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  • His favourite word is important.

NDP MP for Chambly—Borduas (Québec)

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

Statements in the House

Employment June 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon criticized the high youth unemployment rate, describing it as an epidemic and a major challenge for our times. He is right. Young people are increasingly likely to take unstable, low-paying jobs. Over the past 12 months, Canada lost 47,800 full-time jobs for young people. My generation is getting further and further away from the prosperous society our parents dreamed we would have.

Can the government finally explain to us why it has failed to address youth underemployment and unemployment?

Questions on the Order Paper June 19th, 2014

With regard to the children’s fitness tax credit, do Canadian Heritage or Sport Canada have studies in their possession measuring the impact that this tax credit has on the level of sports participation among young Canadians and the impact that it has on parents’ decisions to register their children in physical activities that are eligible for the tax credit?

Victims Bill of Rights Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is ironic to hear the minister say that time allocation motions have been used throughout Canadian history. When time allocation was used by the Liberals, his party and his prime minister said that it was an affront to Parliament.

I really wonder if he understands that we want to hear from Canadians in committee and that we also represent Canadians. My riding has 99,000 voters and a population of 130,000 people. I do not think that many of them attend committee meetings. That is why I am here, and that is true of all my colleagues and the minister's colleagues as well.

I would like to respond to what he said to my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île when he talked about how we could not raise 25 members to stand and prevent the leader of the official opposition from testifying. First of all, the opposition leader had the courage to testify, unlike most of the ministers in this place. Second, the Speaker ruled that the manoeuvre was not allowed.

In closing, I wonder what he really means when he talks about being on duty. Last Thursday, they had a bit of trouble getting back to the House to vote at 11 p.m. We wonder who is really on duty.

Is he not tired of seeing his government act this way?

Committees of the House June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will take the opportunity to congratulate those folks from the Northwest Territories.

Coming from the north, I appreciate the member's comments. That is exactly where we see how sports can be a bridge for folks. Considering Canada's geographic and social diversity, I think one of the elements that can bridge that is sports. That is something we can all agree on.

Hopefully this report is a first step in that right direction and in the work that we can continue to do on this file.

Committees of the House June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I mentioned this earlier. By all accounts, in some cases, there are some gaps when it comes to infrastructure, even though Canada is doing well overall. Nonetheless, some regions and municipalities lack sports infrastructure.

The situation is made worse by the fact that money for sports infrastructure has been cut from this year's budget. When we consider the excise tax and everything else, we see that this is causing problems for municipalities.

To address the hon. member's other point about young people and the importance of leading an active life, I would say that this goes beyond that. We cannot underestimate or deny how important sports can be in a young person's life. Look at the organization Sports Matter.

The sports matter program has the great idea of seeing some more inter-ministerial collaboration on what sports can do. For example, you may see the Minister of State for Sport work with the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Public Safety.

When we are looking at youth delinquency, for example, a great way to solve the problems involved would be getting kids involved in sports or seeing the Minister of State for Sport work with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Hockey Night in Canada has a Punjabi broadcast now. There is a reason for that. It is because sports is a great gateway for new Canadians to become more active and more involved in their communities. There are a lot of those effects that the sports community sees and, unfortunately, the government does not always see.

That being said, I do want to end on a positive note. While there are criticisms to raise and problems in the report, I have to say that I have been able to work very well with the Minister of State for Sport. At the end of the day, it is a very positive file to work on, because even though we do not always agree on the methods behind the madness, we do have the same ultimate goal. When it comes to sports, it is one file where it is really important to bring that point to the forefront, maybe more than any other.

Committees of the House June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. As well, I promise him that one day I will learn how to stop when skating. Then I might not look so bad as the sport critic.

All kidding aside, my colleague raises a very good point. In committee, we looked particularly at the situation with respect to the Paralympics. Since the Paralympic Games are held after the Olympic Games, the media frenzy surrounding the games calms down a bit and the dust has settled somewhat. It is often quite unfortunate. We are all guilty—probably even some members in this House—of moving on to something else and in the process forgetting about these highly courageous, exceptionally talented people whose performances are sometimes more impressive than those of their fellow athletes who competed in the Olympics.

That said, the question was raised as to whether the Paralympic athletes could be better represented in the media. The Canadian Paralympic Committee said that it had managed to do extraordinary work with CBC/Radio-Canada, which broadcasted the games.

