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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

Petitions May 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present to this House two petitions on behalf of my constituents of Parkdale—High Park.

The first petition is concerning child care. My constituents are thrilled that the Leader of the Opposition has put forward a plan to ensure that there is quality affordable child care available for every Canadian child who needs it, with the goal of limiting costs to $15 a day or less. The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to work with the provinces and territories to implement this plan for affordable child care.

Employment May 14th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, if they take a haircut on their pension, my guess is they will be less pleased about it.

The government's economic strategy is failing Ontario. Under the Conservative government, more than 275,000 manufacturing jobs in Ontario have disappeared. Today we learned that another 480 jobs are lost at Bombardier's Downsview plant in Toronto.

In spite of the crocodile tears opposite, our hearts really are with the workers who are facing an uncertain future in that plant. The question is simple. Why do the Conservatives refuse to support manufacturing jobs in Ontario?

Pensions May 14th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, five years after Nortel went bankrupt and 20,000 pensioners had their incomes dramatically slashed, a bankruptcy court has ruled that they are entitled to an equitable share of Nortel's assets.

The battle is still not over for these pensioners, as appeals may drag on, and their lawyer is warning that they may not receive the full amount.

Why have the Conservatives failed to protect workers and left these pensioners to the mercy of the courts?

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 May 14th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

The budget contains more protection for the companies who produce the recordings. Still, the works themselves and their composers do not benefit from the same protection. Artists already have enough trouble making ends meet, and we should help them as much as possible. This is another failure of this government, which has not supported artists and their works in this budget. It is another example that shows that this government really has not worked for the middle class or helped most Canadians. It is truly one of their failures.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 May 14th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting that somehow Liberals could be at the centre of a massive corruption scandal using Canadians' tax dollars and basically paying off their own people, as the Gomery commission found very well. Only the Liberals could then have the arrogance to blame New Democrats or blame Canadians for making a choice other than for the Liberals. To me, it is failing to learn from the past, and it is failing to learn the basic lesson of humility.

Having said that, I do take the point of the hon. member, and I respect the point that he is making, that we have had seven deficit budgets from the current Conservative government. I look at governments like that of Roy Romanow and Gary Doer, who balanced budget after budget. Tommy Douglas, for that matter, balanced budget after budget. Do members know who has the best record of balancing budgets in this country? It is the NDP.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 May 14th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to once again participate in this debate on the budget implementation bill on behalf of the people I represent in Parkdale—High Park, in Toronto.

The people in Parkdale—High Park, like most Torontonians and probably most Canadians, are pretty fair-minded people. They are thoughtful, they pay attention to what is going on, and they are pretty community-minded. They get involved in their neighbourhood. They are good volunteers. They really want government to help them and their communities.

First of all, on their behalf I have to say that so many people have written to me that they are offended that the government insists on bringing in these omnibus budget bills that are basically an amalgam of several pieces of legislation. This particular bill is 150 pages long, with 270 clauses, and dozens of acts thrown in together, many of which have nothing to do with the budget.

My constituents are offended by the process with which the government brings in its legislation. They always ask what the Conservatives are trying to hide, in refusing to have open, thorough debate and open discussion of their legislation.

Joining me in this debate today, I would like to inform the Speaker that I will be splitting my time with the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

This omnibus bill is a way to obscure what is in fact the real legislative agenda of the government. The other thing people in my community have said is that they find the notion that this is a balanced budget is a bit of a sleight of hand. Technically, I suppose we could call it that. However, the way to a so-called razor-thin balanced budget has been through devastating cuts to the public service in Canada. So many things that Canadians rely on, whether it is food safety, transportation safety, or the support for veterans have been cut; they are the services that government needs to be providing for Canadians.

That is not fair. It is not a true balance. It really is undercutting what Canadians are paying for. I think Canadians know they are getting a very raw deal with the government and its phony balanced budget. They also know that getting to this balanced budget came by way of raiding the employment insurance fund. Less than 40% of unemployed Canadians even have access to the employment insurance benefits that they need when they are unemployed, benefits they have paid into. They and their employers paid premiums into this fund, and then when they lose their job and need the fund, for the vast majority of them, it is not there. In the city of Toronto, I think only about 20% of people who lose their job are able to access employment insurance.

The government, like the Liberals before them, has dug in with both hands, scooped up a lot of money and used it to cover off its deficits.

The other thing the government has done is that it has had a bit of a fire sale, selling off GM shares at a loss, which basically gave up any opportunity to have a window on General Motors, especially when there is a lot of concern and uncertainty about continued investment by General Motors in Canada. It seemed to be a particularly bad time for Canada to sell those shares.

The government also got its supposed balance by raiding the rainy day fund, the contingency fund for Canada.

