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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was regard.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for London—Fanshawe (Ontario)

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

Statements in the House

Criminal Code June 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-9, a bill which has been referred to as the amendment to conditional sentencing. As my fellow members of Parliament are aware, the bill amends section 742.1 of the Criminal Code to provide that a person convicted of an offence prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more, is not eligible for a conditional sentence.

As I am sure my fellow members are also aware, conditional sentencing introduced in September 1996 allows for sentences of imprisonment to be served in the community rather than in a correctional facility. This gives judges some freedom to take into account individual circumstances and allow for sentencing that fits with the crime committed.

Judges can take into account such things as the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. For offences that are less serious, judges can choose conditional sentencing. Our jails are seriously overcrowded and underfunded. In 1996 conditional sentencing was seen as a way to ease the burden.

By taking away conditional sentencing, we are second-guessing our judges and limiting their ability to address individual circumstances. Another positive function of conditional sentencing is the ability for judges to provide opportunities for those convicted to acknowledge their crime and even make reparation.

The intention of this type of sentencing was to divert more minor offences out of the prison system. However, I certainly recognize that there is a real concern that conditional sentencing is being used for serious crime such as sexual assault, violent crime and driving offences involving death or serious bodily harm. These are the crimes that merit this amendment. However, I am also very concerned that this amendment to the Criminal Code can do more harm than good. We do not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The Conservative government will provide money for federal jails, but this law as is will mean most of the increased jail terms will be spent in provincial facilities. The government should not be downloading the effects of its crime agenda to the provinces without support to hire more local police, expand youth initiatives, and increase and improve provincial jail capacity.

In the United Nations Vienna Declaration on Crime and Justice it states that:

--adequate prevention and rehabilitation programmes are fundamental to an effective crime control strategy, and that such programmes should take into account social and economic factors which may make people more vulnerable to, and likely to engage in criminal behaviour.

The declaration also stresses that “a fair, responsible, ethical and efficient criminal justice system is an important factor in the promotion of economic and social development and of human security”. Eliminating conditional sentencing will not address these concerns made by the UN declaration, but it will increase the population in Canada's jails and will do nothing to address the sources of crime.

One of the key issues that the UN declaration points to is poverty. It calls for countries “to create a conducive environment for the fight against organized crime, promoting growth and sustainable development and eradicating poverty and unemployment”.

What we really need to do to prevent crime is to go to the source. More often than not, that source is poverty. Crime is often a signal that something is terribly wrong with our social safety net, that people are falling through the cracks. Filling up our jails is like putting a band-aid on a broken arm. It looks like we are doing something, but we are not addressing the real problem.

We have seen the Conservative tough on crime attitude before. In Ontario, Mike Harris instituted privately run boot camps in order to get tough on youth crime. These were found to do very little to prevent crime or rehabilitate youth. The facilities charged high rates to taxpayers and did nothing. In combination with these initiatives, the Harris government cut social assistance rates, clawed back the child tax benefit, cancelled funding for second stage housing, cancelled affordable housing projects, reduced funding for women's shelters, and closed down youth initiatives and after school programs.

One particular women's shelter in my riding was forced to cancel a program that offered help to children who were traumatized by domestic violence.

All of the Harris cuts were directed at low income families. It is my greatest fear that we are heading down the same road with the federal Conservatives.

The tough on crime attitude is apparent in Bill C-9 and Bill C-10. Every day I have someone new come to my office asking if funding for one of the many social programs for women and youth will be cut after March 2007.

I am sure some of my fellow members of Parliament are thinking that the link between crime and poverty is not as critical as I suggest. Quite simply, it is. To make my case I want to address the situation of incarcerated women.

Women in the Canadian penitentiary system have the highest rate of HIV and mental illness of any group of women in Canada. Surely a prison is not the institution to respond to someone who is ill.

Forty per cent of incarcerated women are illiterate and 80% have been physically or sexually abused. They were victims long before they resorted to crime. Two-thirds of these women have children. Many had unstable housing at the time of incarceration and 80% were unemployed at the time they were sentenced to jail.

It is obvious that women who are incarcerated are victims of violence and poverty themselves. If we take the brave step to eradicate poverty perhaps we can eliminate much of the need for incarceration.

