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

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity Act December 14th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I will continue in the same vein as the member opposite.

The purpose of debating a bill and examining it clause by clause is to avoid quickly signing nine bad deals. Perhaps, by doing so, we are settling for slightly fewer agreements, but they are worth the trouble and protect the interests of all Canadians and everyone in the world with whom we do business. It is important to remember what the hon. member for Windsor West said earlier: as citizens and particularly as members of Parliament, we have the specific responsibility of standing up for important principles and values.

Unfortunately, it is easy to talk through our hats about international trade. Everyone agrees that free trade issues are important. On principle, the New Democratic Party can support the idea of signing free trade agreements. That is perfectly acceptable to us.

However, we always question the purpose of a possible agreement and its consequences because, clearly, those consequences go beyond simple economic issues. There are also human rights issues—as we have pointed out, environmental issues and the effects of such an agreement on Canada's reputation as a country and as a member nation of the international community. It is especially important to consider the effect on our reputation because, given how quickly things happen on the international stage, it can take a huge amount of effort to restore a reputation once it has been tarnished.

I would like to remind all members of the House that, when it comes to international trade, there are many ways to pull out and many ways to be a very effective partner and player.

First, I want to remind the House that according to our statistics on our current level of trade with Jordan, that trade has increased steadily and quickly over the past 10 years without a free trade agreement. Would a possible agreement accelerate the rate of increase of this trade? That is the type of question we need to be asking to understand the value of such an agreement.

We already have quite a lot of experience with our American and Mexican partners and with other countries around the world. It is truly worth the effort to understand whether eliminating every barrier and restriction and allowing extreme economic flexibility is worthwhile.

There are examples of countries around the world that do not have free trade agreements, but through their domestic policies find a way to be very successful players, even giants, countries that essentially end up breaking down every obstacle in front of them.

There is the example of Brazil and that of China. In the case of both countries, when we look at things truly objectively, we see that it is the will of the state and the government in place that allows these countries to be so productive and to become stronger all the time, to the extent that they are no longer just producing countries or countries that have freed themselves from the status of developing country, but they are major international players with a significant say. I noticed in London two weeks ago that they are increasingly becoming important partners in terms of international aid for developing countries.

This broadens their influence significantly without necessarily concluding free trade agreements with their major business partners.

Someone might remind me that Brazil is part of Mercosur. That is fine and a good arrangement for Latin America, but it does not explain everything, as I was saying, because Mercosur has been around for a very long time.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity Act December 14th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I have to wonder what the purpose of my colleague's speech was. After all, we must not forget that Canada's reputation is very important and we should always try to enter into agreements that are worthwhile.

Will the government give all members of the House a chance to debate the matter fully in committee, since this bill could have repercussions that go far beyond simple economic interests? This is a big concern. I think we have an opportunity here to reach an agreement that will satisfy all parties. Co-operation is crucial in this House.

On behalf of the government, can the member agree to remain open to discussing this future free trade agreement thoroughly and under optimal conditions?

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity Act December 14th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his speech.

I must admit that I am always surprised to see how anxious the government is to sign free trade agreements and I think the hon. member will agree.

I have a simple question for the hon. member. Does he think this is truly a matter of life and death, considering the volume of trade between Canada and Jordan?

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity Act December 14th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague, a fellow member of the Standing Committee on International Trade, for his work and thank him for a very enlightening presentation.

I would like to revisit the subject of our responsibilities as Canadians, as a country and as a trading partner, with respect to labour law issues. I believe this is very important.

In a conversation with an expert specializing in international trade issues—I can no longer remember which one—the expert mentioned that human rights and other related issues are often crucial. This is especially pertinent at this juncture because these issues could be an impediment to future partnerships or garner the disapproval of Canadians, who are also consumers.

If we do not choose our partners carefully and, above all, if we do not propose fair and worthwhile agreements that make us proud to be their partner, does my colleague believe that we could suffer a backlash that definitely could be costly?

Canada-U.S. Relations December 9th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, every time they sign an agreement, Canadians get the short end of the stick. This agreement will necessarily have repercussions on tourists who come to Canada every year. Is this going to complicate their lives? We do not know. Is this going to cost them a lot of money? We do not know. Is this going to discourage them from coming to Canada? We have no idea.

