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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was riding.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2021, with 12% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply April 21st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about enforcing a regulation on diafiltered milk. The discussions have taken place. As far as broader agricultural policies are concerned, Canada's farmers have done their part by agreeing on standards in terms of safety, animal welfare, and the environment. In fact, I look forward to talking about agricultural policies so that we can discuss what we are going to do in the years to come.

However, that is not the issue today. The questions are the following. What are we going to do to enforce the cheese compositional standards? What are we going to do to make sure our food is safe? What are we going to do to keep our farms in our regions? That is what we are talking about today.

Business of Supply April 21st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Sherbrooke.

It makes perfect sense that the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot is rising in the House to talk about diafiltered milk. I represent a riding where there are close to 500 companies and nearly 1,500 agriculture and agri-food companies directly affected by this issue.

I just want to point out that every member of the House is affected when supply management is on the line. Supply management also affects consumers. Whether we are in a rural and agricultural riding or a fully urban riding, people in every one of our ridings consume milk, eggs, chicken. This affects us all.

Supply management was put in place for our farmers. We say “supply”, but really, the system manages supply and demand. That means that here in Canada, we know that we will always have enough milk, eggs, and chicken. We have known that for decades. That is not so across the border. In the past few years there was an egg shortage and consumers saw the price of eggs skyrocket.

In Canada, we are also assured of quality. Consumers know that when they see “Canadian milk”, it means that the milk came from producers who comply with animal welfare, safety, and environmental standards. We have no guarantees when the milk comes from the United States. A number of young producers told me that they have visited farms there, that they saw how things worked, and that there is no guarantee of quality.

Under Canada's supply management system, consumers have assurances about quality, quantity, and reasonable prices.

We often hear people say that they went to the United States and that prices were lower there. Prices may have been low that week, but if those people returned the following month, that might no longer have been the case. However, when you buy milk here, you know that the price will always be reasonable and fair for consumers. It is important for the House to understand that this affects us all.

Members need to understand what is meant by diafiltered milk. It is important that all members understand that, because I hope that they will support the motion moved by my colleague today. Diafiltered milk is a way of circumventing the regulations. Importers claim that the milk is not really milk, but that it is “milk protein concentrate”. They give it that fancy name to get it across the border. Since the product is not milk, the Canada Border Services Agency does not charge the importers customs fees. That makes it a competitive product. However, when the product gets to the processing plant, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency considers it to be milk. That means that, as a consumer, when I read the word “milk” on a product, I have no guarantee that the milk came from Canada. I have no guarantee that environmental, animal welfare, and food safety standards were upheld. That is what diafiltered milk is.

The parliamentary secretary just said that we do not understand, that the issue is too complicated. We are saying that that is not true. It is very simple. Milk usually contains 3% protein. The milk in question is being processed in such as way that it contains 15% protein so that the rules can be circumvented and the milk can get across the border.

Supply management is a system that ensures that dairy producers do not need any subsidies. By letting this milk across the border, the government is telling dairy farmers that it is not going to give them any subsidies and on top of that it is also going to penalize them. On average, farms are losing $15,000. In my riding, farmers are telling me that they are losing up to $25,000. Today, farmers are protesting in front of the Parliament Buildings. Young farmers are saying that the money they are losing this year is their salary. Do we expect our dairy farmers to continue to give us a high-quality product without even earning an income? Are we going to make it impossible for the next generation to take over? This is a land use issue.

We represent regions all over Canada. Farms are going out of business all the time. In Quebec last year, 257 farms ceased to be. Every week, I meet dairy producers who tell me that they are sick of seeing the farms around them close up shop. They want their farms to be family farms, and they want them to be viable. They want to stay on their land.

Do we want to see our family farms in Canada disappear? Would we rather have mega-farms like those in the United States? Do we want our towns to cease to be?

My riding is 50 kilometres from Montreal, but some of the towns no longer have a credit union, a grocery store, or a convenience store. In some towns, even the school is barely surviving. In other regions, schools are being converted into seniors' homes. Our supply management system made it possible for dairy producers to operate in all of our regions: north of La Tuque, in Gaspé, in Abitibi. Our supply management system makes it possible for them to stay in business. Do we want to jeopardize the supply management system by allowing diafiltered milk into the country? The government says it believes in supply management, but saying so is not enough. The government has to take action to safeguard it.

