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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is liberal.

NDP MP for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 49% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Budget March 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, the Liberal budget just sounds like a Seinfeld show. It is about nothing.

The Liberals had a choice. They could have eliminated the tax loophole that is costing us $800 million a year and benefits only the wealthiest 1%, but no, they decided not to keep that promise. Instead of going after and taking down their millionaire friends, who did they go after? They went after people who take the bus in the morning.

Why are the Liberals getting rid of this tax credit that helps families and promotes public transit while maintaining the gifts for their millionaire friends?

The Budget March 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, some of the things that are found in the Liberals' election platform are missing from their budget. It is as though they were forgotten along the way.

I would like my colleague to answer the following three questions.

First, why did the government not lower the tax rate for small and medium-sized businesses, as promised? Second, why did the government not close the tax loophole for stock options for CEOs, as promised? Finally, why did the Liberals not abide by the decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and invest $155 million to help first nations children?

The Budget March 23rd, 2017

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

I completely understand his indignation over how utterly unfair it is that individuals in our society carry most of the weight and bear most of the tax burden while corporations keep getting annual gifts from successive Liberal and Conservative governments.

In 2002, when corporations made profits they paid 28% in taxes. Today, they pay 15%. That is almost half. Did the middle class, workers, get their tax rate cut in half? No. We have seen an increase in precarious employment, an increase in poor quality jobs, a sort of “walmartization” of our labour market.

In the meantime, as hon. members know, year after year corporations have received roughly $600 billion in cash that is basically dead money. It has not been reinvested because the corporations were not required to report on the gifts they were given. They have not created jobs, have not stimulated our economy, and have not increased our productivity.

This Liberal plan is a failure and that is why we want to change course.

The Budget March 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it is rather funny to be lectured on consistency by a Liberal.

I would like to remind the House why the NDP voted against their so-called middle-class tax cut. I have to laugh at that, because the Liberals have a rather odd definition of middle class. People who earn less than $45,000 did not get anything from the Liberal government. People who earn less than $23 an hour will get no help from the Liberals. On the contrary, under their plan, people who earn between $90,000 and $210,000 a year got a tax cut worth $270 a year. The median income in Canada is $31,500 a year. People who earn $30,000, people who earn the median salary, in other words the majority of workers, did not get anything from the Liberals.

The Liberals like to brag about investing in innovation for the jobs of tomorrow. Why is it, then, that the Liberals are cutting $750 million this year from a fund devoted to creating an economy with reduced greenhouse gas and carbon emissions, and another $500 million next year? The Liberal budget will slash $1.2 billion from a fund that could have helped create good jobs working on new technologies and renewable energy. I do not understand that.

The Budget March 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, we have the same concerns. A lot of people in my community, in Montreal, Laval, and Longueuil, are using public transit. For some seniors, it is the only tax deduction they can use, and it has helped them with $150 or $200 at the end of the year. I do not know why, but the Liberals are attacking them. We should encourage people to take the bus to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, the Liberals are saying there is nothing for those people, but they will continue to help the CEOs and the richest 1% in this country. By the way, public infrastructure, little by little, will be privatized and will serve private companies which will make profits with the taxpayer money. Maybe I will have the chance to discuss this point in response to another question.

The Budget March 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, when I was young, we used to say that culture is like jam; the less one has, the more one spreads it out.

Interestingly enough, the federal budget suggests that the less money we have, the more the government spreads it out over time. There is no money for today, but things will be great in 8 to 10 years. It is exactly the same thing. That is how the Liberals are doing things, and they are hoping that people will not notice. That is exactly what is happening with affordable housing, innovation, and infrastructure. The Liberals are late in keeping all of their promises.

With regard to job creation, 40% of jobs for young people between the ages of 18 to 34 are precarious. Job numbers only hide the fact that the jobs we create are getting weaker. There is nothing in the Liberal budget to address this issue.

Many part-time and contract workers face much uncertainty. Every month, 800,000 people use food banks. Who are these people? In the past, they were people on social assistance and poor seniors. Now, we are seeing an increasing number of the working poor: part-time or minimum-wage workers who have a hard time making rent and buying clothes and school supplies for their kids. They cannot afford groceries, so they have to ask for help.

