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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

Federal Accountability Act April 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is very important for the citizens of the country to be able to rely on fixed election dates. It gives us a sense of when elections will happen. It is a commitment of Parliament to say that it will work for a four year period and not play games.

Unfortunately, we saw this in Ontario with a Liberal government in 1990. The premier of the day thought he could avoid the recession and played around with the timing of the election. He lost that election, but it was clearly a very cynical kind of behaviour. We have seen enough cynicism in Parliaments and legislatures across the country. We need to be very clear with people who are depending on clarity. We need this manipulation to go away. Fixed election dates would do a great deal in terms of remedying that.

Federal Accountability Act April 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, absolutely. We in the New Democratic Party are very concerned about what we may see in budget cuts. Ultimately, the people who work in our civil service, very dedicated and hard-working people, have talked to me about their concerns in regard to the lack of services.

In specific regard to that, one example is the services offered by Revenue Canada to seniors who go in to talk about their tax returns. The problem is that these civil servants are being instructed to wait 20 minutes between each customer. If seniors do not understand that they need to have an appointment, they may arrive at 9 o'clock in the morning without an appointment. Then they have to set up one up, they are fourth or fifth in line and they have to wait for several hours before they can see someone who can help them with their tax returns. The rationale is that--

Federal Accountability Act April 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by saying that I do support the spirit of the proposed accountability act because accountability is our obligation as parliamentarians and the very least that Canadians should receive from those entrusted to guide this nation and to serve its people.

We heard a great deal about the sponsorship scandal not just today but it has dominated debate during the last two federal elections. It was a stain on our nation. It demeaned our democracy, this House and the work of the members who serve our many and diverse communities.

As I said, I do support the spirit of the bill but I do have some concerns. Like any bill cobbled together rather hastily, Bill C-2 has many flaws. My concern is that in its 270 pages it may prove to be more ponderous than enlightening and could collapse in on itself. Therefore I believe that it needs some refinements for the sake of ensuring that it does precisely what it was intended to do and that is to bring back accountability and integrity. We in the New Democratic Party would like to work with all members in the House to effect those needed changes.

I am going to refer shamelessly to the work of my former colleague, Mr. Ed Broadbent, the former member for Ottawa Centre, because he did put together a very comprehensive package to address the kinds of problems that we have seen in the House over the last few years.

I would like to begin with financing. Bill C-2 does make some important changes to the financing laws. These changes have been around for a little while. Some were brought in by the previous government. However, unlike the previous government, we see some clear restrictions: lowering the contribution limits locally to $1,000, an additional $1,000 nationally and an additional $1,000 for leadership races. That is very important.

I would like to comment specifically on leadership races because that is missing from this bill. If we allow those who have financial wherewithal to take control and be the only ones who can run for the leaders of this nation, then we are buying into the kind of elitism that we see in American races. I believe that wealth should not be the basis upon which one seeks leadership. I would like to see a lowering of limits or a very clear limit set on leadership races so we can be assured that we have people with the genuine skills and determination to be our leaders rather than those with deep pockets.

I am also pleased to see the elimination of corporate and union contributions. We in the New Democratic Party certainly support that move. We believe it will provide a measure of fairness. I have run many times, both provincially and federally, and it was always a problem. My opponents were constantly able to draw on corporate resources that were well beyond anything that my constituents and my supporters could ever provide. This kind of limit is very important.

I also like the fact that loopholes have been closed in terms of trust funds. Unfortunately, much of this is too little too late. I think the ship has sailed on trust funds and I rather strongly suspect that those trust funds are now in the hands of riding associations. It would have been nice to have seen this much sooner.

One of the things that I do have some real concerns with is the elimination of cash contributions over $20. I would not want members to think that supporters in London--Fanshawe were so well-heeled that they were coming out with lots of cash. In fact, most contributions were made by cheque and they were modest but heartfelt contributions, and I appreciated every one of them.

A lot of seniors in my riding do not deal with credit cards, and money orders just add a lot of extra expense. They are hard-working people who deal in cash. Credit is an alien concept to them. I would not want them to be undermined in any way by this limitation.

I have a story about one supporter of mine, a wonderful man. He had not been on employment insurance. He had worked many years and contributed to the fund, but had never qualified because his work was sporadic. It was very important to him to get the kind of representation that would address this inequity. We know this inequity has been endemic in Canada for a very long time. He walked several miles from his home to my campaign office with $25. He wanted to show how important his participation was and how much he believed in fairness and in an opportunity to have his voice heard. For him, this was a great sacrifice.

Unfortunately, if we start to eliminate those kinds of very small contributions, we are going to lose out a great deal in being able to extend and allow our supporters of modest means to contribute and to feel positive about that.

I also want to talk about fixed election dates. It is very important that we do this. Mr. Broadbent was very clear about that. He said that prime ministers in governing parties should lose their control over when we voted, that the date should be every four years unless the government failed because of a confidence vote. This would add fairness because a prime minister should not be able to manipulate the vote. A prime minister should not be able to look at polling and decide not to call an election because things are not looking good. There should be a consistency to our elections for the various houses in this nation, and fixed election dates would go a long way in terms of doing that.

