House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was volunteers.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Forces et Démocratie MP for Repentigny (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 0% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act December 7th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech. I was a member of the Canadian Forces and I went through some very challenging training. My experience has shown me that soldiers are subjected to conditions that are extremely different from what is experienced in the civilian world.

People are encouraged to join the Canadian Forces in order to gain experience and come out with some incredible tools. I made mistakes, minor ones. It happens to everyone. For example, you go before a superior officer and get charged, fined, patted on the back and told not to do it again. That is part of life's lessons. We are talking about young people who enlist at the age of 18, 19 or 20 and who need guidance. I do not think that providing guidance for minor offences involves encouraging young people to join the Canadian Forces, exposing them to extreme conditions and handing them a criminal record on their way out. That does not work.

Could my hon. colleague compare the military world and the civilian world and tell me whether it is normal to mix the two?

Petitions November 28th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, my petition in support of my Bill C-399 has been signed by individuals, organizations and volunteers who recognize the importance of a tax credit that could help them.

Income Tax Act November 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the members of all parties represented in the House. I would like to thank my honourable NDP colleagues for their support, but I would also like to thank the Liberal and Conservative members. To me, the fact that we sometimes disagree and have different approaches is essential. I also think that this debate about what is happening with organizations across Canada is essential.

Bill C-399, which I call Madeleine Nadeau's bill after my grandmother, is a very important and well-drafted bill, despite what they might say. People have thrown around numbers like $430 million, but the fact is that the Department of Finance and the Parliamentary Budget Officer assessed the cost of the bill at $130 million. Those numbers are miles apart.

The whole point of this bill is to recognize a problem and try to solve it. Across Canada, volunteer numbers are stagnant. Most of the volunteers I talked to during the consultations I held told me that the reason they stop volunteering is that they can no longer do it. Volunteers pay, and that does not make sense. Volunteers provide vitally important services. They are the last bastion of our society. Volunteering produces real results, and the people who do it, who put their hearts into it, have to draw on their own funds just to show up. They are not asking to be paid or to receive tax credits. They just want us to come up with solutions.

MPs were asked to support sending this bill to committee so that committee members can study the range of problems in order to amend and improve the bill so that it meets the needs of all Canadians.

Last week, on November 15, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with approximately 50 organizations, just over 120 volunteers. That is the point I want to raise. This meeting was attended not by volunteers and organizations, but by the volunteers that make up these organizations that they manage on a day-to-day basis. These people were very clear about their support for the bill and said that it represents a step forward. They are looking to move in a certain direction and to get results.

Institution or volunteer? Machine or person? In this place we often have this philosophical debate. The government always says that it provides support to organizations, as though the answer to any problem was to throw money at it in the hope that perhaps the people, the poor citizens, will finally be happy with the results. However, no organization, no foundation can exist without the support of people, without the contribution of volunteers. They are the ones suffering at this time.

Our population is aging, the number of young people getting involved is declining, the economy is very fragile and people have less and less money in their pockets. The government will soon introduce Bill C-458, which has a $400 million price tag. We applaud the effort that has been made. The bill would establish a national charities week and would allow for an additional three months to collect even more money, even though people do not have more.

We will get results by encouraging volunteerism in the community and a human presence.

Knowledge and expertise are important parts of philanthropy and volunteering. Many people at the end of their career give their time and knowledge and share all of the experience they have gained over the years. They are the ones we want to have in organizations because of what they contribute.

In our region, a project to help animals did not succeed, while the same project was a success in another region because of the expertise of the volunteers who got involved. They were former bank directors, committed people who knew how to get money. They managed to purchase a building and create an entity because they invested their time. They never calculated how much money was required. They made the most of what they had.

In conclusion, Bill C-399 is a bill for volunteers. What I am hearing in this House is that we support volunteers and are listening to them. We want the bill to be sent to committee so that we can find the solutions together. Let us work together: that is the message we are sending. We must not use cost and red tape as excuses. On the contrary, the bill was designed to put the onus on volunteers to claim the credit if they are interested.

