House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was farmers.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Berthier—Maskinongé (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2021, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply October 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, that bill has spent 120 days in the Senate. It is important, and we will support that bill. We have supported that bill from the beginning. Of course we wanted to see it. Of course—

Business of Supply October 18th, 2012

Oh, it is.

Business of Supply October 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know why it was 120 days in the Senate. Why was it not brought to committee?

We are not slowing anything down. We have the right to debate this in the House, and I think it is very important that we do.

Why was it in the Senate? Why is it not here? The hon. member should answer that question.

Business of Supply October 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support the motion moved by my colleague from Welland, and I commend him for his hard work since the beginning of the E. coli crisis.

Today, to prepare myself, I reviewed the chronology of events in this crisis. There have been so many delays, so many unanswered questions, so many lapses and failures in the Minister of Agriculture's story that it was not an easy task.

Let us go over the main events in this crisis. On September 4, the CFIA and the United States discovered, at the same time, E. coli bacteria in beef from XL Foods. On September 13, XL Foods' American permit was revoked. The CFIA removed XL Foods from the list of companies that can export to the United States. However, it was not until September 16 that the first beef recall was issued. XL Foods' operating permit was suspended on September 27. These are huge delays when we are talking about Canadians' safety.

One of the things that upsets me the most about this crisis is the Minister of Agriculture's handling of it. Initially he stayed away from Ottawa, but then when he did show up, he just kept repeating talking points that did not answer anyone's questions. On September 26, he assured us that no tainted meat would end up on grocery store shelves. Less than one month later, 15 people became sick.

How could the Minister of Agriculture allow tainted meat to be sold at Canadian supermarkets after he imposed an export ban to prevent tainted meat from going to the United States? If the meat was not good enough for our neighbours, then why was it good enough for us? The minister had the authority to take immediate action, but he did not. He hid. He was not transparent and he did not take this crisis seriously.

Today, we are discovering that the U.S. had warned the CFIA a number of times over the past few years about major problems at XL Foods, such as poorly kept records, facilities that were primed for cross-contamination, equipment held together by duct tape and—plug your ears if you are squeamish—animal blood that was dripping onto meat products.

If a company has major problems, then the minister must take action. Instead of sounding the alarm as soon as he found out that the U.S. had doubts about the safety of the beef, the Minister of Agriculture did nothing, which is irresponsible.

Things like that make me wonder about ministerial accountability. The 2011 “Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State” says the following:

Ministerial accountability...require[s] that the minister attend to all matters in Parliament that concern any organizations for which he or she is responsible, including responding to questions. It further requires that the minister take appropriate corrective action to address any problems that may have arisen, consistent with the minister’s role with respect to the organization in question.

I do not believe that describes this minister's actions over the past 45 days, which is why I am joining my voice to that of my colleague from Welland to call for the Minister of Agriculture's resignation.

This week, I asked the minister how many people he allowed to get sick after September 13, the date when the minister protected U.S. consumers by banning the export across the border of meat from XL Foods, but left Canadians in the dark.

His answer was this:

...that is a well-known number. Fifteen people have taken ill. They have all recovered, gone home and gone about their lives. That is the good side.

It is as though it is no big deal that these people got sick. I would like to describe the effects of an E.coli infection: severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often watery and may be bloody, vomiting and fever. Symptoms usually last five to seven days. That is not all. From 5% to 10% of all those who get sick from E. coli and about 15% of young children and the elderly develop a syndrome that can be fatal. Some people have seizures or strokes and some need blood transfusions or kidney dialysis. Others live with side effects such as permanent kidney damage.

But that is okay. I should not worry because the worst did not happen. We were lucky. The fact remains that this is not the way to prevent other incidents like this from occurring—far from it. Canadians have to be able to have confidence in their food inspection system. If the Minister of Agriculture is not able to reassure Canadians, he should let somebody else take over.

This week, I asked the minister if he had a plan to help the cattle industry. Two thousand plant employees were laid off. Since then, 800 of them have been called back to work, but where is the assistance plan? There is still nothing. The minister told me that solutions would be found in the future.

The NDP is proposing that the Auditor General conduct an audit of food safety procedures right away and submit a report to Parliament. We cannot wait five years for this audit. It must be done right away so that Canadians can once again have confidence in the food inspection system. This is a necessity, not just for producers but also for families, who have to be able to have confidence in Canadian products.

