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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

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their warm welcome.

I think it goes without saying that I have no intention of supporting this shoddy budget, not only because of its content, which I will talk about later, but also because of the fact that the government frequently resorts to an undemocratic process.

Omnibus bills have almost become a tradition in the House. This one is 360 pages long and has 500 clauses. It amends more than 60 acts, and the official opposition is not allowed to divide the bill to study it properly in committee. Furthermore, as usual, we do not have enough time to properly study the bill and propose amendments to improve it. There is no way to properly study this budget, which I find particularly disgraceful.

I am sick of the government introducing such measures and playing games with our laws without consulting the public. I think it is disgraceful and undemocratic. I am not the only one who feels this way, since my colleagues are in the same situation as I am. We need a change, and it will come soon, since 2015 is not far off.

I also find it particularly disgraceful that there is absolutely nothing in this budget to help the 300,000 additional Canadians who have become unemployed since the recession. The government has not come up with anything to help these people or deal with the loss of 400,000 manufacturing jobs during this government's reign.

There are many measures I disagree with in this bill. However, since I do not have unlimited time to talk about them, I chose to concentrate on the measures that affect my riding and my constituents.

We have been hearing a lot about rail safety for almost a year now, since the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic. This tragedy affected many people, and my constituents are particularly worried. There are many railways, and dangerous goods are transported in close proximity to homes in many of the 25 municipalities in my riding.

When I was reading the budget, I was very disappointed to learn that decisions about the standards related to the transportation of dangerous goods will now be kept secret. Canadians will no longer be informed of those decisions. I do not understand. It would be nice to have some sort of explanation about that. These decisions need to be transparent. The government should be consulting Canadians, the official opposition and experts. That would be helpful.

As for the temporary foreign workers program, it has many flaws. The minister tried to fix them, which is great. However, penalties are not being imposed on employers who break the rules. Can we really believe the Conservatives when they say that they will enforce the rules? I have my doubts.

I would like to be wrong though, because the temporary foreign workers program is very useful and helps many employers. However, we have to prevent abuses, and we first have to make sure that people here have work.

I am somewhat skeptical about that, so I am looking forward to seeing what will happen.

I would also like to talk about the Champlain Bridge. It is not in my riding, but many people from my riding, Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, work in Montreal and have to cross the bridge every day.

The NDP proposed four amendments at committee stage to find other solutions that would not involve a toll on the Champlain Bridge. All of those amendments were rejected and the government is imposing its unilateral decision. The Champlain Bridge will be built, but it will have a toll. I do not know how much the toll will be, between $1 and $3, perhaps. It does not seem like much, so some people might not think it is a big deal. Going to Montreal once in a while and paying $2 is not a problem. However, middle-class families use the Champlain Bridge every day. Let us do the math: $2 per trip equals $4 a day, $20 a week, or more than $100 a month. That is a lot of money for a middle-class family. A family can buy a lot of groceries for $100.

I am therefore wondering why it is necessary to make people pay for this bridge when Canada has the money needed to provide this sort of thing without making them pay. The government does not need to apply the user-pay principle to every new piece of infrastructure.

In that regard, the government announced $5.8 billion in cuts to local infrastructure. I cannot believe that the government is letting our infrastructure deteriorate so much. I do not understand it. Right now, I am touring the 25 municipalities in my riding. I am meeting with all the mayors and administrators to talk to them and see how things are going. Everyone is telling me that our infrastructure is aging. They all need money from the federal government. They cannot keep endlessly taxing residents and increasing municipal taxes. They have needs. They have to repair roads, sewers and many other things. However, the federal government is announcing $5.8 billion in cuts to local infrastructure. I do not understand the logic behind that. Is the government going to abandon our country like this? Is it going to let everything fall apart until we can no longer travel on our roads, until our sewers no longer work and until our municipalities are crushed by debt? I do not think that makes any sense.

What my party and I expect from a responsible government is for it to reverse the cuts to employment insurance, for example. We do not want people to have to travel 100 km from their home to work for 70% of their previous salary. That does not make sense. We want the age of eligibility for old age security to go back down to 65.

We also need to fight against tax havens. Rather than making billions of dollars in cuts to key areas such as infrastructure, the government could recover a lot of money by fighting against tax havens. What is more, $36 billion in cuts were made to health transfers to the provinces. It makes no sense. I am also going to promote my own cause. The bill that I introduced a year ago on a national housing strategy would help a lot of people.

I would like to send a message to the government. It would be great if it would soon realize that investing in social programs pays off.

