House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament August 2018, as NDP MP for Outremont (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 44% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Hon. Member for Outremont June 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, thank you and I thank my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to address you one last time before leaving this place for good this summer. What an honour it has been to serve here, the cradle of our democracy, and to represent the people of Outremont who honoured me by electing me four times.

Those who know me will not be surprised to hear me say that my first words are for my wife Catherine, who is here today with our son Matthew, his wife Jasmyne, and our grandchildren Juliette and Raphaël. Our son Greg and his wife Catherine are with their new baby, Leonard, the new light in our lives.

Catherine and I made a pact when we decided together that I would accept the invitation to go into politics. We promised that our relationship and our family would always come first, and we kept that promise.

Catherine advised and helped me and was by my side throughout my career in public service. Her strong values of generosity, respect for others, and kindness in the face of adversity have always inspired and guided me, even though I did not always manage to live by those values as well as she does.

Catherine has her own very demanding career as a psychologist in palliative and long-term care. She also works as a clinician in the private sector. Like many spouses of politicians, she did my work in addition to her own.

I want to share a real example of a long weekend we spent together. On the Friday, we left Montreal, picked up staff in Ottawa, went to the Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg, went on to Chinese New Year in Vancouver, switched out staff because they were tired, visited Yellowknife, gave a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, then I returned to Ottawa and Catherine returned to Montreal, and it was just Monday.

The Prime Minister and the leader of the official opposition are familiar with this kind of schedule, but there are not many people, aside from our loved ones, who understand the sacrifices our noble profession demands.

Still, what memories. Our granddaughter Juliette hand-made buttons for my leadership race, our three-year-old grandson Raphaël discovered that Stornoway was a great place for building forts, Greg built and maintained the best leadership campaign website, and Matt and Jasmyne would regularly summarize the news for me because I did not have enough time to read it all.

I owe so much to my family, including my sisters and brothers, Colleen, Peter, Jeannie, Daniel, Deborah, Sheylagh, Maureen, Kelly, and Sean, not to mention my unconditional supporter, my mother, Jeanne Honorine.

We are truly blessed to live in Canada, and we in this place are truly fortunate to be given the chance to try to make it an even better place for all. I have been so lucky to live so many unforgettable experiences in this role.

I remember being on board former AFN national chief Shawn Atleo's boat near his home in Ahousaht when we spotted a pod of whales. Catherine and I were overwhelmed as we saw Shawn go to the side and begin to intone a beautiful song. We quietly asked what he was doing, and he said he was calling the whales with a song of his people. We watched in silent awe as the whale swam right to him. We do have a lot to learn from those who were here first, in particular our obligation to leave things better for generations to come.

My career in government began exactly 40 years ago. It was in Quebec City in the legislation branch of the justice department. It was there that I first learned the inspiring lesson my political mentor Claude Ryan would drive home time and again. Politics is an amazing way to help make people's lives better, and we should never allow anything to supercede that priority.

Here in this place there are so many wonderful people who dedicate themselves to making our lives easier. I want to thank all of the staff. The superb professionals at the table, the delightful pages, the brilliant library personnel, the support staff, and our incredible interpreters who somehow make sense of it all even when we are talking a mile a minute.

I have a special word of thanks for two people.

I want to thank Marguerite, from our restaurant, who always managed to find us a place, even whether there were none left, and she did it with a smile.

Samearn Son of our Parliamentary Protective Service, who courageously stood between a deranged man's bullet and us, represented the best of the best of a service that deserves all of our respect.

Politics is a contact sport, but our incredible colleagues and employees are always there to support and to advise, and to soften the blows. I had the good fortune to serve under two extraordinary leaders prior to the arrival of our new chief, the exceptional Jagmeet Singh.

Jack Layton was in a class apart. He contacted me in early 2006, a full year before I was to become his Quebec lieutenant. I had just left cabinet on a question of principle, having refused to sign an order in council transferring land in Mont-Orford Provincial Park to private developers. Jack was amazing, sans pareil, when it came to connecting with people and he proposed a supper with his wife, the extraordinary Olivia Chow, and Catherine and me at a restaurant in his old hometown of Hudson, Quebec.

