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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was indigenous.

Last in Parliament January 2019, as NDP MP for Nanaimo—Ladysmith (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship November 19th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, back in June, I was able to ask the Prime Minister directly in the House, given his stated commitment to families and family reunification, why someone's parents or grandparents coming to Canada was based on the luck of the draw. This was in the face of media reports that said that in fact the lottery system was worked off an Excel spreadsheet and subject to rigging. Thankfully, since asking that question in question period four months ago or so, communities across Canada came together to denounce the idea of family reunification being determined by the luck of the draw and the government had no choice but to abandon the parent/grandparent lottery system. It was an honour to bring those concerns to the House and I am grateful to the people back home in Nanaimo—Ladysmith, who let me know what impact this was having on their families.

However, the New Democrats remain concerned that the government has decided to go back to a first-come, first-served race to get an application in before the application cap is hit. This is almost identical to the system prior to the lottery, and just like family reunification should not be a matter of chance, it should not be a race either.

I am proud my colleague, the member for Vancouver East, said, “I will continue to advocate for a parent/grandparent system that reflects what Canadians want, the elimination of the annual application cap, increasing the annual levels plan space to accommodate the desire of Canadians to be reunited with their loved ones, instituting a standard processing time of 12 months for these applications, as this is the standard already in place for spousal sponsorship applications.”

I want to flag how hard it is for families to navigate these systems. I have a constituent named Fatima. She and her two daughters were accepted to Canada as refugees from Eritrea. The personal story of this family is tragic. It was a huge effort for them to get here. They are sponsored by the Neighbourhood Church in Nanaimo, which is doing a fantastic job of working hand in hand with refugee families, supporting them, embedding them in our communities. However, what Fatima has said is that she cannot settle into our community fully knowing that the husband, who she thought had died in the civil war, in fact had survived, but that it was beyond the period where she was able to sponsor him because of the one-year limit. They are now caught in this bureaucratic mess. Her little daughters are saying that they do not believe that their father is still alive because it has been years that they have been waiting for our system, for the Canadian government, to say when it is that his processing will be complete. It is a huge heartache for this family.

I am hearing again and again that the government has chosen not to restore the public service and the front-line people who are meant to be serving Canadians. To have people kicked off phone lines, left on hold indefinitely or for them to have to call 20 times even to have the honour of being put on hold, that says to me that everyone is challenged by a broken system. Therefore, my question to the government is this. Why is it making people wait so long? When will it truly deepen the investment that allows immigration and family reunification to happen as it should?

Business of Supply November 19th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I would have thought that my Liberal colleagues across the way would share my dismay that the Ontario Liberals, instead of recognizing that they were going to lose this Ontario election, were just as alarmist about the spectre of a New Democrat government. Instead of a Doug Ford government, they could have had Andrea Horwath, who would have carried on much of the Kathleen Wynne legacy, and would certainly not be slashing and burning social programs. The Ontario francophone program, the sex education curriculum and pay equity are all completely on the Ontario Liberals who chose to scare voters, just as if Andrea Horwath and Doug Ford were equivalently scary to them. That is their legacy. It is damage that was done by their party.

Business of Supply November 19th, 2018

Madam Speaker, the truth is, from both Liberal and Conservative decades of underspending, the appetite to spend and the need to fill the gap on affordable housing is tremendous. We are still only just getting through the federal funding that was promised by the Conservatives. The passive housing design with federal and provincial money was built well before this money started to roll out. It is the first multifamily housing that has been built in Nanaimo since the early nineties. That says that both the Conservative and Liberal governments have not been partnering. We are just starting to catch up, but it is three years into a four-year term. The spending that has hit the ground is just not visible in our communities, not in the way that we need, not in the way that was expected. We know that if the money was spent now, not after the next election, employers would be better off and people would have more disposable income to spend in their own communities. It would be the right thing to do socially and morally, as well as good for the economy.

Business of Supply November 19th, 2018

Madam Speaker, representing Nanaimo—Ladysmith, I am proud to stand with my colleagues from the NDP, to speak to the question of both Conservative and Liberal priorities. I am proud that the New Democrats' fiscal record on deficit spending is the best of all political parties that have formed a provincial or federal government in Canada for the past 30 years. While we have been responsible financial managers, I am also proud that we have invested in what Canadians care about, what actually changes the lives of Canadians on the ground. We have pushed for more because we are determined to make lives better.

Growing up in Canada my whole life, I have watched the bounce between Conservative and Liberal fiscal leadership or ideology federally. It has bounced between spending on the wrong priorities, I would argue, and then rolling back and slashing and burning social programs and front-line social services in an extremely aggressive and destructive way. We saw terrible cuts to the public service in the 1990s, with venerated institutions like the CBC being cut, resulting in true loss of service delivery to people in remote communities. We have seen our environmental safety net eroded. We have seen our social safety net eroded and, at a minimum, not keeping up with the cost of living. Vulnerable people in vulnerable environments have felt the brunt of this pendulum swing of over-spending and then slashing and burning.

