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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was situation.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act November 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, as a sovereignist member of Parliament, my goal —to which I will dedicate myself actively for the following weeks, months and, maybe, years—is to make sure that Québec becomes a country able to repatriate all responsibilities so we may have all the tools we need.

Concerning duplication, it is difficult for me to fully understand the minister's reasoning. Concerning local and regional development issues, I refer him to the intervention I made a few minutes ago. I am pretty sure he heard what I said about local and regional development. I stress that “local” refers to municipalities and “regional” refers to regions like Gaspé and the islands, and not the Province of Québec, as he seems to understand. Local and regional development are part of under Québec's responsibilities. In this respect, I think that the Minister probably wants to muddy the waters to distract us from the real problem, the real issue. However, I am convinced that he will agree with me the issue is a very big one.

When it comes to a region like mine, which is facing a difficult situation demographically speaking, since population figures will be back down to 1940's level. The trend will be very difficult to revert. Just try to imagine all the work that will have to be done. Try to imagine all the effort that will be needed. I think that Quebeckers, thanks to their structures, responsibilities and past track record will succeed in meeting that enormous challenge. I am convinced that duplication, which is what Bill C-9 aims for, is not the way to resolve or contribute to resolving the problem, so that a region like mine may have a better future.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act November 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to speak today on Bill C-9 to establish the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

I will admit, to begin with, that I would much rather ask the following question: is there any future for the regions? For example,does Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the region from which I come, have a future? I think this is illustrative of the basic issue confronting us in connection with this bill.

It would be a good thing if the bill were aimed at improving the situation and permitting all the money allocated to local and regional development to go to Quebec, where there are resources and structures. I do not want to see what is already in place shunted aside, the CFDC and other resources.

There are certain resources already available on the federal level. I would pay acknowledge the efforts of staff, both past and present, of Economic Development Canada or the CFDC, the community futures development corporations in the Quebec region. I think there are 57 of these corporations in all and their contribution certainly deserves recognition.

In Canada, when we talk about regions, when the issue is about my region, Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, for instance, we can say that that word does not exist in the vocabulary. When we talk about regions in the Canadian sense of that term, we talk about Quebec as a whole. There are 18 regions in Quebec. In the federal system, one does not talk about a region per se, such as Gaspésie-les-Îles or Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean or others, but about Quebec in its entirety.

When we talk about local and regional development, that is where this becomes important. One realizes that Quebec has its own specific tools, such as the local investment centres, now also called local investment funds, which revolve around various structures, headed and funded by Quebec. These tools boost local and regional development.

The bill before us is such that we find ourselves in a situation where programs are not changed, and neither are budgets. So, in my region, one realizes at the end of the day that it is possible to make considerable headway while having a very good grasp of issues as they play out in our local environment.

I draw attention here to Histoire de la Gaspésie , written by Marc Desjardins, Yves Frenette, Jules Bélanger and Bernard Hétu, a book to which something was added recently. When one looks at the history of the Gaspé region, specifically with respect to demographics, one realizes that in 1870—it was thus quite a while ago—there were 31,480 inhabitants. By 1960, the number had jumped to 104,824. Yes, we can talk about development, an increase, the demographic factor.

However, the situation today is the following. In 1960, there were 104,824 inhabitants. In 2001, there were 99,886. We are talking about the Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine region. In 2004, this year, the numbers are very worrisome. We are talking about approximately 97,000 inhabitants.

There is a serious decrease in population. By their very nature, figures sometimes allow us to make projections. Accordingly, looking ahead to 2021, we foresee a population of only 86,000 people in the Gaspésie and Îles-de-la-Madeleine region. This means that we are getting back to the figures prevailing in 1940. It also reflects the reality we live in, and shows that we have a very important job to do to ensure that this region as well as other Quebec regions can overcome some very serious problems, including outmigration and socio-economic challenges.

In that context, the minister's proposal is basically to create an agency responsible for I know not what exactly. In the statement or the briefing document that we received concerning the bill, the department itself mentions that this legislation does not entail any foreseeable consequence on the programming and on the present client base of the agency. What does that mean exactly? It means that we end up with a department that is already telling us that Bill C-9 will not change in any way the real tools we should use. I think that the Bloc Québécois members, at least this is my view, would rather approve a scheme to transfer the $400 million that are being spent or invested by the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec so that these funds could be used by the people who work on these files, once the necessary resources and employees are transferred.

