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NDP MP for Sackville—Eastern Shore (Nova Scotia)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 54.10% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Business of Supply May 9th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, when the Conservatives quote something, they take only a little sample of the quote. The rest of the Auditor General's quote was: “It's important for there to be a way for people to understand how this money was spent. And that summary reporting was not done”.
I was here during the days when Jane Stewart was the minister of HRDC, and many Conservatives were sitting right where I am now, yelling out ”boondoggle”, right across the country, over the so-called billion dollar boondoggle. In fact, the member for Calgary—Nose Hillwas on her feet literally every day for months on end over an issue that ended up being not much at all. However, now we have $3.1 billion and another $2.4 billion gone off to numbered companies without proper phones and stuff, from what we are hearing.
The reality is that this is fiscal mismanagement at its very worst. Therefore, I would like my hon. colleague, the finance critic for the NDP, to elaborate and elucidate just a bit more on why this is so bad for Canadian taxpayers and how we in the NDP, when we are in government in 2015, would change everything.
House Commons Soccer Game May 9th, 2013
I have to admit, Mr. Speaker, last night's level of violence by the youth of our country, meaning the pages of the House of Commons, to damage the nose of the member for Brossard—La Prairie and take out our best player of the soccer game was unbelievable. Our other better player had to take him to the hospital. We were down two people. It was unbelievable.
I do want to give credit to super page Sarah Brown, MVP for the pages and to the hon. member for Welland, MVP for members of Parliament.
Although we are now 11 and 5 for members of Parliament to the pages, the reality is that the pages did win the game because I, the member from Sackville—Eastern Shore, screwed up on the last penalty kick, and I humbly regret that.
Humble MPs wish to bow to the mighty pages this year and congratulate them on a fantastic victory.
On behalf of the House of Commons, I would like to thank them for their service, and God Bless.
Last Post Fund April 18th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador for bringing forward Motion No. 422. I greatly appreciate it. We do not necessarily have to go back 20 years on something, but even though I was not a politician then I remember clearly the articles written about the massive cut from $24,000 to $12,000 in terms of the eligibility rate. I hope the Liberals have learned from that mistake. With this motion, they obviously have. I will accept that as an apology for what happened 20 years ago, even though the member was much younger back then. I do not really blame her or the current party for that now.
The parliamentary secretary gave us some numbers. She talked about 1,300 veterans being helped. That is great. The problem is that by the end of this year we are going to lose over 40,000 World War II and Korean veterans due to the aging process and 1,300 of those 40,000 will have access to the funeral and burial service. Those numbers do not jive.
I said this before and I will say it again, the funeral and burial service that Canada offers its veterans is the last chance for a grateful nation to say thanks to that person and to that family for what they have done for our country. To not include modern day veterans is a travesty. It will cost money, just like Canada's economic action plan advertising costs money, just like Mike Duffy in the Senate costs money, just like everything else the Conservatives do, like the F-35 boondoggle. The Conservatives have no problem with spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their friends and their agencies. How much did they get in consulting a while ago? I believe it was something like $96,000 a day. It is insane.
We are talking about Canada's heroes, the men and women who have served our country. The fact is that unless we increase the $12,015 estate exemption many veterans will be denied this service.
I thank the government for putting in $65 million, but there is no plan in the budget. It says it will be $63 million in the first year and $2 million in the second year. I called officials with the Last Post Fund and they knew nothing about it. They were pleased but they were surprised by this. When I received a briefing from the department, officials told me the money would be rolled out over a certain period of time, that the plan would be worked on more or less as they went along. There is no plan.
We thank the government for ensuring that those who are eligible will get more money. However, my hon. colleague from Random—Burin—St. George's is correct. If we had a stand alone on this one, it would be passed immediately. In fact, we would encourage the government to take that out of the budget, accept the member's motion and move it forward. The government will not do that. The government will leave it in the budget with all the other bad things that are in it, beat us over the head and say that we voted against it, which is typical nonsense. I could list hundreds of things the Conservatives voted against when they were in opposition in the budget talks, but it is just simple nonsense.
