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  • Her favourite word is conservatives.

NDP MP for Joliette (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 47.30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

National Health and Fitness Day Act October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as many people know, I will be 70 next year, and it has never occurred to me to stop being active. This summer, I parachuted from 13,500 feet with actor Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge. I went from 0 to 250 km/h in no time, and I would do it again.

There is no age limit for being active, and being able to keep moving while growing older is a luxury that everyone should have. Canada's aging population raises important questions about how we can keep people active as long as possible.

That is true for physical activity and family recreation, but it is also true for community involvement, which is difficult if one is not physically healthy enough.

Having a healthy country is the choice of both individuals and society. I am talking about an aging population because that is my personal reality. However, I also have grandchildren, and I recognize that there is a growing childhood obesity epidemic. That said, none of my eight grandchildren are obese. It is a problem of embarrassing proportions; pardon the pun.

Some 20% of children are overweight, and among adults, the figure is over 50%. What will it be in the future? Obesity is hard on the body, the joints, arterial health, the heart and so on.

What will today's kids do when they are my age? Will they even reach my age? That is worrisome, because I know that leading a long, active life is a blessing for each of us as individuals but also for all of us as a society.

I must say that it is not always easy to stay active. Our schedules get busier and busier, work is demanding, and parents often have to work long hours or several jobs to make ends meet. When they go home at the end of the day, they have to take care of the kids, clean the house, make dinner and pay the bills.

They do not have a lot of time left over for physical activity, and that might be why 85% of adults do not engage in the minimum amount of physical activity required for good long-term health. That proportion is 10% higher among young people. That is something we should all be worried about.

For these reasons, I support Bill S-211. I also want to add that it is almost November, a month associated with depression, fatigue and even suicide. Do Canadians know that physical activity can help with that?

It would be good to remind them that adding a little physical activity to their routines will improve their mental health, reduce stress, build self-confidence and improve mood. It is also important to note that regular physical activity boosts energy levels.

Not for nothing did singer Dédé Fortin write the song, Dehors novembre. We live in a northern country, and the onset of winter is hard on people. I think it is a very good idea to remind people of the benefits of physical activity around this time.

In addition to all that, I would like to point out that a preventive approach is good for society as a whole. Heart disease and stroke alone cost Canadians $20.9 billion per year. That much money would buy exactly 350 million pairs of running shoes, which is more than enough to get everyone back in good health.

We can promote physical activity with a preventive approach. The NDP has been calling for that since 2011. To that end, we must make it easier to access federal parks. Here, we have Gatineau Park, which is free and has open access. Such a gem is not available in every region, and access to some parks—such as La Mauricie National Park next to my riding—is becoming more and more expensive. For a low-income family, just getting to a park costs a lot of money for gas. Charging fees to a family might be a deterrent to many.

The NDP thinks that the federal government should work with the provinces and territories to ensure that every child can lay the foundation for an active life by incorporating physical activity in his or her lifestyle.

Beyond access to national parks, we can also make it easier to access fitness centres and sports teams. I believe parents should never have to choose between buying groceries and registering their children for hockey.

Many organizations in Canada recognize the importance of physical activity and believe that the government has a role to play in promoting it to Canadians. That is the position of the Canadian Nurses Association, which has stated that the federal government has a duty to play a leadership role in promoting active living in Canada. The Canadian Cancer Society has said the same thing, namely, that the government is one of the most important forces in influencing active living.

I could go on and on naming organizations that believe the government needs to play a greater role in promoting physical activity, but I think my position is fairly clear.

To sum up, I clearly support Bill S-211 because I recognize the importance of the individual and collective benefits of this. I also recognize that we all stand to gain from a healthy, active life. How could anyone oppose this? This bill is a responsible initiative that will really help Canadians live better lives as young people, be better parents and, one only hopes, stay healthy as they age.

To promote everyone's health, it is imperative to start by making it easier to access our national parks, which really are public treasures. We should also make it easier for people to join fitness centres and sports teams.

We will then have stronger, healthier communities, not to mention the fact that older, retired people will have more to offer their communities for a longer period of time, thereby allowing us to benefit from their experience. As for young people, they will be more active and better prepared for work, but more importantly—and it is important to point this out at this time of the year—people of all ages will be happier. Everyone will be in better shape and therefore in a better mood. This could help prevent frustration.

Business of Supply September 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech on the importance of question period.

