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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is conservatives.

NDP MP for Nickel Belt (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 55.00% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Community of West Nipissing December 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, last Friday I participated in my seventh Parade of Lights in Sturgeon Falls in the municipality of West Nipissing. What fun. Thanks to Santa's community elves, hundreds of children enjoyed the candies and juice and the magic of Christmas. This community of 13,000 residents has a parade with 100 floats, longer than parades in much bigger cities.

Sturgeon Falls is one of the most bilingual communities in Canada, and perhaps the most bilingual. Two cultures and two languages are in harmony, working, living, and playing side by side.

The Parade of Lights brings attention to this wonderful area, which has an extraordinary sense of community spirit. The West Nipissing fire service's Christmas telethon recently raised $32,600 to help families. Approximately 500 seniors will attend the annual Christmas dinner tomorrow.

There is the Kid's Safe Halloween, the Farm to Fork dinner celebrating our local farmers, and so much more.

West Nipissing, joie de vivre, you make us proud.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my hope was for a better question, and I got one. I thank the member for asking that question.

I met with the caisse populaire representatives in my office, here in Ottawa. They had specific concerns about this bill. The fact that they were not consulted was their major concern, and they wish to be consulted in the future. As the member said, credit unions are very important not only to eastern Canada but from coast to coast to coast. Caisses populaire and credit unions are co-ops run by the citizens of the communities.

If government wants to do a good job and have a good bill, it should consult at all times the constituents in all towns and cities that have credit unions.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to answer that question.

I would like to remind the Liberal member that the Liberals promised daycare in budget after budget, and in election after election, and they never came up with anything. I would like to remind the hon. member that Canadians, not the NDP, threw them out of Parliament.

Why did Canadians throw the Liberals out of Parliament? It was because they were corrupt.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have the great pleasure today of rising to speak to Bill C-43.

It should come as no surprise to anybody that the New Democrats are going to oppose this legislation, and I am going to explain why we oppose it. I am going to provide some reasons to explain why we are going to oppose it.

One of the many reasons is that the Conservatives have used an anti-democratic process to force legislation through Parliament. They have used this trick over and over again. When they have a bill that they know will not pass on its own, they put it into an omnibus budget bill. Even though it has absolutely nothing to do with budget issues, they put it in an omnibus bill and get it passed that way.

My colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley moved several amendments that would have improved the bill. They would not have made it perfect, but they certainly would have improved it. I want to go over some of the amendments that were suggested.

The first one was as follows:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following:

this House decline to give second reading to Bill C-43, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, because it:

a) amends dozens of unrelated Acts without adequate parliamentary debate and oversight...

As I mentioned a while ago, the Conservatives shoved a lot of bills that they knew would not pass on their own into this omnibus bill.

The amendment goes on to say:

b) fails to address persistent unemployment and sluggish economic growth;

c) aims to strip refugee claimants of access to social assistance to meet their basic needs;

d) imposes a poorly designed job credit that will create few, if any, jobs while depleting Employment Insurance funds...

Depleting the employment insurance fund we have seen before. The Liberals took $50 billion out of the employment insurance fund, and the Conservatives rubber-stamped that—I do not want to use the word “theft”—money that they took from the employment insurance fund and put it in general accounts. That was a Liberal move that was rubber-stamped by the Conservatives.

The amendment further states:

e) breaks the government's promises to protect small businesses from merchant fees and to ban banks from charging pay-to-pay fees.

Previously, small businesses could use a tax credit to hire more employees to create employment. As we know, it is the small businesses that create employment in this country. It is not the big businesses but the small ones, the mom-and-pop businesses, that are very important.

With regard to pay-to-pay fees, the Conservatives like to cut public service jobs by forcing Canadians to pay their bills by computer, but as we know, a lot of seniors in Canada do not know how or do not want to use computers and are forced to pay these pay-to-pay fees in order to pay their everyday bills.

