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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

Care for Veterans November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today. I think it is very timely that this particular motion is before us, as we have had Canada's Auditor General bring down a fairly condemning report on the government's actions, or lack thereof, in regard to our veterans.

In question period today, the leader of the Liberal Party said it quite well. I would like to repeat the actual question. It highlights the deficiencies of the current government and the need for it to acknowledge that there is room for improvement on the veterans file.

This is the first question my leader posed to the Prime Minister earlier today. He said, “we have a sacred obligation to our veterans, but too many are struggling, alone, against mental illness. The Auditor General has concluded that the current government is failing them. Since 2006, there are 128 veterans who have waited three to seven years to find out if they even qualify for mental health benefits. How could the Prime Minister let this happen?”

In the second question my leader put forward, again to the Prime Minister, he said, “in the past decade, we have lost more men and women in uniform to suicide than we did in Afghanistan. The Auditor General's report said that mental health support for our veterans is very slow, complex, poorly communicated, not tracked, and not comprehensive enough. Why would the Prime Minister deliberately underspend over a billion dollars in veterans funding?”

These are two statements that we, as an opposition party, levelled at the Prime Minister today. If people want to get an understanding of the response we got from the Prime Minister, they only need to read Hansard.

The government is in complete denial in terms of the disservice to our veterans by not maintaining its commitment through budgetary means.

I believe that as a caucus, eight of our nine questions dealt with this very important issue today during question period, which followed the Auditor General's report.

Veterans are seeking long-term mental health support, but they are not being given that support in a timely fashion. Access to the programs and services veterans need are of critical importance, yet the government is not giving the type of response that is necessary. Far too many veterans are forced to wait in excess of eight months to access benefits.

As my colleague, the critic for Veterans Affairs, has pointed out, virtually one in five, which is 20% of our veterans, are having to wait months on end. That is just not acceptable. With what we ask our military personnel to do, it is not acceptable for us to deliver that kind of service.

The report concluded that Veterans Affairs is largely unconcerned with how well veterans are being served and whether programs are even making a difference in their lives. The Conservative government has been unable to establish the effectiveness of mental health services for veterans. Current funding for veterans' mental health is stretched and widely insufficient.

We have consistently asked that the government invest more resources in terms of mental illness among our veterans. There is so much more we could be doing.

The government says that it has record numbers of positions, but if those positions are not not filled, there is no record number. There is record high demand for services that the government has not been able to meet.

Consider that $1.13 billion, some hundreds of millions of dollars, has been left unspent since 2006. At the same time, the Conservatives spent $740 million on, I would ultimately argue, political, self-serving advertising. They are indeed selling our veterans short.

It is interesting when Conservatives try to give the impression that they have done our veterans a service by closing down service centres across Canada. After all, the member implied that those were not being utilized and that there are Legions where veterans can go to get the service they might require.

That is just wrong. The outreach service centres that were opened in communities like Brandon and others in different regions of our country were providing a very valuable service to Canadians.

When the Conservatives tried to give the impression that they needed to do that to save costs, among other things, only for us to then find out that they had underspent by hundreds of millions of dollars, it was fairly tough to understand and appreciate.

The Conservatives have fallen short in delivering the critical services our veterans require. At the same time, they have not been able to spend the money that was allocated. Those nine VAC centres were closed, yet we are still aware of many veterans who are still waiting for case workers. As the leader of the Liberal Party pointed out, we have a sacred obligation to our veterans. I have heard that consistently, whether from the critic of the Liberal Party or the leader of the Liberal Party and others. On Remembrance Day when we had individuals from each political party stand in their place, the member for Guelph in particular talked about that sacred obligation and the sacrifices that are being made.

The Conservatives are not upholding that covenant that we have with our men and women of the Canadian Forces. My colleague has already had the opportunity to put some words on the record, indicating that in principle we support what is being talked about in the motion, but it would be wrong for us not to recognize the many inefficiencies of the government in delivering the critically important services our veterans deserve.

We are hoping in this debate that when it comes to a vote, the government members will reflect on what has taken place over the last couple of years. When the government comes up with a couple of hundred million dollars, it is just too little, too late, and there is so much more that we could have and should have been doing.

I appreciate and thank you for the opportunity to say a few words, Mr. Speaker.

