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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

Charitable Organization in Chambly February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about an organization that is close to my heart. Aux sources du bassin de Chambly helps families and single people become independent in terms of food security and material security. To that end, the organization is able to provide food and material goods free of charge, all the while helping households become self-reliant. Every year this organization hosts a charity drive in Chambly and Carignan.

On Saturday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the organization's vintage fashion show and dinner. The goal was to collect money to expand the organization's facilities, which are overflowing thanks to the public's generous response to the drive and also thanks to the donations that are collected all year long. At this event I also learned about and witnessed the importance of its thrift shop first-hand.

In conclusion—and this is the most important part—I want to extend my congratulations and support to the director of the organization, Yolande Grenier, to her wonderful board of directors and to all of their excellent volunteers. Thank you.

Employment February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the closure of the Parmalat Canada plant in Marieville will result in the loss of 92 good jobs. This is a real catastrophe for our community and all the families affected.

While the NDP is providing ideas to kick-start the economy, the Conservatives are doing nothing to keep jobs, like those in Marieville, in our small communities.

What does the Minister of Employment and Social Development have to say to the people of Marieville who are going to lose their jobs? Why is he so insensitive to their problems?

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, it would be extremely simple to require credit card companies to eliminate these absurd fees charged to small and medium-sized businesses. It would not take any time, it would not cost much, and an incredible amount of money could be saved. Instead of going into the pockets of the credit card companies, this money would go back to our small and medium-sized businesses and, therefore, to our communities. That is the NDP's vision and that is what we are suggesting.

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. We could definitely do a lot to alleviate some of the burden on small and medium-sized businesses.

There are some important regulations. The problem we have is that when we talk about safety, security or those good regulations, for lack of a better way of putting it, we have to regulate intelligently. There is no reason to trust the Conservatives. The President of the Treasury Board up to this point has not proven himself able to appropriately deal with more power.

The best example in the legislation is the one-for-one rule where one rule is removed for every new rule. We are being asked as legislators to take it on blind faith that the one-for-one rule will be applied appropriately when there is no guarantee that the government will not touch rules and regulations as it has done in the past, whether it was with respect to rail safety or food safety, issues that affect our everyday lives. No small or medium-sized business, no constituent of mine and definitely no constituent of any member of the House would see us get rid of those rules and regulations.

We definitely agree that something needs to be done about regulations. However, we will not find the proper solutions by letting the President of the Treasury Board go nuts on this. We will find the proper solutions by putting forward concrete proposals that will really alleviate the burden on small and medium-sized businesses in our country.

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker I also have the pleasure of speaking to Bill C-21, which addresses the administrative and financial burden imposed on our small and medium-sized businesses. This is quite clearly a matter that affects all of us, because we all have such businesses in our communities.

In my constituency of Chambly—Borduas, I belong to two chambers of commerce and industry: the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie du bassin de Chambly, and the Chambre de commerce et de l'industrie de la Vallée-du-Richelieu. The latter is an example of one of the newest and fastest-growing chambers of commerce in Quebec, and indicates what a strong upswing we are currently enjoying.

With respect to the Chambly chamber of commerce, we also know that with assistance from the Quartier Dix30 centre, good work is being done to promote the services available in the regions and municipalities in the Chambly basin.

When you talk to these people, you can be sure that they will all tell you the same thing, regardless of where they come from, their riding or the circumstances on the ground. They all want us to reduce the tax burden and cut red tape. If we are going to do that, however, we have to do it right. When I talk about doing it right, the example that comes to mind does not involve small and medium-sized businesses, but it says a lot about the approach taken by the Conservatives. I am referring to the report of the parliamentary budget officer of the time, which talked about cuts the Conservatives had made. They said they had to reduce the size and cost of government. They talked about austerity, and so on. We realized, and the parliamentary budget officer demonstrated this, that because of these cuts, we reduced services to citizens but did not really reduce the size of government, improve its efficiency, or actually reduce costs all that much.

When we consider this example, we realize that we all want the same thing. We all want to reduce an unnecessary burden. At the same time, however, it has to be done in an intelligent and effective way. We supported Bill C-21 at second reading and it went to committee. Some 12 amendments were proposed, but none was accepted. The very purpose of those amendments was to make our approach more coherent.