Public-private Partnerships November 8th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates just completed a study on public-private partnerships. P3s are a form of insidious privatization and, as we are seeing right now in Quebec, the risk of collusion and corruption is huge if we allow private enterprise too much involvement in the management of public affairs.

One of the recommendations that we would like to see included in the final report is ensuring greater transparency and oversight when it comes to P3 contracts.

Will this government follow that recommendation?

National Philanthropy Day Act October 30th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the last time I was here, I talked about philanthropic organizations. I spoke from the heart about my bill, C-399, for 15 minutes. I was very clear and I never looked at my notes. This subject is very important to me. Yesterday I mentioned that it was "Madeleine Nadeau's bill"; Madeleine Nadeau was my grandmother.

Today I am going to take another tack and ask everyone to be patient. I am going to go at this point by point because it is important to paint a picture of the situation.

National Philanthropy Day is important, but, for me, it is the first stage. In the strategic planning of a responsible government, it is important not just to thank people, but also to adopt a vision and put specific measures in place.

The purpose of National Philanthropy Day is to increase public awareness of charitable activities and to thank people who make donations throughout the year, not just those who give money, but also those who offer some of their time on a volunteer basis.

A Statistics Canada study based on 2010 data confirms that the number of Canadians who donate to charities has stagnated since 2007, which is troubling. The volume of donations has also not increased, despite the greater need for services. As for volunteer hours, the same study shows that, despite an increase in the number of people who do volunteer work, the number of hours has not changed.

Failing an adequate number of donors and volunteers, charities will be unable to provide essential services to the communities we live in. It is therefore essential to put tools and mechanisms in place to help these organizations continue to offer their services. In a way, these organizations are our last resort.

Since macroeconomic statistics do not provide a clear idea of the pressures many Canadians are under, let us consider some more telling figures. In 2011, approximately 3.5 million Canadians, nearly one in 10, were living in poverty; that is enormous. According to Food Banks Canada's 2011 report, no less than 850,000 people—that is almost one million—used food banks in March 2011. That is a 25% increase over the figures observed before the 2008-09 recession.

The European economy could go back into recession and that of the United States is still very fragile. Emerging markets are also slowing down. Consequently, people who are vulnerable are increasingly so.

The Canadian economy does not operate in isolation. We are subject to everything that goes on around the world. The pressures on food banks and other charities, which are straining to make ends meet, will rise further. Despite the increase in demand, the supply of assistance to charities could unfortunately be limited. Most charities depend to a large degree on government financial assistance. Those organizations will have to fight for the essential funding to maintain their activities.

In short, today I believe we have to ask ourselves two basic questions about National Philanthropy Day. First, why is it important to recognize National Philanthropy Day? Second, what more can the government do to assist this essential sector?

The answer to the first question is quite clear. This kind of day obviously costs the government very little and can generate big returns. On the one hand, National Philanthropy Day is an occasion to encourage Canadians to do volunteer work, to make donations and simply to say thank you. On the other hand, it is also an opportunity to pay tribute to major donors, to philanthropists and to local volunteers for the services they provide to the community.

The second question is much more specific and more complicated. First, we must determine what the organizations need. Imagine Canada and other organizations have asked that question many times and have made demands to the government. For example, in August 2011, they proposed an increased tax credit for charitable donations. This proposal is currently under review, but it is not clear whether the government will agree to it.

The sector also asked us to ease the limits on political activities that the Conservative government set in 1986. It is still is trying to do that here, and it has almost succeeded. No matter what the government may think, political activities are important to this sector. They are often the only way to be heard amidst the flood of claims and lobbying from the private sector.

I have an example. A mining company opens in a region where people are very poor and rely on the existing services. For contractual reasons and all kinds of other reasons, this company does not fulfill its commitments. It pollutes, destroys and does not give back what it is supposed to to the community. The community ends up just as poor as it ever was. The only collective recourse it has is to get together, create an organization that will inform officials about the issue and that will promote the community's interests.

