House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was regions.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Compton—Stanstead (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 27% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply June 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, to hear the comments from members on the other side of the House, you would think that they do not often get out into the community to listen to people and talk to them about the problems they face because of a system that does not meet their needs.

When a system does meet people's needs, the local economy, whether it is urban or rural, is stronger. That is not at all what we are seeing now. With all of the Conservatives' reforms and disparaging of employment insurance, it is less accessible and it meets the needs of the public less than ever. A system like this will not help us develop strong economies.

If the economy is prosperous, the season for seasonal jobs will keep expanding. The unemployment period will always be shorter, because when the economy is prosperous, money is everywhere, jobs are abundant, people are happy and they contribute voluntarily. This is a great country that we will continue to build this fall with a New Democrat government.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for helping me get back in the swing of things.

Indeed, in urban areas, we must not forget the construction and tourism sectors, which are very big. The same is true of the cultural sector. As the member said, these are seasonal jobs. These jobs return year after year and are always there.

As for the local economy, I was talking about restaurants, but I really mean the entire local economy—everything from a night out at the movies to dinner out at a restaurant. The entire local economy, whether in an urban or rural area, suffers. When we have an employment insurance system, old age pension system and social housing system, and when those programs are realistic and tailored to people's needs, that is what supports an economy. Those economies are the ones that will come out ahead, and in the end, Canadians will be much happier and will contribute to the country.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague who did some duty work, even on the standing committee, allowing me to be near my wife as she was giving birth to our second child. However, now I am back.

To hear the comments that some of my colleagues opposite have made since I returned early this afternoon, one would think that they do not often get out into the community to see the people on employment insurance and the social fabric that the governments have tried to put in place in the past 50 years, since World War II, in order to help people at specific times in their lives, especially when they lose their jobs.

We are not going to talk about social housing or old age security, but about employment insurance, because this vital program to help people in an industrialized and modern country has also been abused.

Employment insurance was created after the Second World War, on the eve of the 30 glorious years, to give employees and employers a tool that would guarantee employees a stable income during the transition period between two jobs, but also, and more importantly, during temporary layoffs, since that is always happening in the manufacturing industry.

The employment insurance program allowed employers to keep a skilled workforce that was available as soon as business picked up. In other words, it provided an income to employees who were temporarily laid off so that they could pay their rent, feed their families and purchase essentials, such as clothing and school materials. When employees went back to work, they would pick up their daily tasks where they left off, as though nothing had happened, and no training was needed. Of course, they sometimes needed to upgrade their skills, but the workers came back and carried out their duties properly.

Over the past few decades, industries that rely on seasonal and temporary jobs have developed. Although they sometimes involve non-standard employment, these industries contribute to the regional economy. Take for example tourism, agriculture and the fishery.

What happens when employment insurance is not there to fulfill its basic mandate, which is to meet the needs of Canadians, allow the regions to continue to survive and stabilize their economy? Employers lose their workers and have to train new ones, which costs them time and money.

That is an important part of the equation, since seasonal workers are not slackers. They are skilled men and women and single-parent families that often live in the regions. This sector of economic activity is often found in the regions.

When the government eliminates social housing programs, makes it harder to access old age pensions, cuts services for people with disabilities and does not provide employment insurance when needed, communities are destroyed and people can become disengaged. People no longer believe in the economy and no longer trust these governments. Some will even become disengaged, and it leads to domestic violence, suicide attempts, and so on.

The local economy includes the restaurants in the little village or the municipality, the credit union, the post office. When all of that disappears, the social fabric is torn. That is what we are currently seeing in Canada's regions.

I will be speaking on behalf of the regions because that is where it hurts the most. There are a number of urban sectors in which things are going well, but in which there are still high unemployment rates, especially among young people and women. These are people who are often looking for work and who are left behind. If they are also denied access to employment insurance, it is catastrophic in many regions of Canada.

I will talk about the Eastern Townships. Back home, we rely on agriculture, forestry, tourism and culture. These are all of the industries that bring in billions of dollars and provide tens of thousands of jobs. These are people who still believe that they deserve their job. When the time comes they are prepared to go back to those jobs. Perhaps we should make employment insurance more accessible to self-employed workers. There are some needs there as well. People do not have access to employment insurance even though the employer and the employee paid their premiums.

The system works. It can work. Someone is whispering that it could be a lot more effective. It is not effective. In the past, eight or nine people out of 10 who had paid into the employment insurance fund had access to it; now it is four people. Sometimes it is less than four. Why? Because there are so many hassles and refusals. No one will talk to these people. The administrative tribunals are stretched to the limit. People give up. We cannot even include them in the workforce statistics. They are not even unemployed. They are no longer workers. Where are they? Are they working under the table? I do not know where they are, but these people have paid into the employment insurance system and they are entitled to employment insurance.

