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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
Victims Bill of Rights Act June 18th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I will begin by condemning the frankly contemptuous and disgraceful tone taken by the Minister of Justice, as well as the words he used to describe my colleagues from all parties and the work we do in the House. He holds a supposedly honourable position but does not at all act the way Canadians expect him to. If I were him, I would be ashamed of treating the people sitting in the House the way he does. We were all elected by Canadians, who put their trust in us. Each of us deserves the same respect. I am really ashamed to hear him speak.
We know very well why the Conservatives have moved their 75th time allocation motion. They want to have total control in committee. We know how things work in committee; Canadians are not fooled. The Conservatives control the number of witnesses and the testimony. They want to control what is in the report and cover up all the information.
I want the minister to promise not to limit the number of witnesses who will appear before the committee or the time allotted for the study. Is the minister prepared to promise that?
National Defence June 17th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, first we had Bill Graham and David Pratt, two former Liberal ministers who never hid their enthusiasm for the American missile defence shield. Now a committee of Liberal and Conservative senators is recommending that Canada join the missile defence program.
Unelected people are taking a position and the Liberal leader is dodging questions while the Prime Minister is being very vague about his intentions. Either the Conservatives want in or they do not. There are no half measures here.
In the midst of slashing services to the public, are the Conservatives really going to spend billions on this questionable project?
Public Works and Government Services June 17th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, according to the Department of Defence's timeline, the contract to replace the CF-18s will not be finalized until 2018. That is the best-case scenario. The department has also acknowledged the possibility that the contract might not be signed until 2020. That gives the department plenty of time to launch a bidding process to get the best value for money and maximize spinoffs for aerospace industry workers.
Why does the Conservative government want to give billions of dollars to Lockheed Martin without even launching a bidding process to replace the CF-18s?
Agricultural Growth Act June 16th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for that excellent question.
To ask the question is to answer it. As we have seen, we cannot trust this government, and we can trust the minister even less. My colleague spoke about the various crises that Agriculture and Agri-food Canada has experienced since 2011 alone. This government has been in power for far too long, and that is not the first crisis we have faced.
Giving more discretionary power to this government and to the current minister is ridiculous. He has demonstrated his incompetence on more than one occasion. I recently heard him direct some absolutely disgusting comments to my colleague from Alfred-Pellan in response to one of her questions. This colleague represents a riding that is both rural and urban, and he did not seem to get that at all. If he does not understand that, I do not see how he could logically and sensibly exercise the discretionary powers that he would have under Bill C-18. I hope that we can review this provision and amend it as quickly as possible.
Agricultural Growth Act June 16th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleague for a very good question and his kind words about my riding. The people of Cap-Santé will be very happy to know that honourable colleagues like mine enjoy spending time in our lovely riding. Cap-Santé is indeed magnificent, but there are also 27 other municipalities in the riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier that I would encourage my colleagues to visit.
To get back to my colleague's question, this is a question that many people have been asking—not just farmers but people like me and like everyone here who eats food every day. They are worried about preserving our heritage seeds and all of the work that our farmers have done over the years. They want to protect that heritage and not leave everything to big companies like Monsanto.
My constituents are very worried about that. They are pleased with the NDP's efforts on behalf of all aspects of agriculture. A little earlier, I mentioned our comprehensive strategy for healthy, high-quality food for all Canadians. One of my colleagues recently introduced a motion to ensure that genetically modified organisms are labelled. All the work accomplished by my NDP colleagues is applauded by the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier and of other rural ridings as well. They expect us to do the same work in committee in order to improve Bill C-18.
Agricultural Growth Act June 16th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, obviously NDP members are the only ones working in the House tonight. I am very proud of them.
I am very pleased to rise again to speak to Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts relating to agriculture and agri-food. Before getting to the main part of my speech, I would like to mention that I will be splitting my time with my wonderful colleague, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. We are all looking forward to hearing from him.
