House of Commons photo

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—United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement Implementation Act January 29th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, is the member concerned about the government's saying that it will start negotiations in a year and that its goal is to have an agreement in three years with no sunset clause? If it does not reach its goal in three years, I guess it will change its goal to another three years and if it does not achieve that, it will go on for another three years.

Is the member concerned that there is no sunset clause to make a permanent agreement? Right now, it is not bound to anything; it just continues on. I would like to hear the member's comments on that, please.

Canada-United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement Implementation Act January 29th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, my colleague made a lot of great claims about issues that I think are very important. We should be listening to them.

I want to highlight something regarding pensions. Some people from the U.K. who came to Canada are collecting U.K. pensions. They will not get any of the increases that those in the U.K. get, yet Canadians living in the U.K. will get them. This could be very costly to Canada, as we are actually subsidizing people from the U.K. through some of our programs because of low rates that are not keeping up with the cost of inflation.

Does the hon. member agree that this should be looked into and that the government should be taking a serious approach to it? This is not free trade at all. This has to be looked into.

Canada-United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement Implementation Act January 28th, 2021

Madam Speaker, one of the things I heard this morning from the minister was that the government is hoping to continue negotiations in a year from now, and that its aim is to reach an agreement in three years to finish this off, but my hon. friend said in his speech that the NDP opposes trade. He is misleading the House when he says that, because New Democrats do not oppose trade. What we do oppose is trade agreements in which we give too much away. We want fair trade. That is what we are asking for.

We see so many flaws in this agreement that I have to ask the member this. When the minister said this morning that the aim is to reach an agreement within three years, and with all the hype the government has been giving us about how good this interim agreement is, why is there no sunset clause? What is the reasoning for that and why should we believe that the government's aim is to do it in three years when it has failed to meet a lot of the promises it made in the election campaign, especially with pharmacare since 1997?

Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2020 January 26th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, the member for Whitby has made a lot of statements about the great intentions of what the government has been trying to do in putting in programs to help people under COVID-19, such as programs for workplaces, workers and children. However, some of those intentions have also failed a lot of people because of the practices that the government put in place.

What the member has failed to mention, and it was something the government did run on in its platform, was helping seniors and people with disabilities. There was a very small one-time payment to help out as the Liberals realized that costs were increasing during the first wave of COVID. In the second wave, the Liberals have completely ignored them. These people need help, and they need help now, not in the future. There is talk about giving them increases; we have heard nothing, except that it is going to come later. “Later” could be in another couple of years. What are we going to do now to help these people, our seniors who are just getting by and our people with disabilities?

Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2020 January 26th, 2021

Madam Speaker, in his speech, my colleague mentioned the airline industry, and I think it is very important he mentioned that the airline industry has not yet paid back the people. We have been pressuring the government to make this happen, but it has been slow on its feet, and this should be given immediate attention.

Many of the airlines cancelled flights on people who had paid thousands of dollars for a trip with their families. They then found out that not only was the trip cancelled, but they had lost their jobs in the meantime. Some put this on a credit card and are now paying interest on that debt, but they do not have the service back. The airlines are taking that money and keeping it, giving the customer a voucher. The customer is actually paying the interest charges, so the airline industry is getting a free loan.

Does the member think it is imperative for this to be stopped immediately and that the airlines have to pay back the money people have paid, with interest?

Business of Supply December 7th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, I have sat in the House now for five years, listening to the back and forth, the questions and answers, the proposals and counter-proposals. I have to admit, I am always amazed at how tone deaf and out of touch some motions are with the wants and needs of Canadians and their families.

Today's opposition motion is no exception and a good case in point. We entered a major national crisis from which all accounts is going to get worse before it gets better. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of all Canadians. People are afraid and unsure. They are unsure about their own health and safety and the well-being of their families, children, parents and friends. Workers are concerned about their jobs and futures and how will they get by from day to day, month to month. They are worried about their kids' education, putting food on the table and maintaining the life they worked hard to build.

