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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

Telecommunications Act November 4th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, thank you for those words. In fact, the background of the free trade agreement is very relevant to the bill before us today. In my discussion I will be moving right into the bill itself.

The point that we wish to emphasize is that the real story of the NAFTA, when we look at this bill, has not been a success for the Canadian people.

Going to the background of the bill before us today, we know that on February 15 of this year at the World Trade Organization Canada and 68 other countries concluded a multilateral agreement to liberalize trade and investment in telecommunications services.

The GATS agreement on basic telecommunications followed the conclusion of the information technology agreement which liberalized trade in information technology equipment.

Under the GATS the federal government has said that it is committed to eliminating the two remaining areas now closed to competition, overseas telephone service and fixed satellite services. As a result, Teleglobe's monopoly will end on October 1, 1998 and Telesat's monopoly will end on March 1, 2000.

Canada, as part of this agreement, has also agreed to remove foreign ownership restrictions in satellite earth stations and the landing of international submarine cables.

The key elements of Canada's offer under the GATS agreement on basic telecommunications are the elimination of the remaining monopolies of Teleglobe and Telesat, the liberalization of traffic routing restrictions, the elimination of minimum Canadian equity requirements for mobile satellite systems, the elimination of the special foreign ownership limits applicable to Teleglobe Canada, the elimination of the foreign ownership limits for international submarine cables and the adoption of a regulatory reference paper which sets out principles of regulations for all the signatory countries.

What is the government's position on this? We have been told by the industry minister that the changes contemplated in the bill before the House today, along with the GATT agreement, will lead to increased business opportunities for Canada's telecommunications industry at home and abroad.

We are told that Canada's telecommunications firms will have easier access to a more competitive international market and will capture a larger share of the $880 billion global telecommunications industry. Those are the same old arguments that were put before the people of Canada under FTA and under NAFTA. I would suggest that what we are really experiencing, instead of the benefits that we have been told that we will get, is the Americanization of all aspects of Canadian life as a result of these trade deals and now as a result of this bill if it is passed by the House.

I would like to spend a moment to look at what that experience has been for some Canadian companies. Think about the company CN, the railroad which once linked our country together and pioneered public broadcasting and our national airline. What happened to that company? It was sacrificed as a result of free trade. CN was sold for half of what it was worth and it is now owned 70% by Americans. It is now busy selling off parts of the rail network which, I might add, was built at public expense. It is being sold to other U.S. companies. All of the lines of northern Manitoba, including the port of Churchill plus two Saskatchewan lines, have been sold to Omnitrax of Denver, U.S.A.

It is now virtually impossible for Canadians to buy Canadian if they want to do so because whole sectors of our economy, such as pulp and paper and advertising, have been taken over by U.S. corporations. Now we are facing the same thing in the bill that is before us today. That is the real history of free trade.

Instead of getting out of these agreements and defending Canadian business interests and public interests, the Liberals ratified Mulroney's NAFTA and are now currently negotiating to extend NAFTA's investment section into a large new agreement called the multilateral agreement on investment. However, they do not have a public mandate to go ahead with the program under the MAI.

Regrettably, we all know that unless there is massive opposition by the public that the Liberals are prepared to sign the multilateral agreement on investment. They will be egged on to do so by the Reform and the Conservative parties, pushed and aided by corporations and their CEOs, to whom these parties are best friends.

It is absolutely necessary that these trade agreements and the bill that is before us today be advanced in terms of the public interest and not just corporate interests. They have to be advanced in terms of what will benefit Canadians. Trade liberalization should help improve wages and working conditions, not drive them down to the levels that exist in developing parts of the world.

We should be working for trade agreements that will help Canadian families and will include the introduction of real, enforceable and progressive social, labour and environmental standards.

We need to be working for stricter measures to prevent corporate tax evasion and stronger financial reporting requirements for large corporations that are not publicly traded.

The government should be working with its trading partners to develop international standards for taxation of income from capital to counter tax avoidance and evasion by corporations and the super wealthy.

That is what the government should be focusing on instead of opening up the flood gates and saying that under trade liberalization that we are going to somehow benefit. The contrary is true.

We also need the introduction of an international tax to control speculative currency trading. In recent years, such speculation has undermined some national economies, forcing up interest rates and throwing people out of work.

The NDP caucus speaks against Bill C-17 because it is part and parcel of the free trade agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement and is now part of the globalization we are seeing under the multilateral agreement on investment.

