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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

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 5th, 2014

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I think this is a somewhat controversial measure.

I cannot comment on the measure my colleague is talking about because I think I am getting it mixed up with another measure that is very controversial, the one that could jeopardize Canadians' privacy.

I cannot answer my colleague's question on transportation because this is an extremely controversial bill. I did not spend a lot of time looking at transportation issues. I do not know whether I would support that measure.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 5th, 2014

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his observations and for his excellent question about veterans. He is absolutely right: the government likes to take advantage of veterans.

The numbers vary when the government talks about veterans. I sometimes hear government members talk about an extra $5 billion since 2006, whereas others say $6 billion and some say $4 billion.

The reality is that there have been substantial amounts in the budget, an extra $5 billion or so since 2006, but there has also been about $1 billion in the budget that has not been spent to support our veterans, at a time when they have trouble obtaining the services they are entitled to. Our veterans are disadvantaged and do not receive the compensation they deserve.

This week, we made 14 recommendations on the review of the new veterans charter. In fact, I urge the minister to stop spending millions of dollars on useless ads and to use the money to properly compensate and support our veterans.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-31, even in a context of limited debate, unfortunately. Obviously, the Conservatives have not changed their ways. As usual, they have introduced a massive bill, an omnibus budget implementation bill designed to make us adopt hundreds of changes before they can even be studied properly.

This bill is over 350 pages long, has nearly 500 clauses, amends 60 laws and includes measures that were never mentioned in the budget speech. To ensure that this bill is passed as quickly as possible, the government is limiting debate in the House and not giving enough time for the committees to thoroughly review it. That way, many clauses are adopted quickly. The Conservatives are doing everything in their power to avoid being accountable to the House for their budgetary measures.

True to form, the government prefers to undermine the democratic process. That is beneath the dignity of a government of a democratic country like ours. We have the facts to prove it. For example, the hon. member for North Vancouver moved a motion whereby at 11 p.m. on May 29, 2014, all clauses that had not yet been voted on would be deemed adopted and all amendments not yet voted upon would be deemed rejected.

This does not live up to Canadians' expectations. They deserve better than this government that has no respect for democratic, parliamentary institutions. It is incredible that the government is pushing the passage of bills that have not been properly studied by Parliament and the Standing Committee on Finance, as is the case here.

No one will be surprised to learn that we will not support this budget, because it places Canadians in a position where their privacy could be violated. The bill contains nothing to support SMEs. Even worse, there is nothing in this bill to help the additional 300,000 Canadians who have become unemployed since the recession to find work, or to replace the 400,000 manufacturing jobs lost under the current Prime Minister.

Small and medium-sized businesses have been hit hard by this government. Many owners of SMEs have pointed out that the bill does not renew the hiring credit that the NDP was the first to propose in 2011 and that has now disappeared, unfortunately. However, changes were proposed to the labour-sponsored venture capital corporations tax credit.

Canadians deserve better. They deserve investments, economic development and high-quality jobs for the middle class.

We would have liked to have seen measures to help Canadian businesses grow, create jobs and increase their exports in this budget implementation bill. The government should have devised a comprehensive strategy for tackling youth unemployment and underemployment. One solution would have been to create a credit to encourage businesses to hire and train young people. By cracking down on unpaid internships, we would have ensured that young people were paid for their work.

If this government really wanted to work with the provinces to create jobs, it could have established a long-term strategy to address the shortages of skilled labour in order to support workers who want to move to another part of the country to take a long- or short-term job.

It is asking far too much of this government to bring together the provinces, employers, unions and educational institutions in order to improve the existing labour market development agreements. The government obviously prefers to establish policies behind closed doors, without any consultation.

Canada is a federation and the government, in many respects, seems to have forgotten the principle of co-operative federalism.

This bill is also a slap in the face to our veterans. Instead of compensating disabled veterans for the unjust deductions from their pensions since 2006, the government plans only to offer retroactive compensation for deductions that were made after the Federal Court ruling against the government in May 2012.

