House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was debate.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Vancouver East (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 63% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions March 25th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce a petition signed by petitioners who believe that the MAI is anti-democratic in so far as it would be binding for 20 years, thus tying the hands of several Parliaments and future governments.

The petitioners call on Parliament to reject the current framework of the MAI.

Post-Secondary Education March 24th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, it is incredible that in Canada we still do not have a national grants program for post-secondary education. The Prime Minister's pet project, the millennium fund, just does not cut it. Even delegates at the Liberal convention called on the government to institute a national grants program. It is shameful that Canada is only one of two OECD countries that does not have such a program.

When is the Prime Minister going to listen to students and his own party members and bring in a national grants program?

Multilateral Agreement On Investment March 17th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister. As he knows, B.C. government initiatives like the jobs and timber accord and legislation to protect young people from the exploitation of tobacco companies are threatened by the MAI.

The B.C. government has acted on the agreement of trade ministers for public hearings on the MAI, but where is the federal government's commitment? Why does the federal government not have the guts to inform Canadians about the threat to the rights of provinces to create jobs and protect health care under the MAI?

Windows Of Opportunity March 12th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, whatever happened to the national children's agenda? Where are the funds to match the announcement that the Liberal government is committed to helping children and families in need?

I would like to get the answer to this question because in Vancouver a unique and excellent proposal has been developed by the Vancouver school board, the Vancouver Richmond regional health board, the provincial government, the city of Vancouver and community organizations. If supported, it will provide a significant investment for healthy child development in Vancouver.

Windows of opportunity is a powerful reminder that action is urgently needed. The Minister of Human Resources Development has received the proposal and we hope for a prompt and positive response.

I have asked the Vancouver Liberal MPs for their support. I hope they will join me to secure the necessary funds. Windows of opportunity is of national significance and must be funded as a model of a community based approach for the health and social development of children.

Supply March 12th, 1998

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I am astounded that the member and the government try to defend the numbers, the billions of cut dollars, whether we talk about education, social programs or a health care system.

The government has no credibility to debate this point. It can throw mud at provincial governments and say that they are at fault. The record shows that because of the dehabilitating demise of funding for these programs, particularly education, we are now in the crisis we are in.

The member says that somehow the millennium fund should be based on merit, that this is a legitimate issue. I remind the hon. member that what he read from his own material was merit. If students are in post-secondary education they have already gone through that test. They have already gone through the entrance requirement and demonstrated that they have the merit to be there.

The issue the government has to tackle is the issue of financial need. To set up another scholarship program, another merit program, is a totally misdirected political grandstanding exercise.

Supply March 12th, 1998

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise today as the education critic for the NDP to present our party's views on this motion presented by the Bloc Quebecois in their opposition day motion.

First, the NDP sympathizes with the frustrations that are expressed in this motion that we are debating today in the House. I think there is a great sense of frustration not just from the Bloc but also from other political parties, and more important from the people of Canada and from students who have been affected by a very great crisis in post-secondary education in terms of how the announcements were made about this millennium fund.

We have to recognize that the millennium fund that has been the showpiece of the Liberal budget was announced with absolutely no consultation. There was no consultation with the provinces. There was not consultation with professionals nor with students in the post-secondary educational field. This announcement came out of the blue after the throne speech, allegedly from the Prime Minister as his legacy to his term in political office. We have to ask the question, is that any way for the government to do its business?

I heard a member from the government ask earlier why is the opposition shouting so loud about this motion and about the millennium fund?

Opposition members, certainly those in the NDP, are shouting loud because we understand that the millennium fund has more to do with political grandstanding, has more to do with political image making, than it does with solving the very deep crisis that we have surrounding post-secondary education in Canada.

The millennium fund was announced to stave off the severe and growing criticism that has come from students, academics and our post-secondary educational facilities because of the crisis that we have.

Let us talk a bit about the funding.

We have heard that this fund will be $2.5 billion. That sounds to me like an enormous amount of money. I cannot even visualize what $2.5 billion looks like. However, I do understand this. By the time this fund begins in the year 2000, we will have lost $3.1 billion from post-secondary education. The $2.5 billion will only begin, over a 10 year period, at $250 million a year.

