House of Commons photo


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

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

Mr. Speaker, I would love to be able to answer that question. I am so proud of the work my colleague, the member of Parliament for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, did to bring the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People into legislation and have it bind future governments. Honestly, I have not even looked at that section. I have not been home since this omnibus bill was tabled. I have not heard from the Snuneymuxw, Stz'uminus, and Snaw-naw-as councils in my region.

Again, the current government is one that says that the nation-to-nation relationship is the most important. We have the ability to lock this into law. If there are good provisions, I would love to be able to support them. However, this is such a rush.

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

Mr. Speaker, of the seven questions asked, I will say that having waited 42 years, we want to get pay equity right. As for the closure that has been invoked on debate and the very limited committee time that it looks like we are going to have, I promise that we are not trying to slow down pay equity. We want it to be implemented more quickly and to have the time in committee and in the House to be able to get the details right. This has an enormous impact on women in all sectors.

Another piece that was not accommodated in the legislation was the question of intersectionality. Indigenous and racialized and immigrant people, not just women, should be accommodated within this pay equity act, and it looks that is missing.

These are all detailed questions that we want to work on with the government to get this right. I really wish the government had not waited until the third year of its mandate to bring the legislation forward. I wish it would give us more time to have this conversation right now.

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

Mr. Speaker, speaking for the NDP, I rise to speak about Bill C-86, the budget implementation bill. I will run through some of the things we do not like, some of the things we wish were there and some of the measures that we have some qualified support for, particularly around oil spill response. I will then speak a little more in depth about pay equity, which is a long-awaited provision. We have been eagerly looking forward to it being brought into the House for three years, actually 42 years if we count the total sweep of time since it was first committed to by Liberals, and a lot of questions have come up about the mechanics of it.

However, first, there is one big missing piece. Although the bankruptcy laws would be amended through this proposed budget implementation act, they would only protect commercial licence-holders and corporations but fail completely to protect workers' pensions with those same bankruptcy laws. Our NDP colleague, the member for Hamilton Mountain, has been working for three years on this. When there is a bankruptcy, workers' pensions, which they have paid for, should be at the front of the line. How could the government, when it is for the middle class and all that jargon, have opened up that section of the bankruptcy laws but not introduced this amendment? It is so important, whether one is a Sears worker or Stelco worker. It is a major miss and a great disappointment. In fact, some have said it is a “moral failure”.

What is missing? If this were a New Democrat budget, we would have web taxation for the giant web companies. We would end pension theft. We would have universal child care. We would have closed tax loopholes. We would have much stronger measures against tax havens. A major way to fund our social programs in this great country is to close the offshore super-rich tax loopholes. We would have sick leave in EI. We would have universal, affordable pharmacare. We would have closed the funding gap for indigenous education and access to drinking water on reserves. There would have been more help for rural communities.

Here is one proposed provision that there is a mix on. We are glad to see an increased number of weeks for parental leave when divided between working parents, but, again, and we have made this argument every budget, it would only be effective for people who can afford to live on just 33% of their salary. It is not within reach or affordable for families who are not super well off. Also, as my colleague pointed out, six in 10 workers do not have access to EI. The program is still designed in a way that does not accommodate part-time and precarious workers, the people who most need the social safety net of EI. Therefore, it is a provision that although on paper looks good, and it is a good step I guess, it would not actually get to the people who need it. Of course, it does not get at the heart of the matter, which every gender-focused government and progressive government in the world has done, and that is invest in universal affordable child care. This proposed budget would not do that.

An issue I have been working on for at least 10 years in my role as Islands Trust Council chair and during the whole three years that I have been representing here concerns oil spill response. I represent a coastal community by the ocean. It has a lot of shipping traffic, a very sensitive ecology, fast-moving currents and big tidal fluctuations. A lot of jobs are dependent on the region; people are very concerned about oil spill response. Therefore, we were glad to see in the proposed budget a mechanism for the Coast Guard to receive upfront funding from the ship-source oil pollution fund.

Members might remember this fund from when I worked with the former fisheries minister, the member for Nunavut, to have the Viki Lyne II removed from Ladysmith Harbour. After four and a half years of trying, it cost $1.2 million, which was funded through the ship-source oil pollution fund. That abandoned vessel had been towed into Ladysmith Harbour by Transport Canada. The government brought it into our riding, and it took us that long to get it out, but that fund was used to remove the Viki Lyne II on the basis that removing that abandoned vessel would prevent an oil spill.

