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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

Fisheries May 31st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, during the visit by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to the Gaspé, the Quebec government called for emergency measures to mitigate the 63% decrease in the snow crab quota in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Quebec fisheries minister is calling for more flexibility in the EI system to support fishers, fishers' helpers and factory workers who have been affected by the crab crisis.

Will the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development take action?


Madam Chair, I am aware of all that, and I am also aware of the official and unofficial lobbies the minister, cabinet and the government have to contend with. It is a question of responsibility.

I also get requests, but we have to act responsibly and carefully. It is not responsible or careful to come with the catch rates we have had in recent years. If it were, we would not have been hit with a 63% drop this year.


Madam Chair, I thank the member for Acadie—Bathurst very much for his question, which raises a very important point. The effort has to come from the whole government, not just the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

A government effort means improving employment insurance eligibility and operating rules where needed. We have been calling for this for a long time. There are inequities and huge needs in different sectors. We could talk about forestry, but we are talking about fisheries now.

The employment insurance plan could be changed to reflect the needs of the fisheries sector. The other departments should also do something to help the fishery, because our future depends on it.


Madam Chair, I appreciate my colleague’s question. I would tell him it is a question of discipline, dignity and responsibility.

I want to toss a few good words the minister’s way. I think she was very dignified and acted in a disciplined, responsible way on the seal issue when she went to China. I also think the minister acted in a disciplined, responsible way when she succeeded in convincing her cabinet colleagues to inject another $200 million into small craft harbours. I can acknowledge that. I can say it again and again, anywhere and any time. Now, why not make it three for three?

Why is it that when it comes to snow crab, she does not have this same dignity, this same responsibility, this same discipline? That is why I call on her to take some action on this fishery, which would show that she really does care about the problems experienced by these communities, by the fishing boats and the fish plants. All it takes is a little good will and a bit of money. But money is needed everywhere.

They did not hesitate to spend millions and even billions of dollars to help the banking system and they gave billions to the automobile industry. They do not hesitate to help agriculture either. I fail to see, therefore, why they cannot do the same for the fisheries, which are also an industry of the future.


Madam Chair, I have questions as well about what the governments of Quebec and the other provinces are doing, but as a member of the House of Commons, my main concern is the federal level. I do not have the choice, therefore, of focusing on that.

There is something I find very interesting. The minister just said—we all heard her—that she cares about the problems these people face. I understand and accept that she assumes responsibility, but at the same time, I want to see action.

The people watching us who hear the minister tell them she cares about their situation are waiting for the second part of her sentence. They expect her to say she cares enough about their plight that she will do certain things and speak to certain individuals. These people are fishers, fisher helpers, and plant workers, municipalities, the provinces and Quebec. That is what I would like to hear.


Madam Chair, I will try to use a bit of a metaphor. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is a huge boat, or perhaps a nice ship, a nice, big ocean liner. The rudder is broken, however, and unfortunately different situations have made this clear. There was the lobster problem last year, and the plan announced in June 2009 for the problems that started in 2008. Eventually we found out that $8.5 million was spent out of $15 million, but we only learned this in February 2010. These dates show that there is a problem somewhere.

The minister and the department acknowledge that there is a problem with the cod and grey seal issues. But nothing has happened for three years. The only one who wins is the grey seal. The seals are fattening themselves up on cod, at the expense of the fishing fleet and at the expense of the communities.

There is also the shrimp issue. Oddly enough, a quota was given to fishers on Prince Edward Island, even though there is no shrimp industry in Prince Edward Island. Oddly enough, the minister is from Prince Edward Island. This is another case of a broken rudder.

I should add that this is unfortunately the case in the crab industry, as well, which is what we are concerned about today. When we hear that this year's crab decision was for conservation reasons, I would simply like the minister to consider the numbers I am about to give. An article published in the Quebec City newspaper Le Soleil talks about the catch rates authorized by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans: in 2006, 41.1%; in 2007, 37%; in 2008, 41.2% and in 2009, last year, 46.7%. So as we can see, ultimately, over the years, the conservation issue has not necessarily been the kick-starter for the department. It seems to have been based on rather flexible rules, perhaps even on geography.

So this year, we ended up with a 63% cut. I think it is worth illustrating what this means for the people of Quebec. The landed value for Quebec was about $50 million in 2008. If I look at earlier figures, it was once much more than that. If we cut 63%, that means $30 million less in landed value. And as we know, those amounts are considerably increased if you add the work done in plants and so on. As we can see, this has a huge impact.

When we hear about resource conservation—that is why I am repeating the figures we have already heard—it is not because of a situation that occurred by accident or very suddenly. We have known in one way or another for as long as I have been in politics. My father was a fisherman, and I already knew a bit about this. We all know very well that the resource fluctuates, that fish move around and that shellfish, especially snow crab, go through cycles. Some numbers are way up, while others are way down. People have been thinking about these questions for many years. We know that, with those numbers, we had a catch rate of about 50% of the biomass. Things were already pretty tough, and we knew we were in the low part of the resource's cycle.

Thus, with respect to conservation, these figures were ignored, the requests by a number of scientists were completely forgotten and we concentrated on one thing. If the catch is abundant, many people will be put to work. It is unfortunate that in 2010 we have ended up with a 63% reduction. However, this could have been avoided; it was preventable, and that is the unfortunate thing about all this. However, we cannot change the past, even though I would like to. We find ourselves in a situation where the minister and the department no longer had a choice. We ended up with this 63% cut.

