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Bloc MP for Jonquière—Alma (Québec)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 43.40% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Business of Supply February 5th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I am going to share my time with my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst.
Like my NDP colleagues, I wish to stand and condemn this employment insurance reform.
For a government that claims to be strong on economics, it does not appear to have understood how a strong and dynamic economy works. For a sound and stable economy, we need to create good jobs, diversify our areas of expertise and encourage innovation.
At the moment, the Conservatives, rather than concentrate on effective ways to stimulate the economy, seem to be holding a knife to workers’ throats to force them to accept poorly paid, undesirable jobs instead of helping to making these jobs more desirable. It is deplorable.
Not only that, but instead of promoting improvements to people’s standard of living, they have raised the bar even higher, to unheard-of levels. The employment insurance system is part of our economy. It is what gives us a sound and diversified economy. It is precisely this system that makes our tourism industry possible and means that fishers, supply teachers, and forestry, silviculture and farm workers can have jobs.
These jobs contribute enormously to our economy and to the overall quality of life of all Canadians, even those who will never draw benefits in their lives.
For a government that claims to have a strong mandate from the people, it is not listening to them at all.
It needs to be said and it needs to be condemned: never during the election campaign did the Conservatives say that they would slash employment insurance. They spoke about abolishing the Senate and then went on a Senate appointment binge. They spoke about responsible management and spent $1 million on limousine travel and all the orange juice that went along with it. Members know what I am talking about. This is not what people are entitled to expect.
That brings me to the reform. What to say about this reform? Is it the work of a clear-headed and intelligent manager? Hardly. It is a mess for everyone. Even the government will end up a loser at the end of the line.
Historically, the most serious problem with employment insurance is the 42% access rate. In my region, the number of workers paying into EI who will never be able to draw any benefits if anything unfortunate should happen to them will continue to grow. It is a scandal. Instead of attempting to correct the situation, the government is just plundering what remains of employment insurance.
Unfortunately, as we will soon see, the government has vastly misjudged the economic impact of this bad reform, which was inspired by an obsolete ideology and implemented in a rigid and thoughtless way.
This is no joke. Just last year, even the automated call system caused a crisis requiring emergency measures. Can you imagine what this will look like a year from now if this reform is not repealed? It will be hell.
For a government that has never brought down a budget without creating a deficit, it is taking extreme risks. It is a very bad idea to conduct dangerous economic experiments based on a pro-business ideology. These improvised experiments will have disastrous consequences for the lives of many Canadians if immediate action is not taken.
Now I must talk about my region, the kingdom of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. According to a study by a local organization, LASTUSE, and the Mouvement Action Chômage Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean, which work with unemployed workers, 45% of jobs are unstable or seasonal. That is virtually half of all jobs in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. This means that, at any time, 45% of regional workers may need to claim assistance under an insurance system that they pay for and that is essential to our economy.
The Conservatives have failed miserably at creating jobs in my riding, as they have in many regions they have abandoned.
Rather than support workers who often earn their living not knowing what tomorrow holds, rather than offer hope, the Conservatives cause even more misery for those who are being asked to make the biggest effort.
What can we do for workers who have unstable jobs? How will employers retain the expertise of their seasonal skilled workers? What will workers affected by the reform do when the pilot project adding weeks to the employment insurance benefit period in regions with higher unemployment rates is not extended at the end of April?
I really would like an answer. The spring gap is coming, and the people of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean want answers from the government. They want solutions.
The unemployment rate reached 9.3% in my region in February, whereas it was 7.3% in November. We will clearly be hitting a wall very soon.
The government has to get a grip, admit it was wrong, go back and do its homework and cancel this unfair reform that threatens Canada's economic stability.
It is a disaster for too many Canadian families.
I want to talk about my colleague the Minister of Transport and invite him to do some thinking. As a regional minister, is he still faithfully representing the people in his constituency?
Sometimes I get the impression he is behaving more like the powerless critic of a government with ill-advised policy positions that put Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean at a disadvantage. Or perhaps he is somewhat blind.
As a Conservative member, would the Minister of Transport act the same way if he were still mayor of Roberval?
I have seen some disturbing studies on seasonal workers in my riding. Many people are brush cutters. This is extremely hard work; they work in summer, but not in winter. So these people wind up on unemployment. It would be better to find something for them. We could even send them off to study forest safety or machinery repair; that would improve their living conditions. However, that is not what we do.
Another thing that worries me is that many workers are illiterate. Many people in Quebec still have a hard time reading. Instead of holding a knife to their throats, it would be much better to give them training and help them acquire other trades that would permit them to earn money all year round.
Soon, if everyone works all year round, there will be no more seasonal workers. Workers want to work all year, but their jobs are only seasonal. For a fisher in Gaspé, when the fishery closes and the fish plant shuts down, that is the end.
In Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, tourism and agriculture are affected. Here is an example. According to an estimate I found yesterday, one in every 5 workers who does not return to agricultural work represents a loss of $27 million for the country. We know what may follow. The government's actions are irresponsible; it should sit down and work with everyone else.
