House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was however.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Trois-Rivières (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 17% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Philanthropic Clown Guillaume Vermette November 26th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, Guillaume Vermette is a full-time volunteer who lives out of a backpack and survives on an income of only a few thousand dollars, but he has a heart of pure gold. Everyone's worries fade away when he puts on one of his shows. Just watching this philanthropic clown makes everyone feel happier.

He received an honorary degree on Saturday from the CEGEP in Trois-Rivières and was recognized by young people at the first Mammouth awards gala broadcast on Télé-Québec last year. Beloved by thousands of strangers in the 40 or so countries he has toured, spreading smiles everywhere he goes, Guillaume Vermette is admired by those who love him, and he deserves our respect, recognition and support.

I am still not sure I believe him when he says that everyone could follow in his footsteps and do the same thing he does in order to bring happiness to places where such a thing seems impossible. However, there is absolutely no doubt that he is succeeding.

A minute is not long enough to tell my colleagues all about this philanthropic clown, but I wanted to get this plug in, as they say in communications, and invite them to visit his website in order to learn about what he does and support his work.

Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act November 7th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech. In the first part of his speech, he tried to make a clear distinction between the Conservatives and the Liberals. I would group those two parties together and include the NDP, because when it comes to developing trade agreements that enable our business owners to export and grow, we all agree. Where we differ is that the NDP is wondering why we are not using these international treaties as leverage to advance human rights.

The proposed new treaty makes the adoption of corporate social responsibility standards voluntary. The Liberals and the Conservatives take the exact same approach. There are no protections for the people whose resources are being taken.

Have things changed under the new Conservative leadership, or do they still support the same approach taken by Mr. Harper and the previous Liberal government?

Petitions November 7th, 2018

Madam Speaker, like a train that regularly arrives at the station 10 to 13 times a day, so too are my constituents coming to my office every week with one, two, three or ten sheets of petitions calling for a high-frequency train to Trois-Rivières for many reasons.

First, the train would result in unparalleled economic development in the regions. Next, it would make good on the government's fine speeches which, for the time being, are nothing but empty words. It would also help reduce greenhouse gases while contributing to economic development—the two would work hand in hand.

Therefore, I am pleased to present another part of this petition in the hope that there will be good news in the next budget for the people of the Mauricie and all Canadians in the Quebec-Windsor corridor and not just another election promise.

Telecommunications November 7th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, when Rogers Communications proposed building a tower on Notre-Dame Street West in Trois-Rivières, people were immediately opposed to it.

Nevertheless, the company could still decide to go forward with this despite the public outcry and the municipality's opposition. A wide range of solutions were proposed, but the consultation provided for under the act may prove to be just a necessary inconvenience for the company.

How is it that, in 2018, the Prime Minister is allowing a telecommunications company to go ahead with something like this, despite opposition from the municipality and residents?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 2 November 6th, 2018

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

One thing she said was quite striking, to say the least. Apparently omnibus bills are now the way to help move certain agendas along. I have serious doubts about that, but supposing I agreed with that statement, why does this massive omnibus bill not include a clause about what happens to workers' pensions when their employer goes bankrupt? This is a file the NDP has been working on for years, and it certainly serves as an example of how things can take time. What will the government do to make sure that workers who have invested in company pension plans, some of them for their whole lives, will get the priority consideration they deserve and not be left high and dry when the company goes bankrupt?

If omnibus bills really are the way to move agendas along, then why is this legislation not in the omnibus bill? The NDP is not the only party talking about this. A growing number of bills on the subject have been introduced in both the House of Commons and the Senate.

Business of Supply November 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I will quickly address two things.

First of all, the member obviously did not listen to my speech, since I ended by saying that it seems likely that this motion will receive unanimous support. I do not know where he got the idea from my speech that the Liberals were going to vote against it.

Regarding his mention of the minister's statement that every eligible veteran will receive the services they are entitled to, I say that is all well and good, but the purpose of the motion is not to figure out whether they will get these services, but when.

Funding is the problem. I think we are justified in thinking that the process could be sped up when money is sitting in the treasury and services are not being provided.

Business of Supply November 5th, 2018

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

Obviously, if we start getting into all the minute details, we could quickly lose those who are watching since they are not experts in the matter. I am not an expert either, but I try to stay informed.

We are basically saying exactly the same thing. It is unthinkable that available funding is not being used. Unless the government made announcements with money it did not have, it is unthinkable that funding that is just sitting around would not be used to train staff, for example.

The Liberals are saying that they hired 400 people. I commend them for that, but it does not meet the needs. If we consider that the Conservatives cut 1,000 jobs when they were in office, then it seems to me that we are still short 600 positions compared to the level of service provided in 2011-12 before the cuts were made. We are far from meeting the objective and so it is unacceptable to me that there is money just lying around unused.

The motion seeks to ensure that any money for veterans that is not used for its identified purpose by year end be carried over for use by veterans the following year.

Business of Supply November 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the chance to speak on veterans' issues in the House. Every time I rise on this issue, I do so not only with immense respect, but with great honour.

The motion we are debating today would be relevant at any time, but it takes on a special significance this week, given that next Thursday, the 338 members of the House will leave for their ridings so they can attend remembrance ceremonies on November 11.

Why do we make it our duty to attend these remembrance ceremonies? My riding alone has three scheduled. Sadly, I have not yet figured out how to be in two or three places at once on the stroke of 11 on November 11, but one thing I can say for sure is that I am going to visit every legion branch. Each and every one of us has a duty of remembrance.

