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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was dollars.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Independent MP for Churchill (Manitoba)

Lost her last election, in 2006, with 17% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Wheat Board Act November 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, once again I remind Reformers that they are obviously having a very hard time listening to the number of people who support the Canadian Wheat Board. I would like to mention some of them. They are the Government of Saskatchewan, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, prairie pools, the Keystone Agricultural Producers, the National Farmers Union, the Concerned Farmers Saving the Wheat Board and members of the Canadian Wheat Board Advisory Committee who are elected from across the prairies to provide advice to the board's operations.

It is extremely important that Canadians do not get caught up in the usual Reform rhetoric that goes on and on about nobody representing the people of Canada except Reformers, that we will never have freedom unless we listen to Reform. If we want to talk dictatorship let us talk about Reformers spouting they are the only ones who are here on behalf of Canadians and serving them. I had to listen to the rather childish diatribe from the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt who said “I'm a farmer, I'm a farmer, I'm a farmer” as if nobody else could understand what farmers go through.

Numerous people in Canada know what farmers go through, what fishermen go through and what every other person goes through if they take the time to consider those people and to make themselves aware of their troubles. I suggest that just once Reformers should take a look at the whole picture instead of their own narrow vision.

Indian Affairs November 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the following are the words of Ila Bussidor:

I dream of an eagle Forever coming to me with messages of strength Always in friendship and kindness. I touch the great sacred bird of spirit. He cares for me, each time I vision him. He lets me carry him. He gives me his sacred feathers. He walks with me. I am not afraid of him. I believe he is my guardian. The spirits of my father and mother Beside me in my times of pain.

Ila Bussidor is one of the Sayisi Dene who have survived the tragic cycle of discrimination, poverty and violence that saw the death of one-third of her people, a cycle of destruction that is a direct result of their uprooting by the department of Indian affairs. Ila Bussidor's account of that relocation and its disgraceful result is the subject of the book Night Spirits . Night spirits are the spirits of the dead.

I urge the minister of Indian affairs to read this book, to meet with the Sayisi Dene of Tadoule Lake, to work toward compensation for the government's actions and to apologize to Ila and her people.

Canadian Wheat Board Act November 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, we in the New Democratic Party caucus support the preamble in Bill C-4 and, quite frankly, do not understand why the government is so opposed.

There is no question that the agriculture sector is an integral part of the Canadian economy. There should be no question that we need an organization that will work to secure the best financial return for all producers.

Grain producers in Canada recognize the value of marketing their product through one body. They recognize the value of working together and having a system that gives small and large producers opportunities and viability.

Producers have survived tough economic times because of the wheat board. I believe that the Canadian Wheat Board has the support of the majority of producers and there are very few who have not supported the wheat board.

I and my caucus will continue to encourage changes that will see the board fully elected by producers as well as the chair and CEO appointed by the board. I urge the government to work in that direction.

I am not going to go on and on without having anything worthwhile to say. However, I do want to mention that for the sticks and stones throwing between potato producers, grain producers and someone else, I think it is extremely important that we work to unite this country and to understand the different areas of the country, whether it be the east, the middle east or the west.

Education November 3rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, last week the industry minister warned that companies are leaving Canada because of a shortage of skilled workers, yet the finance minister claims to be doing more for higher education than any other government. A human resources development department study suggests tuition fees are so high they are deterring potential students.

Will the government explain why it is actuality deterring potential students and driving jobs out of the country when it claims to be doing so much for education?

Employment Equity Act November 3rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, just by way of comment to the previous member about letting the unions speak, I suggest the union is representing its members. It was chosen by its members just as we were chosen by our constituents.

On a personal note, I have spoken with many union members. The member mentioned a figure of 27,000. Previous governments including the Tory government of a few years back stalled the whole process of pay equity, in spite of the fact that the human rights commission indicated the government should be paying fairly. That is indication that we need a strengthening of employment equity and pay equity. When the Government of Canada does not abide by the rules it gives businesses the option of saying that they do not have to pay fairly for equal work.

With regard to the private member's motion, it does not take a lot of thought to understand what Canadian businesses and the Canadian workforce were like over the past few decades. There were fewer women and people with disabilities in the workforce. We have made some forward movement but we have not reached the point where we are being entirely fair to all people in society.

All we need to do is look at the rules in place in the RCMP. It was suggested by the member that there should not be a need for the RCMP to relax its requirements. I ask all members to remember when one of the requirements to join the RCMP was that a person had to be six feet or six foot one. The member who presented the bill would have been so vertically challenged he would not have been able to become a member of the RCMP.

We went through great arguments in Canada over the type of hat an RCMP member should wear because, God forbid, he would not be able to do his job if he did not have the proper hat. I suggest there is more to being a member of the RCMP than being able to bench press 200 pounds. There is more involved in the job than brawn.

