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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

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the excellent member for Sherbrooke, who does wonderful work. He is without a doubt the best member of Parliament that Sherbrooke has ever had since Confederation.

I might say that I am pleased to speak in the House to this bill. However, I must say that it is not necessarily a pleasure for me to do so, because this is yet another omnibus budget bill, another bill that undermines our democratic institutions.

What is more, it does not allow us to do our job properly as parliamentarians and to debate all the issues it contains. This is the fifth edition in a series of omni-budgets. It is not for sale, but I do not think many people would want to buy it. This is like getting a series of books that no one wants to read because they are too long and too perverse. In fact, they are horror stories.

Bill C-43 has 460 pages and more than 400 clauses that affect dozens of statutes. Most of the proposed changes in this mammoth bill have no connection with last spring's 2014 budget.

I understand that the government is in a hurry to remake the country in its own image. However, it is going about it in an underhanded way so that journalists, parliamentarians, and Canadians do not have enough time to say everything they want to say about the measures set out in the budget.

I would like to give an example. I apologize for using my phone. In these modern times, people communicate with me, as they do with all my other colleagues, through incredible new technology.

To come back to my example, my constituents are worried about the clauses in Bill C-43 pertaining to airports, which centralize more ministerial power over the expansion and modification of airports, raising the risk that local consultation will not occur in the face of controversial proposals like the Toronto Island airport expansion.

Some of my constituents also raised the issue of security in private airports. Who will monitor the arrivals, departures and contents of small planes if the government does not set up a monitoring system? How can we ensure that all of the airports or municipalities in which they are located have the required emergency measures in place in case of an air disaster? Will the federal government help the municipalities so that they have all the tools they need to ensure the safety of Canadians?

The NDP is in touch with Canadians. That is why I took the time to read the comment made by one of my constituents. People are concerned that the measures in this omnibus bill will affect their safety and air security across the country. They are rightfully asking what might be the consequences, whether their municipality will be consulted on these changes and whether these changes will affect their family's safety.

It is just a comment, but it shows how much my constituents and other Canadians want to discuss the measures hidden in this bill.

This bill amends dozens of unrelated acts without adequate parliamentary debate and oversight. It fails also to take meaningful action to create jobs and address weak economic growth.

The riding I represent is one of the poorest in Quebec. It has challenges related to a number of industries. The forestry industry, which was a fundamental backbone of the economy in the region, has been in crisis for several years. It is also an agricultural community, but the price of various agricultural commodities has been an issue in the past, which has also led to increased poverty.

Particularly for youth, but also for seniors, it is very difficult to get a job in the Pontiac riding. It is very difficult to keep a job, and the changes the current government made to EI have made it even more difficult. Essentially, due to those changes, the entire region of the Pontiac is being emptied of its best brains, skilled workers, and youth, because they are forced to go even further to get jobs. They are forced to prove that they have to go further. Therefore, communities like Low, Kazabazua, and even Danford Lake are having issues with retention. How are these communities going to last? Unfortunately, they are scratching their heads with regard to this budget and how it would help them.

What kind of investments are there in the forestry industry? There was a promise at one point to put millions of dollars into ensuring that the forestry industry could renew itself and have new technologies. The problem is that the amount is not enough, nor is there any guarantee for communities that are rural and poor that they will receive that money. With $225 million for the whole country, and it taking millions of dollars to renew just one particular industry in one particular town, that $225 million spread out across the country would do little or nothing to help the people in the Pontiac.

I would point out that I spoke in favour of and supported a bill in the House to ensure the consumption of Canadian wood products by Public Works. It seems reasonable that taxpayers should expect that the Canadian government would consume Canadian products when it is building Canadian infrastructure, and wood is a particularly good material for building a number of buildings.

I would also point out that Bill C-43 is an outright attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society, such as refugee claimants.

As well, there is the implementation of a job credit that has already been panned by experts and the Parliamentary Budget Officer as wasteful and extraordinarily expensive. We are going to waste even more of taxpayers' money through this omnibus bill.

There is nothing in the bill to get, as I mentioned, the almost 300,000 more unemployed Canadians than before the recession back to work or to help replace the 400,000 manufacturing jobs lost under the current Prime Minister's watch, mostly in southern Ontario but also in places like the Pontiac.

