Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Ahuntsic (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2008, with 38.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Privilege November 4th, 2005

As I said earlier, we on this side of the House respect this institution. We also respect the right of other members to speak and the right of other members to listen to other arguments.

I want to bring to the attention of the Speaker page 106 and 107 of Montpetit and Marleau.

This is about documents with defamatory content. The Parliament of Canada Act stipulates that:

This right is not intended to protect the publication of libels that may be contained in other documents, such as the householder mailings of Members.

I would like you to take this passage from Marleau and Montpetit into account regarding the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Bourassa.

I have been involved in politics for a long time in Quebec. I have never tried, inside or outside this House, to tarnish the reputation of my Bloc opponents. I have never made a personal attack on anyone.

I can assure you that during the last electoral campaign, some utterly nonsensical things happened. Besides that, I would like to thank the constituents of my riding, Ahuntsic, who once again gave me their support. These people can tell the difference between lies and truth.

I hope the question raised by the member for Bourassa will be taken seriously by the authorities of the House and by Bloc members.

Privilege November 4th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on a question of privilege raised by the member for Bourassa.

As the Acting Speaker in the House, I had the honour and the privilege of sitting in the chair for two and a half years. I have the greatest respect for this institution and for my colleagues on both sides of the House.

I want the public to understand the exact nature of the matter before this House and the reason why the member for Bourassa was forced to raise this question here. I will read an excerpt from Marleau and Montpetit, because I know that everyone has not read it. There is a passage on page 121 that perfectly describes the situation before us today:

The House of Commons is certainly the most important secular body in Canada. It is said that each House of Parliament is a "court" with respect to its own privileges and dignity and the privileges of its Members. The purpose of raising matters of "privilege" in either House of Parliament is to maintain the respect and credibility due to and required of each House in respect of these privileges, to uphold its powers, and to enforce the enjoyment of the privileges of its Members. A genuine question of privilege is therefore a serious matter not to be reckoned with lightly and accordingly ought to be rare, and thus rarely raised in the House of Commons.

Any claim that privilege has been infringed or a contempt committed is raised in the House by means of a "question of privilege".

I wanted to quote this passage before commenting.

Once elected to the House of Commons, members have certain rights. One of them is the right to send householders—or ten percenters—to our constituents. We have the right to send these householders. However, rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. It is the responsibility of members on both sides of the House not to send things that besmirch the reputation of other colleagues.

The members on both sides of the House are entitled to mail out householders and 10 percenters. In their mailings, the Liberals try not to sully anyone's reputation but rather to inform our fellow citizens. That is what I have done in the 12 years that I have been an MP.

For 12 years I have respected this institution and the right of each and every member not to have their reputations ruined. That is not the purpose of a householder nor a 10 percenter, and that certainly is not the purpose of anything else we have the right to send to our constituents.

In fact, with that right comes a responsibility. Because there have been abuses of that privilege in the past, I have raised the matter on numerous occasions with the two institutions which I believe should have taken care of that matter and are aligned with the House of Commons, the Board of Internal Economy and the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. In fact, I wrote to the chair of the standing committee, to the Speaker of the House and to the members of the Board of Internal Economy on two other matters.

In the riding I have the honour of representing in this House, there have been two mailings from the whip of the Bloc Québécois. Indirectly, this was also an attempt to tarnish my reputation as an MP.

As to the two points of privilege raised, I have had only an acknowledgement of receipt—if one could call it that—concerning two letters dated June 20 and 27 sent to the Board of Internal Economy of this House. I expected a bit more than just an acknowledgement of receipt. It appears that the board has not yet addressed the matter.

I can tell you, however, that even in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs our whip attempted to introduce a motion precisely to discuss the 10 percenter issue. I will read that motion:

That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs call upon the House of Commons to instruct its Board of Internal Economy to limit the use of 10 percenters as follows:

a) The 10 percenters be restricted to the member's own riding;

b) Collective 10 percenters be abolished;

c) No partisan logo to be allowed on a 10 percenter or householder.

This motion was brought before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is responsible for decisions on householders and 10 percenters. That is precisely why we are here today. We respect that institution. We cannot tarnish the reputation of members with impunity.

We expect the members of other parties who sit on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the Board of Internal Economy to consider this issue. I can tell you that we, the Liberals, are prepared to comply with the rules and with the decisions of that committee.

It is no small thing to sully a person's reputation. The Bloc finds it to be justified. I really have the impression that it has no respect whatsoever for this House. That is exactly why the member for Bourassa was obliged to take the route of a point of privilege. As I said, this is not the first time. That is clear.

Other 10 percenters and other publications were sent to different ridings, including my own where I am a resident and have the honour to represent in the House.

However, as I said earlier, with that privilege comes responsibility and respect for this institution, to which we all have the privilege and honour of being elected, and an institution that deserves our respect.

