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  • His favourite word is chair.

NDP MP for Vaudreuil-Soulanges (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 43.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Removal of Imprisonment in Relation to Mandatory Surveys Act February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, in the past few years, the Conservatives have unfortunately been the victim of the most human of emotions, that of fear. While I understand the inclination to embrace this most human of emotions, I do not find it logical.

Statistics and their collection are indeed logical. In these times we must embrace the interaction of science and the imagination. Statistics Canada gives Canadians tools and data that are rooted in science. In order for the thinkers of tomorrow to become tomorrow's innovators, we need to give them these tools. It is unfortunate that so many cuts have been made to this agency in the past years.

While we will support Bill C-625 at second reading, we are concerned that the cuts to Statistics Canada have affected the efficiency of the data that is provided. This bill before us in the House today does nothing to address any of the serious issues facing Statistics Canada. What it does is formally remove the possibility of imprisonment for failure to complete the mandatory survey. However, when we look at the historical record of this, no person has ever been imprisoned under the Statistics Act. Therefore, I return to where I began my discourse and the fact that this bill is yet again playing on the emotion of fear. It is saying to Canadians that they could be imprisoned when in fact they never have been. It is yet another example of electoral style legislating, trying to market fear through legislation, a type of window dressing to gloss over the war that the Conservatives have been waging against science in general and against Statistics Canada in particular, including the disastrous decision to remove the long form census.

Now the Conservatives are wasting time and creating problems where none exist. There are no problems that exist here, though the bill may permit the Conservatives to speak to a fear that Canadians have. I have seen that in many other bills they have presented before the House, which have been presented in order to inculcate fear in Canadians. As I have said, it is a powerful human emotion, and it often works with the electorate if one promotes fear in the hearts of Canadians.

However, our vision on this side is quite different. We prefer the human emotions of love, the idea of hope and being optimistic about our future, and we refuse to play on the fears of Canadians. We stand here to protect the rights of Canadians, who are perhaps fearful that the government would enact legislation that would decrease their privacy rights. That is certainly true, but the idea of imprisoning Canadians under the the Statistics Act is laughable, because it has never happened. No one has ever been imprisoned under this act.

Instead of scrapping the long form census, as the Conservatives did, and making cuts to Statistics Canada, they should have supported the NDP's plan to fix Statistics Canada, remove the possibility of imprisonment, and restore the long form census. Because they did not take this approach, unfortunately the data that Canadians can get from Statistics Canada is not of the same quality. Officials from Statistics Canada have said the same thing.

We have seen in committee studies and in numerous places that whenever Statistics Canada appears as a witness or whenever people are using Statistics Canada data to try to make a case, it is always pointed out that the data is now insufficient because of the elimination of the long form census.

As I said, no person has ever been imprisoned for an offence under the Statistics Act. Some people have been charged under the Statistics Act, but they never did actual jail time, and their charges were linked to their activities in protesting against the Statistics Act. However, no one has ever been put in jail for this.

In 2006, Statistics Canada reported that there were 64 cases of non-compliance, with a mandatory sentence. The cases were prosecuted and resolved, but none of them resulted in prison. Canadians were told that if they did not fill out the long form census, they would be put in prison for that wrongdoing, but it never actually happened. No one was ever actually put in prison for non-compliance with the long form census.

The NDP believes that the long form census has to be restored to provide social scientists, governments, and businesses with the data that they need. The Conservatives are merely providing window dressing to look like they are effective at managing Statistics Canada, but we have seen problem after problem at the agency under the current government.

Many people agree with our position that independence should be restored to Statistics Canada. We should give it the tools that Canadians need to be the innovators of tomorrow, to mate their imagination with science and come up with the innovations of tomorrow.

Professor C.E.S. Franks, from Queen's University, said in 2010 that:

The issue of a voluntary survey rather than a mandatory census is far more than the “technical statistical issue” it was described as by Mr. Sheikh. The voluntary survey will fundamentally weaken the data on which many of Canada's government and business policies are based.

La Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne said that it applied to the Federal Court for an injunction against the Conservative government on the grounds that the voluntary NHS violated the Official Languages Act by providing less accurate information about French-speaking communities. The injunction was not granted by the court.

The fact that we do not have the proper statistics on minority language communities is a serious problem, because it makes enforcement of the Official Languages Act more difficult, and over the past years we have seen the attitude that the government has towards official languages.

For instance, just yesterday, when the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages was at committee, she used the words “official languages” and “national languages” interchangeably, as if they were the same thing. I pointed out to her that the difference between an “official” language and a “national” language is that a national language does not have any protection under the Official Languages Act. The legal status of a national language is not as strong as that of an official language, so to hear those terms used interchangeably is troubling indeed.

We do have the Official Languages Act in this country. Minority linguistic communities depend on this act to fight for their rights, but we need the statistics to show where minority Francophone speakers are and where minority Anglophone speakers in Quebec are so that we can provide the proper services, design the programs that these communities need, and evolve the programs, services, and financing of those services according to need. For that we need statistics.

The mandatory long form census was doing a good job of that. It is true that there was the threat of imprisonment on the books. No one, however, has been—

Respect for Communities Act February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to share with the member information from 2013 that people in Prince George have the highest rate of HIV-AIDS from injected drug use in Canada. Has the member consulted with the HIV-AIDS reduction partners, community service partners, and needle exchange people in his riding on the bill?

Respect for Communities Act February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this is a supplementary question to what was mentioned before. I just want to elaborate on the consultation that is happening.

There are dates in March in Edson, Hinton and Whitecourt. The member could be proactive and not wait for an invitation to consult with people involved in harm reduction in West Yellowhead. He could register right now, today.

Will the member register for this conference and find out what the community is dealing with in terms of addiction and harm reduction? You can do it right now. You can register right now, online.

Respect for Communities Act February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech, and if he and his party are so concerned with public health, the HIV West Yellowhead is holding seminars into harm reduction in March.

My first question would be whether he will attend these meetings and actually consult with HIV West Yellowhead to see what its members think about the bill. After that consultation, if an organization like HIV West Yellowhead has problems with the bill, will he bring forward amendments to the government bill?

Official Languages February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately respecting and protecting our official languages have never been priorities for the Conservatives.

Since 2006, the Conservatives have appointed unilingual people to key positions, such as Auditor General and Supreme Court justice.

The Prime Minister has now appointed a unilingual anglophone foreign affairs minister. Members heard me correctly; nothing was lost in translation. A minister of foreign affairs who does not speak French, the language of diplomacy.

Even the Americans have a secretary of state who speaks French. It is difficult to imagine anything more shameful for a country with French as an official language. Once again, this shows the Conservatives' lack of respect for our country's bilingualism, but especially for francophones.

The NDP will continue to promote respect for both our official languages, and I can assure the House that under a New Democratic government the next minister of foreign affairs will be bilingual.

Official Languages February 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, once again, the Commissioner of Official Languages has reported that Air Canada is not fulfilling its official languages obligations. Air Canada was not even able to carry out the action plan it provided. This sure feels like bad faith.

When will the Conservatives make sure that Canadians receive service in the official language of their choice when they do business with Air Canada?

Petitions February 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the two other petitions have to do with rail safety. My constituents are increasingly concerned about the transportation of dangerous goods through Vaudreuil—Soulanges. They want the government to take action and adopt policies that will protect people in my region.

Petitions February 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present three petitions from my constituents.

The first petition has to do with the creation of a corporate social responsibility ombudsman for extractive companies. These petitioners think that Canada should be a leader in promoting the social responsibility of extractive companies.

Petitions December 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present in the House a petition signed by my constituents calling on the Government of Canada to pass legislation to create an ombudsman for the corporate social responsibility of Canadian extractive corporations in developing countries.

Points of Order December 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I noted during question period that there were two instances when the government referred to the absence or presence of members in the House. I would like to remind members of long standing in the House that they cannot refer to the absence or presence of members.