Seeing the excellent work they did and just how happy they were to have made so many gains makes the cuts to Radio-Canada and the CBC all the more disappointing. After all this work, which took years, the public broadcaster has become more sensitive to the situation facing Paralympians. This is the kind of example that shows us the problems that these cuts can cause.

Committees of the House June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question, especially since the Is Canada in the Running? report card was published recently. This report card addresses the problem of childhood physical inactivity. We have well-developed infrastructure in Canada. We have some of the best sports infrastructure in the world.

The situation my colleague mentioned in his riding is a good example. We are talking about what more the federal government could do, but the answer is obviously not always infrastructure. We could point out some examples of infrastructure that is not well developed, but overall, that is not the problem.

Of course, the government responded to the report we are talking about today by saying that the tax credit was one of the solutions it was putting forward. However, the tax credit is not enough. I spoke about the problems with the tax credit and the fact that it did not fix the problem. The government has a responsibility to review its policies. The government could provide more support for sports associations, which could serve as an example to our children, our communities and our families. This could be a new way to encourage them to get involved in physical activity. We are certainly not lacking in arenas. There is another problem, but the government does not seem to be able to identify or address it.

Committees of the House June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I move that the second report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, presented on Wednesday, February 5, 2014, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for that warm welcome.

I would like to discuss this report, which was tabled just after the House returned following the adjournment for the holiday break. It was about preparations for the Sochi Olympic Games. It is very important to take this opportunity to congratulate the athletes for their fine performance and to thank them for how they represented us on the world stage.

With all due respect to our interpreters, since I get to work alongside these stakeholders and the athletes, I will, in the other official language, again repeat and offer my congratulations to our athletes for their phenomenal performances and the pride with which they represented us in Sochi.

I would like to talk about the recommendations in this report.

The first recommendation had to do with the biggest and most worrisome issue about the Sochi games. I am talking about issues related to protecting human rights and, more specifically, Russia's anti-LGBT laws. Those laws caused a lot of political tension and a lot of fear and concern over how people would be treated, especially those from abroad. We are talking here about Canadians who attended this event as athletes, coaches, support staff and journalists and everyone else involved in the mission to Sochi.

My colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, who is our critic for LGBT rights and issues in Canada, and I worked hard together to bring this issue to the forefront in terms of the concerns that a lot of folks expressed in the lead-up to the Sochi games.

One of the things that concerned us greatly was the fact that on several occasions we had the opportunity to raise the issue in the House and question the Minister of Foreign Affairs as to what exactly was going to be done and whether the government would accept the New Democrats' recommendation to appoint a special consular official, as New Zealand did, who would deal specifically with any issues that could arise concerning the anti-gay laws in Russia.

Unfortunately, the government did not act upon that idea. Not only that, but we were unable to get any sort of concrete information as to what exactly was being done. We had to limit ourselves to very vague ideas of possible extra consular staff and extra attention possibly being brought to the issue without any specifics.

That said, in committee and in the report, we were pleased to find that, despite our great disappointment regarding the lack of specific information from the minister concerning security measures, we nonetheless could see the good will to ensure people's safety. No matter our political allegiance, we all agreed that Canadians going to Sochi for the Olympic Games had to be safe. Naturally, we are very pleased that there were no unfortunate incidents and that everything went as it should. Despite our political differences on this issue, it is important, from that perspective, to recognize the work done by the consular officers on site. They were on the alert and there were no incidents. We are very pleased with that and with the government's response. Although some details were missing, we have to be satisfied with how events unfolded.

Setting aside the security issue, with this study we also had the opportunity to look into the development of, and funding for, our athletes. That is a very important matter. It is interesting because every time we ask questions about sport or physical inactivity among young people, the government likes to say that it is making record investments in sport. It is probably the only time we will hear this from an NDP or opposition member with respect to a government position. However, we agree with this government position and we do not want to make any changes to government investments in our Olympic athletes.

Nevertheless, the major concern raised in committee was not how much money was spent, but how the money was spent.

A big concern arose with regard to the own the podium program, which is obviously the cornerstone of the government's policy when it comes to funding sports in Canada, and more particularly, when it comes to funding our Olympic athletes and their successes. There are some challenges coming up in the next couple of days with own the podium, because own the podium was coming to an end in its first iteration. There was a need, according to nearly all the witnesses who presented to committee, to see that we had proper timelines in place to allow for the proper development of athletes. There was some concern about some of that funding being too short term. I think it is important to highlight the government's response to the committee's report, which did raise in recommendation No. 2 that we see that this funding continue over a longer term. The government does say, and as I said it is a fact, that it has continued the record investment in the last budget, but it is very wishy-washy in terms of how long that funding will actually be in place and whether the timeline will be appropriate for the different sports organizations.

