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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

Aboriginal Affairs June 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise today representing the riding of Parkdale—High Park, the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. My riding also includes the ancient first nations' site of the Toronto Carrying Place Trail, a portage route connecting Lake Simcoe and Lake Ontario along the east bank of the Humber River. The trail was used for nearly a thousand years as an important trade route for first nations. In 1615, 400 years ago, the first French settlers travelled that same route.

Today is a historic day, with the release of the final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We thank all those whose emotional testimony made this report possible. We need to respond with a serious commitment to reconciliation. On this 400th anniversary, it is a chance to build a renewed relationship based on respect and equality.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, there is a great deal the banks could do to appeal to consumers. We have long advocated for a capping of credit card rates. We have pressured for some time to reduce the fees charged to small businesses. That is an important step forward.

However, we really think the counterbalance, the growth of payday lenders across the country that can charge exorbitant interest rates and disproportionately have as customers people who are of low income, is a kind of no-frills credit card capped at a 5% interest rate. That would really be helpful for Canadians.

We have not had any take-up on that from the government, but it really would make a difference. There are times when people just need a little extra money to make ends meet and we allow them no other option than to go to payday lenders where they can be charged absolutely exorbitant rates. We are penalizing them even further. It is like a super tax on the people who can least afford it.

There is a great deal the government could do to make life more affordable for Canadians by working with the banking sector to make their consumer products much more accessible.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is true that almost half the people living in subsidized housing in Toronto do not have an Internet connection at home and cannot afford Internet service. Paying $2 a month to the bank is really like a tax for them, because it is hard for the very poor to pay their monthly bills. The government has no excuse for not moving to eliminate the fees charged by major banks, which make huge profits. It would be very easy for the government to eliminate these fees, just as it eliminated the fees of other companies.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the motion introduced by my colleague from Davenport, calling on the government to ban all pay-to-pay practices by banks operating in Canada through the enactment of a mandatory code of conduct to protect consumers.

I will be splitting my time with the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

I am an MP from the city of Toronto and Toronto is a place that has very high housing costs. We have a wait list of over 90,000 households trying to get affordable, subsidized housing in the city of Toronto. Barely 50% of workers in the GTA have some kind of job security. They have seen the amount of precarious work jump by 10% since 2011. Just recently, the Toronto Dominion Bank estimated that the wage gap between precarious and permanent employment was as high as $18,000 a year.

Toronto, which is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, is finding that racialized workers have experienced a 30% increase in precarious employment since 2011. Poverty is increasing. Almost 10% of Torontonian seniors live in poverty. That is the most recent data since 2011 because of the undermining of our Statistics Canada data by the government. However, what we do know is that many seniors do not use the Internet. In 2013, in the U.S., about 59% of seniors used the Internet. Internet is significantly down for those who live in subsidized housing.

The reason I give these statistics about the city of Toronto and the people who live there is the fact that bank fees, which are unregulated by the government, are costing Canadians, costing Torontonians up to $180 million a year. This is like a private sector tax that the government is allowing on some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Seniors, newcomers, low-income Canadians are paying up to $180 million in really what is a private sector tax.

What am I talking about here? I am talking about the practice of banks charging customers a fee just to get a paper bill. For over 100 years, people have been receiving bills through the mail, either for utilities, or other accounts and then they go to the bank and pay their bill or they make out a cheque and send it through the mail. However, in 2011, Canadians started noticing charges appearing on their bill for the simple privilege, which I thought was a right, to receive a bill in a paper copy.

For seniors, that is the way a lot of them liked to bank. My mother was absolutely incensed when Bell Canada sent her a bill and charged her a couple of dollars for the privilege. She phoned it and was furious. She had been a customer for 60 years, had never been late with a payment, and suddenly it decided to charge her an extra couple of bucks for the privilege of paying a bill. Someone likened it to someone handing us a bill in a restaurant and then giving us an additional bill for a couple of bucks because he or she was handing us a bill.

If we buy a table in a department store and it charges a couple of dollars to give a receipt for the table, that is absolutely ludicrous. I want to thank my colleague from Davenport. He began campaigning on this and called it his “ending of pay-to-pay fees”; that is having to pay just for the privilege of paying a bill. He has noted quite rightly that it disproportionately affects seniors, low-income Canadians, newcomers to Canada, people who like to get paper copies or people who perhaps do not have access to the Internet, like more than 40% of Torontonians who live in subsidized housing. In Toronto community housing, people do not have access to computers.

