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  • Her favourite word is farmers.

NDP MP for Berthier—Maskinongé (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 42% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Income Tax Act November 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, today, I have the great pleasure of taking part in the debate on the bill introduced by my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. First of all, I want to thank my colleague for his work on this bill, his commitment, his consultations, and for listening. This is truly a bill that will improve Canadians' quality of life.

I have to admit that I was truly disappointed with the speech by my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain. I represent the riding of Berthier—Maskinongé and part of the regional municipality of Maskinongé is located in Mauricie.

My colleague from Shawinigan represents a very rural area that has hundreds of SMEs, and I know that this bill will improve the economic situation of the regions. It is really frustrating when members pull figures out of thin air, maybe out of their own pockets. I believe that everyone agrees with the principle of this bill. I hope that it will be referred to committee so we can better understand where these figures come from.

I would like to point out that this bill has widespread support from all across the country. I believe it is also important to talk about this bill in my role as agriculture and agri-food critic. I am a member of the standing committee, and we are currently studying the next policy framework. Earlier today, in fact, officials were explaining to us once again how hard it is to find people to take over. It is not easy. The price of land is going up, and access to capital is difficult, so a bill like this one is a step in the right direction.

I should explain a little about the situation facing family farms in Canada. Over the past 10 years, we have lost 8,000 family farms. It is clear that this phenomenon is far from over, and it is important that we tackle the problem head on. There are a number of things we could do, and one of them is to make it easier to transfer farms between family members.

We also know that we have an aging population, especially in the regions. The demand for people to take over these businesses is only going to increase over the next few years. Overall, we are talking about $50 billion in farm assets that will be transferred between 2016 and 2026. Therefore, this bill is very important to the farming community.

At present, farmers look at their farms as their pension fund, and as much as they would love to transfer them to a family member, it is much more advantageous to sell to a stranger than someone who is part of the family. It is really sad, and we need to correct this injustice.

Let us imagine a farm worth $10 million. That farm would be worth $1.25 million more to the farmer after tax if he sells it to a stranger rather than a member of his own family. Unfortunately, sometimes that is the choice that has to be made. Farmers have to sell to strangers instead of passing the business down from one generation to the next, because the tax rules are unfair and completely unfavourable.

The problem with high land prices is that unrelated investors often have more interest in the land itself rather than farming it. Many farmers have to face really tough choices because of this. They have to choose between their hard-earned retirement and keeping production in the family.

Let us not forget that other factors also contribute to the challenges facing our family farms. My Conservative colleague mentioned this. We can talk about the government's role in border control, the government's failure to act on the diafiltered milk issue, and the completely unfair compensation for dairy farmers and processors under CETA. That is the situation facing our farmers and artisanal cheese producers in the regions. Things are really tough.

On top of that, in other agricultural sectors, farmers are really worried about the labour shortage. As we know, in the last budget, the government allocated very little money to agriculture.

All of the measures I listed that are designed to support supply management are really in the government's hands, but it seems disinclined to act or to protect it.

As the member for Berthier—Maskinongé, a rural riding, I understand how important this bill is to the people I represent.

I would like to briefly discuss the importance of small businesses to the regions. As I said earlier, small businesses are responsible for 80% of job creation in Canada. In Quebec, and in Canada as a whole, 98% of all businesses are small and medium-sized businesses.

The NDP believes we must do everything we can to ensure that businesses operate under the best possible conditions to stay competitive in a constantly changing market. The NDP will fight to protect our jobs and our family businesses.

Small businesses are the economic heart of our regions. We all have a favourite restaurant or corner store or a salon where we like to get our hair cut, and we have to support these businesses and encourage them. This is a step in the right direction. We are proud of it. We were all elected to try to introduce good legislative change.

I believe the situation in Berthier—Maskinongé is like that in my colleagues' ridings.

