House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

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

Pensions November 23rd, 2010

Madam Chair, first I would like to thank my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for his speech. He spoke about the two types of plans. I would like to ask him about the guaranteed income supplement, a public plan for seniors that he mentioned briefly, which is available to individuals whose old age pension income is too low.

Can he tell us why, under this government and the one before it, people who were entitled to the guaranteed income supplement did not receive it?

Pensions November 23rd, 2010

Madam Chair, I would like to ask the Conservative member a question about a situation pertaining to private pension plans. One of my fellow members just asked about an aspect of public pension plans, and now it is time to look at private plans.

For economic reasons, some employers were unable to respect private pension plans either in terms of their contributions or the security of funds. We recently introduced Bill C-290, which asked the House to alter tax credits. The purpose of this bill was to help the employees of two companies in particular, the Jeffrey mine in Asbestos and Atlas Stainless Steels in Sorel.

I would like to understand the government's philosophy with regard to the existing protection for private pension plans. I would also like to know how the government intends to help those who lose money on their pensions.

Le Tremplin High School and POSA/Source des Monts November 22nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to acknowledge the presence of 25 young people and their chaperones from Le Tremplin high school and the POSA/Source des Monts youth organization in my riding.

Both of these institutions in Chambly help adolescents and young adults who are having problems in their lives. They provide support to these youth to help them overcome various obstacles. Le Tremplin high school provides educational services to young people who are subject to the Quebec Youth Protection Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The mission of POSA/Source des Monts is to combat social exclusion and poverty among people under 35.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I would like to pay tribute to the staff of these two institutions for the work they are doing and commend these youths for the remarkable courage they have shown in facing and overcoming adversity.

Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing Act November 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this important bill introduced by our NDP colleague from Vancouver East. This bill has been well received by the opposition parties and, in our opinion, is very necessary. It should also be well received by the Conservative government.

If we wish to be seen honouring our commitments as parliamentarians, and in light of the report on poverty tabled today, I believe we must take this opportunity to act on a measure that has a direct bearing on the issue of poverty.

I would remind members that the purpose of the bill is to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians—for all citizens of Canada and Quebec. I will come back to Quebec because it already has its own measures and initiatives. For some of these, it must share the jurisdiction, or at least the cost, with Canada.

It is fortuitous that the debate to send this bill to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for appropriate amendments coincides with the tabling of a report on poverty. The report is the result of three years' work by this committee, which included parliamentarians from every party in the House.

By the way, since my colleague from Sault Ste. Marie is present, I would like to highlight his hard work in initiating the study, and his dedication and effort in carrying out this project for his party. He encouraged us to work hard as well and we were pleased to be involved.

The results give hope to those living in inadequate housing. The report contains measures that reflect the opinions of the people we consulted across Canada. In three years, we travelled to every provincial capital and we heard from people who were familiar with the circumstances of those who are poorly housed.

There is a direct link between housing and poverty because we need to remember that, of all the burdens related to poverty, housing tops the list. There is no getting around it. If we do not take measures to ensure that housing is affordable for low-income earners, the cost of housing will inevitably take up the largest portion of their income.

There are people who spend 50% or even 60% of their income on housing. We have seen some people spend as much as 80% of their income on rent. Some even spend more than 80%.

It is widely acknowledged that once you spend more than 30% of your income on rent, you begin to slide down a slippery financial slope because the extra money you are putting towards rent has to be squeezed out of your budget for clothing, heating and food.

And that leads to the results we have found, notably in terms of food bank usage. In recent days, we have seen a number of situations where food banks have been short of food for months, trying to meet the needs of the people and families that are struggling to feed themselves.

Poverty has a new face these days. More and more working people are turning to food banks. On average, 13% to 14% of people who use food banks have a job. Surprisingly, when we look more closely at the figures by geographic region, we see that the largest percentage of working people who use food banks is in western Canada, in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The figure is as high as 17%. Why? Because it is not enough for people to have a decent income; they need to live in a region where the cost of living is reasonable compared to income levels. In regions where most workers have high incomes, the cost of living is also high.

More than 870,000 people use food banks every month. We should be concerned about that. That is more than the population of Ottawa. Imagine: more people than the whole population of Ottawa use food banks once a week. That is an alarming statistic. It should also tell us that something is wrong with the system.

