House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was languages.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Acadie—Bathurst (New Brunswick)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Terrebonne—Blainville.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-43. This is the 77th time the government has moved a time allocation motion. This time allocation motion is on a budget bill, which is very important. The government gave us two days to debate the bill at report stage and one day, today, for third reading stage. This is how much time we have had in Parliament to debate a bill that is more than 460 pages long, has more than 400 clauses and will amend a dozen of our country's laws.

We want to hold an intelligent debate on a budget that matters to Canadians. Ten minutes go by quickly, but I cannot ignore the comments made by our Conservative colleague, who said that the NDP wants to introduce a 45-day work year. Every time we ask a question about employment insurance, the government says that the NDP wants everyone to work only 45 days a year.

According to The Globe and Mail, the Minister of Employment and Social Development said that he would have to hire more than 400 employees to answer calls from seniors and workers, as a result of delays in processing employment insurance, old age security and guaranteed income supplement payments.

This same government wants to reduce employers' EI premiums by half a billion dollars, telling us that this will create jobs in Canada. However, Ms. Doucet, who runs a Christmas wreath company in a town in my riding, said that the EI reform was discouraging seasonal workers.

The government says that these cuts are justified. It says it wants to create jobs and help people work instead of being unemployed. The government thinks workers are lazy slackers. This is not the first time that I have criticized the government's actions in the House, and it will not be the last.

People have to wait up to 25 weeks to get their guaranteed income supplement, which helps the most vulnerable members of our society. I am talking about seniors whose only pension is old age security and who need a supplement. Can a person really live on $543 a month? These people are being made to wait 25 weeks.

This week and last week, the Minister of Employment and Social Development had the nerve to say that he had asked some Social Security Tribunal officers who were working on employment insurance files to work on old age security and guaranteed income supplement files. However, the tribunal already has a six-month backlog of employment insurance files.

Yesterday and today, the minister acknowledged this and said that 400 people would be hired. However, it takes 12 to 18 months to train a person on how to process an employment insurance or old age security file.

The government has even admitted that Service Canada offices received 10,000 complaints. The government closed offices and cut front-line staff.

In Pleasantville, Newfoundland and Labrador, 100 to 150 people are visiting the employment insurance office because they cannot reach anyone by telephone. Even if the government hired 400 people tomorrow morning to work at Service Canada, they would not be answering the telephone. The Conservatives have created a mess for Canadians. The government should be ashamed of tampering with a program and a responsibility they have toward seniors and workers, and they should be ashamed of laughing at at them.

Our colleague in the House of Commons from Madawaska—Restigouche said the following in the newspapers. I will not name the MP that he quoted, but it appears he is from Acadie—Bathurst. The member for Madawaska—Restigouche said:

The campaign of terror waged by [the member for Acadie—Bathurst] and company did not achieve the expected results. They scared people, and everyone across the region sees that.

Yes, people in that region clearly see that they cannot get employment insurance benefits. They see that they have to wait six months for the Social Security Tribunal to hear their case. In my riding, seniors see that they cannot get the guaranteed income supplement and they have to live on $553 a month. People see that they need to apply for welfare.

Rather than allowing MPs in the House to express their views, as in a democratic country, on Bill C-43, the Conservatives have imposed a time allocation motion so that we can only debate it for one day. This is shameful.

It is shameful to hear a government tell Canadians that the NDP is proposing, among other things, that people should work only 45 days a year. It is shameful that the government thinks that workers are lazy slackers. In fact, this is what they are actually saying in their speeches.

It is completely unacceptable for men and women who have worked all their lives and who want to retire. This is the same government that increased the retirement age from 65 to 67.

Yes, I am proud of belonging to the NDP and to say that we are going to bring back 65 as the age of eligibility to old age security. Yes, I am proud to say that I am with the NDP and not with the Conservatives who persecute workers, seniors and ordinary Canadians. They are going to cut $36 billion from the health care sector by 2017. Yes, I am proud of the NDP, which has said that this $36 billion is going to be returned to the health care sector.

We hope that Canadians are aware of what the Conservatives will do, if they ever get back into power.

The Conservatives are attacking the poorest and the most vulnerable people in our society. It is a shameful way to treat people who are just reaching retirement age after working all their lives.

This is the kind of thing that this bill does, in addition to decreasing contributions from employers. This is not something that will create 800,000 jobs, as the government would have us believe.

What do our entrepreneurs do when the Conservatives make cuts to employment insurance for seasonal workers? They go west, but that is artificial. Our national economy cannot be based on just one element, that is, only on oil wells.

