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NDP MP for Chambly—Borduas (Québec)

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

Statements in the House

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. Chambly—Borduas is the third-largest riding in Quebec by population. Two of the five municipalities with the highest birth rates in 2012 are in my riding. One of the three municipalities with the highest population growth rates in 2011 is in my riding. With all due respect to my colleagues from Montreal, that speaks volumes about the growth taking place in the suburbs, in places like my riding.

That is why we are concerned, and so are our chambers of commerce. The statistics I just shared suggest that people want to settle in my riding, raise their families there and participate in the community and the local economy. If the government creates more and more obstacles to make it harder to get into Montreal, that is extremely problematic.

In the lead-up to his question, my colleague asked if any of the members opposite had ever visited my riding. The answer is no, and that is why we are so disappointed in the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 7th, 2014

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

Indeed, we are dealing with another omnibus bill. I think my speech clearly demonstrated the problems that this causes. This is a budget implementation bill, and I have to speak to the issues that matter to the people back home, in other words, railway safety and the Champlain Bridge. Those are two of the top priorities in my riding.

This is a fine example of the problems associated with this approach. We could spend 10 or 20 minutes talking about the Champlain Bridge alone. I am sure that some of my other colleagues agree. It is not that I did not want to talk about my own concerns or those of the people I have the honour of representing, but the problem is that we cannot talk about all the other aspects of the bill. There are so many, and that speaks volumes about the shortcomings of this approach.

The people back home are fed up with this approach. They see that we want to talk about their priorities in the House, but when we are forced to do so in a roundabout way and to talk about railway safety and the Champlain Bridge during a debate on a budget implementation bill, it makes no sense.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this omnibus bill contains two components that are very important for my riding. This is yet another omnibus, or “omnibrick” bill, as I said to my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher. What is sad is that the two measures I am going to focus on have nothing to do with a budget. I am talking about railway safety and imposing a toll on the Champlain Bridge.

The government knows full well that railway safety is a major concern. It has been said in the House on a number of occasions. It is even more important where I come from because the rail lines travel straight through large urban centres and residential neighbourhoods. The elementary school where my mother teaches, in Otterburn Park, is located near train tracks, and trains pass by carrying the same products that caused the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. We are therefore very concerned about this issue, to the point that when my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie, the NDP transport critic, came to Mont Saint-Hilaire for a public consultation, more than 100 people showed up. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday, which goes to show how worried people are.

We have hammered away at many points over and over again. One interesting point was raised a number of times. It is not being talked about much, but it comes up in the bill. I am talking about the issue of transparency. One of the changes proposed by Bill C-31 would allow cabinet to make amendments to railway safety regulations without the public's knowledge.

That is extremely troubling because if Canadians wants to pressure their government into making changes and ensuring our safety, they can no longer challenge the government's decisions because they will not even know about them. That is clearly very problematic, especially because it runs counter to the current trend.

Indeed, in the United States, the trend is to investigate the various regulatory issues. We know that the U.S. also wanted to make changes because of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, among others. After all, it was an American company, and thus a somewhat shared jurisdiction. However, the fact that this falls under shared jurisdiction is not an excuse to do nothing. The government has done nothing to date. It is extremely troubling to think that the government wants to make changes without the public knowing about them, particularly since Canadians are already concerned about the government's lack of transparency. These changes are only going to make things worse. What is more, they have nothing to do with the budget.

This shows a lack of respect for Canadians, given that people are concerned. From what we have seen, people are becoming increasingly aware of this issue. The government may say that accidents rarely occur, but when they do, it prompts people to find out more. During the public consultations, I was extremely impressed to learn that people know a lot about this issue and about the various regulations. That is good for our democracy.

As MPs, this really helps us to properly stand up for what our constituents want. However, it also shows that if people are looking for information, it must be available to them. The government's desire to make decisions behind closed doors is insulting to Canadians who are clearly committed to getting informed in order to improve the regulations. We are very concerned about this.

The second point I would like to make is about the toll on the Champlain Bridge. I could never speak about this issue with as much passion as my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher showed this morning. However, I would like to say that all members of ridings in the south shore share his passion. I am not just talking about federal MPs. All elected officials in the region are united on this issue, as are ordinary Canadians and the business community.

Once again, the government is hiding measures in an omnibus bill. That seems to be a consistent trend.

