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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

International Trade April 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, on February 28, I asked the Minister of Agriculture whether the Conservatives intended to seriously consider the proposal put forward by cheese producers.

Since the free trade agreement was signed with Europe, cheese producers, particularly in Quebec, have been working hard to find an appropriate compensation formula.

According to the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the EU's additional access of 17,700 tonnes of cheese allowed under the agreement is equivalent to a 2.25% cut in farm quota, which represents a possible farm income loss of nearly $150 million per year.

The Conseil des industriels laitiers du Québec developed a plan that would ensure that additional import quotas were run by producers and that would harmonize the standards. These adjustments would be phased in over seven years. This plan would provide appropriate compensation for cheese producers and would cost the federal government virtually nothing.

The Conservative government promised to compensate large and small Canadian cheese producers. It must therefore consider proposals that would allow it to keep that promise.

However, to date, the government has not put forward any concrete proposals. My colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé moved a motion in this regard that the government was very quick to ignore.

The motion calls on the government to reveal details without delay related to the compensation that will be paid to dairy and cheese producers; provide for an implementation period for the agreement that is as long as possible to allow producers to adapt; put an end to the circumvention of tariff quotas and the misclassification of products at the border; maintain high quality standards by imposing the same production and processing requirements on imported products; and commit to provide support for commercialization. Nonetheless, there has been nothing but silence from the government.

Canadian cheese producers need to know immediately what compensation they can expect to get from the federal government, particularly since no money was set aside for this sector in the most recent budget, even though there was money set aside for other industries, such as the automotive industry and the fishery.

It goes without saying that Canadian fine cheeses already have a well-established reputation. There are hundreds of varieties of high-quality cheese available, particularly in Quebec. We need to quickly find ways to protect this key agri-food sector before the Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement comes into force.

Will the Conservatives seriously consider the proposal by the Conseil des industriels laitiers du Québec?

The last time I asked this question, I got a response that I felt was unsatisfactory. I am therefore asking it again today to learn a little bit more about the government's take on this issue.

Business of Supply April 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the government is trying to distract us from the main subject because it is feeling the heat.

The NDP plays by the rules. We opened offices to better serve the people, and we did so in accordance with House rules and procedures. We have nothing to apologize for. They need to stop changing the subject and start talking about real issues in the House.

Business of Supply April 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his excellent question.

Why did the Prime Minister suddenly change his mind, and why did he use the plane for personal and partisan reasons? I think that is utterly shameful and an abuse of power, pure and simple.

This points to a double standard. The government's actions are totally inconsistent with the values it espoused when it was the official opposition, with what it fought for tooth and nail and with its condemnation of the former government. All I can say is that this government is no better than its predecessors.

Business of Supply April 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to the current motion by my colleague from Timmins—James Bay.

Allow me to read the motion in order to put us back into context. The motion reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, government planes, and in particular the plane used by the Prime Minister, should only be used for government purposes and should not be used to transport anyone other than those associated with such purposes or those required for the safety and security of the Prime Minister and his family.

Last week, on March 25, iPolitics revealed that the Prime Minister approved the use of Challenger jets not only for the travel of members of his family, but also for the travel of his personal friends and Conservative Party fundraisers.

The Prime Minister is supposed to pay back a part of the costs when he uses those planes for non-official functions, but shortly after coming to power, he changed the reimbursement formula. As a result, from that time on, he has been reimbursing only an amount equivalent to an economy class ticket.

In my opinion, and in the opinion of all my colleagues here today, it is completely unacceptable to change the rules of the game to his advantage in that way, especially since his opponents were the targets of criticism in the past for similar practices.

Last week, we learned that the Prime Minister used a private jet, paid for by taxpayers, for the travel of Conservative Party fundraisers and that he was sticking taxpayers with the bill.

A close friend of the Prime Minister, Mark Kihn, brought in more than $3.5 million for two of the Prime Minister's election campaigns. As a reward, Mr. Kihn was entitled to travel in the government's private jet at taxpayers' expense. This is unacceptable.

If the Prime Minister wants to take a plane trip with his friends and Conservative Party fundraisers, he should not be sticking taxpayers with the bill because it is not their bill to pay.

When I see things like this, I cannot help but think about all the budget cuts that this government has made. The Conservatives are literally taking an axe to our social safety net by making cuts to employment insurance, protection for seniors, environmental protection, health care, the fight against homelessness, care for veterans, care for refugees, and postal services. I could go on and on.

I find it particularly unacceptable to see frivolous spending when the government is cutting essential services to the public. We are talking about a government plane that the Conservatives use for non-government purposes, and the taxpayers are paying for it. Taxpayers are struggling more and more to make ends meet, and they are the ones paying for it all.

Can we remember the times when the Conservatives used to fight against this kind of privilege? Well, they are now worse than the Liberals they replaced. Let me quote the Prime Minister before he came to power. He made one such statement in the House of Commons on November 24, 2005:

We have seen the Prime Minister flying around the country on Challenger jets doing a few hours of government work, then spending the rest of the time campaigning and fundraising, often at exclusive cocktail parties where big Liberal donors pay $5,000 a ticket to discuss public business. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

The Liberal culture of entitlement goes on. The public must be given a chance to put an end to it.

