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Liberal MP for Lac-Saint-Louis (Québec)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 64% of the vote.
Statements in the House
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—
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.
Teacher Appreciation Week February 6th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, during this Teacher Appreciation Week in Quebec, I would like to thank all the educators in my riding of Lac-Saint-Louis for their dedication to providing our West Island youth with the knowledge, skills, and vision needed to build productive lives and make meaningful contributions to our community and country.
It quickly becomes apparent to anyone who is concerned about the problems in the world today that education is key to solving them.
Teachers not only share and imbue important facts and ideas, they encourage critical thinking so that their students can be equipped for the road to intellectual discovery and self-knowledge, but first, they create a passion for learning.
I sincerely hope that this week will give all teachers in Quebec the well-deserved opportunity to reflect, with pride and satisfaction, on the important role they play in the everyday lives of students and their families.
I am proud to have been a teacher at one point in my career, and particularly proud that we have a former teacher leading our Liberal government as Prime Minister of our great nation.
Framework on Palliative Care in Canada Act January 31st, 2017
Mr. Speaker, a few years ago, members from all parties in the House, including myself, established a committee on palliative and compassionate care. The mandate of the committee was to study the nature and scope of palliative care in Canada. I would like to congratulate the member for Sarnia—Lambton for following up on the committee's work with this important initiative.
My inspiration for joining the all-party parliamentary committee on palliative care, which was an ad hoc committee, was Teresa Dellar, a friend and Montreal social worker who founded the West Island Palliative Care Residence in my riding of Lac-Saint-Louis in Montreal's West Island
The residence has 23 beds making it the largest palliative care facility in Canada. It is a model for palliative and end-of-life care across Canada and throughout the world.
I had the joy and honour of being present at Rideau Hall this past November 25 with Teresa's husband, Gavin Fernandes, and sons Jonathon and Nicholas, when Teresa was awarded the Meritorious Service Cross by the Governor General for her vision and pioneering work in palliative care—and I would underscore that the member for Sarnia—Lambton happened to be there as well that day.
Some amendments will be necessary to make the bill better fit the constitutional and practical realities of health care in Canada.
For example, clause 2(1) calls on the Minister of Health to:
develop and implement a framework designed to give Canadians access to palliative care—provided through hospitals, home care, long-term care facilities and residential hospices—that, among other things,
(a) defines what palliative care is;
Unfortunately, it is not within federal jurisdiction to give, or require provinces and territories to give, access to palliative care.
That said, the federal government is well placed to support the efforts of the provinces and territories and stakeholder organizations, by focusing on aligning and extending federal levers in relation to health care system improvements.
We have already seen the government move in this direction during negotiations over a new health care accord, when it offered $5 billion over 10 years to the provinces for home care, a commitment that Marie-France Juneau, executive director of NOVA West Island, formerly the Victorian Order of Nurses, no doubt welcomed.
NOVA West Island offers indispensable services in a home setting to Montreal West Islanders dealing with cancer and other debilitating diseases like ALS.
Federal funding would benefit NOVA and its patients and leverage the efforts of its volunteers. In 2015–16 alone, 16,532 volunteer hours were donated by 232 active volunteers lending a hand with respect to a number of NOVA's services.
Clause 4(1) of the bill also requires amendment. Currently, it requires that the Minister of Health undertake a review and table a report on the effectiveness of the stipulated palliative care framework every five years. However, this would require the minister to report on progress in an area where the government has few levers to directly make change.
Instead, therefore, it would be more advisable to have the government simply report on the state of palliative care in Canada after five years, in this way aligning the bill with the law on medical aid in dying, which requires a parliamentary review on the state of palliative care in Canada within five years of its coming into force.
The federal government is also not in a position to dictate to the provinces what specifically constitutes medically necessary services that must be provided to be eligible for federal funding under the Canada Health Act.
It is further worth noting that there is, in fact, no positive right to publicly funded health care in Canada. This was affirmed in the 2005 Chaoulli decision, where the Supreme Court said, “The Charter does not confer a freestanding constitutional right to health care”, even though medicare is rightly considered a de facto right by Canadians—an entrenched, morally rooted societal norm, I would argue.
