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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word is regard.

NDP MP for London—Fanshawe (Ontario)

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

Statements in the House

Questions on the Order Paper December 1st, 2016

With regard to Veteran Affairs Canada, what are the: (a) total number of veterans claiming benefits due to (i) sexual harassment, (ii) sexual trauma, (iii) sexual assault, as a service related injury; (b) number of veterans claiming benefits in each of the last 10 years due to (i) sexual harassment, (ii) sexual trauma, (iii) sexual assault, as a service related injury; (c) total number of veterans claims regarding (i) sexual harassment, (ii) sexual trauma, (iii) sexual assault, that were denied as a service related injury; (d) number of veterans claims in each of the last 10 years regarding (i) sexual harassment, (ii) sexual trauma, (iii) sexual assault, that were denied as a service related injury; (e) total number of successful claims by veterans regarding service related injury due to (i) sexual harassment, (ii) sexual trauma and, (iii) sexual assault; (f) number of successful claims by veterans in each of the last 10 years regarding service related a service related injury due to (i) sexual harassment, (ii) sexual trauma and, (iii) sexual assault; (g) total number of claims by veterans regarding service related injury due to (i) sexual harassment, (ii) sexual trauma, (iii) sexual assault, appealed at the Veterans Review and Appeal Board; (h) number of claims by veterans in each of the last 10 years regarding service related a service related injury due to (i) sexual harassment, (ii) sexual trauma, (iii) sexual assault, appealed at the Veterans Review and Appeal Board; (i) total number of claims by veterans regarding service related injury due to (i) sexual harassment, (ii) sexual trauma, (iii) sexual assault, whose appeals were denied at the Veterans Review and Appeal Board; (j) number of claims by veterans in each of the last 10 years regarding service related a service related injury due to (i) sexual harassment, (ii) sexual trauma, (iii) sexual assault, whose appeals were denied at the Veterans Review and Appeal Board; (k) total number of claims by veterans regarding service related injury due to (i) sexual harassment, (ii) sexual trauma, (iii) sexual assault, whose appeals were granted at the Veterans Review and Appeal Board; and (l) number of claims by veterans in each of the last 10 years regarding service related a service related injury due to (i) sexual harassment, (ii) sexual trauma, (iii) sexual assault, whose appeals were granted at the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

Poverty Reduction Act November 30th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in the House today to support Bill C-245 put forward by the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. It is a progressive piece of legislation that would create the social democratic infrastructure for eliminating poverty in Canada.

The Prime Minister's mandate letter to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development prioritized “the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy that would set targets to reduce poverty and measure and publicly report on our progress, in collaboration with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.” Moreover, the Prime Minister said, “Our strategy will align with and support existing provincial and municipal poverty reduction strategies.”

As I said, these are the words of the Prime Minister. However, more than a year into their mandate, the Liberals have yet to take on any action on providing a poverty strategy for Canada. I cannot help but think that Canadians who are struggling to find work, to feed their families, and to keep a roof over their heads might be having a hard time believing in sunny ways.

There is, however, some very good news here today. New Democrats have done the heavy lifting, as we have done in the past with medicare and workers' rights. The research is filed, Canadians have been consulted, and the experts agree. Bill C-245 would be a framework for fostering social inclusion. It would pave the way to creating the Canada we all know is possible. All that is left now is to make it happen. All that remains is political will on the part of the government.

Thanks to the tireless efforts and consultations of our New Democrat brother Tony Martin, who sat as the member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie between 2004 and 2011, we have before us a plan for poverty elimination that is considered, sustainable, and more critically necessary today than it was when first introduced in 2010. Tony's spirit and heroic efforts resonate in Bill C-245.

I applaud the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and her staff for their efforts in bringing this very important issue to the House, and for the recognition that poverty elimination would firmly set us on the path to the social justice Canadians deserve. I also offer my profound thanks and respect to Tony Martin for the work he has done as a champion of this cause over his lifetime.

In 1989, this House unanimously adopted Ed Broadbent's motion to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. The turn of the century has come and gone without Y2K ending the world as we know it, and without any substantive progress in ending child poverty in Canada.

