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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was city.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Québec (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 27% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. Like me, she knocks on a lot of doors and participates in many events in her riding.

That is why she raises some very real issues in the House. She also understands that we are always getting the same question from people of all ages: why do the banks make billions of dollars in profits every year, regardless of how the economy is doing, but families are more and more in debt?

Rent, food and hydro are costing more and more. We are in debt on all sides. Now, it does not even make sense to withdraw our own money. It can sometimes cost $4 or $5 to withdraw $20. Imagine the massive profits the bank is raking in. It makes no sense that it costs $4 or $5 to withdraw our own hard-earned money, which we deposited.

That is why we need to take this seriously. We are legislators and we represent the Canadian public. We need to put banks in their place. Yes, they can make a profit, but not 700% or 800%. That makes no sense. We need to put banks in their place by adopting a prime plus 5% rate for credit cards and setting ATM fees at 50¢ per transaction, maximum. The NDP is the only party that has proposed this.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House today to speak to budget implementation bill C-43. This bill of more than 460 pages is divided into four parts and will create, amend or eliminate about 400 sections. Most of the laws amended have absolutely nothing to do with the budget.

The Conservatives have rushed through many omnibus bills without enough analysis and without respect for the democratic process.

We deplore the fact that this is happening again with Bill C-43. One would think that it is groundhog day in the House of Commons. It is always the same. This is another Trojan horse, and we truly oppose it because we cannot debate all the measures it contains. This is what always happens.

A fine example of the undemocratic process that goes along with this Conservative government's omnibus bills is the new section 27.2 of the Telecommunications Act. This section states that any person who provides telecommunications services shall not charge a subscriber for providing the subscriber with a paper bill. This measure has the full support of the NDP. We support it because the NDP has been fighting for years to stop this pay-to-pay practice.

Unfortunately, I cannot vote for this measure because it is buried deep in a mountain of changes that I completely disagree with. I think my frustration is clear. This situation comes up again and again, every time the Conservative government introduces an omnibus bill. That is the most pernicious part of all this.

This situation will probably give the minister the opportunity to repeat again and again that our party did not support eliminating fees for paper bills and that the opposition voted against it.

Let us look at the facts, the situation here, and be honest. We want to support that provision, but only if it is removed from the omnibus bill and voted on in another bill. Once again, this government prefers pettiness to genuine democracy.

I still want to take the time to say, in the House, that I will vote for a proposal to eliminate fees for telecommunications bills. At the very least, I will have said it.

We support other amendments set out in Bill C-43. In fact, Bill C-43 also includes measures to improve the integrity of our tax code, which is certainly a step in the right direction, although there is still a lot to be done to combat tax evasion.

The bill also puts in place a DNA data bank to help in missing persons cases. This is another measure the NDP has long been calling for.

Let us now talk about the negative aspects of this bill. Unfortunately, there are far more negative aspects than positive ones. First, Bill C-43 does not honour the Conservatives' promise to put an end to the exorbitant fees charged by banks. If the Conservatives agree that it is not right for the telecommunications companies to charge billing fees, then why do they allow the banks to keep using this completely unjustified practice?

Omnibus Bill C-43 also has provisions that would amend the federal-provincial fiscal arrangements to allow the provinces to impose minimum residency requirements on immigrants before they can access various benefits. Asylum seekers and others without permanent resident status could be denied access to social assistance benefits.

The Conservatives' goal is to encourage the provinces to reduce the costs related to paying social assistance, at the expense of the most vulnerable residents in our society. Those people already face major obstacles, including the sluggish labour market, discrimination, and lack of experience, to name a few.

Restricting access to social assistance will only hinder the integration process of these vulnerable people and increase poverty and its many symptoms. Society will be left paying the bill.

Moreover, these measures are highly discriminatory and a blatant violation of human rights. Over 160 Canadian organizations sent an open letter to the Minister of Finance voicing opposition to the government's decision to restrict refugee claimants' access to social assistance. Bill C-43 also changes the rules for credit unions, and they have had no say in the matter. We do not yet know the exact consequences of these changes, but this is just like the 2013 budget, in which the Conservatives unfairly increased the taxes payable by credit unions.

Bill C-43 also institutes the hiring credit for small businesses, a measure that many economists consider wasteful. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says that the program will create no more than 800 jobs despite its enormous cost.

Nevertheless, it is what this famous budget implementation bill leaves out that is so problematic for the Canadian economy. Private sector growth has been virtually moribund for 18 months. Not a single job has been created. Approximately 300,000 people lost their jobs in the last recession, but there is nothing in this bill to help them find new work or to help replace the 400,000 manufacturing sector jobs lost on this Prime Minister's watch.

Currently, the youth unemployment rate is twice the national average; that has not changed since the depths of the recession. For young people entering the workforce, getting that first job is a crucial step that enables them to become productive and useful members of society.

Furthermore, we are seeing record levels of personal debt, much higher than what we used to see. In 1980, the ratio of household debt to personal disposable income was 66%, and now it is 164%. That is an incredible increase. The Governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz, has stated that household debt in this country is a major risk factor for the Canadian economy. Society is living beyond its means. Our families are in too much debt.

