House of Commons photo

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

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, this is a grave moment. Yes, I know that it is around 3:33 in the morning. But no matter what the time might be, it is grave all the same. This deplorable situation and this bill, which is totally harmful to postal workers, cannot go on. What is more, all Canadian workers and their families must be respected. Bill C-6 is unprecedented. It will do harm, and it risks leading to a deterioration of working conditions for all Canadians. Is this what the Prime Minister wants? Is this what the Minister of Labour wants? Was this the intention of the Conservative government? I do not think so. I hope not. I dearly hope not. This is why we are here: to set the record straight. I spoke about the time earlier, and I am mentioning it again, to explain the situation to the Conservative government so that it can amend this horrible bill. Yes, this is a grave moment.

Let us once again explain the source of the problem. There was a negotiation process between the Canada Post Corporation and its employees. That negotiation was not easy. Negotiations are sometimes difficult.

The postal employees could have launched a completely legal general strike in accordance with the rules, but they did not want to go on strike. What they wanted was instead to use certain pressure tactics. Why? Because they like what they do. They want better working conditions. They wanted to work. Their aim was to use these pressure tactics. It is only natural that they should want to bring pressure to bear.

They also wanted to put pressure on management without hurting the Canadian people. That is most noble on their part and they should be applauded for it.

After the Canadian Union of Postal Workers began a series of rotating strikes, the union even offered to end the strike if the corporation agreed to keep the previous contract in effect for the duration of the negotiations. Incredible. The workers were even prepared to accept the status quo in the meantime, but Canada Post refused. The officials turned that down. Truly incredible.

On June 15, Canada Post decided to lock out all of its employees and shut down mail delivery. What a mistake. What an illegitimate action to take.

On June 20, the Conservatives tabled a regressive piece of legislation. Let us say it: this legislation is regressive. It would impose a contract on postal workers that includes, among other things, a wage settlement that is lower than what management offered. Can anyone in this House rise and dare call this good legislation? I challenge anyone in this House to rise and say that this part of the bill is good. I challenge all Conservatives to say that this clause is fair. I am speaking of course of the part that includes a wage settlement below the level in the management offer. It is incredible.

My riding assistant, Daniel Lemire—a nod to him in passing: I do not think he is watching at this hour, he must be asleep, but that is okay—recently met with the locked-out workers in Drummondville. He found people who were idle, frustrated, even very angry at being unable to go to work. Yes, they want to go back to work. First of all, they wanted to go back quickly. They said we should see to it that the bill is passed and they can go back to work. But after all the conditions in Bill C-6 were explained to them, they said, “Hold on a minute.” Now they are worried because the Conservative government wants to pull the rug out from under them and deny them their legitimate right to negotiate in good faith for better working conditions and for the good of their families.

The locked-out workers told us that they wanted to return to work. As I was saying earlier, they were not the ones who decided to stop working. This is a lockout. These people enjoy their work. They enjoy providing this service to the public. They are only waiting for the Conservative government to remove the locks from the office doors so they can return to work.

That way, they can go back to delivering the mail for the good of seniors, SMEs and all Canadians. However, they are not prepared to swallow the affront that is Bill C-6, which the Prime Minister is trying to force down their throats. They want to return to work with respect, dignity and honour.

Let us talk about postal services in rural regions. The riding of Drummond includes many small municipalities; it is a large rural region. How many small municipalities are there in the riding of Drummond? There are 19 towns in the riding of Drummond. I will not name all of them, but I will talk about the little town of Saint-Guillaume, where I lived for a long time. If my colleagues should have the occasion to go there, I invite them to drop by the famous Saint-Guillaume cheese factory, which produces excellent cheeses distributed all over Quebec and beyond.

Let me tell you something about town life. The post office is the heart, lungs, eyes, ears and mouth of the town. Towns cannot do without a post office. It is like a primary school or a financial institution. It offers local services essential to the survival of our precious municipalities.

