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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
Committees of the House May 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, once again, I listened to the speech given by my colleague opposite.
I would like to ask him a question. How can he ask us to support this kind of initiative when the government is making political hay by broadcasting ads about a program that the provinces have not yet been able to weigh in on?
Committees of the House May 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, my Conservative colleague across the way behaved very rudely. He blabbered on while my colleague was responding. This kind of behaviour and lack of respect is typical of the Conservatives.
I would like to know whether she thinks this government's biggest challenge is basically to agree, to come to a consensus and to talk with other levels of government, particularly when we know there are horror stories in her region. In fact, some owners are exaggerating about the living conditions of temporary workers employed by fast food chains.
Library and Archives Canada May 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, anyone appointed by the Conservatives clearly enjoys playing with taxpayers' money. After what happened with Senator Duffy, Senator Wallin and Senator Brazeau, now we learn that el señor Daniel Caron also treated himself, spending $170,000 of taxpayers' money at the Rideau Club and on trips to Puerto Rico and Australia in 2011 and 2012. Meanwhile, at Library and Archives Canada, he was gutting important programs and muzzling archivists with a code of conduct that was controversial, to say the least.
Will the Conservatives finally do the right thing and appoint a serious and dedicated chief librarian at Library and Archives Canada?
Business of Supply May 9th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his very pertinent speech, which raises concerns about how this country is governed.
I was wondering if he thinks that there is almost a systematic link to the culture of secrecy that exists within the Prime Minister's office and clearly dictates decisions and choices.
My colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie mentioned the unbelievable meddling in the CBC. I wonder if the ministers responsible for these agencies and crown corporations are even aware of the proposals in this bill.
Does my colleague agree that this notion of secrecy that drives the Conservatives can result in this type of huge mistake?
Anaphylaxis May 8th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I understand. The subject of this evening's debate is not all that dangerous, fortunately. Some other bills could require props that are much more compromising. I will hide these.
The EpiPen was initially marketed to treat insect bites. Now, of course, it is used much more commonly for food allergies. Indeed, anaphylactic shock is a little like an overreaction in the body's defence system.
I myself have twice experienced anaphylactic shock, which led to unconsciousness and hospitalization. Patients usually have to be intubated in order to protect the airways. An epinephrine injection is supposed to contract the blood vessels in order to return the person's blood pressure to normal. Anaphylaxis is certainly linked to many allergies, but food allergies are by far the most common trigger.
March 21 was food allergy awareness day in Quebec. I would like to quote an excerpt from a press release issued by the Association québécoise des allergies alimentaires:
Food allergies constitute a major and fast-growing health problem. Approximately 300,000 Quebeckers suffer from food allergies, which represents 4% of the adult population and between 6% and 8% of children. Between 1997 and 2007, there was an 18% increase in the number of food allergy sufferers under the age of 18. These allergies can trigger an anaphylactic reaction at any time, which can cause death within just a few minutes. About half of the 150 or so food allergy deaths in the United States each year are caused by peanut allergies. That is why the AQAA, or Association québécoise des allergies alimentaires, has joined a coalition that is proposing an official policy for managing anaphylaxis in Quebec schools. Such a policy would help to reduce the number of anaphylactic reactions among children and help us manage them properly when they do occur, thereby reducing the level of associated risk.
I found it relevant to bring my EpiPen because I do not think there are 3,000 solutions to anaphylactic reactions. An injection of epinephrine or adrenalin is the immediate antidote that prevents the worst from happening. What is unbelievably sad about this, as our health critic just said, is that not all Canadians have insurance to cover the cost of medication.
The cost of this medication is prohibitive. In general, we are talking about $100 a syringe. I always have two on me because one syringe lasts for 20 to 40 minutes. People who come into contact with an allergenic substance and are in an urban area with a hospital nearby can use the syringe and inform hospital personnel that they think they have had an anaphylactic reaction.
If people know that they are not going to be close to a hospital, then having two syringes is far from an unnecessary precaution since it means that they will have a double dose on hand. Now, I cannot assume that a second dose will have the same effect. I do not imagine that a person can prevent an anaphylactic reaction for three days by taking 19 doses. I do not think that is how it works, but I have not checked. In any case, I always have $200 worth of medical equipment with me.