The Conservative plan to eliminate conditional sentencing will have a significant impact on female inmates in particular. As I previously noted, two-thirds of the women currently incarcerated have children. If conditional sentences are continued for non-violent crimes, these women will have an opportunity to put their lives back on track and may be able to have a relationship with their children. A 10 year jail term would kill any chance of that.

I am very concerned that the Conservatives have gone too far with the bill. Where are the provisions for the prevention of crime?

I referred earlier to the actions of Mike Harris in Ontario. The punitive approach he took to the needs of vulnerable communities has consequences. We live with those consequences now. If a human being is beaten down by the loss of hope and opportunity, eventually that human being will strike back. Have we learned nothing from the Harris legacy?

We have seen an increase in poverty and despair. Last week the United Nations social, economic and cultural council issued a scathing report condemning Canada for being inactive in key areas of social development. We have failed Canadians when it comes to safe, affordable child care, affordable housing and care for abused women. How on earth would the bill change that neglect?

Housing June 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, every penny in the Conservative budget for housing was a re-announcement of money that we secured in the NDP budget. Just like under the Liberals, there is a lot of talk on housing but no action. The housing crisis in our country is an internationally recognized shame and the government is doing nothing about it.

Could the government tell us why, at a time when it has record surpluses, it can find billions to subsidize profitable oil companies, but not one new penny for affordable housing?

Housing June 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the recently issued UN report is a stinging indictment of the way past Conservative and Liberal governments have created huge holes in Canada's social safety net. The report is especially critical of Canada's treatment of single mothers. It states that women without housing are forced to give up their kids and that women cannot leave relationships due to inadequate assistance.

When will the government stand up for Canadian women and take action to end poverty and when will it increase access to safe, affordable housing?

Trade June 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the federal government has initiated free trade negotiations with South Korea. These negotiations are very concerning to many of my constituents in London--Fanshawe. They feel that their jobs, as well as other Canadian auto sector jobs, will be placed at further risk with a new deal.

Canada imported 130,000 vehicles from Korea, but exported only 400 vehicles back to Korea. For every dollar of automotive product we export to Korea, we import $150. This is not balanced trade.

NAFTA style trade agreements have not been beneficial to Canadian businesses. Recently, we saw Canada get the short end of the stick in the softwood lumber deal. We do not want the Conservative government to put our auto industry at risk as it did softwood.

Canada needs a new automotive trade policy, one that protects auto workers and the Canadian auto industry by ensuring equal access to offshore markets that import into Canada.

Business of Supply May 16th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Parkdale—High Park.

There seems to be some confusion among members in the House today. We are talking about the non-essential cosmetic use of pesticides. The use of cosmetic pesticides is an issue that is of great importance to me and to people in the city of London where this issue is currently being debated.

I strongly believe that cosmetic use of pesticides should be banned unless it is proven that pesticides do not pose risks to the health of humans.

I find it most troubling that the pesticide industry keeps on insisting that there is no conclusive evidence that these chemicals are dangerous to humans and animals. It reminds me of the argument used by the tobacco industry when fears about the effects of tobacco surfaced many years ago.

It is an argument that lacks logic. Why on earth would we take a chance? We need to know unequivocally that the products that we use do not pose a threat. There is significant evidence that it is prudent to support a ban.

A study done by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario outlined the major effects of exposure to pesticides on human health and the list is frightening. Some of the possible effects include: solid tumours, including brain cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer; leukemia; non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; genotoxic effects; skin diseases; neurological diseases; and an impact on reproduction.

Those most likely to be affected by pesticide use are vulnerable patients, including children, seniors and pregnant women. I would like to make a special note of the impact of pesticides on pregnant women. I know the health of pregnant women is of particular concern to some members of the House.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario stated that “Pregnant women are a special risk group, given the findings showing increased risk of childhood and acute lymphocytic leukemia when women use pesticides in the home and garden during pregnancy”. The health of unborn children should not be traded for a weed free lawn.

Pesticides are used on lawns, gardens, school yards and parks, all places where children play. It should not be surprising then that children are one of the higher risk groups. Exposure to pesticides increases the child's risk of cancer, something no child should ever have to experience.

