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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was going.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Independent MP for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 42% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that was another great speech from my colleague, the member for Winnipeg North.

We have been hearing from the government side that ratifying this convention or treaty is going to enhance our reputation on the worldwide stage. My colleague referred to our position and how our reputation is being viewed across the globe. He mentioned the fact that this treaty has been hanging around for eight years now. This bill has been in Parliament. I think it was tabled twice since the last election.

I would like to ask the member how it enhances the reputation of Canada when in fact we do not see any signs of that, by actually ratifying this treaty?

Committees of the House June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, supplementary to the previous two interventions, I would like to highlight for the House that on page 51 of the English version of the report on the Canada–European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement, the Liberal Party also submitted a supplementary report, and I recommend that all hon. members read it.

Saint-René-Goupil Church June 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, on February 15, I attended a multilingual mass that opened the celebrations of Saint-René-Goupil Church’s 50th anniversary.

I am looking forward to the closing celebration on June 15, 2014, which will be presided over by His Excellency Msgr. Christian Lépine, Archbishop of Montreal, along with the church’s current and previous pastors. Given the amount of love shown during the opening celebration, this closing mass promises to be a truly special occasion.

Being a pillar of our community is a great accomplishment. That is why I would like to recognize the exceptional work of Pastor Raul Garcia and the entire church family, which includes dedicated volunteers, such as Gilberte Tremblay, who do exceptional work bringing together people from different generations and cultural communities to build a socially conscious parish that strives to make life better for all of us.

Congratulations to the members of Saint-René-Goupil Church on 50 wonderful years, and my best wishes for many more to come.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question and I thank the member from the Toronto region.

Once again, we are different from the New Democrats. Yes, the program was a success, but it did not create a single job. It gave employers a tax credit because their insurance premiums had gone up. There was no evidence. As an accountant, I know the program.

Yes, it was a success, but the previous government, the Liberal government, did the same thing. It was not an NDP idea. The program helped small businesses. I think it would have been possible to maintain the program, to help small businesses because it was easy for them to access the program and the money. There was no more paperwork to fill out. However, there is no evidence that a single job was created because of the program.

Once again, our opinion differs from the NDP's.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I must acknowledge the presence of the minister in the House at this hour. I commend him.

That is a very good question. That is odd. Last year, by the time the program was announced, there were already ads saying that jobs had been created. Now, the minister just admitted that the program did not exist and that it still does not exist. The only thing that has happened is that an agreement has been made. However, the agreement was forced on the provinces because this government threatened them and forced them to accept the money or lose it.

Has the program created a single job? Is there a single student who has registered for these educational programs? I do not know of any.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this evening to debate Bill C-31, the 2014 budget implementation bill.

With this bill, the Prime Minister is handing us another deficit budget and further proof of the Conservative government's mismanagement. This government is completely out of touch with Canadians.

The Liberal Party and our leader have repeatedly asked the Prime Minister to listen to the needs of the middle class. We have asked for specific actions. This budget does not give the middle class the help it needs even though that should be a priority for the Prime Minister.

The only thing this government cares about is balancing the budget in an election year because it wants to change its disastrous reputation on the economy. The only thing this government cares about is its political interests. It is ignoring Canadians' pressing needs.

Every year, the Prime Minister promises to balance the budget, but he never succeeds. Ever since day one of their mandate, the Conservatives have been announcing supposed improvements in the economy, but we are actually going backward. All this budget has to offer is temporary, vague measures that will not improve people's quality of life.

The government has given us a discouraging budget. Canadians need investments that will stimulate economic growth. This budget is no better than the ones that came before, yet as we all know, the needs are many.

The Liberal Party knows that the middle class needs to be heard. The budget should always be in line with the middle class's interests, not the Prime Minister's election interests.

I would also like to emphasize the government's incredible lack of respect for Canadian democracy. I oppose this budget implementation bill because it is rife with changes and amendments that should not be in this financial document.

