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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was problem.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 25% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the same arguments apply to what happened in October 1970 when Pierre Laporte was killed during a terrorist attack.

Should all Canadians have been punished because the FLQ murdered a man? No, only the FLQ should have been punished. That is what we are saying. We want to protect all Canadians, not just those who think they share the government's view.

I will provide a very specific answer because I like answering questions, unlike the Conservatives. My colleague indicated that the only person who spoke in favour of Bill C-51 said that she wished that her brother were still alive. I understand and accept that. Her brother would not have been killed if that man had been committed.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, first of all, let us look at what is really happening.

Just because the NDP does not blindly follow the dictates of the Conservative Party does not mean that we are in favour of insecurity and letting the terrorist movement do whatever it wants. We want to combat the terrorist threat and do so in an effective manner, not make terrorists our allies.

I had an internationally recognized strategy teacher, Professor Garant. He said that terrorism has an incestuous relationship with the media. Terrorism scares people, and the media and politicians avidly repeat the message that it sends and make the threat seem bigger than it really is. This is the same problem that arose in the debate between Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Tommy Douglas on the invocation of the War Measures Act in October 1970.

Bill C-51 seeks to make permanent the measures that that legislation sought to impose in October 1970. Under the War Measures Act, 400 Canadians were imprisoned for absolutely no reason. No charges were laid against them. Tens of thousands of Canadians had their rights restricted. For what? For nothing.

The FLQ, which was a real threat, was dismantled by a classic police operation. The police did not use any special laws or illegal means; they simply did their police surveillance work to look for and find the suspects. The FLQ was dismantled. I want to stress that the special laws served absolutely no purpose.

Why was the War Measures Act invoked? A minister said it was outrageous that thousands of FLQ members were preparing to overthrow the government, as though here in Canada the Islamic State were preparing to invade with tens of thousands of big bad Muslims. Well, no. It is not true.

Two unfortunate events unfolded. The first involved a young man whose father begged the authorities to commit his son for psychiatric reasons. The young man did not have a gun. He used a motor vehicle and a knife. Everyone around him knew how he was and therefore removed any chance for him to use a firearm. The second event involved a young addict who wanted to go to prison for detoxification treatment.

Now, the government wants to deprive us of our rights because of those two incidents. However, everyone is saying that the new laws in Bill C-51 never would have prevented those two unfortunate incidents from happening. That speaks volumes.

The famous sentence uttered by the then Liberal prime minister was “Just watch me”. Well, we are watching the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and we see that he has an image, but not much more than that. There is no substance to his message, and when we try to listen to what he says we are dismayed that there is nothing there.

Later on there was the debate on the charter, which was a protection. In the debate between Ed Broadbent and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Ed Broadbent said that economic rights needed to be replaced by human rights. Thank goodness that debate took place. We would be at a disadvantage today if it had not occurred.

Claude Ryan, a man of common sense, said that the charter was there to protect citizens from the worst and most dangerous abuses, those of the state, and he was right.

I remind members that 1,000 aboriginal women—not two—are currently missing in Canada. That is a big number, yet there is still no special legislation. However, we are not asking for special legislation. We are asking for an inquiry into why the police have failed to prevent these crimes and whether there are any social programs in which we could invest to combat this problem. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing. We are so used to seeing first nations people being systematically dismissed that it has almost become routine. It is hardly newsworthy.

However, when two Canadians die, it is a whole other story. It is unfortunate, but at some point it needs to be said. How can this government make a big issue out of two sad events that need to be addressed, yet it does absolutely nothing to find 1,000 missing women? It does not care. It is just looking for media coverage. It has an incestuous relationship with the media.

Furthermore, organized crime is still a problem. Attempts to settle scores among criminals—and sometimes their victims—account for about 100 murders in Canada every year. About 5,000 people fall victim to illicit drugs every year. For example, there are people who sell low-quality heroin in Montreal. It is hard to get accurate data, since there are always a number of suicides, but thousands of Canadians still die.

What does this government do? It withdraws police personnel tasked with combatting organized crime and assigns them to combatting terrorist activities, which have so far been far less effective than organized crime. In fact, organized crime causes much more harm in Canada.

A majority of experts—even those from the government—agree with us and believe that this is not good legislation, that it will not combat terrorism and that it will not pass the charter test. That will make this law illegal. The government is currently batting zero at the Supreme Court. All of its laws have been deemed ultra vires. Unbelievable.

