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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 23% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act June 7th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. There are a range of registered savings plans available. Unfortunately, companies do not use them very much. This will essentially be an additional plan being made available, but there are already numerous plans and they do not help Canadians to contribute to a pension plan.

We think the solution is to increase Canada pension plan and Quebec pension plan benefits. That would cover all Canadians, who could contribute more and benefit more from it. These plans already exist; they are defined benefit or defined contribution plans. People know what they will be getting when they retire and so that tool, which already exists, makes it is easier to plan for retirement.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act June 7th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. The example of Nortel is in fact a good example, to show how unprotected pensions are. Last year, a number of people in my riding saw their pensions cut in half as a result of the liquidation of Nortel’s assets. That is simply scandalous.

We should bring back the bill that was introduced by the NDP, which proposed putting employee pension plans ahead of creditors. That would be a very good solution to protect Canadians from bankruptcies, when cases like Nortel occur. It would be an ideal solution to protect Canadians’ pension funds. However, the government bill before us simply adds another savings plan. Apart from people who are already contributing to an RRSP, there are really no more Canadians who will be contributing to it. In our opinion, it is a waste of effort.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act June 7th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-25, the Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act. I would like to say from the outset that like my colleagues from the NDP and from all the opposition parties, I am very disappointed in this bill, because contrary to what the title suggests, this can hardly be called a pooled pension plan.

Before getting into the details of the bill, I would like to put into context the situation with pension plans and the Canadians who are depending on them. According to the Conference Board of Canada, 1.6 million seniors in Canada are living below the poverty line, and this bill will do nothing to help them. What is more, according to the Canadian Labour Congress, 12 million Canadians lack a workplace pension plan. Unfortunately, we do not believe that this bill will do much to help those 12 million Canadians gain access to a pension plan either.

By OECD standards, the CPP and QPP systems are relatively inadequate. Other similar countries have guarantees and much more generous public pension plans than ours. In the United States, maximum social security benefits are about $30,000 a year. Here in Canada they are about $12,000 a year and, if we add the $7,000 a year from old age security for the less fortunate, that is still far from what is being done in the United States.

According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, most Canadian workers do not have RRSPs. Over the past few years, only roughly 25% of Canadians have contributed to their RRSP, which is far from what it should be. That suggests that, unfortunately, Canadians do not have the means to contribute.

In fact, I am disappointed because this bill will simply create a new type of savings plan enabling the funds from plan members' accounts to be pooled in order to reduce the costs associated with the management of investments and of the plan itself. The program is called a pooled registered pension plan, but it would be more appropriate to call it a savings plan, because this bill cannot guarantee that it will provide any retirement income.

This bill is designed for self-employed individuals and employees of small and medium-sized businesses, which are often unable to manage a private sector pension plan. The system created by the passage of this legislation would be a defined contribution plan. Employees would contribute a portion of their earnings to a retirement fund, and that money would be invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and so on. Some companies might match their employees' contributions, up to a certain percentage.

The account grows through contributions and investment income until retirement. However, with this kind of defined contribution plan, there can be no guarantee about the amount of money that will be available upon retirement. Thus, it is the individual, the employee, who assumes all of the risks associated with the investments. With this kind of system, the amount of money available upon retirement depends on market fluctuations, and markets have not exactly been stable over the past 10 years. I invested in RRSPs and I have less money now than when I invested 10 years ago. These investments are not reliable; they are risky.

Defined contribution plans do not provide the same level of income security as defined benefit plans, such as the CPP and the QPP, which guarantee a certain payout upon retirement. Pooled registered pension plans would be managed by regulated financial institutions, such as banks, insurance companies and investment companies. The latest numbers on CPP investment returns show that the plan has lost hardly any ground over the past few years—less than 1%—while the stock markets, in which the government wants Canadians to invest their savings through pooled registered pension plans, have declined by about 11%.

Pooled registered pension plans will not provide workers with greater retirement income security because they will simply encourage families to gamble their retirement savings on the stock market, which often goes down instead of up.

