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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was region.

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

National Defence February 18th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, last week we learned that the decision to merge tactical squadrons at the Bagotville military base has not yet been made. The authorities keep repeating that this merger will not change a thing. The people of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean are not fooled; they want only one thing: no merger at the Bagotville base.

Does the Minister of National Defence not believe that the best assurance he can give residents in the riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is an immediate commitment that he will not authorize the merger of these two squadrons?

Gasoline Prices February 11th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the motion introduced by my colleague, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou and supported by the member for Hochelaga.

Since I also live in a resource region, I am in a position to see that we are somewhat affected by gasoline prices. We have no control over and cannot monitor gas prices. We must rectify this situation, because it has a major effect on the economy.

In a region like mine, which is hard hit by business closings, it is necessary to foster the emergence of new businesses. However, when we experience petroleum price increases, of course, this is another constraint for the economy as well as for the consumer. The petroleum price increase affects the taxi industry, the trucking industry, indeed, the whole transportation industry, whether in the public or the private sector. It affects municipalities and citizens as a whole.

As a member from a resource region, I must often drive long distances, not only in my riding, but also across Quebec, and I am appalled at price variations from one city to another. It is not taxes that cause price variations, since they are stable. There is the GST, the QST, the Quebec gas taxes, which vary, as well as a flat federal tax.

It goes without saying that oil companies are there to make profits. We have seen that they make huge profits. I will only mention Petro-Canada, which, during the first semester of 2003, had a 564% increase. Of course, other companies also make huge profits.

I believe my time has expired, Mr. Speaker, so I must say that there has to be price control—

Gasoline Prices February 11th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou on a fine speech.

We all know there are taxes on gasoline: GST, QST along with federal and provincial taxes. Could my colleague tell me if the gasoline taxes are responsible for the increase in the price of gasoline?

I would also like him to explain the different tax levels in each region of Quebec.

National Defence February 10th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, we learned yesterday that the Minister of National Defence was considering reorganizing operations at the Bagotville military base, in my riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. This decision is not supposed to result in any job losses, although I have my doubts. The Minister of National Defence has to recognize the strategic nature of the Bagotville military base.

Can he assure us that this reorganization will not result in any job losses for the riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord?

Income Tax Act February 4th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I must inform you immediately that the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-265. I want to congratulate the member for Essex for his initiative in introducing this bill. I also want to congratulate him for something else: his wife, Sarah, has given birth to a son weighing 9 pounds, 15 ounces. Congratulations to the member for Essex and his wife, Sarah.

As my party's Canada Revenue Agency critic, I am pleased to speak in support of this bill. I hope that the House will support it, since it aims to restore equity and justice for those concerned.

In short, this bill rolls back the tax rate from 85% to 50% for Canadians and Quebeckers receiving social security from the United States. People might think, at first, that this bill is not very important. However, it affects approximately 85,000 Canadians and about 10,000 Quebeckers.

In the past, a number of bills have amended various measures on benefits paid to Canadian and Quebec taxpayers. A number of agreements between Canada and the U.S. have been negotiated and become law.

First, I want to talk about the most recent, and fourth, agreement on this, which was signed in July 1997 with a number of other countries, including the United States. Under this protocol, only the countries of residence were able to tax social security benefits. Since then, Canada has been able to tax American benefits paid to residents of this country, and vice versa.

The problem is that it gave Canada, under the U.S. Social Act, the right to increase the tax rate from 50% to 85%. Bill C-265, before us today, seeks to correct this injustice. The Bloc Québécois supports it, because it rectifies an error the Liberal government made in 1997.

As I mentioned earlier, several thousands of Quebeckers left their families to go work in the United States, often for years, and were punished by the provisions of this legislation. These are people who, in many cases, were close to their roots and did not want to leave their country for the United States.

The 1997 amendment to the act made it possible for the federal government to generate substantially higher revenues on the backs of seniors and the vulnerable. However, it is important to understand why Bill C-265 has been introduced in the House today and how it corrects a past error.

Historically, there have been four protocols which modified the income tax convention, providing that social security benefits would only be taxable in their country of origin. At the time, social security benefits in the United States were exempt from income tax. It was only in 1984 that they were taxed in the United States for the first time. Thus, the total taxable amount of benefits rose from 0% to 50%, depending on the taxpayer's net income.

Families and individuals on low incomes usually paid no tax on their benefits.

