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NDP MP for Newton—North Delta (B.C.)
Won her last election, in 2011, with 33.40% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Grain Transport February 5th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Churchill tells me that is one solution. The other solution is to get some additional rail cars in place and let us utilize the Port of Vancouver. Deltaport is available as well.
Let us stop these periods of feast and famine, and let us get the goods moving. What I am hearing over and over again from the transloading companies is about the wait periods and the kinds of penalty they have to pay.
Let us build some accountability into CN so that the penalty is not always one way, which is on to the transloading company.
Grain Transport February 5th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, there are many things we know about without actually having to live that experience for ourselves.
I have been a teacher all my life, and that has to be a question that had me really thinking for a minute. I want to respond to this.
There is a very simple solution. Build infrastructure, support the infrastructure, provide extra rails, get the goods moved, and get them to the ports, to cities like Vancouver and Churchill where the ports are, so all the ports can operate and get the goods where they need to go.
The food we grow on the Prairies is part of a food chain. It gets grown on the Prairies and it gets used right across the country, but we also ship it overseas to earn money and to get a trade balance.
Grain Transport February 5th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak in support of the motion before this House.
Like my colleague, I think that when we have these emergency debates it is an opportunity for all sides of the House to work together on an issue that we realize is urgent. I hear so much about real families. There are real families hurting right across this country. It does not matter whether they are in Newfoundland or Vancouver.
Today, let us focus on the farmers. We live in a huge country. Our geography is truly inspirational. It is our western provinces that grow the majority of the grain and the pulses. I was surprised a few years ago when I found out how much of our grain is exported to feed many corners of the planet. Members might be surprised to know that 40% of our pulses grown in the Prairies are exported to China and India. That took me by surprise. I did not know that.
We are talking here about the people who grow grain for us for domestic consumption, who help create a trade balance, and who also help to feed the rest of the world. It is embarrassing how badly our farmers feel they are being treated by the government.
I am not going to revisit the Canadian Wheat Board. I think what we are beginning to see are the very results that were predicted by people on this side of the House when the government was so adamant about dismantling a Canadian institution, one that served the Canadian grain growing farmers well, for its own ideological reasons. The decision was not based on what was needed by the farmers, but on the government's own ideology. The government absolutely rammed that through.
Today we are here to talk about how fast, or if ever, this grain can be moved. What we are hearing from the farmers is that they have a massive crop. We should be celebrating the fact that we have this massive crop. Most countries would be celebrating. However, our farmers cannot celebrate because the grain is not moving.
The government is very fond of signing international trade agreements. However, unless we have the infrastructure in place to move the goods within Canada to get them to our ports and out of the country, it begs the question of how serious we are when we sign those agreements or whether we are selling people a bill of goods, so to speak.
I live in a port city, as members know, and I have the honour and privilege of having Deltaport in my area, as well as Port Metro Vancouver. I have had numerous meetings with transloading companies, and they tell me of the challenges they face. I have spent time at a number of these different companies to see how the port system works and how the goods that arrive from the Prairies then get moved out through our ports.
There are huge challenges facing the ports in Canada at the moment. Many of them are aggravated by a transportation of goods to the ports, in this case through the railway system. I found out, for example, that when rail cars filled with grain arrive at the transloading company, they have 24 hours to empty them. If they do not, there is a fine, and the fines are quite hefty. I was surprised.
However, if CN Rail is late by two days, or a day or even a week, there is no penalty for CN Rail. The penalty is borne by the transloaders. They lose in many different ways.
First, they pay a penalty to CN Rail.
Second, if they are expecting an arrival of goods and they do not arrive, they are paying their truck drivers. The truck companies, the owner-operators, as well as the transloading companies, lose double, then, as well. They have people there ready to unload the grain, bag it, and then ship it out. Guess what? They are paying those people while they are waiting for that grain to arrive. What they go through is famine to feast. That is no way to run a business. They hire staff, expecting goods. They do not arrive. Guess what? They still end up having to pay some staff. The truckers, the owner-operators, end up being big losers in this, as well.
We really need to address this issue in a very serious way.
The farmers on the Prairies have grown this magnificent product that is quality product, grains and pulses, that the rest of the world wants to purchase. However, here is the sad part. We do not have the infrastructure in place. Surely there is an easy way of getting rail cars. Surely the government can work with CN to work through all of those things.
Instead, we are in a situation where the farmers, after a magnificent harvest, are now saying they are going to be broke; they have not been paid, because they do not get paid until that grain gets moved. That is a serious problem for us. We need to know that it is the farmers who suffer, the transloading companies, and the truck drivers, and there is a whole chain where the costs are downloaded, and they are heavy costs.
I hear a lot about business sense and being good economic managers, from the other side. Good economic managers would address an issue like this, because here is a Canadian product that other countries want to buy, but we cannot get it to the port in time. It is our Canadian companies, the transloading companies, as well as the truck drivers, who end up being the victims and who end up suffering.
