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NDP MP for Parkdale—High Park (Ontario)
Won her last election, in 2011, with 47.20% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Copyright June 17th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, over 90% of published materials are simply not accessible to blind and visually impaired Canadians. The Marrakesh treaty on copyright seeks to fix this problem. Sixty-seven countries have signed on, including the EU, U.K., India, and China, but not Canada.
The Conservatives left these measures out of their proposed copyright changes. The treaty's deadline is June 27. Will the Conservatives do the right thing and sign this treaty so we can improve access for visually impaired Canadians?
Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act June 17th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I do agree that we need to follow the money.
It is evident to those of us on this side of the House that the government's number one job seems to be to reduce the size of government. When it comes to public safety, that is not a good thing. Surely, a basic responsibility of government is to protect public safety. Whether it is our roads, our skies, our seas, or our rail, that is a fundamental responsibility of government.
My colleague referred to safety management systems. That jargon hides the fact that what they basically do is cut back on government inspectors, the people who go in and visit workplaces, and check up on the trucks on our roads and the trains on our rails. It turns much of the safety responsibility over to the employer. It is a competitive economy and people in business obviously want to make money and get business. They try to cut costs. Making businesses responsible for safety is a contradiction. We need independent government inspections.
I will just say one last thing. In my community of Parkdale—High Park, we are surrounded by railway lines, and we see hundreds of DOT-111 tank cars rolling through our community. People do not know what is in those cars. They do not know what precautions are in place. They do not know that safety inspections have taken place. They are kept in the dark. It is about time that we let some light in and increase public safety by letting Canadians know what is in these tank cars, and reassuring them that we have inspectors from the government who are going in and conducting the inspections to make sure that public safety is the number one priority.
Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act June 17th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, in starting my remarks, I would definitely like to thank my fabulous colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River for her remarks and for the great representation she provides for the constituents of Scarborough—Rouge River.
I am happy to participate in the debate on 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.
As folks can well imagine, it does make a number of changes to a number of pieces of legislation. As my colleague has said, the NDP will be supporting this bill at third reading because it does make modest improvements to the existing legislation, although we did make some proposed amendments to the bill, which we thought would strengthen it significantly. Unfortunately, the government was not open to those amendments.
Let me just briefly describe what the bill proposes to do.
Part 1 would enact the Aviation Industry Indemnity Act to indemnify the aviation industry for the cost of damages in the event of what they call “interferences” for things like armed conflict or an attack, things that normally would be outside the normal operation of the aviation industry, a crisis of some kind.
Part 2 would amend the Aeronautics Act to provide the Airworthiness Investigative Authority with the powers to investigate aviation accidents or incidents involving civilians and aircraft or aeronautical installations operated by or on behalf of the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Forces or a visiting force.
Part 3 would amend the Canada Marine Act in relation to the effective day of the appointment of a director of the Port Authority.
Part 4 would amend the Marine Liability Act to implement, in Canada, the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea. That is a 2010 convention which basically establishes a liability scheme to compensate victims in the event of a spill of hazardous or noxious substances. It puts a limit to that liability, which the act details.
Part 5 would introduce requirements for operators of oil handling facilities, including the requirement to notify the minister of their operations and to submit plans to the minister.
The NDP supports this bill, but we believe there should not be a limit to the liability. We do not believe Canadians should be on the hook for clean-up costs and damages following a spill of hazardous or noxious substances.
The Conservatives have even refused reasonable amendments that would increase the liability. Canadians would ultimately be on the hook if the damages exceeded that liability.
Basically, the New Democrats are committed to preventing spills on our coasts whatsoever. We want to ensure that we have an effective Coast Guard and that we have effective environmental precautions so our coasts are protected. We do question the government when it takes actions like closing down B.C.'s oil spill response centre. If we want to make the coasts safer, why would we close down the oil spill response centre? Shutting down the Kitsilano Coast Guard station and gutting environmental emergency response programs, these do not sound like the actions of a government that has the interests of the safety of Canadians as its priority.
