House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was let.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as NDP MP for Halifax (Nova Scotia)

Won her last election, in 2006, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Points of Order June 17th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a word or two on the same point of order, I welcome the opportunity, on behalf of my caucus and also on behalf of Nova Scotians, if I may be so presumptuous, to extend hearty congratulations and best wishes to the member for Don Valley West.

I do so, in part, because I believe there is not as widespread knowledge as there ought to be, and as there deserves to be, about the very considerable contribution the member for Don Valley West made to the educational development of Nova Scotians and people who chose to go to Nova Scotia to be educated at the University of King's College when the member served as president of the university.

I should make special mention, because I know many people in the House have had sons and daughters who have chosen to go to attend the University of King's College, not because the member was still serving as president, but because he, and I think the record of the House of Commons should show this, was the founder of one of the most outstanding educational programs in any university anywhere in our country, the foundation year program that continues to attract an astounding numbers of applicants, not so many selected because there is not room for all the students who would benefit from the program.

The member's decision to return to the educational field is very good news for those who will study under his tutelage at the Toronto French School. I hope this will not seem unduly partisan, that the member also had a very abbreviated political career in Nova Scotia where he also ran as a provincial member, just once. I am sure if he had run again, he might have been elected the second time. I had to run three times to be elected. I am very glad the member chose to make another bid for public office. He has served the House well. He has done it with honour. He has done it with substance. He has done it with principle.

I cannot say a single occasion that I could remember where he engaged in cheap talk or cheap tricks. I congratulate him heartily. My wishes go to Trish and his son, Ian, that they will enjoy a higher quality of family life than is possible when one serves in this insane place. I, too, look forward, not to stepping into his partisan footprints or following his partisan path, to doing precisely the same after the next election.

I congratulate the member for Don Valley West.

Aeronautics Act June 16th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I do not have a lot of time to respond, but it does not take long to respond to that. Jetsgo is an example of why it is just simply wrong-headed to suggest that the major responsibility for the safety management systems can lie with the airlines themselves. If we have even one irresponsible airline operating, then there is reason to be concerned and, frankly, reason to be critical of this legislation at this point in its current but hopefully not final form.

Aeronautics Act June 16th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I suppose all of us as members of Parliament do not want to scare the wits out of the travelling public, but it does come up from time to time. One tries to raise the issues where one thinks there is some expertise to lend to addressing the legislation in its current form and certainly to what we have identified as flaws.

The fundamental question remains. How many Canadians would vote to have an airline that has a record of repeated safety violations made responsible for its own safety management system? That is the question.

I said earlier that I am not a nervous flyer. I actually have a great deal of confidence. For example, I travel most of the time with Air Canada and I have never on a single occasion had a concern about whether my safety was assured or not.

However, we know there are such airlines. Some of them get into the business and get out of the business. Unfortunately, the one that most easily comes to mind is Jetsgo, which has had a really serious record of concerns about playing fast and loose with safety.

I do not think that one has to be the kind of expert who gave testimony in order to express real concerns. If there is any question about there being some airlines that would not operate in a totally safe manner and that would use the fact the safety management systems are put back in their hands, one just needs the common sense to say that this piece of legislation is not adequate to absolutely guarantee safety. That is why we have to keep working at it.

There is nothing about the deadline that people are suggesting which means that all the work is for naught. It means we have to go forward with the amendments that have already been made, but we still have to address those that have not been adequately adopted.

Aeronautics Act June 16th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I know some members in the chamber have said how much they enjoyed the speech from the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River. I do not particularly want to single him out, but I am very nervous about his speech. I heard him say that we have been at this for a long time, that some amendments have been and we should now recognize that some compromises should be made and get the bill through.

I, for one, am not a nervous flyer at all. I am quite relaxed flying, but there are a lot of reasons to be nervous, particularly if one is inclined to be a nervous flyer and sees us sailing through a bill that is based on compromises. Surely there is nothing less appropriate to compromise over than airline safety.