I challenge the House of Commons and this Liberal government to protect the interests of ordinary working Canadians when signing any further trade agreements. It is time we had agreements that worked for Canada and Canadians, not against them.

Telecommunications Act November 4th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, unlike my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois, the NDP is opposed to Bill C-17. We do not even favour the bill in principle. We are flatly opposed to this bill, the intent of which is to implement the general agreement on trade and services, GATS as it is known, and the agreement on basic telecommunications.

The reason we are opposed to the bill is that Bill C-17 is part of the process of completing the free trade agreements and the implementation of the regulations of free trade.

We oppose this bill because we opposed the negotiated free trade agreements which were against the interests of ordinary Canadians. The NDP, unlike other parties that have been all over the map on this issue, has consistently stood in opposition of these liberalized trade agreements from the beginning of the North American Free Trade Agreement to NAFTA and now the MAI. In 1997 we are still speaking in opposition to these trade agreements.

It is worth taking a few moments to look at the context of Bill C-17 and the history of these free trade agreements. The trade agreements of the last decade, if we look at the overall results, have made it easier for corporations to increase their profits and harder for workers to keep their wages and benefits.

The impact of this is reflected in Statistics Canada reports. Corporate profits have increased dramatically, while real family income has declined and masses of jobs lost in this country. The reality is that deals like the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement encourage corporations to go where wages and benefits are lower and where environmental regulations are weaker.

These agreements are designed to increase the mobility of capital and goods, making it easier for corporations and the wealthy to avoid paying taxes. In other words, these deals are designed to push down Canadian wages and social programs like medicare, environmental protection, safety and labour standards and the revenue from taxes to pay for our desperately needed public services.

Ten years ago when the FTA was signed the Canadian people heard promises of the jobs that would abound. We heard the promises of greater prosperity for Canada and for Canadians that would result from increased trade. We heard promises of better social programs and unimpaired Canadian sovereignty. All these promises stand revealed today as nothing but a fraud. We only have to look at the facts to see what free trade has meant a decade later. It has been a disaster for Canada and for Canadian families.

Since Canada entered into free trade agreements, we have experienced the longest period of sustained high unemployment and the worst social and economic conditions since the 1930s. That is in stark contrast to the promises and the issues that were held out as being the things which would change our economy since the advent of these agreements.

Canadians have experienced 84 straight months of unemployment at 9% or more. What kind of record is that under these free trade deals? We have seen the disappearance of 100,000 direct jobs in the public sector. We have seen the decline in labour force participation, which has fallen from 67.5% prior to the recession to less than 65% today. That is equivalent to the loss of 700,000 jobs. If we included these discouraged workers in the official tallies of unemployment, it would bring our unemployment rate to something around 13%.

More than that, we have had an appalling crisis for young people, whose participation rate has plummeted from 70% before the recession to barely 60% today. If we included the young people who have also been discouraged, then the official unemployment rate would almost double for young people, going from 16.5% to 30%.

What we have witnessed is the declining quality of jobs in the Canadian economy with the NAFTA and a growing emphasis on part time work and low wage jobs. Even our unemployment benefits, which used to cover 87% of Canadians who were jobless, are now going to only about 40% of people who are unemployed, and 25% of Canada's manufacturing base was wiped out in the first three years after signing the FTA. That is the real story of—

Fair Wages And Hours Of Labour Act October 28th, 1997

Madam Speaker, the health crisis in the downtown east side community of Vancouver continues. This community is facing an epidemic characterized by the highest incidence of HIV infection of intravenous drug users in the western world. It is reported that there is a 50% infection rate of an estimated 6,000-plus intravenous drug users who frequent the area and now this crisis is spreading to other areas as well.

As reported today, HIV infected drug users are showing up in larger numbers in the Kamloops and Kootenay regions. On September 25 the Vancouver and Richmond regional health board declared a public health emergency because of this issue. On October 23 the board brought forward an action plan to respond to this crisis.

There is a desperate need for leadership from all levels of government to combat this health crisis, to save lives, to protect the community and to reduce harm associated with obtaining drugs on the street. So far the province of British Columbia, the regional health board and even the municipal government have responded, but not the federal government.

The question being increasingly asked is where is the Minister of Health.

Since this summer I have raised this issue many times. I wrote to the minister in July, in September and in October not only to make the minister aware of the extent of this health emergency and its devastating impact on people and the community of Vancouver East but also to request a meeting so this issue could be discussed further. There has been no response and no action.

