House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was public.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as NDP MP for Dartmouth (Nova Scotia)

Won her last election, in 2000, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Alternative Service Delivery November 27th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, alternative service delivery is a Liberal government initiative aimed at obtaining goods and services in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

Government employees, for example in the Halifax area, have been forced to prove that they can do the job better and more cheaply than a private company, and they have. In Halifax and across the country these workers have successfully proven they are far more cost effective than the private sector.

I have a document from the defence management committee that uncovered the government's change in plans. The Liberals want to fast track ASD by bundling bids. This simply means that all contracts will be awarded on a national basis. Local work units will not be able to bid effectively. Only big corporations with the resources to bid will get the contracts.

Why is the government changing the rules? Have public sector workers been too successful under ASD?

We believe the real goal of the Liberal government is to privatize at any cost, no matter what the impact is on our workers and our communities.

Supply November 25th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, with some of the Reform messages I have been hearing over the last half hours or so I feel like I am sucking on a very sour candy or a lemon. I am left with a very bitter taste in my mouth.

I hear the words unity and grassroots being spit out like invectives. They are not nice sounding words. I wonder why I am not feeling the warm fuzzy stuff that I am supposed to be feeling from you people. In fact, it does not feel good to me. It feels very suspect. I question your desires to actually keep this country together.

Communications November 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, there is another area in which Canadians are being sidelined for profit. That is telephone service.

Since 1992 some local phone rates have increased by over 100%. Thousands of homes are without phones because the rates have gone through the roof. Now phone companies have gone to the CRTC wanting more increases so their shareholders will have higher dividends.

My question is for the Minister of Industry. How will the ministry make basic telephone services affordable for all Canadians?

Cultural Grants Acknowledgement Act November 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to Bill C-204, an act to require that in the advertising and at the opening of a cultural product supported by public money a public acknowledgement of the grant be made.

I am happy to bring the good news to the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia that what he is proposing to pass into law is already occurring. It is something which cultural industries are already doing voluntarily.

If he has ever had opportunity to attend a Canadian play he will find that in the program routine acknowledgements of all funding sources, public and private, are made. If he has been at the screening of a Canadian film lately he will be amazed at the length of the section in the credits dedicated exclusively to the funders. It seems to stretch out forever, longer than the credits acknowledging the film's crew. In fact I sometimes squirm about in my seat in the local movie theatre waiting for the acknowledgements to end so that I can get home, pay the babysitter and go to bed.

The long suffering taxpayers who attend our cultural events do know what the funding sources are in Canadian plays, films, books, magazines and concerts. It is no secret that almost every arts organization receives some level of funding and makes it public. They do not always attach the dollar amount publicly at the event. That is not why people go to an artistic event. They go to be elevated, delighted, challenged and revitalized. They go to learn something new about themselves and the world.

However, if after seeing a particular artistic event they feel the need to find out how much it costs, the dollar amount is available for anyone who wants to know through an annual Canada Council for the Arts listing.

Canadian cultural industries are grateful and eager to thank the funders of their work. Canadians working in the arts are proud of their work and proud to present it to their neighbours and fellow citizens and, yes, their fellow taxpayers. They too are an integral part of the economic landscape of the country, doing their part to reflect on and contribute to the whole of what we are as a people.

As for the desire for acknowledgement I am sure the Liberals who are still remaining across the floor tonight at this late hour are probably delighted to hear that we want to see their efforts at public funding for the arts made more public. I believe that the level of public funding to culture has reached a dangerously low level and I see no joy in this. I would like to see the level of support for our artists increased. Public funding to the arts still exists and I know of no one who is trying to keep it a secret.

If the member is really intent on educating the public about where its hard earned tax dollars go, and this is not simply another bill to harass Canadian artists, I suggest that he go even further in his public education efforts.

The next time he pulls into an Esso station he might expect to find a sign saying “This gas has been made possible by $585 million in tax breaks to western oil producers”. Or, when he buys his next Michelin tire he might see a sign saying “Brought to you by a $27 million gift from the long suffering taxpayers of Nova Scotia by the Liberals in an election year”. The next time the member for Kootenay—Columbia takes a flight back to his riding he could have a sign on the back of his jacket saying how much that flight is costing the taxpayers of Canada.