That is six years of deductions that the Conservatives do not have the decency to reimburse to these cheated veterans. It is beyond comprehension.

The government managed to find $36 million to challenge the veterans' case before the courts before being set straight. It found $28 million to fund celebrations of the War of 1812. Recently, it found $103,000 to promote tweets by Veterans Affairs Canada. It also found $4 million more this year for advertising so that the government and the minister could inform veterans. Inform them about what? Just a phone number is provided and very often no one even answers. The government prefers to pat itself on the back rather than compensate our veterans properly.

Veterans obviously deserve to be compensated adequately for their sacrifices, a principle this government seems to have forgotten yet again, given the lack of measures in this budget to help veterans.

I would like to quote something that retired captain Sean Bruyea said about this bill:

The omnibus budget bill does not meet Canada's democratic standard. It allows many changes to Canada's laws to enter the back door of government policy without full participatory and democratic due process. Ramming through legislation without proper scrutiny is an insult to the dignity of all that the military has sacrificed in Canada's name and at Parliament's order.

I could not summarize the situation better than Captain Bruyea does in that quotation.

For all Montrealers, and for the people in my riding listening to us, the bill also includes provisions about the Champlain Bridge. Bill C-31 exempts the Champlain Bridge from some of the key consumer protection and safety requirements in the User Fees Act and the Bridges Act, and gives the minister in charge the power to exempt this project from all federal laws.

We might mention, for example, the requirement to consult the public, to justify setting tolls, to establish an independent body to examine complaints, to reduce fees deemed to be excessive, and to ask the Department of Public Works and Government Services to verify the completeness and the safety of the project.

This government has therefore reiterated its desire to impose tolls on the new Champlain Bridge with no consultation, dismissing out of hand the interests of Montrealers and everyone in my riding, who will have to pay for the replacement of existing infrastructure. The effect of that will be to clog other bridges; it makes no sense. This government keeps working behind closed doors to impose the tolls. More than 1,000 people have written to tell me that they are absolutely opposed to such a provision. This infrastructure is essential for the economy of the Montreal area and also for the economy of Canada as a whole. The Conservatives consider the bridge to be a piece of local infrastructure. It does not span a little stream; it spans one of the biggest and most important shipping routes in Canada. It is the busiest bridge in the country.

We in the NDP listen to our constituents. This is why we proposed four amendments in committee to prevent tolls from being imposed. Of course, those amendments were dismissed outright by the Conservative members on the committee. We will continue to fight, come what may, to stop the government from imposing tolls on the new Champlain Bridge.

Canadians deserve a budget bill that supports our businesses, which are the engine of job creation. Canadians therefore expected measures that would make their lives more affordable and that would help them save for their retirement. They expected funding for veterans' programs that reflected the sacrifices these people made for their country. Instead, the Conservatives decided to cut programs and tax credits so that they could balance the budget and hand out goodies to their target demographic just before next year's election.

Canadians deserve better than that, and we obviously do not support this bill.

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his speech, which was hardly partisan at all, much like the work he does as the chair of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. I really appreciate that.

However, he spoke very little about the bill itself. That is a change because it has been talked about quite a bit. Nonetheless, I have found one or two flaws in this bill.

If the department does not recognize that a veteran's injury is related to his service and then that decision is overturned by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, I think that it would place the veteran at a disadvantage because the five-year entitlement period would apply only after the board had rendered its decision, once three or four years had already passed.

Does the member agree that we need to amend the bill when it goes to committee and correct the flaw that I mentioned?

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech. I really appreciated his comments on the government's efforts to help veterans transition to civilian life. That is a recurring problem that we have to try to fix. The bill will certainly not hurt in that regard.

However, I did not appreciate the government propaganda in my colleague's speech. He said that, since coming to power in 2006, the government has spent an additional $6 billion on transition programs.

I did the math. That money was budgeted, but was not spent. Close to $1 billion was not spent over the past seven years. The government keeps repeating that number, and I want everyone to know that it is not quite accurate.

