Personal Data

Bloc Québécois
Berthier--Montcalm (Quebec)
Birth Date
January 21, 1963

Parliamentary Career

October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
  Berthier--Montcalm (Quebec)
  • Deputy House Leader of the Official Opposition (September 1, 1994 - February 1, 1996)
  • Bloc Québécois Deputy House Leader (September 1, 1994 - February 1, 1996)
  • Deputy House Leader of the Official Opposition (March 17, 1997 - June 1, 1997)
  • Bloc Québécois Deputy House Leader (March 17, 1997 - June 1, 1997)
June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
  Berthier--Montcalm (Quebec)
November 27, 2000 - May 18, 2002
  Berthier--Montcalm (Quebec)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 236)

May 2, 2002

Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier--Montcalm, BQ)

Madam Speaker, I listened to the minister, who said he had understood what people wanted and that that was what had finally convinced him to make amendments to Bill C-42. The terminology is the biggest change to the bill. He has gone from military security zones to controlled access military zones. The minister's powers, however, remain practically the same. That is what people were afraid of.

Regarding the powers given to the Minister of National Defence, members should examine subsection 4 of section 260.1. It reads as follows: “The dimensions of a controlled access military zone may not be greater than is reasonably necessary—”. This is pretty sweeping.

How will this be interpreted by the Minister of National Defence, who showed a distinct lack of judgment throughout the Afghan prisoner affair. He did not even feel the need to inform the Prime Minister or cabinet that our troops had taken prisoners, when everyone was on the alert and it was an issue internationally. He did not have the judgment for a simple decision like that. How is he going to interpret the term reasonably necessary? And how is he going to justify these interim orders, when sections 3, 5 and 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act do not even apply to these entire sections of the legislation.

As members are well aware, under sections 3, 5 and 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act, regulations are checked to ensure that they are consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is all very fine and well to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the charter, but the first opportunity that the government has to demonstrate that the charter means something to it, it introduces Bill C-55, and excludes entire sections of the legislation from the application of the charter. Does it not think that it is making a mistake with this bill and that it is treating the comments it has received from Canadians and Quebecers with arrogance?

The Liberal backbenchers who never say anything are another fine example. They are there to be yes men and they let anything through.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Public Safety Act, 2002
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May 2, 2002

Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier--Montcalm, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak to this bill, since it is such an important one. I understand that all the bills in this House of Commons have a certain importance, but this one is extremely specific in character, and extremely important. It must be considered very wisely.

We need to look at Bill C-55, the purpose of which is to fight terrorism, keeping in mind that this important legislature must meet the expectations of the voters of Canada, and those of Quebec as well. Examination of this bill requires us to bear in mind all the other pieces of legislation in place in Canada, but in particular, the charter of rights and freedoms, which is in place and must be respected as well. We must meet the public's expectations, respect existing legislation as well as the charter, and strike a balance between individual and collective rights and national security.

The government has failed in its duty on at least two occasions, by attempting to get Bill C-42 through, which was divided up and enacted in part, and then by going back to the drawing board and tabling Bill C-55.

Upon examining this new legislation, one cannot help but notice that the government has not listened and is not responding to the expectations of constituents across Canada and Quebec. This is so evident, that at first reading of this bill, the person responsible for monitoring and protecting the privacy of individuals has said that this is legislation that could be found in totalitarian countries. Naturally, I am referring to the privacy commissioner.

I do not agree with the member for Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Aldershot who said that the privacy commissioner should not be commenting. This is not the first time that the privacy commissioner has commented to the media about a bill, saying that it makes sense or does not.

I remember Bill C-36, to fight organized crime, because it is an issue that I was concerned about. This very same privacy commissioner supported it. The member opposite did not rise then to say “He should not comment on it”. No, then it was fine, because the privacy commissioner was supporting the government.

That is not how it works. He did not have to rise when the commissioner commented on Bill C-36, just like he did not have to rise and get offended by the fact that the privacy commissioner made his view on Bill C-55 clear. He described it as unacceptable. He said that it was legislation that could exist, but in totalitarian countries, not a country like Canada, where individual and collective rights are recognized. The privacy commissioner probably came to the same conclusions that the members of the Bloc Quebecois did, when we examined the bill.

Mr. Speaker, I know that I only have ten minutes. I cannot go into detail on each of the points, but you must understand that the whole issue of controlled access military zones worries us.

Incidentally, the words may have changed, but the nuts and bolts of Bill C-55 have not necessarily been changed, because it bears a curious resemblance to Bill C-42, which was plagued with problems. The military security zone is now called a controlled access military zone. This is the biggest change to this section. The whole issue of controlled access military zones is worrisome.

