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NDP MP for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier (Québec)
Won her last election, in 2011, with 42.70% of the vote.
Statements in the House
National Defence March 5th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, as long as men and women continue to join the army to defend our country and our values, it is our duty to provide them with the assistance and support they need when they return home. The Conservatives do not seem to want to hire mental health professionals. There are currently fewer mental health professionals than before the Afghan mission began. Human resources specialists at the Department of National Defence have said so themselves: there are not enough resources.
What will the minister do to fix this problem?
National Defence March 3rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, this serious accident reminds us of just how vulnerable our aging fleet is. The Conservatives' indecisiveness with respect to military procurement has delayed the replacement of our 1960s-era supply ships by 10 years.
It is up to the government to ensure that our navy has the equipment it needs to do its job safely. Unfortunately, because of the Conservatives' poor management, Canada may have to go 18 months without a functional ship. It is time to act.
When will the supply ships be delivered?
Business of Supply February 24th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I find the comments made by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform rather strange.
We know very well that the Conservatives have a majority on the committee, so if they do not want to hear from certain witnesses, we will not hear from them. If the minister thinks his bill is so good, why will he not take it across Canada to hear directly from Canadians and hear what they have to say? I think he needs to hear what people think, especially people whose right to vote is being taken away, particularly students.
Earlier, I heard some people shouting about the use of student cards to vote. I think those people have not been in school for many years. Indeed, since a student card does not show the person's address, it alone cannot be used to vote. Some people cannot afford to get the necessary identification, because there are some fees involved. Low income Canadians cannot necessarily get a birth certificate, for instance. I think they deserve to be heard by the minister and they should not be ignored because of the internal procedures governing committees.
I would really like to know why the minister will not support our motion.
Afghan Veterans Monument February 12th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Motion No. M-448, on the creation of a memorial for veterans of Afghanistan.
I would first like to thank the member for Palliser for introducing this motion that seeks to honour those Canadians who served, and in some cases gave their lives, in the mission in Afghanistan. The motion before us is an important one that the NDP is proud to support.
As Canadians, we have a duty to recognize the exceptional contributions and sacrifices made by the men and women who defended Canada and our allies in Afghanistan, whether as members of the Canadian Armed Forces, our diplomatic corps, or as international aid workers.
With almost 40,000 troops deployed over the years, including 158 who lost their lives and 2,000 more who were wounded, our soldiers' efforts certainly deserve to be recognized by a memorial in our national capital. Such a memorial was erected at the time at the airport in Kandahar, but it was brought home to Canada. It is now being displayed in every corner of the country, so that Canadians can fulfill their duty to remember. The proposal is to eventually reassemble the memorial and locate it in the national capital region.
The memorial includes 190 plaques honouring the 201 people who died in combat. The memorial is a powerful symbol of the Canadian commitment to Afghanistan. Its symbolism would provide a unique reminder of the sacrifice that marked the history of this Canadian military action overseas.
Whatever our opinion of the Canadian mission itself, no one in the House can deny the courage, the perseverance and the sacrifices of our soldiers during the mission. That is what we in the NDP wish to remember. Every one of us has a duty to honour those who went into combat and those who lost their lives there.
I come from a military family. Over the course of my life, I have witnessed the dedication and courage of the men and women who proudly serve their country in the Canadian Armed Forces. Both of my parents are still active members of the Canadian Forces, and my grandfather, who celebrated his 90th birthday a few months ago, had a long career with the Canadian army. He is a Korean War veteran. Throughout my childhood, my family taught me to have tremendous respect for our soldiers and their commitment to defending their country and the values of freedom and democracy that are so dear to Canadians.
As a member of Parliament, I have had the great honour on many occasions to greet soldiers who were returning from the mission in Afghanistan as they arrived at Jean-Lesage airport in Quebec City. In my brief exchanges with them as I shook their hands, I could immediately see the courage and determination of these women and men who were returning from the mission. Some of them were barely older than I was, and some were younger, but regardless of their age they were prepared to sacrifice everything to ensure that their mission would be successful.
