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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is colleague.

NDP MP for Beloeil—Chambly (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 31% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Privilege April 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, when we sought to understand who speaks on behalf of the government, all we got were more smoke and mirrors.

The government made another commitment with regard to the operation of Parliament, namely that there would be no more parliamentary secretaries on committees. The last time I checked, however, if only on the committee on which I sit, the parliamentary secretary was still there. He may be a little more laconic than the Conservative government's parliamentary secretaries used to be, but once again, that is because this is all smoke and mirrors.

They maintain that they are doing things differently, but I find that hard to believe when an assistant from the whip’s office and a parliamentary secretary sit on the committee. Even if they do not speak, I suspect that the spectre of the Prime Minister’s Office looms over the committee's Liberal members as they work.

I would like to come back to the comments by the hon. member for Malpeque which I quoted, to bring us back to the key point: this is the House of Commons, not the House of cabinet. When the opposition stands united, it is in defence of our rights, Liberals included. We are beginning to see that they realize this as well. In any case, they are welcome if they want to join us to ask the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Prime Minister to require consensus before changing anything at all in our democracy.

Privilege April 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where my colleague gets the idea that our votes are not free, for I can assure him that they are. I do not understand why he would question the fact that we are mature enough to have robust discussions and then arrive at a certain consensus.

This makes two questions in a row, from two parliamentary secretaries, two representatives of the executive, that have attempted to bring up the Bloc Québécois or the operation of the NDP, even though we are talking about the operation of Parliament.

The example given by the Liberals is interesting. They speak of free votes and say that the Liberal backbenchers have won votes in spite of the government’s position, but when Bill S-201 received the support of Liberal backbenchers, the justice minister referred it to the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the amendments to Bill C-22 that were supported by certain Liberal members on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security are going to be reversed in the House.

It is all well and good, then, to say they have free votes and to congratulate themselves on that, but if the government can do an about-face on issues of fundamental importance such as medical assistance in dying and the committee of parliamentarians that will be overseeing national security agencies, then it is only smoke and mirrors. In any case, with the proposed changes, we may not even have to get up to vote any more. We will have remote voting or something.

I want to bring my Liberal colleagues back to the essential issue. To guarantee us that members’ privilege to represent their fellow citizens is properly defended, we ask for one simple thing: consensus.

Why are they unable to offer us that?

Privilege April 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, if the member wants to talk about relevance, I think we had a great case study there.

When it comes to electoral reform debate, I want to address the comments of my colleague, although I know we are getting very much off topic. I will have him know that one of the key pieces in the report that was tabled by that committee was New Democrats—even though it was not the idea that was top of mind for us—looking to Conservatives who feel we need a referendum to move forward on this, and we were able to have that discussion.

I saw the members for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and Skeena—Bulkley Valley stand at a microphone outside this place and say we had decided that, in order to bring Conservatives onside, and hopefully other parties as well, because electoral reform is a critical issue for us and we are seeking that consensus, we were willing to live with a referendum if that is the path the government chooses to go down. What happened? The Prime Minister stood and said there is no consensus.

We did that work at committee, which flies completely in the face of what the member just asserted. That is what matters in these issues, whether it is electoral reform or the way this place works. We have our ideological differences. We might not be political mercenaries like Liberals can sometimes be, certainly in the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party, but that being said, the key issue is that, when it comes to these fundamental changes, they have never been done without consensus. We will have fundamental agreements on other issues, but certainly we cannot have fundamental disagreements when it comes to changing the rules of how the heart of our democracy works.

Privilege April 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am being heckled by an MP from Toronto about provincial politics. That shows just how seriously he takes how this place works right now.

He was elected on a commitment to make this place work better, but he stood earlier in this place and said it was about making sure the executive could pass its agenda. I hope his constituents will remember that his priority here is the executive passing its agenda, and not making sure that he has the ability, both in committee and in this place, to protect his privilege.

We are not just standing for our privilege. It is for the privilege of Liberal members as well, who have unfortunately, at least in this place, been silent on this. It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall during their caucus meetings and other meetings that they have.

Not only were many of them elected in the 2015 election for the first time, but many of them also ran for the first time. I have no doubt, as I said in my speech on Tuesday on this very issue, that many of them ran because the leader of their party, who is now the Prime Minister, said that we had been going through a horrendous 10 years with a dictator in Parliament, with Stephen Harper, who does not respect the way Parliament works, who tables omnibus legislation, oops, who got elected with 38% of the vote, a so-called majority, in a system that is unfair, oops, who decides that it is more important to make announcements outside of Parliament than in Parliament, in town halls, not doing them here, oops.

