House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Berthier—Maskinongé (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply October 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for his excellent speech on the issue of the federal spending power.

The question I would like to ask my colleague is the following. For decades now, Quebec governments under both the Liberals and the Parti Québécois have been asking the federal government to limit its spending power, especially in areas under Quebec’s jurisdiction, such as education, health, and so forth.

We very much appreciated the initiative of the hon. member for Beauce and hope that all members of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, especially those from Quebec, will vote in favour of this motion.

How does he explain, though, the federal government's systematic refusal to give Quebec the power to manage its own areas of jurisdiction?

Employment Insurance Act October 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague on his excellent speech on Bill C-395. His own riding has been affected by the lack of legislation in this area.

This is the last speech about this bill. I have only five minutes left to wind up and convince the Conservatives to go forward with this bill. It should have been passed and should be passed, because it is a simple, effective solution to a major flaw in the Employment Insurance Act that prevents workers who lose their jobs as a result of a labour dispute—whether a lockout or a strike—from qualifying for employment insurance.

By refusing to give the royal recommendation to Bill C-395, as it did to Bill C-241, which also proposed measures to support workers by abolishing the waiting period, the minority Conservative government is once again showing that it could not care less about workers who lose their jobs. By refusing to support this bill, this minority Conservative government is once again ignoring the democratic will of this House. Most members want this bill to go forward, but the Conservatives are still turning a deaf ear.

Unfortunately, by blocking Bill C-395 and preventing it from going to the Senate, the Conservative government is turning its back on workers who lose their jobs. Throughout this debate, the Conservatives have put forward bizarre arguments, and I would like to mention one that the parliamentary secretary made here just a few minutes ago. He said in his speech that if this bill were passed, it would affect the negotiating position of workers and employers during lockouts and strikes. This is what it means to him: “Someone is on strike or is locked out, but does not want to find a solution. He does not want to go back to work because he wants to get employment insurance benefits.” Come on. If I am a worker and I am on strike or I am locked out, I do not necessarily want to go on EI. I want to go back to my job at the company and I want to negotiate fair, equitable conditions to keep my job. That is my goal.

The Conservative government's argument does not hold water. As I have said many times, this government does not want to support society's least fortunate. It is not the least bit interested in these people or in the unemployed. The guaranteed income supplement is another example. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they kept urging the Liberal government to increase and improve the guaranteed income supplement and to compensate seniors for having swindled them. They are in power now, but they are not doing anything. They just keep spending astronomical amounts on all sorts of things, from buying planes to giving oil companies tax breaks. What we have here is a small bill designed to help workers, a bill that will cost next to nothing. As my colleague indicated, the Journal de Montréal may be next. Yet we are told that there is no money. There is no money for that, and that is shameful.

If there are any unemployed people in their ridings—surely there are some—government members should think of them. They should think a little instead of constantly investing inordinate amounts to support companies, including banks, that rake in huge profits and use tax shelters. The government helps and supports them. It should also support the workers.

I ask the parliamentary secretary, here in this House, to urge his colleagues in the governing party to vote in favour of providing the royal recommendation to Bill C-395.

Employment Insurance Act October 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent question.

During the World March of Women, women made a number of demands and were very active in Quebec. I participated in a number of marches last week in Lavaltrie, Saint-Gabriel-de-Brandon, Louiseville and Berthierville. A number of women had many demands. They gathered together in Rimouski this week to make their demands known.

Bill C-395 affects women, as do the measures to eliminate the waiting period and increase the eligibility threshold to 360 hours, and other measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois. When the Conservative government took power, it made cuts to Status of Women Canada's programs. It even said that there is equality among men and women. We all remember that. That was said in the House by one of the ministers. But that is not the case, as the hon. member has indicated, especially in the private sector, where there is a serious gap of 70% between the incomes of men and women. That is a huge difference.

Improving the employment insurance system would make it possible to help the women who are affected by employment insurance, as well as the least fortunate in our society, which is consistent with improving the status of women.

Employment Insurance Act October 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question and his support for this bill. We are pleased that the Liberals are supporting this initiative. The fact that they are in opposition must be doing them some good and we hope this continues for years to come. I would also like to thank the NDP.

This bill simply aims to extend the qualifying period if a strike or lockout lasts more than 52 weeks. In such cases, workers are not entitled to employment insurance, even though they have paid into the system for years. This measure will provide fairness and equality for those who have paid into the employment insurance fund for many years.

A distinction must be made between a strike and a lockout. A lockout occurs when a company decides to close its doors, thereby preventing its workers from coming to work. It is a strange situation. A strike is altogether different. In both cases, workers should be paid EI benefits when the conflict is over.

Employment Insurance Act October 18th, 2010

moved that Bill C-395, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (labour dispute), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am very interested to speak once again about a bill that I introduced, Bill C-395, which is at third reading. This bill would amend the Employment Insurance Act so that people who have lost their jobs because of a lengthy labour dispute, be it a lockout or a strike, can qualify for EI.

This bill is at third reading, and it is clear that this bill must move forward because it has made it all the way through the House with the support of the majority. The next step is royal assent. Before that, I want to try yet again to convince the Conservative members that, as we have mentioned many times, this bill would correct a major gap in the act that penalizes workers when a company closes because of a labour dispute.

Bill C-395 would add work stoppages due to labour disputes to the reasons for extending the qualifying period. Our proposal, which would not cost the earth, is that the full length of a labour dispute be incorporated into the qualifying period so that it can be extended by 52 weeks to include the last year of work preceding the dispute. To qualify for employment insurance, workers would have to have been at work during the last year preceding the dispute. There have been cases where workers who worked for 20 or 25 years and paid into employment insurance did not qualify for EI benefits because of a lockout that lasted for more than two years. That is shameful. One such case was in Lebel-sur-Quévillon.