The bill before us today is another omnibus bill, courtesy of the Conservatives. This is no surprise. We have become accustomed to their way of doing things. However they introduced a refreshing change. Even though the bill amends nine different laws—all the amendments are contained in the same document—they did something very unusual. For once, they focused exclusively on agriculture and agri-food. They seem to have learned something from the previous omnibus bills. At least this time around they have not presented us with a host of amendments that have absolutely nothing to do with the substance of the bill. It is an improvement and we hope the Conservatives will also improve the way they manage the proceedings in the House and the democratic process in Canada. However this will be the subject of another debate.
I will go back to bill C-18. This bill deals with various issues, from plant breeders' protection to the reinforcement of border security mechanisms, as well as increased access to the advance payments program. Therefore, this bill deals with several issues that are important to our farmers and, by extension, to our fellow citizens. This is why the NDP will support bill C-18 at second reading.
It is important to us that this bill be examined in detail. Indeed, even though we support some measures included in the bill, we believe that they should be studied in depth, as if often the case when the Conservatives introduce an omnibus bill, regardless of what they want Canadians to believe. Various experts have already given their opinion on this and are calling for amendments. The NDP thinks that we should take the time we need to hear them. We must invite experts who wish to speak on the issues included in bill C-18. As parliamentarians, we must also listen to the concerns of the farmers in our ridings to try and come up with the best bill possible.
As we all know, it is simply not in the Conservatives' DNA to collaborate, to negotiate and to look for improvements. Still, we hope that some of that may happen if the bill is sent to committee. This bill needs to benefit all farmers and producers, as well as all Canadians.
As I said, the NDP supports parts of the bill. A few provisions address the concerns of the people from my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. We are in a rural area with numerous family farms, spread over the Portneuf RCM, the Jacques-Cartier RCM and the town of Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures.
Constituents and producers often contact me to discuss agricultural issues. Access to funding is a challenge, as is probably the case in many parts of the country. I am sure that everyone in the House who represents a rural riding hears similar complaints from their constituents.
It is good to know, then, that Bill C-18 improves access to the advance payments program. This would make it easier for producers to access credit through cash advances. Accordingly, producers would be better able to meet all their financial obligations throughout the year, while improving their access to cash. New credit options would also be available to producers whose farm is not their main source of income to support their families.
All of these important changes address my constituents' concerns. However, as I mentioned at the outset, we are dealing yet again with an omnibus bill.
Some of the measures it contains warrant some reworking. They would benefit from expert advice from people who really know the field and work in it every day. That is why we would like to refer the bill to committee. We would like to take the time to do the work we were elected to the House of Commons to do.
There is one problem that deserves to be revisited that I would like to see studied in committee. I am talking about the fact that this bill gives the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food more discretionary powers.
In fact, if passed as is, Bill C-18 would allow the minister to change various provisions of the bill without having to go through the House. He would not need approval from parliamentarians from all the parties. He could simply do it all by regulation. We see that provision quite often in Conservative bills. Frankly, this provision is a concern for the NDP.
This government has shown us many times that we cannot trust it. Here again, it is asking us to give it carte blanche, to give carte blanche to the minister who was at the helm during the XL Foods crisis, the minster who allowed major cuts at the Food Inspection Agency and who allowed the number of inspectors to be cut. The inspectors' jobs are to ensure the health of Canadians, to ensure that we all have access to high-quality food that is not contaminated. It is under this minister that the lives of hundreds and thousands of Canadians were put at risk during the XL Foods crisis. That caused panic here because the government was unable to guarantee the Food Inspection Agency the necessary resources to allow it to do its job properly.
Here again, with the bill before us, we are being asked to trust a minister who has shown his incompetence more than once. Frankly, this needs to be studied in committee again. We need to hear from experts on this aspect of the bill and various other aspects that are controversial and should be improved. We are not saying that we want this bill to be withdrawn completely or that it should never be passed. We are asking the government to show good faith and agree to work with members of the other parties. We also represent farmers, people who are familiar with the problems addressed in the bill, people who deserve to be heard as well as taken into consideration. They should be reflected in the bill that is passed in the House. If we pass Bill C-18 in its current form, that will not be the case.
Personally, when I travel through my riding, Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, no one tells me that ministers in the Conservative government should have more discretionary powers because they trust the government. I never hear that in my riding. Quite honestly, most of the time I hear how anxious people are for 2015 to come, so we can be rid of this government.