As the hon. member for Bourassa and the member from Westmount said, “Our integrity and our name is the one thing that is sacred in this place”. We cannot allow falsehoods to circulate outside of the House and not use the privileges that we have in the House, the rights that we enjoy, that other Canadians outside of the House--

Mark Lowry October 31st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today, to recognize Mr. Mark Lowry, who passed away Saturday, October 22nd after a two-year battle with cancer. Mr. Lowry was the Executive Director of Sport for the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Mr. Lowry worked throughout his career at the local and national levels of amateur sport. He held positions with the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union, the Canadian Amateur Rowing Association, the Canadian Amateur Diving Association, the World University Games and the Canadian Olympic Committee.

His dedication, passion and vision have led to significant advancements for Canadian sport and athletes.

Mr. Lowry was a dedicated worker and true believer in the Olympic movement.

I wish to recognize his great contribution to sport and offer my condolences to his family and friends.

Privilege October 27th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, actually the hon. member gave me a perfect opportunity to talk about the fact that there have been three letters sent to the Board of Internal Economy on the abuse of the privileges prior to this particular householder, another 10 percenter and another householder, both sent by the Bloc in my riding and there has been no answer from the Board of Internal Economy.

That is why I made the comment that I made. I think this House and myself as a member and my constituents deserve an answer from the Board of Internal Economy on the abuse of privileges in the House by the Bloc prior to the present.

We let the rules slip and therefore, we are going farther.

Privilege October 27th, 2005

That is right.

Points of Order October 26th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, during an exchange that took place between the member for Central Nova and the Prime Minister, there was some very unparliamentary language, which I will not use nor repeat. I would ask you to look at the blues.

It is true that the member for Central Nova was sitting down at the time, but it was quite loud, and three rows of members of Parliament found that language very disturbing.

I would ask if you would check the blues and ask the hon. member to withdraw his comments to the Prime Minister of our country.

Old Age Security Act October 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, this bill by the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain would enable seniors eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement to receive it without applying for it, and would also abolish the current restrictions on retroactivity.

Before addressing the specifics of the bill's proposal, I would like to highlight how Social Development Canada is responding to the needs of seniors at all income levels and the tools and programs that the department offers them.

Seniors make up the fast growing population in Canadian society. We know that in the next 30 years, one in four Canadians will be a senior. Today's seniors are healthier, better educated, better off financially than seniors of previous generations and they are also enjoying longer lives.

Our government recognizes and has always recognized that we must prepare for the diverse and rapidly growing seniors population of the future. At the same time we are committed to addressing the needs of the four million seniors in Canada today and to ensure we respect and benefit from their wealth of knowledge and experience.

We have a very practical model for attaining those objectives, one which defines the issues and immediately comes up with possible solutions. That model is the detailed report, “Creating A National Seniors Agenda”, tabled in 2004 by the Prime Minister's Task Force on Active Living and Dignity for Seniors, under the auspices of the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina, Minister of State (Families and Caregivers).

Even before the Bloc Québécois's tour, a former colleague, Yolande Thibeault, struck a committee which undertook a cross-country tour precisely in order to determine the needs of seniors. This issue was raised and noted, and steps were taken as a result. As the hon. member has said, Ms. Thibeault's report enabled the former minister to introduce all the measures possible. Today, thanks to the report by the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina, improvements to the program continue to be made.

The report by the second group informed us that Canadians wanted policies, programs and services for seniors that met their needs more effectively.

So far our consultations and meetings with other governments and stakeholders have allowed us to define common challenges and possibilities for seniors, including financial security, health and well-being, social involvement and participation, housing and public safety.

Currently, the Government of Canada spends roughly $67 billion a year on programs for seniors. According to the estimates, seniors receive a substantial part of the allocated funds, or some $54.5 billion for 2005-06, as direct income support under the government pension programs administered by Social Development Canada.The other $17 billion is used for tax credits, health care, housing and support for veterans.

Our retirement income system is definitely a success. The current $52 billion in pension payments is only part of a broader system that includes tax assisted personal savings and private pensions. Canada's public pensions are on solid ground, thanks to the government, and are projected to remain that way in the future. That is why today we are in that position, because of the actions the government took 10 years ago.

We are proud of the fact that in less than 20 years the system has dramatically reduced the number of seniors who live in poverty. Whereas in 1980 over 20% of the senior population lived on low incomes, today that proportion is less than 7%. It is nothing to be proud of, by the way. We are working to make it 0%. That is our goal and our commitment to seniors.

We also know that older women are especially vulnerable to poverty. Many are not aware of what benefits they are entitled to. It could be a question of language or it could be a question, as I said, of homelessness. There are a number of factors. That is why we are spreading the word through Quebec's women's centres. This is an example of where we have not gone only to the government. We have actually gone on the ground.

With 55 locations in and around Montreal, the women's centres have a strong presence in the region and proven experience working with disadvantaged and abused women. With this promising partnership, Outreach teams in the regions have had the chance to meet about 400 women. We are now gaining a foothold in women's centres throughout the province.

Our goal is to help more women in Quebec help themselves. As an elected member from Quebec, I am pleased to see such success, including the success of all my colleagues on this side of the House who are taking this type of approach to provide information to people who are not familiar with the various government programs.

