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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

Privacy May 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, during the debate on Bill C-51, the Conservatives' draconian attack on our rights and freedoms, a number of my colleagues expressed concern about sweeping new powers to share information among government departments and agencies on almost anything, not just terrorism and violence. We heard that the Privacy Commissioner is concerned that the bill would allow information on law-abiding Canadians to be collected and shared without reasonable cause and that it could allow the government to build personal profiles on each and every one of us.

In Scarborough and in Toronto, we have heard this story before. For the past 10 years, Toronto police have been engaged in carding. Carding allows police to stop anyone without cause and collect personal information and enter it into a database. This practice has been widely criticized, with many people seeing little difference between carding and racial profiling. Will the information in the carding database be subject to the sharing provisions of Bill C-51?

We should all be very concerned. As Tom Mulcair said, we cannot protect our freedoms by sacrificing them.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to raise a couple of contradictions. The member talked a fair bit about principles and about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Just at the end she was saying that the Liberal Party is there to protect both privacy and the charter. However, we know that Bill C-51 is actually an attack on the charter and the rights and freedoms of people yet the Liberal Party is supporting it. We also know that, in terms of the reasoning behind the Liberal Party supporting this, the Liberal leader said, while he was in British Columbia, that the Liberals were supporting the bill to not give the Conservative government a stake to whack them over the head with during the election campaign. That is not taking a principled stand.

With the changes to privacy and information sharing there is also the potential for a large database of information on law-abiding Canadian citizens to end up being stored in one location for some potential nefarious use down the road. In Toronto, we are dealing with something very similar to that with the issue of carding, where many individuals are being stopped by the police for no reason and having their information taken down. I would like to ask the member her opinion on that behaviour.

The Budget April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, maybe the member was not listening when I said that while 11 million accounts are open, only 11% of Canadians currently donate the maximum.

We are not opposed to TFSAs. We are not going to get rid of them. We just do not want to put in the increase the Conservatives have put in. There are other investment opportunities for people. If they are saving for their education, there are RESPs. If they are saving for their retirement or to buy their first home, there are RRSPs. There are other avenues for Canadians, if they have extra money, to put their money into to change their taxes.

The specific benefit he is talking about would mostly go to wealthy Canadians who already have it easy. Why did the Conservatives not close loopholes for CEO stock options that cost the treasury $750 million? There would be some of the money for child care. Why did they not cancel income splitting? There would be $2.5 billion for child care. Why did they not increase corporate taxes to the rate where they would be paying their fair share? That would pay for roads, for transit and for child care.

The Budget April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

Personally, I love taking the train. When I was young, I always took the train between Toronto and Montreal to visit my family. I also spent several summers in Lac-Mégantic, where my family has roots. In fact, my grandmother was born there and my mother was born in Sherbrooke.

It is therefore difficult for me to express how I felt when I saw the disaster that befell that town, a disaster that happened because the government cut corners. Fifty people died, and we must never let that happen again.

We must definitely make the safety of our railways, pipelines, airplanes and roads the top priority in order to prevent such disasters from happening in the future.

The Budget April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my first comment would be, what happened to that open and transparent government?

By removing the tables, by removing information, the Conservatives have made our jobs as members of Parliament harder, but they have also made it very difficult for Canadians to see what actually is and is not being spent. It is even more insidious than that, because it hides the money that the government is spending. This means it gives ministers and certain departments the ability to deliberately underspend their budgets. We only have to look at veterans affairs since the Conservatives took office. Instead of spending all the money it was allocated on improving veterans' lives, it ended up returning billions of dollars to the treasury, and that is shameful.

The Budget April 28th, 2015

Yes, Mr. Speaker, 11 million. However, only 11% of those people deposited the maximum last year. Therefore, 90% of the people depositing already do not have enough to deposit the current maximum, but the government wants to double it. Why is that? It is because it will help the Conservatives' well-heeled friends. It is not going to help the majority of the working-class and middle-class people I work for in my riding of Scarborough Southwest. These people do not seem to find themselves burdened at the end of the year with having to decide what to do with an extra $10,000 that is burning a hole in their pockets. I wish I could say that they did because Scarborough used to be a prosperous place. It used to have above national average incomes. It used to have tens of thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs that helped to elevate people into the middle class. However, through successive Liberal and Conservative governments, since first free trade and then NAFTA came in, all of that industry and all of those good-paying jobs left.