The fact that we have reached 2016 without achieving our objectives with regard to poverty is shameful. It is shameful because it is something over which our governments have control. Not only are we no further ahead, it can be argued that the forces of neo-liberalism and globalization embraced by Conservative and Liberal governments alike have left us worse off instead of better. Post-secondary education has become the privilege of the elite; our health care system is in danger because of underfunding and corporate greed; and our finance minister has told workers and youth to suck it up and resign themselves to a lifetime of precarious and temporary work. When workers and young Canadians challenged the government for espousing these views, the Prime Minister chose to take a patriarchal approach and chided young workers for being disrespectful. Furthermore, the income gap has widened and continues to grow, leaving more and more Canadians unable to make ends meet, forcing them to choose between paying rent and paying the bills.

Taking an intersectional approach to poverty reveals that it has the biggest impacts on Canadians who have historically been disadvantaged. Women, seniors, senior women, children, disabled Canadians, immigrant Canadians, and Canadians of colour all experience poverty at rates higher than the average. Colonialism has entrenched Canada's indigenous peoples in poverty, which continues unchecked because of the government's refusal to honour the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The fact that we have done little to nothing in the way of fighting poverty in the 21st century in Canada is especially shameful, because the evidence is clear and undeniable. We all, rich and poor, individuals, families, and even the corporate elite, all of Canada thrives when we make efforts to reduce the impacts of poverty.

The cost of poverty in Canada is staggering, placing unnecessary burdens on our systems of health care, education, justice, and social welfare. The Canadian Medical Association has cited poverty as the number one social determinant of health, observing that society, governments, and health care providers, all have an obligation to address poverty, inadequate housing, and nutrition.

In response to a 2011 report from the National Council of Welfare, which placed the cost of poverty to our economy at $24 billion, the Conservative government of the day responded with its economic action plan. That government has come and gone, and all that remains of that important plan are some tattered signs, and a level of poverty unacceptable in a country as resource rich as Canada.

Poverty and income security are issues that need to be addressed at all levels of government. While the federal government has a fundamental role to play in establishing a strategy, provinces and municipalities are in many ways closer to the issue, and have expertise in delivering social services essential to communities.

Bill C-245 seeks to reach out to the other levels of government to harness that expertise in an effective way. It will strengthen Canada's social and economic safety net, and promote the involvement of the general public as well as public and private sector stakeholders in poverty reduction. It will ensure that every Canadian has access to affordable, secure, and adequate housing.

In addition, the bill seeks to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to recognize social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination, and in doing so, promote equal opportunities for Canadians living in poverty.

Recognizing that a full life is a human right, my community of London, Ontario has adopted a municipal strategy on poverty whose goal is to end poverty in a single generation, thereby allowing our community to reach its full potential. Entitled “London for All: A Roadmap to End Poverty”, the report includes 112 recommendations broken down into eight categories, including income and employment, health, housing, transportation, education, and food security.

I would like to remind the House and the government of the proud social democratic roots that the foundation of our country is based on. Social democracy provides balance in a capitalist economy with the recognition that core values of access to decent employment, health care, affordable housing, education, pensions, food, and union representation are not commodities to be marketed away at the whim of the corporate elite or government.

The Liberals campaigned on a platform that, if we were to believe the promises, veered left of Tommy Douglas on a social democratic scale. The Prime Minister, in his victory speech on election night, paraphrased the words of Jack Layton when he declared he had beaten fear with hope. Well, with all the evidence to the contrary, it appears to me that hope is waning and the Prime Minister is neither a Tommy Douglas nor a Jack Layton.

In fact, the Prime Minister is towing the Harper line on climate change and health care transfers to the provinces, revoking citizenship without a hearing, forcing veterans to go to court to fight for their benefits, defying the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, and continuing to underfund indigenous children's education. Where is the promised end to the 2% cap on education, and where is the promise of electoral reform? It certainly sounds like the current Prime Minister is backing away from his promise on just about everything.

Canadians put their hope for social democracy in the Prime Minister. It was he who called on Canadians to step up and pitch in, to get involved in public life, and to know that to be optimistic is to be positive. While I agree with those sentiments, I wonder why Canadians have had to wait more than a year for any kind of change.

Today, we have an important bill that looks to that social democracy that I was talking about. I urge the House, the government, and the Prime Minister to take the gift that we are offering in Bill C-245, and run with it. Put Canada back on track to becoming the country we all know is possible.

I would like to thank the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, and I thank Tony.

