House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was benefits.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Saint-Lambert (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 25.90% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Champlain Bridge March 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Quebec's transport minister has called on the federal government to do something about the Champlain Bridge. The importance of this infrastructure to the greater Montreal area and the rapid decline in the state of the bridge require immediate action. Like municipal officials and representatives of the Montreal and south shore chambers of commerce, Quebec's transport minister is calling for a new bridge. Mr. Hamad wants a decision before the summer.

Does the Minister of Transport realize that his government's indifference to the needs of Quebec could trigger an election?

Champlain Bridge March 23rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives managed to find the money needed to build a new bridge in Windsor, Ontario. They even advanced $550 million to help Michigan pay for its share. However, when the time comes to replace the busiest bridge in Canada, which is in Quebec, they cannot come up with the money. That is just wrong.

When will Quebec's needs get the same attention as the needs of Ontario and Michigan?

Champlain Bridge March 23rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, in a letter published in La Presse, the Minister of Transport continues to deny the facts. Although engineers have said that some sections of the Champlain Bridge could collapse, the minister continues to claim that the bridge is safe and that construction of a new bridge can wait.

Does the Minister of Transport realize that it is his indifference to the needs of Quebec that could trigger an election?

Champlain Bridge March 22nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the business community in Montreal and on the south shore is devastated at the idea of the Champlain Bridge being out of service for safety reasons. Some $2 billion worth of goods cross that bridge every year and 165,000 vehicles cross it every day. If the bridge had to close, the situation would be catastrophic, according to representatives of the chambers of commerce.

Does the government intend to listen to the engineers, the business community and the commuters who are calling for a new bridge?

Champlain Bridge March 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the minister is mistaken if he thinks that the band-aid solutions announced by his government will be sufficient to fix the Champlain Bridge, which, according to all the studies and reports published to date, is unsafe and has reached the end of its useful life.

What is the minister waiting for to listen to the engineers consulted by his department and announce the construction of a new bridge?

Champlain Bridge March 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport is hard to follow. Last February, he said in all seriousness that the Champlain Bridge was completely safe and that he did not see any urgent need to repair it. Since that time, we have learned that, for several months now, his department has had reports from engineers confirming that the Champlain Bridge is unsafe.

How can the Minister of Transport claim that the bridge is safe when the reports from the Federal Bridge Corporation say that the bridge is at risk of collapsing? How can a bridge at risk of collapsing be safe?

Protection of Beneficiaries of Long Term Disability Benefits Plans Act March 11th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here this afternoon to speak to Bill C-624, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (providing protection for beneficiaries of long term disability benefits plans).

This bill amends the existing legislation in order that, in bankruptcy proceedings, the status of a preferred claim be conferred to the liabilities of the fund established for the purpose of a long term disability benefits plan and that such fund be used to continue the payment of benefits to the beneficiaries.

This bill was introduced in response to the situation facing former Nortel employees with disabilities, as my colleagues said earlier. Indeed, I would like to remind the House of the sad story involving these employees, whose disability benefits have all but disappeared. On December 31, 2010, nearly two years after seeking bankruptcy protection, Nortel emptied its health and welfare trust and cut off 360 people with disabilities, including over 50 Quebeckers. Like many large corporations, Nortel provided its employees with disability insurance. Those employees also had the option to pay higher premiums for better coverage. The employees with disabilities who paid their premiums to SunLife thought they were properly insured. The employees learned the hard way that Nortel was responsible for guaranteeing the disability benefits out of its own funds. SunLife simply managed the program.

By seeking protection under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act in January 2009, Nortel stopped putting aside money for its employees with disabilities. So, with Nortel's bankruptcy, people with hefty medical expenses lost a huge portion of their income. These people are desperate and are, by far, the most vulnerable of Nortel's creditors, since they have lost 90% of their benefits.

The group advocating for Nortel employees with disabilities has provided appalling statistics on the poverty inflicted on these people in early 2011. Under the final settlement, they receive an annual amount representing 27% to 33% of what they previously received. In concrete terms, this means that average income of $30,900 was reduced to $13,600 in early 2011. As for those who made optional disability insurance contributions, they saw their income fall from $43,300 to $16,900 a year.

Those not receiving disability benefits under the Canada pension plan, because they have never applied or do not meet the criteria for disability as defined by the Canada pension plan, are even worse off: their average income has dropped from $30,900 to $6,500 a year.

