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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

Canada Shipping Act, 2001 February 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I begin my speech, on the topic of shipwrecks and derelict vessels, with cannibal rats, and more specifically, Canadian cannibal rats. That should get everyone's attention. It is not every day that Canadian cannibal rats make it into a speech in this honourable House.

How is this for a headline? “Ghost ship crewed only by Cannibal rats feared to be heading for Scottish coast”. That is from the Scottish Daily Record.

This is another from the Plymouth Herald: “Ghost ship full of cannibal rats could be about to crash into Devon Coast”.

The last quote is, “Hedging its bets, declared, 'Ghost ship full of diseased cannibal rats could crash into coast of Devon OR Cornwall'.”

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are known far and wide as the friendliest people on the planet, but sending a ghost ship full of cannibal diseased rats across the North Atlantic is no way to treat one's European neighbours. We are better than that.

The ghost ship crewed by cannibal rats was the Lyubov Orlova, a 38-year-old, 4,250-tonne Russian cruise ship that was tied up in the St. John's Harbour for two years. It was tied up for two years after it was apprehended by the RCMP after a financial scandal involving the boat's European owners. The ship was an eyesore. It was a rusty, dirty smudge on the St. John's waterfront for months. Nothing, apparently, could be done about it.

Finally, in January 2011, the Lyubov Orlova was towed to the Dominican Republic, where it was to be taken apart for scrap. The ship was only out of St. John's Harbour for a day when the tow line broke. In the words of our then Transport Canada critic Olivia Chow, Transport Canada should have never given a “licence to allow an unreliable and unsafe tugboat to tug the Orlova in the first place”, but that is another story.

The ship drifted for a week toward offshore oil platforms on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, which was a real risk, before it was towed clear by an offshore supply boat. The Lyubov Orlova was then towed by a vessel hired by Transport Canada, but that tow line also broke, and the ship, full of Canadian cannibal rats, if we believe the headlines, drifted into international waters, where it made international headlines for the threat it posed of crashing into the Scottish and Irish coasts.

The ship eventually sank, or that is a widespread belief. Members should keep in mind that it is a ghost ship.

The story of the Lyubov Orlova is a bizarre one. It comes across as a Canadian joke. However, it is not funny; far from it. The Lyubov Orlova was an eyesore in St. John's Harbour for months. The ship was a threat to our offshore oil platforms and a threat to shipping. It was a threat to the British coast.

This brings us to this private member's bill, Bill C-638, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck), which my party supports. If this bill had been in effect when the Lyubov Orlova was still around, the world could have been spared the suspense of where the transatlantic cannibal rat ship from Newfoundland and Labrador, from Canada, would end up. This bill would give the Canadian Coast Guard the regulatory power it needs to take action before a derelict vessel becomes a problem. That is a perfect example of why the Canadian Coast Guard needs to be given that power.

As has already been pointed out, derelict vessels are a growing problem across Canada, with the aging of both industrial and pleasure craft. In 2013, the National Marine Manufacturers Association estimated that there were 4.3 million boats in Canada. The number of derelict and abandoned vessels was pegged at 240 in November 2012, with the majority of those boats on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Normally, only a vessel that is an immediate hazard to navigation or the environment will be dealt with by any level of government.

That leaves derelict vessels like the Lyubov Orlova in a grey zone. No one is responsible for preventing them from deteriorating and becoming a problem. This bill would designate the Canadian Coast Guard as the receiver of wreck for the purposes of the Canadian Shipping Act, allowing the Coast Guard to take action without being directed by a ministry. It would compel the government to create regulations for the removal, disposition, and destruction of derelict vessels or wrecks.

Giving the Canadian Coast Guard the authority to deal with derelict vessels is only a first step. The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, who tabled this bill—and a fine member she is—wanted to create a derelict vessel removal regime similar to that in Washington State. There, a fee on the annual vessel registration helps pay for the costs of removal of derelict vessels. A single public agency, the Department of Natural Resources, is responsible for administering that program.

However, that was beyond the scope of a private member's bill, so we have this first step: a private member's bill that would give the Canadian Coast Guard the power to take action before a derelict vessel becomes a problem. It makes sense.

To elaborate on what happens in Washington State, the abandoned and derelict vessels program there has been in place for 10 years and has resulted in the remediation of roughly 500 vessels.

