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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was environmental.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Edmonton Strathcona (Alberta)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 44% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions January 29th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present e-petition 1825 from more than 600 Canadians.

The petitioners state that the Canadian government has publicly committed itself to the defence of human rights and that the federal law, the Magnitsky Act, has been passed, whereby the government has the power to take action against foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. They are concerned that the government has not taken action on Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Shumko and Volodymyr Balukh.

The petitioners therefore call on the government to take action to protect the 60 Ukrainians who were imprisoned in Russia and against those Russian entities.

Federal Sustainable Development Act January 28th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I have been following this debate and the level of hypocrisy is over the top. I recall all those trade deals that the Conservatives signed. What did they erase? All of the environmental provisions. I worked for the original environment commission in Montreal. I will note that in the new trade deal with the U.S., the Liberals undermined the environment in that deal too. There is a lot of hypocrisy here about genuinely acting on the words.

I would actually like to speak to Bill C-57. I know it might come as a surprise, as everybody is doing his or her electioneering here. What is important is that it is one thing to bring forward a bill and it is another thing to enact it. However, it is another thing to actually deliver the mandate and responsibilities under that bill.

The previous Liberal government and the previous Conservative government, as well as the present Liberal government, have all abjectly failed to deliver on the responsibilities of sustainable development. It is not me saying this. It is the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, who is appointed and retained in that position by the current Liberal government to review how well the government is delivering on its responsibilities.

It is also important to point out that in addition to the Sustainable Development Act, there is a second law. I would remind this place that a cabinet directive is binding law. We proved that with the Friends of the Oldman decision which involved a directive by cabinet on environmental assessment before we had the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. We proved in the Supreme Court that cabinet directives were legally binding.

There has been a cabinet directive in place on environmental assessment of policy, plan and programs for decades. However, successive Conservative and Liberal governments have abjectly failed to deliver on that as well. That comes in the reports from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The Liberals, of course, signed on, yet again. They love to go to these international meetings. They signed on to the sustainable development agenda 2030, with 17 goals. They signed onto that in September 2015. Maybe it was the Conservatives who did that. They committed to 169 targets and 230 indicators.

There were a lot of goals in that international agreement. We need to note here that despite an amendment that I tabled at committee, the government refused to incorporate any reference to the UN commitment in the bill we are discussing today, the sustainable development 2030 agenda. So much for the commitment.

I had wanted to raise this with a number of the speakers who stood, the Conservatives criticizing the Liberals, the Liberals criticizing the Conservatives. Since 2015, and I am only starting at 2015, the commissioner has delivered failing grades in her audits of government commitments to actually deliver on the responsibilities, both under the Sustainable Development Act and the cabinet directive.

In the fall of 2015, she found abject failure by four departments audited to even apply the cabinet directive, zero assessments delivered for 488 proposals to the fisheries minister and only one out of over a 1,000 proposals to the minister of agriculture. In 2016, she found only 23% of proposals audited had submitted the required strategic environmental assessment. In 2017, she found a mere 20% compliance by federal departments.

Last year, in 2018, the commissioner's latest report found that the Government of Canada, the Liberal government, had failed to even develop a formal approach to implementing the 2030 agenda and the goals, including a very narrow interpretation of sustainable development. We heard that today in the debate, a pretty narrow discussion of what was actually in there. There is no federal government structure, and we are not going to see it in the bill either.

Interestingly, the bill continues to give responsibility to the Minister of Environment and yet it is another minister who goes off to the UN to speak to the bill as if it is his responsibility. There is a lot of confusion out there among Canadians about who in the government is actually responsible for delivering on the responsibilities for sustainable development.

The commissioner found there was very limited national consultation and engagement, no national implementation plan, few national targets and no system in place to measure, monitor or report on national targets for sustainable development.

We have heard a lot of blathering in here today from the Liberals about how important the environment and the economy are. However, where is the commitment to actually deliver on those responsibilities?

Eventually we are going to have a debate on the bill. Interestingly, a good number of the amendments that are coming forward from the Senate to this place are exactly the same amendments that I put forward, which the Liberals rejected. So much for “we're all in this together” in committee.

I would note one amendment that is most interesting. The Senate presented to this place a series of three amendments, two of which were accepted. The third one the Green Party and I actually tabled as an amendment to the bill because the government, in its wisdom, talks about being environmentally thoughtful in its spending, in procurement, but it would remove the requirement that is in law right now that the government actually consider sustainable development when it is procuring.