The Canadian Cancer Society also calls for a ban on cosmetic pesticides and has stated that “appropriate action should be taken to limit the risk to human health. This is especially true when the reason for using pesticides on lawns is to prevent weeds and plants that can be removed in other, potentially less damaging ways”.

Even the federal government has called for a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides. In a federal report issued by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, it states:

The Committee firmly believes that a moratorium on pesticide use for aesthetic purposes is necessary until science has proven that the pesticides involved do not constitute a health threat and some light has been shed on the consequences of their use in urban areas. Pesticide use should only be permitted in an emergency, such as a serious pest infestation which threatens the health of people and the environment.

There have been over 100 municipalities in Canada that have adopted pesticide bylaws and many more which are considering a change. One of those municipalities is London, Ontario. The people of London have been demanding a pesticide ban for four years now and still have no ban.

Federal legislation would benefit my riding and the people of London. A poll done in London this past January found that only 23% of London homeowners currently use cosmetic or non-essential pesticides at home. The poll also found that 60% of homeowners who currently use those pesticides would likely or very likely stop using them if they were provided with information on alternative methods to have a weed free garden and lawn. Furthermore, a total of 61% of London residents surveyed agreed that the city of London should pass a bylaw phasing out the use of lawn pesticides.

Ironically, the city of London, by refusing to move forward on cosmetic use of pesticides, has actually stopped using pesticides in parks. The lawns of Victoria Park remain beautiful and green, drawing thousands of visitors downtown every summer for community festivals, and pesticides are not used.

For those who feel a green, weed free lawn is a priority, there are alternatives that are both safe and healthy. London businesses, such as My Green Garden, provide safe organic alternatives that will not harm our children.

This issue is so important to me and the people in the riding of London—Fanshawe that on Friday, May 5, I launched a petition along with London City Councillor Bill Armstrong calling on the Government of Canada to recognize that human and environmental health should take precedence in legislative decision making, as well as in the product approval processes in every jurisdiction in Canada. The petition also calls on the government to enact legislation banning the use of chemical pesticides for cosmetic purposes until rigorous independent scientific and medical testing of chemical pesticides and parliamentary review of results are conducted for both existing and new products, and to enact legislation applying the precautionary principle in regard to restricting future allowable usage in order to minimize risk to human and environmental health. The petition already has well over 400 signatures from residents of London who want a safe and healthy city.

I think it is important to hear the words of some of the people who have signed on to this petition, people who will be directly affected if this motion passes today. One London resident stated:

I fully support a ban on pesticides in the City of London, and have personally practised non-chemical gardening for over 20 years, with no increase in weeds or other pests.

Another resident said:

I strongly support the bill. My neighbour sprays and each time he does my property is saturated with chemicals too.

Another said:

We cannot afford to subject our children and grandchildren to the continued barrage of toxins! Given the rising cancer rate, it is best to err on the side of caution, especially for those toxins that serve purely aesthetic purposes!

Yet another resident said:

We need to stop all this contamination before it is too late. Our health, our children and our pets are much more important than having the greenest lawn on the block.

Pesticides cause cancer. Those who do not believe this have their heads in the sand. It is time we came into the modern world, ban pesticides, and start thinking about the health of our citizens. Another resident stated:

Healthy humans are more important than lovely lawns. Very few weeds are truly “noxious”; in fact, if many of them were difficult to cultivate, we might actually plant them in our gardens. To a child, who is too young to differentiate between weeds and flowers, a sea of dandelions is a treasure trove of flowers to present to mother...It's all really a matter of what one values most: the health of our family, friends and pets or the appearance of our lawns.

Finally, one London resident it best, “For the health of our country, please enact this ban”.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario stated, “Pesticides are designed to kill something”. That is the problem. They do kill. Why would we want to expose ourselves to something like that, something designed to specifically kill?

The Budget May 10th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the member raised a number of points. I do not believe I have time to address all of them, but I would like to refer to one point and that is in regard to tax cuts.

