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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was opposite.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as Liberal MP for Spadina—Fort York (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2019, with 56% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Homelessness June 23rd, 2021

Mr. Speaker, I have had the honour of being elected to Parliament three times. My commitment to the city I represent has been to stand here at every opportunity and advocate for Toronto and to do what I can to make the country better by doing better for people.

It will surprise no one when I say that the fundamental, just way to do this is to fight to ensure every Canadian has a safe, affordable place to call home. Nothing in politics is done alone. I acknowledge the ministers, the members from all parties and people from the housing sector who have worked together to create the national housing strategy. Together, we have legislated the right to housing, we are investing in new homes, we are repairing existing ones and we are delivering direct support to those in need. This country can end homelessness. We must end homelessness.

Yesterday was a tough day in Toronto. The city I love can do better. Our government can do better. We must all do better. The way forward is to find higher ground. It is not through the battleground, we need to build on common ground. That is our duty. That is what we will do.

Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1 June 18th, 2021

Madam Speaker, I do not want to get in the way of the member opposite's optimism. I think we all believe that this issue is critically important. However, I will note that yesterday, my family buried an uncle who passed away from COVID this week. His wife, who is even more frail that he was and is still in hospital, has not been told she has lost her husband. The contact tracing shows that COVID came through the health care workers in the family, who continue to battle on the front lines even though the vaccination rates are brilliant and we are leading in the G7 and the G20 on the first dose and are closing in on the second dose. All of these circumstances have to be dealt with, and I would really caution the member opposite not to speak as if the crisis is over, because in many, many communities it quite frankly is not over.

Since he spoke to the future and to the budget, I have one question for him. People tell us to invest in the people, invest in our sectors and invest in the economy. It is invest, invest, invest. However, all we hear from the Conservatives is cut, cut, cut. How do we invest and cut at the same time?

Criminal Code June 18th, 2021

Madam Speaker, that was an excellent impression of the horse's end that I think the member was speaking to.

At any rate, the issue I am talking about now is the issue of organ harvesting, which happens primarily because our own organ donation system is not working. In fact, the city of Toronto has the lowest enrolment of organ donors of any other municipality in the country. We have worked very hard as city councillors and as elected federal and provincial politicians to reverse that. It is a public education campaign; it is a change in the system by which people register; it is a whole series of processes that must be addressed to take away the demand for this unspeakable activity, which we hope to make illegal through this bill. We have to do better on organ donations in this country if we are going to contribute to the eradication of this horrible practice that sees people leaving the country to attain organs in a way that is unbelievably horrendous and hard to describe in simple terms.

Part of the bill also requires us, as politicians, to think about the public education campaign part of this and to relieve the anxiety and desperation of Canadians across the country who are seeking to achieve full health through the miracles of modern medicine. We also have to make sure that we remove barriers for people who do want to donate, and make sure that for those who have signed up to give the gift of life, the process becomes easier and is facilitated in a way that would alleviate the pressure on people to go looking in the dark corners of the globe to do what they have to do.

As well, the research and the work done by many community activists and leaders to highlight where some of these terrible practices emanate from have to be broadened. We tend to focus in, because of the work of a particular organization, on one particular part of the world, but this is a global phenomenon that requires us to understand it in a more complex way and to do the research and the public education so that Canadians do not unwittingly take part in what they think is a legitimate operation and end up contributing to the harm that is being done to so many people around the world. This is also part of the work that has to be done.

It is not addressed in the bill, but perhaps there are ways, through committee, that it can be enhanced and developed, and perhaps it can be tied [Technical difficulty—Editor] in this country and make them more efficient and more humane. I think that is part of the process and part of the reason many of us want to speak to the bill in a way that generates a much stronger and much more important piece of legislation.

However, if we pass the bill on to the other House, if it goes through the parliamentary process and gets voted on, and I believe all parties have indicated support for it, then we will also need those parties in this House that have caucus members who sit in the other place, because we need the other House to also prioritize the bill in the way that has been spoken to today by several opposition members. It is not good enough for political parties to just stand in one chamber and say they want speedy passage, if they know in the back of their mind that in the other chamber their colleagues, their caucus members, their political movement, will do everything they can to frustrate every other piece of legislation that is coming through the parliamentary process. We need some consistency out of the Conservatives on the bill and we need some co-operation, which is the last point I would like to bring to this debate today.

