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Crucial Fact

  • 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

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the member's last comments with regard to international leadership. The government has been able to demonstrate leadership on that file. My question is related to the fact that Canada played such a strong leadership role during the 1990s in terms of the land mines treaty. Not only did the Ottawa land mines treaty originate in Ottawa but it was then ratified during Jean Chrétien's era. Liberals demonstrated very clear leadership. Not only did we sign it off, but it was passed through the House unanimously, from what I understand.

My question is this. Does the member recognize that the government has not been able to get unanimous support from the House of Commons, which demonstrates a deficiency, and it also took so many years to bring it before us in the House today?

Committees of the House June 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the almost standing ovation from the NDP caucus for the member's speech. We can see that they are quite excited about this issue. However, one could ask why they would not be as excited about the numerous other agenda items that are before us, and the many other concurrence reports.

That is not to take anything away from the issues of the environment and conservation. Those are very important issues, and I do not question that. I enjoy the opportunity to debate on a wide variety of issues, including this one. However, in going through the many concurrence reports, there are a number of them that are very significant. I would love to see more discussion and debate on concurrence.

When we think about the environment and conservation, and when it comes to ranking priorities, I wonder if the NDP members feel that this particular motion of concurrence would have been a good opportunity to talk about a very topical issue in Canada today, which is the northern gateway pipeline. Is this something that we should try to facilitate more debate on here today, given the impact it would have on our environment?

Conservationists are very concerned about this issue. However, I could not help but notice, given how big an issue it is, that the member did not make any reference to it and the impact that it has on conservation here in Canada. The member might want to provide some feedback on pipelines.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member demonstrates that, if one talks enough, sometimes one is bound to say some things right.

I do not have the bill in front of me at this present time. What I can tell the member is that there were fairly detailed explanations within the convention that was signed off on.

When we take a look at the legislation that we have today, we see the government is providing its own personal interpretation as to what it believes is necessary, and it feels it is in compliance with the convention that it signed off on.

I believe, as the Liberal Party believes, as I understand the New Democrats and the Green Party believe, that in fact its interpretation is wrong. That is one of the reasons why there were amendments moved.

The government has not been able to justify not accepting those amendments. That is the reason why it is not going to get the type of support as when we had the land mines treaty being ratified.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the best way to answer that is to demonstrate contrast.

The best way to demonstrate the contrast in this issue is to compare the land mines agreement to cluster munitions. With the land mines, what we had is Ottawa leading the charge. It became the Ottawa treaty. We had countries around the world signing on and then ratifying it. Canada did likewise. This was done in a very timely fashion. It was done in a very effective way. Then we had a minister of foreign affairs who went around talking about why Canada did what it did.

Let us contrast that to Bill C-6, formerly Bill S-10, before that, just waiting on the back burner, even though it was signed off on in 2008. The only time we hear the government talking about it is when it periodically shows up for debate late at night.

Do members not think that other nations around the world recognize the difference between the two? We lost the opportunity, because we set the bar high in the late 1990s. Now the bar is a whole lot lower.

I am going to suggest that the government has dropped the ball on this. It would have been an excellent opportunity to demonstrate strong international leadership.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I talk a lot about leadership and how it is lacking on many different fronts. This is yet another one of those files where I do believe that the government has made a mistake.

All we need to do is take a look at when the agreement itself was signed. We are talking about 2008. How difficult would it have been for the government to have brought this in four or five years ago? Not in its current format, but in a modified format, four or five years ago in itself would have demonstrated more leadership on the file.

The leader of the Green Party does make some valid suggestions about other things that we could have done to complement and to enhance.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as I started off with in my comments, I genuinely believe that all members of Parliament here in the House today recognize the type of collateral damage that cluster munitions cause and that, if it were up to all members in the House, this weaponry would not exist anywhere in the world.

I am appealing for us to look at the convention that we signed and ask the question, does the current legislation really reflect what is being asked of us, in terms of what we had agreed to and what we had signed?

I believe that we have not met the challenge of the agreement that we signed. That is why I am suggesting that, ultimately, for us to be able to do that, we need to get the government to recognize that it still is not too late to make the modifications that would allow us to demonstrate that leadership that we should be demonstrating.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to express a few thoughts on what the Government of Canada could have and maybe should have been doing to say to the rest of the world that Canada wants to play a strong leadership role in an area where there is a great deal of concern. That opportunity has been somewhat lost through the way the government has brought forward flawed legislation.

