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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

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007 December 12th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to comment very briefly and then ask the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley a question on Bill C-28.

I want to commend him not only on his consistent principled position in standing up for the Atlantic accord, but also for him making it very clear that standing up for the Atlantic accord requires voting against Bill C-28. I commend him for taking that position.

My colleague gave an excellent summation of the spectacular betrayal and flip-flop and double-crossing that goes on whenever we deal with this issue. Nothing could be clearer than what the then leader of the official opposition said on the campaign trail in Halifax, the city I am privileged to represent. He then did a complete and total reversal after he found himself in power.

In that sense, it is starting to look a lot like the more familiar pattern of Liberals who run on a progressive platform and then when in government, govern on the right. They are meanspirited and are quite prepared to throw Atlantic Canada overboard, which they have consistently done. When the Liberals were government, they threw Atlantic Canada overboard in the period between 1993 and 1997. That resulted in the 11 sitting Liberals in Nova Scotia being defeated. They were unceremoniously thrown out of office, which brings me to my two brief questions.

My first concerns the position of the premier. A very accurate summation was given of the premier's initial outrage at the fact that the Atlantic accord had been trashed. He pleaded with every Nova Scotian at considerable public expense. He put out what we would call a householder to every Nova Scotian, asking for them to petition the government to reinstate the Atlantic accord. So far so good.

More recent, the premier sent out a second householder in which he made a number of claims that turned out to be simply untrue. He made a number of claims about how Bill C-28 would fix the problem and that it justified his decision to abandon the fight for the Atlantic accord. The benefits that were promised are not delivered in Bill C-28. As far as he is concerned, he is off the hook. Many of the claims he has made in that document are simply not accurate. They are not substantiated.

What does the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley make of the premier's betrayal of his own commitment to fight to ensure the full reinstatement of the Atlantic accord?

What does he make of the Liberals from Atlantic Canada, who are cozying up to him when it comes to the full vote on Bill C-28, and then he is completely abandoned, thrown overboard, by every other member of that party with no intentions of supporting Bill C-28 changes, which would reinstate the Atlantic accord?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007 December 11th, 2007

Other people will get hurt.

Canada Marine Act December 4th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I suppose we can waste all the time in arguing about how relevant it is for the parliamentary secretary to stand up and go through a whole litany of measures that have been introduced by his government and have absolutely nothing to do with the marine policy issues before us now, but let me say in a general way, because this question apparently has been allowed although it does not seem to be very relevant, that there are a number of positive initiatives which the government has taken and which we have absolutely no difficulty in recognizing and being prepared to applaud.

We also feel that there are a number of counterproductive measures and that there in fact are some flawed solutions being proposed by the government. Sometimes it is a matter of policy and sometimes it is a matter of there being a huge shortfall between the rhetoric, such as what we have just heard from the parliamentary secretary, and the actual allocation of resources that are needed to get the job done.

If I start identifying what those many reasons are for our inability to support this very flawed budget that is making its way through the House, then I am sure I will be ruled out of order by the Speaker. Since I do not want to do that, I think I will just leave it for the parliamentary secretary to figure out which of the items he has talked about that have nothing to do with the bill are the ones we feel are flawed and misguided and therefore are reasons why we are not prepared to support the government's budget.

Canada Marine Act December 4th, 2007

If the Speaker had a concern about the relevancy of comments and if the Speaker had a concern that I was out of order in raising the very issues that I raised, I assume he would have said so. I ask the member to withdraw the comments that were completely unfounded, completely unfair, and completely off topic.

Canada Marine Act December 4th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I must say honestly that I do not have the in-depth knowledge I should have about what kinds of strengthened provisions there might be to address the very real problem that the member talks about, which represents an environmental threat. I wish I had the expertise to say for sure.

What I do know is that there are amazing innovations and improvements in technology that can both address some of these kinds of environmental challenges and security issues about which I and the member for Sault Ste. Marie spoke of earlier. There is improved technology, for example, that could do more effective tracking and screening of containers.

