House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was housing.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as NDP MP for Ottawa Centre (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Global Workplace Health and Safety June 2nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, today in a British Columbia court a historic judgment will take place. For the first time a Canadian citizen will be sentenced under the provisions of the Criminal Code for predatory sexual behaviour with children outside of Canada.

Yesterday, before a committee of the House, we heard three credible witnesses refer to the fact that a number of Canadian mining companies had been involved in the violation of human rights and health provisions of workers in Africa, Asia and South America.

The NDP believes that just as we should protect children in foreign lands from sexual predators, so too should we protect their parents from predatory companies.

As a first step, we call upon the government to amend to so-called Westray law and extend its protective provisions to apply to workers of Canadian companies anywhere in the world.

Privilege May 31st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the committee meeting that took place today in camera, what I had to say about it was factually accurate and obviously hoped it was totally consistent with the rules of the House. I did not name any particular member, nor did I cite any particular words. I described what went on. If the member wants to challenge that I welcome him to do so.

Hopefully, what will come from this is a committee in which all members will finally do some work.

Democratic Reform May 31st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

At the committee's meeting this morning, Liberal, Bloc and NDP members cooperated in an attempt to get a resolution that would lead to electoral reform at long last in Canada. In contrast, the Conservative Party obstructed throughout the meeting. It filibustered. This led to the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP leaving the meeting so there would be no quorum.

Will the chair of the committee reconvene another meeting of the committee in the hope that the Conservatives will come back and do the job that they were elected to do?

Democratic Reform May 20th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the minister, in turn, might be disappointed that he no longer has responsibility for implementing this file.

However, the committee responsible for preparing a report is looking at an agenda that could see electoral reform completed and put in place by the end of this calendar year. If the government receives such a recommendation from the committee, will it accept it and act upon it?

Democratic Reform May 20th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the government House leader.

For decades now, Canada's democracy has had many political parties but an electoral system designed for only two. This has proved to be dysfunctional and unfair.

Now that we have a new Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal, will the government House leader assure the House that electoral reform will become a top priority of the government?

Democratic Reform May 13th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, whereas the large majority of the world's democracies have some form of proportional representation, and whereas leading members of the Commonwealth including Scotland, Ireland, Wales, New Zealand and Australia have also embodied some form of PR, and whereas electoral systems that include PR have much better representation of women and visible minorities as well as better regional representation of caucuses, we must resolve that Canada catch up with democratic reform.

Specifically, the House of Commons committee considering electoral reform next week must recommend a reform process with a completion date by the end of the year.

It is the last chance for this committee to meet its obligation to establish a process that involves a form of citizen engagement and parliamentarians, and that will lead to an electoral system that embodies individual constituencies and proportional representation.

Canada Elections Act May 9th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to support this bill introduced by my colleague from the Bloc. Its principle has been long supported by my party.

As has already been said, we have now what is really a legacy from a political past that has been much too much under the control of partisan decision making. One of the great progressive tendencies since the 19th century, as a matter of fact, not only in Canada but in England and other developed democracies, has been to professionalize a lot of the activity that was once totally under the control of partisan politics.

This, in terms of the administration of our elections, is one of the few remaining anomalies in this democratization process and it is time we got rid of it.

I must say I was surprised by what the parliamentary secretary was saying. I do not know if he was speaking as a private individual or for the government on this matter. He was saying that there is really no need to change because there has not been some colossal fiasco. To say the least, that is not very good reasoning.

We have made all kinds of other changes in the past because we believe that a public function, which should be transparent and accountable, almost by definition has to be devoid of partisan political control. Because if something goes wrong, then it is too easy to blame the fact partisan political activity led to the fault in the first place. It is such an obvious change that is due to be made to our system. The Chief Electoral Officer himself has called for professionalizing this and taking these decisions away from partisan politicians.

As someone who has run in eight elections, seven in my hometown of Oshawa and one more recently here in Ottawa, I have not run into difficulties in the electoral process itself, but as our Bloc colleague has pointed out, with our Conservative colleague following suit, there have been a number of problems associated with a decision making process that is less than fully professionalized.

Even if incompetence has been revealed, it has not been due to the fact that a Liberal has appointed a Liberal or a Conservative has appointed a Conservative but because the person was incompetent. That in itself is reason to professionalize the whole process: to make it public, to have stated criteria for the job, and to have men and women apply for the job and have someone quite independent of the government of the day making the decision about the hiring, and subsequently, if that is necessary, the firing.

I will conclude my brief comments by saying that the New Democrats strongly support this measure. Since his party has talked about the democratic deficit, we remain astonished at this point that our Liberal colleague is not supporting this bill. Three parties in the House have spoken for it. I hope that when the vote takes place a substantial majority of the members of the House of Commons will vote for it.