As a Quebecker, he knew the progressive side of politics there. He also knew how tough it was for the NDP, but he was so sure that working together we could break through in our home province. Catherine was convinced, so was I, and an unlikely, hopeful, slightly mad political adventure began.

Many will recall the orange wave of May 2011, but fewer people will remember that it was preceded by five years of organized and relentless hard work from Lac-Saint-Jean to Trois-Rivières, from Rimouski to Gatineau, and from Sept-Îles to Montreal. Recruiting party supporters was not easy, but together, Layton and Mulcair, as we were often called, worked as a team that did not so much recruit candidates as it hunted them down. We were good. We recruited people like the extraordinary Nycole Turmel, who so brilliantly replaced Jack at a moment's notice upon his departure.

Jack knew that a breakthrough in Quebec was key to the NDP being considered a national party worthy of the name, and Jack would be so proud to know that we currently have such a strong and experienced team of 16 NDP members from Quebec here in the House. It is true that our goal of forming a progressive NDP government eluded us in 2015, but let us never forget that the 44 seats won by the outstanding members during the previous election was our second-best result in 18 federal elections since the NDP was created in 1961.

As I prepare to leave this place this summer, I look back with pride and try to keep only the happier memories in addition to our miraculous breakthrough in Quebec, such as zip lining with Rick Mercer or tailgate parties with the Rider Nation in Regina.

I remember the beers I had with Jack and Rebecca Blaikie on a beautiful patio in Trois-Rivières, with the nicest people ever. I remember a long journey by dogsled in Whitehorse, Yukon, where my great-grandparents Mercier were married.

There was also the annual regatta in St. John's and the evening on George Street that always followed, and knocking on then Supreme Court Chief Justice, and neighbour, Beverley McLachlin's door with my grandchildren on Halloween wearing my Angry Bird costume.

Mark Critch, bless his soul, called me right after the 2015 election, telling me he decided he was going to cheer me up. He brought me into a studio, dressed me up as Canadian music star Drake, and had me dance to Hotline Bling. Yes, that really was me lip-synching “You used to call me on my cell phone”. How appropriate.

I also had the good fortune to travel abroad with colleagues of all parties and to learn their stories. We have a lot more in common than anything that divides us.

The world around us has changed a great deal since I entered this place. While we can and should celebrate and cherish our democracy, our liberties, our rights, and our institutions, we are all keenly aware that no one can take anything for granted in today's world. Democracy needs champions, and Canada should be one of those champions.

Here, within these halls, we have the privilege and the duty to enact positive change. I will continue to try making a positive contribution after I leave this place. I will be teaching sustainable development in the most important research university in Quebec, the University of Montreal.

Since civil society also makes a remarkable contribution to progress, I will once again be very active in charitable organizations. I recently agreed to become the chair of the board of directors of Earth Day. There are so many different ways to contribute to the well-being of Canada, but the goal remains the same: to work together not only for the promise of a better society, but also to make it a reality for all.

Special Recognition May 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for renewing a fine tradition in the House of Commons and giving us the opportunity to recognize those who, year after year, uphold the most noble mission of public service.

Four of my closest associates are here. They have close to 50 years combined of loyal service to my constituents.

Chantale Turgeon and I have worked together since early 2003. She played a vital role in the tour through Quebec that resulted in the Sustainable Development Act. She was attuned to the modern Quebec and made it possible for us to believe that the NDP could make a breakthrough in Quebec, and she was a key architect of the orange wave.

Graham Carpenter has also been at my side since my days as the Quebec environment minister.

Gra-ham, “jambon gris” pour les intimes, is a tireless worker whose constant outreach to the myriad cultural, ethnic, and linguistic communities of Outremont has allowed the NDP to win the riding four times.

Mathilde Rogue is an exceptional woman who has been with me since the 2007 election thanks to the Quebec-France study vacation program. She has shown passion, conviction, and tireless dedication, especially in her work with arts groups and non-profits in the riding.

