House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Reducing the Effects of Urban Heat Islands Act December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to support the bill introduced by my colleague from Honoré-Mercier. This bill would mandate the Minister of Health to establish a national strategy to reduce the negative effects of heat islands.

In short, people noticed that the temperature difference from one neighbourhood to another can be as high as 12°C because of heat islands. This can increase smog and make air quality worse. For example, there is increased demand for air conditioning and for water, whether we are talking about potable water or water for swimming pools and water parks.

My colleague conducted public consultations in her riding and discovered that constituents in her neighbourhood were very concerned. I know that she is in an area on the Island of Montreal in which there are a number of heat islands. Since she is a good member of Parliament who listens to her constituents, she decided to come back to Ottawa and introduce a bill on this topic. I am very pleased to participate in this debate because I am very concerned about this issue. I really want to see this bill move through all stages in the House of Commons.

It is currently part of Health Canada's mandate to monitor heat islands and safeguard Canadians against the effects of heat waves. However, there is no national strategy for all of that. The bill is calling for collaboration between the federal, municipal and provincial governments in order to increase effectiveness and efficiency. There is no knowledge transfer. People are ill-informed and no one really knows who should be sharing information with the public. I think that this bill is a very good idea.

Many industrialized countries with heat islands have developed a national strategy in recent decades, including the United States, France, Portugal, Holland, Spain, Germany, England, Japan and Sweden. I think it would be good for us to follow suit.

During my speech, I will talk about the impact heat islands can have on health, what can be done, some solutions and the benefits of those solutions. We are talking about the health of Canadians, and a government must show great concern for the health of the people in its policies. That is very important.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said that on hot days mortality can rise by 20% in areas with heat islands. Heat islands can result in discomfort, weakness, loss of consciousness, cramps, fainting spells, heat stroke and breathing difficulties.

To relay my own story, I suffer from asthma. It did not start when I was young, but when I was 25. I started having respiratory problems when I moved to Montreal. I had never experienced that before. At first, I did not know what it was. I underwent some testing and I was told I had asthma. The surprising thing is that I have trouble breathing when I am in Montreal. When there is a heat wave, it is even worse. Nonetheless, in summer, when it is hot and I am camping or somewhere at a cottage, I do not have those same breathing problems. It is therefore one of the effects of the heat islands. This affects pretty much every big city in Canada. More and more major structures are being built, including seniors' residences, big condo towers and shopping centres, which all require paved parking lots. This is conducive to creating heat islands.

In fact, the Lachine industrial park is one of the biggest heat islands in Montreal. According to data from the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Lachine's industrial sector is one of the hottest areas on the Island of Montreal. I will quote from a report:

The tree canopy coverage in the industrial sector is 4%, which is slightly above average. However, the industrial area is so large that it diminishes the effect of the tree canopy in the borough. Accordingly, the City of Montreal's department of large parks and green spaces recommends that the tree canopy coverage be increased to 15%.

In my riding, with the airport, this industrial park and the highway, heat islands are all around us.

Another report said that the temperature in a paved schoolyard could go as high as 52 degrees Celsius. I know that schools are usually closed in summer, but the playgrounds in schoolyards are being used then. When I was young, I would go to my elementary school's yard. I think that 52 degrees is very high, and even if you are well hydrated, it is still very high. The people most likely to be affected by heat islands are children, seniors, pregnant women, people with existing illnesses, and athletes. If they are in a place where there are a lot of heat islands, it could be very bad for them.

I found one striking statistic: between 1979 and 2003 about 8,000 deaths in Canada were caused by heat islands and heat waves. That is a lot.

As I said earlier, right now in Canada some provinces and municipalities have programs, but there is nothing to create a synergy among all provinces and municipalities in order to make progress, share ideas and improve the health of Canadians.

For example, Montreal now has maps to measure heat islands, and these are available to the public. In Montreal and Toronto there are municipal efforts and awareness programs. In some cities there are planning regulations encouraging white roofs and trees in parking lots, but it all happens piecemeal because the government is not taking the lead. That is what my colleague is trying to do with this bill.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the FCM, has a fund that supports efforts to reduce the effects of climate change. Some provinces also have large, well-targeted funds. However, we want a national strategy to put it all together and move forward.