The Auditor General said that he would issue a report on the food recall in the spring of 2013. We applaud this effort, since tracing is an important issue for Canadians.

We have been waiting for a compliance verification of the food inspection system, as the Weatherill report on the listeriosis crisis recommended. Twenty-two Canadians lost their lives during that crisis in 2008.

This situation is no accident. The Minister of Agriculture's accountability goes further than that. Not only did he mismanage this crisis, but he also undermined the CFIA's ability to do its job and increased chances that such incidents would happen.

If the CFIA has fewer inspectors and resources, how can Canadians have confidence in the food inspection system? What happened at XL Foods revealed that there are flaws in the system. I cannot imagine what will happen when the CFIA is weakened even more.

Every time the opposition expresses concern, the government responds that it has hired 700 net new inspectors since 2006. That figure is misleading. What the government is not saying is that this total includes hundreds of people whose job has nothing to do with protecting Canadians from unsafe food products. For example, the total includes 200 inspectors who were added to the invasive alien species program, which was designed to keep potentially dangerous species out of Canada and not to protect Canadians from unsafe food. Furthermore, the 170 new meat inspectors were hired after the listeriosis crisis and inspect only processed meat.

We need better resources, but we must also ensure that inspections are done well and that businesses have a culture of accountability when it comes to food safety.

The CFIA's report on plans and priorities, signed and tabled by the Minister of Agriculture himself on May 8, 2012, said, “Planned Spending is declining by approximately $46.6 million and 314 FTE’s from 2012–13 to 2014–15.”

The Minister of Agriculture approved these cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency budget. If he has the power to make those kinds of cuts, he also has the power to restore the system. It is his responsibility to do so. We are calling for his resignation.

Agriculture and Agri-Food October 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, they have money to spend on propaganda, but not on farmers.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister gave the minister a free pass. According to the Prime Minister, the minister is not responsible for food safety because he does not personally inspect the meat. Setting aside this ridiculous statement, the minister is responsible for defending farmers' interests. Farmers are worried by the inaction of the minister, who is doing nothing but defending his own reputation.

Where is the assistance plan for the cattle industry?

Food Safety October 16th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, we still have not heard an answer. While Canadians continue to get sick and livestock producers worry about their income, what is the minister doing? He still refuses to accept his responsibility.

Last week, I met with stakeholders and discussed the matter with some producers. I heard a great deal of criticism regarding the minister's failure to take action. People do not understand why he refuses to address the safety needs in the cattle industry.

Instead of posing for photo ops, will the minister come up with a plan to restore consumer confidence in the industry?

World Food Day October 16th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, today is World Food Day, a day to increase awareness of food problems throughout the world and to strengthen solidarity in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Still today, 868 million people go hungry and 19 million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. That is a huge number. Here in Canada, close to 900,000 Canadians use a food bank every month.

In Berthier—Maskinongé, the food banks are having trouble keeping up with the increasing demand. What is worse, they are also having a hard time maintaining these services. They cannot even afford to pay for the basics, such as refrigerator trucks or a larger fridge, and they do not have enough money to pay the salaries of the core members of their team.

Let us take the time today to think about what we can do now to eliminate hunger in Canada and throughout the world.

Food Safety October 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the fact that people became sick is not serious? It is not a problem? I do not understand.

They make cuts to food inspection, but they spend millions of dollars on their own advertising. That is their priority. Canadians do not want a minister who is much more interested in saving his own skin than in accepting his responsibility. Since the beginning of the crisis, he has been bragging about having hired tons of inspectors, but he has failed to provide details on the nature of the work carried out by those inspectors or on where they are conducting their activities.

Will the minister release the list of these inspectors?

Food Safety October 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture is ignoring his responsibilities. He is choosing to protect his reputation instead of protecting Canadians. He is hiding behind the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. He uses a technicality as an excuse every time he is asked about the details of this tainted meat issue.

The Americans stepped in on September 13 to protect their citizens. Can the minister tell us how many Canadians have become sick since September 13?

Agriculture and Agri-Food October 4th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, too little, too late. Bill S-11 is not enough.

Refusing to take responsibility for this crisis is not reassuring for consumers and producers, who are worried about the industry's future. For three long days, Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors did not know what they were looking for. The Conservatives are to blame for keeping Canadians in the dark and endangering public safety, but no one on the other side is accepting responsibility for this fiasco.

Why did the minister not warn consumers as soon as this crisis began?