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NDP MP for Beloeil—Chambly (Québec)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 31% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Petitions March 22nd, 2017
Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to clarify something. I wanted to vote in favour of the motion.
While I am on my feet, since we are talking about unilateral moves and privilege, I would point out that some members received the budget before others. In the spirit of what we are debating today, about the government wanting to do things on its own and not include the opposition, I think that is a great point to raise as well.
Business of Supply March 21st, 2017
Mr. Speaker, on the eve of the budget presentation, I am pleased to speak to an opposition motion that deals with the budget. In a way, we are beginning the budget debate a day early.
We agree with many of the Conservatives' proposals, particularly regarding the problems related to privatizing airports. Of course, we also agree that the Liberals are completely out of touch with today's reality and the inequality that Canadians currently face. They talk about helping the middle class, but on the ground, that is definitely not what is happening.
Nevertheless, we unfortunately cannot support this opposition motion. One reason for that was addressed by my colleague from Vancouver East. This does nothing to tackle tax problems, such as the tax rate for large corporations. These issues are very important to us.
Despite the heckling we heard during the question and despite the tax cut from 22% to 15%, not only did the federal treasury lose money, but the jobs that were promised never materialized. On the contrary, businesses that were supposed to benefit from the tax cut for large corporations left Canada and set up shop elsewhere.
That being said, I heard the hon. Conservative member, in his response to the question, talk about the importance of small and medium-sized businesses and his own experience as an entrepreneur. We agree on this. Although we would like to see corporate tax rates go up, which, by the way, would still keep us competitive with the United States, a neighbouring economy that is our biggest competition, we want to lower the tax rate for small and medium-sized businesses. It is important to mention that in the context of the opposition motion and especially in the context of the budget that will be presented tomorrow.
During the last Parliament, in the last Conservative budget just before the election, the Conservatives promised to lower the tax rate on SMEs over the coming years. That was good, but not quite fast enough for our liking. We wanted it to be done right away. The Liberals remained mum on the issue. During the election campaign, we heard the Prime Minister claim that if this tax cut went through it would lead to tax havens. He did all sorts of intellectual backflips. Now we realize that he does not seem to understand what real tax evasion is, because he is doing nothing about it. That is another topic we will come back to shortly.
During the election campaign we promised to lower the small business tax rate. So did the Conservatives. Then the Liberals finally decided to follow suit and they promised the same thing. They recognized, as all of us do, or at least I hope so, that small businesses are the engine of our economy at the local and national levels. They are also the main creators of jobs and we rely on them for that.
However, we have to look at the current situation. Lowering taxes for small businesses is just another broken promise.
Unfortunately, we are becoming increasingly accustomed to broken promises. We are very optimistic, but for a Liberal government, whether this one or those of the past, reneging on promises is commonplace. What is really mind-boggling is hearing the Minister of Small Business and Tourism say in committee that, in any event, the promise was just meant as a television clip or a good newspaper headline. Not keeping a promise is shameful, but admitting that they never intended to keep it is even worse. The Liberals did not give reasons for not being able to keep their promise, did not say that they had done something else, or that it would wait and they would keep their promise the next year. There was nothing of the kind. There was no honesty, or perhaps they were being too honest. They decided to look us in the eye and tell us that they never intended to do it. That is very unfortunate.
It will soon be six years since I became a member of Parliament. When I look at the chambers of commerce, particularly the Bassin de Chambly chamber of commerce and industry or the Vallée-du-Richelieu chamber of commerce and industry, I see some very dynamic chambers of commerce and a lot of young entrepreneurs renowned worldwide. I am thinking for instance of the Mobux company from Mont-Saint-Hilaire, which will go to Berlin for the G20 meeting as one of the Canadian and Quebec companies representing Canada.
We are very proud to see people and companies from home at the G20. These companies need the federal government's help. They need it to reduce their financial burden so that they can continue to grow, to succeed, and to thrive both at home and abroad. In so doing, they will set an example for other entrepreneurs in Canada. This creates a nice cycle that leads into the next generation of entrepreneurs.
However, this is not just about the tax rate for small and medium-sized businesses. The issue of infrastructure and the privatization of airports is also raised in this motion. One of the biggest problems in this file is that the Prime Minister refuses to answer certain questions that he has been asked for several months, maybe even a year now.
Almost one year ago, we heard something about consultations with Credit Suisse. We did not hear from the parties who really need the federal government’s help, but rather from the Minister of Finance’s economic council and from individuals such as Credit Suisse representatives, who are experts in privatization. This caused a great deal of concern.
