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

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I just want to ask the member the question that was asked of me with regard to why the bill came from the Senate rather than from the government itself. It is an important issue because we are talking about the privacy of Canadians. This would be an important update to the law and it is critical that we get it right.

Why did this legislation not come from the government rather than its brethren in the Senate? Perhaps as a member of the governing party my colleague might have some insight he could share.

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to know that my colleague is not interested in becoming a senator either.

It is perplexing that the bill is coming from the Senate. It is supposed to be such an important issue that the government should be dealing with it itself, yet it has let the Senate take the lead on it. Who knows why? Perhaps it is bringing it forward to committee before second reading because the Conservatives think the senators have done a really bad job with it and it needs a lot of work. We will certainly be asking this question repeatedly to members of the governing party over the course of the day to try to determine why they have let the Senate take the lead on this bill and why they have abdicated the responsibilities of government yet again.

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That intervention gave me a bit of time to think about it, and to my knowledge, I do not remember ever meeting a member of the New Democratic Party who wanted to become a senator or who had that as their ambition in life.

The member said he has been around a fair bit longer than I have, but in political terms, maybe not so much. I might only be 35, but I will be celebrating my 20th anniversary as a member of the New Democratic Party just next spring.

It is something that is completely counter to what New Democrats believe in. We have never believed in having our own version of the House of Lords. We have never believed that people of privilege should be given even more privilege, and then not even really be held to account. There are terrible transparency and accountability issues within the Senate.

I do not think it is a part of our democratic institutions that we want to keep. Therefore, the answer is no. I have never met a New Democrat who wants to be a senator.

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by refuting the claim by the member regarding New Democrats secretly harbouring these strange desires to become senators. For the entire 50-year history of the New Democratic Party, we have called for abolishment of the Senate.

We believe in Canadian society and we do not need to have a House for people who consider themselves above the rest of us, which is often what has happened. Certainly there are currently cases before the courts regarding Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, and Mac Harb. This is certainly not a group that any New Democrat wants to become a part of. It flies in the face of democracy.

As my colleague for Nickel Belt pointed out, if the bill is so important, why is it coming from the Senate rather than the government?

The Conservatives have formed government for nearly eight years now, and they are finally getting to this matter. Hacking is not new. Invasion of privacy is not new. Why were these changes not brought before us years ago?

I would also like to address the fact that the bill is being referred to committee before second reading. I actually applaud the government for this move, but my next question is to ask why this did not happen before. Why was this approach not taken regarding electoral reform? Why was this approach not taken regarding some first nations' issues that have come before the House so that we would have a broader scope of study within committee and an attempt at working together?

When the parliamentary secretary first rose to speak on the bill, he said that bringing the bill to committee before second reading would help to ensure that the best bill would be brought forward. I think it demonstrates that perhaps the current government is not always interested in bringing the best bill forward, because we are three years in, and this is the first time that the Conservatives have chosen this approach.

We have had numerous instances of bills being brought forward by the government and then being overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada. We potentially could have prevented that from happening had we taken this approach with other bills or had the government listened to opposition amendments and suggestions to make sure that the bills conformed with the law.

Traditionally, of course, adoption at second reading amounts to approval of the principle of the bill by the House. This can often restrict the committee's ability to make changes and amendments, which is something we would avoid with this bill. I hope that the industry committee takes the proper amount of time to study this issue before referring it back to the House. I certainly think the capacity is within the industry committee to do so. We have an opportunity to fix the parts of the bill before us that are lacking.

With regard to the rationale given by the member across the way for some intrusions into privacy, it is not so cut and dried. It is not a black-and-white issue. These are issues that need to be explored further, and the committee setting is the appropriate place to do that. The question is, will that in fact happen?

Most of us are surprised and a little confused as to why the government is taking this approach. The Conservatives have had many opportunities to use this approach in the past, but have never chosen to. It will be very interesting to follow the proceedings in the industry committee to see where this goes. Is it because government members want to make substantive changes that their brethren in the Senate missed, avoided, or did not put in?

Perhaps that is why the Conservatives are bringing it forward, but only time will tell. One of the very important lessons I have learned here is not to believe it until it happens, which can be said of so many different things we do in the House. There are a lot of rumours out there, but it would be good to try to stick to fact as much as possible.

Since the committee will have the opportunity to properly consider and make necessary changes to the bill, we are supporting the motion to send the bill back to committee. I think it makes a lot of sense, and it is an approach that should be used more often.

That this was done without a warrant raises questions. I would hate for court cases to be moving forward in which evidence might be thrown out because warrants were not obtained. The result would be an increased cost for the judicial procedure, and there is the potential as well for letting some criminals off the hook when they should be facing prosecution. We definitely need to beef up those aspects.

