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  • Her favourite word is parents.

Independent MP for Verchères—Les Patriotes (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 43.30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway and Trade Corridor April 26th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to trade, we have no idea where this government is headed.

In 2007, the Conservatives signed a memorandum of understanding with the governments of Quebec and Ontario to develop a strategy for the Ontario-Quebec continental gateway and trade corridor.

Six years later, we are still waiting for this great strategy.

The Prime Minister was to make an announcement about it on a number of occasions, but each time he put it off.

How much longer will we have to wait before we find out what the Conservatives really have in mind? When will they ratify the agreement.

People of Saint-Amable April 26th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Saint-Amable, a thriving municipality in my riding.

I would like to congratulate the people of Saint-Amable for their perseverance. In 2006, when a parasite decimated potato crops—which have long been the economic mainstay of the municipality—the people did not give up. They rolled up their sleeves and got innovative. Now they grow asparagus and hemp, and there is even a vineyard.

As well, the municipality decided to use the infestation as an opportunity to create a research centre at one of the affected sites, in partnership with the Marguerite d'Youville local development centre and the Université de Sherbrooke.

Another example of this community's perseverance is Ms. Lamarche's company, Béké-Bobo, which has been making teddy bears and other products for infants and children since 1999. These organic products are made in Quebec. I would like to say hello to her daughter, Camillie, who is in the hospital. Get well soon.

To conclude, I would like to take a moment to honour my mother, Khédija Bouchnak, who passed away nearly two months ago. We miss her dearly. She was dignified and upright, an exceptional woman. Everything I am today, I am because of her.

May her soul rest in peace through the infinite mercy of God.

[Member spoke in Arabic, as follows:]

Allah yar7mek ommi la3ziza.

Employment Insurance February 13th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the only study the minister has is the study on the quotas for cuts she is imposing on her department.

Workers looking for jobs will have to leave the local businesses in Verchères—Les Patriotes and clog up the road system going to jobs that pay 30% less in Montreal. Productivity will drop at local businesses as invaluable expertise leaves.

Why does the minister want to weaken local businesses?

Canada Labour Code February 4th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for asking that excellent question.

A multiple pregnancy generally results in some health problems and multiples, for example those born prematurely, may have serious health issues. A woman who gives birth to multiples may also experience serious postpartum health problems.

Therefore it is very important to allow the mother the time she needs to recover, with the help of the father who stays home to care for one or both babies in order to give her time to catch her breath, slowly get back on her feet and return to work later. Even her employer will benefit, because she will be healthier, both mentally and physically, when she returns to work.

Canada Labour Code February 4th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the bill that I have introduced would clearly meet the needs of Canadian parents of multiples, whether these are the result of multiple adoption or multiple birth.

We are prepared to study this issue in committee, and we would gladly welcome any amendments, if need be.

Canada Labour Code February 4th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, obviously studies have already been done on this subject. Of course, the figures vary from year to year, depending on the number of births.

Where is the money going to come from for this program? Parents already pay EI premiums. This bill is an attempt to mitigate an injustice in the present system. While all parents pay premiums, the fact is that a parent with a single baby is currently entitled to 35 weeks of benefits. A parent of multiples is also entitled to 35 weeks of benefits.

A parent who subsequently has a second child is entitled to an additional 35 weeks of benefits, for a total of 72 weeks of benefits, whereas the parent of multiples will have been entitled to only 35 weeks of benefits overall.

Of course it is up to the government to decide where it wants to invest its money. We know that we want to invest these dollars in the health of Canadian families.

Canada Labour Code February 4th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to explain to my colleagues why it is so important that we pass Bill C-464.

This legislation will have major implications for Canadian families. It will have a profound impact and affect the day-to-day lives of numerous Canadians.

Bill C-464 proposes changes to the Canadian Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act that would offer better coverage for parents blessed with multiples.

The birth of a child brings such joy, but it also comes with anxieties and hard work. As wonderful an event as childbirth is, it comes with a set of responsibilities that require a tremendous amount of time and energy from the parents. And those responsibilities increase tenfold when multiples are involved. Taking care of an infant is a tremendous job; taking care of two, three or even four infants is even more demanding.

Unfortunately, the current legislation makes no distinction between these two types of childbirth. Whether one child or multiple children are brought into this world, parents receive the same coverage and support. That is a major flaw that Bill C-464 addresses to bring justice to parents of multiples and to truly encourage parents to have children.

