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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was food.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for British Columbia Southern Interior (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 51% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as we have seen in the press, former CSIS officer François Lavigne is alarmed by the Conservative government's new bill and believes that the measures proposed are unnecessary and a threat to the rights of Canadians.

We know that CSIS was created in 1984. Prior to that, the RCMP was engaged in illegal activities, and the result was the McDonald Commission, which then created CSIS.

Does the member agree that with the new bill, CSIS will be allowed to do legally what the RCMP was doing illegally prior to the McDonald Commission?

Petitions January 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the second petition has over 250 names from Nelson, Grand Forks, Midway, Greenwood, Rossland, Trail, and surrounding areas.

The petitioners call on the government to adopt international aid policies that support small family farmers, especially women, that recognize their vital role in the struggle against hunger and poverty, that ensure Canadian policies and programs are developed in consultation with small family farmers and that they protect their rights in the global south to preserve, use and freely exchange seeds.

Petitions January 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions.

The first petition is from over 70 residents of Rossland and Trail, also from Alberta and Ontario, who call on Parliament to refrain from making changes to the Seeds Act and to ensure that we enshrine in legislation the inalienable rights of farmers and other Canadians to save, reuse, select, exchange and sell seeds.

West Kootenay Regional Airport December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to see an update in the Castlegar News on our West Kootenay Regional Airport. A big thanks goes to to city councillor Florio Vassilakakis for explaining the regional navigation performance system necessary to upgrade our airport.

Due to our narrow valley and low cloud ceiling, we experience more than our share of cancellations and delays. Over the last several years, I have been talking with representatives of NAV Canada about our airport. As of last year, Canada had not yet developed a public RNP system for airports such as ours.

I am happy to say that this has now changed. I was recently told by NAV Canada that it is trying to arrange a meeting with Air Canada and the City of Castlegar to discuss the airport RNP approach. The key is for Air Canada to equip its planes with compatible equipment, which their new Q400 aircraft already have. Should this happen, we could see a marked improvement at our airport as early as fall 2015.

This is a win-win situation. Air Canada increases its profits, and all of our residents benefit. We are counting on Air Canada to make this happen.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the question is a logical one.

However, I think we often tend to make decisions based on short-term gain in our country. Here we need to look at the long-term gain, the long-term potential of pristine areas. That is why I would like to submit that this park that Bill S-5 represents is smaller than the people normally would have wanted it to be because of the pressure from the mining industry.

I would like to submit that there is room for mining and room for development, but we have to look to the long term to ensure that we protect these pristine areas. Otherwise, there are not going to be any of these areas left for us in the future.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague from Sherbrooke for his question.

It is obviously important to protect certain places in our country for the future. I want to emphasize what I said in my speech. In my opinion, the best way of protecting them is to create a national park.

Where I live, the talk is about provincial protection led by people in the area. However, if we do that and protection is not provided at the national level, there is always the danger of mineral development and increased pressure on such and such a government—regardless of party affiliation—to allow the development of houses and other things.

When we take this approach, we are not doing it for today. We are doing it for the future of the grandchildren of my colleague from Sherbrooke and their grandchildren, who will be there to benefit from the fact that we have a network of national parks across Canada. I encourage the federal government to continue to work with the provinces and others to develop the national park network in our country.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill S-5. As has already been said in the House, the NDP supports the creation of national parks and the preservation of ecosystems and habitats that are essential to the survival of plants and wildlife.

Consultations revealed that the public overwhelmingly supported creating a bigger park. Unfortunately, the government ignored public opinion and decided to protect only the smallest of the three potential areas, neglecting to include very important wildlife areas. Witnesses spoke about the park.

For example, the hon. Ethel Blondin-Andrew, chairperson of the Sahtu Secretariat, said the following:

The Sahtu Dene and Métis support the establishment of the park. We maintain that any park in the settlement area must be created and managed in partnership with the Sahtu Dene and Métis and based on our cultural traditions, spiritual values, and economic aspirations.

I believe it is timely for me to talk about our proposed national park in the south Okanagan's lower Similkameen.

Ever since my election in 2006, I have been in contact with those opposed to the proposed park as well as those in favour. There is no question that the vast majority of my constituents in this area want some form of protection for this pristine area. However, there are differences as to how this can be accomplished.

After listening to both sides, I have come to the conclusion that the only way to preserve this fragile ecosystem is by means of a national park. Failing to do so will leave these areas under threat of mining and development regardless of what safeguards the provincial government of the day implements. Although a great deal of work has been done by Parks Canada to move this process forward, there has been some dissatisfaction with the process.

As a result of political pressure, the current B.C. Liberal government has withdrawn its support for a national park. In my conversation with our previous minister of the environment in 2012, I was reassured, however, that should the position of the provincial government change, the federal government would once again get involved in the process. This is encouraging news. I would like to thank the federal government for its commitment.