Despite the fact that on November 15, 1989, the House of Commons unanimously voted in favour of eliminating child poverty by the year 2000, we are still in the same situation today, with a motion reiterated in November to achieve the same goal. What happened? Since 1991, there have been draconian cuts to a number of social safety net programs. One of these programs was social housing.

Typically in Canada, when a municipality or a region has a vacancy rate of less than 3%, we start to see serious problems with housing the least fortunate. With upward pressure on the cost of housing, the less fortunate can no longer afford the rent. We end up with people who are very poorly housed and large families in apartments with only three, four or five rooms and everything that entails.

In the riding of Chambly—Borduas that I have the honour of representing, there are 12 municipalities. Out of these 12 municipalities, 11 have a vacancy rate of less than 3%; 9 have a vacancy rate of less than 1%. Just imagine how that affects people with low incomes. They end up in very precarious situations because most of their income goes toward paying for housing. This is a major cause of poverty.

What caused this? From 1991 to 2001, for 10 years, the Canadian government stopped supporting social housing development.

Today we have an opportunity to remedy the situation. That is why I am calling on all my colleagues in the House to vote in favour of referring this bill to committee, in order to make the necessary amendments to have all hon. members vote for this bill.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate term limits) November 17th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I would of course like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert on the relevance of her comments. She pointed out that only 8% of Quebeckers believe that the Senate serves a useful purpose. It would seem that they are not terribly impressed by the value of the work done by senators.

The hon. member also pointed out that this bill interferes with the Canadian Constitution without the approval of Quebec and the provinces. I wonder if she could expand on this.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act November 16th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my speech on Bill C-31, which aims to preclude criminals over age 65 from receiving old age security benefits.

My hon. colleague from Hochelaga was quite right to remind me earlier that there are several kinds of victims in society, including victims of crime and victims of economic crime, and that one serious economic crime is depriving people, such as seniors who are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, and we know who is doing that. The same is true for people entitled to EI benefits. Yet, the Conservatives have found a way to take away those benefits.

The Conservative government sings its own praises and takes pride in defending victims' interests. But something is not right. My colleague from Compton—Stanstead introduced Bill C-343 in support of victims of crime. In accordance with the will of the majority of the House, this bill was studied by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. But five Conservatives voted against it. That was the first time since I came to this House that a bill specifically meant to help victims of crime had been introduced and, contrary to expectations, the same Conservatives who claim to defend the interests of victims of crime voted against it. That is the real face of this party, which is hypocritical and lies to the public. All it wants is to complicate legislation concerning criminals.

I mentioned this morning that a number of these bills were supported by the Bloc Québécois because none of them were that excessive. The Conservatives have voted against our every effort to make amendments in support of victims.

To conclude, I would like to say again that we will support Bill C-31 because it establishes a balance between those who qualify for old age pensions and those who do not. Of course, criminals do not qualify. However, we strongly condemn the fact that the government is not following through on its commitment to help victims of crime. In fact, it stonewalls all attempts to do just that.

I hope that when the time comes, when we come back to the House for third reading of Bill C-343, all members of the House of Commons will vote in favour of it, including our Conservative colleagues who, this time, might have the heart to support victims of crime.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act November 16th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate it if you would delay the time for questions so that I can finish my speech. My colleague from Hochelaga agrees with me.

I am pleased to speak to this important bill. It is important because it shows the true face of this government and it lets us see the government for what it is.

This bill, which was introduced on June 1, 2010, would eliminate old age security benefits for prisoners. From the outset, the Bloc was clear that it would support this new measure in principle, contrary to what our Conservative colleagues are trying to insinuate. We support this bill in principle.

We also said from the outset that we wanted the bill to go to committee, and it was studied by the committee I have the honour to sit on, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. We made a unanimous recommendation in this House that would correct this flaw that allows prisoners, who are fed and housed at public expense, to receive old age security benefits, which are not earned through employment or otherwise.

