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Results: 1 - 15 of 312
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, austerity measures are hurting people who use public services and the professionals who provide them. Across the board, it is mainly women who are paying the price. It is no wonder that the women's global charter for humanity is promoting the principles of justice, solidarity and equality.
Through their work with the more vulnerable members of our society, hundreds of not-for-profit organizations stand up for these fundamental principles every day. Of course, most of the human resources and administrators within those organizations are women. In my riding alone, there are dozens of organizations working for our community's welfare. Here are just a few examples: ABC des Hauts Plateaux Montmagny-L'Islet, Maison de secours La Frontière, La Traversée and the Centre-Femmes du Grand-Portage.
These women are changing the lives of countless vulnerable families and individuals, and they are managing to do so in spite of the limited, unstable budgets they have to work with. In the fall of 2015, I hope to see a majority of elected members in this House who understand that the government has a duty to act as a reliable, respectful partner to these women. Without them, there would be so much less compassion in the world. On behalf of all my colleagues, I want to thank them for their profound conviction that the world can and should be a better place and for the perseverance they show as they stand up for their values.
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle. As I only have 10 minutes, I will definitely run out of time, just as I do nearly every time I rise in the House.
I am grateful for the chance to speak about such an important subject. I have the opportunity to comment on the motion moved by my colleague from the Northwest Territories, whom I have come to know fairly well over the past four years. I have had the opportunity to see him at work, for example, in committees. He really defends the rights of northerners with exceptional vigour and passion.
I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work done by not just my colleague from the Northwest Territories, but all the representatives from the north, from Churchill Falls to Whitehorse. They are responsible for areas that are bigger than the average European country. They often have to defend very complex and specific files that concern such issues as the economy, the need for access to services and the environment.
Today's topic, nutrition problems in Canada's north, is a good example of a specific problem that my colleagues from the north must address.
People who, like me, live in the south need to understand that basic necessities, including perishable goods, are often shipped to the north by plane. Stores necessarily have higher hydro, maintenance and food storage costs. Naturally, this affects the cost of the food on the shelves.
For example, in April 2014, the price of two litres of milk was around $8 in several communities in the Yukon, while people in the Edmonton area were paying about $3.30 or $3.35 for two litres of milk. That is over 200% more.
One story that really struck me is one Quebeckers may not be aware of. In May 2012, Leesee Papatsie of Iqaluit, Nunavut, created a Facebook page called “Feeding my Family”. With the example I just gave about milk costing 200% more, we can see how difficult it is to feed a family.
Now, this page has more than 25,000 members and, unfortunately, the food situation in the north continues to be very difficult.
This citizen-driven initiative showed us images that struck Canadians and my colleagues. We saw older first nations members rooting through the garbage for food to eat. They were not there to eat properly, but to survive.
The nutrition north Canada program has a fixed annual budget of $60 million, $53.9 million of which is supposed to be earmarked annually for subsidies, in order to lower the price of food in the north. Unfortunately, despite all these millions of dollars, the program is not working.
My colleague's motion is well thought out and illustrates his knowledge of the subject. I will read the motion and comment on it, as it points to major aspects of the problem.
The motion reads as follows:
That the House call on the government to take immediate action to fix Nutrition North Canada and to improve the well-being of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians in Northern Canada by: (a) immediately including in the Nutrition North Canada program the 50 isolated Northern communities accessible only by air that are not currently eligible for the full subsidy;
On the Government of Canada's website, we read:
To be eligible for Nutrition North Canada (NNC), a community must:
lack year-round surface transportation (for example, no permanent road, rail or marine access).
I do not get it. When I read this official definition and I hear that communities that can be reached only by plane are getting partial subsidies, there seems to be a disconnect. I do not understand how it came to this.
In fall 2014, the Auditor General, whose findings I will keep referring to, said that the department did not base its eligibility criteria on the needs of the communities.
The criteria for the nutrition north program were not based on the needs of northern communities. This creates scenarios where the most remote communities that need more support to make food more affordable receive less in the way of subsidies than other communities.
Here is another excerpt from the motion:
...to improve the well-being of Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal Canadians in Northern Canada by...initiating a comprehensive review of the Nutrition North program, with Northerners as full partners, to determine ways of directly providing the subsidy to Northern residents and to improve supports for traditional foods.