The interim orders that are included in a whole series of acts are also a major source of concern. When we look at the list, we may be surprised, because interim orders may be made under the Department of Health Act, the Explosives Act, the Export and Import Permits Act, the Food and Drugs Act, The Hazardous Products Act, The Marine Transportation Security Act, the Pest Control Products Act, and so on.

What is particular about these interim orders is that each of the ministers responsible for an act will have the authority to make such orders. If we look at these changes, we see that they are exempted from the application of sections 3, 5 and 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act.

A layperson who reads this without really knowing about it, or without the schedule to these acts, may not understand. I wonder if the Minister of National Defence himself understands these provisions, considering the replies that he gave us today.

If we look at the Statutory Instruments Act, we see that sections 3, 5 and 11 are those that are used to determine whether or not an act complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I understand why Quebec did not sign the Constitution. Members opposite boast about this and they celebrate the 20th anniversary of the constitution. Incidentally, they are celebrating a little too soon, because it has not been 20 years, but they are celebrating the 20th anniversary simply to show that they are a little mixed up. This year is the 20th anniversary of the patriation of the Constitution. But the 20th anniversary of the coming into effect of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will come later. They will eventually learn that in the history books, when they read them.

These sections will not be applied to the acts that I listed. In other words, the government will not check to see if these measures respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is serious business. Yet, the government seems to be merrily going forward, oblivious of the fact that trouble may lie ahead because of these sections. But, as far as the government is concerned, there is no problem.

The very important part 2 of the bill, which deals with the National Defence Act, gives exceptional powers to the Minister of National Defence regarding the creation of the controlled access military zones to which I referred earlier.

My third concern has to do with the whole issue of damages. It will not be possible to sue the government in cases of abuse.

The amendments to the National Defence Act give excessive powers to the Minister of National Defence. One of these powers has to do with the dimensions of zones. He is the one who, at some point, is going to decide exactly what size of controlled access military zone is needed.

Right off the bat, we think that there should be very specific criteria in the bill so that the minister, whoever he is, cannot get carried away. A properly advised, open-minded legislator acting in good faith includes such criteria in a bill. The criteria in subsection 260.1 (4) are as follows:

The dimensions of a controlled access military zone may not be greater than is reasonably necessary to ensure the safety or security of any person, thing or property for which the zone is designated.

These are the criteria which the Minister of National Defence will use. This is the same Minister of National Defence who showed a lack of judgment in the Afghan prisoner affair.

Let us remember that Canadian troops captured prisoners. The minister knew this. He was told that they had during a briefing. But he did not feel the need to inform the Prime Minister, cabinet, or anyone else, while everyone in Canada was anxiously waiting to hear what would happen if prisoners were taken. He even told the House that none had been, when it fact some had, and so on. This is a flagrant lack of judgment, and this is the same minister who is going to implement this legislation.

It is ridiculous. I could give other examples, such as subsection (14) of this same section, which prevents taxpayers from taking the government to court.

I am being signalled that my time is up. I would have liked to speak at greater length about this bill, because it is extremely important. We in the Bloc Quebecois are naturally against it, because we defend ordinary citizens. That is why we were elected.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of the House
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April 30, 2002

Mr. Michel Bellehumeur

They do not support the microbreweries anymore either.

The government and the official opposition have, in a way, abandoned the microbreweries. Not us. We intend to battle this out, because it is important.

From 1993 to 1997 in Berthier--Montcalm—my riding had a name change along the way—the entire Maskinongé area was part of my riding. There are major buckwheat producers in that area. We wondered how we could promote buckwheat. I will in passing greet “Mr. Buckwheat, le père Sarrasin”, who will know whom I mean. We went off to Belgium to promote the region and the Louiseville buckwheat flat cake festival. Afterward, Belgian businessmen came to Louiseville. They had a technology for brewing beer from a cereal much like buckwheat. Today in Saint-Paulin, there is a microbrewery that produces three buckwheat beers. These are very different, really excellent, and are exported.

However, with a bill like the one now before us, its exports will certainly be limited. It cannot be competitive. Even the U.S. has a tax of about 9 cents per hectolitre, while ours is 28 cents. This favours the big breweries at the expense of the microbreweries. This microbrewery, with its three beers—the Belgians apparently are crazy about them—could step up its production and increase job creation in the region. Saint-Paulin is not a major centre. So, this would be very important for the region. This technology did not exist in the Maskinongé area prior to 1997 or 1998.

Saint-Paulin is, if I am not mistaken, now in the riding of the Prime Minister. What is the Prime Minister doing to defend the microbrewery properly? I am certain that it is in the PM's riding. The people around me seem to be questioning that, but I am sure it is. He is doing nothing, whereas he should be standing up in defence of his constituents.

