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

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if it is possible, but I would suggest, quite frankly, that my colleague put aside all partisanship, disregard all of the parties in the House and respond simply as an elected representative of the people and his constituents, just as I am.

He spoke very eloquently about immigration. I myself spoke yesterday about part 6 of Bill C-50. When it comes time to vote, at the end of debate on this bill at third reading, why would he not actively vote in the interest of his constituents of whom he so eloquently spoke? Why would he not speak out against this bill? As far as I understood, the member expressed nothing but concerns, just as I did in my speech yesterday.

Why would he not rise in this House to vote against this bill that he is criticizing? That is how I see it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the preamble to Bill C-50 states that “the Government of Canada is committed to meeting the challenge of global economic uncertainty” and so on. I would like to ask my friend whether he was surprised that this document makes no mention of regional economic uncertainty. I am talking about the whole country, but my friend will understand that one sector in my riding is particularly affected, and that is the forestry sector.

As we have seen, the trust did not meet the needs of foresters in crisis, who are self-employed workers who own private woodlots and manage our forests, the lungs of our planet. I imagine that there are also such forestry workers in the province of the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas. Yet they have been completely left out of the budget.

Why does this bill contain nothing for this sector of Canada's and Quebec's economy?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question about a specific point.

The budget speech announced the establishment of a board that was to be an independent crown corporation. I would like to know if my colleague has concerns about this as I do. On the one hand, they are talking about an independent corporation. On the other, under clause 36, part 7 of the bill we are discussing and that would establish this board, “The Governor in Council, on the joint recommendation of the Minister [of Human Resources and Social Development] and the Minister of Finance, may make regulations...respecting the investments...the limitations...[and] prescribing anything—”

Although the powers of the board are specified at the beginning of this part, at the same time, the end indicates that these will be made upon the recommendation of these two ministers. These two ministers will readily make a recommendation.

According to my colleague, to what extent will they interfere with a board that is supposed to be independent? Does my colleague have serious doubts, as I do?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Acadie—Bathurst for his question. As I said earlier, I listened carefully to what he said this afternoon, and I agree with him that this is completely unacceptable.

We are going to see two sad things today. We are going to see what my friend is referring to. I will be the first to celebrate if everyone in this House votes, but I believe that we are going to witness a sad sight, as legitimately elected members choose to abstain by being absent or remaining seated.

I believe that the least members could do is to rise in this House to vote for or against a bill that directly affects millions of people.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. I said, and he understood, that for me as well as many other members in the House, this is completely unacceptable.

As to how this would go over in the private sector, I would say that in the private sector there would at least have been provisions under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. At the very least, the organization would have declared bankruptcy, and it would have been done in a transparent and open manner. And in terms of solvency and the remaining assets, the creditors, in this case, the workers, could have decided to recoup as much as they were able. The process would have been extremely rigorous.

Here, however, everything is dismissed. Our colleague says that everything will be handed over from one entity to another and that it will be tabula rasa. They will create something new, and they are using this as an excuse to illegitimately, needlessly harm workers.

And that alone, along with the points raised by the member and his NDP colleagues and those I humbly raised myself, makes this absolutely unacceptable.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the more this government introduces legislative initiatives, the more I realize that it is incapable of proposing a really good measure for our people, our workers in particular. It is not capable of that because the only thing it considers to be a social measure is cutting income taxes and taxes in general. It is turning a long awaited measure that would be a step in the right direction into a real crime meant only to please businesses, in that contributions would be reduced.

For more than 10 years, people who are concerned about social justice have been calling for an independent employment insurance fund. For a long time now, the federal government has been collecting employment insurance contributions from employees and employers, restricting eligibility for benefits and using the money for other purposes.

In addition to causing endless frustration among the workers and a good number of colleagues here, such the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst and the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas, who are worried about this situation, this reprehensible behaviour by the government has created a double standard.

First, employees and employers pay far too much for what they get in return. Then their benefits are reduced.

Access to these benefits is also being limited more and more, especially for seasonal workers who work in necessary jobs that vary from season to season.

Year after year, the government has used the surplus created in this way to balance its budget and create astronomical surpluses that it then used to pay down the debt, as everyone knows.

The result is as follows: $54 billion that belongs to the people who contributed—not to pay down the debt—has been used for other purposes, while there are pressing needs in employment.

The Conservative government has finally reacted and decided to create a Canada employment insurance financing board. It was a good idea, but behind the terms healthy management and good governance lie intentions that will not really help workers.

Cutting EI contributions will not help workers. The government is obviously trying to convince us that it will—and this is not the first time—but does paying a dollar less every week matter to a worker who receives $100 less in benefits because of a bare-bones calculation? In reality, this calculation is of much more benefit to businesses and regions experiencing full employment, like Alberta. Is anyone here surprised?

