- On the Parliament site
Last in Parliament September 2008, as NDP MP for Surrey North (B.C.)
Won her last election, in 2006, with 45.69% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Gang Crime June 9th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, a serious threat is growing on our streets as gangs get bigger and more sophisticated each day. Innocent people are being killed.
In my riding of Surrey North, Chris Mohan, a young man with a bright future, was gunned down as he was leaving home to play basketball. Another man, Ed Schellenberg, who was doing maintenance work across the hall, was killed. Two families have been left empty and grieving.
Last weekend our community came together to remember what should have been Chris Mohan's 23rd birthday. His mother, Eileen, echoed a call the NDP made in the last election. She wants a federal program for young gang members who want a safe way out of the gang lifestyle. The witness protection program does not meet these needs.
Last November I held a press conference demanding urgent action from the Conservatives, a national strategy to fight gangs. So far, my call has fallen on deaf ears. How many deaths will it take for the government to listen?
Criminal Code June 4th, 2008
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-558, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals).
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to present this bill, which is an amendment to the Criminal Code regarding animal cruelty. This bill really intends to remedy the deficiencies seen in Bill S-203, which was recently before this House. The people who are working out there on behalf of animal rights and the humane treatment of animals have wanted this for some time. I am pleased to present it today.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 3rd, 2008
Mr. Speaker, the member spoke earlier in his comments about the loss of jobs in the auto industry, and my colleague spoke earlier about the loss in the forest industry.
In his reading and review of the budget, did he see any understanding of the fact that those thousands of jobs lost were predominantly men's jobs, but those men had families? Often in small communities, members of those families are employed in secondary industries, or secondary businesses that will also potentially close.
We know that the abuse of children and women increases in times of economic stress. Did he see something in the budget, or did he hear the minister responsible for women talk about the dangerous effects that these job losses potentially would have on women and children?
Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008
Mr. Speaker, I do not think they are going to read the Canada Gazette unless we ensure that everybody has a copy, and naturally we will.
It is not only south Asians who are being vocal about this issue but also people from the Philippines and so on. They are very interested in what is happening and they have been very vocal about it. The member is right, they have been very vocal on talk shows. The last rally was about 24 hours ago. These people came here because they could not do that in the country they came from. They embrace the fact that Canada is a democratic country where things like what they are seeing should not happen.
These people are also very frightened because they do not know who would be eliminated from the list. It could be a friend, a family member, or just someone they know. Believe me, these people have long memories and they will be watching this very carefully.
Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to part 6 of Bill C-50 and the changes that are intended ostensibly for the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Really, however, these are changes that will make a difference in a negative way, I believe, in the lives of people in Canada and in the lives of people who will be encouraged to come to Canada but of course not stay.
This country was built on immigration. If Canada were not a country that believed in immigration, then I do not know who would be sitting here today. I do not believe that in this House today we have anyone whose family did not at some time immigrate to this country from another mother country, not 10 or 20 years ago but 100 or 150 years ago. The history of the very building of this country, from literally the first building built, has been one of people who have immigrated here.
The need for immigration also has been shown over the years. That is only becoming clearer as people have fewer children or choose to not have children. We need immigrants. We need new people coming to Canada in order to have this country be sustainable.
Very often in the current debate and in the debate that I have seen over the last few years, some of this gets driven by fear. So much of what we do and what happens, not just in our country but around the world, is based on fear. People talk about immigrants taking the jobs or immigrants getting ahead of them, as opposed to what immigrants have done for our country. Quite frankly, what immigrants have done for our country is actually to build it.
Before I move on to some specifics, for me this also speaks to an issue of how we manage things in government. I confess to being a first term federal member of Parliament, but I have served in a number of governments and am familiar with management strategies.
The management strategy when we have a long list is to simply decide that we will not serve some of the people on the list, that we will delete them, and it is not a management strategy that I would consider to be either particularly fair or particularly proactive. I ask my colleagues, where does this go next? Do we take a surgical wait list and decide that it is too long, that if a person's name starts with a B, for example, he or she is suddenly not on that list? Is that a management strategy?
There is a management strategy that we often see in government, not just in this government but we do it see here as well, in regard to government putting forth a policy that it thinks many Canadians are going to be unhappy with. This will be familiar to all people who have served in governments. The government will put it out late on Friday afternoon or on the last day of the sitting or try to include it in a much broader bill, where hopefully it will not get the same profile that it would as a stand-alone bill.
