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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Neuville Airport June 5th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, let us see what excuse the Minister of Transport will use today to wash his hands of the Neuville airport.

Last week, I was in Saskatoon at the FCM conference, where 1,600 mayors unanimously asked the federal government to consult them before building private airports in their municipalities. At the same conference, the minister stated that he was very willing to work with the municipalities. That is a clear commitment.

Will the minister keep his promise and work with the municipality of Neuville on the airport file?

Contaminated Water in Shannon May 30th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the victims of the contamination in Shannon have been seeking justice for 10 years now. The Department of National Defence and Environment Canada knew that the water in Shannon was contaminated with TCE but they still allowed people to be poisoned.

We are talking about people who are now suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses as a result of this. The people of Shannon deserve better.

For once, will the Minister of Veterans Affairs stand up for the people in the Quebec City region and for veterans who are victims of the contamination, or is he going to once again let the Prime Minister's Office tell him what to do?

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act May 28th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for the very important and greatly appreciated work that she does for her constituents.

The problems with the right to negotiate, freedom of association and the right to strike are likely to be very serious for the countries of South America, primarily for Panama, because this type of agreement contains no guarantee those rights will be protected.

We are already flouting the rights of our Canadian workers by stopping them from negotiating their collective agreements and by preventing negotiations in good faith. Basically, the government is telling employers that they do not have to try and negotiate because it will be there to save them and to give them exactly what they want at the expense of the workers, who will have to make do with whatever salaries and working conditions employers want to give them. This kind of risk is very real, and it already exists in Panama, where the workers do not have the same rights as we do at all.

In signing such agreements without protecting their rights, we will merely be worsening their working conditions, and we will not be able to pass on the democratic social values particular to Canadian society that should be spread throughout the world.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act May 28th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I believe that some of the nuances of my speech and those of my colleagues were not grasped by the member in the corner. I liked what the member for Davenport said earlier.

From the beginning the NDP has said that it encourages free trade if it is fair and just. This has yet to be seen in Canadian history. In the future, we will have a great deal of credibility among workers whose rights we will have defended, among Quebeckers whose culture we will have defended—an aspect sometimes neglected by these free trade agreements—and among future generations, for protecting the environment.

By defending the principles of social justice, the fight against poverty and strong public programs to help people, we will have the credibility needed to vote for the next free trade agreements that will respect the principles we defend.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act May 28th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, like many of my colleagues, I am rising in the House today to speak about Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

As many of my colleagues have already pointed out, Bill C-24 is a new version of a bill that was introduced in the House during the previous Parliament, but that died on the order paper at the time.

In August 2009, the Conservative government entered into negotiations surrounding the future free trade agreement with the Republic of Panama. The agreement also included side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.

This free trade agreement was signed on May 14, 2010, and tabled in the House of Commons as Bill C-46, but the legislative process ended at the clause-by-clause review by the Standing Committee on International Trade.

This same bill is now being reintroduced without any significant improvements over the previous version.

The NDP was opposed to Bill C-46 in the 40th Parliament for the many reasons that have already been enumerated here in this House.

Again, we are going to have to oppose Bill C-24, because there are no provisions in it to remedy the fundamental flaws that have already been cited in this House.

The Canada-Panama agreement negotiated by the Conservative government is in fact only a slightly improved version of the approach to trade taken by former American President George Bush. Once again, in this free trade agreement, big corporations come ahead of the Canadian and Panamanian people, and absolutely nothing is being done to ensure respect for human rights, and very little to protect the environment.

More specifically, it is obvious to my colleagues in the NDP and myself, at least, that there are no provisions in the Canada-Panama agreement to ensure respect for workers’ rights in Panama. If the agreement is ratified by Parliament as it stands, there is absolutely no guarantee that the rights of Panamanian workers will not be flouted as they have so often been in the past.

But honestly, is anyone here surprised by this? If we look at the Conservatives’ record since the May 2, 2011, election, it is clear that workers’ rights are the very last thing on this government’s list of priorities.

In barely a year, they have introduced a record number of bills to force workers back to work and violate their fundamental right to negotiate their conditions of employment in good faith. Given this kind of contempt for the rights of Canadian workers, it is really not surprising that there would be no provisions in the Canada-Panama agreement to protect the rights of Panamanian workers.

My colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster had already proposed two amendments at the Standing Committee on International Trade to remedy this major flaw in the bill.

