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  • His favourite word is chair.

NDP MP for Hamilton Centre (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 57.00% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Employment June 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this is not just some tactical, political event. This is about people's jobs, their wages, and their future.

What we do not need is more political leaks and spins. We need action. For instance, has the government been considering a sunshine list, particularly to make the positions and wages, and the levels of those wages, public?

Employment June 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, still no straight answer.

Conservatives are saying they will now, finally, fix the mess they made of the temporary foreign worker program. In fact, they are so proud of their changes, they are actually waiting until after the House has safely risen before they announce their changes.

Canadians know the damage this program has already done: lost jobs, abuse of workers, and suppressed wages. Can the Conservatives tell us if they will do more than just undo the damages their government has done to this program?

Citizenship and Immigration June 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the humanitarian crisis in Syria has grown beyond all conceivable proportions. This is the greatest refugee crisis since World War II.

What we have from the Conservatives is a lot of talk about their intentions but no clarity on their actions when it comes to resettlement in Canada. The UN has asked Canada to do more.

On World Refugee Day, can the minister give the House a guarantee regarding the number of Syrian refugees who will actually be in Canada by the end of this month?

The Environment June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, once again, the people of Hamilton are left in limbo regarding the future of the Randle Reef cleanup. It has been six months to the day since the government announced that funding was there and that the project was a go. Now, we learn from Environment Canada that the project will be put on hold yet again.

Hamiltonians are tired of delays and false starts. Will the government commit today to take all steps necessary to ensure that the Randle Reef cleanup starts this year?

Respect for Communities Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree with my colleague.

In fact, just within the last few days, I was standing in exactly the same place making an issue about the fact that the current government passes laws that it knows will not survive a charter challenge, even though it has a requirement to check that ahead of time. The Conservatives know it will not happen, but they do not care. They are worried about the politics of it.

I mean, we get it, we are all in politics, but when one is in government, one does have some responsibility to get above that, especially when we are talking about human rights and charter rights.

For a government to care so little and show so little respect for the Canadian people that it would just pass laws that work politically, knowing they will not survive a charter challenge, is despicable. There is no other word for a government that would do that, which is exactly what the Conservatives are doing here.

The Conservatives know that this is going to go off to the courts. They know that it will not survive a challenge given what the court has already said, but they do not care. What they care about is what my hon. colleague has said: passing a law they can use to raise funds to get votes to get re-elected rather than help the Canadian people. They are not doing that, but when 2015 comes and we get a new NDP government, we will.

Respect for Communities Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for this important question, and it gives me a chance to use up some of my other notes. It is important to see who is onside with the way we see it, and not the way the government sees it. Well, a little outfit called the Canadian Medical Association happens to believe this is important enough for it comment on, and I quote:

Supervised injection programs are an important harm reduction strategy. Harm reduction is a central pillar in a comprehensive public health approach to disease prevention and health promotion.

The Canadian Nurses Association has said much the same thing.

My colleague asked what is happening in B.C. right now. Clearly, the government did not listen to British Columbians and all the various groups within that province who are opposed to the decision the Conservatives made today, and this is no different.

When the government does not want to hear something, it does not matter who says it, where it is coming from, what the credibility is. The Conservatives either tune it right out or worse yet, they attack it. In this case, it is clear that the only people who are opposed to this are hard-core, ideological right wingers. Every other Canadian with a heart and compassion wants these injection sites for Canadians to make our communities safer.

Respect for Communities Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate. At the outset, I just want to make a couple of comments for context.

I understand this issue quite well, given that I am not only a member here, but previously sat on a city council and, for that matter, sat 13 years at Queen's Park. I know there is a difference between passing something at the federal level, where it can be very lofty and desirable in what it says, and when it gets all the way to city council where people actually have to implement it, things can then look very different.

The subject we are dealing with tonight is, for a city councillor, one of the toughest because it is one of those situations where it is not just right or wrong. Right versus wrong is easy. Most of our moms taught us the difference between right and wrong. The challenge is when it is right versus right, but only one can be supreme. In this case, at the city council levels across our country, that is where the issue of halfway houses, detox centres, like the one Mayor Ford is in, and InSite would be one of those challenges.

However, when I said “right versus right”, if we asked people if they could just say no and that would be the end of having any chance of having an InSite operation on their street, would they say it? Most people would. They would say, yes, that they would rather not have that on their street. Why? Mostly they think about their families, the kids and their security, which is foremost on any parent's mind. However, it is not that simple until we figure out a way to have a human race that does not involve people who break the law and humans who are not constructed in such a way that they can become addicted to things like alcohol and other substances, and all the mayhem and damage that is done. If the Conservatives really want to talk about things that are doing damage in this society, let us start talking about what alcohol does to people.

However, for those people, those parents who, if we gave them a chance, would say that they did not want any of those things on their streets, that it should be put somewhere else, there is another set of parents and another set of human beings who have love and compassion for their family members or friends, only they are the victims of the addiction. They are equally worthy of our concern as lawmakers. It is at the city council where the rubber hits the road, because those people are the ones who have to make the decision of “where this goes”. It is not easy.

