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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

Canada Shipping Act October 15th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his comments and question. That leads me to insist on one point. Without wanting to appear redundant, I find that maritime safety and pollution are words whose maritime meaning can make a difference in terms of resources, when a person in danger can be saved. The same is true in the case of the environment in terms of the resources involved.

I remind the House that the landed value of marine resources in Quebec may amount to $157 million. That is the 2003 figure.

In economics, it is customary to apply a multiplication factor of three, for the intermediary levels. Thus, the industry may be worth a half million dollars in Quebec alone. That is a different debate, but I can say that if Quebec had really occupied its proper place and could take back its share of historic quotas, it would be even greater.

So it is a question of economics, employment, development, protection of the resource and safety, too. That is why it is important for the Coast Guard's services to operate in developmental mode instead of always being on the defensive.

The bill before us focuses us on what has already happened and in doing so, we are not in developmental mode. If I may slip in a pun, we have definitely missed the boat.

It would be a way to improve services. With respect to the Department of Transport, I remind the hon. members that people in the shipping industry have fought long and hard to ensure that the costs of ice removal, dredging and the like do not rest solely on the shoulders of the industry. Negotiations on this have been going on a long time but have not come to any conclusions.

As for the Coast Guard, it is very important to stand up and say that current funding is inadequate. This bill will not provide safe passage through this situation, which may potentially be catastrophic for the resource and may also endanger human lives.

Canada Shipping Act October 15th, 2004

We often say also “selective memory”. However, speaking of memory, we need to get back to certain points about the unanimity of this report and the report itself.

That report put its finger right on the sore spot. I cannot help pointing out again the underfunding of the Coast Guard. When it comes down to it, this is nothing more than a bill that will negate many hours of debate. I will just point out that this process took months, of course, and culminated in a unanimous report from the fisheries and oceans committee.

My former boss, in my parliamentary assistant days, was in fact a member of that committee, along with members of other parties. As the member for Halifax has just said, one member spoke at length about ensuring that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which was responsible for the Coast Guard, would have proper funding.

When it comes to merely transferring responsibilities from fisheries to transport, since that is what we have before us today, no basic change is being made to the law. The rules remain unchanged, as do the powers and functions of the minister. Only the identity of the minister responsible changes. We are talking here of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Transport. The bill, of course, gives no indication of the cost of such a transfer . The shipping industry is not opposed to the changes proposed, since they will have little impact in actual fact.

In this context, we need a little background. In 1995, that is 9 years ago already, the responsibilities involved were transferred to Fisheries and Oceans. So this is a kind of turning back the clock without making the real changes required.

I come back, obviously, to the principle of underfunding. On December 12, 2003, when the current Prime Minister—who could be called the father of fiscal imbalance--took office, policy and operational responsibilities were transferred by order in council from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to the Department of Transport. Thus, the purpose of the current bill is to clarify existing legislation in order to formalize the order.

As far as this bill is concerned, I would say that if there is no additional funding for marine safety and environmental protection, we are going to have a serious problem. I call on all my colleagues to demonstrate anew—not on the Cap-aux-Meules wharf—the unanimous desire they once had to change the very essence of funding for the Canadian Coast Guard.

Canada Shipping Act October 15th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to take a tour of the beautiful riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. You will be warmly welcomed by the good people there, who will certainly be able to talk to you about the Coast Guard or anything related to maritime life.

I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

I am pleased to speak to the bill to amend the Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act and the Oceans Act. It is a long title, but at closer glance, it appears that the change, as the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan was saying earlier, is purely cosmetic.

Everyone at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans agreed that the basic problem is the chronic underfunding of the Canadian Coast Guard. It has been the topic of many speeches over the past few years. It has also affected different ridings in different ways. In the riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine in particular, Coast Guard services were reduced as a result of decreased funding over the years.

In my remarks, I would like to go over a number of recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. It is worthwhile to recall certain parts of this committee report which will help to better understand the situation. Recommendation 9 in particular provides:

That a renewed Canadian Coast Guard be established as anindependent civilian federal agency.

The bill before us does not do that at all. That is why it is important to look at the overall issue in order to improve the situation and have better, efficient service.

In addition, the Coast Guard should be governed by a new Canadian Coast Guard Act that would set out a number of its responsibilities, which is not the case right now. These include search and rescue, and emergency environmental response. Goodness knows, situations can happen that call for an emergency response.

I will also address the Coast Guard's lead role among the several federal departments involved inmarine pollution prevention. To increase the effectiveness of its mandate, the responsibilities of the Coast Guard could include a formal mandate in national security with respect to Canada’s coasts, including the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. There is more.

