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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was languages.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Drummond (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 16% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Telecommunications June 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals missed the mark yesterday with their announcement about the 5G spectrum auction.

Their policy will cut service to tens of thousands of households in rural communities. Reducing capacity in the regions to make it available to cities is like robbing Peter to pay Paul. It makes no sense. The NDP raised concerns during the consultations. Even the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development admitted the changes would hurt rural regions.

Why are the Liberals knowingly disconnecting our regions?

Petitions June 5th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by hundreds of Canadian citizens who are upset about cuts to French-language services in Ontario.

Given that the Ontario government made cuts to services in French that will affect the the Franco-Ontarian community's development and quality of life, the petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to show some leadership by engaging with the provinces and territories to ensure that people's constitutional language rights are respected across the country.

I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Ms. Chagnon, who collected signatures for several petitions to bring about this change.

Social Development June 5th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I would like to remind my hon. colleague that, in February 2019, the Liberal Party voted against the NDP motion calling on the government to act quickly and create 500,000 decent affordable housing units over the next 10 years.

With regard to the homelessness partnering strategy, I want to congratulate the Drummond RCM's partners in homelessness as well as community groups in the greater Drummond area who are responsible for implementing the strategy, groups such as the Carrefour d'entraide Drummond inc., Comptoir alimentaire Drummond, l'Ensoleilvent, Maison Habit-Action, Refuge La Piaule, Réseau d'aide le Tremplin, and the Fondation de la Tablée populaire.

My colleague seems to be saying that the government is going to do what these organizations are asking for. In our region, we absolutely need to maintain a holistic community approach to conquering homelessness.

Social Development June 5th, 2019

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to once again rise in the House, even at this late hour, to debate some very important issues facing the people of Drummond.

I am here tonight for the adjournment debate because I wanted to come back to a question that I asked the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development about the difficulties that Canadians are facing on a daily basis and the way the Liberal government treats ordinary Canadians relative to rich corporate executives. When rich corporate executives ask for help, the Liberals come to their rescue. They bend over backwards to meet the demands of the wealthy, the much-talked-about 1% of our society. It is really unfair. The Liberals seem to have two sets of rules: one set for the wealthiest members of our society and another for everyone else, who has to wait.

I can give some very specific examples. On May 30, the CBC reported that some wealthy clients of KPMG, an accounting firm that serves the wealthiest one per cent, were accused of using a fraudulent scheme to avoid paying taxes and reached an out-of-court settlement with the Canada Revenue Agency. They paid no penalties, and do not have to repay hardly any taxes. It is an out-of-court settlement. They are protecting rich fraudsters.

When people in my riding make a mistake on their tax return, they immediately receive a letter sometimes accusing them of fraud and demanding immediate repayment of the full amount, with interest. The rich get off with an out-of-court settlement.

The Liberals said they would fight tax havens. However, during their term in office, they signed agreements with notorious tax havens such as Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda. These are two notorious tax havens in the Caribbean. When it comes to tax havens, the Liberals do not have the solution because they are part of the problem.

I mentioned other examples that will help Canadians and the people of the greater Drummond area. The homelessness partnering strategy, or HPS, and the Canada-Quebec agreement come to mind. According to the Table des partenaires en itinérance de Drummondville, the federal government's current approach flies in the face of the priorities, needs and practices on the ground. That is why the organization and other community groups want the homelessness partnering strategy to take a comprehensive community-based approach to fighting homelessness and wants to maintain that approach.

Will the Liberal government finally crack down on tax havens and take a comprehensive community-based approach to fighting homelessness in order to meet the needs of ordinary Canadians?

Criminal Records Act June 4th, 2019

Madam Speaker, it is rather interesting to see the Liberals rise in the House to demand that I not talk about social housing, even though there is a very serious housing crisis in Drummond, and then ask a question on that topic. I am happy to answer that question because, in this Parliament, we moved a motion to quickly call for the creation of 500,000 housing units. The entire country, including Drummond, is facing a housing crisis. We need to take action.

Criminal Records Act June 4th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby for his excellent work, his kind words and his visits to Drummond. He came to Drummond several times to lead sessions on tax credits for people with disabilities. I thank him very much, as do the people of Drummond. Thanks to him, they ended up receiving a few thousand dollars. They were entitled to that money, but this was not well advertised by the previous governments.

The member's question is very important. Of course, if the NDP takes office in October 2019, it will remedy the current situation. The NDP will not only implement a process to permanently expunge criminal records, but it will also work on addiction issues and treat drug use as a public health issue. The NDP will be sure to organize public education and awareness campaigns and invest both the human and financial resources necessary to deal with this issue. It must be said that addictions are a serious social problem that has to be taken seriously.

Criminal Records Act June 4th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I would like to reply to my colleague, who has a lot of experience in the House.

