House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was cultural.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Parkdale—High Park (Ontario)

Lost her last election, in 2006, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Telefilm Canada Act November 15th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to speak to Bill C-18 which contains amendments to the Telefilm Canada Act.

It will come as no surprise to you, Mr. Speaker, that the Government of Canada is committed to Canadian culture and I am personally committed to Canadian culture. Most of my political career has been spent in advocating on behalf of and for the arts and cultural sector.

In fact, in my private sector life, and even today, I have been and am a subscriber, donor and an art supporter to many of the cultural institutions in the city of Toronto and indeed, also in Ontario.

I have had the privilege to serve on the board of directors, and later as chairman, of CanStage, the largest not for profit theatre company in Canada which performs throughout the year. In addition to that, CanStage produces Dream In High Park , Shakespeare in the park, annually every summer and opens it up to everyone.

During my private sector life I have also served as a member of the Canada Council's taskforce on income tax reform and I was also a director of the Arts and Business Council which promotes private sector giving for the arts. I also had the pleasure of serving on the organizing committee for the annual meeting of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, PACT.

In the 20 years that I practised law in the city of Toronto, my husband used to tease me that I only practised law to feed my hobby and my passion for the arts.

I, too, feel very privileged, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, to have the opportunity at the federal level to dedicate my energies to a sector that is so near and dear to my heart.

The Government of Canada supports Canadian culture with energy and enthusiasm. We believe that government indeed has a role to play in promoting the development of our culture and in strengthening our own identity.

Every country has a right to ensure that its languages, traditions, symbols and myths remain vibrant. Telefilm Canada is one of the institutions that plays a crucial role in helping the government to achieve our cultural policy objectives, namely the production of quality Canadian content and ensuring that this content reaches all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

As a cultural investor, Telefilm Canada is dedicated to development, production, promotion and distribution of popular Canadian television programs, films and new media products. It is committed to supporting Canada's audiovisual industry to create cultural works that reflect and celebrate the diversity of Canada and are widely appreciated, not only in Canada but internationally recognized abroad.

Through its investments, Telefilm encourages excellence while creating a portfolio of products that reflect a diversity of format, budget, genre, content and talent. Telefilm is unique among many government institutions. It is part of a policy toolkit that includes several other government initiatives to encourage the production and dissemination of Canadian stories and the development of Canadian talent.

In its role, Telefilm provides financial assistance and strategic leverage to the industry in producing high quality works that include feature films, drama series, documentaries, children's shows, variety and performing arts programs, and also new media products. All of these reflect Canadian society, including our linguistic duality and our cultural diversity.

Telefilm's investments have made it possible for thousands of Canadian screenwriters, directors, producers, distributors, technicians, performers and multi-media designers to pursue their careers right here in Canada.

Let me share a few statistics with the House. In 2002-03 more than 225,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the country were generated by the audiovisual and sound recording sectors. Keeping these creators at work in our country enriches both our cultural landscape and our economy. These innovative workers are very much part of a knowledge based economy of the 21st century. They are helping to build the kind of creative communities that can best attract new investment in the marketplace of today.

Last year, theatre box offices in Canada took in more than $950 million, of which Canadian films accounted for 3.5%. So far this year Canadian films have earned $36 million, or almost 5% of the total box office. These numbers are good news for our economy and cultural sector, but there is still much more to achieve.

Canadians were extremely proud earlier this year when Denys Arcand won the best foreign language Oscar for Les invasions barbares . In fact, in 2003 this film opened the Toronto International Film Festival. This movie has thrilled both critics and audiences across Canada and around the world. It will come as no surprise to members that Telefilm Canada helped finance this ground-breaking academy award winning production.

With an annual budget of approximately $250 million, Telefilm Canada aims to ensure the widest possible audience for Canadian works, both here and internationally. It does this through support for distribution, export, marketing and industry promotion at Canadian and foreign festivals, markets and other events.

At the same time, the Government of Canada is committed to the highest standard of management. We want to ensure that the administration of government programs is the best that it can be.

Telefilm Canada was created more than 35 years ago, in 1967, with a mandate to foster and promote the development of a feature film industry. I am sure it will come as no surprise to members that Pierre Elliott Trudeau was the Prime Minister at that time. Over the years, successive governments have expanded its responsibilities to include television, new media and sound recording.

Telefilm's activities have changed as technology has evolved. This bill reflects that new reality. As a consequence, this bill would formally extend the mandate of Telefilm to the entire audiovisual sector in recognition of the important role that it has undertaken over the years. The proposed amendments to the Telefilm Canada Act would thus constitute adjustments which would confirm in law Telefilm's current activities.