As I said, anyone who has ever watched his RRSP take a dive knows how risky it is to invest his savings in the stock market. The government is so out of touch with reality that it is encouraging families to double down on what has turned out to be a system that does not work very well. With such an unstable economy, families do not need to take on any more risk. They need the stability of the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan. Many economists and provincial leaders have said as much over the past few years, but the government has turned its back on families and refused to consider this solution.

Bill C-25 does not cap administrative fees or costs and assumes that competition will keep costs low. Once again, the government is dreaming in colour because it is relying on the invisible hand of the market and hoping that that alone will keep administrative costs and fees as low as possible. But as the Australian experience proves, that hope is in vain. More than 10 years ago, Australia created a similar plan. The results were disappointing, to say the least. The plan had been in existence for 12 years when the Australian government-ordered review of it showed that even though people were saving money through mandatory contributions, the returns on their investments were no greater than inflation. In many years, returns were lower than inflation.

The report attributed these disappointing results to the very high costs, despite the fact that it was originally thought that competition among companies would lead to lower costs. That was unfortunately not the case. However, the Conservatives do not want to learn from the Australians' experience, which was essentially a failure. With this bill, the government would rather hide behind its ideological ideas and make decisions without truly examining the issue.

In six years, the government has unfortunately not done much to help provide security for Canadian retirees. This bill appears to have been hastily drafted in response to pressure from union groups, seniors' groups and political parties, particularly the NDP, which, after the last election campaign, proposed an increase in Canada pension plan and Quebec pension plan benefits.

Bill C-25 is a half measure, when what we truly need is some real, concrete action. Canadians deserve and want more than what the government is proposing. Once again, the Prime Minister is putting the interests of Bay Street giants and insurance companies ahead of the interests of Canadians. It is time for the government to take real action to increase the number of Canadians who have access to retirement security and to lower the current number of 12 million Canadians who do not have access to these plans. Bill C-25 will not help achieve that objective.

Canadians do not need new private, voluntary savings plans. They really need concrete measures to ensure that they will be able to retire with dignity.

The NDP is proposing doubling the benefits provided by the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan to a maximum of close to $2,000 a month. The NDP wants to work with the provinces to make it easier for workers and employers who want to make voluntary contributions to individual public pension accounts. The NDP also wants to amend federal bankruptcy legislation to move pensioners and long-term disability recipients to the front of the line of creditors when their employers file for bankruptcy protection. The NDP also wants to increase the annual guaranteed income supplement in order to lift every senior in Canada out of poverty immediately.

The NDP understands that Canadians want more than what the government is proposing with the pooled registered pension plan. The NDP will obviously not support this bill because it merely offers a new type of savings plan and does not even come close to solving the problem of making pension plans accessible.

In closing, the NDP urges the government to abandon Bill C-25 at third reading and to come up with a real plan that will help the 12 million Canadians who do not have a pension plan and the 16 million seniors who are living below the poverty line.

Veterans June 5th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, cutting culture and spying on veterans. The Conservatives have a fine record, to be sure.

In terms of violations of veterans' privacy, we thought we had seen it all. But here we have a Department of Veterans Affairs' inquiry into privacy violations that is now under investigation itself for privacy violations.

The allegation has led to an investigation by the Privacy Commissioner.

Can the minister tell us why he is incapable of putting a stop to the continued violations of veterans' privacy?

Radiocommunication Act June 4th, 2012

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-429, An Act to amend the Radiocommunication Act and the Telecommunications Act (antenna systems).

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to introduce a bill whose objective is to regulate the development of radiocommunication and broadcasting antenna systems. Many people throughout Canada have complained about the haphazard development of radiocommunication and broadcasting towers. It appears as though Industry Canada's directives are not being respected by proponents. Furthermore, Industry Canada does not seem to be imposing any sanctions.

The purpose of my bill, therefore, is not only to bring in legislation to regulate the process of installing antenna systems, but also to make the process more democratic by engaging both local authorities and citizens. The development of antenna systems must absolutely be done in a spirit of co-operation and with respect for municipal and rural planning.

