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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is conservative.

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

Petitions June 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition on behalf of hundreds of citizens of Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove, as pretty a Newfoundland and Labrador outport as one could find. The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to reinstate the hours of operation, from 24 hours a week to 32 hours a week, at the community post office.

Transportation June 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister was in Atlantic Canada yesterday, and showed again his disrespect for the region. He failed again to make a commitment to the gulf ferry.

The federal government has an obligation to ensure Newfoundlanders have access to ferry services, but Marine Atlantic will be laying off employees and reducing crossings.

Instead of dodging responsibility, instead of denying their own mismanagement, instead of letting down those who depend on this vital service, Conservatives need to step up and act.

What will the government do to ensure Newfoundland ferry service is protected?

Parental Benefits June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, too many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and too many Canadians are thinking of starting a family but are worried about the financial costs. Too many people have to choose between a career and a baby. Our support for young families is not where it should be.

I held a public forum in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl last week. The overwhelming message is that, at 55%, parental benefits under the employment insurance system are inadequate. Parental benefits should also fall outside the EI system. New parents are not unemployed and are not searching for work. New parents deserve fair pay for the hardest job.

We speak in this House about citizenship and immigration and the temporary foreign worker program as ways to address the labour shortage, but why not make our central focus the family? We must nurture our most precious resource.

Drug-Free Prisons Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned Her Majesty's Penitentiary, the provincial prison in Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland and Labrador does not have a federal prison. It has a provincial medium security prison. It is 165 years old. It needs to be replaced. There are problems when it comes to drug abuse, riots and mental illness. The rehabilitation that is needed at Her Majesty's Penitentiary is not happening.

What will this so-called drug-free prisons act, although it will not make prisons drug free, do to alleviate problems at prisons such as Her Majesty's Penitentiary and federal prisons across the country?

Drug-Free Prisons Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, what the bill amounts to is the Conservative government pandering to its base. If drug tests are already being used to determine eligibility for parole, this would make it official. It is really absolutely nothing new. The member makes a great point.

The real problems that I pointed out in my speech, like addictions and mental illness, are not being addressed. Program funding is actually being cut. Until we see prisoners being rehabilitated, we are going to see a revolving door in penitentiaries right across this country.

The problems have to be addressed. This legislation would not address those problems.

Drug-Free Prisons Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have struggled with this a bit. Certain bills have come before the House that I have agreed with, like the seal bill that I mentioned in my speech, like the offshore liability bill that was brought forward in the House a few months ago, and like the drug-free prisons bill. I do agree with them, but they do not go nearly far enough.

This particular legislation would not do anything to address the problem with drugs in our prisons. It would certainly not make them drug free, as the misleading title of the bill indicates.

The bills do not go nearly far enough.

Drug-Free Prisons Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there is no money in the bill to measure the extent of the problem or to assess the extent of the problem. There is also no money in the bill to treat the problem.

Drug-Free Prisons Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for the great riding of Sherbrooke. It is not as great as the great riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, but it is a close second.

I stand in support of Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, also known as the drug-free prisons act. However, that title is incredibly misleading as the bill before us will not lead to drug-free federal prisons, I am sorry to say.

There is not a chance of drug-free prisons without two things: resources and rehabilitation. However, the word “rehabilitation” is not in the Conservative dictionary. It is not in the Conservative budget. It is not in the Conservative mindset. Good luck to the interpreters trying to explain the concept of rehabilitation through the Conservative earpieces. The interpreters will earn their money this evening. The bill would do nothing, if anything, to achieve drug-free prison status.

Bill C-12 would do is add a provision to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act whereby the Parole Board may use a positive urine test for drugs or refusal to take a urine test in making its decisions on parole eligibility. In other words, if one is a prison inmate and tests positive to a urine test for drugs, or refuses to take that urine test, the inmate may not get out on parole.

Now the rub with the bill before us is that the Parole Board of Canada already considers prison drug tests when making its decisions on the eligibility of offenders for parole. Therefore, there is nothing new in the bill. It would just give clear legal authority to an existing practice that the New Democratic Party of Canada supports. So the title, “drug-free prisons act”, is misleading, as I said earlier. There is nothing new here.

Now, oddly enough, when I was preparing for this speech and reading up on the drug-free prisons act, my thoughts kept turning to seals, for example, harp seals in the north Atlantic. I can see from the look on the members faces that they are puzzled. How can I make the leap from the drug-free prisons act to seals? I will explain.

Back in early March, I gave a speech right in this very spot in support of Bill C-555, an act respecting the marine mammal regulations. The bill would increase the distance that an unofficial observer, a seal hunt protester, for example, must keep from sealers going about their business of killing seals. Right now, it is against the law for an unofficial observer to come within a half nautical mile of the hunt. Bill C-555 would increase that buffer zone from a half mile to a full mile. Here is the thing: the half mile that is there now is not enforced, so increasing the distance to a full nautical mile is lip service. It means absolutely nothing.

