House of Commons photo

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

Copyright Modernization Act February 8th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, since the member has opened the door, let us go through it. We are proposing amendments to withdraw from the bill all clauses that criminalize the removal of digital locks for personal, non-commercial purposes. We support reducing penalties for those found guilty of having breached the Copyright Act, since that would prevent excessive prosecution of the public, a problem that exists in the United States.

Is the government prepared to accept these amendments?

Copyright Modernization Act February 8th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time since I arrived here on May 2 that I have heard the Conservatives use unions as an example.

I say to them no, no and no. There have been exactly 75 speeches. That is the magic number, the yellow light. At 80 speeches, a red light goes on and that means we must stop debating, that it is over and we have to adopt a closure motion.

All 308 elected members here have the right to make speeches on the subject. If the bill comes back at second reading, they have the right to make a second speech. Members have to be given time to express their views. The public, Canadians in every riding have the right to hear their member speak about the subject. It is a question of democracy. Closure is being invoked on debates and bills are being passed quickly. This has been done 16 times. That is a record and it has to stop.

Financial System Review Act February 3rd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, we know that our financial system weathered the last crisis, at least people here did not lose their homes, as was the case south of the border. We also know that our savings are secure and even protected. It is great that families can count on a banking system that protects small investors. For example, we know that if a bank is in trouble, the CDIC protects our investments up to $50,000. That is great.

We on this side of the House—and I am directing the question to the hon. member—are wondering why not take this further. In our election platform, the NDP calls for a limit on credit cards. Why not include that sort of thing in order to help families even more?

Employment February 3rd, 2012

Madam Speaker, the employment situation continues to deteriorate in the Quebec City region. The unemployment rate rose again in January, following a constant trend over the past few months. The closure last month of White Birch Paper, where 600 workers were thrown out in the street, is but one example. The workers were simply asserting to their American boss their right to access their pensions, which they had paid into their entire lives. The Quebec government is rolling up its sleeves and trying to bring in private investors to reopen the plant.

The Conservative government, on the other hand, is doing nothing once again. It is simply shameful to ignore the dire circumstances facing the forest products industry in Quebec and across Canada. The government must take action to strengthen the Investment Canada Act in order to prevent foreign companies from jeopardizing jobs in our communities. Canadian families are fed up with mere rhetoric; they want action.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act February 1st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, we were all surprised to hear that our pension funds are protected with an interest rate of approximately 10%. In any case, the new members are probably not thinking about pension funds yet. They still have some way to go. Canadians should be able to invest in funds that will allow them to earn a profit and they should be able to have a pension that will allow them to buy food and pay their rent when they are retired.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act February 1st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, it is important to understand that, in our society, there are ordinary folks who do not even have the money to contribute to an RRSP each year. They are unable to put money into a TFSA, as the government suggests, to save money. These people are earning salaries of $28,000, $30,000 or $35,000 a year. Some of them have spouses and some have children.

These salaries are below or close to middle-class wages. These people really do not have money to invest. The gap between the rich and poor continues to grow. They cannot even make ends meet, let alone get caught up. I do not understand how the government can think that people will be able to save and invest in a pension plan if the employer and the public purse do not contribute to it.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act February 1st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my NDP colleagues for their various interventions on the government bill before us here today. I think this is a very important subject, one that Canadians are really concerned about. A number of people from my riding have contacted me to share their concerns about their retirement. That is why I wanted to speak here today.

In a democratic country like Canada, the right to retire in dignity after working hard one's entire life is absolutely fundamental. What I mean by “in dignity” is having enough money to pay for groceries, to pay the rent and to pay for health care. The current economic situation, economic projections for the future and our aging population are all crucial factors in determining how we, as a society, should manage our retirement programs.

In that regard, I must commend the government for recognizing the issues that will affect how and when Canadians retire and for trying to come up with solutions to ensure a decent retirement for everyone. Where I disagree with the Conservatives—and where I agree more with the NDP's opinion—has to do with how the government is going about solving the growing problem of access to a decent income when the time comes to retire. Bill C-25, introduced by the government, has many flaws that really need to be examined and understood by Canadians, because, I would remind the House, it is their money on the line.

According to the main points of the bill, the new pooled registered pension plans, PRPPs, a retirement savings vehicle very similar to RRSPs, would enable plan members to pool their funds to reduce costs associated with managing the plan's investments. The bill notes that the benefits of PRPPs are transferable, but that they are not indexed to inflation. These plans are intended for self-employed workers and small and medium-sized businesses that do not have the means to manage a private sector pension plan.

Despite the government's claims, pooled registered pension plans will not enable Canadians to achieve their retirement goals. The plans will not improve income security for retired workers. The plan proposed here is a defined contribution plan, not a defined benefit plan. In this kind of plan, employees set aside funds throughout their working lives, and those funds are invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and so on. Investment income depends entirely on market fluctuations. That is an extremely important point. The employees absorb all of the financial risk associated with stock market ups and downs.

