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NDP MP for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 51.90% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

Madam Speaker, the holidays are approaching, so it would be good for Canadians to see that we are not always engaged in partisan fighting here in the House. This bill offers few improvements, but it is a positive bill. I would like to ask my colleague if she is hopeful that in committee we will be able to build on what this bill has to offer.

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Québec for her question.

She is quite right in saying that some shows can provide insight into the reality of law enforcement and peace officers at Correctional Service Canada. Their work is extremely difficult and full of challenges, and they constantly face danger.

It is sad to see that we are again going to get caught up in partisanship. Christmas is approaching. I hope that we will hear more than just the partisan messages the Conservatives want to see in their householders.

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

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

Obviously, we are recommending that this bill be studied in committee because these measures have merit. The fancy titles for these measures, however, do not, because although the measures are certainly a good addition, they do not really address the problem.

The Conservatives add these catchy titles to appeal to their law and order supporters. Clearly, there is no real commitment here.

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in response to my colleague across the aisle, I will try to avoid lapsing into the old partisan ways that usually dominate this debate here.

This tendency to suggest that we do not take crime seriously and that we do not want to put people who commit crime in prison is just so low. It reeks of cheap, pathetic partisan politics.

I would like to point out something that simply does not make sense. I am referring to a front page showing a weapon that has been made easily available to people. It is shameful. This does not please the Conservatives' little friends, the ones who fund the party.

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-12. I will refrain from repeating the title, so as not to embarrass the members across the aisle, given their ridiculous attempt to appeal to their base for campaign cash. The truth is that there is absolutely no connection between the bill's title and its objective. This is not to say that the NDP does not support the bill, for we would like to see it go the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for further study. I wish the Conservative Party would stop treating the House of Commons of Canada like a PR firm. First of all, $750 million has been spent over the years on government advertising, sometimes for legislation that has not even passed yet and now for embarrassingly amateur marketing ploys for a simple bill.

Come on. We all need to behave like adults.

Before speaking further to the major differences between the philosophy of the NDP on prevention and rehabilitation and that of the Conservative Party on repression, I would like to sincerely thank my colleagues from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and Alfred-Pellan for their excellent work on public safety files. I could not be more proud of these two individuals, who devote so much of their talent, energy and intellect to coming up with intelligent, fact-based public policy that takes into account recommendations by experts in the field.

The NDP certainly does not have all the answers, but it knows how to listen to the experts in various areas under federal jurisdiction. That way, we end up with public policies that will generally not end up before the courts, which is the Conservatives' way.

I would like to begin by pointing out the incongruity of the title of the bill: the “drug-free prisons act”. This is not a government policy. It seems more like a legitimate aspiration that we all share as parliamentarians, but it is not public policy.

The real problem is addiction in prisons. Did members know that 80% of those who go to a federal penitentiary have drug or alcohol problems? That is huge.

Instead of listening to the many recommendations made by the 20 or so witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety when it was studying alcohol and drug use in federal penitentiaries, the government is just formalizing an existing practice of the Parole Board of Canada. Nothing more, nothing less. Its only plan is to give the bill a catchy title worthy of a feature film featuring the late, great actor and comedian, Leslie Nielsen. Then the young, zealous staffers in the Prime Minister's Office will ask the Conservative Party base for donations because the Conservatives are such good public administrators.

I can say three things about Bill C-12. Once again, as is the case with the work of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and several House of Commons committees, I see that the party in power does not value committee work and that the efforts made by parliamentarians every day in these committees are brusquely rejected out of hand.

The Correctional Investigator has stated in numerous reports that the corrections system risks unintended consequences when simplistic solutions are applied to the complex issue of drugs in prisons. Bill C-12 is limited in scope and is only a tiny step in the marathon that will lead to a reduction in addiction problems in prisons.

Frankly, I have a hard time believing that the member for Lévis—Bellechasse and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is not the slightest bit embarrassed to participate in this public relations scheme that does not in any way constitute effective public policy.

Strangely enough, the government has not made any mention of the fact that the Correctional Service of Canada has admitted that the $122 million dollars the Conservatives have spent since 2008 on interdiction tools and technology to stop drugs from entering prisons has not led to any reduction in drug use in prisons. None. Oops. It has not reduced the use of drugs in prisons. Oops. It is not that difficult to come up with public policy that makes sense. The Correctional Investigator has suggested measures such as proper assessment of prisoners at intake into correctional programs in order to identify their addiction problems and give them better access to rehabilitation programs. This would help to reduce drugs and gang activity in prison.

The following is a quote from the Correctional Investigator's annual report:

A “zero-tolerance” stance to drugs in prison [is an aspiration rather than an effective policy. It] simply does not accord with the facts of crime and addiction in Canada or elsewhere in the world. Harm reduction measures within a public health and treatment orientation offer a far more promising, cost-effective and sustainable approach to reducing subsequent crime and victimization.

It seems to me that it is rather easy to ignore an annual report with a quote like that one and then to introduce a weak bill like Bill C-12.

