House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act November 16th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I am glad the question came from my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain, because his predecessor was the driving force behind that bill and that request.

The Bloc Québécois took an interest in this issue after it discovered that thousands of Quebeckers and Canadians had not received the guaranteed income supplement, which they were entitled to. The Bloc Québécois canvassed seniors associations all across Quebec and identified thousands of people. We know that there are still thousands of people who are not receiving the GIS. Because applicants have to produce their tax return, the simplest solution would be to automatically send a cheque to the people who are entitled to the GIS. Instead, the Liberals decided to shorten the form by reducing the number of questions, which means that people have to fill out another form to qualify. The Conservatives kept this practice but shortened the form even further to make it easier to fill out. So the GIS is not paid automatically.

Often the least fortunate have difficulty taking care of their own affairs either for health reasons or for other reasons. My colleague is right; it would have been very simple. That is what I am saying: the Liberals and the Conservatives are one and the same. All they want is to try to save money on the backs of the taxpayers to advance their own spending projects. The Conservatives are more focused on military spending, while the Liberals have other priorities. But the average citizen never wins. It is never the least fortunate that win. Money is being ripped out of the hands of the unemployed and of seniors when they are not automatically given the guaranteed income supplement. The government has decided not to help out forestry workers in order to save money because it decided to help Ontario's automobile industry instead. It is a choice.

These are political choices that the Conservatives and Liberals have made to the detriment of the least fortunate in Quebec. They then wonder why they do not win over this part of the population. It is simply because these people know the score. And it is not with a bill like the one introduced today, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act, which does not address the real problems facing seniors, that the government will manage. The government could have introduced a bill called, “an act to prevent prisoners from receiving their old age pension”, but that would not have been as glamourous as the one they are currently introducing.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act November 16th, 2010

Madam Speaker, that is how the federal government treats our seniors. The Conservatives have picked up where the Liberals left off. Employment insurance is a perfect example. The Liberals decided to plunder $54 billion from the fund and now the Conservatives are saying there is no money left, that we have to start over. The Conservatives are saying they were not the ones who stole from the fund; it was the Liberals. Our unemployed workers are the ones who lose in the end.

The same goes for our seniors. The Liberals did not adjust old age pensions as they should have. And the Conservatives decided to do the same as the Liberals. Under the Liberal government, the Bloc Québécois called for a monthly increase of $100 in the guaranteed income supplement. The Liberals said no. We asked the Conservatives for the same thing and they also said no. That is the reality of those two old parties. They decided to abandon seniors, older people, unemployed workers and forestry workers. I thank my hon. colleague for giving me the opportunity to talk about it.

Now they are wondering why people have had enough of them. It is quite simply because their way of doing politics is outdated; it is no longer appropriate for our times. Those two parties do not care about defending the interests of seniors and workers the way the Bloc Québécois does. We will continue to defend them every day that we are here in the House.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act November 16th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my Liberal colleague's question. He is asking whether the bill would withstand a charter challenge. I would say there are grounds for a challenge. The courts will decide. The problem with the Liberal Party is that it has wholeheartedly supported the way the Conservatives have handled the economy for at least the past two years, since the 2008 election.

When the Bloc Québécois introduced a bill in the House that would give a tax credit to people who lost pension income because of a company bankruptcy and the Liberals did not stand up, I hope it was not because the bill violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Pensioners with these companies that went bankrupt deserved better than that. They deserved to have us stand up for them, but the Liberals did not do that. It is great that they are talking about the charter. They seem to have something of a conscience today, and that is great. I only hope it will not prevent them from making decisions.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act November 16th, 2010

Madam Speaker, first of all, I read the title of the bill, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act. Once again, inevitably, when people see such a title for a bill, especially if they are seniors, they will think that the bill is going to affect their lives. Then, when they see the fine print under the title where it says “incarcerated persons”, they will be very disappointed.

