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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

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.

According to the executive director of the Canadian Meat Council, Canadian producers of prepared meats are worried about concessions on geographical indications made to the European Union. They are also concerned that the concessions are not reciprocal. These meat sector businesses could lose their trademarks for products with annual sales of more than $25 million.

What can my colleague say to reassure them?

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, people have told me that they were worried about what would happen to dairy products. They do not know anything. People listen to the news, they listen to what the government is saying, but they are worried. I really have nothing more to add. People are worried and they are not sure that supply management is here to stay.

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from the neighbouring riding to Joliette for her question.

Indeed, I just said that last year I did an agricultural tour of the riding of Joliette. Dairy and cheese producers are quite concerned. They are wondering whether supply management will continue to support them. It takes years of preparation to get good quality cheese. Not only does it take years of work to get good cheese, but there is also all the money that goes into research in order to produce a cheese that will appeal to consumers, not just in Joliette, but throughout Quebec and Canada.

The farmers told me they hope supply management is here to stay as it is. They do not want it to change. They know they will lose out if anything changes because all sorts of cheeses will enter the market. The farmers will suffer losses. The government is telling us that the farmers will get financial compensation, but they are worried.

Could the government truly reassure them by saying that supply management will be protected?

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, all of these recommendations really need to be studied. We will see what bill comes back to us. We will study the recommendations and the bill. I look forward to seeing it. They proposed some recommendations, but we absolutely need to study this bill again.

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be sharing my time with my colleague from Pontiac.

We would have liked the government to introduce a bill, but perhaps it will in the near future or a bit later, before the House rises in June, or maybe even on December 12.

During the study in committee, we heard from dozens of witnesses and we agreed on a few recommendations. Free trade is the cornerstone of economic development in the agriculture sector and will certainly provide exciting opportunities for many stakeholders in the sector. Technology now allows us to produce more, and faster. Nonetheless, we have to be able to deliver the goods. The more demand there is, the more we have to provide top-quality merchandise. Many provincial and federal sectors have welcomed this agreement with open arms. I sincerely hope it will help our farmers deliver the goods.

However, I cannot say that the government's response to our report is totally satisfactory. There are some contradictions in its responses with regard to what the report called for. I would like to clarify a small detail. The recommendations that we see here are the ones the committee adopted, but partisanship is commonplace in the committees and, as they do in Parliament, the Conservatives have a majority there. There were other recommendations that we wanted to adopt following the testimony we heard. Unfortunately, those requests by the NDP were rejected. That being said, I will come back to these recommendations.

My goal here is to show that the recommendations in the report arose from a Conservative consensus. I am surprised that the government is responding so weakly to its own recommendations. For example, on supply management, the government's response clearly indicates that it will continue to defend that system. However, I was expecting the government to do more than that.

The committee's report clearly states that the removal of tariff barriers could upset this management system, particularly for dairy products. I had many conversations with representatives of the Union des producteurs agricoles, egg producers, poultry producers and dairy producers. In the summer of 2013, I went on an agricultural tour of my riding, Joliette.

All of these people told me that the supply management system, which was chosen by the industry, is valid and effective and that the government must maintain it. The president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, Mr. Smith, said that the three pillars of supply management are still in place. These three pillars are production management, import controls and farm pricing based on production costs. I am concerned that CETA will weaken those three pillars, which is why we must make sure that the supply management system has the tools it needs to survive.

In its response to the committee's recommendation about that, the government says that Canada continues to strongly support the system on the international stage. That sounds like a good answer, but what does it really mean? As the committee indicated in the report, the dairy industry wants the government to strengthen the three pillars of supply management and to ensure a 10-year transition period to eliminate duties on milk protein isolates.

The most concrete measure in the government's response is about amending Canada's customs tariff to address the problem of goods packaged in such a way as to circumvent Canadian regulations. It would be interesting to hear more about that. That is certainly one way to circumvent our tariff barriers.

We saw this with the pizza kits that were disassembled when they got to Canada so that merchants could sell the cheese and get around the supply management system.

There were also problems in the poultry industry, when American exporters were selling us turkey as so-called mature chicken. When we go grocery shopping at Christmas, we may see the label “mature chicken”.

