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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was agreement.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 18% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Death of Three Miners November 3rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, last Friday evening I was shocked and saddened to learn of the disappearance of three miners at the Bachelor Lake mine in Desmaraisville in my riding.

Bruno Goulet, 36, Dominico Bollini, 44, and Marc Guay, 31, were working in one of the mine shafts when it flooded. The three men had descended around 11:30 p.m. to levels 11 and 12 of the mine, or roughly 485 metres below ground. Help was sent immediately when the elevator that carried them came back up empty.

Unfortunately, the three miners have since been found dead.

This is a terrible tragedy and there are no words to describe what all of Abitibi is feeling.

All of my colleagues in the Bloc join me in expressing our sympathy at this difficult time to the families, co-workers and friends of Bruno, Dominico and Marc.

International Day of Climate Action October 26th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, while a group of young people, including a number of Inuit, are on the Hill today calling for global, immediate and co-ordinated action to counter the most significant threat to the world, climate change, Canada is hard at working sabotaging negotiations leading up to the Copenhagen conference. It is demanding, through its Minister of the Environment, less stringent greenhouse gas reduction targets than those of its European and Japanese partners.

On Saturday, events were held throughout Canada to highlight the International Day of Climate Action. Thousands called for the government to not only implement the Kyoto protocol but to also develop a serious plan to fight climate change.

This government must stop hiding behind false pretexts, such as its industrial structure, and finally take action.

Business of Supply October 19th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, during an economic crisis such as the current one, businesses will generally be a lot more restrictive in their bargaining with employees, and disputes often last longer than usual. Very often, after a dispute is settled, the business decides to close its doors and lay off workers, even before they return to work. In this regard, Bill C-395 eliminated for benefit calculation purposes the period of time the workers were on strike or locked out.

Business of Supply October 19th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I do not sit on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. However, there is no need to be on it in order to do a quick calculation when one lives with workers as we do in Quebec. Our calculation is based on the fact that the number of people entitled to EI amounts to only some 43% or 44% of workers. The remainder are not entitled to it.

We also asked that people be paid right off, that is, for the two week waiting period to be eliminated. That would have allowed workers living in single industry towns to remain at home and await the reopening of the industry when they were laid off.

The figure of 190,000 claimants allegedly entitled to help was totally distorted. First of all, in the forestry industry, the layoffs took place in the two or three years prior to the final closings. These workers cannot benefit from the plan proposed in Bill C-50. The same may be said for a lot of women who work part time. They will not have access. That is where the calculation is distorted.

Business of Supply October 19th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, that is what we have always argued. Even if there were tax cuts or refundable tax credits, that does not help someone who has no income to declare and no taxes to pay. However, if there had been non-refundable tax credits, as the Bloc Quebecois has called for, it is highly likely that the industry would be in a better position, even today, because it would have greater vitality. The same is true for the loan guarantees that were requested. They would have enabled companies to stay afloat much longer. What actually prompted the government to sign the agreement was the weak economy in all of the cities, the plants and workers who were facing this crisis, and the proceedings initiated by the Americans. If the economy had been stronger, the plants would have continued operating for another year or two or three. Even with the crisis we are seeing today, the fallout would have been easier to endure.

Business of Supply October 19th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc's motion today is very important and urgent. The forestry industry in Quebec is having a hard time remaining competitive and recovering from the world economic crisis and has been for a number of years already.

The current government, under the Conservatives, committed to providing $70 million in assistance to the forestry industry, a paltry $70 million to help 825,000 workers involved directly and indirectly in the forestry industry, while it gives the automotive industry concentrated primarily in Ontario nearly $10 billion for 500,000 workers.

Quite frankly, we have to ask who are they kidding?

Let us find the solution. In my riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, there are towns such as Malartic, Val d'Or and Matagami that are holding their own now because they have fairly prosperous mines. However, other towns such as Lebel-sur-Quévillon, Senneterre, Waswanipi, Chapais and Chibougamau are one industry towns and dependent primarily on forestry.

Very close to us and part of the same region are towns and villages such as Amos, La Sarre, Ville-Marie, La Morandière, Champneuf, Barraute and Béarn where the one industry has closed.

Meanwhile, the government is happy to create phoney committees to study the reasons for the forestry industry crisis. The urgency of the situation calls not for studies but for actions focused on results. Precious time has been lost to entrepreneurs, who desperately need to find solutions which the government is unable to identify.

The auto industry, located primarily in Ontario, was set up and is maintained thanks to a whole lot subsidies. My colleague from Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean knows something about this, since he was an adult at that point.

This industry receives $9.7 billion in addition to all the subsidies it got for locating. Some ten Canadian cities are affected and some 500,000 jobs are maintained in this specific sector, which represents around $19,000 per job maintained or $970 million per city involved. The figures are so simplistic that there is no need for an army of accountants at the Department of Finance.

