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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was actually.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Scarborough—Rouge River (Ontario)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Sorry, I actually lived away from home for nine years, seven years when I was in university and after that as well. I did not have the luxury of staying at home in the way one of the hecklers just mentioned.

It is outrageous to say that young workers do not deserve the same wages that other workers do. Women are still fighting for equal pay for equal work, and along the same lines, young workers deserve equal pay for equal work. This legislation is eliminating the right of public sector workers to negotiate collectively.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for clearing that up for me.

We are here to discuss the unfair back-to-work legislation. The Canada Post Corporation decided to lock the doors and not allow in the 48,000 postal workers who want to work.

To defend the rights of all workers, I stand in solidarity with my sisters and brothers in the CUPW who want to work but cannot, with my colleagues here in this caucus, and with thousands of members of my community and other Canadian communities.

The postal workers started a legal rotating strike on June 3. When exercising their legal right to strike as part of the collective bargaining process, they made sure that it did not stop the mail delivery so many Canadians depend on. Actually, it was only after Canada Post shut the doors and locked the workers out on June 15 that we started to notice that the mail service had been interrupted. This past week, the government chose to interfere with the collective bargaining process and institute back-to-work legislation.

The government's proper role in this process is not to interfere, but rather to tell its own crown corporation to get back to the negotiating table and to work out a fair and equitable collective agreement. The government's role is not to aid the corporation to achieve its bargaining goals through back-to-work legislation. This legislation removes all incentive for Canada Post to come back to the negotiating table and relieves Canada Post of its obligation to bargain, never mind bargaining in good faith.

This act by the Minister of Labour is undermining the collective bargaining process that many women and men have struggled, sacrificed, and fought for over the course of many years. When I was a conciliator with the provincial labour board, we pushed for all parties to come to a negotiated settlement on their own.

The strength of those who came before us and defended the right to collective bargaining created benefits for all Canadians. Today's young women and men who are entering the workforce are able to do so knowing that they will be able to enjoy benefits such as the eight-hour workday—of course, I do not have this but most Canadians do—the concept of a weekend, standards and measures to ensure safe working conditions, parental leave, and many others.

Basically, we all have an improved standard of living because of the work that the union movement and workers have accomplished over the years. It is also important to note that the workers of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the CUPW, have themselves been responsible for many advancements over the years.

As a young woman, I would like to outline a few of them.

In 1974, the CUPW members stood in solidarity with the mostly female workforce of the coder machine operators. These workers went on an illegal strike to defend the need for equality for the women who were in the low-paid coder classification.

In 1981, the CUPW workers went on strike and won paid maternity leave. This allowed many young women the freedom not to have to choose between raising a family and following and building a career. We women now know that we will not have to worry about financial barriers to taking care of our newborns, and that we will have a job to return to after maternity leave.

In 1985, the CUPW organized and obtained a collective agreement representing cleaning staff in Toronto, one of the first bargaining units in the private sector, many of whom were women.

The union movement and CUPW in particular have a strong history of standing up and fighting for the struggles that led to workers' rights and increased equality for women.

As women, young workers, workers of all ages and community members with a conscience, we cannot sit idly by as the rights of all workers are taken away and deteriorate.

Postal workers are our neighbours and friends. They are everyday Canadians who deserve decent wages, benefits and good working conditions.

They provide vital services to my constituents of Scarborough—Rouge River and to all Canadians alike, including single parents who depend on the monthly child tax benefit cheque, seniors receiving payments through their GIS or OAS who do not have direct deposit, Canadians who depend on the CPP disability benefit payments, low-income Canadians waiting on a tax return cheque, individuals waiting for their passports and newcomer families who use the mail service for their family sponsorship applications to be reunited with their loved ones. These neighbours across the country are waiting on Canada Post to unlock the doors and unseal the red mail boxes so their lives can return to normal.

The postal workers are asking for the same thing my neighbours are asking for: to go back to work and continue to deliver the millions of pieces of mail every single day.

Through this back-to-work legislation the government has decided to punish the workers by imposing a contract with wage increases much lower than Canada Post's last offer. Let me outline some of the details.

Canada Post's offer was 1.9% in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and 2% in 2014, well below the 3.3% rate of inflation.

