House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was problem.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 24% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Yes, Mr. Speaker, pathetic.

The most pathetic inconsistency that we have seen in this House in quite some time is the Liberals' inconsistency. They plan to stand up and vote for Bill C-51 even though the greatest leaders in the history of their own party have said that we should not vote for such a thing.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, one expression that I have never used in the House is “a desperate attempt”. This looks very much like a desperate attempt.

The Liberals now totally disagree with former Liberal prime ministers. They realized in committee that this bill cannot be supported by basically anyone who has expertise in this field.

For the benefit of those at home, there is no question that we will change a law and that my friend the Leader of the Opposition will continue to say that we will change a law, because that is how Parliament operates. You have to take the existing law and turn it into something completely different, even if we want to transform it altogether.

There is no inconsistency in the NDP's position on this issue, not at all. The most—

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, when more than 80% or 90% of the competent individuals and experts associated with matters relating to protection of privacy and personal information strongly criticize the bill, the government has to start reconsidering how it sees things.

It is not people like the NDP members who are spreading false information. There is a huge amount of information from competent individuals about how Bill C-51 is troubling and inadequate and should be amended or withdrawn.

I wish I had the exact number from my colleague's last count, which was about 14 of the first 15 witnesses. They stated that Bill C-51 should not be passed as is and asked the government not to pass it.

The last ones on the list—who could in no way be described as far left—were part of an association of entrepreneurs in emerging technology and said that Bill C-51 as currently written is completely unacceptable. That is factual information.

Will I repeat that so all Canadians hear it? Yes, I will keep saying it until the election and make sure that we take power and overturn these decisions that are literally a threat to the privacy of Canadians and small and medium-sized businesses working in emerging technology.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I could have spoken for 20 or even 30 minutes on this bill. It is always a great honour to be able to address the House; however, I cannot say that I am pleased about the subject we are addressing here today, Bill C-51.

The bill has a very long title because, basically, it is an omnibus bill related to security issues that affect all Canadians. Of course, I am referring to An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.

The government in power is going to ram this very cumbersome piece of legislation down our throats this week, even though the bill is being criticized to a virtually unprecedented extent in the history of committees, as we will see later.

Bill C-51 would considerably expand the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. That is what people at home need to understand, aside from the fact that this bill has a ridiculously long title and that it is an omnibus bill. We are once again faced with the same problem with this government. A majority of Canadians, and even a majority of representatives from the official opposition, could support the main objective of the bill, which is to improve protections for Canadians, especially in light of some recent, troubling events associated with the threat from the Islamic State. In principle, we can understand the desire to do better.

Once again, the problem is in how the government is going about it. Once again, the government has introduced an excessively large bill, manipulated the debate, moved time allocation and presented positions that are completely out of touch with what Canada's leading experts are saying. The official opposition will therefore present 64 amendments to try to give a voice to the overwhelming number of experts who are systematically demanding that Bill C-51 either be withdrawn altogether or be significantly amended.

I am skeptical though. I doubt that the government will even look at our amendments. Unfortunately, there is no mistaking its intention to steamroll the bill through this week. Even so, I will try to bring forward some of the arguments these experts have made in the hope that the government in power will set aside its overly strong tendency to show contempt for the work of Parliament. In making an effort to present these legitimate arguments, I hope that someone on the other side will adjust even slightly his or her position on a bill that so many say is bad.

I would like to highlight the attempts that my NDP colleagues on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security have been making in recent weeks to do what I am trying to do today. I particularly want to draw attention to the work of my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. We are now at third reading, and we will soon run out of ways to try to prevent Bill C-51 from being passed. Nevertheless, my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has been proposing amendments ever since second reading. He made a number of very good points that, unfortunately, still apply after the committee's study.

Bill C-51 threatens our way of life by asking Canadians to choose between their security and their freedoms. There is something my friend, the leader of the NDP, often says. He points out, and rightly so, that in the French version of Canada's national anthem, it says that we must “protect our homes and our rights”. They are given the same priority. Even our national anthem notes the importance of applying our collective intelligence to ensure that we protect these two aspects of our lives. The remarks from across the way are veering more and more off track, suggesting that in order to protect our homes, some of our rights, including our right to privacy, may have to be negotiated or diminished. Let us not forget the wisdom of our national anthem, which emphasizes that the government has a duty to balance these two aspects and must never promote one at the expense of the other.

