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

Holidays Act November 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, absolutely I have. That is why I spent a good portion of my speech about the education of our children. When talking to veterans and to the legions in particular, their primary concern is the education that our children receive. The legions participate in great local programming. In Scarborough, our local legions have an arts competition where kids in schools make drawings and every year they pick a poem and a drawing that then gets brought to the Scarborough Civic Centre and is read aloud and displayed.

Certainly individuals within my local legions have given me great support on this issue, but legions officially do not engage in politics. Therefore, there is no official acknowledgement or support from the local legions, and I fully respect the fact that they try to keep politics out of the support of veterans.

Holidays Act November 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, throughout the years in many different instances I have had informal discussions with others in Ontario and even with members of the House from provinces where it is not a statutory holiday. However, I do not like putting the cart before the horse and, as such, I hope we can get the bill through second reading to provide some momentum before I speak to the provinces officially in any kind of capacity.

Holidays Act November 3rd, 2014

moved that Bill C-597, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to speak to and in favour of my private member's bill, Bill C-597, an act to make Remembrance Day a national statutory holiday, tabled in this House on May 14, 2014.

This act would seek to give Remembrance Day the same legal status as Victoria Day and Canada Day, the two legal holidays listed in the Holidays Act.

The act also contains a second clause that seeks to codify that on Remembrance Day the flag on the Peace Tower would be flown at half-mast. Later in my speech, I will come back to that second clause and elaborate on deliberations with my fellow MPs from all parties in that regard.

Remembrance Day has always been a special day and has had a very special meaning to me and my family. Like so many other Canadians, we cherish the commitment made by the brave men and women who have donned Canada's uniform since even before our founding as a nation. It has great personal meaning for our family and has shaped our personal history, starting with my great-grandfather, Harold Riley, who served in both world wars. My great-grandmother immigrated to Canada as a First World War bride.

That service continues through to today, with family members who did tours in Afghanistan. Our story, though, is hardly unique.

Our country has been blessed by the courage and dedication of generations of armed forces personnel who have stood and fought and died, or come home broken, to defend Canada,

I am far from the first to suggest making Remembrance Day a national statutory holiday. Currently six provinces and the three territories already have legislation in place to make November 11 a holiday. Indeed, similar versions of this bill have been introduced in previous parliaments by the current member for Hamilton Mountain, at the behest of local legions, and by former Conservative MP Inky Mark.

My bill varies from previous incarnations in a small but substantial way. Other versions called for a day off on the Friday before or the Monday after if November 11 falls on a weekend. Before introduction, I removed this clause, because to me, the 11th is the 11th is the 11th.

Canadians I have spoken with wish to be able to attend ceremonies to pay their respects and to engage in this important act of Remembrance.

Earlier in my speech, I said I would come back to the second clause, which is about having the flag on the Peace Tower flown at half-mast. To most Canadians, that clause would seem entirely reasonable, as it did to me until recently.

During several discussions with colleagues from all parties, the issue of protocol was raised. This clause, as written, does not allow for flexibility so that the flag can be lowered to half-mast at a specific time of day, like 11 a.m., nor does it allow protocol to evolve as times change. It would also be unnecessarily complex to attempt to enumerate the facets of protocol so as to properly capture the sentiment and meaning conveyed by this clause. As such, should this bill pass second reading, I will wholeheartedly endorse an amendment at committee to remove the second clause.

There are also arguments against making Remembrance Day a national statutory holiday. Many businesses fear a loss of revenue or additional payouts, and that is worth considering. I was, however, pleasantly surprised, in discussing the issue with many local businesses and several nationwide operations, that many favour its implementation. Some believe productivity would increase if their staff had another day off. Others have family members who served, and they would like the opportunity themselves to attend services and honour them. A few weeks ago, I was speaking to a CEO, who said to me, "Consumers only have so much money to spend. If they cannot spend it today, they will spend it tomorrow”.