I approach the discussion as a member who served in the Canadian Forces. It was not necessarily through my direct service that I acquired experience. It was more from things that occurred indirectly. As members of the forces, we are quite often required to get out and meet with veterans. I served during the 1980s, when there were a significant number of World War II veterans. Some members might be aware that cluster bombs were first used in the Second World War. They were used by the Germans.

I have had many discussions with World War II veterans in my capacity as a member of the Canadian Forces. Unlike what we might see in movies that glamorize war to a certain degree, there are a great number of horror stories.

These are real people. We thank God for them, and we compliment them for their bravery and all the freedoms they have garnered for us. However, the war and its impact on the lives of those who directly fought in it is profound.

The types of weapons that were used will have had a significant impact on the veterans' views. We talked about D-Day. They were getting off landing craft and charging onto a beach with their brothers falling to their left and right as they ploughed their way through all sorts of war machinery and ammunition being aimed at them.

Something that can be gained by reflecting on our past actions and wars. Weapons have caused so much collateral damage that we would find that veterans and current members of the regular forces and the reserve forces would have strong opinions about the issue we are talking about this evening. I have often made reference to some of the horror stories that are out there. I can assure members that there is no lack of opinions among members of our forces.

I made the assertion that I believe that no member in the chamber is going to advocate the benefits of this type of weapon. It should never be glorified in any fashion whatsoever. We recognize the harm that has been done by this type of munition.

When I stand to speak to Bill C-6, a number of things come to my mind. The first is getting people to realize what cluster munitions are. A bomb can come from the ground or from a plane. In essence, it is a hollow shell that will open and within the cavity will be anywhere from a half-dozen up to 2,000-plus munitions that are designed to explode, but not necessarily once they hit the ground. There are all sorts of different types of cluster bombs. Sometimes a cluster bomb will release its contents and as it hits the ground, there will be a massive explosion that will cover the size of a football field. Anything within that perimeter will be virtually destroyed. That includes the loss of lives and limbs and horrendous destruction.

What we do not necessarily appreciate is that when those 2,000 little explosive devices hit the ground, a high percentage never explode. We are not talking about two or three or four; we are talking about hundreds. As some people have referenced, they are not necessarily obvious bombs that someone who is walking in a field would notice and know was a bomb.

Let us say that 2,000 are dropped. Some would estimate that as many as 400 to 600 would not be set off. Even after the war has come to an end, 400 to 600 little bombs from one cluster bomb could be waiting to be set off. That is why in countries where there are no active wars, there is still destruction and the loss of life and limbs. The bombs are still in the fields and have never been set off or found. It is a very costly venture, after a war, to identify the areas where there is a high concentration of cluster bombs and to send a workforce to clear the ground.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that we came up with the resources to send in massive numbers of well-protected people and machinery to identify and dispose of those hundreds of thousands of little bombs. We would not get all of them. Thousands would remain, even if we could get the money to do the clearing that many believe is absolutely essential. It is exceptionally costly, and in reality, for many of the countries that have this issue, they just do not have the resources to deal with it.

As a result, what ends up happening is that someone farming in a field or a child playing in a field will find a bomb that has not gone off. Then there is yet another horror story. We know that when they are set off from the ground or from an aircraft that the damage is indiscriminate. They do not discriminate between civilians and military personnel, or children and people in their thirties or well into their sixties. They affect everyone. In fact, during World War II, when the Germans first used cluster bombs, they were not designed to attack just the military. They were meant to cause damage to both the military and civilians, and they were exceptionally effective.

These bombs are designed to kill personnel and destroy vehicles. There is a high level of recognition around the world of how destructive these bombs can be. As a result, there was a Convention on Cluster Munitions. It took place in Ireland in 2008.

I have suggested that the Government of Canada had an opportunity to play a strong international leadership role on what is a very important issue. Unfortunately, it has fallen short in two ways. First, it has not approached this issue in a timely fashion. Remember, this agreement was signed back in 2008, and here we are in 2014. One could question why it took the government so long to bring forward this legislation.