Can the Conservatives be transparent for once and tell us what impact this agreement will have on the thousands of restaurants, hotels and small businesses that rely on tourism?

White Birch Paper December 9th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, today the 600 workers of White Birch Paper in Quebec City, their families, the suppliers, and customers waiting for delivery of their orders continue to be held hostage by investor Peter Brant. Unless Justice Robert Mongeon deems the shutdown illegal and requires the plant to continue operating 24/7, 365 days a year, all these people will be at the mercy of a billionaire's whims, two weeks before Christmas.

The Quebec City mill has a full order book and White Birch Papers has tens of millions of dollars in liquid assets. The current owner is refusing to top up the employees' retirement fund after years of failing to make contributions. This holdup of our industrial gems is tantamount to the despicable abandonment of our honest citizens by vultures who are incapable of contributing to our society.

For too long our government has sacrificed our men, women and children to these criminals masquerading as respectable people. Dealing with these economic crimes is on the NDP's agenda.

Port of Québec December 6th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the greater Quebec City area for his question.

When my colleague from the riding of Québec and I had the opportunity, we met with the president and CEO of the port, Mario Girard. He told us that the port was used to the max. Our lives are highly dependent on marine transportation for shipping wine, imported cars and other goods. As he told us, the port is already being used to maximum capacity. As I mentioned in my speech, if there is an increase in trade as a result of the EU free trade agreement, the Port of Québec will lose opportunities to other ports in the country and even in the United States.

Port of Québec December 6th, 2011


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize that the Port of Québec is of vital importance as a hub of international trade in opening new markets for Canadian business, creating jobs, generating significant economic benefits, particularly in terms of tourism, and ensuring the vitality of small and medium businesses in Quebec City and the surrounding areas; and (b) support key projects for the upgrading of port assets and the development of equipment, taking into account the climatic and environmental challenges of this particular section of the St. Lawrence River.

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in this House today in support of my region and my city. Quebec City is more than just an extraordinary architectural showcase and a culturally vibrant city. It is also a city built along the St. Lawrence River. From the Promenade Samuel-de Champlain to Beauport Bay, the water is an integral part of the city and its people. It is therefore not surprising that in the very heart of the city lies the oldest port in Canada, the Port of Québec.

In the 19th century, it was even one of the largest ports in the world because of the enormous volume of merchandise and passengers that went through there. Marine and port activity played a role in developing the economy of the region, and for more than 150 years, the Port of Québec has been one of the key players in the regional economy.

Today, still, the Port of Québec is a major continental gateway with assets that the other major ports in the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes system as a whole do not have. Its facilities and traffic rank it among the most important ports in the country. In addition to its importance in bulk shipping, the Quebec City site has the distinction of being both a transshipping and destination port. The Quebec City region serves, in a way, as a logistical intermodal platform, from land to water and from river to ocean. This situation is a result of the advantages offered by Quebec City, which include the depth of the river at Quebec City and its location in relation to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic, in addition to its ability to offer a range of services such as transshipping and warehousing, to name but those two.

This means that the Port of Québec has the facilities to handle large ocean-going vessels with very deep drafts that cannot dock elsewhere in Quebec or Ontario. It is well connected, by rail or road, with the industrial heart of Canada and the United States. It is an essential component of the Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway.

In concrete terms, the Port of Québec generates $786 million in economic fallout annually. For the region, that represents more than 5,000 direct and indirect jobs and $163 million in taxes paid. As well, trade with over 60 countries flows out from the port.

In addition to its economic functions, about 20% of the port facilities have recreational purposes. For example, a number of facilities provide families in the region and tourists with access to the St. Lawrence River. It goes without saying that Quebec’s national capital is the main beneficiary of the economic benefits measured. The operations of stakeholders in the shipping and port industry in Quebec City are heavily concentrated there, not to mention that a number of their suppliers of goods and services are located within the area.

