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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was budget.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 52% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Housing October 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the International Monetary Fund warned Canada that the country's household debt has reached a critical level. Households are facing higher house prices and record debt levels, where residential mortgages represent 68% of household debt, and rent is higher than ever.

The Minister of Finance himself said that the global economy is fragile and that global economic turbulence has had and will continue to have a negative impact on Canada.

The government and the IMF recognize the potential problems, so when will the Conservatives act to prevent this potential crisis? We are offering them the solution on a silver platter. It is time to implement a national housing strategy. We are the only G8 country that does not have one. With a long-term strategy, we could coordinate our efforts to avoid a crisis and prevent debt from getting out of control.

The time has come for the Conservative government to listen to Canadians and support Bill C-400.

Housing October 3rd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, in exactly two weeks, we will have the first hour of debate on my Bill C-400 for a national housing strategy.

This bill does not specifically deal with gender equality. However, all of the reports point out that women are the hardest hit by the housing crisis affecting all of Canada, mainly because more women than men are renters—50% compared to 32%—but also because they are poorer. The average income of male tenants is $33,300 per year compared to $25,800 for women. In Ottawa, the median rent is more than $940 per month. With an income of $25,000 per year, there is not much left over for other basic needs. Moreover, many women are victims of discrimination because their jobs are more precarious or they are single parents. They are turned down or forced to pay rent that is much too high.

Therefore, I invite all my colleagues to vote in favour of Bill C-400 in order to improve the lot of women in Canada.

Helping Families in Need Act September 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today to speak to this bill. Before I begin, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time.

My parents know what it is like to have a sick child at home. It was very difficult for my family at the time, and not only in terms of finances. It is especially worthwhile that the bill provides something for parents in this situation.

We in the NDP support Bill C-44 to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Employment Insurance Act, the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Regulations. These new measures will allow workers to take leave and receive employment insurance benefits if their child were to become critically ill or die, or disappear as the probable result of a crime.

Bill C-44 makes a number of amendments to the Canada Labour Code in order to increase the amount of leave parents can take, which I think is a very good thing. We do not always disagree with the members opposite. The bill allows parents to extend their maternity and parental leave by the number of weeks that their child was hospitalized, and to extend their parental leave by the number of sick days taken during the parental leave, and the same goes for time spent serving in the Canadian Forces reserve.

It grants unpaid leave of up to 37 weeks for parents of gravely ill children. It also grants 104 weeks of unpaid leave to parents of children who are killed as a result of a crime and 52 weeks of unpaid leave to parents of children who disappear as a result of a crime. It also extends the period of unpaid leave that can be taken as a result of illness or injury without the fear of being laid off after 17 weeks, which is also worthwhile.

I must point out that the Canadian Caregiver Coalition congratulated the federal government on the new, extraordinary employment insurance benefit that it proposed for parents who take a leave of absence to care for a child who is critically ill or injured. We are talking here about parents but, in all cases, caregivers are the invisible backbone of our health care system. We must not ignore that fact, and we must help these people. They take on various key roles in caring for children, parents or other family members who need assistance as a result of an injury, a long-term illness or a disability. The coalition estimates that approximately 5 million Canadians provide unpaid care to their loved ones, many of whom are their children or other family members.

We support this initiative, which is designed to help families of murdered or missing children so that they do not have to worry about money. When parents have a sick child at home, they do not need the added burden of worrying about how they will make ends meet, how they will pay for food, their rent and their child's medication, which is extremely expensive. This is a worthwhile measure for parents and for sick children who need their parents.

I would like to speak a little bit about my own experience. I had a little sister who was sick when I was young. My mother was able to stay with her, but how many times have I seen parents who are heartbroken at having to leave their child alone at the hospital because they have to go to work? It is an indescribable feeling. I am not a mother; I can only imagine what I would be like.

We support this initiative to extend parental leave and to provide financial benefits to parents of sick children, whose priority is to be full-time parents.

We also support the new right to combine special employment insurance benefits. Thus, a parent who becomes ill or is injured while on parental leave will not have to give up time with their child. Parents with sick children often suffer from burnout.

Support for this bill has nothing to do with ideology or partisan politics. It is a matter of helping the families who need help, both parents and children, since we know that when we help parents, we automatically help their children.

