House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

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

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 24% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 June 15th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles for her speech and for sharing her speaking time.

Like my other colleagues on this side of the chamber, we will be opposing the bill at third reading, and the reasons are many. My colleagues have spoken many times today about the reasons why we will not support the bill.

First, we are with another omnibus bill, 150 pages, 270 clauses. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they railed against the then Liberal government for bringing in budget bills that were smaller than this. However, I have to give them credit. This is actually a pretty trim budget bill for the Conservatives. We have had budget bills from the government that are 300, 400 and 500 pages long, and they contained so many clauses that had absolutely to do with the budget. Unfortunately, this one does too, but just a few less than in previous budgets.

The Conservatives have included retroactively changing the Access to Information Act. We heard the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness talk in the House today about the will of Parliament. The will of Parliament exists after Parliament has voted on something. These changes are to retroactively make changes to absolve the RCMP of responsibility for destruction of documents that happened before Parliament exerted its will. I really cannot find a justifiable reason why any government would put that kind of change in place. It really sets a dangerous precedent.

Suzanne Legault, Canada's independent Information Commissioner, has said that the Conservatives has set a perilous precedent against the quasi-constitutional right of Canadians to know. This is not the first dangerous precedent that the government has set.

Then the Conservatives are slipping in some balanced budget legislation into the bill. We only have to look at the previous Conservative government in Alberta to know what happens to balanced legislation. When the Conservatives do not like it, they just change it.

If the government would have had to deal with this kind of legislation being in place when it came into power, the front bench ministers would owe the Canadian taxpayers over $3 million for all the deficits they have put in. Adding $150 billion to Canada's national debt is something our children and grandchildren will likely have to pay off because of many of the decisions made by the government.

The Conservatives have extended the universal child tax credit and they have talked about how much this would help families. We agree that families do need help, because after almost 10 years of a Conservative government, they are struggling. However, time and time again we have heard the Conservatives say say that we, the New Democrats, would get rid of that. They are not speaking the truth when they say that. We had committed to keeping that money in the pockets of Canadian families because it is true that families are struggling after a decade of Conservative rule in Canada.

We would go well beyond that. We would not just let Canadians have that money back. We would bring in a national child care plan that would create a million new child care spaces in Canada at $15 a day.

The thing that the Conservative and Liberals do not want to tell Canadians is that with both of their plans, it leaves child care costs in Canada sky high and unaffordable for many families. For folks in Toronto, many people have to spend over 30% of their annual income for child care. In Toronto, people pay, on average, between $1,000 and $2,000 a month, $1,676 is the figure that is mentioned. The entire amount the Conservative plan gives back to families is only $1,900. That would pay for a little more than one month of child care for families that need it. What are families supposed to do for the other 11 months of the year?

Many families are unfortunately having to forgo having an income from one of the parents so they will not have to pay for child care. Instead, one of the parents stays home. What does that mean? Families fall further behind, because in a city like Toronto, the vast majority of families need two incomes to make ends meet. If one of the parents has to stay home, that family falls further behind.

It is hurtful to the economy because less people are out there working and making money. Then it hurts the treasury as well because less people are paying taxes and more people need to receive benefits. What the other two parties want to do is completely backward. They are fighting themselves on the wrong issue. What needs to be tackled is the high cost of child care. It is only the NDP that has made a commitment to deal with those high costs.

We do not oppose everything in the budget. As my colleague from Trois-Rivières mentioned, there are several diluted NDP initiatives that are in the budget implementation act. The first one I will mention is the way the Conservatives decided to try cutting small business taxes out of the NDP platform. However, they could not even do that right.

The NDP committed to reducing small business taxes from 11% to 10% to 9% in two years. The Conservatives are cutting them by 0.5% each year for four years. Small business owners will know who they will be better off under. It will be an NDP government because by the time the Conservatives' full tax cut comes into play, they will already have two full years of the full 9% lower tax rate that an NDP government would bring in.

The Conservatives really only have done this because it is an election year. They know that this has been our long-standing position and that we will not support the budget because of ridiculous policies like income splitting, which would only help the top 15% of income earners yet would cost the federal treasury $2.5 billion.

