House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

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

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act June 19th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, we decided to support this bill because, obviously, we are not against motherhood and apple pie; however, this bill is clearly insufficient.

Of course, there is talk of tougher sentences and things like that but, when it comes right down to it, we really have to avoid this type of problem. We have to focus on prevention. Seniors who are being mistreated have to be given the tools they need to prevent this mistreatment. Taking action after the fact and making it easier for a person to file a complaint is not going to solve the problem of elder abuse. We must take preventive action by providing the tools. These people should not have to accept such situations.

We need to take this much further. It would be really worthwhile to consider this issue and to work on it. It would be really useful to have something more extensive.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act June 19th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to expand on my idea a little.

Certainly, working here in Parliament, we have the chance to spend time with a lot of people and develop new ideas every day. At the moment, I am doing a lot of work on the status of women, and my speech may have been a little coloured by that. Obviously, I am also doing a lot of work on housing.

In fact, when I see that a segment of the population is affected by violence or abuse, the solution I propose is to adopt a comprehensive strategy. For example, an individual needs health care, adequate housing and three meals a day. A comprehensive strategy that meets all of an individual’s basic needs is how we will ultimately manage to deal with the violence experienced by people in our society who are somewhat more vulnerable.

Earlier, I mentioned housing. Obviously, all Canadians are entitled to safe, accessible, adequate and affordable housing, but in this case, particularly, this could avoid a lot of problems.

Protecting Canada's Seniors Act June 19th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise a second time here today to speak to another bill.

I am speaking today on behalf of all Canadian seniors. Like others before them, they have built our country. They have contributed to society and created an open, warm, modern, caring society that does not leave anyone behind.

My grandparents raised their children, worked hard their whole lives and shared their knowledge and wisdom with their community. Now they are both over 85 years old, and like millions of other Canadian seniors, they still contribute to society through their experience, volunteer work and social and political involvement. They are productive members of society, and the last thing I would ever want is for them to be mistreated or neglected. I shudder at the very thought of my grandparents going through something like that.

Unfortunately, seniors can suffer from more serious physical disabilities, be more emotionally vulnerable and be financially dependent on others more often than younger adults. As a result, through no fault of their own, many Canadian seniors can become the victims of abuse.

Mr. Speaker, pardon me, but I forgot to mention that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou.

According to Statistics Canada and a number of organizations that advocate on behalf of seniors, one in ten seniors has suffered some form of abuse in Canada, which is significant. I are talking about 10% of seniors in Canada. And that number is just the tip of the iceberg since only one in five cases of abuse is reported by the victims.

Worse yet, according to a study by the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, 800 seniors in Quebec died as a result of neglect between 2005 and 2007. I am talking about 800 people. That is a lot of people, but, in my opinion, one person is too many.

That is why the NDP supports Bill C-36, which partially—I repeat, partially—answers the requests we made during the 2011 election campaign.

I want to work with all parties in order to make our country a safe place for our seniors. Unfortunately, the bill before us here does not do enough to properly protect the men and women who built our country. Protecting them also means providing them with income security, affordable housing, access to universal pharmacare, home care and health care, all of which are sadly missing from Bill C-36.

One of the other things that is missing from this bill is gender-based analysis that would take into consideration the fact that older women do not experience violence and neglect the same way older men do.

As chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I tabled the committee's report on the abuse of older women in late May 2012. According to the report, the number of older women is and will continue to be greater than the number of older men. Even if the rate of victimization is the same, the number of abused women will always be greater than the number of abused men. In addition to the fact that their numbers are greater, women live longer and are more likely to have some disability that makes them more vulnerable to injury or abuse.

In fact, two-thirds of calls received by agencies dealing with elder abuse in Canada are from women. There are a number of reasons why women are victimized more often.

First, more than half of the 250,000 seniors living in poverty are women. Elderly women tend to have more limited financial resources. In 2008, the average income of elderly women was $24,100 a year compared to $38,100 for men. The ensuing financial dependence may contribute to financial exploitation and abuse, and also to the reluctance of women to report the abuse. In short, it is a vicious circle.

The absence of a national housing strategy that would enable elderly women to have access to safe, adequate, accessible and affordable housing, often forces these women to remain the objects of violence and prevents them from reporting cases of abuse. Once again, women are caught in between a rock and a hard place.

Elderly women are also victims of the lack of coordination between various levels of government. The current bill is a glaring example of this, unfortunately. Rather than offering a partnership with provincial social services in order to develop programs that encourage elderly women to understand and report situations of victimization, the federal government is doing the bare minimum.

Let us be honest, Bill C-36 makes only a minor change to the Criminal Code. It provides no support and no tools for the organizations, professionals and other stakeholders that assist seniors.