We heard rumours that they were going to sell off our airports because they were no longer able to manage the finances and meet their election promises, such as using public funds to finance public infrastructure, which by the way we support. However, this is not what we are seeing here.
As for selling off airports, we asked the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance if that was going to be on the table. This was a concern for the presidents of the country’s airport and port authorities. The Minister of Transport simply replied that consumers would always be their priority, in order to get the best prices and avoid overcharging. One might say that you cannot turn down a good thing, but this is not what we are dealing with.
Experts believe that airport privatization will result in higher prices and fees. We are going to let the private sector take over our public infrastructure and charge more fees to consumers. This will also have a significant impact on airlines.
My riding is on Montreal's south shore. My constituents can go to Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau, or they can go to U.S. airports to avoid paying what they see as sky-high prices. Many people choose the latter. Airport authorities and airlines say that privatization will make things even worse. Instead of departing from Canadian airports, thereby helping to fund Canadian airport infrastructure, travellers will go elsewhere. That is a problem.
The government is doing this to keep a promise that was not even in the Liberals' campaign platform. They never mentioned selling airports. With all due respect, it seems to me we have a serious problem when even the Conservatives think privatization is going too far. The Liberal government needs to reconsider.
Privatization is not just about prices and fees. It is about safety too. Airport safety is extremely important.
Look at rail safety. When the government privatized our railroads, it went on and on about how great privatization was and how much it would benefit consumers. Serious rail safety problems have emerged since then. I may be speculating, but it is an easy conclusion to reach.
Given the threat of airport privatization raised by the government, there is cause for serious concern over airport security, supposedly an issue the government is very concerned with.
I do not want to draw conclusions that are too far-fetched, but Bill C-23, for example, would increase the powers of U.S. pre-clearance officers on Canadian soil, in the interest of safety, of course. At the same time, the Liberals want to privatize airports and potentially risk compromising security. What an odd approach to take. It shows this government's inconsistency and failure to properly manage the affairs of state.
The issue of privatization does not just concern airports. There is also the infamous infrastructure bank, another file that we have been asking the government about for many months. We asked the government about the bank's structure, what terms and conditions it would operate under, and what would be the impact on small rural municipalities that would be adversely impacted by such a bank. Clearly, the private sector will have little or no interest in investing in infrastructure projects that are not very profitable even though they would be of great benefit to our towns and to the rural communities that really need them.
Incidentally, all those questions remain unanswered. The Prime Minister always gives us the same answer with a bit of a smile, and we have heard other Liberal members say the same thing, that is, we should just wait and see what is in the budget, which will be presented tomorrow. However, this has left the municipalities and Canadians feeling very uncertain, which is very problematic.
Although the government is boasting about public investments spread over 12 years, this a bit of a charade. In fact, we now realize that most of that money will not be spent right away, but rather over a much longer period than initially planned. We also note that the government will use some of that money to open the door to the private sector.
This poses a number of problems because I firmly believe that taxpayers feel very strongly that their money should be used to finance public infrastructure that is properly managed. I firmly believe that, and I think my constituents would agree with me.
Certain things do not sit well with taxpayers, and we saw this in the debate on the Champlain Bridge, for example. If we are asking taxpayers to accept a huge deficit run up by the federal government to fund public infrastructure, not only must that infrastructure remain public, but people must not be asked to pay twice for that infrastructure through user fees and tolls. That is very important.
Many of my constituents come to see me and tell me that they are unsure where they stand on tolls and user fees, because they have to do with road conditions and public transit, which is another very important file for a suburban community like mine.
When we look at the proposals, or what we can make of them, we are given none of the details because there is no transparency, as I said. I tell my constituents that when we look at the proposals, it is not so much about whether the federal government is going to provide funding for public transit. I explain that the federal government is spending their money to fund public infrastructure and an infrastructure bank that is looking for private investment. The company investing in infrastructure will then charge tolls and user fees. None of that will fund a public transit system that will help people get to work more easily and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That is going to create a profit margin for private companies that invest in these projects.
The private company does not want to be reimbursed just for the capital it spent on the bridge, road, or whichever project is on the table: it wants a return on its investment. It is not enough to be able to tell the people of Beloeil, Carignan, or Chambly, who are stuck in traffic on highway 112, that they can now get to Brossard or downtown Montreal using a light rail system. That is another very important file that we will come back to in the coming months and years.
