House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was industry.

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

Energy Safety and Security Act May 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for all of his hard work on behalf of his constituents.

Today, I read an op-ed in the Manitoba Co-operator, where my colleague from Welland was quoted as saying that we all came together as parties to move through Bill C-30, the railway act. Here we had this instance of co-operation. It is something that often does not happen. All parties got together, the government listened, we made suggestions and, all of a sudden, we had a bill that benefited all Canadians.

This is a golden opportunity for this bill to go to committee and for the government to listen and not do what it did, for example, when I was on the agriculture committee studying the food safety bill. Both the NDP and the Liberal Party provided something like 25 amendments, and not one was accepted. That is not how government works and that is not how democracy should work. This is an opportunity.

I welcome the question from the member for Winnipeg North. I really hope that once it gets to committee, we will have this debate and strengthen the bill so it will be our bill on behalf of Canadians, not just the government's bill.

Energy Safety and Security Act May 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, before I start, I must apologize to my interpreting friends. I have given them my notes, but I am going to go a little off the cuff here because I have a few things to say beforehand.

First, I would like to say that I am really fortunate today in just having had supper with some good friends from Chilliwack, Dennis and Penny Martens, who are right there watching me. Dennis and I went to UBC together in the early sixties. It is kind of neat to be able to talk to him and Penny.

I feel really privileged to have followed my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley. He was in my riding just last week, actually, talking to people about the proposed Enbridge pipeline and its consequences, and I will talk about this a bit later. I had a chance to visit the beautiful pristine area that he lives in to see exactly what the consequences of that proposed pipeline would be.

I have some notes here, and I will just ask the interpreters to bear with me.

I just want to say that it seems that the current government that I have been faced with for the last eight years since I have been here is not really friendly with respect to looking after our environment and looking after the people of Canada.

There are many fine individuals in that party, and I see them here. We have a good relationship. They treat me well, with respect, but collectively, the current government has done a lot to our country that will take us a long time to recover from once it is no longer in power.

The bill would update Canada's nuclear liability regime to specify the conditions and procedures for compensation of victims.

It would maintain the principles of absolute fault or no fault, limited and exclusive, except for situations of war or terrorist attacks.

It would extend the limitation period for submitting compensation claims for bodily injury from 10 years to 30 years to address latent illnesses. It would maintain the 10-year period for all other forms of damage.

The nuclear liability changes would apply to Canadian nuclear facilities, such as nuclear power plants, research reactors, fuel processing plants, and facilities for managing used nuclear fuel.

It would also update Canada's offshore liability regime for oil and gas exploration and operations to prevent incidents and ensure swift response in the event of a spill. I will talk a little bit about that later.

It would maintain unlimited operator liability for fault or negligence.

It would increase the absolute liability limit from $40 million in the Arctic and $30 million in the Atlantic to $1 billion for offshore oil.

It would reference the polluter pays principle explicitly in legislation to establish clearly and formally that polluters would be held accountable. That is a good thing.

However, let me say a few words on offshore oil spills in general.

The fact that the absolute liability limit would be increased to $1 billion should not—and I repeat, should not—be a green light to approve further tanker traffic off our B.C. coast. That is what my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley was alluding to: the fact that all of this discussion is somehow supposed to lay the groundwork for this wonderful project in northern British Columbia.

As members are aware, I am sure, after all these years the Alaskan coastline is still seeing effects of the Exxon Valdez spill.

At the invitation of my colleague, the MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, I had a chance to visit our northwestern coastline communities of Terrace, Kitimat, and Kitimaat Village. I and some of my NDP colleagues heard what the people had to say about the proposed Enbridge northern gateway pipeline.

As we have seen from the recent vote or referendum in Kitimat, 60% of the people voted against the pipeline, in spite of the huge amount of money spent by the oil industry going door to door to try to get support for the pipeline.

When I was there, we had a meeting with something like 150 people in Terrace, and people of all political stripes do not want the project to go through. At the meeting in Terrace, we learned that if roughly 30% of the oil can be recuperated after a regular oil spill, such as occurred with the Exxon Valdez spill, that is considered excellent.

