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  • His favourite word is chair.

NDP MP for Hamilton Centre (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Salaries Act October 7th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I was born and raised in Ontario, but my dad was born in Saskatchewan. I will always have an affinity for Saskatchewan.

I want to join my colleague in acknowledging that after having been around for a while, one of the things we do in a new Parliament is kind of look around and see where the rising stars are. I do not think there is any doubt that the hon. member will find himself moving up the benches very quickly. I expect an illustrious career for him.

On a sort of man bites dog story, I am looking to see if the member and I agree on something, because I think we do. Let me pose something, if I may, very briefly, and then see if the member agrees that we are seeing it the same way. If not, he can show me where we are differing.

In terms of ministers of state, if we had male and female ministers of state who were being paid two different rates, and that was being fixed, that would be a pay equity issue. However, what we are talking about here is a full-line minister, and I have been one provincially, who has responsibilities for a full ministry and department, versus a minister of state, who is sort of an assistant minister.

What is really going on is that this is an attempt to fix a bit of problem the government made for itself by bragging about the number of women it had and putting them in the lower positions. When it got called on it, this was the fix.

Do we see this issue the same way?

Ibrahim Jame Mosque October 7th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, last month in my riding of Hamilton Centre, a tragedy was averted thanks to the quick action of some of Hamilton's newest residents.

On the evening of September 14, a man approached the Ibrahim Jame Mosque and lit a fire at the front door. As the man fled, several passersby, Syrian refugees new to Canada, were able to put out the fire and help police identify the suspect. Thanks to these quick actions the damage to the building was minimal and a would-be arsonist was arrested.

As my dear friend Jack Layton said in his final letter to Canadians, love is better than hate. There is no place in Hamilton for the kind of hate that causes someone to try to burn down a mosque and we must do our best to combat lslamophobia in all its forms. I have been encouraged by the outpouring of support for the Ibrahim Jame Mosque from all across Hamilton. It is my sincere hope that this event will only serve to make our community more united and more respectful of people of all faiths and backgrounds.

CANADA LABOUR CODE September 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment my colleague from Saskatoon West who is not just one of our rising stars in this new Parliament but is also our labour critic, and doing a fantastic job. I know she was there at the news conference, along with our colleague from Jonquière.

People seem to think that there is something equal in that when the workers go out on strike, management hurts too. No, when the employees go out on strike, the paycheques stop. They cannot pay the rent. They do not have money for their mortgages. They cannot pay the hydro. They cannot buy their kids presents. However, the people who run the companies, their cheques are still coming in just fine.

CANADA LABOUR CODE September 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, if I was not clear, that certainly was the overarching message, that we are very proud of Canada. We all talk about our values and how we project those values around the world. Make no mistake, those values are very much a result of the labour movement being in the forefront. Often they are negotiating for themselves, which is what the dues are for. They negotiate wages and vacations, and the things I mentioned.

However, that is not the whole story. Who do members think came up with the idea of paid weekends, paid maternity leave, or comprehensive health and safety legislation? All those things can be covered in a collective agreement. They do not need legislation. As for minimum wage, the labour movement does not need minimum wage in its contracts. I do not think there is a single contract that would dare call for even minimum wage, let alone anything less.

There is no benefit to them in this. It is a benefit to all workers in Canada. The understanding is that the Canadian labour movement has that broader view. They are not just isolated, taking care of themselves, and the heck with everybody else. They have always taken the broader view, asking what they can do to make life better for their members who are paying the dues but also what they can do, because they have the means, to help create those values and enforce those values, and bring in legislation and programs that give life to those values, that give us the very reputation on the international stage that we are all so very proud of.

CANADA LABOUR CODE September 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I will try not to take it personally that you cut the time just as I took the floor. I know that these things are done by time, and I will respect that, especially given the fact that you control the microphone.

Here we are today discussing Bill C-4. The first thing I want to do is compliment the government on responding to an important promise it made. I see my good friend ready to fall over, but I hope he hangs on, because I am not done. I would ask him to hold on and stay nearby.

