House of Commons photo


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

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the government has the frustrating habit of doing just about anything it believes is right and then stupidly putting it in the hands of the Supreme Court. It brings in regulations and legislation that ignore expert opinions, knowing that, in any event, the Supreme Court will hand down a ruling and make a decision. What a monumental mistake.

This approach has a high price tag for taxpayers. There are still several cases at the Supreme Court that cast doubt on the government's ability to do the right thing when it comes to, in this case, protecting human sources and, above all, ensuring that Canada is a country where the fight against terrorism is fair and just and protects the rights of individuals. As a result, the decision is placed in the hands of the Supreme Court. That is a shameful approach. It is truly bone-headed of the government to act that way.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, here we are at the report stage of Bill C-44. It is therefore the perfect time to discuss the Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts. Of course, this Conservative government never does one thing at a time. It always does many things at the same time, quite superficially sometimes, before moving onto the next thing. This is what we have become used to over three and half years.

We are going to try taking a rather more holistic approach, to look at the wider picture, and to steer our discussions toward more specific points. I always wait with bated breath to see the short titles the Conservatives give to their bills. The short title of Bill C-44 is the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act. One could dare to think that Bill C-44 would not contain only provisions like the ones we talked about concerning the protection of human sources, since this is a huge issue.

To implement its good intentions, we would expect the government to set aside the human, financial and material resources, but it has taken no such measures. Furthermore, it will not be conducting any studies to find out whether CSIS will need additional assistance in carrying out its mandate and its mission, which is to protect Canadians and Canada.

The Conservatives had already planned on bringing in Bill C-44 long before the recent events of October 20 and 22. The government claims that the bill is intended to modernize the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in a few pages, and points out that the law establishing the mandate for CSIS has not been amended in 30 years.

We must keep pace with the resources available to gangs and criminals everywhere in the world, whether they be financial, human or especially material resources. If we are working with obsolete hardware, it is too late. We cannot intercept crime- or terrorism-related information if our equipment is not up to date. We are talking primarily about technology, telecommunications and computers. It takes enormous resources to monitor all the gangs, terrorist cells, criminals and mafias in the world.

Clearly, the drafting and introduction of this bill are completely opportunistic. From coast to coast, Canadians were deeply affected by the events that disturbed the public order. The minister understood this very well and he played his part. His statements following these incidents could not have been more scripted. These events were very moving, and he was well aware of what he was doing by bringing in this bill at this point in time.

They say they are going to modernize CSIS with a 12-clause bill. With Bill C-44, they want to change CSIS’s powers. However, rather than submitting the bill to rigorous scrutiny, the Conservatives rushed its passage in committee by allowing only four hours of hearings with independent experts. This is an insult, because there are very real dangers in giving CSIS new powers without proper oversight. Rather than setting the record straight, this bill paves the way for new legal challenges and, as a number of experts fear, it could well be struck down by the courts.

This bill is inadequate. Consequently, we cannot support it. Witnesses warned us that the bill may be unconstitutional in its current form and that the courts may strike it down.

When we talk about security and the fight against terrorism, we need to talk about resources. The Conservatives have cut funding for public safety organizations for three consecutive years. Those cuts will amount to $687 million. CSIS alone will be on the receiving end of $24 million in cuts, and the government has not yet determined how much these new measures will cost or what additional resources they will require.

We are concerned about the impact these cuts will have on the government's ability to properly monitor these organizations, which will ensure that human information sources are protected. That is important.

When we talk about resources, we also need to talk about the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP, which are also facing hundreds of millions of dollars in various cuts. Those cuts account for $400 million of the $680 million.

Since coming to power in 2011, the government has chosen to ignore a certain aspect of national security: our borders. The government has abandoned border services officers and RCMP officers. In my riding, a single patrol covers seven border posts every day. That is 120 kilometres of border, including 80 kilometres of forest and dirt roads throughout.

The workers responsible for public safety in our great country have a huge job to do: they have to protect our borders and entry points with minimal resources. They are given minimal resources to keep our great, proud country safe. The government seems only marginally interested in how they manage to do their job, which we know to be a complex and difficult one. These officers have to be ingenious as they apply their skills and abilities with the resources at their disposal.

