House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was elections.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Toronto—Danforth (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Aboriginal Affairs June 8th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people, I rise to speak about the massive educational deficit that is an obstacle to transforming the unequal relationship between first nations and wider Canadian society.

Two ongoing efforts merit attention. Each focuses on tackling gaps in knowledge of non-aboriginal Canadians. One effort is that of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools. Its interim report calls for comprehensive public awareness efforts on the part of the federal government. A second effort is the Third World Canada Tour this coming November. This joint initiative of the first nation community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and filmmaker Andrée Cazabon will engage Canadians on the challenges first nations communities face and work toward building deeper understanding through peer-based education.

I hope these two efforts signal the beginning of a paradigm shift in how we think about Canadian education and I hope we as parliamentarians can be part of that shift.

Canadian Human Rights Act June 1st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging the work of my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for what he has been attempting to do here, including across the aisle, in a very effective and open way, and also the work of Bill Siksay, a former member of this House, who began the project over six years ago, and to remind everybody that this bill has in effect already passed the House once, only to stall in the Senate when the House was dissolved.

I have three main messages in my remarks.

First of all, I think it is really important that we see this bill as being centrally about recognition of humanity through recognition of distinct identity as part of our commitment to equality in Canadian society. I have found in the past the following approach to identity from an author south of the border, Audre Lorde, in her book Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference to be very informative, and it might help the members of this House.

Allow me to read, and I quote.

She says:

...I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self. But this is a destructive and fragmenting way to live. My fullest concentration of energy is available to me only when I integrate all the parts of who I am, openly, allowing power from particular sources of my living to flow back and forth freely through all my different selves, without the restrictions of externally imposed definition. Only then can I bring myself and my energies as a whole to the service of those struggles which I embrace as part of my living.

The connection here between identity, its recognition and one's ability to participate and contribute to society at large is extremely well put in this quotation, and I hope that we can all keep the ideas in that quotation in mind.

The second message I have is that this bill is hardly revolutionary. We already have an act in the Northwest Territories that reflects it. The Cities of Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver have already taken this step. We have a bill that has passed second reading, the bill known as “Toby's law”, Bill 33 in the legislature of Ontario, and we have a recently tabled bill—I believe it is a government bill—in Manitoba.

Also, as has been mentioned several times, we have a declaration of the United Nations, the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity, which Canada has signed, which has to be used as some kind of a normative reference point for our domestic law. As well, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has recently tabled a report at the end of last year on gender identity and sexual orientation that makes clear that even at the United Nations level, with all the diversity of member states, this is now recognized in human rights terms, and in the European Convention on Human Rights community, where we have almost 50 European countries, gender identity, through the recognition of transsexuals' rights in different parts of the European Convention on Human Rights, has for over a decade been recognized in that area of the world.

But my third, and most important, message comes from Ontario. It is to Ontario that I wish to focus, although what I am about to do is not very elegant or eloquent as a way of giving a speech. What I would like to do is share with the House some of the speeches that have already been given on Bill 33, Toby's law, in Ontario. That is an act to amend the Ontario Human Rights Code with respect to gender identity and gender expression. I want us to see what is happening in the House today as part of a bigger picture and not to have the House end up falling behind the rest of Canada.

Central to what is happening in Queen's Park is that it is a multi-party process, including Progressive Conservative MPPs who are as enthusiastically in support of the bill as Liberals and NDP members. Indeed, it is important to note that it is a co-sponsored bill, sponsored by Cheri DiNovo, MPP, of the NDP, Yasir Naqvi of the Liberals and Christine Elliott of the Progressive Conservatives.

My purpose in bringing this up in this way is to ask my Conservative colleagues to take notice of the developments in Queen's Park, and to allow to happen here what has already happened in Queen's Park, which is the bill has passed second reading and has gone to committee. Once this bill gets to committee, we can have a very different kind of discussion. I think it is very important not to cut this off before that stage.

Now allow me to do what I already indicated would not be very elegant or eloquent, and that is to dip in and out of some speeches.

First is a quote from a speech by Christine Elliott, who is the Conservative MPP for Whitby—Oshawa. She is referring to Susan Gapka, a trans rights activist from my area of Toronto, whom I also have the pleasure of knowing.

