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

Supply October 21st, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. The unemployment rate for young people who have had the opportunity to go through post secondary education is lower than for young people who have not. However, that does not deal with the crisis of young people in post-secondary education who are now facing massive debts and are basically graduating into poverty. That is an issue this government has not addressed.

As I mentioned earlier, the millennium scholarship fund which the government claims will start in the year 2000 will not help students today and will not help students who are in great financial need because it is based on a scholarship program.

Yes, post-secondary education is critical in terms of finding a good paying job, but what are we saying to our young people when we force them into poverty and into massive debts of $25,000, which is what this Liberal government has done by cutting back on post-secondary education? That is the effect of what the government is doing.

Supply October 21st, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. It is something which he has raised with me before. The issue of fair taxation is something that is very important to us in the NDP. It is something which has not been taken up by the Reform Party.

What we are talking about is a situation where profitable businesses pay a fair share of taxation. Look at the taxation system and the burden it places on working people and middle income people. Time and again we hear we have to tighten our belts. If there were loopholes they would have to be taken away. When it comes to businesses those loopholes still exist.

All we are calling for is a program of taxation reform, a program of fair taxation that will ensure we will not continue to see a shift in taxation from major corporations to individuals. That is the issue.

I never hear Reform or Liberal members or the finance minister addressing this. Why do we not hear those members willing to stand up and question why profitable corporations are not paying taxes? Those are issues which should be raised by the government and by the Reform Party. I challenge them to do that.

Supply October 21st, 1997

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak in support of the very important motion placed before the House today by the New Democratic Party.

As a new member of the House, having been here for about a month and listening to the debates which have taken place, I have been struck by the rhetoric that flows around this room. What is important about the motion is that it deals with the number one issue facing Canadians.

It was our commitment from the day we came to the House to raise the issue and make the government accountable with respect to unemployment and job creation.

I was in my riding of Vancouver East last week when the finance minister was also in Vancouver speaking to the finance committee about the state of the economy. He was in the Hotel Vancouver with all the media and the fancy hardware making his speech. I was across the street with some of my constituents. It was not a huge crowd. They were people who had rallied at the last minute because they had heard the finance minister was coming to town. They wanted to speak out. They wanted to address what they understood to be the real issues facing them as well as other Canadians.

The finance minister spoke about the state of the economy. He gave himself and the government a nice pat on the back. We were across the street in the pouring rain, unfurling a banner which pointed out that social and human costs of the budget of the Minister of Finance had been devastating to our communities.

When I went back into the hotel to listen to the finance minister, none of his statistics pointed to the real crisis we are facing, which is unemployment among our young people and other Canadians. We have growing poverty. The motion before the House today addresses this question.

I listened to the Secretary of State for Children and Youth earlier today say that the NDP has not been here and might not be aware of what the government has done for youth unemployment and young people in general. We may not have been in the House with party status in the last parliament, but we have been aware along with other Canadians of exactly what the government has not been doing to address unemployment, particularly unemployment among our youth.

No matter what the government says, there is no escaping the fact that for the 84th month we are facing an unemployment rate of 9% or more. We are now facing the highest sustained unemployment rate since the 1930s. When we couple that with the severe cutbacks that the government has enacted in its obsession to deal with the deficit, we can see what a toll it has taken on Canadians.

When we consider 1.4 million Canadians are unemployed and add in those who are underemployed and those who have dropped out because they have given up looking for work, we are really talking about 3 million Canadians who have failed in the system because the system has failed them.

Earlier today I heard a member saying that sacrifices had to be made, that these were tough times and we had to make sacrifices. A question needs to be raised. Sacrifices by whom?

The fact is that the record of the government and the finance minister is being carried out on the backs of the unemployed. It is being carried out on the backs of women who are trying to re-enter the workforce. It is being carried out on the backs of young people.

When we look at real statistics in terms of new jobs that have been generated, part-time work with lower benefits and no job security, and when we look at the cutbacks there has been a sacrifice. But that sacrifice has not been equally shared by all Canadians. I think that point has to be made. We need to understand who has really paid the price.