The Liberals' cuts in the 1990s were extreme. The Conservatives built deficits way back up. Somehow, they kept the reputation of being conservative fiscal managers, but it was just not true. Now, in criticizing the Liberals, this really does feel like a political game, and it Canada's most vulnerable people who pay the price of this game.

My biggest concern is that we have a government now in place that got a mandate from the people to invest in the people. The Liberals got a huge majority in the House. They had a tremendous amount of goodwill. However, they are not delivering the money to the people who need it the most, who really had hopes that deep investments would be made in social services again. Instead, we have seen strange and unpromised things happen, which I would argue are the opposite of promises made, like the government finding $4.5 billion to buy a leaky old pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline. Whoever would have thought they were voting for that kind of fiscal investment and that kind of good, conservative management, when they checked the box beside the Liberals? I personally thought, as a member of Parliament, the way to beat the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the oil tanker traffic risks posed to the riding I serve was to beat the Harper Conservatives. Who knew that it would be the Liberals who would deepen their investment despite their promise that they would redo the Kinder Morgan pipeline review, which they have not done?

As for the infrastructure bank, we certainly want and need investments in infrastructure. Local governments have been taking the brunt of this for decades. They have the biggest responsibility. They have been subject to tremendous downloads. In British Columbia, we have seen those downloads from the B.C. Liberals, and we have also seen them from the Liberals and Conservatives federally. Local governments do not have the taxation power, but depend on federal government partnership to deliver the federal infrastructure funding to be able to get their water treatment plants, their affordable housing projects, their bike paths and everything else built. The Liberals campaigned that they were going to invest in this way, but just did not get those investments out the door. They are still spending infrastructure money that the Conservatives promised. That is a long time ago now. Unfortunately, a lot of the infrastructure funding is delayed until after the next election.

There have been some good news pieces. I absolutely take those, and I am glad to see them, but we really thought it would be more, faster and deeper. There is only another year for the current government to show that it will deepen its partnership and invest and make up the lost ground that we felt under the former Conservative government.

The infrastructure bank again is a disappointment. As my colleague, the member of Parliament for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, pointed out, there is $35 billion in federal funding but much more, over $100 billion, called for from the corporate side. Therefore, with the corporate power at play in this case and the need for corporations to invest in the infrastructure bank, obviously there is a big profit motive that shareholders require to be met. Again, there has not been the expected delivery on the promises made, but lots of delays. We just have not seen enough on the ground so far.

We have seen the corporate tax cuts in the States. The concern we have with cutting corporate tax rates is that it pools money into what we call “dead money”, unproductive money that is not invested in our local economies and not getting the benefit it could. Selling our GM shares at a loss was again a wrong priority of the Conservative government, and we are now paying the cost of that here. At our constituency offices, people still talk about the cuts the Conservative government made to EI and the damage those did.

As well, there is the failure of the Liberal government over the last three years to truly reform EI. Only six out of 10 workers get access to EI. Women especially, who are more likely to work part-time and to be a precarious part of the workforce, are not getting access to the social safety net that employment insurance offers. If someone is a cashier, a full-time job in that business does not qualify them for EI. No wonder there are women who work their whole lives but just cannot get ahead. If they have a serious illness, get divorced or have something calamitous happen in their lives, it leaves them further behind and they tend to retire in poverty. They also live longer than men. In a country as wealthy as ours, it is just not fair that we are not investing in that area.

An area I have been particularly focused on is domestic violence. It is reported that it costs Canada $12 billion a year not to deal with the domestic violence epidemic, and of course the personal cost is tremendous. In the nineties, the Liberal government cut operational funding and many forms of funding for the front-line workers who were providing shelter, counselling and support for women transitioning out of abusive relationships. There were terrible cuts at that time, and then the dark decade of the Conservatives compounded those terribly.

Now we have a feminist government in the Liberals, a government willing to spend, and yet we are still not having support go to the brave and dedicated women working on the the front lines of the epidemic of gender-based violence. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, which we welcome, the taboo is being lifted from calling out violence and reporting it, and people have more faith now that the justice system will treat women well if they come forward. These front-line organizations are now getting an avalanche of calls for help. Imagine the bravery of a woman saying that she is going to take her children and leave her violent relationship only to be turned away at the shelter, as hundreds of women are every night. When she then says that she would like access to counselling, she gets put on a waiting list for six months. Will that woman return to an abusive relationship? Yes, she will.

As the New Democratic B.C. housing minister Selina Robinson said at the housing conference just yesterday, the number one thing that keeps women in danger in violent relationships is lack of access to affordable housing. Just on Friday, I launched a new campaign calling on the government to fund core operations of feminist organizations doing this front-line work. Applying for one grant at a time is speculative. It wastes the time of staff, competes with other organizations and is not a sustainable funding model. I know that the Minister of Status of Women understands this, but her funding solutions so far are not getting to those in need.

