House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was colleague.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Brome—Missisquoi (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 43% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions October 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague from Pontiac, I hear from people in my riding all the time about the Conservative government's cuts to the CBC. Every day, I get petitions signed by people opposed to the cuts.

Today I am presenting one such petition signed by 60 residents of Brome—Missisquoi. They are asking the government to ensure stable, adequate funding for our public broadcaster and to stop the cuts. People across the country are asking for this, and I encourage the government to grant their request.

Brome-Missisquoi Equality Forum October 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, many women have a hard time balancing work, study and family, and that affects their economic security. I believe that the inequalities many women face hinder their independence.

That is why I encourage people to go to the forum Brome-Missisquoi en égalité debates tomorrow, Thursday, at the Georges-Perron community centre in Bedford. There will be a number of presentations on inequality and the importance of community action.

I congratulate the forum organizers and participants because the NDP shares their values. I also invite all members to sign the forum's statement of principles, which is on my Facebook page.

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act September 22nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-36, which amends the Criminal Code in order to create an offence that would prohibit purchasing sexual services or communicating in any place for that purpose.

I am very familiar with this bill because I am a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. In July, our committee studied this bill for five consecutive days and heard from 75 witnesses.

We find that this bill does not comply with the Supreme Court ruling, and therefore we will oppose it. The government should have sent Bill C-36 to the Supreme Court to ensure that it is constitutional. The Minister of Justice said that he expected that Bill C-36 would face a legal challenge. As usual, the Conservatives' bills are designed to garner votes, not improve our society.

We consulted many legal experts, stakeholders and sex workers, as well as the authorities concerned by this legislation. Everyone agrees that Bill C-36 does not stand a good chance of getting by the Supreme Court.

There are many sex workers who choose this profession of their own free will. They must be protected from abuse. However, they are not the ones I am concerned about. What I do worry about is the government's lack of action on fighting poverty, which is the main factor that leads to sexual exploitation.

The measures announced by the Conservatives to help prostitutes exit the sex trade are inadequate. Sweden has adopted the model that criminalizes the buyer of services. Some wrongly claim that Bill C-36 is the Canadian version of the Swedish model. In Sweden, these legislative measures go hand in hand with extremely important social measures. The Swedish model cannot work if the authorities do not have the necessary resources to help people in need because, quite frankly, the main cause of prostitution is poverty.

Many women who have no way out turn to prostitution to survive. Those situations give rise to abuse and violence. What have the Conservative and Liberal government done to fight poverty? Nothing at all.

On the contrary, over the past five years, only 20% of Canadians have seen an increase in their incomes. The other 80% have seen their real income shrink. Households in Canada have the highest level of debt in the entire OECD. It is a disaster. Young people are paying more than ever for tuition and are incurring more debt than ever before. To make matters worse, for the past few years, the federal government has been refusing to invest in social housing. By 2030, $1.7 billion in federal funding for social housing will have been lost. This amounts to 85% of the federal housing budget.

In Canada, more than 620,000 social housing units were provided through long-term agreements, with a lifespan ranging from 25 to 50 years. These agreements allow social housing providers to financially support their tenants to ensure that only about 30% of their income is spent on rent.

In 2014, the federal government is still refusing to renew these agreements as they expire.

If we do not change course by 2030, over three-quarters of the federal education budget will have been cut. However, social housing is one way of getting people out of poverty and out of prostitution. For instance, by spending less than 30% of its income on housing, a needy family can invest more money in education. That is why we will continue to call on this government to renew federal funding for social housing, in order to preserve rent subsidies and provide funds for necessary renovations. Furthermore, to help women get out of prostitution, more needs to be done to treat substance abuse problems. Once again, we are up against this government's failure to act.

The Minister of Justice promised $20 million for treatment and prevention as part of Bill C-36's implementation. However, that amount is not even enough to meet the needs of existing organizations throughout Canada. At the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, witnesses criticized the cuts made to women's centres. This is on top of the funding cuts to mental health services and other medical services, as well as the absence of sufficient legal aid.

If the government is serious about fighting sexual exploitation, it has to allocate substantial resources. It has to provide these women with income support, as well as education, training and treatment for drug addiction. That is the only way to combat prostitution because criminalizing johns, which Bill C-36 would do, will not put an end to sex work. All that will do is further marginalize it. Marginalization is what leads to exploitation and violence. If johns are criminalized, they will be afraid. They will ask sex workers to meet them in out-of-the-way places. They will force them into different circumstances.

Bill C-36 will make life even more unsafe for many prostitutes. If they cannot advertise their services to persuade the johns to come to them, many more are likely to take to the streets in search of business. This bill will make it much more difficult for sex workers to safely assess and vet their clients and ensure they can meet them in relatively safe places on their own terms.

We believe that this bill is not consistent with the Supreme Court ruling or the charter. The measures announced by the Conservatives to help prostitutes exit the sex trade are inadequate. The government must refer the bill to the Supreme Court. We do not believe it is consistent with the Bedford decision.

Finally, concrete efforts must be made immediately to improve the safety of sex workers and help them exit the sex trade if they are not there by choice. The government must provide significant resources for income support, education and training, poverty alleviation and treatment for addictions for this group of people.

Agricultural Growth Act June 13th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech, which was very well documented, as usual. I would like him to know that the Quebec chapter of the Friends of the Earth is concerned about Bill C-18. I would like the hon. member to tell me whether they have cause for concern:

This bill considerably diminishes farmers' ancestral rights by requiring them to pay agribusiness giants royalties on their entire crop.

Are they right to be concerned?

Main Estimates, 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question.

