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  • Her favourite word is aboriginal.

NDP MP for Churchill (Manitoba)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 51.10% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House and speak to Bill C-3, an act to enact the aviation industry indemnity act, to amend the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Marine Act, the Marine Liability Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I stand here with my colleagues, many of whom have spoken before me, who have made clear our position as New Democrats on this bill. It is a position where we recognize the modest improvements that have been made in terms of marine security, but we have also expressed concern about the amendments we proposed that have not been passed by the government.

We have been very clear in our concern that despite these acts, Canadians know that the current situation is one in which regulations, of the few that do exist on paper, are not able to be enforced the way they ought to because of the cuts that we are seeing in terms of scientists, the coast guard and inspectors that need to be in place to make sure that legislation and regulations are being followed.

When I was first asked to speak to the bill, I understood the connections with respect to the proposed Enbridge pipeline and the immense opposition that so many people in B.C. and across the country have to the pipeline, in part because they know the great risk to the environment, the environmental damage it poses. The fact is the government and provincial governments can do nothing to deal with potential oil spills to make them go away. I share that concern.

Obviously I am proud to be part of a party that is opposed to the Enbridge pipeline, that stands with Canadians and British Columbia and the rest of the country in opposition to this plan. I also want to share the voices of my own constituents who stand to lose as a result of the government's approach on the failure to enforce regulation and legislation when it comes to keeping our waterways and our rail lines safe.

I speak particularly about the proposal to ship oil through Churchill. For those who have not been to Churchill, it is well known as a real gem not just for my province of Manitoba, but also for our country. It is a small community on the coast of Hudson Bay about 1,200 kilometres north of Winnipeg. It is known around the world as the easiest place in the world for humans to be able to see polar bears. It includes a nesting ground for polar bears which is part of Wapusk National Park. It is a real treasure for Canadians.

We know that the community of Churchill in northern Manitoba benefits from the tourism industry, as people come to our region because of the polar bears. We also know that Churchill's economy depends on environmental research that takes place in the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. where researchers and scientists from around the world come to engage in climate change research and the impacts of climate change on wildlife, such as polar bears. We also know that Churchill depends on rail traffic and trade of which a good chunk is international trade.

Churchill has been going through a difficult time and will continue to go through a difficult time, because of the fact that the government got rid of its number one best customer, the Canadian Wheat Board. In getting rid of the Canadian Wheat Board, Churchill lost an important trade partner that had an ongoing and very positive relationship with Churchill.

The government then decided, because it wiped out an organization that was run by farmers and managed in the best interests of farmers, and despite its rhetoric that somehow the market was going to correct everything, to offer a major taxpayer-funded subsidy to some of the biggest grain companies around the world to do one thing that had already happened under the Canadian Wheat Board, which was to ship grain through Churchill. Sadly, this has not resulted in the figures that used to be under the Canadian Wheat Board. The people of Churchill and northern Manitoba are concerned about the future of the port, the future of trade through the port, and what it means in terms of bringing in revenue and investment into the port and the rail line that exists.

In the midst of a difficult and stressful situation, the company that owns the rail line and the port expressed interest out of the blue just under a year ago to ship crude oil from the Bakken oil fields, through the Bay line, up to Churchill and onto ships in the Arctic Ocean.

I do not think it comes as any surprise to anyone that people were taken aback by this proposal. The number one concern that was raised was safety. This occurred mere weeks after the tragedy that happened in Lac-Mégantic. We know that very similar crude oil was being transported in the railcars that blew up and killed so many people in that community.

People saw those images and what it could mean to our region. In recognizing that concern, people looked around to see whom they could work with to make sure they are protected. Sadly, when they looked at the federal government, what they saw is a government that has targeted regulation, particularly environmental regulation, that has cut back inspections in a whole host of areas, and has removed itself from taking leadership when it comes to safety.

