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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was rights.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Independent MP for Montcalm (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 53% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Persons with Disabilities June 8th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, two years ago the government ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We had hoped that the convention would be implemented, but we now realize that the follow-up report on its implementation has still not been made public and is more than two months overdue.

What is the Conservatives' excuse this time? Are they simply dragging their feet?

Canada Pension Plan May 18th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to support Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits), which provides that, on the request of the beneficiary, benefits be paid on a biweekly basis. For me, this is a simple question of being able to live in harmony with the rest of Canadian society, regardless of one's age.

This bill will allow seniors to better manage their budget and will help them make their benefits last throughout the entire month. It is a good idea, especially considering that more and more seniors are facing money problems. We need to give them as many options as possible to keep them from becoming victims of poverty.

We have good reason to worry about the increasing precariousness of seniors in Canada. As we know, they are being forced to turn to charity organizations and food banks more and more in order to meet their most basic needs. I find it appalling that people who have worked hard their entire lives to build our country must now turn to clothing donations, or even worse, to food banks to meet their basic needs in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Social workers are continually condemning this situation, which they see every day on the ground.

The government does not seem to be taking this seriously. It should be leading the fight against seniors' poverty and making it possible for seniors to live in dignity. It is the least we could do for them after they have spent their lives in service to this country. Needless to say, the future of the pension system, as envisioned by the government, is very worrisome.

Some seniors would benefit from having bimonthly payments because they have difficulty managing their meagre financial resources.The end of the month would be more bearable and much less sad for many of them.

However, they only receive very limited benefits. That is why other measures are needed. The benefits provided by the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan absolutely must be doubled. There is no question that increasing the guaranteed income supplement to an adequate level is another pertinent measure. It is fundamental to ending seniors' poverty. Why such hesitation when it is time to make such an important social choice?

The government's response is based on pure and simple ideology. We have seen this a number of times since 2006. The government prefers to scare the public with its usual fearmongering. We are told that the matter is urgent, that continuing in this way will lead us straight into financial disaster, and that old age security will no longer be financially sustainable.

This statement is really misleading because the only issue that is truly urgent is ending seniors' poverty for good. The experts agree that our public pension system is well funded, but the government does not want to listen and is blinded once again by ideology. We know that old age security represents 2.4% of GDP and that it will reach 3.1% of GDP in 2030. In light of these figures, it will not be impossible to manage the baby boomers' retirement. We need only look to the standards set by the OECD to realize that the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan benefits are relatively modest.

To glance at the figures, we see how bad the situation is. Nonetheless, it is mostly on the ground that we see this reality, or at least part of this reality. If anyone is affected by isolation, it is seniors. If anyone is affected by poverty, it is seniors. If anyone is being neglected by this government, it is seniors.

In many cases, seniors have no social or family ties. Accordingly, old age security is a pressing matter. There will only be more and more of these dramatic situations. The conditions are ripe for a continuing upward trend in poverty rates among seniors in the years to come. How this government does not see the social disaster we are headed toward at high speed simply escapes me.

Let us be clear: by making such changes to old age security, the government is directly attacking the less fortunate, the most vulnerable in society. Low-income earners with no pension fund will be the biggest losers when the retirement eligibility age increases from 65 to 67.

There are 12 million Canadians who do not have a pension plan through their work. We know that the government did not ask itself the right questions when it was developing this policy. The most important question would have been this: what is the best way to provide a decent retirement for everyone and not just for those who have the means to contribute to pooled registered pension plans or RRSPs, as the government envisions? It has been shown that less than a third of the people who can contribute to an RRSP actually do.

In that context, increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67 will do nothing but keep many people in poverty for an additional two years. Those people cannot wait for their pension and the guaranteed income supplement, which will allow them to make ends meet every month.

It is important to recall that this is a minimum level of support and that it is a paltry sum compared to programs in other industrialized countries. Knowing that 1.7 million Canadians receive the guaranteed income supplement, the government should be asking itself what it can do to ensure a decent retirement for everyone.