One thing is clear. The government's economic proposals and its obsession with dealing with the deficit and meeting the agenda of corporate Canada have been at the expense of the lowest 20% of low wage income.

We heard from my colleague from Acadia—Bathurst about the situation of unemployment insurance and what a severe impact it has had on unemployed workers.

When we talk about sacrifices and what opportunities have been created, we need to know why the government has not addressed the issue of fair taxation. Why will we be witnessing for another year a record $7 billion in windfall profits for major Canadian banks? Why do we still have $17 billion in deferred taxes? Why do we have tens of thousands of profitable corporations and businesses that do not pay any taxes?

We have to tell the Minister of Finance that his state of the economy is really a one-sided view. It has failed on every ground to address the real crisis of unemployment. It has failed to address growing poverty. It has failed to address that in the 1990s we have seen a decrease in full-time jobs and an increase in low wage, part-time jobs.

We are here today with our motion to draw attention to stark reality and to say that it is time the government is held accountable for the situation in terms of unemployment.

I would like to address one particular aspect which concerns young people. Youth unemployment is double the national average. At this time almost 500,000 young people are unemployed. Since the Liberals took office in 1993, 40,000 more young people have ended up on the unemployment roles. For those who are lucky enough to find a job there has been a doubling of part-time work. It is very difficult to find full-time work.

We hear the Liberals say they are committed to youth. Listening to the minister today, these are just hollow words that have no meaning for young people who are desperately trying to pay off student loans and find work.

If the government were truly committed to young people and solving the crisis of unemployment among them, the first thing it would do is restore the cuts to post-secondary education. This year alone we will be witnessing a cut of $550 million. Is it any wonder that tuition fees have gone up 45% since 1993.

The government should take note of what the provincial government in British Columbia has been able to achieve. Despite federal cutbacks of $2.29 billion in post-secondary education, the NDP provincial government has been able to hold the line and freeze tuition fees to give our young people a fighting chance to get through post-secondary education.

Under the Liberal plan what is happening? Our young people are graduating into poverty. The government has to restore funding to post-secondary education.

We have heard a lot about this millennium fund and that somehow it is a wonderful thing that will happen in the year 2000 to help young people. Young people cannot wait until the year 2000.

Young people need assistance for post-secondary education and they need to have a freeze of tuition fees. They do not need a scholarship program. They need a realistic plan that will relieve their debt load which is now at $25,000. That is what we are saying to young people who go to post-secondary education.

The hollow words and the rhetoric I have heard from members in the House are little comfort to unemployed Canadians. If we are serious about our commitment to unemployment the government has to address a program of job creation. It has to embark on a program of fair taxation. It has to ensure that it intervenes in the marketplace.

Today I heard from a hon. member across the way that some how the marketplace is responsible for job creation, not the government. If we look at the cutbacks we have witnessed in the last four years, $7 billion in the public sector alone, they have had a massive impact on unemployment.

This motion brings back a sense of reality to the House. It is a motion that addresses the real issues facing Canadians. Those of us in the NDP caucus have listened to the government records. We have witnessed the record of the government and so have Canadians. We are determined to continue to raise the number one problem of unemployment. To have 1.4 million Canadians unemployed is absolutely unacceptable. It is a national disgrace and it is a crisis. The finance minister and the Liberal government have to make this the number one priority.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act October 7th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I draw to the attention of the House and the government the grave situation facing students in this country who are reeling under student loan debt and the crisis which is in our post-secondary institutions.

I raised a question in the House last week and asked the minister responsible what the government was prepared to do to provide real financial assistance to students.

The fact is that post-secondary education and student loan debt has now reached a crisis proportion. Despite the recommendations and announcements of the government on its intentions in the throne speech, the crisis continues.

There is a huge gap in the reality of what the government is saying, what it is purporting to do and what the reality is that is facing our institutions and students in this country.

If the Liberal government is truly committed, as it repeatedly says it is, to access an opportunity for young people in Canada, then why have we seen a cut of more than $2 billion in our post-secondary educational institutions since 1993? Why has there been a cut of $550 million this year alone?

The truth is that the government has shown by its actions, not by the rhetoric but by its actions that it does not care. It does not care about the student loan debts which students are facing in this country. It does not care that it is more difficult for our post-secondary institutions to deal with the financial crisis which is upon them.

