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Liberal MP for Don Valley West (Ontario)

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

Statements in the House

Public Service Labour Relations Act May 16th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of the government's motion related to Bill C-7. This piece of legislation is important for both the RCMP and for Canadians. It is a step forward in Canadian labour relations.

As we all know, the bill originates with the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada more than two years ago, in January 2015. There is some urgency for us to enact this piece of legislation into law so that the RCMP can be the best police force in the world, with good management practices matching the ability of our RCMP officers to keep Canadians safe.

The court found that certain parts of the RCMP labour relations regime were in fact unconstitutional because they prevented the formation of an independent RCMP employee organization. The government took steps, including extensive consultation, to bring this framework into compliance with the Supreme Court's ruling, and Bill C-7 is the result.

I differ with the position of the previous speaker by saying that there has been extensive consultation. The bill has been under a microscope for a great deal of time in a committee of the House of Commons and a committee of the Senate, as well as through debate in the House of Commons and debate in the Senate. It is now time for us to act quickly on this motion to ensure that we can have effective collective bargaining for the very hard-working members of the RCMP.

With the passage of this bill, RCMP members and reservists would, for the first time, have a labour relations framework in place that would allow them to choose whether or not to be represented in negotiations by an employee organization, something that other police services in Canada already have. Almost 100 years ago, the Vancouver police union received its charter and was established with the mandate to effectively and democratically represent its members as a bargaining unit under the British Columbia labour code. It is time for us to act so that Canadians have a similar approach to policing in Canada.

Action is something that RCMP officers know a lot about. As the chair of the public safety and national security committee, I want to commend members of the RCMP for consistently and constantly serving and protecting Canadians with diligence, with grace, and with a tremendous competence that Canadians have begun to appreciate more and more. Whether it is diving into icy water to rescue a woman in distress or protecting us in this very place, RCMP officers demonstrate their personal dedication and self-sacrifice in service of others, and now we as members of this chamber need to reciprocate and take action to help them, to serve them, and to protect them.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness are strongly committed to whatever action is necessary to help RCMP members, trainees, and employees feel safe and respected among their colleagues and supervisors.

A number of steps have been taken since 2014 to protect RCMP members in the workplace. These include measures to address harassment and conflict management as well as promote a healthy and respectful workplace.

The RCMP continues its ongoing efforts to improve its work environment, including a modernized code of conduct, a streamlined harassment investigation and resolution process, and improved training for harassment investigators. Bill C-7 builds on these efforts to implement a robust labour relations regime for the RCMP. To that end, the government has given thorough consideration to the Senate's amendments and is now ready to move forward.

The government's response significantly addresses the main concerns that we heard at the House of Commons standing committee as well as in the Senate, and I am very proud to support the government's response to the Senate amendments.

In the spirit of compromise that is so important in an institution like ours, the government is willing to accept the removal of all restrictions on what may be included in collective agreements and arbitral awards that are specific to the RCMP. These restrictions on what could be collectively bargained for were the focal points of the criticism that we heard at committee and that we are now acting on.

Sometimes this kind of conversation takes time. However, that conversation has been had. I stress to members of this chamber that the reality is we need to act quickly and effectively. We have considered, and now is the time to act.

That is why I am pleased to report that the government's response would allow the employer and any future RCMP member bargaining agent to engage in meaningful discussions in good faith on topics of importance to the RCMP members and reservists who were excluded from collective bargaining rights under the original version of Bill C-7.

As a result, matters associated with transfers, appraisals, harassment, and general aspects of workplace wellness, including the promotion of a respectful workplace and early conflict resolution, could be discussed at the bargaining table and included in a collective agreement or arbitration award. Of course, conditions of work, such as hours of work, scheduling, call-back, and reporting conditions could also be collectively bargained, as could leave provisions, such as designated paid holidays, vacation leave, sick leave, and parental leave. Labour relations matters, such as terms and conditions for grievance procedures and procedures around classification and workplace adjustment, are also part of that process.

The proposal before us today also accepts the idea of a management rights clause, but proposes implementing a more targeted clause that focuses on protecting the authorities that the RCMP commissioner needs in order to ensure effective police operations. This is a balanced approach. The reality is that the bargaining unit would have the right to engage in conversations at the bargaining table about issues important to RCMP members, and management would reserve the right to ensure that Canadians are safe and protected and that we have operational institutional effectiveness at the RCMP, not by excluding anything in collective bargaining but by ensuring we have a targeted approach to make sure the RCMP functions properly, as Canadians would want.

