House of Commons photo

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

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act November 17th, 2004

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by congratulating my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin for his presentation. He talked like an expert on the topic.

I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-6, which seeks to establish the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

My party supports the bill. However, it has some concerns regarding measures that could jeopardize the delicate balance between security and the freedom of Quebeckers and Canadians.

We will recall that on December 12, 2003, the Prime Minister created the portfolio of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, which combines the activities of the solicitor general aimed at protecting Canada from natural disasters. The department ensures policy cohesion among six agencies, namely the RCMP, CSIS, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canada Firearms Centre, Correctional Service Canada and the National Parole Board.

Looking at Bill C-6, we realize that the minister has huge powers. He plays a leadership role relating to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness while respecting the Prime Minister's prerogative in matters relating to national security and the statutory authorities of other ministers.

The minister establishes strategic priorities for and coordination of portfolio agencies, while respecting their distinct mandates, cooperates with provinces and foreign states, and facilitates the sharing of information among public safety agencies as authorized under current Canadian law.

I will now talk about emergency measures in case of disasters. In 1996, I personally lived through the Saguenay floods. When a major disaster happens, concrete measures must be taken quickly.

I speak about them first hand having spent all my professional life in Chicoutimi where I was involved in emergency measures planning. In case of an emergency or a disaster, my role was to coordinate.

We all remember the July 1996 flood in the Upper Saguenay, the Lower Saguenay and the majority of the municipalities of my riding, Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, including Chicoutimi, La Baie, Laterrière, Lower Saguenay, Anse-Saint-Jean, Ferland-et-Boileau and other cities and communities outside my riding, like the city of Jonquiere and other surrounding municipalities, with a population of about 160,000 persons. This area includes two large basins collecting water used to produce electricity. I am of course talking about the big Lake Kénogami and the big Lake Ha! Ha!

For almost a week, we had heavy rains in the region covering the Upper Saguenay, all the cities that I just mentioned, and the Lower Saguenay. The two basins overflowed of course. They filled up just like this glass would fill up if I were to put it under a tap. It would of course fill up, and then it would overflow.

Rivers and waterways helped to drain off the water, but because of the dams holding back the waters, the basins were flooded and expanded. Large communities located on those waterways and basins were flooded. We had to relocate a lot of people. That brings me to the importance of quick emergency response.

This happened on a Saturday when I was on holiday. The public safety authorities in my area and the emergency planning committee called me. We got together to evaluate the situation. After a few hours, of course, the situation was so bad that already there was a real overflow. We immediately contacted the mayor of Chicoutimi who was an active participant in emergency planning.

A few hours after becoming aware of the situation, he declared emergency measures in Chicoutimi because of the flooding and the overflow of the main reservoir. In the case of Chicoutimi, it was Lake Kénogami. Other municipalities in similar locations made the same decisions at about the same time: to implement emergency measures or to implement an emergency plan, which meant evacuating the population, setting up structures to accommodate and feed them, and all the other details such a plan requires.

A great deal of cooperation is also required among all levels involved. Since I am here in this Parliament, which has responsibility for the federal services available in my region, I can state that I am aware of this great collaborative effort and the great responsibility these emergency plans entail. They are implemented by Quebec emergency preparedness, by a delegation in each region. The emergency plan, under the direction of the mayor of the municipality and all the municipal departments, is where the responsibility remains. The federal services in that area were the army—we have a base at Bagotville, in Haut-Saguenay—and the RCMP and weather services. These all put themselves under the leadership and responsibility of the emergency measures plan. As far as the army was concerned, more specific measures were involved, and it was mandated to look after a specific area of intervention.

All this shows the need for collaborative efforts, and there certainly was cooperation. An emergency measures plan was put in place, and put in place promptly. As a result, the population was spared a good many problems.

I was also able to see what help was provided by the various players in society. As you remember, all of Canada was made aware. In my region of Quebec, the population was mobilized to help our community, our people. When a disaster hits, political allegiance does not count any more.

I can bear witness: there is simply cooperation and it is important in this type of situation.

Indeed, who is in a better position than the people who live in regional county municipalities and who work with the Government of Quebec to monitor the arrangements made to ensure the safety and the operation of those emergency measures.

Let me go back to the emergency measures. In municipalities, they are periodically reviewed. Needless to say, when an emergency plan is redone, it is as if, tomorrow morning, a disaster will happen. That means that some people are in charge in that structure and their telephone number and address must be available so that they can be contacted rapidly.

The Government of Quebec has established public emergency measures in cooperation with community stakeholders in order to have in place the means to better forecast such incidents. The Government of Quebec has the tools to manage the procedures to be followed in case of a disaster in the province.

