Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Saint-Lambert (Québec)
Lost her last election, in 2004, with 36.93% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Le Baluchon May 11th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, the government is ensuring that Canada is a country where people are treated with dignity.
On behalf of the Minister of Labour and Minister responsible for Homelessness, I announced yesterday in Saint-Hyacinthe a contribution of $350,000 for the Maison Le Baluchon under the National Homelessness Initiative.
This community organization provides shelter, support andassistance in response to needs expressed by young people between the ages of 12 and 17 who are facing difficult family or social situations. This contribution of $350,000 is for the purchase of two buildings to provide young people who are homeless with supervised shelter.
Since it was launched in 1999, the National Homelessness Initiative has produced tangible results. We are aware, however, that much remains to be done to provide the homeless with all the help they need, and which goes far beyond the basic—
Palliative Care Week May 6th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, this week is Palliative Care Week.
With an ageing population, the need for palliative care will increase dramatically. It is therefore critical to pay special attention to this need, so as to provide to the sick a constant presence in the journey toward the end of their lives, and to allow close ones to get the necessary support during this difficult time.
I want to congratulate the Government of Canada for taking compassionate action regarding this issue by offering eligible workers six weeks of paid leave to care for a parent, a spouse or a child who is seriously ill or dying.
Thanks to the compassionate family care benefits, terminally ill patients will be able to live in dignity and be accompanied by their close ones to the end.
Supply May 6th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I will try to make my remarks as short as possible. I would like to point out to my hon. colleague opposite that most independent workers are not interested in contributing. If they did contribute, they would have to pay a double premium. To be eligible, they would have to pay both the employer's and the employee's contribution.
This is a very complex issue.
Supply May 6th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
Some people seem to think that excessive amounts were paid into the employment insurance fund. However, as I said during my speech, premiums have been decreasing since 1994; they have gone from $3.07 to $1.98 this year. That represents a considerable drop. In fact, they have fallen by a third.
Also, we should not forget all the programs that have been developed for the employment insurance recipients. For example, there is parental leave, which went from six months to a year. A new measure has recently been implemented for palliative care. A person who has to care for a parent, a child or a spouse suffering from a terminal illness can now apply for employment insurance benefits.
I think these provisions are all to the credit of our government.
Supply May 6th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, let us go back to the Canadian Labour Congress study. In that study, they use the following categories to obtain their figure of 38% or 32%, depending on whom we speak to.
The study includes those who have never worked, those who have never paid premiums, the previously independent worker and even students. On the other hand, the 88% figure quoted by government includes only those who are now working and paying premiums. If they lost their job tomorrow, 88% of them would be eligible for employment insurance benefits. That is the truth.
Supply May 6th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member claims that only 32% of workers are entitled to benefits. I can tell you that it is 88% and there are studies to prove it. Furthermore, I am on the Standing Committee on Human Resources and last week we asked the department to justify the 88% figure, just as we asked those who claim that it is 32% to justify that figure as well. Something does not add up. I think it is a question of methodology. It is a matter of comparing the two reports, not comparing apples and oranges.
I would like the hon. member to know that, in any event, I am prepared to accept these figures.
Supply May 6th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to take part in the debate on the member's motion and further examine proposals to reform the EI plan. I would like to start by saying that this government's commitment to making sure that EI helps Canadians cannot be doubted. Neither can our determination to change the EI plan when there is a clearly proven need to do so.
Since the new EI plan was put in place in 1996, the government has shown that it was willing to listen to Canadians. We made adjustments to the plan, in the light of established facts, to make sure it meets the needs of our fellow citizens and keeps on adjusting to the changing circumstances of the labour market.
A quick look at our record will clearly illustrate what I am saying. You will see that we are working hard to make sure the plan meets the needs of all Canadians, including those who live in Quebec. When the government introduced a new EI plan in 1996, it was with a view to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the EI plan in Canada.
Also, we committed to tracking and assessing the performance of the plan to see how people and communities would react to it. When the need for adjustments is obvious, the necessary changes are made. Those goals guided our approach to reforming the EI plan in the past, and they continue to guide us today.
Most people agree that this approach to EI meets the needs of Canadians. Today the plan is financially stable. Premiums went from an historical high of $3.07 in 1994 to a much lower rate of $.98 this year. Currently it is estimated that 88% of Canadian workers would be eligible to EI were they to lose their job. I will add that the plan evolves to meet changing needs.
The government recognizes that certain regions and certain groups of workers, including those in some seasonal industries, may have to meet specific challenges to try to adapt to the changing realities of the labour market and the new economy. The EI plan adequately accounts for these exceptional situations.
Our track record is clear: since 1996, the government has already made changes to accommodate the changing needs of Canadians, including seasonal workers. Bill C-2, enacted by the House of Commons in 2001, is a good example of that.