Unfortunately, this back-to-work bill does not guarantee the survival, viability or vitality of these unique institutions, which enable our small municipalities to continue to prosper. In my riding, the town residents are highly engaged and very attached to services such as those provided by the post office. Consider how essential the postal service is to our seniors, our mobility-impaired people, and our SMEs. There are some SMEs in my constituency, and they are very dynamic and innovative.

In short, the back-to-work bill tabled by the federal government penalizes postal workers and rewards Canada Post for locking them out. It has to be said that it is Canada Post that has interrupted national mail delivery. It is Canada Post's fault. So what does the government do? It gives Canada Post the carrot and the employees the stick. It should not be that way; that is not logical. This is an unhealthy sign of real bias.

As I was saying earlier, the bill imposes wage increases that are below those offered by Canada Post, but I will give some actual numbers. Canada Post’s offers were 1.9% in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and 2% in 2014; this is well below the rate of inflation, which is 3.3%. The Conservative bill would further reduce those increases to 1.75% in 2011, 1.5% in 2012, 2% in 2013 and 2% in 2014. It is scandalous.

Here is some more information. Public postal service and postal workers do not cost the public purse anything. My colleagues mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating: over the last 15 years Canada Post has made profits of $1.7 billion and paid $1.2 million in dividends and income tax to the federal government.

To summarize the situation, this is not a strike, but a lockout. The government is trying to impose a contract that is not a fair collective agreement. It is inappropriate for the government to intervene and impose a contract on the employees. We will oppose this bill and the government’s attempt to privatize Canada Post and reduce services to Canadians. I would have liked to read an email, but I will not have the time.

I will say this in closing: let us unlock the doors of Canada Post and finally make it possible to have real negotiations that respect both parties.

Seniors June 9th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, in his recent budget, the Minister of Finance is helping only a third of seniors living below the poverty line. The government is making a minimal effort. Unfortunately, it is much too little. The NDP called on the government to help all seniors living below the poverty line. To do so, the budget should have allocated $700 million, not $300 million.

It is unacceptable in a society like ours to abandon those who built our country's economy. It is unacceptable that in 2011 we are unable to find the necessary resources to lift all seniors out of poverty.

On behalf of all seniors in need and especially those in the riding of Drummond, today I invite the Minister of Finance to immediately increase the guaranteed income supplement by $700 million in order to allow all seniors to live in dignity.

The Budget June 9th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague. It is unbelievable and absurd that the Conservative government did not include more environmental measures in its budget and that it is not providing more support for the initiatives in my riding of Drummond, for example, or in my colleague's riding. The NDP had a slogan, “Let's work together”, but that is not just a slogan. It is a commitment that we made. We want to work together and reach out to the Conservative Party. We are offering our help, since we know that the party needs it. The Minister of the Environment needs our help, and we would be happy to help him improve his energy record.

The Budget June 9th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

I must say that abolishing the subsidy that political parties receive for each vote is a mistake. Our voter turnout in the last election—60%—was terrible. This subsidy is an incentive to vote. When my students got a mark of 60%, I was not overly congratulatory. I would tell them that they should do better. That is what we must do here. Furthermore, we run the risk of once again seeing big business exert major influence with the financing of political parties.

The Budget June 9th, 2011

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to say that yes, the government may be putting $800 million on the table for the environment; however, how many billion dollars will be lost through tax cuts and subsidies to banks, major corporations and fossil fuel companies? That, we do not know. The government does not have money for the environment, but it has money to cut corporate taxes. That is not right; it is not responsible.

The Budget June 9th, 2011

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in this House for the first time on behalf of the people of Drummond. I want to thank my predecessor, Roger Pomerleau, for his excellent years of service. I also want to congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your appointment.

As an aside, I invite my colleagues to spend their summer vacation in Drummond this year. The 30th annual Mondial des Cultures is being held there from July 7 to 17.

I want to begin by thanking the people of my riding for the confidence they have shown me. I also want to acknowledge the democratic participation by a little more than 61% of the constituents of Drummond. This gesture is all the more significant considering the political cynicism that reigns across the country at this time. We certainly cannot boast about the turnout in the last election.

