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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was chair.

Last in Parliament January 2019, as Liberal MP for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 65% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Privilege January 29th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I continued to work, I fought for my constituents, I worked to save lives, and I made a $100,000-donation. If anyone can do better in my circumstances, I would ask them to walk the talk and prove it.

Privilege January 29th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, on December 11, you made the following statement:

...the presence...in the Chamber is largely a function of politics, not procedure or law.

Politics is certainly a part of all this, but there can be no doubt that, at all times, I acted, I worked and, above all—let me make this clear— I fought to protect my constituents. I believe in my country, in our values, and in my duty to stand up to danger to ensure their survival.

On January 22, 2018, I announced that I was donating $100,000 to a cause that is very close to my heart and that I have worked hard to support: preventing impaired driving.

That amount is much greater than the salary I collected during the period I mentioned. It is much greater than the $120 deducted per day of non-attendance in excess of 21 days as set out in the Act. That deduction was not made because I continued to carry out my parliamentary duties. Anyway, I would point out that, like many of my colleagues, I was switching Fridays from the start. On other days, like my colleagues, I had to be away from Ottawa to participate in various activities. There were also health-related absences.

As I prepare to leave this place, I do not wish to draw attention to the fact that I worked without keeping my salary for myself. I want everyone to focus instead on the prevention work we can all do to make a difference. I helped establish the National Impaired Driving Prevention Week, created by Motion No. 148, which my government committed to supporting and was passed by all my colleagues in the House. We are in the early months of cannabis being legal, a time when we must all be extra careful and, above all, pursue and redouble our efforts because—and I cannot stress this enough—prevention saves lives.

Although life circumstances dictate that I can no longer complete my term, there is no question that no matter how much time I have left, I will dedicate all my energy to supporting this important cause.

In closing, I extend my hand to my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who has publicly expressed his doubts about pursuing his career in the House, out of concern for his family. I wish him well. If he looks carefully he will see that there are more things that unite us than divide us. For example, when I look at the things he is passionate about, I can say that I was the first MP in history to come to work in a fully electric car, one without a fuel tank.

I would also like to say that I have nothing against him. My NDP colleague talked about cynicism in his question of privilege. Anyone looking at the situation could easily see it in a completely different way. It makes me wonder what more I could have done, in my case, to reconcile the service I owed to my constituents with my loyalty to my caucus.

Privilege January 29th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, on December 13, 2018, at the end of the very last sitting of the House before the long Christmas adjournment, the hon. NDP member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley raised another question of privilege about me.

At that time, the NDP member had the following information in his possession.

First, he knew that on April 25, 2018, I issued a press release in which I announced that I intended to step down for very serious personal and family reasons and that in the meantime I would continue performing my duties as MP.

Second, he knew that I was present in the House until the adjournment in June. In fact, on June 12, 2018, I rose in the House to thank my constituents and wish my colleagues well.

Third, on November 6, 2018, I publicly announced that I would be resigning on January 22, 2019, and that I would be donating my MP's salary as of that date.

Fourth, two days after the announcement of my resignation and the donation, the NDP member submitted a request for an inquiry by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, who I will henceforth simply refer to as the commissioner.

In this request, the member alleged that I breached the conflict of interest code by collecting my salary and not being present in the House during certain periods.

Fifth, on November 26, 2018, the NDP member raised a question of privilege about the same issues found in his complaint to the commissioner.

Sixth, on December 11, 2018, I addressed the House in response to the question of privilege raised by the member, who admitted that he was aware of my comments, including the statement that I would not keep my salary for the period from the fall to the return of the House.

Seventh, on December 11, 2018, the Chair ruled on the NDP member's question of privilege and concluded the following:

The member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel provided the House with his reasons for his absence.

He added:

...the Chair finds that there is no prima facie question of privilege....

I want to share some other facts with the House.

On January 11, 2019, the ethics commissioner ruled on the NDP member's call for an investigation. I had previously submitted everything required, as well as the information and answers to the questions asked of me.

In his ruling on the NDP member's request for an investigation into me, the commissioner stated the following:

Based on your statements and on the information you submitted describing how you continued to carry out your parliamentary duties while engaging in extra-parliamentary activities, I've decided that an investigation is not warranted in the circumstances, and have informed [the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley and his colleague] of my decision.

Even though the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley was trying every trick in the book to damage my good reputation, all of his complaints and recriminations were rejected by the appropriate authorities. I remind members that no one else has made any accusations against me.