There are signs we may be headed in that direction. We would not say that after listening to the speech from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, but let me quote from a letter that his minister wrote to the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. In that recent letter, the minister stated:

Transport Canada will be further analyzing wider policy options related to derelict, abandoned and wrecked vessels, including legal authorities and governance models.

That shows a sign of hope. My party will be keeping an eye on that to ensure there is follow-through.

I also have an example of an abandoned vessel in the waters off Newfoundland's northeast coast that has been an environmental hazard for years. It has been leaking oil into the waters off Newfoundland's northeast coast for years. To date, the current Conservative government has failed to fix the problem permanently.

The Manolis L, a paper carrier, sank 30 years ago this year in the waters off Notre Dame Bay with 500 tons of fuel aboard. The wreck sat dormant for years, but a powerful storm two years ago dislodged the vessel. That storm also dislodged the 500 tons of fuel that were in the vessel's hull. Last year, the Canadian Coast Guard replaced a cofferdam, a device that catches leaking oil, in order to stop the fuel leak. However, that is not a permanent solution at all. Oil-covered ducks and other animals have been discovered, and with eastern Canada's largest seabird colony just 100 kilometres away, people are worried, and rightly so. So they should be.

In the words of local resident David Boyd, “The patient is slowly bleeding out, and we're putting a Band-Aid on it rather than going in and doing the operation that needs to be done.” The operation that needs to be done is the removal of that oil.

There is no consistency in this country when it comes to derelict vessels or shipwrecks. A couple of years ago, the Canadian Coast Guard launched a major operation to extract hundreds of tons of fuel from a U.S. army transport ship that sank in 1946 off British Columbia's remote north coast. There is no consistency. The oil aboard the Manolis L off Newfoundland and Labrador's northeast coast has not been cleaned up, yet it must be cleaned up, and permanently. Why would the Canadian Coast Guard clean up a wreck off the B.C. coast and not clean up a wreck off Newfoundland and Labrador's coast?

First things first, though. Let us pass this bill and give the Coast Guard the regulatory power it needs before a derelict vessel becomes a problem.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001 February 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan for bringing forward this very important private member's bill. Derelict vessels, wrecks, and abandoned vessels are a problem off all coasts. As the member pointed out in her speech, this is the first step, giving the Canadian Coast Guard the regulatory power it needs to take action before it becomes a problem

My question is this, and the hon. member just touched on this a moment ago. What are the second and the third steps? The hon. member mentioned what happens in Washington State. How successful has the model been in Washington State? How many derelict vessels and how many shipwrecks have been cleaned up because of Washington State taking charge?

Transportation February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the main estimates show that Marine Atlantic has taken a $97 million hit in its operating budget. That is an 85% cut to the critical transportation link for Newfoundland and Labrador ferry services that the people and the economy cannot live without. The government has an obligation to protect this ferry service under our terms of union. People are worried.

I spoke with Marine Atlantic today about those funding cuts, and it said, “Wait for the budget”. What is the deal? Will services be cut? Yes or no?

British-Inuit Treaty of 1765 February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise to congratulate and join with the NunatuKavut Community Council on the 250th anniversary of the British-Inuit Treaty of 1765. Our party's commitment to the NunatuKavut Inuit and the justness of their aboriginal rights and title claims is steadfast.

New Democrats have always stood up for aboriginal rights. Just last year, our party passed an extraordinary resolution recognizing the NunatuKavut Inuit and set down our solemn commitment to enter into honourable negotiations with them for a modern land claims agreement. We ask the Conservative government to follow the lead of the NDP to work sincerely and expeditiously to heal the relationship with all aboriginal people, including the Inuit of south central Labrador, and to start those negotiations.

We ask all colleagues in the House to join us in commemorating the 250th anniversary of the first and only British-Inuit treaty of its kind. I thank the NunatuKavut Community Council for helping to keep this important part of Canadian history alive.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the anti-terrorism bill was introduced last Wednesday and the government introduced time allocation after only three speakers. We had less than one full day of debate and the government introduced time allocation.

Personally, I will not have an opportunity to speak to the bill. I have heard concerns about this bill in my riding, concerns about the lack of oversight and how the line between security and freedom has been blurred, and that is dangerous.