The private company is not in it to finance a project, but instead to make a profit.
The Liberal Party made these commitments during the last election campaign. We are seeing that it has broken its promise to use public funds to better manage public infrastructure than the previous government.
It turns out that the Liberal government intends to use public funds to privatize our public infrastructure so that private businesses can make a profit and, in effect, subject Canadian citizens to double taxation through tolls and user fees. That is a problem.
Other questions concerning the infrastructure bank remain unanswered. For instance, who will sit on the bank's executive? Where will it be located? How will consultations take place? Someone has already been appointed to help the government create a team to set up the bank. The individual in question comes from Ontario politics and knows the Prime Minister's friends quite well; they work in her office. She was already involved in starting the process of privatizing Hydro One, for which the residents of Ontario are now paying the price.
We have serious questions about the interests that will be represented. Will municipalities have a seat at the table? The municipalities are wondering. How will we make sure that Canadians and those who really need federal infrastructure help will be at the table? We need to ensure that we have public transit, infrastructure, bridges, highways, and wastewater treatment systems that meet the public’s expectations in a country such as Canada in 2017.
Once again, all these questions remain unanswered. Will we have answers tomorrow? In a way, I hope so, because we are finally going to see whether the government is heading toward disaster for our public infrastructure or whether it has finally seen the light and realized that this is the wrong direction. However, perhaps I hope not, because I am quite concerned about finding out what the end result will be. We are not the only ones who are concerned, because as I said, Canadians have been talking about this for quite some time.
Sadly, our position and the Conservatives' are far enough apart that we cannot support the motion, but I want to close by talking about one other point in the opposition motion that we do agree with, a point that merits our attention. That point is youth unemployment, which was of particular interest to me in the previous Parliament as the NDP's youth critic. Of course, young people are not the only ones without jobs.
We also need to talk about precarious work. Many young people with excellent education are underemployed. They have jobs that pay less than they should be earning with their professional qualifications. They are overqualified for their jobs. This is a major issue, and once again, we look forward to seeing what the government has to say about it tomorrow.
The Prime Minister is happy to take pictures with young people. The government is happy to talk about the youth council despite the lack of transparency that my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît has pointed out. What we do know is that the Minister of Finance, and therefore the Prime Minister, somehow thinks it is acceptable to tell young people to be okay with this reality.
Those of us in our twenties know that no matter what decisions the government makes today on our behalf and on behalf of all citizens, we are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of those decisions whether they have to do with our infrastructure, our environment, or our jobs. So far, the government has let us down tremendously.
My optimism allows me to hope that the disappointment will end tomorrow, but so far nothing leads us to believe that that will be the case. I am, however, open to the idea.
National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act March 20th, 2017
Madam Speaker, normally I would say that I am pleased to rise in the House to take part in the debate on Bill C-22, a bill that the NDP supported at second reading. However, under the circumstances, with the rejection of most of the changes that were made in committee, contrary to what the minister claims, and only one hour after the adoption of a time allocation motion, I am far from pleased to take part in the debate on this matter.
Bill C-22 is important, especially for the Liberals, considering it is central to the intellectual backflips they have been doing for three years now to justify their support for Bill C-51, passed in the last Parliament under the Stephen Harper government. The Liberal government has been in power for almost a year and a half now and we have barely completed this stage. It is worth mentioning, even if this is an issue for another debate on another day, that there is still no legislative measure on the table to right the wrongs created by Bill C-51 regarding rights and freedoms.
That said, this is still a very important matter. Since Bill C-51 was passed and, I would venture to say, even before, many commissions of inquiry have been formed after various incidents in connection with the work of national security agencies. There is one very clear finding: Canadians have lost a great deal of confidence in our national security agencies. This issue obviously affects our rights and freedoms, as well as our privacy, given the rapid advances in technology. However, this is also a matter of national security because, after all, if the public has no confidence in its agencies, it is difficult for them to do their work effectively and appropriately.
In principle, Bill C-22 is a good first step, and I can say that the minister is right about that. It is something that we should have had for a very long time. That said, very serious problems with the bill were raised in committee. A number of amendments would have gone a long way—even though they would not have made the bill perfect—to at least allowing parliamentarians to do their work better and to start off on the right foot.
