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

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I did not get the time to discuss Forman's ideas, Forman from Harvard, who is also an ecological planner. He has the idea of connectivity of interior habitat, patches and mosaics. Basically, when a landscape is fragmented, disturbances are created in the systems that are there. When we talk about faunal systems such as caribou or other wildlife, by fragmenting the habitat, the connectivity is sometimes ruined, which ruins breeding grounds, feeding, different elements of the habitat of certain wildlife species.

In choosing the smallest plan and cutting out the heart and allowing mining interests, there will be much more fragmentation, and this will have a much greater impact on wildlife groups in the park.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise to speak to Bill S-5, the Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act.

New Democrats, in principle, support the creation of new national parks and the conservation of key ecosystems and habitat. We are glad to support the bill.

However, often politicians make their decisions based on politics. When we are looking at conservation issues, when we are looking at ecology, political boundaries do not always mesh with ecological boundaries. They are two different things. Perhaps a better way to look at planning parks and planning our ecological future would be to pay more attention to ecological boundaries.

My background is in landscape architecture. Before I was a politician, I was a professional landscape architect. We learned all scales of landscape planning, from the backyard of someone's house all the way to regions and regional planning. The bill is something that is very close to what I used to do, and I can see there are weaknesses in the bill. One of the things that we learned as landscape architects is that rather than a political unit for planning ecologically, the watershed should be the essential unit that is used for landscape planning.

What I am going to talk about is two great figures in the field of ecological planning. I am sure that when this was sent to Parks Canada, when the planners working with Parks Canada were looking at establishing this national park, they used some of the methods that are outlined by the two great figures in ecological planning.

One is Fritz Steiner, from the University of Texas. The second one would be Richard Forman from Harvard University. Steiner's planning method has 11 steps. The reason I am going to be talking about the 11 steps of Steiner's planning method is that I am going to go stage by stage through the planning process, and explain what went wrong during the planning of this park and how the government was not vigilant enough or perhaps, more skeptically, how the government might not have honoured the planning process properly in developing this park.

The first step of the planning method is to identify planning problems and opportunities. From looking at the end result in the bill, I suspect that the government identified the issue as mining versus the ecological system. It pitted these two things against each other, asking how it could promote mining in the area while balancing it with ecological protection.

The second step of the planning is that the stakeholder establishes goals. Again, the end result here shows that the government's objective was probably to maximize mining potential in the area rather than to have an equilibrium between the ecological systems and mining. I suspect that because what the government came up with at the end of the process was an area much smaller than what was asked for.

The third, fourth, fifth and sixth steps are all scientific steps. A regional landscape analysis is done, a local landscape analysis is done, detailed studies are done, and planning area concepts are developed, all for the final step of preparing the landscape plan.

What the government did was that it presented three options: a large park that preserved key ecological areas, a more medium-sized park that sort of balanced the two, and then the smallest size, which maximized the mining potential. In coming up with the plan, the government came up with these three options, three plans.

The next step in Steiner's process is crucial. It is the step of citizen involvement.

The consultations revealed that the people supported the plan that was the most likely to protect the ecological heritage, and that was the largest park. They wanted the biggest park so that as much as possible would be protected. However, the Conservatives ignored what the people said. Counter to the facts, the Conservatives decided on a small zone and neglected to include some very important wildlife areas.

On Radio-Canada International, Stephen Kakfwi said that the government had taken the heart right out of the park, leaving the door open to mining exploration, a gaping hole in the middle of the national park.

Therefore, in ignoring the people of the area, the Conservative government has made a mockery of the whole planning process. Those scientific steps I mentioned take a lot of time. There is science that goes into it. There is a lot of consultation and analysis. In doing so, it is actually quite a costly process. It is costly for a reason. The people who are employed in the planning sector have to undergo a long education. They take, sometimes, 10 or 20 years to learn exactly how the landscape works. They develop an in-depth knowledge of the landscape and of the science of the systems of the landscape in order to preserve that landscape for future generations.