The projected surplus for this year is about $1.8 billion, $1.4 billion, somewhere in that range. It is well below $2.5 billion, which means the Conservatives are adding to the deficit and adding to the national debt to pay for a program that will go to the people who need the help the least. The vast majority of people who can take full advantage of income splitting are in the higher, not lower, income brackets. This is the plan of the Conservatives.

Then there is the doubling of TFSAs. Conservative after Conservative have talked about how 11 million Canadians have opened TFSAs. What they again will not tell us is that out of those 11 million accounts that were opened, less than 30% get filled up every year. They forget to talk about that. They talk about 11 million as if one-third of Canadians are maximizing the current TFSA limits of $5,000 a year. That is not even close. It is less than 30% of the 30% who have opened accounts who are maximizing out the ones that are there.

Canadians need ways to save money for their retirement, but most cannot even put $5,000 a year because they are paying exorbitant costs for child care, or are sometimes paying more to get prescription medication, or the cost of living has gone up. In a city like Toronto less than half of all the working people in Toronto have a full-time permanent job. The vast majority now are working precarious part-time jobs. The situation gets even worse with young Canadians where 13% are now unemployed.

Some shocking statistics came out. Over the last two decades, the last eighteen years, which is nine years of Liberal government and then nine years of Conservative government, minimum wage workers have skyrocketed. The number of minimum wage workers has increased by 94%. They used to make up 3% of Ontario's workers. Now they make up 12% of Ontario's workers. What those two parties have done is sent us to the bottom just to pay for the tax cuts for corporations. Corporations now have more money squirrelled away in the bank than the total size of our national debt. They are not going to invest that money in Canada. They are going to leave it in the bank. That is dead money. It is money that could be used to improve the economy.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 June 15th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech.

He certainly raised a number of important points. However, I want to ask him what an NDP government would have done differently with a budget at this point in time.

Remembrance Day June 15th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by once again thanking the great people of Scarborough Southwest for their support in 2011. It has been an honour and a privilege to represent them in the House for the past four years.

My bill, Bill C-597, which would make Remembrance Day a legal holiday, is finally back from committee after 205 days and studied by two parliamentary committees. The bill would add exactly one word to the Holidays Act. No new changes were made to the bill during this committee odyssey.

This Friday, my bill will be back before the House. Now we can finish the great work that began last November when the bill passed second reading 258 to 2.

This Friday, let us end the 41st Parliament on a high note and elevate Remembrance Day to the same status as Canada Day and Victoria Day by passing Bill C-597, making Remembrance Day a legal holiday.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 June 15th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank my colleague for his fantastic rant.

This weekend I was at the peace for Scarborough event at Warden Woods Community Centre. In Scarborough, we have many impoverished neighbourhoods with few economic opportunities. In talking to a group of young people, I asked them about employment. Two of them shot up their hands, saying they had part-time jobs. Then when I asked who wants to have a job, all their hands shot up. There is clearly a lack of opportunity for young people.

Today a report came out showing that in Ontario, the low-wage workforce has skyrocketed by 94% over the past two decades, and that Ontario's workforce has gone from having 3% of the workers making minimum wage to over 12%. This really demonstrates that over the last two decades, successive Liberal and Conservative governments have done a terrible job on improving the living conditions of people in Ontario living in poverty, particularly young people who need opportunities.

I would like to ask the member if he has some ideas on what perhaps should be in this budget implementation bill to actually help young Canadians.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we hear the other parties talk about putting money back into people's pockets. We would rather leave it there in the first place by bringing in good quality, affordable child care, at a $15 a day, which would drastically lower the cost of child care for families that need it. That would leave the money in their pockets.

By ending pay-to-pay fees and by putting a cap on ATM fees, for example, we would then be leaving money in the pockets of Canadians rather than taking it out and then putting it back.

The Conservatives, with their income-splitting plan, would be taking take $2.5 billion of peoples' money and putting it into the top 15% of income earners, the people who frankly do not need any help.

The Liberal policy changes here and there, day to day. It is kind of like a moving target, but it will not be the kind of policy like ours, which will reduce costs for Canadians.

A good quality, affordable child care is the number one thing we can do for families to help them make ends meet.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is definitely one more challenge that people with mental health issues do not really need. Furthermore, they are not the only ones affected by this.