Solutions have been proposed. We should increase vegetation and green our cities. On that point, I would like to congratulate a group in my riding, GRAME de Lachine, a group that does applied research in macroecology. It is doing fantastic work on heat islands. It has conducted research through a provincial program, the climate change action plan. Once again, this is a good program from Quebec. Could it be exported to other provinces? Yes, we must talk about it.

This group has planted more than 200 trees. It has used high-albedo materials to completely revitalize the playground at one of the primary schools in my riding, Martin Bélanger School in Ville Saint-Pierre. The playground is extraordinary. There are not a lot of games or a lot of structures in the playground. The company planted trees and drew designs on the asphalt. This has reduced the heat and the result is really pretty.

The building where I have my office is called Regroupement de Lachine. It has been completely renovated. It is a former grocery store that has been transformed into an eco-building. It is a community centre with geothermal energy. It has one of the largest accessible green roofs on the island of Montreal. GRAME also distributed 350 large trees in 2014. I attended one of their distribution days. These are the kinds of projects that can really reduce urban heat islands.

In terms of cost-effectiveness for the government, a number of studies prove what we are saying. One study conducted in 2013 by Bélanger Michaud at the Université de Sherbrooke shows that the return on investment is 5.8 times higher than the cost of the trees that could be planted in parking lots or along roads. A study conducted at Ryerson University showed that green roofs have two positive effects. Energy costs are lower and energy consumption is reduced. Berkeley University conducted a study in 2001, which showed that a national strategy makes it possible to save 3% to 5% in energy. A study by the World Bank describes the direct impact on emergency systems, on health and on beds available in hospitals. In fact, the dog days of summer are precisely when we have heat islands, and that is when a number of people go to the hospital because they feel ill. Once again, this represents a reduction in costs.

It is time to stop dealing with problems once they have occurred. This bill will prevent problems from occurring in the first place. It will make it possible to save money in health care and it will enable people to feel better.

I would once again like to congratulate my colleague for tabling this bill. I think it is a winner for everyone. I am going to vote in favour of this bill. I hope that everyone will vote for it, because it is important for our country.

Canada Post December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Lachine post office, which is in my riding, was one of the first post offices to close as a result of the Conservatives' cuts.

When the government announced that there would be no more door-to-door mail delivery, citizens' complaints ballooned. People with reduced mobility, seniors, hundreds of municipalities and all Canadians want this service.

Will the Conservatives finally listen to Canadians for once and keep door-to-door mail delivery?

Veterans December 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we learned that in recent years, the Conservatives have paid more than a half million dollars in bonuses to executives at Veterans Affairs.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 employees lost their jobs in that department, which has resulted in cuts to services. Furthermore, $1 billion, which should have gone to help veterans, was put back into the treasury.

Why are the Conservatives rewarding executives, the ones who laid off staff and who talk about saving money on the backs of veterans?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her passionate speech.

She touched on the issue of debt, something I talked about with families in my riding this weekend. People go into debt to buy a car or a house or even to do activities with their children. People get the impression that money is readily available because it is very easy to get credit these days. Then, at some point, they hit a wall and can no longer do anything because they are too much in debt. It is very hard to get out of that situation.

As my colleague said, there are currently no provisions to help families that get deeper and deeper in debt. They are so far in debt that they do not eat as well, the children are less physically active, and their situation is not very pleasant.

Can my colleague elaborate on this issue and speak to our vision of a country that helps families avoid debt and imposes rate structures on banks so that they can no longer put people in these sad situations?

Rail Transportation November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the people of Lachine, Saint-Pierre, Dorval and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce are worried.

With so many rail lines running through our neighbourhoods, people are concerned for their safety. The Transportation Safety Board's report released yesterday is once again critical of the Conservatives' inaction. That is not reassuring.

What is more, the Conservatives have been cutting funding for transportation safety from their budgets for the past five years. I want my constituents to feel safe.

