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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 2021, with 11% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply October 25th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. In fact, what I am asking him and what everyone in the House is asking him is to respect western Canadian farmers. He spoke of giving them freedom. Indeed, let us give them the freedom to choose and let us hold a plebiscite. We already have a poll that clearly shows that the farmers want to keep the Canadian Wheat Board. If he believes that is not true, then let him show his democratic side and support the excellent motion moved by the hon. member for Churchill. It is a fair and balanced motion that shows a democratic vision by asking the farmers their opinion.

Business of Supply October 25th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank the member for Churchill for proposing this motion, which is truly very important. It is a brilliant response to the Conservatives' mistake, namely, Bill C-18, which proposes dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board.

Members may find it strange that, as the member for Drummond, I am rising in the House to support this motion, which seeks to recognize western farmers' legitimate, democratic right to determine the future of their own supply management tools and marketing boards.

Nevertheless, it is not so strange, since a large part of the riding of Drummond is made up of rural farmland. There are many farmers in my region, whether they be dairy, cattle, pork and poultry producers or grain farmers.

In this regard, I recently had the privilege of meeting with dairy farmer representatives when I was in my riding. They told me that they are in regular contact with farmers in other provinces and that they are very concerned to see the heavy-handed approach that the Conservatives are taking in forcing western farmers to give up a tool that they feel is essential to getting a fair and profitable price, particularly in the case of smaller farms, which are often family-owned.

The single desk marketing system for wheat, durum and barley is an institution that has been very successful and is an essential component of the prairie economy. It is the largest and most successful grain marketing organization in the world. The Canadian Wheat Board was created in the 1920s, when farmers in western Canada started to join together to market their grain in order to get the best price for their crops. Then, in 1943, a single desk system was created, which required all prairie farmers to sell their wheat through the board. The single desk structure provided financial stability, prudent risk management and certainty of grain supply. These are good reasons to support this motion. They show the importance of the Canadian Wheat Board. These things were extremely positive for marketing in the interests of farmers. Today, they provide an undeniable advantage for western farmers.

The Conservatives should acknowledge this. Even though the government's decision to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board will have a very serious impact on the lives of farmers, the decision was made without any analysis of how it would affect them. It goes against what they said they want. Indeed, on September 12, 2011, 62% of farmers voted to maintain the Canadian Wheat Board. That is incredible. That is a very decisive result. That means they want to keep the Canadian Wheat Board. Where were the Conservatives when those results were released? Did they not read the news like everyone else?

Allen Orberg, a farmer and chair of the Canadian Wheat Board's board of directors, thinks that this government does not have a plan. In his opinion, the government has done no analysis and its approach is based solely on its blind commitment to marketing freedom. I will come back to marketing freedom a little later. He added that the government's reckless approach will throw Canada's grain industry into disarray, jeopardize the future of a $5 billion a year export sector and take money out of the pockets of Canadian farmers. What upsets me the most about this is that it all goes against Canadian farmers and only benefits large multinational corporations.

Who will benefit from this bill? That is the question I keep asking myself. Who will benefit from dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board? Dismantling it will unfortunately not benefit farmers, but it will benefit multinationals and people who will get rich on the backs of farmers and family farms.

Why are the Conservatives so set on dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board when prairie farmers have voiced their opposition? This survey clearly shows that the Conservatives are doing a great disservice to western farmers.

By way of comparison, let us look at what happened in Australia after a board similar to the Canadian Wheat Board was dismantled. Before the Australian Wheat Board was dismantled, Australian wheat could command $99 per tonne over American wheat. After the Australian Wheat Board was dismantled, things went awry. In fact, in December 2008, the price of Australian wheat dropped to $27 per tonne below U.S. wheat. In just three years, the 40,000 farmers who were members of the Australian Wheat Board all became customers of Cargill, a multinational and one of the world's largest privately owned agribusiness corporations. And where, Madam Speaker, do you think this company is based? In the United States. What are the chances? Is that what we want here in Canada, to give our agriculture to the United States, to big multinationals? I hope not.

Once again, it seems as though this government is clearing the way for large American corporations to the economic disadvantage of its own people and voters. Once again, the Conservatives are putting the interests of the private sector ahead of the public interest of Canadians. And that disappoints me.