After that came the second protocol amending the Canada-U.S. Tax Convention Act in March 1984. This made social security benefits taxable in the country of the taxpayer's residence. It was at that time that 50% of benefits were made tax exempt. For example, an American citizen residing in Canada was taxed on 50% of the benefits received from the U.S.

Later, a third protocol was signed in March 1995 giving the source country the exclusive right to tax social security benefits. That meant that the United States taxed social security benefits leaving its territory and being paid to a resident of Canada at a rate of 25.5%, while that taxpayer was not taxed in Canada on benefits received from the U.S.

To return to this fourth protocol which amended the tax agreement; as I said before, it was signed in July 1997. It provided that benefits paid under U.S. social security legislation to a resident of Canada would be taxable only in Canada, as if they were benefits under the Canada Pension Plan or Quebec Pension Plan.

Under this agreement, the tax rate is 85% of the payments made to Canadian residents. Note that in the United States, the tax rate depends on the net income of the taxpayer. For example, for a single taxpayer living alone, the tax rate varies from 0% to 25% for a net income of $0.00 to $25,000. Furthermore, if this same taxpayer receives social security, he will be taxed at a gradual rate for any amount exceeding $18,000.

The protocol states that payments made pursuant to social security legislation in Canada to a resident of the United States are taxable only in the United States. Essentially, the purpose of Bill C-265 is to reduce from 85% to 50% the tax rate on United States social security payments received by Canadian taxpayers.

It is now 2005. For 20 years now we have been trying to find a fair and equitable solution for all Quebeckers and Canadians dealing with this problem.

I want to remind the House that there are thousands of Quebeckers and Canadians living, for the most part, near the border and who are subject to the impact of Canado-American tax reforms. This is a costly measure, but it is insignificant compared to the thousands who have sacrificed their lives and their families to work far from home. These people wanted to stay here and keep their identity.

I also want to remind the House that, between the two governments, there are different tax measures. That is why we support this bill to close the gap between Canada and the United States.

We support lowering the tax rate on benefits paid to Quebec and Canadian taxpayers, from 85% to 50%, because it corrects a certain injustice. That is why I once again congratulate the member from the riding of Essex for having introduced Bill C-265, which we will support.

Port-Alfred Plant February 2nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, on January 26, Abitibi-Consol announced that it was closing its Port-Alfred plant in La Baie for good.

There was no advance notice of this announcement of the definitive loss of 640 jobs. The workers were confronted with a done deal. The company did not even offer a glimmer of hope for any recovery. Its actions showed nothing but disdain for its employees.

The federal government's lack of interest is also apparent, made conspicuous by its absence, when this is disastrous news for the entire population of Saguenay and Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. If a plant closure in a distant region is not of concern to the government, why does it talk about regional development?

It is all very well for the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada to send a sympathetic message to the plant workers, but Saguenay needs money more than it needs kind thoughts.

Income Tax Act December 14th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will make it clear from the start that my party, the Bloc Québécois, is in favour of this bill introduced by the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso. We support it because we feel these are good measures. I would be surprised to see opposition from the members of this House to a bill that is so worthwhile to those who get involved on a volunteer basis in emergency situations or disasters.

I will be telling hon. members about two disasters, one I experienced in Saguenay, and the other the great ice storm of 1998.

I hope that this legislation will also apply to those who volunteer during disasters, such as the 1996 floods we experienced in the Saguenay. I had a very close connection with this because I was a manager for the Ville de Chicoutimi at that time, with responsibility for emergency measures.

Official bodies like public safety agencies or the Red Cross cannot always respond to the needs of disaster victims. When disaster strikes, volunteers provide the public with reassurance as well as ensuring their safety.

I have seen victims with my own eyes, the ones accommodated at the Chicoutimi campus of the Université du Québec, which was the command centre for our flood situation, the Saguenay flood, the ones sheltered in the schools. I have seen vast numbers of them, people who have lost everything to the flood, people who had to be evacuated as a precaution, and others who had to be relocated. A whole army of volunteers was there to help them.

During the 1996 floods, the Red Cross directed the work of some 180 volunteers. I might point out, speaking of the Red Cross, that somewhere in Quebec, at least twice every day, the Red Cross intervenes in some emergency situation.

