House of Commons photo

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

Petitions February 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to present a petition calling for the restoration of daily VIA Rail service between Montreal and Halifax via Campbellton and Miramichi, New Brunswick.

I would like to point out that 24,000 people have signed this petition. This is a very important issue. I would also like to stress that Canadians need an decent rail system and that the east coast should not be isolated.

Homelessness February 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, last week I had the opportunity to be the honorary chair of Projet Lit'inérance, overseen by Contact Richelieu-Yamaska and the Table de concertation Solidarité itinérance maskoutaine. The goal is to provide shelter to those who are homeless and not leave anyone sleeping outside, because no human being deserves that—not to mention that homelessness could happen to any of us.

I would like to thank all the organizers, volunteers and sponsors who made the event such a success. However, we must ask the question: if we had a responsible government that invested appropriately in housing and combating homelessness, would these kinds of events even be necessary? I doubt it.

When will the government make decent, adequate investments in support of the most vulnerable in our society?

The Budget February 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.

I am happy to speak about nothing, anything—about the budget, in fact. It seems to me, really, that it is nothing and anything. There is not much in this budget to help Canadians who need help, or to help businesses. As I speak, there are 300,000 more people unemployed than before the recession, and there is no significant investment to create high-quality jobs. That is a problem.

With regard to the Canada job grant, the Conservatives would probably talk about that, telling us that there is something, but there is not even an agreement with the provinces. The government wants to proceed unilaterally without consulting the provinces and without cooperating with them. In broad terms, they throw everything into the lap of the provinces and municipalities, and then they wonder why our infrastructure is falling apart, why there are people unemployed and why there is more and more poverty in Canada. This is not saying much.

Household debt is an important issue. Canadian families now owe an average of $1.60 for every dollar they earn. It is a real problem, because that figure is fairly significant. There is nothing in the Conservatives’ budget to help these people. There is nothing to regulate bank charges. The other day, we moved a motion on the subject. There is nothing to limit interest rates on credit cards, which would help the middle class and people who are in debt. There is nothing about gas prices.

Last week, I consulted community organizations in my riding about household debt and the problematic situation in our country. People are at their wits’ end, they have problems, they need a hand from the government, and they are not getting it.

This budget does contain a few minor measures that are somewhat positive, it has to be said. We do not always work in a negative way. The NDP motto, after all, is “Working together”. High-speed Internet access will be reaching our smaller centres; that is a good thing for my constituency. People will be happy, particularly in the Acton Vale area. There is also the elimination of the “pay to pay” fees. Receiving a bill in the mail and having to pay an additional two dollars is completely unacceptable. The government has promised to do something about this. Is it really going to? I cannot wait to see that. I should also note that the budget mentions an additional 200 inspectors for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. That is a very good measure. It has to be said that it is about time.

Something that affects my constituency a great deal is infrastructure. For example, money has been included for the Champlain Bridge. Kudos. It has been in ruins for a long time, and we have been waiting for years for the government to do something about the bridge. Perhaps it was waiting for a major problem to occur, and it was even talking about possibly closing the bridge. There would be utter chaos on the south shore and the Island of Montreal if the Champlain Bridge closed. This affects people in my riding, because it is not very far from Montreal and many people from our area work there. The Champlain Bridge raises another issue: tolls. People on low incomes use it daily. Is it really a solution to make people pay for using a bridge? I have my doubts.

The criteria for the building Canada fund have finally been revealed, but these outlays are completely inadequate to meet the current needs of our municipalities. They have been letting things go for years, and now it is time to act.

I could provide some other examples, but I would like to talk about employment insurance. By 2016, $6.4 billion will have accumulated, and again, the money is to be used as they see fit. However, the money belongs to the workers who have contributed to employment insurance, and they may not be entitled to it.

As far as the environment is concerned, the Canadian government’s budget does not address climate change at all. This is 2014. There is a problem. We have to ask ourselves serious questions about where we are headed, what we want to do as a society, and what we want for the future of our children.

I would now like to draw people’s attention to housing and homelessness, a cause I frequently take up. I also introduced a bill on the subject, which was debated about a year ago. With respect to housing, the budget contains no measures to address the expiration of the federal agreements. It means that people may find themselves out on the street, or unable to pay for their housing. This is completely unacceptable.

With respect to homelessness, money from the homelessness partnering strategy goes to fund the housing first program. In other words, we are robbing Peter to pay Paul. In plain language, that is what is going on. Yes, there is investment in a housing program for the chronically homeless, but there is no additional housing, so I do not know how that is going to work.

These are the problems I wanted to raise in relation to the budget. The problem is that the government’s budget in fact contains no meaningful measures to help middle-class Canadians get out from under their debts. It does nothing to offer adequate help to people grappling with housing issues, it does nothing for the environment—in short, it does nothing at all.

Last week, I held a public consultation on household indebtedness and the “affordability” of life in general. I will use this term because people will understand. Community agencies and organizations working on the problem of debt confirmed that middle-class Canadians and the disadvantaged are being crushed and have had enough. It appears that they need a break, but that is not what the government is now offering them.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I was not sure that I would hear a question, but it came out finally.

I believe that the government does not want to consult the public because it is afraid of the people, as I mentioned earlier in my speech. In fact, as I was saying, democracy means power to the people. In my opinion, if a government does not consult its people, that is a sign that it is afraid of them.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear a question from my colleague.

Therefore, I will not be answering a question and will instead repeat that, in my opinion, this process has been botched. Canadians must be consulted again and again and again.

That is all I have to say in response to that so-called question.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today because I want to help protect something that is very precious to Canadians: our democracy.