It is important to understand that the subsidies do not go directly to families who need better access to healthier food, but rather to retailers and distributers. At the same time, in the fall of 2014, the Auditor General noted that the department had not verified whether those northern retailers had passed the full subsidy on to consumers.
That is a very troubling conclusion. We are talking about millions of dollars in very small communities, and yet the Auditor General had to conclude that no one had verified whether the subsidy served to lower prices for the people who needed it.
I would just like to go off on a tangent about what we saw this week from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. When we see how badly the Conservative government messes up initiatives and so-called solutions targeting northern communities and sometimes primarily first nations, we have to wonder why a government would be so negligent.
This week, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs stayed seated while all of the representatives of Canadian communities gave some of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's findings standing ovations.
There is something awry with this government's mentality and its approach to the problems that northerners and first nations have. It is astounding. It needs to change as soon as possible, but that will probably only happen if there is a change in government.
Here is another part of the motion:
...improve the well-being of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians in Northern Canada by...creating equitable program-eligibility criteria for Northern communities based on their real circumstances;
Once again, judging from the Auditor General's findings, the minister did not collect the information needed to manage the nutrition north Canada program or measure its success. We are talking about $60 million shared among small communities to meet an essential need: improving access to healthy food. However, the Auditor General found that the government did not have measures in place to assess the program outcomes.
We need to go back to the communities and, in the future, make sure that we are taking their real circumstances into account throughout the process.
Here is another part:
...improve the well-being of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians in Northern Canada by...providing sufficient funding to meet the needs of all Northern communities;
Once again, this is in line with the Auditor General's conclusions about how the department had not implemented the program's cost containment strategy.
Since I do not live in the north, but on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, I will share one or two quotes from people who live in the north. An MLA from the Yukon, Mr. Elias, said:
The change from a transportation subsidy to a retail subsidy, combined with the decision to no longer cover surcharges and taxes, has dramatically increased the cost of getting food into Old Crow.
Someone who lives in the area, like hundreds of others who testified, told us quite clearly that the multi-million dollar measures the Conservative government put in place in the past few years have not helped reduce prices significantly, which would have helped thousands of people feed themselves better. This result is absolutely pathetic.
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, I followed roughly two-thirds of the debate in the House today. I have heard the minister of state make that same twisted argument three times now.
Even if that were so, even if in recent months, the evaluations had determined that 46 communities should have had better access to the program and at some point, someone had assessed that there were perhaps 52 communities in need, the fact remains that we are talking about people who do not have enough access to a program to help them feed themselves better. Whether we are talking about 23, 27, 52 or 60 communities, there is a serious problem.
What is the point of the argument that we do not have the exact number of communities that are suffering? As long as the experts have not determined the exact number of communities that are suffering, should we continue to get this wrong and apply a program that does not provide tangible solutions for people who are hungry? To me, that argument borders on despicable.
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, I made some comments similar to those made by my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle.
When members start making excuses based on some uncertainty around the numbers of people who are suffering, you have a serious problem.
There is an important question here. The numbers may not be exact according to the findings of some of the people who have examined this issue. However, how many suffering communities must there be before the government will deem it necessary to review the program? Twenty-two communities is apparently not enough, so should we let them starve?
Will we have to list 75 communities before this issue becomes a priority and the government admits that changes are urgently needed? I do not know. It is not up to me to give those answers. The government's approach to this issue is completely inadequate. It is not up to me to justify this kind of approach.
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, a negative trade balance and the loss of high-quality jobs, that is what comes of the Conservatives' bad economic action plans.
Workers are being laid off in urban centres and rural areas. The WEC TOURS plant in Matane, RioTinto, Fer et Titane in Havre-Saint-Pierre and the sawmill in Rivière-aux-Rats are just a few examples.
How can the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec justify his decision to cut $21 million from the agency's budget by 2018, when so many workers are losing their jobs in the regions? Quebeckers have had it with the Conservatives' bad economic action plans that just do not work.
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, my Conservative colleague used the word “family” a lot in his speech, and he talked about all the amazing things his party is doing for Canadian families.
