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  • Her favourite word is farmers.

NDP MP for Berthier—Maskinongé (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 39.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Housing December 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, according to the Coalition d'aide aux victimes de la pyrrhotite, there are apparently 10 new cases of pyrrhotite a week, and 4,000 people in the Mauricie region are affected.

Their properties are losing value, which is causing health and debt problems. There are even cases of suicide. Victims are calling on all elected officials for support.

What will the Conservative government do? Will it respond?

Public Works and Government Services November 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in October, 34 Health Canada compensation professionals in Shawinigan were let go. Their jobs were transferred to New Brunswick. That represents a loss of $1.5 million in direct spinoffs for Mauricie.

I recently met those workers, who still want to work for the federal public service in Mauricie.

Will the minister at least try to find positions for them in federal offices in Shawinigan?

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague. I doubt I would have time to list all 16 of our amendments in one minute. Most importantly, we wanted to take away the minister's right to secretly and undemocratically revoke farmers' privilege. People are talking about this issue not only in Quebec, but in all the other provinces too.

I also received other petitions supporting our amendments to Bill C-18. It is important to strengthen farmers' privilege and ensure a better balance.

All we were asking for was a proper balance and that it be put in black and white that our farmers can save, clean and trade their own seeds. We also wanted farmers to be consulted, because this bill is one of the most important bills on agriculture. Basically, one of our amendments called on the government to do more consultation with the industry.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for that great question.

This omnibus bill will amend nine different laws. Nonetheless, we support several aspects of Bill C-18. That is why our party decided to send it for study by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, in the hopes that there would be meaningful debate and a balanced number of witnesses from both sides.

Even the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food himself, when he appeared before the committee, said that there were changes to be made to the bill. We had reason to believe that the government would listen and not turn a deaf ear, as is often the case.

Unfortunately, the government rejected our 16 common-sense amendments that received support from many witnesses. What is more, the majority of witnesses and people from the agriculture and agri-food industry who support this bill had suggestions about how it could be improved.

I do not know why this government is so closed to any proposed suggestions for improving this bill. It is unfortunate.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Timmins—James Bay.

It is truly an honour for me to rise to speak to Bill C-18 for the third time. It is an omnibus bill, and I had a chance to examine it at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, where we did a thorough study and heard from many witnesses. It is therefore a real honour for me to talk about Bill C-18 again here today.

This is a rather complex bill. It is an omnibus bill that amends nine existing laws. We agree with several aspects of the bill. It does include some improvements, but as it is written, it could lead to many problems, which were identified at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

I repeat, we cannot support this bill because there are gaps. It does not address all the needs of the agricultural sector. If you aim big, why not do things right? The witnesses mentioned that there were things missing in this bill. It is not enough to align our legislation with UPOV 1991 so that, as though by magic, everything is fixed. We have to consider mistakes made by other countries and have a good understanding of the Canadian reality to ensure that the changes we make are as comprehensive as possible. Unfortunately, as drafted, Bill C-18 does not do that.

In order to ensure that everyone understands what the bill is all about, I will quickly recap what Bill C-18 will do and the risks it entails.

First of all, Bill C-18 will move Canada from UPOV 1978 to UPOV 1991. This has a number of consequences for the Plant Breeders' Rights Act. According to the government, the UPOV 1991 treaty will give breeders additional protection and promote private investment.

The most important changes will expand the scope of plant breeders' rights, provide interim protection for a new variety and extend the term of protected rights.

Essentially, breeders now have the following exclusive rights: the right to reproduce propagating material; the right to condition, sell, export or import material; the right to make repeated use of material to produce commercially another plant variety if the repetition is necessary; and the right to stock propagating material for the purpose of exercising other plant breeders' rights. When we look at this list it is hard to see where there might be a problem. The problem is that the Conservative government has extended the powers of plant breeders so much, in order to promote private investment, that they are at a much greater advantage compared to farmers.

Farmers have even lost the right to clean, trade and resell their seeds. What is more, plant breeders have the power to charge royalties to farmers at any time without any regard for their harvests. What we are being told is not reassuring: the competition among breeders will govern the balance of power and everything will be just fine.

It makes me wonder: why not ensure from the get-go that everything will be just fine by taking the valuable advice of our witnesses, protecting farmers' ancestral rights and limiting breeders' powers to charge royalties?

To sum up this part, Bill C-18 might help us move ahead by harmonizing the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act with UPOV '91 because it protects intellectual property and encourages innovation. The problem is that the way Bill C-18 is drafted, it might also set us back. In fact, it rolls back farmers' rights.

What is more, given the expansion of plant breeders’ rights under Bill C-18, it is likely that farmers will face increased litigation.

