House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was elections.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Louis-Saint-Laurent (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Quebec City Native Friendship Centre December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to rise to recognize the Centre d'amitié autochtone de Québec, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last week.

The centre helps first nations members living on reserve in the Quebec City region and provides services related to all aspects of modern life. The list is long: assistance with housing, food and clothing, daycare, homework help, homelessness prevention and free Internet access. It also has a whole range of programs geared to aboriginal youth.

Café Roreke, which is located inside the centre, organizes benefit suppers and offers a catering service to raise funds to pay for even more projects to help the community.

The Centre d'amitié autochtone de Québec enriches my community by building and strengthening bridges between different cultures and by offering precious help to those who need it.

I would like to thank all of the people who got the centre started and who have since turned it into a real treasure for the people of Louis-Saint-Laurent. Happy 25th anniversary.

Business of Supply December 3rd, 2014

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

I want to take this opportunity to boast a bit. Maclean's named me runner-up in the most collegial MP category two weeks ago and, as such, I really do not like partisanship. I find that, far too often, it completely poisons our debates.

As my colleague said, one of the positive effects of a mixed member proportional system is that it curbs rhetoric and partisanship and forces the parties to get along, converse and try to find common ground, instead of always focusing on their differences.

Business of Supply December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina for his question.

We are not saying that this plan is completely fleshed out and set in stone. We are just saying that closed lists are not the only option.

In a mixed member proportional system, there is the possibility of adjusting various parameters in order to determine what best represents Canada. There is a way to strike a balance between regional representation and proportional representation of parties, so that each party is able to present more representative candidates. It would not be very difficult.

Business of Supply December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague. He does a fine job as committee chair, and it is always a pleasure working with him.

I would like to explain more clearly how the system works. First, Canadians will always be able to vote for an MP to represent their area of the country.

Closed lists are not the only option. What we are proposing is an open list that would allow people to vote directly for the candidates they prefer. We have to trust that the public is capable of choosing the best candidates to represent them.

Business of Supply December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin my speech by thanking my colleague from Toronto—Danforth from the bottom of my heart for moving this motion and for bringing this extremely important debate to us today.

As I have said many times as the official opposition deputy critic for democratic reform, it is absolutely essential to have a debate on our electoral system and on the way we elect MPs, the representatives of the people.

I understand that people may not necessarily be interested in this idea, or that it is not necessarily one of their priorities. However, I think it is extremely important to talk about our electoral system and the way we choose who will lead our country because everything else flows from there. If the power is in the hands of an individual who does not share the values of the majority of the population, then it is in everyone's best interest to have the most representative and most democratic system possible.

It is no secret that voter turnout in Canada has declined and that cynicism continues to grow. People have little confidence in politicians and we cannot really blame them. The current system has failed us many times. This broken system is a relic of days gone by and not well suited to the reality of the 21st century.

Our first-past-the-post system gives all the power to a majority government even though it does not have the support of the majority of the people.

What we are proposing is to implement a mixed member proportional system, whereby some members would be directly elected to represent a certain area of Canada—which is presently the case—and other members would be elected on the basis of the proportion of votes received by their party in the election.

My colleague from Toronto—Danforth had started to explain this in more detail. The idea is that we would vote twice on one ballot. People would first vote for the person they want to represent their riding. Then they would vote for a candidate on a list who belongs to the party they prefer. The person chosen would represent the voters and also the party in Parliament.

Thus, no one who goes to vote will be able to say that his vote will not count. That is the very basis of voter participation. I can even give a very concrete and personal example. In 2006, voter turnout in the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent, which I represent, was approximately 60%. The member who represented the riding before me often got elected by a strong majority of over 50%, and so in 2006 and 2008, voter turnout in my riding remained stagnant at 60%.

When I campaigned in 2008, many people told me that there was no point in voting because they knew that my predecessor was going to win. They said that it would not change anything if they voted for another party. Voting was not important to them because they did not believe that it would change the outcome of the election.

What happened? In 2011, people saw that things were changing and that there was a new movement. They realized that their vote could make a difference this time. There was a 10% increase in voter turnout in my riding alone. Voter turnout increased from 60% to 70%, one of the highest rates in Canada. That is huge and that is a very real example.

When people realize that their vote can make a difference and that they can influence what their government and Parliament look like, they will vote.

In the system we are proposing, people will vote for the person that represents their geographic area. Meanwhile, their other vote will count because every vote will add up and the percentage of people who voted for a given party will change the makeup of the House.