I was a farmer and I have never seen a mature chicken. A mature chicken is a hen or a rooster that is at the end of its reproductive years. However, it was shown that the mature chicken that is imported to Canada from the United States exceeds that country's entire production. Imagine how much poultry is not being accounted for in our supply management model.

I therefore hope that the government has done its homework on this and that that is what we are talking about here. I would even ask the government to clarify this issue.

What amendments are we talking about? When were they made? Frankly, the word “recently” does not correspond to a date on a calendar and I would like to know more.

In my riding of Joliette there are many dairy farmers, some artisanal cheese makers and a winery. These industries are among those that will have the most difficulty competing with European imports, which are often heavily subsidized. Indeed, last Sunday on La semaine verte, we learned that sheep producers in Iceland are subsidized.

That is why the NDP recommended that the government keep its promise to dairy and cheese producers. Unfortunately, our Conservative colleagues did not follow that recommendation, and I would like to know more about why since producers in those industries will need help to adapt and remain competitive.

CETA will no doubt provide many business opportunities in a number of industries and thus benefit the Canadian economy. However, it could cause a net loss for some industries that are quite prominent in the riding of Joliette, such as the dairy and cheese industries.

Could the government be more clear about the compensation these producers will receive? It is all well and good to say that they will be compensated, but how much will they get? Earlier, it was said that they would be compensated on the basis of their losses, but all that remains to be seen.

Since I used to be a farmer, I know that it helps to know where you are going, and the fact that the government is stalling right now must have producers in a cold sweat.

Another recommendation that the NDP would have liked to see in the report involves ensuring transparency in the harmonization of health standards. It is a major problem. Think about the listeriosis crisis. Quebec's artisan cheese producers lost millions of dollars in production because of preventative measures, while imported cheese arrived by the tonne and was not subjected to the same treatment.

It was said that the exporting country's food safety rules prevailed. However, in the interest of public safety, is it not important to take this more seriously and include that concern in our trade agreements?

The government recently cut the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's budget by $45 million. In the wake of the XL Foods scandal, I cannot say that I, as a Canadian, feel protected.

In a world that is increasingly interdependent trade-wise, basic common sense tells us that we should work to make our trade agreements more responsible and accountable to the people.

Earlier, I spoke about partisanship in committee. Let us look at recommendation number 5 in the government's response:

RECOMMENDATION 5

...that the Government of Canada continue to pursue additional comprehensive trade agreements to open new markets...

It is all well and good to say that, but then what happens?

Free trade became the new global economic reality more than 20 years ago. Should we not be concerned by the fact that there will be other agreements?

What is needed is a better framework and more transparency to ensure that these agreements are truly beneficial to those who matter most to us in the House: Canadians.

To conclude, I know that I did not speak to all of the recommendations, but I wanted to express my views and those of my constituents on certain parts of the report.

I would like to commend the government for supporting sugar maple growers. Quebec alone accounts for 96% of maple syrup sales abroad. It makes sense to ensure that the phrase “maple syrup” appears only on the original product, not on imitation products.

If the European Union has the necessary tools to monitor that, I would suggest that this recommendation be included in other potential agreements, notably in Asia, where we have seen the proliferation of counterfeit maple syrup.

Poverty November 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, one million children are living in poverty. That is nothing to brag about. Every month, 840,000 people in Canada have to use a food bank. The most alarming thing of all is that one-third of those people are children.

We proposed an affordable day care plan to give Canadian families a break. Why are the Conservatives refusing to help low-income families with children?

Canada Post October 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, door-to-door mail delivery is a local service that strengthens our communities and helps keeps seniors and people with reduced mobility involved in society.

Last Tuesday, Canadian Union of Postal Workers local 290 invited the people of Joliette to join them in expressing their displeasure at seeing this service disappear. Union members will deliver postcards to people, who can then return them to my office. I will be happy to accept them.

Cuts to home delivery have been announced for Joliette, Notre-Dame-des-Prairies, Saint-Charles-Borromée, Saint-Paul and Saint-Pierre. In a few months, these people will no longer have their mail delivered.

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.