She stated:

[W]hen I first met Susan, which was in a member of the Standing Committee on Justice that time Susan appeared and was making the same arguments that she has continued to make, which are that everyone is entitled to the dignity and protection of the Human Rights Code, and that the inclusion of gender identity and gender expression, along with race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, and all the other things that we talk about when we speak about the Ontario Human Rights Code, should be included. Gender expression and gender identity should be included with that, to clarify and make sure that the rights of trans people are included as well.

The Conservative MPP for Whitby—Oshawa continued:

Fundamentally, I agree that this is a matter of basic human rights, and that’s why I’m really proud to be able to co-sponsor this bill. I truly believe that everyone has the right to be fully included in our society, and everyone deserves the rights and protection of the Ontario Human Rights Code, period, end of sentence, no exceptions. That’s what I think we’re fundamentally dealing with here.

She went on to say:

There was a letter that was sent by Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Barbara Hall in 2007 on this issue, and she noted that “the lack of explicit inclusion in the legislation means that trans people’s distinct experiences of discrimination remain unacknowledged.... Amending the code would provide clarity and greater recognition of the dignity of transgender people, and would leave no doubt, in the eyes of the public or the law, that they are entitled to the same human rights protections as everyone else.”

The MPP for Whitby—Oshawa concluded:

I totally agree...and I think that some of the problems that people have encountered in terms of obtaining identification and obtaining travel documentation clearly show the fact that it hasn’t been completely accepted and understood by everyone. I hope that obtaining all-party support of this...would absolutely clarify the issue once and for all and we could move forward on this issue.

I think I only have time to move to one other speech in the Ontario Debates, and that is one by Mrs. Jane McKenna, Conservative MPP for Burlington, who stated:

I have said before that I believe we are all God’s children. I firmly believe this to be so. I have said before repeatedly that no one should suffer discrimination or persecution because of who they are and the road they walk in this life. We pride ourselves on being a modern society, a progressive place. We aspire to the ideas enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights....

And yet, under the current language of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the equalities and freedoms that most of us enjoy, and which far too many of us take for granted, are spelled out clearly for some and are implied for others.

If we truly want all Ontarians to enjoy these fundamental rights and freedoms, they should be extended to all Ontarians.

My intent in reading these two quotations from two members of the Progressive Conservative Party in Queen's Park who are in support of the analogue bill in Queen's Park is to plead to my colleagues in the Conservative Party to at least allow this bill to go to committee after second reading, where we can have a deeper discussion about the fundamental values of our country and the need to recognize the fundamental humanity of transgendered people.

Canadian Human Rights Act May 30th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I am privileged to rise tonight to speak to Bill C-304 which is before us. My main purpose in speaking today is to ask the question of what happens after this bill, if it passes. I suggest we need to indeed fill a gap, not simply with respect to the fact that gender protection will be lost unless something is done in a hurry, but some of the distinct benefits of civil remedies in this area will also go by the board. We cannot simply rely on the Criminal Code. That is my main message.

It is important to remind ourselves that section 13 has been part of the Canadian Human Rights Act since its enactment in 1977. It was designed to address at the beginning what we now call robocalls, automated repeat calls that disseminate hate messages on the grounds that are protected in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Afterward, Internet websites and their capacity to disseminate, on a grand scale, hate messages were added. As well a problematic section, which everybody agrees is problematic, was added to include, among the remedies under the Canadian Human Rights Act, the possibility of imposing a financial penalty of up to $5,000. That is what we have at the moment.

The question is whether this is consistent with freedom of expression. The Supreme Court of Canada in the Taylor case, an earlier version of section 13, has made clear it is. However, equally important is a second directly related question of whether or not the regulation of mass or repeated hate dissemination is required or at least strongly encouraged by the right to non-discrimination or by the human rights values of equality and dignity that underlie the charter and international human rights law. In that respect, we would do well to remind ourselves of a passage from Chief Justice Dickson, as he then was before leaving the court, in the Taylor case, where he said, in part:

—messages of hate propaganda undermine the dignity and self-worth of target group members and, more generally, contribute to disharmonious relations among various racial, cultural and religious groups, as a result eroding the tolerance and open-mindedness that must flourish in a multicultural society which is committed to the idea of equality.

I was also struck by the testimony of Mr. Mark Freiman, the just-past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, who appeared before our committee. Among a number of insights that I commend to all colleagues to have a look at, if this issue goes forward after the vote, in terms of what we would do with respect to civil remedies, his testimony is extremely valuable. One of the things he said:

It is my view that subsection 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act is an important resource in protecting vulnerable communities from the harm caused by hate propaganda.