We can see that, and we have often heard the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons come back to one point. They say that this is new for Canada, that other countries have had more time to learn, and that we have to give ourselves some time. We are already some way ahead compared to other countries, but there is a problem. For example, look at how the chair of the committee is elected. In Great Britain, the committee chair is not only elected, but he is also an opposition member. As justification for not electing the committee chair, we are told that, in Great Britain, the committee has existed for a number of years now and that they decided to make changes only after a certain period of learning and becoming used to it. Here, clearly, as we have just heard, the minister is relying on a legislative review that will take place in five years.
However, why not apply now what we learned from our allies? Why relearn the lessons of the past? I have a theory, without wanting to spread conspiracy theories. When this nice job, which comes with a salary on top of an MP's salary, is announced a year in advance, it is difficult for the Prime Minister to break his promise to the Liberal member who had the good fortune to secure this great position. Therefore, I would say that this is why we were not listening to the opposition amendments or the testimony of the chair of the British committee who offered this extremely important point for the credibility of the committee. All the technical issues on the form could be addressed, but credibility is also very important, to get back to the point I made at the outset, which is the public trust in our national security agencies.
It is not just me saying this. I want to come back to the column in The Globe and Mail, co-written by professors Wesley Wark, Kent Roach and Craig Forcese, professors the minister likes to quote to talk about the importance of this first step that has been completed. In speaking of the amendments passed in committee, they said:
Should the government choose to force a return to the restrictive original bill, it risks potentially undermining a new and historic Parliamentary ability that it has enthusiastically championed. Failure to reach agreement with Parliament
—not the Liberal caucus, but Parliament—
on this issue also imperils non-partisan support for future national-security reforms and changes to other elements of the review system for national security.
When we hear that and with the majority of the amendments having been thrown out and a time allocation motion having been thrown in to boot, it is difficult to see a path forward that would allow the committee to have that credibility and non-partisan environment it so desperately needs. The committee needs that not only to do its work, but also, as I said and it is worth repeating, in order to gain the public's trust so the public can begin trusting the work that is being done by the national security agencies. This is a key element and the government is clearly failing on that front.
I want to come back to the two examples I mentioned in the questions I have asked the government since the debate began this morning, specifically regarding the time allocation motion and the bill itself. The issue of ongoing investigations has often been raised. That is one of the restrictions we tried to lift through our amendments.
Indeed, the two most striking examples of investigations into human rights violations that are worthy of examination by a body such as the one this bill proposes are the Air India inquiry and the Afghan detainees investigation.
These are still open investigations, so technically, they are still ongoing. Under this bill, however, the committee of parliamentarians will not have the authority or the power to gather intelligence or conduct investigations. Thus, various pieces of information revealed in the media recently and many questions raised in the House for many years now could never have been raised. That is problematic, because it undermines the committee's mandate.
Once again, this brings us to the public's confidence in the committee and its work, and by extension, in the work of our national security agencies. That is the theme of my speech, as members will soon see.
When the government talks about some of the other issues that we raised in committee, it is important to note that for us, one point that has been clear is the restriction on access to information and the obvious solution is to limit it to cabinet confidence. With respect to everything else, we have to trust these parliamentarians, and the minister alluded to that issue. These parliamentarians will be sworn to secrecy and could potentially face jail time if any of this information is leaked.
The government's approach seems to be one of not trusting the parliamentarians who will sit on this committee and who will literally never be able to talk about any national security issues in the public space. When the government House leader or the Minister of Public Safety stand and tell us not to worry because the committee can use the bully pulpit if ever it feels it is unable to do its work behind closed doors, that is just not true. It is critical for Canadians to understand that.
Moreover, we talk about compromise and the importance of this being a non-partisan process. We hear the government say, “Well, the NDP proposed 13 amendments. The Liberals proposed 16. The Bloc proposed nine. The Green Party proposed two. We adopted two of those amendments so we are in the clear and everything is all right.” It is critical that the government look at the broader picture and the public trust.
I move, seconded by the member for Jonquière:
That Motion No. 3 be amended by deleting paragraph (a).
National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act March 20th, 2017
Madam Speaker, I have a question for the minister. He mentioned ongoing investigations as an example and the fact that it would be inappropriate for parliamentarians to have access to that information. However, all through the committee testimony, two investigations that this committee would not have the right to oversee kept coming up. They were Air India and the Afghan detainees. Those two files are extremely important; the investigations are technically still open and, in our view, this committee would be required to verify them in order to ensure the necessary oversight of national security agencies.
