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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

Offshore Oil Industry September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil industry has turned our economy around. Oil has replaced the codfish as currency, although we must never turn our backs on the fishery.

While Alberta owns the oil beneath its soil, the Government of Canada holds ownership of oil beneath the sea, but the Atlantic accord outlines how Newfoundland and Labrador is to be the principal beneficiary of the offshore oil and gas industry off its shores; except we are not the principal beneficiary.

To date, the Government of Canada has realized a profit of almost $1.7 billion from its 8.5% stake in Hibernia. The province has offered to buy Ottawa's stake, but the government has shown no movement. The Atlantic accord is clear. Newfoundland and Labrador is to be the principal beneficiary. When will the Conservative government start living up to that principle?

We have to make the most of non-renewable resource revenues. They will not last. As a have province, we are not asking for a handout but a follow-through on a deal that has been done.

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for the excellent question and for his great work in the fisheries and oceans portfolio.

I am not just less confident in the Conservative government; I had no confidence in Liberal governments and administrations before the current government.

The 200-mile limit off the east coast of Canada was established in 1977. That was a mistake. It is great to have a 200-mile limit, but in the case of the east coast of Newfoundland, what we should have had was a territorial limit to the edge of the continental shelf. It should have gone out beyond 200 miles, but it did not, even though the Liberal prime minister of the day promised that it would happen. As a result, we have the absolute decimation of migratory stocks and offshore stocks such as cod.

In terms of my confidence in the Conservative administration to turn around the Newfoundland fishery and to attend to the interests of the Newfoundland fishery in terms of basic principles like historical attachment and adjacency, as I outlined in my speech, I have no confidence. We see management principles like LIFO, last in first out, implemented in the shrimp industry by the Conservative government. These principles hurt our province. They hurt Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is not good enough. It has to change. We will see a change and the impact of these bad decisions in 2015. There will not be a Conservative elected anywhere near where I am from. That will not happen.

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member brings up a good point in terms of shrimp. I mentioned in my speech that the fishing effort that had been on groundfish, such as cod, has been transferred to shellfish, such as crab and shrimp. Now we are seeing those stocks decline.

The most recent news is from earlier this year, and it is a decision that we and everybody in the fishing industry support. Scientists announced the decision that the shrimp quota must be cut. However, there is an imbalance in the cut. Most of the cut is to the inshore sector, versus the big business offshore.

What I saw first hand in the member's riding in Newfoundland and Labrador in the summer, in places like Fogo Island, is that the cut to the inshore shrimp quota is going to have a devastating impact on our fleet and on our communities.

As for the broader question about what needs to happen, in my opinion, what we need is a fisheries revolution. We need a revolution in fisheries management. The status quo does not work. It does not work for the fish stocks. It does not work for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as one of the seven members of Parliament for Newfoundland and Labrador, representing the east coast Newfoundland riding, the great and beautiful riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, I make sure I take every opportunity to speak on our once-great fisheries, to speak on what were once the richest fishing grounds in the world: the fabled, storied, legendary Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

When Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, Canada was elevated from 14th to 6th place in the world as a fish-exporting nation.

In his 2013 book Empty Nets: How Greed and Politics Wiped Out the World's Greatest Fishery, Gus Etchegary writes how Newfoundland presented Canada with the golden gift of her fisheries. Today, those fisheries are but a shadow of what they once were. I wrote an endorsement on the back of Gus Etchegary's book. The endorsement reads, “The rise and fall of the world's greatest fisheries is a crime of the highest order, and Gus Etchegary shows his mettle in telling the tale. He is the ultimate fighting Newfoundlander”.

In 1992, the federal Conservative government of the day and John Crosbie, who was the federal fisheries minister of the day, shut down the northern cod fishery. The shutdown of the northern cod fishery was described at the time as the biggest lay-off in Canadian history, throwing 19,000 people directly out of work. It was compared to the prairie dust bowl of the 1930s. The moratorium that was announced in 1992 was supposed to last two years. It has been 22 years and counting. The province has lost 90,000 people since then. They are gone, most of them never to return.

The fading of our traditional fisheries is having an impact on our heritage; it is having an impact on our culture. To simplify on that impact, how long will we sing of squid jigging grounds, when there are no more squid to be jigged? There has been a modest recovery in groundfish stocks such as cod, but the offshore stocks are still absolutely decimated. The point that I raise now should bring home the gravity of the fall of our fisheries and how far we have fallen. For most of the year, it is illegal for a child to jig a cod from the end of a wharf, to jig a cod from the North Atlantic Ocean. Can members fathom that?

