House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was dairy.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Bloc MP for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2004, with 57% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Agriculture and Agri-Food November 23rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, Quebec producers who raise cull cows are dependent on a single slaughterhouse serving all of eastern Canada, which sets prices and might start looking elsewhere if a floor price is set only by the Government of Quebec.

Does the minister recognize this is a possibility? Does this not prove to him that his intervention is necessary, since this is a matter under his jurisdiction and he cannot remain indifferent?

Centre de la petite enfance Patachou November 19th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the Centre de la petite enfance Patachou in Mercier, along with Denyse Richard, the head of one of its home-based child care services, were honoured with a prestigious award on October 30.

They received a gold medal in the team involvement category at the Montérégie coalition of early childhood education centres gala, with the theme of “30 years of dreams and passionate involvement”. This great evening brought together the whole community to acknowledge excellence, celebrate the dream and share the passion.

The panel of judges selected the child care centre and Ms. Richard for their initiative of bringing children from home-based day care to take part in a day of activities in a child care centre.

This event also marked the 30th anniversary of the Montérégie coalition of early childhood education centres. Its 123 members provide care to some 25,000 children in child care centres or home-based day care facilities. Congratulations, Patachou. Keep up the good work.

Supply November 18th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, first I want to address the issue we are dealing with today as the official agri-food critic for the Bloc Québécois and as a farmer who has worked for many years on ensuring that what Quebeckers consume is of the highest quality in terms of enjoyment and their health.

The agri-food industry is very important in Quebec. Society has been very demanding of farmers over the past few years. They are asked to produce food that is the best quality, the most diverse, sold at the best price, and to protect the environment and service Quebec's land for all of society.

Quebec farmers have met the challenge. The quality and diversity of their food production have increased and the price has remained low.

This is where I want to make a link between the Quebec model in agriculture and the NDP bill, since there are areas where Quebec and the rest of Canada can easily stand united.

Our farmers ensure that their products are of a very high quality, but the quality is ruined when the product is processed by the processing industry. How can we assure our consumers that the food they buy is of the same quality as the food from our processing sector producers?

Today, on this NDP opposition day, we are debating a proposal by this party to urge the government to enact legislation limiting the content of trans fats to the lowest possible level in all food products sold in Quebec and Canada. The motion reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the federal government should acknowledge processed transfatty acids are harmful fats, which are significantly more likely to cause heart disease than saturated fats;

And that this House hasten the development of replacements to processed trans fats by urging the government to enact regulation, or if necessary legislation within one year, guided by the findings of a multi-stakeholder Task Force, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and following the consultation process with scientists and the industry currently underway;

Therefore, this House calls on the government to enact regulation, or if necessary present legislation that effectively eliminates processed trans fats, by limiting the processed transfat content of any food product sold in Canada to the lowest level possible.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of this motion.

It is estimated that every Canadian consumes 10 grams of trans fats daily, one of the highest levels in the entire world. The World Health Organization recommends we follow Denmark's example, as the Danes did away with trans fats in 2003, all the more important because 1 gram of such fat is apparently 10 times more dangerous for the cardiovascular system than one gram of saturated fat. The New England Journal of Medicine tells us that consuming 1 gram daily increases the risk of heart disease by 20%.

Getting back to the Danish legislation. It was passed in March 2003 and came into effect on December 31 that same year. It bans trans fats in food. This was the first country to enact such a law and this was not without impact. The European Commission mandated the European Food Safety Authority Scientific Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies to give an opinion on the presence of trans fats in foods for human consumption.

This panel was mandated because some member states of the European Union differed with the Danish authorities on this issue. The Government of Denmark used the public health argument to justify passage of this legislation. In fact, it is claimed that the links between the consumption of trans fats and cardiovascular disease, certain kinds of cancer, type 2 diabetes and strokes are clear enough to justify creating such legislation. Our friends in the New Democratic Party are relying on much the same argument to justify Bill C-220.

Let us now look at the effects on health. Consumption of trans fatty acids increases blood cholesterol levels. The disadvantage of trans fats, compared to saturated fats, is that in addition to increasing levels of bad cholesterol, they also lower the levels of HDL, the good cholesterol. The more trans fats and hydrogenated fats we consume, the higher our blood cholesterol goes. Epidemiological studies have also shown that people who consumed diets high in trans fats were two to three times more at risk of heart attack or other heart disease five to ten years later.

