House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was varieties.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Shefford (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 51% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions December 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition about abolishing the Senate of Canada.

Given that senators are not elected and do not represent Canada's interests and values, the petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to abolish the Senate once and for all since it is filled with unelected people who are accountable to no one.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, if one farming association is opposed to UPOV '91 and another association supports it, it is because the Conservative government, as usual, is introducing an omnibus bill that amends a series of laws. Some parts are acceptable to certain groups but not to others.

Honestly, it is difficult to decide without looking at it on a case-by-case basis. This bill should be divided into 9 or 10 parts, each leading to its own law. It is tough to take a stance because this is yet another omnibus agricultural bill.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is extremely important. It is a matter of protecting a farmer's right to choose what they will grow based on their experience.

The worst thing that was done to agriculture in recent years was the Canadian Wheat Board. Farmers do not have the right to join a group of farmers to sell a product. That is outrageous. The right of association exists for all kinds of things, but not for that.

Once again, farmers are being denied a right.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

What I see in Bill C-18 is that the minister is being given a great deal of discretion. This means that regardless of the laws that govern agriculture in Canada, if a friend of the minister manages to bend his ear, the minister will circumvent the law. If we have paid all our dues and done everything right but someone influences the minister, anyone of us can be told that we cannot even harvest our crops—even if we have bought the seeds and planted them.

The minister has been given far too much power. We live in a democratic system and we have a legal system complete with courts. Normally, it is up to the courts, not just one minister, to determine whether a right is given or taken away from someone.

Something else is bothering me. We are talking about breeders' rights, but it should be farmers' rights. Since time immemorial, everyone has had the right to collect a seed, plant it and harvest the fruits. Now we are being told that it is not a right, but a privilege. We are now living in a society where rights are being taken away from everyone and we are told that they are privileges. I agree that a driver's licence is a privilege, but many other things are natural rights: to grow things or to be able to walk and talk, for example. In the legal texts, we should change the word “privilege” to “right”. As for the minister, he should be granted “privileges” and not “rights”. That is how the bill should read.

There is one more thing that is of great concern to me. Last week, I spoke for 10 minutes about malicious prosecution. This bill will likely result in this type of problem. I will give an example. In my region, there is an organic farmer who uses only organic seeds. He raises his animals organically. Nevertheless, his neighbour grows GMOs. Everyone knows that grain is wind-pollinated. Vegetables are pollinated by insects. We cannot control the wind or insects. There are no borders between fields. Just by chance, it was noticed that there were genetically-modified vegetables among those harvested and replanted. That was a disaster for the organic farmer. Not only did the company that owned the GMO in question not want to reimburse the organic farmer, even though it is the one that contaminated his fields with its GMOs, but it is going to require the organic farmer to pay royalties.

That is what we call abusive litigation. I believe that under the law, those who want to farm in their own way must also be able to harvest, reuse and stock according to their type of crop. There are small corners of the country where grain is grown and the same grain always comes back. These are regional varieties.

Then along comes some company that wants to trample on these regional farmers and impose its own varieties. It sows the new variety in a field among 10 other fields where heirloom varieties grow. There is contamination. It has happened before and it will happen again. The company that did the contamination sues everyone and wants royalties from all the land around it, claiming that the farmer spread pollen all around. A lot of this abusive litigation goes on. I talked about Kokopelli before. It is the target of abusive litigation by French breeders. In France, UPOV '91 was adopted a long time ago, and major multinationals are taking advantage of that.

There is another thing that concerns me about this bill, and that is cascading royalties. When I buy a car, I pay the fees, the taxes and so forth and then I use it. Let us say that after 50,000 kilometres, the company comes along and tells me that if I want to keep using the car, I will have to pay for it all over again. My vehicle works just fine. They are surprised and they charge royalties. The same thing happens at 75,000 kilometres and 100,000 kilometres. That too is an example of cascading royalties. A farmer buys a top-quality product and grows it conscientiously on his land. He puts time, money and everything necessary into it, regardless the method he uses, and he gets a good yield. Then, because he has a better yield than the third farmer who planted the same product, he is charged an additional royalty. As it turns out, because of weather problems elsewhere that summer, his product is worth more money. He is charged another royalty. I call that cascading abusive royalties. Then, if people fight to get his product because it is so great, he will be charged more royalties. Those are cascading abusive royalties.

Can Bill C-18 protect him from that or can the minister, with all the privileges he is being granted, protect the farmer? What I see in this bill, as with almost all of the Conservative government's bills, is that it protects big corporations and leaves small businesses to fend for themselves.

It is also important to protect access to heirloom, heritage and public varieties. It is important that we continue to have access to seeds that have proven their worth for hundreds of years.

CBC/Radio-Canada November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, every day I meet with people who want to talk about the cuts to CBC/Radio-Canada. People care about their local newscasts and local programming. CBC/Radio-Canada does an excellent job keeping an eye on what is happening around us and making it relevant to our everyday lives. Local content is what makes CBC/Radio-Canada our broadcaster.

Why is the minister cutting our public broadcaster's budget?

Agricultural Growth Act November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, let us talk about ministerial discretion.

When it suits him, he talks about it and when it does not suit him, he does not talk about it.

Discretionary authority is being given to the minister without putting in place any legal recourse with the assistance of counsel, and without any possibility of protection. Do my colleagues know what I call that? I call that dictatorship. I call that absolute power.

The current government tends to want to put absolute power in the hands of a few people without providing any recourse.