Bill C-43 is another omnibus budget bill designed to ram through hundreds of changes with little study and no oversight. The Conservatives used time allocation over and over again. I am not sure what number we are up to, but it is certainly 75 to 80 times that they have used that process. The bill is over 450 pages, has more than 400 clauses, amends dozens of acts, and includes a variety of measures never mentioned in the budget speech.

Bill C-43 is an outright attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society, refugee claimants being one, and the implementation of a hiring credit has already been panned by experts and the Parliamentary Budget Officer as wasteful and extraordinarily expensive. Their way of creating jobs is to spend lots of money. They accuse the opposition party of being spenders, but if we look at their track record, it is not very impressive.

There is nothing in this bill to get the almost 300,000 more unemployed Canadians than before the recession back to work or to help replace the 400,000 manufacturing jobs lost under the Prime Minister's watch.

I would like to go back to pay-to-pay fees. This is one of the things in the bill that we support. We are happy to see the Conservatives finally adopt an NDP proposal—I repeat, an NDP proposal—to end pay-to-pay billing. It was a private member's bill that my colleague from Sudbury introduced, and the people of Sudbury should be very happy to be represented by such a good MP.

Canadians should not be forced to pay these bills. Unfortunately, Bill C-43 would only ban pay-to-pay for telecom and broadcasting companies. It fails to live up to a promise that the Conservatives made to end the unfair gouging by banks.

A lot of companies use pay-to-pay fees. It is not only the telecommunications companies. It is Ontario hydro, Hydro-Québec, credit card companies, and a lot of the major companies. A lot of the major companies are using this pay-to-pay fee and making Canadians pay to pay their bills.

The other thing in this bill is about credit unions. Being a former member of the Caisse populaire Vermillon in Chelmsford, Espanola, and Dowling, I know that the credit unions and caisses populaires are very important to Canadians. However, with Bill C-43 the Conservatives are changing the regulatory landscape for credit unions without their input, so again the Conservatives have decided on their own, without speaking to credit union operators, managers, or the people who run credit unions. They did not have an input into what the Conservatives decided to do. The exact impact of those changes is not yet known, but we know they are going to adversely affect the credit unions and caisses populaires.

This is almost like the changes that the Conservatives made in the 2013 budget, which unfairly hiked taxes on credit unions. I happened to have a meeting with the caisse populaire from Verner. The manager was in my office, along with some other people from the caisse populaire. They were very concerned about the effects that this bill would have on the credit unions.

What we would like to see is action to implement a pan-Canadian child care program that would ensure that families have access to quality child care spaces for less than $15. This would grow our economy, help women enter the workforce, and help families to make ends meet. In today's economy, it is very difficult to raise a family on one income, and that is because of some of the laws that have been passed by the Conservative government. If we were able to organize it as Quebec has done and help families with daycare, it would certainly go a long way toward strengthening our workforce.

I want to jump a few pages and name some people and businesses who are validating our position.

Mike Moffatt, from the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario, said:

...the proposed “Small Business Job Credit” has major structural flaws that, in many cases, give firms an incentive to fire workers and cut salaries.

Paul Wells, from Maclean's magazine, said:

...by the broadest measure of expenditure on research and development, Canada has fallen from 16th out of 41 comparable countries....

That is not very impressive.

Here is one from conservative commentator Andrew Coyne. Of the omnibus budget bill, he wrote:

Not only does this make a mockery of the confidence convention, shielding bills that would otherwise be defeatable within a money bill, which is not...

This brings me to the point I mentioned previously, that the Conservatives have put a lot of sections in this bill that are not related to money.

Citizen Consultation Preceding Natural Resource Development November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy today to stand in the House to speak to the motion by my hon. colleague from Manicouagan. The people of his riding can be proud of his passionate representation on their behalf. Along with our colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, the member is an outstanding champion for his own Inuit and first nations communities.

I am on my second term as MP for Nickel Belt, but it was in this Parliament, with the election in 2011 under our former leader, Jack Layton, that our party saw the election of so many new young and gifted members from Quebec. This motion today is his commitment to put people and their communities and their rights first and foremost when it comes to natural resources projects.

