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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is urban.

NDP MP for Beaches—East York (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 41.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition today to stop pay-to-pay fees.

Pay-to-pay fees are those fees levied by companies against customers who continue to receive a printed statement of their bills. The petitioners argue that these pay-to-pay fees unfairly penalize seniors and those who do not have regular access to the Internet, or are simply not comfortable performing such transactions online.

The petitioners point out that Canadians are struggling already to pay their bills, and therefore they call upon the Government of Canada to prohibit the use of pay-to-pay fees and charging customers for receiving a monthly bill or statement in the mail.

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that over 70% of Canadians feel that their personal information is less protected than it was 10 years ago. Today, over 90% of Canadians are very or extremely concerned about the protection of their privacy. It is in this context that the government is bringing forward a bill that would allow for an enormous exemption for the sharing of this information. It was put this way by Geoffrey White, counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre: “The private sector exemption quite simply allows private sector spying on consumers without any due process whatsoever”.

I wonder how the member reconciles public opinion on concern about the privacy of personal information and the inclusion of that private sector exemption in the bill.

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned about what they will bring to committee, but the member rightly points out the government's own record and conduct on these things.

I think the best response, perhaps, is to quote Steve Anderson, the executive director of, who said that the proposed bill appears to do little to tackle the foremost privacy issue of the day, the dragnet government surveillance of law-abiding Canadians and widespread government breaches of our sensitive information.

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to explain what I can about these matters. I am not a lawyer, but I did take the time to read through that decision and get a grasp for the Supreme Court's view of the importance of the anonymity of subscriber information, the importance of protecting subscriber information, and the importance of understanding that Canadians have a reasonable expectation that that subscriber information is going to remain private. If it is to be given away, it should be given away lawfully and under warrant for very particular reasons that would be approved by the courts, and that is not the case.

It is interesting that in the Spencer decision, in spite of the court's findings about the privacy information and all the rest of it, it is not the case that such protection of privacy obviously inhibits police for doing their job in protecting the safety and security of all Canadians.

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that question. She has done a wonderful job as our critic on digital issues.

With respect to the first part of the question, indeed, constituents have talked to me about privacy concerns. When I read through the results of the survey during my speech, those numbers seem to reflect the kinds of responses I hear from my constituents about their concerns for the privacy of their information.

It is understandable because people understand and recognize what the Supreme Court said, that subscriber information is not just about a name and address. It takes one into all sorts of information. So that if that information is available to private companies, then those private companies are able to delve very deeply into the personal habits, conducts, and information of Canadians. I certainly am concerned about the constitutionality.

My read of the Spencer decision suggests that this bill would fail that test and that is one of the reasons that I support the bill going to committee before second reading in this House.

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act. As members know, today's debate turns not precisely on Bill S-4 but on a motion to refer the bill to committee before second reading.

The concerns that I will raise with respect to the bill itself, which go as far as to challenge the constitutionality of the bill, would likely be fatal to the bill at second reading, but we need not concern ourselves with that today. We need not arrive at a conclusion about how fatal these flaws are or how injurious they are to the bill.

The motion before us today would allow us to visit the scope and principle of the bill at committee and make, as required, amendments to those very principles and scope of the bill.

Today, I would argue that this motion warrants support, so that we have the flexibility to properly study, examine and propose amendments to the bill at committee before the principle and scope are set.

Let me set out a few reasons why this is particularly important in these circumstances and relating to this particular legislation.

First, let me address the issue of public opinion that sets the context in which this bill and more broadly the issue of privacy concerns exist.

According to a survey of Canadians on issues related to privacy protection conducted last year, 70% of Canadians feel less protected than they did 10 years ago; only 13% of Canadians believe that companies take their privacy seriously; 97% of Canadians say they would like organizations to let them know when breaches of personal information actually occur; 80% of Canadians say they would like the stiffest possible penalties to protect their personal information; and 91% of Canadian respondents were very or extremely concerned about the protection of privacy.

The current government cannot absolve itself from contributing to this level of public concern about privacy issues. It is not just a matter of legislative lethargy; that is, it is not just about the fact that we are well past the five year mark for the conduct of a mandatory review of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, an act that is by now well behind international standards and has failed to keep up with technological advancements in this digital age.

Part of the issue here is that the current government has itself repeatedly demonstrated insufficient care for the personal privacy of Canadians through its own conduct. I would point to the fact that in one year alone, under the current Prime Minister's watch, government agencies secretly made more than 1.2 million requests to telecommunications companies for personal information, without warrant or proper oversight.

It is a government with a seemingly insatiable appetite and perhaps an addiction to Canadians' personal information. It is a government that needs to be constrained by effective legislation that protects the privacy and personal information of Canadians. It is a government that has no credibility on this subject matter.

This is evident in the legislation that the Conservatives have defeated in this House. In 2012, our NDP digital issues critic, my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville, put forward Bill C-475, a bill to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. It would have applied similar online data protection standards that exist in Quebec's personal information protection act. For example, Bill C-475 would have given the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada the power to issue orders following an investigation. The Conservatives defeated that bill at second reading. They also defeated our NDP opposition day motion on May 5 last year. That motion simply called on the government to close loopholes in existing legislation that currently allowed the sharing of personal information without warrant.

