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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was women.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 20% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Gender Parity June 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, women in Canada have never been more educated. They hold the majority of positions in fields such as business administration, law and health.

However, women are still under-represented in senior management positions. It does not make sense to me that in 2015, being a woman is an obstacle to career advancement.

I was embarrassed for Canadian women when every member of the Conservative Party voted against Bill C-473, which called for gender parity in federal crown corporations.

If this trend holds, gender parity in senior management positions in Canada will be not be achieved until 2097. That is shameful. I am ashamed of the Conservative government for refusing to launch an investigation into the murder and disappearance of more than 1,000 aboriginal women.

Canadians deserve better. The NDP will promote women in leadership and call a commission of inquiry into the missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act June 9th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member.

Clause 18.3 states:

18.3 (1) The regulation-making authority shall ensure that a document, index, rate or number that is incorporated by reference is accessible.

However, “accessibility” is not really defined.

Does the bill specify how the regulation-making authority should ensure the accessibility of the document? With respect to official languages, for example, or sharing it through the media or online, does the bill indicate how much all that will cost?

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 9th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will not use the word “hypocrite” since it might be unparliamentary. However, I will use the word “contradictory”. I am very shocked—flabbergasted, even—by what I am hearing.

I have already submitted a number of requests. I sent the minister two letters asking him to protect a young immigrant woman back home who will be sent back to her country of origin, Togo, where she will be the victim of a forced marriage. I do not want to identify her because that is confidential. However, there are limits to the government's doublespeak. We need to protect women. We must not send them back to their country of origin, where they risk being the victims of forced marriage.

This is the 99th time allocation motion the government has moved. We have already broken all the records. It is completely unacceptable that we are not being given a chance to speak to such important topics and talk about the work the NDP is doing on this issue.

Official Languages June 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to what the member just said and tell him that of the 22,000 immigrants who came in under express entry, only 200 speak French, which is 0.9%. We are nowhere close to the 4.4% goal for immigration. They need to work much harder on this.

As for job fairs, funding to attend them was cut, so it is no longer possible for francophone communities to go. That was the best way to recruit francophone immigrants: go to Belgium, Tunis or Senegal to promote immigration.

According to Mr. Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages, attracting more francophone immigrants is critical to ensuring the vitality of francophone communities and even, I would say, their survival.

When will the government take francophone communities' distress signals seriously and implement the Commissioner of Official Languages' recommendations?

Official Languages June 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the official languages file has been stagnating for years. Every day we see the same thing: the French language is declining in this country. The Commissioner of Official Languages has been very clear about this.

Despite the federal government's promises, only 2% of immigrants in provinces other than Quebec have French as their first official language, a measly 2% of francophone immigrants outside Quebec. As the Francophonie critic, I cannot help but deplore this government's mediocre record. I am not alone. As a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, I have heard much testimony describing the decline in French in Canada. A number of minority communities are very concerned since they risk losing more and more of the services that federal institutions provide in French. The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, the Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta, the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse, and the Commissioners of Official Languages of New Brunswick, Ontario and Canada, to name a few, are sounding the alarm.

The executive director of the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse even said the following:

...although the CIC's programs have made it possible to accommodate a growing number of immigrants to Canada...it seems the services provided favour anglophone over francophone immigration...

This flies in the face of a number of Canadian laws, such as the Official Languages Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, no less.

Need I remind members that Citizenship and Immigration Canada has a constitutional obligation to promote the equality of French and English as the official languages of this country? However, for nearly three years the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has been pitching his new express entry program as the answer to all the problems with francophone immigration. In January 2015, the government launched the express entry program without consulting the communities. However, this program is very flawed. First, it does not identify francophone candidates. According to the minister responsible: ...we are not satisfied with our immigration system's capacity to determine the French-language skills of newcomers...

There is not even a question asking people whether French is their first or second language. The minister is off-loading the government's linguistic obligations in the area of immigration onto employers. Given that we are talking about the express entry program, employers are asking for people to fill positions without checking what language they speak. Results to date have not been good. No one is happy with this program, not even the minister responsible for it. He said that he was disappointed with francophone immigration in Canada. In fact, he said that “[t]he number of francophones arriving in Canada could be higher than we realize.”

We are hearing a lot of talk but not seeing a lot of action.

In closing, I would like to share with the House a quote from the former president of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada that I found shocking. She said, “If the goal were to kill off Canada's francophone and Acadian communities bit by bit, to make them disappear through attrition, it would be difficult to come up with a better strategy.”

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we really need to bring in legislation. The government could pass legislation in many areas and give people more purchasing power. For example, we really need to look at bank fees. It is not that complicated. We ask banks to provide a report every November. The Governor in Council can then submit a report 30 days after the House resumes in January or February. Thus, limits for all consumer fees are set.

The banks are going too far. They have to understand. That is way too much. They are taking billions of dollars directly out of Canadians' pockets.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, again, the government's measures are too wishy-washy. They should be part of an action plan to help consumers. In order to support a serious plan, we need to have a serious plan together with a program to achieve an end goal, namely consumer well-being.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the government is not doing anything tangible to deal with the banks. It is being too wishy-washy, to put it politely. The government's budget is geared to greater transparency in the complaints process. However, it is not going to tell the banks to hand over their figures and tell the government how much their clients spend on ATM fees. Since there is money moving in and out, a user log could be issued.

The budget is not short on prose, but what we are asking for is concrete measures and an action plan to truly help consumers.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to talk about the parliamentary secretary's very surprising comments. He said that the banks are going to implement measures whereby consumers who pay off their credit cards every month, for example, will not pay any fees.

