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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was workers.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Chambly—Borduas (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply November 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member is absolutely right.

Where we go from here must absolutely be up to the Afghan people. So they need the means to take charge. If our role continues to be a combat one, if we continue to attack on the front lines, we will never be able to accomplish that. Some countries are prepared to continue that work. We have already done our part, especially since Canada was very clear with its allies. We said that we would withdraw in 2011. That was clear. We have always agreed that we would be present, but with civilian missions.

My colleague is absolutely right. This civilian mission must give the Afghan people the means to take charge through democratic institutions and institutions for survival, particularly in terms of health and education.

Business of Supply November 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question, which forces us to think about the system over there, which is based on the law of the strongest or, to be more exact, on the best armed.

Children learn to fight each other at a young age. But it seems that our involvement there only perpetuates this system. Instead, we should be gradually putting a system in place with key pillars that will lead this country towards democracy. These are the pillars that I mentioned earlier. They need courts, places where people will see that the justice in a real justice system is constructive and contributes to the betterment of society. That is what we are talking about today.

We have two completely different ideas about how our mission over there should look.

Business of Supply November 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I invite my colleague to stay a little longer—I know she is busy—because I will be sharing my opinion on the statement she made earlier. I think we should have a discussion on the matter in order to ensure mutual understanding of the issues.

I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Joliette on this issue. We are blaming the government for preventing Parliament from voting on extending or at least defining the mission in Afghanistan. I am making this clarification because a parliamentary secretary indicated earlier that today's debate is on the conduct of the mission.

Today's debate is not on the conduct of the mission because that decision has already been made by the Prime Minister. He even announced it to NATO. The government has broken its promises and denied Parliament the ability to vote on extending the mission in Afghanistan.

The reason I wanted our colleague, the parliamentary secretary, to stay is that in my opinion, there is a distinction to be made between a combat mission carried out by soldiers and a military mission for combat training. It is still a military mission. Soldiers will be doing military work to train colleagues, soldiers, people who perform the same tasks they do in another country, but it is still a military mission. Now we need to know what mandate they will be given. That is where the mandate differs and we need to understand each other. We thought the commitment made was for a civilian mission.

I asked our colleague a number of different questions earlier to find out how many civilians from various disciplines will be assigned to the mission. We still do not know of any civilians who will be participating in this mission. When a police officer is trained—and I think my colleague is in a good position to talk about this because that is her profession—theoretical and practical training is provided. Practical training is not provided in a classroom. It is done outside the classroom.

That is why the French military, which took on this responsibility in 2007, has had some loss of life, although not as much as in combat, of course. However, the French have lost some personnel because they have had to expose themselves to danger, by travelling on the roads, for example. We also know that where the operations are taking place now, there are more deaths from mines than from bullets. Most of our military personnel who have died were killed when they drove over mines.

Just because the French were giving training, that does not mean they were no longer engaged in military activity. They were still engaged in military activity, and that is what is going to happen. That is what we are going to ask of our 9,500 soldiers who will be on the ground by 2014.

I know that some members are sensitive and are prepared to try to discuss the situation. Others who are a bit fanatical—although that is probably not the right word to use—do not want to hear any more about it. I know that some Conservative members also want to be reasonable about our future contribution. Should it be a strictly military contribution? We do not think so. Canada and Quebec have done enough in this regard. Our soldiers have gone to the front from the start, and especially since 2005.

The time has come to do what we do so well: a civilian mission. That is why the Bloc Québécois takes the following position.

As a participant in the London and Kabul conferences, Canada must ensure that Afghanistan makes the transition, in as peaceful and safe a way as possible, to full control by the Afghan government. We know how to do that. Canada invented peacekeeping, and we have a great deal of peacekeeping expertise that we are losing because we are putting most of our forces in combat roles.

Our actions should focus on three main areas: providing training support for Afghan police and helping to set up judicial, prison and administrative systems; reviewing and maintaining official development assistance; and reconciliation and integration. Like the other countries on the ground in Afghanistan, we will continue to maintain a presence, but without accomplishing anything other than what we have achieved to date. We get the feeling that we are not accomplishing anything because the government itself is corrupt. There is general agreement on that.