All the processes and all the legislative agendas that collide in the House of Commons, such as measures brought forward by the government, by private members and by political parties in this House [Technical difficulty—Editor] slowing down legislation, but how little they contribute to speeding up legislation. We have had some good examples when there has been consensus on some critical pieces of legislation. The situation around UNDRIP is a perfect example where, quite clearly, the tenor of the House changed. As people thought more deeply about the information and the circumstance, they realized that some of the good legislation proposed by our government required immediate passage, and I think we saw some progress on bills like that.

I also think back to last week, when an opposition motion designed to blow up the national housing strategy was presented, and all opposition parties sided against the government. I find it ironic that, as they sought to destroy the national housing strategy, including the rapid housing initiative, the right to housing, the work on the co-investment fund, and the work being done in building housing in every riding, in every part of this country from coast to coast to coast, no sooner had members of the opposition voted to destroy the national housing strategy that they called up the parliamentary secretary to the minister in charge of CMHC and asked if we could fast-track some of the projects in their ridings, because they want to get the work done and they know how critical the job is.

If members are going to talk out of both sides of their mouths, they should try to be consistent. They should not try to destroy the program and try to acquire access to the program simultaneously. They should be honest about their approach here. I think that it is incumbent upon all of us to do that, to find a co-operative way forward, to work across party lines to achieve on issues that need to be achieved on and not to play these sorts of games where they deflect and present false arguments, when things are clearly in need of speedy passage.

I look forward—

Criminal Code June 18th, 2021

Madam Speaker, in my riding of Spadina—Fort York, the intersection of Spadina and Dundas is the scene of virtually a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week protest of this very single issue. During the last campaign, as I do my work out of my constituency office, which is located at Spadina and Dundas, the people who protest this issue talked to the public and talked to me. They saw my face and my name on the billboard at the office building where their protests are staged, and they asked me a question in the last Parliament. They said they knew how I voted on this issue but asked why I did not speak to it. Clearly, the people leading the campaign to prevent this horrendous practice want people to not only support their cause, but advocate for it. They want to see how and why that advocacy will be effective and where and how that advocacy will be used to advance the issue they are speaking to.

If I were to go back to the protesters and organizations leading this debate and say that I just decided to vote but not speak to it and not honour my commitment to speak to it, I would disappoint them. I am thankful that a number of members of the House have created this debate and this space to forward the work that was started by my cherished colleague Irwin Cotler, and then Borys Wrzesnewskyj, because not all of us get the opportunity, due to our parliamentary duties, to speak to every issue that comes in front of the House. If we did, every debate would take days and days and weeks and weeks.

We try to prioritize, but in this situation I made a commitment to the residents I represent, and in particular the organizers and protesters who stand guard on this issue, that I would speak to this issue. I thank my colleagues for affording me this opportunity, and I hope members opposite understand that for those of us who represent communities where this issue is most poignant, affording us a chance to speak to it is part of our responsibility and duty to this House, but also to the people we represent. I hope it is not seen in any other light.

There are a number of different dynamics that drive this issue, but there is also great disappointment in the inability of our Houses of Parliament, both the other place and the House of Commons, to get this legislation through in the last term. We know why that happened. It did not happen because this bill was filibustered; it happened because several other critically important bills were filibustered, including the work on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was in fact that filibuster in the House that prevented the Senate from getting to this bill. Thankfully, all sides now seem to have seen a way forward on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and hopefully that bill will get royal assent on Monday.

It is a little rich for the sort of back-and-forth that we are filibustering to be raised in this context, when the parties opposite, in particular the Conservatives, know that the Conservatives filibustered this one in the last Parliament. They are suddenly now demanding immediate action on this file, when they could have achieved immediate action on this file years ago if they had co-operated. They take no responsibility or accountability for that, but their obstruction, even in the majority Parliament, had an impact on the legislation that was proposed and that we are talking about here today.