Throughout history different arguments have been used for discriminating against various groups. The time has come to strengthen pay equity and employment equity so that there is no discrimination.

Health Care October 21st, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transport.

The medical examiner's office in Manitoba is investigating the possibility that a delay in landing at Thompson airport may have contributed to the death of a three-year old boy from Shamattawa. The delay resulted from repairs to the instrument landing system. It had not been operational for one month. NavCanada is responsible for those repairs.

Can the minister explain why it would take one month to make repairs to Manitoba's second busiest airport in a city where the hospital provides health services to some 30,000 northerners?

Supply October 21st, 1997

Madam Speaker, I speak in favour of the motion. I will focus on the crisis with aboriginal employment which we all know has historical roots.

The royal commission report on aboriginal people should have left no one questioning the cause of the crisis facing aboriginal people. Treaties were signed with aboriginal peoples, and the Government of Canada and the crown at the time of Confederation altered the treaty relationship, making aboriginal people and their lands the object of unilateral federal legislation.

In 1876 we had the first version of the Indian Act. These actions over time transformed independent, viable aboriginal nations into bands and individuals who were clients of a government department and wards of the state. This was not done with any consultation with the aboriginal peoples.

Canada's policy was intended to undermine aboriginal institutions and life patterns and to assimilate aboriginal people as individuals into mainstream society.

What I have just mentioned is almost word for word from the summary of the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Numerous actions were the instruments of the destruction: the Indian Act; the removal of jurisdiction from aboriginal governments; government control over who was recognized as an Indian; forced attendance by several generations of aboriginal children at residential schools; adoption of aboriginal children into non-aboriginal homes; the loss of two-thirds of the land set aside in treaty; the exclusion of aboriginal culture from processes related to education, justice, health and family services; and substitution of welfare for an effective economic base.

There are many people who believe that aboriginal people have had it easy and have no reason to complain. For those unbelievers let me read a few excerpts from a speech given by Father Hugonard on Saturday, May 27, 1916. Father Hugonard was with the Lebret Indian Industrial School.

The Indians are no longer lords of the Prairies.

Five tribes with different languages compose the Indian population.

The study of Indian languages is interesting and indicates their different characteristics.

They have no words to express metaphysical ideas of religion and such words had to be made.

Father Hugonard relayed the words of Chief Piapot.

The great spirit made berries for us and the white men have put fences around them. And told us: Do not go there: and those berries were made for us. The white people were using our wood, our hay and killing game. In order to be become sole masters of our land, they relegated us to small reservations as big as my hand, and made us promises as long as my arm; but the next year the promises were shorter and they are the length of my finger, and they keep only half of that.

Hugonard stated the mode of living on the reserve was widely different from what it had been on the prairies. Buffalo meat was replaced by bacon. They live in small houses without floors. Consequently their health was not as good as it was before when they lived in tepees, the site of which was often changed, and they decreased in number by about a half.

In 1882 the Parliament of Canada made an appropriation for the establishment of Indian schools.

At this point, Hugonard noted At first great difficulty was encountered in getting the parents to send their children to schools off reserve. Indians have a natural attachment for their children and like to have them around, more for their own gratification than for their own welfare.

It was this sick kind of belief that has resulted in the problems we have. Education was made compulsory because many aboriginals refused to send their children away.

Hugonard went on: “I believe the Indians of Canada have a useful and happy future”.

Father Hugonard concluded his address by saying:

A new problem in Indian matters may be arising; for a while, most Indians have been contributing splendidly to the Red Cross and Patriotic Funds, a great number of the ex-pupils of our Indian schools have enlisted and are now drilling or actually serving the Empire in France.

It is possible to predict what the effect of mingling with and being treated as equals of and knowing that they are in many cases the superiors of their white comrades will be upon these young soldiers when they return to their reserves. It will not be in their own interest or to the benefit of the country to allow them to leave their reserves and obtain the suffrage as no doubt some will demand; and while their ideas will have been broadened and the influence of the old generation of hunting Indians will be lessened—.

The policies of this government on aboriginal people are the cause of aboriginal dependence on government subsidies. They are the cause of poverty and the cause of unbelievably high crime rates and violence involving aboriginal people.

The department of Indian affairs acceptance of providing First Nations with substandard housing, education facilities and educational opportunities ensures that the proper infrastructure is in place in the way of roads and proper water and sewage systems equal to that of non-aboriginals and, dare I say, they were not treated with the same consideration of largely white communities.

The deplorable state of housing and living conditions on reserves saw in the last Parliament the government's having to be shamed into making even minimum moves. Not until New Democratic Party Manitoba MLAs Eric Robinson and Gerard Jennison brought media attention to conditions in Shamattawa where water was so high in methane that it would catch fire, not until then did the former Liberal member even attempt to act. Once the media died down, the promised improvements, less than half a finger, have never happened.

