House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Surrey North (B.C.)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act February 17th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure and an honour to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents of Surrey North.

I have some grave concerns regarding Bill S-7, a bill that has made its way to this House from the other side, the Senate side, which is the unelected, unethical, and unaccountable place. I will not talk about that because we have talked about it at other times.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague, the very hard-working member for Edmonton—Strathcona.

First, the bill is an example of Conservative rhetoric, of doing something yet achieving nothing. It is a waste of taxpayers' time and money and a cruel joke on our democratic system, as most of these measures would not actually achieve anything. Basically, it would duplicate existing laws that are in place. Additionally, a couple of the legislative amendments in Bill S-7 would invoke racist stereotypes and fuel xenophobia toward minority groups, rather than achieving anything positive.

The bill would seek to deport people engaged in polygamy or forced marriages, including the very women the government claims it is trying to protect.

We on this side, the NDP, the official opposition, recognize that violence against women remains a systematic and widespread issue in Canada, and we have shown to Canadians that we are committed to ending violence against women and to protecting them within our immigration system, and system at large. However, Bill S-7 does not intend to protect women; instead, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act intends to further marginalize racial minorities as part of the Conservative agenda.

What is “barbaric” to me is the very title of the bill, which is simply racist. It actually suggests that all cultural practices are somehow barbaric. The title of the bill alone reinforces prejudice against certain cultural groups by targeting racial minorities for practices that are in fact found in Canadian society at large, not only in these communities. The Conservatives are once again politicizing a very serious issue. They are targeting racial minorities with offensive stereotypes, meanwhile claiming that these measures somehow address the issue of gender-based violence when, in fact, they do not.

We have heard from many experts who expressed concern about the purpose of the bill and have stated that the bill would in fact worsen problems of violence against women.

Lawyer Deepa Mattoo from the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario stated that:

Bill S-7 lacks the understanding of the complex issues of violence faced by women and children and does not achieve the goal that the government desires to achieve with this ^[bill].

Another witness, Dr. Naila Butt from the Social Services Network, also stated that:

Criminalization of forced marriages, without the much needed institutional support for victims, would only further alienate and harm those facing forced marriages and gender-based violence, with the added insult of being stigmatized that they come from barbaric cultures.

Canadians are clear that the current government does not actually care about women's rights.

This is the same government that, time after time, has neglected the very issues facing women in Canada, across our country. If the Conservatives really wanted to tackle the issue of violence against women, they would finally launch an inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women.

Over the Valentine's Day weekend, we saw protests across this country. Women, men, children, boys, and girls were out in full force across this country demanding that the Conservative government hold an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

We have heard, over and over, that there are more than 1,200 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in this country. The stats are absolutely shocking. Yet the Prime Minister stated this issue “isn't really high on our radar”. This is coming from our Prime Minister.

It is very concerning to me that we have violence that has happened across this country, that 1,200 women are missing or murdered, and the government is not looking into it or calling for an inquiry, yet it claims that it is somehow protecting the women of this country. I find that very appalling. A lot of Canadians find this appalling. I have heard it from constituents in my community. I have heard it from people across this country. They want to know why the government is not calling an inquiry into the murdered and missing indigenous women.

This kind of attitude, the Conservative government's attitude towards issues of violence against women, is simply a lack of respect toward all Canadians.

This bill also has many unintended negative consequence. The bill follows a pattern of the Conservative government of sensationalizing measures that do not actually achieve their stated goals and instead have unintended negative consequences for many Canadians.

Many witnesses who testified before the Senate committee on human rights stated that Bill S-7 is likely to have many unintended consequences. UNICEF expressed concerns that the bill would impose criminal sanctions against minors who attend, celebrate, or help organize a forced marriage, effectively impacting their future with a criminal record. These are minors I am talking about.

Essentially, this bill re-victimizes women and children who are at risk of violence by imposing criminal sanctions on them rather than protecting them from predators.

Additionally, the Senate committee heard that because the penalties include criminalization and deportation, some women and children will not want to come forward to report forced marriages.

There are many other negative consequences for Bill S-7 and its impact on family reunification. We heard in the immigration committee that, when families are not able to reunite with their family members, it has consequences on women and children.

No woman, regardless of race, citizenship status, or religion, should be subject to gender-based violence, including the practice of forced or underage marriages. Women at risk of violence need adequate support and programs.

However, this bill makes no reference to support services. That is what is needed at the ground level, support services that provide education and additional help for these women. The Conservative government has been cutting the very programs that actually provide these services to women in these situations.