C-9 is nothing more than duplication. It also shows that we are stuck with a federal government that forgets that by creating a new structure, it is not addressing the real issues. I think the federal government should pay more attention to its own responsibilities and stick to its own jurisdiction. Speaking about responsibilities, this reminds us of the mess it made in areas like fisheries, employment insurance, VIA Rail, Air Canada, and so forth. I believe that the government could be much more effective if it paid more attention to its own responsibilities, namely in the fisheries area.

This brings me to what is going on in the fisheries. To get some idea of the problems, one only has to visit port facilities throughout Quebec. We recently had the opportunity to tour the maritime areas of Quebec. I was accompanied by the hon. member for Manicouagan and the hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia. We saw some terrible things. We have a government, a department which does not fulfill its own obligations, namely to provide fishers and boaters, as well as all potential port users, with facilities which are well maintained and repaired.

The efforts of the Bloc Québécois in recent years helped get much more money, but not enough to deal adequately with the needs. In 2000-01, there was a $50 million budget for Canada's entire small craft harbours program. Such an amount is not only insufficient, but ludicrous. Because of this ludicrous situation, an additional amount of $20 million a year, starting in 2002, has been allocated for the next five years. The Bloc Québécois was instrumental in getting this modest budget increase.

However, the efforts made regarding this issue are really inadequate, considering the needs. Based on some estimates—and the reality may actually be even worse—we are talking about an amount of over $500 million to repair or maintain small craft harbours across Canada.

Year in and year out, the budget is only a few tens of millions of dollars. This means that we are postponing the solving of existing problems. Assuming one's real responsibilities would mean to earmark large budgets for small craft harbours.

Currently, there are some horror stories in Grande-Vallée, Rivière-au-Renard and Cannes-de-Roches, in the Gaspé Peninsula. I had the opportunity to visit some facilities and to talk to people about these issues. I can say that, when it comes to the federal government's initiatives, as they relate to its responsibilities regarding fishing infrastructures, these people do not beat around the bush and they are totally unsatisfied.

This bill does not change anything in terms of budgets and programs, and the department keeps telling us that, in the end, it will have no impact on the agency's current program and clientele. This is a bill that merely seeks to increase visibility and that will ultimately result in duplication.

This duplication will generate real problems. The real issue is demography. At the beginning of my speech, I alluded to what will happen in the regions in terms of demographics, and to the fact that, by the year 2021, the population will be the same as it was in 1940. This is not what we call progress. This is not an improvement. This is not what we call building a future, a promising one.

This is why it is very important that the federal government, considering the resources that it has available and the existing fiscal imbalance, ensures that this money can be transferred to Quebec, which can really look after our own business in a proper and responsible manner.

When it comes to examples showing what is currently happening, let me say that, unfortunately, there are many. The railway system is really in a state of neglect, or even inappropriate. Furthermore, there is passenger train service in the Gaspé Peninsula only three days a week. Service is provided only three days a week, not seven days a week. Air transport is deficient, indeed practically almost inoperable. Flight schedules are inadequate. There are few airlines to choose from, and so on.

I occasionally use air travel. Therefore, I can say that it is inaccessible because of cost. Indeed, we are not talking about a few hundred dollars, but nearly a thousand dollars to travel between Montreal and the Gaspé Peninsula, or between Montreal and the Magdalen Islands. For this price, on could easily go to Europe. That having been said, in 2004, I do not think that this reflects an honest effort or what could be a situation where proper services are offered.

There is also the employment insurance file. This is a real mess. I have had the opportunity—and that is part of my reason for being in politics—to meet a lot of people in connection with this file. This is something I have experienced myself, as a resident of the Gaspé—Magdalen Islands area, and I am experiencing it again today. In that context, when we look at the results, at the way the federal government handled its responsibilities, and the way it could have handled them, we realize that it is certainly not by introducing a bill like this one, which changes nothing and simply seeks to create duplication, that it will resolve any problem whatsoever.

This duplication shows that the new department goes far beyond the current Canada Economic Development.

We are talking about a real federal department of regional development for Quebec. The bill says that the minister shall guide, promote and coordinate federal policiesand programs in relation to the development anddiversification of the economy of the regionsof Quebec. His mandate includes all federal activities in the regions.

Accordingly, in cooperation with other concernedfederal ministers and boards and agencies, the minister shall formulate and implementpolicies, plans and integrated federalapproaches.

Integrated federal approaches says it all. That's the real issue. The minister will in fact be responsible for the impacts of all federal programs on the regions.

We certainly do not want any integrated federal approaches to the development of Quebec's regions. The regions do need an integrated development strategy, but only Quebec is able to implement it. I think this is the crux of the matter, the crux of what Bill C-9 can represent and the crux of what is fundamentally at stake here.

