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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

Combating Counterfeit Products Act September 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I made reference to the fact that in the last five or six years, we have seen counterfeit products acquired by legal authorities increase fivefold.

I have noticed that in a recent days the NDP members have, as much as possible and wherever possible, taken shots at the Liberal Party. That is fine. I can appreciate that they are a little sensitive in terms of their potential future and what might lie ahead.

Having said that, I can assure the member that there was adequate funding of resources, such as border controls, that was maintained, whether through the Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin governments. The greatest deficiency today is that the government has instituted cutbacks in border control and to a certain degree in the RCMP. That will have a negative impact on protecting us from copyright infringement and from those who choose to break the law.

Combating Counterfeit Products Act September 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill C-8 this morning. I will start off with an example that I think people would be able to relate to on why it is important that we bring forward legislation of this nature.

As everyone knows, Winnipeg had the opportunity to have the Winnipeg Jets NHL franchise. That was just a couple of years ago now. At the time, there was a great deal of hype built around the Winnipeg Jets, what the new logo was going to look like, and so forth. It was kept secret until a certain release date when the new logo was announced.

When that business plan was developed, part of the business plan included the sale of merchandise, wanting to capitalize, no doubt, on the fresh, newly minted Winnipeg Jets. The NHL franchise came up with a very unique and, I suggest, wonderful logo. Within months of the release of that logo, NHL material was authorized, copyrighted, and so forth, and was up for sale. Many would argue the price was a little steep for these NHL freshly minted Winnipeg Jet jerseys, at well over $100 each, but it was the authentic jersey, the real thing, if I can put it that way.

Within weeks of the release of the logo, jerseys started appearing that were not authorized. They were infringements on the copyright. What ended up happening was that it caused quite a bit of a commotion, and I can appreciate why. The NHL and the Winnipeg Jets franchise were quite concerned about how this counterfeit product was being produced in such a quick fashion and being sold to the thousands of Manitobans and many others who were quite fascinated and wanted to purchase some of this merchandise. It had a fairly profound impact in terms of sales and the franchise would argue that, ultimately, it lost a great deal of revenue because of it.

I use that as just an example of why it is that, as a Parliament, we need to provide protections for the copyrights of entrepreneurs and others. That is, in essence, what Bill C-8 is really all about.

It would create new civil causes of action with respect to sustaining commercial activities in infringing copies and counterfeit trademarked goods. It would also create new criminal offences for trademark counterfeiting that are similar to existing offences in the Copyright Act. It would create new criminal offences prohibiting the possession or exporting of infringing copies or counterfeit trademarked goods, packaging or labels.

It would also enact new border enforcement measures enabling customs officers to detain goods that they suspect infringe copyright or trademark rights, and allowing them to share information relating to the detained goods with rights owners who have filed a request for assistance, in order to give the rights owners a reasonable opportunity to pursue a remedy in court. It would exempt the importation and exportation of copies and goods by an individual for his or her personal use from the application of the border measures.

It would also add the offence set out in the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act to the list of offences set out in the Criminal Code for the investigation of which police may seek judicial authorization to use a wiretap.

The enactment also amends the Trade-marks Act to, among other things, expand the scope of what can be registered as a trademark, allowing the Registrar of Trademarks to correct errors that appear in the trademark register, and streamline and modernize the trademark application and opposition process.

My colleague, the member for Toronto Centre, the Liberal Party critic, has done a wonderful job ensuring that the Liberal Party was well represented at the committee stage, getting and providing positive feedback. On occasion, she did propose amendments. Unfortunately, the government did not see the merits of the amendments, which were ultimately defeated. It is somewhat sad to see, given the importance of the legislation, that the government did not allow amendments to pass, whether Liberal or New Democratic.

Yesterday, I was talking about the importance of the committee stage and how we can improve legislation by bringing forward amendments. One of the things we have noticed with the majority Conservative government is that its attitude toward amendments in committee is not positive at all. The government seems to be of the opinion that unless an amendment originates from a Conservative member of Parliament, or more particularly, from the ministry or the Prime Minister's office, that amendment should not pass. That seems to be a general rule that applies to all pieces of legislation, which is most unfortunate given the importance of trying to pass good, solid legislation.

The idea and principle behind legislation going to the committee stage is one of allowing members to participate and be engaged in the process. If members feel they have something to contribute they can bring forward amendments, either on their behalf or behalf of their political party, as the Liberal Party critic attempted to do.

