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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

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

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the subject today affects many more businesses across Canada than we might think.

I am simply going to take the example of the manufacturing sector, which plays a key role in Canada. It once accounted for 65%, but it is now 50%; it is declining somewhat. In that segment, we find not just companies with 500 or more employees. From one end of my riding to the other, there are companies with five or 15 or 50 employees. These manufacturing entrepreneurs need an appropriate operating framework. They have enough competition at the international level. Today, no sector of economic activity, whether in Canada or elsewhere on the planet, can be exclusive to one region, one riding or one country any longer. Everything is global these days. You produce something, a natural resource, and it can be processed or manufactured anywhere on the planet.

I am talking about the manufacturing sector, but there are other sectors such as agriculture or retail, which now has to adjust to e-commerce. What is needed is a genuinely flexible framework. Bureaucracy and red tape, as it is called today, are certainly part of operating a business. However, I have sometimes had businessmen or businesswomen tell me that they had to spend one day a week doing nothing but administration. They had to fill out reports: one for the environment, another for workers’ compensation, because there is also bureaucracy at the provincial level. Put it all together and it adds up to a lot. People have to be able to operate their businesses in a sound environment and, most importantly, a competitive environment.

Bill C-21, An Act to control the administrative burden that regulations impose on businesses, is intended as a response from this Conservative government to the Canadians and the small and medium-sized businesses that have often voiced their concerns about the expanding administrative burden that regulations impose on the cost of doing business in Canada. If we want to prosper, we must really have an attractive framework.

The government therefore wants to institute the one-for-one rule. As my colleague said earlier, plus one minus one equals zero. You do not have to be very good at mathematics to understand that calculation: 1 - 1 = 0. However, the one-for-one rule must not interfere with public health or safety. There is an environmental framework and a framework for public health and safety. It applies mainly to employees but can also relate to the cleanliness of food processing. This must all be as transparent as possible.

Once again, they are going to give a minister, Mr. Gazebo, some latitude, rely on his judgment, and trust him to reduce administrative burdens and make decisions about this subject. I am sorry, but the Conservatives and Liberals really do not have a good track record in this regard, particularly when it comes to regulations that protect Canadians’ health and safety. I stress this again. We have seen very clearly the disastrous consequences for the environment and public safety that deregulation has had for the Canadian public in recent years.

Regulations that are in the public interest should be retained, of course. What needs to be done is to closely monitor the aggravating factors and the factors that are mitigating and user-friendly for businesses and business owners.

Bill C-21 seems to disregard that obligation. We would have liked to have assurances that deregulation will not apply to regulations that affect health and safety and, most importantly, the environment.

If the Conservatives really wanted to help small businesses, they would have supported the NDP’s proposal to create an ombudsman position to deal with issues such as the excessive credit card fees that the big banks unfairly charge merchants. This is an ineffective injustice that my colleague fromMontmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup has been battling vehemently since he first came to the House.

Small and medium-sized businesses create most of the new jobs in Quebec and Canada, not only in the major centres, but also outside the urban areas. In addition, small businesses make those regions thrive. Unfortunately, small businesses and the regions outside urban areas get very little attention from this Conservative government. The Prime Minister and his key ministers have completely ignored them at the expense of big businesses, the ones that have been given billions of dollars in tax cuts. We see what happens when you favour a single sector of economic activity, with the price of oil falling. The Conservatives find themselves in a precarious position, making it up as they go. They are no longer even capable of producing a budget in real time, something that is essential to help Canadian business owners across the country.

I talked about the fiscal and administrative environments as well as the actual environment. When someone operates a business, we want them to do so in a way that respects the environment. Of course, the government also deregulated that. It said it would let project proponents self-regulate. Canada is one of the only countries in the world that lets everyone do almost whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want. Furthermore, the provinces have tried to protect themselves when it comes to natural resources, just in case the federal government is unable to impose an environment that is not highly regulated, but that people respect.