As I am sure all my hon. colleagues on these benches do, the Government of Canada takes seriously the responsibility to protect the safety and security of Canadians. This amended management rights clause supports that responsibility.

Now let us consider why the motion disagrees with the removal of restrictions that replicate those applying to other areas of the federal public service.

As our national police service, the RCMP must have a labour regime that is aligned with and consistent with the fundamental framework for labour relations and collective bargaining that exists within the whole of the federal public service. As such, Bill C-7 extends to RCMP members many general exclusions that already apply in the rest of the public service, such as staffing, pensions, organization of work, and the assignment of duties.

With respect to pensions, while the public service pension plan has never been the subject of collective bargaining under the Public Service Labour Relations Act, or its predecessor, the Public Service Staff Relations Act, the federal government has traditionally consulted with employee representatives on pension issues and is committed to continuing that conversation, negotiation, and consultation.

Public sector pensions have established statutory pension advisory committees whose membership is composed of employer, employee, and pensioner representatives. These committees review matters respecting the administration, design, and funding of the benefits provided under the superannuation acts and make recommendations to the responsible minister about those matters. This is an activity we would continue.

When it comes to the certification process, I do not believe that the certification of a bargaining agent to represent RCMP members and reservists should require a secret ballot. We need to be consistent with the government's proposed law, Bill C-4, and it would be reasonable that an organization wanting to represent RCMP members should not be subject to certification processes different from those of other organizations under federal labour relations legislation.

Finally, the government proposes to not proceed with expanding the mandate of the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board to hear grievances on a wider range of matters relating to terms and conditions of employment. That would be inconsistent with its work with the rest of the federal public service.

Now is the time to act on Bill C-7. The House of Commons standing committee deliberated it thoroughly and thoughtfully, and heard concerns. The Senate has deservedly done its work and has appropriately amended it. The government has considered those amendments and has determined that some of them fall in line with the government's proposed agenda with respect to the RCMP certification process.

I am pleased to support Bill C-7 and welcome all other members to support the bill and our amendments as we go forward.

World Asthma Day May 2nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, today is World Asthma Day, and spring allergy season is upon us. For those of us with allergic asthma, this is a tough time of year. For some, it is a minor inconvenience. For others, however, it is a life-threatening disease. More than three million Canadians live with asthma. Every year, asthma attacks result in 70,000 emergency room visits and 250 deaths, and they account for $2.1 billion in both direct and indirect health care costs.

As the former president and CEO of the Asthma Society of Canada, I am glad to have this opportunity to raise awareness about this disease, to call for further research and clean air to breathe, and to close gaps in our health care system, including for pharmaceuticals. No matter where we live in this country, we should have access to the best possible health care and medications to lead productive and healthy lives.

Working with groups like the Asthma Society of Canada, we can ensure all Canadians living with asthma have the highest quality of life.

Committees of the House May 2nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have the great honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, entitled “Protecting Canadians and their Rights: A New Road Map for Canada’s National Security”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Rob Stewart April 10th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to an extraordinary Canadian, Rob Stewart, who died tragically earlier this year.

A renowned filmmaker and passionate environmentalist, celebrated for his award-winning movie Sharkwater, Rob used his skill with a camera not only to bring us closer to misunderstood sharks but to draw our attention to the precarious state of our oceans and all marine life.

Hundreds gathered in Toronto to remember Rob and to celebrate his life. I offer my condolences to all of them, but especially to Brian and Sandy, his parents, who live in my riding, and his sister, Alexandra. I want to publicly thank consular affairs officials and the Canadian and American coast guards for responding to my request for assistance and for doing all they could to help.

Leonardo DiCaprio said of Rob: “The world has lost a man who dedicated his life to protecting oceans and sharks. He'll be missed”.

The world and all its creatures are poorer for the loss.

Petitions April 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table seven petitions from across the country relating to animal protection. Petitioners call on the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie to develop more funding toward the protection of animals during disasters.

I would like to thank World Animal Protection for its hard work and dedication to this issue, which is crucial for so many of the world's vulnerable.

Committees of the House March 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security concerning Bill C-226, an act to amend the Criminal Code (offences in relation to conveyances) and the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

The committee has studied the bill, and pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, recommends that the House of Commons not proceed further with the bill.

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.