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Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra (B.C.)
Won her last election, in 2011, with 42.20% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Business of Supply November 5th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, it is an amazingly bizarre way to take the spotlight away from the Liberal Party leader. He is changing the story, blocking reasonable questions about what occurred in the Prime Minister's office, and inflaming the mistrust and concern of the public by not telling the truth. What a way to go.
I would also say that the Parliamentary Secretary, day after day, comes in here and insults the intelligence and concerns of Canadians about the integrity of our parliamentary system by talking about things that have nothing to do with it, as if this were a joke. This is not a joke. This is at the base of the integrity—
Business of Supply November 5th, 2013
Name the legislation or policy; the moment a person's word is in question, everything he does is tainted. We are in a country now where the head of our government, our Prime Minister, is tainted, and that is simply not acceptable to Canadians.
The public of Canada expected the Prime Minister to clear the air and take personal responsibility in Calgary, and he completely failed to do that. The Liberals are providing the Prime Minister with another opportunity to do just that. He should accept that offer in the spirit in which it is extended. It is extended in the spirit of clarifying his role, clarifying his responsibility, clearing the air, and returning a scrap of integrity to the role and the office of the Prime Minister. We encourage him to do that.
Business of Supply November 5th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be part of this debate in a sense. I wish we did not need to have this debate on a motion calling on the information, privacy and ethics committee to be instructed to examine the conduct of the Prime Minister's Office regarding the repayment of Senator Mike Duffy's expenses and on the Prime Minister to be ordered to appear under oath as a witness before the committee for a period of three hours.
It is to some degree humiliating to the Prime Minister, to his members of Parliament, to the Conservative Party and to Canada that we have to put a motion forward asking the head of the government to be honest with Canadians. How humiliating it must be for the Prime Minister to have one of the former members of his party and his caucus, the member for Edmonton—St. Albert, plead for an honest response from his former leader, the Prime Minister, as to what he knew and when he knew it. How humiliating it must be for the Prime Minister to be begged to take responsibility for what occurred in his office, the office he is in charge of and a government he is in charge of, which is led by a party of which he is the leader.
As an official observer at the recent convention of the Conservative Party of Canada in Calgary, I was struck by the initial subdued atmosphere at the convention, but it was also an atmosphere of waiting expectantly. That was not just the atmosphere at that convention, but the atmosphere across the country where Canadians, who have been following this, were waiting for the air to be cleared.
We are in a situation where well over half of Canadians do not know whether to believe their Prime Minister's or Senator Duffy's version of what took place. When two-thirds of Canadians are unable to trust that their Prime Minister is telling the truth, that is a humiliation not only for the government, but also for our country. One out of two Conservative voters do not trust that their Prime MInister is telling the truth and do not know whom to believe when there are two different stories. That is a significant and very worrisome situation when there has been systemic lack of clarity on the part of the Prime Minister, whose story has changed again and again.
As the member for Edmonton—St. Albert just declared, this is bad for our country. He was very eloquent in talking about the consequences when the integrity of the Prime Minister of the country is in question, that it is bad for our political system and for our democracy.
That expectant atmosphere in Calgary was awaiting the Prime Minister's speech on Friday night. The Prime Minister had an opportunity to speak to the nation and address this crisis in his government, which has been mounting since last February. I will give examples showing the changes in the Prime Minister's version of events that are symbolic of a lack of integrity and the question that has built in people's minds about whether he is telling the truth.
On May 16, the Prime Minister's Office put out a statement with regard to Mr. Wright who was the chief of staff to the Prime Minister in the PMO. The statement was, “Mr. Wright will not be resigning...Mr. Wright has the full support of the Prime Minister”.
On May 19, the Prime Minister's Office put out a statement from the Prime Minister, which said:
It is with great regret that I have accepted the resignation of Nigel Wright as my Chief of Staff. I accept that Nigel believed he was acting in the public interest, but I understand the decision he has taken to resign. I want to thank Nigel for his tremendous contribution to our Government over the past two and a half years.
On June 5, the Prime Minister stated the following, in the House of Commons:
—it was Mr. Wright who made the decision to take his personal funds and give those to Mr. Duffy so that Mr. Duffy could reimburse the taxpayers. Those were his decisions. They were not communicated to me or to members of my office.
We know that is not true.
On October 28, the Prime Minister stated, in a radio interview, “look, I think the responsibility whenever things go wrong is for us to take appropriate action. As you know, I had a chief of staff who made an inappropriate payment to Mr. Duffy. He was dismissed”.
First, he resigned, then he was dismissed.
On October 29, the Prime Minister said the following, in the House of Commons:
—on our side there is one person responsible for this deception, and that person is Mr. Wright, by his own admission.
Now it has gone from supporting this person, to regretfully accepting his resignation, to accusing him of deception.
