6 priorities for the new Minister of Labour and Parliamentary Secretary

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Anthony Housefather, MP, in the Hall of Honour, in the Parliament of Canada

As Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather sets out to represent his constituents in his new capacity of Parliamentary Secretary you may be wondering what his priorities will be.

In addition to the usual goals of proudly serving those within the 338 ridings across Canada, Parliamentary Secretaries are appointed within each ministry to help further the priorities assigned to each department by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. These goals are set out in the letters of mandate sent to each and every new minister.

Reviewing the Prime Minister’s letter to the new Minister of Labour, Filomena Tassi, spells out the priorities for this department and will also help to guide our MP, Anthony Housefather.

The Prime Minister wrote, “As Minister of Labour, you will help implement the Government’s ambitious plan to create a stronger framework for economic growth and help working Canadians get ahead by making this country an even better place to work. This includes new protections and enhancements through the Canada Labour Code, as well as working directly with industry and organized labour to grow the middle class. You are also responsible for advancing the positive economic outcomes that come from fair and collaborative collective bargaining processes.”

The six main priorities set out for the Labour minister are as follows:

  • Introduce legislation to create a new federal Family Day holiday.
  • Improve labour protections in the Canada Labour Code. As part of this work, you will:
    • Increase the federal minimum wage to at least $15 per hour;
    • Include mental health as a specific element of occupational health and safety;
    • Require federally regulated employers to take preventative steps to address workplace stress and injury;
    • Develop greater labour protections for people who work through digital platforms, whose status is not clearly covered by provincial or federal laws; and
    • Co-develop new provisions with employers and labour groups that give federally regulated workers the “right to disconnect.”
  • Work with the provinces and territories on the ratification of the International Labour Organization Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019.
  • Work with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to support the Minister of Natural Resources and partners to advance legislation to support the future and livelihood of workers and their communities in the transition to a low-carbon global economy.
  • Lead the implementation of the recently passed Pay Equity Act.
  • Support the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to make progress on eliminating interprovincial trade barriers by harmonizing rules and regulatory requirements to better facilitate the mobility of labour across Canada.
Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather in the House of Commons, Dec. 12, 2019 (Source: Huffington Post)

These priorities will be a handful for the new minister and her Parliamentary Secretary. The very first priority is quite interesting as many Canadians, such as us in Quebec, do not have an official Family Day holiday. And while its eventual implementation may only affect federal workers and may not be adopted in our province for the entire workforce it gets the wheels rolling in a valuable discussion. Do you support a federal Family Day holiday for all Canadians?

What is a Parliamentary Secretary?

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Deputy Clerk Andre Gagnon oversees MP Anthony Housefather signing in to Canada’s 43rd Parliament, Nov. 22, 2019

Several people have asked me what a Parliamentary Secretary is following the nomination of Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather to serve in this role under the Minister of Labour in Canada’s 43rd Parliament. Housefather was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to this role last Thursday, December 12.

At first I reported that Housefather was appointed to the position of Junior Minister. While this nomenclature was used under previous Canadian Prime Ministers it has morphed and has essentially fallen from common usage in favour of the more contemporary term, Parliamentary Secretary. I’m not sure that there are major differences but judging from the comments I received in the last few days nuance is everything in politics.

So with a little help from the Ottawa Citizen newspaper I was able to dig up the following information:

Parliamentary secretaries support cabinet ministers, which can mean standing in for a minister during Question Period, making public announcements in their stead or liaising with other parliamentarians on their behalf.

Carleton University political management professor Paul Wilson says the job is a consequential one. “Especially in a minority (government) context, where the relationships within the House of Commons are so much more important,” he said.

It’s a post that comes with some prestige … and opportunity.

“Not all parliamentary secretaries become ministers, but some do. In a sense, it can be a testing ground,” said Wilson, who served as director of policy in the prime minister’s office under Stephen Harper.

“Are you a team player? Can you do stuff without complaining? Because some of the duties are duties that the minister might not want.”

“And, if people excel at the role of PS, then maybe the prime minister would consider them for a ministerial job. “

I noted from the Canadian Encyclopedia that, “Following the British model, a number of “junior ministers,” also called Secretaries of State, are now appointed to assist more senior Cabinet ministers and to complete the Ministry.”

However, Wikipedia indicates that, “Parliamentary Secretaries replaced the positions of Secretaries of State which had been employed under PM Chrétien.”

