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  • His favourite word is way.

NDP MP for Hamilton Centre (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 57.00% of the vote.

Statements in the House

National Defence December 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister ignores the Auditor General, disregards veterans, and seems more interested in photo ops than in helping veterans.

Now the Conservatives take money from General Dynamics, one of the world's biggest weapons manufacturers, to pay for our military mental health research.

Do the Conservatives not understand that when our soldiers sign on the dotted line, for unlimited liability, to put their lives on the line, it is the government's sacred duty to provide proper care for them? Do they really not understand their duty to our nation's veterans?

National Defence December 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, last night, Canadians heard the grim news that yet another Canadian soldier has been lost to suicide. We all extend our heartfelt condolences to the grieving family of Corporal Scott Smith of CFB Gagetown.

Corporal Smith is the 16th Canadian Forces member to die by suicide this year alone. When we have lost more soldiers to suicide than we did to the Taliban, we have a sacred obligation to ask why. When will the minister recognize the crisis in front of him and acknowledge that his government has not done nearly enough?

Amendments to Standing Orders December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, now, I see my colleague from Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale is advising me that it is a big love-in whenever the Conservatives meet, so I stand corrected. The Conservatives never fight. They always get along, and everything is fine. I can accept that political defiance and political gravity.

However, it is a real problem. It is a problem of a leader who cannot count 100% on the House leader and whip. The fact that they can be elected means that those who may have just finished a leadership race from other camps could have these big positions and may decide that the election is not over, so we can guess what happens. It is very problematic.

On the other hand, I would like to take the last couple of minutes to support the idea of electing caucus chairs. I have always believed in it very strongly. In my own experience, I was an elected caucus chair when we were in government at Queen's Park. If we think that leaders are omnipotent when they are in opposition, we should see what they are like when they are in government. To me, the one and only mandate that does not come from an appointment by the leader is an elected caucus chair. When we are at caucus meetings, the leader still has all of the power that a leader has, but the caucus chair owes that position and that position only, with a few minor exceptions, in the caucus by virtue of the independent caucus mandate.

That is an important counterbalance to the overwhelming power of the leader, rightly, in our system. It provides a good counterbalance. The rest of it I find somewhat problematic.

If I can get this in at the end, a lot of people want us all to be more independent in the same way that they see in the United States, where the members of Congress can go here and there. The problem is that under our system, we run on a platform. The leader has every right to be able to say to the people who elected them to form a government, regardless of the party, that this is their policy and this is what they are going to enact and that the leader expects everybody to uphold that.

If people do not have to follow party discipline, which can go too far, and say that party discipline is not on at all, how can a leader go about enforcing a platform when people cast some of their votes for us individually—we like to think it is all of them, but that is not true—while others vote for a platform? The leader needs the ability to enhance that platform.

Amendments to Standing Orders December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the disappointment is far greater on my part than the rest of the House.

I appreciate the opportunity to add my comments to the motion before us. Let me just say at the outset, though, that the best kind of reform we could bring to this place is proportional representation. If we really want to change things and make it better, that is the big move.

I also want to acknowledge the enhancement of independent MPs because this place really is structured around two parties. I will go so far as to say that there are rights that the third, fourth and at times fifth parties do not have. I will give an example and these are things that should be changed.

I was shocked when I got here, having been a House leader at Queen's Park, when it came to ending a bell. Members will remember that the reason we ring the bell is to tell everybody that we are having a vote and they should get their rear ends over to the House and get ready to cast their votes.

We calculate our time because we are all spread out across the precinct and based on fewer green buses because the government has laid off all the drivers. It is interesting that the ones who are driving around in their warm limos are the ones who cut the budget for the green buses that the rest of us have to ride, but I will not go too far on that one at this point.

When those bells are ringing, it is to tell members that the vote is going to happen and they need to get to the House. The bells can be shortened if the whips agree. For instance, if we are all in the House and we have just done something ceremonial, the whips will say that we do not really need to run 30-minute bells, we are all here, we all agree, and we will cut it off after 15 minutes. That is when we see the whips march up to the front, we do the little applause, they do a little bowing, the bells end, and then we move to a vote.

The problem with the process that we have here in this place in terms of the rights of minority parties is that the whips of the parties other than the government and the official opposition are not considered. On at least two occasions, back when there was a minority, the government and the Liberals worked in cahoots to deny us the right to be here.