I would simply say that I am not surprised that the Conservatives and Liberals are hiding behind fine principles to defend the indefensible. The Senate is unelected and unaccountable to Canadians. Senators do whatever they want in the upper chamber.

I am not surprised to hear that such things go on in that dark place.

Main Estimates, 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

I will answer with what I said in my speech: the Conservatives and the Liberals keep swearing that they really want to change things, but when they vote for the status quo at every opportunity, it comes as no surprise.

The Conservative Party continues to defend the Patrick Brazeaus, Pamela Wallins and Mike Duffys of this world, and the Liberal Party continues to defend the Mac Harbs of this world.

Main Estimates, 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this evening I will be talking about the main estimates. The government keeps talking about how it wants to shrink the bureaucracy and save taxpayers' money.

Well, the NDP has a solution that will help the government save $90 million per year. The money saved could be used to enhance the programs we have been talking about this evening.

How would the NDP save $90 million? Well, it is very simple. We would abolish the Senate, which is an archaic and undemocratic institution. Why are we paying $90 million per year for an institution made up of unelected members who are accountable to nobody?

Since 2011, 369 residents of Brome—Missisquoi have written to me about the Senate or have signed a petition calling for the Senate to be abolished. I am speaking on their behalf this evening.

Canadians work tirelessly to make ends meet, but the senators sit only 70 days a year. They are only asked to work three days a week, and that is when they even bother to show up for work.

In 2005, the Prime Minister said that the Senate was a relic of the 19th century, but since 2006, he has appointed 57 new senators, 51 of them former Conservative Party backers. Senators are completely unaccountable. They represent only the party that appointed them. They do not represent their regions or even the Canadian people.

It seems to me that, over the years, the Senate has turned into a gang of publicly funded lobbyists disguised as provincial representatives.

On April 18, 2014, the National Post reported that one-third of senators hold positions on either public or private boards of directors. Thirty-four of the 96 senators are board members. According to the National Post analysis, senators earn a lot of money from their membership on boards.

I would like to know how they can wear so many different hats at the same time without being in conflict of interest. Senators sit on boards of companies in financial services, mining and energy, and real estate. This makes me wonder how impartial they really are when they are debating our bills.

Let us not forget that, in November 2010, under a minority government, the NDP passed Bill C-311 through the House of Commons. That bill would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels. That was a much more ambitious target than the one the government announced at the Copenhagen summit. The bill was passed by elected representatives in the House of Commons and killed by the Senate.

When asked to justify this strategy, the Conservative Senate leader at the time retorted that the government, which did not support the bill, was not going to miss an opportunity to get rid of it.

One of my colleagues introduced another bill to protect transgendered people, which was passed by this House in April 2013 and is currently being held up in the Senate.

The Senate has never had a problem quickly passing the omnibus bills that this government pushes through here with its majority and time allocation motions.

What other bills passed in the House will the Senate kill in the future?

The NDP has long been calling for the Senate to be abolished. Originally, the Senate was designed to be a chamber of sober second thought. It has become a haven for donors, fundraisers and other friends of the Conservative and Liberal parties.

Canadians are becoming increasingly frustrated with the scandals in this undemocratic, unelected Senate that is currently under investigation. The senators continue to abuse Canadians' trust. That is why now, more than ever, this antiquated institution must be abolished.

We are not the only ones who want to abolish it. Manitoba and Quebec got rid of their senates many years ago. Their unicameral legislatures work just fine. People in New Zealand did the same with their upper chamber. Saskatchewan MLAs recently adopted a motion to abolish the Senate. I remind members that Saskatchewan has a Conservative premier.

Here in Ottawa, the Conservatives and Liberals refuse to take action. The NDP has proposed some practical solutions to make the Senate more transparent now, such as the following motion:

That all funding should cease to be provided to the Senate beginning on July 1, 2013.

The Liberals voted against this motion. Then, in the fall, we moved a motion to make the Senate more accountable to Canadians. The NDP was optimistic that the old parties would reassess how they use the Senate and support our motion. Our measures would have prevented senators from participating in partisan activities and using taxpayers' money to participate in activities that are not directly related to their parliamentary work.

The outcome of the vote on that motion shows that they are all talk and that transparency and accountability are not really that important to them. It was particularly disappointing to see the Liberals join forces with the Conservatives to defeat this motion. The Conservatives and the Liberals keep swearing that they really want to change things, but as I said, they vote for the status quo at every opportunity.

Canadians now know that the NDP will continue to defend our democratic values and fight for the Senate to be abolished. Why are we paying $90 million a year for an unelected, unaccountable Senate? Abolishing the Senate would save millions of dollars, and that money could be invested elsewhere in the estimates.

Main Estimates, 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Sherbrooke for the excellent job that he does on a daily basis for his constituents.

The Conservatives and the Liberals swear, with their hands on their hearts, that they want to change things, but at every opportunity, they vote for the status quo.

In his view, why does this happen?

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. I am saying that Honduras does not need a co-conspirator. What Pablo Heidrich, an economist at the North-South Institute, said before the Standing Committee on International Trade on April 10, 2014, is that Honduras needs technical assistance and a certain level of pressure so that the government becomes more responsive to wider social demands and it stops being sort of a committee that administers the gains of a very limited group of people.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her question.

Unlike the Liberals and the Conservatives, who are ready to accept free trade agreements at all costs for the sake of a signing ceremony and photo ops, we, in the NDP, believe that the importance of international trade should be recognized.

We want to increase our international trade, but, at the same time, this has to be done in a manner consistent with Canadian values. We also want the Canadian economy to benefit from this trade.