I am currently a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. However, the non-partisan Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care also made several arguments and recommendations in its report. Indeed, the report entitled, “Not to Be Forgotten: Care of Vulnerable Canadians,” dedicates a section to the abuse of seniors.

We obviously support this bill, but it must not pass completely untouched. My colleagues and I are in a position where we are forced to implore the government to not only listen to us and people in need, but also to listen to its own committees.

We concur with the sentiments expressed in the committee's report on palliative care: all sectors of society must band together and make a huge, concerted effort. The federal government must not act alone.

Something must also be done with regard to housing for seniors, and in particular, for elderly women. Elderly women must enjoy autonomy in order to overcome systematic sexual discrimination. The lack of housing strips elderly women of their status and autonomy.

The New Democrats recommend that the federal government work with the provinces and territories to establish a national housing strategy in order to provide all Canadians with safe, adequate, accessible and affordable housing that meets the needs of elderly women, among others, and prevents cases of abuse, violence and mistreatment.

In closing, the government has well and truly taken the first step by incorporating one of the 15 recommendations in the report by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women on the abuse of elderly women, but it is far from sufficient.

To put an end to elder abuse—our elders being full members of our society, I would point out, and deserving of our respect—we have to define that abuse, coordinate the efforts of all levels of government and provide adequate housing for all seniors, particularly women. To do that, we need a national housing strategy, as I said earlier.

The NDP is offering concrete solutions that have also been recommended by two parliamentary committees. Unfortunately, this government has chosen not to put those solutions into practice. Our former leader reminded us not just to oppose, but to propose.

We are proposing solutions to the government. We want to work with it. It is up to it to listen to them and work with us.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 19th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I have to laugh when my colleagues challenge the facts that the NDP brings forward.

When we deliver a speech on an issue, we do our research and we present the facts. My information is not wrong. Maybe my colleague should do some fact-checking. Maybe he is a little behind on his research.

As I said before, I cannot support a bill that does not respect workers' quality of life and tramples their rights. That is all I can say in answer to the question.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 19th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I admit that I rise today in this House with a certain amount of anxiety to state my views concerning Bill C-24, an act to implement the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

Obviously, this legislation is very important for the people of Canada and Panama. If it is enacted, there will be many lasting consequences, and they will not necessarily be positive. Before telling my colleagues what I really think, however, I believe it would be a good idea to give an overview of what is really in this bill.

First, the negotiations between Canada and Panama addressed a number of major changes to trade relations between the two countries. Several points drew my attention. First, it provides that Canada would eliminate all customs duties on non-agricultural products, and the vast majority of duties on agricultural products.

The best estimates available indicate that this means that 99% of customs duties on Panamanian imports would disappear with the stroke of a pen. Over a 15-year period, once the agreement is ratified, other duties would also be gradually eliminated.

The various products that would still be subject to customs duty include dairy products, poultry and eggs, and certain products containing sugar. In return, about 90% of Canadian exports to Panama would be exempt from customs duty. Obviously, that 90% includes numerous agricultural products.

At the end of a 5- to 10-year period, it will be possible to export most agricultural products, in fact virtually all of those products, free of customs duty. Knowing that at present, Panama’s customs duties come to nearly 70% on certain agricultural products, we can understand how significant the consequences of ratifying this agreement will be for both countries.

Apart from agricultural products, there will be a series of equally important changes if the agreement is ratified in this House. Those that cause the most concern obviously include the expansion of free trade in the service sector, such as information technologies, for example, and also increased access to government contracts in both countries. The agreement also addresses other points. For example, it mentions an agreement on the environment, an agreement on labour and provisions dealing with investments.

As we can see, this agreement is very wide-ranging and will have consequences for many different spheres of society. Earlier I mentioned agriculture, the services sector, government procurement, the environment, investment and labour law. It will have major consequences.

For this reason, I believe we should think long and hard about the agreement before deciding whether or not to support it. This is what I and my party have done. We have been watching the negotiations leading to Bill C-24, which we are currently studying. We were also in attendance at the meeting of stakeholders and experts.

Our analysis of these many discussions has had a chilling effect on our support. Above all, we heard a great deal of very convincing evidence that Panama is a tax haven. According to Todd Tucker, research director at Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, Panama is home to an estimated 400,000 corporations, including many offshore corporations and multinational subsidiaries. In comparison, as just one example, this is four times the number of corporations registered in Canada. It is a number that speaks volumes.

According to the OECD, the government of Panama does not have the legal resources to efficiently verify the essential information concerning these corporations, including the information with regard to their capital structure. When we are talking about tax havens, needless to say, it is obvious that caution needs to be exercised.

