House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was victoria.

Last in Parliament August 2012, as NDP MP for Victoria (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 51% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply May 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, what I would like to ask the hon. minister is whether she can confirm today that she actually believes the science provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, composed of approximately 1,600 scientists from around the world? Would she actually confirm that she believes this today?

Business of Supply May 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would agree that what we heard yesterday and apparently this morning--from what I have read--were in fact echos from the White House.

It is really time to stop scaring Canadians by saying that any changes, any new programs, will lead to catastrophic results. This is not at all true. This has been proven in many countries, as my colleague before me just emphasized. Numerous examples clearly demonstrate that it is possible to continue to make progress in this area while maintaining a competitive position in the world.

Business of Supply May 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member opposite for his work on his own home.

In my city of Victoria a community energy plan is being implemented that will allow the city to meet the targets that have been set according to this protocol. I regret the cancellation of this program. When we begin to sensitize people and mobilize the population, this kind of program is needed. I thought it was a useful program. I and many other people took advantage of it and made some significant changes to our homes. We need this kind of program.

The Liberals had this one good program, but at the same time they failed to regulate large emitters, which are a major source of the increase in our emissions. The program would have made a dent in the increase. In addition, the Liberals refused to implement more than a voluntary agreement on car efficiency, another area that would have been very useful in reducing—

Business of Supply May 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues in the NDP and I strongly support the motion by the Bloc Québécois calling on the government to take action to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction objectives as they are set out in the Kyoto protocol.

Personally, I think that there should be more immediate and far-reaching action than the motion suggests.

Everyone knew from the outset that the Kyoto protocol was only a first step, and a somewhat timid one at that, and that we would have to double our efforts to slow climate change and its harmful effects.

In my province, British Columbia, the effects are already being felt. Temperatures on the coast have risen a degree. The warmer and drier air in the Fraser Valley is causing more respiratory disease and problems associated with air pollution are already serious in that region.

Scientists are also predicting greater risks of flood, drought, forest fires and storms, and all the devastating effects we are familiar with. The costs associated with the ravages caused by the mountain pine beetle are in excess of $2 billion a year.

It is estimated that half of the glaciers will disappear by the end of this century. That means less water for agriculture, for energy generation and for communities.

It is not reasonable for the government to cancel the only plan we have that offers a glimmer of hope for the future without proposing an alternative. That is like driving with a puncture and having no spare tire. We have no shortage of concrete, innovative ideas or of blueprints for action. What we have is a shortage of is leadership from this government and the previous government, and that is why we are so far behind.

I found what the Minister of the Environment said yesterday in the House disturbing, disquieting and shocking. We were hearing an echo from the White House, it seems to me. After explaining that greenhouse gas emissions had risen by 35% in Canada, she said, and I quote:

To put that into perspective, that would mean that today we would have to take every train, plane and automobile off the streets in Canada.

She further said, “that would be equal to four times the amount of greenhouse gases for every individual Canadian household that we would have to shut down”. I am very worried about the minister's sense of perspective.

Looking at our climate change allies, the U.K. for example has already surpassed its Kyoto target of 12.5% reduction and is on track to reduce by 23% to 25% by 2010, all the while maintaining a 1.7% growth rate in GDP in 2005. Germany has reduced its emissions by 18.5%. I have not travelled to Europe lately, but I believe people's homes there still function properly. They still drive cars and ride trains. Heathrow Airport in Britain has not shut down and they have not switched to horse-drawn carriages on the autobahn. Therefore, I believe the minister is exaggerating her point considerably.

The minister raises the spectre of developing nations, like India and China. Their rising emissions are very troubling indeed. However, when we point our finger at someone else, we still have three fingers pointing back at us. One Canadian still emits the same greenhouse gas emissions as ten Indians, and the current emissions overload is a result of our own excessive emissions over the past century, not India's or China's.

What the minister should be doing instead of using India and China as an excuse for inaction, is investing in making Canada a world leader in green energy at home and for export.

Nonetheless, I agree with the minister that the Liberals talked a lot about the Kyoto protocol, but they did not do much. During the election campaign, one of the candidates even offered me the excuse that the increases could be attributed to economic growth. That is like saying that if we are to be productive, we cannot be efficient, or we must be inefficient, according to the Liberals.

But now we have the Conservatives saying virtually the same thing. They are giving up without even trying.

