House of Commons photo

Track Charmaine

Your Say


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word is data.

NDP MP for Terrebonne—Blainville (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 49.30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank my colleague for her fine speech about her riding's economy.

It is vital that we have an economic update based on the economic facts before us. That is what we are asking for today. The government has put all its eggs in one basket. It is always about oil and when that does not work, it hides under the covers and waits for the storm to pass. That is not the solution we need right now.

The NDP is proud of its real solutions for the middle class, which will help the families in my riding and that of my colleague. I would like her to elaborate on that because there is good news for Canadians.

Questions on the Order Paper January 26th, 2015

With regard to property No. 06872 in the Directory of Federal Real Property, also known as the Old St-Maurice Firing Range: (a) has the Department of National Defence estimated the total cost of decontaminating site No. 00008471 in the Federal Contaminated Sites Inventory; and (b) how much is the total cost of decontaminating the site identified in (a)?

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

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things missing from this budget. I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

As I explained, the budget has no real strategy for creating jobs, especially for young people. It does not contain any measures to encourage employers to hire young workers. The youth unemployment rate is 13.4%, which is very worrisome. I think everyone is concerned about that, including parents who see their children struggling to find work.

I would also like to have seen the age of eligibility for old age security lowered, because 67 is not realistic, especially for sectors in which people do manual labour. That is hard work. Forcing people to continue to work until the age of 67 is an attack on the most vulnerable members of society and people whose health is already compromised.

There are all kinds of other things. There is no real plan to help families and make life more affordable, such as targeting ATM fees, for example. There are many things the government should have done to give families some help, as they struggle more and more. That is where the Conservatives fell short.

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

Mr. Speaker, I think that the Liberal member may have misunderstood. Yes, it is good to develop trade with other countries, but only when there are clear advantages and benefits for Canada. That is what I was saying earlier.

At present, the net benefit remains very elusive. We are not going to give other countries a blank cheque when we sign an agreement. We are not going to say that we support all free trade agreements and sign blank cheques all around without ensuring that this trade will really be beneficial for Canadians. We need to make sure that it will create jobs here and strengthen our economic sectors. That is crucial. It is also imperative that we know what sort of government we are doing business with when we sign a free trade agreement. There was a free trade agreement with Honduras, which has an extremely dubious human rights record.

We have to look at the details and assess all the proposals and make sure that there will be real benefits for Canada. In the case of the free trade agreement with Europe, some points have been raised but we have not yet seen the full text. I am sorry, but I do not feel comfortable signing a blank cheque without knowing the details of the agreement.

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

Mr. Speaker, it is always very difficult to speak after my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst, but someone must do it, so I will look upon the task as a challenge.

I am pleased to be able to speak about this bill, but another gag order has been imposed, and we only have one day to debate the bill at this stage, which is very disappointing.

This is another omnibus budget implementation bill. This is the fifth time that an omnibus budget bill has been introduced. The first time, we thought that it was outrageous to put so many things in a huge document that was very difficult for my constituents and people in general to understand. Everything must be considered at the same time. We hoped that it would never happen again in Parliament.

Unfortunately, this is the fifth time that an omnibus budget implementation bill has been introduced. I would like to point out that Parliament has been forced to deal with a total of 2,190 pages of omnibus bills because of the Conservatives’ disregard for the legislative process. This omnibus bill is 460 pages long and contains over 400 clauses. It amends a dozen laws, and the debate is being rushed.

I dare any Canadian who is well versed in politics to try and follow what is going on in Parliament and every law that is being amended. In a large 460-page document, it is very difficult for people to see what is being done. There is so much content.

We have found that it is part of a Conservative ploy to hide a lot of changes in a huge document and then say afterwards that we voted against them. In fact, we vote against them because this enormous document contains too much. There may be good things in it, but the good things are packed in with a lot of bad things. The way they operate is therefore highly problematic.

On that note, let us get to the heart of the matter and talk about the content. Employment is an extremely important aspect of the economy. All members of the House will admit that it is probably the priority; we must create jobs in Canada and ensure that people are not unemployed.

However, 300,000 people have become unemployed since the last recession, and we need to find jobs to replace the 400,000 manufacturing jobs lost. That is huge. That is 700,000 people without a job. I am very concerned about this. Last summer, I did a lot of door-to-door campaigning, and I was shocked to see how many people in their late fifties and early sixties had lost their jobs in manufacturing. Unfortunately, no one wanted to hire them. Even when they had training in another field, they had applied for jobs and they were willing to accept almost any job, they were unable to find work and they had exhausted their retirement fund. What is in store for them?

In addition, the age of eligibility for Old Age Security is about to be raised to 67. I think we are headed in the wrong direction, and several of my constituents agree. The fact that they cannot find work despite their best efforts is very worrisome for these people who are sitting at home, about to lose their homes.

