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

Petitions November 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I rise to table petitions from residents of Nanaimo—Ladysmith who are so concerned about the impact to the environment, the risk of oil spills and marine traffic to the Salish Sea, and the jobs reliant on them.

The petitioners oppose anchorage establishment in the waters off our shores. There is already a lot of anchorage in the Salish Sea. The petitioners point out that while export bulk commodities out of Port Metro Vancouver have increased 40% over the last decade, anchorage use over the same time is up a startling 400%. Sixty percent of bulk carriers stay 10 days or longer, while container ships spend virtually no time at all at anchor.

The petitioners urge the government to look at supply improvements and technical fixes that would prevent this overuse of anchorage in the Salish Sea. We commend the petitioners from Vancouver and Gabriola Island.

The Environment November 2nd, 2018

Madam Speaker, Vancouver Aquarium research just warned that climate change threatens our coast even more than before. Climate plans fall well short of what is needed. Oceans are warming and sea levels are rising much faster than anticipated. Alarm bells are ringing for our coast, but the government just bought a leaky old pipeline.

The government just called this an existential crisis. Is the government not embarrassed to still be using Harper's discredited climate change targets?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018 No. 2 November 1st, 2018

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague, with whom I serve on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, both of us vice-chairs.

We have heard a lot about the importance of pay equity as a mechanism that the federal government could put in place to remove barriers to economic justice for women in Canada. The history goes back a long time. Forty-two years ago, the previous Trudeau Liberal government promised it. In 2004, a task force made very specific recommendations under another Liberal government. Then in 2016, myself and the member for Jonquière put forward a motion to have a special committee study pay equity and re-examine and implement the outstanding recommendations of the 2004 task force report. The special committee, with all-party consensus, said to implement the 2004 task force recommendations on pay equity.

I am glad that we finally have pay equity legislation in the House, but buried in an 800-page bill, it is hard to tease out the details. I am hoping that the member opposite can help me with some of these questions.

A 2004 task force report recommendation was that pay equity is a fundamental human right, so why is this new act's purpose defined in terms of the employers' needs? That is unheard of in a human rights statute and is contrary to the 2004 task force recommendations.

Elections Modernization Act October 30th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, that is quite a serious development that happened just yesterday. It is expected and understood that whoever will adjudicate the election process, or in this case the debate process, is not put in place with the support and consensus of all political parties, the party in power who appoints that person may well be seen, rightly or wrongly, to be making a partisan appointment. Of course, our hands are raised today to Johnston, a good man, but the repeated commitment made by the Minister of Democratic Institutions to the House committee overseeing and reviewing the process for the leaders' debate was that “I will take this committee's advice”. The committee's advice was to adhere to that tradition of having a consensus view.

The government taxed people three-quarters of a million dollars for a process to establish the new oversight person for the leaders' debate. It failed to talk with the parties. It failed to do the process and present a consensus view. To announce it out in the front hall, to the great surprise of everyone, is a disappointment.

Elections Modernization Act October 30th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I find this to be another area where the Liberal government has entirely failed to use the power of its majority and the good mandate given to it by the people of Canada to go all the way and repair the damage done. I am in good company here.

Marc Maynard, the former chief electoral officer, said, “How can they pretend to impose all sorts of rules on Facebook and Google and all other social media when they are declining to have them apply to themselves?”

Teresa Scassa, the Canada research chair in information law at the University of Ottawa, called it “an almost contemptuous and entirely cosmetic quick fix designed to deflect attention from the very serious privacy issues raised by the use of personal information by political parties.”

In the all-day debate the Liberals chose to bring to this place on April 10, 2014, the member for Winnipeg North said, “This legislation”—relating to the Elections Act—“should be designated such that time allocation cannot be applied to it.” His government, under his leadership, has brought in time allocation again and again. He should be ashamed.

Elections Modernization Act October 30th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in this place and speak to the Liberals' attempt to fix the Harper Conservatives' unfair elections act. The bill we are debating today is Bill C-76.

How did we get here? The 2015 election campaign and the lead-up to it were certainly full of people's very legitimate and impassioned opposition and protests against the ransacking of the Elections Act. The dismantling of many of our electoral and democratic processes is certainly well documented. Whether it had been the New Democrats or Liberals who were elected to government, there was a very clear mandate from the electorate that the new government was to repair the Elections Act and roll back the unfair elections act that the Harper Conservatives had brought in.

