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

Petitions June 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition calling on the government to exempt feminine hygiene products, such as tampons, from the GST.

As it says in the petition, these products are essential to the lives of women and this tax adds a disproportionate financial burden.

Committees of the House June 2nd, 2015

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

Since this debate began, we have unfortunately seen a very clear show of political power by the Conservatives, who want to strong-arm certain members of the House. It is disappointing to see the Conservatives' hard-line attitude. This attitude has also been evident at the Standing Committee on Finance regarding the budget implementation bill. There too, we know very well that the Conservatives will not accept any of the proposals brought forward by the opposition.

At the Standing Committee on Health, the other parties came up with some very reasonable, very sensible proposals, but unfortunately, the government refuses them and remains blinded by its singular truth, the only reality that it will accept.

I want to ask the minister why she has decided to latch on to a few of the witnesses' statements, the answers that she wanted to hear, instead of looking at the big picture and finding a solution, a more comprehensive proposal for all Canadians.

Committees of the House June 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is pretty sad to hear the Conservatives' messages. This is a show of political power. They are trying to strong-arm their opponents. Good for them. I do not blame them.

However, we know that to achieve their goal, the Conservatives chose to listen to a very limited number of opinions and to focus solely on the dangers of marijuana. Nobody here denies that there are problems associated with marijuana use. However, by taking a very narrow view and carefully selecting a few witnesses who support their hard-line position, the Conservatives are preventing us from seeing a bigger picture and taking a more sensible approach that could prevent drug abuse.

Can my colleague comment on why the Conservatives are choosing to emphasize just the dangers of marijuana rather than educate people and adopt much broader policies based on prevention and knowledge of this phenomenon?

Committees of the House June 2nd, 2015

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

The sun is definitely setting on the Conservative government's reign. It reminds me of monarchs in ancient times who, during their final days, assassinated their entourage to facilitate the transition in an attempt to ease their own passing.

This is so sad because the Conservatives have adopted a really hard-line attitude that rejects scientific evidence and social consensus. I am talking about consensus among various stakeholders with an interest in the problems associated with drug use in general, including marijuana use. I would like my colleague to tell me how concerned the witnesses who appeared as part of the study were about the government's attitude and what it is trying to achieve through excessive criminalization.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Victoria for his question. My answer is very simple: it is not sufficient.

The Conservatives now have a well-established reputation for being all talk and no action. Take, for example, the economic action plan and the famous building Canada plan. Every year they promise money. However, we get all kinds of complaints from all over the country, from municipalities and provincial governments, questioning whether the money is actually being spent. These governments are complaining that the federal government is blocking this money but does not provide a reason.

We are in the process of studying the budget implementation bill and one other aspect is outrageous: although the Conservatives committed to stop using the surplus from the EI fund, they used it to balance the budget this year. The Conservatives say one thing and do the opposite. Then they then claim to be good managers. Let us not kid ourselves. That is intellectual fraud. That is the underlying problem.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Winnipeg North for that example. It is quite a good one and rather interesting.

It is a privilege for me to sit on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. In 2013, we studied income inequality in Canada. It is a reality. In fact, we are steadily sliding down the slope of income inequality. Although the income of a small fraction of the population is rising very quickly, the income of the vast majority is stagnating or even decreasing when the cost of living is taken into account.

These small fees are being charged left, right and centre, and people are being squeezed and losing a lot of their purchasing power. How can they fight back? The fact that we are leaving them at the mercy of this type of arbitrary fee being charged all over the place is scandalous. That is why we want to go one step further. This is very simple and very easy to understand and to support, and it will give all Canadians a little breathing room.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Davenport for sharing his precious speaking time with me, because our time is very limited. This is an opposition day and we are dedicating our entire day to this topic. I am sure that he could have shared a number of thoughts from his constituents regarding the problems with these pay-to-pay fees. I want to start by reading the motion, because it is very short and clear:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ban all pay-to-pay practices by banks operating in Canada, through the enactment of a mandatory financial code of conduct to protect consumers.

