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- His favourite word is labrador.
NDP MP for St. John's South—Mount Pearl (Newfoundland & Labrador)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 47.90% of the vote.
Statements in the House
The Environment May 10th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, people have been shaking their heads in disbelief at the news that the source of an ongoing oil spill off Newfoundland's northeast coast was a ship that sank in the 1980s. For decades, successive federal governments knew this ship was below the waves, a potential environmental hazard, and they did nothing to clean up the oil. Now slicks are appearing as the ship's tanks begin to leak. What a surprise.
Where is the government's plan to clean up this environmental hazard permanently?
Search and Rescue May 9th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the Conservatives greatly reduced the search and rescue capacity in this country by also closing the maritime rescue centres, like the one in St. John's, Newfoundland. Massive protests and public outcries did not stop the Conservatives from shutting down the St. John's rescue centre, which received more than 500 calls for help a year. Now they are starting to see the impact of their irresponsible, unexplainable choices.
Will the Conservatives reverse their shortsighted decision to close the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's?
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I do not have a clue where that $3 billion has gone, but I think taxpayers have the same question. We all have the same question. However, the problem is that there is no answer.
The hon. member mentioned the speech from the member for Nepean—Carleton across the way. I have to say, when that member began his speech, and I mentioned this off the top of my speech, he spoke about kings and queens and crowns. I was sitting here listening, and thinking that it was a prime example of how the Conservative government is so out of touch with ordinary Canadians, with ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and with people on the east and west coasts. It is absolutely out of touch.
The hon. member just mentioned shutting down debate. What we are actually debating here is the third omnibus bill. Again, an omnibus bill is massive. This particular bill has 49 pieces of legislation.
Why would the Conservative government take 49 pieces of legislation and cram them into one omnibus bill? It is because it does not want debate. The Conservatives do not really want to investigate or take a good look and they do not want Canadians to see what is really in this omnibus bill.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I can tell the member what I do understand. I understand need. I understand when seniors and people on fixed incomes approach me and say that there is a housing crisis, the price of their rent is going up and they cannot afford it.
What this party on this side of the House proposed as a bill just a few months ago was a national housing strategy. That housing strategy would have brought together the three levels of government, federal, provincial and municipal, to come up with a strategy o tackle the housing crisis. How much would that bill have cost taxpayers? The answer is nothing. It would have come up with a plan to combat the housing crisis, but cost nothing.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative member began his speech with talk of kings, queens and crowns. My speech will focus on mere mortals—ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans and Canadians—the people the Conservatives have forgotten.
I had a public meeting in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl just this past Sunday. At the start of the meeting, a 65-year-old woman approached me. She pulled me aside to speak privately about a problem. She is a single woman who rents an apartment, and the company that owns the apartment just raised her rent by $45 every two weeks. That is $90 a month. That is $1,080 a year. The problem is that she is retired and has a small pension, a fixed income, and she has no idea how to pay for the increase in her rent.
What is in the bill, the economic action plan 2013 act, this economic inaction plan 2013 act, for that senior in my riding? There is nothing. There is no help whatsoever.
The lady asked me not to forget her. She asked me to do something about housing and to do something for seniors, for people on fixed incomes and for low-income earners. They are having a harder and harder time getting by. I am doing that right now. I will do it at every opportunity and every chance I get to speak about the Conservative economic inaction plan, 2013.
What is in this budget for low-income earners to help keep a roof over their heads? Nothing. The Conservatives voted down a recent New Democratic bill for a national housing strategy to fix Canada's housing crisis. What does the government do? What does their budget do? The Conservatives went a step further than just voting down the NDP plan for a housing strategy. Starting next year, they will cut homelessness funding by $15 million a year. This budget does nothing for that senior in my riding, and seniors are suffering.
There was a story in the news back home in the last few days about an 82-year-old man from the Cornerbrook area of western Newfoundland. He was charged with theft for stealing food from a grocery store. The police say that this type of incident is rare, but a seniors' advocate says that this is only the beginning. The advocate I mentioned said in the news story that “more seniors will start to resort to petty crime, as many cannot afford to eat by the Canada Food Guide”.
Eat by Canada's Food Guide? They cannot afford to pay rent. They cannot afford to turn on the heat in their own homes. That is what this country has come to. That is what the Conservatives have done to our country.
What does this budget do for Newfoundland and Labrador? Of all the things in this budget, what resonates most back home? What have people been talking about? They are talking about how the price of hospital parking is going to increase, about how the poor and the sick, the most vulnerable in our society, will have to feed even more money they do not have into parking meters.
The Conservatives can cut taxes to big business. They can give industry breaks, but who pays? It is the sick and the poor. That is who pays under the Conservative government.
What is in this budget for Labrador specifically? It is the status quo, more of the same: dirt roads, poor Internet service. Who knows what goes on behind the scenes? When Peter Penashue was our representative in the federal cabinet, he pitted The Big Land against the island. Penashue actually boasted about his divisive politics, which is the worst kind of politics.
Penashue admitted to holding up infrastructure projects on the island in an attempt to move forward projects in Labrador. This is the type of politicking that goes on behind the scenes with the Conservatives, but they are also in our faces with it. This is the third omnibus bill. It includes 49 pieces of legislation from increased user fees for hospital parking to cuts to health care and damaging cuts to credit unions.
