House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was transportation.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Thunder Bay—Atikokan (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Specific Claims Resolutions Act November 4th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure whether the hon. member from the opposition would like me to use my crystal ball to look into the future or his crystal ball to look into the future. I think he will be surprised to find that his crystal ball has no clear cut image of anything. It is cloudy and full of dirty water.

I do not have a crystal ball, but I do have information and I have the ability to understand the whole process and the problems that are involved. I realize it takes time. We just need to look at the time it has taken to settle many of the problems we have had in the past. Past governments have made mistakes, this government has made mistakes and future governments will also make mistakes. There is no doubt about it. We have to learn from those mistakes. The introduction of a bill that will get rid of some of the illnesses and ailments of the past is part of the learning process.

We have made progress and we will continue to make progress as long as we can work together in a cooperative manner. We need to sit down, discuss, come to some kind of consensus, and have the political will to do the things that are absolutely essential for the enhancement of all Canadians.

Specific Claims Resolutions Act November 4th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I said that the other place had proposed an amendment to allow witnesses to be brought in. This was seen as a necessary power for the tribunal to have since information vital to assist in the resolution of claims may not be readily available to the parties.

This power would allow the tribunal to compel non-parties to produce witnesses and/or documents which may be necessary for complete understanding of the claim. Parties may be more willing to use the claims resolution centre with this amendment since they will be able to seek orders to obtain information that may not have been readily available to them, other than through a discovery process through the judicial system.

However, the judicial system has limitations. A judge might have said in some past year that this document is not available to the general public, or there may be some impediment put in place which prevents an original document from being presented to a tribunal of this nature. This is a very important power, we might say, that is going to be designated to this body that is being advocated in Bill C-6.

Canada has a long tradition of independence by appointed persons and strikes balance in appointments by considering regional representation, gender, experience and skill. The other place has proposed an amendment to guarantee that first nations can make representation to the minister before a final recommendation is made for all appointments required by clause 5 and subclauses 20(1) and 41(1) of the legislation, such as, for instance, the chief executive officer, commissioner and adjudicator positions. Although the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has already committed to seeking first nations input during the appointment process, this amendment would set out this commitment in the legislation.

I first would like to tell members that there is no limit to the number of first nations people that could be appointed to the commission and tribunal. It is quite possible that through a process which will be inherent within the model a first nations person could readily become the chairman of one body or chairman of the other. That is quite possible.

This amendment will address the concern of many first nations as well as the Assembly of First Nations, which appeared before committees of both the House and the other place, namely, that there was no guarantee of first nations involvement in appointments set out in the legislation.

The other place has proposed an amendment to ensure that first nations will have an opportunity to make representation during the three to five year review of the claims resolution centre. Some people are saying that is too long, but it is going to take time. We know that when something new is introduced it takes time for individuals to adjust. We can look how at long it has taken the opposition to adjust to an effective model of governance.

We should not talk about the time factor here, except that it is absolutely essential that this time limit be there in order for opportunities to grow, to learn, to develop and to accept the kinds of feedback, responses and input that will be absolutely essential for making future decisions and recommendations for adjustments and amendments to the bill in the years to come.

My time is up. I would like to speak for another hour or two, but I do not have the time so I am quite willing to stop right now.

Specific Claims Resolutions Act November 4th, 2003

I am terribly sorry. You can't hear me?

Specific Claims Resolutions Act November 4th, 2003

I will just continue for a few more minutes because I know members are very interested in what I have to say. They are all chomping at the bit there and I can see the enthusiasm. I am putting members through a very zestful experience right now and that is why there is so much enthusiastic behaviour on the other side of the floor.

I will continue by telling members that the credibility of both the proposed centre and the federal legislative process, while at the same time balancing the need for fiscal responsibility expected of the government, is what we are hoping will be achieved in this new model.

The increased limit would not change the tribunal's role in the centre. It would simply permit a modest increase in the number of claims which would be permitted access to the tribunal decision making authority. The centre would still operate within a manageable fiscal framework with a limited annual settlement budget.

In discussions on Bill C-6, first nations and independent witnesses have expressed concerns that the claims resolution centre would not have the power to compel the attendance of witnesses or the production of documents, while the current Indian specific claims commission, which the claim resolution centre would replace, does have these powers. The other place has proposed an amendment precisely to allow the assembling of witnesses and documents.

The proposed amendment would allow any party, as well as a commissioner, to apply to the tribunal for an order compelling the attendance of witnesses before the commission or the production of documents to the commission.

This is not a demand or a power that is going to be given for the calling of witnesses only from the government machinery, but also for witnesses from industry. It could be that witnesses would have to be called in from the general private sector or from the community. It could be municipal leaders. It could be agents of various institutions. It could be agents of various industrial complexes.