Question period is meant to inform the Canadian public about what is going on in the country. However, it is sometimes very difficult to hear the questions and answers because there is too much heckling in the House.

I would like my colleague to tell us whether the cynical attitude towards Canada's Parliament is one of the reasons why people are not interested in Canadian politics and why they do not exercise their right to vote. Fewer and fewer people are voting, and this is especially true of young people. Is the noise in the House one of the reasons why people are no longer interested in politics?

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

I thank my colleague for the question, Mr. Speaker.

Environmental protection should indeed be the responsibility of oil carriers. I am a native of Quebec, and the St. Lawrence River is my environment, as it is for thousands of others. It is also the environment of tanker operators and all of those people. If they pollute, perhaps we should make them understand that they should take the necessary precautions to prevent their ships from sinking.

I believe that the only way to protect the environment is through strict regulation. Our lives as human beings depend on it, but the lives of the fauna in the river, the Atlantic and the Pacific also hang in the balance.

As people, as human beings and as MPs, we cannot tolerate any tanker pollution.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

It is true that if she ever has the opportunity to visit the Berthier Islands in the spring, or at any time of the year, she will see that it is truly magnificent. There is such a natural diversity of animals, flowers, trees and many other things. It is truly beautiful and it absolutely must be protected by laws that are tougher than the ones we have now. We also need inspectors on land and water across Canada. It is important to have them because we would know the extent of spills and which vessels spill oil while heading to Quebec City, Montreal or elsewhere along the St. Lawrence. This river is a navigable waterway that has always crossed Quebec.

I agree with my colleague. We absolutely must have tougher laws to ensure that those who spoil nature pay the cost of cleaning up. These are not penniless companies. In principle, they are there to make money. Thus, if they do not maintain their vessels so that they protect the population and nature, I believe that they must pay for the damage.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will have the honour of sharing my time with my colleague from British Columbia Southern Interior.

As we know, the government recently authorized an increase in oil shipping on the St. Lawrence River, including the building of special port facilities in Sorel.

Even though Joliette is not right on the river, which is in the riding of my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé, everyone in Lanaudière has a special place in their hearts for the river there.

In fact, many of my constituents spend time there every weekend cycling, fishing, boating or simply hiking the many kilometres of trails.

At the mouth of Lake Saint-Pierre, between Sorel and Berthierville, the Berthier Islands form an archipelago of 103 islands with magnificent mangroves and flood plains that provide a habitat for many rare animal species, such as silver fox and salamanders. In the spring, one can admire the splendour of the area while driving on highway 40.

History is also very much present in the region, which was the site of diplomatic meetings held by Champlain with the aboriginal people, and the mouth of the Richelieu River nearby saw a lot of action during the Iroquois wars.

In addition, writer Germaine Guèvrement found inspiration in the archipelago, which became the backdrop for Le Survenant, a novel she wrote in 1945.

In that sense, the announced increase in tanker traffic got me thinking, and I am saddened that the government did not see fit to include in Bill C-3 the NDP's proposed clauses regarding tanker traffic.

I wanted to make that point before talking a little more about the actual bill. I really wish we had taken the opportunity to better protect an area that is so important to my region.

The Berthier Islands are an area that I know well, that I frequent and that are part of the identity of the Lanaudière region. I am convinced that, across Canada, people who live close to potentially polluting projects have similar fears.

That is why I am glad Bill C-3 implements the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 2010.

If the Conservatives truly supported marine and aviation safety as they claim to, they would have accepted our suggestion to widen the scope of the bill.

We in the NDP do not believe that Canadian taxpayers should have to pay the difference when the cleanup cost in the wake of a spill of hazardous and noxious substances is higher than $500 million.

The NDP is committed to ensuring that oil spills never occur. The Conservative record is the exact opposite: they closed the British Columbia oil spill response centre, shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station and gutted environmental emergency response programs.

As I said earlier, this bill does include some positive aspects, which is why I am not opposed to it. One of those aspects is the required pilotage and increased surveillance, which will reduce the risk of accidents.

However, that is not enough. The drastic cuts to oil transportation safety in last year's budget speak volumes.

The Conservatives say that these cuts are simply trimming the fat, but if they trim too much, the animal will end up dead. This is not liposuction, this is a flesh-eating disease.

The scaling back of the coast guard's rescue capacity and facilities has affected the entire country.