The example that is often given is the Green Party. Many people across Canada support that party. However, when it comes time to vote in each riding, the party receives only small pockets of support across the country. Why are the people who voted for this party not able to be represented in the House of Commons? Why is it problematic for every vote to be reflected in our Parliament? In my opinion, that is the best way to do it.

In September 2013, I had the opportunity to participate in a very interesting conference in Orillia called “Make your vote count”. I was joined by the leader of the Green Party as well as a representative from the Liberal Party, and we had a wonderful multi-party discussion on how to make very vote count in Canada. There were all kinds of workshops and discussions over the weekend on how to help Canadians regain their faith in our political system.

We kept coming back to one idea: if we truly want Canadians to think that their vote counts and if we truly want them to go out to vote on election day because they believe it will make a difference, we need to introduce proportionality into our electoral system. We have no choice.

When we look at the makeup of the House of Commons, which is meant to reflect the Canadian public, since we are here as representatives of the people, it is clear that women and young people are under-represented. Although the NDP is one of the youngest caucuses in the history of Canada, young people are still under-represented here.

People everywhere are amazed at the fact that NDP MPs are so young, but the Canadian population has a greater proportion of young people than our caucus does. That goes to show that the 308 MPs are not yet representative enough.

Implementing mixed proportional representation could help in terms of representation of women, young people, cultural groups and sexual minorities—so many things. I do not see why anyone would oppose this other than for partisan reasons. Some people might think that it is easier for a party to get a majority and hold power without trying to collaborate with others or to think of ways to encourage people to go out and vote and participate in our democracy as much as possible, instead of scaring them and telling them to stay home.

Our voting process has not changed since the 19th century. Our position is clear. The NDP is committed to integrating proportional representation into our system to renew people's interest. The NDP wants to make Canada a truly 21st-century country, a country where the democratic discussion will ensure representation, stability and effectiveness. That is our firm commitment.

What can Canadians expect from the two old parties? Nothing but schemes and excuses. The old parties seem to think they are the state. They have been telling us for ages that they—not anyone else—are the state.

New Democrats are citizens first. We are people of our time who care much more about Canadian democracy than our political party. We want to act on behalf of the fairer and more representative Canada of the future.

It is not just our duty; it is the duty of us all.

Privilege November 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, here is my question for my colleague, whom I would like to thank for his speech and very relevant remarks.

Since we are talking about MP pensions, I would like to hear his thoughts about the fact that today in committee, when we were studying a Conservative bill about the ability to strip members of their pension, the Conservatives refused to support our amendment, which would have ensured that anyone convicted of an offence under the Canada Elections Act would be covered by the bill.

I would like to know whether he thinks that the Elections Act should be included and whether he finds it somewhat odd that the Conservatives decided to vote against our amendment today.

Privilege November 4th, 2014

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

There is something in particular that he has to understand. What the Elections Act states is that the member cannot sit. The Act does not say that he must be expelled as soon as he is convicted. We have to understand the difference.

With regard to the privilege of the House, only the House of Commons can decide whether or not a member is expelled. If that is the way we have to go, we will do so. For now, we are not at that point.

Privilege November 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona, who has more experience than I do on the legal aspect of the matter, and who has, in my view, summed up my thinking very well on the reasonableness of this motion. We are not saying that the member is to be expelled, that the matter is then closed and that is all we have left to do. It is true that certain avenues remain open to him, and it is possible that things will change.

At this time, we have to decide that he will be suspended, and that we will look into what kinds of measures could then be taken. We must face the fact that expulsion is a fairly drastic measure. It has not happened very often, and it has happened at truly crucial times in our history.

I therefore think it is really important that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs consider the matter, and indicate very clearly what procedure should be followed from this point on. If we have to go as far as expulsion, we will do it then.

Privilege November 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to very important issue. In my opinion, the motion moved by the House leader of the official opposition is of utmost importance. I want to emphasize that the amendments proposed by my colleague from Toronto—Danforth are also very important. I am truly pleased that most of the members of this House will be supporting this motion, because it will send a clear message to the Canadian people. As my colleague said several times during his speech, we cannot let this kind of thing go on, and assume that, as parliamentarians, we are armour-plated and protected and nothing can touch us.

Last week's charges against the member for Peterborough are very serious. There is no argument that the elected members sitting in the House of Commons must not have been convicted of charges as serious as violating the Canada Elections Act. It seems so simple, that I find it all deplorable.

I would like to speak more specifically about one point. In fact, it is a strange coincidence that this happened today of all days. I want to remind the House that in the amendment presented by the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, in (ii), he specifically mentions the steps to be taken with regard to a member's benefits, including his or her retirement pension.

