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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was conservatives.

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

Won her last election, in 2011, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Safe Food for Canadians Act November 19th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Guelph.

Inspections must absolutely be carried out by a third party to ensure food safety. The least we can do to protect Canadians is to ensure that people are not inspecting themselves.

I agree with my colleague that this should be included in the bill. Why did the government decide otherwise? We can ask the Conservatives and maybe we will get an answer.

Safe Food for Canadians Act November 19th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I think that if an XL Foods employee, for example, sees a violation of the regulations, he will lose his job for pointing it out. I think that the CFIA has to protect employees so that they do not lose their jobs. This would be a way to ensure food safety for all Canadians.

I think that should have been in the bill.

Safe Food for Canadians Act November 19th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about Bill S-11, but before doing so, I would like to provide a bit of background.

A few months ago, I rose in this House to speak out against the disastrous consequences of Bill C-38 to implement certain provisions of the budget. Among other things, I pointed out that the bill far exceeded its mandate. The Conservatives have brandished this bill like a magic wand to implement their ideological austerity agenda.

I also spoke out against cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that would allow private companies to carry out inspections. After repeated attempts by the NDP to convince the government to provide more information about this bill, the Conservatives proceeded. I sat for 22 hours straight in protest. It was in vain. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency budget was cut by $46 million, and 314 full-time jobs will be eliminated by 2015.

While it is true that the number of inspectors at the CFIA has declined steadily on the Conservatives' watch, I would be lying if I said that I do not support Bill S-11. Like my NDP colleagues, I immediately saw this as a step in the right direction that would give Canadians greater food safety.

I must say that the NDP did not expect any less: we have been demanding that the agency be modernized since Sheila Weatherill's report was released in 2009. Now that the bill has reached third reading, I still support it. Nevertheless, the Conservatives' attitude is unfortunate.

It is unfortunate because the witnesses we heard at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food confirmed our fears: Bill S-11 would not have been enough to contain the crisis that recently struck XL Foods in Alberta. The government did not bother to listen to the NDP's recommendations, and our amendments were rejected without any discussion. The Conservatives missed an excellent opportunity to shed their reputation as an autocratic government and demonstrate a little co-operation.

The important thing to remember is that the government's reckless cuts are putting Canadians' lives at risk. In many areas, cuts are irrevocably affecting people's lives across the country. When it comes to food safety, it is a matter of life and death.

And if life is not important enough to the Conservatives—except, of course, the lives of the unborn—we must recognize that there is also an economic benefit to food safety. How many E. coli crises like the one that struck the community of Brooks, Alberta, can our economy withstand?

The NDP supported XL Foods from the very beginning. What did the minister do during the crisis? He took days to respond, burying his head so deep in the sand that he probably found new oil reserves.

The Conservatives' reaction to the XL Foods crisis shows that they do not hesitate to mislead Canadians by saying things in the House that are not true. On October 2, the minister himself assured us that the CFIA had added 700 new inspectors since 2006. The minister included in that calculation hundreds of people who have nothing to do with protecting Canadians from unsafe food products. What is more, the facts show that there was no new meat hygiene inspector position at the CFIA. How do they come up with it?

The only time the Conservatives added inspectors to the meat processing program was following the listeriosis crisis, another crisis that Canadians could have done without. The government added 170 inspectors to calm things down, but cut 314 a few years later.

Let me put this into words the members opposite will understand: do the math.

Looking at these sorry past decisions makes us wonder, and rightly so, whether Bill S-11 is just a smokescreen.

Among the amendments unilaterally rejected by the Conservatives was one that guaranteed anonymity to an employee who blows the whistle on a practice that contravenes CFIA rules. At XL Foods, some employees who saw that standards were not being met chose not to say anything out of fear of losing their jobs. That is why the CFIA should have guaranteed this necessary anonymity, but the Conservatives refused.

Another amendment seemed necessary to me, and it called for the immediate audit of the Canadian food system with the coming into force of the bill. We then proposed that an identical audit be done every five years to verify whether all the objectives set out in the legislation had been met. If not, the government could have made the necessary changes, but the Conservatives refused.

In closing, I would add that Canadians will not be fooled by the dramatic increase in food safety-related penalties. They have been multiplied by 20 for the sake of appearances, but historically at the CFIA, the maximum fines have never been applied at current levels. In 2011, for example, the average fine was just 5% of the maximum fine and none exceeded 20%. Instead of being tougher, such increases might put a damper on the regulatory environment and decrease the number of penalties.

I could continue for some time listing the problems with this bill. That being said, I can only commend this initiative and confirm my support for it, for the welfare of the community.

Even though it is a step in the right direction, unfortunately it looks more like a dance step.

Canada Elections Act November 7th, 2012

Mr. speaker, imagine how surprised I was to learn that the famous Pierre Poutine was from my riding. What an honour it was to find my region on page one of the major newspapers. What a pleasure it was to learn that hidden behind a name normally used for a high-calorie meal from these parts was a heart of stone, a pebble in the shoe of the march towards democracy. Pierre Poutine and the robocalls, what a story.

While there may be a humorous side to all of this, it should not be forgotten that this crisis still taints the results of the most recent election and undermines voter confidence.

I have often wondered why my riding was picked to set in motion what was to become one of the greatest crises of trust in our electoral system. Mostly, I asked myself how we could improve that system.

Here today, I would like to speak on behalf of greater electoral transparency and to deter future scandals. Although Pierre Poutine supposedly comes from my riding, we all know that he has probably never enjoyed his eponymous dish at the local Henri restaurant. If the goal of those who caused the scandal was to use robocalls in a riding where the Conservatives had no chance of winning, I can reassure them that they have no more chance of winning now than they had before the last election.

