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

Rouge National Urban Park Act December 4th, 2014

Since September 2, how much?

Rouge National Urban Park Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there the House leader goes again with the campaign of fear that somehow everybody else wants to get rid of farmers. We do not have to pick between the environment and farmers. We can bring them both together. We can protect the farms and the environment at the same time. This is not about picking or choosing.

The minister in charge of this still will not get up to speak to this bill and the House leader never answered my first question. I asked how much communication has happened between the minister's office and the Ontario government since that September 2 letter when the province announced it would not support the park bill in its current form.

It is important for us as New Democrats to not just simply be in opposition, but also to make substantive propositions. We will propose a new bill that will fix all the crazy things that the Conservative government will do with this bill, which has managed to lose two-thirds of support for the bill.

When will the minister answer the question with regard to how much communication has happened between the minister and the provincial government to see if they have tried to solve this problem?

Rouge National Urban Park Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, something absolutely did happen, but the government House leader is completely wrong about what happened. What happened was that the government took a process where there was consensus at the beginning and managed to lose two-thirds of the support in the House for the bill because it is inflexible and not willing to listen to some reasoned amendments.

Everyone in Scarborough, some 88%, as the House leader mentioned, want this park created. Every single Scarborough MP in the House wants this park created. This is going to be the first national urban park and a template for future urban parks, whether they be in Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria, Quebec, or the Northwest Territories, wherever there is an urban setting. Of course, 80% of Canada's population lives in an urban setting. The government is losing support because it is not willing to make the necessary changes to improve ecological integrity and the rules that currently exist.

I hope the minister will finally speak to this bill for the first time in the House to show that she has been paying attention to the file. How many times since the September 2 letter from the Ontario minister of the environment has the minister met to discuss problems? How many times have staff met? Have there been any meetings or discussions between the Ontario provincial government and the federal government since that September 2 letter to see if we can come to a reasonable agreement and reach consensus on this issue after the government lost it all?

Conservative Party of Canada December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as we approach the end of the session, we see more poor performances from the front bench of the Conservative Party. The Minister of the Environment, who frequently heckles, has been reduced to reading the newspaper in the House. The Minister of Veterans Affairs does not get much of an endorsement from the PM, but he does get a PMO staffer to babysit him. The Minister of State for Social Development does not think that questions should be asked in question period. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is going to sell the Canadian Wheat Board to his buddies from Chicago for the low, low price of zero dollars.

It all adds up to a government that does not take responsibility for its actions, that will never admit to any mistakes, and that is counting out the remaining days of personal drivers and expense accounts.

Who will be today's symbol of this tired and out of touch Conservative government?

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the bill says that the minister “may” create an advisory committee, and this is one of the primary problems that we see with this legislation. We and many witnesses who came before the committee said that should be changed to the minister “shall” create an advisory committee to make sure that the local stakeholders are involved in future decisions and that they have an avenue to contact the minister who is going to be making the final decisions.

Especially in the climate of this Parliament, the opposition has very little trust that the current minister responsible for this file will make the proper decisions to make sure that the parkland is protected.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time.

New Democrats want to make sure that we get this park right. That means ensuring that ecological integrity and conservation are our top priorities for the Rouge urban park. However, this does not mean that we want to kick out farmers and it does not mean that we do not want to ensure that we are producing as much food locally for the greater Toronto area as possible, because that both makes common sense and is good for the environment.

We just heard the parliamentary secretary talking about how farmers have not been able to make investments over time to ensure they are following best practices for their own ecological integrity. Of course, we would support measures that would help farmers make those investments and give them the opportunity to improve their land. We want to see protection of the park and the entire region expanded and improved to ensure that the Rouge park and its farmers are there for many generations to come, for the benefit of both the city of Toronto and the greater Toronto area as well as for everyone who eventually goes to the park and enjoys it.

We recognize the decades of hard work and dedication from all community members who have worked tirelessly to protect the existing parklands and conceptualize the national park, and the NDP supports the creation of a Rouge national urban park, but not if it means compromising the protection of our environment. It is too risky a precedent to set for any potential future national urban parks that might be created, because this park is going to be the template on which any future potential parks will be based. That is why we are opposing Bill C-40 at third reading.