However, as I said, there are some positive parts of this bill. The required pilotage and increased surveillance is a small step in the right direction, but the bill is very limited in its scope. New Democrats believe that the government needs to reverse the effects of the drastic cuts of last year's budget on tanker safety to really be effective.
If we are talking about tanker safety, let us take a look at some of the more recent statistics. Tanker traffic has increased dramatically and, therefore, has created an increased risk of an oil spill in Canadian waters. The federal government decreases marine communication traffic centres and environmental emergency programs even though estimates state that oil tanker traffic has already tripled between 2005 and 2010 and that oil tanker traffic is planned to triple again by 2016. Therefore, we are seeing dramatically increased oil tanker traffic, which would require stronger measures by the government.
Proposed pipeline expansion projects would increase crude deliveries from 300,000 to 700,000 barrels per day. We are seeing a tremendous increase in traffic and we should have the strongest precautionary measures possible. One of the precautionary measures is to ensure that the polluter pays, so that if there is a spill or a problem, which hopefully there is not and something we can prevent, the polluter pays for the damage caused.
We know what the government's record is when it comes to environmental protection. We have seen in omnibus budget bill after omnibus budget bill the extent of the cuts, such as the gutting of environmental protections and the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. A major urban heritage river, the Humber River, runs through my riding of Parkdale—High Park. It is truly a national treasure, which is why it was deemed to be a heritage river. It has been delisted from the Navigable Waters Protection Act, all except the very mouth of the river. That is of great concern to conservationists, biologists, and the community at large. New Democrats are trying to get that river and many other rivers put back under the protection of the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
The government is also making changes in aviation safety, which is one of the issues addressed in this bill. In my riding of Parkdale—High Park it is home to many flight attendants and pilots, people who work in the aviation industry. One of the issues that is of great concern to them is the number of flight attendants on aircraft. We all remember, at least in Toronto we all remember, back in 2005 when Air France flight 358 crashed at Toronto Pearson International Airport. It was a horrific crash. When people first saw the smoke and fire, they wondered whether anyone would survive, but the full complement of cabin crew managed to evacuate all the passengers from that burning aircraft in less than 90 seconds. Talk about professionalism and dedication. They were exemplary.
We know from the history of aviation accidents that having more flight attendants positioned at emergency exits improves every passenger's chance of escaping and surviving in the event of an aircraft accident. We have seen the government previously attempt to reduce the number of flight attendants on aircraft. Right now, the ratio is 1:40. It is trying to reduce that by 25% and increase it to 1:50. I believe that is fundamentally wrong and it could be very dangerous for the travelling public.
While New Democrats support this bill, we have many other concerns about public safety and environmental protection. Frankly, the scope of the changes in this bill are very limited.
Petitions June 17th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud today to present almost 18,000 petitions from people across Canada. Members might ask what the issue is that has generated such enthusiasm from Canadians. There is a desire to strengthen our laws to protect animals. These petitions are in support of two bills to strengthen our laws against animal cruelty.
Animals are not just property and they are not just working animals. Animals are sentient beings capable of thinking and feeling pain. They should not be treated as property and they should be better protected under our animal cruelty legislation. We need significant penalties and a greater likelihood of conviction in the case of an offence.
On behalf of the almost 18,000 people who have signed these petitions, and on behalf of the many other Canadians who support the well-being of Canada's companion animals and other animals, I do submit these petitions. I urge my colleagues on all sides of the House to support our bills to strengthen our animal cruelty legislation.
Employment June 11th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, this is just more proof of gross mismanagement on the part of the Conservative government.
For years experts have been calling for better labour market statistics, which is crucial information that can help government craft the right policies. Instead the government cut funding for labour market information by 20% in just the past two years. It cut millions more from key Statistics Canada programs. No wonder the Conservatives are failing so badly at managing our labour market.
Why will the minister not stop this war on evidence and restore funding for labour market research?