In short, most Canadians are afraid and unsure of how the COVID-19 crisis will affect their lives, their security and the well-being of their loved ones. Right now, more Canadians are looking at the governments, both federal and provincial, for support and protection. That is why it is beyond my understanding that the Conservative Party would bring forth the current opposition day motion.

The motion before us today makes it clear who just exactly is a priority. None of the measures in the motion would help Canadian workers and their families. They are all aimed at helping big business and their wealthy owners and investors.

In this way, some of these measures are quite reckless, especially during a time of national crisis. The idea to postpone the increases to the Canada pension plan are one example. Who will this help? Will it be small business? Probably not so much. I have not heard from one small business in my riding that wants relief from its CPP obligations. Will it be big businesses? Absolutely. That is who will benefit. This could be a real financial boondoggle for big business, especially for those who are already making record profits off the pandemic.

Who will be hurt by this measure? All the workers who make regular payments into the Canada pension plan and who expect to see an increased pension when they retire. This kind of measure could end up reducing the benefits they expect to receive when they retire. This kind of measure would be done on the backs of working people and their families, and that is unacceptable.

What Canadians need and desperately want are ideas and solutions that will help them, their families and their loved ones weather the trials and challenges of this pandemic, help them get through the tough times they are facing. The motion before us today does none of that. There are no creative solutions being proposed in the motion, none that could help Canadians and their families. Instead, we do not see the motion having people pay their fair share of taxes.

I do not think anyone in the chamber or in the country would disagree that Canadian businesses are in distress. It is pretty easy to understand that the current health crisis has had and continues to have a devastating effect on the economy and especially on small business. I am sure all my colleagues are getting the same kinds of calls I am getting from local businesses so desperate to find a way to get through this difficult time to ensure their survival, their livelihoods and the jobs of their workers.

It is also easy to see that right now any barriers to employment are not taxes and regulations. The barrier is a national health pandemic, which has changed the lives of millions of Canadians. That is why we in the NDP have put our focus on fighting for people and helping to get us all through this pandemic. That is why we fought for adequate funding for CERB, the wage subsidies that would meet the needs of Canadian businesses and a rent assistance program for businesses that would effectively help the tenants and not just the landlords.

I am proud to say that the NDP will keep fighting for small business owners and their workers by pushing the government to improve the supports on which all Canadians rely. That is why the NDP continues to put forward creative and progressive ideas to help Canadian workers and their families get through these difficult times.

That is also why we believe that Canadian families should not have to pay for the pandemic and that those who have profited billions of dollars off the pandemic should help pay for the recovery. Many people actually benefit from the pandemic. Big business, their owners, CEOs and shareholders are making millions and billions, while Canadian workers and their families are struggling to get by.

Last week, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released the profits reported by Canada's big six banks. The numbers are staggering: National Bank, $2.1 billion; CIBC, $3.8 billion; Scotiabank, $6.9 billion; Royal Bank of Canada, $11.4 billion; and TD Bank, 11.9 billion. It is important to remember that these profits, made during the pandemic, happened while the banks were also receiving $750 billion in government assistance.

Our research has also shown that Canadian billionaires are $37 billion richer than when the March 2020 COVID lockdown started, and not a single one of these top 20 billionaires in Canada has suffered a decrease in their overall wealth in the emergence of COVID-19. Furthermore, Canada's wealthiest 87 families now have 4,500 times more wealth than the average Canadian family. Together, they collectively own the same amount as the lowest-earning 12 million Canadians or as much as everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, combined.

Meanwhile, workers in Canada continue to bear the economic brunt of the crisis. In the latest labour force data, 1.1 million fewer people were employed in Canada compared with before the pandemic crisis. Another 713,000 workers have lost half or more of their casual pre-pandemic hours, and low-income workers have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with women and racialized Canadians being overrepresented in that wage group.