Remembrance Day is every day for the men and women who served our country and their families, not just on November 11.
On this side of the House, we firmly believe that every veteran should have access to this program. It is quite simple for the government to reduce red tape. It just has to ensure that when every veteran passes away, they would be eligible to get this money to assist in a proper and dignified funeral services. That is the only true way we can ensure that every veteran and their family gets the respect they so rightly deserve.
It is unconscionable that the government can include this money. We do not know where the $65 million came from. Nobody really knows how that figure came about. The Conservatives say that they want to consult with the Royal Canadian Legion. With great respect to the legion, which does a great job, it is not the one that delivers the service. It is the Last Post Fund that delivers the service. One would think the government would have consulted with the Last Post Fund with respect to this additional money, but it did not do that, which shows us that this is a last minute add on which was thrown in the budget to appease the critics.
We are not criticizing the added money. We are criticizing the way it was done and the fact that many more veterans will still be denied. By the time we put our heads down tonight, we will lose another 120 World War II and Korean veterans through the aging process. They will have crossed the bar and many of those people will not have qualified for this program. That is a shame and it is a sin.
Think about that. These people have served their country with great gallantry and with great honour, and we are saying to them that they do not qualify. “No soup for you”, as they say. They will not qualify. “You might; but you do not.” On the battlefield, the enemy never said, “You are a reservist. You are a full-time guy. You make a lot of money. You do not.”
Bullets do not discriminate. PTSD does not discriminate. The reality is that the government uses all these qualifying words: if you qualify; if you are eligible; if you have a service-related injury. I knew a gentleman who passed away a few weeks ago. He had asbestosis. He got a benefit for that, but he died of a heart attack. He was denied the funeral and burial service, because his heart attack was not due to the asbestos. What kind of nonsense is that? The reality is that the man passed away. He served in the Korea War. Why do we not offer him the funeral and burial service that his family rightfully deserves so that they could send him away in a dignified and proper manner. That is what we need to be doing.
I want to assure the hon. member and her Liberal Party that we will be supporting Motion No. 422. We thank her very much for bringing this forward. There is a lot more work we need to do. I will be working very closely with her colleague from Charlottetown to make sure that the Liberal Party gets it right this time. We will assist him in any way we can, in the co-operative nature in which we do business around here, to ensure that every one of our military and RCAF veterans and their families, not just for this service but all aspects of veterans affairs, are treated with the respect and dignity they so rightfully deserve.
At the end of the day, they are the ones who allow us to have a good night's sleep. I have not had one since the original Woodstock, but that is a personal problem. Our veterans are the ones who allow us to do that. We should at least allow them to ensure that they themselves have a good night's sleep.
God bless all the veterans and their families out there.
National Defence March 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I met with those same folks from the military family resource centre.
When 158 Canadian heroes paid the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefields of Afghanistan and thousands more were injured, it was the 34 military family resource centres across the country that provided the support and transition services to the families of these Canadians heroes.
I would like the Prime Minister to stand in his place, look into those cameras and tell the people who work at the MFRCs why they must pay for the ineptitude and fiscal irresponsibility of this government.
National Defence March 18th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the reality is that in Nova Scotia alone, we are looking at a 27% cut to military family resource centres, as Halifax and Cape Breton will be facing a shortfall of over $300,000. In fact, one Mike Duffy equals the cost of the cut to military family resource centres. These Conservatives will stand up for a Mike Duffy, but they will sit down when it comes to military family resource centres.
Why do these family centres, which look after the families of our heroes of our country, have to face the brunt of this government, when it comes to its fiscal mistakes, on the backs of these people?
Veterans March 4th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to offer sincere condolences for the police officer who was killed in Kuujjuaq and to the other officer who was shot. Hopefully he will recover very soon.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage is aware of my question. Richard Caissie of Courtenay, B.C., a CF veteran, asked for his personal medical files and said that he received two personal medical files of two other veterans.
When will Richard Caissie receive his files, because he has not yet received them, will he apologize for that error and what about protecting the privacy of all our veterans and military personnel in our country?
