House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was colleague.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Beauport—Limoilou (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 26% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 June 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, who has witnessed first-hand the impact that the dismantling of the employment insurance program has had. The people in his region have been particularly affected by this.

The fact that the government is using the employment insurance surplus to balance the budget is likely not the most shocking aspect of this budget. It is actually a hidden deficit. What is more, we are strongly opposed to two measures: the increased TFSA contribution limit and income splitting. Basically, were it not for these two measures, the government would have a surplus without having to resort to such manipulation.

The other really shocking aspect of the budget is that the government is actually hampering job creation and interfering with job mobility and economic activity by limiting access to employment insurance. I have provided statistics on the employment rate to prove it. This has forced millions of people across the country to put up with jobs that make them unhappy, jobs where they have no hope of getting ahead and jobs that do not meet their needs. This leaves the door wide open to abuse and often results in extremely unfortunate consequences.

At the same time, it is rather ironic to see the government implementing employment insurance measures to allow people who are sick to receive benefits for a longer period of time, but that may be the result of accumulated problems with and failures of the basic employment insurance program.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 June 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Lester B. Pearson's government listened to the NDP, but those days are long gone.

The provinces adopted Paul Martin's famous accord with a gun to their heads, an old Liberal practice that goes back to the days of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the rounds of negotiations with the provinces in the early 1970s and 1980s. This is the last chapter in the saga of this famous accord; the government is drastically reducing the health transfers to the provinces.

The initial accord guaranteed that the federal government would pay 50% of provincial health care costs. It was a very clear and very simple accord, and this new program was the envy of the world. The Liberals began dismantling it and the Conservatives continued the job.

My dear colleague cannot be proud of the 20 years spent tearing apart the fabric of this country.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 June 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to ask my colleague from Brandon—Souris a question. I wanted to ask him about the budget that was tabled by the Minister of Finance a few weeks ago. I wanted to show him chart 2.16, which compares Canada's unemployment rate to that of the United States. I wanted to help him escape from his fantasy world. He thinks that balancing the budget will solve all our problems. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily true, unless there is some sort of secret I am not in on.

The unemployment rate in the United States dropped from 10% in 2009, at the height of the economic crisis, to just 5.5% in January 2015. Meanwhile, in Canada, the unemployment rate went from about 8.7% to 6.8%. We all know that for years, the Unites States has been dealing with recurring deficits that it is quite unable to get out of and that it has a higher accumulated public debt than Canada. The government needs to back up its claim that a balanced budget will solve all our problems. We know what happens when a government gets bogged down in ideology. It is very difficult to reason, see clearly and put things in perspective.

That said, the government has imposed the 100th gag order, the 100th time allocation motion. When I was elected on May 2, 2011, I never could have imagined that I would see 100 gag orders, 100 refusals to give a voice to millions of Canadians across the country. A gag order is one thing, and it has been used for a number of different bills, real bills that addressed specific problems or specific topics. However, ironically, the 100th one is being used for an omnibus bill, yet one more hodgepodge of legislative measures that amend a huge variety of laws, including the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Patent Act and even the act pertaining to the federal public service. This is the same kind of nonsense we have been seeing all along, and it unfortunately prevents us from seriously studying the legislative measures that are being imposed, not proposed, by the government. That is the reality.

This is the sign of a worn-out government: it is still imposing its will despite its growing list of failures and the opposition of a huge majority of the people on issues as significant as the anti-terrorism bill, Bill C-51. Unfortunately, the bill was passed by the Conservative majority, which, just like the government, is running away and trying to escape its own corruption under the vigilant eye of the Auditor General. The real pity is that the government is missing yet another opportunity to work with the opposition parties and the other parties represented in the House.

At least there is one good thing about the Minister of Finance's budget: it includes some NDP measures. We see it as “friendly theft”. We are not going to complain about them stealing our good ideas. The really funny thing, though, is that the Conservatives do not want to give the NDP any credit. Everyone knows what I am talking about. I am talking about the measures for small businesses: lowering the tax rate from 11% to 9% and the accelerated capital cost allowance.

Those are obvious ways to help small businesses, which often operate on very tight budgets. Sometimes their budgets are so tight that the owners cannot even pay themselves a salary.

It is a great privilege for me, as a member of Parliament, to meet so many business owners in my riding. Furthermore, Beauport—Limoilou is a riding that is home to many small businesses made up of just a few employees who are valiantly supported by the business owners. Those individuals have so much faith that they often work very long hours in conditions that are much worse than those of their employees. Every bit of help is important.

It is too bad, because those are the kinds of measures we could have supported wholeheartedly. However, instead of playing fair and having the courage to debate and discuss only the budget by introducing a coherent budget implementation bill that allows for a full debate, the Conservatives buried everything in this unpalatable jumble of an omnibus bill, which includes things that have nothing to do with the budget.

My colleagues have talked about that. Unfortunately, too few of my colleagues from all political parties will be able to speak to this omnibus bill. It is important to do so, because this bill will drastically change many aspects of our society, including good faith negotiations, which have been completely scrapped at the stroke of a pen, or respect for foreign visitors, who will be subjected to biometric screening. That last measure should have been the subject of a full debate to determine what limits should have been applied. Instead, the government prefers to short-circuit the debate. It is going to rush this through and we will have to live with the consequences. Judges are going to have to do the work of parliamentarians, once again, by perhaps striking down some of the abusive provisions that do not comply with our basic laws.