Even though 48 witnesses, including jurists and former prime ministers, told them that they would get in trouble again with this, they say the Supreme Court will side with them this time. When it comes to credibility, I am more inclined to trust all of the experts, prime ministers and eminent jurists who say that the government will get in trouble than I am to trust the government's legal opinion, which is not worth much.

Don Quixote tilted at windmills believing they were giants. Well, my distinguished Conservative Party colleagues have the mental age of Don Quixote. Once again, they are inventing giants and trying to fight them.

Clearly you do not like what I am telling you, but here is something even better: the vast majority of Canadians agree with me and reject your position.

Polls indicated that you had 85% support, but now that Canadians realize you are attacking their rights, they are withdrawing their support.

Small and Medium-sized Businesses April 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, 40% of the GDP generated by our country depends on small and medium-sized businesses, businesses with fewer than 100 employees. With regard to the retail sector, credit card fees, commonly referred to as credit card processing fees, vary between 1.5% and 4%. We need to act quickly to remedy that.

Other countries have done so without destroying this payment system, which must be preserved. Obviously, I am surprised that the Conservatives did not introduce this bill themselves.

Small and Medium-sized Businesses April 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, first of all, the European regulations do not pertain to just one country. They affect all of Europe. That law was introduced Europe-wide. Every member of the European Union is affected by it.

Second, what my colleague is forgetting and what is very important is that credit card companies do business with banks, but banks do not own credit cards. The member might be confused about that.

The nationalization of banks is an old ghost from the 60s. It would cost Canada hundreds of billions of dollars or more. Ironically, these banks often own pension funds, including the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan.

How can I say this? Why nationalize something that already belongs to us?

Small and Medium-sized Businesses April 30th, 2015

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, small- and medium-sized business owners are the driving force of job creation in Canada, and Canadian retailers and merchants pay credit card merchant fees that are among the highest in the world, and therefore the government should take immediate steps to make the cost of living more affordable for the middle class by: (a) lowering costs for businesses and consumers by reducing transaction fees charged to merchants; and (b) allowing merchants to disclose to the consumer the transaction costs relating to the payment method chosen at the point of sale.

Mr. Speaker, this motion has to do with credit card fees. Unfortunately, Canada has the highest fees in the world. Countries around the world have made attempts to address this problem.

More and more Canadians are making payments with credit cards, which really end up being payment cards in many cases. The problem is that the fees can vary considerably and that some new credit cards being issued—loyalty cards in particular—offer travel points.

However, credit card companies do not pay for these plane tickets. They send the bill to merchants, which means that some credit cards carry fees of 4% or higher. The problem is that many small businesses have a profit margin that varies between 2.25% and 2.75%, especially in the retail food sector. This means that when a customer pays with this new credit card, the small business owner actually loses money.

The goal is to limit this type of abuse, but it is important to do so without destroying a payment system that must be preserved. Canada needs to be able to use credit cards in small businesses. However, small businesses want to remain profitable, which is only natural. The problem is that credit cards often do not let them do that, particularly the new credit cards with really high rates, which are becoming more popular.

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you would not mind taking a little trip down south for two weeks in the dead of winter. If you have a credit card that offers that sort of opportunity, you would be quite happy to use it. The problem is that small businesses are the ones that are paying for the plane tickets. When small business have to pay fees of 4% while their profit margin is only 2.5%, it is clear that they are headed for bankruptcy.

Small business owners have it tough these days. They are asking us to do the same thing that is being done in many other countries. As far as I know, Australia's Conservative government would certainly never be accused of having socialist sympathies. Similarly, in England, under Mr. Cameron's government, these rates were greatly limited to 0.5% and they have even been limited to 0.3% elsewhere in Europe. That is one-eighth of what is charged in Canada. It is a discrepancy that ranges between 300% and 800%. As for the infamous credit cards with a rate of 4% or higher, they turn out to be 12 times more expensive. This nonsense has to stop. People cannot pay such high credit card fees.

Let us also note that credit card terminals alone often cost $30 a month. That is an added cost.

What we are proposing is that we work together to figure out a rate that allows small businesses to survive while maintaining a payment system that works. This is not a threat to credit card companies, as we know from precedents set in Europe, Australia and England.

