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Track Francis

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is water.

Liberal MP for Lac-Saint-Louis (Québec)

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

Statements in the House

Italian Heritage Month May 15th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for King—Vaughan for this initiative. She has worked hard to ensure this motion was moved so that we can have a meaningful and vigorous debate about designating an Italian heritage month.

I am proud to rise as an Italian Canadian from Montreal. Today, not only are we recognizing the contributions of the Italian community to the culture of this great country of Canada, but we are also acknowledging all the work of the millions of Italian immigrants who helped build Canada.

As I just said in the other official language, we are celebrating all that the Italian community has brought culturally to Canada. That is something that we see every day in the restaurants, in the festivals, and in all kinds links through fashion and sports cars from Italy, but we are also commemorating, honouring, and celebrating the hard work of millions of Italian Canadians who built this country in different ways, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in big ways.

In my own case, I would like to take a moment to pay homage to my grandfather, Francesco Scarpaleggia, who came from Italy with very little education. He came in through Ellis Island, as many people did at the time, and wound his way up to Montreal, where he was a downtown Montreal barber for many years. I even have a photo of myself as a young child sitting in his barber chair. He died in 1968, so I was very young at the time. I am very proud of what he brought to Montreal in a small but very dignified way. He had a son, my father, who went on to be educated and then to take on more responsible positions within the Montreal community. I would like to pay homage to them and also to the many Italians of my riding of Lac-Saint-Louis.

We have a very vibrant Italian community. We have the West Island Italian Association, headed by Mr. Egidio Vincelli. We have the St. Anthony's Seniors Club, headed by Maria Gervasi. We have, of course, the tireless Jack Ciampini, who makes sure that everyone is well taken care of in the Italian community. He looks after them and makes sure that they have the ability to participate in many activities at the community level.

I am thankful for this brief time to address the House on this important motion.

Ottawa River Watershed April 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon in support of Motion No. 104, sponsored by my colleague from Ottawa South. We have sat together in the House since our election, which was held the same year.

I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to my colleague, a great environmentalist and environmental lawyer who helped me a lot in my own journey on the issue of freshwater in Canada. He has often shared his knowledge with me.

I would also like to pay tribute to the hon. member for Pontiac, who is seated behind me and knew me before he was elected. As an environmental lawyer, he also offered me good advice. I contacted him before he was elected to seek his advice and to benefit from his knowledge on water and the environment.

I would like to speak a little bit about my riding because its geographical location is relevant to the debate on this motion. It is one of the reasons I am rising this evening to support the motion.

My riding could be called urban. It is a Montreal suburb covering the far west end of the Island of Montreal. What may be surprising is that it is almost 75% surrounded by water. There are few urban ridings in a similar situation. To the south of the riding is the St. Lawrence River, or more accurately Lake Saint-Louis, which is part of the St. Lawrence River, and to the north is the Rivière des Prairies. To the west of the riding is the Lake of Two Mountains, and those somewhat familiar with the local geography will know that this is where the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers meet.

The Ottawa River is a tributary of the St. Lawrence River, and its waters empty into Lake Saint-Louis. Boaters know that you can see both water flows—the one that is a bit cloudy comes from the Ottawa River, and the clearer other is the flow of the St. Lawrence coming from Ontario.

In short, what happens in the Ottawa River and the Ottawa River watershed has a direct impact on the environment surrounding my riding.

What I just finished saying in French is that what happens in the Ottawa River directly impacts my community because it is located where the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence River meet. Also, as I was saying before, boaters tell me they can actually see where the Ottawa River enters Lake Saint-Louis as it is water of a different colour.

The Ottawa River is a majestic river in its own right. I will describe some of its characteristics. It is 1,270 kilometres in length. Its watershed covers 140,000 square kilometres. It has 17 tributaries. It includes 200 municipalities, including the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau. It provides drinking water for over one million people. It has 50 dams and hydroelectric generating stations. It includes 300 smaller impoundments or reservoirs and water control structures. It includes over 30 beaches. Therefore, water quality is obviously very important to the people in the watershed who wish to use these beaches for recreation and to cool off in our very humid, hot summers in eastern Canada.

The watershed includes 85 species of fish and 300 species of birds. I am told its flow is greater than the flow of all tributaries in western Europe, which is pretty remarkable. This is not a small stream or a small river. It is a major river, and its watershed is therefore a major watershed in Canada.