I received a document from some very competent people about the universal child care benefit for middle-class households, meaning a household that earns, on average, between $44,000 and $83,000. Once you receive the $720 benefit, if you subtract the provincial or federal tax you will have to pay, since the benefit is taxable, and if you take into account the loss of the over $2,000 child tax credit that was cut in this budget, you will be left with about $150 in your pocket. From $720 you will get just $150. That is so little that accountants are calling their clients to tell them to keep the money in the bank because they will have to pay taxes on it later as a result of the government's decisions.
The Conservatives have a funny way of helping families by giving with one hand and taking almost all of it away with the other hand, all in the same year. It is rather strange.
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, I could have spoken for 20 or even 30 minutes on this bill. It is always a great honour to be able to address the House; however, I cannot say that I am pleased about the subject we are addressing here today, Bill C-51.
The bill has a very long title because, basically, it is an omnibus bill related to security issues that affect all Canadians. Of course, I am referring to An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.
The government in power is going to ram this very cumbersome piece of legislation down our throats this week, even though the bill is being criticized to a virtually unprecedented extent in the history of committees, as we will see later.
Bill C-51 would considerably expand the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. That is what people at home need to understand, aside from the fact that this bill has a ridiculously long title and that it is an omnibus bill. We are once again faced with the same problem with this government. A majority of Canadians, and even a majority of representatives from the official opposition, could support the main objective of the bill, which is to improve protections for Canadians, especially in light of some recent, troubling events associated with the threat from the Islamic State. In principle, we can understand the desire to do better.
Once again, the problem is in how the government is going about it. Once again, the government has introduced an excessively large bill, manipulated the debate, moved time allocation and presented positions that are completely out of touch with what Canada's leading experts are saying. The official opposition will therefore present 64 amendments to try to give a voice to the overwhelming number of experts who are systematically demanding that Bill C-51 either be withdrawn altogether or be significantly amended.
I am skeptical though. I doubt that the government will even look at our amendments. Unfortunately, there is no mistaking its intention to steamroll the bill through this week. Even so, I will try to bring forward some of the arguments these experts have made in the hope that the government in power will set aside its overly strong tendency to show contempt for the work of Parliament. In making an effort to present these legitimate arguments, I hope that someone on the other side will adjust even slightly his or her position on a bill that so many say is bad.
I would like to highlight the attempts that my NDP colleagues on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security have been making in recent weeks to do what I am trying to do today. I particularly want to draw attention to the work of my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. We are now at third reading, and we will soon run out of ways to try to prevent Bill C-51 from being passed. Nevertheless, my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has been proposing amendments ever since second reading. He made a number of very good points that, unfortunately, still apply after the committee's study.
Bill C-51 threatens our way of life by asking Canadians to choose between their security and their freedoms. There is something my friend, the leader of the NDP, often says. He points out, and rightly so, that in the French version of Canada's national anthem, it says that we must “protect our homes and our rights”. They are given the same priority. Even our national anthem notes the importance of applying our collective intelligence to ensure that we protect these two aspects of our lives. The remarks from across the way are veering more and more off track, suggesting that in order to protect our homes, some of our rights, including our right to privacy, may have to be negotiated or diminished. Let us not forget the wisdom of our national anthem, which emphasizes that the government has a duty to balance these two aspects and must never promote one at the expense of the other.
Another point that was made at second reading, is that Bill C-51 irresponsibly provides the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, with a sweeping new mandate without equally increasing oversight. Later we will see how dire this problem really is. The bill also contains definitions that are broad and vague and that threaten to lump together legitimate dissent with terrorism. This point comes up all the time. The bill gives CSIS tremendous powers. If the net is cast that wide, are we really responding to an imminent problem of a potential terrorist threat or are we facilitating abuses that could violate Canadians' rights? The answer to that question is quite worrisome.
The Liberals voted against these amendments—and that is typically the Liberal way—despite the fact that former Liberal prime ministers wrote a letter stating that they strongly disagree with Bill C-51. From the beginning, the current Liberal leader painted himself into a corner by saying that he would vote for the bill, probably for a very sad reason. In fact, the first poll showed that 80% of Canadians were in favour of the bill. Support for the bill has subsequently collapsed and now 60% of Canadians do not support Bill C-51. However, the Liberal leader painted himself into a corner and unfortunately will vote for the bill.