Telefilm's role and activities would remain the same: to support all the audiovisual industries, including film, television and new media, and to administer the music entrepreneur program on behalf of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

I am extremely proud and privileged to be entrusted with responsibilities related to Canadian culture. As the recent Speech from the Throne said, and as I noted during my debate on the Speech from the Throne:

What makes our communities vibrant and creative is the quality of their cultural life. The Government will foster cultural institutions and policies that aspire to excellence, reflect a diverse and multicultural society, respond to the new challenges of globalization and the digital economy, and promote diversity of views and cultural expression at home and abroad.

I am proud of institutions like Telefilm Canada, which are helping to keep Canadians employed in Canada in creative jobs, strengthening our innovative economy, and reflecting Canadian realities both to audiences at home and around the world. I therefore ask hon. members to support Bill C-18.

Contraventions Act November 2nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-17, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. During the time I have been allotted I will take the opportunity to look at how other legislatures in other jurisdictions around the world deal with the possession of cannabis.

Countries around the world treat cannabis possession in different ways. Some countries tolerate forms of possession and consumption, other countries apply administrative sanctions or fines, while others apply penal sanctions. I was quite interested to learn this morning that certain states in the United States, notably Alaska, also treat cannabis possession in different ways, although it does vary from state to state.

However, despite the different legal approaches toward cannabis, a common trend can be seen, particularly in Europe, in the development of alternative measures to criminal prosecution for cases of use and possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use. Fines, cautions, probation, exemption from punishment and counselling are favoured by many European justice systems.

In Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium and Luxembourg, the possession of small amounts of marijuana is not a criminal offence. In the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark, it is still a criminal offence, but one that is never prosecuted.

In France, a directive recommends that judges and government departments use criminal proceedings only as a last resort when people have committed no offence other than the use of illegal drugs.

Britain recently reclassified marijuana from a class B to a class C drug. Possession will therefore be on a parallel with anabolic steroids and growth hormones, which, I should add, are still illegal but not an arrestable offence. However this is coupled with a reserve power of arrest for police officers where it is perceived that the possession of cannabis is a danger to public order or for the protection of children.

Most U.S. states envisage the possibility of imprisonment for the offence of possession of cannabis. However a dozen U.S. states have passed measures decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. These include California, Alaska, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Maine, Nevada, Nebraska, Colorado, Oregon and Mississippi.

Typically in these cases decriminalization means no prison time or criminal record for first time possession of a small amount, approximately 30 grams to 60 grams, for personal consumption. State and local enforcement authorities treat the offence as a minor traffic violation.

Some Australian states and territories have also adopted cannabis decriminalization measures. Some of these measures are similar to what is being contemplated in Bill C-17. I would like to take a few moments to describe the situation in South Australia, the first Australian jurisdiction to adopt cannabis decriminalization measures.

Reform of the cannabis laws in South Australia came with the introduction of the controlled substances amendment act, 1986. The amendment proposed a number of changes to the controlled substances act, 1984, including the insertion of provisions dealing with the expiation of simple cannabis offences. This represented the adoption of a new scheme for the expiation of simple cannabis offences, such as possessing or cultivating small amounts of cannabis for personal use or possessing implements for using cannabis.

The cannabis expiation notice, known as the CEN scheme, came into effect in South Australia in 1987. Under this scheme, adults committing simple cannabis offences could be issued with an expiation notice. Offenders were able to avoid prosecution by paying the specified fee or fees which ranged anywhere from 50 to 150 Australian dollars within 60 days of the issue of the notice. Failure to pay the specified fees within 60 days could lead to prosecution in court and the possibility of a conviction being recorded.

Underlying the scheme was the rationale that a clear distinction should be made between private users of cannabis and those who are involved in dealing, producing or trafficking cannabis. This distinction was emphasized at the introduction of the CEN scheme by the simultaneous introduction of more severe penalties for offences relating inter alia to the production of all drugs of dependence and prohibited substances, including offences relating to larger quantities of cannabis.

The expiation system for minor cannabis offences in South Australia has been the subject of a number of evaluation studies. The impact of the implementation of such a system is therefore best seen there. As I mentioned, the South Australian cannabis expiation notice system began in 1987. One of the main arguments for an expiation system was the reduction of the negative social impact upon convicted minor cannabis offenders. Implicit in this argument was the belief that the potential harms of using cannabis were far outweighed by the harms arising from criminal conviction.