So far, unfortunately, there is only one coordinating body that oversees some aspects of the river's management, and of course I am speaking of the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board, which apparently was instituted in 1983. It involves co-operation between the Ontario and Quebec governments principally for the integrated management of dams and reservoirs in the river for flood prevention and hydroelectric production. The whole point of the motion that has been brought forward is that, despite this long-standing co-operative body, the Ottawa River watershed deserves greater and broader attention.

There has been a step in the right direction. The Ontario and Quebec governments have created a joint committee on water management to protect their shared water resources. Our provinces are very much linked by shared waterways. Motion No. 104 really is the logical extension, one could say, of this earlier initiative to create this Ontario-Quebec joint committee on water management. In fact, Motion No. 104 would give body to this initial joint management structure.

My riding is on the St. Lawrence River, and the St. Lawrence River fortunately has been the object of some fairly long-standing governmental attention in the last 25 years, and I am speaking of course of the St. Lawrence action plan. The St. Lawrence action plan could serve in some way as a model for the kind of co-operative council that the hon. member for Ottawa South is working to create.

The St. Lawrence action plan has created a highly integrated vertical and horizontal management structure for essentially monitoring the St. Lawrence River and the banks along the St. Lawrence River and essentially being a framework for action both locally and at higher levels of government, action to preserve the St. Lawrence River.

One of the most interesting aspects of the St. Lawrence action plan is the comités ZIP. ZIP means zones d'intervention prioritaire, and there are 13 along the St. Lawrence River. Essentially, these ZIPs divide the St. Lawrence into ecological and urban zones. I suppose we could compare them to areas of concern, which we have in the Great Lakes and so on, but these ZIPs go a little beyond simply focusing on problematic areas of the St. Lawrence. Their main objective is to involve citizen and stakeholder participation. In other words, they act to encourage communities to take ownership in protecting their stretch of the St. Lawrence River. As a group, these 13 ZIPs are managed or coordinated by an organization called Stratégies Saint-Laurent, which is a collection of Quebec environmental groups headed by the Union québécoise pour la conservation de la nature. The UQCN plays a big role in coordinating these groups' activities.

There is also stakeholder coordination at higher levels. There is what I would call a council of the St. Lawrence. It is not formally called that, but it involves many federal departments and many Quebec provincial government departments and other stakeholders, first nations, who get together to oversee the management from higher levels of the St. Lawrence.

World Water Day March 22nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, World Water Day gains in significance every year as it becomes more and more obvious that water, our most precious and live-giving resource, is under increasing pressure, from population growth, overuse, pollution, and the drought and flooding effects of climate change.

Here in Canada, we are lucky to have an abundance of freshwater. Of course, there are still many challenges to overcome, for example, the fact that first nations and other remote communities are often under boil water advisories and that new contaminants may be getting into our lakes, rivers, and waterways.

Canada is home to a critical mass of expertise in water resource management. World Water Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves that we are a water nation, with a destiny to be a model in freshwater management and a leader in promoting global water security in an increasingly water stressed world.

Preclearance Act, 2016 March 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member mentioned in his very thoughtful speech, which I listened to intently, he uses pre-clearance when he travels by air. I would imagine that at pre-clearance, if there was an incident and there was some kind of struggle, obviously the pre-clearance officer at the airport where the member uses pre-clearance would no doubt be engaged in some kind of altercation. That would probably also be considered a use of force, even though it does not involve a firearm.

The fact remains that if there is a problem, under this law the American officer on Canadian soil would be required to bring a Canadian officer into the picture as soon as possible. I think that is a reasonable provision in this legislation.

Preclearance Act, 2016 March 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question.

It all depends on what is said. The member is presenting a theoretical example. If an individual wanted to withdraw and it was not a complex case, I imagine that it would be fairly easy to do so. There are standards set out in Canada's jurisprudence. These standards will be applicable under Bill C-23. If Bill C-23 had been in effect, perhaps authorities would not have been able to question this woman for six hours.

Preclearance Act, 2016 March 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this debate today. I have been looking at this issue very closely for some time now. Obviously, when we review a bill our constituents ask us questions about that bill and what it entails. These discussions with constituents keep our democracy strong.

I am pleased to continue our debate at second reading of Bill C-23, a legislative measure that allows for quicker, charter-protected travel. These essential updates to the pre-clearance framework will improve security and cross-border traffic, and will bring with it great economic and travel benefits.

