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  • His favourite word is economy.

NDP MP for Vaudreuil-Soulanges (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 43.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, when I was deputy critic of transport, a group of inspection agents visited my office and told me how the SMS systems that had been implemented by the Liberals and Conservatives were not properly protecting Canadians against air disasters. The deregulation of successive Liberal and Conservative governments has hurt aviation safety. The bill is a step in a good direction, but it must go much further.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as I said, when the fund was set up in 1972, the NDP was for it. The idea was for companies to contribute to the fund so that Canadians would not have to cover the cost of a spill. A little later, in 1976, contributions to the fund ceased. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives continued to contribute to the fund to protect Canadians from spills.

In recent years, the Conservative government has made significant cuts to the Coast Guard in many places in British Columbia. There is no longer the same level of protection that existed from 1972 to 1974.

It is clear that, without government will to protect Canadians, we cannot move ahead with protective measures. We really need a progressive government that will make protecting Canadians a priority over protecting friends in the oil industry or the shipping industry. We really need a government that will implement the polluter pay principle. That is something the government could do to really protect Canadians.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start today, in discussing this bill, by telling where this legislation has actually come from.

It was about 44 years ago that the Canada Shipping Act was amended, and after those 44 years of successive Liberal and Conservative governments, Canadians are still being inadequately protected and the job has not yet been done to protect them. I will go into the catalyst for the changes to the Canada Shipping Act and how we arrived here today.

In 1970, there was a Liberian tanker called the Arrow that ran aground in Chedabucto Bay, Nova Scotia. It was in February 1970, and there were 82,000 barrels of bunker C oil that spilled into Chedabucto Bay. That is about 2.5 million gallons. At the time it was imperial and now we are in metric, but what I read was the imperial measurements. There were 300 kilometres of pristine coastline affected, and that was out of 600 kilometres of coastline.

When that spill happened, the effect was that taxpayers footed the bill. There was not anything there to protect the taxpayers. There was not a polluter pay principle, so the citizens of Nova Scotia paid the bill. The Liberal government of the time, Pierre Trudeau's government, only managed to clean 48 kilometres of the shoreline out of the 300 kilometres that were affected. This was the catalyst for changes to the Canada Shipping Act.

At the time, an idea floated around of establishing unlimited liability when spills happened. The NDP at the time presented that to the Liberal government of the time. The minister came back and said that the oil and shipping lobby could not accept those regulations, that it would make their ships uninsurable. In those respects, the Liberals said they were not going to implement unlimited liability, but in its place they would establish a fund, and that fund would be paid by oil companies and shipping companies. That is how we came up with the ship-sourced oil pollution fund that started to collect levies in 1972.

I want to point out, for members in the House, that from 1972 to 1974 there was a Liberal minority government that was propped up by someone called David Lewis, the leader of the NDP, so it was the Lewis–Trudeau years from 1972 to 1974. During the period of 1972 to 1976, levies were collected. However, when the Liberals got back into majority territory, they stopped looking at whether levies were being contributed to the fund. Now we are in 2014, and since 1976 no funds have been put into the SSOPF by oil companies or by shipping companies.

People who were around at that time will remember that David Lewis urged Canadians to kick out corporate welfare bums. Yet here we are in 2014 and the corporate welfare bums are still at the top of the wave, getting their favours done by Conservative and Liberal administrations repeatedly.

We were asking for unlimited liability at the time, and we were willing to look at this fund and we were probably content with it. However, if they do not put money into the fund, it does not work and the taxpayer still foots the bill. Here we are in 2014, and we still do not have a polluter pays model because of successive Liberal and Conservative governments not being willing to do it.

The second thing we were asking for at the time was a contingency plan. As I said, out of those 300 kilometres that were affected in Chedabucto Bay, only 48 kilometres were cleaned up. In 2001, I read a report that said the oil was still there. They could still detect the oil in Chedabucto Bay. The author of that report said:

The Arrow spill completely altered the lives of the people around the affected areas; the beaches could not be used for pleasure for fear of contamination. This means the children could not swim because of the high concentration of oil, and repeated proposals were submitted to government to build a community swimming pool, but they were all rejected. Understandably, the residents of the affected areas demanded answers, and more importantly compensation for the tragedy that had ruined their pristine environment. The environment was deeply affected and it also rippled through the area's economy causing financial consequences; some absorbed by the fisherman, government agencies or local businessmen.

Here we are in 2014. The catalyst for this was in 1970. The NDP is still here asking for the same things that it was asking for in 1970, because the job has not been done.

In 2015, with an NDP government, we will do the job. The job will be done and finally Canadians will be adequately protected.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, if the member does want to talk about railway safety, let us talk about the Liberals' approval of remote control technology for trains in 2003, and how that led to one-man crews on the railway.