Before I became a member of Parliament, I was a tour guide in 2007 and had the opportunity to take some visitors to the Memorial Chamber here in Parliament. It was always very moving to see loved ones come to look at the books containing the names of their family members killed in combat.
We are already doing a good job upholding our duty to remember in Canada, and creating a memorial for our veterans who proudly served in Afghanistan would be a further step in recognizing them. We have a duty to remember the sacrifices made by veterans and their families. That is why I am very proud to support Motion No. 448.
An Afghan veterans monument would provide the recognition that is essential for honouring the commitment and bravery of our soldiers. However, we cannot just use fine words, cenotaphs and monuments scattered across the country to show our appreciation. We must also recognize our veterans by providing effective and accessible services that are adapted to the realities of our soldiers and veterans. It is not enough to erect monuments. It is essential to provide our veterans with the necessary tools for coping with the difficulties and challenges they face before, during and after a mission.
As I was saying earlier, I appreciate and commend the initiative of the hon. member for Palliser. However, I cannot help but notice the irony of debating a motion to pay tribute to veterans, when the Conservatives' latest budget does nothing to restore the services that have been taken away from veterans since the Conservatives came to power. I find that extremely unfortunate.
In the budget that was brought down yesterday, there is absolutely nothing for the health care that is provided to our soldiers or for enhancing the services they receive upon their return to Canada.
The Conservative MPs did not have much to say when this government unilaterally decided to close the regional offices that provided services directly to our veterans.
They unfortunately kept their mouths shut when the Minister of Veterans Affairs treated our veterans with utter contempt a couple of weeks ago. The same was true yesterday, when the Minister of Finance decided to turn a deaf ear to the calls of the veterans and the opposition to maintain or restore services.
Yesterday, the Conservatives were all proud to announce a $2 million investment to provide more services online to veterans, when that sum barely represents 1% of everything they cut from the Veterans Affairs budget.
They cannot claim to defend veterans and then take actions that go against everything we have been trying to achieve throughout the year. That is an inconsistent and completely incomprehensible position.
Despite the Conservatives' daily inconsistencies and their apparent lack of concern for the dire needs of our soldiers returning from missions, it is still important to show our appreciation by supporting such a motion. The motion moved by the member for Palliser has merit, and that is why the NDP decided to support it.
No one on this side of the House is against the troops. Sometimes the NDP questions the government on certain missions it wishes to embark upon and the goals it is trying to attain with our army. Our opinions sometimes differ on those issues. The goal here in the House is to debate and make the decisions that are best for Canadians.
Those discussions and debates do not diminish the respect and admiration that NDP members have for our veterans. I want to make that very clear in this speech. We are working to ensure that veterans, who have so courageously served their country, are well served when they come back to Canada and need our help.
Canada's efforts in Afghanistan warrant a respectful and dignified approach. Those men and women fought for noble values. They fought for freedom and democracy. They worked to offer the Afghan people the stability and security they are seeking.
As Canadians and as parliamentarians, each one of us has the duty to acknowledge and remember that. We can carry out that duty by creating a memorial, for one. However, it should also be reflected in quality services and sustained support before, during and after missions abroad.
Our duty to remember is fulfilled, in part, by erecting cenotaphs, holding ceremonies and remembering what our soldiers have done for us over the years. However, beyond that, we have a responsibility—today, right now—to do everything in our power as parliamentarians to ensure that our veterans are not left out in the cold, as is happening now.
The Budget February 12th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, let us talk about the Conservatives' inconsistency. The government keeps bragging about supporting our soldiers and taking military procurement seriously. However, its new budget cuts $3.1 billion from the defence procurement budget over the next four years. This money had been earmarked for new ships, vehicles and helicopters.
Can the Minister of National Defence tell us what purchases will be delayed or cancelled? Will it be ships, search and rescue planes, helicopters or trucks?
Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages Act February 6th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House today to support my colleague's bill, Bill C-523, An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (disclosure of drug shortages).
Before I begin, I would like to commend the initiative shown by the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert in tackling a public health problem that is very troubling and unfortunately has very serious consequences, namely, drug shortages. I also wish to congratulate her on her thoughtful work and consultations, and on everything she has done to prepare this bill. Given that she is a doctor, she is very familiar with and knowledgeable of the subject matter. She has introduced a bill that really tackles something that should be a priority for all governments, including the federal government and provincial governments.