Activist for the Humber River June 11th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, today I rise to recognize and show my support for Madeleine McDowell, a lifelong activist for the Humber River in my riding of Parkdale—High Park, in Toronto. Working as a conservationist and historian, Ms. McDowell was a leading force in the campaign to have the Humber recognized as a Canadian heritage river.
This past Sunday, on Canadian Rivers Day, I joined Madeleine and members of the community to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Humber's heritage designation. Madeleine has worked tirelessly to protect the Humber and keep its rich history alive. The only heritage river that is accessible by foot, bike, car, and subway, the Humber is a cherished part of Toronto's urban ecosystem.
We are truly fortunate to have Madeleine as a community leader and advocate for Canada's natural heritage. On behalf of my whole community, we thank Madeleine McDowell.
Main Estimates, 2014-15 June 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very eloquent speech. She has really shed a lot of light on the nature of the debate today. It is about whether this House agrees to continue to fund the Senate in Canada to the tune of $92 million.
I come from a province, Ontario, that also used to have a Senate. It abolished it many years ago, as did a number of other provinces and as have many other countries in the world.
When we meet people from other countries and talk about the Canadian Senate, they think of a senator as someone who has been elected and who is democratically accountable to the electorate. They do not fully understand that, in fact, many of those who are in the Senate are failed candidates from the governing party, people who have been fundraisers, loyal campaigners, and so on. They are basically partisans who have been put in the Senate as some kind of reward. As a quid pro quo, they often continue to work on behalf of their political party.
Some have said that they do some good work and that there are some studies that they have done. Perhaps my colleague could answer, then, what kind of studies $92 million could actually buy. If the point of the Senate is to do the odd study that might be of use, how many studies could $92 million buy the Canadian people?
Business of Supply June 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I do not doubt my colleague's sincerity on this issue. I know she has spoken out on inequality, as have other colleagues in the Liberal Party, and I do want to acknowledge that.
However, out of power, the Liberals tend to hope that Canadians have amnesia. Liberals do have to be accountable for past actions. I will remind the hon. member and all colleagues here that 94% of the increase in inequality over the last couple of decades has occurred during Liberal governments. They enacted many measures that were extremely harmful to Canadians, measures in health care and social spending that were downloaded to the provinces and that we have not recovered from to this day.
I am glad she raised child care, because in more than a decade of Liberal governments, with majority government after majority government and surplus budget after surplus budget, not one child care space was created in this country. I think that was a shameful waste of opportunity.
Business of Supply June 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, through you, I would ask my colleague opposite why her party is opposed to logical social and economic policy. Why is it so proud of making cuts that economists across the country believe are bad economic policy?
There are some very good proposals for tax credits and tax cuts that would benefit Canadians. The eco-energy tax credit, which was first proposed by our former leader, Jack Layton, was a job creator, was good for the environment, and helped people improve their homes. The Conservatives, in a minority, did adopt that proposal from the NDP.
However, what has the current government done? It cut that proposal. That was a tax credit that actually made some sense, and the government wanted nothing to do with it.
Business of Supply June 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise on behalf of my constituents in Parkdale--High Park in Toronto to speak to this important motion submitted to the House by my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley. I will read the motion:
That, in the opinion of the House, the drastic increase in income inequality under recent Liberal and Conservative governments harms Canadian society; and that the House express its opposition to the Conservative income splitting proposal which will make this problem worse and provide no benefit to 86% of Canadians.
This is of great interest to my constituents in Parkdale--High Park, because we have a very diverse community in the city of Toronto. We have very low-income people in the community. We have tenants. We have homeowners. There are people with varying incomes, single families. and non-traditional families. There are people who work in a wide diversity of occupations.
I would ask Canadians, through the House, especially members of my community of Parkdale--High Park, this. If they were to ask their government to invest $3 billion every single year on their behalf, how would they want it invested? They might ask for better housing. They might ask that every Canadian have a decent place to live. So many families would say to invest in a quality national child care system, like in most modern democracies around the world. Let us invest in our children first. Would that not be a wonderful thing for the majority of Canadian families to take advantage of?
