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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

Employment Insurance Reform March 20th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, last week in my riding, I went to a meeting attended by employers affected by the botched reform of our EI system. I say “our system” because that fund does not belong to the government, but rather to the workers and employers.

Seasonal businesses are facing an unprecedented situation. Many will lose a significant number of skilled employees with specific expertise. Why will they lose these people? Because the minister is forcing them to take work that is 100 km away from their homes for 70% of their salaries.

This reform is impoverishing Canadians, especially women working in atypical or part-time jobs, because many jobs in these sectors are worked by women. Many studies have shown that poverty among women is a real problem. This reform is also threatening seasonal industries and stripping our regions of their vitality, even though the regions are essential to the healthy development of our country.

I urge the minister to do her homework, cancel the reform and talk to people on the ground.

Citizenship and Immigration March 18th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to table a petition in support of a family from my riding that has been extradited. The petition was signed by people in my riding who want the family to remain in Canada. I believe it is important to table this petition.

The Environment March 18th, 2013

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

First, I would like to table a petition on behalf of my hon. colleague, the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel. The petition is in support of a motion to help Canadians who have septic systems in order to safeguard our environment and public health. I am pleased to table this petition.

Homes Not Connected to a Sanitation System March 18th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Motion No. 400 moved by the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

In my opinion, this motion, which aims to protect the water and public health of our communities, is very important and vital. I will read the motion because I think it is worthwhile to go over it again:

…the government should study the possibility of establishing, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, one or more financial support programs, inspired by the one proposed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, that would bring up to standard the septic systems of homes not connected to a sanitation system, in an effort to ensure urban/rural balance, lake protection, water quality and public health.

First of all, I congratulate my colleague on her motion. It proves that she truly is a practical MP who listens to her constituents. I find a number of aspects of this motion very interesting.

Ninety per cent of my riding is rural. We have a number of rivers, including the Yamaska River. Moreover, the Organisme de bassin versant de la Yamaska, an organization I work with in the riding, supports my colleague's motion. Environmental groups are vital in our ridings.

I am also worried about the Yamaska River, which runs through my riding. It is one of the most—if not the most—polluted rivers in Quebec. A motion like this one is definitely very important to my riding, and many environmental organizations support it.

It is also interesting that the motion addresses the notion of fairness among urban and rural areas. As we know, the government invests millions of dollars every year to help municipalities upgrade their sewer systems. The municipalities are often tapped-out and need a little help from the federal government.

At present, 25% of Canadians do not have access to municipal sewer systems. This means that they have to maintain a septic tank on their property, at their own expense. One-quarter of Canadians have to pay for this themselves—and it can cost $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 or even $20,000.

Not everyone can afford these upgrades, so they simply ignore the issue, which is harmful for the environment. These people need a little help. The federal government needs to show some leadership when it comes to the environment for once.

In rural areas, many septic systems are outdated and some need significant or urgent work. The clock is ticking and something needs to be done.

Again, fairness for rural areas is very important. People who live in isolated communities also deserve proper services and should not be penalized. They should not have to pay just because they live in a rural area.

We are simply asking the government to help these people meet environmental standards. These standards are crucial; we are talking about our water. Water is a vital resource that is very plentiful in Quebec and Canada. However, it seems to me that we sometimes take it for granted, since it is so abundant.

This reminds me of a personal story. A few years ago, I went to visit some friends in Belgium and we started talking about water. They told me that, basically, people who live in Quebec and Canada have so much water that they do not care about it; they do not look after it or take care of it. They said that we do not pay any attention to it, that we waste it and pollute it. I said that that was not true.

However, it made me stop and think. I thought that perhaps, deep down, Canadians do have that attitude. Perhaps we should be doing more to clean up our rivers and lakes and to help people who want to meet the standards but are financially unable to do so. I cannot imagine that many families in rural Canada want to go $20,000 into debt for a septic tank.

It would be good if the government stepped in, especially if you consider the fact that people in urban areas have access to sewage systems and do not have to pay for them. Can we all agree that this is a basic necessity?

