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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

Privilege February 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege regarding a surprising incident that occurred today on Parliament Hill.

I am of the opinion that there was a a prima facie breach of my privileges as a member. The incident in question occurred at 2 p.m., when I was physically prevented from entering Parliament and getting to the House of Commons in a timely fashion. Here is what happened: at around 1:55 p.m. today, I took one of the parliamentary precinct shuttle buses from the Valour Building to get to question period. At around 2 p.m., the bus stopped in front of the east door of Centre Block, the Senate door. I felt it was unnecessary to ask the driver to make to another stop by the door of the House of Commons and, as I have done dozens of times since May 2011, I simply decided to enter Parliament through the door where we were stopped. Before I could even lay a hand on one of the doors to get in, an RCMP officer asked me to identify myself. I immediately and respectfully informed him, as I always do, that I am the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup. The officer asked me if I had my pin. That was the first time in four years that an officer outside Parliament asked to see my MP pin.

Mr. Speaker, you will understand that I no longer wear my pin all the time because, following the events that occurred in Parliament in October, we were told not to wear our pins all the time so that we are not targeted should another tragic incident like that occur. I therefore had to apologize to the officer for not wearing my pin. He told me that I needed my pin or my pass, otherwise I could not enter the building. In an attempt to resolve this issue, I asked the officer to let me speak to one of the security guards inside the building so that he could confirm that I am in fact a member of Parliament. The officer in question then physically blocked my access to the door and said that the RCMP is now responsible for deciding who gets in, that those officers are armed and that I could not enter if I did not have my pin or my pass.

I believe that this obstruction was a breach of my parliamentary privileges. Access to the parliamentary precinct, whether it is to attend question period, vote, attend a committee meeting, give a speech or simply to listen to the debate, is a strictly protected privilege. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice states on page 110 that:

In circumstances where Members claim to be physically obstructed, impeded, interfered with or intimidated in the performance of their parliamentary functions, the Speaker is apt to find that a prima facie breach of privilege has occurred.

Incidents involving physical obstruction—such as traffic barriers, security cordons and union picket lines either impeding Members’ access to the Parliamentary Precinct or blocking their free movement within the precinct...have been found to be prima facie cases of privilege.

I would therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider my question and the facts I just related. I believe you will also find that my privilege was breached and that I was prevented from carrying out my functions as an elected member of the House of Commons. If you find that there was a prima facie breach of my privileges as a member, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my colleague referred to employment insurance reform, which is totally out of touch with what is going on in so many industries, particularly in eastern Canada and Quebec. That is certainly causing problems. It also relates to another comment I had.

If circumstances are such that a business has to hire new employees every six months, there could easily be a shorter form for when employees are replaced. However, if the form has to be changed every time, that will result in more paperwork, not less. It is like I was saying before.

There is another unbelievable phenomenon happening in my riding. It is so hard to manage the innovation tax credit that a significant proportion of small and medium-sized businesses no longer bother to claim it and have given up on some of their efforts to innovate.

In many cases, it is medium-sized businesses, not small ones, that have managed to keep claiming the tax credit. I have asked them if it is that hard for them to do. They have told me that the administrative hassle costs them between 30% and 35% of the amount they get back. I have asked them if there is really more paperwork. They have told me no, but the government checks and double-checks their answers, and they have to call an official 18 times, and the official challenges everything they submit.

Officially, the program does not involve any more red tape. However, the program is now managed in such a convoluted way that small businesses are, for the most part, abandoning their efforts to innovate. That is really bad for the country's economy in the medium and long terms. There are all kinds of examples like that one.

Once again, Bill C-21 is a long way from fixing this problem.

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. He shares my concerns.

I said before that we fear that this legislation, which can be used to play around with the regulations, might be exploited once it gets in the hands of the Conservatives. We saw them do this with the environment. For example, I do not know how many hundreds of rivers were protected in Canada. Now there are hundreds that are no longer protected. My colleague shares my concerns.

The other part of the problem is the incredible inaction on the part of this government when it comes to finding real solutions that could help small businesses. Taxes have been greatly reduced for big business.

However, practically no tax cuts have been given to SMEs. The opposite should have happened over the past seven or eight years. Why? Because when we give SMEs some breathing room, then they are less likely to take their money and invest it somewhere in Asia or who knows where. They are more likely to create jobs. That is what the government should have done.

Again, this is a meaningless solution for SMEs. Nonetheless, there are some really great structural solutions that would truly help SMEs, which the Conservatives are doing absolutely nothing for.

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Compton—Stanstead. I will therefore be speaking for just 10 minutes, in order to leave him the other half of my 20 minutes.

I have the honour today to address my colleagues, and those who are kind enough to be watching us on CPAC, on the subject of Bill C-21, An Act to control the administrative burden that regulations impose on businesses.