For all these reasons, I am calling on the government today to recognize the Port of Québec as an international trade hub that opens up markets for Canadian businesses, creates jobs, generates significant economic benefits and ensures the vitality of small and medium-sized businesses in the city and surrounding areas. I am also calling on the government to support the plans to upgrade the port’s assets, and ultimately to develop its equipment.

First, why is it important to recognize the Port of Québec as an international trade hub that opens up markets for Canadian businesses? The Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway accounts for 71% of Canada’s trade with the rest of the world, and that means $600 billion.

The Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway also accounts for 66 % of trade with Asia and Europe — $138 billion — a majority of which is shipped by water. In addition, nearly $600 billion in trade with our neighbours, the United States, passes through that gateway.

Second, why ask the government to support plans to upgrade the port’s assets and the development of its equipment? The problem of the competitiveness of our businesses in Canada often comes up in this House. We are constantly having to deal with new players on the international markets. In order for us to be competitive, our infrastructure has to be optimized to meet the challenges of tomorrow. The Port of Québec already has strategic advantages, since its handling capacity is very high. That is not enough, however, if the facilities are in poor repair and unusable.

Upgrading the existing facilities calls for investments of $150 million, as estimated by Mario Girard, the CEO of the Port of Québec. The authority does not have the borrowing capacity to undertake work that represents the essential minimum for businesspeople and the public in the Quebec City region. The current letters patent of the Port of Québec limit the authority’s borrowing capacity to $45 million and the authority’s current average annual profit for the last five years has been around $3.6 million. Without assistance, the Port of Québec will struggle along and may start down a road to decline that could easily be avoided by investing in this infrastructure.

This situation is like an albatross around our businesses’ necks and they are seeing their competitiveness undermined by something over which they have little control. The federal government alone is capable of fixing the problem and should support the Port of Québec authority in its facility renovation projects. These are strategic investments to support the Canadian economy. It is very often more beneficial for Canadian businesses to have an effective business platform than tax credits.

We have the opportunity to not only make our businesses more effective, but also to reduce the environmental footprint left by business. The seaway is one of the most reliable methods of transportation. It has low carbon emissions, is regulated and is profitable. Using the seaway more often would be an excellent way of reducing the congestion on our roads.

In the end, what do our businesses need? We must always ask ourselves this question when developing policies. Do they need the money from the taxes they pay or do they need the government to fix simple problems that affect them? I am referring here to productivity gains derived from adapted infrastructure that promotes the development of business in Canada and the development of effective platforms that meet the needs of businesses that must also respect the needs of their clientele.

It is important to understand that supporting this motion means supporting not only the Port of Québec, but thousands of businesses that move products, resources, equipment and even people. Through this support, we are able to help tourism, international trade, domestic trade, logistics, local SMEs that both export and import, as well as all the workers who get quality jobs that are either directly or indirectly tied to the activities of the Port of Québec.

Despite all these excellent reasons to invest in the infrastructure of the Port of Québec, very little money is available to the port authority. I will say it again: there is not enough cash, insufficient borrowing capacity, and no grant program for this important infrastructure.

We are completing several rounds of negotiations with the European Union, which could lead to an increase in our trade. It is crucial, at this time, that we engage the government in an infrastructure investment plan that will be the logical follow-up to the future free trade agreement.

We cannot forsake our business people and leave them saddled with processing and transit facilities that are unable to meet their needs.

It is traditionally the responsibility of the state to support an infrastructure network that facilitates the flow of goods, people and information. Budgetary realism dictates that we do the work immediately to avoid ballooning costs due to inflation, crumbling infrastructure and the disappearance of businesses that do not feel supported in their efforts to break into new markets.

The Port of Québec infrastructure is in urgent need of support as it is in a state of disrepair; the port is currently operating at almost full capacity; the revenue generated is not enough to cover the cost of maintaining the port infrastructure; and the development of new infrastructure is not foreseeable under such circumstances.

Currently, the port is incapable of taking advantage of new opportunities and risks losing existing and potential clients.

