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  • Her favourite word is families.

NDP MP for London—Fanshawe (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act February 24th, 2017

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-339, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act (death benefit).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce a bill today that will allow more flexibility for veterans who do not have a spouse or dependent children. As it stands now, no death benefit is awarded at the time of a veteran's death if there is no spouse or dependent children. This means that older children or parents caring for a veteran are ineligible to receive the benefit. This bill will allow veterans to appoint a family member or members as the beneficiary of their death benefits should they pass away without a spouse or dependent child. This bill will make it more equitable for veterans and their families whose family makeup may not reflect the traditional family model.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Veterans Affairs February 24th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the backlog veterans face waiting for their pensions is a disgrace. Our veterans are going into debt just to make ends meet. This needs to stop now.

There is a simple fix. Follow the military ombudsman's advice and do not discharge a veteran until all pensions, benefits, and services are in place and are understood. When is the minister going to get his house in order so that veterans are not left struggling to survive?

Veterans Affairs February 14th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, today is Valentine's Day. We have heard a lot about the importance of love and caring for one another. I know that the parliamentary secretary cares very much about veterans and their families. For many months last year, she sat with me on the veterans affairs committee and heard the same testimony, the same struggles, the same pain that our veterans and their families deal with on a daily basis.

The issues and problems plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs are many. The struggles of veterans and their families are real.

However, an important question remains. What is the government going to do about the barriers that veterans face? What actions, what changes will it make to ensure that veterans and their families will no longer struggle to access services and receive the support that they so desperately need?

Veterans Affairs February 14th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, last fall I asked the minister about the many veterans and families struggling to access supports from Veterans Affairs. His response to my question left me wondering if he is hearing the many voices pleading with his government to listen and make the simple but important changes needed.

Just last week at the veterans affairs committee, we heard from the spouse of a veteran who highlighted very succinctly what I have been hearing for years. She said that her husband Marc, who was released from the military, was left with the impression that he was just another number. Sadly, this indifference has continued now that he is a veteran. This testimony highlights the fact that we are failing our injured veterans and their families. The Department of National Defence and the Department of Veterans Affairs are failing the men and women who serve this country.

The minister should know very well by now that our veterans and their families are struggling. Medically released veterans have to wait to access their pensions when they leave, putting an already stressed family in financial hardship. Veterans and their families are also left without knowing what supports they will qualify for, leaving them with more questions about the financial resources on which they rely.

In addition to financial support are the psychological supports that must be in place immediately. Waiting for a referral from VAC and the additional six weeks before a veteran can see a doctor at an OSI clinic is shocking and unacceptable. If we are able to immediately help the veteran in need, it will reduce the pressure and potential trauma for the veteran's family.

The current system is failing not only our veterans but also their families. More supports for spouses caring for veterans are essential. They may need help to repair a damaged relationship, resources to assist learning how to live with and help someone with PTSD, and supports for their own trauma. None of these resources should be difficult to access. They should be readily available as soon as they are needed.

These are just some of the struggles that veterans and their families face today. However, I get very worried about the future. As these veterans age, they and their families will struggle again to access specialized care that the veteran might need.

Right now, we have long-term care facilities, such as the one in my riding, Parkwood Hospital, that have expertise in serving the special needs of veterans, but post-Korean War veterans and peacekeepers cannot access these specialized facilities. As a result, these hospitals are slated to slowly shutter their doors.

I notice today that the minister visited my riding and made an announcement that he would open five beds in Parkwood Hospital. These beds have been sitting empty in the hospital for years. We need more beds and space to help veterans. Parkwood has the facilities to help veterans struggling to access long-term care, but the government lacks the political will to make this happen. It is content to download veteran care to the provinces. The announcement today does nothing to address the lack of a long-term plan for modern-day veterans. If we do not start to expand care, we are going to lose the expertise housed in facilities like Parkwood.

With much more work to be done to support the veterans, I wonder what the minister and his parliamentary secretary would like to share with the House in regard to how they will address the financial and health care hardships that medically released veterans and their families face when they leave the military. Will the government enact the military ombudsman's recommendations that all benefits and pensions be in place before a CF member is released from the military?

Petitions February 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition in support of free prescription birth control.

