House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was clause.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Parkdale—High Park (Ontario)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply May 4th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to hear that neither of the member's children are criminals.

I do want to challenge the notion she has raised about institutional child care. The child care I am referring to is community based child care, child care where parents participate on the boards of these child care centres, where parents meet with the staff and are involved in every decision made in the community based child care centre. This is not institutional, bureaucratic child care. Those are the speaking notes that the hon. member's party seems to want to present to the people of Canada. I am talking about community based care, where parents are fully involved.

I will challenge the hon. member: I do not believe that tax cuts create child care spaces. I have not seen this where I come from in the province of Ontario. A previous government there tried this system. It did not create one new space.

Business of Supply May 4th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to participate in this important debate on the future of the children of Canada. The parents in my riding of Parkdale—High Park and indeed across the country have waited many years for a national system of early learning and child care. We have listened to promises by the previous government on this file and we were hopeful when finally, before the last election, the government made some modest beginnings on a child care system.

The throne speech and now the budget of the new government have talked about creating spaces, yet there is no real plan to do this. Tax credits without any operating funds for child care do not create child care spaces. When it has been tried, as in the province of Ontario, not one child care space was created, not one.

There is no real plan, yet the agreements that were negotiated by the previous government are being cancelled after one year. In my own riding of Parkdale—High Park, children at the Holy Family School child care centre will lose the spaces they are in today, and other children who were hoping to get spaces will now not have the chance to do so.

In my riding, a deal is a deal, and the children of Parkdale—High Park, the children of Toronto and the children of Canada need child care now. Only about 15% of Canadian children have access to licensed, regulated care.

In Quebec, where successive governments have invested in child care, there is not nearly enough, but there is about 30% access in regard to child care spaces offered. Real choice in child care can only be achieved when we create spaces that today's working families can choose whether to take advantage of or not.

Investing in early childhood education is a key part of children getting a good start in life. This is so vital to the working families in my riding and across the city, but unfortunately, like so many other items in the government's budget, the government missed an important opportunity to invest in programs for working families. Tax cuts do not create child care spaces.

Now the plans made in the city of Toronto are in jeopardy. Toronto is the second largest provider of child care in our country, but without federal funding Toronto's children and families will lose $125 million annually in new child care services and supports. These are community based child care programs. Thousands of new child care fee subsidies are at risk with the cancellation of the agreement. The loss of these subsidies will increase waiting lists and threaten the stability of the remaining child care system. This is unacceptable in a city where more than 8,000 children are waiting and waiting on waiting lists.

The government has found the fiscal capacity to spend $7 billion on corporate tax cuts. I ask, does the oil and gas industry, with record profits, really need another tax cut? Why would we not invest this money to create spaces for early learning and child care for our country's children?

We support the Liberal motion, but we are concerned that this motion opens the door for commercial or, as some would say, big box child care rather than what we really need. What we really need is safe, licensed, not for profit, community based child care. This is what we need. It is what works best in Parkdale—High Park, in the city of Toronto and across the country. We just do not have enough of it. I know it works. My own kids were lucky enough to be part of such a system.

People in Toronto and the people I speak to every day in Parkdale—High Park work hard, pay their taxes and want to see that money re-invested in their communities. They want to see more child care spaces being created for their kids. They believe that is a good use of the tax dollars they work so hard to pay. They want multi-year funding to create a system of new child care spaces. That is a real choice.

I ask, when will Canada join with almost all other advanced countries around the world to offer families the real choice of quality, community based, not for profit care for our children?

Darfur May 1st, 2006

Mr. Chair, as others have said, UN officials describe the situation in Darfur as the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today. People this evening have talked about the mass murders, the systemic rapes, a thousand villages torched and the more than 2.5 million displaced people, many still under attack in refugee camps.

The government of Sudan has clearly failed its people, so the international community, including Canada, must accept its responsibility to help protect the people of Sudan. Over the last three years the previous government has dragged its feet. Eleven years after Rwanda, have we really learned so little?

I ask the hon. member to clarify this. Does he believe that Canada should consider sending UN peacekeepers to bolster the troops offered through the African Union?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 11th, 2006

To continue my remarks from yesterday, Mr. Speaker, also of great concern to the citizens of my riding of Parkdale--High Park is the issue of crime. As many know, a scourge of guns and gang violence has hit Toronto in recent months. For Toronto to thrive, its residents must feel safe. During the election campaign, I spoke of the need to deal seriously with violent crime. The throne speech mentions that “equally important” is the need to prevent crime before it takes root.

Many African Canadian parents in Toronto are worried sick about their kids. For crime to truly be prevented we need federal help to create new sources of opportunity for our young people, to keep community centres open and especially to help in the most vulnerable and economically depressed neighbourhoods.

