Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was east.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Vancouver East (B.C.)

Lost her last election, in 1997, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Interprovincial Trade March 3rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Industry.

I am concerned because the province of British Columbia has announced that it will withdraw from the agreement concerning the free flow of goods and services between Canadian provinces. This is at a time when all of Canada, especially the economy of B.C., is benefiting from freer trade.

Would the minister comment on how he thinks B.C. businesses will be affected by this decision when trying to enter into contracts in other provinces?

Chinese New Year February 11th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, last week the Chinese community celebrated Chinese New Year. In fact, the celebration was enjoyed by all communities under the leadership of those Canadians who emigrated from the countries where Chinese New Year is observed.

In my riding of Vancouver East the Chinese Cultural Centre, the Chinatown Merchants' Association, the Chinese Benevolent Association and S.U.C.C.E.S.S. organized several events in which a large number of people participated. It was a real celebration with a very successful parade with lions and dragons, drums and fireworks in a glory of colours and folklore. All devils were scared away.

One of the groups in my community we are very proud of is the Strathcona Chinese Dance Company. It was invited to Ottawa by the National Capital Commission to inaugurate Winterlude. Thirteen young people came under the leadership of Annabel Ho, while in Vancouver the remaining 70 young dancers performed under the leadership of Mimie Ho.

I would like to congratulate the whole Chinese Canadian community for its contribution to Canada and for sharing its traditions with all other Canadians.

Kung hei fat choy. Happy New Year of the Ox.

Program Cost Declaration Act December 13th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I will start by wishing happy holidays to everybody, to all Canadians including my constituents, and of course a very Happy New Year.

I wish a Happy New Year and a good holiday to all Canadians and to my colleagues. I also say to all my Italian friends: Buon anno a tutti miei amici italiani.

I congratulate the hon. member for tabling a rather important bill. We need to have details when we vote as members of Parliament, and we also need to be convinced that the legislation is an important one for our communities.

My only concern relates to the auditor general's involvement, since it could delay the passage of an act that can be extremely important for the country.

Private members' bills are extremely important for the backbenchers who speak to their constituents and know what their problems are. There seem to be a lot of constraints on private members' bills. A private member's bill is the only tool a backbencher has. From my own experience I have introduced three private members' bills. They were intended to address injustices in the electoral act.

Some people may not know that a private member's bill first has to be introduced. Then the member's name has to be drawn and eventually the votability of the bill has to be established. I do not think that the votability should have to be established. We should be able to present and discuss the bill and then if the debate collapses, it collapses.

My first bill related to an injustice regarding political parties losing their party status. They had to decertify because they did not have 50 candidates. In British Columbia if we were to create a party, it would never become national because there are only 34 seats, whereas in Quebec for instance, a provincial party could be made national because there are 75 seats. That is something which should have been addressed but unfortunately the debate collapsed.

I would like to support this bill. It is important that there be more accountability in what is presented to the House and I am prepared to support that idea. It is a good idea that we all know what we are voting on and we know from the beginning what the costs are going to be.

Again, a very happy holiday to everybody and particularly to you, Mr. Speaker.

Postal Services December 13th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, last week, three postal workers came to see me, to complain that the post office would no longer deliver flyers and other mail items currently handled by part-time workers.

These workers earn a little over $7 per hour. Most of them are single mothers, people with disabilities and immigrants, and this is their only job. If they lose it, these 10,000 workers will have to rely on unemployment insurance or social assistance.

These postal workers were supposed to be hired by the private companies that are taking over the distribution of the ad mail. Instead these companies are advertising for children nine years of age or over to take over the service. Some advertisements even read: "If you-are old enough to read this notice-". The pay would be minimal, like one-quarter of a cent per flyer delivered.

It is a sad situation which has brought much sorrow to the people losing the jobs and to their families. I hope that these jobs can be saved for the good of the workers and their families.

Happy holidays, Mr. Speaker.

Canada Elections Act December 11th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, in the last session of Parliament, Bill C-114, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, was introduced and passed.

Section 31 of the elections act requires that a party that could not field 50 candidates must have its status revoked, all assets liquidated and all debts paid.

Section 31 caused the Communist Party, the Social Credit Party and other parties to be deregistered. Most newspapers came to the defence of such parties: the Toronto Star calling the change a draconian treatment of fledgling political parties, while the Vancouver Sun called such an act unjust.


Other medias commented negatively in this respect, and I think it is a very serious matter when parties that have been recognized for more than 75 years are forced to relinquish their status of official political party. They also had to liquidate their assets.

