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Crucial Fact

  • 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

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act April 26th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this important debate, in light of the situation facing Canadians and Quebeckers.

We have weathered all sorts of financial and economic crises, but now, because of a major pension plan crisis, pensioners are faced with major reductions in their pensions. I am talking about people like the employees of Nortel, Atlas Stainless Steels and the Jeffrey mine. We have to look at all the possible solutions to these problems.

Bill C-501 amends the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to ensure that unfunded pension plan liabilities are accorded the status of secure debts in the event of bankruptcy proceedings. It also amends the Canada Business Corporations Act to provide a new procedure by which former employees of a bankrupt corporation who are owed amounts by the corporation can proceed with claims against its directors.

In times of economic crisis, pension funds lose value when security prices drop. If a company goes bankrupt at that point, its pension fund will not be able to cover retirees' pensions.

I would now like to talk about the protections that pension plans currently provide. Under the new provisions in the legislation, regular contributions that have not been paid when a company goes bankrupt or into receivership take priority over all the debtor's assets. But the same does not hold true for unfunded pension plan liabilities.

Regular contributions that have not been paid at the time of bankruptcy include the amounts deducted from employees' paycheques to be paid into the pension plan and all unpaid employer's contributions. This priority does not apply to special payments ordered by the pension regulator to liquidate an unfunded liability or claims related to such unfunded liability.

The limited super-priority ranks below the rights of unpaid suppliers to repossess goods under section 81.1 of the BIA; the claims of farmers, fishermen and aquaculturalists in respect of unpaid products supplied to the bankrupt or insolvent employer, under section 81.2 of the BIA; unremitted income tax deductions, which are deemed to be held in trust; and priority wage claims.

Bill C-501 contains three measures. First, it would give priority status to pensions plans with unfunded liabilities. This way, in case of bankruptcy, retirees will be among the first to be paid and will have precedence over the banks.

Second, the bill ensures that the assets guarantee the termination or severance pay of any clerk, servant, travelling salesperson, labourer or worker.

Third, it offers retirees who were wronged by their employer a procedure that is supposedly more effective for making claims against directors—members of the board of directors. In fact, subsection 119(1) of the Canada Business Corporations Act states:

Directors of a corporation are jointly and severally, or solidarily, liable to employees of the corporation for all debts not exceeding six months wages payable to each such employee for services performed for the corporation while they are such directors respectively.

The Bloc Québécois supports workers and retired workers. We have always promoted social justice.

We can understand the frustrations and the concerns of people who have lost their retirement income because their retirement fund was inadequate at the time the company they worked for ceased operations. They are unfairly deprived of a source of income they were counting on.

For a long time, we have been wanting to look at giving pensions plans with unfunded liabilities preferred creditor status, as well as making directors accountable.

We feel these measures are fair as long as they do not compromise business development or competitiveness or unduly affect the labour market.

The Bloc Québécois would like to hear from witnesses in committee in order to understand these effects. For example, an increase in unemployment and social assistance recipients would be too high a price to pay to protect pension funds against stock exchange fluctuations. Other measures could then be considered.

We must remember that despite the urgent need to help pensioners who were hard hit by the economic crisis, the Conservatives prorogued Parliament, thus slowing down the process of studying bills.

The Bloc Québécois' interest in protecting pensioners and workers is not a recent phenomenon. Not only have we waged a lengthy battle to stop the looting of the employment insurance fund and increase benefits for recipients, but we have spoken in favour of many other initiatives, including wage protection in the event of bankruptcy and the creation of a tax credit to protect pensions, which are measures that we ourselves proposed.

During the summer of 2009, we defended Nortel pensioners and we continue to do so. At that time, we should have given them the opportunity to appear before the committee that was studying the impact of the sale of, among other things, Nortel's wireless division to Ericsson in order to allow them to share their fears and questions with elected members. Unfortunately, the Conservatives and Liberals preferred to shut down the debate.

This fall, to deal with the pension situation, the Bloc Québécois proposed a series of measures, one of which was 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.

Another proposal was to get rid of the six-month delay for the wage earner protection program. Victims of massive layoffs followed by delayed bankruptcy, which is something we have seen, would then be eligible for the severance they are due.

We also proposed raising the contribution limits for pension funds to 125% of the break-even point, which would encourage a pension reserve. The government went back to this after trying to pass the buck to the provinces.

Another measure is Bill C-290, which would provide a refundable tax credit equal to 22% of the loss sustained by beneficiaries of a pension running a deficit. Despite Conservative opposition to the bill, it will soon be studied in committee.

We are also talking about changing the threshold for automatic review of foreign acquisitions from $1 billion to $300 million. Such a measure would ensure that companies like Nortel would not be sold off at a discount or piece by piece.

