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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was problem.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as NDP MP for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac (New Brunswick)

Lost her last election, in 2004, with 28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Fisheries Infrastructure February 10th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I find it very difficult to speak when everybody in the House is screaming.

Fisheries Infrastructure February 10th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, on January 21, southeastern New Brunswick was struck by a severe blizzard with high winds. Several docks sustained heavy damage, possibly thousands of dollars worth.

The disaster happened three weeks ago and yet the federal government continues to ignore the extent of the damage. The department's silence on this is just one more example of its lack of understanding of the fishing industry and of its importance to our communities.

Today the fishers again feel that they have been abandoned by this government. We must not lose sight of the fact that this is the same Liberal government that shirked its responsibility by abandoning the docks.

Abdicating its responsibilities with respect to the fishing wharves resulted—

Employment Insurance December 15th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst for giving us the opportunity today to discuss once again the serious problem of seasonal workers.

My Bloc Quebecois colleague who just spoke closed his speech with a reference to dignity. It is true that our seasonal workers have been stripped of their dignity. That happened some years ago already.

It happened the day that the Prime Minister of Canada, that same man who came to the riding I represent, then called Beauséjour, seeking votes. When he got back to Ottawa after campaigning in our riding, the first thing he told all the Canadians in the country is that he had been to New Brunswick where he had seen unemployed people bending their elbows in taverns. He said:

“In New Brunswick, seasonal workers are in taverns collecting EI”.

You can easily imagine what Canadians think of seasonal workers now. These words came from the mouth of the man who went after these same people to get voted into this House and to now be the Prime Minister. This gives us some idea of what kind of man is leading this country today. The people of New Brunswick could readily find a number of terms to describe him.

However, we have our hands full doing away with this perception and making Canadians realize that seasonal workers are not lazy people. If only hon. members could go to these plants, they would see that men and women there sometimes put in 100 or so hours a week for minimum wage, on their feet from morning to night, sunup to sundown, trying to earn a little money to take home.

The same thing can be seen in all sectors not just in New Brunswick. It is the same in any area of seasonal employment. First of all, it is not the workers who are seasonal, it is the work that is, or their communities, with their high unemployment levels.

Instead of trying to develop our regions, instead of trying to create more jobs, this government has taken away the only program that helped these people. The reform was well thought out by this Liberal government. It focussed on one particular group, the workers in areas of seasonal employment. They are the ones targeted.

This has created a situation that is quite desperate in some areas. We have a discriminatory clause on the intensity rule. We have all talked about it but nobody is doing anything about it. I do not see the Liberal government doing anything about it.

We do not hear enough about the divisor. Most of the MPs in the House probably do not know what the word means because they have never been on EI. Well some of us have collected EI cheques because we have needed to. The divisor is a serious problem because some people receive only $30 week. Before the last cuts to the program, they were receiving maybe $200 or $250 a week. This is what the new EI has done to these people. We have to recognize that in order to fix it.

How about the pilot project we are under? Practically the whole country is under this project and not under the real act because of the small weeks. We are not talking about that either. That has to be permanently correctly.

How about the zones? We could solve maybe 80% of the problems in some areas if we had a minister who would rezone the way it should be done. Let us put the rural communities together and the urban communities together. In Albert county, Petitcodiac and Salisbury, we have two national parks in one zone and another one in another zone. One group of workers in these parks can qualify with 420 hours while the other group of workers need 669 hours.

Let us talk about the duration for these two communities. In one community, the workers can receive 26 weeks of EI while in the other community the workers receive 15 weeks, but they are all in the same riding. How can this happen? It happened under this government.

We have to talk about the duration problem. We have people going with no incomes for up to 12 to 15 weeks. Can anybody here live with no income for 15 weeks? Why do we think that a person who has seasonal job can? It is unbelievable.

Let us talk about the Canada jobs fund. The Canada jobs fund can be very good if it is used right. The government likes to talk about abuse in the EI system but it forgets to talk about its abuse of the fund. I have to say that I have seen it work very well in my riding if it is done right. All we have to do is get the politicians who make it not right out of the picture. Let us just do it right. Let us let the MP recommend the project.

