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  • Her favourite word is chair.

NDP MP for Newton—North Delta (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 33.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for his thoughtful and passionate question. He cares deeply about this issue and in his riding specifically he has also been hearing from people about the need for a universal child care program.

Sometimes we get into partisan spats in here, and I have heard a few of them. Child care should not be one of those. We should be paying attention to the science and researchers. Europe has proven models. Quebec has a proven model. Sound research shows that not only is child care good for the economy but it is also good socially. It is good for the family, good for increasing gender equity, and good for raising family income. It is also good for mental health reasons.

Let us start paying attention to this because this is doable. Based on the science and evidence, all parties should be moving toward this. A couple of dollars a day is not going to cut it.

I am talking to more and more parents and grandparents of young people. They are telling me that they did not think they would be raising their great grandchildren so that their grandchildren can pay their bills. They cannot afford to put their children into daycare, so in many cases family members are helping out. There is nothing wrong with that as long as they are healthy, but I have been talking to individuals who are suffering when they have to do that. The Conservative government shut the door on family reunification, so that extended family support system is not even there for many Canadians either.

Committees of the House November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely flabbergasted by that question.

First of all, I do not know if that member has tried to look for child care, but I can tell him that Surrey, B.C. has among the most expensive child care out there. A report released recently shows it at around $1,200 a month. It is not $100 or $160 a month.

Also, there is nothing in the plan that we have proposed that would force parents to use daycare. If parents opt to stay at home and they have the financial wherewithal to do so, then that option is there. The NDP is saying we need a universal plan that is more inclusive and would allow parents to make real choices based on their circumstances.

It is not a choice for a 23-year old mother working at minimum wage and whose husband is also working at minimum wage. If both of them are working, they still cannot earn enough to pay their bills, including food and rent. They cannot afford that daycare so only one can work. The poverty level increases, and when a child goes hungry or when we have children living in poverty, that demeans every single Canadian in this country because there is no excuse for it.

Sound policy supported by very well-established economists says that if we want to tackle child poverty, if we want to tackle the labour issues, if we want to have good economic and social policy, then universal, accessible, affordable, regulated child care is the only way to go.

Committees of the House November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hard-working colleague for his very thoughtful question. I am always impressed with how connected he is with the issues in his riding and how articulate he is in bringing those into the House.

When the universal child care program was implemented in Quebec, over 70,000 women re-entered the workforce. When they re-entered the workforce, not only did they pay taxes on what they were making, but they also addressed a labour issue that was out there. Most importantly, it strengthened the family's economic base in order to make progress.

It did something else as well. We know that early childhood education is very important, and once we have quality child care that is universal, accessible, and regulated, we get amazing things happening with kids. I think that option needs to be available for every parent across this country.

Committees of the House November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand today and speak to the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Finance.

I would like to thank my colleagues for their work on this. I would like to thank the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, a hard-working MP, full of energy and passion, who is very devoted to this file and really does an amazing job back in his riding as well. I would also like to thank the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques and the member for Victoria.

I would also like to thank the witnesses who participated in this study. It has led to some important recommendations. Although we are pleased to support the report as a whole, we would be remiss if we did not focus on some of the major challenges youth in Canada are facing in today's labour market, points to which I worry my colleagues across the way are not paying enough mind. We have the words; we need the action.

Since the Conservative government came to power, and over time, it has become apparent that youth employment is not a priority for the government.

I door-knock in my riding almost every weekend. Let me tell members that our youth are hurting. Young people in Surrey and their parents and grandparents all tell the same story. I am sure that MPs from coast to coast are hearing similar stories. It is our youth looking for work and parents and grandparents wanting them to have decent paying jobs so they are not helping to subsidize them. They want to see their children on their feet.

As the official opposition critic for employment and social development, I am deeply troubled when I meet youth who have good grades, who have studied hard, and who are passing out resumes left, right, and centre yet cannot get jobs at all, or at least cannot get decent hours or decent pay.

To this day, as stated in the committee's main report, Canadian youth still suffer from the effects of the economic crisis. While employment growth for Canadians as a whole was not sufficient to recover lost jobs during the crisis, young people have been particularly affected. More than 455,000 jobs for people under 25 have been lost since before the recession, and the youth unemployment rate is now double that of the population aged 25 years and older.

As Amy Huziak, from the Canadian Labour Congress, said:

Recessions are always harder on young workers, but we are nearly five years past the end of the last recession and there's still no recovery in sight for young workers.

