House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was workers.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Civil Marriage Act June 27th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting no.

Lactic Acidosis June 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, for a number of years now, one of my constituents has been battling a hereditary disease that is quite prevalent in our region. I am talking about Pierre Lavoie, the president of the Association de l'acidose lactique du Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean.

Mr. Lavoie is working hard to raise awareness of lactic acidosis, encourage research, and involve our young people. The Pierre Lavoie challenge was held last week for this very purpose.

Since May, over 25 schools in my region and over 5,000 students have taken part in the inter-school challenge. Last weekend, the Pierre Lavoie challenge reached its apex, thanks to massive public support, with the collection of over $280,000.

The Bloc Québécois congratulates this courageous athlete for his perseverance, along with my entire riding, which is supporting him in his fight against this terrible disease.

Canada Revenue Agency June 10th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, these unnecessary delays are not hurting just businesses, which face serious liquidity problems while awaiting their refunds, but are also preventing action by the Quebec government, which cannot intervene as long as the CRA has not processed the file.

I am asking the Minister of National Revenue what he is waiting for to fix a situation that is rapidly going from bad to worse and that has slowed research and development instead of encouraging it?

Canada Revenue Agency June 10th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, since the strike last fall by the Canada Revenue Agency, processing delays for refunds on scientific research and experimental development expenditures continue to increase. Some companies have had to wait for their refunds for up to a year.

What specific measures does the Minister of National Revenue intend to put forward so that files are processed within an acceptable timeframe, in other words, between three and six months, in accordance with its own directive?

Supply June 9th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, first, here is what I would like to respond to the honourable member. Plant closures, in this case, of a paper mill like the one we had in Ville de La Baie, are consequences of globalization. These specialized workers, after 20, 25 or 30 years of experience, can only work in the paper industry. They must be trained to work in other sectors. Moreover, jobs have to be found for them.

It is normal for the federal government to step in, as it is the one managing the employment insurance fund. Given the fact that workers, year in and year out, paid employment insurance premiums, it would only be fair that there be a program to help them.

Supply June 9th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, in Ville de La Baie, the Abitibi-Console plant was shut down, and 640 workers were permanently laid off in January 2005. As provided for by the employment insurance program, these 640 workers will receive benefits. However, as of the month of August, that is to say in a few weeks, this employment insurance will cease. Between the months of August and November, these people will gradually stop receiving benefits. After that period, if the government does not put into place a POWA program aimed at providing income support, these people will have but one choice, namely to go on improved social assistance.

I am referring to regular social assistance, but, in addition, people are exempted until March 2006, so that they do not have to dispose of their assets in order to survive. That is what these people are currently going through. Indeed, they will experience more uncertain times starting in August and up to November.

Supply June 9th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my allotted time with the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

The Bloc Québécois has asked on three separate occasions in the House of Commons for a new program to assist older workers.

In my riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, we have a number of workers who need such a program. Since December 2004, I have been making representation after representation to the successive ministers at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, giving them chapter and verse on the situation of the former employees of the Abitibi-Consolidated plant in La Baie. These employees lost their jobs after it was announced that the Port-Alfred plant was closing down for good on January 26, 2005.

I want to emphasize that the minister and member for Westmount—Ville-Marie was unresponsive to the situation of these workers. She never showed any interest in helping them. She wanted to brush the issue off by telling me over and over that Quebec was working on a new program, an improved social assistance program. This is the program that was put forward. Former employees will not be required to relinquish assets until March 2006.

But that is not what the workers and their families are asking for or what they need. They will have to relocate to quickly find work elsewhere. I hope that the new minister, the hon. member for Newmarket—Aurora, will stand by what she voted for when she was in the Conservative Party.

A plant closing is already bad enough, but in La Baie, the situation is even more critical. Let me explain.

The plant in La Baie is considered a mature plant because of the age of its workers: 265 are over 50, 208 between 45 and 50, 80 between 40 and 45, and only 14 under 40, for a total of 640 workers who have lost their jobs.

