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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was first.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comment. Since he did not ask me a question, I will take this opportunity to talk about this conflict again. I would always be delighted to do that.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, with all the courtesy we have come to expect from the Conservatives, they tried to make the members of the House and the Canadian public believe that they alone represent the people in the regions and the various aboriginal communities in this country. These people need postal service and often do not have access to reliable Internet service. Even cell phones and BlackBerry smartphones—which government ministers love to check during question period instead of listening to their colleagues' questions—are not always reliable in areas as remote as Kuujjuaq, which is in my riding.

In remote areas of my riding, communication methods complement one another and do not compete against one another. I know that the concept is likely difficult for the Conservative government to grasp, but that is the case.

People want to have the choice of sending an email, mailing a letter or making a telephone call. The Conservatives must understand the concept of choice.

Was it her difficulty understanding this concept that led the Minister of Health to take advantage of the fact that I was not in the House to launch a personal attack against me? I do not know and I do not hold it against her. However, I would just hope that, the next time she wants to debate, she will at least have the courage to do so when I am here. I would be happy to discuss the difficulty villages have accessing clean drinking water; health, education and environmental issues; climate change; or any other issues with her. I would take the time to talk with her about it.

If it makes them happy, I will let the Conservatives continue thinking that they are the only ones representing the people living in Northern Canada. However, this is not true. In reality, the ridings of Western Arctic, Churchill, Skeena—Bulkley Valley and my riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou are all represented by members from the NDP.

Our main objective is to come to an agreement as quickly as possible in the labour dispute between workers and management at Canada Post. This agreement can easily be reached. To come to an agreement that is acceptable for everyone, all the government needs to do is remove the clause that sets out the salaries and does not provide the arbitrator or the two parties involved in the dispute with any flexibility.

In actual fact, the members opposite have to do only one thing to return to their respective ridings and that is to ask the Prime Minister to call on the Minister of Labour to remove the salary clause from the bill.

In short, the Conservative members must realize that they have the power, should they choose to work with us, to end all this. They have the power to ensure that Canada Post ends the lockout. They have the power to ensure that people start receiving their mail again.

Imagine. If they would stop being so stubborn, we could return to our ridings and spend time with our constituents. We will all see each other again soon enough in the fall and we will have the opportunity then to conduct more in-depth debates on issues that are of concern to all Canadians. Right now, people are waiting for us to do something about this labour dispute.

It is important to remember that the two parties in the dispute have been trying to reach an agreement for over eight months. After eight months without results, it is time to start making things happen. The workers used the tools that were available to them and that are part of their rights—rights guaranteed by the highest court in this country.

With respect to means of applying pressure, the workers decided that it was vital to ensure that Canada Post's basic mandate be maintained, that is the distribution of mail to people in all cities and regions of our country. That was the rationale for rotating strikes.

Canada Post's principal mandate is not to make a profit. It is to ensure that Canadians, no matter where they live in our country, can send and receive mail.

Turning a profit is not its mandate because previous governments sold off the most profitable components of this crown corporation over the years.

Nevertheless, we are talking about a crown corporation that has made millions of dollars in profit over the past few years. This is not a company that is being restructured or that must sacrifice pension plans and reduce workers' salaries just in the hope of surviving. No. We are talking about a corporation that, to avoid negotiating in good faith, locked the doors and mailboxes, preventing people from having access to the service.

Does the government realize that all it has to do to resolve this impasse is to work with us to remove the unacceptable clause on salaries contained in the bill? This clause, by the way, offers wages that are lower than those on the table when the employer decided to stop Canada's mail service.

That is the issue, the injustice visited on the workers, who had proposed extending the collective agreement while negotiations were under way. Extending the term of the collective agreement for the duration of negotiations is also included in the bill. It is a clause that we support because it is fair and gives negotiations a chance.

The unjust clause that sets terms and conditions for the arbitrator is quite simply unacceptable. The government has no reason to step in for the employer. The government has no reason to restrict bargaining rights.

The members opposite have the choice and the power to end this stalemate if they decide to work with us.

It is time for the Conservatives to start working with us so that Canadians can have their postal service back.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Madam Speaker, we have raised a number of questions from this side of the House. I think we have a very good idea of the amendments being proposed to this unfair bill. It would be great if there were an opening, but there is not. Everything is locked up.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I do not think that the CEO of Canada Post intends on doing what the member suggested. However, for the good of all the citizens who currently need postal services, I think it would be smart for him to put an end to the lockout.

The members on the other side seem to be fond of locks. We must unlock the doors of Canada Post. When the Prime Minister was not happy with how things were going here, he locked the doors of Parliament. When my leader, the leader of the official opposition, suggested meetings to find solutions together, what did the Prime Minister do? He suggested another lock.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Madam Speaker, first of all, let me correct the references to the Aboriginals in the north. They are not our Aboriginals, they are peoples and nations.

Second, I would like to emphasize that the Aboriginal people whom she mentions so proudly are not naïve. They understand perfectly. The young Cree man whom I mentioned just now, the one who sent me an email and counted the times that the Minister of Labour used the word “strike” in her speech yesterday, he understood that the minister was spreading propaganda.

People understand perfectly that this is a lockout. All the Prime Minister has to do is call the head of Canada Post and get him to unlock the doors at Canada Post.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this august chamber to speak on behalf of the people of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou and on behalf of all Quebeckers on this national holiday. Of course, like all of us, I would have preferred for us to celebrate this day in our ridings with our constituents, but we have decided to take this time for workers today.