Saturated fatty acids raise the level of bad cholesterol by interfering with the elimination of cholesterol from the blood, due to their inhibiting action on the receptors for bad cholesterol. Trans fatty acids can also cause an increase in bad cholesterol levels in blood, but usually not in the same proportions as saturated fatty acids.

Medical science has not yet discovered the mechanism whereby trans fats raise the level of cholesterol in the blood.

We will recall that, in the last few centuries, our farmers produced food of excellent quality, as they do today, and that this food reached the consumer without undergoing major processing, and with fewer health risks. The consumer enjoyed healthy food, and the risks of disease associated with the new processing practices were much lower. But in the last 50 years, trans fats have become a part of our diet.

It is therefore still difficult today to assess all the consequences of increased or long term consumption. In addition, the Food and Drugs Act requires merchants to list the quantity of saturated fats, but not the quantity of trans fats, on labels, making it even more difficult for consumers to control their intake. It might interest people to know that there are 4,000 processed products on the market containing trans fats.

But more important still, according to certain experts, including those with the Fédération belge contre le cancer, because this type of fat was introduced into our diet barely 50 years ago, the human organism lacks the capacity to process large amounts of these fatty structures. It may therefore well cause more damage than other types of fat. Saturated fats have always been part of our diet, in products of animal origin, while trans fats are not present in large quantities in nature.

Here are the recommendations of the Heart and Stroke Foundation concerning the consumption of trans fatty acids. For starters, the foundation recognizes that reducing trans and saturated fats in our diet would help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Its recommendations are therefore along these lines: provide the public with accurate information about the nutritional value of foods and the health effects of lowering trans fats in order to help consumers make informed and healthy choices; replace as soon as possible and where feasible the trans fats in processed foods by healthy alternatives, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, rather than with equal amounts of saturated fat; get Canadians to adopt a balanced diet that includes items from the four food groups in Canada's Food Guide ; of 20% to 35% of daily calories as fat, that is 45 to 75 grams for women and 60 to 105 grams for men; increased consumption of polyunsaturates and monounsaturates and decreased consumption of trans and saturated fats.

As for the Health Canada recommendations, the following is given on its web site:

Intakes of saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids and dietary cholesterol have each been independently and positively associated with recognized blood lipid biomarkers of heart disease risk. Any increase in the intake of these types of fat increases the risk of coronary heart disease in a linear fashion. However, it is neither possible nor advisable to achieve zero percent of energy from either saturated fatty acids or trans fatty acids in typical whole-food diets. The extraordinary dietary adjustments required to achieve zero per cent of energy from these types of fat may introduce undesirable effects, such as inadequate intakes of micronutrients, and unknown and unquantifiable health risks. Nonetheless, by making judicious dietary choices it is possible to have a nutritionally adequate diet that is low in saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids and dietary cholesterol.

So Health Canada is therefore recommending reducing the consumption of these types of fats to a minimum, while ensuring that one does not end up with an inadequate intake of micronutrients.

The Bloc Québécois supports this motion. The Bloc Québécois pledges to work together with the other political parties represented in Ottawa to ensure that Canada takes resolute action by limiting the trans fat content of foods. Industrially produced trans fatty acids must be eliminated. In that respect, Denmark is a positive example to follow. Recent studies on the subject show that industrially produced trans fatty acids adversely affect health. The consumption of trans fats increases the risk of heart disease, among other things. That is why the Bloc Québécois believes that action to protect consumers ought to be taken as soon as possible.

Members of this House have mentioned the principle of freedom of choice, raising the issue of individual rights as opposed to collective rights and duties and suggesting that society as a whole should financially support, through our health system, the bad habits of individuals.

We are not opposed to individual rights, but we believe that the government has an important role to play in improving the health of individuals, in proactive ways that emphasize prevention.

The government has a mandate to protect the public, and the current legislation is inadequate. Obviously the Food and Drugs Act sets standards for labelling and advertising, but nothing currently requires merchants to reveal the quantity of trans fatty acids in the food they sell.

There will, however, be new Nutrition Facts tables on food labels in Canada by December 2005 for large food companies, and by December 2007 for smaller food companies. These tables will help everyone identify and limit their intake of products high in trans fat.

The government has an increased responsibility in this matter because the law has been inadequate for a long time. Labelling of trans fats will not be obligatory before December 2005. The public really will not have the knowledge it needs to choose its food well until that date arrives. Thus, the public is unable to protect itself and to choose foods without trans fats.

In view of studies that demonstrate increasingly that the consumption of trans fatty acids has a serious impact on heart health, the Bloc Québécois supports the New Democratic Party in its action to improve the health of Canadians and Quebeckers. Need we remind the House that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Canada and Quebec?

