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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

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

First, I must say that I have visited that region. My colleagues and I went there two years ago at the invitation of our friend and colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who wanted us to see exactly what was happening and what it was all about. We were able to talk to many members of the first nations and other people. The vast majority of the residents do not want any pipelines or any marine traffic along the coast, near their homes. The fishing and tourism industries are at risk.

This is not a mere supposition: one of these days, oil will indeed be spilled if tankers are allowed to travel along the coast.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member's question may not have been on point, but it is pertinent to what has been going on here.

I have sat with that member on agriculture committee before. We used to have minority Parliaments. We used to have give and take, debates, amendments, acceptance, rejection. That does not seem to be the case now.

As I said earlier, I hope that at some point in time with a future government we will have a spirit of co-operation. It did not always exist in the past, but it has existed, as my colleague mentioned. I hope we will get back to that spirit of collaboration so that when we have legislation we can say it is our legislation, that we helped to construct it, and this is what we are doing.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as MPs we are often asked to say a few words on a bill that perhaps we are not really familiar with, because it may not be our domain. As usual, I looked at the talking points, which we all get, to try to find out what is relevant. I tried to pick out things that I think I can explain in 10 minutes, things that are relevant. Obviously they have been repeated over and over again, but they are part of the message because we feel they are important.

The first thing that stands out when I look at these notes is that I have learned that we have proposed reasonable amendments to prevent Canadian taxpayers from being on the hook for cleanup costs and damages following a spill of hazardous and noxious substances as well as to ensure transparency regarding investigative reports on aviation accidents or incidents involving civilians in the military.

Then I noticed that none of these amendments have been accepted.

I recall being on the agriculture committee a few months ago when we were debating the food safety act. I think that between our party and the Liberals, we had proposed 20-some amendments, not to throw the bill away but to improve it. In other words, we agreed with the bill and we were just saying that we had some interesting information that would strengthen it. Lo and behold, all of these amendments were rejected. I am learning here that this is the same thing that has happened to the bill before us.

Obviously the bill has some good points and we will nevertheless support it. However, I have talked to colleagues in this House, with the hon. member for Malpeque as well as with colleagues in my party, and when previous parties were in power, there seemed to have been more of an openness in accepting amendments, whether the government happened to be Liberal or Conservative. This kind of open, collaborative attitude somehow seems to have been thrown aside by the current government. It is my hope that any future government we have will restore this kind of collaborative spirit.

Those are some initial comments I have after looking through my notes.

The NDP believes that Canadian taxpayers should never have to pay for the cleanup and damages following a spill of noxious and hazardous substances. However, as I just mentioned, the Conservatives refused reasonable amendments that could have prevented Canadian taxpayers from being on the hook for damages over $500 million. We are also committed to preventing all oil spills on our coasts. Unfortunately, it is more and more difficult to believe that the Conservatives take Canadians' concerns seriously when we look at their record. They closed the spill centre in British Columbia and the Coast Guard station in Kitsilano, and they gutted the environmental emergency response program.

Obviously, this bill contains some positive measures. That is why I said that we would support it.

Also, the scaling back of Coast Guard rescue capacity and facilities has been felt not only in British Columbia. The Conservative government is threatening to close facilities across Canada, including those in eastern Canada.

This government's plan to close the marine search and rescue centre in Quebec City endangers the lives of French-speaking mariners.

This is yet another example of this government's systematic contempt for marine safety, science and public health.

We have seen, for example, that in the fall of 2012 two major shipping vessels ran aground on the west coast with current levels of traffic. We are expecting, with this increase in traffic, especially with supertankers, that this is going to be even more dangerous. I submit that this is a time to have more stringent environmental controls.

The bill has many different parts. Part 4 would amend the Marine Liability Act. A ship owner's liability is limited to approximately $230 million. It talks about damages in excess of the ship owner's liability to be paid by an international fund up to a maximum of $500 million. Unfortunately, this is for oil spills only. In our proposed amendments we wanted toxic substances to be included; however, this was not the case. We suggested that there be an availability for the ship-source oil pollution fund to be increased so that the money from this fund could go to pay for this pollution, rather than taxpayers. Apparently that fund has not been augmented for many years.

