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Track Francis

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is professor.

Liberal MP for Lac-Saint-Louis (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 64% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Motion No. 110 April 27th, 2018

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to this important motion. It is a pleasure to reconnect in a sense with my colleague from Banff—Airdrie. I say reconnect because we had the opportunity to work together on a more contentious issue, yet always in a collegial way.

I would like to congratulate the member on his eloquent speech. He described the issue very clearly and brought it to the attention of the House and those watching, and no doubt to those who work in the department or the minister's office. He underlined what we might call a gap in the system. No doubt his speech and the content of this motion have been noticed at the upper reaches of the government.

The motion calls for the House, through the human resources committee, to study how the federal government could make EI more compassionate toward those who have suffered the loss of an infant, as the hon. member said, an unimaginable loss, including losses through sudden infant death syndrome and other circumstances. According to Statistics Canada, there were approximately 1,800 infant deaths and 3,200 stillbirths in 2014.

Motion No. 110 comes from a non-partisan place. As such, it is a reminder to all of us of what we are really doing in the House representing Canadians. We are sent here to solve important problems on behalf of people. We are here to sometimes modify the system, and by the system, I mean those impersonal rules, procedures and elements that are required in a modern society for it to function in an efficient and orderly way. However, I am sure all of us would agree that we are here to make the system work for the people. We are not here to make people work for the system.

The emotional toll of losing a child makes it almost impossible for those who have suffered that loss to return quickly to work, and if they cannot return to work, they also may suffer financial loss, for example, if their company for whatever reason is not in a position to compensate them and extend some kind of paid leave to these parents. Some businesses are very small and perhaps they cannot. Other businesses may be able to. However, those who have already suffered this emotional loss, often must suffer a financial loss. That is what the member is attempting to address through this motion.

The member also mentioned there were groups out in the community that helped bereaved parents deal with the tragedy they had faced. That is what gives hope in our country and our society. Yes, there is a bureaucratic system, a set of rules and procedures, laws and regulations that govern modern day life, but outside of that, there is community. It is community that comes together to help people, in this case Canadians, in multiple ways.

My community has a constellation of community groups that support citizens who are dealing with a whole array of challenges. It is community really that supports all of us as community members and as Canadians.

The member mentioned a group called Baby's Breath, which was established in 1973. It is a research advocacy and peer-to-peer bereavement support group. I am told there is also a group in the member's riding called Quinn's Legacy.

As l mentioned, we are here to make the system better. I know we all believe it, but it is also a core value of this government that we can always make things better. The Prime Minister mentions this often.

As a Liberal, this is why I am here. I believe that any system, regardless, is always imperfect. It always needs reform, because circumstances change and aspects of that system may not be adapted to current circumstances.

I would like to take a moment to say how the spirit of reforming our EI system is one that has guided our government. I believe that the member's motion is dovetailing with that approach or ethic of our government. For example, budget 2018 has instituted a take-it-or-leave-it five weeks of extra parental leave for those parents who decide to share parental leave so as to maximize the possibility of career choices after a child is born. That is one reform our government has brought in.

In budget 2017, our government also brought in some other changes to make the employment insurance system more flexible and compassionate. Staying with the theme of parental benefits, budget 2017 added some flexibility to the system, allowing parents to have extended parental leave over 18 months instead of the standard 12 months.

It also introduced a new family caregiver benefit, which allows people to take time off to care for a critically ill adult, and not necessarily one in a terminal phase, as with the compassionate care program. It could be someone who is critically ill. It is not necessary for the person taking time off to be a family member per se. It could be someone the sufferer considers a close and supportive individual.

Our government also improved the family caregiver benefit for children. It used to be available to parents only. Now, as a result of measures introduced in budget 2017, it is available to someone who is not a parent but who is obviously close to the child or is in a position to help.

These are changes our government has brought in. I believe the issue the hon. member has brought up, as I said before, dovetails with the government's concern for making the system more flexible so that it can better serve people. I believe that the motion is in that spirit.

I must congratulate the member on the work he has done. I was not really aware of how extensively he had been consulting across the country. He mentioned that he had been across the country meeting with multiple groups that help support parents who have lost an infant. He mentioned that many of those groups had representatives here this week on Parliament Hill.

I believe it is a very important gesture the member has made in raising an issue that perhaps those with decision-making powers, with respect to the employment insurance system, had not been aware of or had not properly considered.