Miriam Taylor, the little newcomer, has been with us since the 2011 election. Her dedication to families caught in the bureaucracy of the immigration system is inspiring and she has put her heart and soul into helping them.

Constituents are fortunate to have had them as their champions and I am pleased and proud to profess my friendship and appreciation.

Raif Badawi March 28th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, in Saudi Arabia, freedom of expression, association, and assembly is severely repressed. For five years now, the young Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been the unwitting face of this oppression. He has been flogged and is still in jail despite winning a prestigious international award for courage in journalism.

For the past five years, his wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children have been working to get their husband and father released. In order to intensify pressure on Saudi Arabia and offer some protection to Raif Badawi, his wife would like him to be granted honorary Canadian citizenship. She has asked the Prime Minister himself, and he promised her that he would see to it. The time has come for him to make good on his promise.

Will the Prime Minister support making Raif Badawi an honorary Canadian citizen?

Hanukkah December 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to join with my wife, Catherine and our family in wishing “Chag Hanukkah sameach” to all those lighting menorahs this week in honour of the eight-day Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

As a festival of light, Hanukkah reminds us of our ability as humans to cast light into the darkness, and be a spark for change for a more compassionate world where we have a right to practise our religion.

In the immortal words of beloved Canadian poet Leonard Cohen:

Forget your perfect offering; There is a crack in everything; That’s how the light gets in.

Rohingya November 22nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, years of persecution, fuelled by anti-Muslim hatred, have exploded into an lslamophobic, government-led pogrom against the Rohingya in Myanmar.

I had occasion to meet with special envoy Bob Rae during the recent Commonwealth parliamentary assizes in neighbouring Bangladesh. His remarks were chilling. The Canadian delegation there played a major role in getting the CPA to take the uncharacteristic step of adopting a strongly worded statement on the Rohingya, one that referred to genocide.

At the end of the Second World War, when the horrifying magnitude of the holocaust was revealed, the whole world swore to never forget, to be vigilant, lest hatred once again give rise to state-sponsored murder on a massive scale.

On the very day when the butcher of the Balkans has been sentenced to life in prison for genocide, Canada must do everything we can to ensure that the butchers of Burma suffer a similar fate.

Canada Post September 27th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister himself made a campaign promise to restore home mail delivery to those who lost it. Ten months ago, the House of Commons committee that includes a number of his MPs recommended restoring the service, but since then it has been radio silence from his government.

Why will the Prime Minister not just admit that he broke his promise to restore home mail delivery?

Indigenous Affairs September 27th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, here is the reality. The Prime Minister promised a nation-to-nation relationship and to stop taking first nations children to court. Rather than comply with the Human Rights Tribunal's three separate rulings, two years into his mandate he is still spending millions of dollars to fight first nations children in court. That is the reality.

What those children want to know is this: why is the Prime Minister still fighting them in court?

Indigenous Affairs September 27th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, does the Prime Minister really want us to look at the promises he has made? Let us look at another one of his promises. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the Prime Minister three times to put an end to the racial discrimination against first nations children.

Rather than comply, the Prime Minister insists on fighting indigenous children.

Why is the Prime Minister so determined to perpetuate his government's discrimination against first nations children?

The Environment September 27th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, there it is. The Liberal government will actually be increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Prime Minister is fond of lecturing everyone else, but he is the process of following Stephen Harper's plan, on Stephen Harper's timeline, using Stephen Harper's targets. However, he will never be able to meet them, because he has no plan for reducing greenhouse gases. If we do not reduce greenhouse gases, anything else we do will be pointless.

When is the Prime Minister going to be able to look Canadians in the eye and say, “Yes, we are going to reduce GHGs in this country”?

That is the question. He needs to stop dodging.

The Environment September 27th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, no one talks a better game than the Prime Minister when it comes to climate change, at the UN and during NAFTA negotiations, name it. The Liberal Party promises that Canada will respect its commitments, but there is a problem. In order to meet our obligations under the Paris accord, our greenhouse gas emissions actually have to start going down at some point.

After increasing greenhouse gas emissions during his first two years in office, can the Prime Minister promise Canadians that these will decrease over the next two years, yes or no?