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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was important.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as NDP MP for Halifax West (Nova Scotia)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 36.10% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Forces Day October 20th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on this motion that aims to proclaim June 15 Canadian forces day.

I believe the many men and women employed with the Canadian forces deserve recognition from all Canadians. Not only do these Canadians face often very difficult conditions due to the nature of their work but they must also deal with a Liberal government that has not provided the kind of support they need.

We have heard many stories about poor equipment, inadequate health care and lack of support for our troops overseas. Earlier this week I addressed the House of Commons on the topic of Canadian peacekeepers heading toward Ethiopia. I said then and I will say again that first and foremost all Canadians involved in that effort must be properly equipped, clothed, supported, trained, led and organized.

I do hope the government has learned from the extreme hardships encountered by peacekeepers in Croatia and will ensure that our peacekeepers on this most recent mission will be provided with every opportunity to fulfil their mission safely and securely.

The report we saw on Canada's peacekeeping efforts in Croatia produced a troubling and very disturbing picture. On that occasion our peacekeepers had a lack of lumber and sandbags to adequately protect themselves from regular shelling and gunfire. They also lacked proper medical support and sufficient advance surgical team support. The UN in that case refused for weeks to examine complaints from our peacekeepers that the drinking water was contaminated.

Our peacekeepers, their families and communities deserve to know that the government has addressed all these issues and is doing everything possible to ensure that our peacekeepers are provided with all the support possible.

While I support the notion of proclaiming Canadian forces day, I would expect more from the Liberal government than merely setting aside a day for recognition. As NDP spokesperson, I am appalled by the way in which our troops and civilian defence employees have been treated.

The government does not really have an overall vision for our military. It seems that things happen on a case by case basis. Often decisions are made on the spur of the moment. We really need for our military an overall vision of what we as Canadians want our military to be and what role we want it to perform. That vision should be properly resourced and staffed. In that way people can go about their business without worrying about cuts in budgets or about not having enough people to send off on various peacekeeping missions.

Despite the Liberal mishandling of Canadian forces issues, I take my hat off to all men and women who have served and continue to serve with such commitment and dedication. These men and women have shown their devotion and love of our country. They have performed their roles very well. We must take our hats off to them.

I think particularly of the sacrifices endured by the families of military personnel. Many times the spouses and children are left at home while their loved ones are off on missions in very dangerous settings. This is indeed quite a disruption to family stability, but they all pull together and give their best because of their love of and devotion to this country and the job they are doing.

The government's announcement to finally replace the Sea King helicopters underscores its complete mishandling of the whole issue of support for our military. Every step of the way in the Liberal government's supreme bungling of the Sea King replacements has reflected the worst example of placing short term political interests ahead of the safety of Canadian forces personnel and Canadian citizens.

In the House of Commons the NDP has been at the forefront pushing for replacements for the Sea Kings. I wrote the Prime Minister in June of this year, stating:

—it would be a shame, and in fact inexcusable, to allow the political background and decisions of the past concerning new military helicopters to cause any further delay in making a speedy and proper decision at this time.

Subsequently there was an announcement that the government was moving ahead with the contract on the Sea Kings. This appearance of taking the matter off the back burner and putting it on the front burner is somewhat suspect timing as we head toward an election.

We note that the helicopters will not be available until 2005. The first part of the contract, for the airframe, will not be awarded until sometime in 2001. The second part, for the missions system contract, will not be awarded until 2002. Even today we hear concerns being expressed on the part of some of the contenders for the contract. They feel there is a question about the contracting process, that it eliminates some and enables others to be at the forefront for the particular contract.

It is obvious that political considerations of the Liberal government are still more important than the safety of our Canadian forces personnel, who will be depending on the aging Sea Kings for a long time yet to come.

I have pointed out on previous occasions that Sea Kings went into service in 1963, when Diefenbaker was prime minister, 19 current members of parliament had yet to be born and Martin Luther King had yet to give his famous speech. Sea King crashes have killed and injured Canadians, yet almost 14 years have passed since the Liberals first began the process of replacing the Sea Kings.

I am glad we are finally moving forward on that issue, but there is nothing the government can do at this point to wipe away this huge stain on its record. Over seven years ago Sea Kings started dropping out of the sky due to systems failures. The Liberals are accountable to Canadians for each and every day of those seven years that they did nothing. The recent fiasco with the Liberal government's handling of the GTS Katie is just one more example of the disaster of privatization. Canadian troops and forces equipment should be transported by Canadian forces vessels, period.

