House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament June 2013, as Liberal MP for Bourassa (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply February 26th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I spoke in French before about when I was the sports minister. I can assure the member that the federal government has a major role to play. When we had the Pan American Games in Manitoba in 1999, it showed a very direct, concrete approach where the federal government could play a role.

Now, that is about sports and recreation and leisure. However, at the same time, if we are talking about sustainable development now, if we are talking about transport, if we are talking about the economy as a whole, I think the federal government has a role to play.

Of course, we can be respectful of our jurisdiction. I know a lot of people would say that the municipalities are a provincial jurisdiction. However, at the same time, I think we have no choice now but to talk to each other, because if the federal government is not included in some of the partnerships, it would have a direct impact upon our citizens. That is why the federal government did that with the gas tax. That is why we have those infrastructure programs.

We have to stop saying look at what we have done in the past. We have to look ahead and send a clear message to our taxpayers that the federal government has a role to play and it would have a direct impact on their own quality of life.

Business of Supply February 26th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his very pertinent question.

I agree that too often, unfortunately, the Conservative government takes a partisan approach. However, the official opposition should not follow the government's lead either. We currently are experiencing leadership and follow-up problems. In particular, we see what is happening with the Charbonneau commission. One thing is certain: we must not reject the PPP model outright. The Canadian government must assume its role as a full partner, but it must also invest and give itself the tools it needs to resolve certain matters. That does not mean that we have to go this route, but if the PPP model is one possible solution, then it should not be rejected outright.

That said, we should have dedicated funds for transportation, for example. The issue here is sustainable development. It makes no sense for a municipality to lose 40% of its water. Clearly, investing is important, but equally important, leadership must be redefined. As a large municipality, Montreal must play a leading role, but the same also holds true for all Canadian municipalities.

So yes, the government must change its partisan approach. Yes, there must be dedicated funds. Perhaps by having dedicated funds and a genuine national strategy, the government—which unfortunately believes that a government means less government—will be able to address the problems. However, I would advise my colleague not to go to the other extreme and to weigh all of the options. The PPP model could very well be a good option, but that does not mean it is a panacea either.

Business of Supply February 26th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, that question is somewhat unfortunate.

First, I am an extremist of the centre: my heart is on the left and my wallet on the right. Second, one thing is certain: we invented the infrastructure program. As Minister of Sport, I remember I made sure I put forward component 3 so that there could be recreational and tourism development, which made it possible to build the Rivière-du-Loup arena and various sport infrastructure facilities. I can tell my colleague from Sherbrooke that the green and gold is playing football today because your humble servant provided the stadium for the under-17 Canadian Track and Field Championships.

I find it somewhat unfortunate that the member is engaging in partisanship. We are in favour of infrastructure development. We put infrastructure in place. We made massive infrastructure investments. We must invest more.

Despite the curveball he is throwing me, we will nevertheless support this motion because it is more important to invest for people than to score minor political points.

Business of Supply February 26th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely thrilled to begin my speech by replying to my hon. colleague from Essex.

This debate is far too serious to play the “my dad is stronger than your dad” game. The Liberals invented the infrastructure program and really emphasized it. This is not about what has been done, but what we can do right now, and that is the goal of my colleague's motion. We are not judging what has already been done. We can be critical and partisan. Besides, it was minority Liberal governments that helped bring forward this kind of budget.

What is important today is to reflect appropriately on the federal government's role in relation to the municipalities. We must not get caught up in a constitutional dispute, since some will say that municipalities are creatures of the provinces. The reality is that sharing, funding and pilot projects will help improve people's quality of life.

The Liberal Party and I will be supporting today's motion. We believe that not only is it important to do so, but the motion itself is also consistent with our party's position on infrastructure.

Indeed, we need an effective strategy and we need to listen to our constituents. As my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher said earlier, we now have an infrastructure deficit of $171 billion. What is more, we also know that over 30% of existing infrastructure is failing and in deplorable condition. Of course, no single municipality or provincial government will be able to resolve the situation.