When people's homes are the biggest investment in their life, it is the old castle, their domain that is for themselves and their family, it is their little place and they want to keep it as secure and safe as they can for their family. When one of those family members is in need of these services, whether a halfway house, a detox centre or a safe injection site, the other side of it is that those individuals are as worthy and as deserving of the protection of lawmakers as well as the support of lawmakers, given the importance we put on health care and ensuring it is universal. For those of us who see this much more as a health issue than as a crime issue, it becomes that much more difficult, because we cannot just say no.

The reason I am raising that is because what the government is attempting to do, in the NDP's view, is micromanage the requirements to the degree where, when I looked at the bill, it looked to me like a zoning application at city council. Those are the questions it asks: What does public health say? What do the police say? What do the zoning experts say? What does the local councillor say? Let us have a public meeting and talk to the families who live in the area, as well as the families who are positively impacted by the service that exists.

We know that this issue should not even be in this bill. All that was required was an extension of the exemption. I am from Ontario, not B.C., but to the best of my knowledge, notwithstanding some day-to-day issues, for the most part, this was working and was saving lives. It was making the community safer and better for everybody. All that was required was, “Yes, we will go for another extension. That is a good project, doing some good work, let's continue.” That is when ideology got in the way, where the government wants to stand behind a bumper sticker slogan. The answer to the Conservatives is just say no. Just say no to the application, do not allow InSite, and just say no to drugs.

Tell people who have a challenge with alcohol just say no. Is there nobody in this place who has a problem? I know some place not that far down the road where a very high-profile person had a problem. That problem does not make the individual a bad person but a person who needs help. In the community that person is in, guess what, there is a detox centre, and that high-profile individual is getting the compassion and supported required. That is exactly what is happening in Vancouver, except that it is not as acceptable as having a little drinkypoo at the end of the day, or a little happy hour kind of thing, or a having a beer watching the game. No, it is not that.

This is tough stuff. This is hard-core addiction, with all that goes with it. Anyone who has ever been to Vancouver and seen the challenges of those communities would understand why it is important that Vancouver has a federal partner that actually wants to help. City council members are doing the heavy lifting. They are the ones having to go into those communities and make the argument that this is good for people and that they all have to kind of share the load in terms of the broader community and the services they have to have. They are the ones that have to put their seats on the line. Trust me, when people are on city council, they do not get to go to the airport and fly hundreds of kilometres away from their constituents and the problem. As soon as city councillors walk out the front door, they are then meeting with their constituents and it stays like that all day until they get home. Then they get up the next day and do the same thing.

Those are the people who have had to go to public meetings and tell moms and dads who are fearful for their kids why this was still a good thing for Vancouver to do. We should be saluting Vancouver's city council for having the courage to take these kinds of steps. Instead, here we are in the House of Commons with a federal government that is doing everything it can to stop the process, to stop the ability of these lives to be saved. I was going to, and maybe I will get a chance in questions and comments, read some of the quotes from the Supreme Court of Canada and what it said about the importance of ensuring that these kinds of safe sites exist for our fellow citizens.

New Democrats stand resolutely opposed to this bill. The bill is wrong-headed, it is wrong in detail, it is wrong in its direction, and it just plain wrong. Canadians deserve better. When there is an NDP government in 2015, they will get that better government.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, you know what a challenge that is in that short period of time, so between us we will do our best, and you will win.

I want to respond by taking on the member directly and saying that it is two-tiered citizenship. That is what my whole speech was about. When we have those ceremonies, we welcome people to the family and tell them that they are Canadian. Now, if they violate any law, like anybody else they will be held to account, and if the crimes are serious enough, they are probably going to do some time. That is the same for everybody.

However, one thing that does not happen to a Canadian citizen who is born here is that their citizenship is threatened. This takes that principle and shreds it. That is wrong. It is not Canadian. It is not the way we do things. It needs to be changed back.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague who, of course, is the youngest person ever elected to this place, an historic figure, very cool.

When I listened to the question, I immediately started to think about a detailed answer, but it struck me that back in the bad old days of the Mike Harris government in Ontario, the education minister was actually recorded saying that the government was looking to create a crisis in the education system so it could fix it. Create a crisis that does not exist, tell everybody, “Look at this mess, it is falling apart”, much like the length of time they are talking about, saying “Oh look how awful this is, and we are going to solve it, we will step in”.

Then the solutions they provided were much worse than the circumstance and even worse than the crisis they had generated. However, that is how they did it. They created a crisis and told everybody, “See it is not working, we have to fix it”. They call the horrible thing they do “the fix”. That is an easy storyline to follow and it is very difficult to counter that, to get people to focus long enough to understand that they have artificially created this problem and it gives them the opportunity to say, “Here is the solution”, which of course is something they could not have done if they did not have the crisis in front of them.

