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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is amendments.

Liberal MP for Don Valley West (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 54% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions February 24th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present an electronic petition with 1,428 signatures on it, very similar to the petition presented by the member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert, calling upon the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie to support the lives and livelihoods of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people by investing in the protection of livestock before and after disasters. This would strengthen food security, nutrition, gender equality, livelihoods, and promote sustainable growth.

Business of Supply February 16th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I will start by saying that contrary to what we might hear in today's debate, I do not think this side of the House, or even that end of the House, has any monopoly on care and concern for human rights and justice for all people.

I want to begin by acknowledging that I actually find myself in a difficult position on this motion, because as I read the motion, I would find it very easy to support. My question is about the timing of the motion. The difficulty I have in supporting it has to do with the fact that it could usurp another motion that is being considered by the House, which we also consider important.

Would it perhaps not be better to deal with one motion and then consider a broader motion at another time, because two studies would then not collide with each other?

Genetic Non-Discrimination Act February 14th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin my remarks today echoing the previous speaker, who was thankful for the tremendous work of the recently retired Senator James Cowan, who put his heart and his soul, his head, and his hard work into getting this bill to us today.

I also thank the members of the Senate human rights committee who spent hours getting the bill right so that it could pass there unanimously and get to this, the other place, in their words.

I thank the patients and the doctors, the parents and researchers, the advocates, legal scholars, the many health groups, and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs that persisted in making sure that this bill passed at second reading and got to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, so ably chaired by the member for Mount Royal.

I thank all the members of that committee, and also the former justice minister and the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, both for their remarks and for their work on the committee; and the whole committee for sending it back to this House unchanged so that we could consider it, pass it, and start making a difference in the lives of Canadians this very day. It is a rare opportunity that we in this House can actually pass a bill that will change the lives of millions of Canadians and change it for the better for sure.

Unfortunately the amendments presented by the member for Edmonton Centre would essentially gut this bill. If they are passed, they would rob it of its ability to help all Canadians and limit its effect to very few. For me, the bill as it stands right now is the only way to ensure that all Canadians, regardless of where they live, where they work, where they receive health care; and where they may face discrimination in family law, labour law, or with respect to the provision of any good or service, will not be discriminated against because of their genetic characteristics. This is a bold law. It is a 21st century law designed to combat a 21st century problem new to us since the discovery of the human genome. The proposed amendments would, as I said, make the protection envisioned in this bill so narrow and so small as to make it impotent in the face of a problem that any Canadian could be challenged with. Unfortunately, the member for Edmonton Centre is new to the justice committee. He did not have the advantage of being part of it when, after very careful consideration, the committee chose to return the bill to this House with full and complete support for every one of its clauses.

The committee considered the medical necessity of the bill, the horrendous choices faced by adults and particularly parents of young children who have to decide whether to undergo a genetic test in the face of possible discrimination. The committee members saw the social evil of failing to protect every Canadian, ensuring that we all get the best health care possible. They also considered the jurisdictional questions, and came to an all-party conclusion. I am so happy to have brought together the NDP and the Conservatives. It does not happen often enough, but it is Valentine's Day and I am sensing some love there. This is an all-party conclusion that it is indeed within the right and the responsibility of the federal government to enact this bill.

Legal scholars appearing before the committee did not all agree, but the majority said without hesitation that they believe it is within our powers, the powers of everyone here, to pass this bill. The committee considered the concerns of the insurance industry and its fears that rates for life insurance would go up if the bill passes. The committee, however, also learned from the Privacy Commissioner, who undertook two studies and determined that “the impact of a ban on the use of genetic information by the life and health insurance industry would not have a significant impact on insurers and the efficient operation of insurance markets.”

The justice committee could have chosen to vote down each of the eight clauses that are proposed to be deleted, but it did not. The members of the committee chose to protect the integrity of all three aspects of this bill, what I have referred to as a three-legged stool, and they did that after very careful consideration of all the evidence.

Now the government is proposing to delete almost every section of the bill, including the title. How could it have reached such a different conclusion than those of our colleagues on the justice committee? The arguments that they heard at committee were different. We have heard that the argument the government has is jurisdictional, but according to Professors Bruce Ryder of Osgoode Hall; Pierre Thibault of the University of Ottawa; and the most distinguished constitutional scholar in our country, Peter Hogg, who has been cited over 1,000 times in Canadian courts including the Supreme Court of Canada, Bill S-201 is a valid constitutional exercise of federal criminal law power.

The Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly emphasized that the criminal law power is very broad and can apply to areas that would normally be under provincial jurisdiction, especially to counter social evil.

There are many examples of the Supreme Court, which has upheld this doctrine for food and drugs, tobacco, firearms, security training, assisted human reproduction, and more.

Is genetic discrimination a social evil?

Just ask the parents who go to Toronto's SickKids hospital. Just ask them what it is like when, as Dr. Ronald Cohn has said, parents of very sick children have been paralyzed by the fear of genetic discrimination. If a fear of discrimination is so great that it prevents a parent from having their child receive a genetic test that could save their life, is that not a social evil? This is not anecdotal. The CMA told committee that it ,“strongly supports the enactment of Bill S-201 in its entirety.... Canadians deserve to have access to the best possible health care without fear of genetic discrimination”.