We are also discussing bringing in preferred creditor status for disabled employees who lose their benefits following an employer's bankruptcy. These people are desperate and destitute because, in Nortel's case, they will lose over 70% of their benefits even though they still have to cover significant medical costs. None of these people were negligent. They had every reason to believe that they were properly insured by an insurance company.

The Bloc Québécois supports pension supervision to help avoid high-risk investments, such as numerous investments in a single company. We have to consider all of our options.

Lastly, workers expect to benefit from the pensions funds that they spend their lives contributing to. Parliament cannot ignore the needs of these workers and those who have already retired.

That is why the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-501 in principle.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns April 16th, 2010

With respect to military contracts between $5 million and $100 million awarded since January 2006 that include industrial and regional benefit (IRB) requirements, for each contract: (a) what is the name of the principal contractor; (b) what is the name of the Canadian company that concluded a partnership agreement with the principal contractor under the IRB Policy; (c) briefly, what is the project’s description; (d) where will most of the project be carried out; (e) how long will the project take; and (f) what is the project’s IRB value in terms of the IRB Policy?

Pensions March 31st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, pension benefits for more than 20,000 workers and retirees will be cut by about 30% following a Superior Court of Ontario decision to reject an agreement between Nortel and its pension beneficiaries. Solutions exist, but the Conservative government is doing nothing to help these people.

Will the government support the Bloc Québécois' Bill C-290 to help Nortel, Atlas and Jeffrey mine workers whose pension plans have been cut?

Official Languages March 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the language rights of Coach Canada bus drivers are not protected by Bill 101, because they are governed by the Canada Labour Code. Since January, drivers in Montreal have been receiving their orders in English from Peterborough, because the company decided to dismiss its francophone dispatchers. This is happening in the second largest French-speaking city in the world, the largest city in the Quebec nation.

Why does the Conservative government refuse to correct this situation, as proposed by the Bloc Québécois?

The Economy March 4th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague, for indeed, this budget contains nothing for the forestry sector or for workers.

Furthermore, in the budget, this government and the token Quebeckers who sit across the floor are offering a gift to the retired workers of Nortel and AbitibiBowater: a seniors day, to help them think about their problems. It is unbelievable.

How could anyone come up with such a solution, when we are still in the midst of a serious crisis and all those workers are facing such a reality? There is nothing in the budget for social housing or employment insurance.

I wonder what my colleague's thoughts are on these aspects of the throne speech.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act December 9th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-471.

I am pleased to speak today to this bill, which requires the Government of Canada to take the measures necessary to implement the recommendations of the pay equity task force and repeals Part 11 of the Budget Implementation Act, 2009.

In 2001, the Liberal justice minister set up the pay equity task force to examine the effectiveness of the pay equity provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Act. The task force spent three years examining this legislative framework in depth and concluded that it was deeply flawed. The task force held consultations, round tables and a national symposium on pay equity to determine what would be the best ways to respect women's right to pay equity. Employers, unions, women's organizations, lawyers, researchers and federal employees spent a great deal of time and significant resources on the task force's consultations.

During the consultations, the stakeholders agreed on a number of key issues.

For example, they agreed that they were committed to the principle of pay equity; that pay equity was a human rights issue; that employers had a positive duty to take steps to eliminate wage discrimination; that any system must be accessible to unionized as well as non-unionized workers; that the new system must provide additional guidelines on how to comply with pay equity standards; that a neutral body with responsibility for providing information and support and ensuring compliance with pay equity standards should be set up; and that an independent agency with the power to settle pay equity disputes should be set up.

On May 4, 2004, the pay equity task force released a more than 500-page report entitled “Pay Equity: A New Approach to a Fundamental Right”. The report recommended that the federal government pass proactive pay equity legislation, and it set out a detailed plan on how best to do so.

Part 11 of the Conservatives' Budget Implementation Act pertains to equitable compensation and enacts the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. The bill makes no mention of “pay equity”, referring instead to “equitable compensation”, which is never defined.

The legislation applies strictly to employers in the public sector: Treasury Board, the RCMP and certain agencies and crown corporations. Companies under federal jurisdiction are not covered, nor are certain other crown corporations, for example Canada Post and the CBC. This creates two classes of workers: those who are entitled to pay equity and those who are not.

It was at the bargaining table that considerable wage gaps were created. Yet the Conservative government keeps sending us back to the bargaining table, which means, as I said, that it is turning back the clock by the decade. This is a huge step backwards for women.