The NDP pays particular attention to job creation. We firmly believe that strategic and responsible investments in our infrastructures will generate high-quality jobs. We also believe that modern infrastructures are a platform for Canadian businesses to meet the challenges of the 21st century. We think that offering generous tax credits while our infrastructures are being neglected is irresponsible. It is definitely better to invest in a modern and efficient commercial platform than blindly grant tax credits, particularly considering that 91,000 jobs were lost over the past two months.

It is absolutely critical to support this infrastructure. It is a priority for all my constituents and for all of Canada. The status quo will inevitably result in the decline of the port. The Canadian shipping trade strategy must be viewed as a whole. If the Port of Québec infrastructures are left to deteriorate without taking action, the commercial impact will be felt on Canada's whole shipping trade. All the activities in the Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway could be weakened. Let us not forget that the marine economy also supports continental economic activities. If we do not take action, the whole supply chain could suffer. Let us face it: in the current economic context, we cannot afford to hurt Canada's distribution and supply chain. Many Canadians depend on these chains. I am thinking, for instance, of the jobs in all processing stages and all commercial activities related to shipping trade. Many Canadian businesses also rely on these chains.

The Port of Québec is currently at a crossroads. If it is to keep its status as a strategic hub for trade, it must be able to restore its port facilities.

In conclusion, it is clear that the port is critical to the economic development of the Quebec City region and is also a major tourist and social attraction. It has been part of the picture for a long time, and its plays a fundamental role. It is an integral part of Quebec City, and we must absolutely take care of it.

November 22nd, 2011

Madam Speaker, along with a few measures that might be valuable, there are unfortunately many empty slogans and figures being bandied about. Again, giving corporations tax cuts is like giving a case of gin to an alcoholic instead of helping him with his addiction.

The tax credit the hon. member was bragging about can apply, unfortunately, to a company that does not create a single new job if the employer fiddles with its contributions to the employment insurance fund.

As far as the Red Tape Reduction Commission is concerned, it has been years since any red tape has been reduced. This is looking a lot more like a public relations operation.

The cherry on top is that our future retirees are being invited to gamble their retirement funds on the stock market. What kind of future is being offered, exactly?

November 22nd, 2011

Madam Speaker, today, I would like to come back to the question I asked in the House on June 21 about small and medium-sized businesses. We know that businesses with fewer than 100 employees represent over 98% of Canadian businesses. I therefore asked the Parliamentary Secretary to explain what concrete action the Conservative government intended to take to support the businesses that create approximately 70% of jobs in Canada.

The Conservatives have a tendency to give tax breaks to businesses that do not need them—those that are making huge profits. A good number of SMEs in Canada are still being affected by the economic crisis, which is rooted in stock market speculation and commercial paper. The businesses affected do not have any more working capital.

It is true that, since then, the Conservatives gave small businesses a 1% tax break and increased the tax rate threshold from $300,000 to $500,000. This is a first step that we could have taken together—we agreed with this measure—before we asked the government to work together to take things one step further and support job creation and the development of our small businesses.

However, in three years, this government reduced the taxes of large corporations, which did not need help at all, by 2.5%, which is equivalent to almost $6 billion in tax cuts in the past three years alone. All these credits in exchange for what? Absolutely nothing. No guarantees of job creation. We in the NDP believe that tax cuts should not be given out blindly. What the government must do is to do more for small businesses, particularly those that create jobs. Public investment must be targeted and the effects must be measured. It is key.

The Parliamentary Secretary told me, unfortunately, that I did not vote in favour of a budget that supported small business. The problem is that the measure that I just described was buried in a mishmash of budget measures that we could not in good conscience accept.

We know today that it is not small businesses but the friends of the Conservatives that are reaping the benefits of the massive tax breaks. After rereading the previous budget, we saw that the Conservatives are supporting big oil companies operating in oil sands and mining developments. However, these companies are moving manufacturing jobs to Asia, among other things. In my riding, 600 employees of White Birch Paper are living in uncertainty because of this government's complacency.

The parliamentary secretary subscribes to laissez-faire economics. This shows in his strategy to support the family business model and in his full commitment to dismantle government structures and leave people, including entrepreneurs, to fend for themselves.

This government lost 72,000 jobs last month. Is he going to keep shirking his responsibilities as parliamentary secretary for much longer?