Peter Hogg said, “The only conceivable purpose of [the bill] is to prohibit and prevent what Parliament would regard as the evil of genetic discrimination”.

To sum up, the Canadian Human Rights Act changes are simply not sufficient to do the job at hand. That is the only part the government would save. The act only applies to sectors and industries within federal jurisdiction.

Amending the Human Rights Act would be of little, or even of no, assistance to most Canadians who encounter or fear genetic discrimination. In fact, it could be dangerous. People could have the false assumption they are being protected, but could lose their job, could lose in a family law case, could lose benefits, could be denied insurance, or anything else that we assume should be protected under Canadian law.

Canadians want strong laws to protect their rights. They want to ensure that the federal government is taking action to protect them. The government claims that federal action alone cannot ensure the protections that stakeholders are calling for.

I support the call for additional provincial legislation, but almost every witness that the committee heard from told them that strong federal action is absolutely necessary. The federal Parliament can take action and can do so while respecting our Constitution. That is our job.

I ask members of this House to defeat these amendments, pass the bill as it stands, make a difference in the lives of Canadians, and ensure that all Canadians have the health care they deserve.

Canada's First Female Astronaut January 31st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, 25 years ago yesterday, the NASA space shuttle Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base after spending eight days in the vacuum of space. Aboard was Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada's first female astronaut, an accomplished neurologist born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie.

Returning to earth, Dr. Bondar led an international team of NASA scientists studying the human body's ability to recover from exposure to space. For her ground-breaking research, she received the NASA Space Medal and was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

Since then, Roberta has worked as a physician, researcher, scientist, photographer, and educator. Dr. Bondar is a role model for all Canadians. I am proud to have her as a constituent and a friend, to say nothing of the fact that we graduated from the same high school.

Mr. Speaker, shortly you will have the honour to welcome her to Parliament. Today we all celebrate her historic contributions to science and to Canada.

Committees of the House December 9th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security concerning Bill C-22, an act to establish the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain acts.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

Interparliamentary Delegations December 7th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the Bilateral Mission to the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Mauritius held from March 16 to 20, 2015.

If I could have a moment, I want to mention that the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier, the late Mauril Bélanger, led that delegation and, hence, there has been a delay in submitting this report.

Business of Supply December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his remarks. It is wonderful as a member of the government caucus to stand and listen to our minister and be proud of every word that he said and to be in agreement with them all.

Could the minister comment both on the previous relationship we have had for the last number of decades with the Cuban people and its government, and what it is going to look like in the next 20 or 30 years? Does Canada have a role to play in a future engagement with the Cuban people as Cuba continues to develop its democracy and its partnerships around the world?

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 November 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, this shows again that New Democrats are Liberals in a hurry and I understand that. However, I quite agree with the prudent and careful nature of the finance minister in putting in indexing in 2020, which is just a few years away, to look at the impact of this.

This is a government that is evidence-based. We are going to look at the impact of that direct tax-free Canada child benefit that has never been done even by a New Democratic Party government in any province in any kind of aggressive way. We have put real money into the pockets of real people to make a real difference today. By 2020, we will have had time to evaluate that and understand both the macro and micro-economic contingencies that are going on. We will be prudent. We are careful and mindful of the public purse. As we do that, members can rest assured that our first interest is the welfare of Canadians, particularly the welfare of children in this country. We will be lifting them out of poverty and by 2020, we will have indexing.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 November 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the member for Courtenay—Alberni has raised an important issue but he is missing an important part of the budget and that is the Canada child benefit. I spent most of my time speaking on this.

Our government has had a focused and intentional reduction of marginal tax rates for the middle class. We have increased the tax rates on the wealthiest Canadians, and I am proud that we have done that. I look at taxes as my opportunity to share what I have and as a wealthier Canadian, I think that our rates should be higher. The income tax on the middle class was simply too high and the income tax on Canadians earning the lowest income was probably about right. Many of them pay very little income tax because they are able to deduct a number of things. Our government had a targeted income tax cut that will ensure that we have financial stability in our economy and that we can pay for things like the Canada child benefit that makes a difference in people's lives day to day so they can buy groceries.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 November 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address the House today and to speak on the issue of the implementation of the budgetary plan that this government is attempting to provide to the House, to make sure that Canadians have the best opportunities possible.

I want to draw the House's attention today to an article I read in The Toronto Star, which is actually quite important for this House to hear. It was about the incidence of child poverty in urban centres across the country. It looked at a relative rating of each of the cities in Canada, in regard to the number of children living in poverty in their homes.

I want to preface this by talking about how pleased I am with the government's cornerstone part of this budget, which is attempting to raise children out of poverty by increasing the Canada child benefit. I believe it is the largest, single most important piece of public policy to change the social nature and fabric of Canada.