The assessment criteria for pay equity are also changing. This is suppressing women and prevents them from bringing grievances against their pay equity program. They are being left with no way to defend themselves. People do not want their unions to defend them, for there could be significant fines. This is a major change that does not reflect a real pay equity program.

The legislation allows the government to issue a series of regulations, such as in subsection 4(5), which are not clearly defined.

So, that is Bill C-471. It would enact what was agreed to in 2004 and repeal the existing provisions.

In the meantime, I think it is important to point out the Conservative government's record on status of women. In April 2008, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women recommended that the Auditor General examine the implementation of gender-based analysis in the federal government.

This analysis can be used to assess how the impact of policies and programs on women might differ from their impact on men. It aims to allow for gender differences to be integrated in the policy analysis process. Following the United Nations fourth world conference on women in 1995, the federal government committed to implement gender-based analysis in every department.

Yet in a news release on May 12, 2009, the Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, stated: “The government has not met its commitment to take gender differences into account”.

Furthermore, as we have already heard, the government eliminated the court challenges program and the pay equity program.

Pay equity is the right to equal pay for work of equal value. All women are entitled to the same wage as men when they do work requiring similar skills, effort and responsibility, in similar working conditions.

I would like to remind the House that, in 1997, the Pay Equity Act came into force in Quebec. This law has been effective to date and significant steps have been made towards equity. This law was adopted unanimously by the National Assembly on November 21, 1996. Under this law, affected employers must achieve pay equity in their companies and prove that there are no pay inequities for jobs occupied predominantly by women.

The Bloc Québécois is, of course, in favour of pay equity and considers it a non-negotiable right.

In order to ensure that pay equity exists for all Quebec and Canadian working women, proactive federal legislation is necessary that will cover all women in areas under federal jurisdiction, whether in the public service or the private sector.

While this government stubbornly refuses to recognize pay equity, Quebec is taking action. The unanimous passage in Quebec's National Assembly of Bill 25, which updates the Pay Equity Act, constitutes a historic gain for women working in Quebec.

Gone are the days when traditionally female jobs were avoided because they were less well paid. With all of the new provisions, the right to pay equity can now be deemed a vested right. As of today, it can be said that, in the area of employment, Quebec women have the same rights, privileges and opportunities as men.

The only exception in Quebec is women who work in federally regulated undertakings. For them, pay equity will be an impossible dream as long as this government is in power.

Bill C-471 was introduced by the Leader of the Official Opposition. It should be noted that, when they were in power, the Liberals had five years to introduce such legislation in prosperous times. They had the opportunity but they never did. Once again, that party only seems to have good ideas when in opposition.

Because the Bloc Québécois considers pay equity to be a non-negotiable right, it will support Bill C-471. This proactive bill responds to Bloc Québécois demands.

Canada Labour Code December 3rd, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-386, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers). This bill was introduced by my colleague, the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel. I thank him for his excellent presentation on this subject.

Once again, the Bloc Québécois is fighting to provide workers governed by the Canada Labour Code with the same protection afforded their colleagues governed by the Quebec Labour Code when it comes to the use of replacement workers. With this bill we are again calling on parliamentarians to eliminate a double standard that penalizes several thousand workers in Quebec. We invite them to examine their conscience and seize this new opportunity to show the necessary leadership to rally their troops and to provide overwhelming support for our bill.

The Bloc Québécois has never given up defending Quebec priorities and values. In fact, Bloc Québécois members have introduced 11 bills to amend the Canada Labour Code to prohibit the use of replacement workers during strikes or lockouts. Five of these bills have gone to a vote.

In 1990, Bill C-201 was defeated by a vote of 90 to 72. The majority of Conservatives voted against it. The member for Jonquière—Alma supported it. The Liberals voted for it, but some were not in the House. The NDP voted for it but, there again, some were not present.

In 1995, in the case of Bill C-317, the Liberals voted for the bill, which was defeated 114 to 104.

In 2003, Bill C-328 was defeated by a vote of 104 to 86.

On April 13, 2005, the Conservatives and the Liberals joined forces to deny workers under federal jurisdiction a true right to strike, defeating Bill C-263 by 143 votes to 131.

On October 25, 2006, Bill C-257 was finally passed at second reading, with the support of a number of Liberal and NDP members, by a vote of 167 to 101. The Prime Minister stated that he was against the bill and it was defeated on March 21, 2007, at report stage when the Liberals changed their minds.

The struggle for anti-scab legislation has had the support of the major Quebec unions over the years and has been a clear demand from Quebec for more than 30 years, or since Quebec adopted its own legislation to prohibit replacement workers.

We need to remember that Quebec and British Columbia have laws that prohibit the use of strikebreakers. A number of other provinces are considering such legislation.

