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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was benefits.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Saint-Lambert (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 26% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 February 10th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, the very thing we should be doing during an economic crisis is improving the employment insurance system. My colleague introduced a bill this morning with a view to improving this system.

Last Sunday, I took my son to his soccer game and I spoke with two parents who are seasonally employed. They explained to me that, even though they had made claims for employment insurance in December, they were still waiting to receive their benefits. They told me that this was the first time in 10 years that it has taken this long and that it made no sense.

Meanwhile, these people often use their credit cards to buy food, pay the rent and pay for the daily needs of their family, knowing that the interest rates on these cards have gone up. Imagine when these people receive their first payments—they will already be up to their ears in debt.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 February 10th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in this House. I am here today because of the citizens in my riding of Saint-Lambert and because of the trust they have put in me. They know that I will never go back on the principles and values that have always carried me through. And it is these principles and values that will keep me from voting for this budget. This budget has brutally attacked the concepts of social justice and solidarity in too many ways. This budget goes against the responsibilities I believe in and that guide my judgment, as well as those of the party I am pleased to be a part of, the Bloc Québécois.

Let us first look at what is planned for women. For the status of women, the budget continues the assault that the Conservatives began when they came to power. By making pay equity negotiable, the Conservatives have trampled a right that many, with good reason, consider to be a fundamental right, a vested right. This serves as a reminder that wilful ignorance, which they do so well, should be denounced at every opportunity, as the Bloc Québécois did when this same government announced cuts to the 2006 budget of Status of Women Canada. Do we need to be reminded that these cuts led to the closure of 12 of the 16 regional offices of Status of Women Canada, one of which was in Quebec City?

We could also mention the abolition of the court challenges program, another shameful tactic to silence citizens' claims against the government. Women's groups made extensive use of this program to assert their rights. I could also talk about this government's decision to reject the recommendations of the pay equity task force. Some years ago, it instructed the government to adopt proactive pay equity legislation, modelled after the existing Quebec law, which provides that pay equity disputes must not be settled through collective bargaining. That law is fundamentally different from the legislation proposed by the government.

No matter, I will continue to add my voice to those unconditionally defending women's rights, as long as I am able to stand, as will all Bloc Québécois members.

I cannot ignore the fact that women are most vulnerable when it comes to employment insurance benefits. In fact, only one out of three women qualifies for employment insurance benefits when she loses her job. Why? Simply because more women hold part-time or temporary jobs, work on contract or on an occasional basis, or are self-employed. In fact, approximately 40% of women hold a so-called atypical job, which considerably decreases their chances of receiving employment insurance benefits. I cannot stress enough how devastating these rules can be for certain families, especially mother-led single-parent families.

But women were not the only ones forgotten in the most recent budget. All manner of unemployed people were forgotten despite what this government may say. Adding five weeks of employment insurance benefits when more than half the unemployed do not meet the program's eligibility criteria will not make much difference for half the workers and will make no difference at all for the other half.

The Conservative government can go ahead and accuse the Bloc Québécois of not working with it, but the Bloc Québécois has long been calling for major changes to the employment insurance system, changes that would certainly have made it possible to provide unemployed men and women with substantial assistance. This morning, in fact, my colleague from Chambly—Borduas has introduced a bill in that connection. I will employ a formula much favoured by the hon. members over the way and invite them to work with us to ensure that the changes he proposes are accepted as promptly as possible. In fact, the main proposals in this bill are: reduction of the minimum qualifying period to 360 hours worked, regardless of the regional unemployment rate; increasing the weekly benefit rates from 55% to 60% ; abolition of the waiting period; and making it possible for self-employed workers to belong to the program on a voluntary basis. There are other measures besides.

After helping themselves to over $54 billion from this fund—to which the unemployed have contributed while working, week in and week out, year in and year out—the least they could do would be to make amends and restore the spirit that lay behind this program when it was created.

The unemployed have suffered for years from this undue hardship, and now that the number of people needing EI benefits will be greater than ever, this government does nothing to improve access to benefits—it does the opposite.

What is there in this budget to remove these inequalities, this profound injustice? Nothing, absolutely nothing. This has led many people to say that the Canadian employment insurance program has been a real joke for more than a decade, but the least funny joke imaginable. It is a very lame joke, indeed. Lame, because everybody has heard it before, and lame, because the consequences are not an imaginary situation, as they are in a really funny joke, but very real. And above all, because those consequences have been rubber stamped, endorsed, and approved by one government after another that ruled this country.

By handing out mind-boggling—not to mention permanent—tax cuts, this government is depriving itself of precious revenues, just as it did when it cut the GST by 2%. These generous donations, which do nothing to help the less well-off who, in many cases, do not pay taxes, have a minimal effect on domestic spending and on gross domestic product, as the government itself admitted in its budget. In fact, every dollar spent on employment insurance contributions returns two times more than a dollar invested in tax cuts, and every dollar invested in infrastructure returns 10 times more than a dollar invested in tax cuts. However, it seems that this government would much rather line the pockets of the rich than help those hit hardest by the economic crisis, which, let us not forget, is still in its early days.