Specific Claims Resolutions Act November 4th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I was talking about the benefits of the settlement of specific claims. In the first nations people, as I just finished saying, there is a tremendous number of endeavours taking place now. There is an expansion of the industrial park, with industries going into it, including a sawmill, and plans are being made right now for a power generating station. As well, other establishments have been there for quite some time. There were agreements between the private sector and the first nations people so that everybody could benefit.

One of the most outstanding things, as far as I as a past educator am concerned, is the fact that many of the companies that have settled there and are planning to settle there have introduced and will be introducing schemes, plans and strategies for the education, development and enhancement of the backgrounds and the skills and so forth of first nations people so they will have the opportunity to work in these establishments in the various industries. To me that is a very definite positive achievement in this type of specific claims settlement. It will continue because we all benefit, not only economically but socially.

I am very pleased because of the interaction that will take place between the people of the first nations who work side by side with other people from the community in solving problems and creating something that they are all extremely proud of. They are proud that they can work together and proud because they are from the first nations and from the city of Thunder Bay and are achieving something that was impossible to achieve for nearly 100 years in my community.

I am very pleased and very proud of the industrialists, private enterprise, the chief executive officers and the first nations leaders in my community who managed to bring about a settlement of this specific claim to everyone's benefit.

To continue with my presentation, I said that the model would consist of a commission division and a tribunal division that would help to facilitate negotiated settlements. The commission division, where we anticipate that most of the work would occur, would have the authority to apply a full range of dispute resolution processes regardless of the size of the claim. It would not matter if it were just an island with five acres or if we were talking about 14,000 acres. It would not make any difference. It would deal with any claim that is specific as well as comprehensive, regardless of size.

The tribunal division would be making binding last recourse decisions on the validity and compensation for claims value up to the claim limit. We know that currently it is proposed to be $10 million where negotiations have been successful. That is the cap being recommended at the present time. That is an amendment being proposed by the other place for the House of Commons to deal with.

The commission and tribunal would be distinct divisions to prevent undue influence and bias. The centre would be overseen by a chief executive officer whose responsibility would be to manage the day to day administration of the two divisions. When Bill C-6 was first tabled, the financial jurisdiction of the tribunal division of the centre was set at $7 million. Throughout processes in the House and in the other place this financial jurisdiction has been an area of concern and contention for first nations, naturally. The other place has proposed an amendment that would increase the financial authority of the tribunal from $7 million to $10 million per claim.

My hon. colleague in the opposition said just a few minutes ago that he was surprised it was settled at $10 million. He was advocating that it should be $25 million at least. However, this amendment is essential in securing first nations acceptance of the proposed process and in assuring them of the credibility of the centre and of Canada's commitment to settling specific claims.

This change will demonstrate to first nations and to other critics of the bill that the parliamentary process can respond to key issues of concern, thereby enhancing the credibility of both the proposed centre and the federal legislative process while at the same time balancing the need for the fiscal responsibility expected of the government.

What does that really mean? It sounds like legal goop, jargonese and political rhetoric, but it is really saying to the people that we must have a process and a model in operation so that people begin to understand clearly that what is being done is being done for their benefit and for the benefit of all, and trust will grow and develop as time goes on.

There is no doubt about it. With my experience with first nations people for over 30 years, I can honestly say, and I do not think anybody in the House would challenge me, that there is a lack of trust in many of the processes we have, incorporated and implemented by governments of past years up to the present time. They do not nurture any sense of trust or, to a great degree, belief in any attempt by any bureaucrat, by any servant of the government, in their interrelationship and in their daily endeavours to, let us say, achieve some form of response to the claims that people are putting in and the kinds of problems first nations people might have. It is quite possible that in general that level of trust is pretty low at the present time.

However, changes are taking place, and I am hoping that in the years to come, through the model we are introducing in this bill, trust will be generated. It may be very difficult to generate it in the more senior citizens of the first nations communities. However, as the youngsters come through and become involved in the process, as time goes on they will be able to perceive, understand and come to some conclusion that only by working together through a viable and effective model can we generate the kind of trust that is absolutely essential to bring forth a resolution to many of the problems that exist in many first nations communities.

Do I still have a few minutes, Mr. Speaker?

Specific Claims Resolution Act November 4th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that there are a lot of questions that must be answered. One of the most important ones is whether this reorganization and new model will be much more effective in the settling of claims throughout the country.

It is believed by those who have contributed and worked on this for some period of time, with all the debates that have taken place with non-native and native personnel, that this is something worth striving for. This is a model that we hope will be able to more effectively process the kind of claims that are being presented before the Canadian government by the aboriginal people of this country.

There are two types of claims with which the centre would be involved: specific claims and comprehensive claims. Before I proceed, I would like to take a look at what those two different kinds of claims are all about.

Generally speaking, specific claims arise when the Canadian government, or Canada in general, fails to fulfill its legal obligations to first nations with respect to its management of their lands and other assets.

