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  • His favourite word is colleague.

NDP MP for Chambly—Borduas (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 42.70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Bernadette Laflamme October 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this summer, our community lost a great woman, Bernadette Laflamme, the founder and first president of the historical society of the seigneury of Chambly.

Today I would like to tell the House about her important contribution. After a wonderful teaching career, she founded the Société d'histoire de la seigneurie de Chambly in 1979 and served as its president for the next 18 years.

Her great devotion to promoting our region's history led to the publication of important works such as the Dictionnaire encyclopédique de la seigneurie de Chambly, 1609-1950 and helped people learn more about Fort Chambly and its historical significance to Quebec and Canada. Ms. Laflamme was honoured by the federal government in 2002 for her volunteer work and by the Quebec federation of historical societies for her commitment to promoting our region's history.

I was sad to learn of the passing of this great woman who did so much for our community. As a history lover myself, I certainly recognize her important contribution. I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to her family members and loved ones and to our beloved historical society.

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it does indeed prompt some concerns about the auto industry, and I thank my colleague for her question.

It is these concerns that we tried to resolve with the amendments we proposed in committee, which were unfortunately rejected. However, in spite of those concerns, we support the agreement, but there is still work to be done apart from this specific agreement.

In question period today, we heard questions from my colleague from Parkdale—High Park and my colleague from Windsor West about a strategy to genuinely support the auto industry. These issues are bigger than simply an agreement. This does concern us.

We will nonetheless support the agreement, but as I said in my speech, we will continue to ask that the government do more to support the industries affected, as is being done with the Canada-European Union agreement with respect to our dairy producers. This goes beyond a mere agreement. It concerns us, but we will continue to do the work that is needed so that these shortcomings do not have a negative impact in various communities.

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am going to try to quickly correct all the errors in the comments made by my colleague.

First, the shiny speaking notes he refers to are absolutely not notes shoved down our throats by our leader’s office. Rather, this is a policy that we developed as a team, one that is somewhat more exacting than the blank cheque the Liberals always seem to want to give the government when it comes to free trade, without reading the agreements.

Second, he talks about agreements in the last 10 years and asks whether we would like to change certain votes. I will talk about my votes as a member of Parliament. Each time I have voted in the House on motions relating to free trade, obviously I have done so with the points I raised in my speech in mind. I am therefore very comfortable with what is in the records of the House.

Third, he said that only one party opposed free trade. I do not want to get into a debate about who is against and who is for free trade. Everyone is for measures that will be good for the economy. In the NDP, we want to apply a little scrutiny to assess the various agreements, as we would assess any budget measure proposed by a government. That is what is central to this debate.

Rather than trying to see everything in black and white, let us see the grey a little, do our job and do what is good for the economy.

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-41, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Korea. This is a great opportunity because it allows me to acknowledge the work done by our critic for international trade and free trade agreements, the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.

Over the past two days, I have heard a lot of rhetoric from our opponents in the House about the NDP's position. In fact, our position is very clear and comprehensive. There is no contradiction between our support for the bill before us and the free trade agreement to which it pertains and our opposition to other agreements.

Allow me to explain. There are a number of criteria to consider. In the recent past, some of the agreements negotiated by this government simply did not meet our expectations or the public's with regard to what we want from a free trade agreement.

Yes, free trade is important. Yes, there are benefits for our communities. That is why we support this agreement. However, a government should not have carte blanche when it comes to these negotiations. There are a number of criteria that must be taken into account.

I remember taking part in the debates on the free trade agreement with Panama. At the time, we were debating an information sharing agreement on tax evasion. I remember the government saying at the time that we should not interfere in the affairs of other governments. However, we saw our American neighbours signing similar agreements with Panama so that they could go ahead with their free trade agreement. Canada did not do that. I am using that example here today because it illustrates why we feel comfortable supporting the agreement before us and not others. There were some shortcomings in the past, but they are not that serious in this case. Overall, this agreement is positive for Canada.

We will now look at the three pillars, so to speak, that make up the NDP's strong position when it comes to international trade. We ask ourselves whether the potential partner respects workers' rights and environmental protections and whether it has a robust democracy. These are important questions.

It is interesting because I heard a Conservative colleague talking just now about the fact that free trade agreements are good for countries that have a democratic deficit and shortcomings with respect to environmental protection, because they are compelled to take positive action. That is true, but only if the Canadian government requires the country to do so in the course of negotiations. That has not always been the case.