Parkwood Institute November 29th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I have recently had the opportunity to visit the veterans care program at Parkwood Institute in London, Ontario. In addition to providing excellent care for more than 130 in-patient veterans, Parkwood Institute is home to one of Canada's original operational stress injury clinics. Clinicians in the OSI clinic receive more than 4,000 out-patient visits from veterans, military personnel, and RCMP officers each year. Their care providers treat a wide range of mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, with positive outcomes for veterans. Its treatment focus includes support for both the individual veteran and the family.

Parkwood Institute is known across the country as a leader in mental health treatment and research for both veterans and the general population. It is currently leading the nation's first zero suicide initiative.

I want to congratulate it for all its work and for the care it provides for military and RCMP veterans and their families.

November 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, the member talked about statistics and the percentage in terms of the lesser amount women would receive in CPP once they retired. Could she comment on the impact that this reduction in benefits means to the life of a Canadian senior woman?

November 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, for some time I was the pension critic, and I did a great deal of work in terms of studying this particular question. One of the things that I learned, and which I think is quite widely known, is that investment in the CPP is the gold standard. Because of the wisdom of those investments, the return is quite significant, compared to private pension plans, which depend on the vagaries of the stock market; one day we are up and the next day we are down. Quite frankly, depending on that possibility is something that many seniors are most certainly not willing to gamble on.

November 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague very much for that observation. We know that women, whether they are divorced or face widowhood, are very disadvantaged by a reduced CPP benefit.

I would like to point out that nearly one million Canadians rely on food banks in our country. They do that because they are poor, they cannot manage, and they do not have the income they need. Of that one million, 49% are women. Almost 18% are persons living with disabilities. That paints the picture quite clearly. We are failing these groups.

I recall the days, not so very long ago, perhaps in the mid-1970s, when the travesty of our country was the people who were retired, particularly women, and the stories of them having to live on animal food and not doing well at all. I do not want to go back to that. I do not understand why the government would want to go back to those days.

If we look to the future, we know there will be more and more seniors. We have to ensure they are taken care of, and that includes women and persons living with disabilities.

November 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, we know absolutely that the provinces were rallying for increased CPP not very long ago. In fact, one Liberal government was going to create its own pension program, because the CPP was not enough. Now it has not had to do that, or apparently it has indicated that it is not necessary anymore.

I do know Premier Notley in Alberta is very supportive of an increased CPP. However, I would hope that the government would consider making it fair all the way around, for women and persons living with disabilities.

In this negotiation the member talks of with the provinces, what did the government give away? How on earth can we expect our country to thrive if women and those living with a disability are left out? Is is inconceivable.

November 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak today to Bill C-26, because it has the potential to address an issue that is so very vital to our identity as Canadians. The manner in which we care for each other is the measure of who we are as a people. We have much work to do in many areas to ensure accessible and affordable health care, child care, education, and housing for every Canadian so that none of us is left behind. We must address the shameful colonial legacy of inequality forced on this nation's indigenous peoples and ensure, as the bill before us today purports to do, that every Canadian is able to retire in dignity and security.

While the measures outlined in Bill C-26 represent incremental progress in providing retirement security for Canadians, they fall short in many aspects and completely fail in one critical regard. I would like to speak to these shortcomings in the time I have here today, in the hope that the current government will do the right thing and fix the very serious flaws in this bill.

We know that Canadians take pride in their work, the proceeds of which allow us to care for our families, raise our children, and pursue our dreams. Whether in the private sector, public service, or the military, the work of Canadians contributes to our economy and weaves our social identity. It is reasonable to expect and to hope that in a country as rich in resources as ours, when Canadians come to the end of their working careers they are able to retire in dignity and security. This is the reason we created the Canada pension plan, a system so successful that it is considered the international gold standard. We extend our gratitude to Stanley Knowles, an incredible former member of the House who proposed the Canada pension plan and pursued it so that Canadians could be safe in their retirement years.

We know, however, that the CPP as it currently stands falls short of providing full retirement security for Canadians. That is the reason New Democrats have called for what we know are affordable and sustainable enhancements and improvements to the CPP in order to ensure that Canadians are able to retire in dignity, not just now but for generations to come. New Democrats stand with the Canadian labour movement in calling for a doubling of CPP so that it will provide benefits set at 50% of pre-retirement income. That is sustainable, affordable, and necessary, especially when we consider that defined pension plans from employers, including the Government of Canada, are under serious attack.