Recently the Canadian Federation of Students produced a major report called the “Blueprint for Access ”. In that document they pointed out that the average debt load will be $25,000 for students by June 1998. That is up from $13,000 in 1993 when the Liberals took office. This is an appalling and shocking fact and shows the real lack of commitment this government has shown to young people and students.

In 1995-96 more than 7,800 students who received Canada student loans declared bankruptcy. Is this a healthy system? Does this demonstrate to us that students are coping in the institutions? The contrary is true.

Another astounding fact is that tuition fees in Canada have reached a national average of $3,100 which surpasses the average of publicly funded institutions in the United States. This is something Canadians are not aware of.

How has the government responded to this crisis? We have heard vague promises of the millennium fund. There was no consultation and this fund will not help students today who are graduating into poverty. What we need are national standards for accessibility. We need a real commitment of leadership from the government to help students today with financial assistance and a flexible program that will relieve the debt load. We do not need some vague promise about a scholarship fund in the millennium which will not help students who are in grave difficulty today.

We call on the government to end the rhetoric and to put into action accessibility as a national standard and to show leadership by providing the financial commitments to assist students today.

Health October 3rd, 1997

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

There is a public health emergency in Vancouver's downtown east side. It is an epidemic of HIV infection, particularly among injection drug users, and Vancouver has now had the highest incident rate in the developed world. Death from drug overdoses is the number one killer for men and women aged 30 to 44.

Will the minister commit here and now to show the leadership that is called for in the national action plan?

Speech From The Throne October 2nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question. The NDP policy on fair taxation is not a mantra or a code word, it is a serious issue.

Over the last few decades we have seen a significant shift in taxation policy from corporations to individuals. The tax burden is being carried by working people and by middle income people. There are tens of thousands of profitable businesses and corporations that pay not a dime in taxes.

This is not a code word. It is a basic fundamental issue that is the business of this House. We must ensure that we have a fair and equitable taxation system.

I can say, looking at the record, that the Liberal government has moved us further and further away from that. I would suggest to the hon. member and other members of the Reform Party that it would be to their credit if they would also take up the issue of fair taxation for Canadians, instead of their code word “cutbacks” which are hurting the poor people in Canada.

Speech From The Throne October 2nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments and his question. He has outlined the sensitivity of the issues that I have raised and remarked on the fact that the government has been insensitive and callous in its treatment of poor people. I acknowledge the comments of the hon. member and share his view.

I also agree that it is very clear that the Liberal government has acted in concert with multinational corporations. There is no question that the public finances and our taxation system have been designed to assist those wealthy corporations.

One of the major issues which we need to address in the House, which my fellow New Democrats and I will raise, is the issue of fair taxation. We live in a very wealthy country. The issue is not whether there is enough money. The issue is how those funds are distributed.

When the hon. member's private member's bill comes forward we will examine it with great seriousness and sensitivity to ensure the common goals that we have, are supported in the House.

Speech From The Throne October 2nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to be here in this House in the 36th Parliament as the new member representing the riding of Vancouver East.

I have to say as I make my inaugural speech that I feel a very heavy responsibility as I struggle to find the ways and means to bring to the attention of this House a sense of the urgency that comes from the communities I represent.

We are not wealthy or affluent communities. Vancouver East is a highly urban community of over 100,000 people from very diverse and multicultural backgrounds. It is made up of people who are coping with the difficulties of everyday life. In many ways the experience of my first week in this House of Commons seems very far removed from the sometimes harsh realities of life in east Vancouver. Yet despite these difficulties the pride and dignity in Vancouver East is a model for other communities to embrace.

It is a community with a long tradition of social activism and social commitment. It is home to many of Canada's First Nations peoples as well as home to many new Canadians who find in east Vancouver a balance of Canadian roots and multicultural diversity.

If we walk up and down Commercial Drive or through bustling historic Chinatown or along the neighbourhood streets of Strathcona, one of Vancouver's oldest communities, the sense of unique neighbourhoods and their history and character is very evident.