The Minister of the Environment sounds more like the minister of oil and gas. Why does her government continue to subsidize the oil and gas industry at a time of record profit? The minister suggests the sky will fall, that Canadians will have to live in mud huts. The problem is, the government sees conservation as the antithesis to economic growth.

Rather than talk about taking every plane, train and automobile off the streets in Canada, why does her government not stop wasting taxpayer dollars on the oil and gas sector and start regulating large emitters and shift those subsidies to conservation measures, green energy investments and transition strategies for communities and workers? Why does the government not follow the advice of its own experts on understanding climate change, who stated last year, “Action must be taken now to limit atmospheric change...Action is essential and by no means premature. Indeed, it may already be overdue”.

The minister sees only obstacles when what we have to do is look beyond the obstacles. This is obviously not a crisis that we can solve in six months. We cannot do everything at once, but we have to have a vision, a long-term strategy, to make the transition to a sustainable economy. Canada has everything we need in terms of technology and resources to be a world leader and to maintain our competitive position.

I will go back to the minister's own department which argues:

Major reductions in the emission of carbon dioxide are also achievable and need to be pursued simultaneously through the improvement of energy efficiency and through the development of alternatives to fossil fuels.

It is not necessary to go back to zero. There are recommendations from a significant number of credible groups, as well as the NDP's plan which was fully costed, that propose a national energy efficiency strategy, starting with homes, energy efficient buildings and retrofit programs, establishing a made in Canada green car industry and investing in green energy and sustainable municipal infrastructure for a start.

We need a greater urgency than the government is demonstrating. We can achieve our objectives, but it will need political will, something that seems to be absent at this moment.

I heartily recommend, on behalf of our children, that the government review its plans and act in a more urgent manner to this problem. There is no problem that will have a greater impact on our children, on the next generation, than climate change.

The Budget May 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, conservation is given short shrift in this budget. Most Canadians are expecting leadership, not a plan that is yet to be developed or two paragraphs as we saw in the budget. Canadians expect action and a more balanced view of our obligations to our children and future generations.

The Minister of the Environment keeps repeating that she will come forward with a made in Canada plan and that our whole economy will crumble if she brings forward any measures to reduce climate change. I hope she would realize that it would be an economic advantage to Canada to maintain our competitive advantage. There are many things that we could do to reverse the trend by investing in energy retrofits, building retrofits, in green mobility and so on.

The Budget May 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the Liberal members of Parliament should get new speaking points. It seems a little ridiculous to suggest that the NDP is the cause. Millions of Canadians voted against the former government, after 13 years of promising environmental reform, of promising housing, of promising reform to the aboriginal, of promising students a dedicated transfer. It only happened when the NDP came forward at the end of the Liberal term with Bill C-48.

If the Liberals had not waited 13 years before acting and only when prompted by the NDP in Bill C-48, they would not be in the position they are now. Until Liberals become humble enough to realize that it is the Canadian people who voted them out of office, they are going to be sitting on the other side of the House for a very long time.

The Budget May 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I was speaking about housing, which is a critical issue to my city of Victoria. The budget only skirts around it. The budget's $800 million one time only affordable housing allocation is a 50% cut from money already passed into law by the NDP budget last year. Even with promises for aboriginal housing, it is still $200 million short of what was already committed. Where is the national affordable housing program that Canadians want and deserve?

Perhaps the Conservatives could learn from my city, Victoria, which has led the way by establishing an affordable housing trust in perpetuity. This is the level of government least able to pay for affordable housing, leading by example, while the federal government throws a pittance at a national problem. The federal government may acknowledge its responsibility to affordably house Canadians, but instead presents a budget that favours well housed corporations.

Where are the budget tools to tackle climate change? Since 1990, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions have risen 24% instead of moving anywhere near a target of a 6% reduction. It appears that unwillingness to act at the federal level is the real culprit in this very disturbing trend. Innovation and leadership are coming from municipalities in cities like Victoria, which are implementing community energy plans. However, to carry these through successfully, they require energy efficiency programs, such as the ones the Conservatives are presently cutting, instead of more corporate tax cuts to the oil and gas industry.

First, the Liberals refused to impose new emission standards on their friends in the business community, and gave the hydrocarbons sector grants of $1.4 billion per year. Now, the Conservatives are continuing to provide these grants to this sector which is already reaping huge profits.

It would appear that the real problem is not the difficulty of meeting the Kyoto targets, but rather the government’s reluctance to make a sincere attempt to do so.