For example, there are amendments to rail transportation regulations, food safety, the number of federal judges and the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act. This is a catch-all bill that amends a vast number of bills that we should have been able to debate separately in the House.

As we all know, the government is perfectly aware that it can use this technique to avoid a lot of debates. We also know that it is not right for a government to do this. This is the Conservatives' way of avoiding debate in the House.

In terms of budget measures for post-secondary education, the government needs to co-operate with the provinces instead of getting in their way. All of the education measures announced in this budget had already been promised before. The government is serving up old promises that it never fulfilled. The budget does not offer any solutions to student debt, nor does it improve access to education.

What we really needed in terms of education was a much more focused plan to work with the provinces, so that measures would be successful. We need skilled workers and we want the majority of people to have access to post-secondary education. I think the best way to stimulate our economy is to focus on education and innovation. We cannot improve our education outcomes when the government acts as though it has power over the provinces.

As for employment, the government needs to work with the provinces to find solutions that work for Canadians. The provinces were largely critical of this budget. It does not offer them much in terms of education or employment. The employment action plan should not involve putting massive amounts of pressure on the provinces.

For example, negotiations should not in any way undermine or result in cuts to professional training programs for the most vulnerable workers. Furthermore, since the government's proposed Canada job grants were a failure, I think it is up to this government to find alternatives, to offer real support to workers and to help the unemployed find work. These are the kinds of things that middle-class Canadians worry about on a daily basis.

The Conservatives are demonstrating, yet again, that we cannot trust their promises about employment assistance. The government must do more to help create jobs and increase the number of skilled labourers. These are the things that Canadians worry about on a daily basis: the economy, debt, retirement, education, access to employment and so on. How is it possible that the Conservative government is not listening to what Canadians are saying? What right does it have to refuse to listen and think only about its own self-interest?

Economic growth requires significant investment if we want to see surpluses in the long term. The government cannot expect that repeatedly slashing spending in order to balance the budget will have a positive effect in the future. The government needs to work to increase employment opportunities, offer better opportunities for the middle class and young families and implement the many announcements made in the previous budget, including creating a code of conduct for the financial sector and eliminating fees for paper bills.

I urge the Prime Minister to honour his previous commitments. We need a far more ambitious and flexible economic plan for the middle class and Canadian families.

In addition to not thinking about the need to invest in order to stimulate the economy, the government is making improper cuts. For example, cuts to the defence budget are just an inappropriate way of maintaining a balanced or surplus budget. The government is simply putting off buying military equipment. By eliminating those expenses from the 2014 budget, the Conservatives are showing Canadians that they are neither responsible nor honest. They are just putting off that spending, which they had already committed to. Next year, $3.1 billion will have to be found somewhere so that the Conservatives can deliver on their promises.

Is that a responsible, honest way of balancing the budget? I do not think so. How can we legitimize those types of cuts? The Canadian Forces require certain equipment to ensure that each mission is successful. Be it major equipment, basic trucks or supplies, our troops must not face equipment shortages. It is irresponsible of the government to cut the defence budget in order to balance the budget.

It comes as no surprise, but the government broke an election promise it made in 2011. When income splitting did not garner the support he hoped to get for the next election, the Prime Minister cut his promise from this budget. We all knew this program would not last because it is far too expensive and it does not really benefit the middle class.

The Conservative Party campaigned on this economic promise, but now it is dropping it because it did nothing for the party. Again, the government is starting to lose people's trust, and no wonder. This is not the first time the Conservatives have made these types of mistakes. True to form, they are concealing information to hide their mistakes from the public. This example shows that the government is unable to ensure that its promises are feasible.

One of the most important aspects of this bill for my region is the confirmation that there will be a toll on the Champlain Bridge. I will not get into that just yet because I have some questions about that. The public is calling for clear and tangible benefits for families and members of the middle class who are concerned about their future and their children's future. The measures introduced by the minister in his latest budget do not put the public in a better position.