The same is probably true in addressing the question that was raised by the member for Sault Ste. Marie. There likely is increased technology for the effective tracking of species because of increased mobility and the fact that we end up transporting through fish farming, for example, fish that have a hostile and very destructive impact in different milieux.

It allows me to make a point, which is an important one, speaking to the need for another major amendment. There is not now nearly sufficient responsibility being taken by the Government of Canada to address these kinds of security measures.

In terms of what has actually been committed in the way of dollars and cents up to this point has been very piecemeal and, by and large, operating on the basis that it is the problem, responsibility and onus of the individual ports to provide for these kinds of protections, whether it is environmental or security.

It needs to be understood that there are national implications and federal government responsibility needs to be taken when dealing with such overarching issues as environmental and security matters. I hope the outcome will be an amended bill that comes back to the House for final approval.

Canada Marine Act December 4th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence, because I have the privilege of representing the federal riding of Halifax.

While I do not want to lay claim, in any way, shape or form, to the port of Halifax being the exclusive concern of the federal riding of Halifax because three additional federal ridings abut one way or another on some part of the Halifax Harbour, I think it is fair to say that the riding of Halifax is the most historic riding to make up part of the port of Halifax.

The Halifax port is an incredibly important part of the economic development infrastructure and, to state the obvious, the transportation infrastructure of the Halifax metropolitan region and, indeed, the province of Nova Scotia and the whole of Atlantic Canada.

Before I begin speaking to the amendments to the four bills that are affected by Bill C-23, I want to take the opportunity to talk about the vision, the creativity and the innovation of the former mayor of Halifax, Allan O'Brien, who, in the late 1960s, had the vision to see that we needed to do a great deal to enhance our port capacity. He knew that container shipping would become a huge factor in the shipment of goods in the modern era. Container capacity in the city of Halifax was an important innovation undertaken at that time and it remains an extremely important part of the economic capacity of the port of Halifax, which continues to play a major part in the economy of the region and of our country.

People talk about the concept of the Atlantic Gateway. I hope it does not seem presumptuous to say this, but I think it is fair to say that Halifax has been one of the major economic gateways to Canada and to all of North America for over 400 years. In a sense, it does not need to compete for the notion of being the major Atlantic Gateway but, at the same time, a major collaborative effort is under way to strengthen the port of Halifax so it can be an even more effective economic driver for goods coming to the North American continent.

When I had the opportunity to talk with my provincial New Democrat candidates in Nova Scotia recently, the official opposition in the province of Nova Scotia, it was pointed out to me that it was not well-known that the port of Halifax, in many instances, offers the fastest and the most effective route into North America.

The bill that is now before us addresses a number of valid concerns that have been brought forward over a period of several years. However, I hope we can further enhance the capability of the port of Halifax and other Canadian ports as well to play an even bigger role as a gateway into North America.

I think members of the House are aware of the history of the bill that is now before us. It resulted from a consultative process across the country in 2003, when a legislative review of the Canada Marine Act was conducted, and in a 1995 policy review for federal ports on the elimination of overcapacity and the new governance structures needed to support more successful commercial operations and a more comprehensive system of transportation, of which the Halifax port is only one component.

There was a great deal of interest in that review process at the time. I think some 75 hearings were held with 140 submissions by a variety of stakeholders from across the country. Therefore, in part, the changes contained in Bill C-23 came out of that review process.

It is my view and the view of my colleagues, several of whom have already very ably spoken to the bill, that the bill should be supported at this stage of second reading to go to committee. It is also our view that some amendments are needed to some areas of the bill. It would be our contention that at committee these amendments ought to be fully considered and, hopefully, supported, adopted and brought back to the House. If the necessary amendments are made, I and my colleagues would see this as an important step forward in strengthening our capacity to play an even greater role in this country of effective ports into the North American continent.

A number of positive things can be said about the bill. A number of provisions in the bill would improve access to funding by port authorities for infrastructure improvements. There are some areas in which there are infrastructure improvements needed to the port of Halifax and other ports. The original marine act did not actually allow for port authorities to get access to federal funding. This is being addressed in the bill and it is long overdue.

