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  • His favourite word is conservatives.

NDP MP for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 51.00% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is pathetic that the government is giving tax credits to people who do not earn enough to pay taxes. It does not change a thing in their lives.

I have two questions.

First, is the number of women in Canada who are working full time, yet living under the poverty line, acceptable to the Conservative government?

The second question is this. The government's own federal labour standards review recommended in 2006 that the federal government reinstate the federal minimum wage and benchmark it to Statistics Canada's low-income cut-off. Does the minister agree with her own federal labour standards review?

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I totally agree with my colleague. This is a very important point. People cannot make a living or have a family living in Canada on $10 an hour. It is completely irresponsible. An increased minimum wage will help those workers, especially young workers, women, and immigrants in our country. This is a very important measure the NDP proposes today.

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I accept my colleague's question. It is a legitimate one.

I simply want to remind the member that 94% of the income inequality among Canadians over the last 35 years occurred when Liberal governments were in power. The member should be careful about making implications.

If the member is looking at 2008 figures, he is behind. If he is looking at a lower minimum wage—less than $12 an hour—then we are not comparing the same things.

We are talking numbers today, and we are talking about a $15 minimum wage. Nearly 100,000 workers would be covered and affected by a decision of this kind made by the federal government. My colleague's figures are unfortunately outdated.

We are setting the bar at $15 an hour. This would ensure that tens of thousands of federally regulated employees would see an increased standard of living.

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, let me see if I understand my colleague correctly. She is saying that if there are no consequences for millions of people, then the government does not care and it is not worth the effort. Let those people remain in poverty. Let them earn a minimum wage that does not allow them to pay the rent, go on vacation or buy clothes for their children. It is no big deal.

Ultimately, if she said that this affects only 50 people, I would still want to help them.

Are my arguments really so flawed? I think instead that the Conservatives across the way lack compassion.

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Yes, Mr. Speaker, that is a fact and it is alarming. We also have a government that just does not care.

There is something called the Gini coefficient. I am going to seem smart, but I only learned abut it two years ago. It is a number between 0 and 1. If everyone in Canada has the same income, the Gini coefficient is 0. If someone has all the wealth in Canada, the Gini coefficient is 1. For the first time, the Gini coefficient in Canada is greater than 0.3. We have reached 0.32. At 0.4 we become a society where there is great inequality. We are headed in that direction very quickly. Never before in Canada's history have we had a Gini coefficient greater than 0.3. Thanks to the Conservatives, we can say that we have now achieved that not very commendable objective.

We believe that we must turn things around. We have to reverse the trend because it is not acceptable for the richest people in our society to continue getting richer while others watch as their income stagnates or decreases.

A study by the Broadbent Institute indicates that since 1999, the top 10% of wealthiest Canadians have accounted for half the wealth in our country. The top 10% own half of all the wealth in Canada. The bottom 50% control less than 6% of the wealth in Canada. This creates dangerous situations. It is not good for the social climate. This creates social tension and problems because people are being left behind. We are failing some people in our society as though they no longer count. It is as though all the policies were written so that the top 1% or 10% can get richer. It is as though the government does not care about the middle class or the least fortunate in our society.

The NDP has a different vision. It is a vision of social justice, progress and sharing wealth so that everyone here in Canada can live in dignity. Reinstating the federal minimum wage and increasing it incrementally to $15 per hour over five years is a start. It is what the NDP is proposing. We are extremely proud of that. I invite all my House of Commons colleagues in the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party to support this NDP motion.

That way, finally, in Canada, no one is left behind and everybody can live in dignity.

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should reinstate the federal minimum wage and increase it incrementally to $15 per hour over five years.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will have the genuine honour of sharing my time with my colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. I would also like to say hello to all of the British Columbians who have woken up to listen to this memorable speech.

I am honoured to rise in the House as the first to speak in favour of raising the federal minimum wage. Actually, we are talking about restoring the federal minimum wage, which, sadly, was abolished by the Liberals in 1996. That was one of the factors that led to increasing inequality in Canada and Quebec over the past 20 years.

There is currently no federal minimum wage. All we have is a mechanism to ensure that people working in federally regulated jobs get paid the provincial minimum wage, which is now between $9 and $11 per hour. The highest minimum wage is in Ontario.

This explains the absurd and tragic situation we find ourselves in, where some Canadians can get up every morning and work 40 hours a week, yet still live below the poverty line. This is unbelievable and unacceptable in a society as rich as ours, in a G7 country. For people to have to work full time and still live below the poverty line is an affront to human dignity and to the efforts made by these men and women every day in going to work.

We in the NDP have come up with this concrete proposal to help people get out of poverty and ensure that no one who works full time ever has to live in poverty or be forced to go to a food bank to put food on the table. Under the LIberals and Conservatives, the number of people forced to turn to food banks to put food on the table has skyrocketed.

