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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

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.

Rail Transportation October 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister is missing the point and failing to address the heart of the matter.

In 2009 there was one inspector for every 14 tank cars of oil. Only five years later, there is one inspector for every 4,000. The situation, we know, is getting increasingly dangerous.

Here we have the minister, standing in front of Canadians today, telling them she plans to audit the problem away.

Can the minister see why Canadians will not rest easy with that response?

Motor Vehicle Safety Act October 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my initial sense of pleasure at standing to speak in support of Bill C-603 has dissipated in light of the parliamentary secretary's comments today and news that the Conservative government will not be supporting the bill. It is an important bill and it certainly deserves the support of all of us in the House.

The bill would make side guards mandatory for heavy trucks manufactured in or imported to Canada, and the NDP has been calling for mandatory side guards for over eight years. This bill was tabled in 2006 and again in 2011 by my former colleague, Olivia Chow, as Bill C-344, and the bill we have before the House today replicates the content of that bill in its entirety.

This bill could save lives and prevent serious accidents and injuries to cyclists. Too many pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists have already lost their lives or sustained serious injuries because of the absence of side guards on heavy trucks. Some of those accidents could have been prevented through earlier implementation of this bill. That is what is most sad about this today.

In 2012, the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario released a review of all accidental cycling deaths in Ontario from 2006 to 2010, over a five-year period. The report was dedicated to Ontarians who had lost their lives while cycling, and in particular, to the 129 people whose deaths were reviewed by the chief coroner. The report concluded:

In virtually every case, some modifiable action(s) on the part of the cyclist, driver, or both, contributed to the death. Uncontrollable factors, such as weather and road conditions, rarely contributed to the death.

It went on to say:

...our data support the conclusion that all of the 129 deaths in this Review could have been prevented.

One of the recommendations that emerged from that report was directed to Transport Canada. It simply read, “Side-guards should be made mandatory for heavy trucks in Canada”. Side guards will obviously not address all cycling fatalities, but mandatory side guards would address a significant percentage of them. Using Transport Canada figures from 2004 to 2006, the CAA found that approximately 20% of cycling fatalities involved heavy trucks and the Ontario chief coroner found virtually an identical percentage when that office examined fatalities in Ontario between 2006 and 2010, at about 18%.

What was found in the United Kingdom after the implementation of mandatory side guards was that fatalities among cyclists who collided with the sides of these trucks were reduced by 61%. Those are statistics, but they are also lives. Take, for example, the very recent death of Mathilde Blais, a young woman hit and killed by a heavy truck while she was cycling through an underpass in Montreal. One of the three recommendations in the recently released coroner's report urged Transport Canada to make side guards mandatory on heavy trucks. The coroner said that they could have saved Mathilde Blais' life.

This message has been received in jurisdictions around the world and action has been taken. Side guards are already mandatory in the United Kingdom, the European Union and Japan, and have been adopted by several regions and municipalities in Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador has installed side guards on its snow removal and sanding trucks. In Quebec, a number of municipalities and boroughs have also put side guards on snow removal and ice trucks, and the City of Montreal is intending to install them on its entire fleet of heavy vehicles over the next five years.

Change appears to be around the corner in other jurisdictions, too. In April of this year, the United States' National Transportation Safety Board, the equivalent of our Transportation Safety Board of Canada, recommended that, “both newly manufactured truck-tractors and trailers be equipped with side underride protection systems...to better protect passenger vehicle occupants from fatalities and serious injuries”.

They are doing so because, as Ontario's chief coroner's report says:

...it is important to note that deaths resulting from cycling collisions, just like motor vehicle collision deaths and pedestrian deaths, are not “accidents” in the sense that all of these deaths were predictable, and therefore preventable.

Here in Canada, however, the Conservative government remains stubbornly and irresponsibly opposed to their implementation. In fact, just two years ago, Transport Canada put a halt to a study by the National Research Council evaluating whether side skirts attached to trucks would reduce fuel consumption but would also prevent cyclists and other vulnerable road users from injury or death.

We have heard quotes from that study today, but in the conclusions to the first phase of that study, the National Research Council cites data from the European Union and the United Kingdom showing that significant reductions in the number of bicyclist fatalities were an outcome of side guards introduced onto heavy trucks. That is similar in both the EU and the U.K. Granted, the research council's conclusions were inconclusive. It said that it was not clear that people's lives would be saved if there were side guards, as they could have died in other ways. There was certainly enough positive information and research in that report to warrant proceeding with the second phase, but the Conservative government saw fit to stop that.

Mandatory side guards on heavy trucks are, of course, by no means the only way to prevent cycling injuries and fatalities. There are a number of things we ought to be doing to improve cycling safety and encourage this mode of active transit. With two-thirds of Canadians considered inactive, and a quarter considered obese, cycling is a great, healthy antidote. With estimates of lost productivity due to traffic congestion at around $6 billion and rising in my city of Toronto alone, cycling makes sense for the economy. With anywhere between 40% and 60% of urban greenhouse gas emissions coming from transportation, it makes sense to encourage people to get around by bike.

Let me share a quote:

Imagine if we could invent something that cut road and rail crowding, cut noise, cut pollution and ill-health – something that improved life for everyone, quite quickly, without the cost and disruption of new roads and railways. Well, we invented it 200 years ago: the bicycle.

That is how the Mayor of London, England, begins the foreword to the document entitled The Mayor's Vision for Cycling in London. London is a city with its own cycling commissioner, with significant cycling infrastructure, and with plans for more.

Copenhagen is another city that stands out. It set for itself a goal of becoming the world's best bicycle city. It says that investment in cycling is part of its goal of having “a good city life and making Copenhagen CO2 neutral by 2025”. For Copenhagen, and I quote from its cycling strategy, entitled Good, Better, Best:

...cycling is not a goal in itself but rather a highly-prioritised political tool for creating a more liveable city.

Moreover, and important to this debate, studies in Denmark have shown that providing segregated bicycle tracks or lanes alongside urban roads reduce deaths among cyclists by 35%. This is why I am so pleased to second not just this bill but also Motion No. 527, tabled in the House by my colleague from Parkdale—High Park. It is a motion that calls for a national cycling infrastructure strategy. If ever implemented, it would make our cities more liveable places and, important to this debate today, safer places.

Anyone with access to the Internet can find on there a memorial map for fallen Toronto cyclists. That map shows 31 fatalities across my city since this bill calling for mandatory side guards was tabled in 2006.

The bill is one part, but a necessary part, in ensuring that we do what we ought to be doing in this House, which is protecting the lives of Canadians. Let me give the last word to the wife and daughter of Ulrich Hartmann, who lost his life in Toronto under the wheels of a cement truck in the year that this bill was first tabled.

Said his wife, Karen:

The Canadian government has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens. Side guards are a no-brainer, like seatbelts and airbags.

Ulrich's daughter, who was just nine at the time of her dad's death, said this:

If side guards had been mandatory I might still have my dad. But we as a country still have an opportunity to save other people's lives. We can prevent that life-altering phone call for other families.

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 OpenMedia.ca, 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.