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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
National Capital Act March 7th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Hull—Aylmer for introducing this bill. The NDP has been bringing this issue forward in the House for a long time. My colleague from Ottawa Centre also introduced a bill in this regard, as did his predecessor, former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, in 2005.
As a member who represents Montreal's south shore, I find it worthwhile to speak about this bill. It contains principles that are important to everyone, particularly in Quebec. The bill seeks to put Gatineau Park on the same footing as other national parks by creating a proper legislative framework to make sure the park receives the environmental and other types of protection necessary to preserve our heritage for future generations.
With all due respect for my colleagues from the Outaouais region, I am going to tell a story about my riding in order to show my constituents why the values reflected in this bill are important to us, to all Quebeckers and to all Canadians.
My riding is home to Mont Saint-Hilaire, the first biosphere reserve recognized by UNESCO in the 1970s. The biosphere extends beyond the borders of my riding. In my region, there are many orchards, and apple picking is very a popular activity. People banded together and demonstrated to protect certain borders of this green space and keep it safe from private development by various contractors. Population growth is a significant issue for a region like mine. That is what I am hearing about the national capital and Outaouais regions. This is a challenge that is becoming more and more common.
Two of the five Quebec municipalities that had the highest number of births in 2012 are in my region. In 2011, one of the municipalities in my region was among the three cities with the highest growth in Quebec. There is a lot of growth in the second tier of Montreal suburbs. Population growth results in a need for some municipalities to rezone and build more housing, for example. We accept this reality. We want to welcome people to live in our area. What is important to the NDP is to do it in a balanced way. I hope that this is also important to the other parties. We need to understand the economic, demographic and environmental realities.
From my reading of the bill and research I have done about Gatineau Park, I can see that there is a similar issue. We want to make sure that there is no confusion. Giving Parliament more power to change boundaries is one way to achieve that goal via compromise. The work needs to be done by taking everyone's opinion into account, not by decree.
I would like to go back to the example I gave earlier. A group of citizens got together to protect the orchards on and around Mont Saint-Hilaire. People managed to create what they call “the green belt”. That is interesting. The green belt is very good for the region's economy. People from all over Quebec, Canada and the United States, including Massachusetts, go there to pick apples. The orchards are protected thanks to the work of citizens in my riding. They worked to maintain the integrity of part of that land and to take a balanced approach to development going on in the region, especially in the municipality of Mont-Saint-Hilaire. That is the kind of vision we see in the bill introduced by my colleague from Hull—Aylmer.
It is a little disappointing to hear what the government has to say about it. Unfortunately, during private members' business, we do not have much of a chance to respond to the government's position.
The government seems to be rather closed-minded. I find that very difficult to understand. Especially since this bill, as I mentioned, would put Gatineau Park on an equal footing with other national parks. I believe my colleague from Ottawa Centre mentioned that in the question he asked my colleague a little earlier.
It is very surprising to see such a lack of legal protections for a park that is so important at the regional and national levels. When we take that into consideration, we realize that improvements are necessary.
The government's position seems even more curious when we consider that it introduced related bills in the past, which unfortunately died on the order paper as a result of an election or prorogation. Those bills had the same objective. At the time, we believed that the bills did not go far enough, but at least they were a step in the right direction.
I hope that the government members will think about this issue. I did hear some comments indicating that the government seems to understand the importance of protecting this legacy and this park. We shall see how the remaining MPs vote. I hope that they will realize that this is very important.
My colleague has a clear mandate to do this work on behalf of the public. After all, this was brought forward during the election. The petitions presented are indicative of the NDP's support for the bill. We all worked with my colleague from Hull—Aylmer to present petitions signed by several thousand people. They all believe that this bill is a step in the right direction and that it is needed to properly protect the park.
Even though I am not from the national capital region, I know that the National Capital Commission takes a different approach to running parks and historic institutions in the region. It is not managed like anything else. That is not a criticism; just a statement of fact.