The members of Parliament have to work together to prevent the flow of illegal firearms from the United States that end up on our streets, killing our young people. Only by working to eliminate handguns from our streets will we be helping to safeguard our urban centres like the city of Toronto.

The citizens of Toronto also face another danger from a different source, one that is less high profile, perhaps, but is becoming all too visible: smog, pollution and climate change. To tackle this problem we need more than platitudes in a throne speech. We need more than a promise to stay in the Kyoto protocol while ignoring its targets. That strategy seems vaguely familiar. I hope this is not a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.

We need concrete measures to reduce the smog and air pollution that kill thousands of Canadians every year. I was proud to bring Greenpeace and the Canadian Auto Workers together to help create the green car strategy for the NDP. We need to implement this and other innovative ideas so that we can clean our air and protect Canadian jobs at the same time.

I am proud to have been involved with the labour movement for many years and, as such, protecting decent paying jobs for Canadians is also a key priority for me. The government should know that you cannot simply mention working families without speaking in concrete terms as to how we are going to create and protect jobs.

The throne speech had no mention of industrial strategy, no mention of trade policy and agreements that threaten our workforce and no mention of protecting unionized workers with real anti-scab legislation. In my mind, this is simply not good enough. Working families need more than 1% or 2% off the GST. They need child care spaces. They need safe, clean cities. They need decent jobs.

As I mentioned earlier, the city of Toronto has to be more than a vital economic engine. It must be our cultural and artistic centre.

Former NDP culture critic Wendy Lill once said that “art is the soul of any great nation”. She was right, but it is more than that. Culture and the arts also represent jobs for Canadians. Twenty-five thousand Toronto jobs are tied to film and television production alone, yet there was no mention of culture in the throne speech. The decision of the CBC to cancel programs like This is Wonderland is having a profound effect on employment and also on our collective identity. We need a strong cultural sector in order to tell our stories as Canadians and protect our sovereignty.

Our sovereignty also depends on an independent foreign policy, one that does not see us blindly walk into George Bush's war on terror. I want us to support our brave men and women who are stationed all over the world, including in Afghanistan, by making sure that we fully debate their role in Parliament, as we started to do last night. If we claim that we are defending democracy abroad, then we must practise it in this chamber by voting on future missions and future deployments.

I know that the people of Parkdale--High Park and Toronto work hard and pay their taxes, but they told me at the doorsteps, in the subway stations and in the coffee shops during the election campaign that they do not mind paying these taxes if they see value for their taxes, if they see that money invested back into their communities in programs and incentives for their neighbourhoods. They want a beautiful waterfront. They want more child care spaces and more affordable education and training programs for their children. They want to see an end to smog days that start as early as February. They want a city within a compassionate country that feeds and houses all its citizens as a very minimum.

In short, we want a Toronto that the whole country can be proud of. It is what I want too. That is why I am hoping to work with everyone in the House as an advocate for Toronto in Ottawa.

Canada's Commitment in Afghanistan April 10th, 2006

Mr. Chair, let me say that if the hon. member in asking that question does not see a contradiction between someone providing security for an aid worker and that same soldier in an aggressive military mission also providing aid and rebuilding, then I guess I cannot explain it any clearer.

As a news flash, this is not a NATO-led mission as his own party knows well, because of course that is the party that got us into this U.S. led mission.

Canada's Commitment in Afghanistan April 10th, 2006

Mr. Chair, I caution the hon. member on his recklessness with other people's lives.

I will say that the questions we are asking here this evening are the same questions that ministers have asked before and which members of his party have asked in the previous government, including the leader of his party. There should not be a McCarthy-like pledge that needs to take place before someone can have a healthy debate in the House. We can support our sons and daughters, and our troops and not want to place them recklessly in a mission that is under U.S. command without a vote in the House.

Canada's Commitment in Afghanistan April 10th, 2006

Mr. Chair, I am privileged to stand in the House as a new member of Parliament and participate in this important debate on Canada's involvement in Afghanistan.

When we send our citizens, our young sons and daughters, in harm's way, we want to be assured of the nature of the mission and the goals to which they offer their courage and sacrifice. As the parent of three sons, I know all parents believe their children are precious. That is why their fate should be decided only with the respect of a full debate in the House of Commons.

Previous speakers have described the positive role of Canadian troops in the rebuilding in Afghanistan, specifically in defending and promoting women's equality. This, of course, is a worthy goal. The oppression of women in Afghanistan has probably been more extreme than in any other country in the world. Promoting women's equality is a worthy goal but I question whether the war on terrorism, as originally designed south of the border, was really a struggle for women's rights and the dignity of Afghan women. I did not hear that in the public debates at the time of the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002, but it is still a worthy goal.

