House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was workers.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Chambly—Borduas (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

International Literacy Day October 21st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, today we are celebrating International Literacy Day. Knowing how to read and write is essential for life in today's society, since illiteracy can lead to exclusion.

One million people in Quebec have limited literacy skills. Nearly 415,000 people 65 or older have less than a grade nine education. Limited literacy skills can result in a lower quality of life for seniors and increased health risks.

Illiteracy also affects young people in Canada. Almost 11% of young people between the ages of 16 and 25 experience great difficulty reading.

That said, thousands of people are trying to improve their situation. We congratulate them and want them to know how proud we are of them.

I invite you all to contribute to literacy by giving someone a book. Happy reading.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 19th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary's answer is extremely shocking to the unemployed who genuinely need EI benefits. I take offence at the suggestion that it is somehow through their own fault that they find themselves out of work.

We are not talking about those who are not eligible, but rather those who are. The parliamentary secretary himself recognized that, under the EI rules, 88% of all those who contribute to the EI fund in order to have access to it should normally be eligible. But as we speak, only 38% are eligible. That is what the parliamentary secretary is overlooking. That is the problem we need to deal with.

I repeat, less than 40% of unemployed workers have access to benefits. Between accessibility and actual access, there is a gap, a gap in which the government meddled by restricting the rules. And significant portions of the population are much poorer because of these rules.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 19th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, my second intervention concerns the question I raised on October 14, regarding the leaders' debate.

At the second leaders' debate, the Prime Minister promised to correct the 910 hours of work requirement that young people must meet in order to collect EI benefits. In response to a question by the leader of the Bloc Québécois, the Prime Minister said that he would solve this problem and promised to do so.

As we speak, there is nothing to that effect in either the throne speech or the bills that have been introduced, despite the response the minister gave me on October 14. He is giving no indication as to how the problem will be solved.

I would like to hear this from the parliamentary secretary. What does the minister intend to do to eliminate this discrimination in terms of the requirement young people face? I indicated the percentages earlier. Eligibility for benefits stands at 38% for the working class as a whole. However, less than 30%--approximately 23% or 26% I think--of young people are eligible for EI benefits. Why? Because the government has imposed rules that deny them access gradually, despite the fact that they contribute.

Young people have the added requirement of 910 hours of work. I would like to hear the parliamentary secretary on this.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 19th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the answer is clear. The hon. member has just confirmed that the surplus is used to balance revenues and expenses. What is not normal is that only a segment of the population, namely the unemployed, is asked to bear the brunt of this.

I would also remind the hon. member that he is providing the House only with absolute figures about the unemployed. Why does he not talk about the percentage of the unemployed who may now be eligible for EI benefits? Only 38% of all EI contributors are eligible for benefits, because the rules have become too restrictive. Such is the plight of the unemployed.

I would like the hon. member to elaborate on this instead of quoting figures that have nothing to do with the question I asked.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 19th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking you for allowing me to speak in the late show. My question is intended as a reminder of the one I asked of the minister on October 6 concerning the employment insurance fund.

My question is twofold. One aspect concerns the regulations, which are so restrictive that fewer and fewer unemployed workers qualify for EI benefits.

At the time, I also reminded the minister that no concern was shown for that in the throne speech; quite the contrary. The throne speech reflects something akin to a sense of satisfaction on the part of the government, when all it is saying is that it will check whether the EI fund still meets the needs of the workers.

The minister recognized that there was a problem, not only in Quebec but across the country. That is already something.

My question concerns the steps he intends to take to remedy the situation. This is not an easy situation, especially for those who are out of work.

Things have changed in recent years, especially since 1997. At the time, 75% of all contributors were eligible for EI benefits, compared to only 38% these days.

What this means is that the government has tightened up EI rules so much that fewer and fewer people are now eligible for EI benefits. This situation affects women and young Canadians particularly, since they are the ones with insecure or part time jobs.

I would like to get an answer on this from the government, the minister or the parliamentary secretary.

The second part of my question deals with the EI fund itself. A total of $45 billion were taken out of the EI fund. It is in fact a disguised tax.

The minister told us that it was because we no longer have a separate EI account. But that does not explain why the government has taken money out of the EI surplus, money that should have been used to pay EI benefits to the unemployed. That surplus was used for other purposes, namely to pay off the debt or cover other expenditures, or simply went into the consolidated revenue account.

I would like to hear from the minister or his representative what their recommendation will be about the future use of EI money.

International Interests in Mobile Equipment (aircraft equipment) Act October 18th, 2004

Madam Speaker, my question for the hon. for Mégantic—L'Érable is based on the statement made by the Liberal member, who said that, with Toronto being Canada's economic engine, as he called it, it follows that more massive investments should be made in the Toronto area.

In spite of this statement made by the Liberal member, does my colleague find it reasonable that most of the government's investment in research and development is made in Toronto, and that the rest of the provinces, Quebec included, have to share the remainder?

International Interests in Mobile Equipment (aircraft equipment) Act October 18th, 2004

Madam Speaker, my question is for the member for Hochelaga. I will first thank him. As we can see, the experience he has gained in this place and elsewhere representing his riding is considerable and varied, and he shared it with us as he spoke on the transport issue. He did not stick to the bill, but covered a lot of things to make it clear that the issue is broad. In fact, it encompasses not only air transport, but surface and maritime transport as well. His approach is very much appreciated.

The transport minister spoke of upping the ante when we debate this and he said that other countries had shown interest in Bombardier's technology and in helping Bombardier financially as well. It would seem that we should be speaking of opportunities rather than of upping the ante. We should be discussing the opportunities we are afforded. With respect to this, I would like to know how the member for Hochelaga sees things at present in which the government is failing to support, as he said earlier, a flagship of our aerospace industry.

