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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was work.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Post-Secondary Education November 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, this week is Education Savings Week. We know that Canada's prosperity hinges on the ability of our young people to gain the skills and experience they need to start their career.

Families who save for their children's education give them a better chance of graduating without incurring significant debt.

Can the minister tell us about the measures being taken in the House to ensure that our families are able to save for their children's education?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2 November 2nd, 2017

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his comments. He knows and he said that our government cares about the environment and must make concrete investments to deal with climate change.

To answer his question, I have another real-life example, and I talked about this earlier. Thanks to the program that was implemented by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, our government was able to invest tens of thousands of dollars to protect some 20 kilometres of the St. Lawrence River shoreline. Plants were planted to protect the bank from high tides. There are many other examples like this.

I would like to remind members that we signed the Paris agreement. There is a lot of work to be done, but it is worth doing and continuing our efforts. I look forward to other announcements like this from the minister.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2 November 2nd, 2017

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his remarks. He obviously cares about his constituents and the person that he mentioned.

The Government of Canada shares that concern. We have announced and taken steps to invest in infrastructure and affordable housing to give the less fortunate better access to quality housing.

I often talk about my riding. Two or three weeks ago, I was at home in Pointe-à-la-Croix to announce funding to properly renovate a building that houses some 60 affordable housing units for people in the community. I could give other similar examples because this sort of thing is happening all across Canada. We care a lot about this issue.

Investments have been made and others will be made to give Canadians who are not as well off access to affordable housing.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2 November 2nd, 2017

Madam Speaker, the name of my riding is quite long, but I am very proud of it because I represent four RCMs, those of Avignon, La Mitis, Matane, and Matapédia. I will be sharing my time with the member for St. Catharines.

As I was saying, I am the member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, which was represented by an opposition member for nearly 25 years. During that whole time, it was represented by a Bloc member. It was a particularly difficult period because we did not have the federal government's ear and were not represented at the decision-making table to make sure that important initiatives were carried out. During that time, particularly the 10 years that the Conservatives were in power, my riding went through some really tough economic times.

Jobs were lost and businesses closed their doors in my region, mainly because of the budget cuts within federal departments and agencies. It was a particularly dark period. That is why I decided to get involved in politics. I told myself that I was going to use my experience to work hard so that my region had a place at the decision-making table. Today, the Liberals are in office because our platform was and still is excellent, as reflected in our previous budgets.

I would like to respond to what my colleague said earlier. To us, the important thing is that the debt-to-GDP ratio, which was 32.5% when we came to power, has gradually gotten smaller. Now it is 30.5%, and it will continue to shrink. That was one thing we promised to do. Based on our projections, that ratio will reach its lowest point since the 1970s. We brought it down to that level thanks to a healthy economy and a plan that is working. Revenues are up, and people are confident, so they are investing and consuming goods, which is a huge help to Canada's economy.

Not long ago, Ms. Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said that she hoped Canada's approach would go viral. That is true, and that is what we would like to see because our plan is working.

As I said before, I represent a riding in the Lower St. Lawrence region that straddles the Gaspé and includes 57 exceptionally vibrant municipalities. The residents of those municipalities have been especially proud these past two years because, thanks to our budget and our platform, we have invested $77 million in various projects there. The region has not seen that kind of investment in years.

We are seeing economic growth. Jobs are being created and the economy is booming. Of course there is still work to be done, but in two years' time, we have managed to attract investments totalling $77 million. I also know that this is going to continue, because there are still some excellent projects on the table. I support them, and my government is going to support them. I can assure the House that we are in an excellent and very positive situation.

Here are some specific examples of projects that have come out of the budget measures we implemented. In my riding, in Sainte-Flavie, right next to the Mont-Joli airport, for those who know the Gaspé region, we have the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, an internationally recognized French-language ocean research institute. Last June, I had the immense pleasure of welcoming the Minister of Fisheries to announce a $27 million investment, which will give the institute the research labs and infrastructure it needs to conduct important research and examine what is happening in our oceans in order to predict trends.