At the same time, we will be proposing a new bill that would fix the rollbacks of parks protection that the Conservatives have brought forward. It will build on the positive direction in which Bill C-40 started and would strengthen it based on the feedback and testimony that we heard from witnesses during the committee stage so that we can seek a consensus on the creation of this national urban park. We believe that such an approach would help to break the logjam with the province and the local stakeholders in this process, and ensure that the park is created in the best possible way.

The local community has said that we need better legislation to ensure the Rouge is maintained for future generations. The creation of Canada's first urban national park will set the precedent on how we protect ecologically sensitive land in urban settings in the future. It is imperative that we get this concept right. The government can create all the parks it wants, but without funding and careful protection of the ecological integrity of these and all national parks, the designation is relatively meaningless in terms of conservation.

We listened to expert testimony and proposed 18 different amendments to create a more robust legislative framework for Bill C-40. We were extremely disappointed—but, sadly, not surprised—that the Conservatives have once again shown their unwillingness to listen to stakeholders and work with the other parties to create legislation that represents all of the interests of those involved. That is why we are creating a new bill. The new bill will be in the name of our MP for Scarborough—Rouge River.

We want to see the creation of a park, but we are not going to settle for substandard environmental protections. We will continue to work hard to see the creation of a Rouge national urban park. We will work toward good, strong environmental policies that prioritize ecological integrity and the maintenance of farmland, ensuring the best possible protection of our precious Carolinian forests and watersheds, while working with the agricultural community to ensure the continuation of sustainable farming and local food production in the park.

To summarize, we have been through a process in debating this bill, first at second reading, when multiple petitions were presented that called on the government to act in a certain way. We actually had more consensus at the beginning of the process, but because of the unwillingness of government members to work with other stakeholders, institutional and government support has slowly but surely fallen away from this bill as this process has gone on, as the bill fails to meet the standards that we all believe should be there to ensure ecological integrity, sustainable farming, and protection of our watersheds. A pipeline that goes across the area and multiple highways and roads and infrastructure all add challenges that have to be taken into consideration.

However, in the creation of this park, we also have a golden opportunity to establish worldwide international best standards with respect to the interaction of the environment and infrastructure, with respect to the environment and farming, and with respect to the interaction of people, human beings, within sensitive ecological areas. We could look to making best practices there, taking what already exists around the world in order to make the best park with the best protection. It would the kind of template we would be proud to pass along to other parks and other urban areas in the future, because 80% of Canada's population lives in urban centres already, and the importance of having ecological lands, forests, watersheds, and other aspects of nature in and around these urban centres will continue to increase.

With a growing population, we also need to make sure that we are producing more food locally. This is why we are also upset that the government has continued down the path of past Conservative and Liberal governments in failing to correct the mistake made in evicting of many farmers in the expropriation of land for Pickering airport. There we have tens of thousands of acres of prime agricultural land that should be farmed locally, land that should be producing food for the greater Toronto area. It should be protected for generations to come so that the farmers there could rest assured that sustainable best practices are in place to make sure they are not causing any problems for the surrounding environment and that they are the most productive that they can be and can pass those farms along to future generations who can continue to feed the growing population in the greater Toronto area, which is already well over five million people.

When we factor in areas further than that, within the Hamilton area, we are looking at many more people. A large chunk of Canada's population is found in southwestern Ontario and southern Ontario, so the more food we are able to grow locally, the less environmental impact our food supplies will create. When food from distant places is shipped across a continent or across an ocean, enormous resources are used to get that product to market.

Whether our resources are appropriately priced is an entire discussion altogether, but we can all agree that locally produced food makes good sense for the economy and good sense for families, and it certainly makes good sense for the environment. The government is missing an opportunity to protect tens of thousands of acres of land that was expropriated for the creation of Pickering airport. There are other areas where we can expand airport capacity so that we do not have to lose that prime agricultural land.

The parliamentary secretary kept going on and on about the importance of making sure that farming continues to exist in that area, but where is that member when it comes time to have the discussion about reversing the terrible decision to expropriate that land 40 years ago, which resulted in farmers being on one-year leases ever since?