We already know that the Constitution gives Quebec responsibility over most matters relating to regional development. I remind hon. members of what I said at the beginning: regions for Canada and regions for Quebec are two different things.

When reference is made to regions of Canada, this certainly does not mean regions like Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, or Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for instance. It means Quebec as a whole. In Canada, the regions mean the Atlantic region—which includes more than one province—Quebec, Ontario and the west.

But when we speak of regions, we mean regions like Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, where we have six RCMs, or county regional municipalities, for a population that now numbers under 100,000, as I have said. With demographic projections as they are, we obviously need a really big hand up.

I think that we owe a vote of thanks to the men and women who have worked on economic recovery plans. I will touch on the federal plans, but first I will take a moment to talk about the Quebec plan. That effort has been translated into concrete action and a plan, as far as the development of my region is concerned.

Although the figures are still pretty alarming, we have seen slightly fewer young people leaving these past few years. This positive effect on the very serious problem of our youth exodus is the result of a recovery plan that has been created and implemented by Quebec.

Now for the federal plan. Just prior to the 2000 election campaign, an announcement was made in our region about a three-year $35 million recovery plan. Three years would bring us now to the end of the program, but imagine this, over time, it has been turned into a five-year plan.

If we do the math, we see that the plan, rather than injecting $35 million into the region by March 31, 2004, has put in $13.2 million. This is an example of how this government fulfils its responsibilities. It is therefore very important to look the situation squarely in the face and ensure that help is really forthcoming to regions such as Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

Older Workers November 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, not only does the government refuse to support vulnerable industries such as textiles and fisheries but, in 1997, the current Prime Minister abolished POWA, the program for older worker adjustment, which allowed workers over 55 to receive benefits until they reached retirement age.

Since all the members from Quebec and even the Liberal caucus are calling for the reinstatement of a program for older workers who cannot be retrained, what is the government waiting for to re-establish an improved POWA that would cover all workers in Quebec?

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act November 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will just take a few seconds.

Unfortunately, when I look at the record, I feel we would need a fiscal imbalance department rather than a regional development department.

Actually, Quebeckers can easily take care of the development of Quebec. The funds allocated to the agency could just as easily go into the Quebec treasury or be administered by Quebeckers who know what the problems and the solutions are.

That is why I would encourage the Conservative member to examine this issue a little more closely. Given the results, people in the regions, and I am one of them, since I am from the area of Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands, doubt that establishing a new department will be a really effective solution.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act November 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member to clarify his position on Bill C-9.

There could be some contradiction as to the creation of a department, because in his speech, he seemed to say that it would not change a whole lot with regard to regional socio-economic problems compared with what an effective agency could do.

We also understand that he is in favour of the bill. It is something different and I would like him to explain how on the one hand we can be supportive, since it will not change much or not even anything, while saying that what is needed is not necessarily a department, but some action.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act November 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I did not really intend to address the issue at this time, but what I heard really made me sit up straight. It woke me up, but not in a positive way.

I would like to ask the minister a question about the record of the agency, especially in the region of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Just before the election, they announced that about $35 million would be spent over three years. Those three years were stretched to five years, and by March 31, 2004, only $11 million had been spent. Is that a good record? I do not think so.

What goes around comes around, so we are not about to be told what to do by a department whose goal is simply to become more visible, not more efficient. We should talk about efficiency. In terms of efficiency, Bernard Landry and his Parti Québécois government get top marks for what they did in the region of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

Supply October 28th, 2004

We are rigorous and responsible.

Supply October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech. I would have liked to hear more about practical solutions from him, because that is what we are looking for in terms of fiscal imbalance.

Unfortunately, he did not say much about such practical solutions, and I will give him a chance to do so. In fact, according to the speech I heard, we are dealing here with an argument imbalance rather than a fiscal imbalance.

The choice that needs to be made is that of improving the lot of people out there, whatever the region they live in. With regard to mine, Gaspésie and Îles-de-la-Madeleine, I can tell you that people without jobs were truly robbed. And furthermore, the robber had accomplices. This fraud, which has in fact turned into a robbery, cannot be remedied with words or argument that cause us to fall into rhetoric whereby, according to the speech I have just heard, all is well and good.

All is not well and good. Ask the men and women back home who have no jobs and you will realize that there is a fiscal imbalance, that it hurts and that it hurts every day.

Quarantine Act October 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on the bill before us. Not to be redundant, I think it is very important to indicate that we are in favour of the bill being referred to committee before second reading, for further consideration.

