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View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Madam Speaker, congratulations to you. It is always a pleasure to see a female parliamentarian occupy the Speaker's chair, and it is my sincere wish to one day see you fully serve as Speaker.
As this is the first time I rise, I want to thank the people of Salaberry—Suroît for putting their faith in me on October 21. It truly warmed my heart. I am returning to the House after an eight-year absence. I am pleased and honoured to have the confidence of the people of my riding.
Obviously, an election campaign like the one we just went through requires a lot of energy, but most of all it requires being surrounded by good people. I was surrounded by very passionate supporters and volunteers. I would like to name one who has been by my side since the beginning, in 2006. Louise Laître was my campaign manager and deserves to be applauded for her passionate commitment to Quebec and the riding of Salaberry—Suroît.
I also want to thank my three daughters, Audrée, Jade and Florence. Florence, my third daughter, is 23 and ran all my communications during the election campaign. She does exceptional work and I am very proud of her. Today, she has an interview, and I hope that the employer will hire her because she is the best.
I would also like to thank my spouse, who already knows what it is like to be the spouse of an MP. He agreed once more to be my partner and accomplice and to support my dream to be an MP again. He knows the sacrifices that have to be made in our personal and family lives and our relationship. After 35 years, he again committed to working with me and he placed his full trust in me. I want to publicly thank him for being at my side and for supporting my passion, because he deserves it.
Today, I want to talk about what I really care about, seniors and health. I am a social worker by training and I have also worked in the Quebec public health network. In recent years, I was a manager at a CLSC and I coordinated housing for seniors. These seniors are less fortunate, poorer and weaker than most or are in precarious health. Today, in my speech in reply to the throne speech, I will focus on seniors and health.
Front-line workers in a community can quickly and clearly see what the people need. I work as part of a team, in collaboration with community workers. The community needs to act in response to a given social or health problem. All of the stakeholders need to examine the problem and think about a solution, which will be the best possible solution since it is chosen by the people involved. The evidence shows that when solutions are found at the grassroots level, they are better able to address a community's needs.
Imagine my surprise when I read in the throne speech that the government wants to give money to the provinces, provided that they hire family doctors and offer mental health services.
I have to wonder what the Government of Canada, here in Ottawa, knows about the needs of Quebeckers in my community. What does it truly know about our needs? Why will it not go along with what Quebec and the provinces are calling for and increase transfers by 5.2%? This would allow the provinces and Quebec to tailor their services to the specific needs of their communities.
These needs are not all the same; some are greater than others. There are community groups in my region that look after all mental health problems. I would like to single out one in particular, Le Pont du Suroît.
The director, Marc André Bédard, is a fantastic guy, a nurse who has dedicated his career to the public realm and saw the little cracks in the system. He therefore decided to spend most of his career working for a community group that supports the loved ones of people with mental health problems. His work is so highly regarded that he gives talks throughout Quebec and indeed around the world. He created an innovative approach, and the Quebec minister of health thought it was so good that he decided to fund the group.
However, just because this group works well in Quebec and in my community does not mean it will work elsewhere. The one who is best suited to determine what a community needs is Quebec's health minister, who can consult local stakeholders, create programs and pay for them. The needs are increasing at this time, but the money is in Ottawa and is not being transferred to the provinces. I see it as a matter of respecting areas of Quebec and provincial jurisdiction. What is being asked is that Ottawa transfer the money to the Government of Quebec, which is the authority that really knows where investments are needed to adequately meet the needs of its communities.
I do not know what to make of this desire to centralize provincial jurisdictional powers in Ottawa. I am talking about the government, but the NDP also keeps proposing all kinds of national strategies that blatantly infringe on provincial jurisdictions. I see this as a lack of trust. The government is essentially saying that the provinces are not inventive or smart enough to create programs that address the real needs in their communities.
The government would rather tell the provinces what to do with their money. The government thinks it knows what works and that it is in the best position to determine that. This makes me even more passionate and reinforces my vision of Quebec as its own country. If Quebec were to be in control of its own destiny and hold on to the money it sends to Ottawa, it would invest that money into good programs, since Quebec knows what is good for its communities. Although Quebec knows what is needed right now, it lacks the means to take action. I urge my colleagues opposite to respect the provincial premiers' demands for increased health transfers.
Seniors in our communities are really suffering. They need home support and higher incomes to cover the rising cost of prescription drugs and housing. Right now, old age security is not enough. Anyone who gets sick and has to rely on the guaranteed income supplement and old age security will have a hard time paying for housing and any services they might need. Seniors who worked their whole lives in the expectation of a dignified retirement should not have to worry about being able to pay for those services.
One way to solve the problem is to enhance the guaranteed income supplement and old age security. The Bloc Québécois wants the government to increase old age security for people 65 and over and allow people who lose a loved one to collect the guaranteed income supplement for three months following their loved one's death. The death of a loved one is traumatic enough as it is. If those left behind are afraid they will not be able to pay their rent, that is even worse. We are asking the government to show some compassion and increase the guaranteed income supplement and old age security for seniors 65 and over.
In closing, I call on the government to respect areas that fall under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and increase provincial health transfers by 5.2%. The government needs to let the provinces do what they do best: manage their own issues and find their own solutions.
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