I come from Nickel Belt and Greater Sudbury, home of the largest nickel basin in the world. I worked for 34 years for Inco, a mining company. I have seen the good and the bad that mining can do in a region. I absolutely support public consultation and real efforts to get public support for these projects. I will address that shortly.

First, as chair of the 20-MP NDP mining caucus, I will say a few words about our strong support for mining when it is done right. My party and I recognize the importance of mining in our communities. In 2013, over 380,000 jobs were in mineral extraction, smelting, fabrication and manufacturing in our country. Mining is an economic and investment driver for Canada, paying $71 billion in taxes and royalties to Canadian governments in the past decade. I am told the mining sector is the largest employer of aboriginal people.

My region of Greater Sudbury is now being called “Canada's mining superstore”, given all of the technology, research and innovation in the Greater Sudbury region. The Mining Association of Canada estimates that upwards of $160 billion in mining projects are presently proposed in Canada, including multi-billion dollar investments in Nunavut; Northwest Territories; B.C.; Alberta, Saskatchewan; Manitoba; Ontario, especially with the Ring of Fire; Quebec; and Newfoundland and Labrador. That underlines the importance of the motion before the House today.

The member speaks often of social licence for those natural resources projects. In plain language, we want people and their communities to have current and future generation concerns addressed before they say yes to these projects. They want to see that the mining companies are taking seriously their responsibilities and understanding all of the implications of mining or other exploration. These holes in the ground, the blasting and the excavation also have consequences for drinking water, our health, our noise, our pollution and much more that touches on the daily lives of citizens. When companies move into a community with their well-paying jobs, they are welcome.

There can be other social and health consequences that are not so good. More and more, I hear mining companies talking about corporate social responsibility, making progress in this regard. That is a good thing. My leader met with the Mining Association of Canada representatives this week. We urged the companies to continue to work on social licence and to continue to work on this corporate social responsibility. We know from news stories about bad behaviour abroad from some Canadian companies. We also have to be vigilant that here at home we hold our companies to higher standards too.

Cases in point are Osisko's Malartic mine, the tensions triggered by the prospect of uranium mining on the north shore in Quebec; the controversial oil pipeline and tanker port projects in British Columbia and Quebec, including the one in Cacouna; and the Mine Arnaud project in Sept-îles, which dealt a blow to the local social climate. I meet with mining company officials, and I hear more and more of their work and their commitment to this responsibility.

Advance public consultation is a positive and innovative measure because it makes it possible for three things to happen.

First, it puts the public at the heart of the decision-making process. Civil society stakeholders have long called for real, direct public consultation and for the public's wishes to be considered in natural resource development projects. This motion would put the public at the heart of the decision-making process as opposed to the public being told about it after the fact.

Second, advance public consultation helps ensure that the federal government's historic commitments to members of the first nations are fulfilled. The federal government must respect first nations' rights on traditional territories and must submit development initiatives to members of the communities affected.

Third, consultation would ensure that economic development is in sync with the public's vision for the land. If the public's wishes are respected, it will help appease the communities that are struggling to make decisions about contested economic development projects, which would thus create a good environment for investment and for promoting better projects that protect the environment and the communities.

The motion fits well with the NDP's basic position on the environment:

Protecting the environment as a common good by creating a legal framework to ensure that people have the right to live in a healthy environment with access to natural spaces.

We say here today that we want what Canadians want in their communities on these projects: transparency, consultation, and consent.

I have introduced a number of private member's bills regarding foreign ownership transactions, the kind my region of Sudbury has experienced. My bills call for this same transparency and public consultation.

I want to say something about consultation.

I am following very closely the Ring of Fire project in northwestern Ontario. There has been nothing more than a back-and-forth blame game going on between the Conservative government here in Ottawa and the Liberal government in the province of Ontario. Northerners are fed up.