Last year, I presented a bill that would restore the democratic rights of these parties.

Unfortunately the bill collapsed. In the meantime, the Communist Party sent a petition with almost 4,000 signatures, respectfully calling on the government to repeal section 31 (11-14) of the Canada Elections Act. This problem must be redressed.

Finance December 9th, 1996

I do not think I need clarify anything. In fact, my colleague is right, we are no longer building new housing. Naturally, I am not happy about this, but we have had to take decisions to get back on track with our deficit and the economic situation of the country.

The situation my colleague has criticized is very crucial, but I would also like to add that, although the government is turning responsibility for the administration of housing over to the provinces, it is also going to promise to transfer to them the funds necessary to pay for housing in which people are already living.

Finance December 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak because of my strong concerns regarding new problems that are being created by our focused concentration on deficit reduction. The Liberal government has done extremely well in reducing the deficit, bringing confidence back to our country and ensuring at the same time low inflation and low mortgage rates. In all, our Liberal government has been the catalyst in re-creating a healthy, vibrant and competitive Canadian economy.

Low mortgage rates are putting money back into the pockets of consumers and are greatly contributing to increased housing starts in Canada. However low mortgage rates are an advantage only to those who can afford to purchase a house.

It was crucial for our Liberal government to follow the path of fiscal responsibility, for by staying this course we will have a balanced budget for the first time in over 20 years and will be able to start reducing the federal debt in the next millennium a mere three years from now.

During the 1993 federal election the Liberal Party promised that if elected as government it would put Canada's fiscal house in order. I am proud to stand in the House today as a member of the governing party caucus to say that the Liberal government has kept its word. Consequently Canada's fiscal situation is the envy of the industrialized world.

Though the course we took was necessary, it has also resulted in hurt for many Canadians across our great country. Hurt has resulted in human misery for an increase in the number of Canadians who now live in poverty. Hurt has resulted in many Canadians facing difficulties in getting out of a cycle of dependency that is both demeaning and destructive.

Today I would like to talk about poverty. I encourage the government to start working toward improving the situation of the Canadian underclass which statistics say is increasing in our country, and the quality of life of many people who do not just need help, but also need a voice.

In January 1996 at the Fraser forum, Chris Sarlo defined the "Basic Needs Poverty Lines" as follows:

A person is defined as poor if they can, at best, afford only the basic physical necessities of life. These necessities include: an appetizing and nutritionally complete diet; apartment rental accommodation with the number of rooms appropriate to family size and with the full complement of essential furnishings, household supplies and telephone service; clothing which is purchased new, appropriate to the season and with replacement rates assuming normal wear and laundering; a full range of regular, preventive and emergency health care, including personal hygiene, vision, and dental care; and essential transportation linking one's shelter to other basic needs. In all cases, the standard of quality of each of the basic needs is that which is considered minimally acceptable in Canadian society.

In a country as rich and prosperous as Canada, all Canadian people are entitled to at least these minimal basic needs. But if we take these needs one by one, we realize how different reality is. According to Statistics Canada, my riding of Vancouver East has within it the poorest postal code area in all of Canada. In many areas in my riding, poverty is rampant and the daily reality of life for people is often as follows.

An appetizing and nutritional complete diet. A large number of children in my riding have one meal a day and this is in school. Due to the unsafe nature of many areas of my inner city riding, some schools in my constituency have joined together to start the Kidsafe program, which exists to feed and protect local children. This community initiative, which offers children a safe place to go to during school breaks and after school, began after a young child in my riding, who had no place to go to after school hours, was physically assaulted.

A school's responsibility is not to babysit children. Children generally are better off at home where their parents are. However, in repeated cases across Canada, many children are better off at school and away from their homes. For Vancouver's schools that offer the Kidsafe program, this service is very costly and demanding. However, the schools' principals and staff are to be commended for taking such action and helping children survive in a safe environment.

Apartment rental. Decent housing is extremely important for all of us. How can you have a decent life without decent housing? The federal government is currently committed to $2 billion a year to subsidize 661,000 social housing units across the country. This program has provided a large number of people, many of whom are children, single mothers, elderly, disabled and people on social assistance with a decent and affordable place to live. Unfortunately the government is devolving to the provinces the authority for administering this program.

Before I entered politics, I was involved in social housing. I administered Casa Serena, a senior citizens home that was built by the Italian Cultural Centre Society of Vancouver with the support of the federal and provincial governments. I was responsible for interviewing the people who applied for accommodation and I was appalled to learn of the condition of certain housing facilities.