This reality calls for some nuance, which is taken into account in the bill. I do not think that should be an argument against the bill. This bill takes into account the legal provisions that already exist in the National Capital Act. That is important to point out in the House today.
At the end of the day, the NDP thinks it is very important to consider protecting this environment and heritage.
Far too often, in matters of the environment and heritage, there is not enough consideration for future generations. It is great that we can enjoy Gatineau Park today. We must certainly take advantage of that. I have had the chance to visit the park, and it is a gem not just for the region, but for Quebec and Canada as well.
However, it is important that we be able to enjoy it beyond today. The park must be maintained for future generations to enjoy. We must not be greedy with this type of park. Of course we should enjoy it now, but we must also pass it on to the next generation. That is extremely important.
The NDP's balanced position is to promote environmental protection and understand the nuances that must be taken into account when considering the various existing laws, while moving forward in a progressive manner. After all, we are forward thinkers. That is exactly the position we advocate when it comes to the environment. These legal provisions and this bill constitute a common sense approach.
We clearly must support this bill. I join with my colleague from Ottawa Centre and my colleague from Hull—Aylmer, the bill's sponsor, in supporting this bill. I would like to congratulate her once again for her efforts.
I urge all my colleagues to follow this example and support the bill.
Electoral Reform March 7th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, completely debunked the myths that the Minister of State for Democratic Reform has been trying to spread for weeks.
He could not have been more clear. The Conservatives will deny tens of thousands of voters of their right to vote and will treat every honest Canadian as a potential cheat. He explicitly spoke out against the measure that excludes fundraising from the spending limit. He spoke at length about the bill's many other flaws.
However, the Conservatives want us to ignore this expert on our democratic system and would prefer that we listen to the opinions of a few “normcore” MPs who, to make themselves more interesting, are inventing all sorts of stories about potential fraud. The Minister of State for Democratic Reform himself has been accused of making things up by none other than Harry Neufeld, the very person the minister keeps using to defend his botched reform.
Canadians deserve better. They deserve a government that takes the integrity of our electoral system seriously. They deserve a government that does not use every trick in the book to try to keep experts from testifying. They deserve an NDP government.
Privilege March 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House are convinced that the member misled us. What is more, the Speaker's ruling shows that the Speaker somewhat agrees with our position. As I said, and as my colleague mentioned in his comments and questions, the fact remains that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville did not simply present us with misleading or erroneous information, to put it politely and in parliamentary language. The facts he presented to us are directly related to the bill and were used by the government to support this bill that seeks to change the very basis of our democracy.
As much as I respect my colleagues, the controversial nature of these amendments and the controversy raised by this electoral “deform” bill show that the debate among members may not be enough.
I think that it is therefore all the more important to send this issue to committee to understand the accusations the member made. He retracted his comments, saying that he had heard about this happening, but there is a lot of confusion surrounding the issue. Did he see it happen? Did he hear about it from someone else? Did someone in the Prime Minister's Office tell him to say that? Did the government base the bill on that information? We believe so, but we must really examine the issue and find out more so that we have the correct information when we vote on Bill C-23. As I said, and it bears repeating, we are talking about the very basis of our democracy.
Privilege March 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, although I respect and enjoy our dear friend Jean-René Dufort, it is rather sad to hear that the two best sources of information are Infoman and the member for Mississauga—Streetsville, with his false information. That says a lot about the work that was done.
It is even more mind-boggling when we consider, as I mentioned in my speech, that in its motion, the NDP asked for a bill within six months. It took much longer than that, not to mention, as we read in the media, that the initial bill was rejected by the Conservative caucus. I wonder why. That may be part of the problem pointed out by the member for Mississauga—Streetsville. After all, he said he witnessed certain things in a campaign office. There must not be many campaign offices that opened the door to the Conservative candidate, except for one, and I will let my colleagues guess which one.
In the end, these are not just simple stories about Bob in my riding who had this or that problem; we are talking about criminal offences. That is very serious.
