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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

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Ontario, a hard-working member of Parliament who puts in an incredible number of hours representing his constituents.

Whether I am in Kelowna, Vancouver, Montreal, or Halifax, I hear very clearly from Canadians who are concerned about the meanspiritedness of their Canadian government. Canada is a signatory to UN conventions in which we agreed to take refugees, and yet we hear from doctors, nurses, and front-line service providers about how we are putting people's lives in jeopardy. The further measures in this piece of legislation once again continue the meanspiritedness the government has displayed.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to oppose the main motion at report stage of Bill C-43, which purports to be a budget implementation bill, but we know that it is anything but.

As is the habit of my colleagues across the way since they have been in government, they bring forward omnibus bills. Buried in those bills are usually totally unrelated matters, unrelated pieces of legislation. Later on, if we oppose a few of those measures, we end up having to vote against the whole piece of legislation. Then the Conservatives get to stand up and say “Gotcha”. Well, “gotcha” does not work in this case.

Since being elected with a majority, the Conservatives have moved 2,190 pages of omnibus bills. In all that time, they have accepted one amendment from the opposition, which by the way was a very technical tax amendment to Bill C-31, in 2014, put forward by the NDP.

Among all those pages, 2,190 pages, are buried changes to the temporary foreign worker program and EI access. Just name it; it is all in there. There are also many changes to environmental issues, to airports, and all kinds of things I could list for hours, but I do not have the time.

What it points to is a government that absolutely has very little respect for parliamentary democracy. If it did, it would bring in pieces of legislation it was proud of. It would put them here, and it would let us debate them. Not only that, but once the government brings in omnibus bills, what does it do? It moves time allocation and does all kinds of other things to end debate.

We are not the only ones saying that. Conservative commentator Andrew Coyne, in the National Post, on April 30, 2012, wrote, on omnibus budget bills:

Not only does this make a mockery of the confidence convention — shielding bills that would otherwise be defeatable within a money bill, which is not — it makes it impossible to know what Parliament really intended by any of it. We’ve no idea whether MPs supported or opposed any particular bill in the bunch, only that they voted for the legislation that contained them. There is no common thread that runs between them, no overarching principle; they represent not a single act of policy, but a sort of compulsory buffet....

...there is something quite alarming about Parliament being obliged to rubber-stamp the government’s whole legislative agenda at one go.

That is where disrespect for our parliamentary democracy comes in.

I want to remind us all that in 1995, the Prime Minister, when he was in opposition, had this to say: the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?

We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse?

I am standing here asking myself and my colleagues across the way that same question: How can we represent our constituents and fully debate and then vote on disparate matters, instead of being forced to vote on these huge omnibus bills?

Buried in this bill is the temporary foreign worker program, which is broken. I think everyone has admitted to that. Instead of fixing it piecemeal, when the government is caught, usually by the media or the opposition, what it does is tweak it a little bit more. There is another tweak in this bill. It talks about enforcement. First of all, it is a shocker that enforcement was not in place. Second, what will this enforcement look like? We are being told it is going to be mainly administrative, on paper.

I have little confidence that the government will be able to deliver what is promised in this bill, because at the same time that it has made cuts to Service Canada, there is more work being assigned in that area. Where are the resources?

It is easy to stand here and speak against what we do not like, but let me tell members what I would like to have seen in this budget bill.

I would like to have seen a pan-Canadian child care program that would ensure families had access to regulated, quality child care spaces for less than $15 a day. That is the kind of vision people are looking for from their government, because from coast to coast to coast we are hearing from families who are struggling to find child care spaces, and those who can find them discover that the costs are a burden. Some costs are as high as $2,000 a month. For most families, that is just not doable. That is the kind of program I would liked to have seen in the budget, instead of all these announcements about providing an extra $60 a month. An extra $60 a month does not even buy a day's worth of child care, nor does it help to create additional child care spaces, so there once again we have smoke and mirrors from my colleagues across the way.

