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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

Afghanistan February 25th, 2008

I am sorry, I am not prepared to enter into that kind of an exchange, but I would say--

Afghanistan February 25th, 2008

After I heard all of the insults hurled, I still kept waiting for a question.

Afghanistan February 25th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I waited and waited in case there was a question at the end of that lecture.

Afghanistan February 25th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity this evening, despite my mild laryngitis, to debate the motion that is now before us.

I am pleased to follow my colleague who very ably represents Ottawa Centre. I am also pleased to say he has succeeded me as the foreign affairs critic for the New Democratic Party and doing an excellent job.

When I entered the chamber this evening, I was listening attentively and respectfully to the Minister of Veterans Affairs who was commenting, and I thought quite appropriately, that we all share a duty.

Those of us in this House who are privileged to serve the people of our communities, and Canadians generally, have an obligation to honour our military men and women, both in times of peace and in times of war. I was nodding in assent and was actually going to compliment him on being inclusive in representing all of us in those comments.

Then he turned and engaged in the most viscous, most vile, and most virulent attack on the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore who is not here in the House in any way, shape, or form to defend himself and who, I have to say, has probably done more for veterans and for the military in my 10 years in Ottawa than any other member in this chamber.

Let Canadians be the judge, but I thought it was unfortunate and ironic. For a few brief moments the Minister of Veterans Affairs, I thought, was going to rise to the occasion, however, he actually descended into the depths and conducted a viscous attack on a man who has championed the veterans independence program and the widows that have been left behind. He has championed the children who are not getting the kind of treatment needed to deal with their wounds resulting from the death or injury of absent family members and returned family members.

He is also the man who has championed the victims of agent orange. I could go on and on, but I think we will just let those Canadians who know better come to their own conclusions based on the evidence and not based on this astounding rant that we just heard and is now on the public record.

I listened earlier this afternoon when the Minister of Veterans Affairs actually made some very sweeping statements that were dead wrong and utterly disrespectful. How those members elevate the debate, how they act to contribute to a respectful debate, I do not know, but I have to say he hit a raw never. He made a sweeping reference that New Democrats do not care about our troops. They never cared about the military. I do not know if he said never will, but I am sure that was in his mind too.

What it caused me to do was go back to my office briefly this afternoon and pull off my shelf something that I had been thinking about reviewing for some time and that is the publication Marching Home to What?. It is a document produced by the predecessor of the New Democratic Party, the CCF, outlining the post-war program for Canada's fighting men and women.

The reason it hit a raw nerve is not just because I am unduly partisan, but my father was one of the two authors of that report. He was working on Parliament Hill as a researcher with the CCF caucus when Canada entered the war and he went into the air force. He never stopped working on the issue of support for our military through the war, and after the war went right back to working on the post-war program for the military.

It seems to me it does not serve our troops very well and it does not do a thing to honour this place to engage in those kinds of mindless rants.

Having said that, it threw me right back to one of the worst moments, really the worst few hours, I have ever spent in the 10 years that I have been privileged to be a member of Parliament and that was two days after I returned from a trip to Afghanistan in May 2006, which I was very privileged to have taken and was grateful for the opportunity.

To my utter dismay, the Minister of National Defence, who we accompanied to Afghanistan, did not say a word about the fact that the government would be bringing in a last minute motion to extend the then mission, which was already raising a lot of concerns, for another two years. This really blindsided and short-circuited any meaningful debate.

What we saw was the beginning of what has never stopped with the government and that is name calling and all kinds of insults being hurled about cut and run and other allegations, instead of a respectful debate that would honour our military, both departed, currently serving and our vets who watch all of this with great care and concern.

It does not surprise me a great deal that the Conservatives and Liberals have struck a bipartisan understanding around the motion, which they are entitled to do. We must be respectful in this House if that is the way they see it. However, what is regretful is that there is not a lot of evidence that in the striking of this bipartisan deal on which we will be voting, the views of Canadians, to a large extent, seem not to have been taken into account.

At the end of the day, a great deal of evidence shows that Canadians have a growing concern about the fact that the counter-insurgency mission in Kandahar is making a lot of serious problems even worse. We heard the statistics earlier. My leader spoke very capably on this earlier this afternoon, as did the NDP defence critic, and outlined the evidence, the facts and the figures on our contribution. It is not because our military men and women are failing us, not at all. I agree with those who have said in debate all day long that we are privileged to have the best military men and women in the world serving us with honour, distinction and great competence. However, they have been assigned to a mission that is flawed and is failing.

I cannot for the life of me understand how it is the Conservatives and Liberals alike constantly rant and rail about the countries that will not deliver more troops through NATO to take up the Kandahar counter-insurgency mission when they know perfectly well why there are not more countries coming forth to assign their military men and women to the Kandahar mission. It is not because they are wimps or cowards. It is because they believe the mission is flawed. Many of those countries are serving in other parts of Afghanistan and some very positive results are happening as a result of that.

I want to say respectfully that I had an opportunity this afternoon for a detailed briefing, which I very much appreciated, with CIDA officials. I have not a doubt that much of the positive results they were presenting and sharing in other parts of Afghanistan are very well-documented and substantiated. It is happening because it is based on a fundamentally different approach.

