House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Status of Women April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, while the Conservative government is putting billions of dollars into the pockets of the wealthiest Canadians, we find nothing in its latest budget to support women, nothing to provide them with support in their careers, such as affordable child care, nothing to ensure that they get pay equity.

With income splitting, this spring the Conservatives told women to stay at home; now, with their budget, the Conservatives are not giving them any other option.

Why is the government doing nothing to help women?

The Budget April 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, that is an easy answer. No, I do not support the budget. As I just detailed, there is nothing in this budget for women. There are superficial measures that I am looking forward to seeing the details of which do not have any funding attached to them.

Time and again again we hear that for the creation of jobs for women, we need to up the minimum wage. Women disproportionately work in minimum wage jobs. We need child care spaces. By child care spaces, we do not mean a $500 cheque that will not even pay for a month of child care. Child care can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per month per child. We have heard that often women have to make the choice, or the choice is taken away from them to work because they cannot afford child care, or they cannot access child care or child care costs more than they earn.

It is quite hilarious that the minister said that there were tax breaks for single moms and women because there are none. The income-splitting tax break that is proposed in this budget does not help the majority of families, and it certainly does not help women. Rather, it helps those who make the most money, those who have two salaries where one is much higher than the other. Often those who make less are women. That is still the reality, as I detailed.

We need to address pay equity. Income splitting does the opposite of addressing it; rather, it exacerbates it. That is why this budget is completely contrary to what women need. That is why I absolutely cannot support it.

The Budget April 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to pick up where I left off.

This budget has nothing to offer the regions and Quebeckers. It does not create jobs, nor does it invest where money is needed to create greater equality and wealth across Canada. There is no investment in the regions, and there are more unilateral changes to health transfers, which will put tremendous pressure on my home province, Quebec. Everything will be downloaded onto the municipalities, and Quebeckers will have to pay for it all themselves.

The Conservatives are also making further cuts to Canada Post services, necessary services that many people, including seniors and people with reduced mobility, really rely on. People in most Quebec municipalities, including municipalities in my riding, Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, are really opposed to that.

My colleague also talked about infrastructure. Investments in public transit will not materialize until the end of the budget cycle. This means that no money will be coming for public transit during the first two years. This will really affect municipalities in my riding. Since cuts to health care affect the province, Quebeckers are the ones who will really foot the bill for the Conservatives' balanced budget.

The Budget April 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, before I start my speech I want to say that I will share my time with the member for Beauport—Limoilou. I look forward to hearing his speech.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to what will the the last budget from this Conservative government.

After a decade under this government, families are working harder than ever, but they can barely keep their heads above water. Unfortunately, this budget is no different and does nothing to help them. Middle-class families continue to feel overburdened.

Instead of proposing a real plan to help those who need it the most, the government insists on imposing measures, like income splitting, that primarily help the people who need it the least, and it insists on giving tax breaks to the big CEOs.

The average household debt has reached record highs, but the Conservatives have no plan to help families make ends meet. There is nothing to make life more affordable, such as measures to protect Canadians from unreasonable ATM fees and exceptionally high credit card interest rates.

Balancing the budget has mainly been achieved at the expense of all Canadians, with cuts to social services and public sector jobs. Household debt is on the increase and provincial government debt has reached a new record. The Conservatives have succeeded in balancing their budget, after the deficit they created themselves, but Canada is in much worse shape.

The Conservatives have made access to services very difficult, and since 2011 this new reality has had an impact on people in my riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel. Six out of ten Canadians are ineligible for employment insurance and that is not acceptable. This budget does nothing to improve their access. In my constituency offices we have helped hundreds of constituents trying to get access to employment insurance, immigration documents, small-business consulting—with the Business Development Bank—and other services to which they are entitled. They have already paid for their pensions and employment insurance. This government always prefers to give its gifts to the wealthiest among us.

These austerity measures do not stimulate growth and are a burden on many people in Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel. I will do everything in my power to ensure that this is the final Conservative budget, because my constituents truly deserve much better.