Since the member waited until December 13, 2018, just before the break, to raise the new question of privilege, you indicated that it would be dealt with when the House reconvened. I asked whether I could respond to it during the break. I intended to resign my seat on January 22. That day, I received a message from you saying that, if I wanted to respond to the NDP member's question, then I would have to do so in the House when it reconvened.

Although your message was dated January 21, I was unable to read it until the next day because of technical difficulties. Since yesterday's schedule involved dealing with protocol issues, today is the first opportunity I have had to respond.

On December 11, I responded in French to the NDP member's November 26 question of privilege. I wrote the response myself. When drafting his December 13 question of privilege, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley made a very surprising choice. He chose to rely on the English translation that I had nothing to do with drafting. The NDP member chose to ignore the original French version and rely only on the translation.

I will never ever, under any circumstances, apologize to anyone for speaking in French. French is the language of this country, my county. French is the language Canada was built on. Although I cannot and do not plan to force anyone to learn it, I can still insist that it be be shown the proper respect.

It is true that I switch between English, French and also Italian when speaking to my colleagues. Let us agree that this is each person's choice to make. In Quebec and in the other provinces in general, I work with Canadians in the language of their choice. However, when I rise in the House, I mainly speak in the first language I learned at school, after my mother tongue, Italian, which I still speak on a daily basis, as does my entire family.

The NDP MP ignored my French statement. If he had bothered to use the language spoken by the other Canadians he represents, he would have realized I did not say the words he attributed to me. What I said was “je n'empoche pas de salaire”, meaning I am not pocketing any salary. If he had just checked, he would know that “empocher” means “collect”.

Furthermore, he knew that I had also said, in the same statement, that I would not keep my MP's salary for the period in the fall when I was not present in the House.

The NDP member was aware of all these facts and knew that I was not keeping my salary for the period beginning with the return of the House last September. Nevertheless, he chose to tell the House that I had been absent for eight months, although he knew full well that that was false because he referenced a statement I made in the House in June 2018, around the time of adjournment for the summer. His statement is false and the member who made it knew that it was false.

The vagaries of life would have it that, one way or the other, I would not have been able to carry out my mandate. Nevertheless, I served my constituents to the end. I was not present in the House, but I continued my work as an MP and worked on a cause that is dear to me. At the beginning of my leave I chose not to keep my salary. I was also very clear with those I spoke to. I did not publicize it because, during my career, I made charitable donations in addition to volunteering.

Privilege December 11th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to a question of privilege raised by a member of the second opposition party who was wondering about my absence from the House.

First, I would like to set the record straight. It was not my decision to be away from the House. The circumstances that led to my absence were not of my choosing, nor were they the result of anything I did. At no time and under no circumstances was I taken to task, except by the NDP member in his complaint regarding my absence from the House. My conduct was, at all times, above reproach. I am not collecting a salary from the House of Commons. I belong to a caucus, and for me to remain a member, my freedom of speech is subject to certain restrictions.

Despite my absence from the House, I have, at all times, worked to represent the interests of my Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel constituents and other citizens and groups that have sought my assistance. The personal and family reasons that led me to announce my intention to resign are extremely serious.

Here is some context. Various events occurred and circumstances arose, some consecutively, others concurrently, and some simultaneously.

On April 24, I sent out a press release indicating that I intended to resign my seat. On June 12, I spoke in the House on this subject. I then toured my riding in order to be accountable to my constituents. I heard from them that they really wanted me to find a way to continue my mandate while being relieved from my obligations in the House.

My work on constituency matters continued to take up most of my time from late June until August, to the point where I had to cancel all of my holidays. On August 29, my commitment to continue representing my constituents was made public, even though the reasons for my announced departure were not. A solution was needed. As I will explain, other events occurred that made it unnecessary to search for such a solution.

August 31 marked the culmination of a series of events completely beyond my control, and on September 14, it was agreed, at the request of my party, that I keep my seat and that the party whip would let me know when I was needed in the House. At every moment, no matter the circumstances, I respected the direction of the whip.

At that time, I had one major reservation about the implementation of the Cannabis Act. It troubled me that it did not include sufficient measures to raise awareness about the dangers of cannabis use for road users.