At present, we have a serious governance problem. One of the most important measures that we need to adopt is what is known as “dedicated funds”. Now, we have a certain amount of money, we set that money aside and we do not necessarily know where that money will go. If we want to be effective when it comes to transportation, housing and infrastructure, we need to bring back the notion of “dedicated funds” for urban transit and basic infrastructure. When it comes to infrastructure, if we are talking more and more about sustainable development, we also need to do things differently, to do them correctly.

We must find a new way to invest more, particularly in the greater Montreal area, where there are problems with bridges and public transportation. This is the digital age and we have new management methods, as my colleague, the official opposition transport critic, said, and the whole notion of productivity is closely tied to infrastructure.

That is why the Prime Minister at the time, Paul Martin, was the first to talk about bringing back the gas tax. I commend this Conservative government for having the good sense to make it permanent. Just because we are in the opposition does not mean that we must oppose everything. Of the many initiatives put forward at the time, making this tax permanent was a good thing. But we must now double it and index it.

It is an ongoing process. We need to make sure that from now on it is not only permanent, but it is indexed and doubled. This is key.

My colleague from Essex was right when he talked about its importance to municipalities, but it is not a one-shot deal. We need to find a better way with these dedicated funds to provide the right funding for the future. It is a good policy, so we have to go further than that, I would suggest.

One of the problems was that we thought we knew the Conservatives' track record since 2007. The reality is that we will renew this plan in 2014. If we want to do so, we must start now to develop benchmarks for the future. We must think in terms of dedicated funds and also long-term funding.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, for one, is talking about planning for up to 20 years. This must be the start of a discussion on governance. We may be able to think about a 20-year span, but with renewals every five years. Do we need benchmarks? They do not necessarily need to be written in stone.

We definitely need to redefine the long-term vision. We can no longer operate only in the short term. In the current context, we also often need to take measures that will give the municipalities the tools they need—updated tools—even if they are receiving money on a permanent basis. Unfortunately, this is too often not enough. The Liberal Party is supportive of a long-term fiscal commitment to municipal infrastructure.

We have been calling for predictable and sustainable funding for a long time. We need to redefine what we mean by “infrastructure” in order to determine whether we are referring to productivity, housing or other aspects.

When I was president of the Privy Council, I called it “smart regulation”. We need to bring back the notion of smart cities. Smart cities mean smart citizens and smart regulations. It is not just based on mortar; different digital strategies have to be put forward as well.

We are proud of our country. However, people identify less and less with their country or continent and, instead, identify with their city. We must go beyond the issue of jurisdiction and share tools interdepartmentally. It is no good to have a department responsible for infrastructure. Human resources, the Minister of Industry and the person responsible for innovation must work together to acquire the necessary tools. The word “infrastructure” must be clearly defined.

For that reason, I think we must consider holding a federal-provincial conference. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister may be meeting with premiers individually instead. It has been too long since the last federal-provincial conference. We need a specific strategy for infrastructure and the future of the municipalities. We must develop tools in order to improve people's quality of life. I am thinking about green infrastructure, digital infrastructure and core infrastructure.

Montreal is having major problems despite all the money invested. We are still losing 40% of our drinking water, despite current investments. We do not need just the money that is currently being invested. We also need to acquire the necessary tools so that the government can invest more. As hon. members know, entities other than the Canadian government are responsible for over 60% of all infrastructure projects.

The government needs to develop a national public transit strategy with funding of its own, and a national general infrastructure and funding strategy.

Above all, I think that the government must avoid partisanship. It has to give itself permission to commend past investments and it has to come up with the right tools. There is still a long road ahead and a lot of work to do.

Earlier, the hon. member for Essex was talking about all the money from the building Canada fund. Instead of talking in concrete terms about the future, he said that the Conservatives have invested more than the Liberals. I would like to point out that an extraordinary minister, a prominent politician and a great Canadian, Herb Gray, also played a role in his region. We do not need to get into who is better. We need to start recognizing the infrastructure sector.

It is an ongoing issue. It is not just based on what one has done in the past, or if one has invested more than another. It is all about what is in it for the future. The more we invest for the future, the more impact we will have on the quality of our lives, on sustainable development and on other policies. However, we have to realize that if we do not have that kind of strategy, it will have an impact on human resources.

