House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Laval—Les Îles (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 20% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions March 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to present a petition regarding Gatineau Park. The petitioners are calling on the House of Commons to adopt legislation giving Gatineau Park the necessary legal protection to ensure its preservation for future generations.

I have visited this park many times, and I truly hope that the government will take this seriously.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians Act February 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to be speaking to Bill C-518, An Act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act.

The bill would revoke the privilege of a retirement pension or compensation allowance for former members of the Senate or House of Commons who are convicted of an offence under an act of Parliament that is punishable by a minimum of two years in prison. These types of sentences of two years or more mostly involve federal offences covered by the Criminal Code.

Once the bill is passed, MPs or senators who have been found guilty of such an offence would be reimbursed their pension contributions plus interest, which is consistent with other applicable legislation.

The NDP supports this bill because we belive that any bill that strengthens parliamentary ethics is a step in the right direction. However, it is clear that this bill is really just a Conservative charade to make us believe that they are not responsible for the Senate scandal and that they champion ethics.

In reality, the Prime Minister—a man who appointed people like Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin to taxpayer-funded positions—is using this bill to try to make us believe that he has at least a vestige of ethics. Canadians know better and they will not forget this government's schemes.

Liberal Party senators, those who are part of the non-Liberal caucus or rather independent Liberal senators with no caucus or something of that sort, should not get too excited yet. Canadians have not forgotten that they had no issues with Mac Harb even after he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, nor have they forgotten that the Liberals paid their deficit by drawing on workers' employment insurance contributions. Above all, nobody, particularly nobody in Quebec, has forgotten the sponsorship scandal. Quebeckers are fed up, and in case anyone is wondering, it is not because the Montreal Canadiens are winning the Stanley Cup. It is because Quebeckers believe in their motto “Je me souviens” or “I remember”.

In short, although the bill is a step in the right direction, it is just a front and does not address the serious ethical problems caused by both the Conservative and Liberal parties. No legislation can do that. The problem is these parties' culture of entitlement. They think that they deserve to be in power no matter what they do and that they eventually will be again one day. They think they are entitled to their entitlements. That is an unhealthy way of thinking. The NDP is now giving Canadians a healthy option that works for them. The NDP knows that it is a privilege to represent Canadians, not a given right. The NDP works for Canadians, not for the lobbies.

I am also proud to mention that the bill is basically copied from a bill introduced by the NDP government of Nova Scotia that received royal assent on May 10, 2013.

I am pleased that the members opposite are finally using one of our ideas to draft ethics-related legislation. Perhaps they are starting to see the light, unless they are merely acting like a co-worker who steals other people's lunches and then puts a note on the fridge the next day warning people to stop stealing others' lunches. Given the government's history, I tend to think the latter is true.

Let us now come back to the subject at hand. Clearly, the purpose of the bill is to show that the Conservative Party is angry about the ethical lapses of its senators, who were all personally appointed by the Prime Minister.

The same is true for the Liberals, who magically made their senators disappear overnight and who will surely make them reappear when they need them.

In fact, the party of the Mac Harbs and Raymond Lavignes still plays political games, assuming that Canadians are naive, when they are not. Canadians see through their games and, with each passing day, more and more Canadians come to trust the NDP. The only solution to the ethical problems of parliamentarians is to elect an NDP government and to abolish the Senate.

Even the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, formerly run by the member for New Brunswick Southwest, believes that the lack of ethics in the House comes from the blue and the red parties. Let me quote what Director Gregory Thomas said:

Canadians have just witnessed the spectacle of convicted fraudster, former Liberal Senator and MP Raymond Lavigne, collecting his $67,000 annual pension while sitting in jail for filing false Senate expense claims. We now have a former Liberal MP and Senator and a former Conservative Senator each facing criminal charges relating to their official duties, with more Senators under criminal investigation. Clearly, Senators and MPs need tougher anti-corruption penalties to combat the temptations politicians face.

This quote, which could not be clearer, perfectly summarizes the constant and systemic ethical breaches of successive Liberal and Conservative governments for the past 20 years, from the sponsorship scandal to the current Senate scandal.