It is all very well to negotiate with countries where there may be shortcomings with respect to workers’ rights, but if Canada fails to stand up and say that it will engage in trade transactions with them only if they correct those shortcomings in their human rights practices, nothing else in such transactions will compel them to do so.

The fact that they are benefiting from transactions with the Canadian market, without trying to take corrective action, shows us that this will merely push them to continue those practices. It indicates that free trade will be important only if Canada plays its part in a positive way on the international scene.

That said, the same applies to environmental protection issues. In committee, the six amendments we proposed were all rejected. I will digress here because yesterday, our critic, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, was accused of trying to delay the bill or prevent its passage in committee. In committee, the fact is that we merely proposed amendments. One of them involved ensuring that environmental protection would not be reduced in the future, now that this agreement is in place to facilitate certain investments.

Yes, we are going to support the agreement before us. That does not mean that a few years from now, we will not see shortcomings appearing that were not there when it was negotiated. That is the kind of thoroughness—and that is the right word—that the NDP expects of a government; it is the kind of thoroughness a New Democratic government would apply if it was in power, which would make it possible to engage in free trade with other countries for the good of our economy, and do so in a responsible way.

The next pillar involves asking ourselves the following question: does this partner’s economy hold significant or strategic value for Canada? Obviously, the importance is there. In my view, the most striking example in the agreement before us today is the aerospace industry. It is very important in my constituency and on the south shore across from Montreal. Many investments and jobs are at stake.

Other countries have signed agreements with Korea, including the United States and the European Union. That has created a disadvantage we are going to correct. This is where we can see the economic significance and also the strategic aspect. That is an important element. I heard one of our Conservative colleagues ask a question of a member. He asked her whether, if the economy was not important for Canada, we would ignore developing countries for whom Canada could do a lot of good. That is where the strategic element comes in.

Some considerations involve the work we do internationally to play a positive role in developing countries, where there is great poverty. We must make a positive contribution. That is part of what we mean by strategic importance. However, it does include many other aspects, and one of them is our competitive position. The Asia-Pacific region is physically close to provinces like British Columbia. Several things are involved. It may seem a bit of a grab bag, but the government must be very thorough and look at the big picture. The government has responsibilities during negotiations and must take certain things into consideration.

Finally, the third pillar consists in ensuring that the terms of the agreement are satisfactory. Since we are supporting this agreement, they should be satisfactory, but it is a little more complicated than that. As an example, take the agreement with Europe, which is still somewhat uncertain. In our region, we have a lot of cheese producers. We moved a motion, which was adopted unanimously, that they should receive financial compensation. It was promised by the government, but nothing has been heard of it since. The kind of announcement the government makes can help us better understand the terms of an agreement.

It may seem strange, but I do agree with my Conservative colleague. It is certain that losses in some sectors will bring gains in others. We must be prepared to weigh and balance these gains and losses. That is where we look into the terms.

More specifically, there is a mechanism for resolving disputes between investors and the state. A New Democratic government would not have included that in an agreement. However, it is in this agreement. It would not have been our first choice, but it is not enough to cause us to vote against the agreement. That is why we want to look at the terms, not only individually, but also as a whole.

I hope that my remarks have demonstrated that our position is solid, contrary to the accusations we hear that we are flip-flopping in our support for different free trade agreements. We base our support on a thorough assessment. We did our homework, as a number of my colleagues have said. We will not give the government carte blanche but we will keep an open mind for the sake of our economy and our communities.

I shall stop there. I eagerly await questions from the House.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) October 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question.

Unfortunately, I have not seen that documentary; however, now that I know about it, I am very interested in seeing it.

Even though I have not seen the documentary, it is becoming increasingly clear that minimum sentences are not the solution. The issue with the way the government approaches the debate about prevention and rehabilitation is that when it hears those words, “prevention” and “rehabilitation”, it assumes they mean befriending criminals. What is interesting—and the government always forgets this—is that prevention and rehabilitation are good for the safety of our communities. Rehabilitating criminals and focusing on prevention will protect victims and prevent future victims. Those are the kinds of things that lawyers, prosecutors and judges can take into consideration.

Of course, as legislators, we have a responsibility to make the necessary adjustments. However, too often the government seems to want to take a generalized approach whenever something does not go its way. That is not a responsible way to work, and that is what concerns us.