There has not been any pick-up with respect to jobs for the cohort aged15 to 25 in this country. It does not seem right that we have missed an opportunity to get youth back into the labour market. This is where we need to focus right now.

My New Democrat colleagues and I are deeply concerned about the current labour market situation for young Canadians, and we refuse to accept soaring levels of youth unemployment as normal. It is not enough to say to our youth to just go volunteer more and work for nothing. The federal government has a responsibility to help create jobs for young people. It requires collaborating with the provinces on training, apprenticeships, and education. Why is the government not showing leadership and doing just that?

Of course, education is a major factor in social mobility. About five hours ago, I met with students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Vancouver Island University in my beautiful home province of British Columbia. They are very concerned. Youth are accepting unpaid internships in the hopes of eventually securing employment with that employer. However, unpaid internships do not pay off student debt, and they do not allow young people to move forward out of their parents' homes into homes of their own to live modestly but independently.

The pursuit of post-secondary education means that young people are able to increase their opportunities in the labour market as well as their conditions of employment. However, an increasing number of students have trouble repaying their loans, and so many are deterred from furthering their education for fear that it may result in insurmountable debt.

We have all heard stories of the growing debt students have after graduating from post-secondary institutions, in many cases, much higher than the price of the first house I bought when I graduated. Too many young workers are unemployed. The unemployment rate for youth was estimated at 27.7% last year.

There are also troubling gaps between the graduation rates of aboriginal and non-aboriginal students, so we need to establish some programs to address these issues. The post-secondary graduation rate on reserves is about 14.4% compared to 39.1% for the non-aboriginal population. Even more troubling is the fact that high school graduation rates are just 36.8% on reserves compared with 66.8% for the broader population.

The first nations population is young and growing fast. Fully half of the population of 930,000 is under the age of 25 and, as it stands, the majority of first nations youth have not graduated high school. Unfortunately, the government consistently underfunds first nations education and schools. In my previous life, I had the privilege to visit some of the schools in these communities and I was outraged at the standards of the buildings, which appeared to me more like what one would expect in third world countries rather than in a developed wealthy nation like Canada.

Youth face competition in the labour market with the growth of the temporary foreign worker program. As we know, the government opened up the floodgates without too much regulation and when it got caught, it tried to do a bit of damage control. Temporary foreign workers admitted under the low-skilled occupation stream are actually competing directly with young people. All year long, case upon case has been highlighted in the media from coast to coast to coast. We are all familiar with the infamous example of the McDonald's in Victoria ignoring local students, not hiring them and giving them reduced hours in favour of paying lower wages to foreign workers. Heartbreakingly, this was one example of a countrywide crisis.

One of the issues brought forward in the material provided by the students who came to see me earlier this afternoon was that of data or, rather, the lack of it. There is a serious data shortage in Canada right now. As I have said tongue in cheek many times in the House, it is as if the government is allergic to data and evidence-based decision making. It does not seem to want to have that kind of information get in the way of its own agenda.

I want to spend a bit of time expressing my particular support for recommendation 9 of this report, which states:

That the federal government collect data on unpaid internships in Canada and work with the provinces and territories to ensure the appropriate protections under relevant labour codes. Moreover, the government should study the impacts of unpaid internships.

I grew up in England and in school we were encouraged to volunteer and get involved in the community. I was involved with Meals on Wheels. I would read at a local hospital. I got involved with the Duke of Edinburgh program. I did a variety of volunteer work, but that was on the side. Surely we should not tell young people, who have finished their university and have huge debt loads, that they need about a year's worth of experience and they should work for nothing for a year somewhere. We really have to pay attention. I do not think we have enough data to even begin to understand how serious this situation is, so data collection becomes important.

Logic alone suggests that if people are doing jobs and not being paid for them, they are not going to have money. If they are devoting their time to unpaid internships in the hopes of gaining experience that would lead to eventual employment, they do not also have time to work interim jobs to earn meagre salaries, even enough to pay the interest on their student loans. This is the conundrum for many young people right now.

However, without data, we are unable to assess just how bad the situation is. We can merely speculate and go to the stories we hear, but speculation does not good policy make. Nor does guesswork. Furthermore, we need to find out what is actually resulting from unpaid internships. Are youth ultimately gaining? Are our youth being exploited? Do they work the year and then the employer looks for another freebie for a year? All that information needs to be gathered.