The current government's disregard for private and personal information is also evident by the legislation that it has brought forward.

Bill C-13, the government's cyberbullying law, includes lawful access provisions that would expand warrantless disclosure of information to law enforcement by giving immunity from any liability for companies that hold the information of Canadians to disclose it without a warrant. This makes it more likely that companies would hand over information without a warrant as there are no risks that they would face criminal or civil penalties for such conduct.

There is a thread here that runs through the government's own efforts to access the personal and private information of Canadians through to their conduct and voting record in this place. It goes against the interests and concerns of Canadians and denies the wishes of Canadians for greater protection of their personal and private information.

In other words, the issue before us goes to the principles underlying this bill. They need to be examined and amended at committee. For example, while Bill S-4 would make it mandatory to declare the loss or breach of personal information for the organizations in the private sector and penalize organizations that do not fulfill this obligation, the proposed criteria for mandatory disclosure remains subjective. It would allow the organizations themselves to assess whether “it is reasonable in the circumstances to believe that the breach creates a real risk of significant harm to an individual”.

More and most problematically still, Bill S-4 would add exceptions under which personal information may be collected, used or disclosed without an individual's consent. The bill would make it easier for organizations to share personal information with each other without the consent of individuals if the organizations are engaged in a process leading to a “prospective” business transaction. In other words, under certain circumstances, the bill allows personal information of one organization's clients to be shared with another organization without the consent or knowledge of those individuals.

Here we run into some significant problems with this bill. The amendments proposed contradict the very foundation of the act they seek to amend and serve to defeat what the Supreme Court called in R. v. Spencer the act's “general prohibition on the disclosure of personal information without consent”. As the Supreme Court said in that recent decision, “PIPEDA is a statute whose purpose is to increase the protection of personal information”.

The Supreme Court, in R. v. Spencer, got to the heart of the issue here, understanding what the government has failed to understand about the issue of informational privacy in the digital age. It is worth quoting at length here. It stated:

Informational privacy is often equated with secrecy or confidentiality, and also includes the related but wider notion of control over, access to and use of information. However, particularly important in the context of Internet usage is the understanding of privacy as anonymity. The identity of a person linked to their use of the Internet must be recognized as giving rise to a privacy interest beyond that inherent in the person’s name, address and telephone number found in the subscriber information. Subscriber information, by tending to link particular kinds of information to identifiable individuals may implicate privacy interests relating to an individual’s identity as the source, possessor or user of that information. Some degree of anonymity is a feature of much Internet activity and depending on the totality of the circumstances, anonymity may be the foundation of a privacy interest that engages constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

So, from subscriber information, the Supreme Court has connected that information through to search and seizure.

We have at least before us a major concern with the principles of this act, but seemingly too a bill that is simply unconstitutional. Leaving aside for the moment this latter issue, let me suggest by way of conclusion that if there is something in Bill S-4 that is salvageable, it can only be so if this bill moves to committee before this House sets in concrete the principles and scope of this bill, and limits the kinds of amendments that can arise out of committee post second reading.

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I heard the hon. member justify the bill on the grounds that it would prevent fraud, but let me quote the Office of the Privacy Commissioner's submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications:

Allowing such disclosures to prevent potential fraud may open the door to widespread disclosures and routine sharing of personal information among organizations on the grounds that this information might be useful to prevent future fraud.

That seems to blow a hole in the rationale that the member provided to us for the bill. I am wondering if he could respond to that.

Infrastructure October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the negligence of successive Liberal and Conservative governments has left Toronto with a congestion crisis, according to the Toronto's Vital Signs report. In a city growing by leaps and bounds, less than a kilometre of rapid transit has been built per year over the last two decades. The report confirms what Toronto already knows: congestion is crippling our economy and undermining our quality of life.

When will the Conservatives recognize the economic, social, and environmental sense of investing in public transit?

Rouge National Urban Park Act October 8th, 2014

Quite simply, Mr. Speaker, the language of the bill does not require it to happen.

I appreciate the member's point that this is a qualitatively different park than the remote parks under the stewardship of Parks Canada. However, my point is, given, as per the UN's department of economic and social affairs, that all population growth on this planet will be urban for the next four decades, we need to find a way to make sense of applying the principle and priority of ecological integrity to our cities, how we build them and grow them. Having Canada's first national urban park is a great way to start down that road.

Rouge National Urban Park Act October 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I, too, have presented petitions with respect to the Don River, which borders against my riding in Toronto, Beaches—East York.

As I commented in my speech, many people over many long years have put in a lot of effort to ensure that the Don River has been revitalized and that it comes closer to the principle of ecological integrity, as it flows through the city.

This is the great opportunity we have with the Rouge park, that under the protection of an appropriately worded bill, that river, too, can be protected and live up to the principles and priority that exists under the National Parks Act of ecological integrity.