Andrew Caddell pointed out on my Facebook page, “You have to be a member of the Privy Council to be a minister of any kind. There were parliamentary secretaries who were made privy councillors during Paul Martin’s time (2003 – 2005), but that practice ended. In the past, there were Ministers without portfolio who had various assigned responsibilities. But they were privy councilors.

“As a ministerial assistant and public servant going back to the 1980s, I often briefed our PS, who was not a minister (and there have been parliamentary secretaries for a long time – it is nothing new). Here is a source: https://en.wikipedia.org/…/List_of_current_members_of…

Thank you Andrew and Howard Liebman for helping me to clarify this appointment information.

Anthony Housefather Steps In To Keep Christmas Poem Tradition Alive In House

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POLITICS 12/12/2019

With big shoes to fill, a Liberal MP’s spin on a popular Christmas tradition had the House of Commons roaring with laughter Thursday.

Montreal MP Anthony Housefather rose before question period to assume the mantle left vacant by Rodger Cuzner, the popular former Nova Scotia MP who did not run again this year after serving 15 years in Parliament.

Every year, Cuzner penned a parody of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” that took good-humoured jabs at political rivals just before everyone headed home for the holidays.

“Twas the last sitting week before Christmas and who knew? Cuzner’s Christmas poem tradition would be assumed by a Jew,” Housefather began, yielding a standing ovation off the top.

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather is applauded by colleagues during a speech in the House of Commons on...
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather is applauded by colleagues during a speech in the House of Commons on Dec. 12, 2019.

Housefather treated the Tories with kid gloves, an apparent rewrite after the earlier announcement from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer that he will step down.

“For our Conservative colleagues, I know today has been a shock. In the spirit of the holidays, I’ll go straight to the Bloc,” he said.

Housefather even navigated the tricky terrain of Quebec’s Bill 21, which prohibits some civil servants in the province from donning religious symbols on the job. Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet is an outspoken supporter of the controversial law.

“The Bloc leader, flush with success… for Mr. Claus, he had but one request,” he said. “When flying over Quebec, please remove that red suit. It’s a religious symbol, and ugly to boot.”

The MP even had a joke lined up for his boss.

“When it comes to our PM, we know what he wants, all being equal. No more hot mics and a new Star Wars sequel,” he said, a dig at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s headline-grabbing comments about Donald Trump on the heels of the NATO summit in London this month.

“So I wish all members some holiday cheer. Enjoy your family and friends, and maybe some beer,” Housefather said. 

“And when we come back in January, let’s see the light. Let’s work together for Canadians and let’s get it right.”

Not bad.

Not bad at all.

Anthony Housefather appointed parliamentary secretary to the minister of Labour

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Mount Royal riding residents are learning of the appointment of Anthony Housefather as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour.

The appointment was made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

I could not be more proud of Anthony for his incredible accomplishments nor happier for him in this tremendous nomination. We are so very lucky to have Anthony as our MP.

“I am pleased to inform you that I have been appointed by the Prime Minister to be the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour,” Housefather wrote to his supporters.

“In addition to my role as Member of Parliament,  I will now also assist Labour Minister Filomena Tassi with her Parliamentary duties, including serving as an integral link between the Minister and Members of Parliament and Parliamentary Committees.”

“I am looking forward to working with the Minister, a diverse set of stakeholders, and all Members of Parliament to move forward on policies that help both employees and employers,” the Mount Royal MP added.

Here is more about Housefather’s role and responsibility as a parliamentary secretary.

Congratulatory messages and comments from across the riding have been appearing on social media.

Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said, “Well deserved. Canada is lucky to have Anthony’s experience in labour relations both in the private and public sectors. His advice and guidance shall benefit all Canadians.”

“Well deserved. Nobody negotiated better collective agreements than former Mayor Housefather,” said CSL Councillor Mike Cohen.

“You continue to inspire all of your faithful constituents,” said Orna Hilberger, D’Arcy McGee provincial riding Liberal president.

Former TMR City Councillor and CSL senior leader Sidney Margles added, ” Our pride in our M.P. runneth over. Many Mount Royal constituents know of his dedication to public service and this latest appointment underscores the Prime Minster’s recognition of what we all know.”

Also, during Thursday’s Question Period in the House of Commons, MP Anthony Housefather continued a yearly tradition, delivering a political version of “T’was the night before Christmas.” Anthony is a brilliant legislator, a straight arrow politician and a witty orator. I know he’ll continue to make us proud.