The lack of awareness initiatives surprised me, given that manufacturers had shown more willingness to work on that aspect than I expected from any government. During discussions on this issue, it became clear that my decision to remain in office was problematic. Consequently, I was informed that my departure date would coincide with the entry into force of the Cannabis Act, but that in response to my efforts and those of other people, our government was going to announce a significant commitment regarding the prevention of drug-impaired driving.

I was then informed that a mistake had been made in setting my departure date. I would be contacted with a different date. I then began an internal conversation involving my caucus, which ended with me receiving another departure date. The decision I was given on December 14 was that I would leave the House for a few weeks to focus on the tasks I had been asked to do. I informed the people I was speaking to that I would not be keeping my MP's salary during this period, even though I would be doing the work that was asked of me, and would perform all my other MP duties during this time. I wanted to offer a concrete gesture with regard to the formal portion of my duties as an MP. Time spent in the House should, in principle, account for just a small portion of an MP's work. Nevertheless, I decided to offer this concrete gesture for the sake of a cause that is very inspiring and important to me.

The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley raised a question of privilege regarding my absence, but some of his facts were quite simply false. I did not make a statement in the House on April 24. I urge the member to re-read my news release. Contrary to his claims, I continued my work as an MP from the end of the spring through to the fall. I continue to do this work. Contrary to his claims, I am not collecting my salary. Furthermore, I am not the one who chose the planned departure date.

I have been a lawyer for a long time. I also teach, publish and give lectures. Since my nomination campaign, I indicated that I would continue to do all of this even after the election. I have been very clear about this throughout my mandate. I even stated this in the House. The cabinet shuffle changed nothing. I was and remain convinced that Canadians would be better served if members kept some kind of job, to anchor them to the real world.

During this time, I fought some tough battles to protect my constituents and my community. Furthermore, in recent months, I have undertaken and continued work on topics that I hold dear to my heart. Many of these topics have been keeping me busy these days, and I will share some examples. On June 10, 1940, our country's government interned Italian Canadians without reason, without charges and without trial. These people were detained throughout the war. I have known about this since I was a child, but it was only when I became an adult that I understood why people would whisper as they passed by, even though they had grown old.

Italian Canadians still carry the stigma of this collective trauma. I remind members that our government took over Casa d'Italia, the oldest cultural and ethnic centre in the country, which immigrants from the old country built with their bare hands, to house soldiers, who pillaged it before they left.

No appropriate reparation has ever been made. To date, the House has never issued an apology.

I will give an example of the kind of stigma I am talking about. Although there are 1.5 million Italian-Canadians, there is not a single one sitting in the Senate.

Furthermore, as I said, I have been practising labour law for 35 years as a professor, prosecutor and researcher. Here is another example. Our labour laws are based on ideas developed during the industrial revolution of the 19th century. It should come as no surprise that they need to be updated to catch up with the 21st century. I am putting all of my expertise to work for my government and my constituents, and I am working hard on this societal project.

In reference to the member who raised the question of privilege about me, I would like to ask him whether he was concerned about a member's presence in the chamber when his neighbour, the outgoing member for Outremont, was absent for nearly a year while still collecting a salary.

If necessary, I will complete my comments outside the House.

Business of Supply June 13th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, in light of the speech I made yesterday, and considering that I might be missing a few votes during the 500 days that separate us from the general election, I may have gotten a bit too excited and I may have voted twice. I want to thank my colleagues in the opposition for having alerted me, as I was not paying attention when it was time to vote. Therefore, I want my vote to be registered as opposed.

Member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel June 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, every time I enter or leave this venerable Chamber, I greet you with reverence. I offer this greeting to you as a colleague, and as someone who has also become a friend. Most of all however, I offer it to my country, to its people, to my constituents, and to this institution; I trust you would not hold that against me.

This country, my country, is Canada. When compared to the history of humanity, Canada is a very recent project in which we all participate on a daily basis. In this sense, we are guided by the past to act in the present, to help build the future. Canada, my country, is also the motivation that led me to make one of the most painful decisions of my life: to sacrifice everything I hold dear to serve it. When I was asked to run, I thought it was the craziest idea ever.

I had everything. I was truly blessed. What else could I ask for?

The answer was provided by my loved ones, my family, my spouse, my friends, and my community. They suggested that it was not by seeking what more life could provide me that I would find the answer, but it was in searching for what I could provide to it. If the country is my prime motivation for coming into public life, my loved ones remain its inspiration.

Today, the irony remains that as they motivated me to serve here, they now reclaim me. The ultimate irony in joining this institution remains that if one does not have a life before coming here, he will soon have one. However, if one does have a life, he will quickly lose it.