Can anyone explain to me how we can talk about a bill to protect Canada from terrorists without making sufficient resources available to protect our territory? That is not only inconceivable; it is incomprehensible. Just incomprehensible.

This bill amends the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, enhancing the protection of CSIS's human resources. The bill deserved and should have received much more serious weight and attention, within a democratic debate.

We do not have the CIA or MI5 here. However, our border services officers and CSIS agents carry a heavy burden when it comes to protecting Canadians.

In that regard, the bill amends Canadian citizenship so that the effective date of the revocation provisions is different from other provisions in the legislation. We would have liked this change to be studied more carefully.

In closing, we are extremely disappointed that the government rejected our amendments, as reasonable as they were. Once again, we put our trust in the democratic process of the House, so that the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security could reach a model consensus.

We all aspire to a Canada that is just, but has sovereign authority over its borders, because, as our national anthem says, we want to keep our land strong and free.

National Fiddling Day Act November 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am excited and honoured to speak about a bill that originated in the Senate. However, it would have been nice if it had originated in the House. What is Bill S-218, An Act respecting National Fiddling Day, all about?

In Quebec and eastern Canada, fiddling is heard in the winter. It warms hearts, brightens people's lives and makes them dance and sing. Why is the fiddle played in the winter? It is likely a result of long-standing tradition and culture. Our ancestors played the fiddle to bring this sound, warmth and joy to family gatherings. We would gather in the living room for a party, for example, and my uncle Gilles and aunt Rosane would dance while my grandfather played the fiddle. That was how we did things at home in Quebec.

Unfortunately, this tradition has almost been lost because the population is aging, of course. Other factors may also be at play, such the fast pace of life. Everyone is running after their dog and having trouble making ends meet. Perhaps that has something to do with it.

In my former career, I was a sound technician and producer. Over the years, church basements became empty. That is where amateur shows and concerts used to take place. They then moved to agricultural fairs and carnivals in the regions.

However, for lack of an operating budget, the organizers of these events had to abandon the tradition of bringing people together, not only as part of winter activities but also as part of community celebrations. The last show that I produced or attended where I grew up in Asbestos, Windsor, in the Eastern Townships, was in the early 1990s. After that, there were practically no more shows. That type of thing is becoming increasingly rare in Quebec.

Despite all of that, the next generation of musicians have taken over. Some groups continue to carry on that tradition by playing more traditional music. There has therefore been a small resurgence. Alain Lamontagne is the true inheritor of this tradition. He travels across Canada with his fiddle and his merry band to carry on the tradition of call and response songs and joie de vivre. Fiddling helped us keep that tradition alive at celebrations and later at community events and industrial fairs. These types of gatherings do not really happen anymore because of a lack of funding and so this type of music is, unfortunately, not played as often. I say unfortunately because it is a tradition that is being lost.

Close to where I lived, there was a national flag carrier, Ti-Blanc Richard, father of Michèle Richard. He proudly carried on that tradition for years. He and Louis Bilodeau, a local television host, kept the tradition alive with La Soirée canadienne. La Soirée canadienne was about reviving traditions. It disappeared as well.

Unfortunately, both men died many years ago, but they kept alive the joyous Québécois tradition of gathering to celebrate and sing call-and-response songs. It was amusing to watch my uncle take out his dentures and start playing the fiddle.

I do not know why he took out his dentures. Maybe he got so excited that he was afraid his dentures would pop out and hit my aunt.

Those are lasting memories. Seeking to perpetuate those traditions is a good thing. However, the NDP would have liked to see a little more attention paid to culture in general, to several aspects of culture and to investments in culture. I mentioned regional exhibitions and fairs. Since there is no money, we can no longer carry on these artistic traditions.

Music has an incredible impact on community life. There are all kinds of art forms, but today we will be talking mostly about music. I am a rock musician myself—yes, I have long hair, I am a rocker, a guitarist, but I am still open to other styles. When I hear traditional fiddling, it almost makes me cry because it brings back memories. I will not reveal my age, but those are old memories, memories of the days when the whole family would get together, have fun and talk about everything under the sun. We talked about politics. Back then, it was just blue and red, but now orange is in the mix. That makes me happy.

