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  • His favourite word is liberal.

Liberal MP for Winnipeg North (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 35.80% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in the resolution that we are going to be voting on, it emphasizes the importance of meeting twice a month as well as the importance of the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Health.

It is not necessarily limited to those ministers. Could my colleague clearly state, which he has been able to do throughout his speech, why it is so important that these individuals be made accountable at a standing committee and how Canadians would benefit by that?

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the member's personal experience in Toronto.

I am very sympathetic to the member's personal story, which highlighted the importance of recognizing that in the federation that we live in, we have many different jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions, such as the Province of Ontario, have a fairly large department of health with a lot of professionals, while smaller provinces may not have the same sort of resources. I say this because it is important that the federal government play the coordinating role in establishing a protocol so that people have a sense of what would happen if a case of Ebola is discovered in our country.

I wonder if the member might expand on the importance of the federal government working with provincial ministries of health and of those ministries working with Health Canada to ensure that we are all on the same page, and that if someone is discovered to be infected with Ebola, we will be using a common protocol that is in the best interests of all.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the presentation the member has made in regard to the motion is interesting. I think it is a genuine attempt to try to recognize that the government does have a responsibility, and all indications, at least in some of the discussions I have had with some of his colleagues, are that they are at the very least open to the amended motion as it is currently being debated.

My question to the member is this: does he not recognize that there is a totally different atmosphere in a standing committee, which meets for two hours and offers an opportunity to create a lot more dialogue than there would be during question period or something of that nature? Does he recognize that Canadians would benefit by having different ministers deal with this very important issue in a committee setting?

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, what we need to recognize is that this has actually been an issue since September of 2013. In fact, it was December 2013 when it became well known and understood to be a serious problem, and the virus has grown. The Canadian government did not really get engaged until April 2014. There is no doubt that we have been slow in trying to address this particular issue.

Having said that, the purpose of this particular motion that the Liberal Party has put forward today is to ensure that, twice a month, a standing committee will review exactly what Canada has done, what it is doing, and what it will do going forward. It is of critical importance that we recognize that Canada as a country has a leading role to play in the world in fighting the Ebola virus.

I have made reference to my home city of Winnipeg in terms of the lab and the vaccine that is being created because of the fine work by many brilliant minds here in Canada. We have a role to play.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will reinforce what the amendment is because it is important to recognize what the Liberal Party is attempting to do. It is trying to get an understanding among all members of Parliament that there is a need for the standing committee to deal with the Ebola crisis on a biweekly basis, or twice a month. That is what the motion is seeking. We want the Minister of Health, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to recognize that there is an obligation to go before a standing committee of the House. By doing that, they would be able to explain in detail what Canada is doing, not only on the home front but on the world stage.

We in the Liberal Party would ultimately argue that, in dealing with the Ebola virus, there is a strong leadership role that needs to be played by the Prime Minister and Canada. I will cite the amendment to the motion, which in essence says:

...“the relevant minister or ministers to appear twice monthly and the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to appear monthly before the Standing Committee on Health”.

It is about strong national leadership to fight the Ebola virus and provide peace of mind and safety to all Canadians. The most important issue is that of transparency and education, and that is why Liberals want to do this.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the reason we are having this debate today is that we—I would like to think collectively but I can assure you those of us within the Liberal Party—really believe that Canada has a leadership role to play in fighting this virus. There is a moral obligation. We have some of the brightest minds and very best laboratories in the world that can help fight this virus. They have done a phenomenal job. We should be proud of the way in which Canada can play a leading role in preventing this virus from spreading. That is what this motion is all about. Let us start the dialogue, a part of which should occur at the standing committee where the Minister of Health, the Minister of Public Safety and others can contribute to assuring the minds of Canadians that we are dealing with our world obligations and that we are also dealing with the safety of Canadians throughout.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. This is something they should be mandated to do. It is all about communication. The government has a role to play. Allowing standing committees to meet and having the Minister of Health present her case as to what it is that the government is doing in this situation provides the opportunity for opposition members to bring forward their ideas and thoughts. There are ways in which we can co-operate together to make our communities safer places to be, not only here in Canada but also in the world.

I have experience in terms of my home province of Manitoba. I would welcome that opportunity. I know there would be a high demand after we were only given one spot on that particular committee, but I think that there are members of the House of Commons who have a lot to contribute and that the Minister of Health and others would benefit from that contribution. The Minister of Health would also benefit by being able to explain things to the public through the committee.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to talk about what I believe is a very important issue. It is an issue the Liberal Party has had the opportunity to raise on numerous occasions since this session began. We brought forward the motion believing the government would be open to the need to have better communications with all Canadians by having two meetings every month.