The price of oil is going down. If there are layoffs in western Canada, what will happen to all the people who take the plane every week to go to jobs out west? The Conservatives boast about creating jobs, but those jobs have only been created in one place because the price of oil was going up. Jobs were created out west, but not here at home, in the Atlantic region, nor in the rural areas of the country. If they want people to stop needing employment insurance, they have to create jobs. This is absolutely not what is in this budget. The Conservatives should be ashamed of how they are leading the country.

It is to be hoped that Canadians will remember this when the next elections are held and that they will kick them out once and for all or for a long time.

Petitions December 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present another petition, wherein the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to reject Canada Post's claim to reduce services, and explore other options for updating its current operations business plan.

Petitions December 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition that has been signed by hundreds of people from my region who are saying that biodiversity and the future of food are in jeopardy if we do not support family farms and labourers who work hard to save seeds. The petitioners are calling on Parliament to adopt international aid policies that support small farmers and women in particular, in order to acknowledge their vital role in the fight against hunger and poverty.

Official Languages December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, francophones are being treated like second-class citizens in the energy east pipeline debate.

It is unacceptable that the National Energy Board is not being required to provide all documents in both official languages. The issues are too important and the people must have their say. The documents must be available in both official languages and have the same authority.

Will the government finally put its foot down and require the board to respect francophones?

CBC/Radio-Canada December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is shameful to hear the minister say such things.

In 1998, the Liberals made $258 million in cuts to CBC/Radio-Canada. Last year, the Conservatives made $115 million in cuts. They want to get rid of our public broadcaster. That is unacceptable. We will fight and CBC/Radio-Canada will go on.

Will the Conservative government minister save CBC/Radio-Canada or will she just make unacceptable excuses?

CBC/Radio-Canada December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, or the FCFA, is calling for the creation of an independent commission on the future of CBC/Radio-Canada and a moratorium on cuts.

For many francophone communities outside Quebec, the drastic cuts to our public broadcaster mean that they will no longer have access to programming about their own reality.

Will the government listen to the FCFA and create an independent commission to assess the impact of the cuts to CBC/Radio-Canada on minority communities?

Citizenship and Immigration November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we need tools to support francophone immigration to minority communities. The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada wants the express entry program to include a francophone component. We need to speed up processing of applications from francophones who want to settle in communities where French is the minority language.

Will the minister implement the recommendations of the Commissioner of Official Languages and the FCFA's proposal or not?

Official Languages October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Air Canada is a chronic offender when it comes to official languages.

The public is lodging a growing number of complaints. The Commissioner of Official Languages has criticized Air Canada, and our courts regularly say that the carrier is violating its official language obligations, yet nothing changes.

When will the Conservatives stop tolerating the behaviour of Air Canada, which has repeatedly shown that it could not care less about French and about Canadian laws?

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to go on the record as saying that maybe we have not signed any free trade agreements and we are not for free trade, but we surely are in favour of fair trade. We have always believed in fair trade.

When the government signs trade agreements, it needs to ensure that the working people of our country and the working people in the countries with which it signs trade agreements are protected. The government needs to ensure that the working people in those countries have the same advantages as the working people in our country. Neither the Liberal government nor the Conservative government have signed any agreements which protect the men and women who build these countries. That is one of the reasons why we do not support free trade.

Do the Liberals still believe that the government should sign agreements without having an article in them which would protect the working people in those countries?

Committees of the House October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. He has gotten right to the heart of the matter.

We are mainly concerned about the government's recent decisions to close French libraries in minority areas, including the library in Mont-Joli and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans library in Moncton. Some might say that Quebec is not a minority, but it is a minority within the Government of Canada, and we are losing francophone institutions.

I doubt that the government will close all the anglophone libraries in Canada, but it closed two francophone libraries. What is more, it wanted to close the only French-language marine rescue centre in Canada, which is located in Quebec City. It is thanks to the Commissioner of Official Languages and the work that he did that the government finally decided to allow that centre to remain open.

I am pessimistic because the Conservatives basically do not care. The Prime Minister likes to start his speeches in French but that is not what is happening out in the community. There is no end to the cuts. The Conservatives wanted to transfer the marine rescue centre to Trenton, Ontario, and Halifax.

Leadership needs to start at the top, not the bottom. We need to respect both official languages and examine the impact that these closures will have on official-language communities before we move ahead. That is not what we are seeing, and that concerns us.

I made the effort to move this motion today and talk about this report so that we can discuss it and so that people can learn about the problem. The legislation was passed in the 1900s and there are still problems in 2014. Judges still have to be told to inform the accused of their right to have a trial in the language of their choice. That is terrible.

It remains to be seen what the government will do, but I am pessimistic. I would like to be an optimistic MP who says that everything will be fine, that we all have a good relationship and that the minister has responded. However, this is not the first time there has been a report and the minister has responded to it. We still have the same problem.