Obviously, this is also a matter of public health. We are talking about drinking water. If the water is unfit, we cannot simply stop drinking it. There are also fish, shellfish and so on. It will be a problem if we cannot fish and eat them. There is also the issue of ecosystems. It is a serious problem when an ecosystem is transformed because of pollution. We cannot allow that to happen in Canada or anywhere else in the world. There are many problems related to this issue. We are suggesting a solution that would put a halt to these kinds of problems. The marine and earth ecosystems are interconnected and interdependent. We cannot allow this to go on any longer because sewers and drinking water are both matters of public health.

Earlier, I spoke about urban-rural balance. The municipalities do not necessarily have the means to enforce these standards. People are therefore being asked to upgrade their own septic tanks, which could cost $20,000. Yes, the municipality is responsible for enforcing this law. However, if we put ourselves in the shoes of the people living in small rural municipalities that may have only 1,000 residents, we realize that the person who may be required to take on $20,000 in debt is a brother-in-law, neighbour or friend. These are not costs that the municipality can cover. What is more, it becomes very difficult to enforce the law.

For example, the mayor of Saint-Barnabé-Sud in my riding, unlike the mayor of Montreal, is not a full-time mayor. Elected officials in small rural communities have a difficult time enforcing such things and finding the necessary funding. It is hard enough for them to find funding to deal with sewer systems, so members can imagine how difficult it would be to find money for septic tanks. We are talking about communities that have very few residents but that cover very large areas. People live on this land and farm it. They need help and so we must give it to them. In my opinion, it is the government's responsibility to help them.

Speaking of municipalities, it is interesting to note that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities supports this motion. In fact, the motion is largely inspired by the resolution adopted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in 2009. The resolution confirms that it is relevant and urgent that the federal government provide funding to help bring septic systems up to standard. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities considered this issue in 2009 and asked the government to take action. The federation is a large organization made up of over 2,000 Canadian municipalities. These people know their business. They asked the government to take action, but the government did nothing. Now, my colleague is addressing the situation, and I thank her for that.

I urge the government to vote in favour of the motion. For once, it would be nice to see that the government cares about our water, our environment and Canadians' quality of life.

Housing March 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, that is enough of this petty political rhetoric.

Let us be clear.

First of all, I have been asking questions about housing since I was first elected to this House, and every time, I am told that the government has invested in housing and that the NDP voted against it. If the NDP votes against a measure, it is because that measure is stupid and does meet the needs of our constituents. I would like to make that very clear.

Secondly, I worked in the community sector for years, on the ground. I saw what sort of conditions the people in my riding and other ridings were living in. I can assure this House that whatever this government is investing in housing and to fight homelessness is not enough.

That is all I have to say.

Housing March 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, last November, I described Canada's housing situation to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. Canada will have to report to the UN in April. That is not far off; time is running out. The government will have to explain why it is twiddling its thumbs when it made a clear commitment to the United Nations in terms of the right to housing.

Do I need to repeat that we are the only G8 country that does not have a national housing strategy? That is appalling.

Last week, the government voted against my bill, Bill C-400, which proposed a very effective strategy that is working in the other G8 countries. The Conservatives have flat out rejected solutions and tools that would help families who are in desperate need.

The UN states that safe, adequate, accessible and affordable housing is a right. It is not a privilege, it is a right. Let us make that clear. Yet right now, as we speak, millions of families—at least 1.5 million—are having to choose between paying the rent and putting food on the table. That is a problem in a country as rich as Canada. Yet the government stubbornly continues to believe that decent housing is a privilege.

Having access to safe and affordable housing is not a privilege; it is a fundamental right and families should not have to make a choice between their house or buying food for their children.

I hope that my colleagues heard what I said. I think I was clear. We have to stop burying our heads in the sand and face the facts. All of the experts agree that we need a national housing strategy.

As I said earlier, over 1.5 million families have core housing needs. What does that mean? People who live in dwellings that are too small, unsanitary or unaffordable have a core housing need. They have to choose between buying groceries to feed their families and paying rent. Forcing people to choose between eating and keeping a roof over their heads is cruel. Yet that is what the government is doing.

At least 150,000 people live on the street. That number could be as high as 300,000. Getting precise numbers is difficult and that in itself is unacceptable.

Will the government report to the UN? What does it intend to do to keep its promises to Canadians? Will Canada remain the laughingstock of the UN on this issue and many others that I will not name because I do not have enough time?