In terms of rail safety, I want to recognize that in recent months, some measures have been brought in that are important to Canadians, particularly my constituents. However, we are particularly concerned about the potential of an oil spill if this shipment possibly went through into Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. That would be a devastating prospect.

We do not have the technology or the know-how to deal with oil spills in the Arctic. This has been raised in the context of drilling in the Arctic, but we do not even have to go that far. Simply transporting crude oil in the Arctic at the kind of volumes we are hearing about from this company is not something we know how to deal with.

In terms of the terrain, we know that if there were to be an oil spill into Hudson Bay, with it being a bay, it would remain there for a considerable amount of time. It would pollute the tributary rivers that come from Hudson Bay. It would actually move counterclockwise, the direction in which the water moves, into James Bay, and would pollute James Bay. It would then move straight up into the Arctic Ocean and pollute the various coastlines of Nunavut. It would have a devastating impact on the wildlife, including beluga whales. The beluga whale population of Hudson Bay is unique in that it has managed to withstand a fair bit of adversity and has shown signs of resilience that we do not see in other beluga whale populations. This is all to say that the reality of an oil spill is something which we cannot comprehend.

As the member of Parliament for Churchill and someone who is proud to come from the north, and proud of the way that first nations people, Métis people and northern people have been stewards of the environment, certainly where I come from, it troubles me that the federal government is not a partner at the table the way it ought to be when it comes to protecting our waterways, protecting our oceans, and protecting Canadians.

I am proud to stand here to raise our real concerns about this bill and to continue the fight for greater protection and fundamental leadership from the federal government, because Canadians deserve better.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that under this government, in terms of our foreign affairs policy and international development, the disconnect between what it is doing and how Canadians perceive our role on the international stage, or what our role should be, is incredibly vast.

I think of all the Canadians, my constituents and others across the country, who work hard day in and day out, who are raising families and contributing to their communities and our country. They want to know that what they are sending to the government in tax dollars and revenue is actually being spent properly. That includes the work we are doing overseas. Sadly, example after example coming from the government on its foreign affairs agenda proves the opposite.

Canadians would be horrified, the way we are in the NDP, that the government is willing to drive an agenda without proper debate, except for heckling, that not only stands by but that actually allows for a clause whereby Canadians would be complicit in the use of cluster munitions by others. That is unacceptable to us and unacceptable to Canadians. All Canadians deserve better than this government.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I realize that the minister across may have been quite busy in recent weeks denying the fact that he hung up on one of the most listened to radio programs in our country, recreating numbers that simply do not reflect reality when it comes to how many government sponsored refugees we have accepted from Syria, and coming up with excuses to reject yet more refugee claimants' health care applications.

However, just to inform the minister, he may want to familiarize himself with clause 11, which permits Canadian soldiers to use, acquire, possess, or transport cluster munitions whenever they are acting in conjunction with another country that is not a member of the convention and to request the use of cluster munitions by another country. This is clause 11 in Bill C-6, which is a bill that was put forward by his government. I would turn his passion right back at him and ask him how he, in good conscience, could stand as a minister of the crown and support a piece of legislation that flies in the face of the reputation Canadians demand from our country.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014

In fact, Mr. Speaker, I am being heckled right now by speakers who reject this notion, but we know very clearly that tonight it is New Democrat member after New Democrat member who has had the courage to stand in the House and call the bill what it is. It is a bill in which we see the government trying to hide an ugly agenda. A gaping loophole exists that would allow Canadian soldiers and Canada to sit by or work with countries that kill civilians through the use of cluster munitions.

It is no surprise that the Conservatives often have real issues digesting factual information. Just to be clear, and I know that this fact has been repeated on numerous occasions tonight, 98% of all recorded cluster munition casualties have been civilians. We know that the bomblets coming out of cluster munitions are small, often the size of a battery or a tennis ball, and have a failure rate of up to 30%. Unexploded bomblets, as they are called, become de facto landmines. One cluster bomb contains hundreds of these submunitions and typically scatters them across an area the size of two to four football fields.

