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  • His favourite word is know.

NDP MP for Welland (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 42.20% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Agriculture and Agri-Food April 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that would ring true if indeed the Conservatives had accepted amendments rather than turning down every single one.

Clearly witness after witness said the opposite, which our amendments addressed, that the minister failed to ensure that farmers in all regions will actually get service, even though we suggested that the corridor did not get covered off. Western producers said that penalties should be collected and compensate farmers. We suggested that; they suggested no. We believe farmers are actually the ones who will suffer the losses. Yet, the minister refused to even consider that. He did not even consider the compensation in the bill itself.

When can producers expect additional action from the current government that does deal truly, once and for all, with this crisis? We would be willing to help this time, if only he would just listen.

National Garden Day Act April 8th, 2014

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-589, an act respecting a National Garden Day.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce a private member's bill that would enact a national day for gardens, which would be the Friday preceding Father's Day. One might wonder why it would be Father's Day, not Mother's Day. In discussions with horticulture societies across the country and the Canadian Horticultural Council, they have acknowledged that the horticultural industry is a billion-dollar industry across the country.

After the severe winter we have all lived through in this country, I think we would all appreciate that one of the things to look forward to would be flowers—flowers blooming in beautiful colours in gardens from coast to coast to coast across this great land of ours. This would be a way, not only to plant our own gardens, but to enjoy our neighbours' gardens as well. That is not to suggest that we should take flowers from our neighbours' gardens, unless, of course, they are offered to us as a donation to plant in our own garden to propagate it even more. This would be a way for all of us who have lived through this harsh Canadian winter to look forward to something that is truly spring-like, that truly makes us feel good, and that is actually good for our environment.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Labour April 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, over 100 workers in Niagara were left without almost $3 million in severance and termination pay when Vertis Communications closed its doors after declaring bankruptcy in the U.S. instead of here in Canada.

It has been more than a year since the last Minister of Labour agreed to take a serious look at this situation, and yet these hard-working Canadians are still being left out in the cold with no money. Can the current Minister of Labour tell this House how much longer these workers are going to have to wait before they receive just compensation from the government?

Agriculture and Agri-Food April 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, marketing freedom enables farmers to see the biggest basis spread they have ever seen in their entire lives. Over $140 million a week is going out of the pockets of farmers into the grain companies' coffers and the elevator system, and the minister says that the farmers are winners. Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, farmers are not winners. Farmers are losers in this game, and it is time the government stood up for them.

Will the minister amend the bill, and will he work with us? I have heard the story before from the minister. He says, “Just bring us your good ideas”. The last time we brought Conservatives our good ideas, they voted against every single one of them. Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, we have good ideas. I hope the minister and his committee will actually listen to them.

Agriculture and Agri-Food March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the farmers, as we know, are getting frustrated across the prairie provinces because of the minister's failure to do his homework. He rammed through changes to the Canadian Wheat Board, calling it “marketing freedom”. They are free to lose $140 million a week is exactly what farmers are free to do now, and there is chaos throughout the system. Even the CEO of CN says that the lack of coordination across the supply chain is one of the biggest causes of the grain transportation crisis, and the minister is still trying to speed through a new bill that even his Conservative colleagues are saying needs to be amended.

Will the minister now do the right thing and fix this bill?

Meat Inspection Act March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on the bill introduced by my friend and colleague, a bill dealing with horse slaughter.

The Liberal Party just wants to make slaughter a better thing, a safer thing. The bill, for all intents and purposes, would end slaughter in this country.

That may have been the unintended consequence of the bill, because while the bill actually says that horses have to be raised for slaughter and have a passport, in this country we really do not have anybody who raises horses for slaughter. There are some who are on the edges of it, but it is unlike the beef industry, in which that is the entire industry. There are some who do some slaughter, but primarily horses are not raised for that. Most are raised for other purposes, whether for racing or for recreational use. Quite often kids get involved in riding horses, and sometimes adults get involved in racing horses later on in life.

There is an industry in this country. There are concerns about bute, and those are legitimate concerns. In fact, the CFIA takes those concerns very seriously, to the extent that bute is listed as a controlled substance. It has made sure it is not allowed. The evidence on bute is clear. No one argues that. I do not think anyone in this House would argue that.

People are basically saying that those are the rules, and it should not happen. There are some folks who may not be complying, and at the end of the day the authorities and the regulatory bodies are supposed to make sure they catch them. They are supposed to look at the industry to make sure that it does not happen.

The general accounting office in the United States has done a study. The U.S. did not actually ban horse slaughter. Quite often those in Canada who oppose horse slaughter say that the U.S. has banned horse slaughter, but it actually did not. What Congress did was withdraw funding to the USDA for inspections. Consequently, since the industry did not have a federal inspector, it could not export the meat, which is similar to this country.

Therefore, since the market for slaughtered horsemeat was primarily an export market and not an internal market, the facilities were shut down. It was not because it was banned, and it is still not banned in the U.S., but simply because it had to be done somewhere else, so then the horses were transported here.

The general accounting office in the U.S. did a study in the last while that examined horse welfare across country from the time the slaughterhouses closed until now. The study came to the conclusion that it has gone into decline. There are more horses being abandoned. There are more horses that are simply mistreated and are not being fed as much.

Those horses that are now being abandoned would have gone to a slaughter facility. I recognize a lot of folks do not necessarily like that the end of a horse's life, which may not be its natural life, is in a slaughter facility. I think one has to understand that there is a bit of cycle to this when it comes to horses, and indeed this has been going on for a long time.