We can see from here how difficult the integration of these workers into the labour market will be. In its purpose and objectives, the Program for Older Worker Adjustment abolished in 1997 acknowledged the difficulties faced by older workers. In light of this current situation affecting the economy of the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, it is fair to say that theirs is an extremely difficult situation.

The age of this generation of workers and the lack of federal and Quebec assistance programs are just two elements in this problem. There is a third one. The plant closure announcement severs the employment connection with the company and results in the loss of the right to a pension at age 58. If the plant had not closed down, most workers would have retired at age 58. But now, they have to wait until 65 to get a pension. A worker who is 50 has to wait 15 years instead of the normal 8 years before he can get his pension, even if he paid for that pension.

Even if the federal government is not responsible for this situation, it has to support these workers who feel they have been ripped off in every way.

The EI program is there for this kind of situation. POWA can be used to respond to this problem.

Obviously, this government suffers from amnesia. It forgot that the purpose of the EI program is to provide temporary financial assistance to the unemployed while they are looking for another job or are upgrading their skills.

I met with the union representatives of the Port-Alfred plant, and I talked with workers. It is easy to understand their feeling of unfairness. They have been betrayed by the company they worked for during many years. They have been duped by the Quebec government. And they were let down by the federal government, which is responsible for the EI program to which they contributed for years and from which they should now get benefits when they need them.

Former workers and their families do not want to live on EI benefits and even less on welfare payments. They want us to support them so they can upgrade their skills, start a business, or find a new job.

The Quebec caucus of the Liberal Party supports POWA. According to initial estimates, this program would cost $55 million the first year, and $75 million the second year. This is peanuts compared to the employment insurance surpluses, which total $47 billion. What are the Liberal Party's ministers from Quebec doing in Ottawa? What are they waiting for to demand a POWA?

The impact of the closure of that plant, both at an individual and collective level, is very serious. We want to support these workers and ensure that they do not leave the town of La Baie, or the region. So far, no measure has been taken to avoid a worsening of the situation. A program must be proposed to maximize the integration of workers in new jobs. We have to avoid the negative socio-economic consequences on the community. An improved POWA would allow us to meet the needs of these workers.

The Bloc Québécois' motion proposes a strategy to help older workers who lose their jobs following a plant closure, and this strategy should also include income support measures. Generally speaking, the Bloc Québécois proposes measures whereby the federal government would assist workers when their situation is very precarious.

The Bloc Québécois is asking for the setting up of an income support program for older workers. This program should be part of a global strategy to help these workers.

I also want to remind the House that, in the report tabled on February 15, 2005, by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, recommendation No. 13 proposed income support measures to help workers, including the possibility of paying additional benefits beyond the maximum period of 50 weeks.

I will conclude by saying that I hope the minister and member for Newmarket—Aurora will act quickly to put in place a POWA program and help Port-Alfred plant workers. I hope she will correct this injustice and will be consistent with herself following the vote in which she took part not long ago, on this side of the House, when she was still a Conservative member, before joining the Liberal ranks.

Supply June 9th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the member who has just finished his statement. Obviously, he said that the was supporting the Bloc Québecois motion. I would like to know whether the strategy to help older workers would provide income support for those older workers who lose their jobs? In other words, will those workers have access to income support measures when they cease to receive regular employment insurance benefits, namely after the 50 weeks set by the commission.

Highway Infrastructure June 3rd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, a few drops of the wealth of money that poured before the May 19 vote have fallen in my riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

The Minister of Transport has announced that his government will be covering 50% of the cost overrun for the construction of highway 175. It has even been suggested that this commitment was formalized in an agreement. Yet, this precious document is unobtainable. It would appear that there is no agreement, only an exchange of correspondence between Ottawa and Quebec City.

Time has taught us to be extremely wary of Liberal promises, especially since highway 175 has already been part of the Liberal platform in several elections.

The federal government has to stop bluffing about this and put its cards on the table once and for all.

Income Tax Act May 31st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, first, my congratulations to my colleague from the riding of Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher on presenting this bill.

