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  • Her favourite word is indigenous.

NDP MP for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski (Manitoba)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Job Losses in the Energy Sector February 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay.

I am pleased to rise in the House tonight to speak as part of this important take-note debate. As the jobs critic for the NDP, I recognize that this is a debate about jobs in our country. It is about the devastating job losses in the energy sector and the devastating impacts of boom and bust economies. It is about the need for our federal government to stand up for Canadian workers.

The collapse of oil prices has had a devastating impact on workers in Alberta. It has also greatly affected workers in Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and communities in my province and across the country.

Today we have heard many emotional testimonials about how difficult the situation is on the ground.

Like many people, I also have family members in Alberta who have worked in the oil sector and have also felt the impacts. It has been devastating for many.

It is important tonight that as part of this discussion we recognize it did not just happen. These hardships are the direct result of successive Liberal and Conservative governments doing little to diversify Canada's energy sector. Both the Liberals and Conservatives have failed to embrace a definition of energy which goes beyond oil, natural gas, and coal. These hardships are also a direct result of successive governments that have failed to diversify not just our energy economy but our resource-based economy more broadly.

I am from a mining town and we know what a boom and bust economy means for us. Our region also knows the importance of value-added jobs. Right now we are on the verge of losing hundreds of value-added jobs, particularly in the mining industry in our part of the country. People in Flin Flon and Thompson are very concerned, afraid, worried, and angry. Some months ago people in The Pas also faced insecurity. While there has been an interim solution, people continue to be concerned about the future of their resource sector, namely forestry.

In all of these cases what has been clear is that the federal government has been nowhere to be found to stand up for Canadian workers in our communities, much like in communities in Alberta and elsewhere. In fact, in our north, the federal government is nowhere to be found, not just in the communities I mentioned but also when it comes to Churchill, the Port of Churchill, or infrastructure jobs that were also committed to our communities.

Tonight we are talking about a situation that is increasingly impacting workers across the country. The reality is that the jobs situation in Canada is worsening. Over the last number of years, and it was certainly the case this past year, we have been creating more part-time, unstable work. Over the last year, full-time jobs only grew by 0.5%. This is related to job losses in the oil sector. More and more Canadians are struggling in precarious work. Many of them are young people.

That is why less than a year ago we launched a tour on the rise of precarious work in the millennial generation. We took our tour to Alberta. We went to Edmonton and Calgary. We heard heartbreaking stories about the challenges that young people were facing in these communities in difficult times.

I remember in Calgary we heard from an MLA, a minister in the government. She talked about how Calgary was often seen as a place of hope for many young Canadians and now even if one was from Alberta, that individual could barely make it by.

In Edmonton we heard from a young woman, a freelance journalist, who talked about the economic insecurity that she faced and how recently one of her bosses was told that if she wanted to find greater economic security, she should just get married.

The reality is that there is a way forward. That is by standing up for value-added jobs, standing up to companies that want to rip and ship our resources, standing up for a just transition.

We have heard tonight that research shows that an investment of $1 million in coal creates seven jobs. That same investment of $1 million creates 14 jobs in the solar industry and 17 in building retrofits.

People across our country are rising up to these challenges. They are demanding better from their government and we in the NDP stand with them.

Youth February 7th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister of youth told a room full of young people that their skill set is the reason their generation faces precarious work. Unfortunately, this is only one of the many comments made by the government that shows just how out of touch it is. Low-wage, precarious work is not the fault of the millennial generation.

When will the government stop blaming young people, show leadership, and build good, stable jobs for millennials and all Canadians?

Employment January 30th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are increasingly worried about their economic situation, and this is tied to the emerging crisis of precarious work that we are facing in our country. While the economy is staggering, the government is failing to protect and create good, full-time, permanent jobs. It has also failed to react to this crisis and, instead, prefers to tell Canadians to just get used to it. Canadians deserve a government that will fight for good jobs.

When will the government show leadership, stand up for Canadian workers, and fight for the good jobs that they deserve?

Public Services and Procurement December 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it has been two months since the Phoenix deadline, and 10,000 cases have yet to be fixed, meaning thousands of Canadians are still waiting to get paid, yet we have learned that executives in charge of this fiasco are getting bonuses. Let us get this straight. Executives are getting performance bonuses for a program that does not work.

With the holidays around the corner, this adds insult to injury to the so many who are still waiting to get paid. Will the minister prove that her government takes this seriously and halt the bonuses until Phoenix is fixed?