When people have been having a hard time making ends meet for a number of years, they are no longer able to pay their bills. They underestimated how much money they would need to make ends meet. It happens to many people. In Quebec, rent went up by over 40% in 10 years. When rent represents 30%, 50% or 70% of a person's income, that is a lot. It prevents them from being able to pay their electricity bill and buy food. Those are basic needs. I am not even talking about entertainment. Many people can no longer afford entertainment, not even cable.

If we do not acknowledge that situation and if we do not listen to families who are having trouble making ends meet, we cannot come up with effective policies that reflect this reality. It is shameful that this government does not understand the extent of this problem at all.

The NDP has real solutions to help Canadians. We want to bring in new regulations to put an end to the abusive practices of banks, money lenders and credit card companies. We want to ensure that all Canadians have access to a credit card with a reasonable interest rate that does not exceed prime plus 5%, and we are going to cap the fees charged at ATMs at no more than 50¢ per transaction. An NDP budget would immediately put a stop to the federal government's plan to raise the retirement age to 67 and would reverse the $36 billion in cuts to provincial health transfers.

To balance the budget, we are instead proposing to phase out subsidies for the oil and gas sectors, which amount to over $1 billion. We also want to hire the resources necessary to recover the billions of dollars that are lost because of tax evasion and the use of tax havens.

Right now, the federal government is hardly operating like a real democracy.

Since winning a majority, the Conservatives have passed 2,190 pages of omnibus bills. The NDP always opposes the Conservatives' omnibus bills, just like we opposed the Liberals' omnibus bills in the 1990s.

The government is using the House of Commons to impose its omnibus bills. Canadians deserve better from their elected representatives.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague opposite, but I look at the facts.

Bill C-43 implements the small business job credit, which many economists have called a waste. Furthermore, the Parliamentary Budget Officer believes that despite the massive cost of the bill, the program will not create more than 800 jobs. Those are the facts.

Moreover, the bill disregards the fact that growth in the private sector has been essentially at a standstill for 18 months and no jobs have been created. There is nothing in this bill to help the 300,000 new unemployed workers created by the last recession get back to work or to help replace the 400,000 jobs that have been lost in the manufacturing sector under this Prime Minister.

My question is simple. This credit has been criticized because of all of the costs associated with it. Will my colleague acknowledge that economists agree that this measure will not do much, in light of the investment required? This bill has been harshly criticized.

Canada Revenue Agency December 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I very much understood the minister's response on October 29. She said that clarity was essential and she was right. Clarity is essential, but that also means there needs to be an investment in human and financial resources. The Conservatives keep making cuts, so of course things are not going so well. It costs money to achieve a certain level of quality.

If I may say so, with the Conservatives, we have access to two official languages in Canada: English and translated English. This creates problems with regard to clarity. This creates problems in translation. We end up with information and communications that are awkward and unintelligible in French. That is a problem that should be examined more closely.

Apparently, federal public servants working at the Canada Revenue Agency were recently informed that their bilingual positions would now be designated unilingual English. How am I being answered today? It is strictly in English. That is a problem. It is a reality and if we want clarity, then we have to be prepared to pay and provide the human and financial resources that are needed. Government services cannot be reduced to bare bones or the quality of communication will be affected.

Canada Revenue Agency December 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, on October 29, I asked the Minister of National Revenue a question about the Canada Revenue Agency, which acknowledged that its letters are so complicated and badly written that, in many cases, taxpayers do not know whether to write a cheque or wait for a refund. It is a mystery.

Ultimately, this mismanagement of communications leaves Canadians confused and paying penalties. We are asking the government to sort out the situation and fix it. A Canada Revenue Agency study confirmed that millions of the messages that bureaucrats send to taxpayers every year are poorly organized and incomprehensible. There is also an unjustifiably severe lack of professionalism, and communications are just too dense for people to understand. The Canada Revenue Agency is out of touch with the people, and by letting the situation persist, it is complicating matters. All of this gobbledygook comes at a price. Confused taxpayers are flooding the agency's call centres with requests for information over the phone, and they are sending the agency thousands of letters to ask for clarification. Dealing with those complaints is costly and takes up more and more resources. The Canada Revenue Agency needs to fix the problem and the penalties. This would not happen if communications were clear and well written, as they used to be. Sometimes government benefit cheques are cut off for no reason because people do not understand the agency's unintelligible letters.

One study also suggested that the agency needs a champion, a direction, really, so that it can overcome the problems caused by bureaucratic inertia.

In 2014, at a time when we understand the importance of confidentiality, privacy and the right to adequate communication that provides clear explanations, we simply cannot accept situations like some I have seen in my riding, for instance. Someone came to tell me that when he tried to file his federal tax return online, it could not be found. He was asked a while later to send the whole return again, as though it had been lost. What happened to his data? How was it processed? Does he need to worry or wonder whether it is there, dormant or hacked? Those are legitimate questions. Of course, someone also has to pay for that.