Is it not the role of the Prime Minister to find effective ways to help families and improve their living conditions? I believe he has a responsibility to provide a budget centred on Canadians who are concerned. They are concerned because the budget does not offer them anything meaningful in terms of education, employment and infrastructure. Families, the middle class, public servants and soldiers are losing out. It is high time that the government realized that taxpayers are sick of seeing their interests and demands left out of the federal budget.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie.

He referred to the Liberal Party's position a number of times, but he made many mistakes in presenting our position.

The last three or four speeches were made by NDP members, and not two of them said the same thing.

I wonder if the hon. member could explain the NDP's position? I do not think his position reflected that of his colleagues. Could he comment on that?

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is a fantastic question. I want to congratulate my colleague on his election a few months ago. I congratulated him outside the House, but this is the first time I have had the chance to do so officially in the House.

We said the same thing: the Conservatives are signing a free trade agreement without any conditions because they are always playing catch-up. We are seeing it with this free trade agreement. It was negotiated in 2010 and, four or five years later, it has yet to be ratified in the House. It could have been done when it was tabled. We are already lagging behind the United States, which signed an agreement 10 years ago.

Some Canadian companies are losing a share of the market. Some workers are losing their jobs because a main office in Montreal is having business dealings with Honduras. We are losing commercial opportunities and jobs. We cannot sign free trade agreements without giving it any thought.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am not a cheerleader for this agreement. I am saying that we will support it. There are issues. We do not support free trade without imposing certain conditions like the Conservatives and we are not against free trade like the NDP.

I will explain it to the member. There are already Canadian companies doing business in Honduras. This agreement will help Canadian companies that are doing business in Honduras. There are American companies that are taking business away from Canadian companies, companies that perhaps are in the member's riding or province. They have come before committee and testified that we are losing business. We are way behind. As much as the government likes to say that it has been signing free trade agreements, we have a trade deficit.

The member started off by saying that he wishes it was a Liberal government. So do I, especially in the area of free trade. We were champions when we were in government. When we signed free trade agreements, they were real free trade agreements. There were conditions imposed upon other countries. If we were going to sign an agreement, it did not matter with which country it was; those conditions had to be respected. We made sure that Canadian companies and Canadian individuals were protected.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-20 concerning the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Honduras, for which the agreement in principle was concluded on November 5.

Free trade is a very important policy for Canada. The many advantages of free trade cannot be ignored, and it goes without saying that the strength of the Canadian economy relies on opening new markets. For that reason I do not understand why the government is delaying finalizing the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Honduras. I would like the government to move more quickly and to take concrete action with respect to emerging markets. This agreement is a start, but it is not indicative of the ambition that Canada should have with respect to international markets.

I am also wondering why the government has suddenly found that there is an urgent need for action in this area. I am wondering about the government's sense of urgency, because it has been negotiating this agreement since 2010. It has taken the government almost three years to put this agreement back on the table. Surprisingly, in 2010, the government was talking about short-term trade prospects. I wonder whether the government really takes international trade seriously, whether it is really a priority, or if this is just empty rhetoric.

If we look at the figures for 2012, we see that Canadian exports to Honduras totalled $38.6 million. Bilateral trade between Canada and Honduras during the same period totalled $257.2 million, while Canadian imports from Honduras were valued at $219 million.

While trade between the two countries is not substantial, there are still many companies waiting for progress to be made in this area. They are looking for more openness, and unlike the NDP, which rejects the bill without understanding the importance of free trade agreements, I think we need to consider businesses and workers.

Once a free trade agreement is in place, Canadians can expect to see more jobs for the middle class and more business opportunities for companies. The Liberal Party has mentioned this fact on a number of occasions both in and outside the House. Every effort must be made to help the middle class.

Consideration must also be given to potential trade opportunities for Canada. Given the size of Canada’s economy, it is critically important for us to compete globally for emerging markets. In my view, the government needs to be more serious and more transparent when it comes to this matter. It needs to answer questions over its failure to take action with respect to other emerging markets.