Agricultural Growth Act November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in the process of creating a new variety, there is a stage called licensing. All kinds of tests are done at that stage. Licensing costs a fortune. Some would say it costs an arm and a leg. Individuals do not always have the means to create a special horticultural variety and licensing their product. They will be bought out by someone else. Much like copyright royalties on a CD, individuals will get only pennies, almost nothing.

Agricultural Growth Act November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, for much of my life—nearly 50 years—I worked in agriculture. When I was a student, I would spend my summers and even the fall working on farms. I then studied agriculture at Université Laval so that I could work in this industry—in various areas, but particularly in ornamental horticulture.

The riding of Shefford, which I represent, is made up of three very distinct regions. In the west, you have the rich plains of the St. Lawrence, where you can find the big farms. There are even private research centres where they are cultivating corn, soy and various grains. This area has the richest soil in the region.

Towards the centre of the eastern region, you will find fruit tree nurseries and a very big nursery for growing trees and shrubs. This bill will have a significant impact on this type of production.

More towards the centre, you will find the city and its industries. However, in the east, you will find traditional agriculture—hay fields and smaller farms, including producers of milk, veal calves, slaughter cattle, sheep, goats and chickens. There is a lot of diversity.

Pork production, which is very important in my area, is located in the eastern region because it is tied to grain production. Large-scale producers farm the land, grow grain and have mills to mix the grain and feed their animals.

I am curious. Will these major agriculture producers, who are used to sellling their seed every year, be able to keep using their own seed as they have been doing for years without being harassed by multinational grain corporations? I wonder. We are talking about producers who have thousands of acres and who are among the top three or four pork producers in Quebec. Will they be able to use their seeds?

I cannot support this bill because it does not explicitly protect farmers and the public and because it puts too much discretionary power in the hands of the minister. Speaking of his discretionary powers, the minister has been involved with the Air Canada file since 2011 because the bosses are hands off and that suits his purposes.

The minister also uses these powers to make decisions on employment insurance. This bill will benefit big corporations. The government will pocket the profits and leave as little income as possible to the unemployed.

The minister's discretionary powers also extend to copyright. I myself am an author, and I have written several books on horticulture. I know that authors do not make any money. That law protects the publishers. Will that be the case with this bill too?

The Conservatives' philosophy is to protect the establishment, not the little guy. Some market gardeners in my riding have been planting the same varieties of garlic for decades, year after year. If you plant garlic from the store, it will not work out because that garlic is not adapted to the region. There is a garlic grower in my region who has been working on adapting one variety for several decades. Will his variety of garlic be stolen from him? Will he be forced to buy it back from someone else? If a multinational orders a hundred garlic bulbs and plants them, then five or ten years later that corporation can say that the garlic is its variety. Will we be able to protect the little guys against this sort of thing?

We have a lot of greenhouse farmers. Some grow organic products and heirloom varieties. Is the greenhouse farmer going to be harassed by the inspector from some company and end up having to pay a fine? The large companies are given rights, but what is being done to protect the little guys from being abused by big business? Do not tell me that such abuse does not exist. In France, the law protects multinationals so much so that companies that sell seed to individuals no longer have the right to do so and people are going after them on the Internet. Kokopelli, a seed producer for third world countries, is constantly in court with major seed companies. Is that what we want? Do we want to cause even more problems for the so-called “little guy”?

I know a seed producer who collected heirloom varieties in the northern regions of the St. Lawrence. He uses the Internet and catalogues to sell seed he produces himself for fine herbs and vegetables. Will these heirloom varieties be protected under this bill? If a company finds an heirloom tomato and it improves that tomato slightly, it can then say that the original tomato, which has been an heirloom variety for a long time, is too similar to its own tomato.

I am familiar with these kinds of things. I have had a website since about 1996. Someone came to me and said that I had copied his pages. I had made a copy of my pages on a diskette, which I sent to myself by registered mail, without opening it. I had proof that I had written those pages five years before him. In the horticultural field, will people be able to prevent these kinds of abuses by others who want to steal varieties? These ancient varieties belong to everyone. These companies want to steal them.

What I find difficult about all this is that big breeders are being protected. How are individuals going to be protected? For instance, if I plant 10 varieties of tomato plants, someone could show up in my yard with big boxes and ask if I purchased the seeds for the various varieties. Individuals also need to be protected.

Gérard-Bossé Foundation November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, an organization in Granby that cares about young adults aged 18 to 35, the environment, sustainable development and nature has started a project called Les Écolos, in partnership with the city of Granby.

This project has given new life to many used items, thanks to the social engagement of more than 20 young people. On November 13, the organization's administrators held a gala titled Vert la relève in order to pay tribute to the perseverance and commitment of two young school dropouts who were able to make their mark and overcome life's challenges.

The Gérard-Bossé foundation is an organization that helps our youth and our environment. Congratulations to the recipients, and congratulations to the administrators for their dedication to the leaders of tomorrow.

World Diabetes Day November 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, November 14 is World Diabetes Day. The 2014 campaign slogan is “Diabetes: protect our future”. This day is recognized worldwide because diabetes does not discriminate. It affects people from all walks of life and of all ages.

According to the International Diabetes Federation's Diabetes Atlas, there are currently 382 million people living with diabetes, and that number will rise to 592 million by 2035. A further 316 million people are currently at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, with the number expected to increase to almost 500 million within a generation.

Leading medical experts call this a 21st century pandemic. November 14 is an important day for everyone. Let us take control of our health now.