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Track Ruth Ellen

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Crucial Fact

  • 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

The Budget October 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are champions of secrecy.

As a piece of legislation, the new omnibus bill makes no sense. This is what we have come to expect from the Conservatives. The content of the bill is even more concerning. The tax credit for small businesses will cost $500 million for just 800 jobs.

Seriously, why is the government proposing such an ineffective program that will not truly create jobs here in Canada?

Supporting Non-Partisan Agents of Parliament Act October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I apologize. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of naming the Prime Minister. We all make that mistake from time to time. That kind of thing happens.

As I was saying, these were people who dared to tell the government things it did not want to hear. People like Kevin Page and Marc Mayrand, well-respected people whose actions were guided by wisdom and who told the truth. That is why I am here today with my colleagues. We think that we need to stand up for these agents of Parliament.

I watched some of the testimony from the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. During the study of the bill, my colleagues repeatedly asked the government for a definition of “partisan conduct” and for reasons why this bill was needed.

No satisfactory answer was given, which makes sense, because the fact is that there have been no proven cases of conflict of interest or even the appearance of conflict of interest in the offices this bill targets.

This is what the Information Commissioner of Canada says about this bill:

[It is] difficult to understand the need for the Bill or what problem it is attempting to resolve. [It] creates a duplication of regimes. Although the stated purpose is to avoid conflicts related to “partisan activities” that term is not defined or mentioned in the Bill. [It] creates an environment that may hinder the independence and the execution of the mandate of the Office of the Information Commissioner.

Currently, the partisan activities of public servants are already regulated by Part 7 of the Public Service Employment Act, the Political Activities Regulations, and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. This leads us to again question the legitimacy and the relevance of this bill.

Fortunately, with pressure from the NDP, the Conservatives have withdrawn major parts of the bill, including the ability of members of Parliament and senators to ask for investigations of officials working in the offices of parliamentary oversight bodies that demand accountability from government. However, the government's concessions are minimal compared to the concerns of the NDP and of the agents of Parliament.

I really find it quite disappointing that the government is using public officials as punching bags and is trying to make people believe that this bill will help increase transparency.

I have been here for three and a half years and what I notice is that, all too often, this government does the opposite of the definition of transparency. Some people also accused the government of coming up with this bill as a diversion from the problems in the Senate. To that accusation, the author of the bill replies that the intent is to increase people's trust in the agents of Parliament. Personally, I think that the main issue is to increase people's trust in the government.

Mary Dawson, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, raised another interesting point before the parliamentary committee. She feels that the bill could allow anyone to attack the reputation of an employee because there is no clear definition of partisan activities or of the reasons that could justify opening an investigation.

Mary Dawson says that she is opposed to this bill because it has serious shortcomings in terms of respect for privacy and because it violates the merit principle in hiring in the public service. She adds that the Conservatives provided no witnesses in support of the bill and that they refused to answer the questions they were asked.

With the Conservatives, that does not strain belief at all.

This bill has nothing to do with transparency; its goal is to distract Canadians from this Conservative government’s repeated failures at making Parliament accountable by launching a baseless attack on the offices of the parliamentary watchdogs whose jobs are to hold the government to account.

I will close by quoting Jean-Pierre Kingsley, who headed Elections Canada from 1990 to 2007.

This bill aims to fix a problem that does not exist.

I absolutely agree with him that this bill is completely unnecessary.

Supporting Non-Partisan Agents of Parliament Act October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to Bill C-520. Yes, at first glance one might wonder why we would be opposed to more transparency. The answer to that question is that, on closer inspection, this bill seems to be the government's way of conducting trumped-up witch hunts to intimidate agents of Parliament.

Under this bill, the 10 agents of Parliament as well as their staff would have to make declarations and post them on the Internet stating whether, in the 10 previous years, they occupied a partisan position. This is yet another example of the Conservatives' narrative of attacking those who keep them accountable, as was the case with the auditor general and the chief electoral officer.

Under this bill, if members of Parliament or senators were the subject of an independent investigation by these agents of Parliament, the parliamentarians could make it hard on these agents by calling for their own investigations in order to call the agents' integrity into question. That is absurd, ridiculous and nonsensical.

The law already requires agents of Parliament to be impartial. Why create a new law? There is no need to allow people to carry out witch hunts in these offices. We have already witnessed this government attack public servants who spoke out about irregularities or who dared to tell the government things it did not want to hear.

I am thinking about Kevin Page and Marc Mayrand, well-respected men who acted with good judgment and who told the truth, but who ultimately ended up paying the price. Is that the example the government wants to set?

Health October 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we were shocked to learn about the closure of the Health Canada office in Shawinigan on Friday. This represents a loss of 34 jobs and $2.5 million in economic spinoffs for the Mauricie region. Once again, the regions are paying the price for the Conservatives' mismanagement.

Why do the people of the Mauricie region, who pay taxes like all Canadians, not have the right to economic spinoffs?