About 18 months ago the World Economic Forum issued a report which said that if one wants to improve an economy and build a community, one does not invest in corporate tax cuts because that does absolutely nothing. Most of that money disappears offshore. If one truly wants to build a country or a community, one invests in the things that make that community strong: child care, education, working families.

Unfortunately, we have seen absolutely none of that in this budget. The only group to come out ahead in terms of this Conservative agenda are the corporations. In the months to come, families will start to realize that these so-called tax credits disappear, as I have said before, into cold thin air.

The Budget May 10th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am quite pleased to have the chance to set the record straight. I was a member of a government that was suffering through the worst recession that this country has ever known. We have since found out that particular recession was something that even the international community did not fully understand and has not fully understood until the present time. The world was reeling and Ontario was in terrible trouble because it had lost half a million jobs due to a free trade agreement that a certain Conservative government had put in place.

In order to maintain the services of the province, the NDP had to do remarkable things. We could not rely on the federal government because the Conservatives and then the Liberals did nothing but cut, cut, cut transfer payments and reduced our ability to help. In fact, the Conservatives promised that there would be a training allowance for people who lost their jobs. We never saw a dime. In order to make sure that when the recession ended in 1994 there was an Ontario left, the NDP did what it needed to do. It--

The Budget May 10th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Hamilton for sharing his time. It gives me the chance to raise some important issues regarding the impact on women by the Conservative budget.

I must say that despite the admonitions of the Minister of Justice today in question period that his government respects the equality rights of women, I have little faith that the words match the actions.

Besides the $450 million that the Conservative government has allocated for aboriginal education, women, children and families, water and housing, there is no mention of money in the budget specifically allocated toward advancing women's equality. The budget does touch on issues that affect women, like child care, tax cuts, security, housing, immigration, aboriginal peoples and pensioners, but again there is nothing in the budget that specifically refers to the government's funding plans to address women's inequality.

The Conservatives' child care plan does not address the child care needs of working women. Twelve hundred dollars a year does not come close to covering the cost of child care. Families in my riding of London—Fanshawe have made it clear. They need child care spaces, not a taxable $100 a month. The budget does not provide funds to create more child care spaces until 2007-08. We need to invest in our children now. To invest in children is to invest in our future.

The provision of child care is not about pitting one family against another with regard to child care choice; rather it should be about providing quality early learning. Whether a parent stays at home, works part time or full time, families are still looking for early childhood education to provide their children with the opportunity of socialization and the advantage of educational stimulation.

While the Conservatives claim that $1,200 will provide a choice, I must argue that when no child care spaces are created, there is no choice. It would be ideal if all working families could afford to have one parent at home, but the reality remains that many families can only survive on two incomes. The government's child care plan reinforces gender inequality because the Conservative funding plan assumes that one parent, in many cases the woman, will stay at home. These women may well suffer the same inequity as their grandmothers. Fifty per cent of Canadian women 65 years of age and over live in poverty because they were not engaged in employment outside of their homes.

Another issue I have with the budget is that there is no EI plan to address the inequalities that women face. Because a large percentage of women work in part time jobs, marginal jobs and self-employment arrangements, many women are not eligible for EI. This creates two problems. These women are unable to access EI if they lose their jobs and these women are also ineligible for maternity leave when they decide to start a family.

I feel the budget shows very little support for women and suggests that the Conservative government's priorities lie elsewhere. The Minister for Canadian Heritage and Status of Women claimed in the House that the government would stand up for the equality of women. She said:

I can assure the member and all women in Canada that this government will stand up for the equality of women and their full participation.

The budget does not reflect the words by either the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women. It is clear that women are not a priority.

In order to comply with its international obligations and truly stand up for women in Canada, the government needs to fund research, legislation and programs in order to address the 26 recommendations made by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW.

Funding for Status of Women Canada according to the estimates has stayed relatively stagnant, except for about $1 million transferred to the Sisters in Spirit initiative through the Native Women's Network to raise awareness of the alarmingly high rates of violence against aboriginal women in Canada.

Status of Women Canada needs more funding to address women's issues, especially those outlined in the CEDAW recommendations.