Truck drivers go from having days of famine to having days when they are told there are not enough trucks drivers and more trucks are needed.
Also, the ports themselves find it difficult to make the kind of plans they need to make to ship the goods out.
Sometimes members think that maybe we are just making all this stuff up. However, let me tell members that we have been hearing from some of the farmers and grain growers themselves. A flax farmer in Central Butte, Saskatchewan, says that free trade is no good if we cannot get the product there.
I come from a farming background in my ancestry, not that I have ever farmed myself. I have not, but my grandparents and great-grandparents did. One thing I know about farmers is that they are blunt and to the point. I think there is something significant to be learned from that.
Here is a quote from the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association president, Kyle Friesen:
We need to get the grain moving because many farmers may not be paid for last year's harvest until after spring planting.
How many members would like to wait six months or nine months before they get their pay, as members of Parliament? We would not.
This is already causing lost sales. Things need to improve; otherwise, this will translate into a serious cash flow issue for farmers when they need to buy seed and inputs this spring.
Also, it absolutely harms our international trade. What kind of credibility do we have when we do not have the kind of predictability we need for the transportation of our grains and pulses from the fields right to the ports and to the countries that have bought them?
Rick White, general manager of the Canadian Canola Growers Association, had this to say:
The big question now is, are they going to be able to get enough grain delivered into the system to pay off the advance prior to the deadline?
Farmers who are growing grain and are helping in our trade balance are being punished. If we want future generations to remain in farming and to utilize the wealth of our land, then surely we have to have an infrastructure in place and we have to ensure that they are remunerated at the right time and in an appropriate manner, that they are not left begging and wondering whether they are going to be able to feed their family, whether they will make it into the next year, and whether their grain is going to rot.
Intergovernmental Affairs February 5th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, behind the grim job statistics are real people struggling to find work, yet Conservatives want to claw back $300 million that provinces use to help the most vulnerable people get jobs and get back on their feet.
Conservatives proposed an unworkable plan and then spent $2.5 million advertising it. When will the government finally drop the pretense and concede that it cannot run roughshod over the provinces and our most vulnerable workers?
Business of Supply February 3rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, what we are debating here today is what the federal House of Commons could actually do. Right now, the motion specifically addresses that.
I know there are private ATM fees that are under provincial jurisdiction. We would urge the provinces to take a look at them. I think our finance minister should be working with the provincial finance ministers.
The motion specifically targets those that fall under federal jurisdiction. We can do something in the House to alleviate pressure from the banks' ATM machines. That is where we should be putting our energy first and foremost.
Business of Supply February 3rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the sky has not fallen in the other countries where they have got rid of ATM fees.
However, the critical part here is that we have a banking industry that is sound, that is making almost $30 billion in profit. Yet, I have colleagues across the way who do not find it in their hearts to change these fees, or who are speaking against a motion that would actually give the banks more money than the actual transaction costs at an ATM. They would rather support banks' gouging Canadians up to 30%-plus in the way of fees. That is just wrong. It is time to put consumers first, and the NDP will and always has done.
Business of Supply February 3rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is pleasure to rise today and speak in support of the motion put forward by my colleague from Sudbury, a hard-working member of Parliament who has travelled right across the country and listened to Canadians as they explained to him the pressures they are feeling in their pocketbooks.
I have been at a number of those meetings, and I have seen how quickly he connects with them. Today the motion specifically deals with capping the fees on ATMs, automated teller machines. We are calling on the government to take action on this immediately.
Before I go on much further, I would like to say that I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Nickel Belt, another MP who works incredibly hard to represent his very diverse community.
In the last few minutes of the debate, and even this morning, I have been hearing talk about how the Conservatives are the champions of consumers, asking how dare the NDP vote against some of the measures they read out. However, the Conservative members forget to say that those measures were buried in omnibus budget bills that were thicker than a telephone book for most of the cities around this country. I think it is a little disingenuous to use that particular argument.
Getting back to the capping of these fees, it is a very small measure that would go a long way. We are not really talking about businesses that are struggling to make ends meet. We absolutely recognize that our banking system is secure. It has seen us through the depression years. During that time, we have to remember that the banks were the recipients of some largesse from the government.
However, in 2012, the banks recorded profits totalling $29.4 billion, and yet these same banks are gouging Canadians when they go to take their own money out of their own accounts. There is a way to do this differently. We can look at examples from other countries. Let us look at some international examples.
In Ireland, the central banks actually forbid all ATM usage fees. That is a step in the right direction to protect consumers. In Australia and Finland, cash withdrawals are free for those with ATM cards. Not only those with ATM cards can withdraw money; I know people with VISA cards can.
In the U.K., 97% of cash withdrawals are free, due to public pressure. The Reserve Bank of India has issued a directive to all commercial banks to abolish ATM service fees. Here in Canada, with a banking sector that makes profits in the billions, we have fees being charged that go as high as 39.5% in the private sector and as high as 29.5% in the regulated banking sector. That is gouging. I just do not know how else to explain it.
