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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
Committees of the House November 17th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I want to address the member's comments about how the New Democrats voted on the Liberal scheme involving EI premiums. My constituents, and I am sure many of my colleagues' constituents, are happy when we vote against the Liberals messing around with EI, because historically that has not been very positive for workers. I understand that the Liberal finance critic might be a bit confused about his position on issues. We have heard him in question period.
The NDP proposal, which is a recommendation in this finance committee report, is to offer a tax credit to small and medium-size businesses that are hiring and training young people.
The member can try to deflect this and turn it into a question on how New Democrats voted on a Liberal scheme that clearly was not going to do what it was supposedly intended to do. Rather than deflect on that, can he perhaps tell us whether he would vote on this kind of idea, if it were to come before the House, or if this is the kind of thing his party would support, this NDP idea of a tax credit for young workers?
Committees of the House November 17th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question from my colleague. Since she spoke about going to school and student loans, it also gives me an opportunity to mention that, although I unfortunately did not have time to talk about it, the committee also addressed the issue of student debt in its study.
Many surveys and studies were conducted. Again, the timing was very good because many of these surveys and studies came out just as the committee was examining this issue. That research focused on both the reality and people's perceptions. There are important economic realities but perceptions are also very important.
If we want to have a strong economy, people need to be able to be optimistic about their ability to find a job so that they can participate in the labour market, as my colleague rightfully pointed out. However, fewer and fewer young people feel optimistic in this regard and fewer and fewer young people feel that they can participate in the economy, since they see that they have fewer opportunities to succeed in life and achieve the high standard of living that people have come to expect in Canada. This is a major problem that needs to be resolved.
Committees of the House November 17th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her kind compliments. I just want to quickly say that I am very pleased to belong to a caucus that has a good mix of youth and experience. We are also very proud to have lowered the average age in the House of Commons for the first time in Canadian history. We were very pleased to be part of that.
The hon. member made a very good point when she talked about discouraged youth. This is very important. Last week, during our constituency week, I visited a youth employment centre and took the opportunity to talk about this reality with the young people there. One of the issues they raised was the fact that some young people do not even bother to look for work anymore.
We are talking about measuring youth unemployment. During our study at the Standing Committee on Finance, a number of witnesses mentioned the fact that a young person who no longer actively looks for a job because he is so discouraged by the current situation—my colleague is quite right in using this word—is no longer counted in the statistics. We rather like statistics and numbers, but there is also a reality behind those numbers and this is part of that reality.
In my previous answer, I spoke about the forgotten generation, which is relevant to this question. That is why I am pleased to be a voice for young people in Parliament. However, we need to do more than that. We need to take action. We have some good recommendations here. I was particularly proud of the recommendations regarding the concrete measures proposed by the NDP. We would very much like to see the government support these measures. This would send a good message to young people. It would show that we have not forgotten them, that we recognize their reality and that we are the ones who will bring in the economy of the future here in Canada.
Committees of the House November 17th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
Indeed, that is very troubling. In its presentation, Statistics Canada explained that at the end of a recession, it is not unusual for youth unemployment to be higher. I find it unusual. Although that may have been the pattern in the past, it is completely unacceptable to do nothing to overcome this challenge, when we know that young people represent the future of our economy.
Furthermore, every time the government brags about lowering youth unemployment, this usually refers to low quality jobs relative to their training, or to part-time jobs. As we know, this trend does not affect just young people, as it is prevalent throughout this government's entire employability record.
Lastly, to come back to my colleague's point, what matters is the issue of the forgotten generation. For instance, if we look at the age of eligibility for old age security, which was raised from 65 to 67, yes, this affects people who are retiring today or tomorrow, but it also affects people who will be retiring many years from now. This has an impact on young people. It makes the issue even more worrisome. The Conservatives seem to be forgetting our youth. We hope this does not continue, following these recommendations.
Committees of the House November 17th, 2014
Yes, Mr. Speaker, there are plenty of recommendations. There are several, in fact, which is why, as the NDP critic for youth, I felt it was so important to talk here in the House about the committee's fantastic work and the reason for this concurrence motion.
