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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was finance.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Interest Act June 14th, 2019

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-459, An Act to amend the Interest Act (prepayment charge).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill, which is inspired by a bill that was tabled in the last Parliament by my then colleague Laurin Liu, who was the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.

Breaking a mortgage contract before it comes to term triggers significant penalties. For example, if a couple signs up for a five-year mortgage to buy a $300,000 house and then gets a divorce after three years, the penalty they would be charged for the forced sale of the house could be as high as $9,000. These fees are widely panned, and they are the number one source of complaints to Canada's Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments.

This bill will limit the penalty for breaking a mortgage early to six months' worth of interest. If anyone thinks this bill sounds a little extreme, I would point out that these fees have been banned in the United States. We believe that this is a necessary measure for protecting mortgage holders who unfortunately need to break their mortgage early, rather than letting the big banking firms pocket these fees. The bill would put an end to this exploitation.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Access to Information Act June 13th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to congratulate my colleague from Hull—Aylmer on his new role as Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board.

My question has to do with the amendments proposed by the Senate and the committee. In committee, NDP members proposed 36 amendments. About 20 of them were considered, but none of them were adopted. Most of the NDP's amendments were related to clause 6. Clause 6 of the original bill had to do with the conditions that must be met when submitting an access to information request, conditions that the Information Commissioner described as excessive. They would have impeded journalists' investigations, for example.

Is the government planning to make a habit of rejecting legitimate amendments that are proposed in committee and then accepting them when they come from the Senate? The amendments proposed by my colleague were very similar to those the government finally agreed to.

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act June 11th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, we are indeed talking about Bill C-15, which this bill seeks to replace. I was in Parliament when Bill C-15 was passed under the Conservative government. It sought to replace the regional councils in the Northwest Territories with one large pan-territorial council.

The problem is that those regional councils were created as a result of land claim and self-government agreements with indigenous governments. The regional councils were created through nation-to-nation agreements. The Conservatives unilaterally overruled those decisions without consulting the indigenous peoples involved.

I would like to know why the member wants to go backward. Why he does not want to have this conversation and work on this nation-to-nation relationship that was undermined and ignored by the Conservatives?

National Security Act, 2017 June 11th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the minister and the House that, when Bill C-51 was introduced in the previous Parliament, the Liberals who were in opposition at the time voted in favour of Bill C-51, regardless of all the freedom of expression and privacy issues it might cause, not to mention other measures that endangered Canadians more than they protected them. In contrast, the official opposition New Democrats voted against Bill C-51.

Bill C-59 makes some improvements, but as civil liberties groups have said repeatedly, it fails to resolve a number of major problems related to use of data and privacy protection.

I would like to know why the government was in such a hurry to move forward without properly addressing the major issues with Bill C-51 that are still present in Bill C-59.

Rural Economic Development June 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, 13 of the 39 municipalities in my riding have little or no cellphone coverage. While big cities will soon have 5G service, some regions are still fighting to get 3G. Two weeks ago, I asked why the Liberals view and treat people in the regions as second-class citizens when it comes to cellphone service.

The minister told me that telcos will be able to invest more thanks to the accelerated capital cost allowance. However, there is no guarantee that this will result in more investments in the regions. On the contrary, telcos will be able to invest more in the 5G service offered in big cities.

The minister is supposedly responsible for rural economic development. When will she wake up and start working for our regions?

Budget Implementation Act, 2019, No. 1 June 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I see that the member is taking the same approach he took in 2015, that is, giving the government full credit for creating jobs, just as the Conservatives did in 2011 and in 2015.

The government can take action to facilitate certain things, but all economists agree that taking full credit for job creation is utterly absurd.

The member mentioned infrastructure. I hope he is reading the Parliamentary Budget Officer's reports, because, in terms of infrastructure, the money is quite simply not there. One of the Liberals' most important promises was to create an infrastructure bank. The infrastructure bank was supposed to support the creation of infrastructure.

For us, it was clear that the bank would be a tool to help privatize infrastructure revenue. In fact, the bank, which was established four years ago and is already weighed down by cumbersome bureaucracy, has managed to make just a single investment. It granted Montreal a loan for its light rail project. That has been its only investment. Actually, it is not even an investment; it is a loan that will be paid back.