At any rate, the fact is that Pierre Poutine still cannot rest easy. The scandal could surface again in one of the ridings that the Conservatives actually care about. How about a Brian Smoked Meat, a Lolita Steak Haché or a Roland Pâté Chinois?

To prevent the recurrence of scandals like these, Bill C-424 contains some worthwhile solutions. As Pierre Poutine’s member of Parliament, I will explain some reasons for supporting the bill at this point and give my recommendations for the next steps.

The current trend is towards widespread voter cynicism. It can indeed be difficult to find enough good reasons to go and vote given the various forms of electoral fraud that people are talking about. People have a right to expect that political parties should meet a number of essential criteria, including integrity, transparency, honesty and the desire to serve the public good. In view of these expectations, it is fully understandable that some people are reluctant to take the trouble to vote. That is why in my view Bill C-424 is a step in the right direction. It would increase the level of trust that people have in their political institutions.

While cynicism is a problem that can be combatted by adding safeguards to the electoral system, it will take more than just holding candidates to account to eliminate all the forms of fraud that currently affect the system. At the moment, an individual or an organization can challenge the validity of an election, but the ensuing legal action can take months or even years. In the meantime, any candidates who have been challenged will continue to sit, meaning that they are still entitled to talk about and vote on bills that will affect people's everyday lives.

If Canadians find that legislation can be voted on by people whose very presence in the House is being challenged, how can they be expected to abide by these laws? Needless to say, it is all part and parcel of everyone's social contract. If everyone is prepared to comply with existing laws, it is because they have been enacted in accordance with a democratic process and, in the end, they contribute to the welfare of the community. It would be ill advised to attempt to breach any of the clauses in our social contract.

Another point in favour of Bill C-424 is that it provides for some serious fines. At the moment, anyone convicted of fraud has to pay a fine of $2,000 to $5,000. When the spending involved in an election is taken into consideration, such fines can hardly be considered a deterrent, particularly in view of the fact that since 1992, 68 people have been convicted of such offences.

This can be considered a large number of convictions given the number of elections that have been held. However, one must not lose sight of the fact that the people in question have only a very small fine to pay. There might have been far more convictions if Canada's Chief Electoral Officer had the power to draw up legislation against irregularities. Who is in a better position than the Chief Electoral Officer to identify irregularities? It would therefore be appropriate to give him all the resources required to legislate against improper conduct while remaining appropriately independent of any political allegiance.

It is also worth repeating that the Chief Electoral Officer himself argued that the current sanctions are insufficient to deter those who commit fraud. As an Université de Montréal graduate put it:

The current punishments do not fit the crime. For example, some aspects of the law may lead to prosecution, yet administrative sanctions would be more effective and could be implemented more quickly.

In my view, we should remember that the Chief Electoral Officer himself is aware of the weakness of the rules currently in force. It is now up to the government to decide whether the Chief Electoral Officer should be given broader powers to address the situation. Are we to allow Canada to continue to vacillate on such an essential issue? I believe that Bill C-424 is a step in the right direction, as it raises the fines from $2,000 to $5,000 to $20,000 to $50,000. That should be enough to make any party member as ungentlemanly as the so-called Pierre Poutine think twice.

Following the robocalls scandal, the Conservatives supported the NDP motion on strengthening the powers of Elections Canada last spring. Bill C-424 is an opportunity for the House of Commons to work together to eliminate election fraud and enhance the exercise of democracy. That is why I am eagerly looking forward to having this bill discussed in committee to get Canadians interested once again in participating in democracy.

Canada Post November 7th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the facts are clear: the Conservatives have decided to further tax the middle class with hidden fees. People in rural areas are already having to cope with reduced hours of service and post office closures. The economy of many of Quebec's communities is suffering for it.

Can the Conservatives tell us whether their new postal tax is part of their plan to help keep regional post offices open?

Atikamekw Community November 2nd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, on October 25, I had the privilege of attending a public meeting on education in Manawan. In the Atikamekw community, the high school dropout rate is 48% and very few students earn a diploma. The situation is not much better at the elementary level: the school is falling apart and poses a risk to public health. It even falls short of the standards for schools we build in Afghanistan.

What is the government doing to fix the problem? It is cutting $430,000 from education in Manawan. The meeting was an opportunity to take stock of the situation and to hear what the Atikamekw are hoping for. Our conclusion: enough is enough.

Nuclear Terrorism Act October 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

When the Senate studied the bill, it may have pointed out areas that were overly broad in scope in order to prevent criminalization. I will read a short excerpt.

The intent of the Department of Justice was to adhere as closely as possible to the provisions of the convention. However, some of the new offences in the Criminal Code are broader in scope than the offences found in the international agreements.

Must we ensure that the overly broad scope of this new part will not result in excessive criminalization and will not violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Nuclear Terrorism Act October 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech and all her work.

New Democrats are determined to promote multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, especially in areas of common concern, such as nuclear terrorism.

Why must we work with the other countries that are in the process of ratifying these treaties?

Nuclear Terrorism Act October 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her work.

Does she think that the government is capable of finding cases in which Bill S-9 goes beyond what is required by the amendment to ICSANT and CPPNM?

Nuclear Terrorism Act October 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.

In his view, how is the government going to deal with the potential problems stemming from the fact that the new Criminal Code offences have a broader scope than those found in individual international agreements?