Mental Health June 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, on May 23, I had the immense pleasure of being the honorary chair of Jazz ta vie pour un ami, a performance fundraiser for Trait d'union montérégien, an organization that helps people with mental health issues who live in isolation.

This week, I will be the spokesperson for a fundraising dinner for Maison alternative de développement humain, a social reintegration organization for people with mental health issues.

Even though this is 2014, there are still people living with these problems who are ashamed. Why? Because there is still way too much discrimination against this health problem. Do people know that one in five of us will suffer from a mental health problem at some point?

That is why I have agreed to lend my voice to these organizations. They work so hard with so few resources to eradicate taboos and create an environment where people with these problems can be heard, listened to and helped, where they can live full lives as citizens and take control of their lives. I congratulate them on their excellent work.

Dairy Producers May 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I do not have much time for my speech, so I will get to the point.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion by my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé. I want to say that she does an excellent job working on agricultural issues across the country. That is important to point out.

This motion calls on the government to honour the promise it made to dairy and cheese producers with respect to the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union. The agreement was signed on October 18, 2013, which was seven months ago. The government made a promise to dairy and cheese producers, who are at a significant disadvantage as a result of this agreement, but the government has not yet made any announcement about compensating these producers, who work extremely hard and feed the country. We could get into a debate on food sovereignty and food safety, but that is for another day.

The dairy industry in Canada, particularly in Quebec, creates a lot of direct jobs in dairy production and other areas, but also a lot of indirect jobs in processing. Obviously, milk is a very versatile product.

Dairy and cheese producers publicly expressed their concern over the possible economic and commercial repercussions of this agreement, and rightly so. Many jobs are at stake. Let us not forget also the quality of our Canadian products. The motion seeks to mitigate the impact that the agreement might have on this sector. It is also very important to talk about the supply management system in Canada, which helps ensure stability and fairness with regard to the products, without compromising their quality.

Obviously, the NDP and I support this bill. I am very aware of the significance of this situation, given that I am from a very intensive farming area. The supply management system is very important. We must not abandon it or weaken its pillars. The pillars of supply management are there to make it work properly. If one of those pillars is compromised or collapses, then the entire system will collapse with it. That is what we want to avoid by supporting this motion, which is very relevant to the debate on the free trade agreement.

I humbly ask that the government keep its promise to producers and think about this job-creating industry that is immensely important to our country.

Supreme Court Act May 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be speaking today in support of the bill introduced by my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst.

It is a real pleasure for me to support my colleague's bill that promotes real equality in the two official languages of our country.

The bill amends the Supreme Court Act and introduces a new requirement for judges appointed to the Supreme Court to understand English and French without the help of an interpreter.

I am not perfectly bilingual but I am working very hard on my English skills. It is important for me to work at the House of Commons in Canada's two official languages.

A person who stands before judges in the Supreme Court of Canada has a right to be heard and understood in his or her mother tongue.

This bill promotes equal access to justice. The Supreme Court is Canada’s highest court and its entire membership is occasionally called upon to hear certain cases. For the litigants, the ruling can have serious implications. Unilingual judges must rely on third parties to understand oral arguments and written submissions, which can be problematic at times and result in poor interpretation.

While I have the utmost respect for translators, I think we need to recognize that simultaneous interpretation and translation have their limits. The bilingualism requirement for judges ensures that francophones and anglophones have equal access to justice.

It is important for me to speak about equality, equality between francophones like me and anglophones. People who want to work in the most important judicial institution in our bilingual country must respect our two official languages.

The equality of French and English in Canada has been recognized by the Supreme Court. Since Canada’s laws exist independently in the two languages, fluency in both official languages should be a prerequisite for appointment to the Supreme Court, just as there are other mandatory requirements that a candidate must meet before becoming a judge.

The Supreme Court is there to serve Canadians, whether their first official language is French or English.

Canada's laws are not written in one language and then translated; rather, they are co-drafted in both official languages, and neither language takes precedence over the other.

This means that the body of Canadian legislation exists independently in both official languages. It is therefore essential for Supreme Court judges to understand legislation as it is written, in its duality, so they might apply it in its entirety, without infringing on the rights of the litigants.

I would remind the House of a few important facts that are worth pointing out. In 2009, all of the Conservatives, including francophone Conservatives, voted against this bill at second reading when it was Bill C-232. They also opposed the bill at third reading in May 2010. Despite the Conservatives' opposition, Bill C-232 passed in the House of Commons in 2010. However, the Conservative senators used their majority in the Senate to block it, which is absolutely appalling, until an election was called in March 2011.