Let us not talk about the strategies and the inside baseball of House affairs and the various tactics that various House leaders use to try to achieve progress on parts of the agenda that are a priority to their party. That is politics. That is the House, and that is what happens in Parliament, but to pretend that there is some sort of ideological purity on that or partisanship that is independent of ulterior motives is a little rich, especially coming from a party that has been filibustering, in particular, the legislation on conversion therapy, which impacts Canadians' civil liberties and Canadians' human rights now, as we speak. For the Conservatives, in particular, to stand on a high horse on this one only makes me wonder if they have ever actually seen a horse—

Housing June 18th, 2021

Madam Speaker, I have to say that listening to the Conservatives talk about housing is really quite astonishing considering they did not do it the entire time they were in office.

The measures we are taking to create and sustain housing affordability are critically important to Canadians, but the pamphlet, or postcard, they produced last week as a budget proposal, which included, for example, the proposal to collapse the entire national housing strategy overnight, makes no sense whatsoever.

When they proposed to temporarily suspend ownership opportunities they think are too generous for foreign offshore owners, they did not even put a time limit on that. Is it a day, a month or a week? It was a pamphlet with slogans. I live in a province that is governed by a Conservative government that uses slogans. It does not work. We need real policies and—

Housing June 18th, 2021

Madam Speaker, the reality is that our government is the first government in a generation to address the housing crisis in this country, not only from the perspective of affordable housing, but also of housing affordability. The investments we have made in the national housing strategy, now $72 billion, include supports to broaden the supports to the rental housing market being built in this country, as well as creating clear access and bridges to home ownership if that is the choice Canadians make.

Inflation is presenting a serious challenge. We are working to make sure we achieve on our housing goals because Canadians expect us to deliver on the right to housing. They also expect us to deliver a budget that supports this. Why did the Conservatives opposed all these changes?

Housing June 18th, 2021

Madam Speaker, I would point out to the Conservatives that every single measures we put in place to fix the housing crisis in this country has been opposed by their party, including the measures to help first-time buyers access the homes of their choice. Examples of this include the tax on vacant properties and offshore speculation, the disclosure requirements under beneficial ownership, the first-time home buyer plan itself and even the modifications to allow more people to be qualified.

Every single step of the way, the Conservatives say no. That leaves us with the status quo, a status quo they created. They are the problem, not our government. Our government has invested $72 billion in addressing the situation. Change is happening, and change will be—

Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1 June 18th, 2021

Madam Speaker, I also heard the good words from our colleague from Alberta in response to a change of position regarding Motion No. 103. The very aggressive and quite frankly dangerous words that were shared around the time of that debate put a number of members of this Parliament in a very precarious place in their private life.

Right now I represent the oldest Chinatown in Toronto. The member represents some of the newer communities of the Chinese Canadian settlement, but the language around China has taken on a very similar tone to the language around Muslims in this Parliament. I know from talking to community leaders and individuals in my riding that anti-Asian hate crime is rising as China is singled out for a whole series of challenges. I wonder if my colleague could talk about the impact some of that rhetoric around China is having on Chinese Canadians in our communities.

Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1 June 18th, 2021

Madam Speaker, it is always good to hear members of Parliament talk about housing. However, the interesting issue in this respect is that housing is one of the areas where exclusive jurisdiction has been sought, secured and delivered to Quebec.

If the member's riding is not getting housing money, why is he coming to Ottawa to complain? We have given every single dollar we spend on housing to the Government of Quebec. It distributes the dollars. It sets the priorities. It chooses the projects. It makes the investments.

I realize that the Bloc is here to antagonize the federal government rather than co-operate and work with us, but if the member opposite wants housing in his region, he should be going to Quebec City to get the dollars because that is where we sent them on the request of parties like the Bloc.

Questions on the Order Paper June 16th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is committed to providing Canadian families with access to high-quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive child care. Budget 2021 has committed up to $30 billion over five years, with $8.3 billion every year, permanently, to build a high-quality, affordable, and accessible early learning and child care system across Canada. This funding will work towards cutting child care fees by 50% on average by the end of 2022, and achieving $10/day child care on average by 2026.

In response to (a), the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development contracted R.A. Malatest & Associates Ltd. to conduct an evaluation and analysis of the British Columbia universal child care prototype sites or $10-per-day child care pilot. This evaluation was funded by the provincial government. ESDC was not provided with an official copy of the report prior to its release.

In response to (b), (c), (d), and (e), the full report is publicly available on the Government of British Columbia’s website.