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- His favourite word is volunteers.
NDP MP for Repentigny (Québec)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 51.90% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Petitions February 26th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I would like to present two petitions today. The first is from Saint-Paul-l'Ermite parish in Repentigny and the other from Saints-Simon-et-Jude parish in Charlemagne.
Reports show that mining companies are problematic. These petitions call for the creation of a legal ombudsman mechanism for responsible mining.
The Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor is ineffective. We need to create a legal ombudsman mechanism that can receive, investigate and assess information and make its findings public so that remedial action can be taken.
Support for Volunteer Firefighters Act February 25th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, my hon. colleague introduced an extraordinary bill. It is not very costly, and it addresses a problem that can be fixed in the blink of an eye. Yet again, however, the government is trying to avoid the issue and pretend it is not that important. The government often says that it wants to work together and is waiting for suggestions. Here we have a suggestion that could go through very quickly.
The Conservatives say that because only 5% of federal public service employees are volunteer firefighters, it is not up to the government to fix this problem, but there is no cost associated with this bill. Some provinces have already implemented legislation like this, and it is working very well. The government looks pretty lazy in this case.
When it is a Conservative bill and they want to talk about helping volunteer firefighters, their bill is extraordinary. When anyone tries to bully our volunteer firefighters or prevent them from responding, that is a problem. I do not understand. Following that logic, should there not have been volunteer firefighters in Lac-Mégantic? Did some businesses in neighbouring communities prevent firefighters from responding? If there are volunteer firefighters who collect employment insurance benefits and work from home, will the government tell them that Canadian labour standards do not help them and that it needs them to work in an office instead of respond to help the community when there is an emergency? We would end up with fewer firefighters, or maybe none at all who can respond.
Are they trying to privatize firefighting and make it even more costly? We are lucky that some people are prepared to dedicate body and soul to volunteer for the good of a community and its businesses. That is so important when there is a fire. These people take their own time away from their families to train, to be available, to stay connected to people and to help us out of difficult situations.
We cannot yet afford to have full-time, paid firefighters in all of our communities, which is why we have volunteer firefighters. How is it that, although these days the government is saying that essential services are wonderful, the Conservatives do not want to participate in our discussions about the obstruction and blocking of those services? We have introduced a bill. Why not send it to committee? Why not support it so it can be studied? Why not hear from witnesses and prove how problematic this issue is?
I will talk about what I know. I wore a uniform for much of my life. I was part of those essential services. I saw friends who volunteered, who took courses, who put their families aside so that they could help their communities, in the broad sense. Not once did I ever see those people hesitate in any way to be there for their communities or to help others. When I had a chance to share a meal with them and ask them what they thought of being a volunteer firefighter, they said it was amazing, but that their employers sometimes prevented them from being present and sometimes made things difficult. Their employers intimidated them and threatened to dismiss them if they were not available to work. That is a real problem.
It is absolutely crucial that we co-operate and come up with standards to ensure that everyone can work together. Actually, I think my colleague's bill is rather sad, because this kind of obstruction is unacceptable. It should not exist. Congratulating our volunteers and thanking them for their commitment is all well and good, but it is absolutely unacceptable that their employers prevent them from volunteering when they are prepared to save children or to save seniors from a fire—which happened recently—simply because the employers need them to sell a product. This is civic engagement in a global sense. I recognize that some businesses and employers who have volunteer firefighters as employees are also making a sacrifice, as this has repercussions on scheduling or on the operation of their business, in terms of ensuring that they have enough staff available at all times. That is to be expected.
If we need such a bill, it means there is a problem. Unfortunately, in our society, we tend to solve problems through legislation. I am completely open to having a dialogue, but unfortunately, that does not happen in the House of Commons.
We find ourselves in a situation where they absolutely do not want to listen. The Conservatives have it in their heads that their idea is the only good idea. They are not prepared to hear that a problem needs to be fixed as quickly as possible. We are even proposing a very inexpensive solution. The problem could be solved very quickly. Unfortunately, once again there is obstruction. They are not interested because it is not their idea. I just cannot understand that.
We have an opportunity to solve a problem, to educate the community, to listen to society and to make it possible for our volunteer firefighters to do their job in any circumstances. The government must set an example. The bill will not necessarily have repercussions for SMEs, but it does set an example.
The provinces have clearly taken a position by pointing out that volunteer firefighters are essential and that their work should not be hindered. Why does the federal government not do the same and set an example?
The Conservatives want to set an example by establishing a volunteer firefighter tax credit, but they are not willing to set an example with a bill. Tax credits for volunteers is a good idea. I tabled a bill in that regard. I completely agree with it. However, first and foremost, I would like to see volunteer firefighters protecting communities in emergency situations—like the one that recently affected our seniors or the train disasters—instead of being told by their employer that he would rather see them working at the office than saving people's lives by fighting a fire. That is wrong.
Support for Volunteer Firefighters Act February 25th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour of rising to speak to a vital topic. We need to get to the heart of the issue so that we can help volunteer firefighters, who are so essential to our communities.
We find ourselves in a rather unusual situation where civilian first responders are being kept from performing their duties. We must start with mutual respect and an understanding of what is required if we want society to function and if we want current dynamics to be respected. I was dumbfounded to learn that a bill had to be introduced because the private sector is keeping volunteer firefighters from doing their work.
This is a worthwhile bill that will cost the federal government very little. It can send a clear message to the private sector that all forms of volunteer work and civic engagement—especially in essential sectors—are necessary and should be encouraged. Individuals engaged in such work should not be impeded, intimidated or ignored.
