House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was bay.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Thunder Bay—Rainy River (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Forestry Industry March 31st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the growing challenges facing the forestry industry in Canada are abundantly evident in my northwestern Ontario riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

As a Liberal MP, it is with great pride that I can reflect upon the tremendous support that my party has shown for forestry. It has been significant even though I have been in Parliament for a short time.

For instance, in November 2005, the Liberal government introduced the $1.5 billion forestry competitive strategy. Shockingly, it was cancelled by the Conservative government shortly after it came to power.

Given today's far more dire circumstances, the Conservatives' lacklustre support for the Canadian forestry industry continues. By ignoring the Liberal leader's call for a national forestry summit, the Prime Minister has essentially turned his back on the many Canadians who are hurt by this ongoing crisis.

At meetings of the natural resources committee, Liberals have led the charge to help deliver help to the forestry industry. A Liberal motion has put into action a study by the committee into the challenges and opportunities facing this sector.

Forestry Industry Support March 31st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, this debate comes at a very interesting time, because as our Standing Committee on Natural Resources conducts its hearings, we have been hearing officially and with a great deal of reference and confirmation that many of the issues raised since the forestry competitiveness plan of November 2005 have resurfaced. In fact, they have boiled over into problems that no one really expected would become so aggravated and problematic.

When the standing committee decided to hold these hearings, it was not without a measure of coincidence that a so-called $1 billion plan, a competitive trust, was announced for the forest industry. It sounded like it would be quite salvageable and would do something for the industry. Then we found out, first of all, that the plan was supposed to come out in July. Thanks to pressure from the standing committee, that money became available, and I think that today is the first day it should be flowing to the provinces and territories.

But then, upon closer examination, we found out that, first, the $1 billion will be spread over three years, so it is not $1 billion a year. Second, it is not just for the forest industry. It is for any industry that the provinces and territories choose.

As well, the formula of distribution means that provinces which may not need it as much as Ontario does will find themselves with a plan that has no federal component whatsoever, with the money simply being transferred to the provinces and territories. The provinces and territories may like that, but for us federally, it represents a lost opportunity for us to be able to spend that money to ensure that the forestry industry would be stabilized and workers, who may not have to lose their jobs, could still be working.

Indeed, if the $1.5 billion plan that had been proposed under the government of member for LaSalle—Émard had been adopted in November or December of 2005, thousands of jobs would have been saved and many plants, mills and operations would still be in business.

When we look at the lack of conditions in regard to this so-called $1 billion, we realize that the provinces and territories can do whatever they want, so there are no terms and conditions. Indeed, the Standing Committee on Natural Resources was quite shocked when the deputy minister for natural resources appeared before us and we found out that there was no knowledge of the mechanics of the distribution of this money. There was only the general outline.

So clearly we have exposed another scam. That is a problem for the forest industry. It means that the work done by organizations across the country in their recommendations in terms of addressing transportation issues with railways and the competitive cost advantages such as capital cost allowances, which they say should be longer, is being ignored. The Minister of Finance ignores that. We will discover throughout our hearings the kind of evidence that will make this pragmatic and hopefully acceptable in order for the government to come to its senses on this.

We know there has been a two year gap. In fact, often the money for the pine beetle is trotted out as something that is being done. Of course, we have found out that not one beetle has been stopped and not one tree has been saved by all this money. We have to wonder what kind of pork-barrelling is going on with that kind of money instead of hard research that would lead to scientific results and some solutions.

We also found, to a disturbing amount, that no communities, no aboriginal communities, no municipalities were consulted at all with regard to this so-called billion dollar fund, nor were the provinces in terms of their own departments of natural resources or those departments of industry which are charged with helping the forest industry. Therefore, it is quite remarkable that such a thing could go on.

In hearing from the mayors of towns such as Kenora, Thunder Bay and Dryden, they have let us know exactly how hard the impacts of these were and the fact that not one item of information has been received by any municipality individually, regionally or provincially such as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario or the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in terms of the distribution of this.

Even far more shocking, believe it or not, not one member of any labour organization from coast to coast to coast was asked how their membership could apply or could benefit from any of this funding. It is startling that something could be dreamt up in the Prime Minister's Office and no one else knew about it.

Now it is out there and it is being written as we speak. Therefore, in distributing a trust fund to a province or a territory it means that anything that we could have had in terms of a positive impact to make sense of this money, to distribute it to communities that have been hard hit and needing it, has been lost. That in itself is very disturbing.

We even find that many of the issues that the federal government could have used with this funding in terms of a federal stake, if we were going to allocate those kinds of dollars, and we know for certain that companies have been asking for various things in terms of retooling, environmental questions that had been proposed and the solutions in place in November 2005, are conspicuously absent.

