House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was conservatives.

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

Senate Reform Act December 8th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I am also one of those 59 members, and I am proud to be one. The only time I heard anyone speak about Senate reform was after the election, when there were three partisan appointments of candidates who had just lost the election. Otherwise, it is of no concern to my constituents.

Many countries have abolished their senates, including Finland, Germany and Japan. Does my colleague think that these countries put themselves in difficulty by abolishing the Senate?

Senate Reform Act December 8th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Quebec for her speech. This Senate reform worries me because it gives the Prime Minister the power to appoint whomever he pleases. Even after these elections, he could still choose whomever he liked. Did the Conservatives not promise not to do what previous governments did before them? And in spite of that, have there not been some particularly partisan appointments to the Senate?

Senate Reform Act December 8th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Acadie—Bathurst.

We are aware that a number of countries have abolished the Senate, for example Finland, Germany and Japan. And those are not the countries lowest on the list. A number of provinces have abolished the senate as well. At present, 71% of the population would support holding a Canada-wide referendum so they could voice their opinion. This morning, a member said it would be difficult to open our Constitution. Our Constitution was created to be opened when it is necessary. Processes have been provided for opening it and for agreeing. Some of them mean that referendums can be held.

I would like to hear the member's opinion on that.

Senate Reform Act December 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member.

Ontario and the other large provinces want to do away with the Senate. This institution has outlived its raison d'être. I will not show any pictures but I am thinking of at least three senators who were appointed by the last government after they were defeated in the election. That is shameful. Things like that should not be done. Canadians do not want things like that.

The bigger provinces like Ontario and Quebec are saying that the Senate should be abolished and that it is no longer necessary. However, replacing the Senate with an American model is not the solution either. We saw what happened recently: that type of model can completely paralyze the government. That is not a solution.

In a country like Canada, we are capable of managing the country. We must therefore abolish the Senate.

Senate Reform Act December 8th, 2011

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

When the Fathers of Confederation planned the Senate at the time of Confederation in 1867, they did not think that the authorities in place had the ability to properly manage Canada and the provinces. Times have certainly changed and those who have been appointed and elected by the provinces are able to manage their own territory. Today, the Senate, as an institution, is no longer indispensable.

Senate Reform Act December 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their very relevant remarks on today's issue, the Senate reform bill, as introduced by the Conservative government. I am also pleased to support the position of the official opposition, which proposes to simply abolish this archaic institution, which should no longer be part of a modern democracy like Canada.

As my colleagues have done, I will try to present clearly and accurately the arguments supporting the NDP's position. I will also explain why this government should immediately put a stop to its Bill C-7, An Act respecting the selection of senators and amending the Constitution Act, 1867 in respect of Senate term limits.

First, I want to commend the work done by members opposite, who recognize that we need to reflect on the democratic system in which we live. As Canadians, we should all ask ourselves whether that system adequately meets the changing needs of a modern democratic society like ours.

Since 1900, 13 attempts have been made to reform the Senate, but they all failed. Considering that so many attempts have been made to deal with a serious issue that affects the very foundation of our Constitution, I think there is as much a need to debate the issue and reflect on it as to engage in a reform. It is on the content of the proposed reform that our opinion differs from that of the government. Indeed, a thorough analysis of the issue leads us to the conclusion that the Senate simply no longer serves the interests of Canadians.

The first amendment proposed in the bill by the government deals with the appointment process. The government is proposing a process that, in theory, allows voters to have a say in the selection of Senate nominees. However, in fact, there is not much change in this regard.

The government is saying that a province or territory would have the option of holding an election, at its own cost, to select the names to be submitted to the Prime Minister for consideration. However, the Prime Minister would be under no obligation to appoint a person previously elected in a province or territory. Therefore, this bill does not change the way senators are appointed, since the Prime Minister would still be free to appoint whomever he chooses from a pool of elected nominees.

In short, this means that the government is proposing to keep all the power regarding Senate appointments, under cover of a supposedly more democratic selection process, and with the provinces footing the bill.

What is the point of letting voters believe that they can have a say if, ultimately, senators will continue to be appointed by the Governor General upon the sole recommendation of the Prime Minister? And why make the provinces again pay for a federal measure?

Furthermore the bill states that if an elected person is not appointed within six years of their election, a new election must be held. This means that a candidate may have spent time, energy and money on an election campaign. He or she may be elected by the people, but if this person is not appointed to the Senate within six years, he or she will have to start all over again. Voters would have elected candidates for the Senate who will wait to be appointed on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, but who may not be appointed and will have to start all over again six years later. This measure makes no sense at all and, to my mind, even seems anti-democratic in that it still leaves a great deal of room for favouritism and cronyism while discriminating against others.

