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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

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

I thank the member for the question. It took a while for me to understand it, but I think I have it. Sometimes on the other side it may take a while to express it, but I think I have it now.

Over here it is clear that we are very concerned with the health and safety of workers in this country. For instance, in my riding the government has proposed in its budget to cut search and rescue services for people out at sea. I do not think that the people in my riding will take kindly to paying with their lives for the budget cutbacks that this government has proposed and passed.

If the Conservatives really want a good health and safety record, they can start right here on the Hill and start proposing health and safety for their own employees.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to point out how totally unacceptable the approach taken by Canada Post is to New Democratic members, but also to a majority of my constituents. Speaking today on behalf of the legitimate battle being fought by Canada Post employees is a very important duty for me, because this will be an historic battle and will remain in our memory for numerous reasons. And I believe the outcome will have a decisive effect on our collective future.

First, it is essential to note that this battle is part of a long fight to preserve public services, which are too often under attack from present-day governments. We do not think that the Conservative members understand the importance to a country of strong public services.

Canada Post is in fact one of the best examples of successful Canadian public services. It is important to the Canadian public to have an excellent postal service that is accessible and affordable. Postal services are essential for all countries. This is particularly true in rural areas. Recently, in my riding, we have received letters from people who are worried about the closing of a post office in a village in the riding. People have good reason to be worried.

The post office is often the last remaining place in villages where federal public services can be accessed. As well, with our low population density and the great distances that must be travelled, how are services like these supposed to be profitable, at a reasonable cost, if a private company operates them? It is impossible. The reason we are able to provide excellent postal services to as far away as Îles de la Madeleine is because Canada Post provides them, as a crown corporation.

The extremely lucrative Quebec City-Windsor corridor means that affordable services can be provided for people in large regions like the Gaspé and Îles de la Madeleine. The role of a government that wants to support its people is precisely to preserve a crown corporation like Canada Post.

A government with vision would use the existing infrastructures, all those many post offices, to deliver more federal services to residents of rural ridings. They would be able to obtain forms and information about passports, income tax, employment insurance, and so on. Post offices could be used as a satellite antenna for all federal services.

But instead of that, instead of this vision for the future, Canada Post's managers want to deregulate and enter into business partnerships. They are privatizing the postal services by stealth.

For example, they refuse to extend post office opening hours, so that they are open for business past 5 o'clock, or over the weekend. Instead, Canada Post favours postal outlets in pharmacies. The employees of these businesses end up doing the same work as Canada Post clerks, but with a salary half that of their Canada Post counterparts, and with no working conditions to protect them.

The union estimates that this subcontracting has led to loss of approximately 6000 wicket clerk jobs with good working conditions, replaced by jobs that are not protected and have no job security. Is a crown corporation that acts this way, and promotes job insecurity, being socially responsible? Do these indirect employees of Canada Post deserve these conditions? Of course they do not.

Canada Post’s attitude, which indirectly favours privatization, is directly threatening services to the public. Private sector businesses will lobby harder and harder to privatize Canada Post's services. If the crown corporation continues to sell off its best assets, the other services may no longer be profitable, and then might disappear or become very costly.

The attitude being displayed by Canada Post management and by the government, which is in bed with the employer on this issue, is extremely obnoxious. Obnoxious, because it is an attack on public services, when in fact Canada Post is a profitable crown corporation. In 2009, Canada Post made $281 million in profits.

Thanks to the conscientious and devoted day-to-day work of its employees, Canada Post has been raking in profits for roughly 15 years. It is, therefore, a profitable government enterprise. How can the government justify diminishing the working conditions of the employees of a profitable government enterprise? There is no rational justification. There are only ideological explanations.

In fact, the current battle being waged by the employees of Canada Post, in addition to being a fight to preserve public services, is part of a backdrop of a very long history of union battles—battles fought to improve people’s working conditions, and by extension the living conditions of families and entire populations.

Canada would not be the country that it is today without the battles waged by workers. People in my region have been a part of this struggle for over 60 years. I would like to single out the epic struggle by the workers of Murdochville, which remains etched in our memories.

The battle Canada Post workers are waging will not only help clerks, mail carriers, and other Canada Post employees. This struggle will be an example for other public servants and for private sector employees. This is a battle to have the rights of workers recognized.

First and foremost, it is about the right to negotiate a collective agreement. Currently, we are faced with a public institution, the government, the caretaker of the law, and yet it does not follow this law. This government does not recognize the right to negotiate and is allowing a public employer to treat its employees in a most unfair manner by denying them the right to strike and to bargain.

How can the Conservative members, in all good conscience, vote for a bill that rides roughshod over fundamental rights recognized by thousands of public servants? I would like an answer to that. Are they not aware that these employees are their fellow citizens, that they to contribute to the public purse, and that they have family responsibilities? Why is this government refusing to share Canada Post’s profits with postal service employees?

