House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was health.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for West Nova (Nova Scotia)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Ethics June 18th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I have a question on Mulroney-Schreiber.

The mandate of the commission of inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber theft is so limited that many questions will remain unanswered. Yet the government has the duty to shed light on this affair.

Why is the Prime Minister protecting Brian Mulroney? Why is he hiding the truth?

Court Challenges Program June 17th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, it is appalling to see how the government has taken linguistic minority communities hostage. Precisely because they are a minority, these communities need stability and predictability, without being subject to partisan threats.

Why is the government using linguistic minority communities for its own narrow political gains?

Court Challenges Program June 17th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the government's refusal to announce the reinstatement of the court challenges program immediately shows to what extent it has taken minority language communities hostage. Now, almost two years after eliminating the program, the government is still not being clear about when or even whether it will be reinstated.

Why is the minister putting partisan politics ahead of the interests of minority language communities?

Food and Drugs Act June 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member on his remarks. He is a diligent member of the health committee, and I cannot help but notice his impressive new haircut. I understand he shaved his head to raise funds in support of people with cancer. What a commendable thing to do.

I am sure he has followed this bill's progress, as have I. All the witnesses who appeared before the committee, not specifically for this bill, but to examine some of the drugs on the market and the drug approval process, generally spoke in favour of progressive licensing for drugs, which this bill specifies.

The member realizes, as I do, that many Canadians were afraid that this bill would make it more difficult to access natural health products. The minister indicated that this bill was in no way meant to target those products or change access to them in any way. It is not meant to make access any easier or any more difficult. It is not meant to change the licences to sell such products or any such matters. He said that was a completely separate issue.

Now we are told the minister intends to make a number of changes to the bill, changes that will affect these products. I think this will change the principles of this bill and I would like to ask the hon. member if he agrees with me.

We were asked to support the principles of this bill at second reading and to study it thoroughly in committee. Now, those principles are being changed. When we go back to committee, it will be with a bill that is different from the one we have been studying so far, the one we have been discussing with experts, the one on which the research branch of the Library of Parliament has been advising us. I would like to hear the hon. member's comments on this.

Food and Drugs Act June 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, it has always been my understanding, as a member of Parliament, that when one votes in favour of a bill at second reading, one is voting on the principles of that bill. We expect that the bill will be sent to committee where committee members can work on the details, and work on minor adjustments to the bill to make those principles work. If the amendments are substantive, then the principles are being changed.

In this case the minister has stated both inside and outside the House and at committee that natural health products were not at play in the bill. He said that nothing in this legislation would change the rules for natural health products: the availability, the choice. But I understand from members opposite that the minister now wants to put forward some amendments that would deal specifically with natural health products where they are not involved in the bill now. That is changing the principles of the bill.

I believe that it would be respectful of the House if the minister withdrew the bill, made the relevant amendments, and put the bill forward, so that all members could do an adequate study, receive advice from the Library of Parliament, receive advice from interest groups and professionals prior to our debate at second reading, and well in advance of it going to committee where we would make those moderate modifications.

Does the member not find this to be contemptuous of Parliament? Does he not find it to be disrespectful that members would abuse their privileges in this way?

Health May 29th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, today the Minister of Health disgraced Canadians by refusing to respect the decision of the B.C. Supreme Court to allow Insite to continue its current operation. The minister continues to cite non-scientifically based opinion pieces published by American ideologues as a basis for his position. He claims Canada is breaching international treaties, but the UN disagrees.

How can the minister ignore scientific evidence, the will of the courts and all Canadians affected by substance abuse and addiction?

Nurses Week May 14th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House today to recognize Nurses Week in appreciation of the men and women who work on the front lines of patient care. The 270,000-plus registered nurses in Canada constitute this country's largest group of health care professionals, representing one-third of all workers.

Unfortunately, we have a major nursing shortage in this country, a shortage that is only getting worse. If we continue down this path, Canada will be short 78,000 nurses by 2011 and 113,000 by 2016.

The shortage of nurses is tied to the fact that education seats in nursing were cut, the nursing workforce is aging and a large percentage of the workforce is not employed full time.

In addition, men only make up 6% of nurses in Canada. If we are to solve the lack of nurses, we must work with the Canadian Men in Nursing Group to encourage young men to consider this most noble of professions.

