Personal Data

Shefford (Quebec)
Birth Date
May 16, 1953
advertising consultant, public relations consultant

Parliamentary Career

June 2, 1997 - September 11, 2000
  Shefford (Quebec)
September 12, 2000 - October 22, 2000
  Shefford (Quebec)
November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
  Shefford (Quebec)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development (January 13, 2003 - December 11, 2003)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 45 of 49)

February 19, 1998

Ms. Diane St-Jacques (Shefford, PC)

Mr. Speaker, this morning in Nagano another athlete climbed up onto the top step of the podium. Speed skater Annie Perreault won the 500 metre short track.

I feel very proud when the medals are given out and our national anthem is heard around the world. I am moved even more when the flag is raised for one of our own athletes. The people of the Eastern Townships are eager to see their champion.

This medal combines with our 13 others to make Canadians' performance in these Olympic winter games one of our best.

I thank all our athletes for giving us such exciting moments and for representing us so well.

And congratulations to you, Annie, on your gold medal. We are very proud of you.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Annie Perreault
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February 16, 1998

Ms. Diane St-Jacques (Shefford, PC)

Mr. Speaker, according to figures released by Statistics Canada last week, while wages have practically not increased since 1992, Canadians are paying 15% more in income tax.

This means less money left over at the end of the month to pay for groceries, clothing and housing. As a result, there are 1.5 million children living in poverty in Canada, or 500,000 more than in 1989.

Could the Minister of Finance help Canadian families by increasing the amount of the basic exemption, which would be a direct benefit to low income families and their children?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Income Tax
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February 16, 1998

Ms. Diane St-Jacques (Shefford, PC)

Mr. Speaker, in a recent interview conducted for

World Economic Affairs

, the finance minister stated that child poverty is a disgrace in this country and that a national effort is needed to solve this problem.

Will the Minister of Finance promise today that he will index the national child benefit? I should remind him that the number of children living in poverty has reached a record high of 1.5 million.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Child Poverty
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February 4, 1998

Ms. Diane St-Jacques (Shefford, PC)

Mr. Speaker, the ice storm that has struck part of Quebec and eastern Ontario is one of the worst natural disasters ever experienced in Canada after the Saguenay and Manitoba floods.

But this event that had so many negative effects has brought out an exceptional capacity for collective co-operation. Throughout this country and even beyond its borders, human resources and equipment have been mobilized to help the victims of the ice storm.

I would like to mention all those Hydro Quebec and Bell Canada workers and their colleagues who came from all regions and who have toiled under almost inhuman conditions to bring the situation back to normal. I would also like to mention the Red Cross and emergency preparedness personnel, and also all those who, throughout this country, have sent us food, firewood, and basic necessities.

On behalf of those who have experienced such momentous changes in their lives early in the new year, I want to thank all those people, workers and volunteers who did not spare their time or efforts in order to help.

In my riding of Shefford, we have witnessed this impressive show of solidarity at all levels of society, from individuals up to government authorities, including civil, community and private services. All municipal leaders and their employees, together with volunteers, most of whom were affected by the storm, have managed to set up emergency coordination centres in record time to meet the needs of affected citizens. In some communities, all families with wood stoves gave shelter to other people. Local media got involved in a remarkable way by providing the victims with the information they needed in a timely fashion. Finally, all the people did their share by helping each other.

I must not let go unrecognized the spontaneous assistance we received from the members for Madawaska—Restigouche and Tobique—Mactaquac and their constituents, who organized a wood gathering operation in their ridings to supply us with firewood. Two convoys of ten fully loaded 51-foot trucks delivered the wood for free, in spite of the distance, bad weather and treacherous roads.

This generous initiative was followed by the intergovernmental affairs ministry of New Brunswick setting up an emergency assistance centre for Quebec, which was most helpful to us.

Again, thank you to everyone who generously offered and continues to offer to help those affected by the ice storm.

I want to acknowledge the priceless contribution made by the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces; not only did they made us feel safe because of their professionalism but the work they have done made rebuilding the hydroelectric power system much easier.

This great mutual support, the courage and determination shown by everyone in getting organized have contributed to limiting human losses. This kind of solidarity in the face of adversity gives us hope for a speedy return to our normal way of life and recovery of our economy.

The people of my riding have suffered greatly. Several municipalities found themselves without power, telephone or water overnight. Seventeen of the 20 communities in my riding have been hard hit. Nearly half of the population of Quebec, or 10% of the Canadian population, was affected.

The actions taken by the various levels of government ensured the basic needs of the population were met. The immediate effects of the storm were quickly dealt with, but the damage to the hydroelectric power system was so extensive that many families were not able to return home until just recently, and some are still waiting.

As matters stand, power should be restored to the entire system by February 8. The extent of the damage, with the many forms it took, has been such that we have not been able to make a complete and realistic assessment as of yet. All areas were affected to various degrees, and the victims, whether private citizens, organizations, businesses, self-employed workers, farm producers, processors, maple bush operators, not to mention all the others, are still in the process of taking stock of their losses.

Some have still not got their power back, and still need help. In this context, it is extremely difficult to circumscribe the disaster. The government has taken prompt action to deal with the most pressing needs, but a number of people in our riding do not come under the present programs.

To give but a few examples, let us think of the very small businessmen, the self-employed, the shopkeepers, not to mention the workers who have had to shoulder the loss of two weeks pay.

Often both members of a couple have lost income, and these were people who needed every penny to make it to the end of the week, before the emergency. For these families, we are talking about the loss of a month's income, at a time when there have been extraordinary expenses on top of their regular ones.