Canadians want to have a better understanding of what is taking place and what the government of the day is doing to deal with this particular virus. It is important that we recognize that the Ebola virus is severe and far too often leads to death. If we put it in the perspective of time, it started back in September 2013, really, when we first started to see some cases coming to light. By the time we rolled into December 2013, the world started to recognize that this was a very serious, growing issue.

Even though there were a lot of signals for the need for Canada to get more engaged, the Government of Canada actually acknowledged its involvement and interest in the issue back in April of 2014. At the time, as the critic for the Liberal Party said, the government invested just over a million dollars, I believe, on this particular file. We need to recognize where it originates and the costs as a direct result, from West Africa.

The motion we have today is exceptionally good timing. I am encouraged that the government seems to be receptive to voting in favour of what the amendment is proposing to do. If in fact government members do end up voting in favour, I would compliment them on recognizing what we have been calling for. That is, ultimately, more of a sense of accountability and, most importantly, a more timely display of information for Canadians to get a better understanding of the impact Ebola is having, not only here in Canada as a potential threat but around the world and particularly in West Africa, in a number of specific countries, where many thousands of people have actually died of this virus.

I will read what the motion actually states. I am going to start with the amendment because it captures the essense of our motion. It was amended by replacing the words “...Minister of Health, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, and the Minister of Public Safety to appear before the Standing Committee on Health twice monthly” with the words “...the relevant minister or ministers to appear twice monthly and the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to appear monthly before the Standing Committee on Health”.

I believe in good faith. The Liberal Party has worked in co-operation with the Conservative government to try to come up with a motion that, in essence, captures the principle of what the Liberal Party wants to see, ultimately coming up with an amendment that we could support and endorse. I will wait and see how things transpire at the vote, but I do expect the motion will pass. It makes a very strong statement about what it is and how it is that members of the House, from my perspective within the Liberal Party caucus, have been approaching this issue. We very much want to put the party politics to the side. We showed that by working with the government to come up with something it could ultimately support.

With this motion, we have been pushing to ensure that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness will appear before a standing committee to make a report twice a month, along with the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. Other stakeholders within the different ministries might also want to participate, but at the very least we recognize those two ministries.

We are calling for the standing committee to provide the opportunity for the ministers and the staff in question to appear before the committee over a number of hours twice a month to provide an update on what is taking place, what Canada is doing currently, and what we hope to contribute to the fighting of this brutal and deadly virus.

That is ultimately what we want to see, and it would appear there is a very good chance it is what we will get. We look forward to a vote in the committee to designate some days for these first meetings.

We talked about West Africa. There has been a lot of discussion. Members have commented on West Africa at great length. It is where the virus came into being. The number of people infected by the virus in this area has been estimated at somewhere in the neighbourhood 10,000. There have been 4,000 fatalities, which clearly shows how deadly the virus can be.

Different nations in West Africa have different approaches. I have heard a lot about health care infrastructure, and we need to recognize that there is a substantial difference between health care infrastructure in Canada and that of countries in West Africa, where we have seen this virus grow and become a deadly force.

A lot of discussion has been on the infrastructure of health care resources. Those issues are as simple as providing health care professionals and volunteers with some of the basics, such as gloves, and I have heard comments about running water. These are things virtually every health care clinic across Canada has. They are an absolute given, but in many third world countries it is a given that is just not there. They do not have the gloves and the running water.

What about isolation rooms, facilities in areas where even the lighting is not adequate to allow people to deal with the disease? There are also issues surrounding needles. The list of needs is lengthy. In many of these third world countries that are so harshly affected by this particular virus, there are huge shortages, and the demand is truly amazing for what needs to take place for many of these countries to deal with this outbreak.

There have been some successes. My colleague from Vancouver, the Liberal Party health critic, made reference to Nigeria. Nigeria had a plan, and it would appear to be working. She mentioned it has been 42 days since a case has been detected. It is important to recognize that there is reason for us to have hope, even in countries where health care infrastructure is in great need. Nigeria has demonstrated fairly clearly that we can, in fact, have hope if we can develop a plan. A plan is of the utmost importance.

I suspect that if we take a look at what went well in Nigeria, we would find that the government, with the assistance of other organizations, was very successful at communication and education. It made sure that the public had an understanding of what was actually taking place, what the Ebola virus was, what sort of symptoms are seen if someone catches the virus or is infected by the virus. People could be infected with the virus today and two weeks later have no idea they were actually infested with it. It could take 21 days before they would start to see some symptoms.

We need to recognize that the world is in fact a small place. I have heard comments that people cannot get a direct flight to Canada from some of these countries in question, but a direct flight is not required. Someone coming from a country where there is a higher risk or where there are already infections could very easily transfer from one plane to another and end up in Canada.

That is not to say that Canadians have to be overly fearful. We are not suggesting that at all. We do not want the Canadian population to get panicked over the issue. However, we want the government to start talking a lot more about what its plan is. This is the real challenge for the government.

