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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

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act January 31st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, it is very easy to understand. Canada's pooled registered pension plan is simply one of many retirement products, including RRSPs, group RRSPs, pension plans and TFSAs, which may be good options for those who are already able to contribute. The new plan, therefore, is a good option for those who already have money to invest in RRSPs. However, the NDP will not support this savings plan because the Conservatives want to offer this system instead of taking concrete measures to protect existing pensions and enhance the retirement security of those who do not have a workplace pension plan.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act January 31st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Newton—North Delta.

Today, we are talking about a bill that provides a legal framework for the establishment and administration of pooled registered pension plans that will be accessible to employees and self-employed persons and that will pool the funds in members’ accounts to achieve lower costs in relation to investment management and plan administration.

In short, we are talking about a new savings tool and not a plan that would secure retirement pensions. In fact, rather than addressing pension security, the government is proposing a new savings tool that will depend on the state of the stock market. This is another way the Conservatives have found to gamble with our retirement funds. The government recognized that there is a pensions crisis when it adopted the NDP opposition's motion. Members will no doubt recall that the motion outlined the need for a national pension insurance plan to protect workers' deferred wages or pension plans in the event of employer bankruptcy. At the same time, we initiated a discussion regarding the gradual increase of Canada pension plan contributions in order to increase benefits. Yet, although the government recognized that there is a problem, it is turning its back on seniors who are simply seeking to secure their futures.

Let us talk a little about what these pooled registered pension plans would do.

The measures proposed in Bill C-25 do not even guarantee a pension. This is more of a savings vehicle than a stable, reliable pension plan. While this savings plan would pool funds from participants to reduce the costs associated with managing the plan and investments, this bill does not cap the fees charged by the fund managers. Experiences in other countries show that these costs often chip away at pension savings to the point that the rate of growth in savings does not even match inflation. This bill is supposed to help self-employed workers and employees of small and medium-sized businesses, which often do not have the means to offer a private sector pension plan. A similar system was set up in Australia 12 years ago and has not yet proven worthwhile. Because of high fees and costs, returns on investment have not been much higher than inflation.

There is another big problem with pooled registered pension plans: they do not seem to offer anything new. They look just like a regular RRSP. This option would be just another defined contribution pension plan. Employees would deposit a portion of their salary in the retirement fund, and that money would be invested in stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Well-intentioned companies that care about their employees' well-being can match contributions, but they are not required to do so. However, considering the current climate in the business world, I think that companies will try to cut costs wherever they can.

Even more worrisome, this defined contribution plan in no way guarantees the amount of money that would be available upon retirement. The money employees set aside while working hard their entire lives would not be protected from the risks associated with fluctuating markets. As is the case with registered retirement savings plans, the individual or employee in question would completely and exclusively assume all market risks. Regulated financial institutions like banks, insurance companies and trust companies would manage the PRPPs for a fee. Canadians also need to consider the fact that PRPP benefits would not be indexed to inflation, unlike Canada pension plan benefits. The provinces and territories would determine whether the employers or employees of businesses of a certain size will be required to contribute to a PRPP.

Pooled registered pension plans, as they are defined in Bill C-25, do not provide any retirement security because they encourage families to invest even more of their retirement savings in a declining stock market. When the stock market is rising, savings increase of course, but conversely, savings take a nosedive when the market declines.

Anyone whose RRSPs took a hit last year knows very well how risky it is to invest one's savings in any products linked to the stock market.

By encouraging families to invest in the same system that is already failing them, the Conservatives are showing just how out of touch they are with the reality facing Canadians and Quebeckers.

Over the pas three years, the NDP has suggested a number of proposals to ensure retirement income security. As we have indicated, the NDP first proposed increasing Canada pension plan benefits for a given period. Benefits would increase to $1,920 a month. Of all the possible solutions for pension reform, increasing Canada pension plan benefits is quite simply the most effective and affordable solution.

The NDP believes that retirement income security for seniors cannot be built on just one plan or one option. We believe that pensions need to be discussed in a more general way. We think that Canadians want us to examine all pensions as a whole. Our goal is not to reduce them, but rather to ensure their continued existence in order to protect our seniors for many years to come.

Our plans for retirement security were laid out in our election platform. The New Democrats were clear in last May's election campaign: we want a substantial increase in the guaranteed income supplement to help seniors who qualify for these benefits escape poverty. This measure targets 250,000 Canadians, most of them women.

As for the Conservatives, there was no indication in their election platform that, once elected, they would change the eligibility criteria for old age security and raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67. However, that has been the talk recently.

In recent weeks, in my riding of Montcalm, I have spoken to people who are worried about their future and their retirement. Someone wrote to me this week and told me that he had worked until he was 69 and was forced to get food aid at the age of 70. I find this unacceptable.

A couple from Saint-Roch-de-l'Achigan told me that the population is aging and no one deserves to lose their life savings, especially after working hard all their life.