Most Canadians agree with the right of people to get bills without additional fees. Forty per cent of Canadians have said that they are just not comfortable banking online, but three-quarters of Canadians disapprove of charging Canadians for getting bills or statements. Most Canadians believe this is just the cost of doing business. Businesses invoice people and send the bills through the mail. That is the cost of doing business and it is accommodated appropriately in business plans.

The New Democrats have been talking to Canadians across the country. They have been signing petitions, emailing, phoning their MPs and going into constituency offices demanding action to get rid of these pay-to-pay fees. After strong pressure from the New Democrats, the government finally decided to take action on utility bills, but, inexplicably, left the banks out. It is very difficult to understand why the banks would be excluded from this. They are doing quite well. In the first quarters of their fiscal years, Canada's big banks have amassed more than $16 billion in profits. RBC, just one of the major banks, has broken records by pulling in about $5 billion in the first half of this year.

The point is that it is not like the banks are on the brink of bankruptcy. The banks are doing extremely well, yet not only have they been charging people to pay their bills but they thought this year it would be a good idea to start charging people to make payments on their lines of credit and mortgages. I am sure they thought that was a very good idea that would add even more profit to their bottom lines, but Canadians were absolutely outraged by it and have forced the banks to backtrack on it. However, Canadians should be comparatively outraged by the $180 million that banks are ripping off from people by nickel and diming them $2 at a time. Even these fees have been increasing.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has recommended that the government follow through on its commitment to eliminate the application of additional fees charged to Canadian consumers to receive any paper bill or statement. Certainly, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons has spoken out against this. It knows how angry seniors are by the charge just to get a bill from the bank. It says that it hardly seems fair that customers, through no fault of their own, are being charged $2 for the privilege of paying a bill.

We do not need the wishy-washy voluntary code of conduct that the Conservative government has put forward. We need strong measures. We need a mandatory code of conduct that bans these extra fees that penalize those who can least afford to pay them. That is what the people of Toronto are telling me and what Canadians are saying right across the country.

I thank my New Democrat colleagues for their strong support for banning pay-to-pay fees. I think the rest of the members in the House will probably support this measure. We need the Conservative government to take action, ban pay-to-pay fees, get tough with their friends in the banks, and benefit Canadian consumers and citizens right across the country.

Citizenship and Immigration June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the people who are directly affected know that the current government has failed to deal with the immigration backlog. That is the reality.

These long delays create havoc for newcomers, who just want to come to Canada, build a better life, and make a contribution. These delays affect real people such as Kerstin Mulfinger, who waited four months longer than the standard wait time just to renew her permanent resident card. It impacted her job.

When will the Conservatives show their humanity, reduce the processing wait times, and make life easier in Canada for immigrant families?

Pensions May 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, rather than rhetoric, Canadians need real action on retirement security.

The Conservatives are blatantly pretending that they will do something about the looming retirement security crisis, but the fact is, after promising to work with the provinces to boost CPP for all Canadians, the Conservatives have spent years blocking any progress in spite of overwhelming demand for change.

After a decade of Conservative rule, Canadians are less secure than ever. Why will the minister not support a real boost to CPP benefits so that all Canadians can retire in dignity?

Pensions May 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, let us talk about real Canadians. The Conservatives have spent 10 years eroding the retirement security of Canadians. Seven in ten workers have no workplace pensions, and less than a quarter of them can afford to contribute to RRSPs each year. To make matters worse, the Conservatives plan to raise the age of retirement will cost Canadian seniors up to $30,000 each. With such a record of failing seniors, does the minister really expect anyone to believe them now on CPP?

Business of Supply May 25th, 2015

Mr. Chair, perhaps I can just help the minister here. The job quality index from the CIBC has actually never been as low as it is now. This is the lowest on record.

However, given that the minister is a Toronto member of Parliament, would he like to comment on the loss of 98,000 manufacturing jobs under his government? Does he believe that the loss of 98,000 manufacturing jobs in the city of Toronto is acceptable?

Business of Supply May 25th, 2015

Mr. Chair, perhaps I can offer that 20,000 jobs were lost last month.

However, I would also like to ask a question about job quality because the CIBC has put out a report on job quality. Could the minister tell us when was the last time that CIBC's job quality index was as low as it is currently?

Business of Supply May 25th, 2015

Mr. Chair, with respect, I would think a G7 finance minister would know how many jobs were lost last month in his country.

Could the minister tell us how many jobs were lost in Canada last month?