The second amendment being proposed by the government has to do with term limits. Before 1965, senators were appointed for life. Under the British North America Act, 1965, the maximum duration of a term is nine years and the retirement age is 75 years. Reducing terms to a maximum of nine years is definitely a step in the right direction. However, in my humble opinion, it is not enough. This proposal does not do enough to make senators accountable to Canadians.

Once their terms are over, senators will never have to stand before the people of Canada and be accountable for the election promises that they failed to keep or for the decisions that they made while serving. Another thing that does not make sense is that senators will be entitled to receive a Senate retirement pension without ever having had to account for their performance to those who elected them to be their representatives and stand up for their interests.

Another issue of major concern to me is that the provinces were not consulted when the bill was drafted, despite the fact that it deals with the foundations of our Constitution. This government cannot take the initiative for any more new bills devoid of logic on the redundant and unjustified pretext that Canadians gave them a mandate on May 2.

I believe that the provinces have something to say about this bill and that it is imperative that they all be consulted on the subject. Right now, we have proof that the government did not consult the provinces. Ontario and Nova Scotia have publicly called for the Senate to be abolished. Manitoba has maintained its position in favour of abolishing the Senate. The Premier of British Columbia has said that the Senate no longer serves any useful purpose within our Confederation. Even Quebec, the nation that I very proudly represent here today, has stated that it will appeal the matter in court if this bill is passed without first consulting the provinces.

As far as I know, the provinces are the parts that make up Canada. Can the government tell us, here in this House, who it listened to when drafting this bill? Did it develop its approach and these proposals based on actual needs?

Unfortunately, I think I need to remind the House that this government is supposed to listen to and serve Canadians. Such an amendment to our Constitution cannot be made without consulting the provinces and the general public. So why not hold a referendum on the issue? Some 71% of Canadians have already said they want a referendum on the issue, before the question has even been asked unofficially. Some 36% of Canadians are already in favour of abolishing the Senate. Personally, I think a responsible government is one that allows the people to have their say on issues as fundamental as this one.

As a final point on this bill, one that illustrates my negative feelings about it, has to do with a potential conflict of legitimacy between elected senators and appointed senators. How does the government plan to deal with the fact that some senators will have been elected and others appointed, and that some can remain in their positions until they are 75, while others will have a nine-year term? It will be impossible to ensure equal treatment for them all because, right from the start, those who were elected by the public will insidiously be given greater legitimacy.

In the NDP, our reflections on the possibility of abolishing the Senate date back to the 1930s. The relevance of an unelected Senate was already in question, to say nothing of the costs involved, which of course Canadian taxpayers are forced to bear. The Senate costs up to $100 million a year and that money should be invested elsewhere—in infrastructure, for instance, and in job creation.

As we know, historically, the Senate was created based on the Anglo-Saxon model in order to represent Canada's economic and social elite, but that role is outdated and the institution has become archaic.

These days, great modern democracies have come to the same conclusion as the NDP and realized that the Senate is no longer fulfilling its duty in the current political framework. Its role simply no longer corresponds to our current social reality.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act December 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, this morning, a member across the floor talked about the importance of ensuring that the police are not available to respond. So people have to know that the police cannot respond before they defend their property. Although I am no expert in law—nor is my colleague—does he really believe that it is realistic and feasible to do this when something happens?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act December 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Welland might not be a lawyer, but he spoke honestly and sincerely, and I thank him for it.

I remember this incident at the Lucky Moose. The entire country heard about it, from coast to coast to coast. The case involved someone who defended his property, only to be taken to court himself and become the victim.

I asked a question this morning about the word “reasonable”. The member spoke about it at length. Personally, I truly believe that this terms needs to be defined better, since its meaning can sometimes be quite elastic. I would like to hear his thoughts on this, since he seems to be concerned about it too. If we leave the word “reasonable” as is, it could mean one thing to one person and something completely different to someone else. Can the member tell me what effort will be made to try to define and qualify this word better?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act December 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, we currently have groups of citizens who essentially form their own patrols to defend themselves or protect an area in their city or municipality. These people replace police officers, use force and arrest other citizens. In the heat of the moment, they often do not take the time to call the police or to see whether a police officer could intervene.

Does the member think that this bill could encourage people to take the law into their own hands? This is similar to the previous question, but we are talking about groups here.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act December 1st, 2011

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his speech.

He spoke about replacing the existing law with clear and precise provisions, or provisions that have been made clearer. He also spoke about the possibility of detaining a person for a so-called reasonable period of time. I find the term “reasonable” to be elastic. It is far from clear and precise. It is used several times in the text. For example, we might consider one day in jail to be appropriate whereas someone else might think that three days in jail would be appropriate in the same situation.

Could the member clarify and explain what he means by “reasonable”?