We can put a price tag on everything if we want to. There is a myth afoot that there is no accountability in the arts.

In fact, there are far more checks and balances in place around funding to the arts than there are around funding to corporations. Perhaps the member's next private member's bill might tackle that particular sector if he is concerned with the long-suffering taxpayer.

Employment Equity Act November 3rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak out against the motion on the floor to abolish the Employment Equity Act.

I believe it is time to strengthen the Employment Equity Act, not dismantle it. In a statement in the House a month ago I drew attention to the fact that the number of persons with disabilities working for the government today is lower than it was 10 years ago. We have over four million disabled persons in this country and over two million have no work. A shamefully small number of them work for the federal government.

Employment equity legislation needs to be strengthened. It is time shore up our employment equity legislation and not rip the guts out of it, which is being recommended in this motion today.

The reason behind employment equity legislation is simple. The legislation covers those people from groups which have been historically denied equal job opportunities of a result of discriminatory practices.

Who are these people and groups we are talking about? Let us start with black Nova Scotians, many of whom I have the privilege of representing here. It is no secret where I come from that black Nova Scotians have been excluded for centuries from educational and job opportunities. They have been segregated in coloured only schools. They have been allocated leftover land. They have had their traditional homestead of Africville bulldozed for development. They have watched generations of their children come up against stonewalls in the workplace and school settings.

Preston and East Preston, two dynamic and fiercely proud black Nova Scotian communities, face unemployment rates of over 60%. The recent events occurring at Cole Harbour school in my riding indicate how far we still have to go in terms of living in a community where everyone feels welcome and on equal footing. These are the people who have been historically denied equal job opportunities because of discrimination.

Native people in Canada still face the highest unemployment rate, the highest suicide rate, the highest incarceration rate of any population in the country. Centuries of racial discrimination in government and church policy of assimilation have robbed native people of their language, their religion and their heritage. It is an incredible tribute to the strength of their culture and their traditions that they are still out there fighting for equity, for self-government, for the right to have a say in the way this country is shaped. These are people who have been historically denied job opportunities because of discrimination.

I think it is time to challenge those people out there who want to ditch employment equity. These are the kind of comments I hear from them: “I do not think our customers would relate to him very well, he has a bit of an accent”, or “our corridors would be a bit crowed with a wheelchair and she probably hates being in people's way”.

There are a thousand and one excuses for not considering, never mind hiring, members of under represented groups for jobs. Employment equity bashers usually start out with “just for the record I am not racist or sexist but—”. Employment equity bashers usually say this at the outset to comfort their listeners. Yet those words are never motive free. Nor merely by being uttered do they make tirades against employment equity credible, logical or fair. Anybody can claim not to be prejudice but it takes courage to examine our deep seeded biases. Only then do we know how completely we have bought into the sterotypes and patterns that make systemic racism.

I am sure members have heard “our company needs to stay competitive and it cannot do that if employment equity promotes mediocrity by raising incompetents beyond their abilities”. Any good employment equity law is based on the principles of merit first. Qualified applicants who belong to under represented groups bring an additional qualification to the job. They bring diverse skills that discrimination would prevent employers from even considering.

I am sure members have heard “designating people does not help them, it becomes reverse discrimination and stigmatises them”. Let us look at that.

Take women, for example. I think we are averaging about 52% of the population right now, hardly a special interest group. Far from reversing discrimination, employment equity reversed long standing injustices like the fact that even though women account for two-thirds of the labour force growth in Ontario, they are still clustered in 20 of 500 occupations and 71% of the part time jobs.

Then there is the fact that racial minorities have to make three times as many applications as white people to get one interview. Aboriginal and disabled persons face unemployment rates of 60% to 80%.

Imagine the odds stacked against someone who falls into any combination of those categories. That is stigmatization.