Some of the things we would have liked to have as part of the bill are the reversal of the Coast Guard closures and scaling back of services that we have seen, and the cancelling of cuts to the maritime communication traffic services centre and closure of B.C.'s regional offices for emergency spills. We could go on and on. These negative aspects have been mentioned throughout the debate today.

I want to mention that we need to not only strengthen our ability to react to spills but ensure that the spills do not happen. One way of ensuring that spills would not happen is to ensure we have a complete ban on tanker traffic, for example, on the west coast. When I was in northern British Columbia, I learned that if there is an oil spill and we recuperate 30% of that oil spill, that is considered excellent. If we recuperate 7% of raw bitumen, which the proposed Enbridge pipeline would bring through, that is considered excellent.

It is a no-brainer. As we look to strengthening laws to protect our environment, one of the fundamental things we should be doing is ensuring that there is no tanker traffic in those areas where there is a danger of spill. Of course with the Enbridge pipeline, the consequences of going through that strait with the waves, people have told us would be devastating, if there were ever a spill in northern British Columbia, as on all coasts.

I will close with a quotation from Mr. John O'Connor, president of the Canadian Maritime Law Association, who said:

...we believe the ship-source oil pollution fund should be involved in [hazardous and noxious substances] at large and not be limited just to oil.... [The ship-source oil pollution fund] is an additional layer of protection. It's not unlimited liability, but it's an additional amount of funding that is available should there be a mishap.

We believe that [the ship-source oil pollution fund] should become Canada's additional protection, not only when oil is involved, but when any HNS cargo is involved.

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. I had a chance to spend a few weeks in Australia this summer. I went to restaurants, and lo and behold, there was no tipping. I asked why there was no tipping. They said it was because they pay their people more. I found out this morning from my colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek that the minimum wage in Australia is $17.45 an hour. If this can be done in Australia, where its people are making a half-decent living, why can we not do it here?

My second question involves small business. Would the member not agree that one of the best guarantees to assist small business is to have people in the community who have money to spend? In other words, if we were to increase the minimum wage, the research has shown that most of this money would stay in the communities and that would help guarantee the survival of the small businesses in the small rural communities that I represent. I would like to get his comments on this.

Dairy Producers June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé for tabling this very important motion. However, I would have much preferred not to be speaking to a motion that should not even have been necessary had the government not compromised supply management in its negotiations with the European Union on CETA.

It is no secret that there has been tremendous pressure by the corporate sector as well as our trading partners to dismantle, or at least modify, supply management. This attack is driven in our country in part by the Conference Board of Canada. As NFU President Jan Slomp outlined in a recent op-ed:

The CBoC claims to be an independent think tank, but is affiliated with the New York-based Conference Board, run by and for US-based multinational corporations. While pretending to serve the public it advocates for a suite of policies—including dismantling dairy supply management—that promote corporate interests at the expense of the values and aspirations of Canadian people.

Our supply management works well for Canadians and does not cost the taxpayer a penny. It was created in 1969 as a reaction to erratic milk-handling practices to depress farm-gate prices paid to farmers. Supply management is not a barrier to trade. Many other countries, including the EU and the U.S., enact policies that directly subsidize domestic production. We do not do this.

It is also important to note that Canada gives more access to imported products than many other countries give in any sector. We currently import over 6% of the market for dairy products and more than 7.5% for poultry. In contrast, the U.S. gives only 2.75% access to its market for dairy products and Europe offers a mere 0.5% for poultry.

There is absolutely no reason for Canada to sign a trade agreement that allows an additional 17,700 tonnes of cheese from the EU. In effect, our dairy farmers who receive no government subsidies would be competing with European farmers who receive state subsidies as high as 40% to 50% of their income. According to the Dairy Farmers of Canada, it is estimated that the new EU access of 17,700 tonnes of cheese would cost Canadian farmers some $150 million annually, with cumulative losses of $300 million industry wide.