Nevertheless, this initiative should not compromise the government's prevention policies so that people to take charge of their own health and choose a healthy lifestyle. And it must not be imagined that such state intervention removes the individual citizen's responsibility with respect to food and lifestyle choices.

In conclusion, if the products that are added to our food were as good as the produce from Quebec's farms, the health of all our citizens would be much better.

Agriculture November 18th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the problem is so serious that the rate of suicides among farmers is high, reportedly. Some are starving, while others have exhausted their life savings and are facing bankruptcy. Farmers are fed up with empty speeches. They are waiting for real solutions to this tragic situation.

What is the government waiting for to allocate part of its huge surplus to help the farmers?

Agriculture November 18th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the federal government should be ashamed of the way it is treating farmers who are currently going through a catastrophic situation. They are not only victims of a crisis that is not their fault, but they are at the mercy of the limited number of slaughterhouses that can set the price of beef as they wish.

In light of this growing problem, what is the government waiting for to increase its support for victims of the mad cow crisis?

Agriculture November 2nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, before the crisis, a dairy producer got up to $700 per cull, while the average price since the beginning of the crisis is $150, which does not include the transportation cost or the slaughter fees that continue to increase. A new low was reached when a producer received a mere 7¢ for his cow.

What will it take for the minister to realize that his aid package is inadequate and that it is leading Quebec dairy producers straight into bankruptcy?

Agriculture November 2nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, because of mad cow disease, millions of dollars are being lost not only by beef producers, but also by dairy producers in Quebec, who have lost $54 million in cull alone since the crisis began 18 months ago.

Does the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food realize that his aid package for dairy farmers in Canada and Quebec has totally missed the mark since it compensates for only a very small percentage of their loss?

Supply October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to the hon. member for Terrebonne--Blainville that I appreciate her comments because I have been in such a situation. It is true that supply management has not been taken into account. Also, there is the embargo that is preventing us from exporting our animals.

One way or another, in my opinion, the majority of the members in the House will agree with me that not a day goes by that we do not read something in the paper about problems involving agriculture, animal husbandry or vegetable growing. There is an imbalance. There truly is a crisis in agriculture. It is time to address the issue. Let us not forget that we are all here tonight because agriculture feeds us all.

Supply October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, in reply to my colleague opposite concerning the creation of slaughterhouses, I wonder if it would be possible to arrange for the slaughter of our cows which sell for 7¢ each. Last week, you must have heard about a producer in the Lac-Saint-Jean area who received 7¢ for a cow.

I don't think that establishing slaughterhouses will solve the fiscal imbalance in the agriculture sector. That is my view. I said it earlier and I repeat it, the level of support for the agriculture industry has substantially diminished in Canada over the last decade, whereas our competitors have maintained it. If we had maintained it, we would probably not face the problems we have now, not only with our cull cows, but also with our beef. Our main competitors have continued their support and have even increased it.

Let us recall that at the time, the Prime Minister was Finance Minister and, hence, responsible for this significant decrease. The decrease is still there.

I do not think that building slaughterhouses is really the solution and will lower the fiscal imbalance. It may be a solution, but we should not proceed on a case-by-case basis.

Supply October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will look at the issue of fiscal imbalance with Quebec's farming community in mind.

As the BlocQuébécois leader put it, the Prime Minister did not use the premiers' conference in Ottawa to tackle the entire issue of fiscal imbalance, especially with regard to agriculture and agri-food.

My colleague the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot contends that the PM did not have the political will to meet people's needs. He chose instead to cater to the wishes of the Liberal caucus, which blamed him for having already given away too much, and to tighten the fiscal imbalance stranglehold on Quebec and the provinces. Go tell Quebec cattlemen, extremely hard hit by the mad cow crisis, that Ottawa has given Quebec too much.

Here are some numbers. Faced with problems in agriculture because of fiscal imbalance, the Quebec government is forced to fill the space left vacant by the federal government's lack of support. Let's look at this in context.

The OECD, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, measures the support given by various countries to their agricultural sector. It publishes yearly a manual on agricultural policy follow-up and evaluation in member countries, The manual contains a set of indicators measuring various facets of support.

An analysis of these different indicators clearly demonstrates the following. The level of support provided in Canada is among the lowest, and is far lower than in the U.S. or Europe. The level of support has been markedly on the rise in the U.S. in recent years, contrary to the drop already referred to in Canada. On May 2, 2002, Congress passed a bill providing an increase of $31 billion over six years in subsidies to American farmers.

