House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was ndp.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, what does my colleague think of the fact that 74% of Canadians agree with the NDP? According to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, 74% of Canadians are opposed to pay-to-pay fees. When the Conservatives realize that they are on the wrong side of public opinion, it will be too late. They will have proven that the NDP is the best champion for taxpayers and the middle class. What does he have to say about that?

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I think it is ludicrous that the government and the Conservative members across the aisle say that they support the middle class, cutting taxes and eliminating fees. They did not ask a single question after my colleague from Surrey North finished his excellent speech. I wonder if they were listening. I listened carefully to my colleague's speech, and I would like to thank him for it.

I would like to ask him a question about the rather unhealthy relationship between these big banks and their customers. In the first half of the year, the five major banks earned $16 billion. What kind of power do these banks have over the little guy, families, youth, the poor and seniors?

How can the little guy fight against those big institutions?

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my Liberal colleague for that good question.

Not only do these fees affect everyone, but the negative impact is even more outrageous and cruel for different segments of the population. We might even say that this type of fee is discriminatory towards certain segments of the population.

I mentioned those who live in a very precarious financial situation, but there are also seniors. I am quite pleased when some of them turn to the web.

However, since the Internet was not part of their everyday lives for decades, some seniors are not inclined to have a computer or Internet access. A disproportionate number of those people end up paying these extra fees, and I find that tough to take.

Essentially, both families and individuals are being penalized by this. I understand my colleague's question. Seniors and people living in poverty are affected by this more than others. This is outrageous for every segment of the population.

I would like the people at home to look at their bills and add up how much money they spend on these excessive fees every year as a family or as an individual. They would be surprised, and I think they would be even more outraged.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my NDP colleague from Davenport for bringing this very important motion forward and also for his question.

Much to my dismay, the riding that I represent, Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, is not one of the wealthier ridings in Canada, and our unemployment rate is very high.

Unfortunately, many people are not necessarily part of the middle class. Either they are living in poverty or they have very tight budgets and have to make tough choices. This includes people raising families and single people alike.

I go door to door a lot in my riding, and these individuals often welcome me into their home or apartment, where I can see their situation. I often go to them with a petition. One such petition was precisely about these pay-to-pay fees.

I also often ask them for an email address, so that I can stay in touch with them. Honestly, I always feel a twinge of sadness when they tell me they do not have the Internet at home, and unfortunately, it is not usually by choice. Often, these individuals do not even have a phone.

I think the federal government needs to do everything in its power to ensure that people who are living in precarious financial situations can pay their bills like any good citizen, and not be exploited by these overly greedy financial institutions.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that I can rise today and spend 10 minutes talking about a motion that I think is very important. It shows where the NDP and all of the other parliamentarians here in the House of Commons stand. I can see that the motion moved by my colleague from Davenport is resonating with the other parties.

Right now, big Canadian banks are abusing taxpayers and the middle class. We know that, in the past, the Conservative government preferred self-regulation for many industries, including the banking industry. Unfortunately, that is not working because there is not enough competition and all of the financial institutions have something to gain by squeezing people just a little more.

When we talk about excessive banking fees, we are not necessarily talking about big amounts of money individually. For example, someone who wants to get a bill in the mail rather than electronically, for whatever reason, often has to pay $2 or $3. We are not talking about big amounts of money, but unfortunately all of those fees charged across Canada add up to $180 million. That is a lot. People in the riding I represent in the Saguenay and those in the riding held by my colleague from Surrey North, with whom I will be sharing the second part of my speaking time, are paying those fees.

There are excessive fees and, unfortunately, the Conservative government is choosing to turn a blind eye. I wonder why it has avoided dealing with this for so long. We know that last year, the government responded to pressure from the NDP to tighten the screws on big companies that were charging fees to send a bill to a person's home, but oddly, the government left out the banks, which often send out paper copies of bank statements. It is the clients who pay.

What the NDP is asking Canadian parliamentarians to do is to vote in favour of the following motion:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ban all pay-to-pay practices by banks operating in Canada through the enactment of a mandatory financial code of conduct to protect consumers.

I would like to think that all the financial institutions, including the one I use, put their clients and Canadian society ahead of profits. However, in our economic model, it is unrealistic to think that every decision the financial institutions make will serve the public interest ahead of the interests of shareholders or banking executives.

For that reason I believe, as do my NDP colleagues, that we should make this code of conduct mandatory. That is not unreasonable. We are asking the major banks not to take advantage of people. People who pay excessive fees for using an ATM or receiving a bill are not naive. We are basically caught in this system.

When we were growing up we were told to save, which is a very good thing. I hope that people no longer put their $20 bills in a wool sock at the bottom of a drawer. I think we all agree that that can cause different problems. People are encouraged to invest, to save and to put money in the bank or credit union for school, for retirement and for medium-term projects.

We trust financial institutions. As consumers and Canadians, we trust our financial institutions to properly manage our money and to ensure that we can withdraw our money when we need it.

Unfortunately, in 2011, we really began noticing the tack being taken by large corporations and the big banks: they began charging $2 to people who wanted to receive their bills at home. That was when we noticed that the charges were less than ideal. This type of abuse was condemned by the media and even the general public.

