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  • Her favourite word is young.

NDP MP for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski (Manitoba)

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

Statements in the House

Business of Supply February 9th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I also want to acknowledge my colleague's commitment to the issue of electoral reform.

Many of us in the House, despite the party we come from, have expressed real opposition to what the government has been doing on this front. As we in the NDP have indicated, we are committed to democratic reform. Proportional representation is something we heard from thousands of Canadians as a model to be followed, and we are certainly keen to push that vision forward.

Obviously here today we want the Liberals to take ownership of breaking the promise they made to Canadians, and we certainly hope they will see the light and their wrong ways and change course as we go forward.

Business of Supply February 9th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I realize that members across the aisle are speaking from the same playbook on this. I can only imagine how difficult a debate like this would be for them.

The fact of the matter is that the Prime Minister repeatedly indicated, and I quote, “Mr. Speaker, I have said many times that 2015 will be the last election held under first past the post”.

The Liberals' slogan in the last election was “Real Change”. Breaking this promise, a fundamental promise, on electoral reform is the opposite of real change. People expected bold leadership from the Prime Minister. They expected him to stand up for his promises. What we are discussing here is a fundamental broken promise. The Liberals should apologize.

Business of Supply February 9th, 2017

Madam Speaker, my colleague, the member for Salaberry—Suroît, spoke very powerfully to the motion we are discussing here today. This is an NDP motion that we are all very proud of, which is receiving tremendous support across the country. It is certainly a position that is receiving tremendous support across the country. I just want to repeat it for the sake of those who are tuned in or are tuning in.

The motion we put forward today states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government misled Canadians on its platform and Throne Speech commitment “that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system”, and that the House call on the government to apologize to Canadians for breaking its promise.

I have heard the consternation from Liberals across, questioning why we are using such strong language, like “misleading”. It is because that is exactly what the Liberals have done. Let us go back into recent history to get a sense of that.

On June 16, 2015, the Prime Minister promised that the 2015 election would be the last federal election conducted under the first past the post system, and that he would present a bill in the House of Commons within 18 months of his election.

On December 4, 2015, the Prime Minister repeated this commitment in his throne speech where he said:

To make sure that every vote counts, the Government will undertake consultations on electoral reform, and will take action to ensure that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.

On December 17, 2015, in an interview, the Prime Minister said:

It would be easier to do nothing and sit back and just say, 'Okay, you know what, this worked for us, I think we can make this current system work for a few more mandates' ... But that's not the kind of leadership that Canadians expected.

That was the story on February 4, 2016, March 11, 2016, May 11, 2016, October 19, 2016, November 6, 2016, December 1, 2, 5, and 7, 2016, and January 10, 2017, but on January 12 is when the story starts to change. The new Minister of Democratic Institutions twice refused to repeat the Prime Minister's election promise on electoral reform, and avoided the question by saying that she was committed to getting briefed on the file.

What we have seen transpire over the last three weeks is a full, complete turnaround for all of these other statements, and in fact a very clear statement from the government that it is willing to break its promise to Canadians on electoral reform. The Liberals are willing to go that far, and they are using all sorts of excuses in the House which outside of this chamber we would call “lame” to describe what has transpired here. I have never heard such pathetic excuses from any government when it comes to a situation where it has so blatantly broken its promise to Canadians.

I read a quote where the Prime Minister himself mocked the notion that the Liberals would possibly pull away from this commitment, because it was so important to them. This is the height of cynicism in politics. It is why so many Canadians are so frustrated and angry about the way in which the government has broken its promise. The excuses that we are hearing from the government are simply not going to cut it, nor is the reference to no consensus and that 45% only wanted this or that.

We are talking about a government that was elected by 39% of Canadians. It was fine for that percentage to be recognized as a legitimate win, and nobody here is saying that it is not a legitimate government, yet when the Liberals are throwing numbers around like this, it is as though they cannot move forward on this, and they fill in the blank and keep referring to a lack of consensus.

The point here is that the Liberals made a commitment to Canadians. Canadians believed them. Many Canadians voted for them, because they feel deeply about this issue. Now the Liberals have turned around, and like many politicians of the past, they have broken their promise.

I want to share a few thoughts about an article that came out today. The title of that article is “Millennials finally fall out of love with [the Prime Minister] after he abandons electoral reform”. Obviously, it is a provocative title. However, once one reads the article, there is a logical argument made that for many young people, electoral reform was identified as an important issue. Democratic reform is something young people feel strongly about. It is a system whereby their voices, their issues, are respected and heard in real terms. It is something they feel very strongly about, and they attached these values to a Prime Minister who spoke to many young people and who ultimately made a very clear commitment to young Canadians, and all Canadians, that if he were to be elected, he would make a difference.

Young people, for generations, have had promises to them by governments broken. Once again we are seeing that happen, but this time by a Prime Minister who truly claims to care about young people and the issues that matter to them.