Twenty-four per cent of Canadians do not have access to subsidized drug plans, meaning that they have to pay out of pocket for medications like contraception. Fifteen per cent of sexually active Canadians do not use contraception at all. It has been proven that subsidized contraception has been cost beneficial in a number of jurisdictions, including the U.S. and Great Britain, and reduces the cost of unintended pregnancy.

With that in mind, these petitioners call on the Government of Canada to support Motion No. 65, which calls on the federal government to work with the provinces to cover the full cost of prescribed contraception.

Veterans Affairs February 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, today we have learned that a veteran has been evicted from her home because of delays in receiving her pension. This is unconscionable. Compound that by the fact this veteran had six tours of duty, two bouts of cancer, and is a single mom. It should make the minister and the Prime Minister hang their heads in shame.

Enough is enough. Will the minister take action today to ensure that veterans have their pensions in place the day that they are released from service?

Business of Supply February 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I think it is pretty simple: the Liberals did not get the answers they wanted.

I had a town hall meeting in London, Ontario, with my colleagues. It was on a hot summer Sunday. More than 300 people came out because this was important. There was consensus in that room. They wanted their issues to be addressed. They were very clear. Of course there are always one or two dissenters. That is understandable. However, these folks were passionate. We made absolutely sure that it was a non-partisan event. We were scrupulous about that.

I would say that it comes down to a third party in the 2015 election with nothing to lose and a new young leader willing to say anything in order to grab the headlines, in order to grab attention, in order to plug into that youth vote. That is exactly what happened. He was willing to say anything, with no intention to follow through.

That is not what governments do. Governments behave with ethics and with dignity. We have not seen that yet.

Business of Supply February 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, that is very interesting. Back in 1996, as a New Democrat, I was on a committee that travelled the province to ask Ontarians about what kind of system they would like to see. We explored various possibilities, and proportional representation was a very significant part of that. That is why it has become NDP policy. Speaking of referenda, they can be very difficult and misleading.

The Liberal Government of Ontario made very sure that, before the referendum in Ontario about voting ever happened, it did nothing. It made sure that the public did not understand the question. It made sure that the public had no information. It made sure that there was no possibility that first past the post would be abandoned.

I would say it is time, after nearly 100 years, to get over this silly wrangling and do something that means voters in this country will be secure, be respected, and have Parliaments that reflect our population.

Business of Supply February 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I enthusiastically stand in support of the motion before the House today. While I must admit I am not surprised that it has come to this, I am very disappointed, because despite all we know about Liberals consistently breaking promises throughout the history of Liberal governments, hope is hard to extinguish.

Despite the disappointment of the last election results for New Democrats, I could not help but be buoyed by the faith, the hope, and the optimism Canadians demonstrated in voting for change. However, as we enter into the third calendar year of this so-called real change government, it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine what change there has been, other than switching from blue to red. It is a cosmetic switch at best.

After meeting targets for refugee applicants, largely on the goodwill of private citizens, the government has stemmed the flow at a time when the need to welcome displaced citizens is most urgent. It has backtracked on its promise to protect the environment. The Liberals have yet to restore protections to our navigable waters in response to legislation by the Conservatives before them who gutted that important environmental law. The government has refused to recognize the devastating effects of colonialism and continues to underfund first nations education. The Liberal government pays ineffectual lip service to implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It continues to challenge veterans in court. It has also executed a blatant about-face on its promise of electoral reform.

The Prime Minister's promise to Canadians was clear and unequivocal. Sixteen months ago on the election trail, he stated that his party would “make every vote count”, and more than 1,800 times claimed that a Liberal government would be committed to ensuring that the 2015 election would be the last federal election using first past the post. As recently as last October, the Prime Minister restated his support for electoral reform, describing it as “a commitment that we made in our election that I continue to be deeply committed to”. I am starting to wonder if members of the governing party actually understand what the word “commitment” means. In fact, I think it is reasonable that anyone in a committed personal or professional relationship with a government party member might have reasonable cause to worry.

It has truly been disheartening for Canadians to watch the Prime Minister and his ministers turn away from their commitment to a fair election process, to the point where the Minister of Democratic Institutions's brand new mandate letter does not even include electoral reform.