Why is the minister ignoring the national action plan on HIV, AIDS and injection drug use published in May and produced by the national task force? Why is the minister not participating with other interested parties across the country in the 10th annual B.C. conference on AIDS taking place in Vancouver this very week?

At that conference the chair of the national task force, Dr. Hankins, charged yesterday that politicians are afraid to take the lead on this issue.

When it comes to the political will shown by the federal government, I would agree with her on that assessment. In the Vancouver Sun recently the Minister of Health was quoted as saying that the HIV injection drug crisis in Vancouver East is a justice issue, but when the Minister of Health was the justice minister in 1995 he told the then minister of health of British Columbia, when discussing the Cain report, that this was a health issue.

It is time to stop passing the buck because lives hang in the balance. How many more people have to die before this government takes action? When will the federal Minister of Health show leadership as called for in the national task force report and make it clear that he will acknowledge this epidemic as the health crisis it is and take action?

If the minister does not, in ten years can we expect a royal commission posing the same questions that the Krever commission has already posed such as why when we had the chance to act did the government do nothing, or why did lives have to be lost because the political will was lacking?

I call on the minister to act now or he may find himself the first witness called to task if his inaction and the government's inaction result in even more lives lost and devastated communities.

Supply October 23rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I think the member is confusing the issues. We are here debating a motion about our fisheries on the east and west coasts.

The Government of British Columbia when it made the decision, a historic decision, to establish the Tatshenshini park, it was a decision that was for the environment and for our future generations. It shows the commitment of the British Columbia government to live up to its responsibility to ensure that these unique areas of our province are preserved for future generations.

I am proud to say the present Premier of British Columbia is willing to stand up and take on the U.S. government over this treaty. If the federal minister of fisheries would do his work with the same amount of commitment and dedication, maybe we would not be in the mess we are in today over the situation with the treaty.

Supply October 23rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments and I agree that it is important to listen.

I invite the member to British Columbia so he can hear firsthand and listen to the concerns of fishers in coastal communities who feel they have been abandoned by the federal government. When the member says that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has been fully engaged, fully engaged in what? Certainly not in defending the interests of fishers in B.C. and supporting the Government of British Columbia which has been standing up for the fishers.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has been engaged in soft peddling this issue. Yes, it is important to listen. It is important to listen to the people who are directly affected by the lack of a national fisheries program. That is what this issue is about.

Supply October 23rd, 1997

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst.

It was very interesting to hear the history lesson by the government member from Gander, Newfoundland. However, it is very curious that his history only went up until 1993. What we are concerned about today is what is happening in terms of our fisheries on the east coast and the west coast.

Pacific salmon stocks have been depleted to crisis proportions. The impact that this depletion has had on the environment and on the lives of west coast fishers and their families and on coastal communities has been devastating.

Not only has the federal government refused to support B.C. fishers against the tide of American commercial exploitation of the fisheries, but it has taken action that has devastated coastal communities and small and independent fishers and their families.

In my constituency of Vancouver East, many of my constituents are reeling from the government's utter lack of commitment to the Pacific fishery. There are 10,000 commercial fishers and 6,400 shore workers in B.C. who depend on salmon for their livelihoods. The average annual wholesale value of the salmon harvest in B.C. is approximately $500 million. The Americans are overfishing the Canadian salmon and the cost to all Canadians is $60 million a year. That means that four million fish are being illegally harvested by the Americans.

The basic problem is that the U.S. is ignoring the terms of the Pacific salmon treaty originally signed in 1985 and under renegotiation since 1995. Instead of respecting the principle that salmon belong to the country of origin, Alaskan fishers are stealing Canadian sockeye salmon returning to spawn in Canadian waters where they were born. As they pass through Alaskan waters American fishers are taking four or five times more sockeye than they are entitled to under the terms of the treaty.

Even more recently, the U.S. has been aggressively overfishing the early run of salmon heading up the Fraser River in the south.

Despite the devastating effect of this overfishing on the west coast and the blatant disregard that the Americans have shown Canadian sovereignty, the federal government has done little to change this situation. In fact, the plan that the federal government has put in place is woefully inadequate.

If anything it does more to hurt the majority of B.C. fishers than help them, indeed the Mifflin plan named after the former Liberal fisheries minister actually punishes Canadians because it forces B.C. fishers to choose one specific zone to fish and allows licence staffing.

The Mifflin plan has been an ecological and sociological disaster. Internationally it has been proven that fisheries work when they are community based. However, what is the federal government doing? The federal government has undercut the community in favour of mega-companies that care more for the bottom line than for the preservation of our environment and our coastal communities. It edges out the fishers who live and work and raise their families in these communities and who have a real vested interest in the preservation of salmon stocks.