In order to work effectively at the federal level and with the provinces to remedy this problem, we need to know the exact size of the problem so we can deduce the size of the solution needed. Make no mistake that I and my NDP colleagues agree that there are good internship programs associated with academic institutions and that help young Canadians benefit from a first work experience. We have many co-op programs and ones that will be relevant to and even improve their career prospect as another part of their learning package. However, the increasingly frequent use of unpaid internships by employers also poses a particular challenge for young Canadians, and it is the data associated with that challenge that we desperately need to analyze.

Unfortunately, some employers do not use unpaid internships as a prerequisite to employment and as a way to fill positions that would otherwise be paid, so for them it is just a revolving door. Unpaid internships do not necessarily lead to the acquisition of relevant experience for the career of a young worker. Sometimes what interns end up doing has very little to do with their expertise or with their background. Amendments to the Canada Labour Code could ensure better working conditions for our young people and protect them from exploitation.

Next I want to emphasize the importance of recommendation 16 of the report, which states, “That the federal government explore ways to promote youth hiring in Canada, such as”, and the NDP has been suggesting this, “tax credits for businesses that hire Canadians aged 18 to 30”. That is a positive step the government could take tomorrow. The Conservatives are really fond of making announcements in all kinds of locations. Here is one they should make, and they should stand here and make it today or make it tomorrow. This would actually benefit our youth.

A youth hiring tax credit is a practical step to creating new jobs for young people. I have spoken to business people in Surrey and to the Surrey Board of Trade, and they agree that kind of policy is a win-win. The New Democrats have proposed a $1,000 incentive that would be available to businesses that hire young Canadians aged 18 to 25. That credit would double in areas of dire unemployment. Businesses would also be able to access matching federal funds to help train newly hired employees.

The time is now. Let us do this and show today's young people that we are paying attention and that we are not leaving them behind. By ignoring youth unemployment, or only paying lip service to it, the government is actually threatening Canada's long-term economic prosperity.

Members may be aware that Germany just announced a few months ago that all post-secondary education fees in Germany would now be waived. No matter what post-secondary program people take, there are no fees in Germany. The Germans are not just doing it because they woke up one day and said they needed a new announcement. They did their research. They looked at how much common sense it made to do that, and how investment in their youth was really about the future and that their country was willing to make those sacrifices. They like it and they can see the economic and social benefits.

If the Canadian government does not act now, we risk becoming the first generation in history to leave less to our children than we inherited from our parents. As a mother and a grandmother, I cannot say how much that breaks my heart. I always tell people that I do what I do because I want a better world for my grandchildren, the students I have taught over the years and all young people in our country. I want to give them that promise of hope and of engagement, but right now many youth are feeling disenchantment.

Canadians deserve better. Canadians deserve smart investment in today's youth and tomorrow's economy. The New Democrats recognize that smaller enterprises are the job creating backbone of Canada's economy. In that vein, we launched a Canada-wide campaign to engage small businesses. We are talking to business owners about practical ideas to help them expand, and the feedback we are getting is very positive.

I would be remiss not to discuss the fact that youth with disabilities face particular challenges in the labour market. They face a more difficult transition from school to work, reduced support services to meet their individual needs, job opportunities and ignorance of their actual capabilities. Youth with disabilities are more educated than ever. However, as indicated by one witness, the employment rate of youth with disabilities in Canada was 45.7% in 2011.

When I learned that, I was shocked. The government must take action immediately to enable young people with disabilities to benefit from better opportunities to enter the labour market permanently.

Last and very dear to my heart, is that I recently have learned that 60% of students will postpone buying a house because of their debt and 40% will postpone their plan to start a family. This highlights another issue of pressing importance for young professionals, the work-family balance.

With that, I will state again in the House, and as many times I am able, that a national child care system is vital for women to enter the labour force when their children are younger. When a woman first starts out in the labour force, in the 25 to 29 year old range, the gap is not very large. It is after a few years when they have had to take leave to care for young children that the gap grows. Women hit that glass ceiling, but they also hit many other barriers and end up having to make very difficult choices, choices that not only impact their career aspirations but also impact the economic base for families.

Improving our child care system is fundamental to improving employment opportunities for both men and women. If we are to tackle poverty in a serious way and tackle the growing gap between the rich and poor, one of the key pillars in that platform to do that is a universal, accessible, affordable, regulated child care system. That is what the NDP stands for.

We are talking about youth unemployment. Recently, when I was at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, I met with a group of students. They told me that their challenges were the high costs. Education is incredibly expensive these days, but they are willing to take on that burden. The difficulty is that once they leave those institutions, it is going to be between one to seven years before they can get a full-time job in the field in which they have qualified. That just does not seem right. This is the kind of thing we need to address.