We really have to put this into context and understand that because of what the Liberal governments have bled from the system, their slash and burn approach to post-secondary education, we have lost billions of dollars. This announcement of $2.5 billion does not come anywhere close to replacing what has been taken from the system.

The figures are well known. The millennium fund will help approximately 7% of Canadian students. We are talking about 100,000 students a year. What is more serious is that the choice the government made to hand out cheques to students will not address the systemic problem which we have in post-secondary education.

The millennium fund and the other measures which were announced will not decrease tuition fees or set the stage to ensure that tuition fees will remain stable. What the government chose to do was to help in a very small way students who are facing an increasing debt load without increasing funding by way of transfers to the provinces.

The other question which needs to be addressed is that we still do not know whether the millennium fund will be a needs-based program or whether it will be a scholarship program. Every indication is that it will be a program based on scholarship. Again this is a mistargeted, misdirected program which does not address the key issue of students who are in financial need because of skyrocketing tuition fees which are a direct result of lack of government funding.

Another concern which we have in our party, and certainly one which I have heard from students in my riding of Vancouver East, is over the complexity of the system. A whole new level of grants or scholarships is being put into place. It is a privately run foundation. I pity the poor student who has to figure out what it is they are able to access, even if it is a few hundred dollars, under the new system.

The concern which I believe is the most serious is that the government has set up a private foundation to administer the millennium fund. It has already been stated that the president or the chair of the new foundation will be the CEO of Chrysler Canada. I believe there is a real danger that this government is taking us down the slippery slope of privatization and corporatization of post-secondary education.

The government should have restored public funding and public confidence to these facilities, to the universities, colleges and technical institutions which are crying out due to the lack of provincial funding caused by the lack of federal funding.

What we now have is a privatized foundation which will be setting the direction, the criteria and the rules which we will not be privy to. We have no idea what they will be. They will be left to the private foundation to decide and there will be a creeping and growing corporate influence.

Members of our party have listened very carefully to what students and academics in the educational community have said in Canada. We have been listening. I want to ask the government why it has not been listening. The message from students and others in the field has been loud and clear. In fact, the leadership which has been shown by organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Students and provincial education ministers has been loud and clear. The Liberal government has turned a deaf ear to the pleas which have come from that community.

What we needed to see and what we wanted to see was national standards in terms of the budget and a new era for post-secondary education. We believe that passionately in the NDP. We need a federal government that is willing to work co-operatively with the provincial and territorial jurisdictions, including the people of Quebec and the Government of Quebec.

We must have a new national standard for accessibility in post-secondary education. That is something the government has not been willing to canvass. It has not been willing to sit down at the table to work out a co-operative and collaborative approach with provincial jurisdictions or to say that federal money will be tied to accessibility for students to ensure they have access whether they are low income or are affluent.

Right now the tragedy is that basically education is no longer a right. It has become a privilege only for those who have the affluence and the means to afford it.

We would also want to see put forward a tuition freeze. In my province of British Columbia the provincial government has shown leadership for the third year in a row with a tuition freeze. We have called on the federal government to work with the provinces to show that same kind of leadership.

The measures announced in the millennium fund will in no way provide stabilization for tuition fees. We will continue to see them skyrocket.

We have called, students have called and others in the field have called for a national grants program. This is something that we expect to see from the federal government in terms of vision and leadership. It would not be a private foundation but a national grants program in co-operation with the provinces.

The students of Canada and others have been demanding an adequate level of funding. It is scandalous that, despite all the claims by the Liberal government, program spending in the federal budget has actually decreased from $106.5 billion to $104 billion. By the year 2000 we will have lost over $3 billion from post-secondary education.

The students of Canada need help today. They need provincial governments including the province of Quebec working with other provincial governments and the federal government and showing leadership to provide assistance to young people and to ensure accessibility for students. Regrettably the evidence is clear that the latest measures by the Liberal government are not taking us in that direction. They are taking us in the direction of privatization and corporatization of our publicly funded post-secondary education system.

The Budget March 10th, 1998

Madam Speaker, I heard the member opposite say that this budget focused on Canadians in greatest need and that the prebudget consultations were extensive. He also mentioned that all Canadians will have access to post-secondary education. I really disagree with those statements.