We have a baby explosion in my riding. Urban legend says that my riding has one of the highest rates of newborns. I do not know if that is true, but there are a lot of young families. I hear from so many parents that if they can even find child care, it costs them practically a second mortgage to pay for that service, because it is so expensive for parents across the country, except in the province of Quebec. While it is not perfect, Quebec certainly has a far better, far more affordable, accessible child care system.
Many of our community members might ask why we do not fulfill the dream of that great social democrat, Tommy Douglas. Tommy Douglas brought us medicare, and Canadians who have to stay in a hospital in this country thank their lucky stars that they have our medicare system and that they do not have to mortgage their houses or go into deep debt to have a hospital stay.
Tommy Douglas had a bigger vision. He wanted not only acute care covered through our medicare system but also a pharmacare system. He wanted us to be able to afford the medications we need when we need them and not have to go into debt or choose between paying the rent and paying for the drugs we need. He also envisioned a home care system so that people with disabilities and seniors could stay in their own homes and have the care they need. He envisioned long-term care so that if people had to go into long-term care, they would not have a situation, as we do in the province of Ontario, where time and time again there are scandals about some of the most vulnerable people in our society, our seniors, people with serious disabilities, being exploited and not getting the care they need in private home settings.
We might want to fulfill his dream of a dental care program so that every person in this country, every child, every senior, had access to good quality dental care.
These would be some of the wonderful ideas Canadians could suggest for investing $3 billion a year.
Instead, the government would take $3 billion a year of Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars, taxes that everyone pays, and spend it on the wealthiest 14% of Canadians. Even in that wealthiest 14% of Canadians, two-thirds of the wealthiest would get maybe $500 a year, if they were lucky. They would get a little bit, but many of the people in the other third would get $5,000 or more back from our tax dollars. This is taking from everybody, especially the middle class, and giving to the very richest. It is opposite of Robin Hood, and it is simply bad economic policy.
It is not just New Democrats who are saying it is bad economic policy. At the C.D. Howe Institute, the most credible economists in Canada today are speaking out against this measure. Even my hon. former colleague, former minister of finance Jim Flaherty, expressed his concern that this was not a good way to spend our tax dollars. I notice that even our colleagues in the Liberal Party have belatedly come on board and said they also do not think it is good policy. We are glad to see that change of heart on their behalf, because this plan leaves out nine out of 10 Canadian families. It is simply bad economic policy.
Let us take a look at who is completely left out. Anybody who makes less than $44,000 a year is left out. If a couple make above that but are both in the same tax bracket, they are left out. Single people, couples with no kids, couples with kids who are over the age of 18, and people who are divorced are all left out.
I want to say too that this proposal, this Conservative plan, especially when combined with the completely and indefensibly inadequate child care system in this country, would also encourage many women to just stay home. I think that is why many of my Conservative colleagues are so in favour of it. They have heard from REAL Women, the social conservative women's organization, which has said that it likes this kind of tax policy because it encourages the traditional family.
I am a big fan of the TV show Modern Family, because when I go out in my community of Parkdale—High Park, it is more like Modern Family. However, this policy is more like Leave it to Beaver. That might have been a swell period after the war, and I am sure some of my colleagues across the aisle have fond memories of it, but some equate it to the Mad Men era, and Don Draper would love this policy. Don Draper would be able to claim the full amount under this proposal. He would love this.
It is not proposing something that makes good use of our tax dollars or something that makes sense to the vast majority of Canadians and fits with the modern reality.
This motion also points to increased inequality in Canada. We saw it skyrocket in the 1990s under our colleagues, the Liberals, when they made the biggest social spending cuts in the history of our country and cut the national housing program, the national minimum wage, and, sadly, many other programs.
What New Democrats want is a fairer, shared prosperity for all Canadians. We want to improve services. We would put $3 billion to work for the benefit of all Canadians. Whether living in my community or by the Humber River or in Parkdale or High Park or Roncesvalles, all families would benefit from those improved social services. They would not have to be Don Draper or the Cleaver family from the 1950s. We would enact modern policy to benefit all Canadians.