House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was workers.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Jonquière (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2019, with 25% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Employment Insurance February 25th, 2016


That the House (a) acknowledge that mounting job losses combined with a lack of access to Employment Insurance (EI) contribute to growing income inequality and a situation where too many Canadians are struggling to make ends meet; and (b) call on the government to honour its campaign promises and Throne Speech commitment to strengthen the EI system “to make sure that it best serves both the Canadian economy and all Canadians who need it,” by taking immediate action to: (i) create a universal qualifying threshold of 360 hours for EI, regardless of the regional rate of unemployment, (ii) immediately repeal the harmful reforms of the previous government, including those that force unemployed workers to move away from their communities, take lower-paying jobs and those that eliminated the Extended EI Benefits Pilot program to help seasonal workers, (iii) protect the EI account to ensure that funds are only spent on benefits for Canadians, including training, and never again used to boost the government’s bottom line.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski.

I am very proud to table and move in the House our opposition motion on how important it is for Canadians to be able to access employment insurance. In Canada, we are lucky to have social safety nets that help people who are going through difficult times to provide for themselves until they get back on their feet. Unfortunately, those safety nets are unravelling.

A growing number of families are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet in a struggling economy where good jobs are increasingly rare and many jobs are part-time and much more precarious. Entire sectors of our economy are in trouble or disappearing completely. I therefore hope that we will all agree that it is high time we began repairing our social safety nets and helping all Canadians improve their situation and live a better life.

Employment insurance is a very important safety net. It enables people who lose their jobs to pay their bills, put bread on the table, and help their children go to school. It benefits both workers and employers who need qualified seasonal employees to operate their business. It is no secret that many businesses such as golf courses need skilled workers. Because of the EI reform, these are seasonal workers. We can all agree that in northern regions such as Quebec there is no golf in the winter. Those golf courses need seasonal workers and those workers need to receive employment insurance benefits. The workers have the skills and training to cut the grass and maintain the course. That may not seem like a big deal, but that expertise is important to the golf courses. Unfortunately, with the changes that were made to employment insurance, the expertise goes away.

Over the past two decades, it has become harder to access employment insurance. Let us be frank, the previous governments really did a number on employment insurance. The biggest problem is that time and again governments use the employment insurance fund to balance the budget. That should be prohibited. Over the years, we have seen the government dip into the EI fund that belongs to workers. Those are the workers' contributions. The government balances the budget on the backs of the workers. It is unacceptable.

More than $57 billion in EI premiums were taken to pad the government's budget. Had they left the money in the fund, accessibility would not be an issue. Unfortunately, the result is that only 38.9% of unemployed Canadians received benefits last December, the month for which we have data. This does not mean that the remaining unemployed workers found jobs or that the economy was doing well. Often the unemployed feel discouraged. The reforms put in place by the previous government discourage workers.

I will talk about an example in my riding of Jonquière. The Service Canada office in Kénogami was closed. In addition to having a hard time accumulating hours and getting information, these people can no longer go to an office. It is no longer accessible because it was closed. Workers become discouraged, and now we have people living in poverty because they do not receive unemployment insurance.

This is also a vicious circle. In fact, Canadians with no access to employment insurance have more precarious jobs, which make it difficult for them to accumulate enough hours to qualify for benefits. I am not making this up. The parliamentary budget officer himself pointed out this problem.

I can provide you with many examples from my region and my riding of Jonquière. There are many seasonal workers in the area who are skilled and who really like the work they do.

These people have chosen to come to the region not only because we have a very nice quality of life in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, but also because they have a job for which they are qualified and of which they are proud.

Natural resource companies are having to lay off employees because the the cost of raw materials is too low and the business is therefore not profitable. When an employer wants to rehire these workers, they are no longer available. They have had to leave the region because they cannot get EI. In my riding of Jonquière, a number of people have had to leave the region. I have met many of them who are leaving Quebec in search of work. They are leaving their families and selling their homes. We are seeing an exodus from our communities, municipalities, and region. Most importantly, we are losing skilled workers with good experience.

Some car dealership employees have been locked out for three years and have not been able to return to work. These are service jobs and things are slowly turning around, but as a result of the EI reform, the people affected by the conflict are no longer entitled to benefits. They cannot access their benefits under the act. These people are unfortunately waiting to return to the work that they studied for, that they are qualified for, that they believe in, and for which they want to stay in our region. Unfortunately, they will end up with no income, below the poverty line.

