House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was housing.

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

The Environment December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, welcome to parliamentary secretary day.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that no other country was regulating oil and gas, but a briefing note from Environment Canada explains that in fact the United States is already regulating oil and gas. It says, “For oil and gas, recent air pollution regulations are expected to result in significant GHG reduction”.

Did the Minister of the Environment ever read that briefing note?

Health December 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to advertising, pharmaceutical companies appear to have free rein. Apparently, the minister believes that these companies should just regulate themselves.

A newly released study shows that Health Canada is failing on its regulatory responsibilities for advertising, and when Canadians complain about public safety risks, a private chat with a company is all that is required, according to the government.

Why does the minister refuse to enforce her own department's regulations?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comment and the very specific attention to detail that the member for Toronto—Danforth has brought forward. It serves as a good example of how some committee members do due diligence. We listen to witnesses and the suggestions they put forward. They are often experts, and my colleague has named one here.

Then we put forward amendments, but they just do not seem to mean anything anymore. What we end up with is a bill that has very broad powers, has extraordinary generality, and raises the possibility that either it will be challenged or that those powers will be abused. That is the problem, and that is what we are here to protect against. Unfortunately, when they are overruled by a majority in the House, those protections do not exist anymore.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her perception. All I can say is thank God there are NDP members in the House who are willing to make sure that this debate takes place and that at least there is some public airing.

Our responsibility is to go through bills and to hold the government to account. We are the official opposition. We believe there is meant to be other opposition too, but apparently on this bill it has somehow gone silent. It is quite astounding that we have only had one government member and one Liberal member speak to this bill. What is with that? Why are we not going through this bill and debating it properly at report stage? Why are we not taking note of what happened at committee and thinking about what those witnesses said and why that was not reflected in an amended bill?

What does report stage even mean any more? Amendments come forward and are just summarily thrown out because, as my colleague has said, the government wants to impose its view of things. She is entirely correct in her assessment, and it is a very unfortunate day for Parliament.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-44, especially after my colleagues have been speaking very eloquently with respect to the concerns we have with the bill. As I was reading through the notes on the bill, it struck me that it is a similar pattern to one we experienced on Bill C-2, which was also before the public safety committee very recently, having to do with safe consumption sites.

The bill was only approved at second reading on November 18. Here we are in early December, and already we are at report stage. That means the bill was rushed through the House and it was then rushed through the committee. In fact, there were three committee meetings. Witness testimony happened over two days, and then there was clause-by-clause at the third meeting. We have to remember that committee hearings are only two hours. We basically had four hours of testimony from witnesses and one meeting of clause-by-clause consideration.

I want us to stop and think about that.

What has happened to the legislative process in Parliament is really quite shocking. I do remember the days when a bill would have adequate debate in the House. When a bill went to committee, it was considered a very serious proposition. We might hear witnesses for a couple of weeks, over several meetings.

I know that you, Mr. Speaker, would remember. You were part of the justice committee and a very able representative for the NDP. I know you dealt with umpteen bills. Even when you were dealing with them, they were being rushed through. However, prior to that, there was a sense that as parliamentarians, as legislators, we were doing our job and we were really examining a bill.

Now we have come to this place where the attitude and the pattern of operation is to basically rush everything through, and if we dare to criticize and say that something needs a little more time, then we are told we are holding something up, that we are doing it for political reasons.

However, these are very significant bills that we debate. This one in particular has to do with the powers of CSIS. This is an organization that Canadians read about from time to time when something might come forward in terms of a particular case or situation. However, basically Canadians have very little knowledge about CSIS and how it operates, other than individuals who may have had direct contact with the organization because they were being investigated in some way.

When we look at the modernization of CSIS, and we understand that is what the bill is meant to be about, that is certainly very important. After 30 years, there is no question that it needs to be modernized. However, it does require full scrutiny. It absolutely requires full scrutiny by members of Parliament, by a committee, and by the witnesses who are called to committee.

It is shocking that of all the amendments that were put forward—I believe the NDP put forward 12, the Liberals put forward 5, and the Green Party put forward 6—as was similar to Bill C-2, none were approved. Not one.

I think we have a very serious situation. We have a majority government that basically calls the shots and does not even pretend to be interested in a legislative process and examining a bill as to whether it might be improved upon, or whether there are legitimate criticisms, flaws in a bill. In fact, what is concerning about the bill is that, as we have heard with other bills that have been before the House, if it goes through in its current form, it too may end up in some kind of constitutional challenge. Again, it is a pattern that is emerging.

I did want to put that on the record because it worries me. We come to work here to represent our constituents. We come into the House to participate in a process in good faith, but we find out that the process has been completely jigged. There is no space, no room, no engagement, to have a constructive review of an important piece of legislation. That bothers me.

In my riding of Vancouver East, I was at a very important gathering of aboriginal people, who were speaking about the missing and murdered aboriginal women and the need for a national inquiry. We think of the impact of that issue in terms of public safety, and yet we see very little movement from the government on the issue. We see a bill being rushed through here that would also have an impact on public safety and an impact on the public interest, and we see virtually no debate. It is a very sad day.

