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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was manitoba.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Saint Boniface (Manitoba)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 30.80% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Government Appointments June 18th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, in question period this week, the Prime Minister clearly stated that talk of the Treasury Board President being appointed to the bench in Manitoba was complete nonsense.

We hope the Prime Minister realizes that this would be the straw that broke the camel's back on his government's accountability scam.

Will the Prime Minister confirm clearly, once and for all, that Canadians will be spared and this appointment will not take place?

Government Appointments June 18th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, Manitobans are watching and they see a clear case of cover-up and conflict of interest here. They are concerned about the 166 judicial appointments the government is about to make.

The Treasury Board President is such a political mess for the Prime Minister that he has no other choice but to give him a cushy job with a huge salary just to get rid of him.

Will the justice minister do the right thing, put the brakes on this ridiculous appointment, and save himself a huge embarrassment?

Child Labour June 12th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize World Day Against Child Labour. The International Labour Organization estimates that about 165 million children between the ages of five and fourteen are involved in child labour around the world.

Many of these children work long hours, often in dangerous conditions. In addition, child labour being directly linked to poverty, numerous families depend on a working child to contribute to the family income. That leaves little room for education.

Today more than ever, each child deserves quality education and training to succeed.

In the millennium development goals, the United Nations set targets ensuring that by 2015 all boys and girls complete a full course of primary education and that there be gender parity in education. These targets cannot be met unless the factors that generate child labour and prevent poor families from sending children to school are addressed.

I call on all my colleagues to raise awareness that education is the right response to child labour.

Justice June 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, surely the Minister of Justice recognizes the conflict of interest here.

The President of the Treasury Board named the judicial appointments committee that would be responsible for vetting his candidacy. He is the regional minister for Manitoba and would be making the recommendation to cabinet on his own appointment, and he is a member of the cabinet who would make the ultimate decision on that appointment.

Can the Conservative government not see that this is clearly unacceptable?

Justice June 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, there is a big judicial appointment coming to Manitoba this summer. Manitobans are not impressed by the idea of appointing the President of the Treasury Board as a judge in order to solve the Prime Minister's political problem.

When he was a justice minister, the future judge said that “the rule of law requires a robust and independent judiciary”. Given this statement, will the current justice minister respect his colleague's position and not appoint him to the bench against his will?

World Environment Day June 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, today we are celebrating World Environment Day . This year's theme is “Kick the habit! Towards a low carbon economy”.

The Liberal Party, along with the other opposition parties, worked on Bill C-30, Canada's Clean Air Act, to ensure that the Conservative government would take real action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the Conservatives have refused to bring the bill back to parliament for debate.

The government does not believe in imposing hard targets for large final emitters. It does not believe in higher efficiency standards for cars and trucks. It does not believe in allowing Canadian companies to trade emission credits internationally.

The environment will be celebrated throughout the world today. It is time for this government to take concrete action. The first step would be to reintroduce the Clean Air Act.This would be supported by the three opposition parties, who have worked hard to ensure that the government implements real measures.

Justice June 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, we know that contrary to all ethical obligations, the government intends to appoint the former justice minister to the bench.

Can the government, which ran on accountability and transparency, tell us where his application is? Is it in front of the judicial appointments advisory committee for Manitoba, which he personally appointed? Is it with cabinet, of which he is a member? Or is it now with the regional minister for Manitoba, the future judge himself?

Official Languages Act May 13th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to join the debate today on Bill C-482. I must say at the outset that I have a great deal of respect for the member for Drummond, but I profoundly disagree with her on this bill. The bill is extremely dangerous from the point of view of a francophone from outside Quebec. It would give precedence to the French language in federal institutions in Quebec. I can only imagine the repercussions in the other provinces.

First, there is the whole issue that the federal government must respect the Constitution. I will not go into the details of that subject because my colleague from Ottawa—Vanier has very clearly spelled out the matter of constitutional principles. However, I do not understand how anyone could introduce a bill here, in this House, that goes against the Constitution of Canada. I want to look at practical reasons.

The Official Languages Act that was adopted in 1969 has protected and continues to protect our country’s two official languages. The act puts both official languages of our country on an equal footing. I will be the first to admit that there are many challenges to overcome. In a country as large and diverse as Canada, where there is a strong concentration of francophones in one province and where we encourage and celebrate multiculturalism—which is another factor that adds to the complications in an officially bilingual country—it has never been easy to find a balance in all of the issues related to official languages.

Nevertheless, we have made enormous progress. The Official Languages Act was essential to the growth of our minority francophone communities. The member for Drummond said that the use of French is declining in Quebec and everywhere in Canada.