I want to straight up compliment the government on bringing in Bill C-4 and unravelling much of the damage that was done by Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. This was one of the priorities of the labour movement going into the election. Our party would have done the same, but it stands alone as a compliment to the government for doing this. It is the right thing to do. The Liberals are keeping their promise, and I will give credit where credit is due.

However, it does not end today in terms of standing up for labour. The government will get a great opportunity on Wednesday to stand up for labour by voting for Bill C-234, put forward by my colleague from Jonquière, our deputy labour critic. It is anti-scab legislation.

So far it has been kind of motherhood stuff, easy to do. Bill C-4, for those of us who are progressive in any way, is not exactly a big leap, but if the government really wants to show that it is listening to the labour movement and wants to make sure that the labour movement has the ability to do the things the government gives it so many compliments for, it will be fascinating to once again watch the Liberals do their dance around things like anti-scab legislation.

I raise this in the context of Bill C-4, because in our opinion, the government cannot say that it is the best friend labour ever had by virtue of one bill, when there are other things. One of those other things, to the best of my knowledge, happens on Wednesday, with the vote on the anti-scab legislation. Liberals have 48 hours to sit back and think about whether they want to get re-elected, whether they really meant what they said to labour, whether passing Bill C-4 is going to cut it, or whether people in the labour movement are going to say that it is a fine start, but it is just a start.

The anti-scab legislation that comes up Wednesday will be a really historic day for labour. The Liberals talk a good game, but as soon as that legislation is in front of them, they run and hide and vote against it. I have seen it in minority governments, when we could have passed that legislation, but the Liberals let us down. This time they could do it on their own. They will start out with 44 votes in the NDP caucus, because we have always stood for anti-scab legislation. If the government really wants to balance the tables, that is the way to do it. That will be interesting to see.

In the context of Bill C-4 going forward, it will be interesting to see what the government will do about the other labour issues that are still in front of it and that are facing workers today. For instance, precarious work is one of the biggest issues. How many of us have children and grandchildren who do not have full-time work and do not expect to have full-time work, let alone lifetime work? They are living contract to contract. They do not have big unions to help them organize and bargain collective agreements. They are out there on their own. They need the government to step in and provide them with some rights. What is the government going to do about precarious work? What is the government going to do about pay equity? What is the government going to do about part-time and precarious work.

Those are just a few of the issues, but there are many more coming forward. As much as it hurts my heart a bit, I would be more than glad to stand here and compliment the government again if it delivers on those things. We shall see what we shall see.

Speaking to Bill C-4, I have been listening in particular to the Conservatives, although I do not know why, because it always give me a migraine when it comes to these kinds of issues.

They go on and on about the middle class. Who do they think really created the middle class, not just in Canada but in any other modern, mature democracy? In large part, that was the labour movement. Remember, child labour did not just come out of nowhere. There were people in the day who believed that was okay. We would not now. I like to think down the road anti-scab legislation will be seen as motherhood as the right to collective bargain. However, we still have that struggle in front of us right now.

I am reminded of something when I listen to the Conservatives talk about the damage they say is being done by repealing their two bills under Bill C-4. Let us remember. If we want to talk basics, let us go back to the 1940s, particularly in Ontario, which I know best, but it is a similar story across our country. That is when we had some of the major strikes that created and defined the labour movement. If we want to talk about guts, those people who went out on strike for their collective rights in those days put their jobs on the line. If we go back far enough, even meeting together could have gotten their heads busted open and/or they could have been thrown in jail.

Let me jump to a couple of things. The Rand formula in Ontario was a compromise between the need for a viable labour movement and a union that had the funds and structure to actually support and enforce the rights of members and to go into collective bargaining, and all that other stuff. They needed to do all of that, and in order for them to maintain that, while respecting the right of individuals to not necessarily agree with the philosophical direction of their union, the Rand formula said that workers did not have to join the union as a member, but they had to pay the dues. That was because they were getting the benefit of the negotiations that happened in their favour. Whether they supported the union or not their wages went up, their health and safety was better protected, their vacation rights were extended, and they got those rights. However, they did not have to actually join the union, and the union had an obligation to serve all its members equally whether they joined or not.

