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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

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act May 7th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, on March 29, the Minister of Finance tabled budget 2012 in Parliament. This budget includes reckless cuts to services that Canadians depend on, such as old age security, health care, provincial transfers and environmental assessments.

The Conservatives claim that their budget focuses on job creation. However, they themselves admit that their budget will result in the loss of 19,200 public sector jobs. The fact is that it will raise the unemployment rate. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that this budget will actually result in the loss of 43,000 jobs in Canada. That, combined with this government's previous cuts, brings the total number of jobs lost to 102,000.

Bill C-38 is the 2012 budget implementation bill, but it is about much more than just the budget. This massive 421-page bill includes not only the measures described in the budget, but also many changes that were not previously announced.

This bill is not like other bills. It is over 400 pages long. This bill will have a major impact on Canadians. At least one-third of Bill C-38 is dedicated to weakening environmental protection and rules.

Furthermore, this bill introduces a series of measures that were not previously announced and that will result in reduced transparency and greater secrecy around the government. These measures include decreasing the Auditor General's powers.

Today I wish to draw your attention to one aspect that I find extremely worrisome. It has to do with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It is clear that several parts of the agency are about to be privatized. These cuts to food inspection represent a step backward. We know that the listeriosis crisis in 2008 came about because of a lack of inspectors. Would hon. members not agree that the government should take the safety of Canadians seriously and that it should be transparent when communicating with Canadians?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is one of a number of agencies that will be excluded from the Auditor General's supervision. Bill C-38 eliminates all references to the Auditor General in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act. For instance, the section of the act that was previously called “accounting and audit” will henceforth be called simply “audit”. Mandatory financial and performance audits by the Auditor General have also been eliminated.

Another important and troubling fact is that Bill C-38 eliminates mandatory financial audits by the Auditor General for 12 agencies.

Bill C-38 also amends the Seeds Act to give the president of the CFIA the power to issue licences to persons authorizing them to perform activities related to controlling or assuring the quality of seeds or seed crops. This amendment opens the door to having private companies do food inspection related work. This also sends worrisome signals about the growing likelihood of privatization of some parts of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

This bill will also significantly change how the Canadian Food Inspection Agency monitors and enforces non-health and safety food labelling regulations. In other words, when a company states that its products do not contain any traces of peanuts, for example, the consumer will have no way of knowing whether that is true or not. This government believes that it is up to the consumer to judge the trustworthiness of labels. Parents with children who have peanut allergies will not know whether they can trust what the company is saying.

If they have any doubts, they will have to go online and address their concerns to the companies and associations involved.

In essence, the government is suggesting that we wait and see whether anyone has an allergic reaction. If so, then the consumer will have to go to the company's website to tell the company that it lied. The government is not getting involved.

The government is completely withdrawing from the process and is making individuals responsible for food labelling regulations. That makes no sense. Companies will say whatever they want, in order to sell their products to as many people as possible.

These changes scare me and I know I am not the only one who is scared. A woman in my riding wrote to me to tell me how much these changes would affect her family, as her son has a nut allergy. She is very worried about him and rightfully so.

I would also like to go over some of the comments made last week by my Conservative colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, when talking about budget 2012.

He asked the opposition to at least vote for increased investments in food safety.

I would now like to explain why I am voting against them. First, the government is not giving us the opportunity to vote for individual measures because it has decided to put together a gigantic budget bill that encompasses radical changes, such as the increase in the eligibility age for old age security benefits.

So no, I will not be voting against more investments in food safety; rather, I will be voting against an enormous bill that seeks to change environmental laws, the immigration system and employment insurance, among other things.

Second, what my colleague has not mentioned are the $56.1 million in cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Let us do the math. If we add $51 million to a program and then take away $56 million, what do we have left over? A negative figure, or cuts. It leaves us with a weaker inspection program.

That is why I will be voting against the budget implementation bill.

Canadians need transparency. It is not by sneakily passing measures that will have a major impact on Canadians that the government will earn the trust of the people.

Introducing such a wide-ranging bill and allowing so little time to debate it undermines what Parliament is here to do, because members will not have the opportunity to get all the information they need about the bill's content and impact.

It is sad that the government is continuing to ignore what really matters to Canadians: environmental protection, old age security, health care and job creation.

How can we properly do our job as elected representatives of the people when the government is not giving us the time we need to get all the information we need?