Many Canadians do not have adequate savings to maintain their lifestyle upon retirement and the need to address income insecurity is becoming ever more urgent. A large part of this problem is fuelled by the erosion of workplace pension plans to the point where only six in 10 working Canadians have one. According to the finance minister himself, young people today face a future of precarious work in which the odds of staying in a job long enough to benefit in retirement from a private pension plan, if one exists, are slim.

The enhanced CPP is a plan that would benefit a new generation of workers entering the workforce, but would do little to alleviate the retirement income crisis of those approaching retirement today. The New Democrat platform includes a national seniors strategy to address the issues of affordable housing and home care, pharmacare, and health care, as well as income security. My Motion No. 21 calls on the government to adopt that strategy. The New Democrat member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has introduced Bill C-245, outlining a poverty reduction strategy for all of Canada. I encourage the government to consider the informed and considered proposals put forward by New Democrats on these issues, supported by extensive community and expert consultation.

Now I would like to move back to the bill that we have before us today and address the major failure of Bill C-26 to include dropout provisions for the enhanced portion of the CPP benefits it proposes.

As an activist who has fought for equity and equality of access for women my whole life, I am appalled at the backsliding that will penalize those who drop out of paid work to raise children or as a result of disability. More often than not, those penalized workers are women.

Under the current system, women receive CPP payments that are 13% less than men's. Without the child rearing dropout for the enhanced benefits, that gap will grow. The narrow eligibility criteria and cumbersome application and appeals process create a system in which CPP disability benefits are extremely difficult to obtain. People who manage to collect CPP disability benefits should not be penalized because they have dropped out from making contributions due to disability.

Women and persons with disabilities are more reliant than other Canadians on public pensions like the CPP, after having faced a lifetime of economic disadvantages. They earn less than their male counterparts and when they raise children they have fewer dollars to contribute to the CPP and are penalized as a result. They receive far less from the CPP because it favours higher income workers. Seniors with disabilities have higher than average expenses, and it is criminal to overlook their needs.

The special dropout provisions correct some of that systemic discrimination and are an important equity feature of the Canada pension plan. The current dropout provisions introduced in 1977 by a certain Monsieur Trudeau, and lauded as recognizing child rearing as a value to Canadian society and our economy, do not apply to the additional or enhanced benefits that would be created by this particular legislation. One has to wonder whether the Liberals of 2016 value child rearing and child care even less than their predecessors.

Women and persons with disabilities will suffer a penalty as a result of Bill C-26, and this discrimination will be most severe for women with disabilities. Are these the sunny ways our Prime Minister mentioned or is this part of his declaration as a feminist?

The Liberals may try to cite costs as a factor in their decision to omit the dropout provisions from the new enhanced benefits, but our very preliminary calculations show that the costs would be very low. Using the available information, the estimated cost of dropout provisions for each employee and each employer would be just 0.2% of a worker's average salary. This is a small price to provide such an important and significant benefit.

Failure to fix this problem would cost parents significantly. Calculations based on figures from Service Canada's website indicate that a mother who spent six years raising children will get between $800 and $1,200 less per year than she would with the dropout provisions in effect for her enhanced contribution.

New Democrats fought hard for changes to the CPP and for increases in CPP benefits. We welcome the changes tabled by the government, but we can and should do better. We need to address the needs of seniors today, as well as those of future generations. To that end, in addition to the measures I have already outlined here, we will continue the fight to stop the clawback of GIS benefits. New Democrats call on the government to follow through on its promise to develop a seniors price index as soon as possible.

We can do better. We must do better. Our future is literally at stake. Our reputation as a progressive society is on the line.

National Defence November 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, very clearly, better indeed. The StatsCan report is deeply troubling and confirms that sexual misconduct is still rampant in our military, and it only considers members currently serving. It does not include the young women who are most vulnerable, those in the cadets, boot camp, or on course, nor does it include the women and men who have left due to military sexual trauma.

We need a clear plan of action. When will the minister implement a strategy to fight against sexual misconduct in our military?

Petitions November 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to present today from a number of Londoners who are very concerned about the trans-Pacific partnership.

The petitioners believe this agreement would threaten to reduce access to medicines by restricting the production and sale of generic medicines. They also believe it would reduce the ability of competitors to enter the marketplace, thereby making medical production monopolies. The biologics portion of the agreement states that pharmaceutical products containing biological ingredients will have market protection for a period of at least eight years, thereby making them very expensive and inaccessible.