However, we must talk about positive changes. In Manitoba, for example, there 45,000 people of francophone descent, but in principle, 110,000 people speak French. These people completed French immersion or second language courses. In British Columbia, parents, especially from immigrant communities, stand on the sidewalk all evening to register their children in immersion courses. This is really an interesting and significant phenomenon.

Significant changes are occurring in terms of respect for the two official languages. Let us take, for example, the group Canadian Parents for French, which last year or the year before celebrated its 25th anniversary in Manitoba. It is an exceedingly positive group for francophones right across the country.

In this age of globalization, people are realizing that knowing two or three languages is becoming the norm, not the exception. The hon. member will recall a study we did together on democratic reform. We visited England, Scotland and Germany, where she had an interpreter with her. In fact most of those we met spoke two, three or four languages and offered to speak French. That is today's reality.

I do not understand the strategy of turning inward and trying to stick to a single language. It makes no sense in today's world.

I do understand that we want to protect our language. We live in this great anglophone sea that is North America. However, today's youth must not be held back. The teaching of both official languages must be encouraged as must their use in the workplace. Our young people must be given every opportunity.

I have never understood why there has not been greater cooperation between Quebec and francophones outside Quebec. There are 6 million francophones in Quebec, but there are 2.6 million francophones in Canada's other provinces. Once again, in this great North American sea of 330 million people, it seems to me we would do well to work together—cooperatively—more closely and to join forces. But no, it is just not done to acknowledge that there are francophones living outside la Belle Province or that immersion programs are working extremely well. It would not be politically sound for a separatist party to admit that its distant cousins were managing quite well and that there were vibrant communities to be found in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba, Vancouver, Regina, New Brunswick and even Alberta.

What was really heartbreaking was the Bloc's vote against Bill S-3, a bill that was vital for minority francophone communities. I can say for a fact that not all the Bloc members supported the decision by the leader of the Bloc.

The Bloc Québécois members who sat on the Standing Committee on Official Languages were torn by this decision. They knew that Bill S-3 was essential to the survival and development of francophone communities outside Quebec. Despite this, it was decided that they should vote against Bill S-3. How can that be good for the Canadian francophone community?

The other day, one of the Bloc members said that Quebec is a francophone nation. That disappoints me. How does a statement like that make the anglophones in his riding feel? That member does not necessarily represent everyone. That bothers me greatly. Anglophones and allophones also have the right to a representative that takes their interests to heart.

Things are changing. For example, in Manitoba, Premier Doer just created the Agence nationale et internationale du Manitoba. It is a francophone Manitoba Trade. We understand the added value of francophones in our province. It is the exact opposite of what is happening in the world and in all of the other Canadian provinces. In Quebec, they want to withdraw into themselves. I do not understand this senseless ideology.

As I said earlier, Canadian Parents for French is the most vocal group in terms of early immersion in New Brunswick. This group is essential for francophone communities.

Instead of seeing this withdrawal, I would rather see the Bloc Québécois work with us to restore the court challenges program and to put into place a new official languages action plan. It would be constructive and would advance French throughout Canada, including in Quebec.

In my opinion, the bill introduced by the member for Drummond would have the opposite effect, and I cannot support a bill that could harm our language. We have all worked too hard to preserve it.

Health May 12th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend in St. Vital I participated in two extremely important events to raise funds and awareness for two very different but very devastating diseases.

The first was a community barbecue to raise money for Crohn's and colitis. This disease is particularly devastating because it hits at a very young age; mostly in the teens. It affects the digestive system and causes the intestinal tissue to become inflamed, form sores and bleed easily.

The second event was a walk for lupus at St. Vital Park. Lupus is an autoimmune disease where something goes wrong with the immune system so that it makes antibiotics attack the person's own tissues. Women develop lupus up to 10 times more than men and it occurs in women between the ages of 15 and 45.

I would like to congratulate all the wonderful volunteers who got involved to put a dent in these life altering diseases. I would also like to thank Crohn's victims Jason Brown and René DeMoissac for their insight and courageous work. It was also great walking with Kendra Gaede, a lupus victim with remarkable determination.

We can all make a difference and we should all be doing everything in our power to annihilate these crippling diseases.

Official Languages May 9th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the government has had two years to come up with a new plan. The House Standing Committee on Official Languages made some excellent recommendations to the minister several months ago. Nevertheless, the government thought it best to hold bogus consultations headed up by a former Conservative premier, consultations that amounted to nothing.

This is about respect. When will we get a new official languages action plan?