We often see, in all scales of landscape projects, that developers have an idea in mind. They have to go through the consultation and the analysis process out of policy requirements, yet their will is something else. They might actually go through all the steps of the planning process just to be able to implement the idea they always had in their heads.

I suspect that is the case today with this project and this national park, because it appears that the fix was in from the start. When it was at the first stage of planning, which was identifying planning problems and opportunities, and the second, which was establishing goals, the government had decided already that it was going to promote mining interests in this area. By promoting mining interests, it let the scientists and planners do their jobs and let them develop the three options to show that it was being responsible, but it always had in mind that it was going to choose the option with the least ecological protection and the most for mining interests.

I guess that would have been acceptable if when the government went to the actual consultation process it heard that people wanted the option that promotes mining interests the most. If it had said that, then it would have been acceptable. It would have gone through the steps and would have been able to convince the people of the area that this is what they wanted, for the mining companies to do their job there as much as possible. However, that was not the case. What happened was that people spoke out and said they did not want the smallest area preserved; they wanted the largest area preserved.

I would like to deliver this message to the people in the Arctic, in the Nahanni watershed. Under an NDP government they would not have to worry. We would consider expanding the park to the size that was desired.

My last point refers to the final steps in Steiner's planning process, which are implementation and administration. We could go through all the other steps of planning but if we do not implement the plan vigilantly and administer it vigilantly, then there really is no purpose to any of the planning process that goes on, because no one is watching what is actually being done in that area. I strongly suspect, looking at past budgets and the current budget, not enough capital has been put into these crucial steps in the protection of this area.

Although we will support the bill at second reading, we believe there is a lot lacking in the plan for this national park.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, if we had implemented smart growth policies 20 years ago, we would be in a much different situation with infrastructure.

Facing a lack of rational economic policy from the other side, I would like to engage in a visioning exercise with my friend from Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

The member knows that global competitiveness is being harmed in Canada. Countries which are succeeding, such as Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, all have robust cradle-to-grave programs from compassionate governments, and it pays economically.

If we look at Finland, which has had universal access to quality child care since 1990 and pre-school since 1996, the outcomes that have been tested and measured in Finland show it is more competitive globally as a whole society.

Finland's head of international relations for Helsinki's education department says that it is not a place where people dump their children when they are working. It is a place for their children to play, learn and make friends. Good parents put their children in day care. It is not related to socio-economic status.

Could my friend from Skeena—Bulkley Valley elaborate on the vision the NDP has in place of this imagined—

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, 20 years ago, one of the members of the House said: the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns? We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse? Dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent views of their constituents on each of the different components in the bill.

The Prime Minister believed that 20 years ago. Where has the Prime Minister been in the past 20 years to lose such faith in those fundamental values of democracy?

Events of October 22, 2014 October 28th, 2014

We seldom speak about love in this place, yet who can deny that this force in our lives, above all others, transcends our daily troubles and binds us to one another?

In the frantic moments of last Wednesday, many of us found ourselves side by side with people from other parties and with the people who make this place work, the staff of the House of Commons.

I had the good fortune to find myself with Jud Simpson and the employees in food services who nourish us every day. Jud, Rabiâ and Dominique, the senior staff, maintained supreme calm under the circumstances. They showed love and compassion for others in the building by continually contacting security with an offer to deliver food to those in lockdown.

Imagine if only love and compassion permeated our every action? Too often, we are coloured by fear.

The love of my wife, Amanda MacDonald; my daughter Pera; my mother Linda St-Maurice; Penny, Ian and Ryan MacDonald; Neil and Carol Nicholls; and friends and citizens of Vaudreuil—Soulanges is what carried me through these difficult circumstances.

I believe Barbara Winters, in comforting Nathan Cirillo in his last moments, gave the most important message we could give anyone in this life, “You are so loved”.