This bill is a step in the right direction. That is why we in the NDP will support the bill at second reading. However, we cannot legislate the culture or the ethics of a party. That is the problem with this government and the third party.

That is why we must send a message that Canadians need a government that respects them and that will work in their best interests rather than its own interests. In 2015, that is the government Canadians will have by voting for the NDP.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages Act February 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for allowing me to speak to Bill C-523, An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (disclosure of drug shortages). Before I begin, I want to thank and congratulate my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert for her hard work and her excellent bill.

This bill amends the Department of Health Act to oblige drug suppliers to advise the minister of any interruption or cessation of the production, distribution or importation of drugs. It also obliges the minister to prepare and implement an emergency response plan to address shortages of drugs.

Drug shortages in Canada are a major public health problem and the federal government has a role to play in this. The drug shortage phenomenon is nothing new. This has been a recurring problem since the 1970s and there have been successive shortages under Liberal and Conservative governments without either taking action to solve this problem. Nonetheless, it is important to note that these shortages have increased in number and duration over the past few years.

The crisis in 2012, caused by the temporary shutdown of the Sandoz plant, one of the largest manufacturers of injectable drugs for hospitals, clearly showed the scale of this issue. The NDP actually used an opposition day at the time, March 14, 2012, and secured unanimous passage of a motion to resolve the issue. However, as on so many occasions before and since with this government, we have seen a lack of leadership and of will.

Just as with rail safety, air safety, the oil industry and the environment, this government has once again asked industry to regulate itself. We need only mention the many oil pipeline spills, the many railway accidents and the tainted meat scandal to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of industry self-regulation.

In fact, the only effective aspect of industry self-regulation is the effectiveness with which former Conservative members of Parliament have obtained jobs in sectors for which the Conservative government is promoting self-regulation. That could be the topic of another debate all by itself.

Let us return to the subject of the bill, drug shortages. Another reason why it is absolutely necessary to have legislation in this area, possibly the most important reason of all, is the safety of patients.

Drug shortages put patients at risk; they also require doctors, pharmacists and nurses to do extra work and ultimately lead to additional costs for all of us.

According to a survey by the Canadian Pharmacists Association, 91% of pharmacists stated that patients have been affected by drug shortages, either because of delays in treatment or because treatment was stopped, or because of the extra cost to purchase medication, extended hospital stays, procedures being delayed or cancelled, or because the original condition worsened.

In some cases, the impact may be minimal overall. However, in a number of cases, shortages can be catastrophic because the cost associated with medication can skyrocket and become too expensive for individuals who need to be on the drug.

Take a concrete case like epilepsy, where stopping medication sometimes has disastrous consequences. When someone stops taking antiepileptics or the medication is or must be changed suddenly, recurrent seizures can become more serious and longer than before. Prolonged attacks that last more than five minutes require emergency medical care and can even be fatal.

How does that tie in to the debate? Between 2009 and 2012, we experienced shortages of at least five different antiepileptic drugs. Some of them were made by a single pharmaceutical company.

These shortages have forced some people to use a different preparation, if available, or to switch medications without any transition, thus putting at risk the lives of all these people.

A government must protect its citizens. What did the government do? Once again, it shirked its responsibilities and blamed the provinces, its second favourite target after the official opposition. Indeed, the government said that, in its opinion, the provinces were responsible for changing their procurement policies.

However, that is not the opinion of the Quebec Minister of Health, Dr. Réjean Hébert, who unequivocally said the following, in the May 10, 2013, edition of L'actualité:

It is also Health Canada's responsibility to manage drug shortages. If the federal government was doing a better job, there would be fewer drug shortages.

It is high time that the federal government take responsibility. It can do so by voting for the bill we are debating today.

First and foremost, we are asking the government to adopt a system for the mandatory disclosure of drug shortages, as called for by the vast majority of patient and health professional groups. Canadians and their health professionals are entitled to have access to information that is crucial for public health.

That system is used in the United States, the European Union and New Zealand. France also adopted a system in the early 1990s and saw a significant drop in the number of shortages.