Since the Minister of Infrastructure was once a mayor, he should understand the importance of consulting municipalities and businesses. He should also understand that it is a grave insult to the people when Ottawa fails to consult them and hides measures that eliminate other consultation tools. That is what is going on with Bill C-31. There is no independent consultation about the new Champlain Bridge to make sure that future tolls will be similar to tolls elsewhere in the world and that the government is following best practices.

Unfortunately, the minister's contempt for the people comes as no surprise. We may not be surprised at the lack of consultation or the government's decision to hide measures in omnibus bills, but we are nevertheless disappointed.

That being said, as my colleague pointed out, we will not let this go unnoticed. We have rallied the people. In my riding, there was a luncheon with the new president of the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie du Bassin de Chambly. The new president and the new board have three priorities for the chamber of commerce in the coming year. Their top priority is the Champlain Bridge. A huge number of people in the Chambly basin use this bridge. We are right along highway 10, so it is easy to see why this is such an important issue.

The mayor of Chambly, Denis Lavoie, gave a presentation to the chamber of commerce during the annual mayor's luncheon. He talked about his disappointment and said that he would not let the issue drop. My colleagues and I stand firmly behind them.

In that spirit, on Saturday, May 3, we will be knocking on our constituents' doors on the south shore and in the northern and southern suburbs of Montreal, since I am in the second tier of suburbs, not the immediately adjacent suburb. My riding straddles two regions, but we are still in the south shore region. Some of our constituents commute to Montreal for work, so it is important for me to consult them. Just today some of my constituents said they are worried about this, and their concern is growing every day.

I really liked the expression my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie used. He called it bullying. Some people may find that a little strong, but the word is fair, since the situation in our region is very serious. It would seem as though I am repeating everything my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher said, but that is a good sign, because it shows how united we are on this and that our constituents have the same priorities.

The lack of consultation really worries us because it was the mismanagement by consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments that got us here in the first place. They did not want to maintain the bridge properly. Now the government is saying that it is a disaster and that measures must be imposed immediately. They even skipped the tendering process. The government used past mismanagement to justify its current mismanagement of this file. We have a problem with that. This situation is unacceptable, and we will continue to oppose it.

This is a positive message, because an NDP government would consult Canadians, whether regarding the Champlain Bridge or on any other matter. We have the courage of our convictions and we would not hide them in an omnibus bill like the one I am honoured to oppose here today.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, when a government member has to hide behind the bogeyman of a non-existent carbon tax, that says a lot about the quality or lack of quality of a budget and a budget implementation bill. Instead of boasting about their own measures, the member seems to have taken more time to talk about policies he attributes to us that do not exist.

However, he did talk about an award given by the Sierra Club to Prime Minister Mulroney for environmental protection. First, that was 30 years ago. Second, speaking of recognition, we should mention that this government has consistently been criticized by the international community for its poor record on environmental protection.

However, let us talk about protection and safety. My question concerns railway safety and the fact that processes, in cabinet, will no longer be transparent because of certain measures in this omnibus bill.

Does the member really believe that, with respect to railway safety, they are on the right track—no pun intended—by not being transparent about changes that are made?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I would like to know what he thinks about the fact that the bill contains so many elements that have nothing to do with the budget. There is one element that affects my constituents and me, which is rail safety. There will be even less transparency under this bill, and cabinet will be able to make major regulatory decisions without disclosing any information.

In February, the member for Brossard—La Prairie came to my riding and we held a consultation on this subject with more than 100 people. The train goes through residential neighbourhoods in my riding. People were critical of the lack of transparency, but this bill makes it seem as though the government is trying to make the situation worse.

I would like to know how safety issues are relevant in a budget implementation bill. Furthermore, does the member agree that there will be less transparency on such an important issue?

Conservative Management April 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, sandwiched between the fiascos of their unfair elections act and nomination meetings—where the enterprising Dimitri is blinded by his love for his lady—we find the grain transportation debacle, the dismantling of Canada Post, the closure of service offices for our veterans, leniency towards railway companies that transport dangerous goods a stone's throw from our schools, and systematic denial of environmental issues.

However, that mismanagement sandwich would not be complete without mention of the sad existence of an unelected, undemocratic Senate, which is being asked to hastily approve an equally undemocratic reform cooked up by the party in power, for the party in power.

That is almost as scandalous as a botched car wash at an Ottawa gas station. Canadians deserve better. They deserve a government that governs for them, not just to stay in power through voter suppression tactics reminiscent of the Republicans. Luckily, Canadians can choose the NDP, a party that will consult them, represent them and put policies in place that reflect their beliefs.