We are not lacking innovative solutions to the climate change problem. The NDP has proposed a national energy efficiency improvement program which would reduce emissions substantially. We also propose that tax grants and reductions no longer be used to support the producers of polluting fuels, but instead to encourage the Canadian clean energy industry. Such a measure would be not only an environmental strategy, but an economically astute environmental strategy.

At this dawn of the age of the green economy, the short-sighted solutions proposed in the budget may seem adequate, but overall they testify to a profound lack of long-term vision and an abdication of leadership on the part of the present government. In that respect it is continuing in the same vein as the Liberal government of the past.

I ask the government to take another look at its budget and to make the changes needed to show commitment to the real priorities of Canadians around housing, post-secondary education and the environment.

The Budget May 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I see that I may have to do this in two parts.

I came to Ottawa to stand up for the needs and priorities of Victorians. Today I stand against this budget because it fails the people of Victoria in many important ways. I will focus on three of these: post-secondary education and skills training for which I am the critic, housing and the environment.

A budget is a tool used to achieve practical ends. How much is allocated to one line item reveals how much that item is valued. Conservative budgets show what ends Conservatives want to achieve and they are not the ends that even Conservatives acknowledge that Canadians want.

The Minister of Finance states in his own document, and I quote: “There is also a clear consensus among Canadians on the importance of support for health care, post-secondary education and training, and infrastructure”. He also says that Canadians must have access to “affordable, accessible and high-quality post-secondary education and training”.

This budget offers a bloodless version of those fine words, although we do have to acknowledge that this budget is an improvement over the Liberals' do nothing model, because this government has finally taken steps to support education and training.

The tax incentives and grants to promote training and learning are a good start, as is the move to exempt bursaries from federal income tax.

However, in the global race for the knowledge economy, the new economy, the government has stumbled at the starting line.

My party proposes a national, concrete, long term strategy that recognizes that the level of skills required in most sectors will reach new heights and our economic prosperity of the future rests on those skills. Included in the NDP strategy to start would be a recognition that skills training is required throughout one's life by using the employment insurance system, for example, to support retraining and skills upgrading programs including soft skills like language training that many members in the House have benefited from. A lifelong learning strategy would finally reinvest in our college and university students, and improve access to education.

In this budget there is no increased financial support for students. Instead, the government makes it easier for students to start their working lives with larger debt loads than ever before. This is an administrator's budget where $1 billion of the $1.5 billion NDP budget intended to support the reduction of skyrocketing tuition fees was instead channelled toward university infrastructure, and an $83 book allowance. That is maybe one textbook. This budget shows the finance minister is out of touch with the real costs of a college education.

There is a very broad consensus among Canadians across the country that there should be a transfer specifically for post-secondary education. I would even add that this is part of the Conservatives' electoral platform. Where, then, is this transfer?

The Minister of Finance recognizes that keeping funding for post-secondary education in the overall cash transfer envelope poses a problem, but he is doing absolutely nothing to change this deficient process.

How will Canadians be able to clearly see what the provinces are doing with federal funds for education and training? This makes no sense, coming from a government that supposedly promised transparency.

This Conservative budget falls far short of actual student needs and it skirts around another issue critical to my city's future, to Canada's future: affordable housing.

The Budget May 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I hear the words “$1,200 benefit”, “choice” and “universal programs” but where is the choice for parents who have to work and there are no places to leave their children?

Housing in my city of Victoria is so expensive that it is difficult, even when there are two parents, for one of them to stay at home. I do not see the choice there and I am wondering if the hon. member would tell me where the choice is for parents in those circumstances.

Norad May 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I fear that the hon. minister has misunderstood the NDP position toward NAFTA, but that is perhaps the subject of another debate.

The member assures us that this Norad agreement is simply an extension of our relationship with the United States. However, in its report, the bi-national planning group describes the extension of Norad as the first step in a gradual process of full integration with not only American military policy, but also American diplomatic policy.

The report refers to establishing a single organization responsible for warning and response in all domains with respect to defence and security.

As I understand it, this could include Canada's participation in ballistic missile defence, something that greatly concerns me and most Canadians. I do not want to assume anything, but I would like a guarantee for myself and all Canadians that the government will not secretly involve us in missile defence, as it did with Norad.

I would therefore ask the minister whether he is prepared to support an amendment to the Norad agreement that specifically and unequivocally excludes pursuing integration with the American military apparatus and Canada's involvement in any ballistic missile defence system.