The current legislation works well enough for those who are expecting or adopting a single child. They receive employment insurance benefits for up to 35 weeks of leave. The amount varies, but it is up to 55% of regular salary, to a maximum of $501 per week. Generally speaking, this helps new parents take care of their child during the first weeks of life, but for those who have twins, for example, it is often insufficient, given that they have twice as many demands.

As anyone who has experienced a multiple birth knows, having twins presents twice as many challenges. Parents have two mouths to feed. They have to buy twice as many clothes and twice as much food. Sometimes they have to renovate their house or even move, not to mention the fact that two children require twice as much time from their parents. These details cannot be ignored. Psychologically and physically, multiple births also demand more of parents. They have to care for, feed and nurture two babies.

I think I speak for all parents in Canada when I say that it is a challenging experience. However, our current legislation does not recognize that. It treats parents who have one baby the same as those who have two or more. But that is definitely not the reality. This only makes sense: two children, twice as many needs.

I can think of a number of good reasons to provide concrete assistance to parents who have multiple births. It is important to note, for instance, that compared to 1991, the number of multiple births in Canada has risen by 50%. At present, over 3% of pregnancies in Canada are multiple pregnancies, and we can only expect the number of multiple births to increase in the years to come.

We have to help these people. These parents need to be able to look after their children properly. We will be providing concrete assistance to Canadian families who truly deserve it. As elected members representing Canadians, it is our duty to support these families and to encourage them to add to their family for the common well-being of our society.

Not only is it the right thing to do, but it simply makes sense because it will help our society in the long term. A society that looks after its children is a healthy society, and families with less debt contribute to Canada's economic development. That is why Bill C-464 increases the maximum number of weeks of parental benefits to 70 in the case of multiple births or adoptions. It is simple: 70 weeks divided by two gives each parent 35 weeks of benefits to stay at home and take care of their children together.

We would all agree that this is a much more appropriate period of time given the responsibilities associated with the arrival of two or more children at once.

Promoting gender equality is another important reason. We have come a long way in that regard in the past few decades, but we still have work to do. Giving the same rights to all parents, no matter how many children they welcome into their family, is a step in the right direction. I am also thinking of the fathers. We must not forget them. In a potentially difficult situation, they have to be given the same support as mothers. Making it possible for fathers to stay home with their families also helps mothers and the entire family to better cope with this challenge.

Bill C-464 does exactly that. It allows the father and the mother to take enough time to deal with the challenges of a multiple birth.

I know that I am speaking on behalf of parents who have experienced a multiple birth when I say that Bill C-464 will be of great assistance to them.

Multiple Births Canada is a Canadian organization that focuses solely on this issue. After studying the main provisions of the bill, the organization provided its unqualified support. The associations of parents of multiples in Montreal, Quebec City and Trois-Rivières also back Bill C-464. Need I say that we have strong support from Vancouver to Halifax for this bill?

Naturally, as is the case with any public policy, there is a cost associated with passing Bill C-464. In these uncertain economic times, we absolutely have to ensure that we make good use of taxpayers' money. We all agree with that. That is why I am pleased to inform you that Bill C-464 is an affordable and very effective initiative. With a modest amount of money and some goodwill, we can improve the quality of life of many Canadians and, at the same time, improve the economic health of Canadian families in these difficult economic times.

It is important to remember that the bill proposes changes to employment insurance. Taxpayers as a group will not have to foot the bill for this; workers will pay for it themselves. I sincerely believe that this is a fair, feasible and cost-effective measure. The public as a whole will not bear the burden of this new policy. It will be placed on those who will benefit from it. This is an honest and low-cost way for us to offer better coverage to parents.

What kind of money are we talking about? Experts have estimated that this change to employment insurance would cost approximately $27 million a year. As my colleagues are aware, Canadian workers already pay into employment insurance. They are entitled to these benefits. We must remember that this is not just an expense; it is an investment in the health of our families and in lowering household debt, and it is a tangible incentive to increase Canada's already too-low birth rate.

Workers who adopt or give birth to two or more children are also entitled to support. They do not deserve inferior treatment simply because they had a multiple birth. They also pay into the employment insurance system every week. It only makes sense to be fair and practical and to offer Canadian families appropriate coverage that is suited to their needs.