What happened next? First of all, there is no other way to say it, the Liberals ragged the puck on their commitment to fulfill their election promise to make every vote count. Moving to a proportional representation system would have brought Canada in line with 90% of the democracies around the world, which do not use first past the post as a way to choose their members. Under such a new system, a party that got 39% of the vote would get 39% of the seats in this place.

I believe it was an election promise made by the Prime Minister 1,500 times. He was slow to establish the committee. I am very glad he took the advice of my New Democrat colleague, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who proposed forming a proportional parliamentary committee. The Liberal government did not get the majority of the votes, nor did it have the majority of the seats on that committee. Also, for the first time ever, the committee included representation from members from the Bloc and the Green Party.

Nevertheless, there were 33,000 submissions from around the country, including some very innovative online submissions from people who used Twitter and other social media to get their comments and questions to the committee. There were hundreds of experts. The broad consensus was not to use the Prime Minister's preferred alternative, which was ranked ballot, but instead to move to a proportional form of voting.

Rudely and abruptly, it was pulled by the new democratic reform minister and cancelled entirely by the Prime Minister, bailing on a serious election promise.

That was one chapter in our attempt to fulfill the government's mandate. We tried to help but the government did not take up our offer. As my colleague, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, has just pointed out, British Columbia is voting in a referendum right now on whether to make every vote count. It is being done by mail-in ballot. I hope everybody will do their research, through Fair Vote Canada and the other organizations providing information to help people make the right choice. I am certainly going to be voting yes in the mail-in referendum, and hope others do too.

As for amending the Elections Act, the government took a year to do anything about it. The government introduced a bill, then sat on it for two full years. It then brought in this most recent version of the bill, on which we have had zero debate at this point. It brought in a new version of the bill, which was again stalled over the summer. Finally, it was up for debate in the House, and the government promptly invoked closure and stifled debate on the bill at every stage. Therefore, here we are in the final moments of the debate.

Deadlines have been missed. The Chief Electoral Officer said there had to be a complete, fully adopted bill in his hands by April 30, 2018, which was six months ago. Instead, the day after the deadline, the Liberals tabled this new bill. It is not enough time to get the job done.

Here we are. This is vitally important work. We have an election less than a year away, and yet we still do not have an adopted bill. The New Democrats have proposed one amendment after another and tried to be constructive in this process. I am very discouraged that the government failed to take our advice and that of the Chief Electoral Officer in a number of important areas.

For example, to be able to investigate spending, the Chief Electoral Officer needs to be able to see receipts provided by political parties when they spend in elections. As candidates, we are required to do that. If I buy a box of Timbits, I have to show that receipt and have it available for public view. It is not so for political parties. How can that evidence be compelled in a case where an investigation is needed?

The Liberals originally had that in Bill C-76. They then removed it from their bill. The New Democrats brought a motion forward to bring it back in, and the Liberals voted it down. The Chief Electoral Officer says he wants this amendment, yet it is still not in this bill. This is a lost opportunity to strengthen our democracy and transparency, things the government says it is all about.

Another failure of this bill is that it does not do enough to regulate advertising on digital platforms. Between Russia, Trump and Brexit, there have been ample examples of the ability for digital platforms to interfere with election results. There was a missed generational opportunity by the government to bring in legislation that would deal with that adequately. A year from now, arguably, our election will be vulnerable to deceitful messaging and disinformation at election time.

Another failure is that this bill, in the words of the Privacy Commissioner himself, “adds nothing of substance in terms of privacy protection.”

Right now, there is no oversight for political parties and how they store and manage data. There are no privacy rules applying to political parties right now. The Privacy Commissioner, the Chief Electoral Officer, the BC Civil Liberties Association and witnesses testifying from our counterparts in Europe all said our election process needs data protection.

The minister herself asked Canada's spy agency for advice. They said this bill is not strong enough, yet the Liberals rejected every amendment the New Democrats brought forward. There is only an unenforceable statement that political parties are meant to put on their website, but that is certainly not enough. Every witness at committee said that the status quo is not acceptable, and that this bill failed to provide the strength we really needed in this reform.

Another disappointment is a piece that I am personally very invested in, given that it is 2018 but this House only has 25% women elected. I am proud of my own party, the NDP, because we have extra measures built in to our nomination process, and 43% of New Democrat candidates offered for election in 2015 were women or members of equity-seeking groups. As a result, our caucus is 40% women.

It is not so for the Liberals and not so for the Conservatives. They do not have the same measures. My colleague, former member of Parliament and now mayor of Vancouver Kennedy Stewart brought forward a bill proposing incentives to parties that offered the public more gender-balanced candidate slates. The government voted it down. In the past few months, when the NDP tried to insert the same measures into the bill at committee, again our members were voted down.