For my region, this is about economic development. Millions of dollars are at stake. Last year alone, dairy producers lost $220 million. Last summer, a press conference on supply management was organized in my riding. There were representatives of municipalities, chambers of commerce, and economic development organizations because they know very well that if agricultural producers go out of business, companies that sell goods and services will shut their doors because the economic activity of these producers is the lifeblood of the region.

It is important to bear this in mind, and that is why this concerns all of us. We cannot say that this only concerns the producers who came to see us on the Hill today. Today, when we reflect on this issue and when we vote, we really have to tell ourselves that this concerns every one of us and that it is important to support my colleague's motion.

The Liberals are telling us that this is complicated, but really, it is quite simple. The government simply needs to enforce the regulations that already exist. The House of Commons does not even need to pass any new legislation. The regulations exist; they just need to be applied. We are being told today that the discussions are ongoing, but farmers are coming to us and saying that the discussions have gone on long enough and it is time for action. The action to be taken is very clear: the existing regulations simply need to be enforced. The cheese compositional standards need to be enforced.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food decided not to block products at the border, which is something he could have done. It has been done in the past. An agriculture minister did that a number of years ago, when mozzarella was crossing our borders in cheese kits. This time, although we have no idea why, the minister decided not to block diafiltered milk at the border, but he could still do something about cheese compositional standards, and there is no reason to wait to enforce regulations that already exist.

I do not know what they are waiting for. Last week, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously adopted a second motion calling on the federal government to resolve this issue. To me it is clear. When farmers tell us it is time to take action, when two unanimous motions from the Quebec National Assembly tell us it is time to take action, then it is hard to understand why the government still wants to discuss the matter and collaborate. It is time to take action, period.

This is also important because the trans-Pacific partnership threatens supply management. The Canada-Europe free trade agreement threatens supply management. The message I want to get across today is that we need to stop including agriculture in our international agreements. We took culture out of our international agreements because it was a sensitive topic, and now we need to take out agriculture. We simply cannot put agriculture in the same agreements with the automotive industry and the pharmaceutical industry. We are talking about land use.

The government has to act now.

Business of Supply April 21st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary, precisely because he is a dairy producer and he understands supply management issues, should know that the time for discussions is past. When farmers demonstrate on the Hill, it is because the discussions are over and it is time to take action.

It is true that discussions are going on between the producers and the processors. However, the government now has to decide whether to stop treating diafiltered milk one way at the border and another way when it gets to the processors. The government must take action now, and it knows that. Why is it not doing so?

International Trade April 19th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to represent the riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, Quebec's agrifood capital.

Farmers do not just want to be called upon to collaborate. They really need to be reassured. Our region is home to several hundred farm businesses and several thousand food processing jobs. It is a land use issue.

For us, jeopardizing these farms means jeopardizing the villages in my riding. I hear about it every week. Last Saturday evening, I was sitting across from a dairy producer from Saint-Dominique at the farm women gala and she was telling me how sad she was to see one dairy farm after another shutting down.

Two weeks ago, I was sitting next to Marie-Ange Lapointe, who is very proud to be the fifth generation on her family's dairy farm in Upton. She was saying how sad she was to see all of the dairy farms that have been around for such a long time shutting down, one after the other.

In the centre city of our riding, there are hardly any dairy farms left, even though there used to be several on every country road. That is what worries me. Agriculture must not be treated like any other business.

International Trade April 19th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, on February 4, I rose in the House to ask why the Minister of International Trade was signing the trans-Pacific partnership agreement.

The Conservatives secretly negotiated the TPP. During the election campaign, the Liberals promised to make changes. Instead, they moved forward with the Conservatives' agreement as is. Ratifying this agreement would be harmful for many sectors and could seriously damage our economy. In Canada 60,000 good jobs are at risk.

In Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. Hundreds of farmers make a living from this economy, and these people are worried because the TPP also jeopardizes the supply management system in Quebec. I am also concerned because we are already feeling the detrimental effects of this agreement.

The detrimental effects of this agreement and the uncertainty associated with its ratification have already had an impact. Last year, 257 dairy farms in Quebec shut down their operations because of this uncertainty and the breach in our supply management system. We are talking about men and women who work hard to provide high quality products.

I would remind the House that supply management guarantees Canadians access to high-quality, locally produced food at a reasonable price. It also guarantees a decent income for our dairy, egg, and poultry producers, and it generates thousands of jobs here in Canada. However, this agreement puts all of that in jeopardy.

I am calling on the government to stand in the House this evening and reassure our farmers, to commit to putting an end to the demise of family farms and to protecting supply management in its entirety. It is not enough that the government say the words; it needs to take concrete action to do so.

Since I was elected, hundreds of concerned citizens and farmers have reached out to me, whether by email, by telephone, or at my constituency office to have their say. Unfortunately, this government appears to be ignoring those people and turning its back on farmers.

Despite the fact that the TPP is being widely criticized in numerous forums, the Liberals signed it anyway. However, we have been saying for quite some time that the trans-Pacific partnership negotiated by the Conservatives and signed by the Liberals is not good for Canada. This agreement could jeopardize many of our most important industries, lower decent wages, and put the interests of large corporations ahead of everything else.

We are not alone in saying it and repeating it. People from all TPP signatory countries, and especially from Canada, are speaking out against this treaty.

At the beginning of the month, American Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner in economics, warned the Minister of International Trade that Canada should reject the TPP. He told her that it was the worst deal ever and that it would only benefit large corporations.

Not only do the Liberals insist on moving forward, but they are also reconsidering compensation for the dairy industry. There is nothing on this matter in the latest budget. This is yet another broken promise.

This government has a duty to fulfill its commitments and to fully protect supply management.

When will the Liberals listen to people's concerns and stand up for workers, employees here in Canada, and producers?

Indigenous Affairs April 18th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, what we learned today about residential schools and the Catholic church is quite frankly shocking.

The government inadvertently allowed the church to renege on its legal obligation to try to raise $25 million for programs to help residential school victims.

The journey toward healing from this shameful national tragedy is long and painful. Letting the Catholic church sidestep its obligations, even inadvertently, is a betrayal of the goal of healing.

How can the government justify this outrageous situation?

Health April 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to palliative care services, there is a crying need for help across the country.

The government itself acknowledged that this is an important issue in the bill it introduced today, but there was nothing for palliative care in the budget. The Liberals had promised $3 billion over four years for home care. There is yet another broken promise.

Will the government finally acknowledge that this is urgent and invest in palliative care?

Indigenous Affairs April 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are concerned about the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat and many other indigenous communities. We cannot continue to neglect our youth this way.

The government says that it is taking this problem seriously, but in reality, the budget does not provide for any investments in mental health care services for indigenous youth. The government needs to invest in prevention.

Will the government immediately make recurrent funding available for mental health care services for first nations youth?

The Budget April 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, our colleague said that families can now sleep soundly because they will be getting a child benefit. I doubt that the 1.4 million unemployed Canadians are sleeping soundly or that the 900,000 Canadians who are working part-time but not by choice can sleep soundly. Given the sky-high cost of child care, I doubt that families are sleeping soundly.

I would like my colleague to explain how parents can sleep soundly when there is no money for child care this year and just $500 million next year.

Laurie-Ève Rhéaume April 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate nine-year-old Laurie-Ève Rhéaume on her desire to make a difference.

I have a meeting scheduled with this young lady from my riding on Earth Day so that she can tell me about her concerns regarding the environment and poverty reduction.

Laurie-Ève also asked me to visit her elementary school. Her teacher, Dominique Provost, has made arrangements for me to meet with more than 125 children aged nine to 12 to discuss the environment, citizen engagement, and fighting inequality.

I would like to thank Laurie-Ève for taking this initiative. Although she is young, we can all look to her as a model of personal involvement in our democracy.