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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is cities.

NDP MP for Beaches—East York (Ontario)

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

Statements in the House

Poverty November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, not every Canadian family benefits. Income inequality has become a hallmark of Canadian cities.

The new report from TD Bank says that it is stunting our economic growth and threatening our long-term prosperity. The report identifies the damage done by the Liberal-Conservative tag team, together making the poor poorer and the rich richer. There are too many young people struggling for a foothold and too many families struggling to provide.

When economists around the world are advising governments to “lean against income inequality”, why are these guys always leaning the wrong way?

Petitions November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today with respect to local food, which is signed by constituents in and around my riding of Beaches—East York.

The petitioners point out that buying local food cuts down on transportation and greenhouse gas emissions, that buying local foods gives Canadians access to fresh and nutritious food and that federal departments and agencies should lead by example and support Canadian farmers by buying local food.

The petitioners therefore call upon the Government of Canada to require the Department of Public Works to develop a policy to purchase locally-grown food for all federal institutions.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is a great question. While I support this bill moving forward to committee for review and study, I am happy that I managed to convey in my speech that this bill is clearly missing an entire response to the issue of child sexual abuse. Clearly, prevention is the critical piece in all of this. It is what one would hope for and think of as any response to criminal activity. First and foremost, this fundamentally has to be be about preventing these things from happening and harming and hurting people.

The story I told is a story about irrecoverable loss, not just for the boy and young man who ended up committing suicide, but for all of the victims, and there were many in this set of circumstances. These are things that people have to live with for the rest of their lives. They have to live with the pain and hurt. To the extent that we, as members of Parliament, can focus our attention on ensuring that young people in this country never have to experience these things and that kind of pain and hurt, and not have to live with that for the rest of the lives, surely we must put our minds to doing just that.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to Bill C-26 and its very long title. It is a bill that touches on a number of different pieces of legislation, including the Criminal Code and Canada Evidence Act. It would enact a high-risk child sex offender database act as well, and there would be consequential amendments to other acts. We are at second reading here and it seems that we might as well support this bill's passage to committee so that we can hear from some experts on this subject.

As suggested by its title, this act seeks to do a number of things. It would increase the maximum penalties for violations of prohibition orders, probation orders, and peace bonds. It would increase existing mandatory minimum penalties and maximum penalties for certain sexual offences against children. It would clarify and codify rules regarding the imposition of consecutive and concurrent sentences. It would require courts to impose, in certain cases, consecutive sentences on offenders who commit sexual offences against children. It would ensure that spouses of the accused are considered competent and compellable witnesses for the prosecution in child pornography cases. As well, it would increase reporting obligations on sex offenders who travel outside Canada and would establish a high-risk child sex offender database act and other things. It is a far-reaching bill.

What we note about this long list of acts and amendments to existing legislation is that it is more of what the current government has done in the past, more of a turning of the screws in the same direction. We note that the Conservative government in this and previous Parliaments has already implemented new mandatory minimums for assaults where victims are under 16 years of age; it has identified grooming activities as a criminal offence; it has made the use of computers and other telecommunications devices for the purpose of making arrangements to commit a sexual offence against a child an offence; it has amended the sex offender registry already; it has increased the age at which a person can consent to sexual activity from 14 to 16; it has required Internet service providers to report child pornography; and it has increased sentencing and monitoring of dangerous offenders.

Apart from the wisdom of any of this, the problem presented by this bill is that the Minister of Justice has provided information that sexual offences have increased by 6% over the last two years. That statistic is offered by the minister in support of further action in support of this bill. However, at least equally if not more so, that statistic calls into question the approach taken by the current government to date. It seems to suggest that mandatory minimums, longer maximums, increased scrutiny and surveillance via a sex registry and so on may not be effective responses to this issue. This is worrying because of the particular nature of this issue of child sexual assault or child sexual abuse. It is so incredibly harmful and hurtful, leaving lasting emotional and psychological scars on its victims, things that victims have to live with and cope with for the rest of their lives if they can or do in fact live out their lives with the hurt caused.

I am the son of two teachers. When I grew up, chat around the dinner table was always about education and teaching and what was going on in the classroom. However, I married a criminal lawyer who did criminal defence work for 14 years before moving over to the crown side, where she has been for six years. There have been lots of stories brought home about crimes that she has had to be engaged with, either on the defence or prosecution side. They are not happy stories, and for the most part not stories to be talked about around the dinner table.

However, there is a story that I would like to tell that is not related to the many stories I have heard through my wife, but through my own experience as a kid. I had the great fortune of growing up in a lovely, picturesque, and historic Canadian town with a particularly a beautiful downtown in which to live. It is an older and largely more affluent part of the city, filled with old limestone houses, occupied mainly by professionals, doctors, lawyers, professors. As it turns out, it was also the hunting ground of a child sex predator, the choirmaster at one of the local cathedrals. He was a much trusted, highly respected person in the community. He taught music not only through the cathedral but to other kids in town as well. I happened to be a member of one of his non-secular choirs for a very brief time, because I do not have much of a voice.

Things started to come undone for the choirmaster in 1990 when two families in the congregation alleged publicly, in stories in the local paper, that the choirmaster had sexually molested their sons and that the abuse was directly linked to their sons' suicides. Both boys had hanged themselves, one as a teenager and the other as a young man working on his doctorate at an ivy league university. I played tennis with one of those boys as a kid, and I went to nursery school with the other one. It is a small town.