This is one of the areas in which it is pretty absolute, that if there are any doubts or any possibilities that safety considerations are being compromised, then we should stick with the project, keep working at it until, as my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster has said, we absolutely get rid of the flaws in the bill and we can assure the public that no compromises have taken place with respect to it. It is very hard to imagine one would rationalize to members of the public, whether they are frequent flyers, or are occasional flyers or do not fly at all, because I am sure they have loved ones who fly, that we have decided to make some compromises in order to say that we have something to show for it.

I know the member, as have others, said that a good many of the amendments brought forward were adopted and the majority of those who appeared before the committee were satisfied with the amendments. However, as I look back at some of the testimony before the committee, I am very worried about the fact that some of those who clearly were not satisfied, those who remain very concerned and very critical of some of the fundamental aspects of the bill appear to be those who would be the most knowledgeable. I think it is fair to say that those who do not have a self-interest involved, but rather who have a particular technical and professional expertise makes them in some ways the most informed and the most reliable critics. They are the ones to whom we ought to pay the most attention.

There is no question that this is very complicated legislation. Therefore, I do not pose as somebody who has suddenly become an expert because it would not be true. What I do have is a very great concern about what appears to be the most fundamental principles that need to be upheld. We do not simply pass over, essentially to the airlines, the ability to enforce their own safety requirements.

The simplistic way of putting this is the notion of the fox looking after the hen house. I know some will object and say that there are some checks and balances. However, it does seem as though it is really a concern, that we essentially are putting in place a system that depends on the airlines being their own safety management enforcers. That is fundamentally wrong, and not because all would act responsibly. I think we would agree that the overwhelming majority of airlines would act absolutely responsibly. Thank goodness we can say that about the vast majority. However, there are also known situations where particular airlines have acted very irresponsibly, have disregarded the need for the most basic safety requirements. Therefore, we need to be sure that we have a fail proof system that attends to those who will be least responsible.

I have reviewed some of the concerns that have been brought forward. It seems to me that we are playing somewhat fast and loose with what is ultimately our responsibility as legislators. We have to ensure we put an airline system in place that is tight enough and based on the important principle that self-interest cannot be allowed to interfere with fundamental safety requirements, and not a system that will work for the vast majority. We have to ensure a system of checks and balances is in place that will never make the mistake of putting self-management into the hands of an irresponsible airline.

It is really a concern when I hear members talk about compromising in order to have something to show for what has been a year's work. What could be more serious than placing the fundamental issue of safety in the hands of those of us who are not experts, those of us who are not professionals in the field? The fundamental issue of safety should be placed in the hands of the most appropriate structure and the most appropriate system. A number of those who expressed real reservations about that are the very people who have the most expertise in the field. This is indeed a worry.

It is not clear to me, from having followed some of the debate here and having reviewed some of the Hansard transcript, whether official opposition members will stand and vote, for once, on something as important as this. Some members may vote for the bill and some may vote against it. I have heard people speaking on both sides of this issue.

It is not surprising to me that a number of members on the official opposition bench, if we can still call the Liberals in the House the official opposition, have indicated that they will be voting for the legislation. If I recall correctly, the bill was brought in by the Liberals in the first place and we find ourselves still working through it to try to arrive at a higher standard of safety enforcement.

Once we get the kind of references to the need to compromise and some indication it looks like there will be Liberals voting on both sides of this, some really important work still needs to be done to get this thing right.

I am persuaded that some of the most important principles about assuring the checks and balances are in place and that it is not just the airline industry policing itself have yet to be really properly grounded, if I can use that in the context of what we are talking about, which is airline travel.

I do not get to ask questions on this for the member who has advocated compromise. I do not want to seem like I am singling him out, but when we are talking in terms of compromise, it is frightening to imagine that we could be rationalizing our way to voting for the bill in its current form.

Enough concerns have not been addressed in terms of the amendments. W e have to be very mindful of what some of those concerns were. Who would better know what the hazards are in the current bill than Justice Virgil Moshansky, who conducted the Dryden crash inquiry and who expressed some major concerns about the bill in its current form. Who would know more than those who have themselves served as inspectors about the remaining flaws in the bill now before us?

