House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was rail.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for York South—Weston (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 June 15th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's expansive list of all the problems the Conservatives have created over the past six years. One of the ones that was most interesting to me, because I worked there for many years, was the CBC. In fact, the first week I was at the CBC was when the first big budget cuts happened under the Mulroney government. When the Liberals were elected, they promised they would be different, and it turned out that they were not. The Liberals cut even more than the Mulroney government did. Now we face another series of cuts by the Conservative government.

The CBC is a treasure that should be protected, not cut. I wonder if the member would like to comment further on the effects the CBC cuts will have to local programming, particularly in Quebec.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 June 15th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the biggest problem in my riding is unemployment, especially youth unemployment. The budget does virtually nothing to provide jobs or provide any avenue for jobs.

Two years ago, the finance minister suggested something that we had pushed for and I thought was quite progressive and that was to suggest that when the federal government spends money on infrastructure, a condition of the spend would be the creation of apprenticeships for youth. Every time I have asked the government where that is, the answer I get back is that the government provided some kind of tax credit for apprentices. While that is good, it does not actually create jobs.

We would love to see the creation of real jobs for youth in the budget, but it is not there. Would the member like to comment?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments. There has been what I hope is just confusion about the scope of the bill.

The parliamentary secretary suggested earlier that privately held service dogs were not covered by the bill. The definition seems to include some but not all. I am not 100% sure. That is one issue.

The other issue is the whole notion of mandatory minimum sentences and consecutive sentences, which contaminates the justice system. Right now we trust our justice system to get it right. We have judges who have immense training and who have the right to make decisions about how laws are to be enforced and what is an appropriate sentence.

By creating a mandatory minimum, we create situations, such as for persons who might face deportation, in which the justice system may choose to back off on prosecuting a charge under Section 445.1, because the threat of deportation is much greater a punishment than should be afforded. Therefore, they cannot, in fact, prosecute.

This notion of these conflicting parts of the new laws that the Conservatives put forward, plus the notion of mandatory minimum sentences, may contaminate our justice system. Would the member like to comment on that.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's points on the bill. There are two things that concern me. One, there seems to be a loophole in terms of private service animals. I am not exactly sure what the meaning is of privately owned service animals and why they would not apply here, but maybe he could explain what he sees as the problem.

The other problem is the notion of mandatory minimums, particularly six-month mandatory minimums. That dovetails with the recent changes to the immigration law that now found that persons convicted of a crime of six months or more can also be deported, which then contaminates the justice process, in my view, in that judges and prosecutors would have to look at whether or not an additional penalty such as deportation can be applied in the case of a prosecution that is justified on the basis of harm to a service animal or other prosecutions that may take place, in which case the prosecution and the judges would have to take into account the additional penalties that may have to happen as a result of a mandatory minimum, which as the member points out, may be thrown out by the courts.

I wonder if he could comment on those two points.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the bill, as I understand it, would protect all forms of service dogs, both service dogs in the forces of law enforcement, but also service dogs that are helping persons with disabilities, such as the blind, persons who use dogs as therapy, et cetera.

We really appreciate the fact that the government is trying to protect these animals, but we are concerned that the use of mandatory minimums, as always, goes too far with the current government. It could, in fact, result in judges being unable to hand down convictions because they realize the mandatory minimum would in fact be too harsh a penalty.

Would the member like to comment?

Citizenship and Immigration June 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, one of the points I was trying to make is that the immigration system is apparently not working. It is not the individual in this case, and I respect the privacy of the individual, but the case has discovered a flaw in the system. The flaw in the system is not in the law, but in a regulation. The regulation is passed by the government and by order-in-council, not by the House. In the regulation it states, ““Excessive demand” means”:

—a demand on health services or social services for which the anticipated costs would likely exceed average Canadian per capita health services and social services costs over a period of five consecutive years...

That is a terribly unreasonable position. In other words, not excessive cost but any cost that is greater than the average of every Canadian means that individuals are potentially inadmissible to our country, even if it is a dollar. I know the member will say that it is up to the immigration officer, but the rule says any cost that is above the average is something for which a person could be deemed inadmissible. In this case, this points out this horrible flaw in our immigration system.

Citizenship and Immigration June 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my question has to do with the government's decision—and it was a decision—to deny access to an otherwise acceptable potential immigrant on the grounds of deafness, a decision that in turn points to a serious flaw in Canada's immigration system.

First, the reason given was that the applicant's daughter was medically inadmissible. The government has taken the position that any disability—deafness, in this particular case—can be grounds to deny a person access. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, in his response to my question, stated that they are waiting for:

...Mrs. Talosig to explain how she will mitigate the extra costs to the provincial health care system because of a medically inadmissible dependant.

