House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Pontiac (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 23% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Government Spending September 19th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is clear the Conservatives like to fly. Unlike them, few Canadians have the opportunity to fly to Boston to watch a hockey game or to Tim Hortons for a coffee. In the case of some ministers, travel by private jet has increased by 50%. We would prefer to see such an increase in the use of public transportation.

Can the government come up with a better excuse to justify this use than saying that the Liberals did worse?

Government Spending September 19th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Conservative ministers are developing quite a passion for the use of high-flying government jets. The Minister of Finance and the Minister of National Defence make particular liberal use of the jets. The Prime Minister says that everything is fine because he pays the paltry equivalent of a commercial airline ticket.

Why have the Conservatives abandoned their commitment to respect taxpayers dollars when it comes to jetting around the country?

William Commanda September 19th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, on August 3, 2011, a great man passed away. William Commanda, the spiritual leader of an international peace movement, the Circle of Nations, died at the age of 97.

In my riding of Pontiac, he was the chief of the Kitigan Zibi reserve from 1951 to 1970. He dedicated his entire life to protecting the environment and staunchly defending the rights of aboriginal peoples.

William Commanda was a trapper, a guide, a birch bark canoe craftsman, a chief and a spiritual leader who travelled around the world.

Mr. Commanda received a number of distinctions, including the lifetime achievement award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation.

My NDP colleagues and I offer our sincere condolences to Mr. Commanda's family and to the entire Algonquin nation.

Rest in peace, Ojigkwanong.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I very much liked the hon. member's speech, and I am interested by one aspect in particular.

That is the relationship between the union movement and progress in society in general. Could the hon. member talk a little more about that? It would be very helpful.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague what the link is between workers who negotiate and make gains and the rest of the Canadian population.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Of course, Madam Speaker, but first we must act in good faith. We must start off on the right foot and resume negotiations.

How can it be done when the government imposes salary increases that are less than those offered by the employer? It is impossible. The first thing to do is to ensure that workers' interests are protected, so that we can then sit at the table and resume negotiations in a respectful fashion.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the hon. member is getting his statistics, but Canada Post has made $381 million. One would think that it could pay a decent wage to the workers and ensure pensions. The CEO is making close to $600,000 a year. There are 55,000 postal workers in this country who should have a decent wage and a decent pension, and Canada Post can afford it.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to wish everyone in my constituency of Pontiac and in Quebec a happy national holiday.

I have listened closely to the debate over the past 18 or 20 hours and have come to the conclusion that it is a debate about the role of government in civil society. On that issue, I believe this government must be reminded of the history it seems so easily to disregard. That is odd for a conservative party.

The 19th century proved that unbridled capitalism was unrealistic. We have learned that we cannot rely on the good faith of big business and management when it comes to workers' conditions. There are good reasons why we have unions. I would remind the government that the higher the degree of capitalism, the more abuses there are. Sometimes the “big bosses” decided all issues for workers, sometimes even life and death matters.

The work week in the 19th century varied from 60 to 70 hours. It was 60 hours in the secondary sector and 70 hours in the tertiary sector. Fifteen-hour days were not unusual. Workers generally did not even have enough time to eat. Children made up 8% of the labour force in Quebec in 1891 and were such cheap labour that demand exceeded supply. They worked to the point of exhaustion in unsanitary conditions, exposed to all risks and without supervision. It was in those extremely difficult conditions that workers established unions to protect themselves from the vagaries of the new, impersonal labour market.

Although the first unions were small, local organizations, they immediately triggered hostile reactions from governments and employers. Governments in fact declared the unions illegal. Union movement sympathizers were blacklisted and constantly subjected to intimidation. That is why legislation was introduced to protect workers. Despite the strength of this opposition, the poor wages and the dangerous working conditions, strikes and protests increased, and the unions became established. It is a heroic story, I think.