As my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel so rightly put it, regulation in itself is not a bad thing. We just need regulation that is intelligent. For example, when we talk about the safety of a company’s employees, the safety of Canadians, health, protection of the environment and all such matters, these are things we want to improve, things that must be in place and must be properly managed and regulated. However, at the same time, we have to find ways of reducing the tax burden.

The problem with Bill C-21 is not only that there is no oversight of those issues, but also that the bill gives the president of the Treasury Board too many discretionary powers. From what we have seen, the current President of the Treasury Board is incapable of making good decisions that effectively reduce the existing burden of our small and medium-sized businesses.

In terms of reducing the tax burden, it is important to raise a number of points to confirm and explain the NDP's approach to this issue. I had an opportunity to raise these points with the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie du bassin de Chambly. About 100 people attended a conference that I offered to the entrepreneurs of part of my riding to explain our approach. First and foremost, this approach involves reducing taxes for small and medium-sized businesses. We often talk about this, and it is extremely important.

The example that proves that we can walk the talk is Manitoba. After five majority NDP governments, the tax rate for small and medium-sized businesses is 0%. That speaks volumes about our approach. We realize that they are the economic driver of our communities. We must legislate or not legislate—or, in this case, impose or not impose legislation—accordingly.

The other issue is the hiring tax credit. This measure was introduced by this government, but unfortunately it was cut in the last budget. We wanted to see a new and improved version of it. We even used it as a basis for a proposal that I had the chance to make a little over a year ago with my colleague from Parkdale—High Park. We proposed a similar tax credit that also applied to the hiring of young people. After all, there is a problem not just with youth unemployment, but also with youth underemployment.

A Statistics Canada report indicated last year that an increasing number of well-educated young people are struggling to find work that matches their qualifications and talents. We proposed providing a tax credit to SMEs to create new jobs, not just replace their employees with younger workers.

The credit sought to encourage growing businesses to hire and train young workers, who would become contributing members of our communities and our economy for the future. This is just as important for the SMEs as it is for everyone in our communities.

After all, we can see a domino effect among young people. When families of consumers settle outside urban centres, that leads to new businesses and new schools in the area and to all sorts of positive effects that contribute to our communities. I have seen this in my constituency, which has some of the fastest-growing municipalities in Quebec. There are growing numbers of young families where I live.

We are not just talking about a tax credit to reduce the tax and administrative burden on small and medium-sized businesses; we are also talking about the notorious credit card fees. We talk about that all the time. The Conservative government is happy to rely on a voluntary code of conduct for these companies, which means that we have to rely on the good faith of these companies. That very rarely translates into concrete results.

The measures the NDP is proposing are the result of consultations with the small and medium-sized businesses that come to see us in our constituencies and in Ottawa. They come to see the NDP members and the members from all the other parties to tell us that this code of conduct is not working.

This is a concrete way of minimizing the burden that would not require major changes and that the government could implement very quickly. It would put substantial shares of profits into the pockets of small and medium-sized business, which in turn would contribute to job creation and economic growth in our regions and our communities.

There is also the question of the different employment insurance schemes. Here again, we saw a ridiculous proposal from the government. It proposed astronomical spending to create very few jobs, while at the same time dipping into the employment insurance fund to finance this measure, as the Liberals did before the Conservatives.

The employment insurance fund belongs to the employees and employers. Spending those funds in such a cavalier manner for the sake of good headlines on the eve of an election is not a very intelligent approach. They tell us that this bill is a step in the right direction, when all it does is give more powers to the President of the Treasury Board.

I will repeat what some of my colleagues have already said. We can no longer trust in the Conservatives’ approach. We have a plan for small and medium-sized businesses. When I interact with entrepreneurs, because I participate regularly in the activities of the chambers of commerce in my constituency, they tell me that they fully support that approach. We are going to continue to fight for it in the House.

We cannot support an approach that so far has not worked and has not produced the desired results. That is why we put forward our proposals.

Citizen Voting Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague: it is a problem. As I said in my speech, we have to consider the Canadian Forces, but we also have to consider their family members and all of the people who are serving their country and doing important work for governance abroad, people such as public servants and diplomats and their family members.

The Elections Act also included an exemption for members of the RCMP. Unless I am mistaken, that exemption no longer exists in Bill C-50. Once again, I do not mean to suggest that there is a conspiracy afoot, but I do not blame people for reacting to the government's measure with cynicism.