The government's legislation, however, would offer something much lower than that. It offers 1.75% in 2011, only 1.5% in 2012 and 2% in 2013 and 2014. This is despite the fact that Canada Post is profitable, earning $281 million last year alone. Its CEO, as we have heard, earned an incredible $497,000 plus a 33% bonus, whereas the offer on the table offers a two-tiered wage system discriminating against young workers because Canada Post wants to roll back the starting salaries for young workers.

This proposal is unfair and unwarranted against young workers.

As Paul Moist said, “There are no such things as two-tier rent or mortgages: young and new workers don't get a discount on utility or grocery bills”.

I agree with him. I never got an opportunity to pay a discounted rent because I was a student working a part-time job. This is an outrageous—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, we are here at this time, and I am going on my 22nd hour today, to discuss this unfair back-to-work legislation.

Before I came here for midnight, I quickly wrote my speech. I am going to be reading from the notes I made before I came here, if the House will accept that.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation June 23rd, 2011

My apologies, Madam Speaker, I will ensure my comments are directed through the Speaker.

I will rephrase my question. Why is it that the government pushed for a lockout situation for the workers and has not allowed them to work?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation June 23rd, 2011

Madam Speaker, the minister mentioned that mail not being delivered is an important thing.

My question is multi-tiered. Why is it that you forced a lockout when workers were willing to work? I spoke with many workers in my riding who told me that they want to work, that they do not want to be living without a wage, that they do not want to be suffering to feed their children right now. That is why the workers instituted a rolling strike. Why is it that you pushed for a lockout?

You also mentioned that--

Canada Post-Secondary Education Act June 23rd, 2011

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-265, An Act to establish criteria and conditions in respect of funding for post-secondary education programs in order to ensure the quality, accessibility, public administration and accountability of those programs.

Mr. Speaker, this bill comes from the history of how our education system is right now. Post-secondary education is not something that is easily accessible and affordable for all Canadians. This bill would enshrine the principles of good quality education and make post-secondary education accessible and affordable to all Canadians.

I sincerely hope that this House will adopt this motion during this session of Parliament.

I am proud to introduce this as my first private members' bill in the Canadian House of Commons.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Business of Supply June 20th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the member says the Conservatives this time around got a clear mandate when 4.5 million Canadians voted for an NDP government whereas only 4.9 million voted for the Conservatives. Four hundred thousand more Canadians do no make a clear mandate.

The engine behind my campaign in Scarborough—Rouge River was the youth and seniors in my community. They believe in the plan, platform, ideas and principles for which the NDP stands. They know we were the only party that showed a clear commitment to lifting seniors out of poverty. That is why 4.5 million Canadians voted to support the NDP this time around.

Business of Supply June 20th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. It clearly will help me articulate the difference in the priorities of the NDP, which are to ensure that it is lifting every senior out of poverty, supporting families, investing in health care and education to help all Canadians rather than just oil companies, big banks, buying fighter jets and building prisons. The NDP's priority is to help every family move ahead rather than just well-connected insiders.

Business of Supply June 20th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to speak to this motion given that over a quarter million seniors are living in poverty today. I also want to articulate the importance of today's youth to be engaged in the dialogue of upholding the standards for today's seniors and for the seniors of the near and distant future.

We are facing crisis today with the number of seniors who are living in poverty. This demands immediate attention. The government has a responsibility to act now to lift every senior out of poverty.

According to Statistics Canada, almost 300,000 more Ontarians sank into poverty since 2007. Further, Ontario's 17% growth in poverty since 2007 was the highest in the country. Right now, almost 1.7 million Ontarians are living in poverty. There has been an increase in poverty of almost 20% among working-aged adults and a staggering 42% among seniors in Ontario.

I hear the distress and anxiety from my constituents. They are not sure how they are going to pay for the increasing energy and food costs, and the additional taxes on their expenses as a result of the HST.

I remember speaking with an elderly couple who live in the Alton Towers in my riding. They invited me into their home, but they had no heat on. They had one portable space heater that they moved from room to room as they moved. They did not have any of their big lights on in their home. They only had small lamps on. They did not watch TV and had one radio that they used for entertainment. They were doing everything possible, everything they could think of to reduce their consumption in order to reduce their expenditures. I sat with them for about 20 minutes as they went through their bills. They showed me their hydro bills that were consistently getting more and more expensive, and less and less affordable for them with their regular day to day expenses living in the meagre way they were.

Nobody in Canada deserves to be living in these conditions, especially our seniors who have given so much of their lives for us. They have invested into the system for much of their lives only to have to live in such abhorrent conditions. No seniors deserve to be lining up at a food bank in order to feed themselves or to be forced to work well into their retirement years.