This is a question of choices. The Conservatives can choose to help the rich and help the largest corporations in this country that have the ear of the Prime Minister and the government, or they can choose to use the budget to help those who are in need. They can choose to give them the services they need and deliver those services and ensure that it is done efficiently. They can also choose to invest in the health, well-being, and security of Canadians.

However, the choices being made are the wrong ones. They are fundamentally not in the public interest. They are in the interest of a few, and it is unfortunate to see this lack of dedication to the well-being of hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

Petitions December 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is my right and my duty to present this petition asking the government to do more to fight drunk driving and to amend the Criminal Code by adding more penalties for drunk driving cases.

Access to Information December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in his first report to Parliament, Kevin Page's successor condemns the Conservatives' lack of transparency regarding cuts to federal programs. The government responded to only 55% of the Parliamentary Budget Officer's requests for information. He is also calling for more powers and resources to properly inform Canadians.

Why are the Conservatives not co-operating with the Parliamentary Budget Officer? What do they have to hide?

Access to Information December 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, while the Information Commissioner is scrounging around for money to balance her books, the Conservatives are throwing the door wide open to raising fees. Some are even talking about $200 per media request. That will do nothing to increase access to information.

This government has the audacity to brag about its open data policy. Instead of fleecing the public even more, why do the Conservatives not meet deadlines and give the Information Commissioner the resources she needs?

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2014-15 December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, could the President of Treasury Board confirm that the supply bill is in its usual form?

(On clause 2)

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act November 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this evening to participate in the debate on this bill because this is a very important issue in the Pontiac. I would like to congratulate the member who decided to introduce it.

It goes without saying that I represent a forestry-oriented riding, and we have been exploiting that resource for a very long time. As soon as the region was colonized, settlers began cutting down trees to provide masts for use in building the British Empire's naval fleet. One of those people was the wood baron, Mr. Bryson, who bestowed his name upon a municipality in my riding. Over the years, the industry gradually switched its focus to pulp and paper.

In the Outaouais, the pulp and paper industry still employs 1,300 people and remains one of the pillars of manufacturing. However, there is no hiding the fact that in my region as in the rest of Quebec, the industry is in crisis. I have a quote here from “2012-2014 Sectoral Outlook — Outaouais” by Marie-Chantale Parent, a Service Canada economist:

...in spite of the erosion of its share of traditional markets. Like printing, it has been affected by competition from electronic media and reduced demand for printed products. In spite of major technological changes introduced to increase productivity, cut unit costs and meet environmental standards, it is unable to withstand competition from emerging countries in foreign markets. While there seems to be no way out of this situation for newsprint producers, the outlook is better for makers of specialized papers, but given the technologies in use, the employment gains are not enough to offset the losses in other segments of the industry. So it is that some 100 jobs are expected to be lost over the outlook period.

That being said, the wood industry has growth potential in the region. As subject matter expert Guy Chiasson wrote in “L'attractivité des territoires ruraux en Outaouais: quel espoir?”, his analysis of the future of rural parts of the Outaouais:

Even though it has been high graded, like many others, the Outaouais forest still has a great deal of development potential, especially because of its vast diversity (presence of many hardwood tree species). As a result of a poorly diversified development model based on primary processing (sawing) for export and dominated (in the case of public forests) by forestry companies and the state, local communities are by and large still not maximizing this potential. The result is that even though they are close to a rather abundant forestry resource, local communities remain in a state of dependency regarding the forest. In other words, they are not really benefiting from it that much in terms of development, and they have little say in how it is managed and developed.

It is therefore crucial to my region and the forestry workers I represent that the government take a serious look at the crisis in the forestry industry in Quebec. The government should be helping sawmills and plants to transform themselves and become more competitive. The funding earmarked for this in the last budget was simply not enough. Compared to the subsidies this government gives to big oil, it is shameful. It is not clear that that funding will reach the vast majority of small sawmills like the ones in Pontiac.

However, the industry will need to develop new markets to grow, when our industry becomes competitive again.

