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

Public Safety February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, last night members of Parliament showed where they stood on protecting Canadians' fundamental freedoms. It is hard to imagine that so-called progressive Liberal members, especially from Toronto, could actually support the Conservatives ramming a bill through that encroaches on civil liberties, but the decree came down from on high, and they had to fall in line.

Far from being a new breath of fresh air, the Liberal leader and his brain trust have reverted to the same old Liberal tactics of the past. It is that sort of cynical politics that more and more Canadians have grown so tired of over the last 10 years.

Canadians know that they can count on the NDP to stand up on principle, stand up to defend their freedoms, and stand up for security. Let me be clear. Come October, they can count on an NDP government to scrap this dangerous bill.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, many of my NDP colleagues have raised serious and grave concerns, but I think that Canadians who are watching the debate do have to understand that SIRC has not been devoid of partisan influence. I would like the hon. member to speak to that.

The head of SIRC was a Conservative bagman who is now in jail in Panama. How does the member stand up in the House and talk about these oversight agencies as being non-partisan when they in fact have been?

Telecommunications February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, now that Telus has decided to implement usage-based billing, middle-class Canadians, who are already paying some of the highest Internet rates in the world, will now have to pay even more. This is something the Conservatives used to rail against. Now it is common practice across the sector.

Every month Canadians are getting nickel-and-dimed, while the current government bails on its responsibility to protect consumers. Why have the Conservatives given up the fight against usage-based billing?

Intern Protection Act February 17th, 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 speak on this very important bill, Bill C-636, the intern protection act.

It is important to say at the outset that all workers deserve workplace protection and that they deserve to be paid for the work they do. However, today we are seeing more and more young people working for free as unpaid interns.

Let us put this into some context. Youth unemployment is twice the national average. Young people are carrying unprecedented student debt. At the same time, young people are finding it more and more difficult to find entry level positions in the field for which they trained. Entry level positions are increasingly becoming unpaid positions.

It is one thing for a young person to not be paid. It is another thing if they do not even have the same rights and protections as employees, because unpaid interns are not part of the definition of an employee in the Canada Labour Code. This bill, the intern protection act, would change that.

What members of the House must really ask themselves tonight is whether they think it is fair and fine that an unpaid intern does not have the same rights to workplace health and safety protections as other workers. Is it fair and right that an unpaid intern does not have the same protection as other workers from sexual harassment in the workplace? Is it fair and acceptable that unpaid workers, most of whom are young workers, women, racialized, and immigrant, do not have the same rights as other workers to refuse unsafe work, to be trained how to handle unsafe work, or to have a cap on the number of hours they work?

Finally, is it acceptable that so many of our young workers are being forced to work for free, delaying their own ability to launch as independent adults? They are held back from becoming fully contributing members of our economy and society. As a consequence, many of these workers are also delaying moving out of their parents' home, starting families, and buying their first home.

Today, I stand here in this place on the 26th birthday of Andy Ferguson, a young Albertan who, after working two back-to-back extended shifts, was killed in a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel on his way home in the early hours of the morning. Mr. Ferguson's brother reached out to me, and we talked on several occasions about how we could turn this tragedy into a bill that would help young workers right across the country who are in a cycle of unpaid work that they have no control over, no agency in, and no protection from.

This bill would be a historic bill that would extend the same workplace protections that all workers expect to have, and most do under the Canada Labour Code. However, unpaid interns do not have them, because they are not included in the definition of what an employee is.

It is important for the government members tonight to realize that the Brad Wall government of Saskatchewan announced new rules prohibiting the use of non-educational unpaid interns. The labour minister, Don Morgan, said:

We’ve said, interns, you’re going to get paid. Ones that would not get paid would be a student learner, where it’s part of their course....

The finance committee did a study on youth employment, starting in March 2014. Among the recommendations, recommendation 9 was to tighten the rules around unpaid interns to bring them greater protections.

As many have pointed out tonight, there may be upward of 300,000 people working as unpaid interns in the Canadian economy.

As well, it is important to clarify tonight that we are talking about interns in federally regulated sectors, including telecommunications, broadcasting, banking, financial, transportation and crown corporations.

In the bill we ask for the same rights and protections that other workers have. Is it fair that all workers get the same rights in a workplace protected under the Canada Labour Code? That is not what is happening. It is really up to us to change that, to make it right.