Up to 37 countries and territories may be affected by cluster munitions from use in armed conflicts. Nineteen countries have used cluster munitions in combat, and 34 countries have at one point produced the weapons, though half of these have since ended production, some as a result of the convention. We know that in 2006, 22 Canadian Forces members were killed and 112 were wounded in Afghanistan as a result of landmines, cluster bombs, and other explosive devices.

In this House we have been able to bring forward the voices of internationally respected figures who oppose Canada's position. I would like to quote the former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser. Testifying before the parliamentary committee, he said:

If you want to kill women and children, cluster bombs would be the weapon of choice.

He urged Canada not to enable Canadian soldiers to use cluster bombs in joint operations with the U.S. military. As a result of clause 11 in this bill, we know that this is exactly the loophole that exists. Canada would now embark, as a result of this bill, on a journey that would see us collaborating with countries that use cluster bombs that would cause incredible civilian casualties and take away the lives of innocent people in countries around the world. All of this would be for what?

There are many days in the House when one wonders what the Conservative government's foreign affairs agenda actually is. We know that there have been deep cuts to our international development commitments. We know that every step along the way, the government has sought to prioritize its corporate agenda, assigning top advisory positions to corporate figures in the mining industry and the resource extractive industry, which have incredible sway over our international aid and international development dollars.

We know that Canada now houses about 75% of the mining companies around the world. Sadly, some of these mining companies do not even have production here in Canada, and many of them are complicit in human rights abuses around the world.

Many of them benefit from the services of Canadian embassies. Some benefit from actual investment through Export Development Canada, and many carry the reputation that as Canadian mining companies, somehow they are working to make the world a better place. In fact, we know that in country after country, particularly in Latin America and Africa, all that is happening is that Canada is getting a bad name.

This bill is no different. This bill serves to sully the reputation of Canada, a country that for years had built a strong reputation when it came to banning land mines, when it made commitments to peacekeeping, and when it came to commitments, under its foreign affairs agenda, explicitly to human security. These were not the ideas of just one person, although we certainly think of former Prime Minister Lester Pearson and others who were responsible for the vision of peacekeeping. These touchstones emerged as a result of Canadian values and the push Canadians made day in and day out. They were activists who fought for nuclear disarmament, peace, and solidarity to make sure that Canada was actually contributing to the well-being of people around the world.

Canadians are horrified and will be horrified to hear about the bill the government is ramming through Parliament, a bill that throws out the kind of reputation Canadians value, and a bill that would ensure that Canada collaborates with countries that know that the technology and arms they are using kill civilians.

It is surprising that the members of Parliament who sit across the aisle seem not to be concerned about any of this. We can see that from the fact that none of them are actually rising tonight to make a speech on this issue. They seem to think that their best contribution is through heckling in the House. What kind of defence could they possibly have to share with their constituents who wonder why their members of Parliament on the government side are complicit in ensuring that a bill that will see civilians die is rammed through Parliament without their contribution in debate, but obviously with their full support, as they vote for debate to be hurried and for this bill to become legislation?

I share the feeling of shame, frankly, that Canada would now be a country, as a result of this bill that includes clause 11, that would be complicit in these kinds of horrors. I would say to let history document that members of the Conservative government actively pursued an agenda that does not improve the lives of people around the world and that actively obstructs those, including former allies, who have worked with Canada in disarmament and on the ban of land mines. It is a government that is trying with great gusto to reconfigure the representation of a country that no Canadian will buy.

I look forward to talking about the government's agenda in the lead-up to the 2015 election. I am sure that their arguments, certainly in this area, when it comes to their foreign affairs agenda, will not pass muster with Canadians.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to speak in opposition to Bill C-6, an act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions. I would like to begin today by making it clear that history will note that in this debate, on such a critical issue, we have not seen one government member rise and make a speech in defence of an indefensible bill.

Business of Supply June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that question, and I look forward to reading Hansard to see that insightful comment.