It is also important to return, as I said several times in my remarks, to recommendations 9 and 16, which deal directly with NDP proposals both for a tax credit for youth hirings by businesses in Canada and the question of unpaid internships, which came up several times during the different committee meetings. At the end of the day, the length of the government's response, the length of the report, the number of recommendations in the report, and even the number of hearings are all proof of how seriously all parliamentarians take this issue. I hope that the government will follow the finance committee's lead and continue to take this issue seriously.
Unfortunately, from the government's response, we see a lot of proof that it seems to be falling back on its talking points and saying how good Canada is compared to some other countries in the developed world. When we look at some of the comparisons, we see they are not always comparisons that are acceptable for Canada. We need to have the highest possible standards for ourselves. If we look at countries like Greece, we see there is a 50% youth unemployment rate. When the bar is that low, it is not very hard to jump over it, and we owe it to ourselves to hold the bar that much higher. It is what we did in committee and it is what we will continue to do in our proposals.
Committees of the House November 17th, 2014
moved that the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Finance, presented on Thursday, June 12, 2014, be concurred in.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today about the report of the Standing Committee on Finance, which I worked on with my colleagues from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques and Victoria and even my colleague from Davenport, who paid us a visit to speak about the issue of unpaid internships.
It is very important to speak about this today because this study was conducted over almost 10 meetings. That is a fairly long study, but this is a very important issue. We are talking about youth unemployment. which is a rather complex issue. At the outset, I would like to say that I was very pleased to see that even though we sometimes disagreed on what action should be taken, the Conservative members showed a certain openness to dealing with this problem.
We must now look at the recommendations. However, before I get to that, I would like to provide a brief summary of the situation and try to clear up some of the points that the government has made about youth unemployment.
We often like to remind the government that the youth unemployment rate is twice the national average. That is quite discouraging for my generation, those between the ages of 15 and 35. That is a large group. Apparently, some of these young people are still in school. However, many of them have just graduated from university or completed different kinds of post-secondary studies and are looking for a quality job. I will come back to the issue of quality jobs a little later.
However, first and foremost, we must point out that the government often likes to tell us that an unemployment rate that is double the national average is normal. The fact that this has become normal over time does not make it acceptable. Those are two very different points. Even though in the past, following a recession, it was normal to have such a high unemployment rate, I do not find that acceptable.
When speaking about the youth unemployment rate, the government often makes the same comparison. It is even on the first page of its response to the Standing Committee on Finance. The response states that the participation rate of young people in Canada's labour market is higher than that of young people in most other developed countries.
When we talk about developed countries, we often forget to mention countries such as Italy and Greece where the unemployment rate is even higher than it is here. If I am not mistaken, the youth unemployment rate in Greece is 50%. That is incredible, but does not make for a very good comparison. With all due respect to the Greek people, that is not something we should aspire to. Saying that the bar is set very low elsewhere is not an excuse to keep it low here. We must set the bar higher.
The other question is the quality of the jobs, which I said I would come back to. It has come up several times, including at committee. It is this phenomenon called “wage scarring”. There is one Conservative member on the committee who even disputed the use of that term. I suppose it was because it was a union witness who brought it up, so maybe we can look at other folks who have talked about wage scarring in the recent weeks.
One of those is the Governor of the Bank of Canada, who also talked about wage scarring recently. Notwithstanding his comments on young people taking volunteer work, which is, of course, important, because if I am here in the House it is in large part due to some volunteer work that I did in my youth, which got me involved in my community, the question of encouraging young people to take unpaid internships and to look at volunteer work for their experience is problematic. I will explain why, because he made a link with the question of wage scarring.
The question of wage scarring is something that was brought up in a TD bank report. The TD bank said that wage scarring would have a long-term impact on young people and their future job prospects. For someone in their 20s who has just finished their post-secondary education and is working a job for which they are overqualified, it might seem only temporary. But the problem then is that they will feel its effects into adulthood and for the rest of their lives, when it becomes difficult to translate that work experience into a quality job. That is something the government fails to mention all too often.