If we had decriminalized marijuana use, we would have introduced legislation to expunge criminal records, that is certain. That is what we have been saying from the beginning. We oppose the criminalization of drug use. Of course we would have expunged criminal records, but we would have done so in a structured and carefully planned manner. We would not have waited until we legalized cannabis, as the Liberals did, only to scratch our heads afterward because we had forgotten those with criminal records. We would not have then rushed a bill through the House of Commons and send it to committee, so we could finally say that we were moving forward, despite the sloppy work, less than three weeks before the end of the session. We would have done things properly.

Moreover, in October 2018, the NDP member for Victoria introduced his bill, which was already ready. Unfortunately, the government decided not to support that legislation.

Criminal Records Act June 4th, 2019

Maintain our records only when we need them, Mr. Speaker?

Why would we need them? We do not need that criminal record. That is why it should be expunged. My colleague just suggested that records should be kept if they are needed, but there is no need because this substance is legal now. Criminalizing people for simple possession of cannabis was extreme in the first place.

That is why we introduced a bill. We wanted to decriminalize cannabis. It is appalling that people got a criminal record for simple possession of cannabis. That kind of record has ruined people's lives. That is why we need to more forward with this.

You may choose not to believe me. I admit I am no expert on the subject, but Solomon Friedman was absolutely right when he said that, while this bill is better than nothing, better than nothing is a mighty low bar for our Parliament.

Criminal Records Act June 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I will explain the context to my hon. colleague, who was obviously not listening very carefully to my speech because I clearly said that I was going to digress a bit to explain how the pardon bill was a half measure. I was giving another example of the Liberal government's half measures. I will obviously be coming back to the subject of pardons momentarily.

I was trying to say that the government is also taking half measures with housing. It is another example. If I can finish my point, it needs to be said that one in five Canadians spends more than 50% of their income on housing. Even though the Liberal government has a national housing strategy, 90% of the funding will not come until after the next election. The government was not announcing a national housing strategy. It was making an election promise. In February 2019, the Liberal government voted against an NDP motion to act quickly and create 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing within 10 years. The government could have taken our suggestion, and this measure would have provided some much-needed accessible and affordable housing in Drummond. Too many Canadians are spending more than one-third of their annual income on housing. Too many Canadians are spending half of their annual income on housing. They are struggling to find housing and grappling with a housing crisis. Housing is hard to come by, but affordable housing is even more difficult to find.

I want to come back to the topic at hand, the government's lack of ambition with respect to Bill C-93, an act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis. Why is there such a lack of planning and lack of ambition?

As I mentioned, in October 2018 we were ready to introduce a bill that would have completely expunged criminal records, not just suspended them. That would have reassured people who have a criminal record for simple possession of cannabis but not for drug trafficking. These were people who had a health problem and consumed a substance that, at that time, was illegal but today is legal. We had a plan.

In closing, I will talk about another example, and that is climate change. The Liberal government is implementing half measures. It will meet Stephen Harper's weak targets for 2030 a full 200 years too late. The government says that it will take action to fight climate change. It is putting a price on carbon but has left out the largest emitters.

Last Friday, we tabled the plan called the courage to act. Not only will it create jobs, but it will address climate change. This is an ambitious and courageous plan. That is what the constituents of Grand Drummond and Canadians across the country want from their government. They want ambition and courage.

Therefore, I will close my speech with a quote that sums up everything I have said about the bill:

I should first note that Bill C-93 is better than nothing. But better than nothing is a mighty low bar for our Parliament. You can do better. You must do better. Instead, I would urge a scheme of expungement along the lines already provided for in the Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act.

That is what Solomon Friedman, a criminal defence attorney, said in committee to explain why this is important.

In closing, let me repeat his words: “But better than nothing is a mighty low bar for our Parliament.”

Unfortunately, the same standard seems to apply to social housing and the environment, and that is why we need to do more and be ambitious and courageous.

Criminal Records Act June 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House of Commons to speak to Bill C-93, an act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis.

As I mentioned earlier, I do not think this bill goes far enough. It is too little, too late. Let me explain. It is too little because this bill was not introduced until after cannabis was legalized. The government dragged its feet on record suspensions. It waited too long. The legalization of cannabis came into effect, but people still have criminal records for simple possession of cannabis. We are not talking about trafficking marijuana here, just simple possession. These people have a criminal record for simple possession, when it is currently legal to use marijuana.

By the way, just because something is legal does not mean it is a good idea. I want to say that even though it is legal to use marijuana, it is not really a good idea to do so. I also want to say that the legislation legalizing cannabis should really have included a major public health campaign to make people aware of the effects and risks of using marijuana. Marijuana is like any other substance. It is legal to drink alcohol, for example, but it can be addictive. I know what I am talking about. I know people who are addicted to alcohol. Marijuana can also be addictive. That is obviously the case with tobacco as well, which is also a legal substance. Cigarettes are a terrible product that can be addictive. These are legal products. The government can legalize these products, but it also needs to inform the public of the risks associated with using them.

