- Get e-mail whenever he speaks in House debates
- Subscribe to feeds of recent activity (what you see to the right) or statements in the House
- His favourite word is labrador.
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
Questions on the Order Paper March 7th, 2014
With regard to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW), how much funding does the FFAW receive annually for the Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Measures Program?
Marine Mammal Regulations March 6th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill C-555, an act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence), but the bill, like so much other lip service the Conservative government pays to the east coast seal hunt, is a charade, a charade to make it appear that the government is actually doing something for the hunt, for sealing. It is a sham to make it appear that the government is defending the seal hunt, an illusion to make it appear that the government is a champion of the seal hunt. All the bill amounts to is Conservative sleight of hand.
Bill C-555 would increase the distance an unofficial observer, in other words, anyone who is not there to hunt, a seal protester, for example, must keep from the 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, so it would increase from a half nautical mile to a full nautical mile.
However, the half-mile buffer there now is not enforced, so increasing the distance to a full nautical mile is lip service. That is what I mean by lip service. It basically means nothing.
It is a good concept, and it is one my party supports. How could we not? It is about safety, in theory anyway, but for all intents and purposes, it means nothing. Sealers on the ground in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador say that it is a good idea, but they do not see how it would change anything.
Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association, says it is frustrating, because as it stands, regulations are not enforced with the half nautical mile zone. Now the Conservatives would increase the buffer zone to a full mile. Who are they trying to fool? It is nobody on this side of the House, nobody back home in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are not fooling us, so what is the purpose of the bill? There is no purpose. It is a nuisance bill.
The Conservatives are trying to divide the New Democratic caucus on the seal hunt, only there is no divide. New Democrats fully support a humane and sustainable hunt. It is our policy, period, end of discussion.
The 1985 report of the Royal Commission on Seals and the Sealing Industry in Canada quoted a sealer/fisherman, which are one and the same, who described himself back then, 29 years ago, as an endangered species. Let me quote that fisherman/sealer:
I am endangered but I still fight back. I will survive. I will not let animal rights become more important than human rights. I will not let people give souls to animals while they rob me of my human dignity and right to earn a livelihood.
Today's sealer/fisherman is more endangered than ever. Outport Newfoundland and Labrador is more endangered than ever. The commercial fisheries are more endangered than ever. Sealers and fishermen are one and the same. Sealers are fishermen. Fishermen are sealers. Their livelihoods are in jeopardy. Their numbers dwindle every year.
According to the news back home this week, the fishermen's union is raising red flags about the possibility of significant cuts to the total allowable catch for the northern shrimp fishery. Shrimp has been one of the most lucrative fisheries since the collapse of the groundfish stocks, such as cod, in the early 1990s.
Just today the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies released a report on the east coast fishery, a report that slams the Conservative government for failing to reform fisheries management, two decades after the cod moratorium.The northern cod fishery was shut down in 1992, 22 years ago, and there is still no recovery plan. How shocking is that?
Sealers are fishermen. They are one and the same. What does the Conservative government have to offer? It increases the buffer zone for seal hunt observers to one nautical mile from a half nautical mile. It is a charade, a sham, an illusion, a joke.
I attended Seal Day on the Hill back in February, a day when government reaffirmed its support for the seal hunt, but the proof of the government's commitment to the seal hunt is not in the pâté, but in the policy, in the action. 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. What happened to China and to the markets there that the Conservative government was poised to tap into? What happened to those markets? Silence.
The Conservative government is on the verge of a free trade deal with the European Union, but if the government were so solidly behind the seal hunt, like it says it is, why did it not make the seal ban a make or break issue during those trade talks? Instead the Conservative government agreed to have the EU ban decided by the World Trade Organization, which upheld the ban last fall. The Conservative government is appealing the WTO's decision, but again, if the government were serious it would have made the EU ban a make or break consideration in trade talks. It did not.
Instead we see empty action, or nuisance bills like this one, to increase the buffer zone around the hunt from half a nautical mile to a full nautical mile when the government cannot even enforce the half nautical mile zone. The sealer today is as endangered as the fishermen. They are one and the same. There is no vision for the fishery or the seal hunt, no blueprint for rebirth.
The Conservative government's latest move regarding the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery is to eliminate minimum processing requirements as part of the EU trade deal. Now the trade deal is a good one. The elimination of seafood tariffs is a fabulous thing. It is being lauded in all quarters of the fishery, but the question must be asked, what will be the impact on our fisheries, on our processing sector, of the lifting of those minimum processing requirements?
The Conservative government does not give up $280 million in compensation for nothing, especially when it has done nothing for our fisheries for decades, other than to cut the guts out of science, cut the guts out of fisheries management, and cut the guts out of enforcement.