In the House on May 12 of this year I raised the issue of contracting out. A recent defence audit condemned contracting out in the military. The forces contracting out fiasco began with ill-fated alternative service delivery that has cut DND civilian workforces in Halifax, Goose Bay, Shiloh, Gagetown and throughout the country.

The October 1988 report of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, entitled “Moving Forward: A Strategic Plan for Quality of Life Improvements in the Canadian Forces”, states:

Members of the Canadian Forces must be fairly and equitably compensated for the work they do and the risks they take. Members and their families should never have to suffer the indignity of substandard housing, nor should they be reduced to charity in order to feed their families.

The lifestyle faced by military personnel often makes it well nigh impossible to support a dual income lifestyle.

Despite all this I must again applaud the men and women who serve in the Canadian forces, both military and civilian. Civilian personnel are sometimes forgotten in this regard. They perform an integral and important role that is often overlooked in providing support throughout the service. When we look at what is happening with our civilian personnel we see the government wanting to privatize such things as the supply chain project rather than allowing in-house bids to deal with those issues.

When I think about having a day to honour the Canadian forces I also think of the reserves. Reservists play a very important role in our military. Just this past week, on October 18, many reservists wore the uniform with pride as part of reserve uniform day. Reservists have served Canada for over a century and have served on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. On behalf of the New Democratic Party, it is my honour to commend all reservists for their commitment to their communities and their country.

In my riding of Halifax West reservists played an essential role in the recovery of Swissair flight 111 and have provided invaluable service throughout Canada, including service during the Manitoba flood, the 1998 ice storm, avalanches and forest fires.

I would urge all Canadians, as we think about a day to celebrate the Canadian forces, to take time to say thank you to the reservists who are so committed to our country. They deserve to be well trained, properly equipped and adequately funded in order to be a vital component of the forces of the future.

I am pleased to say that we would support a day recognizing the Canadian forces because they are indeed an integral part of our society. They do a lot to make Canada the kind of country of which we can all be proud.

Petitions October 20th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, my last petition concerns the public health care system. It is signed by a number of people who are calling upon the federal government to increase its share of funding to 25% immediately and to implement a national home care program and a national program for prescription drugs.

Petitions October 20th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, my third petition concerns saving the local public broadcasting system. A number of people have signed this petition. They are concerned about the massive cuts that have been made to the CBC.

The petitioners are calling upon parliament to take measures to restore adequate funding to the CBC and to allow the maintenance and the improvement of current local television news while improving the network for all Canadians.

Petitions October 20th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, the second petition I have the honour to present concerns employment insurance and the fact that changes were made to assist parents in the extended parental leave which will apply to children born on or after December 31, 2000.

This petition is signed by a number of people who are concerned that the parents of children born before that date will not have the same privileges.

The petitioners are calling upon parliament to make extended parental leave come into effect immediately so parents of children born before December 31, 2000, can benefit from it.

Petitions October 20th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present several petitions. The first concerns the Canadian public health care system. It is signed by many Canadians concerned about the fact that the government has reduced its contributions to the health care system.

The petitioners are calling upon the federal government to increase Canada's share of health care funding to 25% immediately and to implement a national home care program and a national program for prescription drugs.

Aboriginal Affairs October 20th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, my question concerns the residential school issue. We welcome the Deputy Prime Minister's involvement. We understand that since his involvement there have been several productive and positive meetings.

However a problem persists. Government lawyers in the field have been actively and aggressively countersuing the churches, engaging in litigation causing immense legal fees and driving the churches toward bankruptcy.

I ask the Deputy Prime Minister, have orders gone out or will orders go out to the Department of Justice lawyers to cease such action so that a resolution may be found which will be fair to the victims of abuse and the churches?

Business Of The House October 20th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, the NDP echoes some of the concerns expressed by my hon. colleague from the Progressive Conservative Party. We also are not completely satisfied with some aspects of this legislation. However, we are prepared to co-operate because we realize that employment insurance is very important for people in the Atlantic provinces. Even though this is being done, as has been indicated, as an election fulfilment or an election promise, we feel that in the end if the people benefit that is the important thing. We would be prepared to co-operate to allow it to be passed today.

