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

Safe and Accountable Rail Act May 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, while the bill is a step forward in rail insurance, although the major carriers already carry more than this amount of insurance, it does nothing to address many of the fundamental problems that have led to a dramatic increase in rail accidents.

One of those fundamental problems was the introduction of safety management systems, which was brought in by the Liberals and has continued under the Conservatives. After its introduction in 2001, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of rail accidents.

The carriage of volatile Bakken crude and dilbit has increased many times over this period. The DOT-111 railway cars will be with us for some time and are going through residential, densely populated urban neighbourhoods as well as through communities across this country. What immediate measures is the government going to take so that we can be absolutely sure that the kind of disaster faced by the community of Lac-Mégantic and other accidents across this country is not repeated?

Business of Supply May 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and ask a question of my colleague because I think there is a great deal of support in the House for the NDP motion in support of veterans. I know in my community, in Parkdale—High Park, I regularly visit our two legions: the Royal Canadian Legion, Maple Leaf Branch, which includes the Swansea Branch 46; and the one on the Lakeshore, Branch 344, the Queen's Own Rifles. That is where my dad joined the navy in the war, so it holds a special place in my heart.

However, it is not only in the legions across the country that we find support for our veterans. Certainly, just chatting with neighbours, friends and family, there is tremendous support and respect for our veterans and the work they do. Because they are willing to make a huge sacrifice for the country and for us, we to ensure that we support them when they return.

There has been a lot of friction with the government of late because of the closure of veterans offices, the cutting of personnel and taking veterans to court to deny them the benefits they should be receiving. I know the hon. member personally supports veterans, but does he not see that the government is at odds with veterans because of the cutbacks it has made and challenging the benefits of veterans in courts? Could he answer that for me?

Employment May 11th, 2015

In fact, Mr. Speaker, under the Conservatives, our economy is slipping and Canadian families are feeling the pinch. Last month alone we lost 20,000 jobs.

With major jobs in construction and retail, Canadian workers in all sectors across the country are worried their jobs could be next, but the Conservatives keep giving gifts, tax cuts to the wealthy few.

When will the Conservatives stop giveaways to those who need it least and start to take action to help Canadians struggling to find work?

Employment May 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, 20,000 Canadians lost their jobs last month. Fully 1,000 GM workers in Oshawa will soon be unemployed, as will 300 workers in Mirabel, 125 workers at the Rivière-aux-Rats sawmill and dozens of workers in Matane and Havre-Saint-Pierre. Nevertheless, the Conservative budget only gives gifts to the wealthy.

Why is there nothing in the budget to boost the economy and create jobs for everyone?

Housing May 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, in Toronto, rents have soared year after year and, without real rent control or new affordable housing, tenants are being squeezed.

In my riding of Parkdale—High Park, private landlords are buying up apartment buildings, but doing modest repairs and then applying for above-guideline rent increases that force residents out of their homes. However, Parkdale tenants are fighting back, challenging multi-national property owner Akelius at the Landlord and Tenant Board. It was an honour to join them in solidarity, and I congratulate them on their victories.

Local residents and community organizations have also founded the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust to create space for affordable housing in our rapidly changing downtown neighbourhoods. It is a model for integrated and democratic urban development.

The only thing missing in the fight for affordable housing in Toronto is the federal government. We need a comprehensive national plan to build and support social and affordable housing, and Canadians can count on the NDP to deliver just that.

Petitions May 6th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am being bombarded in my office in Toronto by my constituents from Parkdale—High Park with messages of opposition to Bill C-51.

I am pleased to once again present petitions on behalf of about 150 people in my riding of Parkdale—High Park. They are very concerned that our rights and freedoms would be threatened by giving sweeping new powers to CSIS without adequate oversight.

They are calling on every member in the House of Commons to join together and defeat Bill C-51.

Taxation May 6th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Canadian families are looking for help in the face of risings costs like child care and housing. Instead the Conservatives plan to waste billions on an income-splitting scheme that will not benefit 85% of Canadians. That is just slightly worse than the Liberal tax scheme that would also spend billions and would leave the bottom two-thirds of Canadians behind.

Last night, voters clearly showed they were tired of the same old choices when it came to economic policy. What will it take for those Conservatives to get the message?

Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we have said very clearly we oppose the bill. We want to scrap the bill. We can do it today if we can win enough support from Liberals and Conservatives, or we would do it when we form government.

However, I plead with the member for Winnipeg North for him, his leader, and his other caucus members to find backbone. They are very critical of the bill. I plead with them to find a backbone, stand up in their place and vote against Bill C-51.

Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I regret that I did not notice you giving me a signal earlier that my time was almost up. I apologize.

I appreciate the member opposite is citing one of his constituents. Let me respond with an appropriate response from my community. This is from a constituent.

While I agree that terrorism and radicalization are a real and legitimate concern, I do not belief that passing a bill that could be twisted to potentially encroach on the very freedoms we are trying to protect is the answer. Canada has shown again and again that we are adept at dealing with terrorism with the tools we currently have. This bill is a step in a direction that seems counter to the Canadian values that I hold dear. A step towards a society that values security over freedom, while in reality providing neither.

I have been extremely disappointed by the CPC and LPC the last several years.

And also:

I have not been a supporter of the NDP in the past, but please know that you have won a voter in the next election.

Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have another opportunity to offer my views on Bill C-51 on behalf of the constituency of Parkdale—High Park.

