Mr. Speaker, although I had the opportunity to do so earlier, I would like to begin by once again congratulating the hon. member for Essex for Bill C-241. This bill was worth introducing and debating in the House, and I think it is important, since it will give us an opportunity to discuss the reality of tradespeople, a reality we do not discuss enough in the House.
We address all sorts of theoretical questions in the House. We talk about families struggling to make ends meet, and it is important that we do. We also talk about the ultra-rich. However, we do not talk enough about tradespeople, the middle-class, the people who work so hard to build our country.
I will therefore take this opportunity to speak in more detail about a tradesperson I know well and who was born on July 15, 1941, in Hochelaga, Montreal. He was one of seven children, so he had six brothers and sisters. He did not grow up in Hochelaga, but in Pont-Viau, Laval, because his father managed to get a job at Frito-Lay. Chips lovers will recognize the name.
His father was a labourer and had seven mouths to feed in addition to his wife’s and his own. That requires a lot of work. At the time, working-class families were large, and this was a family of nine. Families lived in small apartments, with one, two or three bedrooms. Ultimately, they took what they could get. Children did not have their own room: there was a room for the girls and a room for the boys. There were a lot of people in each bedroom.
This skilled tradesperson got married later on, on June 30, 1962. Let us get back to the issue before us, skilled trades. He began practising his trade in 1956 at the age of 15, and worked hard on construction sites. He and his wife had four children, only three of whom reached adulthood. He found time outside his work hours to take care of his children and to be a hockey and baseball coach. He worked for more than 40 years on construction sites as a skilled tradesperson before retiring in 1997. He then continued to work as a plumber for more than 10 years.
The person I am talking about is my grandfather. I was well aware of his situation, since he was still a tradesperson when I was a child. When I went to his house, even if I was not supposed to, I would go into his garage, a real treasure trove. It was incredible to see all the tools and equipment he had. I also remember the smell of oil and iron. It was amazing.
My grandfather worked on many large construction sites. The Conservatives are going to like this: He worked on the many gas pipelines built in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. He also worked in the petrochemical facilities in Montreal East. At the time, we needed advanced technology and facilities to be able to put gas in our cars. He worked on a number of hospital construction projects across Quebec, and built high-rise housing units on Île-des-Sœurs.
He also worked on a major construction site that had an impact on Quebec, and many people remember it in both a positive and a negative way. It was Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, a huge project that cost a lot of money and took us a lot of years to pay for. However, it was a symbol of pride at the time, since we were hosting the Olympic Games in Quebec, in Montreal, which was an extraordinary feat. My grandfather worked on the Olympic Stadium as a skilled tradesperson.
He also worked on the Port of Montreal facilities, which, with the growth of Montreal, always had to be expanded. Workers were needed to build the infrastructure and make sure it would withstand the passage of time. He also worked at the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu military base.
I listed a few projects to show that tradespeople work all over the place on any number of projects. These are assets and infrastructures that will remain standing for a long time, and people will be able to use them and rely on them even after I am dead.
Plumbers and other skilled tradespersons do not have it easy in their day-to-day work life. For instance, they have to move large and heavy pipes made of various materials such as concrete, steel, iron or copper. PVC pipe is more common these days, although that has not always been the case. It took strong arms to carry them. We are not talking about three-foot pipes, either. They were really something. Tradespersons have to move things like pipes, toilets and sinks. Anyone who has ever carried a toilet or sink knows how heavy they are.
These people do physically hard work and they generally work outside. Think of the people who build high-rise apartments. Workers on construction sites sometimes work inside, but they often work outside, sometimes at -40°C. The work still has to be done, even if it is freezing cold. Workers get used to it, and they work hard.
They do not just work in winter. There is also summer. When it is 30°C or more and they are working indoors, in an enclosed space, with the boilers running, and they need to run pipes and the welding machine adds even more heat, that is even worse. The workers have to put up with that kind of heat while they work, and it is not easy.
Welding in a heat wave is not the easiest thing to do. We do not say it often enough, but sometimes there are problems on the construction site. Maybe the engineer made a mistake with the blueprints, or some delinquent snuck overnight and had fun taking apart half of what was built. Then workers have to redo the work that took them weeks to do in the first place.
Another aspect of the plumber's trade is that they bring their own tools to the site. Sometimes the tools are stolen, so they have to buy new ones. That is an expensive proposition. To do good work, they need high-quality specialized tools.
Take, for example, replacing old pipes. The pipes in our houses transport water, and the pipes that run from our toilets and showers contain hair and feces. When a pipe is removed, what is inside may come out the ends. Sometimes, workers go home smelling bad, with traces of pee and poo on their clothes.
The job is not always a pleasant one. Sometimes, workers need to work in four feet of water or in spaces so tight it is difficult to crawl through. Pipes need to be changed even if there are insects and rats down there.
The working conditions are not always ideal, but the job is really important, and it makes a difference. It is work that needs to be done, and it is vital to every structure.
Every time we turn on the tap, water comes out because a plumber was there before us. Every time we go to the bathroom, we can do so comfortably because a plumber was there before us.
Sometimes there are time constraints, and workers have to work overtime. They do not necessarily work a 40-hour week. Sometimes they work 72 hours in a row because the work needs to be done. They work, they are tired, they do not see their children. They leave early in the morning when it is still dark out and the children are still in bed.
That is the reality of tradespeople. They come home filthy in the evening, with dirt under their fingernails, and they still smell even after they have washed two or three times. They cut themselves, burn themselves and suffer workplace accidents, but they still have to work, so they get over it. Sometimes, they damage their health.
My grandfather is a hero in my eyes. He is a tradesperson. He helped build Quebec. Now others are following in our forebears' footsteps. They are building the Quebec of tomorrow.
Bill C-241 is for these people. I think that the people who built Quebec would have been happy to see such a bill. They would have felt valued. They would have felt that there are members of Parliament who are listening to them and asking what they can do to help them in their work and their lives, based on their reality, so that their difficult and demanding work might be better compensated, valued and recognized. Just talking about it in the House today is a major step, and for that, I would like to thank the hon. member for Essex.
Obviously there are all sorts of considerations at play. Earlier I mentioned all of the construction sites my grandfather worked on. Most of them were in the greater Montreal area.
I also have another grandfather who was a lineman and who worked on almost all the hydro dams in Quebec. He worked hard, in cold weather and sometimes difficult conditions, deep in the woods.
These people built Quebec, and I am very proud of them. We need to talk about them and stand behind them.
That is why the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C‑241. Business people taking the jet or driving a Mercedes or a Cadillac should not be the only ones entitled to deduct their travel expenses. I think that ordinary workers who commute far from home for work, who work hard and earn their paycheque, should also be eligible for and entitled to deductions.
We stand behind our workers, and I thank the member for Essex again for his bill.