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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 March 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, one of the first measures we will adopt will be to gradually reduce the tax rate from 11% to 9% for SMEs so that they can reinvest in job creation and make their environment safe. We are also talking about continuous training for employees and increasing investments in innovation.

If we focus on all the SMEs in a number of economic sectors across Canada, this could create thousands of jobs. This could ensure that in every region of Canada, in my riding in the Eastern Townships or in British Columbia, businesses can not only survive, but earn good money.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2015

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

I am not going to applaud what the Liberals did in recent decades. They stole $50 billion from the employment insurance fund. They used that money to create jobs and invest. They invested on the backs of workers.

Clearly, SMEs drive our economy because that is where we have the most potential to create jobs. With the reduction of the tax burden and red tape, or what we call bureaucracy, many small businesses could truly continue to be prosperous and, more importantly, create jobs. Whether in agriculture or in new energies, the potential to create jobs is tremendous, especially if we stimulate the economy by investing in SMEs.

This is a question of creating a healthy and fair environment for all. Whether SMEs have 5 employees or 50, they all need a bit of support, not just for creating jobs, but also for continuous training. In other words, people working in businesses need ongoing training in order to be more effective and more productive.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the fine member for Surrey North.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to debate this excellent motion put forward by my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, because it is not only insightful, but also very representative of the current employment situation in Canada from coast to coast.

When we look at it carefully, we first see that the unemployment rate has remained high since the 2008 recession, and the quality of jobs has been declining since 1989. Whether under Liberal or Conservative governments, it makes no difference. There has been a decline.

Furthermore, we would very much like to see the House call on the government to ensure that budget 2015 first and foremost invests in measures that stimulate the economy in order to create and protect sustainable full-time jobs for the middle class in high-paying sectors across Canada.

In addition, the government must abandon its expensive and unfair income splitting scheme, which would cost $2 billion. When we look at unemployment during the second decade of the 21st century, after the Liberals and the Conservatives successively stole over $57 billion from the fund—which still belongs to the workers who have paid into it all their lives in many cases—the troubling part is that it is increasingly difficult to access the EI system. It is especially difficult because of the reform introduced by the minister at the time, a disgraceful reform for the workers who have consistently paid into it.

The result is that more and more people are opting out of the system, which brings me to my point about the unemployment rate. This actually means that those people are no longer accounted for in the number of people looking for work, which ultimately brings the rate down. It is basically all make-believe. It is an abominable sham in a modern society that says and thinks it is flourishing.

So much for prosperity. Absolutely everything has been done to discourage people and keep hope alive because hope is so important when we are talking about men and women looking for stable work in Canada that is not in the oil industry. I have nothing against those jobs—that is not what I am saying. However, there are other fields, and people are qualified to do other kinds of jobs that, unfortunately, have not been available since the crisis and were not available even well before that.

Before, Canada was a shining example of diversity in its economic sectors. The manufacturing industry was the cornerstone and made growth over the years and well-paid full-time jobs possible. Unfortunately, there were back-to-back crises in 1980 and 1981—which was a long time ago—and 1992 and 1993. Then the focus was on “hyperglobalization” in the 1990s, with Asia leading the pack, especially China with growth rates around 15% in the 1990s. All of these irritants should have raised red flags for quite a few alert governments around the world, but they did not. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives focused on one sector. They let themselves be blinded by IMF and World Bank recommendations. That is unfortunate.

Over the past few decades, our economy, which grew thanks to the manufacturing sector, quietly morphed into an economy that relied primarily on the tertiary sector, which is retail sales and customer service. It simply cannot grow at the rates that the manufacturing sector made possible. It cannot perpetuate, create and maintain stable, full-time jobs for both men and women.

Today, Canada does have niches where research and innovation can support investment and provide hope for a good future. These include the aerospace industry, where the dream is still alive, the video game industry, which has been flourishing for some time around Montreal, new energy sources such as biomass, wind and solar, and of course, electric cars. That is right: small companies are developing electric cars right here in Canada.

All of that is possible if we improve the socioeconomic conditions in which these businesses evolve, be they small and medium-size businesses or large corporations. Sometimes self-employed workers are even the ones to come up with an idea and develop a small business. We need a safe, prosperous environment

Furthermore, the gap between the upper middle class and lower middle class has widened dangerously in recent decades, because the end of the “glorious thirty” for the manufacturing sector in the west has increased that gap. We need to address this trend once and for all, because society as a whole suffers as a result. The middle class, which is now deeply in debt, is mortgaging future generations. We must not forget that it has always been the middle class that has supported the high consumption levels we have right now, and therefore economic growth. However, there is no longer any certainty, except for the debt we are passing on to our children, and not just an economic and environmental debt, but also a social debt, which will have an impact on our society.