There are a number of things that are worthy of noting. In terms of the actual cost, the RCMP has increased, virtually fivefold since 2005 to 2012, the number of seizures that have taken place. As members can appreciate, we are talking about millions of dollars' worth of product. This really emphasizes the degree to which the RCMP, if they are engaged on the file, are finding that much more counterfeit product being recognized.

We know there is a great deal of counterfeit product coming in through the Internet. There are many different ways in which one could sell product over the Internet. At the end of the day, we suspect there is a great deal of counterfeit product being sold through the Internet. We challenge the government to be more proactive in regard to that particular issue. As an example, I made reference to the Winnipeg Jets. Once could also talk about other consumer products.

The other day someone brought this issue to my attention with regard to purses. If one were to go into some of the more upscale commercial facilities, purses sell in the neighbourhood of $400 to $600. They can be very expensive. Copies provided by someone who is prepared to infringe on copyright and provide a duplicate that is incredibly close to the original are sold for a fraction of the cost. There might be a retail value on a certain type of purse at the upper end, somewhere around $450 to $500, but through unethical organizations or business individuals, they can produce that purse at a substantially lower cost and then undersell the retailer. Instead of $450, they might be able to sell that same look-alike purse for $30 to $40 and still make a substantial profit. These are the types of things we need to be aware of. As more and more consumers look to the Internet to acquire goods, I suspect this is going to be a larger problem going forward.

Today through our border officers and customs agents, we get a great deal of commercial activity. One of the areas that is really growing is the Internet. This is something the government has fallen short on in terms of providing some sort of assurance or protection for copyrighted material.

It is also important for us to recognize that even though the legislation is a step forward in the right direction, as I have tried to emphasize, it could have done so much more. One of the things I want to emphasize is that even though there is more power going to our Canada border control, we need to put that into perspective in terms of what the government has done in recent budgets in terms of cutbacks to border control and customs offices.

On the one hand, we recognize there is a problem with copyright and trademark infringements. A major aspect of that problem comes from international borders where product comes in or is leaving, which is growing every day. On the other hand, we have a government that is reducing the resources that are being allocated at our borders.

I have a difficult time with that. There is a larger problem and it continues to grow. The government responds by saying it has legislation, Bill C-8, which is its attempt to deal with the problem. Conservatives present it and try to appease the different stakeholders by saying they brought in the legislation to deal with this issue, but on the other hand, they did not provide the proper resources for our customs officers and border control people to provide the types of assurances through checks, and so forth, that show we are serious about dealing with it, that we are compensating product and ensuring there is a consequence to those who are trying to illegally bring in material for resale purposes.

Yes, it is great to see that we have legislation before us today and it is a step in the right direction, but we should not try to give false impressions because the legislation is only one aspect of this. The other aspect is to ensure that we provide additional resources to our law enforcement agencies. This is where the government has really fallen short.

As I indicated, the Liberal Party has some concerns with regard to the legislation. We recognize the need to provide new enforcement tools to help strengthen Canada's existing enforcement regime for counterfeit goods. We believe that the Canadian business and industry associations must be protected to ensure the well-being of those domestic businesses and the health and safety of Canadians, as well as the integrity of the Canadian economy as a whole. When we make reference to the issue of health and safety, this is something that quite often gets overlooked.

Whether it is medication or something that might be used for prescriptions, there are many products being brought into Canada, and we do not know if those products are safe for use.

I have emphasized that the Liberal Party would like to investigate how e-commerce may provide a loophole for counterfeit products. That is why I have suggested that the government has missed an opportunity where there may be great deal of potential abuse. I suggest that the government might want to reconsider.

Border officers are not copyright experts. They do their best, and we must compliment them on the fantastic job they do. Having said that, they would be given new and increased powers that are not overseen by courts, which may lead to some illegitimate seizures and violations of the Charter of Rights. To what degree has that been taken into consideration?

There are several further concerns that have been raised. If there are more seizures due to increased powers for border officers and the RCMP, how will the government fund these extensive investigative operations? Should genuine non-counterfeit products be seized and destroyed, how will the government compensate companies and individuals that might have been exploited? Moreover, how will the government protect the information of legitimate importers from potential misuse of the request-for-assistance mechanism? How will the government determine whether importers of counterfeit products are aware that products are counterfeit? These are the types of questions that have been raised. We have found that the government has been wanting in terms of providing the answers.

