House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was colleague.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Independent MP for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2008, with 5% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Food and Drugs Act June 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, like my colleagues, I of course take an interest in the health of my constituents and indeed of all my fellow citizens.

I consider it very important that drugs, foods and authorized therapeutic products be safe, that the effects of these products that are available over the counter or by prescription be studied and known, and that labelling of these products be accurate and honest.

By the way, I still do not understand why this government refused to respond to the very legitimate public demand as expressed in a bill introduced by a colleague calling for labelling of food products containing GMOs so that consumers can know exactly what they are buying.

I will return to the matter under debate. On one hand, the government does not want the public to have information on these GMOs, but it continues to trust pharmaceutical companies to test their own products. On the other hand, through this bill, the Conservative government is imposing severe sanctions on producers, vendors and importers of natural products and drugs that do not comply with Health Canada standards and is placing natural products in the same category as drugs under the heading of “therapeutic products.”

I understand that we do not want to put people’s health at risk, and I agree. Obviously, we must not approve a product that is dangerous to health. However, neither should we approve a system of labelling that would be incorrect in terms of dosage or the composition of a drug or natural product used for therapeutic purposes.

In that respect, and only in that respect, drugs and natural products are similar when they are used in the hope of bringing about a cure. We must have very strong tools to protect the public from fraud—which regrettably does exist—or from truly dangerous products. We know that the wrong information can have harmful and tragic consequences.

It seems to me that, above all, we must make available the necessary resources to inspect products thoroughly, to deal with inquiries properly and to ensure necessary monitoring. Unfortunately, that is not what the government is doing. Instead, it puts before us a bill with tremendous ramifications without providing the means for the agency responsible to properly deal with natural products and drugs.

Some aspects of this bill alarm people who properly like to use natural products. They prefer such products because they feel they are more in keeping with their culture, their lifestyle or, quite simply, their health. Traditionally, there has been a certain tension between those who believe in the practices of western medicine and promoters of alternative medicine, which, of course, includes the use of natural foods.

As my colleague from Quebec reminded us during this debate, between 33,000 and 40,000 natural health products are now waiting for approval. It may appear to some people that the delays that have built up are related to the new licensing requirement provided in this bill.

Many people will ask, quite properly, how a new product would be approved by Health Canada.

Increased powers for inspectors and much heavier penalties for those who break the law—they go up to $5 million and a three-year prison sentence—obviously make some people worry that the bill could create a de facto prohibition on the introduction of any new natural health product.

In my view, these concerns and perceptions deserve to be taken into account. Moreover, the doubts that arise from reading this bill are both numerous and varied. It is quite normal and legitimate to raise questions about the bill.

For example, is the prohibition on direct advertising maintained? What is the purpose of creating a licence for interprovincial exports? Is a product not inspected when it enters Canada? Third, the requirement for hospitals to report adverse reactions to a product to Health Canada could be rejected by the provinces because it deals with the administration of the health system, which is not under federal jurisdiction.

Therefore, I can only come to the conclusion that this bill is, to say the least, poorly constructed. When I say that, I am not blaming the drafters of the legislation but rather the intentions of the Conservative government. I humbly suggest that the faults are so numerous that I doubt that a committee really could amend this bill without changing the scope of the bill, which we know would make the amendments unacceptable.

As a result, it would be a loss of valuable time to send this bill to committee. Instead, we should send this bill back to the minister and his department to start over and make all the necessary corrections, especially since we learned during the debate that the minister wanted his government to introduce several amendments. Other members have referred to the infamous letter that the minister sent to the chair of the committee, and asked to see it. I am not a member of that committee, but I am just as interested in it as my colleagues.

In my view, if we are serious about this bill, it should be sent back to the minister and his department. They should be told to go back to work and when it is properly done, bring it back to the House. Then we will discuss a bill that will not raise so many questions. I have been here all day and I listened to the debate from the beginning. If the bill raises so many questions, it is probably because there are significant flaws in many places.

As the member for Wascana remarked, in a constructive spirit, if we are to produce something that is of benefit to our fellow citizens, the Conservative government should go back to work and introduce a new bill that will do a much better job.

Canada Elections Act June 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am voting in favour of this motion.

Canada Elections Act June 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am voting in favour of this motion.

June 9th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, we need more than conversations and public statements made by diplomats. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence just said, to ensure that opportunities will not be lost, can he tell the House what the government is prepared to do about human rights?

For example, can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence tell us if Chinese authorities were told, respectfully and non-threateningly, that if certain improvements do not happen, we might consider sanctions and ways to exert due pressure? This is a very serious subject, and I know the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence knows that. This is about something fundamental to society. This is about individual rights, human rights.