Thinking clearly about what is happening also means having a healthy, clear and successful framework. I am thinking of future generations. That is what is so aggravating about this. Future generations do not have an environment in which they will be able to develop our natural resources without polluting. If you add this to our changing demographics and our aging population, it is going to be a disaster. We were talking earlier about renewing our workforce. Businesses have a real challenge on their hands. The workforce, the next generation, the men and women who want to be part of this prosperous Canada should have the opportunity to do so, and they should be able to run businesses even in areas where crops cannot be grown as they once were here in Canada. There are areas where climate change is preventing people from farming the same way they did in the past.

The regulatory framework in which most businesses in Canada will operate is made up of nearly 2,500 regulations spread over more than 15 departments. These cover everything from agricultural businesses to R and D companies researching the energy of the future. Business people across Canada need to dedicate a huge amount of time, money and consultation to complying with these regulations.

At present, red tape is preventing the collective growth of entrepreneurship. The need to prove that they comply with regulations by collecting, processing and retaining information, preparing reports and filling out forms is such that it discourages many people from actively taking the reins of businesses across the country. I talked about demographic changes. That will be the result if there is not an appropriate framework.

This small bill, which is truly small, contains about 11 clauses. In actual fact, there are only four. It is a question of semantics. It does not address the real problems, which cause quite a few headaches for Canadian entrepreneurs.

In closing, it is not until the NDP comes to power in 2015 that things will change and entrepreneurs will prosper.

Transportation January 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Sherbrooke airport could be an important economic development tool for the region if it could accommodate commercial flights.

Our region is a major centre of innovation and research with Bishop's University, the university medical centre and the Mont Mégantic observatory. Our innovative businesses and even the manufacturing industry would benefit from better access to the rest of the world.

We have been talking about this project for years, even decades. Residents and officials have made it a priority, but the Conservatives refuse to budge.

Why are the Conservatives neglecting job creation and economic development in the Eastern Townships?

Stanstead January 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, last week, I had the opportunity to visit some businesses in Stanstead's granite industry.

They make custom countertops, as well as monuments and cenotaphs. I had the opportunity to speak with the executives at Granit Design, Rock of Ages Canada and Rouleau Granit and saw for myself how dynamic these business people are and how hard they work.

However, Stanstead is more than just granite. For example, there is the Stanstead Journal, Quebec's oldest weekly newspaper, which was founded in 1845. The Colby-Curtis Museum across the street houses the newspaper archives and the printing plates.

Stanstead is also home to the Haskell Opera House, the only one of its kind in North America. It was built in 1901 astride the boundary line separating Canada from the United States, with half of its seating on American soil and half on Canadian.

Let us not forget the Pat Burns Arena and the Lapin de Stanstead. There is also Granit Central, which houses both the granite museum, with over 160 years of history, and the miniature train museum, which has the biggest collection of Lionel trains in Canada.

Stanstead is a great place to live. Congratulations to the elected officials and all those who make this such a vibrant community.

Business of Supply January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for this question. That is exactly what I was saying.

When a government is not capable of adapting to economic conditions, it effectively erodes the confidence of all actors: workers, unemployed people, decision-makers, entrepreneurs and the various levels of government. When the environment does not meet the needs of their situation so they can prosper, people become disillusioned and growth is much more difficult.

It is extremely disappointing to see that this government is not capable of adapting to conditions that are the same everywhere on the planet. In our case, it is because the government relied on a particular sector of the economy. Now that it is a bit unstable, the entire Canadian economy is suffering. This is extremely unfortunate.

If measures had been taken to diversify the economy during this period, to make provisions for the present conditions, we would not be in this position, and our manufacturing companies would be able to export and be efficient and productive, while creating jobs in prosperous communities.

Business of Supply January 27th, 2015

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

One of the most perverse long-term effects is the exodus of these people, who leave when they can no longer find work in their home region. That is an extremely unfortunate situation.

