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Crucial Fact

  • 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

Employment Insurance December 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Canadians pay EI premiums so they have insurance if they lose their jobs, so they can still pay the bills and put food on their family's table.

Under the Conservatives, though, front-line services have been cut and waiting times have grown. This is not about hiring a few temps to help out for a few weeks; this is about finally fixing the backlog.

What is the minister doing to cut down on these endless delays, once and for all?

Social Development December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, veterans are not the only Canadians to be treated callously by the Conservatives. Listen to this one.

Since 2002, the government has been unfairly denying sickness benefits to new moms. Now, despite umpire rulings, two of them ordering it to pay these benefits, the Conservatives are now in court fighting to deny women on maternity leave benefits, women who are already dealing with serious illnesses and financial stress.

Why will the government not stop doing this and start doing the right thing?

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

It is absolutely the case, Mr. Speaker. If the government is going to promote a piece of legislation as something it is not, it at least should have the courage to get up and explain why it feels it is able to consider a piece of legislation that is completely and patently false.

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would absolutely agree with the member. We have stated on more than one occasion in the House that the New Democratic Party is in favour of programs and policies and support to help make our communities safer. We understand that to do that, we need to deal with the situations in our communities that are creating the problems, whether it is poverty, mental illness, or addictions. We need to make sure that people understand the consequences of their actions. We need to deal with those clearly and without hesitation.

We also have to understand that these are complicated issues and that people need support to get through issues like mental illness. They need treatment to deal with their problems. Whether it is through pharmaceuticals or therapy, we need to make sure that those kinds of supports are in place not only in the institutions but in communities. A number of those types of programs are available in Dartmouth--Cole Harbour, as they are across the country, to help people deal with their connections to their communities.

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak for a few moments on Bill C-12.

Bill C-12 would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to, in effect, do what is done in practice now. It would give clear legal authority to an existing practice of the Parole Board, which we support, and that is urine testing for drugs when making decisions on parole eligibility.

What makes me crazy is the way the Conservative government holds up a piece of legislation like this, which would do an important yet fairly mundane thing by ensuring that current practice is maintained, and dubs it the drug-free prisons act. We know that the government is doing, frankly, nothing about dealing with the question of addictions in our prison system. It is an utter shame.

Estimates are that nearly half of the male population in prison and over two-thirds of the female population in prison have some form of mental illness and an addiction associated with it. Yet the government continues to cut back on rehabilitation programs and other tools and strategies that could properly be used to treat and help focus the individuals who are facing these particular challenges.

Here we are. The government is going to make sure that it is able to find out whether someone has been using drugs. It has been able to do nothing about the fact that prisoners can access illegal drugs in prison, but it is going to ignore its absolute, dismal failure on that end of things. It is going to throw them back into prison. There are no programs to help them deal with the addictions. What is the government going to do? Is it going to keep firing people back into jail, keep the doors locked, and keep throwing other people in for the same kinds of problems and never deal with them?

How is that keeping our communities safe? How is that dealing at all with the problem that exists, to a lesser degree, but is nonetheless a problem?

It reminds me that there is a service in my community of Dartmouth run by the Freedom Foundation, which is a recovery house for men. They have 14 beds. The foundation provides services to men who acknowledge that they have addictions and are committed to dealing with them, and it does so at a fraction of the cost that would be faced if there were any programs in prisons. Certainly the cost of warehousing people in prison is a fraction of the cost that would be spent if the government invested in programs like the Freedom Foundation to help men make this transition to a drug and alcohol-free life.

The foundation has served over 1,000 men over the past 25 years and has helped them become drug and alcohol free. It is a remarkable program. It supports the kinds of issues the government would if it were truly concerned about drugs in prisons and in society, if it were truly concerned about helping Canadians deal with addictions, which, in far too many cases, are associated with incarceration. Then once and for all we would begin to deal in a substantive, productive, and constructive way with the issue of making our communities safer and more productive.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the point is whether the people who participated in the process feel that they have been consulted and whether the process meets the definition clearly laid out by the Supreme Court on the responsibilities of the crown. It has been done. The responsibilities have been laid out.

However, I want to ask the parliamentary secretary a quick question. On September 18, the member for Yukon said that he agreed with the idea of having public meetings and public consultation on this matter. Why is it the government did not fulfill his request for having public consultation?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings out a quote and reports that somebody said something somewhere. That is all good. I have also read testimony in which that same person said something different. All I can do is report here what I have read and what I understand to be the position of an individual, and that is what I present to this House.

If the government has any other information it wants to table, if it wants to call witnesses back, or if it wants to stand the bill and have a special committee look at it again, especially in light of the Supreme Court decision as it related to the umbrella agreement and the Peel land development decision, I think that will probably have an impact on this particular piece of legislation, but maybe that is what we need to do in order to clarify and deal properly with a piece of legislation that inevitably, once again, will be challenged by the people who are affected by it.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much the question from my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyouand his leadership on this file, the wisdom he brings to bear as he represents his constituency and brings forward the years of wisdom and experience he has gained from first nations leadership in this country and internationally. I appreciate what he does and the counsel he provides.