I and several colleagues have visited many of those farms. We participated in day-long events where we actually got to understand and see what that area brings to the province of Ontario and to our local economy. It could only get better than that if those lands were protected. However, in that debate, the parliamentary secretary is nowhere to be found. He cares about a few farmers, but he does not really seem to care about the rest. It is our total food supply that has to be protected.

The bill falls far short of what we should be expecting and the kind of standards we should be exacting to make sure we have a Rouge national urban park that respects all the stakeholders: farmers, environmentalists, the local community, local governments, and everybody involved in that park.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, an NDP government would protect a lot more than what this government is prepared to protect. With respect to the proposed Pickering airport, which was a travesty when it was first introduced, successive Liberal and Conservative governments have never taken the action to correct that terrible mistake.

The proposed bill would include part of some land, but a lot of the land that would be there is missing.

I want to touch specifically on one of the comments that the member made. We should be looking to have a fantastic park that keeps farmland producing food locally and that also maintains or exceeds current standards.

The parliamentary secretary was upset that the province asked them to do what the province has never done, but is that not the definition of maintaining or exceeding current standards?

Remembrance Day November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my fellow MPs for last night's vote, giving all-party support to my bill making Remembrance Day a national holiday.

As a new MP, I was skeptical about what could be accomplished in Ottawa, but the importance of all-party co-operation strengthens my faith in our democracy. It makes me even prouder to represent the people of Scarborough.

From my great-grandfather Harold Riley, who served in both world wars, to family members who have done tours in Afghanistan, Remembrance Day has shaped our family history and always held great personal meaning.

Under my bill, Bill C-597, November 11 would be given the same legal status as Victoria Day and Canada Day, the two legal holidays listed in the Holidays Act. The recognition of this day in law is something that all members of the House can be proud of. Let us all continue to work for the benefit of veterans and their families. Lest we forget.

Holidays Act November 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Durham and from Guelph for their impassioned speeches on this issue. I also want to thank the member for Durham and all members of the House who have served Canada faithfully in its various times of need. I do not believe it is recognized enough just how many people have donned Canada's uniforms and have then become members of the House to provide the unique perspectives necessary for all other members to enact good judgments when we deal with our Canadian Forces and veterans.

I also want to thank them for their comments this evening about the differences in remembrance. The member for Guelph is quite right. I would have absolutely loved to bring that uniformity to Remembrance Day in order to have it celebrated all across the country in the same kind of way. However, the way our country is made up, the separation of powers and jurisdictions between the provinces and the federal government prevent that. I am happy that a conversation has started, as the member for Guelph pointed out.

I am not a a great believer in fate. However, the bill was originally supposed to be debated in the spring. Then because of budgets, different bills that came forward and procedures, everything was delayed to the point that it would be debated right before this Remembrance Day. Particularly given the context of the last few weeks, it has every member of the House thinking a lot more about our veterans and the commitment that the men and women in uniform make to our country. It is therefore fitting that it should take place on this day.

I certainly look forward to the time in committee and the debate if the bill passes second reading. That is really where we will bring in potentially the provinces, the Royal Canadian Legion and other veterans organizations to really have that conversation about what we can do, how we can do more and how we can do better. There is always room for improvement.

I would like to thank every member of the House for coming together in support of the bill. It is a tremendous thing to see because some days I am sure many members question the effectiveness of the things we do, whether we can reach compromises and seek that common ground rather than let things divide us. Today is certainly one of those days where every member has come together to show how there is more that brings us together rather than divides us. I look forward to the vote on Wednesday evening.

Holidays Act November 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her support of this private member's bill. Certainly the devil is always in the details with whatever legislation we pass.

The interesting thing is that the federal government and most federally regulated businesses and institutions already observe Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday. The banks, for instance, are closed. The federal government is closed. In the Province of Ontario, even though it is not a statutory holiday, the provincial public sector is shut down that day, with the exception of essential services and schools.

We already observe it federally for the most part. This would bring it to the parts that do not currently have it listed and provide encouragement to the other provinces to always strive to do better and to do more.