In terms of the own the podium program, witnesses also talked about the sports it supported. Own the podium, as the name suggests, focuses mainly on the sports that we are most likely to medal in. We heard from a number of witnesses who represented associations for sports in which we were deemed unlikely to have a chance of winning, sports that do not get a lot of attention, such as biathlon. We heard from representatives of the biathlon association.

We do not want to change the funding strategy, but we do not want to abandon athletes in sports that are more obscure—I do not really like that word because it seems negative—and sports where athletes tend to be forgotten. It is very important not to do that. Once again, the government response does not really address that issue.

Recommendation No. 4, which we talked about in committee, is about encouraging private sector investment. All of our sports associations and the Canadian Olympic Committee rely heavily on funding from the private sector. The NDP and taxpayers know that it is important and good for private companies in our society to support and encourage our athletes in this way.

However, it is extremely important for the government to create an environment that encourages private sector investment. Several witnesses told us that that is not always the case, despite major improvements since the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

In that sense I think we are somewhat satisfied with the government's answer. We agree we need to find better ways to encourage private funding for athletes and for the Canadian Olympic Committee and all the sports associations that represent our athletes so well, that structure them so well, and represent the sports so well.

That being said, there is not a concrete plan yet. The Minister of State for Sport, with whom I have an excellent working relationship, and I will be discussing this in the coming weeks, months and years leading up to the next winter Olympics.

Recommendation No. 5 from the committee's report deals with an issue that has been at the core of the work I have done since becoming the NDP sports critic. It is the question of youth inactivity and how we can find better ways to take advantage of these great role models that we have in our Olympic athletes and these great ambassadors, dare I say great human beings? They are fantastic people I have had the honour and pleasure of meeting. They are ready and willing to help young Canadians be more active. They are ready and willing to be those role models.

Many of the witnesses who presented to committee did bring up this concern.

I think, as we see in the recommendation, part of that comes through working with provinces and territories and, through them, with municipalities. Municipalities are obviously at the front line of the services offered to Canadians when it comes to infrastructure, for example, when it comes to having sports programs in place at the more local level. I think that is interesting. I remember having a discussion with some of the witnesses and some of the stakeholders, both in committee and in private discussions. I think that one of the ways we need to move forward is to look at the funding as a pyramid.

At the top of the pyramid are the elite, our Olympic athletes, to whom we will continue to provide financial and moral support. However, when our Olympic athletes perform for us, they also inspire future Olympians, young people in our local communities. That is the base of the pyramid.

There is a very good expression for this:

A rising tide raises all ships.

We should be funding sport and supporting our Olympians with the aim of encouraging young people to be more physically active. That is something that the sports community is very supportive of.

At the local level, we encourage people to be active. Of course, not every young person is going to go on to become an Olympian. However, some of them will maintain healthy lifestyles and others will become Olympians. It is a win-win because we will have an active community as well as up-and-coming Olympians, who will make us very proud.

In its response, the government mentioned the children's fitness tax credit. I was disappointed with that response because we concluded that the children's fitness tax credit was hugely inadequate and did not address the needs of everyday Canadians.

Let me explain myself in a bit more detail.

I think the first big flagrant problem with the tax credit for youth physical activity is the fact that when we look at the income brackets of those who are benefiting from this tax credit, it is those who do not need it. At the end of the day, it is a situation where one has to put out in order to get back. Folks who are able to pay are getting extra money in their pocket, which is fine.

However, the flip side of the coin is that folks in lower-income brackets who do not necessarily have the ability to pay for the skyrocketing costs of participating in sports, whether that is the equipment or the registration costs, are not able to benefit from this tax credit. That is a huge problem.

Our preliminary research shows that tax credits do not really seem to help those who are not already enrolled in physical activities or sports.

Those who benefit from the tax credit are usually already enrolled in a sport anyway. The government says that this tax credit is meant to be an incentive for those who are not already involved in physical activities, but it is clear that the policy and social objectives of the tax credit are not being met. That is why we are trying to find a way to improve this policy, which has proven to be somewhat disappointing.

I want to say another word on the rising cost of sport in this country.