Michel Janyk, from Mascouche, is also worried about Bill C-25. He believes that we should guarantee and protect our retirement funds.

My constituents are not the only ones who are worried. Jason Heath, a certified financial planner at E.E.S. Financial Services Ltd., has said that pooled registered pension plans are, generally speaking, no different from RRSPs. Contributions are tax deductible and allow tax-deferred growth. Taxes are paid after retirement and the contributions are often invested in mutual funds. According to a 2006 report entitled “Mutual Funds Fees Around the World”, mutual fund fees are higher in Canada than anywhere else. It is not surprising that investment and insurance companies are applauding the arrival of pooled registered pension plans.

You can see how Bill C-25 to establish pooled registered pension plans does nothing to make the pensions of thousands of Canadians more secure.

The Conservatives' pooled registered pension plan does nothing to help the families who are being crushed under debt, and it is bound to fail since it is a voluntary plan—I repeat, “voluntary”—a defined contribution plan administered by wealthy financial institutions that sometimes invest in collapsing markets.

This uncertainty and volatility leave families with no guarantee that their savings will still be there when it comes time to retire.

At a time when the economy is so precarious, families do not need additional risks. They need the stability of the CPP or the Quebec pension plan. Economists and provincial leaders have been saying that for years, but this government, disconnected as it is from reality, is once again turning its back on families.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns January 30th, 2012

With regard to the Community Inclusion Initiative (CII): (a) will the program be renewed after March 2012; (b) will funding remain the same as in previous years, namely $3 million per year shared among each province and territory; (c) are any changes to the program being considered and, if so, what are they; (d) when will the agencies concerned, namely the Canadian Association for Community Living and People First of Canada, receive an answer regarding the funding available for their projects; (e) how long will the funding period be after March 2012; (f) how many projects have been funded through this program each year, since the start of the program; (g) for each CII-funded project since the start of the program, (i) how much money did it receive, (ii) how many individuals were directly affected, (iii) in which cities did it take place; and (h) what changes have been made to the program since the July 2007 formative evaluation?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns January 30th, 2012

With respect to the Enabling Accessibility Fund: (a) how many applications were successful and received funding under this program, and how many applications were rejected through calls for proposals, since the start of the program; (b) with respect to successful applications, what was the location and value of each project, broken down by province and federal electoral district, through calls for proposals since the start of the program; (c) what is the total cost of administering the program thus far for each year since the start of the program; (d) how much funding is left; (e) how many major projects under this program will go to or went to expanding existing centres; (f) what is the value of the successful major projects applications that went to (i) the construction of new centres, (ii) the expanding of existing centres; (g) how many of the successful Mid-Sized Projects Enabling Accessibility Fund applications went to (i) renovating buildings, (ii) modifying vehicles, (iii) making information and communications more accessible; (h) what is the value of the successful Small Projects Enabling Accessibility Fund applications that went to (i) renovating buildings, (ii) modifying vehicles, (iii) making information and communications more accessible; (i) what is the reason most often given for rejecting an application; (j) what are the reasons given for rejecting an application and what is the frequency of each reason; (k) will the program be renewed next year; and (l) when will the next call for proposals be issued?

Persons with Disabilities December 5th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Saturday was the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. One Canadian in seven lives with a functional limitation. However, instead of presenting a real action plan to help these people integrate into the job market, the government has simply stopped tracking them. This is a dishonest practice that does not help the situation.

Instead of doing more for people with disabilities, why is this government refusing to adopt a tangible action plan?

Democratic Representation Act December 2nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, today is the fourth time I have spoken in the House. This time, it is to support the bill introduced by my colleague, the member for Compton—Stanstead. I thank him for having introduced such a fair and clear bill. The aim of Bill C-312 is to give each province equal representation. The bill takes into account not only representation by population, but also geographic representation and the notion of communities of interest. Demographics, geography and communities of interest are all factored in.

The Supreme Court recognizes the principle of communities of interest. Democratic representation is more than a matter of numbers. Factors such as geography, community history, community interests and minority representation should be taken into account. This is particularly important in Quebec. Bill C-312 respects the diversity of our nation and recognizes the Quebec people as a nation. Moreover, this House unanimously adopted a motion in November 2006 that Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada.

At that time, Quebec held 24.35 % of the seats in the House. I think that we can all agree on the importance of this proportion and accept that it must remain unchanged in order to maintain Quebec's status. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the point of view of some Conservatives. The Conservatives voted for, and agreed to, the proposition that Quebeckers form a nation five years ago. Since then, we have seen no concrete action on the part of the Conservatives to protect the principles of that motion. We now see what scant importance they attribute to these principles.

Now that they have a chance to protect the Quebec nation and to ensure that the status of Quebec will be protected forever by the principles of the 2006 motion, they are turning their backs on Quebeckers. The NDP is showing leadership, not only by respecting the motion, but also by putting its weight behind the recognition of the Quebec people as a nation.