I will address certain points the hon. member for Laval clearly outlined in her remarks, as did other members, points that help us understand the current situation better. I think it is important to point out again that the current situation is very different from what it used to be; in that sense, a refresher is necessary. Still, a refresher is all fine and well but it is not enough. The legislation has to be strengthened, while respecting areas of jurisdiction of course.

Tools and resources should be made available to those responsible for enforcing the legislation in question. I can assure the House that, in committee, the members of the Bloc Québécois, and our colleagues from the other parties as well, will act responsibly to ensure that we can take this further this time around.

For the benefit of those watching and listening, I will come back to the summary of the bill. Going over this summary will allow us to emphasize a number of points on which I intend to elaborate for the next little while:

This enactment repeals and replaces the Quarantine Act. Its purpose is to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases in Canada. It is applicable to persons and conveyances arriving in or in the process of departing from Canada.

It provides measures for the screening, health assessment and medical examination of travellers to determine if they have a communicable disease.

I would like to address the points raised by the hon. member for Laval about the need to proceed with caution. Indeed, as we all know, one person's freedom endswhere that of another begins. Hence the need to act responsibly. Coming back to the summary:

It also provides measures for preventing the spread of communicable diseases, includingreferral to public health authorities, detention, treatment and disinfestation.Provisions for the administrative oversight of the detention of travellers are alsoincluded.

It provides for additional measures such as the inspection and cleansing ofconveyances and cargo to ensure that they are not the source of communicablediseases.

It imposes controls on the import and export of cadavers, body parts andother human remains.

It contains provisions for the collection and disclosure of personalinformation if it is necessary to prevent the spread of a communicable diseaseor, under certain circumstances, for law enforcement purposes.

It also provides the Minister of Health with interim order powers in the caseof public health emergencies and enforcement mechanisms to ensurecompliance with the Act.

Concerning this last point, it is important to make a few things clear, as the hon. member for Laval did. When a minister has to make decisions that the minister has authority to make, this authority should be set in a framework and not simply be discretionary. This is quite important. Ministers want to act responsibly, which means they should be able to use other sources of information. One of them could be a committee of experts. I think this is a point that could be further examined in committee. You can be sure Bloc Québécois members will raise it.

Because of other things I have heard up to now about this bill, I feel the need to clarify a few things about the speech of the public security minister. She was talking among other things about cooperation, new technologies and what happened recently with SARS, for example.

I would like to stress that the current situation, or the earlier one, brings us back to what defines our action, that is acting in a responsible manner. And to act in a responsible manner, we need measures, resources and reinforcement of the work to be done. In this regard, we need a principle that ensures collaboration and cooperation. However, this cannot suffice to deal with the situation.

From what has happened in the past few years, we know full well that infectious and spreadable diseases know no border. With the new means of transportation, we realize that spread is much faster than it used to be. Thus, we need to strengthen our protection measures.

Again, we should not get carried away. In this regard, I would like to draw your attention to clause 30 of the Bill, which states, and I quote:

The Minister may, on the Minister's own motion, review any decision of a quarantine officer to detain a traveller and, if the Minister is of the opinion that the traveller does not pose a risk of significant harm to public health, order the traveller's release.

This clause looks all right, but I have some reservations about it. As mentioned by the members for Laval and other MPs, this authority must be set within a framework. We cannot afford to simply drop our responsibilities, leaving it to one person only, at a given point, to decide on everything to do with the application of the law. In this regard, I point out that is very important to be able to draw on alternate sources in carrying out our responsibilities.

This brings me to the work done in parliamentary committees, which are made up of members of all parties. I do think that all members want to avoid a repetition, in the same circumstances, of what happened before. MPs from the Bloc Quebecois and other parties will surely want to cooperate, but in a responsible manner.

I feel that because we in the opposition are now the majority in committee—because the government is in a minority—we will be more vigilant. We will ensure we assume our responsibilities in connection with the new threats and new transportation realities. We will also ensure that we have the resources to act in a responsible and effective manner.

Canada Shipping Act October 15th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank again the new member for Alfred-Pellan for his comments. There will need to be many of us working on this issue, because it is unfortunately going to be a huge task.

I do mean unfortunately. It should be a matter of common sense when we talk about maritime security or marine pollution. Sufficient funding should be provided, but it is not.

It is not sufficient at present and it is not likely to be sufficient after the bill before us today is passed. In that sense, it is absolutely essential that all my hon. colleagues have the opportunity to review the unanimous report by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, and even to read it again. This would give them a clearer picture of the situation and help meet the challenge of having a Coast Guard that is able to effectively carry out its responsibilities.