The government has forgotten that people need training. Moreover, we are not talking about a program that will affect only 15% to 20% of this population. These people need ongoing training services on the job and, especially, training for re-entering the work force.

We can only make progress in these areas and, most importantly, ensure that some regions do not become completely stagnant, when the various levels of government work with local entrepreneurs and economic agents and players.

Business of Supply January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to wish everyone a happy election year.

My colleagues have certainly picked a very important topic for this first opposition day. The economy, the regions, the middle class and intervention: that is how I would sum up this rather troubling and above all disturbing situation. Meanwhile, the Conservative government for its part prefers to let things go, rather than intervene immediately and appropriately.

This approach reminds me of a young person who believes that the budget can balance itself. The invisible hand inevitably interacts with forces in the economy only when economic stimulus is applied and when there is something palpable to activate the economic process. When the main players take their places, they can create wealth and generate growth.

I always make a rather more social analysis of the economy, because I believe the most important thing is to observe how the players react in such situations. First, I would like to commend the subject matter of the excellent motion moved by my colleagues from Skeena—Bulkley Valley and Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, which clearly demonstrates the inaction, not to say the incompetence, of our current government in response to the vagaries of current economic conditions.

In this motion, the NDP is calling on the Minister of Finance and the Conservative government to get themselves together and immediately present an economic and fiscal update to Parliament outlining the state of the nation's finances in light of the unstable economic situation, including job losses, falling oil prices, declining government revenues and the effect of these factors on one another. In addition, the motion calls on the government to prepare a budget that addresses the economic challenges facing the middle class by creating more good-quality full-time jobs and encouraging economic diversification.

The government brags about creating a lot of jobs, but these are atypical, short-term, part-time jobs at minimum wage. That is not what drives an economy and enables a country to create wealth in order to maintain and improve the legendary quality of life for Canadians from coast to coast.

The middle class—because it is the middle class that has suffered most—has been crucified in recent decades, both by the Liberal Party and by the Conservative Party. The list is so long that I would lose my way before I came to the end of my remarks. Why is that? We could talk about an administrative framework for SMEs in which they can operate properly and prosper, the social fabric for low-income families, social housing, employment insurance as a way of transitioning between jobs, and the jobs cut at Canada Post and the CBC, jobs typically held by members of the middle class that reflected the identity of Canadians from coast to coast.

It is unbelievable what the middle class has been made to endure, with all the drains on their budget, including administrative and other related costs, reduced purchasing power, and especially energy costs—electricity, heating oil and gasoline—and the impact all of those things have on their daily lives.

One example I would like to mention is that of my parents. I come from a modest, working-class family. In my parents’ day, it was possible to save to buy a small house and a small or mid-size car, while providing adequate food and clothing for the family and enjoying some recreation from time to time.

This was possible without drowning in debt, with an available family doctor and plans to send the children to university. Unfortunately, today, all of that has changed: it is no longer the case.

Middle-class families have to make agonizing choices about food and clothing. With regard to clothing, I have teenagers who say that they want the most fashionable brand, which is, of course, the most expensive. The other choice that torments the middle class is going deeper into debt, and thus being at the mercy of the big banks. In a society where so much wealth exists, that is totally unacceptable, particularly when a government does not react to changing economic circumstances that have been in transition since 2008.

Consequently, the government must invest to stimulate growth. It must make major investments in research and development, which are the key to the future. It needs to invest in the SMEs that generate solid jobs and guarantee a viable local economy, and in many cases the existence and even the survival of some regions of Canada.

Investments must also be made in transport infrastructures in general. For example, roads, overpasses, bridges, railroads and public transit are all of capital importance in a country as large as Canada.

When we look at the impact that transportation has on the operating costs of businesses in many industries—with respect to inputs, of course, but above all with respect to its effect on productivity and efficiency—we immediately see beyond any doubt why it is urgent that we take action for the good of our economy as a whole, the good of the sectors that are still competitive—because some still are—and the good of promising sectors that are still developing.