I want to indicate to him that I do not understand why the government fails to accept its responsibility in dealing with first nations communities in this country. Conservatives indicate they are trying to make things work better for the companies that are extracting our natural resources, but in talking with the people who lead those corporations, we learn they would rather see a respectful, dependable, responsible process than the kind of confrontation that follows the kinds of approaches the government takes at these negotiations.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that the parliamentary secretary gets up and says “we have consulted” and “look, we have had all of these meetings”. The Conservatives do that every time they go to the Supreme Court or to the appeal court. They do the same thing. They say they have talked to them.

What happens when we dig into it is that we realize that the government has not consulted. It may have had a few drive-by meetings where it presented some of the things that it plans to do to a group of people. It could be a group of hunters and fishers, a group of environmentalists, or a group of school teachers or health care workers, and the government says it has consulted.

What often happens is that the government talks at people and it does not listen to them. It does not take into consideration the opinions and the interests of the people who are participating in that process. It has been found by the courts on numerous occasions—and not just with the Conservative government, but the Liberals adjacent—that the responsibility to consult is much greater than being able to show that there was an appointment one day.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity to participate in the discussion on Bill S-6.

I am concerned about the way the government is moving forward in its dealings with first nation communities throughout this country. It is frankly embarrassing to me as a member, as a Canadian, that the government does not recognize its constitutional responsibility, its fiduciary responsibility, to deal with first nation communities on a nation-to-nation basis, as it has committed itself to doing.

My colleague from Timmins—James Bay just mentioned a moment ago a meeting that was reported on yesterday. Representatives of a first nation community in Yukon met with the minister. They felt that they were insulted, because he suggested to them that they were not government, that in fact, participation in the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act agreement has somehow taken away their status as a government. Now it is only necessary for him to deal with the Government of Yukon. It is hard to fathom that a minister of the crown would have that kind of approach to first nation communities.

I am troubled by the direction the government is going. At every opportunity, it seems to get more focused on trying to find ways to quickly allow southern mining companies or national and international oil companies to go into the north, to frankly go anywhere in this country, to develop those natural resources and get them out of the ground and off to market as quickly as possible, regardless of the inherent dangers to the environment and the communities that will be affected by that development and regardless of the question of ownership of those natural resources. In this respect, I refer to the responsibility of the government to negotiate with first nations communities.

This is a classic example, really, of the way the government is approaching these issues, the ham-fisted way it is dealing with these issues as they relate to first nations treaty rights and responsibilities, land title, and the responsibility to not only consult but accommodate. The government has failed at every turn, it seems, in its responsibility to fulfill the directions provided by the Supreme Court again and again.

We can talk about oil and mining and talk about fish. As the critic for Fisheries and Oceans, I deal with first nation communities on our coast repeatedly. They are frustrated by the lack of responsiveness of the government in accepting its responsibility under the constitution, which has been reiterated, clarified, and enunciated by the courts time and time again at different locations around this country. The government has failed to act.

Then we have issues like this. We have issues like the government trying to impose changes on the education system in first nation communities. It created such a firestorm that the government finally had to withdraw that legislation. First nations leaders and communities across the country responded in such a negative way to the unilateral imposition of something that is clearly the responsibility of first nations communities that they had to back off.

With respect to the changes to the Fisheries Act that began in 2012, the grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations went before committee and was utterly insulted himself and on behalf of other leaders across the country. Some 640-odd first nations were required to be consulted on matters like this that affect their rights, and the government completely ignored them. It went ahead and brought forward changes that affect those rights without any consideration.

It is that kind of disrespect and unilateral action that resulted in Yukon chiefs coming to town. Nine representatives travelled to Ottawa over the weekend to meet with the minister. What they said has been quoted. I think it is important to quote the article again:

The minister shut us down by telling us we were not real governments," says Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation Chief Eric Fairclough in a news release, "And therefore he does not need to make us active participants in changing legislation that arises from our treaties."

The government brought forward the Federal Accountability Act, and yet there is very little, if any, consultation. It has been threatening the leadership of first nation communities, telling them that they either go by the government's law or the government will be exercising unilateral punishment. That not only impedes the work of first nation communities and the efforts by many of the leaders to move their communities forward but is clearly an example of the government getting in the way of fulfilling its responsibilities in dealing with first nation communities.

Dare I bring up the reluctance of the government to deal with the issue of the 1,100 missing and murdered aboriginal women in this country? The government seems to be able to understand that the despicable act of killing a Canadians Forces member and a reservist and threatening other people in the House is a terrorist act. It has been able to clearly identify that as a terrorist act. Yet it does not recognize and will not commit to making the changes and bring in the programs necessary to deal with why aboriginal women and their families have to fear for their lives each and every day in this country. It is unconscionable that the government seems to have this kind of attitude as it relates to the first nations.