Well, the Prime Minister made that statement in 2005, before he came to power, and now he is doing exactly the same thing. Can we let this slip by? I think not.

In April 2005, he also said that Mr. Martin really wanted to have a 10-month election campaign to fly around the country on a jet at taxpayers' expense in order to throw enough money all over the country to cover up the stench of corruption. In his view, that type of campaign was not in the best interests of the country.

I think we have enough quotes to show that the current government is not walking the talk. We are seeing a double standard, as the government is saying “do as I say, not as I do”.

Does the House want to know how much the government's junkets in the jet are worth—a jet that, by the way, belongs to taxpayers?

That is the equivalent of old age security benefits for 19 seniors, guaranteed income supplement benefits for 20 seniors, the survivor allowance for 13 seniors or the annual average pension of five retired veterans. That is huge.

I would also be curious to know how much public housing that corresponds to. I would like to know how many homeless people could be brought in off the street with that money and how many employment insurance benefits could be provided to people who need them. How many people are being deprived of their rights because of this needless spending?

In 2005, when the Prime Minister sat in opposition, he made a big fuss about the Liberals, who were taking their backers all over Canada in the prime minister's private planes. He was right; it was appalling and the abuse needed to stop. However, he is doing exactly the same thing now and is refusing to change his ways.

Journalist Elizabeth Thompson, who writes for the electronic news service iPolitics, discovered that the Prime Minister took his backers on a trip between Ottawa and Calgary and asked them to pay $260. However, a similar flight in economy class with Air Canada costs between $600 and $800.

I would sure like to provide such perks to my political pals, but I do not because we are not supposed to. I do not have that kind of power anyway. Things like that should not even happen. We should not even have to talk about them today.

According to the rules governing Parliament, only people working for the Prime Minister's Office or the House of Commons are allowed to travel on the Prime Minister's private airplanes. All other individuals must pay full price for the flight. The Prime Minister and his assistants have tried to convince us that a flight from Ottawa to Calgary costs taxpayers just $260 per person, but the truth is that Challenger airplanes cost taxpayers $11,000 per hour.

Imagine how disappointed honest people must be when the government thumbs its nose at them by spending money frivolously on things that are completely foreign to the lives of ordinary Canadians. These are people who pay their taxes, who donate to charity to help the least fortunate, who often have a hard time making ends meet, who hope that nothing happens to them because they know they might not be entitled to employment insurance now that the program has been reformed, and who know they have to work two extra years before they can retire.

I truly hope that all of these scandals will end once and for all in 2015 when an NDP government comes to power.

Energy Safety and Security Act March 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is actually a problem. In wanting to pass the buck to taxpayers, by giving discretionary authority to the minister and by imposing such a cap, the government is showing that it is unable to make companies truly accountable.

I do not understand where these figures came from. What really happened elsewhere has not been properly considered. I do not understand why the government is trying to tell us that there is $1 billion in protection, when the minister could decide to reduce it.

I do not know why we are in this situation, when incidents are occurring. We should be passing a responsible bill that makes companies accountable.

Energy Safety and Security Act March 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I did not understand the bill. I do not understand anything. I am a nitwit.

Let us be serious. We are talking about the environment and about potential disasters. This is a matter of protecting Canadians and their health, and the accountability of nuclear energy and oil development companies. Now is not the time for playing politics, but for deciding what we really want. We want green energy, yes, but we also want to protect Canadians from possible disasters.

I think my colleague quite simply does not want to hear what we are trying to criticize.

Energy Safety and Security Act March 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Drummond on his excellent speech. He is a great source of information on the environment, and he works very hard on this issue. I want to commend his work, and I tip my hat to him.

I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-22, which would amend the law concerning Canada’s oil and nuclear operations. We are supporting this bill at second reading so that it will be sent to committee for in-depth study. We hope that the government will agree to work on improving the bill, as it desperately needs it. Clearly, our support at third reading will depend on the government's willingness to make much-needed improvements to the bill.

Bill C-22 references the polluter pays principle explicitly to establish that polluters will be held accountable. However, after researching this principle, I came to the realization that the bill does not adequately enforce it. For example, the nuclear liability limit is being increased from $75 million, which is quite insufficient, to $1 billion. It is a small step in the right direction, but it is not enough.

The polluter pays principle is based on the idea that the polluter pays. It is not complicated. Creating a $1-billion cap means that if a disaster were to happen, taxpayers would foot the rest of the bill, through no fault of their own. They will have to pay for that, in addition to suffering the health and environmental consequences. A bit later, I will share some statistics on that.

Another thing that bothers me about liability is the minister's discretionary power. I am sick and tired of seeing that in bills. MPs have a responsibility, but they can and should get help from experts in every field. We are talking about the environment and natural resources. These experts have dedicated their lives to researching the subject, so I do not see how the minister can set a cap without taking their opinions into account. That bothers me.

