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

Old Age Security Act April 26th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments.

This woman came to my office. Receiving even just a few dollars a month through the guaranteed income supplement makes all the difference. It makes all the difference between being able to buy a pint of milk or drinking nothing for a day or two. These people primarily do this for their children. They do not even do it for themselves; they do it to avoid problems for their children. I have lost my parents, but if they had had access to this and could have made funeral arrangements in advance, I think it would have made things easier on the whole family.

Old Age Security Act April 26th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I set the amount at $2,500 because that is an amount I am comfortable with. I think that with $132,400 a year it will work. However, if some people want to propose amendments to increase the limit, I am have no problem with that. I am prepared to accept amendments. All I want is for our least fortunate seniors to be able to have a peaceful retirement.

Old Age Security Act April 26th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where my colleague got her numbers from, but mine came directly from the Library of Parliament and are based on Statistics Canada data.

Approximately 11% of retired Canadians make funeral arrangements in advance, and 47% of them use their RRSPs to do so. According to figures published by Statistics Canada and to the Library's calculations, this would cost a total of $132,400 a year.

Old Age Security Act April 26th, 2013

moved that Bill C-480, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (funeral arrangements), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to introduce my bill, Bill C-480, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (funeral arrangements). I wish to thank my hon. colleague from Louis-Hébert for seconding it.

Before I explain the details of this bill, I would first like to give a brief summary and explain where the idea for the bill came from.

In 2011, a woman named Fotini Theodossiades came into my office and told me that her guaranteed income supplement payments had decreased, but no one ever told her why.

After some of my staff did a little digging, we learned that her payments had been cut back because she had withdrawn some money from her RRSPs to pay for funeral arrangements in advance, so that everything would be taken care of when she passed away. What happened to her was totally unacceptable, although it was completely legal.

Canadians who receive the guaranteed income supplement qualify for this program because they are unable to make ends meet with just their pension. Cutting the GIS payments of one of my constituents just because she had the misfortune of having to take money out of her RRSPs to pay for funeral arrangements in advance is really unacceptable.

During the 2011 election campaign, our late leader, Jack Layton, made tackling poverty among Canadian seniors one of the main focuses of his platform.

This bill will therefore ensure that recipients of the guaranteed income supplement who have RRSPs will be able to withdraw an amount of up to $2,500 in order to pay for funeral arrangements in advance. This amount would continue to be taxable. However, it would not be included in the calculation of the GIS for the following year. This will ensure that the GIS of these recipients will not decrease the year after they pay for their advance funeral arrangements, as is the case now.

That is what gave me the idea for the bill before us today. This also shows how serious the NDP is about solving the problems that our constituents deal with every day. We are doing our best to resolve them.

Some may say that $2,500 is not a lot of money, and that is true. However, I used the minimum amount so that my bill would not be rejected on the pretext that it was too expensive. I say “minimum amount” because, right now, according to Statistics Canada, the average cost of cremation is about $1,800. If we do the math, $2,500 minus taxes leaves enough for the minimum.

I would now like to talk about some of the details of my bill. As I mentioned earlier, this bill would allow seniors who receive the guaranteed income supplement to withdraw a taxable amount of up to $2,500 from their RRSPs in order to pay for funeral arrangements in advance. However, this amount of $2,500 would not be included in the calculation of the GIS for the following year, and so recipients would not receive lower GIS payments.

In practical terms, Bill C-480 does a lot for seniors and their families. First, this bill gives seniors greater peace of mind and financial security by providing an additional incentive to help them pay for their funeral arrangements in advance.

In addition to helping families absorb the cost, with the help of the $2,500 GIS exemption, it also gives them peace of mind and removes the burden of making funeral arrangements while grieving a loved one.

Bill C-480 would also allow seniors receiving the GIS, who are the most financially vulnerable in our society, to be in a decent financial situation and to make ends meet each month. It is unbelievable that seniors such as Ms. Theodossiades could find themselves in a precarious financial situation simply because they want to save their children from the financial burden of funeral arrangements.

The NDP is committed to fighting poverty among seniors. It was a cause championed by Jack Layton.

Bill C-480 aims to do just that, and it will help make our seniors more financially stable.

Richard Allaire, a community organizer in Laval who supports my bill, shared this thought with me. It is very relevant and, sadly, very true. He said that we always think about seniors in terms of their past and that this bill is the first one that has focused on building them a better future. That is exactly what I am trying to do with this bill, and that is what my NDP colleagues want as well.

