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Track Thomas

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is liberals.

NDP MP for Outremont (Québec)

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

Statements in the House

Ethics December 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, after the Prime Minister threw his minister and the president of the Liberal Party under the bus, the PMO scrambled to write new talking points, and they are truly cringeworthy.

The Prime Minister said his cash for access events, where people pay $1,500 to talk government business with the Prime Minister, are meant to help the middle class. Finger on the pulse, Mr. Speaker.

Do the Liberals really think that exclusive fundraisers with canapés and cocktails are a Christmas gift to the middle class?

Ethics December 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, today we have more proof that Canada 2020 is simply a wing of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Access to the Prime Minister should not be based on donations made to the Liberal Party or to Liberal organizations. If the maximum amount has been donated to the Liberal Party, that is not a problem because it has other schemes to let people contribute more.

My question is simple. How many Canada 2020 activities did Liberal ministers attend?

Steel Industry December 13th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, during the last election, the Prime Minister promised that, if elected, he would help protect the workers and pensioners of insolvent U.S. Steel. Yet here we are in the midst of a historic purchase agreement of U.S. Steel, where pension and benefits cuts are on the line, and the Prime Minister has been missing in action. What does the Prime Minister intend to do for a retired Stelco worker who spent 40 years at a blast furnace and stands to lose his health benefits?

Marijuana December 13th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the problem with saying that he listens but is not influenced is that it reminds people of someone who said that he smoked pot and did not inhale. Nobody believes it.

Speaking of that, to get elected, the Prime Minister loved to say that the war on drugs is not working; but today's Liberal cannabis report says nothing about decriminalizing possession. Before he can say that his number one priority is to protect young Canadians, can the Prime Minister tell us how handing out criminal convictions and criminal records to young Canadians is somehow supposed to protect them?

Ethics December 13th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it seems that “just watch me” has become just trust me; and on this, Canadians just do not.

I am sure that the Prime Minister had no intention of writing a piece of fiction when he drafted his so-called new ethics rules for the government. These rules were supposed to be solid, rules that the Liberal government was meant to follow, and we want to help with that.

We want to know if the Prime Minister will support the NDP bill to give teeth to his rules?

Ethics December 13th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, let me read what the Liberals have said about cash for access fundraising: “at events like this, government business is not discussed”, from his minister; any individual “who wishes to initiate a policy discussion is immediately redirected to instead make an appointment”, from the Liberal Party; and finally, from himself, “[I] listen broadly...and [I] make the right decisions based on what's best for Canada”.

One of these quotes is not like the others. Can the Prime Minister tell us who is telling the truth?

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement December 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate my colleague's question, because it is extremely relevant. I gave the example of the time when I was the Quebec environment minister and banned 2,4-D.

We know that the provinces are responsible for directly regulating in health and environment much more than the federal government, even though environment is shared.

We also know that the provinces risk bearing much higher costs, especially for generic drugs, because they will be much more expensive and it will be harder to bring them to market because of intellectual property protections. Once again, the agreement is putting profits before people. We want to put people before profits.

The provincial governments should be extremely careful, because this agreement will have a chilling effect on the provinces’ ability to regulate in health and the environment. This is why, from our perspective, we need to proceed very cautiously before signing this kind of agreement.

To those who would suggest that the NDP always votes against free trade agreements, I will say that nothing could be further from the truth. In recent years we supported the Canada–Korea Free Trade Agreement and the Canada–Jordan Free Trade Agreement.

We examine these agreements on a case by case basis, and this particular agreement if far from guaranteeing provincial capacity, in particular, capacity to ensure the public is protected. And what is more important in a government’s mandate than protection of the public?

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement December 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that my colleague from Hamilton Mountain is quite right. There are provisions in these agreements that are there to protect the companies, and we are not thinking enough about human health and the environment. Promises have been made by both the Conservatives and the Liberals that are clearly being broken, because the compensation that is on the table now is less than one-tenth of what was promised.

Let us stay with the example of Hamilton and steel. I have no doubt that Canadian companies can compete with anyone in the world with regard to steel production. However, if we are dealing with countries that do not have the same or similar environmental or labour rules, then we are allowing products in, and it is no longer economic dumping, but environmental dumping, or social dumping. That is what happens when we do not pay attention to these trade deals. We are always going to hear the same song from those in favour of all of these deals, that they are always good. That is just not true. We have been chumps in Canada for too many years, and some of these deals have not turned out to be very helpful for us. In fact, they have produced a race to the bottom.

Very often these international agreements take away good jobs and favour only those companies that push governments to sign them. This is why I am very proud to be part of a social-democrat family that asks the right questions.

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement December 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to add my thoughts on a very important bill, Bill C-30. This bill will implement a proposed free-trade agreement with Europe, an agreement which has been talked about for years here in Ottawa.

Indeed, to be quite frank, never in my life have I seen an agreement be the subject of so many press conferences and ceremonial events. I remember former prime minister Stephen Harper regularly blocking the halls of Parliament to go off once again to sign the free-trade agreement with Europe.

Our new prime minister cannot stop announcing it. He sometimes takes the plane on Sunday morning to go to Europe to sign the same agreement once again. One time it was because Wallonia had given its consent. Today we are in the process of discussing a bill, because there is still no agreement.