I remember the prebudget hearings that were held in Vancouver, where I come from. I can say that the people at those hearings had serious and sharp disagreements with the priorities of the government.

The hon. member said that the budget has been brought forward without destroying the social safety net. I would suggest that the evidence shows that the social safety net has already been destroyed by the Liberal government and the billions of dollars that have been taken out of the transfers to provincial governments.

I want to ask one question on education. The member says that there will be access for all Canadians. We have heard that the millennium fund and the $2.5 billion that has been provided will assist only 7% of students in this country. That is certainly not access for all to post-secondary education.

The child tax benefit that the Liberals have made so much about has not been indexed for inflation. It will not begin until 1999. And it will amount to a measly 80 cents a day for poor kids in poor families.

I would ask the hon. member to explain to the people of Canada how he believes this budget is helping those who are most in need.

The Budget March 9th, 1998

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and his comment. I would be happy to show him what life is like in Vancouver East. He said that he visited there recently. I would be happy to provide more detail about the impact of federal cuts over the years.

It needs to be said that the situation in British Columbia and in other provinces has worsened because of the incredible devastation caused by the lack of transfer payments and the diminishing transfer payments from the federal government. If the Reform Party and the member cannot acknowledge that, they are only telling part of the story.

In B.C. we are very fortunate that we still have a provincial government which, for example, is committed to the provision, the development and the financing of social housing. When he talks about the people of my riding who are in very dire circumstances, I would think he should be the first one to recognize the fact that the Government of B.C. has continued to provide housing for very low income people.

There was no mention of housing in the budget. If we want to talk about jobs, what better program to generate jobs than a good housing program? That is something the B.C. government has done.

When it comes to education, despite the cuts from the federal government the province of British Columbia has maintained and in fact has increased funding for education above that of any other province, as well as funding for health care. It has also maintained a tuition freeze for three years.

That is something we should be proud of. That is something the federal government should be following and working to implement with other provinces.

The Budget March 9th, 1998

Madam Speaker, I see reality every day in my riding of Vancouver East. I understand what it is about for people who live in poor housing, who are without work or who do not have adequate health care resources and so on.

I ask the hon. member to check the facts. The budget did not increase spending for health care. If the member checks the facts, program spending is actually decreasing from $106 billion in 1997-98 to $104.5 billion in 1998-99. If we just want to look at education, there is not one increase in dollars for the transfers to the provinces in education.

The government has announced a shell game, a $2.5 billion millennium fund over a 10 year period or $250 million a year. By the time that program starts we will have lost $3.1 billion from post-secondary education.

Those are the facts and that is the reality. That is why tuition fees and student debt will continue to go up despite the bits of window dressing the government has brought in.

The Budget March 9th, 1998

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak in response to the budget and provide the views of the New Democratic Party. I will be sharing my time with the member for Acadie—Bathurst.

We have heard a lot today and in other responses to the budget that this budget is an education budget. It is a budget for youth. We heard today in debate that it is a budget for equity, a budget for women. More recently we heard it is a remarkable budget and a sensible budget.

I want to tell the members of this House that having been in my riding, like many other members, for the past week and speaking with many of my constituents, this budget has been a huge disappointment.

In my riding of Vancouver East people are asking a very key and a very legitimate question. How will this budget improve the lives of people in east Vancouver? The response I got was that this budget is a failure.

It is a failure because if we look behind the fine lines and fancy words it is a failure because it does not address the issues of people who are unemployed. We have heard today in the House in question period of the number of people who are unemployed and because of the drastic changes to our EI program the number of people who are now ending up on welfare.

The budget failed those people. It is a failure for people who are living at and below the poverty line and who are working at minimum wage jobs or in part time work and found nothing in this budget to improve their standard of living.

This budget has failed women and we have heard a lot of discussion today about international women's day and international women's week but there is nothing in this budget about pay equity or child care, for example.

This budget also fails people who are sick and who look to our health care system and find there are enormous waiting lists or lack of service and accessibility. This budget has also failed aboriginal people who live in the urban environment. In my riding I have a very large number of urban aboriginal people who saw nothing in this budget that will address their very real concerns of unemployment, poverty, lack of access to services.