However, I find it deplorable that these measures do not address the more challenging issues with employment insurance, such as Canadians' lack of access to employment insurance benefits. We have been working on this for a long time. We want a comprehensive reform of the employment insurance system.

These are worthwhile measures, but we could do even more. We want employment insurance to be accessible to and effective for all Canadians.

As for the provisions that will enable parents to apply for sickness benefits while receiving parental benefits, the minister estimated that this could help about 6,000 Canadians a year. Although I think this is a good measure—I have said that from the beginning—about 870,000 unemployed Canadians are unable to receive regular employment insurance benefits. Moreover, this bill does not address some important issues, such as the fact that about 500,000 Canadians received regular employment insurance benefits in July 2012, while there were over one million unemployed Canadians that same month. This means that more than 800,000 unemployed Canadians were not entitled to employment insurance. In fact, fewer than 4 out of 10 unemployed workers receive employment insurance, which is the lowest rate ever.

For example, in Saint-Hyacinthe, in my riding, the current unemployment rate is 6.7%, and in Acton Vale, also in my riding, the rate is 7.9%.

In the past year, there has been no real change in Saint-Hyacinthe's unemployment rate . On the same day last year, the unemployment rate was practically the same. This year in the winter period, when there is usually an increase in the unemployment rate due to seasonal workers, there was an unusual spike in the unemployment rate. The same phenomenon was also noted in the Acton Vale region. These are rather eloquent examples of the problems related to employment insurance.

It seems that unemployment rates are not declining, which means that more and more people must resort to employment insurance. In its current form, the employment insurance program is not accessible or effective.

The measures in Bill C-44 are good and might be effective, but I do not believe that they benefit enough people. In fact, parents could find themselves in this situation and not be entitled to employment insurance.

It goes without saying that we support these measures because we believe that they could help alleviate the suffering of some parents in need. Unfortunately, these measures will not help enough people.

In conclusion, we will support these measures, but there must be adequate funding for them. We need to completely reform employment insurance and include such measures.

Petitions September 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present a petition from people across Quebec who are strongly opposed to Motion M-312, which reopens the abortion debate

At the same time, I would like to mention women's centres. There are many in my riding that fight for women's rights year after year.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act September 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am not in the shoes of an offender, but I think that someone who commits mischief is not even thinking about the likelihood of being fined in the future. I do not think that a $100 fine is going to dissuade anyone from committing any type of crime.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act September 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, that is a very interesting question. If this bill helps victims, then that is a good thing. However, in my opinion, this is not the ultimate solution. This bill might create a small budgetary surplus for some victims organizations, but I do not think that anything special can be done for victims with $100.

In my opinion, the government is using victims to seek revenge on offenders and criminals. Yet, in the end, victims do not have much to gain.

I cannot emphasize this enough: we need to fight poverty; we need to focus on prevention; we need to provide housing for the homeless; we need to make sure that people have enough to eat. I believe that these types of solutions are the ones that will really help to combat crime.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act September 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to answer this question, because I really do not appreciate it when people try to put words in my mouth.

No, I do not believe that criminals have absolutely no accountability to victims. That is not at all what I said. I simply said that perhaps there are other solutions to consider before imposing a surcharge on offenders and taking away judges' discretionary powers. That is what I said. I want to make this clear to the member.

I simply cannot agree with a philosophy that tends to adversely affect offenders' families, as the gentleman mentioned, or with a philosophy that makes someone else pay for their parents', their brother's or sister's mistakes. This only makes victims out of the family members of people who commit crimes or break the law. They are the ones who end up paying, not the criminals themselves.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act September 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill, which we support at second reading. Obviously, we cannot be against virtue or against the victims, even though the members opposite claim that we are. We care about communities, Canadians and victims. We also care about the families of victims, and the families of criminals, which are sometimes blameless.

We will support this bill at second reading so that it can be studied in committee and because we still have questions about it. Some changes are required in order for it to be acceptable.

I will provide some context. First, Bill C-37 would amend provisions of the Criminal Code and double the amount of the surcharge. The surcharge would total 30% of any fine that is imposed on the offender, or $100 if no fine is imposed. The fine would be $100 for offences punishable by summary conviction and $200 for offences punishable by indictment.