That is the purpose of my presentation here today, that is, to point out once again that, by giving their bill a title as impressive as An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act, the Conservatives want to make us debate a subject that we all agree on.

Why did the Conservatives decide to spice up this bill's title and then indicate in the fine print that it pertains to incarcerated criminals? It is precisely to prevent us from talking about the real issues at hand and the real problems facing our seniors and older people.

I can understand that the Conservatives want to promote their law and order policy and ideology at all cost, but again, all that to say that this is a law and order bill. They want to punish criminals and take away their old age security if they have it. The problem with the Conservatives is that they are so obsessed with law and order that they have forgotten that the vast majority of older people, of our seniors, are living below the poverty line and deserve to have a bill, as the Bloc Québécois had wanted, that would improve the guaranteed income supplement by increasing it by $100 a month, in order to help seniors cope with increased housing, food and drug expenses.

In the meantime, prisoners are being housed and fed and their drugs are paid for. That is how the Conservatives operate. They decide to get rid of old age pensions for criminals, but they forget that the vast majority of our seniors do not have enough money to pay for their housing or to cover their food and drug costs. That is the reality. The Conservatives are obsessed with law and order and are abandoning good citizens who have paid taxes their entire lives, who have contributed to society and who are now seeing criminals get all the attention in relation to this bill.

We support this bill and have said so from the very beginning. All parties in this House support it. The problem is that we are still talking about it. We should have settled this matter and had a real bill to amend the Old Age Security Act in order to help our seniors who cannot make ends meet and who are living below the poverty line. We have to help them meet their own physical and mental health needs. However, that is not what we are discussing. The government prefers to talk about law and order and eliminating inmates' pension entitlement. As I said, we support this measure, as do all parties in the House.

Why has this matter not been settled yet? Quite simply because the Conservatives have decided to draw out the debate. That is what they want. They want us to talk about it and discuss it. While we discuss the so-called “Act to amend the Old Age Security Act” in Parliament, the people who read the title will think that they are being looked after and that seniors who have trouble making ends meet and who live below the poverty line will be taken care of. It creates a false impression that their needs are being addressed. Instead, the Conservatives are merely promoting their ideology, with the support of the Liberals—all too often we forget about the Liberals—and once again are ignoring the problems of seniors.

In closing, Bill C-31 before us must be passed as quickly as possible. It makes sense to preclude incarcerated persons from receiving their old age pension, particularly in light of the fact that they receive shelter, food, health care and medications free of charge while our seniors, who have worked their entire lives to advance our society, find it difficult to meet their own needs when it comes to housing, food and medications.

That is what the Conservatives, with the support of the Liberals, are forcing us to live with. For two years now, every time a budget vote has come around, the Liberals have stayed seated or not shown up with enough members. They are always there to support the Conservatives. They are like a crutch that keeps hobbling along. We have been watching the Liberals hobble along. Their disease is spreading to the Conservatives, who are limping along as well. That is how they operate.

I am pleased to say that we will support Bill C-31 because it will prevent prisoners, people who are incarcerated, from receiving old age security, and will still protect their spouses. These spouses will be considered single under the Old Age Security Act and will therefore be entitled to a larger guaranteed income supplement amount.

However, I must point out that the impressive title, “An Act to Amend the Old Age Security Act”, should not fool the public and the seniors who are watching us. This will not solve their problems. They deserve a monthly increase of $100 to their guaranteed income supplement, as suggested by the Bloc Québécois. They deserve a real debate and real changes to the Old Age Security Act so that they can have adequate income to pay for housing, food and medication. They have spent their entire lives advancing our society. We want them to know that the Bloc Québécois and all of its elected members will always defend them here in the House. That is what we do and will continue to do as long as they continue to place their trust in us.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act November 16th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-31 on behalf of the Bloc Québécois.