I would also like to have seen a real plan in this budget to address the very high youth unemployment. I am sure members have heard from young people who have finished university, have left after high school, or have gone into other kinds of post-secondary education that they cannot find jobs once they graduate, yet some of the jobs that they could get into are being filled by temporary foreign workers. It should be a major concern to every parliamentarian when the youth unemployment rate in some of our cities is at double digits and in the high teens. That is a major concern, and I do not see an action plan or a commitment in this budget to address that issue head-on and in a serious way.

We have recently heard that young people who want to get a job after graduating and who have a huge student debt should find volunteer work and work for nothing. Not everyone can do that. That is one of the other areas I hoped we would see our government address, but once again it receives a failing grade. In this legislation it has failed to crack down on the abuse of unpaid internships to ensure that young people are paid for the work that they perform.

We all know the difference between volunteering and unpaid internships. We are talking here about unpaid internships. There may be the distant hope of a job, yet some young people are working full time without any pay. At another time in our history, we had words for that kind of labour. We should really be addressing that situation, because young people are facing major challenges.

The other provision I would have liked to have seen in this legislation is a relaxation around some of the barriers that the government has put forward to restrict access to employment insurance by the unemployed. People pay into it, and they need to access it when they are unemployed. However, we now see that the access rate has gone down incredibly for many of the unemployed in Canada. Many of them feel duped by their government, and there is nothing in this legislation to say that future Conservative or Liberal governments would not take money out of that fund that workers and employers have paid for and use it for other nefarious activities that they want to conduct.

I would say that this budget fails Canadians.

Social Development December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, things have gotten so bad at the Social Security Tribunal that the tribunal is telling people who have been living without any income for multiple years that they cannot expedite their hearing because it would be unfair to all the other people who are in exactly the same situation and still waiting for a hearing.

Why can the government not get its act together, instead of telling desperate people to get in line behind all the other people living without an income?

Social Development December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, with more than 14,000 people waiting for a hearing now, the Conservatives' mismanagement of the Social Security Tribunal has created a situation where people who are terminally ill or so heavily in debt that they are suicidal have to beg to have their cases heard quickly. This is completely outrageous. Canadians have paid for these benefits with their premiums. They should not have to go begging when they need them.

How could the Conservatives let this happen?

Petitions December 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions today from residents of Newton and North Delta. The petitioners are very concerned about the impact of the recent conflict on the civilian population, especially children.

They are 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. They firmly believe that only through initiatives like this can we help to heal and to build ongoing peace. They believe that immediate action needs to be taken by this government.

Main Point of Contact with the Government of Canada in case of Death Act December 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise in support of Bill C-247, An Act to expand the mandate of Service Canada in respect of the death of a Canadian citizen or Canadian resident.

We usually do not think about these kinds of things until we experience it or someone else tells us a story. However, it comes as rather a shock to me that when someone passes away, the bereaving person in charge of the estate is left to contact so many different agencies. It really good to have legislation that will make life less onerous and less emotional in having to deal with so many government agencies. The bill would allow a number of services to be accessed through one phone call to Service Canada upon losing a loved one, and that is a good thing.

I have one concern about the bill, and that is that it is still rather vague. It specifies some of the services, but it does not specify all of them. There is a caveat at the end stating, “and all other services”. Like other Canadians, I would have been much happier if there had been more specificity around that so everybody could tell they had done absolutely everything they needed to do and contacted every government department when they made that one phone call. However, that is not in the bill. Nevertheless, the bill would make life less cumbersome and a lot easier.

All of these services would, as we know, be centred in Service Canada, so there would one-stop shopping, as somebody called this, though not quite because we are not sure of some of the other services. We always get carried away with modern technology. We think we only have one department to contact through email, but not everybody is technologically literate. There are technology challenges faced by many, especially seniors, in trying to resolve outstanding departmental issues on behalf of a deceased loved one. Therefore, we have to ensure the services we provide are accessible in a variety of manners: by phone, Internet, mail and in person at Canada depots. That is where the rub is, which is very disappointing.

