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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, 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.

Business of Supply March 21st, 2017

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

Indeed, ports are also included in this study, this Liberal government review. That has us concerned as well. It brings up the same fee- and security-related problems for the companies or individuals that use these port facilities. It feels like the Liberals are doing this to please their cronies, certain privileged friends and an elite group that has connections to the Liberal Party. This does not serve the public interest and neither does the Liberal Party's broken promise to close the tax loophole for stock options deductions that benefit a very small portion of the population. This loophole costs us $800 million a year and two thirds of that money goes to only 75 people in the country. That is totally unacceptable.

Business of Supply March 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I will refute the premise of that intervention.

On a more serious note, we are extremely concerned that the Liberal government seems to be spending recklessly and not investing where it is really needed. I think that the case of social infrastructure and public infrastructure is a good example. Only 25% of what was announced was really spent. We are extremely concerned about this trend towards privatization.

I talked about airport privatization, but there is also the infrastructure investment bank, which is apparently intended to include private partners brought in on a massive scale to take care of our public infrastructure. This is completely contrary to the Liberal rhetoric during the election campaign. They said it was time to invest in our infrastructure because interest rates were low. They ranged from about 2% to 2.5%. It does not cost much to borrow money to invest, stimulate the economy, and create economic growth.

However, they are telling us that they want to include private partners, who are going to ask for 7% or 9% returns on their investment, while we could borrow that money at 2%. Why do we need to pay 7% or 9% returns to private companies, when we could have this money at only 2%? That does not make sense.

Business of Supply March 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the incredible, fantastic member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

I want to pick up on what our Liberal colleague just said. According to the Liberal government's definition, the middle class does not include any workers who earn less than $45,000 a year. Those workers did not benefit in any way from the tax cuts the Liberals have been bragging about for the past year. They did not get one red cent. That is a rather strange definition of middle class. The people who benefited the most from Liberal tax cuts are those who earn between $90,000 and $210,000 a year. Those folks got a rebate of $270, while the workers who need it the most got absolutely nothing. Zero.

I will now talk about the bragging the Liberals have been doing about infrastructure. Our regions, our cities, and our towns desperately need the government to invest in infrastructure, not only to stimulate the economy and economic growth, but also, quite simply, to help businesses move their goods, their services, and their employees.

As the parliamentary budget officer pointed out recently, although the Liberals made a big deal out of their $13.6-billion announcement, only $4.6 billion of that has actually been or is about to be invested. That means about 75% of the total was a figment. The people doing the work in public service and municipal government have not seen a penny of it. That money is not doing anything to create jobs or stimulate the economy. We need to take Liberal promises with a grain of salt.

I am very much looking forward to tomorrow's budget speech to see if there will be any new developments in this area. The Liberals will talk about innovation and training workers, but what they announce is likely to differ from what they actually invest. Unfortunately, there is a big difference between what this government says and what it does.

I would like to talk about the Conservative Party's opposition day motion. We do agree about one thing: privatizing Canadian airports is dangerous. I am surprised that the Liberal government is even considering this because there was no mention of it during the election campaign or in the Liberal platform. Maybe I should not be too surprised, because the Liberals often say something but do not do it. Electoral reform is a prime example of that. On other matters, they keep mum, only to spring unpleasant surprises on us, such as this airport business.

Right now, federal airports in Canada belong to everyone. They are public assets. Our airports are managed by airport authorities and non-profit organizations. They have to self-fund, which is why we have airport fees. Their purpose is not to turn a profit or generate a return on investment. They also pay rent to the government, a total of about one billion dollars a year.

Right now it feels like the federal government is in panic mode. It is trying to sell our belongings so it can gain control of its massive deficit. That is shortsighted. There are two ways for the airports to turn a profit: either make cuts to services, jobs, and the working conditions of airport employees, or increase fees. Passengers are going to end up paying out of their pockets. They are literally going to pay the price. All those who travel in the country or abroad will pay the price for the Liberals' nasty little surprise, its move to privatization. Will private foreign companies be allowed to buy our airports? Airports provide not just any public service. They are also part of a very strategic infrastructure. At the risk of fearmongering, not only is this a bad idea, but it could also lead us down a path that we do not want to take.

The Liberal government has been skating around this issue for two months now. It refuses to answer questions and avoids the issue. We know that the Liberal government hired a firm to study the pros and cons of privatizing airports. Who was hired to conduct this study? A company called Credit Suisse, an international company that specializes in privatizing airports and ports. That gives us an idea of where they are going with this. I am sure that Credit Suisse will provide a fully impartial and neutral report. Yeah, right. The people in that company are extremely biased. It is their business. It is what they do for a living.

This fire sale might bring in $8 billion, $9 billion, or $12 billion. That is a quick cash injection, but since airports are a source of revenue for the federal government, what will it do in year 9, 10, or 12? That is when the government will start losing money and then it will be too late. It will be over. It is the passengers who will pay the price.

To ensure that everybody understands the message, I will continue in English on the same issue of the privatization of our airports. The Liberals never said anything during their campaign. It was not in their political platform. Suddenly it is a bad surprise for everybody. There is an option that is probably on the table to sell our airports. Right now federal airports are the property of everybody in the country. It is a common good. It is a service for all travellers. Those airports are managed by non-profit organizations. They have to raise enough money to function, but they are not there to make profit. Therefore, what will happen if the Liberals sell off our airports?

The private company that will buy them will need to make money, and there are only two ways to do that: decrease the services, the quality of services, or the working conditions of the employees at the airports, or increase the fees that passengers pay to use the services at airports. At the end of the day, travellers will literally pay the price for a bad decision by the Liberal government. We do not have any clear answer on that, but the door is wide open right now.

We know the Liberal government asked a company to study the advantages and disadvantages of eventually selling and privatizing airports. Who did the government ask to do that? It was Credit Suisse. What does Credit Suisse do? It provides counselling for the privatization of public assets like airports. The conclusion is already quite clear.

I want to point out that there is another part of the Conservative motion that New Democrats strongly oppose, which is forbidding the government to increase taxation on individuals or companies. The New Democrats do not think it is a good idea for the CEOs of the country, in big companies like banks and oil companies, not to pay their fair share for good public services, like taking care of seniors, health care, child care, and housing.

Right now, the average pay of the 100 highest-paid CEOs in our country is $9.5 million per year. They are earning 193 times the average pay of Canadian workers. There are growing inequalities in the country. If we cannot raise taxes on big companies or eliminate some loopholes, such as the stock option deduction, for the richest in our country, we will not have the resources we need to take care of our neighbours, to create good jobs, or to take care of our environment and health care.