Urging the government to put seatbelts on school buses

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You may know that I have joined with Gary Lillico and his advocacy group Seatbelt’s for Canadian School Buses Now to urge Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau to require seatbelts on all school buses. Thousands have signed a petition in support. Read details on this campaign and watch an incredible CBC report for background information.

Tonight, Mount Royal Member of Parliament, Anthony Housefather, rose in the House of Commons to ask about this important issue. Thank you Anthony for pressing forward. We hope to see solid action by the Minister early in the new year to increase safety for school children from coast to coast.

I’ll continue to call upon Minister Garneau to move the necessary regulations or legislation. I have already spoken with him on three occasions on this topic over the last 12 months and I believe that he is interested in making good on this important subject that falls within his ministerial mandate.

Anthony Housefather sworn in to 43rd Parliament


Over 100 friends and volunteers packed two chartered buses for the ride to Ottawa today to witness the swearing in ceremony for Mount Royal Member of Parliament, Anthony Housefather.
Many cultural communities of the Montreal West End riding, once represented by Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, traveled to Parliament Hill for the exciting and memorable occasion. With numerous members of the Filipino, Gujarati, Tamil, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Jewish, French-speaking, English-speaking, Italian and Greek communities, Anthony was completely and warmly encircled by his entire riding.

Members of Mount Royal’s Filipino community with MP Anthony Housefather

With Centre Block undergoing a decade-long renovation the group entered the “new” House of Commons, located in a totally enclosed courtyard of the West Block, beautifully enveloped by the once exterior, exquisitely sculpted walls, green cladded rooftops and Victorian shaped windows.

Anthony Housefather addressing supporters in the new House of Commons in the West Block

The official ceremony was conducted by the friendly and informative Deputy Clerk of the House, M. Andre Gagnon, who has been at VIP receptions and similar ceremonies for the last 29 years. You can watch the official swearing in here.

Deputy Clerk Andre Gagnon oversees MP Anthony Housefather signing in


Future MP Jeremy Nashen with Deputy Clerk Andre Gagnon

Highlighting the guest list were the Ambassadors of the Philippines and the State of Israel. Recognizing the large guest list of Filipinos and Jews, Mrs. Garcia described the close ties between her country and the Jewish state. “My country took in 1200 Jews during the holocaust and was the first Asian nation to recognize the state of Israel in 1948,” she said to great applause.
Mr. Barkan, attending his last ceremony as Israeli Ambassador, as he completes his final posting and retires from the foreign service said, “Anthony is the brightest person I met in Canada.”

Glenn and Jeremy with Israeli Ambassador Nimrod Barkan and Mrs. Barkan

Also in attendance was Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and his wife Elaine, councillor Dida Berku and Jacob Kincler, TMR Councillors Joseph Daoura and Minh Diem Le-Thi. We really missed not having councillor Ruth Kovac with us, as noted by Mayor Brownstein in his remarks highlighting Anthony’s political career.

MP Anthony Housefather sworn in to Canada’s 43rd Parliament with Glenn and Jeremy Nashen, Myrna Housefather, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and Councilors Mien Diem Le-Thi

The entire Fabian-Band clan from Cote Saint-Luc attended – all three generations. To be sure, there was representation from all neighbourhoods of the sprawling riding.

Ricki, Leslie, Jamie and Sammi Fabian on the bus with Anthony Housefather and Mayor Mitchell Brownstein

I was particularly pleased to be accompanied by my 10 year old son, Jeremy, for his fifth visit to Parliament Hill. “I really enjoyed Anthony’s guided tour of the House of Commons because he gave such interesting descriptions and answered everyone’s questions,” Jeremy said. “I’m always proud to be Canadian because Canada is such a cool country,” he added, standing among massive paintings of Canada’s Prime Ministers in the stately chamber.

Prime Minister Pierre-Elliot Trudeau overlooking Glenn and Jeremy

“I am so honoured to be surrounded by all of you and to feel the love and friendship here today, “Anthony said. ” It’s remarkable to have you all here with me. We have a special riding and how amazing is it to be preceded by Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, Sheila Finestone and Irwin Cotler.” See Anthony’s full speech here.
Anthony’s supporters filled the green leather seats of the House and many took turns sitting in the regal Speakers Chair, snapping selfies by the hundreds.
Anthony introduced us to his colleague, Michael Levitt, MP for York Centre, in Toronto, who had just been sworn in and was touring the House with his family.
The two greeted all those assembled in the hallow halls of Parliament and remarked how well they worked together for their similar, culturally-rich ridings.