I am listening to the Liberals talk about their plans for the upcoming election campaign. They say they are going to do this and that thanks to the infrastructure bank. It makes no sense. It is a huge empty shell. The only reason the infrastructure bank would ever come to fruition would be to satisfy shareholders and their investment funds. We will have to start charging tolls or user fees. Canadians will end up having to pay for their own infrastructure, which they already invested in.

Budget Implementation Act, 2019, No. 1 June 4th, 2019

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

There are indeed some considerable differences between our respective visions. However, I think his question was interesting, and I will answer it as the economist I am.

When a business wants to borrow money, it assesses its decision to borrow by comparing the rate of return on the planned investment with the amount of interest it will have to pay. If the rate of return is better, it borrows and invests the money. It goes into debt in order to invest and grow, because its investments will be positive.

The same principle applies to a government. If the government can increase productivity and economic growth at a greater rate than the interest it has to pay on its loans, that is not a problem. The problem with the Liberals is that most of the deficit they have run up was supposed to be invested in infrastructure, yet many reports, including those from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, say that there has been far less investment in infrastructure than anticipated and that the returns have not really materialized. A lot of money is being invested, but are we seeing a return, and is it worthwhile?

Those are some of the questions the Liberals will have to answer.

Budget Implementation Act, 2019, No. 1 June 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I have just 10 minutes to talk about Bill C-97, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures. I would have liked to have my colleague answer my question, since he had the time and it was not too complicated.

When the Liberals were in opposition and during the 2015 election campaign, they promised to stop this trend of including measures that have absolutely nothing to do with the budget in the budget and budget implementation bills. This is an undemocratic measure and practice. It forces us to vote on the budget, which is a confidence vote, and on measures that should be considered separately from the budget.

The Liberals were critical of this practice for four years, but they continue to utilize this undemocratic process.

I would like to talk about Bill C-97 and the budget in general, not necessarily about what is in the budget or the bill, but about what is not there. Over the past four years I have raised some very important issues highlighting how the Liberals did not keep their promises.

The first thing that I wanted from Bill C-97 was to see that the Minister of Finance was keeping his promise to address the issue of tax transfers for businesses and farms. The tax transfer issue is important because, at present, an individual who owns a small business or family farm and wants to transfer it to his children or a family member must pay more tax than if he transferred or sold it to a stranger or someone who is not a family member. There is a very simple reason for this. Selling to a stranger triggers a capital gain with a set of exemptions. However, the profits from the sale to children are treated as dividends and fully taxed.

In 2016, I introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-274, to address this issue. The bill sought to ensure that these two types of transactions received equal treatment and that individuals would not be at a disadvantage when selling their assets to their children.

I spent a year working on Bill C-274. I visited many areas of Canada, particularly the maritime provinces, which are represented by 32 Liberal members. I did not go to speak with MPs, but rather to speak with representatives of chambers of commerce and organizations that advocate for fishers and farmers. Everyone agrees that this legislation is necessary. I would even say that the tax treatment involved when businesses and family farms are sold or transferred is one of the top concerns of small business owners.

I worked on this for a year. At the end of that year, when it was time to begin debating the bill, I had the support of about 25 Liberal members. I had the support of the Conservatives, the Bloc Québécois and the independent members of the House. The only thing missing was the support I needed from the Liberals. I was able to get the support of at least 25 members after making citizens aware, citizens who then spoke to their MPs about it.

The bill made it through its first hour of debate, but then, before the start of the second hour, the Minister of Finance made a surprising announcement. He said that the bill was going to cost the government between $800 million and $1.2 billion in lost revenue. It was surprising because the tax specialists we hired to study the impacts of the bill estimated the tax loss at between $90 million and $100 million, which is hardly peanuts, but still an acceptable cost to insure that we level the playing field, so to say.

Clearly, these are two different price ranges. The Minister of Finance took his department's figures and successfully convinced a string of Liberal MPs that, though he understands how important this bill is for SMEs and family farms, they had to vote against it because losing $1 billion in tax revenue would be irresponsible. He promised that, by the end of this Parliament, there would be a tax measure in the budget that would truly meet those needs. He promised that.

In the meantime, there have been three budgets and five budget implementation bills. There is still nothing to deal with this inequity, this injustice that exists for owners of small business, family farms, and fish companies who want to transfer their business to their children.