The government is also looking for ways to promote active living and social participation for seniors, which are essential to their well-being and that of our society.

That is why we included the New Horizons program in our 2005 budget; to encourage older Canadians to use their skills, knowledge and experience as volunteers, mentors and community leaders.

The measures we are taking to improve life for seniors today and to prepare for the next demographic shift shows our determination to help the most vulnerable in our society, especially low-income seniors.

Despite these wide-ranging programs, we know there are still Canadian seniors on low incomes who are vulnerable, particularly single seniors in urban areas and single senior women.

Our government recognizes the need for action to improve the situation for Canada's poorest seniors. By 2007, the guaranteed income supplement will be increased by $36 a month for single seniors and $58 for couples. This increase will benefit over 1.6 million seniors. We will do better because we do have that surplus. That is exactly what we said and exactly what we have done.

We also recognize the need to provide a federal focal point for the collaborative efforts behind the movement to address seniors' issues. In the February budget, we responded by creating the Seniors' Secretariat within Social Development Canada. The new secretariat's mandate will be to collaborate will all levels of government, stakeholders, experts and the public to provide a focal point for senior's issues.

I can proudly say that our public pension system is working.

Therefore, I cannot support Bill C-301, even if it will not be put to a vote. I completely agree with the government's position that this bill, if passed, would unreasonably burden the governmental retirement system administratively, technically and financially. There is nothing dishonest about that. No one stole any money. Without the application process and income verification, the system would be open to abuse.

In addition, we would not have enough information to determine entitlement for seniors who, for instance, do no file tax returns. This would also substantially increase the risk of errors within the system.

According to the Public Affairs Branch at Social Development Canada, individuals who do not file income tax returns include seniors from vulnerable communities, such as the homeless, aboriginal people, seniors living in remote areas and seniors who speak neither English nor French.

As parliamentary secretary, I can assure the House and all colleagues that Social Development Canada has outreach activities in all regions of the country to increase seniors' awareness of, confidence in and take up of Canada's retirement income system.

We are reaching out indirectly to vulnerable communities through our aboriginal governments, cultural communities and homelessness advocates to notify non-tax filers and other potential recipients who are missing out on their GIS entitlement.

Activities in the regions include such things as information booths, mailings, newspaper articles and presentations. As I said earlier, I and other MPs have gone out and done their own outreach. To date, 350,000 letters and personalized application forms have gone to seniors across the country identified for CRA income tax information. This campaign complements the initiative taken in 1999 to automatically renew approximately 1.3 million GIS recipients whose tax returns confirm continued entitlement automatically.

Through our efforts, we now have approximately 200,000 new recipients of the guaranteed income supplement and spousal allowance. In Quebec, more than 75,000 letters and personalized application forms were sent to seniors, informing them that the guaranteed income supplement was available. As a result, the number of recipients has grown by another 50,000.

We have made and will continue to make every effort. Our government, on this side of the House, wants to reach everyone who is entitled to the guaranteed income supplement.

All the efforts by Social Development Canada will continue. Our entire support program will also continue. If the hon. members across the way know of any seniors, this government is committed to reaching out to them and ensuring that they at least have access to what they are entitled to.

Old Age Security Act October 24th, 2005

We show respect on both sides of the House.

Of course efforts have been made.

I would like to address my comments to the hon. member who introduced this bill. Much has been done, and I will speak about this in my address. If the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain knows any seniors who do not get the guaranteed income supplement, he can inform the minister. The minister has already said in this House that if someone knew of such people, he or she should let him know. We would then ensure of course that they receive what is due to them. I agree that it belongs to them.

Old Age Security Act October 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you, first, for having reminded the member of the rules because no one on this side of the House is dishonest—neither in our department nor in the government. I do not think that the truth lies only on the other side of the House and not with all the members. We are here to respect this.

In addition, I would like to thank the Speaker for having agreed with the committee that raised this matter as well as with the government that raised the matter of the royal recommendation regarding bills. There are often bills in the House that do not comply with the rules.

I have a question and a comment. All the members who have dealt with this problem have gone and met with seniors in their ridings. I still meet with these seniors, just as I suppose all the members of the House do. I am the one who has raised this matter, and so far, I must say that it has not caused any problems.

I have checked with my Liberal colleagues. Thanks to all the efforts that this government and this department have made, we have now managed to contact 98% of the people. Maybe there are some people whom we have not managed to contact, but there are reasons for this. For example, the homeless. It is obviously impossible for us to contact them in the same way as we contacted seniors. But we have made great efforts—and I will have an opportunity to speak about this again during my address—working together with non-governmental organizations—

Child Care October 20th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it is not about knowing everything. We are the Government of Canada, we are a federation and we want to share the advantageous conditions of the Quebec child care system with the rest of Canada. We are in favour of sharing.

At this time, we are in negotiations with all the ministers in Canada with regard to our programs and promises. As I said, both levels of government are demonstrating the political will to resolve this problem.