In my riding of Parkdale--High Park, there is an organization called the Afghan Women's Organization. It is a decades-old organization assisting Afghan women in Canada by addressing their particular needs. Many of them came to Canada as refugees and their needs have been quite extreme. I will say that they spoke positively to me about Canada's peacekeeping role in helping to stabilize and rebuild in Afghanistan. They affirmed that this assistance was sorely needed in such a wartorn country but they echoed what humanitarian organizations around the world are saying, that when troops blur the lines between humanitarian aid and reconstruction and offensive military action, they not only endanger themselves as troops, they endanger aid workers whom they are presumably trying to protect.

It is of course confusing for Afghans. They want the rebuilding to take place but the person in uniform might have a shovel in his or her hand one minute and a gun the next, one minute offering medical assistance and the next minute taking a life. Contrary to what a previous member said, of course rebuilding needs security in order to conduct its work, but the blurring of the lines between security and peacekeeping in aggressive military action is a troubling and dangerous development. We may well be disrespecting our troops by placing them in harm's way in this fashion.

Afghan women also raised serious concerns about the growing lawlessness in Afghanistan. In rural areas, where 85% of the population lives, women fear roving militaristic groups which are increasingly wreaking violence upon them. They said that in some areas it has been even worse than during the times of the Taliban. I spoke to women parliamentarians from Afghanistan who spoke about the routine death threats that they face when they speak about women's rights.

We have heard many important questions here tonight that have not received adequate answers. Some argue that we should only engage in boosterism here tonight. I do not agree. Why is this democratic debate a sign of failure? On the contrary, surely it is a sign of the strength of our democracy and either we believe in the purpose of this House or we do not. Debate is healthy and does not equal a lack of support for our military. A censure of debate is dangerous and not worthy of this House.

Since the former Liberal government got us into this U.S.-led operation enduring freedom, we are being told today that we need to finish what we started. Some Canadian soldiers tragically have already given their lives. Could the government please tell us when our military will finally leave this U.S.-led operation and instead become part of a NATO-led mission with which we could all feel more comfortable?


Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with the hon. member for Vancouver North.

I would like to start by congratulating you, Mr. Speaker, on your re-election to the Speaker's chair. Although I am new to this House, your reputation precedes you.

I would also like to thank the voters of Parkdale--High Park for giving me their confidence. I consider it a great honour to represent our community in the House of Commons. I look forward to working with the NDP caucus and across party lines to advance my constituents' interests in this great chamber.

I campaigned on a platform of championing Toronto's issues in Ottawa and I intend to do just that working with the mayor of Toronto, David Miller, who is a constituent.

I was pleased that the new government's first throne speech included mention of the environment, the creation of new child care spaces and the importance of public health care. These are important priorities to the people of Parkdale--High Park and indeed to all Torontonians.

I was also immensely proud to have been witness to the long overdue official apology to the Chinese Canadians whose families were subjected to the humiliation of the Chinese head tax. As Parkdale--High Park is home to many Ukrainian Canadians, we look to this Parliament to address their internment as well.

Other NDP priorities were also touched on in the throne speech, however briefly, such as electoral reform and the prevention of crime. In this caucus we support making every vote count and we recognize the importance of stemming violent crime.

The government re-emphasized its five priorities. While some of them deserve attention and merit, they all fall short and in some cases are plain wrong. The citizens of Toronto have more than five simple priorities and they cannot wait years for them to be addressed.

We have waited too long for a national public system of early learning and child care. After 13 long years of promises from the previous government, we were finally to see the modest beginning of such a system.

I say to the Prime Minister through you, Mr. Speaker, that the children of Toronto, the children of Canada, need child care now. Their families are counting on the choice in child care that can only be achieved when we create spaces that today's working families will be able to choose to take advantage of or not. Investing in early childhood education is a key part of kids getting a good start in life. I will be monitoring this vital issue for parents in my constituency and across Toronto.

Torontonians most of all want a city that is sustainable, fair, equitable and just. In short, they want a city they can be proud of and a country they can be proud of. It should and I believe it can be a great city that is a cultural and social centre, not only an economic engine that benefits the rest of the country through equalization measures, although we in Toronto recognize this importance, but a truly great international city. However, for Toronto the good to be more than a slogan, for it to become really true, we need the help of the federal government.

After years of empty promises, we had hoped to see the needs of cities like Toronto better addressed in the throne speech. Cities need a real plan and real funding for vital services like affordable housing, transit, services for newcomers and crime prevention. I want to work with the Minister of Transport to address these important challenges facing our city. We need to expand on the new deal for cities introduced in the last Parliament. I hope that this current Parliament will see the need to enshrine the funding agreements in legislation and give municipalities like Toronto a real seat at the table. A real deal for our municipalities requires a national housing strategy. We are the only industrialized country without such a plan and it is time to right this wrong.

Affordable housing is key to the health and quality of life for my constituents in Parkdale--High Park as it is for the rest of Toronto. While it may not make the new government's top five priorities, it is at the top of the list for many Torontonians as it is for me.

Also of great concern to the citizens of--