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  • Her favourite word is chair.

NDP MP for Scarborough—Rouge River (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 40.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Davenport hit the nail on the head when he said that the government makes announcements, shows up for ribbon cuttings, and then does not do much to maintain whatever it is that has been opened.

I am very concerned. There is already a $3-billion backlog in deferred maintenance at Parks Canada. There have been staffing cuts of 33% in science at Parks Canada. There has been a large budget announcement for spending, but the spending is not going to happen until after the next election. One government cannot bind the hands of a future government. It is promising money that a future government will spend which will not be a Conservative government.

The Conservatives are expecting that the $386 million will be spent after 2015. That will be under a New Democratic government, and the Conservatives are saying that New Democrats are going to spend it. We will spend money to ensure that our parks are maintained, but why is the government not spending the money that it says it is going to spend today?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing is absolutely correct. The commissioner of the environment identified that there is consistently a wide gap between what the government commits to and what it is actually achieving.

I did mention the departmental performance report in November 2013 and the $3-billion backlog in deferred maintenance at Parks Canada. There has also been the elimination of jobs within Parks Canada. Budget cuts have had a huge impact, and it has led to 33% staffing cuts in science in Parks Canada There is 60 of the 179 positions that were eliminated.

When we create new parks, existing Parks Canada staff are responsible for the creation and maintenance as well as the infrastructure, yet the government is taking 33% of the parks support to do that. It does not make any sense.

In the 2013-14 budget announcements, there was announcement of money to be spent on infrastructure and maintenance of the parks. However, I believe the timeline has been absolutely ridiculous. The budget announcement said that this year, 2014, the government would spend $1 million; in 2015, it would spend $4 million; and then, of course, after the next election, it would spend another $386 million. I think it is absolutely absurd that the government is committing to spending $386 after the next election.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as this is the first time I am rising in the House since the incidents of yesterday, I just want to take a moment to thank all the House of Commons security services and all our security partners who helped. I extend my deepest condolences and those of my constituents in Scarborough—Rouge River to the family of Corporal Nathan Cirillo. Our thoughts and prayers are also with Constable Son, of the House of Commons security team, who suffered a gunshot wound, in the line of duty, protecting our House of democracy.

I will move on to Bill S-5, which would amend the Canada National Parks Act to create the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve of Canada. The Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve is in the Northwest Territories in the South Nahanni watershed. The proposed area for the park covers an area of 4,895 square kilometres, situated entirely in the Tulita district of the Sahtu settlement area. The proposed area for the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve has been long recommended for conservation by the aboriginal Sahtu people, who have been the guardians of that land for thousands of years. They have said that land use should be for conservation.

I was reading from CPAWS, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Northwest Territories Chapter, when I was doing some research to learn about the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve. The first thing that came up is the following:

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve lies in the headwaters of the South Nahanni River watershed, upstream from and adjacent to Nahanni National Park Reserve...and World Heritage Site. These two parks, working together, are necessary to protect the globally-renowned land, water and wildlife of the South Nahanni Watershed.

Right away, when I was doing my research, the first words that came up were about the importance of conservation for the aboriginal people of the Sahtu, who have been the protectors of those lands for thousands of years. Then, from CPAWS Northwest Territories, the word that stood out for me was “protect”. It is to protect the land assembly and the groundwater table and the entire watershed.

The proposed Rouge national urban park has a potential land assembly of 100 square kilometres, which includes land surrounding the Rouge river and the Duffins Creek watershed in Toronto, Markham, and Pickering. It is the ancestral home of the Mississauga, Huron-Wendat, and Seneca first nations and has sacred burial grounds and village sites.

This past weekend, I spent four hours in the Rouge visiting the sacred burial grounds, the location of a past ossuary. I spent time with an aboriginal elder, David Grey Eagle, who has been protecting these lands, working with the Friends of the Rouge Watershed and many other local people who care about Rouge Park.

We have been fighting for 100 square kilometres of park, but what the government has proposed for the study area, not even the actual final park size but the study area, is 57 square kilometres. The reason I am talking about Rouge Park is that I see the same pattern with the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve.

When the government did the consultation with the community for the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve, there were three options presented: option one was a total area of 6,450 square kilometres; option two was 5,770 square kilometres; and option three, which was the smallest of the proposals, was 4,840 square kilometres. Of the people who sent in responses and comments through the consultation process, 92.3% supported option one, which was 6,450 square kilometres; 4.6% supported option two; and 3% supported option three.

The government ended up making minor adjustments, and the option it is putting forward is the closest to option three. The government is supporting approximately 3% of all the people who were consulted on what they wanted for that protected land area. It does not make any sense. The government should be supporting the comments of 92.3% of the people consulted rather than 3%.

The Nahanni National Park Reserve, which is just south of the Nááts'ilch'oh national protected reserve, would protect approximately 86% of the watershed of the South Nahanni River. Protecting 86% of the watershed would not ensure the ecological integrity of the entire watershed. It is important that 100% of the watershed be protected, not 86%.