Will the government stop playing games with their safety and finally compel the transportation companies to improve their safety measures?

Taxation November 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the government chose to cut services to Canadians and use the resulting surplus to reduce taxes for wealthy families. Single-parent families will not benefit from income splitting. They are simply left out.

According to the Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal, one-third of families on the island are single-parent families. In my riding alone, 6,000 families will not benefit from this measure.

The Conservatives' proposal on income splitting will not help a single mom trying to make ends meet. Not just that, it will do nothing for the vast majority of middle-class Canadian families. In fact, 86% of families will not get a dime.

New Democrats have concrete proposals that would help millions of Canadians, such as a plan for affordable child care and a federal minimum wage.

Canadians can see which side of the House is really working to make life more affordable for their family, as we will demonstrate in 2015.

Canada Post November 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this weekend, the media was inundated with these expensive ads for Canada Post. In the meantime, 5.1 million households will no longer get home delivery. Canada Post's problem is not a visibility problem. It is a problem of mismanagement and a lack of vision. When a crown corporation created to deliver mail does not deliver mail, there is a problem.

When will the Conservatives sit down with Canada Post officials to ensure that people get their mail at home?

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent and very pertinent question. When we want to engage in trade with other countries, the NDP asks itself three questions. Does the country respect human rights and workers' rights? Is there added value for Canada? Are the trade terms satisfactory?

Clearly, human rights and workers' rights are not an important consideration for the Conservatives. Canada, which is the free trade partner of choice for most countries in the world, should use this as leverage to improve workers' rights and living conditions abroad.

Regarding the document my colleague mentioned, we have to consider the countries that provide the greatest benefit to Canada based on what we want to import and export. The free trade agreement with South Korea should have been signed long ago. Other countries that have less to offer Canada from an economic perspective were given priority.

This is about priorities. The government should not be helping countries that are friends; it should be signing agreements that will benefit Canadians and our workers. I hope that other countries were mentioned in the document and that Canada will put more effort into signing free trade agreements that are good for Canadians.

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

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

Indeed, Canada exports a lot of raw materials, since it is a country of natural resources. I would prefer it if we processed those materials here and boosted our industry, because that would create good jobs. Nonetheless, as the hon. member said, will sending South Korea a lot of raw materials that come back to us as processed goods increase or decrease this trade? I do not have an obvious answer.

We said we want to encourage the auto industry. I support any suggestions for making it easier to process our own raw materials in Canada, because that would create good jobs. A country like ours that has a lot of natural resources would certainly benefit from exporting value-added processed materials. I encourage that. For now, we have not proposed any amendments to that effect. We wanted first to protect our industries. However, we should look into this shortly because we must correct this import deficit.

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to reiterate the NDP's support for the bill that is presented before the House today. We add our voices to those of a broad coalition of Canadian stakeholders, such as the agriculture and agri-food industry associations; the UFCW, which is Canada's largest private sector union; manufacturing industry associations; and Bombardier, just to name a few.

As we have declared before the House, the NDP keeps in mind three fundamental criteria to ensure that the interests of Canadians are protected when it comes to a trade agreement.

The first has to do with the proposed partner's attitude toward Canadian values. We will make sure that countries respect democracy and human rights and that they have high policies toward labour and environmental standards. In the case of South Korea, we are very satisfied by the work this country has achieved since it broke free from dictatorship a quarter of a century ago. It has transitioned into an energetic, multi-party democracy with an active trade union movement. The wages are beyond decent, and freedom of expression is encouraged. South Korea is a developed country and is ranked 15th on the human development index, which is the highest rank in east Asia. We also have to point out the success of South Korea in becoming a world leader in renewable energy and green technology.

Our second criterion is with respect to the economic benefits Canada can receive from the agreement. Is the proposed partner's economy of significant or strategic value to Canada? Again we are satisfied, considering that South Korea is Canada's seventh most important trading partner. In 2013, Canadian exports to South Korea totalled $7.3 billion. Also, this first agreement with an Asian country would allow Canada to enter the Pacific region and diversify its export markets. Canadian exporters lost 30% of their market share in South Korea after the European Union and the U.S.A. concluded similar trade agreements. This agreement would allow Canada to restore its competitiveness in global markets and compensate for the losses.

