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NDP MP for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 36.30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Employment Insurance October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, unemployed Canadians sure know that under this scheme they are not going to be getting back to work very soon. This is at a time when fewer than 40% of unemployed Canadians are even eligible for EI. That is a historic low.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer says the government could easily afford to expand coverage to another 130,000 unemployed Canadians. Instead, the Conservatives have chosen to raid the EI account for a program that is clearly designed to fail.

Why will the Conservatives not respect workers and start using the money to fix EI?

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, what is going to be shipped is part of the issue. We do not know, and we do not know what the ramifications will be, but we do know that this proposal has been presented. We have been demanding, and continue to demand on behalf of the citizens of that region, this country, and Quebec, that the government understand the potential impact on the ecosystem and on the beluga, the species at risk, and that it be much more demanding in terms of what information is required. Then the government must ensure that the information is provided to Canadians.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the motion clearly spells out the concerns we have with the proposal to develop a crude oil exporting port at the Port of Gros-Cacouna.

Now it is time for that member, as New Democrats will, to explain the issues at the heart of this situation and why we are so concerned. He raised the point that the federal government has failed to release information. That failure is a very key ingredient, and one that I hope we will hear him expound on some more.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question, which is a good one, and I will be clear: New Democrats are concerned on a number of levels.

With respect to the St. Lawrence ecosystem, we are concerned about endangered wildlife species such as the beluga. The government is failing to put in place the necessary protections and has failed to disclose information that would help local communities understand what the impacts are. It is failing to address the concerns being brought forward to the point where the Quebec court finally had to issue an injunction to stop it and ordered the release of this information.

Let me be clear. New Democrats think that bitumen should be upgraded in Canada, that jobs should be created in this country, that it should not be exported offshore. The work should be done here. However, all this particular project is proposing to do is to ship more—

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and privilege to engage in this debate. I thank my colleague, the member for Drummond, for his remarks on our motion regarding the proposed Port of Gros-Cacouna oil terminal. It is something about which we are very troubled on this side.

Let me first acknowledge my colleagues, the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, the member for Drummond, and the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, for the incredible work they have been doing on this issue.

The Port of Gros-Cacouna and the St. Lawrence are extremely sensitive ecosystems, not to mention the extraordinary danger we would be putting the beluga whale under, a mammal that is covered under the Species at Risk Act.

I want to spend a few minutes talking about why it is we are so concerned about what the government is doing. Just this week the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development released a report that confirmed our fears, which have been increasing over the past 3.5 years, that the Conservative government only seems interested in minimalizing the federal government's involvement in environmental assessments. Time after time, it is doing everything it can to ensure that proper assessments are not being done, assessments in terms of the environment, whether it be for the transportation of oil or other forms of development. The government is neglecting its responsibility and trying to turn over responsibility to the proponents in many cases. What it fails to realize is that, by conducting proper environmental assessments, not only would it protect the environment but it would also be good for the economy.

Surely, in this day and age, we have to recognize that we must commit to ensuring that we deal with the environment. We must begin to address the question of climate change that is right there in front of all of us in real terms. It needs to be addressed. If we do not deal with these issues, then we are turning our backs on the economy; we are turning our backs on the sustainability of our country and, frankly, of our world.

In that respect, on this side the New Democrats believe in two particular principles. One is that proper community consultations need to be done so that not only do the communities on the ground get involved and understand what the impacts are but also the government authorities understand how the communities feel, how the people in those communities that would be most directly affected feel. Also, environmental assessments are the bedrock of sustainable development.

The government has told us not to worry: it is not that far along, and there is no need to be concerned. Let me remind members that it was just in March of this year that TransCanada submitted a project description to the National Energy Board for the energy east pipeline, which includes the proposal to export unprocessed oil at the Port of Gros-Cacouna. We know that an official application for the entire project is expected in the coming weeks.

Our concern stems from what we learned time and again, whether it is from the commissioner of the environment or whether it is with respect to coast guard capacity to deal with problems that may arise: the government is just simply not ready.

A decision was reached recently in this regard by the court. In September 2014, a decision forced TransCanada to stop all work in Cacouna because it was revealed that the Conservative government had shunned all collaboration with the Government of Quebec. Maybe the parliamentary secretary would explain that. The judge in this case was concerned about the fact that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had refused for some reason to share with its provincial counterparts the results of studies it had conducted. Quebec asked to see the scientific advice on several occasions, but the Conservatives failed to make this information available.

