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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was seniors.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as NDP MP for Hamilton Mountain (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2019, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada Labour Code October 19th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his statements, but he keeps referring to people who want the right to know how their money, their dues, are being spent, and I am kind of taken aback by that.

I have been involved in unions for 34 and a half years, with three different locals over my career. In fact, in two of them, I was the president of the union, so I know how the system works. When that money is deposited from the company that the members are giving dues to, to its own local, there are positions, such as the financial officer and what they call trustees. On a monthly basis, there is a report that is given to its members, on a line-by-line basis, of where every penny went during that month.

I am having a hard time understanding what the member was saying when he said that people wanted to know. They have a right to know, and we give them that information. If a person does not want to attend a union meeting to find out where that money is going and then wants it mailed to them, that is a different subject.

I would ask the member, as it is transparent what the unions are doing, what he was referring to when he stated that the people did not know where the money is going.

CANADA LABOUR CODE September 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the question was.

Repealing this bill now is a very important step to make sure that all rights are protected and that nobody is treated unfairly.

Prior to 1977, everyone used a card. The majority of members signed up for a card, and that is how it was presented. There was a union if the majority of the members wanted it.

Going to a ballot system was done only after 1977, by a few provinces, and I hate to say it, but they were all Conservatives that actually put this stuff in. They were trying to lower the number of unions that could be formed. There was intimidation by the companies. There were threats of jobs being lost. They were going to close the shops.

That is why it is in front of us today. We are repealing something that was just bad legislation. There was actually great progress made going to the cards.

CANADA LABOUR CODE September 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question.

It is the constitution of the union that compels them to do this. It is stated right in there. For instance, I will speak for the United Steelworkers. In their constitution, they have to have a president, vice-president, trustees, and a financial officer. There are policies in there on how many people can sign a cheque. They have to report all finances, and anything that has been spent has to be approved by the membership of that local.

I am hoping that answers the question. It is in the constitution. It is also in the bylaws of the local union. Everything is there for people to understand.

CANADA LABOUR CODE September 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, what I heard in my riding and from the labour movement was that this was a way of union busting. It was basically to get back at the unions for something they believed strongly in: protecting the rights of workers.

A lot of people have come out with suggestions that the Harper government did this on purpose to make it very costly for unions to report their income to their union members, something they do already. It is not only to the members. Each union has what it calls trustees who actually look at the books on a quarterly basis and report back to their unions, to the membership, about what money is being spent.

There is nothing here to hide. We do not know why the government did this. It certainly looked like it was to get back at the unions.

CANADA LABOUR CODE September 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-4, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act, and the Income Tax Act.

Bill C-4 is a small step forward. It recognizes the need to respect the rights of hard-working men and women across the country. Since I have been an advocate for the rights of working men and women for many years, it should come as no surprise that I support this legislation.

My colleagues in the NDP caucus and I are happy to see critical rights restored to hard-working Canadians. However, this bill is only a first small step. We worry about the erosion of workers' rights under the previous government. There are so many questions and concerns. We look to the Liberal government to restore each and every one of the rights stolen from Canadian workers.

We also ask the government to update parts of the Canada Labour Code that are about 60 years out of date. One way to rectify this problem would be to act immediately on the recommendations in the final report of the 2006 review of the Labour Code. This is something long overdue. Many of the recommendations would provide much-needed updates and would benefit many hard-working Canadians who work two or three part-time jobs trying to support a family and purchase or maintain a home.

It is amazing that in a few short years we have seen the dismantling of the rights of each and every individual across the nation. These are rights that have taken decades to create and develop. These are rights that protect each and every one of us, especially those who are the most vulnerable.

New Democrats vigorously opposed the former Conservative government's attempts to restrict the rights of unions and to change the rules governing labour relations under the guise of increased transparency. During the election, we committed that an NDP government would repeal Bill C-525, on union representation, and Bill C-377, concerning the supposed transparency of labour organizations.

Bill C-377 was an unnecessary and discriminatory law designed to impose onerous and absurdly detailed reporting requirements on unions. The bill was pushed through Parliament by the previous government despite widespread opposition from a variety of interests, not just unions.