I do not understand why the government is always trying to grab more power. This is not the first time the government has tried to give a minister discretionary power in a bill. When will this stop? This is something we need to talk about because it is a real problem.

There is one positive aspect to the bill in terms of liability in the nuclear industry: it extends the limitation period for submitting compensation claims from 10 to 30 years. That is good for people who develop the kind of latent illnesses that are frequently linked to the nuclear industry. It is about time the government did this, but is it retroactive? Perhaps one of my colleagues opposite can answer that question during the time for questions.

As for liability in the oil and gas sector, this bill updates the Canadian liability regime for offshore oil and gas development to prevent incidents and ensure rapid response should a spill occur. Once again, it is about time the government took this important step.

This is all very nice on paper, but enforcement has to be strict. That is what the minister should be responsible for, not exercising a discretionary power to decide the extent of a company's liability for an incident.

That would be worthwhile, it seems to me.

The limit of liability for oil development goes from $40 million in the Arctic and $30 million in the Atlantic to $1 billion. That is a very small step in the right direction, and it is still clearly insufficient.

As I mentioned earlier, taxpayers should not be footing the bill. When I say taxpayers, I mean those who make financial contributions to society, but I also mean all citizens of all ages and in all situations. They should not be footing the financial bill, nor paying the price in terms of the environment, their health and their integrity. They should not be paying for incidents related to this kind of energy. We know full well that other sources of energy exist, renewable ones, in which greater investments could be made. For the nuclear industry and the oil industry, the polluter pays principle could apply.

I am thinking about biomethanization, for example. It provides an incredible source of green energy. If my colleagues opposite would like to come to my riding to visit the biomethanization plant in Sainte-Hyacinthe, I would be happy to welcome them. It is very interesting. Wind energy can also be used, as Quebec is doing. These are sources of energy that we can also embrace.

Now I would like to go back to the subject of financial liability. A billion dollars may seem like a spectacular amount, but it is very little. In Germany, for example, absolute liability is currently $3.3 billion per plant. With the paltry $1 billion that appears in this bill, Canada is far behind that. In the United States, the figure is $12.6 billion U.S. In Japan, there was a tragic nuclear disaster in 2011. The cost has been estimated at $250 billion. If a similar disaster happened in Canada, taxpayers would therefore have to pay $249 billion. Personally, I do not see the logic in that. In 2010, there was an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The costs of the disaster are constantly rising, as they are in Japan too. The costs could exceed $250 billion. Mexico has already spent $42 billion, but it is not over yet.

I feel that we have to ask ourselves some serious questions. What do we want as a society? To what extent do we want to protect our citizens? To what extent do we want taxpayers to pay and keep on paying?

I also think it is important to point out that Canada is not immune to disasters. The thing I find particularly worrisome about this bill is that there is no mention of prevention. There is just what I call harm reduction or amortization of costs. That is all we find in the bill. It says that if x happens then we will do y. Nonetheless, the bill does not include specific measures for adequate prevention. What should we be doing every day to avoid a similar disaster and to make sure that people will not have to pay the financial, health and environmental costs?

This week marked a very sad anniversary. Today is the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill along the Alaskan coast. It has been 25 years and the repercussions are still being felt. Nature still has not recovered.

Under the circumstances, I do not understand how the government can introduce bills that contain only half-measures to oversee activities that have catastrophic consequences for our environment and our health. It is worrisome.

I wonder when we will have a real bill that promotes green energy, truly advocates and enforces the polluter pays principle, focuses on prevention and actually protects people and our environment. I think that will come sometime after 2015.

Employment Insurance March 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, community groups and unions from across Canada are gathered in Ottawa right now to share their terrible problems caused by the changes that the government made to the employment insurance program.

Everyone is concerned that these changes are destroying the economy in many regions and taking a terrible toll on workers in the seasonal industry. Among those workers, women are particularly vulnerable. Since women take on most of the family responsibilities, they will have to resort to withdrawing from the job market altogether rather than taking a job that offers lower wages.

Everyone is concerned about the delays in processing files, the dysfunctional Social Security Tribunal, the way the Conservatives keep disparaging the unemployed, and the way every organization that assists the unemployed is being pushed out.

The NDP hears those concerns and shares them. We will come up with the means to implement a program for workers that gives them back their right to employment insurance.

International Trade February 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, hundreds of excellent Quebec cheeses have found their way to tables all across the country.

The thousands of tons of European cheeses that will be imported must not jeopardize that. That is why the government must carefully consider the proposal made by the Conseil des industriels laitiers du Québec. This proposal will allow us to comply with the free trade agreement and still ensure that this dynamic industry can be sustainable.

Is this proposal a good starting point to determine how to compensate Quebec cheese producers?

International Trade February 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, once we signed the free trade agreement with Europe, Quebec cheese producers started working on finding an appropriate compensation formula. They developed a plan that would ensure that additional import quotas were run by producers and that would harmonize the standards. These adjustments would be phased in over seven years.

This plan would provide appropriate compensation for cheese producers and would cost the federal government virtually nothing.

Will the Conservatives seriously consider this proposal?