On that point, it is important to point out that the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada has said that a new wave of work force adjustments among officials who work on tax evasion and tax havens will reduce the government's ability to recover money owed.

Considering the costs related to so much inefficiency and the many scandals that came to light over a number of months, it is absolutely crucial that the government act and respond appropriately. I am convinced that the Conservatives across the aisle understand the point I am trying to make and understand that we need to stop this lack of professionalism. Indeed, it is not very Canadian. It makes no sense. It is absolutely crucial that we take action and correct the situation, which will also help our reputation around the world. Learning things like that will make us look good.

Consumer Protection November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, MasterCard announced its intention to enter Canada's debit card market. Small and medium-sized businesses are concerned about this giant's arrival because they are worried that even more fees will be imposed, which will chip away at their modest profit margins.

Is the minister aware that his voluntary regulation is a joke can easily be avoided to the detriment of our SMEs? When will the government impose mandatory regulations regarding credit card fees?

Consumer Protection November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, if I understood the member opposite correctly, when it comes to protecting consumers, unfortunately, the government is once again satisfied with half measures.

The government chose not to impose its new regulations on banks. Of course, it cannot touch the banks. That is for sure. That means that Canadian banks, which make record profits year after year, are going to be able to continue taxing their clients.

It is important to point out that it is not very ethical of the banks to make a profit on the backs of consumers just because consumers are unable to do online banking. That is a very worthwhile debate that we must support here. It is not right that the NDP is the only party in the House of Commons to say that we need a government that sets out clear rules and boundaries for banks.

They can make a profit but they cannot have a profit margin of 700% or 800% as they do now. This is where it would be good for the government to tell the banks that they are also not allowed to charge pay-to-pay fees.

Consumer Protection November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that I have risen as the deputy critic for consumer protection to discuss the importance of consumer protection.

On October 21, 2014, I asked the Conservatives this question: the government promised a year ago to put an end to pay-to-pay billing practices—the ridiculous $2 or $3 or even higher charges that telecommunications companies and banks sometimes add to invoices. In its throne speech a year ago, the government promised to put an end to this kind of excessive fees. Since October 2013, the Conservative government has done nothing. Consumers are tired of paying the abusive fees charged by banks and telecom companies. People are at the point where they sometimes have to pay just to get their bills.

Despite the Conservatives' promises, a number of companies continue to gouge consumers. When will the Conservatives finally do something tangible to support the NDP's proposals and make life more affordable for Canadians? Unfortunately, that is what I talked about the last time in the House. This did not really strike the Conservatives as important. It is unfortunate because Canadian taxpayers have to pay more and more for food, rent, electricity and things such as child care, and the Conservatives' measures are certainly not going to help taxpayers pay less.

When taxpayers are stretched thin like that, they hope that the government can at least make clear commitments to reduce the billions in profits the banks are making. We see that year after year. Regardless of the state of the country's economy, the banks are making bigger profits all the time. In the meantime, Canadian household debt is increasing. The rate of Canadian household debt is currently 168%, which is quite high.

That is why we must help give Canadian families some breathing room by cutting their costs and especially by eliminating the famous $2 charge for a paper bill. It is really ridiculous to have to pay to get your own bill. It is actually a hidden tax. The NDP has been pressuring the government about this for a number of years. La Facture in Quebec did a program on it. We are asking the government to eliminate pay-to-pay fees and all other hidden fees, not just in telecommunications but also in the banking sector, in order to prevent consumers from being gouged because of this situation.

We know that Canadians pay between $495 million and $734 million every year to receive paper copies of their telecom bills and their bank statements. That is shameful. We absolutely have to fix this.

As a result of the hard work we do here, the NDP thinks that consumers will soon have access to new regulations that would eliminate these fees. There was a semi-compromise in the regulations in the Conservatives' last bill. The regulations eliminate the $2 charge on some bills, but not on others. We do not think that was right. The government should really go all the way.

Now is the time to ask the Conservatives what they think about this and whether they think it would be a good idea to finish the job so that all families can have a little breathing room with all of their bills.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

I was listening to my colleague's eloquent speech and thinking to myself that he lives in a beautiful riding whose name I can never get quite right because it covers so much territory. It is the beautiful region of the Lower St. Lawrence, which is where I am from. I definitely have a soft spot for that area.

I know that a lot of farmers in this region are concerned because they want to be sure that their rights and privileges are upheld and we recognize how important they are to this country. Our agriculture is a huge source of pride. When I see it or the topic of financial assistance called into question on occasion, I get worried. I know that this will affect farmers back home.

My colleague made a number of points, so I want to ask him to talk about other elements that affect his riding in particular. How would this bill affect his constituents?

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead spoke passionately about a topic he loves, agriculture. This is a very important issue for the people of Compton—Stanstead.

These rural ridings are important because they allow ridings such as mine, in the heart of downtown Quebec City, to appreciate the artisan products of our various local producers, who do an outstanding job. We hope they continue to stand out both here at home, of course, and outside our borders.

To conclude, I would ask him to talk some more about his passion for the producers of Compton—Stanstead and tell us about what worries them the most.