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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Montcalm (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Municipality of Saint-Esprit May 11th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the House to the fabulous work done by the committee and the people involved in organizing the municipality of Saint-Esprit's participation in the program La petite séduction as part of the festivities to mark the village's 200th anniversary. On April 22, 2009, Quebec television viewers had the opportunity to see Véronique Cloutier warmly welcomed to the village of Saint-Esprit. The people of Saint-Esprit should be delighted by their success. Their guest was captivated by the their unique character.

That event was part of the enormous success of Saint-Esprit's bicentennial and reflected the residents' pride in their municipality. As the member of Parliament for Montcalm, I would like to congratulate them on their efforts to introduce ourselves to the rest of Quebec.

I would like to thank Danielle Allard, mayor of Saint-Esprit, Jean Latendresse, chair of the 200th anniversary celebrations, and all the volunteers and members of the organizing committee for this marvellous initiative.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act March 25th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore on introducing this bill in order to spark a substantive debate on this issue.

The Bloc will support this bill at second reading so that the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs can examine the bill in detail and do justice to veterans.

However, I would like to ask my learned friend whether the department has conducted a comparative study with other western countries to get a big picture of veterans' benefits.

Competition Act May 8th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the House of Commons unanimously passed, at second reading, Bill C-454, which strengthens the Competition Act and gives greater powers to its commissioner, which would make it possible to keep oil companies in line.

Does the government agree to pass this bill through all the stages so that it can be implemented before the summer?

Competition Act April 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to thank the Gaudet-Pilon-Morin-Venne team and all the bowlers and enthusiasts who raised $13,200 on Saturday night for Leucan for children with cancer. I wanted to publicly thank them.

This being National Volunteer Week, I would like to thank all the volunteers in my riding for the good work that they do.

We will soon proceed to a vote on Bill C-454, An Act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Although we already have a Competition Act, it has some major flaws that need to be fixed in short order. I would like to show that it is necessary for the House of Commons to intervene in order to improve the current Competition Act and vote in favour of this bill.

Every time the price of gas skyrockets, the government invariably says the same thing, that its hands are tied because the Competition Bureau has found that there is no collusion between the oil companies to set the price of gas and therefore no problem. The Competition Bureau has never conducted a proper investigation into the matter because it has never had the power to do so.

The bureau does not discipline the oil industry and does not encourage the government to intervene either. The flaws in the current act prevent the Competition Bureau from doing any real work. The Competition Bureau cannot initiate an investigation of its own accord. What is more, the Competition Bureau cannot compel disclosure of documents or protect witnesses when it does a general industry study.

The Competition Bureau is therefore limited in what it can do. Furthermore, the price of oil products keeps going up and the refinery margins vary remarkably. The refinery margins are twice, even four times higher than can be reasonably expected. When the oil companies decide to make their profits soar, the Competition Bureau will still not be equipped to conduct a true investigation, unless the House of Commons passes Bill C-454.

I need not remind hon. members to what extent the oil companies are shamelessly taking advantage of this situation. They are posting record profits. The flaws in the current Competition Act are a constant source of discussion in parliamentary committee, where a reverse onus of proof is being recommended to address the agreements between competitors and determine whether there is a conspiracy.

Here is what Konrad W. von Finckenstein, the Commissioner of Competition, said during a meeting of the Standing Committee on Industry on May 5, 2003:

—while the bureau's mandate includes the very important role of being investigator and advocate for competition, the current legislation does not provide the bureau with the authority to conduct an industry study.

It seems to me that it would be preferable to have a study on the overall situation carried out by an independent body that would have authority, that would be able to summon witnesses and gather information. It should also have the power to protect confidential information that someone is not necessarily going to want to share, but which would be vital in order to reach a conclusion based on the real facts.

These statements prove that the existing Competition Act does not allow the Competition Bureau to conduct real investigations into industrial sectors. Bill C-454 will make it possible to implement a comprehensive strategy that will enable us to do something about the rising cost of petroleum products.

It is high time we fixed this problem and gave the Competition Bureau the power it needs to do a proper job.

Bill C-454 to amend the Competition Act is critical to undertaking real investigations into the oil industry. Passing this bill will give the Competition Bureau the vital powers it needs to fulfill its mandate. Both the government and the oil industry must be transparent.

The people of Quebec—and the people of Canada too, I imagine—think that the ruling government and the oil companies are in cahoots with each other. In light of the tax cuts and other benefits being given to oil companies, people have the right to wonder about this. In my opinion, Bill C-454 would meet the people's needs, and I hope that it will be passed.

Housing April 4th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, during the first federal-provincial meeting on housing since the Conservatives came to power over two years ago, the minister responsible refused to commit to reinvesting in affordable social housing.

What is the minister waiting for to reinvest in affordable social housing, as he is being asked to do by Quebec and the provinces, as well as the municipalities and the agencies involved? What is he waiting for to transfer to Quebec and the provinces an additional $1 billion from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation surplus?

Competition Act March 13th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his comments. This proves what I was saying earlier. It is true in every municipality. For example, the Ultramar refinery in Quebec City supplies all the independent and national-brand service stations, including Shell, Imperial Oil—all the companies. They all get their gas from the same place. How can there not be some collusion between them?