That is why the NDP has developed a suite of proposals that would make sure the richest elites and the most profitable corporations pay their fair share to help pay for the help we need to deliver to those who are struggling. Our 1% wealth—

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act December 7th, 2020

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-231. I am so glad to see the bill has been brought forward, as it addresses the very important issue of how money in federally sponsored plans will be invested in the interest of all Canadians. I would like to acknowledge my colleague from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford and his staff for all their hard work in bringing the bill to the House.

The bill takes the investment approach of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which is responsible for managing the funds that will be used to pay CPP beneficiaries well into the future. The management of this fund is critically important to the future well-being of Canadian workers and retirees, but the no-holds-barred investment mandate of the fund managers requires some real common-sense tweaking.

I first became aware of the potential problems with the board's management mandate in 2016 when a colleague of mine, a member from Victoria, sent me an email detailing severe human rights abuses at a mining site in Eritrea that was owned by a Canadian mining company. The email further detailed that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board was a significant shareholder in the Canadian mining company and was at least indirectly tied to the abuse occurring at the Bisha mining site in Eritrea. My staff and I were shocked as we unearthed more information about the abuses. Military personnel were being employed to basically keep the mine workers in a state of slave labour, and this included arbitrary arrests and detentions and even killing workers who were not producing desired results. I seriously wondered how this was possible. How could the fund that Canadians pay into to secure their retirement be used to support such obvious and tragic human rights abuses?

As my staff and I continued to study the question, the answer started to become clear. The mandate of the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, with a huge fund of over $400 billion, 1,500 full-time employees and offices on three continents, was to make as much money as it possibly could through its investments, with very little holding it back. This is its mandate, as defined by the CPPIB Act:

(c) to invest its assets with a view to achieving a maximum rate of return, without undue risk of loss, having regard to the factors that may affect the funding of the Canada Pension Plan and the ability of the Canada Pension Plan to meet its financial obligations on any given business day.

As members can see, the only limitation, to put it in plain English, is this: Do not lose any money.

We thought there must be some certainty, with all these restrictions, on how this board could invest the monies of hard-working Canadians. We continued through the act and researched the board's internal documentation, but we could find no restrictions at all. What we did find were guidelines, committees and policies, none of which were binding and none of which seemed to have much of an effect on the enormous number of investment decisions made by the board. More and more, the board's investment oversight seemed to be a function of its PR department rather than anything related to the operational and investment departments.

Shortly after receiving the email from my colleague, I attended a meeting at the parliamentary finance committee at which the representatives of the CPPIB, including its president, were scheduled to appear. I decided to take some of my own concerns and questions directly to them. I asked them if they were aware the mining company they had invested in to the tune of one and a half million shares was engaged in supplying labour to the Bisha mine under conditions that have been described as slave labour. I also asked if they could describe the measures and procedures they have in place to ensure that they avoid investing in companies linked to human rights violations.

I think the CPPIB representatives were caught off guard and unprepared for such a line of questioning. The answers I received were what we would expect from a company president or a company lawyer when they really do not have a good answer: empty and hollow allusions to guidelines and good intentions. However, I did get a promise that someone from the board would follow up and give me a more detailed answer in the days following the committee meeting.

What I ended up getting was a letter from their chief PR person. In this letter, he spouted some vague commitment to being good corporate citizens, but also said this:

Nevsun Resources represents one of approximately 2,500 public companies we are invested in around the world. As at March 31, 2016, CPP Investment Board held 1,519,000 shares in Nevsun Resources totalling a market value of $6 million. We sold much of our position since our last reporting period and our current exposure to the company totals less than $1 million....

I was a bit dumbfounded by this response. The letter seemed to be saying that, because it invested in so many companies worldwide, it could not possibly know what was going on with them. This hardly seems to be a reasonable approach. I was even more shocked by the dubious logic. It is like saying now we are only 20% responsible for investing in a company that is killing its workers, which does not add up and it defies any kind of common sense. I do not think it is something most Canadians would believe.

This is a very important bill. Right now, the CPPIB, which again is responsible for the fund that hard-working Canadians contribute to every year, is investing in companies involved in weapons manufacturing, private for-profit American prisons that detain immigrants and children, companies that are guilty of serious human rights violations and companies responsible for contributing to the global climate crisis.