Her daughter does not have a communicable disease or an untreated need for serious surgery. Those conditions might indeed be a reason to deny someone access to Canada, as the suspicion might be that the immigrant was merely trying to access our wonderful health care system. However, a disability, particularly deafness, cannot alone create a medical drain. In fact, many in the deaf community do not consider themselves disabled; rather, they communicate in a different language, such as QSL or ASL.

What of other disabilities for which access to our medical system is not the issue? Persons who can function quite well in a wheelchair, such as the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia or the member Montcalm, function quite remarkably and arguably are huge assets to their community. Are they somehow less valuable because they are in a wheelchair? Would a person in their situation be automatically denied access to Canada, despite their ability to function and be an asset to their community?

The decision by the government is part of a larger, disturbing pattern of behaviour toward the disabled. Although the government signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, it has not implemented its requirements. Despite promising in the 2007 throne speech to pass a bill guaranteeing that accessibility barriers would be removed, the government has never presented such a bill.

As an example of the government's failure here on the Hill, it installed security bollards at each sidewalk entrance to the precinct. Those bollards are 31.5 inches apart. Wheelchair users will have difficulty with that opening. The recommended gap width is 36 inches. In Ontario the absolute minimum is 32.5 inches, yet here on the Hill, it is okay to have 31.5 inches. As a result, wheelchair users cannot get in.

On the deafness front, the government has fought a case in court for nine years that shows its failure to remove barriers. A young woman has taken the government to court because its student loan system means that her education cost her twice what it would cost a person with hearing. It seems only fair that the system should be changed, as it discriminates against deaf people, but the government has fought her every step of the way.

I expect that the government will say that it is awaiting Mrs. Talosig's response to its initial decision in order to further proclaim on her case, yet recently she received a letter from the government saying that it is now under review. I am not sure which we are supposed to believe: the letter from the government, or the government's statements here that it is waiting for her response.

The person is deaf. She has no communicable disease and no medical issues per se. She functions quite well. If it goes beyond the medical system and into the education system, the family has already obtained from the school board word that it will accommodate her disability at no cost. As far as I know, she communicated this to the government long ago.

It rests on the government to allow her and her daughter to stay in Canada.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day Act May 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as I rise in my place, and I say that because my two colleagues who preceded me could not rise in their place. They are the bravest human beings in this room. I want to thank both of them for all their courage, efforts and wonderful heartfelt speeches.

I certainly cannot add anything to what was said by those two incredible individuals. Both of them are living proof that we can adapt our society no matter what the need to accommodate those individuals who need accommodation in the workplace, society and ordinary daily living, and on transportation, as the member for Montcalm has said,

On the spinal cord awareness day, I tried to be in a wheelchair for a full day, and it was not easy. Bathrooms were difficult to manoeuver, but I did stick to it. Eventually I had to give up waiting for a bus because the folks running the buses said that they did not have enough buses and that were unable to transport me in time to make it back for a vote. However, I did get back into the chair after that occurrence.

My brother has multiple sclerosis, and while it is not a spinal cord injury, he is well on his way to being full-time in a wheelchair. He is not there yet, but I watch him and realize that, in his case, it is not a sudden and traumatic injury but a long, gradual, painful transition to where the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia and the member for Montcalm are now.

It is sad and hard to watch, but it makes me all the more determined, as the critic for persons with disabilities, to create a Canada in which everything we can possibly do is done, not just to raise awareness and to do research but to actually make it possible for everyone to live as though they were no different than anyone else.

I am thankful for this opportunity. I want to again thank my colleagues for their incredible speeches.

God Bless Canada. God bless them.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act May 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the member for Trinity—Spadina's question, because it strikes at the heart of what is going on here.

We have a system of gun control and gun legislation that has been designed around some complaints that came from rural parts of Canada. However, in my riding of York South—Weston and in many urban centres, this kind of change to the gun legislation will only make things less safe. There is nothing in the bill that in an urban centre will make things more safe. It will make it less safe.

We already have enough illegal weapons on the ground in the city of Toronto that we cannot seem to control, because we cannot stop them at the border. To make the transportation of legally owned weapons easier in the city of Toronto is something people are afraid of.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act May 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, let me read from one of the witnesses. This is from the president of the Coalition for Gun Control. She said:

We believe that relaxing the controls over the authorizations to transport will increase the risk that these firearms will be misused. If you can transport your firearm to any gun club in the province, it means you can be virtually anywhere with it.

I did not say that people got a notice that their licence had expired. I said that perhaps they should get a notice that their licence has expired in such a way that they would know in advance of an expiry, and we would not be talking here about some kind of weird six-month grace period to allow people time to do whatever it is they have to do. No other licence we have has any kind of grace period, and to impose one for gun control is making things less safe.