House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was accessibility.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Windsor—Tecumseh (Ontario)

Lost her last election, in 2021, with 31% of the vote.

Statements in the House

International Trade February 4th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the TPP is a threat to our economy, and Windsor—Tecumseh and Essex county have already suffered hard blows to the auto sector. We know. Do not dismiss our concerns. We need meaningful consultation. The auto sector supports more than 120,000 good jobs in our province. However, the trade minister, back in 2008, wanted to let the big three go bankrupt, and now the trade minister signed a bad deal that puts our auto jobs at risk again—

Business of Supply February 2nd, 2016

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his inspiring speech. I too want to ask a question regarding his union background and about his riding in particular. I would love to hear some of the positive impacts he has observed with pay equity, having experienced that in his work environment in the past. If we could hear some of the pros, I think it would be beneficial at this point in the day.

Business of Supply February 2nd, 2016

Madam Speaker, unfortunately the damaging legislation that had been passed, which undermined the progress of the work of Status of Women Canada, was not passed unanimously. I do not know if this has merit in this case to stall us from working on this real milestone achievement that would help to negate the damage that has been done. We should be further ahead by now.

Business of Supply February 2nd, 2016

Madam Speaker, yes, absolutely. I mentioned a regulatory environment. Once we normalize, once we reach certain milestones, there are other sectors that can and will emulate that. They do look to government for leadership.

Business of Supply February 2nd, 2016

Madam Speaker, at this point I feel overwhelmed by how we are wallowing in the past mostly because of the fact that it can be embarrassing or uncomfortable for some people who have tried to champion the cause. For us to move forward though we have to acknowledge past practice.

The member should look at the motion through the lens of Status of Women Canada in trying to expedite and acknowledge as we move forward the truth and reconciliation to how women are being treated in the workforce and our past practices having to be nullified. That would help in the context of how she could move forward to support this motion.

It is important for us to have an independent committee work on pay equity. The committee would look at the legislative environment in a way that would help us expedite pay equity as quickly as possible. Other barriers against women would gradually crumble because we would have taken care of the legislated environment. It is important for us to put forth the history of that legislated environment. It is not the same thing as talking about goals and policy that have been undermined. This is a regulated environment.

Business of Supply February 2nd, 2016

Madam Speaker, I rise today on an issue that has long been near and dear to my heart, that being equity.

As the proud daughter of a hard-working mother and hard-working grandmothers, and as the proud mother of three daughters who are entirely capable, I burn with righteous indignation when I think of the value of the work they have done and have the potential of doing and realize that we have allowed ourselves to be skewered and talked into a legislated environment that today makes it acceptable to pay a woman less for equal work. That is why I am honoured to be part of the New Democrat caucus and to speak on behalf of our opposition day motion.

The motion calls on the government to recognize pay equity as a right; to finally implement the recommendations of the 2004 pay equity task force report; to restore the right to pay equity in the public service, which was eliminated in 2009; to appoint a special committee to conduct hearings on pay equity and and to propose proactive pay equity legislation, which is the icing on the cake for me to expedite such an important issue.

It blows my mind that in the year 2016 we are actually talking about it. I wish it were a decade ago and I could be sharing in anticipation with my younger daughters the kind of future held out for them as they entered their era of political activism as young women.

Why pay equity? To paraphrase the Prime Minister, which we have done often here today, it is 2016 and women make nearly a quarter less than men on the dollar. Put simply, pay equity is a fundamental human right, the principle of equal pay for equal work.

In her 2012 paper, “A Living Wage As a Human Right”, Mary Cornish points out that by failing to achieve pay equity, Canada is in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related United Nations conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The goal of pay equity is to stop discrimination related to the historic under-valuation of work traditionally performed by women, or “women's work” as they say. Let us be clear that pay inequity is a form of discrimination and the gender wage gap is usually greater for aboriginal women, women with disabilities, racialized, and immigrant women. The more categories a women occupies, the greater her financial disparity.

A good example of this can be taken from the area where I live in Windsor Essex County, where my riding, Windsor—Tecumseh, is located. Forty-one point eight per cent of female-led, lone parent families live in poverty, according to Pathway to Potential, Windsor's poverty reduction strategy. Here, pay equity is but a symptom of larger structural inequities, with women being hit the hardest, be they from a minority community, or aboriginal, or a person with disabilities, or merely single.

How did we get here? How did it happen that women came to earn 77¢ on the dollar of what a man makes? Lower rates of pay do not just emerge ex nihilo out of nothing. There are broad historical and cultural factors at play.

An interesting report from Status of Women Canada last year detailed some of these factors. These include a stubbornly consistent rate of violence against women in Canada despite dropping rates of violence against men; a greater vulnerability of aboriginal women to violence than non-aboriginal women; increasing poverty rates of single moms and senior women; and following from the above, a 20% income gap between men and women. This is two percentage points higher than the gap that exists in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, countries. While this report notes that Canadian women are better educated and are entering the workforce in greater numbers than men, the latter are still paid over 20% more than their female colleagues. This pay gap puts Canada fourth from the bottom of 34 OECD countries, with only South Korea, Japan, and Germany scoring worse.