I would have liked such a day to be in the winter. It would have brought back memories for a lot of people. I think having it in May is somewhat questionable, but that is just my personal opinion. Everyone has an opinion on how the artistic community is funded, managed and subsidized at this time. Some people say artists are getting to many subsidies. Too many subsidies for artists? Some countries subsidize their heritage 100%. This means that mechanisms and structures are put in place to ensure that some traditions are perpetuated, including crafts, traditional singing, painting and all forms of art.

In Canada, we often forget the important contributions made by artists across the country. To understand Canada from coast to coast to coast, we need look no further than its culture. Whether we are talking about first nations, Newfoundlanders, Albertans or Quebeckers, we look at their traditions, what they do to celebrate, to have fun. This can be found in the arts, in artistic expression and the form it takes.

If we do not provide the necessary framework for developing and carrying on these traditions, they will be lost. We will lose part of our identity. This is an integral part of who we are. It is so important for everyone from coast to coast, for first nations and immigrants. Other ethnic groups come here and carry on their culture. Why abandon all this? Everyone has the right to practise their art, and that is the environment in which we we should live and socialize and develop our relationships between men and women, between nations, between first nations, between Canadians from coast to coast. It is extremely important.

As I said, this brings back memories and calls to mind a warm and traditional atmosphere that deserves to be carried on. Although the NDP and I are completely on board with Bill S-218, again, to me the fiddle is something we hear during the holidays or in winter. It warms our spirits as we sit around a good campfire.

Quebec Agencies November 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw your attention to little-known agencies that work tirelessly in Quebec.

With the help of volunteers or workers who are often underpaid, these groups improve people's lives and work on unifying issues and projects: the Eastern Townships housing co-operatives that provide social housing for low-income families; volunteer centres where the sense of giving far exceeds political action; AmiEs de la Terre, a proud proponent of and window to organic farming; Union paysanne, an advocate of traditional farming and family farms; COGESAF, a guardian of watersheds and a great protector of our water; and Solidarité rurale du Québec, a community builder that raises awareness about the reality of rural life and that suffered greatly from the austerity agenda.

Of course, there is the Townshippers' Association, protector of the Anglophone minority, and its tradition of building bridges throughout our community.

Their voices and missions deserve our attention because their many initiatives are vital to all Quebeckers.

Care for Veterans November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, all the members who have spoken to this point have basically said the same thing. Yes, we really need to support our veterans, regardless of what combat zone or war they fought in or what service they rendered. It is important to do that. That is why the motion moved by the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant is of the utmost importance.

Too often it takes a sad event to remind us just how important it is to take proper care of the men and women who served or are still serving our country. It is up to the legislators to ensure that absolutely every effort is made to respond to the claims of veterans and soldiers.

In my riding, there are veterans from Afghanistan, the Korean War and even half a dozen World War II veterans. Some of them participated in the recent Remembrance Day ceremonies. They are all very proud of what they accomplished. They all recognize how important it is for Canada to keep its commitments and to provide adequate services, whether it be health care or other services.

During the last parliamentary recess, I was honoured and proud to participate in many Remembrance Day activities. Over 15 such events were held in the riding of Compton—Stanstead. I attended nine of them. It is always an honour to meet with veterans because they gave so much to our country.

Where is the sense of humanity, compassion and honour that sometimes seems to be lacking in the debate here in the House and in what is done for our constituents and especially our veterans?

Today, we have before us a motion that says:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should examine all possible options to ensure a fully unified “continuum of care” approach is in place to serve Canada's men and women in uniform and veterans...

A “continuum of care” means that they receive health care services when they are being treated for an illness or injury and also after they have been treated as they carry on with their lives. There are always services that can be requested by veterans, modern veterans and soldiers. For that reason, those services must be in place. When a person is up against a bureaucracy, it can be upsetting, and extremely disappointing things can happen. This motion seeks to eliminate all of the red tape within and between departments with regard to service delivery.

It is very difficult for our brave veterans of the Second World War who are still with us. It causes a lot of hassle, especially when they request a service and are told they need to adjust to new technology. Veterans who are 89, 90 or 92 are being asked to turn on a computer, go on the Internet and access services online. That is an insult. That even happened at a Service Canada office; Service Canada is now taking over from the veterans' service centres. A 92-year-old veteran was placed in front of a computer and given a quick demonstration, so that he could access his services online from now on. That is insulting.