Ultimately the choirmaster plead guilty to charges involving 13 boys over a 12-year period. Over time more victims came forward, making this story much longer and an ever more complicated one. In retelling the story there may be wounds that get reopened, but I want to use the story to the complicated social facts that surround such matters.

The fact that it is a long and complicated story ought to give us all cause to pause and think through carefully our response to this issue. How does someone like this win the trust of both kids and parents? How does a predator like this find support, even from some of his victims? How does he retain the loyalty and support of a significant portion of the congregation? How did he get pardoned, at one point in time? How does he win the support of a new community and congregation?

These are all questions that in the abstract need to be addressed if we are to protect kids from this kind of predatory behaviour. We need to understand better how these things work, because most of this story is about the pain and harm caused to the kids, harm that includes the suicides of two young men full of great promise.

It would seem useful to take this bill to committee so that we can have that discussion and call before the committee witnesses who, based on their expertise and experience, can speak to some of the issues raised in a case like one I referred to today.

Perhaps some parts of this bill will be considered useful by those who testify at committee, but the statistic offered by the minister in support of Bill C-26, that there has been of a 6% increase in sexual offences against children, suggests to me that we ought to be discussing at committee other types of resources to counter the sexual abuse of children, other methods of prevention, other precautions to take, other forms or opportunities for education for both parents and kids.

In the 2011 budget, the Conservatives announced $250,000 in funding over two years as part of the federal victims strategy for programs to protect children. Budget 2012 included $7 million over five years to fund child advocacy centres, as well as limited funding for victims services organizations. This seems paltry in light of the scope and seriousness of the problem.

Can the government tell us whether any of this was effective? We know by way of Steve Sullivan, the former federal ombudsman for the victims of crime, that the circles of support and accountability program was very effective. That is being cut through cuts to Corrections Canada and national crime prevention centres.

In a hopeful moment, a moment in anticipation of a good faith response by the Conservative government, it seems to me that it would be useful to put this bill and other thoughts and ideas before committee for the purpose of looking not only at the bill specifically, but also at the issue more broadly with a view to thinking through what we can do as members of Parliament to prevent further stories like that of the sexual predator I told today, and to prevent the harm that predators like him do to kids, to prevent the kind of pain that would cause two young men to take their own lives.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, parents know that at some point, actually at many points, they have to give their kids over to the care of other people, whether it is for sports, education, just plain care, whatever the case may be. It becomes obvious that prevention is an important part of all of this. I appreciated that in my colleague's speech, she referenced concern with the issue of prevention. I also appreciated what she talked about as the specific social circumstances in which sexual abuse crimes occur against children, and it is often by people they trust, being friends, neighbours, et cetera.

Is there anything in this bill that addresses those circumstances? The minister cited the 6% increase in sexual crimes against children, and yet I did not read anything in the bill that addresses the specific social circumstances in which these crimes often take place.

Infrastructure November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, most Canadians live in cities. Canada connects to the world through our cities, but successive Liberal and Conservative governments have failed to understand that we have a national interest in the success of our cities. An NDP government would be committed to playing its part to ensure that our cities are prosperous, fair and sustainable, with thriving economies, with better access to transit, housing and education.

When will the Conservatives wake up to the needs of our cities and the 80% of Canadians who live in them?

Petitions November 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today with respect to affordable child care.

The signatories to this petition draw the attention of the House to the fact that after nine years of Conservative government, child care costs continue to soar and nearly one million kids with working parents have no regulated child care space available.

The petitioners point out that quality child care and early learning offer children a head start in life while also easing poverty.

The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to work with the provinces and territories to implement the NDP's plan for affordable child care across Canada.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, what the member's speech betrayed to me was a complete lack of understanding of cities in this country, as though his rural community is the only community that has ballparks and hockey rinks and all the rest of it. It was as if those of us who live in cities do not spend time in our local arenas. I spend about two hours every weekend, when events allow, at my local arena watching my son play hockey and, from time to time, the team I sponsor. We have two baseball leagues in my riding.

What the member misses in talking about this sports tax credit is that there is also, in our cities, an enormous portion of people who cannot afford to put their kids in organized sports.

It is not just about the 400,000 manufacturing jobs we have lost. It is about 50% of the jobs in our cities, in the cities of Toronto and Hamilton, being precarious work. It is about huge, growing informal economies, where people are making less than minimum wage just to survive. They call them survival jobs in my riding.

What does this budget do for cities? Nothing.

Transport October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, on May 7, the Minister of Transport told the House that her department was “not aware of an ignition switch issue prior to receiving its first notice from GM Canada”. However, CBC has revealed internal documents that prove that this absolutely was not true. Transport Canada was aware of the issue eight months before the GM recall.

Did the minister knowingly mislead the House?

Canadian Cities October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we are a vast country made up of many landscapes, many ways of life, but for 80% of us, the life we lead is urban, from downtowns to suburbs and the places in between.

Successive federal governments have ignored our urban reality. However, we know that the success of our cities is vital to our national interest, that there can be no national agenda that is not also an urban agenda. Such an urban agenda must finally put into place a modern, innovative economy, the means of mitigating global warming and a prosperity more equally shared.

An NDP government would be a reliable friend and partner to provinces and cities. We would play our part in building into Canada's cities the infrastructure that will ensure that Canada's cities are prosperous, fair and sustainable places to live.

We will provide to all who live in them the opportunity to realize all that is possible. That is the NDP way.