However, if we can recuperate 7% from a spill of raw bitumen, that is also considered excellent.

It does not really matter what the liability is, once raw bitumen is spilled in the ocean, the environment is basically destroyed forever. This is the point that people in northern communities, people in the area I represent and all over British Columbia are trying to get across. Thousands of jobs in the tourist and fishing industries will be lost permanently. It is not just that the oil is spilled, the company has a liability of $1 billion, and we clean it up. We can clean up only 7% of it, and that is considered excellent. If we do a good job, that is probably 3.5%. If we do a terrible job, we would probably clean up 2% of the bitumen. We cannot allow tanker traffic in the northern coastline. It is as simple as that.

People in my province are mobilizing against this project. For the sake of future generations, we cannot let this project take place. It is often expedient not only for the current government of the day but for governments of all political parties that happen to be in power to think in the short range. It does not matter if governments are Conservative, Liberal, NDP, or Green; we need governments that look to the future. The future is our children and grandchildren. What is the coastline and the province of British Columbia going to be like in the future?

The grandchildren of my friends Dennis and Penny are not going to read in the paper that they cannot go to northern B.C. because the coastline is polluted because a tanker just spilt raw bitumen and none of it was recuperated. Surely we can increase our own refining capacity to create jobs in Canada. I know my party is working on a policy that when we hopefully assume government, we will be able to transition into this green energy strategy that other countries have done, which will provide jobs to millions of people as we transition out of the fossil fuel industry.

If we look at the predictions of climate change, if we look at what is happening in other countries, it is logical. We have this chance, and in the meantime we can increase our oil refining capacity. If we have an oil industry, why not keep the jobs here? For the sake of a few hundred or a thousand jobs for a short period of time, should we build a pipeline and get some hundreds of tankers a year moving in in areas that are prone to high gales and accidents? Why would we do that, rather than taking this product that we take out of the ground and refining it somewhere in our country? We would create jobs as we keep the economy moving, and we would move toward a green energy strategy. That would be a win-win situation. I would prefer that we create jobs in Canada rather than somewhere in Asia.

The bill before us strengthens the current liability regime but will not help protect the environment, or Canadian taxpayers either, because it still exposes them to risk.

The Conservatives constantly lag behind our international partners. They disregard best practices that are used to identify inadequate liability regimes.

We have previously criticized the inadequacy of nuclear liability limits. Even though these provisions must be considered a step in the right direction relative to current limits, this bill does not duly reflect the actual risks Canadians face. We hope to address this point in committee. Consequently, this bill must absolutely be referred to committee. We need to hear from witnesses.

I eagerly await my colleagues’ questions.

Agricultural Growth Act May 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-18, the agriculture omnibus bill. Let me say at the outset that I am extremely disappointed that we have yet another omnibus bill. The democratic process would have been much better served had this bill been split, especially the section dealing with plant breeders' rights.

This omnibus bill would amend nine different laws. The NDP believes we must take a balanced approach to plant breeders' rights. We must protect Canadian public researchers and farmers.

Although we understand the role of intellectual property rights, to encourage innovation, we want to ensure that Canadians have access to and can benefit from our agricultural heritage. The safety measures proposed with regard to seeds, plants and animals should result in additional resources for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

It is very likely that Bill C-18 will go to committee. It is therefore important for all farmers to carefully examine its contents. Hopefully, there will be ample opportunity for them to make their voices heard.

The most contentious provisions of Bill C-18 are without a doubt those regarding the Plant Breeders' Rights Act and the implementation of UPOV '91, the international convention on plant protection. Canada is a signatory to UPOV '91 but it has not yet ratified the convention and has not yet implemented its provisions.

When I was first elected in 2006 and became agriculture critic, I began to hear about UPOV '91 from many concerned with food sovereignty, especially farmers in the National Farmers Union. In fact, it is my understanding that after a groundswell of farmer-led opposition to UPOV '91 in 2005, the Liberal government of the day let it die quietly as it became clear that farmers would be drastically restricted in their ability to save, reuse, exchange, and sell seed.