Even the U.S. Senate, which had the same problem, wanted to see if regulating credit card fees had had a negative impact on the economies of those countries. It concluded that there was no negative impact and that credit card companies are still doing very well in those countries.

People still use credit cards; in fact, they are using them more than ever.

However, small businesses do not want to pay 4% to 4.25% for the so-called privilege credit cards. That is unreasonable. By comparison, a debit card costs five cents to use whether the transaction is for $3, $4 or $3,000. The fee is not a percentage. It is a fixed amount. Considering that 1.5% of $1,000 is $15, that shows how much more one costs than the other. This is not a new problem. Many businesses have been asking for this for many years.

The 90,000 small and medium-sized businesses that belong to the Small Business Matters Coalition would like to have a chance to breathe one of these days, as would members of the Canadian Convenience Stores Association, the Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec, the Retail Council of Canada and Restaurants Canada. All of these people have been telling us that they can no longer survive. People in my riding tell me that the fees cost them $15,000 to $25,000 for a small business with six or seven employees. They say it is not working anymore. Small and medium-sized businesses have no choice but to refuse credit card payments. That is how serious the problem is.

Not only do we risk losing SMEs, but the entire credit card system as a payment method could be in jeopardy.

In a 2013 ruling, the Competition Tribunal called on the government to take action, because it found that there was a non-competitive situation. The government responded by saying that it hoped that credit card companies would limit the rate to 1.5%, but on a voluntary basis. Even that percentage is 500% higher than in Europe. I do not want to hear anyone say that in Europe countries are too consumer friendly and they want to destroy private enterprise. A 500% disparity is huge, and that is on a voluntary basis. That pertains only to standard credit cards.

If you have to deal with a premium credit card, this becomes totally unmanageable. However, those kinds of cards are becoming increasingly popular. Everyone loves to travel and book flights using a credit card, except that the plane ticket does nothing for the merchant. When he goes to the bank to ask for a loan guarantee to pay for new inventory, he is told that his operating costs are too high. He can only reduce wages so much.

One merchant I know, Mr. Bélisle, who owns a pub called Bière au menu in Bois-des-Filion, told me that he cannot automatically pass the cost on to consumers because he cannot sell hamburgers for $25. There comes a point when the cost simply cannot be passed on to consumers, because they just will not buy a $25 hamburger. His problem is that he also owns a sausage shop. He said that at that business, he does not even accept credit cards. There is also Mr. Gaudreau from Laval, who told me that he thought he could start a small business with three or four employees, but with the extra costs of 1.6% for Visa, 2.6% for AMEX and 1.55% for Mastercard, he could not do it.

His profit margin is about 2%. Three-quarters of his profit will basically go to a company that will do nothing for him. It will not do any marketing or advertising, and it will not attract customers. For this business owner it is simply a bill he must pay, and for that reason he is asking for regulations.

For our part, we are going to get together to analyze the situation and what happens in other countries. We are going to drastically reduce the interest rate, although we will exercise caution.

We are not going to jeopardize the credit card system. It will continue to exist. As demonstrated by the U.S. Senate, regulations will not destroy this payment method. We will keep it. When we sit around the table to establish the interest rate, the credit card companies will be there as well and they will have to justify what they charge.

It goes without saying that some payment methods, like high interest rate cards, will disappear. We cannot ask a business owner to go bankrupt because he sells things to people with specific credit cards.

Transparency is another important aspect. When we get a bill, the taxes, the GST and the QST, are listed on it. What people are asking for is that the cost of the credit card also be included on the bill. There is currently a clause in the contract we sign to use a credit card that prohibits that very thing. Transparency is not allowed.

If we have the right to review the GST and QST amounts, then I think people should also have the right to review what it costs them to use a credit card. This is especially important because some of the costs have gone down in the past few years. For better or worse, the sales tax has been reduced.

The problem is that these tax cuts were clawed back because credit card margins went up. They increased from 1.5% to 4% and any economic benefit that consumers might have derived from the tax cuts voted in by this government was absorbed by the credit card companies. This needs to stop.

For retailers alone, the credit card fees amount to more than $850 million, and that is just for the retail sales sector. Obviously this has to stop sooner or later. Enough is enough.