All these people ran because that person, the member for Papineau who is now the Prime Minister, the man from Papineau as my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley called him, said that he would be better. He inspired literally over 100 people to run in politics, in some cases for the first time, who are here now. What does he do to thank them? He takes away their ability to participate in debate in this place and its committees. So much for real change.

The Liberal government was elected on the strength of its firm commitment to do things differently, to be different from the government of Stephen Harper and those of the other Liberal prime ministers, be it on the issue of access to Parliament Hill or invoking closure on debate and discussion, the advance distribution of the budget or a member taking photos in the House for publication on social media with negative comments about the opposition, which is simply fighting for its right to do its job, or Motion No. 6. The Prime Minister has often said he would do a better job.

The Liberal Party has to change.

He made that statement often during the last election campaign, and indeed, the Liberals have changed. Not only are they as bad as the others in some respects, but they are worse when it comes to safeguarding the importance of Parliament.

When we look at the proposed subamendments asking that the procedure and House affairs committee do better and make this issue a priority, I think that there are two things the government can do if it really believes protecting members’ privilege to be a priority. First, it can support the amendments moved by our Conservative colleagues and support the motion as a whole. In addition and above all, it can support the amendment moved by the Conservatives and guarantee that it will not go off on its own, whether on the issue of privilege or the committee's debate.

This must happen not for the members of the House, but for the people whom we represent. Personally, I want to be able to go door-to-door in my riding without every other citizen telling me that they wanted to get involved in politics because they believed in real change yet again, only to be treated with contempt and told that it was no big deal for the government to break its promises on electoral reform or on making Parliament work better.

This is why I am prepared to work with the Conservative Party, the Bloc Québécois, the Green Party, and also the Liberals. In the interest of democracy, all I ask of them is a guarantee they will engage with us and not impose their way unilaterally.

Privilege April 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I will start by saying that the debate has evolved since the last time I spoke about the question of privilege that is before us. However, one element has persisted, and that is the fact that the government does not seem to understand one thing about this question of privilege concerning access to Parliament Hill and more specifically access of the members for Milton and Beauceto the House of Commons.

If we are stuck in this debate and the Liberals are frustrated that we are still talking about this, it is their own fault. They decided to take unprecedented action, namely, to end debate without a vote and to simply move to orders of the day when the House of Commons had before it a question of privilege, which is the most fundamental issue, according to the existing rules, at least before a change is imposed by the government.

Shutting down debate on a question of privilege and moving on to the orders of the day set by the executive, as the government seems to want to do in every aspect of our work, is unprecedented. The government does not seem to understand that the reason we are still seized with this question goes beyond simple access to Parliament Hill. Access to the Hill is a very important issue that we are addressing today, but the problem is that the government unilaterally decided, as has been their style for several months now, to put an end to this debate, which sends the message that the members' privilege is not important enough and that we have to move on to one bill or another that they want to debate. That is a problem.

We are debating privilege and I will repeat what I said in my speech earlier this week. Privilege is a word that can have a negative connotation. For example, we might associate privilege with the Prime Minister's vacation on a billionaire's privately owned island. However, when we are talking about our privilege as members, we truly mean our ability to represent our constituents here in the House. That is why this is a critical issue.

On the question of privilege, there is a link that needs to be made. Whether it is access to Parliament Hill and to this building here in Centre Block or whether it is the debate on privilege, which, as our Standing Orders say, is supposed to be the issue that seizes the House when it is brought forward and when the Speaker rules that there is a prima facie breach of that privilege, that then becomes another question of privilege when the government ends that debate, despite the Speaker's ruling.

The Speaker qualified that as unprecedented. To me it is inherently linked with the behaviour of the government for over a year now. It started with Motion No. 6, when the previous government House leader decided that he was too good for members of Parliament's privilege, he and the Prime Minister. Let us face it: we know where this agenda is coming from, and with all due respect to the government House leader, it certainly is unlikely to be coming from her.

The Prime Minister and the then-government House leader decided that they were going to change the rules of the House in order to limit opposition MPs' ability to do their jobs, which is to speak on behalf of the people who elect us.