This budget also failed children who live in poor families and it fails students who are still facing massive cuts and skyrocketing tuition fees.

The plain reality is the total program spending delivered in this budget will decline to $104.5 billion in 1998-1999 from $106 billion in 1997-1998. That is a real decline in program spending despite the promises made by the finance minister that 50% of the surplus would go toward programs spending. The Liberals failed to meet even their own promise and the other reality is that not a single dollar of the cash transfers to provinces eliminated over the past three years will be restored.

I would like to focus on two issues that involve my critic areas. One is education and one deals with the child tax benefit.

The first is education. We have heard so much hype about the $2.5 billion going into the millennium fund. First of all, we have to understand that this fund will not even begin until the year 2000. Students need help today, not in the year 2000.

By the time we get to the year 2000 and this millennium fund begins with its $250 million a year, we will have seen $3.1 billion taken out of post-secondary education. That is devastating to our institutions, our universities, our community colleges and our places of higher learning.

The finance minister had a choice to restore the funding to the provinces so we could strengthen post-secondary educational facilities and ensure tuition fees would not continue to go up and up. The government did not make that choice. The choice it made was to set up a private foundation so it could hand out little cheques every now and again to 7% of students, which means that 93% of students will not be assisted by the millennium fund.

In a most cynical ploy the finance minister in all of his background papers told us there were plans to change the bankruptcy laws to ensure students are not able to declare bankruptcy until 10 years after they complete their studies, which is a change from the current two years. If the government believes so strongly that it is helping students, why has it so cynically changed the bankruptcy laws?

In British Columbia, Premier Clark announced a few days ago that for the third year in a row tuition fees would be frozen. That is the kind of leadership we wanted to see from the Liberal government. It would say to students that we understand their debt loads are too high, that tuition fees must be frozen and that we are willing to support provincial transfers to increase post-secondary educational facilities.

The child tax benefit is another issue. Every time the question of unemployment and poverty comes up in the House we hear the minister crow about the child tax benefit and what a glorious program it is. I heard the minister say that it is the most significant social policy since the 1960s.

I will explain what the reality is. This is not an anti-poverty measure. We are talking about a program where the additional $425 million will not even begin until July 1999. So much for helping poor kids who live in poor families. What will that help be? It will be a measly 80 cents a day. That is what we are saying to kids. The child tax benefit is not indexed and does not apply to people on welfare. There is not one mention in the budget about a national child care program.

If the government truly cares about poverty, about helping unemployed people and about equality as we heard today in glowing terms, why does the budget fail to address any of these measures? The reality is that the budget that was announced and debated will not close the gap between the wealthy and five million Canadians who are struggling to make ends meet and who are living below the poverty line.

The Reform Party says that it wants tax cuts. I will read from an article by Seth Klein of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published in the Canadian Review of Social Policy . The key goal is job creation. That should be the government's priority. The paper points out very eloquently that tax cuts are an inefficient way to create jobs. The tax cut theory rests on the unsubstantiated hope that consumers will spend more, that this in turn will translate into companies hiring more people, and that the evidence suggests direct government hiring and spending would create substantially more jobs than tax cuts.

If we pursue this information further we see from the latest information from Informetrica that directing $1 billion toward new government hiring would create 25,000 jobs in the first year. In contrast $1 billion toward personal income tax would create only 9,000 jobs.

There is a very real issue about what course the government has chosen. After four years of a slash and burn approach, of cutting the transfers to the provinces, not one new dollar was included in the budget in terms of restoring and reinvesting in education and social programs. It is the height of cynicism and hypocrisy that even the measures around the child tax benefit will do nothing to seriously alleviate poverty.

Did the budget speak to a progressive taxation system? Absolutely not. There was silence on that measure.

Did the budget deal with the $7.5 billion that the banks are racking up in profits? Did it speak to reinvesting that money so that ordinary Canadians could benefit? There was not a word about that.

In closing, according to my constituents and other people across Canada the budget failed miserably to address the growing inequality in Canada. It lacked the leadership, the vision and the courage to tackle head on the crisis of unemployment and the lack of jobs.

The reality is that this was a banker's budget, not a people's budget.