Still, the fact that the government is supporting service animals and does not want to see animal cruelty in general gives us reason to support this bill.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) October 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

She mentioned omnibus bills. We all remember Bill C-10, which illustrates the points I raised earlier regarding the importance of having a full debate in the House and the opportunity to speak to all the different aspects of the bill.

As for the member's question about mandatory minimums, indeed, this is something we are seeing more and more, and it is one of our two main concerns with this bill. Since I was elected in 2011, we have seen mandatory minimums for every issue associated with the Criminal Code.

The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan spoke about the chain of decision making; she spoke about prosecutors and judges. That is what is important. Imposing minimum sentencing seems to ignore the existing judicial hierarchy. That is troubling and problematic. Judges and lawyers are there to look at cases one at a time. If we create broad legislation that imposes minimum sentences, we could be looking at some problematic situations. It will also impact the prison system. We need to allow judges to make that distinction instead of having to navigate the murky waters of government legislation. However, as my colleague also noted, despite our support, we also need to be aware of these problems and bring them up in committee.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) October 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I ask for your indulgence and that of my colleagues as well. I know that our remarks must be relevant to the matter at hand; however, this is the first time I have risen to speak since the tragic events of last Wednesday. First and foremost, I simply want to thank the Sergeant-at-Arms and his team who, when it comes right down to it, saved our lives. I do not want to exaggerate, but that really is the case. I also want to thank everyone in my riding, Chambly—Borduas. We have received many emails over the past few days in a show of solidarity. Through you, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say how proud I am, even more so than last week, to be able to represent my constituents in the House and speak on their behalf. I have found a positive side to this very difficult tragedy. I have come to realize how much of a privilege it is to be here for them and to continue this work.

Having said that, I will move on to today's debate on Bill C-35, which is known as Quanto's law because it is named after a police dog in Edmonton that was killed while a crime was in progress. As many of my colleagues have said, we support this bill because, really, who would not?

According to my latest information, Canada's Criminal Code is not quite up to date on animal cruelty compared to other countries like ours around the world. We have a lot of catching up to do. I know that over the past few years many of my NDP colleagues have introduced bills about this issue.

That is why, obviously, we support the bill. As I just said, who would not? However, we do have some major concerns, and unfortunately, they often come up whenever we are dealing with bills that would change the Criminal Code. The two issues we are concerned about are minimum sentences and consecutive sentences.

We just heard an excellent speech from my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan, and several other colleagues of mine, regarding minimum sentences. It is important to note once again that we are seeing this pattern more and more from this Conservative government. According to published articles on crime and the justice system, it is becoming increasingly clear that minimum sentencing is not producing the desired results. It is doing nothing to improve prevention, even though, at the end of the day, our main objective should be to ensure that future crimes are prevented.

If we take a closer look at minimum sentences, we find all kinds of other problems. One problem is quite common. In many of the government's proposals, the minimum sentences are sometimes lighter than what judges have imposed in some cases. We have a situation where the justice system has proven that imposing minimum sentences was unnecessary. This measure appears to be more politically motivated, to show that the government is trying to be “tough on crime”, as we often hear, but in fact, the justice system is already doing its job. Minimum sentences are being imposed in some situations where the justice system was already doing a good job and where the sentences imposed were sufficient.

Some discretion is being removed from the justice system. We could examine our system in Canada, or even comparable systems, such as those of the United States or England, and have a debate on the unique aspects of each system. Nonetheless, one aspect is comparable and that is the division of powers. Obviously, Parliament has a responsibility to enact laws, but the justice system has the responsibility to ensure their enforcement and their interpretation. Just because we are disappointed in how a law is interpreted, that does not always mean that it is Parliament's responsibility to change the law immediately.

The government wants to change legislation every time it disagrees with what the justice system is doing. We must ensure the independence and discretion of the justice system and not legislate on a case-by-base basis, because that is a very slippery slope. Unfortunately, this government does that far too often, especially when it comes to minimum sentences. It is a worrisome trend.

In some cases, we support these bills, because, contrary to what my colleague heckled earlier, we cannot be against what is right. For example, when it comes to victims' rights or animal cruelty, including cruelty against police service dogs in a criminal context, we cannot be opposed.

However, when this type of situation occurs, the Conservatives too often move time allocation or closure motions. A government minister asked us why we did not stop debating and immediately send the bill to committee if we were in favour of it.