He went on to say:

Is hate speech dangerous? To ask the question is to answer it. History provides the clearest examples of the mortal dangers—that is, dangerous to life—that hate speech can carry. Study Nazi propaganda in the thirties. Study Cambodian propaganda in the seventies. Study anti-Tutsi propaganda in Rwanda in the nineties. Study racist propaganda in the former Yugoslavia of the nineties. You will get your answer.

Therefore, it is really important that we keep in mind that kind of backdrop as to why section 13 was there in the first place and what would be lost in the process of repealing it.

My colleague who has sponsored the bill has been arguing, and has been arguing with a great deal of passion and consistency from his point of view, that the Criminal Code, especially section 319, is all that we need. It is partly where it should be for various reasons and by implication he seems to be suggesting it is effective. Although in committee he did acknowledge that he rather hoped that something might be done with section 319 to make it more effective.

However, before going on that route of accepting that repeal of section 13, the civil remedy side under the Canadian Human Rights Act can be replaced solely by a Criminal Code provision, we should again remind ourselves of the words of Chief Justice Dickson in Taylor.

He said:

It is recognize that, as an instrument especially designed to prevent the spread of prejudice and to foster tolerance and equality in the community, the Canadian Human Rights Act is very different from the Criminal Code. The aim of human rights legislation, and of s. 13(1), is not to bring the full force of the state's power against a blameworthy individual for the purpose of imposing punishment. Instead, provisions found in human rights statutes generally operate in a less confrontational manner, allowing for a conciliatory settlement if possible and, where discrimination exists, gearing remedial responses more towards compensating the victim.

I will not argue with a lot of the evidence to suggest that may indeed not be how section 13 has been functioning under the Canadian Human Rights Act. I do agree that there have been procedural abuses to the point that many seem to be willing to give up on section 13. However, as my colleague, the justice critic, said on numerous occasions in the committee, we should not be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Therefore, I, and I hope most of my colleagues, will be opposing this private member's bill, but I recognize that it is likely to pass. Therefore, I think it is extremely important that we keep the record of witnesses firmly in mind for purposes of going forward.

If the bill does pass, we all should be open to some kind of revisiting of this issue to build back up the appropriate protections within the Canadian Human Rights Act or possibly be open to some other civil remedy at the federal level with respect to the telecommunications issues that section 13(1) deals with. Given that there is a one-year delay in the private member's bill before us, we could have some time and some space for that kind of approach, especially if the government were to co-operate. I would personally be very happy to commit resources and time to working in a multi-party way and treating seriously the kinds of suggestions we heard in the committee and the other suggestions that we know must also be out there to make a new federal civil remedy work.

In this respect, it is really important to note that no witness before us, not a single witness, referred to the content of section 13 itself or decisions made by tribunals under section 13 as being the problem. All were supportive of the fact that the actual phraseology and what the tribunals had done with it, almost always limiting themselves to extreme cases of hatred, was fine. However, everybody focused on different versions of a set of procedural problems that had led to abuse, which people felt was very real.

We are in the situation, I believe, of being about to repeal something without anything adequate to replace it. Frankly, the Criminal Code provision, section 319, is not adequate. We heard that in committee. We know that from a bunch of studies. It is not doing the job. Very little is prosecuted under it for a variety of reasons. Basically, the result is we will have a repeal of a civil remedy and a completely inadequate criminal replacement.

It is important to reiterate the point made by one of the witnesses from B'nai Brith, Mr. Kurz, legal counsel, who in one of our sessions was probably the most convinced that this was a fait accompli, that it would go ahead. Therefore, he saw no mileage in trying to have a more complex amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act through the sponsor with the assistance of the government. However, he did want to emphasize that every section 13 decision was “unassailable” from his point of view. That is really important because some of the questions being asked from within the committee, and I think some of the tenor of my hon. colleague's presentation here tonight, suggests that the real problem is section 13 itself and how it unduly infringes on freedom of expression, which frankly I feel is the incorrect argument. I think it is the procedural and institutional flaws in how section 13 has been enforced that is the problem and that needs to be what we seek to rectify after this bill passes.