The budget restates the government's commitment to reducing employment insurance contribution rates, which means that the government will continue to harvest a surplus from contributions while refusing to make employment insurance more accessible to the workers who contribute but who cannot receive benefits when they need them.

While Canadians are facing more and more inequality, instead of tackling the problem, Conservatives are encouraging it with appalling measures like income splitting, which will cost us more than $2 billion per year while 49% of all qualifying families will receive nothing.

We must also remember that single-parent households, low-income and equal-income parents are not eligible. They will not get a single penny from this measure. In fact, 89% of Canadian households will receive absolutely no benefit from income splitting at all.

For those who can receive benefits, though, according to Dr. Kathleen Lahey at the CCPA, 30% of families will receive 78% of the benefits, which leaves less than a total of a half a million dollars for 70% of the eligible Canadian families to share.

These changes give nothing to the families who need the government support and leadership the most, those who bear the brunt of the slashed spending and cuts to services that the current government has implemented since it has been in power. However, in every single jurisdiction in the world where income splitting has been implemented, women's participation in the workforce has declined. Why this proposal would seem like a good policy measure for a government to have is completely inconceivable to me.

The government's inexplicable income splitting plan will have a direct, negative effect on the equality of men and women in this country. This is not surprising, since there is nothing in this budget that would serve to advance equality of the sexes, nothing for pay equity, nothing for child care and nothing to end violence against women.

Gender inequality means that women do not have economic security, and that fits right into the government's agenda. Women make up 59% of minimum-wage workers. Even working full time, women in these jobs do not have enough money to meet all their family's needs. Women who work full time earn an average of 23% less than men; 20 years ago they earned 28% less. At this rate, we will reach wage parity in 95 years.

Women are often the lower income earner in a dual-income family. Who has to give up work because they cannot afford child care? Women. Who works part-time, in unstable jobs as well? That is women.

In a country failing to create good jobs and insisting on tax giveaways to corporations and the highest earners, what demographic receives the least support when they need it the most? It is single moms, senior women, women living in poverty, women living with disabilities, racialized women and indigenous women.

This budget and, simply put, the government has left women behind. Rather than providing choices for the most affluent, the federal government could reduce discrimination and inequality, and it should.

Few workers saw their wages increased by more than 2% to 3% last year, but 32% of working women actually saw the gap between their wages and those of their male peers widen. Closing the wage gap could boost GDP growth by as much as 10%.

That is why we must have a women's labour strategy, along with mechanisms to ensure that government investments in programs are targeted at both men and women.

However, the Conservatives idea of including women in the budget is to make a few superficial announcements, like supporting women in business through the action plan for women entrepreneurs and changes to the Canada Business Corporations Act to promote gender diversity among public companies.

While I do look forward to looking at the details of these proposals, no new funding was announced for these initiatives.

Meanwhile, we are far from achieving pay equity in Canada. Canada’s wage gap puts us in eighth place among all the OECD countries. More women than ever before in Canada are educated and have careers, but they still do not receive equal pay for work of equal value performed by men.

For every dollar earned by a man with a post-secondary education, a woman with the same education earns only 82¢ in the public sector and only 77¢ in the private sector. This gap is even greater for women in a visible minority group and for aboriginal women.

Any progress made by the generations of women who fought for pay equity cannot be attributed to the generosity of employers. In fact, often employers do not even know that there is a problem. Progress on this issue is recognized by experts as resulting from pay equity legislation and other legislative measures. Since 2004, we have seen not just a lack of action on pay equity, but real setbacks.

As I mentioned earlier, income splitting will do nothing to help 85% of families and will do nothing to help the shortage of affordable child care in this country. In fact, the 2015 budget completely fails to provide child care spaces for Canadian families. We know that creating spaces in high-quality and affordable child care centres is central to reaching gender equality.

Even 44 years after the Royal Commission on the Status of Women recommended a national child care program, only 22.5% of children under five have a space in a regulated child care centre. There is a shortage of spaces right across Canada. This is why the NDP has a plan to ensure access to child care for no more than $15 per day. Experts agree that this plan is a key element for women’s equality.