Let us build a society based upon love, for freedom is only valuable if we integrate it with love.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to preface my comments by saying that I believe all work done in Canada has value to it. With respect to the question about value-added jobs, I think that everyone working on the landscape in the resource industry is adding value to the Canadian economy. I do not want that to be questioned.

However, with creativity, I think we can see the value of preserving the ecological beauty of Canada for tourism for generations to come, rather than looking at things in the short term. I think the strategy to do short-term exports of raw bitumen is misplaced. I think the plan to build a pipeline to Texas is an export of 40,000 jobs. I would like to see jobs being created in Canada, people working with Canadian resources, transforming them, and moving our economy forward.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would prefer that scientists rather than oil companies choose the location.

If we could get a council of scientists that would choose the location for the TransCanada company, I would be comfortable with that. I would accept the recommendations of those scientists when they chose that area, as long as they were independent and not scientists hired by the company itself. It would have to be a completely independent body that would choose that location, rather than an oil company.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, for the reasons that I mentioned, the fact is that foraging itself might actually disturb the habitat so that the beluga will not return.

In reference to the pipeline debate of 1956, I can inform the member that the CCF was largely opposed to that project because of Canadian financing from Canadian taxation for an American company that had questionable characters in it, such as Clint Murchison, at the time, who was a Texas oilman and whose allegiances to Canada were questioned.

Part of the rancour of that whole debate was the Speaker reversing the decision on black Friday and the impact that had upon the House. Also, it was the first use of closure since 1913, which was an affront to Canadian democracy at the time. Unfortunately, we have seen it used 80 times now. That bad precedent set by the Liberals has been continued by the Conservatives, unfortunately.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we in the NDP respect science just as we respect the law. At home, we have a piece of legislation called the Environment Quality Act. The decision to stop drilling was made pursuant to that act, based on the precautionary principle, because of the presence of a threatened species, the belugas.

That may be an alien principle for the Liberals and the Conservatives. But we in our caucus support it.

I will talk about the river and the beluga. I will also talk about the reasons why we reject the chosen location of Cacouna for a terminal for export.

I will start with a poem by Judith Farley:

St. Lawrence, kingly River!
What legends o'er it dwell,
They slumber in each hollow,
And on its billows swell;
They breathe, o'er its fair landscape,
And lend a pleasing charm
To sunny bays and inlets,
To homesteads bright and warm.

Those homesteads have been there a long time. The river has been populated for over 9,000 years. It was called Kaniatarowanenneh by the St. Lawrence Iroquis people who settled it 9,000 years ago. It was known as the Champlain Sea then and over time, it has seen many changes. It has always been a river for trading. Quartzite, copper, jasper, flint were all traded. It was also used for transport. It was used for fishing for sustenance. The islands on it were used for burial mounds. It has been used by humans for a long time, and no one is arguing that we stop humans from using the river.

Belugas ended up in the river. I mentioned the Champlain Sea and I mentioned the amount of time, 9,000 years. Belugas are adapted to the Arctic, so one has to wonder why they are so far south? Why are they swimming around in the St. Lawrence? During the time of glaciation, which was about 10,000 years ago, they might have already been there. They might have been there longer than human beings.

I feel bad for belugas. They are so pleasing to the eye and people like them so much. People think we are saying that we should protect them because of the way they look, but my reason for protecting them is a bit more selfish and a bit more anthropocentric.

The beluga is known as a sentinel species, or an indicator species. It means that when we study the beluga, we can actually see the health of our own communities. It was not always this way.

In 1928, the Province of Quebec offered a monetary reward for every beluga killed because people were competing with them for fish. One hundred years later we do not have the same way of thinking. Scientists look at certain species in our ecosystem and count them as indicator species. They indicate how well we are doing as human society in terms of protecting our environment and our own human health, and we contract the changes.