I look at the members in the House, and I know many of them have adult children and many of them have constituents for whom this is a burning issue. How, in our economy, can we expect young people to work for free?

Many would like to conflate or blur the issue around good internships and important training opportunities for young people. We have seen and heard the stories of quite profitable, powerful private companies, corporations, public companies availing themselves of free labour in this current economic situation in which young people find themselves.

The bill would ensure that internships would be for educational purposes, that they would be the primary benefit of the intern and that they would not replace paid employees. Some will say that means they will not have an opportunity.

We are saying that we need to ensure, especially in companies that can afford to pay young workers, these unpaid internship entry-level positions should be paid positions, as they have been for generations upon generations. I do not think anyone in this place would disagree with the fairness of that.

We know there are many well-run internship programs. Some of my colleagues tonight have referenced some of them. However, we also know that there is abuse in the system. We need to step in as a responsible Parliament and take a look at the things we can do to protect young workers, to encourage the economy to invest in young workers and to stabilize the economy for young workers.

This is an important step in the right direction to see that all workers, all young people, have the same protections as everybody else in the economy and that they get paid. If we are building an economy where we increasingly are encouraging a system and an economy where young people are forced to work for free, we are not doing what we need to do to shrink the income inequality gap and we are gaming the system for those who have the opportunities and the capacity to spend sometimes several years working for free, while others cannot afford that same opportunity.

We need to look at ways in which we can ensure that as many young people as possible can gain access to the economy, can have safety and the knowledge that they are protected in their workplace, to have that agency. We have heard stories and seen examples where that just simply is not the case.

In honour of the memory of Andy Ferguson and the good work his family has done to try to bring this issue to the fore, I urge all my colleagues in the House to really take a look at the bill and to ask themselves whether the way we have set this table for young workers is fair. I am sure when they ask that question in an honest way, they will discover that indeed unpaid interns deserve the same protections and the same rights as employees under the Labour Code.

Citizenship and Immigration February 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives keep making it harder for skilled workers to immigrate to Canada. As if wait times for family reunification and citizenship were not enough, they have done such a bad job writing the rules for the federal skilled worker program that the Federal Court said that the same application could either pass or fail depending on, any given day, how the rules were interpreted. This is a huge problem.

What is the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration going to do now to fix this mess?

Millennium Kids February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in this place on behalf of the good people of Davenport in the great city of Toronto to honour a remarkable young woman from my riding. Mercy Justine Hildebrand began advocating for Canada's millennium development goals when she was just eight years old, and with her mother Sara's help, she formed a group called Millennium Kids, made up of children who were all born in the year 2000, the same year that Canada, along with the global community, committed to the UN millennium development goals by 2015.

She is now 14, and yesterday she was in New York participating in the United Nations Economic and Social Council's youth forum on youth engagement in the transition from millennium development goals to sustainable development goals. Mercy Justine is part of a new generation of young people in our country who believe that Canada must play an active part in the global struggle to eradicate poverty, hunger, gender inequality, and preventable disease.

I am very proud to stand here as her member of Parliament to say thanks to Mercy Justine Hildebrand for her passion, her commitment, and most importantly, her leadership.

Citizen Voting Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question, highlighting some of the great work that the member for Sherbrooke has been doing in this place since he was elected in 2011. Indeed, it raises serious concerns that the government has not thought this one through, or that it has thought it through and it really does not matter whether or not Elections Canada scrambles.

By answering it this way, I do want to emphasize the great respect that the NDP and I have for the people at Elections Canada. They do phenomenal work, but they need the tools and the time. They need to have an opportunity to provide input when significant changes to their mandate are made.

Citizen Voting Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend raises a very important point, which is whether we want more people to vote in this country. Do we want people engaged in our electoral process? Do we not want to encourage participation and engagement, and facilitate it?

That is what we want, and that is not the intention of the government.

Citizen Voting Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question underlining significant issues around how the government moves forward with legislation, particularly if it is not consulting the major stakeholder, Elections Canada, and not laying the groundwork. Not hearing back from Elections Canada and getting its expert feedback further erodes Canadians' trust in the government and its intentions.

Citizen Voting Act February 3rd, 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 participate in the debate on Bill C-50.

It is important to the people in my riding. Many people in Davenport, in fact many people in Toronto, go back and forth between Canada and their home countries, the countries in which they were born. Many of my constituents live in both places and care deeply about Canada and the electoral process. They are Canadian citizens, yet from time to time over the course of one's life, end up living elsewhere for a period of time.

