Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Whitby—Oshawa (Ontario)
Lost her last election, in 2006, with 38.75% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Housing October 31st, 2005
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House that October is renovation month. For 16 years, the Canadian Home Builders' Association has been celebrating the renovation season by providing consumers with information on home renovations as well as showcasing the building industry's professionals and their services and products.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Canada's national housing agency, works with home builders to share with consumers a wealth of housing information and know-how.
CMHC helps point Canadians in the right direction when faced with decisions about buying, renovating and maintaining their homes. By advising Canadians to consult accredited housing experts when required, we echo this year's theme of “Do it right! Work with a professional”.
Through publications such as “Hiring a Contractor”, CMHC provides free renovation information, including contractor agreements and a checklist to ensure that renovations are carried out properly. CMHC is also there to provide practical information on how to improve the energy efficiency of homes.
As a leading source of objective, reliable housing information, CMHC is committed to helping Canadians access a wide choice--
Durham District School Board October 24th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, grade 5 students from across the Durham District School Board were invited to submit a 500-word essay on what it would be like to be a police officer.
After reviewing hundreds of essays, the Durham District School Board brought forward five finalists. These finalists came to the Durham Regional Police Headquarters on September 29 and read their essays in front of a community panel.
Ten year-old Vanessa Foran, a grade 5 student at Florence M. Heart Public School in Whitby, was chosen the overall winner.
After swearing her oath of office on October 17, Vanessa Foran took up her new duties as chief of police for the day. Wearing her personally tailored chief's uniform, “Chief Foran” visited several units to learn more about policing. Vanessa's special day also included a helicopter ride on Air 1.
I ask all members to please join me in congratulating Vanessa Foran, a spirited young woman who has shown what one can accomplish if one is prepared to just give it a try.
Canada Labour Code October 17th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to debate this important question of labour policy.
I must inform the House that I do not support the provisions of Bill C-380, and I will tell the House why.
Bill C-380 seeks to amend the Canada Labour Code to allow a pregnant and nursing employee who is subject to federal labour law to avail herself of the relevant legislation in the province in which she works. Under the proposed bill, a pregnant or nursing employee who is subject to federal labour laws will be able to opt out of the provisions of that law in favour of the provincial law.
We should review the subject matter of Bill C-380 in further detail before we can really pass judgment on it. We must ask ourselves a number of questions.
Do pregnant and nursing mothers currently receive adequate protection under the Canada Labour Code?
Members of the House will recall that the issue of protection for pregnant and nursing mothers under the Canada Labour Code already has been studied at the federal level. To ensure that their protection was adequate, the former minister of labour launched a survey of federally regulated workplaces to examine whether the current federal maternity related provisions were adequate and effective. The study found that the maternity related provisions of the Canada Labour Code adequately protected pregnant and nursing women in Canada. It recommended, however, that more efforts be made to inform Canadian employers and employees of their rights and obligations concerning maternity related leave and reassignment.
As members of the House will know, and as members opposite have alluded, there is currently a full review of part III of the Canada Labour Code. Among other things, the review is considering what can be done to help employees achieve a better work life balance, while also taking into account the needs of employers.
What arrangements do employees need to be able to respond to their family and other responsibilities?
What are the specific pressures facing female employees?
What good practices have employers and unions put into place to address these issues?
What legislation or other changes, if any, should be made to the federal labour standards to foster greater work life balance in federally regulated workplaces?
Are any current federal labour standards hindering efforts to provide flexible arrangements to benefit employees?
These are the broad questions that should be asked in a holistic review of the labour standards as they impact on employees' work and family responsibilities. We want to ensure that the federal labour standards remain relevant and reflect the revolving and evolving needs of Canadian workers and employees.
Currently, this review will examine such issues as the protection of pregnant and nursing mothers. However, the review will go much further. It will consider all aspects of the needs to balance work and family responsibilities. That is why it is premature to consider changes to labour standards legislation before the commission has had the opportunity to present its report and its recommendations. I would remind the House that the report will take into consideration the views of employers, the government and employees. It is a tripartite review.