We are talking about people who have a criminal record for simple possession. This has nothing to do with trafficking. It is really about people being caught for simple possession. These people therefore have a criminal record for something that is now legal and has been legal for a few months. Drug use should never be criminalized. Instead, it should be regarded as a public health matter. I am thinking of the opioid crisis raging across Canada, for example. We should be taking a public health approach.

This bill is too late because legalization came into effect several months ago, yet we are only just debating this legislation today. This legislation allows for criminal records to be suspended. This means that criminal records are set aside, but they are not expunged.

As a result, people who are granted a record suspension will still have the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. They will always have to wonder what might happen when they try to rent an apartment, find a job or apply to volunteer. They will be asked if they have a criminal record, and they will have to answer that their record was suspended. Their criminal record will not be completely expunged. The same will be true when they want to travel. What will happen when they want to travel? If the government really wanted to do things right, it would have passed the excellent bill introduced by my colleague from Victoria.

His bill was introduced a long time ago. In October 2018, my colleague from Victoria introduced a good bill. We were ready. We had done our homework. Instead of using that fine bill, the Liberals showed that had no regard whatsoever for Canadians who have a criminal record for simple possession of cannabis, something that is no longer a crime, and who face barriers to things like employment and housing.

It is far too late to wake up now. There are less than three weeks left before the end of this Parliament. Now the government is waking up and introducing this bill. We are at third reading stage. We are moving quickly, but unfortunately we are cutting corners. We are not being thorough, and it is truly worrisome.

There is a not-for-profit organization in my riding or in the central Quebec region that does very important work. As others have mentioned, the problem with the Liberal philosophy is the lack of emphasis on resources.

I would like to talk about an extremely important resource. The organization is called Action Toxicomanie. This community-based organization was founded in 1991. It provides services in the central Quebec and Drummond region.

The organization serves a significant number of young people through its addiction prevention programs, which are also offered in schools. Action Toxicomanie is a community-based not-for-profit organization that promotes healthy living and addiction prevention and is geared to young people from 10 to 30. As I was saying, the organization takes a holistic approach that focuses on promoting physical and mental health as well as social skills development. Interventions can be individual or group-based and seek to develop individual knowledge and abilities.

Action Toxicomanie's website details the organization's mission, which is to prevent addiction, provide accurate information about substances and related addictions, support the development of social skills, inform and support parents and adults, intervene with teens and adults with emerging substance abuse issues, and support teens with clear substance abuse issues and refer them to specialized services.

I would like to congratulate the entire Action Toxicomanie team on the excellent work they are doing with our young people. As I have always said, resources like this are extremely important. When the government legalized cannabis, it put the cart before the horse. In their rush to legalize cannabis, the Liberals forgot to safeguard public health in this country, implement a comprehensive public education and prevention campaign, provide provinces and municipalities with the right resources to prepare for this major social change, and make sure organizations working to educate youth and prevent addiction were ready to deal with the change and properly equipped to go into schools and communities to inform people. That is why I find it virtually impossible to support the bill.

I just want to digress for a moment if I may. We are talking about physical and mental health. I just talked about a very good organization, Action Toxicomanie.

I would like to talk about the book N'oublie jamais by Gregory Charles, which my mother gave me. She may have been giving me a message to never forget to think about her, never forget to call her or never forget to go see her. Mothers send subtle messages like that. This book talks about Alzheimer's.

Gregory Charles comes from Saint-Germain-de-Grantham, in my riding. He grew up there. He recently visited École Jean-Raimbault in Drummondville to talk to the children about his passion, his faith in music and his strong values. He did this for the children. He came to visit the children who are studying music and spent over an hour playing music with them. I simply wanted to acknowledge the time he spent with these children.

His book highlights the importance of hard work and strong values and talks about how crucial it is to take care of those around us. I think that is what my mother was trying to tell me when she gave me this book. I thank her for that.

I thank Gregory Charles for what he did for the community of Drummond, and I congratulate the team at École Jean-Raimbault, especially Denis Lambert, who spearheaded this initiative.

I would like to give some other examples.

When it comes to the legalization of marijuana, the government is only taking half measures. Before I talk about them, I want to give an example of another issue on which the government is only taking half measures, and that is the housing crisis.

Drummond is experiencing a housing crisis. The vacancy rate is 1.7%. The vacancy rate for three-bedroom homes is 0.4%. What is more, prices are going way up. Over 15,000 renter households in Drummondville are being forced to spend more than half of their annual income on housing. When households have to spend half of their annual income on housing, they do not have much money left over to meet their other needs.

David Bélanger, the chair of Drummond's municipal housing board, said:

When people have to spend nearly one-third of their income on housing, there are obviously other needs that are not being met. We are developing projects to create more affordable housing. The housing crisis has two dimensions, namely accessibility and affordability.