There is a provision within the bill that would make it easier for companies to share personal information without warrant or consent from clients and with no proper oversight mechanisms in place. Following a recent decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, this provision will most likely be considered unconstitutional.

The government must respect the Supreme Court ruling by withdrawing all clauses relating to warrantless disclosure of personal information from the bill. That is a very reasonable position. Canadians would expect that if law enforcement agencies are seeking people's personal information, they would have to follow a process, and obtaining warrants is a very important part of our system. It has to be proven that the information is needed before a warrant is obtained. That is a minimum standard when seeking this information. Currently, with these warrantless provisions, requests can be made without any oversight. That is troubling to many Canadians who are concerned about their privacy.

We are also concerned about many of the negative consequences that certain provisions in this bill might provide.

It is also interesting to note that the bill was largely inspired by Bill C-475, which was tabled in 2012 by my colleague, the member for Terrebonne—Blainville. Rather than wasting time and avoiding creating better protections for Canadians, the Conservatives should have simply supported the NDP's bill, which would have done more to protect Canadians' privacy.

Privacy has been a thorny, low-priority issue for the Conservatives, who have been incapable of adequately protecting Canadians' privacy. Their own departments have been responsible for allowing thousands of breaches of personal information while citing privacy considerations and decrying heavy-handed government.

The Minister of Industry argued that the long form census was intrusive to Canadians' privacy, and it was eliminated. However, the government sees nothing wrong with invading Canadians' private information without a warrant and without telling them. It is bizarre that these things would be happening and that nobody knows about them until it is too late.

Now I look forward to questions from colleagues.

Petitions October 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition from hundreds of local residents regarding the proposed Rouge national park. The petitioners respectfully ask the Government of Canada to protect the irreplaceable 100-square-kilometre public land assembly within a healthy and sustainable Rouge national park.

Rouge National Urban Park Act October 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would be surprised if anyone in this chamber does not strongly support the creation of a national urban park. But the devil is in the details and the devil is always in the details. The province might be playing political games, but the government has its narrative set up already, that the province is withholding and playing cheap political games to prevent the park from happening. The follow-up line is that they have been neglecting the park.

If we really want to play that game, let us go right back to the reason I became involved in politics, which was Mike Harris and the devastating damage he did to environmental protections in Ontario. If we really want to go back into why there is trouble in our parks, we just have to look back at the Mike Harris era. It devastated environmental protections and started the move to self-regulation that the current government has been more than happy to continue with: self-regulation of rail, of food inspections and of airline safety. That was all started during the Mike Harris government, that era of neglect of our safety and our parks.

Rouge National Urban Park Act October 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my family goes back so far in Scarborough that St. Clair was farmland back when we settled in Scarborough. I am happy he asked the question about some of the lessons learned because it brings up something that I did not get to in my speech. Although I had an entire 20-minute speech prepared, I barely even looked at it.

The heat island effect was debated very recently in the House. Green spaces like the Rouge Park help to offset that incredible urban heat island effect that happens in our cities and artificially inflates the temperature. It causes more ecological problems, especially in the summertime, because if it is 2°, 3° or 4° hotter in the city people will have to make more use of air conditioning, electricity and other mitigating factors to offset what they have used. That is an important lesson.

However, we also have to move beyond thinking that we cannot have farm and city coexisting, just like business and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive but should be working hand in hand. The more food we can produce locally, the better off all of our cities will be in the future.

Rouge National Urban Park Act October 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for making sense, unlike our colleagues on the other side. That is exactly what must happen. The member is hung up on 1994. It has been 20 years and there are changes required and things that need to be updated. Until Friends of the Rouge Watershed hears a better plan from the government, which it has not yet, it will hold on to the plan that was there. It would be happy to negotiate an updated framework for 2014 if it was engaged on the issue. That is what is missing. The government has cast it off as an enemy and will not listen to anything it has to say.

Rouge National Urban Park Act October 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I apologize. I really do wish at times that the microphones would pick up more of that other side of the conversation because they would really hear how nonsensical some of the things they say in response to us are.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister is trying to say that all the land within the reserve of the Pickering Airport land is being farmed right now. It is not. There is one family farm left, and that is the Tapscotts. There are other farms, but there are entire ghost towns in that area that the current government and other governments have continued to ignore. We could be used as farmland.

If we cannot find a way to work out the differences between Friends of the Rouge Watershed and the farmers, there are alternatives there. However, I think solutions can be found.

Rouge National Urban Park Act October 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, not the land inside the park. He just said the land inside the reserved area is not.