Also the Labour Code already has been amended to provide substantial improvements to protect working pregnant and nursing women. Recently, amendments to part II of the Canada Labour Code gave stronger protection to a pregnant or nursing woman who believed her job may be potentially dangerous to herself, her fetus or her nursing child. If it is determined that a woman's job poses a health risk to herself, her fetus or her nursing child, she is entitled protection under part III of the code, which sets out the standards and employee obligations in the workplace. In these circumstances, part III requires the employer to modify the employee's working conditions or to reassign her to another job. If neither of these options is available, then the employee is entitled to leave.
Let me remind the House that women under federal jurisdiction, if they must take leave, have access to employment insurance which in many cases can be topped up by private insurance plans.
There are also federal-provincial issues to the bill before the House. To put these issues into perspective, it is important to remember that the Canada Labour Code, which the bill seeks to amend, applies only to employees working under federal jurisdiction. Federally regulated employees comprise 10% of the Canadian workforce in sectors of key importance to the Canadian economic infrastructure. They include, among others, workers in banks and in Canada's transportation and communications sectors. That means that 90% of Canadian workers are governed by provincial or territorial labour legislation.
This is a case where federal and provincial jurisdiction is clearly demarcated. This is not a case where federal and provincial governments have a joint role to play. They act independently within their own jurisdictions.
Amending the Canada Labour Code in a way that would allow individuals to choose between federal and provincial laws would only raise cross-jurisdictional issues and would create enormous confusion in the administration of labour laws. When it comes to the Canada Labour Code, we have a strong tradition in our country of consulting with major unions and employer stakeholders. These consultations are now underway regarding a comprehensive reform of federal labour standards.
Over the years we have accomplished a great deal in our approach. We need to keep working together to strengthen our social foundations and create a better way of life for all Canadians. That is why I fully support what the hon. member is doing by reaching out to Canadian women, children and families, but I think Canadians would be better served if we allowed the commission reviewing part III of the Labour Code to complete its work.
I cannot support the bill at this time. It is premature and the issues it raises need more research and study.
World Habitat Day October 3rd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, the United Nations has designated the first Monday in October World Habitat Day, a day to reflect on our urban communities and their importance in our lives.
In 2007, for the first time in history, more than half the world's population will live in cities. This brings home the fact that the international community must pay more attention to the challenges and opportunities of urbanization, both in poor and wealthy nations.
We are going to do just that when Canada hosts the upcoming third World Urban Forum in Vancouver from June 19 to 23, 2006. It will mark the 30th anniversary of the first international cities conference, also held in Vancouver.
The Government of Canada is working in partnership with a United Nations agency, UN-Habitat, to bring together in Vancouver citizens from around the world to discuss and debate ways to strengthen the world's cities. We want everyone to come prepared to share best practices and lessons learned on urban issues to help all city dwellers improve the quality of life in their communities.
Canada's cities enrich our nation economically and culturally through the great diversity and creativity of people—
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act October 3rd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my voice to those of my colleagues who will be speaking against the proposed Bill C-363, a bill that would amend section 29 of the CMHC Act to require Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to distribute surpluses from its reserve fund to the provinces.
Housing means more to Canadians than just four walls and a roof over their heads. It is one of the key building blocks around which most of us build our lives, like access to education, good health care and employment. Having a safe and affordable home is a cornerstone that enables us to go out into the world and to prosper in our jobs, support and care for our families, and build the vibrant communities and strong economy upon which this great nation is based.
It is important to recognize, however, that housing needs of Canadians are as diverse as the faces of Canada itself: youth, new Canadians, single mothers, women escaping violence, young families, seniors, persons with disabilities, aboriginal peoples and individuals living in northern and remote communities. With all of these groups there is a wide range of needs.
Our government's approach is to view housing as a continuum. Through our national homelessness initiatives, communities are given the opportunity to build on their successes and focus on interventions to help prevent and break the cycle of homelessness. Through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, we seek to address a wide range of needs, from emergency shelter and assisted housing to access to market housing and independent, reliable information on the latest market trends and advances in housing technology.