Well over 100 states signed the cluster munitions convention. Approximately 80 of them, maybe a little more, have actually ratified it. Canada was one of the countries that signed, but we still have not ratified it. One would have thought that Canada was in a wonderful position to demonstrate that we understand the need to deal with the issue in a tangible way.

I have had the opportunity to raise this in some of the questions and answers. This is the second part that I am making reference to. That is the loss of opportunity to demonstrate international leadership. I made reference to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.

The similarities are amazing in terms of how countries from around the world came together in 1997 and this took place here in Ottawa. It is known as the Ottawa treaty. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and someone I am very proud of, local Manitoba member of Parliament Lloyd Axworthy who was the minister of foreign affairs at the time, went out of their way trying to make something happen. It is interesting that shortly after that Mr. Axworthy was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize because of his efforts.

In the late nineties, Canada was able to demonstrate very strong tangible leadership on this and it had an impact. Yes, there are some countries around the world that still have not signed on and ratified, or chosen not to be a part of it, but we did. I am not 100% sure of this, and I suspect if I am wrong my colleagues across the way and my friends in the NDP will quickly point it out, but I believe that there was likely unanimous support at the time here in the House for that. If I am wrong on that point I would ask that members raise the issue in the form of a question.

The difference is that members recognized back then the importance of the issue and how we were able to not only develop the issue and get countries around the world to sign on and ultimately ratify it, but we were also able to get the necessary legislative requirements in Ottawa to ratify it. I believe that all political parties supported it at the time of its passage.

Fast forward that to today. Where are we today? If the truth be known, this is not the first time we have had the bill here. We had the first reading of Bill S-10 by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. This is not the first time we have had this legislation. I would like to think that had the government brought in the legislation and worked with the opposition, we would have been able to amend the bill before us this evening and it could have received the support of all political entities in the House. That is not going to happen because the government has chosen not to reflect what was ultimately wished for in the convention Canada signed on to in 2008.

I would challenge the government to recognize that we are still not too late, that with the right political will, we can make the changes that would in fact make Canada once again demonstrate good, solid, sound leadership. That is the challenge I would leave to the government.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I suspect there is not a member in the House who supports the need for cluster bombs, or anything like that sort of munition, in our arsenal.

It is important for us to recognize the horrific nature of cluster munitions. There is no specific target. Quite often, it is the most vulnerable in society that are most affected by its use. After initially being dropped, a high percentage of it never goes off. It just sits in the fields waiting to be discovered, whether it is by a farmer, a child, or others who might be coming by. There is very high percentage of civilian casualties, not to mention the loss of limbs and so forth.

I would ask the member if she might want to provide some additional comment about the horror stories and why it so important for the world to do something about this type of munition.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there was a time when Canada had a very strong international reputation for its efforts around the world. One of the examples I would cite would be the Ottawa deal with the land mines. This was when we had Jean Chrétien as prime minister and Lloyd Axworthy, from Manitoba—I will give that extra little plug for my home province—who actually initiated and put together a treaty agreement that ultimately made a significant difference around the world.

Over the last number of years Canada's leadership on the international stage has diminished. When we look at the legislation before us, I am wondering if the member would not agree that there could have and should have been amendments that would have allowed this legislation to be a whole lot better. As a result, Canada is losing the opportunity to once again demonstrate leadership on the international stage, as Lloyd Axworthy and Jean Chrétien did in the nineties.

Victims Bill of Rights Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the government House leader.

We need to acknowledge the fact that the majority Conservative government has set a record on the number of times in which time allocation has been brought in to force through its legislation. We would have said that back when the Conservatives passed time allocation 30 times. However, today, we are talking about 75 pieces of legislation where the government has brought in time allocation.

Time allocation is closure. It is designed to stop debate inside the House of Commons. It is really all about that.

With respect to wasteful time, we have literally used dozens and dozens of hours debating closure and time allocation on bills. We are talking pretty close to 100 hours just on the issue of process.

Will the government House leader acknowledge that the real reason we are dealing with this issue today is because of the government's inability, and the official opposition's inability, to negotiate a timely discussion so the legislative process can move forward, without having to implement time allocation on every bill, it would seem?