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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

Business of Supply February 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, right now, services do not necessarily reflect the fees being charged. We are not asking that the banks suddenly close, fire their employees and force them into unemployment. We are also working on reforming employment insurance, which I wanted to mention as an interesting aside.

All we are asking is that the banks have a 50¢ ceiling. That is a reasonable limit for the banks; they can still make money. We know that these corporations must turn a profit; that makes sense. However, they do not need to crush the consumers who simply want access to their money at a decent price, which also makes complete sense.

Business of Supply February 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I should say that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Timmins—James Bay.

I am pleased to rise here today on the opposition day motion moved by my very competent colleague, the member for Sudbury. I will read the motion, because sometimes when we begin a debate, we lose track of the issue and forget what we are debating:

That, in the opinion of the House, Canadian consumers face unfair Automated Teller Machine (ATM) fees as a result of an uncompetitive marketplace and that the House call on the government to take action in Budget 2014 to protect consumers by limiting ATM fees.

Thus, it is pretty straightforward. We are calling for concrete action to protect consumers.

To put this into context, ATM fees have been charged in Canada since 1996, that is, for the past 18 years. However, surcharging is not regulated. There are absolutely no regulations to protect consumers.

Banks can charge whatever fees they want for transactions that people make to access their hard-earned money. That really is a problem. Furthermore, since 1996, these unwarranted fees have been rising steadily. There are administrative fees, but they are not very high. I will come back to that later.

People currently pay up to $6 per transaction to access their money. In my opinion, that is unacceptable. My colleague from Timmins—James Bay and the NDP clearly agree with me.

Let us talk about household debt. We know very well that setting a limit on ATM fees is not the magic solution to household debt. However, it would help a lot. The cost of living goes up every year, whereas incomes have declined by 7% in the past little while.

Paying $6 to access one's own money is irritating. It hits people in their pocketbooks. A $6 charge may seem small, but several $6 charges in one month can blow the budget and force people to buy lower-quality food. That is a problem.

Once again, the middle class and low-income people are paying the price. The government is squeezing the middle class more and more.

As I was saying earlier, several measures are needed in order to address household debt. Quality jobs must be created. We agree with that. In addition, workers' incomes must increase.

There are a number of other possible solutions. However, what we are proposing is very important and is part of a set of solutions that can help consumers.

We must put a stop to these bank practices that exploit consumers.

According to the former governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney, household debt could be the biggest and most immediate threat to the Canadian economy. It could spur the government to take action. I do not know. We cannot ignore this important aspect of the Canadian economy. Right now, household debt has reached an all-time high of 166% of income. This means that when someone earns $100, they owe $166. I do not think I need a more concrete example. These figures give a good idea of the situation.

There is every reason to believe that consumers, especially those in the middle class, have reached their limit. Right now, Canadian household debt is at around the same level as U.S. household debt before the 2008 financial crisis. What else will it take for our government to take action? Finance is not my strong suit, but I know enough and I am smart enough to realize that this does not make sense. I am not the finance minister and I never will be, but if I were, I would take action.

Could we not give middle-class and low-income Canadians a break and make their lives a little easier, simpler and more affordable? People are tired of paying, and I understand. Right now, banks are allowed to charge Canadians nearly $6 per transaction. According to the best data we have, the average cost of a transaction is about 50¢. Someone is making a buck here, and it is not the middle class or low-income Canadians.

The Minister of Finance has made a few comments in the media and in the House about ATM user fees. I will quote him because I find this interesting. On March 6, 2007, he told the Toronto Star:

I tried to point out that, in my view, there are some legitimate concerns by Canadians on this subject, particularly seniors, students and persons with disabilities, many of whom have limited mobility so they don't have as much choice in terms of which banking machine they might be able to use.

Again in 2007, in reference to the NDP campaign in favour of banning fees— because the NDP has been working on this for a long time, even though it was not yet the official opposition—the Minister of Finance told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, “...we also agreed [with the NDP] that the banks ought to do something in terms of consumers with respect to ATMs”.