I would also like to talk a little today about electoral reform. This is sadly missing from the bill, and I think we suffer for that. As a community and as a Parliament, we do not have the kind of representation we should have in terms of our constituents and of the people who should be here in the House.

A few weeks ago, the women in our NDP caucus, and there are 12 or 41% of our caucus is female, of which we are very proud, challenged the other parties in regard to proportional representation and effecting the kind of electoral change that would allow people from visible minorities, from the disabled community and from first nations and women to participate fully in the life of our nation.

I throw this challenge out once again to the members of the House to look very closely at electoral reform, to bring in proportional representation, to add it to the bill and make it better in regard to the electorate's wishes being clearly reflected and respected in the representation of Parliament.

Third, I want to speak very briefly about the lack of floor-crossing legislation. I guess we could call it the Vancouver Kingsway hangover. I make reference to the donor who walked all those miles to my campaign office in order to bring his $25 contribution. Imagine if his member had, after a few weeks or months, seen fit to cross the floor--

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for reminding us of the deplorable situation that first nations children and communities face in the country.

The federal government has a special relationship with first nations. It is a relationship that goes back several centuries and, unfortunately, we have not lived up to our end of the obligation.

In terms of special education, I must say that it has been horrifically underfunded, federally and provincially, all across the nation. All of our children deserve the very best that we can provide for them because they will be the leaders of tomorrow. We talk about the democratic deficit in this place. It will continue as long as we do not see our children receive the kind of support so that they can come to this place and take over the job of leading this nation, and that means people from every community, it means women, visible minorities, the disabled and first nations people.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I do indeed have 29 wonderful colleagues and I am very proud to stand with them.

As the member pointed out, there is no simple solution no matter what we do but I think we should begin with the $1.8 billion that we saw in the NDP spring budget and invest that money in child care as it was intended. I am a former teacher and, while I recognize the fact that education may well be expensive, I can say that ignorance is far more expensive.

I can also say that as a secondary school teacher I could see very clearly the difference between those children who came to my classroom who had received the interventions that every child with a disability deserves and those who had not. By the time they get to grade 9 the strategies in terms of managing their disabilities, the time for remediation is long past. We need to act immediately.

As an admirer of Fraser Mustard, I would say that there is absolutely no substitute for proper, regulated, not for profit child care to ensure we have children who can participate fully in the economy of the future and, might I suggest, Mr. Speaker, look after you and I in our dotage.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Surrey North. I also offer you my sincere congratulations on your re-election. I would also like to thank the people of London—Fanshawe for their trust and support and for the privilege to serve them in the House.

I wish to talk about the people I serve and about the impact of the Speech from the Throne and government policy on their lives. I want the new Conservative government to understand how very important positive action is to the well-being of the people in the community of London—Fanshawe.

I will begin by telling the House about Bill Hiltz. Bill is a physically challenged adult who deals with cerebral palsy and autism. He depends on his family home provider and support workers for everything in his life; food, shelter, personal care and communication. Bill is among the fortunate. He has family home providers, Joyce, Stan and grandma Ursel, who genuinely love and care for him.

For members here who may not have experience with cerebral palsy or autism, my concern is that there is absolutely no mention of Canadians with disabilities in the throne speech. By not making any commitment to improve the lives of the most vulnerable Canadians, the Prime Minister is treading down the same path as the previous government and ignoring the needs of Canadians with disabilities.

New Democrats have recognized these citizens and prepared draft legislation, the Canadians with disabilities act. We need a commitment from the government to address the needs of children and adults like Bill Hiltz. With the support of the federal government, resources can and must be available to enable disabled Canadians to have the quality of life they deserve as citizens of this country.

The statistics are a matter of shame. Disabled Canadians have great difficulty securing employment, finding affordable housing, receiving the education they need and, as a result, many of them live well below the poverty line. This must be remedied.

I would also like to talk about the auto workers in my riding. As I am sure members are well aware, many of my constituents depend either directly or indirectly on the Ford assembly plant in Talbotville. Recently, the company announced it would reduce the Talbotville assembly plant to one shift.

If this proposal goes ahead it will have a profoundly negative effect on the economy, not only of the London region , but on the economy of Ontario and Canada. In the Speech from the Throne the new Conservative government made reference to promoting a more productive and competitive economy. There was, however, no reference made to how this more productive economy would be achieved. We cannot be more productive without the well-paying jobs provided by the auto sector.

We need a clear industrial strategy for Canadian workers and support for the auto industry. Like the GM plant in Oshawa, the workers at Ford's Talbotville plant are among the most productive, competitive and dedicated workers in the world. They have demonstrated year after year the ability to produce a quality product. They do not need lip service from their government about productivity. They need secure jobs to raise their families and make their contribution to our community.

It is not a failure on the part of workers' productivity that closes auto plants; it is our high dollar that is killing competitiveness. We need more commitment from the government than just a throw away phrase in a throne speech.

