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

Open Government Act May 29th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, further to discussions among the independent members and the parties of this House concerning rising gas prices and the negative effect on citizens and the economy, I would like to ask for unanimous consent to move the following motion: “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; such a fund would: (i) democratize investments in energy efficiency; (ii) provide financial assistance for low-income individuals to counter the rising cost of oil products; (iii) promote collective forms of transportation in the workplace; (iv) modernize and encourage the use of marine and rail transport.”

May 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I heard the parliamentary secretary repeat what I myself said, that the government gave millions of dollars in direct aid.

I would like the parliamentary secretary instead to share with us, on behalf of the government, their long-term vision for countries whose populations are starving because they were asked not to grow crops with the promise that they would be sold grain for practically nothing. Today, those people are unable to produce their own food.

What are we going to do as a responsible state to help them return to farming to feed their people and not to fuel our vehicles?

May 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the media whirlwind being what it is, the world food crisis lost its spot on the front page some time ago to other news. Do not forget that the cost of basic foods has gone up 48% since the end of 2006. According to the director of the World Food Programme, a “silent tsunami” is threatening to plunge 100 million people into hunger.

The government announced $50 million in additional support for the World Food Programme and then let things run their course, believing that it had done enough.

It put a band-aid on a gaping wound, so to speak, and did nothing to address the root of the problem. Speculation, the use of food sources to produce biofuels, and our irresponsible energy consumption have contributed to the world food crisis, and we know it.

The government must commit to dedicating 0.7% of its GDP to international aid, as it is supposed to. At least it has untied its aid, but we must first and foremost help populations in crisis to produce their own food.

We all know the proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In international aid terms, this means: build supply roads so that village crops can get to the cities in developing countries; stop promoting within international organizations the massive cultivation of export crops, which in the end only ruins farmers who adopt the practice and starves the population—in other words, to a certain point, the food sovereignty of developing countries must be respected; immediately stop subsidizing the production of biofuels that directly use food crops—here, the grains in question—to produce ethanol, which causes prices to rise and diverts precious resources to fuel our cars instead of feeding people.

Given the scope of the crisis and the absence of a successful conclusion without a drastic change in energy policies and international aid policies, a number of major players are calling for significant changes.

The director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, sounded the alarm by saying that the current food crisis could lead to war and uprisings. The IMF also estimates that 70% of the rise in the price of corn is because of the use of biofuels and the subsidies granted to biofuel producers.

French foreign affairs minister, Mr. Kouchner, proposed banning speculation on raw food materials, which he described as completely immoral.

What does this government propose? To give money to ease its conscience and continue unhealthy practices? Or does this government really have a long-term, responsible vision that respects the needs of all populations around the globe? That is the question I would like to ask again today.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 May 27th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I am going to speak my mind. I am exceedingly worried that this bill is truly flawed. That is one of the reasons that led me to vote, earlier today, in favour of the amendment proposed by my colleague's party. That would have allowed us—there was nothing to fear because we could still support it—to return to committee and further study the issue.

It is quite normal to be worried when we are dealing with our environment, our food source, our nourishing earth. People often accuse us of not thinking about future generations.

That is exactly why we have parliamentary committees on such occasions. It is to improve things, to change them and to work together. Thus, I supported it.

I said that the bill is flawed. I am concerned about not imposing a limit on the percentage of our beautiful agricultural land that can be used solely for this purpose. Because at some point, someone will say that they want to be like their neighbour, that they want to make money and that is how they will do it. And why would we penalize that farmer?

Thus, we have to set limits. There must be a standard. We must be even more respectful of our environment because we know the price we will pay if we are not. We have to prepare for the future. We could wait for better methods rather than simply saying that we have discovered the grain corn that will be used to produce ethanol, or another product that serves as food,

In my opinion, crops that are as close as possible to the people and will nourish them should be set aside as a food source. We should also develop other means of satisfying our outrageous energy cravings. We should become less dependent on these things and help each other to become more responsible.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 May 27th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to my colleague and I must say, I do not share his optimism.

Today we are at the end of the debate on Bill C-33. I find this target—if it is not an obligation then to me it is a target—of 5% biofuels in the composition of gasoline to be rather disconcerting. To many people this will become a type of panacea. We are quickly getting caught up in this.

Earlier, when we were voting on the amendment by the New Democratic Party, I was talking to a colleague about canola oil, the use of our fine land, and our food products. To my great surprise, the colleague in question—who shall remain nameless—thought canola was not edible.