At home, we had the flood, the flood of 1996 and the ice storm of 1998, which have contributed to making the population aware that it was exposed to certain risks.

These two events also gave rise to serious questions as to the ability of the Quebec civil security system to ensure adequate protection of people and property in the case of major disasters.

The Quebec government thus elected to have both these events analyzed by a scientific and technical commission called the Nicolet commission. This body made recommendations, of a technical, as well as a legal and legislative nature. It led, on December 20, 2001, to the creation of a new law which replaced the Act respecting the protection of persons and property in the event of disaster. The implementation of this legislation concerned citizens as well as businesses, municipalities as well as the government.

Today, Bill C-6 seek to create a national security structure. Its objectives are legitimate and we understand them. We simply want to stress that the Government of Quebec possesses a department of public safety which is already in tune with the situation in Quebec and that public safety comes under the jurisdiction of Quebec.

Nonetheless, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-6. We remain concerned, however, by measures which could imperil the balance between the security and freedom of Quebeckers and Canadians, as well as by intrusions into the public safety activities of the Government of Quebec.

Today, I ask the Liberal government to explicitly recognize in this bill respect for the jurisdiction of Quebec. On June 28, Quebeckers and Canadians demanded changes in the way the country is being governed and more compromise in our policies.

The availability of a Canada national safety policy might lead the federal government to interfere in areas of Quebec's jurisdiction. It is time for federal intrusions in the areas of jurisdiction of the provinces and of Quebec to stop.

Today, the federal government spends more in areas under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces than in its own areas of jurisdiction. We must draw a line somewhere to avoid confusion.

Fortunately, concerning emergency plans, as I was saying, this has not happened, nor will it, I hope. Emergency plans come under the jurisdictions of municipalities, and municipalities are the creatures of the Quebec government. Emergency plans become the responsibility of the Quebec government.

We believe in the principle of Bill C-6, because it will allow for better cooperation between the various government organizations. It will facilitate the exchange of information between the various public safety organizations that enforce Canadian laws.

However, we have some concerns about the exchange of information between organizations and states, because this may have an effect on Canadians' right to privacy.

Since 1993, the Bloc Québécois has steadfastly denounced the ever-increasing federal interference in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. We were elected by the people to represent their interests. We are in favour of this bill, but we will ensure the respect of jurisdictions and of citizens' individual freedom.

I conclude by reminding members of the House that the Quebec government must still be responsible for the implementation of emergency plans. Under these plans, there must be cooperation and integration of the federal government services that we find in a region affected by a disaster.

La Société des fabricants régionaux du Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean October 29th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on behalf of the constituents of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord to salute a dynamic network of entrepreneurs from my riding and my region.

La Société des fabricants régionaux du Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, known as SFR, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and has nearly 100 heads of manufacturing companies as members. The goal of the society is to promote goods made in the Saguenay—Lac Saint-Jean region and it also develops strategies to face the challenge of globalization.

The Saguenay—Lac Saint-Jean region is going through difficult economic times. And yet I believe the initiative of these businesspeople shows that we have dynamic human resources and that we believe in our abilities.

Congratulations to the SFR.

Supply October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will reply to the member, who asked me a question, namely how much this government's plundering of the employment insurance fund is costing my region. First of all, we know that at the national level, this government plundered an amount of $45 billion. Thus, in my region, this theft represents an amount of $157 million every year, and unemployed people in my region of Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean are deprived of it.

Supply October 28th, 2004

The parliamentary secretary must also admit that Quebec does not have sufficient fiscal resources to meet its obligations. Year after year, the federal government keeps accumulating a surplus, and each is larger than the last.

The Prime Minister has championed public management because he balanced the books and then ran surpluses. But surpluses were at the expense of the provinces and the unemployed. We should not forget that the government scooped $45 billion out of the EI fund. Fiscal imbalance is bad for Quebec. If it is bad for Quebec, it is also bad for Quebec regions.

Supply October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member opposite should recognize there is a fiscal imbalance.

This fiscal imbalance has been recognized by a Quebec commission led by Mr. Séguin, who is now a Liberal minister in Quebec.

Supply October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.

The fiscal imbalance relates to a situation. The federal government collects too much money for its responsibilities. Witness its year after year surpluses. However, Quebec and the provinces do not have enough revenues to assume their own responsibilities.

For years the Quebec government has been strangled fiscally under the orchestration of the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister. Since 1994, Ottawa has been collecting astronomical surpluses, more and more taxes in Quebec, but has given back less and less money where it is needed. This means that the federal government is doing less and less of its share in funding of health and education systems.