In Quebec, public pressure and the work of the NDP saved the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre, which responds to 1,500 calls a day. That is not insignificant, 1,500 calls a day. This announced closure endangered the lives of francophone sailors and demonstrates the Conservatives' complete disregard for marine safety, science and public health.

The NDP requested that the scope of Bill C-3 be broadened to reverse the cutbacks to our national coast guard response capacity.

In addition, this bill grants the military the investigatory powers that were traditionally reserved for the Transportation Safety Board. In the event of an aviation accident involving the military, the Minister of Defence is the only one who will be notified of the outcome of the investigation. It will not be made public.

We have long known that the Conservatives are afraid of transparency. During the last election campaign, they refused to answer more than five questions a day, in order to direct the journalists' work. The government they formed is not much different. They have extended the notion of cabinet secrecy to nearly everything and now they want to hide the results of investigations involving the military. That is unacceptable. It is like something out of an episode of The X-Files.

In general, Bill C-3 seems to focus on the administrative side instead of seriously addressing the risk that marine activities involving oil or hazardous materials pose to the environment.

A number of environmental NGOs have highlighted the inadequacy of Canada's safety measures with respect to oil tanker traffic. Why did the government not seize this opportunity with Bill C-3? It could have done much more. In addition to meaningfully enhancing safety with respect to accountability, the government could have made sure that Canadians do not end up with a hefty bill when a spill happens. That is the least it could have done.

We saw what happened in Lac-Mégantic. Deregulation and the government's complicit negligence made it possible for a foreign company to destroy everything for financial gain. It goes without saying that companies will always look to maximize their profits, since that is why they exist.

A responsible government's role is to set parameters, for example, by ensuring that a crisis can be avoided, and that if one does happen we can seek compensation. Was MMA able to compensate the people of Lac-Mégantic? Not at all. The company's obscure insurer, registered abroad, was not in a position to pay.

This situation could happen again, and, quite frankly, Bill C-3 would have been nice, so I could tour around the Berthier Islands without worrying about ending up in a wasteland.

That said, I will vote in favour of this bill, since I think it is a step in the right direction. However, it is a self-serving step that was meant to placate opposition to the projects supported by this government, such as Northern Gateway. It is, nevertheless, a step forward.

I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the risks we are facing and that we will continue to face as long as we do not adopt an approach that is environmentally responsible.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

There have been 10,000 accidental oil spills since 1970. That is not nothing. We cannot say there have been 1,000, which would still be too many.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks of the famous double-hull tankers, which do not seem to be protecting our oceans, our seas or nature in general.

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

If we were to increase the minimum wage to $15, people would be able to regain their dignity, be proud to go to work and not feel as though they are essentially modern-day slaves, when both members of a couple have to work for a measly wage to make ends meet.

If the federal minimum wage were a little higher and the provinces and territories were thus encouraged to increase their own minimum wage, we might have fewer health problems. People would be able to eat better. They could buy fruits and vegetables, which they cannot always do right now. A family cannot buy four apples at $1.30 a pound.

I am sure that a better wage would lead to better physical, mental and psychological health and would reduce violence in our society.

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the federal minimum wage was abolished in 1996.

Today, I think we must absolutely help people. When I go door to door and meet people, they tell me they are sick of living in poverty. We must help employees under federal jurisdiction. Increasing wages to $15 an hour in five years is not a lot to ask to eliminate poverty.

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, if I understand correctly, 8.8% of the population lives below the poverty line. That number is too high. It should be zero, period. There should not be any poverty in such a wealthy country.

We are often criticized for not voting for certain bills, but why do the Conservatives put everything into omnibus bills? Why do they limit how much time we have to discuss bills?

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to take this opportunity to speak to the House about the concept of privilege. As everyone knows, members of Parliament are afforded more privileges than other citizens.

We all function in a world of privilege. I, for one, have not always been privy to that reality. I have been an entrepreneur and a farmer; I have been wealthy and I have been poor. I know what money means to the middle class and the poor. It always upsets me when I talk to women on the telephone who tell me that they do not have enough money for their children to live comfortably.

I know that the workers who get up early each morning deserve every dollar they earn, and that is why we need to recognize that a $15 minimum wage for federal employees is not too much to ask. We know that women continue to earn less, yet we are still asking them to set money aside for retirement. How will they manage to do that on $10 an hour? Then they will be told that they do not know how to budget.

