Highlights: Our Government
Defending Free Trade and the Canadian Economy.
In the face of ignorance and aggression, our government stayed strong and defended free trade and the Canadian economy in NAFTA negotiations with President Trump. Led by Minister Freeland, we reached a good deal and avoided potential damage to our most important trading relationship.
“The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which represents 200,000 businesses of all sizes across our country, has strongly welcomed the USMCA, as has Unifor, Canada’s largest labour union. That strikes me as a well-balanced outcome.” – Minister Freeland.
In our hyper-partisan world, it’s also important to acknowledge that this was an effort that extended across party lines (including former Conservative leaders) in the best interests of all Canadians.
Protecting our Environment and Oceans.
An overwhelming consensus of scientists again warned us of severe consequences for our planet and our kids if we keep polluting and causing global warming.
There will be more deaths and disease, more storms and floods, more heat-waves, forest fires and droughts, more food and water shortages, and major species loss and extinction. Islands and coasts are at serious risk.
As other politicians abdicated their responsibilities, our government introduced a national price on pollution and a rebate plan to ensure that Canadian families will not be negatively affected. As I’ve said in the House, pricing pollution is the simplest and most cost-effective solution to tackling climate change.
Our government also led the way in tackling the global problem of plastic pollution, pledging with G7 partners to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics, to help consumers make sustainable decisions, and to work with industry towards 100% reusable and recyclable plastics. We committed to help other countries rid our oceans of plastics through significant financial support, and to make change here at home through more sustainable federal operations and procurement practices.
Supporting Those in Need Here at Home.
At the core of our federal commitment to build dignity and reduce poverty is a set of basic income support programs, including the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors and the Canada Child Benefit for families. Our improvements to both of these programs has helped to lift almost 600,000 people out of poverty since we took office, including hundreds of thousands of kids.
This year, our Poverty Reduction Act and national strategy set new, ambitious and concrete targets to help more Canadians out of poverty in the years ahead. Our government also strengthened the Canada Child Benefit to keep up with the cost of living, and increased funding for the Canada Workers Benefit, a revamped basic income support for working Canadians who live in poverty.
Our continued commitment to basic income support programs will remain at the core of what we do.
Resulting from decades of discriminatory government policies, it remains true that many Indigenous communities are in more need than most, and we continued to take steps to address this reality. These steps included significant progress on our promise of clean water for all Indigenous communities (over half of all long-term advisories are now lifted and projects are underway in all others), and progress towards overhauling a child welfare system that continues to unfairly discriminate against Indigenous children and families.
Supporting Those in Need Around the World.
Our care and compassion should not stop at our borders, and our government continued to show moral leadership in response to the global refugee crisis.
In the aftermath of the genocide perpetrated by the Myanmar authorities against the Rohingya, with hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees having fled to Bangladesh, our government stepped up and committed $300 million to help humanitarian efforts in the region, and to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
“An important, concrete act of solidarity towards Rohingya refugees, focusing on desperately needed resources and solutions.” – UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
We also remained committed to welcoming refugees fleeing persecution and danger. When our orderly asylum system came under some stress from claimants at unofficial entry points, our government responded in a measured way, increasing resources for processing claims and funding for city/provincial partners, but also recognizing that many of these claimants are genuinely seeking haven from their home countries and do need our help.
Canada also helped to lead efforts with international partners to make the single largest investment in education for women and girls in crisis and conflict situations around the world. This followed on the heels of another announcement to double Canada’s contribution to the Global Partnership for Education.
Highlights: Our Office
Strengthening Privacy Rights and Combating Election Interference.
Parliamentary committee work often goes unnoticed, but this year our privacy committee work garnered significant attention. More and more, Canadians are rightly concerned with how their personal information is protected, especially by internet giants like Facebook and Google, and we’ve been at the forefront of holding them accountable.
We tabled a unanimous report earlier in the year to strengthen privacy rules, followed by hearings to investigate the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook scandal. As part of that inquiry, I helped to hold Facebook accountable at an international hearing in London alongside colleagues from 9 parliaments around the world (as well as at our committee hearings in Canada).
I also represented our privacy committee at an international parliamentary roundtable in Washington focused on election interference, and published this op-ed with a Conservative colleague stressing the importance of international co-operation.
Before the House rose in December, our committee published its final and unanimous report calling for stronger regulation of Facebook, Google, and other internet giants that collect so much personal information, with a view to protecting both our privacy and our elections.
Lastly, I introduced legislation to give the Privacy Commissioner of Canada new powers to better protect our privacy, consistent with the recommendations of our committee.
Calling for stronger action in the face of the climate crisis.
The steps our government has taken to tackle climate change are significant after so many years of inaction. But we need to do more, we need to recognize the urgency and seriousness of the threat, and we need greater political will to make the transformative changes we require.