A military presence is incompatible with the humanitarian mission. For that reason, we believe that police training must be modelled after the training provided in democratic states. In Afghanistan, police forces are accustomed to assuming part of the role usually reserved for the courts. For example, police officers may serve as arbitrators in settling family disputes. A family may be asked to make restitution for the harm done to another family. They may even give their own child to the other family to make amends or restitution for the harm done. That still happens. We have to change this way of thinking. We believe that sending 50 or so police trainers to Afghanistan will be of greater assistance than what we are currently doing with weapons.

We must also focus on establishing a modern judicial system, which is clearly lacking. We have some great legal scholars teaching in our universities. Some are retired and available. We believe that an elite team should be trained in order to establish and maintain a judicial system worthy of that name and so that the police officers we will be training can take people who may have broken the law to court.

This also applies to the prison system. As we know, torture takes place in the prisons. We must also send a team to help them set up a real public service, which will run the components I just mentioned, particularly the judicial system, and stabilize the country. Above all, this will give the Afghan people confidence in their own government.

Business of Supply November 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development about what the mission will be like once it has changed.

We all know that it is currently a combat mission. The Prime Minister said that it will not be a military mission, but in actual fact it will be because we will be training soldiers.

Everybody here is concerned about training or building civilian infrastructure. This is a subject with which the parliamentary secretary is very familiar.

How many Canadians will spend their time training the police, for example? How many Canadians will help Afghanistan develop its legal system? How many people on this mission will help develop the prison system? These are all questions that need answers.

How many people will help Afghanistan develop its public service? Its public service has disintegrated. Those are my questions for the parliamentary secretary.

Business of Supply November 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

In saying the mission will change, the Prime Minister claims it will no longer be dangerous because it will involve the training of troops—still a military mission, all the same—and this training will be provided in secure locations, in schools and so forth. Former General Hillier has said that it is impossible to train troops for combat without taking part in any combat.

Will the hon. member admit that the French have been assuming this responsibility since 2007 and they have suffered several casualties?

Pensions November 23rd, 2010

Mr. Chair, given the number of bills, I am trying to recall it. I probably know it, but with only the number to go on I am having difficulty.

However, we will support any measure that could counter this flaw that has been introduced along the way and that has weakened pension plans.

As I said a little earlier, there is supposed to be oversight, but it is not respected, just as there is no respect for the guaranteed income supplement. The government knows who is entitled to it, but it does not give it to them. If a disabled person falls out of his wheelchair, he is unable to get back up even though he has his wheelchair. Will we leave him there? Common sense dictates that we will not. We will support him and help him up.

Some people do not know that they are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement. However, the government knows. These people live in poverty. They do not have enough to eat because they spend all their income on rent. This is a fact. Why do we not do the same thing? Why do we not go out and help them? They must be told that they are entitled to it. We must tell them it is theirs, and give it to them. If there are doubts, we can write to them. If we have doubts, we can ask them if that is their situation. Most of the time, there is no question about it. We know it, just as the government knows that it misappropriated $3.3 billion, which came from the pockets of these people.

Pensions November 23rd, 2010

Mr. Chair, that is a very good question. Under the regulations, pension plans are required to have a compensation fund of 15% to 20%. I think the legislation did not allow compensation funds to exceed 20% of the plan requirements as such. We have to make sure that the rules governing these plans uphold this requirement at all times and that provisions are implemented to ensure compliance.

Any time the rules have been broken it has been because one of the two contributors—usually the employer—has been allowed to take a break from contributing. That should not happen. Other sources should be found to support the plan, especially when the employer is going bankrupt, if there is bankruptcy, to ensure that workers are the first creditors in line to receive all the money or assets left to hand out.

Pensions November 23rd, 2010

Mr. Chair, I would first like to thank and congratulate my fellow member for all of the time and effort she has put into addressing this issue. Like her, I was taken aback by the casual attitude toward a situation that I believe is urgent.

During the economic crisis in Canada, special, emergency measures were put in place to address issues related to municipal infrastructure and the automotive industry. Far fewer measures were taken with regard to the forestry industry. When people lose their jobs or retirement income, it constitutes a severe economic crisis for them that calls into question their ability to provide for themselves and their families.

When we fail to urgently and immediately resolve a problem that falls under our responsibility and to see what we can do to help these people and do right by them, we are not respecting our obligations. We are merely accentuating the effects of the economic crime to which they have fallen victim.

Pensions November 23rd, 2010

Mr. Chair, I feel it is important to take part in this take note debate on Canada's retirement income system, especially since workers in my riding and most members' ridings have been affected by a very unfortunate situation in recent years, especially the past three years.