I am my party's philanthropy critic, and this situation does not apply only to volunteer firefighters, but also to everyone involved in the community and volunteer sectors. If we start impeding people from contributing to the well-being of society over the long term, our society will be weaker and poorer as a result. It will be dangerous.
When volunteer firefighters are dealing with a crisis, whether it is a flood or fire, the standards are becoming increasingly restrictive. Services in the municipalities are increasingly professional. Volunteer firefighters are required to be more and more effective and they must all participate, without exception. If 18 firefighters are called to an emergency, they must all participate. How can we accept that one or two people are prevented from being there during an emergency?
That is what is happening now. People who work for private companies and government services are prepared to put their personal lives aside to help others, to support them and save them. They are there for us during a flood or a train explosion, when there are victims and consequences, as we have seen.
If firefighters in every municipality had not come out because of the restrictive standards, what would have happened? Unfortunately, our community does not have the means to hire full-time firefighters.
Gaétan Brassard February 13th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, this week I spoke with Gaétan Brassard, a 61-year-old man from my riding.
Mr. Brassard is in a very difficult position. He earns barely $10,000 a year and has serious health problems. He has to use a walker. His life has been so depressing in the past two years that he admitted that he had considered taking his own life with a gun.
The problem is that he is not the only Canadian in this situation. Millions of people are in the same situation. When I think of the government's cuts and then Canada Post's cuts to services, I think of Mr. Brassard, who will have to go pick up his mail with his walker.
We have a serious problem. Honestly, our citizens deserve better. Mr. Brassard deserves better, and in 2015, the NDP will provide something better.
Canada Post February 11th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the problem is that when they make proposals to ensure Canada Post's long-term viability, the Conservatives censure 86% of a report that proposed solutions.
We in the NDP are prepared to support any proposal that could ensure Canada Post's survival, while saving jobs and maintaining the integrity of service to Canadians.
Why censure this report? What rescue plan did this government dismiss?
Business of Supply January 28th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a CEO who earns a great deal of money to make an ordinary decision like this, about $10 million lost and about a sham of a public consultation process.
Canada Post belongs to the people. It provides a public service to seniors and to persons with reduced mobility.
I asked the question once before, but I will put it now to my honourable colleague. They say two-thirds of households while we say one-third. Are those who have been forced to use community mailboxes since the 1980s satisfied with the service they receive?
Oddly enough, in my riding, many of my constituents have told me that they are dissatisfied. Homeowners sometimes have no choice but to have a community mailbox. The fact of the matter is that they do not want one. They want home delivery. The public has not been consulted on this matter. A system that is outdated and unwanted is being forced on people.
Fundamentally, before making any kind of decision, Canada Post must serve the Canadian public, the corporation’s owner. This is part of its mandate.
Could my colleague answer this question?
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns December 9th, 2013
With regard to transfer payments to non-profit organizations (excluding hospitals and universities) and the government’s operational spending (O&M) to manage these transfers: (a) what have been the government’s total expenditures in this area since fiscal year 2006-2007, broken down by fiscal year; (b) what has been the break-down of the government’s expenditures since fiscal year 2006-2007 on internal government operations, on grants, and on contributions, broken down by fiscal year; (c) what has been the breakdown of expenditures by department and agency, broken down by program area, by fiscal year and by nature of expenditure (for example, grants, contributions, O&M); (d) what fiscal changes (for example, legislative changes to the Income Tax Act) have been put into place since 2006-2007 that directly impact the not-for-profit sector and what has been the financial result of each of these changes (for example, amount of costs or savings to the Treasury by fiscal year since the implementation of each change); (e) what cuts to transfer payments were made during each round of the four-year cycle of Strategic Reviews and as a result of the Strategic and Operational Review (also known as Deficit Reduction Action Plan), broken down by i) department and agency, ii) program activity, iii) nature of expenditure (for example, G&C, Capital, O&M); (f) how much has the government spent on the new social finance approach and what are its projected spending plans for the next few years, including a breakdown of this spending on special pilot projects discussed in HRSDC’s 2013-2014 Report on Plans and Priorities—i.e., to test social partnership and social finance approaches in the area of literacy, youth and Aboriginal labour market programming, as well as through the Foreign Credential Recognition Loans Pilot; (g) which not-for-profit organizations and private firms have been chosen to test the new approach and what is the break-down of government expenditures to date and spending plans on each project, broken down by not-for-profit organization and by private firm?
Taxation November 29th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, at a time when its public service cuts are forcing more and more Canadians to rely on charitable organizations, the government continues to refuse to acknowledge the importance of this sector to our economy. Charities account for more than 7% of our GDP, generate more than $100 billion in economic activity every year and create thousands of jobs.
Will the government commit to making it easier for the charitable sector to access assistance for businesses?
Petitions November 6th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, today I am presenting a petition for Development and Peace regarding mining companies abroad. As we know, there is a lack of transparency and accessibility, which has some very serious consequences. We are hearing more and more complaints that Canadian mining companies around the world show a lack of respect. Development and Peace would like the government to bring in an ombudsman who would have significant investigative powers.
Adult Education Centre June 10th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour to rise to talk about the Centre la Croisée.
In my riding of Repentigny, I had the opportunity to visit a vocational school for adults, the Centre la Croisée. I say “adult”, but when I visited, I was sad to see that most students were young people who should normally be in a regular school but had dropped out. The dropout rate is on the rise.
We are very fortunate to have a centre like this, where volunteers and teachers give much more of their time than they should and produce amazing results. These young people are doing well. The centre's program is very flexible. Business people are grateful for what the centre does because it helps them develop a workforce. It creates a future that inspires us all.
I would like to thank Mr. Correia, the director of the Centre La Croisée. We all support you.