The most compelling argument I have heard for not making November 11 a statutory holiday is that kids should be in school to observe services. This is a very compelling argument. However, I am drawn back to the provinces where it is already a holiday, such as Newfoundland and Labrador, where kids learn about it during the week leading up to the 11th and on the 11th can put what they have learned into practice.

I am also drawn to what happens here in Ontario, where it is not a statutory holiday, though it used to be, when November 11 falls on a weekend. Most schools have services the last school day before the 11th.

At our local cenotaph in Scarborough, every year, a class of kids from Cliffside Public School comes to the ceremony and sings “In Flanders Fields”. It would be a shame to lose that. I believe that they would still continue to do that, given the opportunity, and that they would bring their parents along to see them.

I also believe that it would be easier to get more veterans into schools if their services took place on the last school day before November 11, because where are veterans on Remembrance Day? They are at ceremonies and cenotaphs and services across the country.

In Scarborough, we also hold a service on the Sunday before November 11, at the Scarborough Civic Centre. The sight is spectacular. During the ceremony, air, naval, and army cadets line each level of the Scarborough Civic Centre, and when we look up and see them standing there, we are filled with pride, hope, and faith in Canada's future while we remember the past. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, Sparks and Brownies also assemble to sing at these ceremonies. Our schools are not the only place we should be educating the next generation.

The education of our children around Remembrance Day is important, and it could be argued that it is the most important act of our remembrance. Just as the decision whether to observe November 11 as a holiday rests with the provinces, so does the curriculum. The Royal Canadian Legion, other veterans organizations, Veterans Affairs, and the Government of Canada already enrich that curriculum, but there is always room to do more.

Like many Canadians, I would like to see more, but that critical component will not be addressed through this bill, nor could it be. Each province chooses how to commemorate. In Manitoba, for instance, retail stores may operate on Remembrance Day, but cannot be open between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Our neighbour to the south observes Remembrance Day as Veterans Day. The federal government passed a bill to make it a holiday within federal jurisdiction, and all 50 states passed their own bills so that its application is universal across the United States of America. We can achieve the same here in Canada. A united voice from Parliament would be a big encouragement in that regard, while still respecting each province's ability to choose for itself.

Remembrance Day is a very important day for my family and for this country. I believe that it is our duty to do what we can to honour our men and women in uniform.

It is also important to point out that many of the individuals who fought in the Second World War did not choose to go; the state chose to send them. Still, they did their duty and fought for their country, their province and their values on behalf of us all.

Canadians in uniform have always placed themselves in harm's way for us and deserve to be honoured, whether it be on battlefields 100 years ago and on the other side of an ocean or two weeks ago a few hundred metres from where I stand, in sight of this building, on ceremonial guard over the fallen.

Whether hundreds of kilometres away or in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, our women and men in uniform are always there to defend us and it is our duty to remember them.

In my opinion, Bill C-597, which I am introducing, is an opportunity to emphasize the importance of remembering our veterans and paying tribute to the 40,000 of them who returned from Afghanistan.

The face of veterans is changing. We have 40,000 brave women and men who returned from Afghanistan who are as equally deserving of our support and respect as are all of those who came before them.

It is also the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, which gave birth to Remembrance Day as Armistice Day. I believe that it is time to make November 11, Remembrance Day, a national statutory holiday.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I spent the first five years of my working life in child care in a daycare teaching kids how to count to 10 and write their names. It is a very rewarding endeavour, but people are not paid very well in it.

The NDP's plan would create up to a million new child care spaces so parents would have the choice of whether to put their children into care or to take care of them at home.

Governing is about choices. The Conservatives call us tax and spenders, but their plans to spend money in this reckless fashion make them tax and wasters. They tax Canadians and then waste the money on the people who need it the least.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, members of the House definitely lose the ability to address the issues that matter to Canadians and deal with these budgets in the proper way when they are introduced through omnibus legislation.