It included a number of significant changes with regard to today's debate. We eliminated the intensity rule to avoid penalizing frequent users. We targeted the clawback clause so that it would not apply to first time claimants, those who receive special benefits and low and middle-income claimants. We made adjustment to ensure that parents re-entering the labour market enjoy the same eligibility to benefits as other workers.
Since Bill C-2 was passed, the government has enhanced the EI plan by amending the small weeks regulations. First implemented as a pilot project in 1998, the small weeks regulations were aimed at helping seasonal and part-time workers retain their connections with the job market and hence their eligibility for EI benefits, by encouraging them to work for less and ensuring that those small weeks have no impact on their eventual EI benefits.
Thanks to the small weeks provision, which is now an integral part of the employment insurance plan, over 185,000 people were able to earn more money and enjoy a $12 increase in their weekly EI benefits.
Let me give you another striking example. In 2000, EI economic regions came into effect in order to take into account the high unemployment rates in some regions of the country. As we know, some workers in some regions, especially seasonal workers, need more time to adjust to the changes made in 2000, and we showed some flexibility in addressing their concerns.
For instance, the government has set up a special transition period for the Lower St. Lawrence/North Shore region as well as the Madawaska-Charlotte region in western New-Brunswick. The claimants in these regions need fewer work hours to become eligible for EI benefits and they receive benefits for a longer period of time than they would have without a transition period.
We have also changed the way undeclared earnings are calculated to make life easier for the employers and treat workers more fairly. The apprenticeship trainees are now subject to only one two-week waiting period during their training program. Quality service continues to be one of our main goals and we have taken steps to prevent and fight abuses.
In cooperation with local committees, the government will continue to monitor the situation in these economic regions and elsewhere, and is also willing to make additional changes if need be.
In a nutshell, if we take a close look at this government's record on employment insurance, we can see that it understands the need to listen and to make changes in the best interests of Canadians and of the long-term sustainability of the employment insurance system. Flexibility is one of the strengths of our system. This means that we can adapt to changes in the needs of Canadian workers and in the labour market situation. Still, not all changes are acceptable.
The government is clearly committed to ensure that the employment insurance system remains financially sustainable in the long term, and has also promised to make sure that it meets legitimate needs that might arise. All appropriate measures were taken in the past, and I know that we will do the same in the future.
Criminal Code May 3rd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on this motion to refer to committee Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code (drugs and impaired driving) and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.
I am convinced that all members of this House want to pass the best possible legislation to fight the problem of drug-impaired driving. We know that the government's proposal is intended to amend the Criminal Code to give police the authority to demand that a person suspected of having drugs in his or her system submit to Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, or SFST.
If that person fails these tests, the police officer will have reason to believe that the person's faculties are impaired by drugs or by the combined effects of drugs and alcohol, and thus will be empowered to demand that the person accompany the officer to the police station, where the person will have to undergo other tests administered by a specially trained drug recognition expert, known as a DRE.
If the expert believes that the impairment is linked to a particular category of drugs, he or she will be authorized to require the person to furnish a sample of bodily fluids for analysis to confirm or refute the expert's opinion.
In one sense, this bill does not create a revolution. SFSTs and DREs are already being used in Canada. I understand that currently there are over 100 police officers trained as drug recognition experts. This phenomenon started in British Columbia in 1995 and now there are DREs in most provinces.
The RCMP is giving the training in conjunction with other police forces, and it is reasonable to expect that there will be DREs across the country within one or two years. Moreover, trial courts have accepted DREs' testimony in cases resulting in convictions.
Canada is not the only country to use DREs. As a matter of fact the first DREs were introduced in California in the early 1980s. Nowadays, they can be found in over 30 U.S. states as well as in Australia, New Zealand and several European countries. Training has been standardized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police over the past 10 years.
So if the program is already well in place in several Canadian provinces why do we need this bill? The answer is simple: We need it because currently a person suspected of drug-impaired driving is not obliged to take the tests.
In its report, the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs devoted a chapter to driving under the influence of cannabis. The explanation given there applies to any police report of drug-impaired driving.
The Senate Committee summed up the situation as follows:
The typical scenario for driving under the influence of psychoactive substances other than alcohol is as follows: a vehicle attracts the attention of a police officer, who pulls the vehicle over and questions the driver; if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the driver is intoxicated, a breathalyzer test is administered; however, when the test yields a result below the legal limit, the police officer may still not be convinced that the driver is capable of driving, but how is this to be proven? Before, more often than not, the police officer had to release the driver.
When the Senate committee says that “before the police officer had to release the driver” it refers to the situation that prevailed in the United States and in other countries before the law was amended to oblige suspected drivers to take the test.