So, instead of rhetoric—

June 9th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I must go back to a question I asked on April 1 about the crisis in Tibet and the Dalai Lama's call for dialogue, which should be unanimously encouraged by the international community in order to be heard by China.

In my opinion, the Conservative government should have exerted real pressure to encourage meaningful and immediate talks between the Chinese and Tibetan authorities.

The Conservative government regularly presents us with a vision that I would describe as piecemeal, if not simplistic, a weak vision of Canada's role in international relations and especially in the area of human rights.

The human rights situation in Tibet and the crisis the whole world witnessed this spring are examples of the direction this government has taken on this issue—or I should say the lack of direction and leadership.

When it came to inviting the Dalai Lama and receiving him with all due honours, the government was there, but when it came time to encourage the parties to discuss a resolution to the crisis in Tibet, in order to put an end to the violence, the government did not choose a convincing diplomatic approach.

Welcoming the Dalai Lama is one thing; defending human rights in the most effective way possible is another. In Quebec, we are all too familiar with the fact that this government knows how to make symbolic gestures. More often than not, these gestures are intended to turn attention away from the government's failure to take action.

In the case of Tibet, Canada's responsibility was to respectfully and persistently urge China to resolve its differences through negotiations. Canada's insipid and timid appeal for restraint and dialogue certainly did not push the Chinese government to reflect or to take action.

Nevertheless, the issue of negotiating was and continues to be important. It is important for Tibetans and also for the people of Darfur and for Africa, where China plays a crucial role, as we know.

The Conservative government has a responsibility to ensure that Quebeckers and Canadians are heard as they join with many other nations who do not accept the massacres, the wrongful arrests or the violations of fundamental human rights.

Does the new Minister of Foreign Affairs intend to engage in serious dialogue with China in this regard? What is his government's view of the issues raised?

Successive governments in Ottawa continue to boast about the fact that Canada is a G-7 or G-8 member and that, historically, it has enjoyed a good reputation internationally.

This Conservative government is no exception to that rule even though it embarrassed Quebeckers and Canadians in Bali over Kyoto, at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization over the world food crisis, and at the UN by voting against the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

When will this government stop its moralizing and truly begin to demand the respect for human rights, with all that entails—whether for aboriginals, Afghans, Iranians, Guantanamo detainees, people of Darfur or Tibetans—on behalf of all Quebeckers and Canadians who want a more just world, a world where the respect for human rights is truly a priority for the Government of Canada.

Extension of Sitting Hours June 9th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, my question will be straightforward, since my colleague, as usual, explained things very clearly and very eloquently.

Everyone realizes that the Conservatives are suddenly looking for a consensus. Indeed, they are looking for cooperation, although, from the beginning—even as far back as the previous session—they have been remarkably and unpleasantly arrogant.

In addition to my colleague's remarks concerning committees, I am regularly struck by two other things, that is, this government's refusal of requests for take note debates. The parties, their party as well as the other parties, have had to ask for emergency debates, instead of coming to an agreement. If I am not using the correct term, someone will correct me, but they had to ask to hold debates in the evening to discuss important issues—

Marine and Rail Transportation June 9th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, last week, the Government of Quebec announced a new program to help companies move toward marine and rail transportation with investments in infrastructure and in those companies that will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through such a move. The federal government ought to follow Quebec's lead by taking similar positive action instead of funding oil companies.

Will the Conservative government follow Quebec's inspiring model, thus focussing on both the environment and the economy at the same time?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 4th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, thanks to the opposition, the House had the opportunity to debate two specific aspects of Bill C-50, namely immigration and the creation of an employment insurance financing board, or parts 6 and 7 of the bill. I had the opportunity to speak about these subjects in the House on Monday. Today I will be challenging the bill in its entirety. I will bring up various points.

Bill C-50 deals with the implementation of the intentions the government laid out in its 2008 budget speech, a speech that I criticized then, on April 9, for reasons that I would like to restate today.

Although the budget speech included some timid measures, it had nothing to offer in terms of redistribution of wealth and government management of the common good.

The bill's preamble concerns me a great deal because it talks only about global economic uncertainty when there is real uncertainty in all regions—mine in particular—about economic development; we know that. And the government should be concerned.

What has the government done in this time? I am sure everyone will recall that it created this trust fund, which, at the time, was linked to the budget. We managed to stop it, after some citizens demonstrated their dissatisfaction.

