- His favourite word was quebec.
Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles (Québec)
Lost his last election, in 2011, with 29% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Business of Supply February 10th, 2011
Madam Speaker, the Conservative member was talking about investments and the creation of employment in Forillon Park. The federal government had indeed promised that 3,000 jobs would be created, including 700 permanent positions, and that the park would attract over 600,000 visitors and tourists. In 2005, it was noted that jobs had been created for only 35 people per year, or the equivalent of 70 jobs including part-time positions, and that the park attracted approximately 146,000 visitors per year. This is a far cry from the number of jobs and visitors promised.
I would like to hear more about what the hon. member has to say regarding the comparison between Manitoba and Forillon Park.
Business of Supply February 10th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Gatineau. We saw how passionate he was in talking about the expropriations. Quebec has seen a number of expropriations and the member spoke about some of them, but Forillon was one of the largest and most insulting for Quebec. Forty years have come and gone with no formal apology, excluding the one from the member for Lévis—Bellechasse, who announced that a monument would be erected in Forillon Park.
I would like to ask my colleague about the Conservative government's position. Those whose land was expropriated were recently told that a small monument would be erected, and that they should be happy and shut their mouths. They need more; they need a significant apology. I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.
Business of Supply February 10th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Gatineau said they went through hell. I think that is an apt description, since the houses there were systematically burned and the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse went to open an exhibit to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the massacre that occurred in what is now Forillon Park. He stated that the celebration represented reconciliation with the families of Forillon. At the same time, he claims he cannot apologize because a government does not make that kind of decision overnight. I think the member for Lévis—Bellechasse should realize that after 40 years, it is time to do something for those families. What are my colleague's thoughts on that?
Micheline Groleau November 25th, 2010
Mr. Speaker, today, I want to pay tribute to Micheline Groleau, a woman who lives in my riding. On the occasion of the 2010 International Day of Older Persons, Ms. Groleau was named volunteer of the year for the Laurentians.
For 27 years, Ms. Groleau has been volunteering at the Centre d'action bénévole Les Artisans de l'Aide in Saint-Eustache as a receptionist and in other capacities as well. She arranges for and provides transportation for seniors going to medical appointments. Ms. Groleau is also involved in the para transit project in Saint-Eustache.
My Bloc Québécois colleagues join me in congratulating her and wishing her every success in her future endeavours.
Pensions November 23rd, 2010
Madam Chair, as I said earlier, the guaranteed income supplement needs to be amended. As the Canadian Labour Congress, the CLC, and the FTQ are currently proposing, we need to increase both at the same time to ensure that payments are made by the Government of Canada and not the provinces. We need to undertake an in-depth study of all current proposals and ensure that we are looking to the future. We can no longer be confronted with the same things that we were confronted with during this crisis, where ordinary workers lost their houses, their retirement funds and their right to live with dignity.
It is unfortunate, and this situation needs to be corrected as quickly as possible. Proposals are currently being submitted by various retirees' organizations and unions. We need to act quickly and study things thoroughly. Every day that passes, retirees are suffering. Workers in Quebec and Canada are suffering. It must stop.
Pensions November 23rd, 2010
Madam Chair, I thank my colleague for his question.
Seniors must apply to receive the guaranteed income supplement. Unfortunately, a number of retired seniors were shortchanged by these two governments, by both the Liberals and the Conservatives. They did not receive the guaranteed income supplement because they had not applied. We are obviously calling on the government to make this automatic, to ensure that individuals are automatically registered for the guaranteed income supplement once they are entitled to it and have reached the required age.
Pensions November 23rd, 2010
Madam Chair, the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec is calling for some type of insurance to protect pension plans. We need to take a closer look at the approaches proposed by the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec and by other unions in Quebec to determine how to protect pension plans.
Pensions November 23rd, 2010
Madam Chair, I think that it is important to talk about retirement today. When we look at the economic crisis we have just gone through, we see that hundreds of thousands of workers have been affected and/or have lost their pension. This has had a serious impact on workers.
When plants close or lay off huge numbers of workers, these people find themselves unemployed or in precarious part-time or temporary jobs. Workers who have been laid off and are in unstable jobs, as I said, can no longer pay into any sort of pension plan. They cannot save any money anymore, because they no longer have enough money to save for a comfortable retirement.
The economic crisis also brought us face to face with a pension crisis, something we had not been confronted with in many years. When I talk about a pension crisis, I am referring to pension plans that have been changed, abandoned and lost. We talked about workers from Nortel, AbitibiBowater, the Jeffrey mine and Atlas Steel, to name a few. We could name dozens and dozens of companies that have been forced to change or abandon plans. For example, Nortel workers are losing their pension plan altogether.
People who are close to retirement and are faced with this sort of situation are in serious trouble, because they cannot retire with sufficient income to allow them to live in dignity, face the future and keep on going.
Right now, there is only one segment of society that can afford a registered retirement savings plan. Roughly 27% of people can afford an RRSP in addition to their regular plan. It is devastating.