We need to protect the employment insurance fund once and for all, to ensure that it serves Canadians. I am not just talking about providing benefits, but also about providing training. When workers lose their jobs, they need money to access training and find new jobs in their communities, in their region.

Of course, we also have to repeal the harmful reforms of the previous government. During the election campaign, I was very happy to hear that we were not the only party wanting to repeal the employment insurance reform. We all know that was a very popular topic during the election campaign. Many people who are now members of the government advocated for abolishing the employment insurance reform and even said that the number of hours should be reduced to improve access.

Forcing workers to accept a job that pays up to 30% less than their previous job or risk losing their benefits is totally demeaning to them. There are a number of factors that affect employment insurance benefits, including hours worked and regional unemployment rates. For example, under the Conservatives' reform, a mom who decides to move to a particular municipality might have a hard time finding work. Yes, people choose to move, but we have to make sure there are places where those people can work. For seasonal workers in particular, it is not the workers' fault, it is the industry's fault they cannot work. For example, the brush cutters who work in our beautiful Canadian forests cannot work there in the winter. They cannot work as brush cutters during that season.

I could talk about this all day, but I will conclude by saying that this is why we think there should be a single 360-hour threshold for everyone, no matter where they live. I hope to get a lot of support from my colleagues in the House to make changes, bring in universal benefits, improve access by reducing the number of hours, and restore services. Most importantly, the government must never again take money from the employment insurance fund.

Canada Labour Code February 25th, 2016

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-234, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers).

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to present my bill to amend the Canada Labour Code. I thank my colleague from Saskatoon West for seconding this bill.

As a progressive opposition party, we care about advocating for the rights of workers in Canada. That is why I tabled a bill this morning to prohibit the hiring of replacement workers, also known as “scabs”, during strikes and lockouts under federal jurisdiction.

Passing this bill will send a strong message to workers across the country about the right to collectively negotiate working conditions as equals.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Post February 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments.

I am pleased to hear that Canada Post will be reviewed. I want to offer my assistance to my colleague if she needs additional information or help. I am available to work with her and to participate in the review of Canada Post.

Could my colleague confirm and assure me that our city mayors and all Canadians, from big and small municipalities, will truly be consulted and that their comments will be taken into consideration?

Canada Post February 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to discuss this evening the question I asked in the House on January 26 about Canada Post.

To put things into context, in December 2013, Canada Post announced its five-point plan concerning jobs and ending home mail delivery. That came as a shock, because there had not been any consultations. This came out of nowhere without any justification. There was even a budget surplus at the time, which made the situation hard to understand. Of course the process sped up with the election on the horizon and many cities lost their home mail delivery.

Unfortunately, the cities were not consulted and the Canada Post mailboxes popped up everywhere like weeds in springtime. In some places, the location of the mailbox is inappropriate and dangerous. There are community mailboxes at school entrances and daycare entrances. We have even seen some on hillsides. People have a hard time parking their cars and our seniors are really having a tough time. It takes a lot out of them to get to their community mailbox just because of where it is installed. Some trees were completely destroyed when Canada Post cut their roots to install the mailboxes. Thousands of trees have been lost in some neighbourhoods.

We also learned that the boxes were manufactured in the United States, so they were not designed for our climate. Several complaints have been received this winter from people who could not access their mail. That is appalling. On top of having lost home delivery, some people simply cannot get their mail at all. Some have not been able to unlock their mailboxes for a month, because the locks are frozen.

An investigation was launched. Was it because the boxes were manufactured in the U.S.? Was it because of the material used? Did the locks just need some lubrication? One thing is sure: these boxes are not at all suited to our weather conditions, and once again, it is the citizens who are paying the price.

Canada Post is a public service. It should be given to the people, because it belongs to them. It is a profitable service. There are many ways to increase Canada Post's profits. Some have suggested opening up banks in post offices. There has also been an increase in the number of parcels.

Getting back to community mailboxes, because Canada Post did not adapt its snow removal standards this winter, many people have not been able to get to their mailboxes. Not only were their locks frozen, but they did not have access to their mailboxes. People have been forced to lie on snowbanks to open their mailboxes and get their mail.

If we still had home delivery, we would not have these problems because we did not have them before. Mail carriers were reliable, they went right to people's doors, and there were many more facilities and services.

Here is my question for the minister tonight: will the government keep its promise to restore home mail delivery for all Canadians?