However, this government has decided that this organization must absolutely not be involved in any kind of politics. But it knows the local issues. That is how the community can represent itself.

Let us look at the private sector. In 2011, about $26 billion was spent on lobbying. Let us assume that the volunteer sector spent 10% of its total expenses of $10.6 billion, which represents about $1 billion. What did it spend this billion dollars on? To inform the government about existing problems. And what was done with the $26 billion? It was spent on advertising, providing misinformation and on spinning the situation.

People who have problems also have the solutions, and they are the ones who do something about it. They are also the ones invited to be in government, to stand for election, and they have lived the reality.

In closing, let us consider the mammoth budget implementation bill that was introduced in the spring and which would crack down on expenses related to political activities. I just cannot imagine that, nor can charities. We have to start thinking more strategically in order to ensure that the sector is strong.

That is why I introduced Bill C-399. It conveys the message that a national philanthropy day is a good thing and that it is important. Our position will not change. We are grateful and thankful, every day, that people who are victims can receive services, and that the poor are lifted out of poverty through the great generosity of volunteers. Introducing the bill is a way of saying that we want to take this one step further. The government has to take responsibility and do more.

Today, our position is that a national philanthropy day is important. However, the matter is not closed. There are the demands of the organizations and volunteers, but, above all, there are the demands of the people who are not satisfied with current services, whether they are private or public services, because of budget cuts. People are tightening their belts, people are starving, people no longer have the resources to move forward. We want a strong country that can move forward in the future. It is our responsibility to provide the tools.

Yes, philanthropy day is important, but we need a global vision.

National Philanthropy Day Act October 30th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, our position is also clear: the NDP supports the senator's bill. That said, an official day of philanthropy is not enough; it is merely a first step.

In my colleague's opinion, apart from simply declaring an official day of philanthropy, what concrete measures should be taken to help organizations and volunteers?

Volunteer Organizations October 25th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the work done by volunteers and community social groups in the Lanaudière region.

As Canadians struggle as a result of the tax burden, austerity measures and governments' lack of regard for the poor, organizations and volunteers provide the ultimate defence against poverty. These volunteers do not count their time or money. They are able to work miracles with no resources.

This week, the Corporation de développement communautaire in L'Assomption held a resource fair. The event, which I attended, brought together a large number of organizations from the region at the Pierre-Le Gardeur hospital.

Some of the organizations that attended were Fin à la faim, the Regroupement des aidants naturels and Le Tournesol.

These organizations are always there when poverty is looming. They are available to support families, to end isolation and break the silence, and simply to help people during times of crisis.

Bill C-399 is proof that we are listening to them.

Hats off to all of the organizations and volunteers.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act October 4th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I was a correctional officer for many years, and I must say that my hon. colleague made some excellent points. I have seen many immigration cases.

Our position is clear: victims are always important to us. We must never forget the conditions that many immigrants may have faced in their country of origin. We have heard stories of torture, malnutrition and disease. Sending our problems elsewhere is not a solution. I see a serious problem with inviting people into our country, only to turn around and tell them they are not our concern, that this is an exclusive club, and then deport them without sharing any of the positive aspects of our society.

Income Tax Act September 25th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his excellent question.

I have been out and about in my community and have met various groups. I have seen seniors break the isolation of others and people run a meals on wheels program for those who cannot or do not have the means to cook. They just help out.

My son's grandmother looks after people with various disabilities. Every time she has the chance to help someone out she does so with love and a great deal of respect.

In L'Assomption, I helped a group that was cleaning up the parks and the shoreline.

There are thousands of examples across Canada. I hope that this will continue.

Income Tax Act September 25th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, as I travelled to different communities, I met with various groups, including firefighters, ambulance attendants and rescue workers. For example, I met with some Saint John Ambulance people who are on the job every day, wearing the uniform and receiving training.

During one trip, I even had an opportunity to meet with Canadians who have taken the initiative to provide rescue training without even being paid for it. Time and time again, crisis situations have come up in history. No matter the crisis, people have worked hard to help out. When the ice storm happened in Quebec, volunteers stepped up to help out.