I recall my Bloc colleague Yvan Loubier. He was finance critic and gave his little pocket calculator to the Liberal colleague, who is still in the House, and who was a minister at the time. With this calculator, my colleague managed to predict very accurately what a whole range of accountants could not. The government had surpluses, and the figures were full of mistakes and totally wrong.

Equivalently and in all fairness, the current government should have given $16 billion just to the forestry industry, including $5.25 billion to Quebec alone. Is this not a long way from the ridiculous $100 million for Quebec, which represents, if used only for the forestry industry, a mere $369 per job or the big figure of $435,000 per town or village affected? Of course, it is more accessible than the same $100 million from the communities support fund not earmarked specifically for forestry at the time. The municipalities did not have access to the treasure chest, as they had not been given the key or the combination to it.

Will it be the same this time? This is a real rebuff for Quebec. It appears as illogical as it does because it is, considering that the $9.7 billion is allocated for non renewables, to which must be added the costs of depolluting and decontaminating of an American industry.

In essence, we have contributed to the American treasury to the detriment of a clean and renewable resource, industries and towns and villages in Quebec for what amounted to $22.8 million in assistance.

That is far from the $970 million given to Ontario cities, but they think Quebec will put up with it.

I leave it to the people of Quebec to decide how good the policies of this government have been, certainly not to the government itself, which has failed to demonstrate any logic or sense of fairness in the distribution of assistance in Canada, whether in regard to the softwood lumber crisis, the mad cow crisis, equalization, GST harmonization, and many other things.

One of the most flagrant cases, which can stand for all the rest, is Lebel-sur-Quévillon. Through a slight change to the law, some assistance could have been provided under employment insurance. We had first reading. We asked for agreement to move immediately to second and third reading because there was an emergency. But the government was opposed.

We made it to second reading, but before third reading is reached, the town of Lebel-sur-Quevillon will have been emptied of its workforce and it will be more and more difficult to re-start a plant that could have been successful. It is a very modern plant that was able to produce its own energy. It had good spin-off effects for the region because it enabled the sawmills to fill a need by selling their woodchips, for example, to a pulp and paper plant. This reduced consumption of the actual primary material, softwood lumber.

The labour force could have been kept in the area, both for the new industries that were developing at the time as well as the paper plant itself and the surrounding sawmills. The town managers who wanted to acquire and operate sawmills and the paper plant were also gaining credibility. The town was diversifying its economy. It seemed to be prospering and on the right track.

Ultimately, people are beginning to realize that this government is not very different from the ones that preceded it, if only because of its propensity to say “my way or no way“. We do not really have a French expression for that, but it means basically that if the government's bills do not pass, no bills will pass. If the House does not support the government bill on young offenders, for example, there is no way we will make some progress and pass the amendment on parole after a sixth of the sentence has been served.

As I told my colleague a little while ago, we have suggested some approaches that have been recognized by other levels of government as likely to make a real contribution to helping the forest industry without being an undue burden for the government.

The government and the opposition could have cooperated as a Parliament and taken steps to keep the Canadian economy afloat in both Quebec and the rest of Canada. Apart from the oil companies and the automobile industry, not much has been done in the rest of Canada. We are seeing unemployment and social problems, therefore, now that it has been a year since plants have closed and people are not likely, at this point, to get their jobs back.

Business of Supply October 19th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques and Chambly—Borduas for their presentations.

I would remind my colleague that in 2005, 2006 and 2007, under two different governments, the Bloc called for loan guarantees for companies. At that time, we knew we had problems with the Americans and proceedings were underway relating to special taxes on softwood lumber. We were seeking loan guarantees to enable companies to stay afloat as long as the cases then underway had not been completely dealt with by the courts. When two different governments denied that request, we had to sign an agreement in which Canada, and mainly Quebec, was the big loser.

I would like to ask my colleague a question. If we had been able to see the cases in the courts through to the end, would our industry, in both Canada and Quebec, be in a better position today?

Employment Insurance Act October 7th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, let us call it Nunavik instead of Nunavut. Nunavut is too far away for me.

I would like to respond to the member for Souris—Moose Mountain who earlier claimed that he would not support such a measure before the costs were determined. I think that is the problem, because before costs can be calculated, income will have to be calculated. We are talking about workers who have 35, 40 or, in certain cases, 43 years of service, and who have never once filed a claim for employment insurance or unemployment insurance, as it used to be, and certainly not for 52 weeks of EI. The current legislation does not even make it possible to claim 52 weeks. We are nowhere near where we should be.

I am talking about a town that I know very well, that was founded in 1966. It was a single industry town. In 2005, it had a population of 3,500. Today, the population is 2,300. All the young couples have left the community because there were no more jobs for them.

We must not forget that because of the changing economy and changing labour laws, EI legislation must also be overhauled as quickly as possible, otherwise the effects of the current crisis will be painful and unfair for most workers in this country, except those in Ontario, of course.