However, I would quickly point out for the member that committees just require the committee chair to call a meeting. Therefore, if committees are not having meetings, maybe the member should ask the Conservative committee chairs why not.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is perfectly fine. I do not need to say that. The member just laid it out himself when he talked about the amount of money that would come back to a family for children up to the age of six.

I did some rough calculations and based on the numbers that the member himself used, it would take six years of what the Conservatives are prepared to give to parents to pay for one year of child care in Ontario. What about the next five years? Then where are they going to find the money to help them with child care?

This is where the NDP's universality in child care would actually help to provide the money to pay for child care for a child's years from the age of six, when they go to school.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is a little hard at times to sit here quietly and respectfully when members get up and say some of things like the previous speaker said.

He spoke about choice and grandparents, aunts and uncles raising and helping to raise children. At the same time, his government has prevented thousands of parents of new Canadians to come into our country and participate in that process of raising children and imparting the cultures from back home into the next generation. The government is taking choices away from families by not allowing them to be reunited in Canada for that better life.

He spoke about how the provincial government in Ontario was facing some financial struggles. At the same time, it is because the federal government has cut health care for refugees and the provincial government has had to pick up the slack. As the court said, that was cruel and unusual. That is what we get from the government. Time and time again, every budget, we find things that are cruel and unusual in it.

Now we have these new schemes coming from the government. It is hell-bent on ensuring that the cupboard is bare by the time the election happens, because another government of another sort might want to take a different approach.

He talked about being opposed to universality. We brought universality to health care and it transformed the country. From that point, no family had to decide between putting food on the table, or bringing a loved one to a hospital or to a doctor to get medical care.

That is what we want to do for child care. We want to ensure that families do not have to decide whether to work, whether to put their child into care, whether to feed their family, whether to put a roof over their heads. The government has actually taken choices away.

He mentioned that this would put money into the pockets of parents, that it would help fund child care. Child care in the Province of Ontario, depending on where one goes, costs on average between $1,000 and $2,000 a month. The government's plan, if it does everything it says it does, which it does not, would help to pay for child care for one to two months out of the year. What are parents supposed to do the rest of the time?

The government wants to expand the child fitness tax credit. That is great if one has the money. Single parents living in poverty already do not have money to put their kids into sports programs or arts programs. They want to but they are unable to. By putting all the money there, the government takes the choice away from those parents. They are forced to not put their kids into sports or arts programs. The government is in fact taking choices away.

I have sat here for the last three years, and time and time again I have heard the government boast that there are a million less people on the tax rolls. If they are for good reasons, I applaud it for that. However, a million less people are on the tax rolls because they are in fact too poor to pay taxes. Instead of focusing on a jobs plan to help get some of these people back to work, or to give them a living wage, like the NDP proposed with a $15 minimum wage, the government ignores them. It just takes them off the tax rolls and leaves them to fend for themselves.

That is un-Canadian. We look out for our neighbours, the less fortunate and those in need. A society is judged by how it treats and takes care of the least fortunate and the most vulnerable. The government, like some Conservative governments, particularly the Mike Harris government in Ontario, has really shown great disdain for people living in poverty by cutting their supports and services, and treating them like criminals. It has no place. We need to move on from that kind of behaviour.

Bill C-43 has shown to be yet another anti-democratic omnibus bill that subverts our traditional way of government and completely dismisses the role of the House in providing considered oversight and debate. The bill, as has been said, over 450 pages long, has more than 400 clauses, amends dozens of acts and contains a variety of measures never mentioned in the budget.

The Conservatives' anti-democratic haste has meant that the previous budget bills have been forced through the House and committees without adequate study, and we lament the fact that this will likely recur again. How are parliamentarians, Canadians and the people in my riding supposed to give considered thought and feedback to such Trojan horse bills that get rammed through the House by the government?

