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  • Her favourite word is years.

Liberal MP for Humber River—Black Creek (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2019, with 61% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1 April 19th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I think it is something that we all want. When I say that, I mean all members of Parliament. The government would like to see us to be able to establish this program. It is not an easy program, because it affects so many people. As well, the provinces and territories must be respected and everyone must be brought together. No major initiative like this will come easily.

I wish that we had proceeded much faster, as my colleague would like to do, and I hope that the good work that the health committee has just done on pharmacare in their report is one more tool moving us forward. We have the commitment from the Prime Minister in his appointment of Dr. Eric Hoskins to head that up. It gives me hope that we will see it sooner than later.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1 April 19th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I too am happy to stand today and have an opportunity to talk about why I am pleased to see what our government's 2018 budget is all about.

When we talk about equality and growth and a strong middle class in this budget, so many of us and so many of our communities are represented.

I want to particularly talk about the infrastructure investments that are in this budget, but I need to go back to my days as a City of Toronto municipal councillor.

As part of my job as a city councillor in North York or in Toronto, I was always doing budgets. I would have to figure out at the end of year how we were going to meet the needs of our cities while not significantly raising property taxes.

The first year that I became a councillor, I was inundated with phone calls from seniors and other low-income folks in the riding, who told me they could not afford these tax increases. At that time the increases were 2.5% or 2.8%. There were so many tears and so much sadness in those phone calls that to this day I have never forgotten those conversations, and that was some years back.

I committed at that time to those folks that I would do everything in my power to not raise their property taxes, because many of them were living on a limited or fixed income and there was no way they could afford to pay the increases. There were so many increases in other areas that adding property tax increases made them feel they were being driven out of their homes. I made the commitment to them at that time that I would do everything in my power to protect them and to avoid tax increases.

That meant getting a task force together and examining budgets and looking at ways that we could trim from here or find money from there. For 11 years we were constantly trying to balance budgets while seeing what we could cut from here in order not to increase something there.

We did zero budgeting in the city for probably about six years, but sooner or later everything comes home to roost, because money is still needed to advance. There's only so much that can be cut or saved or trimmed. There comes a point when additional funds have to be found; otherwise, roads deteriorate and the needs of the transit system cannot be met. Community centres were being neglected and the city was not in as good a shape as I would have liked to have seen it.

That was one of the reasons I decided that I was going to become a candidate at the federal level. I felt the federal government was where the money was, and if we going to be investing and building our cities, then the challenge for me would be to go to Ottawa and argue for the same things that I was arguing for at the city level, meaning investments in transit and investments in the quality of life of our citizens to make people's lives a bit better. Subsequently I did seek office, and with the blessing of my community I have had the good fortune of representing it at the federal level for 19 years or so.

The first thing I did when I arrived here was exactly what I said I was going to do. I started arguing about how I could get more money for the cities. I approached the then prime minister, Jean Chrétien, and told him about what was going on at the city level. He reminded me that cities are creatures of the provinces, not the federal government. We could not use the word “cities” here in the House. I could not talk about the City of Toronto or Hamilton or Niagara and their difficulties because they were not directly a federal responsibility.

In spite of that and my persistence, Mr. Chrétien put together a task force and asked me to chair it. He also asked me to consult with our urban centres. I think it was his way of keeping a new MP busy, but I took on that 18-month challenge that he gave me. I travelled a lot more in the city and across the country. I consulted with the urban centres about the pressures facing them. I worked with FCM, York University, Vancouver, and a lot of academics as well, and we put together a great report that talked about the need for a national urban strategy that would address their needs.

In addition to to that, of course, we now have a gas tax, we have infrastructure programs, and we can freely talk about the challenges facing our cities across the country. Hence the reason for my enthusiasm for what we have been doing as a government in the last almost three years in investing in transit, infrastructure, and all of the things that we need the federal government to do because the cities do not have enough money and the provinces are struggling with their own challenges.

Therefore, working in partnership is what it was all about. It was about establishing a partnership between federal, provincial, and municipal governments to ensure that our country would move forward in a positive way. Being able to do that and to see it happening, frankly, was the best satisfaction I have had since I came here. With the billions that we are investing in this budget going out into cities all across the country, we are ensuring that we will have infrastructure that can compete with any other country, and it is desperately needed.

We talk about the congestion in cities. In order to relieve that congestion, we need to be investing in transit, both in small communities and in large ones. I am very fortunate in being able to say that after $685 million was invested some years back, we have just opened the new subway that goes up Highway 7 to the city of Vaughan and has a stop at York University. It takes thousands of cars off the road and, more importantly, it reduces congestion. It also provides a better transitway for many of the students, increases the opportunity for York University to expand, and makes for a better quality of life for all of the students and academics going to the university every day.