Black History Month February 28th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, today is February 28, the end of Black History Month. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the House to never stop remembering the contributions of our black society to this great country we call Canada.
I have the proud distinction of representing the fantastic community of Preston, Nova Scotia, Canada's largest indigenous black population. Some of these individuals can trace their roots all the way back to Mathieu Da Costa.
There are people like the great Ovid Jackson, the Rt. Hon. Lincoln Alexander and Jean Augustine, Canada's first black individuals ever elected to the House of Commons. There are people like Custio Clayton of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, who was not completely successful at the London games but showed the class and dignity of a true Canadian, a true Dartmouthian and a true Nova Scotian in what it is like to be a man of class.
These are just two examples of the wonderful contributions that African Canadians have made to our country. I encourage every person to continue to learn the history of our proud black people of Canada.
Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act February 28th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, as with most bills, there are always certain elements that move the discussion forward, possibly in a proactive way. The unfortunate part is that we have to take the bill in its entirety. The reality is that we cannot just pick a bill and say that one part is good and the rest is not. It is sort of like a budget. There are thousands of things in it. One thing is good and the rest is bad.
The unfortunate part is that Bill C-42 has many flaws. I am not sure if they are going to be supporting the legislation, but I encourage my hon. colleague to rethink the bill, because it could be greatly improved, and we have some suggestions for how to do that.
Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act February 28th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his service. The reality is that the gentleman I spoke to was very proud of his RCMP service. What he is not proud of is the way the government is handling his pension benefits affairs when he is fighting with DVA. That is what he is angry about.
We just want to ensure that the office of the commissioner does not have over-extenuating powers and that when the men and women of the RCMP have grievances or concerns that they are able to have them addressed properly. We agree that Bill C-42 was a discussion point to open up concerns within the RCMP.
I throw the question back to my hon. colleague. Why would his government not accept any amendments that came from experts, which were passed on to us and that we passed on to the government? Why is it that he, on behalf of his government, thinks that only they have the answers when it comes to the RCMP, when the fact is that we were trying to assist and help improve Bill C-42?
Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act February 28th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to discuss concerns about Bill C-42.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with government members or anybody introducing legislation for better transparency, better accountability or better working arrangements within any department. The unfortunate part is that Bill C-42 would leave out many issues.
I have been following the RCMP and have been a fan for many years. I have been following careers and have tried, through my Veterans Affairs advocacy, to ensure that veterans of the RCMP receive the benefits they so rightly deserve.
Let us go back to how some of these things have happened. It was the current government that appointed, for the first time in my memory, a civilian to be the commissioner of the RCMP. If the Conservatives had tried to do that to the military and make a civilian the CDS, there would have been a riot and an uproar. For whatever reason, they thought it was okay that a civilian, Mr. Elliott, could look after the RCMP. Right away we could see that the rank and file RCMP members across the country were really upset. Many of them in my own riding were upset. They said that was not the way to go.
Young people join Depot and do the training and put on the yellow stripe. Probably the proudest day in many of these young men and women's lives is to wear the red serge. Maybe someone has ambitions and wishes to grow within the RCMP and maybe one day be the commissioner of the RCMP. Basically, the Conservatives said, “Don't worry about it. We're going to hire one of our friends and make him or her the commissioner of the RCMP”. That was such a wrong thing to do. It is nothing against Mr. Elliott personally. It is just that he never wore the uniform. I honestly believe that the only person who should be the commissioner of the RCMP or the CDS of the military should be someone who has actually worn the uniform at one time. That is my personal belief.
Only the Conservatives can do this. The RCMP has an organization called the Pay Council, which negotiates with government its pay and benefits for future years. In 2009, after many months of negotiation, they negotiated a 3.5% increase, which was fair in 2009. That was negotiated between the Government of Canada and the Pay Council of the RCMP. It was an agreement. On December 23, in the afternoon, an email went out from the minister's office saying that the 3.5% they had negotiated was completely off the board now and that they were getting 1.5%, end of story. It was just before Christmas. It was the Conservatives who did that, not the NDP, not the Liberals, not the Bloc, not the Greens, and not the independents. The Conservatives did that. Just before Christmas, they rolled back the pay increases of RCMP members without consultation. Just like that, it was done. Mr. Elliott said that there was nothing we could do at that time.