When we are on the verge of adopting a bill, the least we can do, despite our many and diverse activities, is to be well informed. Most of the time that is what we all try to do.

If this bill is passed, it will allow the government to regulate the composition of gasoline to achieve certain objectives. In energy and agriculture, in light of our recent experiences, we should recognize that the time has come to prepare for the future and that the future is now. The planet needs us to take care of it, not abuse it.

The government's target to include 5% ethanol in gasoline is not the best approach. Instead, the government could concern itself with funding research into new technologies that would allow us to use substances other than foodstuffs for this purpose.

Currently, as we know, grain based ethanol constitutes a major part of this production. Why? Because that is the simplest way to produce this ethanol and the other technologies are underdeveloped. These biofuels are raising vital questions that absolutely must be answered before we dive head first into mass production, blinded as we often are by this market economy instead of being driven by values that promote an economy of solidarity and respect for our environment.

In my humble opinion, this is not a viable option considering the world crisis. I have heard many colleagues in this House say that funding and encouraging the production of ethanol has nothing to do with rising food prices. I disagree. In fact, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the use of biofuels and the subsidies granted to producers account for 70% of the increase in corn prices. So I find it rather odd to hear members claim that there is no connection.

I see some other potential problems and I am not alone. For example, this morning when we were debating the amendment, I spoke about the massive use of water, a very important natural resource that is becoming scarcer. The massive use of water will considerably detract from the supposed environmental advantages of grain-based ethanol. As a resource, water is often referred to as blue gold. Wasting blue gold to produce black gold is a paradox created only by our commercial appetite and our very short-term environmental vision.

On the weekend, like many others who have read his writings, I suppose, I listened to Hubert Reeves speak. As members know, he is an authority on the matter, and he said that if we continue to use our planet this way, we will not need one planet Earth; we will need four or five.

We are talking about the not-too-distant future. This is not science fiction. This is not about something that will happen in 3,000 years. This is reality. Every time we encounter situations like the one we are talking about today, we should all take an interest.

The wholesale use of grains and other products—such as canola, which I mentioned earlier—in ethanol production will create other problems. Our producers will not work as hard to keep our grain crops safe because they will be destined not for human consumption but for processing and ultimately, for gas tanks. Crop safety will not be a priority because the crops will not be for human consumption.

Could this have an impact on the use of insecticides, pesticides and GMOs? People will want to produce as much as possible and achieve ever-increasing yields. Given the extraordinary yields that producers want to achieve to process corn into ethanol, I was trying to imagine what an ear of corn might look like a few years from now. Quite honestly, I would rather not contemplate it, but I did so anyway.

Soon, technical and technological efforts will no longer be directed at meeting human needs and producing better-quality foods with more nutrients that cause the least possible environmental damage. The Monsantos of the world will develop new genetically modified crop varieties not to do a better job of feeding people, but to produce more energy with each kernel of corn, for example.

Producers who want to be part of the system will benefit from this new application. Certainly, it will take less effort to earn more money. Who could blame producers for wanting to make money? These people go through crises regularly, and they have a hard time making a decent living because of the problems associated with their work. Who could blame them for looking to energy production?

What is shocking is that all this goes against a philosophy that is developing more and more, little by little, in Quebec. I am repeating myself, since I talked about it this morning, but I would like to mention it again. I am talking about food sovereignty.

The goal of food sovereignty is to feed our population using foods produced as close to home as possible by our own producers. This is done in an environmentally-friendly manner. It means less transportation, since we are buying our food at local markets. All the market garden production comes to mind, for example. Everyone knows how great it feels to find fresh fruits and vegetables available close to home.

We are working to develop this new social contract, especially in Quebec. The Pronovost commission comes to mind. Many people have already accepted paying a little more for food that has been grown and harvested close to home, the quality of which they do not have to question. We know that the production safety standards respect the environment and that this food comes from where we live.

Farmers are encouraged to produce for humans, on a human scale. In Quebec, all UPA members gladly advocate for this production on a human dimension. The men and women involved in this initiative have good reason to be proud.

When I think about this mass production for our cars, I think we are moving in the wrong direction. This bill really needs to be carefully defined and must incorporate certain elements. My NDP colleague alluded to this earlier when he talked about checks and balances. I think this is very important.

In conclusion, we do not need to reject biofuels. I think that innovation is the road to take when it comes to energy. We have to commit ourselves and use the smallest possible amount of arable land and environmental resources to meet our energy needs, which we know are sometimes excessive.