There are some worrisome observations in the amendments presented by my colleague, and they are now shared by more than 60% or 70% of Canadians. I have never seen that. This is one of those rare bills that people know by name. In federal politics, it is very rare for people to ask me to assure them that I will vote against Bill C-51. It is obvious just how much Canadians are interested in and concerned about this bill, given that they are calling it by its official name.
In our opinion, not enough leading experts on privacy and personal information were invited to appear before the standing committee. However, most of the witnesses who did appear said that this bill should be struck down or heavily amended.
The debate on Bill C-51 is so important that I want to highlight some of what the witnesses said because this is an issue that goes beyond party lines. We need to have an opportunity to raise awareness of the fact that Bill C-51 should not be passed, particularly as it now stands. I will begin by quoting Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner. He said:
...the proposed changes to information sharing authorities are not accompanied by measures to fill gaps in the national security oversight regime.
That is what he said and he is very knowledgeable about the subject. The truth of his statement is obvious given that, in the 2012 budget, the Conservatives eliminated the position of inspector general of CSIS, who was responsible for internal oversight by ensuring that all of CSIS's activities complied with the law.
When an organization is granted vast surveillance powers, we always have to ask ourselves who watches the watchers, when their powers could, for example, threaten a person's right to privacy. Who watches them? Experts agree that the minister's and the government's answers are completely inadequate.
The Minister of Public Safety rejected the need for additional oversight of CSIS, calling it needless red tape. I fell off my chair. It is unbelievable that the minister would consider the need for proper oversight of those who have surveillance powers to be red tape. I am prepared to work 60 hours a week to ensure that business owners do not lose too much time to red tape. However, referring to the need to watch the watchers as red tape floored me. That is unacceptable.
Here is one last quote from the commissioner:
This Act would...allow departments and agencies to share the personal information of all individuals, including ordinary Canadians who may not be suspected of terrorist activities.
This is what the NDP and my colleague fear. Those were the words of the Privacy Commissioner. Canada's top privacy official concluded that there were some serious concerns with Bill C-51.
To conclude, in the debate on Bill C-51, we were faced with a string of time allocation motions and we had a limited number of witnesses in committee, despite the fact that almost all the experts demanded that Bill C-51 be withdrawn or significantly amended. I fear that this is not what will happen this week.
Bill C-51 will be rammed through the House and will be a threat to Canadians' privacy.
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, when more than 80% or 90% of the competent individuals and experts associated with matters relating to protection of privacy and personal information strongly criticize the bill, the government has to start reconsidering how it sees things.
It is not people like the NDP members who are spreading false information. There is a huge amount of information from competent individuals about how Bill C-51 is troubling and inadequate and should be amended or withdrawn.
I wish I had the exact number from my colleague's last count, which was about 14 of the first 15 witnesses. They stated that Bill C-51 should not be passed as is and asked the government not to pass it.
The last ones on the list—who could in no way be described as far left—were part of an association of entrepreneurs in emerging technology and said that Bill C-51 as currently written is completely unacceptable. That is factual information.
Will I repeat that so all Canadians hear it? Yes, I will keep saying it until the election and make sure that we take power and overturn these decisions that are literally a threat to the privacy of Canadians and small and medium-sized businesses working in emerging technology.
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, one expression that I have never used in the House is “a desperate attempt”. This looks very much like a desperate attempt.
The Liberals now totally disagree with former Liberal prime ministers. They realized in committee that this bill cannot be supported by basically anyone who has expertise in this field.
For the benefit of those at home, there is no question that we will change a law and that my friend the Leader of the Opposition will continue to say that we will change a law, because that is how Parliament operates. You have to take the existing law and turn it into something completely different, even if we want to transform it altogether.
There is no inconsistency in the NDP's position on this issue, not at all. The most—
Mr. Alain Giguère: Pathetic.
Mr. François Lapointe: Yes, Mr. Speaker, pathetic.
The most pathetic inconsistency that we have seen in this House in quite some time is the Liberals' inconsistency. They plan to stand up and vote for Bill C-51 even though the greatest leaders in the history of their own party have said that we should not vote for such a thing.