The Bloc Québécois has made a number of important demands over the years. The Bloc Québécois has always supported initiatives for retirees and seniors in Quebec. It will continue to support measures that will help retirees and seniors.
One of the many things we have done is introduce Bill C-290, to provide compensation to retired workers who have been cheated and whose pensions are cut off when a former employer declares bankruptcy and fails to fulfill its obligation to contribute to the employees' pension plan.
The Bloc Québécois was dismayed to see this bill defeated by the Liberals and the Conservatives. The bill set out to protect the retirement income of workers at a company in bankruptcy. Once again, the Liberals and Conservatives are demonstrating their profound indifference toward workers, especially retirees.
The Bloc Québécois will ensure that retirees are not cast aside by the Conservative government. We have not stopped promoting to the government a series of solutions to protect retirees. We have presented a solid plan with a number of income protection measures, namely that the federal government follow Quebec's lead and take trusteeship over the pension plans of federally regulated bankrupt businesses. This would prevent these pension funds from being liquidated while the markets are at their lowest. We also proposed introducing preferred creditor status for disabled employees who lose their benefits following an employer's bankruptcy and amending the investment act to keep the threshold for automatic review of foreign acquisitions at $300 million. Such a measure would ensure that companies like Nortel would not be sold off at a discount to the detriment of retirees.
The Bloc Québécois is also making major efforts to improve the GIS.
Another proposal is the elimination of the six-month delay for the wage earner protection program. Thus, victims of massive layoffs followed by delayed bankruptcy would be eligible for the severance they are due.
We are also proposing that the contribution limits for pension funds be increased to 125% of the break-even point. This measure would encourage the establishment of a significant pension reserve. The government went back to this after trying to pass the buck to the provinces.
The Bloc Québécois supports supervision of pension plans subject to federal jurisdiction to help avoid high-risk investments, such as investments in the company. Furthermore, companies with insolvent pension plans because of stock market downturns generally have five years to replenish their funds. To counter the effects of the downturn, the government has increased this time frame to 10 years in order to give companies some breathing room, prevent bankruptcy and protect both workers and pensioners. The Bloc Québécois approved this exceptional measure that fosters the survival of businesses.
We are asking for minimum funding requirements to make pension funds less sensitive to market fluctuations. As we can see, there are a number of proposals that should be added to the government's agenda to improve pension plans, should there be one in future.
Canada and Quebec have various pension plans: old age security, guaranteed income security, the Canada pension plan and the Régime de rentes du Québec, which falls under Quebec's jurisdiction. It is important to respect Quebec's legitimate right to its own pension plan.
A number of citizens' groups, retiree organizations and unions, such as the Canadian Labour Congress and the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, are calling for significant changes to the Régime de rentes du Québec and the Canada pension plan, as well as an increase in the guaranteed income supplement. They believe it is vital that the government move forward with pension fund security reform. We must heed this request by various organizations and propose important changes.
Only the Canada Pension Plan and the QPP were not affected by the recent economic crisis. Other plans were all affected in different ways. As advocacy groups were saying, the advantage of the CPP and the QPP is that they are transferable, universal and indexed. These groups are calling for benefits to be increased from an average of 25% of a person's salary to 50%, since 25% is clearly insufficient. Doubling benefits would help lift retired workers over the poverty line. When future CPP and QPP benefits are increased, the guaranteed income supplement must also be substantially increased at the same time.
The CPP and QPP are secure, stable and indexed, and their administrative costs are minimal compared to those of financial institutions in Quebec and Canada. Improvements such as these would significantly reduce the incidence of poverty among the seniors and retirees who benefit from these pension plans.
We are saying yes to improvements to the public plan. We must conduct an in-depth review of what is being proposed and ensure that all the necessary analyses are conducted. The Canadian Labour Congress and the federations have approaches worth considering.
In conclusion, the proposal, which involves gradually increasing QPP and CPP benefits by increasing contributions and raising the limit on pensionable earnings, is an approach that should be thoroughly examined. It must be done right, through meaningful consultation—
Retirement Income Bill of Rights November 23rd, 2010
Madam Speaker, Bill C-574, An Act to promote and strengthen the Canadian retirement income system, “creates a bill of rights for a retirement income system that promotes the goals of adequacy, transparency, affordability, equity, flexibility, security and accessibility for all Canadians”.
The bill introduced by the Liberal member for the Ontario riding of York West establishes a bill of rights that aims primarily to protect individuals who participate in pension plans, whether they are retired or still active in the workforce.
Bill C-574 protects various rights related to pension income, particularly the right to accumulate sufficient pension income and the right to receive complete and accurate information, in a timely fashion, when serious risks become known, specifically, a risk of non-payment or reduction in benefits.
The Bloc Québécois will be proposing an amendment to ensure respect for Quebec's jurisdiction. Private pension plans come under Quebec and provincial jurisdiction, with the exception of federally regulated industries like banking, communications and so on. The same is true of the Quebec pension plan.
