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  • His favourite word is deal.

NDP MP for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia)

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

Statements in the House

Petitions February 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I present a petition on behalf of more than 200 residents of Dartmouth and the surrounding area. It was presented to me by a group of women in Dartmouth who are part of the Catholic Women's League, a phenomenal group of people who are doing amazing work. Last year, it had to do with the issue around the international mining practices of Canadian companies.

This petition has to do with supporting small family farmers, especially women, and recognizing their vital role in the struggle against hunger and poverty.

The petitioners ask that we ensure that Canadian policies and programs are developed in consultation with small family farmers and that they protect the rights of the small family farmers in the global south to preserve, use, and freely exchange seeds. It has to do largely with the whole question of the diversity of farmers' seeds that are being restricted, increasingly, around the world.

Fisheries and Oceans February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, a letter from 120 businesses, scientists, lawyers, and citizens is begging the Prime Minister to rethink dangerous changes to the aquaculture regulations. The minister wants to sidestep the Fisheries Act, which now prohibits releasing toxic substances into fish-bearing waters.

After gutting the Fisheries Act, the Conservatives are putting up more challenges to habitat protection.

Will the government listen to these concerns and withdraw these damaging changes?

Regional Economic Development February 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the economy of smaller towns and regions is also suffering under the Conservatives. Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation was replaced by ACOA. However, whatever it is called, the bottom line is clear—the Conservatives have failed to deliver the help that this region needs to build its economy.

ECBC was shut down in the omnibus budget bill last year, but according to the mayor of Port Hawkesbury, “ACOA has failed us miserably...”. Why has the minister not been talking to the mayors about the problems with ACOA?

Victims Bill of Rights Act February 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right, and I said this in my remarks earlier.

It does not matter if we support this legislation, and we have indicated that, but it does not mean that we have to ram it through. When legislation comes to this place, it is our opportunity to bring the perspectives of our constituents forward, to address it, comment on it, to share our stories and those experiences, and to raise what we think are the strengths and weaknesses of particular legislation. Just because we support a bill does not mean that it should be rammed through the House. Likewise, if we have concerns about particular legislation, it should not be rammed through the House.

How many times has there been time allocation? It is in the eighties, and that is very bad. It is bad government.

Victims Bill of Rights Act February 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, that is a good point, but we will fix that in the election in 2015. The New Democratic Party will form government in our country, and we will not only correct the most egregious parts of the agenda of the members opposite, but will bring in our vision, the vision that has been articulated by the leader of my party, the MP for Outremont, who is so clearly leading the strongest opposition that has ever been seen in our country and in Parliament.

Victims Bill of Rights Act February 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right. It is all well and good to lay out the principle and to give direction that one shall do this or do that. I am providing the context in this case of a lower level government, but without the commensurate resources. What is in fact being accomplished, other than raising the expectations perhaps of people who, in this case, deserve to be treated better? That is one of my concerns.

Nonetheless, it will not prevent me from supporting the legislation. It is a weakness, though, that will have to be addressed later on down the road.

Victims Bill of Rights Act February 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to rise and speak to this bill. As I indicated, I think this is an important bill and an important step forward.

It is interesting that one of the thoughts provided for me in notes provided by members of our caucus is that Bill C-32 would codify long-used practices related to such things as keeping victims informed of the status of prosecution, ensuring that protection and security are available for the victims, and allowing victims to participate in sentencing and parole hearings. It would turn them into rights. What was particularly important for me was the reference that it would involve codifying long-used practices, and I will tell members why.

In 1989, my wife was hired by the Government of Nova Scotia to help set up a victim services division within the Department of Justice. It was to be built up from scratch, along with the systems to facilitate programs that would exist from one end of the province to the other, as a recognition that victims had an important role to play within the system and that they needed to be provided with the support and, in some cases, the resources and education to make sure that their rights were recognized and upheld.

Those were the early days of the rights of victims being increasingly recognized within the judicial system and process in Canada. In those days, certainly in Nova Scotia, I recall that it was often a question of finding room for victims separate from the accused within the court. It was a question of finding specific spots that victims could call their own, places they could go to be separate from the accused and receive support from justice officials at that time. That was often how basic it was in those beginning stages of trying to ensure that those services were available. We have come some distance, and that is only a good thing.

The bill would further extend a number of rights to victims and their family members. They or a spouse, dependant, or guardian mandated to act on their behalf would be able to demand to be informed about the resources available to them in the criminal justice system. They could also request information on the status of an investigation and prosecution, make a victim impact statement, apply for a publication ban in cases involving young victims, obtain information about the convicted parties, and gain restitution from the convicted.

