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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

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has been lauded in the media in some quarters for what it has done with the economy, for leading us through some turbulent economic times better than other countries around the world. However, the Conservative math is absolutely out of whack; it is absolutely out to lunch.

As the hon. member just mentioned, $500 million would be stolen from the EI fund to create 800 jobs. That is a joke.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is not only veterans that are not mentioned in this omnibus bill, housing is not mentioned at all. Housing is a problem from coast to coast to coast, from one end of this country to the other.

I am glad the fantastic critic for Veterans Affairs will be visiting my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl next month. There is a quote that resonates with the people in my riding and it is that if you can't look after veterans, don't send your people to war.

We are not looking after our veterans. The current Conservative government is not looking after our veterans, and we are going to war.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 30th, 2014

Half a page, halfwit. What I would say to that, Mr. Speaker, is that we are talking about 400 clauses, we are talking about amendments to dozens of acts and we are talking about a host of measures that were not even mentioned in the original budget. There are hundreds of clauses and amendments to dozens of acts.

Do not let that Conservative member fool you, Mr. Speaker.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this is my first opportunity to speak in the House since the events of last week. I am proud of how the House conducted itself in the wake of such terror, such atrocities, such shocking tragedy. It was good for Canada that we resumed sitting the very next morning, that we stood strong, that our leaders addressed Canadians, and that our leaders embraced. It was good for the nation to embrace.

It has been three years, and last week was the first time as a member of Parliament that I felt partisan lines dissolve, momentarily at least. I felt somewhat that way after Jack Layton died and after the passing of Jim Flaherty, but not to the degree I felt it here a week ago today. The House came together as one.

It is not every day that I stand up and applaud the Conservative Prime Minister. It is not every day that the Prime Minister stands up and applauds the leader of Her Majesty's opposition, the New Democratic Party of Canada, or the third party Liberals. It is not every day I personally compliment the Prime Minister. In fact, it never happened until last week.

The Prime Minister made a statement in the House last Thursday that I have since repeated a number of times because it struck a chord and I agreed with the statement. The Prime Minister said: “In our system, in our country, we are opponents, but we are never enemies”.

We are united in the House by the desire to better our country. As opponents, we disagree on how to get there, but we all strive for a better Canada, for this country to be the best country it can be. We are opponents, but we are never enemies. That is why it is so infuriating to see the government introduce, yet again, an absolutely massive anti-democratic omnibus bill. It is a bill that amounts to an affront to the principles and spirit that this precious institution was built on.

The Prime Minister said we are opponents but we are never enemies. I say we are Canadians but we are never fools. We are members of Parliament, but we are never puppets, at least we should never be puppets. We are elected to serve, to stand on guard for the Canadian way, for democracy, for our communities and our constituents. However, omnibus bills such as this are an attack on Parliament. Omnibus bills undermine Parliament.

In the words of former auditor general Sheila Fraser, “Parliament has become so undermined it is almost unable to do the job that people expect of it”.

Bill C-43 is a budget bill, but it is so much more than that. It is an omnibus bill, meaning it is a proposed law that covers a number of diverse or unrelated topics. In this case the number is a truckload. It could fill a boat to the gunwales. The bill is 400 pages long. It has more than 400 clauses. It amends dozens of acts. The bill contains a host of measures that were not even mentioned in the original budget. This is the Conservatives' sixth straight omnibus bill. It is too much for one bill.

There are some things in it that we like, such as ending pay to pay billing so Canadians are not forced to pay for a paper copy of their bills. We like that, although even that does not go far enough. The bill only bans pay to pay billing for telecom and broadcast companies. What about banks? Why should banks still be allowed to gouge Canadians? That is what they are doing. By charging Canadians for their paper bills, they are gouging Canadians, and the Conservatives are letting them get away with it.

There are also some things that we outright disagree with in this omnibus bill, like denying access to social assistance for refugee claimants. What else do they live on if not social assistance, in so many cases? This attack on the most vulnerable comes on the heels of Conservative cuts to refugee health care, a move that the Federal Court called “cruel and unusual”.

Denying access to social assistance for refugee claimants was a backbench private member's bill that was rammed into this omnibus bill after the media and anti-poverty and labour groups tore it apart.

There are parts of this omnibus bills we like; there are more parts of this omnibus bill that we do not like; and there are more parts of this bill that I will not even get to. It is not possible. In the end, there is no way that I, as the member of Parliament for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, can critique this omnibus bill, let alone analyze details of more than 400 clauses, given such limited debate and limited time, with so much stacked and rammed into one bill.

Here is how one parliamentarian described the use of omnibus bills. This is from a column by Russell Wangersky in today's The Telegram, the daily newspaper in east coast Newfoundland. This parliamentarian stated:

In the interest of democracy I ask: how can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and such concerns? … I would argue that the subject matter of the bill is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles.

Who was the parliamentarian who was so outraged about the Liberal blockbuster omnibus bill? It was none other than the Prime Minister of Canada himself, when he was in opposition in 1994.

When the Conservative government and the Liberal governments before it ram so much legislation into omnibus bills it leads to mistakes. Who pays for those mistakes? Canadians pay for them. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians pay for those mistakes.