I want to reflect on my 10 years of public life. It has already been 10 years, and I can hardly believe it myself. This fall will mark my fourth election campaign. I have met all kinds of people in these 10 years. Every single day in the past four years specifically, I have taken time to hear from the people of Beauport—Limoilou.

What I find really striking, and I am sure my colleagues have seen this too, is that people are proud of their accomplishments, whether they have raised a family, found a job, bought their first house or owned a house for 20 or 30 years. However, one constant is becoming increasingly obvious: people are complaining more and more about the rising cost of living in general and especially the countless fees they have to pay.

They also talk to us about taxes, but their main issue is the fees they have to pay left, right and centre, fees on all kinds of simple transactions, fees that businesses charge to compensate for declining revenues in highly competitive markets. However, the most offensive fees are no doubt those that make up the enormous profits of huge Canadian companies, particularly our big banks.

I am a long-time observer of the Canadian economy. I have been interested in it for 30 years, and I have seen how admirably stable our chartered banks are. However, I have also witnessed them taking advantage of people over and over, and I believe that governments are complicit because they have not done anything about it for years. That is so disappointing.

My colleague from Davenport chose to target pay-to-pay fees for paper bills. That is certainly the most offensive example of abuse on the part of the big Canadian banks. It is an outright insult to the millions of Canadians who, unfortunately, depend on paper bills. I think it is unfortunate because changes made by big businesses such as chartered banks hold people hostage and force them to change their habits or try to adapt somehow.

I currently have the great pleasure of being a member of the Standing Committee on Finance. However, for all of 2014, I was a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. I am very proud of having had a front-row seat to and an active role in passing legislation to prohibit these pay-to-pay fees for getting paper copies of telephone, cellphone, or cable television bills, among others.

It was a great victory and we are very proud. We led the charge for a very long time. My colleague from Davenport spoke of our late leader, Jack Layton. I very much remember our campaign all those years ago. Our beloved Jack got in front of an automated teller machine and denounced the ever-increasing fees and the fact that people had to pay to withdraw their own money.

Before I go on, I will provide some very interesting and very important statistics to inform this debate. According to a poll by the PIAC, 33% of respondents said they were not comfortable with the idea of receiving a bill electronically. That is one in three Canadians, which is a rather significant part of the population. According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadian households do not have Internet, but more importantly, 46% of homes with a household income of less than $30,000 a year do not have Internet. That is almost half of all the lowest-income households. Some 40% of senior Canadians do not use the Internet.

When I went door-to-door, especially as part of our campaign against eliminating door-to-door mail delivery, many people told me they supported the NDP campaign not because they felt uncomfortable or deprived at the loss of home mail delivery, but because they were thinking about their neighbours, namely seniors, households with very young children, people with reduced mobility, or people who do not use the Internet and who will end up paying a heavy price when mail is no longer delivered to their door.

It is the same in this case. Someone like me, a young 48-year old who is comfortable using the Internet, can easily make the transition. That being said, my mother does not even have a cell phone and has never used the Internet in her life. Why should she be charged for a paper invoice? That is outright robbery. My mother is far from being alone; on the contrary, many of her friends of the same or similar age are also entirely dependent on paper. With that in mind, how can a responsible government that respects all Canadians allow people to be cheated in this way, forced to pay $2 for every invoice? It might not seem like a lot, but it is huge. My mother worked for part of her life, but her retirement income is pretty modest. For her, every cent counts. How can we tolerate a government that allows this kind of outright theft? It is stealing.

I am not even talking about other charges that also seem to go up every year, or even twice a year, in the case of transaction fees. Even people who have very little income have to make a few withdrawals or a few transactions from their account. For someone like my mother, having to pay $1 or $1.50 for each transaction and $2 for a paper copy of her statement to see what is happening with her account is, quite frankly, scandalous. Any responsible government should really look at the situation and protect people from this kind of abuse.

That being said, I am very pleased to be able to speak to this issue on behalf of all Canadians, and especially my constituents in Beauport—Limoilou. This is yet another subject that we will be debating in the weeks to come and over the summer.

