Benoît SAUVAGEAU

SAUVAGEAU, Benoît, B.A.

Personal Data

Party
Bloc Québécois
Constituency
Repentigny (Quebec)
Birth Date
November 22, 1963
Deceased Date
August 28, 2006
Website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benoît_Sauvageau
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=163eb895-5f5f-46c0-ba40-6ff27fc0f4da&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
professor

Parliamentary Career

October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
BQ
  Terrebonne (Quebec)
June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
BQ
  Repentigny (Quebec)
November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
BQ
  Repentigny (Quebec)
  • Deputy Whip of the Bloc Québécois (January 17, 2003 - August 5, 2004)
June 28, 2004 - November 29, 2005
BQ
  Repentigny (Quebec)
  • Deputy Whip of the Bloc Québécois (January 17, 2003 - August 5, 2004)
January 23, 2006 - August 28, 2006
BQ
  Repentigny (Quebec)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 160)


June 21, 2006

Mr. Benoît Sauvageau

The answer, Mr. Speaker, is yes.

More seriously, I thank my colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Actually, I did not talk much about the returning officers in my speech because I talked about the Bloc’s victories and we had many. Still I should have mentioned that we in the Bloc submitted to the appropriate committee an amendment to the Elections Act on the appointment of returning officers. It was to have returning officers appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer.

At the time, we told the Liberals we were sure that some Liberals would be competent enough to stay if returning officers were appointed according to their competence rather than their allegiance. So we did not understand why they so stubbornly refused. For us, competence should take precedence over political allegiance. I think this is the message that the Conservatives understood.

As for the prompt enforcement of this amendment in an upcoming election, I will reassure my colleague. The Chief Electoral Officer has been awaiting this possibility for so long that he has put in place all the structures with a view to proceeding very quickly—he has confirmed this to us—with the appointment of returning officers by means of competitions. Probably many returning officers in place today will be able to continue their work. I cannot guess the percentages, but there will surely be a good number.

There are some competent people among them who did a good job in the last election or in earlier ones. They will be able to apply for the position and take part in the competition, and they will be able to keep their positions by showing their competence. As for the incompetents appointed only because they had been members of a party, not ours, for a long time, they will keep themselves busy with a pastime other than working in the service of our democracy.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Federal Accountability Act
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June 21, 2006

Mr. Benoît Sauvageau (Repentigny, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak for what I believe is the last time about Bill C-2. We have discussed Bill C-2 frequently, at length and in detail, and we have analyzed it from every angle. Today, we have before us the final version with the amendments made at third reading.

With the permission of this House, before I speak directly about Bill C-2, I will talk about its origins and what brought us to this point today, when we are discussing Bill C-2 at third reading. What prompted this bill?

We could talk at length—and we have—about the sponsorship scandal. A few years ago, thanks to the invaluable work of the Auditor General, people became aware that, unfortunately, some people had misappropriated taxpayers' money to try to buy the hearts and minds of Quebeckers. I am not talking about the majority of public servants, but certain people. Today, justice is taking its course.

At the time, the Liberal government made a token effort to correct these deficiencies, for which it was itself responsible, having created the culture of entitlement. At that point, three interesting and important tools were put in place. First, there was the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons and Bill C-24, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act (political financing). There was also Bill C-11, the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.

Earlier the hon. member for Mississauga South indicated how important Bill C-2 is. It is a step in the right direction. It reaffirms existing rules, but does not reinvent the wheel.

In its legislative framework, this bill includes previous important legislation such as Bill C-11, the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. For roughly a year this bill was put on ice. It had gone through all the legislative steps and in short order could have protected public servants who witness wrongdoings. This was delayed strictly for political reasons and that is sad. We could have enacted Bill C-11 as soon as the Conservative government took office. This would have provided a safety net, perhaps imperfect, but a safety net nonetheless that public servants did not have until now. This was delayed and that is sad.

What were the Conservatives trying to achieve when they introduced Bill C-2? One of their objectives was to restore public trust in politicians and in Parliament. We believe this objective will be met.

However, when the Liberals introduced the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons—they may not have been the right ones to do so—their objective was to restore public trust in politicians and Parliament. When the Liberals introduced Bill C-24, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act (political financing), it was to restore public trust in politicians and Parliament. When the Liberals introduced Bill C-11, the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, it was to restore public trust in politicians and Parliament.

When other provincial legislatures introduced similar measures, it was to restore trust. When other countries introduced similar legislation, it was also to restore trust. When we look at whether this objective has been met where similar legislation has been introduced, we come to the unfortunate conclusion that no, it has not. In countries where legislative measures on ethics and transparency like this exist, there is still a large gap between the will of the politicians and public trust in them.