The government made this an urgent issue, even though we did not see it as urgent. We saw the need but not the urgency, because no one was threatened or hurt by this situation. It was a matter of recovering the money these people had received unfairly. We discovered along the way that the Conservatives were just paying lip service to the idea of urgency, because they tried and are still trying to drag out the debate so that they can make purely demagogic arguments implying that the opposition parties disagree with the principle of this bill. Clearly, we are talking about something that went unnoticed for years and only came to light because of Mr. Wilson's situation.

A more urgent issue would be the situation of seniors who are not incarcerated, but who live in the community and have to make do with an income that is not enough to let them live in dignity.

I will talk about two specific measures. The first is the guaranteed income supplement, including income security. One seniors advocacy group, FADOQ, has brought this issue forward on a number of occasions, and started a petition that I tabled in this House a week or two ago. My Bloc Québécois colleagues have also filed petitions from each of their ridings.

We find ourselves in this House with petitions presented by Bloc colleagues. These petitions, started and sponsored by seniors groups, are calling urgently for an increase in seniors' income, which consists of basic income security, known as the old age pension, and the guaranteed income supplement for those who receive old age security but still do not have enough income to pay for housing, food, clothing and medication.

In Quebec alone, 78,000 seniors find themselves in this situation; in Canada, the number is threefold.

Therefore, this is of concern to us. A well-known Quebecker said that a society is judged on how it treats its children and its seniors. Given that we can identify 78,000 Quebeckers and more than 200,000 Canadians living not just below the poverty line, but below the level of income considered necessary to live with dignity, something is not working properly in our society.

This is an indication that the laws are poorly designed or not being enforced.

In the case of the guaranteed income supplement, the legislation is being misapplied, perhaps even deliberately misapplied. Eight years ago in 2002, it was discovered that 83,000 eligible people in Quebec alone were not receiving the guaranteed income supplement. And yet, they were entitled to it.

Year after year, we have asked the government why these people are not receiving the guaranteed income supplement even though the government receives their income tax returns and has knowledge of their income. Almost none of these people are aware of their entitlement. They are isolated in the community and lack the necessary knowledge and education. And yet, the government knows who these people are.

Bloc Québécois members including Marcel Gagnon, the former member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, campaigned to make people aware of their GIS eligibility. Tens of thousands of people discovered that they were entitled to the GIS as a result of this campaign. And yet, these people were living in poverty—which I will not describe as abject, because they are proud people—but in poverty that was barely tolerable. The upshot was that over 40,000 people found out about their entitlement and filed applications.

At this very moment, there are still 42,000 people in Quebec and three times that many in the rest of Canada who have fallen through the cracks. There is the very familiar case of the woman from Toronto who had been living in absolute poverty and found out only two years ago that she had qualified for the guaranteed income supplement for the past 10 years or more. News of our campaign spread to Toronto, where she found out about her entitlement and was also discovered. Her story made headlines. That is just one case. There have been tens of thousands of similar cases.

There is a lot of urgency around this first measure. Not only does this situation require urgent attention so that these people get the guaranteed income supplement, but also, benefits must immediately be paid retroactively since over $3 billion has been misappropriated. That money belongs to seniors. This wrong must be righted immediately.

To correct this injustice, in April, my colleague, the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, introduced Bill C-516, which includes the following measures. We in the Bloc Québécois truly hope that all members of the House will support this bill and, when the time comes, vote for it. The bill would increase the guaranteed income supplement by $110 per month. It proposes a six-month extension to the pension and surviving spouse or common-law partner benefit. This six-month extension would ensure that a survivor is able to bridge the gap after the death of his or her spouse. Also included is automatic enrolment for those over the age of 65 who are eligible for the GIS—which I mentioned earlier, and it is ridiculous that this has not yet been done—retroactive guaranteed income supplement payments to seniors, and a surviving spouse benefit increase to match GIS levels.

These are the measures that must be taken immediately with respect to my first example.

My second example has to do with the people who have not reached the age of eligibility for the income security pension, that is, the old age security pension and the guaranteed income supplement, and who lose their jobs while still under the age of 65. Beginning in 1989, we had a program for older worker adjustment, the POWA, for workers aged 55 and up who lost their jobs and were not able to find new employment, particularly in one-industry regions. These people were left with nothing once their employment insurance benefits and benefit period ran out, and they ended up on welfare.