Canadian families are struggling like never before, and yet the government is doing nothing to help them.

Even worse, the budget does not tackle the issue of violence against women. This is really disappointing. It is also a shame that they have refused to launch a national public inquiry, which has the unanimous support of people across Canada.

There are a few good proposals in this budget, primarily the ones that were stolen from the NDP, such as lowering the tax rate for SMEs, which will drop from 11% to 9%, as well as extending employment insurance benefits from six weeks to six months.

However, the fact is that most of the measures in this budget fail Canadians, and especially Quebeckers. The budget fails to create good jobs and fails to invest in those who need it the most. I will not be supporting this budget.

Status of Women April 22nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, pay equity, affordable child care and concrete solutions to address violence against women were left out of yesterday's budget.

The Conservatives' incompetence is not only creating further disparity, it is also widening the gap between men and women. Canada currently ranks 19th in the world in that regard. It is time we had a budget centred around a gender-based analysis, a budget that would advance the equality of women.

Why did the Conservative decide to do the opposite?

The Budget April 22nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the government balanced the budget yesterday at the expense of Canadian women. The Conservatives' tax policy is a total failure for gender equality.

Budget day also happened to be Equal Pay Day. Yes, it was also a day to remind everyone that a woman must work until April of the next year to earn the same amount made by a man the previous year. That is a 30% gap. Yesterday's Conservative budget provides nothing to reduce the gender gap. In fact, it is more like the same old same old, creating even more obstacles for women, with measures that are good for only a small group of Canadians.

Instead of providing affordable and accessible child care for all families, the Conservatives chose to spend billons of dollars on income splitting for the wealthy, a measure that will decrease women's participation in the workforce.

Canadians deserve better. We deserve a budget that takes into account the burden of unpaid work, the wage gap and the high rates of violence against women. We deserve an NDP government.

Drug-Free Prisons Act April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

I also want to thank the member for Alfred-Pellan for all the hard work she does as the NDP deputy critic for public safety. She is doing a truly fantastic job and we really admire her for that. She raised a very good point.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, basically, this bill just puts into law something that is already a common practice. It does nothing to tackle the problem. I did not spend my whole speech listing all the problems and explaining why it is dangerous, not only for those who are incarcerated, but also for those who work in correctional institutions.

This issue must be considered a priority and it really needs to be dealt with through mental health services and drug treatment programs.

Drug-Free Prisons Act April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for asking this question.

Just the cuts to Corrections Canada have dramatically affected the availability of services and programs that do help inmates. Unfortunately, we can see them going down the path of making those cuts and also increasing prison sentences, and therefore, the number of people who are incarcerated. This is a very dangerous situation where now, for just services such as dealing with mental health, dealing with drug addiction, the waiting lists are so long that inmates can wait their entire prison sentence before getting the services. Therefore, they go back into society without the rehabilitation that was needed. These individuals have a much higher recidivism rate.

As I mentioned earlier, 70% of incarcerated women have mental health issues. This means that these services are extremely important and we need to strengthen them. Unfortunately, the government does not really appear to be ensuring that these services are provided.

Drug-Free Prisons Act April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-12 seeks to add a provision to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that makes it clear that the Parole Board of Canada may use positive results from urine tests or refusals to take urine tests for drugs in making its decisions on parole eligibility.

This gives clear legal authority to an existing practice of the Parole Board. I support that and so I support this bill, since it simply places something that already happens in practice into the act.

Since we are talking about a provision that is rather straightforward and relatively uncontroversial, I want to take the time to talk about related issues that I believe need to be addressed, so I will take the time that has been allotted me to do so.

The government is making our prisons less safe by cutting funding to correctional programming, such as substance abuse treatment, and increasing the use of double bunking, which leads to more violence. That is not only dangerous for inmates but also for those who work in correctional institutions. It also does not promote rehabilitation. This is an issue that we all need to be concerned about.

Our priority should be ensuring community safety by preparing former offenders to reintegrate back into society, and by helping them overcome their addictions and become less inclined to reoffend.