Let me delve a little deeper into Bill S-6. It would change the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act. This is an act that was established in 2003 in fulfilment of an obligation under the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement. The Umbrella Final Agreement is a consultative process among first nation communities, the Yukon government, and the crown.

First let me add that there was a requirement in that agreement that there be a review after five years. The government decided that it did not like that review so it did not release it. It decided to impose its own changes, along with the government dealing directly with the government of the Yukon, excluding any substantive consultation with the first nations communities. The amendments were developed through a secretive process. The non-union groups—the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and Canadian Energy Pipeline Association—were all allowed input. However, there was no public process, and there continues to be very significant opposition not only on the part of Yukoners but also on the part of the Council of Yukon First Nations.

Why is the Conservative government moving forward in this fashion? What is the Conservatives' purpose? We have heard them talk about resource extraction repeatedly. What they want to do is speed it up and they want to get rid of the regulatory processes. They have changed the Environmental Assessment Act. They have changed the Fisheries Act. They have changed a number of pieces of legislation that deal with the protection of our environment and controls over resource development: the Navigable Waters Protection Act; the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

That was an interesting one right there. In the NWT, the Conservatives decided to get rid of all the local and regional water and resource boards that had the local first nations representatives on them and had the territorial and federal governments represented. There were a number of them throughout NWT, as is the case elsewhere, recognizing the particular interests of the first nations community in the area that is under discussion. The process that those boards used to follow was that a mining company or otherwise would present a plan to the board and the board would begin to review that proposal and ask questions.

Most importantly, and something that we could learn a lot from, is that they would go out into the community and meet with local first nations and hear from people directly about exactly what the impact was going to be. It was not the case that there was always huge opposition. There is no question that people in many communities are looking for work and for economic development opportunities and opportunities to generate wealth in their community that will benefit them, their children, and future generations. However, they understand how to look at things in terms of generations, not months or years; they had the long vision.

It was always important that they understood and that the development plans laid out how the development was going to happen and what the impact was going to be and that proper mitigation measures were brought to bear in order to ensure there was as little impact as possible in order to meet the particular objectives of extracting the resource, generating the jobs, and ensuring that some of the revenues were poured back into the communities and elsewhere. However, it was also important that, given whatever the stated life of that particular development might have been, there was built-in reclamation of the site or other ways that the particular site would be returned as closely as possible to its natural state.

That is the kind of process that was undone. It became apparent, and I had the opportunity the summer before last to visit Yellowknife and meet with representatives of some of these boards. I met with the Tlicho First Nation and learned a bit about their culture and about their approach to the management of natural resources to best benefit their community. I learned a great deal.

It was interesting. When I met with representatives of the boards, one of their concerns was that even then—and this was a couple of years ago—the federal government was increasingly withdrawing some of the supports that had been there. For example, if it was a development that would affect a particular watercourse, a lake or a river, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans biologists and officials in that local office would be involved. They would get involved, engage in consultation, and be able to go out and talk to citizens on the basis of their understanding of the land, the environment, and the fisheries. They were able to respond in a concrete, factual way about what the impacts would be.

What they were finding even then, in 2012, was that as a result of the massive cutbacks at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, there was not the same number of officials, in Yellowknife for example. Rather than eight or ten scientists and managers who would work with these boards, they were reduced to two. They had to go to Burlington, Ontario, or Winnipeg, Manitoba, to try to bring that kind of expertise in. It was not local expertise, but they could bring that expertise in.

My point is that they were beginning to see that things were beginning to break down under the government as it related to local control over resource development.

Then we dealt with Bill C-15, I believe, which created a superboard for the Mackenzie Valley, because the government thought it would take less time and be less cumbersome, and companies would only have to deal with one board, and they would be able to get the job done a lot more quickly, get at the resource, move it out, and make their money.

Speaking of that, there was just a story in the news this morning about how the Tlicho First Nation has taken the government to court because it believes the superboard ignores the intent of the self-government agreement. What the superboard does, in fact, is get rid of that local first nation control, and the Tlicho are fighting it.

I know we have heard the minister say, repeatedly, to first nations communities that if they do not like it they should take the government to court. We also know that costs hundreds of millions of dollars, federal taxpayers' dollars, to continue to fight against the rights of first nations communities in this country that are clearly defined by the Constitution. I do not believe that is right.

I do not believe that Bill S-6 is going in the right direction. I am disappointed in the direction the government is going in relation to its dealing with first nations communities.

As with the Peel watershed land development case that was struck down by the courts, if it keeps going in this direction, unfortunately, everything the government does is going to get struck down by the courts.