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Liberal MP for Ajax (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 56% of the vote.
Statements in the House
The Senate January 29th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I do understand the nature of the member's cynicism. For 10 years, we saw broken promises, inaction, and incredible disappointment when it came from the Senate.
In the last election, we promised a new merit-based, transparent and open process that would allow Canadians from coast to coast to coast to apply to serve our great country. I am immensely confident in that process. I would suggest the member share that confidence and take a look at how the process will work, take a look at the eminent Canadians who will lead it, and take a look at the incumbents who will come out of it.
Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply January 26th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague and neighbour from Pickering—Uxbridge on her maiden speech and the great job she did in stating the priorities of the government as articulated in the throne speech.
It is a tremendous privilege to be able to ask this question of someone whom I remember volunteering in my campaign office when I was first running federally, and to have then watched her successful career municipally. It is an honour to see the member here. I look forward to working with my good friend as she continues her work in the House.
I know that the member would have been exposed to the major challenges that municipalities have faced in dealing with the federal government over the last decade, in having priorities imposed on them that were often political in nature as opposed to really meeting the needs at a municipal level to drive their growth and success.
Through the priorities articulated in the throne speech, could the member talk about how she sees this new relationship with municipalities working and how she thinks it should work given her experience in municipal politics?
Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply January 26th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, let me quickly continue the lovefest here and say to my hon. colleague that I could not have imagined a day when I would have the opportunity to rise in response to a question of his. It is a profound honour to serve with somebody who is such a good friend over such a long period of time. I look forward to serving with him for many years if we are blessed with that opportunity.
As it relates to transit, this must be our biggest priority. The transit system in Durham is woefully inadequate. Our green infrastructure needs investment. There is an enormous amount of work to be done. We are talking with our mayors. We are working with the province. We will be working with members opposite to ensure that Durham gets its fair share and we get it moving.
Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply January 26th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with the hon. member to strengthen Durham. We have a lot of good work ahead.
On the specific question he asked, the problem is that marijuana is already accessible to young people. As I said in my comments, for over 20% of young people there is a current prevalence rate of marijuana.
We can live in a pretend reality where we imagine that young people do not have access to it, where we imagine that is not the case, but the reality of the efforts for the last 10 years is a consistent increase in the prevalence rate for which this substance is smoked and utilized.
If there is an honest interest, and let us be clear about that, in actually reducing the prevalence of marijuana among young people, then the science is clear. The science is that, as it currently stands, it is far too easy for a young person to obtain the substance, that criminals do not care who they sell their product to, that the controls are utterly inadequate, and that the policies of the past have been an abject failure.
The reality is, when we look at where tobacco was, there was a prevalence rate of almost 50%. The policies around restriction, around ensuring young people did not have access, around going after public health campaigns to ensure that people understood the dangers of the substance they were dealing with, allowed that prevalence rate to be pulled from over 50% down to 9% for youth. That is pretty instructive.
If we set as an objective the reduction of the prevalence rate of marijuana to the prevalence rate of smoking, as a near-term target, and I do not suggest that is an end, then we would have accomplished much, but what has been accomplished to date is nothing but failure. If we want to make real change, let us do it.
Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply January 26th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.
What a pleasure it is to return to Parliament on this, my fourth time, and rise again in the House.
Let me start, Mr. Speaker, by congratulating you. It has been a tremendous honour and privilege to work with you, and to see you as the Chair is very satisfying indeed. I look forward to your tenure, and I hope it is long.
I remember my first time visiting this place when I was a student from Westney Heights Public School in Ajax. I came here in Grade 8 with a student tour. I was infused by the possibility that this place represented, that people of any background or walk of life could come here and represent their home community and get the opportunity to make a difference. I am maintained by that same optimism and sense of wonder as I stand here today.
I want to say to the residents and voters of Ajax how profoundly lucky I feel and how appreciative I am of the opportunity to serve.
I also want to thank my family and, in particular, my children. Many members know already and some are just finding out that this can be a challenging life for a family. My son Braeson who is 20, my daughter Maia, and my youngest boy Riley have been phenomenal supports in my life. I am so lucky to have them. I am blessed and deeply appreciative to have a wonderful family.