We want to prevent those types of situations. We want veteran care and services to be on a par with the service they gave our country. We also want to support the families of veterans. Once again, those who fought in the Second World War are about 90 or 92.

In recent years, I became aware of a couple, both veterans, married for over 60 years. It was impossible to navigate the administrative maze to ensure that the wife would receive the care she needed, and the husband, who also needed care, told me that he was forced to abandon his wife, who suffered from dementia and Alzheimer's, to her own devices and hospital care.

That couple lived together for over 60 years. They spent their lives together. The veteran told me that his life was over because he could find no way to get the services he needed to continue his relationship with his wife even though she was no longer the same person because of her illness. He said he wanted to spend his last days with his wife but that it was impossible. That is extremely sad.

There are situations like that all over Canada, even among young veterans who went to Afghanistan, who participated in other more recent wars or who were deployed to Sarajevo. Those veterans have been abandoned.

In the Eastern Townships, a dozen or so veterans get together regularly. They told me that they are the only people they can relate to and that they meet as friends to talk about their lives without judgment. They are trying to figure out how they ended up in this situation, why Canada abandoned them. That is a sad thing to hear, especially when we know what they have done and how proud they are to have served our country. A country like ours, a modern country, should provide these men and women with the services they need.

The Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs tabled a report on improving the new veterans' charter. In its response, the government decided not to invest new funding. Instead, it returned close to $1 billion to the Treasury Board. One billion dollars was not spent on veterans and was returned to the Treasury Board, when veterans are in need of services all across Canada.

The NDP stood up and said that the loss of veterans' service centres would be very harmful for the public and for soldiers. These service centres were a point of contact for them. They received service from other human beings. When a veteran went to one of these centres, he saw a human being who answered his questions and provided a service, no matter how young or old.

The only thing the veteran wanted was to be served by a person, not an answering machine that often asks us to press four, press two or press five and then makes us wait. A veteran told me that he once waited for more than 90 minutes and the call was disconnected when the time was up. This is unacceptable for our veterans.

That is why this motion is so important. We want to do more than just support the motion. We want something tangible to be done to prove to these veterans of every battle and every unit that we are proud of them and that we will honour their service by taking good care of them.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would rather conclude with what is missing. This bill lacks measures to rally farmers from sea to sea, to ensure that everyone will benefit.

As it stands, only big corporations will benefit. That is a real shame because all Canadians should benefit from the kind of momentum we have going now. As I said, we should use that momentum to ensure that all producers can get their products on store shelves close to home.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, when the government was drafting its agricultural growth act, it should have thought about farmers' markets and organic foods. There is growing demand for these, both regionally and globally. Enabling our farmers to do more in these sectors would result in significant productivity gains in terms of international trade. For that to happen, we need good co-operation between Canada and the provinces.

Farmers have repeatedly called for infrastructure and tools to enhance local access to their products. That is true of all regions in Canada, but especially of Compton—Stanstead. Compton is a small municipality of just 2,500 residents, but it has 32 producers of cheese, wine, beef, pork, yogurt and so on.

Producers exchange these truly amazing products amongst themselves, and that synergy is important. Bill C-18 does not mention synergy anywhere. All it deals with is export. I think that is a mistake because it leaves out a significant segment of our local economy.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

There is a real need to shorten the patent protection period, unless there is a way to ensure the viability of products for producers, who must be able to save their seeds. They also must be able to reseed and commercialize them. For a small producer, that is always the most difficult part.

In this case, certain varieties will be protected for much too long, and a small producer would be unable to make ends meet. On top of all that, farmers in many regions of the country are not financially stable.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I commend the contribution of my colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River to this debate. This is a debate has been going on for some time now and that we would have liked to see extended, but every time there is a debate on agriculture, there are closure motions. This is the 82nd time allocation motion. Congratulations once again. Sadly, this affects a bill that deals with such an important subject, namely agriculture.

Across Canada, from coast to coast, generation after generation of farmers work hard, carrying on a farming tradition as workers who devote themselves to their country and their land. They carry on their traditions and help feed the Canadian people. Well, this bill is called the agricultural growth act.

How could the government forget so many players—especially in the regions, where we see the diversity, vitality and tenacity of Canadians—in the development of a bill to support a local community, whose specific characteristics make Canada such a great country?