We are very fortunate that my two daughters did not inherit this allergy and have not had to live with this stress at school. However, young children who are three, four, five and six years of age carry EpiPens, and that is a big responsibility for them. It is a financial responsibility, but first and foremost it is about health and protecting oneself. It is a major responsibility.
This allergy protection system is quite costly. Fortunately, in Quebec, we are better protected because we contribute to a public prescription drug insurance plan. However, I cannot help but think of the other provinces where there are families that are keeping track of every penny and having trouble making ends meet, families that, sadly, have a child with allergies. These families must ensure that their children have an EpiPen in their bag before they leave for school.
It is a huge responsibility. As someone mentioned earlier, an EpiPen rarely lasts more than a year before it reaches its expiration date. It therefore needs to be replaced every year. It is simple math: to be on the safe side, a person needs to have two EpiPens. If we do the math, for a child diagnosed at age 3 or 4, who needs to have EpiPens on him once he goes to school, it will cost $200 a year times five or six, depending on the number of years. It adds up.
What we just saw is quite sad, and I understand what my colleague was saying earlier. We are being asked to support this bill, and it goes without saying that we will. However, I cannot help but point something out. Earlier, I noted the result of the vote on the motion to reduce sodium intake in Canada. It was a very important motion. No one can be against doing the right thing. Once again, as usual, the government opposite rather rudely gave us a big fat “no”, with a vote of 147 to 122 against the motion. I think adopting this type of policy is a no-brainer.
The point I want to make is that, at a school, there is a greater chance of an anaphylactic reaction occurring than a fire. If schools are equipped with fire extinguishers, then they should absolutely be equipped with EpiPens.
Anaphylaxis May 8th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I must acknowledge that I really appreciated the speech by the member opposite. I never thought I would say that. I thought his presentation was very well done. Unfortunately, he is not listening to my compliments, but that is all right. I really did find his approach to the subject intriguing. it was very meticulous. I am very allergic to peanuts, so I speak from experience.
I will read the motion by the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook, because sometimes we forget what we are talking about.
That, in the opinion of the House, anaphylaxis is a serious concern for an increasing number of Canadians and the government should take the appropriate measures necessary to ensure these Canadians are able to maintain a high quality of life.
I would like to read a definition. I could give a very personal definition of anaphylaxis. However, this is the definition found on the site allerg.qc.ca:
There is no universal definition for anaphylaxis, but it may be defined as a serious allergic reaction that has a rapid onset and is potentially fatal. It is generally characterized by the appearance of several signs and symptoms involving one or multiple bodily systems.
What is the mechanism of an anaphylactic reaction? The answer is very interesting. The following quote is from the same site:
In most cases of anaphylaxis, the reaction occurs when antibodies...recognize a particular allergen. When these antibodies are in the presence of this allergen, there is an activation of certain cell types...which leads to the liberation of different inflammatory products that can affect all the organs and systems in the body.
The word “inflammatory” is important here, because it is the root of the problem. It seems as though the inflammation would be a welcome reaction, but it can affect the trachea, which makes it difficult for an individual to breathe. The site goes on to say:
This is the reason for the variety of signs and symptoms that may be observed during an allergic reaction. It is also possible to observe the phenomenon known as a biphasic reaction...
The reaction is phase one. A second reaction can follow much later because there are two phases. That is when you see the second reaction.
What can cause an anaphylactic reaction? There are many triggers, including food. As my colleague across the way said, eight foods are responsible for 93% of reactions in children. They are eggs, peanuts, milk, soya, nuts, fish, shellfish and wheat. The most common food allergens for older children and adults are peanuts, shellfish, nuts and fish.
People can also be allergic to certain medications or insect bites. I invite all of my colleagues to come look at an EpiPen syringe. The concept is very simple. When EpiPens first came on the market, they were primarily meant for bee stings.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend a warm thank you to my colleague for her welcome at the start of my speech. I must say that she is very tolerant, because she was quite hidden behind a barricade.
Her question is entirely in keeping with her conscientiousness and her meeting, yesterday, with people who were concerned about journalistic freedom of expression. It is crucial.
All journalists have the right to hope for access to an objective desk and to tell stories that reflect reality as they perceive it in their work. It is extremely important and worrisome to see that it is not just on environmental issues that we look like dunces on the international scene; we look bad on this issue, too.