The Conservatives refused to hear what specialized marine mammal scientists have had to say. They refused to hold special fisheries and oceans committee meetings to discuss the issue. My colleagues mentioned earlier that there were special motions brought before the fisheries and oceans committee and the environment committee to try to deal with this issue. We understood that the Government of Quebec was not able to get at this information, but its members thought, as responsible members of Parliament for this particular area of Quebec, they could perhaps use their role as members of Parliament with participation on the various standing committees to try to bring officials before our committee to ask them those questions, try to get at that information.

Those motions went into private, in-camera meetings. We do not know what was discussed in those in-camera meetings, except to say that no information has been shared with members of this House on this particular matter, and the issue has disappeared from the agendas of those particular committees.

I also cite the issue of marine protected areas. The government signed on to a UN commitment to achieve 10% protection of our coastline by the year 2020. Here we are in 2014 and we are at less than 1%. That is important in this regard because of the marine protected area initiative safeguarding the area around the Saguenay-St. Laurence Marine Park. The government has failed to more forward on that.

This particular initiative aimed, first and foremost, to protect the St. Lawrence belugas' full range of habitat, but we found out that the Canada-Quebec committee looking into the establishment of this marine park area has never even met. How can the Conservatives claim to be protecting beluga whale habitat when they are clearly, at every opportunity, torpedoing the area's marine conservation projects?

The Conservatives are not up to the task. They are not doing what needs to be done to protect our environment, to ensure that the species at risk that are covered by legislation are in fact protected. They are not doing the work that ensures a principle in which we believe is maintained and strengthened, and that is the principle of sustainable development.

At every opportunity, the Conservatives have been passing up on opportunities to protect our environment, as they are hell-bent to develop our natural resources in a way that, frankly, puts our ecosystem at risk.

That is why my colleagues and I will be standing in the House to debate this issue throughout the day: because we believe it is another example of how the government has fallen short, another example of why we need to elect a party to form a government that is actually committed to sustainable development.

Employment Insurance October 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, after the Conservatives savaged EI in Atlantic Canada, it appears that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans perhaps got worried about her seat, because the Conservatives decided they would split P.E.I. in two, effectively dividing islander against islander. The government itself projects that this move would cost the average recipient in Charlottetown $2,560 in lost benefits, and that is if they qualify at all.

My question to the government is: Instead of ramming through this senseless move, why would the Conservatives not just fix EI so that all islanders will benefit?

Military Contribution Against ISIL October 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I just spoke for 10 minutes and gave this House my thoughts on what we are involved with here. These questions going back and forth between the Liberals and the Conservatives are just noise. They do not relate to the speech I just gave, in which I talked about how complicated an issue this was and how important it was that all of us spend some time to reflect on what the short-term and the long-term impacts are of this particular decision.

Military Contribution Against ISIL October 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I do not have a comment on that question, except to say that this is a complicated issue and the decision will affect many members in the constituency I represent.

I wish all members of this House would take it a lot more seriously because of the impact it will have, not only in the immediate term but in the long term, on them, their families, and all of the people who will be subjected to this bombing campaign.

Military Contribution Against ISIL October 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, if I have any time left, I would like to share it with the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

I am grateful for the opportunity to stand in the House tonight as a member of the official opposition and a representative of the good people of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. This is a serious issue, whether or not to send Canada's military women and men into harm's way, and it is a difficult issue. It is also a complicated issue and I hope I can add something to this discussion, a discussion being held not just in the House but in the pages of our newspapers and around kitchen tables all across the country.

Canadians are very concerned about the decision the government is making, because they know this is not just a question of whether we should send six jets to fight for six months. They understand that this is a decision about whether we commit our military to a prolonged, expensive and deadly war.

This may be a global issue, but as a member of Parliament, my first responsibility is to my constituents. Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is home to a large number of women and men in the armed forces, as well as countless veterans and reservists. For them, their families and friends, this is not a theoretical debate. These are decisions that change their lives and the lives of their families forever.

They know this because many of them are still struggling with the aftermath of other decisions the government has made on their behalf. Therefore, it is difficult for them, on the one hand, because they are the embodiment of loyalty, honour and commitment. If we ask them to go, they will go without a second thought because that is what they do. That is what they are trained to do, and they are trained very well. They are the best in the world. On the other hand, these same Canadians are on the front lines of another battle, a battle with their government for the help they need after they come home.

In my community, there are members like Major Marcus Brauer, who teeters on bankruptcy because the government has not honoured its commitments to him and his family. There are veterans with PTSD, like Medric Cousineau, who walked all the way to Ottawa to raise money for service dogs. There are great Canadians like Dennis Manuge, who led a year-long battle for pension benefits clawed back from disabled veterans.

When these are the experiences of so many people in my riding, people who have dedicated their lives to their country, it is a stark reminder that although the Prime Minister can talk in terms of months, for many the decision to enter this war will last a lifetime.