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, Montmagny is definitely one of the most vibrant cities in the Chaudière-Appalaches region. It is a wonderful place to live and is home to many leaders in every sphere, including the political, municipal, business and non-profit communities.
Recent initiatives speak for themselves. Here are a few examples. A fantastic municipal library just opened its doors. Magasin Lévesque, with the help of community volunteers, hosted a fashion show that raised $14,000 for the Foundation of the Centre de réadaptation en déficience physique Chaudière-Appalaches. The Fondation Hélène-Caron is holding a very successful fundraising campaign called “As-tu ton pied?”, which gives residents the opportunity to buy a square foot of land on which a future centre of expertise on palliative care will be built. Fréchette Ford will be opening soon and will join the many other car dealerships, such as Thibault GM, Lapointe Automobiles, Montmagny Hyundai, Montmagny Mazda, Montmagny Toyota, Honda de Giro and Montmagny Kia, in making Montmagny the best place south of Quebec City to buy a vehicle.
Finally, I would like to invite all Canadians to visit Montmagny this summer. Our downtown has plenty of history and a waterfront with beautiful views of the river.
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, there are 60 leading Canadian business people, entrepreneurs and investors, including Flickr co-founder Mr. Butterfield, who have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister. This is just one example of what we can read in that letter:
We believe [the entrepreneurs] that this legislation threatens to undermine Canada's reputation and change our business climate for the worse.
...we fear that this proposed legislation will undermine international trust in Canada's technology sector....
These people are very busy. They are in the type of business that is changing all the time with new technologies. They have more to do than wonder if a bill would actually threaten their business. Some of the best are saying that it would threaten Canada's technology sector.
What can my colleague tell those people? Are they doing this because they are all NDP members and suddenly they want to stand against the government for no good reason? No. We should be worried, as they are.
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, given her background, I am sure that my colleague knows people living in places where governments have taken a hard line against radicalization. I was touched by some of her comments, such as when she said that we must absolutely not let security measures get out of control.
I would like to hear more from my colleague about that aspect of the problem. I think that allowing security measures to get out of control, agreeing to go that way, is kind of like letting the radicals win the fight in the medium and long terms. I think that my colleague is in a good position to talk to us about this element, which is extremely important in this case.
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, under the Conservatives, it is more and more difficult for Canadians to find good jobs and household debt is higher than ever. In the meantime, the banks are making record profits in the billions of dollars every year.
This prosperity gap, with more profits for the banks and more debt for the middle class, is only going to get worse. Canadians are going to be charged fees to pay their mortgage. That is obscene.
Are the Conservatives going to turn a blind eye to the abuses by their friends at the banks, or are they going to quickly pass a mandatory code of conduct for the banking sector?
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to ask my colleague opposite a question. Yesterday, he was interviewed by Gérald Fillion, an excellent Radio-Canada journalist who specializes in economic affairs. Mr. Fillion told him that the problem with income splitting and increasing the contribution limit for tax-free savings accounts was that the wealthiest of the wealthy would be able to benefit outrageously from the measures introduced by the government in this budget. It was fascinating to see how my colleague was unable to refute what Mr. Fillion was saying.
The wealthiest members of our society will benefit outrageously from these measures at a time when the debt of middle-class households in Canada is at a record high. It is not the federal government or the wealthiest members of society who are having problems with debt right now. It is people in the middle class. However, this budget shows that the Conservatives do not care about them at all.
I would like to make one last point, which is fairly unbelievable. My colleague indicated—much like someone would say that the air smells fresh or the sun gives light—that if a government invests less, then the private sector will invest more. According to the former finance minister of their own party, the largest corporations are sitting on over $600 billion because of tax cuts, and that money is not being reinvested.
View François Lapointe Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. She is a doctor. She has a health care background and therefore feels empathy for these people.
I have seen figures estimating that over 2,000 or 2,400 inmates are currently on waiting lists for drug treatment programs. If I were to say that that bothers me, I know the members opposite would say that I support criminals, more or less like grade school children.
I am actually thinking of the consequences. If these people are treated like animals in prison, it is much more likely that they will reoffend and we will have more victims. This is a complex, long-term problem.
What are my colleague's thoughts on this aspect of the problem, which requires long-term reflection, specifically to avoid creating more victims in Canada?
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