Let us think about that. It was almost $5 billion to buy a pipeline. We might think that the government thought about whether it was a wise investment economically and environmentally. Where is the strategic environmental assessment for that purchase? How about the many infrastructure banks the government is setting up for private enterprise here and in other countries? Did it do a strategic environmental assessment as per the cabinet directive? No.

The question here is this: Where is the real commitment by the government of the day to generally deliver on these big promises it made to Canadians and the big promises it makes when going to UN meetings?

I attended the consultation at the UN, the big summit last summer. The government sent a big delegation. At the last second, it invited youth but there was only a handful who could afford to come. Therefore, we had a call for better consultation and engagement across Canada so that everybody can participate in this discussion. However, when we look at the goals, we are not just talking about the economy or the environment. When we look at those 17 goals, they cover everything. They cover indigenous rights, women's rights, agriculture and water. I am not hearing any debate in the House about the breadth of what we have committed to in the 2030 goals. The Liberals refused to reference those in the bill before us.

There is a second matter the Liberals refused to reference, despite the amendments I tabled at committee. They have refused to incorporate into the bill the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is one of the goals under the 2030 sustainable development goals. They abjectly refused to specifically reference that international commitment, despite the fact that the former justice minister and attorney general actually committed before the Assembly of First Nations that, going forward, her Liberal government would ensure that the United Nations declaration would be incorporated into every federal law. Therefore, they have broken that promise too.

It is all very nice that we have some amendments coming from the Senate, but they are basically pro forma. They are simply saying that we need to update the bill so that it is the same as the current Auditor General Act. However, when it comes to substantive measures, like being required to actually consider sustainable development when we are making major procurement decisions and when making major recommendations to cabinet, then no, they are abjectly failing. I would have liked to hear anybody in the government of the day stand up and say that, going forward, they were going to finally deliver on their responsibilities. However, I did not hear that once today.

To conclude, it was my honour to speak to the bill again. I remain committed to actually having a government in Canada that is sincere about delivering on its international commitments.

Federal Sustainable Development Act January 28th, 2019

Madam Speaker, when the Conservatives were in power, much to their credit, they brought back the eco-energy retrofit program, which was a great program that actually gave money to families or small businesses to retrofit their buildings so they could save on their energy bills. In fact, when I was on the public works committee, I actually brought forward the idea of looking at how much taxpayer money could be saved if the federal government invested in a major way in energy efficiency. In the end, we had a fabulous report, by the way, from a majority Conservative committee.

The Conservatives brought in this plan. It was over-subscribed. People loved it, and the Conservatives killed it. Why did they kill it? They wanted to bring down their deficit before the election.

Does the member not believe that a good initiative for sustainable development is to support Canadian families so they can do their part too and reduce their energy costs through a home energy retrofit program?

The Environment December 13th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, auditors general and the United Nations have expressed concern that Canada is in danger of missing its 2030 Paris target by a wide margin. Canada is in no position to be asking others to act. Given weak greenhouse gas reduction targets and a growing number of provinces reneging on their measures, it has become evident that the much-touted pan-Canadian framework is just a legal fiction.

Instead of calling on other nations to act, will the government take concrete measures now to ensure Canada does its part?

The Environment December 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are growing increasingly fearful of reports that impacts of climate change are worsening even beyond what scientists predicted. Pressure is mounting for this government to institute measures to make them more transparent and accountable for their decisions on climate action. The United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Finland have long ago instituted effective measures to make this happen. Merely appointing yet another hand-picked advisory body just does not cut it.

Will the Prime Minister support my Motion No. 204 to legally enact binding greenhouse gas targets, a duty to act, and measures to ensure improved accountability and transparency for federal action on climate change?

Customs Act December 11th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I find it interesting that time allocation is being put in place to try to reduce the amount of time we can debate the pros and cons of the value of this legislation, yet the Liberals themselves are just trying to stifle debate on the bill. They are not speaking to whether they have overused their power to impose time allocation.

If we added up all the time taken up in this place, since the Liberals took power, on reducing the opportunity for debate in the House, it would probably far exceed the opportunity to actually debate bills. Many of us, including me, wish to participate in substantive debate on a lot of bills, which change every day, if not by the hour, which makes it difficult for us to prepare for a constructive debate.

I truly wish the government would reconsider its use of the very undemocratic measures it has been using to end debate in this place.

