House of Commons photo


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

Senate Reform Act February 27th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-7, An Act respecting the selection of senators and amending the Constitution Act, 1867 in respect of Senate term limits.

I am pleased to have this opportunity today. I have a degree in political science and I am very interested in all matters pertaining to parliamentary process, especially Senate reform. It is a subject that I studied a number of times while in university. This is the third time that the Conservatives have introduced a bill dealing with either the election of senators or Senate terms. Thus, we have had a great deal of material to examine and analyze in recent years.

The purpose of the bill before us today is to reform the Senate in two main ways. The first limits the tenure of senators to a maximum of nine years for all senators appointed after October 14, 2008. The second allows the provinces and territories to hold elections, at their own expense, to decide the names to be submitted to the Prime Minister for consideration for future Senate appointments. The provinces could thus choose any system they liked for electing senators, provided that the system adhered to basic democratic principles.

The Conservatives say the measures they have introduced are intended to modernize the aging institution that is the Senate. For once, I agree with my Conservative colleagues on part of what they say: the upper chamber does in fact present major problems, and measures need to be taken to remedy the situation.

However, the solution the NDP has been proposing for several years is quite different. In fact, we are calling for the complete abolition of the Senate. The reasons why we are calling for the abolition of the upper chamber are very simple. First, the institution is not democratic, and it is composed of unelected members appointed by the Prime Minister. More often than not, those appointments are partisan and are made to reward friends of the Prime Minister. As well, he sometimes adds insult to injury by appointing candidates, and even ministers, who were rejected by the public in a general election, as we saw after the last election on May 2. The people living in the greater Quebec City region can attest to that as well.

In addition, the Senate is also used for partisan purposes by the government, whether to guarantee the speedy passage of government bills or to kill bills that have actually been approved by the House of Commons. I am thinking in particular of the Climate Change Accountability Act and the bill to provide generic drugs for Africa.

Since 1900, there have been 13 attempts to reform the Senate, and they have all failed. Bill C-7 is no different from all those other failed attempts. It does not solve the problems that already exist in the upper chamber, and on top of that it creates new problems that simply worsen the present situation. First, limiting senators’ tenure to nine years does not make them more accountable to Canadians; quite the contrary. In fact, the bill eliminates any form of accountability to the public, since senators would never have to face the public at the end of their tenure. Once senators were elected, they would never have to account for their decisions, their actions and their broken election promises, because they could never stand in another election. As well, they would be automatically entitled to a pension, regardless of their record.

I cannot see how having the Prime Minister give a senator a nine year non-renewable term increases democracy in the Senate. Nor do the measures proposed by the Conservatives in Bill C-7 prevent partisan appointments. The bill does not really change the way senators are appointed, and the Prime Minister remains entirely responsible for choosing senators. The Prime Minister is not obliged by this bill to select senators from the lists submitted by the provinces or territories, and he can continue to choose whomever he wants and ignore each and every list he receives. He can, therefore, continue to fill the Senate with senators who are loyal to the government rather than to Canadians. This is a major problem.

Canadians elect the members of the House of Commons and place their trust in them to be their voices in Parliament. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, appoints senators, as a reward, and they serve the governing party.

I shall now read a letter written by Senator Bert Brown to the members of the Conservative Senate caucus. It is dated June 15, 2001, which, in my opinion, perfectly illustrates a situation. I am going to read the first and last paragraphs, which I think are the most relevant . The letter reads,“Yesterday, in Senate caucus [the minister] was showered with complaints about Senate elections and a nine year term. ... Every Senator in this caucus needs to decide where their loyalty should be and must be. The answer is simple; our loyalty is to the man who brought us here, the man who has wanted Senate reform since he entered politics, the Rt. Hon. [Prime Minister].

The message to senators is very clear: their loyalty lies not with the regions that they represent, nor with Canadians; their loyalty is to the Prime Minister. Canadians, too, have heard this message loud and clear.

Another consequence of this bill would be the creation of a two-tiered Senate with elected and unelected senators in the same upper house, which may be worse than what we currently have.

Bill C-7, if passed in its present form, will fundamentally change the nature of Canadian politics as we know it today. We will end up with senators elected at the provincial level who believe that they are more legitimate than the unelected senators. We will then have a Senate with different degrees of legitimacy based on the method by which senators are selected.

However, the most negative effect of this bill will be evident once we have an entirely elected Senate. According to the Canadian Constitution, the Senate currently has more or less the same powers as the House of Commons. However, since senators are unelected, they cannot indefinitely block legislation with financial implications because they have no direct mandate from Canadians but are appointed by the Prime Minister.

Once we have an elected upper house, it will be a whole different story. Senators will have greater legitimacy to introduce bills and block House bills. That could result in American-style impasses pitting two houses of elected representatives with essentially the same decision-making powers against one another in legislative conflicts with no apparent solution.

Ultimately, such impasses will force us to redefine the framework of Parliament, including the rights and responsibilities of both the House of Commons and the Senate. Major changes will require nothing less than a constitutional amendment. There is no other option, because that is the existing legislative framework.