The proponents of the bill, those who defend it, are saying it is a health and safety concern. There is no question that legislation is in place already about health and safety concerns. We still have regulations about transport, about how horses should be slaughtered, and about the types of drugs being used and whether they are or are not allowed.

Ultimately, this industry exists in this country and is regulated under the CFIA. People are engaged in this industry. In some folks' eyes, it may not be a particularly nice thing that is happening. I would suggest that if people have ever been to a slaughter facility, they would know that most of it is not nice. Their sensibilities probably would be upset by it, and correctly so. However, at the end of the day we do slaughter animals.

The Canadian equine association is the major umbrella group for horse owners, whether their horses are shown in an arena jumping or used for commercial purposes or for horse racing. The Canadian equine association opposes the bill, and I think correctly so.

It does not believe that it enhances the value of existing legislation for food safety. It does not believe that the welfare of horses in Canada will improve, and it thinks there are serious implications for Canadian horse owners who move horses interprovincially. Clearly, the group that is engaged with horse owners and the horse industry across Canada is saying that this is not a helpful bill. I think they are right. I think they are headed in the right direction.

Yes, we can always do better with inspections to make sure that horses in auction houses have correct documentation that is lined up properly so that the CFIA and inspectors can ensure that we do not get another story like the one we saw in the paper, because they are always the one-offs. Thousands of horses go through the system. There is always a one-off, such as a horse being purchased only 24 hours or two or three days earlier, when the owner has attested to a six-month certificate. When those folks are found out, their licences have to be removed. If they are caught egregiously breaking the law and the rules, they have to be dealt with. There are things in place to make sure that actually happens.

Ultimately, this is a bill that for all intents and purposes would end horse slaughter in Canada. Unfortunately, when one reads the restrictive practices in the bill, it says “must” be this and that. In other words, it must be only horse slaughter they are raised for and they must have a passport. It does not say “or”. If it said “or”, perhaps there would be an opportunity. However, it does not. Therefore the majority of horses that have been used in some sort of commercial activity or recreational activity would be abandoned over time, because folks would say that they do not want that horse anymore. If no one wanted to buy it, they would abandon it.

Horses are expensive. Many people buy horses thinking that they are nice animals, and they are. Many of us look at them and think they are majestic. They almost seem to feel what we are thinking. There is that closeness with a horse that perhaps one does not have with a chicken. Then again, the mayor of my municipality many years ago judged bantam chickens. He loved those multi-coloured bantam chickens. He loved those animals, much more than many of us in the House or across the country would think.

Folks' attachment to animals varies greatly from one group to another. For some, it is domestic cats or dogs. For some,it is snakes, and for others, it is horses. I can sympathize with the sensibilities around horses, but one cannot lose sight of what we are trying to attain. The end result of this bill would be to end horse slaughter. It would not be an unintended consequence. It would be the intended consequence. The GAO in the U.S. has said that the unintended consequence of shutting down the facilities, not banning them, is that for horses, life has become worse.

I find myself in a strange position, as the critic for agriculture on this side, having to disagree with my good friend from British Columbia Southern Interior. I will not be able to support the bill at second reading.

Agriculture and Agri-Food March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is clearer than ever that the government does not get the seriousness of the grain shipment crisis. We know they are $8 billion short for farmers and more than a day late.

The Minister of Transport now actually admits that this year's crop is not going to get moved before next year's crop. There are 20-million-plus tonnes on the ground in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta, and yet the Conservatives' new bill has failed to increase the amount they are going to move. No extra grain will get moved beyond what the order in council said. They have not increased fines to make sure that farmers would actually get the money. They have wasted a huge opportunity.

Will the minister now go back and really get the legislation right this time? The Conservatives tried once before and failed miserably. Can they get it right this time?

Agriculture and Agri-Food March 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, let us see. What would be the concern of farmers in the western prairies? There are millions of tonnes lying on the ground, there is $140 million out of their pockets every single week, there are 70,000 rail cars missing in a system that should have had them by now, and of course the minister says, “Well, just trust us. It will all get better. Wait for it. We will get there”.

We need to make sure that the money goes back into the pockets of farmers across the country because what the minister has done is taken it out of their pockets and delivered it to someone else. Will the minister agree that what needs to happen is that it is farmers who need to be compensated during this crisis and because of this crisis, and not the government?

Agriculture and Agri-Food March 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the grain shipment crisis continues, with the system still short of over 70,00 rail car. It is impacting businesses across the country.

Flour mills in eastern Canada are running critically low on supplies of high-quality western Canadian wheat. In fact, some mills have had to suspend operations.

The situation has not improved since the government's emergency order three weeks ago. It is a simple question: when will the minister take action to address the crisis, ensure that farmers are going to be properly compensated for their losses, and get grain moving not only across the world but across the country?

Agriculture and Agri-Food March 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the new-found freedom is that Davidson's price, in Saskatchewan, is $4.39, and the port of Vancouver's price is $11.69. I guess the question is, who made the money in between? It was not farmers.

The fines proposed by this minister are far too low. Worse still, the money goes to the new Minister of Finance. It is not the government that should be compensated for the grain backlog; it is farmers.

Why does the minister not agree with New Democrats that the fines should be bigger, and that the money being collected should not go to the government but to farmers, who have been suffering on the Prairies—