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012 February 27th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to say that we support Bill C-48 because it will have some positive effects on revenues, and the changes it makes will help deter tax avoidance, which is good.

I find it interesting that the bill talks a lot about tax avoidance. Members know that the middle class, which pays taxes, can rarely use tax avoidance tactics to pay less and have a little breathing room. The people who have the means to pay taxes also have the means to find ways to avoid them, while the middle class is suffocating under the weight of all of the government's cuts. I think it is good that this bill addresses the issue of tax avoidance. I wanted to share that with my colleagues. Our tax system must be managed much more responsibly, and we must ensure its integrity.

I have a question for the government. Why did it wait so long to legislate measures that have been around for 10 years? Some of these came into effect in 1998. I was 13 years old in 1998. That was a long time ago. The government opposite is not the only one to blame, because it has not been in power since 1998. Thank goodness, since who knows what the House would look like. I get the impression that they suddenly woke up and decided they needed to legislate some tax measures. I find that a little odd.

I do not claim to be a financial expert. I probably never will be. It is not a topic that interests me as much as housing, which I talk about all the time. I am no financial expert, but it seems to me that a competent government should have woken up a little sooner.

When I look at how long this document is, I pity the poor Standing Committee on Finance, which has to examine it. The word “omnibus” also comes to mind. I will certainly never approve of this way of doing things and neither will my party, obviously. The government has a tendency to put everything in one bill, and I do not agree with that practice. For example, Bill C-48 amends the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act.

Given the importance of these four laws, the length of the bill and the need for the measures set out in this bill, I am afraid that the committee will do a poor job of examining the bill, which would be too bad considering how important it is.

Honestly, I find that this bill, which is coming from a government that claims to be so concerned about the health of our economy, is really late, and I think that it should be examined in a different manner. The Minister of Finance himself admitted that the government failed to take action. I would not like to be part of the Conservative cabinet right now.

That being said, given the government's inaction on so many matters of vital importance to our country, I am not really surprised to see that it has been so negligent with regard to tax avoidance and the integrity of our tax system.

I am talking about inaction. I am talking about a government that does not understand the importance of homelessness and affordable housing programs, for example. I am talking about a botched EI reform at a time when workers need EI the most. I am talking about a government that barely makes any investments in the environment, thereby endangering the quality of life of future generations. I am talking about a government that neglects infrastructure to the point where I am now afraid to drive on the Champlain Bridge, and I believe that is a legitimate fear.

When this bill is passed and tax avoidance is being discouraged, can we hope to see revenue increase?

In my riding, there is a lack of affordable housing. Homelessness is on the rise and agricultural businesses are losing skilled employees because of the EI reform. What is more, many environmental organizations are fighting to give our children a habitable earth. Clearly, we also need health infrastructure, a commuter train and a tunnel in order to promote the economic development of our region. Once this measure is implemented, will others follow?

I will stop there.

Petitions February 27th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition today from people who are fed up with seeing the government ignore the issue of poverty and deny its very existence.

I am presenting a petition calling on the government to support Bill C-400, which would provide safe, adequate, accessible and affordable housing to Canadians. I am starting to get used to saying that.

Housing February 27th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the fiction being spouted by the President of the Treasury Board about the cost of my bill does not change the fact that they have been stalling for four years, while millions of Canadian families do not have access to safe, affordable housing. The experts all agree: we need a national housing strategy. The solution is right in front of them; they just need to vote for Bill C-400.

Will the Conservatives support families who need safe, adequate, accessible and affordable housing? Yes or no?

Housing February 27th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in the launch of the YWCA's Homes for Women campaign. Canada's housing crisis is obvious. We have more than 150,000 people who are homeless, and more than 150 million households have an urgent need for housing.

The housing crisis is obvious. We have more than 150,000 people homeless and more than 1.5 million households do not have access to affordable and safe housing.

It goes without saying that a large number of these households are run by women and that the rate of homelessness among women has been rising. That is why this campaign is needed.

I urge the government to let us make history, not only by supporting this campaign, but also by voting in favour of a national housing strategy this evening, so that we can ensure that all women have safe, adequate, accessible and affordable housing.