It is also important for Canadians to be aware that our dairy prices are comparable to other countries'. In fact, in New Zealand, which has dismantled supply management, consumers pay among the highest prices for dairy in spite of their farmers' low costs of production.

A few years ago I criss-crossed Canada in my “Food for Thought” tour, and one of the recurring themes that came up during the community consultations was the simple need to take agriculture out of free trade agreements.

For example, it is absolutely ludicrous that, as a result of NAFTA, many vegetable and fruit growers went out of business. Had they been protected, as in the supply management sector, our horticulture industry would be thriving today. Instead, many farmers have been forced to go into grapes and scramble to plant new varieties of fruit. An Ontario broccoli producer once told me that he only makes money when there is a drought in Florida. This is completely unacceptable.

Many are fearful that the CETA concessions of cheese imports is the start of a slippery slope.

It is no secret that countries such as the U.S. and New Zealand would like to see supply management on the table during the negotiation of the proposed trans-Pacific partnership trade agreement. Canada must not, and I repeat, must not make any further concessions in regard to supply management.

For the reasons I just mentioned, it is extremely important that Parliament support Motion No. 496. The federal government must keep its promise to the Quebec and Canadian dairy and cheese producers who will be affected by the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement by revealing, without delay, details related to the compensation that will be paid and by providing for an implementation period for the agreement that is as long as possible.

I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts on trade, since everybody is listening to my speech. The first point is that Canada has always been and will always be a trading nation. To say that I, or members of my party, are anti-trade is simply ludicrous.

The bottom line is that any trade agreement we sign should not do harm to our country or its citizens.

As I have outlined, allowing 17,700 tonnes of European cheese into our market will harm our dairy industry.

CETA would also contain a clause that allows European multinational corporations to sue the federal government if there is a perception of unfair treatment, such as local sourcing of contracts. This provision, or chapter 11, already exists in NAFTA and has allowed U.S. corporations to collect over $157 million in compensation from the Canadian federal government since NAFTA was signed.

We need to take a hard look at this provision, as other countries have done. It is a total affront to our nation's sovereignty. Australia, for example, will not allow a similar provision to be included in any future trade agreements it signs. We should do the same. Canadian tax dollars should not be going as payment to foreign corporations.

Now I will go back to Motion No. 496.

This motion seeks to mitigate CETA's potential impact on the dairy and cheese sector and support Canada’s supply management system, which guarantees fair and stable prices. In other words, if our dairy and cheese producers are at risk of losing $300 million per year, then the Canadian government must commit to compensating them for that.

It is important to remember that our dairy and cheese industry also promotes the survival of farms and farm labour. Producers reinvest in their farms and support local suppliers and businesses, which contributes to the Canadian economy as a whole. The dairy industry's contribution to the GDP went from $15.2 billion in 2009 to $16.2 billion in 2011.

It should also be noted that it is Canadian dairy producers themselves who invested their own money to build up the Canadian market. It is simply unfair for the Conservative government to give market share away to European Union producers.

As the House is aware, the dairy industry is not the only fortunate industry to have supply management. The egg and poultry sectors do as well. Together, these three sectors are responsible for generating billions of dollars of revenue to our economy as they provide jobs and invest in our communities.

It is inconceivable that our federal government would even think about introducing any policies that have the potential of destroying the fine balance we have in our agriculture sector. As a matter of fact, as we have jumped from crisis to crisis in our grain, beef, and cattle sectors throughout the past decade, farmers in the supply managed sector continue to receive a stable, predictable income. Others were forced to deal with the shifting patterns of the open market or government protectionist policies, such as the U.S. country of origin labelling.

Make no mistake: the pressure and propaganda is out there for Canada to get rid of its farmer-driven supply management sectors. They are being attacked on a regular basis as ads appear in small community newspapers like those in my riding from organizations such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which consistently trash supply management. They forget, however, that supply management does not cost the government or the taxpayer any money, while it guarantees us good quality food and contributes significantly to the Canadian economy.