I want to thank my incredible campaign team, specifically my campaign manager Evan Wiseman, Sterling Lee, my friends from Heart & Stroke who were incredible on the campaign, Krista Orendorff, Alex Maheux, Nadia Formigoni. I also want to thank Jules Monteyne, Norma Telfer, Rhonda Evans, Sumi Shan, Surinder Kumar, Humera Khan, Jim and Liz Wiseman, Milan Kubik, Tom Thiru, Dinesh Kumar, Randy Low, Stephanie Ince, and so many others. Much work goes into the opportunity of serving.
When I look at the problems that are facing the folks who live in Ajax, and when I was presented with the opportunity over a period of 100 days, like so many members, to knock on doors and share in conversations about what was worrying them and keeping them up at night, it became evident that basically making ends meet was a major challenge for so many of them, getting the opportunity to send their kids away to school, or pay for the obligations of a mortgage. They faced these challenges but were not earning more money. They had been stuck over the last decade in the same financial circumstances. One of the reasons we have the honour of being able to serve in this place is that we spoke directly to the need of those in the middle class, and those struggling to join it, to be able to get ahead, to be able to get a bit more. That is why the throne speech talks directly about the middle class tax cuts we intend to bring forward to help alleviate that challenge.
One of the things that was deeply concerning for residents of Ajax was their ability just to get to work. I talked to people who had commuting times of over one hour and who were frustrated with an antiquated transit system that was poorly invested in. These people just want the opportunity to get home quickly to see their families. They want to get to work and then go home to the life they want without spending so much of their time in gridlock. They understand that our plan to invest in infrastructure would mean a better life for them. It would mean more time with their families. They also understand that, with a struggling economy, the investment in infrastructure would give us an opportunity to improve our economic circumstance and get the economy rolling again. They understand that infrastructure is the best way we could invest. They saw the chronic under-investment that had been taking place in Durham specifically and the GTA more generally. They saw it as needing a change. Our plan as articulated in the throne speech speaks directly to that ambition.
I also heard a lot—and this relates directly to my opportunity to serve as parliamentary secretary—about the need to conduct the business of government differently. This was materially different in the last election and the four elections that I had run in previously, where people spoke about the tone and tenor of the debate in Ottawa, the high degree of partisanship and the visceral nature of it, the personal attacks rather than focus on matters of substance, and the need for each and every one of us to do better and to do more. For the first time I heard real concerns about the strength of our democracy, watching our parliamentary institutions—parliamentary officers whose responsibility it is to hold vigil over the institutions that keep our democracy strong—grow weak.
I was reminded in this place of my work with the Parliamentary Budget Officer when I was the critic for public safety and national security. I was trying to get cost estimates for bills before we voted on them, asking for something as simple as information on how much something was going to cost before we voted on it, and colleagues, we could not get that. We could not get straight answers, whether it was on corrections, jets, or any other matter. We saw that problem disintegrate, get worse and get deeper.
Our democracy is held strong, not because we are a better country, not because we know more than others, or because we are just better people. It is held strong because of the institutions that guard it. It is made strong because of the parliamentary officers who vigorously provide oversight, who ask uncomfortable questions, and shine lights in dark corners. Our democracy is held strong because of those institutions. It may seem that it serves us in the short-term to allow those institutions to weaken, so that we can hold power or gain advantage, but the erosion that causes is fundamental.
As the former executive director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, I am also deeply encouraged by the words in the throne speech to take action on preventative health. The reality is that we have for the first time a generation of young people who are really facing enormous poor health. We have had a tripling of childhood obesity in just a generation. We have a tsunami of chronic disease and illness that is going to hit this country unless we take it very seriously.
I can speak for the diseases that I represented, heart disease and stroke, and say that around 70% are preventable. Believe it or not, it is around the same for cancer. We know what we have to do. Therefore, we have initiatives like stop marketing to kids. There is over $2 billion a year spent trying to convince our kids to eat poorly. We have the opportunity to change that and level the playing field, so that healthy food options are given fair hearing for children.