Employment February 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, my region also needs help. Workers at a car dealership are struggling to make ends meet after three years of being locked out, and seasonal workers cannot figure out how to survive between seasons.

The Liberals were highly critical of the EI reform when they were in opposition. Now that they are in power, all we get from them are meaningless answers.

Will the minister promise to no longer dip into the EI fund and finally help our workers who need help now?

Justice February 17th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of our young women continues to be a concern in Quebec. On Monday, the mother of a runaway personally handed a letter to the Prime Minister. She asked him to enforce the law against traffickers, a law that was passed here by all parties. Yesterday there was a cabinet meeting, but there is still no order in council. It is all very fine to talk about this, but what we need is action.

What is the minister waiting for to make it tougher for traffickers and to protect our young women? When will we see an order in council?

Human Trafficking February 16th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, we obviously want to abide by the Constitution.

However, we are in the middle of a legal debate. The Canadian bar has concerns, but the Barreau du Québec says that the law is enforceable, whereas the government's lawyers seem to say the complete opposite.

While the lawyers bicker, our girls are falling into the hands of the scum of the earth. We are doing nothing and our police forces are not getting any additional resources to help find our girls and get them out.

The public is demanding concrete action. With Bill C-452, we can take action right now. Will the minister implement this legislation? All it would take is one signature, so that we can start to help instead of continuing to bicker.

Human Trafficking February 16th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, for several weeks now, there has been a crisis in Quebec that affects our girls. On an almost daily basis, we hear about another girl who has disappeared from a youth centre. Our girls are being targeted not only in youth centres, but also near schools, bus stops and malls. This is a stark reminder that human trafficking is real and is happening here at home. From Laval to Jonquière, no region has been spared. Nobody is safe from this. We must do everything we can to fight sexual exploitation and human trafficking. We must take preventive action, support our girls and ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the resources they need.

The Government of Canada has a role to play. It must make life more difficult for those who exploit our girls. Former MP Maria Mourani, a criminologist and sociologist, did remarkable work to move a bill against human trafficking through the House.

The bill imposes harsher punishments on exploiters. It amends the Criminal Code to achieve three objectives. First, it allows for harsher penalties for exploiters, because it imposes consecutive sentences. Exploiters convicted of several charges today are sentenced only for the most serious of the charges. Under the new legislation, those exploiters would be sentenced for all the charges. Second, the legislation makes it possible to reverse the burden of proof, placing it on the exploiters. Currently, as we heard from a police officer, it is hard to charge someone with sexual exploitation or human trafficking, because it is hard to prove and victims are often reluctant to testify. Lastly, the legislation allows for the seizure of proceeds of crime from anyone convicted of exploitation or human trafficking. This is already done in the case of drug trafficking. It only seems logical that the same sanction apply to human trafficking.

Exploiters are very familiar with the limits of the existing laws. They take advantage of the system while unscrupulously exploiting our girls. It is up to us to stand up and say “enough is enough”.

Bill C-452 was studied and passed by Parliament. All parties voted for this legislation, including the party now in power. Only an order in council is required for this legislation to take effect. That is all, it is simple, and all that is lacking is the will of the government.

Yesterday, Marjolaine Aubé, the mother of a runaway under the thumb of a pimp, who fortunately was found, gave the Prime Minister's office a letter asking him to implement Bill C-452. The letter is signed by five other parents of residents of the youth centre and is a heartfelt appeal. The parents said:

The current situation cannot be tolerated. There are real predators who are attacking young, vulnerable girls...

The broad parliamentary debate has already taken place and the law is ready. We are writing to you as Prime Minister and as a father, so that Law C-452 be applied without delay...

What does the government have to say to the parents? Will it take action to protect our girls?

Canada Labour Code February 5th, 2016

Madam Speaker, the NDP is in favour of repealing Bill C-377 and Bill C-535. I just have a comment for my colleague.

We know that Quebec has provincial anti-scab legislation. However, this is about federal workers governed by the Canada Labour Code.

Canada Labour Code February 5th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent question.

It is true that we have to keep detailed financial records, provide supporting documentation, and produce financial statements. This is similar to what happens in an organization or a company. I always compared my local or my union to a small business, because we are accountable to our members.

Every month, we produced financial statements and kept the books. During union meetings, we had to propose and distribute the financial statements. When there is a call for spending that is higher than normal, depending on the bylaws, we must submit proposals and present reports, and the members approve each expenditure.

The process is the same at every level. We are always transparent and accountable to our members.