Is that really a solution for the victims? I am not absolutely sure about that. Instead of taxing people even more, other things could be done. In addition, this bill eliminates the court's ability to waive the surcharge if the offender proves that it would create hardship for himself or his family. It is worrisome because the power of judges is being eroded. Judges are there to judge; what more can I say.

Rulings will always be given on a case-by-case basis, and that is why we have judges. As my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie stated, judges are the elite of our lawyers. They are brilliant and capable of making appropriate rulings, and we can trust them. If all their powers are taken away, as the government seems to enjoy doing, then it is difficult for them to do good work in specific situations. I am especially worried about this. We are taking away judges' powers and we are not proceeding on a case-by-case basis.

I would like to list a few stakeholders that share our position. The Elizabeth Fry Societies are concerned about the impact of additional fines on the disadvantaged aboriginals who do not have the means to pay. Once again, it will be the criminal's family that will become a victim. I side with society and do not think that we want to make the children, brothers and sisters, and parents of the criminals pay. This is no way to do things. It is something that can happen, but it is not what we want. The government should not aggravate things.

The John Howard Society does not necessarily have a problem with the fines, but it is afraid that, under this system, the fines will sometimes be disproportionate to the crimes. We are dealing here with a wide range of crimes. It would be worthwhile to move ahead more gradually.

The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime has long fought for better funding of services for victims of crime. Is this how we are going to do it? I am not convinced.

I have a few interesting statistics. In 2003, crime cost about $70 billion. That is a big number. Victims took about $47 billion of that, or 70%.

That is another major problem. A 2004 study estimated the pain and suffering of victims at $36 billion—another major problem.

A significant number of eligible victims do not claim compensation, often because they do not even know that they are entitled to it. We are talking about costs and amounts, but victims are not necessarily well compensated. Is it really by going after small amounts here and there that we will be able to adequately compensate those individuals?

I have a hard time putting myself in the shoes of a victim, because I have never been a victim of crime or anything else. I am really lucky, knock on wood. I hope that this does not happen to me or my family. I do not think that an amount of money would fix things. It is more about getting help. Money can sometimes help in seeking assistance, but it would be better if we came up with a more helpful measure for victims.

I have a few quick questions for the government. Perhaps I might get an answer. Bill C-37 overlaps with another private member's bill, Bill C-350, which also seeks to increase offenders' accountability. How will those bills overlap? Will they complement each other? I do not know. I am just wondering.

With the removal of the discretionary power of judges to waive the surcharge, does this measure not become excessively punitive in some cases? I am referring to low-income offenders or people with mental health problems. We know those people exist. I am not saying this to minimize the suffering of victims, but we have to think about offenders with mental health problems.

I am wondering once again how we will ensure that the money really goes to victims' groups that really need it. I also feel that the government should consult with organizations working with victims on the ground. I think that would be very useful. In my riding, for instance, we have the sexual assault centre CAVAS that does an outstanding job with little money. The hon. members opposite must surely have similar organizations in their ridings. It might be worthwhile to go talk to those groups that work on the ground in our communities to see how we can fix all this.

In conclusion, I would like to come back to what my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie was saying earlier. When we talk about crime, we need to think about prevention, first and foremost, which comes before punishment. Education and fighting poverty are also important. Wealthier societies have less crime. Wealth does not solve all problems, but it can help considerably. I would be remiss if I did not mention affordable housing, since that is an important issue for me. When people have suitable housing and can eat three meals a day, that helps reduce crime rates significantly. So why not make that our first priority?

Petitions September 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, today I am honoured to present a petition calling for a national public transit strategy.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate my colleague from Trinity—Spadina, who introduced a bill about this.

Aboriginal Housing June 21st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Human Rights Commission reported earlier this week that aboriginal and first nations groups have lodged many complaints against the federal government since 2008.

Not surprisingly, some complaints were about the condition of housing on reserves. We all remember the images of the dilapidated houses in Attawapiskat.

The situation must be serious if these groups have to go before the Canadian Human Rights Commission to ensure respect for their right to housing.

Even today, members of the community continue to live in shacks where living conditions are unbearable.

The NDP has proposed real solutions to ensure safe, appropriate, accessible and affordable housing for all Canadians, but the government is still refusing to work with the provinces, territories, municipal representatives and aboriginal communities to establish a national housing strategy.

When will the government take action?