It is important for the people listening to us to fully understand. The title of the bill, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act, will probably get some people's attention. In fact, as we know, the old age security program has not been enhanced for quite some time, except for a few minor changes. I met a senior who told me that recent increases barely covered the cost of a coffee. Therefore, the title—An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act—could be confusing. It might lead people to believe that the government is overhauling the Old Age Security Act. They will be disappointed because there is no major reform in this bill.

There are two words in the text of the bill, “incarcerated persons”, that shed light on the Conservatives' philosophy. They have decided to implement a law and order agenda, which includes preventing criminals from receiving their old age pension.

On the one hand, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois agrees. This measure has received the nod from all parties in the House. I do not think that anyone approves of criminals in prison receiving the old age pension. It is an aberration of the system. On the other hand, why is this bill necessary? We must understand why the Conservatives decided to let this bill go to committee, with great debate and major discussion. The purpose was to get us talking about it and sidetrack us from talking about the real problems of the elderly, of our seniors living in difficult circumstances. Many seniors live below the poverty line. They deserve a real debate and a real bill to amend the Old Age Security Act so that, among other things, the guaranteed income supplement can be increased by $100 per month, as proposed by the Bloc Québécois.

With regard to the guaranteed income supplement, this bill proposes that spouses be treated as though they were single and that they be entitled to an increase in their guaranteed income supplement. That is fine with me. The criminal is in prison, but his spouse does not necessarily deserve to suffer substantial losses. Therefore, it makes sense that she be treated like a single person.

Once again, nothing in this bill addresses the problems our seniors face. We should have expected as much. Given its grand-sounding title, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act, we expected meaningful old age security reform. However, this is not the direction that the Conservatives are taking and it is definitely not the direction that the Liberals are discussing. We heard them. The Liberals particularly do not want to talk about an increase in the guaranteed income supplement in case they take power since they do not quite know what to do about the expenditures they have announced. For them, therefore, helping seniors is not a way to help our society progress.

Take, for example, the bill introduced by the Bloc Québécois. Every day when they are here in the House, the members of the Bloc Québécois have at heart the interests of citizens, the men and women in Quebec who have worked hard throughout their lives to help our society progress. As I was saying earlier, it was not for nothing that we introduced a bill to increase the guaranteed income supplement by $100 a month, among other things. We also introduced a bill to address losses in company pension plans to help citizens who have seen or who may see a significant drop in their pensions because their company went bankrupt or experienced hardship, as was the case during the recent economic crisis.

The Bloc Québécois introduced a bill to provide a tax credit equivalent to 50% of lost revenues to individuals who have lost pension fund income. This would have allowed them to recover 50% and would have had a domino effect in the provinces, because once a bill like that passes in Ottawa, the provinces follow. This would have enabled those who lost money from their pension plans to recover part of that money through refundable tax credits. Once again, the Liberals voted against this bill.

I have experience here because I have had a plant shut down in my riding. It has now reopened because a new buyer was found, but the buyer did not purchase the company with its pension liabilities. The old company is still in talks and is under the protection of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. The company's asset, the factory, was sold and the new buyer put it back into service. But the fact remains that the Fraser pension plan remains under the protection of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. The pensioners were told that their pension plan was reduced by 35% instead of 40%.

It was a big news story. The Bloc Québécois introduced its bill in the House at that time, and the Liberals voted against it. There are still a few Liberals in the Outaouais, and they felt the need to put their oar in and say that they could not support the Bloc's bill, but that they would come up with their own proposal for solving the pension fund problems. The problem, though, is that these people have already lost money, and if they wait for the Liberals to return to power, they will be waiting for decades. The Liberals should have done something for these people and supported the Bloc Québécois's bill, but they did not.

As expected, the Conservatives opposed the bill. The Conservatives' way of helping the poor is to say they have to work. But when you are 55 or over and retired, it is not easy to find a job.

As for the forests, the Conservatives said it was necessary to diversify the economy. The forests are still there and the trees are still growing, but they said the people who worked in forestry had to become computer scientists. That is the Conservatives' approach. It is not a responsible approach, but something that was put down on paper here in Ottawa by high mucky-mucks who opted for monetary trade-offs and decided to put forestry workers into computer jobs.

