizers and friends of the regime. That is how it was with the Liberals, and that is how it is now with the Conservatives. It is an undemocratic counterbalance to the House, which is filled with democratically elected representatives of the people. It is completely archaic.
At the time, this fear of allowing the common people, the masses, to make decisions was reflected in American institutions as well. Tradition dictates that the electoral college votes according to the way the people in the various states have chosen their presidential electors. If, in the state of Massachusetts, for example, the majority of voters decide that the Democratic candidate should become president, then the presidential electors of that state will vote against the choice of the people of their state. However, there have been times when the presidential electors did not agree to vote for the candidate that had received the most support. That system was put in place after the American revolution, with the independence of the United States. It created a sort of second class. After the popular vote, there were these presidential electors who chose the president. This goes back to a time when the emerging democracy frightened the ruling elite.
The Canadian Senate is a legacy of that; it is a counterbalance. A few weeks ago, the Senate agreed to the decisions made by the House of Commons. Now, the Conservative-controlled Senate has decided to block bills adopted in the House by the majority of the members elected by the people. This is totally unacceptable. This only further proves the importance of getting rid of this archaic institution.
We have been in favour of abolishing the Senate for a very long time. However, let us not forget that the Senate is part of a constitutional agreement. We can certainly hold a consultative referendum on abolishing the Senate—and I hope the yes side wins—but there will have to be constitutional negotiations with Quebec and the provinces to determine how the Senate will be abolished and what will replace it.
The second element, a proportional voting system, or some of its aspects, will also require constitutional negotiations with Quebec and the provinces. Naturally, the special committee could make a certain number of recommendations and outline some options, but all decisions would require constitutional negotiations. As I have said from the beginning, we have one immutable condition: Quebec's political representation cannot be lowered, and Quebec must maintain its current political weight, at about 25%.
The House of Commons recognized the Quebec nation some time ago. Unfortunately, none of the federalist parties has wanted to implement measures to give tangible expression to this recognition. I introduced a bill on the application of the Charter of the French Language to the corporations and the 250,000 workers under federal jurisdiction in Quebec. We wanted Bill 101 to apply to these 250,000 workers. But once again, all the Liberals and Conservatives opposed this measure. The NDP was divided, but the majority of its members voted to not apply the Charter of the French Language to Quebec corporations under federal jurisdiction.
Although the Quebec nation has been recognized by the House, all federalist parties have always banded together to prevent this recognition from having a tangible expression. For me it is just a symbolic gesture. However, it will prove to be extremely useful when we win the referendum, which should happen soon with the election of the Parti Québécois in Quebec. Because Canada has recognized the Quebec nation, it will have no choice but to recognize Quebec's decision to embrace sovereignty. Although the recognition is symbolic, it is extremely important to Quebec and the sovereignist movement.
The federalist parties have not yet wanted to give tangible expression to the recognition of the Quebec nation. However, the political representation of Quebec regions in the House of Commons, and in any future institution, will have to be 25%. Although this does not appear in the motion, I am opening a door, I am engaging in fictional politics. The special committee could decide to establish a second chamber with different representation from, for example, the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairie provinces and British Columbia. We believe this is imperative and it must be even clearer because the House of Commons has recognized the Quebec nation.
This is an important debate. In my opinion, the Liberal member raised a very important issue. In the debates that were held in Quebec, we discussed at length the difference between members who would be elected on the basis of their ridings and those who would be elected on the basis of the lists suggested by the political parties. There are advantages and disadvantages to both systems. What would be best is a combination of the systems in which proportional representation would be used but the regions and ridings would also have a say in the choice of members.
Personally, I see a problem in having some members be accountable to their constituents on the basis of their riding and others chosen on the basis of a party list. That is why I would prefer, particularly in a sovereign Quebec, that there be both proportional representation in the National Assembly and another chamber where the regions are represented to ensure that the voices of the smallest regions are not completely drowned out by the proportional representation. We could easily have a chamber with proportional representation, like the National Assembly, and another with more regional representation but still chosen via an electoral process. Such a system would ensure that representatives of that chamber would be linked to a region—in my case it would be the Lanaudière region—a little bit like in the American system.
I would like to close by saying that, for us, the best way to guarantee higher democratic standards in Quebec would be for Quebec to become a sovereign nation with full authority. That is our first priority. The Bloc Québécois has proven time and time again that it is not here to reform Canadian institutions or to prevent reform. However, we want it to be understood that our priority is certainly not to work toward the abolition of the Senate or toward a system of proportional representation across Canada but rather to work toward Quebec sovereignty.