This is taxpayer money. For example, taxpayers paid back the Conservatives $21 million in election spending rebates for 2015. Less of that would have gone to the Conservatives given that they only elected 17% women to their caucus. It is a great disappointment that that incentive did not move forward.

There were a few pieces that worked. I am very glad the private member's legislation by my colleague, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, was bundled into the bill. That legislation proposed a shortening of the election period, so that we do not have to go through the same suffering we did in 2015. We are glad the government did that.

We are glad this bill reinstates vouching for identity. We are glad it restores the voter ID card. However, to go back to vouching, we still have a big hole. I could be in a gym on election night with my neighbour who lives across the street but is not actually in the same poll. If I asked him to vouch for me so that I am able to vote because I do not seem to be on the voters list, that would not be possible, even though we are in the same gymnasium with the same volunteers.

For the government to not go all the way and take all the advice it received to make this bill as strong as it could have been represents another failure in Bill C-76. It is a disappointment and, again, a generational opportunity lost.

Status of Women October 30th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, women have waited 42 years for the Liberals to keep their promise on pay equity. Meanwhile, the unions fought Canada Post 30 years in court, and women's organizations have worked tirelessly to get us to this point to finally have pay equity legislation in the House.

They worked for decades. Women are done waiting. Do they really have to wait another four years in order to have equal pay?

Petitions October 30th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, ocean plastics are making their way into everything, onto every beach on our coast and into salmon that we eat. They are choking seabirds, albatross, whales and sea turtles. We have seen terrible images across the country.

Petitioners from Alma, Quebec, and from Nanaimo, Ladysmith and Gabriola Island in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, urge Parliament to adopt a strategy to combat plastic pollution, particularly focused on marine plastics.

Petitions October 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, because oil tanker traffic expansion in the Salish Sea threatens the local environment and local jobs, because there is no way to clean up diluted bitumen from marine environments, because the federal government failed to consult with first nation stakeholders and protect the endangered orca whale, and because people are appalled that the government spent $4.5 billion to pay off a Texas oil company, Kinder Morgan, to purchase a 65-year-old leaky pipeline, petitioners from Nanaimo, Lantzville, Ladysmith and Gabriola Island urge the government to cease construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The Environment October 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand with my colleague, the New Democrat member for Courtenay—Alberni, in presenting solutions to the calamitous tragedy of marine plastics on our beaches. We see it very strongly close to home on B.C.'s Pacific coast that we represent, but we know this is a Canada-wide problem.

With respect to my Conservative colleague who just spoke, he has to spend time on B.C.'s beaches to see that the source and impact are both here in Canada. This is costing communities right now. To say that as taxpayers we cannot afford to deal with this Canadian made problem is severely shortsighted.

When I was Islands Trust Council chair, I heard presentations every year from the Association for Denman Island Marine Stewards. These were women who, with great respect to my elders, were well into their eighties. Every year they were pulling between two and four tonnes of plastic debris, particularly from the aquaculture industry, off the beaches. That is a single clean-up, all on the backs of volunteers.

Returning adult B.C. salmon, the cultural and economic cornerstone of our province, are ingesting up to 90 pieces of marine plastic every day. Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo all agree that Canada is responsible for marine plastic pollution and the costs are being felt right now by our economy and our ecology.

There is almost nothing I do as a member of Parliament that gets more responses from constituents than the issue of marine plastics. The campaigns against it are extremely strong around the world. There are images of sea turtles entangled in plastic bags and of autopsies on beaches of whales finding how much plastic is inside them. Albatrosses are starving because their stomachs are full of marine plastic.

The images are tragic and we know it is about us. This is the result of human impact. Every year plastic litter kills more than one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals, such as turtles, dolphins, whales and seals. Eighty per cent of all plastic in the ocean comes from land-based sources. The Strait of Georgia has 3,000 pieces of marine plastic per cubic metre and those rates go up even higher close to our shellfish operations. Seven to eight per cent of world oil and gas production is used to create single use plastic and by 2050 it is estimated that plastic production will use 15% of the world's global carbon budget.

Again and again, if we act on marine plastics we save the environment, improve our coastal economy, we get the work off the backs of volunteers and we also deal with our fossil fuel habit problem. By 2050, if we do not act, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish, so let us act.

