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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

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

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply October 1st, 2009

Madam Speaker, my colleague gave a brilliant speech on why we should have no confidence in the Conservative Party. Quebeckers realized this a long time ago. The Conservatives' ratings have been spiralling downward in Quebec for a number of weeks. We do not know where they will end up.

What my colleague forgot to say is that the Liberals are just as badly off, both in the polls and in terms of what Quebeckers think of them, and there are some fundamental reasons for that. Today, the Liberals are criticizing the Conservatives for the state of employment insurance when it was they who created the situation by siphoning off $57 billion from the fund and leaving it empty for their successors.

Quebeckers consider the Liberals and the Conservatives to be two entities with the same outlook and they will relegate them to the same position in the next election.

Business of Supply October 1st, 2009

Madam Speaker, our colleague from Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord made a very good speech. I would like to remind him about what is happening now in Quebec, where there is a lot of controversy about the state of public finances and people are starting to realize that we are very short on money.

Our excuse for a premier in Quebec City wants to start increasing everyone’s taxes and is thinking of all kinds of things to get money, including raising electricity rates, when the real money is in Ottawa, in the funds owed to Quebec.

My colleague mentioned the oft-cited $10 billion given to the automobile industry while virtually nothing was given to forestry industry, even though more people have lost jobs there than in the automobile industry.

I would like to tell him and make him realize—I am sure he already knows—that this is a double loss for us because it is money we do not have and because we are paying 20% of the $10 billion given to Ontario. That means $2 billion is coming out of our pockets to go there.

I would like to hear what he has to say about that.

Museums in Canada September 29th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, today we are celebrating the first annual Canadian Museums Day. A number of museum directors are here on the Hill to talk about various issues, including federal government funding.

Every year, 59 million people visit museums and art galleries. Museums play an important economic role because they generate an estimated $17 billion in economic spinoffs. Museums employ over 24,000 people and spend $650 million annually on salaries. In Quebec, they are an essential part of teaching people about our culture and history.

In this context, we cannot ignore the strike at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum. The Bloc Québécois would like to see this conflict resolved as soon as possible.

Museums and art galleries are a valuable resource that we should support with a solid museums policy and adequate funding.

Employment Insurance Act September 17th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am certain that my NDP colleague will recall—he will be reminded many times in the weeks to come—that the Liberals took out $57 billion from the employment insurance fund to balance the government books. To accumulate this amount, they had to exclude about half the people who were entitled to unemployment benefits.

Today, we see that the Conservatives have a similar problem. They are accumulating as much debt as the Liberals had paid off. They are implementing measures for the unemployed. However, in order for these measures to help they cannot be given to everyone because we have too much debt. Thus, they are creating two classes of unemployed: the good and the bad. The good are those who have always been employed without missing a day of work. The seasonal or part-time workers, or workers with two jobs who cannot accumulate enough hours, are the bad ones. So you see there is a special class of people among the unemployed.

While we focus on the problem of the unemployed, we no longer pay attention to tax evaders, those who use tax havens, those who file tax returns ad infinitum without paying any tax and white-collar criminals who commit fraud at every turn.

I would like to hear my colleague's comments on this matter.

Employment Insurance Act September 17th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I have the same question for the Conservative member, because it seems as though she did not at all understand the question asked by my Liberal colleague.

My question is: why did the government choose to proceed by vote in the House, by introducing a bill, when it could have done what it wanted to do for the unemployed, or what it claims to want to do for the unemployed, through a pilot project that would not even have had to go through the House, and that could have been approved in five minutes by the minister himself? Now, it will take one month, two months, or even three months of discussion to make it through the legislative process. Meanwhile, unemployed workers have nothing.

My colleague said that this bill is here to help the unemployed, but the best way to help them is to take immediate action and to put this in place right away. Why did they choose the legislative route over a ministerial decision?

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act June 18th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by the member for Vancouver East.

She mentioned the case of Mr. Abdelrazik, who is currently being detained in another country. The government was ordered by the court to repatriate him, which it is not doing, and it seems that it does not intend to do so in the near future. We have even heard that it may appeal the court's decision. Members will remember the recent case of Omar Khadr, who is currently detained at Guantanamo Bay. He is accused of criminal acts, but they occurred when he was a child soldier, which is recognized by the UN as a special case. Under UN regulations, the Canadian government could repatriate him because he is a Canadian citizen and was a child at the time of the alleged crimes. He was left in a prison at Guantanamo Bay for years to be tortured, even though the regulations and legislation would have allowed for his repatriation.