Would the member agree with the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration and say that one-man crews, when toxic materials are being transported, are actually a dangerous practice? Will he apologize for the approval of the former Liberal government for approving such dangerous measures on the railroads?

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons Act September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that we will oppose this Conservative bill. This bill does nothing for victims, it is unconstitutional and against the charter, and it threatens the integrity of our justice system.

This is a bad bill that the Conservatives are using just to appeal to their electoral base.

I have no doubt in my mind that the member for Okanagan—Shuswap felt morally right to bring this forward in the House and I welcome the debate on this subject. It is something that we should debate. I do believe that the government does not do enough for victims and that the member for Okanagan—Shuswap felt he was doing the right thing in presenting the bill to the House to improve victims' rights.

While I do not think the government is doing enough, I do not think this law exactly responds to victims in the way that it should. I believe the member has presented this in good faith, but I also believe that there are electoral purposes to this that he might not have imagined and that the cabinet of his party agrees with.

In all dealings in the House and in society, we hope that things are done with reason and that we are not led by emotion, especially when we are changing or making laws. When members think about murders, such as that of Leslie Mahaffy, and look at the horrific details, they understand the complexity and horror of these awful crimes and are understandably appalled. Our emotions are touched by the disgusting nature of these crimes. However, I do not think what is being presented here will help the victims of these families, because punishment alone is not what helps heal. I think what the member for Okanagan—Shuswap really wanted to do in presenting the legislation was to get to the main problem of repairing the harm done by a crime.

When horrendous murders are committed, there are tremendous harms done to the families of victims but also to society at large. I remember looking at all the details of the Bernardo case. To think that another Canadian could do that to someone is deeply troubling to us as a society, to the families, and I contend that over the passage of time it is troubling to the criminals as well, even though that is not necessarily apparent right at the time of sentencing.

I believe that we have to start going down a road of contemplating how to heal the harm done by a crime. For that, I would like to bring up the concept of restorative justice. It is an idea that is not based on retribution but rather on the healing of all parties, and not just the healing of the criminal, which is often the knee-jerk reaction, that one just cares about the criminals. It is the healing of the families of victims, the healing of society, and hopefully, eventually, the healing of the criminals. When somebody does something horrendous, we hope they will eventually realize that their actions were wrong and seek some sort of redemption for what they have done. New Democrats believe that with the frame of restorative justice, there is that possibility.

There is a famous proverb that says that hate has never been stopped by hating. This is a truth. Hate never stops through hate. In one who hates, hatred never ceases. Hatred is countered by love. In one who loves, hatred eventually ceases. This is a classic proverb that has been with us for over 2,000 years.

I can hear members on the other side laughing about this. Perhaps they think that I am naive. I am here to try to better our society, to try to heal victims who have been hurt by crime. I do not laugh at the families of these victims. I think they are deeply hurt inside. Their souls are hurt by what has been done to their loved ones.

In looking at restorative justice, I would like to look at a piece written by Max Fisher in the The Atlantic Monthly. He looks at the case of Anders Breivik who killed 77 people in Norway. What happened during Breivik's trial was that he was sentenced to 21 years and it can continue after those 21 years. We can debate the length of the sentence, but the idea is that in Norway there is this idea of restorative justice. In the trial itself the families of the victims were able to testify and share their stories and exchange with each other the damage that was done to them. In so doing, rather than adopting a passive punishment model, those families had the chance to express themselves, how they felt, what the crime did to them, what they lost. They had the solidarity amongst themselves to exchange those stories in a public forum. The fact that it was public allowed Norwegian society to start the healing process.

I am not saying that we should take the model from Norway and just plunk it down here, but I think we should start thinking about these issues carefully. Behind every crime legislation we do, we should be thinking about how we can repair the harm done by a crime. From what I have seen of the Conservative approach, it creates an animosity, with hard on crime, or smart on crime as the Liberals say. I do not actually know what they are talking about when they say smart on crime because they so rarely define their policies on things, but I think we have to get to the heart of the matter, which is how can we reduce the harm done by crime.

Putting someone in jail for 25 years or 40 years will never bring back the loved ones of those families. Those families never had a forum to express themselves during the trial. Because of our system of retribution in the trial system, the families never had the chance to express themselves in a formalized setting and therefore were denied the chance to start the healing process.

I do not believe that just increasing sentences from 25 to 40 years will get to the heart of the harm done by these crimes, because basically the idea is still on the retributive model and still on punishment. In the restorative justice model it is not just about proving or disproving guilt, it is about exorcizing the victim's suffering. I think that is really what the member for Okanagan—Shuswap wanted to do with the bill.