Bob Linton, from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, stated:

This deal will not only help to protect the jobs of our members in these provinces but has the potential to increase employment with good union paying jobs that benefit the communities.

The third criterion is with respect to the terms of the agreement. The NDP wants to make sure that such terms are satisfactory for the Canadian economy. In this present case, we are satisfied by the benefits provided in many sectors.

One example is the agricultural sector. The agreement would enhance trade in the agriculture and agri-food sector, which represents 8% of the country's economy and sustains one out of eight jobs. South Korea imports a colossal amount of these products and is therefore a complementary economical partner for Canada.

We can also point out the benefits provided by this agreement in the aerospace sector. I am really pleased with this agreement, considering the proximity of South Korea to other major economies, such as Japan and China. In the next 20 years, half of the world's air traffic will be driven by Asia. The demand for aircraft in Asia will account for 37% of worldwide sales and be valued at $1.9 trillion.

The NDP recognizes the virtue of free trade and is aware that deepening our trade linkages with the Asia-Pacific region is essential to maintaining Canadian prosperity in the 21st century. However, this is not exactly the agreement that we would have negotiated. Let us face it: some aspects of it need to be criticized.

Let us start with concerns regarding the automobile sector, which needs to be protected. The NDP is calling on the government to take action to support the Canadian automobile industry, which provides 100,000 good jobs. Even if we go outside the frame of this agreement, the Canadian automobile sector has to face ferocious world competition. In 2013, Canada could not attract any of the $1.7 billion in auto assembly investments that were made around the world. These are shocking facts. That is why the NDP is urging the government to provide financial help to this very important sector of our industry.

An NDP government would create policies that would fortify the sector, and we have many ideas on how to do so. We would encourage Korean automakers to set up production facilities in Canada. We would also assist our industry in penetrating Korean and other Asian markets, and we would definitely keep an eye on non-tariff barriers and hurry to resolve disputes in an efficient and adequate manner.

At committee stage, the NDP definitely took the lead by inviting several witnesses from different sectors, including those against the agreement. We were also the only party to propose amendments to protect Canada's automobile sector, which goes back to what I was mentioning a moment ago. One amendment proposed a snap-back in the event of a surge in Korean vehicle imports in the Canadian market. We also suggested implementing yearly trade missions to Korea to observe and control the removal of harmful non-tariff barriers on Canadian exports. However, the government refused both these amendments that would have protected our industry.

Obviously the Liberal Party is no help in addressing that issue, since it does not have a plan or even the beginning of a proposition to protect our industry. There is no surprise there, since the Liberals are willing to support an agreement without even knowing its details, as they did when the Liberal critic approved a trade agreement with the European Union without seeing it.

Still on the topic of what happened at committee stage, the NDP was the only party to step up to introduce Canadians' concerns. We made three motions regarding investor protections. The first one was to protect the right of the Canadian government to legislate in the public interest. The second motion was to prohibit the fading of environmental standards in order to encourage investments. Last but not least, we wanted to repeal the investor state dispute settlement chapter from the agreement. In that matter, the main opposition party in South Korea joined its voice to ours.

Despite the relevance of these interventions, both the Liberal and the Conservative parties rejected these amendments.

In conclusion, the NDP supports open trade, especially when it comes to breaking down harmful trade barriers and decreasing tariffs and protectionism. Nevertheless, past experience has shown that a completely hands-off approach to the economy just does not work. Therefore, I concur with the Chamber of Commerce of Canada that there is a common sense role for government to play in promoting our exports and helping Canadian companies get into the Asian market.

I want to reiterate to my community and to all Koreans in my riding and in the greater Montreal area, whom I often deal with, that I am very proud we can conclude this free trade agreement and that I will help them. Some production companies have already approached me for help in developing markets with Korea. I will do everything in my power to help them.

According to the criteria I listed, this is a good agreement. I would have liked us to study it a bit more in committee, but this is a step in the right direction for our country, and I am pleased to say so again today and support this bill.