The Bloc Québécois wants to avoid any confusion. We believe we must make the necessary amendments to make certain that this bill will not interfere with Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. The Bloc Québécois will propose an amendment to Bill C-574 to ensure that this bill targets only public or private pension plans under federal jurisdiction.
Furthermore, the introduction of this bill is a perfect opportunity to look at the issue of environmental, social and governance risk factors and respect for international treaties.
The Bloc Québécois believes that anyone who contributes to a pension plan cannot conduct a fair analysis of the risks involved unless they are informed of the company's environmental and social responsibility practices in the event that these have an impact on risk and performance.
This is supported by the Canada pension plan and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which recognize how important it is for investors to have the information they need regarding the company's environmental, social and governance risk management.
“Corporate behaviour with respect to environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors can generally have a positive influence on long-term financial performance, recognizing that the importance of ESG factors varies across industries, geography and time.
Disclosure is the key that allows investors to better understand, evaluate and assess potential risk and return, including the potential impact of ESG factors on a company's performance.”
And so the Bloc Québécois is proposing the addition of one right, the right to receive information on the retirement fund manager's assessment of social, ethical and environmental criteria during the initial risk analysis for each investment.
Clause 9 states:
Every individual who participates in, contributes to or receives benefits from a retirement income plan shall be entitled to receive, in clear and concise language, all the information the individual requires to understand his or her rights, obligations and choices under the retirement income plan, including...
And this could be amended to include the following:
“Regular disclosure of the list of stocks the retirement fund manager has acquired for the retirement plan. This information may be included in the retirement fund manager's annual report.”
The elected members of the Bloc Québécois, who have always supported demands made by retirees and seniors in Quebec, will continue to support measures that help them.
In addition to numerous other actions we have taken, we introduced Bill C-290, which would offer compensation to shortchanged retirees who are seeing cuts to their pension funds because a former employer has gone bankrupt and is not fulfilling its responsibility to contribute to the pension fund.
The Bloc Québécois is confounded by the rejection by both the Liberals and the Conservatives of its Bill C-290 to protect the retirement income of employees of a bankrupt business.
Once again, the Liberals and the Conservatives are showing their profound indifference towards workers, especially pensioners.
The Bloc Québécois will ensure that pensioners are not ignored by the Conservative government. We have continued to offer the government a series of solutions to protect pensioners. In fact, we have put forward a solid plan with a number of measures to protect their income, one of which would have the federal government follow Quebec's lead and put bankrupt companies' pension plans into trusteeship, when they are under federal jurisdiction. This is done in Quebec, under the Supplemental Pension Plans Act, to prevent these pension funds being liquidated while the markets are at their lowest.
The Quebec pension plan is thus able to take over management of the assets of bankrupt companies' pension plans. The government guarantees the payment of benefits owing to affected employees. However, this amount is adjusted to the solvency level of the pension plans, or their ability to pay all benefits to which contributing employees are entitled.
We have also proposed that preferred creditor status be given to disabled employees who lose their benefits due to a bankruptcy. In times of economic crisis, the declining value of securities diminishes the value of pension funds. If a company goes bankrupt during a downturn, the pension fund will be unable to meet its obligations towards its pensioners. This is not the result of the company defaulting on its normal payments to the pension fund.
Beneficiaries of this type of pension plan provided by companies in financial difficulty have often called for the laws governing bankruptcy to be revised so that pension funds would become preferred creditors in the event of bankruptcy.
The amendment to the investment act in order to maintain the threshold for automatic review of foreign acquisitions at $300 million would ensure that major corporations, like Nortel for instance, are not sold off at the expense of its retired workers. Nortel was sold off piece by piece. The foreign investment act does not force the government to review those transactions. In the case of Nortel, it was a very costly decision, and Nortel's Canadian assets could wind up in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Lastly, I would like to talk about improving the guaranteed income supplement. We are extremely concerned about the fact that over 80,000 Quebec seniors are living below the low-income line. The maximum GIS allowance is not even enough to get seniors out of poverty.
The Bloc Québécois has been working very hard to improve the GIS in order to: increase the guaranteed income supplement by $110 per month; continue paying both pension and survivor benefits, for a period of six months, to a surviving spouse; automatically enrol people over 65 who are eligible for the GIS; ensure full retroactive payment of the GIS for all those who were shortchanged; and increase the surviving spouse's allowance to the same amount as the GIS.
As for the thousands of people who rely on old age security, the federal government has unfairly deprived, and is still depriving, these people of the money owing to them. In order to access the guaranteed income supplement, one must apply. Tens of thousands of seniors in Quebec have been cheated because they did not apply for the GIS as soon as they were eligible.
In closing, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-574 in principle , but believes it is important to propose various amendments in order to ensure, above all, that it applies only to federally regulated pensions plans.
Petitions November 19th, 2010
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by Air Canada workers who belong to local 1751 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to ensure full compliance with the 1988 Air Canada Public Participation Act, which requires that Air Canada maintain operational centres in Mississauga, Winnipeg and Montreal. More than 23,000 direct and indirect jobs are at stake.