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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
Marine Mammal Regulations March 6th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, as I said before, I thank the hon. member for West Nova for introducing the bill. It is an important issue in our province and our region, as well as Quebec and other parts of this country.
I want to take this opportunity to talk about the reasons I think the bill is important and also address some of the mythology and controversy that surround seal fishing.
For coastal communities across the Atlantic region, Quebec, and Nunavut, the seal harvest represents a traditional way of life. Many fishermen and first nation communities earn their livelihood by fishing for seals in late winter or early spring. The seal hunt in the gulf is under way now.
Our indigenous people have been fishing seal for over 4,000 years and our European ancestors and early Canadian settlers fished for seals starting in the early 1600s. It was once considered an honourable way of life to make a living in Canada.
Seals provided food for coastal families and communities, the skins and pelts were used for clothing, and the oil was used for heating and lights. Much of the same is true today. Seals continue to be a primary source of food for the Inuit and coastal communities; the skins and pelts are still used for clothing; and the oils, containing omega-3, are now used for health benefits.
However, there is a growing mythology surrounding the seal harvest that the practice is neither sustainable nor humane. Like any practice of hunting or fishing, when managed correctly, I believe the seal industry is both sustainable and humane.
Seal populations in the Atlantic have seen a dramatic increase over the past 40 years. The Atlantic grey seal population has seen a thirtyfold increase since the 1960s, while the Atlantic harp seal population has quadrupled since the early 1970s. Its population today is estimated to be over eight million. Currently, fishing allotments of seals do not threaten their sustainability.
Research out of the Atlantic Veterinary College has consistently shown that current methods of killing seals are humane. Thousands of hours of research have been put into the study, and that research continues.
Let me be clear. My New Democrat colleagues and I support a humane harvest, and any cruelty to animals is completely unacceptable. We continue to urge the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to monitor the harvest carefully to ensure that all safety regulations are carried out.
I also want to take a moment to talk about the difference between the seal harvest and a seal cull. When I speak to many Canadians about this issue, there seems to be some confusion.
The seal harvest is a fishery in support of a commercial industry. It is managed similarly to other fisheries, such as lobster or groundfish. The harvest takes place annually during late winter, usually from February until late March. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans establishes a total allowable catch every year based on the precautionary approach and scientific research.
A cull, on the other hand, is a process of removing animals to achieve a specific goal. A seal cull has been proposed by the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in a bid to conserve cod stocks. Seals are a known predator of cod, and it has been hypothesized that reducing the seal populations could help the recovery of the cod in Atlantic Canada.
This has been a very controversial recommendation, and my office has received numerous calls and emails from concerned Canadians. Again, I want to be clear and say that we do not support this recommendation. I believe that any cull needs to be backed by scientific research, and it simply does not exist in this case. An experimental cull just to see what happens is completely unacceptable.
Jeff Hutchings, a renowned marine biologist from Dalhousie University, testified in front of the Senate committee and said the following:
In my view, a cull of grey seals for the purpose of improving fisheries productivity would represent an insufficient reason for initiating such a cull for two reasons. First, the effects of such a cull, as I indicated, on the recovery of cod or other species cannot be credibly predicted from a science perspective; and second, the deliberate killing of one species native to Canada because of the human-induced depletion of another native species, ultimately caused by politically expedient but scientifically unjustified management decisions, would be difficult to defend from a variety of perspectives.
It is important to note that 20 years after the collapse of the cod fishery, Atlantic Canadians are still dealing with the devastation that overfishing can cause. That is why my New Democrat colleagues and I fully support fishery management decisions based on science. We will continue to call upon the Conservative government to reduce the cuts it has made to scientific research in Canada, and specifically to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, so that it can carry out its mandate to protect fish and fish habitat and to manage our fisheries.
It is the controversial nature of the seal harvest that has led to the proposal for this bill. Fishing is a dangerous occupation. We lose far too many fishermen at sea every year because of accidents or weather. That is why I will be supporting this bill at second reading.
The bill seeks to strengthen the marine mammal regulations, increasing the distance individuals can be from active seal fishing. Earlier, in my question to the sponsor of the bill, I made the point that if any distance regulations are not enforced by the authorities, they are meaningless. I recognize that there was an incident a couple of years ago. However, it has been conveyed to me that, while the industry appreciates this increase in distance, from a safety point of view it wishes the authorities would properly enforce whatever regulations are there to provide protection. Having been involved in workplace health and safety issues for much of my life, that is what this comes down to.
In conclusion, all Canadians have the right to protest and voice their opinions. However, interfering with seal fishing is dangerous for all those involved. This bill would help keep fishermen, DFO employees, observers, and the general public safe.
I look forward to studying the bill in more detail at committee in the upcoming weeks.