If the government made an effort to listen to all of the Canadians whose RRSPs melted away like snow in sunshine in 2008, it would understand that more stable and secure savings options should be made available. People who can tolerate significant risk can turn to the stock market and RRSPs. Worse still, depending on the province, employers could potentially be required to offer this plan to their employees without having to contribute. People already have the option of contributing to a savings plan without employer participation. That is called an RRSP. What more does the government have to offer?

Last November, in its press release announcing Bill C-25, the government said:

...over 60% of Canadians do not have a workplace pension plan. Because of this, our government acted by introducing legislation...that implements pooled registered pension plans.... Our Conservative government is delivering PRPPs to offer a new, low-cost and accessible pension option to help Canadians meet their goals.

What low-cost, accessible pension is the Conservative government talking about? Last year, only 31% of eligible Canadians contributed to an RRSP. The rest just could not afford to. Currently, Canadians have $500 billion in unused RRSP contribution room available.

Let us say it again loud and clear: Canadians do not have access to an affordable and accessible retirement because they have absolutely nothing left at the end of the month to put into savings. And the Conservatives are asking them to take what little they have managed to put aside and put it into investment funds administered by banks, the very banks that have nearly wiped out the global economy, with no guaranteed income and no guarantee that the funds available will see the workers all the way through retirement?

And the Conservatives want these funds to be managed by fund management “experts” at the banks and insurance companies without any limits on the cost of their management fees and bonuses that will be paid out of the pockets of our future retirees?

During a radio interview, the Minister of Industry said:

By pooling retirement savings, PRPPs will allow Canadians to benefit from greater purchasing power. We are talking about economies of scale here. Canadians will essentially be able to buy in bulk. Professional administrators will exercise a duty of care to ensure that the funds are invested in the best interests of the plan members.

In my opinion, the advantage of economies of scale is quite questionable. We should learn from the Australian experience, but this government is again turning a deaf ear, as it did to the warnings from the United States about the omnibus Bill C-10.

Ten years ago in Australia, a similar system provided very disappointing results. Their system was mandatory, with the possibility to opt out, a bit like what the government wants to do here. The Australians came to the conclusion that, even though people saved because it was mandatory, the returns on investment did not outpace inflation.

The report commissioned by the Australian government attributes these discouraging results to the high costs and fees, even though it was thought that competition among the banks would, as we just heard, lead to reduced costs and economies of scale. So much for that argument; it does not fly. Let us have the wisdom to learn from our Australian counterparts and avoid making the same mistakes.

What Canadians want is not another incentive to save more money. The average Canadian is already trying to save and can barely manage. First we have to come up with a solution closer to the source of the problem. Canadians want to have a decent income that will allow them to save. The solution is job creation.

The excessive debt of Canadian households has made the headlines again, and 1.6 million Canadian seniors are living in poverty. By OECD standards, the CPP system is relatively miserly since other similar countries have much more generous public pension plans.

In 2010, one in four workers had a low-wage job. Does the government think that a Canadian who earns $13 an hour will be able to meet his needs and the needs of his family and contribute to his PRPP, where his hard-earned money will be at the mercy of the stock market as it operates today?

Canadians must understand that the measures proposed here are superficial and risky. The government has not taken the time to carefully consider the problem.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act February 1st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the member has touched on a very important aspect of this bill: not all Canadians can afford to retire. That is what he said word for word. With this bill, the worker contributes to his future retirement, but the employer is not required to do so.

A Canadian who is currently unable to contribute to an RRSP does not qualify for the related tax refund. I am talking about hundreds and thousands of Canadians. How will they manage to come up with the money they need for their retirement by making a mandatory contribution to a fund that does not provide a subsidy, rebate or tax credit, as an RRSP does? I would like the member to tell us that.

Employment December 15th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, as the holidays approach, the bad news about the economy keeps piling up. Every day, more plant closures and mass layoffs are being announced. We have now learned that, next year, the Canadian economy will slow markedly and the unemployment rate may reach 8%.

What is the government doing? It is sitting back and waiting. It is reducing employment insurance services. Why is this government abandoning Canadians? My Christmas wish is for those who will not have any presents under the tree this year.

Service Canada December 14th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, in November, tens of thousands of people were added to the already too-long list of the unemployed in Canada. With Christmas approaching these families find themselves without any income and unable to find out if and when they will receive employment insurance benefits.

This heartless government is cutting the number of employees who handle claims at Service Canada.

When will the Conservatives stop turning their backs on families? Can they tell us what they intend to do to ensure that all Canadians have something to eat at Christmas?