House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was economy.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Vaudreuil—Soulanges (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Respect for Communities Act March 13th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to share a story with members from the end of last year. In 2014, a Canadian Press story mentioned that six individuals in the Durham region died from suspected overdoses. There was probably bad heroin on the streets.

In light of that story, would it not be better for the government to accelerate safe injection sites so that the people could be at a site where they could be monitored, rather than letting them shoot up in their living rooms or backyards and having them pass away tragically without any supervision or being known? Would the member not agree that maybe we should be facilitating the process to open these sites so that these victims of drugs do not have to pass away in loneliness anymore?

Committees of the House March 13th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a dissenting report to the previously mentioned report. It is entitled “Providing Responsible Governance to OLMCs: the New Democratic Vision”.

There are good things in the report. The NDP fought hard for multi-year funding and support for arts and culture infrastructure. However, there was important testimony that was omitted concerning the identification of vulnerabilities and the lack of services of equal quality, lack of good data, the importance of co-operatives as tools of development, and problems with francophone immigration.

Respect for Communities Act March 13th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the member across talks about the opposition dragging out the debate, and she also underlined the importance of consulting with community groups.

In terms of the consultative process regarding Bill C-2, has she gone to the grassroots community partners around her, places such as ASK Wellness, Henry Leland House, Crossroads Inn, the Phoenix Centre? Has she talked to the president of ASK Wellness, Elizabeth Harris, about the bill? Has she talked to the president of the Phoenix Centre, Fawn Holland?

I am just wondering what their input was in her own community and whether she has consulted closely with them in Kamloops.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act March 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Voltaire once said, “I may disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”

My comment is to you, Mr. Speaker. Limiting the expression of members of this House and limiting the diversity of voices that could come during this debate is doing a grave injustice to our democracy. It is hurting the integrity of this House. I ask you to intervene in this to improve our democracy.

Water Protection March 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the poet W. H. Auden said that thousands have lived without love, not one without water.

I was one of the founding members of the Conseil du bassin versant de Vaudreuil-Soulanges, and the protection of our waters is one of the issues that motivated me to join the NDP team in 2011.

Since 1999, the National Energy Board has been asking Enbridge for a rehabilitation plan, including the installation of safety valves to protect the waterways that pipeline 9B runs through. Enbridge dragged its feet for 14 years, while the National Energy Board twiddled its thumbs. In March 2014, the board finally imposed some conditions. Enbridge has yet to meet those requirements.

It is time to take our water resources seriously. I add my voice to those of the people who live in the Ottawa River and St. Lawrence River watershed. Our message to the National Energy Board is this: “Enough is enough. Enforce your own conditions.”

Public safety and environmental protection must be among our top priorities, and they will be when we form the next government with the member for Outremont and former environment minister as our prime minister in 2015.

Pipeline Safety Act March 9th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly why we are worried. In the event of a spill, in 99% of cases, the proponent is not the only one responsible. The responsibility is shared. These statistics are very troubling, because this means that a company will do everything it can to avoid responsibility for a spill. It will try to pass the bill onto taxpayers. My constituents are very worried about this. We need to amend the bill to address this issue.

Pipeline Safety Act March 9th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I served together on the natural resources committee, and I always found him to be a very reasonable member on that committee with very good proposals.

I have to say that we have to live by the record we create. I will start with that. We cannot make poor decisions and then attempt to say they do not belong to us. Unfortunately, for years the Liberals rubber-stamped these projects as well. Another member pointed out that during the Liberals' tenure, they did not take the people living around a pipeline into consideration and only protected the pipeline itself in legislation. There were great problems with that approach.

To answer the member's question, I will give him one point. The idea of who is responsible in terms of pollution, whether it is through an operator error or otherwise, has to be clarified in this bill, because we often see a shared guilt with respect to accidents and we have to clearly address the point that in those kinds of cases, the operators cannot just pass the buck and say that it was not their fault. We have to be a lot more clear on that aspect.

Pipeline Safety Act March 9th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, before I got into politics I was one of the founding members of the Conseil de bassins versants de la région de Vaudreuil-Soulanges. This organization was responsible for coming up with a master plan for water in my region.

For anyone who is not familiar with the concept of watersheds, this term refers to the entire area drained by a main stream and its tributaries. It is delineated by its upstream and downstream boundaries. All waterways are connected to one major waterway.

I mentioned watersheds because the watershed area is responsible for the quality of our water, which depends on the health of a watershed. Water is the most important resource.

That is one reason why I decided to run in the 2011 election and to join Jack Layton's team on the NDP, a progressive party that supports the right to live in a healthy and sustainable environment.

That is because seven generations from now our successes will be measured not in terms of GDP, economic growth, oil consumed or produced, or the consumption of a nation; no, our successes will be measured in terms of how well we have done in terms of keeping the ecological balance.