In the 1990s, they tried the same thing with call centres, which sprang up all over the regions. Today, all the call centres have gone to India. The fact is that jobs that are created in an effort to diversify the economy are not stable. We can achieve stability in the forest industry by developing forest products and reviving the industry. The forests are still there, and as I said, they are still growing.

Once again, to get to that point we need to invest in research and development, support businesses and offer loan guarantees, as we have been calling for. They complied with WTO rules, but Conservative ministers made a big fuss saying that they did not comply while, at the same time, lawyers from the Canadian government were arguing the opposite before the WTO. Our opponents used statements made by ministers in the House to say that the Canadian government was saying one thing before the WTO and using its lawyers to argue its case while simultaneously telling the Canadian Parliament that this was not the way to proceed. The Conservatives have always acted like a dog chasing its tail. The Liberals cut off their own tail with the sponsorship scandal, so they cannot chase it anymore.

And these things might make you laugh, but they can also make you cry if you are a senior living below the poverty line when rent and food prices continue to rise and the measly old age security pension does not keep up with the rising cost of living. I am talking about the cost of living for seniors. The problem with the members of the House, the Conservatives as much as the Liberals, is that they do not seem to understand that the cost of living for seniors as calculated by Statistics Canada is not the average cost of living calculated by the department. And by the way, the Conservative Party was so tired of seeing the data from Statistics Canada that they changed the census form.

The cost of living for seniors includes food, medication and housing. But the costs of these items are not dropping; they continue to rise. Even property values are rising. Some would say that they are not land owners, but renters. But when the price of property rises, rent increases. If we do not build affordable housing for seniors, it is inevitable—

Statistics Act November 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to Bill C-568, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (mandatory long-form census).

This bill is a direct response to the government's desire to abolish the mandatory long form for the 2011 Census. Recently, Quebeckers and Canadians were very surprised to learn that the government had decided to change the long form questionnaire. In fact, it had been used for 35 years and, as a member, I had never received any complaints from my constituents. I have held office since 2000 and 20% of the population receives this form at some point according to the statistical requirements. People do not find it to be a problem. Otherwise, as they do in other circumstances, they would complain to their MP. Thus, it was very surprising. I asked my Bloc Québécois colleagues and none have received complaints about the mandatory long form questionnaire. It was a surprise.

When the Conservatives surprise us like this, we have to look at what is behind it all. I was listening to the Conservative member read the text prepared for him. It was all right. He concluded by stating that we must encourage Canadians to fill out the new short form. That is a fine idea. It has not gone well for them. People are unhappy that the Conservatives are making these changes. What the member did not talk about was the political strategy behind it. In fact, when the Conservatives announce this kind of surprise it is because there is a political strategy that masks the Conservative ideology. That is the reality. Once again, the Conservatives dare not openly state the reasons for this decision. That is the Conservative way: they always try to hide the reality and are never transparent.

I was very surprised by another fact as well. First of all, we are no longer hearing anything from the hon. member for Beauce, who spoke out saying that he had received thousands of emails, although that was not true. He is so embarrassed that he has not said another word about this issue since. That is true. We might try to understand what is behind this policy, which no one asked for. It was quite something to see. The Chief Statistician of Statistics Canada resigned because the minister had the nerve to say, during his first speech on the issue, that it was at the request of Statistics Canada. It has since been clearly proven that Statistics Canada definitely did not ask for the change.

Thus, it was a political decision based on Conservative ideology. The Conservatives probably realize that certain categories of people would rather not answer the questionnaire. This is even more serious. Indeed, the accuracy of the information requested, provided and compiled by Statistics Canada was recognized around the world.

In addition, some people might still believe that possible jail time was a problem, since jail time was included in the legislation. The Conservatives say they want to eliminate such sentences. So be it. We can agree easily, simply because no criminal charges have ever been brought against someone who did not fill out the form.