My colleague's bill aims to amend the Department of Health Act in order to oblige drug suppliers to advise the minister of any interruption or cessation of the production, distribution or importation of drugs. If it passes, Bill C-523 will also oblige the minister to prepare and implement an emergency response plan to address shortages.
Drug shortages have been a problem in Canada for a long time. For over 40 years, drug shortages have been a growing and recurrent problem. In January 2012, the Sandoz plant closed temporarily, and the company had supply problems again in November of last year. That is a striking example of the disastrous consequences that a drug shortage can have for Canadian citizens.
When a major pharmaceutical manufacturer like Sandoz is having a hard time producing 36 drugs, 16 of which are completely out of stock, that obviously has a direct impact on people's quality of life and health. In fact, 91% of pharmacists report that their patients have been affected at some time by drug shortages. In light of these overwhelming statistics, the NDP believes that this is a very serious problem.
Drug shortages may require pharmacists to resort to alternative treatments or to delay providing a treatment to a patient because there is no pharmaceutical substitute. Sometimes, patients have adverse reactions to ingredients in what was supposed to be a similar drug. This is about chemicals that have a direct impact on how the body works. You cannot just substitute one drug for another and not expect any consequences. Consider drugs used to treat depression, anxiety and psychological conditions. It can take months or even years to find the right dosage or the right drug to treat various illnesses. If there is a shortage and one antidepressant has to be substituted for another, that can have a disastrous effect on people's health and their quality of life.
The NDP thinks these situations are totally unacceptable. Before being elected to the House of Commons, I used to work at the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec as an information officer. One of my main duties was to answer calls when people had questions about the public health insurance plan or even the public drug insurance plan that we are lucky to have in Quebec. The questions were on the cost of the drugs, their billing, or their insurance. Almost every day, I received calls from patients, often seniors unfortunately, who were dealing with a drug shortage. They had to try to find a substitute. Quite often, they had to pay extra money to find a drug that could give them temporary relief, with the risk of suffering side effects. Sometimes, there simply were no drugs available. People had to wait, sometimes at great risk to their lives.
In Quebec, we are quite lucky. The public drug insurance plan covers most of the prescription costs for people who do not have access to private insurance. When a person has to take a brand name drug instead of a generic drug, the extra cost is not covered by the public drug insurance plan. These extra charges come directly out of the pockets of people who have no other choice but to take the brand name drug. They have to rework their budget.
We are talking about seniors on the guaranteed income supplement who are barely making ends meet. They have to deal with drug shortages and maybe pay $50 or $60 more every month. This can easily total up to $100 for some medications.
I cannot imagine people in this same situation outside of Quebec. Some people have no drug coverage and have to pay the entire cost. It is a huge expense and the result of poor planning. No matter the reasons for drug shortages, the fact remains that people do not have any information or only have the information that the pharmaceutical company wants to give them. They are not able to predict them. Pharmacists, doctors and everyone working in the health system are directly affected by the shortages.
I will give another example. I spoke earlier about people with psychological or psychiatric problems. My colleague from Laval—Les Îles talked about people with epilepsy. That is another illness that is difficult to manage. It takes several attempts to find the right medication and the right dosage. If the patient has to skip a dose or change medications, the effects can be terrible. Someone who suffers from grand mal seizures has difficulty coping with the convulsions. If they change medications, the seizures can be more severe, more frequent and more violent. A seizure that lasts more than five minutes requires immediate hospitalization and can even result in death.
We really are talking about the tragic consequences of a lack of medication, even for a day. People who, like me, do not suffer from chronic conditions of that kind, cannot imagine the consequences. But my brother has epilepsy. I have seen the effect of the seizures, even with his medication. He has not had to deal with a drug shortage. I cannot imagine the impact on his daily life, and on my parents, if my family no longer had access to the medications he needs. That is so difficult to live with.