Veterans Hiring Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, regarding the bill itself, we recognize some of the best examples, such as Commissionaires Manitoba, and those who hire individuals who have retired from the forces. There is a great asset there, and members of our forces bring that to the table. That is really what the bill is about in terms of the government. However, it is interesting that the government is laying off tens of thousands of civil servants while promoting this particular bill.

I will push that to the side because the member wants to focus on the massive cuts, which is what it is. He stands up and can put all the colour that he wants to it, but the bottom line is that the government has cut services to veterans through offices all across the country, and at the same time hundreds of millions dollars were lapsed and not spent.

My question to the member is very specific. He cannot tell this House that people were not using that office, because that would be wrong. People were using the office. Why does he believe that the Prime Minister chose to make those cuts to services for veterans at the same time that it was not spending hundreds of millions of dollars?

Veterans Hiring Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I know that the member is a very strong advocate for her community on a wide variety of issues. She is obviously very passionate about our veterans.

She makes reference to the offices that have been closed. At the same time, we find out the government has held back spending money for veterans to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Could the member provide comment?

Presence in Gallery November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Last week the Minister of Employment and Social Development, the member for Wild Rose and the member for Peace River made allegations in the House about the Liberal candidate for Banff—Aidrie that we now know are untrue.

I would kindly ask these members to rise in their place to withdrew these remarks.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the importance of what we are talking about in regard to a park.

There is an obligation on the government to work with the different stakeholders. It was very clear that not only did the government not listen to the stakeholders, but when it had an opportunity at committee stage to try to improve upon the bill, the government once again refused to do that.

It is unfortunate, given the importance that Canadians put on our national parks, that the government lost the opportunity to provide government action that Canadians would support. The reason we believe the government has failed is that it has not worked with the people who are important to work with, whether those are the grassroots organizers of the park, the volunteers, or different levels of other governments. The member might want to comment on that.

Petitions November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today I table a petition with respect to Canada's super visa, for individuals who want to be able to come to Canada as a tourist or to visit with family and friends. The petitioners would like to see it become more accessible and affordable.

It is a petition that I truly support and think that the House should adopt.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I do not feel obligated to defend the New Democratic amendments, but if we look at the government's record on amendments, no one would be surprised to know that it is very rare for amendments to be approved. It might have approved one or two since it formed a majority government.

I want to focus on the bill. We in the Liberal Party understand and appreciate many of the needs our farmers have and why it is important that we take a step forward. This legislation deals with a number of acts. It is not just one focus, even though the member across the way focused on one aspect of the legislation.

There is no doubt that we need to recognize the valuable economic and social impact our farming community, our agriculture sector, plays in our economy. We want it to grow.

The question I have for the member is not that far off from the previous question. Does the member not recognize that, yes, this as a whole is good legislation, but it could have been that much better for our farmers had the government listened to what the stakeholders, in particular our farmers, across the country had to say, which could have improved upon the legislation?

Would the member comment on why the government not only rejected the NDP amendments but also Liberal amendments and some good ideas that came from the stakeholders?

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member heard from his constituents, as I did from mine, concerns expressed regarding UPOV '91. The government attempted to deal with those concerns at the committee stage and brought forward an amendment. I will say that in good part, they have been dealt with.

I wonder if the member can indicate whether his party still has any concerns in regard to that specific area, or does he believe the government was able to adequately address them?

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member made reference to UPOV '91. UPOV '91 has generated some considerable concern over the impact it might have on third world countries.

My question is for the member. In his last response, he seemed to be sensitive to some of those concerns, and I am wondering if the member might want to expand on what he believes are some of the concerns in regard to UPOV '91.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, whether one is a farmer on the Prairies or in the provinces of Quebec or Ontario, there is a sense that we need to make legislative changes that would enable farmers to, for example, compete in the world market going forward. There is no doubt from the presentations made by farmers and other stakeholders in committee that there is a need to make several changes. The NDP and the Liberals brought forward amendments, and ideas were generated from stakeholders at the committee stage.

My question for the member is related to the overall package before us today. It seems to me that most farmers would be supportive of this bill, albeit feeling concern over many different areas and desiring to see some amendments.

Are there specific amendments that the NDP was proposing at the committee stage that the member would have liked to have seen pass, as a minimum, that would have allowed for her party to support the legislation?