The bill also would provide the port authorities with the ability to borrow money for port purposes on the port authorities' credit. This is an important provision that needs to be supported. It is an important start but it is our view that the borrowing power that would be made available to port authorities needs to be increased beyond where this present bill establishes that limit.

Another important amendment, which, I guess, would be mostly true of the port of Halifax, explicitly states the historical importance of our ports to the Canadian economy and to the North American economy. This positive statement is particularly timely at this juncture. We know how important our ports are but we also know there are particular challenges that need to be met in the context of the current events happening and the current security threats that need to be taken seriously.

One of the areas in which we are very adamant that there needs to be improvements in Bill C-23 relates to the security challenges that our ports are facing. I think it is fair to say that a missed opportunity in the current drafting of the bill is to tackle the importance of streamlining, standardizing and strengthening both the funding for national security measures in our ports and also for the way in which the security provisions are actually handled.

The disbandment of the port police was very controversial when it took place a number of years ago. I know the New Democratic Party expressed some major concerns about it at the time. At the very least, I think one has to say that the disbandment was done in a very ad hoc way and was premature.

What Bill C-23 would enable us to do with some appropriate amendments is to actually recognize that there needs to be a more coherent, comprehensive, streamlined process dealing with security.

This is almost unbelievable but at the moment the 19 different major port authorities literally have 19 different systems addressing their security needs. Some ports have a combination of federal, municipal and provincial police. Some have various partnerships and relationships with private security firms. In Halifax, for example, we have a contract with the municipal police augmented by private security firms for commercial port users.

I had a professor who would talk about the lack of a really thorough, systematic approach of whatever regulatory nature that looked like a dog's breakfast. In this day and age, in particular, we need to be concerned about a more comprehensive and coherent approach to port security.

It pains me to say this but we in the city of Halifax have a very real concern these days about the increase in violence in some pockets of our communities. This is not unusual nor is it exceptional to Halifax. I am pleased to take the opportunity to say that we in the city of Halifax are blessed with one of the finest police forces in our country. We have an outstanding chief of police and deputy chief of police who absolutely understand what it means to say that we need to take this challenge seriously and that what it requires is being tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. They do not only express that as some kind of a convenient slogan. They act on it and they engage the whole community in the process of identifying where the kind of preventive and rehabilitative measures are needed that would actually get that job done, while, at the same time, recognizing that there are instances in which the public is not being adequately protected from some of the offenders who threaten their very security and in fact their lives in many cases.

It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that at committee there are some amendments brought in to take a more coherent or comprehensive approach to the security challenges we face.

It may not be so obvious to people who live in landlocked places but ports are a wonderful asset and a wonderful resource. However, particularly with the increase in commercial activity and the potential for massive containers to be brought in on container ships, there can be real challenges to identifying illicit drugs or illegal arms that are stowed in those containers by hostile individuals who have anything but our best interests at heart when they do that.

I am not saying that it is frequent, but, and I believe this figure would apply today or recently, the figures would indicate that only 3% of the containers coming into our ports now are actually inspected. I am not an authority but I do know there are some challenges. I do not know what percentage it should be but it seems that 3% is a very low percentage of container inspection to determine whether there are threats to our security.

I do not want in any way to create the impression, because I do not believe it is true, that the port of Halifax has bigger challenges in that regard than other ports, but I think what it does underscore is that we need to have a more streamlined, comprehensive approach to security, and this is the time to do it.

I recall in part with amusement, but I also remember how furious I was at the time, that on the eve of the 2004 election there was virtually a Liberal rally conducted in Halifax where there was a great deal of fanfare about funding coming into the port of Halifax to improve our security protection in the aftermath of 9/11.

Honestly, we could not tell that it was not a Liberal rally. There were three cabinet ministers that flew in at, of course, public expense to make this big announcement with great fanfare, but actually it was totally lacking in specifics. A whole two years later, when I was making inquiries to find out about the delivery of those promises, not a single penny had flown at the time to fulfill those promises.