For the past few days, I have been hearing government members ask how much this would cost the government, which indicates that they have some interest in Bill C-480, but they are concerned about how much it might cost. I personally feel that no price is too high when it comes to our seniors. However, I have some good news for my colleagues.

The Library of Parliament has determined that the cost to the government of this measure that will help scores of Canadians will be a mere $132,400 a year. In order to reduce the poverty of our seniors, the government would have to spend less than an MP's salary.

On this side of the House, we believe that tackling seniors' poverty with an amount that is less than an average MP's salary is a no-brainer.

During the election campaign, the NDP had a great slogan: “Working together”. This bill provides a perfect opportunity for all of us, no matter what our political affiliation, to prove to the Canadians who elected us that we can work together and address the pressing social problem of reducing seniors' poverty.

To those who might point out that the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan already have a benefit that covers funeral costs, I would say this. In the case of the CPP, the benefit is only available to those who worked full-time for much of their lives. They have to meet certain criteria to be eligible. Seniors receiving the guaranteed income supplement do so because they cannot make ends meet with their pension. The people who would benefit from Bill C-480 have little or no access to CPP benefits.

Furthermore, the amount paid by the CPP can only be used to pay for funerals and not to prearrange funerals. In that regard, Janet Gray, a certified financial planner and elder planning counsellor, said that everyone wants to help financially vulnerable seniors and that Bill C-480 is a good way to do it.

She adds that today's seniors, especially older ones, are less likely to have worked full time for most of their career. According to her, they may not qualify for CPP. She also says that the measure in Bill C-480 does not compete with existing measures. On the contrary, it is meant to complement CPP and the Quebec pension plan.

The bill we have before us today seeks to send a strong message to our seniors and the Canadian public at large. Bill C-480 gives us an opportunity to deal in part with the serious problem of seniors' poverty.

We have an opportunity to show the most financially vulnerable people in our country that Parliament is ready to help them. We have an opportunity to show all Canadians that we are prepared to work together to solve the problems facing them. We have an opportunity, in some small way, to put an end to people's cynical attitude toward politics and politicians, by showing that we can sometimes set aside partisanship and live up to the expectations of Canada and Canadians.

Today we have an opportunity to take a step, a first step to make this country fairer for all.

The Conservative and Liberal Parties of Canada April 26th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday, we witnessed a sad spectacle in the House. Once again, the Liberals and the Conservatives joined forces to recycle an old, ineffective Liberal bill that attacks people's basic rights. Bill S-7 will not keep Canadians safer. It uses fear as an excuse to impose excessive measures, such as detention without charge and secret interrogations.

These measures conflict with Canadian values and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is strange. Many members of the old parties like to go on about the merits of the charter, but when the time comes to stand up for it, they just sit around doing nothing, and that is when they have the nerve to show up in the House to vote.

Blue or red, they are all one and the same. They vote the same way on Bill S-7 and the trade agreement with China, and they will soon vote the same way on climate change. Canadians deserve better. The only progressive alternative for 2015 is the NDP.

Business of Supply April 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, it is sort of as I was saying. On the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, many witnesses are telling us that it is worrisome. If we do not take immediate action, people will get sicker and sicker, which will be very costly for the health care system.

A cardiologist even came to tell us about some of the effects. We think it is just a poor diet that causes heart problems, but the environment is a major factor, even more so than diet.

Something really must be done immediately. Keep in mind that the next generation will be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than the one before it.

Business of Supply April 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry for her question.

She is also obviously a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. She is asking me for my reaction: I can tell her that I am not at all surprised. With the questions being asked in committee, we see that the Conservatives are putting the economy ahead of the environment. They do not see that the two go hand in hand. That is why they do not encourage green economies. However, fossil fuels will disappear one day. Even if that does not happen, other countries are no longer going to want them. We have to take a different approach. Why not do it now?

Business of Supply April 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question. Given that she is a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, she knows that the Conservatives are completely denying our environmental problems, and we see this in the reports they submit in committee.

Many witnesses appeared before the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on the issue of health. Wetlands need better protections. A study on urban environments found that green spaces are needed within urban areas, because this has a direct impact on health, and therefore on the economy, because people get sick less.

Business of Supply April 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, to begin, as a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, I would like to congratulate the member for Halifax. On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to thank her for her tireless work and the passion she demonstrates—not only in committee, but also in the House and across the country—for environmental issues related to climate change .