Over the years, the fishing effort has been transferred from groundfish such as cod to shellfish such as shrimp and crab, but both those stocks are in steep decline. On top of that, the biggest cuts to the quotas we have left are to our inshore fleets, meaning that our coastal communities—those we have left—are still taking a pounding.

Management decisions from 2,000 kilometres away, here in Ottawa, are not based on the principles of adjacency or historical attachment; that phrase means that those closest to the resource are the ones who benefit from the resource. No, that is not what is happening. Conservatives ignore those principles in favour of big offshore companies, most of which have foreign ownership. Managing the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries from Ottawa has resulted in a lack of understanding, a lack of consideration, and a lack of communication. Given all that has happened to our fisheries, to the Grand Banks—the collapse of the stocks, unchecked foreign overfishing, the wipeout of entire domestic fleets, the layoff of tens of thousands of workers, and the loss of almost 100,000 Newfoundlanders—the biggest policy change over the past 22 years has been the decision by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to eliminate the double-hook jigger. Instead of a jigger with two hooks, they can now only use a jigger with one hook. That has been the most substantial fishery policy change in years. It is absolutely unbelievable.

It is in this context that I speak to Bill S-3, a housekeeping bill.

Bill S-3 would amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. We support this legislation. The bill is required. It is necessary for Canada to be able to ratify the United Nations Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Canada signed the agreement in 2010. It should be noted, however, that this UN agreement can only come into force after it has been ratified by 25 nations, and it has yet to be ratified by 25 nations.

It goes without saying—although I will be saying it now—that illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing undermines the sustainable practices of legitimate fishing operations, including those in Canada, including those in Newfoundland and Labrador, and presents unfair market competition to sustainable seafood. It makes sense. We cannot disagree with that.

However, this legislation is only the first step in preventing illegal fishing. Once Canada ratifies the port state measures agreement, we must then take a leadership role in encouraging other nations to move forward on this agreement as well. Good luck with that. Hopefully it will work out better than NAFO, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, which monitors fishing on the high seas outside Canada's 200-mile limit off Newfoundland and Labrador on the Grand Banks. NAFO is useless. NAFO is toothless. NAFO is a joke.

While there has been a moratorium on fishing in Canadian waters since 1992, for too many of those years it has been a free-for-all outside the 200-mile limit. Fishing in Canadian waters stopped dead in the water. It stopped completely. For the first time in 500 years it stopped, but fishing outside the 200-mile limit continued. The funny thing about migratory stocks such as cod is that they do not pay any attention to imaginary lines in the ocean. The 200-mile limit means nothing to a fish. So we stopped fishing, but foreign nations continued.

Even today, if a foreign nation is cited for illegal fishing outside the 200-mile limit on the Grand Banks, it is up to the home country of the foreign trawler in question to follow through on court action or penalties. How often has that happened? How often is the book thrown at a foreign trawler by its home country for ravaging what is left of what were once the world's greatest fisheries? How often does that happen? It never happens.

I cannot tell the House how many times, as a journalist and as a member of Parliament, I filed federal access to information requests to try to find out what penalties have been imposed on a foreign trawler cited for illegal fishing. How many times have I filed a federal ATIP? I cannot tell the House how many times. The government has denied the release of such information. Why? It is because it says that it may jeopardize international relations. What about Newfoundland and Labrador relations? Where do we fit in?

John Crosbie was the Progressive Conservative minister in 1992 who shut down the northern cod fishery. He shut it down and he brought in the aid package after that. It was a great big fat welfare package. John Crosbie once wrote, “Who hears the fishes when they cry?” He was a funny man. The better question is who hears the fishermen when they cry.

I refer back to Gus Etchegary's book Empty Nets: How Greed and Politics Wiped Out the World's Greatest Fishery and I quote:

I wrote this book because I, like a few others, refuse to accept that this once huge, renewable resource cannot be rebuilt to play a role in the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador and provide a source of food for an increasing world population.

Truer words have never been spoken.

I support this housekeeping bill, but make no mistake, let there be no doubt, let this be beyond the shadow of a doubt: our fisheries and our coastal communities need a hell of a lot more protection than this.