When the current Prime Minister was the Minister of Finance, federal government spending increased by 45%, while transfers to Quebec and the provinces rose by only 1.9%.

Meanwhile, federal government revenues increased by $1,569 per capita in Canada, while health, education and social transfers were reduced by $34 per capita.

On the financial level, Ottawa is awash with cash. It has accumulated a surplus of $60 billion since 1997-98. Even worse, the Conference Board is forecasting another $166 billion by 2015.

Despite the fact that it accumulated surpluses by cutting in areas that belong to the provinces, the Prime Minister is hailed as the champion of sound management of public finances.

It is important to note that the federal government's margin goes beyond the budget surpluses. It also includes the excessive increase in federal operating expenditures.

When the Prime Minister was the Minister of Finance, the federal government lost control of its operating expenditures. These expenditures increased by 7.8% annually, compared with an average annual inflation rate of 1.9%.

At the same time, there was a greater concentration of federal jobs in the national capital region. Indeed, since 1994, the number of federal jobs has increased by 11% in that region, while it decreased by 1% in the regions across Canada.

Here are a few examples which show that Ottawa is enjoying huge surpluses. These examples are taken from the 1997-98 to 2002-03 period.

While federal operating expenditures increased by 30%, those of the Quebec government only went up by 20%.

While the Quebec revenue department reduced its expenditures by 47% during this same period, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency increased its spending by 57%.

The Quebec health department increased its expenditures by 33%, while its federal counterpart increased them by 78%.

During the same period, the Quebec education department increased its expenditures by 12%, and the culture department by 12.8%. Meanwhile, the Department of Canadian Heritage increased its spending by 38%.

Total operating expenditures for the federal Department of Justice increased by 67%, while those of the Quebec justice department only went up by 12%.

The Prime Minister relegated the problems to the provinces and to the unemployed. From 1995 to 2003, the Liberals took $45 billion from the employment insurance fund. On an annual basis, my region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean was deprived of $157 million.

In the case of Quebec, this fiscal imbalance takes on a special meaning because we are different, because Quebeckers are a nation. The fiscal weakening of the only state they control is a concern for the future, the more so because the precariousness of Quebec's financial situation was deliberately caused by the former finance minister, the present Prime Minister, who can truly say that he is the architect of the fiscal imbalance.

This situation is largely due to the cuts made by the federal government in transfer payments to Quebec and the provinces. The Prime Minister did not take advantage of the premiers' conference in Ottawa to fulfill his promise of addressing the whole issue of the fiscal imbalance.

The Prime Minister did not have the political will to respond to the needs of the people. Instead, he responded to the wishes of his caucus, which accused him of giving too much already.

The new era of cooperation announced with great fanfare by the Prime Minister is stillborn. The fiscal imbalance is hurting the people of Quebec. When will the government recognize it?

The regions of Quebec and my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, are suffering from the effects of the fiscal imbalance. Some of its effects are that we cannot take care of our sick people and that we cannot invest in education and social programs. When will the federal Liberal government take note of this reality and recognize this deplorable situation?

The disintegration of the regions is very real and its effects are undeniable. No one can argue with the fact that our young people are moving to the big cities, that poverty is expanding and that endemic unemployment is hurting Quebec's natural resources areas.

When will the Liberal government recognize that Ottawa has too much money for its needs, and that Quebec is under-financed and cannot face its obligations?

Abitibi Consolidated Inc. October 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to share sad news concerning my riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

On Wednesday, officers of Abitibi Consolidated announced that the plant at Port Alfred would remain closed indefinitely, which confirms that the 640 workers affected will be losing their jobs. Hon. members will understand that this announcement will have a heavy economic impact on my riding, as well as major social consequences for all the families concerned.

I wish to tell the workers that I am with them all the way and to recognize the professionalism they have been showing ever since they were forced off the job on December 10. Hang in there. I hope that a recovery plan is a possibility in the medium term for the plant at Port Alfred and that the government will be involved in it.

Tourism Industry October 18th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region has been benefiting from the program to extend the tourist season since 2002. The agreement terminating December 10 is essential to the development of the region. In all, 180 jobs and 35 businesses depend on it.

Can the minister give us assurance today that this program that is so vital to the region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean will be renewed for another two-year period?

Highway Infrastructure October 12th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, in May, the Government of Quebec and the federal government signed an agreement on rebuilding highway 175 on a 50-50 cost sharing basis.

Since we know that there will be cost overruns compared to the initial estimates, can the Minister of Transport confirm that he will respect the agreement and keep his promise to pay for 50% of the costs of highway 175?