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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises a very important point. It is a very clear example of why mandatory minimum sentences often do not work. The penalty should fit the crime, and sometimes the penalty, as he correctly points out, will lead to further repercussions, and one has to wonder whether expulsion from a country is really what is being sought when we are imposing minimum sentences.

Perhaps it is; perhaps it is not. Again, I would leave that to the trial judge to evaluate and determine, with the facts in front of him or her, whether that kind of penalty would actually be justifiable in the circumstances. It is case by case in most instances, and minimum sentences simply do not afford us the luxury of being able to do a case-by-case evaluation.

As for what a private service animal is, service animals are used in many aspects of society. There are Seeing Eye dogs and many other animals for various private uses. When I say state use of animals, then we are talking about those animals that are actually in state service, and those tend to be animals trained in various services such as airport security, border services, and police services. Those are all state functions, but a private function is where one would normally see an animal in the service of a home.

In both cases, I would underline this. The parliamentary secretary mentioned that it costs $70,000 to $80,000 to train a police animal. It costs about the same to train an animal in private service, so frankly, I do not really understand the distinction that is being made by the government side on this point. Both animals are fundamental to running our society. People who need a Seeing Eye dog have every right to know that the Seeing Eye dog and they themselves are going to be protected by society as much as any other person who uses a service animal.

I really would like the government to correct the error. It brought up the question of people who use private service animals in its throne speech and, since then, has decided that it is not worth its time. If anything, I would like the government spend some time on that in the next couple of weeks in the House.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his comments and questions.

Certainly when one proceeds either by summary conviction or by indictment, that is often a question of what the various parties will be able to negotiate, and I would not want to see negotiations go off the rails because of minimum sentences that might colour the negotiations. It is unfortunate that we always have to keep minimum sentences in mind during certain proceedings, and this would be one of those cases.

Regarding the parliamentary secretary's vigorous defence of those mandatory minimums, at justice committee I asked the Minister of Justice how much all of this is costing the Canadian public to continuously be defending what is often indefensible. How much money is being invested to defend the minimum sentences the courts are throwing out on so many occasions? Regrettably the minister did not give us an answer. It would be interesting if the ministry could actually give us the number. How much are these minimum sentences costing the Canadian public, especially when they are so hard to defend?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak, for the second time, to Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals), also known as Quanto's law.

Quanto was a police dog in Edmonton that was stabbed to death when trying to intercept a fleeing suspect. That was in October 2013. The suspect pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and other offences, including evading police. He was sentenced to 26 months in prison and banned from owning a pet for 25 years. I want to say that this bill is commendable in itself. I think it sends a message to society that it is unacceptable to stab a police dog and that there will be serious consequences. Once again, that is commendable.

However, I want to get back to the topic of minimum sentences, because I think that is a flaw in the bill before us. Unfortunately this flaw was not fixed in parliamentary committee.

Barbara Cartwright of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies appeared before the parliamentary committee. I will quote her testimony, which shows that we need to amend the Criminal Code.

I will quote her in English because she testified in English.

....Brigadier, a different animal, a police horse that was compassionately euthanized after he and his rider, Constable Kevin Bradfield, were struck in a hit and run incident. The driver of the vehicle was charged with dangerous operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm and failing to remain at the scene of an accident. It is believed that he deliberately struck the horse and the rider. Brigadier sustained fatal neck and rib injuries in the accident.

This is a repugnant act that I think would have benefited from the modifications that we have in front of us to send a clear signal that this is precisely the kind of act that this House and our society in general condemns.

This bill applies only to animals working for the state. I will come back to that because it is an important point.

As my colleague said in her speech a few minutes ago, this measure was presented by the government in the 2013 throne speech as we began the second session of the 42nd Parliament. Specifically, the government wants to amend the Criminal Code to create a new offence specifically prohibiting the killing, wounding, poisoning or injuring of trained animals working for law enforcement, people with disabilities or members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

In the 2013 throne speech, the government alluded to private service animals and people with disabilities. Unfortunately, that is not reflected in the bill before us. Government members said that that is already in the Criminal Code. Section 445 of the Criminal Code sets out penalties for animal cruelty. Some provinces, including Quebec, have recently adopted their own penalties for animal cruelty.

I asked this question the last time I gave a speech on this bill, and I am asking it again: If this is already in the Criminal Code, why are we studying a new bill, considering the severity of the penalties?