For me, $15 an hour is about decency. Housing costs are on the rise and Canadians families also have to deal with skyrocketing gas prices. We know what that means: it costs more to get to work. In an area such as Joliette, work is sometimes 30 minutes or an hour away. Some people will tell you that they travel three hours to Montreal. When the price of gas goes up, the cost of food goes up, too. Buying groceries is very expensive.

I have children. One has four girls between the ages of 12 and 24. Two of them are working. Imagine how much it costs to feed that family.

The Liberals abolished the federal minimum wage in 1996. Perhaps those who are sitting here today have never known what it was like to earn less than $15 an hour. Meanwhile, the GDP is going up and the government is bragging about strong economic growth, but salaries are stagnating.

In the past 35 years, 94% of the increase in income inequality has occurred under Liberal governments. This speaks volumes about that party's respect for the middle class. During that time, workers got up early and continued to slave away for every dollar they earned. However, between 1975 and 2013, the average minimum wage increased by only 1¢, and pennies are not even being made anymore.

In 2006, the Federal Labour Standards Review Commission recommended that the government reinstate the federal minimum wage and set it based on Statistics Canada's low-income cutoffs. This is not just any agency. The commission recommended that the minimum wage be established so that a person working full time would not be living below the poverty line.

Despite all the admiration that some members of this House have for the Chinese model, I think it is appalling to have to work full time and yet remain below the poverty line. Perhaps if people earned more, they would not need to use food banks at the end of the month.

Canada is a rich country, rich in resources, in brain power and in businesses. No one is going to convince me that we cannot pay full-time employees $15 an hour.

Job creation is a hot topic in politics these days. However, the government is not creating jobs directly outside the public service. We can encourage job creation by ensuring that our businesses grow and pay their fair share in society. We can also decide that, to set an example, we will now pay federally regulated employees a minimum wage of $15 an hour. That sets a good example and makes families more stable and happier.

The business community will get that money back because people who earn more will make more purchases.

As a result, I hope that everyone in the House who respects workers will join me in supporting my colleague's motion. In my opinion, it is really just common sense.

This motion deals with a serious problem: the distribution of wealth. The creation of wealth is important, but in my opinion, its redistribution is even more so. Consequently, supporting this motion is an affordable and responsible solution.

Very careful studies have shown that a slight increase in minimum wage does not have a major impact on employment. A moderate and incremental approach will therefore allow companies that do business with the federal government to adapt to this situation.

In terms of other benefits, an increase in the minimum wage can reduce staff turnover and thereby stabilize the operations of companies that do business with the government.

This is clearly important when we consider the fact that 820,000 people worked in federally regulated industries in 2008. Of these employees, over 40,000 were earning less than $12.49 an hour. These people are not rich. Finally, approximately 100,000 people were earning less than $15 an hour.

Women and young people are often among those who earn the least. Let us take young people for example. They need money to pay for rising tuition costs. Otherwise, they will accumulate debt that will force them to delay purchasing a home and starting a family. When all is said and done, helping these individuals supports the entire economy. It could even be profitable for the government since these people would pay more taxes.

The same could be said of women, immigrants and new graduates since the federal minimum wage affects many people who have a lot to offer and who work really hard.

Income inequality is growing at a worrisome rate, and I believe that we must take this crisis seriously. We owe it to our constituents to discuss issues that affect their lives here in the House.

For 35 years, without pause, the income of the top 1% of high earners has been skyrocketing, while the income of the average Canadian household has fallen. Such a significant inequality slows growth because people no longer have the means to stimulate the economy. It also prevents many people from contributing all that they could to our country.

The NDP believes that growth should be real, profitable, sustainable and beneficial to Canadians. In short, we are fighting for growth worthy of the 21st century.

When the gap between the wealthiest and the vast majority of Canadians began to widen in the 1990s and the early 2000s, the Liberal and Conservative governments did nothing to fix the problem. Maybe to them it was not a problem at all.

To the NDP, the growing inequality between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population is a real danger and we want to address it swiftly. That is what we will do in 2015.

I am joining my colleagues in calling on the Conservative government to shoulder its responsibilities towards hardworking Canadians and increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

In closing, I invite the House to admit that it is not just a privilege to represent our constituents, but a responsibility and that comes with its share of duties. Among those duties, we must recognize the seriousness of the problem of the growing gap between the rich and the poor and do something about it.