I would like to list a few businesses in my own riding that deserve an appropriate economic framework. There is Enerkem, which is located in Westbury and is one of Canada’s leading producers of biofuel. Soucy Techno in Rock Forest and Waterville TG in Waterville are active in the rubber sector, which is always extremely competitive and dependent on the automobile industry. La Scierie Paul Vallée Inc. in Saint-Isidore-de-Clifton is active in the lumber industry. The granite industry in Stanstead is booming. With regard to transport costs, there is one thing I can say: given the weight of the items they have to ship, they ship them one at a time, and that is expensive. The Cabico Inc. Group in Coaticook makes cabinets.

All of these businesses and many others in my riding are waiting for the government to act and finally produce a framework with an emphasis on prosperity. I forgot to mention the Graymont plant in Marbleton, which is one of the oldest mines in North America, dating from 1840, and one of the world biggest lime production facilities.

An economic update followed by practical measures focused on economic diversification can only be perceived as action properly taken by a responsible minister and government; it is bound to reassure the public. Instead, the Conservatives continue to rely on a single sector of activity, which bears the entire burden of Canada’s economic growth.

It is extremely disappointing that the government is thinking and acting in that way, given all of the communities, regions and municipalities that, in the last century, owed their existence in most cases to a single industrial activity. They were called single-industry towns. Those that did not adapt, did not react and did not make adjustments became virtual ghost towns.

Is that what lies ahead for Canada?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to once again congratulate my colleague for contributing to this debate, even though it will only last a day. The Conservatives are making a mockery of democracy once again.

I know that my colleague's riding is a fairly rural area. I would like him to talk about how this budget does absolutely nothing for our regions. This is the third time that I have asked the same question today.

What is happening far from major centres? The economy is stagnating. SMEs are also stagnating because of high credit card fees. There are no community groups or housing co-operatives in the regions, which nevertheless need them. Furthermore, we have to promote family farming.

Why is that not in this budget? Why is the government instead considering a measure that will result in $500 million in tax exemptions? Nothing will be done with that money. Then there is the $1 billion taken from veterans that will be given back to the Treasury Board.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on participating in this debate.

I know that he has a lot of experience in the agricultural sector, and I would like him to explain to me why this budget contains no specific measures to improve working conditions for farmers across Canada, particularly in terms of supporting farmers' markets.

In many parts of the country, small local producers would like to raise awareness of their products, create prosperity in their region and participate in a regional economy, especially in Quebec and Ontario.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to once again congratulate my colleague for his speech.

I would also like to comment on the fact that the government is not really taking any measures to help the regions. Once again, we have an omnibus bill that is detrimental to small business. That means it will be detrimental to the regions.

In that regard, I would like my colleague to explain why, instead of helping the regions, the government is proposing a $500 million exemption, which could nevertheless have helped all regions, agriculture, SMEs and all Canadians from coast to coast to coast, especially those in remote areas.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for that excellent question. Making judgments like that really trivializes the issue.

The government thinks that its ideology is the right one and that it overrides everything else. Judgments are being made because of that. It is very disappointing to see that people are sometimes being judged just because they disagree with this government. I am not saying that the belligerents or recent events confirm that. I am simply saying that things are being trivialized. People are being stereotyped and they are all being painted with the same brush. As soon as someone disagrees to some degree with the government or what it thinks, the government introduces a bill to prevent that.

Mental illness is among one of the heaviest burdens people are called upon to bear in our society. Such illnesses can completely derail people on all sorts of subjects; they allow themselves to be influenced. If only we had a stronger social fabric and more humane living conditions for everyone, then justice and equity would be present in our society every day. Equity and everyone's rights must be respected. However, we need a social fabric that includes measures such as employment insurance and other programs that help people in need. We do not want people to abuse these programs, but we need to meet people's needs. The Conservative government has abandoned Canadians and the results are sometimes unfortunate and disagreeable. They are painting everyone with the same brush and saying that they are all terrorists. That is unfortunate.