Today, as it happens, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was conducting a clause-by-clause study of Bill C-518, introduced by my colleague fromNew Brunswick Southwest. This bill very clearly states that a member of Parliament or a senator cannot, by resigning, escape the consequences that his or her expulsion from the House or Senate would entail. This speaks directly to this motion and the situation we are facing today.

The hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest has repeated over and over that what he was ultimately trying to do with this bill was to close a loophole. The loophole resulted from the fact that when a senator or member was found guilty of breaking a law or having otherwise done something that would lead to his expulsion from the House or Senate, instead of waiting for the House or Senate to take the appropriate measures and decide to expel him, the person concerned could simply say that he had had enough and was resigning.

And what would happen? Such persons would be entitled to their pensions, as if nothing had happened. Life would go on, happily. They could get their money, and neither the House of Commons nor the Senate could do anything about it. This has never happened in the House, but it has happened several times in the Senate. That is the problem my colleague from New Brunswick Southwest has tried to solve with his bill.

And what happened then? The question is fundamentally rather complicated, because there are many aspects involved. It was necessary to be as inclusive as possible, but without including too much, of course. Thus, there were several options open to us. Was it necessary to draw up a list of infractions that could lead to this result?

In the end, I think that my colleague, the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, has found the best solution. He introduced an amendment this morning, during the clause-by-clause study of the bill. I repeat, this only happened this morning. The hon. member simply proposed to amend the act to provide for cases where the House or the Senate are involved in the process leading up to an expulsion. We could insert wording in the act providing that if the House or Senate passed a motion recognizing that an individual had resigned, but was still a member or senator, his or her pension would be revoked.

Therefore, all we need to do is give ourselves the power to use the same process as that followed for expulsion. That way, we would cover all cases where a person has been found guilty of violating the Canada Elections Act, for example. The House would find it unacceptable that such a person was entitled to his pension simply because he resigned before being held accountable to the House or the Senate, because that is not relevant. That person should not be entitled to a pension.

That was by far the best solution, but in the end another amendment was passed earlier, probably by the committee's majority, as we can all surmise. That amendment lists a number of infractions, but only those under the Criminal Code. If a person is found guilty of any one of them, the law will apply.

All of this will apply only after the law is passed, which is very specific to their amendment. There is no retroactive provision, although several experts told us in committee that it would not be a problem to make it retroactive.

When the NDP amendment was rejected and we knew that the majority amendment was going to be adopted, we introduced amendments to the amendment to try to add certain specific aspects regarding the Canada Elections Act.

We are elected members of Parliament and we must stand for election every four years—or less often, if there is a minority government. As elected members, we must go back to the people and ask them to vote for us. And now I am told that a member can remain in place here without suffering any consequences, despite having broken our country's election law.

Last spring, when we were debating Bill C-23, we saw how little respect the Conservatives have for the Canada Elections Act and how ready they were to change it all to gain an advantage.

Regarding what happened this morning, it is worthwhile to read the short title of the bill introduced by the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest: “Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians Act”. It is quite strange that a bill with such a fine title and such an interesting principle does not apply in any way to a person who violates the Canada Elections Act.

That is why I think the amendments proposed by my colleague from Toronto—Danforth to the motion on which we are about to vote are very important. Even though this bill has gone through today's clause-by-clause study, it is even more important than ever to return to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and ask the members to look into the strategy concerning the member's benefits, particularly his pension.

Today we saw that there is a lack of consistency and the results will not be what my colleague from New Brunswick Southwest had hoped for. He talked about similar situations, even though at the time he obviously did not know that a member of his own party would be convicted of a crime. Nonetheless, the fact remains that it is the same principle and such principles should apply to all members and senators.

I encourage all my colleagues to support this motion. I will vote in favour of this motion because I like to think that by doing so there will be a little more justice in this world.

Alain Gervais October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, last week's events shocked Parliament Hill and the entire country. My colleagues and I went through something very difficult that day.

Today, I would like to commend one person who risked his life to protect us. Alain Gervais, a House of Commons security guard, did not hesitate for one second to come into the room where we were and stand in front of the door to keep us safe.

While shots were ringing out, I kept my eyes on him. I could not look anywhere else. At an extremely scary time, I felt reassured by his quick thinking, composure and determination and the fact that he knew exactly what he was doing.

Even when a bullet lodged in the door he was guarding, he did not budge. This man was prepared to sacrifice his life to protect ours. From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of all members of Parliament, thank you. You a true hero.