It was a minority government and those kinds of votes mattered. We did not always really know what the outcome would be. Ending those bells had the effect of denying us the right to vote. All of that would be eliminated if the whips of all the recognized parties were a party to any agreement to shorten the bells. Instead, two parties can do it. Those who are in the other parties, oh well, too sad, too bad; that is just the way it goes.

In terms of reinforcing the rights of independent members and the other recognized parties, we have a lot of work to do because this place really is geared to two parties. Everybody else is sort of a bit player, and I say that with great respect, having been in both the third and the fourth party in my time. No one should be treated as a bit player here. We certainly have some sympathies with that.

In terms of all the various changes that are suggested, I want to commend the member for thinking outside the box. I see our friend, the member from Wellington, has been working for years now on bringing about changes. I think we are getting close to that. Those could bring some refreshing reforms to this place, again, modest but significant in terms of the dynamic of this place. We look forward to hopefully seeing that bill in its final form pass this place.

I compliment the member on thinking outside the box and adding to the list of ideas about how to make this a better place that works better for everyone. However, it is very problematic, certainly from my point of view. Next year, it will be 25 years that I have been in parliamentary places, both here and Queen's Park, and city council before that. It is not the same.

I see some real problems with the idea of electing all those positions. First of all, it has always been my personal position that the leaders of any party need to be able to count on their House leader and whip. If they cannot count on their House leader and whip, they are in big trouble.

There was a time in one caucus, when I was at Queen's Park, when we elected not just the caucus chair, but the House leader and the whip, and that is just a recipe for disaster. If we set aside our partisanship and just go with our personal experience, colleagues will agree with me that caucus meetings are not always Kumbaya, hearts, flowers, and pixie dust. Sometimes there are divisions and fractures—

Veterans Affairs December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' claim about only targeting backroom bureaucrats has already been proven false. The government's own documents show that only 10% of the cuts were to internal services. Instead, Conservatives focused their cuts on regional veterans offices, caseworkers, and front-line staff.

To add insult to injury, while they were firing front-line workers, they were handing out generous bonuses to senior managers to do it.

Why is this minister still a minister?

Veterans Affairs December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives misled Canadians about the $200 million in spending. They failed to provide proper mental health services.

Now we learn that the Prime Minister's claim about only backroom bureaucrats being laid off was false. A third of the layoffs were of people working on pensions and disability benefits.

For vets, it has been a decade of darkness under the Conservatives. When will Conservatives stop misleading Canadians and finally live up to their obligations to our nation's veterans?

Takeover of Stelco December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member underscores the fact that, as I have said, there are those of us from all across Canada who can point to examples of where this has happened.

We can look at other economies in the world and see that they are trying to create steel industries. They are trying to make sure they have the ability to do that.

Under the government, we are slowly but surely letting go of whatever little bit is left of the steel industry in Canada. As a wealth-generating country, having the state-of-the-art, world-leading steel industries was to our benefit. The government allowing that to change and be watered down is a harm to our future.

The hon. member is absolutely correct. If we continue down this road, it is going to do more and more harm. We need to change the ways, change the laws, and change the government.

Takeover of Stelco December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the government would like to change the channel and talk about something else.

The member is talking about the social contract. The social contract was wrong and should not have happened. That is a given. I would like to hear the government stand up and say that it has done something wrong, and fix it.

Takeover of Stelco December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. I know that there are members from all across Canada who can tell stories of exactly the same thing that in one degree or another has happened to their constituents. That is why New Democrats have always taken the position that this legislation needs to be amended, because at the time of crisis it is too late. The legislation needs to be in place at the time that these things happen so that workers have the security that right now banks and bond holders have.

They have that security. They get whatever amount of money. It may not be all of the money, but it is whatever amount is available. They are at the top of the list, the front of the line. We are saying that those workers should be at the front of the line, because we cannot repair the damage that is done to them when their pensions are cut in half or there is not enough money to even pay out a pension. New Democrats have always felt that this is the kind of legislative change that needs to be made.

As an aside, interestingly enough, when I was doing an interview with Mr. Steve Arnold, a reporter at The Hamilton Spectator, he asked me, “Hasn't this been put forward for about 30 years now? Why does it never happen?” My answer to him was it is because we have not had an NDP government yet. If we get an NDP government in place, we will get the kind of protections that workers need.

Takeover of Stelco December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, you are very fair-minded and always have been.

There was heckling. It was juvenile. I did use his name as a retort, and I apologize and withdraw the comment.