We already know from the various accounts that we have heard in this place how difficult it is for many immigrant Canadians to receive government services, to access Service Canada, for example, and how difficult and tricky that is for many in our community. We now are seeing another example of how the government erodes the trust of Canadian citizens who are immigrants or Canadian citizens living abroad. This bill is part of a long litany in a grand narrative, the result of which is a deepening lack of trust.

There is also a very adversarial relationship between the government and expert opinion of society and court rulings. In fact, the government has no hesitation in spending money, the dollars of hard-working Canadians, to fight court challenges and to thumb its nose on what Canadian jurisprudence would lead us to.

In this one I am referring to Superior Court Justice Michael Penny who made it clear that long-term expats who cared deeply about Canada should have the right to vote. The federal government, though, did not withdraw its appeal of the Frank judgment when it tabled Bill C-50, even though it wrote its press release and backgrounder on Bill C-50 to make it appear as if it was accepting the Frank judgment.

We have a bill, and it is important that Canadians understand that parliamentarians have been attempting to deal with this issue in a manner that reflects the values of Canadian society, which is that if an individual is a citizen in Canada, regardless of where they live, they have the right to vote.

The government will say, as it did in earlier debates around its unfair elections act, that it is making things simpler and streamlining the system. In fact, we know that is not the case. One would think that when we are faced with the reality of plummeting voting rates in liberal democracies, including Canada, that we would, as parliamentarians, be thinking about ways in which we help facilitate and invite Canadian citizens to participate more fully in the electoral process. However, we are seeing the government, once again, going in the opposite direction, to the extent that organizations have raised serious concerns about this legislation.

Dylan Penner from the Council of Canadians said, “Bill C-50 is a blatant abuse of power. The current government is trying to legislate its way around a court decision it doesn't like”, and we have heard that one before, “to further stack the deck in its favour for the next election”, and we have heard that one before too. He goes on to say, “Rather than accept a court ruling that restores voting rights, the government has decided to change the law in a way that infringes voting rights”.

I would like to add that I will be splitting my time with the member for Gatineau.

I would also like to quote from the organization Leadnow, which asked the Prime Minister and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to commit to respecting section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees all Canadian citizens the right to vote. It reads:

Any further attempt by this government and future governments to overturn the recent court ruling that reaffirms that right will be considered an affront to the democratic rights of all Canadians.

In a sense, that gets to the crux of the issue here.

This is part of a long narrative by the Conservative government in pushing the envelope around democratic rights and freedoms, of obfuscating in and outside this place regarding its intentions. There have been countless inquiries. There have been police inquiries into voter fraud.

In short, Canadians do not trust the government.

We heard earlier this morning from the former minister of foreign affairs about the importance of this place, of the centrality of this place to preserving democracy in Canada. Yet time and time again we see a government that is willing to play fast and loose with the rules, in the hope that Canadians who are struggling just to get by in their day-to-day lives will not notice as the government starts stacking the deck in its favour. This legislation is just an example. We have not heard any compelling evidence or arguments from the government that that is not the case, and here I am talking about the grand narrative.

Over 2.8 million Canadians live abroad. These are Canadian citizens who pay about $6 billion in Canadian taxes. We need to be thinking of ways to include them more easily in our electoral process. That is a project that any government would think important and vital, but that is not what we see here. It is important that we get to some of the nuts and bolts of how these things play out. We have the legislation, but parliamentarians need to hear how these bills would affect people living their day-to-day lives.

Bill C-50 proposes to give Canadian citizens only five weeks before an election to complete the process. The citizen must send in the form and Elections Canada has to mail out a special ballot. The citizen then has to mail that ballot back. As one Canadian abroad put it when consulted on the impact of Bill C-50, “With international postal delays being what they are, expats have to use FedEx or other courier services to have any hope of their vote being counted”.

Elections Canada is not legally mandated to do the same. In other words, if Elections Canada sends the ballot by surface mail, voters outside of North America are going to have a difficult time. Even just the timing of this is going to be difficult. One would think that the government would take these issues into consideration, but what do we expect from a government that is seeking to tear down bit by bit our own postal service. I suppose that is what we get.

This legislation is of deep concern to our party. We have a solution in Bill C-575 put forward by the member for Halifax. I would urge the government to look seriously at that legislation.