Economic Development December 13th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, today on the Hill we are joined by laid off port workers who came all the way from Churchill to fight for our port. The closure of the port is devastating for Churchill and for our north. What is the Liberal record? The Liberals privatized it and are doing nothing to re-open it.

This is about standing up for our country. When will the Prime Minister stand up to the American billionaire who is holding Churchill and our north for ransom. When will he stand up for Churchill, for our north and for Canada?

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement December 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments.

I do not think my point has come across. What we were told is that young men and women want more choice when it comes to jobs. As we know, many do not want to move away and they want more secure jobs than those provided by the Canadian Armed Forces. Of course, it goes without saying that some do want to join the armed forces.

We must recognize that relying on the armed forces, for example, is not an economic policy that our country can support. There must be choice. Our young people must have choices. What is obvious in today's Canada is that there are fewer and fewer choices when it comes to careers or full-time jobs. We must change that, and that is why we oppose the bill before us.

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement December 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I believe, as my seat colleague will know, that I prefer to subscribe to the philosophy of Bernie Sanders, a progressive politician who has also questioned the free trade dogma.

In all seriousness, as I have relayed here today, my generation, the millennial generation is speaking very clearly with respect to the challenges ahead of us, and very clearly of the ways in which federal government decisions to sell us out, whether it is free trade deals that have gone bad, or foreign ownership that has sold us out, and I can speak to that with respect my hometown that has seen that reality and is living it, or its gusto for privatization and de-regulation.

All of these measures are coming together to make for an increasingly challenging reality for many Canadians, particularly young Canadians. We know that to be the case from the most recent Statistics Canada information. We need to change course. Opposing this trade deal before us, which is bad news for Canadian workers, is only one step in that direction.

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement December 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak alongside our leader and my colleagues in opposition to Bill C-30. I would also like to thank my colleague, the member of Parliament for Essex, and our entire team for pushing the debate forward.

On something as important as the trade agreement with the European Union, it deserves proper debate in the House of Commons. Truly, it is only the NDP that is pushing for that debate, pushing to ensure the government is being held to account on a proposed trade deal that we find extremely problematic for Canadians.

I also rise in the House today not just as the member of Parliament for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski but also as the jobs critic for the NDP. Earlier today, we presented our federal call to action entitled “The Precarious Generation: A Call to Action”. It was based on our months long national tour, a series of national consultations in nine provinces and one territory. We heard from young people, millennials, their parents, their friends, and people from our communities across the country. They all came to share their stories, their lived experiences with respect to what was an emerging crisis in Canada, which is the rise of precarious work.

Today I was honoured to put forward the kinds of recommendations that millennials across our country shared with us, recommendations that are bold, that are hopeful, that are visionary. Those recommendations come from a place of great challenge and increasing difficulty. Millennials are facing the prospect of being less well off than their parents generation in a very real way. That is a phenomenon we have not seen in recent times in our country.

The numbers talk for themselves. The rate of youth unemployment is twice the national average. Thirty-nine per cent of workers under the age of 30 are precariously employed. Most are working in temporary and contract work, despite the fact they are currently looking for, and certainly would much rather have, full-time employment. In provinces like Ontario, 300,000 young people are working unpaid internships and, in many case, those unpaid internships do not lead to paid work.

We heard heart-wrenching stories across the country. I remember hearing from a young worker in P.E.I. who talked about the fact that he had just graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biology, and he could never imagine having a job in his field on the island. Every morning he woke up at 4 a.m. and went to work in a fish plant. Every night he worked at Best Buy.

In Newfoundland, young people talked about the fact that their provincial government had just brought in an austerity budget. They knew they came from a province where people usually had to leave to find work. Despite the fact that they thought times were getting better, once again their generation would have to leave to find work somewhere else.

In Halifax, a young woman came forward. She told us that where she came from the most secure form of employment for young men was to join the military, a real precarious kind of work.

In Winnipeg, we heard about work, particularly in the public domain. Jobs like garbage pickup, which had been done for a very long time by younger, indigenous men, had been outsourced and devolved. These men were able to support their families with the income they made, but now they were unable to make that kind of living. As a brother told us at that meeting, they were treated as disposable as the garbage they pick up.

In Regina, we met a young woman who broke down in the meeting. She talked about how she could not afford her tuition. She could not bear to think what she would do to come out of the burden of student debt that she faced. She knew she had to find work that had pharmacare benefits to ensure she had the medication she needed.

In Calgary, we had a NDP cabinet minister tell us that for many years Calgary had been the promise land for young people from across the country. Today, even if individuals are from Alberta and are young, they can barely make it there.