Home Support Workers Week October 19th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, while the Canadian Alliance is ignoring the health concerns of Canadians while wining and dining and wooing votes from their rich corporate friends, and while the Liberal government did nothing in its economic statement to ensure a comprehensive health care system, the people in Nova Scotia recognize the need for an integrated and complete health care system.

Nova Scotia is celebrating Home Support Workers Week. Home support workers help thousands of Nova Scotians get the quality care services they need in the comfort of their own home and close to family and friends. Home support workers are an essential part of the fabric of health care in Canada.

As we look to reshape health care in Canada and to hopefully begin to undo the damage wrought by years of health care cuts administered by Liberal and Conservative governments, we need to ensure that home care is properly funded and that workers are properly paid and work in decent conditions. The financial support for those needing home care must be made available.

Home care workers offer experienced care, support, compassion and dignity to many people in our community. Thank you to all home care support workers for their ongoing efforts.

Economic Policy October 19th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, it is quite pathetic to listen to the member opposite trying to justify that this vote buying budget is anything other than that, and trying to put it in the realm of a budget that deals with social ills.

Everyone knows that a budget is usually something that puts forth the goals and objectives of a government and should be addressing the major issues in our society.

A major issue that has been dominating the news for the last number of months, which has slowed down a bit because the fishing season has closed, is the dispute involving the aboriginal people in Burnt Church and St. Mary's Bay. That is just the tip of the iceberg, illustrating that there is a need to deal with the problems confronting aboriginal peoples across Canada. This budget does nothing whatsoever to deal with any of those problems.

A big part of the problem relates to the residential schools and the fact that the Anglican Church is now almost being forced into bankruptcy because the government has failed to take a leadership role in dealing with the residential school problem and has failed to bear its responsibility in that matter. The budget does not address that issue and it does not address many other issues.

I ask the hon. member, what in this mini-budget does anything at all to deal with the very important issue around aboriginal peoples on reserve and off reserve?

Peacekeeping October 17th, 2000

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased and welcome the opportunity to speak on behalf of the NDP to the issue of Canada's role in the peacekeeping mission to Eritrean-Ethiopian border. Like other members of the House, I am very proud of Canada's record in the world of peacekeeping and what our men and women have accomplished and will continue to accomplish in this field.

Just this past week I had the honour of attending a reunion of the veterans of the Princess Louise Fusiliers regiment. It was very encouraging to attend their special ceremonies. I had the honour of presenting Mr. George Cameron, one of the veterans in my riding of Halifax West, with a special service award, a peace bar for service he performed in Korea, and to see the pride and joy on his face with which he accepted that medal, even though it had come many years late. There were some problems in getting the medal to him, but we were finally able to do so and he was very pleased with it.

I was also pleased to see at the ceremony the current regiment of the Princess Louise Fusiliers on parade. I was quite impressed with the composition of that reserve unit. Minority group people and young women were represented in that unit. Young women were marching proudly. It shows we have made some advances over the years and that we are gradually improving the situation with respect to our military.

It was particularly encouraging when the regiment called up the veterans and they stood side by side on parade. The younger and older generations were side by side, proudly displaying their feelings of having provided service to our country in a very meaningful way.

Turning to the particular mission, I underscore that on this occasion I am quite pleased to see that this is a UN sponsored mission. It is somewhat different from the conflict in Kosovo which was primarily NATO driven and dominated by U.S. intervention. I made the point forcibly during the debate on that issue, but on this issue I am pleased to see that this is a UN sponsored mission, which is where I think these kinds of international conflicts should be dealt with.

First and foremost, I believe that all Canadians involved in this effort must be properly equipped, clothed, supported, trained, led and organized. I pray that the government has learned from the extreme hardships encountered by peacekeepers in Croatia and is ensuring that our peacekeepers on this mission are provided with every opportunity to fulfil their mission safely and securely.

Canada owes a debt of gratitude from the outset to every Canadian involved in this effort. I think about their families and their communities. I recall this past June taking a trip to Edmonton, Alberta, to speak to a group about health care issues. When I finished my talk I asked if there were any questions.