I would also like to quote from a letter that Ms. Doreen Olson, coordinator of the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network, received from the federal Minister of the Environment in December of 2013. It states:

I would like to assure you that our government recognizes the important role that Canada's system of national parks plays in providing Canadians with meaningful experiences and opportunities for discovery. Since its creation over 125 years ago, Canada's system of national parks has continued to grow, and our government has put significant efforts into increasing Canada's protected areas.

Our government is committed to ensuring that our national parks continue to provide Canadians and visitors the means to connect with our country's national heritage.

This gives us hope. The key now is for the government of British Columbia to re-engage in the process.

There have been a number of concerns about the proposed national park, the most serious being the lack of first nations' involvement on a government-to-government basis.

Since then, the Okanagan Nation Alliance has conducted a feasibility study and found that it is:

—feasible to explore further discussions with Parks Canada about a future National Park Reserve, so long as Syilx Title, Rights and interests are protected and respected. The Syilx Parks Working Group advocates a collaborative and consensus based model with Parks Canada similar to those in Gwaii Haanas.

There are two other concerns: the ability of our local helicopter school to continue training in the proposed area and ranching. While both of these issues have been addressed by Parks Canada, they could and should be a vital part of any negotiations between the provincial and federal governments.

It should be noted that there is a growing overwhelming support for the national park from the Okanagan Basin Water Board, Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, Regional District of Central Okanagan, Regional District of North Okanagan, Town of Osoyoos, city of Vernon, British Columbia Wine Institute, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce, and tourism associations such as Oliver Tourism and Destination Osoyoos, as well as a number of environmental groups such as the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network.

In addition, thanks to the former mayor of Osoyoos, Stu Wells, the Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a resolution in support of the park. There is also support from the City of Greenwood. A resolution was passed, stating the following:

The City of Greenwood fully supports the re-engagement of discussions between the Government of British Columbia and the Government of Canada, towards the establishment of a new National Park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen; and asks to be consulted throughout the process to ensure that we are partnering in economic development, tourism, and business development strategies and programs.

I would also like to issue a big thanks to Dan Ashton, Penticton MLA and chair of the province's all-party Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services for his support. The standing committee recently completed its report and has recommended that the province work with the federal government and local stakeholders to assess the feasibility of, and support for, the establishment of a new national park.

I should add that as was pointed out in previous statements and questions, it takes a long time for this process to take place. It takes many stakeholders, and I firmly believe that the time is right for the Government of British Columbia to re-engage with the federal government to get this process moving so that we can leave a legacy for the future.

Last but not least, I would like to single out and thank Doreen Olson of the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network for her years of tireless efforts in promoting the establishment of a national park. I do not know how many meetings I have had with Doreen or how many meetings she has had with other folks, but I would just like to thank her and those in her organization for their effort.

The B.C. Minister of Environment, Mary Polak, recently visited our area to consult with residents, and I thank her for doing so. I had written the minister in November of 2013 asking the Province of B.C. to formally re-engage in negotiations with the Government of Canada and first nations. So far we have not had a positive reaction from the government of B.C.

We have a chance to do something right for future generations to come. I strongly urge the Province of B.C. to re-engage with the federal government and first nations. We have a potential win-win situation: the protection of our environment, tourism dollars for our area, a beautiful opportunity for people from all parts of the world to come and visit this pristine area, and, of course, full-time employment, which will certainly support our local economy. We cannot allow ourselves to miss this opportunity.

I strongly urge the Government of British Columbia to work with the federal government and to re-engage with the federal government, first nations, and other stakeholders to make the national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen happen.

Petitions December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my second petition is a follow-up to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which concluded that the warming of the earth's climate system was unequivocal. The petitioners call upon the government to adopt a carbon policy that applies a fee to greenhouse gas emissions at their source of production in Canada, or port of entry into Canada; increase the fee over time; and distribute 100% of the money raised from the fee equally among all Canadians; and urge all nations around the world to adopt a similar carbon policy.

This is from residents of Castlegar, Nelson, and surrounding areas.

Petitions December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions. The first one is from residents of Oliver, Osoyoos, and Okanagan Falls. The petitioners are calling on the government to adopt international aid policies that support small-scale farmers, especially women, and recognize their vital role in the struggle against hunger and poverty, and to ensure that Canadian policies and programs are developed in consultation with small family farmers. They call on the government to protect the rights of small family farmers in the global south to preserve, use, and freely exchange seeds.

Rail Transportation November 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, for over 40 years my constituents in Castlegar, Blueberry, Genelle, and Rivervale have been able to sleep without being disturbed by trains at night. However, now CP has begun to run night trains without prior warning. The community has made its opposition very clear at two public meetings. Letters have been written, people are upset, lives have been severely disrupted.

Right now, there is no incentive for CP to find a solution or to work with the local community to find a compromise. Will the minister work with me to help convince CP Rail that a workable solution is possible and would benefit all?