The reason why there is still no agreement is that certain serious questions have been raised about the very signing and content of this agreement.

When we look at the details of any trade deal, we have to look at our own past track record in signing similar deals and ask ourselves why we continue hitting our heads against the wall with some of the provisions that are in here, including, in particular, the investor-state provision.

A lot of people, when the Prime Minister rushed off for the umpteenth signature of this European trade deal, were a bit surprised to find out that the Walloon parliament had thrown in its lot with this thing, yet nothing could be further from the truth. There had been a lot of promises along the way by Canada, what is going to be changed, what is going to be modified, and Wallonia had simply decided to keep its powder dry.

There is an attempt right now to push this thing through. We all know that trade with Europe is important, but trade with Europe is so important that we have to get it right. That is why we keep asking the same questions.

I have played a role in the past in various trade deals. When the NAFTA was brought together, I was the president of the Quebec Professions Board. I did a lot of work with Americans on this. It was actually helpful in bringing down trade barriers within Canada, which is something we do not talk enough about. It was such a balkanized version of the professions, both in the U.S. and here, it put considerable pressure on the professions to make sure that any rules against free movement of professional services had an overriding interest in terms of public protection, consumer protection.

That is worthwhile. That is some of the good things that can come out of these deals. It is too easy to simply say we are going to have this new regulation or that new rule and it is all about public protection. However, we have to know whether or not that is actually the case.

Here is the rub. Who gets to decide? When we talk about an investor-state provision, what we are in fact talking about is the ability for an investor to go before an anonymous tribunal to have the very question resolved, in their favour most often. Canada has an awful track record on this. We have lost 70% of the cases under the NAFTA. What we are saying is that before we turn that over to an anonymous international panel instead of leaving it with our domestic courts, let us know what we are talking about.

The government keeps on insisting that in matters of environment and health, there is going to be a carve-off. However, that still leaves the question of who decides whether or not it is a legitimate environmental or health concern.

Again, let give a real example, one that I lived when I was the minister of the environment in Quebec. I banned 2,4-D, a widely-used pesticide produced by the Dow Chemical Company. Dow turned around, under chapter 11, and immediately started suing the Canadian government, saying, “You're not allowed to ban 2,4-D. You don't have conclusive evidence that it is directly dangerous to human health when used as directed.”

If an average suburban lawn owner gets dressed up in haz-mat outfit and starts putting this stuff around, and their kids are wearing haz-mat outfits and not playing on the lawn, and Rover is wearing a haz-mat outfit out on the lawn, that argument by Dow Chemical is true, perhaps in the immediate, without talking about how much of that is going to leach into the environment.

The Canadian government, for once, did not lose, because Dow was convinced to withdraw its lawsuit because Canada admitted that there was no conclusive evidence of a direct immediate harm to human health when 2,4-D was used as directed. However, who decides? That is the key question here.

Who has the final say with respect to health and the environment?

If we made regulations prohibiting the use of certain chemicals in the textile industry, for example, would we be immediately sued by a big European corporation such as BASF, a major German chemical manufacturer? The answer is almost certainly yes, because companies will never accept being told that a government can decide that; they will call in a group of two or three lawyers from big business and commercial law firms to win the right to continue.

Despite the many announcements, the process that has been proposed was rushed, if we compare it to what exists elsewhere. An NDP political slogan comes to mind when I look at what we have on the table, which is that we have to put people before profits.

There is a long-held view in my party that we have to put people before profits, and that was never more true than in the case of something like CETA. We are giving over to corporations the ability to sue national governments if they feel that their profits are being compromised.

There is also the risk of what we could call “regulatory chill”. The people in government who are responsible for protecting the environment and public health are going to be discouraged from doing so because of the threat of being sued under these new agreements.

Let us also look at what we are going through right now to know what the future can hold.

They say that what goes around comes around. It is astounding to see our dairy farmers, who are expecting market control in the form of supply management, currently losing several hundred million dollars per year because of incompetence and mismanagement by the Liberal government, which is pursuing old Conservatives policies.

Let me explain. Supply management protects our market for milk. When a dairy product comes over the border, it is subject to duty. Cheese is not allowed to be made if it does not contain milk. A metamorphosis does actually occur; it is all very Kafkaesque. At the border, the government says this product is not milk. With another word from this same government, a perfectly identical product suddenly and magically transforms into milk when it is used in cheese production.

We were promised $4.5 billion in compensation, but that simply evaporated. We are now left with less than one tenth of that amount.

Newfoundland is losing hundreds of millions of dollars because of our decision to do away with rules requiring processing to be done here.

It will be almost impossible to bring in national pharmacare. We are protecting companies and their profits instead of protecting people. The NDP will continue to fight against this trade deal, because we are not making Canadians' lives and our environment the priority.

Democratic Reform December 8th, 2016

It is not his democracy, it is our democracy, Mr. Speaker.

Bill C-29 does two things: it attacks Quebec's jurisdiction and eliminates consumer protections for Canada's bank customers. Stephen Harper tried to do the same thing when he was in office, but the courts stopped him.

Why is the Prime Minister trying to protect banks rather than the most vulnerable? Will he remove these odious provisions that attack Quebec consumers?