Now, to look at the situation in Quebec, where the government compensates for insufficient level of federal support, which is not the case most of the other provinces. In Quebec, 63% of public expenditures in the agrifood sector are assumed by the Government of Quebec.

When this support is expressed as a percentage of the agricultural gross domestic product or GDP, if we exclude Newfoundland, where agriculture is not a major activity, only Quebec provides support in excess of 20%. The figure is around 10% in Ontario and only 6% in B.C.

We in the Bloc Québécois are of the opinion that the federal government must accept the idea that there is fiscal imbalance in Canada. The federal government must recognize that Quebec farmers, particularly those hard hit by the mad cow situation, are victims of that imbalance.

In its brief to the Quebec commission on fiscal imbalance,the Union des producteurs agricoles made the following statement:

The problem of fiscal imbalance, which this commission is mandated to examine, is defined as the result of the fact that the provinces have insufficient revenues to meet their responsibilities in the areas over which they have jurisdiction, while the federal government has funds surplus to its needs for the funding of activities within its own areas of jurisdiction. It is very obvious that the roots of the problem are not to be found in agriculture or agrifood.

What are the consequences for agriculture? Overall, the problem for agriculture relates to the fact that the level of government with money to spare seems to have an increasingly poor grasp of the role it ought to be playing in agriculture, which is in particular to help Canadian producers compete on an equal footing with their counterparts elsewhere.

Support for the agricultural sector in Canada is in decline. Some people believe the federal government does not have a good grasp of its responsibilities in the agricultural sector. This statement is based on information reported in documents taken from the Public Accounts of Canada, collected over a number of years, and the budgets of the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food in its Farm Income Data Book .

The figures show that between the beginning of the 1990s and the 2000 decade, federal government expenditures on subsidizing the agricultural sector were cut in half. Relatively, the proportion of the federal budget going to agriculture and agri-food dropped from nearly 4% to less than 2%.

I will say it again, the analysis of various OECD indicators clearly shows the following facts. The level of support in Canada is among the lowest and is much less than that offered in the United States or in Europe. Subsidies have been increasing in the US for several years, in contrast to the decline in Canada as reported previously.

Let me tell you about the trends in three OECD indicators: estimated producer support per full-time farmer equivalent; producer support estimate per capita; and finally, total transfers as a percentage of GDP.

In Canada, producer support per full-time farmer equivalent was US $9,000 in 1999 and much less than the US $21,000 offered in the United States or the US $17,000 in the European Union.

Over the past 10 years, the size of Canada's subsidies has dropped substantially and then had a slight revival. During that time, while support in the United States did decline, by 1999 it was above 1986-88 levels.

In order to measure the effects on the public of the levels of support provided in various countries, the OECD estimated the total aid to the agri-food sector on a per capita basis.

Canada offered a subsidy of US $163 per capita in 1999, only half as much as did the United States, at US $350, or Europe, at US $336.

Over the period of a decade, per capita support for agriculture has dropped by US$105 in Canada, while it has increased by $73 in the United States, $11 in Europe and $18 on average for OCDE member countries.

The third indicator, the total in transfers in percentage of the GDP, also shows that Canadian government support for agriculture is among the lowest in the world. In 1999, Canadian government transfers to the agriculture sector totalled .78% of the GDP, compared to 1.05% in the United States and 1.49% in the European Union.

All this information suggests the same thing: the level of support for the agriculture sector in Canada has declined substantially over the past decade while our major competitors have maintained or increased their support. At the time, the current Prime Minister was the Minister of Finance and, thus, responsible for this significant decline.

As we mentioned earlier, the Government of Quebec compensates for the federal government's disengagement, but that is not the case in all the provinces.

In Quebec, as you probably know, for decades now, the work done by our farmers and their representatives has contributed to convincing Quebec governments to provide better support for the agriculture sector. The Government of Quebec compensates for the extremely low support from the federal government.

This situation paints a very good picture of what we describe as the fiscal imbalance in Quebec, particularly how the shortfall affects the farmers.

The data mentioned earlier indicate that the agriculture sector is receiving almost half as much support in Canada as it does in the main competing countries, despite the efforts made by Quebec to compensate for the inadequate federal support.

As trade between countries becomes increasingly freer under international trade negotiations, one wonders whether in the medium and long terms, Canadian farmers will be able to sustain such unfair competition. It is not surprising, in such a context, to see that for almost a decade in Canada, one crisis after another has hit farm income.