I believe that it is our duty as a society to help those who choose to start or expand a family. I know that my hon. colleagues here in this House share this determination to improve the lives of our constituents. The current system works well for most new parents. However, as I have already explained, there is a glaring deficiency when it comes to multiple births, which have been on the rise over the past few years.

That is why Bill C-464 seeks to help young families who are facing this big responsibility. This bill is thoughtful and efficient and would provide financial assistance to families who are greatly in need of it. The household debt of families with more than one child is often too high. Bill C-464 responds directly to that need.

We are all well aware that the issues that Canadians care about most are the economy and the importance of family. I can assure hon. members that Bill C-464 very effectively addresses both of these concerns.

It is through helping families—the heart of Canadian society—that we will improve the lives of Canadians. By so doing, we will also help Canadians get out of debt: a family with less debt is a family that can more effectively participate in Canada's economic development.

We are also responding to Canadians' demands by promoting gender equality within families. Such gender equality also benefits all Canadians who just want to thrive within their families.

Another issue that is of concern to Canadians is the dramatic drop in our country's birth rate. No doubt, one reason for this drop is that families are in tight financial situations and cannot afford to have a lot of children. Once again, Bill C-464 responds to this concern because it encourages Canadian families to have more children and provides security in the case of multiple births. Encouraging families to have children is a very good thing to do in a country with a declining population.

Finally, Bill C-464 is being introduced in the House today in order to meet the needs of parents that are not taken into consideration by employment insurance, despite the fact that, in the case of multiple births or adoptions, parents need twice as much help. This is a fair, sustainable and pragmatic bill.

For all of these reasons, I am quite convinced that passing this bill would be very helpful to thousands of Canadians.

I ask my colleagues to set side all political gamesmanship and work together to develop and improve our society as well as our economy. This is how we will move forward. Let us take advantage of this historic opportunity and deliver a clear statement that Canada is a country that is concerned about the welfare of families from coast to coast to coast.

Once this legislation has been passed, we will be able to look back with pride at what we have accomplished. Future generations will be grateful.

St. Lawrence Shoreline Erosion February 1st, 2013

Mr. Speaker, many of my constituents come to see me about erosion problems affecting their property along the St. Lawrence River. Even though each case is unique, they all have one thing in common: government inaction and indifference.

In the 1960s, the federal government built stone and concrete walls to protect land from wave action. Such walls were built in Verchères, in my riding. For many years, the government maintained these walls to ensure that they remained in good condition. A few years ago, the government stopped doing that maintenance, leaving people to grapple with the problem on their own.

The government ignored the pleas of riverside residents, deciding instead that fighting erosion was no longer a priority.

The longer the government waits, the more this costs people and the greater the impact of erosion. The Conservative government washed its hands of this problem and is now trying to download it onto Quebec. The government has lost all credibility.

Erosion is the federal government's responsibility. The federal government built the walls, and it is responsible for taking care of them.

Abortion January 30th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, 25 years ago this week, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that restricting abortion is an unconstitutional attack on women's rights, freedoms and security.

We in the NDP are proud to unequivocally support women's right to choose freely. The same cannot be said of the members across the floor. Since they came to power in 2006, the Conservatives have attempted on six separate occasions to reverse that Supreme Court decision.

Why so many underhanded attacks? Why do the Conservatives want to prevent women from having control over their own bodies?

The Prime Minister promised not to reopen the abortion debate, but clearly, once again, it is up to the NDP to stand up for women's right to choose.

The Conservatives continue to stubbornly defend regressive ideas that have been rejected by Canadians. It is not up to the church or the state to decide, and it is certainly not up to the Conservatives. Terminating a pregnancy is for the individual woman to decide, period.

Family Literacy Day January 28th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, yesterday across Canada, we celebrated Family Literacy Day, an initiative designed to help adults introduce children to the joys of reading and writing. It is also an opportunity for parents to make reading and writing part of their family's routine.

In my riding and elsewhere in the Canadian Francophonie, literacy organizations teamed up with libraries and parents to promote reading together as a family.

In particular, I would like to thank the following organizations for their efforts: the Fédération canadienne pour l'alphabétisation en français, Frontier College, the Table des responsables de l'éducation des adultes et de la formation professionnelle des commissions scolaires du Québec and the Fédération québécoise des organismes communautaires Famille. I would also like to thank the following organizations in my riding: Alphabétisation IOTA, Le Fablier and L'Ardoise.

I encourage all of my colleagues to do everything they can to support family literacy.