When we look at some organizations, I think of the phenomenal work that is done by an organization like Right to Play. It is an organization that sometimes goes to war-torn areas in the world. It also goes to developing countries where it is a lot more challenging to put in place the proper sports infrastructure, to get kids involved, because they are worried about day-to-day issues. They are worried about eating. They are worried about clean drinking water and things like that. They are not necessarily thinking about physical activity. Right to Play has done phenomenal work in using sports as a tool to build communities, using sports to get young people involved in their communities in a positive way.

I always like to say when I meet folks that one of the reasons I got involved in politics in my community was through sports. It is a way to meet people in the community, to be involved with them and, hopefully, one that leads to more constructive community participation.

That being said, when we think about the work that Right to Play does, it is unfortunate that we sometimes forget what is happening in our own backyard. To that point, there is some great work being done. I know there are some projects that are getting aboriginal youth more involved in sports, programs that unfortunately do not always have the support that we would like to see from the government. So when I see this answer from the government, I am obviously pleased to see that it is acknowledging the problem, but it is far, far from enough.

Let us look at the other recommendations in the report and the aspect that pertains to the provincial governments. I think it is important to understand the challenge facing the sports community in terms of respecting jurisdictions.

A number of witnesses said that provinces such as British Columbia and Quebec were good examples to follow when it came to some aspects of their programs to encourage young people to participate in sports. We are hoping for collaboration in that regard. In its response to the report, the government promises to strengthen and improve that collaboration.

However, we are still concerned. Whether we are talking about sports—a somewhat less partisan topic—or about more substantial issues in this Parliament, we know that collaboration with the provinces sometimes means that the federal government offloads its responsibilities onto the provinces.

It is extremely important that collaboration means just that and that the federal government fully assumes its responsibilities and does the work it needs to do in that regard, while respecting the jurisdiction of the provinces. The most obvious example is education, where most of the work is done to encourage young people to engage in physical activity.

I would also like to talk about certain aspects of the study that are not necessarily included in the recommendations but that we hear about. However, I do not want to forget a major recommendation in the report that deals with doping and injuries, two extremely important issues. In committee, we heard from a witness from the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, who spoke specifically about doping.

When I look at the question of doping, there are some serious concerns. As far as we and the stakeholders are concerned, not enough is being done right now, especially on how we behave in terms of border security and with what is happening at the ministry of public safety with the handling of drugs. Often they are steroids, as in this particular case, and there is a huge problem with the amount of information available. A lot of time steroids are finding their way into products that are being consumed, with very little to no information available for athletes. So they are consuming these in ignorance, and that is a very serious problem.

I see that I am running out of time. It is crazy how time flies when you are talking about something you feel passionate about.

The government did not really mention concussions in its response, but I would like to say that the answer to that problem is simple.

It involves supporting the bill introduced by my colleague from Sudbury, my predecessor as the critic for sport, which seeks to implement a national strategy to combat injuries in amateur sports, particularly concussions, which are a scourge. We are working very hard to try to set up a round table to bring together experts.

The government brags that it has made unprecedented investments in the study of concussions. However, we know that too much work in this area is being done in silos. We need to bring together the stakeholders to solve this problem.

I will end on that note, and I encourage members to ask me questions so that I am able to share more information on this subject.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, about 60 Olympic athletes, coaches and stakeholders in the amateur sports world have spoken out against the cuts to the CBC, an essential tool for supporting amateur sport. The visibility that CBC gives our athletes makes it easier for them to find sponsors and encourages young people to participate in sports. If we relied solely on private broadcasters, we would only be able to watch amateur sports every two years, during the Olympics.

Does the government realize that our athletes and young sports enthusiasts are the ones who will be paying the price of the cuts it is making to the CBC? Perhaps if the government realized that, it would be showing more enthusiasm than it is right now.

Sports on CBC/Radio-Canada June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, while our athletes made all Canadians proud during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the Conservatives' cuts may well compromise the media coverage of our top amateur athletes' performances by forcing CBC to cut its sports service to almost nothing.

May I remind the minister that participation in sports by young Canadians is at its lowest and that one way to fight the epidemic of obesity and physical inactivity among young people is to encourage them to be inspired by our greatest amateur athletes? By cutting this media coverage, we are preventing young Canadians from identifying with our amateur athletes, who are role models for living an active life and participating in sports.

The cuts imposed on CBC will jeopardize programs like Sports Weekend, which could have a huge impact on amateur sports coverage in our country. The Canadian amateur sports community is rightfully worried, and many of our Olympians have signed a petition to urge Conservatives to stop their attacks on our public broadcaster.

After all our athletes have done to represent us so well and with so much pride, the least we can do is give them the coverage they deserve.