Comprehensive claims are based upon alleged unextinguished aboriginal rights and title to land where no treaty has been signed. That is an extremely difficult area with which to deal.

In the old model that is in existence at the present time, it is difficult for first nations people who have no deed or piece of paper or something to declare that their comprehensive claim is a valid one. It is a difficult process to go through and not as rewarding as many first nations people would like to see because the battle continues on and on. Somewhere there has to be a mechanism in order for a process to be more transparent. Fluidity must be there and for first nations people, it must be satisfying.

I am not talking about satisfaction in terms of millions of dollars. I am talking about satisfaction in terms of justice being done. Are we being treated fairly? Are we being taken for a ride in a canoe with a hole in it? Just exactly what is taking place here?

For native people, we hope that this model, which both parties have agreed upon, will facilitate that process, be more transparent, and produce the type of satisfaction where fairness will be perceived as the key factor, and where we can be as fair as possible in these negotiations.

I would like to continue to speak about the model. It would consist of both a commission division and a tribunal division that would help to facilitate negotiated settlements.

However, before I go on to that, there is something that came to my mind which I would like to talk about. What are the real benefits of specific claims? That is extremely important.

I would like to cite my own personal experiences with the first nations people who live only a quarter of a mile from my office in my constituency, the Fort William band, a marvellous community.

It is a beautiful example of the process that is in place right now and how effectively it worked, but it worked extremely well because the band had a specific claim. It had the documentation, the history was there, the treaties were there, and it was successful in achieving its goals.

I would like to tell the House that since this claim was settled, it has already brought long term benefits to both the first nation members in the Fort William band and to its neighbours. Who are the neighbours? They are my constituents that live in the City of Thunder Bay and the surrounding area. How has this band benefited and what was the claim?

There were approximately 1,400 acres of land that the CNR took with the blessing of one of the past governments many years ago. It utilized that land for its own purposes and economic development, and endeavours in that region.

The first nations people, after a lengthy process and battle, managed to reclaim and get title back to the some 1,400 acres of industrial land that ran along the harbour front right to the mouth of the river. On that land today, members will find some of the most vivacious and vital economic endeavours taking place.

William Orban October 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it is with deep regret that we have lost a great Canadian sport scientist, Mr. William (Bill) Orban, who died last weekend at the age of 81.

Mr. Orban devoted most of his life to studying the athletic capabilities of the human body, from high performance athletes to elderly people with disabilities. In the late 1950s, he devised what is commonly called the 5BX plan, the five basic exercises fitness plan, a revolutionary method which debunked the notion that a person needs sustained, rigorous exercise to become fit.

Also, his Physical Energetics Systems of Equations is the perfect fitness plan. Through a mathematical calculation of an individual's fitness potential and what is needed to reach it, the formula could have a major impact on the world of sport.

Although the loss of Mr. Orban will leave a great void in the sport science community, his prolific heritage will live on and contribute to the evolution of sport in Canada and around the globe.

Canada Labour Code October 21st, 2003

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to join the debate on this bill.

The issue of replacement workers is a controversial one and one that can be guaranteed to generate debate wherever it is introduced. However, anyone who knows the labour policy file, knows that it is virtually impossible to achieve consensus on this issue. Typically, employers and their representatives have one point of view and just as typically, employees and the unions have an opposing point of view. That is only natural.

Bill C-328 represents only one of these points of view, and that is the union side. However, I feel the government has to bring a balanced perspective to this issue, such as it did when it made the changes to the Canada Labour Code in 1999. At that time, the government consulted widely with representatives of employees and employers as well as many professional consultants who were familiar with labour policy issues. It was clear then that there were two opposing points of view on the question of prohibiting the use of replacement workers under the Canada Labour Code.

It is clear that no consensus position or compromise looks likely today. Therefore, the balanced approach to a legislative solution, which the government introduced in 1999, is still the right approach to deal with this issue today.

The current provisions of part I of the Canada Labour Code mean that the employers in the federal jurisdiction are not strictly prohibited from using replacement workers during times of work stoppage, but rather that their use of such workers is subject to clear constraints. For example, replacement workers cannot be used to thwart the legitimate bargaining objectives of a union during a legal strike or lockout. Thus, employers are provided with some flexibility to use replacement workers to continue operating, but they cannot engage in unfair labour practices.

This balanced approach to the issue of replacement worker legislation was debated actively, with great vim and vitality, and agreed to finally by this House in 1999. Since then it has been accepted as a practical reality by most parties governed by the Canada Labour Code, not everyone but most.

By advocating for a prohibition on the use of replacement workers during work stoppages, Bill C-328 would upset this balanced approach. It would reopen a divisive debate that took place during the time leading up to amendments in the Canada Labour Code in 1999. We do not think that is the way to go.