A government has a responsibility to act. We cannot just sweep this into the provinces' backyards, as the Conservative government is doing constantly. We have to take action. We have to do more than simply trust the pharmaceutical industry.
Have I heard anything more ridiculous than that? Not often, but it does not matter. They say that they have established a voluntary disclosure protocol. Wonderful. What additional information have we had since the protocol was established? Not a lot.
It makes absolutely no sense to entrust the lives of millions of Canadians to the good will of the pharmaceutical industry. This is the time for action.
My colleague is proposing to put a stop to the industry's dilly-dallying in disclosing drug shortages. The minister has to stop blaming the provinces for her own inaction and to shoulder her responsibilities for once. The voluntary disclosure protocol that the Conservatives have put in place does not require manufacturers to provide accurate information in a timely manner. They can provide information whenever they choose. No one has been identified to guarantee compliance with the protocol. Therefore we have to wonder what is the use of the protocol, other than providing more paperwork. For a government that does not like red tape, there seems to be a lot of it in their various initiatives, but unfortunately with no concrete results.
The first step in managing a problem like drug shortages would be to show some transparency, so that everyone concerned has a true picture of the situation. That is what my colleague's bill proposes and I congratulate her for her initiative.
Canadians need to have all the necessary information on drug shortages. We strongly believe that the public needs and has a right to all this information. Health care experts also have a right to that information. Pharmacists have a right to have the information as well, because they have to advise their customers. Some patients would like to have generic drugs and some would prefer something else. Pharmacists need to have up-to-date information to be able to advise the people who come to them with a real need.
We could look at what is being done elsewhere. In the United States, New Zealand and the European Union, they have all developed a mandatory disclosure system and have proven that system regulation can be a good thing. France did the same thing in the 1990s, and they have experienced fewer shortages than other western countries since that protocol took effect.
The Association des pharmaciens des établissements de santé du Québec, the Canadian Medical Association and the Cancer Society are all important health care agencies that have expressed their support for my colleague's Bill C-523.
I hope that all members of the House, regardless of their party, will support it as well.
National Defence February 6th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, under the universality of service policy, a soldier must be employable and deployable for general operational duties.
Soldiers with post-traumatic stress refrain from seeking help out of fear of losing their jobs and their pensions. What is more, if they seek help and are sent back to civilian life before completing their 10-year term, they are not entitled to the services provided by Veterans Affairs Canada, which the ombudsman has strongly condemned.
How can the Conservatives justify such a lack of consistency?
National Defence February 5th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it took eight years and the Department of National Defence had to be put under supervision, but the Conservatives are finally realizing that their military procurement process is a failure. Our troops need the proper equipment to carry out their missions, and Canadians want to be sure that resources are not being wasted. The Conservatives have clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of making either of those things happen.
Since the F-35 procurement secretariat has not yielded any results, why do the Conservatives think that a new secretariat and more red tape are a viable solution?
Business of Supply February 4th, 2014
I do not have a lot of time to respond to such insightful comments.
We do need better oversight mechanisms. A special committee of parliamentarians could study how to increase CSEC's transparency and accountability.
I wonder why the Liberals did not set up such a committee when they were in power. That would have solved the problems we are faced with today. In 2015, the NDP will have the opportunity to do what the Liberals failed to do.
Business of Supply February 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his intervention. He is not wrong. This is one of the rare occasions where I actually agree with one of my colleagues across the way.
Indeed, CSEC plays a key role in protecting Canadians and guarding against certain cyberterrorism threats. We cannot forget that. However, the importance of CSEC's role in monitoring and collecting information does not discharge it of its obligation to obey the law. Canada passed legislation to provide a framework for CSEC's mandate. That legislation formally prohibits any spying of Canadians on Canadian soil.
When we are faced with situations like the one that occurred in a Canadian airport in 2012, where Canadians were spied on for two weeks as part of a pilot project, that is when realize there is a problem.
No one here would deny the importance of the work done by CSEC. However, we must discuss how this work is being done as well as the dire need for better monitoring through a parliamentary committee made up of elected members.
It is on this point that the Conservatives and the NDP do not agree. I hope, however, that the government will listen to reason in the end.