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  • Her favourite word is clause.

NDP MP for Parkdale—High Park (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 47.20% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Rouge National Urban Park Act October 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that as the member for Parkdale—High Park, I may well be the only member in the House who has the word “park” twice in the name of my riding, so I am very happy to stand to speak about parks.

Specifically today we are debating Bill C-40, An Act respecting the Rouge National Urban Park. Coming from an urban riding in downtown Toronto where the city is growing in its urban density, we are seeing increasing numbers of condos, high rises and growing stratification of people of different economic means. Some are doing extremely well by the economy, some are staying fairly stable, but then some are falling further and further behind. A University of Toronto professor from my riding, David Hulchanski, has talked about this idea of three cities, where we have three distinct populations living as one. I see that even within the area I represent.

Some people in our community are very well off, professionals, people who buy homes that are not just worth one million dollars, but multi-million dollars. They have a lot of choices about where they go and how they participate in recreational activities. They can choose to belong to a private club in the city. There is a waterfront club right in my riding. They can take a vacation in northern Ontario or anywhere else in the world. Then a growing number of people, and I see in my community, do not get to go anywhere. They stay in the city. They have never been to Muskoka or out on a boat. Their options are rather limited.

In our riding of Parkdale—High Park, we have High Park, which until now has been the largest park in the city. Through the visionary action of John and Jemima Howard many years ago, this park was bequeathed to the city with the understanding that it would always remain free and open for access to all. On a summer day, families, not just from the surrounding communities but from all over, come to the park. They have picnics, play sports and conduct a variety of activities in the park. It is a really wonderful thing to see. In fact, people from around the world come to see the cherry blossoms when they are in bloom, a gift from the Japanese government. It is a source of great enjoyment.

My kids played soccer there. There is skating and many activities, but it is also an area where there has been a great deal of work to protect the natural environment. There are old oak forests that are unique to the area and a great deal of work goes into protecting and preserving the natural ecology of that area. It is a great treasure of which we are all very proud.

The notion of creating the first national urban park is quite exciting. I see the same potential for communities to participate, to have a variety of activities or access to nature in a way that, frankly, a lot of people growing up in downtown Toronto in towers, whether condos or rentals, would otherwise not have the ability to do.

It is in fact a real treasure. It is something that one generation can pass on to the next for the enjoyment of people in the future. It is something that has to be done well. It has to be done right. The fact that this park would be created is something that we are very pleased about. As New Democrats, we will be supporting it. I do, however, want to raise some legitimate concerns about the creation of the park.

One thing I have come to really understand, with the creation of High Park and the legacy of John and Jemima Howard, is that they got it right when they bequeathed this park to the city. They got it absolutely right. In downtown Toronto, if this land were made available for development today, I cannot imagine how much money these acres of waterfront property in the centre of the city would be worth. However, this parkland has been protected for the present and future generations.

How this new Rouge Park is structured will be very important. The Rouge Valley is home to over 1,000 species of plants and animals, including a number of species at risk. It is made up of Carolinian and mixed wood forests. They are very rare forest areas. It is certainly an area worth preserving and protecting.

The fact that the federal government would create this national park was laid out in the first throne speech of the Conservative government. We applaud that. This would be the first urban national park in the country and one of the largest in the entire North American continent. The funding was laid out for this in the economic action plan of 2012. The 2012 budget said that there would be $143 million over 10 years for the development and interim operations of the park, and $7.6 million a year for continuing operations.

The main issue is the framework for the creation of this park and the protection of the environment within it. The park is currently protected under a whole range of existing action plans that were developed for this area. There has been incredible community engagement in the creation of this park. There have been management plans, greenbelt plans, watershed plans, heritage action plans, a variety of plans into which the community has poured a great deal of consultation, expertise and hope to get this right for the future.

Unfortunately, Bill C-40 does not embrace the strong foundation of conservation policy that is provided in the plans that I just mentioned, in addition to the laws that have been passed already. The concern is that the bill, if it passes unchanged, will undermine the ecological integrity and the health of the Rouge Valley.

Again, I would like to say that if we do not get it right from the beginning and if we do not set out the proper framework, the after-effects will be felt by generations.

We want to see a Rouge national urban park that incorporates the same legal protections as other national parks. That would really make sense. This is an idea that has broad support from environmental organizations, local community groups and residents. While we believe that the bill is a step in the right direction, we have concerns that, with the way it is drafted, it will undermine the ecological conservation of this land for the future.

New Democrats think that the legislation and management plan should adopt the long-standing Rouge Park vision, with its goals and objectives. We think the bill should strengthen and implement the existing environmental protection policy framework. We believe that more of the park should be dedicated to nature and public enjoyment and that we should be setting as a priority the ecological health and conservation of the Carolinian and mixed woodland plain forest.