Obviously, developing an internal, domestic market for wood products would be very welcome in the region, which is very close to the national capital region. I am not just talking about international markets gained through free trade agreements where it is not very clear whether the Canadian forestry industry can compete with foreign industries. Creating a larger domestic market for our forestry products is the main purpose of this bill. That is why I support it.

Under the bill, before soliciting bids for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal immovables and federal real property, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services would be required to give preference to the concept that promotes the use of wood while taking into account the factors of cost and greenhouse gas emissions. That is excellent: the use of wood is required.

For example, a life cycle cost analysis prepared by the United States Department of Defense showed that wooden structures cost 40% less per square foot than those made of steel or masonry. The cost of construction was 37% less for wood, and the operating and maintenance costs were 57% less for wood than for other materials.

The use of wood could also prove to be more environmentally friendly. Increased use of wood can benefit all related areas with the development of biomaterials. We could efficiently reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop higher value-added wood products.

Today, composite biomaterials are a remarkable advance that combines the two different types of materials. Export markets and other markets, such as pipelines, can help absorb any changes resulting from the selection of materials that Public Works and Government Services Canada would make. We should remember that PWGSC only represents a small percentage of the Crown's portfolio.

I will begin my concluding remarks. I support the position of the stakeholders in this file. I support, for example, the Canada Green Building Council, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the Quebec Forest Industry Council, the Canadian Wood Council, the Government of Quebec's wood charter and the Forest Products Association of Canada. Like them, I support forestry workers. I support the use of local products, and I am calling on the government to make better choices for the forestry industry.

The reality is that the forestry industry is in full crisis mode in the Pontiac. It needs to transform itself to become more competitive internationally and to offer products that are different from the products that were offered before. To do that, it fundamentally needs a head start.

When we are looking at all of the free trade agreements that the Conservative government is putting in place, has it done the basic work of looking at the weaknesses of our forestry industry? Is it looking at those weaknesses vis-à-vis other forestry powers in the world? I am thinking about the Scandinavian countries. Alternatively, is it just going to basically let products flood our market?

The intent of this bill is welcomed. The creation of a domestic market, albeit a small one, but still part of a domestic market, for the consumption of environmentally-friendly wood products for Public Works projects. It is clear that this would help, but we also need, fundamentally, an investment to allow our industry in Quebec to change. We need capital investment to change in order to become more competitive internationally.

Public Works and Government Services November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, 10 years after the Liberals terminated the Envoy contract for the relocation of public servants, we are learning from the public accounts that the price tag for their incompetence is $35 million, the amount needed to quietly settle with a bidder that was cavalierly pushed aside by the Liberals.

Can the government explain why most large bidding processes end in catastrophe and why, at the end of the day, Canadians are forced to pick up the tab?

Public Works and Government Services November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, back in 2004, the Liberal government was sued by the firm Envoy after realizing that the integrated public service relocation program, which cost the government $300 million annually, was rigged.

Now, 10 years later, the Conservative government has paid $35 million to settle the lawsuit, but that was not made public and it was not announced anywhere. Everything was kept secret until it had to be revealed, buried deep in the public accounts.

Would the government tell us if the settlement means that there was serious wrongdoing?

Ethics November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages is trying to get off the hook and suggesting that she did not know that her team was approaching lobbyists who do business with her department. That is a fine excuse.

The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner clearly said that the minister should have given her staff proper training.

Does the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages think it is ethical to solicit donations from organizations that get funding from her department?

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

Clearly, children living in difficult socioeconomic situations are more vulnerable. I am not necessarily prepared to say that there is a direct link between these crimes and a child's socioeconomic situation. This is a scourge that affects all walks of life.

However, I think that there is a definite link between a child's vulnerability and his or her socioeconomic situation. There is also a link with minority groups in our country that are marginalized. I am thinking about aboriginal peoples, for example. Aboriginal children and women are much more likely to be abused than non-aboriginal children and women in Canada. That concerns me.

It is fundamental that we keep every child in Canada safe. That takes more than just legislation. They also need to be able to live comfortably in a neighbourhood that will help them thrive and grow in body and mind. We hope to create that kind of society.

It was an excellent question.