That is why I was asking the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry earlier about Ottawa's Competition Act. Is it there to help the oil companies or to discipline them so that Quebec and Canadian consumers are taken care of?

Competition Act March 13th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry is somewhat mistaken. When it suits him, he says that is a provincial matter; when it does not suit him, he is prepared to meddle in provincial jurisdictions.

That is not a valid reason. Why is there a Competition Bureau in Ottawa if it is interference in provincial matters? I would like the parliamentary secretary to give me a reason.

In addition, the parliamentary secretary should not forget that the Conservatives did not wish to bring back Bill C-19, introduced by the Liberals, as they were lobbying the government on behalf of the companies.

That is my answer to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry.

Competition Act March 13th, 2008

moved that Bill C-454, An Act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be now read a second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to introduce Bill C-454, An Act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, for second reading. While we have a Competition Act at present, there are major flaws in that Act that are in need of speedy correction. I would like to demonstrate the need for the House of Commons to take action to improve the existing Competition Act.

Every time the price of gas soars, the government invariably responds by saying the same thing: there is nothing to be done because the Competition Bureau concluded that there was no agreement among the oil companies to fix prices and so there was no problem.

Well, the Competition Bureau has never investigated the matter properly, because it does not have the power to do so. All the Competition Bureau does is produce studies of the industry explaining how it operates. And when it does a study, the Competition Bureau has virtually no power, because the purpose of the studies is to explain the general operation of the oil industry, not to discipline it. Those studies have no impact and they provide no incentive for the government to take action.

The flaws in the existing Act prevent the Competition Bureau from doing any real work. The Competition Bureau cannot initiate investigations of its own accord; they have to be done in response to a request by the minister or where there have been a number of complaints. Well, we know very well that the minister is not requesting real investigations from which tangible results could be obtained.

In addition, the Competition Bureau cannot compel disclosure of documents or protect witnesses when it does a general industry study. In that kind of situation, how can we expect that individuals who have no protection will come forward to testify? As can be seen, there are limits to what the Competition Bureau can do—and that is putting it mildly. In point of fact, its hands are tied.

We need only look at the current situation to understand that it is urgent that the Competition Act be amended. The price of petroleum products is rising steadily. The price of crude oil has risen by 230% since early 2004. The price of heating oil has gone up by more than 50% in two years. Three years ago, in April 2005, a new price record was set in Montreal: the price of regular gas broke through the one dollar ceiling. Since then, it has stayed at an even higher level. In Quebec, the price continues to go up: the price of a litre of gas was 91.6¢ in May 2005, $1.06 in May 2006 and $1.10 in May 2007, and it has wavered between $1.09 and $1.18—and we have even seen $1.23—since the beginning of 2008.

But that is not all. Refining margins vary remarkably. It actually costs between 3¢ and 5¢ to refine a litre of gas, depending on the type of gas used.

According to the Association québécoise des indépendants du pétrole, when the refining margin is between 4¢ and 7¢ a litre, the company is making a healthy profit. On average, from 1998 to 2002, refining margins were 7.2¢ a litre. That is a little high, but it is within the limits of what is reasonable.

In 2003, on the other hand, the average margin in Montreal was 10¢ a litre, or twice as much as a reasonable amount. In 2004, the average refining margin increased 10% to 11¢ a litre. By 2005 and 2006, it was regularly exceeding 15¢ a litre, and in May 2007, it even reached 28¢ a litre. That is four times the reasonable margin.

At the present time, the refining margin has fallen back to 9¢ a litre, which seems better. However, when the oil companies decide they want their refining profits to soar again, the Competition Bureau will still not have the tools it needs to conduct a real investigation unless the House passes Bill C-454.

It is a great concern as well that a very small number of players have virtually total control over a market as important as gasoline. Is this situation international or not? We do not know because the Competition Bureau does not have the tools it needs to answer that question.

There is no need to remind the House of how shamelessly the oil companies are taking advantage of this. They are posting record sales. In 1995, the entire Canadian oil and gas sector posted combined sales of $25 billion. By 2004, this figure had climbed to $84.9 billion, which amounts to an increase of 239%. Total sales soared to $106.7 billion in 2005 and $118.9 billion in 2006. That is a 376% increase over 1995.

Net profits are also skyrocketing of course. The combined net profit of the six big integrated oil companies in Canada—Imperial Oil, Shell Canada, Husky Energy, Petro-Canada, Encana and Suncor—reached $12 billion in 2006. That is a $5 billion or 70% increase over 2004. The 2007 data are not available yet for all these companies, but there is every reason to believe that their results will be even more astronomical. For example, Petro-Canada finished its 2007 year with a profit of $2.73 billion or 57% more than in its 2006 financial year, which it finished with a net profit of $1.74 billion.

The net profit of the entire oil sector rose from $17 billion in 2003 to $20 billion in 2004 and then $35 billion in 2006, for an increase of 100%.

The Competition Bureau will only be useful and effective if it is able to conduct real investigations. It is illusory to think that it can take real action and come up with real results under the current legislation.