We must admit that this is a great country. It will be an even greater country in 2015 when the NDP takes over the House and we will finally see bills that are more pragmatic and down to earth.

Bill C-18 amends nine laws, which makes this an omnibus bill. All these laws, some more complex than others, deserve our attention, and we should examine some of the details.

This bill will amend the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, including the duration and scope of those rights; the Feeds Act; the Fertilizers Act; the Seeds Act; the Health of Animals Act; and the Plant Protection Act—that is starting to add up to a lot of laws—the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act; the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act; and finally, the Farm Debt Mediation Act.

Farm debt is one of the most serious concerns in the agricultural sector. In some Canadian regions, debt is becoming a problem, as is the transfer of family farms to the next generation so that farms can continue to feed people, because that is what this is about.

Where I come from, there are beef and hog producers. There are other operations that are developing, such as those that raise deer, bison, boar, ostrich and even alpaca. They all need grain to ensure that their animals are healthy, and they need to follow the food safety rules to ensure that their livestock is fit for consumption.

Farmers have a lot of concerns. This bill seems to dismiss those concerns and focuses instead on large-scale business.

The government wants to ensure that Canada meets international trade criteria and, as a result, it is forgetting an entire segment of our agricultural production, which serves the local economy extremely well. Communities across the country have struggled to live and survive from farming through the years, and they are still alive. I cannot believe that my riding of Compton—Stanstead is the only one where traditional farming still exists.

Given our concerns, the NDP proposed 16 amendments that would have protected farmers' rights and made for fair rules for breeders and farmers. Those amendments would have made the regulatory process more democratic. However, once again, the government has introduced a bill that puts more power in the minister's hands. The minister will be able to decide what is and is not okay from his office.

A minister should use his power only as a last resort for resolving problems in his administrative area. However, now, he can intervene any time he wants. That does not make sense. We have been seeing this sort of thing since 2011. All of the senior ministers have given themselves more power. That is not right. The departments have employees who are there to do the work, and they do it very well. The Conservatives have made cuts to a number of departments, which have resulted in cuts to front-line staff. What is more, they had the audacity to eliminate the jobs of people who communicate with and provide services to the public. There will be more decision makers.

Perhaps someone should listen to people, to the farmers in this case, to find out what they really need.

We therefore cannot support this bill since we believe that it does not provide sufficient protection for farmers and gives too much discretionary power to the minister.

Agricultural biodiversity has been eroding for decades, not just in Canada, but also around the world. Biodiversity is disappearing because agricultural production systems are being homogenized—we are seeing more and more specialized crops and livestock—and globalization is leading to standardization. Everyone knows this as the concept of international trade. People want to be able to participate in international trade and meet demand. Everything is made to be as productive and fast as possible, and diversity is ignored. I do not know if my colleagues are aware, but there have been cases in the animal kingdom where everything has become sterile, or non-operational, and nothing is working anymore. This is what will happen, since nature has its own plan. If biodiversity in one sector is decreased—whether we are talking about canola, soya or another crop—sooner or later there will be consequences, and they will be serious.

By its very design, this bill falls well short of promoting food sovereignty, with which we should be extremely concerned. There was a time when 80% to 90% of what Canadians had in their pantries came from Canada. Now it is around 25% or 20%. That percentage is going down. The food comes from foreign holdings; it no longer belongs to the farmers themselves.

Farmers are the cornerstone of our food system and, as I was saying, they contribute significantly to our local economies. The NDP believes that they must continue being the drivers of their respective economies across Canada—not just in one corner of the country, but all across Canada. We want farmers to be able to earn a decent living.

Canadians deserve better, more pragmatic policies, and that is what the NDP will propose in 2015. We are ready.

Pragmatism is the word of the day, and it is nowhere to be found in this bill.

Agriculture and Agri-Food November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the fresh produce industry is extremely vulnerable to non-payment issues because of the perishable nature of the goods. When a client goes bankrupt, it is impossible for producers to take back their goods, which results in losses. That is why they need better payment protection. The Fresh Produce Alliance is therefore calling for a trust mechanism comparable to what exists in the United States.

Will the government finally grant the alliance's request and help our produce growers?