The core of the motion is good. I believe another hon. member brought up the fact that six meetings may not be needed to study a problem that appears to be extremely clear-cut. That will be the object of discussions between the hon. member and others in this House. I think he has brought to bear a very important issue, and I again congratulate him and commend him for the dedicated work he has put into the substance of this motion.

The Environment March 22nd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, we all recognize how important water is. We know that the most significant consequences of climate change will affect the world's water reserves. We also know that women and girls suffer to a disproportionate degree when water and sanitation facilities are lacking, since this affects their health and often causes them to miss school or work.

Canada is a water nation and we can help the world achieve water security. We have the scientists, the entrepreneurs, the engineers, and the experience in the shared governance of international waters, such as the Great Lakes, to be a global water leader.

World Water Day is an opportunity to reflect on the need to continue working on developing a multi-faceted vision for water that includes contributing to water security in the world, including through Canada's feminist foreign policy.

The Budget March 19th, 2018

Madam Speaker, indeed, only 16% of business owners in Canada are women. In that regard, the budget includes a $105-million investment over five years. Those funds will be allocated to the regional development agencies to support women-owned businesses.

The budget also allocates $1.4 billion over three years to the Business Development Bank of Canada for women entrepreneurs as well as $250 million over three years to Export Development Canada. This will encourage women-owned businesses and create wealth for women and for the Canadian economy.

The Budget March 19th, 2018

Madam Speaker, it has been some time since we have worked together, but we had the pleasure of travelling across the country to talk about electoral reform.

Of course we need to work toward balancing the budget in the long term and we need to manage our finances in such a way as to keep spending on track. There is good news though. For example, never before have so many Canadians been employed. The unemployment rate is at its lowest level in 40 years.

We need to work toward balancing the budget in the long term, but we must not forget that the economy is working because of the government's infrastructure investments, among other things. If the price of oil goes up, we should be able to balance the budget sooner than if things stay as they are now.

The Budget March 19th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased today to share my time with the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

This is an opportunity I am very pleased to have to share my perspective on behalf of the good people of Lac-Saint-Louis on what I consider to be a pivotal budget, not in dollar amounts spent but in terms of some of the long-term structural changes the budget will gradually engender, changes that will benefit both economic growth and social justice. Liberals approach governing with these two dual objectives in mind. Growth without justice is something that would be incomplete, and to have social justice, we need growth.

As I mentioned at the beginning, this is not a budget that is focused on describing large investments. Previous budgets and the economic update talked about our investment of $180 billion to renew Canada's infrastructure over the next 12 years. If I may take a moment to refer to that economic statement and those budgets, that is spending that is laying the foundation for productivity growth and economic growth, spending to encourage the creation of networks and clusters that are at the very core of innovation.

I am thinking more specifically in terms of my region of the country. I am thinking in terms of the investments the federal government will be making to make a new train system in Montreal a reality. The Réseau express métropolitain will link the south shore of Montreal with the West Island through the airport and the Saint-Laurent Technoparc Montréal. These are the kinds of investments that create opportunities for growth in the long term and the medium term.

Budget 2018 targets important objectives. As I mentioned, I believe it would create structural change, but I am pleased to say that it would do so against the backdrop of declining deficit and debt ratios. For example, if one looks at the projections for the budget deficit in terms of percentage of GDP, we see that it will be going down from 0.9% to 0.6% and then to 0.5%. The federal debt as a percentage of GDP will be going down from 31% to 28.4%. That is important, because many of my constituents have told me that it is very important that deficits remain under control and that we pay back some of the debt that has been accumulated over the years, including by the previous government.

There is a very important investment being made in the budget that I would like to mention, and that is the decision to invest over $900 million over five years in fundamental science. In other words, the budget is responding to the recommendations of the Naylor report and to the scientific community, which recognize the importance of investing in fundamental science, the kind of science that does not tell us what will drop out of the process down the road, because we just do not know. We could find out that the research has led to a completely unexpected result, an unexpected result that creates jobs and economic growth and new companies that hire new employees, many of them young, in the sciences, the cutting-edge sciences, who will now, as a result, have good-paying jobs.