I talk to my constituents in Newton—North Delta all the time. Of the three top issues, education and young unemployment are an integral part. Honestly, the lack of a national child care system in Canada right now is a marked failure. We need affordable, accessible, safe child care in our country, and we need it now.

The Leader of the Opposition has said that we are only one election away from having child care that will be no more than $15 a day per child. That is music to the ears of people from coast to coast to coast.

I am happy to have had the opportunity to speak to this report today. I thank my colleagues for their good work and I look forward to seeing these recommendations come to fruition.

I would like to end with an appeal. Words on paper are meaningless. Let us have action.

Social Development November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, child care is not the only broken promise by the government. Instead of fixing the Social Security Tribunal, the Conservatives have made it worse. The backlogs have increased and there are now more than 14,500 Canadians waiting to have their cases heard. Now the tribunal is hiring more members to deal with the backlog, but why did the government put a cap on the number of tribunal members in the first place?

Child Care November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the economic and fiscal update just does not get the job done. Instead of investing in people and job creation, the Conservatives are handing out tax cuts to the wealthiest Canadians and leaving the majority of Canadians falling further and further behind, like the families who are paying more for their monthly child care than for their mortgages.

Why has the government yet again failed to deliver the 125,000 child care spaces it promised?

Anti-Bullying Week November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge that this week is Anti-Bullying Week. Anti-Bullying Week was started by Bill Belsey, a teacher in Alberta. We thank Bill for his advocacy, and all teachers for doing their part to make our schools inclusive and safe places for all children to learn and thrive.

One in three Canadian kids report being bullied. In a study looking at 35 countries, Canada had the ninth worst rate of bullying among 13 year olds.

Among adults in the workplace, the numbers are remarkably similar.

We are not doing enough and government inaction on a national bullying prevention strategy only exasperates the situation. We cannot be bystanders. As adults and parliamentarians, we owe our youth more and we owe each other more.

We, as parliamentarians, are not exempt. We, too, must examine our behaviour and pledge again this week, and all weeks, our continued commitment to do better, to be better and to expect better.

Child Poverty November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as official opposition critic for Employment and Social Development, I want to thank the member for Scarborough—Rouge River for bringing this important motion forward, especially because this debate falls just a day away from the 25th anniversary of the all-party motion to eradicate child poverty.

At the end of last week, I had the privilege of attending a phenomenal conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which addressed a large component of this motion: affordable and accessible child care. The NDP was the only federal party whose leader was in attendance. I want to take a moment to personally thank the leader of the official opposition for making it his priority to be in attendance.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge the important announcement made by the leader of the official opposition last month. An NDP government would see no parent in our country paying more than $15 a day for child care and would create one million new child care spaces. That announcement cuts to the very heart of the child care crisis in Canada right now. It cuts to the very heart of child poverty and to the eradication of poverty.

Right now in our country, two parents, working full-time at minimum wage, would struggle to pay for a full-time daycare spot. In Winnipeg last week, the leader of the official opposition said that this was not okay, that it should be no more than $15 a day for accessible, quality daycare. The NDP has also called for a $15 an hour minimum wage for federally regulated employment.

No parent should have to choose between affordability and safety. In 2014, in a beautiful developed country like Canada, one of the top in the G7, it is absolutely flabbergasting that we have child poverty. Unfortunately, eradication of poverty is not a given. Canada ranks 23rd among the countries in the OECD, despite the fact that we like to see ourselves as part of the G20 and the G7.

Not only that, but when it comes to public spending on early learning and child care, Canada ranks dead last among comparable countries. We can do better. Simply put, we do not prioritize our young people and that will have a significant consequence on the future of our country if we do not turn things around.

Currently 900,000 children in Canada are in need of affordable, quality daycare spots. The government promised the creation of 125,000 new spaces in 2006. Where are those spots? Not a single new spot was created.

The importance of quality early childhood education in the development of children cannot be understated. It prevents social exclusion and ensures that every child has an opportunity to develop into a contributing member of our society. Studies suggest that growing up in a household that lacks adequate financial resources for basic family needs has long-term negative impacts.

According to research by Pierre Fortin, Quebec's model of child care has a positive effect on the economy, and we know how much the Conservative government likes to believe it is a good economic manager. More than 70,000 mothers were able to join the workforce and generate a return of $1.75 for every dollar spent on child care.