Unfortunately, between now and when this bill is passed, we will continue to be in the same frustrating situation. The police officer suspects that the driver is impaired and presents a danger on the road, but since the impairment is not alcohol-related, which could be verified with an approved screening device or an approved breath test at the police station, he has to let the driver go and possibly kill or harm others. He can only detain the driver if he has solid evidence to arrest him and lay charges.
Bill C-32 will give police officers the tools they need to certify driving impaired by alcohol. First, the officer will be able to require the driver to take an SFST. This test takes roughly five minutes and is conducted on the spot. It consists in looking at the driver's eyes while slowly moving an object, such as a pen, in front of him and watching to see whether the eye movement is jerky. The driver is then asked to walk a straight line, heel to toe, and then turn around and come back. Then the person has to stand on one leg and hold the other leg straight, 15 centimetres from the ground, while counting to 30. Hon. members should try these tests. They will see that they are not difficult. Clearly, if the suspect has a handicap or a health problem that would prevent them from doing the test, they can refuse to do it. The legislation allows for the possibility of “reasonable excuse”. Otherwise, police officers have reasonable grounds to believe that a driver who has failed to pass these tests is impaired. That is the prerequisite for requiring tests to be conducted by DREs.
The evaluation is carried out by an officer trained in drug recognition. The drug-detection tests are based on medical and scientific knowledge. They are designed to identify the presence of seven classes of drugs: central nervous system depressants, better known as tranquilizers; inhalants, including solvents, aerosols and anesthetic gases; PCP, phencyclidine, a dissociative anesthetic; cannabis; central nervous system stimulants, such as speed or cocaine; hallucinogens such as LSD and ecstasy; and narcotics or opiates, like heroin and morphine.
Officers trained in drug recognition can also recognize characteristics of consumption of various drugs.
The DRE evaluation consists of 12 steps. There are three tests of eye movement: horizontal nystagmus, vertical nystagmus and convergence. Nystagmus is an involuntary but observable jerk of the eyeball. Horizontal nystagmus is a jerk that occurs while a person is watching an object move from left to right and back again.
The DRE also administers a modified Romberg balance test, a walk-and-turn test, a one-leg stand, and finger-to-nose test. The DRE then takes three vital signs: blood pressure, body temperature and pulse.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act April 26th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate at report stage of Bill C-23, the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act.
Some have argued that the proposed legislation would have the effect of isolating first nations from the rest of Canadian society. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, because this measure will help break the cycle of isolation, economic marginalization, dependency and social problems.
Bill C-23 is led by a group of first nations that share a common vision. They are trying to get legislative amendments that will provide a better future for their members, as full fledged participants in the Canadian economy.
They also want to forge new relations with national and international institutions, including bond underwriters, rating agencies, potential investors and commercial partners, federal and provincial statistical agencies, neighbouring communities and accounting firms. In fact, the consultation process conducted for this bill has already achieved a lot in terms of promoting communication where it had never existed before.
The 2003 report of the Auditor General underlined the increasing number of partnerships that are based on economic development among first nations communities. These include partnerships with non-aboriginal communities.
Bill C-23 will help first nations strengthen these new ties. It will provide first nations with a legal and institutional framework to meet economic challenges more effectively together as first nations or with a wide range of other stakeholders.
The following examples illustrate the importance of this bill. Members of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association shoulder the biggest part of the property tax base in Canada. In a letter dated February 11, 2002 addressed to the chairman of the Indian Taxation Advisory Board, the association expressed its opinion that the proposed legislation would implement standard, fair and predictable approaches to assessment and taxation in all first nations territories in Canada. The commission then thanked the Board for the opportunity to participate in the creation of this new institution through discussions and comments.
In the same vein, the Canadian Property Tax Association executive sent an email to all its members on May 16, 2003 stating, “It is our belief that by working with the First Nations Tax Commission—which is proposed in this bill—we will perpetuate the harmonious relationship we have established with the Indian Taxation Advisory Board”.
The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association and the Canadian Property Tax Association are both major Canadian Institutions that have expertise and significant interests in property tax. They point to the positive relations that they have established with aboriginal developers—
Seniors April 21st, 2004
Mr. Speaker, some of Canada's best successes are its policies on seniors. They include, in particular, the retirement income system and programs to reduce the number of low income seniors by 90%.
We have improved seniors' quality of life, as the following facts prove.
We are the only G-7 country with a perfectly balanced public pension plan, the long term sustainability of which has been proven by experts.
Seniors in Canada benefit from our five year plan to cut taxes and grant over $2 billion per year in tax credits, such as the age credit and the pension income credit.
We fund the New Horizons program for seniors to enable them to lead active lives and contribute to their communities.
There are fewer seniors living below the poverty line than any other group in Canada. This Liberal government believes that it is critical for seniors to remain in good health—