We heard all about the job-quality phenomenon one day in committee. A Statistics Canada report indicated that there is an increasing number of educated young people who are overqualified for their jobs. These numbers have even reached historic highs in recent years, most recently in 2013. These young people have varying levels of post-secondary education, such as a university degree or a three-year CEGEP program—or a trade school or community college program, in provinces outside Quebec.
Once again, this is a growing phenomenon. However, it does not help to simply talk about the unemployment rate and make questionable comparisons to countries where the situation is not very encouraging. Unfortunately, this illustrates the government's careless approach, especially in light of the notorious Kijiji data, which my colleagues from Saint-Lambert and Newton—North Delta love to bring up.
Not only was the government unable to take any measures that reflected the realities of the labour market, but it does not even seem to want to talk about it. That is why we were happy to study these issues in committee, and that is why it is important to discuss them today.
This situation aside, it is important to look at the recommendations and solutions proposed. I was very pleased to learn that a number of witnesses who appeared in committee—from the labour, student and business worlds—supported a very good solution. I think it is a great solution, although my opinion may be a bit biased since it was proposed by the NDP, namely by the leader of the official opposition. We are talking about universal child care, and this solution was advocated by eight out of ten witnesses. Even if it was not in their presentation, they thought it would have a positive effect on young workers and especially, of course, on young female workers.
The question of child care came up at nearly every single meeting in a very positive way. Witness after witness said that even if it were not something he or she was going to be lobbying or pushing for, none of them was able to deny the positive impact that a universal child care program would have on the plight of young workers, specifically young female workers. It would make it easier for them to get the experience necessary to move on with quality employment opportunities throughout their lives and into adulthood, and hopefully one day being able to secure a proper retirement, which is a whole other issue that young people are facing but is for the moment beyond the scope of this particular study.
If we are talking about the child care question—I said this in French, but it is important that I repeat it for our hard-working interpreters—the government might have an argument saying it was only union members or union representatives at committee that were defending this point and talking about the positive impacts it could have. It was not. It was student representatives, and union representatives, yes, but also representatives from business.
After all, if we were to ask small and medium-size business owners the best way for them to get more young workers into the system to give them the long-term experience that would lead to quality jobs, which would in turn lead to quality businesses and getting the economic wheel turning, they would say that one of the solutions was obviously child care, making sure it was affordable and that workers from my generation were able to have the tools necessary to start families. That is obviously important for the economy because it is what leads to businesses and schools opening, and the strengths of our communities based on the families that decide to live in them. Obviously, in order to have that phenomenon take place, we need to give young people the tools they need to work in high-paying, quality jobs. One of those tools, as I said, is the universal child care program as proposed by the NDP. That was heard in meeting after meeting.
Despite the fact it is unfortunately not in the main committee recommendations, it is important to bring it up because it was definitely, as far as we are concerned on this side of the House, a focal point of the study. I am sure that my colleagues who were at the meetings with me would agree.
There is another important point, and this time we are very happy to see it in the committee's recommendations. It is recommendation 16.
That the federal government explore ways to promote youth hiring in Canada [which is a laudable goal], such as tax credits for businesses that hire Canadians aged 18 to 30.
I am very pleased to be speaking about this recommendation because it is exactly what I proposed in a press conference with the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park last fall. To explain it in the context of our discussion here, the NDP's proposal builds on the general hiring tax credit for small and medium-sized businesses.
We want to offer that tax credit for hiring youth and training them as well. It ties in directly with the reality facing young people in terms of quality jobs, which I described earlier and which we heard about a number of times during the committee meetings.
Sometimes, the skills and qualities of a young person are matched with an employer. Then there is the question of training. I want to explain our proposal because, after all, this recommendation looks a lot like what we proposed.
This is not about replacing workers who have seniority. For example, I do not mean to criticize them, but this is not about allowing McDonald's to fire a worker who has been there for 30 years in order to hire a young person for so-called cheap labour.