Under the circumstances, does my colleague not believe that the Conservative Party picks and chooses when to apply the law and order it is always talking about here in the House?

Artists June 10th, 2009

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to speak this evening on Motion M-297, presented by my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes. It calls upon the government to, on the one hand, roll back the cuts it announced to various programs in the cultural sector and to restore funding for these programs to their fiscal 2008-2009 levels, and on the other hand, to provide direct assistance to artists by increasing the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts to $300 million.

The minister who spoke a few moments ago tells us that we never mentioned this before. Every day, he tables in the House, or shows—and he is not entitled do so, moreover—the two recommendations from the Bloc Québécois recovery program. The recovery plan I am holding, dated November 24, 2008, on page 5, document 20, tells us that the immediate measures called for by the Bloc are the restoration of cultural programs, which is exactly what we are talking about.

The minister also says that he has done so much for Quebec culture that it is astounding. No doubt that is why the Conservative Party is now polling lower than the NDP in Quebec. Everyone is just so thrilled with what has happened to culture.

The truth is that, during the month of August 2008, seven federal government funding programs for culture were abolished, these being the Arts Promotion Program, Trade Routes, National Training Program for the Film and Video Sector, New Media Research Networks Fund, Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, Canada Feature Film Fund and Canadian Music Memories Program.

As we have always said, this is definitely a purely ideological decision by the government, because it has never been able, despite repeated calls from all opposition parties to do so, to provide even the tiniest bit of a cost-benefit analysis to prove the inefficiency of those programs. Lots of fine talk, but nothing in black and white. This is really a matter of nickel and diming, since we are talking in total of a measly million or so out of a budget of billions, all for culture.

Quebec is, moreover, by far the hardest hit by these cuts. According to figures from the International Exchange for the Performing Arts, CINARS, 40% of funding to Trade Routes and 68% of funding to PromArt in 2006 and 2007 went to Quebec companies. These cuts hit cultural export activities particularly hard: PromArt, at $4.2 million, and Trade Routes, at $2 million, really have no equivalent anywhere else.

Quebec culture, just like Canadian culture, absolutely has to be exported in order to prosper because the local market is too small to ensure its survival. For example, if an artist like Christine Brouillet, an author with a large audience, were to settle for the Quebec market of six million people, she would not earn a living. She needs the entire francophonie market, where she can sell many more books to make a living.

That is why any reduction in support for exporting jeopardizes the very survival of culture in Quebec. My colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes, who has already spoken about this, just completed a tour of Quebec with our colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. I tagged along for one day. All arts-related organizations told them just how much the cuts hurt them and often even wondered whether they would survive as an organization.

To improve funding for artists, the Mouvement pour les arts et les lettres and the Bloc Québécois have been asking for more than five years that the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts be increased to $300 million per year. This would have a direct effect on the income of many artists, which is still below the poverty line, and would also have positive repercussions for community enrichment. We know that culture is profitable. In times of economic crisis, we should not cut back on profitable activities, we should invest in them.

Culture in Quebec represents 314,000 jobs. This economic sector provides 171,000 direct jobs to which must be added the indirect jobs.

In a 2008 document entitled Valuing Culture: Measuring and Understanding Canada’s Creative Economy, which the Minister of Canadian Heritage should probably read, the Conference Board states that the multiplier for the cultural sector is 1.84, which means 314,000 jobs, or 171,000 direct jobs multiplied by 1.84, which adds up to 314,000 jobs.

In Canada, according to the Conference Board, the cultural industry produces some $85 billion in direct and indirect benefits, or 7.5% of Canada's gross domestic product. Clearly, it is not a minor industry. Some 1.1 million people make their living from jobs in the cultural industry alone. Yet the industry's funding is being cut in the middle of an economic crisis.

Tens of thousands of middle-class families earn their living from jobs in the cultural sector, and the average income from such jobs in Quebec in 2005 was $32,000.

In Montreal, in 2005 alone, culture generated $1.4 billion in economic spinoffs and was growing at a rate of 4.7% per year. That is not peanuts.

How many tax dollars did culture contribute to federal, provincial and municipal coffers in 2007? Nearly $25 billion. That is three times more than all governments, taken together, contributed to culture last year. Clearly, there is money to be made, and the government gets back three times more than it invests.

During our tour, we found that the arts community was not the only one criticizing cuts to culture. Members of the business community, people who know their numbers and can do cost accounting and profit analysis, were critical of the cuts too.