In Quebec, anti-scab legislation was enacted in 1977 and brought into force in 1978 under the René Lévesque government. Everyone agrees that it was an impressive leap forward in terms of workers’ rights. It came about at the end of a particularly stormy strike, as we may recall, at the United Aircraft plant in Longueuil, now called Pratt & Whitney. The legislation seriously restricted employers’ abilities to limit the rights of unionized workers and placed Quebec in the vanguard in this respect in North America.

For 30 years in Quebec, an employer has not been permitted to hire people to replace employees who are on strike or locked out. The ban, which is incorporated in Quebec’s Labour Code, prevents an employer, after the bargaining phase begins, from hiring managers and senior staff to perform the duties of employees on strike or locked out, and also prohibits the use of personnel from another employer in the establishment that is on strike. There is also a ban on employers using the services of employees from its other establishments in workplaces affected by the strike or lockout.

In fact, in an effort to genuinely respect employees’ right to strike, only managers from the establishment that is on strike and employees who are part of the bargaining unit that is on strike may continue to work during a strike or lockout.

In addition, only managers may perform the duties of striking employees.

It is these provisions that the Bloc Québécois wants to see in the Canada Labour Code. As my Liberal Party colleague pointed out, the Canada Labour Code already contains some provisions requiring both the employer and unionized employees to continue activities, to continue providing operational, installation or production services, where it is necessary to prevent an immediate threat to the health or safety of the public. Those provisions exist, but the Conservative government seems to be completely unaware of them.

There have been lengthy strikes at the federal level. The strikes at Vidéotron and Sécur also lasted for months. There were incidents on the picket lines, when strikebreakers were hired. Those strikes hurt Quebec families and people found themselves in difficult financial situations.

In Quebec, since the anti-scab legislation was enacted, labour relations and strikes have become more civilized. We no longer hear about fights on picket lines or damage done to this or that. Now there is symbolic picketing, because production stops at a plant that has been struck.

Now that things are more civilized, there are fewer and fewer strikes in Quebec. According to the statistics, federal workers account for 7.3% of the Quebec workforce. In 2002, though, 48% of all the work days lost were due to labour disputes on the federal level. Federal strikes in Quebec tend to increase the number of days lost.

In Quebec, this legislation has been beneficial. That is what employers say now. When people return to work, relations are not as bad as they were back in the days when strikebreakers were used. Just imagine the tension that arises when returning employees have to work alongside strikebreakers hired by the employer. That is not a very profitable climate for employers.

Thus, this legislation is beneficial from an economic standpoint. We have known that for a long time in Quebec and British Columbia. They use the economic argument to claim that this bill will have harmful consequences. In Quebec, though, we have not had any.

The Quebec legislation also provides for essential services to be maintained. Even in anti-replacement worker legislation, allowance can be made for places where prevention is necessary, whether in factories or other sectors.

This bill is important to us. My Liberal colleague said she was prepared to study it very carefully. People have started to realize some things since we began talking about anti-scab legislation in the House. The votes are always close and we have succeeded in making progress and raising people’s awareness.

We have now arrived at the stage where we should take the time to study a bill like this and see what effects it could have on the economy. It would be very easy to draw comparisons with Quebec and British Columbia. I am sure that if we manage to agree, Canada would benefit.

In conclusion, various business leaders have made important statements. They have said that the efforts they made to civilize labour relations have borne fruit.

Labour Relations December 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, since an agreement between CN and the Teamsters appears to have just been reached, can the minister confirm this news? Does she plan to go ahead with the back to work legislation?

Also, can she tell us what she plans to do now about the striking museum workers?

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations November 30th, 2009

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

We have spoken with the Conservative minister and other stakeholders. Right now, CN says it is prepared to continue to provide 60% to 70% of services. As I said to my colleague opposite, since he comes from a region served by the railway, Canadian Pacific also has parallel railways, which makes it possible to serve these communities. There are also short lines—regional lines—and truck drivers.

CN is able to provide close to 70% of services to the communities, unless what I have heard is so much nonsense. If CP provides 20%, the short lines provide 10%, and the truck drivers provide 10%, we will reach 100%.

If we can use these other services fully, we will be able to offer 110% of services to the communities.

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations November 30th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, negotiations should not interrupted once they have begun.

The various parties are still talking and progress is being made. If there is any chance they can resolve it themselves, we must let them do so. Of course they must be given all the necessary tools, such as a team of mediators or conciliators. They must be given even more tools, in order to solve this problem and ensure healthy labour relations in the years to come. I think it is premature to move this motion in the House of Commons, considering the progress that has been made.

I agree with my hon. colleague. We will take the time needed to debate it and allow people to negotiate, in order to get an overall picture.