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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was colleague.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for LaSalle—Émard (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Financial System Review Act March 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Those are excellent questions. We are still wondering why certain transactions are so expensive. Lack of consistency and transparency is causing general confusion. All Canadians are suffering as a result because we have to pay fees that are often hidden, unfair and costly.

Financial System Review Act March 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for that very apt comment and for raising this very important point.

We forget that a much broader co-operative system existed at one time and that, increasingly, we are turning to mega-institutions where people feel like a number and somewhat powerless in dealing with these giants. The establishment of co-operative systems would give people the power to establish fair and equitable rules for everyone.

Financial System Review Act March 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, that proves the point I was making in my speech. Quite often, as consumers and citizens, we have responsibilities. However, that responsibility has to be shared by the credit card companies and the banks. There need to be clear, transparent rules. We owe it to our constituents to have rules that are transparent and clear and not hidden and misleading.

Financial System Review Act March 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House to speak about Bill S-5, the Financial System Review Act, on behalf of all the people of LaSalle—Émard.

One can no longer look at a newspaper without coming across a headline about household debt in Canada. If the storm unleashed by the 2008 laissez-faire financial crisis did not hit Canada as hard as the United States, it is because of the way our financial sector is regulated.

There is an urgent need to maintain and reform the regulation of our financial institutions. In order to do so, the House must firmly commit to getting Canadians involved in the review process and thus help to protect the public, ensure the transparency of our financial institutions and promote the independent review of acquisitions. Finally, we must engage in public consultation to allow various stakeholders—more than just 30 or so— to express their opinions on the impact of the changes proposed by this bill.

I therefore address my remarks to the people of LaSalle—Émard to explain my position on the bill to amend the legislation governing financial institutions.

This Senate bill amends not only the Bank Act, but also 12 other acts. My colleagues in the official opposition have already described several technical aspects of the changes to regulations in the financial sector. I would simply like to go over some of the main points.

Under Bill S-5, large foreign acquisitions will require ministerial approval. The bill will raise the widely held ownership threshold for banks from $8 billion today to $12 billion.

Henceforth, banks controlled by foreign governments will be able to hold a minority interest in Canadian banks and financial institutions.

The bill enhances and expands the supervisory and enforcement powers of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Lastly, the bill tightens measures to prevent tax evasion in the case of Canadians who do business with subsidiaries of foreign banks.

That said, this bill raises a number of concerns. First of all, why did the government give the Senate, which is full of defeated Conservative candidates, the task of introducing a bill on an issue as important as the review of legislation governing our financial institutions?

Second, will the government give the members of the House the time needed to carefully examine this bill?

To deliver a bill that shows that it truly cares about protecting Canadian consumers, the government must consider adopting measures that are not currently in this bill. Here are some examples: approving large foreign acquisitions of financial institutions cannot fall solely to the minister, as set out in this bill. Such important decisions should be made by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions without any political interference.

We need to introduce regulatory mechanisms for the banking and financial sectors that are transparent in practice, and not simply in principle. This means we should examine the possibility of regulating all hidden costs and making their disclosure mandatory.

It is also crucial that the committee responsible for reviewing the legislation governing our financial institutions hear from witnesses who are experts on risky mortgage loans, which are of concern to the Governor of the Bank of Canada.

As elected representatives, we have a duty to protect consumers and our constituents. When Canadian financial institutions announced profits of $25 billion last year, debt had become a ball and chain for Canadian households. And if the debt being carried by Canadian households is the ball, middle-class wage stagnation, usurious interest rates, high service charges and incomprehensible loan agreements are what keep Canadians chained to those debts.

Unfortunately, too many people in my riding are among the ever-growing number of Canadians who are burdened by debt. The Association coopérative d'économie familiale du Sud-Ouest de Montréal, with which I met last fall, is on the front line and works with residents of southwest Montreal to find ways of improving their consumer practices and their spending. When people’s wages are stagnant, when their incomes are declining and their debts are piling up, things get more and more difficult.