As a former minister of immigration, I was always there to discuss with my counterparts the future within the cities. For example, 87% of all the immigration goes through Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Of course, we need that kind of dialogue. We need the infrastructure. We need the transport because it has a direct impact on quality of life. This is not just an infrastructure debate; it is all about what kind of society we want to live in and what the future should be for our great country.

This motion may be the beginning of an interesting debate. As my party's critic for transport, infrastructure and communities, I already started having this conversation on the future of infrastructure at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I imagine there is a cause and effect relationship between that and the NDP's opposition motion. That is why we are in favour of this motion and why it must be adopted.

I think we need to take this debate further. This is an extremely broad issue. As far as repairs are concerned, we are talking about improving productivity in Canada, as I was saying earlier, and we are talking about partnership and transparent funding for the long term.

There is another important aspect that the government side touched on earlier.

It is important to make sure we are not living in a one-size-fits-all, so for every policy and program we promote, it is also important that we realize it is not just the major cities, but all the communities. If we want to make sure we are inclusive and everyone feels like a first class citizen, we will have to make sure we are listening to them.

This is an opportunity to counter cynicism. All political parties in this House must work together on this. It is a motion. We are constantly reminded by this government that a motion is not really binding. In my opinion, this could be the start of a worthwhile debate.

When I go out to speak to the people in my riding of Bourassa and the people of my city, Montreal—I am referring to the Montreal metropolitan area—many people talk to us about this issue. They do not have questions about the Constitution. They believe that we are all part of the solution and that we have specific work to do.

We have talked about social development and sustainable development. However, economic development is extremely important. If we want to be one of the world's great countries, and if we want to ensure that all cities can accommodate more businesses, it is important that our cities have decent infrastructure. Canada is an exporting country and does a huge amount of business with the rest of the world. We have to study what infrastructure can do for economic development and quality of life.

For example, as we prepare to enter into a free trade agreement with Europe, we must ensure that we put this infrastructure in place, because when European businesses want to become established in Canada, they will go to Montreal and have a look at the infrastructure. This is not just about the cities and provinces. When these people arrive, we welcome them to Canada. If we really want to welcome them to Canada, we have to ensure that we build proper infrastructure and that we work towards that.

I am very pleased to have participated in the debate on today's motion and, on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, I can say that we will support this motion.

Agriculture and Agri-Food February 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that there are no negotiations going on at this time, because the file is on the Prime Minister's desk.

I would like to come back to the issue of the dairy industry. The federation and some of its members were here. This is an important sector: 12,700 dairy farms and over 218,000 jobs. We do not want to hear any petty political answers; we want to be assured that the Prime Minister will not go back on his word and that he will protect supply management.

Yes or no, will he commit to protecting supply management? It is important to Canada.

Homes Not Connected to a Sanitation System February 5th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I already congratulated the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

I find that the government is being a bit disingenuous today. A member is not only proposing that we have a more extensive debate, so that we can work together to develop the necessary tools, but she is also giving the government a chance to take this and run with it. But now she is being accused of not acting in good faith because she is not capable of getting her own party on board. We have to call a spade a spade. This is a good motion and is a good way of doing things.

The government simply has to put the problem into context. Not everyone has access to municipal infrastructure. Twenty-five percent of homes, especially in rural regions, do not have access to the municipal sewer system. Instead of waiting until sewage becomes a problem, when we see the worst case scenario, we are calling for preventive measures.

I am part of the government that created the first one-third, one-third, one-third infrastructure program, and there were different components. Not everyone has a pipe running to their house, but we need to find a way to ensure that they have a good quality of life.

This is especially important because water quality is not the only thing at stake: it is also an environmental issue. Given that the Canadian government is already moving forward on other environmental measures, I am convinced there must be a way to reach an acceptable, respectful agreement that recognizes all jurisdictions.

The Government of Canada has done it before. We created something as part of the third component. We had green infrastructure. When I was minister of sports, we found a way to invest in recreational tourism. Recreation is under provincial jurisdiction, but there is also amateur sport, so we found a solution. The same thing applies to the environment.

My colleague is right: the situation is different here. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Fédération québécoise des municipalités lobbied for that cause, and I think it is a good thing.