To conclude, sealers and fishermen are one and the same. As I mentioned before, we support this bill for what it is worth, but it does not address the underlying problems of our seal hunt or of our fishers. Make no mistake, the fight in us is vicious yet. The seal hunt is a part of Newfoundland and Labrador culture. It is woven in our history. It is who we are. More so than any other slight, Newfie on down, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians take any criticism of the seal hunt as a direct personal attack, not just against us, who we are as a people, but against our forefathers and our very outport 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. But the government's trying to pull off a charade, a sham, an illusion that it is a defender of the hunt when it is not must also be pointed out. So if they increase the buffer zone around the hunt, fill your boots, Mr. Speaker.
Stand in the House and blow and sputter about all the Conservatives are doing in defence of the hunt, but the proof is in the action and there is none.
Aboriginal Affairs February 27th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the tragic death of Loretta Saunders, an Inuk woman from Labrador, is felt deeply in my province, as it is across Canada and by every member of this House. As one indigenous leader put it, “There’s something wrong in Canada if aboriginal people have to live this fate”.
We here, the elected representatives of the people, have a duty to act. Will the government agree to call a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women?
Business of Supply February 24th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member across the way said at the beginning of his question that the New Democrats came out against the unfair elections act before it was released, but that is not true. We did not come out against this act before it was released.
To sum up, the Conservatives never let truth stand in the way.
Business of Supply February 24th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, this unfair elections act would actually strip Elections Canada of its investigative powers, not strengthen them. We saw how weak those powers are with the Penashue scandal.
The Commissioner of Elections Canada would be under the Director of Public Prosecutions and, therefore, no longer be a part of Elections Canada. My party and I would compare that to removing the RCMP's ability to investigate breaches of the Criminal Code. How is that going to fix anything? It is not.
Get a load of this. Under this unfair elections act, the Chief Electoral Officer would have to seek Treasury Board approval to hire technical experts. That theoretically means that the Chief Electoral Officer could have to seek government approval to investigate possible election cheating by government MPs.
Two key missing elements of the unfair elections act that Elections Canada actually requested and did not get include, first, more power for the Chief Electoral Officer to request financial documents to ensure that political entities are complying with their obligations. That is not in the bill. Second, the unfair elections act is also silent on the powers of Elections Canada to compel witness testimony. A major problem that Elections Canada faced in its robocalls investigations was that Conservative staffers refused to give testimony. That is not going to change either. I wonder why that is.
This unfair elections act would make voting more challenging for some Canadians. It would mean we could no longer vouch for someone when he or she does not have identification. Here I note that aboriginal people, university students, the homeless, and seniors in residences are less likely to have ID or mail on hand. Some 120,000 people used vouching to exercise their vote in the 2011 election, but they will not be allowed to use it in the next election. Clearly, the Conservatives are targeting certain demographics to suppress the vote.
The Conservatives are also changing the political financing rules in their favour. The unfair elections act would increase the limit for individual contributions from $1,200 to $1,500. That would favour the Conservatives, who tend to receive bigger contributions. The unfair elections act would also allow candidates to contribute up to $5,000 to their own campaigns and leadership candidates to contribute up to $25,000 for their own campaigns, which, once again, would give an advantage to the wealthy candidates the Conservative Party attracts. Conservatives look after their own.
The unfair elections act would remove the Chief Electoral Officer's power to engage in public education. The Chief Electoral Officer would be limited to telling voters where, when, and how to vote, but not why they should vote. Who better to talk about democracy than a key expert on democracy, the Chief Electoral Officer?
Under this unfair elections act, Elections Canada would be banned from teaching our children about our democracy, encouraging people to vote, and warning them about electoral fraud. Tens of thousands of students, seniors, aboriginal people, and low-income Canadians would be blocked from exercising their right to vote.
Between the robocalls scandal, the ongoing Senate debacle, illegal contributions, and campaign overspending, faith in elections in this country, the legitimacy of campaign results, has been shaken. What do we get? We get this unfair elections act.
The Conservatives are focused on shutting down debate. They are focused on ramming through a bill designed to stop people from voting and to ensure that they, the Conservatives, will win the next election. Only that will not happen. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and Canadians generally, know the difference and we will make sure that they do.
Business of Supply February 24th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I stand in support of the motion by the hon. member for Hamilton Centre that there should be nation-wide public hearings on the fair elections act, a bill known increasingly across this country as the unfair elections act.
