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  • His favourite word is colleague.

NDP MP for Brome—Missisquoi (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 42.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Agricultural Growth Act June 13th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech, which was very well documented, as usual. I would like him to know that the Quebec chapter of the Friends of the Earth is concerned about Bill C-18. I would like the hon. member to tell me whether they have cause for concern:

This bill considerably diminishes farmers' ancestral rights by requiring them to pay agribusiness giants royalties on their entire crop.

Are they right to be concerned?

Main Estimates, 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question.

I would simply say that I am not surprised that the Conservatives and Liberals are hiding behind fine principles to defend the indefensible. The Senate is unelected and unaccountable to Canadians. Senators do whatever they want in the upper chamber.

I am not surprised to hear that such things go on in that dark place.

Main Estimates, 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

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

I will answer with what I said in my speech: the Conservatives and the Liberals keep swearing that they really want to change things, but when they vote for the status quo at every opportunity, it comes as no surprise.

The Conservative Party continues to defend the Patrick Brazeaus, Pamela Wallins and Mike Duffys of this world, and the Liberal Party continues to defend the Mac Harbs of this world.

Main Estimates, 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this evening I will be talking about the main estimates. The government keeps talking about how it wants to shrink the bureaucracy and save taxpayers' money.

Well, the NDP has a solution that will help the government save $90 million per year. The money saved could be used to enhance the programs we have been talking about this evening.

How would the NDP save $90 million? Well, it is very simple. We would abolish the Senate, which is an archaic and undemocratic institution. Why are we paying $90 million per year for an institution made up of unelected members who are accountable to nobody?

Since 2011, 369 residents of Brome—Missisquoi have written to me about the Senate or have signed a petition calling for the Senate to be abolished. I am speaking on their behalf this evening.

Canadians work tirelessly to make ends meet, but the senators sit only 70 days a year. They are only asked to work three days a week, and that is when they even bother to show up for work.

In 2005, the Prime Minister said that the Senate was a relic of the 19th century, but since 2006, he has appointed 57 new senators, 51 of them former Conservative Party backers. Senators are completely unaccountable. They represent only the party that appointed them. They do not represent their regions or even the Canadian people.

It seems to me that, over the years, the Senate has turned into a gang of publicly funded lobbyists disguised as provincial representatives.

On April 18, 2014, the National Post reported that one-third of senators hold positions on either public or private boards of directors. Thirty-four of the 96 senators are board members. According to the National Post analysis, senators earn a lot of money from their membership on boards.

I would like to know how they can wear so many different hats at the same time without being in conflict of interest. Senators sit on boards of companies in financial services, mining and energy, and real estate. This makes me wonder how impartial they really are when they are debating our bills.

Let us not forget that, in November 2010, under a minority government, the NDP passed Bill C-311 through the House of Commons. That bill would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels. That was a much more ambitious target than the one the government announced at the Copenhagen summit. The bill was passed by elected representatives in the House of Commons and killed by the Senate.

When asked to justify this strategy, the Conservative Senate leader at the time retorted that the government, which did not support the bill, was not going to miss an opportunity to get rid of it.

One of my colleagues introduced another bill to protect transgendered people, which was passed by this House in April 2013 and is currently being held up in the Senate.

The Senate has never had a problem quickly passing the omnibus bills that this government pushes through here with its majority and time allocation motions.

What other bills passed in the House will the Senate kill in the future?

The NDP has long been calling for the Senate to be abolished. Originally, the Senate was designed to be a chamber of sober second thought. It has become a haven for donors, fundraisers and other friends of the Conservative and Liberal parties.

Canadians are becoming increasingly frustrated with the scandals in this undemocratic, unelected Senate that is currently under investigation. The senators continue to abuse Canadians' trust. That is why now, more than ever, this antiquated institution must be abolished.

We are not the only ones who want to abolish it. Manitoba and Quebec got rid of their senates many years ago. Their unicameral legislatures work just fine. People in New Zealand did the same with their upper chamber. Saskatchewan MLAs recently adopted a motion to abolish the Senate. I remind members that Saskatchewan has a Conservative premier.

Here in Ottawa, the Conservatives and Liberals refuse to take action. The NDP has proposed some practical solutions to make the Senate more transparent now, such as the following motion:

That all funding should cease to be provided to the Senate beginning on July 1, 2013.

The Liberals voted against this motion. Then, in the fall, we moved a motion to make the Senate more accountable to Canadians. The NDP was optimistic that the old parties would reassess how they use the Senate and support our motion. Our measures would have prevented senators from participating in partisan activities and using taxpayers' money to participate in activities that are not directly related to their parliamentary work.

The outcome of the vote on that motion shows that they are all talk and that transparency and accountability are not really that important to them. It was particularly disappointing to see the Liberals join forces with the Conservatives to defeat this motion. The Conservatives and the Liberals keep swearing that they really want to change things, but as I said, they vote for the status quo at every opportunity.

Canadians now know that the NDP will continue to defend our democratic values and fight for the Senate to be abolished. Why are we paying $90 million a year for an unelected, unaccountable Senate? Abolishing the Senate would save millions of dollars, and that money could be invested elsewhere in the estimates.

Main Estimates, 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Sherbrooke for the excellent job that he does on a daily basis for his constituents.

The Conservatives and the Liberals swear, with their hands on their hearts, that they want to change things, but at every opportunity, they vote for the status quo.

In his view, why does this happen?

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. I am saying that Honduras does not need a co-conspirator. What Pablo Heidrich, an economist at the North-South Institute, said before the Standing Committee on International Trade on April 10, 2014, is that Honduras needs technical assistance and a certain level of pressure so that the government becomes more responsive to wider social demands and it stops being sort of a committee that administers the gains of a very limited group of people.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her question.