When we can convert waste and residues—be they food, vegetable or artificial—into energy without using food products that would feed humans or animals, when we have that guarantee, then things will change.

The government is currently encouraging pilot projects. That is excellent, but it is not enough. I think about my area, given that we are obviously affected by this forestry crisis, particularly in the Lower St. Lawrence region. We could be thinking about these future techniques that would use forestry residues. Obviously it is a promising idea.

As I just said, we know the state of our forestry industry, and it would be good to encourage the development and study of this type of energy. I would go so far as to say that it is urgent because it could help some of our businesses and forestry workers, including those in private woodlots whom we know have been completely ignored in the Conservative government's trust fund.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that this is not a good time to be aiming for that 5% target. Residual material technology is not ready yet, the world markets are fragile and, as we know, the world's population is starving. I think we need to be responsible and act accordingly.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 May 27th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Victoria. I think the answer can be found in her question.

The government must take action to really promote food security. This is done through regulations. Of course, my colleagues in this House will not be surprised to hear me say that this must be done while respecting provincial jurisdictions, since Quebec already has regulations in place. We have a department, the ministry of agriculture, fisheries and agri-food, as well as an agricultural producers union, which is made up of several branches and covers various types of products.

We must have regulations at a level that is as close as possible to the farmer. We must work together, in partnership, to make our products as safe as possible and to encourage new methods, something that is done regularly.

When it is within its prerogative and its jurisdiction, the federal government must take action through subsidies and other means in order to allow our producers to innovate, to use the best methods that are the least polluting and as safe and secure as possible.

As I said earlier, when food is produced and harvested as close as possible to the people who consume it, people can ask the producer directly, at the market, for example, what kind of pesticides, insecticides or other products were used on the food. Thus, people know what is in the food they eat. It is all right in front of them. The closer it is to them, the more responsible people become and the more likely they are to ask questions, and rightfully so.

To begin with, encouraging people to assume more responsibility will ensure food security. Of course, government regulations must also be obeyed and all jurisdictions must be respected.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 May 27th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and comments.

Not just rural residents but city dwellers also are gaining a greater appreciation of this fact. Furthermore, there are many ways to learn about this issue and a multitude of articles are written on the subject every week.

One concept in particular has led to much greater awareness among citizens. I am referring to our environmental footprint. There are sites, especially on the Internet, where we can calculate our environmental footprint and determine the amount of pollution created by our daily individual activities and our work. We are responsible for the pollution we create. Obviously this encourages us to make changes.

City dwellers are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that food does not miraculously appear on the table. The member used the right expression. More and more, people read the labels when grocery shopping to determine where the strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, parsnips and other food comes from. That is a growing trend where I come from.

There are cities in eastern Quebec and not just small, very rural municipalities. People are asking whether the food is local or if it comes from very far away, from abroad. They know that the produce leaves an environmental footprint because transportation and other factors cause pollution.

In my opinion, it is our responsibility to continue to raise awareness so that citizens have a better understanding of the issue. That is done through their representatives. It is one of our responsibilities to continue this work and to do it well. I have no doubt that the hon. member who asked the question does this very well.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 May 27th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will support this NDP amendment, which I feel is very important. Moreover, I invite my colleagues to support this amendment so that the committee can examine this whole issue in greater detail.

Since the debate began, we have heard numerous opinions that have been more or less well documented, more or less scientific, more or less emotional. I myself have a number of opinions. I believe that for the sake of the people we represent, it is important that each and every one of us in this House consider the advisability of using a natural resource, a raw material as precious as our most beautiful farmland.

I am thinking of Quebec, among other places. I am familiar with the Montérégie area, for example, where corn grows perfectly and in huge quantities. Even in my region, the Lower St. Lawrence, we have corn. We can think about wheat in the west.

We are using our beautiful land to produce something that we call a biofuel or agrofuel to ease our consciences. It will give us a clear conscience, because with 5% or 2% in our tank, we will feel as though we are helping to save the environment. In my opinion, we should not kid ourselves.

First, as I just said, we are using a precious resource, precious materials, namely our land. I will digress for a moment. Yesterday, I listened as a Conservative member who had gotten upset said he hoped we would never get to the stage in this House where we would tell farmers what they can and cannot do. I believe that in 2008, we should be telling them what they can and cannot do, because the land belongs to all of us. More importantly, it belongs to future generations, and we have to be responsible stewards. When we look at agriculture regulations—I will talk about Quebec, because I know the regulations in Quebec—we see that more and more, they are being imposed with good reason on our farmers so that they will keep environmental sustainability in mind as they farm. In my opinion, we are giving them a responsibility.