January 2009 was the most devastating month in Canadian history in terms of job losses: 129,000 jobs were lost. If the current trend persists—and there is, unfortunately, no reason to expect it to change—nearly 70,000 of the newly unemployed will not be eligible for employment insurance. What will they do? Where will they go? Where will older workers who cannot be retrained go? The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development continues to deny reality, just as she did in the House last Friday, and insists on creating a false dichotomy between retraining workers and paying out income support benefits for older workers.

The fact that we are asking for this program—a program that worked well in the past and would cost the federal government less than $50 million per year—does not mean that we do not want older workers who have been laid off to get back into the workforce. We are simply recognizing the harsh reality these people are facing: having to change jobs, perhaps even fields that late in life when getting back into the labour force is certainly more difficult.

In 2005, the Employment Insurance Commission reported that approximately 40% of older workers have not completed their high school education. The result is simple: according to the commission's report, when older workers lose their jobs, they are more likely to remain unemployed longer than younger workers. After spending their entire life working to give the next generation the means to succeed, and as they are approaching a new phase of life, is the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development prepared to tell them what the member for Jonquière—Alma and the Minister of National Revenue did, that they should move to Alberta where the unemployment rate is lower? Does this government not have any empathy for older workers or will it simply tell them to pack their bags and move if they want to find work?

In closing, I would simply like to say that I appreciate this government's efforts to build concrete infrastructures. However, as women's advocacy groups have said, we must not overlook social infrastructures, which are essential to human development. Their value cannot necessarily be calculated in dollars and cents, but it is nonetheless real. And because I believe such social infrastructures have been overlooked in this budget, I cannot bring myself to vote in favour of Bill C-10, Budget Implementation Act, 2009.

The Economy February 6th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, among the thousands of unemployed are workers aged 55 and over who cannot be retrained. The minister has to stop denying this and making the mistake of proposing retraining measures instead of an income support program for older workers.

Will the minister give up on her ideological stubbornness and introduce an older worker support program? Time is of the essence.

The Economy February 6th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, more than 200,000 jobs have been lost in Canada since October, and the Parliamentary Budget Officer and Mouvement Desjardins both predict huge increases in the number of unemployed. Unfortunately, if nothing is done, only one unemployed person in two will qualify for benefits, even if they are extended for five weeks.

Does the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development understand that because of the difficult economic situation, employment insurance must be improved, with the top priority being better access to benefits?

Employment Insurance December 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the agreement signed by the three leaders modifies the employment insurance system by eliminating the two-week waiting period. The Prime Minister needs to realize that people who lose their jobs are much better off with this agreement than with the economic statement delivered by his Minister of Finance.

Can the Prime Minister understand that that is another reason why he has lost the confidence of the House?

Employment Insurance December 1st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, instead of tackling the crisis, this government opts instead for a laissez-faire policy toward the victims and, in particular, refuses to help out the unemployed by eliminating the two-week waiting period for employment insurance.

Why did the government not use the plan presented by the Bloc Québécois, dropping its laissez-faire ideology and taking a proactive approach by eliminating the waiting period? That would not have cost very much and would have really helped the victims of the economic crisis.

Older Workers November 25th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the targeted initiative for older workers does not meet the needs of those who cannot be reclassified. They need an income support program to help them bridge the gap to retirement.

If the Minister of Finance can give $2.8 billion in tax breaks to oil companies, why can he not give older workers who have been laid off a program that will cost $45 million per year?

Young Offenders November 21st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, Quebeckers all agree that the model for rehabilitating young offenders is a proven model that gives results. Recognizing a nation also means recognizing its way of dealing with young people.

Will the minister create a special system, as all Quebeckers are calling for?

Young Offenders November 21st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, in the Speech from the Throne, the government clearly announced that it intended to raise the issue of harsher measures for young offenders, despite Quebec's objections.

Will the minister create a special system for Quebec, as called for unanimously by the Quebec National Assembly, and will he recognize the Quebec model for rehabilitating young offenders on its territory?

Convention on the Rights of the Child November 20th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, today commemorates the adoption by the United Nations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. What an excellent opportunity, the day after the Speech from the Throne, to remind the government that nearly 800,000 children in Canada are living in poverty.

In times of economic slowdown, without a doubt the first victims will be the children, who will have to bear the brunt of their parents' loss of work and income. Hence the urgency to implement measures such as social and affordable housing and improvements to employment insurance.

May I take this opportunity to thank the community organizations in my riding of Saint-Lambert for their efforts in gaining recognition for children's rights.

Thanks to community activists such as these, today Quebec is the only place in Canada where there has been a constant decrease in child poverty for the past 10 years.