This bill's intentions are only political and are not actually meant to protect women. If the Conservatives were actually concerned about preventing violence against women, they would make a serious investment in services that support vulnerable women.

In conclusion, this bill is yet another example of the government's abuse of power in making useless pieces of legislation that only sensationalize a very serious issue and that discriminate against a part of the population in order to further the Conservative agenda.

Surrey North Events February 6th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise proudly today to acknowledge some of the amazing activities that are taking place in my community of Surrey North.

On February 21, I will be walking in the Coldest Night of the Year, hosted by the Surrey Urban Mission, to raise money for the hungry and homeless, and to raise awareness about the issue of poverty, low-income housing, homelessness and mental health.

The Surrey Urban Mission, under the leadership of Jonquil Hallgate and with the help of volunteers, works tirelessly to provide for one of the most vulnerable populations in our community. I applaud their commitment to these important issues.

I also want to congratulate Spice Radio 1200AM and Shushma Datt for their Raise Your Hands Against Racism campaign. This initiative coincides with the Holi festival, or the festival of colours, on March 7. City halls around the Lower Mainland will invite everyone to place a colourful handprint and sign their anti-racism tableau.

I will proudly be adding my handprint to the tableau in Surrey, and I hope all residents will join me in doing the same.

Business of Supply February 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am a former small businessperson and have been talking to many small businesspeople in my constituency. They are very happy with the proposal by the leader of the official opposition on behalf of the NDP to decrease the tax rate on small businesses. As we know, small businesses are the ones that create 80% of the jobs.

What are you hearing from your constituents, and why are the Conservatives against small businesses?

Transportation January 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, hundreds of truckers and their families depend on their work at Port Metro Vancouver. Last year an agreement was negotiated in good faith to end the strike at the port. Now truckers are understandably upset. They are still waiting for this agreement to be honoured.

Last week, the port instituted a new licensing system that is raising a lot of concern in the trucking industry. All the while, Liberal and Conservative governments continue to play political football with hard-working middle-class families. What is the minister doing to avoid future disruptions at Port Metro Vancouver and help these families now?

Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, small businesses are the economic drivers of job creation and wealth in this country and we should be supporting them.

The member is absolutely right that the government has reduced the corporate tax rate for the big corporations to a very low rate. It is much lower even than the rate in the United States.

The idea behind lowering taxes is that corporations would make money and then reinvest that into new businesses and create new jobs. However, the big corporations and friends of the Conservatives have not done that. There is over $500 billion of dead money sitting in corporate balance sheets that has not come back to create more jobs. Rather, as the member has pointed out, it is dead money.

We should be providing small business with incentives like the one we had advocated for, a hiring tax credit that would provide them additional incentives to hire more young people, youth, and students. We know that the youth unemployment rate is high and that small businesses could provide them with jobs, but time after time the Conservatives have failed to provide these incentives.

Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the member can be assured that I will not support any bill that does not actually help small businesses. This bill does not help small businesses.

We introduced 12 amendments at committee stage. None of those amendments were accepted by the government. One of those amendments called for a consultation with businesses so that we consult the very people who will be affected by new regulations coming out or those being eliminated. That is nothing new from the current government because it does not consult the people who will be impacted by the regulations and the laws.

We would first want the government to consult the stakeholders, the people and the businesses who will be affected. Time after time, it has failed to do that.

Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to stand up in the House on behalf of my constituents of Surrey North to bring forward their concerns. Today I would particularly like to inform the House that Surrey is on the list of the seven most intelligent communities in the world, so kudos to my city. We always knew that we were very intelligent and we finally made the Intelligent Community Forum list.

I am very proud of my people from Surrey and I am particularly proud of small businesses. As we in the House know, and as we have often heard, it is small businesses that drive this economy. They are the economic engines of this economy from coast to coast.

I have been in the House for over three and a half years now, and I have not seen many initiatives that would actually address the concerns of small businesses in order to ensure that we let them do what they do best, which is to create more jobs and invest in our communities. Bill C-21 has a nice name, “An Act to control the administrative burden that regulations impose on businesses”. I like the title of the bill. If it actually reduced the regulations, that would be welcome on this side of the House, but the fact of the matter is that Conservatives have failed time after time to deliver for our businesses and our communities.

NDP MPs will always look forward to days when we can reduce red tape for our businesses. I was in a business myself before I became a member of Parliament. Unfortunately, I had to sell it, because being a member of Parliament involves quite a bill of work. I can tell members that the amount of red tape and the forms I had to fill out took a lot of time that I could have more productively invested in my business and in hiring more people.