As it is now, well over 90% of the workplace disputes under the Canada Labour Code are settled without a strike or lockout. Therefore, in the overwhelming majority of cases the question of replacement workers is not even an issue because there is no work stoppage and no need to replace striking or locked out workers. As well, most employers that fall under federal jurisdiction would not use outside replacement workers during strikes or lockouts, in any case, because they would use members from the non-bargaining units or management.

Thus, for the over 700,000 workers under the jurisdiction of the Canada Labour Code, the question of replacement workers is not likely to be a major concern. Of course, there are many other employees in Canada who are not subject to the Canada Labour Code.

I think it is important to remind members of the House that jurisdiction for labour legislation in Canada is shared between the federal and provincial governments.

This is extremely important. Close to 90% of Canadian workers, for example, are governed by provincial labour legislation and some provinces do have a legislated ban on the use of replacement workers. For instance, we know Quebec has had such legislation in place since the 1970s and British Columbia since 1993. Ontario brought in replacement worker legislation in 1993, but it was repealed in 1995.

Even though the Canadian way is to share jurisdiction for labour legislation between federal and provincial governments, we all share a common vision. That shared vision is to promote fair, safe, healthy, stable, cooperative and productive work environments, work environments that contribute to the social and economic well-being of all.

On a personal note I must say that I know the value of unions. Through the negotiating process they have played a major role in uplifting the quality of life and enhancing the lifestyles of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. I have had the experience. I have been on the picket line. I know what it means to be in a position to fight for one's rights.

A study on the impact of the ban on replacement workers in these provincial jurisdictions was performed in 1999. It provides us with some interesting findings to consider in the context of this debate.

The researchers found that legislation prohibiting the use of replacement workers could actually prolong work shortages. In the study for example, they show the effect of a ban on replacement workers was to prolong strikes by 31.6 days. They also found that prohibition on replacement workers correlated to an increase in the incidence of strikes. Let me say that a different way. This study found that a ban on the use of replacement workers meant not only longer strikes, but also more of them.

Findings like these raise challenging questions for those who hold the view that a ban on the use of replacement workers will improve the labour management relations climate. In fact, this study on replacement worker legislation suggests the opposite might be true. By the way, the study was done for the September 1999 issue of the “Labour Law Journal” and is entitled “The impacts of strike and replacement bans in Canada”.

The point is that there are different opinions on this question. That is why the compromise approach that we currently have in place under part I of the Canada Labour Code is the right one. It does not support one side or the other as Bill C-328 does. It works to balance the rights of workers to protect their interests during legal work stoppages. At the same time, it allows employers some flexibility to continue to operate.

This is an issue that the government has considered very carefully on a number of occasions. It is one that remains of ongoing interest. It is not a matter that the government believes requires specific new legislative action at this time. Therefore, we do not support Bill C-328.

National Parks October 6th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, last week the Prime Minister was in British Columbia to sign an agreement establishing the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. The Prime Minister also outlined the plan to work with Premier Campbell on creating two national marine conservation areas and a new national park in the south Okanagan.

These achievements mark 35 years worth of activism and continued commitment by the Prime Minister to protecting Canada's environment.

The government has an ambitious plan to increase our national parks system by over 50%, adding over 100,000 square kilometres to the existing network. This is a long term process involving stakeholder consultations with individuals, with the provinces and with first nations representatives.

On behalf of all Canadians, I welcome the addition of this park to preserve our valuable natural and ecological heritage. I congratulate our Prime Minister.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act October 6th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the debate has been going on in this House since April 4. By the comments that are coming across from the opposition, I think people are getting the impression that once the bill is passed everything is going to happen immediately. Nothing could be further from the truth. Also, the impression is being left in the minds of the listening public that this was a kind of impulsive act. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The royal commission in 1993 gave us instructions and gave us direction. We followed those instructions and recommendations. After many years of intensive research work done by people behind the scenes, a draft bill was presented to the health committee, of which I am a member. I attended every meeting and I know exactly what happened in those meetings.

A draft bill was presented in 2001. There were 34 recommendations that came from the committee. Bill C-13, then called Bill C-56, emerged on May 9, 2002. There were over 100 amendments dealt with by the committee at that stage. Those amendments clearly indicated, not only from the government side but also from the side of the opposition, that a tremendous amount of thought and dedication was devoted to Bill C-13 and the concepts contained therein.

Then it came back at the report stage with 84 more amendments. Those amendments were not identical to the first batch, again indicating that controversy was raging and that we wanted more clarification and improvements within the bill. That was done and since April 4 we have been debating this issue.

I am presenting that information simply because I want the listening public to realize that there was a tremendous amount of energy, not only from people within the House of Commons, people who work for the House of Commons, but from people all across this country and in other countries in the world who have communicated with the health committee, through telehealth and document after document giving us information, perceptions and scientific evidence over all these years.