What can we say to the fledgling businesses that are still precarious but showed sufficient potential to establish themselves successfully? What can we say to these businesses which, even if they have not had any direct losses related to the ice storm, rely directly on businesses or industries that have been heavily hit? What about a transport company that has nothing more to haul? What about all the people who managed to save their furniture by using their last available funds to rent or purchase those rare yet indispensable generators?

I am thinking about the nursery owners, the pet shop owners, the livestock breeders, the mill owners. Did they do the wrong thing by saving their businesses from certain death? What can we say to the business people who lost inventory and whose customers now have less purchasing power?

What can we say to the restaurant operators in the same situation? What can we say to the landlords who have lost, or will lose, tenants. Every day that passes raises new questions that fall under different jurisdictions. The answers that are, or will be, given represent the sole hope of survival for many.

Assistance centres have been set up to answer these questions, on the one hand, but also to act as clearing houses for all of the needs, to break them down by category and to gain an overall view which will make it possible for us to design concrete and effective solutions to lighten the burden weighing so heavily on the victims of this ice storm, and particularly to avoid any further fraying of the economic and social fabric of our region.

These undertakings need time, and the consequences of the emergency are still there, even if the power is back on.

The short term effects are being dealt with, but the other much more serious effects that will become apparent over the coming months and years require all our attention. Right now, the approach is to make do with existing programs, which will not avert the crisis. What is needed is a series of concerted measures, some of which would be managed by the province, which would enable it to compensate all those left in difficult financial straits by the ice storm.

Could we not also envisage an alternative to EI to make up for workers' lost wages for the first two weeks of work not covered by EI? Could we not grant individuals a tax deduction for repairs not covered by insurance and for the costs of renting generators?

Could we not, as business people and merchants in my riding are requesting in a petition now circulating, examine the possibility of the federal government matching the contribution of businesses, up to $50,000, and investing the money necessary to get them up and running again?

These emergency funds could be used to cover the additional expenses incurred by manufacturers and merchants, for such things as the rental or purchase of generators, and fuel.

Could consideration also be given to suspending collection of the GST in the area known as the triangle of darkness for a period of three to six months in order to ease the resumption of business, which was hard hit by the ice storm?

Could we not also explore the possibility of creating an emergency fund to which the federal and provincial governments would contribute, for use in getting the economy back on its feet, using solutions suggested by organizations representing different sectors of the retail industry, agriculture, tourism and so on?

Would it also be possible for our government, through FORD-Q, to match contributions from the provincial government as part of its export assistance programs in order to help our export manufacturers re-establish their business contacts and a climate of confidence with their American clients?

Could we not also put pressure on the Insurance Bureau of Canada to make insurance companies aware of our situation and get them to treat claimants in a more open-minded and humane manner?

As I said earlier, it will take time to evaluate the impact of the crisis in all its breadth and complexity.

It is vital, despite the urgency of the situation, to use this time to determine the appropriate measures, which, in the end, will speed economic recovery and keep the social fabric in tact.

I therefore reiterate my proposal for the immediate creation of a fund to provide assistance, which could provide money as programs are created.

The money allocated could, for example, be used to pay the interest on victims' loans. The balance would be kept to meet any similar situation that might develop as the result of other natural disasters.

Beyond our immediate concerns, I think it is time to initiate discussions on a national plan of action in the even of natural disasters. I do not want to take anything away from the fine work done during the ice storm, but we should take a hard look at all aspects of the crisis, at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.

It seems to me that at this point, crises are managed on an ad hoc basis without any specific strategy. The prime objectives justifying such action are as follows. Initially, to study objectively the disasters that have occurred in recent years to identify the measures taken and to delimit the crises. Following this analysis, we would be in a position to identify the strengths and weaknesses of action taken to be better prepared in the event of another catastrophe. Parliament must also be involved in this issue, through a commission or a parliamentary committee, and develop a plan.

I am using this debate to speak to you of a national prevention plan for natural disasters. The plan could contain provision for a special fund in the event of natural disasters. Research could be done to establish the amounts needed to meet the financial costs occasioned by such crises.

We should also develop a strategy, in co-operation with provincial and municipal governments, that would provide functional emergency plans for each municipality, identify the departments likely to be asked to help, and define the organizations that, in the majority of cases, play a prominent role, such as the army, the Red Cross and all the others that I cannot name here because it would take too long.

Alternatives should be considered and, as members of Parliament, we have a duty to offer our full co-operation with any effort aimed at preventing and managing crises.

It is when faced with adversity that we can see the importance of human solidarity and fully appreciate how lucky we are to live in a country such as ours. In the end, this crisis will have shown us that human nature embodies the very best that exists, and we are confident that, together, we can overcome any obstacle that could threaten the lives and prosperity of Canadians.

I would like to conclude by thanking the members of my team, Madeleine De Vincentis and Claudette Houle in the riding, and Anik Trépanier in Ottawa. Their support and presence helped me provide assistance to the residents of Shefford affected by the storm. I also want to tell the people of Shefford that they can count on our support.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Ice Storm 1998
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February 2, 1998

Ms. Diane St-Jacques (Shefford, PC)

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Shefford, a riding hard hit by the ice storm, I support the motion on the crisis we have just come through. I had already sent you a letter requesting an emergency debate on this crisis, which hit part of Quebec and eastern Ontario.

I am happy to learn that such a debate will be held and I would ask that the letter I sent you earlier be withdrawn.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Ice Storm
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