The Conservative government used a 2012 omnibus bill to create the new Social Security Tribunal, which hears appeals related to the Canada pension plan, disability benefits, employment insurance, and old age security. My constituency office has officially been told that the backlog of cases is one year. Unofficially the backlog is three years. That 2012 omnibus bill capped the size of the tribunal at 74 full-time staff. It also removed limits on the number of hours part-time staff can work—thus, the backlog.

Now the Conservative government is using this latest budget bill to expand the Social Security Tribunal. The government has said that the change would allow it to add employees to respond to a backlog of nearly 11,000 cases across the country related to CPP and OAS. That mistake would likely not have happened if that piece of legislation had not been lost in an omnibus bill and if members of Parliament had been given an opportunity to better scrutinize the bill. However, we were not given that opportunity, and Canadians have paid the price.

The journalist Michael Harris, who is well known in Newfoundland and Labrador for his work with the Sunday Express newspaper and for books such as Unholy Orders and Lament for an Ocean, has a new book called Party of One, reflections on a prime minister.

He quotes Peter Milliken, former speaker of the House of Commons, who stated:

Parliament can hardly be weakened any more than it already is. [The Prime Minister] can't go much further without making the institution dysfunctional....

Michael Harris also quotes the late Farley Mowat, who stated that the Prime Minister is, “the most dangerous human being ever elevated to power in Canada”.

We are opponents; we are never enemies. The Prime Minister is right. We are opponents, and the Prime Minister has to stop treating us with contempt. The Prime Minister has to stop treating us like fools.

Ethics October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Employment and Social Development is once again using his office for political party purposes. Just before the last election, the NDP obtained Conservative Party plans to campaign in “very ethnic” ridings, a partisan plan drawn up on ministerial letterhead.

Now, the minister is spending his days on Twitter, sending out crudely drawn attacks on opposition politicians. However, it is not the minister himself who is firing up Microsoft Paint to put block letters on opposition faces. No, it is his staff who are putting this together.

Even the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has had enough of his antics.

Who could forget this very same minister last year tweeting out how he thought it was a “good thing” that his staff were not unionized.

While the mess he has made of the temporary foreign worker program spirals out of control, the minister and his staff were devoted to the one thing they really know how to do well, which is coming up with Lolcats. Canadians deserve better.

Canada Post October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, news broke today that Canada Post plans to discontinue door-to-door delivery to 29,000 homes in the St. John's South—Mount Pearl area next fall. Many of the people in those 29,000 homes are seniors. They are people with physical disabilities and mobility issues. They are Canadians who view home mail delivery as a treasured Canadian service.

What does the Conservative government have to say to the people of the St. John's South—Mount Pearl area who will be directly impacted by this massive cut in service?

Military Contribution Against ISIL October 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to some of the minister's adjectives pertaining to ISIL: pure evil, human plague, maniacal barbarism.

I attended an awards banquet on Friday night in my riding, and I was approached by a young man whose name is Sean Vinnicombe. He is 15 years old and is a grade 11 student at Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John's. I will pose the question he asked me: Why are we going to war in Iraq?

I have my own question that follows up on that. The United States was in Iraq for 10 years. The Americans fought there for 10 years and not much changed after those 10 years were up.

There are many hot spots around the world, including the Congo, where 5.4 million people have died since 1998. The Congo has asked three times since 2010 for Canada to support peacekeeping, but we said no. I have two questions. One, for the young man in my riding, is this: Why Iraq? The second is why Iraq and not the Congo--

Fisheries and Oceans October 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, a moratorium is looming on northern shrimp on the Grand Banks. The big worry is how the quota cuts will be handed down. If DFO follows its outdated last-in, first-out policy that favours big business offshore licence holders, many of which have foreign ownership, rural Newfoundland and Labrador, our plants, and our fishermen will be pounded again this year.

Will the minister agree to a fair process and stand by the principle of adjacency, whereby those closest to the resource benefit from the resource?

Business of Supply September 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I did not do a whole lot of fishing actually. I dropped a line once or twice, but it was too windy. I had a great time on the water.

In terms of why it is important for an answer to be relevant, this past weekend my sons asked me about this. They heard about this in the news. They pay attention to the news. They know that I am a member of Parliament so they pay attention to the debate that is going on in the House. They said, “Dad, how come when you ask the Prime Minister or his secretary a question, he can't be forced to answer? How come they can't be made to answer a direct question?” I said to them that they should have to answer. It should be that way.

I tell my sons to tell the truth, be honest, be forthright. If that is how I want my children to be raised, those principles, which are pretty simple and straightforward, should be upheld in this House as well.

Business of Supply September 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I did get a sense of that in my riding this weekend. The people in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl and right across Newfoundland and Labrador were outraged last week when, on an issue as important as Iraq, a pointed question from the Leader of the Opposition was asked directly of the government and the response was not on topic. The member asked a question about Iraq and the answer was about Israel. When that happened, people paid attention right across the country.

As one of the members on our side of the House mentioned a few moments ago in his answer, the Conservative government members have gotten that message loud and clear because the tone today in question period was totally different. They answered questions. If one good thing has happened, it is that they are starting to answer questions.