The government should not hang its hat on what a great economic manager it is, because it has in fact made choices that really have not been in the best interest of the majority of Canadians. It could have used this budget to create child care spaces. It promised to create 100,000 child care spaces. The Prime Minister himself promised that.

Guess how many child care spaces the government has created? The Conservatives have created exactly the same number as the Liberals before them, and that number is zero, none, nada. They have failed to create even one child care space for Canadians. That is shameful and I think a terrible legacy for this and the previous government in this country.

On infrastructure, our cities and communities across this country are crying out for effective infrastructure investment. I come from Toronto where we are effectively stuck in gridlock. The Toronto Board of Trade estimates that we lose, as an economy, $6 billion every single year because of lack of infrastructure investment. This is cumulative. Not only has the current government failed to invest in infrastructure, but it is building on the previous failures of Liberal governments before it.

Sadly, we are now in this situation where we have gridlocked roads, crumbling bridges, bursting water mains, and electricity that goes out whenever there is a bad storm. This is no way to run the biggest city, the engine of our economy here in Canada. It is no way to run Toronto or any other community. I say it is a disgrace and failure on the part of the current federal government.

We also see a real housing crisis in this country, which is one of the biggest causes of poverty in Canada. People cannot afford a decent roof over their heads. I see it in my community of Parkdale where people are paying far too much for poor-quality rental accommodation. We have recently seen big multinational companies like Akelius come in and do superficial, cosmetic renovations and jack up the rent, and people are forced out of their homes.

I want to pay tribute to people in Parkdale who have gone to the Landlord and Tenant Board, challenged those decisions, and won some victories for affordable housing in our community. However, we need to have the federal government at our backs supporting the community, supporting Canadians who work hard and are looking for a decent, affordable place to live. We need the government's support, and we need a national housing strategy. Sadly, this was cancelled in Canada under the previous Liberal government, but the current Conservative government had a chance to do something about housing and it has failed.

Another major issue in my community is the Union Pearson Express: the express line that goes from the largest railway station, Union Station, to our largest airport, Pearson. There will be trains running every seven and a half minutes past many houses, schools, and daycares in our neighbourhood. Sadly, the Ontario provincial Liberal government has created a diesel train to do this. No other city in the world is putting diesel trains running that often through major urban areas. It was not done in Vancouver, and other cities around the world are investing in electric trains. However, our community is subjected to dirty diesel.

We have finally, through incredible community pressure, persuaded the provincial government that, yes, electric is better, but it has not budgeted any money to actually make the change to electric. This is an infrastructure investment that the federal government could have made and should have made. The people of Toronto want to see clean transportation, clean electric, and it should have been built once, built right, but there is a chance to have this corrected.

There are two other areas that the government could have acted on but did not, and one is reducing the cost of remittances. The government did talk about studying remittances, but I have a proposal into the House to limit the cost to 5% for remittances for new Canadians to send money back to their home country, which would have been a real cost saving. Second, the government also could have dramatically improved the lot of interns. The government has made some steps in the current budget, but the Conservatives inexplicably failed to protect interns from sexual harassment and exploitative hours of work.

I could go on for some time talking about what is not in the budget. Sadly, what the Conservatives have chosen to spend the money on are the people who are the wealthiest, at the very top income level, and have used the taxes of the rest of Canadians to do that.

This is a failed budget, and that is why we will be voting against it. However, Canadians will have a chance to make a different choice this October, and then we will bring in a budget that is good for all Canadians.

Petitions May 14th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of more than 100 constituents calling upon the House to pass Motion No. 529, which calls upon the government to work with the provinces, territories, municipalities, and seniors organizations to develop a national strategy on aging. This would deal with secure public health care, reducing out-of-pocket health expenses, establishing appropriate policies for seniors housing and income security, and basically ensuring that seniors issues are addressed by this government, as well as creating a seniors advocate to monitor these changes. I am pleased to submit this petition on behalf of my constituents.

National Action Plan to Address Violence Against Women May 13th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate this evening on this very important motion, Motion No. 444, to create a national action plan to address violence against women.

I would like to thank my colleague from Churchill who has been tireless in her advocacy for this national plan and who is standing up strongly for an inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women. I would like to salute her and thank her for all of her hard work.

It is really shameful that we even need to have this debate. Clearly, we need a national action plan to address violence against women and girls in this country. It should not be necessary because for so many years this is something that has been urged for, both domestically and internationally. Even the UN has been calling for Canada to adopt this plan.

The rates of violence against women and girls in Canada is persistently and shockingly high, especially for doubly-disadvantaged, indigenous, racialized, LGBTTQ women, and those with disabilities. These calls for a national action plan come from all feminist women's organizations across the country. The government, clearly, needs to respond in creating this plan. It is fundamentally important for women in this country.