Section 718 of the Criminal Code of Canada outlines sentencing principles.

From this section we have seen that appeals have been brought before many courts, on a number of occasions and at many levels, specifically challenging the fact that the sentences are inappropriate, that they are cruel and unusual, and that they go beyond what is acceptable in a free and democratic society.

Just in the past 10 minutes I heard one of my Conservative colleagues suggest that authorities in the United States are seriously backtracking on minimum sentences. He thinks this is happening because their mandatory minimum sentencing went too far in the first place.

However, he failed to mention, or perhaps he does not realize, that in Canada, there are many cases before the courts right now, and that over the past few years minimum sentences have been overturned in many cases in Canada.

We should really look at our own jurisprudence to properly understand why minimum sentencing is very problematic for our courts today. In the most recent cases, trial judges have even refused to apply some elements of minimum sentences, because they felt they constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

We have to ask ourselves the following question: when we impose minimum sentences, why do we not trust trial judges, who should be capable of applying the appropriate sentence according to the circumstances?

We are in no position here in Parliament to presume in advance what sentences should be handed down under the circumstances. That is why the trial court is in the best position to hand down the right sentence according to the circumstances.

In French we refer to the lower court judge. I think it is even clearer in English. It is the trial judge. The appeals courts are superior courts, and the Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court in the land.

Superior court judges do not decide on the facts and the merit of the cases, but determine whether the law has or has not been properly applied. In some cases, the law or certain aspects of the law are overturned. Sentences that have to be imposed under the law are overturned when superior court justices feel comfortable doing so and believe that the sentence is cruel and unusual. It is really up to the trial judge to hand down an appropriate sentence according to the circumstances.

We have to trust our trial court judges because they are capable of handing down a reasonable, fair and appropriate sentence according to the circumstances. When we impose minimum sentences, we are setting aside the role of the trial judge.

I do not understand why the government often, not to say always, focuses on establishing minimum sentences when many experts believe that they will be overturned by the appeal and superior courts.

It seems like Parliament is creating jobs for lawyers, who continue to bill their clients for proceeding with appeal after appeal, and ultimately dealing with an issue that was already, and repeatedly, considered by our courts. I would like to see bills that strike a better balance.

Once again, imposing harsher sentences than those provided for in the Criminal Code is probably commendable. It signals that Parliament considers it unacceptable to attack a law enforcement animal.

In my opinion, sending a very clear message is the right thing to do. By moving to impose harsher sentences, Parliament is expressing, in probably the best way possible, its intention to make it clear that we do not approve and that it is completely unacceptable to attack a law enforcement animal.

However, the minimum sentence is still problematic. I assume that this aspect of the bill will eventually be challenged in court. It will cost the individual in question and the government a lot of money. From the examples that I have seen recently, I seriously doubt that this aspect of the bill will stand up in court. Once again, the government is unfortunately heading for a loss in court. I am wondering why the Conservative government insists on adding minimum sentences when sentencing is the role of the trial judge.

It seems as though the government did not spend a lot of time thinking about private service animals, despite their promise in the 2013 throne speech. The government decided to ignore that aspect and is telling us not to worry because it is already covered by section 445 of the Criminal Code. What is more, I heard the parliamentary secretary saying that we had to respect jurisdictions because privately held service animals fall under provincial jurisdiction. Perhaps I misunderstood, but to my knowledge, the Criminal Code is an area of federal jurisdiction and we have the tools to address that issue.

Let us say that we are infringing on provincial jurisdiction by adopting this minimum sentence. When the guilty parties are given a minimum sentence of six months, they will be sent to a provincial prison at the expense of the provinces.

Once again, the federal government is creating laws and then making the provinces bear the cost and responsibility without any federal assistance. The government is instituting minimum sentences that will cost the federal government nothing but will increase the burden of the provinces, without even consulting the provinces to try to come to an agreement.

The government has done this sort of thing time and time again. The Conservatives like to boast that they want to balance the budget. However, the most recent budget is not really balanced because they helped themselves to $1.4 billion from the employment insurance fund. They simply found another source of revenue and now they would have us believe that the budget is balanced. Meanwhile, what they have done is imposed heavier burdens on poor people in Canada, while the wealthy reap the benefits. That was just an aside.