This is also the reason why my colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, put forward a number of amendments that would help to resolve part of this issue. Unfortunately, the Conservative government, with the support of the Liberals, refused to listen, as it was probably too blinded by its ideology and by its disregard for compromise.

Another aspect that I have serious problems with is the rights of workers. In fact, the agreement we are examining today gives no specific protection to the right of association or the right to strike. A number of stakeholders raised this issue during the consultations. There is cause for concern, especially since the fines prescribed in the event of infractions are virtually non-existent.

We must be very aware of Panama's specific context in order to see how the rights of workers will be impaired by this agreement. Recently, demonstrations and strikes were held in Panama when the government made a full frontal attack on the rights of workers. Some of the government's repressive measures included the authorization to bring in strikebreakers, an end to environmental studies for certain projects and a prohibition on collecting mandatory union dues.

During the demonstrations in Panama, the police used excessive force to suppress protests. Six demonstrators were killed during confrontations with the police and 300 union leaders were detained. This is particularly worrisome if we consider that, with the government we have right now, workers are losing more and more of their rights. I therefore do not see how it will be useful to support a free trade agreement that does not respect workers' rights. Unfortunately, the state of workers' rights in Panama is far from rosy.

We have every reason to be concerned given that the free trade agreement set out in Bill C-24 will likely make the situation worse rather than better.

Once again, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster proposed sound and intelligent amendments to fill this gaping hole in the agreement. These amendments could have protected unionized workers by guaranteeing them the right to bargain collectively. These amendments also would have required Canada's Minister of International Trade to speak with union representatives on a regular basis, which is a healthy thing in a balanced democracy.

It is nothing, for a democratic country like Canada, to make demands when signing a free trade agreement. That seems obvious. But the government simply brushed off my colleague's suggestions, which were realistic and showed a lot of compromise.

For all of the reasons I just listed, my party and I are opposed to Bill C-24. The NDP has always opposed trade models like this one. We saw it with NAFTA. These agreements put the interests of multinational corporations ahead of the interests of workers and the environment, which is unacceptable. They also promote inequalities and erode the quality of life of people and honest workers. It is not surprising that this government is pushing so hard for this agreement. It is rather ironic, though.

The agreement we are studying today is another step in the strategy adopted by Canada and the United States, which focuses on serial bilateralism through the use of trade agreements that are unfair to honest people, as I already mentioned. For a long time, the NDP has been preparing and suggesting a multilateral approach based on a fair, sustainable model that respects the environment and workers.

I urge my House of Commons colleagues to carefully consider the consequences of passing Bill C-24. I do not think we should pass it. This agreement will not help honest workers. The government has been utterly uncompromising and has rejected all of my colleague's fitting amendments.

I will never vote in favour of such an unfair agreement.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act June 14th, 2012

Madam Speaker, in fact, I may have arrived just a little afterwards. That is fine, I withdraw my vote.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act June 11th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

My answer to him is that I also invite him to come visit my riding so that he understands the reality of agricultural workers, the reality of agriculture in my riding. That would be very interesting. Perhaps we should also go to the riding of the hon. member who spoke previously to meet the fishermen who are seasonal workers. It might be an interesting experience to finally expand our horizons a little.

No, I have never visited the oil sands, but I would be more than happy to go if the hon. member invites me.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act June 11th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her very intelligent question.

Indeed, I find it very absurd that the hon. member is not at all concerned about real environmental protection and the conservation of our environment, which is of paramount importance to Canada. Instead, the hon. member is concerned about the interests of large corporations and big oil companies.

That is a real problem, especially since environmental groups are being attacked here, when they have been doing an outstanding job for years with very limited resources. They do a lot with a little. Those groups are being attacked and large corporations are getting a hand up. That is a bit illogical, and it is very disturbing.

I do not have any children yet, but when I di, I intend to leave them a healthy country and planet. That is not what is currently happening with our government. I am particularly concerned about that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act June 11th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I rise again today to speak to Bill C-38, this time at report stage. I made a speech on May 8, 2012, at second reading of this bill. It will be very easy for me to repeat the same points.

I could repeat all of my notes word for word, since this mammoth bill made it through the Standing Committee on Finance in less than a week, and we are now at report stage with the same bill, without amendment.

The government's insistence on pushing through this bill in the face of strong opposition from across the country is, in my opinion, a serious problem. I would like to quickly remind members of some examples of problems that the official opposition has brought up in recent debates on this bill.

Bill C-38 aims to implement budget 2012, but it goes well beyond the budget. It contains not only the measures described in the budget, but also several changes that were not announced previously.

Consider the environment. My colleague opposite was talking about it five minutes ago. At least one-third of Bill C-38 is dedicated to environmental deregulation. It is 2012, and here we have a budget that promotes environmental deregulation. Yes, the government is doing what it said it would in terms of the environment, such as withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol. People did not agree with that, yet the government not only stood its ground, it also added new, previously unannounced measures.