What can we do? How can we fix the problem? According to a recent OECD report, “Achieving stronger growth by promoting a more gender-balanced economy”, there are certain enabling conditions that are needed to create an environment where gender equality and then pay equity are possible. These enabling conditions turn out to be concerns that New Democrats have been fighting for for generations. These conditions are maternal health measures such as prenatal, childbirth, post-natal, and reproductive health services.

In Canada, women on average do 1.5 hours more unpaid work a day than men do, and the affordability and quality of child care overall in Canada is still an issue forcing many women to drop out of the labour market or reduce their working hours during their child-rearing years.

Gender equality in future labour force participation crucially involves policies enhancing gender equality in education, such as ensuring that boys and girls have equal access to good-quality education, ensuring equal rights and opportunities for them to successfully complete schooling, and helping students make informed choices about their field of study and career path.

I want to salute Unifor and Windsor's Women's Enterprise Skills Training for promoting awareness and mentorship. Members might check out the independent video Because It's 2016 and see why this video is getting well-deserved accolades for the awareness and mentorship of young women in skilled trades.

To this I would add that it is about having legislation, laws with real teeth that set out more that mere voluntary goals that feel and look good and that explode well in public attention during campaigns. Those kinds of fireworks disappoint and frustrate us when we are here in the House of Commons and hear the rhetoric first. Let us get some legislation with teeth, and having an independent committee is the most expeditious way for us to take that dedication seriously and do the work that really needs to be done.

Last, pay equity is not just about being the right and moral thing to do, although this alone should be cause enough to desire it. I look across the aisle at our other parties and I know that each and every member has a sister, a mother, or a daughter, and finds it unacceptable that females should be paid less than males for doing equal-value work.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply January 27th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I want to extend my congratulations to the hon. member for holding the deanship in this chamber.

I wanted to share a statistic about seniors, since he shared with us that it is our duty to defend our constituents and made a comment about seniors and the GIS. I would like to share a statistic.

In my riding of Windsor—Tecumseh, 35% of seniors have an income of $20,000 or less. I would like to know if the hon. member has any insight about the demographics in his riding, and if he thinks the throne speech adequately addresses those very serious statistics.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply January 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I agree that we need to look at a more systematic approach for seniors. Our platform makes a lot of sense in terms of the dominos that have to fall. For income security for seniors, the Liberals campaigned on a platform to enhance CPP. I mentioned before the social determinants of health. We have so many seniors right now who are deciding what bill to pay and what medication to pay for, so it also includes a prescription drug plan.

We need to maximize our resources. Our belief is that to maximize our resources, we have to access them, for instance, the TFSA cuts. Using resources in a smart way for seniors would create a savings down the road. When it comes to prescription a drug plan, there is the saving we have in the bulk costs. There is also in the quality of life for people. The longer people are at home and independent not only improves their quality of life, but our system can flourish and help people who really need it.

These supports have to be put in place. I believe it starts with a national pension reform that addresses income security for seniors.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply January 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question helps me reiterate how important it is that we commit to a health accord. We cannot make any long-term plans until we have that commitment and the links to our social strategies that affect our health. We all know this. We hear it called the social determinants of health.

We cannot work on these long-term strategies and work meaningfully with our partners at the municipal and provincial levels if we do not have that commitment at the national level. That is the very simple, first, significant step of recommitting to health care at the national level. National leadership is imperative if we are to address social determinants of health.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply January 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased, as the recently elected member for the great riding of Windsor—Tecumseh, to be among all members. I am honoured and grateful to be here. However, for a brief moment, I will speak as the proud mother of my baby, celebrating her 23rd birthday today, Chevonne Hardcastle. I want to give her a shout out and wish her a great day today.

Windsor—Tecumseh is a fascinating place. It is comprised of a number of communities that have come together over time. They were, at one time, distinct communities. They provide a real, vibrant fabric in Windsor and Essex county. I am honoured to accept the trust that they have placed in me.

With the vibrant neighbourhoods of Windsor and Tecumseh, including Riverside, Walkerville, St. Clair Beach, Oldcastle, and Maidstone, we understand how crucial it is to address social, economic, and health equity. We eagerly await the new era we have been promised, a new era of co-operation among all levels of government, as well as a return to national leadership on health care, and the negotiation of a new health accord.

During the election campaign, I promised my constituents that when in Ottawa I would fight on behalf of them for the issues that matter the most to them, and I intend to honour this commitment.

In many ways, the riding of Windsor—Tecumseh is much like the rest of the country. Our people are deeply concerned about the condition of the health care system, opportunities for young people, jobs, security and dignity for people who are retiring, affordable housing, and the list goes on. However, my constituents are also rightly concerned about the environment, especially when it concerns stewardship of the Great Lakes, in which they are ensconced.