Speaking of the investments we are going to make in fundamental science, I would like to thank one of my constituents, Mr. Terry Hébert, a researcher at McGill University. He is a professor in the department of pharmacology and therapeutics at McGill and an advisor of sorts. For the past few years, he has been telling me about the importance of fundamental science, and I would like to quote an article that he and two of his associates wrote, which was published in Le Devoir on August 2, 2017, entitled “Tomorrow's innovation requires funding today”.

The title could have been, “Tomorrow's innovation and economic growth require funding today”.

The article says, and I quote:

Thanks to basic research on membrane protein biology, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), we have implemented new strategies that have led to treatments for cystic fibrosis...

At the time this research was being carried out, nobody could predict that it would lead to the discovery of therapeutic molecules and promising therapeutic approaches, and to the creation of local biotechnology enterprises or to collaborations with pharmaceutical companies internationally.

By investing in fundamental science, this budget is laying the groundwork for economic growth and scientific discoveries that will help in the treatment of diseases, for example.

This budget does something else that is structural and is very important for the future of the economy. It is working to increase the supply of labour. I would like to quote the Governor of the Bank of Canada, who was giving a speech at Queen's University, I believe about a week or two ago. He talked about the labour market. The theme of his speech was the labour market and how we need to increase the supply of labour.

I will quote from Mr. Poloz's speech. He said, “economic growth can[not] happen unless there are people available to fill the newly created jobs. Accordingly, a healthy, well-functioning labour market is critical”. He goes on to say, “After looking at a much wider range of labour market indicators, the Bank has concluded that there remains a degree of untapped supply potential in the economy.”

This budget is aimed at unlocking some of that untapped potential. It does so by focusing on some groups whose labour force participation rate is, unfortunately, too low for us to maximize economic growth. One group is young people. Young people are one source of untapped potential.

Governor Poloz said:

The key point is that youth represent an important untapped source of potential economic growth. If the youth participation rate were to return close to its level before the [financial] crisis, more than 100,000 additional young Canadians would have jobs.

How is the budget helping with youth employment? It is investing an additional $448.5 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, to continue increases in the number of summer jobs. The member opposite mentioned the Canada summer jobs program. The government is investing in the Canada summer jobs program, which will be good for increasing the supply of labour from that particular demographic group.

The budget also aims to facilitate greater labour force participation on the part of women. To quote Governor Poloz, again from the same speech at Queen's University:

An even more significant source of economic potential is higher labour force participation by women. While about 91 per cent of prime-age men participate in the labour force, the rate for women is only about 83 per cent.

He goes on to say:

History suggests that this gap can narrow. Consider Quebec, where, 20 years ago, the prime-age female participation rate was about 74 per cent. The provincial government identified barriers keeping women out of the workforce and acted to reduce them, particularly by lowering the cost of child care and extending parental leave provisions. Within a few years, proportionately more prime-age Quebec women had jobs than women in the rest of Canada. Today, Quebec’s prime-age female participation rate is about 87 per cent.

Members will recall the Minister of Finance saying in his speech that if men and women in this country had equal labour participation rates, the GDP would be boosted by 4% and we could compensate for the drag on the economy caused by the aging of the population, which, of course, takes people out of the workforce. Therefore, this budget, to facilitate the participation of women, has introduced shared parental leave, which will provide an incentive for members of a couple to share the leave so that they can manage their careers while they are growing their families.

All in all, I conclude that this is a good structural budget that will lead to positive results in the long term.

Canada Elections Act February 7th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I would like to add a point of precision. The hon. member left the impression that someone who makes the maximum donation, which I think is $1,550, is somehow benefiting more from the tax credit than a smaller donor. However, as he no doubt knows, the tax credit is progressive. Someone who gives $400, for example, gets a bigger benefit. In fact, that $400 donation really costs someone only $100. There are many people giving that kind of money, because it only amounts to $100.

My question is about the per-vote subsidy. The hon. member is implying that the per-vote subsidy would be a reflection of the support a particular party has in any given year. However, a per-vote subsidy is calculated based on the results of the preceding election, and as we have seen, sometimes a party's standing after an election is nowhere near what it was the year before the election. How is that a reflection of what that party deserves to get from the public purse?

Young Women in Energy Awards February 7th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, Young Women in Energy is an organization founded to champion the interests of young women working in the energy sector.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Maude Ramsay, one of an impressive group of 2017 Young Women in Energy award winners. As senior supervisor for environment and regulatory affairs at Devon Canada, Maude leads a multidisciplinary team responsible for air, water, land, and regulatory management. She and her team pursue new and innovative approaches to monitoring and improving environmental performance at her company, including in the areas of carbon reduction, wetland restoration, and the protection of water quality.