That kind of foundation started to be blown apart with the two bills from the Conservatives, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. That is why Bill C-4 is so important. It brings us back into the realm of reality in terms of what the history of the labour movement is, and I cannot believe I am going to use this term, and the social contract that was agreed between all of society in terms of how we would manage this new entity that exists to give rights to ordinary people when they did not have them before. They get their rights by working and bargaining collectively, and ultimately, if they have to, withdrawing that labour. It is a free country. It is that basic.

I just want to end with a reminder. When I was first active in the labour movement in the 1970s, I was a young guy of 24, elected to be president of my union of 2,200 members. I can remember at that time, in the seventies, people were saying there was no need for the labour movement, that it was okay in its day but it was not needed now. I have been hearing that for decades. Just ask the employees at U.S. Steel, or any of the other companies where benefits are being lost and retirement rights that were fought for and earned for a lifetime are being taken away. Ask them whether they think the labour movement should still be there.

The government is making some changes to CPP. Make no mistake, if the Canadian labour movement was not front and centre on that fight, and every other fight that matters to Canadians, these things would not happen. That is why it is important that Bill C-4 carry, but that it only be the first step. There is much more to be done.

CANADA LABOUR CODE September 26th, 2016

Madam Speaker, you would think after 12 years that I would finally break that old habit, and I have not. I apologize.

The hon. member made a populist case about why there should be elections, plain and simple, regardless of how many. However, as I understand it, Bill C-525 went from 35% of the cards being required to trigger an election, to 40%. If the hon. member is so proud of the Harper legislation and he condemns the idea that there would be a vote at only 35%, how does 40% suddenly meet all of his populist needs where the 35% did not?

CANADA LABOUR CODE September 26th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed the speech, which was certainly well delivered and thought out, and I have kind of a quirky approach to your remarks in terms of a question—

CANADA LABOUR CODE September 26th, 2016

Madam Speaker, the member will recall from his time as a staffer the struggle that we had in trying to get real facts and real issues discussed when these bills were on the floor. He will recall at the time of Bill C-377 the constitutional and privacy experts, including our own Privacy Commissioner, the Canadian Bar Association, and all kinds of provincial representatives, who said, “Please don't do this, it's the wrong thing to do”. Yet, the Harper government just rammed that through as it did with many other things.

I raise the issue of, and ask the member for his personal view on, the importance of parliamentarians taking into account all of the views that are out there. The previous government was very much majoritarianist, in believing it had a majority government and could do whatever it wanted no matter what anyone said. I'd like to think the current government is taking a different approach.

Perhaps the member could give us some of his thoughts about pluralism in our country and the need to listen to other groups and entities and vested interests in bills and to take their comments seriously. How does the hon. member feel about that sort of pluralism here in Canada?

Citizenship Act June 16th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate my colleague from Vancouver East for not only an excellent speech but obviously a reflection of the work that she has put into this. I always wondered who would succeed Libby Davies, and kind of felt sorry for that person, given the fantastic parliamentarian that she was. However, the people of Vancouver East have managed to find someone who can actually fill those shoes. She brings a great depth of experience here, particularly as a senior provincial cabinet minister.

My question to the member is in regard to something she commented on earlier, which really jumped out at me. If I am correct, it was with respect to permanent residents, although I am not sure of the subject. However, I do remember the comment, which was that, because the bill was unamended as my colleague tried to amend it, in her opinion we have a bill that gives less judicial fairness to applicants than would be given in a parking ticket situation. Therefore, I was wondering if my colleague would expand on that issue because it sounded very jarring.

Status of Women June 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the chair of the public accounts committee tabled “Report 11: Chapter 1, Implementing Gender-Based Analysis, of the Fall 2015 Report of the Auditor General of Canada”. In this unanimous report, our committee recommends that by April 1, 2017, gender-based analysis be made a mandatory requirement for all federal departments and agencies.

Given that both government and opposition members support this report, will the government commit today to implement the committee's recommendation on mandatory gender-based analysis?