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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

Standing Orders and Procedure October 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would be open to that. Because of the existing lottery system, not one of my bills has come before the House despite the fact that I will have been a member for eight and a half years at the end of my term.

Obviously, the system is not perfect, and we do not really have any alternatives. However, perhaps there is an alternative, as my colleague just suggested. It warrants discussion at least, because I am far from the only member who has been in the House this long in the same situation, although I did get unanimous consent.

Quite frankly, if everyone started asking for unanimous consent, it would never end. Clearly there are challenges to finding ways for all members to have their bills passed or voted on. I know the people of Chambly would love to see my bill pass. Unfortunately, I will not be so lucky.

Still, we will work hard to push the minister to make some changes. In the meantime, we need to explore solutions that will ensure that all members' voices are heard, even though there are 338 of us.

Standing Orders and Procedure October 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, sometimes we repeat questions several times because it takes several attempts to get answers. That is just a fact. I am not pointing fingers.

Seriously, repetition is one thing, but relevance is another. Members often rise on points of order related to the relevance of speeches. It is a constant struggle. I do not really know what we can do about that.

For example, when the government tabled the budget, a number of members took the opportunity to talk about all kinds of issues specific to their ridings. I think that kind of flexibility is a good thing, actually. Nevertheless, we might have to tighten up some of the rules. We have to be open to changing how we do things so we can improve the quality of debate.

Standing Orders and Procedure October 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, although I usually give my speeches without any speaking notes, I do sometimes jot down a few points, so I am certainly open to my colleague's proposal.

In his question, he spoke about the time allocated for question period. Members can go on YouTube and watch the first televised question period between Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Joe Clark. In those days, questions and answers lasted between a minute and a half and two minutes. Obviously, that is a lot more time. That is exactly the type of proposal that would be worth looking into .

We want to make question period as relevant as possible. That would help restore Canadians' confidence in the process. It would be good for opposition members, and I believe it would also be good for government members and backbenchers.

It is a proposal that is worth looking into.

Standing Orders and Procedure October 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, as we are talking about changing the Standing Orders, this is one problem that could be addressed. We only have 10 minutes at the start of this debate compared with 20 minutes for others. Maybe that is something to bear in mind.

As deputy House leader for the NDP, I am pleased to rise today and talk about the discussions we have been having within the NDP team for a number of years now on changes to the Standing Orders of the House. I welcome this opportunity to talk about two aspects in particular.

We hear a lot about work-life balance. That is very important to all of us, across party lines. When we talk about the Standing Orders, despite the pleas we heard this morning from some members, primarily Liberal, there is unfortunately an element of partisanship involved, because we are also talking about democracy, accountability, and how to reform the tools at our disposal.

As I said earlier, the opposition and government benches are two sword lengths apart, and there is a reason for that. However, we can still make an effort to improve decorum and the conduct of members. At the end of the day, we need to work in an environment that Canadians can count on to get clear answers and accountability from the government, and to feel reassured that we are doing our job.

I would like to begin by mentioning a few improvements that have already been made, because our main problem here in the House of Commons is that it is 2016, but we are working in an environment from the 20th century. Consider, for example, the fact that it was only recently, in the last decade, that a women's washroom was installed near the entrance to the members' lobby and diaper changing stations were put in the men's washrooms. These are all important details and examples that show just how far behind the times we are. We have a lot of catching up to do.

Nonetheless, some improvements have been made. For example, there is reserved parking for new parents, new mothers and new fathers, so that they can park closer to the House when there are votes or debates. As we all know, our schedule can be quite tight, so having reserved parking is very helpful. We also know that there is a family room in Centre Block now. It provides a space for new mothers to nurse their babies. That is an excellent start. That room could also be used for new parents who want to take a break with their children, their spouse, or even with a child care provider or another family member, depending on their family situation. It is very important to note that regardless of the family situation, age, or gender, all hon. members should feel welcome to use that room. That is something we could address in our discussions today.