Another point that was made at second reading, is that Bill C-51 irresponsibly provides the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, with a sweeping new mandate without equally increasing oversight. Later we will see how dire this problem really is. The bill also contains definitions that are broad and vague and that threaten to lump together legitimate dissent with terrorism. This point comes up all the time. The bill gives CSIS tremendous powers. If the net is cast that wide, are we really responding to an imminent problem of a potential terrorist threat or are we facilitating abuses that could violate Canadians' rights? The answer to that question is quite worrisome.

The Liberals voted against these amendments—and that is typically the Liberal way—despite the fact that former Liberal prime ministers wrote a letter stating that they strongly disagree with Bill C-51. From the beginning, the current Liberal leader painted himself into a corner by saying that he would vote for the bill, probably for a very sad reason. In fact, the first poll showed that 80% of Canadians were in favour of the bill. Support for the bill has subsequently collapsed and now 60% of Canadians do not support Bill C-51. However, the Liberal leader painted himself into a corner and unfortunately will vote for the bill.

There are some worrisome observations in the amendments presented by my colleague, and they are now shared by more than 60% or 70% of Canadians. I have never seen that. This is one of those rare bills that people know by name. In federal politics, it is very rare for people to ask me to assure them that I will vote against Bill C-51. It is obvious just how much Canadians are interested in and concerned about this bill, given that they are calling it by its official name.

In our opinion, not enough leading experts on privacy and personal information were invited to appear before the standing committee. However, most of the witnesses who did appear said that this bill should be struck down or heavily amended.

The debate on Bill C-51 is so important that I want to highlight some of what the witnesses said because this is an issue that goes beyond party lines. We need to have an opportunity to raise awareness of the fact that Bill C-51 should not be passed, particularly as it now stands. I will begin by quoting Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner. He said:

...the proposed changes to information sharing authorities are not accompanied by measures to fill gaps in the national security oversight regime.

That is what he said and he is very knowledgeable about the subject. The truth of his statement is obvious given that, in the 2012 budget, the Conservatives eliminated the position of inspector general of CSIS, who was responsible for internal oversight by ensuring that all of CSIS's activities complied with the law.

When an organization is granted vast surveillance powers, we always have to ask ourselves who watches the watchers, when their powers could, for example, threaten a person's right to privacy. Who watches them? Experts agree that the minister's and the government's answers are completely inadequate.

The Minister of Public Safety rejected the need for additional oversight of CSIS, calling it needless red tape. I fell off my chair. It is unbelievable that the minister would consider the need for proper oversight of those who have surveillance powers to be red tape. I am prepared to work 60 hours a week to ensure that business owners do not lose too much time to red tape. However, referring to the need to watch the watchers as red tape floored me. That is unacceptable.

Here is one last quote from the commissioner:

This Act would...allow departments and agencies to share the personal information of all individuals, including ordinary Canadians who may not be suspected of terrorist activities.

This is what the NDP and my colleague fear. Those were the words of the Privacy Commissioner. Canada's top privacy official concluded that there were some serious concerns with Bill C-51.

To conclude, in the debate on Bill C-51, we were faced with a string of time allocation motions and we had a limited number of witnesses in committee, despite the fact that almost all the experts demanded that Bill C-51 be withdrawn or significantly amended. I fear that this is not what will happen this week.

Bill C-51 will be rammed through the House and will be a threat to Canadians' privacy.

Consumer Protection May 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, under the Conservatives, it is more and more difficult for Canadians to find good jobs and household debt is higher than ever. In the meantime, the banks are making record profits in the billions of dollars every year.

This prosperity gap, with more profits for the banks and more debt for the middle class, is only going to get worse. Canadians are going to be charged fees to pay their mortgage. That is obscene.

Are the Conservatives going to turn a blind eye to the abuses by their friends at the banks, or are they going to quickly pass a mandatory code of conduct for the banking sector?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance April 22nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to ask my colleague opposite a question. Yesterday, he was interviewed by Gérald Fillion, an excellent Radio-Canada journalist who specializes in economic affairs. Mr. Fillion told him that the problem with income splitting and increasing the contribution limit for tax-free savings accounts was that the wealthiest of the wealthy would be able to benefit outrageously from the measures introduced by the government in this budget. It was fascinating to see how my colleague was unable to refute what Mr. Fillion was saying.