In this omnibus bill, the Conservatives proposed a tax credit as a solution, which the Parliamentary Budget Officer deemed a huge expense and a waste of resources. He did not have nice things to say about this. The employment tax credit will cost the government $550 million, which will be drawn from the employment insurance fund to create 800 jobs. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that this is a huge expense for very little return.

To add insult to injury, the Minister of Finance did not even analyze the program before going ahead with it. This is unacceptable. The Minister of Finance is there for a reason.

He is supposed to scrutinize spending and to assess the programs the government wants to implement. An assessment must be carried out. It is the least we can expect. We are about to vote on a bill that has not even been properly assessed by the Minister of Finance. I think Canadians have a major problem with that, especially since we know that only 800 jobs will be created at a cost of $550 million.

What we have to do is address recurring youth unemployment and structural youth underemployment. The unemployment rate for young people who are looking for jobs but unable to find one is 13.4%. This is a really high unemployment rate for this important segment of the population. These are people who want to work and who have a great deal of knowledge, but unfortunately are unable to find a job. However, at the same time, they are being told to donate their time as interns.

That is not what we can call a real economic plan. A real economic plan, a real budget, would provide for measures to put young people to work. A real economic plan would make proposals like those of the NDP to create a tax credit that will specifically encourage employers to hire young workers. These are the types of projects that will truly make a difference.

There are many other elements missing from this bill. The Conservatives claim to want to help consumers; they have said it over and over again. They eliminated the $2 fee for receiving paper invoices from telecommunications companies, but they neglected to include bank statements. Does this measure really include all of the bills that people receive? Definitely not. The government also ignored the question of establishing regulations governing ATMs, which sometimes charge $4 to $5 per transaction. That is money that could be in the pockets of Canadian families. Considering that Canadian household debt is at 166% of their income, we should all be working together to lower expenses for families on little things like this. The government needs to establish a regulatory framework that is not just voluntary but mandatory, so that it can deal with these fees, which are hurting families. There is nothing about that in this bill.

As my colleagues mentioned, the government decided to go forward with its plan to increase the retirement age to 67, despite strong public outcry. There is nothing about this in the bill.

We would also like clarification of the concept of net benefit to Canada. We are often faced with this concept, but the definition is very vague. Important trade deals with foreign companies that want to buy our Canadian resources or companies have been approved, but the concept of net benefit remains vague. Why not work on clarifying what net benefit to Canada means? We have seen situations where it was not clear at all. If we want to ensure that there will be economic benefits or spinoffs for Canadians and the economy, it is important to clarify what a net benefit is. However, the government is not doing that.

A number of my colleagues and I participated in the fundraising drive on the weekend. The need is truly great. Use of food banks in Canada has increased by 25%. People need help. They are turning to their government for help. What is it doing? It is attacking the most vulnerable people in our society. Instead of giving them a hand, it is cutting programs that help them and turning its back on them. The government is pretending that they do not exist and is not helping them.

That is not why I was elected. I was elected to make a difference and to help these people. That is what I will do by voting against Bill C-43.

Access to Information December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, on the one hand, the Conservatives are boasting about their open government policy, but on the other they want to restrict access to information and take even more money out of users' pockets. The Information Commissioner has suggested eliminating access-to-information fees completely, not increasing fees for journalists to $200 per request, as the Conservatives are proposing.

If the Conservatives are serious about their so-called open government policy, why do they want to restrict access to information?

Canada Post November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, pretty soon the people of Blainville will be the ones to lose their home mail delivery service. I have held public consultations on the matter and I know for a fact that the people of my riding will not accept this loss.

Furthermore, now private companies are offering to take over home mail delivery from Canada Post for $30 a month. It makes no sense.

Did the Conservatives put an end to home mail delivery as part of a scheme to privatize Canada Post?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member's lead-up had very little to do with his question. I would like to talk about something that my colleagues have not talked about today.

We are not asking for one to be more important than the other. This is not about choosing between national security and our rights and freedoms. No. We want both, and the two can coexist. That is already the case in some countries, which already have enhanced oversight in place.

We can do it. We do not have to choose one or the other. We can choose both. If the government cannot understand that, it is a good thing we are going to study the bill in committee.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. I would also like to congratulate the member on her excellent work as our deputy public safety critic.

I agree that we should invite all of the experts on protecting our rights and freedoms. We cannot be ministers or critics of everything. We cannot know everything. We have to rely on experts. We in Canada are very lucky to have amazing experts and world-renowned academics, so we have to invite them, have a genuine consultation with them and ask them good questions.

Given the quote I read from the Privacy Commissioner, I am sure that the experts will recommend increasing civilian oversight and implementing measures to ensure that the police and spies, among others, obey the law. I know that some things have to be done in secret, but that does not mean we should violate people's freedoms or privacy.