As many of my colleagues have pointed out in the debate at report stage today, the NDP did support this bill at second reading. New Democrats actually agreed that it should go to committee, that we should take a look at it. We worked diligently at committee, and I certainly want to congratulate my colleagues on the committee who brought forward the amendments. It takes a lot of time to bring forward amendments. They heard the witnesses. The witnesses themselves made a number of suggestions to improve the modernization of CSIS. With any expansion of powers, the most critical thing is to ensure that there is proper oversight.

We can go back as far as the Maher Arar commission, which surely is one of the pivotal moments in Canadian political history in terms of security. I was in the House when that travesty took place, trying to understand what happened to Maher Arar and calling for a national inquiry. Of course, that finally did happen and the recommendations of the commission of inquiry came out in 2006. I wonder what happened to those recommendations. In fact, we know that the inquiry called for a number of recommendations and urgently pointed out that measures needed to be put in place to have oversight of Canada's intelligence agencies. That was eight years ago. No one can forget the Maher Arar inquiry. No one can forget what happened to that Canadian, and the hell that he went through. If we have learned anything, surely it is an examination of our own intelligence procedures and methodologies. We have to live up to the recommendations of the commission of inquiry, and yet they have not been implemented. How awful is that?

Here we are with another bill that would change the way that CSIS operates overseas, and yet we have not addressed the fundamental question with CSIS that has been pointed out to us again and again, which is the need for proper oversight. We hear this, as well, from the privacy and information commissions of Canada. These are folks who need to be paid attention to. These are folks who pay close attention to privacy and information in Canada, and they know the balance on what is required in terms of privacy and information. Yet at their annual meeting, they also brought forward the need to have effective oversight included in any legislation established for any additional powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Where is it? Why are we dealing with this bill in isolation?

Now we are at report stage, and suffice it to say that New Democrats will be opposing this bill because the oversight has not been brought in. The Security Intelligence Review Committee, which has ended up being a part-time committee, is not adequate. We have seen that the position of inspector general of CSIS was eliminated in 2012, so even the internal monitoring of CSIS has greatly diminished. We are in a bad state of affairs.

We want to ensure that if there is any expansion of CSIS, that it be done by protecting civil liberties and it be be done with proper oversight. This bill would do neither, and therefore it deserves to be voted down. There should be a proper examination that takes place.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I heard my colleague talk about the historic health transfer to the provinces from the federal government. As the health critic for the NDP, I have to say that the only things historic about it are that, one, it was done unilaterally by the federal government; two, in the long run it would shortchange the provinces by about $36 billion, and this has been shown both by the premiers and the parliamentary budget office; and, three, it has signalled a complete disengagement by the federal government on health care.

These transfers were always a matter of negotiation. There were always agreed-to outcomes. We saw the health accord from 2004 expire this year, on March 31, and nothing has replaced it. We have a vacuum in federal leadership.

I am very proud of the work that the NDP has done to put forward a plan for renewing and strengthening our public health care system, but I see nothing from the Conservative government. In fact, I see us going backward.

I wonder if the member could comment about whether he has taken note that the provinces are very unhappy with the status of the federal government when it comes to health care.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I must say, you look very fine in the chair. You make a very good Speaker. It is very nice to see you there.

I listened very carefully to my colleague from Parkdale—High Park. She describes so similarly what I also face in Vancouver in terms of high housing costs, transit issues, climate change, and a dense urban environment where people are really struggling to make ends meet.

One of the things that is so disappointing is that there has not been a commitment by the federal government to a national housing plan. We have seen sporadic programs that come and go. Really, when we look at the scope of what is needed for affordable housing in this country, it is huge. It is actually a very solid investment in terms of jobs in energy retrofits for homes, for example. I wonder if I could ask the member if the need for affordable housing is a critical need in her city as well.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we know that this is another massive omnibus bill. It is almost 500 pages and 400 clauses and, again, is going in many different directions, so there is much that we could focus on in this bill that is very problematic.

However, one of the things that I want to single out is the clauses that deny access to social assistance for refugee claimants.

It is really perplexing that the Conservatives have, in effect, taken a private member's bill that came under a lot of fire in the media and now put it in this omnibus bill, which would allow the provinces to impose residency requirements for people without permanent status. This is something that would really hurt refugee claimants; certainly, in my community where we do have a lot of refugee claimants who are on very low income.

I want the member to really be transparent and tell us why the government made the decision to take a private member's bill that was getting a lot of criticism and try to hide it in an omnibus bill?

Status of Women December 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the tragic murder of Zahra Abdille and her children shows how our system fails women fleeing violence. Women like Ms. Abdille need support, like legal aid and housing.

A Canadian Bar Association report said:

...victims of domestic violence are among the most vulnerable in society and require access to legal and other services to protect themselves and their children.

What measures is the government taking to improve access to legal aid and housing for women who are fleeing violence?

Status of Women December 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, 14 women were killed at École Polytechnique, 25 years ago on December 6. These women were killed because they were women. I know that all of our thoughts are with the families of those women, but we must also commit ourselves to action. Twenty-five years later violence is still targeted at women because of gender. Will the government commit to working together with the NDP and our action plan to end violence against women?