What we are seeing from the Conservative government is a real misreading of what matters to Canadians, but we cannot just leave it there. I made the comment in my speech that this is fundamentally about a vision of Canada they adhere to every single day. It is a vision where a few wealthy people, who also happen to be some of the Conservatives' friends, benefit. It is a vision where women in our country are worse off. It is a vision of leaving people at the margins and not investing in the kinds of programs that would benefit them and their communities across the country, no matter their income level, no matter where they live or who they are. It is a fundamentally unfair vision.

I share the concern of so many Canadians that our country is becoming more and more unequal. I would say that this is a warning sign. We know that as countries become more unequal, things become more difficult for people who live in these countries, if we look at health indicators and indicators of well-being.

We have work to do here to turn the tide. Sadly, the Conservative government is keen on creating a more unequal Canada, whether in terms of gender equality or in terms of income inequality.

I am proud to stand with the NDP, not just to fight against that inequality but to propose ways we can take our Canada back, our country back, and build a better country for all.

Business of Supply June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague is hesitant to hear what I have to say, because it is easier to think that income splitting is going to sound good. Canadians are getting to know the truth. This is an idea that they understand is fundamentally unfair, and I can guarantee that if they tell Canadians they could spend $3 billion on something that would benefit them, they sure would not be mentioning income splitting.

Business of Supply June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, to riff off one of the words my colleague used, “disturbing”, if we want to talk about what is disturbing, it is how the Conservatives are so willing to spend $3 billion each year for something that would benefit 15% of Canadians, and some hardly so, at the expense of investing it in programs and strategies that would benefit all Canadians, including child care, housing, and employment and training strategies.

Business of Supply June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House and defend our opposition day motion that opposes the government's regressive proposal to bring in income splitting, a proposal that will not benefit the vast majority of Canadians, a proposal that will help turn the clock back on women's equality in our country.

Canadians need a break financially. My constituents tell me this often. They work hard and they try their very best, but at the end of the month they still struggle to pay their bills, or afford adequate child care, or afford the rent and sometimes to put food on the table and clothes on their kids' backs. The bottom line is that we must do more to make life more affordable.

The median income in my riding is $45,961. That means half of the people in my riding in Northern Manitoba earn more than that and half earn less.

I represent many people who live in poverty and people who live in communities with chronic and historic unemployment.

The reality is that the Conservative income splitting scheme will not put even $1 back into the pockets of most of the people who I represent. In fact, 62% of Manitobans will not benefit from income splitting one bit.

Income splitting would not be a gift from the Conservative government to taxpayers. It would be a gift to their wealthy friends. It would cost Canadians billions of dollars to implement the income splitting plan and every Canadian would be paying for it while the same could not be said about the benefits. The question that New Democrats are asking is, how is this possibly fair?

The New Democrats know that we can build a robust economy that will bring shared prosperity to all Canadians. Income splitting reveals, yet again, that the Conservatives only want to give tax breaks to their wealthiest of friends.

As the critic for status of women and as the member of Parliament for Churchill, I would call the Conservative income splitting plan nothing more than a smoke screen. It would not help lower income families, single parents or the majority of first nations and Métis people across our country. Not only would it not help the majority of women, it would have the potential to damage gender equality in our country.

I will discuss the many ways that income splitting has the potential to hurt the status of women in our country.

First, income splitting would not help single parents or single people. We know that many single parents, particularly many who live in poverty, are women. In some ways, income splitting would reward married people and punish single people, divorced couples, lone parent families and intergenerational families, meaning families that raise their children with the help of grandparents and other relatives.

In my experience in my visits across my constituency, I meet many kinds of loving, supportive families. The last thing that non-nuclear families need is the federal government promoting a thinly veiled moral bias against them in the form of bad policy and regressive taxes.

This tax break effectively tells people that only if they are married and only if they are in a marriage where one spouse earns considerably less than the other, do they deserve a tax break.