The reason is quite simple. First, committee is not the place to debate with our colleagues opposite. There are sometimes debates with witnesses, since we do not necessarily agree with them. However, the primary purpose of committee is to learn from the expertise of witnesses so that we can better understand our own concerns. We are not all lawyers, and if we do not have the expertise to explain the subject matter in simple terms, we cannot make informed decisions and amend a bill if necessary.

Committee is therefore not the place to address our colleagues. Furthermore, as in the House, it is not allowed. However, in the House, we have the opportunity to hear Conservative members and members of other parties speak, to ask them questions and to hear their answers.

Unfortunately, the government is preventing us from voicing our opinions on a bill because it does not believe that we should speak about it if everyone supports it. Although we support the bill, we still have concerns about justice and crime issues, particularly with regard to minimum sentences, which are at the heart of this matter.

When we have the opportunity to ask our Conservative colleagues questions—and that is not the case—the time for debate is limited. Although we recognize how important and urgent the issue is in some cases, rather than just rushing the bill to committee, it is important that we all have the opportunity to speak, ask our questions and present our arguments. Committee is not the place for 308 members to discuss a bill.

That is why we have debates, and government members must stop downplaying their importance. It does not do justice to Parliament or the legislative process. It results in mistakes, for example bills that are thought to be unconstitutional or must be fixed in committee. If more fulsome debate were allowed, we could advance these arguments and avoid these problems.

In closing, I would like to say once again that my colleagues and I support this bill. I am saying so for the third time. Who would not?

However, as several of my colleagues also mentioned, these details matter to us. We have concerns about minimum sentences and consecutive sentences, which take away discretion or judicial authority. As legislators, we are beginning to take over the work of judges. That is not how the system is supposed to work. Although animal cruelty is terrible and we are pleased to see the government bring in legislation, we must nevertheless pay attention to the separation of powers.

National Health and Fitness Day Act October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as the NDP critic for sport, I am pleased to speak to this Senate bill, which was sponsored by my colleague. The bill seeks to establish a national day to promote health and fitness.

Let me just say first that my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country has done phenomenal work on this issue. As the sports critic for the NDP, it has been a pleasure to work with him on this issue. I am really trying to find a solution to the inactivity that seems to plague our youth.

It was funny. We had meetings. It is actually Sport Matters lobby day on the Hill today. That is appropriate timing, as far as I am concerned. One of its representatives used the word “inertia” in speaking about the need to move forward. I thought the choice of words was appropriate because it is what we are trying to solve here today.

There is still reason to be concerned about this issue. Over the past 40 years, many governments have tried to find solutions to the problem of inactivity. A report issued by the World Health Organization shows that total calorie intake changed only slightly at a time of a sharp increase in obesity.

This makes us think about the risk factors. Video games and cell phones certainly play a role, but blaming these technologies oversimplifies the problem and prevents us from implementing good public policies that will help us to resolve the issue.

Let us talk about the bill that is before us today. It raises an important question. My colleague opposite, who introduced the bill, often says that it is important for parliamentarians to set an example. After all, he, along with the member for Etobicoke North and my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore, has always promoted physical activity among members. It is all well and good to talk about it, but we also have to do it so that we do not look hypocritical.

This is not just about us. It is important to encourage community members. In my work as sport critic, I look at both elite and amateur sports. For example, I look at the Olympics and international sporting events hosted in Canada, such as the figuring skating championships held last year in London, Ontario, and the 2015 Pan Am Games that will be held in Toronto.

The elite sports system is well structured, but there is work to be done at the local level. That is what we like in this bill sponsored by my colleague and Senator Nancy Greene. The NDP strongly believes that we need to work more with the provinces and municipalities to ensure that they have the tools they need not only to promote elite sports but also to encourage average Canadians to use the sports facilities at their disposal. That is one of the reasons why we support this bill.

We cannot deny that accessibility is something an issue. I come from a community in the greater Montreal area, in Chambly—Borduas, on the south shore. People in Chambly are very fortunate. It is a very well-managed city that now has three hockey arenas. These people have access to a lot of facilities, but that is unfortunately not the case everywhere.

I hope that this national day to encourage people to use these municipal facilities will highlight the fact that all parties and stakeholders need to work together to help promote investments and awareness of infrastructure needs.

It is all well and good to encourage people of all ages to participate in sports and live an active life, but if they do not have the tools to live this lifestyle, we will end up back at square one. That is something very important to consider.

What is more, we have looked at a lot in committee. When we study amateur coaching, when we study preparations for the Olympic Games and our athletes, of whom we are so proud, different elements keep coming back, and there is still ongoing debate about what the solutions would be. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I do not think we have yet found the solution. Governments have been looking for solutions for decades.