This worrisome situation—the increase in the price of gas, the upward trend in refining margins and the increase in profits—and the flaws in the current Competition Act are a constant source of discussion at the House's Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology. In fact, in the committee's 2003 report on the Competition Act, it recommended reversing the onus of proof for handling “agreements between competitors” and determining whether there is a conspiracy.

In other words, when the Competition Bureau conducts an investigation, only at the request of the minister or if there is a complaint, of course, the Bureau must prove that there was an agreement between the companies, when it should be the opposite. If we consider the economic issues that are at stake, businesses should have to prove their good faith. Businesses that want to sign agreements should also have to prove the social or economic value of the agreements.

For example, in Quebec, there is a single refinery that supplies all the companies, Petro-Canada, Ultramar, Shell, Exxon, Olco, Esso Imperial and so on. The prices are all the same. How can we talk about competition when all the oil companies are in bed together helping each other out and sharing the market? This situation is reminiscent of a cartel—a group of businesses conspiring to create a monopoly.

When Konrad von Finckenstein, the competition commissioner, appeared in front of the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology on May 5, 2003, he identified the following shortcomings in the Competition Act:

—while the bureau's mandate includes the very important role of being investigator and advocate for competition, the current legislation does not provide the bureau with the authority to conduct an industry study.

He added, and I quote:

It seems to me that it would be preferable to have a study on the overall situation carried out by an independent body that would have authority, that would be able to summon witnesses and gather information. It should also have the power to protect confidential information that someone is not necessarily going to want to share, but which would be vital in order to reach a conclusion based on the real facts.

These statements prove that the existing Competition Act does not enable the Competition Bureau to undertake a real investigation of the industrial sector. How can it gather information if it can neither force the disclosure of documents nor protect witnesses?

During the last Parliament, a review of the legislation was undertaken. The Bloc Québécois found it too weak, but nevertheless supported it and proposed amendments to improve it. The bill died on the order paper, and the Conservatives decided not to bring it back, so the Bloc Québécois introduced Bill C-454 to strengthen the Competition Act.

Bill C-454 was inspired in large part by Bill C-19, which the Liberals introduced shortly before the 2005-06 election, but it corrects that bill's shortcomings. When the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology studied the act in 2003 and 2005, it found that the act contained a number of provisions that were outdated and no longer useful. In essence, the bill seeks to adapt the Competition Act to today's economic realities. It gives the Competition Bureau the power to conduct its own inquiries into industry. The Competition Bureau will be able to call witnesses and protect them. That last point is very important.

Under current legislation, if businesses decide to reach an agreement to fix prices, no evidence of that will be left behind. If we cannot call and protect witnesses, there is a very good chance we will never be able to prove anti-competitive practices.

Under the new legislation, when businesses try to reach agreements with their competitors, they must demonstrate that those agreements are in the public's best interest. Presently, these agreements among competitors are permitted, unless it can be proven that they are contrary to public interest. This is unhealthy.

The bill contains another proposal: a significant increase in the amount of fines to be paid for violations of the Competition Act, from $10 million to $25 million. If this legislation were passed, the Competition Bureau would be much better equipped to fight against businesses that try to use their dominant position in the market to fleece consumers and damage other economic sectors.

On the whole, Bill C-454 will allow for the creation of a comprehensive strategy to deal with the rising cost of petroleum products. For some time now, the Bloc Québécois has been pressuring the government to take action to address the rising cost of petroleum products. Fighting to defend the interests of Quebec, the Bloc Québécois would like to see the oil and gas industry disciplined. Bill C-454 is a step in that direction. It is time to correct the situation and give the Competition Bureau the powers it needs to do its job properly.

Bill C-454, An Act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, is pivotal to any real investigations into the oil and gas sector. Passing this legislation would give the Competition Bureau the powers it needs to carry out its mandate.

Livestock Industry February 13th, 2008

To be honest, I will say that there is not a lot of money. I think there is more money in oil companies. There are several members here who like oil companies. Indeed, as I was saying, in its last budget, the government gave them $902 million, but it will not take one or two billions from the surpluses to help the agricultural sector and create a concrete plan.

The hon. member asked what the Bloc Québécois has been doing for the past 17 years. Our party was elected under a democratic process. If people in my riding had not wanted me and had preferred a Conservative, they would have voted for one. But back home they do not want Conservatives. Is that clear? The Conservatives are too far to the right. Come on, asking what the Bloc is doing in the House of Commons is ridiculous.

Livestock Industry February 13th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague. I will do as the Conservatives do, who thank us when we ask them questions.

The Leader of the Opposition may not know much about agriculture, but I am not sure the Secretary of State (Agriculture), who is a lawyer, knew much about it either before his appointment.

I have been around Western Canada with members who are present tonight, including the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. Farmers told us that the people creating the programs in the federal government could not tell a carrot from a cow. To put it simply, it is not a good idea to talk about people not being experts when one is hiring people who do not know agriculture. On the other hand, 25 years ago, everyone here was from a farm family, or had grandparents who had a farm.

What was the second question? The first question was the one that interested me. What has the Bloc Québécois done in 17 years? First—