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NDP MP for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert (Québec)
Won her last election, in 2011, with 44.60% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Railway Safety Act January 27th, 2015
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on behalf of the residents of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert on a matter as important as railway safety. I have met with them on numerous occasions to hear what they had to say about this issue. I can say that they are very worried and they are calling for more stringent regulations to be put in place and, most importantly, to be enforced.
It is true that additional safety measures have been taken since the terrible accident in Lac-Mégantic in July 2013 in relation to the transportation of dangerous goods, but we can do more and we have to do better.
Bill C-627, which we are debating today, would give the Minister of Transport and railway safety inspectors the power to order a railway company or the owners of a crossing to do certain work, not only where railway safety is threatened, but also where the safety of persons and property is threatened. For example, the bill would allow the minister to issue an order requiring that a company take corrective measures in a case where barriers continued to malfunction on a track.
As a result, if I am interpreting this bill correctly, this implies that the minister is going to have each section of track inspected and that she could require the companies to take measures to improve safety.
On paper, this bill would meet the expectations of the people calling for more pedestrian crossings and more investment in making those crossings safe. However, it does not answer all the essential questions, such as how frequently these inspections will be done, and with what resources.
The railway safety budget was cut by $5 million between 2012 and last year. This means that every year, there is a reduction in the railway safety budget. In addition, this bill talks about level crossings. The government already has a program for level crossings, but the money allocated to it is not being spent. There is apparently $3 million intended for improving level crossings left over.
My colleague from Brossard—La Prairie went to meet with the people of Verchères, next to my riding. The municipal councillors told him about something interesting. The municipality of Verchères applied for a grant from the grade crossing improvement program in 2010, to put up a safety barrier. Well, to date, it is still on a waiting list.
Now, they would have us believe that this bill will change things, and starting today, the Conservative government is going to listen to Canadians and provide them with safe level crossings? The government had money to invest in level crossings, but it has still done nothing. They must think we are fools.
The second clause of the bill caught my attention. The bill would give railway inspectors the power to forbid the use of railway works or equipment if it poses a threat to the safety of persons or property.
The Auditor General and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada have clearly said that the department does not have enough resources. The department itself is refusing to say how many qualified inspectors can conduct these audits.
We know that Transport Canada’s Rail Safety Directorate is underfunded. It does not have enough staff and the employees it does have do not have enough training.
According to the Auditor General's fall 2013 report, Transport Canada needs about 20 system inspectors to audit each of the federal railway companies every three years. Right now, the department does not have that many qualified inspectors to conduct those audits. That is not very reassuring in terms of enforcing this bill.
There are still too many deaths and serious accidents at level crossings. Protecting the public and the environment basic government responsibilities. Self-regulation and self-inspection are not working. The government must address the lack of oversight and inadequate audits. In 2009, there were 19 deaths related to level crossing accidents. In 2013, that number rose to 31.
In my riding, there was a serious accident in 2013 because there was no pedestrian crossing. How many similar cases are there in other ridings?
The NDP has long called for the federal government to tighten the grade crossing regulations and implement the TSB’s recommendations. The private member’s bill contains some good elements. The government—and I do in fact mean the government—must undertake a complete review of the railway safety regulations and how they are enforced and find ways to improve them, rather than depending on private members’ bills.
Obviously, I intend to vote in favour of measures that can improve level crossing safety or railway safety in general, but the government cannot shirk its duties. It has to take full responsibility for railway safety. A rigorous evaluation of the state of railway safety in the country is needed and we need to make that happen.
Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015
Mr. Speaker, I too would like to wish you and all of my colleagues in the House a happy new year. I would also like to say that I was very pleased to hear the speech by my colleague, the critic for this portfolio.
As the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, I have had the distinct pleasure of visiting small and medium-sized businesses in my riding twice, and it is exactly as my colleague described. These small and medium-sized businesses need real measures that will make a difference to them and how they operate. I asked one small business owner what he wanted from the federal government. He said that nothing happening in the House was of any interest to him because he feels like a tax collector for the federal government these days.
I also had the opportunity to meet someone who owns a little supermarket. He runs it together with his family and some employees. He told me that he has had it with all the paperwork that makes their lives such a pain because he has to ask his spouse, who is supposed to be there to work in the store, to take care of the paperwork. Those are real situations that we observed on the ground.