The bills that have been introduced recently, including Bill C-461, clearly stem from a narrow-minded vision, a relentless attack on a corporation—
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals and the NDP do not always agree, but I should acknowledge here that my colleague has touched on a very specific and apt point: the Prime Minister and his government have no interest in the provinces and do not want to consult them.
The Conservatives obviously believe they have all the answers regarding what should be done and what is realistic and pragmatic. As with most of the files we have been dealing with for the past few months, if not two years now, the government will impose a very narrow vision that sidesteps any consultation of the provincial premiers.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and for being so passionate about identity issues.
He is correct. The CBC is definitely the most objective source of information for all Canadians. Unfortunately, that is what is in jeopardy here. The CBC is a crown corporation, and it objectively reports the news about different trends in the country every night. Unfortunately, that is currently in jeopardy. It cannot work any other way.
For example, if a journalist talks about an EI protest in the Magdalen Islands, he will find out the hard way that he should not have done so when the time comes to negotiate his contract with the government.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I do not want to waste precious time, so I will begin speaking about Bill C-60.
The measures set out in Bill C-60 concerning the CBC could not have come with more ironic timing. Last Friday was World Press Freedom Day.
Throughout the world, May 3 serves as a reminder of the important role a pluralistic, free, independent press plays in a democracy. However, this year also marked Canada's drop in the world press freedom index rankings. Last year, Reporters Without Borders, a respected organization, ranked us 10th. This year, Canada is ranked 20th, behind Costa Rica, Namibia, Andorra and Liechtenstein. We fell 10 spots in one year.
Reporters Without Borders mentions a number of factors to explain this astonishing drop. It noted the Government of Canada's actions, specifically the threats to the confidentiality of journalists’ sources. Take note, members opposite.
The government finds itself in a serious and surprising situation. This is another brick in the wall of shame that is actively being built here in Ottawa. Our international reputation is all but destroyed. Do I need to point that out? Moreover, the government is steadily attacking the CBC day after day, which is only making matters worse.
Those attacks continue with Bill C-60, which allows the government to have a say in employees' working conditions and certain journalists' salaries. That is a shocking infringement on the public broadcaster's independence. It is clear that Bill C-60 challenges the CBC's independence, particularly its journalistic and editorial independence.
Canadians across the country have been writing to us—to me and my colleagues—for days to express their dismay and anger over the government's attempt to hijack management of the CBC. The CBC has been at arm's length from the government for nearly 80 years; it is a democratic tradition.
Liberal and Conservative prime ministers have done what they had to do throughout that time; that is, a number of governments from both parties have taken the opportunity to cut the CBC’s budget, but they all have chosen to respect the independence of the public broadcaster. Governments come and go, but they do not meddle with the independence of the CBC.
Today, it is clear that it is not very difficult to tear that down. It takes an insidious bill, a bill like this one, that gives the government the right to impose collective agreements, to decide the terms of employment for non-unionized employees and the salaries of journalists, bureau chiefs and news anchors.
To date, every government had restrained itself and chosen to respect a broadcaster funded by taxpayers, yes, but accountable not to the government, but directly to the public. It is that very restraint that characterizes the conduct of democratic governments toward the public broadcasters they fund.
Over the last few days, hundreds of Canadians have written to me as heritage critic for the official opposition and to my colleagues. I am sure that members in the government benches across the floor have also received a lot of emails about this. Canadians are angry about this attempt to threaten the independence of the CBC. Canadians are angry about the government's attempt to end 80 years of independent public broadcasting in this country, free from interference from the government.
I have the feeling that people are frankly outraged that the government would dare to meddle with what is actually a democratic tradition in Canada: the healthy distance between government and public broadcaster.
It is that distance that means that a CBC journalist can report that $3.1 billion simply disappeared from the government’s books and still know that his employer will not be asking him to tone it down in the next report because the minister is twisting its arm. It is that distance that means that a news anchor can decide that such information deserves to be given to Canadians, without having to worry that the government thus tarnished might decide to interfere in his next employment contract.
We see that the government wants to apply the same medicine to other cultural crown corporations like the National Arts Centre, Telefilm Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts. The cultural community is speaking out against this. The Independent Media Arts Alliance, in particular, has denounced the threat to the statutory independence of the Canada Council for the Arts. In a letter to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the alliance states that doing this is harmful to the spirit and principle of a crown corporation.