I agree that international markets are more open from an economic standpoint. The world and trade are evolving rapidly. This means we need to act more quickly on free trade initiatives.

Certain Canadian businesses stated in committee that they had lost a share of the commercial market in Honduras when the free trade agreements between Central America and the United States were signed in 2005. They pointed out that Canada needed to act as quickly as possible to regain this share of the market. We are already lagging behind. A free trade agreement with the Republic of Honduras represents an important step in the resumption of trade with Central America. However, we will then have to turn our attention to Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and El Salvador and negotiate additional agreements.

Previous Liberal governments in fact concluded trade agreements with far more influential countries like Costa Rica, the State of Israel and Chile.

Consider Chile, for example. Bilateral trade of goods with that country represents $2.5 million Canadian, and exports to Chile amount to $789 million Canadian. We are talking about trade that is almost 10 times greater than that between Canada and the Republic of Honduras.

Although this government boasts of having negotiated several agreements, such as the agreements with Colombia, Jordan, Panama and the one being negotiated with the Republic of Honduras, only the agreement reached with Peru appears to be as ambitious as those achieved by Liberal governments.

These agreements do not position Canada where it should be in the global economy. As is its responsibility, I urge the government to do more for international trade.

Furthermore, in addition to the free trade agreement, an agreement on environmental co-operation has been reached with the Republic of Honduras. That agreement refers to the promotion of stronger environmental policies and sound environmental management. The Canadian government must make sure it keeps those promises and develops measures designed to improve environmental performance. It must also ensure that businesses involved in trade between the two countries comply with them. For the moment, the agreement makes no mention of any audit mechanism. That means there would be no penalties for businesses contravening these agreements.

When it comes to the environment, the Conservatives have some work to do to regain Canadians’ trust. The environment has never been a priority for the Conservatives, and everyone knows it. It is therefore surprising that they have moved forward with an agreement of this kind.

Can the Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade give us any guarantees that this environmental co-operation agreement will be a success?

There is also talk about labour co-operation agreements. We ask that the government ensure that workers’ fundamental rights are a priority and that labour law is complied with, here and in Honduras.

It is essential that any increase in trade occurs in a manner respectful of workers and that free trade between the two countries will not lead to weakened labour rights.

Once this agreement is final, we will be entitled to demand acceptable wages and working conditions for the workers of the Republic of Honduras.

As my colleagues previously mentioned, we are aware of the unstable situation in Honduras, and we believe it is not a situation that warrants the economic isolation of that country. We must ensure that increased trade between the two countries can be achieved through harmonious relations and that free trade side agreements will be complied with.

This agreement will help strengthen the national economy of Honduras and at the same time prevent certain violations of fundamental rights by force of the ties that will bind us. Economic ties between countries have the power to encourage better behaviour.

The government must still make sure that this economic agreement works properly; otherwise, trade must be halted. That calls for a great deal of vigilance and oversight in the areas of labour and the environment.

If the government really wants to guarantee human rights in Honduras as part of this free trade agreement, it must issue an annual report and require one from Honduras, so that the public can see whether human rights have been respected as trade between the two countries grows.

We are entitled to require compliance with these parallel agreements, and to have proof of compliance. I hope that this government will remain vigilant with respect to the adverse consequences of the bill, given the unstable situation in Honduras. We must remain alert and monitor the internal situation in that country.

In conclusion, I support this bill, because it represents a first step toward trade with new markets. Because our economy is based on exporting, I believe that eliminating barriers to trade can only be beneficial to Canada. I therefore ask the government to be more persuasive in this bill on free trade with Honduras, and to ensure that Canada is open to emerging markets in a way that fully reflects our values. The government must provide for better monitoring of the political, economic and environmental situation in the countries with which we trade. Otherwise, Canada’s image could suffer.