Those amendments would, first, have protected unionized workers in Panama by guaranteeing them the right to bargain collectively, as is the case here in Canada, or at least as it was before this government came to power.

The amendments presented by my colleague would also have forced the Minister of International trade to consult regularly with representatives of Canadian workers and with Canadian unions.

We know that this kind of consultation seems somewhat repugnant to this government, but New Democrat members think this measure is essential before we can ratify a free trade agreement with Panama.

Of course, in spite of Panama’s bad record when it comes to defending workers’ rights, those amendments were naturally defeated by the Conservatives, with the support of the Liberals.

With the Conservatives confirming on a daily basis their bias in favour of businesses and management—with their brutal attacks on workers' basic rights—it was hard to expect a different outcome.

Another major problem with Bill C-24 is the fact that it does not include any measure to prevent tax evasion. It is important to note that the Republic of Panama is still regarded as a tax haven. In fact, Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of France, recently said so.

Even though these issues were raised by my colleagues during the 40th Parliament, Bill C-24 is still seriously flawed when it comes to tax disclosure.

Despite repeated requests from Canada, the Republic of Panama has refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement.

This is very troubling, considering the large amount of money that is laundered in the Republic of Panama, including money from drug trafficking.

The Conservatives are constantly boasting about the importance they attach to law and order in Canada and about the fact that they are prepared to put Canadians in jail for years just because of a few marijuana plants. However, they refuse to do anything to create obstacles for big drug traffickers. It is really impossible to understand this government.

In its present form, Bill C-24 is not acceptable to the NDP. This trade agreement, which is quite similar to NAFTA, unjustly favours multinational corporations at the expense of workers and of the quality of our environment. This type of agreement with various countries that are often at an economic disadvantage compared to Canada, increases social and economic inequalities, while also significantly reducing the quality of life of workers and their families.

The rights of workers all over the world are important to my NDP colleagues and to myself. We cannot, in good conscience, support an agreement that does not do anything to protect the basic rights of the country with which that agreement is reached. We already have enough problems protecting our own Canadian workers against this government, which is barely able to conceal its contempt for their rights. We should not, in addition, start interfering with the rights of workers in Panama. It just makes no sense. We must ensure there are guarantees, so that they can negotiate their collective agreements freely and in good faith, as should be the case in any democratic society.

Since the beginning of the debate on Bill C-24, Conservative members keep repeating the same old arguments dictated by their government, without trying to understand our position on this issue.

My colleagues and I have made speeches in this House that are very clear. Our position on international trade is clear: we believe in the importance of international trade, but it has to be fair, sustainable and equitable trade. It is totally false to say that the NDP does not support international trade. I think I will say that again for the benefit of my colleagues opposite: it is totally false to say that the NDP does not support international trade. We simply believe that the trade agreements being negotiated have to respect and support the principles of social justice, sustainable development and human rights, which is not to say that we have to neglect the need to expand our trading opportunities.

We are aware that Canada has to trade with other countries; to import and to export. That is the system we are in. That is how things work and we are very aware of these realities. However, my colleagues and I in the NDP do not think that Canada's economic prosperity needs to come at the expense of workers' rights in other countries, people who are less fortunate than we are and who do not enjoy all the freedoms we had before this Conservative government came on the scene. We can indeed see that the rights to free association and to collective bargaining are fading away as the weeks go by.

It is completely absurd and false to say that the NDP wants to close our borders to commercial products from other countries. We do believe, however, that the government should stop focusing exclusively on the NAFTA model and should remain open to exploring other possible solutions to establish trade ties with other countries.

We must ensure that Canada puts the pursuit of social justice, strong public-sector social programs and the fight against poverty at the heart of its trade strategy. As soon as this government presents us with a free trade agreement that respects the principles of social justice and sustainable development, we would be pleased to support and vote in favour of such a bill. So far, however, we have yet to see such a thing in the history of Canada. The Liberals did not present any such agreements, nor have the Conservatives.

So, until that time, we will continue to oppose them. However, there is still time to amend this bill and ensure that the principles of social justice, sustainable development and the fight against poverty are respected.

I invite my Conservative colleagues to reflect on this and remain open to the kind of amendments that my colleagues are proposing.

Official Languages May 17th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I like it so much when my colleagues rise in the House to boast about their excellent economic management, when they are not even capable of getting themselves out of the F-35 scandal. They are wasting billions of taxpayers’ dollars, when taxpayers would honestly much prefer to see that money invested elsewhere, maybe to provide bilingual services for Canadians everywhere. So in that respect I found it very amusing.