Why are there no provisions for counterfeit goods being shipped through Canada? That is a bit of a surprise. The legislation does not seem to deal with that issue. We know that counterfeit products will come into Canada and ultimately leave Canada. How big the problem is, it is hard to say. To what degree do we have products coming into Canada, being labelled as coming from Canada, and being sent to other regions? These are legitimate concerns.

There is so much one could say about this particular bill. However, at the end of the day, it is about protecting Canada's economy and ensuring that we bring in legislation that enhances our economic activity. This is something that is important to the Liberal Party as we strive to ensure that the middle class is given the opportunity to grow and prosper. Legislation of this nature, if it is done properly, will actually protect jobs. It will ensure that Canadians are healthy and that the products they are acquiring are legitimate products from the original manufacturers.

If I pay a price believing that I have acquired something that is under trademark or copyright, I would like to think that this is what I am receiving. The Government of Canada has a role to play in that.

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

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the member could provide a response with regard to the whole issue of the aviation industry. The first part of the legislation deals with liability insurance for the aviation industry in the belief that there are situations in which a plane might go down because of a terrorist attack or something of that nature. The idea is that the government needs to do something to protect the industry.

What are the member's thoughts with regard to that aspect of the legislation?

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

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could provide some comment with regard to the issue of liability insurance on the first aspect of the legislation, which deals with aviation industry participants. There is a great deal of concern that it was necessary for the government to get directly involved. This stems back from 9/11, where acts of war and so forth may see a plane go down. It deals with that in part.

I wonder if there is a position that the NDP is taking on that particular issue.

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

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Charlottetown brings up a good point, which is that the member is maybe stretching a bit here. I suspect the reason he might be stretching is because he is a little nervous. That is just a hypothesis on my part. I do not know for sure.

However, I would suggest, as I did about 15 minutes ago, that even when the Liberal Party was in government, it might not have been a perfect system, but there were efforts from previous Liberal administrations to take a more holistic approach at delivering a safer environment for all rail, air and marine transportation. The Liberal Party has taken this very seriously in the past and will continue to do so into the future.

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

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about safety, there is an element of rail safety within the legislation. It is an important issue for many Canadians.

If the member wants to downplay railway safety, that is fine. He can choose to do that. We recognize that within our transportation industry, we need to take safety into consideration, not only marine but also railway and sky. I would be a bit disappointed if he does not recognize the value that we have put forward.

Regarding liability insurance, I have heard all sorts of extremes. I have heard members of his caucus talk about having $38 billion to cover potential liabilities for offshore oil. Imagine if that NDP policy had been put in place. What impact would that have had on the development of oil out in the Atlantic Ocean?

The whole issue of insurance liability is very serious and it should not be taken lightly, because it does have a lot to do with our environment, our economy, jobs and so forth. The member tries to poke a bit of fun here and there, but at the end of the day, this is a serious issue and the legislation could have been improved. Even though I was not at that committee, the NDP did not get one amendment passed either.

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

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport will say, for example, that the government has spent about $100 million on safety since 2009, but what is important is that we put that in perspective. It sounds like a big number, except that it spent $600 million on advertising over the same years, which is unbelievable. It spent $550 million on outsourced legal fees. Therefore, we need to put things in the proper context.

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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments with regard to it now being at third reading versus second reading. It is very important that we pay attention as government bills are being called. Believe it or not, I do make some mistakes, and my apologies to members of the House if I might have given the impression that it was second reading. It is, in fact, third reading.

Having said that, I still believe that it is important to look at our current situation. There are many needs with regard to improving the system. When the Liberals were in government, did we have a perfect system? Likely not, but some significant improvements were made at that time. I suspect that in time, hopefully, the current government will be replaced, and we will once again have a more progressive government that will be able to look at the bigger picture in safety

Although I was hoping there would have been some amendments, I do not think there would have been, and that would tell me that there were lost opportunities. I am sure I will hear in questions whether there were amendments passed.

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

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues is that, when we adjourn debates, quite often what ends up happening is that we are in a situation where we will have the start of second reading on a particular bill only to find out that we might not actually have the continuation of that debate for weeks or months.

This is one of the problems in terms of the whole issue. I have talked about this in the past. I will just talk a little about the process. We do need to have more co-operation amongst parties inside the chamber. That would allow for a more even flow of the legislative agenda.

