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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was conservative.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns June 19th, 2015

With regard to government funding for the constituency of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for each fiscal year since 2007-2008 inclusively: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions and loans to any organization, body, or group, broken down by (i) the name of the recipient, (ii) the municipality in which the recipient is located, (iii) the date on which funding was received, (iv) the amount received, (v) the department or agency providing the funding, (vi) the program under which the grant, contribution or loan was made, (vii) the nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan identified in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?

Consumer Protection June 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative approach is not working. In the 10 years the Conservatives have been in power, they have done nothing to reduce gas prices. What is more, the gap between the price of crude and the price at the pump has never been higher than it is right now. For years now the NDP has been calling for an ombudsman to monitor the price of gas, and for years, the Conservatives have been coming up with all kinds of excuses for doing nothing.

Why are the Conservatives allowing consumers to be gouged at the pump?

Life Means Life Act June 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, there are no facts, and the Conservatives are fearmongering. They want to use this bill to win political points for their campaign over the summer. This bill is flawed and very problematic.

Not only does the current system protect Canadians from the possibility of the most dangerous criminals returning to our communities, but studies also show beyond a shadow of a doubt that extreme penalties are not deterrents.

We would sure like to know why the government introduced a bill that has no basis in fact.

Life Means Life Act June 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree.

I would like to share the opinion of many Canadian experts who have spoken out against this Conservative bill. One such expert is Allan Manson, a law professor at Queen's University. With respect to the current situation he said, and I quote:

The most heinous cases do not get out so this is not an issue of whether the Clifford Olsens will be released.

With an election looming this fall, this is political opportunism of the crassest sort. This is surely the worst approach to public policy-making, and to criminal justice policy-making in particular.

With respect to the changes in the bill he said, and I quote:

This change will not achieve a single penological objective.

Life Means Life Act June 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question.

When I go door to door in my riding, my constituents speak out about the cuts the Conservatives have made to the RCMP and border services, which are preventing officers from doing their jobs to protect us.

This Conservative government has done nothing but make cuts. It claims to stand up for victims, but we know that is not true. Furthermore, the comments by the member opposite do not reflect our public safety realities.

Last year, 99% of offenders released on day parole did not reoffend and 97% of offenders released on full parole did not reoffend either.

Instead of introducing a bill that could politicize the current situation, the Conservatives would be better off investing more in the public safety services that Canadians depend on.

Life Means Life Act June 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to say that I will be splitting my time with the member for Trois-Rivières.

Today I rise in the House to speak to Bill C-53, which we will oppose. First though, since this is probably my last speech in the House for this 41st Parliament, I would like to thank all of the staff who have supported us over the past four years: House of Commons staff and the people working in my riding office and my parliamentary office, the interpreters, who do amazing work, the pages, and the people who work for my caucus.

A special thanks goes to my constituents in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for placing their trust in me over the past four years. It was a tremendous privilege and an honour for me to meet them and talk to them about their concerns. I hope that they will support me again during the next Parliament.

Today we are talking about Bill C-53, a justice bill that was introduced by the government in power. This bill represents yet another step backward. I will digress for a moment to talk about this government's record on justice over the past few years.

First, let us talk about the issue of the missing and murdered aboriginal women. The current government is refusing to conduct an inquiry into this phenomenon, even though aboriginal groups across the country have been calling for such an inquiry. We know that an inquiry is necessary to put a stop to this terrible phenomenon in Canada. The NDP has already committed to conducting a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. That is a priority for us, and it is one of the first things that we are going to do if we take office.

The Conservative government also introduced Bill C-51, which undermines our fundamental freedoms and violates our right to privacy. I received a number of letters on this subject from my constituents, who spoke out against the approach the government took with Bill C-51.

The NDP took a stand based on conviction and principles. Of the three main parties in the House, we are the only one that opposed this bill, which seriously infringes on the freedom of Canadians.