Therefore, let us invite the experts. I hope that all committee members will do their best to ensure that all of the experts come to the table, including the Privacy Commissioner, who has an important part to play in this debate.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House of Commons to speak to this bill. As my colleagues before me have already indicated, the NDP plans to vote in favour of this bill.

However, I am very disappointed that we are debating this bill under a time allocation motion. This is the 81st time that a gag order has been imposed on debate on a bill, even though this is a very important bill that deals with security and gives CSIS greater powers. It is therefore very important that we have an extensive debate on this, but a time allocation motion was adopted this morning. This is very frustrating. I think this may even be a record, for I cannot remember any other government having imposed as many gag orders in such a short time.

The bill before us, Bill C-44, makes three important changes regarding CSIS. The first change is that it clarifies the legal authority of CSIS to conduct security intelligence operations abroad in response to threats to the security of Canada. It also confirms the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to issue warrants that have effect outside Canada, and it protects the identify of CSIS human intelligence sources in judicial proceedings.

I think it is very important to talk about a number of cases that were brought before the Supreme Court, where warrants were issued that did not expand CSIS' capacity to spy or conduct national security related activities in other countries. A number of Supreme Court and Federal Court rulings raised that matter.

The amendments being presented are quite interesting. However, it is important to note that we are effectively telling CSIS that it can increase its co-operation activities in the Five Eyes community. I am not sure what the French term is for Five Eyes. We usually use the English term. We are allowing CSIS to seek warrants for this purpose. This process was clarified to some extent to respond to the legal void raised by the Supreme Court.

We are in the process of increasing CSIS' powers, but this bill completely misses the boat on strengthening oversight of CSIS' operations. This bill could have included better protections and better oversight, such as civilian oversight. Many people made requests to that effect. As far as oversight is concerned, we currently have the Security Intelligence Review Committee. This committee only meets part time and is made up of un-elected individuals appointed by the Prime Minister. At this time, there is an acting chair. There is no official committee chair. What is more, two out of the five seats on the committee are vacant. In other words, we have a group of three, un-elected, appointed people who are assuring us that everything is fine. I think that Canadians expect better than that, and rightly so, because this is totally inadequate.

We hear all kinds of stories about abuses. We want to ensure that their operations are justified. Of course, much of what they do is secret. Clearly, we cannot give away national secrets or jeopardize national security. We are well aware of that, but there are ways to put legitimate oversight systems in place in order to ensure that there are no abuses and that all operations comply with Canadian law. There is absolutely nothing about that in the bill. For years, both the opposition and the community at large have been calling on the government to increase oversight of CSIS operations.

For example, during the Maher Arar inquiry, recommendations were made for improving accountability at CSIS. However, eight years later—that was in 2006—nothing has been done.

As well, the Privacy Commissioner recommended that each time a bill that increases CSIS's powers is introduced, oversight measures should automatically accompany it. If the government wants to increase powers, it must also improve the system, the accountability mechanism that ensures there are no abuses. That is very important, yet it is very much lacking.

It is also important to point out something else. The government eliminated the position of inspector general, who played an internal role, ensuring that the service's activities complied with the law. Instead of increasing oversight—which is what should be happening—the government is decreasing it. That is very problematic.

I should point out that it is very important that our agencies have the tools they need to protect public safety. However, this is not a negotiation. We cannot completely ignore our civil liberties and rights just because more security is needed. That is not how it works. These aspects are very important, and we need to ensure they are protected. As parliamentarians, we have a duty to protect our country and to examine national security issues. However, we also have a duty to protect civil liberties and rights. That is why oversight is so important and why it should be a mandatory part of any proposal to increase powers. Even if we were not increasing CSIS's powers, civilian oversight would still be very important. This oversight certainly deserves more resources than three people sitting on a committee part time. It is is very important.

We absolutely want the appropriate resources. However, the Conservatives have cut funding for our public safety agencies for three straight years, since 2011. By 2015, this will represent a total of $687.9 million. As a result, CSIS will see $24.5 million in cuts in 2015, while budget 2012 scrapped the CSIS inspector general position altogether, as I already mentioned. We are concerned that these cuts also impact the government's ability to exercise appropriate oversight over these agencies. The service is being asked to do more and more, but its budget is being cut. It is a little hard for this agency to implement an adequate oversight system.

I want to share what Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner, had to say. He said that it was understandable that the government would want to consider boosting the powers of law-enforcement and national security agencies to address potential gaps, but that any new tools should be accompanied by a beefed-up role for the watchdogs who keep an eye on spies and police.

That is what the commissioner said, and that is what we are asking for today. It is all well and good to increase powers, but we also need to increase oversight, because we need to ensure that civil liberties and rights are not violated. As I mentioned, we cannot sacrifice one for the other. It is a two-for-one special, if you will. The protection of civil liberties and rights goes hand in hand with national security. They are both possible if there is meaningful, enhanced oversight.