A report from Correctional Service Canada in 2011 states that there ought to be improved access to medical professionals and medical health services and a continued focus on the role of substance use and self-harming behaviours as coping mechanisms, and that there are several issues regarding the implementation of programming specifically related to the availability and accessibility of programs, the frequency with which programs are offered, and the wait lists of these programs.

The prison population is increasing at the same time as the Conservative government is closing institutions, and this has resulted in directive 55, which I am sure all of my colleagues are aware of, from Correctional Service Canada, which establishes a procedure to normalize double bunking. In my province of Quebec, that has led to double bunking at 10%. Staff and the Correctional Investigator have repeatedly stated that this leads to increased violence and gang activity.

Further, I want to underline that according to Kim Pate from the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, the rise in women serving federal sentences is directly related to cuts in social services, social programs, health care, education—all the programs that traditionally help level the playing field for those who are most impacted. By “those”, we often mean, of course, indigenous peoples, women, poor people, and those with mental health issues.

According to Correctional Service Canada data published in 2011, 27% of women incarcerated were convicted of a drug-related offence.

According to the Office of the Correctional Investigator's 2011-12 report, almost two-thirds of inmates were under the influence of an intoxicant when they committed the offence leading to their incarceration.

I want to raise the fact that we are looking at people being incarcerated who need to deal with this issue.

I also want to state that the majority of women incarcerated—86%, to be specific—report having been physically abused at some point in their lives, with two-thirds of the women, 68%, reporting that they had been sexually abused throughout their lives. When we talk about using drugs as a coping mechanism, especially when incarcerated, we need to keep this in mind.

A zero tolerance stance on drugs in prison is proving to be a completely ineffective policy. Meanwhile, harm-reduction measures within a public health system and treatment orientation offer a far more promising, cost-effective, and sustainable approach to reducing subsequent crime and re-victimization. That is from the report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator in 2011-12.

According to a report looking at policy for offenders with mental illness published in 2010, compared to the general population, the rate of mental illnesses among jail detainees is almost twice as high for women, and detainees with a serious mental illness have co-occurring substance abuse disorder.

That is why we are talking about both these things right now. We are talking about mental health and drug use as being correlated and as being major issues that need to be dealt with within the incarceration system, not only for the betterment of the detainees and their reintegration into society, but also to reduce violence in the future, to reduce violence within prisons, and also to make correction officers' workplaces safer ones.

Individuals with mental illnesses are not only disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, but they are also disproportionately likely to fail under correctional supervision. In 2011, 69% of female offenders received a mental health care intervention. When we are talking about their being more likely to fail, we are talking about 70% of the women who are currently incarcerated being those who are more likely to fail. Those are staggering numbers.

To really tackle this problem, we must also tackle the problem of substance abuse in prison. To that end, we must first implement an intake assessment process to accurately measure the level of drug use by inmates, and then provide adequate programs for offenders in need. We talked a lot about that today. We have to ensure that these women have access to these programs and services because, as I mentioned, a large percentage of incarcerated women suffer from mental health or substance abuse problems, as do these men. Without drug addiction treatment, education and proper reintegration upon release, offenders run the risk of returning to a life of crime and claiming new victims. We want to avoid that at all costs.

We should strive to have a correctional system that provides effective rehabilitation programs such as ongoing education, substance abuse treatment and support programs, in order to foster the social reintegration of offenders when they are released. That is the only way to reduce the rate of recidivism.

The last point I would like to make is the following: we want to ensure that prisons are a safe workplace for the people who work there. As I mentioned earlier, we can start by eliminating the practice of double-bunking and ensuring that resources are allocated to the treatment of inmates with substance abuse or mental health problems.

Status of Women April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, no woman has been nominated for induction into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame in the past two years.

Two eminent female scientists stepped down from the selection committee at the Canada Science and Technology Museum to protest the lack of willingness to recognize the contributions women make to the sciences.

Will the government show some leadership and take action to promote the success of women in the sciences?