The youth hiring tax credit for small and medium-sized businesses that we are proposing is meant above all for expansion. For example, a business that is expanding and considers creating new long-term positions would receive this tax credit to hire and train a young person. The youth hired would be assured of a long-term job and good training. It is important for communities to have young people with quality, well-paid jobs.
We would also like this tax credit to be doubled in parts of the country where the youth and general unemployment rates are extremely high compared to the national average. That is a good way to foster youth employment.
After all, if the youth unemployment rate is double the national average, it goes without saying that it is even higher in areas where the general rate is higher than the national average. I am thinking of the Atlantic provinces, for instance, where there are huge unemployment problems.
The other recommendation I would like to speak about is recommendation number nine, which discusses this whole question of unpaid internships. We had the pleasure of having my colleague, the member for Davenport, join us for the meetings. That was important because he has been a great ally of some of the folks who have had the courage to take their stories to the media and talk about the way they were treated as interns, and some of the high profile cases that we have seen in the last couple of years. One of those cases resulted in a death, tragically, due to the fact we do not have the proper measures in place for how to apply the Canada Labour Code to unpaid internships and how young unpaid interns working in these positions are treated.
We had several witnesses at committee speak to this particular issue. It goes without saying that they support the bill that my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles has proposed, seconded of course by the member for Davenport. The bill seeks not only to improve protection of unpaid interns, but also to move away from this model and create more and more proper opportunities, as opposed to simply having coffee and photocopy runners in companies that are under federal jurisdiction, such as telecommunications companies, banks, and so on.
Once again, not only would this protect young workers who are, in some cases, desperate to find very good experiences in the work place, but it would also go a long way to addressing the point I have been making so far, which is the question of high quality jobs. One way we could encourage this is by making sure that companies are offering high quality internship experiences, which, of course, would have the domino effect of leading young people to take jobs in these sectors as they move forward in their careers.
It is important to mention that when it comes to unpaid internships, if we read the government response to this committee report, one of the points it mentioned seemed to be very light in terms of taking concrete action.
The government said that it would continue to monitor the situation and left this wishy-washy element of the Canada Labour Code that says that employers are obliged to discuss with employees the risks associated with their jobs without mentioning how they are actually treated in their jobs. It also talks about continuing to consult with provincial and territorial authorities. I am concerned about that particular line, because we do not want to see this as a situation in which we are passing the buck.
As with another NDP proposal that speaks to a federal minimum wage, unpaid internships are a great example of where we can show federal leadership on an issue. By adopting the bill that my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles has proposed, we could set the example of not only protecting unpaid interns who are working for companies under federal jurisdiction but also show the lead for a lot of provinces. We are pleased to see this action, but from what we have seen so far, it is definitely the provinces that have taken the lead in their jurisdictions. As in all issues that affect our country, often it would require both actors to take care of what is under their jurisdiction, and that is something we hope will happen. There have been some pretty tragic examples. I spoke of the death of one individual.
As I said, my colleague from Davenport has been a leader on this issue. The witnesses at committee were happy to see him there and congratulated him on the work that he has done.
Given the recommendation from the finance committee on the need to properly support internships in our country, we definitely hope that the government will support the bill put forward by my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles. It is important for young people not only now but also in the future.
I would like to go over some issues that were raised in committee. The NDP makes solid proposals. We proposed a youth hiring tax credit, which is just a first step toward creating good jobs for young people. My colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles introduced a bill about unpaid internships. To me, these two tangible measures are the most important ones because they flow directly from the recommendations in this report. We hope that the government will support our measures because, after all, the Standing Committee on Finance recommended them.
There are other recommendations that do not stand out as much, but that we still need to talk about. Among these is training mobility among the provinces. The government announced its intention to make it easier for workers to move. In committee, many people commented that they would not want that movement to hurt the regions too much. All the same, we have to understand and accept the realities of the labour market.
Unfortunately, the recommendation as written does not address the importance of close collaboration between the federal government and the provinces and territories on the worker training front. I wanted to talk about this because the government has not always been very good at working with the federation even though the Conservative ministers’ announcements suggest good intentions, as do the questions that Conservative members ask the witnesses. We have to collaborate on worker training because agreements have already been signed. The government still has work to do. It has to respect what the provinces and territories want. That is an essential part of the federal government's leadership.