In the previous Parliament, his colleague, the member for Vancouver Quadra, introduced Bill C-622, which was the same kind of bill, but one that created a committee that would have had much more access to information, even after the amendments that the government is proposing today. The Prime Minister and the minister himself voted for that bill, not to mention all the other Liberal members who were present at the time.
Can the minister tell us why he has changed his mind?
National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act March 20th, 2017
Madam Speaker, it is quite interesting to hear the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader talk about how the House is obliged to pass government legislation. I guess the Liberal caucus members did not get the memo the last sitting week when they voted against the government, twice. I guess that is why they have to have two caucus meetings this week, because the caucus does not feel that cabinet is consulting it.
It is not just opposition members; it is the Liberal caucus as well that is fed up with the notion that the Liberals promised to do better and are well on their way, I would argue, to doing even worse at this point. While we knew where the Conservatives stood, I suppose the Liberals like to say they are going to do better and then stab us in the back with a knife on these issues, because that is exactly how we feel, having worked hard at committee.
My colleague from Victoria worked hard to try to get some of those amendments passed. While the government House leader will brag about the three or four that are still there, there are some critical pieces that are missing, such as what information the committee gets access to. We can just look at the issue of ongoing investigations. This means that the Air India inquiry and Afghan detainees, issues that are now decades old, would not be looked at by this committee.
It is great to have whistle-blower duty, but what good is that if the committee does not actually get the information it needs? I would add that this is exactly the kind of information the member for Vancouver Quadra wanted a similar committee to get in a piece of legislation she proposed in the last Parliament, supported by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
I want to understand. If the member has so many great things to offer about which amendments the Liberals picked, why not have that debate and discussion over a proper period of time?
National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act March 20th, 2017
Madam Speaker, the Leader of the Government in the House has talked at length about the number of witnesses we heard in committee. Beyond the substance of the bill, one of the points that kept coming back was mentioned in a Globe and Mail column by a number of those experts: the importance of having a non-partisan committee along with the process that leads to its formation and the subsequent work.
Several parties must support it so that it has the highest possible legitimacy. Actually, one of the reasons why the government committed to creating such a committee during the campaign is the erosion of public confidence in our national security agencies and the need for mechanisms to be in place to ensure that Canadians can rebuild their trust.
How can the Leader of the Government believe that using time allocation and preventing us from debating the fact that the government is discarding a substantial number of amendments carried in committee can help us create a body that will restore public trust in the national security agencies?
Public Safety March 9th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, the minister will not speak about specific cases, but I hope tomorrow they will raise those specific cases with the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Still at the border, hundreds of asylum seekers have crossed into Canada in recent months and many are risking their lives in harsh winter weather. On Tuesday, a pregnant woman and a toddler crossed into Emerson during a winter storm.
We can no longer have confidence that refugees in the United States have access to a fair process, so will the minister finally do the right thing and immediately suspend the safe third country agreement with the U.S. to allow these people to cross safely while seeking asylum in Canada?
Public Safety March 9th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security will be in Ottawa tomorrow for meetings with the government, including the Minister of Public Safety. Ever since President Trump came into power, at least three Quebeckers have been turned away at the U.S. border.
Can the minister confirm that he is going to discuss the specific cases of Canadians turned away at the border when he talks to John Kelly and ensure that there will be no further impact on Canadians who want to visit the United States?
50th Anniversary of the Tre Colori Restaurant March 9th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, this year Chambly will be celebrating an important anniversary. The Tre Colori restaurant is turning 50. Established in 1967 by Joseph Petrozza, the restaurant is now run with love and passion by his sons Joey, Roberto, and Tony.
Whether you want a good pizza delivered on a Friday night or you want to sit down for a good meal, with a nice glass of wine of course, the Tre Colori is a fixture in Chambly.
The Petrozza brothers even received a consumer choice award in the restaurant category for Montreal's south shore, a well-deserved honour.
Not only does this family serve excellent food, it is also very involved in the community. Whether it is the Festival multiculturel de Chambly or the annual fundraising dinner for the Centre d'écoute Montérégie, the Petrozza family never hesitates to invest in its community.
It is a pleasure for me to wish them a happy 50th anniversary and, above all, 50 more years of good food and good cheer.
Business of Supply March 7th, 2017
Madam Speaker, as the deputy House leader for the NDP, I must inform you that, unfortunately, since we did not have the opportunity to see the wording of the amendment before it was proposed and because we are satisfied with the wording proposed by my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, we are saying no to this amendment.