The bill before us today, Bill C-21, is just smoke and mirrors as far as small and medium-sized businesses are concerned. As my colleague pointed out, we know that the average small or medium-sized business does not have more than 20 to 25 employees. That may even be true of most of them. As a result, this bill will not affect everyone. Unfortunately, this is one of the Conservative government's usual tactics for pleasing its electoral base.
I would like my colleague to say more about the measures in this bill in terms of their real impact on people on the ground.
Preservation of our Natural Environment January 26th, 2015
Mr. Speaker, my riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert is in a forest corridor with 4,000 wetlands and 18 exceptional forest ecosystems. It is also home to no fewer than 84 endangered species.
Today, I would like to recognize Nature-Action Québec, the Fondation du Mont-Saint-Bruno, the City of Saint-Bruno and all of the people who work to preserve our natural environment.
Because of their commitment, our region is rich in biodiversity. Too often, the personal interests of certain members of the other chamber threaten these areas that we hold dear.
That is why I am inviting my constituents to join the many conservation projects of Nature-Action Québec, the Fondation du Mont-Saint-Bruno and the City of Saint-Bruno, so that we can continue to enjoy a healthy environment.
Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his eloquent speech and his knowledge of the matter.
We know that the public feels it is the government’s duty to protect both public security and civil liberties.
However, we see that, in terms of this bill, the government has chosen to ignore all of the amendments that the official opposition put forward in order to improve the bill and to prevent costly legal wrangling. I would like to hear my colleague’s views on this issue.
Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his very relevant comment and question.
Studies have shown that prevention and a reintegration policy would encourage more people to reintegrate into society than a policy focused on enforcement.
As my colleague said, even though people are in prison for a certain period of time, they will eventually return to their community. That is why it is better to focus on prevention and have a reintegration policy as opposed to one focused on enforcement.
I also want to say again that this bill has a very limited scope because it does not really get to the heart of the matter.
Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question. However, I would like to correct one thing, since she seems to have misunderstood what I said. Perhaps it was because of the English translation.
First, with respect to the needle program, it is not a question of offering needles in order to encourage inmates to use and abuse drugs. It is a question of hygiene. It has been scientifically demonstrated the world over—and perhaps this escaped my colleague—that when we protect these people, we are also protecting our communities.
She also said that the NDP is lax. I would not say that. We are proposing solutions that get to the heart of the issue.
It makes no sense to put a band-aid on a gaping wound, nor does it make sense to throw money at this without actually considering the recommendations coming from those who work on the front lines. We need to be taking their recommendations into account, not the recommendations coming from on high.
Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, when I first found out about this bill, I was pleased to debate a bill that would get rid of drugs in prisons. Imagine my surprise when I realized that this bill does nothing to address the drug problems in our prisons.
I know that this is an election year and that the Conservative Party needs to look good in the eyes of its voters, but using legislation to deliver a misleading press release is not right. We were not elected to take people for idiots and broadcast a completely false message. This is simply unacceptable.
As for the bill itself, again we have something that is incomplete. This Conservative government makes grand announcements, but never follows through. It is disappointing.
Here we are assembled today to talk about a drug-free prisons bill, which, let us admit it, has a very narrow scope. In fact, the bill states that in making its decision for parole eligibility, the Parole Board can take into account positive results for drug tests or a refusal to submit samples for urinalysis. The Board already does that, but the law does not spell it out clearly. The bill will clarify this and that is good.
It is true that alcoholism and drug addiction in our prisons are major obstacles to correcting inmates' offending behaviours. Giving the board the authority to reject applications for parole from offenders who have not overcome their addictions is promising. The problem, however, is that nothing is being done to help or encourage inmates to rid themselves of their addictions. The government has a zero tolerance stance on drugs. Its highly idealistic aim is to have drug-free prisons. What the government does not understand is that the only way to eliminate drugs from prisons is to have no more people with drug problems. Let us look at two things. First, tougher minimum sentences for drug users mean that more people with drug problems end up in our jails. Second, without substance abuse programs in our prisons, how can we make a dent in the prevalence of drugs in our prisons? Inmates who want to keep drinking and taking drugs in prison can do so. They just need to have money and find a supplier. When something does not get into a prison, it is because the door is not big enough.
Why not take a different approach to the problem through education? Why not give people with substance abuse problems an opportunity to break free of their addictions through programs that would significantly reduce the prevalence of drugs in prisons? I know the members opposite like to say that the NDP is soft on drugs, but to me, taking measures to directly tackle the addiction problems in our prisons is not being soft. On the contrary, it shows that we understand the problem and care about public safety.