Ferry Service May 8th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the Digby-Saint John ferry is a long established maritime highway linking western Nova Scotia to the rest of North America. This ferry contributes well over $40 million to the net economic benefits of western Nova Scotia and much more to the rest of Canada. This federally regulated and financed maritime interprovincial highway is fundamental to the social and economic future of western Nova Scotia.

Will the Minister of Transport assure this House and the people of Atlantic Canada that there will always be a ferry between Digby and Saint John, and that it will be financially supported--

Points of Order May 7th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, as you may remember, in November the member for Dufferin—Caledon raised a point of order in committee as to whether I could participate at committee in light of a potential lawsuit or threat of a lawsuit by Brian Mulroney. At committee, the chair decided that I could continue on and that there was no conflict, which I did.

Subsequently, the same member, the member for Dufferin—Caledon, asked the Ethics Commissioner to investigate as to whether there was a breach of the code on the question that there could be a pecuniary interest. The Ethics Commissioner has done so and I have been in discussion with her. The House will be receiving or may already have received her report.

I would like to thank the conflict of interest and Ethics Commissioner for her work on this file. This case dealt largely with issues that have never been dealt with and I am sure that all members will benefit from her efforts. I know that the commissioner found that I had acted in good faith in these matters and she did not recommend any sanctions.

I acknowledge the commissioner's findings and I will take all necessary steps, as soon as possible, to ensure that I am in full compliance with the rulings of the Conflict of Interest Code.

The commissioner found, which should be of interest to all members of the House, that there could be a pecuniary interest in a member if he is sued by anybody, not even another member but by anybody, because it could create a liability.

The commissioner evaluated the code as it currently stands and ruled, and I fully accept her ruling, that I could have an interest and should not have participated in that committee. I did participate in the committee because the ruling came after the committee and I was only served with the lawsuit well into this current fiscal year, a long time after the actions had been started by the member and before the Ethics Commissioner started her investigation.

The Ethics Commissioner pointed out that there was a risk that any member could be removed from their duty by some trivial lawsuits that could be brought by one member on the other. I would ask the House that the relevant committee review this ruling and accept it but look at whether there should be modifications to the rules of the House or to the code of conduct.

In closing, I want to assure everyone that the Liberal opposition will not allow frivolous lawsuits to stop it from vigorously holding the government to proper account.

Treatment of Rare Disorders May 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this important bill.

I would like to begin by congratulating the hon. member for North Vancouver for all his work, as well as all the members who gave him their support.

I find the Bloc Québécois' approach to this issue rather unfortunate. We are looking at the issue of rare diseases and how the family members of those afflicted with such diseases often find themselves in serious difficulty. And rather than getting some cooperation from all the parties of this House, it has become a constitutional and federal-provincial issue. There must be some way to come together on this.

Perhaps this bill does nothing to advance the constitutional matters the Bloc Québécois are always talking about. In any case, I do not think it holds them back or is a disadvantage to them in any way.

I hope the members will find the courage to support this bill and support our member for North Vancouver. He has done an enormous amount of work, made some compromises and landed the support of some government members, NDP members and of course his own colleagues for this important bill.

I listened to the member for Halifax. She said a lot of the things I wanted to say, so I will try not to repeat them.

She talked about the investments in weapons of mass destruction as opposed to investments to help people. I remember a friend of mine, Gerald Percy O'Neil. He was at the golf course reading The ChronicleHerald and started swearing his head off. On one page there was an article, and I do not remember the exact amount of money, about $14 million or $15 million having been spent to develop the Jarvik 7 artificial heart to keep people alive while waiting for heart transplants or other treatments. On the next page was an article about an equal amount of money being spent on developing lethal injections to kill healthy people. It is one of the contradictions of our society.

When we look at the motion brought forward by the member for North Vancouver, we have to evaluate a couple of things. We have to step back and think of how our society will be measured by people 200 years from now. It will be done the same way that we have evaluated societies and civilizations that were before us, and that is by the way they treated their minorities and the weakest in society.

If we look at the people who need help, who need all of us to come together to give them some assistance, the victims of rare disorders would be among the first. They are not numerous enough to ask for assistance or have purchasing power. There are not enough to cause research to happen on therapies, drugs and treatments that can help them.

