House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was workers.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Davenport (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Safe and Accountable Rail Act March 31st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the description of the member's community is very similar to many right across the country where neighbourhoods are very close to these rail lines.

We have given some of these rail companies carte blanche for decades upon decades. It is time for rigorous oversight and safety measures of the shipping of dangerous goods along our rail corridors.

It is vital. It is vital for the economy. It is vital for the safety of our communities. We have seen time and time again in recent history that the oversight and safety measures are not enough in Canada right now.

Safe and Accountable Rail Act March 31st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Parkdale—High Park who has done excellent work in the city of Toronto on this issue of rail safety, and not just on the issue of rail issue but on many other issues.

It may be worth reminding Canadians that many of the people who have served on the front bench of the Conservative Party were also on the front bench of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party during the tragedy at Walkerton, which was in part connected to the very fact that inspectors, oversight and regulation of the water supply had been cut down and destroyed by an ideological Conservative government. It is the same gang here now.

It is no surprise that they would oversee or preside over the biggest food safety scandal in the history of this country. It is an ideological path that the government pursues, and it is one that does not put public safety first.

Safe and Accountable Rail Act March 31st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place on behalf of the good people of Davenport in the great city of Toronto to debate a very important bill for the constituents in my riding of Davenport, and that is the bill to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act.

What we are talking about here is rail safety. I would like to let people who are watching know that in communities in Toronto, including the community I represent, and in fact, I myself live very close to a major rail artery, every day dangerous goods are carried through. The rail line sort of bisects the city of Toronto, the biggest city in the country. The train that ultimately exploded and led to the tragic events in Lac-Mégantic actually traversed right through the city of Toronto.

For many people that is a staggering realization, because there are thousands upon thousands of people who live literally metres away from the rail line. For them, the debate we are having is not just a theoretical conversation. It is not just about what happens somewhere else. It is about the very communities in which they live.

It is also important to note while we are debating this that in cities like Toronto which have rail lines criss-crossing and intersecting large areas of residential neighbourhoods, when the rail lines were first put in, many of those communities were not there. They were industrial areas, but development has changed the face of cities like Toronto and what we are seeing now are residential communities very close to rail lines.

For the people I represent what is in those tankers is very important. How we ensure the safe transport of what is in those tankers is very important to my community and therefore this debate is important.

As many of my esteemed colleagues in the NDP have said today, we are in favour of the bill, but support for the bill underlines some very serious concerns that we have around rail safety in the country. It is not just the NDP that has concerns about rail safety. It is not just members of my community in Davenport that have concerns about rail safety. The Auditor General also has concerns about rail safety.

I know the government always welcomes the views and opinions of the NDP here in the House, but every once in a while it is nice to quote third parties. In this case, I will read a bit of the Auditor General's 2014 report on Transport Canada's oversight of rail safety, because it is the oversight of rail safety, the implementing of a system of safety that the people in my community are looking to the government to achieve. While we support the measures that are in the bill, it does not go any distance toward ameliorating the concerns in my community around rail safety.

The report from the Auditor General really underlines and gives credence to the concerns of the people in Davenport. The report states:

Despite the fact that federal railways were required 12 years ago to implement safety management systems for managing their safety risks and complying with safety requirements, Transport Canada has yet to establish an audit approach that provides a minimum level of assurance that federal railways have done so. While it has done a few audits of those systems most of the audits it did were too narrowly focused and provided assurance on only a few aspects of SMSs [safety management systems]. At the rate at which the Department is conducting focused audits, it will take many years to audit all the key components of SMS regulations, including key safety systems of each of the 31 federal railways.

That is just not enough for the people of Toronto. That is not enough for people of my community of Davenport. This does not cut it. It is going to take years for Transport Canada to conduct the audits. By the time it has finished conducting those audits, hopefully the Conservative government will be long gone and we will have new regulations and new standards for rail safety in this country.

The guidance and tools provided to inspectors for assessing federal railway safety management systems are missing many key elements. That is not us saying this. That is the Auditor General saying this. For example, they contain few requirements to help inspectors plan, conduct and conclude on audits and inspections, and for following up on findings. This makes it difficult for Transport Canada to ensure that its inspections and audits are effective in determining whether railways are taking corrective actions where necessary.

Lastly, Transport Canada does not have a quality assurance plan to continuously improve its oversight of rail safety. Is it any wonder that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are concerned about rail safety? They may be, as we are, happy that there are steps being taken around insurance and compensation, but we need to talk about preventing accidents as well as who pays for them when they happen.