I want to talk about the speech we heard last evening by the leader of the opposition and the many proposals the leader had to offer in his speech. In my opinion, it was one of the best speeches I have heard in the House of Commons in a very long time. We should be grateful to him because it was truly an honour for those who were here to listen to the leader yesterday.

A number of points raised in his speech are essential and fundamental to this debate. A number of my colleagues have been raising a number of those points over the past several hours. I want to come back to one point in particular and that is the cavalier way in which this government is unilaterally imposing draconian conditions on the workers involved in this dispute. This creates a dangerous precedent. It seems that the hon. members across the way are having fun and like dangerous things. Just look at how they feel about chrysotile asbestos.

Tabling this type of draconian measure would create a dangerous precedent. It would very certainly open the door to other measures in other sectors in the future. In my riding, many people are increasingly wondering who will be the government's next victims and what this government will do next. Rest assured, what we are seeing right now is just the beginning.

Good labour relations require respect for workers' rights. That is a fundamental aspect of bargaining and labour relations. That is not the case when this government introduces draconian measures that violate their rights, as is happening with the bill before us. This bill is shameful, outrageous, unacceptable and unsustainable. There are so many negative adjectives I could use. It is unfair and even propagandist in some respects, since it is nothing but propaganda to keep calling this a strike. The Minister of Labour should know that this is not a strike; it is a lockout. Even my constituents are writing to me to ask me to remind the Minister of Labour that this is not a strike, that it is a lockout. It is rather shocking to see that the Minister of Labour was not distinguishing between the two yesterday. A young person who wrote to me even counted, as did we, that the minister said it three times in her reply.

I come from a culture of negotiations. I am a first nations man, from the Cree Nation, to be exact. I can provide examples of negotiations I have been making for the past 25 years on behalf of my people, such as the implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. That was the first modern agreement signed in Canada between a government and aboriginal peoples. In this case, it was the first modern agreement signed by a provincial government. That had never happened before 1975. It was the first agreement signed by aboriginals that involved a province.

The difficulty in this case was getting the provisions of the agreement implemented. It took 30 years for an agreement to be reached.

I am proud to have taken part in the negotiation process in 2002 for the Paix des Braves, an agreement with the Government of Quebec. I also participated in the agreement to help establish a new relationship between the federal government and the Cree nation, which was settled in 2007 after a delay of several years. Furthermore, I am proud to speak about the new, recently signed framework agreement for the civic and public governance of James Bay. We may end up with a public government in the James Bay area, which is good news for everybody. This would spell an end to the exclusion of aboriginal peoples in the management of their natural resources.

I have given these examples because I know that relationships are at the core of any negotiation process, and that these relationships must be based on mutual respect and cooperation. Relations between management and workers must be harmonious, too. These relationships are the key to any negotiation. In my opinion, there are very serious implications to what is being currently proposed in this bill. These are not solutions; they are draconian measures being foisted upon the workers of this sector.

I also want to talk about the signals this government has sent out throughout this affair. It concerns and troubles me to see how negotiations will be run for years to come should there be further labour disputes. There needs to be a very close eye kept on this process. All Canadians, and indeed certainly every resident in my riding, are watching what is happening very closely. It will be an indication of the arrogant approach this government, this majority government, will take in the years to come.

The right to negotiate, which incidentally has been a fundamental right for a very long time in this country, has no place under this approach. This right is as fundamental as the right to go to court, which this government also disregards. This approach in no way promotes an environment of trust between management and workers, nor by any means a responsible culture of negotiation and compromise, which is fundamental to all labour relations.

We have been labeled ideologues a number of times this morning. The ideologues are on the other side of this House. We are fighting for social justice in Canada.

There is no shame in standing up for the rights and interests of aboriginals in this country. There is no shame in standing up for the rights and interests of women in this country. There is no shame in standing up for the rights and interests of immigrants in this country. There is no shame in standing up for the rights, interests and freedoms of people in this country. And there is certainly no shame in standing up for the rights and interests of seniors, let alone workers, in this country.

I have been involved in negotiations for the past 25 years and I intend to continue my involvement in this particular matter for as long as it takes, and throughout my term in office.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for his remarks today.

I would also like to wish a wonderful Fête nationale to all my colleagues from Quebec who are present. Like them, I would have liked to be in my riding today to celebrate with those dear to me.

I would like to ask a question about the “orphan clause” in the bill. One of the concerns raised by constituents in my vast riding relates to young people and the message we should be sending them. My fellow citizens of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou are very proud to see so many young people and women in our party. I would like to ask my colleague’s opinion as to the message the government is sending in this regard.

Asbestos June 23rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the finger is being pointed at Canada for its indefensible position on the Rotterdam convention.

Two days ago, the minister explained that Canada's position was justifiable since other countries were preventing chrysotile asbestos from being included on the list. A number of those countries have since changed their minds and now Canada stands alone.

Will this government explain once and for all why it is bent on refusing to add chrysotile to the Rotterdam convention?

Asbestos June 20th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the member does not seem to understand that the Rotterdam Convention specifies that countries must ensure that hazardous material is handled safely. By opposing this classification, the Conservatives are putting the lives of many workers around the world in danger. Even former Conservative minister Chuck Strahl has denounced this position. He had the courage to take a stand.

Will the current Conservative members do the same and agree that asbestos should be classified as a hazardous material?

Asbestos June 20th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the Rotterdam convention meeting on hazardous material starts today in Geneva.

In 2006 and 2008, the government blocked chrysotile asbestos from being added to the list against Health Canada's recommendations. Now the eyes of the world are back on the government to see if Canada will finally do the right thing.

I have a simple question. Will the government allow chrysotile asbestos to be added to the Rotterdam convention, yes or no?