The people in my riding of Drummond are also worried. All of the farmers are worried about the current Conservative policies. They are wondering what the Conservatives have up their sleeves. First, it is the Canadian Wheat Board. What is next? In Drummondville, in the riding of Drummond, many people, including dairy and egg producers, depend on supply management. Right now this market is protected by supply management and producers make a good enough living. There are many farms in the riding of Drummond and they rely heavily on supply management; it is very important in my riding. People in my riding, farmers included, often come to ask me what is happening, where all this is going to lead, what will come of it and what the Conservatives are planning. First it is the Canadian Wheat Board, then what? Supply management?

As members know, supply management is being challenged in connection with the free trade agreement with the European Union. My constituents, representatives of dairy producers, came to see me to say that we must defend supply management, that it must be maintained in Quebec and the riding of Drummond, that it was essential and that I had to fight for it. I promised them that I would do so. We are talking about the Canadian Wheat Board now, and it is a similar topic. This is an opportunity for us to stand up for western Canadians.

In conclusion, the Conservatives often talk about freedom. They want to give prairie farmers the freedom they want so badly. They are in favour of the free market, of giving freedom to the poor farmers. I agree with them. We should give the farmers their freedom, but we should give them the freedom to choose and not shove the Conservatives' choice down their throats. That is not freedom. Freedom is giving them the choice. There was already a survey of 38,261 farmers, and 62% of them voted in favour of maintaining the Canadian Wheat Board.

Therefore, I urge the Conservatives to support this excellent motion by the member for Churchill and to let the farmers determine their own future.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act October 17th, 2011

Madam Speaker, it is unfortunate that I will not be able to give my entire speech. Nevertheless, I will begin my speech on Bill C-13.

This bill would give large tax breaks to very large business without setting any conditions. What a mistake. Not only are these tax cuts not contingent on the creation of new jobs but they also do not put Canada on the right track for the future, that is the green track, the environmental track.

I will explain why this legislation is but a drop in the bucket in terms of the challenges we will face in coming years. And they will be significant challenges.

First, as I mentioned, the legislation will not create any jobs—and we need jobs. We must continue to create jobs because there are still too many people left behind in Canada and in my lovely region of Drummond. The huge gap between the rich and the rest of the population continues to grow. The vast movement of global occupation and protest make us realize that Canadian families, and those of Drummond as well, are feeling a tremendous amount of pressure. I recently noticed that relief agencies, such as the Comptoir alimentaire Drummond, are being used by more people, which worries me a great deal.

In this respect, let us look at the numbers and statistics that prove that the Conservative government is missing the mark when it comes to job creation.

The number of Canadians who are officially unemployed is still approximately 1.4 million. In addition, if we include those who are discouraged or underemployed, the number is close to 2 million.

So, we would expect serious and concrete job creation measures. For example, the Conservatives could draw on our excellent election platform in which we proposed the introduction of a job creation tax credit of up to $4,500 for each new job created. This initiative would help to create 200,000 jobs per year, jobs that would meet the needs of families.

We also have other proposals that hon. members can find in our election platform. Unfortunately, I do not have time to share those proposals with them. These are concrete measures to reward businesses that create jobs, not just gifts for very large corporations, banks or the oil and gas industries. No. These are real measures that would benefit families in Canada and in my riding, Drummond. They are real measures that would create good-quality jobs for the future.

Speaking of the oil and gas industries, does the Conservative government really believe that these are the industries of the future? No, they are not. And it is not true that oil sands are an ethical oil source, that is for sure. Give me a break.

In my riding, people have joined forces. I have to stop there? Okay.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act October 17th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I would first like to congratulate the hon. member from Edmonton—Leduc on his speech.

He talked about several measures to create jobs and get the economy moving; on the other hand, he did not talk about the environment. Yet the environment is very important to getting the economy moving, because it could be very costly in the long run. In a report released on September 29, 2011, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy reported that climate change could cost Canada $21 billion per year by 2050. So this is where investments are needed—in the environment, in renewable energy sources, green energy, innovation and so on—in order to improve the Conservatives government's record. For now, this budget does not cut it.