Although the trust fund, totalling a billion dollars over two years, was removed from the budget, the government did not really address the crises currently facing our communities. The agricultural and forestry sectors are in crisis. Of course, there is also a crisis facing non-profit organizations, which saw their funding suddenly slashed by the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

Although he says he will space it out over two years, we all know what this means in Rimouski, for example, and in eastern Quebec for all non-profit organizations in the marine sector. We have a research centre. We are the hub of marine technology, and this will have a major impact. In that sense, the government has set us back. I will never accept this kind of thing.

The government created a savings account, known as a TFSA, and would have us believe that they have reinvented the wheel. In reality, it will not help modest to middle income earners. It will only help those who are already well off.

Speaking of the less fortunate and of the poor—and I will probably wrap it up here—I want to say once more that the government had an opportunity with this budget to help our seniors and to bolster the guaranteed income supplement. Instead, it put $10 billion towards the debt and decided that only the first $3,500 earned by seniors who choose to work would not affect their benefits.

The government should have accepted motion M-383, which I moved and which was adopted by a majority in this House. It would have allowed seniors to not be penalized had they wanted to work up to 15 hours per week at the average wage in their province of residence. This would have been a significant gesture that would have helped seniors currently living below the poverty line and who, obviously, want to work. I am not suggesting that all seniors should go back to work. Far be it for me to suggest that.

However, there were some relatively easy and practical ways to help our seniors and other disadvantaged groups, as well as to fight poverty. Instead, the government cut corporate taxes for companies that are already making obscene profits, such as banks and oil companies.

I see no sign, in the government's vocabulary or ideology, of the will to concern itself with the common good and the redistribution of wealth. They are focused solely on looking after companies that are already doing very well. Their tax cuts will not help those who have little or no income—

June 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, out of respect for parliamentary language, I will use an expression we all know well: intellectual rigour and honesty.

An adjournment debate is not the time for the government to cut and paste from speeches it has already given, rambling speeches prepared by assistants and regurgitated by parliamentary secretaries in the House. The question was about the oil imbalance. Apparently, the parliamentary secretary has told us everything the government plans to do, which is basically toot its own horn.

This is very simple. Does the parliamentary secretary agree that there is an imbalance, that it affects people who are disadvantaged and regions like mine and many others that are having trouble coping? Can he speak to us in his own, simple words, with his trademark eloquence? Can he put down his speech and tell us what the government plans to do for those people?

June 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, in this adjournment debate, I am pleased to come back to a question I asked on May 12, concerning the oil imbalance. We are currently seeing a double explosion in the oil sector: first the explosion in gas prices for consumers and then the explosion in profits for the oil companies.

If this government does nothing to restore balance in this situation in the regions, who are the first to take the brunt of this, it will have to deal with an explosion of anger from the public.

A few days ago, I moved a motion in this House stipulating that, in the opinion of the House, the government should create an oil revenue redistribution fund, based on the principle of fairness to all citizens, that would levy a tax on the earnings of oil companies and other companies that emit greenhouse gases in such a way as to respect provincial jurisdictions and not unduly threaten the economies of the energy producing provinces.

I suggested that this fund target the following four objectives: democratize investments in energy efficiency; provide financial assistance for low-income individuals to counter the rising cost of oil products; promote collective forms of transportation in the workplace; modernize and encourage the use of marine and rail transport.

Our less fortunate citizens cannot adopt energy efficient practices without assistance, because they often require large initial investments that are more than these people can afford. What good is a $1,000 rebate on a $40,000 hybrid car if a person earns $20,000? The person will not be able to buy the car. It is as simple as that, and people understand this.

We also know that this government is not able to provide public transportation everywhere in the country. This gap is becoming wider because the people who do not have access to public transportation are at a disadvantage due to the price of gas.

Environmentalists, politicians and the media are praising public transportation, as am I. But if there is no public transportation in a given community or region, people cannot use it. Nor can they benefit from the savings often afforded to users of public transportation.

Regions far from urban centres are typically at a disadvantage because of rising transportation costs associated with the rising cost of fuel. Not only does it cost more to transport products, but once again, successive federal governments have abandoned the infrastructure, and our business people have no choice but to ship their goods by truck because rail and marine transportation are not currently available. As a result, merchandise transportation costs are going up.

Rapid price increases are especially hard on two groups of people: seniors and people with modest or low incomes whose budgets are already tight and who are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. The government should compensate for this through special indexation because these people should not have to pay the price for our collective inability to limit our prodigious energy consumption, which is causing the price of fuel to skyrocket.

Why is the government not doing anything to help seniors and the disadvantaged cope with higher fuel costs?

Why does the government think it is enough to provide laughable rebates that do not enable people with low incomes to invest in more energy efficient vehicles and renovations?

Why is the government underfunding energy efficiency agencies while sinking billions into petroleum development?

Why is the government not doing anything to develop modes of transportation—