We know the system is broken. We know there is a lot of red tape that small businesses have to jump across. Big businesses have lots of employees. They have HR departments and PR departments. They have many departments. In small businesses, the CEO is the one who actually sweeps the floor at the end of the day. The CEO is the one who handles the paperwork. There is a lot of extra burden on small businesses that could be eliminated, and doing that could actually help small businesses prosper.

When we are looking at reducing red tape for small businesses, we need to ensure that health and safety issues are also addressed and that we are not stripping away the very regulations that protect Canadians. Whether they are health, safety, or environmental issues, those are fundamental. We need to ensure we do not strip those regulations away.

There is a small business group that meets regularly in my community. Whenever I am in Surrey, I attend those meetings. What those small businesses want from the federal government is, first of all, a fair system. I can say from my experience that the exorbitant amount of money we pay to the credit card companies is ridiculous. At the end of the day, we see a $10 Visa transaction, and part of that money is taken away by the credit card company. We know those are high fees. We have been advocating to the government on behalf of businesses to ensure that there is a fair system in place and that the credit card companies are not gouging these small businesses, but this has not been done because the government caved under the Bay Street bullies. It failed to protect consumers, it failed to protect Canadians, and it failed to protect the very small businesses that are the economic engines of this country.

The group also talked about mental health issues in the community. Small businesses want the federal government to provide housing for mentally ill individuals who are out on the street. Some of the businesses are being hurt because these people are sleeping in front of the businesses. These are the kinds of initiatives that small businesses want in our communities. With them, they can do what they know best, which is to grow and create jobs.

They need government assistance to ensure they have the proper tools to expand and hire more workers. Housing for mental health patients is the kind of initiative that the Conservative government has failed to deliver for Canadians and small businesses.

I want to echo what the previous member talked about when it came to postal services. If the government is truly interested in delivering for small businesses, it would not increase the postal service fees imposed, most notably, on small businesses.

Most of the business I attracted, and the business I offered, was through Canada Post. It was fairly efficient and costs were fairly competitive. It allowed me to get my message to out to my customers. The Conservative government has raised that cost. Every bit of cost that is added to small businesses hurts them. It takes them away from the very focus of creating jobs and offering their products to the communities.

Any time there is a reduction in red tape, we on this side of the House will support that. However, the plan of the government would not reduce red tape. It talks about how it would bring in one regulation and eliminate another. The government should be looking at the very regulations we have right now. Eliminate the ones that are red tape. Why do we need to have another regulation to eliminate some of the regulations that are already red tape? We could be more efficient, but the government has failed to realize that.

When we talk about regulations, the government has failed to deliver for small businesses time after time. We will always support the regulations that will protect Canadians and their health and safety concerns. We have seen the regulation of some of the very industries in front of us. If we look at the food and safety industries, we have seen the results of that in Alberta, where thousands of jobs were hurt because the government failed to provide the safety regulations and inspectors to ensure the food was safe. We have seen the cuts in the railway and to the very regulations that provide for safety along the railway corridors. We have seen this erosion not only come from the Conservative government, but from the Liberals, and it keeps going on and on.

If Conservatives were really trying to help the economic engines of the country, the small businesses, it would take the initiative. It would provide leadership.

Another example is the $500 million hiring credit that we supported. We wanted it to go beyond the 2014 budget. The Conservatives eliminated it. Instead, it put in another credit of $500 million, but it created only 800 jobs. According to my math, that is about $75,000 per job. That is how the Conservatives spend the hard-earned money of Canadian taxpayers.

I will again ask the Conservative government to ensure that it makes concrete efforts to help our small businesses, rather than put red tape up in front of them.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, yes the member from the Northwest Territories and aboriginal people have wanted to have a larger park, and yes, the Conservatives did create a smaller park. They actually rechecked the boundaries to ensure that some sort of mining activity could take place many years from now.

The member is absolutely right. The activities in those zones just outside the park will have an impact in the park, because animals do not know boundaries and go from one area to another. There is a breeding ground in an area where there could have been a park, yet the Conservatives carved that outside of the national reserve proposed by this bill.

I hope there is an opportunity to ensure, not only for future generations but also for some of species, a natural habitat in the parks in the Northwest Territories and other parts of Canada they can benefit from in the future.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for that question about the importance of consultation.

I know there are three options in this particular case. When we were looking at creating a park in the Northwest Territories, of course the Conservatives chose the third option, which includes less land than the first two options. A lot of the stakeholders in this particular consultation wanted the first option to be chosen.

Even with that, yes we have a park. It is not as large as what the majority of people want, but I want to pay respect again to the people of Northwest Territories, who are giving a gift to Canadians by allowing this park to be reserved. We can achieve things when we consult with individuals and first nations. It is our constitutional obligation to consult with first nations when it comes to land-use issues, minerals, commodities and their extraction.