The bill is good and the New Democrats are glad this is happening, but we have seen an incredible number of cuts to Service Canada. Under the Liberal government, $10.4 billion were cut over a two-year period, which reduced public sector employees by 45,000. A lot of that directly impacted ESDC. The Conservative government's cuts to front-line services are also harming Canadians. By 2015-16, the Conservatives will have cut $243 million from services focused on Canadians at ESDC.

While the New Democrats are pleased it would be one-stop shopping, I am still worried about the amount of time people will have to wait if they phone in or the response times once people submit their information in writing. Also, when we deal with people who have lost loved ones, they are very emotional. I hope the front-line service providers will get some additional training on how to deal with people who experience that kind of personal loss.

When my father passed away, I know how difficult it was. I thought I knew my way around the system, but it was still very frustrating at times, at times it angered me, and then when I would get letters, it was even more annoying. Members of Parliament all know how it feels when they send mail to someone and get a note back saying the person passed away a year ago. In many ways, it is time that we centralize our services so people do not have to go through that pain.

I also talked to a constituent of mine who had been left with the burden of paying back an amount of money that had been paid into her and her husband's joint account after he passed away. She did not even know the money was being paid. She had not kept a close eye on that account until she received a letter from the government demanding the repayment of a very large sum. She felt she had taken all the steps and had done all the right things.

This is good legislation. It will make life easier. As I said earlier, it does not list everything, but it is a step in the right direction. I believe this will make it a lot easier for those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Business of Supply November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Vancouver East, for bringing this motion forward and for her very eloquent and emotional speech about a very important subject.

Those of us who were young at the time this time happened and heard the stories, or were part of some of that debate or at least listened to the debate around thalidomide, were really touched by it. Many of us were very fearful. I remember being very fearful when I was about to have my first child about whether this could happen to my baby. There was a lot of fear instilled at the time because of what we saw and heard.

My question to my colleague is around deregulation and proper oversight. I hear so often of the need to get rid of red tape and let the market explode with free choice and all of those kinds of things. However, I think this kind of thing is a marked reminder of why we need regulations and why government has an important role to play. Could the member expand further on that idea?

Child Care November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, while Conservative tax rates for wealthy families are getting bad reviews from economists, former finance ministers, and ordinary Canadians alike, the NDP's plan for affordable universal child care at no more than $15 a day has now been endorsed by the legislature of Canada's largest province. Canadians want to see their federal government become an active partner in making child care more affordable.

Why will the minister not adopt the NDP plan for universal, quality, affordable child care?

Child Care November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, around $6 a day is not going to be much help to working parents paying as much as $90 a day for child care. While the Conservatives hand out tax cuts to the wealthiest families, the majority of families are falling further and further behind. Child care is putting an enormous strain on family budgets, leaving parents faced with difficult choices, but the Conservatives have failed in their promise to deliver 125,000 new spaces.

Why have Conservatives abandoned hard-working Canadian families?

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague. I have a great deal of respect for the work she has done around trafficking issues. I know her heart is in that work and I have had the privilege of enjoying conversations with her on those issues, so I know how seriously she takes legislation like this.

For me, the 6% increase in sexual offences against our children is a horrendous figure. Even one child who is sexually assaulted is one child too many, in my books, and no amount of statistics is going to make me think any differently about that.

I think I was very careful not to single out minimum sentencing in my speech. I generally referred to all the tough-on-crime agenda components, and I want to stress that again. This is not about throwing darts and arrows. For me, it is about getting something right. If we as parliamentarians cannot put aside our darts and arrows when it comes to children's safety and to protecting children from sexual predators, or if we make the kinds of comments that members made in this House when I made a comment a few minutes ago, it diminishes us in the public domain. We need to rise above all of that and focus on doing this right.