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NDP MP for Vancouver Kingsway (B.C.)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 50.10% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2 December 3rd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the only myth in Canadian politics is that the Conservatives are good money managers. The two largest deficits in Canadian history were under the Conservatives: Michael Wilson in the eighties and now the current finance minister just a few years ago. The debt of our country has gone up 25% to over $600 billion under the government. The real truth is that the misguided policies of the government put the finances of the federal government into a structural deficit even before the recession hit. It routinely inherited a surplus of $10 billion to $12 billion a year and then cut the GST two points, which wiped out that surplus. It then went on a spree of reducing corporate tax cuts down to the current 16% that put us into a structural deficit of between $10 billion and $15 billion every year.
Now Canadians are faced with the only answer with a government that is ideologically opposed to government. It is slashing services from coast to coast, including cutting things like the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in Vancouver and closing down Service Canada outlets so people have to make phone calls to talk to recorded messages to get government services. I just found out today that it cut funding in British Columbia for immigration workers in classrooms.
Canadians are facing Conservative reality. Hard times are Conservative times. I would like the member to explain to Canadians how having a spiralling debt, the biggest deficit in Canadian history, and reduced services is bringing the kind of government that Canadians want.
International Trade November 29th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, in the United States, lawmakers of both parties are being allowed to read the actual TPP negotiating text. However, in Canada, parliamentarians have to rely on WikiLeaks for information. Accountability and transparency are not just words; they are essential, and Canadians have a right to know what Conservatives are putting on the table on their behalf.
The U.S. government is allowing the legislators from Congress to see the TPP text. Why will Conservatives not do the same in Canada?
International Trade November 29th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, trans-Pacific partnership negotiations are ongoing, but the intellectual property chapter has recently been leaked to the public. We now know that countries, including the U.S., Australia and Japan, are pushing aggressively for measures that would restrict open access to the Internet and raise the price of prescription medicines in Canada.
Canadians deserve to know what their government is putting on the table on their behalf. Could the minister update us on the government's position on these important TPP issues?
Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act November 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, part of the good work of an opposition is not only to oppose government policy and legislation where it needs to be opposed, but also to work with the government sometimes to improve legislation that may be well intentioned but could use improvement. Bill C-3 is an example where the New Democrats are prepared to offer cautious support for this bill, which does some good things, but does not go far enough in terms of protecting our coasts and public safety.
Some of the things I know New Democrats want are for the government to reverse Coast Guard closures and the scaling back of services, including the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in my province; to improve marine communication traffic service centres; and generally to improve safety on our coasts to ensure they are safe for people and traffic.
Could my hon. colleague comment on some of the positive changes that the New Democrats might want to offer to this bill so we can make it better and stronger legislation?
Respect for Communities Act November 18th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in the House today to speak to this issue. It is a very important one, not only for the people of our country but in particular for the community that I represent in Vancouver Kingsway, and in Vancouver.
In many ways, the bill before us causes us to think about two things. The first is about the proper and appropriate way to make public policy in this chamber for the people of this country. Second, of course, is the specific issue of the proper policy approach to supervised injection sites. In summary, there has been a lot of talk on this, but in its essence Bill C-2 represents an attempt by the government members to make it very difficult to open up a supervised injection site in this country. We presently have one supervised injection site in Canada, and that operates in my hometown of Vancouver.
I want to start by sharing with the members in this House, and Canadians, some of the realities of what we are dealing with.
Again, I come from Vancouver. It is a port city, and it has one of the highest rates of heroin addiction in the country.
Let me tell members what Vancouver looked like before InSite was opened. I had people coming to my office asking me as a member of Parliament to do something about needles that were found in the alleys behind their houses where their children were playing. I have had parents and teachers come to me to tell me that they had to do a walkabout of their schools in the morning to pick up used needles in their schoolyards.
We had an epidemic of heroin overdose deaths in Vancouver, where for a period of time there were deaths from overdoses almost weekly. I have had business people, particularly in Chinatown where a lot of the drug market is in Vancouver, who complained to me that their customers were being chased away by the prospect of seeing heroin addicts openly shooting heroin outside the doors of their stores and in the alleys, never mind the ambulances and police sirens that inevitably come when people have had overdoses.
That is what Vancouver looked like before InSite opened.