We are also urging the government to stop being so confrontational with the provinces and territories. We are asking it to work with them and with stakeholders to find a solution that will decrease the number of shortages and reduce their impact on patients and on our health care system.

According to statistics from the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec, the number of drug shortages rose from 33 in 2006 to 207 in 2010. That is unacceptable, dangerous and outrageous. It must be fixed right away. That is why we are asking everyone in the House to support the bill that was introduced by the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert.

I would like to conclude with a message for Canadians. The NDP believes that the health of Canadians is more important than profits for pharmaceutical companies. With this bill, we are taking the appropriate steps to ensure that Canadians will have access to the drugs they need, when they need them.

When it comes time to vote on this bill, we hope that the Conservative government, for once, will also put the interests of Canadians ahead of those of pharmaceutical companies.

Petitions February 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be in the House today to present a petition with nearly 7,000 signatures gathered in just a few days. The petitioners are calling on the Canadian government to turn to Interpol in the case of the disappearance of one of my constituents. Marc Ménard went missing in Mexico in March 2013, and the Ménard family has had no news from the Mexican police authorities since May 2013.

I want to thank all the petitioners and assure them and their families of my full support.

An Act to Bring Fairness for the Victims of Violent Offenders December 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to speak to the bill we have before us today, Bill C-479, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (fairness for victims).

This bill is based for the most part on the recommendation made by the former federal ombudsman for victims of crime and seeks to pay special attention to the perspective of victims in the criminal justice process.

Bill C-479 broadens the rights of victims under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. It incorporates into law some of the elements that are already part of the current practice in parole hearings. Some of those elements are in fact consistent with the recommendations made by the former ombudsman in his special report.

Under this bill, victims would have more opportunities to attend parole hearings, and offenders would have considerably less access to reviews.

The NDP, however, is concerned that the bill adds five years to the interval between parole reviews for violent offenders.

This goes against the ombudsman's previous recommendations that this extension apply only to dangerous offenders and those serving a life sentence.

The people working with victims and those working with inmates agree that parole is an essential component of public safety. This change could prevent some offenders from having access to parole and, by extension, deny them the benefits of a supervised release in the community.

This amendment therefore would lead to a situation where many violent offenders would reach the end of their sentence without having had access to supervised release. They would then be out in the community for the first time, fully free and without any supervision at the end of their sentence.

On our side, we work tirelessly to improve the safety of the public. We believe that one way to achieve this goal is to implement a parole process that helps people reintegrate safely, and I emphasize the word “safely”, into the community to reduce victimization and the risk of reoffending.

We also support the victims and their families, and we want to work with them to ensure that in addition to taking legislative action to help them, we also provide them with the services they need.

Instead of focusing on the shortcomings of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act as a whole, this is yet another Conservative piecemeal bill that actually does very little to ensure the safety of our communities.

I will briefly run through the changes, or, more specifically, the amendments, proposed in Bill C-479: the parole review of offenders who are serving a sentence of at least two years for an offence involving violence; the attendance of victims and members of their family at parole review hearings; the consideration of victims’ statements by the National Parole Board when making a determination regarding the release of an offender; the manner of presentation of victims’ statements at a parole review hearing; the providing of information under consideration by the Board to a victim; the cancellation of a parole review hearing if an offender has repeatedly refused to attend, or waived his or her right to attend, previous hearings; the providing of transcripts of a parole review hearing to the victim and members of their family and the offender; and the notification of victims if an offender is to be released on temporary absence, parole or statutory release.

We think that this bill has several good points. That is why we will support it at second reading so that it can be sent to committee.

We also believe that it is appropriate for victims to attend parole board hearings, for example, when it is likely that the offender will return to live in the community where he committed the crime, or when a victim is asking for specific condition to be placed on the offender after release, such as a non-communication order. We also think that allowing victims to attend hearings via video conference or teleconference is a valid point in Bill C-479, especially for victims with mobility problems.