The government has failed to fund affordable pharmacare, failed to spend fully on the affordable housing we desperately need, failed to close the stock option loopholes and failed to go after the big corporate offshore tax cheats. Instead, in my own riding of Nanaimo, we have had front-page headlines about the CRA going after MGM Restaurant in a mean-spirited way. Even when the restaurant won its appeal after 10 years, the government is appealing that decision and going after these small business people. We also hear of people who fell ill, went on EI, were accidentally overpaid $200 and CRA went after them, the most vulnerable people.

These are the wrong priorities and the wrong spending by the current government. We really want to see it live up to the promise it made to the people.

Criminal Code November 8th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, status of women committee heard testimony from Jonathan Rudin from Aboriginal Legal Services, who I note my colleague quoted as a defender of the legislation. Almost a year ago, having described the impact of mandatory minimum sentencing as being particularly hard on indigenous women and on having removed judicial discretion, the pattern observed was that there were more indigenous women in prison, that their families were taken away and that their children were incredibly damaged on their return, maybe even creating intergenerational impacts.

Mr. Rudin said

The first thing we urge the committee to recommend and to try at least to do is to have the current government bring in the legislation they have promised to bring in to restore to judges their discretion to sentence people without the burden of mandatory minimum sentences and the restrictions on conditional sentences.

Does my colleague agree with Jonathan Rudin's advice in this case?

Although the government campaigned to make this change three years ago, it has done nothing. It has not fulfilled its commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action to repeal the Conservative's mandatory minimum legislation. The government had an opportunity in the bill and it has failed to meet it.

Criminal Code November 8th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, from the NDP side, we had hoped that this proposed legislation would repair the mandatory minimum policy change that the Conservatives brought in during the previous government.

We have heard testimony at the status of women committee about judges no longer having judicial discretion to impose sentences on an offender serving time on weekends, when the offender could get their family to look after their kids and keep the family together, and could still keep their regular job during the week. Often, in the case of women, particularly indigenous women, they may well have been an accessory to a crime and plead guilty just to get the charge over and under way, but they do not have access to good representation. There is a lot of evidence that mandatory minimums have been harder on indigenous women than anyone else and have broken up families. In fact, 68% of court challenges are related to mandatory minimums.

Have the Conservatives had any second thoughts or regrets about the decision they made in the previous Parliament? Do they wish the government had kept its promise, followed its mandate letter and included a repeal of mandatory minimums in this proposed legislation?

Criminal Code November 8th, 2018

Madam Speaker, the status of women committee did a study last year about the experience of indigenous women in the justice system and in incarceration. We really hoped that Bill C-75 would bring in some of that advice. The government calls it a bold bill. I am afraid it is not.

I want to read something for my colleague. At committee, in December of last year, Jonathan Rudin, program director for Aboriginal Legal Services, said:

...mandatory minimum sentence prevents a conditional sentence from being put in....What happens then is that the person goes to jail, and if they don't have someone to look after their kids....they will lose their kids.... Even if the person gets their children back, they will have been removed from their families....that experience of being taken from your family and put into foster care....is incredibly damaging.

He also said:

The first thing we urge the committee to recommend and to at least try to do is to have the current government bring in the legislation they have promised to bring in to restore to judges their discretion to sentence people without the burden of mandatory minimum sentences and the restrictions on conditional sentences.

Why is that not in this bold bill?

Criminal Code November 8th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I am vice-chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, and we heard very disturbing testimony about the impact of mandatory minimums, particularly on single mothers and indigenous women. In the past, judges had the discretion to say mothers could serve their sentences on weekends and look after their kids during the week. It has broken families, and kids have been forced into foster care because that flexibility no longer exists.

I heard the parliamentary secretary say we need more consultation on this. I would like to hear my colleague's view of whether there is any clearer direction than the several court rulings that have asked the government to move away from this practice. Does my colleague really think we need more consultation, or should the government have acted in this legislation to carry out the instructions in the Prime Minister's mandate letter to end the practice of mandatory minimums?

Petitions November 8th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, marine plastics are spreading all over B.C.'s coasts, entering salmon and littering beaches. A lot of it is coming from British Columbia but some is also coming from overseas. Petitioners from Nanaimo, Parksville and Lantzville have asked me to convey to the House their strong call for the government to develop a national strategy to combat marine plastic pollution, which would particularly involve regulations on the single use of plastics to prevent plastics from entering the marine environment in the first place and also to fund in a permanent ongoing way some of the pieces we have been unable to tackle like ghost nets, which move across the ocean capturing fish, dolphins and so on. It is a terrible emergency. We call on the government to act.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 2 November 6th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, when I co-hosted a town hall in Ladysmith with my colleague, the member for Hamilton Mountain, we had a lot of people come out. There were former Sears employees, who really liked the mechanism that had been proposed by my colleague to put workers first in the queue in the event of bankruptcies. They recognized that these are earned pensions that they have paid into all their lives. I am sure they will be dismayed to learn that the government chose to open up the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, but not to protect workers' pensions.