Throughout Canada we have provinces, we have territories, we have first nations. A great deal of coordination needs to take place. It is not a question of “if” these types of viruses will at some point arrive in Canada; it is a question of when. Hopefully, we will be able to avoid the Ebola virus. That would be a wonderful thing. I do not think that there is anyone inside the House of Commons today who would disagree.

Canada does have a role to play in terms of world health, but we also have to ensure that Canada itself, as a nation, is ready and is capable of fending off a virus of this nature. We have some of the very best scientists in the world. In fact, in Winnipeg, we have the high-tech lab on Arlington, just south of Winnipeg North, the riding I represent. That is our National Microbiology Laboratory. It is responsible for the identification, control, and prevention of infectious diseases and has played a very important role in terms of the Ebola virus in Africa by helping to save lives.

We have some brilliant minds in Canada. Different departments in different provinces have done some amazing work. We have some great stakeholders' associations that have also done some amazing work, organizations such as Doctors Without Borders.

The role for the federal government is that of leadership. By “leadership”, I mean that at the end of the day it needs to recognize that we have all this expertise throughout our country—and in certain ways, outside our national borders—and it has to take note of that expertise and ultimately act upon it where it can.

That is what leadership is, and it is why, in good part, we believe that having the minister come before a standing committee where we can get more questions and answers related to the Ebola crisis is a positive thing.

For example, I would like to know from the government to what degree it has been in contact with provincial ministries of health. A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to have in camera discussions with the provincial minister of health related to a health care crisis in Manitoba. I know Manitoba itself has a protocol. I heard other members talk about the province of Ontario and how progressively that government is moving forward in doing what it can to protect its population. There is little doubt that some provinces have likely done a bit more, and it could be simply because of treasury boards, meaning the size of purse they have, or the type of scientific work being done within that province currently.

There is no doubt a huge need for the ministry of health to be working nationally with the provincial entities so that there is one protocol for all of us. Yes, there will be some uniquely provincial situations, but establishing a protocol is very important.

I had the opportunity to talk about protocols in the past when I was an MLA, and we need to understand that certain people in society are put at a greater risk than others by viruses of this nature. Here are a few examples.

In any given province, we have a hospital facility. What would happen to nurses and doctors if something were to break out in Canada?

I made reference to aircraft travel. We have border control officers at our borders and our airports. They are wonderful individuals. What sort of protections are being put into place for them?

The point is that there is a litany of questions that opposition members and even government backbenchers might have that affect their own communities, their own capital infrastructures. Those questions can often be put in the forum of a standing committee. More importantly, the Minister of Health, our Chief Public Health Officer, and other ministers could come before the committee and through the committee explain to all Canadians in a very public and open way what is actually happening on the Ebola front and how Canada is contributing to the betterment of world health.

Canada does have a role to play. We all know that, and there is a huge expectation that we will demonstrate strong leadership. That is what the Liberal Party wants to see: strong leadership coming from the government to show that we truly do care about this virus and the thousands of people that it is affecting throughout the world.

We also need to hear from the Minister of Health and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on how Canadians are being protected and on the issue of the vaccine. We need to hear that if something does come to Canada, Canadians do not have to fear, because the Canadian government is doing what it needs to do.

This is why I believe this motion should receive the support of all members of this House, and I look forward to the government's vote.

Red Tape Reduction Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, S.O. 31s are somewhat restrictive too, and I am sure that I could try to at least attempt to express concerns that our business communities and others have regarding red tape. The government has had an approach that at the best of times could be somewhat questionable in terms of dealing with red tape. There is no doubt a need for us to take a more holistic and comprehensive approach to the different ways we could dismiss a lot of red tape out there.

I recall talking about the amount of regulations that need to be addressed and taken off the books. We are talking about literally thousands in terms of regulations in place today that could be dealt with and that would reduce the amount of red tape.

There is no shortage of things that government could do to deal with the issue of red tape. Without necessarily knowing the specifics of the legislation, there is always room for improvement. The whole issue of red tape is an important issue, and government should always strive to do what it can to reduce the amount of red tape that is currently there.

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is an interesting process that we are in today. However, it is very rare. I cannot recall the government moving a motion that would see us bring legislation before committee and then when it comes back, it will be into a second/report stage reading. It means that the government has given an indication that it is looking at potential substantial amendments going into the committee stage. I am hoping this is not a false expectation.

I wonder if the member concurs that there is a need for some substantial changes or amendments. This is one of the reasons I believe there is opposition party support, whether New Democrats or Liberals, in terms of the bill going forward.

The government is giving a clear indication that it is looking at substantial amendments. Does the member share in the optimism or expectation that the government will be materializing on some amendments?