On top of this $27-million investment, the minister also announced more jobs. During the 10 years the Conservative government was in power, this institute was on a downward spiral. Jobs and investment were cut, which worried us greatly. Our announcement was a tangible demonstration of how much our government values research.

On a side note, when we came into office, the Prime Minister released a letter to federal public servants saying that we care about them, that we value research, and that we need their research findings to inform our decision making. This letter took a huge weight off their shoulders. The effect was amazing. Now they are truly motivated.

I was present at the institute when my colleague, the Minister of Fisheries, made the announcement. There was a “Stop Harper” sign outside the building. This is an important anecdote, because the institute needed a chance to turn things around. Now it has that chance, thanks to our investments and the measures we implemented in this budget. Investments are being made, and jobs are now being created. I am very proud that those jobs are in the regions.

There is a major regional airport in my riding, Mont-Joli airport, that makes it possible for me to return to my region as often as possible. Scheduling conflicts can make that a challenge at times, but the airport needed to be developed because it is an important infrastructure that allows workers to travel to our region. We are committed to investing in extending the runway at the Mont-Joli airport. We have also allocated funding for decontaminating the land around the airport so that the City of Mont-Joli can acquire the land and sell it for development.

We have also invested in the environment. For example, the banks of the St. Lawrence have eroded over the years. Obviously, climate change has had a significant impact. Some do not think that climate change is having such a serious or direct impact, but back home there is no denying it. The Minister of the Environment has invested in a project to protect 20 kilometres or so of banks by planting vegetation to shield from the high tides.

Furthermore, we invested in transforming churches into cultural centres. We also invested in our communities. I count myself lucky to have two Mi'kmaq communities in my riding, Listuguj and Gesgapegiag. People in those communities are much happier when we talk to them these days, because the dark days of the Conservative reign are over. I just spent some time with some of them yesterday here in Ottawa. We met with the Minister of Fisheries to talk about some development opportunities. Sizeable investments have been made in their communities, specifically to give them the infrastructure needed for their development.

We also invested in water supply and waste water treatment systems. We also made sizeable investments, in partnership with the Government of Quebec, in our arenas. We have invested in more tourism-oriented projects, such as lookouts, so that when tourists are passing through the Matapédia valley, they can stop and take the time to see the beautiful landscapes along the river. We announced some measures regarding investments in a series of lookouts so that tourists can enjoy the magnificent views in the Matapédia valley.

In Carleton-sur-Mer, thanks to our budget measures, visitors can access the magnificent Mount Saint-Joseph and its beautiful parish church. We are investing several million dollars in this tourist attraction.

In closing, over the past two years, our government has invested a lot of money across Canada. I am particularly proud of our government and our Minister of Finance, and this is only the beginning. We continue to implement our amazing platform.

Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia October 26th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, Georges Harrisson, Paul Lemieux, Pierre Vicaire, Véronique Pelletier, Hermel Gallant, Jean-Yves Lebrun, Jean-Guy Dionne, Réginald Morissette, Laurette de Champlain, Madeleine Perrault, Édouard Lauzier, Jean-Yves Thériault, Danielle Marcoux, Jacqueline Paquet, Marielle Roy, Andrée Métivier, Lucie Lapointe, Marie-Brigitte Lehouillier, Enrico Carpinteri, Serge Gendron, and Rodrigue Boulianne are outstanding citizens from my riding to whom I awarded a sesquicentennial pin, in honour of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, at two ceremonies held on October 13 in Amqui and Carleton-sur-Mer.

These pins were awarded to recognize the significant contributions these exceptional individuals made to the development of our region. I would like to take this opportunity in the House to once again thank them for their commitment, leadership, and dedication to our community. They are a wonderful asset to our riding. Congratulations and thank you.

Byelections October 24th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it was another big election night last night. I want to congratulate both newly elected members, starting with the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean and of course the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland.

Being a member of Parliament is an honour and a duty that we all take to heart. Despite our differences of opinion, I know that every one of us here in the House is working very hard to represent our constituents. I want to thank all the candidates, volunteers, supporters, election workers, and the voters who expressed their clear will by exercising their right to vote, the foundation of our democracy.

Let us not forget the support we get from our families, who often make significant sacrifices to allow hon. members to defend the interests of their constituents.