The fact that now our farmers are under threat because of the increase in cheese imports is a betrayal by the Conservative government. It is morally wrong to talk about supporting supply management while at the same time eroding its pillars. One has to wonder who the next victim will be when the terms of the trans-Pacific partnership are released.

I would like to once again thank my colleague, our hard-working deputy agriculture critic, for bringing this motion forward. It is my sincere hope that it will pass unanimously in the House and that the federal government will make known in short order how exactly it will assist farmers hit by the terms of our trade agreement with the European Union.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech and his work on this file. It is certainly well researched, and he understands the issue very clearly.

The argument we hear from those who support this agreement is that we are a trading nation. We have been a trading nation and we have traded with all sorts of regimes in our history, including many repressive regimes, whether China or the former Soviet Union.

There is a distinction between trade and free trade. My colleague mentioned the idea of preferential treatment. In other words, if we sign a free trade agreement, it is preferential treatment to a country that we want to do business with as opposed to just trading.

Could the member expand a little on this point, because I think it is a bit lost on the other side?

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention to my colleague from Sherbrooke that I attended the graduation ceremony at a high school in my riding. I mentioned that he is the youngest MP to ever be elected to Parliament. I told the graduates to follow his example. My colleague was 19 years old when elected and they could become MPs as well.

I am very pleased that he has asked this question. Yes, I do have some concerns. On a number of occasions we have seen the government trying to go down a particular path too quickly without having really thought about the consequences. If people have concerns like the ones I just mentioned in my speech, that means that there are problems.

I hope that this government will nevertheless try to improve this bill. As we have already mentioned, it does have some good elements. There are some things in this bill that work well. Let us try to improve it and make it into a bill that serves all Canadians.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is that we have a system in place that works. The overwhelming majority of people who apply for citizenship and become citizens under our current system become good Canadian citizens. My parents are immigrants. Many of us here have family members who have immigrated. The current timeline in place is a workable timeline, and I do not really see why we need to change the system. What we need is to ensure it becomes more efficient, and that implies hiring a few more people to increase the efficiency so that we can process more immigrants at a faster pace.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful to have a few minutes to speak to Bill C-24. As an interesting coincidence, I was recently reading the latest issue of Novyi Shliakh, or the New Pathway, a Ukrainian newspaper published here in Canada. On page 6 of the May 15 edition, there was an article by the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, and the very fact that this article appeared in the New Pathway to me is a clear indication that there is a concern about Bill C-24 in the Ukrainian Canadian community and, I would venture to say, in many immigrant communities. Readers of the article who had concerns were asked to contact their local member of Parliament.

This article states:

This new law changes core aspects of Canadian citizenship as we know it.

If passed, Bill C-24 will make it more difficult for new immigrants to get Canadian citizenship and easier for many Canadians to lose it, especially if they have dual citizenship. Most Canadians do not understand the ways in which Bill C-24 will undermine their fundamental right to be a citizen of Canada. The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers has provided a summary of the most important changes to the Citizenship Act.

It goes on later in the same article to say:

In Canada, citizenship has always been secure. Whether native-born or immigrant, once you are granted Canadian citizenship, you are secure. Under the current system, you cannot lose your citizenship unless you obtained it by fraud, and even then, a Federal Court judge must make that decision after a full court hearing. Under the current system, if you do not agree with the judge, you have a right of appeal. Under the new law, there will be several ways to lose your citizenship. As well, the decision as to whether you lose your citizenship will be made by a government bureaucrat who will inform you in writing with no opportunity for a live hearing to defend yourself.

Why will citizenship be harder to get?

New immigrants will have to wait longer before they can apply for citizenship. Older and younger people will now have to pass language and knowledge tests to qualify for citizenship. The citizenship application fees have been tripled. There will be no right of appeal for those who are refused.

Everyone recognizes the considerable value of Canadian citizenship, but we do not want to politicize this issue. We have seen that approach far too often since the current government came to power.

As far as the bill is concerned, it is high time that we resolve the issue of lost Canadians. This is an unfair situation that has been going on for far too long.