Do not forget that when we encourage research on treatments to help people with rare disorders, it helps all of us. It helps civilization in general because it brings other treatments that can be used by others. Nothing is in isolation in science. Any information we discover, whether DNA research, nerve regeneration and all these types of things we need in these cases, will help all of us and society generally.

I was looking at the definition and rare disorders, which include such conditions as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, thalassemia, mucopolysaccarides, pulmonary hypertension, Fabry disease, Gaucher's disease, Waldenstrom's anemia, kidney cancer and acromelagy. I will add Alström, as well as spina bifida. We could add to that again and again.

I lost a brother who I never knew. He died shortly after childbirth of a disease for which at that time, the mid 1950s, there was no hope, no chance, no consideration given to survival. We found out later it was encephalitis. Now 99.9% of such cases survive. If the research had been done on those things, my mother would have had another child.

A friend of mine has only one child, who has smooth brain syndrome. I do not know the proper term for that disorder. Because there was a 25% chance that his next child would have the same syndrome, he and his wife chose not to have more children. We are not too far away in the research where the parents can find out, but it requires research. It will happen. The capability is in Canada and internationally, but there has to be payback for this research. It is not in isolation.

Therefore, it requires some assistance from us as a society to purchase the therapies for rare disorders as they become available. There are always ways to negotiate with the producers of the pharmaceuticals or the therapies, reasonable ways.

The member for North Vancouver brought up the case of pulmonary hypertension, for which he is very familiar. He lost his grandson to it, a grandson who was fortunate enough to live longer than expected. It very seldom happens to children. Usually people who are diagnosed with this are a little older. The member's family was able to have him around. I congratulate his father, Durhane, for accepting the position of president of the CORD organization to try to get assistance for other people.

Many people in my community have Alström's within their families. Two of my former co-workers have experienced that disorder. It is prevalent in western Nova Scotia. Some research is being done on the genetics of it at Mount Desert Island in the village of Bar Harbour. When we look at all the genetic work that is being done everywhere, I think at one point we will be able to identify it very early, perhaps in the fetus, and be able to do the DNA treatments that will avoid the consequences of that disease.

We know the same thing is being done for people who suffer from spina bifida and people who suffer from spinal accidents. We do not know how far away we are, but we know the research is coming. We will be able to do the regeneration of nerve cells that will allow them to regain the use of their limbs. We must keep going. If we provide support for these types of rare diseases, there will be a lot of ancillary benefits for many other people as well.

When I look at the question of cystic fibrosis, I am reminded of Dan Nadeau who served as an RCMP officer in my riding for quite some time and is now working in Regina. Dan lost three sons to cystic fibrosis. It would be easy for a person in that position to withdraw from society, to be very discouraged, to lament his loss, but that is not the position that Dan took. Dan volunteers as a volleyball coach with many community organizations and continues to work. He would be the first to stand in line to support the member for North Vancouver so that other families are not struck with this illness.

Maybe 30 years down the line it will be cystic fibrosis. Maybe 20 years it will be pulmonary hypertension, maybe Alström's in 10. Who knows what the next breakthrough will be? We know what we have been able to accomplish with Fabry's disease, which has a huge concentration in Nova Scotia. People in other communities across the country have this disease. Alberta has quite a few cases. Tancook Island in Nova Scotia seems to be the hot bed.

With some assistance from the federal government, working with pharmaceutical manufacturers and the provincial government, we have been able to give quality of life to those people. They are able to continue working. They are able to look forward to a reasonable life expectancy. Without the treatments available they had a very short life expectancy and no quality of life, no ability to work or to raise a family, or the other things that we all take for granted.

I believe that the potential is there if the desire is there. I want to congratulate all members of the House who are supporting this motion. I want to thank the government for having negotiated in good faith with the member for North Vancouver, so that we could come to a compromise resolution.

I also want to thank NORD, the National Organization for Rare Disorders, that was part of the discussions all along. What we are putting forward in the House is not everything the organization wanted, but it understands that this is a step forward. This motion seeks to bring everybody together at the same table to find the long term solutions. It has been a pleasure to speak to this motion. I look forward to voting in favour of it.