From 1989 to 1997, we had a program called POWA, the program for older worker adjustment, which enabled these people, for whom there were no jobs available, to receive income from employment insurance to allow them to live decently.

In 1997, the Liberal government cut that program completely, and it has not existed since then, which means that factories have been shut down in many regions in Quebec and elsewhere. Other members can speak for what has gone on in other provinces.

There is Whirlpool, for example, which shut down in Montmagny in 2004. Nearly 30% of the 245 employees were over 55. The primary employer in the region closed its doors and there were no jobs for the employees who were over 55. The younger ones could always find work elsewhere, but it was a difficult time. What happened to these people? They ended up on welfare. These people had worked and paid into employment insurance their entire lives, and the government did not even support them with a measure that was paid for out of their own pockets.

What happened during that time? The employment insurance fund was generating surpluses every year. In 1997, the same year the government cut the POWA, a surplus of over $7 billion had accumulated in that fund. Yet over 50% of the employees who had paid into the EI fund were not eligible to receive EI benefits. As a matter of fact, surpluses accumulated year after year, thereby allowing both parties that formed successive governments to misappropriate over $57 billion from the EI fund over a period of 13 or 14 years. During that time, older workers were losing their jobs and not receiving any benefits, even though they had paid into the EI fund their entire lives.

As we know, some measures were taken during what has been called the economic crisis. These include the stimulus plans for municipal infrastructure, special measures for the automotive industry, and so on. Then again, even if there is no national economic crisis, people who lose their jobs go through their own economic crisis and so do their families.

On behalf of my party, I introduced Bill C-308 to correct the situation, but the Liberals sided with the Conservatives to defeat that bill.

To be fair, some Liberal members voted in favour of the bill, but they arranged, as they so often do, to have enough members absent—including the Liberal Party leader, first and foremost—to ensure it did not pass. We had just won an opposition vote on a Liberal motion, and the Liberal Party leader practically ran down the aisle to leave so he would not have to vote. It was a little pathetic.

So, yes, there are victims who need to be taken care of, victims of crime, of course, and victims of the economic situation. I illustrated this with two very specific cases.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to know when I will be able to finish my speech.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act November 16th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate our hon. colleague from York West on her speech. I think we have reached the same conclusions about Bill C-31. She raised the issue of protecting victims. It would be interesting to hear more of her thoughts on this.

We are used to seeing the Conservatives introduce bills to penalize criminals even more, but they almost never introduce anything to prevent crime. Some things, it goes without saying, we can agree on, such as Bill C-31, but the Conservatives rarely or never introduce bills to protect victims.

Can the member tell us if this bill contains any elements to protect victims? If not, what measures should be brought forward to protect the victims of crime?

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act November 15th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, first I wish to commend my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska on the clarity of his remarks on Bill C-48.

We know that the Conservative government has on its agenda for this Parliament a series of bills dealing with law and order. We do support a number of bills, but evidently, this is clearly excessive, especially considering that most of these bills are ideologically driven.

We, however, want to make sure that the victims of crime are protected. Those who commit violent crimes must be punished, but at the same time support has to be provided to the victims of violent crimes.

The member referred to the bill put forward by our colleague from Compton—Stanstead, near Sherbrooke. Would it be entirely appropriate for the Canadian government to establish a fund for the support of victims of crime? Proceeds of crime could help provide for this fund. As members know, the House has already passed a Bloc Québécois bill designed to reverse the onus, particularly with respect to crimes committed by organized crime. Money from seizures, for instance, could be put into a support fund for the victims of crime. Would the member be in favour of such an approach?

Au bas de l'échelle Organization November 15th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, a collective reflection day on equal treatment for non-standard workers organized by the Au bas de l'échelle organization was held on November 12.

According to this organization:

In the workplace, the most significant change in the past decades has been the diversification of the forms of employment and employment statuses. As a result, more than one out of three workers are now in non-standard employment situations... Non-standard employment often goes hand in hand with precarious employment.

Since 1975, Au bas de l'échelle has been offering a number of information and training services on rights in the workplace and carrying out political activities to enhance the rights of non-unionized workers, especially in connection with the Labour Standards Act.

I wish to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of the Au bas de l'échelle organization, which is celebrating 35 years of advocating collectively for the rights of non-unionized workers in Quebec.