Earlier, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister accused us of disrespecting the Canadian Forces because we criticized that part of the bill. That statement was so ridiculous that it was a little hard to believe. It said a lot about the Conservatives' approach.

They grant exemptions for the Canadian Forces not out of respect for the Canadian Forces, but just because they want to hand out goodies in a show of support for the troops. That is the kind of thing we hear quite a lot. If they really supported the people who serve us abroad, they would make more of an effort to encourage them to participate fully in our democracy.

Citizen Voting Act February 3rd, 2015

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

We do not want to buy into conspiracy theories, but the Conservatives' speeches seem to indicate some fear of the unknown, whether we are talking about Bill C-23 or Bill C-50, which is being debated today. They use scare tactics, claiming that people will cheat the system and that non-Canadians will try to vote in our elections. Last time we heard about people who would cheat and vote several times.

Like my colleague, I have to wonder why they are doing this. Perhaps this issue does not concern Conservative voters. I do not think that is the case, since everyone, regardless of their political beliefs, should be trying to make it easier for voters living in Canada or abroad.

As my colleague mentioned in his question, as I said in my speech and as all of my colleagues have said, while other developed countries are using these technologies or using other means to make it easier for citizens, especially with respect to deadlines to register to vote, the Conservative government seems to want to make things harder.

Then we wonder why people are so cynical and why voter turnout is so low. The Conservatives need only look in the mirror.

Citizen Voting Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, members may have noticed that some of my colleagues and I are fighting a little cold. If we do not seem all there, it is not because we are not interested in this topic.

Bill C-50 obviously deals with an important issue. The government addresses the same problems and same visions of democracy that we saw in Bill C-23 on election reform—or electoral “deform”, as we nicknamed it.

There are a number of problems with this bill. Before I get into them, I want to give a brief background. This bill came about because of a ruling by the Ontario Superior Court stating that it was unconstitutional to prohibit Canadian citizens living abroad for more than five years from voting in a federal election.

This is an important issue, especially in 2015, in light of the global village phenomenon. We have increased access to other countries and opportunities—this is especially true for young people. I am thinking about young university grads who want to pursue opportunities abroad without ruling out the possibility of returning home. They remain invested in their home community even though they are abroad.

The right to vote has always been essential, because at the end of the day, it is the very essence of what it means to be a citizen. With how easy it is now to find information and follow the events leading up to an election, the right to vote is increasingly important for citizens living abroad, considering the global realities of today's world.

I would like to mention another very important point that also relates to the right to vote, which, as I said, is the very essence of citizenship. The number of Canadian citizens residing outside Canada translates into a lot of money for the public purse because those individuals pay taxes. We all know the famous slogan that served a certain American cause very well: No taxation without representation. This is another important factor that must not be overlooked, beyond the principles of citizenship. Those people pay taxes, and ultimately, they are entitled to have a say in how their tax dollars are used, that is, in the governance of their home country, where they are citizens.

There are a number of problems, but there is one that we already saw with Bill C-23. The government sees problems; some are legitimate, others do not even exist. They are scaremongers. Last time, the government talked about fraudsters, as though there were thousands of fraudsters across the country trying to steal the right to vote from other citizens. Obviously, there were some dubious findings there. The idea was that many non-citizens were trying to take advantage of the right to vote.

Earlier, I heard an hon. member allude to the fact that non-citizens were receiving ballots abroad, as though this happened frequently and there were wide-scale electoral fraud. That being said, some media reports indicated that it was hard to tell the extent to which citizens abroad were affected. If the journalists who were focusing on this issue were unable to dig up these numbers, I do not see how an hon. member can make this observation. What is more, when my colleague from Sherbrooke asked the hon. member whether there were any studies to back her comments, she was unable to provide an answer.

The point I am trying to make is that instead moving forward and finding progressive ways to improve our electoral system, the government always takes a step backward. Instead of moving forward, it takes two steps back. That must be extremely frustrating for the people who, like the NDP, want to see a higher voter turnout. That is the problem we saw with Bill C-23, which had negative consequences for seniors, aboriginal people, young people and students. We see the same problem here.

The thing that strikes me the most is the French example. In 2012, I went to France with my colleagues to observe the presidential election.

I was surprised because I did not know that France had elected representatives—senators and members of the National Assembly—who represent constituencies outside of France. They represent French citizens who live outside of France. I know one person in the area, in Gatineau, who is a French citizen. This is a well-established system because French citizens living outside of France even receive campaign material from political parties.