It is my hope that this bill will somewhat correct this perception. However, much more will have to be done to that end. In fact, the government also will have to do a great deal more to correct this perception.

When the sponsorship scandal broke out, the Auditor General stated that all the rules had been broken. That means that there were rules, that they were in place but that the Liberal government decided to circumvent them.

The Conservative government is proposing new rules. Will it respect them? Therein lies the problem. A plethora of rules can be put in place but without the tools or the political will to ensure compliance, the message that we wish to give to the public—the desire to address the problem and restore trust—will be lost. At the first infringement by the Conservative government of its own law, trust will be further undermined and it will become even more difficult to regain it.

Earlier I referred to a private members' bill tabled by the member for Simcoe North, if my memory serves me well. This bill called for government investment in an Ontario waterway in order to revitalize tourism and so forth.

The member who tabled this bill owns the main hotel located in this tourist area and he is asking for the government to invest in his tourist industry. It seems that he is not covered by Bill C-2. That is what we were told. In fact, it seems that he is complying with the bill because it refers to ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

We have often seen people bending the rules. The government must ask its members to respect the letter and the spirit of the law, which states that they must have no real or perceived conflicts of interest. It is important for ministers and parliamentary secretaries to respect this law. Moreover government members of Parliament must also abide by it and ensure that their conduct does not give rise to a real or perceived conflict of interest.

I opened the door for my colleague—I believe he is the new member for Simcoe North—by suggesting he check with the President of the Treasury Board to see if he was respecting the spirit of the law. If he did check with the ethics counsellor, and if his bill does not place him in a conflict of interest, then the Bloc Québécois is prepared to re-evaluate its position. We are not accusing the member of a conflict of interest. We are just saying that it bothers us to see this kind of bill introduced just as the Conservative government introduced its bill on transparency and accountability.

I think I have shown pretty clearly why the Conservative government introduced the first bill of the 39th Parliament, Bill C-2: for political reasons, among other things, and for honourable reasons too, I hope.

Bill C-2 was discussed in special committee, in legislative committee, actually. Thanks are in order with respect to the legislative committee. I would like to thank all of my colleagues from all parties who contributed to improving Bill C-2 in committee. At times, there was some political posturing from the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP. Not all members were necessarily on the same wavelength. Some sharp remarks were made.

We all knew there was some jockeying for political position during committee meetings. Once the work was done though, I am sure that we all recognized our collaborators' efforts and qualities. I really wanted to emphasize that. Finally, I must highlight my colleague for Rivière-du-Nord's contribution. She was there during the committee's long working hours.

I would also like to mention the work done by two people in particular. It is sad, because I am going to forget other people, but I want to mention Annie Desnoyers and Dominic Labrie. They are thorough, hard-working Bloc Québécois staff, and they supported us—and put up with us—throughout the review of Bill C-2.

Now I would like to talk more specifically about Bill C-2. The Bloc is in favour of the bill, as you know from our presentations and our support for the amendments. It is important to remember that ethics were central to the most recent election campaign, when the Liberals were thrown out of power, especially in Quebec. We took part in the Gomery commission, which produced a number of recommendations that must now be implemented and are included in part in Bill C-2. Not all of the recommendations are reflected in the bill. Notably missing are the ones concerning the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Federal Accountability Act
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June 21, 2006

Mr. Benoît Sauvageau

We improved it during the 40 hours a week we sat in committee.

I would like to talk about what the Bloc Québécois gained. The Bloc is happy to see that some of its proposals were incorporated into Bill C-2. The bill was flawed. We worked to make it better, and we made some progress. All the parties can congratulate themselves on that. The Bloc's gains include the requirement that Elections Canada appoint returning officers on merit. My colleague from Québec, our whip, had already introduced a bill on merit appointments of returning officers, something we managed to obtain in this bill.

Initially, the bill said that the Chief Electoral Officer could appoint the returning officers in our ridings. We amended this proposal, stating that the Chief Electoral Officer could choose or appoint them, but only after a competition based on merit. We think that the worst situation was where the governor in council appointed his buddies as returning officers. This is rather strange in a modern democracy. But requiring the Chief Electoral Officer to appoint returning officers on merit, after a competition—something he had been requesting for a long time—will make for greater impartiality during elections, and this is one notable gain for the Bloc Québécois in Bill C-2.