We used to have a GM van plant in my riding. It has been gone since the early 1990s. We used to have tens of thousands of good jobs along what was called the golden mile, which, when it opened after the Second World War, was the model on which many communities ended up being built because people could live and work close together and also have good-paying jobs. They are all gone, and they have been replaced by part-time, precarious, largely retail jobs and car malls that are not very accessible by transit, that do not make good planning for those areas. Who are these changes being made for? I have said, it is for the wealthy few.

That is just like the income-splitting plan, a $2.5-billion waste of our money that could be far better spent, either on actually balancing the budget so they do not have to dip into the contingency fund or on other programs like affordable child care.

The current government's entire package and plan for families would give families up to $1,960 a year per child. In the city of Toronto, child care costs are between $1,000 and $2,000 a month per child. Exactly what are the Conservatives telling families to do for the other 10 to 11 months beyond what the government's money gives? The government would give $1,960 but then families pay between $10,000 and $20,000 in child care costs. Are families actually going to be further ahead at the end of the day? No, they are not. They end up having to make really tough choices in our city of whether to lose one income and have one parent stay home, which puts a lot of strain on families and makes it hard to pay the mortgage. God forbid if the parents are also trying to help a kid through university or college, because of skyrocketing tuition fees. The Conservatives want to give $1,960 but then let parents throw $15,000 to $20,000 a year into child care costs.

The NDP has an alternative plan of $15 a day for child care that would actually be affordable for families and would let them make the right choices for their families, whether to have a parent stay home or have both parents work because they would have the option to do either. It would be good-quality child care. I started my working career in child care. I worked at the Not Your Average Daycare in Scarborough for five years, and I saw first-hand the importance of early education and learning.

The story does not end there. It gets worse. As we move forward through the years, the Conservatives' plan at the start would cost a few hundred million dollars, primarily of course to the wealthiest Canadians. The amazing thing is that this cost would grow with each passing year. In a relatively short time, the cost to Canadians would be $20 billion to the treasury. I heard one of the parliamentary secretaries say the Conservatives do not want to pass on debt to the next generation, to our children. The Conservatives are doing something far worse. They are passing it to our children's children. They are passing it to our grandchildren. No responsible parent, grandparent or government should ever pass the buck along two generations down the line.

Of course, we have seen this approach with the government when we talk about climate change, which was not mentioned even once in the budget. We see that the Conservatives do not care. They have not put this as a priority. They said they are going to regulate sector by sector. Then the Prime Minister got up and said they are not going to touch the biggest polluter, the biggest sector, oil and gas.

The current government's entire philosophy is relying on the high price of oil, a commodity where the cost goes up and down. I worked in Fort McMurray, in the oil sands. I have been there through one of those turns. The folks there know that it is cyclical. The casino in Fort McMurray is called Boomtown Casino because they know that the price of oil and commodities goes boom or bust. However, the Conservatives were relying on the fact that it was going to boom forever. It is absolutely preposterous to be putting all their eggs in that one basket.

We all know that we are supposed to diversify the economy. We are supposed to invest in different areas of the economy so that we can weather those storms, but the Conservatives never did that and now Canadians from coast to coast to coast are paying the price.

This budget should be helping people, but it is only helping the wealthy few and the rest are left to fend for themselves.

The Budget April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Victoria.

It is an honour to rise today and speak in response to the budget introduced by the government in the House last week. Over the last four years, as a member of Parliament, I have learned one thing for sure: Conservatives and the Prime Minister are not nearly the economic managers they seem to think they are. In fact, time and time again, the government chose precisely the opposite. The Conservatives have shown us, and Canadians, just how incompetent they can be as managers of the economy. The government has dropped the ball on so many incredibly important files. We just have to look at the F-35.