Advertisers have something called the “nag factor”. Any of us who are parents remember this when our children are so crazy for a food product, such as Sponge Bob candies or something, that they nag and nag until we finally give in. We need to change that and level that playing field.
I am also excited for the action that we are going to take in the area of smoking. Canada led the world and was one of the jurisdictions that could be counted on when it came to preventative health. For the last decade in tobacco control, we have been off the field. Our action to take on plain packaging, to ensure that marketers are not able to take advantage of that, is hugely important.
The example that we set in tobacco, and I was referencing this in my comments earlier, are instructive in the debate that we will have on marijuana. Some people want to oppose this debate as if there is not a problem today and to provide marijuana because we people want to have it, which is an absurdity. The reality is that we have a massive failure in policy as it revolves around marijuana.
Our young people are smoking marijuana at a rate of about two times that of cigarettes. Think about that. If we just set as an objective the reduction of the prevalence of marijuana to the level of cigarettes, it would be a massive achievement. It is taking something that is illegal and bringing it down to something that is legal. From a health perspective, we have a phenomenal opportunity to take the lessons of tobacco and apply them to marijuana in order to reduce prevalence, protect children, and at the same time decrease illegality.
It is an honour to return to this place. I look forward to the debates to come. As parliamentary secretary, I look forward to working with my colleagues on all sides of the House in making the institutions that make our democracy strong stronger, and the debate that will come in the days ahead.
Fairness for Victims of Violent Offenders Act March 23rd, 2011
Mr. Speaker, every one of us in this House is deeply concerned when a serious violent crime occurs. All of us are seized with the questions of how we ensure it never happens again, how we ensure there is justice for the people who suffered as a result of that crime and how we provide comfort to victims to ensure they are able to endure and get over the process of victimization.
The bill is something we should look at and debate to ensure that in the overall spectrum it makes sense. The bill is very targeted. It only deals with violent offences that are schedule 1 offences and would increase the time from two years to four years that somebody would wait while having their pardon eligibility reviewed.
However, I think we need to look at our criminal justice issues in a more fulsome way. If we are to do true service to victims, to community safety and public safety generally, then we cannot just piecemeal these things. We cannot just throw one little bit on top of one little bit with no information.
One of the things we do not have, yet again, for this bill, which I think it is important, is how much it will cost. We have 18 government bills that are before this House right now that relate to having impacts on incarceration and prisons and yet we do not know the true cost.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that there remains significant gaps between the information requested from parliamentarians and the documents that were provided by the government which will limit the ability of parliamentarians to fulfill their fiduciary obligations. He went on to point out that more than 55% of the documents relating to the cost of these bills are not there. They are missing.
When we are considering legislation, whether it this bill or any bill, my constituents will ask me how much it will cost and what the trade-offs will be, which are fair questions.
In this case, the bill is clearly limited in scope but we want to ensure it is getting the best result and actually is increasing community safety.
One of the things we need to keep in mind is that if we are truly interested in stopping crime, ensuring communities are safe and reducing victimization, then we need to go after the root causes of crime and stop it before it happens.
In Canada, it may surprise some to know that we actually have a rate of violent recidivism, which is the rate at which violent offenders commit a new violent offence, of less than 1%. That means that somebody convicted of committing a violent crime will commit another violent crime less than 1% of the time. That means the vast majority of crimes that are committed are offences we never saw coming. It means that investments need to be made in things like prevention, community capacity and diversion in terms of dealing with addictions and drugs. Investing in fixing issues surrounding mental health is absolutely critical.
Of course stiff sentencing must be an important part of any package of actions taken to make communities safe. However, places that have tried incarceration and only incarceration have ended in ruin. In fact, I point to recent testimony before committee of the former head of the U.S. drug enforcement agency under President George Bush who talked about what happened in his country. He said:
...we made some mistakes, and I hope that you can learn from those mistakes.