There are a number of other points that others have raised. Again, I want to give the government credit for moving on this. I talked about High Park in my riding and another feature of my riding is the western boundary, which is Humber River. The Humber River is the only national urban heritage river in the country. It is the only heritage river that can be reached by subway. It is a very wonderful, historic place in the city.

There was great concern when, in one of the Conservative omnibus budget bills, the protection for this river was removed, except for the mouth of the river. Therefore, I thank my colleague from York South—Weston, who introduced a bill to once again resume the protection of the Humber River, because it is of tremendous heritage and environmental importance to our community, and we believe, as it is designated, to the country as well.

In closing, I want to urge my colleagues to really think through the content of the bill. Again, we salute its existence, but the detail of it, the specific measures of it, can and should be improved upon and we hope that all parties can work together in the House to make that happen.

Manufacturing Industry October 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we have to love that voluntary compliance.

October is National Manufacturing Month. We would not know it from the minister's press release but Canada has lost 415,000 good manufacturing jobs under the Conservative government. The Conservatives still have no plan to boost investment and innovation and they have cut support for R and D.

Manufacturing creates high-wage, high-quality jobs. When will the Conservatives start defending the interests of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who work in the manufacturing sector?

Transport October 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is government negligence that people are most concerned about.

Conservatives have also been failing Canadians when it comes to vehicle safety. The number of confirmed deaths due to faulty GM ignition switches has climbed to 24 but there are many more alleged to be linked to the defect. In spite of this, the Conservatives refuse to bring GM and departmental officials to committee to answer questions.

Canadians deserve answers. Can the minister at least tell us, so far, how much has GM been fined here in Canada?

Military Contribution Against ISIL October 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, let me clarify the amendment. We accept that a local force needs to be capable of defending itself in order to maintain international peace and security, so we have argued that we need to boost our aid to the humanitarian effort. We need to provide assistance for the investigation and prosecution of war crimes. We call on the government to not deploy Canadian Forces in combat. We call on the government to seek House approval for any extension of the mission, to report back the costs of the mission and to offer wholehearted support to the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces. Our goal is not to engage in a military mission. We want that deleted from the motion.

It is unfortunate that our colleagues in the Liberal Party supported the initial involvement in a mission in Iraq, because that was the slippery slope that has led us to this point today. We are now facing a bombing mission in Iraq because of my colleagues in the Liberal Party.

Military Contribution Against ISIL October 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as the member can wisely understand, I will not speculate on what could be or possibly might be an acceptable bombing mission or military intervention. Our hope is that we do not have to engage in a military mission.

There is something we know now. We have the facts. We do not have to speculate. Lives can be saved today with an even greater humanitarian intervention. We do not have to hypothesize about that. Millions of people are in misery today and their lives may be at risk because of the humanitarian crisis.

Rather than getting our mindset on what mission we might support, let us focus on the mission today, which is a humanitarian mission. Let us save lives today. That is what Canada should do.

Military Contribution Against ISIL October 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join the debate today on behalf of my constituents in Parkdale—High Park. I am splitting my time with the member for Davenport, a neighbouring riding in Toronto.

This is a very important debate. There is no more serious decision that can come before the House than a decision for military action, a decision to send Canada's children, our sons and daughters, our wives, our husbands and our parents to war. It is one of the most grave decisions that we have as parliamentarians.

There are many dangerous places in the world today. I have, like many here, been engaged in international work as a parliamentarian, but certainly for many years before my time in Parliament. I have worked with people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where sexual violence has been a horrific tool of war, a place where it is estimated that even to this day, over 40,000 people a month are losing their lives, and many more lives are destroyed through displacement and violence of various kinds.

The Central African Republic is another place where, since December, it is estimated that more than 5,000 people have been killed.

Syria has been a very high profile area of conflict. It is estimated that close to 200,000 have lost their lives. This has evolved into a major humanitarian crisis, where many are in refugee camps or are seeking refuge in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

There are places that are just very violent. Saudi Arabia, for example, has capital punishment. One of the most common tools for execution is beheading. Just this past August, more than 20 people were executed by beheading.

There are many dangerous, violent places in the world, but certainly the actions of ISIL have particularly gripped the public media, the public debate, the consciousness of people around the world because of its violence, its tactics and its skilled use of social media as a tool to terrorize.

Many thousands have been killed. ISIL has been using horrible tactics such as conscripting of children and sexual violence to conduct its terror campaign. It has left many people displaced, more than 1.8 million civilians in Iraq alone. However, about 5.2 million are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Let us make no mistake. The actions of ISIL are reprehensible, horrific and deplorable, and there is no question that people being subjected to its terror campaign are looking for help.