The Conservatives claim that their bill will sidestep a constitutional debate on Senate reform, but I do not see how such a debate can be avoided.

Before passing a bill that will inevitably lead to interminable constitutional debates and discussions, we have to let Canadians weigh in on the issue of the Senate's very existence. All the provinces have done quite well without their upper houses since 1968, so it is high time we thought seriously about getting rid of the federal Senate. That is why, for years, the NDP has been calling for a referendum to find out if Canadians want to get rid of the Senate. Before setting in motion any major reforms of the Senate or abolishing it entirely, we need a clear mandate from Canadians, from the people of this country, and the only way to get a clear, legitimate mandate is to hold a referendum.

The changes that the Conservatives have proposed in Bill C-7 are inadequate and will not solve the Senate-related problems. That is why I oppose this bill. If the Senate cannot be abolished outright, the status quo is better than the constitutional chaos into which the Conservatives apparently wish to lead us. Serious consideration is in order before passing Bill C-7. The government will find itself embroiled in constitutional debates that it would rather avoid. That deserves some thought.

Language Training February 17th, 2012

Madam Speaker, the government is hiding a report that shows that privatizing the language training of public servants is irresponsible. Those expenditures are five times higher than they were five years ago, precisely because this government has been turning to the private sector.

Closing the Canada School of Public Service will put 190 employees out of work and, once again, Canadian taxpayers will pay the price. Turning to the private sector when public services cost less is not my idea of sound economic management.

Why does the government want to kill jobs and privatize a public service that was working well?

Ending The Long-Gun Registry Act February 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, like most of my colleagues, I am very disappointed to have to ask a question on this issue, which is so crucial not only to Quebeckers, but also to many Canadians.

A little earlier, my hon. colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine gave a speech advocating maintaining the registry, with improvements of course. In that speech, she mentioned the importance of the firearms registry to professionals who work in suicide prevention. Representatives from Arc-en-ciel de Saint-Raymond-de-Portneuf, an organization in my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, told me they share the same concerns.

I would like to hear what my colleague across the floor has to say to that organization, and to police forces, police chiefs and other front-line workers. How can she justify scrapping the gun registry when so many front-line workers, like those working in suicide prevention, believe that the registry is crucial to their work and that it helps them?

That said, I hope we can avoid the usual propaganda.

Transport February 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, this government is prepared to allow the construction of an airport in Neuville, against the unanimous will of the residents. When the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities was passing through the area recently, he did not even take the time to meet with the residents, despite our repeated requests. This only shows, once again, his unwillingness to work with the municipalities.

Does that look like openness? At least he promised to make a decision eventually.

Can the minister tell us when he plans to make a decision and if he will, finally, consult the people of Neuville?

Infrastructure February 1st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, since 2009, the municipality of Portneuf has been trying to buy its wharf back from the federal government as part of Transport Canada's port divestiture program, which will end in March. The wharf, which is essential to tourism and business in the region, will fall into disrepair unless funds are invested to upgrade it. Unfortunately, Transport Canada has terminated negotiations. My predecessor promised that, if re-elected, he would secure funding to repair the wharf.

Are we to believe that the department is withholding the funds to punish voters who did not vote for the right party?

Questions on the Order Paper January 30th, 2012

With regard to the wharf at Portneuf, Quebec, administered by Transport Canada: (a) does the department wish to maintain ownership of the wharf or does it intend to dispose of it; (b) in the event that Transport Canada wishes to keep the Portneuf wharf, (i) will the headblock be rebuilt, (ii) will environmental liability issues, particularly the water contamination from the structure, be corrected, (iii) is there a maintenance plan in place to maintain the wharf, (iv) what kind of operations does Transport Canada wish to conduct, (v) what is Transport Canada’s policy on working with the Municipality of Portneuf to develop its plans to operate the wharf; and (c) in the event that Transport Canada wishes to dispose of it, (i) does Transport Canada wish to transfer ownership to a private contractor, a provincial government, or a municipal or paramunicipal agency, (ii) what financial incentives will the government offer to the transferee, (iii) will the headblock be rebuilt, (iv) will environmental liability issues be corrected?

National Flag of Canada January 30th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to debate Bill C-288, which would ensure that each and every Canadian has the right to fly Canada's national flag.

Every day, Canadians are tightening their belts to make ends meet. Every month, thousands of people are losing their jobs. Economic uncertainty lingers. For months now, thousands of people have been forced to wait for their employment insurance payments, not knowing when they will finally get help. Yet the first thing this government wants to debate is the right to fly the maple leaf proudly.

Honestly, I never thought I would have to stand up in the House to remind my colleagues that protecting Canadians' right to fly a flag on their property is not even close to a priority for our fellow citizens.

Does the member for Don Valley West really believe that people have expressed an urgent need for this kind of bill?

I agree with my colleague that Canadians have the right to fly our national flag proudly. Canada is a wonderful country that, until the Conservatives came to power, had an enviable reputation around the world. For many citizens, flying the maple leaf demonstrates their pride and their attachment to our country.