Time after time we have seen the current government fail to consult, and the Supreme Court has instructed it a number of times to consult with first nations.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in this House on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North on this very important bill, Bill S-5, which would amend the Canada National Parks Act to create a national park reserve for Canada. The name of the park that would be created in the Northwest Territories is Nááts’ihch’oh.

It is an honour, on days like today, to work together in the House and look to future generations. I think of the times that my son and daughter, and my whole family, would spend in our national parks.

I have had the opportunity over the years to visit both provincial and national parks, which are important for our communities. I know that people in my community enjoy the parks that are part of Surrey North. Therefore, it is an honour to support the bill before the House, which would create a national treasure.

Members speaking before me have talked about the gift that the aboriginal first nations people have given to all Canadians. I want to thank them on behalf of all Canadians, and particularly on behalf of people from Surrey North, for giving this wonderful gem to Canadians for generations to preserve.

I have thought about travelling to that part of the world. I listened to our NDP member from the Northwest Territories who always speaks highly of the areas in the Northwest Territories. I am hoping to get the opportunity, along with my children, to go and see that part of the world.

Of course, we need to preserve these parks for our future generations, as well as the habitats that are part of our wilderness and make us unique. Canada is a huge country with many parts to it. One of the things we can do is to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to enjoy this wilderness. We must preserve it not only for future generations to see but also for the animals inhabiting those areas, so that they can roam free and live in their natural habitat.

There were three options of area that were considered in the creation of the national park. Unfortunately, the Conservatives chose the option that had the smallest area, and I think there are some concerns about that from a number of people who were involved with the consultations. They had preferred the larger option for the park; however, the Conservatives chose the smaller option. Yes, it is a step in the right direction, but there was an opportunity to further enhance the park reserve. However, I am still happy that we at least chose an option that would provide a national park for generations to come.

I come from British Columbia, and I know the role tourism plays in its economy. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs created through tourism across this country. It is a way to diversify our economy, especially since we have seen commodities fluctuate in the last number of weeks, whether oil or other commodities. For example, oil has gone from $147 a barrel a few months ago down to about $61 this morning. Therefore, it is important for us to diversify our economy; and tourism is a natural for Canadians, as I know it is for British Columbia. There are many jobs attached to tourism, and creating parks like this can help to enhance the natural beauty of Canada and also diversify our economy with tourism-related industries.

Unfortunately, so many times I have seen, whether with a crime bill or a veterans' bill or a bill relating to first nations, the fact that we can make all the laws in the world that we want in creating things like parks, but there has to be funding available. There has to be money provided to ensure that some of the things we are doing in the House are carried through. That requires resources.

We know from reports that Parks Canada basically has a backlog of about $3 billion in maintenance work that needs to be carried out and that money is not available. That money has not been provided or allocated by the current government. If we are going to create these parks, we need to provide the funding to maintain these parks to ensure that we are doing everything we can so that these parks can function for generations to come.

Again, going back to how reserving a national park and how tourism can work hand in hand, my colleague talked earlier about the importance of tourism. He pointed out a number of other countries, such as Australia and France, that are actually making investments to increase their tourism.

However, what we have seen from the Conservative government are cuts to tourist-related programs aimed at attracting more tourism to this country, especially in British Columbia, where we have some of the finest skiing mountains in the world. They are right in our backyard. Some of them are a couple of hours away from Vancouver and some are actually minutes away from downtown Vancouver.

I understand the importance of tourism and how it plays into our economy. We can always do more to increase tourism.

Obviously, we support the creation of this park.

When we consult first nations and local people, we can achieve a lot of good. I have seen, in this particular case, the government work with the first nations, the Sahtu Dene and the Metis, in the Northwest Territories to work out an agreement to create this wonderful park. That is what we get when we consult people. When we consult people at the ground level, when we consult the very people who are going to be affected, the result is usually good.

Unfortunately, the current government, time after time, fails to consult the local people. We can see what is happening with the Rouge park in Scarborough, the urban park that is being created there. The consultations have gone sideways and many people in the community are opposing it.

Again, I want to thank the people of the Northwest Territories, the Sahtu Dene and the Metis, for giving this gift to Canadians at Christmas.

Talking about Christmastime, I know that my son is waiting for me at home. We are going to look for a video and find out how much it costs. Then we are going to appeal to Santa and, hopefully, it will be in his stocking or under the tree.

I want to take this opportunity to wish all Canadians and, in particular, my constituents in Surrey North, a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.