Why does it accept that an increasing number of non-unionized subcontractors work in their facilities, including those who do maintenance work in post offices? Another example is the work usually done by mechanics who are qualified union members. That work is increasingly done in garages outside Canada Post facilities. These people should be unionized and covered by health and safety provisions.

In fact, the Conservative government is showing the public that it does not care about employees' working conditions. Conservative members are proposing to force postal employees to go back to work. They do not care about the plight of these men and women who work around the clock to provide this essential service to our community.

Indeed, Canada Post management wants to make the employees take many steps backward. First, it wants to impose clauses that create a double standard adversely affecting new employees, and that is totally unacceptable. It wants to raise the retirement age for these employees and reduce their annual leave. It also wants to lower their basic salary by 18% compared to that of their fellow workers. Why should new employees be treated so unfairly?

The employer is also jeopardizing workers' health and safety. That worries many people and it is highly objectionable. Workers' health is threatened through many restrictions relating to medical coverage.

Many postal employees are women and their working conditions are often not on par with those provided by provincial governments. For example, they are not eligible for preventive withdrawal when they are pregnant. That is the kind of reasonable demands that employees are making. These are not whims. It is only normal that these people would want to protect their salaries and their pensions. Their fight will help other workers, but if they back down, it will adversely affect other workers too.

Workers have the right to negotiate and to go on strike. They did negotiate in good faith for eight months. They delivered the mail to their fellow citizens, including pension cheques. Because they did not want to drastically affect services to the public, they opted for rotating strikes.

It is the employer who took drastic action and imposed a lockout. The employer and the government are taking Canadians hostage by depriving them of essential services. They trample the rights of workers in a profitable crown corporation. Conservative members show no respect for laws or for workers' health and safety. That attitude is shameful for Canada. This is why, as the member representing my constituents, I oppose this measure and I condemn this deplorable situation.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I was glad to hear the speech given by our colleague from Châteauguay—Saint-Constant. Clearly we are in a situation where a crown corporation has imposed a lockout. That is undeniable. Everyone understands that, at least on this side of the House.

The government has supported the lockout with a draconian bill that is going to impose terms that are simply intolerable. These are terms that will not be negotiated. This is an affront to the dignity of the workers of Canada. That is not tolerated on this side of the House.

What does my colleague think of the idea that a collective agreement must be negotiated rather than imposed by a bill?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi, and I commend him for his very worthwhile remarks.

It is very clear that a government agency has imposed a lockout. This bill is totally draconian and unacceptable. The government is trying to impose a settlement on the workers, and we do not support that, plain and simple. It is an affront to their dignity.

Could the hon. member comment further on this draconian bill? I would like to know whether he thinks the government's bill is warranted or whether he feels both parties should be able to negotiate a collective agreement in due course and on an equal footing.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

I certainly think the first step would be to stop defining a lockout as a strike. We should definitely be looking at realities as plain as day.

We are attacking workers for having attempted to exercise their legal right to strike and their legal right to put pressure on their employer. I do not think that is a tactic that should be lost in the 21st century. It is a right that is enshrined in our Constitution. The Constitution is something that we are going to continue to defend, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question, which is a matter of great concern for us outside the urban centres.

In those areas, a wage and a pension are essential. People outside urban centres are often disadvantaged, when compared to others. These are not big cities, and the economy does not develop at the same rate as in the major urban centres. People depend to a very large extent on each family member who has a job and the opportunity to have a pension and a good life after working at their job for many years. It is essential for us that all our jobs and our workers be protected and that we make sure that wages are commensurate with the need and the contribution made.

The bill that is before us is a disastrous and draconian step backwards and we will not tolerate it.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, as far as the comment is concerned, I am pleased that the member is able to present a certain sequence of events. I think the important one there is that the employees have been locked out. The government has taken note of this.

I think it is very important that we recognize that postal services have come to a complete and utter stop. Until collective bargaining is put back into place so that the two parties can come to a proper solution between the two of them and we and the government can go back to our respective homes, and we in Quebec can actually celebrate Saint-Jean-Baptiste, we have to sit here and debate a law project that we should never have been presented with in the first place.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

I would like to thank the member for his comments. I really did not hear any questions, however.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

I am coming to that, Mr. Speaker. I began by speaking about Bill C-6 and I will continue to speak about it. I am trying to provide some context.

I was saying that this same spirit leads us to support letter carriers in their demands. We are a united people. Post offices are the cornerstones of our communities in the regions. They are indispensable for communication between communities. We depend on them for affordable communications, to communicate amongst ourselves and to communicate with other Quebeckers and other Canadians. It is an essential service and the daily prejudice that we are subject to is intolerable.

