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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

Business of Supply September 28th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

Clearly, this is a government that says one thing and does another. And here is the proof. In normal circumstances, if the minister were to consult with the provinces, he would change his mind and reverse his decision, because many provinces oppose the decision. But he did not consult the provinces, and he does not listen to them. Therefore, I have to conclude that there is only one reason for this decision: ideology. I can think of no other way to explain it.

Business of Supply September 28th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I understood from the question that the minister had—I think—heard from some people who were opposed to his decision. This summer, I had the opportunity to ask the Minister of Industry some questions. I asked him whether he had consulted anyone before making his decision. Do you know what he told me? He said there were no consultations. He made a decision. He said that, as minister, it was his responsibility. He made this decision.

I heard the hon. member for Beauce say that he was getting criticism and complaints about the census. I can say that I did not receive any complaints in my riding. One person called me. He is a professor and researcher at the local university. I invited him to come share his thoughts. In other words, in all this time, I have received only one complaint. Only one person has protested.

Therefore, what they said, what the minister said and what the hon. member for Beauce said about receiving tons of complaints is absolutely false. It does not hold water.

Business of Supply September 28th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I would have liked the hon. member to attend the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology meeting held this summer. Experts appeared before us and told us that the Minister of Industry's decision was not based on any scientific facts. That is the problem.

Do we want scientific data; do we want reliable data? That is what the experts asked us. In that regard, I think the minister made a very serious mistake.

What will I say to my constituents? I will say what I said earlier: co-operation is needed. We receive government services and, of course, sooner or later, we must co-operate. I would add that they will be asked to complete the questionnaire only once over a 25-year period, and it will take them about 30 or perhaps 45 minutes, but that is what it means to co-operate.

That is how I replied and I can say one thing: the message is getting through.

Business of Supply September 28th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I would like to make one thing clear right now. I am obviously in favour of keeping the long form questionnaire that has been used for 35 years.

I do not believe that I said anything about harassment. What I wanted to say was that the Conservative government would be all over the map today when explaining why it made this decision.

I believe that it does not take a great deal of effort for a Quebecker or a Canadian to fill out the long form questionnaire every five years. First of all, the questionnaire is sent to 20% of the population. Thus, every five years, it is sent to one fifth of Canadians. This means that, as a citizen, I will have to co-operate. But it is normal for citizens to work with their government and provide personal information that will serve a purpose. We know that the information is confidential. In my case, in 25 years, I may be chosen once to co-operate with the government and provide all the information. That does not seem to be asking a lot of people.

Therefore, today, the Bloc Québécois is against the position taken by the minister this summer. We must be critical of the government's arguments because they are not defensible.

Business of Supply September 28th, 2010

Madam Speaker, last June, when the Conservative government announced that it was going to change how the census was taken, hundreds of groups immediately and publicly denounced the government's decision. Consequently, I am pleased that we are having this debate today, especially since I am a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, which held emergency meetings this summer to examine the issue.

By announcing this decision in the summer, the government undoubtedly hoped to slip it by hundreds of organizations, experts, researchers, professional associations, universities and others more easily. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology had to hold emergency meetings to determine the reasons for the Conservative government's decision to change a questionnaire that collects important data about Canada. The committee heard from various groups affected by the changes made to the census.

Before going any further, I will summarize the changes that the government wants to make. First, the mandatory long form census questionnaire, which has been used for 35 years and includes detailed questions about various socio-economic aspects of households, is being eliminated. In 2006, this form was sent to 20% of the population at random. The Conservative government, for reasons that are still unclear, wants to replace it with a shorter questionnaire that would have more general questions, be less useful and remain mandatory. The questions pertain to the number of people living in each household, their age and their sex and is sent out to all citizens.

The government now intends to send the long form to 30% of the population, but it will be voluntary. That is the crux of the problem—the decision made to move from a mandatory form to a voluntary form.

In an interview with the Globe and Mail, the Minister of Industry said that he wants to put an end to the intrusion of the state in people's lives. I will read his statement: “I think you’ll have a much more honest and enthusiastic response than you would under the threat of fines or jail times to elicit a response. I would question the validity of that.”