What I said in my speech was that Bill C-555 was a sham, a charade, an illusion, a nuisance bill to make it appear that the Conservative government was defending the seal hunt, to make it appear that the government was the champion of the seal hunt, when it so clearly was not. Under the Conservative government, we have seen the biggest collapse of seal markets in history.

Now, back to the drug-free prisons act. What is the correlation? What is the connection? It is that the drug-free prisons act is also a charade. This is déjà vu. Bill C-12 would have minimal impact on drugs in prison. The title is absolutely misleading.

The Conservative government is using legislation to create an opportunity to pander to its base, without presenting a real solution to the issue of drugs and gangs in our prisons. The Conservatives will tell their base that they passed the drug-free prisons act. Great—Conservative job done. Only the job is not done. It is more Conservative sham, charade, illusion and sleight of hand, just like the seal bill.

In fact, the government is making prisons less safe by cutting funding to prison programs such as substance abuse. The government is making prisons less safe by increasing the use of double-bunking that leads to overcrowding, which then leads to more violence. It is well known that a high percentage of inmates in our prisons who abuse drugs also suffer from mental illness. At the same time, the budget of Correctional Service Canada for core funding such as substance abuse has been cut. Make sense out of that.

The Conservative government has closed treatment centres for inmates dealing with serious mental illness, but we would have a drug-free prisons act. Problem solved; it is all good. It is a charade. A flashy title does not solve the problem. Prisons should be renamed crime schools, crime schools that are endorsed by a Conservative government that fails to address double-bunking and gangs, a Conservative government that fails to support rehabilitation and drug abuse or mental illness. The Conservative crime school in my riding is known as Her Majesty's Penitentiary on the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake in east end St. John's. Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province in Canada without a federal prison. Her Majesty's Penitentiary is a provincial institution that takes in federal inmates.

The Conservatives have long promised to help build a new penitentiary, but we are not holding our breath. If we did, we would be long dead. Her Majesty's Penitentiary boasts a block that was built in 1849, 100 years before Confederation, before Canada joined Newfoundland and Labrador, a prison that is 165 years of age. Imprisoning inmates there has been compared to taking people from the 21st century and putting them back into the 19th century.

The latest story on Her Majesty's Penitentiary is from earlier today, just today. According to a CBC story, three inmates of Her Majesty's Penitentiary were charged after assaulting another inmate over the weekend with a broom handle. The victim was treated in hospital and released, thankfully. The story quotes the head of the union representing correctional officers as saying that the weekend assault was the fifth violent incident at that facility since last summer, and some of these incidents have included riots and hostage taking.

The leader of the union representing correctional officers at Her Majesty's Penitentiary says that it has become a more violent place, with prisoners involved with drug and gang activity inside prison walls. I repeat, drug and gang activity inside prison walls. Would the drug-free prisons act change that? There is not a chance, not at Her Majesty's Penitentiary and not at federal prisons around this country. Conservatives are not addressing drug addictions in prisons or mental illness, or gangs, or overcrowding, or double-bunking, or self-harm—suicides, in other words. Conservative legislation, such on as mandatory minimums, is leading to an increase in prison populations at the same time that prisons are closing, or prisons that should be replaced are not being replaced.

I like the advice of the federal Correctional Investigator. The advice is this. Prisoners should be assessed at intake into a prison so that addiction problems are identified and there can be better access to rehabilitation programs. What a novel concept: treating problems as they are assessed. According to the 2011-12 report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator, almost two-thirds of offenders were under the influence of a drug when they committed the offences that led to their imprisonment. Four out of five offenders arrive at a federal institution with a past history of substance abuse. In the meantime, Correctional Service Canada devotes between 2% and 2.7% of its total operating budget on core correctional programs like substance abuse. Is that enough? No, it is not nearly enough. While New Democrats support the drug-free prisons act, is that enough? No, it is not enough.

If the Conservatives say different, and they will, it is just another charade, a sham, an illusion. It is the Conservative way.

Business of Supply June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, what I simply pointed out in my speech was that the growing gap between the rich and poor, that ever increasing gap, began under consecutive Liberal governments. That is what I pointed out.

I think the hon. member asked whether I was concerned about the Liberals. The Liberals should be very concerned, especially with 2015 being an election year. They should be very concerned about the words that come out of their leader's mouth. He is not clear. He is all over the map. That is where their concerns should lie.

Business of Supply June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my immediate answer is that it is hard to tell what to support when the government throws so many omnibus budgets at us, with dozens and dozens of changes to laws. Half the time there are so many things in the omnibus budgets, one cannot tell what one is supporting and is not supporting. That is the problem with the government.

The minister just threw a whole bunch of numbers out there, but there are only two numbers Canadians need to keep in mind. First is that 86% of Canadians do not qualify for income splitting. Remember that number. Second, only 14% do. What 14% are they? They are the wealthiest people in Canada. We have 86% and 14%.

The other thing I want to point out is that the late Jim Flaherty also had his doubts about income splitting. If I have this correct, he spoke out against it before he, unfortunately, passed away. Maybe the Conservative government can learn from how Mr. Flaherty saw the light before he passed.