Our role is to make people's life better and easier, and to create an environment that fosters agreements. That is why I asked my colleague a question—I am not sure she understood me. I wanted to know whether she had already talked with officials from the Quebec government, as they are used to this type of thing.

Municipalities are indeed creatures of the provinces, as was said at the time. However, we are facing a different set of circumstances. With the situation as it is today, we all have to work together without constantly coming down with “acute constitutionalitis”. We can do what is appropriate. Jurisdiction over the environment and infrastructure is shared and I do not see why we could not find a solution. Why make it simple when we can make it complicated, as the government does?

Instead of my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel being lectured on procedure, she should have been congratulated, and not half-heartedly. She wants so much for this motion to be adopted that she is even giving the government a chance to seize the opportunity by telling her they will set up a program. There is no need to enact legislation when you create a program. The minister responsible for infrastructure should sit down with his counterparts, hold a federal-provincial-territorial conference to determine how things can be arranged, and create a program. An infrastructure program has already been proposed. Can it be adjusted, since 25% of houses do not have access to the municipal infrastructure level? It seems to me that we can find a solution. This is what we call common sense.

They will be pleased to hear me talk about common sense, since Premier Harris used to talk about common sense in Ontario. I offer them that at no charge. They do not have to pay me any royalties for it.

Clearly the Liberal Party of Canada will support this motion. There are ways to arrange for a program without treading on jurisdictional toes. If the official opposition needs us to, we will offer to work with them to try to make the government understand that this is in people’s interest, because we are all first-class citizens.

Homes Not Connected to a Sanitation System February 5th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

As we saw in the motion this morning, we must not have second-class citizens. People must be able to fully enjoy rural life. That also means that we need measures related to septic tanks.

However, since this is a federal-provincial program involving the municipalities, I would like to know whether she has already contacted the Government of Quebec to see if she could find an attentive ear.

Business of Supply February 5th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague from Trois-Rivières. Solutions must be found. When laws are enacted, they define what type of society we would like to live in.

Mistakes are possible, but what I find unacceptable is when people are deliberately defined and treated in this way and inequitable policies are implemented.

Our role is not to create second-class citizens, but rather to ensure that we can find solutions to injustices and inequities. This reform creates inequities. It will have an impact on social struggles. The middle class does not exist and yet people are saying that those who live in the regions are potential bandits who ought not to have access to employment insurance. That is not the kind of Canada I want.

Business of Supply February 5th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I lost a close friend who was also a former colleague, former minister Diane Marleau. I would like to thank the hon. member for Sudbury for paying tribute to her last week. She will be missed. When I think of Sudbury, I think of Diane because she was close to her constituents.

The first thing that parliamentarians, particularly the government, must do is to ensure that we are able to answer people's questions. Our role is to provide a service.

The problem is not just that the reform will have terrible socio-economic effects but also that people do not know whether they are entitled to EI or not, even though they have the right to get answers. I find that unacceptable. It means that we have to fight this reform and work to ensure that Service Canada is able to answer questions and provide this type of service.

I would like to close by speaking about another problem affecting the regions. Services are being cut and offices are being shut down because the government is in the process of centralizing services. This will affect the very definition of a Canadian citizen. We are all first-class citizens.

Business of Supply February 5th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to commend and congratulate my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso for his work on the EI file.

To hear the government playing with words today and trying to take us for fools is quite outrageous.

I commend my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles on her motion. Obviously, it is not a competition to determine who spoke first. As parliamentarians, we must make sure that we work together in the best interests of the public.

What makes me sick in all of this is that the government is in the process of creating different classes of Canadians. In other words, the government is targeting people who have chosen to live in a remote area, who have the right to have their place in the sun. Often it is a matter of tradition, such as a family of fishermen who have lived in the same place since the 17th century. They are now being told that if there is work in Alberta, they have to move there.

Is that how we define Canada? That is completely unacceptable. What is worse is how it is being pushed on us. First they force a massive omnibus bill on us and then they start talking about clarification. This has been going on for months, and then on a Friday evening around 5 p.m., right before Christmas, they shove this down our throats.

