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NDP MP for Beaches—East York (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 41.60% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Petitions April 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to participate in the presentation of thousands of petitions, signed by Canadians from coast to coast to coast. It is the Council of Canadians' Democracy 24/7 petition. In part, it calls upon the Government of Canada to launch a public inquiry to find and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for accessing the Conservative Party of Canada CIMS database for the purpose of perpetrating election fraud in the 41st general election, and calls upon the government to table electoral reform legislation that will protect voters from being victimized by election fraud again.
Petitions April 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the Government of Canada to implement a Canada-wide strategy on local food and to require the Department of Public Works to develop a policy for purchasing locally grown food for all federal institutions.
Petitions April 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to present two complementary petitions. They are both broadly about the preservation of agricultural lands for agricultural purposes.
The first calls on the Government of Canada to rescind all plans for an airport and non-agricultural uses on the federal lands in the Durham Region.
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, let me respond first to the issue of the omnibus bill.
It is the fifth time the Conservatives have tried to evade scrutiny of their so-called economic agenda, which I think betrays a fundamentally anti-democratic, authoritarian streak in the government. In fact, I think it betrays cowardice by placing something as profoundly important to Canadians as FATCA on page 99 of a 350-page bill, rather than having that debate out in the open in this House for all Canadians to hear and for us to participate in.
With respect to youth, let me take it back to Toronto, where we have an extraordinarily high 18% youth unemployment rate in Toronto. That is profoundly troubling. This is a government bill that offers no hope for youth in Toronto or across the country. The cancellation of the hiring credit for small business in this bill is a betrayal of youth in this country, and it is only going to make it increasingly difficult for them to find work and hope in today's economy.
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, indeed I focused on the city of Toronto as my case in point. It is where I am from, it is where my riding is, and it is what I know best.
However, much of what I spoke about with respect to the city of Toronto is true of cities across this country. In fact, the folks at what used to be called the Cities Centre at the University of Toronto who did the study mapping out income polarization spatially across the city of Toronto have done similar studies in other cities across the country.
What they are finding is that universally the predominant social fact that characterizes global and globalizing cities in Canada and around the world is this issue of income polarization. What it is doing is leaving in large communities in neighbourhoods with infrastructure deficits. Those include transit deficits, housing deficits, and food deserts. That is true.
What we find too is that the response of the government to that trend in our cities was to extract $5.8 billion out of the infrastructure fund for cities across this country in this budget.
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to Bill C-31, a budget implementation act. As always seems to be the case, the government, using its majority for purposes that are less than democratic, has limited debate on this bill. For the fifth time, the Conservative government has done its best to evade parliamentary scrutiny of what it puts forward as an economic agenda through time allocation.
I am lucky enough to get my thoughts on the floor today just before debate closes. My thoughts on this bill are not kind ones, and of course, the conduct of the government and its approach to the business of the House does not incline any of us to be particularly charitable. Some have described the budget and Bill C-31 as substantially irrelevant documents. That is not so. Parts therein are quite stunning. I am not sure whether they are stunning in their audacity or stunning in their timidity, but they are stunning nevertheless.
What Canadian could have imagined the surrender of sovereignty and betrayal of citizenship that is bound up in the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, FATCA, as it is known, buried deep among 500 clauses in over 350 pages? As I just found out from my colleague from Timmins—James Bay, it is on page 99 of a 350-page document.
What characterizes this bill as a whole is incoherence. One might argue that it is the nature of omnibus bills. They are certainly fundamentally undemocratic beasts, but I think there is something else going on in addition.
This bill betrays a government bereft of any understanding of this country in its complicated entirety in this century, much less in this year, 2014. It is eight years into power, and the government still does not see the urban fact of this country, the fact that over 80% of Canadians live in urban communities, from downtowns to suburbs and the places in between. It still governs like this is not true of Canada.
It does not understand the relationship of Canada's cities to the rural and resource economies that surround them and the opportunities that flow from that relationship. It still governs as if these are separate and unrelated economies, separate and unrelated environments, separate and unrelated societies. It still governs, in fact, as though urban economies, environments, and communities do not exist, much less have their own peculiarities and needs and present their own great opportunities for this country.
It has not grasped the relationship between our cities and the rest of the world to the global economy. It still governs as though the federal government is our only interface between Canada and the global economy, failing to grasp that what defines the global economy is a network of urban economies, a network into which our cities from coast to coast to coast are connected, and increasingly so.
This is a budget and a budget implementation act that contains no plan for Canada, through its cities, to succeed in a global economy.
Let me talk about what my city of Toronto needs to succeed, at a minimum. Toronto grows by 100,000 people every year. We add to the population of that city—and by “city”, I am speaking about the city region, not the municipality per se—a city the size of Calgary or Ottawa every decade. According to the Conference Board of Canada, an economic growth rate of 2.5% annually is required just to keep up with that pace of population growth, and that growth rate must also be distributed evenly, but it is not. Says the Toronto Region Board of Trade:
The 21st century city-region economy is creating a new kind of urban social structure. It consists on one side of well paid highly qualified professional and technical workers, and on the other, an increasingly precarious and growing proportion of low-wage service-oriented workers.