We would also do well to recall and heed the words of Mr. David Matas, who also appeared on behalf of B'nai Brith, when he said:

My view is that in order to combat hate speech effectively, you need a range of remedies. The first is simply education and advocacy and information. The notion that it has to be either the Criminal Code or nothing I think gets us to a situation where nothing ends up being done, because the Criminal Code is too draconian.

It is not simply the fact that the Criminal Code may be ineffective for what it is intended to be, but that it may not go to the heart of the kinds of reasons we have human rights codes in the first place.

I would like to end by saying that there was quite a bit of goodwill toward the last part of the committee sessions about looking forward to possibly rebuilding a civil remedy. Almost all of the witnesses from B'nai Brith and Mr. Freiman spoke in those terms. I know the government is focusing mostly on possible changes to the Criminal Code, but I think we have to keep open the possibility of a new civil remedy.

The Environment May 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, Conservatives have no idea at all of the cost and no interest at all in telling Canadians what they are.

Natural resources cannot be responsibly managed without something called science, but yesterday the government announced it is closing a groundbreaking freshwater research facility, the Experimental Lakes Area. It has been at the forefront of water science for nearly 50 years, measuring the impacts of human activities on fresh water ecosystems. I do not mean to sound academic, but that means the soil, air, water, animals and people.

Is the government—

The Environment May 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, clearly the government would keep us all in the dark. That was a non-answer that we are getting used to more and more.

The Conservatives' agenda to gut environmental rules will make future generations pay for the government's mistakes, but Canadians are also going to pay right now. Government documents released yesterday show that more than $20 million has been set up to speed approvals for major resource projects, regardless of environmental impacts.

Does the government have any idea at all what the total environmental and economic costs of its reckless agenda are going to be?

Groundwater Contamination May 17th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I rise today to support the motion put forward by my colleague, the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, and seconded by the member for Beauport—Limoilou.

I am supporting this motion out of solidarity with the victims of the TCE-contaminated groundwater in Shannon, in the province of Quebec, who want to obtain compensation from the federal government.

I have heard that, in past years, the municipality of Shannon has seen health problems and rates of cancer that are five times higher than normal.

Before talking about a resident in my riding of Toronto—Danforth, a victim of the contaminated water in Shannon, I would like to make six important points.

First, as a general principle, the government must add a level of ethical responsibility to its litigation strategy decisions. There are cases—and this is one of them—where it is quite simply inappropriate to defend what is wholly indefensible.

Second, under my colleague’s motion, the government should stop its opposition to the request from the victims and negotiate an agreement in a fair and equitable manner.

Third, if the government continues refusing to act acceptably, it must commit not to appeal the court's decision if that decision is unfavourable to the government, out of decency, to bring closure and for the good of the victims.

Fourth, the government should establish a compensation fund for all the victims of Shannon's contaminated water, above and beyond the class members, including and especially those who are diagnosed with cancer associated with this situation in the future.

Fifth, we acknowledge that it is not the current government that caused the harm, but it is important to note that it is responsible as the Crown’s representative for the harm caused by governments in the past.

Finally, this government will be the one that receives justified praise if it acts in good faith and stops resorting to legal tactics designed to delay a settlement. As a matter of fact, this government's behaviour is only causing the victims more suffering from uncertainty and delays. Even worse, some may well die before justice is served.

As I was saying earlier, Yves Boucher is with us today. He is a resident in my riding of Toronto—Danforth and has been severely affected by the contaminated water in Shannon. He is now living with brain cancer. Mr. Boucher has permitted me to share his story with you today, and I would like to thank him.

Yves has lived in Toronto for nearly 20 years. He served our community proudly as a firefighter. He was active and in good health. A few years ago, he started to feel numbness in his arm when he was driving the fire truck. After a few consultations, it was discovered that, at age 42, Yves had brain cancer.

In less than 24 hours, his life changed completely. Yves can no longer work at the job he loved as a firefighter, and he is now very limited in what he can do. The life of his partner, David, has also been turned upside down.

His cancer limits his life in all sorts of ways: memory loss, difficulty speaking and other frustrations caused by the many medications he takes. His personal life has been affected, of course. His partner and he have had their ups and downs together. He has been abandoned by some of his friends, who were unable to accept the sadness of the situation. Everything is even more frustrating in that he has suffered these things because of a mistake made by the government, a government that did not even have the decency to inform the people who had lived in the area around Valcartier about the contamination.