As has already been stated, this should have been brought forward as a stand-alone, as a change to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. If this is a new management strategy, and if old ones of course are used as well, I do not consider it to be very positive management.
We cannot now in this country even manage the professional immigrants who have come and who we have encouraged to come. They cannot practice their professions in Canada. There have been some small steps taken, but there are many physicians, engineers and accountants who are here and cannot get work in their trained professions. They are doing other work. All work is valuable work, but they are not working in the areas in which we so desperately encourage them and in which we so desperately need them.
This part of Bill C-50 went to the immigration committee. The committee looked at it and recommended that it not be included at all. I think the committee's unanimous advice, certainly that of the majority, was not to include this.
There is this interesting thing that happens in government with committees. They do a lot of work, they even pass a report, but there is no obligation after having done all this work for a government to actually act upon it.
In my experience in the community in which I come from, where probably 40% of people certainly are recently from other places other than Canada, it is that they have been waiting for two, three or four years and they are part of that group of 925,000 people waiting for their family members to join them. Sometimes it is grown sons and daughters who have all kinds of skills that they can bring to Canada.
I have seen families that have actually bought a new home that has a room in readiness for the person that they are so certain will at some time get to the top of the list and be allowed to come here. For many of these people, it has been at least five years of hopeful waiting, of counting on having parents, children, whoever that is here. Then they are told, “I am sorry, but those are some of the names that we took off the list. Better luck another time”. It is not fair to change the rules in midstream.
Again in my community, I know that the immigrant community is part of a huge economic driver in Surrey. It makes Surrey a very successful city. We are treating temporary workers as a product. We use them for three months and then dispose of them.
We can talk about how they will be safe and looked after, but there is no history to prove that. We have had workers come before, and we have seen that very recently in Vancouver, they do not make minimum wage. Sometimes they do. They do not get overtime. There is no guarantee of work and safety for them. I think people know that.
We have never had people come and say to them, “You don't have the right if you like being here to come back, to apply to stay here”. That is an abuse of wages. That is an abuse of people by putting them in unsafe working conditions. I thought we were long past having to put canaries down in mines. If these people dare to complain, then they are gone. They take it because that is the only money they will have.
I have been very pleased with what I have heard from the Liberal members. I am sure that as we vote on this, they will all be standing up to oppose it. I will be looking forward to seeing that because I judge people by their actions. All I have heard in the newspapers, in forums and in the House, is how bad Bill C-50 is. Naturally, I know that I can look forward tonight to all those members standing up and opposing the bill.
Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008
Mr. Speaker, could the hon. member who has just spoken speak to the effect on families who have been waiting for a very long time for an expected reunification with their loved ones?
Nav Canada May 14th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, over the past few months many people in the Guildford area of Surrey North have raised concerns about airplane noise over their neighbourhoods. The decision to reroute flight paths over Surrey communities was made without consultation in an attempt to reduce fuel costs for airlines.
This is a serious problem. Low-flying planes disrupt peaceful neighbourhoods. They cause air pollution and lead to lower property values. There are also safety concerns about planes flying so close to the ground over residential neighbourhoods.
None of us would want to live under a low flying zone. It is a constant disruption that causes a great deal of stress to people.
I recently met with Nav Canada. Its answer: more consultation, noise monitoring and studies. All of this is unnecessary when the answer is simple. Nav Canada should immediately restore flight paths that were in place before the changes last spring.
Today I am calling on the Minister of Transport to intervene. Saving a few dollars for the big airline companies is not worth the cost to my neighbours.
Public Safety May 13th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, the gang problem is going to spiral out of control if we do not intervene in the lives of the youngest gang members. The police survey on youth gangs says that youth gang membership has doubled since 2002, from 7,000 to 14,000. Statistics Canada says that youth gun related crime has spiked 32% since 2002.
Guns have no place on our streets unless in the holster of a police officer. It is time to make neighbourhoods safer for working families.
Why did it take the government so long to approve the money for more police and where are these phantom officers?
Public Safety May 13th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, gang violence is on the rise across Canada. The problem is acute in British Columbia, with four recent gang related deaths. The gangs are getting bigger and they are getting more violent.
For all of the rhetoric on crime, the Conservative government has not moved to stop the free flow of guns across our border with the United States.
Will the government make real improvements at the border, arm the guards today, not 10 years from now, and stop illegal guns from being used on the streets of British Columbia?
Business of Supply May 8th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time with the member for Parkdale—High Park.