Maude was nominated for her role as a mentor who actively seeks to develop her employees and to provide them with opportunities for growth.

Why am I making specific mention of Maude among this year's award winners? In the spirit of full disclosure, Maude is my sister-in-law, and needless to say, our family is extremely proud of her.

Tony Di Gennaro November 2nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, this coming Sunday, Tony Di Gennaro would have begun his third term as councillor for Brunswick in the city of Kirkland. Sadly, this summer he was taken from us suddenly.

Tony was a conscientious and deeply hard-working people's representative. As Kirkland mayor Michel Gibson so rightly said, “He was a model councillor, the one you want.”

Tony was close to his constituents, curious about their views, and attentive to their concerns, always listening with an open mind. His business experience and community service were invaluable assets to Kirkland City Council.

The last time I saw Tony, he had just completed an evening of door-to-door and was heading into his favourite place after home, Café Maurizio. He had a spring in his step because meeting and talking to people was what he loved to do.

We send our deepest sympathies to Tony's wife Helen and daughter Melissa. May they find comfort in knowing the love people had for their husband and father, and the high esteem in which he was held.

Department of Health Act October 30th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, during the first hour of debate on this bill, members raised the issue of drinking water in indigenous communities, which is a problem we need to solve as quickly as possible.

Although this bill does not address the issue directly, I hope that all communities in Canada, including rural and indigenous communities, will benefit from its expected outcome.

This bill is designed to ensure that Canada's drinking water standards are the best in the world. It calls on the government to regularly assess Canadian standards against those of the highest standards in the most economically and technologically advanced countries, countries like our own.

With respect to the situation in indigenous communities, we recognize how complex this issue is. A number of factors have made it difficult for this problem to be resolved properly so far. For instance, there is some competition between indigenous and non-indigenous communities when it comes to hiring trained operators. We hope that the funds set aside in budget 2017 to resolve the matter will give indigenous communities the resources they need to attract trained operators, or ensure that the operators are not attracted by other jurisdictions.

Investments are certainly needed, and the funding allocated in budget 2017 should help improve the situation as well as help maintain existing systems. Some communities actually have decent systems, but they have not been able to maintain them because there was not enough money.

Some people would have liked to see the bill go even further by creating a rigorous national legal framework to regulate all the emerging contaminants that are becoming increasingly common in our drinking water. However, that is not the approach I wanted to take in drafting this bill. Rather, the bill seeks to trigger a process for the development of standards. Improving the process will lead to standards as high as the highest standards in technologically and economically advanced countries like Canada.

This is somewhat like the Senate reform undertaken by the government. Sometimes, very small actions can have a much larger impact by changing the dynamic of a particular process. That is what is happening with the Senate. The small action we took is changing the character of the Senate.

Why not establish specific, legal standards for all contaminants? We do not want to start a jurisdictional war between the federal and provincial governments. We know that management is a provincial responsibility. Furthermore, although such an approach sounds good, it could lead to some unintended consequences. The problem right now is not that there are not enough standards regarding bacteria. The problem has to do with management.

Management across Canada is very decentralized. If we can improve how drinking water is treated, we will be better able to fix the problems in rural regions and indigenous communities.

On the weekend, I saw that indigenous communities in the Atlantic provinces want to create some sort of regional agency to manage drinking water in those provinces. That is a good idea. That is the direction we should go if we want to fix this problem in the long term.

Retirement Congratulations October 17th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, there are people of such energy, vision, tenacity, and commitment to community that they become the foundation of the quality of life we all enjoy. Natalie Chapman is such a person. She has devoted herself to building a loving community around those who are socially isolated.

After over 20 years as director of the West Island Association for the Intellectually Handicapped, friends recently gathered to wish Natalie a happy and well-deserved retirement, and to honour her remarkable advocacy for those with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Natalie believes deeply that it not only takes a village to raise a child and to care for the vulnerable but that it also takes goodwill and investment to keep that village strong. Natalie leaves WIAIH, a resilient community resource, confidently focused on the future. Natalie has created a lasting legacy, and set the bar high for what it means to care for and fashion a community that truly includes everyone.