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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
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.
Business of Supply September 29th, 2014
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last week in the House I posed a question during question period and the unbelievable happened. It was a first in my time in the House. I raised a question and I actually got an answer, an answer that was on topic. The question was about an extension to the fixed dates for the food fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador to take bad weather into account. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans took to her feet, responded on topic and agreed to extend the fishery. I was floored. The crowd on this side of the House applauded the minister's answer and the fact that I got one. People paid attention at home and it played on the news. The fact that asking a question and getting an answer results in such fanfare, such surprise, tells us that we have a problem.
This past weekend I went back to my riding and I spent much of yesterday, Sunday, in a small wooden boat known as a punt. I was handlining for cod off a place called Petty Harbour. It was as real as it gets, the sea spray, the sun, the sweat, the wind, the taste of salt. Back to my original point, Ottawa is the moon. My riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl is planet earth. The House must be the high ground in between the moon and earth. The House should raise the bar for truth, accountability, transparency and for honour. Too often, the bar under the Conservative government has been lowered.
Business of Supply September 29th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, soon after I was first elected and came to the nation's capital, rookie members of Parliament were called to this chamber, this very esteemed chamber, for a one-on-one introduction on how Parliament works. It was a crash course on how to be a member of Parliament. The analogy or lesson I took away that day above all others was this: Ottawa is the moon, and the ridings, including my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, are planet Earth.
I took that to mean that Ottawa is not the real world. Ottawa is a bubble. Much of what happens here does not resonate at home. People do not always pay a whole lot of attention.
However, they do pay some attention.
They pay particular attention when what happens here directly impacts them on the ground in the riding, in their living rooms, around the kitchen table, or in their pockets.
People pay attention to scandal when well-paid politicians abuse the public trust.
They pay attention to a skirmish, especially a colourful skirmish. People like a fight, like a fighting Newfoundlander, but then there is always a fight for Newfoundland and Labrador.
They also pay attention when politicians who are elected to represent them in these hallowed halls of Parliament make a mockery of Parliament, show contempt for Parliament, or embarrass Parliament. They pay attention when members of Parliament cross the line.
Canadians pay attention when their government sends them into harm's way—into conflict or into Iraq, for example—so when my leader, the leader of Her Majesty's official opposition, stood in this House last week during question period and asked the Conservative government to define the military deployment in Iraq, to confirm that the 30-day Canadian commitment in Iraq would indeed end on October 4, he deserved an answer. More importantly, Canadians deserved an answer.
However, the answer that came from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister was completely off topic. It was irrelevant to the topic at hand. It was insulting.
If Ottawa is the moon and my riding is planet Earth, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister , the member of Parliament for Oak Ridges—Markham, must be from another planet altogether. Maybe he is from Mars or some bizarro world called Harpertron.
MPs in this House, and Canadians, did not know where the member was coming from. What was worse, and what has rattled this House, Canadians, and people back home in Newfoundland and Labrador, is that the Speaker of the House of Commons apparently has no authority to force the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister to give an answer that is even remotely on topic or relevant in any way.
There are rules in place to require questions to be relevant to parliamentary business, but not answers. The hon. Speaker apparently has no authority to judge whether any given answer is in fact an answer. The hon. Speaker can determine when an MP can speak. The Speaker can determine when language is parliamentary or not, but he cannot judge the content.
As has been said here today, that is why it is called “question period” and not “answer period”. It is in that context that I stand in support of this motion by the hon. opposition House leader, the member of Parliament for Burnaby—New Westminster, to improve and enhance question period, make Parliament more democratic, and force the government to be more accountable, answer simple questions, and at the very least to stay on topic.
The motion likely will not make it to a vote, but if passed, it would give the Speaker the power to cut off a member who persists in irrelevance or repetition. The Speaker can do that already with a speech, but he cannot do it with an answer during question period.
How relevant were the answers last week by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister on the subject of Iraq?
The Telegram, the daily newspaper in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, described it as the “ever-worsening circus on Parliament Hill”.
However, the quote that resonated the most with me was from an editorial in the Ottawa Citizen, and I quote:
But it must make the decent MPs from all parties cringe. If this is what a successful MP looks like now,
—referring to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister—
why would anyone even want to go to Parliament, to play that cringeworthy part, to embarrass themselves, their government and their country over and over again? At some point, it stops being about strategy or even about the rules. This is a fundamental question of honour....
This brings me to Friday's apology in the House by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister who wept during his apology, but the apology was a little off. At the same time that the member's voice was quivering, he was saying that he will probably do it again. The MP said, “I do not think it will be the last time that I will get up and answer a question that does not effectively respond”. I do not want to pick on the MP for Oak Ridges—Markham, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. He is not the first Conservative lackey to the Prime Minister and he probably will not be the last.
The government's conduct in the House is a direct reflection of the leader's consistent contempt for Parliament. The House and the office of the Speaker must be given the power to override that contempt, a contempt that threatens to rot—
Fisheries and Oceans September 25th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is amazing. The policy on banning factory ships has just vanished into the Conservative air from the DFO website. It is gone.
Let us get this straight. The minister okayed this huge trawler coming into the Gulf of St. Lawrence just months after Atlantic Canadian fishermen rallied to stop her attack on fleet separation. It is as though the minister is trying to do through the back door what she could not do through the front door.
Why is the minister making policy for well-connected Conservative friends, like the Sullivans, instead of protecting the fishermen and the families of Atlantic Canada?
Fisheries and Oceans September 23rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the fall food fishery off Newfoundland and Labrador has been officially under way since Saturday, but there has not been much activity on the water because of poor weather.
The food fishery is only eight days long, forcing people to either risk their lives in dangerous conditions to catch what they can before it closes, or else go without. People have died.
Will the Conservatives take poor weather and people's safety into account? Will they agree to extend the fall food fishery?