Among those criticizing the government were Isabelle Hudon, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, Marcel Côté, founding partner of the SECOR Group, Bernard Lamarre, one of the wealthiest men in Quebec, of SNC-Lavalin, and Hélène Desmarais, chair of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.

These are business people who know that the arts are important and profitable. They are calling on the government to continue investing in the arts.

Internationally, we see proof every day that culture can be very profitable.

Take, for example, Guy Laliberté, who became a multi-billionaire—billionaire, not millionaire— just 25 years after building Cirque du Soleil from scratch and with the help of a grant from René Lévesque's discretionary budget.

Today, thousands of people work for Cirque du Soleil under excellent working conditions. Almost all the shows in Las Vegas are by Cirque du Soleil, which continues to go by its French name, even in Las Vegas. It is not called Circus of the Sun; it is called Cirque du Soleil.

There is the show Mystère at the Treasure Island hotel; , which based on martial arts, at the MGM Grand hotel; Zumanity, a slightly sexier show, at the New York, New York hotel; Believe, with a lot of magic, at the Luxor hotel; O, at the Bellagio hotel; and Love, at the Mirage hotel.

That is what happens when we decide to invest in culture. All of this started with the presentation of a show called La Nouba at Walt Disney World in Orlando. As we speak, Cirque du Soleil is developing an Elvis Presley show that will be shown at City Center in Las Vegas.

Let us not forget Celine Dion, of course, who over the years has shattered all the show and earnings records at Caesars Palace.

I must also mention Robert Lepage, who plays throughout the world, or Luc Plamondon, whose musicals, like Starmania or Notre Dame de Paris, are featured around the world.

There is also Xavier Dolan—whom my colleague mentioned— who was the producer, writer and director of the movie J'ai tué ma mère, also known as I Killed my Mother, a film that won a number of awards in Cannes a few weeks ago. His movie has been sold in 14 countries, including the United States, England and France, but Telefilm Canada refused to invest one red cent.

While English-speaking Canadians are too often willing to adopt American culture as their own, Quebeckers know that their culture is profitable and is at the very heart of their identity. They support this culture in any way that they can.

They expect the government to do the same, and that is why we are here today to support this motion.

Radio-Canada June 9th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, today, Radio-Canada employees launched a huge campaign in support of the public broadcaster together with VIPs from communities and regions across Quebec and Acadia. The purpose of the campaign is to get stable, increased funding for Radio-Canada.

Will the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages finally agree to this request, which has the support of all Quebeckers, and will he do so right away?

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation June 1st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, at a time when the CBC is having to make drastic cuts that will result in the loss of more than 800 jobs, a group of private citizens have come together to get recognition of the cultural and social importance of the crown corporation. SOS Radio-Canada also hopes to convince politicians to permanently increase public funding for the institution, something the Bloc Québécois naturally supports.

SOS Radio-Canada will have its work cut out for it, because not only is the Conservative government completely uninterested in the public broadcaster and culture in general, but the Liberal Party's record is no better, even though it claims otherwise. It was the Liberals who, in the 1990s, contributed in part to slashing $400 million from the CBC's annual budget and preferred investing in flags rather than culture, depriving many festivals and cultural events of their funding.

It is therefore important that as many people as possible join the movement to support the CBC.

Customs Act May 28th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for his speech, which was excellent as usual.

Yesterday, I happened to be taking someone else's place on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. I was totally amazed to learn in a report from the RCMP representatives who were present at the meeting, that there are 60 cases of people with criminal records or direct links with organized crime working in Canadian airports at this time.

We also learned, in a CBC report two years ago, that customs officers were complaining about being pressured by questionable people to not inspect certain incoming planes. To our utter amazement, when we questioned the people responsible for airports testifying before the committee, we learned that they did not carry out any serious investigations when they hired airport staff. They do a minimal investigation but do not, for instance, go to the extent of asking for police checks. They were entitled to ask the RCMP for these but they cited protection of privacy.

The people who work in airports are thinking at this time about finding a solution to this problem. They want to have job applicants sign a form authorizing the airports to carry out a check, or get one done by the RCMP, as a minimum. Even MPs have to sign an authorization for a background check when they decide to run as candidates, and this is a minimum.

When my colleague calls for vigilance as far as the rights assigned to the minister to further increase the parameters of the law, ought we not also to be asking the minister to be a bit more vigilant about those who already have to enforce the law?