I see another irony here. Two heads of state, one an elected official and the other a dictator, met today to try to avoid war. This clash between two types of governance underlies not only my decision to run for office but also my very existence. My father, Giovanni Di Iorio, was born in Casacalenda, as were both my grandfathers and all my other ancestors. All three were conscripted into the Italian army and suffered the horrors of conflict. For my grandfathers, it was the First World War, and for my father, it was the Second World War.

My father, my mother, my grandfathers, and my grandmothers were all traumatized by these horrendous events, but no one would ever know it. Their lives were the epitome of sacrifice and dedication.

What better inspiration could I have asked for to guide me following my decision to serve my country? I will share a recent example. Just two weeks ago, my grandmother, Giuseppina Ranellucci, was preparing a meal for 300 guests to raise money for children's hospitals. She worked for four days, from 7 a.m. to midnight, to organize everything. The fifth day she was not feeling well and decided to go to emergency.

Before she left, just in case she would not be coming back, she cleaned the house and mended some of her grandkids' clothing. After all that, she was too tired to go to the hospital, so she stayed home, and she felt better the next day. She did all of that and she is 86.

Mr. Speaker, with this background, all my colleagues will appreciate why I cannot stand here and say that I quit. In due time, I will submit a resignation. However, I will never, never quit. My devotion to my country, my family, my community, and this institution is such that I will forever be grateful, and I feel truly blessed for the extraordinary privilege of serving them.

[Member spoke in Italian]

[Translation]

The extension of the blue line, National Impaired Driving Prevention Week, the changes in the direction of the Supreme Court, the small business tax deal, and Italian heritage month in Canada are the highlights of my work in the House and in government.

For these successes, I want to thank my family first and foremost, but also my colleagues and constituents in the great riding of Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel for the extraordinary support and love that they have shown me. I will serve them and will always look after their well-being in recognition of the immense honour that they have given me.

I am the only one who knows the sacrifice that I made to get here. However, I want to share with the House the great benefit that I get from it. I arrived here, like most, alone. I will leave blessed to count my colleagues not only as comrades, but also as friends united forever by much stronger and lasting feelings, for like you, Mr. Speaker, whoever serves his country here comes out surrounded by sisters and brothers. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Transportation June 6th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, Montreal's public transit system is the most heavily used in the country. Many Montrealers make the eco-friendly choice to get around the city by metro, bus, and bike share. I am very pleased with our government's recent decision to help with planning the blue line extension to Anjou.

I would like to ask the Prime Minister how the government plans to help maintain the existing network and ensure quality service going forward.

Italian National Day June 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, a country is above all the expression of a people. Today, we are celebrating a nation with ancient roots transposed into a civilization spanning millennia. Its people used their knowledge, ingenuity, creativity, dedication, and emotions to create the biggest brands in the world.

Italians have built an astounding number of globally beloved brands, including Ducati, Ferrari, Vespa, La Molisana, Carrozzeria Ghia, Nutella, Compagnolo, Loro Piana, Cinzano, Armani, Barilla, Beretta, Mapei, Gianfranco Ferré, Ermenelgido Zegna, Tic Tac, Prada, Panerai, Piaggio, and Pirelli, to name just a few.

As I pay tribute to them today, I invite all my colleagues to celebrate the Festa della Repubblica.

Viva l'Italia.

Canada Revenue Agency April 16th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, like most Canadians, my Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel constituents are filling out their tax returns. Doing so will give them access to valuable benefits and credits our government introduced, such as the Canada child benefit and the Canada caregiver credit. This year, our government has improved services to tax filers.

Can the Minister of National Revenue tell the House about the major improvements that have been implemented to make it easier for Canadians to file their tax returns electronically?

Impaired Driving March 22nd, 2018

Mr Speaker, we mark an historic moment. Parliament is sitting during the first National Impaired Driving Prevention Week. Impaired Driving is the criminal act that kills the most Canadians.

As we are on the eve of cannabis legalization, we should all have an heightened sense of urgency in addressing this terrible scourge that kills indiscriminately and severely injures thousands of Canadians.

I want to share my vision zero. We must support scientific research, which will lead to progress and developments to positively shape drivers' behaviour and to give them the technological tools they need to improve road safety. I urge all of my colleagues to write to all school principals in their ridings to remind them that every single life can be saved in the fight against impaired driving.