Bill C-274 will improve things. It is a step in the right direction. However, let us not forget that there are other areas we must improve in order to protect the regions. For example, the government promised to lower taxes from 11% to 9%. That is a broken promise. Let us not forget how important it is to develop high speed internet in the regions. We must support our family businesses and the government has to ensure that we have all the tools we need in the next strategic plan.

Our bill is widely supported. I know that my colleague already mentioned it, but there is a list of supporters two or three pages long.

I would like to read a quote by the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture:

Simply put, if taxation barriers are not addressed, we will see fewer and fewer family farms in Canada. We support [the commitment by the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques and his colleague] to addressing these tax burdens that could cause a significant administrative burden [and] cost...

The bill also has the support of the Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec.

It is unfair. Everyone knows there is work to be done. I think that we have had a good debate so far. However, it is important to ensure that this bill gets to committee. We must have the figures and know where they come from and we must be sure to present something that is going to improve the quality of life for the people living in rural areas who support our SMEs. This bill will really change things.

We hope to have the support of the House and to at least be able to refer this bill to committee. This bill will really change things for Canadians across the country.

Air Transportation November 23rd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals promised that they would be transparent and work on behalf of all Canadians.

However, with regard to the Saint-Cuthbert, Terrebonne and Mascouche aerodromes, the Minister of Transport is satisfied with completely subjective and bungled consultations that benefit only the developers, not Canadians. The government is not doing its due diligence.

Can the minister set the record straight on the Saint-Cuthbert aerodrome?

Will he listen to the people of Saint-Cuthbert and put a stop to the aerodrome project?

Dairy Industry November 22nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the House the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food said that he was very proud of his transition plan for dairy producers because Ontario producers said that they are satisfied. What about Quebec dairy producers? They will be negatively impacted by the Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement. According to Quebec dairy producers, the Liberal transition plan is way off base.

Why are Liberal members of the Quebec caucus keeping mum on this file? They never say a word about dairy producers and they never defend supply management. Are they proud when their minister spouts such nonsense?

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act November 21st, 2016

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question.

Stability is important. Dairy farmers and fine cheese producers in Quebec and across Canada are entrepreneurs. However, recent trade agreements, including the Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement, or CETA, and the trans-Pacific partnership, have shown that there are flaws in our supply management system that will result in major losses for our industry.

The Conservative government said that it had a plan, and now the Liberal government is telling us that it has a plan, that it has a solution, and that producers should not worry because the government is listening to them and is going to propose a solution. The Liberal government's transition support plan to mitigate the negative effects of CETA is woefully inadequate. In fact, I think it is disrespectful of the Liberal government to move forward with a $350-million plan. It is not enough.

Last week, the president of Producteurs de lait du Québec suggested increasing the transition support plan to $750 million and establishing a 15-year program, rather than a five-year program.

The Liberals have been in power for a year, and I feel they could have done better. I hope they will change tack and improve the program so that it will really help the industry because this is important for the regions. This is about protecting one of our traditional economic sectors and our jobs. We are proud of our exceptional Quebec cheese producers. We eat Quebec cheeses; we love them. We must therefore support our producers.

It is just so disappointing to see that, after a year in power, the Liberals have not even been able to deal with the problem of diafiltered milk in Canada.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act November 21st, 2016

Madam Speaker, I do not sit on the trade committee. I am lucky to work on the agriculture committee. I would like to thank my colleague from Essex because she is working very hard on this deal, on CETA, and she has worked very hard on the TPP. We have no idea what will happen with that.

However, what is super important for us is that Canadians are consulted. I know the government says that it likes to consult, but I think it likes to consult to try to find the answer that it wants.

Right now with CETA, we have the feeling, and a lot of Canadians have the feeling, that they are not being consulted enough on this, and that if their voice or opinion is contrary to the government's position on CETA, the government does not want to hear it.

I cannot speak to what exactly happened at the trade committee because I was not there. However, I think it is important that Canadians feel included in this debate. I believe that Canadians should have a right to participate and testify at committee, and if they cannot make it to the committee, they should have the right to submit recommendations to the committee.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act November 21st, 2016

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.