Employment Insurance October 14th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, is the minister aware that this is a delaying tactic and that he is preventing the immediate implementation of a firm promise by the Prime Minister?

Are we to understand that the Liberal Party is once again breaking its promises?

Employment Insurance October 14th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, during the first leaders debate, the Prime Minister announced that he intended to eliminate the discriminatory provision that applies to young people making their first EI claim.

When the leader of the Bloc Quebecois asked him, “Are you going to change that, the 910 hours?” the Prime Minister replied, “The answer is yes, and I have said so publicly”.

In view of the Prime Minister's firm commitment, can the minister tell us when he will be tabling an amendment to the act?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 12th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, first I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Joliette.

I would like to take this opportunity to say hello to my constituents in the riding of Chambly—Borduas and assure them that our political party, which is an important part of the opposition, will work as hard as it ever has to ensure that their interests are always well represented in this House.

One way to do so is to give our opinion on this Speech from the Throne. It is not for nothing that the three opposition parties were so united in their opposition. This Speech from the Throne does not reflect the concerns of the public—concerns that were expressed during the election campaign, that is, quite recently.

As the human resources and skills development critic for my party, I would first like to address this subject in relation to the Speech from the Throne.

My colleagues from the Bloc and I are certainly going to vote in favour of the amendment. I would like to talk in particular about the first part of it on the establishment of an arm’s-length, but not privatized, tri-party commission to ensure employment insurance premiums are used only for workers' benefits.

It is very important that this House pass this amendment. Failure to do so will mean many workers who no longer qualify for employment insurance will be kept in poverty. Eligibility requirements have become so strict that only 38% of those who contribute are entitled to receive benefits.

In response to a question I asked him last week, the Minister of Finance said that the employment insurance fund had been part of the consolidated revenue account for many years—since 1986, if I am not mistaken. Before 1986 it was a separate account.

In the first years this fund was part of the consolidated revenue account, there were relatively few difficulties. However, the requirements that have appeared since 1993 have gradually whittled the number of contributors receiving benefits from the 75% of workers who were contributing to the fund and were entitled to it to 38%.

All workers are penalized, of course, but women and young people in particular. Women are penalized by the very complex rules, which take into account the rate at which the required hours of work are accumulated. Because many women—more women than men— work part time, only 33% qualify for employment insurance. That is pretty dramatic, and the percentage is even lower for young people.

Hence the importance of ensuring that the government no longer uses the fund as a pot of gold. It uses it for other expenditures, like paying down the debt or transferring amounts to the reserve fund. Whatever the case may be, this fund is not designed for anything but employment insurance, providing social insurance to those who have had the misfortune to lose their jobs.

I have heard much praise of our country's geography from members defending the throne speech. They spoke of our green forests, our pristine lakes, the graceful outlines of our mountains. Great emphasis was put on all that. While I agree that we must take care of our environment, what I have just listed is not the product of governmental policies.

What is, is the hardship caused to many families across the country. I heard hardly anything at all about that in the throne speech. It was touched on only superficially, with fancy words in obscure passages, a couple of lines, for instance, providing that “the government will continue to review the employment insurance program to ensure that it remains well-suited to the needs of Canada’s workforce”. That is all it said.

And yet, we see all the difficulties facing workers when they find themselves unemployed. That is to say nothing of the rules, which are both restrictive and very difficult to enforce. Even civil servants recognize that, sometimes, people are not treated fairly because they themselves have a hard time understanding what the rules mean exactly. They take into account average earnings, regional unemployment, weeks not worked, flexible work schedules, and the list goes on. How can one make heads or tails of all this?

Consequently, people who must rely on employment insurance for their meagre subsistence must put themselves in the hands of the public servants, because very often they do not understand things.

Thus, $45 billion has been diverted from this fund in recent years. This is $45 billion that could have gone to the people who needed it the most. This is $45 billion that has impoverished families. This is $45 billion that was not injected into the economy of any of our regions, any of our constituencies. In the riding of Chambly—Borduas alone, there is a shortfall in revenue of over $38 million per year.

Of course we must vote in favour of the amendment. I invite every member in this House to do so. Moreover, I invite the House to reflect on an amendment that could be made during this session, in order to return the $45 billion to the EI fund, and that this repayment be spread over a number of years, which can be determined later.

Since I have two minutes left, I will be brief, although there is much I could say about seniors. There is $3.2 billion that belongs to them but has not been given to them, because the government did not provide enough information on the guaranteed income supplement program. Since this is a program for the lowest incomes, once again the least fortunate were the ones affected.

In the matter of child care, as far as the economy of Quebec is concerned, there is a shortfall of $230 million annually, because Quebec has its own system of child care centres. As a result of the tax rebate system, $230 million less goes to Quebec every year.

Then there is the matter of manpower training. We should have expected to hear in the throne speech that the rest of the training funds remaining in Ottawa would have been transferred, as they ought to have been in 1997 as well. Not only was the funding for targeted clientele, the disabled, the immigrants, the young and the old not transferred, but with this bill we have before us, they are nibbling away just a little bit more into others' jurisdictions. I will return to that point.

I will make my conclusion very brief. The government has missed a great opportunity, there is no denying that. The member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell has told us the year he started in this House. That is the year I was born. I was surprised at that, because I have seen his past vigour. He ought to have joined with us in stating that the government should have taken its cue from the 2001 report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

That report ought to have come back here to the House and been reflected in the main thrust of the throne speech. It was a unanimous report and contains reference to what have just raised. But there is no sign of it today.

That is why this Speech from the Throne cannot be accepted in its present form.