Our services, including bank services and telecommunications services, are already so expensive these days. If people have to pay another $2 or $3 for the huge privilege of paying a bill, which I say sarcastically of course, then they are being fleeced.

I am proud to say that my colleagues and I have gathered over 12,000 signatures over the past few months to support the NDP's petition, which calls on the government to do the right thing and ban pay-to-pay fees. It is a relatively new phenomenon. There was no mandatory code of conduct in the past, but even so, for the past 50 years, banks and large corporations did not normally charge their customers for a paper invoice. The vast majority of people feel that it is just common sense that this kind of expense is part of the operating costs of any company, bank or SME.

In fact, most SMEs do not charge these fees, even though they need their customers' money more than large corporations to stay in business. Why, then, do the big banks feel the need to charge these excessive fees? It is just wrong.

When it comes time to vote today, we could take a step forward by adopting the NDP's motion, so that taxpayers and the middle class can keep more of their money in their wallets. As I mentioned earlier, Canadians pay $180 million a year in abusive fees charged by the big banks. It is unacceptable. Unfortunately, as I also mentioned, the Conservatives have been complicit in this abuse for quite some time.

For over two years now, the NDP has been exerting pressure on the government to eliminate these kinds of fees. However, it disappointed me, because either it did not take this issue seriously or it preferred to help its friends, the big banks.

In the 2013 throne speech, the Conservative government promised to put an end to “pay-to-pay” policies so that consumers would not have to pay fees to get paper statements. The NDP highlighted that initiative in 2013. However, the government did not do much in 2013 except make nice promises.

A year later, the 2014 budget once again promised to end the practice of charging fees for bills. When it came time to walk the walk, however, the budget implementation bill exempted banks, leaving Canadians to pay $180 million per year, as I mentioned.

We, the opposition members, and the Canadian people are now familiar with the government's approach. It makes promises but does not follow through often enough. My Conservative colleagues will tell us that they have reduced various fees and cut red tape for businesses to help them make more money. Bureaucracy sometimes prevents businesses from doing business and can make life extremely difficult for people for all the wrong reasons, which is frustrating. However, I still do not know why the government did not want to tighten the screws on the banks at that time.

I do not have much time left, but I have so much to say. I could have spoken for 20 minutes, but I really want to hear what my colleague from Surrey North has to say about this. I will conclude with some statistics.

A Public Interest Advocacy Centre survey showed that 40% of respondents were not comfortable with paying their bills online, so we cannot assume that everyone wants to pay bills online. The survey also showed that one in five households does not have Internet at home. Among the lowest-income households, those with an income of $30,000 or less per year, 46% do not have Internet at home.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, today we are talking about the excessive fees charged by Canada's major banks and credit unions to the poor customers who have no choice and who are being squeezed. The middle class is trapped, no mater which financial institution they use, since the practices are similar from one bank to the next.

Could my Conservative colleague comment on the fact that the vast majority of small businesses do not impose fees on their customers when they send out a bill? How does he think these poor, poor big financial institutions and corporations can justify imposing these fees on their customers?

I think his response will show whether the Conservative government is serious, considering it has given the major banks a free pass to impose excessive fees without any consequences.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is beyond me how our Conservative colleagues can believe that they are the only ones with judgment and the ability to come up with good measures to help the middle class and taxpayers.

Last year, people in my riding and across Canada paid $180 million in excessive fees for things like receiving their bank statements and using ATMs. Banks have been taking that money out of people's pockets for years now. Since 2011, banks and credit unions have been charging people who want to get paper copies of their bills and bank statements, and the government has still done nothing to put an end to that predation.

What does the Conservative member have to say about the kind of predatory banking practices I just mentioned?

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, can my colleague tell me why the Conservative government did absolutely nothing for so long?

Over the past few years, the middle class has suffered additional abuse. It is being gouged. Unfortunately, the Conservative government did not appear very receptive. Even if it had been receptive, in concrete terms, it did nothing to change any laws or regulations.

Why has the government done nothing for so long? I still have a hard time understanding that, because it seems to me that doing something about this issue just makes sense.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Awareness Month June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, June is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Month. Sadly, this disease, known as ALS, kills two to three Canadians every day.

It is therefore very important for Canadian society to do everything it can to raise funds and find a cure for this disease that takes the lives of too many mothers and fathers. Currently, over 3,000 Canadians are living with ALS, a disease that remains incurable.

I was proud to see many Canadians, including the NDP leader, participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge, which aimed to raise Canadians' awareness and raise money for a cure. It was a huge success, and ALS Canada announced that the challenge had helped raise $26 million.

I hope that this year's campaign will be just as successful with the Walk for ALS. On behalf of all of my NDP colleagues, I would like to thank those who signed up for the Walk for ALS, and I sincerely hope that a cure will be found soon.

Forestry Industry May 14th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the forestry industry is important to my riding. It employs thousands of workers and contributes to the economic development of my region. Our forestry industry needs help to modernize production and compete globally. On Sunday, we learned that the government would be setting up a committee. Unfortunately, the government has not provided many details, leaving the people in my region in the dark.

Can the minister tell us whether this committee will be set up before the election, or is this another empty Conservative gesture?