What I appreciate about the bill is that we are putting forward a day to encourage folks to think about their health and to go out and participate in sports and use the installations that are available in municipalities. I think it allows us a chance to continue the debate. Every time this House votes on a bill to put forward a national day representing issue X, whether it is dealing with awareness of an illness or, in this case, dealing with something more positive, promoting an active lifestyle, the day is important, yes, but we as New Democrats are supporting the bill because it would also allow us to continue a discussion that my colleague has been at the forefront of with different stakeholders that have been involved in promoting this particular issue.

I think the government has tried to put forward different measures to try to solve this issue, such as the children's fitness tax credit and other such measures, but, unfortunately, they have met with varying degrees of success. They have not always been the solutions that have been required, and that is why having this debate is so important.

I mentioned going to the local level and not just looking at league sports, because one thing that comes back often when we study sports issues—in committee in particular, but even when we meet with stakeholders—is that we need to think of sports as a pyramid. Yes, we need to look at that small piece at the top, our lead athletes, of whom we are very proud, as I mentioned. We want to continue promoting them and allowing them to succeed because, contrary to what it may seem like, it is not always a glamorous life. These folks work very hard. They are great role models for the folks at the bottom of that pyramid, the folks a bill like this would help out and push forward in having active lifestyles. We really need to not forget the community level.

That is our challenge. Our Olympians are role models. Our athletes set an example for our kids. It is really important to have the bottom of the pyramid at the provincial and municipal levels, as I said earlier, like the rising tide that lifts all boats.

I think that is really important.

It is important that youth have more than just one day in which to participate. There needs to be a follow-up to that day. I think it is an excellent start, and that is why I am very pleased to be supporting the bill.

To conclude, I would like to come back to the first speeches I made as sport critic two years ago. Active Healthy Kids Canada had published a report that gave Canadian youth a D for their participation in sports. There are kids who are inactive. The report did not point to any causes, but there are many. That report really hit home.

This important issue is also reflected in the work I have done with the Minister of State for Sport; we have a very good working relationship. This is not a partisan issue. When we see those kinds of results in a report, we are all concerned because this is a health issue and it will cost money.

Yesterday, at our Movember reception, Senator Green made an interesting comment when she said that our health care system is, at times, more like a disease management system. We treat diseases, but we also need to think about prevention, and that is where sports can play an incredibly positive role. As legislators, we need to encourage that.

That is why we support the bill, which is sponsored by the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. This bill is a good first step because it establishes a day for raising awareness and encouraging people to participate.

This will allow us to continue this debate, bring forward good public policy, and encourage our communities to have an active lifestyle. We hope the repercussions of maintaining good health will be positive.

Again I want to commend my colleague. We are proud to support this bill, and we hope to pursue this debate in future.

Prostate Cancer October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, November is just around the corner, and a new Movember campaign of facial hair and virility is set to begin. This year, I am pleased once again to be the captain of our NDP team.

Movember is an opportunity to have fun while raising awareness about and collecting money for men's health. Last year, more than $33 million was raised in Canada alone.

It is not just about money, though. We cannot forget the invaluable conversations that men are now having about their health, thanks in large part to Movember. For New Democrats, participating in Movember campaigns over the years has been a privilege. Thinking of Jack Layton's famous mo and his own battle against prostate cancer serves as incredible inspiration.

For Jack and for all our fathers and brothers, it is a great pleasure that we once again flaunt our moustaches to raise money and awareness. I invite all my colleagues to join with us and help change the face of men's health. Let us mo.

The Senate October 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Liberal and Conservative senators are angry.

Not only did the Auditor General have the nerve to question their spending, but he also had the nerve to send in young people. Some senators have never seen a young twentysomething accountant.

Liberal Senator Joseph Day said he was concerned that the auditors were young.

One Conservative complained about a 22-year-old kid running around asking him questions about his spending, and he was critical of these young auditors sticking their noses in his business. Taxpayers pay for his business.

That is the Canadian Senate: useless, unelected officials who object as soon as they are asked to be accountable for their $92 million budget.

What is worse is that the Prime Minister and the Liberal leader claim that this archaic institution, which refuses to be accountable, is still relevant.

The NDP will continue to get our young people involved, to be proud of them and to let them defend the interests of taxpayers while the Conservatives just neglect them.