If the new provisions of Bill C-23 are appropriately adopted, we will be supporting it if the necessary amendments can hang within it. Let us not turn it into a kind of pre-election fanfare thing, which I think would do a disservice to the fact that the consultation process that has taken place has involved all of the stakeholders, all of the levels of government, and recognized that this is something of interest to the security and well-being of our individual citizens, and obviously to the well-being and success of our local, regional and national economies.

Mr. Speaker, with those words, I am pleased to indicate my support for the legislation to be passed at second reading. I look forward to a lively committee process where other concerns will be addressed, including some real problems about shrinking down the numbers of members on the port authorities. This does not allow for a diverse representation as is really needed to ensure that all interests are fully considered at the decision-making level of our port authorities.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007 December 3rd, 2007

Yes, it is a race to see who can give away the bigger tax cuts. The statistics are truly--

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007 December 3rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I think that was an assertion, not a question. Sometimes it is hard for us in this corner of the House to know whether it is a Conservative or a Liberal member speaking because we cannot tell a bit of difference between them when they sing the praises of making even faster and deeper tax cuts for the wealthiest corporation.

Let us be clear.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007 December 3rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to be disrespectful and I do not want to accuse the member of being sexist in his insistence that we are talking about waitresses. I would think in this day and age we would be talking about servers, but since he clearly means women, let me talk about women who are working at very inadequate wages.

They are desperate for universal child care programs because they understand that the child care program is not only essential to ensure the safety, health and security of their child but it is early childhood development. It is early learning that is critical to the development and well-being of the child.

Let me talk about women earning very inadequate wages. It means that they are hurting because the government has not done anything about affordable housing, especially special needs housing, in some cases for single parents, and in some cases for older women who find themselves widowed or divorced and with inadequate incomes.

We know there are older women working as waitresses these days because they, in many cases, have the need for prescription drugs, either for their own illnesses or because they are supporting, with no help from the government thank you very much in terms of a universal home care program, and trying to provide desperately expensive prescription drugs for a family member or spouse who is ill.

I think if the member could just raise his sights a little bit to see the bigger picture, he would understand that most hard-working family members or single women, whom he has in his sights here, would rather have seen the investment in these kinds of programs. That would lift those in deepest poverty up out of poverty and give a break to hard-working families and individuals who are suffering because of the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots in our society.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007 December 3rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am happy this afternoon to have a few minutes to speak once again and very directly to the budget implementation bill which is now before the House.

I had an opportunity last week not to enter the debate on the bill but rather on several occasions to ask questions of hon. members on both sides of the House about their comments and about the positioning of their party on the bill. To state the obvious, the government members made it clear from the outset, of course, that they would be supporting their own bill.

What was very much more surprising was that the Liberals, who have stood up here day after day trashing the decisions made by the Conservatives in the bill which is now before us, indicated nevertheless that they would be sitting in their seats rather than voting against the bill.

Perhaps even more surprising, if one pays close attention to the interventions from the official opposition, the Liberal members of the House, they have praised the government. We just heard the same thing from the last speaker, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

He praised the government for the extent, the depth and the breadth of the corporate tax cuts, while also trashing the government for the expenditures that it did not make on a whole wide range of desperately needed, overdue investments in the Canadian people, in Canadian infrastructure, and in broad social supports that deepening poverty has left people desperately requiring.

Middle class families are losing ground and being punished by the prosperity gap. They were also hoping would their issues be addressed in the budget, but clearly were not. It is a really difficult thing. It is kind of like whiplash. We get whiplash trying to keep up with where the Liberals really stand on the budget.

Let me say very clearly once again, and the point has been made very ably by a number of my colleagues, starting with my leader, the finance critic and also a number of other colleagues, that we will not be supporting this budget implementation bill for several reasons.

I do not want to be parochial about it, but let me say once again clearly for the record that one of the reasons that the members from Atlantic Canada will not be supporting it, but also the rest of my colleagues from all over the country, is because it completely betrays the Atlantic accord that was entered into through an all-party agreement starting in Nova Scotia, but also finally here in the House. It betrays the commitments made.