The John Howard Society also supports Bill C-12 and the Parole Board of Canada's discretion on parole eligibility. It believes that this bill will not eliminate drugs from prisons and that this is just a tactic by the Conservatives to ignore some of the real issues in prison, such as mental illness, double-bunking, and inmate self-injury and suicide.

I want to quickly go over some of the government's contradictory public safety policies. If the Conservative government were serious about combatting drug addiction in our prisons, it would not have cut the budgets of correctional programs such as substance abuse programs, for example. It would certainly not have increased double-bunking. The government is just not able to walk the talk when it comes to public safety.

The Correctional Service of Canada budget cut announced in 2012 was $295 million—10%—over two years. Breaking the numbers down, we see that between 2% and 2.7% of its budget is allocated to core correctional programs, including substance abuse programs. Because of the cuts, that core operating budget will shrink too.

According to the Office of the Correctional Investigator, CSC's budget for substance abuse programming fell from $11 million in 2008-09 to $9 million in 2010-11. It is clear to me that these legislative measures, like mandatory minimum sentences, are increasing the prison population even as the government is shutting down certain correctional institutions. We are currently seeing an unprecedented spike in Canada's prison population.

What does all of this add up to? Correctional Service Canada has normalized double-bunking. In December 2012, the prairies were double-bunking at 21%, Ontario at 16% and now Quebec at 10%.

Correctional staff and the Correctional Investigator have repeatedly stated that this practice leads to increased violence and gang activity. The Conservative government's record is not improving; ultimately, inmates are leaving prison without treatment and are more likely to become involved in their previous criminal activities.

The figures support that hypothesis. According to the Correctional Service of Canada data warehouse, the number of offenders waitlisted to attend substance abuse programming as of November 13, 2013—excluding the Pacific and Atlantic regions—is 1,962, meaning that there are likely far more than 2,000 on wait lists now.

We should keep in mind that there are approximately 15,000 inmates in federal prisons. That means there are a lot of people on the waiting list. What it comes down to is that there is no vision and, more importantly, these weak measures are being implemented simply to fill the Conservative Party's coffers.

In contrast, the NDP has a common-sense proposal. Unlike the repressive logic of the party opposite, the NDP is determined to make communities safer with treatment and rehabilitation programs for inmates. As a result, we will be able to better address the drug and gang problems in our prisons. Moreover, inmates will be better prepared to be released into the community.

We also want to protect the safety of correctional staff by eliminating the practice of double-bunking and making sure that resources are put into treatment for offenders with addictions and mental illnesses. The best way to address addiction problems in our prisons is by treating those addictions and not by wasting $122 million on sniffer dogs and technologies that have proven ineffective.

If Bill C-12, with its ridiculous title, is the only thing this government and its pals in the Prime Minister's Office plan to do to fight drugs in our prisons, then clearly, they are not smoking the same cigarettes I am.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his visionary speech. Everyone knows that finance and numbers are his forte. I trust his analysis.

We have to admit, as the hon. member for Louis-Hébert said, this is not complicated: there are economic challenges. I think that nearly all of the western world is facing new challenges. At this very moment, the government continues to cut services and transfers, playing hardball when it comes to spending. That being said, to put it in terms of a family analogy, money is being thrown out the window.

I would like to hear my colleague talk about how much money we are losing to tax evasion.

CBC/Radio-Canada November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is the art of quoting very selectively. Like any other citizen, Mr. Vallée can complain about content from our public broadcaster.

However, when the Prime Minister's press secretary threatens an information director, that is another story. When the director took a stand, Carl Vallée wrote back that they would “have to consider other options”, and that is a threat. When those threats come from the office that controls the purse strings, that is a really big problem.

How can the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages possibly think that Canadians believe her when she says that the cuts to CBC were not ideological? Come on.

CBC/Radio-Canada November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in addition to stacking the board of directors with party cronies, the Conservatives have their hands all over CBC programming.

Outraged by a documentary that revealed the many connections between the Conservatives and ideological movements, the Prime Minister's press secretary, Carl Vallée, contacted the information director repeatedly to complain. According to the Prime Minister's Office, the documentary confirmed what it calls its “worst suspicions” about the public broadcaster.

Can the Prime Minister tell Canadians at home what those “worst suspicions” are?

Business of Supply November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her wonderful speech, which gave us a glimpse into the lives of two thalidomide victims. Once again, she was extremely dynamic.

I am wondering what she thinks about this serious problem, which occurred at the very moment these people came into the world. Today they are all about the same age. As my colleague said so well, it is only natural for people to begin to feel worried about their retirement at the age of 50 or 51. Could my colleague elaborate on that issue?

We heard testimony from thalidomide victims, and perhaps that was key in getting everyone here to stand behind these victims. We can easily understand the issue, do the math and say that it does not make sense and that they should be given some sort of income supplement.

Business of Supply November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that most parliamentarians are happy that we are discussing an injustice that has gone on for decades.

Strangely enough, I knew two people affected by thalidomide rather well. They were full of spirit and optimism in their quest for autonomy, despite the situation they were in as a result of this medical and pharmaceutical error.

We are happy to hear that the government will support this motion, but could my colleague identify the key reasons why we have been able to agree so quickly on this? There is obviously no shortage of injustices in the world. I am thinking of her own constituents.