The minister's statement leaves me feeling confused about the government's true intentions. We have an approach that has been working relatively well for many years, yet for reasons that seem to me to be purely ideological, the government decided, without consulting anyone, to make radical changes to a tool that provides very valuable information to hundreds of organizations in Quebec and Canada. Moreover, switching from a mandatory long form census to a voluntary questionnaire will cost the government an additional $30 million. Why increase federal government spending when there is a deficit? I know that some government members will sensationalize the issue by saying that it is unacceptable to send a person to jail for refusing to fill in the form, but nobody has ever been sent to jail. Would it not be better to amend the law to remove that section rather than toss out the whole system? Before he resigned in July, the former head of Statistics Canada said that replacing the mandatory form with a voluntary form would be less effective.

The government's decision to do this is surprising. It seems the government has decided to scrap the only tool that enables it to get a picture of Canadian society every five years. It is important to be able to compare data over time and to make plans for the kind of society we want in the future.

The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne has taken the government's proposed changes in the long form to the Federal Court.

If the long form is not mandatory, the government will no longer have access to reliable, representative data to ensure that it complies with its obligations under the Official Languages Act to provide federal government services in French.

The Bloc Québécois believes that this decision was based on strictly ideological criteria that will undermine the ability of Quebec and its municipalities to develop targeted, effective public policies.

By diminishing the quality of the information available, the government is trying to suppress legitimate criticism of its policies. The Conservative government wasted no time discrediting information collected by Statistics Canada in order to justify its ideological decisions.

As the Liberal Party motion proposes, we believe that prison sentences should be eliminated, but that fines should remain. However, we are open to any other measures, such as refusing to provide certain government services—for example, passport renewal—to citizens who have not filled in the form.

Changing the census was a unilateral decision that has been heavily criticized by countless civil society stakeholders. The decision echoed the American right, which opposes census-taking despite the its confidential nature.

For those who were not able to follow this file closely over the summer, I would like to remind them that certain associations have condemned this decision.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities stated that it is worried that these changes mean that cities will no longer have reliable, local information, especially when it comes time to create new transit routes or decide where social housing should be built.

Pierre Noreau, president of the Association francophone pour le savoir, also condemned this extremely problematic situation, saying that social science researchers cannot do without such complete and reliable data. Through their analyses, researchers are able to propose solutions to the challenges we are facing, including an aging population, managing our health care system and immigration issues.

The Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d'université believes that the changes the government has made to the census will have serious consequences for university research. The federation believes that eliminating the mandatory long form census will make it almost to impossible to describe how a situation—be it social, linguistic or economic—is evolving without personally undertaking specific, complex and costly studies.

The Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d'université went even further to say this, “It is devastating. When a government has to choose among various policies, it can consult the available data and make a decision based on facts and not simply on political preference.”

For the Canadian Institute of Planners, changes to how Canada gathers census information will have negative effects on the growth and development of Canada's communities.

Jean-Pierre Beaud and Jean-Guy Prévost, professors at the Université du Québec à Montréal who are experts on the census, were unequivocal, saying, “Two or three years ago there was an uproar when a study on income trends showed that there was a growing gap between rich and poor. The right-wing media lashed out, accusing Statistics Canada of Marxism. There is tension between the government and Statistics Canada, which exposes a reality they would rather not see.”

Lastly, I would like to quote Martin Simard, a research professor at the department of human sciences at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, who claims that we need to maintain the mandatory long form census.

So the data may be deemed as less reliable, especially for academic research. That may hinder our research, making it less accurate than the research done in other countries. That may also affect private companies that conduct market studies to choose locations for restaurants or businesses. Major problems will also arise in the development of public policies, especially locally and regionally where data may be even more inaccurate.

I could have mentioned more organizations, associations or individuals who spoke out about the census form, but I think that in general, their comments were proof of the need to maintain the long form census in its original form.