The parliamentary secretary asked my colleague just now why we are not in favour of the government's reform. It is because it does not affect Quebec's forestry workers at all. The legislation only helps Ontario auto workers. These measures are in addition to the $10 billion that the government has already given to the auto industry in Ontario and that will do absolutely nothing for Quebec workers. To look at him you would say that the parliamentary secretary is a good man, but he is a bean counter. He does not think about the well-being of this country's workers.

This bill will quickly address an obvious problem brought to the forefront by this crisis. The effects of this crisis have been felt suddenly, as in the case of Lebel-sur-Quévillon, my riding, where 425 workers were locked out for 37 months before they were fired. The act states that an employee who is locked out or on strike has not severed the employee-employer relationship. Consequently, he is not entitled to employment insurance benefits. For that reason we are saying that we must not do this to workers who have worked honestly for so long. It would be the same thing even if they had only worked for five years. However, most of these workers, whom I first met in 1966 or in 1967, were just leaving the plant, on December 19, 2008, one week before Christmas. Imagine someone who has been locked out for 37 months and then, on December 19, finds out that the plant is closing.

I will probably be told that the company has the right to manage its affairs. No, that is an abuse of power and a step taken, during a crisis, to save money on salaries while restructuring. Furthermore, the $6.5 million specified in their collective agreement has not yet been paid. This company is still trying to save money at the expense of its employees and its overdue municipal taxes are still outstanding.

EI reform is necessary because of everything that has been done by companies and white-collar criminals. In fact, their actions make them no better than the white-collar criminals.

Worker protection legislation must evolve with a country's economic situation. All legislation must ensure justice for all segments of the population. It must respect not only the economic system but also the people.

For three years, the workers had no ties to an employer, ties that would establish a qualifying period. The company was able to use three years worth of salaries in its attempt to restructure, and did so deliberately, depriving the employees of their eligibility for employment insurance, after 25, 30, 35 or even 42 years of uninterrupted service for the same company. This situation was made obvious only because the employees kept demonstrating and maintaining their very reasonable claims, I should say. They made a number of concessions to their employer in the hopes of keeping the plant open.

Our bill is simple. We are proposing eliminating the duration of a labour dispute from the qualifying period. This does not apply only in Quebec or Lebel-sur-Quévillon, but it applies to the entire country. I see my colleagues from the Maritime provinces, who are no strangers to the problems of unemployment and lack of jobs. In that part of the country, which I have had the pleasure of visiting, work is often seasonal.

Workers who lose their jobs when their employers go out of business following a lockout or strike would have their benefits calculated based on the 52-week period preceding the dispute, as though they had been laid off the day the employer locked them out or they voted to strike. It would be calculated from that point on.

This is a simple way to correct what we feel is a simple oversight in the act with respect to a very rare but deeply unjust problem.

If the member for Souris—Moose Mountain still has concerns, here are some statistics from Quebec's ministry of labour. In Quebec, from 1995 to 2004, there were 966 disputes, of which 39 lasted a very long time and 8 lasted over 721 days. The Lebel-sur-Quévillon dispute lasted 1,129 days. All of the Domtar jobs were lost; 565 people were laid off. That is the equivalent of 55,000 people losing their jobs in Montreal. Imagine the impact of that closure on a small, single-industry town.

In 2005, the population of Quévillon was 3,500. Now there are only 2,300 people to support a modern infrastructure that was very attractive. Imagine the effort that went into starting the business up again after nearly all of the young workers left town, except for those in high-level positions. Now there is a shortage of skilled workers, which has a very negative impact on efforts to get the business going again.

If only both levels of government had cooperated to help the Lebel-sur-Quévillon workers as much as they helped Ontario's auto sector, then the town would be in very good shape now. It is important to keep people in these towns. History has shown that this can be done at a relatively low cost.

Employment Insurance Act October 7th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Berthier—Maskinongé for agreeing to introduce this bill, which was sorely needed by 425 workers in Lebel-sur-Quévillon who lost their jobs. The shut down of the Domtar paper mill led to the closure of a number of surrounding sawmills.

Lebel-sur-Quévillon is a single industry town, and the closure of this company has caused the population to decline. Now, when workers learn that their plant is closing after a strike or lockout, they have no choice but to abandon their town.

I would like my colleague to tell us whether it is possible for someone in a single industry town to qualify once again for EI benefits.

4th Annual Sisters In Spirit Vigils October 6th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, dozens of sacred ceremonies, vigils, walks and gatherings were held simultaneously in 65 communities on Sunday. These ceremonies honoured the lives of some 520 aboriginal women who have been murdered or gone missing over the past 30 years.

Sunday's vigils were organized for the fourth consecutive year by the Native Women's Association of Canada. I salute the courage and determination of these women. Violence, whether it is physical, verbal or psychological, is absolutely unacceptable and reprehensible.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I denounce the fact that although the Conservative government has been called upon to take action many times, both nationally and internationally, it has not conducted any investigations or taken any action to give these women the help they need. It is high time that the government do something.