What are Canadians to believe when a prime minister changes his story?
When one reads this, the responsibility when things go wrong, on our side there is one person responsible.
Canadians when they hear “responsible”, they believe it is the Prime Minister who is responsible. It is the Prime Minister who is effectively the president and CEO of this organization. That is what heads of organizations do. They take responsibility when there has been an action where funds have been paid to silence a sitting senator and funds have been paid to pay the legal bills to negotiate a cover-up. This is a serious matter. Who is responsible?
Back to Calgary. The public was expecting to hear some words of acceptance of personal responsibility for the situation. The president and CEO, effectively, of the organization, the dual organizations, the Conservative Party of Canada and the Government of Canada, is the Prime Minister. Was this person going to accept any responsibility whatsoever? The public was expecting that would happen and my guess is the Conservative members of his party were expecting that would happen. One out of two Conservative voters who do not know whether to trust that the Prime Minister has told the truth.
My guess is that the Prime Minister's caucus was in Calgary anticipating that the Prime Minister might accept some personal responsibility for the situation. He could have acknowledged that he was the head of this organization, that he personally appointed Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy so he was responsible. He could have told them what he would do to accept his responsibilities and how he would demonstrate his integrity in this situation and take action.
Did he do that? Absolutely not.
He spoke, once again, about responsibility as if it was something he understood and then failed to take one molecule of responsibility in the situation and essentially went on with a continuation of blaming other individuals and other organizations for the situation.
That is why the Prime Minister, who is completely out of touch with the expectations of normal human beings, a person in charge would take responsibility, have integrity and tell the truth, is being subjected to the humiliating situation of a motion requiring that he testify under oath in a televised committee so Canadians can find out what actually happened.
This is a government and it is a party that prides itself on its connections with the private sector, with the business community.
I will not go so far as to say that it is doing a good job in terms of the economy, but it is certainly a government that would claim that free enterprise and the private sector is one of its important constituents.
How does the Prime Minister explain to the private sector how completely out of alignment with any norms or ethics, in terms of responsibility for problems, the Prime Minister's behaviour demonstrates he is? It is antithetical to what we expect of any organization where there has been a mistake made, where there has been an error in judgment. There is no longer a corporation in this country that would have this kind of scandal, corruption, bribery, cover-up, or change in story by the CEO and president of the organization without clear repercussions. In any corporation that made a mistake or had a problem, responsibility would be accepted at the top.
In the private sector, if it was the president and CEO who was implicated, as it is in the case of the Prime Minister, the head of this organization, who met with the senator in question and the chief of staff, according to Senator Duffy, and who has changed his story, that president and CEO would be shown the door by the board of directors immediately.
I had the privilege of working in the private sector for 25 years before entering politics. The organization I worked in had a number of contract crews. In the early days, they were completing contracts for our clients in reforestation across the country. The project manager in the field was responsible for the results of a project. Even if the weather was not co-operating, even if somebody else let them down, even if a vehicle had problems due to someone else's actions, even if some of the equipment was taken in an unauthorized way and was not available, it was the project manager who was responsible for the result of that contract. That is what we do when we are in charge. If we are in charge of a project, we take responsibility. In the private sector, one does not point fingers and say, “Yes, I'm in charge, but it is not me. Somebody else has to be responsible.” One takes responsibility.
It has been shocking to me, as a businessperson, to see the head of this organization fail utterly on that level. The private sector could not function if this were the norm. If the head of an organization demonstrated a lack of integrity, changed his or her story, blamed others for what happened, hid the truth, allowed it to leak out bit by bit, and tried to manoeuvre around it, changing the story bit by bit, that organization would have absolutely no credibility.
If we had a pipeline company, and the pipeline leaked, and the CEO and president of that company pretended that it did not happen, and when he or she could no longer pretend that it did not happen blamed whoever had pointed out that it had happened—maybe the homeowners whose water and fields had been contaminated by the oil—and changed the story as the truth came out, that CEO would be history. He or she would have no more credibility in that or any other industry.
Integrity is key to effectively working in groups and leading projects. This is a prime minister who is at the head of a government. It is unbelievable that we can have this kind of modelling of poor integrity for the young people in our country who are potentially interested in politics and how this country operates.
Everyone can make a mistake, so it is not about never making a mistake. It is not about being perfect. It is about taking responsibility for one's mistakes. It is about taking responsibility for the organization one leads. That kind of behaviour is important for young people and for the rest of our society to see in the head of our country, which is our Prime Minister. We are not seeing that. That is why I call this a humiliating day, not just for the members opposite, their leader, and the Conservative Party but for Canadians, our parliamentary system, and our democracy.