Under the current Employment Insurance Act, if a labour dispute lasts longer than the 52-week qualifying period, workers who are laid off after the dispute do not qualify for benefits, regardless of how many years they paid EI premiums and whether or not they have ever received EI.

A surplus of nearly $60 billion has built up in the employment insurance fund over the years, yet workers who have paid into that fund for years are not being compensated. Often, these workers are not to blame for the situation they find themselves in, yet as a result of a long lockout, they cannot receive EI benefits.

This is intolerable. I mentioned the workers at the Domtar plant in Lebel-sur-Quévillon who learned in December 2008 that they would be losing their jobs as a result of a lockout and would not be receiving any EI benefits. Since the lockout had gone on for more than 104 weeks, and the workers had not worked any hours during that time, they did not qualify for employment insurance.

I will leave it to my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou to talk more about the social and economic impact of this dispute. And I am not talking about how the workers feel about this government, which is building up numerous surpluses, yet left these workers, who had put in many years on the job, with no income when the plant closed.

Suffice it to say that these people did not qualify for employment insurance. It is shameful. We need to make sure that this unfortunate situation never happens again.

I would of course like to thank the opposition parties for supporting this bill and I would also like to wake the Conservatives up, since they once again seem to be opposed to improving the employment insurance program.

Whether we are talking about the abolition of the waiting period, or the 360 hours that we are demanding through various legislative initiatives, or Bill C-395, or the unemployed, or seniors and the guaranteed income supplement, the government ignores us and has no intention of supporting those who are, unfortunately, in need. Instead, it is investing in airplanes. It is investing billions of dollars in the military. It is investing exorbitant amounts in all sorts of tax breaks for oil companies. But when it comes time to help the poor, this government does nothing.

But I hope this government will reconsider and support this bill, as it ought to. It is not fooling anyone. People will remember Conservative government initiatives like investing a billion dollars in the 48-hour G20 and G8 meetings while openly refusing to improve a measure that is meant to help the unemployed.

Bill C-395 is an effective and simple measure that would fix a problem that is rare, it is true, but that is profoundly unfair for men and women. It is important to take action, but it seems as though the government does not understand this and will vote against giving us the opportunity to implement this legislation.

We will say it and shout it out loud in Quebec. We just want to enable people to receive their employment insurance benefits, because they have contributed for many years to this fund, which regularly generates a surplus. I do not understand why the Conservative government is stubbornly rejecting this measure I am proposing.

In the case of Lebel-sur-Quévillon, why, after the lockout, did the workers who contributed to this fund not have the right to a single cent of employment insurance? This was a lockout; the company shut down for three years. I could be wrong, of course, but I believe a strike or lockout is legal in Quebec and Canada. It is part of a labour relations system that is recognized by law in both Quebec and Canada. These existing measures are not illegal.

Much has been said about Lebel-sur-Quévillon, but let us not forget that it might be the same elsewhere in Quebec or Canada. All workers and employers pay premiums to ensure our protection in the event of a plant or company closure. This is about protecting families, incomes and, often, people's homes.

If the members of this House found themselves without an income for a year or two because of a lockout affecting this place—as it happened not so long ago under this Conservative government—and if that went on for two or three years, that would have an enormous economic, social and family impact on them. Workers have responsibilities, and it is not right for a government to act this way. This is a government with some means. This is not a third world country, but one in which we regularly see billions of dollars spent on various things. Implementing this bill would cost a few million dollars, yet the government is wilfully ignoring it and failing to support those in need.

Sadly, this government has not yet grasped that need. It can still reconsider and support Bill C-395. The same is true with respect to improving EI and eliminating the waiting period. These are all measures designed to support people in need, to whom the Conservatives do not seem to be showing any sensitivity right now.

I once again urge the Conservative Party, at the end of this hour of debate, to consider not only business owners and the most fortunate in society, but also those who are not so fortunate.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act October 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for his excellent speech on Bill C-47. He spoke about some inequalities experienced by workers at AbitibiBowater in the Outaouais. The government is pleased that the senior managers received huge bonuses when the plant was shut down, while the workers are having difficulties getting their pensions.

I would like the member for Gatineau to explain this situation a little more.

Veterans Affairs October 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the government's position is inconsistent. On the one hand, it invokes freedom of choice and the intrusive nature of the long form to justify eliminating the mandatory census, and on the other hand, it has no problem poking around in soldiers' confidential files.

Is the use of personal information for political purposes not similar to the tactics used by totalitarian regimes?

Veterans Affairs October 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the Privacy Commissioner has slammed the government for its handling of Sean Bruyea's medical records. Mr. Bruyea is a former soldier who has been very critical of the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

Instead of pointing fingers at public servants, can the government explain to us why it did not take action as soon as it learned that the former soldier's psychological records had made their way to the minister's desk?

Louiseville Buckwheat Flat Cake Festival October 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight the Festival de la galette de sarrasin de Louiseville, which is being held from October 1 to 10. The 32nd anniversary of this festival will be very successful, as thousands of people have already attended.

This festival is a true showcase of the regional municipality of Maskinongé. The festival helps us reclaim our ancient buckwheat culinary traditions, musical folklore, and locally grown products, as we discover local artists and a very welcoming community. This festival is a touchstone and an opportunity to honour our long-standing traditions in this francophone territory in North America. For these reasons, and many others, we call on the federal government to maintain funding and encourage—

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act October 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question. It is strictly a matter of the government's political will. Does it truly want to attack the tax havens that so many companies, especially banks, benefit from? We do not have enough tax revenue. We do have enough, but we need more in order to support Quebeckers.