Our resources must be developed sustainably. A polluter-pay model needs to be put in place. We need to move away from our over-reliance on fossil fuels. The NDP vision is that economic growth and job creation go hand in hand with social and environmental sustainability

My riding is downstream from here on the Ottawa River. Here, upstream, the government is making decisions that are troubling the people in my region. They are concerned and rightly so. My region is the country's transportation hub. The Canadian National Railway, the Canadian Pacific Railway, Enbridge's line 9 and the TransCanada pipeline all pass through Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

For 16 years, line 9B did not meet safety standards. This problem was ignored by a Liberal MP and a Bloc MP. It was only when the people of my riding elected an NDP member that they discovered that there was a problem with line 9B. I raised this problem at the Standing Committee on Natural Resources after reading an article on the subject.

Canadians want better inspections, appropriate regulations and enforced standards. Public safety and environmental protection must be priorities for any government. The Conservatives are lagging behind. The Liberals had 13 years to solve the problem, but they did nothing. The risks are too great.

Liberals and Conservatives, for instance, now support the Keystone XL project.

I talked with David Suzuki in 2011 and I told him that Canadians worry a lot about pipelines. I asked him what the biggest thing that Canadians should worry about is. He said that we often worry about these big spills we see or about trains derailing. He said that the major problem with pipelines is pinhole leaks. One of the Conservative members mentioned the technology. Certainly there have been advances in technology, but 2% of those pinhole leaks still are not detectable by the instruments that are in Keystone. This means that because of the corrosion in a pipeline and a pinhole leak, oil could leak out without being detected for days or months. It could contaminate the water table, and we would not know it because we would not be able to detect it.

The other question we have to ask is this. Yes, with new pipeline construction we are looking at this new engineering to detect pinhole leaks. What about all the other pipeline infrastructure? Are we saying that we will implement the same safety instruments through all the pipelines across North America? It is a good question to ask, because if one pipeline implements it, should we not implement it in all pipelines? Should we not update all the infrastructure? These are questions I have and that the citizens I represent have.

Energy policy in this country for years has been managed by successive Liberal and Conservative administrations. They have lit so many fires it will be hard too put them all out, all these problems, all this negligence that has gone on over the years. Just opening the paper in a given week we can find five different energy projects that might be going on that have problems that are not being addressed.

Let us look at the seismic testing in the Clyde River. There are problems with the narwhals. The company exploring for oil wants to use seismic testing, which is basically making explosions in the water in habitat where narwhals are. This is going to court in Toronto. The mayor of Clyde River has an injunction against the testing.

We see this again and again.

We also saw this with the St. Lawrence belugas. It is the same thing.

Several fires have been ignited. It is up to us to identify all of the problems and propose solutions.

There has to be greater consultation with communities and with first nations.

First nations activist Chickadee Richard, from Winnipeg, says,

As indigenous people, we still use the lands. We still gather; we still hunt; we still use the forests and the waters. So, what this pipeline would do to us, we may never recover. It's in a crisis mode right now and we all have a responsibility to future generations.

She is a part of a greater coalition in Winnipeg hoping to broaden the scope of National Energy Board consultations. Another member of this coalition, Mary Robinson, of the Council of Canadians, Winnipeg chapter says, “Without...listening to people’s voices, any review of the pipeline will be incomplete and illegitimate".

These are voices of one part of Canada. I bring them up because I hear the same things in my region, and I have heard the same things from other members in this House. Citizens in their ridings have the same preoccupation. These things keep coming up, and we have to address these problems.

Although I am happy to see that there is a bill addressing this, I do not think it goes far enough, and I do not think it answers all the questions and worries citizens might have in my riding and in other ridings.

There is no doubt that we have a wealth of natural resources in this country, and I would not be one to say that we should not use those resources. They are there to be used. We are really blessed with them. They are a blessing to this country, but we have to approach the exploration and the development of these resources in a different way. We have had 40 or 50 years of irresponsible management of these resources by successive Liberal and Conservative administrations.

The NDP's vision is based on three principles. The first is sustainability. We want to ensure that a polluter pays model is in place so that polluters pay for any spills and for the resulting pollution instead of leaving those costs to future generations.

The second is partnership. We want to ensure that our communities, provinces and first nations all benefit from resource development and that we create value-added jobs for the middle class here in Canada.

The third is long-term prosperity, not short-term prosperity that would create jobs tomorrow that will be lost after two weeks. We are seeking to build long-term prosperity by investing and relying on modern technology in order to strike a balance between the economy and the environment.

Pipeline Safety Act March 9th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague mentioned the fact that the Liberal Party supports Keystone XL. This pipeline safety bill is long overdue. I can add to the support of Keystone that in my region of Vaudreuil—Soulanges, Enbridge Line 9 was outside of regulations since 1999. It shows that each of these two parties here in this House have been equally irresponsible in their care of the nation's pipelines.

Could my hon. friend expound on why we are standing opposed to Keystone, and how that differentiates us from the Liberal Party?