We already have more than six decades of successful pre-clearance under our belts. It has been a boon to business, the economy, and regular travellers. We are now well placed to implement an agreement reached with the United States that will help provide these benefits to an increased number of Canadians in more regions of the country than ever before.

There has been a positive response from leading stakeholders, including businesses, chambers of commerce, the tourism industry, municipalities, governments, and ordinary Canadians, about the growth this bill can generate. More recently, before we adjourned the week before last to spend time in our ridings, we heard from a number of MPs who said that Bill C-23 will generate benefits for the economy and for travel while protecting Canadians' rights. It is on the right path in terms of the legislative process. We also heard from some members who expressed concerns.

We have already addressed most of those concerns in debate here and during last week's media technical briefing by Public Safety Canada and Canada Border Services Agency, which was broadcast live. That was in addition to technical briefings for parliamentarians last year. However, to ensure clarity with respect to some of those issues, I would like to focus my remarks today on two specific subjects: travellers' rights and Canada-U.S. reciprocity.

First of all, let us talk about rights. Everyone knows that Canada and the United States establish and enforce their own rules about who or what enters their own country. However, for Canadians, undergoing U.S. customs procedures while they are still on Canadian soil ensures that the Canadian legal and charter standards apply to that process. This is a distinct advantage over entering the U.S. through a regular point of entry where Canadian charter standards do not apply to the conduct of American officials.

Let us consider withdrawal, for example. If travellers changed their minds and wanted to withdraw from a pre-clearance area in Canada and not go to the United States, they would be able to do so under Bill C-23, as they can under the current pre-clearance arrangement. The only change would be that the U.S. officials could ask the travellers to identify themselves and give their reasons for withdrawing in order to prevent the illicit probing of pre-clearance areas.

The other option would be for travellers to go to the United States and be cleared by U.S. officials on American soil.

At that point, travellers can no longer withdraw from the process because they are in the United States. Travellers who change their mind or want to withdraw once in the United States are stuck on American soil in a U.S. airport.

Some members have stated that, because travellers already have that protection under the existing pre-clearance arrangement, no change is needed. The problem is that we currently have pre-clearance at only eight Canadian airports.

Travellers coming from elsewhere have no protection with respect to U.S. border procedures in Canada, so they do not have the right to withdraw. Bill C-23 will enable us to expand pre-clearance so that more Canadian travellers can enjoy its benefits and protection.

It is important to clarify another point about travellers' rights. U.S. pre-clearance officers will not have the power to enforce American criminal law or arrest people in Canada. If a U.S. pre-clearance officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a traveller has committed a crime under Canadian law, let me emphasize that I am talking about Canadian law, the officer can detain the traveller without arresting him or her, but only for the purpose of immediately transferring that person into the custody of Canadian authorities. This is not a new procedure. It is part of the pre-clearance regime that has been in place since 1999.

In other words, rights and values are not being compromised here. On the contrary, Bill C-23 extends protection guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to Canadians whose flights depart airports such as Billy Bishop and Jean Lesage in Quebec City. That protection will also apply for the first time to Canadians who employ other modes of transportation, beginning with train stations in Montreal and British Columbia.

Canadians expect us to ensure that their rights and values, the protections found in the charter, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Canadian Human Rights Act, remain a priority in all legislation that we examine in this House. By further guaranteeing the protections set out in the charter, Bill C-23 is a step forward for the rights of Canadian travellers.

I would like to address some of the questions we have heard regarding reciprocity. I think it is important to emphasize that the updated and broad-based approach to pre-clearance that we are discussing is absolutely fully reciprocal. No power or privilege is conferred upon the border officers of one country and not the other. Accordingly, each country preserves the primary jurisdiction regarding most criminal offences that could be committed by its officers in the performance of their duties, while the host country retains the primary jurisdiction regarding most serious crimes. Accordingly, any fears that this bill jeopardizes our sovereignty are unfounded.

On the contrary, Bill C-23 implements a mutually beneficial agreement that imposes the same obligations and confers the same authorities on both parties. It helps improve security for both countries and makes travel and trade more efficient and expeditious. Also, as is clearly laid out in article II of the agreement with the United States, it would ensure that each country's rights and constitutions would apply to all pre-clearance operations. This means that U.S. officers operating in Canada would have to abide by the charter, just as Canadian border officers in the United States would have to respect the laws of that land.