Simply put, the Mifflin plan has been a disaster in Atlantic Canada. It has been a disaster in western Canada and it has been a disaster for all of Canada. Even the promises that have been made about transitional funds have been a disaster.

The federal government had promised $30 million to the transitional funds for community fisheries development program. In a meeting with the president of the fishers union in B.C., Mr. John Radosevic, I was told that the people involved in that transitional plan are still waiting to have an answer from the federal government as to whether there will be multi-year funding.

My colleague, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, who is the critic for the west coast fisheries for our party, raised this in the House on October 1. What did the minister say? He said be patient.

The fishers of the west coast and the east coast have been more than patient. They have been waiting to see if this government will put an action plan into place to ensure there is preservation.

The only real leadership that we have seen in dealing with the west coast fisheries crisis has come from the premier of British Columbia and from many other people in my home province who clearly recognize that the time has come to take a stand. Premier Clark has been making tough decisions and what has the response of the federal government been? When the premier of B.C. moved to cancel the sea bed lease at Nanoose, did the federal government move to support B.C. efforts? No. The federal government is now suing the B.C. government and claiming that B.C. does not have the power to cancel the sea bed lease.

I can tell the House that the federal NDP has long held the position that Nanoose should be closed as a sea bed testing range for U.S. submarines. Why? It is a relic of the cold war and an environmental hazard. My colleague, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, tabled a motion on this precise issue in the House on September 23.

Second, when Mr. Clark initiated legal action against Alaska and Washington to enforce the terms of the treaty, the federal government refused to support the action and went even further and undermined the B.C. position by releasing legal opinions.

In a more recent development, when the U.S. Congress recently held congressional hearings on the issue, the federal government refused to send government representatives. So Canada's position was not at those hearings.

The leader of the NDP raised this issue in the House on September 25. Now there is real concern that the U.S. may walk away from the treaty altogether. Clearly the federal government has to do everything in its power to prevent this from happening because chaos will ensue.

The present fisheries minister, a British Columbian who we had hoped would take tough action, has done little to ease the burden of west coast fishers. By contrast, the minister did not even meet with B.C. fishermen until they had been driven out of frustration and need to take desperate measures in blocking the passage of an American passenger ferry. Even then, I am sure that the minister was persuaded more by American reaction than he was by Canadian desperation.

A recent provincial public opinion polls shows that the majority of British Columbians support the strong actions taken by our provincial government to achieve a fair and workable Pacific salmon treaty. Why will the federal government not do the same?

The Liberals say that they want to address westerners' feelings of alienation, but when push comes to shove they continue to ignore western concerns.

It is not good enough for the finance minister to attend a meeting on the west coast as he did last week and say “we are addressing your concerns”. Instead of spending his time publicly bashing the premier of B.C. as he did in the House of Commons, the minister of fisheries should be trying to emulate the tough stand that our premier has taken on behalf of B.C. fishers and coastal communities. The only real action that the federal Liberals have taken is to appoint someone to monitor the situation.

New Democrats have stood up in the House and will continue to stand up in the House to fight for the survival of coastal communities and sustainable jobs and a healthy fishery. We believe this must be the primary goal of the federal fisheries policy. The most important step toward achieving this goal is to genuinely share the control of the fishery with the women and men in the coastal communities that catch the fish.

Supply October 23rd, 1997

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time.

Finance October 23rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, that is not good enough. The government has cut billions of dollars from social programs and thrown in the towel on jobs and housing. Its child tax benefit does not help the poorest of the poor.

When will the minister establish national standards and give real support to ensure that no one goes hungry or homeless because their income has been pushed below survival levels?

Finance October 23rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.

Emergency shelters for the homeless across the country are running out of space and the cold weather has not yet hit. The government has abandoned programs that help the poorest and most vulnerable in society. The cuts have been devastating, including in my own riding of Vancouver East.

Will the minister take responsibility for this crisis of growing homelessness and outline what specific steps his government will take to shelter the homeless?

Education October 22nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.

Today the Canadian Federation of Students and B.C.'s minister of education joined forces to condemn schemes for income contingent loans. As the minister is well aware, these schemes have nothing to do with easing student debtload and everything to do with this government's lack of commitment to funding post-secondary education.

Will the minister once and for all reject income contingent loans? Will the minister instead restore hope to Canada's youth and commit to reducing—