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said repeatedly that MPs are not getting the information they need for proper oversight. He also released a report clearly showing that the old age security program is completely sustainable as it stands now. In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has even said that the program would be sustainable if benefits were increased.

Why is the government continuing to make Canadians pay? Why is it ignoring the various reports that clearly prove certain facts? Why is it so determined to fast-track a bill that includes so many cuts? Who will benefit from these measures?

Those are some of the questions I am asking myself as a mother and an MP. What sort of future do we want for future generations? For all these reasons, I will vote against Bill C-38.

Canada Labour Code May 3rd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to support Bill C-307 sponsored by my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

Bill C-307 would amend the Canada Labour Code to allow a pregnant or nursing employee to avail herself of provincial occupational health and safety legislation.

More specifically, this bill would affect pregnant or nursing employees who work in a job that comes under the Canada Labour Code. It would allow these women to benefit from applicable provincial laws, making it possible for them to request preventive withdrawal, a transfer to another position, or financial compensation under provincial legislation. The last subclause of this bill makes a very important point: an employee who decides to exercise the rights conferred by this bill will not be subject to sanctions or reprisals of any kind. This subclause, which highlights the importance of the absence of prejudice, is an important addition, and I congratulate my colleague for thinking of it.

My colleagues on the other side of the House made a number of arguments for not supporting this bill. I listened carefully to the arguments. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour is concerned about the cost of these measures.

After giving the issue a great deal of consideration, I believe that the health of women, fetuses and infants is well worth the $11 million that this bill will cost. The sum of $11 million seems to me to be very little when you think of all that can be accomplished with this increased protection for Canadian workers. What my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie is proposing is to protect the health and safety of mothers and future mothers.

In fact, this bill tackles a major problem in our laws. Currently, a pregnant woman or a nursing mother must incur the costs of leave without pay in order to ensure her own safety and her child’s. The employment insurance program is not much help, either. Each week of leave taken before the birth of the child is a week that is not taken afterward.

This means that a woman must choose between spending less time with her baby while she is on maternity leave and ensuring her safety and her baby’s safety while she is pregnant. In my opinion, this does not make sense. We ought to support pregnant or nursing Canadians. Why should a woman bear the economic burden of her own safety at work? It is not fair.

In Quebec, there are provisions that entitle women to preventive withdrawal from the workplace and allow them to receive 90% of their salary. Since 1981, pregnant women are protected if their job entails dangerous tasks, such as carrying a weight of more than seven kilograms, interacting with people who might be potentially dangerous for her or her child, working in an environment that is too noisy or standing for more than seven hours.

These provisions can make all the difference between a happy pregnancy and a stressful pregnancy. In my riding, there was a report that one couple expecting a baby were surprised to learn that the pregnant woman was not entitled to preventive withdrawal. As a trucker, a job that is covered by the Canada Labour Code and therefore under federal jurisdiction, the woman was not entitled to the preventive withdrawal benefits which her counterparts covered by the CSST enjoy. This means that, despite the dangerous conditions, the long hours of work and the continuing vibrations, she is not entitled to preventive withdrawal. She must take unpaid leave and pay for it herself, or find a safer job, perhaps losing her seniority.

This situation is totally unacceptable. For this couple, a provision like the one proposed in my colleague’s bill would mean peace of mind for the future mother about her financial situation, her baby’s safety and her own well-being.

Another job that is potentially affected by this bill is that of flight attendant. I cannot imagine how a pregnant flight attendant must feel when she finds out that she must take leave without pay to ensure her own safety and that of her child.

Imagine being pregnant. As your pregnancy progresses, you realize that a job that involves standing for seven hours in a plane shaken by turbulence could have a negative impact on your health and that of your fetus. So you have to make a decision, and it is not an easy one: continue working, putting your pregnancy at risk, or make the financial sacrifice and take leave without pay to protect your health. That is totally unfair. Women should not be punished because they have chosen one career over another.

This bill is exactly what CUPE has been fighting for. Nathalie Stringer, a flight attendant and president of the Air Transat component of CUPE, said:

CUPE has long been demanding this equal treatment for Quebec female workers under federal jurisdiction. In the airline sector, for example, a number of flight attendants have had to make the difficult choice between their financial situation and health risks. Since it is the health of pregnant women and unborn children that is at stake, we are counting on all MPs in the House of Commons to support this excellent initiative and leave partisanship out of it.