The unemployed are not the only ones turning to social assistance; people who work are also doing so. In fact, working full time no longer automatically means being able to feed your family and your children. We have people in Canada who work and still go without food themselves in order to feed their children so they do not go to school in the morning on an empty stomach.

There are pockets of poverty in some areas of our cities and towns that need to be addressed. Those people deserve our help.

We are seeing, in the last couple of years in Canada, a downward spiral of wages and revenues. We in the NDP believe that we should lift up everybody, lift up our communities and make better lives for everybody in Canada.

We have to put an end to the continuing downward spiral of people's purchasing power and salaries. The Conservative government has pushed hard to reduce the salaries and incomes of Canadians and Quebeckers.

Consider the temporary foreign worker program, which allows employers to import cheap labour year after year. Under the Conservatives, the number of temporary foreign workers has increased from some 100,000 per year to approximately 400,000. These people are working at Tim Hortons and McDonald's.

Then there are the cuts to employment insurance. People are being forced to accept lower and lower salaries, perhaps 90% or 80% of their former salary. According to the Conservatives, if people have received too much help from this program, they must accept 70% of their former salary. We feel that is unacceptable.

The measure we are proposing today is reasonable. The majority of studies demonstrate that a gradual, reasonable and moderate increase in the minimum wage would not result in job losses. The studies and documentation are clear on this. It will help the fight against inequality but will not adversely impact job creation. This course of action is fully justified.

Of course, it will be said that this will affect only federally regulated employees. There are nearly 820,000 federally regulated workers in the private sector, and approximately 100,000 of them earn less than $15 an hour.

This measure will therefore provide tangible help to 100,000 families in Canada. That is not insignificant. It will have a considerable impact on our communities. It will set the bar and send a message to the provinces that they must increase their minimum wages and follow the federal government's lead so that workers can live in dignity.

That is very important to us. A total of 80% of the poorest Canadians have seen their incomes stagnate. Take away the richest 20%, and the remaining 80% of the poorest Canadians have seen their incomes stagnate over the past 35 years. If we compare the average minimum wages from 1975 and 2013, there was a 1¢ real increase in the average minimum wage, and that is in constant dollars, not current dollars. We find that unacceptable. We need to take action to correct the situation.

One thing is not well known: Canada is perceived as having a more egalitarian society than our neighbours to the south, the Americans, who live in a society fraught with rampant, unbridled capitalism. In Canada we are proud of our social safety net. Our system is different from the American system. We have a public health system—which was created by the NDP, and we are very proud of it-—that means there is less inequality in Canada than in the United States. However, we are noticing that the gap is now growing faster here than in the United States.

Ethics September 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that I have never given a cheque to a senator.

The Conservatives say that they are tough on crime, but not when their friends are involved. I should point out that they just let Mike Tyson into the country, even though he is a convicted rapist. But I digress.

Former Conservative Senator Mike Duffy is now before the courts, but the Conservative staff who were up to their necks in this scandal are doing extraordinarily well. Corruption is like doing the tango—it takes two.

When are the Conservatives going to clean house? When are they going to stop protecting their friends? When are they going to ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to launch an investigation into Nigel Wright?

Ethics September 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this infamous $90,000 cheque issued by the Prime Minister's former chief of staff is at the heart of Mike Duffy's trial for fraud and corruption, which gets under way tomorrow. The question on everyone's mind is quite simple. How is it that the guy who received the cheque gets charged, but the one who signed it gets away with it? That makes no sense. Where there is corruption, there has to be a corrupter.

Does the Prime Minister think that the Director of Public Prosecutions should launch an investigation to determine whether charges should also be laid against Nigel Wright?

Employment June 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the government is promising us for the 136th time that it is going to solve the problem. The temporary foreign worker program was irresponsibly managed by the Liberals and the Conservatives. The Conservatives have no idea what the local needs are because they gutted Statistics Canada. The department's database is unreliable, much like this government. Despite all their fine promises, the Conservatives did not send inspectors to visit the companies that hire temporary foreign workers.

As a result, some employers took advantage of temporary foreign workers while the Minister of Employment and Social Development turned a blind eye to the problem. How are we supposed to trust the government to find ways to fix the temporary foreign worker program now?

Combating Counterfeit Products Act June 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Saint-Jean for his speech.

I would also like to point out one part of his speech that may have gone unnoticed. He reminded the House of a famous quote from an animated film: “No stones, no construction. No construction, no palace. No palace...no palace.” What lessons should we be learning from that grandiose plan to build a fictitious Egyptian palace that we could apply to Bill C-8?

I would also like to give him the opportunity to tell us about the dangers related to counterfeit products and children's toys in particular. For example, I am thinking about cases where there is too much lead in the paint or it does not meet Health Canada's health and safety standards.

What are the potential consequence for our children, for Madeleine, for example, if Bill C-8 is not backed with enough resources?