This is not just a case of red tape versus yellow tape. This is not a question of onerous regulations versus caution tape that we use to cordon off accident sites. This should be a matter of course.

We are transporting dangerous goods in record quantities and record frequencies today. Not only are our regulations not keeping pace with the changes, the government has diminished and stripped away oversight and allowed companies to do the oversight themselves. The Auditor General's report shows that Transport Canada does not have the tools to even oversee the oversight that the companies are charged with implementing.

Most fair-minded people would accept that when rail companies are transporting dangerous goods through municipalities, the municipalities have a right know what is being brought through their cities, not three months later, but before it happens. That is a fair expectation that most people would have, yet we have not had any of that conversation happen among Conservatives.

I know that in the Province of Ontario, the Ontario NDP has pushed for “right to know” legislation that would enable municipalities to know what was coming through their cities and towns before it came through. This would allow emergency response units and fire crews to at least be properly on guard. It would also allow residents to know what the risks are of what is passing right through their backyards. That is, in fact, literally what happens in Toronto and in my community. It is fair for Canadians to want to know that stuff.

When we look at the Auditor General's report, we understand the enormity of the deficit in rail safety in this country. It also underscores a massive policy failure with regard to the Conservative government and its unwillingness to nurture the clean energy economy in Canada. The Conservatives are leaving $5 trillion of economic activity in clean energy technology on the table while they continually pump out and transport oil products that clearly do not come with the oversight and safety requirements that they need.

Things like “right to know” legislation are vital for cities like Toronto, where we have neighbourhoods upon neighbourhoods growing and developing right along the rail line. This is not 1920. This is 2015, and we need to pull these regulations and safety requirements up to modern standards.

Intergovernmental Affairs March 31st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, 100,000 Toronto families are on a waiting list for affordable housing. They need more than that member's empty spin cycle.

However, the disrespect for Toronto does not end with that non-answer. A new report from Toronto City Hall shows that the federal government owes at least $4 million in lieu of property taxes, and that does not include the whopping bill for the island airport.

People pay their fair share of property taxes, so why does the federal government think it can cheat Toronto out of millions of dollars? Why the rip-off?

Safe and Accountable Rail Act March 31st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has quite a lot of knowledge and understanding of the whole issue of our rail system in Canada. He represents an area just to the north of my own in the city of Toronto. We are right in the middle of a large transportation hub through which much of the dangerous goods that traverse the country pass.

Could the member speak a bit to the issue of emerging and growing cities and communities around rail corridors, and what particular issues occur when we have more and more people living right next to rail corridors?

Telecommunications March 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the minister is failing immigrant families in Canada, and he should be ashamed of himself.

Now, on to other Conservative failures. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre reports what Canadians already know: we pay some of the highest wireless rates in the world, more even than the United States. We pay almost double what French and U.K. consumers pay for home telecom packages.

Why are the Conservatives ignoring consumers? Why are they failing to make life more affordable for Canadians?

Citizenship and Immigration March 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as usual, the minister never lets facts get in his way.

The fact is that Conservatives have repeatedly and systematically made it more difficult for immigrants to become citizens. Instead of nurturing immigrant communities, Conservatives cut services. Instead of better recognizing foreign credentials, they turn a blind eye. Instead of fostering a sense of pride in Canadian citizenship, they are charging hard-pressed newcomers more and more money to apply.

Why are Conservatives making it so difficult for immigrant families to join the Canadian family?

Business of Supply March 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for the question, because it is something that frustrates many Canadians. Certainly when I am in my riding in Davenport, I hear this story all the time. We have an unemployment rate for young people that is twice the national average, and that is the official unemployment rate. The real unemployment rate for young people is a lot higher than that. If we are not building an economy that includes the next generation of workers, then what are we doing?

They can obfuscate or start up a fog machine of rhetoric around job creation, but we need only ask the parents of adult young people whether they think the middle class that they raised their children in is strong, healthy, and thriving in the way the government seems to think it is.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to report that I agree with the member on his opening comment. Indeed, we and the government are in stark contrast and hold starkly different views about how we deal with this issue.

Perhaps it is news to Canadians that the member for Brant considers the deputy chief economist of CIBC some kind of radical, or at least someone who is pushing nefarious statistics, but these are not our numbers. These are coming from the CIBC itself, which says that after each recession, it is clear that those stable jobs rarely come back.

That is what we are seeing here. Following the 2008 recession, we have not seen the resurgence and we have not seen the jobs that we lost being replaced with stable, full-time jobs. We see the numbers. The numbers are here.