Privilege March 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, this motion on the point of privilege regarding the member for Mississauga—Streetsville is such a strange situation. We usually like to start our speeches by saying that it is an honour to rise in the House, and it is an honour, but it is sad to be speaking to a subject like this one.
My colleagues from all parties spend a lot of time going door to door, visiting organizations, participating in events and talking to their constituents. We are no strangers to cynicism and negative comments about the work that we do as MPs and politicians. As elected members of Parliament, part of our job is to change that reputation and show people that we can have a positive impact on our communities and on their daily lives. We hope to earn their trust after an election, regardless of the circumstances of the election, whether we had a hard-fought win or we came in on a wave, like the orange wave in Quebec. We all have a responsibility to earn the trust of our constituents.
It is very troubling when members do things or say things that mislead the House, as in the case before us today. This situation is worthy of being examined, especially since it is related to Bill C-23, the electoral “deform” bill. This bill will change the very foundation of our democracy. Some aspects of the bill are very worrisome, and the public is not necessarily aware of them.
I want to expand on that point. When we rise to speak during debates in the House of Commons, we are not necessarily doing so just to convince our colleagues. We certainly hope to convince some of them, but at the end of the day, we rise to speak not only on behalf of our constituents, but also to them. We communicate ideas, try to help them understand the bill and, in most cases, share our thoughts on the bill and how our party feels about it.
When we debate a subject and try to explain a bill as complex and important as the one that amends the Canada Elections Act, we have to make sure that people know the real story. When a member actually misleads the House, and therefore the people we represent—those from Chambly—Borduas in my case—and all Canadians, that is extremely troubling.
My colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley said it well: if we look at the situation, we realize that the intervention by our colleague from Mississauga—Streetsville was clearly made with the intention to mislead the House. First, it has to be said, the statement was made not just once, but twice, at two different times. Obviously we are all aware of the time we are talking about the most, which was February 6, in the House. I was here and we were all surprised to hear such a thing. However, since the member said the same thing twice, the three conditions were met. You, yourself, said so in your ruling yesterday, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member was aware of what he was doing, he intended to mislead the House and this was not really a mistake.
Yesterday, the Conservatives gave some interesting speeches—and that is being kind—and we are hearing the same things again today: the member is fair and honest. He simply misspoke and he has apologized.
As I said in the House yesterday, a mistake is forgetting someone's birthday, someone you have not seen in a long time. Mixing up the name of a riding such as Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, which is long and complex, that is a mistake. It is an easy mistake to make when speaking in the House, especially if one is trying to speak without notes.
However, when someone stands in the House—as a member duly elected by the people, I dare say—and that individual states, with confidence and certainty, that he has seen a crime committed in his riding, that is a very serious accusation.
That is a far cry from mixing up numbers, a name, a date or any other information. We realize that the member was willing to come back to the House and have his remarks corrected in the Hansard. However, I doubt that the government, which proudly claims to be tough on crime, would be willing to forgive other criminals who simply apologized. I am not saying that the member opposite is a criminal, but he did commit an unforgivable act in the House, one that could be considered contempt of Parliament. That is what we are discussing today.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said that there was no contempt, that we have all of the facts and that there is no need to study the issue in committee. However, during question period, when the Minister of State for Democratic Reform was asked how many cases of fraud were the same as those identified by the member for Mississauga—Streetsville in the House, he said that there were some, but he did not say how many or provide any details.
The minister is not able to provide clarification, but it seems that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville can. He corrected his statement, but that led to a lot of confusion. We therefore need to clear things up in committee.
It is essential to say things that are accurate. Nobody should mislead the members of the House and much less the people of Canada. This is very serious, because this is not a routine bill. In the past, the Canada Elections Act has not been the kind of thing that gets changed frequently. The changes proposed by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform are especially significant because they had to be put forward following a series of accusations and deeply disturbing scandals. In this case, we are talking about robocalls, but there was also the in-and-out scandal and the very serious Liberal scandals, such as the sponsorship scandal.