First, I would like to thank the member for Essex, our international trade critic. In my opinion, she and her team do an extraordinary job. She exhibited great strength during today's debate. I would like to congratulate her on the work she did in committee and commend her for her dedication.

Today, I have the pleasure of speaking to Bill C-30, an act to implement the comprehensive economic and trade agreement between Canada and the European Union and its member states and to provide for certain other measures. I am also pleased to rise to represent the people of Berthier—Maskinongé.

It is important for me to mention in the House that the NDP is in favour of international trade agreements as long as they are fair. The word “fair” is important. It is not simply a matter of engaging in free trade. We need to ensure that we are engaging in fair trade. The problem with the current government and the previous government is that they are quick to sign any agreement just so that they can brag about signing free trade agreements.

We had a fine example of this in fall 2013. During question period, the leader of the second opposition party, the current Prime Minister, congratulated the Conservative government for concluding an agreement in principle with the European Union without ever having read the agreement, which was not yet available. That is the Liberal Party in a nutshell.

Now that it is in government, not much has changed. The Liberals had several good opportunities to improve the agreement, but they chose instead to sign something that is not fair to Canadians. They were in such a hurry to see CETA come into force that they botched their own process. They are asking us, the members of the House, to give them carte blanche by voting in favour of a flawed document that will be end up being changed, especially with respect to the investor-state provisions. I think it makes no sense that hon. members are not voting on the final document.

This agreement and trade with the European Union are too important for us to take this lightly or rush through it.

A number of problems need fixing before we move forward. First, for the people of Berthier—Maskinongé, changes to intellectual property rules will cause drug prices to skyrocket. Considering our aging population and household incomes below the Canadian average, rising drug prices make me fear the worst for my fellow citizens. The government should address this before moving forward.

Second, there are a number of problems related to the agriculture and agri-food sector. I should point out that the government allowed an additional 17,700 tonnes of cheese from Europe over and above the 13,500 tonnes it already exports. In total, Europe will be allowed to export 31,200 tonnes of cheese to Canada, most of it fine cheese.

This problem provision will increase the percentage of dairy product imports from 4% to 9%, and dairy producers will lose between $116 million and $150 million. We must not forget fine cheese producers; this will cost them too. Of the additional 17,700 tonnes of cheese, 16,000 tonnes will be fine cheese. The impact of this will be felt most keenly in Quebec, which produces 60% of the country's fine cheese. Many cheese makers have said that allowing fine cheeses in will cause businesses to close.

Our manufacturing standards combined with generous subsidies for European producers make it almost impossible for our cheese makers to compete.

For a few years now, dairy and cheese producers have been investing and working hard to grow the fine cheese market. Because of this problem provision, however, their efforts will only benefit the Europeans.

Here is an example of how this agreement will affect a fine cheese producer in my riding, the Fromagerie Domaine Féodal. Last Friday I had the honour of attending a wine and cheese tasting to mark that business' 15th anniversary. The owners, Guy and Lise, just invested over $1 million to modernize their facilities, and they did so without any Canadian subsidies. I would also like to point out that they won a silver medal just last week for a cheese called Cendré des prés. I want to thank everyone who works with Guy and Lise and their family: Charles, Pierrette, Chantale, Annie, Mélanie, Justine, and Marie.

The arrival of fine cheeses from Europe will just eat into the profits they would have made on their investments. This cheese factory from the Lanaudière region will be able to absorb the blow from CETA, but that is not the case for all cheese makers in Quebec. They believe that many of the artisanal cheese factories from Quebec will close up. It is very hard for our cheese makers to compete with European cheese makers who are highly subsidized and have lower food safety standards than we do. Once again it will be our rural communities that will end up paying for this flawed trade agreement.

The government is absolving itself of the problems the agreement is causing the dairy industry with its transition plan. The government promised dairy farmers a $100-million investment fund over four years to help them modernize their operations and increase their productivity and efficiency, as well as diversify their range of products in order to capitalize on new European markets.

