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  • His favourite word is trade.

NDP MP for Vancouver Kingsway (B.C.)

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

Statements in the House

Health September 22nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, there is an overdose epidemic gripping our nation. This year alone, 2,000 Canadians are expected to die. Stakeholders are unanimous that opening supervised injection sites is one way we can start saving lives immediately, yet the government has refused to amend Conservative legislation that the former Liberal health critic said was designed to block new sites. Will the Liberals listen to the evidence and amend Bill C-2 so that we can take action and start saving Canadians' lives?

World Alzheimer's Day September 21st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, September is World Alzheimer's Month, and today is World Alzheimer's Day. The theme for these events is “Remember Me”, and it could not be more appropriate.

Today, we must remember those who are living with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. As a country, we need to be doing everything we can to support our friends, our neighbours and our communities, which have been impacted by this condition. We can do this in a number of ways. Committing to more research, better understanding, and ultimately achieving prevention and a cure are our ultimate goals.

I am sure that everyone in this chamber has been touched by Alzheimer's disease in some way, through our families and friends.

I ask all of us to remember them and to honour them by working together to eliminate Alzheimer's and all other forms of dementia.

Health September 20th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, according to Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions,

As in the 1990s, as the percentage of federal funding declines towards historical lows, it may mean bed closures and drastic layoffs, all of which will dramatically affect the sustainability of Canada’s health care system.

We must not allow history to repeat itself. If the Harper era cuts are maintained, each province will be left to fend for itself as costs outstrip their ability to pay. We will not have national pharmacare, we will not have national home care, wait times will increase, and patient care will suffer.

Tommy Douglas once said, “unless those of us who believe in Medicare raise our voices in no uncertain terms, unless we arouse our neighbours and our friends and our communities, we are sounding the death knell of Medicare in this country”.

Canada's New Democrats will never sit idly by and see that happen. Will the Liberals?

Health September 20th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the pages to the House. I think they started this week and they play a critical role in Canada's democratic chamber here. I would like to welcome them and wish them a wonderful year.

The Minister of Health previously stated:

A strong public health-care system, grounded in the principles of the Canada Health Act, is key to a fair and just society....

New Democrats agree. However, surely the minister knows that when it comes to health care in Canada, we cannot call the shots if we do not pay the bills.

The Liberal Party's 2015 election platform pledged to negotiate a new health accord with the provinces and territories, including a long-term agreement on funding. However, in statements over the summer the health minister has backtracked on this promise. She stated:

I'm not convinced that putting more money in through the transfer is the most effective way for us to transform the health-care system....

Gaétan Barrette, Quebec's health minister, has confirmed that, rather than negotiating in good faith, the Liberal government is holding fast to Stephen Harper's cuts to the health transfer escalator. Minister Barrette stated:

We're not even discussing—we are being told—that the escalator will go from six [per cent] to three.... It hasn't been said (quite this) way, but it was close to: “Don't expect too much and don't call us”.

The federal government cannot have it both ways. If it refuses to pay its fair share of Canada's overall health care costs, it will effectively neuter the Canada Health Act and destroy medicare as a national institution. As Justin Trudeau was fond of saying on the campaign trail, you can't have Tommy Douglas health care on a Stephen Harper budget.

According to an analysis by Canadian academics, including former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, that is exactly what the Liberals are proposing to do. Mr. Page stated:

Federal spending in this sector is projected to fall steadily over the long term given the current program structure and weaker growth rate formula. In this regard, it is difficult to imagine the preservation of the principles of the Canada Health Act without more federal skin in the game.

Indeed, when medicare was first introduced, the federal government agreed to pay 50% of the cost. That was the deal. However, a PBO analysis of the Harper-era funding framework shows that by slashing the health transfer escalator from 6% to 3%, the federal share of health care spending will fall precipitously and continuously in the coming decades. It is currently about 20%.

With the Liberals planning to limit annual increases to 3% under the Harper formula, Ottawa will be transferring about $1.1 billion less in health care funding to the provinces next year alone, and by 2020 this will mean approximately $5 billion less devoted to health care every year. In total, the provinces estimate they will receive about $36 billion less in health transfers over the coming decade.

Aside from the new health accord, the Liberal Party also made an immediate commitment during the election to invest $3 billion over four years to deliver more home care. However, the Liberal's first budget did not earmark a single dime in new funding for home care. Even if the government follows through on this commitment a year behind schedule, this funding will be more than cancelled out by maintaining Harper's cuts. The government is giving a little with one hand and taking a lot with the other. This means longer wait times, poorer patient care, more pressure for privatization, and that is no way to build Tommy Douglas health care.

Therefore, my question is this. Will the government commit to negotiate a new health accord backed by federal dollars to improve patient care in Canada or not?

Genetic Non-Discrimination Act September 20th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-201, an act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination. I am proud to indicate the full support of the NDP caucus for the bill's goals and principles.

I will take a moment to congratulate my hon. colleague for Don Valley West who, as long as I have been in the House, has been a paragon in standing up for the principles of human rights and anti-discrimination in a number of areas. I congratulate him on his stewardship of this bill.

