House of Commons photo

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

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations November 30th, 2009

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

There is no doubt that negotiations are all about the balance of power between the parties. Every time they sit down at the bargaining table, the parties know what is at stake and are well aware that sooner or later the issues will be resolved, which will advance their respective interests and improve labour relations.

We have seen what has been happening at CN since 2004 and just before that. Strangely, there was no back to work legislation with the airlines and the air traffic controllers, yet everyone managed to resolve their issues. People trusted that the collective bargaining would be in good faith.

Then in 2007, we saw the first back to work legislation. Thus it began. Trends began shifting in major sectors. Here again today, we are faced with a bill that shows a distrust of both parties, that suggests that they do not need to make any effort or take negotiations seriously, that legislation will be passed and everyone will be happy.

I am not convinced that people will be happy when they realize that this back to work legislation tends to weaken labour relations. The main issues, which are normally resolved at the bargaining table, will not be settled.

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations November 30th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, of course, the Bloc Québécois is currently against any motion that would restrict debate on a bill to implement back to work legislation for Canadian National strikers, since the Bloc Québécois believes that at this stage, such a bill is premature.

We would rather that the parties continue talks. As a number of my colleagues have mentioned, the parties are currently in talks, and the issues continues to evolve. It is important to keep up this pace of negotiations and continue to recognize a union's right to strike. The right to negotiate a collective agreement has been recognized for many years, was even recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada, and is also protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For a number of years in Canada and Quebec, more and more collective agreements have been negotiated without strikes or lockouts. That is a sign of a radical shift in the past few years, and it is a sign that employers know they are better off sitting down at a negotiating table than sitting down and trying to have the government implement back to work legislation.

Long-term collective agreements have been negotiated for some years now. In many cases, agreements are negotiated every 5, 10 or 15 years. Now, imagine if we were to intervene in a case like this. Workers would not be able to protect their legitimate rights in the collective agreement, in order to significantly improve their working conditions or to change existing conditions, if changes are deemed necessary by one of the parties.

Employers now know that they must negotiate long-term agreements because everything changes quickly: technology changes quickly, and labour relations change quickly. Employers need to be more flexible and need to be in partnership with workers. It is more profitable for companies to work this way.

Thus, employers are changing their way of doing things, while the government is still in the same place, with back to work legislation that never fundamentally resolves the problems or the main issues in a collective agreement, because a third party is asked to resolve the problems. When a third party resolves the situation, labour relations between the parties are not based on mutual trust, and that does not help improve or strengthen labour relations.

I would like to quote Ron Lawless, who was the president of CN in the 1990s. What he said then still holds true today. Mr. Lawless said that government intervention in collective bargaining interferes with good business practices. In addition, back to work legislation and arbitration do not help the parties properly address the main issues. This sort of legislation prevents the parties from taking collective bargaining seriously.

The president of CN said that some years ago, and it could still apply today. This is a regressive law from a regressive government that persists in using this sort of legislation even though, a few years ago—I am thinking of 2004, for example—labour disputes at the federal level were settled without back to work legislation. There were strikes, but they were settled and the parties eventually reached an agreement. Today in those groups, management and labour get along well.

Regarding CN, in 2007, the Conservatives, who had come to power the year before, had already started introducing back to work legislation that benefited employers, but not necessarily workers.

But essentially, the problems are never resolved with this approach. Frustration and bitterness remain, and the parties are never able to build good labour relations.

Looking at the current situation at CN, we can say that labour relations have been unhealthy for some time now. It started in 2007, when the Conservative government passed the first law to force the conductors back to work. The union at the time was the same. The same labour relations problems exist today: grievances, disciplinary action, suspensions, layoffs. All the rules for implementing the collective agreement are being challenged in all their forms. How can healthy labour relations be established under such conditions?

Once again, this employer is expecting the government to pass back to work legislation and abolish the workers' right to negotiate a collective agreement. But the right to strike is recognized as a fundamental right. What is happening is that employers like CN are sitting back and waiting for the Conservative government to legislate employees back to work.

Let us take a look at other CN groups. Labour relations were starting to get established. The 2004 strike was settled after 30 days and activities were resumed. I am referring to the carmen and other tradespeople. I am not saying that everything is resolved, but the two parties began working together to establish good relations.

CN's collective agreements have a long history and they allow problems to be resolved. Significant precedents have been built up.

In the matter before us, CN has taken every measure possible to exert pressure on the engineers. It now wants to force them to increase their hours of work, even double them, which is more than the Canadian average. It wants these workers to do more for less, which would put lives in danger.

For decades, the current system has never been challenged. Today, that is what CN is doing. It wants to use the Conservative government for its own purposes, namely to increase the hours of work of the engineers who drive the locomotives.

Earlier the parliamentary secretary spoke of the economic crisis, saying that this will cause significant losses. I do not know where he is getting his information from because we were told that CN has been training its management and a large group of non-unionized employees for months in order to maintain over 60% of its service.

Canadian Pacific, which has two parallel lines all across Canada—one is CN's the other is CP's—could cover the other 40% of the service CN claims not to be able to provide.

Let me take this even further. There are truck drivers who can step in, not to mention the short lines in the regions that can be used to serve the Canadian public. For the Montreal region, for example, AMT signed an agreement and passenger service is still running, such that we now have roughly 120% service.

Given all these possibilities, I wonder why the Conservatives think there is a crisis and a need for additional service. We have to allow the negotiations to continue in good faith between the parties and force them to agree on a collective agreement.

As I mentioned earlier, that is not what we are doing. We are telling them that every time they go to negotiation they will get legislation. This type of legislation has reappeared significantly since the Conservatives came to power in 2006.