I would recall at the outset that for a long time, the government called this its bill to reduce—and not to control—red tape. We can already see that there has been some backsliding with respect to the government’s real intent to deal with the problem.

Over the last seven years, a number of ministers have made numerous announcements at various locations in Canada, with much fanfare, to express how eager the government was to attack the administrative burden. The Conservatives said they wanted to reduce what they called “red tape”. They made it into a major obsession, which has unfortunately produced very little in the form of Bill C-21.

However, this is an important issue, not to say a major problem. Roughly $30 billion in time and costs are imposed on SMEs and entrepreneurship in general in Canada with forms and various other requirements. That is a lot of money. For an SME or a business, the situation is even worse in terms of its resources.

When you have more than 100, 125, 200 or 300 employees, you can set up human resources or administrative services where people can focus on administrative requirements. The business thus becomes more efficient, and in proportion to the company’s overall operations, such requirements pose less of a problem.

However, for the owner of a small business that has generated 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 jobs through hard work, whenever a form or a request from a public servant appears, it is always handled by a single person: the small business owner. It is a heavy burden, especially for small businesses and microbusinesses. It is also a burden for medium-sized businesses, but it is even more serious for small and microbusinesses.

We have to deal with this problem, because 98% of our active businesses in Canada have fewer than 100 employees. Ninety-eight per cent. The category includes people who work very hard and have created jobs, but do not yet have sufficient turnover to have human resources and administrative departments. These people have to shoulder the administrative burden themselves.

Sixty-four per cent of employees in the private sector work in an SME; 64% of people in Canada who are not employed by provincial governments or the federal government work in an enterprise with fewer than 100 employees.

This is the sector of the Canadian economy that creates and maintains the most jobs, and it is these enterprises that have to come up with most of the $30 billion invested in time and trouble because of good old red tape.

In addressing this major and important issue, we unfortunately have serious problems with respect to the bill that is before us at third reading today. The bill embodies the government’s desire to apply the one-to-one rule, which is designed to eliminate a regulation for every new regulation made by the government.

I do not know how many times I have to drive this home. The one-for-one rule always gives nothing more than zero. We are faced with a solution whereby the sum total of what was to be an attack on red tape to liberate Canadian businesses still amounts to nothing more than zero. That is the major solution offered by this bill.

A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to have Kevin Page with us in Parliament. He gave a speech to my colleagues and me. He made a very accurate observation to the effect that when there is a complex issue, someone always thinks of a simple solution. The problem is that it is often a very bad solution.

When I think about the one-for-one rule, I cannot help but think about what Mr. Page said that day. That is exactly what we have here: a simplistic measure.

Another problem with this bill is that the President of the Treasury Board could decide to eliminate regulations. The member for Parry Sound—Muskoka is currently President of the Treasury Board and his record is not entirely spotless when it comes discretionary decisions. Take for example, the $50 million invested in gazebos in Ontario when the G20 leaders were visiting.

It is a serious problem when a bill places so much power in the hands of a single representative of government, particularly when the person who currently holds that position does not have a completely spotless record when it comes to discretionary decisions.

The Conservatives also have a poor track record with respect to workplace health and safety, and the bill says nothing about the environment.

We would not want Bill C-21, which gives the government power to tinker with forms and abolish regulations, to be exploited by a government with a very bad track record. Just think about the train tragedies that have occurred in recent years in Canada. The regulatory management that preceded those accidents was part of the problem, and it was the Conservative government that was in charge. We would not want want Bill C-21 to be used to do away with regulations that are for the common good or important for the environment.

The NDP would like the report to contain clear obligations on how we will ensure accountability in how the government will use this law and in how the stakeholders will be consulted before a regulation is eliminated. It would be very important to give that responsibility to an organization and not just to the President of the Treasury Board.

However, the nine amendments presented by my colleagues in committee were all rejected. That is just another problem with this bill, which seeks to address an important issue. We need to cut red tape, but we do not want to adopt a solution that has no effect. It is therefore difficult for parliamentarians to determine whether this is a worthy bill.

In short, according to a document produced by Industry Canada, red tape decreased by about 11% between 2005 and 2008. The report concluded that employment trends and the decrease in workers' compensation claims were the primary causes. This shows how complex the situation is.

If people are being injured at work and there is no job stability, even if we reduce the administrative burden, we will not decrease red tape. If business owners are constantly having to replace employees and if these employees are getting injured every three days, there will be no decrease in red tape. Business owners will have to deal with all kinds of hassles. This is a much bigger and more complex problem.

There are solutions, but they would require a lot more work and co-operation. For example, Belgium is working on digital solutions. Business owners send their papers in electronically, so they are not forced to send them every time a government official has a question.