In the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s dire warning and report, I wrote to the Speaker of the House to request an emergency debate in Parliament to respond to the report, and to ensure that our country takes immediate action to meet our international, intergenerational, and moral obligation to do our part in tackling climate change.
You can read my letter to the Speaker here, and watch my full speech here. I also raised these issues on a number of occasions with Minister McKenna, and with Prime Minister Trudeau and his top officials.
Recognizing and representing Beaches-East York.
I recognized a number of incredible young women in the House of Commons this past year, from an Afghan refugee on her way to becoming a doctor, to a 13 year old cancer survivor fighting to save her friends’ lives, to the smart and funny Reese Fallon who was taken from her family, friends and community far too soon.
I don’t know if our community will ever have a more difficult year than 2018. It certainly meant a lot for our Prime Minister to visit the Danforth, and especially the service for Reese.
I will continue to be vocal about the need for stronger gun control, and about the issues Reese was passionate about in politics, from tackling climate change to improving animal welfare.
Reese was a member of our local young Liberals, and I continue to visit schools and classes, and to hold youth council meetings, to engage with as many young Canadians as I can. We also helped to bring Notre Dame’s moving and powerful performance focused on reconciliation and residential schools to Parliament Hill.
As we look around the world and may wonder whether one ought to be hopeful about our democracies, there is no better answer than participation. That participation has to start early if it is to be an effective answer.
Persistent Advocacy is Rewarded with Action.
In 2018, I saw some of my advocacy efforts rewarded, both big and small.
On the issue of animal welfare, I was vocal in support of bills to ban cosmetic testing on animals and to ban cetaceans in captivity, and our government is now in support of both goals. And I stood beside Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould as she announced updates to the Criminal Code’s animal cruelty laws.
In a move with more potential than any other to improve the lives of animals, our government also invested over $150 million in plant-based food research and development.
— Power & Politics (@PnPCBC) April 19, 2018
Subsequently, Budget 2018 allocated $231 million to address the opioid crisis through a public health approach, and the policy resolution I’d drafted to treat drug use as a health issue was adopted as official party policy.
Given that we legalized and regulated cannabis this year, I remain optimistic that we will continue to move toward more sensible and compassionate drug policies (as an aside, I somehow made CBC’s The National by answering questions about my own cannabis use).
In a smaller change started by asking questions of the Treasury Board two years ago, our government has begun to make federal buildings more washroom accessible for the 270,000 Canadians living with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Sometimes small changes can make a big difference in people’s lives.
Our hard work and advocacy was rewarded again this year, as we received recognition for the 2nd year in a row as Best MP in Toronto by NOW Magazine.
Highlights: In Our Community
January to March
My office staff (joined by celebrity guest chef Amy) made dinner for almost 100 people in need at a local Out of the Cold Program, we hosted our annual New Year’s Levee and budget breakfast events, as well as an anti-racism town hall, and the Prime Minister visited Toronto’s east end to discuss the new Canada Workers Benefit at Woodgreen.
I also attended community events to celebrate International Mother Language Day, an especially important day for our Bangladeshi community.
April to July 1
Amy and Mack joined me again this year for the Beaches Lions Easter Parade in April, and for the Pride Parade in June. Unfortunately, it was a little too hot for them to join me on Canada Day, which I barely managed to survive myself in my bright red suit.
My office hosted our first documentary and discussion event at the Fox Theatre focused on privacy.
And I attended and spoke at almost a dozen local graduation ceremonies.
July to September
It was a busy summer, with ups and downs.
Our Fox Theatre documentary and discussion series exploded in the summer, as our event with the Water Brothers was so popular that we had to add a second screening. We followed that up with another sold out screening of Blackfish with guest Phil Demers.
Among the more notable community events, I hosted a plastic pollution community clean-up event, volunteered with our local Meals on Wheels, joined a local group of newcomers to play volleyball in Crescent Town, and celebrated Teej with our Nepali community.
The Danforth shooting subsequently consumed my attention, as it hit so close to home. After all of the vigils, events, and visits, it’s still hard to fathom what happened.
Later into September, I joined my colleague Julie Dabrusin to hold a gun violence town hall, focused on finding solutions.
October to December
We also hosted former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page for a budget discussion.
I took part in a number of Remembrance Day services, from the Kew Cenotaph, to the Naval Club, to the Dawes Road Legion, to the Peard Road Legion in East York.
In addition to walking in the Santa Claus parade, we also brought our youth council and office team to help pack holiday hampers for families in need at Community Centre 55, Access Alliance / Second, and the local Salvation Army. All told, these local organizations help around 1,500 local families in need.
Lastly, I continued to visit schools, host youth council meetings, and engage young Canadians in politics. It’s one of the most important roles we can play as elected officials for the long-term benefit of our democracy.