The reason why belugas are indicator species is because they are long-lived, top of the food chain, and they have lots of fat and blubber. Different substances can be found stored in the fat. In 1996, a study was done and unfortunately it found that DDT, lead, mercury and cadmium were in beluga carcasses. One would wonder why DDT would be found in them since we got rid of that. As I said, they are long-lived and they store these substances in their fat. A lot of belugas died from these substances.

Beluga contain so many toxic contaminants in their carcasses that they are considered toxic waste. When they wash up on the shore, people are told not to touch them because they are so contaminated with human chemicals. PCBs and all sorts of contaminants have been found. The fact that so many contaminants were found in the belugas in 1996 was the reason why people started to monitor the health of the St. Lawrence.

Canada and Quebec got together to come up with a recovery plan for these populations. They were going to try to rehabilitate the beluga population. Following up on that in 2009, they looked at the beluga whale population and said that it was not recovering the way they thought it would, and they had theories explaining why.

Some of the reasons were anthropogenic, which means human caused. They had habitat degradation, diseases from runoff, maritime traffic and contaminants.

The precautionary principle that informed the decision that the Quebec court made was based on the fact that foraging would perhaps degrade the habitat, would perhaps increase maritime traffic. The reason they stayed that decision to forage there was to protect the beluga. Again, it is not because belugas are cute, but because they perform something in our ecosystem. They are an indicator species for the health of our ecosystems. As long as they are there, we can monitor them and look at how well we are doing and how we are taking care of our own water and lands.

The water off of Cacouna is the essential habitat of the beluga. The presence of the beluga should be a sign, I would say, that this is the worst place to locate an export terminal for unprocessed bitumen.

Having said that, I also want to talk about the whole idea of exporting unprocessed bitumen.

I think there is a lack of imagination on the part of the Conservatives when they look at our natural resources. The NDP support the extraction and transformation of Canadian bitumen; however, we would prefer that it be in Canada.

We always hear from Liberals and Conservatives that this is not realistic, that Canadians cannot consume enough oil, that our population is not large enough. I am sorry, but we are close to New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore. I could go on listing American cities that consume petrol. There is no shortage of consumption of petrol in North America. It is within the whole refinery shed of a Canadian refinery.

Our leader has spoken on this. He said that our extraction of this resource has to be sustainable. When he spoke about the Keystone pipeline, he said:

Keystone represents the export of 40,000 jobs.... We have never taken care of our energy security. We tend to forget that a 10-year supply to the U.S. is a 100-year supply to Canada. We are still going to need the energy supply to heat our homes and run our factories, whether it comes from the oil sands or it comes in the form natural gas. Fossil fuels are always going to be part of the mix [for a long time to come].

I could talk for a long time about the need to make the transition to more renewable sources of fuel. I worked for a year on a study in the natural resources committee which looked at innovation in the energy sector. Many witnesses said that Canada was missing the boat when it came to innovating in the energy sector. They said that Canada was not investing enough and not looking at research on geothermal energy, wind energy, solar energy, a greater mix of fuels that we could have, and that we could actually be leaders in the field of renewable energy.

There was a promise made in 2008 by the Prime Minister. He said at the time that export of raw bitumen to countries that had lower standards than ours should not be allowed, and that he would do everything in his power to prevent the export of raw bitumen to countries that did not have the standards of refining and processing that we have. Yet, I have been here almost four years and I have never heard anything from the Prime Minister to bring in a law that would prevent the export of raw bitumen to countries with lower standards than Canada's.

All these reasons that I mentioned, the beluga, the river and the export of raw bitumen, are the reasons we cannot support the location of this terminal at Gros-Cacouna.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

I would like to ask this, through you, Mr. Speaker. In 2008, the Prime Minister said, “We will not permit the export of bitumen to any country that does not have the same greenhouse gas regulations that we are imposing”. It was a campaign promise.

Can the member across defend the decision to export raw bitumen? Can he assure the House that raw bitumen will not end up in countries that have lesser standards than we do?