The federal government has never waded into defining what actually constitutes a medically necessary service. Nonetheless, I believe Canadians will come to expect palliative care as something that should morally and ethically be broadly made available to them at end of life—in other words, a de facto right.
The question is how this right will come to be realized. Some believe it will materialize through the courts. There are those who argue that under section 7 of the charter, the section that affirms the right to life, liberty, and security of the person, individuals must be afforded autonomous choice at the end of life, the basic principle at the core of the medical aid in dying legislation. However, if the degree of pain control provided by palliative care is not available, an individual's choice has in fact been limited.
In terms of section 15, the charter's equality provision, others make the argument that current provincial palliative care programs, although not technically viewed as medically necessary since the aim is not to cure but to care, de facto discriminate according to disability because they are generally aimed at those dying from cancer. It is interesting to note in this regard that the West Island Palliative Care Residence, once again a leader, caters not only to cancer patients but also to those with other terminal illnesses. A 2014 Globe and Mail article highlighting the residence stated:
At the outset, 98 per cent of palliative-care patients had terminal cancer...Increasingly, however, the hospice is seeing more patients with end-stage cardiovascular and renal disease, and with conditions such as ALS and multiple sclerosis
Also, palliative care is generally needed by those who are older. Therefore, some argue that the absence of broad access to palliative care amounts to a form of age discrimination.
I would like to take a moment to discuss the West Island Palliative Care Residence's vision for expanding palliative care in Canada. I believe it dovetails with the general framework and intent of Bill C-277. In particular, I would like to propose that the government partner with the residence, given its reputation as a national leading edge centre of excellence in palliative care, in advancing the palliative care agenda in Canada.
The residence draws on a community, namely Montreal's West Island, which harbours a critical mass of resources, including the leadership talents of medical practitioners connected to the McGill University and Université de Montréal medical centres. The residence has an important role to play in education and training and in the transfer of practice-based research and knowledge to the broader Canadian community. It intends to play this role by creating a newly formed division called the Montreal institute for palliative care. It is my hope that the minister will seize the opportunity to partner with the institute in fulfilling the government's expressed commitment to palliative care.
It is often said that the measure of a society's degree of enlightenment and civilization is found in how it treats its minorities and the extent to which it internalizes the principle of the equality of all its citizens, in the manner in which it accepts and integrates those with disabilities, physical and intellectual, and in how compassionately it embraces those struggling with mental illness. However, I would add to this list how it supports and comforts its citizens at the most vulnerable moment of their life; that is, at the end of life itself.
I recently read some interesting words of our Governor General, His Excellency, the Right Hon. David Johnston, which I am paraphrasing now. He said that the idea of Canada was worthy of expression and refinement. If the Canadian idea is embodied in, among other things, our national publicly funded health care system, then to make palliative care a more prominent part of that system is to further refine the idea of medicare and of what it means to be Canadian.
Let Canada show the world once again, like we have so many other times before, what it means to be a profoundly civilized nation, a nation that gathers its collective resources to enhance the dignity of the individual at the very moment when dignity itself is everything.
Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act December 13th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I have been witness to that special relationship. I believe that the member was a member of this House when a former Ukrainian president came to speak to this House. That was one of the most eloquent forms of testimony to that special relationship.
Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act December 13th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I do not think the government is pulling back. There is a measure of continuity in what the government is doing. I refer to Canadian government sanctions related to Ukraine. As the member knows, they were enacted under the Special Economic Measures Act to respond to violations of Ukraine's constitution, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. This was done on March 17, 2014, under the previous government. Amendments have been made since then, including in 2014 and 2015, under the previous government, but also on March 18 and November 28, 2016, by this government.
It is quite clear where the government stands with respect to the situation in Crimea and that it has acted in continuity with what the previous government did.
Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act December 13th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, we were at questions and comments.
Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act December 13th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, there is a wide range of areas in which we can co-operate fruitfully with Ukraine, but the subject of today's debate is really focused on international trade. Of course international trade is one component of the whole series of relationships in which two countries can engage. Usually we start with trade and we expand those relationships. Trade brings countries together around commerce and trade, but those relationships can spawn so many other areas of co-operation.