This is a belief also that resides in many Canadians.

The effect of introducing the CEN scheme on levels and trends of cannabis use in Southern Australia has been assessed by a number of surveys on drug use. None of these found an increase in cannabis use there that could be linked to its introduction.

The level of cannabis use over respondents' lifetimes did in fact increase considerably in Southern Australia, from 26% in 1985 to 36% in 1995, but comparable rises were also noted over the same period in states such as Victoria and Tasmania, which took a prohibitionist approach to cannabis.

The number of offences for which cannabis expiation notices were issued in south Australia increased from around 6,000 in 1987-88 to approximately 17,000 in 1993-94 and in subsequent years. This appears to reflect the greater ease with which police can process minor cannabis offences and a shift away from the use of police discretion in giving offenders informal cautions to a process of formally recording all minor offences.

There has been strong support by law enforcement and criminal justice personnel in south Australia for this CEN scheme. The scheme has proven to be relatively cost effective and more cost effective than prohibition would have been. The total costs associated with the CEN scheme in 1995-96, were estimated to be around $1.24 million Australian, while total revenue from fees and fines was estimated to be around $1.68 million Australian. Had a prohibition approach been in place, it is estimated the total cost would have been in excess of $2.01 million Australian, with revenues from fines of around $1 million which is much less than under the CEN scheme.

A report on the CEN scheme noted that it appeared to have numerous benefits for the community, not the least of which was cost saving for the community as a whole, reduced negative social impacts for offenders, greater efficiency and ease in dealing with minor cannabis offences and less negative views of police held by offenders.

The changes made in the cannabis laws in Australia are not technically decriminalization measures as cannabis possession remains a criminal offence in all Australian jurisdictions. What has been changed is a reduction in the penalty for processing small amounts of cannabis for personal use to something less than imprisonment which is what is being proposed in this bill.

I am happy to have the opportunity to say a few words. I would like to conclude my brief remarks by indicating again my support for the proposed legislation and that the bill be referred to the committee prior to second reading.

ADISQ Gala November 2nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, October 31, the Félix awards were presented at the 26th gala of the Quebec recording, performance and video industry association. This event, broadcast live from St. Denis Theatre on the French network of the CBC, celebrated the outstanding contribution of francophone music.

The ADISQ showcases the exceptional talent of our artists and the expertise of professionals in the Quebec music industry. The vitality of the industry is obvious. It is reflected in the diversity and quality of its artists.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank ADISQ, a key stakeholder in the Canadian music industry, for organizing this event every year, and to congratulate all the music artists who took part.

The government is proud to support artists and the Canadian recording industry through various Canada music fund programs. In four years this fund will have invested approximately $95 million in this industry in order to strengthen all of its sectors from creators to audience.

Congratulations to all the winners at ADISQ.

Women Entrepreneurs October 29th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, encouraging and supporting women's entrepreneurship is a key priority for the government. Today, on the first anniversary of the report of the Prime Minister's task force on women entrepreneurs, which I had the opportunity to chair, I am pleased to inform the House that this priority is indeed being realized.

In particular, I would draw the attention of the House to the event concluding in Ottawa today on “Sustaining the Momentum: An Economic Forum for Women Entrepreneurs”. This forum, co-sponsored by Industry Canada and the Eric Sprott School of Business at Carleton University, brings together leading thinkers in the public, private and academic sectors to consider ways to foster the development of women's entrepreneurship in Canada.

I hope all members of the House will join me in recognizing the importance of the contribution made by women entrepreneurs in advancing economic competitiveness and a high overall quality of life in communities throughout Canada.

Toward this end, the government looks forward to hearing and advancing considerations of the views and recommendations from this forum.

Random Acts of Poetry October 27th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House of the inaugural Random Acts of Poetry Week, which runs from October 25 to October 31.

During this week 27 poets will read poetry in 15 towns and cities throughout the country. The performances will not take place in studios or auditoriums, but rather, wherever the poets feel moved to recite. This could be in public parks, on transit, in barber shops or on the street. The poets will also be distributing books of poetry.

Last Friday I had the privilege of being read a poem by Sheila Stewart, a constituent of mine who is taking part as one of the 27 poets in this event.

Random Acts of Poetry is the brainchild of Wendy Morton, a Victoria based poet. She had the inspiration that poetry would be well received if more people were exposed to it, regardless of the venue. A great deal of credit also goes to, who are sponsors in partnership with the Victoria Read Society.