The government does not seem to realize that two-thirds of Canadians do not have a private pension and are counting on assistance from the state to be able to meet their needs after age 65. We also know that those who really need it have problems saving money.

Accordingly, instead of delaying access to our public system by two years, why is the government not coming up with real solutions, on one hand, to put an end to the increasing precariousness facing seniors and, on the other hand, to address the problem that Canadians have when it comes to saving? These problems will not be solved by betting on volatile financial markets through voluntary defined contribution plans managed by the private sector. We already know where that would lead us, and that is not what most Canadians want.

On the contrary, Canadian workers need to have access to risk-free options with guarantees regarding the associated costs. It would be pathetic to make the same mistakes as other countries in this regard. We just have to look at Australia.

This government is making gross injustice the norm. Its goal is to prevent the cost of OAS from rising. Interestingly, it did not apply the same principle as strictly with respect to the F-35s or many other decisions.

Nevertheless, this is a good illustration of the government's priorities. It could not care less about guaranteeing retirement income security for all Canadians. Vulnerable seniors, such as single women, immigrants and people with disabilities, will have to bear this heavy financial burden themselves and make do with the meagre income they receive from the government.

The government has chosen to undermine the country's pension system despite the fact that it has proven its effectiveness over time. The only way to make the system more effective is to improve its fundamentals. Instead of merely subsisting, seniors in need would receive, at the very least, an adequate income. This measure is both necessary and financially viable.

Through its proposed measures and its lack of action during the past six years to ensure that Canadians have a retirement income, the government is jeopardizing the social contract we have given ourselves. Poverty among seniors is not without consequences. Dependency increases as health declines. The risk of malnutrition also goes up. It also has an impact on housing. The choice to age in place, at home, for as long as possible simply evaporates.

Is that what we want for our seniors: more and more uncertainty? What our seniors need are larger, public, guaranteed retirement incomes. They deserve more than the series of half-measures the government is serving up. Seniors deserve to have access to sufficient retirement income to maintain their standard of living and to grow old with dignity.

Montcalm Volunteer Organization May 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend the invaluable contribution made by the Regroupement bénévole de Montcalm to the vitality of my riding.

Since 1985, this organization has played a key role in the social development of the people of Montcalm. This organization promotes volunteerism within the community and is well known for its innovative services and its ability to stir people to action.

The Regroupement bénévole de Montcalm is dedicated to improving the quality of life of the people of our community. It fulfills this noble mission remarkably well and the entire community benefits as a result. The organization successfully meets the many needs of the public, through the development of ambitious programs in many areas of activity, for example.

The Regroupement bénévole de Montcalm has become a voice for social justice, respect, solidarity and the promotion of volunteerism. The way it reaches out to the people of Montcalm is key to its success.

Ethics May 11th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, this is not so-called interference, it is ministerial interference.

A project evaluation system was used to give money to organizations that really deserve it. When the project was refused funding because it did not meet the criteria, the Minister of Foreign Affairs had the nerve to go and see the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development to have the rules changed.

Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs at least apologize to all the organizations that followed the rules and submitted better projects, but were denied funding because they did not have enough Conservative friends?

Ethics May 11th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have one set of rules for their friends and another for the rest of Canadians. They really have no shame.

While hundreds of organizations are following the rules and waiting their turn for funding to make their buildings wheelchair accessible, the Minister of Foreign Affairs did not hesitate to give a free pass to one of his good friends, even though the project does not meet the criteria set by public servants.

Why is there a double standard when it comes to the Conservatives' friends?

Mental Health Week May 10th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, during this National Mental Health Week, I would like to take the opportunity to remind the House of the contribution made by Dr. Camille Laurin to psychiatry in Quebec. He would have been 90 years old this week.

Dr. Laurin was a long-time activist and an outstanding psychiatrist. He was also a teacher with a desire to change the practice of education. He was responsible for major reforms in teaching and the practice of psychiatry in Quebec. By speaking out against the conditions in psychiatric hospitals, he managed to mobilize an entire generation of psychiatrists and change society's perception. This may have created some waves, but major changes were required to address pressing needs in this area.