I'm here because I signed on to a “right on crime” initiative, which is an initiative led by a group of conservatives in the United States who support a re-evaluation of our nation's incarceration policies.
In short, he was saying that states like California embarked on a path of dramatically increasing incarceration and did little else. It left the state nearly bankrupt, with no money for health or education and no money for prevention. As they stopped investing in prevention and as the crimes mounted up and the prisons got more full, their rate of violent recidivism was driven north of 20%.
Imagine, today in Canada we have a violent recidivism rate less than 1% and yet we are emulating a model that has driven its rate over 20%. Its overall rate of recidivism is 70%. That means for every 10 people who walk out of a jail, 7 will recommit a crime in California.
I can give the House another example. Newt Gingrich, the founder of the whole movement of incarceration for all problems, points to the example in his most recent letter, comparing the states of New York and Florida, which took two very different paths.
New York invested heavily in prevention, in community capacity, in dealing with drugs and mental health, which are at the root of so many crimes. Florida took the conservative approach. Florida ended up spending an enormous amount of money ramping up incarceration, driving its incarceration rates higher and higher at the cost of billions of dollars. For both states, the net result was a difference of 16%. Florida had 16% rise in violent crime. New York decreased 16%. The difference is New York saved literally billions of dollars and wound up with a safer system.
This is the problem. If we are speaking honestly and sincerely to victims, we cannot just talk about incarceration. We have to talk about the fact the government has cut more than 43% from the victims of crime initiative. We need to talk about the fact that the government's hand-picked victims ombudsman, Steve Sullivan, who stood up and said that the government's plan for victims was unbalanced and would not work, was fired.
The reality is the plan that is put before us today would lead to more crime, more costs, more victims, less safety and would steal money from education and health, while dumping billions of dollars into debt.
I note that some money was put into prevention. We will have to see if it was actually spent. One of the strategies on the crime prevention budget was for the government to keep the budget the same but not spend it. The government would keep the budget at about $50 million, but would only spend $19 million.
I have gone across the country and talked with organizations that are on the front lines of keeping our communities safe, groups like the Boys and Girls Clubs and church organizations. These organizations ensure that when somebody starts to head down a dark path, that individual is pulled back before a crime is committed, before there is a victim.
Groups like that are seeing their funding cut and slashed. It is being replaced by funding that they have to twist themselves into a pretzel to go after some weird objective the government has set nationally, but makes no sense for their local communities. They are begging for a government they can partner with, that would help them drive the changes they need to keep their communities safe, to help build community capacity. They need to ensure that when this happens, the federal government will give them money not to fit something that has been created in Ottawa, but to fit something that works for their communities.
We see community safety councils in places like Summerside, P.E.I., or in Kitchener—Waterloo, which has a fantastic crime prevention council, or in Ottawa, develop those plans. They desperately need partners if we are serious about breaking the back of this.
I also hear from police chiefs across the country. They say that the cuts being made with respect to services for the mentally ill are totally unacceptable. They say that if we are honestly interested in reducing crime, then we have to take on the problem of mental health in our country. So many prisons are replete with people who have mental health conditions because police have no where else to put them. The police chiefs say that they wait for somebody who is mentally ill to commit a crime so they can put that individual in jail and at least get him or her out of harm's way. When these individuals are in that jail cell, they are left in segregation with no services. Then they are released on to the streets worse than they ever were before.
Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom has turned away from these polices. Australia has turned away from these policies. The United States has turned away from these policies. It is imperative, as a nation, that we get balanced and intelligent policies when it comes to crime, that when we take action to stop victimization, we do not just talk but we actually do and what we do is based on evidence and fact and not just on drama.
Public Safety March 22nd, 2011
Mr. Speaker, if the minister wants to keep pushing fear and fiction, he should go write Stephen King novels.
Here is the fact. The Conservatives have been hiding information from this House. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that almost 60% of the information on how much their agenda costs is hidden.
This is about how much debt would be put on the shoulders of Canadian families. This is about how much money would be taken from health care and education. This is about the Prime Minister who has broken his word to be transparent.
