Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was friend.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as NDP MP for Kamloops (B.C.)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Cape Breton Development Corporation Divestiture Authorization And Dissolution Act May 8th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, we just had a quorum call to make sure there were sufficient members of parliament in their seats to allow the debate to continue. Let us face it, this is a very dark day for Cape Bretoners, a very dark day for democracy and a very dark day for parliament.

Once again, in spite of the fact that this legislation will profoundly impact on the lives of hundreds and hundreds of families in Cape Breton and will mean a difference in the futures of hundreds and hundreds of families in this hard-pressed part of Canada, the government has decided that it does not want to hear any more debate, that it has heard enough. The government has, some 60 times in this session, again muzzled the duly elected representatives of the people of Canada from 301 constituencies who will have no further chance to participate in this debate. The government is saying that it has the understanding, the knowledge and the comprehension to say that enough is enough and that it has heard enough.

The reality is that there are many people here who want to speak to this legislation. The fact that the government has said that it is not interested in allowing debate any longer is a dark day for this institution. I know you, Mr. Speaker, must also be very said. I know Canadians are sad. I know parliamentarians are sad, at least on this side of the House. At least in our party we are making an effort to keep the debate going. I know others are very sad. I can see their heads shaking. This is a bleak, black, dark, gloomy day for democracy and for the parliamentary system in our country.

It is also a dark and mysterious day for Cape Bretoners. This has to be one of the most mysterious debates when people are raising questions that logically do not make any sense. For example, the government has decided that selling Cape Breton coal for Nova Scotia to generate power does not make any sense. It has decided that it makes more sense to import coal from Columbia, from Venezuela, from foreign countries.

Imagine how the people of Cape Breton are going to feel when those ships roll up to those docks in Cape Breton to unload coal from Colombia. It has to be embarrassing. We are going to bring coal from Colombia to Cape Breton.

Guess whose ships are going to be hauling that coal. This has to be a sad day for political leadership in the country when we find that the shipping company of the Minister of Finance is going to be used to ship coal from Colombia to Cape Breton. As a matter of fact, it has been shipping coal for a long time. There are 33 ships shipping coal from Venezuela, the United States, Colombia and other foreign countries to provide fuel for the power plants for the people of Nova Scotia.

If that is not enough, in today's newspaper we find that the Minister of Finance is a little short of ships and has to build some new ones. Does he select Canada's shipyards to build ships? No. He goes to the low wage shipyards in China. That is where he is building his ships. The Minister of Finance is building his ships in low wage China, using Philippine labour, and the ships are flagged in Liberia or some place in the Caribbean. The Minister of Finance is supposed to be setting a model for economic behaviour. There is a lot of puzzling around this which we have to get to the bottom of in committee.

Who is going to buy this? I know that the workers who are going to lose their jobs wanted to make a deal so that they could essentially run the new company. They wanted to find ways of raising finances. The Government of Canada said “Hold it, that is not good enough. We want a foreign buyer”. It is part of the theme of Canada being up for sale.

This morning Statistics Canada revealed that takeovers by foreign companies have now reached breakneck pace. We are in passing gear. Our low currency and the big for sale signs all over the world mean that foreigners are coming here to buy and control our economy like they never have before.

What does the Minister of Industry say about it? He is happy. He is one happy camper. He says that he loves that foreigners are buying up our economy and he loves that foreigners are controlling our future. I can say that we in the New Democratic Party do not like the idea of foreigners controlling the destiny of this country's next generation.

It is time to take Canada back. The problem is we had a made in Canada solution and the government said that it was not interested. It would much rather have a mysterious foreign buyer come in to take over the operation. This does not make sense.

Those people who over the years fought for this country in wars, who fought and died for democracy, and those leaders of our country from coast to coast to coast who struggled to build up economic sovereignty must be turning in their graves right now. They cannot believe this is happening in our country. It is a sad commentary.

I have heard some of my Liberal colleagues, who have given rather embarrassing presentations today, say that the people of Cape Breton should be thankful for this handout. You have been to Cape Breton, Mr. Speaker, probably many times. Most of us have been there many times. As a matter of fact I was there recently. We will never meet a prouder group of Canadians who are prepared to work hard for their incomes. They are working hard.