The Environment May 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his answer, but I am obviously not satisfied.

He knows very well that the environmental assessment process was completely gutted of anything of value or of anything resembling independence. In the past, the Port of Quebec has proven that it does not take assessments seriously, as I have shown.

I want to address another topic. A few months ago I questioned the Minister of the Environment. I thank the parliamentary secretary for responding at the time regarding the National Pollutant Release Inventory, in which St. Lawrence Stevedoring and Quebec Stevedoring are nowhere to be found.

The parliamentary secretary, whom I thank again, told me that he would get back to me on that question. The answer I received described the criteria for signing up. However, unfortunately, since that time, I have not gotten any indication that Quebec Stevedoring or St. Lawrence Stevedoring have started the process of signing up to report to the NPRI.

Is that the case? Did the Minister of the Environment look into whether Quebec Stevedoring or St. Lawrence Stevedoring should comply with the inventory, in light of the scale of operations?

The Environment May 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I imagine that it will be no surprise to anyone this evening that I will be talking about the Port of Quebec and its problem with contamination. However, I must say that in addition to the contamination problem, there is also the issue of the expansion project that the Port of Quebec announced in very succinct terms on its website. The problem is that the expansion project became controversial when a journalist pointed out that the port was planning to export crude oil from western Canada.

Unfortunately, instead of being up front and openly answering the questions, overnight the Port of Quebec erased all mention of oil exports from its website. It also tried to do damage control by saying that the liquid bulk terminal, which could be used for oil exports, was the second phase of the controversial expansion project.

In addition, I asked a question at the beginning of the week. The entire assessment process for this project is very questionable, and even suspect, for the reasons I will outline. I would like to remind members that for almost three years, or ever since the infamous red dust incident of October 2012, I have raised the issue with the government many times. My question was about the contamination with various types of dust, including nickel dust, and the attitude of the Port of Quebec and Quebec Stevedoring, through its affiliate, St. Lawrence Stevedoring, which is the source of the problem. There was at least a small victory: the Quebec ministry for sustainable development, the environment and the fight against climate change found that St. Lawrence Stevedoring was responsible for the nickel contamination. The federal government also acknowledged this.

Now the situation is getting out of hand. The planned expansion project is not a designated project under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Unfortunately, because of its status as a Canadian port authority, the Port of Quebec is both judge and jury, the absolute authority when it comes to the assessment of this project. I would like to remind members that, during the construction of the two wood pellet terminals in Anse au Foulon, the Port of Quebec released the assessment conducted by Quebec Stevedoring, the company that was building the infamous terminals, after construction had already begun. Consultation, or at least public access to the information, had been short-circuited.

Given the two extra berthing spaces and the space for additional bulk storage that are planned, the situation has not improved for residents. They are living in a dust cloud and two days after they have cleaned the outside of their houses they have to clean their patio furniture again. We do not know whether the measures that have been taken by Quebec Stevedoring and the Port of Quebec have improved the situation, and the project is likely to create even more pollution. People find it very hard to deal with the uncertainty. They have already been dealing with this problem for far too long. What is the government going to do to reassure people about the expansion project?

Firearms Regulations May 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion moved by my colleague from Prince George—Peace River. We have good reason to be skeptical when we read my colleague's motion:

...(a) Canada already exceeds all the standards listed in United Nations resolution 55/255 concerning firearms (the resolution); (b) the regulations envisioned in the resolution would do nothing to enhance public safety, and would serve only to burden the law-abiding firearms community; and therefore, the government has already surpassed its obligations with respect to the resolution and is not required to take any further steps.

Canada signed this famous convention but it unfortunately did not ratify it. Even if we assume that Canada complies with and even exceeds these famous standards, they still only apply to Canada itself. This does not include working or co-operating with other parties in the world that are struggling with the trafficking in illegal firearms.

Instead of lending a hand to our friends abroad, we are slamming the door in their face, telling ourselves that at least the threat is not in our home. That attitude is disappointing, but it is sadly nothing new from this government.