They have been landowners for decades, perhaps centuries, but they are responsible for this wonderful piece of land. They have been given something very valuable on behalf of a community. Just because they are landowners does not mean that they can do whatever they want, just as a city dweller, an owner of the smallest piece of land with the smallest home, cannot do whatever he or she wants on land in the middle of a city. We have a responsibility in both rural and urban areas. To get back to the point, this greatly concerns me, along with a number of my constituents, because it is important to also consider the process used.

This is evident in the case of the oil sands. All of the contaminated water must be stored somewhere, while it waits to be decontaminated. We hope that it will not contaminate our streams, our lakes, our rivers, and that there will not be any human errors that could lead to spills in some areas, which would be a concern. That would be an environmental nightmare. We should remember that this has happened in the oceans, on the shores and the coasts. These things can happen.

The water needed for this process is another very precious natural resource which is ultimately being used so that we can have a clear conscience and produce biofuels, so-called because they come from a biological source. Most people think that because of this name, the product must be good, since it is bio. I think we need to go beyond that.

There is some irony in using some of our most precious natural resources literally to run our cars and to ease our consciences.

All of us, as citizens, elected members of this House and representatives of the public, have the responsibility to dig deeper and ask questions. What does a government, of any political stripe, have to do to ensure that the environment is truly taken into account? What does a government have to do to help us reduce our dependence on oil sooner rather than later? There is no miraculous solution, but if we all do our part, what methods could we use to run our vehicles on sources of energy that produce less and less pollution? We will definitely continue to drive, but we have to become far less dependent on petroleum, whether it has ethanol additives or not. This is very important.

Earlier, when I asked the hon. member for Victoria a question, I raised a point that is important to me; that is, how farmers use their resources and the painful choice our producers are faced with. On one hand, they are being told they will be encouraged and even subsidized, so that they can contribute to this economy. The epitome of a market economy has to be asking farmers to produce additives for our gasoline instead of food for human consumption. In fact, why would environmentally conscious farmers simply continue to produce food for human consumption, and punish themselves financially by choosing not to produce biofuels?

That is the difficult choice they are faced with. On one hand, they are told what they can do to produce “natural” additives for gasoline, in order to allow us to drive more and to ease our conscience, as I was saying earlier. On the other hand, a number of producers are currently taking this a step further and are taking action to achieve food sovereignty. It is increasingly clear that this is the best route for the environment and for food security.

Of course I always talk about what I know best: Quebec. As everyone knows, we have extraordinary measures in effect for food crops. We have a traceability system for our animals as well as codes for our produce, for example. Similar systems likely exist elsewhere, as well. When people buy their food from local producers, they know that for the most part they are getting quality products at a reasonable price.

We are faced, however, with a difficult decision. Would producers rather produce biofuels, because they are more lucrative, or provide good food for people? If they do the latter, will the population return the favour? As we say where I come from, in the Lower St. Lawrence, we are real happy to be able to buy potatoes, carrots and other summer produce. We can stock up on them when buying in our own region, just a few kilometres from home. Many people do it. The same is true for berries. People preserve them, make jam out of them and so on. It is very ecological and, by doing so, we allow our producers to live well and meet their needs. Like everyone else, they have every right to live well and provide for their families.

On the other hand, producers must make a difficult decision. Should they not bother because their motto, like everyone else's today, would be to make money when we can? Should they convert a portion of their land to biofuel production?

This issue is of great interest to us all, and for good reason. We have to keep talking about it. We cannot simply dismiss this person as being completely unrealistic. People say that that is what things have come to with the global economy, and that is what has to be done. But I do not think that we need to get carried away with wild imaginings and accusations against everyone. We have to be responsible. We have to look at the consequences of this.

When it comes to biofuels, there is no doubt that in addition to speculation, it has become profitable for many people around the world to use their agricultural land for purposes other than growing food, for the least environmentally friendly purposes possible to meet a need and, as I was saying earlier, to make things, such as our cars, go.

Somebody was talking about China yesterday. People who visit China can see that, unfortunately, the Chinese are making all the same mistakes we made decades ago. Instead of using new technologies, they are doing exactly as we have done. Why not use fossil fuels as long as they are available? Why not pollute for as long as possible?

They are planning to shield the city for the Olympic Games so that the athletes can perform. After that, pollution will resume once again. Unfortunately, they are making the same mistakes we did as though they had inherited our ways. That is a real shame.