The letter carriers in our communities understand that we depend on their services. They have never failed to give us excellent service. Throughout their negotiations with Canada Post, they continued to sort and deliver our mail. It is easy to understand why. These people are part of our community. They are our brothers, sisters and neighbours. They are just as much a part of our community as our other constituents. They know that, without them, we all lose.

Right now families cannot communicate with one another. Small and medium-sized businesses are having a hard time getting paid for services they have provided. Seniors are not receiving their benefits. Unemployed people are having a hard time receiving their benefits. The workers are not the ones preventing the mail from being delivered. During the negotiations, they made sure that the mail was delivered. It was the employer, Canada Post, that declared a lockout. The Conservative government is the one trying to force them back to work. Canada Post Corporation—a crown corporation—and our government seem to have forgotten that the workers offered to go back to work. What is worse, the bill before us would impose a lower salary offer.

I want to quote a statement from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers:

The bill legislates wage increases that fall significantly below Canada Post’s last offer of 1.9% in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and 2.0 % in 2014. The law includes increases of 1.75 % in 2011, 1.5% in 2012, 2% in 2013 and 2% in 2014. This would take $875.50 out of the pockets of an average full-time postal worker during the four years of the agreement. It represents a theft of $35 million from postal workers and their families.

It is shameful. Postal workers work hard to guarantee a good, reliable, profitable service, a crown corporation service that generates a profit for the Canadian government. It is a corporation that provides an essential service, and that is able to do so reliably and even generate a profit. Should we not rather get the workers involved, motivate them, and show them we appreciate them by giving them an appropriate salary that reflects their contribution? We should also protect their pensions. Questions must be asked.

Our Canada Post Corporation employees in the regions provide exceptional service. They know us and we know them. They want to do their best to help us but the government wants to decrease their salaries and reduce the services.

I will quote the Canadian Union of Postal Workers once again:

On Saturday, September 12, 2009, the federal Conservatives quietly announced a Canadian Postal Service Charter that outlines the government’s expectations for Canada Post in regard to service standards and other matters.

The Charter largely reiterates existing policy and includes an expectation that Canada Post will maintain “the moratorium on the closure of rural post offices.”

The Charter also acknowledges that providing postal services to rural areas is an integral part of universal postal service.

While it’s a good start, the Charter isn’t altogether reasonable.

Retirement, illness, death, or the corporation's infrastructure—for example, the termination of a lease or even a fire—“may, nevertheless, affect the ongoing operation of a post office.”

Rural post offices are threatened. The post offices of , Quebec's Gaspé region have a long history. I would like to share some facts provided by Daniel Arpin, a philatelist. In 1705, in the territory we now call Canada, a postal service between Quebec City, Trois-Rivières and Montreal was established by the French regime. That same year, a postal service was established in New Carlisle—in my riding—in the Gaspé. In 1763, the service fell under the control of the British Empire and was managed by Benjamin Franklin. In February 1851, the New Carlisle postmaster created his own stamp, an unauthorized stamp, one that is much sought after by stamp collectors.

All that to say that the postal service has a long history in Canada and the Gaspé. Postal services are vital to our communities, but they are continually being whittled away. Rural mailboxes are being replaced by superboxes. Increasingly, we find ourselves collecting the mail on the side of the road, in places that could be dangerous. We are distancing ourselves from the rural post office that serves a community meeting place, and which is often the only place that flies the Canadian flag. It is considered a cultural symbol representing Canada in the region.

The new philosophy is no longer based on providing service, and services are now being curtailed and eliminated.This philosophy leads to the reduction of services in communities and the erosion of workers' rights. It makes life difficult for my constituents, for small and medium-sized businesses. We must support our fellow workers against attacks by this intolerable bill. We will do all we can to oppose it.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, we are here today, this evening, tonight, to debate a bill that is totally premature. It is truly our duty, as the opposition, to object strenuously to this piece of legislation.

I live in a lovely riding far from Ottawa. We have many extremely proud residents. We have fishermen and artists. We have aboriginal communities, the Mi'kmaq in particular. We are independent, but we also stand united. Because of our remoteness from large urban centres, we understand what solidarity truly means. We depend on our neighbours, on our business people. Each of them has a place, and each of them makes an invaluable contribution.

When a member of our community is wronged, we all lose. We depend on their services; we depend on every taxpayer and every public servant. We depend on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The closure of the rescue centres in Quebec City and Newfoundland and Labrador will cost us dearly. The government seems to be saying that those who live in the regions are less important.

In the regions, we depend on our port infrastructure. It worries us when the government tries to convince municipalities to assume responsibility for ports, when they cannot afford to maintain or even improve them. We depend on Environment Canada. We expect the minister to fulfill his role when public health is at risk, when outside companies come in to exploit our natural resources without seeking the consensus of our communities.