Indeed, organizations such as the Forest Products Association of Canada, which has been working with the minister's office and with various sections, sees the research and the determination that it has had. I am not saying it has been ignored, but basically it is an organization that is proposing solutions.

It has now become incumbent upon the Standing Committee on Natural Resources to address these questions and bring them forward to Parliament in a report, but there is not anything that has not been said by various organizations, whether it is transportation, labour, forest communities, single industry towns, or forest associations that we have not known in terms of a solution.

Many of those were included in the forest competitive plan of Prime Minister Martin. We know that in pushing for those types of things in a very calm and logical way, and identifying solutions as opposed to trying to blame someone else, that we really had a handle on it.

It would have eliminated an enormous amount of grief not only for our communities but suppliers, labour people themselves, the families involved and regions such as mine and the region of the hon. member from Kenora where there is a regional level impact of a territory larger than the country of Germany or France. The impact has been phenomenal.

In conclusion, in supporting this motion before us, I believe in the strongest terms that we have been trying to get forestry as a front burner agenda. I give credit to the hon. member for Kenora for forming a forestry caucus and taking leadership in the past number of years.

Indeed, it is within the Liberal Party of Canada that many of these solutions have come forward. I am glad to see them being adopted. Members can look forward in the next few weeks to a report that should propose federal solutions, federal involvement, and a federal front of mind for the forestry industry in Canada.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects March 12th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to conclude debate on Motion No. 183.

This is a journey that I started nearly two years ago and I am pleased to be taking these final steps toward the successful passage of this important policy recommendation.

Over the past two years, I have spoken with many hard-working Canadians about the intent of the motion and I have come to understand even more clearly just how vital it is that Canadian taxes support Canadian jobs.

I think of the Bombardier plant in my riding. Just a few years ago, most of its workers were laid off because of a shortage of work. I attended numerous meetings with plant manager Ron Dysievick, union leader Paul Pugh and other local elected provincial and municipal government members to discuss how we could get these people working again.

The community rallied behind us and, through a lot of hard work by many, many people, Bombardier was successful in obtaining a contract with the Toronto Transit Commission. That contract will provide thousands of hours of work to hundreds of people over the next four years.

I heard from Nova Bus in Quebec about its plan to open a facility in New York to allow it to bid on U.S. projects and about its frustration at not having the same level of policy support at home.

I worked with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, whose association undertook a study to explain the economic benefits of using our tax dollars to expand and improve our infrastructure.

I spoke to Talfourd-Jones Incorporated, a Canadian bus bumper manufacturer, who expressed its aggravation at this country, which clearly indicates there is a national interest in this program, and at seeing American-made bus bumpers on government funded buses in Canada.

I benefited from the help of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Auto Workers, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, which spread the message among their members.

I conversed with suppliers to Canadian manufacturers who expressed their strong support for this policy because they immediately recognized positive benefits to our economy. I talked to thousands of people across my riding and around the country who also believe that their taxes should benefit the Canadian economy rather than some other nation. Indeed, when we see the community rallying, when we see Bombardier's success, when we see these things happening, we know that this cause is a valid one.

Implementation of this recommended policy is an opportunity for the federal government to lead the way for our provincial, territorial and municipal governments.

I am pleased to see that this discussion is now spreading to other levels of government. I know that Bill Mauro, a member of the Ontario provincial parliament, will soon be reintroducing a private member's bill in the Ontario legislature on this very issue.

As we know, every other G-7 nation and the 27 European Union member countries have each implemented domestic content policy levels for their public transit projects. It really is time for Canada to get on board.

The goal of this motion is not to solve every Canadian procurement issue but to provide a measure focused on public transit that will put Canadian manufacturers on a more level playing field with their international competition and will encourage foreign manufacturers to invest in our economic future.

I believe this motion is an indication to our manufacturing sector companies that we are standing up for them. It shows our skilled workers that we are sincere about keeping them meaningfully employed. It signals to our engineers that they do not have to leave Canada. It signals to Canadians that we are serious about restoring Canada's prominence as world class innovators and exporters.

All parties have cooperated on this motion. To repeat an old slogan of mine, “Working together really works”.

I look forward to the day when, regardless of whatever city we are in, we can feel pride in knowing that the bus, the trolley, the light rail vehicle or the subway we are travelling in has been made in Canada by Canadian workers, and that I played a small part in making it happen.

I thank all the MPs and all the parties for supporting this motion.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects March 12th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do.

Aboriginal Women March 7th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, as we recognize International Women's Day later this week, I feel this is an occasion to point out a true injustice served by the Conservative government.

Last September, after more than two decades of struggle, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples finally cleared its last hurdle when it was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Though the declaration did pass by a margin of 144 to 4, shamefully, Canada was one of only four countries to vote against it. This is nothing to be proud of.