According to the NFU, before reintroducing UPOV '91 through Bill C-18, the minister had been actually actively spreading the myth and managing to convince many farmer organizations and commodity groups that saving seed is enshrined in this bill. It is obvious that UPOV '91 gives plant breeders significantly more rights and tools for royalty collection while the farmers' seed-saving right is reduced merely to privilege.

A closer look at the text of Bill C-18 reveals that, indeed, it talks about a farmer's ability to save seed. When storing that saved seed, however, the farmer needs the permission of the holder of the plant breeders' rights, which may or may not be given. Of course, the breeder has the right to charge royalties as well. Bill C-18 also empowers government to remove, restrict, or limit the farmer's seed-saving privilege by passing regulations, a process that can happen quickly and without public debate. UPOV '91 has made provisions for royalty collection after a crop has been harvested, when seed is cleaned in seed-cleaning plants, or when a crop is moved off the farm for sale at elevators and other points of transactio, in the year the crop was harvested or in any year after that.

Under Bill C-18, plant breeders' rights will not apply to private, non-commercial growers, experimental use of seed, and seed used for the purpose of breeding other plant varieties, which is also the case under our current legislation. However, plant breeders' rights do apply to newly bred varieties that are essentially derived from plant breeders' right-protected varieties, allowing plant breeders to exercise control over the results of future plant breeding.

Adopting UPOV '91 would immediately reduce the freedom and independence of Canadian farmers by making it much more difficult to save and reuse seed, forcing them to pay more for seed. It would also impinge on the autonomy of independent seed cleaners, transfer millions of dollars every year from farmers to plant breeders' rights holders, and consolidate the power and control of the world's largest agribusiness corporations over seed and, thus, over the Canadian farming and food system.

As well, if Canada adopts UPOV '91, farmers will not be allowed to save, store, or clean seed for replanting without the express permission of the PBR holder. If granted, such permission is dependent on the government adopting, on a crop-by-crop basis, an exemption called the farmer's privilege, which may be time limited and would likely entail payment of royalties to the PBR holder.

Companies would have a cascading right, allowing them to demand payment of end-point royalties on the whole crop, including each cut of hay on foraged crops, instead of just on newly purchased seed or when the company has been unable to collect adequate royalties on seed alone. Companies would be entitled to royalties for at least 20 years on each variety for which they hold PBRs, up from the current 18 years under Canada's UPOV '78 regime.

Seed cleaners would require permission from PBR holders to clean seed, which, if granted, may be subject to conditions such as payment of fees to the PBR holder. Mills and processors that buy crops would require assurance that the farmer-seller has paid PBR royalties to avoid the risk of litigation by the PBR holder.

Farmer's privilege to save a small amount of seed from designated crops may be granted by governments through legislation, but this privilege could be rendered useless, because seed companies would be able to restrict seed cleaning and storage.

What are the long-term implications for Canadian agriculture if UPOV '91 is adopted? According to the analysis by the National Farmers Union, some of the likely changes include:

...higher per-acre cost of production due to higher seed prices;

lower margins because end-use royalties will reduce potential gross income at sale;

fewer and larger farms because reduced profitability will drive larger scales of production;

loss of independent seed cleaning businesses as farmers are forced to buy seed directly from PBR holders or their licensees instead of cleaning a portion of their harvested crops for use as seed;

increased litigation within the value chain as PBR holders seek to maximize royalty revenues; ...

Having said all of this, the obvious question is what is the alternative if we do not adopt UPOV '91? Pending the adoption of a truly farmer-friendly seed law, we could maintain Canada's current UPOV '78 plant breeders' rights regime, which balances the interests of the public, the farmers, and the plant breeders.

We could restore funding to public plant breeding. Canada's public plant breeders are internationally respected and have contributed greatly to Canadian agriculture. For example, nearly all of our wheat varieties have been developed by AAFC in collaboration with several Canadian universities. None of these varieties would have been part of Canadian agriculture without the government's long-term support for public breeding.