Canada is one of the industrialized countries where the system is the most callous toward the unemployed.

I am going to tell the story of a company in the Eastern Townships where the workers had 20 or 30 years’ experience. The company closed down overnight. There were no layoffs; the whole company closed down. There were so many hassles that half of the people who were entitled to employment insurance ultimately never had access to it. These people found themselves unemployed, with three or four years of mortgage payments still to make. They had worked and contributed their whole lives, and then they were refused access to employment insurance. The employer and the employees had paid their premiums. The money is not there. What is happening with this system?

I must correct what I said earlier. I said that the system worked, but it does not.

In the early days of the scandal involving the $50 billion that was misappropriated by the Liberals, who did a really fine job that was continued by the Conservatives, one of my former economics professors, Jean Lacharité, told me that the workers had worked their whole lives and contributed to a system that was supposed to be there to serve a purpose: to fill a temporary need and help people move from one stage to the next.

A rich, modern, industrialized country like ours needs an effective employment insurance system. With a motion like the one put forward by my colleague from Trois-Rivières and especially with the NDP in power in the fall, in a few months, we will put things right. There will be no more hoops for the unemployed to jump through. Workers will be working in a prosperous economy.

Compton—Stanstead May 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by mentioning the passing of a friend and collaborator, André Nault. A pioneering ecologist and co-founder of the Friends of the Earth, his courage and his battle for a better world will always be an inspiration to us.

Last week, I had the pleasure to welcome the great member for Sackville—Eastern Shore in Compton—Stanstead. We spoke to veterans from all across my riding and visited various sites. For instance, Ogden's Weir Memorial Park in honour of Robert Stanley Weir, who wrote the English version of our national anthem; and Hatley village, where over 3,000 people attend each year one of the oldest Canada Day parades. We also paid tribute to Louis St. Laurent, Canada's 12th prime minister, born and raised in Compton, where he was buried in 1973.

I would also like to pay tribute to a fantastic man, Mr. David Woodard, who devoted most of his life to helping veterans. For over 35 years at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch No. 5, he helped many and continues to do so. Mr. Woodard is celebrating his 63rd birthday today. I wish him a happy birthday and thank him for his work.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, upon listening to my speech, members will quickly understand not only my interest in but also my uneasiness—and even my ambiguity—in speaking clearly to the matter before legislators, namely Bill C-642, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (high profile offender).

In October 2009, my cousin Natasha was savagely kidnapped by a repeat offender, a sexual predator. He murdered her shortly after assaulting her. The authorities found her body a few days later. My life, the lives of her close relatives and especially her mother's life were turned upside down forever. When the police caught this high-profile offender, his long list of misdeeds gave pause to our society: hostage-taking, repeated sexual assault, repeated domestic violence—which are all found in Schedule I of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act—and also drunk driving, road rage, drug possession and other offences.

It makes you wonder why he was out on parole. In reality, the real questions this evening are as follows: Would this bill have affected his release? How could the people involved have influenced this decision? I am not really convinced that it would have made a difference.

First, this amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act concerning high-profile offenders is grossly inadequate, meaningless and unfortunate when we examine the scope of its provisions. There is absolutely nothing about their reintegration into society and, more particularly, there is nothing about providing resources to victims. Tracking the comings and goings of an offender in a neighbourhood or community is not going to alleviate the stress of victims of crime, let alone prevent offenders from committing other crimes in a community, regardless of how close by or how far the offender is living.

I will not even comment on the availability of drug treatment programs, mental illness treatment programs, and anger or violence management programs, let alone their effectiveness.

The objective of the bill is to require the Correctional Service of Canada, in certain circumstances, to disclose particulars of the statutory release of a high-profile offender by posting those particulars on the service’s website and to provide a written notice to the victim, but the bill definitely misses the mark. Our police forces already have the discretionary power to disclose all of the relevant information regarding offenders covered in Bill C-642 when they deem it necessary. In the specific case I mentioned, it would have been extremely necessary.

As a result, this objective, while laudable, calls into question the credibility of this bill, especially if we look at the results of the consultations this government has held on these types of issues since 2006. Not once have the Conservatives considered anything important coming from citizens' groups or stakeholders. The minister and his government simply hold phony consultations, which have become old hat now, in order to satisfy their need for control and partisan politics, at the expense of good public policy and good faith that could make our streets and neighbourhoods safer.