In the meantime, many people are having a hard time making ends meet. They are being told to go work an hour away from home if they want to work, but there is nothing much to see there but trees. The government is also suggesting that the workers take a 30% wage cut, even though they will have to pay for the extra gas and extra daycare costs. As for single parent families, they are being told to sort things out themselves, otherwise they will lose their benefits and be forgotten. They will then end up on social assistance and will no longer be the federal government's problem. They will become the provinces' problem, end of story.

I have been an MP for 16 years and I have never seen anything like this. They can point fingers at us all they want. When we were in government we made changes. And when the minister disagreed with my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst, he had the courage to go see the workers and talk to them. Whether we agreed or disagreed, the minister had the courage to go see them. Now, the ministers hide. Members come here in their bubble to try to talk about clarification, but they are hiding.

We never, ever abandoned seasonal workers. How did we manage? We implemented pilot projects and we also tried to find alternative solutions. We always tried to find solutions that would allow people in the regions to have their place in the sun.

What I find tiresome is the fact that not only does this government take the divide and conquer approach, but it also pits the regions against one another. This government is telling people in the regions to leave because there are jobs elsewhere. I am happy that there are jobs in some regions, especially in the natural resources sector. However, the beauty of this country lies in its diversity. It is natural for people to decide to stay in their region and make a living from what they do best, whether it is in the fishery, agriculture, forestry or tourism.

Furthermore, the parliamentary secretary, with her condescending bombast, told us that everyone on her committee is happy. Her average income is $90,000 a year. In other regions, people get by and are happy with an income of $40,000. They should not be comparing apples with oranges.

This motion is important. Once again, it allows us to discuss the type of society we want to live in. I do not believe that this is a partisan issue. As a parliamentarian, I have two jobs. The first is to ensure that I protect the quality of life of my constituents, and the second is to ensure that the bills and motions we debate will improve this quality of life. We must also ensure—at least the opposition must—that we act as watchdog and keep a sharp eye on what happens.

What I liked about the speech given by my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, and the speeches of other members on this side of the House, is her comment that we all make mistakes. Acknowledging one's mistakes is a wonderful antidote to cynicism.

We pushed the Conservatives on some employment insurance related issues and they backed off. Then they came back and tried to bamboozle us. It is good to realize that everyone makes mistakes sometimes and to be able to grow and prove how much we care about our constituents.

This motion is well written. I do not understand why the government does not want to support it. This is not a war of semantics. The question is simple. The Conservatives need to put themselves in the shoes of the people of the Magdalen Islands and realize that it means something when 4,000 people take to the streets to demonstrate. We sometimes see two or three signs here and there, but when 4,000 people are demonstrating in such a small place, that is a large percentage of the population. This means there is a problem. These people are not crooks. I will refrain from saying anything that I cannot say here.

When I was the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I recall that the members of the Reform Party—because these are former Reform members—always talked to me about immigrants as though they were terrorists. Now they have changed their tune; now it is the seasonal workers in the regions who are crooks. I do not believe that the 4,000 residents of the Magdalen Islands and the people who protested in Charlevoix or the Gaspé are crooks. These are people who have bills and expenses to pay every month. They are being told that it is over and their EI is being cut off. They are falling through the cracks.

Worse still is how this reform is being applied. We know all too well that cheques are slow to arrive. Temporary employees had to be hired again. The time it takes to receive a cheque is creating other problems. Not only are people not getting paid, but when they are, it takes time. It takes more than prayers to put food on the table.

I clearly do not understand. What do we have against our citizens? Why do we treat those people as second class citizens? Some people like to stay in some regions and they manage to survive financially through seasonal work. I do not understand why we treat them as a bunch of crooks.

It is all about respect, and that is why we will support the motion. However, when we have this kind of motion, it is also appropriate for the government to stand and say that it has made a mistake. Sometimes that happens. With all the debate and argument, the government can say that it has made a mistake. It does not have to look at the people like they are nothing.

I am not talking about semantics like wording, clarification or reform. What I care about is to ensure that those individuals who work like crazy will have food on their table, that they will be first class citizens and help their kids to become great citizens.

With all that, if we are not doing it, we are creating another problem, a major social problem in every region. The time has come for the government to wake up.