Of course, we are now starting on the LRT across Finch Avenue, which will be a tremendous asset for the thousands of people who use the bus line to get to Humber College.

Connecting all of that costs money. There is no way around it, and it would not happen without significant investment from the federal government, which is why I am so pleased to see what we are doing with this budget in 2018, as well as in the budgets of 2017 and 2016.

Let me talk now about some of the folks who live in my riding.

All the seniors at 35 Shoreham, a seniors residence, are people who have struggled. They are low-income seniors and are all receiving the GIS that we topped up a bit more, which we continue to do almost every year. We are trying to keep it up with the cost of living, recognizing the challenges that are facing all of those seniors. Many of them suffer from poor health, are new immigrants to the country and have language issues, and are struggling.

We have also invested in research. Whether it is the genomics centre or NSERC, research is such an important thing to help us identify the answers to some of the terrible diseases that affect us. As a member of the ALS caucus, I think of Mauril Bélanger very often, and I think all of our colleagues remember the sad loss. Putting more dollars into research will help us find answers and solutions to rare diseases like ALS.

Pharmacare is our new initiative, and I hope that in the future we can bundle our efforts together to reduce the cost of drugs throughout the country. This is a new initiative that I look forward to seeing come to completion, and I know all of us in this House would like to see that happen.

The Budget March 20th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I was very pleased to see that we are putting an advisory council together. Something that many of us as parliamentarians have talked to our constituents about is their struggles about whether they buy medication or put food on the table. The government is moving forward with the advisory group to put a plan together that is going to end that struggle and that decision-making for seniors by being able to provide drugs for all of them.

The Budget March 20th, 2018

Madam Speaker, it depends on the applications from the various organizations. Some are doing summer programs and they are simply hiring for a six-week plan. Others are doing it for 14 or 16 weeks. It all depends at the end of the day on the companies that are offering the employment opportunities for these students.

I was going through my summer job applications this morning and there are a lot of them that are offering 12 and 14 weeks, tying in with many of the university students who are seeking employment opportunities. Therefore, the application put in seeking a partner is what matters and how they match up the funds.

The Budget March 20th, 2018

Madam Speaker, in my many years here as an urban member, my colleagues from the rural part of our caucus and our staff, including my previous employee who was with me for 16 years, constantly made sure that I as an urban member was sensitive to the issues that the rural areas experience.

In terms of the many things we did in last year's budget as well, in expanding the broadband and the opportunities, our rural caucus and rural members speak of them very passionately and care very much. It is important that we make sure as we go through with a balanced budget that we do not forget anyone and do not leave anyone behind.

The Budget March 20th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Parkdale—High Park.

I am pleased to have a moment to reference some of the good things in this budget.

I am proud of budget 2018, entitled “Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class”.

This budget takes a people-centred approach. By making substantial investments and real progress for the middle class, our government is demonstrating its commitment to all Canadians, especially those in need, in most of our communities here in Canada. My riding of Humber River—Black Creek is no different.

The government's plan to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy is clearly working. Since November 2015, our economy has created nearly 600,000 jobs, most of which are full-time jobs, not part-time jobs. The unemployment rate, thank goodness, is near historic lows, and that is something we can all be grateful for, because it means that many people in Canada who wanted to work are working.

Canada has the fastest growing economy among the G7 countries, and Canadians are feeling far more optimistic about their future and their children's future. That is what I am hearing from my constituents every single day.

The introduction of initiatives like the Canada workers benefit puts more money in the pockets of low-income workers.

Members have heard me talk about my riding and the challenges I have. I represent a lot of fine people who are new immigrants to Canada and are struggling to finish their education, get their children into a good spot, and find a decent job and some decent housing. They struggle with that every day.

Low-income workers can no longer live paycheque to paycheque. We are trying to help correct that. The Canada workers benefit will raise approximately 70,000 Canadians out of poverty by 2020. Encouraging more Canadians to join the workforce is of the utmost importance, especially in Humber River—Black Creek.

I cannot tell the House how many people have come to me looking for employment opportunities over the many years I have been here. I really disagree with the idea some people have that people do not want to work. All people want to work, if they are physically able and mentally well. It gives them a feeling of satisfaction to know that they are trying to build their own families and communities. Job creation is really important for so many reasons.

There is even more good news, other than the 70,000 Canadians who will be out of poverty by 2020.

For example, a single mom of two children aged five and eight with a net income of $35,000, and I have many in my riding, is receiving $11,125 in tax-free Canada child care benefit payments in 2017-18. That is like a million dollars to many of the single moms in Humber River—Black Creek. That is an enormous amount of money for them to be able to make a difference in their lives and the lives of their children. That is $3,535 more than she would ever have received under the previous benefit system. The child care benefit is making a significant difference in the lives of mothers and families in my riding of Humber River—Black Creek.