We could take plant breeding to variety level. The federal government has stopped funding public plant breeding beyond the development of germplasm, which must then be sold to private breeders to develop varieties for commercialization. The new varieties so developed are privately owned and subject to plant breeders’ rights.

Farmers, whose check-off dollars support this research, would pay yet again through the increased royalties that would be granted under UPOV ’91. This system of private interests benefiting twice, first by using public research funding and then by collecting royalties on seed and production, is unjust and against the public interest.

We could also protect farmers from expensive court litigation regarding plant variety and patent disputes.

Finally, I would like to say that we, as parliamentarians, need to look very carefully before rejecting a system that has worked well for farmers. I would once again like to thank the National Farmers Union for their efforts in analyzing what is at stake here with Bill C-18. It is my hope that all farmers and farming organizations will give this research careful consideration prior to making a final decision on this bill.

Five years ago I toured Canada to see what Canadians had to say about a national food policy. These consultations gave civil society groups, agricultural organizations and ordinary citizens the opportunity to express their concerns about vulnerabilities within the existing food production system.

I visited more than 28 communities on this tour. All across the country, participants almost unanimously agreed that Canada should protect its food security and food sovereignty.

They feel that Canada should develop a comprehensive food policy so that every Canadian can have access to healthy food, so that local producers can maintain their agricultural operations and so that we can protect the agriculture sector for future generations.

Participants also proposed that the federal government support local producers by enforcing mandatory local procurement for state institutions and that it encourage other governments to do the same.

What this implies is that Canadians, especially farmers, need to have more control over their food supply. This ability to control a country's food supply is the fundamental principle of food sovereignty. Since we are a trading nation, our goal has to be to somehow find what I call a delicate balance between trade and food sovereignty. As was pointed out to me during my food for thought tour, and as many Canadians are saying today, the balance is quickly tipping away from our ability to have control over our food supply. Bill C-18 is just another step in this direction. If we concentrate the power in the hands of multinational corporations, we as a nation become vulnerable and lose the ability to feed ourselves.

I have taken a lot of criticism from the other side when I have questioned the benefits of our so-called free trade agreements. I have often said that many of our fruit and vegetable producers have been put out of business because of the free trade agreement with the United States and NAFTA. Prior to these agreements, we had in-season tariffs that protected our farmers. Now they have to compete with a free flow of produce into Canada that is often dumped at below the cost of production.

In its report, “The Farm Crisis and the Cattle Sector: Toward a New Analysis and New Solutions”, the National Farmers Union has made a correlation between the drop in cattle prices at the time of the report and the implementation of the Canada–U.S. free trade agreement in 1989. Since then we have seen our exports drop due to BSE and trade initiatives. Now we are being hit by U.S. country-of-origin labelling, or COOL.

Many people who took part in my cross-Canada consultations questioned the wisdom of including agriculture in free trade agreements. Let us look at our supply managed sector. It is a system that works, receives no government subsidies, and provides Canadians with excellent milk, eggs, and poultry products. It works because we do not allow the free flow of these goods into our country. Now with the proposed Canada–Europe trade agreement, or CETA, this farmer-run system is under threat. Canada will allow an additional 17,000 tons of artisan cheese from Europe, which will hit our cheese producers hard, especially those in Quebec. Now there is talk, of course, of government subsidies to help these farmers. The whole thing does not make any sense at all. Our cheese producers will now be competing with farmers from the E.U. who are being propped up by government tax dollars. There is pressure to further erode our efficient supply managed system as we prepare to sign on to the trans-Pacific partnership agreement, a further loss of control.

Many of us stood in this House as we tried to convince the Conservatives not to dismantle the farmer-operated Canadian Wheat Board. With a stroke of a pen, and no vote from farmers, the CWB lost its single-desk capacity to sell wheat and barley. There is some justification to say that the current backlog and crisis in the rail industry could be an indirect result of the change in roles of the CWB, which used to coordinate rail shipments of grains under the single-desk system. What we saw over the winter was a lack of coordination and railway companies not responding to the needs of farmers.