Marine Mammal Regulations March 6th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am certainly supporting this bill and the measures contained within.
When we received the bill, we did our due diligence and contacted people who are involved in the industry, those for it and those against it. We consulted with folks about the legislation, the industry, and what was going on.
One of the comments we heard from the Sealers Association was about how the government does not enforce the half nautical mile, let alone extending that to a full nautical mile.
While I will be supporting the principle of the bill, I do want to ask the member a question. What evidence did the member have? Were there any incidents, injuries, or damage caused under the current regulations that required the distance to be extended?
Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act March 6th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question from the Liberal Party. It gives me an opportunity to talk about the fact that the Liberal Party supports the trade deal with Honduras, that the Liberal Party does not identify with the kind of precision I would suggest that we do in this caucus, regarding the pros and cons of any particular trade deal.
The members of the government of this day feel that any trade deal is a good deal. When the Conservatives bring forward good deals that benefit our country, trade deals that recognize the way we are going to conduct business in the world and deal with the terrible trade imbalance we have in this country, then we will begin to look favourably on those trade deals.
The Liberal Party has not done that. It has not brought trade deals that have benefited Canada in that way, nor has the Conservative Party. As soon as it does, then we will vote for those deals.
However, let me say that we will see better trade deals after 2015 when the New Democratic Party forms the government.
Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act March 6th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, let me start by saying that I am glad the member was offended, although I did not say anything that he would necessarily need to be offended by. However, I am glad he responded to what I was saying because that means he is listening, and that is good and I appreciate that.
My point was that the area where we disagree is that the Conservatives think they can deal with anybody as long as it is an economic agreement; that as long as they are doing business, it does not matter what the ethics or practices are of that company or that nation; and that it does not matter what the rules of law are, and so on. It does not seem to matter, the way the people are treated, and the way the environment is not protected, and the way that journalists are threatened and labour activists are thrown in jail. Those things do not matter. If we are going to do a deal, we are going to do a deal.
My point, and the point of our trade critic who is doing such a great job on this file, is that we have some responsibility and that people do want to trade with Canada and Canada wants to trade with other people, but we do not trade at all costs and we ensure that we are carrying ourselves and conducting ourselves in ways that would make Canadians proud. That has to be the bottom line.
Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act March 6th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to participate in the debate. I only wish that the government had not come forward with a time allocation motion because I know a lot of my colleagues would like the opportunity to engage in this debate. Contrary to what the members opposite love to talk about, New Democrats are not opposed to trade, not in the least, but we want to make sure that the trade Canada participates in is trade that is not only good for Canada and Canadians but is also good for the countries and the people we trade with, and that it is done under the principles we consider important to us as Canadians.
We have had concerns about some of the deals that the government has pulled together. This agreement, for example, came as a result of the fact that the Conservatives were unsuccessful in putting together a multilateral deal in Central America, dealing with a number of countries on the basis of some of those principles. As a result, we are now dealing with a bilateral trade deal that New Democrats have some concerns with, as we did with the deal with Colombia.
Before I wade in any further, let me indicate that I will be splitting my time with the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, as he has some important messages to share about this deal that are relevant to his constituents and Canadians whom he represents.
Let me reiterate what my colleague, the NDP trade critic, has indicated before. New Democrats look at every and any trade deal on whether it meets three criteria. Number one, does the proposed partner share Canadian values that include respect for democracy, human rights, and does it have adequate environmental and labour standards? Number two, does the proposed deal offer significant or strategic value to Canada, Canadians, and our economy? Number three, are the actual terms of the agreement in themselves satisfactory? We have looked at the deal. We should understand that this deal, like everything else the government does, has been negotiated in complete secrecy, behind closed doors, without any consultation or discussion with Canadians about what they were doing, what the impact was, and so on.
I have heard Conservative members somewhat piously, frankly, talk about what great things they are doing for the poor people of Honduras. What I would rather see the government do is use its influence on the government of Honduras to start recognizing true principles of democracy and honouring and respecting human rights and the right of law. That is not what the government has done and that is certainly a problem that New Democrats see with the Government of Honduras.
It is not about whether we are able to help the country and the people of that country. If our development agencies, such as Democracy Watch, and other NGOs are able to work with likeminded organizations and communities within Honduras, that is a good thing. Unfortunately, those people, whether they be labour activists, environmentalists or journalists, are under threat as a result of the activities of Honduras and officials who represent either the government or the police. Therefore, the question of human rights abuses is a very serious one that the government should be taking into consideration before it tries to engage in any type of activity.
We have heard from a number of international organizations that as a result of the military coup in 2009, there is a government in place that does not respect the principles of democracy and human rights. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. It is considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. It is a major drug-smuggling centre, and it is considered to be one of the most corrupt countries in Central America.