Also, on the desk of the former public safety minister, Mr. Stockwell Day, there was a long-standing request for members of the RCMP and their families to have access to the VIP, the veterans independence program, which is a great program for those in the military who receive it, although many of them do not. It allows members of the military and their families to stay in their homes longer as they age and require help with groundskeeping and housekeeping services. RCMP veterans have been asking for the same program for many years. What did they get from the Conservatives? They said no, even though it has been a request on the desk for many years.
The third factor in the abuse of RCMP veterans is that recently the government had to be taken to court to settle the SISIP clawback. These are pain and suffering payments. They came back. That ended up costing taxpayers $880 million, $150 million of which was interest and legal fees, which never would have had to be paid if the government had only listened in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007. Especially in 2007, before the legal proceedings started, the government could have saved an awful lot of money and a lot of aggravation on the SISIP clawback. The veterans won their case, and now those cheques will eventually be going out. We are glad that it has happened.
Did the Conservatives learn from that mistake? No. What have they done now? About 1,000 disabled RCMP veterans in the country have a lawsuit against the government on literally the exact same thing, a clawback of pain and suffering payments from their superannuation. Did the Conservatives learn from the expensive SISIP clawback legalities they went through after five years of litigation? No. Their answer is, “Take us to court”.
Given these three examples of the Conservatives' attitude toward the men and women of the RCMP, RCMP veterans and their families, it is no wonder that we on this side of the House distrust them when they bring forward legislation that is faulty at best.
We agree with the fact that there are certain elements of the RCMP that need changing, internally and structurally. We understand that, and we are willing to work with the government to see that it happens.
When my colleagues introduced amendments at the committee stage to improve the legislation, with very little discussion, the response from Conservatives was, “No, we are not accepting any opposition amendments. It is our way or the highway”.
As I said before, the justice committee was doing a justice bill. My hon. colleague from Mount Royal introduced some very relevant and important amendments that would have strengthened the bill and made it constitutionally legal in many ways. He is one of the finest human rights people in the entire world. He is one of the most respected people I know. He does not do things on the fly or willy-nilly. He is a thoughtful and intelligent person. He introduced amendments, and the Conservatives said, “No, we're not going to do it”.
It got to third reading, when amendments cannot be introduced, and all of a sudden, the government realized that maybe it should have listened to him. The bill went to the Senate, where a senator introduced amendments that were almost word for word the amendments the hon. member for Mount Royal introduced at the committee. It is incredible. What level of arrogance does the government have when it thinks that nobody in the opposition has an idea that may improve something it is bringing forward? It is incredible.
I have said for many years that it took the Liberals a long time to develop that arrogance. The Conservatives developed it very quickly, and I do not know why. Individual members of the Conservative Party are very good people. I do not know why they think they are the only ones who have all the answers. Many people came before committee and brought forward amendments that we in the opposition took from them to give the government. The answer was no.
The three examples I have given show exactly how the government treats RCMP members and their families. It is no wonder there is distrust. It is no wonder the morale among some members of the RCMP is really low.
I have been helping a veteran RCMP member for many years with his case with DVA. He lives in my riding. He said the proudest day of his life was when he put the red serge on at Depot. It was the proudest day of his life. He said the happiest day of his life was when he took it off. What did the RCMP or the government at the time do to make him so upset with the organization he had been willing to live and die for?
We in the NDP want to tell the government that we understand what it is trying to do. We are willing to work with it in this regard. It is going to have to bend to make this bill an awful lot better. If it is not willing to do that, then obviously, we are going to have to oppose this legislation.
I say, in closing, that the men and women who serve the RCMP have unlimited liability. We in government or in the opposition have the ultimate responsibility to see that their needs and their families' needs are met.