We are calling on the Prime Minister to accept responsibility and end the response of attacking others. What we have heard from the Prime Minister are untruths about the Liberal Party and the motion in the Senate. They are to distract Canadians into thinking that this is about a Senate motion and a Senate debate and that this is about the actions of one, two, or three senators. No, this is actually about the absence of the integrity of the Prime Minister, a cover-up in the Prime Ministers office, a bribe to pay off and silence a senator the Prime Minister was concerned would tarnish the reputation of his party, and potentially illegal activities. We know, because the RCMP are now investigating the Prime Minister's office, that potentially criminal actions have taken place in the Prime Minister's office.
The integrity of our parliamentary system requires the Prime Minister to step up and accept his responsibility and be willing to clarify what happened. No more changed stories, no more attacks, no more distractions, and no more punting the questions over to a parliamentary secretary who wants to talk about bologna pizza. This issue is far more serious than that. It is the integrity of the government that is at stake. It is the believability of the government that is at stake.
A person of great eminence in our history, Mahatma Gandhi, said that the moment a person's word is in question, everything he does is tainted, and that is what we have with the Prime Minister. This is a person whose integrity, whose word, is in question, and that means that everything he does is tainted. What the Prime Minister said about the Canada-EU free trade agreement is no longer believable. It is tainted.
Business of Supply November 5th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the words of my colleague from Charlottetown. He is calling on the members opposite in the Conservative Party to support the motion.
I note that there are hon. members in the other place who are calling for due process with the motion in the Senate, and are looking for a proper investigation before there is a decision on repercussions and punishment for the senators. My colleague is assuming there may be some hon. members in the Conservative Party who want to see the air cleared. The air was not cleared at the recent convention in Calgary.
What would my hon. colleague from Charlottetown say to the members opposite so that they could report to their constituents about their obligations and their responsibility in helping to clear the air on this very messy scandal in the Prime Minister's Office?
Veterans November 5th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the government has thumped its chest more while doing less.
Last week I met with the legion command and veterans in western Canada and heard about government delays in processing routine benefits for departing members of the forces. Without these benefits, some cannot even feed their families or pay their rent. Therefore, the legion is having to use its poppy fund donations to fill the gap. That is shameful.
Why has the government ballooned the budget for civilians at DND headquarters in Ottawa, while abandoning its responsibilities to departing members of the forces?
Veterans November 5th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, more and more Canadian soldiers who served in Afghanistan are showing signs of psychological trauma. Many of them have to wait months before they can see a specialist and get the medical support they need.
Why has the government inflated the administrative budget in Ottawa instead of supporting the members of the operational forces?
Ethics October 30th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has confirmed what Mike Duffy disclosed, that the Conservative Party has paid $13,000 in legal fees related to his bogus expenses. That represents hours and hours of lawyers' time, working on a $90,000 deal and a cover-up with the Prime Minister's Office.
Why is Senator Duffy the only Conservative senator who had his legal fees paid? Is that the price of buying Mr. Duffy's silence about the PMO cover-up?
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2 October 29th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member for Trinity—Spadina pointing out what a core challenge the issues of affordable housing and homelessness are for Canadians,
In 2005, under the minister responsible for housing in the Liberal government, there was a comprehensive plan that had been the product of consultation across the country to invest in solutions to that issue, but the current Conservative government has consistently cut supports for affordable housing.
It is at the core of Canadians' well-being, not just for lower-income people but also for the middle class; for young families in Vancouver who cannot afford to buy a house or rent suitable housing; for the mentally ill, whose situations are worsened when they do not have safe adequate housing; and for seniors, especially women. I thank the member for pointing out that very important issue.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2 October 29th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I am very familiar with that program. The program struggled for years without government support. I appreciate that the government has now picked up the program and is expanding it. For many years it was supported by the Legions, which had to go out talking about their successes in speech after speech, including one at a breakfast policy event where the leaders of that program spoke to constituents in Vancouver Quadra.
However, I want to touch upon the parliamentary secretary's comments about reductions in support for the military. In the decade in which cuts were applied, a number of those years were under Conservative governments, and the cuts occurred because of the deficits that Conservatives had gotten Canadians and Canada into. It was under the Paul Martin government that funding began to be restored for the Canadian Armed Forces.
We are now closing on a decade of deceit by the current Conservative government, which does photo opportunities about supposed increases in funding with troops and equipment in the backdrop, yet has done virtually nothing and is now scrambling to figure out where to put all the hidden cuts that are in its budgets.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2 October 29th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-4. Unfortunately, this is another grab bag omnibus bill that has had its time for debate cut off, so some important issues in it will not be adequately aired. I will touch on several aspects of the bill and how they reflect some of the challenges and failures of the government.
I am going to start by pointing out that this budget implementation bill would do very little to address the key challenges being faced by middle-class Canadians as a result of rising costs and stagnant incomes. Bill C-4 would do little to create jobs.