Because of this need for diversity, we work with a wide range of partners. Playing a leadership role, CMHC collaborates with all levels of government, as well as with the private and non-profit sectors and community organizations, to develop workable solutions that speak to the needs of Canadians both today and tomorrow. Our vision of housing in Canada is broad and it is constantly evolving.
What does this mean for the young Canadian family looking to buy their first home or for the single mother hoping to get assisted housing with her children so she can go back to school for more training? What does it mean for the older couple living on a fixed income who need to make adaptations so that they can live in their homes independently? It means many things, but for starters it means an expanding range of mortgage insurance products that help make home ownership more affordable for Canadians. CMHC has a long history of innovation in mortgage loan insurance and in securitization that translates into products and services designed to meet the ever changing needs and lifestyles of Canadians across the country, as well as keeping financing for home ownership and rental development accessible and affordable.
In April of this year, CMHC introduced an impressive package of mortgage loan enhancements and benefits that continue to make it easier for homebuyers to take their first step into the market. This includes a further 15% reduction in mortgage loan insurance premiums for homebuyers with as little as 5% down. This is CMHC's second premium reduction for home owners in two years.
For that young family I mentioned a moment ago, these changes result in significant changes that may allow them to enter the housing market earlier and at interest rates comparable to those financing their homes with a down payment of 25% or more. This will help to get them started sooner on the path to financial security and to direct their resources toward other things, such as saving for their children's college or university educations.
As first time homebuyers assuming $125,000 CMHC-insured mortgage with a 5% down payment, a family will save $600 on the purchase of their new home thanks to the 2005 April announcements. If we were to combine the saving with the premium reduction CMHC announced two years ago, they stand to save a total of $1,200 on the purchase of their home.
The improvements do not stop there. CMHC also eliminated its mortgage insurance premiums on rental projects under both phases of the affordable housing initiative and other projects with rents that are low enough to meet the needs of households who qualify for social housing. This will result in significant savings to sponsor groups.
Housing sponsors, in addition to saving in the order of $300,000 on a $5 million loan with a value of 95%, will also be able to continue to benefit from the access of financing which mortgage insurance assures and corresponding lower interest rates.
Premium reductions of an additional 20% were also announced in April for affordable housing rental projects that met the criteria for CMHC's partnership flexibilities. On a project with a $5 million loan and on a loan to value ratio of 95%, this could amount to a savings of almost $100,000. These are substantial savings which sponsors can reinvest in quality housing projects or to use to make more units of assisted housing available.
These changes are in addition to the $1.8 billion our government is currently directly investing in housing projects for the benefit of all Canadians. In addition to the $1 billion for the federal affordable housing initiative, $405 million has been added to the supporting communities partnership initiative, or SCPI, and $384 million has extended the residential rehabilitation assistance program, RRAP.
Approximately $2 billion a year is spent on housing assistance, primarily in support of some 633,000 lower income households.
I am happy to say that for the single mother I described a few minutes ago, finding good quality assisted housing where she can afford to live safely with her children is more accessible, in part, through these programs. They can help her get on her feet and help her with her dream of picking up her education so she can work in a job she finds more fulfilling and to provide greater flexibility and security for her family.
We are also making excellent progress in moving the affordable housing initiative forward. Agreements have been signed with all jurisdictions for the first phase of the initiative, and eight provinces have now signed affordable housing agreements with the federal government.
What about those older low income couples who need to put new roofs on their houses? CMHC is making a difference for them as well. The funds available through the residential rehabilitation assistance program will help some of them, not all of them, with the costs of these repairs.
Because the housing challenges on reserves are unlike those faced by any other segment of our population, the government is also committed to improving on reserve housing conditions for aboriginal people by investing $295 million over a period of five years, of which $200 million will be invested in the first two years. The funding will help to build 6,400 new housing units and renovate 1,500 existing units.