Today we are talking about hundreds of people who go down into those pits underground. They go down into those dark, wet, dangerous pits day after day and make modest amounts of money to provide income for their families. They have been tossed on the coal heap. Some 1,500 families have been told “Sorry folks, we do not need you any longer”. We are not talking about 1,500 jobs. That is the obvious number of jobs. We are also talking about spin-off jobs, because for every miner who loses a job, a dentist, a teacher, a shoemaker and somebody else are losing their jobs. We are probably talking about 5,000 jobs.

Then the Prime Minister roared into Cape Breton and said “Listen, I know 5,000 of you have just lost your jobs or are in the process of losing your jobs. We have got a great idea. We are going to open up a call centre so that at least 400 of you can be telephone operators”. The government expects people to cheer for this. To be fair, it is nice to have some kind of an infill.

We are talking about men and women who work hard. For generations people have been going down in those coal mines working hard to provide for their families. The idea of sitting in a call centre with a phone headset on for minimum wage is not that attractive but that is the best we have. We have to deal with this in committee.

We heard others say that today. For goodness sake, we are the most connected country in the world. Our banks are overflowing with money. We have talented and trained individuals. This country has the best minds. If we cannot find a better way to provide for the people of Cape Breton than what is in this piece of legislation and what the government has announced, something is very wrong.

If we put the proper economic strategy in place, if we included the proper industrial strategy along with an economic strategy, if we established a business plan for Cape Breton, we could turn Cape Breton into the showcase of economic development in this country if the will was there.

They are talented, hardworking, well trained and educated people who are prepared to work hard. They are prepared to create something of hope for their children, but they need a government on their side, not a government that is prepared to toss them out the window. That is another reason we have to get this bill to committee and deal with it properly.

I was in Cape Breton with some of my colleagues from the New Democratic Party. We met with individuals, mining specialists and people who know the Devco operation inside out. They all said the same thing. The theme which was emerging from all of our deliberations in all of our meetings was the systematic program to demonstrate that Devco was uneconomical.

Today many people have shared with us their personal experiences, the way they were approaching the coal faces, the way they set up those strategies and so on. In other words there was a scenario to enable Devco to be financially inept and therefore something the government had to sell off. That is definitely not the case. We have to expose that.

What do we say to a group of people who say they know they are going to get some measly severance arrangement? As a matter of fact I heard a government member say that those people are going to get $8,000 a piece to retrain themselves. Where do people retrain for $8,000? Maybe for a call centre job to learn how to put on a headset properly.

Eight thousand dollars is a bit of an embarrassment. As my fiends from Bras d'Or—Cape Breton and Sydney—Victoria pointed out, all sorts of other government settlements have been much fairer in how the men and women involved were treated. Cape Bretoners get shortchanged. Cape Bretoners do not get a fair deal. The government says to Cape Bretoners that it is not interested in giving them the same kind of deal it gives everybody else. Why is this? Why does the government treat the people of Cape Breton in such a cavalier fashion?

There are lots of questions. We are up against closure today and not many more of us will have a chance to speak. Let us just hope and pray that when the bill gets to committee and witnesses come before the committee to explain some of these questions and provide new information that the government does not use its muscle in committee and close that debate off as well. That would be the darkest day.

Although the threat of closure is about to strangle us here in a few more minutes, we hope that when the bill goes to committee we will have a chance to debate it properly.

Petitions May 8th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure and indeed an honour to stand pursuant to Standing Order 36 to present a huge petition on behalf of the residents of Blue River, Vavenby, Little Fort, Birch Island, Avola, Clearwater, Barriére, Knouff Lake, Paul Lake, Pinantan, Valemount, Whitecroft and many of the smaller communities of the North Thompson Valley as well. The petition contains literally thousands and thousands of signatures.

The petitioners point out their concern about the Canadian tax system, feel it is unjust and unfair. The petitioners feel that it is biased and discriminatory and ask for a complete overhaul of our tax system. There is much more in this petition but I will not read some of the finer details.

The Economy May 8th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, there is a small difference. When Canadian investment goes into the United States it is like a pebble going into a pond. When American investments come into Canada it is like an avalanche of boulders coming into our country.