Other parts of the bill raise concerns. For example, the revocation of citizenship gives cause for major legal concerns. We are always worried about proposals to concentrate power in the hands of the minister.

Since March 2008, more than 25 major changes have been made to the methods, rules, laws and regulations related to immigration. More and more changes have been made since the Conservatives formed a majority government, changes such as a moratorium on sponsoring parents and grandparents, fewer family reunifications, punishing vulnerable refugees and increasing the number of temporary foreign workers in order to meet the needs of corporations.

The considerable changes the Conservatives have made to Canada's immigration system have not helped improve the efficiency or fairness of the system.

That is what is troubling. All these proposed changes are not necessarily going to make the system more efficient. In a sense, we can understand why the system cannot be more efficient. If we cut people who are working, the numbers of public servants, increase their hours, and make it more difficult for them, obviously the system will not get more efficient.

I would like to argue as an aside that maybe a good way to improve our immigration system is to make it more efficient by hiring more people so we can get the job done and process all the immigrants that we have today.

However, I will return to my speaking notes. Bill C-24, as I said earlier on, gives the minister many new powers including the authority to grant or revoke the citizenship of dual citizens.

As we know, the government has a pretty strong tendency to develop legislation that concentrates more power in the hands of ministers. Obviously if we have ministers who understand the situation and I would hope they do, things could work okay, but there are people who do not. We on this side condemn this practice. We cannot trust the Conservatives or any government by giving a minister new powers because we open the door to arbitrary politically motivated decisions.

I guess we all should know that there are politically motivated decisions in any government. What we as parliamentarians have to do is to ensure that we take those politically motivated decisions away from people making decisions.

Let us look at revocation of citizenship. The very idea of giving the minister the power to revoke citizenship raises serious questions and it is on this principle that we should be looking at the bill. Canadian law already has established mechanisms by which we can punish individuals who commit unlawful acts. It should not be the job of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to make these judgments.

Another problem with revoking the Canadian citizenship of dual citizens is that it creates a two-tier citizenship where some Canadians could have their citizenship revoked, while others would be punished by the criminal system for the same offence.

As an aside, let me say a few words about dual citizens. We have already seen discrimination by the government against Canadians who are subject to U.S. tax laws. My colleague, the MP for Victoria, has raised the issue of FACTA and the problems it poses for U.S. dual citizens and family members of dual citizens. I would say that once a person is a Canadian citizen, he or she should have the full protection of our government. It does not matter if one is born here or somewhere else, once one is a Canadian citizen, we should all be on the same level playing field.

There should be no question, for example, of the U.S. government obtaining banking information or for a Canadian citizen to file unnecessary U.S. tax forms when a person already pays taxes here in Canada and fills out the forms. We have had that debate earlier on in this session.

Coming back to this bill, under the provisions of the bill the minister may revoke citizenship if he or she, or any staffer he or she authorized, is satisfied in the balance of probabilities that a person has obtained citizenship by fraud. Until now, such cases have all typically gone through the courts and cabinet, which makes sense. It will not be the case anymore. This aspect poses serious issues to the extent that the minister would have the power to revoke a person's citizenship solely on the basis of suspicion without an independent tribunal to rule on the veracity of the allegations. This is not the case in the United States where that person has the legal right to have the issue resolved in a court of law.

In closing, the bill, although it has some good provisions in it, is another slow erosion of our rights as democratic citizens and for this reason we should oppose the bill in its current form.

Energy Safety and Security Act May 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I also thank him for the work he does for his constituents and the work he does in the House.

Taxpayers should not be responsible for the mistakes made by large corporations. Oil companies must absolutely contribute and must pay when there are environmental risks. That should not be up to taxpayers.

The issue is not only the $1-billion limit. What would happen if it cost $2 billion? Would that mean that taxpayers would have to cover the $1-billion difference? I do not think so.

The bill must absolutely include the polluter pays principle, not just for the nuclear and oil industries, but also for all industries. If you run the risk, you pay the price.