We also want victims and their families to feel that they are really involved the process. However, we must also ensure that offenders have access to appropriate services, whether in the correctional system or the parole system, such as supervised release, so that recidivism rates fall after offenders have served their full sentences.

We do see some weaknesses in Bill C-479, however, and it is important to point them out. For example, an offender who serves a sentence of less than five years might have only one chance at parole under Bill C-479. If his first application is denied, it is quite possible that he will serve his entire sentence without ever having been granted conditional release. This means that offenders will be released at the end of their sentences without any conditions, and more importantly, without the benefit of any rehabilitation or reintegration programs. It goes without saying that this poses a risk to public safety and that such a practice would likely result in higher recidivism rates and therefore an increase in the number of victims of crime.

Society would be better served by the gradual, supervised release of offenders who pose a risk. Such release helps offenders reintegrate into society safely and with the supervision they need to facilitate their reintegration, thereby reducing the likelihood that they will commit other criminal acts. If the Conservative government is truly serious about helping victims and their families, it will provide them with services and reintegrate criminals into society in such a way as to prevent the risk of victimization and recidivism.

In closing, the NDP's message to victims and their families is simple: we support greater victim involvement in the parole process. We also support many of the recommendations made by the former federal ombudsman for victims of crime, as well as his criticisms of Bill C-479.

We are working tirelessly on making our communities safer. Our plan goes beyond the Conservatives' simplistic ideology and really gets to the heart of the problem, rather than just scratching the surface. We want to help victims create a safer process that will reduce the risk of recidivism.

We hope the government will be receptive to the suggestions we will be making in committee.

Holiday Wishes December 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I would like to use my last member's statement for 2013 to wish all my constituents in Laval—Les Îles happy holidays and a happy 2014.

Allow me to wish all of you and your loved ones peace, health, happiness and prosperity for the new year.

Let us not forget that many of our constituents will continue to struggle with financial and health woes over the holidays.

I ask you to spare a thought for them and to give generously during this month of December to our local community organizations such as Meals on Wheels, Moisson Laval, Agape, and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, to name a few, since my time is limited.

Let us stand together and continue to work hard on creating a society where no one is left behind. Together we can accomplish a lot. Merry Christmas and happy new year.

Drug-Free Prisons Act November 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his excellent speech. He spoke about the recommendations that were put forward to the Conservatives regarding this bill.

Does my colleague know why the Conservatives did not take those expert recommendations into consideration when they wrote Bill C-12?

Drug-Free Prisons Act November 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. Now that I have joined my colleague on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I will do my best.

The Conservatives believe in magical thinking. They think that everything will work itself out without any new money. I have no idea where that magical thinking comes from, but I know that it does not work. If the government wants to do something in connection with public safety or anything else, but does not give people the means to eliminate drugs and violence in prisons, it will not happen on its own. The government needs to provide real help. I do not know where the money will come from. Maybe the Conservatives want to privatize prisons, for all I know.

Drug-Free Prisons Act November 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Louis-Hébert for his very good question.

It is quite simple. It would be really effective to start by listening to the people on the ground. For years, correctional officers have recommended all kinds of ways to get violence and drugs out of our prisons. As usual, however, the Conservatives have done as they pleased. The government sees no need to listen to experts.

Drug-Free Prisons Act November 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, or the Drug-Free Prisons Act.

The bill would add to the act a provision confirming that, when deciding whether someone is eligible for parole, the parole board may take into account the fact that the offender tested positive in a urinalysis or refused to provide a urine sample for a drug test. The new provision would give clear legal validity to a practice that we support and is already in place.

Bill C-12's title is misleading. Indeed, apart from giving legal validity to urine tests, it does not offer any real strategy to make prisons drug-free. Rather than providing a concrete solution, for example by investing in inmate rehabilitation, Bill C-12 simply enshrines in law what is already the current practice.

The NDP has always supported measures aimed at making prisons safer. However, it is a shame to see that, in this bill as in so many other government bills, the Conservatives keep ignoring recommendations. In this specific case, they are ignoring recommendations from corrections staff and the correctional investigator that would really help curb violence, gang activity and drug use in the prison system.