We can say that the Conservatives have fallen short when it comes to street gangs, whether it be in Montreal or Surrey, British Columbia. I talked with my colleagues from British Columbia about how a big a problem street gangs are. This is a serious and urgent problem that the government continues to ignore.

Bill C-53 is broadly based on misinformation and electioneering. What is more, we know that the Conservatives used this bill to stir up fear in order to raise more funds for their party. Right after this bill was introduced, the Conservative member for Scarborough Centre sent a fundraising email on behalf of the Conservative Party. The subject line was “Murderers in your neighbourhood”. That is obviously a campaign to spread fear and then capitalize on that fear to generate more support for the Conservative Party. That is the desperate act of a tired and ineffective government that is jeopardizing Canadians' safety.

The Conservatives should tell Canadians the truth. In the current system, the most dangerous criminals who pose a threat to public safety never get out of prison.

That is the current reality. We in the NDP want to protect victims and create an approach that puts victims first. We also believe in evidence-based policy. Any reforms made to the sentencing regime should focus on improving public safety, not playing political games. That is what the Conservatives are doing right now.

Decisions regarding people being released from custody must be based on an assessment of the risk each individual poses to the community and to public safety. The Conservatives introduced this bill, which, in fact, gives the minister control over these decisions. The Conservatives want to politicize the release process. We believe that this is a step backward for Canada.

The Attorney General has a duty to ensure that all of the bills put forward by the government are constitutional. As we know, since the Conservative Party has been in power, it has introduced a number of bills that could be considered unconstitutional. Once again, Bill C-53 will probably wind up being challenged in the courts. In other words, the Conservatives have introduced yet another problematic bill that is really much more about playing politics, instead of working to find solutions to the real problems.

Currently, if an offender gets parole, he will live the rest of his life under the conditions of his parole and the supervision of a CSC parole officer. Offenders who are sentenced to life never enjoy total freedom, since they have committed an offence resulting in a life sentence. Not all offenders who are given a life sentence get parole and some never will because of the high risk of recidivism they continue to present. We know that in the current system, there is legislation already in place to protect public safety and keep our neighbourhoods safe.

We know that the Conservatives are playing politics with this bill. The fact that they have been talking about this bill since 2013 further proves that point. They waited until just a few months before the election was called to introduce a real bill in the House. We know that this is an election bill. It has been criticized by eminent lawyers and experts because it is a complete botch-up.

In the past few days, we have had to discuss other bills that the Conservatives introduced in the House at the last minute. That is very undemocratic because we do not have enough time to debate these bills before the House rises at the end of the parliamentary session.

We also know that this same government invoked closure for the 100th time a few weeks ago in order to limit debate in the House. That move was strongly condemned by this side of the House, because Canadians want their MPs to do their homework, do their job and carefully study these bills. However, the Conservatives want to ram their platform down Canadians' throats without discussion and clear debate.

At present, it is the Parole Board of Canada, the PBC, an independent administrative tribunal free from political interference, that decides whether to grant or not grant parole. Taking this power away from independent experts and putting it in the hands of government is tantamount to turning back the clock 50 years. With this Conservative government we are going backwards.

The Parole Board of Canada was established in 1959, and Canadians rejected the politicization of the administration of justice a long time ago.

Canadians deserve better. They deserve a government that will take public safety seriously rather than using it for political purposes.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to strongly oppose the Conservative government's Bill S-7, the so-called zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act.

The title of the bill is our first indication that it was introduced by the government for partisan purposes and that it promotes xenophobia. Furthermore, the bill does not manage to protect women and girls affected by polygamy, forced marriage or domestic violence.

I want to start by saying that I agree that we must address polygamy, forced marriage and early marriage. These problems exist in Canada, and the government should be looking at finding real solutions. Unfortunately, this bill does not offer solutions.