Bill C-51 is a 62-page omnibus, so-called anti-terrorism bill that people are concerned is overly vague and too far-reaching, that beefs up the powers of CSIS, but sadly, does not provide adequate oversight.

There is nothing in the bill to counter radicalism in communities, to engage with communities, as has been recommended by the police and by several community organizations. At the same time the federal government is pushing forward on the bill, supposedly to confront terrorism, it continues to cut the budgets of agencies on the front line of terrorist threats, agencies like the RCMP, CSIS and CBSA. Each and every one has had its budget cut since 2012.

I do have to note that here we are again under time allocation. We are at the report stage. In other words, we are getting a report back from the public safety committee on the bill, on this very important, far-reaching legislation, and we have one day of debate.

Let me say, this is the 95th time that the government has put time limits on debate in this House of Commons, more than three times what any other government has ever attempted in terms of stifling debate and shutting down dissent. Frankly, I have to begin my remarks by saying how offensive it is and how fundamentally undermining to our democracy that we do not have a fuller debate on such an important bill, because it is very far-reaching.

Let me also clarify. Let there be no doubt that New Democrats understand that we are in a rapidly changing world. There are some very serious threats in the world that we should be extremely concerned about. I think social media has brought concerns about terrorism to our doorsteps and has shown us very graphically the kinds of horrible events that have taken place around the world and one very close to home right here in the House of Commons.

We understand that this threat is real. We do not minimize it, but we believe fundamentally, and our leader, I think, has expressed this eloquently and brilliantly that we should not be sacrificing our rights and freedoms in order to protect public safety. That is simply unacceptable, and New Democrats will not accept it.

Of course, we need concrete measures to keep us safe, but they should not erode our freedoms and they should not undermine our way of life. Once again, the Prime Minister has gone too far. Everything is about putting politics before people.

It really rang a note of truth when my colleague from Winnipeg Centre said this morning that perhaps it was the crash of the price of oil that has pushed the government to not wanting to talk about the economy. The Conservatives do not want us to look at that subject on which they have been saying they were so great for the last few years, because now Canada is not doing very well on the economy. The Conservatives put all their eggs in the oil and gas resources basket. Suddenly, we are facing serious economic headwinds and they do not want to talk about that, so now they are putting their eggs in the anti-terrorism and public safety basket.

We are concerned about the far-reaching nature of the bill, how sweeping it is, and we are really disappointed that the Conservatives chose to disregard the testimony at the public safety committee, because most of the witnesses, including the Conservative witnesses, in fact said there needs to be significant changes to the bill.

The leader of the official opposition has been very clear that he will not be intimidated. We will not be intimidated into giving a blank cheque to the current government and the Prime Minister. We will stand up to any Conservative law that erodes our way of life in Canada, unlike the third party and the leader of the third party. We are not going to be intimidated and will be voting against Bill C-51 and against the very dangerous measures that it would bring in.

I did mention that we are at the report stage of the bill. Therefore, the bill went to the committee and, shockingly, the Conservatives wanted to have just three two-hour meetings on this far-reaching bill. It was a very short period time. However, thanks to New Democrats, we were able to push the number of meetings to nine, but it was still a very limited process.

Again, most of the witnesses were very critical of the bill, and in a highly unusual move, four former prime ministers, including Conservative prime ministers, have come out with serious concerns about the bill. One hundred law professors in Canada, senior legal minds, have been highly critical of the bill and detailed their deep concern about the undermining of our charter rights and our basic legal rights in this country. Privacy commissioners have expressed their concerns about the far-reaching extent of the information sharing of the bill. However, I notice that the federal Privacy Commissioner was not able to appear before the committee because the Conservatives did not allow that.

I have to say that with the bill before us, I have never seen such a reaction as with Bill C-51. It is rare when I talk to someone in the community that they know the number of a bill. They might say, “that budget bill” or “the bill on public safety”, but it is rare that they know the number of the bill and are really informed about it. I have to say that the level of awareness has been extremely high.

Early on in the process when the government was saying that most Canadians still supported the bill, I have to say that in Toronto at City Hall, the public square was absolutely full, chock-a-block, in an anti-Bill C-51 protest. I was very proud that I and my NDP colleagues were able to speak at the protest and stand strong along with the leader of the Green Party in opposition to the bill. We were very well received at that time. I have had dozens of people come to me asking what they could do to stop the bill. People have said that they want to talk to their neighbours, knock on doors and explain to other Canadians exactly what is happening here. We have seen incredible community engagement on the bill.

In the time that remains for me today, I would like to bring some of the voices of my community of Parkdale—High Park to the House. On the government side, they may not think people are paying attention. Conservatives may not think people read and really know what is going on, but they do. People do know what is going on and I would like to share some of their comments.

Here is an email that was written to the Prime Minister and shared with me. It is from a constituent on Wright Avenue, who says:

Dear Mr. Harper;

Please advise all of your ministers to follow the advice of the many Canadians who opposed bill C-51. The broad language contained in it that will give sweeping powers to CSIS are particularly disturbing.

Rather than making Canadians safer, C-51 seems more likely to make Canadians more afraid: afraid to appear to be different, afraid of authority, afraid to speak out, afraid to be free.

It will also undermine one of our great strengths: our multi-culturalism, our acceptance of the many cultures that have made Canada strong and free.

Please advise everyone to vote against C-51, to drastically amend it, or better yet to kill it outright.

I look forward to your reply, assuring that bill C-51, in its present state, will be voted down.

I will read another one—