Just this morning, the committee was discussing this issue. All of the witnesses, even those proposed by the Conservatives, said they were concerned about climate change.

Today, we are debating the question of climate change. The problem is that it is not a question, it is a reality recognized by scientists, politicians and everyone else on the international stage. That reality brought us the Kyoto protocol, the Copenhagen accord and the UN convention to combat desertification.

Only this government pulled out of two of the three accords, namely the Kyoto protocol and the UN convention to combat desertification. In addition, the government is on track to completely miss its Copenhagen targets for 2020 because it is living in denial.

As recently as last year, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development warned the government. He said that it would be virtually impossible to achieve the Copenhagen targets by 2020. There is no denying that he was right. Greenhouse gas emissions rose in 2011 to 702 million tonnes. This comes as no surprise considering that, because of the government's existing policies, we will be 207 million tonnes short of the targets that we were supposed to achieve by 2020.

How did the Conservative government react to these alarming statistics and conclusions? The Minister of the Environment appeared before the committee, but he was unable to provide any numbers for his so-called sector-by-sector approach. Worse still, he even questioned why my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry would have those numbers. This demonstrates the government's amateur approach to the issue. Unfortunately, that is not all.

As recently as last week, the Minister of Natural Resources told the editorial board of Montreal's La Presse newspaper that “...people are not as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees” and that “...our fears (on climate change) are exaggerated”.

Are our fears exaggerated? Global warming of two degrees will cause irreversible damage to the planet's ecosystem and the global economy. The Conservatives should take an interest in the economy, but it seems they do not. We are already seeing the repercussions of that.

In 2012, Don Forgeron of the Insurance Bureau of Canada said:

Our weather patterns have changed. If we just look back over the last 30 years or so here in Canada, we see the trend is unequivocal. The number of severe weather events double every five to ten years. We've got to do something about it.

I would like to give another example of the Conservatives' climate change denial. In its report entitled Paying the Price: the Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy indicated that the economic repercussions of climate change could reach $5 billion by 2020 and between $21 billion and $43 billion by 2050.

What happened to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy? It no longer exists. The Conservatives gave it the axe in their latest omnibus bill. The round table's assessment was accurate, but clearly, it displeased the Conservatives.

A government can try to hide alarming statistics, muzzle scientists and eliminate economic and environmental research organizations. However, there is one thing the government cannot do: hide the truth.

The 10 hottest years on record occurred between 1998 and today. In fact, 10 of the past 15 years were the hottest in our history. That is not debatable. It is the truth. Climate change is happening now. The government needs to stop burying its head in the sand, or the oil sands, and take practical measures immediately.

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote about the art of dividing and conquering. This government is wrong to exploit that principle by systemically pitting the economy against the environment. The government believes that increasing environmental protection and green measures is tantamount to slowing down the economy. Machiavelli's writings are from the 15th and 16th centuries. This government needs to understand that it is now the 21st century.

It is wrong to spread this misinformation. The economy and the environment go hand in hand. Better environmental regulations and a greener economy go hand in hand. Such measures succeed, no matter what the Conservatives say.

The best example is the study conducted by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy that I mentioned earlier. Tackling global warming head on by moving to a green economy, better protecting our natural resources and thereby helping our farmers and local economies will pay off.

Moving to a greener economy will allow us to save $5 billion by 2020 and between $23 billion and $43 billion by 2050. It will also allow us to diversify our economy, develop it in a sustainable and responsible way, and in the end, address the problem of climate change by making Canada a greener and more prosperous country that will reclaim its place as a leader on the international stage.

In conclusion, the NDP believes that this government must take urgent and immediate action to prevent the devastating effects of climate change by immediately committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so that the average rise in global temperature is less than two degrees. Let us respect our international obligations and develop a greener economy based on sustainability.

The NDP will continue to combat climate change and its devastating effects. As parliamentarians, we have the responsibility to build a better future for Canadians now and especially for our future generations. Let us act now.

Employment Insurance March 8th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for butchering employment insurance keeps saying that she is making changes to help the economy, for the greater good of the unemployed and to help families find work.

That is very strange. She seems to be the only one to see the good in her reform. Workers, mayors, unions and even businesspeople are saying the exact opposite.

Could the minister mean to say, “I want what is good for you and I want your goods as well”?