Aside from that, I have had the opportunity to meet with people from my riding and from ridings across Quebec and Canada. Canadians are worried about the decisions this government is making. It often makes unilateral decisions that do not leave room for opposition or constructive suggestions from the opposition. We know that our job is not simply to criticize. We also suggest solutions and improvements. That generally happens in committee and in the House when we participate in debates that no other parties participate in. We understand our job as MPs. I think it is unfortunate that the Conservatives take their jobs for granted. They do not feel the need to rise and defend their constituents. We saw that with the debate on Bill C-6, when all we heard was yelling from backbench MPs and the same question repeated over and over by the same hon. member on the other side. I strongly suspect that Bill C-18 will only be debated by New Democrat members who care about protecting Canadians and who want to ensure that we all have access to good quality food.
We are the only party that has proposed a global strategy to address the challenges facing farmers and food safety. No other party in the House has addressed this issue. The NDP's objective is to ensure that we can promote sustainable farming communities, support local agriculture, promote safety and transparency in the food protection system and make healthy food accessible to all Canadians.
That is what we want to accomplish here, and that is what we want to accomplish in trying to improve Bill C-18.
Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014
I definitely saw that coming, Mr. Speaker. The word “pacifist” gets a rise out of them every time. They seem to think it is really insulting, which I find fascinating.
In any event, despite their shouting, Canada has a responsibility to regain its international and humanitarian reputation. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have destroyed it, and we are a disgrace around the world. I know people who refuse to wear the Canadian flag when they go abroad because of the terrible reputation this government has given us. The Conservatives would do well to learn from history. They need to change their attitude, and quickly.
Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. He has captured the essence of what I was trying to raise in the House.
Canada has always played a leadership role. The Conservatives seem to have forgotten, but before they arrived on the scene, our country was known as a pacifist country. I know that will make the Conservatives scream and shout, but I will continue to use that word. It is a proud part of our heritage. We have every reason to be proud.
Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the tone he has had throughout this debate. It is quite refreshing.
First, Canada needs to take a leadership role to convince our allies and partners to stop using these weapons. Second, we need to look at the possibility of negotiating with our allies about how Canada will be involved in the missions it chooses to participate in.
We need to respect our own values and culture. The Canadian public expects certain things from the Canadian Armed Forces. It is up to the government and the Chief of the Defence Staff to negotiate and make sure that our decisions and our values are respected when we undertake missions with other allies.
I do not know whether the Conservatives have explored that, since collaboration and discussion are not their strong suits, but it may be something to keep in mind and to explore in the future.
Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, this is a strange atmosphere in which to start my speech on Bill C-6 but I will jump right into it anyway. I first want to preface my remarks by reassuring my colleagues opposite that I have a clear understanding of the issue here and that I wrote my speech myself.
I hope that this will not lead my colleagues opposite, such as the member for Ottawa—Orléans, to make disrespectful remarks. I hope I will not hear any more such comments when I finish my speech. Frankly, I thought that debates in the House of Commons were supposed to be more courteous. I find such comments to be far beneath an experienced member like him, who has been in the House for years and who once held the position of Speaker.
In any case, let me get back to the subject at hand, which is Bill C-6, An Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This is a very important debate in the House, and that is why the NDP wants to take the time to debate the bill properly.
I have heard many comments from the Conservative backbenchers, but not one member has risen to actively participate in this debate in the House. That is a terrible shame. I guess they think they have done enough to earn their salaries.
The NDP thinks it is important to be the voice of the people who we represent and who sent us to the House to debate issues that are important to them, including international policy issues. A Conservative member said that he had made a speech just a few days ago. That is extraordinary. One speech in all the time that was allocated to members of the governing party. That really is unfortunate.
Bill C-6 seeks to finally implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This is an issue that has been the subject of international debate for many years now. The convention in question is the result of negotiations between over 100 countries as part of the Oslo process, which came on the heels of the successes of the Ottawa Treaty to Ban Landmines.