That organization and the members who work there have heard every story. The people who come to see them are living in dread of the bailiffs who call them at all hours of the day trying to collect. They can no longer sleep at night and they shut themselves away during the day. Some of them have no choice but to consider declaring bankruptcy. The distress is real, and protecting our fellow Canadians must be our first concern.

The most important recommendation I have to make is that the government should use the review of our financial institution legislation to ask what Canadians think and find out what they are concerned about and what issues are of concern to them. In that regard, the government would do well to learn from the best practices developed by the NDP. For example, the NDP has just completed public consultations throughout Canada to find out what Canadians’ concerns are when it comes to the cuts the government is planning to make to the old age security program.

We organized local forums from coast to coast so the people who elected us could talk to us about the impact those cuts would have on them and their family members. For example, very recently, in Ville-Émard, we organized a public forum on reform of our pension system. We had a full house, and we met with 100 of our constituents who were worried about the government’s consistently vague allusions to the cuts it is planning to make to old age security. Our constituents spoke out and we listened to them. The NDP invites dialogue, and the government should do the same when it examines the legislation related to the regulation of financial institutions.

With that in mind, I would have preferred that this bill be drafted after a broader public consultation had been held. In spite of the concerns I have raised, I am going to support the bill, which still represents an adequate review of the financial system. I hope that committee members will have an opportunity to make the amendments that are needed so that the bill will be even more acceptable to Canadians.

Financial System Review Act March 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Conservative member for her speech.

My question is very simple. The Conservatives are saying that this is a very important bill. Basically, it is a review of the financial system. This bill has a major impact on economic stability. We know that the government is very much in favour of a stable economy and that this is something very important.

Since the government considers this bill to be important, can the hon. member tell us why it did not take advantage of this opportunity to conduct more extensive consultation than it did to review the financial system, as presented in this bill? Why did it not take this opportunity to engage in more extensive consultation?

Science and Technology March 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the Canadian Science Writers' Association, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and even the journal Nature and the BBC all denounce the fact that the Conservatives are muzzling researchers by limiting their access to the media.

When will this government come up with a clear policy that protects the rights of scientists to inform Canadians?

Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act March 15th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for giving us such a clear example. As a Canadian, I see Mexico as a vacation destination, but we do not know everything that goes on there. It is often human rights experts and people from that country who can tell us what is happening. That is the case with Mexico but also with some European countries that are currently in the spotlight. We have spoken a lot about it with reference to Bill C-31. Often, eyewitnesses can come and tell us what is really happening. That is why, in a democracy, it is very important to have a system of checks and balances.

Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act March 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question. What is disconcerting and troubling about this bill and others, as we noted recently, is that the decisions are being put into the hands of a minister, whether it be the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism or the Minister of Public Safety. In a democracy, it is important that power be shared and that there be checks and balances. In other words, the process must include a mechanism whereby decisions can be appealed, and it must involve an outside body that can determine whether there was any political interference in the decision-making process.

Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act March 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-31 threatens this common vision of hope and our collective desire to build a nation where compassion is the rule, a nation that opens its arms and offers a fair opportunity to those seeking asylum, safety and protection.

I must state clearly that Bill C-31 puts aside all the hard negotiated and balanced compromise on immigration reform that all parties, including the government, worked to achieve in the previous Parliament in former Bill C-11.

Unfortunately, the balance and the compromises that were achieved at the time have disappeared. Instead of punishing human smugglers, Bill C-31 attacks the refugees who are the victims of these unscrupulous people. Even more worrisome, the minister is giving himself certain powers that will jeopardize a system that must be fair and must honour international conventions.

Under Bill C-31, the minister will establish a list of safe countries and a list of countries that are considered unsafe. What is troubling is that this list will be established by the minister, rather than by a panel of experts in international relations, not to mention that this list will change depending on his assessment of the safety of the countries on that list.

In the previous more balanced immigration reform act, Bill C-11, the decision on whether or not a country was safe was left to a board of human rights advisers, not a minister with a red pen.