Independence of the lobbyists registry is another gain. We will have a lobbyists registry with an independent commissioner. That way, they cannot divert the focus by appointing people who are in complicity with the government. Political party financing legislation is another major gain. The Conservatives told us, kindly and candidly, that they wanted to use as a model the Quebec political party financing legislation, which was introduced by the Parti Québécois in 1977, if my memory serves me correctly. Some 30 years later, the federal government says it wants to use it as a model. This is a fine victory for the Bloc and a fine victory for Quebec.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Federal Accountability Act
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June 21, 2006

The Conservatives wanted to give every whistleblower a little $1,000 treat. It reminded me of when I was young, when I used to read Lucky Luke. There were head shots, and on them it said “Wanted”. There were professional bounty hunters who were really trying to find the bad guys, to get themselves a nice chunk of change.

That is like telling whistleblowers that they can cash in on their conscience and their honesty. Very fortunately, all parties in this House recognized that this idea of the Conservative government’s, this campaign promise, was a poor signal to be sending public servants and everyone who is protected by the whistleblowing act. So that part was eliminated.

We got a provision that the ethics commissioner, rather than a minister, would have the power to exempt political staff from the law.

Originally, the bill allowed a minister to decide whether such-and-such a person could be exempted from the ethics act. Now it is the commissioner, as an independent person, who will have that role.

There is one victory that may seem futile to some, but that is very important. That is the original title of the bill. That title was: “Loi fédérale sur l'imputabilité”. With the assistance of some colleagues in this House, the goodwill of others and the irrefutable proof presented in committee, we succeeded in changing the title of the bill so that it would mean what it was supposed to mean in French: “Loi fédérale sur la responsabilité”. This is another victory by the Bloc.

We also succeeded in having a provision incorporated in Bill C-2 that the conflict of interest act will be reviewed every five years. To us, this is important. It has been said before. Everyone in this House recognizes that there are no perfect laws, particularly an act like this one, which will be the first one to be brought into force. We want to be able to rectify this act after five years and ensure that any possible mistakes and errors that remained despite the serious consideration we tried to give it can be rectified.

These are a number of victories in which the Bloc Québécois can take pride after considering and passing Bill C-2.

However, one important part of a promise made by the Conservatives was not kept in Bill C-2, and that is the one that involves reforming the Access to Information Act.

Everything that was said in the same chapter of the “Stand up for Canada” platform, about lobbyists and the commissioner, can be found in Bill C-2, and we recognize that. But what we do not find is the part about reforming the Access to Information Act. The passage that I quote is found at page 13 of “Stand up for Canada”.

A Conservative government:

will implement the Information Commissioner’s recommendations for reform of the Access to Information Act.

That seems clear to me. When it came time to talk about the Access to Information Act during consideration of Bill C-2, oddly, there was less urgency, less enthusiasm.

When my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert proposed the idea of reforming the Access to Information Act in the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, the urgency described in the Conservative platform had strangely and suddenly evaporated into thin air.

When it came to supporting a motion by my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert to review the Access to Information Act with the same speed, there was less urgency.

We were given arguments for passing Bill C-2 quickly, that enough had been said about it, that there had been enough studies on the matter and that Canadians wanted something concrete. It is odd, because these arguments all apply to the Access to Information Act. There have been enough studies.

In committee, there was even a unanimous vote to tell the Liberals—who were in power at the time—that we did not want any more studies. The Conservatives shared that opinion: they truly wanted to amend the Access to Information Act immediately. Now that they are in power, they are budging a little on C-2—it is an honourable gesture, but on the Access to Information Act they are not willing to make any concessions.

This seems underhanded to us. During the sponsorship scandal, some documents could not be obtained under the Access to Information Act. If a similar situation comes up, and the Access to Information Act is not improved, we will probably end up with the same problem.

In closing, passing Bill C-2 is a step in the right direction. However, it falls short when it comes to the Access to Information Act. We hope that in the fall, the relevant committee will have the same good will to consider reforming the Access to Information Act.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Federal Accountability Act
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June 21, 2006

Mr. Benoît Sauvageau (Repentigny, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, before that brief interruption, I was talking about the Bloc Québécois' victories with respect to Bill C-2. For the edification and pleasure of all members of the House, I will continue to list the Bloc's victories following the referral of Bill C-2 to committee.

Earlier, I highlighted the work of my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord, but I left out my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. Her presence reminded me. I would like to thank my colleague for her great contribution to making this bill even better. I would like to thank her for her ideas and her support during discussions on Bill C-2.

I mentioned some of the Bloc's victories before being interrupted to make way for private members' bills. I would like to list some more. We did not want to create a tattletale culture, so we succeeded in eliminating rewards for whistle-blowers.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Federal Accountability Act
Full View Permalink