Recently I visited the inner city area of Vancouver East and I can assure the House the skid row hotels are places not fit for human beings. Over 10,000 Vancouverites live in what is said to be the most expensive housing in Canada. These rooms are only 80 square feet and have just a bed and hotplate and rent for an average of $375 a month. Vancouver East offers concrete evidence that the government should stay in the social housing field.

Clothing which is purchased new. Many of the students of the inner city schools in my riding never wear new clothing. They have to count on the charity of others and only if they are lucky will they have proper clothing to wear.

A full range of regular, preventive and emergency health care. These benefits are available for all those who are on social assistance, but the moment they start working, they lose all these benefits. That is one of the reasons the working poor remain poor. They are people who work for minimum wages and have to pay for all their benefits, including a portion of child care costs, dental and drug costs, and in B.C. medical insurance premiums. Essential transportation. The same problems encountered with benefits is also encountered with transportation. The working poor are not earning enough to meet their basic expenses.

It is time to take these problems into serious consideration. This year the United Nations has given Canada a low ranking for its record on child poverty and suicide. In June 1996 the UNICEF program of nations report was released indicating that Canada has the second highest number of poor children among the 18 industrialized countries. This is unnecessary and I strongly believe that the government has a moral obligation to find workable solutions to resolve this grave problem.

The United States has the largest number of poor children, Finland has the fewest. Among our poor children, the majority are aboriginal who at times live in abysmal conditions. Among aboriginals, poverty is much higher than among other Canadians, suicide is seven times more common, infant mortality twice as high and

the high school dropout rate is 50 per cent higher. What a waste of human potential.

Some of my colleagues and I have been very concerned about the children of the working poor. After much work, we were relieved to learn that in the last budget the Minister of Finance partially addressed the problem by increasing the maximum annual benefit from $500 to $750 in July 1997 and to $1,000 in 1998.

When fully phased in, this working income supplement will provide an additional $250 million annually to an estimated 700,000 low income working families, one-third of which are single parent families. I was also extremely pleased to find in the 1996-97 budget a whole section devoted to increased support for children.

The coming budget must continue the trend toward helping the working poor and children living in poverty. My ideal budget would include increased assistance to those in need through tax credits; continuation of benefits for a period of time to those people who join the work force at minimum wage; assistance to make people with disabilities full participants in Canadian society.

Early prevention programs through Health Canada. It is important to help children start their life healthy and in a good environment. This can partly be accomplished through the continuation and expansion of programs like the Community Action Plan for Children and Head Start. Both of these programs have been very successful in teaching poor families about nutrition and helping them curb violence and in empowering many parents in their parental role.

Finally, a national child care program. I know that at times the federal government has to work with the provincial and territorial governments to implement programs. The negotiations which are currently taking place between governments is heartwarming. Hopefully we will be able to work together and alleviate some of the problems that touch people in need.

After all, in a 1994 Angus Reid poll, 89 per cent of Canadians agreed that child poverty was a priority for government and in 1995, prior to the federal budget, Canadians listed child poverty as one of the top three priorities of government. Let me remind the House that wherever there is a poor child there is at least a poor parent.

The recent report presented by the Standing Committee on Finance speaks to the concern I express and I would like to thank its members on behalf of my constituents.

Child Poverty December 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, serious concern is being expressed for the welfare of children. In Vancouver East and in many areas of Canada there are a large number of families that live under the poverty line. These are families with children who, like their parents, live in poverty.

The current discussion between federal and provincial governments is very encouraging. However, even though money is a concern, early prevention is just as much of a concern. We keep looking for the perfect program to assist this category of people. This program exists and is successful. It is the Community Action Plan for Children, CAPC.

The program started up in 1992. In 1994, the grant was cut in half, and next year other significant cuts will be made, preventing the program from continuing.

The organizations responsible for the program work with families and children. I would ask the Minister of Health to continue and expand the program because, as one native participant put it: "Children have better parents thanks to the Community Action Plan for Children".

Taxation November 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.

Last week the minister announced changes to the Income Tax Act to prevent the use of certain tax shelters. These shelters have been used by the foreign film industry in British Columbia to raise funds for productions in my province.

Did the minister take into account the adverse effects these changes will have on the film industry in B.C.?

Canada Elections Act November 26th, 1996

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague.

This is definitely not included in the bill. I would like to see it included. I have also tabled another amendment to the electoral act having to do with people in hospitals. That is another issue that is not included in the bill. I do not know how much time we have to change these things. I do not think it is possible right not but we surely should work on it.

My private member's Bill C-308 pertains to making sure that people in hospitals get to vote. At that time we can probably address missionaries.