Quebec Cassoulet Appreciation Society March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, last October, I had the honour of being inducted into the Confrérie du cassoulet du Québec, or the Quebec cassoulet appreciation society, by grand master and chef Daniel Pachon and André Michel from the Maison amérindienne in Mont-Saint-Hilaire.

The society was created as a result of a collaborative effort between Mr. Pachon and Mr. Michel, and a number of public figures in my riding have been inducted, including Jean-Pierre Charbonneau, Jean-François Mercier, Philippe Hamelin and Gilles Plante, just to name a few.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank André Michel and Chantal Millette for the warm welcome they always extend to me, even though this time it involved a roast with stories provided by my mother, among others. I would also like to keep my promise and sing the praises of grand master Daniel Pachon's cassoulet here in the House. I had never tried cassoulet before becoming an MP, but this culinary talent introduced me to the dish, and I love it.

I invite all my colleagues to try Mr. Pachon's cassoulet at his restaurant in Jonquière or, better yet, at the Maison amérindienne in Mont-Saint-Hilaire at the next induction, which will likely take place at the end of this year.

Here's to the Confrérie du cassoulet du Québec.

Business of Supply March 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. This issue is indeed very worrisome. It seems the government is accusing people who used this system of being fraudsters when that is not at all the case. The current legislation ensures that anyone vouching for another voter must provide an address. They must provide information. The minister is claiming that this was not done.

Instead of making all these changes, why does he not ensure that this system continues to be used? Clearly, this is a very legitimate way of voting. As my colleague mentioned, many people voted in this way. In my opinion, the government is heading down a very slippery slope if it starts implying that those who used the vouching system are fraudsters. That is not the case. I would even go so far as to say that the government's own electorate used this system.

Business of Supply March 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I can start off by quoting the same Mr. Neufeld who did say that the minister seems to be taking selective quotes from the report. That is one important issue here.

We are talking about all of these irregularities. The first important thing to note is that irregularities are not fraud. It seems to change daily. The government is talking about fraudsters and we are talking about potential mistakes. The problem is that none of these cases is being put forward. The government is not telling us on what it is basing these decisions. Are we, as members of Parliament, supposed to take that on blind faith and accept these huge changes to our democracy? I do not think that is the case. If the government were more forthcoming with all of these mysterious cases and statistics, we would have a better idea and a more wholesome debate.

That being said, when it comes to the comments of the leader of the official opposition, it is fair to say that all members of Parliament are always concerned with how elections take place. What we are seeing is a sledgehammer being taken to Elections Canada to solve some issues, as serious as they may be. The fact of the matter is that these widespread changes that are even being denounced by the Chief Electoral Officer would clearly go too far when it comes to fixing a few mistakes that might exist in the system. That is what is at stake here.

If the government really wants to fix the problems, it should consult with all parties, as all developed democracies do. This is clearly the only place in the world where it seems that the government is going to use its majority to force through election reforms. If the government wants to do that, then it should be more forthcoming with that and bring more sensible, common-sense modifications to the laws we already have instead of changing them wholesale to suit its own needs.

Business of Supply March 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I must say that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from York South—Weston.

I am pleased to be here today, although it is always strange to say such things, since we would have liked to avoid this kind of issue. We did not want it to come to this.

I am also pleased to rise to speak to this matter in the context of the opposition motion moved by my colleague from Toronto—Danforth. The motion calls on the government to remove all the problematic aspects of its bill on electoral reform, or as we like to call it, electoral deform.

We are just coming back from a two-week parliamentary break, and we have all had the chance to be in our constituencies. What is interesting about this issue is that when it comes to issues of procedure and elections, it often seems that people believe that this happens in the Ottawa bubble.

My constituents in Chambly—Borduas are very interested in this matter. For instance, I met with members of the Forum jeunesse Montérégie Est. They came to my office to talk about this issue and their concerns regarding the impact these changes will have on young people.

My colleague's motion has two key elements that will have an impact on young people. The first element has to do with identifying voters, and the second, voter education.

Before I begin, I would like to revisit what we have seen so far in this debate in the House of Commons. Let us talk about Infoman. Two weeks ago, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform gave an interview on an episode of that program. He then said that the NDP members were the big, bad guys, because they did not respect the Infoman news story. However, that is not at all true. Like everyone else, we saw what happened. Yes, it is troublesome to know that such a thing can happen.

