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  • Her favourite word is rcmp.

Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 59% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Access to Information Act December 5th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I note from the debate that the Conservative members are against our modernization of the access to information law.

In his earlier remarks, the President of the Treasury Board commented on the commitment in the 2006 Conservative platform to do what our government is now doing, and yet for 10 years they did absolutely nothing.

What are the hon. minister's thoughts on why the Conservative government failed to take a single action to update this law?

Government Appointments December 1st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, we consulted the leaders of the recognized parties on the matter of appointments, including the appointment of the lobbying commissioner. Once her appointment is approved by Parliament, Ms. Bélanger will have a seven-year term.

We welcome all ideas, proposals, and people from all parties in this process, which is truly open and transparent, something we are proud of.

Access to Information Act November 27th, 2017

Madam Speaker, the Information Commissioner and the former Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics recommended that, subject to oversight by the commissioner, an enhanced act should give government institutions the authority to refuse to process frivolous or vexatious requests, which clog up the system.

The committee made amendments to give the commissioner the power to make the final decision about whether a request could be refused by a department.

Does the member opposite believe this was a step in the right direction for our access to information system?

Access to Information Act November 27th, 2017

Madam Speaker, my colleague from Beaches—East York was aiming to point out that the member made some inaccurate comments, and he just reinforced the mistakes of his speech. I am concerned that he may have prepared and presented his comments without taking a look at what the committee did to address the commissioner's report. Yes, the commissioner had criticism. The commissioner has one perspective on this, the access perspective. The committee also heard from the Privacy Commissioner and others who represented other interests.

That being said, the committee put over 12 amendments forward, most of which were to actually address the very concerns the member has been raising. I think we are all touched by the challenges of the St. Anne's residential school. We all want what is best for first nations' healing and reconciliation. Therefore, there were specific provisions in the committee's amendments to ensure that it was very clear that a “large or broad request, or one that causes the government discomfort, does not of itself represent bad faith on the part of the requester” and that the ministries have a duty to consult to make sure that in their duty to assist they are assisting requesters like the very requesters whom the member was talking—

Access to Information Act November 27th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I must say I am disappointed. The member clearly does not have the intention of raising the quality of debate in the House. First, he barely spoke about Bill C-58. I am proud that we are the first government in 34 years to make major reforms to the Access to Information Act. Second, he was wrong in the few comments he made about the bill. He said it would deny access to information requests that are frivolous or made in bad faith. In fact, the amendments would give the commissioner up-front approval power over any department's request to decline to act on a request because the department believed it was vexatious or in bad faith. The member clearly did not even read the committee's changes and is not up to date on the bill. That is disappointing. It is not a priority for him, clearly.

I also want to note that in its 2006 platform, the Conservative Party made a clear commitment to update the access to information law, and the Conservatives did absolutely nothing in 10 years. Did they never intend to actually deliver on that promise, or did they just not care enough to do a thing about it in 10 years?

Access to Information Act November 27th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of the work that the minister has been doing with respect to modernizing the access to information regime for the first time in many years, and for his promise to continue doing that work.

I would like to touch on the note that the minister made that there were over a dozen amendments made to this legislation. He mentioned that those amendments reflect the things the Information Commissioner was asking for, some of which were our intent in the first place, but were not perfectly expressed in the original bill. Other amendments were to move further based on the commissioner's request.

Could the minister tell us how this compares with the previous Conservative government with respect to listening to and consulting with people, and then being willing to have amendments made by committee?

National Housing Day November 22nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, today we recognize National Housing Day. Safe and affordable housing is central to our lives, our health, and our families. It is essential to vibrant communities and a strong middle class.

Vancouverites from all walks of life face housing challenges. Our most vulnerable citizens sleep on the streets, seniors and single parents cannot afford rising rents, and the next generation is giving up on home ownership or moving away.

When our new government was appointed two years ago, my first priority was to ensure that the ministers and the Prime Minister were well informed and prepared to act on housing access and affordability challenges in Vancouver and beyond.

I am proud to celebrate today's announcement of Canada's first-ever national housing strategy, which comes with historic levels of investment. By listening to local residents, by partnering with housing advocates and all levels of government, we are thinking nationally and acting locally.

Report Stage November 21st, 2017

Madam Speaker, this is the kind of question that leads to good debate in the House, so I thank my hon. colleague.