I would like to reiterate the importance of considering the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Finance regarding youth internships and the question of tax credits for businesses that hire young people. The government likes to brag about its record when it comes to youth employment, but the fact is that youth unemployment remains a problem. It is unacceptable that it is twice as high as the national average.
It is also important to create high-quality jobs, and not McJobs. Our future and my generation are depending on it.
Privilege November 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the first part of my reply to my colleague's question, whom I would like to thank, is to refer to the Speaker, who said that it is up to the House to determine the future, if I can put it that way, of one of its own members. That is what we are doing today.
Clearly, there is a lack of consensus about this way of proceeding. That is why, before talking about expulsion, I believe that the responsible thing to do is to study the matter in committee, even though the rules are clear and we know that the member in question was found guilty by the court. In accordance with the Speaker's decision, let us study the case in committee.
Contrary to what was initially proposed by the government, it is also important that we not go to committee without first suspending the member, thus taking an important step that signals to Canadians that this kind of conduct is considered unacceptable by the House, and that the House acts in a responsible manner.
The committee's decision will be extremely important. Ultimately, it will set a precedent. I believe we should act in a responsible manner. I will reiterate that, at the same time, we must suspend the member in order not to fuel cynicism.
Privilege November 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that clarity, because we are actually talking about the criminal conviction here and not a political conviction by a kangaroo court.
The member for Peterborough has been criminally charged by a court. Let us face it, I completely agree with my colleague when he says that the law should apply. I know he is getting very upset, and I understand why it can be frustrating, because with the cheap political antics of the other two parties in these kangaroo courts, they seem to think this is some kind of counterweight to criminal convictions.
When I go door to door in my riding, as I said in my comments, I do not get constituents who are concerned about these kinds of political actions. I get constituents who are concerned about criminal actions. That is why we need to suspend this member and study this in the procedure and House affairs committee.
Privilege November 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with my esteemed colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent.
This is an interesting debate. I am a young member of Parliament—not only in terms of age, but also in terms of the number of years I have served my constituents here in Parliament. I say that because journalists were so fascinated by the unprecedented number of young members in the House, and they would often ask us questions about cynicism to find out what was the most pleasant surprise we experienced in our work and what we found most disappointing.
We have obviously had a lot of pleasant surprises in our ridings. However, I want to focus on the disappointments, since today we are debating a disappointing and extremely problematic situation.
When I was asked this question, I said that one thing I found disappointing was going door to door in my riding—and I am sure many of my colleagues experience the same thing—and hearing from constituents that they are proud of our good work and how we represent people, but that they are not interested in politics and do not follow it.
Despite the hard work of every member of Parliament, there is a certain cynicism that is fuelled by actions like those of the member for Peterborough and by the elections fraud convictions. This type of thing contributes to growing cynicism.
Given the public nature of our work, it is easy to fuel this cynicism. In other workplaces, you do not hear about a crime that was committed over and over again in the news. Of course, there are some exceptions. However, since we serve the public and, moreover, this issue is a matter of public interest, it is widely talked about, which breeds more cynicism.
I am not saying that we should not talk about this issue. It is crucial that we talk about it. However, this demonstrates to what degree the actions of one MP, particularly given the history of a political party, or even several political parties, can taint the work of an entire institution and all of its members.
That is why it is really important to take action, as we are doing today by supporting the motion of my colleague, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster, to suspend the member for Peterborough and refer his case to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
Let us be very clear. If the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs examines this issue, this means that the member for Peterborough may be called to appear as a witness, if that is what the committee wants.
The government is claiming that the member did not have the chance to plead his case. However, let us look at how many times a question of privilege was raised, the many questions that were asked in question period, and all of the other opportunities he had to speak up.
What about the fact that he is a member of Parliament and that he has a public forum available to him by way of the media, for example? Did he not have many opportunities to speak out and share his point of view, not to mention the opportunity to be heard in court? He had plenty of opportunities to share his side of the story and he may even have more.