It is for these reasons that I decided to introduce legislation in this area. It is important to note that this bill is not meant to slow down or create obstacles for the development of the industry, but rather to manage this area of activity and get the various stakeholders more involved.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Veterans June 4th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, Fabien Melanson is a veteran who bravely served his country. Despite his dedication, he is going to lose his home because the government sent his pension cheques to the wrong address.

What should have been corrected with just a couple of calls has transformed into a true personal crisis. The Minister of Veterans Affairs' bungling of this file is pathetic. We have lost count of the number of veterans forced to go on a hunger strike in order to be heard.

When will the Conservatives remedy this situation?

Housing June 1st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, last Sunday in Montreal, thousands of Quebeckers marched along with FRAPRU to call on the federal government to maintain social housing subsidies. An end to the agreements between the federal government and housing co-operatives is fast approaching.

Yesterday we met with the director of a group of non-profit housing organizations who confirmed that within just a few months, a number of organizations will no longer have financial support and will be on their own to maintain their already aging building inventory. Dozens of social housing units Will soon be in dangerous condition, when there is already a huge lack of available affordable housing. In the region of Roussillon alone, more than 1,500 families spend from 50% to 80% of their income on housing.

Three city councils in my riding, Delson, Saint-Constant and Sainte-Catherine, are aware of this problem and have supported a resolution calling on the Government of Canada to reinvest continuously and to maintain affordable housing subsidies.

The government stubbornly refuses to assume its responsibilities with respect to this issue, so I am taking this opportunity to strongly denounce this government that has, once again, turned its back on the poorest Canadians.

Business of Supply May 30th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech by my colleague from Ottawa—Vanier. I congratulate him on his research into co-operatives and on his comments.

It is a business model that I also like a great deal and which is probably a little underused in Canada, hence the importance of this motion to study the co-operative model.

Like most Canadians, I am a little more aware of the model used in the banking and financial sector. We also know that this business model is frequently used in the agricultural sector and for housing co-operatives.

Could my colleague tell us a little more about the benefits that other sectors of economic activity might derive from using the co-operative business model? Apart from the sectors I mentioned, I know less about other industrial sectors that use the co-operative model, and I would like to hear from my colleague about this.

Petitions May 30th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to present a petition signed by dozens of people from across Canada regarding justice and human rights.

The petition calls on the government to use its influence and good reputation around the world to put pressure on the countries that do not necessarily respect human rights, particularly Sri Lanka.

Criminal Code May 28th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am very eager to participate in the debate on Bill C-217. Before getting into the details of the bill, I would like to remind everyone that, sadly, our nation's history has its darker moments, such as our participation in armed conflicts.

Thousands of Canadian soldiers have fought for our freedoms and democratic values. We recognize that these men and women fought for a cause that they cared deeply about. We have to ensure that future generations learn about the sacrifices that all soldiers have made in the name of a noble cause. The vast majority of them have come home, but others never left the battlefield. Of those lucky enough to return, many carry permanent scars left by the atrocities they experienced on the battlefield. Pain and sadness have affected and continue to affect many families. Unfortunately, nothing can bring back those killed in action. Still, one of the things we must do to show our respect is pay tribute and commemorate their lives. No praise or medal can ever compensate for their service and sacrifice.

Despite our valiant efforts to honour these people, human beings unfortunately have memories that are sometimes a little too short. Therefore, we must ensure that negligence does not lead to a generation of skeptics who are unfamiliar with the history of our country and the lives sacrificed on the battlefields.

Consequently, it is our duty to remember these soldiers and the values that they fought for: the preservation of peace, justice and freedom. We must remember the dedication of these soldiers and their families.

War memorials are a lasting and visible sign that we are grateful for the sacrifices made and that we will never forget the Canadians killed in action. This is not about military propaganda, but recognition for the efforts of thousands of soldiers who died in action. War memorials also remind us that we sometimes find it difficult to learn from our mistakes.

The hon. member for Dufferin—Caledon introduced Bill C-217, which amends the Criminal Code to provide for the offence of committing mischief in relation to a war memorial. This bill seems to stem from the fact that a number of acts of vandalism have been committed against war memorials over the past few years. The hon. member, it seems, wanted to respond to those indecent acts committed against the memory of these soldiers who died in combat.