Incredible humanitarian assistance is required. Certainly the UN has highlighted this. The Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs at the UN has said that humanitarian conditions in Iraq continue to deteriorate, and 5.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. That assistance ranges from water, sanitation, hygiene, access to food and very basic needs like shelter. We are coming into the fall and it will soon be winter. People do not have adequate shelter.

Also, there are: Mobile health units, especially in hard to access areas; protection for minorities, because these are the people who have been especially affected by the fighting; gender-sensitive responses for women and children who are being targeted for sexual assault; women and children who are trafficked, abducted and forced into recruitment, fighting, marriages, and as I said, sexual-based violence. There are children who not only have basic humanitarian needs, but they also need education and counselling for this trauma.

The United Nations has declared the situation the highest level of emergency. If we want to save lives and provide immediate assistance, it is with humanitarian aid that Canada can best assist the people who are affected by ISIL.

The United Nations passed resolution 2178 on September 24, which did not advocate military intervention. It advocated for UN member states to ensure that people who financed or otherwise supported terrorist activity, including and specifically that of ISIL, would be held legally accountable and brought to justice. The resolution did not authorize military action.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commented that, “Over the longer-term, the biggest threat to terrorists is not the power of missiles – it is the politics of inclusion”. I would argue that military aid is not the biggest need; it is humanitarian aid.

The question the New Democrats ask is, will military aid help or hurt?

There has been some suggestion that the bombing missions by the United States have in fact prompted more recruits to join ISIL and become engaged in its struggle. Therefore, are we spreading the problem as these fighters disperse to avoid bombs, and they disperse among the civilian population? Are we creating a bigger problem than would otherwise have been?

In other words, would a bombing mission help or hurt? What is the plan? What is the goal? How do we know if we are succeeding? How do we know when we have succeeded? Will there be ground troops and what is the plan for that?

It is a little different to say to Canadians, or to any country, that we will be dropping bombs from a very high altitude and nobody on our side is going to get hurt. However, as we have seen in conflict after conflict, that becomes a slippery slope and quickly evolves into boots on the ground because there are always reasons, such as we have to finish the job, or we are not effective enough or there is more we could be doing.

We need to know what the plan is. What is the duration? Is it going to help or hurt? Are we dealing effectively with the humanitarian needs?

We have many questions that have not been adequately addressed in spite of the many passionate speeches from the other side of the House.

On behalf of my community in Parkdale—High Park, and I do not want to by any stretch of the imagination say that public opinion is unanimous, of the people who have contacted me by email, phone and those who have walked in the door, overwhelmingly the opinion is that people do not want us to engage in a bombing campaign against ISIL. They support humanitarian aid and whatever assistance we can provide. They understand the seriousness of this threat, but they do not want us to become engaged in what could be another long, open-ended war against what or who, wondering who would be allies and who knows when it will end or what the finish line even is.

I am proud of our leader, our critics on this file and our party. We will vote no to the motion when it comes to a vote.

Petitions October 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present petitions signed by hundreds of students in my riding who are concerned about the toxic litter of cigarette butts in their community. They have launched a campaign to clean up the neighbourhood to make it clear of cigarette litter.

The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to provide guidance and support for all other levels of government to establish funding for the mandatory installation of cigarette butt disposal bins in high traffic areas and to address the issue by establishing comprehensive guidelines and a strategy for both intervention and prevention of the litter's toxic impacts on our environment, such as finding an alternative environmentally friendly way of disposing of this litter.

Citizenship and Immigration October 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, back to the topic at hand, we already know that the consequence of their appeal will be more kids being hospitalized for serious illnesses.

The Federal Court said that the impact of the government's policy on vulnerable and innocent children “shocks the conscience and outrages [Canadian] standards of decency”.

Yet, the Conservatives have the gall to stand there and say it is about saving money. No Canadian parent thinks that saving money by making children suffer is a good thing.

Will the Conservatives instead do the right thing and withdraw their appeal?

Citizenship and Immigration October 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, he should actually talk to some refugees, like people on this side of the House do.

It fell to the Federal Court to defend Canadian values, and the court found the Conservatives' policy with respect to refugees “cruel and unusual”. Instead of respecting our shared values and instead of showing compassion for refugees, the government is appealing the decision.

It is unbelievable. The result of the government's intransigence is that desperate parents will put off help for their kids until they are very sick. Pregnant women will go without prenatal care.

Why will the government not show some humanity and drop the appeal?

Yom Kippur October 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, tonight members of the Jewish faith in Canada and around the world will gather to observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

I would like to recognize the Jewish people of my riding of Parkdale—High Park and all Jewish Canadians celebrating Yom Kippur beginning at sundown today.

Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, focuses on atonement and repentance. It is also a time for families to come together, to reconnect and reflect on the past year and the year to come. It is a time for prayer, for reflection and for family.

As Jewish families observe this solemn holiday, let us all commit to working together to build a better future.

Tzom Kal.