Any time changes of this magnitude are made to our democracy, we must go even further with our research. Having a starting point is all well and good; however, if that is the only example they have, that is very troubling. The member who spoke before me even said that other examples and other statistics exist, but he could not quote them because he did not have them in front of him. He invited me to attend their committee meetings. I have already done that.

My colleagues have asked about this repeatedly, and they have yet to get a response. The leader of the official opposition asked both the Prime Minister and the Minister of State for Democratic Reform and never got an answer. We are told that there are cases; however, no one can cite them. It is very difficult for those of us on this side of the House to take this seriously when we are not seeing much proof of the scope of the issue. We are having a hard time understanding the government's decisions.

We have seen the changes that will be made in terms of voter identification. It is very disturbing. Once again, the member who spoke before me talked a lot about the Americans. In my opinion, that is a questionable comparison given the differences between our two systems.

However, let us continue with that comparison and look at what happened during the last election with all of the issues surrounding voter identification. We saw that the party in power tried to change identification requirements for its own benefit and the benefit of its supporters.

We know full well that, as a group, young people do not support this government's actions. It is understandable that this electoral deform bill worries people, because it makes life more difficult for young people who want to vote.

The minister often responded to my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent, who asked questions about what ID students would need to vote, by saying that it would be fine, they just need a piece of ID with an address.

In reality, when someone goes to university or CEGEP, there are very few ID cards that include an address. I went to CEGEP and university and I did not have an address on my student cards. If people do not have a student card with an address on it or a driver's licence, then they have no identification that includes their address.

Youth are often a target because they do not have a driver's licence or another piece of ID with an address. Other groups are affected as well, including seniors and aboriginal Canadians.

I would like to focus on the impact on young people, a group of voters that the Conservatives would rather push aside.

The timing is interesting. On the weekend, Nik Nanos and Kevin Page—the former parliamentary budget officer who, in turn, was also pushed aside because, as part of his job, he criticized some of the government's measures—released a study showing how the federal political landscape would change if more young people voted. This is definitely worth mentioning because young people do not have the same priorities as the government.

For example, this government does not care about environmental concerns, such as climate change. Nor does it care about youth unemployment. I have worked very hard on that issue together with my colleague from Parkdale—High Park, when she was on the finance committee, and with my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who is on the committee now. I should actually say that I am working with all of my NDP colleagues.

These studies show that if more young people voted, the level of public support for the government would change dramatically. As politicians, we definitely share a responsibility to encourage young people to vote. However, we cannot do that by making changes that will make it harder for young people and students to vote. This is the opposite of what is happening all over the world, in Quebec, at the provincial level, across Canada and in other countries where students are being encouraged to vote. Other governments are trying to make that easier for them. This government wants to make their lives more difficult.

Students are young people who are often voting for the first time. That makes it even more important because this is their first experience. We know that good civic habits can be shaped during that first experience. That is why we really need to pay attention to this issue.

Beyond the issue of voter identification, the civic education of our young people is another important element. Elections Canada had a mandate to educate Canadians about the importance of voting, for example through advertising campaigns. The government wants to take this power away and argues that it is the responsibility of politicians and political parties.

That is very troubling because even if parties and politicians do have this responsibility, it is just as important for a non-partisan institution such as Elections Canada to also have that responsibility. It is all well and good to put all the power in the hands of political parties and to ask them to take on that responsibility, but we cannot expect them to reach everyone, because they have the bad habit of only targeting the people who vote for them.

That is why it is important for non-partisan people who hold important positions in civil society, such as the Chief Electoral Officer, to promote the importance of voting. That would no longer be the case if this “unfair” electoral reform were to become law.

With respect to the issue of education, the Conservative members and the minister himself often use the lower voter turnout as an argument against the opposition and as justification for taking away Elections Canada's power to promote the importance of voting. This is indicative of the government's cynicism. According to the government, since that did not work, the mandate should be taken away from Elections Canada.

To solve the problem of declining voter turnout, the NDP would do more, not less, which seems to be the government's approach. According to the government, if something is not working at Elections Canada it must be scrapped and something else must be done. The government should take a more proactive approach. It should consider whether Elections Canada could do more to show people how important it is to vote.

Young people represent only one segment of the population that will be negatively affected by this unfair election reform. However, they are a very important segment. After all, young people are the future of our country. That is why I have risen. I want to speak out against these changes and try to make this government listen to reason. We will continue to fight this bill because democracy depends on it.