We cannot emphasize enough that more than 400,000 people cross the border every day. Nearly $2.5 billion in two-way trade moves between our countries every day. It is mutually beneficial for both countries to build on the success of existing pre-clearance operations while simultaneously protecting, even enhancing, the rights of Canadian travellers. That is the backbone of the bill before us today.

This legislative measure will ensure that more Canadians have access to the protections provided by pre-clearance, while making cross-border travel and trade easier, more profitable, and more secure.

I encourage all hon. members to support Bill C-23.

Business of Supply February 16th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, the Conservative motion today is really a reaction to Motion No. 103. The main distinguishing feature is that the party opposite, the official opposition, does not want to mention Islamophobia specifically in a House of Commons motion. I fail to see why this suddenly has become an issue. On October 26, 2016, the House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion condemning Islamophobia. Other legislatures have done the same. The National Assembly of Quebec unanimously adopted a motion against Islamophobia. Why all of a sudden is it not appropriate to mention Islamophobia in a motion in this House?

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act February 14th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-37. Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is a key priority of this government, and that is why on December 12, 2016, the Minister of Health, with support from the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, introduced Bill C-37 in the House of Commons.

This bill would make several amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Customs Act in connection with the government's efforts to address the current opioid crisis as well as problematic substance use more generally.

This a comprehensive bill that seeks to balance the important objectives of protecting public health and maintaining public safety. It is designed to better equip both health professionals and law enforcement with the tools they need to address this issue.

Over the last decade, the harms associated with problematic substance abuse in Canada have become more complex and have been changing at a rapid pace. The line between licit and illicit substances has blurred with the opioid crisis, prescription drug misuse, and the rise of new designer drugs.

The government is committed to helping Canadians affected by problematic substance abuse. Legislative and regulatory controls are certainly an important part of this approach. However, as we know, drug use and dependency pose significant risks for individuals, families, and communities. Our approach to addressing problematic substance abuse must include preventing and treating addiction, supporting recovery, and reducing the negative and social impacts of drug use on individuals and their communities through evidence-based harm-reduction measures. These obviously must also be part of our approach to addressing the problem.

Harm reduction is viewed by experts as a cost-effective element of a well-balanced approach to public health and safety.

It has been a very good debate. I have listened intently, and it has been very informative.

Water Quality February 7th, 2017

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to speak to this important motion. It is obvious but nonetheless worth repeating that water is a vital resource. It is vital to human health, it is vital to the environment as it infuses our ecosystems, and it is vital to our economy, not just to agriculture and aquaculture in obvious industries that would use water, but also to industries like pharmaceuticals and computers. Just ask someone from the computer industry how much water it takes to clean computer chips to make sure that they absolutely pristine.

Water is also a very complex issue from the point of view of creating an integrated approach to the resource, or a national water policy vision.

In other words, it is extremely complicated to create an integrated approach to the issue of freshwater, whether it be in Canada or elsewhere. There are many reasons for that. First, There is a multiplicity of issues surrounding water, and water is governed by more than one jurisdiction.

There are a multiplicity of issues surrounding water. Water is governed by more than one jurisdiction, by a multiplicity of jurisdictions. The challenge is, how do we focus public and political interest on such a big issue that calls for a broad, visionary, and systematic policy approach? The answer is to shine the light on water at every opportunity, namely when specific water incidents arise, such as Walkerton, which would be one example, boil water advisories in first nations communities, sewage overflows during rainstorms, or controlled sewage releases.

We have to use these opportunities not only to solve what are serious matters in a timely fashion but use these incidents to channel public concern about water to governments. These issues, in addition to being matters that require immediate government attention, are doorways for the public into the multiple facets of water policy.

The political ground is fertile for engaging Canadians on the issue of water. Canadians already rank water as a top priority. The Royal Bank of Canada water attitudes survey finds consistently that water ranks number two as a concern for Canadians, after health care. There is clearly an interest. The question becomes how to channel this interest to very specific water issues. The more, the better, because the more the public becomes interested in an array of water issues, the greater the chance that governments will act in an integrated, broad-based fashion to advance the water agenda.

I congratulate the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek for putting the spotlight on one particular issue, the very important issue of lead in drinking water, and in the process putting a focus on drinking water in general, and therefore on water itself in general.