The wealthiest members of our society will benefit outrageously from these measures at a time when the debt of middle-class households in Canada is at a record high. It is not the federal government or the wealthiest members of society who are having problems with debt right now. It is people in the middle class. However, this budget shows that the Conservatives do not care about them at all.

I would like to make one last point, which is fairly unbelievable. My colleague indicated—much like someone would say that the air smells fresh or the sun gives light—that if a government invests less, then the private sector will invest more. According to the former finance minister of their own party, the largest corporations are sitting on over $600 billion because of tax cuts, and that money is not being reinvested.

Drug-Free Prisons Act April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. She is a doctor. She has a health care background and therefore feels empathy for these people.

I have seen figures estimating that over 2,000 or 2,400 inmates are currently on waiting lists for drug treatment programs. If I were to say that that bothers me, I know the members opposite would say that I support criminals, more or less like grade school children.

I am actually thinking of the consequences. If these people are treated like animals in prison, it is much more likely that they will reoffend and we will have more victims. This is a complex, long-term problem.

What are my colleague's thoughts on this aspect of the problem, which requires long-term reflection, specifically to avoid creating more victims in Canada?

Regional Economic Development April 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the mandate of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec is to support job creation in our regions. The report on plans and priorities tabled yesterday by the government shows that the Conservatives plan to cut another $20 million from the budget for the Economic Development Agency of Canada between now and 2018. That is almost 10% of the agency's total budget, and it is on top of the tens of millions of dollars left unused by the government every year.

How can the minister justify these continued cuts while millions of Quebeckers in the regions are losing their jobs or are unemployed and unable to find jobs? There is no excuse for this. How can he justify such a decision?

Military Contribution Against ISIL March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, quite honestly, I missed the beginning of my colleague's remarks. There was something wrong with the interpretation.

When we supported the first motion, for example, we supported the notion of helping with the transport of weapons, which logistically speaking could help the Kurds. The Kurds are having a very difficult time because they really are on the front lines.

Consequently, we are not saying that there is nothing we can do to help in terms of the logistics. What we are saying is that boots on the ground and air strikes have absolutely not been effective and will solve nothing. We were not completely against the idea of logistical support, for example. I remember that it was in the motion.

This resonates with me. When the Conservatives have an easy solution to a complex issue, most of the time the fundamental problem is that it is the wrong solution. We are dealing with a complex problem. We are not against a nuanced position, but we are not going to play the Conservatives' games. The Liberals are going to vote for this motion. For three months they said that is not a good idea, but now they will support it. That is really so absurd.

Military Contribution Against ISIL March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I think it was my NDP colleague from St. John's East who set the record straight earlier because the members opposite kept saying that Canada was the country that had invested the most in humanitarian aid. Now suddenly we are in fifth place. Good work. We are finally getting a little bit of transparency. I want to thank my NDP colleague for setting the record straight. We are in fifth place.

I have the numbers here. There are crying needs. As a result of what is happening, there are hundreds of thousands of new refugees every day. There is an urgent need for aid with respect to water, sanitation, hygiene and food security. Shelter and health care are lacking. Canada has contributed nearly $67 million in this regard. That is good, but we have contributed over $160 million to the military effort. We are putting three times more resources into sending military jets over there than we are into meeting the humanitarian needs of these people. I would like to take this opportunity to remind the House that Norway, South Korea and other countries are doing the opposite. Some countries have contributed to the transportation of weapons and things like that, but they have put most of their resources into responding to the huge humanitarian crisis caused by the Islamic State's barbaric actions.

I would like to come back to the last comment that I made in my speech, because my colleague spoke about the coalition. If the current Prime Minister of Canada said that he thought we needed to take military action, I still would not agree with him. However, if he did a world tour, showed the kind of leadership that one would expect from a real leader, spoke to the leaders of NATO, the UN, Germany and China, and sought support, then I could at least respect him, but that is not at all what he is doing right now.