It is not surprising that a number of the front-line cabinet ministers are from the Mike Harris government. It is not surprising that the former chief of staff to the Prime Minister used to be the chief of staff to Mike Harris.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

That's true, Mr. Speaker. The government House leader just responded to me and said, “Nobody heckles louder than you”, and he is right. I give him that. It is the first time I have agreed with the government House leader in I cannot remember how many months. However, that is not the point.

The point is that the government sends these things to the Supreme Court. In this case, it is also hoping that it will take longer than the next election cycle so that it does not become a nuisance during any kind of election campaign. What is really interesting and is the great big question here is how the government believes that it can be consistent when it recognizes that the Supreme Court has the right to pass judgment on these laws and yet when it does, oftentimes what we hear from the government and other right wingers is, “We have an activist court again. There are the courts going beyond their mandate, there they are making laws rather than interpreting them.”

We mostly hear that in the U.S., but we hear an echo of it here in the chamber when it suits the government's purposes. It needs to be said that this is another case. There are serious issues, politics aside. I am not a lawyer, but those who are and who have a reputation that they care about when they speak publicly are saying that this has some real constitutional questions. I am underscoring from the get-go that is not unusual with the current government. It really does not care about that part of the process at all. In fact, we know how it feels about any entity that presumes to have more power than it does, or more authority. Look at what happened to the chief justice of the Supreme Court recently because the Prime Minister got into a bit of a snit over a recent decision by the Supreme Court.

For the rest of us in Canada, all we can say is thank God the court is there and thank God that so far it still is the body that Canadians have come to rely on to be their absolute final line of defence in terms of defending their rights in this country. However, make no mistake, if it had the opportunity in any way to change that and bring the Supreme Court under its thumb, where it wants everybody and everything else in Canada to be, it would do it in a blink.

I do not know how much it has been talked about, but the fact that this is retroactive is always worrisome. Also, that is a rarity. It is certainly not the regular course of events where legislation is made retroactive, and yet this one is.

The question mark at least has to be raised, what cases have the Conservatives got in mind that are not currently out there, where individuals may not even know they have a problem, but there is trouble coming. We do not know, and what is more worrisome is that some of the new powers the minister has, he or she does not have to divulge to the public. It is not necessary put in as secrets with CSIS, but the Conservatives certainly are not going out of their way in any way, shape, or form to publicize, be transparent about, and account for the power they are giving themselves.

This is all so very troublesome. Having been around here enough, when we start seeing retroactive, people who thought their legal matters were over and done with should be paying a little extra attention. The feds could be coming when individuals thought they were already through whatever system they were involved in.

I have to say that I am rather shocked, and we say this about every wrong thing the government does, but I really am shocked that there is not a greater outrage. I have heard colleagues talk about how much they enjoy speaking at the citizenship ceremonies, and I do too. They are one of the best events that we could attend, because at that very moment, happening right in front of us, ordinary people of the planet suddenly, in a blink, become Canadian citizens. Anybody who has ever attended knows the magical moment when these individuals go from being non-Canadian to Canadian.

I am sure I am not the only one who says, during all those speeches when we are given a chance to say how proud we are of our new citizens, “welcome to the family of Canadians”. They are in, they have made it, they are Canadians, and unless they have fraudulently made their way there, and there are processes and procedures as there should be to go after people who fraudulently make themselves Canadian citizens, it is fair game.

When we start going beyond that, we say to people, “You are a Canadian, mostly. You have this big bag of rights over here and the charter, but one minor little technicality, a little catch in terms of your citizenship versus my citizenship, and that is, yours can be taken away.”

This is Canada. The rest of that story does not matter. If they have done something absolutely horrible to humanity, we have laws to deal with that just the same as if it were one of us who were born here. That is the whole idea of citizenship: we are equal. We do not stand before a judge and say, “Madam Justice, I have to admit to being a dual citizen, so you have to bring out the other book of rules for Canadians, because I am not in that first tier of Canadians. I am in the second tier, the one where you can take away my citizenship”.

This is so wrong. It is so un-Canadian, and I have not even gotten to all the stuff about what the minister can and cannot do without having to be transparent. I have touched on it, but it is, I cannot think of a better word, ugly. It is ugly in terms of what it does.

I agree with my colleague, there is so much to be said about this, but of course, we will respect the rules. However, I have to say this is wrong. In my opinion it is un-Canadian. That is not what it means to be a Canadian citizen with a string attached, where we can pull the string back whenever we want if we do not like an individual's actions.

No, that is not right. We stand before the court and before our justice system as equals where nothing is supposed to taint the decision, nothing.

Yet in this case, we would have a law where people can be punished by having their citizenship taken away, but it could not be done to someone who was born here. It is wrong, it is un-Canadian, and we can only hope that, since the government will pass this, our precious Supreme Court of Canada does step in and deem that this is outside the Constitution and that this would not become the law, but if it does we will get a new government—