Our first nation communities are reminding those governments, yet again, what the duty to consult actually means. It is more than providing information. It is more than giving an hour's notice of big announcements coming out. It is what the NDP and our leader have articulated clearly: a constitutional responsibility to do full, real, and meaningful consultation.

That is why we support a nation-to-nation approach. At the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's mega-convention earlier this year in Toronto, my leader made it clear that he supports the Ring of Fire project, if done this way.

Our leader said:

The Ring of Fire project is an important development for families in Northern Ontario today and for generations to come. Unfortunately, Conservative policies have undermined the government's ability to oversee that all social and environmental regulations are being fully understood and addressed.

Citing his cabinet experience in Quebec, he told the mining companies that the Ring of Fire project can only move forward when public confidence and real partnerships with first nation communities are secured. He also underscored the long-standing NDP commitment to deal nation to nation with first nation governments to build relationships that benefit people, business, and the land.

This not a playing of the economy over and against the environment, as we see the current government do. It is finding a way to be both for the economy and for the environment. This is a win-win situation, especially for first nations and other communities. It makes smart business sense, too, as more mining companies are discovering.

The purpose of the motion is to make it mandatory for the government to consult Canadian citizens and first nation members before implementing a natural resource development project on their territory or in their living environment. Public willingness should be a criterion in obtaining a development permit to the same degree as impacts on human health, ecosystem maintenance, employment, and economic development.

Natural Resources November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, northern Ontarians are looking for leadership to rescue the Ring of Fire, but all the Conservative minister does is point fingers and say it is someone else's problem.

Thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investments for my region are on the line, and still the Conservatives fail to act. The CEO of Cliffs Natural Resources called the Ring of Fire “beyond the point of no return.”

Does the minister agree? Has he given up, or will he invest in northern Ontario to secure our economic growth?

Hockey November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, like many northern Ontarians, I have been a Montreal Canadiens fan my whole life. Watching our “Glorieux” on French TV is part of our religion.

We had Richard, Béliveau and Geoffrion, and now we have Price, Subban and Desharnais. Just imagine how mad people got this fall when they found out that the new contract prohibited television coverage on RDS and that the National Hockey League declared that northern Ontario was part of the Toronto market. That is misconduct, Mr. Bettman. Getting a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey on Christmas morning—what a dumb idea.

Lots of people called and emailed me about this, so I called the National Hockey League, RDS, the CRTC, Eastlink and other cable networks. I am very proud to say that we now have an agreement with Rogers, Bell, Eastlink and the National Hockey League. Regional French broadcasting of Habs games is back. The people of Sturgeon Falls and the rest of Ontario are very grateful.

Montreal Canadiens fans are passionate. We shoot, we score.

Petitions November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to present a petition from dozens of people from my community in Nickel Belt.

The petitioners wish to bring to the attention of the House of Commons the fact that multinational seed companies are threatening the ability of small family farmers to produce the food required to feed their families and their communities.

On November 12, I had a round table with about 40 farmers in Verner. These farmers are very concerned about the way the Conservative government is operating with these seed companies and the petitioners want to prevent that.

Infrastructure November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, despite their claims, the Conservatives do not support the Ring of Fire. Their actions speak louder than their words.

The minister has flatly refused to invest in the infrastructure required to unlock the jobs and economic potential of our region, saying that we must fight for scraps of a fund the Conservatives already slashed by billions of dollars.

Why do the Conservatives continue to nickel and dime northern Ontarians and play the blame game with the province?

Where is the federal leadership this project so badly needs?

Regional Economic Development October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the new CEO of Cliffs Natural Resources sees zero hope of developing the Ring of Fire in the next 50 years. He cites no plan, no infrastructure, no leadership. This means no jobs, no investments for northern Ontario and no benefits to Ontario's broader mining, finance and technology sectors. Almost all of the government's Ring of Fire announcements failed to materialize.

When will the government show the leadership it promised over a year ago and work with Ontario to make the Ring of Fire happen?