The only way to help workers is to provide benefits that ensure a decent income for seasonal workers who are supporting families and for older workers who get laid off and have to make it to retirement with no hope of receiving any income other than employment insurance and, unfortunately, welfare.

The only way to help workers is to transfer funds for employment programs to Quebec—in our case—for workers in seasonal and precarious jobs.

Creating a Canada employment insurance financing board is a step in the right direction only because it will finally put an end to the theft of people's contributions. That being said, the government has no intention of reimbursing the $54 billion by applying it to employment programs or worker assistance, and that is unacceptable.

The new board will not be giving that money back to workers. In fact, should a recession or massive layoffs occur, it will have to borrow from the consolidated revenue fund. So there is that whole borrowing problem. What will happen? Who will have to pay when there is a liability? Unfortunately, once again, the workers are the ones who will pay.

This is what they are calling improved management and governance, which the government promised on page 6 of its Budget in Brief.

An actuary will determine the contributions to be paid. Only $2 billion will be kept in reserve, and employment programs will in the hands of the Minister of Human Resources and of businesses that will pay as little as possible.

This vision will be enshrined in legislation, and this crown corporation will not have to answer to Parliament.

As for Bill C-50 on the budget, I want to bring up a point that has to do with part 7, concerning the board's duties and restrictions, so to speak.

According to clause 36 of this part, “the Governor in Council [the cabinet], on the joint recommendation of the Minister and the Minister of Finance, may make regulations...respecting the investments...the limitations—” and other revenue. I would like to know how this clause 36 will work with subclause 4(c), which states that the object of the board is to manage any amounts paid to it. Who will do what?

We are talking about transparency and good management. Does this not strip the board of its essential role? Does this not strip it of the great transparency and also the great responsibility it is supposed to have? Is it an independent entity? I get the impression that sometimes it is, sometimes it is not.

Also, what about the auditor general's recommendation that there should be an adequate reserve, estimated at $15 billion, I believe?

In conclusion, as we can see, the Conservatives are trying to make it seem as though they are responding to a legitimate demand, and have concocted a bill that is unacceptable on at least two points, not to mention that they did not address all the demands for the redistribution of wealth. In particular—and this topic is close to my heart—they have not attempted to help poor seniors get out of poverty.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, always true to form, passionate, full of emotion, just as we should be when we are defending the common good of those whom we represent. I say it often, and I will continue to do so: I truly appreciate the comments and the ardour that my colleague puts into his speeches.

My question is very simple. For all of those who are listening to us and will follow the events right up until the vote tonight, could he explain the fate of the $54 billion, to become $2 billion if this reserve is created? What will happen to the $52 billion that belongs to both the workers and businesses that contributed to the current fund?

Redistribution of Wealth June 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, last Thursday I moved a motion in this House asking the government to establish an oil revenue redistribution fund.

Based on the principle of fairness to all citizens, it would levy a tax on the earnings of oil companies and other companies that emit greenhouse gases in order to counter the negative effects of the escalating price of petroleum products.

The Conservatives, as well as the Liberals, shot down this proposal.

Given that key sectors of regional economies such as forestry, agriculture and tourism are experiencing serious difficulties, it is imperative that the government focus its efforts on realistic solutions.

Even those sectors of our economy that attempt to diversify their practices and develop promising niches are in jeopardy, as is the well-being of our low- to middle-income citizens.

The Conservative government must listen to reason and put in place a real mechanism to redistribute wealth.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her comments and question.

First of all, with regard to Quebec, I want to remind my colleague of one thing, even though I am sure that she is well aware of it. I made this speech as a federal member, and I spoke on behalf of all the people I represent. We know that Quebec has its own program. Now back to the matter at hand.

There is cause for concern about the shift that our colleague just spoke of. This shift is a result of a deliberate decision by the Conservative government. I can interpret this only one way—and I tried to stay away from rhetoric in my comments because I never want to use that approach. I believe that behind these changes and supposed modernization hides the desire to eliminate an entire segment of our settlement program.

The focus is now solely on jobs, with no regard for the risks that exist for these workers whose rights are not enshrined or protected. Family reunification and humanitarian considerations no longer seem to be important.

What is important now is being able to respond quickly to the needs of private enterprise. There is a mad rush to respond, at the expense of another whole group of newcomers who have benefited from our hospitality and integration.

And I think that is something very serious. That is also the reason that I will vote in favour of these amendments.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few minutes to express my views on the amendments to Bill C-50 we are discussing.

First of all Bill C-50, in parliamentary terms, is intended to “implement” the budget, that is enact it, put into effect the announcements made, heard and clearly understood when the throne speech was delivered.

If that is the objective of this bill, then why has the Conservative government deliberately chosen to devote an entire part to immigration reform? And yet, a meagre $22 million over two years is allocated to this reform. Naturally, more monies are promised in future but they are not attached to anything at all.