I think it is very important to go over the sorry record of nine very long years. It has been nine and a half years, actually, since the Conservative Party came to power. It was my first campaign, in 2006, one January 23. In 2006, as I said, the employment rate was 62.8% in the Canadian workforce. Last year, that rate fell to 61.4%, and I can assure the House that it has continued to drop given the turmoil caused by the drop in the price of oil. Given that the government increased development of our natural resources, especially oil and gas, we have reached a level of dependence that is forcing us to deal with a much harsher reality than we would have liked.

TD Bank's former chief economist, Craig Alexander, testified at the Standing Committee on Finance a few times and talked about this. His contribution is highly valued. He said that in the long term we need to build a knowledge economy that is globally competitive, productive and innovative and does not depend on speculation or fluctuating commodity prices.

For a government that ignored knowledge, innovation and the vibrancy of a talented pool of young people in favour of the massive export of raw, unprocessed resources, the judgment is particularly harsh. As Mr. Alexander said, the priority should have been the other way around, but the Conservatives forced us down a road that seems to be a dead end, and we do not know the way out yet.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 June 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Drummond for his speech.

I would like to pick up on what he said about the new economy and the extraordinary opportunities that come with protecting the environment. There is a very telling statistic about the Conservative reign. In 2006, the employment rate was 62.8% and in 2014 it was only 61.4%, which is a rather shameful statistic considering the economic recovery that followed the crisis.

It also stands to reason that with the upheaval related to the drop in the price of oil, the employment rate fell further in 2015. It really is too bad that we did not take up the challenge and start transitioning to a new economy, one that is more respectful and that gives people more autonomy in order to reduce their dependence on oil.

Would my colleague like to elaborate on the benefits of creating good-quality, well-paying jobs for middle-class families?

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 June 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague across the way. Many groups that appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance condemned the government's tactics for achieving a so-called “new balanced budget”. The way it has been used is disgraceful. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation and others condemned this tactic.

Today we are up against another time allocation motion—the 100th. This is a real shame. Once again, this is an omnibus bill that amends a lot of laws, and we have not had enough time to study it.

The Standing Committee on Finance was flooded with letters from bar associations in provinces across Canada. Among other things, they want the government to withdraw amendments to three major acts affecting the Patent Act and other similar acts.

Unfortunately, the government is ignoring us and bowing to pressure from a single group. We have not had an adversarial debate or heard divergent opinions on this part of the omnibus bill, not to mention many other parts that amend other pieces of legislation, including the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Frankly, how can the government House leader crow about us having enough time? That is completely false.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord for his speech. In fact, his speech brought to mind something about the pension plan for Canadian retirees. The memory goes back nearly 30 years, when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney faced a finger-pointing pensioner. If he ever touched pensions, it would be “Goodbye, Charlie Brown”.

What is interesting is that if what is being done to the employment insurance scheme were done to the Canada Pension Plan, retirees would be mobilizing on a massive scale and would be rather intimidating. The only real problem is that unlike Brian Mulroney, who was actually somewhat accessible, the present Prime Minister travels around by limousine between Langevin block and the Parliament buildings.

I would like to ask my colleague whether, in fact, we should be afraid there will be other manipulation attempts by this government in addition to the manipulation of the employment insurance fund that we see openly going on?

Business of Supply June 8th, 2015

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

I would like to begin where she left off.

The NDP and a number of civil society organizations, such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation—an organization I mentioned earlier that nobody would call left-wing—have criticized putting the annual employment insurance fund surplus into the consolidated revenue fund to balance the budget.

My colleague mentioned the other theft that is taking place in relation to the employment insurance fund: the fact that millions of people who lose their jobs or quit for excellent reasons, and who would have been entitled to benefits a long time ago under a previous incarnation of the system, are being deprived of legitimate benefits.

I would like my colleague to explain why people who really need benefits are being denied. Many of those people come to see us at our offices.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague. We both sit on the Standing Committee on Finance. However, his logic has failed him once again. This is not surprising, for a Conservative. In the eyes of the Conservatives, an improvement in the Canada Pension Plan is a tax, even though it is basically a savings.

In regard to employment insurance, my colleague has forgotten, rather selectively, some of the work done by our committee in reviewing the budget implementation bill. The director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation spoke out against using the surplus in the employment insurance fund to balance the budget. He was right because, according to his forecasts, this would be the government’s eighth operating deficit.

Is my colleague giving proper consideration to this organization, or is he equating it with a leftist organization? I would like to know what my colleague thinks of this witness.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from LaSalle—Émard for her speech. She spoke about specific cases of people who have lived through the loss of a job in her riding. We are forgetting to talk about precarious employment.

There is another facet to these multiple changes, closely tied in with employment insurance, that is very troublesome: more and more, there is a lack of options for workers who are dissatisfied or frankly unhappy, or who get sick at work. There is a lack of opportunity to assert their rights or even just to be eligible to employment insurance benefits in order to change jobs. This undermines labour force mobility and people’s ability to improve their lives, and of course talented people with great skills are prevented from flourishing somewhere else.

I would like my colleague to tell us about the paralysis we are currently facing in the labour market, which forces people to bear the unbearable in the workplace.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my very hon. colleague from Acadie—Bathurst for his speech. He has so much knowledge and experience. For 18 years now, he has been fighting tooth and nail for employment insurance, or rather unemployment insurance, which—I agree with him—is a more accurate term.

He did a very good job of emphasizing that seasonal jobs, though they are not the only ones, are essential economic activities in the regions and in urban centres too. Many activities ebb and flow with the seasons. Often, these are very important businesses in terms of the overall economy of their regions.

I would like my colleague to comment on the harm done to economic activity and businesses that are doing their best to keep going. As we have often heard, these businesses end up losing very experienced employees with irreplaceable knowledge. Such losses threaten seasonal activities that are important to the economy of regions like Acadia.