Full operational funding was recommended in response to many comments and historical situations experienced in the past that have made us realize that we are indeed facing a situation where the services provided by the Canadian Coast Guard are not adequate. We could look at various aspects. We could look at the fleet, for example, that is to say what the Coast Guard has to operate and to carry out its mandate.

With respect to the fleet, in recent years, the Coast Guard has found itself in a situation where it did not have sufficient funding to effectively carry out its mandate. That is one aspect; sadly, there are others.

I say sadly because, when we look at the underfunding of the Coast Guard, we can see that, where maritime service is concerned, we can find ourselves facing unusual situations such as those experienced in recent years.

Such a situation occurred in an area of my riding, the Magdalen Islands, where we had to put up a fight. Residents of the Magdalen Islands took to the streets or, rather, the Cap-aux-Meules wharf, to send a strong message to the effect that the government should absolutely not make new cuts in Coast Guard services, under the pretext that it would save a few thousand dollars, because it would then completely abdicate one of its primary responsibilities, namely marine security.

As members know, the Magdalen Islands are located 250 kilometres off the Gaspé Peninsula. Being out at sea, they are quite isolated. The services provided by the Coast Guard go far beyond the notion of services: they are a matter of security. The Magdalen Islands have a seafaring tradition, which means that people use boats a lot to give a little boost to the local economy. If the Coast Guard decides that it wants to save a few thousand dollars, the result could be that, instead of relying on the Coast Guard to provide effective and quick service in case of an emergency, a distressed ship may have to wait for help coming from much further away.

As we know, travelling at sea is not like travelling in the air. Speed is calculated in knots, not in hundreds or thousands of kilometres per hour. The speed of ships is calculated in knots. In this context, the notion of Coast Guard services takes on its full meaning. Fiddling with the figures—this is the expression that comes to mind—to save some money may jeopardize the safety of seamen who are trying to make an honest living. These people do not want to be faced with catastrophic situations that could put their lives at risk.

Unfortunately, this is what has been happening in recent years. We witnessed more than mere threats; the Coast Guard's budget was actually cut, with the result that it had less money to provide its services.

The Coast Guard has a very important mandate. This is why it is absolutely critical that we not make mere cosmetic changes, to paraphrase the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan. Rather, we should take this opportunity to massively invest new money. This would not improve the situation, but at least we would be able to deal with it.

In this case, as I also had the opportunity to do during the election campaign, we could talk about the defence issue. We know very well that, when we talk about the defence issue, we talk a lot about being a little on the defensive, which is somehow apt. However, we are not talking about development.

Concerning the Coast Guard, we must not only be on the defensive and demonstrate, as the people from the Magdalen Islands have done on the wharf in recent years. These people want to go out on the wharf of Cap-aux-Meules, but not necessarily to demonstrate.

In this sense, we found ourselves in a tough spot, with many defence issues such as this one, instead of talking about development. Development means improvement. It also means being able to face changes. There are many changes. It may be quite difficult sometimes to face situations where we should ensure that sailors in trouble receive help.

This also brings me to the famous unanimous report. I come back to the concept of unanimous, because it is important. Indeed, we realize that Liberal colleagues, at the time, and I hope they will not deny what happened at the time—

Canada Shipping Act October 15th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, since this is my first speech, I would like to start by thanking the people of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for voting for me to represent them.

I would like the hon. member who just spoke to know that I completely agree with his speech, especially the points on the unanimous report on the Canadian Coast Guard by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Having indirectly been involved—at the time I was the legislative assistant to the member for Matapédia—Matane, who worked on this report—I know that the Canadian Coast Guard is badly off. It has almost no money or support for its duties and functions. A simple cosmetic change, as the hon. member was saying, will not prevent disaster from occurring.

It is a matter of safety at sea. It is also a matter of responding to possible distress calls at sea. Given the region that I represent, I know of many situations where it was apparent that funding for the Coast Guard was inadequate.

That is why I support the hon. member's comments. I invite him to continue in this vein, because I think it is necessary to fight strongly for proper funding for the Coast Guard to allow it to meet the challenge of improving its chances.

I thank the hon. member for his speech and I urge him to continue championing the Coast Guard.

The Environment October 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the people of the Gaspé, the Magdalen Islands and New Brunswick have spoken out in large numbers against the Bennett project at Belledune. As we know, the decision allowing Bennett to proceed with its project is currently being appealed by the federal environment minister.

What is the government's explanation for considering this project hazardous enough to justify a commission of inquiry while still allowing the company to operate the plant? Might it not make more sense to impose a moratorium on all operations pending the outcome of the appeal?