Although Canada became one of the 113 signatories to the convention on December 3, 2008, the convention has yet to be ratified by our Parliament. This is what Bill C-6 is attempting to do, in its clumsy way. Cluster munitions have a devastating and direct impact on civilian populations, as the NDP has already discussed at length.
The Conservatives have told us repeatedly that we need these weapons to defend our military personnel during international operations. They seem to forget that 98% of the time, victims of cluster munitions are civilians. Not only are they civilians, but many victims are children. About 30% of submunitions fail to explode and remain on the ground. Children are attracted to these small, sometimes brightly coloured objects and pick them up. Submunitions then function just like landmines.
Canada has clearly stated its opposition to the use of landmines. However, the Conservative government will not hear of prohibiting the use of cluster munitions, which end up acting just like landmines. Unexploded submunitions remain on the ground for years. They keep on claiming victims long after the fighting is over.
Ratifying this convention is very important to Canada. People I talk to are concerned about these types of issues, and they would like to see Canada take a leadership position on the world stage.
Unfortunately, once again the Conservatives are dropping the ball. The bill in its current form does not at all live up to the mission of the convention that was negotiated.
In fact, the bill presented to us by the Conservatives contradicts and undermines the international treaty it is meant to implement. It is very contradictory, and that is what we are trying to shed light on in this debate, which apparently is too long for the Conservatives, but is essential for the NDP. This is a complex issue. We must take our time with it. We must give this bill the time it deserves. It has already gone through committee. The NDP worked with the government to try to improve the bill. However, there is still work to be done.
In its current form, Bill C-6 is still today being criticized by many experts and international players as the weakest and worst bill in the world for ratifying the convention on cluster munitions. There is nothing to be proud of—quite the contrary.
The major problem is that the Conservatives did everything to ensure that this bill included a lot of legal loopholes, which seem unnecessary and dangerous to us. That is what the NDP focused its efforts on in committee and continues to focus on.
We think the main flaw in the bill is clause 11, which is still included. That clause would allow Canadian soldiers to acquire, possess or transport cluster munitions whenever they are acting in conjunction with another country that is not a party to the convention and to request the use of cluster munitions by another country. Clearly, the government made only half an effort to control the use of these weapons. We think that is not enough.
We nevertheless managed to make one amendment to the bill at committee stage. The NDP's efforts were rewarded. The government finally admitted that it would not necessarily be a good idea to expressly allow Canadian soldiers to use cluster munitions. However, it is a rather small victory considering all the work that remains to be done.
If no further changes are made to the bill at the stage it has reached, although amendments could still be made, the bill could undermine the international implementation of the convention by creating dangerous precedents that other countries could rely on. The exemptions currently found in the bill could be invoked by other countries that want to justify keeping or even using the weapons in their arsenals. That is what most of the international community and the NDP are trying to avoid. Unfortunately, once again, Canada was the black sheep and tried to do everything it could to undermine the essence of the convention. It is really too bad, but we still can do the right thing, even if that is not the Conservatives' way.
This is not the first time that they have watered down the principles and values dear to Canadians on the international stage. I could talk about environmental treaties, such as the Kyoto protocol, which are not being honoured. An even more striking example is the 2009 scandal that broke over the transfer of Afghan detainees. We learned that in 2006-07, the Conservative government had expressly approved the transfer of Afghan detainees to prisons where there was a significant risk that they would be tortured.
Canada is a signatory to the Geneva convention. Before the arrival of the Conservative government, we were strongly opposed to torture. For various reasons, the Conservatives allowed violations of the values so dear to Canadians and permitted the transfer of Afghan detainees to prisons where they were tortured.
It is obvious that the Conservatives do not care about the values and principles that matter to Canadians. Earlier, I heard them going on about how Canada is not a pacifist country. That is unbelievable. They need a history lesson. I will not give it to them now, since I do not think they would listen, which is too bad. Regardless, as I just showed, the Conservatives are once again flouting the values and principles that matter to Canadians.
We are not finished. The NDP will continue to work with the government to amend the bill to ensure that it complies with the convention that has been negotiated and ratified by more than 80 countries so far. We simply need to remove clause 11. That is what we are asking for. I hope that the government will finally listen.