Let me just quote a credible, long-time activist organization, one that provides services for women in Canada, which is the YWCA. Ann Decter, who is the director of advocacy and public policy, wrote, “Canada needs a national action plan on violence against women that will set national standards for prevention, support services, legal services and access to justice and crucial social policies, such as access to safe, affordable housing. A National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women needs to be part of the plan. M-444 provides for all of this, and as such, has our full support.”

Therefore, what is called for is clear. Women's organizations are speaking with one voice on this and it is long overdue that our government take action.

I want to give a couple of recent examples of what is happening in my city of Toronto.

On May 8, we had the murder of Suraiya Gangaram who was 31 and a single mom of three daughters. Her alleged murderer had threatened to kill her last year. He was out on bail and required to stay away from her. Nevertheless, he killed her and then threw himself in front of a train, but lived and, of course, will stand trial for this murder. However, she is now deceased and her three daughters are left without anyone to care for them.

Just last year we had another horrible, tragic case of 43-year old Zahra Abdilla who was murdered as were her two sons. They were killed in their home in Toronto. What was particularly tragic was that Mrs. Abdilla had been in a shelter for two weeks. She had been fighting to get custody of her sons, but could not afford a lawyer and had no options. There was no second-stage housing for her to go to with her sons, so she returned to her abusive husband and their home. She was killed and her husband subsequently committed suicide.

These are just a couple of the many examples of murder, but there are all kinds of other horrible situations of sexual violence and abuse.

In my own community of Parkdale—High Park, about a decade ago, a woman, Rosie McGroarty, was bludgeoned to death by her partner. It was a particularly gruesome case. I will not go into details, but it was again a situation that brought home the terrible reality of the kind of violence that far too many women are facing.

These are extreme examples, but the reality is that half of all women have experienced an incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16, and of course, an issue that has been all too prevalent in this House has been the call for an inquiry into the more than 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women in this country and a call for the government, finally, to take action.

Instead, the government has cut many women's programs. We have certainly seen a failure to act in terms of funding for housing, affordable housing, second stage housing. The government cut and abolished the court challenges program. It slashed the budget of the Status of Women Agency by 70%. It took the word “equality” out of the Status of Women Agency's mandate.

It erroded pay equity legislation, blocked the NDP bill on trans rights. In case after case, whether it is failing to create even one child care space in this country, failing to have a national housing strategy, the government has failed women in this country.

I want to salute the many community members across this country who are trying desperately to fill in the gaps and are taking action. I want to salute, for example, in my own community the Redwood Women's Shelter, which is a safe haven for women who are leaving an abusive relationship, which is one of the most difficult things for a woman to do, especially if she has children. However, Redwood and its wonderful staff and volunteers provides emotional, practical and social support for women and their children while they are in that safe haven. It has a very high success rate: 80% of the women who are fortunate enough to find support at Redwood Shelter do not go back to their abusive relationship.

I want to salute the Parkdale anti-violence education group. I have worked with them to create a scholarship in the name of Rosie McGroarty, the woman who was very brutally murdered in our community. I especially want to salute Parkdale Community Legal Services and its community outreach person, Peggy-Gail Dehal-Ramson, who has been a real leader in working with women who have faced violence and are trying to get their lives back on track. She has provided really inspiring community development work with so many women in our community.

These community organizations exist across the country along with a small army of volunteers. Women, primarily, but some women and men who want to try to eliminate this terrible situation of persistent violence against women and girls need government leadershp.

In closing, I want to be very clear what it is that we want. We want the Government of Canada to finally commit to the creation of a national action plan to address violence against women. We want it to do this in consultation and partnership with the provinces, territories, first nations, Inuit and Métis, governments and communities. We want broad consultation in all regions to include these front line service providers, housing advocates, legal advocates, law enforcement personnel, survivors and marginalized women advocates. This is long overdue.

I salute my colleague for bringing this motion forward and I challenge all members in this House to adopt this motion and finally take definitive action to help women and girls across this country.

Employment May 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, clearly too many workers have learned the hard way that neither Liberals nor Conservatives can be trusted when it comes to foreign takeovers.

Thousands of families are feeling the effects of Conservative mismanagement of the economy. We have lost nearly 42,000 jobs in Ontario in just the last six months. In Toronto alone, we have lost 8,800 jobs in the last year.

The question is, why are the Conservatives giving handouts to the wealthy when these are the families that need help getting back on their feet?

Employment May 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, let us try again. Rio Tinto is cutting up to 170 jobs and scrapping the Alcan name. It is another foreign takeover rubber-stamped by the Conservatives where workers are left to pay the price.

Liberal and Conservative governments have rubber-stamped thousands of foreign takeovers without securing protections for Canadian workers. Why are the Conservatives always so quick at selling out Canadian communities to foreign interests and so slow to help the workers impacted by the takeovers?