The bill would increase taxes with respect to mining exploration. That is not very helpful. If taxes are increased on mining exploration, then much of the good work to encourage mining exploration and mining development would be undermined.
Vancouver is at the centre of the mining industry globally. Many people who live in the province of British Columbia and many people in my riding of Vancouver Quadra work in the mining industry. The British Columbia government has spent the last 10 or 12 years rebuilding that industry in our province.
In 2001, when the B.C. Liberal government was first elected, investment in mining exploration was down to about $25 million from the hundreds of millions of dollars of annual investment in the 1990s. Slowly and surely the provincial government built up the confidence of the mining industry until over $250 million a year was invested in British Columbia's mining exploration.
Our province spent so much effort in rebuilding this industry by respecting the industry and not adding to its tax burden. Did the Prime Minister consult with the British Columbia premier or the minister of energy and mines when he slapped a tax on this industry?
This is a failure by management, and it shows that the federal government does not understand that for jobs to be created and business opportunities to be provided, the business community needs to have certainty and transparency.
We have seen this kind of management failure in spades in the Conservative government in the area of military procurement. All of us would agree that the Canadian navy, air force and army need to replace billions of dollars worth of aging trucks, helicopters, ships, et cetera so our armed forces personnel have safe and effective equipment. Barely a week has past without yet another story of the Conservative government's incompetence with respect to military procurement.
I want to remind the House that the acquisition of F-35 joint strike fighters was restarted after reports by the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that the government knowingly misled Canadians on the program's cost. It was, in fact, keeping two sets of books. In 2010 the Prime Minister claimed the cost would be $9 billion for 65 fighters, but by 2012 the full cost was pegged at more than $46 billion.
That is just one example and there are many others, such as helicopters to replace the aging Sea Kings. In some cases, these Sea Kings are 30 years older than the very pilots who are flying them, so this is a safety issue. There have only been delays and uncertainty with respect to that project.
The acquisition of new army trucks has been ongoing since 2004. That has been restarted numerous times, but nothing is expected there.
The purchase of a new fleet of search and rescue aircraft has taken more than nine years. The government is still not ready to even accept bids.
There is also the issue around the Arctic offshore patrol ships. An independent reviewer said the cost was extraordinarily high for the design phase alone, but the government just plowed ahead, ignoring that point. There were plans to replace the outdated 50-year-old Lee-Enfield .303 rifles used by our Canadian Rangers in the Arctic; that procurement project has been cancelled with no reason given. It is a very flawed procurement process, unfortunately, potentially impacting the safety of our Canadian Armed Forces, and that is a management failure on the government's part.
I want to touch on another area in the bill, the employment insurance premiums. We support this aspect of the bill and we appreciate that after years of Liberal requests, the government has stopped increasing the tax on jobs, which is increasing the EI premiums, as they have been increased over the years, costing billions of dollars to businesses. We support that aspect, but the very fact that the government has been adding taxes to businesses and small businesses is a level of fiscal incompetence, because it shows the Conservatives are not understanding the impact of these taxes on jobs.
Under the current government, that kind of incompetence has been happening in the military budget as well. Under the Canada First defence strategy, a promised cornerstone was stable increases in funding. However, almost immediately, successive budgets were quietly reduced by billions of dollars, allowing up to $8 billion in funds to lapse or stay unspent. There has been essentially no new investment in national defence under the Conservative government, with two small exceptions, and since 2011, successive major budget cuts have been sending departments scrambling to protect the essential capacity and morale required for effective national defence. This is another case of saying one thing and doing another.
Canadians and Liberals are proud of the Canadian Forces, who serve Canada on her behalf without reservation. However, to do their jobs they need to be able to depend on what they are being told, and in fact the government has decreased armed forces personnel in the navy by 11% from its strength in 2004, yet it increased the number of civilian naval employees by 30% over that period. This is managerial incompetence.
The army has fared no better under the current government. Between 2011 and 2013 its budget has been slashed by 22%, yet its headquarters received an extra half a billion dollars in budget increases. We hear one thing, but we see another happening.
Most unfortunately, in this bill we have the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, a backlogged board that will see its number of members slashed so that there will be a further backlog. That ties in to the undermining of the armed forces that we have seen under the government whereby military members and their families are falling through the cracks of government bureaucracy.
As these national defence budgets that supposedly were to be increased have been slashed, the very programs that support military personnel affected by mental illness and injury have been cut. Thousands of Canadian Forces members are affected by mental health issues. They need help through the joint personnel support unit and through mental health professionals to help them get strong again and find alternatives within the armed forces where they can be successful, yet those very supports are not there.
The government must do so much better for our men and women in uniform, just as it must do much better for Canadians.