The throne speech also failed to address housing needs that are evident not only in London—Fanshawe but across Canada. One of my constituents, Bill Clarke, a disabled veteran who lost both legs in the service of his country, was in desperate need of adequate housing. I first met Bill in 1990. He lived in one of the three storey walk-ups that comprised a compound of four crumbling, unhealthy, unsafe buildings in my riding. Many of the residents had lived in these buildings over a long period of time. They had become a community.

However the disgraceful disrepair of these buildings was making tenants ill, deprived them of security and drained them both physically and emotionally. Doors did not fit properly so heating and cooling costs borne by the tenants were extreme. The roofs of all four buildings leaked, causing water damage inside the tenants' homes and creating a mould problem in each apartment. Safety lights were not maintained and unsecured garbage chutes were a hazard to children.

When I met Bill Clarke he asked me to help the tenants purchase the buildings, secure the funding to effect the necessary renovations and create a co-op.

I am pleased to say that after significant work by my provincial office and members of the federal NDP caucus, we were able to secure federal funding and build Talisman Woods. It was the last federally funded co-op in Canada. It gave the people in my community the safe, affordable, decent housing they deserved. Tragically, there is no mention whatsoever in the Speech from the Throne about housing.

Canada is one of only two G-8 countries without a national housing strategy. In 1996 the former leader of the Liberals abolished the affordable housing program secured by New Democrats in the minority government of the 1970s. In the spring of 2005 the NDP budget secured $1.6 billion for affordable housing construction and $100 million for energy conservation in affordable housing.

Bill Clarke died of cancer in December of 2005. He is truly missed by all who knew and loved him. In the years since the Talisman Woods Housing Co-op became a reality, Bill lived in decent and secure housing. He deserved this comfort.

It is essential that the Government of Canada commit to ensuring that the NDP budget money flow to desperately needed housing projects in our communities and that it further commit to the restart of a national housing program to build the affordable and co-op housing units desperately needed by first nations, seniors, students and people with disabilities. There is far too much missing from this throne speech that is of profound concern to me and the citizens of London—Fanshawe.

My riding is blessed with a wonderful, vibrant community college, Fanshawe College. In the north part of London we have the University of Western Ontario, my alma mater. For the students of these institutions there is nothing in the throne speech. After 13 years of Liberal inaction, students in my riding have seen the student debt soar. The average tuition at colleges and universities has almost tripled in the last 14 years. They should have been front and centre in the government agenda.

New Democrats have and will continue to advocate for the restoration of funding cuts by the former finance minister in the Liberal government. We will continue to advocate for lower tuition fees, a long term federal grant system to make education and training affordable. We will continue to insist on an overhaul to the Canadian student loans program. Our students, the future leaders and contributors to our economy and communities, deserve far more than to be an oversight.

I wish I had more time. I had planned to talk about the need for more affordable public transit. Many Canadians depend on public transit to go to work, to school and have effective environmentally responsible transportation.

However I would be remiss if I did not speak about the child care town hall meeting that I had in my riding. More than 125 people were present and they provided much valued wisdom and advice to me in regard to their absolute need for safe, affordable, regulated, not for profit child care. They utterly rejected any government plan to replace the child care spaces they need with a cash proposal and market based solution. Neither works. My constituents waited for more than 20 years for the child care spaces promised first by a Conservative and then a Liberal federal government. They are demanding the kind of child care that would be realized if we had the child care program proposed by New Democrats. They want a child care act.

Finally, I want to tell the House about two constituents, Jose Rodriguez and his spouse, Miriam Portillo. They are refugees who escaped Guatemala in 2000 after Jose had been kidnapped, two of his uncles murdered and both Miriam and Jose threatened by armed police. They are facing deportation on April 14, 2006.

After six years as contributing members of our community, they will be sent back to very real danger, despite having worked, volunteered and built a life in London, Ontario. Even with the best efforts of my office, two ministers of the current government refuse to abandon the hopeless practices of the previous Liberal government.

Miriam and Jose have an application with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Their lawyer has indicated that they have a good chance to succeed with this application but because the hard-working public servants at CIC do not have adequate staffing, it will take time to be processed. We have asked for extra time so Miriam and Jose can be safe in London while the application is processed. It has been denied.

We can do better. The people of this nation deserve better than the failure they have experienced in the Liberal years and from this less than inspired throne speech. I, with my caucus, will work diligently over the next months to achieve more for the working families of Canada and more inclusion of NDP priorities so that all Canadians will benefit.

Child Tax Benefit April 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, there has been a disturbing increase in the number of women coming into my constituency office who have been abruptly cut off their child tax benefits. These women depend on this money to feed, clothe and house their children.

They are accused of lying and their private lives are placed under a microscope. They must find three separate individuals who will attest to their living situations, in some cases going back as far as two years. For women living in already difficult situations, this is not always possible, and it is demeaning to have one's private life on display to outsiders.

These women are often struggling. Some come from abusive relationships and are forced to seek proof from sometimes uncooperative spouses. To make matters worse, not only have they been cut off from critical income, but they are also being told to repay upwards of $4,000 to the government if they cannot prove they lived alone with their children.

Single, hard-working parents do not deserve this kind of treatment from their government.