Perhaps most troubling of all, Bill C-31's unbalanced approach to immigration reform enables the minister to revoke the permanent resident status of former refugee claimants if the minister decides that their country of origin is no longer threatening.

There are many permanent residents that have made my riding their home. It can take years for someone to obtain permanent resident status, as many of my constituents know. Imagine the anxiety they would feel, how vulnerable they would be to know that the minister could revoke their status on a whim, just as they have begun to rebuild their lives.

In the meantime, these constituents have settled in Montreal. They have made friendships and have married. They have worked hard to make a living so that one day their children can go to school, college and university, and participate in our society. They have come to build lives and share in the prosperity and security that too many of us born here take for granted.

My colleagues know as well as I do that when the government makes rash decisions, our constituency offices are the first to hear about it. Our constituents turn to us when they can no longer count on government services, for example, because the delays have become untenable or because the process has become fundamentally unfair.

We respond to calls from our constituents who hope to be reunited with a spouse overseas and who, after months and years, can no longer wait and confess to us that their marriage is about to fall apart. We open our doors to mothers who come with their children, begging us to intervene because they are about to be deported in less than two hours and they are overtaken by desperation.

Decisions made by governments have very real and very human consequences, often far from Ottawa; we see that every day. The government needs to put more resources into processing requests, well-trained human resources that can meet the demand.

Bill C-31 epitomizes this government's callous vision of a society made up of two classes of citizens: good Canadians and those whom the Conservatives consider profiteers.

It is no accident that Canada is called the “new world”. Our country is a land of immigrants, a land that welcomes immigrants, a beacon of safety and hope and opportunity for a better life. That is the Canada whose values I stand for.

That is why I am urging the government to forget about Bill C-31, as it forgot about its predecessor, Bill C-4. I am asking the government not to repudiate the historic compromises that all parties achieved when they reformed our immigration system by passing Bill C-11 during the previous Parliament.

Those are the reasons why I oppose Bill C-31.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act March 12th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to rise in the House today and speak to Bill C-31 on behalf of the people of LaSalle—Émard. It is a privilege that is becoming increasingly rare, given that 18 time allocation motions have been moved in this 41st Parliament.

Bill C-31, entitled Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act, is in fact a recasting of several bills previously introduced in the House of Commons. The bill amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act. Furthermore, these amendments give greater discretionary powers to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

Before I outline some serious concerns I have about this bill, I would like to say a few words about my riding. According to the 2006 census, the riding of LaSalle—Émard has 27,000 constituents who were born in other countries. Just over 25% of my riding's population consists of immigrants. Almost 6,000 of them have arrived within the past seven years. Just like our ancestors, some of these newcomers have fled economic destitution, religious persecution or the ravages of war and revolution. LaSalle—Émard is a mosaic of French, English, Italian, Greek, Indian, African, Chinese and Lebanese communities. We live side by side with respect and admiration for one another, as well as tolerance for our differences.

Having moved to a foreign land where they have few allies, new Canadians face phenomenal challenges. They must learn a new language, new customs and a new collective history. Without exception, they must master a new way of life in a world where the guideposts can be completely different. They work in order to earn a living with dignity. They study and pay for courses in order to obtain recognition of degrees they earned elsewhere.

The new Canadians living in LaSalle—Émard send their children to school, CEGEP and university. They pass on to their children what their journey has taught them: the discipline of work, applying themselves and perseverance. At the same time, they have a sense of community and co-operation, which reminds me every time that there is strength in numbers, that prosperity is shared, and that if an individual can face a thousand challenges, a united community can face an unlimited number of challenges.

I see this in my very diverse contacts with members of the Italian community, the worshippers at the Sikh temple and the young married couples in the Pakistani and Nigerian communities, or when celebrating the Chinese new year. Despite our different backgrounds, we all share the impulse of wanting to distinguish ourselves through our efforts, our talents and our desire to excel. We all know that Canada is a land of immigrants and second chances. For these reasons, southwestern Montreal is a mosaic that reflects Canada's reality. Those are our values.

Bill C-31 threatens this common vision of hope and our collective desire to build a nation where compassion is the rule.