What happened then was that this whole place became chaos. The government, realizing that it and only it had driven this whole place off the rails and had delayed its own legislative agenda because of its own belligerence and its complete contradiction of its own electoral commitment to make this place work better, decided, wisely, to withdraw. Then the temperature cooled and things went a little better.

Unfortunately, the consideration given to Motion. No. 6 over the summer did not produce any results. When we returned in the fall, the government began to abuse time allocation once again. The Liberals are quickly catching up to the previous government's record number of time allocation motions, despite the clear promises that they made during the election campaign.

The government presented this discussion, this conversation, or this plan for modernization to cause confusion about its real intentions, which are to find a way to make Parliament work better for the executive branch, or cabinet, not for members in general.

The substantive issues that the government wants to discuss are very important, but we are not prepared to talk about them as long as we do not have the simple guarantee from the government that it will not proceed unilaterally, since doing so would go against a tradition that has existed in the House of Commons for over 100 years and that has always been respected by both Liberal and Conservative prime ministers.

That is the essential issue, and I do not know why the government cannot understand that. The Liberals keep asking the House why we do not want to discuss this. The reason is that it is not a discussion. It is a dialogue of the deaf, as I said in my last speech on this subject.

This government is looking in the mirror and congratulating itself for its great ideas, but it is not prepared to reach out to us and establish a concrete, formal process that will give Canadians, through their MPs, including opposition members and Liberal backbenchers, the assurance that the government will not proceed unilaterally. It is such an easy commitment to make, except, it seems, for the government House leader and, of course, the Prime Minister.

I want to come back to access to the parliamentary precinct and the question of the Liberals' true intention and ability to respect their own commitment to make this place work better. I want to look at why this problem persists. In some ways, it is getting worse when it comes to access on the Hill.

I want to preface my comments by saying once again, and on this point we can all certainly agree, anything we say criticizing the structure of how things work in this place is always in recognition of the fact that the work both the PPS, the parliamentary protective services, and the RCMP do is second to none. Certainly, it is something I have no ability to be up to the task on. Therefore, we thank them for that. We always recognize that it is a very difficult job.

However, following the events of October 22, 2014, many may have forgotten that a fundamental change was brought to how security operated on Parliament Hill. I want to remind folks of the debate. It was something the New Democrats opposed, but the Liberals and Conservatives supported giving more power to the RCMP for security. On the surface, that is something seemingly benign. However, the key is how parliamentary privilege operates in this place. When we look at the expertise of different security agencies and groups that operate security on Parliament Hill, it is a complicated thing.

The priorities of RCMP officers and their training is not the same as that of the parliamentary protective services people, who fundamentally understand what parliamentary privilege is. It is part of their training to understand the importance of allowing me, or any of my colleagues as members of Parliament, and consequently the people they represent, to get here unimpeded. It is certainly symbolic through the interventions we make representing them. The priority of the RCMP, as we saw with the events on budget day which prevented the members from Milton and Beauce in particular from getting to the Hill on time for a vote, is to protect the Prime Minister and other aspects of protection. That is fine. That is its mandate.

However, it causes confusion. We have to really wonder if the Liberals truly understand the need to really look at these fundamental questions. In the last Parliament, as on many issues that were brought forward by the previous government, they did not ask those tough questions. They just rolled over and said that they would let that change happen because of whatever reason. Unlike the New Democrats, they were not asking the questions on how this would change how this place worked.

That is important, because once again, it seems that the Liberals are doing the same thing, but on the other side now. They expect us to roll over and fundamentally change how this place works and not have a process in place that allows us to ask those questions so the work opposition MPs and Liberal backbenchers need to do can be done properly.

If we take a closer look at the overall debate on this question of privilege, the debate we are having today and have been having all week, it is interesting to note that parliamentary secretaries are pretty much the only members speaking to this issue. They represent the executive. We do not hear backbenchers say what they really think. We did hear from one backbencher, but he is very experienced and very respected by all parties in the House. The person I am talking about is the member for Malpeque, and I would like to share what he said about the opposition:

However, this place is called the House of Commons for a reason. It is not the House of cabinet or the House of PMO. Protecting the rights of members in this place, whether it is the opposition members in terms of the stance they are taking, is also protecting the rights of the other members here who are not members of cabinet or the government. We talk about government as if this whole side is the government. The government is the executive branch. We do need to protect these rights.