Being from metro Vancouver, a privilege which my colleague across the aisle does not share, I am very aware of how much violence on the streets has been tied to drug crime and organized crime. That is why we had a coalition of literally dozens of professionals, including medical, police, criminology, and justice, called “Stop the Violence BC”. May it be a stratified criminal activity now, as he has mentions, but there was a strong element of organized crime that created fear on the streets and deaths of innocent bystanders. That has to stop.

The prohibitions are very important to protect younger Canadians, those below the minimum threshold, from being exposed to the sale of cannabis illegally. That is an important part of this whole framework. It is about health, safety, and especially the protection of our youth.

Report Stage November 21st, 2017

Madam Speaker, first, I share the concern for any impaired driving and the potential for the harm that does. Second, cannabis is widely used already, only illegally. It is not being regulated with respect to its impact on driving satisfactorily. The bill and the framework are focused on health and safety as well as on bringing forward the technologies for and the research on how to protect and reduce the problem of impaired driving.

Report Stage November 21st, 2017

Madam Speaker, adults who are found in possession of a small amount of cannabis, up to a maximum of 30 grams, will no longer be treated like criminals. Instead, Bill C-45 will give responsible adult consumers a way to legally obtain this substance, which will be strictly regulated in order to meet the high national safety and quality standards.

This new approach will help reduce the disproportionate burden imposed on the 18,000 individuals who were charged with possession of cannabis in 2016. We know a simple possession charge can have life-long impacts on a person's life prospects. Bill C-45 will reduce this travesty. It will also reduce the burden on the criminal justice system.

Our government believes that law enforcement and the courts should devote their resources to criminal activities that are truly detrimental to society, as well as to education and prevention in the case of public health issues like cannabis use.

The expert witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Health agreed with our government's proposed approach. For example, Karey Shuhendler, from the Canadian Nurses Association, stated:

Bill C-45 promotes the removal of harms associated with the prohibition model, while recognizing the need to protect vulnerable populations, including youth.

Under our current regime, Canadian youth have one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. In 2015, 21% of youth aged 15-19 reported using cannabis in the past year. Some Vancouver Quadra citizens have expressed concerns that legalization of cannabis will increase its use by young people. I think the evidence will show that use will decrease over time with the prevention and education programs put in place by the government.

Let us be clear that many youth are using cannabis now under a system controlled by criminal gangs. That is why the bill includes strict controls and penalties to protect young people, and measures to deter and punish adults who provide cannabis to under-aged Canadians. Deterring the illegal market is necessary to protect Canadian youth.

Experts such as Dr. Christina Grant, from the Canadian Paediatric Society, have cautioned that too high an age limit will preserve an illegal market that provides a supply of illegal, unregulated, and unsafe cannabis to Canadians between the ages of 20 and 24. These are the young people who currently have the highest rates of consumption among Canadians and among their peers from other developed countries.

It is also important to keep in mind that the bill gives the provinces and territories the flexibility to establish additional restrictions that can go even further than those set out in the federal framework, depending on their own specific needs and circumstances.

This includes raising the national minimum age if a province or territory so choses.

Beyond the proposed minimum age restriction and severe penalties for selling cannabis to youth, Bill C-45 proposes a number of additional controls to protect young Canadians. For example, the bill includes provisions that would prohibit the sale of cannabis and cannabis products that are considered appealing to youth. It would ban the advertising and promotion of cannabis, except in limited and very restricted circumstances. It would also set out requirements for packaging and labelling to ensure they are not appealing to youth.

Also, as various expert witnesses who testified before the Standing Committee on Health reminded us, these measures need to be supported by significant and effective public education to explain the risks and harms associated with cannabis consumption, especially for youth. Our government fully agrees with these experts and we have already started a national public awareness and education campaign, in collaboration with the provinces and territories. This campaign will be augmented by the additional $36.4 million announced recently.

Finally, in light of the tragedy of the current opioid crisis, I would like to note how an evidence-based public health approach to drug use can save lives. We know that cannabis use for medical purposes like pain relief is safer and less addictive than opioids. In the United States, the legalization of medical cannabis in many states has resulted in a 25% drop in opioid-related deaths compared to states where medical cannabis remained illegal. In Canada the opioid crisis took at least 2,458 Canadian lives in 2016 and it is only growing worse. British Columbia and Vancouver have a disproportionate share. However, I am optimistic that those tragedies will be reduced by the legalization of cannabis.

To sum up, this is a thoughtful and comprehensive piece of legislation that has been designed to protect the health and safety of Canadians while saving lives.