Again, the government has now introduced time allocation or closure on a bill 88 times, the most in history.

My question for the member is pretty straightforward. Why will the government not allow me to speak to the bill? Why is it limiting debate? If the hon. member could direct his answer to the people of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, they would love to hear the answer.

Marine Mammal Regulations February 17th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I begin this speech on one of the most controversial of Canadian topics, the seal hunt, with one of the country's most controversial commentators, Don Cherry.

Don Cherry, who has made his career on and around the ice, recently took a shot at the Newfoundland and Labrador ice industry, our seal hunt. It was a Saturday night earlier this month on Hockey Night in Canada. Don Cherry was doing his usual Coach's Corner, with his CBC sidekick, Ron MacLean. MacLean was actually in St. John's, Newfoundland, for Rogers Hometown Hockey, and he mentioned during the segment how he had eaten a seal burger for lunch that day. The seal burger was prepared by Chef Todd Perrin of Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi Village in east end St. John's, one of our finest restaurants. Indeed, we have some of the finest restaurants in Canada.

Don Cherry's immediate reaction to the mention of a seal burger was disgust. That is what I saw in his face. “Imagine eating a baby seal”, Cherry said, before questioning whether McLean was a savage or a barbarian. It was hard to tell whether Don Cherry was serious, or whether he was just ribbing MacLean, which is what he often does. However, the immediate reaction in Newfoundland and Labrador to Don Cherry's comments was not good. To slight the seal hunt is to slight Newfoundland and Labrador, more so than any other slight, from “Newfie” on down. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians take any criticism of the seal hunt as a direct personal attack, not just against us and who we are as a people, but also against our forefathers and our very outpoured souls. To attack the seal hunt is to attack Newfoundland and Labrador. To attack the seal hunt is to poke the bear that is the fighting Newfoundlander. One does not joke about the seal hunt. We are not ready for that yet. The constant attacks on the hunt have left a wound that is still much too raw. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are sensitive, and for good reason.

In the words of Bernie Halloran, the owner of a small outerwear shop in downtown St. John's that has been selling seal products for 30 years, sealing is the most bullied industry on the planet. Bernie Halloran said that in a letter he wrote to Don Cherry.

Don Cherry later issued what was more of a clarification than an apology. He said he had no problem with people who hunt seals and no problem with seal meat, but also said, “I do however find it very unusual, in my world, that a person would go into a restaurant and order a seal burger for lunch.” That may be unusual to Don Cherry in Don Cherry's world, but it is not unusual in my world. Flipper pie is a true Newfoundland and Labrador delicacy, and the best meat by far that I have ever eaten is seal tenderloin fried on a cast iron pan with butter, salt, and pepper and left for 15 minutes. It is heaven on a plate.

Don Cherry may know hockey, but he does not know Newfoundland and Labrador. He does not know our people. He does not know our cultural industry. At what point did Don Cherry become soft? To quote a constituent, “Go buy Rock 'Em Sock 'Em 97, where grown men punch the face off each other for two hours”. Is that not barbaric?

To quote another Newfoundlander, “I wonder what the wings and ribs at Don Cherry's restaurant are made of?” Is that not hypocritical: beef, chicken, seal? The sealing industry has been vilified.

To once again quote Bernie Halloran, owner of that seal shop in downtown St. John's, “ opinion, if sealing is wrong, the whole world is wrong”.

That brings us to the bill before the House today. Her Majesty's official opposition, the New Democratic Party of Canada, supports Bill C-555, the seal fishery observation licence.

This bill would increase the distance that an unofficial observer—a seal protestor, for example—must keep from sealing. 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 to a full nautical mile. It would increase from a half nautical mile to a full nautical mile.

When I spoke on this bill in March 2014, almost a year ago, I called this bill a charade, to make it appear that the Conservative government is actually doing something for the hunt, for sealing. This bill is a sham, to make it appear that the government is defending the seal hunt. It is an illusion, to make it appear that the government is a champion of the seal hunt.

Changing the distance that unofficial seal hunt observers can approach the hunt from a half mile to a full nautical mile means absolutely nothing when the half mile zone that is there now is not enforced.