Clearly this program will be reserved for the largest processors and our artisanal cheese makers will be left out. The amount budgeted for the processors is far from adequate, as it does not even cover the $150-million losses the producers of fine cheeses will suffer.

The investment fund for dairy producers is even more appalling. The amount of $250 million over five years in light of annual recurring losses that could reach $150 million is not just inadequate but is an insult to dairy producers, who work very hard to make very high-quality milk.

Like artisanal cheese makers, several producers will never see this money because they have already modernized their facilities. However, above all, it simply makes no sense that our producers have to pay to access this money. How utterly deplorable of the Liberals to want to go forward with this agreement before examining its impact on the dairy industry. There is too much uncertainty for producers.

CETA will be problematic not just for the dairy sector, but also for the pork and beef industries. The previous government and the current one repeatedly boasted about the share of the European beef and pork market they gained. However, there is much to do before producers can really benefit from this market share. In fact, due to current European regulatory obstacles, none of our beef and pork producers will benefit.

I do not understand why the government is willing to move forward without resolving these issues. Stakeholders in other areas of the agriculture and agri-food sector welcome the export opportunities offered by this agreement. However, there is always a big “but” or a “maybe”. Compared to Europe and other industrialized countries, Canada provides its agriculture and agri-food sector with very few subsidies. The same goes for technical support and funding for research and innovation.

I repeat: I understand that the government wants to move forward with this agreement. However, we need to ensure that all of the programs are in place. What is more, in order to prevent unfair competition, the government needs to stand up for producers and ensure that this agreement is in the best interests of all Canadians.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act November 21st, 2016

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech in the House.

It is important to talk about losses once again, because the dairy industry, including processors and the producers of Quebec's fine cheeses, are going to suffer immensely. The plan proposed by the previous Conservative government was an ambitious plan worth $4.3 billion, while the plan recently announced by the Liberals is much more modest. It includes $250 million for producers and $100 million for processors.

Last week the chairman of the Producteurs de lait du Québec told dairy farmers who had gathered for a general assembly that this plan to help our producers and processors is not enough. There are also a number of concerns regarding the production of fine cheeses. Will the $100 million be given to big companies? Will companies like Agropur and Saputo be eligible? I think average size producers will get about $5,000 in compensation. When the losses are in the $150-million-a-year range, does my colleague think that is enough?

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act November 21st, 2016

Madam Speaker, I feel it is important to rethink the transition plan for the dairy industry and fine cheese producers.

The Canada-European Union trade agreement will result in huge losses for supply-managed industries. Last week, the Government of Quebec and a number of key industry players said that $350 million is not enough. They need more help to handle the transition and mitigate the negative impact of the Canada-European Union trade agreement. In Quebec, the industry is asking for more than $750 million.

Can the member confirm that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is not only listening, but that he will actually do something to help Quebec's dairy industry and fine cheese producers?

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act November 21st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech in the House.

I just want to add a few more comments about the answer we just got.

The dairy sector and fine cheese production in Canada will suffer enormous losses because of the Canada-Europe trade agreement. We are talking annual losses of $150 million. The plan announced by the Liberal government is not good enough. It is important to listen to producers, but just listening to them is not enough. The government has to act. We need to have a transition support plan that truly mitigates the negative and damaging effects of the Canada-Europe trade agreement.

Quebec dairy producers are asking for an additional $750 million in assistance. Can the member across the aisle confirm that Quebec dairy producers and fine cheese makers will get that transition assistance?

Petitions November 21st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House to present a petition started by a citizen of Saint-Cuthbert. A total of 518 people have signed this petition, which calls on the Minister of Transport to impose a moratorium on the construction or the expansion of an aerodrome in their community.

They are also asking for consultations to be conducted by a neutral and independent third party, and that measures to ensure high environmental standards be respected.

This petition is very important to citizens' confidence and the social licence for major aerospace development in their community.

I truly hope that the Minister of Transport will listen to them and hopefully avoid a repeat of what happened in Neuville, Mascouche, and Terrebonne.