The government often played a negative role in this story, and we have learned a great deal about the nature of government thanks to the union movement. The dark hours in the history of the union movement show that the role of the state should be to protect its citizens and to remain neutral in labour-management disputes, but, instead of remaining neutral, this government shows contempt for workers and their hard-won rights.

The truth is that the workers of this country and of the world, the ancestors of the vast majority of us, have bled for the right to organize and protect themselves.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers began a series of rotating strikes last week. They have a right to do that. The union nevertheless offered to end the strike if the company allowed the old contract remain in effect during the negotiations, but Canada Post refused to do so.

At midnight on June 15, Canada Post decided to lock out its employees and to shut down mail service. That is no longer a strike; it is a lockout, an unjustifiable lockout because Canada post is profitable and provides high-quality service.

Let us compare the cost of sending a letter in Canada with the alternatives in the private sector. We pay 59¢ to mail a standard letter. In Germany, it costs 77¢, in Austria it is 88¢, and in the Netherlands it is 64¢. Therefore, why put workers into a corner and force them to accept concessions regarding their salaries and benefits, when the corporation is making $381 million in profits and its CEO is paid over $600,000? It does not make any sense.

It is difficult not to conclude that Canada Post is taking a hard line, to the point of putting services in peril, particularly in rural and remote areas such as mine. Again, the role of the state is to remain neutral and to facilitate an agreement. It is not to side with the employer.

I, like many others in the House, have heard concerns from constituents in my riding about receiving cheques and payments. These concerns are well-founded, but the reality is that they are not caused by striking workers.

The rotating strikes by CUPW were designed to ensure that the essential mail was delivered, but Canada Post has chained the doors. The workers cannot get in to do their essential work. They did not ask for this. Canadians did not ask for this.

I invite Canadians and the people of my riding to see the situation for what it is: a tactic on behalf of Canada Post and the government to exert pressure. Instead of acting to bring both parties back to the table and restore good faith, the government has chosen this labour dispute to stomp on the rights of all workers.

It is Canada Post and the government which have attacked the most vulnerable. It is this lockout and this bill. They are the ones depriving single mothers of their monthly child tax benefit cheques. They are the ones depriving seniors of receiving their GIS or OAS payments. They are the ones depriving Canadians who depend on CPP disability benefit payments and low-income Canadians waiting on tax return cheques or, in the case of some of my constituents, their disability cheques and business payments, both of which Canada Post refuses to give them. Those are tactics.

We should also realize that this legislation is not an accident. The fact that the first great labour battle with the government is with CUPW is not an accident. I, for one, salute the great work postal workers have done in the past to ensure social progress in our country. They have been at the forefront of many progressive struggles.

CUPW was the first Canadian union to pass a boycott resolution against South African apartheid. It has also taken stances against the Iraq war, as well as against NAFTA and FTAA. CUPW is also a major reason why we have maternity leave benefits in our country.

If the government is neutral, as it repeats ad nauseam, as if repeating it will make it true, why impose a lower wage than offered by the management of Canada Post in the bill. This goes against the entire principle of collective bargaining. We call for this section of the bill to be removed immediately.

Finally, I will add my voice to that of my colleagues. Take the locks off and give Canada Post workers a decent wage, decent pensions and dignity.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 23rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister's concern for the economy but the reality is that it is not only about the economy. This is about democracy. It is about how the checks and balances in our society function. We have to ask if there is such a thing as a right to strike when governments can make a simple call and lock out workers.

I will paint a picture. The government wants to privatize Canada Post so it creates a crisis, blames everything on union labour and prepares the ground to proceed to privatization.

Could the minister confirm that this is what the government actually wants to do?

International Trade June 22nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, trade agreements can benefit a country when it negotiates a good agreement. However, this government has abandoned Canadians with its bad agreements. The cost of patented drugs in Canada is the fourth highest in the world. But the European agreement offers nothing to improve the quality of our health care. It only increases our drug costs.

Will this government stand up for Canadians and work on improving the agreement?