There are other organizations, such as the St.Vincent de Paul Society, whose 600 volunteers provided approximately 175,000 hours of assistance to the flood victims. Then there were the bush pilots, the divers, the ham radio operators, who turned out to help

As a result of this ecological disaster,the Saguenay region—because this was the area most hit by the flood—found itself with 16,000 people who needed to be fed, housed and even clothed. Such a huge task requires committed volunteers, citizens who want to help their community.

There was also another crisis: the ice storm we went through in Quebec in 1998. That is another example that illustrates the importance of volunteer work in emergency situations. Through their dedication, magnificent work and commitment, the 2,000 Red Cross volunteers were able to meet the many needs of those who were affected by this disaster. This event confirmed the theory that without volunteers, we would be nowhere.

I can attest to that. This happened, not only in my region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, but in the region of Montérégie and in greater Montreal. In my region, several hundred volunteers took part in the huge collection of firewood to help the victims of the ice storm that hit part of Quebec. Several thousand cords of firewood were delivered to these homes for heat because there was no electricity.

Volunteers who give their time in emergency situations do so in order to help out their fellow citizens. They do so for humanitarian reasons and to help their community. However, we know that volunteers end up using their own money in these situations. Bill C-273 provides for the reimbursement of some of the expenses these volunteers incur to help disaster victims.

All that explains why we support Bill C-273. I have here a letter sent to me by the Red Cross director general in my riding, Mr. Donald Harvey. He supports this bill and he claims that it will encourage more people to help in search and rescue activities or in emergencies or disasters. I agree with him.

This bill will also make it possible to help citizens who are struggling with special problems that require an intervention by civil defence.

This involves a legitimate form of compensation. We can even suppose that it will encourage Quebeckers to volunteer during search and rescue activities during emergency situations. This is a reasonable, compensatory, social measure contributing to public safety.

Earlier, I asked a question of the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso who introduced the bill. I asked about control measures that should be in place from the start. I think it is necessary to set up simple and effective control measures. We must ensure that they are hassle-free.

The bill stipulates that municipalities must issue certificates confirming the volunteer hours worked. This should not be an extra burden on the already scarce resources of municipalities. The application of this bill should not generate too much work for those who have to write reports and fill in forms, nor should it force them to hire more staff.

The bill must not result in too many extra expenses for the citizens, municipalities or other appropriate authorities. Otherwise, we have failed in our objective. This was pointed out to me by a municipal representative who supports this bill and warned me about control measures.

Who does not know a volunteer personally? In my riding there was the flood; elsewhere there was the ice storm. I can say that in disasters and emergency situations, nothing gets done without volunteers.

In closing, Bill C-273 has as its goal the common good and it reflects the values the Bloc Québécois defends here in Ottawa. Thus, I would like to reiterate my support, and that of my party, for this bill, but emphasize that we want it to be simple and effective in its application.

Income Tax Act December 14th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso. His presentation focussed mainly on volunteer firefighters. But the legislation deals with those who perform volunteer service as ambulance technicians, firefighters or persons who assist in the search and rescue of individuals or in other emergency situations.

I must tell the hon. member that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill, because good measures are being put forward. We must not, however, forget the situation where, in disasters like the ice storm in Quebec and the floods in Saguenay, large numbers of volunteers are mobilized. In Saguenay, there were 1,800.

I would like the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso to tell me what control measures he is considering putting forward. We know that, to claim a deduction on their income tax returns, volunteers will no doubt have to provide proof of the number of hours of volunteer service. These control measures will have to be simple, uncomplicated and relatively hassle-free. Under the bill, I also know that the municipality or other appropriate authority will probably have to prepare a report or sign some document.

I would like to hear the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso on the types of control measures that could be put forward. Hopefully, they will be as simple as possible, for the benefit of the public.

Economic Development December 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, one year ago, the Abitibi-Consol plant closed its facilities in Port-Alfred. Despite numerous verbal commitments made by Liberal ministers, we are still waiting for the financial involvement of the federal government in a possible recovery plan for the company.

Considering that the government was able to announce a $500 million initiative for Ontario's automobile industry despite a lack of concrete projects, will it pledge to provide financial support to any recovery plan that Consol might unveil in the coming months?

Softwood Lumber December 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, in the context of this extraordinary challenge mounted by the U.S. government, industry representatives have again called on the federal government for help in getting through this critical phase. Reimbursement of legal fees and the availability of interest-free loans to prevent bankruptcy would go a long way in saving an entire industry.

What is the government waiting for to implement a true aid program for the industry, which it has been promising since 2002?