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as I outlined in my speech, the number of federal government employees, or the number of private sector employees across Canada who are federally regulated who make under $15 an hour are few and far between. This is a symbolic move. Again, to refer to my last answer, this is an opportunity for the Conservatives and the Prime Minister of Canada to show leadership across this country, to show leadership to the provinces, and to set the bar in terms of minimum wage.

Again, the Conservative government is failing to set the bar.

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister of Canada was asked a question in today's question period, and this will respond to the hon. member's question about leadership.

The Prime Minister was asked a question today about a national minimum wage and whether or not he would agree to it. Would he agree to the New Democratic proposal that we have a national minimum wage of $15 an hour to be set over the next five years? Basically, the Prime Minister said, which again comes back to leadership, that he would leave it to the provinces.

The example I gave in my speech, again coming back to leadership, is how the province of Newfoundland and Labrador set up an inquiry in 2012 to have a look into the provincial minimum wage, and it recommended increasing the minimum wage. What did the Progressive Conservative government of Newfoundland and Labrador do with that recommendation? It ignored it.

The Prime Minister and the Conservatives have an opportunity to show leadership across this country, but what do they fail to do yet again? Show leadership.

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Davenport.

I am proud to say that as many Canadians know, Newfoundland and Labrador is a have province. This is not a news flash. In 2008, for the first time since Confederation in 1949, almost 60 years ago, we hit a milestone in that we stopped receiving equalization.

For years we were seen as a drain, a poor cousin of Canada, although that is most definitely debatable, and I would say it was never the case. Today we officially contribute more to the Confederation than we get back.

Our confidence, our self-esteem in our identity as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians has improved. We are not cocky, though. We are not uppity. We look down on no one. The memory of hard times is not that far off and it never seems to be that far away. There are still far too many people who are not benefiting from the have status. It feels good to be a have province.

We were always known across Canada as hard workers who were proud of where we come from, but now we are just a little bit prouder. But, and here is the but, in the wise words of one of my constituents, there are still too many have-not people. There are too many have-not families in a have province.

Former Premier Brian Peckford once famously said that “one day the sun will shine and have-not will be no more.” The economic sun is finally shining in Newfoundland and Labrador, but there will always be have-nots. That is why I stand today in support of the motion by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should reinstate the federal minimum wage and increase it incrementally to $15 per hour over five years.

At $10 an hour, the minimum wage in Newfoundland and Labrador is tied for lowest in the country, and we still have the highest unemployment rate of all provinces. There has not been an increase in the minimum wage in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2010. That will change next month when the minimum wage in my province will increase by 25¢ an hour. For a full-time minimum wage worker, that 25¢ extra an hour will work out over the course of a week to $10, which will roughly buy four litres of milk and a couple of loaves of bread. It is not a lot. An increase of 25¢ an hour will not make much of a difference in the lives our have-nots.

The New Democratic Party of Newfoundland and Labrador is calling for a greater increase in the minimum wage. In August 2012, a report commissioned by the Progressive Conservative government recommended increasing the minimum wage and tying it to inflation and the consumer price index. The Progressive Conservative government of Newfoundland and Labrador ignored that report.

So much for the Prime Minister's comment in question period today about how he would leave it to the provinces to set their own minimum wage. Provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador set a minimum wage and then ignore it.

Newfoundland and Labrador New Democrats held a minimum wage town hall in St. John's earlier this month, coincidentally. It was an event that drew too many stories of poverty.

Let me quote Russell Cochrane. He is a St. John's resident in his twenties who has worked several minimum wage jobs. He said:

It's degrading when you work a full-time job, you come out of it with only enough money to pay your rent and then have one week of groceries, wondering where you're going to eat for the second. That hunger sticks, and it's a hunger that doesn't only degrade your body—it wears at your soul, it wears at your sense of self-worth.

The motion before the House today is a starting point to address that degradation, to address that hunger, to address income inequality. By boosting standards for workers under federal jurisdiction, such as those who work in banks and financial services, telecommunications, and broadcasting, the federal government can show leadership, set an example for provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador, and improve wages across the country.

Speaking of my home province, it has one of the highest percentages of minimum wage earners in Canada. In 2011, 9.7% of workers, or 19,700 workers, earned minimum wage. In Canada, as a whole, only 6.8% earned minimum wage. New Democrats believe that Canadians who work hard and play by the rules should be able to make a decent living. Is that asking for too much? It is not. Is that asking for too much here in Canada, one of the richest countries in the world?