Breaking this promise not only reflects badly on the Prime Minister and his party, but it also damages our democratic system and tarnishes the credibility of all MPs in the House. It reinforces the cynical belief that politicians are only interested in getting elected and will say anything to gain power. It eats away at the fabric of our democracy as people lose trust in the political system.

Making promises they never intended to keep further disenfranchises those voters who flocked to the polls in droves to vote for change. People believed the Liberal Party actually wanted to create change. People were sold a bill of goods and now are left with the status quo and a loss of trust in our political system. The effects of this betrayal are as devastating as the voter suppression tactics Liberal members decried in the 2011 election campaign. It is not an exaggeration to say that democracy itself is at risk. This is a betrayal of every Canadian who voted to change the electoral system, as well as every representative who vowed to do politics differently. The unvarnished truth is that the Liberals are ignoring what is best for Canadians and keeping the current system because they think it benefits them. It seems clear to me that commitments and promises are meaningless to the Prime Minister.

It leads me to wonder what will be the next promise to be broken. Will it be the promise of secure and accessible pensions for our veterans? Just like democratic reform, that was a key election promise. Just like democratic reform, it made it into the minister's mandate letter, yet here we are in 2017 with the pension promises unkept and veterans back in court fighting the government, a government that pledged to honour its sacred obligation to the men and women who serve this great country.

The Liberal Party's claim that there is no consensus among Canadians for electoral reform is deeply cynical and intentionally misleading. It is a refusal to acknowledge reality. It is astounding, it is arrogant, and it is breathtaking to behold.

Here are the facts. Two-thirds of Canadians voted in the last election for parties promising electoral reform. During the committee hearings, almost 90% of expert and 80% of public testimony called for the government to adopt a proportional voting system. When that testimony did not suit the government's purposes, it resorted to an online survey that was extremely biased, poorly designed, and did not even ask Canadians which electoral system they preferred.

I have been watching with interest the response on the online parliamentary petition, e-616, initiated by Jonathan Cassels of Kitchener, Ontario, and sponsored by my hon. colleague the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. The petition calls on the Government of Canada to keep its commitment to Canadians on electoral reform. Canadians are responding by the hundreds every hour. The counter on qualifying signatures now sits at over 92,000, and the petition is open for signatures until March 2. It will be very interesting to see how many Canadians respond. I would caution the government to pay close attention to this response from Canadians. They mean it.

Clearly, rather than lacking consensus, Canadians are passionately invested in electoral reform, and they overwhelmingly support a system of proportional representation over the current first past the post one.

I am beginning to wonder if we need to publish a parliamentary dictionary to ensure that the words “commitment” and “consensus” are used properly by the Prime Minister and his government front bench.

While we are at it, that dictionary should include the definitions of the words “diversity”, “inclusion”, “democracy”, and “equality”, because while the Minister of Democratic Institutions has commented that the current electoral system has served Canadians reasonably well for the last 150 years, the veracity of that statement is highly questionable.

Who exactly is it who has been served reasonably well by this archaic system? Have women, persons of colour, or indigenous Canadians been served well? Sadly, none of those groups have been well served by the current system.

How can the Prime Minister not see that his message, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength”, is in complete opposition to his stubborn refusal to reform our democratic system to be more diverse, more inclusive, and more representative of the people who make this country great.

Action speaks louder than words, and empty rhetoric is unacceptable. The Liberals had to be shamed into forming an electoral reform committee that did not give them the majority advantage. That battle lost, they chose to ignore and dismiss the committee's report, which was the result of hundreds of hours of work and broad consultation on the part of MPs of all parties. Their staff and the parliamentary clerk's office all participated. The committee set a clear path for the Prime Minister to keep his promise to Canadians. He need only instruct his minister to follow it.

It is really a very simple question. Has the Prime Minister misled Canadians, or does he intend to keep his promise on electoral reform? Canadian voters would like to hear the answer. Members of the House would like to hear that answer. What is it? Has the Prime Minister misled Canadians, or will he do the honourable thing and keep his promise on electoral reform?

We are about to see the real measure of the Prime Minister, and Canadians will be the judges.

Business of Supply February 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you were to seek it, I think you would find that there is consent to adopt the following motion. I move:

That, at the conclusion of today's debate on the opposition motion in the name of the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put and a recorded division requested and deferred to Tuesday, February 14, 2017, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.