Then if we had a priority bill, it would be brought back within a few days, as opposed to having to wait for months. I think that is what has happened with this particular bill. The bill was brought in, and I do not have the actual date in front of me but if I were to speculate, my best guesstimate would be that it was likely several months ago when it was before the House. Then we find ourselves in the situation we are in today.

In my opening comments, if I were to give a little reflection, members would find that the principle of a bill is something in which it is always good to get more of the details. One of the advantages of the bill going to committee is the fact that we will do just that, going through the bill, listening to different stakeholders and the input they might have to provide. On any piece of legislation that would be very advantageous.

If I could provide a bit more specific information, what we are seeing in this bill is a piecemeal approach, or what we might even describe as an incoherent approach to the transportation safety policy in Canada.

When I hear about transportation safety in Canada, there is an endless number of examples and thoughts that come to mind. All I have to do is just talk about train transportation and the huge need and desire that Canadians have to deal with transportation safety, in particular with our railways.

Small things are trickling out in dribs and drabs from the government, without any comprehensive approach to transportation safety in the country to deal with many important issues. Even though I made reference to train transportation, it is important that we recognize, as this bill does, marine transportation and passenger safety, which goes beyond that.

We can look at how much Canada as a country has become urbanized. It has many train hubs, and with respect to Winnipeg, it is the CN yards out in the Symington area or the Transcona area or in my own back yard with the CP Rail expansion that has been taking place.

More and more, the quantity of goods actually being transported from coast to coast to coast using the rail lines—and the product that is in those trains and tankers—is going through major suburban and inner-city areas, all over our country.

It should be no surprise that Canadians are growing more and more concerned about the content of our trains as they go through municipalities. More specifically, what is the government actually doing to protect our communities? We are just hearing dribs and drabs.

We have a government that seems to want to react as opposed to being proactive in dealing with issues related to safety. I believe the government has a lacklustre attitude in terms of trying to provide strong and improved regulations, which would go a long way in making our communities safer.

There is an opportunity here to come up with a more coherent and comprehensive approach. To that extent, I would ask the government, particularly the minister responsible, to what degree they have consulted with the many different stakeholders.

Of course, we have the standard stakeholders within certain industries, whether it be the marine community or rail transportation. However, we should be taking into consideration the provinces, which have regulations within their provincial jurisdictions. We should be seeing what municipalities have to say. We will find throughout Canada that there are many progressive stakeholders who, if afforded the opportunity to provide direct input into the development of legislation, would be more than happy to do so. This is something I would suggest the government has not been very successful at. It is one of the reasons I believe there are so many deficiencies in the legislation.

It is critically important that when legislation passes the floor of the House of Commons and goes to committee that the government be open to listening to what is presented in committee and open to amendments. I know that has not been a highlight of the current government in terms of receiving amendments, particularly from opposition parties. Often we find that amendments brought forward by opposition parties would add strength and value to laws and regulations. I believe that is what Canadians want to see.

I believe that once we get this bill to committee, we will find ideas that will lead to potential amendments. Hopefully the government will listen and support where it can, even though the Conservatives' track record is not good. However, I am an optimistic person.

As I have suggested, we can do a lot better than this in terms of transparency, which Canadians are asking for and deserve. Even though the bill is mostly about technical amendments, the Liberal Party will be supporting the bill going to committee.

We have had some horrific accidents over the last number of years. I would suggest there are things government should have been doing to deal with some of the regulations that need to be changed.

I think of my backyard, where we have the CP tracks going through the heart of Winnipeg's north end. Common commodities such as wheat and oil and many other products are shipped.

We have seen serious devastation in communities where rail line accidents have occurred.

Bill C-3 is a bill that is mostly about technical amendments, and that is why, in principle, we will support it going through. It would have been a lot better if the government had taken a more holistic approach to improving safety on our rail lines, in our air spaces, and in our oceans.

The government of the day can choose the status quo and not come up with bold initiatives that would have an impact, but there is going to be a cost. What we have witnessed over the last number of years is a higher sense of public safety and protecting our communities, because every so often, when we hear about a rail line accident, there is a great deal of media attention.

I would suggest that we do not have to wait for accidents to occur. There is a way we can deal with it in a more proactive fashion.

Once the bill does go through the House at second reading and gets to committee, I look forward to the government having an open mind and allowing for some amendments to the legislation.

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

Mr. Speaker, I am not usually at a loss for words. I understand that I have 14 minutes left to speak. I am just not too sure about the bill you actually called. I have some notes on my desk, so could you just refer me to the specific bill?