In Canada, 80% of those who end up in federal penitentiaries have drug or alcohol problems. Drugs also contribute to the spread of infectious diseases and make it difficult to rehabilitate inmates.
They have a much higher risk of HIV and hepatitis C infection because inmates usually inject drugs with needles that are shared and not sterilized. Most inmates serving sentences in Canadian federal prisons will return to their communities and take with them the diseases contracted in prison. In the end, that can affect all of us.
The Conservatives like to say that, on this side of the House, we do not care about the safety of Canadians and that we do not have good solutions, such as prison needle exchange programs. I do not want to focus the debate on this program, but given that the Conservatives constantly misrepresent it to justify their correctional policies, I feel it is necessary to set the record straight.
This program would simply protect inmates, and by extension our communities, against infection. As we have heard in the House in this debate, drugs in prison are a scourge. Even though it has spent $122 million since 2008, the government has not managed to eradicate this scourge. The needle program is a necessary hygiene health measure for inmates.
Currently, inmates who are addicted to drugs use unsterilized syringes and can contract diseases like HIV or hepatitis C, as I mentioned. When they return to their community, they are still struggling with addiction and illness. When we protect the health of inmates, we also protect the health of the communities they will be returning to.
I would now like to talk about another point in this debate, and that is mental health. In 2011, 69% of women in prison and 45% of men in prison received a mental health care intervention. Despite these staggering data, the Conservative government still has not asked for a report from Correctional Service Canada on the implementation of recommendations to improve the handling of prisoners with mental illness.
The Correctional Investigator's report on women who self-harm or commit suicide stated that Correctional Service Canada remains ill-equipped to manage female offenders who chronically injure themselves. The NDP has consistently supported measures to make our prisons safer.
On the other hand, the Conservative government has ignored recommendations from Correctional Service Canada, corrections unions and the Correctional Investigator aimed at decreasing violence, gang activity and drug use in our prisons. In addition to ignoring those recommendations, the government is cutting budgets, which is only resulting in more double-bunking and the closure of treatment centres for inmates with mental health disorders.
It is alarming that the Conservatives are saying that they are making our streets safer when I do not see how that can be true since they are cutting programs that would prevent recidivism and reduce violence. They do not have a plan to prepare former inmates to reintegrate into society by helping them break the vicious cycle of drugs, which includes trafficking, use and addiction.
Finally, before I conclude my speech, I would like to remind members that committees do not conduct studies for the fun of it. We have the mandate to examine, analyze and legislate to improve our society. What is the point of having committees and spending weeks listening to witnesses and their recommendations if those views are not taken into account?
The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security conducted a study on the use of drugs and alcohol in federal penitentiaries. The committee made recommendations. I think it is dishonest for the Conservative government to introduce a bill that does not even take those recommendations into account.
The NDP has consideration for experts, and if the government did as well, we would not be here today discussing a bill that is so limited in scope.
Violence Against Women December 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, on December 6, we will commemorate a dark anniversary, the 25th anniversary of the Polytechnique massacre. Despite the years that have passed, this misogynistic act is indelibly etched in our collective memory. We must remember these 14 women and the collateral victims every day.
Remembering motivates us to take meaningful action to prevent such tragedies. We remember so that this will never happen again. We have a duty, as individuals and as a society, to fight to ensure that it will never be easy to buy firearms. Instead, we need to tighten gun control. Some may see this public debate as a political one. However, it is a reminder that these victims did not die in vain.
That is why tomorrow I will be joining a peaceful gathering that has been organized by Carrefour pour elle, in Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, to educate the public about violence against women, in the hope that such a tragedy will never happen again.
Business of Supply November 27th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the speech by the member opposite. He gave us the quite the background on Health Canada's regulations from the 1960s to today. I would like to provide some clarification on that background.
Thalidomide is a German sedative that was marketed in Canada in 1959 by the U.S. company William S. Merrell, which had the rights to distribute the drug. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, rejected this drug because they deemed that evidence supporting the safety of this drug was inadequate. Nevertheless, this product was marketed here in Canada.
Does my colleague think that drug safety is the federal government's responsibility?
Business of Supply November 27th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech and for his sensitivity to this issue, which now affects only 75 surviving Canadians, unfortunately.
There is no real way to count the number of stillborns, miscarriages or people who were born with disabilities and who died well before the age of 50, which is the average age of survivors.
Daily activities include getting dressed, eating and getting around, and even simple acts such as brushing your teeth or sleeping. That does not even include working or being mobile.
How does my colleague think we could compensate these people who have suffered for more than 50 years?