The member for Hamilton Centre proposes that the House direct the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to hear from witnesses while undertaking its study of the Canada Elections Act. What witnesses? They should include Elections Canada, political parties, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform who introduced the “fair” elections act, representatives of first nations, anti-poverty groups, groups representing people with disabilities, groups that speak for youth, advocates, students, and Canadians in general everywhere.
Further, the motion calls on the committee to travel to all regions of Canada throughout March and April, and that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs only proceed with the clause-by-clause consideration of the fair elections act after the public hearings have been completed.
To sum up, the motion calls on the Conservative government to hold public hearings on changes to the Canada Elections Act, a cornerstone of democracy, so that all Canadians can have a say on how it should be reshaped and adjusted to ensure that elections are above reproach, on how it should be chiselled so that it is solid, and strong, and able to bear the democracy that is one of the envies of the world. If we change the Elections Canada Act, then the electorate should have a say in that change. That request is simple, straightforward, and reasonable, especially with the scandals we have seen in recent years.
There were problems with the federal election of 2011 in my neck of the country, Newfoundland and Labrador. More specifically, there were problems with the election of Peter Penashue, the Conservative MP for the riding of Labrador.
Mr. Penashue won by 79 votes and went on to represent the province in the federal cabinet as the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, only for us to learn soon after his election that he had broken the law. He got elected by that slim margin of 79 votes by cheating. Mr. Penashue resigned in disgrace. He ran again in a byelection triggered by his resignation and lost. However, that loss was expected, considering the seriousness of the allegations against him, the allegations that Mr. Penashue, a Conservative MP, had accepted 28 illegal donations; allegations that he accepted corporate donations, which were also illegal; allegations that Mr. Penashue got an interest-free loan, which, once again, was illegal, from an Inuit company run by his brother-in-law; and allegations that he overspent the campaign spending limit.
Mr. Penashue basically bought his election and was able to run in the byelection with those allegations against him still outstanding, which boggled the minds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. What would have happened if Mr. Penashue had won and the allegations were proven true? What would have become of those allegations? Elections Canada was supposedly carrying out an investigation and so was the RCMP, but we have not heard a word since, not a peep. The silence across Newfoundland and Labrador and across this country has been deafening.
Was Mr. Penashue, whom the Prime Minister described as the best member of Parliament Labrador ever had, ever charged? Was anyone charged? No one that I know of was. Was anyone fined? No one that I know of was. Is there a problem with the Elections Canada Act? Yes, there is a problem with the act—
Transportation February 14th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are allowing Marine Atlantic, a crown corporation, to jack up ferry prices to Newfoundland again. As of April 1, the cost of the ferry to and from Newfoundland will jump by 3%. Over a three-year period, rates will have risen by 11%. When ferry prices go up, the price of all goods ferried to Newfoundland also go up, and our tourism is hugely impacted.
Why are the Conservatives allowing Marine Atlantic to increase rates and punish Newfoundlanders?
Remembrance of the Ocean Ranger February 14th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, much of the island of Newfoundland is being battered today by a winter storm. It is a sombre reminder of this day 32 years ago when a vicious blizzard struck the province, eventually bringing down the indestructible drilling rig Ocean Ranger in the early morning hours of February 15. Eighty-four men lost their lives.
Hearts are always heavy in my province on Valentine's Day. The tragedy of the Ocean Ranger highlights the terrible price we pay as a seafaring people. It also highlights how fast and badly things can go wrong and reinforces our need for the highest of health and safety regulations.
I end with a quote from the great Canadian songwriter Gordon Lightfoot that captures the waiting for word of life or death: “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?”
Petitions February 5th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I stand today to present a petition on behalf of constituents in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl. The petition contains 1,551 signatures of people calling on the Conservative government to reverse recent cuts to Canada Post services, including home delivery, and to look instead for ways to modernize operations.
The signatures were gathered in a two-and-a-half hour blitz on January 25 and reflect my riding's overwhelming support of a treasured public service.
Business of Supply January 30th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, in my previous life before politics, I was a journalist. I was a newspaper editor. I will never forget this story. My newspaper at the time, The Independent, carried a story about a Newfoundland and Labradorian veteran who had served in Afghanistan. At one point he held the record for the longest shot, the longest kill. I cannot remember the range, but it was an incredible shot. I think the record was beaten the year after. This veteran talked about what he experienced in the war zone and what he experienced when he was fighting. The point of the story was that when he came back he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. When he reached out for help that he so desperately needed, it was not there.
Too often what happens is members of the military are hesitant. They do not want to step forward because the moment they do step forward and seek help they are removed from the military. The clock starts ticking on their leaving the military. They are basically signing off on the end of their career, so they are hesitant to do that. That is one problem, and when they do leave the military the help is not there for any mental health issues they may have.