My colleague who just spoke expressed the importance of that comprehensive peace building process that is needed. It has not happened and it needs to be regional in nature. I cannot believe the veterans affairs minister started in on my leader calling him “Taliban Jack” this afternoon. How pathetic is that when we know that when President Karzai was here in this chamber talking with members, after his presentation he said that we needed that kind of comprehensive peace building process to get under way. That was almost two years ago.

With respect to development, the amendment we have put forward recognizes that the way to build a path to peace in Afghanistan is through genuine development and through understanding that it is the people of Afghanistan whose interests we need to be concerned about, not the voters of Canada when it comes to saying that we need more flags being waved over projects sponsored by Canada. Will that make the Afghan people feel better? No. Is it to win votes? It is beneath the dignity of Parliament to be caught up in those kinds of arguments.

Even though there does not seem to be any indication that other colleagues are prepared to support our amendments, I am asking Canadians to carefully consider the amendments and understand that they are much more promising in terms of paving a path to peace for the future of the people of Afghanistan, and that is why we are supposed to be there.

Kenya February 14th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place among all parties and I believe you will find consent for the following motion. I move:

Whereas Kenyan citizens voted peacefully on December 27, 2007 in Kenya's presidential election, signaling their commitment to, and confidence in, democracy;

Recognizing that urgent steps are needed to begin restoring Kenyans' faith and confidence in Kenya's democratic institutions as impartial guarantors of personal security, human rights and good governance;

Members of this House urge the government of Canada to:

Condemn the tragic loss of life and humanitarian crisis in Kenya following their December 27, 2007 election;

Support ongoing efforts by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to work with relevant authorities and stakeholders to restore peace to the Republic of Kenya based on human rights and rule of law;

Work in concert with the international community using all diplomatic means to persuade relevant political actors and stakeholders to commit to a peaceful resolution to the current crisis;

Review current Canadian aid programs to Kenya in order to propose initiatives to enhance and facilitate Kenya's stabilization, reconciliation and development.

Prebudget Consultations February 7th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I missed the first part of the comments by the member from South Shore but I listened to what he asserted to be the facts. I am glad he wants to deal with the facts.

It is a fact, and the member knows it is a fact, that of the 18 different groups that appeared in Nova Scotia to make a presentation to the finance committee, 15 of them, one way or another, indicated clearly and strongly how opposed they were to the priorities of the government as reflected in the 2007 economic statement and, as they fear, will be reflected in the upcoming budget.

First, I want to ask the member if he is prepared to acknowledge that that indeed is a fact.

Second, in his propaganda reading of the PMO line on this, is it not also a fact that he ignored the pleadings of people on behalf of the anti-poverty movement--

Prebudget Consultations February 7th, 2008

Then, Mr. Speaker, I will have to give a very short answer. The single biggest reason why the Conservative government has done nothing about a national housing program is what the Liberal Party did in office when it eliminated literally the best national housing program in the world, which was introduced between 1972 and 1974--and it is important for people to know their history--because of the pressure of the New Democratic Party in a minority government era.

Then the Liberals came to power talking about desperate we were for housing and they outlined specific commitments, but from 1993 to 2006 the Liberals did absolutely nothing about putting together a national housing program. I guess we could call it the Liberals letting the Conservative government off the hook.

Prebudget Consultations February 7th, 2008

We need to talk about the evidence, then, because we know that in the auto sector and the forestry sector across the country there are many examples of companies whose last consideration is Canadian jobs. We need a more targeted strategy. We need a comprehensive strategy in each of these sectors, which is what all of my colleagues have been pleading for.

As for across the board corporate tax cuts, the biggest beneficiaries are big oil and big banks, yet big oil is thumbing its nose at the need for us to be concerned about the environment and the planet and the big banks are gouging people in every way they can with service charges and other things.

It is a question of priorities. It is a question of not subscribing to a whole lot of rhetoric about how if we throw big tax cuts at corporations they will generate the best jobs. It is a question of doing it on an evidence based basis.

Prebudget Consultations February 7th, 2008

Very briefly, Mr. Speaker, because I have only a couple of minutes, I will say that the member apparently is in complete accord with both the Liberal Party and presumably his own party with the idea that across the board tax cuts for corporations are somehow automatically going to generate good quality jobs for people--

Prebudget Consultations February 7th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate the hon. member for Outremont on his speech, and also on his recent election victory. It is also important to congratulate the voters in Outremont for having chosen this remarkable man, thereby bolstering the progressive forces here in Parliament and opening the door to a progressive course of action for all of Canada.

I am very happy to speak briefly in this budget debate. There is never enough time to address all of the issues of concern, so first of all I want to invite every single Canadian who wants to understand more about the New Democrat vision to acquaint themselves with, to familiarize themselves with, to read the New Democratic Party's supplementary report, to which our finance critic has made reference in his very excellent speech.