The Conservative government's refusal to support the United Nations declaration shows a blatant disregard of the struggles of aboriginal women in Canada to achieve equality. Canada's aboriginal women deserve better, especially during the week when the world is recognizing International Women's Day.

It should not be questioned. The rights of aboriginal women are also human rights and they should be honoured.

Petitions March 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, this petition containing over 1,000 names is regarding the Canadian content levels for Canadian manufacturing in public transportation. The bulk of these signatures comes from two ridings, the riding of Thunder Bay—Superior North and the riding Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

It basically asks that the government, and in particular, the Minister of Industry, implement a policy that is consistent with the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization policies and guidelines that already permit that, to mandate Canadian content levels for public transportation projects, and to ensure that public funds are used to provide the best value to Canadians by supporting domestic suppliers and labour markets.

February 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would hope the hon. member would never think that if there were a good thing the government would do, that I would not recognize it.

I want him to know that the natural resources committee was instrumental in advancing the community development trust fund from next July to now. When members of the committee met with the deputy minister of natural resources at the hearings, she did not know any of the details. It was then that we found out the money was coming from intergovernmental affairs and Treasury Board.

Today, the members determined that the fund would be inadequate and not just for forestry. We would hope the money would go to more than just certain communities. We feel it should be allocated only for forestry. The fact that the provincial governments and territories only have one month to come up with some ideas as to how they would utilize this is also rather short.

When I offer these criticisms, they are meant for the government to take them to heart so it can come back and be reasonable, positive and generous to the forest industry.

February 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, today, in the natural resources committee we learned that the world price for pulp had reached a record high. Yet over the past two years pulp plants, newsprint plants, sawmills and lumber plants of all types have closed and thousands of workers have lost their jobs. Tens of thousands of people have been disastrously affected. Families, suppliers, transporters and entire communities have been hit hard.

At today's committee meeting, we heard from witnesses who outlined the need for strong federal leadership in driving forest resource policy. We know the margins of Canadians industries have become wafer-thin. We know labour has certainly done its part to help. Yet there are still competitors in Asia and Scandinavia that out-produce us by several times. For example, if a 60-year-old Canadian plant produces 700 tonnes a day, a modern plant in India produces 3,500 tonnes a day.

Industry and labour both know what must be done. Indeed, the many calls for a national forestry summit have only been addressed by the liberal leader, who had agreed to do this immediately upon becoming prime minister. Liberal members would also be more than happy to participate if such a summit would be convened as early as next week.

I have been to symposiums that have brought together key players. Believe me, we have all been at the table and we all have to be at the table to find consensus.

In its current study, the natural resources committee has received viable and reasonable solutions from rational and professional forestry industry organizations and individuals. There is a role for the federal government in designing a national strategy.

Indeed, those countries that have displaced us in production have achieved these remarkable results by having a plan. The last time Canada had such a thorough approach was when the hon. member for Kenora helped to devise a forest competitiveness plan of $1.5 billion. That plan was thrown out by the Conservative minority government. Thousands of people and dozens of plants could still be working had such a worthy plan not been recklessly tossed aside.

Canada could leapfrog the technological gap by advancing such positive ideas as biofibre. We can get our position as a world leader in the forest industry back.

The forest industry is not a sunset industry. It is only the attitude of the government that is holding it back. The inadequate and poorly planned community development trust does not even have any guidelines on the use of its funds.

The forest industry does not want money thrown at it. It will only restructure positively with federal, provincial and territorial government cooperation to mesh their energy and resources policies.

The forest industry file has been ignored in a callous and uncaring manner by the Conservative government for over 25 months. In my opinion, and in the opinion of the unemployed workers, it is 25 months too long.

Petitions February 27th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to support Canadian content requirements for public transportation projects.

It is calling on the Government of Canada to implement a policy which is consistent with the North American Free Trade Agreement and World Trade Organization policies and guidelines to mandate Canadian content levels for public transportation projects and to ensure that public funds are used to provide the best value to Canadians by supporting domestic supplier and labour markets.

Infrastructure February 25th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the recent Federation of Canadian Municipalities-McGill University infrastructure survey estimates a $123.6 billion national infrastructure deficit in 2007.

Municipal leaders across my riding have flooded my office with letters that call on the federal and provincial governments to work together to develop a long term plan for tackling this very serious situation. Many towns such as Rainy River are wondering where the applications and the money are.

The Liberal Party has a plan to address this crisis. It is a plan that FCM has called “bold and visionary, with the potential to change the face of our country”. It is a plan that would make the gas tax transfer permanent. It is a Liberal plan that would ensure a fairer, richer and greener Canada that respects all communities.