I would like to quote from a member of the government's former ranks who has now fled these northern climes to take up a position in Boston. She addressed the other argument which is quite prevalent, the white male argument. She said that despite the fears of some of our colleagues in opposition, white males get 50% of the federal government jobs. They get 60% of the jobs nationally in the private and public sectors combined. Even more overwhelming, white males get 90% of the promotions. With figures like that I believe it would be safe to say, and I do not think anyone would argue with me, the white male is not exactly an endangered species in this economic climate.

The former member for Halifax went on to say: “I don't understand what it is people fear from legislation that is clearly put on the books to ensure fairness for people who have for generations, thousands of years, been systemically discriminated against because they are black, they are aboriginal, they are female or disabled. Why do people fear legislation that promotes fairness?”

There may be precious few things with which I find myself in agreement with the former member, but this is one of them.

We cannot afford to lose the skills and abilities of this great country's diverse population because of discrimination. Employment equity is a program which needs to be strengthened, it needs to be expanded.

In closing I would like to mention a couple living in my riding. Two years ago they immigrated to Dartmouth from Sri Lanka. Both of them are eminently qualified for work in the legal and banking professions but they cannot even get past the door in interviews. Instead they are trying to contribute to their community through coaching soccer and volunteering in their children's school. They want to be part of our community. Employment equity legislation needs to be strengthened even further to allow them to do that. If this wonderful family is to contribute fully to their new home we need stronger employment equity.

It is time to strengthen employment equity, to reaffirm our commitment to fairness and justice, not to take giant steps backwards into the darkness.

Human Resources Development October 28th, 1997

My question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development. Will the government act on the recommendations of its own task force and appoint a minister responsible for persons with disabilities and introduce a Canadians with disabilities act?

Human Resources Development October 28th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, today is the first anniversary of The Will to Act , the Andy Scott Federal Task Force Report on Persons with Disabilities.

This task force was set up to—

Canada Marine Act October 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Dartmouth and the representative of thousands of people who are employed and affected by the activities of one of Canada's most vital ports, I would like to discuss the impact on Atlantic Canada of Bill C-9, the Canada Marine Act.

First I will discuss the issue of divesting certain harbours and ports on the communities of Nova Scotia. Then I will look at some of the aspects of Bill C-9 that will have negative impacts on the port of Halifax.

The federal government announced in its national marine policy in 1995 that it planned to divest itself of all of its port facilities across the country which were under the control of Transport Canada.

Ottawa said it was spending $50 million each year to operate the country's 572 ports. The marine policy later became Bill C-44 which died in the House when the last Parliament was dissolved. Transport Canada is continuing with the divestiture scheme using other mechanisms.

The list of Nova Scotia port facilities reaches over 150. There are Amherst, Baddeck, Mulgrave, Port Hawkesbury, Canso, Liscomb, Mahone Bay, Tor Bay, over 150 communities which depend on their ports as an important pillar of their communities are in jeopardy.

Like their churches, their schools and their post offices, for those who still have the luxury of having a post office, the ports are an important part of their existence. So far Transport Canada has managed to unload three ports. The Weymouth port was sold to Irving for about $250,000. The Shelburne port was taken over by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Daysprings port was purchased for $30,000 by a shipyard company.

In the near future the Country Harbour facility will go up for public auction and the Sheet Harbour and Iona ports will be available for public tender. How many other buyers are there for these little ports? I would say precious few.

Transport Canada is holding public hearings in the affected communities. An executive assistant to Transport Canada's Atlantic region divestiture team has said that the affected communities are very hostile during these meetings. I can imagine why.

So many of these communities are angry because they do not think they have the resources to maintain or take over these facilities and they do not. These communities will go to ruin. These ports will go to ruin without the infrastructure that the government provides.

How can a port with revenues of $2,000 and expenses of $20,000 be profitable? But is profitability the only criterion by which we judge things now? Over 100 small ports which are central to the maritime fabric of life will flounder and go to ruin. For what? To save a few dollars.