Sealers on the ground in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador say that this is a good idea, but they do not see how it would change anything. The east coast seal hunt has seen the biggest collapse of seal markets in its history under the Conservative government. That is a fact.

Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Taiwan, the European Union, and all of its member countries have banned the importation of Canadian seal products while the Conservative government has sat idly by, touting its undying support, for all the good it has done.

The anti-seal hunt groups have been very effective, incredibly effective, in pounding our industry. I recently travelled to Taiwan with a parliamentary delegation. I was curious to ask the Taiwanese first hand why they banned Canadian seal products in 2013, because that is the way it was sold over here: yet another country has lined up against the Canadian seal hunt.

However, what I learned was that the Taiwanese ban on the export or sale of marine mammal products had solely to do with Japanese whaling and the Japanese dolphin hunt. It had nothing to do with Canadian seal products. The seal hunt is not an issue in Taiwan. This is a country where people eat barbequed squid on a stick. Taiwan and Asian countries like it are seafood meccas.

The Conservative government has to do more to educate people around the world about our sustainable and humane seal hunt. The government is not doing enough to spread the word. The Taiwanese quote Greenpeace and the International Fund for Animal Welfare as gospel, as the last word on the seal hunt, when they should not be quoted at all.

To wrap up, my party supports this bill on extending the seal fishery observation licence, but that will not change a thing with the hunt. It will not reopen closed markets. It will not lift the ban on seal products in so many countries around the world. This bill will not stop people like Don Cherry from describing those who eat seal burgers as barbarians or savages. Joking or not, such comments do nothing to promote our sealing industry. The comments sting.

I just attended the 10-day Mount Pearl Frosty Festival in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl. Mount Pearl is a city alongside St. John's, a city that I describe as a land-locked outport. People there are first-, second-, or third-generation baymen. Baymen means that they come from rural Newfoundland and Labrador, meaning sealing is in their blood.

The seal fashion that I took in during the Frosty Festival—the sealskin boots, jackets, and coats, mostly on the women—was absolutely lovely. Besides sending a note to Don Cherry, Bernie Halloran of St. John's mailed him three seal ties, including a blue one in memory of Don Cherry's late dog, Blue. How nice was that? That is who we are.

The best thing that could happen to the seal hunt is if someone like Don Cherry, with his unique fashion sense, embraced our industry, embraced our fine fashion sense and melded it with his own.

Don Cherry in a sealskin jacket and tie would get two minutes for looking so good.

Business of Supply February 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member across the way for his speech, but at no point did he approach or tackle the topic of this motion. This motion is all about the Conservative federal government's living up to its promise to Newfoundland and Labrador. It was a promise to set aside $280 million in a fisheries fund for the development and renewal of the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government gave up a piece of key policy with its minimum processing requirements. It gave that up at the request of the Conservative government.

Why are the Prime Minister and the government reneging on that deal? Why did the member not even approach the topic of the motion in his speech?

Business of Supply February 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech and also for pronouncing Newfoundland properly. Well done, sir.

My question is this. Bill Hawkins, the then chief of staff to the trade minister, is now the Prime Minister's principal secretary. In a letter he wrote to the Newfoundland government on October 23, 2013, he talked about a “transitional program of up to a combined total of $400 million that would address fish and seafood industry development and renewal”. That does not sound at all like compensation in case of losses, because it was not compensation in case of losses.

I have two questions. First, how can the Conservatives do such an about-face on this? Second, the former Progressive Conservative premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Kathy Dunderdale, held a news conference in October 2013 and announced all of the details of this $400 million fund, exactly what it was for, and what it would be spent on. Why did the Conservative government wait more than a year before raising a single objection?

Business of Supply February 2nd, 2015

That is a very good question.

Business of Supply February 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for St. John's East for his excellent speech.

As the hon. member for St. John's East knows, this is not the first time the current Prime Minister and his government have betrayed Newfoundland and Labrador. A betrayal took place in 2006, when the Prime Minister failed to live up to his promise to exclude offshore resource revenues from equalization. That created a war between Danny Williams and the Prime Minister and the current government. Now we have it reneging on this $400-million fund and what it was supposed to be used for.

My question for the member for St. John's East is this. Why does he think the current government and the Prime Minister are so set on betraying Newfoundland and Labrador? Why is this happening?