In one instance I did not recommend a project in my riding because I knew there was something wrong with it. Let us think for a minute what happened to it. Within a year it had folded and we lost the money. I had not recommended that project but the minister went over my head and gave funds to that group knowing it was not going to work. There was no plan. Little political favours like that cost a lot money. Those programs will work if we want them to work.

Since the last round of cuts, my riding alone has lot $52 million a year. New Brunswick has lost over a billion dollars in four years. That is a lot of money. That will not solve our problem. Our problem is high unemployment. We have to create the jobs. We probably will never create enough jobs for everybody to work year-round. We have to recognize that we have seasonal industries.

Employment Insurance November 30th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, if the fund is so great and if they are doing so well with it, why do we have such a surplus and so many people who do not qualify or go with no income for so long? I do not understand how the government can justify doing to this fund what it is doing.

Could someone on the government side explain to Canadians why we have such a surplus and why we have so many people going with nothing?

Employment Insurance November 30th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, in 1997 the EI surplus was $7.5 billion and now it is almost $25 billion. Today the auditor general criticized the handling of that fund.

I think it is time for the government to realize that this surplus is not for its own use. It is an insurance fund that belongs to the employees and employers, and they are entitled to it.

How high will this surplus have to get before the government takes real action and reinvests in our communities to give back hope and dignity to the unemployed of the country?

Supply November 16th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, it shows again a lack of understanding. Let us face it, the government has been ruling with an iron fist. The Liberals are doing it their way or no way at all and they do not really care what is happening across the country. We have seen it with other portfolios. We have seen how they have abandoned rural Canada, and let us face it, fishing is in rural Canada. Did they care enough to have a plan B ? No, they did not and that is what we saw again. They could have had something in place, but there was nothing. There was no plan A , there was no plan B , there was no plan at all because they just did not care.

To think that a minister was able to say “I did not know that this was actually coming down”. When ministers change ministries do they just leave and there is no adjustment period with the work, especially with something as important as the whole livelihood of our fishing industry and communities?

I am wondering what the government is doing now that we know that the aboriginal peoples have on the table that they are going after 30% to 50% of the Atlantic fishery. Is the government aware of this? Is the government actually at the table? We have been made aware by the representative for the aboriginal peoples that they are going after 30% to 50% of the Atlantic fishery. That is a very scary thought. I wonder what the government is doing about it.

Supply November 16th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that what we should have been doing is negotiating it here. We should not let the courts decide everything for us. What are we here for? We have to listen to both sides. I do not think that only the politicians sitting in here trying to decide for the rest of the country is the way to go either. We have to negotiate outside.

The government had a chance to do that in February and again in June. When the representative, Mr. Christmas, was here to negotiate with the government, it refused to negotiate. The government put all its eggs in the same basket and said the supreme court will rule the other way. It did not happen that way and the government did not have a plan B . That is why we are in this situation today.

It is clear there could have been a very peaceful solution to this but the government refused to look that way.

Supply November 16th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Fundy—Royal.

It is my pleasure to rise today to speak to my party's motion urging the government to give urgent consideration to the immediate and long term needs of Canada's agriculture and fishing industries. The livelihood of many families in my riding depends a lot on our natural resources.

The Liberal government has ignored the rural communities far too long. Members on the other side of the House have waited for crises to go on and on before trying inadequately to resolve them. Rural Canadians have had enough. It is time for the government to provide leadership, a long term vision and workable solutions for Canada's fishery and agriculture sectors.

The government did not prepare for the Marshall decision of the Supreme Court of Canada which acknowledged fishing, hunting and gathering rights for Canada's aboriginal people. The government should have prepared a plan for this decision.

We all knew the supreme court was to make a decision on this case. This decision has effectively pitted native and non-native fishers against each other as their leaders try to determine how the lucrative lobster fishery should be regulated in light of the recent supreme court ruling. Actually it has gone beyond native and non-native fishers to communities fighting each other. That is the sad situation we are seeing in Atlantic Canada right now.