Lake Saint-Pierre Area of Prime Concern Committee October 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise today to recognize the contribution of the Lake Saint-Pierre area of prime concern committee, or ZIP committee, to environmental protection. On September 18, that organization was at the National Assembly accepting the Phoenix Award, Quebec's most prestigious environmental award.

The ZIP committee earned the award in the “non-profit organizations, non-educational institutions, research centres or associations” for its Protection project and the development of the Saint-Eugène marsh.

I want to congratulate the ZIP committee on the excellent work it does. Protecting the environment is a critical issue for everyone in the NDP.

The Saint-Eugène marsh is a valuable natural landscape in Trois-Rivières. To revitalize this wetland, the ZIP committee coordinated the reflooding and recreational development of the area and worked to increase public awareness among users.

Once again, thank you very much and congratulations to the ZIP committee.

Agriculture and Agri-Food October 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, last June, the House unanimously adopted an NDP motion.

The motion seeks to mitigate the negative impact of the trade deal with Europe on the dairy and cheese industries and reaffirm our support for the supply management system. We have not heard anything about this since the vote. This uncertainty is hurting investments, and it has to stop now.

When will the government announce the compensation it promised for dairy and cheese producers?

International Trade October 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we still have no idea what the government's strategy is for compensating the sectors affected by the trade agreement with Europe. Entire sectors of our economy are still waiting for an answer.

How will the provinces affected by the higher cost of drugs be compensated? How will cheese producers, and particularly artisanal cheese producers, be compensated? We still do not know.

When will we have clear answers for Canadians?

Agriculture and Agri-Food September 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the American government is threatening to revoke the preferential status granted to Canadian fresh fruit and vegetable producers if we do not implement a payment protection system. Once again, our farmers are paying the price for the minister's inability to work with our most important economic partner. We are talking about a $1.6 billion industry.

How does the minister intend to address this looming crisis?

Committees of the House June 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed the passionate speech from my colleague, as well as all the work she does for the environment and with the environment team.

I wonder if the member could comment on—when we form government in 2015, because the Conservatives are considered an endangered species nowadays—what she would put top of mind, along with climate change?

I would also like to note that there are a lot of students here and youth in the galleries listening to us. I know environment is very top of mind, preserving our country and making it a better place, making sure we do our best and address climate change.

I wonder if the member could comment on what she would do as environment minister, potentially, in 2015.

Dairy Producers June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am proud and pleased to rise today in the House during the second hour of debate on Motion No. 496, which supports dairy and cheese producers. I sincerely wish to thank all those who have taken part today in this important debate.

The motion that I brought forward seeks to mitigate the impact of the CETA on the dairy and cheese industries and to support Canada’s supply management system, which guarantees stable and fair prices. It comes in response to the demands of dairy and cheese producers from across Canada.

The Canadian government maintains that concessions to the dairy industry would represent annually 4% of the overall market, an amount that in its view could be easily recovered. Dairy producers on the other hand argue that 4% represents a market in excess of $300 million annually.

After speaking to producers and to Canadians, I know that they trust the supply management system. This system has truly stood the test of time. It does not cost the government or the taxpayers anything because producers do not receive any subsidies. Producers would like to see a compensation framework in place to protect supply management, which was introduced in the early 1970s to offset price instability. For the past 40 years, dairy producers have been able to rely on a stable environment and to weather the challenges of changing market conditions.

The intent here is not to initiate a debate on supply management but rather to remind the government of its importance. The agreement in principle will give the EU greater access to the Canadian cheese market, which operates under supply management. It will directly weaken one of the pillars of supply management, namely import controls, and at the same time, the effectiveness of supply management will be put at risk. The stability afforded by supply management allows producers to reinvest in their farms and to draw an income without having to rely on government assistance.

Supply management does not involve subsidies since dairy producers do not receive any kind of government assistance. By comparison, certain European producers receive government subsidies of up to 60%. Our dairy producers are therefore not on an equal footing with their European counterparts. All across the country, flourishing dairy and cheese industries are a boon to local economies. Canada produces 133,270 tons of specialty cheeses, a by no means insignificant amount. This is the end result of many years of work and innovative practices. However, I cannot help but be concerned. For every European cheese sold in our supermarkets, one Canadian cheese loses its spot on store shelves.

My motion ensures that Canadian cheese producers will receive the support they need to compete with European cheeses. It is not a question of providing financial compensation, but rather of giving them much needed support.

I want to point out that 2014 has been designated as the International Year of Family Farming. As a result of government policies, Canada has lost over 8,000 family farms since 2006. Now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand. We must take steps to ensure the survival of our farms and farm labour. Producers reinvest in their farms and in so doing, they support local suppliers and businesses, all of which helps sustain the country’s overall economy.

I know that this has already been mentioned several times this evening, but I will say it again. My motion has received the support of the Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec, the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Producteurs de lait du Québec, the Association des fromagers artisans du Québec, the UPA, Solidarité rurale du Québec and the Association des transporteurs de lait du Québec.

These groups agree that we need a long-term vision for agriculture and dairy and cheese producers. During the first hour of debate on May 28, my colleagues on the other side of the House spoke in favour of my proposal. I hope they will act accordingly.