As I said, this is an important initial step by the federal government to establish this framework, this charter, to clearly indicate the rights of victims and the responsibility of the justice system to recognize those rights.

Why is this bill important? It recognizes the impact that crimes can have on individuals, their families, and their communities, and it would give them better access to information, tools, and services.

The parliamentary secretary spoke to that particular point when he was up earlier. He talked about how important and urgent he thinks it is, and he named some victims. We all, in our constituencies, have dealt with families and victims of crime. We have all seen the damage that can be done through the criminal justice system.

That is one reason why I was so disappointed the government brought forward time allocation on this bill. It has only been in the House for three hours up to this point, and it is being limited. I think we may end up dealing with this for a total of eight hours. There are a lot of members on all sides of the House who want to speak to how important the bill is to victims in their constituencies, to families and others who have been involved in these issues and are pleased to see Parliament moving forward on this. I am pleased to see this moving forward in the House, but disappointed that it has taken eight years for it to get to this stage.

The government clearly has been dragging its feet. Some would say, especially those on the other side, that it has taken so long because the government has been consulting. Surely, when we finally have legislation in this place, all members of the House who have been duly elected by their constituents, whether in they are in a recognized party or not, should have an opportunity to participate and provide the feedback they have received from their communities and the people in their constituencies.

We want victims to have access to the services and supports they need. We recognize that for many victims getting assurance that they can participate in sentencing and parole hearings and being informed of the status of a prosecution are very important steps. However, we want the government to provide real support and processes that will work.

That brings me to another disappointment I have with the bill. I have not heard the government enunciate that the bill it is bringing in feels in many ways a bit like a policy document. It is setting a framework with respect to how things should happen in the criminal justice system, the rights and the roles of victims and their families, when a lot of that would happen at the provincial government level, as it does now. The government is not providing the resources along with those added roles and responsibilities. We have seen this in some of the other legislation that has come forward, where the government has said that this will be, that this will happen, and who shall do the following, yet the provincial governments have ended up picking up much of the responsibility.

We just heard that the government cut its disaster relief to the provinces. There used to be a $1 million eligibility threshold for disaster relief. It is now $3 million. That may not seem like a big deal, but over the past 15 years, my home province of Nova Scotia has made 15 applications under the disaster relief plan that previously existed with the $1 million threshold. The new $3 million threshold would have meant that 14 of those applications would not have been eligible and that upwards of $20 million would need to borne by the province and the communities, many of which are small communities.

I am just illustrating my point about how the government tends to download roles and responsibilities to the provincial government without taking into account the attendant costs.

There will be, and there should be, an expectation that victims will receive the support that is clearly spelled out in the bill. They will demand them and the provinces will have to step up. That is not a bad thing, but in many cases there will be some financial responsibilities.

I am glad this bill has come forward. I support it. It is a good move. I wish the government would have allowed more fulsome debate on it so we could all tell stories from our individual constituencies, but it is a step in the right direction. We will have to ensure that in future Parliaments we are able to correct the existing weaknesses.

Victims Bill of Rights Act February 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity because I am not on the committee and did not have an opportunity to follow the bill at that stage. However, I am interested in the issue. I will explain my support for this issue when I get up to speak in a moment, but I do have a question.

There is no question that in many ways this is a framework document that frames the rights of victims across the country, but a lot of the commensurate responsibilities and costs are going to be devolved to the provinces. The provinces will have to step up as a result of a number of these provisions.

I know that at least in one case, if not in others, Attorneys General have asked for some time to be set aside for implementation. In one case it was six months, and we introduced an amendment at committee to give those provincial jurisdictions the opportunity to get ready for the impact of the bill when it comes into effect.

Victims Bill of Rights Act February 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated hearing from the member opposite. I wonder why the government decided not to entertain some of the fairly important and well-meaning amendments that were presented by our caucus at committee stage, particularly as they related, in a couple of instances, to clauses requiring the victim to make a request in order to receive certain important information.

The wording says that the victim has to request it. We tried to change it to say that the victim has the right to receive this information. I wonder why the government did not see fit to make some of those important changes, recognizing that victims do have the right to this information. If they do not receive the education on what their rights are, then they will not be able to request this important information.

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's intervention and the wisdom of the advice that he offered to this chamber, especially in the face of some of the rather insulting questions that came from the other side.

In particular, I want to ask him to expand a bit more on the fact that if the government was convinced that it could reduce red tape and could get rid of useless regulation, why has it not done it? Why does it need to bring in another bill, with more regulations, at more cost to government, and with more delay? Why is it that the current government just cannot get the job done?