However, producers may well be on an extremely uneven financial playing field with plant breeders. There are no provisions in Bill C-18 to ensure that legal fees do not impede farmers’ defence in such cases.

As it happened in Germany, this bill's lack of clarity could lead to a number of legal loopholes that will clog our courts and place an additional burden on our farmers. In other words, Bill C-18 does not provide sufficient protection for farmers against the potential abuse of power by breeders. It is not balanced enough.

I would like to come back to the changes made in order to pass and amend legislation without going through Parliament. Now, laws can be amended through incorporation by reference. That means that any document can be included in the regulations associated with any of these acts through incorporation by reference. In other words, the current government can amend the act without Parliament's consent. This is nothing new. We have seen it in a number of bills introduced by this government.

The government and its senior officials justified this addition by saying that it was needed to ensure the act could be adjusted in response to various contingencies. Although I appreciate the government and its senior officials' commitment to efficiency, the amendments made to a law through incorporation by reference should be voted on or studied by the House or at least the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. That would be a good idea.

What is more, Bill C-18 grants the Governor in Council the ability to make significant changes to the governing of various products, including to safety provisions, without the parliamentary oversight of legislative change. For example, the Governor in Council could establish regulations concerning the manufacturing, sale and shipping of products between provinces without even consulting the provinces or the House of Commons.

These strengthened powers are in addition to the changes made to the minister's authority in various laws. From now on, the minister may, subject to the regulations, suspend, cancel or renew a registration or licence and exempt someone or something from one or more regulations. The minister can do what he wants without any conditions. At the risk of repeating myself, this type of power could politicize the agricultural industry.

If it so chooses, the party in power could favour one company or even an entire sector over another, without the consent of Parliament. We know that it can sometimes be cumbersome to present and approve these changes in the House, but this process is a necessary part of democracy. The agricultural sector must absolutely not become subject or vulnerable to political interests.

In conclusion, I want to say that I support innovation and the protection of intellectual property, but I believe we must ensure that all Canadian farmers and public sector researchers are protected. I want to be sure that Canadians have access to our agricultural heritage and that they can take advantage of it. We need to ensure that new seeds are just as good—if not better—than existing ones, and we need to protect universal access to our common heritage of public seeds.

We also need to ensure that farmers or their representatives have a say about how intellectual property laws are applied and about any regulatory changes that would affect them, by eliminating the minister's authority to regulate amendments and the rights to exemptions.

Although some claim that this bill is necessary for the agricultural sector, I cannot ignore the fact that this bill will create new problems, especially since witnesses told us the same thing and they suggested solutions. That is why we presented 16 amendments. It is very sad to see such a lack of openness on the part of this government.

However, I can say that I am very proud of the work our party has done and of the fact that we are against Bill C-18.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his wonderful speech.

I have a comment related to a question from my colleague from Hochelaga.

She talked about how important public research is. As we all know, the Conservative government has cut 700 research positions at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada since 2013.

I would like my colleague to comment on what kind of message the government's decision to cut 700 research and innovation positions sends about the importance of public research in Canada and the respect it deserves.

Agriculture and Agri-Food November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, because of the lack of payment protection for produce sellers, in October, agribusinesses in Canada lost their privileged access to the United States.

Will the government stop hurting fruit and vegetable farmers and harmonize its policies to better protect fresh produce companies when their clients go bankrupt?

International Trade November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, over time, hundreds of high-quality Canadian cheeses have made their way to our tables.

However, the Conservatives have now opened our country's door to thousands of tonnes of subsidized European cheeses. The Conservatives promised a compensation plan, but we have yet to see anything one year later.

Where is the compensation plan for Canadian and Quebec dairy and cheese producers?

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely thank my colleague from Joliette for her speech this evening and also for the good work she does on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food. I also want to mention what a good job she does representing her constituents. As members may know, the riding of Berthier—Maskinongé is right next to my colleague's riding of Joliette.

I just wanted to talk about the fact that 17,000 additional tonnes of cheese will be imported under the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. I know that a number of stakeholders, especially in Quebec, had some serious concerns about this breach. A number of groups told us that if the agreement was implemented as is, it would undermine our supply management system.

I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about the concerns in the province of Quebec, which produces a number of high-quality cheeses. Could she also talk about future trade agreements—perhaps the trans-Pacific partnership—about the uncertainty facing dairy farmers and about the future of supply management in Canada?

Agriculture and Agri-Food November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we are entering the home stretch in the negotiations for the trans-Pacific partnership. New Zealand and the United States are demanding that we abandon supply management and yet the minister is saying that everything is going well. The stability provided by supply management allows us to maintain 215,000 jobs in the dairy industry in different parts of the country.

Will the government again sacrifice dairy producers on the altar of free trade, or will it protect supply management, which is so vital for our regions?