As I said earlier, and it bears repeating, we have to be competitive internationally. If the tourists who travel through Europe pay less there for goods and services than they would pay in Canada, then there is a good chance that we are losing business. We must remain competitive, and a 500% difference is obviously unreasonable.

I am therefore pleased to say that this resolution is supported by the small business community, a very important community in Canada that accounts for 40% of our GDP.

One day we will have to think of them and return the favour.

Pipeline Safety Act April 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to my distinguished colleague that one of the serious problems in Canada and the world is that the companies doing business in Canada are the same companies that are responsible for the Exxon Valdez spill and for destroying a river in the United States.

When people who have been consistently polluting other places say that they will be careful not to cause pollution in Canada, there is a credibility problem. It is all a matter of credibility and we do not trust those companies.

Moreover, safe transportation is all well and good, but there is also the matter of jobs. If I, Mr. Giguère, was told that 15,000 jobs were going to be created in my province's refineries, I would be on board with that. However, what we are being told is that we are going to have to assume 100% of the transportation risk, that there will be no contingency fund and that no jobs will be created. In Quebec, only 15 jobs were created to build the pipeline across the province. We are assuming all of the risks but seeing very little of the profit.

As a result, the government does not have any credibility. I am asking it to do something other than pass a law that imposes a 250,000-barrel limit on companies and simply requires them to be careful. That is not enough. A contingency fund must be created.

I am therefore asking my colleague to tell us something that will really assuage Canadians' fears.

The Budget April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I noted my colleague's interest in lowering taxes. One of his colleagues said that he was proud of the government for lowering taxes for more than 2 million Canadians.

However, I must emphasize that Canada has a population of 35 million people. It is all well and good to lower taxes for 2 million people, but what about the other 33 million?

They have infrastructure that has not been modernized, roads that are crumbling, bridges that are falling down, inadequate public transit and hospital services that are harder and harder to obtain.

Can my colleague explain how his budget helps the vast majority of Canadians?

It is great to hear him talk about the people who will benefit from his budget, but as far as I know, we are the government of all Canadians, not just the wealthiest 5%.

The Budget April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

The problem is that he claimed that this budget is for all Canadians. I remind the member that the maximum RRSP deduction is $21,000; the TFSA limit is now $10,000; the RESP limit is $5,000; and the deduction for sports and arts is $2,000. That is a total of $38,000, yet 90% of Canadians do not have $38,000 of net income. For someone to take advantage of that $38,000 in tax breaks and to still have the means to pay rent and buy groceries—which are kind of important—they would have to earn over $150,000. Just 2% to 3% of Canadians earn that amount. When the government brings in such big tax breaks, they benefit just 2% to 3% of Canadians. Another example is income splitting, which is also not designed for the vast majority of Canadians.

Could my colleague explain why the government wants us to go without this money now and to leave our grandchildren with a $140 billion bill? Where is the tax fairness here?

The Budget April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is a bit strange to listen to the speech of my distinguished Liberal colleague because she is criticizing a budget that could be a carbon copy of a Liberal budget.

Under the Liberal watch, Paul Martin made unthinkable cuts to public services, particularly to the health care system and social assistance. The zero deficit was achieved at the expense of the provinces and public services. The Conservatives are seeking to achieve a balanced budget at the expense of future generations. Our grandchildren will have to foot that bill because we are off-loading our problems onto them.

The problem is that my colleague is criticizing the Conservatives' Bay Street and oil company friends when she is a member of the Liberal Party. Perhaps she needs to be reminded that Bay Street is on her side, not on Canadians' side.

We would like to hear the Liberal Party's position on Canada Post, the CBC and foreign trusts, for example, rather than hear my colleague claim that she is different from the Conservatives when she is exactly the same.

The Budget April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the problem with this budget is that it is the latest in a long line of budgets. Since Paul Martin, the former Liberal finance minister—I apologize for naming him—in the past 20 years, we have seen a neo-liberal philosophy whose sole policy is to bring in massive tax cuts for the richest in the hope that they will one day invest, that they will one day drive the Canadian economy. After 20 years of that approach, after the former finance minister, in the final months of his life, pleaded with the wealthiest to stop accumulating wealth and do others a good turn for a change—which they still have not done—it might be time for us to ask ourselves whether it really is a good idea to keep cutting taxes for the rich and sending the bill to the rest of Canadians given the meagre outcomes in terms of investment.