People are worried, and with good reason, about how elections are conducted. This bill was introduced long after a motion moved by the member for Toronto—Danforth, if memory serves. The NDP asked the minister of state for democratic reform at the time to introduce a bill within six months.
Not only has all this time been spent on introducing the bill, but false statements were made that misled members. This illustrates the bad faith shown by this government, which has the gall to defend the member in question.
Ms. Therrien, for instance, stood up to disclose factual things about employment insurance. There are other situations in which public servants may have made mistakes, and this has created a difficult situation for the government. In each of these cases, the government did not hesitate to publicly destroy those people's reputations. The Conservatives did not hesitate to put the blame for a difficult situation on public servants, instead of accepting that they were elected to form a government and assume their responsibilities.
It is interesting that the government is not treating a member of its own caucus the same way, after he acted inappropriately by misleading the House and Canadians. We would have hoped that the government would show its own members the same hard line that it shows public servants and other Canadians who sometimes do difficult jobs. There is a double standard here.
We in the NDP sometimes engage in overheated rhetoric in the House. We are all guilty of that. At the end of the day, however, we are talking about the truthfulness of the facts. We are talking about misleading the House. That is what the member did, and it needs to be studied at committee. It is not an exaggeration to say that our democracy depends on it. After all, this bill aims to deform—or reform, as the minister would say—our election laws. We really need to examine this issue and have a much higher standard for the members of this House.
Employment March 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, let us talk about jobs. There is an increasing number of unpaid internships in Canada. Nearly 300,000 young Canadians are doing unpaid work. These young people work hard and did well in school, but unfortunately, they are being forced to accept entry-level jobs and work without pay for long periods of time, often in very difficult conditions.
The youth unemployment rate shows that it is extremely difficult for young people to access the labour market.
What does the minister intend to do to ensure that these young people are treated fairly?
Committees of the House March 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the Conservatives preach so much about the importance of democracy and yet seem unable to take a look at themselves in the mirror.
The hon. member for Don Valley West said that it is important to address issues as they arise. If we addressed the issue of the member for Mississauga—Streetsville's contempt of Parliament, it is precisely because a Speaker's ruling was given. This is not about the opposition playing games, as the Conservatives often like to say, and it is not about fearmongering or any of the other excuses the Conservatives always use.
The Speaker rose in the House and presented his ruling on the extremely serious accusations made regarding a bill that affects our democracy and elections. When such an issue is before us, we must begin debating it immediately so that it can be examined by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
The Conservatives want to change the subject by claiming that there are other more important issues that need to be addressed. However, if an on-the-spot Speaker's ruling is not a priority in the House, then I do not know what is.
Does the hon. member recognize the importance of yesterday's Speaker's ruling, which we should be discussing right now?
Privilege March 3rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, some of the comments made by my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, are intriguing.
As the House Leader of the Official Opposition said earlier, my colleague is speaking about rhetorical tools. We do use words that are sometimes inflammatory, and we can have a debate about their use. However, whether our colleague got carried away in the heat of the moment or he really thought about it and wrote down what he said, the fact remains that he spoke with confidence and he knew what he was saying.
This is such a sad state of affairs that I have to defend a Liberal colleague. The member for Markham—Unionville was talking about the budget deficit. Of course, when a member talks about numbers, he may make a mistake. Sometimes, I forget a friend's birthday, but no one is going to accuse me of lying. However, when a member rises in this place and says with confidence that he saw a crime being committed during an election, there is a serious problem.
That was clearly stated in the Speaker's ruling. The parliamentary secretary should think about his comparisons, which are rather dubious.
Petitions March 3rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table a petition that I worked on with my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. The petitioners want to save the train that links Montreal and Halifax. This is extremely important. A railway is only as strong as its weakest link. These people recognize the importance of maintaining this service. This is yet another example of how people take this important network for granted.