The fact is that the Conservatives are making prisons less safe, since they keep reducing investments in key corrections programs like drug addiction treatment, as well as increasing double-bunking, which leads to more prison violence.

Our role as parliamentarians is to worry about the safety of our communities first, by promoting the reintegration of offenders and preparing them to become part of the community again by helping them become free from drugs and taking preventive measures to reduce the risk of recidivism.

None of this is included in Bill C-12, and in my opinion this is a serious shortcoming. To be clear, the stakeholders agree that this bill will have virtually no impact on drug use in prison.

Like so many other government bills, Bill C-12 is just a dog and pony show that plays well to the Conservative base, but offers no actual solution to the problems caused by drugs and gangs in prisons.

However, we must give credit where credit is due. The Conservatives are excellent illusionists. They would make Criss Angel and David Copperfield green with envy. In today's episode, entitled Bill C-12, they are still trying to hide the emptiness of their bills by giving them misleading titles that play well to diehard Conservatives. However, behind this legislation there is a complete vacuum that only worsens the problems they want to address.

In this case, Bill C-12 misses another important problem. Indeed, the Conservatives' misguided approach to public safety, which we also saw with Bill C-2, will significantly increase the collateral harm from addiction, instead of reducing it, as the bill claims to do.

Any government with the least bit of sense, vision and compassion would invest, through Bill C-12, in programs providing support to offenders with drug problems.

This may be hard to believe, but under this government, the budget allocated to the Correctional Service of Canada to be used for basic correctional programs, such as drug treatment, was reduced, while some treatment centres for inmates with mental health disorders were even closed.

The ideological inconsistencies that guide the course of this government are frightening. As an example of such an inconsistency, note that the government passed legislation imposing mandatory minimums, while at the same time it closed numerous prisons.

That leads to the very controversial and dubious policy of double-bunking, which inevitably results in a substantial increase in the number of violent incidents and puts prisoners' lives in danger. It also put the lives of the prison staff in danger.

If the government really wants to address the issue of drug addiction in prison, instead of making a lot of noise and getting terrible results, it must allow Correctional Service Canada to develop an intake assessment process that would allow CSC to correctly determine how many prisoners have addiction issues and offer adequate programs to offenders in need who want to get off drugs. Otherwise, without addiction treatment, education and an appropriate reintegration process on their release, prisoners run a high risk of returning to a life of crime and victimizing other individuals when they get out of prison.

Clearly, the term “prevention” is not part of the Conservatives' vocabulary. That is too bad. The government claims to be tough on crime, but the best way to reduce crime in society is through prevention and awareness, not wishful thinking.

Despite all the bill's flaws or, rather, its lack of content and solutions and its very limited scope, the NDP will support Bill C-12. The NDP is committed to supporting cost-effective measures that are designed to punish criminals and improve prison safety.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of this government, which governs from an ideological standpoint instead of relying on facts and reality. As we can see with this bill and Bill C-2, where the government did not even bother to have someone try to explain their indefensible legislation, we need to move towards a corrections system that offers effective rehabilitation programs such as addiction treatment and support programs so that it is easier to reintegrate prisoners into society upon their release. That is the only way to lower the recidivism rate and really address the issue of repeat offenders.

Even the Correctional Investigator has said—in not one report, but multiple ones—that it could have some unintended consequences on the correctional system if simplistic and narrow solutions are used to address the very complex problem of drug addiction in prison. He suggests taking meaningful action, such as conducting an initial assessment of detainees when they are integrated into correctional programs, in order to curb their drug addiction problem and give them better access to detox programs, which would help reduce drug consumption and gang activity in prison.

Those are the kinds of proactive prevention measures the NDP believes are necessary to truly fix the problem of drug addiction in our prisons.

In conclusion, we will support Bill C-12, since it essentially reinforces the legal significance of a practice that already exists in our prisons. However, we believe that Bill C-12 lacks teeth and substance. We believe that this kind of bill must include solutions to prevent drug addiction and treat drug addicts in our prisons if we truly want to help detainees reintegrate into society and not just find an easy way to please voters.