What does the Liberal budget have to offer these people? Nothing. The Liberals have expressed support for a $15 minimum wage. It sure would have been nice if they had been consistent and come up with some way to support low-income workers.

The Budget March 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats are very disappointed by the meagreness of the Liberal budget.

I can just imagine the Minister of Finance meeting with the Liberal caucus to say something like, “Last year, we took some small measures to make us look progressive and to give us some lines we can use and some talking points for interviews, measures that will have a small impact here and there, but do not worry. This year, we will not be doing anything. We are going to take a break with this year's budget. Nothing much will happen. We will wait until it is better for us to take action. We will wait until 2019.”

When we look at this year's budget and at how and when the measures and investments proposed by the Liberal government will happen, we see that nothing much is planned for 2017 and 2018. When we look at the column for 2017, we see nothing but zeros. Zero for this and zero for that. In the column for 2018, a few numbers start to appear. Small efforts will be made here and there.

I am not sure why, but when we look at the 2019 column, we suddenly see a whole host of things. That is when there will be investments. However, do not hold your breath for the next two years because there will be nothing. The Liberals are all about optics. They issue a press release to bamboozle us with impressive numbers that are in fact meaningless right now because they are such a way off in the future.

It is easy to promise things that will not come to fruition for 8, 10, or 12 years. I can make promises for 2023 as well if you like. The reality is that five or six budgets will be adopted by then. So much can change by then. Things might go in all sorts of directions.

The reality is that people are suffering and need help right now. The reality is that 4.5 million people in Canada are living below the poverty line as we speak. Of those 4.5 million people, 990,000 are children. The Liberal government is telling them to wait because that money will come if they are re-elected in 2019. That is unacceptable to us as progressives and social democrats. The government cannot be asleep at the switch like this for two years while families, the middle class, and workers struggle to make ends meet.

The Minister of Finance cannot tell the Liberal caucus that they will just sit back and only invest when it is advantageous for them. That shows contempt for the people who get up every morning at six o'clock to take their children to school and then go to work by car or bus to try to pay their bills, while their buying power diminishes, their wages stagnate, and personal debt rates reach unprecedented levels.

Not so long ago, we learned that the household debt-to-income ratio had reached 167%. That is unprecedented. People are being paid less, whereas food, rent, and houses are becoming more expensive. Furthermore, increases in productivity never really benefit employees, only the owners, whose profits keep growing.

What happens then? People go into debt. They run up their credit card, their second credit card, and their line of credit.

What is the government offering these people and these families in its budget? Nothing.

The message we want to send the Liberal government is that we cannot wait. We do not have the luxury of time. The government does, since the election is two and a half years away, but people in our communities do not. They have to pay their bills right now.

That is why the NDP believes that yesterday's budget is a missed opportunity. It completely misses the mark. It does not meet the urgent needs of the people. It meets the needs of the Liberal Party and its friends, who will have the advantage, and who will continue to benefit from unfair and unjust measures. In fact, the budget is good for the rich, the millionaires, the privileged, and those who run major corporations; they get to keep their tax breaks, which the Liberals promised to abolish or address. The reality is that they are keeping them.

It is the big budget of nothingness. It is a big budget of nothing, or “wait and see, it's coming”. When is it coming? Maybe it will come for the next federal election. However, for the next two years we will have peanuts, or almost nothing, from the Liberals. It is quite easy to put big numbers in a press release, to say they are spreading billions of dollars in innovation, housing, public transit, and all of that, but what is in the budget for 2017? It is a column of zeros, and in 2018, it is the same thing.

Then, suddenly, when we look closely at the budget for 2019, wow, it is wonderful. There are hundreds of millions of dollars for investing in our communities, just in time for the next federal election. I can imagine the finance minister talking to the Liberal caucus, saying not to expect too much from this budget because they are taking a break. They are taking a break because the election is just two and a half years away. They will keep the money for that time.

It is a little ludicrous for the Liberals to show shiny objects to the population, saying they will invest billions of dollars, when actually it is supposed to come only in 2022, 2023, or 2024. There will be five or six other budgets before that. It is quite ridiculous to make people think they will get help and real investment in their communities right now, when actually nothing will happen. It is wait and see.