Let us get back to the bill. The Conservative government has repeatedly downloaded the cost of its bills onto the provinces even though the federal government should bear those costs. Minimum sentences are an excellent example of that. We have seen this over and over in a number of areas, including health, where provincial transfers have been cut. They say they have a $54 billion, 10-year infrastructure program, but last year, the Conservatives spent only about $250 million. Moreover, they took away so many of the eligibility criteria that this has basically turned into another way to transfer the costs to the provinces.

The Conservative government seems to have no qualms about introducing and passing bills with no regard for Canadian taxpayers. It has no problem making them pay, but it would have us believe that the federal government has nothing to do with the fact that provincial income taxes have to go up significantly or their services have to go down significantly to make up for the costs the federal government is forcing them to absorb. That is not a real partnership. A confederation should be a real partnership.

Unfortunately I do not think that is what we have in this country, and the bill before us is a fine example of that. I want to stress once again that the parliamentary secretary is trying to convince us that we cannot help private service animals because that would interfere in a provincial jurisdiction. That is completely untrue. In any case, the government has no problem interfering in other areas of provincial jurisdiction. It makes absolutely no sense that the government would claim today that it cannot interfere in a provincial jurisdiction when it has done so many times.

I want to get back to the bill before us. Those found guilty of such an offence could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, with a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in prison, as I mentioned earlier. The maximum sentence is therefore five years and the minimum is six months if a law enforcement animal is killed while helping a police officer enforce the law and if the offence is prosecuted by indictment. If a law enforcement animal is wounded or killed in the line of duty, the sentence imposed for this offence would be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the perpetrator.

That is another aspect of minimum sentences that I find difficult to accept. Consecutive mandatory minimum penalties take away the discretion of trial judges, who are the ones in the best position to determine a reasonable sentence according to the circumstances. The goal here is to ensure that society understands that attacking an animal in service to the state is unacceptable. A penalty must be imposed that reflects the circumstances before the court. The judge is the one in the best position to determine the appropriate sentence. If someone is convicted of certain offences and if mandatory minimum penalties are imposed for any other crime that individual is convicted of, a consecutive sentence means that all of these mandatory minimums would be imposed one after the other, and that individual could stay behind bars for a very long time. Consecutive sentences are very rare in Canada. They are much more common in the United States. We must try to avoid that trend here in Canada. We should not be following the U.S. example and start imposing consecutive sentences. People in the United States can now serve sentences of over 100 years. There is no explanation for how the U.S. got to that point. Perhaps they got there by gradually eroding the trial judges' ability to impose reasonable sentences according to the circumstances. We are not doing Canada's justice system any favours by imposing tougher sentences, tougher than what is considered fair and reasonable in a free and democratic society.

The government should reread section 718 of the Criminal Code, which sets out the principles to be upheld in sentencing. The government has gone astray. I do not believe that it realizes that the purpose of sentences is not just to indicate to people that certain activities are unacceptable in society. Sentences are also intended to ensure that the guilty party can be rehabilitated. We want to find ways to help that person reintegrate back into society. As far as I know, putting someone in prison for years and years can teach him to be a better criminal and commit other crimes in the future. Leaving criminals in crime school is not the best way to run our penitentiary system in Canada. That is why section 718 contains a number of sentencing principles.

I believe the bill before us includes some aspects of section 718. However, I think we got off track when it comes to other aspects of that section. I hope that the government will think about that in future bills. The government failed to include private service animals in this bill. Perhaps it is time to introduce a bill to correct that mistake.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

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

Although the bill is commendable in itself, there are still some issues. My colleague spoke about some service animals that do not belong to a law enforcement agency or government agency. In committee we heard about private service animals. However, that is unfortunately not reflected in the bill before us.

In the speeches made today we heard about the fact that private service animals are just as dear and precious to their owners as animals that provide a service for government institutions.

How does the member explain this omission from the bill, especially considering the fact that this issue came up in parliamentary committee?

Petitions June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the second petition I am presenting was signed by many people who want better service from Canada Post. They are against the recent cuts and want Canada Post's services to meet 21st-century expectations.

Petitions June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present two petitions today.

The first is from my riding, Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. The petitioners are calling on VIA Rail to provide passenger rail service, which we lost two years ago. The petitioners want the service to be reinstated. Transportation in our region is difficult, and having passenger rail service available would make our region merely remote, not isolated.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for pointing out that there was one measure in the budget from which some people might actually benefit. The problem is that in making a request in the first place, they will have to call Service Canada and wait several hours. That is probably not very efficient.