Therefore, it is good there is some conversation in this budget about how this fund might be used in a new and modern way. However, a provision in the budget implementation act that worries me is that it creates a mechanism for the government to put taxpayer money into the fund in the event it is depleted.

We have heard a lot of speeches in the chamber about polluter pays and making corporations pay for pollution. I agree with that, but this is the exact opposite of the intention of the ship-source oil spill pollution fund.

The following is part of a letter that I wrote when I was the Islands Trust Council chair in 2013 for the Tanker Safety Panel Secretariat under Transport Canada:

...this fund cannot be viewed as a “polluter-pay” arrangement, when industry has only contributed $34.86 million between 1972-1976 and none since then. On the other hand, I am told the taxpayer has contributed more than $424 million and the fund has paid out more than $51 million for industry's annual premiums to the international compensation funds. It makes sense to us

—that is, the Islands Trust Council—

that cargo owners and pipeline owners with marine terminals who profit by risking our marine environment and the health of our communities, should contribute to this fund to avoid the burden falling on the Canadian taxpayer.

That is how it should be. Industry should be paying for this fund. We really do not want to see the government opening up a mechanism to put taxpayer funds into this, even if it is only in an emergency situation. Rather, right now we should be asking the polluters to make contributions so that in the calamitous event there is an oil spill, we are able to have the funds right there that industry has already paid for.

Most importantly, I want to talk about the pay equity provisions. Going back in history, members will remember that it was 42 years ago that Pierre Trudeau's Liberal government committed to pay equity. In 2004, again under a Liberal government, there was a task force that had tremendous buy-in from all sectors and made very strong recommendations on pay equity that were never implemented. The NDP's very first opposition day motion in this Parliament was to have the government strike a special committee to find a way to implement those 2004 recommendations.

Here we are, three years later, and we wish it had not taken this long. However, we are glad to see the pay equity legislation finally tabled here. That it is buried in an 800-page omnibus bill is very discouraging. It means we cannot dig into the details, and there are a lot of them.

I have some questions about where this does not seem to align with the 2004 pay equity task force recommendations, which this Parliament's special committee unanimously said should be implemented. Pay equity is a fundamental human right, but this act's purpose clause defines it in terms of the employer's need. This is unheard of in a human rights statute in this country and completely contrary to the 2004 task force recommendations.

There will be no legal support centre for non-union women, as recommended in the 2004 task force. There will be no standalone enforcement entity as a specialized pay equity commission and tribunal. Again, that recommendation was ignored. The definition of “employer” is left out.

We had some testimony just this morning indicating that the finance committee ran through some of these mechanisms. We are getting good advice, but, again, we wish we had more time to debate and implement it.

A question was asked about why the new federal pay equity legislation would reduce the entitlements that women employed in precarious jobs currently have with that protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act. How could it possibly be that precarious workers would have less protection in this new bill than they do right now?

The timeline is a significant problem as well. Again, we have been waiting 42 years. It took the government three years to get to this point. The new pay equity act says that women could wait more than 10 years to receive a pay equity remedy: one year to develop the regulations, three years for pay equity plan development, and eight years for compensation and remedies to paid out in the case of workplaces with fewer than 99 employees.

This is not a situation where more consultation and more research is needed. Other countries have gone way ahead of us. Women have waited far too long. We really want to accelerate the implementation of equal pay for work of equal value.

Status of Women November 6th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, women waited 42 years for Liberals to legislate pay equity, but we heard this morning that pay equity provisions in the government's 800-page bill might be unconstitutional. They weaken protection for part-time and temporary workers. The Equal Pay Coalition said that it means women will have to go to court all over again. Liberals cannot call this pay equity if it does not protect precarious workers.

Will the self-proclaimed feminist Prime Minister fix the bill?

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

Mr. Speaker, in this very limited debate, the government has invoked closure yet again on a vital bill of 800 pages. We are all still digging into the details of it.

I heard and appreciated my Liberal colleague's comments about the polluter-pay principle. I note one of the pieces that is amended in this 800-page budget implementation bill is the ship-source oil pollution fund. There are a number of measures. This is meant to be an industry-funded provision in the event of pollution in marine waters. My colleague across the way represents a maritime-reliant riding, as I do. Its jobs and the environment are dependent on a clean environment.

I am concerned that one of the measures proposed in the bill to amend the ship-source oil pollution fund allows the government to top up the fund in the event that it becomes depleted. My information is that industry has not contributed to this fund since 1976. If the member is so committed to the polluter-pay principle, why did his government not make that amendment to the bill?