I also heard the arguments earlier today from one of my colleagues about how people can get special deals with their banks if they negotiate a service fee. Paying those service fees is a huge burden on many Canadians, including many students who maybe cannot afford the ultra-deluxe package that would give them free ATM, only at their own banks. There are many who do not have that privilege. These ATM fees, once again, target those in our communities who are the most vulnerable.
Members have heard me talk about the rising debt that our students leave universities with. We also know that students, once they graduate, are spending longer and longer periods in part-time jobs and are not able to make a sustainable living for a number of years after they have graduated. When these students are in university and college, and even in high school, they do not all have the money to buy cars and run to their own banks, so they are forced to use ATM machines. They do not have a lot of money and are paying these huge fees. Most students cannot afford to take out $500 at a time, so they only pay flat fees that go anywhere from 5% to 29.5%. If they take out $20 and $4 out of that disappears into ATM fees, that is a huge burden.
ATM fees also create a huge burden for those who have middle to low incomes. Not everyone has the ability to get into a car and drive to a bank. For many people, whether single moms or people with low incomes, they rely on going to local corner stores or shopping malls where they can get their money out of ATMs. Once again, they are not going to be drawing hundreds or thousands of dollars. They are going to be withdrawing $20, $40 or $60, and once again, the charge on that is a huge burden. I would like my colleagues across the way to think about that.
Of course, technology has changed. When we look at it, the actual cost to the banks is around 38¢ or 39¢ for that transaction, and yet they are making a huge profit on the people who are taking their own money out of their own accounts. To make that kind of a profit from those who cannot afford it, or even those of us who work very hard to put money in the bank and are struggling to make ends meet, is just not right.
The NDP proposal is fairly straightforward. At 39¢, the banks can still make a little profit. After all, is $29.4 billion not enough? We are saying that it should be made a flat fee of 50¢. In order to be reasonable, we have not said that there should be no fee, which is the case in some countries. We are saying it should be 50¢, which would more than cover the costs and remove the burden from working families.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know about you, but I live in a very diverse riding that is not only culturally diverse but also economically diverse. I deal with local residents all the time and a growing number of seniors are beginning to feel the pinch. Their pensions are just not going as far as they thought they were going to go, and they do not have the extra $4 or $6 to pay the bank. This is money that could be in their pockets to help them buy food and the other necessities they need.
We are talking about a Canada where the individual debt burden is growing. It was a shock to me when I learned that the average family's household debt has nearly doubled in that last 20 years. Canadians now owe, on average, $1,600 for every $1,000 of disposable income, which is huge. That is why, when we address ATM fees, it is one small way of addressing some of the strain that families are feeling when they live payday to payday.
As we know, there are other pressures on families. First, the number of decent-paying jobs in Canada is actually on the decline. There are a growing number of part-time jobs that do not pay a livable wage, so there are more and more families having to work a couple of jobs. There are rising housing costs. I do not know about where you live, Mr. Speaker, but in my riding there are incredibly high costs for housing, never mind the gouging that happens with credit cards. There are all kinds of pressures on families. I urge my colleagues to think about the Canadians I have talked about and for their sakes to support this motion the NDP has put forward.
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns January 27th, 2014
With regard to Service Canada Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan call centres for fiscal years 2006-2007 through 2012-2013 (year-to-date): (a) what was the volume of calls received by these centres, broken down (i) by year, (ii) by province or region, (iii) for the years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, by month; (b) what was the number of calls that received a high volume message, broken down (i) by year, (ii) by province or region, (iii) for the years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, by month; (c) what were the national service level standards for calls answered by an agent, broken down by year; (d) what were the actual service level standards achieved for calls answered by an agent, broken down (i) by year, (ii) by province or region, (iii) for the years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, by month; (e) what were the national service level standards for call-backs, broken down by year; (f) what were the actual service level standards achieved for call-backs, broken down (i) by year, (ii) by province or region, (iii) for the years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, by month; (g) what was the average number of days for a call-back by an agent, broken down (i) by year, (ii) by province or region, (iii) for the years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, by month; and (h) what was the number and percentage of term employees and of indeterminate employees respectively, broken down (i) by year, (ii) by province or region, (iii) for the years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, by month?
First Nations Elections Act December 10th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, it is totally puzzling to me. All my life, I have fought for equity. Equality is sometimes misleading, but equity I can understand.
If we were to see what is happening in our first nations communities and the state of education there, I could put forward a very coherent and economically sound argument that we should be investing more per child right now in order to build true equity and for the sake of social justice. Instead, I am at a loss for words as to why the Conservative government is not even willing to give the same amount per child to first nations for education as it does to children right across Canada.
Surely the amount that is spent on education should not be decided by whether a child is aboriginal or non-aboriginal? However, that seems to be the defining moment for us.