I am deeply troubled with how the government is framing this issue. It suggests either people are for air strikes because they care and want to do something or else people do not support air strikes because they do not care and would rather do nothing. It is outrageous.

If that were the case, the government would be accusing Germany of doing nothing. Does it call Norway a coward or say that Italy and Italians simply do not care? They are all allies that are deeply involved in providing aid and have all rejected air strikes. Of course we do not say those things because it is insulting. It is clearly untrue and such gross oversimplification diminishes us all.

Regardless of members' positions on the motion before us, I believe that we are duty bound to acknowledge how complicated, dangerous and fraught with risks this situation truly is. I would suggest that no clearer example can be found in terms of how complex it is than to consider the role of Syria.

Witness the moral knots the Prime Minister is tying himself into in trying to explain how he would deploy our military assets against Assad's enemies, but only at the request of that brutal dictator. We can also look to the campaign in Libya, where many analysts agree that our overreach in bombing that region has added more fuel to the fire.

I do not believe Canada should participate in these air strikes, but that does not mean I do not understand or respect the people who would make a different decision.

They are compelled to support entering this war out of compassion for the victims of ISIL, or out of rage at its atrocities, or out of fear in response to the threats made against our country. Intelligent, compassionate people disagree about what we should do.

I can appreciate the impulse to join air strikes aimed at people who have done terrible things, not just with impunity but seemingly with delight. It offends every fibre of our being. It provokes anger and outrage and disgust. I understand that. I feel it too, but these strong emotions are not the frame of mind with which we should make such decisions. We all agree that something must be done, but what?

The Minister of Foreign Affairs said himself yesterday, and I quote, “The scale of the humanitarian crisis is truly hard to comprehend”. He also said, “When we look at a humanitarian crisis of this size, there is always more that can be done”.

I completely agree, because the millions of internally displaced men, women, and children matter. The victims of the horrible atrocities ISIL is committing matter, and how we respond matters.

Some are caught up in the notion that the only way to deliver peace is with bombs, when really it is not that simple. ISIL is an enemy that does not think like we do. It invites the attacks. It craves the violence. In fact, it is counting on it.

As I said earlier, we cannot underestimate how complicated this situation is, and no one can say what the future will bring, but it is becoming increasingly clear that in this case, more violence will not suppress the violence. Attacks will not dissuade attacks. Killing will almost certainly lead to more killing. This is complicated.

As I have said, we do know some things. We know that deploying six CF-18s would lead to a greater level of engagement, and engagement is sometimes known as mission creep. We have good reason to believe that the value of such air strikes is dubious. We certainly know from experience that the cost of waging war is enormous, not just to our treasury but to the physical and mental health of the Canadians we deploy, not to mention their families.

There are five million and counting internally displaced people who need immediate assistance. That is an area where Canada can and should do more. It is a task where heavy lifting is truly required.

Yesterday the Minister of Foreign Affairs asked if we should “stand with our close allies...or stand aside as they put themselves on the line”. That is a false dichotomy, and the minister should be ashamed for diminishing the risk that will be taken by each and every person who is sent there to help in whatever capacity.

Make no mistake, humanitarian efforts in that region are not for the faint of heart. It is a job that will put Canadians in harm's way. It is also a job that better reflects who we are as a nation. We all agree that this is a problem that is not going away any time soon, certainly not in six months. It will take a long time, but that is what pulling our own weight is really about. It is about committing time, money, and the resources that are needed for the long run.

It is for those reasons that I implore the House to vote in favour of the amendment proposed by the hon. leader of the official opposition. His amendment recognizes that strong and direct force is absolutely necessary to confront ISIL but that it must come from capable and enabled local forces. It calls for military support for the transportation of weapons where needed and for assistance to investigate and prosecute war crimes. The amendment calls for monthly updates on the cost of our mission and wholeheartedly supports the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces who stand on guard for all of us. Perhaps most importantly, the amendment calls for a significant boost in humanitarian aid in areas where there will be an immediate lifesaving impact, including contributing to winterized camps for refugees and investing in water, sanitation, hygiene, health, and education for people displaced by the fighting.

My time has drawn to an end. I thank the House for the opportunity to come here tonight on behalf of my constituents and to share some of my views and the opinions of some of my constituents.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked about the experience and commitment to the environment, conservation, and biodiversity in the ecosystem that exists in our caucus. She is absolutely right. I know that my colleagues will bring that experience and knowledge to their work on committee to make sure that those issues with respect to the caribou, the Nahanni River, and the protection of the watershed will be very much part of their deliberations and questions and research as committee members.