The ceremony on November 11 includes some deeply emotional moments. One especially moving moment that I would never miss, come hell or high water, is when they read out the names of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice. That can take a few short minutes or stretch over a longer time, depending on how many from the riding gave their lives. These people died so that we could have freedom of speech and the chance to live in a democracy. We owe them a great deal.

I am lucky enough to know some Second World War veterans in Trois-Rivières who have shared their stories with me and take it upon themselves to tell younger generations about the true reality of war. It is not at all like in the movies or video games, which are basically the only contact that our young people have with war, thank God. Since humankind has trouble learning from its own history, the fact that we have veterans who share their experiences with us is a priceless blessing.

When I hear the names of all the fallen read out loud, I always wonder what message they would have for us today. It is wonderful that so many of us, tens, hundreds, even thousands of Canadians take the time to remember them. What is their message? Perhaps this is a natural family instinct everyone has, but I always feel that those who made the ultimate sacrifice would ask us, in recognition of that sacrifice, to ensure that their loved ones have everything they need. They would ask us to take care of those they left behind because they fell on the battlefield.

We therefore have more than just a duty to remember. We owe them much more in return. We must pay it forward to those who have given so much and who, by chance, may still be with us today, or to their spouses and families who are still with us and who for years endured the absence of a loved one.

What is the best way to answer that call from the heart? It is by providing adequate services to our veterans and their families.

When I see the simplicity of the motion before us today, I have to wonder why this is not already a fait accompli. It is worth noting that this situation precedes the current Liberal administration. I sat in Parliament in 2011, and these very same issues were being discussed back then. For the benefit of those following our debate, I would like to reread the motion as it is written. Everything is there; it speaks for itself.

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should automatically carry forward all annual lapsed spending at the Department of Veterans Affairs to the next fiscal year, for the sole purpose of improving services for Canadian veterans, until the Department meets or exceeds its 24 self-identified service standards.

“Automatically” means stop debating this, stop asking questions, and just make this a priority.

Unfortunately, as we saw under the Conservative administration and are still seeing with the Liberals, there is a significant difference between the amounts announced and those paid out.

This begs a fundamental question: announcing extraordinary amounts even thought they do not have the money, thinking that it will make them look good by showing good intention, and then in the end spending less than what was announced since they know they do not have that money—is it all a political show? It would be even worse if they announced amounts that they do have and then chose not to spend the money, returning it to the consolidated revenue fund so it can be allocated to other things or used to pay down part of the deficit.

In the past, the Conservatives often used this strategy when they made their grand announcements. The Conservatives had the largest infrastructure program ever. However, the real amounts invested were nowhere near those announced. The Liberals are using the exact same strategy, which is outrageous, to say the least.

I will cite a few examples of how the transfer of these lapsed funds could achieve a certain number of objectives. I will name a few so that people have an idea of what we are referring to.

Most of the time when a veteran calls the National Contact Centre Network, they hear, “your call is important to us, please stay on the line for...” three hours, four hours, three days, two weeks, a month? It takes a lot of patience to get a response. According to the service standard, you can expect to be connected with the next available analyst within two minutes. The target is 80%. The result is 66%.

I have a problem with 80% as a target. That is like saying if analysts respond within two minutes 80% of the time, then that is not so bad. However, the point of having a service standard is to serve all veterans. The target cannot be anything less than 100%. The result might be 80%, and then we would say that is not so bad, almost everyone was served within the service standard—but no, we are setting 80% as a target.

That would be like me taking an exam or asking my daughter who is studying for an exam not to aim for 100% but rather for 80%, and if she gets 70% then that would be good, or if she gets 66% then that would be fine. Give me a break. We have to always aim for the best outcome. How can we set 80% as a target for a standard, an approach or a federal government and think that that is okay?

I am running out of time and cannot give more examples, but perhaps I will be able to share some during questions and comments. This makes absolutely no sense. This approach at Veterans Affairs Canada is nothing new. You can find it with many government services, including immigration and EI. Anytime a Canadian needs to call the government, the target is never 100%.

I would have liked more time to talk about the ombudsman's report, in which he made some very important recommendations that have not yet been implemented. I may be able to revisit this, but in the few seconds I have left, I would like to say that I truly hope this motion will get the unanimous support of the House. That seems to be the likely outcome, which would be a good thing.

I also hope that once this motion is adopted, the government quickly implements it. Too often, motions are adopted unanimously or by a majority in the House, but nothing comes out of it. With all the respect we owe our veterans, I cannot even imagine that happening.

Transportation October 31st, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that the government is still making plans even though time has run out.

Greyhound is stopping service in western Canada today. The markets will very likely replace the most profitable routes, but for many isolated communities, their coach is turning back into a pumpkin.

The minister failed to reassure indigenous and rural communities when he told them what he planned to do to prevent these regions from becoming isolated.

Can the Prime Minister tell us what concrete measures his government will take to prevent these regions from becoming isolated?

Petitions October 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I bet members can guess the subject of the petition I am tabling today.

If ever there were a concrete example of what the government should do in terms of its economic agenda, it has to be high-frequency rail, or HFR, which would foster development, reduce greenhouse gases and help fight climate change.

The government should link all municipalities between Quebec City and Windsor. VIA Rail is proposing this project following more and more studies. In addition, petitions will serve as a counterweight to the studies sitting on the minister's desk.

Everyone in Trois-Rivières unanimously agrees that high-frequency rail cannot come soon enough.