Conservation is an important issue. We should not forget the auditor general's warning last spring that the shellfish fishery is in danger.

Chapter 4 of the auditor general's report tabled on April 20 voiced some serious concerns about the way Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been managing the lobster, scallop, snow crab and shrimp fisheries.

According to the auditor general:

The absence of a formal fisheries policy that fully reflects sustainability concepts means that decisions on resource use are made on an ad hoc and inconsistent basis rather than as part of an overall framework for achieving a sustainable fishery.

As we are doing here today, the auditor general decries the government's lack of vision in the fisheries industry. In 1997 he expressed similar concerns about groundfish stocks. The government did not learn a lesson from this, and now the shellfish and crustacean fisheries are involved.

It is important for the government to realize that everything is interrelated and that whole communities suffer when the crops or the catches are poor. The fishermen, farmers and other workers in these industries are seasonal workers and are therefore victims of discrimination by our employment insurance system.

As if it were not enough to place these industries in a precarious position, the government then refuses to give the workers in them any proper assistance. These workers, who pay into the program, often live in regions where the economy is not active enough to allow them to find work in the off season.

In my riding, there are a number of cases where people have no income from January on. They have worked long and hard during the season but do not have any money coming in for long periods of time and cannot support their families because of the discrimination this government practices toward them.

I recently visited the food banks in my riding of Beauséjour-Petitcodiac. Everyone involved blamed the cuts to employment insurance for the increase in users. This is a serious situation.

I am urging the government to have a vision for rural Canada. I realize it cannot have a vision for rural Canada until it understands what rural Canada means, and it does not care enough to try to learn. It does not have a vision.

Even if the government had a vision for rural Canada right now I would be afraid of what that vision would be because until it goes out to see what is happening in rural Canada it cannot have a vision. We cannot treat with something that is not working. We cannot treat sick people with medication if we do not know what we are treating them for. We have to find out what is the problem.

That is what we see going on in our regions and in our rural communities. This is why the employment insurance program was destroyed, was run in a way that no longer takes the needs of our people into account. These people include fishers and workers in factories, tourism and construction.

This government is refusing to understand what is going on. My colleague from the Reform Party spoke of suicide among farmers. It is sad to see that happening, and I can understand how sad it is in the west at the moment with the suicide rate. I have seen that happening in the Atlantic region since the start of the employment insurance reforms. I know of people no longer with us today, who killed themselves or whose heart gave out because they no longer had an income and no longer met the requirements to qualify for employment insurance.

There are now two major problems, and I wonder just when the Liberal government is going to realize that we do not all live in major urban centres. There is a Canada outside these centres, rural Canada. The government has to accept and recognize that and work with these communities. It is time this government showed some leadership. This is what we need, and the fact that we do not have it is sad.

Employment Insurance November 15th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, since elected in 1997, I have been continually defending the need for EI rezoning for the region of Albert County, Salisbury and Petitcodiac. The livelihood of many families are depending on it.

These rural communities with no economic similarities with Moncton have been included in their neighbouring urban zone. Seasonal workers will be finding themselves with no incomes starting in January because of the government's past decisions.

During my ongoing correspondence with the former minister of HRDC, I have succeeded in getting a commitment to move the rezoning date from July 2001 to July 2000. I have been assured that as an MP I would be involved in the process.

We are now just eight months away and the consultation process has yet to begin. I urge the HRDC minister to make the EI rezoning one of her priorities and to involve the MPs of the affected regions. It is time for the government to make the EI system work better for all Canadians.

Speech From The Throne November 3rd, 1999

Madam Speaker, today I am talking about what was not in the throne speech. That is what we have to look at. There were a lot of areas not covered and what was in the speech was vague, anyway.

There was no vision in the throne speech for the unemployed who are dependent on social assistance. There was no vision for our youth. The throne speech made absolutely no reference to an increase in transfer payments to the provinces that administer those programs.

There was mention of children. However the day after the throne speech there were as many hungry children as the day before. I am not sure that there was a lot in the speech for children.

Transfer payments have been slashed by billions of dollars since the arrival of the Liberal government, actually $11 billion.