I am pleased to speak as the Bloc critic for national revenue to Bill C-306, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (public transportation costs).

A person might well wonder about the reasons behind this bill. Why give public transit users a tax deduction? In the course of my remarks, I will try to answer the question.

This is not the first time a bill providing tax deductions for public transit users has been debated in this House. In 1999, Parliament passed a motion, 240 to 25, calling on the government to examine the question of a tax exemption for public transit use. In 2001 as well, Bill C-209 proposed similar objectives. It was very well received by this House, and outside it, by user groups. However, the bill was blocked by the Liberal government.

The government has always contended that it was seeking a better future for everyone through a variety of programs. Any measure promoting greater use of public transit will certainly contribute to the achievement of the objectives in this report. Such a bill would really encourage people to use public transit.

There is a lot of discussion of the Kyoto protocol. In this vein, the Government of Canada could adopt a specific measure and thus accomplish two things at once, by promoting the use of public transit and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The measure could have an even more beneficial effect. It would help reduce highway congestion and the costs of building and maintaining roads and increase people's quality of life.

Clearly public transit is very economical for users. I might be allowed to demonstrate this. It costs about $8,000 a year to own a mid size car, which does not include the cost of parking. The cost annually of public transit, which varies according to where people live in Quebec, is between $500 and $1,000, which is a huge saving.

It goes without saying that some will object, claiming this is a discriminatory measure since it does not affect all Quebeckers and Canadians. My riding has several smaller cities in its regions. Residents of such small centres in rural areas with no access to public transportation will not benefit from this tax break. People living in rural areas do not always have established services like those in the cities.

Yet, this measure is beneficial to the entire population, since one of the most important parts of this bill is on providing a better quality of life for everyone.

The bill has not only a significant economic component but also an environmental component for improving quality of life for individuals.

In my opinion, the federal government must offer help to public transit users in the provinces and in Quebec to promote increased use of public transit.

Providing tax breaks will increase revenue for transit companies that could in turn provide better services in their community.

Despite the fact that Montreal—I think we must use Montreal as an example—is the place where public transit is used the most in North America, proportionally speaking, and that the use of public transportation continues to grow, unfortunately the use of the automobile is increasing at a faster rate. This phenomenon is seen in Canada, Quebec and other areas in the world.

Governments are facing a major challenge in motivating taxpayers to use public transit. To meet this challenge, the government will have to invest millions of dollars in renewing transportation infrastructure and equipment to ensure the sustainability and renewal of this community heritage. Just think of the metro in Montreal, which was built back in the 1960s; it will need a major facelift in the near future.

That is but the tip of the iceberg. Major investments are planned in Quebec. It is estimated that, over the next 10 years, the governments will be investing some $4.6 billion, as compared to $2 billion over the past 10 years.

In light of the many investments planned for the coming years, and given that part of the income tax, gas tax, and licence fees that taxpayers pay goes to public transit, I am wondering what measures governments could put in place to further encourage people to use public transit.

Bill C-306 has one significant advantage. First, by creating a tax deduction, the federal government is intervening directly in its own area of jurisdiction. Furthermore, this is a concrete measure that will undoubtedly increase the revenues of various public transit authorities. More taxpayers will purchase monthly or annual passes instead of individual tickets.

Second, this will also benefit the transit authorities on the outskirts of urban centres. If we use, as an example, the Société de transport du Saguenay, which, in my riding, has three major terminals: Jonquière, Chicoutimi and La Baie, and a budget of nearly $16 million annually, such a measure could mean increased revenues for this transit authority and act as an incentive for many residents thereby forcing some municipalities to add new routes and improve the public transit system.

In short, this bill is the ideal way to decrease traffic congestion in Quebec and Canada. If all users of public transit in the greater Montreal region were to drive, travel times would increase by 1.5 hours, tripling what they are now.

Such initiatives offer an affordable alternative to people who have become victims of rising gas prices.

Furthermore, our roads would last a little longer if we reduced the number of cars being driven. This would mean we would save millions of dollars each year on road maintenance and improvements.

I hope that Bill C-306 is adopted.