During a recent visit to the Yorkdale mall, I was stopped by a new mother, who thanked me for the support she was getting from our government. She told me about the difference it was going to make at the end of the month in her ability to pay for the rental housing, put food on the table, and maybe just allow her children to be more involved in some of the sports activities that they want to do. It meant that she was able to pay for things like better food, the sports programs that I mentioned, music lessons, and school supplies for her children.

There is nothing better than hearing directly from my constituents about how the work we are doing here in the House is making life easier for them. It is stories like this that allow me the opportunity to be so confident that our government is making the right decisions through budget 2018.

Overall across the country, single mothers are receiving roughly $1.8 billion more in benefits under the Canada child benefit. That is a lot of money going into the pockets of thousands of families across Canada. That is an incredible investment. Most families in Humber River—Black Creek are benefiting from the Canada child benefit. They receive about $6,800 in child care benefits annually. Last fall, the government proposed to make the Canada child benefit even stronger so that it keeps pace with the rising cost of living. As of July this year, two years ahead of schedule, the government will have it tied to the cost of living.

As of late, we have heard a lot about the Canada summer jobs program. I would like to focus on the positives that are assisting the youth in my riding who are being hired for the first time through many organizations, businesses, and non-profits throughout the riding. For many people, this is their first job and without this first experience, I am afraid some of these young people would end up going in the wrong direction and end up on the streets, getting involved in criminal activity, and so on. The Canada summer jobs program is doubled from what it previously was, and it is employing thousands of young people in their first jobs. At the end of the summer, when I often try to meet many of them, they tell me that it completely changed their ideas of what work was going to be like, that having that paycheque at the end of each week really made them feel good, and that they want to make sure they go back to school and improve their education.

Through budget 2018, students would benefit from more job placements for youth through the Canada summer jobs program, and women would have better financial support to access apprenticeships that are male-dominated and better paid, doing red seal trades like plumbing, welding, and gas fitting. There are lots of women who want to do these jobs, but they have to be encouraged and we have to remove the barriers that have prevented women from doing that.

We have made investments specifically in Ontario to create 100,000 new child care spaces, as we work with our province by transferring funds between governments and working in co-operation with our provincial government. That is how we create those opportunities when we know that there is a big need for this. This is a positive, not a negative. The youth of today are our future, and it is vital that we support them now.

There are still problems that have to be solved. For example, despite significant efforts by the government and many others, the number of opioid-related deaths unfortunately continues to rise. Through budget 2018, the government would make further investments to address this crisis, which has had a significant effect on many communities, including my own. Key measures include providing one-time emergency funding for provinces and territories to improve access to treatment services, a very important opportunity to give people a helping hand; launching a public education campaign to address the stigma that creates barriers for those seeking treatment; and equipping border agents with detection and identification tools to intercept fentanyl and other substances at ports of entry.

In addition, we as a government are also taking steps to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth and to keep profits out of the hands of criminals. The government is working with the provinces and territories on a coordinated approach to taxing cannabis, keeping taxes low, and driving out the illicit market.

As I said, there are many good things in this budget. It is part of our plan of building Canada, making Canada stronger, and ensuring that the middle class has the support that is required to make Canada strong.

The Budget March 20th, 2018

Madam Speaker, there are lots of positives, and I am glad that the member decided to single out one or two of them.

I know the interests of my colleagues in the House with respect to women entrepreneurship and the steps that have been taken on that particular file in the budget. Therefore, I would be interested to hear my colleague's comments on whether she agrees that is going to be very helpful to the women of Canada.

The Budget March 20th, 2018

Madam Speaker, it is good to see my colleague on her feet, which is not an unusual thing to see here in the House.

It was great to hear your comments, and it was nice to hear you mention some positives, because there are lots of positives—

Jane Finch Concerned Citizens Organization March 20th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge that 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the Jane Finch Concerned Citizens Organization.

Its director, Winston LaRose, and the JFCCO represent just how vibrant the Jane Finch community truly is. With a mission that provides assistance to community members as well as opportunities for youth in recreational programs and post-secondary placements, the JFCCO has been at the forefront of fighting for the rights of the disadvantaged for many years.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all those, past and present, who have dedicated their time to this important grassroots movement at the Jane Finch Concerned Citizens Organization. I thank all of them for their dedication in ensuring that the residents of Humber River—Black Creek have a great place to continue to live in.

Committees of the House March 1st, 2018

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 107(3), I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Liaison Committee, entitled “Committee Activities and Expenditures: April 1, 2017--December 31, 2017”.