A last piece of advice for those two members: they should dream big, work hard, exercise, stay focused, and surround themselves with good people.

Taxation October 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, our government consults Canadians.

Members of Parliament met with business owners, chambers of commerce, and farmers from across Canada. The Minister of Finance took these consultations into consideration in the plan he introduced this week to make our tax system fair. This plan will enable our SMEs to set money aside for retirement and to make sure there is parental leave. It will also ensure that no one is penalized when businesses are passed on to the next generation.

I am proud of our government, I am proud of our members, and I am proud of the Minister of Finance, who listened to Canadians from across this country and took tangible action based on the feedback he received.

Business of Supply October 19th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, thank you for reminding me how much time I have left. I really appreciate it.

Our government is not letting up, as I mentioned earlier. Members of this House, parliamentary secretaries, and ministers have been meeting and continue to meet with various American stakeholders and elected officials to lay out our position, our arguments, and our proposals.

This work, just as the minister's involvement, has been ongoing since we were elected. I mentioned how many conference calls she has had. We are committed to securing a deal, but not just any deal. Our goal is to defend the industry's interests, and we are doing this in an appropriate and ongoing manner.

Business of Supply October 19th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's most appropriate question. I am not sure where in my speech he heard criticisms of or a direct attack on the previous government. On the contrary, we are here to work proactively and we have put clear measures in place to support the industry.

However, he raises a good point. He was part of the previous government, a Conservative government that lasted 10 years, so he is quite familiar with the reality facing the industry. He knows full well why we have no formal agreement in place. It is quite simple. The U.S. coalition plays an important role in these negotiations.

We are ready. We want to have a good agreement for the industry and for Canadians. Unfortunately, that is not how the American industry sees things. It is applying all sorts of terms and conditions that we cannot abide by.

Clearly, the member opposite, who knows the industry in and out, knows full well that the powerful U.S. coalition has a direct impact on our negotiations. We want to reach an agreement. The Minister of International Trade and the foreign affairs minister are working very hard and I am sure that we will reach an agreement. However, there is still a lot of work to be done and we are committed to reaching a formal agreement.

In the meantime, we must ensure that we have the measures to support the industry and its businesses. We have injected $867 million to ensure that our businesses can benefit from the measures they need to get through this crisis.

So far, the industry is doing relatively well, especially back home. We are still hiring and, again, the price of two-by-fours has gone from $500 to $650 per 1,000 board feet. That goes to show that even though the situation is far from perfect, we are continuing to do the work that we started.

Business of Supply October 19th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I thought you were going to ask me to ask a question of my colleague, the Minister of International Trade, whom I commend for his extraordinary work. I would have liked to ask the minister how the union presidents and entrepreneurs in his region reacted to the measures that we implemented and that he listed. I can say that his answer would have been quite clear. Entrepreneurs are satisfied with the measures we have implemented. I will have more to say about that in the next few minutes.

I would like to reassure my opposition colleagues, notably my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska, that the softwood lumber issue is an absolute priority for our government. I will say it again. It is an absolute priority. As the Minister of International Trade said earlier, we are proud of our world-class forestry sector. Canadian forestry companies employ more than 230,000 Canadians across the country, often in rural regions, where they play a key role in the economy by employing hundreds of middle-class workers. That is the case in my riding, Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia. Our businesses and our economy largely depend on forestry, and I am very proud of our entrepreneurs’ work in the forestry industry.

The forestry sector is clearly a major contributor to Canada’s economic growth, contributing more than $21 billion to the country’s GDP. We have worked hard to diversify our export markets and to offer the highest quality Canadian products around the world. These measures have created excellent opportunities for Canadian businesses in Asia, particularly in China. The United States is obviously the primary destination for Canadian softwood lumber exports. In 2016 alone, 78% of such exports were destined for the United States, with a value of more than $7.6 billion. It is therefore essential that we maintain stable and predictable access to the American market if we want our softwood lumber industry to continue to prosper and if we want Canadian workers to keep their well paid jobs. That is why the softwood lumber file has been an absolute priority for our government since our first day in office.