In addition to opposing Bill C-232, the Conservative government showed its utter contempt for francophones by appointing two unilingual judges to the Supreme Court.

The Prime Minister must respect equality too, but he does not do that. We really have proof that the government does not care about the rights of francophones in our country.

Having unilingual judges is problematic when deliberations take place behind closed doors, that is, without the assistance of an interpreter.

Judges always have to communicate their opinions, ideas, and knowledge in their second language. Consequently, they run the risk of being much less accurate when they are not bilingual. When all judges are functionally proficient in both official languages, everyone can use their language of choice.

By sending the message that bilingualism is not important, the government is discouraging young Canadians, including young western Canadians, from learning French. The government must instead work with its provincial partners to encourage French language training by improving immersion programs and increasing support to post-secondary institutions so that future lawyers can acquire solid skills in their second language.

A number of people agree with the official opposition, and I would like to share some of their opinions with the House. The Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, has spoken out a number of times in favour of having bilingual Supreme Court judges. The Barreau du Québec has repeatedly expressed its support of the bill on bilingual Supreme Court judges. I quote:

Bilingualism should be among a Supreme Court judge’s required skills in order to ensure equal access to justice, and the Barreau du Québec’s position in this regard is categorical.

It is a fundamental right to be heard by a judge in one of the two official languages.

The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne also supports this bill:

The FCFA believes that all citizens have a right to be heard and understood before the highest court of Canada in their official language of choice, without the assistance of an interpreter.

Serge Rousselle, a law professor at Moncton University specializing in language rights and past president of the Association des juristes d'expression française du Nouveau-Brunswick, also supports this bill:

Bilingualism is a required skill for Supreme Court judges. To fully grasp an oral argument in a field where the subtleties of one official language or the other can be critical, the importance of being understood directly by the members of this court, without the assistance of an interpreter, seems obvious.

I quoted a number of people whose opinions are similar to ours. I think it is very important for a Supreme Court judge to be bilingual. We must remember that people involved in the legal system have rights, have the right to be heard and, especially, have the right to be heard in the language of their choice—in their first language, whether that is French or English.

I would never put myself forward to be a Supreme Court judge. I do not have that ambition. I do not have the right education, of course, but I am also not bilingual. In a bilingual country like ours, someone who is highly trained and manages to become a judge, which is already a rather important and difficult job to get, also has the opportunity to learn a second language.

Petitions April 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition this morning calling for the elimination of discrimination regarding blood and organ donation. The discrimination has to do with people's sexual preference, which is a personal choice. We should be relying on scientific data regarding blood and organ donation.

Petitions April 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting a petition signed by thousands of people who are calling for a public inquiry into alleged fraud during the 2011 election. They are also calling on the government to implement genuine electoral reform that would give everyone a vote.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very interesting question.

It is interesting because my colleague is talking about a certain kind of infrastructure democratization. The Champlain Bridge is not in my riding, but it will affect a lot of people who live there because it is quite nearby. A lot of people in Saint-Hyacinthe work in Montreal and use the Champlain Bridge every day.

We will end up with a toll bridge. Suppose it costs $2 to cross the bridge. If we add that up, that makes $4 a day, $20 a week and $100 a month. That will hit many people right in the wallet, and a lot of them will not be able to afford to use the bridge.

We will end up with some people who have the means to use the bridge and will be able to avoid the traffic, sort of like on the highway 25 bridge, and some people who will take the other bridges because they will not be able afford to use the new bridge. The problem here is that people who cannot afford to use toll roads are being excluded.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his most brilliant question. Infrastructure needs in my riding are indeed desperate.

Municipal elections were held in Quebec recently, and I am in the process of doing another tour of the municipalities to meet with the newly elected officials and meet again with those who were re-elected. The mayors of all 25 municipalities in my riding are telling me about the desperate infrastructure needs.

I think that this speaks volumes and that the government should trust these people who are on the ground with citizens and in the communities before making budgets like this.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this Conservative government bill, which could be described as another mammoth bill.

Obviously, my colleagues and I strongly oppose this bill, because of its contents, of course, but also because of the process, which is increasingly undemocratic. This bill shows real contempt not only for Canadians, but also for Parliament, and for MPs and committees. It is particularly appalling.