I want to stress that this seat redistribution bill does not affect just Quebec. In fact, first and foremost, this bill aims to recognize demographic growth in a number of provinces including Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia. These provinces are growing rapidly and this House must respond to demographic change. Moreover, the government has been dragging its heels for several years. It avoided introducing legislation on this issue in the previous Parliament. If only that time had been used to create a bill that would balance the interests of all and make the distribution of seats fairer, then we would have been in agreement. Alas, no. The government has introduced a bill that ignores the unique status of Quebec.

Fortunately, the opposition has done its homework and is introducing a fair and clear bill that reflects everyone's interests. Our proposal for seat redistribution is much better because it considers the interests of growing populations, in addition to maintaining and protecting Quebec's unique status.

The approach proposed by the Conservatives would pits regions against one another, as was the case with the gun registry. This government's modus operandi is to favour one region at the expense of another without considering the rest of Canada. This tactic divides Canadians. The bill presented by my colleague from Compton—Stanstead is quite the opposite. It will move Canada forward and make our country stronger and more united. I thank him for it.

Canada must respond to these significant demographic changes. My colleague, the member for Brampton West, knows this better than anyone because he represents more than 170,000 people. The riding covers 109 square kilometres. It must be a real challenge to represent so many people and I congratulate him for his efforts to date.

Our bill would allow the people of Brampton West to be better represented, but not at the expense of the other provinces. First and foremost, Bill C-312 is based on the principle of fairness. It does not favour one province at the expense of others. The legislation would be fair and balanced and would not put any region at a disadvantage. Once again, the NDP is exercising leadership by proposing a sensible solution that takes into account the interests of Canada as a whole.

According to the 2006 census, there were 123,000 people in my riding of Montcalm. I know that this number has increased because the riding is always growing.

I would like to speak a little bit about the riding of Montcalm, which is located in the Lanaudière region, northeast of the greater Montreal area.

It is important to understand that there are two distinct parts of the riding. First, there is the regional county municipality of Montcalm, which has a population of close to 45,000 people. Agriculture is the main activity with over 60% of the area protected by the Quebec Act respecting the preservation of agricultural land. The future of agriculture and food sovereignty are therefore priorities that cannot be ignored. I know some farmers personally, such as Mr. Anctil, who owns a dairy farm, Mr. Tousignant, who has been a grain farmer for many years, and Mr. Levasseur who is a market gardener. We must ensure that these farmers can live off the products of their farms, but we must also implement a Canadian food strategy.

Second, in Mascouche and Terrebonne, there are areas that are urban, semi-rural or agricultural. One of the major issues is the proposed Train de l’Est, which will address the lack of permanent public transit infrastructure serving the area east of Montreal and the northeastern part of the metropolitan area. This is a major project that will include the construction of 11 new stations, various highway and railway bridges, tunnels, footbridges, and several kilometres of train tracks.

The one thing I want to point out is that there are two distinct realities in the riding of Montcalm, each with very different issues.

Now, back to the national level. I cannot imagine what the members from British Columbia and Ontario must do to ensure that their constituents are well represented. They deserve to be represented fairly and properly since everyone has the right to fair representation in the House of Commons.

The member for Compton—Stanstead understands. Now is not the time to be confrontational. Democratic representation is much too important for us to work against each other. We must be united and consider the interests of all regions of Canada. The NDP recognizes that we must allocate more seats because of demographic changes across Canada. We want to move forward to ensure that every citizen is represented in the House. That way, someone in British Columbia will be just as well represented as someone in Quebec, for example. This is important and I hope that the government will take the NDP's clear, fair and balanced plan seriously.

Our plan is not based on the notion of winners and losers. Everyone wins with Bill C-312.

Persons with Disabilities December 2nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Canada ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities two years ago, but there is still no independent mechanism in place to ensure that it is complied with, even though that was a requirement under the convention. This Saturday is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Unfortunately, it will be another opportunity to underscore this government's inaction and empty promises.

Why this refusal to establish independent oversight of the implementation of the UN convention?

International Day of Persons with Disabilities December 2nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and we have much to celebrate. Canada is a more accessible, more inclusive and fairer country than ever before; however, there is still a lot of work to be done. Women with disabilities often have a low level of education and live in low-income households.

Even more worrisome, 40% of women with disabilities have been the victims of violence. As we mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I invite all the members of the House of Commons to recognize the violence committed against people with disabilities and to support groups such as the Disabled Women's Network and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities in order to combat exclusion and poverty among people with disabilities and keep them safe from violence.

Safe Streets and Communities Act December 2nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on all the good, sound arguments she made regarding this bill.

I wonder if she could tell us why such an important bill is not being given the time needed—an acceptable amount of time—in order to debate it more thoroughly.

Persons with Disabilities November 23rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, according to the Campaign 2000 report released this morning, Canada has failed to fulfill its obligations towards underprivileged children and families. Children with disabilities are particularly affected. One parent in four cannot work because of having to care for a child.

When will this government decide to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which recognizes the right to a decent standard of living for everyone?