He believed that patients with mental illnesses should be treated the same as any other patients. Nevertheless, stigmatization still exists and mental health care is still lacking. We need only think of our soldiers or of female inmates.

I invite my colleagues to think about Dr. Laurin's contribution and about the quality of care and of the systems in place in our country.

Housing May 4th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, today, I am truly pleased to support the motion of my colleague from Shefford, and I thank him very much for introducing his bill on affordable housing.

The motion clearly indicates the social and economic aspects of rental housing and articulates a vision for housing in Canada. The motion addresses a matter that is a national emergency, and it is vital that we advocate for rental housing in Canada.

First, I would like to make you aware of a reality that is unfamiliar to many, but one faced by many Canadians every day. Access to affordable rental housing must also be considered from the viewpoint of people with disabilities. Finding rental housing suited to their needs is a difficult task.

Housing is of vital importance for people with disabilities because it gives them the autonomy and independence needed to believe in themselves, knowing that they are valued and accepting their qualities and their limitations. It helps them appreciate and accept themselves for who they are.

Housing also fosters full participation in the community. People with disabilities cannot live wherever they want. Some neighbourhoods simply do not have suitable rental housing. These people find themselves constrained by the fact that they have to find housing close to their place of work, which limits their options and often forces them to pay much higher rent.

I had a great deal of difficulty finding housing that met my needs in close proximity to Parliament, in Gatineau. I needed an entrance that was easily accessible and, above all, a bathroom that could accommodate a wheelchair, not to mention the fact that most buildings do not have elevators.

You will realize, Mr. Speaker, that I quickly abandoned the idea of having an affordable place to live just a few minutes from Parliament. I can assure you that I quickly realized that there are very few areas that have truly accessible housing that is affordable, and where people with functional limitations can live.

A person living with functional limitations must basically, out of necessity, have criteria not just for the layout and accessibility of the building but also for their safety. I am not talking about one or two criteria, but of many criteria.

I would like to mention a few of them.

To begin with, parking lots must be accessible and well lit. Imagine getting out of a car into a wheelchair and standing on ice in an unlit area: it is dreadful.

Moreover, very few landlords want to widen access at entries and doors. And too often, it is impossible to move around in the common areas. I am not asking for access to balconies because that would be a real luxury for disabled people.

Building access ramps should also be a prerequisite in many cases. Improving the flooring by removing carpets and installing simple linoleum costs money and few landlords are prepared to pay the price—imagine what a carpet is like when you come inside with snow-covered wheels; it is awful.

Adaptive bathrooms that make it easy to move about and access the shower and bath are also very rare. Sometimes, it turns into an acrobatic feat for people using wheelchairs.

Finally, to guarantee real autonomy, there must be access to switches and taps and to windows so that they can be opened in the summer.

That is a list of features required to adapt housing to the special needs of a person living with a functional limitation.

It is clear when adaptive housing is adequate, because the abilities of the disabled person are matched to the characteristics of the housing to ensure full autonomy.

Unfortunately, this kind of match is all too rare, and I have experienced this myself on many occasions.

The list is long and the obstacles to carrying out work on an apartment block are also numerous. You can imagine therefore just how rare it is for rental housing to meet all these criteria because each individual has specific needs, and expecting this kind of housing to be affordable is almost inconceivable.

I hope that this brief overview of what it is like for people living with a functional limitation to reside in rental housing has demonstrated just how vulnerable Canadian households can be in these situations.

Yet, housing is a human right. And this government's negligence is not without consequences for the welfare of Canadians, especially since Canada has a legal obligation in this regard, whether the government likes it or not.

Canada is a signatory to the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which recognizes the right to adequate housing. It is very unfortunate that the government does not approach the issue of housing and poverty from a rights perspective.