In 1989, my friend, Ed Broadbent, introduced a motion that was was unanimously passed in the House. All parliamentarians in this place came together and committed to eradicating child poverty, because all of them could agree that one child living in poverty in our country was one child too many, yet here we are. One in seven children currently live in poverty. When we look at aboriginal children, the numbers are bleaker. Two in five aboriginal children live in poverty.

On these numbers alone, I implore all members of the House to stand and support my colleague's motion, but words are not enough. We need to take action. Let us all come together again in a renewed commitment for the betterment of all Canadian children. Surely all members in the House still agree that one child living in poverty is one too many. Surely, with all of the divisions that exist within these walls, we can agree on that.

I want to take a moment to thank a mentor of mine, Laurel Rothman, who has dedicated her career to eradicating child poverty in Canada. I have the deepest respect for her tenacity and dedication. In our short time working together, I have learned so much from her, both factually and ethically. She is my hero in countless ways, and I wish her the very best in her retirement. Laurel is an inspiration and I am a better person and member of Parliament for having worked with her. From the bottom of my heart, I thank her.

The Conservative government has led the country into such a housing crisis that one in four Canadian families spends more than one-third of its overall income on housing. Housing prices in Vancouver, and outskirts like Surrey and Delta, are sky high, yet Canada is still the only country in the G8 without a national housing strategy. I am devastated by that. Housing costs are among the top concerns of my constituents in Surrey, and I am sure the same holds true for the constituents of many members in the House.

The NDP proposed Bill C-400, an act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians. Unfortunately, it was rejected by the government. Had it passed, it would have addressed the plight of 300,000 homeless Canadians and approximately 1.5 million households, many with children, that could not access a decent, affordable home.

For the NDP, a housing strategy that establishes a structured coordination between the federal and provincial levels of government, as well as with other relevant organizations, is of fundamental importance.

The eradication of poverty will only be possible when the national housing crisis is addressed. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is pleading with the Conservative government to invest in long-term funding for affordable and sustainable housing. Due to cuts from the Conservative government, many low-income renters are in a state of panic.

Since the 1970s, low-income renters have received federal subsidies, but the government claws them back and people are left without a solution. In first nations communities, the situation is even more dire.

This motion is not asking for too much. Quite simply, we are asking the Conservative government to make the elimination of child poverty a priority, not just in words but in real actions, and to develop a poverty reduction plan with timelines and measurable benchmarks that would include components to address children's poverty. That would involve taking action on the crisis of poverty for indigenous children, making housing more affordable for lower income Canadians, creating a national early childhood education and child care program, addressing childhood nutrition, and improving economic security for families.

Children are poor because their parents are poor. No child chooses to be born into poverty. Because of that, it means addressing poverty in a comprehensive way is essential to addressing childhood poverty and to ensure the future of our country. Poverty affects three million Canadians. Three million children, seniors, indigenous people, persons living with disabilities, single parents and recent immigrants are all more likely to live in poverty.

Over 967,000 children live in poverty, and 22,000 adults under age 25 are homeless. Canada ranks 15th out of 17 among peer countries when it comes to child poverty rates, and B.C. has the ignominious privilege, if I can call it that, of having the highest child poverty rate in Canada.

Thirty-eight per cent of children living with single parents live in poverty and forty per cent of indigenous children live in poverty. I said it already, and I will say it again, that collectively we can do better. As members of Parliament, we can stand together in the House and recommit to eliminating child poverty. What more meaningful way to mark the 25th anniversary of the unanimous motion passed in the House with an objective we have yet to achieve.

I ask all my colleagues to support the motion, because no one should be left behind and, mostly, no child. Let me remind the House, no child chooses to be born in poverty. It behooves each and every one of us to address this stigma on our country right away.

Child Poverty November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Scarborough—Rouge River for bringing forward this motion and allowing us to have this debate, although I wish we did not have to debate this issue at all. It should have been resolved by now.

We often hear what the Liberals would, could, or should have done, even though in 15 years in government they did not take the steps that they should have. It was the people of Canada who sent them to that corner, and not anybody in Parliament.

My question to my colleague is this. Knowing that no child chooses to be born into poverty, if we are going to address child poverty, what are some key issues that we have to address federally in order for it to happen?

Petitions November 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of my constituents in Newton--North Delta to present a petition calling on the Government of Canada to support the proposal launched by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish to bring injured Palestinian children from Gaza to Canada for treatment.