On February 16, 2007, in the Globe and Mail, the Minister of Finance also said that he was not satisfied with the explanation from Canada's banks for why they charge a fee when other banks' customers use their automated teller machines, and he asked them to try harder.

The Minister of Finance clearly has concerns, but no concrete action has been taken since 2007. The problem existed well before then, but the government did not start talking about it until 2007. It talks about it, says that this is appalling and that we should perhaps do something about this problem because it is hard on the middle class, seniors and persons with disabilities, but it does nothing. There is a real problem. This would be a good opportunity for the government to finally do something for consumers and the middle class, but it is doing nothing.

I have more to say on this, but unfortunately my time has run out. I would be pleased to answer questions.

Employment Insurance December 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Employment shamefully accused Sylvie Therrien of lying. She blew the whistle on the employment insurance quotas created by the Conservatives.

If anyone is lying here, it is not her. Ms. Therrien disclosed that first nations, new Canadians and seasonal workers were a huge target for inspectors.

Does the government understand that it is highly discriminatory to profile the unemployed based on their employment sector or ethnicity?

The Budget March 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the current government is, in fact, responsible for a record deficit. If I am not mistaken, this is the largest deficit in Canada's history.

The Minister of Finance told us that he expects to balance the budget in 2015, without increasing taxes. I am a little skeptical. In fact, I am more than skeptical, because I have the impression that the government takes us for fools. Perhaps the government should go back to the drawing board to draft a decent budget. Perhaps then we will be able to discuss, negotiate and see if we support certain measures in the budget.

The Budget March 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I provided the answer to my colleague's question in my speech, but I would be happy to repeat it.

Members have said that the government's budget is an attack on credit unions. I feel that is extremely problematic. There will certainly be an impact in the short, medium and long term. The short-term effects will be felt immediately.

When credit unions were created, they gave loans to companies that could not get them through a bank. Credit unions have come a long way, and they put Quebec in the spotlight.

In the beginning, credit unions were established only in Quebec, but now they can be found almost anywhere. That proves that the model is working. Why attack that?

The Budget March 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I find my colleague's accusation particularly amusing. I do not appreciate the member trying to put words in my mouth. I am not opposing the budget for the sake of opposing it.

I work extremely hard in my riding. When a budget like this does not meet the needs of my constituents, I am obviously going to oppose it. And that is that.

My colleague said that the government has invested in housing and the fight against homelessness. That is all well and good, but it is not enough.

They are saying that $253 million will be invested in housing, but it would take $1 billion just to maintain existing social housing in Quebec. We are not talking about the same numbers.

The same applies to homelessness. There are between 150,000 and 300,000 homeless people in Canada. If our society does nothing to help those people, then it has a huge problem.

The Budget March 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I will keep that in mind during my speech. If I have to say that the government is incompetent, I will address the remark through you.

I cannot tell the House what I really think about this budget because someone would raise a point of order. To put it politely, I think that, once again, middle-class Canadians are the ones who will pay the price and whose quality of life will suffer. I will not even talk about what will happen to poor people. They will basically not even have a quality of life now that this budget has been tabled. The problem is that, more and more often, this government is sticking the provinces with the bill and interfering in areas of provincial jurisdiction. That is really problematic for the provinces.

The budget gave the government the opportunity to propose a sensible employment insurance reform. There have been many popular uprisings, a coalition has been created in Quebec, and the maritime provinces are protesting. The government could have added one more thing to the budget, taken something out or announced a new investment. That would have been worthwhile. It would have proved that the government is listening to Canadians; however, I see that that is not the case.

I toured my region to speak with entrepreneurs affected by the EI reform, and they all told me that the reform is extremely problematic for their companies and industries. Seasonal industries, such as the horticulture and fishing industries in the maritime provinces and the agricultural industry in my riding, are struggling.

The government should also have backtracked on pensions and announced new investments in this area. Last year, the government suddenly announced that people who had worked hard all their lives, sometimes in jobs requiring manual labour, would have to wait two more years before they could retire. Once again, there were many popular uprisings, and individuals, workers and even employers spoke out about this situation. Yet the government did nothing. It is obvious that the government does not listen to Canadians.