Originally introduced and passed in the Senate as a private member's bill, the last version of Bill S-201 proposes to make amendments to the Canada Labour Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. It would also introduce a series of new offences and penalties for genetic discrimination in contracts and in the provision of goods and services.

New Democrats strongly believe that the federal government must work to prevent genetic discrimination in order to ensure that Canadians can make use of such testing without fear to improve their health care planning and treatment options.

New Democrats are proud to stand with health care providers, medical ethicists, community organizations, and the overwhelming majority of Canadians in support of genetic privacy and in opposition to discrimination based on genetic information. This is why New Democrat MPs introduced legislation similar to Bill S-201 on three previous occasions, including former MPs Libby Davies, Bill Siksay, and Judy Wasylycia-Leis.

It has been said that New Democrats are Liberals in a hurry. In this case, it is certainly true that the NDP was ahead of the game. Frankly, if Parliament had followed the NDP lead in 2010 when this legislation was first introduced by NDP MPs, Canada would not be the only G7 country without this important protection today.

By its very nature, our genetic information is deeply personal. Genes are the basic building blocks of heredity in all living organisms. They are made up of DNA, and DNA contains the instructions for building proteins that control the structure and function of all the cells that make up our bodies. Privacy protection is therefore an essential element of maintaining public trust in the value of the rapidly proliferating field of genetic testing and treatment.

Like many other significant innovations, the information made available through genetic testing offers both tremendous benefits and potential risks.

On the one hand, genetic information can be used to diagnose genetic conditions and identify predispositions to genetic disease. This helps folks seek treatment early and adopt lifestyle habits to minimize the possible harm of a genetic condition. It also helps health care professionals tailor therapies to a patient's specific genetic profile.

On the other hand, without appropriate legal restraint, genetic information can be misused to subject Canadians to discrimination based on the traits revealed by genetic testing. For example, if an insurance company learns that an applicant is at higher risk for certain disease, this may affect the cost of the policy it is willing to offer that person, if it is offered all. If an employer knows that an applicant is at higher risk of developing a genetic condition or illness, the employer may be unwilling to hire that person or continue to employ him or her.

Currently, there is no law in place that specifically protects Canadians' genetic privacy. Only a voluntary code of conduct governs how the results of genetic testing can be used by employers and insurance companies, and that is not good enough.

Moreover, existing Canadian privacy and human rights legislation is wholly inadequate to address genetic discrimination, because it fails to address cases of “future disability, perceived disability, or imputed disability”, and it fails to proactively prevent discrimination. Instead, it offers remedies after the discrimination has already occurred. The person who is discriminated against must make the complaint and then seek appropriate legal action, which is often a costly and time-consuming endeavour. This puts Canada out of step with our country's major industrial counterparts.

As Richard Marceau, general counsel and senior government advisor at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, has pointed out:

Canada’s wait-and-see approach has resulted in a serious legislative gap that no longer exists in any of our G7 partners or in countries like Israel, which enacted comprehensive safeguards as far back as the year 2000.

In liberal, democratic societies in a market economy, the 14 years that followed clearly indicated that legislative protections would not destroy the insurance industry, no more than they would cause employers to go bankrupt. Experience shows that these fears are unfounded.

Canadians from coast to coast to coast expect their government to take immediate action to close this gap and protect their genetic privacy, and none more so than those directly touched by genetic conditions and illnesses. I recently had the honour of participating in Ovarian Cancer Canada's Walk of Hope at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. Ovarian cancer is the most fatal women's cancer. In Canada every year it claims approximately 1,800 lives, and nearly 2,800 Canadian women will be newly diagnosed with the disease every year. Because it is often caught in its late stages, 55% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will die within five years. Although existing research has confirmed a strong link between genetics and ovarian cancer, women may fear testing and some do not get testing because their genetic privacy remains unprotected.

According to Elisabeth Baugh, the CEO of Ovarian Cancer Canada:

While all women are at risk for ovarian cancer, women with specific gene mutations are at greater risk than others. Knowing about your genetic makeup enables informed decisions about preventive action.... To support this, we need assurance that genetic information won’t be misused by employers or insurers.

This view has been echoed by Ovarian Cancer Canada's partners in the Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness, an alliance of organizations dedicated to establishing protections against genetic discrimination for all Canadians. These include the ALS Society, Alzheimer Society, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Canadian Congenital Heart Alliance, Cystic Fibrosis Canada, the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders, Huntington Society of Canada, the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Muscular Dystrophy Canada, and many others. These groups advocate on behalf of the families directly affected by genetic conditions and illnesses, folks who are witnessing the disturbing prevalence of genetic discrimination first-hand.

According to the coalition:

Cases of genetic discrimination have been documented in Canada and are continuing to grow as more genetic information becomes available.... To assume that someone’s DNA will result in a disease or disorder is faulty, misleading...speculative [and dangerous].... Every person has dozens of genetic mutations that could increase or decrease his or her chance of getting a disease such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.

Indeed, a groundbreaking study from the University of British Columbia documented precisely how widespread this discrimination has become. UBC researchers surveyed 233 Canadians with a family history of Huntington's but no symptoms of the disease. They found that nearly 30% of subjects experienced unfair treatment at the hands of insurance companies.