People cannot wait. People do not have the luxury of waiting two years for the interests of the Liberal Party. There are 4.5 million people in our country who are living in poverty. Some 990,000 children are living in poverty. The majority of children in first nation communities are living in poverty. They do not have the luxury of waiting. They need our support, and the Liberal government is failing its responsibility and the promises it made to Canadians to invest in infrastructure, housing, innovation, and public transit. However, all the measures and the rules that benefit the millionaires and the CEOs are still there. They will still put in their pockets huge gifts that are paid for by the hard-working Canadians and taxpayers of our country.

This budget missed the target. That is why the NDP will oppose it. As I said earlier, when we look at it, it is clearly a budget in favour of the members of the Rideau Club and those who are working hard to join it, but not for average and ordinary Canadians.

Let me give some examples of that. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal said three times to the federal government that it has to invest $155 million to close the gap for children in first nation communities. The federal government is challenging that in court. Shame.

At the same time, it has voted in favour of a motion in the House of Commons to give that money for children in first nation communities, but what do we see in the budget? We see nothing, zero. We should have expected at least $155 million, but there is nothing. It is a broken promise from the Liberal government.

However, what we still have is the tax loophole for stock options for the CEOs of this country. It is still there, and it is costing us $800 million per year to give that to the richest of our society. That fiscal measure, the 87% benefit goes to 1% of the population, and if we look at two-thirds of that fiscal measure, we see that more or less $600 million benefits 75 people in this country. That is two-thirds of that fiscal measure that the Liberals have promised to abolish, but it is still there.

To govern is to make choices. The Liberals could have made the choice to help children of first nations. They have chosen to keep the measure to help CEOs and the one per cent of the richest of our society. This is not the kind of choice that a progressive or social democrat would make.

Here are some very straightforward examples of the shameful, appalling choices the Liberals made in their budget, choices that fly in the face of their election promises.

Number one, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal told the Liberal government to invest $155 million in the well-being of first nations children. That is significant. Most of the first nations children in our communities live in poverty, and the tribunal says that $155 million is the minimum needed, yet the government is challenging that in court. There is nothing in the budget for first nations children. What about the $155 million? It is not there. Instead, the government kept the tax break for stock options for corporate CEOs. That is still there, even though the Liberals promised to close that particular tax loophole.

In recent weeks, the NDP has been asking the Liberals to keep that promise. Why? Because it is costing our society $800 million. Who benefits? Eighty-seven per cent of the money invested, or rather, given away, with this tax break goes to 1% of the population, the richest 1%.

If we take a closer look at this loophole, we see that two-thirds of the cost of this measure benefits 75 people, this while four million people live in poverty and children on reserves need help. The Liberals are not helping them; instead, they are choosing to maintain a measure that benefits their millionaire friends and the ultra-rich elites.

To govern is to make choices. The Liberals had the choice of helping first nations children or keeping measures that benefit the ultra-rich.

Well, the Liberals once again wanted to hang on to the measures that benefit the rich. The mask is off, and we are discovering the Liberal Party's true colours.

I have another simple example: what could be better to help people get around our communities than public transportation? It helps our economy, it helps families, and it is good for the environment because it reduces greenhouse gases. Is there anything in this year's budget for public transit? No, nothing. Zero. Nada.

Incidentally, the Prime Minister had promised Montreal $775 million to extend the blue line in that city's subway system. The budget does not even mention the Montreal subway system, let alone its blue line. There is nothing. The only measure related to public transit—hold on to your hats—has to do with a tax credit that gave people who take the bus an extra $150 or $200 at the end of the year. This reduced people's taxes a bit and encouraged them to use public transit. What bright idea did the Liberals have? They decided to eliminate that. It no longer exists, even though it really helped families and middle-class Canadians.