Suffering from mental illness, cancer, multiple sclerosis and other serious illnesses, these people are in an untenable position. Furthermore, the 360 people laid off in December have 160 children.They have families to support and medical expenses to pay.

Nortel's long-term disability plan was administered by Nortel's health and welfare trust, and funded quarterly by Nortel's general revenues. When the company went bankrupt, the health trust was no longer able to meet its commitments to disabled employees.

Two problems surfaced. On the one hand, in the event of bankruptcy, recipients of disability benefits are considered to be unsecured creditors, just like suppliers or bondholders. Given that Nortel found itself in a position where it was unable to meet its obligations towards all creditors, unsecured creditors were severely penalized.

When Nortel became insolvent, monthly benefits provided to employees on long-term disability were categorized as unsecured claims.

On the other hand, disabled Nortel workers appear to be the victims of misrepresentation. They believed that their disability benefits were guaranteed by Sun Life. Evidently, they believed they were insured by Sun Life. In fact, Nortel's disability plan was self-insured, and not backed by an insurance company.

In light of this tragic state of affairs, many employees with disabilities have asked that the bankruptcy laws be revised to ensure that disabled employees become secured creditors in the event of bankruptcy.

The bill has just one goal and that is to confer the status of a preferred claim to disability benefits plans in the event of bankruptcy or restructuring. An estimated 1.1 million people receive disability benefits in Canada through a self-insured plan. Currently, if their employer declares bankruptcy, they are considered ordinary creditors. If Bill C-624 passes, their disability benefits will be protected.

The Bloc Québécois feels that above all, we must ensure that these types of situations never happen again. More specifically, employees who are part of a self-insured disability plan should be informed of all the terms and conditions. In that vein, an obligation of transparency, like the one in Ontario and in Alberta, could be imposed on all self-insured plans under federal jurisdiction. If that requirement is not met, the officers could be held personally liable, as is the case for source deductions.

The Bloc Québécois proposes requiring all self-insured plans under federal jurisdiction to be drafted in very clear terms. The Bloc Québécois also proposes considering the feasibility of regulating self-insured plans more in order to better protect the insured. At the same time, and because there is still a risk that disabled employees will be wronged, it is necessary to ensure that in the event of bankruptcy, they are among the first to be paid, therefore before banks and not after.

We support Bill C-624 in principle, mainly because disability benefits are usually more important for people with disabilities than loans are for banks. Unlike financial institutions, people with disabilities do not have the same capacity to absorb a loss of income. People with disabilities generally do not have any way to protect themselves when their employer experiences financial difficulties. It is also difficult for an employee to assess the risks of working for a given company, particularly in cases where there is a risk of misrepresentation, for example, the case of a self-insurance plan.

For all of these reasons, the demands of former Nortel employees with disabilities must be heard. They have significant medical bills to pay and have very few resources for dealing with the situation facing them. We have to act quickly to help these people. Canadian bankruptcy laws are not fair to people with disabilities. Changes must be made quickly and the Conservative government has the responsibility to take immediate concrete action to remedy this situation. It is a question of justice and dignity. The Bloc Québécois therefore supports the idea of granting people with disabilities preferred creditor status.

Human Resources and Skills Development March 11th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities adopted a motion calling on the government to increase the budget for the Canada summer jobs program to account for the higher cost of living and minimum wage. Since we are talking about the regions, this program allows thousands of young students to gain valuable work experience in their region.

Will the minister immediately increase that program's budget so that it reflects today's reality, as called for by hundreds of organizations and municipalities across Quebec?

Violence Against Women March 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, while International Women's Day offers us an opportunity to celebrate our achievements, I would like to draw the attention of the members to a more sobering topic: violence against women.

Since 2002, an estimated 12 young women in Canada have lost their lives in so-called honour killings. They were killed for supposedly having brought disgrace upon their families.

In 2007, spousal violence represented 94% of Canada's crime.

In 61% of cases reported to police, more than one violent incident had occurred.

In addition to being more likely to experience spousal violence, 54% of aboriginal women will be victims of the most severe forms of violence compared with 37% of non-aboriginal women.

Let us also recall that more than 600 aboriginal women have been declared missing, and the Conservatives refuse to launch an inquiry.

We need to put an end to this scourge.

Employment Insurance February 18th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, instead of improving the employment insurance system, the Conservatives are limiting access to EI by not renewing the pilot project for regions with a high rate of seasonal employment. In the Gaspé and on the Magdalen Islands, this change has had dramatic consequences.

Will the government show some compassion and reinstate pilot project No. 13 to help seasonal workers?