The royal commission report states aboriginal unemployment in the labour force rose from 15.4% in 1981 to 24.6% in 1991 despite advances in education. Aboriginal participation in the labour force is 57%, below that of all Canadians at 68%.

The cost to the economy in foregone income, $5.8 billion, plus the remedial expenditures lead to a loss of $7.5 billion annually. Some 300,000 new jobs will have to be created for aboriginal people in the next 20 years just to reach that liberal “it's okay to be there” 9% to 10% unemployment level.

Demographic pressures alone will increase the losses to the economy if the present trends continue to $11 billion in the year 2016.

In my riding aboriginal communities unemployment has always been unacceptably high, to some points 95%. Cuts to health and education saw decent paying positions cut in a number of communities. Hydro projects irreversibly altered ways of life and means of income to inland fishers and trappers.

Cuts to CN and VIA took jobs from many communities which were built up along the rail lines.

Seasonal workers are abundant in our communities. Cuts to EI have left proud people forced to go on welfare because they were short a few hours. Lack of government services and assistance by way of people with a voice, not a machine, has left many in a position of no assistance as they get frustrated trying to understand voice messages coming out of Brandon.

The understanding that was once available in northern offices is no longer there.

I listened to the member from Parkdale—High Park speak on her first day in the House. Her exuberance over her life in Canada was such that it reminded me of a cheerleader waving white and red pompoms. My life in Canada, as well as that of my family, grandparents and great-grandparents when they came from Ukraine and Sweden, has been great. That has not been the case for aboriginal people.

I was allowed to value and respect all my cultures. I was not denied access to my family as a result of wanting an education.

I have reflected on this part of Canadian history in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples report for two reasons. First, I am sick of Reformers spouting off about treating aboriginal people the same and equally. Aboriginal people were not treated fairly or equally since the first contact with the Canadian government. We must go beyond what is expected for everyone else to right that wrong and to improve the rate of employment for aboriginal people.

We must remove all the hindrances, poverty, poor housing. The first step which requires no cost is an apology to aboriginal people for a government policy that fully intended to lead to cultural genocide. At a time when the government has seen fit to attain its economic surplus by using unemployment, at a time when government policy has people working two to three jobs to make a living, the government must commit to all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to go beyond that half a little finger election promise and create jobs, decent, make a living jobs.

Canada Marine Act October 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my party opposes this bill as is for the following reasons.

Bill C-9 will create a patchwork of privately run ports with new mandates supposedly oriented to financial self-sufficiency. It seems less likely that these ports will form an integral part of a coherent national strategy for meeting our transportation and regional development needs. Instead we will have a set of local activities which are not linked to a national vision or plan. The danger arising from the withdrawal of a federal presence in the port system is that we will be handicapped in relation to our principal competitor the United States.

The U.S. government has a transportation policy based on the national interest. It has developed mechanisms to support and fund national transportation infrastructure. The trust fund mechanism is used to fund airports, highways, inland waterways and harbour maintenance. For example in the U.S., dredging of harbours is done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is financed by the harbour maintenance fund.

Under the proposed legislation we are considering today, Canadian ports that need dredging will have to pay for it themselves. This is estimated to cost a port like Saint John between $1 million to $1.5 million a year. This imbalance in funding and resources in the absence of a commitment from the national government will undoubtedly hurt Canada's position in competing for the lucrative business of international container cargo and freight.

The proposed privatization will ultimately have negative implications for many of the people presently working in the port system and the maritime industry generally. Despite assurances from the government about job security, it seems likely that as a new profit driven management approach is broadened jobs will be lost among the longshoreman and administrative workers who presently work within the Canada Ports Corporation. There is evidence from numerous other sectors that short term financial considerations will inevitably prevail over the preservation of jobs and the maintenance of fair working conditions.

As productivity and throughput considerations become more dominant, who will look out for the welfare of the staff who remain in the service of the ports organization? Cuts to workforce inevitably put additional pressures on the remaining staff. The added stress this creates is often reflected in increasing numbers of industrial accidents. These sorts of conditions are rarely reflected in this sort of legislation.

Can the government assure us that there will be a fair and representative cross-section of the different interests who have a stake in the Canadian port system? Will the federal government be able to protect the national interest in the future?

In many cases the most important users of the port facilities, those with a real stake in its performance and fees are the farmers from the prairie provinces. Under the new arrangements they will also be granted only one voice on the board. We believe that the board must be more than just an expression of the interests of the local business community. There is no guarantee under the proposed legislation that this will be the case.

Furthermore will there be a representative of labour on the new board of directors? As a vital player in the activity of ports, surely there is a case for union representation on the decision making structure that will oversee the agencies.