In Vancouver, a young woman talked about the fact that because she was in a cycle of precarious work and because housing prices were so out of reach, she, like many young people, found it heartbreaking to know she would never be able to afford a home in the community she came from, and “heartbreaking” is the word that she used.

One of the last meetings in our 14 stops was held in Windsor, Ontario. When we talked about precarious work across Ontario and across the country, people told us to go to a place called Windsor. Windsor tells a story of how our generation has been sold out. Year after year, we have seen the impact of trade agreements that certainly have not had our best interests in mind. We have seen governments that have not had our best interests in mind and we have seen where that has gotten us. An older activist talked to us about the way in which manufacturing had been dealt a blow there for quite some time. Jobs that young people would normally do and certainly hope to raise a family with that do not exist the same way they used to. At the end of that meeting, we heard from a young woman who was finishing her law degree, her third degree. She is from Windsor. She moved back home and into her parents' basement. At the end of that meeting, she said that she did not know why anyone in the room was surprised that people of her generation could not imagine owning a home, having kids, and raising a family as that was just how it is now.

Those stories inform me and the work we do in the House, as we stand to oppose CETA, yet another trade agreement set to sell us out. It is clear from the messages we heard that both our generation and people who care for the millennial generation will not tolerate further actions from federal governments that do not have the interests of young people, and all people, in mind going forward.

In recent decades, and certainly since the start of the neoliberal era, we have seen a great many good jobs leave our country. We have witnessed the erosion of our social safety net to the benefit of corporations, millionaires and billionaires.

Today, and I have witnessed this throughout recent months as I was crisscrossing the country to take stock of the working conditions of our generation, it is clear that good jobs are becoming increasingly scarce, and that the millennial generation is living in uncertainty, with no benefits and no job security. How can we have come to this point, when we were promised an unprecedented level of prosperity if we opened our borders and liberalized trade all over the world? Well, it is because, from the start, liberalization was designed for the corporations and the billionaires, not for the middle class and the working class. We opened our borders not for human beings but for money, and massive amounts of it left. The tax havens are overflowing with profits made on the backs of workers here and elsewhere. We have allowed the rich to break our social contract, and to pay for our social services we are turning ever more to wage-earners who are paying today so that their employers can be subsidized to the tune of billions of dollars. We were promised that free trade would create jobs, but where are they? I would like someone to show me the jobs that have since been created, because after 10 months of consultations, no one seems to have found them.

We in the NDP have always been skeptical of these free-trade agreements unilaterally designed for the richest people, and time has obviously proven us right. Employment today is part-time and rarely unionized, and does not allow one to support a family or future projects. That is the sad state of our society.

Is it possible to conclude agreements that promote trade and serve the interests of Canadian workers? Of course it is, and that is why we are fighting today against Bill C-30 and the free-trade project with the European Union.

Finally, I am proud to stand up with my colleagues in the New Democratic party and thousands of Canadians all over this land who are opposed to this government’s measures.

I am proud to stand with my colleagues in the NDP and in solidarity with tens of thousands of Canadians, many of them young, who call on the government to work with us in providing a better future.

Bill C-30 and the proposal before us is not in that vein. We will continue to oppose it.

Youth December 7th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the question again for the minister of youth is this. When the Prime Minister gave himself the job of minister of youth, many young Canadians expected he would champion their issues. Over a year later, the youth minister has been one of the worst-performing ministers in the Liberal cabinet. He has encouraged police to hand out criminal records for pot possession, backtracked on his promise of a fair new voting system, and is failing to address the very serious issue of rising precarious work among young people.

Will the Prime Minister do the right thing and resign as minister of youth?

Natural Resources December 7th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, they say a week is a long time in politics.

Last week people power prevailed to the south of us. The Standing Rock Sioux and its allies, including many indigenous people from across Canada, were victorious in opposing a pipeline through their lands. Thanks to the activism of many, President Obama listened and acted.

Here in Canada it was the opposite. Our Prime Minister, who promised us all real change, reneged on his commitments, broke his promise to first nations, and disrespected many Canadians in supporting Kinder Morgan. In that case, corporate power won.

What he and his government should know is that times are changing. More and more Canadians are being pushed to the margins. Inequality is growing. In response to the injustice that people experience, more and more indigenous people are resisting, more young people are calling the government out, and more Canadians are saying things need to change. People are saying we need a movement to stop the corporate agenda that is holding us back.

We need leadership that lives up to the aspirations and expectations of the people. I have no doubt from what I saw last week that people power will prevail in Canada too.