Many people knew there would be negative effects from this legislation well beyond its impact on unions. Many groups and associations represented individuals whose rights they consider important, whether one belonged to a union or not. Those groups included the NHL Players' Association, provincial governments, Conservative and Liberal senators, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Canadian Bar Association, and the insurance and mutual fund industry in Canada.

New Democrats agree with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, who believes that the bill goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If this legislation is not repealed, it will almost certainly be defeated in the courts.

New Democrats opposed Bill C-377 at every stage, because the legislation was as unnecessary as it was irresponsible. It corrupted the very ideal of fairness and balance in negotiations between the parties and undermined the fundamental right to free collective bargaining. It was a partisan assault on the men and women who go to work every day to provide for their families.

Canada needs a strong and healthy trade union movement. Unions in Canada have done so much not only for their members but for Canadian society as a whole. When unions are weakened, all working people feel it, and why is that? It is because attacks on collective bargaining do not promote economic growth. In fact, the opposite occurs. Attacks like these promote inequality, not a healthy economy.

The previous government claimed its support of Bill C-377 was based on providing transparency. What it failed to mention was that unions are already required to make their financial information available to their members. The bill represented an unnecessary duplication. It was a solution to a non-existing problem.

On top of this, the bill would have cost taxpayers a great deal of money to implement. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that it would cost much more than the $2 million allocated by the CRA for this level of monitoring. It was estimated that the Canada Revenue Agency would have to spend $21 million over the first two years just to establish an electronic database and $2.1 million each year thereafter. That is ridiculously expensive, especially for something that is clearly redundant and represents unnecessary harassment. The bill should never have seen the light of day, and its repealing just makes sense.

Bill C-4 would also repeal another anti-union private member's bill supported by the previous government, Bill C-525. New Democrats fully support repealing that bill. The bill attacks the fundamental right of association, making certification of new worker associations or unions much more difficult while at the same time allowing the decertification of existing unions to be much easier.

These changes to labour laws were made despite there being zero evidence of any problems with the previous system of union certification.

A union, like any other type of association, exists to provide support and a voice to its members. What right does a government have to meddle in the daily management of any worker association or union? Very simply, it has no right. Such destructive meddling represented more than some childish act of union busting, and the effects would have had an impact on all Canadians.

Whether a person supports unions or not, the fact is that unions have been a driving force in ensuring that all hard-working Canadians, whether unionized or not, receive a basic level of rights, freedoms, and protections.

Organized associations of working people are important to Canadians and the economy. Higher wages negotiated by unions improve the lives of everyday Canadians by injecting an additional $786 million into the Canadian economy each week. Standing in the way of the well-being of hard-working Canadians is bad policy, bad governance, and bad fiscal management, and it is bad for the economy.

I join with the Canadian unions that are pleased that the federal government has introduced legislation to repeal both Bill C-377 and Bill C-525.

The president of the Canadian Labour Congress, Hassan Yussuff, has said,:

...these bills were nothing more than an attempt to undermine unions' ability to do important work like protecting jobs, promoting health and safety in the workplace, and advocating on behalf of all Canadian workers.

Mark Hancock, National President of CUPE, echoed those sentiments when he said:

This is good news for all Canadian workers. These bills were nothing more than political attacks on unions and we are happy that the new government is moving quickly to correct these wrongs.... This is a good step in re-establishing a sense of respect for unions, the democratic voice of working people.

The UFCW said this:

UFCW is pleased to see the government tabling Bill C-4. Our union campaigned vigorously against the Conservative Government's Bill C-377 in the last parliament. The bill was undemocratic, and part of the Conservative government's campaign against workers and workplace democracy. It was also a major invasion of the privacy of individual union members and it infringed on provincial jurisdiction over labour issues.

Repealing Bill C-377 is positive for all Canadians as this bill would have been expensive for the government to implement and monitor.

The NDP will continue to push the government to restore and enhance collective bargaining rights as well as fair working conditions for all Canadians. The NDP will continue to pressure the government to reinstate a federal minimum wage and to enact anti-scab and proactive pay equity legislation.