That is a lot of money. If they think that problems can be solved by cutting back programs, they are mistaken. If they continue to take money from the provinces administering these programs, our children will keep on going to school hungry, and they will keep on saying “I cannot afford to stay in school past Grade 12”. This is not acceptable, especially in a rich country like Canada.

What have these cuts caused in our communities? Since 1993 we have 500,000 more poor children in this very rich country. This means more children are going to school hungry.

I must take this opportunity to commend Premier Bernard Lord for initiating and putting in place a breakfast program in our schools, a program very much needed since the arrival of the Liberal government in 1993.

In New Brunswick during the Liberal regime of the McKenna and Thériault governments they slashed over 600 hospital worker jobs during their 10 year reign in New Brunswick. With only three months in power Premier Lord announced 300 new jobs in our health care system. Again I commend him. It shows that if we want to we can. Premier Lord is dealing with the same amount of money that Camille Thériault and Frank McKenna were dealing with, but what they were doing was slashing. It seems to be a habit of theirs as it is in Ottawa.

For our young men and women wanting to further their education after high school there was certainly no vision in the throne speech. To be $50,000 in debt after four to six years of university is certainly unacceptable. The children of our rich country should be given a real chance to be prepared and ready to lead our country in the future. A $50,000 debt is an obstacle that must be addressed. It can be addressed by the Liberal government increasing transfer payments to the provinces.

We have to look at the reality of things. I often hear young people say “I will not be going on after grade 12. It is too expensive and there are no jobs. I have to move here, I have to move there, I have to go to the U.S.”.

Our young people do not have a vision of the future. They must be shown that they can find work in their province and that they can have post-secondary education. Our young people can contribute to their community, but they will not do so by leaving the regions.

Clearly the decisions made here in Ottawa targeted the Atlantic region. We have seen what that meant in federal elections: the number of Liberal members dropped from 31 to 11 here in Ottawa. Clearly, the decisions made targeted the Atlantic regions.

Another reason for the greater number of poor in our country is the cuts to the employment insurance program. No one here can say otherwise. It is clear that there is more poverty.

In the throne speech there is no mention of the negative impact felt by seasonal workers in this country. Seasonal workers are everywhere in this country. They are not only in the Atlantic regions. They exist throughout the country. They depend on the seasons and not on employment insurance.

That is very important. People have to realize that seasonal workers are not dependent on the employment insurance program. They are dependent on the seasons. If we could have summer for eight months of the year in New Brunswick, believe me, we would take it. People would work during that season. If it were a tourist season of eight months, be assured that people would be working.

We have to stop attacking the seasonal workers. They are a very important group. Every day we use or eat something that a seasonal worker worked at.

Obviously, the deficit was paid down on the backs of high unemployment regions, as the fund's surplus is $26 billion. However, people who are not eligible for employment insurance benefits go for weeks and months without any income.

It is clear, with a $26 billion surplus in the fund that we did not get that money where the EI was not being used. That money came from the regions where there was very high unemployment and people either did not qualify or went for two to three months with no income or got a $32 per week cheque. That is how we got that money.

Let us not forget that, for every poor child, there are poor parents. In a country as rich as ours, this is unacceptable.

We also have to talk about health care, a program so important to all Canadians. I have done surveys and we can talk to any group. Our health care program is very important. We want to keep our health care program. Without increasing transfer payments to the provinces, health care services will continue to deteriorate. Our hospitals need more doctors, nurses and other health care workers. Canadians need this now. Lives are depending on the government's actions.

There was also no mention of our fishery crisis. It is a crisis. Our caucus was given a presentation by Mr. Christmas this morning. I was very shocked to hear that the first nations are negotiating to obtain actually between 30% and 50% of the Atlantic fishery. I wonder where the government is on this. This afternoon I made phone calls to different fishermen. I asked if they were aware that the aboriginal people had put on the table that they want 30% to 50% of the Atlantic fishery.

I hope that finally the government will take some leadership and that it will talk to both groups. A lot of families are depending on that. I hope the government is going to do something because to do nothing is not an option at this point.