It is also important to note that the area is rich in mineral resources. The final park boundaries put forward by the government were selected so that a maximum amount of mineral resources lie outside the boundaries. This is disconcerting, because new mining stakes are prohibited within the park boundaries. It would seem that the boundaries have been adjusted and rejigged to allow for new mining stakes to occur just outside the park boundaries. This is concerning, because through mining processes, the watershed will continue to be affected in a negative way if it is not done in a sustainable manner. I and 92.3% of the people in the area are concerned about the proposed boundaries.

It would also leave out critical wildlife areas that lie outside the Nááts'ilch'oh national park reserve. When I say critical wildlife areas, I mean the caribou calving and breeding grounds. Major upstream tributaries of the South Nahanni River flow downstream into the Nahanni National Park Reserve, which makes it more of a concern, because it would not be just the Nááts'ilch'oh national park reserve but the Nahanni National Park Reserve that would be affected, because its tributaries would potentially be affected.

I would like to quote Mr. Stephen Kakfwi, the former premier of the Northwest Territories, who said that he is “disappointed with the way the boundary lines are drawn”. He said in an interview that the Prime Minister “is protecting the mining interests more than environmental interests. Unfortunately I think [the Prime Minister] has let down Canadians in his choice”. He went on to say that local people were put in a corner, because it was either the smaller protected area that was put forward or it was nothing.

I am in the same position. All New Democrats have the same belief. We want more protected areas. We support the creation of a national park, but it is not fair to put the community in a corner and tell it that it will get this tiny piece of land as a national park or it will get nothing. Why can we not just do it properly? If we say we are committed to conservation and ecological integrity, then why do we not commit to conservation and ecological integrity instead of saying that we will commit to a small piece and not the whole area?

Another issue I want to talk about is the maintenance of parks. The Toronto Star reported in December 2013, after a departmental performance report by Parks Canada in November 2013, that there is approximately a $3-billion backlog in the deferred maintenance at Parks Canada.

With new parks being created and already a $3-billion backlog in maintenance of these parks, I am concerned for the future of Nááts’ihch’oh. I am also concerned for the future of the Rouge national urban park, which is to be created in my backyard. I want to know that when we are creating national parks, we are committing to ensuring that they are protected, conserved, that there is ecological integrity of the ecosystems and the habitat, and also that they will be maintained for future use for the generations to come.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my question is around the very similar topic of boundaries. I know that, with the creation of the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve, there would be a large piece of this land assembly that the people who live on those lands have requested be included in the national park reserve. With the consultation, 92% of the people had requested option one, which was the largest option that was being considered, and it seems that the boundary that has been chosen by the government is leaving out large pieces of land that are mineral rich.

There are lots of resources that would lie outside of the park's boundaries, and this would allow for new mining stakes, which are prohibited inside the park boundaries, to occur just outside. We know that mining for resources does affect the ground water tables. This national park reserve would be at the headwaters of the South Nahanni River. How would that impact the tributaries, as well as the other rivers that are feeder rivers from the South Nahanni?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned my park, which is the park that is closest to home for me, in Scarborough—Rouge River. That is the Rouge River national urban park which is about to be created.

I see a very similar pattern. The community and local people have asked for a larger park, a larger part of the naturally occurring ecosystems to be protected, and the government has suggested a smaller park. That is what happened with the Rouge park, and that is what I am learning is also happening with the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve. Over 90% of the public in the area who were consulted requested that a larger land assembly be included in the park, and the final decision put forward by the government is actually the smallest possible area of land to be protected.

Especially considering that it is at the headwaters of the waterways, why is it that the government is putting forth the smallest possible land assembly for this park reserve?

Child Poverty October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, most Canadians will be sharing the joy and meals of Thanksgiving with their loved ones. However, for the many who still live in poverty, they will only share their love and hope for a better future.

Twenty-five years ago the House made a commitment to eradicate child poverty, and today we have a higher poverty rate than in 1989. Currently, 967,000 Canadian children, which is 1 in 7 children, live in extreme poverty. In Toronto, the child poverty rate is over 30%.

We are all familiar with the negative effects poverty has on children, not to mention the socio-economic impacts on the future.

We need to act now. The children of Canada are her future.

Let us work collectively to reflect the real image and values of Canada. My Canada does not include children living in poverty.

I recently tabled Motion No. 534 to eradicate child poverty in Canada, and I hope the House will adopt it and work to make the dream of eradicating child poverty in our country a reality.

Petitions October 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to submit petitions on behalf of people from all across the GTA on the creation of Rouge national park.

The current Rouge Park is home to the endangered mixed woodland and Carolinian forest, the northernmost point in North America, and the ancestral home of the Mississauga, Huron-Wendat, and Seneca first nations and their sacred burial and village sites.

The proposed legislation for the Rouge national urban park concept ignores the ecological integrity role of the existing Rouge Park and a true Canadian national park.

The petitioners respectfully ask the Government of Canada to protect the irreplaceable 100 square kilometres of public land assembly within a healthy and sustainable Rouge national park.