This gradual loss of food sovereignty extends to the whole area of genetic modification. For example, if the GMO Arctic apple is planted in B.C., it will contaminate non-GMO varieties, and farmers will lose their markets. If GMO alfalfa is released into the environment in Ontario, it will also contaminate and cripple, especially the organic industry.

In British Columbia we are fortunate to have the agricultural land reserve, introduced by the provincial NDP government in 1973. No succeeding provincial government has tampered with this protection of our arable land, which is less than 5% of our total land surface, until now that is.

The current B.C. Liberal government is leading a core review which could result in land being taken out of the ALR for development purposes. The current B.C. agriculture minister, Norm Letnick, to his credit, has opened the consultation and I thank him for this. I know that the provincial NDP agriculture critic, Nicholas Simons, as well as MLAs Katrine Conroy and Michelle Mungall in my riding also have been very vocal in their support of the ALR.

We only have to look at the recent drought in California to see the effect this has on us. If this is a trend in the future due to climate change, it is imperative that we put more land into production rather than taking it out.

One of the largest broccoli producers in Ontario once told me that he only made money when there was a drought in Florida. It appears there will be more droughts, which means we need to put more land into production. I was told that the city of Toronto only had enough food supply for three days.

What role could the federal government be playing to ensure that our food supply is based on conservancy? I leave my hon. colleagues in suspense because I will tell them the answer the next time I have a chance.

Meat Inspection Act May 13th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking all of my colleagues who will be supporting my bill, especially those who have taken time today to speak out in favour of it, and also especially the official party support from the leader of the Green Party and the health and agriculture critics of the Liberal Party.

Bill C-571 is about the safety of our food supply. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture in his speech on March 31 said, “While this bill is being presented as such, in fact it is not.” This is false. He also stated, “This bill includes preventing horses from moving from one province to another within Canada”. This is also false.

Annex E: Equine Information Document of the CFIA, on page 20, clearly states that phenylbutazone is one of the long list of veterinary drugs not permitted for use in equine slaughter for food, meaning that no safe limits have been established. On page 21, there is a list of drugs permitted with a six-month withdrawal period; bute is not on this list. Therefore, we can conclude that the parliamentary secretary was incorrect in his comments regarding the Equine Information Document when he said, “The six-month period exceeds the recommended withdrawal period for a number of veterinary drugs, including bute”. This is more false information.

Let me turn to the speech from my hon. colleague from Welland, the agriculture critic for our party. He stated that the CFIA takes concerns about bute seriously and has ensured it is not allowed. A couple of years ago, The New York Times printed an explosive exposé on the problem of doping in the horse-racing industry, which prompted the U.S. government to conduct a committee study. The transcript of testimonies by veterinarians, breeders, trainers, and owners at all these committee hearings were shocking to me in their revelations regarding the overuse and abuse of a wide variety of legal and illegal medications on American racetracks. The CFIA has no laws or restrictions in place excluding racehorses from entering the slaughter system. In fact, Canada's horsemeat industry is deriving a significant portion of its product from racehorses, which should alarm us.

It has been shown time and again that our EID system is fraught with loopholes. In fact, the European Commission's veterinary office has deemed these documents to be frequently fraudulent.

I received an email today from a woman who recently purchased three horses at a horse auction. She did not receive any information about previous owners, nor were there any EIDs accompanying the animals. She also found out that the previous owner was not required to fill out an EID. She said:

If I were a kill buyer this casual transaction would please me greatly. I could then obtain fresh EIDs and fill them out as I pleased, while stating with complete honesty that “to my knowledge” the horses had not been given any substances banned for human consumption.

Henry Skjerven, former director of Natural Valley Farms in Saskatchewan, said:

The system as it stood when we were killing horses was in no way, shape or form, safe, in my opinion.

He went on to say:

We did not know where those horses were coming from, what might be in them or what they were treated with.

Equine Canada has upset many of its members over its lack of consultation before taking a position against Bill C-571 and issuing a lobby letter to me and my hon. colleagues. Many members of this organization are strongly opposed to horse slaughter.