The person or the group who made the decision to impose this cut and made this announcement has a certain degree of responsibility. I am certain that people in the department knew that this 63% cut would have consequences.

Almost everyone expected a 40% or 50% cut. That is what was being bandied about. I asked the minister about it weeks before the decision was made. I suggested figures of 40% or 50%. That was what we were hearing. It was difficult to believe that the cuts would be as high as 63%. We are now living with that decision and the 63% cut has had major repercussions everywhere. I remind members that prices had already been affected significantly. Add to that cuts in the catch and the impact has been even more severe.

Worst of all is what we are hearing from the minister and the department. She seems to be saying that dealing with the impact of the cut is not part of her responsibilities. It is up to the provinces. It is up to Quebec to deal with it. It is up to others to deal with it. I do not believe that. It is a matter of dignity, rigour and responsibility.

I am not attacking the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans personally. I am certain that she is very responsible and concerned but there is a major problem and people everywhere are asking some serious questions. Not only are they asking serious questions, but they also have the answers. They believe that the government does not care in the least about the impact this has on the communities, the fishers and their helpers, and the fish plants.

They say that they gave licence-holders the option to partner so that fishers and companies would not be hit as hard. That is one measure, but it too has an impact. Partnering means fewer employees and fewer helpers on those boats. It does have an impact.

It is unfortunate that this decision about accountability was forced on us. Everyone agrees that people had no choice. I think that the government could have taken action sooner, but what is done is done. The people making decisions like that should be held responsible. They should decide to help people, helpers, fishers, plant workers, municipalities, the provinces and Quebec. If not, fisheries will be treated as though they are in a vacuum.

But that is not how things work. Things do not happen in a vacuum. There is a saying about how when a fish is pulled out of the water, its head is provincial and its tail federal. That sounds odd, but it reflects how responsibilities are shared. There is a constant back and forth between the two. Each is responsible for something, like it or not. When the Department of Fisheries and Oceans makes a decision, it has wide-ranging effects. Unfortunately, this department's rudder is broken. That is becoming increasingly clear.

Take, for example, a press release from May of last year about work in Port-Daniel. That is an area I know very well because that is where I am from. There was an announcement about work that was planned for last year. Now, a year later, that work is still not done.

The government also announced that work was planned for Carleton in 2010. We recently learned that there is some disagreement between Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. They have been unable to reach an agreement. They have reached an impasse in the handover negotiations.

Nobody has a hand on the rudder because the rudder is broken. This is very serious. We have to take responsible action. I believe that a lot of people are watching us tonight, except for those who are watching the hockey game and are worried about it. But people are in this situation, this crisis. That is why I think we need to take responsible action. That is why I am urging the minister and the government to acknowledge their responsibilities and deal with this situation.


Madam Chair, my question is the following: does the hon. member agree that we are more concerned with the major impact this is having on the communities than with the resources or the precise quotas for today or anything like that?

We went through a similar experience in the agriculture sector, the automobile industry and the banking and financial sectors recently. The banks were to blame for the financial crisis we went through and yet the banks, the automobile industry and people in agriculture all received help. In my opinion, there is no reason not to have an aid package to offset the impact on communities.

I quite liked the part when he mentioned that just before the 63% cut there was a drop in prices. This also had a major impact on the communities. These things add up. It is worse than one can imagine. That is why the impact felt today is even greater, because the prices were already quite low.


Madam Chair, I can see that the minister cares and that she is sincere. But this is a case of once bitten, twice shy. There was a program to support the lobster fishery, but the money spent added up to barely 60% of the expected amount. Either the criteria or the planning fell short, or both.

The crab fishery is in crisis, and that is affecting fishers, their helpers, factory workers and communities. Let us not forget that the quota was cut by 63%. That percentage applies to Quebec's economy and all affected maritime provinces. I had an opportunity to ask several questions about that. The answers that I have received to date suggest that there is no government assistance plan. This is happening now. It started several days ago—several weeks even. It is almost over. Plant workers are in danger of losing their jobs over the next few days, perhaps this weekend.

How does the government plan to help the helpers and plant workers who are feeling the effects of this crisis? I have not heard the federal government say anything about a plan to help these people.

The Environment May 12th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the people of the Magdalen Islands fear a major oil spill similar to the one the people of Louisiana are currently dealing with. The situation is even more worrisome given that a major drilling project off the coast of Newfoundland does not include any plans for relief wells.

The Association des pêcheurs propriétaires des Îles-de-la-Madeleine is calling for an emergency plan to deal with any major spills in order to protect the ecosystem and the way of life of the people of the Magdalen Islands.

Does the Canadian government have an emergency plan to protect the islands in the event of a spill on the scale of the one in the Gulf of Mexico?

Business of Supply May 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I must say that this interminable speech was rather flat and spurious, from the first to the very last word.

The purpose of my question is to find out what is true and what is false. If everything the member said was true, I would not be here. We would not be here. We would not even be talking about the motion today. In six consecutive elections, Quebeckers sent a majority of Bloc Québécois members to this House. He talked about the beauty of Canada, and I agree that it is truly beautiful, but if Quebec had its rightful place in Canada, we would not be here.

I would like the member to explain how the Bloc Québécois members managed to get six back-to-back majorities.