It used to be that we were especially concerned about people who had no private pension coverage. When people without private pension coverage reached retirement age—65 for most people or 60 for people who qualified for the Quebec pension plan—they received public pension benefits, of necessity. But few of them had enough money to retire.

Two things happened. With the economic crisis, the economic structure or the problems experienced by companies weakened many pension funds. But they were also weakened when one of the major stakeholders was denied a role in managing pension funds. In the past 10 years, pensioners themselves have been excluded from managing many plans. When companies started tampering with pension plans to try to refloat them, if I can put it that way, by giving the employer a contribution holiday or restricting coverage, one stakeholder was missing every time. So when it became necessary to take measures, most of the time, they were taken and the people who were affected right away were those who were receiving private pension benefits.

This is a reflex that is relatively normal under the circumstances and abnormal in other situations. It is normal because we have a survival instinct. We tell ourselves that we will be retiring later, so we will have time to make up for the shortfall in the fund. We do not worry about the people who are receiving their pension when we make this decision.

I would like to remind members of two specific examples, Atlas Steels in Sorel and the Jeffrey mine in Asbestos. These people ended up in a situation in which the union and the employer agreed that the employer's contributions could be suspended or, in some cases, they agreed upon exceptional measures that meant that insufficient contributions were being made to the pension fund. At Atlas Steels, in Sorel, pensioners saw their pension benefits cut by 20%, 30%, 40%, 50% or 60%. That is huge. You are entitled to receive an amount every year because you and your employer contributed. But then all of a sudden your pension goes from $27,000 a year to $13,000 or $14,000 a year. That is terrible.

These situations happened—and this has not been brought up yet this evening—because a key player was disregarded, someone with an opinion on such situations and especially on the management of a pension fund.

We introduced Bill C-290 to partially fix this situation by creating a tax credit.

This tax credit would allow anyone whose benefits were cut to recover approximately 22% of the money they lost. That is not very much, but it is still a significant amount for people who do not earn much to begin with. But, contrary to expectations, some of the Liberals voted with the Conservatives to deny workers from Jeffrey mine in Asbestos and Atlas Steels in Sorel the right to this measure, which would have helped alleviate financial difficulties.

This evening we are debating measures to confront the new realities of pension plans. However, there is still some ambiguity because no action is coming out of all this talk.

I would like to give an example of the elements of the public pension system. There is old age security for seniors, which is their income security. For many of them, it is insufficient because it is their only income. So the guaranteed income supplement was created to give seniors a decent income on which to live. But then what happened? Some of the people who are eligible have been beaten up by life and a large number of them are marginalized. Some of them are isolated by poverty, others by their low level of education or training or simply because they do not know their rights or have communication problems.

In 2001, we learned that 183,000 people in Canada were in that situation, including 81,000 people in Quebec. Since then, the Bloc Québécois has been on the attack. Our colleague at the time, Marcel Gagnon from Shawinigan, the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, led a crusade that allowed us to find many of these people. However, 42,000 have not yet been reached. So they are the people we are talking about.

Our Conservative colleague was saying earlier that seniors only have to apply once. However, in order to apply that first time, they need to know they are entitled to the supplement. The government, on the other hand, knows they are entitled to it, so why not just give it to them?

Over the years, the government has misappropriated a great deal of money, $3.3 million to be precise, that belongs to some of our most vulnerable seniors. That money belongs to them. We need to start with measures like that one. We also need to look at the possibilities being discussed right now in Quebec by unions and seniors' advocacy groups, which are proposing increasing the income provided by public pensions. In Quebec, some people have suggested doubling the Quebec Pension Plan with appropriate deductions and contributions to make that possible. This would give people who are working and do not have a private pension plan the opportunity to participate in a group plan that will guarantee them at least enough income to live with a little dignity when they retire.

This is what people should take away from this evening's debate: we need to take a close look at what we are doing wrong and remain open to what we can do better.

Pensions November 23rd, 2010

Mr. Chair, I understand that the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte is asking the question again because the government keeps sidestepping it. I will ask the Conservative member a simpler question about one aspect of the pension system for seniors: the guaranteed income supplement my colleague talked about.

Can she tell us why people who are entitled to this supplement, which the government is somewhat familiar with, are not receiving it? There are 108,000 such people in Canada and 42,000 in Quebec. Does she know why they are not getting the guaranteed income supplement?