All forms of violence against women and children are unacceptable. We must invest resources and combat these crimes. However, the bill does not offer the right response to these serious problems. The New Democrats are not the only ones saying so. A number of experts also shared these concerns in committee. The bill could have some very serious consequences for the women and girls it claims to protect. Moreover, the bill could make existing problems even worse.

I just want to comment on the problem of violence against women in Canada. Unfortunately, the current government is refusing to do anything about it. For example, the Conservatives have refused to launch a national investigation into missing and murdered aboriginal women despite broad consensus across the country about the need to address this Canada-wide problem. While the government refuses to take action, aboriginal women remain consigned to difficult and dangerous situations.

Although we support certain very specific measures in Bill S-7, civil society groups have told us that women and girls seeking to escape such dangerous situations did not have the resources they needed to get themselves into safe situations. No woman should be subjected to gender-based violence, which includes forced and early marriage.

Bill S-7 could have serious consequences. It could result in increased social pressure on victims of forced marriage. Victims of polygamy could be deported.

The Conservative government still has not explained how this bill will help victims of polygamy and victims of early and forced marriage. How will deporting victims help them in any way? In reality, this bill puts them in an even more dangerous and precarious situation. That is why we denounce the measures set out in this bill.

What is more, the Conservatives did not do any consultation or any studies before introducing this bill in the House, even though they had the resources to do so. This proves that this bill was intended only to play politics and please the Conservative electoral base, not to help the victims of early marriage.

This is a sensationalistic, botched, ill-conceived bill. Instead of introducing such bills, the government should invest in organizations that help women in precarious situations.

We have noted that there is a shortage of services in Canada for these women and girls who do not have access to affordable, safe housing, in particular. How is a woman supposed to get out of a violent situation if she cannot find safe housing?

As we know, there is also a lack of psychological support. It is important to offer psychological support to these women, who often find themselves in violent situations. Furthermore, the families are often traumatized, because they have to go through the criminal justice system and the immigration system, which are complicated. These women have a hard time navigating Canada's complex systems. We need to support them.

In closing, I would like to quote Deepa Mattoo, a staff lawyer with the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, who appeared before the committee to comment on this bill. She said:

Giving it a shock factor name will not eliminate the issue. Instead it will force perpetrators to take this underground, ensuring the victims and potential victims are isolated from any resources.

For the reasons I mentioned, I cannot support Bill S-7.

Science and Technology June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' talking points are not reassuring for the 4,000 scientists who have been let go.

Today, the NDP has made a solemn promise to stand up for science and put an end to the censorship of scientists. The NDP has put forward a real plan to return science to its rightful place.

When will the Conservatives end the muzzling of federal scientists and appoint a parliamentary science officer so that the government can make decisions that are based on science and not ideology?

Small and Medium-Sized Businesses June 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again to speak about the credit card fees that businesses are charged.

I have been working on this campaign for a few years, since 2013, because over the past four years I have heard countless stories from people in my riding about very high credit card interest rates and the exorbitant fees that small businesses are charged by credit card companies such as Visa and MasterCard. Today, we are basically talking about the fees that businesses are charged by credit card companies when consumers make purchases.

In Canada, the processing fee for credit card payments varies between 1.5% and 4% of the purchase price. In 2012, retailers paid $832 million in credit card charges. This is significant, and it is quite a staggering amount for our small business people.

In 2009, the NDP moved a motion in the House asking the Government of Canada to put in place a binding law—“binding” is the key word—to protect Canadians against excessive credit card interest rates.

However, although the NDP's motion has the support of many Canadian merchant associations, the government still has not passed binding legislation. Instead, the Conservative government opted for a voluntary code of conduct. We know that this does not work for the major credit card companies.

Motion No. 574, which we are debating today, calls on the government to reduce the burden on businesses and consumers by reducing the transaction fees charged to merchants by credit card companies.

The motion also calls on the government to allow merchants to disclose to the consumer the transaction costs relating to the payment method chosen. This is very important, since consumers are not properly informed. They do not necessarily know that when they use their Visa or MasterCard, the merchant is required to pay exorbitant fees.