MPs Anthomy Housefather and Michael Levitt


“How does one get appointed as Parliamentary Secretary (also known as Junior Minister),” I asked, “and how can we help?”  Anthony smiled along with the audience and responded, “The Prime Minister is just upstairs on the third floor,” he said to laughter. The group applauded showing their strong support for Anthony to be nominated to a Parliamentary Secretary position by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau.
It was time for a few group shots with everyone in the House before the two hour ride back to Montreal. What a wonderful opportunity for all of us to witness this ceremony, unchanged since the country was founded some 152 years earlier, and tour the seat of government.

Speaker of the House, Jeremy!

What an amazingly educational day for my son to take a day off of school, to learn about our government and its leaders at the political epicentre of the country and to show his support for Anthony, as the youngest participant.
And what a privilege to partake in this historic occasion, virtually unchanged since confederation. You could practically hear the Parliamentarians of the past century-and-a-half come to life as we walked in their footsteps and literally sat in their seats.  It makes one proud to be Canadian and even prouder to have Anthony Housefather as our remarkable and extraordinary Member of Parliament.

A Day to Remember

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Three generations marking Remembrance Day 2019: George, Glenn and Jeremy Nashen

Each year, on Remembrance Day, our family takes time out to pay tribute to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who served in wars, conflicts, peacekeeping missions and here at home. We remember those who fell in action and who were injured. We think of those who continue to serve and we acknowledge the hardship for their families.

Closer to home, my family pays tribute to my father, George Nashen, for his service as a Sargent in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII.

This year we attended the Cote Saint-Luc ceremony held last Friday in City Hall. While the number of WWII veterans sadly diminishes each year we were fortunate to be with my dad, as one of only three veterans in the capacity crowd.

George Nashen surrounded by mayors, councillors, MNA, MP, clergy and emergency responders as school children look on

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein honoured the attending veterans, Alan Ruben, former City Councillor Isadore Goldberg and my father, George. The Mayor produced a video highlighting their contributions to Canada. Below you can watch the portion about my father.


There were three main pillars to this year’s events: the children, the wreath laying and the speeches.

Four elementary schools (JPPS, Hebrew Academy, Ecole de la Monde and Merton School) and two high schools (Bialik and John Grant) participated. The children recited poems, including In Flanders Field, and sang songs, such as The White Cliffs of Dover, in four languages. It was an impressive showing of the next generation and was reassuring that the fading memories of long ago sacrifices would still be remembered.

Wreaths were deposited by the politicians, emergency services, volunteer and community organizations, students and the staff of the city. One moving episode had three generations of the Reichson family including former CSL Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson, along with his father and daughter, laying a wreath in memory of his grandfather while holding his shining service medal from WWII and his photo.

The speeches were poignant and emotional. Mayor Brownstein spoke about educating the next generation and how the CSL Dramatic Society fulfilled an important mission in presenting the Broadway smash hit, Cabaret, earlier this year. The musical exposed the troubling times emerging in Germany as the country, and Europe descended into despair and chaos.

Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather gave a stirring speech about the veterans who returned to Canada and built our community. With his voice cracking with emotion, Housefather highlighted the veterans’ contributions and participation in civic life and noted that this spirit has endured and has made Cote Saint-Luc a volunteer-rich community with residents passionate about being involved.

Polioce Station 9 Commander Luis Olivera lays a wreath, accompanied by vCOP Susie Schwartz

D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum was solemn and retrospective and in his typical eloquence and charm marveled at the passing of the torch down through the generations.

The speeches were heartfelt and meaningful. I am grateful to our Mayor, MP and MNA for singling out my father as an example for the next generations.

MNA David Birnbaum, Cllr. Dida Berku, Fmr. Cllr Isadore Goldberg, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Mayor William Steinberg, MP Anthony Housefather and George Nashen

A minute of silence in memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice serving in the Canadian Armed Forces

George’s Story


Sergeant George Nashen, Royal Canadian Air Force, 1944

George Nashen, 96, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from December 1942 to April 1946 and was stationed at RCAF Overseas Headquarters in London, England for nearly three years. Luckily, he was not called up to the front lines. But his buddies were. Some never returned.

My father enlisted in December 1942 with several of his friends from Baron Byng High School, and was shipped off for two months of basic training in Toronto where the RCAF had taken over the CNE Fairgrounds. From there he was stationed at the Rockcliffe Airbase in Ottawa from February until August 1942 and then to Halifax where they boarded the Queen Mary cruise ship that had been commandeered to transport troops.