In fact, Yves learned the reason for what had happened to him from a friend, who had heard a customer talking about the poor children in Valcartier who had drunk the water and who now had cancer.

Before hearing that news, Yves did not know the cause of his cancer. It is unforgivable that he heard this news by word of mouth rather than from official information. Yves is one of the 3,000 people affected who formed the Shannon Citizens’ Committee in March 2007 and launched a class action against the government of Canada, the SNC-Lavalin Group and SNC Technologies.

What he is asking is for all victims who have had the same thing happen to them be compensated and have the costs of their drugs, in particular, covered. The shining light in this whole story comes from Mr. Boucher’s courageous and impressive attitude.

In conclusion, the purpose of this motion is to urge the Crown to recognize the responsibility of the Minister of National Defence and the Canadian Forces for the contamination of the water table; decontaminate the affected sites; and compensate the victims of the TCE contamination.

Like all other Canadians, all the families who live on or near a military base have the right to live in a healthy and clean environment without being afraid of harm to their health.

I urge my colleagues from all parties to support this motion in solidarity with Yves Boucher and all the victims of the TCE-contaminated water in Shannon.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act May 10th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I think it is fair to say that youth are ignored as a specific concern in the budget.

The government has taken care to say that its overall motivation is to stimulate prosperity even as it is predicting a loss of jobs as part of the budget. Hopefully, if it is correct, and we all hope it is correct, we will see some jobs out of this.

However, that is really not what youth expect right now. There is a great degree of worry and alienation among the youth with whom I have spoken. I have to say that the environmental provisions in this bill are probably bothering the youth in my riding as much as anything. They understand that they are ahead of the curve and ahead of the rest of us on the environment, and they are deeply disappointed with this part of the budget.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act May 10th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Halifax West did a good job setting out some fundamental premises with which I agree.

It is very important to note that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has shown that it is not necessary to do what the government is planning to do and that the OAS is sustainable.

However, quite apart from whether or not, for a certain period of time of 30 to 40 years, a certain percentage of the gross domestic product will need to be added to what is needed for OAS, the whole question is one of choices. We organize ourselves around that need. We know it is coming and we organize around it. We do not treat this as a permanent crisis.

It was also a little disappointing to hear in the House today during question period that one of the approaches the Conservative minister is taking is to reassure seniors that they will not be affected and emphasizes how important OAS is to them. However, even though in 10 years from now it will be equally important to those seniors, the Conservatives are after them now, which is unacceptable.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act May 10th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I will hold off in my judgment for just a little bit longer. However, I do feel like we are on the cusp of perhaps the most anti-democratic era in the history of this country. There are too many signs for us to ignore and, if we keep ignoring them, we will be in deep trouble.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act May 10th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to rise in the House today to speak on behalf of my constituents of Toronto—Danforth and all Canadians who are deeply worried by the Conservative government's assault on democracy in the form of this omnibus budget implementation act.

A full one-third of Bill C-38 is dedicated to the gutting of environmental regulation and protection. In addition, the bill includes a series of previously unannounced measures that will contribute to a less transparent and more secretive environment.

These measures include a massive gutting of the powers of the Auditor General'. In addition to the content of the bill, we take issue with its undemocratic nature.

The Conservatives truly are trying to hide from oversight and avoid accountability with this bill, both in terms of how it is going through the House and its content. It is inappropriate to put so many sweeping changes to so many different areas in a single budget bill. This is purely inappropriate legislative behaviour.

I will touch on just some of the areas hammered by Bill C-38, starting with the environment. This week, 10 of the leading environmental organizations launched a protest campaign to raise awareness of the huge threat the Conservative budget represents to the environment. However, they equally wish us all to understand the onslaught against democracy itself represented by this bill. Parliamentary democracy is under assault by the wholesale regressive transformation of federal environmental law without serious opportunity to debate and scrutinize, and much of the change in the budget bill is transparently intended to cripple the elements of participatory democracy that are part of current environmental law.

The campaign of these 10 brave groups is called Black Out Speak Out or Silence, on parle! in French, and it asks Canadians to darken their websites on June 4 as a form of collective national protest. Why do I say that they are brave? It is because members of the Conservative government have already attacked them as being radical, extremists and money launderers, and the budget itself seeks to chill their participation in education and advocacy around the environment by encouraging Revenue Canada to go after its charitable status. They know they will be targeted by the government and its big-oil partners and front groups.