Most Canadians will not realize the ramifications of this budget because it is so big with 49 pieces of legislation and because there is so little time to debate it. It denies MPs the ability to thoroughly study the bill and its implications. New Democrats would like to send so much of this omnibus bill to various House of Commons committees so we can bring in experts and analyze the true implications. However, the Conservatives deny us that opportunity and that right because they do not want the scrutiny. They do not want Canadians to know what is happening to Canada.
The Conservatives are trying to tell Canadians that there is nothing to see in this bill. In a way that is true. There is nothing for job creation, to make life more affordable or to strengthen the services that families rely on. There is little in this budget for youth. Youth unemployment stands at more than 14%. Although the Conservatives have just announced another 5,000 paid internships in this budget, that is a drop in the bucket compared to the need. We do not hear the Conservatives speaking about the $14,000 a year those internships will pay. That is not enough for students to pay their student loans or participate in the economy. It is not enough to live on.
There is not a word in the budget about student debt. The average student debt in this country stands at $28,000 per student. How can students participate in the economy the Conservatives like to trumpet as their success, when they begin their working lives with no work and a $28,000 anchor around their necks?
Let us move on to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I worked for almost twenty years as a journalist, twelve years as a daily newspaper reporter, five years as an editor-in-chief, a columnist, and another two years as an open-line radio host. Most of those years were with private media outlets. I personally know the kinds of pressures that can be exerted on newspapers or news outlets to run or not to run a story. There are incredible pressures from advertisers, government and industry. That is why the CBC is so important. I see it as the jewel in Canada's democratic crown.
The Globe and Mail says that the Conservative government:
is taking a harder line on collective bargaining, giving itself sweeping new powers to steer independent Crown corporations in their negotiations with employees over wages and benefits. The main targets are the CBC, Canada Post and VIA Rail....Further, the bill gives the government the power to have a Treasury Board official sit in on collective bargaining negotiations at Crown corporations.
The union representing employees at the CBC warns that the new powers are a “ridiculous“ infringement on the independence of the CBC.
I agree with that statement.
I will quote from Marc-Philippe Laurin, who is the CBC branch president of the Canadian Media Guild, the union that represents most employees. He stated:
I don’t know how anybody looking at that cannot see this as turning the public broadcaster into a state broadcaster.
Can members imagine the CBC being turned into a state broadcaster, a mouthpiece for the Conservative Party? Can members imagine a crown corporation changing the terms and conditions of employment for a non-union worker at any time?
Can members imagine a day in Canada when workers and pensions are under constant attack? Can members imagine a day in Canada when post-secondary graduates are crippled by debt, and government does not care? Can members imagine a day in Canada when a government would ignore a housing crisis? Can members imagine a day when an 82-year-old man is forced to steal food for his supper? That day has arrived under the Conservative government with this new Conservative inaction plan.
Search and Rescue May 2nd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the minister's announcement is clearly too little, too late. The lives of Canadian mariners are still at risk. Under the Conservatives' watch, search and rescue has deteriorated for years—years. Only now are they scrambling to pick up the pieces.
The Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada represents thousands of volunteers. It is now facing collapse, yet the minister did not even bother to respond to calls. Why is the minister giving the cold shoulder to stakeholders? Why is search and rescue such a low priority for the government?
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency May 1st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, what will it take for the minister to finally get the message? Her attacks on Atlantic Canadians are hurting our outports, hurting our communities, and the news only gets worst for the east. The latest victim of Conservative cuts to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is a regional development agency in Cape Breton that is two decades old. First, it had to lay off half its staff. Now its doors have been shut for good.
The Conservatives are slashing front-line agencies that foster development. How does that help grow Atlantic Canada's economy?
Employment Insurance May 1st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, it is not just unemployed young people who are being shut out by this Conservative government. All four Atlantic provinces have stood as one and said no to Conservative EI cuts. They have said no to forcing workers to take a 30% wage cut. They have said no to Conservative contempt for seasonal industries. They have said no to policies that treat unemployed workers like criminals.
When will the Conservatives listen to the premiers and stop their attacks on Atlantic Canada?
Ethics April 25th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, more of the same doublespeak from Ottawa Conservatives, the worst type of Conservatives. Not only is the disgraced former minister, Peter Penashue, pitting the good people of Bishop's Falls against Labradorians and holding the Sir Robert Bond Bridge hostage, he even has the audacity to brag about it. Worse, no one in the government has distanced themselves one iota from this despicable, divisive behaviour.
Is there really no one on that side who will renounce this contemptuous behaviour and attempt to divide the people of my province?
Navigable Waters Protection Act April 25th, 2013
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-500, An Act to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act (ocean watersheds).
Mr. Speaker, this bill is designed to protect Labrador watersheds. Changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act mean only a handful of the millions of lakes and rivers in Canada will now be protected, none in Labrador. No rivers or lakes in Labrador will be protected, which means projects that could affect navigation and projects that could affect habitat and passage of fish can proceed without the permit that once would have been required.
Newfoundland and Labrador has more than 60% of North America's best Atlantic salmon rivers, with some rivers having annual runs of up to 30,000 fish, but that is nothing compared to the salmon runs of decades ago. Labrador's commercial salmon fishery has been shut down since the early 1990s because of low salmon returns, and now the Conservatives are going to put what is left of our salmon in further jeopardy.
The Conservative government should be ashamed of itself. Its management of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery has been a disgrace, and this is yet another slap in the face.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)