Conservatives must have a good supply of pixie dust to use on unsuspecting Canadians if they think they can pass this budget off as sound economic planning. Of course, this is backstopped by at least a $13-million advertising budget, using Canadians' money, which they are going to spend on propelling themselves into the election.

I had to laugh last week when my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley said this in his response to the budget:

They spent the surplus before they had it. Then they panicked....They didn't know what to do because the economy was not performing the way they had hoped. One would think that planning more than praying would be [the norm] within the finance department, but not under [this government].

My esteemed colleague could not have been more correct.

How else do we explain a budget that is predicated on such a shallow set of priorities and planning principles, with so little regard for thinking things through? How else could one explain draining the contingency fund so that in the short term it looks like we are not in a deficit? Of course, dropping that from $3 billion to $1 billion means that any unforeseen event that could take place would actually bring the government back into the red. We just have to look at last year to some of the events that happened. We had the ice storm in Toronto. We had tremendous flooding in Alberta and in Toronto. There were also other weather events that cost the economy, and certainly cost the provinces and the federal government, billions of dollars. The contingency fund is there for good reason, to protect against unforeseen events.

We also saw the fire sale of our government's interest in General Motors. We all understand that the government was not supposed to hold on to these shares in perpetuity. However, one of the simple staples of investing in stocks is to buy low and sell high. What the government has done in selling the shares at this time is actually costing $3.5 billion. It sold the shares at a net loss of $3.5 billion. It is as if every single Canadian across the country had a $100 bill to begin with, took it out of their pocket and set it on fire. That is $100 for every Canadian that the government has wasted in order to say it has a balanced budget.

These things are very questionable, and not just in my opinion, but in the opinion of many economists on both sides of the political spectrum.

Much more importantly, I want to talk about the changes the government is making to tax-free savings accounts. These changes really represent just how cynical and crass the government can be and how shallow and short-sighted its economic policy really is. The Conservatives are going to change the maximum allowable contributions for TFSAs to up to $10,000 a year. Who does this help? We have heard from the government that millions of Canadians have TFSAs.

Canadian Heritage April 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Remembrance Day is a chance to honour the sacrifices of all those who have served our great country, but not everyone can attend services. My bill, Bill C-597, would give all Canadians the opportunity to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies.

The bill was supported by all parties, but now Conservatives are using procedural tricks to try to kill this bill. They say they need another month just to study a bill with one clause.

Will Conservatives abandon their delay tactic, respect our veterans, and stop blocking this bill?

University of Toronto Teaching Assistants March 9th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to say that New Democrats stand in solidarity with the teaching assistants at the University of Toronto, who have been out on strike for a week.

The members of CUPE Local 3902 are on the picket line seeking fair wages and better working conditions. They are seeking to improve upon the $15,000 a year that they make, which includes salaries and scholarships.

They are not looking to join the thousands of U of T staff on Ontario's “sunshine list” or to make more money than the Premier of Ontario, as the President of U of T does. They are looking for a modest increase so that people who are actually teaching 60% of the courses at U of T do not have to be among the working poor.

As the president of the U of T Students' Union put it last week, the TAs' “working conditions are students’ learning conditions”.

It is time for U of T to get back to the bargaining table, earn their six-figure salaries, and negotiate a fair deal for students and for their teaching assistants.

New Democrats stand proudly in line in solidarity with CUPE Local 3902.

Liberal Party of Canada February 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, a new right-wing political party is haunting the land, one that is hell-bent on sending Canadian jobs to the U.S. while cheerleading American Republicans on the Keystone pipeline and looking the other way on climate change. It is a party that thinks Canada-U.S. relations should be like they were under Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney. It is a party easily browbeaten into lining up behind the latest attacks on our fundamental freedoms, a party that writes off manufacturing jobs and believes in big corporate tax cuts.

Is this a new Reform Party or a new Canadian Alliance Party? No. It is the Liberal Party. Under the Liberal leader, the views of middle-class families are being drowned out by oil lobbyists and CEOs. Progressives in places like Toronto are being ignored, while the Liberal leader falls into step behind draconian Conservative laws.

Canadians deserve better. They deserve a party of principle that will stand up for civil liberties, the environment, and Canadian jobs.