Other tax measures remain, however. For example, 100% of workers' wages are taxable. The tax rate is 25%, 30%, or 35%. They do not have a choice. They get their pay every two weeks and they receive their pay stub, which shows that they paid taxes. However, only 50%, not 100%, of the capital gains that investors derive from selling shares are taxable. The Liberals could have changed this, addressed this injustice, and brought more money into the government coffers in order to really invest and help people. What did the Liberals do? They kept this tax break for the wealthiest Canadians, which costs about $1 billion every year, but they had the bright idea of abolishing a tax credit for people who take the bus in the morning and who could have benefited from a transit credit at the end of the year. I do not know who, on the Liberal side, thinks that this is how we can fight inequality and bring about tax fairness.

The other scandalous thing is that there is absolutely nothing in the Liberal budget to help those looking for work to get employment insurance benefits. People who work pay for that insurance, but six out of ten of those who are unlucky enough to lose their job and have to start looking for another, do not qualify for EI benefits. Does the Liberal budget include anything to improve access to EI? It does not. Did the government change the number of hours to qualify for employment insurance? It did not. Did it extend the benefit period by five weeks in regions prone to seasonal employment in order to cover the spring gap left by the economic climate? It did not.

What we do find in this budget are extremely low tax rates for corporations, that will continue to pay only 15%. Their tax rates have dropped by half over the past 15 years, which is costing us $12 billion a year. That is a lot of money. The other thing that is still in the budget is the subsidies for the oil and gas companies.

What is in the budget for affordable housing? There is a $10-million allocation for next year. One per cent of what was promised is being invested next year. I think $10 million might get us three buildings: one in Vancouver, one in Toronto, and one in Montreal. In other words, peanuts.

I move, seconded by the hon. member for London—Fanshawe:

That the amendment be amended by deleting all the words after the word “as it” and substituting the following:

“(a) maintains the stock option loopholes for wealthy CEOs and refuses to ask large corporations to pay their fair share; and

(b) fails to allocate any of the funding needed to end racial discrimination in the provision of Indigenous child welfare services.”.

The Budget March 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I guess the hon. leader of the official opposition will agree with us that this is in fact a budget for members of the Rideau Club and those working hard to join it.

Unfortunately, this is once again a Liberal budget of broken promises. The Liberals voted in favour of the motion to put an end to poverty among indigenous children. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the government to invest $155 million to address that issue, but there is nothing in the budget about it. The Liberals promised to close the tax loophole for stock options for CEOs, but there is nothing in the budget about that. They promised to lower the tax rate for SMEs, but there is nothing in the budget about that either. However, there are some surprises. There are unpleasant surprises for families and the middle class. For example, the Liberals have done away with the tax credit of $150 to $200 a year for people who take the bus to work.

I would like to hear what the Leader of the Opposition thinks about this Liberal measure that is going to hurt families across Canada.

The Budget March 22nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, this budget is a disappointment to all of the people living in misery who were hoping for a helping hand from the federal government. They have been told that they are going to have to wait a little longer. Basically, they will have to wait until the next federal election, which is when the floodgates will open and investment dollars will flow into our communities.

The Liberal Party has often told the House that it would close the gap between indigenous children and non-indigenous children, which is what the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal called for. However, there is nothing in this budget about keeping that promise. Instead, the government has kept a tax loophole open so that CEOs and the wealthiest members of society can get tax breaks for stock options. The government is giving the richest 1% a tax break that is worth six times more, but it is turning its back on indigenous children and the Canadian federation.

Can the minister justify this shameful political choice?

Armenian General Benevolent Union March 22nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to highlight the Armenian community's contribution to Canada. There are many Armenian organizations whose contributions strengthen our society. One of them is the Armenian General Benevolent Union, a charitable organization that today is celebrating its 60th anniversary in Canada.

At the very heart of the AGBU we find its community centres, which offer services and activities for all ages and groups, from Bees, who are the youngest Scouts, to sports teams and members of seniors clubs.

The Saturday school offers children's activities such as dance, painting, and photography.

In the same vein, education is of the utmost importance to the Union. In Montreal, the AGBU supports Alex Manoogian School. In addition to passing on the Armenian culture, this school also responds to crises. For example, Alex Manoogian School warmly welcomes refugees who need to learn French.

Shnorhagallem. Well done and congratulations to the Armenian General Benevolent Union.