People have the right to express their patriotism by proudly waving Canada's national flag at home. Is it really necessary to adopt new legislation for that?

Do we really need to impose fines and even prison sentences on people whose level of patriotism is not to the government's liking?

Canadians want parliamentarians to debate and legislate issues that matter, like the economy, health care and the environment.

Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to talk with the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier about issues that matter to them. They told me how angry and disappointed they are in this government's decision to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol and instead focus on developing the oil industry at the expense of the environment.

Families in Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier who are struggling to make ends meet are worried about the cost of living, which is increasing rapidly under this government's disinterested watch.

Every day, more and more people are calling my office in distress because they have to wait for months to receive their employment insurance cheque, when they need help right now.

To date, absolutely no one has raised the pressing need to introduce legislation to protect the rights of every citizen to fly the Canadian flag without restriction.

People do not want this government to waste time debating an issue that does not even present a real problem. Until now, Canadians have managed to self-regulate when it comes to expressing their patriotism. There is nothing to suggest that this will change.

Legal provisions to protect individual freedom of expression already exist. The most important of these provisions, with which we are all familiar, is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Subsection 2(b) of the charter guarantees every individual the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.

Anyone whose freedom to express pride for their country is violated or who is banned from flying the Canadian flag can invoke the charter at any time.

Why introduce new legislation that would impose prison sentences on the offenders, when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms already provides citizens with enough protection?

Canadians have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms because respecting the right of every individual to freely express their ideas without repression is part of our fundamental values.

It worries me that, with Bill C-288, this government is prepared to implement repressive measures targeted directly at anyone who expresses an opinion that goes against the artificial patriotism the Conservatives are trying to force on Canadians.

I would also remind the House that there are certain situations in which individuals might need to ask someone to remove a Canadian flag for purely pragmatic reasons or as a result of security issues, for example, the local fire department.

Should these individuals be treated like criminals and punished for doing their job? That does not make any sense. This bill does not meet any real needs of Canadians. Instead, it appears to be an attempt by the member for Don Valley West to score a few political points based on a few isolated incidents.

The fact that a few overzealous landlords forced some people to remove their Canadian flags from their balconies should not become a national issue. This attempt to legislate patriotism and to lock up any offenders is nothing more than another way for the Conservatives to push their ideology one step further.

Although most Canadians are happy to pay tribute to the national flag and celebrate their patriotism, they are concerned about the negative effects of this bill. They do not want this government to treat them like criminals for doing their job or for having a misunderstanding with their neighbours.

Imposing punitive measures—whether they consist of an injunction, a fine, or even worse, imprisonment—is far from a perfect solution. It is high time for this government to give up on this useless bill. We should instead be focusing on issues that are far more important to Canadians, like job creation and the environment.

Vallée Bras-du-Nord Co-operative December 15th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Vallée Bras-du-Nord is a co-operative whose purpose is sustainable tourism development in Saint-Raymond. This social-economy co-operative has launched the En Marche project, a social and occupational integration program for young people that has developed and continues to maintain a network of walking trails.

In 2006, the co-op received a Quebec trail award from the Quebec hiking federation, which is a testament to the quality of the facilities and proof that young workers can carry out this type of project.

In the past few years, more than 100 young people in this rehabilitation program have worked on developing over 140 km of trails.

The project was funded by the skill links program and Emploi Québec, but in summer 2011, the skill links program reduced its funding. The co-operative was able to hire only four young workers, when it had hired a dozen or so in previous years. There were 20 young people on the waiting list.

The Vallée Bras-du-Nord co-op is known for having a positive influence on young people and it is imperative that its funding be restored—

Infrastructure December 13th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, airplanes have already started flying at the airport in Neuville. The mayor has been asking to meet with the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for months now, but the minister refuses and refers him to the province, even though this is a matter of federal legislation and the Supreme Court has confirmed that it takes precedence over protecting agricultural land in Quebec. All that is missing in Neuville is the asphalt on the runway, and then there is no going back.

The people of Neuville have reason to be concerned. This is how the minister reassures them? By refusing to meet with elected officials?

Points of Order November 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, last Thursday the member for Ottawa—Orléans took advantage of my not being in my seat and insinuated that, in a statement I made on November 23, I put words in his mouth that he never uttered. Today I would like to correct the statement he made at the time. I shall read exactly what was said on November 22 in the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

I think it is rather inappropriate to use the official languages committee to make such inflammatory remarks. Canada's linguistic duality is essential to the country's survival.

A little further, we read:

Because this issue is raised in every meeting, I would like to take a few moments of my time here to point out that I was among the most disappointed of MPs when we learned of the appointment of a non-bilingual auditor general.

When the appointment was announced, I reacted strongly, wanting to know where the mistake had been made. The question I asked was, “Are you asking me to believe that nowhere in this country is there an accountant, an auditor, who is not just as qualified as the one we have hired, but who is also bilingual?”

I think that is clear enough. To put things in perspective, I will also reread my statement to make certain that everyone sees that the words I spoke were found in the remarks of the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans.

I would like to read my statement, which will not take very long—