Studies show that more than 40% of Canadians were not comfortable with the idea of online banking. That is why online security is definitely still very important, and it can be worrisome for many people.

When I go door-to-door, I always meet people who do not want to sign or look at a document online because they are afraid that someone will steal their information and misuse it.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, to hear the last member say that their government consistently brought in balanced budgets before and after the recession, those kinds of remarks are almost as dumb as saying that budgets balance themselves.

I would like to share my time with the member from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

I am thrilled to get an opportunity to speak to this very important issue affecting nearly all Canadians and the majority of my constituents in Scarborough Southwest. After 10 years of Conservative rule and 13 years of the Liberals before them, families back home are struggling to make ends meet.

These pay-to-pay fees hit vulnerable people the hardest: seniors, people living with disabilities, new Canadians and anyone who cannot do online banking. Now the notion of charging people money just to pay their bills is absurd, but, then again, so is charging someone $4.50 to withdraw $40 from the bank as in the case brought up by my colleague from Davenport, which is just simply insane. That worked out to a fee of 11% just for an individual to withdraw his or her own money.

Bank fees hit those with modest incomes even harder because they are forced by circumstances often to make a larger number of small dollar withdrawals. It is like a tax on being poor because the bank will not make more money from them on mortgages, investments and loans, so they gouge them with these usury fees.

Going back to online banking, Statistics Canada reports that 20% of homes in Canada have no Internet and that number rises to 46% of households with incomes below $30,000. This should make it clear that these fees hit those who can least afford it the most.

The big five banks make around a half a billion dollar a year profit off ATM fees. They are now making almost $180 million each year on pay-to-pay fees. How long before those numbers rise to $1 billion just for Canadians to access their own money and to pay their own bills?

I will move on to the Conservatives' famed voluntary code of conduct and why we need to change it to a mandatory one and make it stricter, frankly.

Last year, the government introduced changes to force the banks to offer more free and low-cost accounts. These accounts come with a very limited number of debits per month. Therefore, to get around this the banks now are starting to include things like bank transfers, bill payments, student loan payments, credit card payments into the number of debits so it will jack up the number of debits that each individual will make.

Many people with those low-cost or no-fee accounts with only seven or eight debits allowed per month are going to end up getting hit with even larger fees for going over the number of allowed debits, which means they are going to have change what type of account they have and pay more for it just to get more debits so they in fact reduce the cost per transaction.

This is why we need to move to a mandatory code of conduct with stricter rules. Every time the Conservative bring in these voluntary codes of conduct, it is really just a suggestion to the banks. Then what the banks will do, because they always will ensure they make whatever bottom line they want, and we just have to look at the first two-quarters of this year where the banks in Canada turned $15 billion in profit, is find ways to sneak around the different changes that are made if they are only voluntary. We need to make them mandatory and we need to make them stricter.

The Conservatives keep talking about how they keep trying to do things to save people money and to help businesses, but nowhere in the last 10 years has the government moved to address one of the most ridiculous merchant fees that exists.

An example is a small business like a restaurant, which accepts credit cards because many people use credit cards nowadays. When people pay the bill, they put the tip on the bill. Let us say it is $30 and they put a generous $4 on the bill. Depending on the card used, the merchant will pay anywhere from 2.5% to potentially up to 6% in merchant fees on that transaction for $34.

In places like Ontario, where it is required by law for the employers to remit the tips back to their employees, and that is exactly how it should be, that business is then paying a merchant fee on that $4 tip it has to give to the employee. It is in fact giving that $4, but it is really costing it $4 to $5 because it has to pay that merchant fee on it as well.

Nowhere has the government ever suggested that we should remove this fee, despite suggestions from the opposition. This would be a tangible measure that would help a lot of small businesses make ends meet.

The banks are always a pleasure and a joy to deal with. I was talking to someone at my bank today while I was writing this speech. It worked out pretty well because I noticed all of a sudden that I was getting hit with more fees. I called the bank to see what was happening. It took me 35 minutes on the phone. Most Canadians do not have that kind of time to waste. I was sitting typing my speech, so I was doing two things. I talked to someone about what was going on. Sure enough, the bank had raised the minimum thresholds on my accounts in order to not pay those monthly fees. I asked when I had been informed about that and was told a letter had been sent. No, it had not. I was then told there should be a message in my online inbox. There was no message.