It is completely ridiculous to make him out to be a victim who did not have the opportunity to share his side of the story. This only serves to fuel public cynicism. The actions of the member in question created a perfect storm of cynicism.
It is very unfortunate that we are here debating the suspension of an MP, even though we agree with it. We agree that he should be suspended and that his salary, benefits, MP budget and so on should be cut off.
However, if I am not mistaken, a year ago the Senate was also debating the possibility of suspending Conservative senators and a former Liberal senator.
The fact that we are once again debating the possibility of suspending a parliamentarian demonstrates how prevalent the extremely problematic culture of entitlement has become. There is also a lack of responsibility.
Even though the government seems to be announcing its intention to support our motion, this seeming desire to prove that the member for Peterborough is somehow a victim will only serve to fuel cynicism, as I have said many times before, and entrench this culture that exists in Ottawa and that must change.
That is why I appreciate how this debate was brought forward, the position that we have taken and my colleague's motion. This was all done very responsibly. That means that this case requires some study and that there are a certain nuances to consider. These are complicated issues. He was found guilty, but the House nevertheless has its own will and must determine how far it is willing to go. It is also about managing the future, because this is not the first time we have seen a Conservative member being convicted of such things. There was also the former minister and member for Labrador, Mr. Penashue. Then there is the current heritage minister and the current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence. There were the in and out and the robocall scandals. There are all sorts of examples, to say nothing of the party that supported them. We have seen situations that tainted the good work of this institution.
It is important to study the situation so that we can proceed responsibly, but not suspending the member in the meantime would be irresponsible. If that happened, we would go on seeing our constituents, who would tell us that we are doing good work but that things like this make them wonder if they can trust politicians and their work. We must make this decision immediately so as not to stoke that cynicism.
I would like to go back to the example I was talking about earlier, about the fact that this is the second time in a year we are having this debate—once in the Senate and now in the House of Commons. I think this demonstrates the need for major change.
The Minister of State (Democratic Reform) introduced the unfair elections act. We called it that in the nicest way possible considering it was such a mess of a bill. There have been attempts to use that to make political hay, to try to change things, to stack the deck even more, but in the end, it is not just the laws but the culture that must change. I am sure that my colleagues agree.
I think it is interesting to see that even the Conservatives, who seem to support my colleague's motion, are unable to take ownership of the actions of a member who was, as we all know, the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister.
In this case, the Prime Minister himself trusted the member. When the Leader of the Opposition read him some of his own words during question period today, the Prime Minister rose in the House and defended the member. Not only did he defend him, but he also made statements that contradicted the court's ruling. The judge said that documents were missing, but the Prime Minister said that all of the documents had been provided. The best answer the Prime Minister could come up with in question period today was that it was not a problem because they removed him from their caucus and he was no longer a Conservative. We heard the same argument with respect to the senators. Unfortunately, we are likely to hear the same argument in the future.
What is also troubling about this argument, as it was in the case of Senators Brazeau, Duffy, Wallin and company, and in the case of the member for Peterborough, is that they were found guilty of actions committed while they enjoyed the trust of the Prime Minister, who appointed the first individuals to the Senate and made the member his parliamentary secretary. That is completely unacceptable.
Today, we must suspend this member and refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Contrary to what the chair of the committee said, we will be pleased to do the work and to show due diligence in studying this case. Let us not fuel cynicism; let us take a small step and suspend the member.
It will take a lot of these small steps, but it will be a step in the right direction for democracy and to rekindle Canadians' optimism.
Poverty November 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, we will try to get the minister back on track. Last year, 850,000 Canadians used food banks. That is unacceptable. That is a 25% increase over 2008, which is not something the government should be bragging about. What is more, 37% of clients are children, and the majority of those who use food banks are renters who have a job. Why do they need to go to a food bank?
The real issue behind those numbers is the government's disastrous economic development record when it comes to youth and young families.
How do the Conservatives explain their failure to create jobs, particularly for young people?