Lead drinking water pipes are one pathway for lead to enter the human body. As we know, lead gasoline was another. Fortunately, we have addressed that problem. Lead in paint was another conduit, and that has been been addressed fairly significantly, as far as I know. Lead in jewellery is another way lead can contaminate the human body. Of course, dust from smelters in areas that have smelters that emit emissions that have lead in them is another way.

One of the most recent flashpoints that underscores the need for a strong focus on water is what happened in Flint, Michigan. Flint also highlights a dimension that needs to be taken into account whenever we make policy decisions about water, or quite frankly any policy decision; that is, the socio-economic dimension. In this case, we are talking about the question of environmental justice.

In other words, the question that poses itself is this. Are decisions or a given decision likely to negatively affect disadvantaged socio-economic groups more than other groups in society? To quote from a U.S. EPA white paper dated October 2016 on revising the agency's lead and copper rule:

Because of disparities in the quality of housing, community economic status, and access to medical care, lead in drinking water (and other media) disproportionately affects lower-income people. In addition, lead has disproportionate health effects on infants and children. In revising the LCR, EPA seeks to address environmental justice concerns and to prioritize protection of infants and children who are most vulnerable to the most harmful effects of lead exposure.

In Flint, 42% of residents live below the poverty line. It is a stunning figure. To reduce the water-fund deficit, the city switched water sources in 2014. It was getting its water from Detroit, but that proved to be too expensive so it had the intention of connecting a water line from Flint to Lake Huron whereby it could access drinking water more cheaply. In the meantime, it had a two-year period in which it needed another source of drinking water other than the Detroit drinking water system. Therefore the town turned to the Flint River for its drinking water for, as I mentioned, this two-year period. Flint River water was of poor quality, among other things due to earlier industrial pollution. It was 19 times more corrosive than Detroit water. The water therefore corroded the aging lead pipes of Flint's drinking water distribution system, and we know what the results were: a drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Just to give an example, one home, the home of Lee Anne Walters, mother of four, had 104 parts per billion of lead content in that home's drinking water as compared to the EPA limit of 15 parts per billion.

Fortunately, our Liberal government has made a major financial commitment to upgrading and modernizing our infrastructure, including our water infrastructure. We will thus hopefully not be plagued by problems like those in Flint. In fact, this can be called Canada's infrastructure moment. The 2016 budget made a 10-year, $120-billion commitment to Canada's municipal infrastructure, in two phases. The first phase includes $2 billion for rehabilitating and modernizing water infrastructure. Then in the fall 2016 economic update, the Minister of Finance increased that commitment by $80 billion over 11 years, beginning in 2017 and 2018. This will be a further opportunity to address aging infrastructure, including old lead pipes in municipal water distribution systems.

Health Canada, for its part, is taking the initiative on lead in drinking water. A consultation has been launched by the federal-provincial-territorial committee on drinking water, and this consultation is open until March 15. It aims to set a new limit for the maximum acceptable concentration of lead in drinking water. The existing limit was set a quarter of a century ago in 1992. Health Canada's consultation document proposes a limit of five parts per billion, citing the impact of lead on IQ, especially in children.

It should be noted that no threshold can be identified below which lead is no longer associated with neuro-developmental effects. The U.S. limit is 15 parts per billion and the World Health Organization's limit is 10 parts per billion. Different limits are the product of different assumptions about consumption rates, body weights, and so on. In Canada, we are aiming ambitiously at lowering the maximum acceptable limit to five parts per billion. While Health Canada is working on the question of maximum allowable concentrations, we need to examine the issue from the point of view of controlling lead in drinking water, which is fundamentally an infrastructure issue.

Lead in drinking water serves to highlight the interdependent, interdepartmental, and interjurisdictional challenge surrounding water policy in our country. We need, at minimum, a two-track approach to this problem. The best permanent approach to getting lead out of drinking water—

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act February 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member's speech, which was thoughtful and well structured.

I have a comment. I have been, like many members here, studying this issue for many years. Of course, I too was concerned about dispute tribunals, that they could usurp the sovereignty of nations and so on. However, as I looked into the matter, it became clear that even without dispute tribunals, companies can take national governments to court through the domestic legal system if they feel there have been arbitrary measures that have had the effect of expropriating their interests. Many people probably believe that if we did not have these tribunals, all would be well. However, there is a court system, and companies can choose to go through the court system.

Also, these trade agreements do not prevent countries from applying health, occupational, and environmental rules, laws, and regulations. It is just that they must be scientifically based.

I would like to maybe get some perspective from the member on those two comments.