Unlike the Liberals and the Conservatives, who are ready to accept free trade agreements at all costs for the sake of a signing ceremony and photo ops, we, in the NDP, believe that the importance of international trade should be recognized.

We want to increase our international trade, but, at the same time, this has to be done in a manner consistent with Canadian values. We also want the Canadian economy to benefit from this trade.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

In 2013, when I sat on the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, we studied the case of Honduras at length. Therefore, I believe I have enough facts to oppose this bill, which is unacceptable.

The despotic regime that reigns in Honduras is characterized by its anti-democratic practices, its corruption, its failed institutions and its history of human rights violations. Canada should not be signing a free trade agreement with that country.

The NDP believes there are three fundamental criteria when considering a trade agreement. First, does the proposed partner respect democracy and human rights, acceptable environmental and labour standards, and Canadian values? Second, does the proposed partner's economy have significant or strategic value to Canada? Third, are the terms of the proposed agreement satisfactory?

The proposed agreement with Honduras does not meet any of these criteria, as we clearly showed in the previous debates, despite the fact that the Conservatives have used their majority to limit the time to review this bill. Only five hours of debate on a treaty that was negotiated over three years. This is ridiculous. I also find it difficult to understand why Liberal members would agree to signing an agreement with Honduras.

We are promoting an agreement with a brutal dictatorship, and I am choosing my words carefully. By signing this agreement, we are giving legitimacy to a regime put in place following a coup. The Subcommittee on International Human Rights heard several witnesses from Honduras and experts on this issue. I heard horror stories. Since the coup in Honduras, journalists, union representatives and people who are asking for greater democracy are being killed. In fact, they will kill anything they do not like in that country. Honduras is the murder capital of the world, and most of the murders are not even properly investigated by the police.

Professor Gordon of Wilfrid Laurier University, who testified before the committee, said that the possibility of a free election needs to be called into question. Some members of the opposition parties have been assassinated. In 2013, there was an average of 10 killings a month. According to Professor Dana Frank from the University of California, 80% of crimes in Honduras go unpunished. There are many documented cases of police corruption. Between January 2011 and November 2012 alone, the police carried out 149 summary executions of civilians. In January 2013, the United Nations asked for the removal of four judges of the Supreme Court of Honduras for violations of international standards and because there was a serious threat to democracy. In February 2013, the United Nations working group on the use of mercenaries indicated that the Government of Honduras had failed to properly regulate private security companies. These companies are involved in numerous cases of human rights violations, including murders, disappearances, forced expulsions and rapes.

Moreover, censorship is common in Honduras. It is alleged that journalists are corrupted and advertisements are manipulated to ensure that coverage is positive and to silence opponents.

According to the national human rights commission of Honduras, 29 journalists have been murdered since the coup.

This is the question I would ask: if Canadian mining engineers were murdered, what recourse would Canada have? It would have none. There is no justice and therefore murderers are not even prosecuted. It is in the interest of Canadian mining companies to have a certain legal framework in Honduras. I would ask them the following question: what good is a legal framework when there is no rule of law in the country?

Should Canada support, by means of a trade agreement, a government of thugs? The Honduran regime is corrupt. All the stakeholders have said the same thing and even the U.S. Senate acknowledged that this is unacceptable.

Will this agreement benefit Honduras? I seriously doubt it. Two years after the coup, 100% of the increase in income went to only 10% of the population, while poverty increased by 26%. This agreement will only benefit a corrupt elite.

Canada used to be a world leader in foreign affairs, renowned for its ability to help other organizations and other countries become more democratic, freer, fairer to its citizens and more respectful of human rights. However, agreements such as this one, supported by the Conservatives and the Liberals, will make us take a step backwards.

Entering into such an agreement with a corrupt government shows little concern for human rights and sends the message to similar countries that this is acceptable to Canada. The Conservative government and its partners, the Liberals, find that acceptable. We are debating an agreement with a brutal regime, and closure has been invoked.

We are trampling democracy, here and elsewhere, and I am sad to see the Liberal members supporting this process. The Conservative government imposed closure 68 times to end debate. Is that a sign that the government is turning away from democracy?

The agreement with Honduras was negotiated without any transparency and despite repeated requests from stakeholders in various sectors of Canada's economy. The Government of Canada was never willing to make the text of the agreement public during the negotiation process. Given these concerns, I am disappointed that my colleagues from the other parties want to support this treaty. This agreement is stained with the blood of Hondurans.

We risk damaging Canada's international reputation if we enter into a partnership with such a regime. My constituents of Brome—Missisquoi sent me here in the hope of building a different Canada.

In light of the facts that we have been able to show despite the time allocation brought in by the Conservatives, I will not support Bill C-20. I hope that Canadians will remember that the Liberals and Conservatives voted in favour of a tree trade agreement with a brutal dictatorship.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very well-researched speech. I wonder if he could comment on the following sentence:

...an FTA would provide international legitimacy to a political regime and economic model that is oligarchic, oppressive and unjust.

Those are not my words. They are from Ricardo Grinspun, an associate professor in the Department of Economics at York University, who appeared before the Standing Committee on International Trade on May 1, 2014.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 5th, 2014

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague on his speech and the hard work he does for veterans and in his riding.

I would like to remind him that 71 veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome have committed suicide since 2008.

Last week, the Minister of Veterans Affairs showed no interest in listening to Ms. Migneault, who lives in my riding, Brome—Missisquoi. In fact, he ran away from her.

I would like to ask him why Bill C-31 does not include measures to help the men and women who have to live with the after-effects of being in combat.