One out of every two workers is uncertain about his or her job. It is unfortunate. That is why education and training still lead to better opportunities on the job market, regardless of the level completed. The $2 billion that the government will try to recover because of income splitting would be better spent in the know-how of Canadians across the country, which is an important component. It would be far more useful to invest in ongoing training and research and development than any other partisan action, which would one day have to come to an end, anyway.

What do we want to pass on to our future generations? I will not talk about the environment since everyone knows my opinion on that subject: we are destroying the planet. Nevertheless, with regard to the environment and the economy, the Stern report, which was released in the fall of 2006, was clear: our inaction will cost more than a massive and immediate intervention. Naomi Klein said the same thing in her book, which was published recently.

These two economists, who have changed their opinions about the impact of air pollution, ocean overfishing and the well-known plastic islands that are now floating in our oceans, have shown that things can change if we take action soon.

It would be easy to work together in an inclusive way, as brothers and sisters, to make this planet and this country a place of wealth, development and even friendship. Everyone benefits from economic wealth, development and prosperity. We are not going to help each other and give everyone a chance by tearing the fabric of our society, as the government is doing right now with employment insurance and social housing.

I would like to close with a message of hope for the people in my riding. Regardless of our sexual orientation, religion or beliefs, we should all have the right to live in a region, province, territory, nation and country where all people are considered equal and have an equal opportunity to follow their dreams and enjoy their rights and freedoms, which include access to a job that allows everyone to achieve their full potential in a free, fair and just world.

To counter the words of the famous and rational Mr. Spock, who said that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, Captain Kirk, who was more sensible, told him that the individual must be saved because without him the group no longer had value. In economics, it is the decisions of that individual, the Homo economicus, that create demand and wealth.

It is not by letting things go, by being complacent about our social fabric and job creation across the country or by forgetting the first nations, women, single-parent families and self-employed workers that we are going to create wealth and harmony and finally live in a prosperous Canada.

Canadian Air Transport Security Authority March 9th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I wish you long life and prosperity during your well-deserved retirement. You will be missed here in the House.

Motion No. 553, which was moved by my riding neighbour, the hon. member for Sherbrooke, and which we are debating this morning, pertains to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. In summary, the motion calls on this government to present, as soon as possible, a mechanism that would allow non-designated airports, that is, airports that are not on the 2004 list of airports designated under the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act, to provide, at their expense, security screening services that are recognized by the act and thus by CATSA.

Above all, motion No. 553 seeks to identify a solution for the numerous airports—they were listed earlier—currently seeking CATSA-recognized security screening. The mechanism that would be identified and implemented by the current or future government would be useful for many Canadian airports not designated in the schedule to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act.

As my colleagues know, airports across the country are important economic drivers for the communities in which they are located. We must support them so that they can grow, move forward and create quality jobs for the middle class.

Air safety, like food safety and rail safety, are very high priorities for me, as they are for my leader, my party and my caucus. However, over time, this government has been slacking in these areas, although these issues should be very important priorities for the government as well. The mechanism proposed in this motion is a practical solution that would in no way compromise air safety, since it takes into account the standards developed by the existing regulations.

The security screenings in question are the responsibility of CATSA, a crown corporation that was created in 2002, as a logical step in air safety in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The law creating this crown corporation stipulates that CATSA must ensure that security screenings are carried out in accordance with strict standards, which we of course respect.

CATSA is responsible for screening costs, which are recovered by means of a tariff added to the price of every plane ticket. CATSA has contracts with security companies—Garda, Securitas and G4S—to perform screening operations in many Canadian airports. The attribution of this screening standard and of new airports is practically arbitrary. Just two new airports have been added since 2004. There have been no real updates. Two airports out of twelve made a request and were added to the list of designated airports. That does not leave much room for expansion or, most importantly, an update, because many regions in the country have experienced economic struggles in the last 15 years. Therefore, it makes sense to update this list, or at least to find a mechanism, a way to ensure that passengers have safe access to flights and that these airports—and there are many—can help the surrounding region grow.

Unfortunately, for the past few years, our requests have been forgotten. Not a word has been said about this for over two years. The government has not come back in any way, shape or form to the proponents who are waiting for answers about economic proposals that could generate revenue for the state and major economic spinoffs for the region. As it happens, one of those regions is in my riding: Sherbrooke, which was known as the “Queen of the Eastern Townships”.

As my colleague said, this is one of the few centres in eastern North America with more than 200,000 inhabitants that unfortunately does not have a functional airport with rules, standards and regulations in place enabling it to function. The municipality of Sherbrooke, which owns infrastructure on lands surrounded by smaller municipalities in the RCM of Haut-Saint-François in my riding, including Westbury, Cookshire-Eaton and East Angus, is impatiently awaiting the day when it can say yes to a whole list of projects. There are many economic development projects that have the support of dozens of economic and political partners in the region.