“We were 26,000 troops and 1,000 crew members crammed into the ship for the four day crossing to London, England,” my father told me. “There were 54 troops to a room and we took turns sleeping, 27 at a time slept on the hammocks lined up three high in nine columns,” he said. “It was so uncomfortable and there were so many disturbances that I chose to sleep in the hallways and stairwells. But the ship would list from one side to the other every seven minutes as it curved to avoid sailing in a straight line to escape any pursuing German U-boats. I remember the empty Coke bottles rolling bake and forth in the halls and hitting the walls preventing any rest there as well,” my dad said.

RCAF Aircraftsman 2nd Class, George Nashen (1943)

“In London, we slept in the Canadian Legion Hall until we could find an apartment,” my dad reminisced. There were no barracks in the city as they couldn’t chance losing so many soldiers in a targeted German bombing raid. “One night a bomb fell right outside the Legion Hall and blew in the doors and windows. As the glass flew and the ceiling collapsed I immediately rolled under my bed to take cover,” he said. “I yelled out to my buddy, Mel Nicol. ‘Are you alright Nic?’ Mel Nicol was real joker and responded, ‘I’m not sure, I’m looking for my leg’. Of course, he was just fine,” George said.

George and Mel eventually rented an apartment at Queens Gate Gardens about a 30 minute walk from Harrods, where the RCAF set up their administration and accounting division. We often joke that my father served in women’s lingerie during WW II, in reference to the department in Harrods where the Accounting Office was located. They were paid $2.50 per day subsistence allowance for their lodging and another $1 for food.

As an Aircraftsman 2nd Class they received $1.30 per day. Dad used to send $10 per month back to his Mom in  Montreal to save for him. Upon his return, three-and-a-half years later he had saved up about $300.

George Nashen in front of the Cote Saint-Luc cenotaph in Veterans Park 2012

One night they were awakened by a bomb blast and heard that the nearby hospital was hit. Mel and George raced over to offer their assistance only to find out that 30 babies had been tragically killed. “It was the saddest day of my life,” my father said.

Back at Harrods he was busy taking care of Airman Pay Accounts to ensure each of the troops received their salary. Daily Routine Orders were meticulously entered for the tens of thousands of airmens’ accounts, all manually, of course.

My dad lost his best friend in battle. “Jay Singer was like a brother to me,” my father recounts. “Jay and I were inseparable from kindergarten through Baron Byng High School. Jay was an air force pilot from the age of 19. His plane went missing while laying mines in the Baltic Sea on June 15, 1944. Jay was just 22 year’s old when he died in service. I’ll never forget him.”

Jay Singer

Jay Singer

My father endured the bombardments and hardship of everyday life in London but fortunately was safe relative to so many others. The thick, dark clouds that hung over the city many nights from fog made it impossible to see right in front of you. My father recounts as he would feel his way along the walls of the buildings on his way home, counting off the number of doors and turns in the road to find his way home.

One night a bomb fell at a pub just outside of Harrods and some Londoners were killed. The next day, a young Princess Elizabeth, came by to visit and offer her support. My father watched excitedly from the window as the future Queen made her way along the street.

My father returned home in April 1946.

Three generations of Cote Saint-Lucers: George, Glenn and Jeremy Nashen 2013

Each year, I ask dad to take out his medals and his beret and to teach my own kids what it meant to serve Canada as a soldier.  They listen in amazement at his stories of 70 years ago, as they reflect on their lives in the best country to live in, Canada.

WWII veteran George Nashen, 93, deposits the wreath on behalf of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 97 at the Cote Saint-Luc Cenotaph in Veterans Park. Accompanied by his grandson Cory, son Jeff and vCOP Phil Mayman. (Photo: Darryl Levine, CSL).

Each year on Remembrance Day, I salute my dad, and all those who served, who paid the ultimate price, who sustained injury and who were lucky to return just like George. His bravery and commitment, and theirs, to stand on guard, to liberating those who had their freedom taken from them so many years ago, to keeping Canada glorious and free, shines like a beacon to my kids and our entire family.

With my dad on Remembrance Day (Jewish General Hospital, 2014)

We’re proud of his accomplishments and grateful to still have him, and my mother, as our bridge between our past and our future.


George and Phyllis Nashen at their 95th and 90th birthday party (June 2018)



Mount Royal Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather’s speech

Councillor Mike Cohen’s blog


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