I want to say very briefly that it became extremely clear when I received in my mailbox in Nova Scotia a communication from the premier of Nova Scotia, which was not especially directed to me but went to every household in Nova Scotia, in which in the very first paragraph the premier of Nova Scotia stated categorically:

The Atlantic Accord is alive and well. The clarification which we and the federal government agreed upon on October 10th makes us better off financially than we were when we signed the Accord in 2005.

So far so good. That is absolutely true. The accord in its present form, desperately shaved down and shrunken, would make Nova Scotia better off than before the accord existed. However, it does not tell the truth that it does not make Nova Scotia better off to the extent that was absolutely promised in the signed and sealed legal document that constituted the first Atlantic accord, and that effectively was shrunken down by this budget implementation bill. Second, it states absolutely erroneously:

It is also a fact Nova Scotia stands to receive hundreds of millions of dollars more than when the value of the Crown share is determined in March 2008.

Again, in a special box highlighted on the first page of this communication, the premier of Nova Scotia says:

A three person panel will resolve a 20 year dispute over the value of offshore resources by mid-March. We are confident Nova Scotians will receive hundreds of millions of dollars from our Crown share.

The Minister of Finance has made it clear that is not true. The political and financial advisors of the government, in a briefing, made it clear that is not true, that in fact the only thing that may happen, and let us give the benefit of the doubt that it will happen, in mid-March 2008 would be an attempt to come to an agreement over what process would be used to subsequently resolve this 20-year dispute.

Not that the dispute would be resolved, not that the dollar amounts would be determined and made known to Nova Scotians, but that there would simply be an agreement on a process that would be used which could go on for a very long time.

I want to finish off dealing with the Atlantic accord because it is clear that there is every reason for it now to receive the new name: the Atlantic discord. There are tremendous contradictions between the provincial and the federal governments over what this newest iteration of the Atlantic accord actually means.

When there are constant differences in the interpretation of an agreement reached between two levels of government, this is a very big problem. This indicates that not only is there not certainty, there is not even any kind of agreement about what the accord actually means, let alone the likelihood that what is being promised in this implementation act would actually be delivered.

That reason alone accounts for huge numbers of Atlantic Canadians, particularly in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, absolutely making it clear they do not want this supported and they are having a hard time understanding why Liberals are sitting in their seats instead of voting against it if in fact they care about the economic health of the Atlantic Canadian provinces.

It does not just benefit Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, although they are the chief beneficiaries because it is about the revenues from offshore resources, but it clearly, if it were fair and it were actually delivering in this implementation bill what it promised to deliver, it would benefit the economy of the whole Atlantic region.

I must say, yet again, that I was stunned to hear the member for Scarborough—Guildwood congratulate the Conservatives for continuing the massive tax cuts to the corporate sector that are contained in this budget and, again, I guess we would expect him therefore to stand and vote for the budget.

However, that member knows and all of his colleagues know that it was the Liberal leader who gave a clear signal that the Liberal Party would be completely supportive of deeper and faster tax cuts, that were already contemplated by the Conservatives, that we see the massive deep tax cuts to the corporate sector.

Let us be clear who the single biggest beneficiaries are. Two major beneficiaries of these very deep tax cuts are: the oil and gas companies that are continuing to gouge consumers at the pumps, and the banks that are continuing to gouge consumers in terms of service fees.

What is that costing Canadians? I know my time is up, Mr. Speaker. It is costing in terms of this government not delivering on the long-promised and desperately needed universal child care program, not delivering on the affordable housing desperately needed, not delivering on reducing post-secondary education tuition fees for students who need an education in this knowledge-based economy, not delivering on the infrastructure programs that municipal leaders had to come to the Hill to plead for today because of what it means in terms of the deterioration of sewer and water, bridges, and not delivering on many other very important municipal infrastructure programs.

For all of those reasons, let me make clear what my colleagues have already indicated. We will not be voting for this very flawed, shortsighted and meanspirited budget implementation bill when it comes up for a vote.