We are not reinventing the wheel. There was a national federal minimum wage until 1996. What happened then? The Liberals eliminated it. Instead of doing the right thing and raising the federal minimum wage that had stagnated for a decade, the Liberals washed their hands of the problems and killed the national minimum wage altogether.

In real terms, between 1975 and 2013, the average minimum wage increased by just one penny. That means that workers earning the average minimum wage have only received a 1¢ raise over the past 40 years, even though the Canadian economy has grown by leaps and bounds.

The motion to reinstate the federal minimum wage and increase it incrementally to $15 an hour over five years will have little impact on federal finances as most federal employees already earn above the minimum wage. Most private sector workers under federal jurisdiction also make above the $15-an-hour mark, but the reinstatement of a federal minimum wage will show—and here is that word again—leadership. It will show leadership and send a message to all provinces to follow suit. Income inequality in our country is spiralling out of control. The incomes of the top 1% are surging while the typical Canadian family has seen its income fall over the last 35 years of mostly federal Liberal governments.

Let me summarize. No full-time worker in Canada should live in poverty. I repeat, no full-time worker in Canada should live in poverty. I challenge every member across the floor of the commons to stand and disagree with that point. In the words of Linda McQuaig, an author and journalist and recent New Democrat candidate, a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage would be a bold step toward establishing the principle that no full-time worker should live in poverty.

Minimum wage jobs are not just for teenagers, a way to occupy them after school and put spending money in their pockets. Minimum wage jobs are real jobs. They are real incomes that too many families depend on. Women, for example, are disproportionately minimum wage earners. In Newfoundland and Labrador, women make up 60.4% of minimum wage earners. Other minimum wage earners include immigrants, recent graduates, and too many others who can only find part-time work and need to hold down two or three jobs to survive.

Let me bring this speech home with another quote from the minimum wage town hall in St. John's earlier this month. Let me quote Ellen. She is a Memorial University engineering student. She stated, “We need to stop being cheerleaders for the most wealthy interests in our society and stick up for someone who needs it”.

More and more people in this country need sticking up for. More and more, the gap between the rich and the poor in this country is widening. From the world's perspective, Canada is a have country. Few countries have what we have, but it is the have-nots that we have to look out for. If the measure of a great country is how well it looks after its most vulnerable, then we have fallen short under successive Conservative and Liberal administrations before it.

Energy Safety and Security Act September 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member just said that the $1 billion absolute liability will put us “squarely among those of its peer countries”. However, the $1 billion pales in comparison to the absolute liability in the United States of $12.6 billion.

How can the member say that this puts us squarely among our peer countries when there is a difference of $11 billion or $12 billion? What is the member talking about?

Energy Safety and Security Act September 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that the bill would increase the absolute liability from $30 million to $1 billion, which is a good thing, and it is absolutely welcome. However, the increase would still pale in comparison to the absolute liability of the United States, which has been set at $12.6 billion U.S. That is $12.6 billion U.S. versus $1 billion Canadian.

The member for Halifax West seems to be suggesting that if we increase the absolute liability to any more than $1 billion, we would be killing the industry. However, if the United States can have an absolute liability of $12.6 billion U.S. for their industry, is the member saying that we cannot afford to have that same level of absolute liability set for Canadian waters and waters off Newfoundland and Labrador?

Energy Safety and Security Act September 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain for the way she summarized the shortfalls in the legislation. She was very thorough and she was eloquent in her speech as well.

I have also spoken on the legislation, and some of the immediate weaknesses in the legislation in terms of the absolute liability is the fact that it is not enough.

As the hon. member pointed out, there will be an increase in absolute liability from $30 million to $1 billion. That is a substantial increase, but when we compare it to other jurisdictions, as the hon. member pointed out, like the United States, for example, which has an absolute liability of $12.6 billion and where the case of the Deepwater Horizon, the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has a total cleanup bill so far of $42 billion and rising, we can see that the $1 billion this legislation points out is not enough.

I have two questions for the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain. First, do we deserve any less in terms of absolute liability than the United States?

The second question is whether or not the increased liability could enhance the prevention of nuclear accidents or offshore oil and gas accidents.