The motion moved by the member for Hamilton Centre is a reasonable response to the Conservatives' misguided efforts with respect to democracy. As my colleague from Sherbrooke said earlier, this is electoral “deformation”.

What we are asking for is not complicated. We want Canadians and stakeholder groups to have a chance to express their views on these significant changes to our election legislation. When I say Canadians and stakeholder groups, I mean Elections Canada, the minister, of course, first nations, anti-poverty groups, people with disabilities, youth and students from all parts of the country, urban, rural and remote alike.

The committee has to travel. It cannot stay here in the ivory tower in Ottawa. No one can deny that Ottawa is an ivory tower. When we are here, we do not know what is going on in the rest of Canada.

Many committees travel in the course of their duties. Going to see people is essential. We have no choice. I do not see why the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs would not travel in this case. The government will say that it would be an expense, and I agree. However, some expenses are essential to democracy, and consulting the people is one such expense.

I think that, in devising this reform, the Conservatives did not pay much attention to people's reality. I think they could not care less. They are not spending money on the right things, if you ask me, and this is a serious threat to our democracy.

Since we are talking about democracy, I would like to take a little step back. The word “democracy” means “power to the people”. We all agree on that. I think the government is afraid of the people. The Conservatives are well aware that because they came up with such a bad bill, consulting people who are worried about this kind of reform might not go well. People would put the Conservatives in their place. That might be what happens.

I have not had the opportunity to speak to Bill C-23, the subject of our motion. I would like to provide a brief overview to illustrate how essential our motion is and how badly the government has botched this bill.

To start, this bill will strip Election Canada of its investigative powers. The Commissioner of Canada Elections will now be under the Director of Public Prosecutions. That would be like removing the RCMP's ability to investigate Criminal Code offences. It makes absolutely no sense. This is a serious change that will prove to be completely ineffective.

Furthermore, the government also wants to take away the Chief Electoral Officer's power to engage in public education, but public education is essential. This will in no way contribute to increasing voter turnout. The Chief Electoral Officer will not be able to talk to people about aspects of the electoral process or work to prevent electoral fraud. This is especially problematic.

The Chief Electoral Officer will also have to seek Treasury Board approval to hire experts. This is serious interference in the work of a senior official. That is not so unusual around here, as we know that the government enjoys that type of thing. However, this makes our electoral system less effective and again threatens our democracy.

The bill will also eliminate the ability of electors to prove their identity through vouching. This may seem minor, but it is a very serious issue. Some people will no longer be able to vote. Let us take for example an elderly woman who does not have a driver's licence and whose accounts are all in her husband's name. She will not be able to vote. Another example is a student who has a student card but does not have a driver's licence. That person will not be able to vote.

I would also like to add that voter information cards will no longer be able to be used as proof of identity. This creates the same problem.

The bill also increases the maximum threshold for individual donations from $1,200 to $1,500. This means that the electoral process would continue to favour people with money. Why are we doing this when Quebec did just the opposite? Quebec decreased the maximum amount of donations. I therefore do not see why we are doing the opposite. It does not make any sense.

The bill will also make it possible for candidates to contribute $5,000 to their own campaigns. I would like to give a very specific example. When I ran for my party, I had little to no money. If this bill had been in effect at that time, I could not have run for office and I would not be here right now. However, my constituents tell me that I am living up to their expectations. This bill would therefore rule out quality candidates who do not have the money to contribute to their campaign. Money is always being put first and foremost.

As I was saying earlier, many committees travel in the course of their duties and that is essential. I do not see why committees should be prevented from going to consult with Canadians. I want to reiterate that I believe that the government is afraid of what might come out of those consultations. To reassure my colleagues, I would like to add that I often hold consultations in my riding on anything and everything. I like consulting my constituents and finding out what they think about many topics.

The government should start doing that because it is essential, particularly since this bill has a direct impact on various segments of the population that need to share their opinions. Consulting these people will only help us to do a better job, and of course, we should go to them rather than making them to come to Ottawa. It is really important.

As I was saying earlier, good things do not come cheap. We need to move forward and improve our electoral system. Electoral reform would be a good thing, of course, but not in this way. This is not the right approach. That is my opinion and that of all my colleagues here at this time. You cannot impose things on people in this way, by ramming them down their throats and telling them that this is how it will be from now on. We do not do that in our country. We have a democratic country that is a great place to live. We want to keep it that way. That is not what the government is doing at this time.

This government is jeopardizing a number of things, and that is very problematic. If the Conservatives were to accept this motion, it would be a good start, because consulting people and implementing real electoral reforms together with the people is a step in the right direction.

Petitions February 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the government to adopt a national transit strategy, something that is sorely needed. Transit is an important issue in my riding, and I am pleased to present this petition.

Petitions February 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present two petitions today.

The first petition is about preserving Gatineau Park. Although this park is not in my riding, I believe that such a fine park can be an asset to all Quebeckers and Canadians.

Business of Supply February 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his excellent question.

Yes, we are indeed seeing that the government is doing absolutely nothing to address this issue. We are also seeing that the most vulnerable members of our society are the ones who are penalized by all these measures taken by the banks and that the government is doing nothing to address. This affects a lot of people. I am talking about low-income and middle-class Canadians, seniors and people with disabilities. It also affects those who live in rural areas where, as my colleague said, branches are closing their doors, forcing people to use ATMs. Since people with disabilities have a harder time getting around, they use their card every time, instead of going to a bank.

That is often the case with the current government: it is the most vulnerable members of our society who are affected.

Business of Supply February 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the NDP has always worked with the provinces, unlike what the government is currently doing. We have every intention of consulting the provinces on this project and working with them.