The Bloc Québécois thinks that Ottawa's decision is incomprehensible and especially unexplainable. But I am sure we will hear all kinds of arguments over the course of the day. Earlier, we heard one argument from the minister. We heard that even if it is mandatory, we have no way of proving that the public will respond honestly, that the government must protect citizens from invasion of privacy, that the government should not threaten people by interfering in their private lives. But all of these arguments are just smoke and mirrors. The Conservatives actually abolished the long form census for ideological reasons, and the Bloc Québécois thinks that is unacceptable.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act September 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-28 introduces measures that people and businesses have been waiting for for a long time. The government also put this measure forward as Bill C-27. Now we are dealing with Bill C-28.

I asked this question earlier, but I would like to hear the member's opinion, which may differ from that of the NDP member. Why does he think it took so long to get to Bill C-28?

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act September 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his presentation and speech.

The public has been waiting for Bill C-28 for a long time. In his speech this afternoon, one of his colleagues spoke about how important it is for the government to make the means available to implement Bill C-28.

What consequences does the member think there would be for implementing Bill C-28 if the government provided only limited resources?

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act September 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the member knows that the national do not call list already exists, and it can be compared to the electronic commerce system being addressed in Bill C-28. The national do not call list works very well, and the public very much appreciates it, judging by the number of people who have signed up in the past few years.

Can the member guarantee that Bill C-28 will not have an impact on the maintenance of the national do not call list?

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act September 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. This bill contains some very important measures that the public has been waiting for to regulate electronic commerce.

A task force was created by the Liberal government in 2004. Can the member tell me why it has taken so long to arrive at Bill C-28?

Six years have passed since 2004. I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act September 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, this is the third time in a year that I have risen in the House of Commons to discuss the bill on electronic commerce, known as Bill C-28 this time around.

The former Bill C-27 sparked a lot of public interest, and a number of witnesses who testified before the committee essentially told us that we needed to move forward in order to provide better protection for email users.

The new Bill C-28 specifically targets unsolicited commercial electronic messages. People have been demanding such a bill for some time, and it is sorely needed. Governments, service providers and network operators are all affected by spam. We must create safeguards for legitimate electronic commerce, and we must do so now. Commercial emails are also essential to the development of the online economy.

Bill C-28 was inspired primarily by the final report of the task force on spam, which was set up in 2004 to examine the issue and to find ways to eliminate spam.

Some groups had reservations about the former Bill C-27 and made suggestions for amendments. The main concerns and questions from these groups had to do with the enforcement of the legislation.

Parliamentary committee members had to examine a number of issues. Even now, this bill amends the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act.

As a result, government officials in each of these sectors came to tell us why and especially how the amendments would apply and how we could be certain the changes would be useful.

We supported the former Bill C-27 as amended by the committee. Therefore, we will support Bill C-28, whose contents are more or less the same, so that the committee can study it.

We are aware of the need to legislate quickly, but we must also proceed carefully in light of the many witnesses the committee has already heard from.

I hope that the work the committee has already done will prove useful and that we will be able to proceed more quickly.

Let us not forget that we first started talking about spam in 2004 and that six years on, we still do not have legislation to get rid of spam.

I would like to expand on one point. The government accused the committee of taking its time when studying this bill and of holding up the electronic commerce bill's progress.

I want to make one thing clear: Bill C-28 is not a back-of-the-napkin affair. It covers a number of complex issues and clauses. It is to be expected that committee members and our research teams be given the time to study the content of the bill. I am sure that this electronic commerce protection bill would be in force by now had the Conservative government not prorogued Parliament. We lost a lot of time because of that.

I want to reiterate that the Bloc Québécois and the other parties worked well on this. I can vouch for the fact that my party, the Bloc Québécois, and the members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology worked constructively together.

I sincerely believe that during the committee's hearings, all of the members worked hard to find a solution to the spam problem while taking into account the needs of companies that shared their concerns.

Anyone with an email address receives spam, emails that try to sell us products and offer us prizes and many other annoying things.