Genuine equality of access to rental housing has to be promoted. To achieve that, there has to be a better balance between the supply of housing and the demand, and location must also into account. We are looking at an extremely disturbing situation, where one-third of Canadians are renters but rental housing accounts for only 10% of total housing construction. This is unprecedented in Canada, in fact, because the number of rental units declined between 2001 and 2006.

Rental housing construction carries benefits for many segments of the population. And yet Canadian households are facing high rents because of tight supply, which makes finding affordable housing increasingly difficult for many households. This is an issue that affects households across the country, regardless of the region where they live or whether they are in big cities or small towns.

This is a financial choice made by young families, newcomers, the aging population and young people. We have to make sure that we continue to offer them this choice, because they are entitled to make it. Homelessness should not be one of their choices, but it is unfortunately widespread in spite of everything. As well, organizations working to combat homelessness are not receiving the support they need from the government, and this is undermining the effectiveness of their work. That is the situation for the Réseau d'aide pour les personnes seules et itinérantes de Montréal, for example, which was recently denied support from the federal government to fund a project that would cost barely $80,000 over two years. That is nowhere near the $16 that a glass of orange juice costs, in any event.

This is happening at the same time as homelessness is on the rise in Quebec. The government has to shoulder its responsibility for helping individuals and families. Support for renter households is also particularly crucial in economic terms. Renter households have lower than average incomes and must have access to affordable housing. When households spend less on rent, they are able to buy more consumer goods—necessary goods like clothing, food and electricity.

An adequate supply of affordable rental housing also facilitates labour force mobility. This is an important economic stimulus. It is therefore essential that we have available a larger supply of affordable, better-quality housing in Canada, to give full effect to the right to housing.

Supply is simply not meeting demand, particularly when we consider the predictions made regarding demand in the next decade. It is estimated that there will be about 50,000 new renter households per year over the coming decade. If nothing is done, we will have to anticipate the worst. Homelessness is a threat that too many people in this country unfortunately live under. The government has a role to play when it comes to encouraging rental housing across Canada.

It must work with the municipalities to do that. It must also recognize that housing is an economic incentive. Our economic growth depends on expanding the rental housing market and also on more jobs in the construction industry. Cutting jobs in that industry is extremely harmful to our economy.

Because of the shortage of rental housing units, the government should take a leadership role and work alongside stakeholders in the rental housing community, including the municipalities. The government needs to understand just how bad the problems of housing and poverty are in this country. The government has an obligation to implement the policies necessary to promote affordable rental housing.

I therefore urge the government to recognize the need to increase the supply of rental housing units in Canada while maintaining the current housing units. The government must take steps to ensure that the right to housing is fully respected in Canada. I thank my colleague from Shefford along with all my colleagues who are going to support this motion.

Pensions May 4th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I agree that their answers are just a sham.

There are relatively few people with disabilities on the job market, and even fewer of them are physically able to work until they turn 65. Raising the retirement age to 67 for no real economic reason will penalize the most vulnerable members of our society. As the experts tell us, the system is sustainable.

Did the government really give much thought to how later retirement will affect people with disabilities?

Horeb Saint-Jacques April 5th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to draw the attention of the House to the social and community-minded services that Horeb Saint-Jacques provides to the people of Montcalm and the Lanaudière region in general.

Horeb Saint-Jacques owes its exceptional influence to its many commitments within the community, as demonstrated by its wealth of programming focused on personal healing, personal growth and all forms of spirituality.

Its activities benefit people of all ages, including couples and families, rich and poor. Horeb Saint-Jacques is a welcoming place where anyone in need can meet others, find accommodation and get some support.

I invite all of my colleagues in the House to go and visit Horeb Saint-Jacques. It is a restful and very peaceful place where human beings come first, without any prejudices.

Persons with Disabilities March 16th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, people with disabilities who did not vote the right way are victims of discrimination. Information from the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development shows that nearly 85% of the $67 million from the enabling accessibility fund was used for projects in Conservative ridings.

How does the minister plan on remedying this disgusting imbalance and ensuring that all Canadians with disabilities are treated fairly?