There is an inherent difference between our philosophy and that of the Conservatives, who sit on the other side. If a student's credit card is maxed out at $800 and the student pays the minimum amount and interest every month, it will take about 15 years to pay off the credit card. Richer people can of course pay off their debts. That is the philosophy of the people on the other side of the House.

We must protect all consumers, both small and big. I congratulate the member for Davenport, who moved this motion on June 1, because this is the day that my bank, and probably several others, announced increases in a number of fees it charges consumers. For example, my bank is increasing the fee for an NSF cheque from $45 to $48.50.

This motion on pay-to-pay fees calls on the government to ban all pay-to-pay practices through the enactment of a voluntary financial code of conduct. It could gradually be made mandatory. The purpose of this motion is to protect consumers. That seems pretty clear to me.

The most profitable banks in Canada have decided to make us pay extra fees to carry out all sorts of basic transactions. If we want to make a credit card payment it will cost us an extra $2. If we want to make a regular mortgage payment or pay down a student loan it will cost $1. If we want to use a contactless debit card it will cost $2. The banks are going to make us pay to use our own money.

What is more, it is middle-class families who are already struggling and carrying too much debt who are going to pay. They will not be able to afford the so-called premium bank accounts, such as the infamous accounts where you do not have to pay fees if you keep $5,000 or $3,000 in your account. This certainly works for some Canadians, but there are many who live paycheque to paycheque. Some earn $15,000 or $20,000 a year and cannot afford to keep $3,000 or $5,000 in their bank account. This includes many seniors.

I would like to read from an article in Le Devoir, from May 19:

The Canadian banks, RBC, TD, the CIBC, all closed with higher earnings than for the same period last year.

The bank posted net earnings of $2.5 billion.

The Royal Bank saw its profits increase by 23% to $625 million.

CIBC saw its earnings practically triple to $911 million.

Retail and Business Banking posted a net gain of $583 million for the second quarter, an increase of $37 million.

It is obscene, because these are not co-operatives. All Canadians will not share in these profits, but rather a small minority of individuals. Those who cannot afford to keep $3,000 or $5,000 in their bank account to avoid paying monthly bank fees will not benefit.

Not too long ago, in April, if I am not mistaken, I introduced Bill C-663, which deals with excessive bank fees. There are currently no regulations to limit bank fees in Canada. On top of fees for everyday services, banks also charge additional fees for occasional services, such as for NSF charges. Banks make millions of dollars in profits on fees charged to individuals for banking services.

Fees need to be regulated immediately, especially NSF charges. The following measures could be taken, and it would be quite simple: prevent banks from charging fees to customers who deposit a payment from a third party when the payment ends up being NSF. Mr. Speaker, if I write you an NSF cheque, you are the one who will be charged. Just like that, you will be fleeced that day, so it is a double punishment, a double charge. We could also set a maximum amount for NSF fees and require banks to provide customers with a grace period to cover the overdraft before dishonouring a cheque or refusing a debit. That would be entirely in good faith. Banks should treat their customers as we treat our constituents and give them a warm welcome. It would be really nice if a bank could call customers to let them know about an NSF situation and give them a chance to come and cover the amount and avoid the charges and a bad credit score.

Banks need to produce reports listing all of the bank fees they charge customers for all of the services they provide in Canada, and it is important that the reports also indicate the real costs associated with these services. In the United States, the fee for processing an NSF cheque seems to be about 50¢, $1 or $1.50. At my bank, these fees have just increased to $48.50. That means that there is a very big margin. It may cost more in Canada than in the United States to process these cheques, but if the banks were transparent we could see exactly how much the service costs and they could then charge a percentage based on that cost.

The NDP, along with the media and millions of Canadians, believe that the banks are raking in huge profits, and meanwhile Canadians struggle to make ends meet and are paying increasingly exorbitant bank fees. The banks earn the most profit from the fees they charge customers and the fees they charge for banking services. These fees are taken directly from the pockets of the middle class and from people who do not have much money.

In the 2015 budget—on page 248 for the members opposite who have read it—the Conservatives have some empty words about banks. They were rather modest and cautious. They talk about improving transparency and accountability, for example, through enhanced public reporting on complaints and on measures taken to address the challenges faced by vulnerable Canadians. This does not refer to Canadians who have $3,000 or $5,000 to avoid paying bank fees, but to those who do not have those kinds of means. They would be in less of a predicament if the banks called them and they were not billed $45 to $90 for non-sufficient funds.

Whom do these measures affect the most? Young people, people with low incomes, seniors, members of minority ethnic groups and people without credit cards. Some 28% of people who have had to pay overdraft fees have told me that they closed their bank account as a result. Once they have no access to banking, they can no longer receive services. About 65% of individuals who have paid overdraft fees say that the transaction that resulted in the overdraft was for $50, and 15% indicated that the transaction was for $5 or less. Having to pay $45 for a $5 overdraft is absurd.

Canadians should not have to hand over their hard-earned money just to get a bank statement or pay a bill. That is called “pay to pay”. Canadians pay as much as $180 million per year just for bank statements. Nobody should be punished for receiving bank statements or paying bills.

Maybe people have forgotten, but not so long ago, bank fees did not exist, and companies did not charge fees to send bills in the mail. Now that companies are no longer sending bills in the mail, they want to make all the unlucky ones who get them pay to pay.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is truly a sad situation.

The people in our riding are telling us that it makes no sense to go to the bank and pay fees to access their own money, which they have so little of. The systems are such that it is mandatory for this money—whether it is old age security, family benefits or their own pay—to be deposited directly into their accounts. Most of these payments are made via direct deposit.

However, they are charged pay-to-pay fees in order to use what belongs to them. They do not have the right to use what they have earned. Thus, they have to spend some of what they earn on a fee that makes banks richer, because they cannot directly access their money.

I would like to hear what the member has to say about that.