Many days in the House we wonder, given the policies put forward by the government, if we are going back to the 1950s or the 1850s. In the case of the income splitting proposal, the Conservative government is putting forward the classic vision of the 1950s family, one that might be modelled on June and Ward Cleaver. Earlier in the House I heard talk of Don Draper.

The reality is that Canadians have moved on from the 1950s. It is 2014. The reality of the Canadian family is not that of the 1950s. We should be looking at what we need to do to support today's Canadian families rather than imposing a moralistic view of how the government sees families now.

Furthermore, 88% of lone-parent families are headed by women, and women, on average, earn 19% less than men, so when we talk about who benefits from income splitting, we are not only talking about wealthy people, we are often talking about men who are wealthy.

As I mentioned, income splitting will cost the Canadian public $3 billion each year and will deliver no benefit whatsoever to 85% of Canadians. This is a kind of reverse taxation system, where the large majority will pay their taxes into the pockets of the wealthy minority. As well, it would cost our provinces a further $1.9 billion every year.

I have one major question for the government. What else could we possibly be spending that money on? For starters, there could be a national child care strategy that would see every child in Canada receive high-quality, affordable care that could be established for a fraction of what the government wants to spend on income splitting. A truly national early learning program would cost $5 billion over four years.

Child care is currently costing the average family between $900 and $1,200 a month, a debilitating cost that too many Canadian families in this day and age cannot afford.

Let us think of what it would be like to put most of that money into the pockets of Canadian families. Let us think of what it would mean for women to truly have the choice to continue their careers and care for their children as they saw fit, without economic duress being a contributing factor.

I raise this example, because income splitting is not a take it or leave it program. With its price tag, it is either/or. We could either have our government spend our money on income splitting for the wealthiest, or we could have a national child care program, university tuition subsidies, a national housing strategy, or increased health transfers. Indeed, for the price of income splitting, we could have a bit of all of these things, and each one of these factors would contribute vastly to people's individual finances, their family's well-being, and the strength of our economy as a whole.

We know that increasing women's equal participation in the labour force has a multiplier effect on the economy that would increase our GDP by billions of dollars. Child care is not only the right thing to do to give parents choices but is the economically smart thing to do for our communities and our country.

Income splitting would hurt the status of women in other ways the Conservatives do not want us to know about. When higher income earners, mostly men, transfer a larger portion of income to a spouse, it makes it look as if the lower-income person is actually earning more than they are. Statistically, as I noted earlier, in Canada, due to the gender wage gap, this would likely be the female spouse. Income splitting would work to artificially inflate a woman's income. This would give us a false sense of data. We would lose sight of the persistent challenge women have in this country: earning equal wages. It would get even worse. When a couple broke up, it would seem as though one spouse earned more than they did throughout the partnership. This could have an effect on how much alimony or child support they would earn and could also have an effect on their child tax benefit once they were single. I can see this placing thousands of women in financially precarious situations, brought to them entirely by the government's plan for income splitting.

For these reasons and more, I am proud to stand alongside my New Democrat colleagues in opposition to the government's plan for income splitting. We want our taxes to work toward the collective good and for the health and prosperity of all Canadians.

Conservatives, it is clear, want a system that benefits the few, not the many, and I believe that Canadians understand fundamentally how unfair that is.

Committees of the House June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

Our dissenting report starts off with that same observation. As the official opposition, we wanted to focus on sexual harassment in the RCMP, since this is a serious issue that has caused a lot of harm to women in the RCMP.

Canadians want the federal government to show some leadership. This is a spectacular example of how the government refused to show leadership and did everything it could to conduct a much broader study and avoid putting the focus on the RCMP.

It is even more shocking that we spent only one session hearing testimony from the RCMP. That is unacceptable, in light of how serious the problems are within the force. Worst of all, the committee did not make a single recommendation specifically about the RCMP.

It means nothing for the federal Conservative government to say that it supports our police officers if it does not take action and focus the study on cases of sexual harassment in the RCMP.