Another couple I spoke with on Berner Trail, not too far from where I live, had moved into their modest home as a young couple. They worked very hard and raised their family there. They played by the book and did everything right to be able to enjoy their so-called “golden years”. However, now at the ages of 67 and 65, they are looking for work. They are looking for any type of work they can get. The woman is working at the Food Basics by my house as a grocery clerk in order to help pay for their expenses.

A 2009 report on women's poverty from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives stated that low-income rates among senior women remained almost double that of senior men. We know from Statistics Canada that women in Canadian society live longer lives than men.

I am concerned, as everyone in Parliament should be, for all the single senior women in my constituency and in Canada who are going to be left with no choice but to be dependent on food banks and the kindness of local community members. It is very clear from the government's budget that lifting every senior out of poverty is not its priority.

The $300 million proposed by the government is nice. It sounds like a lot, but it falls short. It sends a clear message about the government's priorities. It would rather give billions of dollars of tax cuts to large corporations, oil companies, big banks or the well-connected wealthy insiders rather than lift every man and woman who built this country out of poverty.

It is not just the seniors in my constituency who are concerned about the lack of support to lift seniors out of poverty. Many of the working adults, the young families in my constituency, are also worried. They are concerned about how they are going to be able to afford to help their mother or father have a dignified quality of life as their current OAS or GIS payments do not go very far.

Since the financial support is not enough for their parent or parents to live on their own, these young families are bringing their elderly parents into their homes to care for them. The costs of nursing homes or retirement homes are way beyond the reach of the people who live in my constituency. They cannot afford it. They are very concerned about the additional financial stress as family caregivers when they are already just scraping by on their own.

The seniors I spoke with during the morning walking club at the Malvern Mall tell me of their experiences of living with their children. They tell me how they feel like a huge burden on their children and feel guilty about turning to their children for support on all matters. They do not want to be so dependent on their family members but do not really have a choice and spend as much time as possible at the mall so as not to be in the way of their children's lives. They do not want to feel like a burden.

We owe our seniors so much more than this. We owe our seniors so much more than for them to feel like burdens.

We in the NDP proposed a $700 million increase to the guaranteed income supplement, an investment that would allow our seniors to live a decent quality of life. It would have lifted every senior out of poverty. This support would take the worry off our families and allow our seniors a retirement with dignity and financial security.

However, as we know, the Conservative government has agreed to spend only $300 million, not even half. Other members in the House have said this is a half measure. It is actually less than a half measure. I guess it is okay for the Conservative government to lift three-sevenths or 40% of seniors out of poverty, or to lift every senior 40% out of poverty. But still 300,000 seniors are living below the poverty line. Once again, we owe our seniors much more than this.

A recent report by the Caledon Institute of Social Policy stated that the increase in senior poverty was largely due to the deteriorating position of single elderly women, whose poverty rate jumped from 14.5% in 2007 to 17.1% in 2008. That was over one year.

The federal old age security, the OAS, and the GIS assure a basic level of income for these seniors. The Conservative government displays a bipolar approach to the help that it provides to Canadian seniors. One of its policies has marginally helped low-income seniors, only 40% of them like I mentioned before, and the other helps the wealthy.

In their maiden budget in 2005 the Conservatives announced a modest improvement to the GIS for low-income seniors. I thought there might be a glimpse of hope, but very quickly they made a 180 degree turn in the treatment of our seniors by the changes to the tax system.

Some Conservative members across the way speak about their income splitting plans and how good they are. But studies show that pension income splitting does absolutely nothing to help single seniors or even the poorest elderly couples who pay no tax.

Racialized and lower-income youth today have difficulty accessing post-secondary education because of the barriers to education, financially and otherwise. We know that they need good post-secondary education to acquire any type of good job. If our youth today do not get good jobs, they will be unable to save for their future and more and more people will continue to retire in poverty.

The Budget June 9th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, post-secondary education is something that is very near and dear to my heart, and I congratulate the member for her election to the House.

The budget does not really propose much for post-secondary education. Sure, there are some allowances for loans for students and it makes it easier for students to qualify for loans, but that is not real investment in post-secondary education.

The NDP has been proposing for many years to create a Canada post-secondary education act that would ensure the principles of accessibility and affordability of post-secondary educations would be enshrined in legislation.