This is about the safety of women, fetuses and babies. This is about women's equality and a social safety net that supports a just, fair and healthy society.

If the government really wants to help Canadian families, it has to walk the walk. It has to stop penalizing pregnant women. I encourage all of my colleagues to support this bill, make a real difference in the lives of millions of families, and make our society more just.

Marie-Sol Saint-Onge April 30th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, on March 8, Marie-Sol Saint-Onge, a 34-year-old mother of two boys, aged 5 and 8, and an artist who lives in my riding, was hospitalized with the deadly flesh-eating disease.

Despite all the wonderful care she received, the disease spread. Last month, Marie-Sol's arms and legs were amputated. She will never again be able to care for her children in the same nurturing way. It is her children and her husband Alain who will have to wrap her in all their love.

Marie-Sol's family life and professional life will never be the same. To help the family, a number of fundraising activities are being organized. My team and I will be participating in a bowl-a-thon on Saturday, May 5.

Today, I am asking for everyone's support for Marie-Sol.

Marie-Sol, our thoughts are with you. We wish you well.

Food Inspection Agency April 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely not true.

The minister never answers the question. Saving money on food safety puts Canadians' health in jeopardy. We want to know why the government is firing food inspectors and closing inspection stations. The government continues to keep Canadians in the dark about these cuts. Farmers who care about Canadians' safety are very worried.

Why does the minister want to hide the cuts from Canadians and Quebeckers? It is crazy.

Agriculture and Agri-Food April 25th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the minister's explanation does not add up. He cannot say that no services will be affected when he is cutting 10% of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's budget. The agency's management has informed its inspectors of the cuts to some of the inspection programs.

It seems as though the government learned nothing from the listeriosis crisis or Walkerton. Why put Canadians' lives at risk?

Earth Day April 24th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, last weekend, I was in Montreal for Earth Day. I was accompanied by at least 150,000 people who met peacefully to condemn the irresponsible development of our resources and the government's inaction on climate change.

During the march, I met a number of people from Berthier—Maskinongé who made the trip in order to join the green movement. People of all ages walked together in solidarity so that future generations can live on a healthy planet.

We cannot go on ignoring the environment without leaving an enormous liability for future generations. Our region is doing its part and we are working together for the environment. Businesses are adopting environmentally responsible and sustainable principles. I hope the government will hear the message that Quebeckers delivered on Sunday. It is time to take action for the environment and for future generations.

Agriculture and Agri-Food April 23rd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, we must not make cuts to food safety services, which prevent crises such as the listeriosis outbreak.

In addition to making cuts to services that ensure the safety of Canadians, the Conservatives are also cutting funding for the rural and co-operatives secretariat, even though 2012 is the International Year of Co-operatives. It is an important service for Canadians who live in rural areas.

Why are the Conservatives cutting services to rural areas and farmers?

Telecommunications March 30th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the residents of the Maskinongé RCM want the CRTC to change its decision to allow telephone competition in rural areas.

At least 150 residents shared their concerns at a recent meeting in Saint-Paulin. The Association des compagnies de téléphone du Québec is worried that service will not be maintained in remote rural areas because it will not be profitable. Customers in remote areas would then find themselves with no telephone, cable or Internet services. The association is circulating a petition.

Right now, the companies that have a monopoly in these sectors are obligated to provide telephone service. The CRTC wants to open the markets covered by small telephone companies to the major players in the industry without imposing the same regulations on them, which creates unfair competition.

We have to make the right choice in order to improve the accessibility, price and quality of telephone service in rural areas.

Shawinigan-Sud Tax Centre March 16th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, last week we asked questions about the future of the Shawinigan-Sud Tax Centre. The parliamentary secretary responded by talking about employment insurance. The nonsense just keeps coming.

The question was clear: is the CRA tax centre in Shawinigan closing its doors or not?

Are hundreds of well-paid jobs going to disappear?

Shawinigan-Sud Tax Centre March 9th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, still no answer, how odd. A number of people in Quebec are worried about the future of the Shawinigan-Sud Tax Centre. They fear that the Conservatives are getting ready to announce the closure of that centre, which employs 600 people. What will become of the 600 jobs and the families who depend on them?

We see what is happening in Rimouski. Is the minister going to make the people of Shawinigan suffer the same fate?