Earlier, I was talking about how the quality of life of the middle class is deteriorating. Yet, the government plans to eliminate the federal tax credit for the FTQ and CSN funds by 2017. That means that small investors may no longer be able to save. This tax credit really helped them. Now, there will be people who will not have any money for retirement and who are unable to save. All they need is some help from the government, but the government will no longer be there to help them. Simply put, we have reached an impasse.

On the weekend I received dozens of emails from my constituents who were writing to say that they disagree with eliminating this tax credit. Chambers of commerce got in touch with me to say that this was not good. These funds are reinvested in the community. I do not see why the government would not continue to want healthy communities, where businesses are growing. I do not see why the government has a problem with this. This measure serves no purpose. It only hurts small investors, workers, employers, industry, businesses and Quebec.

I do not understand why the government is eliminating credits for caisses populaires. The caisses populaires have quite a history. Many businesses in Quebec got off the ground because a caisse populaire believed in people who could not borrow money from the banks. The Cirque du Soleil is one such example. This global enterprise was created in Quebec. It was able to take flight because of Caisse Desjardins. Today, it is putting Quebec on the map. However, the government has suddenly lost interest in this type of investment.

I could talk about services to the public. Earlier, I was talking about EI reform and the quality of life for the middle class. It comes back to that again here.

The Canada Revenue Agency will have to review its practices to become more efficient, and the government says that this will have no impact on the public. That is what it said about Service Canada, when cuts were made there. People ended up having to wait. They did not know where to go and there was no one on the other end of the line to help them when they called. Are we going to end up in the same situation with the Canada Revenue Agency? I think so.

The government cannot make cuts and expect that the public is going to receive exactly the same service with less staff. That is wishful thinking. The government is good at wishful thinking.

I cannot speak to the budget without talking about agriculture, since 90% of the land in my riding is farmland. Eastern Montérégie is known as Quebec's pantry, which speaks volumes. In this budget, there is absolutely no mention of agriculture. The word “agriculture” does not appear anywhere. Is this a problem? This is about our food sovereignty.

The government made cuts to agriculture last year that are still being felt this year because the cuts were spread out. There will be about $158 million in cuts this year. That is a huge problem, especially when we consider that agriculture feeds people and that farmers need a helping hand to feed people. Does this government want to jeopardize our food sovereignty by making cuts to agriculture and by not acknowledging that this is a critical issue for a country must maintain food sovereignty, especially a country like Canada, which must feed 34 million people? That was not mentioned once in the budget. I cannot believe it and it makes me so angry.

I could also talk about infrastructure. In its budget, the government says it is investing $70 billion in infrastructure. Congratulations. However, when I crunch the numbers myself, I see that $4.7 billion less will be invested in infrastructure compared to last year, if we take inflation into account. It is all well and good to talk about $70 billion. It sounds like a big number, but that is over 10 years and we must consider that Canada's infrastructure is in bad shape. Just think of the Champlain Bridge in Montreal. I am taking a risk when I cross that bridge every week. One of these days, something is sure to happen to me.

We need federal assistance for infrastructure. The municipalities' hands are full and the provinces also need some help. I do not see how the government can think that investing $70 billion in infrastructure over 10 years makes it a hero.

Earlier, I spoke about the middle class. Now, I would like to talk about people who are struggling even more, people who often have no income: the homeless. The HPS program has been renewed. This is good. However, the funding is much lower than in previous years and, once again, the federal government is really interfering in programs dealing with needs that should be determined by the regions. That is not what I see in the budget.

The government is investing $253 million in housing. That is a drop in the bucket and is not at all what we need. I should also point out that there is still no national housing strategy.

I could go on for another 20 minutes about what this budget is lacking, but my time is running out, so I will stop there. I would be happy to take questions from my colleagues.

Petitions March 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I introduced Bill C-400, on which we voted recently. It is about implementing a national housing strategy.

The government voted against it, but these people still want a national housing strategy to be developed.

Petitions March 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table two petitions today.

The first concerns a Mexican family from my riding that has been deported. The petition is signed by people who want to see this family come back.

Committees of the House March 20th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in relation to the main estimates 2013-2014.