In this case, even though all kinds of people testified in committee that it was important to provide prevention programs or other types of programs to someone who is being reintegrated or released, nothing to that effect was included in this bill.

I would remind the House that according to the Correctional Service of Canada's definition, a high-profile offender is an offender whose offence dynamics have elicited or have the potential to elicit a community reaction in the form of significant public or media interest.

When the NDP voted in favour of Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act, which provides for a mechanism for communicating information to victims regarding an offender's conditional release, we thought the issue was resolved. Alas, no, this is just more partisanship. The practical political interests of an upcoming propaganda campaign are the impetus for this bill, which serves no legal purpose and does nothing to improve public safety.

Specifically, this bill has to do with high-profile offenders who have committed a schedule 1 offence, as my colleagues have already mentioned. Such offences include causing injury with intent, using a firearm, invitation to sexual touching, child pornography, corruption, criminal negligence causing death, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, as well as dangerous driving, harassment, assault, rape and aggravated assault. Many of those offences were among the ones committed by the criminal I was talking about earlier.

These offences are enough to make Canadians shudder. Nobody wants the people who have committed these crimes anywhere near them. Everyone agrees on that. However, the victims' bill of rights already includes provisions on the disclosure of the comings and goings and all of the information the victims want.

However, victims do not always want that information. They just want to know that these predators are far away from them. Regardless of formal demands, criminals always come back. That is stressful for victims and can cause burnout.

We live in a changing world. People want to live freely, to enjoy health and safety. That is one of the principles that all bills should be based on to ensure they are useful and pragmatic.

It is clear to me that weakening the social fabric by cutting front-line services, such as food banks, education and mental health services, does not help people who are vulnerable and marginalized, nor does it help struggling or single-parent families.

It is our duty to put those who can be redeemed back on the right track. Some can be redeemed, but they need reintegration programs and help. The resources have to be available. This government puts various provisions in place through its bills, but it constantly forgets about resources, both human and financial.

In conclusion, I believe that this bill is futile and useless. It does not achieve the objective of making our society safer, even though that is what Canadians expect. The NDP believes that we must help victims of crime get their lives back by ensuring that they can benefit from all of the services they need, including the full range of legal and health services. We want to work with victims' groups to find real, pragmatic solutions.

Drug-Free Prisons Act April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add that most of our institutions lack not only resources, but also planning. What do we do with these people? If we want to prevent crime, then we have to have a public safety plan, a national safety plan. We also need to pass a number of bills in order to prevent different types of crimes. We were talking earlier about criminal gangs. That too takes prevention and resources on the ground.

I would like to ask my colleague what type of resources should be put in place in our prisons in order to prevent various types of crime and especially recidivism?

Drug-Free Prisons Act April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her excellent and very passionate speech. She has touched on a fundamental aspect of the issue we are discussing today: rehabilitation. That also includes treating people for the various illnesses and pathologies that are found in the prisons. This is crucial because if we could do that, we could prevent the unfortunate consequences and, most importantly, ensure that many of these individuals can be better reintegrated into our society.

Why would it be in the interests of society to rehabilitate these people more effectively and, most importantly, to provide the Correctional Service of Canada with the necessary resources, both human and financial?

Business of Supply March 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from Drummond. He is one of the staunchest defenders of the environment of all my colleagues and all members of Parliament. He is thinking about future generations.

I have a question for him about the long-term effects of harmful plastics, such as microbeads, on the environment. Earlier he was talking about the food chain. Fish and micro-organisms eat these plastics and end up on our plate. The effects on the food chain in the medium and long terms are extremely harmful, and this also affects the health of those who fish in the Great Lakes and our waterways, especially in the summer.

Business of Supply March 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, simply put, this motion calls for courage on the part of the government. We want to save our ecosystems for future generations. We know that the Conservatives would much rather help out their friends in the petrochemical industry, because a discussion about plastic is really a discussion about the petroleum industry.

However, we are just asking them to make a bit of an effort because there are other options. It is possible to show political courage and take the initiative to eliminate things that are bad for the environment.

Can my colleague tell us why it is so important to pass this motion not just for oceans, but for all ecosystems? All it takes to change things is leadership and courage.

Ethics March 13th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as of a few months ago, Agop Evereklian is once again working for the Conservatives.

To refresh the memory of the House, this former chief of staff to Mayor Tremblay was found guilty of fraud in 2005. His judgment is so poor that the Prime Minister himself had to ask him to cut ties with a dubious campaign manager during the 2011 campaign.

How can the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec allow someone with such a dubious past in terms of ethics to be involved in distributing grants for the agency? Come on.