This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!
House of Commons photo

Track Rob

Your Say


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

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.

Petitions November 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege and honour today to present a petition from citizens of Canada, many from my riding of Don Valley West, who are calling upon the Government of Canada to create within the existing Sunnybrook veterans facility a centre for excellence for veterans care, including specialization in both physical and mental health, the latter including research and treatment for traumatic stress disorder and related issues for Canadian veterans, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP, and first responders.

This petition is the work of many citizens, and I am proud to be a part of this and to present it today.

St. Monica Catholic School November 3rd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, this year St. Monica Catholic School is celebrating 100 years of providing superb Catholic education in midtown Toronto. Since its founding in 1916, through the arts, sciences, and humanities, through physical education and music, St. Monica has inspired generation after generation of passionate students to make this world a better place.

I was pleased to join principal Vincent Tanzini, current and past students, parents, and teachers as they celebrated and shared memories. It is evidence that St. Monica holds a special place in the hearts of both past and present students and teachers.

I was pleased to meet with some of their students this past April when they visited Parliament Hill. Today, I celebrate the whole St. Monica's community for offering Don Valley West an educational program based on academic achievement, personal responsibility, and the importance of faith.

I congratulate St. Monica on its centennial anniversary. One hundred years old never looked so good.

Business of Supply October 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo for her rather newfound commitment on this issue. I want to ask her very specifically about the last nine years. Why did her government, which she supported, fight this process every step of the way? Why has she now come to a new conclusion?

It also gives me a chance to thank the member who moved this motion for his commitment, which has been transparent and available to us for many years.

The member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo was part of a government that fought this process. Could she explain why it fought a process that would have helped vulnerable first nations children get equitable access to everything they need?

Genetic Non-Discrimination Act October 25th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to do two things in these closing minutes, and the first is to thank colleagues from both sides of the House for their comments, their speeches, and their very strong defence of the bill. There are few opportunities we have in the House to actually share common concerns and do something for all Canadians. Some of this is happening on Bill S-201, and I want to commend hon. members.

I also want to thank the members who spoke to me personally about the bill. Men and women have come to me with stories about themselves, their children, and their parents, particularly about illnesses they have or concerns they have faced in their own lives and have not felt free to tell others about because of the fear of genetic discrimination. They know who they are, and their stories will be kept entrusted with me, and I thank them for that privilege. I hope the bill will be dedicated to each of them and every Canadian who fears the possibility of discrimination if they get a genetic test.

I want to also thank Senator Cowan, from the other place, as has been said, and Barb Kagedan, his wonderful assistant, who has shepherded the bill, not just these months but for many years, and has brought passion and intelligence to this House from the other place and has made my work much easier.

Senator Cowan and Bev Heim-Myers, the president of the Huntington Society of Canada, recently received a very prestigious award from the American Society of Human Genetics. Bev is also the chair of the Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness. They have worked together as health groups, patient organizations, and charities to ensure that parliamentarians can learn, as one of my hon. colleagues said, things we did not know before we came here.

This tribute today is really in their name. It is something they have done and brought to the attention of this House through the Senate, and I think we owe them all a strong vote of thanks. That is the first thing I want to do.

The second thing I want to do is remind the House of the integrity of the bill. There are three parts to it: the genetic non-discrimination act, changes to labour legislation, and changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act. Each part of it is essential to ensure that the bill will be enacted in a way that Canadians can trust that they can get a genetic test to ensure that their health care is absolutely optimum.

Medicine is changing. Twenty-first century medicine is about genetic medicine. It is called targeted medicine, sometimes personalized medicine. It is the nature of medical practice as we know it today. It is revolutionary.

We were asked why Canada lags behind in this, and I think the reason is that we have messed around with a concern about provincial and federal jurisdiction. This House has the opportunity to act and to act strongly and clearly. We should give the provinces the opportunity to comment on the bill and act with them and on behalf of all Canadians to ensure that this act has the kind of teeth it needs to protect them in the most vulnerable place: their health, their existence.

There are parts of this job that we love and parts that we do not love as much. The part I love the most is that we have the opportunity to actually affect Canadians' lives. We have a moment in this House, with this act, to make a change that can actually change the lives of millions of Canadians, who can, with trust and confidence, go to their physicians and get the tests they need so that their clinicians, the practitioners who help them, can have the very best tools.

One of the great privileges I have had is to meet with Dr. Ronald Cohn, Stephen Scherer, and other researchers across this country from coast to coast to coast. They are aching for a piece of legislation so that they can help their patients in ways they are concerned they are not able to do today.

I thank the House for considering the bill. I look forward to tomorrow. I hope members stand and support it and make Canadians a healthier population.

Committees of the House October 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in relation to 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(1), requests a 30-day extension to consider it.

Rosh Hashanah October 3rd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, began yesterday at sundown. It is a time of celebration and renewal, a time for Jewish families to come together with friends to rejoice in a new year under God's grace.

Rosh Hashanah is also the beginning of the 10 Days of Awe, culminating in Yom Kippur. Next week, I will be joining friends and neighbours at Temple Emanu-El in my riding for their Yom Kippur service.

I am very grateful to the congregation, its President Pekka Sinervo, and Rabbi Debra Lansberg for including me again this year, as they have in past years.

I want to take this opportunity to commend Temple Emanu-El for their great acts of tikkun olam, as they exemplify the best of humanity by raising issues of social justice, child poverty, homelessness, and in their readiness to welcome Syrian refugees.

I wish all members a sweet parliamentary session, and to all my friends and colleagues celebrating Rosh Hashana, L'Shanah Tovah.

Petitions September 22nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present e-petition 220, which received 1,166 signatures.

The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to create a national dementia strategy and to commit to a concerted effort to address the burden dementia places on our economy, on individuals with the disease, on their families, and on our health care system.