Should we not be investing in the environment, rather than in small measures that do not seem to make any difference right now?

World Teachers' Day October 5th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, World Teachers’ Day is held annually on October 5 to celebrate the essential role of teachers in providing quality education at all levels. In Canada, this year's theme for World Teachers' Day is “Teachers: Inspiring students, awakening potential”.

There is more to teaching than simply transferring knowledge. You have to inspire the children, unleash their potential and give them a new way of looking at things. Teaching means helping students turn their dreams of a better world into reality.

I would like to encourage all the members of the House to demonstrate their appreciation for the wonderful work done by Canada's teachers.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act October 3rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his very astute comments and his question. Unfortunately, all this bill does is attack the wrong people. Obviously there are problems, as hon. members have already mentioned. In addition to being exploited by smugglers, the refugees are already victims in their own countries, where they suffer persecution. As a result of this legislation, when they arrive in Canada they will suffer again because of the mistreatment and categorization by the Conservative government. That is very bad.

Refugees need to be seen as victims and they need to be helped. We have to stop seeing them as criminals, which they are not. They are victims. Many agencies and groups agree with the NDP that this bill makes no sense. Allow me to name a few: the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Bar Association. I find it hard to believe that all those people do not know what they are talking about.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act October 3rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her question and comments. Under current legislation, human smuggling is already punishable by life in prison. That is what needs to be worked on. Resources need to be given to existing agencies to enforce the legislation properly.

What is more, Bill C-4 might violate section 15 of the charter on equality before the law. Bill C-4 would create a new category of second-class refugees who would be denied permanent resident status and a temporary resident permit and would not be accepted on humanitarian grounds or have the right to apply for permanent residence.

We must focus our energy on existing legislation, under which human smuggling is already punishable by life in prison.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act October 3rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak about Bill C-4, the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act. My explanation will show Canadians that there are very clear differences in the approach to governance taken by the Conservative government and that taken by the official opposition.

First, Bill C-4 purports to prevent human smugglers from taking advantage of the Canadian immigration system. How ironic. In reality, the bill almost exclusively targets refugee claimants arriving in Canada. This bill clearly shows this government's approach, which is designed to create fear in our society and exploit the misery of certain foreign nationals for political gain. The government is introducing knee-jerk legislation that is not based on fact, law or reason.

The incredible number of organizations working to assist refugees that are denouncing this bill provides indisputable evidence that the bill is not at all logical. I would like to mention a few of these organizations.

First, the Canadian Council for Refugees asked that this bill be withdrawn. Amnesty International—these are very prestigious organizations involved in the protection of people and refugees—has stated that Bill C-4 falls far short of Canada's international human rights and refugee and immigrant protection obligations. A program director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association severely criticized the Conservative government's attitude with regard to refugees in general and Bill C-4 in particular, stating that this bill is draconian. He clearly said “draconian”. I am not the one who said it, but I agree.

All these objections would be sufficient to change the mind of any person of good faith. However, that is not all. There are still other groups that oppose the negative impact that this bill would have.

The Canadian Bar Association has also spoken out against this bill and the previous one, stating that it did not support the legislation in its previous form because it violated the charter protection against arbitrary detention and denied the prompt review of detention. We cannot just imprison people without reasonable grounds, without incontrovertible evidence. The bill also violates Canada's international obligations respecting the treatment of persons seeking protection. In addition, a group of experts from the Centre for Refugee Studies has described this bill as draconian. Yes, that word again.

As we can see, many organizations that come from various walks of life have spoken out against the measure being proposed by the Conservative government.

I would like to take a look at some of the key aspects of the bill so that Canadians can see for themselves the negative side of Bill C-4. This bill would give the Minister of Immigration the power to designate, at his sole discretion—imagine that, his sole discretion—a group of refugees in Canada as irregular arrivals. What is more, he could do that based on mere suspicion, as I said earlier, and based on a definition of “group” that is not specified in the bill.

Does this not give far too much power to just one individual? This measure presents a serious risk of abuse. If this bill passes, such discretionary power could lead to abuses for which the Conservative government would be solely responsible.