Unfortunately there is a lack of awareness. That is why I launched a campaign in my riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles in 2013 to talk about these transaction fees.

The NDP wants a law that will set a limit on these transaction fees. We also held consultations across the country to develop a clear position on this. At the time, our consumer protection critic travelled all over the country and organized a number of round tables on the subject. Six recommendations came out of those round tables. I would like to share them with you.

First, the NDP recommends the development of robust regulations for electronic and mobile payments in order to establish standards and make the rules transparent and fair for all stakeholders, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, entrepreneurs and consumers.

We are also calling on the government to tighten the loopholes in the pre-existing governance structure of the payments system to ensure that processors are not taking advantage of these loopholes to the detriment of Canadian merchants.

We recommend continued support for the Interac payment system, which provides businesses and consumers with a safe, secure and cost-effective means of processing electronic payments in Canada.

Very few people know that merchants pay a fixed 12¢ fee for every Interac transaction. That is much lower than the fees they may have to pay when customers pay by credit card.

We also recommend ordering the public disclosure of the cost per transaction of the merchant discount rate charged to Canadian companies by issuers of credit cards and other methods of payment. These costs affect companies' competitiveness and retail prices. We want consumers to be educated and aware of the practices and fees associated with using these cards.

We also recommend disclosing to consumers at the point of sale the hidden cost to the retailer of the method of payment used.

Lastly, we recommend establishing dispute resolution processes that are more efficient for merchants and take into account how financial institutions' payment processing services work.

I would like to provide a little background on this file and all of the recommendations and observations of the past few years. Seven years ago, in 2008, several retail associations, including the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Retail Council of Canada and the Small Business Matters Coalition, launched national lobbying campaigns against the exorbitant merchant fees charged by credit card companies.

In July 2013, the Competition Tribunal of Canada said that the conditions imposed by Visa and MasterCard on Canadian businesses were anti-competitive and that the fees they charged were excessive. The tribunal called on the government to intervene in the market to correct these problems. The government has since reacted by simply introducing a voluntary code for credit card companies, a code that does not work. That is why the Small Business Matters Coalition and most of the small retailers we talked to are dissatisfied with the government's measures. The government must act and take measures to impose binding laws that cap the excessive fees charged to retailers.

The fees paid in Canada are among the highest in the world. The average rate is more than 2% in Canada, whereas it is roughly only 1% in Australia and 0.79% in the United Kingdom. Those countries have taken measures to cap credit card transaction fees. It is therefore possible to regulate the abusive practices of banks. It is done in other countries. Unfortunately, the banks and the oil companies have this majority government in their pockets. That is why the government does not want to do anything about this. Political will is needed to deal with this and on this side of the House, we want to regulate the abusive practices of the banks.

Choosing to not regulate credit card transaction fees is regressive. It only helps those who can afford credit cards that give them rich rewards and very high points. A document published in 2009 by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston estimated that, on average, each cash-using household actually pays $149 to card-using households every year. What is more, because of the demographics of credit card users and those who use cash or debit cards, this is in fact a regressive transfer from poor consumers to rich consumers. If we really want to reduce inequality in Canada, then capping credit card transaction fees is one way to do that. When I go door-knocking in my riding, my constituents also ask me to put a limit on credit card interest rates.

Political will is needed to protect consumers from the abusive practices of the banks. The NDP will protect consumers when we form the next government of Canada.

Social Development June 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, funding for meals on wheels is not the only funding that might disappear.

Some $232,00 of the funding that was allocated to the Lower Laurentians under the homelessness initiative and that will not be used could end up back in the public purse, even though these organizations desperately need it. Just look at the work done by Accueil communautaire jeunesse des Basses-Laurentides in Saint-Eustache.

Will the government use that money to help combat homelessness in the Lower Laurentians?