There is a long list of things the Prime Minister alluded to that are not being acted on: the creation of good jobs for young people, and I have spoken many times in this House about the rise of precarious work for the millennial generation; the promise to do things differently when it came to pipelines, and obviously we know that young people are extremely concerned about climate change; and the need to respect the rights of indigenous people.

We know the rhetoric that was thrown around on the commitment by the government to legalize marijuana that was used to get votes from young people. Now we are seeing a very different tone from the government on that issue.

Last week the gallery was full of young people who were here in the hope that the government would live up to the tweet the Prime Minister sent in response to Donald Trump's racist immigration ban. Yet even there they did not see the government act on the kinds of values they and many of us as young Canadians hold so dear.

We are seeing a pattern whereby the government is pulling away from things it promised and issues it said it would stand up for young people on. However, nothing has been more blatant than this particular broken promise, this very obvious walking back from a commitment it made, repeatedly made, in black letters on white paper. I have mentioned the dates. We have all been in the House when the Prime Minister has said it. We heard it from his minister.

I want to acknowledge the thousands of Canadians who engaged in the consultation process the NDP held and those who came to the parliamentary committee meetings across the country. These are people who took time out of their lives, away from their families, and travelled to different communities. They took that time because they felt strongly about this issue. They believed that the current government, as it promised, was actually willing to make a difference.

Not only are we asking the government to apologize, the New Democrats are joining with many Canadians to say that what the government has done is unacceptable. Broken promises are unacceptable. A broken promise on electoral reform, something that is so fundamental to building a healthy democracy that truly represents us, is unacceptable.

Canadians deserve better, young Canadians deserve better, than a Prime Minister and a government that is willing to mislead us, as we have seen here today.

Justice for Youth February 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, just this week young people were told again by the government that they are to blame for their insecure job situation.

Canadians of all ages want good jobs, good jobs that are disappearing. Inequality is increasing, and this is directly linked to the rise of precarious work.

Canada's young people are being left out in the cold. That is the message that we have been hearing across the country.

However, this did not just happen. This has been the result of successive Liberal and Conservative governments that pushed the politics of privatization, outsourcing, and austerity, the result of trade agreements that have sold us out, of foreign takeovers, and of growing corporate concentration.

Today, young people are rallying together and insisting that the government do more.

They are fighting back through movements like Black Lives Matter, indigenous struggles, Climate Action Network Canada, and Fight for $15 & Fairness. They are challenging a system that is holding us back.

Together we must join in solidarity and build a movement for social, environmental, and economic justice for youth and all Canadians.

Job Losses in the Energy Sector February 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is okay to be known as hewers of wood and drawers of water. We should have jobs that depend on processing the wealth that is in our territories and provinces, working with first nations.

We can create wealth based on processing the raw materials that our country is so wealthy in. The fact remains that these are some of the best-paying jobs in our communities, whether in refineries or smelters. We need to stand up for value-added jobs. As I mentioned, this Liberal government has not. The previous Conservative government did not. The fact of the matter is that we are bleeding good jobs that are entirely related to the wealth our country has, and that is a crying shame. Canadians, Canadian workers, want their federal government to work with them to protect these value-added jobs.

Job Losses in the Energy Sector February 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, if the member had heard my speech, I listed a number of communities where we risk losing hundreds of jobs. I was talking about the mining sector and the forestry sector. What I referenced was the fact that the federal government is nowhere to be seen when it comes to protecting these jobs.

I would challenge the government on its figures. We heard earlier tonight that the numbers it is associating with these projects are not the actual numbers that will materialize. The situation remains that the jobs that are on the chopping block right now are ones the government should be standing up to fight for. Unfortunately, no minister has stood up to that challenge. People where I come from, and people across western Canada, are seeing the fact that the federal government is not standing up for them.

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?

U.S. Decision Regarding Travel Ban January 31st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that tonight we are gathering in very dark times in the U.S., but given the recent tragedy where Muslim Canadians were killed here in our own country, it speaks of that same darkness here at home. However, in that darkness, and certainly we see it here tonight, there is hope.

I want to put on the record that this hope is in the galleries where so many people, many of whom are young, are here to stand up and demand better from their government. I say that because I know some of the people in that gallery. They are people who want a government that is going to denounce the racist policies of Donald Trump. They are also people who stand up for the rights of refugees and immigrants and who demand more from their government. I want to register that I am very proud of my generation and the people who are here tonight and those who are watching online and on TV who are saying, “No, we are not just going to sit by. We are going to be active. We are going to be active on the streets, in rallies, in vigils. We are going to be out there, and we are demanding better from our government.”

Does my colleague agree that many Canadians, including many young Canadians, are expecting not just some nice-sounding words in a tweet, but are demanding action that truly supports refugees and immigrants, that truly stands up against discrimination and Islamophobia? Essentially, it is a message that Canadians are demanding that their government truly stand up for them.

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?