This again is a case where if the banks are not required to do something and properly inform consumers about what is going on, consumers then have to waste their time, energy and effort just to get fees back that should never have been charged to them in the first place.

All of us in the chamber are blessed with very high salaries compared to average Canadians. In many cases, we should be able to keep minimum balances in our bank accounts to avoid those fees. However, most Canadians cannot do that. Most Canadians would not be able to find another $1,000 all of a sudden to put in different bank accounts to not get dinged with these fees. Then they could end up losing another $20 or $30 a month. A single parent in my riding, with two children and child care, cannot afford that.

Child care is prohibitively expensive, and neither of the two parties will do anything about that. They want to put a little money back into people's pockets, while they continue to pay $15,000 to $20,000 a year in child care fees. They get $5,000 but then fork out $20,000. That is $15,000. That is not more money in their pockets. That is more money out of their pockets, whereas the NDP is planning to create $15 a day child care. That would make the total child care costs for those families $5,000 to $6,000 a year. That means families would end up with $10,000 to $15,000 back in their pockets. That is how we make a more prosperous Canada, a more equal Canada. It is also by getting rid of ridiculous pay-to-pay fees.

I have heard several members talk about how their government brought it up in the Speech from the Throne in 2013. That was only after the NDP had been hammering on it for a year. There was no equivocation in the Speech from the throne. The government did not say it would do it in this industry but not in this sector. Then when it actually came up with the rules, it excluded the banks. We asked the Conservatives why. They said that it was because the banks were not charging those fees right now. All of a sudden, the banks are now charging those fees. Why? Because they are allowed to. They will do whatever the market can bear and they will try to maximize their profits in every instance.

I am thrilled to hear that the government will actually support the motion. It is supporting a lot of our motions these days. It must mean we are ready to govern or something. However, will it actually implement the changes?

There was a unanimous vote in the House on feminine hygiene products. The government will put that into effect July 1. However, will it bring this change in for July 1? Will it bring this in legislation or accept an amendment to the budget implementation act to include it? That question remains. Therefore, supporting the motion is all fine and good, but it is the action required afterward that matters.

Citizenship and Immigration June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, last year the federal government announced its intention to attract double the number of international students, but once again it failed to follow through. A Citizenship and Immigration Canada report obtained by The Globe and Mail shows a 30% increase in processing times for study permits and a doubling of time for temporary resident visas because of a lack of coordination between government departments.

Does the minister understand that failing to attract international students hurts our competitiveness and leaves Canada falling further behind?

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Davenport for bringing this important issue forward. I know that he and other members, such as the member for York South—Weston, have been great advocates on this issue.

In fact, the reason RBC was forced to rescind or reverse its decision on these fees was that members like these actually went and stood in front of RBC branches with petitions and frankly shamed the bank into moving backwards on that decision.

I remember a show that was on CBC Marketplace in 2013 called “Canada's Dumbest Charge”. Of course, pay-to-pay fees was one of the top contenders for the dumbest charge in Canada. Of course, the kind of advocacy work that CBC does might be one of the reasons the government keeps trying to undercut it and remove its funding.

I would like to ask the member if he saw that show and what he thought about it being one of Canada's dumbest charges.

Government Advertising May 14th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are sick and tired of turning on their TVs to watch the game, just to see their hard-earned tax dollars being flushed down the drain on government ads that serve the interests of the Conservative Party, not Canadians.

Former chief electoral officer John-Pierre Kingsley has now spoken out, declaring these partisan ads must stop. These ads are creating an unfair advantage. In other words, this is cheating, plain and simple.

Meanwhile, the Liberals like to complain about the over three quarters of a billion dollars spent on ads by the Conservatives, but then stay silent on the over a billion dollars they spent on similar ads. Then, in Ontario, after promising to clean this up, the Wynne Liberals are now gutting their own law.

Enough of the empty promises, enough of the hypocrisy and entitlement. More and more Canadians see that they do have a choice and this October Canadians can vote to finally end this unethical behaviour, vote for the change they want, and actually get it.