The difference today is that now CEOs of major corporations are indicating their concerns. Peter Lougheed, the CEO of Manulife, Willard Estey and many others are now saying that this has reached significant proportions and some action is now required.

Will the Minister of Industry at least join with his corporate colleagues and say that enough is enough and initiate a national debate on this very crucial issue?

The Economy May 8th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister who will be aware that last week Statistics Canada released a study revealing a significant increase in foreign ownership and foreign control of our economy over the past 10 years. He will also recognize that the trend continues and, with our low dollar, it is in fact accelerating.

Canada now has one of the highest levels of foreign ownership in the OECD. As research and development and top executives transfer to corporate headquarters in United States, at what point will the government intervene and say that enough is enough and call for a national debate on this very crucial issue?

Voice Mail Service May 8th, 2000

It would be nice to have the voice from the House of Commons. Let us get away from this mindless partisan bickering where we fight each other for no particular reason when there is a good idea. We could all share in this, that the House of Commons has encouraged the member to write to the CRTC. That is all we are asking.

Voice Mail Service May 8th, 2000

Excuse me. It is the Canadian Alliance. My apologies to my friends in the Canadian Alliance.

Rather than simply let this issue die today at the end of this debate, which it will be destined to do, at least we should agree that the member ought to write to the CRTC to ask if it would be prepared to initiate further talks with the telephone companies or to take this issue to another level as opposed to letting it die here.

I have listened to all the political parties. We all agree with the intent. We all agree with the idea. Everybody says it is good. Let us face it. Who would not support providing telephone access to someone from a low income family who is trying to get a job or a homeless person who wants to get a job and needs a telephone number in order to qualify? There are also the personal security aspects my friend raised and health reasons and so on.

If we agree with this, I ask my colleagues in the House of Commons at least to consider not referring this motion to the committee as would be done normally, but that we encourage the member for Vancouver East to write to the CRTC and ask if it would consider this issue and find ways and means of resolving it. Maybe her idea is not the best one but it is a good one. Others have said there may be other ways but at least we should not let this issue die because I think all of us would agree it is an important initiative.

At the end of today's debate perhaps my colleague for Vancouver East could ask for the unanimous consent of the House to do that. All we are saying is that we would ask for permission of the House of Commons for the member to write to the CRTC. We are not endorsing anything.

Voice Mail Service May 8th, 2000

Madam Speaker, I am very proud to participate in the opening discussions on this Monday morning. We are debating the important topic of providing basic phone services to those in our society who probably need them the most in terms of their own personal security but also in terms of providing them with a very important vehicle to obtain employment opportunities.

For most of us in the House it is second nature to have a phone stuck to our ear, whether it is a cellphone, a regular phone or a headset. Most of us spend a good part of our waking day talking on the telephone to our constituents or receiving calls from people on various issues. We certainly know the importance of telephones.

Phone companies and the telecommunications sector in general have expanded greatly in the past number of years. As the economy globalizes and as society becomes much more of a global village, communication plays a crucial role in our everyday lives now more than ever.

My hon. friend from Vancouver East made the point that people now are online and have personal websites, e-mail and all sorts of sophisticated telecommunications techniques to communicate with others, but it is hard to believe that there are still hundreds of thousands of Canadians who do not even have a simple telephone in their homes. Why? Because they do not have the money to pay for it. Many Canadians simply do not have the income to afford basic telephone service.

For most of us in the House, it is hard to imagine a world without a telephone. Our house has three telephones and they seem to be busy most of the time. Of course anyone who has children can forget it if there is only one telephone line, because the chance of getting in touch with that household is minimal. That household might have two or three telephones as well.

At a time when society itself has appreciated the value and the importance of communication, as my hon. friend from Vancouver East has indicated, there are at least two million Canadians who use more than half of their income to pay for their housing. A good percentage of those households would not have additional funds to access basic telephone service. Tens of thousands of people who live on the streets do not even have homes. Obviously those people who do not have homes do not have telephones, and if they do not have telephones they are out of touch.

More important is when people apply for a job and make an effort to find meaningful employment. An application form asks how to get in touch with the applicant and if there is no way of doing that, it poses a problem. Not only does it pose a problem, but it is probably the end of the line. If a company cannot communicate with a person to come to work, it will probably go to the person who has a telephone number.