In the region of Lanaudière, more specifically in Joliette, Broue-Pub L'Alchimiste also produces five or six beers. This microbrewery is also affected by the excise tax, by the bill that the government introduced, and particularly by the favoritism shown to major breweries. This is in the region of Lanaudière. My riding is close to two regions where microbreweries are found. If we look around, we realize that there are such microbreweries everywhere in Quebec.

But there are some in Ontario as well. I do not understand why members from Ontario—perhaps it is because they take Ontario for granted—are not doing anything and are letting their constituents down when it comes to microbreweries by not protecting them properly.

It is the same thing in western Canada. The Canadian Alliance should rise and fight for microbreweries, but it does not. Yet, because of the policy of the government opposite, 13 Ontario microbreweries have shut down in the past five years. In Quebec, 11 have shut down for the same reasons since the Liberals came to office. There were some in Saint-Hyacinthe, Saint-Eustache, Baie-Saint-Paul, Amos, Montreal, Cap-Chat and Lanaudière. There were some everywhere. Because of the policy of the Liberal government opposite, which favours the big companies—probably because of their big contributions to the Liberal Party—microbreweries and regions were gradually affected. The Canadian Alliance is no better in this respect. The Liberals and the Canadian Alliance get along very well on issues like this one.

However, the Bloc Quebecois is here for these people. We will continue to protect them. This House has not heard the last of the Bloc on this most important issue for the regions of Quebec.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Excise Act, 2001
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April 30, 2002

Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier--Montcalm, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak to this bill.

This bill may seem to have little to do with the issue I usually deal with, which is justice. However, when we look at what happened to Bill C-47 in committee and the impact it can have in our respective ridings, we come to realize that everyone in this House should take a particular interest in this bill because of its economic impact and because of the way the opposition, which was calling for changes, was handled or gagged.

The Bloc Quebecois is a sovereignist party, and we do engage in politics. However, when a good bill is before the House, we very often support the government.

At first glance, Bill C-47 seemed like a piece of legislation that we could support. In fact, our finance critic, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot, and our assistant critic, the member for Drummond, worked with the government to improve the bill and correct some oversights. We wanted to improve upon it. The negotiations went very well. We even supported the government at second reading. It was at committee that things turned ugly.

One of the roles of the opposition, whether it is the official opposition or a third party like the Bloc Quebecois, which represents a large number of Quebecers, is to voice their concerns, and that is what the Bloc members have done. We stood up for a very important industry in Quebec, the microbrewery industry, which could expand even more if it could be heard.

It was at committee that things turned ugly, when the Bloc Quebecois members wanted to point out a flaw in the bill, because the government forgot—at the beginning we believed it was an oversight—to include beer in the bill on excise tax. We realized that it was no oversight, given the appearance of conflict of interest that everyone is aware of, involving the committee chair and a lobbyist, a very important person who works for the big beer company, Labatt. Because of the links that existed, we realized that it was not an oversight.

This all started—and this comes from the microbreweries—because initially even the big breweries said they supported the microbreweries and lowering the tax. When compared to the U.S. tax, the Canadian excise tax is very high. In the end, we realized that the big breweries were not defending the microbreweries.

For this reason, the Bloc Quebecois tried to have beer included in the bill on excise, so that microbreweries would be treated fairly.

The bill contains just about everything. Nothing is left out. It contains provisions on spirits, wine, cigarettes, everything that can be purchased in Canada, with the exception of beer. This alone raises questions.

I do not understand why the Liberal members are not raising questions. Why are we treating microbreweries differently? Why should beer be different from any other product? I understand that they may presume to be acting in good faith, but once the issue is raised, the members of the government who represent their constituents in their ridings, which probably have microbreweries in them, these members must stand up and tell the government, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Revenue and those who are responsible for this issues, that they are on the wrong track.

How ironic that only the Bloc Quebecois would stand up to denounce the government's ways. At first, the Canadian Alliance appeared to waiver, but in the end, they will likely support the bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Excise Act, 2001
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April 23, 2002

Mr. Michel Bellehumeur

Mr. Speaker, I think that the member hears what he wants to hear. What I said concerns the Young Offenders Act. Furthermore, I noticed that he did not argue this, because his arguments on the distinction lack credibility.

What I said with respect to ten year olds is that the Canadian Alliance members want to lower to ten the age at which the Young Offenders Act applies. They have always been up front about this; they have stated their views repeatedly. Of course, the age of consent is different. What they are saying today is that they want instead to raise it from 14 to 16.

What the Canadian Alliance member does not understand is that they are not being logical from a legislative point of view. They themselves say that a 14 year old can be treated like an adult when it comes to criminal offences. That is what they want; that is what they sought. They are very cosy with the Canadian right and pushed until the Liberal government caved in and lowered the age of criminal responsibility to 14.

Today, these same members want to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16. It is clear to anyone listening that they lack credibility.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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