Recent studies by the United Way and McMaster University, the Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity, the Martin Prosperity Institute, and the Metcalf Foundation, all of which I have referenced in the House before, point to the growth of precarious employment in Toronto's labour market and confirm the emergence of this polarized labour market and consequent social structure in Toronto.
Even closer to my home and to my riding of Beaches—East York, a recent study entitled “Shadow Economies: Economic Survival Strategies of Immigrant Communities in Toronto” captured the extent of the shadow economy. Half of the respondents in that survey reported getting paid less than minimum wage. Over one-third of respondents did not get vacation pay, statutory holiday pay, or paid holidays of any kind.
We are witnessing a city once admired for its mixed-income neighbourhoods dividing into a city of low-income neighbourhoods and high-income neighbourhoods. In 1970, two-thirds of Toronto's cities were middle-income neighbourhoods. As of 2005, 29% were middle income. Extrapolating that trend out to 2025, it is the story of a sharply polarizing city where less than 10% of Toronto's neighbourhoods will be middle income just over a decade from now.
Long before we get there—in fact, now—we now have a critical housing challenge that needs to be addressed. In those low-income neighbourhoods where the shadow economies thrive, such as some in my riding:
Inadequate housing and the risk of homelessness are almost universal among families with children living in high-rise rental apartments....
says a March 2014 study by Paradis, Wilson, and Logan for the Cities Centre at the University of Toronto.
Almost 90 percent face major housing problems that may place them at risk of homelessness. ... One family in three is facing severe or critical risk of homelessness.
says the study.
According to the Toronto Region Board of Trade:
The state of good repair bill for the city's housing units is $750 million and growing by $100 million a year. Meanwhile, the city's accumulated state of good repair backlog in 2012 was $1.7 billion.
There is an enormous challenge here that the government is shrinking from, or is blind to, as it continues down the path of extricating the federal government from affordable housing in this country.
The same holds true of public transit. I asked the minister of infrastructure just yesterday why the government is refusing to invest in public transit. The answer, and I quote from Hansard, was that “our government respects the jurisdiction of provinces, and transit is under provincial jurisdiction”. That is the response of the government to the key economic challenge of Canada's global cities: it is not our responsibility.
Study after study points to the economic costs of underinvestment in transit in Toronto and the consequent stifling gridlock. The Toronto Region Board of Trade says:
...overstretched transportation networks are the most serious barrier to economic growth in the Toronto region, costing our regional economy $6 billion per year.
The C.D. Howe Institute pegs the current economic costs at closer to $11 billion.
Either way, the economic costs of underinvestment in transit are enormous. They compromise the competitive position of Toronto, and they are expected to go up. They are a stinging indictment of the government's blindness to the needs of cities and to the opportunity to grow our urban economies, an opportunity waiting there for a government alive to the urban fact of this country and the reality of a global and increasingly globalizing economy.
It is very simple: the success of our cities is vital to our national interest. Canada needs a national agenda that is alive to our urban reality, to how cities work, to their needs, their vulnerabilities, and their potential. Getting our cities right opens up the possibility that what we hope for—for ourselves, for our families, and for Canada—can be made real.
The only thing that is clear about Bill C-31 is that the government does not get that.
Blood Supply April 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it was not that long ago that tainted blood from a paid donor source infected 30,000 Canadians with HIV and hepatitis C. Thousands died and $5 billion was paid out in compensation. We spent tens of millions on the Krever commission to find out what went so wrong and how to make it right.
Justice Krever set out five basic principles for the governance of the blood supply in Canada, the first two of which were that blood is a public resource, and that donors of blood and plasma should not be paid for their donations. Yet in Ontario for-profit plasma clinics are on the verge of going into the business of buying and selling blood plasma.
The Minister of Health has the power to stop this before it starts. She is being urged to do so by many, including victims and survivors.
To Kat Lanteigne, Mike McCarthy, and so many others who have stuck around to finish this fight, to ensure that there shall be no more victims of tainted blood in Canada, I give my thanks and everlasting respect.
Petitions April 7th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, with for-profit blood plasma clinics on the verge of opening in Ontario, I present the following petition signed by Canadians from across the country urging the House to put in place legislation that would prohibit new, for-profit blood clinics.
The petition states that blood plasma is not a commodity that should be bought and sold, and it reminds us of Canada's tainted blood scandal, of the 30,000 Canadians infected with HIV and hepatitis C from tainted blood, and of the thousands who died from those infections.
Infrastructure April 7th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, with crumbling infrastructure and increasing gridlock, cities across the country are demanding new investments in transit, yet the Conservative government offers only platitudes, not solutions.
The NDP has long called for a national public transit strategy that would boost urban economies, reduce gridlock, and help the environment through transit investment.
Why are Conservatives turning their back on cities like Toronto, and why are they refusing to invest in transit?
Canada Post March 31st, 2014
With another example of the government failing to deliver for Canadians, Mr. Speaker, starting today small and medium-size businesses will pay between 35% and 59% more to send mail. An individual stamp now costs $1. Once again, the Conservatives are making it harder to get by.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that 98% of small and medium-size businesses will be affected. What does the government have to say to those whose costs just got so dramatically higher overnight?