Quebeckers, Canadians and members of Parliament have to live with a government that pulls rabbits out of its political hat and thinks it will win votes by allowing people not to fill out the long form. That is what the government bill comes down to. The form is now shorter, but it is not mandatory. In keeping with its ideology, the government is telling people that it will not force them to fill out a form, despite the fact that many organizations want it.

I do not have much time, so I will list just a few of the organizations that have asked the government to keep the long form. First, the Province of Quebec needs these statistics, which are a very important tool with respect to language of work and language used at home, for example. The government shortened the five questions on the mandatory form and added others. The Government of Quebec, the homeland of francophones in North America, needs statistics about the language used by the people who live in Quebec.

Other provinces have opposed this move for other reasons. Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba have all asked Ottawa to maintain the mandatory long form. They are all important members of what my Conservative colleagues call the Canadian federation. Once again, the federation is not based on negotiation, particularly not with the current Conservative government, which negotiates nothing.

A number of major stakeholders have reacted. These include the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Association francophone pour le savoir, the Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d'université, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Association francophone des municipalités du Nouveau-Brunswick, the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women and the Canadian Association for Business Economics.

Many organizations do not understand the government's decision and are asking it to reconsider and not go ahead with this bad idea, which would change a good way of doing things. People respected the mandatory long form and filled it out. No charges were ever laid against anyone for failing to comply. The long form provided information of great importance to society.

The Conservatives have made a big deal in the House about asking why it would be necessary to know the number of rooms in a house. For a furniture retailer or a company selling renovation materials, it is important to know future trends in these areas. Do homes have fewer or more rooms?

The Conservatives do not get it. That is why we always come back to the question: what is the political reason behind the Conservatives' decision to change the census form? Again, they are trying to please a segment of the population that is not in Quebec. Quebeckers did not complain about having to fill out this form. If we ask, perhaps the Conservatives will tell us what category of people they were targeting when they decided to remove the mandatory nature of the long form.

I agree with them on replacing criminal sentences with a simple fine, given that such sentences have never been handed down. The Bloc Québécois would have gladly supported the government on that.

Because of all the important information that was being used by both Quebec's and Canada's civil society and corporations, we are supporting the bill before us to reinstate the mandatory long form census, as Quebec, Ontario and other provinces are calling for.

Member for Calgary Centre-North November 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, CIBC is constantly negotiating with the government. According to the registry of lobbyists, it is interested in fiscal policies, Labour Code reform, banking regulation and money laundering laws.

Does the government realize that CIBC, by laying its hands on the minister who was involved in all of these decisions because of his role on cabinet committees, is also laying its hands on government strategy, which puts the Conservative government in a vulnerable situation?

Member for Calgary Centre-North November 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, who promised to introduce the highest ethical standards, does not find it odd that one of his ministers negotiated his leap to the private sector while still in office. The problem is that a minister must put the public interest first, not the interests of the big banks.

Does the Prime Minister realize that it makes no sense for a minister to allow himself to be courted by CIBC between cabinet meetings and his various ministerial activities?

Government Priorities October 29th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, those jobs have definitely not been in the forestry sector.

With the government about to make budget cuts to eliminate the record $56 billion deficit, now would be a good time for it to sort out its priorities. In addition to sparing the Prime Minister's Office, the government continues to protect the wealthy and big oil companies by maintaining their tax breaks and undue subsidies.

Before asking people to tighten their belts any further, is it not time the Prime Minister and the wealthy did their part?

Government Priorities October 29th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, we in the Bloc Québécois rise every day to defend the interests of Quebeckers. Although the Conservatives say they do not have enough money to improve the guaranteed income supplement for our seniors or to help workers in the forestry industry, they managed to find the money to increase the budget for the Prime Minister's Office.

How can the government preach fiscal restraint when the Prime Minister gets to have an open bar?