A number of witnesses came to see us at the Standing Committee on Official Languages. They explained the need for standardization in language training courses, because there is none at present. There are no standards. There is no way to ensure quality or determine whether the courses are equivalent or equal in same quality to the government’s.

I would like my colleague to explain exactly where he sees this standardization could exist and how the government could guarantee quality. The Commissioner of Official Languages is also concerned, as are a number of other people. I would like to get a clear answer.

Official Languages May 17th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I rise again in this House today on another matter: to decry the end of official language training at the Canada School of Public Service.

After cutting the number of translators at the Translation Bureau, now this Conservative government is attacking second language teachers. With the end of French and English second language courses at the School of Public Service, nearly 200 teachers are losing their jobs.

From now on, federal institutions will have to rely on the private sector for language training and miss out on the specific expertise the government has developed over the years. The Conservatives' main argument to justify this draconian change to these government services is, of course, you guessed it, the supposed cost savings resulting from this change.

According to this government, the private sector can offer the same services at a lower cost. We are starting to get used to the Conservatives' broken record, which, more often than not, just does not add up. Before accepting this Conservative dogma for absolute truth, let us start by looking at the facts.

First of all, every department is responsible for ensuring that its own employees receive language training. Each department will therefore select the institution with which its employees will do business and which second language program they will take. Decentralizing language training to such an extent makes it very difficult, if not almost impossible, to obtain information on the real cost of language training in this context.

But frankly, should we really be surprised at the lack of disclosure and the unavailability of information from this government? The Conservatives have a strong tendency to hide figures, and this is not going to change anytime soon. Moreover, an article in the Ottawa Citizen last December reported an increase in the cost of language training at the Treasury Board Secretariat over the past few years. Between 2006 and 2010, the average fee paid by the department apparently increased from $429 to $943. We are talking here about $2 million every year.

In this case, clearly, using the private sector to try to cut spending has failed miserably. With the end of language training by the Canada School of Public Service, questions may well be asked about the quality of the courses that will be offered by the private sector. As I mentioned earlier, over the years, the Canadian government has developed expertise and specific standards in language training.

In the private sector, there is none of this standardization, and this raises a number of concerns. First, how is the market regulated? Are the services provided by private institutions evaluated somehow? Even though the Public Service Commission still monitors the evaluation of public servants’ language skills, it does not evaluate the quality of the courses given. If the training received by public servants falls short of the mark, they will just have to spend more time in the classroom to reach the bilingualism level required for the job, and this will just drive up costs over the years.

In addition, on May 10, the Commissioner of Official Languages appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages, of which I an a member. In his testimony, Mr. Fraser announced that his office would be conducting extensive research into the changes made by this government to the way in which language training is provided to Canadian public servants. The commissioner too has a number of concerns about maintaining the quality of language training for government employees. During his appearance before the committee, the commissioner said:

I decided that we have to see what the outcome of those changes has been and whether language training continues to be as effective. I admit that I have a certain bias. I still believe that some people pass their exams but are not able to communicate, whereas others are able to communicate, but cannot pass their exams.

Even the Commissioner of Official Languages is concerned about the potentially negative impact of eliminating the language training offered by the Canada School of Public Service. Will the Conservatives also try to discredit him because he does not share their twisted vision of Canadian bilingualism? That would not be surprising. Unfortunately, ever since the Conservatives became the government, it has become clear that bilingualism is at the bottom of their priority list.

How can the government justify cutting 200 good jobs, when there is no guarantee of savings? How can it justify the privatization of an effective public service that Canadians need to receive proper services in the language of their choice?

Groundwater Contamination May 17th, 2012

Madam Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate and thank all of my colleagues who stood in this House to support Motion M-273, which I was proud to move on behalf of the citizens of Shannon whose lives have been turned upside down by the tragedy that struck their municipality.

The support and compassion shown by my colleagues in this House are invaluable to the former residents of Shannon, some of whom are here with us today.

As we know, many victims of this terrible tragedy are former or active members of our proud Canadian Forces. They have made many sacrifices to serve this country with dignity but now seem to have been forgotten or, worse, pushed away by the government.

This motion is incredibly important for the current and former citizens of Shannon, who have been seeking justice for many years.

The victims of the TCE contamination have suffered many losses and hardships through no fault of their own, and yet no one will take responsibility for what happened to them.