How can society level the playing field? A level playing field is a very apt phrase these days. This is fundamental New Democrat philosophy. We have always wanted to level the playing field so that everyone in society has an equal opportunity to be the kind of citizen they ought to be and to have the same opportunities, whether they are education, health care or employment.

I congratulate the member for Vancouver East for putting the motion on the record this morning. In this motion we are saying, let us give all Canadians an equal opportunity, a level playing field to access the job market. To do that these folks have to have telephone access. The motion reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the federal government should encourage the CRTC to establish regulations that require telephone companies to assist community agencies with providing affordable voice mail service to Canadians who cannot afford or do not have access to telephone service.

Some may ask who does not have access to telephone service. They are looking at a member of parliament who has a number of constituents who do not have access to basic telephone service. They live in relatively remote areas or areas where there is simply no telephone line. It is hard to believe that in the most wired country in the world there are still a lot of people who live in areas that do not have access to a telephone line, but that is a fact. They also do not have access to cellphones because there is no cellphone service in these remote areas.

These people conduct businesses and they certainly live very full lives, yet they have no access to a basic telephone. We have to provide some assistance. The motion concerns just that and thus today's debate in the House of Commons.

Has this been applied anywhere? My hon. friend from Vancouver East has indicated that in her constituency, the Downtown Eastside Residents Association has a program where people in that area who cannot afford or are unable to access telephone service can have access to voice mail. Imagine the difference that makes in people's lives when others can get in touch with them. People can leave a phone number and they can get back to them with a message or important information. The association has found a way to do it at the local level.

As hon. members probably know, the Government of Manitoba has initiated a program over the past number of days which will encourage similar opportunities to exist in Winnipeg and other places throughout Manitoba.

The motion says that if it works well in Vancouver East and if the Government of Manitoba thinks it is needed, why not make it a national program? Will this be a major imposition on the telephone companies? The answer is clearly no. This simply sets aside a number of lines for community based organizations or others. It makes the case that these services ought to be provided by the various telephone companies across the country.

For example, I cannot imagine going to Telus, which is one of the telephone companies based in British Columbia, and it would not endorse this enthusiastically. It would be a great public relations exercise. That is one thing we ought to consider as well. This is something the telephone companies ought to be offering people within their jurisdiction. I am sure the telephone companies would fall over themselves to initiate these kinds of programs, perhaps with a little encouragement by the CRTC.

Today in accessing employment opportunities, we all appreciate how important a telephone number is. The hon. member for Vancouver East has come up with a very creative solution.

I know my friends in the Reform Party have some concerns about the motion. My hon. friend who made the presentation on behalf of that party spoke in favour of the concept, that this would be useful for anybody, but that party has some concerns on the mechanism. I wonder if my friends in the Reform Party would not agree at least to this small measure that while we are debating this motion today, perhaps even all of us, not only the Reform Party—

Petitions May 5th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, on an unrelated issue I have another petition from residents primarily of the Kamloops region.

The petitioners ask the federal government to consider introducing a national highway program so that the national highway system of Canada could be improved. They indicate that if the transportation infrastructure were to be improved it would increase productivity, trade opportunities, job creation and tourism.

Petitions May 5th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to present a petition pursuant to Standing Order 36 containing tens of thousands of names. The petitioners come from the communities of Kamloops, Chase, Logan Lake, Clearwater, Barrière, Blue River, Westwold, Savona, Deadman's Creek, Little Fort, Red Lake, Paul Lake, Monte Creek, Monte Lake, Falkland, Vavenby, Birch Island and many more.

It is a very long petition. Basically the petitioners are calling upon the government to consider a major overhaul of our taxation system; not the sort of tinkering and fiddling that we have seen, but a complete overhaul based on the principles of the Carter commission of a number of years ago.

Newspaper Industry May 5th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister.

Earlier this week the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced a sweeping review of foreign ownership rules for newspapers. Later this week the Prime Minister's office informed the public that the minister's announcement had not been planned and assured Canadians that it was not the intention of the government to actually conduct a full review of the newspaper industry.

Who is speaking for the government, the Prime Minister or the minister? Is there a review actually taking place? Was the minister simply making it up? Who is in charge?