What would this deal do about these issues? What would this deal do to try to make sure that the people are protected from what their government is doing?
Frankly, by participating with the government and with the major corporations in Honduras, we would be saying that what they are doing is okay. We would be saying that what they do to their people is okay. What they do to their environment is okay. We just want do business with them.
Let us not forget that Honduras is currently Canada's 104th export market. It is not high on the list in terms of value to Canadian exporters. In 2012, we exported $38 million and imported $218 million of merchandise. That is a similar kind of trade balance that we recognize that the government has been responsible for in each and every sector that we see in our economy.
The concern we have, again, is that if we are going to participate as a country in the world, whether it be in trade issues or in human rights and democracy, whatever it is that we do, the way we walk on this earth, we want to do it based on those principles of respect, understanding the role of human rights and the law, protecting the environment, and the rights of labour so that people can come together collectively and represent themselves. That is what we believe. We want it so that those practices are allowed to continue. We should be a model for countries around the world. We should be participating with countries that reflect those same principles so that they can be enforced.
Countries like Honduras that do not follow those practices and do not seem to have the same kinds of principles will look at Canada and say that they would like to trade with us and participate with us in an economic fashion, so what is it going to take? What are they going to have to do to make that happen? It would be very clear that there has to be a recognition and a respect for democratic rights, human rights, the environment, and the law.
That is what Canada needs to do. That is why we have been opposed, because we do not feel that the Government of Honduras is an example of a country that we should be participating with.
Do we want to help the people of Honduras? Absolutely. Do we want to try to make sure that their government respects their rights, their environment, and the rule of law? Absolutely. However, participating in a trade deal without demanding that certain practices change is not the answer. All that would do is make sure that the behaviours that we find reprehensible will continue.
We can do better in this country. There are other nations that we need to be participating with. For example, Brazil, Japan, and South Africa are countries that we should be negotiating deals with. It is time that the government started to recognize countries that would make true partners with our nation and people, and move forward in that direction.
Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Act March 6th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. The bill was introduced on Tuesday. Today is the beginning of business on Thursday. I appreciate the fact that the minister responsible is in a hurry to get something done. He wants to bypass the rules, but there are rules established for debate of legislation in the House for a reason. Once legislation is passed, it affects the lives of all those people covered by the legislation, and it is very difficult to amend legislation once it has been passed. Therefore, it is extremely important that we have a full discussion of each item and that we are able to take the time to consider the legislation and discuss the implications with our constituents and other groups who are affected by it so we can bring those insights to bear.
I know that the members opposite like to give short shrift to issues regarding first nations people in our country, but I think the Mi’kmaq in Newfoundland and Labrador deserve to have this issue fully discussed in a thoughtful and constructive manner in the House. The fact that the government has some other agenda it is bringing to bear is simply not fair or just to the issues that affect first nations and the Mi’kmaq in Newfoundland.
If the minister is trying to establish a sense of respect and responsibility with the Mi’kmaq and first nations in the country, why is it that on an important piece of legislation that is meant to deal with a historic problem, he wants to restrict debate by other members in the House? Why will he not allow a full discussion?
Employment Insurance March 5th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it certainly sounds as if the minister is either hiding information or he is not clear what his job is, because the point of the estimates is for the government to provide estimations of spending. We all know the government has projections for EI spending in the next fiscal year, and we now know that non-votable items are a part of the main estimates.
Can the minister tell us what the projections are for EI? Is it more or less $20 billion?
Petitions March 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I table another petition regarding VIA Rail's passenger services between Montreal and Halifax.
The petitioners are concerned by the cuts in service in northern New Brunswick. They are concerned that not only would that create a real hardship for the residents who rely upon the rail service for personal transportation but that it would spell the end for the service all the way from Montreal to Halifax.
Counting this petition, the petitions that have already been tabled, and forthcoming petitions that have yet to be tabled, there are now a total of 24,000 signatures.
Petitions February 28th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I have another petition about fair electoral representation. It is from members of my constituency, who are concerned about the winner-takes-all, first-past-the-post system. They urge members of the House to conduct an investigation and to undertake significant consultation in the country to examine alternatives to the system we have right now.
Is it not ironic that we have this particular petition for a fairer electoral system at the same time we are dealing with the foolishness of the government's bringing in its unfair elections act?
Petitions February 28th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of petitions here dealing with the issue of a mining ombudsman.
People are concerned about the mining practices of Canadian companies in other parts of the world. They wish that the Government of Canada would take more responsibility to make sure that it listens to the complaints and concerns heard from workers and others in these countries, and that it would conduct investigations to make sure that our companies conduct themselves with the level of respect and moral standards that we would expect.