I want to talk about facts, because we will put facts before this debate. Between 1987 and 1993, the rate of overdose deaths in Vancouver increased from 16 deaths per year to 200 deaths per year. The rate of overdose deaths in east Vancouver dropped by 35% after InSite opened in 2003.
Over one year, more than 2,171 referrals were made for InSite users to addiction counselling or other support services.Those who use InSite services at least once a week are 1.7 times more likely to enrol in a detox program than those who visit infrequently.
Commencing one year after Insite opened, there was a significant drop in the number of discarded syringes, injection-related litter, and people injecting in the streets. Injection drug users who use InSite are 70% less likely to share needles. Reducing needle sharing has been listed as an international best practice in the reduction of the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
InSite users are more likely to seek medical care through the site. This means fewer trips to the emergency room, an improvement in health outcomes, and a savings in taxpayer dollars.
Over 30 peer-reviewed studies published in journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and the British Medical Journal, the most respected medical journals in the world, have described the beneficial impacts of InSite. Conversely, multiple studies have looked for the negative impacts of InSite, but none of have come up with evidence demonstrating that it harms the community.
Safe injection sites operate in 70 cities and six European countries and Australia. A study by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction in 2004 showed that supervised injection sites reach out to vulnerable groups. They are accepted by communities, help improve the health status of the users, and they reduce high-risk behaviour, overdose deaths, and drug use in open spaces.
Illicit drug use is an issue that all of us in this chamber regard as a problem. People from all parties across the country would like to look for strategies whereby we can assist people who are addicted to drugs get off the drugs. We share that goal.
The issue really is this. Where we have drug use, what is the appropriate way to achieve that goal? I am here to tell the House that in Vancouver, if members drive with me down to Hastings and Main Street any day of the week, at any time of day, they will see hundreds of people in the streets who are drug addicts. The question is not whether or not they will use drugs. The question is whether or not we will provide them with a safe, clean place where they can do drugs under the supervision of a nurse, where if they overdose or have a problem, they can get medical care, and most importantly, where if by any grace of God they want to access treatment, they have someone there.
Alternatively, we can ignore this and we can continue to let those people purchase and use their drugs in alleys and public spaces or in front of businesses in Vancouver with no medical attention, where they are sharing needles, spreading disease, harming business, costing taxpayers money and dying.
That is the reality of the debate before us. What we have here is an issue of science and evidence-based policy-making versus a moral, ideological one. We have a question of public policy where we ask whether we want to try to make it easier to provide these kinds of health services to Canadians or whether we want to set up roadblocks, as the bill would.
The bill would set up a set of criteria that would make it almost impossible for Canada to open a second supervised injection site. That is harmful for public policy. It is bad for the health of Canadians. It is bad for taxpayers. It is bad for business. I implore every member of the House to put science before ideology and stop the bill from going forward.
Petitions November 18th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand in the House to introduce a petition signed by many people in Vancouver, including from Vancouver Kingsway, who are calling upon the Canadian government, and all governments, to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons and leading to their complete eradication.
The petitioners point out their deep concern about the continuing threat posed by many thousands of nuclear weapons across the globe. They point out that any use of these ultimate weapons of mass destruction, whether by accident, miscalculation, or design, would have catastrophic consequences for humanity and the planet as a whole.
The petitioners plead with us to note that the only way to guarantee that they will never be used again is to outlaw and eliminate them, without further delay, around the globe.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2 October 28th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the official opposition, New Democrats, are strong supporters of a well-funded and effective EI system that can deliver quickly the benefits that employees and employers have paid into. My friend opposite is quite right that the money that is paid into the EI system is money that has been deducted from employees' cheques and is paid for by employers. It is the money of employees and employers.
The hon. member just said that is the case, that this is the money of employees and employers. Why did the Liberal government, 10 years ago or so, take over $50 billion of employees' and employers' money and transfer that into general revenue?
International Trade October 23rd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, if my hon. friends in the Conservative government listens to what the official opposition is saying, they would hear that we, in fact, are exactly open-minded. As for our position, once again stated for them, it is that we are optimistic and are willing to sign and support a good deal with the European Union. The question is whether this is a good deal.
Trade deals are not inherently good or bad. The government could sign a horrendously bad trade agreement. It could sign an excellent trade agreement. It depends on the details, particularly with an agreement that is touted as the most comprehensive and largest trade agreement in Canadian history. Some 28 or 29 chapters of very dense technical information is not something that can be evaluated without understanding the details.