In areas of seasonal work, those who will try to benefit from what he just said likely will have insufficient hours to get EI the next year. Although the government has created a program whereby they will get more benefits one year, they will be cut entirely from getting benefits the year after.

Therefore, I honestly do not think this is any long-term solution for a very long-term problem.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is spot-on when he points out that there have been so many drastic cuts to so many services in the federal civil services, and employment insurance has not been exempt from that.

I will remind people it is “Service” and not “Services” Canada. I think the Conservatives might have dropped the “s” during its mandate. However, there clearly is a much longer wait period for people to try to get their files treated. Some people are on the phone for hours at a time. This is not an exaggeration. It is three hours sometimes. My understanding is that they are not even counting the statistics if people hang up before Service Canada hangs up on them. Therefore, when he says that there has been a degradation in the amount of time that people wait to have their calls treated by Service Canada, in fact it under-reports what the actual situation is because people cannot spend the day on the phone.

I will remind my colleague and members of the Conservative Party that when people wait that long on the phone before they can get some service from Service Canada, perhaps their time would be better spent looking for a job. However, no, they have to sit at home waiting for an answer from Service Canada. The government has cut much too much and it is very inefficient.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues.

I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with my very hon. colleague from Acadie—Bathurst. If there is one issue that my colleague has mastered in his 18 years in the House of Commons, it has to be employment insurance.

To begin, I will add to what my Liberal Party colleague said, because he seems to have forgotten to mention that the only reason they were able to balance the budget while they were in power was that they pillaged the employment insurance fund. We all remember that they took over $50 billion from the fund. Now they go around boasting about how they can balance budgets. Frankly, they balanced their budgets at the expense of the poorest people in Canada. If their party really wants to build a more just society, maybe it should go get some money from its friends in the Senate who are now being investigated because they have a lot of money.

In my riding, Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, we had an inkling back at the beginning of my term in 2011 when we found out that the Conservative government wanted to close employment insurance processing centres in our ridings and transfer those jobs—by pure coincidence, I am sure—to ridings held by Conservative MPs.

That was really hard to swallow. We lost over 40 well-paying jobs that had been filled by people who knew the region and knew how to process claims in a fair and just manner. Where are we today? Processing centres in the Gaspé, Rimouski and Sept-Îles have all closed. Once again, they were all relocated to Conservative ridings. That is a strange coincidence.

I want to talk about the situation facing people who claim EI benefits. Without naming any names, I would like to share the story of one of my constituents. In the Gaspé there is only one road, highway 132. This individual receives EI and looks after her affairs. She is looking for work and keeps an eye out in her area. The other morning, she received a phone call from an employment insurance officer who had found her a job. Being an industrious person, she told him how happy she was and asked when she could start. She was told she could start the following Monday. She guessed that the officer, from his office, was not familiar with the Gaspé. Since she lives in New Richmond and would have to go to Chandler—for that is where the job is located—the trip would take her two hours every morning and two hours every night.

This is a situation where the person applying for EI benefits truly needs them. Local knowledge is lost with the local workers who used to process these applications. Now everything is centralized in offices that are very far away from our region, and the Conservatives have completely failed to grasp that the distances can be quite vast in a region. I even heard of cases where people from the Magdalen Islands, in the middle of the gulf, were offered jobs 300 km west. I guess they were supposed to commute by canoe. Frankly, I do not know how they were supposed to get to work. We lost local knowledge, and that is when things started to change back home.

We then found out that the Conservatives wanted to follow the Liberal Party's lead and save a pile of money so that they could now brag about balancing the budget. It is obvious that they did not balance it. In this year's budget, we can clearly see that they took $1.8 billion from the EI fund in order to be able to brag about balancing the budget.

So far, at least $57 billion has been taken from the EI fund. With the budgets the Conservatives brought down last month, it is estimated that another $17 billion will be taken from the fund over the next five years. That is no way to balance the budget. It is a way of transferring debt to people who simply do not have the means to pay it.

Back home, in the regions with seasonal employment, workers need to know that their government is there for them when they need support. They are not getting that support today. As a result, people are thinking about leaving the regions.

We have seen it. People are moving away from eastern Canada because, unfortunately, neither the Conservative government nor the Liberal government before it understood the reality in regions where there is seasonal work. If we want to start making reforms so that people stop filing claims for benefits, perhaps we should start by asking ourselves whether there are enough jobs for people working in the regions.