I am appealing to the Liberal members who represent rural and farming regions and who have a lot of SMEs in their riding to think about the consequences of voting against Bill C-274. Once again, there is no measure in this budget bill to address the tax inequity and unfairness. That is the first thing I wanted to note. The Minister of Finance broke the promise he made to his own caucus, to correct the situation in a later budget. The election is fast approaching and this still has not been addressed. My colleagues can be sure that this issue will be raised in a number of ridings come election time. Liberal candidates will have to defend the finance minister's position, as well as his failure.

Another issue that is very important to MPs from rural areas is cell coverage. We hear a lot about investment in high-speed Internet, and clearly, there has been some. Not everyone has access, but there has been some investment. However, none of the new Liberal or Conservative programs have included measures for cell coverage, even though it is so important. In my riding, Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, 13 of the 39 municipalities I represent have little or no cell coverage. Over 1,000 people live in the municipality of Squatec, and they have no cell coverage unless they find exactly the right spot on top of a little hill or on the second floor of the high school.

We have raised this issue repeatedly in the House. The member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue has brought it to the government's attention many times during question period. The government's answers always focus on investment in high-speed Internet. Those are two different things. Investing in high-speed Internet does not mean investing in cell coverage. Essentially, telecom companies are not interested in investing in rural regions without adequate population density. Individual companies will not risk making that investment because it could end up benefiting all the other companies. The government needs to intervene because the market has failed, but the Liberal government has done nothing for four years now.

Several members are concerned about this issue. I am thinking of the member for Laurentides—Labelle and the member for Pontiac, who represent large rural areas and who tentatively bring up this issue from time to time. We voted on a motion moved by the member for Pontiac that emphasized the urgent need for action. That is the problem right there. The government talks about the urgent need to act, but it never does, even though it is in a position to do so. If the government does not want to make the necessary investments so that rural regions and rural residents are no longer treated as second class, then concrete action needs to be taken.

If the government does not want to make real investments, it needs to think of another solution to take the responsibility for making investments away from the companies and give it to an independent Canadian agency, for example. That agency would be funded by the companies as a condition of licence, and it could make investment decisions and acquire the necessary spectrum to do so. That would ensure coverage in all of the regions that would not otherwise have it, and all of the companies that made investments could also benefit from the new coverage. That is one solution that the government could implement. Another solution would be for the government to invest in cell coverage as it did for high-speed Internet.

There are solutions. All it takes is a little goodwill. However, since we began raising this issue, I have not seen any goodwill from the Liberals in this regard.

I will not have much time to talk about the third item, but I brought it up in my question to my colleague earlier. It is the fact that the Liberals did not keep their promise to table budget bills that actually focus on budget-related issues. Instead they chose to play petty politics and try to speed through their legislative agenda by throwing in tons of measures that have nothing to do with the budget. This Liberal tactic is as politically cynical now as it was when it was first used by the Conservatives from 2011 to 2015.

For all of these reasons, I find myself unable to vote for this bill. I am happy to have had a chance to explain why.

Budget Implementation Act, 2019, No. 1 June 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question for my colleague. This question gets repeated with every budget and every budget implementation bill.

In 2015, his party promised to put an end to omnibus budgets. Year after year, actually, twice a year with budget implementation bills, it has become clear that the Liberals have adopted the Conservative practice of including just about anything in omnibus budgets.

In this particular case, we have changes to the status of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, measures pertaining to the Hazardous Products Act and amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. That all should have been examined separately, but the Liberals included it in the same bill.

I am trying to understand how my colleague can say that his party fulfilled that formal commitment, made in 2015, to not use omnibus budgets, when they do introduce bills that include items that have nothing to do with the budget.

Business of Supply June 3rd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I would like to come back to the question that my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert asked.

It is clear that one of the reasons why the media industry is having so much trouble right now is that institutions such as Facebook and other social media are using the content of media outlets without paying for it and taking their advertising revenue. That is what led to the current crisis.

However, when we raise the question in the House, as my colleague did several times in this Parliament and in the previous Parliament, the Liberals refuse to acknowledge that this is urgent and that these businesses need to pay taxes and royalties just like Canadian businesses.

Their financial involvement could allow these media outlets to turn things around and make the necessary transition to survive and offer a variety of high-quality information.

Could my colleague tell me why he and his party are opposed to treating these web giants the same way they treat Canadians businesses in the media sector and all other sectors of the economy?