What they will see is that not only do we have a fundamentally different set of priorities than this very meanspirited, tight-fisted government, except when it comes to corporations, of course, when it is not tight-fisted in the least, but we have a fundamentally different set of priorities than the so-called Liberal official opposition. I do not know how the Liberals can call themselves the official opposition and again and again abandon their responsibilities in that regard, particularly as it relates to the financial health of the nation.

First the official opposition does this by goading and egging on the no longer progressive conservative but Conservative government to cut faster and deeper and introduce even greater corporate tax cuts than even the Conservatives had dreamed of, and then, second, the Liberals sit in their seats again and again when it comes to important votes to represent the concerns of Canadians who are not being represented by this government.

I hope people will acquaint themselves with the supplementary report that has been tabled.

However, let me say something in a general way, as was referred to by the member for Outremont. I had the privilege to sit in on the finance committee in his stead when the committee visited Nova Scotia. It is literally true that delegation after delegation absolutely disagreed with the priorities of this government and were very clear that what this government had decided to do was reward its corporate friends, the greatest beneficiaries of those deep corporate tax cuts being big oil and big banks, at the expense of the needs of ordinary working people who were desperate to see some reinvestment from that extensive surplus in the things that had been so severely eroded by the Liberals before them.

I know we hear howling from the Liberal benches that they had this big deficit they had to get rid of, so let us set aside the three years in which the big deficit was the principal preoccupation. Let us talk about the seven years of surplus following.

Not only did the Liberal government not rebuild and reinvest in the post-secondary education system so our young people could get the education they needed without crippling themselves with debt for life, and not only did it not rebuild the health care system, the Liberal government did not address what is crucial, what is one of the biggest responsibilities of any government in this world today if it is at all serious about a future for the planet and its people: it did not commit the dollars necessary to move us to deliver on our to date completely overlooked commitment to meet our Kyoto targets.

For me, it was reassuring, I have to say, and why am I not surprised, that delegates from all over--and I want to be fair in saying that they were not just from my riding of Halifax but from other parts of the province and from outside of the province--understood exactly what was wrong with the economic so-called update from this government in the fall, in which it gave away the bank so that it would not be able to address the priorities of Canadians. Let me just very briefly quote some of the representatives.

The representative of the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers said, and I think very insightfully:

--the crisis created by the massive increase in student tuition fees over the past decade, which actually is a result of a large decrease in core funding to post-secondary education in nineties,[ must] be addressed...through a restoration of core funding to the levels that would allow tuition fees to be reduced, and through the introduction of needs-based programs to provide students with the levels of financial support that will guarantee access to all qualified applicants, regardless of income level.

In our supplementary report to the finance committee recommendations, we made it very clear that every single cent of the funds that have been in the millennium scholarship fund, and more, need to be reinvested and increased to achieve that aim.

Second, a long-serving champion of health and education needs in Nova Scotia, Ian Johnson from the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, absolutely had it right when he spelled out the need for the government to abandon plans for corporate tax cuts in order to help implement and develop a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, and when he called, as many others did, on the government to honour the Atlantic accord and stop trying to pretend that it has been fixed, because those funds are desperately needed to meet the needs of ordinary Nova Scotians.

There were others who championed the cause of those who are the most vulnerable in our society. The director of Feed Nova Scotia, Dianne Swinemar, pleaded for a reversal of the decision in October 2007 to give a $60 billion tax cut and for the understanding that the poorest of the poor have to be the top priority when it comes to the allocation of the nation's resources. Others spoke along the same lines.

I have to say that the last word, in a sense, goes to I think one of the biggest champions of health at the community level as well as an anti-poverty advocate, an advocate for affordable housing, Paul O'Hara, from the North End Community and Health Centre, who said:

Government knows what to do, and it's doing the opposite.

There are lots of benchmarks in child care, in early childhood education, in affordable housing and minimum wage. There doesn't seem to be any real integrity in the government approach....

There are ordinary people all across this country who are suffering because of the series of budget choices that have been very short-sighted and meanspirited, made by the previous Liberal government and followed by this no longer progressive Conservative government.

I want to mention this and I have to say that this is just typical. This morning, just before I came over to the House to participate in this debate, I met with representatives of the Lung Association of Canada. They are doing the kind of work that is being done by NGOs and community agencies all across this country and are pleading for the government to understand how underfunded their important work is in terms of research, policy development and treatment. They pointed out that while the Lung Association gets only 2% of the funds for its work, in terms of health needs it actually represents 6% of the urgent need for attention from the government.

However, there are things being done that are progressive, and they are being done in spite of the government. In Nova Scotia today, the NGOs and the health agencies came together with the provincial government, and I want to say good for the government for signing on, under the auspices of the Lung Association, to commit themselves to a national lung health framework. These are the kinds of initiatives that deserve and cry out for funding.

As well, the Alzheimer's Society was here on Parliament Hill to plead the case of adequate funding for a national Alzheimer's strategy.

In summation, what is very distressing is how little the government is in tune with the needs of ordinary, everyday working people and how pathetic it is that the official opposition does not have any more sense of being in tune with those needs. Therefore, I am very pleased to speak in support of the supplementary report submitted by the formidable finance critic of the New Democratic Party to try to get the government back on track with progressive values and progressive initiatives on behalf of Canadians.