Furthermore, some European countries have created statuses for microbusinesses. These countries are trying to cut red tape for people who are getting into business and who have only about 10 employees. These companies get a special tax status to make their lives easier. There are solutions that would have an impact.

Those solutions are not in this bill, and it has a number of problems. I will have to continue to think on this bill.

Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague from Winnipeg North misunderstood. He simplified the whole thing by saying that his party will work with others because of his leadership. That is not the problem. When other people come to work with us, they must have the experience required to understand complex solutions.

The deregulation of the railroad, most of which was done by the Liberals, contributed to the current state of affairs and led to a number of disasters. We need to find more complex and intelligent solutions. We need to keep the regulations in place while simplifying the way in which they are administered. If I am given the mandate to find solutions and I can consult someone with a great deal of experience, that will help. However, the Liberals cannot say the same.

Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, reducing red tape is a complex issue. The idea that a simple solution can fix a complex problem is a recurring theme in this Conservative government. Often it does not work. The simple solution is nothing but smoke and mirrors. It does not fix a complex problem.

The one-for-one rule, in what the government is proposing, is a perfect example of a solution that mathematically equals nothing. One for one equals zero. It is quite something to come up with a solution that equals nothing. I have an example to illustrate how complex this can be. The tax program whereby SMEs can get an innovation tax credit is falling apart. People in SMEs tell us that there is no additional red tape and there are no new forms. The problem instead has to do with the number of documents that need to be attached and the number of times they have to contact federal officials. SME owners say that it can cost them up to 35% of the tax credit to administer all this. This is not just about red tape. It is much more complex than that.

I would like to point out to my colleague from Winnipeg North that a real NDP administration will tackle the SMEs' red tape problem. It will address this complex problem and will have the advantage of being able to consult our leader, who has almost 30 years' experience in public service. He understands these complex problems. When we present complex but effective solutions, he will know what solutions to implement in order to move things along.

What worries me about the Liberals is that the leader has no experience whatsoever in such matters. It will be very difficult to come up with complex solutions with a leader who has had practically no management experience in his entire career. I would like to know whether my colleague has some thoughts about this rather blatant problem with the Liberals.

Jean-René Michaud December 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Gilles Michaud of Kamouraska is one of those people who gives selflessly to improve the lives of people in his community. He worked in the health care system. Among other things, he worked hard as the president of a community futures development corporation in his RCM.

Sometimes, fate reserves the worst ordeals for the best of us. On Wednesday, December 3, when I heard that Jean-René Michaud, the son of Gilles Michaud, had been shot several times, my first thought was how unfair that was. Jean-René Michaud is an RCMP officer based in Kamloops. He was shot during a routine operation that went terribly wrong.

This incident is a reminder that peace officers take risks every day to keep us safe and that we owe them so much.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all members of the House, allow me to express our gratitude to Officer Michaud, who paid a heavy price for stopping an individual who happened to have a long rap sheet. Our thoughts are with Mr. Michaud's family members and their loved ones. We hope that Jean-René's health will continue to improve and that he will return to normal life as soon as possible.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns December 5th, 2014

With regard to the oil port project in Cacouna and the activities associated with marine traffic for the years 2013 and 2014: what statistical data has been compiled for all port activities and marine traffic, including, but not limited to, (i) the total volume that goes through Cacouna each year, (ii) the number of ships at the Cacouna port each year, (iii) the types of cargo that go through Cacouna, that is, bulk products, finished goods, etc.?

Business of Supply December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there is an expression in Quebec that we used to hear all the time, until about 10 years ago or so, to the effect that New Democrats were Liberals in a hurry. I think that people are starting to realize that the Liberals are slightly lazy New Democrats who are a bit short on courage. Today's debate illustrates that.

My colleague has noticed, as we have, an incredible decline in youth voter turnout. In some cases youth voter turnout is 25%. I tour the colleges back home when I can and talk to the young people. There are some who come to meet me in the cafeteria and I am always greatly honoured to see them. They tell me that the current voting system does not encourage them to vote. That is a major problem.

I am sure that my colleague sees that this is a problem. Why does he not want to participate in this debate? My NDP colleague moved this motion so that there would be a debate, so that we could have the courage to move forward and have the courage of the New Democrats. I invite the Liberals to have the courage of the New Democrats and to participate in this debate.

The Environment December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the government has been irresponsible regarding the fight against greenhouse gas emissions and it is no better when it comes to protecting species.

Yesterday the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada determined that the beluga should be on the endangered species list. According to marine mammal experts, pollution and noise disturbance are the main threats to the species. Even TransCanada has suspended its work off the coast of Cacouna for an indefinite period of time.

Will the Conservatives put an end to the oil port project, which is right in the middle of the belugas' breeding grounds? While they are at it, will they also do the right thing and create a marine protected area for the St. Lawrence estuary?