Why are people so uninterested in politics? Many people think their votes do not count. Since 2006, I have been encouraging people in Quebec to vote for the NDP. It is true that our chances at the time were slim, but at least I had one argument: every vote equals funding for the political party that best represents the wishes of the voters. In that sense, no voter ever loses and everyone's voice will always be heard. That is what I used to say and I often ended up convincing many people to vote as a result. Unfortunately, the Conservative Party is planning on abolishing this incentive for political participation, which just might discourage even more people from going to the polls.

Is that what the Conservative Party wants? Of course I do not think so. Then why eliminate the per-vote subsidy for political parties? The party in power could at least have a plan B for increasing voter turnout. It could consider proportional representation, for example. But no, there is nothing. It is abolishing a good formula that was working well and did not cost the public very much. What are the Conservative government's intentions? Does it want to muzzle the opposition? I hope not, because the opposition got 60% of the vote and needs to be heard. That is what Canadians want.

The Drummond riding is not lazing about when it comes to improving its environmental record. The number of environmental initiatives are increasing in the riding. I would like to mention the Mondial des Cultures again. This festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary from July 7 to 17, and all members are cordially invited to attend. Since 2005, the Mondial des Cultures has been implementing various measures to improve its ecological footprint, including things like giving away plants, planting trees, recycling, and so on. I have some great news to share about this year: these measures will allow the festival to offset 100% of the greenhouse gases emitted by all participants in this wonderful festival. Is that not fantastic? This is an excellent example of one environmentally responsible action among many in my riding. This excellent, tangible action illustrates our desire to leave a green, healthy planet to our children and grandchildren.

Meanwhile, where is the Conservative government? What are the Prime Minister and his Minister of the Environment doing? Can my colleagues tell me? Of the 408 pages that make up the Minister of Finance's budget, only three measly pages deal with the environment. What a mistake. The Conservatives think they have a plan to stimulate growth and employment, but those things can no longer be separated from environmental considerations. On the contrary, everything is connected. They need to stop burying their heads in the sand.

What is more, a June 4, 2011, column in Le Devoir by Louis-Gilles Francoeur—who knows what he is talking about when it comes to the environment—ran under the following headline: Climate change—as the urgency increases, North America ignores the problem.

North America also includes Canada. He wrote in this article that the threshold of 32 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, or the peak emissions expected for 2020, which constitutes the ultimate limit that should never be surpassed, will likely be reached in 2012, nine years earlier than anticipated.

Last weekend, I was speaking to one of my constituents, Clara Hortua, who works with the Regroupement interculturel de Drummondville. She shared with me some wonderful news: she and her husband became grandparents a few weeks ago. You should have seen the look of pride and joy on her face. Do you think that Ms. Hortua wants to pass on a sick planet to her children? No. She wants us to do everything in our power to protect our planet.

Canada was required to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below the 1990 baseline. Instead, the Conservative government let the situation get completely out of hand and, in 2007, we experienced a 26% increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which was already a discrepancy of 33.8% compared to the target level set by Canada under the terms of the Kyoto protocol.

I would like to invite the Minister of the Environment to redo his homework. If he needs a good teacher, he can let me know; I am a teacher by profession. I would ask him to start by reading the Environment section of the NDP's wonderful campaign platform. He could, for example, make major investments in renewable energy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the IPCC—estimates that, by 2050, renewable energy could meet nearly 80% of the planet's energy needs. Is this not great and wonderful? Would this not be an incredible step forward? It would be a courageous measure that would also create jobs and keep the economy going, a green, future-oriented economy. He could also implement a carbon pricing mechanism using a quota exchange system, a type of carbon exchange. We have been talking about this for years. What is Canada waiting for? Where is it? He could also invest in improving public transit. This has been talked about for a long time but nothing much is happening.

In short, Canadians want environmental leadership. Canadians are asking the Prime Minister and his Minister of the Environment to sit down with the opposition and improve our environmental record. We cannot wait any longer. We want concrete action.