I was asked a question, not by one of the members of the audience, but by a young lady far in the back who was working the bar in that establishment. She asked me when I would bring her husband back home. There was a note of desperation in her voice as she told her story of how due to the operational tempo of the armed services her husband was away from home time after time. She hardly saw him. She was left behind with two small children to support. She was holding down two jobs trying to support her children and was going through a terrible time. When I talked with after the meeting she broke down and cried. I hugged her for a moment and we talked a bit more. Then she told me that if things did not get better she would have to leave her husband. She did not want to but she could not take it any more.

That is what the high operational tempo is doing to families. This was back in June. I am glad to hear the minister in his remarks acknowledged the problem with the operational tempo. He is apparently concerned about it and is doing something to address the issue. It is important to families to know when their men and women are away on service that proper supports are available to them.

Also during the summer I visited a family resource centre. I was impressed with the amount of work and the kind of work the organization was doing to support military families. It was there in their time of need to help them through the many problems they faced while their spouses were on active duty.

Also with respect to this mission, I am glad to see that we are becoming more involved on the African continent. I have raised that point as well. I was pleased to hear my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois point out her concern that perhaps in the past our involvement in the African nations has not been as desirable as we would like or has not accomplished as much as we would like.

It is good to see that this particular mission is going to an area that has been torn by strife and where the need is there.

Just last evening I was speaking with the ambassador from Eritrea. We talked a bit about the difficulties in that country and the devastation that the war has caused. I was quite surprised to learn that a large number of the people who fight in the Eritrean army are women. There are a large number of women soldiers fighting in that battle. I asked in particular whether or not there were child soldiers involved. She said that there were not, that they protect their children, but that women are out on the front lines fighting and dying for their country.

This conflict has had an enormous cost for both Eritrea and Ethiopia in terms of lives lost. We are told that in a two year period up to June 2000 almost 100,000 lives have been lost. Just picture that. That number would wipe out a good portion of the core city of Halifax and is larger than the population of many towns and cities across Canada. So many lives have been lost in the war.

It has been very difficult for both countries with respect to food, security and property. I asked the ambassador from Eritrea what her views were with respect to this upcoming peacekeeping mission and I could see the joy on her face and her appreciation of the fact that we were going to send peacekeepers to help them in their time of need. She said that we would be very much welcome in the role of peacekeeping in that area.

In the past year, successive poor crops in Eritrea combined with recent Ethiopian attacks in agricultural regions have brought more than one million Eritreans to the brink of starvation. That is a lot of people. Sometimes we think about the poverty and the starvation right here in our own country, but look at a large number like one million people. Quite often it is seen on TV. We can see the bodies that are being racked with hunger, the bones coming through the flesh. It is hard to imagine that when many of us can sit down at a table and sometimes eat more than we should eat. We have to go on diets sometimes because we are overweight, yet one million people are on the brink of starvation.

I sincerely hope that this peacekeeping effort can play a role in creating conditions whereby the famine in Eritrea can be addressed. On that issue, Canada should be front and foremost in providing food aid to Eritrea over and above the $500,000 recently provided for displaced persons. We need to do more.

On September 15, 2000 the UN security council passed resolution 1320 authorizing a full mission of 4,200 troops, including 220 observers, with a six month mandate. The United Nations mission will monitor the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement in a temporary security zone along the border. A combined Canadian-Dutch battalion will take responsibility for the central portion of this region.

Canada is looking at sending a mechanized infantry, including a company headquarters, three infantry platoons, a reconnaissance platoon, supporting engineers and logistics and combat service personnel, amounting to about 400 troops in all, and possibly another 200 engineering and logistics personnel as needed.

The report on Canada's peacekeeping efforts in Croatia produced a troubling picture. In that situation our peacekeepers lacked lumber and sandbags to adequately protect themselves from the regular shelling and gunfire. They lacked proper medical support and sufficient advance surgical team support. The UN refused for weeks to examine complaints from our peacekeepers that the drinking water was contaminated.

I was pleased to hear the minister indicate in his remarks tonight that in this particular mission our troops will be well resourced and well supplied.

Our peacekeepers, their families and communities deserve to know that the government has addressed all these issues and is doing everything possible to ensure that our peacekeepers are provided with all the support possible.

Our thoughts and prayers will be with our peacekeepers and their families over the weeks and months to come. I pray for their safety and for their safe and healthy return. On behalf of all Canadians and many beyond our borders, I am both proud and humble in offering sincere thanks to our peacekeepers for their efforts.