Once designated foreign nationals receive that title, they are then subject to all kinds of special rules, some of which are discriminatory. To begin, I will focus on a few such rules.

Once designated as irregular arrivals, all designated foreign nationals, including children—everyone heard me correctly, including children—will be mandatorily detained on arrival or upon designation for up to one year. Is that any way to treat the victims of smugglers? The real criminals here are the smugglers. Again, is that any way to treat victims—to throw the entire family, including children, in jail for a year? How shameful. What a black mark on our international reputation as a humane, welcoming society.

In addition, the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board would not even review their detention for one year. Designated foreign nationals cannot be released during that time.

And that is not all. When they are released, designated foreign nationals will still have their right to apply for permanent residence suspended.

Also, designated foreign nationals cannot file a humanitarian and compassionate application or apply for a temporary resident permit for five years. Furthermore, designated foreign nationals cannot receive refugee travel documents, which means that they cannot travel outside of Canada for at least five years after being accepted as a refugee. And that is very serious.

To sum up, this means that all designated refugee claimants will be separated from their families and unable to travel to see them for at least five years. It is unbelievable. Six years is even worse. Is that how important family is to this Conservative government? Is this any way to demonstrate our family values? I do not think so.

The Conservative government seems to have a troubling tendency to diminish the importance of the family values that Canadians hold dear. Let me give an example. Since this government came to power in 2006, we have seen a marked decrease in the number of family-class visas that have been issued. There has also been a dramatic drop in the number of refugee visas issued by the government.

To conclude, I will go over some of the main problems with Bill C-4. It penalizes refugees. It was presented as legislation to target smugglers, but most of these provisions punish refugees instead of smugglers. I already said that refugees, including children, would be detained for one year without any possibility of an independent review. Under Bill C-4, refugees would be victims three times over: first, when they are persecuted in their home country, second, by the smugglers, and lastly, by Canada. That makes no sense.

I also spoke about the fact that Bill C-4 creates challenges for family reunification, which is the main objective announced by the government. It denies refugees the right to apply for permanent residence for five years, thus preventing them from reuniting with their families, including their children. This is a violation of the right to family guaranteed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The government must restore Canada's international reputation, not only by ensuring the proper treatment of refugees who come to this country, but also by improving its system to allow a greater number of refugees to settle in Canada. There are millions of people in refugee camps and in dangerous situations around the world. We must help more of them by giving them shelter and providing security.

Canada needs fair and balanced refugee legislation. This legislation is neither fair nor balanced, and the official opposition will work hard to amend or defeat it. The Conservatives should focus on enforcing Canada's already existing legislation against human smuggling. The government should give law enforcement agencies and the Immigration and Refugee Board the resources they need to address human trafficking and human smuggling. That is what we need. We should be focusing on enforcing the existing legislation.

Those are the solutions proposed by the New Democrats: fair and balanced solutions that attack the real problems, the real criminals—the smugglers—and not the victims.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Bourassa, who is the funniest member in the House. It is pretty incredible. Sometimes he talks a bit too much, but I am saying that on a personal level. Since it is so late, I thought I would throw in some humour.

What is very important is that we remember the clause in one of the old settlements done by the government. This clause in the agreement between the Canada Post Corporation and its workers ensured that there would be a good work environment in the future. This is lacking in the settlement proposed by Bill C-6. A clause should be added to ensure that there is a healthy work environment after the situation is resolved.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, my colleague made some interesting comments, to which I listened closely.

Despite everything, I would like to read the email I received, which I mentioned earlier. It provides a very good response to him. This lady is a letter carrier who has been locked out by Canada Post. She took part in the rotating strikes that were legitimately organized. She has lost her salary, since Canada Post does not want to bargain with the CUPW bargaining committee. She says she wants to work, like all the other CUPW members who are locked out. However, she does not think that the repercussions of the few days of strike activity organized by CUPW have been as significant as what Canada Post has imposed not only on all postal workers, but also on all Canadians. In no way was it the aim of those workers to take the population hostage.

It is very important to remember that the workers want to work and that this was a rotating strike, not a general strike. They could have called a general strike, but this was nothing but a rotating strike, precisely in order to minimize the inconvenience to the public. Who made the problem worse? Canada Post did, by—