There is something rather odd in the government's official documents. For example, on page 9 of the Budget in Brief, which discusses the reorganization—or modernization, to quote precisely—of the immigration system, one of the key phrases states that the goal is to make the immigration system more competitive.

When I read that, once again it made me think that it all part of the ideology espoused by the Conservative Party. Most of the time it considers the government to be a private corporation.

Why is this section on immigration included? I wonder.

Could it be an attempt to mislead parliamentarians? If not, could it be an attempt to humiliate the Liberals by introducing, in a confidence bill, a measure they would quite likely find unacceptable? The Liberals would find it unacceptable, but if they act as they have been acting for a number of weeks now, they will do anything but vote to bring down this government.

On the one hand, there are principles and convictions; on the other, there is the way these Liberals will choose to act in this House, because they are all legitimately elected members.

I see that my friend from Hull—Aylmer does not agree with what I am saying. He can ask me questions about it.

As members and representatives of their constituents, the 305 members currently in this House have an obligation to vote with integrity, on behalf of the people they represent. I would add that, as a general rule, we should avoid abstaining. This is just my opinion, but as I am entitled to it, I am sharing it.

The Liberals have said again that Canadians do not want an election. My friend said so earlier this morning in this House. Every time I hear that, I wonder when people ever do want an election. We are not talking about a national sport.

Often, when a crisis or scandal occurs, people's confidence in the government is so badly shaken that they call for an election. But it is not a question of waiting until the public calls for an election; it is a question of whether we in this House should pass bills that make sense and respect the people we represent.

Let us get to the heart of the matter: immigration. People who submit immigration or permanent residence applications often belong to the groups we call the most vulnerable—it saddens me to use that word, but this is true. Much of what we do, we do for these groups.

For the Conservatives to play “petty politics”—and I use the term “politics” loosely—at the expense of these people is truly disgraceful, especially when it seems to me that they are doing so specifically to humiliate the official opposition.

Looking at the provisions of the bill we are now discussing, I noticed the somewhat questionable direction the Conservative government wants to take in processing immigration applications.

The purpose of the change is to give as much latitude as possible to the minister—and therefore the government—in handling applications. This seems obvious to me and this has been said during the debate in this House. A number of my colleagues and I feel that that is the problem.

The goal is to bring in the workers needed most by industry, as quickly as possible, to the detriment of other types of workers. That is most likely why the government used that infamous expression I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, “a more competitive immigration system”, an expression typical of the private sector. Competition is fine, but should it drive our concerns as legislators? We have to wonder about that and debate the issue.

We know that the minister can give instructions on the following: the categories of applications to which the instructions apply; the order in which the applications are processed; the number of applications to be processed each year, by category; and what is done with the applications, including those that are re-submitted.

The instructions she gives will at least be published in the Canada Gazette. But how many MPs in this House, including myself, and how many of those watching us can say that they read the Canada Gazette at least once a year? It is not really a good tool for those affected or those targeted by this.

Obviously, during this time of labour shortage, applications need to be processed more quickly for those who want to come and work here. Nonetheless, the process can be sped up in different ways. More resources could be allocated to accelerate the process.

We all remember what happened at Passport Canada not so long ago, less than a year and a half ago. The number of applications made it impossible to issue passports efficiently, that is, in less than two months. The wait was more like two, three, even five months. The necessary resources were allocated and staff recruited, after which the government and officials were finally able to clear up the horrible backlog and process the applications.

Why has the government not looked into this possibility more closely?

The bill proposes making the rules arbitrary. When we hear the word “arbitrary”, alarm bells should go off, since making something arbitrary is always dangerous, regardless of who is in charge. The bill should have provided for changes to the rules, as I was saying earlier, to find the skilled workers we need, and to allocate money and the necessary resources.

I get the impression that this method could create a number of injustices—and when in doubt, we should be asking ourselves a lot of questions. Immigrants who submit an application for a resident permit on humanitarian grounds will find their claims have been added to the backlog. Furthermore, the bill explicitly gives the immigration officer the discretion to issue visas and other documents required to enter the country. In my opinion, this is a big setback for immigrants. Immigrants whose applications are not processed within the year or within the time set by the minister will probably have their applications returned.

I heard some Conservatives say that this was transparency, because this way people would know that their application had not been processed. But I think that if one of the members opposite were an immigrant, submitted an application and received similar treatment, he would be asking questions.

The Conservative government is choosing the solution that costs nothing, but, I believe, is an injustice, instead of choosing the logical solution, which would be to allocate the necessary funds to speed up the processing of applications, to make the process more predictable and to not restrict access for immigrants submitting an application for resident permits on humanitarian grounds.

These are the points I wanted to make. I am sure my colleagues in this House understand that I will vote in favour of the amendments proposed by the member for Jeanne-Le Ber.