At Hastings and Nanaimo we experience the urban flavour of thriving small businesses that serve the community. There is the landmark Carnegie Centre on one corner of Main and Hastings and the Four Corners Community Savings opposite. At the Kiwassa Neighbourhood House the breakfast program for families is a welcoming start to the day. There is also the pioneering Western Front artist run centre in Mount Pleasant, the Italian Cultural Centre and the new Chinese Cultural Centre Museum. These are only a few of the many community facilities and programs that serve and define east Vancouver as a place of strength and support for its residents.

Unfortunately my riding, like many other ridings and communities in Canada, is also living the consequences of federal Liberal policies of continuing high unemployment especially among youth and aboriginal peoples, of growing poverty, homelessness and inadequate housing.

Vancouver East is poorer because of the failure of this government to aggressively deal with unemployment and declining wages. At the same time this federal government has slashed our social programs at an unprecedented level. There is more homelessness in my community because the federal government has callously abandoned the development of social and co-op housing.

Some of the people in my riding are never heard by those in power. In the downtown east side, in one of the communities in Vancouver East, more than 6,000 people live in what is called single occupant rooms, meaning that they are living in very substandard accommodation. In this same community, we are struggling to cope with a health crisis that results from poverty, an epidemic of HIV transmission among injection drug users.

I brought this to the attention of the Minister of Health in my first week in this House. The people of Vancouver East are waiting for a response with hope that the government will demonstrate that it is willing to act. We ask: How many more deaths will there be? Already over 1,200 British Columbians have died from drug overdoses since 1993.

Vancouver poet and activist, Bud Osbourne, spoke to the community about these and other tragic deaths. He said “But with these thousand crosses planted in Oppenheimer Park today, who really see them, feel sorrow, feel loss, feel rage? Our hearts shed bitter tears. These thousand crosses are symbols of the social apartheid in our culture, the segregation of those who deserve to live and those who are abandoned to die”.

Last week I listened very carefully to my first throne speech. I listened for words of concrete action to be taken, for example, to assist students reeling from the burden of student loan debts or for real targets to reduce unemployment and eliminate poverty. I hoped to hear about commitment to act against violence against women or to hear that the government is going to introduce a national child care program so often promised by the Liberals, or for any indication that the government might finally embark on a campaign of fair taxation to ensure that the vast wealth in this country is something that benefits all Canadians.

However, there was silence from the government on these critical issues. It led me to think about what meaning there is in being here in this place that honours tradition and ritual and holds to represent the people of Canada. The meaning, I believe, is created by the change that is possible if we have the will to act. I know that I and my fellow New Democrats bring back to this House a value and tradition that has almost disappeared, a quest for social justice and social equality and a voice for those who have been silenced and shut out.

We live in an increasingly globalized corporate economy where the rights of multinational corporations, about to be embodied in the multilateral agreement on investment and furthered by APEC, are seen as more important than the rights of people and sustainable human development.

However, as New Democrats we believe that we can bring hope and change not only to this House but to Canadians who believe as well in the progress of nations as outlined in a 1996 UN report. It states “The day will come when the progress of nations will be judged not by their military or economic strength, nor by the splendour of their capital cities and public buildings, but by the well-being of their peoples: by their levels of health, nutrition and education; by their opportunities to earn a fair reward for their labours; by their ability to participate in the decisions that affect their lives; by the respect that is shown for their civil and political liberties; by the provision that is made for those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged; and by the protection that is afforded to the growing minds and bodies of their children”.

The people of Vancouver East expect and deserve no less and I am honoured to represent and fight for their interests in this House.

Post-Secondary Education September 30th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the government clearly does not understand the depth of the problem. What is needed is a real solution to ensure that tuition fees no longer exclude students without deep pockets.

Will the government commit to working with the provinces to make accessibility a new national standard for higher education?

Post-Secondary Education September 30th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

Tuition fees for students have skyrocketed and are now higher in Canada than in the U.S.A. The average debt load for graduating students is predicted to be $25,000. Students are graduating into poverty. The government's new fund will not help 90 percent of the students who need financial assistance.

When will the government sit down with students and others to find real solutions to lead us to an accessible post-secondary educational system?