According to the estimates, the promote public policy program is being cut by approximately $5 million, while there is an increase of about $6 million for building knowledge and organizational capacity on gender equality. The large cut to the promote public policy program will prevent the development and implementation of federal initiatives that narrow the gap between women and men and expand opportunities for women. This cut in funding also means that there is only about $2 million left to address the CEDAW recommendations.

Twenty-one million dollars is dedicated to develop the knowledge and capacity of a number of stakeholders so that they are better informed and able to address gender based issues of significance to Canadian society in a coordinated manner. Ten million dollars of this money is dedicated to grants.

While women's organizations do need funding, the large adjustment between the two programs indicates that the government would rather have a hands-off policy when it comes to promoting women's equality instead of funding federal programs with direction and cohesion.

Again, this budget illustrates that women are not a priority for the government. Clearly it does not believe that government should promote women's equality. Instead, responsibility is passed over to the non-profit community.

I also need to speak about the budget's lack of funding for housing.

The one time payment outlined in the Conservative budget was in the NDP budget, Bill C-48, last spring. It is money that was already committed to be spent and falls $200 million short of the budget which was passed last June.

I am very concerned as there is no mention in this budget about who will oversee the funding and ensure the money is spent by the provinces on much needed affordable housing. Previous allocations to the provinces and territories, about $474 million, was never spent because the money had to be matched by the province.

My question remains, who is it that will oversee that money and make sure it is spent on affordable housing, and how is “affordable” defined?

Housing costs have reached an incredible high. According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the cost of housing in Calgary has increased by 29.6% since last year. The cost of housing has increased across Canada. When compounded with rising mortgage rates, housing is becoming more and more inaccessible for many working families. According to a CBC report today, housing costs are expected to grow again next year. With rising costs, the need for affordable housing is not an option, it is an essential.

There is also no mention in this budget of a national housing plan that would ensure affordable housing is available in the long term. The government has no long term solution and Canada remains one of only two G-8 countries without a national housing strategy.

The Conservatives say they plan to make new housing affordable. The 1% cut in GST is their example. Their own numbers clearly show that the tax break will not make housing any more affordable, especially for those who need it most. Buying a $200,000 home, and in my riding the average home is $300,000, would provide a tax rebate of about $8.25 a year over a 25 year mortgage. This does not make any home more affordable, nor is it a saving for those who even can afford to buy a house.

The housing money allocated to reserves is not going to address the housing needs of the first nations people. The $450 million allotted may cover repairs needed on current stock, but it will not address the overcrowding or relocation needs in communities like Kashechewan.

We are pleased to see money from the NDP budget go to off reserve first nations housing. The money can be used to ease the current housing burden, but spread across the entire country, it will not come close to addressing the needs of those who most need it. Too often, aboriginal people have seen money disappear into programs with no corresponding improvement in their standard of living.

This budget is not much more than sleight of hand. It pretends to help working families and women, but upon closer inspection, the so-called savings simply disappear into thin, cold air.

Automobile Industry May 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it should be no surprise that the economic health of southwestern Ontario is dependent on the auto industry. Many families in my riding are particularly concerned about the Ford assembly plant in Talbotville, which will reduce its line speed, cut 280 jobs this July and drop down to one shift, cutting 900 more jobs by July 2007.

It is a benefit to everyone if Ford keeps its plant on two shifts. It is not just the jobs that are lost. Those workers buy products, use services and pay taxes. With the new Conservative tax cuts, Canada cannot afford to support more unemployment and hope to keep basic services, such as health care, running effectively.

Working families need jobs and the people in my riding of London—Fanshawe deserve employment. The fear is very real that Ford's next step is to shut down the plant entirely. That would devastate the community. We need more jobs, not fewer.

I hope the government is really interested in made in Canada solutions and will meet with the Ford Motor Company and find a way to keep jobs in Canada.

Status of Women May 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, my office has received numerous calls that funding has been stalled for various organizations that advocate for women. I am very concerned that important programs are not receiving the appropriate attention of the Minister responsible for the Status of Women. Equity seeking groups fear that they will not receive the funding they need to advance women's rights. There is great concern that today's budget will leave these programs in the lurch.

Will the minister continue to shirk her responsibility to advance the rights of 51% of the population, or will she stand up in this House today and commit to making the Status of Women a file that is a priority?