In Windsor—Tecumseh we champion the causes of social justice. Fortunately, my being a New Democrat means that the priorities of my constituents are the same as those of the party to which I belong, and this is no coincidence. The NDP exists to fight for these issues and values. The people of Windsor—Tecumseh champion the causes of social justice. We need look no further than the subamendment offered by the NDP to the government's Speech from the Throne to see that this is true. Here is what that says:

...working in collaboration with opposition parties to present realistic, structured and concrete changes that benefit some of Canada's most vulnerable citizens, including: seniors through an increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement, middle class families through reducing taxes on the first income tax bracket, low income workers with leadership by introducing a $15 per hour federal minimum wage, and supports to those struggling to enter the workforce with a robust and reliable Employment Insurance program.

Members are no doubt aware of the rich history of the city of Windsor and the county of Essex and the role it has historically played in North America's automotive industry. With innovation and research, much can be done to encourage further development of this sector within our region. In their election platform, the Liberals committed to investing in and growing our economy, strengthening the middle class, and helping those working hard to join it. The new government has also declared, and this is important, that it expects Canadians to hold it responsible for delivering on its commitments. The New Democrats are committed to supporting the government as it delivers on its promises and hold it accountable where it does not.

While the Liberal Party did not mention the auto sector in its election platform or in the throne speech, I nevertheless hope that the government will pursue policies that will rebuild this vital sector in our economy. The Americans are already ahead of us in this regard, having launched last year the investing in manufacturing communities partnership. This program encourages communities to develop comprehensive economic development strategies that will strengthen their competitive edge for attracting global manufacturing and supply chain investments. This is mandated with “coordinating federal aid to support communities' strong development plans and [with] synchronizing grant programs across multiple departments and agencies”.

This is something the New Democrats envision. We have a number of ideas about how Canada might achieve similar goals within our own automotive industry. We have been vocal about the need for national strategies in our manufacturing sectors, and especially a national auto strategy that is long awaited in Windsor—Tecumseh.

Like our American friends, we believe the Government of Canada should make it easier for automakers and investors to set up operations in Canada. We envision a program that we call “ICanada”. ICanada would be a one-stop shop to facilitate the federal government, automakers, and investors with various government programs and incentives that are in place, and we hope, soon, that these will be in place.

We believe the government should improve financial incentives for automakers and parts suppliers in exchange for firm commitments on jobs and investment in Canada. The government must support research and innovation in the auto sector, including immediate funding renewal for the University of Windsor's AUTO21 Network of Centres of Excellence in engineering.

While the Speech from the Throne makes no mention specifically of the Great Lakes, I did look at the Liberal Party platform to find a commitment to protect the Great Lakes and declared intent to work with provinces, as well as our American partners, to prevent the spread of invasive species, to undertake science-based initiatives, to better understand and manage water levels, and to clean up coastal contamination. These are all very important issues of sustainability for the people of Windsor—Tecumseh, and we have a heightened awareness of it because of where we live.

There is even a promise to restore the $1.5 million in federal funding for fresh water research. That had been cut by the previous federal Conservative government.

I will pause right here and salute our Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor. The work it does is so important, not only regionally and nationally but globally.

As many members will recall from the many news reports, the shorelines around the Windsor—Essex area have been subject to massive toxic blue-green algae blooms. From the shore, these blooms seem to stretch out and cover the entirety of Lake Erie. They make our water supplies toxic. No boil water advisory can fix that. Boiling water does not work.

These toxic emissions in the water are starving the fish and aquatic wildlife of oxygen. We are all concerned with the safety of fresh water that has been taken for granted. This is a real clarion call for us that we need to do the research and take this seriously.

I applaud the work of the Citizens Environment Alliance and the Detroit River remedial action plan. Along with them, I will be following quite closely the new government's work in these areas, and will do whatever I can to assist it and hold it accountable for the promises made that I mentioned earlier.

On the subject of health care, the Liberals have likewise promised to negotiate a new health accord. The provinces and territories, including a new agreement on funding, are supposed to be included in the plan. So far, few details have been released.

As one might expect, the New Democrats have a few ideas on the subject of health care that our friends across the way will find helpful. On the doorstep in my riding, one issue I heard a great deal about was the exorbitant cost of prescription drugs. The New Democrats strongly believe that increased funding should go to a national prescription drug plan.

One in four Canadian households has someone who cannot afford the medications prescribed to he or she by the doctor. We therefore strongly urge the new government to move quickly to address the important matter. No one should have to choose between paying for food and getting the medications they need in order to stay alive.

We also urge the new government to cancel the former Conservative government's planned cuts to health care so we can work with provinces to improve health care services for Canadians. It is imperative that we support the hiring of new doctors and nurses to help the five million Canadians who do not have a family doctor. This shortage is of particular concern in my area.

As well, we should formulate a clear and detailed plan to help the one million Canadian children and youth who have a mental illness, but who do not have access to appropriate care and the early intervention they need for successful outcomes.

We require a strategy to provide care for seniors in need, at home, in hospitals, in long-term care facilities, and palliative care. So far, we have not heard anything from the new government on whether it intends to cancel the Conservatives' planned cuts to health care, and yet—