One place we could start is that we could stop demanding that victims go to parole hearings when there is no chance that the perpetrator will get parole. We can change parole legislation instead of sentencing legislation. We can change the forum for parole to make it so that the victims' families do not have to go and relive all the details one more time. I think that would be a better place to start. I suggest the member for Okanagan—Shuswap introduce legislation like this and I would be happy to support it.

The fact is that it is not passive punishment that makes a criminal actively take responsibility for making things right with victims and the community. Once criminals are punished they feel that the sentence has been passed and there is no incentive for them to rehabilitate. However, in the restorative model, as we see in Norway, the victims have that forum during the trial process to exchange stories and let the criminal truly know how he or she has hurt the families of the victims. I think it is a better model. It causes criminals to think about what they have done, to contemplate it right from the beginning of the process of when they are sentenced and go to prison.

The restorative justice model only works if we do not believe or consider retribution to be its own inherent good. Personally, I do not believe retribution to be its own inherent good. I believe that the reason we separate people from society is to keep society safe but also for those people who have done wrong to contemplate what they have done wrong and to try to make things better.

For those reasons, I will not be supporting the bill at this reading.

Red Tape Reduction Act June 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the speech from my colleague; however, I have a question for him.

We regularly speak to people across Canada. I know that many of the small businesses in British Columbia are in the fishing and tourism sectors. I know from reading a letter from a gentleman from Penticton, Lloyd Creech, they are worried about the menace to the small businesses in fishing and tourism due to the approval of the northern gateway pipeline.

The government waited until the eleventh hour to do something for small and medium businesses. It spent the past two years concentrating on helping the oil lobby approve this terrible pipeline through British Columbia, against the interests of British Columbians.

Even though we are supporting this bill at second reading, I would like the member to comment on the worries that small businesses have because of the approval of the northern gateway pipeline in British Columbia.

Drug-Free Prisons Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share with my colleague and Conservative members the comments of Michael Parkinson, the community engagement coordinator for the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council. I mentioned in an earlier debate the task force that it came up with.

Parkinson starts by saying that, “The United Nations estimates that substance abuse costs society about $700 billion globally every year”. He goes on to say that, “...incarceration...can't fully deal with the issue of substance related crime”. He elaborates by saying that as a government, “It costs a minimum of $80,000 to incarcerate someone in Canada”. He goes on to ask, “...are they likely to get any treatment for the addiction? Not likely”. He goes on to say that, “...there are no prison systems internationally that have eradicated drugs internally”.

This task force looked at the actual prison systems.

He then comments about the criminals, “And then they’re popped back out into society and the root cause of the criminal behaviour has yet to be addressed”.

I would like the Conservatives on this side, many of whom represent the Waterloo region, to listen and collaborate with the stakeholders in their regions who are telling them their approach is wrong.

We are going to support this legislation at second reading but we believe that the scope of it is very narrow. It is trying to address a wicked problem with insufficient solutions.

Respect for Communities Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address some of the comments the member for Cambridge has been making during this debate.

We should not live in glass houses. The member for Cambridge should know that the Waterloo region has the highest level of alcohol abuse in Ontario, and he should have some compassion for people in his riding who are having problems with substance abuse.

There was a task force of 26 individuals that included police, street workers, social workers, and government. It came up with a set of 99 recommendations to deal with this problem. Recommendation number 45 deals with the stigma and discrimination associated with substance use and the importance of people realizing that addiction is a health issue, not a moral issue, and can be addressed with treatment. That was from the task force in the member for Cambridge's own area. He should listen to his own constituents. Does my hon. colleague not agree with me?

Respect for Communities Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, on a day like this, when we are debating this issue in the House and another decision was made in British Columbia today for British Columbians, we see the hypocrisy of the government. It is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. Out of one side of its mouth it is saying it wants to consult with Canadians to judge the locations of these centres and, out of the other side, it is saying it does not really want to listen to Canadians in consultation for something like northern gateway.

Could the member perhaps elucidate for the House and Canadians the record of the government in terms of public consultations and due diligence in listening to Canadians?

Respect For Communities Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there have been 74 time allocation motions, as disturbing as that is; as you know, it is the curtailment of debate in the House. However, even more disturbing than the 74 times that debate has been shut down is the fact that the government is trying to change what has been a precedent in the House of allowing one further sitting day to now what is becoming a precedent of five hours of debate. This is a dangerous precedent.

Does my colleague not agree with me that changing this precedent in the Standing Orders of having one sitting day to interpret it as five hours is the height of cynicism and that it will feed the cynicism of Canadians who want us to make Parliament work? Does he not agree that this dangerous precedent will certainly do damage to this institution in the future and our work as parliamentarians?