It’s been a privilege to represent Beaches-East York, I’ve worked hard to bring a sense of thoughtfulness and principled independence to Ottawa, and our government has made significant and meaningful progress.
Highlights: Our Government
Serious Climate Action
Projected 2030 emissions are down 25% because of the climate action we’ve taken since 2015.
This year, our government recognized the climate emergency, began the important work to ban unnecessary single-use plastics, Budget 2019 saw new funding to support electric vehicles and energy efficiency, and building on strong policies to phase out coal and reduce methane, we introduced a clean fuels standard and our price on pollution came into force.
It is also fair. 90% of the funds collected are returned directly to Canadians, and according to the independent analysis of the Parliamentary Budget Office, only the top 20% of wealthiest / highest polluting households will pay more (and even then they will face an average cost of only $50 this year, increasing to $113 by 2023).
For a policy proven to reduce pollution, this is a small price to pay for the top 20% of households.
Hearing great ideas from Williamson Road’s Eco Club
Lastly, we’ve worked hard to reconcile the approval for TMX with our international and intergenerational obligations.
It hasn’t always been perfect, but in the words of climate expert Mark Jaccard (from this April):
“In just four years, these and other policies have transformed Canada from a global pariah under the Harper government to a model for climate action under Trudeau.”
Towards Universal Pharmacare
We took a number of steps towards national and universal pharmacare based on recommendations of our expert pharmacare advisory council.
First, Budget 2019 announced a new Canadian Drug Agency to coordinate drug price negotiations and reduce costs, and to work toward the development of a national and comprehensive list of prescription drugs to be covered. Second, the budget also proposed a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases. Third, our Health Minister announced important regulatory changes to make prescription drugs more affordable and accessible, which UBC pharmacare expert Steve Morgan has called “a truly bold step.”
Locally, we heard from expert Dr. Danielle Martin about the importance of universal pharmacare.
Defending Ontario Against Ford’s Cuts
As the Ford Conservatives caused chaos for Toronto – cutting funding for public health and childcare, and tearing up long-standing transit plans – our federal government continued its strong and stable partnership with our city. In past years we’ve made historic federal investments in the TTC, and this year we committed $1.3 billion towards fixing Toronto’s social housing stock.
Where it has been possible elsewhere within federal jurisdiction, we’ve stepped in to protect against Ford’s cuts.
When the Ford government slashed legal aid, we stepped in to protect vulnerable immigrants and refugees.
A Strong Voice on the World Stage
This year, we continued to show important global leadership to support women and children’s health, with significant new funding. It was especially important in light of the continued attack on these rights around the world. For example, President Trump reinstated a ban on US government financial support for international organizations that provide abortions or give abortion advice. And Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has said he “was very pleased” that former Prime Minister Harper refused international funding for “those types of things.”
Highlights: Our Office
Victories for Animals in Parliament
In the wake of my initial 2016 effort to modernize animal protections, animal welfare was firmly placed on our government’s agenda.
As I said in conversation with the Justice Minister at hearings for Bill C-84: Animals are sentient. They think, feel, love and suffer, and our laws should reflect that reality.
Locally, we hosted free screenings of In Defense of Food with expert Dr. David Jenkins, and The Woman Who Loves Giraffes with expert Anne Dagg.
“Canada celebrates a historical landmark with three animal welfare Bills passing through Parliament and becoming law…This would not have been possible without the work of Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith”
Big Data, Privacy, and Democracy
I continued to help our parliamentary privacy committee take on big tech, protect our privacy, and defend our democracies. We hosted international committee hearings, alongside over 10 other countries, and put hard questions to Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and Twitter.
Building on my work to give the Privacy Commissioner stronger powers, and our parliamentary reports to strengthen privacy, I travelled to Brussels through the EU Visitor Programme for a series of privacy-focused meetings with EU officials, including the European Data Protection Supervisor.
Treat drug use as a health issue to save lives
I have long called for treating drug use as a health issue. As the opioid crisis continues to take thousands of lives, I introduced a bill to remove the criminal penalty for personal drug possession and to reduce the stigma associated with seeking treatment. As I explained on Power & Politics, we need to treat patients as patients, and not as criminals.
I also wrote and spoke out in support of cannabis amnesty, highlighting the disproportionate impact of cannabis prohibition on visible minorities and the fact that cannabis should never have been criminalized in the first place.
Stronger climate action
This year, I had the benefit of meeting with the CEO of the UK’s independent and expert Committee on Climate Change, and with officials in Brussels working on the EU climate plan.
Based on those conversations and the IPCC’s science, I introduced a bill to require the Canadian government to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. I also raised my voice again in support of recognizing a climate emergency, and elevated the voices of local young Canadians who want stronger action on climate change.
Recognizing and Representing Beaches-East York
I had the opportunity to recognize incredible organizations, from Shelter Movers’ work to provide moving and storage services (at no cost) to survivors of domestic abuse, to Pegasus’ work to support adults with special needs.
I also recognized the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and local D-day veteran Guy Eisnor. I’m thankful for his service, and for his hospitality when we played cribbage (a game he learned to play in the foxhole) and had a beer together on his front porch.
Tackling a difficult issue (SNC) with serious consideration
It wouldn’t be possible to publish a complete 2019 year in review without a look at the SNC affair.
Early on, I supported calls for an independent process to ensure transparency and accountability.
When confronted with the issue at the Ethics Committee, I did my best to answer questions thoughtfully in place of canned talking points.
And finally, after the Ethics Commissioner published his report, and after having given the matter serious consideration, I gave a full explanation at committee and online with my concluding thoughts.
In the end, I hope that I raised legitimate concerns but that I also provided some much needed perspective to the ordeal. And while some in the press covered it differently (“an impressive display, and a star-turn, by a maverick MP”), I was really just doing my job, with an approach that I described in this op-ed in The Toronto Star.
Highlights: In Our Community
January to March
We cooked dinner for the Out of the Cold program, hosted our annual New Year’s levee, and welcomed our community to a free Family Day skate day at Ted Reeve. I also joined our Bangladeshi community for the midnight celebration of International Mother Language Day, congratulated new Canadians at a special citizenship ceremony, met with the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council to discuss urban Indigenous issues, and stood alongside the families and victims of the Danforth shooting at a press conference to call for stronger gun control.
With my colleague Julie Dabrusin, I highlighted the important new science-based Canada Food Guide at a free screening of In Defense of Food with expert Dr. David Jenkins.
April to July
I hosted two packed film screenings at the Fox of The Woman Who Loves Giraffes, with guests Anne Dagg and local filmmaker Alison Reid, and another Fox event with Dr. Danielle Martin to discuss basic income and pharmacare, alongside a screening of Minding the Gap.
With Julie Dabrusin and The Workaround, we recognized incredible east end women entrepreneurs. I marched in the Beaches Lions Easter Parade with a purple suit and in the East York Canada Day Parade with a red suit. And I visited schools to help engage young Canadians in politics, from meeting with Williamson Road’s Eco-Club, to attending 13 graduations across our community.
July to September
It’s been a busy summer, with so many festivals in our community, from the Beaches Jazz Festival, to the Danny Loves Music, to the inaugural Taste of Bangladesh, to BuskerFest in Woodbine Park. I’ve also participated in the East York and East Lynn farmer’s markets, attended the opening of a traditional sweat lodge at Michael Garron, hosted a seniors event at St. Clair & O’Connor with Minister Tassi, and celebrated Eid with thousands of local Muslims in Dentonia Park.