Likewise, the NDP will also push the government to repeal the previous government's dangerous legislation, also entitled Bill C-4, and not just review it. This contentious Conservative legislation has been called unconstitutional and stacks the deck in the government's favour, undermining fair collective bargaining. Some people claim that the bill turned back the clock almost 50 years, and I certainly agree. A bill this backward needs to be repealed and not just reviewed.

Having fought hard against these unnecessary and irresponsible bills, the NDP welcomes the changes tabled by the current government. The rights of working people have been under attack for far too long and the repeal of these bills is a good first step, but there is much more to do for workers' rights and for working conditions for Canadian men and women.

The NDP will push the government to restore good faith bargaining with our public sector workers. We will push the government to reinstate a federal minimum wage and to ensure that workers have fair and independent health and safety protections. We will push the government to adopt anti-scab and pay equity legislation, because all Canadian workers deserve fairness and respect.

Bill C-4 is a very good step. However, it does not go far enough, and there are still many questions and concerns. We can and we must do better. Canadians are counting on us.

U.S. Steel Canada September 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, one thing the people of Hamilton know for sure is that the Liberal government has let them down. There is now a potential deal in place for the purchase of U.S. Steel Canada. Success of the negotiations will depend on the involvement of the federal government. Talk is cheap. It is time for action.

The minister said last Thursday that he and his local colleagues are engaged in the file. What does that mean? I certainly do not know, the people of Hamilton certainly do not know, and the stakeholders in the negotiations do not know, so who does know? Perhaps the minister and his local colleagues can explain. What is their plan? Do they really have an agenda? If so, we have heard nothing about it from our local MPs.

This kind of arrogance, playing politics with the health and well-being of the over 20,000 people in the Hamilton region, is disturbing and insulting. The government should step up to the plate, get to work, and stop sitting on the sidelines when the livelihood of steelworkers and retirees is on the line.

CANADA LABOUR CODE September 26th, 2016

Madam Speaker, my colleague just stated that there is openness and transparency with charitable donations and that charities have to make sure that the rules are followed with their donors.

In a union, they also do that. In fact, every month, when there is a regular union meeting, as I have had in the past, the minutes are passed by the union members. They know where the money is going and what is being paid. Some people may not like that, but the membership actually votes on it democratically. I am not sure where the openness and transparency would be hidden by the union.

Also, the books can be audited at any time by the government, which would tell us if we were doing something wrong, and we would have to make those corrections.

It is open and transparent. I do not understand what the member is saying.

Steel Industry September 22nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, yesterday's announcement of a potential deal to buy U.S. Steel Canada provides light at the end of a long tunnel for thousands of current and former workers in Hamilton, but the deal is far from complete and the federal government needs to do its part.

The Prime Minister promised to help when he needed their votes, but the Liberals have done nothing since to help Hamilton steelworkers and pensioners, with everything on the line.

When will the minister sit down at the negotiations and ensure protections for these jobs and pensions?

Pensions June 16th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, seven out of 10 Canadians have no workplace pension, and many have inadequate savings to retire. The Liberals promised to expand the CPP, but on the eve of the meeting with the provinces, the Liberals have still not said what they are trying to achieve. The complete lack of leadership from the federal government jeopardizes any progress at all.

Will the Minister of Finance publicly commit to pushing for expanded CPP benefits so that all Canadians can retire in dignity?

Steel Industry June 2nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, last week, the United Steelworkers in the city of Hamilton were forced to file a second motion in the Ontario Court of Appeal after the judge still refused to release the secret deal between U.S. Steel Canada and the federal government in 2011. Details of the secret deal are critical for all parties involved as negotiations with potential buyers move into a critical phase. Only U.S. Steel Canada and its parent company have access to that information. How does that make for a fair process?

The current government could easily resolve the issue by releasing the secret deal. However, since being elected, the government has refused to help the 20,000 vulnerable pensioners or the 1,600 workers whose jobs are at risk. The Liberals have said nothing, zero. I have asked the Prime Minister and other ministers numerous times to release the details of the secret deal. Their non-answers have insulted me, the pensioners, and the workers of U.S. Steel Canada.

The current government should be ashamed. Step up to the plate, release the secret deal, and show the leadership that people expect and deserve.