The hon. member for Bourassa suggested working together in the best interests of the community. That is not what I see here in the House. People are not working for the community; everyone is working for their own interests. I think the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP would be well advised to sit down and try to reach solutions for our constituents. We must not make them any poorer. That is not acceptable.
Today in 2013, beating up on people who are earning $12 or $14 an hour and making as little as $300 a week just does not make sense. They are not the ones abusing the system. If the fund had not been cleaned out in the past, the money would be there to train our people and improve their conditions.
If the government wants to create employment, it must invest money. At present, job creation in my riding stands at zero. There is none. Back home, all we see is the loss of jobs in the paper industry and forestry. It is unacceptable.
As I was saying, the unemployment rate really makes me sick. Here are some figures: in the months of October and November 2012, it was 7.3%; in December it was 8%; and now it is 9.3%. It is unacceptable to have poverty in a country as rich as ours, and unacceptable to beat up on people earning low wages, push them into poverty and send the bill to the provinces. It is unacceptable. I cannot accept it, personally.
I also want to say something about the appeal process. People liked the old process; they could be heard, at least. Now, it is impossible. A written submission has to be made, or none at all. Previously, people could have an advocate and they could speak up. They no longer can.
Earlier, someone mentioned service. The employees of Service Canada are overwhelmed because of the budget cuts. Press 1, press 2, or press 3: your call is important, Mr. Speaker. Get a coffee and sit down, because you will find it a very long process.
Employment Insurance December 11th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, the EI reforms introduced by the Conservatives will have a devastating effect on regional economies and seasonal employment. That is why the Union des municipalités du Québec is strongly opposed to these reforms.
My question is for the Minister of Transport. If he were still the mayor of Roberval, would he stand to see his community being targeted in this manner and unemployed persons being denied their fundamental rights?
Petitions December 11th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition regarding transportation in Canada.
Petitions December 11th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. I have the honour to present a petition to support the protection of Gatineau Park.
175th Anniversary of Kingdom of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean December 10th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to you about the 175th anniversary of the kingdom of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. When I think of my region, I immediately think of the silvery cross in the centre of our region's flag. To me, that cross symbolizes Arvida. It symbolizes the strength and determination of the aluminum workers who developed the industry.
The heart of our 175 years of history is this labour town, which took its name from the initials of Arthur Vining Davis. The town was built in just 135 days to meet the needs of Alcoa, and it did not take long to figure prominently in the history of both the region and the world. As early as 1942, the remarkable work of the employees at the largest aluminum smelter in the world enabled Arvida to support the war effort.
These days, it is our architecture and urban planning that have become world-renowned. In 2012, Arvida was recognized as a national historic site of Canada, the first step towards having the Sainte-Thérèse neighbourhood recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.
As a proud resident of Arvida myself, it is with great pleasure that I wish everyone there a happy 175th anniversary.
Business of Supply December 10th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, I was working in the aluminum sector in 2007 when Rio Tinto bought Alcan, a true gem. There were six dams, a deep water port, a railway and the plants, not to mention our natural resources.
If we could do it over again today, does my colleague believe that we could pass legislation to ensure that these assets worth $38 billion would belong to Canadians and not to foreign companies and that decisions would not be made outside our borders, considering Canada's needs?
Veterans' Week November 7th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, this Veterans Week, I would like to pay tribute to Mr. Jean-Paul Dufour, service number E100677, a resident of the Kénogami district of the City of Saguenay. Mr. Dufour is a World War II veteran and one of the few members of the Fusiliers Mont-Royal regiment to have survived the Normandy landing.
This infantry soldier and prisoner of war deserves our recognition, as do all soldiers who fought to liberate France.
For the sacrifices you made, your courage and bravery, Mr. Dufour, I thank you on behalf of myself, my colleagues, and all Canadians who, to this day, enjoy the freedoms and the democracy that you defended.
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to you, all veterans and the Canadian Forces.
Canada Post October 19th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are continuing to use strong-arm tactics at Canada Post. Once again, rural areas are losing out. If hours of operation are not reduced, the post office is closed, as is the case with the Jonquière post office on Saint-François Boulevard.
The minister does not seem to understand that people depend on Canada Post services, especially in rural areas.
Why do the Conservatives continue to attack rural post offices?
Employment Insurance October 4th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, 130 Rio Tinto Alcan workers in Alma have endured a long fight, a long lockout, without a penny since July 10, 2012. The vague employment insurance rules that apply to labour disputes mean that these workers are not considered unemployed.
Will the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development intervene in this situation immediately to resolve the problem faced by these workers, who can no longer afford their rent, food or bills and who are filing claims for social assistance?
Petitions October 4th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today on behalf of my constituents in Jonquière—Alma regarding the organization Development and Peace.
Parliament has terminated certain projects recently. The petitioners are calling on the government to restore funding in order to help people in communities around the world.