It is like the government selling Canadians a car and talking about how wonderful a car it is, how fast it can go, and all the great features it has, but it will not let Canadians look under the hood or take it for a spin. Nobody would buy a car on those grounds. Nobody is going to accept the agreement on those grounds.
The New Democrats will be open-minded. We will look at this in good faith. We will wait to see the text of this agreement and will evaluate it and consult with Canadians to determine if it is of net benefit to Canada. If it is, we will support it. If it is not, we will not.
International Trade October 23rd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak on behalf of the official opposition New Democrats about the important news recently of the tentative agreement reached between Canada and the European Union regarding a comprehensive economic and trade agreement.
There has been a bit of confusion about the New Democrats' position on this issue, mainly because the Conservatives are attempting to confuse Canadians about the official opposition's position. I am going to talk a bit about that later on, because it does not help the debate on such an important issue in this country and it certainly does not speak well of the political process in this country when politicians are actively trying to mislead Canadians about positions of parties on such important subjects as this.
New Democrats welcome progress toward a comprehensive new trade agreement with the European Union. We believe in expanding and diversifying our trade relationships, particularly to reduce our dependence on the United States. As important as that relationship is, we believe it is healthy for our economy to have a diversified trade relationship with many different regions and countries around the world because we believe that is important for Canadians' economic security.
The NDP has long maintained that Canada should have deeper economic relations with the European Union. These are democratic countries with some of the highest environmental, safety, human rights, and labour standards in the world.
However, New Democrats have said all along that when it comes to trade deals, details matter. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have kept Parliament and Canadians in the dark throughout the negotiations. Talks have been conducted in unprecedented secrecy and with an unacceptable lack of transparency. Despite the recent announcement of a deal, the government still has not shared the text of this agreement with Canadians. In fact, we do not really have a deal yet; we have an agreement in principle, and as we speak right now, negotiations are still continuing in Europe over some of the substantive issues with this agreement. As any lawyer knows, an agreement to agree is no agreement at all.
Significant concerns have been raised by a number of stakeholders in Canada about a potential deal's possible effects on a range of Canadian interests: the future of Canada's dairy farmers, the ability of local governments to pursue economic development, the liability of taxpayers to international lawsuits by multinational corporations, the ability of government to legislate in the public interest, and increases in the cost of prescription drugs. These issues and others all remain big question marks.
We know that there are advantages and compromises in every negotiation. New Democrats will continue to take what we believe is the only responsible approach: we will wait until the full text of the agreement is released, we will analyze its contents carefully, and we will engage in wide consultations with a diverse range of stakeholders—stakeholders ignored by the government, including industry sectoral groups, labour, municipalities, academics, ordinary Canadians, and first nations—to find out what their views are about this agreement so that we can find out how this agreement may impact their interests.
The numbers that the Conservatives have been floating about growth in jobs and GDP as a result of CETA are at best speculative and at worse gross exaggerations. What is undeniable is that they are four years out of date and based on modelling that has been demonstrated to be unrealistic. For instance, for any Canadian watching, this modelling assumes that Canada has full employment, an unemployment rate of 0%. That is a ridiculous fiction in economic terms, and it shows why we have to be careful about the spin that is being applied by the government.
The Prime Minister has, charitably speaking, been having some serious problems with his credibility recently. When he stands up in the House and says the NDP is opposed to CETA when our position is that we will wait and see what the details are and make up our mind when we have a responsible examination of its impact, he is absolutely doing a disservice to this chamber and to the Canadian public.
Petitions October 22nd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, approximately 75% of the world's mining and exploration companies are registered in Canada.
Various indigenous and non-indigenous communities, both in Canada and abroad, have raised serious concerns regarding the impact of mining activities in their communities, including by certain Canadian companies. These concerns include environmental destruction, weak environmental assessments, failure to fully and adequately secure the consent of local communities, complicity in human rights violations and the use of government-sanctioned militias.
In response to partner organizations in affected countries, the United Church of Canada is asking the Canadian government to implement binding legislation that will, among other things, regulate the activities of Canadian mining companies abroad, allow Canadian courts to hear claims originating overseas, and ensure compliance within our national human rights standards to promote long-standing Canadian values of respect for the rule of law, good governance and democracy.
I am proud to table this petition that has the signature of many hundreds of people across this country.