Now many of the measures contained within the bill are fixing the problems created by the Conservatives ramming through the previous bill, the one before that and the one before that. If the government would actually stop to take the time to do things properly, it would not have to spend so much time fixing problems it has created. It seems the Conservatives enjoy creating new problems, much to the contrary of what the parliamentary secretary said a few minutes ago.

We are not able to properly study these bills and the finance committee, which does very good work for the House, is then overburdened by the fact that the budget bill comes with so many clauses, amendments and things that have nothing to do with the budget. That makes the job of the committee chair for finance even more challenging, and I have to admit he does a very good job at committee. However, then he has to spend time, like committee members, dealing with amendments and clauses that have nothing to do with the budget, things that should be going to the environment committee, the industry committee, the transportation committee or to the agriculture committee. There are many things in the budget that have nothing to do with the budget itself.

It means we end up wasting a lot of time because of it. Then the government has to come back and fix it again next time. I am very curious when we get to the spring and there is a new budget and an implementation act, how many things in that implementation act will be put in to fix the problems created with this one.

The Conservatives used to lament omnibus bills, but when they came to power, instead of changing Ottawa as they said they would, Ottawa seems to have changed them. They have become exactly like the governments that came before them with respect to omnibus bills, and they have taken it, frankly, to a whole new level.

The Prime Minister used to stand when he was leader of the opposition and get very angry at the fact that there were Liberal bills that were 80 pages long. Eighty pages sounds like the good old days. Now we are dealing with omnibus bills that are 400 or more pages long, that are 370 more pages than that bill was. However, the Prime Minister has no problem with those now.

We do have a well spelled out and reasoned amendment that has been brought forward by my colleague, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, in which he states that:

—this House should decline to give second reading to Bill C-43,...because it: a) amends dozens of unrelated Acts without adequate parliamentary debate and oversight; b) fails to address persistent unemployment and sluggish economic growth; c) aims to strip refugee claimants of access to social assistance to meet their basic needs; d) imposes a poorly designed job credit that will create few, if any, jobs while depleting Employment Insurance Funds...

On that point, the parliamentary secretary talked about how the government wanted to keep money in the pockets of people. The government was complicit with the Liberal government before it in raiding the employment insurance fund, the fund and money owned and contributed by workers and employers, a mere $60 billion. That could have gone back to workers, that could have gone into skills development and training. They could have made sure that more than half of the people in Toronto, who are unemployed, could actually qualify for EI.

The Conservatives talk about employment and growing jobs. Unemployment in my riding is over 12%. It is a far cry from where it was when the Conservative government came to power.

Petitions October 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, for the past several months, my office has been regularly receiving petitions from constituents opposed to the cuts by Canada Post to home delivery. I submitted 1,000 such signatures in June and let me say that the residents of Scarborough Southwest were not amused by the government's response.

Here are 1,000 more signatures and a second chance for the government to show respect to my constituents in Scarborough Southwest.

Transportation October 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the serious defect in the Chevrolet Cobalt put the lives of Canadians at risk, yet the minister would have us believe that even though her department investigated a fatal accident and specifically examined the role that a faulty ignition switch might have played, she was never briefed, even though she might have been able to warn Canadians.

Is the minister not aware of what is going on in her own department, or did she mislead this House about what happened?

Parliament Hill October 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I was thrilled the public was allowed back on Parliament Hill last Friday night. We have the support of a remarkable security team that is committed to ensuring the safety of members, employees and visitors and they have made every effort to get things back to normal.

The grounds of Parliament belong to the people of Canada. This is not an exclusive club or a place that is just meant for those with insider access. It is a place where every day, average Canadians can show up, take in the beauty, see our country's history and watch democracy in action in the House of Commons or at committees.

I encourage people to come to Parliament Hill if they can, as many have today. I am overjoyed to see the galleries open today to welcome Canadians, students and tourists from all over and to show that now, more than ever, we are still a country of freedom, democracy and openness.