Opioid Crisis in Canada December 10th, 2018

I am not sure there was a question there, Mr. Chair.

We have been very clear. We have called for decriminalization for personal use with regulation. We have been very clear, with regulation, and that would mean there would be a regulated supply in safe regulated places for access to this drug. It would be a perfect solution.

I am not sure what the rational is for refusing to take that additional small step forward on behalf of Canadians whose lives we could save.

Opioid Crisis in Canada December 10th, 2018

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank my colleague from Essex. I would like to thank all of my colleagues in this place who have spoken tonight.

As a lawyer, I want to reiterate what my colleague said earlier. The law defines a national emergency as “an urgent and critical situation of a temporary nature that (a) seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians and is of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province....”

We have not heard any rational response from the government this evening as to why it does not see this crisis of 10,000 Canadians who have been killed by an opioid overdose, or why it does not think that this is a situation where we should be calling for a national health emergency and triggering every conceivable mechanism available at all levels of government.

Opioid Crisis in Canada December 10th, 2018

Mr. Chair, I want to turn this discussion tonight in a slightly different direction. I will not call it a debate. Regretfully, it began as a debate, and it started to become hostile. I do not think that was the original intent of the evening. A number of members put forward very heartfelt, well-founded, evidence-based additional solutions. There is a lot of frustration. Those on this side of the House are getting frustrating that the government does not appear to be open, whatsoever, to any new ideas or any new investments.

I became involved in caring about this issue because of one of my constituents, a dear friend, Petra Schulz. I talked to Petra Schultz last evening, in preparing to come to this debate. I told her I probably would not have much chance to speak, but I wanted to share some of her experience. Many members have probably become familiar with Petra, because she has been covered very widely in the national media.

Petra lost her youngest child, Danny, at the age of 25 to an accidental fentanyl dose in 2014. It is important to recognize that Danny, like many of those with opioid addictions, had attended treatment. Many, or at least some, of addicted often revert to opioids again, because it is an addiction, as much as they do not want to.

It is also very important to understand that Petra is one of hundreds of mothers across this country who have come together to call on the government to take deeper action. The kinds of action they are calling for are exactly the recommendations that have been made tonight in this debate. Where do those recommendations for action come from? They come from the health and legal experts in our country.

These mothers are not just coming up with these ideas off the top of their head. They work very hard. They do not want any more children lost in this country. Petra, along with the other mothers, have participated in everything they can. They go out and talk at schools. They meet with government and so forth.

They have come forward, through to ask for specific actions. They have asked for the government to take a public health approach to drugs based on evidence and human rights. Harm reduction is a key component of a comprehensive response to drugs to prevent drug-related harm and death. They have called for the decriminalization of the possession of drugs for personal use as an essential to a public health approach.

Petra says that it is fundamental to remove the stigma. That is what removing the stigma means. Many do not seek the treatment because they are drug users, and our society does not look fondly on drug users.

I mentioned that these moms have taken action together. They all wrote to the Prime Minister and to the federal Minister of Health, and not a single one of those mothers has received a response. Not a single one of those mothers who has lost a child to addiction to opioids has received a response to their letter to the Prime Minister or to the Minister of Health. I would recommend tonight that doing so might be a start, if the government really cares about the trauma of suffering, of losing someone to opioid addiction.

I could quote, if I had more time, which I do not, Leslie McBain, who also lost her son. She is one of the co-founders of this organization. She is calling, in desperation, on the government to decriminalize the drug. As she says, “jail has never cured addiction. For every dollar spent in harm reduction, $7 is saved in medical care, enforcement and the criminal justice system.”

On behalf of all of these mothers who have lost their children to this addiction because they could not receive the support they deserved, I beg the government to consider acting expeditiously on the recommendations that have been made this evening by all members on all sides of this place.

We cannot wait any longer: 10,000 Canadians have been lost to opioid addictions, to fentanyl which kills, to carfentanil which kills. We took action on SARS.

The federal government has the spending power. It transfers money for mental health. Surely to heavens, if we accept that opioid addiction is a mental health problem, why can it not transfer additional funds? We are not telling the government to set up these centres. We are simply saying provinces, municipalities, towns and first nations are begging the federal government to step in and give more assistance.

Opioid Crisis in Canada December 10th, 2018

Madam Chair, I am rising on a point of privilege. I am deeply troubled that my colleague across the way would suggest that I think this is a laughing matter. No one heard one laugh from me on this serious matter.