This is the same mentality that wiped out the Yarmouth-Bar Harbour ferry in the winter time. It is the same mentality that will force people to pay a toll on the trans Canada highway. This is the same mentality that led the government to privatize the air traffic control system for a billion dollars less than it was worth. This is privatization ideology run rampant.

It is ironic that the Prime Minister is presently meeting with the four Atlantic premiers to talk about Atlantic Canada's need to get ahead at the same time as the government is pushing through legislation which undermines the essential transportation infrastructure in Atlantic Canada. At the same time it tightens the grip of big corporations such as Irving on our communities.

The port of Halifax-Dartmouth is another community which has major concerns about Bill C-44. The bill will prevent access for the port authority to the traditional primary source of funding for major capital projects and that is the federal government.

This is the primary negative feature of the bill. Many port facilities such as Halifax are capital intensive and have to be built well in advance of user commitments. Users often do not come until the facilities are in place. In the case of Halifax, because little of its traffic is captive, when users of the facility arrive there is no guarantee they will stay.

Ships float and boats are floating assets. They will not stay if they find another port which provides cheaper access to the markets in the North American interior that they seek to serve.

No private sector lender or investor can advance the bulk of such funding against user commitment which may or may not materialize when the facilities are completed. Funding can only come from governments which have the necessary financial resources and can justify, in the interest of promoting the economy of their constituents, the assumptions of the attendant commercial risks. This is true of all Canadian ports but also ports the world over which do not have enough captive or near captive traffic for their major borrowings to be bankable.

Had the bill been in effect in the late 1960s Halifax would not have been able to build and equip even one container berth and the harbour would long ago have fallen into disuse.

The bill should be changed to delete the provisions intended to prevent the federal government from providing capital funding to the new port authorities.

Another concern that we have in Atlantic Canada is the concern of labour with regard to this legislation. Labour needs a place at the new port authorities. From labour's standpoint the Canada Marine Act does not legislatively ensure that port labour will have a place at the new port authority boards. Port labour in Halifax is asking that it be grandfathered into the new board of the port authority so as to ensure that labour has a continued voice in the direction and running of the Halifax port.

The Halifax Port Development Commission also has serious objections to the bill on the one hand denying any access whatsoever for ports to parliamentary appropriation of federal funds, while on the other hand continuing to offer access to the consolidated revenue fund for the seaway.

As clause 67(c) states, the objective is to protect the long term operation and viability of the seaway as an integral part of Canada's national transportation infrastructure. The port of Halifax and the CN gateway are at least as critical a component of Canada's national transportation infrastructure as the seaway, and given industry trends, hold considerably greater potential to expand their role in international trade for the benefit of all Canadians.

It should also be noted that in many instances the seaway competes with Halifax for traffic, making the discrepancy of treatment that much more objectionable. We therefore strongly recommend that Bill C-9 be amended to ensure that the major ports and the seaway are treated in a consistent and equitable manner with respect to access to federal funds for capital investment.

Bill C-9 in its present form will have many detrimental effects on the communities of Atlantic Canada ports both big and little. Atlantic Canada and the port of Halifax deserve to have their needs met. Bill C-9 is not acceptable in its present form and we will be examining it carefully and constructively in committee.

Human Resources Development October 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development. This week the Public Service Commission reported the efforts to bring employment equity to those with disabilities were going in reverse. There are now fewer persons with disabilities in the public service than there were 10 years ago.

Yesterday the supreme court ruled that disabled and deaf persons have a right to effective communication when receiving health care. The government has a clear obligation to Canadians with disabilities to take immediate action to respond to these challenges.

When will the government announce a plan to address the employment and access problems that face disabled Canadians?

Speech From The Throne October 3rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I have been struck by exactly what my hon. colleague from Winnipeg has been talking about. People who have been working for 20 or 25 years in the civilian military are now being made redundant or are being put on affected status. They are finding that they can no longer depend on even their pensions being honoured. It is causing incredible stress for their families. It is not a situation I would ever want to find my family in and yet there are thousands of families across the country that are being affected that way.

That is all part of the deficit cutting picture presented by the government. I question its morality and effectiveness.