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

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that if the minister is so proud of his 800-page bill, he would welcome expanded time to be able to discuss and debate it and give it the transparency it needs.

Women in Canada have been waiting 42 years since pay equity was promised by a previous Trudeau Liberal government, and finally we have pay equity legislation embedded within this 800-page bill. I was at the finance committee this morning, where a witness testified that this legislation means that women will have to go to court all over again. Other witnesses called the pay equity provisions unconstitutional. A further witness said that it offers less protection than existing provisions for part-time and temporary workers.

Given that testimony, why would we ever want to rush through passage of this vital bill? We have to get it right so that women are paid equally for work of equal value.

Business of Supply November 5th, 2018

Madam Speaker, the least we can do for veterans is to spend the money that has been allocated in the budget. If we were able to put more resources into the front line, we would not have the wait times that my colleague describes, both for francophones and for women in particular.

I also want to flag that when the government does not fulfill its obligations, the burden falls to the families, which is often the girlfriends, the wives and the extended family. If we can do our part, then we will be supporting families as well.

Business of Supply November 5th, 2018

Madam Speaker, the Liberal government has shortchanged veterans to the tune of $372 million of unspent program funding. This is such a win-win motion to vote in favour of. It would get the money that has been allocated. The Liberal government has only rehired a fraction of the people, the public servants, who are needed to navigate and support veterans. The government has not met even half of its own service standards. There is such a lot of damage to repair from the decade that the Conservatives were in power, so I do not understand why the government would not want to vote in favour of this motion. The government budgeted the money. It has been unable to spend it. It has not rehired the front-line folks.

We need to vote yes to this motion.

Business of Supply November 5th, 2018

Madam Speaker, as the member well knows, when the government bundles so many policy pieces all into one bill, it is hard to find something that allows us to vote together. The present budget implementation bill is 800 pages. There has never been a bigger omnibus bill. It is almost double what the Harper Conservatives tabled, and we all decried it then. There are bound to be pieces that we want to pull out and debate separately. However, as I mentioned in my speech, some of the veterans in my community do not agree that the government's repair of the pension bill is correct.

Regardless, what we are debating today is something that would have no cost to taxpayers. It would move any money that the government is unable to spend that it had assigned in its budget in any given year forward to the next year so that veterans can get the full benefit of what was budgeted. I would like to know whether my colleague across the way on the Liberal side is going to vote yes.

Business of Supply November 5th, 2018

Madam Speaker, we have been eagerly awaiting our opportunity to tell stories of local veterans in the House and to try to get them the services they need. I will be splitting my time with the member for Victoria.

Just days away is Remembrance Day. We will be celebrating and honouring the contribution of veterans. I will be standing with the Nanaimo—Ladysmith's Legions No. 256, Mt. Benson; No. 10 Harewood, in Nanaimo; No. 257 in Lantzville; No. 171 in Ladysmith; the Gabriola Islands veterans association; and Cedar Valley Memorial Gardens, all honouring and remembering the contribution of veterans. They all host us and facilitate the connection from young to old. I am looking very much forward to standing with them.

Veterans need parliamentarians to do our part to recognize and support those who have sacrificed for our country. There is clearly a debt owed, there is money in the till and sincere and vital promises have been made. Every year 3,000 veterans pass away, so let us get on with it and show that we truly support veterans everyday, not just on Remembrance Day.

On Friday, I was honoured to be in the Senate, along with my parents, for the armistice ceremony to recognize 100 years since the end of the great war, the war to end all wars. One of the quotes that moved us particularly was veterans noting that their fallen comrades said, “for their tomorrow we gave our today”. Just this year in a town hall the Prime Minister said, in response to a very angry question from the audience, that the reason the government was fighting veterans in court was veterans were “asking more than we can give”. That is a shocking thing to say, especially for those of us on the coast who do not support the Prime Minister's choice to buy a leaky old pipeline for $4.5 billion. Clearly, there is enough money to go around. What we hear everyday in our ridings is that veterans are not getting the support that they are owed.

We held a town hall along with Nanaimo Legion No. 10, during which veterans said that both Conservative and Liberal governments were “poisoning patriotism and the desire to serve our country.” They said. “Dealing with Veterans Affairs with PTSD is like being given a jigsaw puzzle and turning out the lights.”

These young veterans told me that they wanted a navigator to help with the tangled bureaucracy of PTSD treatment and to ensure that no veteran was discharged without pension and medical benefits already lined up. The Canadian Forces ombudsman echoed this in withering testimony to the Senate on March 8, saying that Canada was “not living up to our end of the bargain.” Our veterans deserve so much better.