In fact, the government has earmarked $8 million at least to help the Canada Revenue Agency go after charities ostensibly engaging in political activity or being funded by so-called foreign sources. In the hands of a government at war with environmental and social justice organizations, this is a frightening new spending initiative.

Finally, on the theme of the environment, I will mention a matter close to the hearts of the people of Toronto—Danforth. There is no renewal of the ecoenergy home retrofit program that was very popular with Toronto residents, including those in my riding and, most important, very valuable as a sustainability measure.

I will now pick up on the theme of removing oversight and accountability. The budget implementation bill would create a much more secretive and non-transparent government through removal and closure of oversight powers and bodies. Bill C-38 would eliminate the mandatory Auditor General oversight of financial performance and reporting by no less than 12 agencies by removing provisions that require the Auditor General to audit accounts, financial statements and financial transactions. This includes the Canada Revenue Agency, ironically enough.

As if that were not enough, it would also eliminate the position of the Inspector General for the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, which would drastically reduce accountability at CSIS, especially since we know that the Inspector General's recent reports have been critical of CSIS and the government. I think it is fair to assume that this critical scrutiny is most probably the reason the Inspector General would be eliminated as an institution. Once again, this shows that the government is dealing another, not just hammer blow but sledgehammer blow to the core foundations of our democracy.

I will now briefly speak to old age security, OAS. I hope to speak later in the day on the private member's bill. I will simply say the obvious. The Conservatives did not campaign on cutting OAS. Davos was the context for the Prime Minister to spring this on us. Now we know that the age of eligibility will rise over time from 65 to 67.

“Rise over time” are the key words because that has allowed the government to spread the disingenuous message that it is not current seniors who need to worry about this budget, but those coming afterward who just have to plan their affairs. This is the ultimate in wedge politics.

Seniors who now know they are “safe”, in the government terms, however, are among the most outraged. I can attest to that by virtue of the most recent byelection campaign I was part of and talking to people since. They are thinking of those coming after them, unlike the government, and do not buy into the crass assumption that they will not care and, therefore, will vote for the Conservatives because they are shielded from the immediate effect.

On housing, the people of Toronto—Danforth are extremely disappointed that there is nothing for affordable nor social housing in the budget bill and this has been condemned by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which stated:

A healthy housing sector, able to meet a broad range of needs, is a vital part of the economic and social wellbeing of any community.

Local governments have been implementing an array of initiatives to increase and preserve the supply of rental and affordable housing. ...municipalities are doing their part; but they can’t do it alone.

Cities have clearly been left out on housing, on transit and on other fronts.

Furthermore, yesterday, the Mental Health Commission of Canada released its mental health strategy and stated the importance of affordable, secure and safe housing for people living with mental health problems and illnesses and yet there is nothing in this budget for them.

Other important cuts are buried in the bill and/or indirectly created by the bill, such as cuts to CBC Radio drama. As we know, all drama programming of Radio One has been eliminated. I have been receiving many complaints from my constituents. One wrote the following:

...cutting the CBC's budget is detrimental not only to the Canadian arts community and the listening public, but to political culture in Canada.

I could not agree more.

As demonstrated by an article in the The Globe and Mail on April 12 by Kelly Nestruck, drama programming nurtured numerous playwrights and actors and allowed them to gain national attention while furthering the public's understanding of politics and society.

Afghanada, for example, not only “was the source of employment of an astonishing number of young Canadian playwrights”, but it also was the only drama to further our understanding of the causes and the legacy of the Canadian Forces mission in Afghanistan until the very recent wave of stage plays have finally rolled out.

It is a shame that the government is cutting spending on areas like CBC Radio drama that have had a long and culturally valuable history of informing, stimulating and, yes indeed, entertaining Canadians.

To conclude, the Conservatives clearly do not understand the connections between healthy communities and the health of the economy.

So what are we doing about it? These sweeping changes are going through the wrong forum. They should not be hidden in a budget bill in this manner. Trojan Horse budget bills should not become the new normal.

If the government is not afraid of being held accountable, it should agree to work with us in order to split this bill up into several bills.

Unfortunately, it appears that the government has already rejected the possibility of splitting this bill into more manageable tranches for Parliament to study. I hope there is still time for it to reconsider.