The additional investment of $1.6 billion announced to assist Canadians, including aboriginal Canadians, in finding a safe and affordable place to call home will allow us to further address the housing gap faced by aboriginal Canadians. This will help us to begin the true transformative change that is required to help build a solid platform for longer term sustainable solutions from the Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable.
The federal government has a responsibility to help meet the housing needs of all Canadians.
Bill C-363 zeros in on only one part of the housing continuum, assisted social housing. It overlooks the real need to make housing more available and affordable for Canadians of all income levels, including those with special needs and those who need special housing.
In addition, the bill chooses only one delivery method, that of the provinces. In reality, it takes many partners to meet the diverse housing needs of Canadians. As I mentioned earlier, CMHC works in close partnership with a wide variety of industry, non-profit and community organizations to make a choice of innovative, affordable housing solutions available to all Canadians.
In fact, we have recently held a series of national consultations to gain a better understanding of the housing affordability challenges facing Canadians. These consultations will guide us in the development of a partnership based Canada housing framework that builds on the successes of our existing programs and introduces new initiatives.
Once in place, the framework will serve as a guiding plan for all new federal investments in housing, one that recognizes the housing needs of all Canadians, and which is based on the collaborations and successes we already have achieved. Most important, it will seek to build on and foster partnerships with all levels of government.
While the interest of the member opposite in housing is commendable, I would have felt a little happier if he had felt the necessity to support Bill C-48, which added $1.6 billion into the housing economy.
Civil Marriage Act June 28th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I too will continue to support the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I have been consistent in my view. I agree that the court did not rule on the fourth question and that we probably could have tried harder to find an alternative to changing the definition of marriage. I will continue to share that view for as long as I am in public service and beyond. I will not be convinced that marriage is not the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.
Civil Marriage Act June 28th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, my colleague opposite has represented his constituents honourably and for quite some time. I am sorry that we are going to be losing the member opposite who has decided not to seek re-election.
I say to the member opposite that I can only account for myself. I can only tell him that I will not put myself in a situation where I am compromised. I have been well treated and well served on this side and I do have the freedom to cast my vote in my own interests and in the interests of my constituents.
Civil Marriage Act June 28th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I listened to those members' debates and I appreciated them. This is an opportunity to put on the record how we feel. I am prepared to stand and vote my conscience. I am prepared to stand and vote the wishes of my constituents and I do not have to apologize for that. I do not think I need to be heckled or abused in standing up for what I believe. I think it is critically important. Someone called me a neanderthal because I would not support same sex legislation. It was not anyone from my caucus.
I point out that it was not too long ago that we passed Bill C-23, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act. That legislation actually provided rights and benefits to same sex couples, common law couples of opposite sex. It brought into line the rights, obligations and benefits, married and common law, either same sex or opposite sex. I believe that benefits have been extended and extended appropriately. I do not see the need to go on to Bill C-38, because I think everyone who is living in a loving, compassionate, caring relationship has been afforded the rights and benefits and the obligations. That is important; there are obligations as well. I do not see the need to move to the next step, because while I support equality in terms of rights and benefits, I do not support it at the expense of changing the definition of marriage. I have always believed that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
I guess what upsets me is that after all of this debate, after everything we have been through, we are really ending where we began in a situation where this will continue to be a very, very divisive issue. We have all been elected to stand and to cast our vote. I can tell the House, and I can tell the constituents that I represent, that I am proud and honoured to stand in my place and to vote in opposition to Bill C-38 and to support, with all of my fibre and being, the traditional definition of marriage as being the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.
Civil Marriage Act June 28th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I think I started off by saying that for the most part it has been a very respectful debate.
The member opposite asked me about Bill C-48. As a member of Parliament, I vote on the merits of each piece of legislation. With respect to Bill C-48 there were some very important issues that affect my constituents. There was funding for affordable housing. I know that some members of the Conservative Party think that the answer to affordable housing is simply to put people in jail and make it illegal to be homeless, but that is not my view. I support public transit. The communities in my area want public transit. They deserve public transit and that was in Bill C-48. Bill C-48 gives money for post-secondary education. The residents of my community have students at Durham College and the new University of Ontario. They need that.