The area is home to the Université de Sherbrooke, Bishop's University in Lennoxville, and more, including the Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke and a number of major corporations, such as Domtar, BRP and Waterville TG. Even companies as far away as Stanstead, which is 45 minutes from the airport, and the Mont-Mégantic observatory could benefit from spinoffs generated by a viable and functional airport that would promote tourism and farm tourism.

Here is what I would like people to know about my region: it is a beacon of farm tourism with amazing locations all around Massawippi and Memphrémagog lakes. All economic players could benefit. In fact, not only will nearby regions benefit, but also those 30 minutes, 45 minutes or an hour from the airport. We need economic development. We need to create long-term jobs. Companies and small businesses really need support; they need an economic driver. They have been waiting for this for 30 years—since before my colleague was born. People have been fighting for a viable, functional airport in Sherbrooke for the past 30 years.

Many efforts have failed, but right now, all of these partners want to work together and ensure that the Sherbrooke airport will serve as a tool for economic development and as a benchmark. We would then be able to stop turning down projects. The chamber of commerce has to turn down development projects every month because there is no air or rail link. Let us forget about rail for the moment and focus on the air link. It would be so simple to work together, with the government, to ensure that not only the Sherbrooke airport, but also the many other airports in Quebec and Canada that are awaiting this designation, actually get it.

Many levels of government, including the city of Sherbrooke and the RCMs of Haut-Saint-François, Coaticook, Memphrémagog and Granit could all benefit from the windfall that would arise around the airport, not only from the travellers, but also through sustainable industrial and economic development. There could be jobs in research and development projects. Consider, for example, Enerkem, a biomass technology company where scientists are engaged in research, development and innovation that are exported across Canada. Many companies are waiting for this. They know that with a major benchmark just outside of Sherbrooke, the region could develop its economy and create jobs at a time when things are otherwise rather gloomy. It is crucial that we work together, with the government, since all the partners are there, ready and waiting to move forward.

In closing, as I said, many regions across Canada stand to benefit if only this government would be more responsive to the pressing needs of shrinking local economies. A positive response to my colleague's initiative could provide hope to thousands of workers across Canada.

Employment February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Ferme aux Champêtreries, a social economy enterprise in Haut-Saint-François, creates jobs for young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 who need help.

The Ferme aux Champêtreries applied for a training subsidy as part of the skills link program in April 2013. It is now February 2015 and they still do not have an answer.

Why is the government dragging its feet on this file? Is it pinching pennies to balance the budget at the expense of young people? Unbelievable.

Victims Bill of Rights Act February 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we said that we would support the bill and we will definitely do so at this stage because the bill is still a good first step.

However, I would like to share one of our concerns. What about the families of victims who have died? Bill C-32 does not contain any provisions on helping families of victims to heal. Sometimes life is never really the same after such an incident occurs. Some people are never able to return to work. Some develop mental health problems and have difficulty reintegrating into society.

There is nothing in Bill C-32 in this regard. Even before this bill was introduced, cuts had been made to key programs for victims, particularly in the area of rehabilitation and mental health.

Why is there nothing in Bill C-32 about helping the victims' families and loved ones heal and readjust to life and society?

Food Safety February 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, free trade agreements alone will not improve our trade balance, especially not the ones negotiated by this government.

For example, the free trade agreement with South Korea did not prevent that partner from imposing a moratorium on Canada because of the discovery of one case of mad cow disease. That is very worrisome. Nevertheless, we will continue to export Canadian beef.

What is the government's plan to reassure Korean consumers, and more importantly, what will the minister do to help our beef producers given that he promised them better access to the Korean market?

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I think that the member has spent far too much time in his senior minister's gazebo.

That is not what business owners across Canada are telling us at all. They are telling us that we need to be aggressive about the current situation. This means cutting red tape for them. That is not what is happening. the government wants to reduce the administrative burden. I can confirm that. We support that goal, but not with a bill like this one. This bill does not do anything meaningful to ease the burden on administrators and accountants.

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, business owners tell us that it is always the same story: the federal government keeps asking them for more. What they want is less. One-for-one will always equal zero. Zero does nothing to help business owners who want to their businesses to prosper.

As I said, international competition is fierce. Business owners want to keep their businesses, they want their businesses to remain prosperous and they want the regions across Canada to thrive and contribute to Canada's economic prosperity. However, that is not what is happening at all.

Earlier we heard about employment insurance. Are members aware that it is not eight out of ten but just three out of ten applicants who receive the EI they are entitled to? That is because the decisions almost always have to be appealed. It is always a long administrative process. In the end, people get discouraged and give up. That is not what we want for Canadians across the country

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the math, you will really have to bring the Conservatives up to speed because the one-for-one rule always equals zero.

Although my colleague says that $30 million has been saved with a bill such as this one, that is surely not enough to save the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost after the economic downturn. That is a fact. It means that they did not do enough.

The NDP will be the only party to do enough to restore Canada's international reputation.