That says a lot about how important it is to the Republic that all French citizens be properly represented, not just French citizens residing in France. This relates to what I was talking about at the beginning of my speech: in the new global village, where more and more citizens are pursuing opportunities abroad but staying connected to and involved in their communities, the governing body should represent not just residents but all citizens, no matter where they live.

As pointed out by my colleague from Toronto—Danforth—who does an excellent job of developing our positions on democratic reform—the French system has another component: the right to vote by Internet. The Americans allow U.S. citizens living abroad to vote by email.

While other countries look for solutions that will make it easier for citizens living abroad to vote, our government seems to be stuck on making it more difficult. A fine example—and that is another problem with the bill—is the issue of people living abroad who serve the government. We think of course of members of the Canadian Forces who are deployed abroad. The government will say that they are still exempt from the five-week period proposed in Bill C-50.

Although the government is not saying as much, this is a step backwards from what was already in the act. I will explain. Previously, diplomats were also exempt because, after all, they also serve the country, Canadians and the government abroad. Now, diplomats will have to follow the same laborious process as all other Canadians living abroad. They do not get a break even though they are abroad to serve their country.

The same is true for military families. It is a good idea and it is important—and I am not being sarcastic here—to grant exemptions to members of our Canadian Forces. However, we also need to think about their families. Some of these members are undoubtedly accompanied by their 18-year-old children. Some have spouses who also have the right to vote. The government is forgetting to look at the big picture when it comes to people who are living abroad.

Today in his speech, the Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke about the team and the public servants who served him abroad. As my colleague from Sherbrooke mentioned, people like that, who are working for a minister and serving the Crown—it is important to point that out—are also not granted an exemption from this long and sometimes difficult process. As a result, they will have to use courier services, which Elections Canada has no legal obligation to use. They will have to turn to courier services that sometimes take a long time to deliver things and, in some countries, are difficult to use. There are many problems with this.

This once again shows, as Bill C-23 did, just how much difficulty the Conservatives have resolving problems, making it easier to access the electoral system and increasing voter turnout. They are once again introducing a bill that makes the process even more complex and forces Canadians to work even harder to exercise their right to vote. The right to vote should be an automatic part of citizenship. The government has the responsibility to make this process easier.

In closing, I would like to quickly mention one more thing, which I did not have time to really talk about. Once again, students are affected. When I was going to McGill, I saw how easy it was for American students to vote, even though they were living in Montreal. However, Bill C-50 contains an error that requires any lease used by a student as proof of residence to be for an official university residence.

Students who are going to school abroad and living off-campus as an individual and not in accommodation such as a university residence cannot use their lease as valid proof of identity.

It is because of these types of problems that we are forced to oppose yet another botched bill on an issue as fundamental as our democracy.

Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act January 28th, 2015

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-650, An Act to amend the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act (independent assessment).

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Halifax for seconding my bill. This is an issue that affects many, an issue about which we were able to pressure the minister during question period.

In fact, the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act was passed in the 1970s because the federal government cannot be taxed by a local authority. Nonetheless, in the interest of fairness to taxpayers, money must be given to a municipality where the federal government has property. The federal government must pay its fair share just like businesses and taxpayers.

Unfortunately, over the past few years, the government has turned a deaf ear to the municipalities, resulting in cases that have gone all the way to the Supreme Court and revealing the fact that some property values have been underestimated.

My bill seeks to ensure that the government and local municipalities can agree on independent assessors who will set the amount. Then, the minister would be required to accept that amount. This would ensure taxpayer fairness. That is what is essential here.

Again, I want to thank my colleague from Halifax, and I am very pleased to be able to improve this process for the good of the taxpayers of Chambly, Halifax and all the municipalities in Canada where a national historic site is located.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Public Works and Government Services January 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, municipalities have had enough. For decades, they have been up against a brick wall known as the federal government. The federal government assesses its own property, and the allegedly independent group of experts, who answer directly to the minister, is made up of officials from the minister's own department.

The federal government underestimates the value of Fort Chambly and the canal by $16 million. The people of Chambly are losing out on $270,000 a year.

Will the government finally acknowledge that the process has become cumbersome after 20 or 30 years? It makes no sense for the government to be judge and jury. We need to improve this process.