Where are the numbers? Where are the facts? Where is the information?
Public Safety March 22nd, 2011
Mr. Speaker, for years the government has hidden the cost of its megaprison agenda, worked to hide the tens of billions it would cost and the fact that it has been a disaster everywhere it has been tried.
Now the Speaker has ruled and a committee of Parliament has found the government in contempt and the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirms that the Conservatives are still hiding nearly 60% of the information.
When we have no truth, we have no democracy. When the budget is tabled today, very simply, how could Canadians trust a single word the government says?
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 21st, 2011
With regard to the government’s support for victims of crime: (a) how do each of the following bills directly assist victims of crime: Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts, Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act, Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, Bill C- 21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, Bill C-23B, An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, Bill C-29, An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act, Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, Bill C-38, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, Bill C-39, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, Bill C-43, An Act to enact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Labour Relations Modernization Act and to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to the National Defence Act, Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act, Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (interception of private communications and related warrants and orders), Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, Bill C-52, An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations, Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mega-trials), Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children), Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts, Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act, Bill S-7, An Act to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act, Bill S-10, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, and Bill S-13, An Act to implement the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America; (b) were victims groups consulted in the development of any of these bills and, if so, which groups where consulted, on which bills and what advice was given to the government; (c) broken down per year since 2000-2001, what programs specifically directed to victims of crime has the government funded, how many victims have been served by these programs and how are these services accessed by victims of crime; (d) what is the funding, broken down per year over the past 10 years and over the next 10 years, for grants and contributions for victims of crime; (e) what is the formal position of the government concerning the role that rehabilitation plays in reducing victimization; (f) what is the formal position of the government concerning the role that crime prevention programming plays in reducing victimization; and (g) what empirical evidence does the government have that mandatory minimum sentences will address the needs of victims of crime?
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 21st, 2011
With regard to correctional programming provided by Correctional Services Canada (CSC): (a) what are the reasons that explain the sharp decrease in the number of inmates participating in the Living Skills Program since 2000-2001; (b) what are the reasons that explain the sharp increase in the number of inmates participating in the Violent Offenders Program since 2000-2001; (c) how many offenders who are required to participate in correctional programs refuse to participate, broken down by year, since 2000-2001; (d) what are the reasons that explain the sharp decrease in the number of inmates participating in the Substance Abuse Program since 2000-2001; (e) how many offenders are diagnosed on intake as having a substance abuse problem for which they require treatment; (f) how many inmates are otherwise believed by CSC to have an addictions issues; (g) what course of action does CSC take when an inmate diagnosed with an addiction refuses to participate in Substance Abuse programming; (h) what is the cost per inmate to participate in the Substance Abuse Program, broken down per year since 2000-2001; (i) how is CSC programming addressing mentally ill inmates and their associated behavioural issues; (j) on what basis does CSC decide which programs will be offered at which institutions; (k) how does CSC ensure that inmates will have access to the programs they need if all programs are not offered at every institution; (l) in light of the CSC statement that it “will not be expanding the types of programs offered to offenders,” how will CSC meet the diverse needs of the growing inmate population; (m) does CSC have plans to cut the number of programs available to inmates and, if so, which programs and when; (n) what is the Integrated Correctional Program Model, how is it administered to inmates and what current CSC programs will it replace; (o) what are the reasons that explain the increase of inmates participating in the Sex Offender Program in 2009-2010; (p) how many inmates, broken down by year since 2000-2001, have been evaluated by CSC and have been found to require sex offender programming and how many of those inmates have participated in Sex Offender programming, broken down by year since 2000-2001; (q) what is the cost per inmate to participate in the Sex Offender Program, broken down per year since 2000-2001; (r) what is the per inmate spending on correctional programs, broken down annually since 2000-2001; (s) with regard to other correctional intervention programs, broken down per year since 2000-2001, what is the per inmate spending each of the following programs: (i) Offender Case management, (ii) Community Engagement, (iii) Spiritual Services, (iv) Offender Education, (v) CORCAN Employment and Employability; (t) what is the Correctional Reintegration Program, what does it do and where is it available?