I note that these principles of independence are laid out by the Canada Council for the Arts. In its fundamental values, it states that it maintains “an arm’s length relationship from government, which allows the Council to develop policies and programs and make decisions without undue political pressure or influence”.
The Canada Council also supports “freedom of artistic expression from control or dominance by external forces such as governments and markets”, a value to be reinforced by the arm’s length relationship.
We know that these measures will have a negative effect on the delivery of the services provided by these cultural agencies and their ability to attract personnel.
Obviously, the Conservatives’ goal is to diminish the independence of these public institutions, which play important roles for creators in particular. The Conservatives seem to be exhibiting a complete lack of interest in the very concept of an independent crown corporation: the space there has to be between government, politics and crown corporations.
The leader of our party, my colleague from Outremont, summarized the problem well yesterday afternoon. When it comes to advancing its ideological agenda, the government is not the least bit bothered about interfering with independent crown corporations. For example, it tells them how to manage their employees, how to administer collective agreements, what salaries are appropriate and how many pencil sharpeners and paper clips they should buy.
However, when a problem arises in those crown corporations, the government waves the white flag and says it has nothing to do with them. When a crown corporation makes a mistake or its managers do something wrong, all of a sudden the government cannot do anything. They are independent crown corporations. That is very handy. Suddenly, the statutory independence and arm’s length status of crown corporations is back in fashion, according to the government.
But it gets worse. As members undoubtedly know, Library and Archives Canada is our national archives. It is an institution that is the guardian of our most precious historical documents and even a few artifacts from the War of 1812—for the pleasure of Library and Archives Canada. However, things are not going well over there. In the opinion of the archivists, librarians, archaeologists, historians and numerous professions that have previously been represented at Library and Archives Canada, things are even going very badly.
Acquisitions of historical documents have virtually come to a halt. There has been a full stop in document lending to other libraries, researchers and historians not based in the national capital.
Let us talk about this code of conduct imposed on the employees, professionals, experts and scientists at Library and Archives Canada, prohibiting them from attending conferences without authorization, one of several faux pas—including the one we talked about earlier—of a public institution out of control.
When we went to see the Minister of Heritage, who incidentally seemed embarrassed, and we asked him whether he was going to intervene and whether he thought, as we did, that all this was going too far, he dared answer us that Library and Archives Canada is an independent crown corporation. That is what he said in the House and subsequently in Le Devoir.
Once again, if a problem arises that makes them uncomfortable, they quickly hit the panic button and say it is not their fault.
In this case, however, the minister is on the wrong track because Library and Archives Canada is not at all an independent crown corporation. Not at all. According to its mandate, it is part of the federal government under the administration of the Minister of Heritage. There is nothing less independent than that, unless the minister himself fills the coffee machine.
It seems difficult for this government to grasp the concepts of crown corporation, independence from government, arm's length and independence. They seem subtle. These crown corporations are independent. This is not complicated. For better or for worse, whether or not it pleases the government, they are constituted as entities independent of the government, in the public interest, because they must have some distance from political power.
As for the government, the Conservative Party may make a show of many principles, but I would like it to show a little consistency. Are crown corporations independent or not? They will have to make a choice.
In conclusion, apart from this budget that hurts the Canadian economy, apart from these same old solutions, as the Parliamentary Budget Officer has shown, these same old austerity measures that will slow growth and cost thousands of jobs, apart from this economic shambles and lack of vision, hundreds of people have written to us because they are concerned about the independence of their public broadcaster, the CBC.
Ian Morrison, the spokesman for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, recalled that the difference between a public broadcaster and a state broadcaster lies in its distance from the government.
In addition, tens of thousands of signatories to petitions, including that of friends.ca, have reaffirmed their support for the independence of the CBC.
CBC management clearly questions the relevance of this government initiative. It states that its employees are neither public servants nor servants of Her Majesty, and it says it needs flexibility so that it can attract the necessary talent.
CBC unions have denounced the attack on free collective bargaining and the fact that the government is taking control, violating the Telecommunications Act and giving itself the right to intervene in the CBC's production operations, finances and day-to-day business.
Like many other crown corporations, in particular cultural ones, the CBC must remain free of political interference. Public broadcasting, by its very nature, means that the broadcaster represents and speaks on behalf of our culture, not the government.
I join the legions of Canadians who are opposed to this attempt to undermine the independence of public broadcasting in this country, and I urge the government to abandon this measure.