If the member comes to Toronto, he can get a taste of what these numbers actually look like on the ground.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saint-Lambert.

It is an honour for me to rise in this place on behalf of the good people of Davenport in the great city of Toronto to speak in support of the motion before us.

I will begin by saying that many of the people the CIBC report references and talks about live in my riding of Davenport. I am talking about cab drivers, web designers, office cleaners, bartenders, dishwashers, carpenters, consultants, and micro-entrepreneurs. As I go door to door in my riding, I hear a consistent refrain: Where are the stable jobs in the Canadian economy? Where is the promise of that middle-class stability the current government keeps talking about but never delivers? Not only do the Conservatives not deliver it, they willfully ignore the reality.

We did not need a CIBC report, although maybe the folks across the way needed a report from one of their trusted allies, to underline what many of us know if we go door to door in our ridings, which is that we have young people who are 24, 25, 26, or 27, with post graduate degrees, still living at home because they cannot find a job in their profession.

It is very hard to find a full-time job at some of Canada's very profitable companies, such as, for example, grocery store chains, where most employees are hired on a part-time basis. We have an issue here of serial part-time work, people working on contract, people working freelance, and people being self-employed. We also have people who on Monday were employed at a company only to wake up on Tuesday to find out that they have been deemed independent contractors. In other words, we have a significant issue of misclassification of workers.

Then, of course, as we speak about often in this place, we have many young people and newcomers to Canada who are actually working for free as unpaid interns, because they are desperate to find that experience to put on a resumé, which they hope will lead to a stable job. However, what we are finding, and this CIBC reports underlines it, is that those stable jobs are not there at the end of all of that work. Those stable jobs are not there at end of a post graduate degree, on top of which there is $50,000 in student debt. Those stable jobs are not there at the end of serial unpaid internships. Those stable jobs are not there at the end of a six-month, short-term contract.

Let us underline what links all of these kinds of workers. Some are urban workers by design. In other words, they are self-employed people who want to be self-employed. I was one of those people. I worked for 25 years in the arts and culture sector as a freelancer, and I can tell members that while that is the life I chose, for many people in today's economy, there is no choice. We are seeing, as we see in the CIBC report, a staggering statistic, which is that self-employed employment grew four times faster than regular employment, and as the report also underlines, that self-employment pays significantly less than conventional employment.

These urban workers right across the country have no access to a workplace pension. They have no access to benefits, such as health benefits, extended benefits, sick leave, or compassionate leave. They also do not have access to any of our rapidly diminishing income security measures, like employment insurance.

In other words, our labour laws have been predicated on a workplace reality that no longer exists in this country. That reality was that one could leave school, even high school, and find a stable, full-time job. A person could imagine raising a family and buying a house, and in fact did, and after 35 years could retire with a pension that would ensure that one's senior years were lived out in a dignified fashion.

If you come to my town, Mr. Speaker, and I know you are dying to visit Toronto, you will see the effects of the Conservative government's disinterest in the realities of urban workers. Seniors are barely getting by. Young people are stuck in a cycle of short-term contract employment and free work.

As I look around this place today, I can imagine that many of the members in my caucus and also on the government side know these stories very well. Many of them likely have adult children who are struggling in today's economy. We are failing a generation of young people today by not addressing these realities.

I am not here today to promote a private member's bill. I am here today to speak in support of my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley's motion.

When we talk about precarious work, we also have to look at solutions. When we talk about precarious work, we have to ask ourselves whether the government has considered measures that would address these issues. It has come up with income splitting as a way of addressing precarious work. I cannot imagine where that fits in with this issue, because anyone who can access the government's income splitting scheme is not precariously employed.

I know that many of the members opposite have displayed a relative disinterest in the goings on in the economy of the greater Toronto area, even though it is the largest, most significant engine of the Canadian economy. It is important to note that today roughly 50% of all families in the GTA cannot find or access stable, full-time jobs. That should outrage every member in this place and anyone who cares about growing the Canadian economy.

What we see in this CIBC report is, in many ways, a castigation of the economic plans and policies of the government, which have failed to address some of the most pressing issues for Canadians, including how to create an economy that builds more stable jobs. How do we create an economy in which our young people graduate from our colleges and universities, and even from our high schools, into stable employment?

We have never heard anything from the government about the quality of jobs it says it creates. We now know what the quality of those jobs is. They are low-paying. They are part-time. They are contract. They are freelance. They are self-employed. They do not come with a workplace pension. They do not come with benefits. There is no income security attached to these jobs.

We need to fix that. An NDP government will fix that.