What is the Conservatives' and the Liberals' long-term vision for creating jobs in our regions? I do not think that criticizing people every time they lose a job and telling them that it is their own fault is going to generate wealth in the regions. Seasonal work areas need support, and that includes training and employment insurance benefits. People also need to be treated fairly.

The Conservatives' budget does just the opposite, and that is worrisome. Unfortunately, they followed the Liberals' example. Their so-called improvements were a step in the wrong direction and are hurting more and more people.

I would like to point out that we are setting records with regard to employment insurance. Under the Liberals, only 50% of unemployed workers were eligible for EI benefits. That is not 50% of Canadians who lost their jobs at some point during the year. I am talking about those who lost their jobs and filed a claim for EI benefits. Right off the bat, 50% of them were not even eligible for EI benefits. We have the Liberals to thank for that.

EI is an insurance policy. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, if you paid for home insurance coverage in case of fire. Your house catches on fire and your insurance company tells you that, unfortunately, you are among the 50% of people whose claims are automatically refused. In my opinion, that is not an insurance policy.

The Conservatives did not stop there. At present, only 35% of the unemployed workers in Canada are entitled to employment insurance. That is a record. The employment insurance fund has become a cash cow increasingly used to eliminate the deficit of the party in power, whether it is Conservative or Liberal. They get satisfaction from mistreating people by bringing forward programs that will hurt the poorest Canadians. What happens to that money? The Conservatives want to give it to the richest 15% of the population. That is not a fair and equitable society. It is a society that gives the elite more than what they deserve, and lets them send money overseas so they can hide it in bank accounts in order to evade taxes. Instead of trying to recover this money, the Conservatives make cuts to Revenue Canada so that the rich can continue to evade taxes. Meanwhile, employment insurance benefits are taken away from the poorest Canadians. That is really unfair and no way to govern a country. If the goal is to make the rich richer, then congratulations to the Conservatives, who have truly figured out how to do that. However, I want a much fairer society, a society that helps people when they need it.

I would remind members that the EI system was created during the depression in the 1930s when there was a huge need for this kind of program. Since then, Canada has recognized that we want a fair and just society. We do not want a country in which the gap between the rich and the poor gets bigger, yet that is what is happening right now. The richest 10% in Canada now control much more than 50% of the economy. We must achieve a better balance, and the government must use the tools at its disposal to ensure that all regions of Canada experience economic growth.

The Conservative government is often accused of caring only about the ridings that voted Conservative. This has sometimes been the case. Did it simply abandon eastern Canada? Frankly, that is how people back home feel. They feel abandoned by their government, as though the Conservative government does not listen to them. That is why people are increasingly seeing that there are other ways to manage this country.

What it will take is a party that reflects them. What it will take is a vote for the NDP.

An Act to amend the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (Sambro Island Lighthouse) May 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to support the bill introduced by my colleague from Halifax, and I am very pleased to do so.

Canada's heritage assets need our support. The Government of Canada has an obligation and a duty to do that, but unfortunately, it is not stepping up. Heritage assets are being allowed to disintegrate little by little to the point where the very foundation of this great country's heritage is in jeopardy.

I would like to emphasize that my support extends beyond this bill for the Sambro Island lighthouse. Many lighthouses in Canada have been declared surplus by the departments that own them. Most of the time, that is Fisheries and Oceans Canada. We must have the means to protect these pearls of Canada's heritage.

Ads placed around the world to encourage people to visit Canada feature lighthouses. When we sing O Canada and watch the videos that go with it, we see images of lighthouses. These buildings are part of Canada's history, and we absolutely have to protect them. The bill before us is one step among many. It is one step toward protection.

I would like to talk about the Sambro Island lighthouse, but I will also draw parallels with other lighthouses in Canada, particularly in my riding, which is a maritime riding with a lot of lighthouses. The people in my riding are very worried about the state of these lighthouses. We know that the Sambro Island lighthouse in particular is located just off the coast of Halifax. It is a major part of our heritage and history since it was likely one of the most important lighthouses in Canada. It was built during the Seven Years' War and established by the very first act passed by the Nova Scotia House of Assembly in 1758. Construction took place from 1758 to 1760.

Let us remember that lighthouses were the gateway to many areas of Canada, not just Halifax. The Sambro Island lighthouse was the first lighthouse that people saw when they immigrated to our maritime provinces. As our Liberal Party colleague pointed out, people had to pass right by it to get to Pier 21 in Halifax.