I do not know if anyone has noticed, but in recent months, there seems to have been a significant increase in the amount of spam. It makes me wonder whether companies have made changes to how they contact consumers.

Obviously, some businesses are concerned about how legitimate businesses will continue to contact consumers if Bill C-28 is adopted.

Bill C-28 clearly states that organizations will not require the express consent of their own clients to communicate with them in what can be deemed “existing business relationships”. However, to contact potential clients in order to market a good or service or to expand their activities, businesses may not directly contact a client by email without their prior consent.

Unsolicited electronic messages have become a significant social and economic problem that undermines the individual productivity of Quebeckers. Spam is a threat to the growth of legitimate electronic commerce.

Spam accounts for more than 80% of global electronic traffic, which results in considerable expenses for businesses and consumers. In light of this situation, legislation to protect electronic commerce is reasonable and appropriate.

On another note, some clauses of the bill are still problematic for the Bloc Québécois. We would like further information about the national do not call list.

A number of parallels may be drawn between the system proposed by Bill C-28 and the existing system for telephone calls.

The Bloc Québécois feels that the current list is doing the job, and it is used by millions of people. Compliance with the national do not call list required many companies to reorganize their resources and make a large financial outlay.

We realize that the Minister of Industry wants to keep the door open in order to replace the list with a new system. However, for the time being, it is a proven system that has been successful since it was implemented in 2008. At the committee hearings on Bill C-28 regarding electronic commerce, we were given verbal assurances by officials that it would not be abolished without public hearings.

Let us come back to Bill C-28. I believe we are all concerned about the way businesses obtain consumers' consent to transfer or pass on their contact information or email addresses to other organizations. The new legislation will enable us to reduce spam and go after unsolicited commercial emails.

To the Bloc Québécois, there is no doubt that the bill aims at protecting the integrity of transmission data by prohibiting practices related to the installation of computer programs without consent. It makes sense to avoid the use of consumers' personal information to send them spam.

Bill C-28 prohibits the collection of personal information via access to computer systems without consent and the unauthorized compiling or supplying of lists of electronic addresses.

We can hardly be against motherhood and apple pie. The Bloc Québécois feels that companies that want to send consumers information by email should get their consent first. It is a matter of principle.

This bill has a noble objective, but it will be a complex law to apply. I know the government wants to attack spam, and I agree with that. In my previous speeches and having had the chance to be part of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, I personally have been convinced of the need to pass such a bill.

A number of countries have already passed measures similar to those in Bill C-28 and seem to have had positive results. The various laws passed in Australia, the United States and Great Britain to combat spam have apparently been quite successful.

Bill C-28 will make it possible to develop measures to dissuade as many people and businesses as possible from sending spam involving false representation, unauthorized software and exchanges of email address information.

This bill will help resolve many of the problems our constituents have raised and will further protect their privacy. Unsolicited commercial electronic messages have become, over time, a major social and economic problem that undermines the individual and commercial productivity of Quebeckers.

Spam is a real nuisance. It damages computers and networks, contributes to deceptive marketing scams, and invades people's privacy. Spam directly threatens the viability of the Internet. In fact, spam accounts for over 80% of all global Internet communications. Thus, spam directly threatens the viability of the Internet as an effective means of communication. It undermines consumer confidence in legitimate e-businesses and hinders electronic transactions.

Basically, this electronic commerce protection act governs the sending of messages by email, text messaging or instant messaging without consent. Transmission of spam to an electronic mail account, telephone account or other similar accounts would be prohibited.

The only time spam may be sent is when the person to whom the message is sent has consented to receiving it, whether the consent is express or implied. This is what we mean by “prior consent”.

I would like to close by reiterating that the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-28. This proposed legislation has already been examined by a parliamentary committee, and it will help to increase the protection of computer systems and people's personal information.

As a final point, the Bloc Québécois is pleased to see that Bill C-28 takes into account most of the recommendations in the final report of the task force on spam, created in 2004. However, it is unfortunate that the legislative process took several years to produce this long-awaited bill to protect electronic commerce.