Even more appalling to this scenario especially in light of the statement by the Minister of Industry that if you did not vote Liberal do not expect to be treated fairly, and the Prime Minister's obvious approval of this prostituting of their favours for votes, two or maybe three members of the board will be appointed, not elected, and the remaining four to eight members will be appointed directly or indirectly by the minister.

The former transport minister made the rather arrogant statement that you do not have to be Sherlock Holmes to check surveillance monitors and ensure doors are locked in reference to work done by port police. Although that may be one aspect of the work done, it is still done in a dangerous environment where without question criminal activity, drug, people and weapons smuggling is a major factor.

I think it is irresponsible to suggest that lower cost security guards should have their lives devalued and put at risk. The proposal to remove the Canada ports police from the newly created entity seems an unwise step. Private security firms are not peace officers and do not have the same range of powers enjoyed by the police.

It is likely that drug smuggling, already a significant problem, will increase as a result of this legislation. Neal Jessop, president of the Canadian Police Association in March 1997 was quoted as saying that abolishing Canada's ports police will open the floodgates to the smuggling of drugs, guns and other contraband by organized crime. What passes through the ports will end up on the streets of our towns and cities from coast to coast to coast.

Let us look at the case of Vancouver, for example. The Minister of Transport at the time said that Canada Ports Corporation will provide $1 million to B.C. to cover the cost of one year of a 10-person Vancouver city police unit to patrol the port 24 hours a day. When the $1 million for Vancouver policing runs out it will be up to the city and the port to determine who should pay for more.

Ian Whittington a port police officer and president of the Port Police Association for the Pacific region stated that the level of policing within Canada's largest and most major port will digress drastically. Of course Vancouver will not be the only port affected. St. John's, Newfoundland and Saint John, New Brunswick, Halifax, Quebec City and Montreal, every part of the country is going to be affected.

We need to have commitments that will ensure that all Canadians are safe. The privatization of the ports fits into a pattern of the gradual withdrawal of the federal government from a host of activities and functions vital to the well-being of coastal communities. Cutbacks to the coast guard search and rescue capacity and the demanning and automation of lighthouses form the backdrop to the privatization of the ports.

There are estimated to be approximately 500 public ports and harbours in Canada. It seems safe to assume that communities with ports smaller than those of Vancouver, Halifax and Montreal are likely to feel the brunt of this legislation. Why is the Liberal government turning its back on the legitimate needs of the smaller coastal communities?

When the existing employees of the ports and the St. Lawrence seaway are transferred to the new authorities, there is no provision in the act for the continuation of superannuation benefits for existing employees within the new regimes, as was the case with the air traffic controllers when they were transferred to the not for profit corporation Nav Canada.

It might seem somewhat paranoid to suggest that these types of things are going to happen. However, I happened to be in Churchill, Manitoba the day after the signing for the turnover of the port to the new owner. The prime example of the pilotage situation came into question as a contract had not been signed with the pilot who was then going to be working and bringing in the tugs. Because the contract was not signed and the pilot was thinking about not taking in the tugs, it was suggested that an American pilot might be able to bring the tug in instead. Thank heavens for wiser heads prevailing and immigration seeing fit to make sure that would not happen. It certainly leads us to agree with the Bloc member that piloting was a major question.

The bill fails to provide for the capital financing that would be required to construct new port facilities at some future date. The submission of the Halifax Port Development Commission is highly instructive on this point and worth quoting at length:

The funding needed for construction of major port facilities can only be arranged in part, if at all, in the private sector. No private sector lender or investor can advance the bulk of such funding against user commitments which may or may not materialize when the facilities are completed, and if they do then materialize, may or may not continue until the funding has been repaid. Under such a scenario, funding can only come from governments which have the necessary financial resources and can justify, in the interests of promoting the economy of their constituents, the assumption of the attendant commercial risk. Had Bill C-9 been in effect in the late 1960s, Halifax would never have been able to build and equip even one container berth, and the harbour would long ago have fallen into disuse.

Should these ports be privatized? Will they be required to disclose their capital expenditure plans for local community input and review? The kind of secrecy that normally shrouds the investment activities of private companies must not be allowed to prevail within the ports where a range of public groups have a vital stake in the financial posture of their ports. Why has the government not chosen to make mandated public disclosure of all financial plans a precondition for the transfer of the ports to the private sector?

Speech From The Throne October 2nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I must commend the member. The president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union president, local 832, would be pleased. He was instrumental in bringing into law in Manitoba that settlement process. It was immediately repealed by the Conservative government because he was right. It kept parties honest and the Conservative government and employers had a problem with that. Without question, it was a process that did keep people honest and it did favour labour because government and employers were being dishonest in their negotiations.

Via Rail October 2nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, this passes as more than being an incident. It is an absolute tragedy that someone had to die before we saw recommendations from the Transportation Safety Board being put into place.

Why did the government not ensure that the minimum recommendations from that previous accident were enforced?