As we all know, Bill C-38 repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, which means that the government is no longer required to report its greenhouse gas emissions. That is a major problem.

Bill C-38 also repeals the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, replacing it with a new assessment regime designed for the approval of major projects, such as oil pipelines, naturally. In my opinion and that of all environmental groups and my colleagues, this measure renders all environmental protection regulations utterly meaningless.

Bill C-38 also targets environmental groups. It changes the rules used to determine the extent to which a charity is involved in political activities.

The bill also gives the Minister of National Revenue the authority to suspend the tax-receipting privileges of a registered charity that devotes too many of its resources to political activities. What is the limit here? What exactly defines the political activities of a charitable organization that might sometimes oppose a government measure? Strangely, this attack directly targets groups that oppose the government's ideas. How interesting. Soon the Conservatives will be attacking freedom of expression.

I can also talk about our seniors who worked their whole lives, who worked hard for many years. They will be forced to work two more years before they can retire. I am sure everyone here knows that my party has been opposed to this measure for quite some time. We continue to oppose it and we will not back down.

Bill C-38 also attacks industry and agriculture. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is one of a number of agencies that will be excluded from the Auditor General's supervision. The bill eliminates all references to the Auditor General in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act. The government is giving itself yet another power.

For instance, the part of the act that was once called “Accounting and Audit” will henceforth be called simply “Accounting”. Talk about transparency.

Mandatory financial and performance audits by the Auditor General have also been eliminated—another excellent example of transparency.

I could go on and on. Bill C-38 also amends the Seeds Act to give the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency the power to issue licences to persons authorizing them to perform activities related to controlling or assuring the quality of seeds or seed crops.

This change opens the door to allowing private entrepreneurs to do food inspection related work. It also sends a troublesome message about the growing use of privatization. In other words, the rich might get access to safe food but the government does not seem to care what everyone else gets. That is the message I am hearing.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal has been highlighting the loopholes in our food safety system for a long time and has warned that Canadians will be eating at their own risk, which is serious.

The NDP has held a series of public consultations across Canada to listen to the comments and concerns of Canadians. On June 2, I personally invited people from my riding to share their concerns and to ask questions. Representatives from Mouvement Action Chômage; the president of the local chapter of the Union des producteurs agricoles, the UPA; and the president of the Conseil québécois de l'horticulture joined the panel of guest speakers.

Mouvement Action Chômage is particularly concerned about the changes to employment insurance. We have been talking about it for several weeks. However, the government does not seem very open. The NDP is worried about seasonal workers who will have to broaden their job searches and work for less, down to 70% of their current salary. SMEs will be affected by these measures and it will be hard for them to provide their employees with enough hours, to retain their employees and to train them properly.

For a riding like mine, these changes will have considerable repercussions on the availability of qualified labour, which is also a problem. As I have said, the SMEs will have to pay the costs.

It is also interesting to point out that the SMEs represent a significant percentage of the jobs in Canada. If we want people to have jobs, it is important to help those who provide them, SMEs for example. But that does not seem to be logical for this government.

In agriculture, the UPA local in Montérégie has complained about the repercussions of the cuts on the region. In eastern Montérégie, of which my riding is part, the growing forward program represents 47% of agricultural income in Quebec. It will not be just my riding that is affected; Quebec will be affected too.

There are also repercussions on research and on the development of new types of agriculture. Canada is a highly agricultural country and my constituency is especially so. Many constituents have asked questions about agriculture. One of them also asked me what would happen with the aboriginal communities in the north. There is nothing in the budget for them. For Attawapiskat, for example, the government has done nothing, and is still not doing anything.

I also remind the House that the budget contained nothing about housing and homelessness. Even though all these measures will plunge more Canadians deeper into poverty, there is nothing to help them.

Canadians are afraid of this bill, a monster bill. People in my riding have realized that the government has very, very loose parliamentary rules. People are not stupid; they know that they still have the power and that public pressure can make a government back down. The government is fully aware that, in less than four years, it will have to be accountable to all Canadians. If the government continues to lose the confidence of the people, they will not give it a second chance.

Employment June 6th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' laissez-faire economic policy is causing more and more collateral damage.

Last Friday, 360 workers at the Camoplast factory in Roxton Falls found out that their jobs will disappear in July 2013. Those jobs are being transferred to Mexico. Nearly one-quarter of the people of Roxton Falls will lose their jobs. This is a tragedy for families and local businesses. The region's economy will be hit hard.

Do the Conservatives have a plan to protect jobs like these, or will they continue to stand idly by and watch the manufacturing sector crumble?