Ken Young, a veteran in my riding. He is a brilliant and compassionate veterans advocate. He told me that someone he was working with who had ALS waited 16 weeks and still had no response to his phone call.

As NDP government leader Jagmeet Singh said:

Veterans shouldn't be put on hold for hours or redirected half a dozen times before they speak to the right person. And they shouldn't have to wait 6 months before receiving the benefits they rightly deserve, It's wrong to make our veterans wait for these services and it’s even worse that they’re being short-changed by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Today the New Democrats are taking over the agenda of the House with a fix as set out in the motion by my colleague, the member for Courtenay—Alberni, which is just north of me on Vancouver Island. He represents Parksville along with north and west Tofino. His motion, if passed by Parliament and implemented by the government, will dramatically improve the lives of Canada's veterans, at no additional costs to taxpayers. It seeks to solve two issues that have plagued the Department of Veterans Affairs under both Conservative and Liberal governments. It would end lapsed spending in the department by allowing this unspent money to be carried over to the next year and that would be for the sole purpose of improving services across the board for Canada's veterans and their families.

Here are some statistics since the Liberal government took power three years ago. The Liberals have only rehired 475 front-line staff at Veteran Affairs and just 260 case managers. They remain well short of the 25:1 ratio for which the Liberals themselves called.

The $372 million that has been allowed to lapse by the Liberals in their first three years could have been used to hire 5,716 full-time staff, enough to triple the number of staff working at the department. Honestly, this is what we need: to have a human voice to treat people with respect, the elders of our communities and the brave men and women coming home from the current modern wars, to take them by the hand and explain to them what they are entitled to so that nobody has to work out this maze of paperwork on their own.

I am hearing this a lot from my riding, that people are working hard. Mark Smith wrote me this year. He said, “Imagine being a 24 year old who has lost the use of both legs and suffer from the mental anguish that goes with the realization of being a 24 year old with no legs. Now receive a one time payout and a plane ticket home, imagine how fast that money disappears and imagine where that money went to.” He said about the Prime Minister, “He has stated that he has brought back life long pensions however only the most injured 75% plus will received approximately $2200 per month. This is outrageous.”

Another brave member of my community has fought Veterans Affairs for support after she, as a service person, was sexually assaulted by another service person. She has been trying to get help for a decade. It is a terrible problem.

A few whims have happened. The Canadian Medical Cannabis Council was very concerned about veterans who had been prescribed medical marijuana. In my riding in particular, in Nanaimo, Tilray is a licensed medical marijuana grower, a huge employer, a business that is deeply committed to research on the mental health side. I was sent a petition by thousands of constituents asking that Veterans Affairs cover the cost of marijuana extracts, because that is a more healthy way to take it. As a testament to the power of petitions and the work of the Canadian Medical Cannabis Council, the government changed that policy, so that was a win for us.

A great example of a service group is Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs. It straddles my riding and the riding of the member for Courtenay—Alberni. Together we visited this charity, which has paired 29 service men and women of the Canadian Forces, RCMP and veterans of foreign war with service dogs. It was inspiring to meet with these young men and women and see the effect that these service dogs have on them. There is a tremendous waiting list and it needs more funding and support, but we are very grateful to Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs and Barb and her whole team for the work that they do.

Another person in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, Ken Osborn, has a six-foot bronze wreath with contributions of Remembrance Day poppies from all over the country. He offered that to the government. He was not able to qualify for funding to have this beautiful and moving war memorial travel across the country. That was a great disappointment to him, but I understand a veterans office is going to house it so maybe we will be able to see it next year.

I also want to applaud the work of the Veterans Transition Network at the University of British Columbia that is doing a series of vignettes, a play called Contact! Unload that breaks open the taboo of talking about mental health and support for veterans.

We certainly have so much work to do here in Parliament. We should put our money where our mouth is and stop spending hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting veterans in court. We should tackle homelessness. To our shame, homelessness rates in Canada say there might be as many as 1,300 veterans living on the streets. That is certainly happening in Nanaimo. To our great shame, there are veterans living on Mount Benson. I thank the people who go out to support them. We should act on detox agents for veterans exposed to chemical defoliants. We should relax the regulations on access for veterans who served in the Korean War to long-term retirement and service beds. The work for us goes on and on.

Let us please vote in favour of my comrade's motion. It would fund, with no additional cost to taxpayers, the treatment and care that veterans so clearly need.