I also want to mention some minor details that might seem trivial to the general public. Having highchairs available in the Centre Block cafeteria is appreciated. This is the type of thing we worked on with the other parties, the teams from the official opposition and the government. These are concrete measures that we were able to put in place.

We are all familiar with the experience of some female MPs. I am thinking about my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue, my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît, and, in the last Parliament, MPs such as Rosane Doré Lefebvre, who was the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan, and Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, who was the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard. They all became new mothers while in office and remained extremely dedicated MPs. As their colleagues, we learned from their experience what measures needed to be taken to improve work-life balance in Parliament.

We do not need to stop there. When I heard the member for Yukon speak, who is also the chair of the procedure and House affairs committee and has helped lead the excellent work that the committee has done in getting the ball rolling on this debate, he mentioned other installations and infrastructure that could be set up as the renovations happen in Centre Block.

These are all things we need to be open to because we should not content ourselves with less; we need to do more. As I said, we are an institution that is sometimes stuck in the Mad Men era of the 20th century. As some would say, it is 2016 and we need to arrive at that in the way that we treat other members, our colleagues, and ourselves, which is extremely important.

To that end, when it comes to juggling family and work, we do have certain proposals, some of which will echo the proposals made by my Conservative colleague earlier, but which also echo the recommendations that were in the report that was tabled by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which to us reflects a certain consensus that exists on some of the easy things we can do to keep this ball rolling and to keep taking these positive steps that we have begun taking.

First and foremost is formalizing the habit we now have of having votes immediately after question period. It is something that started in this current Parliament and has spared us some of the long, late night hours that we experienced in the previous Parliament and before that. Regardless of our personal situations, it is gruelling on us all. This is certainly something that we should include now officially in the Standing Orders, barring certain exceptions that can come up. It is something that we can easily formalize and seems to be something that already, despite being relatively informal and based on the motions that we have to adopt every single time through unanimous consent, has that consent. Why not make it formal and avoid having to do it every time?

My colleague from Yukon also raised the issue of Thursday votes. We understand that a debate must take place on Friday, but we believe that there are other solutions to be considered before we abolish it. We believe that we must be here as much as possible to hold the government to account, but we also know that some members live further away and must leave Thursday. We recognize that they must leave whether or not Friday is on the calendar.

I am lucky to live a two-hour train ride away. It is very easy for those of us who live so close, but most of my colleagues have very long and complicated trips. Knowing that there would not be a vote at inconvenient times, such as late Thursday or Friday, they would be free to plan their trips and their personal or family life, whether it was medical appointments or other things that complicate travel.

I find these things very complicated and my situation is relatively easy compared to that of my colleagues. We can therefore empathize with them and admit that we could formalize certain rules about votes to make life easier for them.

To repeat once more the comments of my Conservative colleague, we are also proposing that the calender be adopted earlier, in June rather than in September. It would make it easier to plan our vacations. We know that winter break weeks are not the same in all provinces. Will a family go down south during the March break? We need to know when the children are in school. It would help us get organized if the calendar were officially adopted in June rather than September.

Finally, we currently accept this practice de facto , but it goes without saying that it must be officially incorporated into the Standing Orders. Let us allow children, particularly those of nursing age, in the House of Commons. It is very difficult for new mothers to nurse their child during a vote, for example. Even if no one questions the practice any more, it should still be incorporated into the Standing Orders.

I did say at the outset that while we talk about juggling family lives and our own personal situations, we also have to talk about accountability on the part of the government. It is unfortunate that despite wanting to be non-partisan, we have to accept the adversarial nature of this place.

As I mentioned in a question to the member for Yukon, there are some stories, such as the face palm heard around the world from my former colleague, Paul Dewar, that recall there are often answers that leave a lot to be desired. When we talk about reforming question period, we see the government House leader's mandate letter, which calls on the Prime Minister and ministers to be more accountable. If we as opposition members are going to have burdens on the questions that we ask in terms of how they relate to government business, there should be a burden placed on the answers from the government that they be relevant to the question asked and of a certain substance. I think that goes without saying and that is what Canadians would expect of question period.