Nonetheless, we do not believe that sending young people to prison would benefit our society or help young people show respect for our veterans. I think the bill should have focused on education and raising awareness, which, in my opinion, better help prevent vandalism against our war memorials. What is more, the principle of restorative justice has been completely ignored and I think that is a mistake.

The focus should be to make young people realize the importance of respecting the memory of our veterans. A Veterans Affairs Canada report indicates that only 35% of Canadians have attended remembrance ceremonies.

We need to focus on giving Canadians a new appreciation for remembrance. The NDP believes we must ensure that those who made the ultimate sacrifice are not forgotten and that everyone knows that these memorials demand our respect.

We also recognize and commend our community volunteers who work hard to ensure that all Canadians' service and sacrifice are honoured and preserved in memory for the benefit of future generations.

Bill C-217 would amend section 430 of the Criminal Code on mischief and provide for a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for a first offence, a minimum 14-day prison term for a second offence and a minimum 30-day term for each subsequent offence for mischief in relation to a war memorial or part of a similar structure.

These minimum sentences, added to all the minimum sentences the Conservatives have introduced in numerous bills recently, will clearly have a huge impact on Correctional Service Canada's budget. Putting more people in prison will only add to the cost of incarceration. Mandatory minimums have no deterrent effect, contrary to what the government would like us to believe.

We feel that the bill is excellent in principle, and we certainly have no objection to adding a subsection on mischief in relation to war memorials. However, there are two problems with the bill.

First, section 430 of the Criminal Code already pertains to mischief, which includes destroying or damaging property in general, and the punishment for this crime gives the judge ample latitude in sentencing.

Second, and along the same lines, we are against minimum sentences, because, as other members have already said, they give the judge no latitude in determining an appropriate sentence and they are not the right approach. Contrary to what the government thinks, minimum sentences are not a magic bullet. They are not a one-size-fits-all solution to society's problems. As I said, they have no deterrent effect on an offender who is about to commit a crime.

I am completely convinced that what we need to emphasize is prevention, through awareness and education. Consider the following example from a few years ago: a young man was charged for having urinated on a monument. As part of the offender's sentence, he had to apologize, meet with members of the Royal Canadian Legion and perform community service for that organization. After his sentence was complete, that individual continued working with the Royal Canadian Legion, which tells me that the principle of restorative justice was completely beneficial in this case and that it works.

It is also important to point out that it was the Royal Canadian Legion that asked for and suggested this sentence. Thus, in my opinion, the government should follow the Royal Canadian Legion's example. That organization even told the Standing Committee on Justice that this bill should include provisions on restorative justice, such as dialogue between veterans and offenders convicted of mischief.

The Legion also said that the punishment should fit the crime and that imposing sentences should be left to the judge's discretion. Police officers, speaking on their own behalf, have also openly stated that restorative justice should be encouraged in cases involving vandalism of monuments.

The members of the Standing Committee on Justice requested and proposed amendments to the bill. They wanted to remove the clauses about minimum sentences. They also suggested an escape clause to give the judge the discretion to impose a more appropriate, less harsh sentence. The NDP members of the committee also proposed an amendment to introduce a restorative justice clause, but the Conservatives flatly dismissed those amendments.

Recently, the Conservatives cut many jobs at the centre for research into the prevention of mental illness, and in the epidemiology section, which analyzes mental health issues such as suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide. Veterans Affairs Canada's budget will be reduced by $36 million by 2014-15.

How can the Minister of National Defence say that the health of the troops is a priority when budgets for mental health services are being cut? Is this how the Conservatives plan to honour the memory of our veterans?

We have to honour living veterans by providing them with the support and help they need to ensure their well-being. We must honour those who have fallen on the battlefield by taking care of monuments across Canada. The Conservative government still has to go a long way to prove that it really cares about the health of our veterans and about honouring their memory.

I would like to close with a few lines from John McCrae's In Flanders Fields:

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

It is up to us to keep those poppies blooming, to preserve the memory of our veterans and their commitment to freedom, the freedom they have won for future generations.