Citizenship and Immigration September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, summer is the season of family reunions, fun, and celebrations. However, for constituents caught up in immigration concerns, instead of happiness, it was the season of frustration and sadness as they continued to wait through long, extensive delays.

After our assisting hundreds of constituents with their immigration cases, many other temporary resident visas and parental and spousal sponsorship applications were rejected, and some still remain unprocessed.

Despite the Government's promises about their constant reforms and improvements to the immigration system, the results still reflect nothing but improved justifications, false propaganda, and incompetence. After eight years of irresponsible governance, Canadians believe that the Conservative government is working harder only to protect the interests and well-being of its lobbyist friends and big corporations.

In 2015 we will fix this broken system, because Canadians have long waited for the change that will restore their pride and dignity and ensure their well-being. Canadians have put their trust in the NDP, and we will deliver.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns September 15th, 2014

With regard to the proposed Rouge National Urban Park (RNUP): (a) what policies, timelines, actions and monitoring does the draft RNUP legislation and strategic plan specify to protect and restore native habitat in the park to (i) restore the “main ecological corridor” outlined in the Greenbelt Plan (2005), the Rouge North Management Plan (section 4.1.1.2), the Little Rouge Corridor Management Plan (2007), the Rouge Park Natural Heritage Action Plan (2008), and the Rouge River Watershed Strategy (2007), (ii) protect and improve water quality and migratory fish habitat within the Little Rouge River, part of the Toronto Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement “Area of Concern”, (iii) surpass the minimum 30% forest cover and 10% wetland per watershed recommended in the report “How Much Habitat is Enough” for “viable wildlife populations”, (iv) increase the sequestering of precipitation and carbon dioxide to mitigate climatic extremes and reduce the risk to properties and infra-structure from flooding and erosion, (v) improve habitat size, quality and connectivity, (vi) combat adverse edge effects and invasive species, (vii) improve the park's ecological health, resilience and integrity, (viii) increase the proportion of the park accessible to nature and people; (b) what policies, actions and timelines does the draft RNUP legislation and strategic plan outline to respect, strengthen and implement existing federal, provincial and municipal environmental policies, laws and plans, including the (i) Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and Toronto “AOC” Remedial Action Plan, (ii) Rouge River Watershed Strategy (2007), (iii) Canada's Species at Risk Act and associated commitments, (iv) Canadian National Parks Act and Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, v) Species at Risk Act and Migratory Birds Act, (vi) Fisheries Act and draft Fisheries Management Plan for Rouge River (2011), (vii) Navigable Waters Protection Act, (viii) Rouge Park Management Plan (1994), (ix) Rouge North Management Plan (2001), (x) Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (2002), (xi) Greenbelt Plan (2005), (xii) Little Rouge Corridor Management Plan (2007), (xiii) Rouge Park Natural Heritage Action Plan (2008); (c) how much of the land within the 57 km2 RNUP Study Area is (i) native forest habitat, (ii) wetland habitat, (iii) leased for cash cropping of corn or soy beans, (iv) leased for agricultural uses other than cash cropping, (v) leased for private residences, (vi) within public utility corridors, (vii) not leased, (viii) accessible to the public; (d) what area (in hectares) and percentage of the proposed RNUP Study Area is currently leased to private individuals or corporations; (e) how many individuals currently lease land within the RNUP study area; (f) how many land parcels in the RNUP study area are currently leased to (i) farmers who once owned the subject land parcel but were expropriated in the 1970s, (ii) provincial government employees or their close family members, (iii) federal government employees or their close family members, (iv) Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) employees or their close family members, (v) municipal government employees or their close family members, (vi) non farmers, (vii) lease holders who do not live in the RNUP area; (g) for the most recent year available, what are all the leased properties in the RNUP study area, broken down by (i) geographic location and approximate boundaries of the leased property marked on a map, (ii) land area (hectares) associated with the lease, (iii) buildings associated with the lease (for example 1 house, 900 ft2, 1 barn 1500 ft2, (iv) name of leaseholder and name of tenant(s), (v) annual lease rate and length of lease, (vi) length of time the current leaseholder has leased the property, (vii) true annual public cost of property upkeep and lease administration, (viii) public investment in the property needed to address modern building code, fire, safety and energy conservation standards; (h) what is the current TRCA and Transport Canada process for awarding and renewing land leases in the RNUP study area and what are any proposed changes to improve competition, public transparency, fairness and fair market return on these public land leases; (i) what percentage of the corn grown on leased Rouge Park lands in 2013 was grown for ethanol production; (j) what are the planned staffing expenses and other RNUP expenditures by Parks Canada in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016; and (k) what is the planned utilization of the funding from the Waterfront Regeneration Trust in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 by Parks Canada or the TRCA?

Employment June 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Employment and Social Development has been promising to fix the temporary foreign worker program for months, but the mess drags on. No penalties are being applied, no employers are being blacklisted, there is no independent review, and there is no fix to the mess the Conservatives have made of this program.

While businesses from various sectors complain about the uncertainty the Conservatives' mismanagement has created, why are they still leaving it to the media, the workers, and the unions to investigate abuses and problems with this program?