Democratic Reform May 6th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the minister knows full well that his members on the committee have been dragging their feet throughout this session of Parliament.

Since this reform process could be launched and completed by the end of this calendar year, will he take steps to discuss with his members on that committee the ensuring of a speeding up of the process so that here in Canada we will have electoral reform by the end of this calendar year?

Democratic Reform May 6th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister. Yesterday in Britain, 63% of the citizens voted against the Labour government, yet today, with only 3% more votes than the Conservative Party, Mr. Blair remains in government with a substantial majority.

Given that our electoral system is the same as the British, with the same pre-democratic roots and unfair results, does the Deputy Prime Minister not agree that we should have serious democratic electoral reform now?

Member for Ottawa Centre May 5th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by recognizing my leader of the New Democratic Party, the Prime Minister, the former House leader and spokesperson for the Conservative Party and the chef du Bloc Québécois, and say thank you very much for the kind and generous words.

I must be candid here today and say the words were generous, they were kind and some of them were even accurate. If it could have been the case, my father would love to have been here to listen to those words. If my mother could have been here, she would have actually believed them.

As has already been said, normally the only occasion when we hear such words is when someone is starting here or leaving. I left once before, and I have not quite decided what will happen after hearing all these kind comments. I should threaten, I suppose that is the appropriate word, the leaders and spokespersons for the other parties. I was making careful notes about what they had to say about me. I have written them down and one of my caucus colleagues, who knows how to use these electronic gadgets, has sent them off to a printer. I am assured they could be on a leaflet in no time. I am the only member of the House of Commons who can canvass on the way home from this place. I understand it is even technically possible for me to have these leaflets available at 5 o'clock. So be warned.

I do not expect to come back. I do appreciate what has been said. To pick up on what the Prime Minister said, it has been an immense pleasure for me to have shared the life experience that goes on in this institution. As he pointed out, not as Prime Minister or as party leader but as an ordinary member of this institution, the lifeblood of a democracy is the elected body.

I have been here for the great debates of my time; on the Constitution; on the national energy program; on the War Measures Act; on the recognition of Japanese Canadians, their place in history and our unpleasant, to put it euphemistically, treatment of them historically. Many debates went to the root of what this country is all about.

I have had the great honour of being in this place first, because of the men and women in the city of Oshawa, my hometown, who elected me to be here to take part in those debates. More recent, the men and women of Ottawa Centre have honoured me with the same kind of decision.

It is a great pleasure to take part in such debates. At their best, they are vigorous because it is not just theory. For those who know me, theory is very important to me. Debates are theory translated into action. They are our values and some of them differ but they are always in the context of democracy. They get laid out on the table about the kind of society we want. The debates have been vigorous and enjoyable, and I have been honoured to be a participant in them.

If members will excuse me, I want to say in this context that I was asked not long ago if during my absence Parliament had changed somewhat, with all the lapses that come with increasing age about accurate memory and the inevitable propensity to romanticize the past.

When I was elected here Pierre Elliott Trudeau was Prime Minister of Canada and Bob Stanfield was the leader of the Conservative Party. I am not going to try to sort out the reasons for today, but it is my impression, having been here since the last election, that the tone and substance of debates have in fact changed, as has question period.

I will not attempt any kind of causal analysis of this, but the structure of our Parliament, depending upon our seating, tempts us into thinking all virtue, wisdom and truth lies on the side one happens to be on and all its opposite qualities happen to be on the other. This does contribute in some way to this kind of institutionalized conflict and causes us to forget many times.

I said in the past that, historically, Quebec is the heart of Canada. I am convinced that Bloc Québécois members, my dear colleagues from la belle province, agree with me that, for 75% of the issues, we are on the same side.

We share as members of the House; for 75% of the issues, we are on the same side or we would not be living in a liberal democracy. So often, because of the structure of this institution and particularly question period, we forget that. We tend to think that the 25% of issues that divide us, and seriously and appropriately divide us, are only what matters. What is more important in many ways as a civilized, democratic, decent country is the 75% of things we have in common.

It is a terrible thing to be both a politician and an academic, two terrible professions for wanting to give advice to others. I conclude with this thought. Those who will remain after the next election, whenever it may be, should give some serious thought to the decline in civility in the debate that has occurred in the House of Commons and which occurs daily in question period. If I were a teacher, I would not want to bring high school students into question period any longer.

There is a difference between personal remarks based on animosity and vigorous debate reflecting big differences of judgment. They should see what can be done in the future to restore to our politics in this nation a civilized tone of debate. A tone of debate, in the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, acknowledges the human decency and dignity of all other members of the House who recognize this. However we may differ, we are all human and we all have the right to have our inner dignity respected, especially in debate in the House.