Also, with respect to transition support for post-secondary and university studies, the government announced $2 million, I believe, over the next five years. Divide that by 100,000 and it turns out that it will help just a handful of veterans, who will be able to go to university so they can be employable in the public service.

What does my colleague think of that amount? Should it be increased so more veterans can be helped? If that amount does not go up, the government will not even be able to help 50 veterans during that five-year period.

Veterans May 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are eliminating health care services for our veterans across Canada. The Conservatives are now refusing to cover costs for veterans who served after the Korean War. That is why there are fewer and fewer long-term care beds available. All veterans, whether they served in World War II or Afghanistan, deserve the same treatment.

Why do the Conservatives not give all veterans the respect they deserve?

Veterans Hiring Act May 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his question and his very positive remarks. They are much appreciated.

As my colleague mentioned, this government is starting to routinely introduce ill-considered bills that are quite flawed. They realize it afterwards, drop them and then introduce another version.

That is what happened with this bill. The former Bill C-11 became Bill C-27, because the first one was also flawed. Some elements have been forgotten. That shows that the government does not consult enough, takes a silo approach and has its own vision.

As a result of this tunnel vision, the government introduces bills that are often unpopular and ill-conceived. This is a serious bill that includes some of the elements that were missing from the first version. However, it still does not go far enough. There are still some flaws, but it is better than its predecessor.

The government has become fixated on introducing bad bills, abandoning them and coming up with others. That is irresponsible.

Veterans Hiring Act May 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Saint-Jean for his excellent question.

He is shedding light on some of the problems with the new veterans charter. The main problem with what is now being called the old charter, which was actually the veterans pension system, was that there were no incentives for career transition. Veterans could have access to certain benefits and certain pensions without having to make any effort to go back to work.

In 2006, Canada took part in armed conflict in Afghanistan. We knew that veterans of Afghanistan would be young veterans who might not be able to continue serving in the Canadian Forces. However, they could return to civilian work since they were not totally disabled.

The new veterans charter was implemented in a rush between two minority governments. The government said the charter would be a living document. As I was saying earlier, if it is a living document, then it needs some oxygen. It has not been used very much and it has not evolved. We are looking at everything that has to do with lump sum payments, one-time payments, and we are at the report stage of our study. In fact, some veterans raised the problem of the lump sum or one-time payments. We are going to propose a number of changes to the minister in the hope that he will listen and respond favourably to our suggestions in committee. He has to listen because only one very minor improvement was made in 2011. This document needs major improvement. We hope the minister will improve it soon, once our report is tabled.

Veterans Hiring Act May 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his excellent question.

There are some flaws in this bill. Veterans of the RCMP were mistakenly or deliberately excluded from this bill. It would have been a good idea to include them. Creating categories of veterans goes against what they are asking for. The government should not be creating more categories of veterans because they have all served our country and deserve to be properly recognized. The ombudsman agrees with that. A veteran of the Second World War or the Korean War should not be entitled to benefits that other veterans are not entitled to.

There are a number of categories of veterans in the bill, which makes no sense. This bill is not on the right track; it is creating more categories.

In answer to my colleague's question, I would say that the RCMP is the largest police force in Canada. If a police officer is wounded in the line of duty, he might want to transition to another career, but he does not really have a choice other than to stay with the RCMP, which takes pretty good care of its members. It would be a good idea to give injured RCMP members the opportunity to transition to a new career. Many of them are highly skilled and have the qualifications they need to begin a career with the public service. There could be all kinds of great opportunities for them, but they were left out of this bill.

Veterans Hiring Act May 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her excellent question.

That could be a problem in some cases. Veterans must train to stay in shape. However, when they are injured during training, their injuries are often not recognized as being service related. In, many cases, they should be because it is every soldier's duty to remain physically fit. They have to be able to carry out their duties properly when they are deployed.

They are obliged to be physically fit, but there is nothing in this bill to help them if they are injured during training, which has happened. This situation is recognized far too infrequently. These injuries should be recognized as service related.