The victims of the TCE contamination of Shannon's water supply have still not been fairly compensated for their suffering, after more than 10 years of fierce battles. Even today, many people who suffer from illnesses linked to the intake of TCE, like cancer and the other illnesses mentioned earlier, still do not know why they are sick, because no one has told them about what happened in Shannon. This is totally unacceptable.

This government must act now, before the judge renders his verdict. This government must compensate the known victims of the contamination and their families, as well as those who have suffered or are still suffering without knowing why. The government has a moral obligation to do everything in its power to inform those who may have been affected by TCE contamination and to offer them the fair compensation they deserve, with a victim compensation fund for those who are not parties to the current class action.

My Conservative colleagues should not forget that the victims of the TCE contamination do not only live in my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, as was demonstrated by my colleague from Toronto—Danforth. As I have mentioned before, many of them were current or former members of the Canadian Forces who served at the military base in Valcartier in the past but have since moved away to serve in other bases across this country.

Many of the victims of the TCE contamination in Shannon now live in Conservative ridings and are expecting their members of Parliament to stand up for them and get them the justice they so rightly deserve.

It is extremely disappointing that the victims of the TCE-contaminated groundwater are once again being abandoned by their government, which has already indicated that it intends to vote against this motion. The government is still refusing to admit the Crown's responsibility in this tragic situation and to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the Shannon Citizens Committee.

About two weeks ago, we learned from the report released by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development that there are still several thousand contaminated federal sites across the country. The bill to fully decontaminate the affected sites would come to over $7 billion. On this excessively long list of contaminated federal sites is, of course, the municipality of Shannon, as well as the land on the Valcartier military base.

As my colleagues know, toxic chemicals, in particular trichloroethylene, have been dumped or buried since the 1930s on land that was, and still is, federal government property. These toxic substances have gradually leaked into the soil and contaminated the groundwater under the Valcartier base and the municipality of Shannon and as far away as Quebec City, including the Val-Bélair area.

A lot of work remains to be done in Shannon to clean up the water, but the most recent report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is not reassuring in that regard. In his report, the commissioner states that while many federal contaminated sites have been successfully dealt with, the remaining sites, like Shannon, will be much harder to clean up. There are many reasons to explain that reality, but I would say that one of the main reasons for this is that the Conservatives decided to cut over 60% of the remaining budget to evaluate the health and environmental risks and take care of the decontamination operations. In view of all the work that remains to be done, I think we can all agree that this was quite a bad decision.

Even though the contamination in Shannon was discovered in 1997, TCE, sadly, can still be found in the water and unfortunately it seems that it will remain there for many more years.

Some decontamination efforts have been made in past years but it is too little too late as government funding to clean up those toxic chemicals is insufficient and irregular at best.

Since the debate began, I have heard several arguments in favour of the motion, but the most important argument is about doing justice to the victims of the contamination and their families. They have suffered too much. Yes, some steps have been taken and we recognize that some efforts have been made in the past, but much more needs to be done.

I urge all my colleagues to do what is right and support my motion.

Air Transportation May 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities would prefer to wash his hands of the Neuville airport instead of listening to the people. That is shameful. The municipality will now have to take its fight to the FCM because the federal government will not listen.

According to the Conservatives, there are no safety concerns at Neuville. However, a recent study indicated that children living within one kilometre of an airport have higher rates of lead poisoning.

Can the minister tell us if he thinks that the lead poisoning of our children is a safety issue?

Transport May 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member did not hear anything I said or did not listen; we will need to see what choice he has made. I repeat: the airport is built in an inhabited area. There are houses and the flight path passes directly above those houses. The people were there long before the airport was built. It is not because it is a rural area that is not inhabited. The houses are simply farther apart.

The parliamentary secretary tells me that they want to find a solution that respects the community, but what is going on in Neuville right now does not respect the community or what it wants. The municipal council was against the airport, and the citizens have spoken out against it many times. So, how can we provide a balance in this entire situation if the minister refuses to even talk to the mayor? He is refusing to speak to the people who are experiencing the negative consequences of the airport directly. I live in Neuville and I hear the airplanes flying over the city.

Of course, a memorandum of understanding exists, and its clauses specify that air traffic should be reduced to a minimum over the city. But when I was there last week, I heard at least 30 airplanes. So how is the memorandum of understanding satisfactory? Why is the department not getting involved in this situation, which is not regulated by the existing legislation?