I encourage all members and Canadians to participate in this week by reading a poem to a friend.

Canadian Library Week October 20th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that from October 17 to October 25 the Canadian Library Association will be celebrating Canadian Library Week.

Each province will celebrate this week in their own unique way. Libraries will be holding all manner of events to raise the awareness of the services available at one's local library.

Local libraries contribute to a higher quality of life in our communities through their promotion of literacy and in providing greater access to information for all Canadians. There are six public libraries in my riding, including the historic Swansea Public Library which was a gift to the community in commemoration of the veterans of World War I. Another library in my riding, the Parkdale Library, also houses a community information centre. This library also serves as a venue for many community events.

I would like to thank the libraries for the important role they play in our communities and in all our cities. I wish them every success with this year's Canadian Library Week.

Junction Arts Festival October 18th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House of the resounding success enjoyed by the recently held Junction Arts Festival, now in its 12th year.

The festival featured the work of more than 90 artists, including artists from the local neighbourhood, as well as artists from as far away as Lithuania and Thailand. This year the festival attracted more than 80,000 visitors.

The Junction Arts Festival is a jewel in what has been a fabulous revitalization of this historic Toronto neighbourhood. The Junction had fallen on hard times as industries relocated during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. However, thanks to the partnership between local residents and businesses, Toronto Hydro, the City of Toronto and the federal government, the Junction is back and booming.

The revitalization exemplifies the importance of all levels of government working together and how cultural life plays a key role in the quality of life of our cities.

Our government understands this, which is why in the Speech from the Throne we stated “What makes our communities vibrant and creative is the quality of their cultural life”. I have a living example of this vibrancy in my riding.


Arts and Culture October 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House of the launch of an exciting new cultural event, the first McLuhan International Festival of the Future. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. William Marshall, the executive director of the festival and also the co-founder of the Toronto International Film Festival, the organizers held a successful kickoff on October 8, 2004.

To honour the diverse fields that Marshall McLuhan has influenced, on Friday night the festival presented visionary awards for community, culture and commerce. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, I had the honour of presenting the culture award to CHUM Ltd. Former Toronto mayor, David Crombie, received the community award and Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, received the commerce award.

The McLuhan International Festival of the Future runs until October 17. It ambitiously attempts to cover the diverse areas of McLuhan's work with a 10 day festival that includes fora and performances in multimedia, new media, public arts, media literacy and sustainable living.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the member will remember that it was actually in 2001 when this federal government invested $560 million into the arts and cultural sector, which allowed programs such as festivals to benefit from that. I would encourage the member to also encourage the government and vote with us to ensure that the Tomorrow Starts Today funding is renewed so those festivals that are in his community and his riding get the moneys they need.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Davenport on moving the motion and address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. I was given that opportunity in 1997 by the prime minister at that time. It was an honour. I congratulate him on his speech.

The city of Toronto is now finally seeing some of the renaissance projects, as they are called, of the Canada-Ontario infrastructure works program, which is part of the federal government's infrastructure program. I am delighted to see that our minister, the Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities, those two combined, and also for cities, is there to champion those continuous needs.

One of the programs brought in by the federal government in 2001 was the Tomorrow Starts Today program.The FCM recently put forward this program for renewal in its resolution. It is a program that looks through further investments into festivals, arts administration, sustainability, digitization and also infrastructure. It is a much smaller infrastructure pocket and it is for smaller projects. However, I have to say that this program has been so successful that across Canada it has helped communities build their cultural infrastructure and make the arts become alive and thrive.

The other thing we have to remember when we look at the arts is that not only are they essential to a vibrant community, but they also make communities safer. Let us look at our own city of Toronto and King Street. When the Mirvish family brought commercial theatre to the city of Toronto, it lit up the entire street. What has happened, as we all know, is that there are numerous restaurants, the street is always packed with people and a buzz is in the air. This is a way of making our city safer.

I see the same thing in the Dundas Street West area, which has undergone an incredible revitalization, again through moneys that were initially given by the federal government through Human Resources Development and the industrial revitalization programs. That area is now the home to art galleries and artists and the very successful Dundas Street West Junction Arts Festival, which is now in its 14th year. It just finished in September. It was terrific. Also, it attracted artists from all over the world.

I think there are many things that we can do for our cities and communities through the arts. I think it is important, as David Miller said, and actually as James Wolfensohn, the President of the World Bank, said, to say that we cannot look at art as a luxury. It is something too integral, too defining of who we are, and it is also essential to the vibrancy of our community.