I am regularly urged by school kids in Nanaimo and Ladysmith to act. Departure Bay Eco-School does surveys of the beaches. They point out that adults leaving their cigarettes butts on beaches is probably the number one immediate form of marine debris. Certainly, on the west coast, I have had the privilege of working for years as an ocean kayak guide along some of British Columbia's wildest beaches, and every year we have seen more and more plastic. It is not only from Asia, but also from right here.

We do have community action. Seaview Elementary School in Lantzville just won a prize in the plastic bag grab challenge. Students collected nearly 6,000 bags of garbage from the environment within one month and did a great job of doing daily announcements about the issue at their school to raise awareness about it. Their librarian, Jolaine Canty, who led the initiative, said that having the students win that big contest was an added bonus. She is really proud of the work they did.

Smokin' George's BBQ restaurant in Nanaimo is moving to compostable containers and straws, and it wants Parliament to know that it recycles its fryer oil. There are people who need to use straws for medical reasons or because they are disabled, which is fine, but it is great to see restaurants offering compostable, renewable alternatives. These businesses are doing what they can to be more sustainable.

Cold Front Gelato in Nanaimo is also moving to compostable spoons and containers. The Vault Café, which feeds me a lot of coffee and makes my work possible, is also moving to compostable plant-based products. Their customers are asking them to do that, which is a sign of how much people want to see action on this.

On Oceans Day, I had the pleasure of being with my colleague, the member of Parliament for Courtenay—Alberni, for a beach cleanup in Parksville. The groups that we were working with, the Surfrider Foundation, the Ocean Legacy Foundation, and Clayoquot CleanUp, are all on the ground and are really inspiring us to realize that if we can get the plastic out of the water, we can use it. They are already piloting gathering marine plastic off the beach, feeding it into 3D printers, and generating new products with this plastic that has been collected. Also, they are piloting the use of new forms of fuel by liquefying and gasifying the marine plastic pollution that has been gathered, again, finding new uses for it.

It is really inspiring to talk to five-generation sea captain, Josh Temple, I think his name is, about how much plastic net floats they see on the beaches everywhere. What if we used the glut of recycled glass that we have just sitting, and in some cases ending up in landfills, and we got back to a time of manufacturing glass floats? Beachcombers would love it. It would deal with another recycling glut and pollution problem that we have. Again, if a glass ball breaks, either a tourist finds it or else it breaks up and goes back to sand.

These groups are on the ground, and in the absence of government support and direction, they are doing the hard work. We commend them. They inspire us.

The Georgia Strait Alliance is an amazing group dedicated to ocean protection in the Salish Sea. It is based in Nanaimo. They have been working with global partners to tackle the problem of ghost gear. This is the problem of stray fishing nets, which are increasingly made of plastics and just do not break down in the same way as others, moving across our world's oceans, gathering fish and in turn attracting more predators. It is a terrible, compounding cycle of death. They are working on an initiative to block that.

The Regional District of Nanaimo took a motion to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting. Chair Bill Veenhof was so proud to stand up in support of my colleague's motion, M-151, to adopt a national strategy to deal with marine plastics. It received virtually unanimous support at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. If the Conservative Party thinks that is a bad idea, then it is not talking to its local partners.

As the House knows well, I have been working for a long time on trying to deal with another type of marine plastics problem, abandoned vessels, ripped up and discarded fibreglass boats, which have reached the end of their lifetime. It is another huge issue. If we had a comprehensive government program, if we piloted a vessel turn-in program, as I have proposed but the Liberal government voted down, we could work with the recycling and salvage companies to recreate new markets for fibreglass, the same as we can for marine plastics, if we deal with this in a comprehensive way.

This is the beauty of my colleague's motion that we are encouraging the House to adopt. We do not have any commitment to regulation. We do not have any commitment, yet, to action. Banning the use of single-use plastics is something that really should be done across the country, but we need to regulate the responses, not just talk about them, and we need to fund action. This is an ongoing budget item, not just the flavour of the month.

There is unprecedented global support for action on marine plastics. The NDP has a history of doing this. It was our former colleague, Megan Leslie, who, in 2015, got the House to agree to go ahead and ban micro beads. It was our colleague, the member of Parliament for London—Fanshawe, who brought a motion to the House to ban plastic bags across the country.

When we see what is happening to our marine mammals that we are legally bound to protect, we must take this simple action. School kids are urging us to. Local businesses are urging us to. I strongly encourage the House to move beyond talk to the kind of action my colleague, the member for Courtenay—Alberni, has urged and to vote in favour of Motion No. 151.