Is it unreasonable to expect that an organization dedicated to investing public funds should do so with some types of ethical restrictions? I do not think so, and I think many Canadians would agree. What we want and what this bill seeks to do is to have the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board take a proactive approach of due diligence in its investment policies, leveraging our more than $400-billion pension fund by investing only in companies with ethical business practices and divesting from those that create weapons of war, contribute to climate change and other environmental problems or oppress people around the world through unethical labour practices and human rights violations.

It makes no sense to me, and I think to most Canadians, that the government should not be able to do something about questionable investments made by funds that are governed by acts of Parliament. The situation with Revera long-term care homes is a good case in point. Revera is a for-profit company, wholly owned by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, an entity created by the federal government to manage pension funds from public sector workers. Revera has been roundly criticized for the mismanagement of its homes, especially during the pandemic.

During the first wave of COVID-19, its homes had the most number of deaths in the industry, and during the second wave, it is again seeing significant outbreaks in its homes across the country. CBC has just announced that Revera had another 100 outbreaks of COVID-19 this morning, including 50 of its workers. There is a course of complaints from its workers about understaffing, a lack of PPE, and overtime and pandemic bonuses are not even being paid.

The problems at Revera are the same that we have found throughout the for-profit, long-term care sector right across the country. It is a model that does not work for guaranteeing the safety of our loved ones. As with some other problematic investments of the CPPIB, it is a problem that the government can do something about.

As Canadians who pay into the fund, which is managed by the CPPIB, we are, by extension, all shareholders in the companies that benefit from the fund's investments. A lot of influence can be had by divesting from companies that conduct themselves in a way that we view as objectionable or unethical. By amending section 35 of the CPPIB Act, which is what this bill seeks to achieve, we can require the board to take a proactive approach to ethical investment, and I am sure that is what Canadians want.

Today, I have heard that a lot of people here believe in the bill in principle, and I encourage us all to work together. Let us move the bill forward and get it passed. I encourage all my colleagues to support the bill today.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act December 3rd, 2020

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-259, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act and the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 (pension plans and group insurance programs).

Madam Speaker, it is my honour to introduce a private member's bill that would protect the pensions and benefits already earned by Canadian workers and retirees. I would sincerely like to thank my colleague for Hamilton Centre for seconding this bill.

Pensions and benefits earned by workers are deferred wages, plain and simple. Anything that denies workers what they have earned should be illegal. Under current legislation, employers are using Canada's inadequate bankruptcy laws to take money meant for workers' pensions and divert them to pay off their secured creditors. This bill would stop that practice and ensure workers get what they have worked hard to earn.

The Liberals have promised for years to change the laws, but have failed to follow through. It is time for the government to stand up for Canadian workers and their families.

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

Canada Labour Code December 3rd, 2020

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-258, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers).

Madam Speaker, it is my honour to introduce a private member's bill that would protect workers in the event of a strike or lockout. I would sincerely like to thank my colleague for Edmonton Strathcona for seconding this bill.

This bill would offer workers the protection the Liberals have been promising for years, but have failed to deliver. When employers hire scab replacement workers during a strike or lockout, it is unfair to the workers and undermines their right to collective bargaining.

This bill would cover federally regulated employees, which would allow the government to implement the same kinds of provisions that already exist in provinces like Quebec and British Columbia, and show leadership at the federal level. It is time to protect Canadian workers and their right to bargain collectively.

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

Employment December 2nd, 2020

Mr. Speaker, this week's fiscal update proves once again that the Liberal government cannot keep its promises and does not care about working people only making minimum wage. After laughing off the federal minimum wage just a few years ago, the Liberals promised it in the last election, and now they are laughing again because the promise was a joke.

Why do Liberals not think that Canadians working full-time jobs should be able to put food on their tables and pay their bills? When will the Prime Minister deliver on the $15 an hour minimum wage he promised Canadians?