As soon as he took office, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was then Minister of International Trade, asked for broad consultations with the main stakeholders in the softwood lumber industry, including provincial and territorial governments, small and large softwood lumber businesses, producers of various types of softwood lumber products, industrial associations, unions, and representatives from indigenous groups.

In my region, particularly in Amqui, Carleton-sur-Mer, and Gesgapegiag, I have had the opportunity to consult with various stakeholders and entrepreneurs who are working hard to grow their businesses. I have met with them, along with some of my colleagues who are here in the House, to listen to their concerns and determine how our government can support them in concrete ways in the development of their businesses. They made some good suggestions. Later, I will talk about concrete measures that our government has taken.

In order to assist us, federal public servants have gone across the country to meet in person with stakeholders who clearly indicated that they supported the negotiation of a new agreement that reflects the bests interests of Canada. However, those stakeholders warned that it was better to not enter into an agreement than to enter into a bad agreement.

Our government then worked to negotiate a new agreement with the United States. Negotiations began in January 2016 and are continuing at a good pace. In just 12 months, our two countries held approximately 20 in-person meetings and numerous conference calls to advance discussions. Our government has raised this issue with the highest representatives of the American government and will continue to do so.

The Prime Minister has spoken with President Trump about softwood lumber on numerous occasions, including last week on his trip to Washington on October 11. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has personally assumed responsibility for this file since the start of the negotiations. She has raised this important issue with the American Secretary of Commerce at every opportunity. As a result of that high-level political engagement, this crucial file remains on the political agenda in the United States.

Close collaboration between the provinces and territories and the industry, as well as their active engagement, are at the heart of our management strategy in this important file. The minister and federal officials, as well as the hon. members on this side of the House, have made a sustained effort to establish dialogue with Canada’s largest exporters and principal producers, such as remanufacturers and manufacturers of specialized softwood lumber products.

Furthermore, as part of our government’s efforts to establish nation-to-nation relations with indigenous groups, measures were taken to consult first nations representatives, particularly those in the sawmills belonging to these groups. We held various types of consultations, including consultations in person, regular updates in advisory forums for governments and the industry, official and informal bilateral meetings, and telephone calls with premiers and ministers across the country.

The government’s efforts have clearly paid off. Provincial governments and industry representatives have publicly congratulated our government on the firm resolve it has shown in this file. The close ties between our government and the provinces and territories and the industry have allowed Canada to speak with one voice at the bargaining table, which has strengthened our position.

This united front was confirmed last August, when provincial envoys from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick met with the ambassador in Washington to clearly demonstrate that the provincial governments stand together with the federal government in this matter.

Although Canada consistently defended its interests at the bargaining table, the United States was unwilling to accept the conditions that were acceptable to Canada. I would like to point out that, although we would prefer to reach a new agreement that will give our industry more stability and predictability, we will not sign an agreement that causes considerable permanent damage to our industry and our workers. Our position is very clear: we want to reach a fair and balanced softwood lumber agreement with the United States. However, I repeat that we will not accept just any conditions. We will continue to work very hard for our industry. There are too many jobs at stake.

With that in mind, I would now like to outline the measures we have taken. I would remind those who claim that the Government of Canada is not committed to standing up for the interests of the forestry sector and its workers that we have allocated a total of $867 million in direct support for the industry, its businesses, and its workers, naturally. This support is made available through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada, and I have personally spoken with stakeholders in my riding to make absolutely sure they were all well aware of the measures being offered.

The interesting thing to note is that there has been a steady rise in lumber prices in Canada over the past few months. Two-by-fours, for example, have gone from roughly $500 to $650 per 1,000 board feet. Obviously, that means more money for the industry, and other domestic industries will benefit as well, since local businesses will have to hire in order to increase production. In light of all of the devastation that has been wrought upon the United States, the demand for softwood lumber keeps going up, which is good for prices and, in turn, for our business community.

We want to reach an agreement with the Americans and thus bring some stability to the market. I can assure the House that our government has made this file its top priority and that we will keep working to ensure that the softwood lumber industry continues to grow, while still looking to diversify our markets and foster innovation. We are very proud of our Canadian industry.