I would like to point out that in my riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the first lighthouse that was seen when Canada was made up of only Ontario and Quebec was the Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse, which is located just outside Gaspé. It is the tallest lighthouse in Canada, and it was the first lighthouse that immigrants saw when they came to Canada before Confederation. Of course, after Confederation, our neighbours in the Maritimes also had lighthouses, but while Canada was made up of only Ontario and Quebec, the gateway was Gaspé and the point of entry was the Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse. These lighthouses are part of our heritage. They are part of our history and our wealth.

There are also a number of lighthouses in the Magdalen Islands. Without those lighthouses, the shipwrecks that plagued the Magdalen Islands for hundreds of years would have continued. There are hundreds of shipwrecks off the coast of the Magdalen Islands. These ships sank because years ago, people did not have the proper equipment and there were no lighthouses. Lighthouses were mainly built in the 1800s.

Lighthouses are slowly being dismantled, particularly in the Magdalen Islands. Climate change has resulted in an increasing number of major storms. Those storms cause erosion, which is jeopardizing all of the lighthouses in the Magdalen Islands. It is a major concern. We have already had to move some lighthouses in order to save them.

The government brought in legislation to preserve lighthouses. I would like to point out, however, that the legislation that the Conservatives passed in 2010, quite frankly, does nothing to preserve the lighthouses in the Magdalen Islands and the Gaspé, and it will not preserve the Sambro Island lighthouse. The act provides for a divestiture program for lighthouses. Once again, the government has plans to divest itself of lighthouses, wharves and other kinds of infrastructure, but it is unwilling to invest any money in repairs prior to their divestiture. Those who take over these lighthouses will be left with some nasty surprises.

We find it very hard to get behind a government that refuses to recognize that it failed in its responsibility. The government has a duty to maintain its facilities, assets and property, and this includes lighthouses.

For instance, there has been no maintenance done on the Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse in the past 20 years. This causes serious problems, such as water leaks and damage to the structure. Because of the many winter storms, these water leaks exacerbate the situation.

The government needs to update its facilities and infrastructure long before even considering their divestiture. Very few organizations have the resources to take over responsibility for these kinds of infrastructure, since the annual maintenance is very costly. That is why we hope that the government will be prepared to maintain its assets and property.

In the Gaspé, some poorly maintained lighthouses have had to be taken over by municipalities and private organizations. In her speech on the bill, my colleague pointed out that some community groups in Halifax would be willing to take over at least the management of the lighthouse, but they would be unable to pay for long-term maintenance. Only governments are in a position to do so.

I hope the government will grasp the multiplier effect of investing in lighthouses. When tourists are drawn to our beautiful regions by the lighthouses they see in ads, they expect those lighthouses to be not only there and in good shape, but also accessible. When lighthouses are in the sorry state that they are in now, they get shuttered and no one is allowed to enter them. People are only allowed to look at them. Truth be told, even that may no longer be possible since lighthouses are located in coastal regions where they are exposed to erosion and their potential demise in a storm.

Let us not forget that through the divestiture process, the federal government offers to transfer the asset to the province first. If the province refuses, then it is offered to the municipality. Finally, if neither party is prepared to take it, it will be offered to individuals. That is how our lighthouses could become privatized. That is what happened in the Magdalen Islands, where a lighthouse became the property of a single individual. Today, that lighthouse is no longer accessible and can no longer be part of an historic trail or route for tourists.

Even though some organizations have plans to take advantage of lighthouses as tourist attractions, the lighthouses that were handed over to individuals are not necessarily accessible to the public. The privatization of our heritage and historical infrastructure is very concerning.

Five to six lighthouses in the Magdalen Islands and a number of lighthouses in the Gaspé have been declared surplus. However, they have been recognized as being heritage lighthouses. I would like to remind members that the Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse was designated a national historic site in 1974. In 1994, it was recognized as a heritage lighthouse.

However, the enactment of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act in 2010 shows that the government wants to get rid of these lighthouses. That means it does not keep its promises. The government absolutely has to take its responsibilities seriously and invest in our infrastructure. There is no denying the multiplier effect of investments, which must be made in order to keep regional economies going. Lighthouses are an integral part of that.

This is not just about the economy; it is also about culture. The lives of mariners and fishers have been saved because of these lighthouses. Families living in coastal communities are still there because the lighthouses protected their ancestors. We must respect our ancestors and our coastal communities. We must invest in our lighthouses.