I rise today to talk about how an unbalanced economic agenda that is heading in the wrong direction is hurting the lives of people in Surrey North. I want to talk about perception and about reality.
As we stand here today, we are in the position of having seen the strongest economy in 40 years, low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment in many places, and strong economic growth. The perception would surely be that Canadians are doing well and they should be doing well, but what is the reality? Let me tell the House about the people in the city of Surrey and my riding of Surrey North. The reality is that they see an ever-widening gap between themselves and others--not narrower, wider--in spite of what they are told about the great economic times we are in.
Let the good times roll. Let us look at what concurrent Liberal and Conservative policies have really meant to Surrey North. The times have certainly rolled, but they have rolled back.
What do people need to be safe and healthy and contributing citizens? A job, and an economic policy supporting jobs not just in Alberta but throughout the country.
Let us start with finding a place to live. How does someone who is single and earns minimum wage do that? For someone in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia in Surrey North who earns $8 an hour and works a full week, the after tax monthly earnings are $955.20. So that person takes that paycheque and goes out and tries to find a place to live. The average Surrey basement suite or small apartment is $791 a month. If the person were to rent that, the person would be left with $144 for food, bus fare, and probably second-hand clothes. Heaven forbid if that person were to have an emergency of any kind.
Currently, Surrey needs 2,000 transitional housing units and 5,000 permanent units of affordable housing. What kind of economic policy would ignore a national housing strategy? People in housing can contribute. People who are living on the streets are not able to be part of anyone's economic housing policy. We are told that having a job is a cure for poverty. In no way is that the case in Surrey North.
Our food bank sees 14,000 people, a large number of whom are from Surrey North and 42% of those people are babies and children. The Prime Minister has said that the number of children living in poverty is probably only a quarter of the number that is quoted. I would like him to go to the food bank with me and tell that to the mother whose little girl said to her “Mommy, I'll try not to eat so much”. He should try telling her that those numbers are over-estimated. That is what his economic policies are doing to people. Little children are having to say, “Mommy, don't worry, I won't eat so much”.
There are people who work but they have to live in homeless shelters. They are earning minimum wage. They are trying. They are living in homeless shelters because they cannot afford a place to live. They get up in the morning and they go to work. They are using the food banks because they have no place else to eat. What kind of let the good times roll does that look like for the people in Surrey?
There are middle class residents in Surrey North who sit around the kitchen table and talk about their futures. They may be people in apartments or people in their own homes. They worry about not being able to pay next month's mortgage. Why? Because people are facing job losses and they are being ignored by the government. I am talking about manufacturing jobs.
Everyone forgets that manufacturing jobs are also about the wood industry. In the wood industry, when every single sawmill on the Fraser River closes, people are out of work. In the riding of Surrey North there are many, many, many people who are out of work. There is no retraining. There was nothing in the budget for the pine beetle epidemic. Those manufacturing jobs in the wood industry are completely gone. Untargeted tax cuts certainly are not helping those people at all. They may be helping people in the tar sands, but they are not helping the people in Surrey North who worked in the wood industry.
Those people are also worrying about whether they can send their sons and daughters to post-secondary education. When the NDP amended the 2005 budget to remove $4.6 billion in tax cuts and put that money toward housing and post-secondary education, the Prime Minister found it to be completely irresponsible. For those middle class people in Surrey North sitting around their kitchen tables, it is absolutely not irresponsible. It was a bit of help, but they still have a very long way to go because of the tuition costs. They know that many of them are not going to be able to send their sons and daughters to post-secondary education.
The government's economic policy also ignores children. Surrey North has a reading standard that is lower than the average in British Columbia. That should not be a surprise. We have a poverty level that is higher than the rest of British Columbia. A child who is not nourished cannot learn. That is not a secret to anyone. There are children who are going to school hungry. It is no wonder our reading standards are below the provincial average.
In conclusion, there may be economic policies that are being celebrated by Conservatives across the country wherever they may live, but in Surrey North there are more people living in poverty than in most other places. We always have had more children living in poverty than the B.C. average. They are children who learn less well than other children because they are poor, because they are not sleeping, because they do not have safe places to live. There are people living on the streets who are very interested in contributing to their community, but it is very hard to be part of an economic policy when people who are working have to live on the street because they cannot afford a place to live.
This is where an unbalanced wrong-headed economic approach takes us. Those people in Surrey North are not seeing the good times roll.