Today in the paper it was reported that a group of leading institutions and agencies that address child poverty have looked at Toronto, the city I represent: 27% of children in that city live with a family income level that is below sustainable. That compares to other cities in Canada like Montreal, which is just below at 25%, Winnipeg at 24%, down to Edmonton and Calgary, which are doing quite a bit better than Toronto.

The article reports on two young women: Zara, who lives in Thorncliffe Park; and Sarah, who lives in Leaside. These are sibling neighbourhoods in Don Valley West. Leaside has the lowest rate of child poverty in the city of Toronto at just over 5%, whereas Thorncliffe Park has 58% child poverty. The nature of this is stunning.

Our party has been very clear on our agenda of ensuring that the middle class is raised up and that people aspiring to get to the middle class are also raised up.

I want to focus my attention today on those who are aspiring to join the middle class. One of my main agenda items is that, as we look at 2016, 2017, and 2018, we actually have a very aggressive platform to not only help the middle class, but to ensure that those who are in poverty, and in particular those children who are facing the kinds of struggles that some of us have known ourselves but others have only known about, have every chance and every opportunity.

Salma Jabeen is a resident in my riding. Her four-year-old daughter would like to have tae kwon do and gymnastics lessons, and to have the kinds of toys that she sees other children have. Salma's husband is a security guard, and on their income they simply cannot afford the kinds of things that other children in Canada have come to expect.

Equally, Sarah Jordan, who lives just across the valley in Leaside, recognizes that she is a privileged Canadian. I am very proud to say that she and her sister Claire have united together to form Sarah and Claire's Food Drive. They are looking at a way to partner these neighbourhoods to ensure that we in Canada have a way of distributing our resources to make sure that people have a fair start, that children have the best advantage in life.

Last Sunday the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence and I hosted a town hall on next year's budget. I cannot express how very proud I was, and what a great privilege it was for me to commend our Minister of Finance for his tremendous efforts toward lifting children out of poverty. The Canada child benefit is going to lift literally hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. This is tax-free income going into families' households. It will make a difference. Parents will be able to pay the rent. They will be able to provide groceries, and to provide those special things that children want, such as lessons and activities, which not only sustain but enrich their lives. It will make sure Canada is the country we want it to be.

What I see in today's article is that those who have more also want to live in a country where all have more to benefit from, and more access to those things that are beneficial to their lives. As we implement this budget, there is an opportunity for Canadians to say they want the very best quality of life for every Canadian.

We want to make sure that Canadians who have been here six days, six weeks, six months, six years, 60 years, or for generations, or first nations who have built this country, can all share equally in the resources and the opportunities that we have. The cornerstone parts of this budget, looking at the way we live together, the covenants that we have as Canadians, are going to ensure that Canada is built upon the sense that we have of taking care of each other.

However, the report that came out today is disturbing. I think it should be on the mind of every member of the House of Commons that each of us has a responsibility to look beyond those who we might know individually on our own personal level, and look to those in our community who are hiding in places of poverty that we simply do not get to often enough. I think that when we open up our minds to that, we have the chance to actually make a difference in our world. I am very proud to support the budget and the implementation acts that will make sure that it comes into being, because it is the opportunity for us as Canadians to make sure that our country is built on those foundations.

Of course, my first concern are for the children in my riding, that child poverty is reduced; that we actually have targets, that we actually can say that at the end of the day we have made a difference so that there are children who are getting post-secondary education, getting the careers they want, and that they have enough food to eat to succeed well in school. I think this budget is doing that.

However, I will be a little critical of my own government, because I think it has put the emphasis only on the middle class without actually celebrating what this budget is doing for those who are beneath the middle class, and we have not lost sight of those people. In our communities there are people who are being left behind. Therefore, we are ensuring that we have better employment insurance, that we have old age security, that Canada pensions are stronger and better, that we bring the age of retirement back down to 65 from 67, that we encourage infrastructure spending that will create more jobs to make sure that people are employed, and that we have a foundation upon which to build. This is what this budget is about.

This budget, at its heart, is a people budget. It is people centred, and it is going to make a difference in the lives of people we care about, every one of us in this House.

I do not think that we have a monopoly on social care and social conscience on this side of the House. I have seen that exhibited by members in all parties across the aisle. I have heard their stories and I think that this budget is worthy of their support. They should have a chance to look at this budget so that every member of this House has an opportunity to say that it is a budget that is changing the nature of Canada. It is well funded. It has targeted investments. It is going to invest in infrastructure that is going to make a difference. It is going to help people get to work as we invest in transit and roadways. It is going to ensure that our country is being built on that strong foundation. It will make a difference in the lives of every Canadian.

Therefore, I encourage those on the other side of the House to take the time to read the budget. They will have the sense that this budget is changing the way Canadians covenant with each other to build the economy and make sure that we can share in it equitably.

I am proud to offer my support for the budget. I think that Canada is a richer country, because we are able to share with each other. As newcomers make their way in this country, we have a sense that they will contribute to the economy, but we have to give them a chance.

The Minister of Finance has done a brilliant job of consulting. He is continuing to listen and he will continue to offer the kind of leadership that Canadians are looking for.

I thank members, and I anticipate their support for this budget.