Removal of Imprisonment in Relation to Mandatory Surveys Act February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, in the past few years, the Conservatives have unfortunately been the victim of the most human of emotions, that of fear. While I understand the inclination to embrace this most human of emotions, I do not find it logical.

Statistics and their collection are indeed logical. In these times we must embrace the interaction of science and the imagination. Statistics Canada gives Canadians tools and data that are rooted in science. In order for the thinkers of tomorrow to become tomorrow's innovators, we need to give them these tools. It is unfortunate that so many cuts have been made to this agency in the past years.

While we will support Bill C-625 at second reading, we are concerned that the cuts to Statistics Canada have affected the efficiency of the data that is provided. This bill before us in the House today does nothing to address any of the serious issues facing Statistics Canada. What it does is formally remove the possibility of imprisonment for failure to complete the mandatory survey. However, when we look at the historical record of this, no person has ever been imprisoned under the Statistics Act. Therefore, I return to where I began my discourse and the fact that this bill is yet again playing on the emotion of fear. It is saying to Canadians that they could be imprisoned when in fact they never have been. It is yet another example of electoral style legislating, trying to market fear through legislation, a type of window dressing to gloss over the war that the Conservatives have been waging against science in general and against Statistics Canada in particular, including the disastrous decision to remove the long form census.

Now the Conservatives are wasting time and creating problems where none exist. There are no problems that exist here, though the bill may permit the Conservatives to speak to a fear that Canadians have. I have seen that in many other bills they have presented before the House, which have been presented in order to inculcate fear in Canadians. As I have said, it is a powerful human emotion, and it often works with the electorate if one promotes fear in the hearts of Canadians.

However, our vision on this side is quite different. We prefer the human emotions of love, the idea of hope and being optimistic about our future, and we refuse to play on the fears of Canadians. We stand here to protect the rights of Canadians, who are perhaps fearful that the government would enact legislation that would decrease their privacy rights. That is certainly true, but the idea of imprisoning Canadians under the the Statistics Act is laughable, because it has never happened. No one has ever been imprisoned under this act.

Instead of scrapping the long form census, as the Conservatives did, and making cuts to Statistics Canada, they should have supported the NDP's plan to fix Statistics Canada, remove the possibility of imprisonment, and restore the long form census. Because they did not take this approach, unfortunately the data that Canadians can get from Statistics Canada is not of the same quality. Officials from Statistics Canada have said the same thing.

We have seen in committee studies and in numerous places that whenever Statistics Canada appears as a witness or whenever people are using Statistics Canada data to try to make a case, it is always pointed out that the data is now insufficient because of the elimination of the long form census.

As I said, no person has ever been imprisoned for an offence under the Statistics Act. Some people have been charged under the Statistics Act, but they never did actual jail time, and their charges were linked to their activities in protesting against the Statistics Act. However, no one has ever been put in jail for this.

In 2006, Statistics Canada reported that there were 64 cases of non-compliance, with a mandatory sentence. The cases were prosecuted and resolved, but none of them resulted in prison. Canadians were told that if they did not fill out the long form census, they would be put in prison for that wrongdoing, but it never actually happened. No one was ever actually put in prison for non-compliance with the long form census.

The NDP believes that the long form census has to be restored to provide social scientists, governments, and businesses with the data that they need. The Conservatives are merely providing window dressing to look like they are effective at managing Statistics Canada, but we have seen problem after problem at the agency under the current government.

Many people agree with our position that independence should be restored to Statistics Canada. We should give it the tools that Canadians need to be the innovators of tomorrow, to mate their imagination with science and come up with the innovations of tomorrow.

Professor C.E.S. Franks, from Queen's University, said in 2010 that:

The issue of a voluntary survey rather than a mandatory census is far more than the “technical statistical issue” it was described as by Mr. Sheikh. The voluntary survey will fundamentally weaken the data on which many of Canada's government and business policies are based.

La Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne said that it applied to the Federal Court for an injunction against the Conservative government on the grounds that the voluntary NHS violated the Official Languages Act by providing less accurate information about French-speaking communities. The injunction was not granted by the court.

The fact that we do not have the proper statistics on minority language communities is a serious problem, because it makes enforcement of the Official Languages Act more difficult, and over the past years we have seen the attitude that the government has towards official languages.

For instance, just yesterday, when the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages was at committee, she used the words “official languages” and “national languages” interchangeably, as if they were the same thing. I pointed out to her that the difference between an “official” language and a “national” language is that a national language does not have any protection under the Official Languages Act. The legal status of a national language is not as strong as that of an official language, so to hear those terms used interchangeably is troubling indeed.

We do have the Official Languages Act in this country. Minority linguistic communities depend on this act to fight for their rights, but we need the statistics to show where minority Francophone speakers are and where minority Anglophone speakers in Quebec are so that we can provide the proper services, design the programs that these communities need, and evolve the programs, services, and financing of those services according to need. For that we need statistics.

The mandatory long form census was doing a good job of that. It is true that there was the threat of imprisonment on the books. No one, however, has been—