It will certainly make the hour we spend here more productive, and dare I say, hopefully restore Canadians' confidence in what is the theatre of what happens here and nonetheless a rare opportunity for members to ask the important questions of the day. That also applies as well to Order Paper questions with again, stories that have come to light in the media recently. It also has to do with omnibus legislation.

Of course, there is also the matter of time allocation and closure motions, which were a bad habit of the previous government. The current government seems to be back on the right track. The use of these types of motions is less frequent now than it was in the spring. However, the fact remains that we need to limit or ban the use of these tools for the good of democracy.

There needs to be a better balance between work and family and between democracy and accountability. In my opinion, that would make for a better Parliament for both members and Canadians.

Standing Orders and Procedure October 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for the work he has done as chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which does a lot of work on this issue, and for some of the family friendly things he has mentioned. I want to hear a bit more about question period because, despite some of the comments made, this place is inherently adversarial. There is a reason we sit two sword lengths apart. There were some highly publicized stories in the previous Parliament about the quality of answers. There are a lot of limitations on the quality of questions we ask in opposition. However, there is not very much with respect to the quality of answers. I wonder if he believes that the Standing Orders should be changed to force government to actually make its answers relevant and of a certain quality.

Kevin Steen October 5th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, history was made on August 29, when Kevin Steen, better known as Kevin Owens, won the WWE Universal Championship. Congratulations to this wrestler from Marieville in my riding from me and my constituents.

Kevin is a wrestling legend among many from Quebec and Canada, including Pat Patterson, Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon, Bret Hart, Chris Jericho, and of course, his coach, Jacques Rougeau. As Quebec wrestling historian Patric Laprade said so well, Owens' success is the result of perseverance and temerity.

It would be easy to make jokes comparing the spectacle of pro wrestling with the spectacle of politics. Let me just say that Monday Night Raw is now the Kevin Owens show, and my constituents and I could not be prouder that the best in the business comes from Marieville, in my riding. We wish him all the best as he continues to have a successful career.

Fight, Owens, fight.

Public Safety October 3rd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-22 is only one piece of the puzzle to fix the breach in Canadians' rights that that minister voted for.

Still on the worrisome subject of Bill C-51, today we learned that CSIS and Global Affairs Canada finalized an information-sharing agreement.

This is despite the fact that the ministerial directive allowing the use of information obtained through torture, which happened recently with Canadian citizens tortured in Syria, is still in place under the Liberal government.

Will the government repeal that ministerial directive or at least give us a good reason for not doing so?

Public Safety October 3rd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals promised a massive rollback on Bill C-51. Yet it is a year into their mandate and they have absolutely nothing to show for it. Now we learn that CSIS is collecting information on Canadians using consular services without their knowledge or consent. This is exactly what Canada's Privacy Commissioner warned us of last week.

While it is mired in more consultations, can the government at least tell us what kind of information is being shared and what it is doing to protect Canadians' rights and freedoms?

Foreign Affairs September 30th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I have yet to hear a convincing argument against supporting our proposal.

Let us go down memory lane a little bit. The Minister of Foreign Affairs quietly approved export permits for Saudi Arabia while claiming that his hands were tied.

Later we learned that the minister approved the export contract shortly after a private meeting with the Saudi ambassador. No wonder Saudi Arabia considers this arms deal to be an act of great friendship.

However, Canadians do not want to be friends with human rights abusers. Is this why the Liberal government is so afraid to support our motion for more transparency? Is this an act of great friendship with Saudi Arabia?

Foreign Affairs September 30th, 2016

Madam Speaker, speaking of human rights, yesterday, Saudi Arabia refused to acknowledge its past abuses. It also said that the sale of arms is an act of friendship.

We can agree that most Canadians are quite certain that we do not need to be friends with a country that violates human rights.

Will the government support the NDP's motion to enhance oversight of arms sales? If not, why not?