Earlier, I was talking about various strikes. I will digress for a moment. Services do not require back to work legislation. According to CN, and based on existing options, service will be maintained. In 2004, a strike was settled after 30 days. Since that time, working relations have been different but some things have been resolved. In 2007, after the arrival of the Conservatives, there was the dispute with the conductors and a law was imposed after two weeks. The bitterness remains. When the same people involved in a disastrous conflict are seated around the negotiating table for months and months, mutual trust will disappear and it will be difficult to rebuild it. It rarely happens. That type of situation requires mediation and conciliation. I have always said that, if necessary, it takes an army of mediators and conciliators.

It has been proven in the past that it is possible to resolve disputes, to move things forward. Also, progress has been made. On Friday, they were saying that there would be no arbitration. Today, they are talking about arbitration for some aspects of the collective agreement. There has been progress.

Why would we want to stop these negotiations after three days? That is the Conservative practice, which they applied in 2007. They stopped negotiations. That did not improve employer-employee relations, which remain strained to this day. If we look at the Conservative approach to employee support, for example, in the auto sector, we see they wanted to impose wage cuts. I am not quite sure that it was in the workers' interests. Fortunately, the union found other solutions.

With regard to collective agreements in the federal public service, where there have been significant cutbacks and the erosion of pay equity, I am not sure that it is a pro-worker approach. The Bloc Québécois' Bill C-395, to exclude the employment insurance waiting period in the event of a work conflict, was also rejected.

Given all of these stances, which are not pro-worker, it should come as no surprise that we are considering back to work legislation today, but unfortunately, not for the right reasons.

That is why the Bloc Québécois will not vote in favour of the motion and will not support such a bill. We have to make it possible for these CN workers—like the other CN workers who were able to participate in good-faith negotiations between the parties—to resolve the existing issues between the parties. This is not just about resolving economic and salary issues. This is also about using these collective agreements to resolve grievances and the issues arising from these grievances and coming up with a labour relations framework to resolve these issues.

Imposing legislation like what has been proposed ignores all of these issues. Of course, the Conservatives have been accustomed to doing that for some time. They ignore the issues, and when it comes to labour, they have been doing that for a long time, and been standing in the way of resolving problems through collective agreements.

Nothing was resolved in the federal workers' collective agreement. There are ongoing talks with employees under federal jurisdiction, federal government employees in particular, and the issues are not being resolved. The same thing will happen with the rail sector and CN.

These are the reasons why we intend to vote against this motion, which is premature.

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations November 30th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member spoke of open lines, the right to negotiate and the fact that this is all premature. She appears to be opposed to the motion and therefore I would like her to elaborate a little more on her arguments.

Pensions October 26th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, although the government said last week that it was unable to take any action, it has decided to introduce a measure proposed by the Bloc Québécois.

I wonder if the Minister of Industry plans to take inspiration from any other measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois, such as lowering the threshold for automatic review of foreign acquisitions to $300 million, in order to ensure that businesses are not sold off at the expense of its retired workers.

What is the minister waiting for to assume his responsibilities and take a page from the Bloc Québécois' plan?

Pensions October 26th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois has recently been urging the federal government to help retired workers affected by their former employer's bankruptcy. The minister replied that retired workers are not the federal government's concern. Yet today we have learned that the government is thinking of introducing a bill to increase the threshold for pension plan contributions, as suggested by the Bloc Québécois.

My question is simple: does the minister also intend to take responsibility for federally regulated pension plans?

Nortel October 22nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, Nortel is being dismantled and its best assets are being sold for bargain prices to foreign interests. In the meantime, the Conservative government refuses to review our foreign investment act so that Nortel divisions would be subject to automatic review, which is strictly a federal jurisdiction.

Why is the Minister of Industry refusing to take action to protect the pensions of Nortel retirees?

Nortel October 22nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Industry said that he can do nothing for Nortel pensioners under federal regulations and told them to turn to the Quebec and provincial governments. The minister cannot wash his hands just like that. For example, the federal government could take trusteeship over the pension plans in federal jurisdiction to prevent these funds from being liquidated while the markets are low.

Why is the government shirking its responsibilities?

Nortel October 21st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois has made several responsible proposals to protect pensioners in the private sector. We are proposing that the federal government take trusteeship over the pension plans in federal jurisdiction to prevent these funds from being liquidated while the markets are at their lowest. The solutions are there. The only thing lacking is the political will to help these retirees.

Why is the government refusing to protect private sector pensioners?

Nortel October 21st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the trials and tribulations of Nortel, which was placed under court protection at the beginning of the year, are worrisome to the 117,000 retirees. While Nortel's most attractive assets are being liquidated and the former CEO is submitting a claim in court for over $12 million from the company, the retirees here on the Hill today are wondering what will become of their pensions. Pensioners from a number of troubled companies are in the same boat today.

What concrete action does the government intend to take to protect the pensions of these workers?

World Day for Decent Work October 7th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, today, October 7, marks World Day for Decent Work. The International Labour Organization created this day in 1999 to highlight the fact that everyone, men and women alike, should have access to a job and a fair wage.

This day is at the heart of efforts to eradicate poverty, because not only is globalization eliminating or jeopardizing many jobs, but the economic crisis has also led to the loss of a number of quality jobs, and the notion of decent work has been largely ignored.

On this of all days, it is important that the government reaffirm its intention to respect the Global Jobs Pact, which views access to work as the key to the economic recovery. Furthermore, the government must understand that the recovery cannot target only certain sectors in Canada, but must also include Quebec workers affected by the forestry crisis.