Furthermore, the position Equine Canada has taken seems to be based on a few misconceptions. It states in its letter, quite incorrectly, that record-keeping such as would be required by Bill C-571 does not take place for horses in other countries, whereas in fact in the EU, Canada's main market for horsemeat, it is required that all horses, not just slaughter horses, have a passport within six months of the horse's birth or by December 31 of the year of its birth, and with this passport the horse's comprehensive lifetime medical record must be maintained.

I find it striking that by presenting arguments based on food safety, science, and legal accountability, renowned international equestrian Victoria McCullough and Florida state senator Joseph Abruzzo recently effected a nearly unanimous and non-partisan decision in the U.S. Congress to keep American slaughterhouses closed to horses.

Should we not be holding ourselves at least as accountable to food safety as the U.S. when it comes to slaughtering horses for human consumption? Should the same high standards that we require for all animals not also apply to equines?

Let us get Bill C-571 to the committee and to the debate it deserves and Canadians are expecting.

Animal Welfare May 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, keeping our food safe is a basic obligation of government.

However, there is no credibility to the claim that horse meat in Canada is safe. Unlike the cattle and pork industry, horses are not raised or inspected from birth in an agriculture industry with an intention to produce food for humans.

Due to the nature of the equine industry, the majority of horses in North America are administered with drugs throughout their lives that are toxic to humans. No safe withdrawal periods have been set for many equine drugs, such as wormers, fly sprays, and anti-inflammatories such as phenylbutazone.

I would never risk feeding horse meat to my family and friends. According to Canadian, U.S., and EU regulations, any administration of unapproved or prohibited drugs renders a horse's meat unfit for food, regardless of whether or not residue testing comes up negative.

My bill, Bill C-571, would make horse meat safe, by requiring a lifetime record of medications for horses that are sent to slaughter. I urge my colleagues to help me get this bill to committee for a thorough debate on this important food safety matter.

Petitions April 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is in support of my bill, Bill C-571 that comes under here as Bill C-322 to prohibit the importation or exportation of horses for slaughter for human consumption, as well as horsemeat products for human consumption.

Petitions April 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present two petitions.

The first petition is from residents of Rossland, B.C., asking us to refrain from making any changes to the Seeds Act or the Plant Breeders Rights' Act through Bill C-18.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there always has to be time and we always have to hope.

Yes, I believe that the government could look at this agreement and say that it would give them some time to clean up these violations. We could send in a team to observe what is going on, have a look at our companies that are there, and make sure that they are observing the laws of Honduras. If all of that was put in place, then the government could sign on the dotted line.

That would be the reasonable thing to do. It would respect the people of Honduras and go against the human rights violations that are currently in place.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, do we apply the same criteria to every country that we deal with? There is trade and then there is free trade. Canada has been a trading nation for many years. We continue to trade with some countries that are dictatorships and countries that violate human rights. But there is the idea of free trade.

When we sign a free trade agreement, there should be certain criteria. Regardless of the country, if it does not meet the criteria of a free trade agreement, then we should not sign an agreement with it. In spite of my objections to CETA, for example, Europe meets the criteria that we have established for free trade, as does South Korea, in regard to human rights. There is free trade, which is preferential trade, and there is trade, which we have with the Soviet Union and other countries.

I am not sure if that answered my colleague's question but that is my comment.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear that my hon. colleague is reading the stuff I have put out. That is excellent, and I thank him for that.

We have to look at trade agreements as benefiting our country first and foremost, and second, to look at what effect they will have on the countries we deal with. Here we are talking specifically about what is happening in Honduras, but I will go a bit further since my colleague mentioned CETA.

If someone were to come from another planet and say there are trade agreements being signed by this country that allow foreign corporations to sue our federal government so that our tax dollars go to fight these lawsuits or pay out to these corporations, we would think these were ludicrous. We have had companies suing our federal government, using our taxpayers' dollars, because they were not happy with our environmental laws or with what a provincial or municipal government was doing. Australia and other countries are removing provisions that something like Chapter 11.

If we include provisions in trade agreements that go against the best interests of our country, then we are bordering close to treason.