My time is up, but I want to say finally, one more time for the record, that there is no room for compromise on something as fundamental as airline safety. Therefore, this bill in its current form is not supportable from my perspective and that of my NDP colleagues.

Aeronautics Act June 16th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I have to say at the outset that the greatest expertise in my caucus lies absolutely with the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. He has been very thorough in his study of this bill. He has followed it very closely. He has consulted widely. One of the things that concerns me a lot is that while the Liberal member who has just spoken has acknowledged there were many amendments needed and a number of amendments were adopted, it is very much the view of my colleague, who is the critic for this bill, that about 50% of the flaws, omissions or sins committed by this bill have been adopted. In other words, about 50% of the problems remain to be fixed.

I wonder if the member could elucidate for those of us who are trying to follow the debate here in the House but also for the public who share a real concern when we are talking about something as fundamental as air safety. Can he honestly say that fixing about 50% of the flaws in the bill is the kind of assurance that absolute air safety, of which we have a responsibility to assure the public, is reflected in this bill?

Petitions June 16th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, my second petition is signed by a large number of Canadian citizens who call upon the Government of Canada to recognize, by means of the issuance of a new Canadian volunteer service medal to be designated the Governor General's volunteer service medal, volunteer service by Canadians in the regular and reserve military forces, cadet corps, and support staff who are not eligible for the aforementioned medals and who have completed 365 days of uninterrupted honourable duty in the service of their country since March 2, 1947.

Petitions June 16th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to table this afternoon. The first petition is signed by a large number of Canadian citizens requesting that Parliament move quickly to expand the Nahanni National Park Reserve to protect the entire south Nahanni watershed and the Nahanni Karst lands, so as to secure this globally significant wilderness for future generations of Canadians and for the world.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Mining Corporations Outside Canada Act June 16th, 2008

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-565, An Act respecting Corporate Social Responsibility for the Activities of Canadian Mining Corporations in Developing Countries.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to table a private member's bill to ensure that Canadian companies involved in mining operations abroad conduct themselves in compliance with the International Bill of Rights and international law.

The bill would require Canadian companies to report on their mining activities to an impartial, independent ombudsperson responsible to develop guidelines on best practices. The ombudsperson would submit an annual report to the House of Parliament on the provisions and operations of this act.

This is to try to move forward the corporate social responsibility file that was the subject of extensive work by the international human rights committee and the foreign affairs committee before a series of national round tables came out with a consensus report urging the government to take action.

Fifteen months have passed and we have had no response from the government on this report. I challenge the Prime Minister, before he goes to the G-8 and admits that nothing has been done on this file, to support this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the member asked several questions and deserves answers.

Why is the New Democratic Party attacking the Liberals for what they are doing in this House? Why are we not attacking the Conservative government for its draconian policies?

Let me set the record straight. On 23 or 24 occasions, with the most draconian policies being the subject of votes in this House, the New Democratic Party has voted against them. On those same 23 or 24 votes, the Liberal Party either has failed to vote at all or has had seven or eight members sit in their seats while the rest hid behind the curtain or stayed out in the lobby. To me, the most cynical manoeuvre of all is to put up seven or eight or nine or ten token votes knowing that they are insufficient to have any effect in actually calling the Conservative government to account.

Personally, I would rather know how draconian the Conservatives are. Then I can vote against them, rather than do what that Liberal Party and its Liberal caucus do, which is to pretend they are opposing them but not use the power, responsibility and mandate they were given to come in here and stand up against those policies. The Liberals have hardly done that once since the Conservative government was elected.

Now I have a quick question. Does that member not understand that it is not only the 30 New Democrat members of Parliament who are offended by what the Liberals are doing in fraudulently posing as the official opposition? Does he not understand that Canadians are aghast at the self-serving cynical politics of convenience the Liberals are demonstrating, when they want these policies stopped? The worst policies of the government are its budgetary policies, with the immigration policies and the EI changes the government is sneaking in as part of the budget, on which Liberal after Liberal has stood up and screamed and yelled--

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, actually I was going to rise on a point of much greater importance and ask the member a question, but I will wait my turn.