In Quebec, we have other ways of doing things that do not involve doing what big Canadian and multi-national corporations want us to do. I think the government has a responsibility. I will always think that. It is responsible for the common good and for redistributing wealth. In this case, as in others, it must play its part. The population expects nothing less from a government of any political stripe that calls itself accountable.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 May 27th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the member for Victoria raised many points. I listened to her closely, and I congratulate her for having touched on so many of the issues. However, there is one that I did not hear her mention. She most likely did not have the time to discuss it. It affects my region in particular, and many others in Quebec.

I am talking about the large number of farmers increasingly deciding to move toward what we call food sovereignty. I do not want my colleagues to worry—we are not talking about Quebec's sovereignty, but food sovereignty. This concept aims to make us increasingly independent in terms of food, to allow us to create our own supply and to have a safe supply at a better price. Obviously, in terms of the environment, this system aims to pollute as little as possible. If we buy products that come from closer to home, there is no transportation and so on.

If she would, I would like my colleague to talk about this difficult choice that producers may face—go along with the market economy, that is, choose to use their land in a way that keeps cars on the roads and adds to pollution, or focus on an economy of proximity by taking into account sustainability and feeding the people around them.

I would like to hear her ideas on this issue.

Price of Petroleum Products May 26th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I will use all my time. That is why I did not ask the member for Sherbrooke any questions.

This evening, my colleagues have talked about the rising price of gas and how it affects the economy and consumers. That goes without saying. Since we are trying to find solutions to this real problem—although some people are really trying to minimize it, as we have seen tonight—I want to speak about the situation in my riding, and in the ridings of many other members, where there are sparse rural populations spread out over large geographical areas.

To solve the problem of gas prices, the government will have to take action, and citizens will have to act responsibly to reduce consumption. I think that is the only viable option. The government needs to make massive investments in infrastructure and in energy efficiency incentives.

Unfortunately, the way things are now, a lot of people cannot reduce their energy consumption no matter how much they want to. People with low incomes simply cannot get new, more economical cars or renovate their houses or apartments to make them more energy efficient, as a member suggested earlier. All of these things cost money that they do not have, and pathetic tax incentives are no help. What is going on? People are being taken hostage.

One particular situation is extremely frustrating for the people in it, people living in rural areas. Take a senior, for example, specifically, an older woman—women tend to live longer—living in a village of 500, whose only income is her old age pension and her guaranteed income supplement. She is already living below the poverty line, and the rising price of gas literally takes her hostage. We know that there are seniors—in my riding and elsewhere—who cannot make ends meet as it is and who have to resort to food banks. How are they supposed to pay for gas?

If she has to go to a hospital or drive a certain distance to see a medical specialist a few times a month, she has to include that transportation in her already tight budget. There is no need to reiterate, as others have, that the price of gas has gone up 30% since the beginning of the year. Add to that the fact that her mailbox has been relocated for safety reasons, so she has to use her car to get the mail. It is just one thing after another for our people. They have to deal with services being cut back and the cost of living going up. When the price of gas goes up on top of everything else, that is a harsh reality.

In rural areas, you cannot get by without a car. That is the reality. There is no public transportation. Walking and cycling are all well and good, but not at all practical. They would be nice, but are not an option given the distances that must be travelled. Carpooling is not usually an option either.

The rural and regional reality is that of an economy based equally on forestry, agriculture and manufacturing. It is, to a great extent, an economy dependent on trucking and the price of oil. One of the negative effects of rising oil costs that cannot be ignored will be an increase in operating costs, global price hikes.

In my riding in particular, the lack of rail and marine infrastructure—infrastructure that was abandoned by various federal governments, it has been said—will make it even harder for the industries I mentioned to adapt to rising oil costs. It is the workers and consumers who will pay the price.

Yet it is the government's role to develop routes that encourage profitable, sustainable and environmentally friendly trade for all regions, including eastern Quebec.

There is another infrastructure deficit that I consider equally dangerous. The lack of public transit and the decline in service in the regions limit my constituents' choices when they want to reduce their gas consumption.

The government must help consumers reduce their need for gas and energy. The Prime Minister himself said it would be impossible to stop the rise in the price of oil.

The only remaining option is to offset price increases with more efficient and therefore decreased use of energy resources.

In conclusion, current energy efficiency incentives are not enough. They help only those who have the means to make environmentally friendly choices. These choices must be made available to everyone, and it is essential to take into account the reality of people in rural areas in the process.