I could not have said it better, whether it is a question of access to Parliament Hill or a member moving to cut this same debate short, a debate on a question which the Speaker of the House, who also protects the rights of all members, has deemed critical, or when this debate is cut short or a motion is tabled in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in lieu of discussion, even though a unilateral attempt is being made to acquire more power over the same executive.

We are in full agreement when we hear such quotes. It is not in fact for the government or the executive to dictate the agenda of the House of Commons. As the Conservative colleague who preceded me said so well, it is Parliament that has to table its legislative agenda in the periods prescribed in the House. There are certain ways of doing this. There are prescribed periods and routine practices that exist. The whole way that the House works is structured, be it the duration of questions and answers during oral question period or the right to table opposition motions. These procedures have always been established with the support, consensus and consent of all the parties, all the members. This is how we preserve the sanctity and the essential functions of the House in our democracy.

For the first time in a great many years, in over 100 years, we have a government that was elected almost solely on its claim to do a better job of respecting democracy than the previous government, and yet, its actions with regard to the operation of Parliament are worse than those of all the governments that came before—not just its immediate predecessor, but every government, ever.

I do not want to exaggerate. I am not the one who is claiming this: the Speaker himself stated that the act of shutting down debate on a question of privilege is unprecedented. Jean Chrétien, Stephen Harper, Paul Martin, all the prime ministers have always sought the consensus of the opposition parties before making fundamental changes to the way that the House of Commons operates. A few minutes of research is all it takes to know that this is not the opposition's claim, but rather a historical fact.

That is why I cannot understand why the government is not simply willing to stand up and say that it will formally commit to not proceeding without consensus.

It is even more baffling when we consider that a fundamental piece of the Liberals' last election campaign, the platform they supposedly are seeking ways to unilaterally adopt, and the reason they are even doing this move in the first place, was electoral reform. However, there was no consensus on that. I suppose consensus is just about as good as everything else in the Liberals' platform; it is only when it suits them. That is unfortunate.

That is a fundamental problem with the way of operating, because if the Liberals really want to make Parliament work, it is not about cherry-picking from their election platform and deciding that consensus is only good when it is good for the Liberal Party of Canada and the front bench of the Liberal government.

Privilege April 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I was not actually talking about the member's presence in the House, but rather the fact that he did not properly identify the substance of the debate on the question of privilege and the Speaker's ruling.

As my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill explained so well earlier, cutting short the debate on a question of privilege is unprecedented. It is funny because, in his speech last Tuesday, the member for Winnipeg North and Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons spent 10 minutes selling the merits of the conversation we are supposed to have and the discussion paper the government put forward. So much for relevance.

The comment I would like my colleague to respond to first of all has to do with the very important link between access to Parliament Hill and our ability to do our job. Second, I want to emphasize the link between that and the fact that the government does not want to discuss this privilege. Lastly, I want to emphasize the very important link between this question of privilege and what is happening at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Privilege April 13th, 2017

Are we resuming debate or are we at questions and comments?

Privilege April 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. I am pleased to see that she corrected the parliamentary secretary's remarks because, in fact, had he been present for the entire debate, he would know that we resumed debate after the government tried to end debate on the question of privilege and that—

Petitions April 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table petition e-516 on behalf of Mothers Offering Mutual Support.

The petitioners are calling on the Minister of Public Safety to conduct a full review of the use of ion scanners in prisons, and to explore alternative measures of keeping drugs out of prison, given the extremely high rates of false positives and the impact that has on the rehabilitation of inmates as it causes problems with visits from family and friends. We know that is an important component to rehabilitation, and consequently to ensuring public safety.

I am very pleased to work with them and to table this petition on their behalf today.

Privilege April 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I wanted to ask him a question regarding the ruling the Speaker delivered a few days ago on the question of privilege raised by his colleague. The Speaker indicated that the fact that the government cut short the debate on access to Parliament was unprecedented. As my colleague explained, this is typical of the Liberals' attitude toward making this Parliament work or not work, whatever the case may be.

I would like him to comment on the Liberals' tactics. We are talking about our parliamentary privilege and changes to the Standing Orders of the House, but this is all part of the litany of problems that we are facing with this government. I would like to hear his thoughts on the fact that the Liberals acted in an unprecedented manner by cutting short the debate on the fundamental issue of access to Parliament Hill by the members for Milton and for Beauce.