It is clear that by prohibiting genetic discrimination Canadians would be empowered to make more-informed choices about their own health without having to fear negative repercussions. New Democrats believe that no Canadians should ever have to forego critical testing because they lack protection from discrimination. That is why New Democrats strongly support the principle behind Bill S-201. If passed at second reading, we will work hard to engage in a rigorous study of this legislation at committee because it is vitally important that we get the details right. Countries that have enacted laws to prevent genetic discrimination have taken various approaches, and we should learn from each experience to craft a comprehensive made-in-Canada approach to genetic privacy.

All Canadians are affected by genetic discrimination, and leadership is needed at the federal level to ensure that genetic testing is only used to improve and save lives. I hope that the federal government will work with the provinces and territories because many employers and insurers in this country fall under provincial jurisdiction and we want to see the legislation and approach replicated at all levels so that every Canadian, no matter if he or she works in a provincially or federally regulated workplace or regardless of where he or she seeks insurance, is covered by this bill.

I want to conclude by saying that there is one improvement to the bill, which I will identify right now. While it would prevent discrimination, we need to ensure that insurance companies are not able to offer incentives to people to get a lower premium on insurance if they voluntarily subscribe to genetic testing. Those are the kinds of positive proposals the NDP will bring to the table. I congratulate my friend and the government for bringing this important legislation to the House.

Food and Drugs Act September 20th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I was the trade critic for three years in this House and privileged to represent our party in that regard. One thing I learned in that capacity is that trade is often a tertiary issue, meaning that trade determines who we are trading with and upon what terms we are trading, but the fundament question really is, “What are we producing to trade?” It brings to mind the fact that successive Liberal and Conservative governments have failed to deliver a national industrial plan so that we can actually build the Canadian economy—take our blessings and our natural resources and actually build those to provide secondary and tertiary production. Then we would not be just shipping raw resources but actually creating the good jobs here in Canada to get that secondary value, that value-added production, out of those goods. We would not be shipping off raw goods and importing highly finished goods in return, which is often the case, still, in 2016. We are shipping important goods like coal, copper, and canola, but we are importing cars, equipment, and machinery.

I wonder if my hon. colleague has any thoughts as to how Canada can get more out of our natural resources and how we can improve the production and high-level manufacturing of goods in Canada, so that we can not only trade with countries but actually trade high-value goods with the rest of the world?

Food and Drugs Act September 20th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the New Democrats are supporting this bill at this stage in principle and look forward to studying its impact in detail at committee. However, one of the things this bill does is facilitates the transit of goods through Canada that may or may not conform with Canadian law, such as health care products and pesticides.

I wonder if my hon. colleague has any comment to share. As far as the New Democrats are concerned, while we all want to facilitate trade, we want to ensure that we do not allow Canada to be used as a conduit to ship goods that may be environmentally dangerous or dangerous to the health and safety of workers, or products derived from endangered species. Does he have any concern with respect to that or will he join will the New Democrats in making sure that this bill does not have that unintended consequence?

Food and Drugs Act September 20th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a bit of a different tack. When we talk about trade, Canada is signatory to international treaties that restrict Canada's trade in endangered species. There is an upcoming meeting on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Some countries want to tighten the restrictions on the trade of ivory coming from endangered species, including elephants. I understand that Canada may not be taking a positive position on that. I wonder if my hon. colleague would care to comment on that.

Does she believe the Government of Canada should participate with other countries and agree to the bans on trade of products from endangered species?

Food and Drugs Act September 19th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for a very far-ranging and knowledgeable speech. He comes from Windsor and I know he has done an incredible amount of work on both sides of the border to help facilitate greater understanding between Canada and the United States, and of course in nurturing that very important trade relationship.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague to elaborate on the implications he sees in this legislation for opportunities to enhance Canada's relationship with the United States. We have been talking about the TPP and CETA being other trade arrangements with other countries of the world, but Canada and the United States always will remain the number one trading relationship for our people.

Does he see opportunities or challenges in respect to this legislation with respect to the Canada-U.S. trade relationship?

Food and Drugs Act September 19th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for quite a far-flung speech. Not too many people can go from Adam Smith to current economic theory in this House.

I want to ask him a little about the auto sector, knowing that he comes from that area. He mentioned that the Canadian auto sector did very well in the 1970s. He attributed that to Canada's health care system, which no doubt played a role. I would argue that the Auto Pact actually played a much larger role in building Canada's auto industry at the time, which is a form of managed trade as opposed to free trade.

The TPP would lower the rules of origin so that the content of a car made in one of the TPP countries that qualifies for tariff-free import into Canada would be less than 50%. That means that a car made 50% in Malaysia or Vietnam, that is maybe contributed to from China, because it only has to be 50%, or slightly less than that, could come into Canada tariff free. I wonder if he could tell us how a car that, say, has 45% Chinese content and 55% Vietnamese or Malaysian content, with their low wages and lack of standards and government programs in those countries, would affect the competitive abilities of the carmakers in his region?