This bill does absolutely nothing to support job creation. In fact, there is unfortunately nothing really positive in this bill. It is too bad, because a budget implementation bill could be very constructive and do a lot for Canadians. The government and the official opposition could work together in Parliament. It is really sad that we have to see these kinds of bills. I almost feel jaded when I speak to this kind of mammoth bill, which the Conservatives are ramming down Canadians' throats without consulting them or the opposition, without consulting anyone, really. The Conservatives bulldoze their way through and impose their agenda on everyone.

The Conservatives want to make a large number of changes without properly examining them. They are spreading misinformation. I do not have the bill with me, which is unfortunate, because it would be worth showing just how huge it is. It is over 350 pages long and has 500 clauses. It amends dozens of laws. It contains many measures that were not even mentioned in the budget statement. As I just said, it is completely undemocratic. The committees are not being given the opportunity to properly examine the sections that concern them, which I see as highly problematic. The Conservatives are making unilateral decisions without consulting anyone.

As I was saying, there is nothing in this bill to help unemployed Canadians, and there are 300,000 more of them than before the recession. Nor is there anything to replace the 400,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector that have been lost under the Conservatives. Nor are the Conservatives renewing the job creation tax credit for small businesses, which really need it.

It is clear to me that small and medium-sized businesses in my riding are in desperate need of a helping hand. Let us not forget that SMEs are a major economic driver. They are responsible for at least 70% of Canadian jobs. That figure might not be exact, but it is a huge percentage anyway. It is nothing to sneeze at. Small businesses need help from the government so they can hire people and stay in business. That is all the more true in a recession.

There are also a lot of changes to rail safety and transparency. That comes as quite a surprise and makes no sense considering what happened this summer in Lac Mégantic, which is quite close to my riding. These changes would allow the government to amend or remove several rail safety regulations without notifying the public. Changes could relate to engineering standards, employee training, hours of work, maintenance and performance. Basically, people will not be informed when the Conservatives weaken safety measures, and experts will not be able to express their opinions to the minister before the changes take effect.

I talk about this often because giving more discretionary power to the minister really infuriates me. I do not know why the government is giving even more power to the minister. I do not understand. There are experts in every field, and the minister should consult them.

In many municipalities in my riding, the railway is located close to residential areas, and people are worried.

Shortly after the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, the member for Brossard—La Prairie, the transport critic, held a public consultation in my riding in October. The people told us that they were worried about safety standards and railway transportation in Canada. It makes absolutely no sense to weaken these standards.

This budget creates another problem for immigrants, who will now have to live in Canada for 20 years, instead of 10, before they are eligible for GIS, survivor or old age security benefits.

Family reunification is also being made much more difficult. This is a step in the wrong direction. In my riding, there are many refugee families that have moved to Canada, want to contribute to our country, and want to live and work here. It is unfortunate that these people, who make a major contribution to out country, have to wait and be separated from their family for a longer period of time.

Why should we make it more difficult for them to come here and why are we complicating the citizenship and family reunification process? Why are we depriving them of what they will need later? This deplorable measure demonstrates just how closed our country is becoming. I do not understand this because we are recognized as a welcoming country.

I have just mentioned a number of problems with this bill, but we also have solutions. The NDP likes to speak out, but we also like to suggest solutions. “Working Together” is still our motto.

The government needs to go back to the drawing board and come back to us with a decent budget. It would be great if the government invested in innovation, economic development and high quality jobs for the middle class. It would also be great if it developed a strategy for youth unemployment, since it is not right that the youth unemployment rate is so high.

We need to be proactive, but the government is not. Another solution would be to offer a credit to businesses when they hire and train young people. The government did not renew that credit for SMEs, even though it would make a lot of sense to do so.

Furthermore, the government could work with the provinces to address the skills shortage and to develop the labour market. It is not currently working with the provinces. Instead, it is dumping the problems on the provinces, which is not ideal. The government should also address the serious infrastructure deficit by cancelling the $5.8 billion in cuts to local infrastructure.

It would also be important to simplify the procedure for rural communities to request and receive funding for infrastructure projects, since the government is also dumping problems onto municipalities. What they actually need from the federal government is more help.

I see that I am out of time, so I would be pleased to take questions from my colleagues.

International Trade April 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the government is singing the praises of dairy farmers and fine cheese producers in Canada and Quebec, but this is all a ruse, since there is not currently a serious offer on the table to compensate these producers, who will probably suffer as a result of the free trade agreement that was just signed.

I do not want to hear about the investments that have been made in the past. I want to know what the government plans to do in the future for these producers who work very hard and who will have a hard time competing as a result of this agreement. That is what people want to know.