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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

Petitions December 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from my constituents in the Nelson-Castlegar area. The petitioners say that the Government of Canada has committed the Canadian Forces to an unbalanced counter-insurgent mission in southern Afghanistan that has no clear objectives, criteria for progress, definition of success or exit strategy. The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to begin the withdrawal of the Canadian Forces from the counter-insurgency mission in southern Afghanistan.

Immigration December 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would like to once again plead the case of German Melgar and Santos Molina who currently live and work in Oliver, B.C. in my riding.

We have recently learned that their application to stay in Canada, based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, has been refused. They are scheduled to be returned to El Salvador once their youngest child of seven months obtains her passport.

To their credit, the staff at Citizenship and Immigration have been working closely with this family to find another solution so that they will be able to obtain permanent residence status in Canada.

However, Mr. Melgar and Ms. Molina have expressed concern for their safety should they be forced to return to El Salvador at this time. Let us not forget that Mr. Melgar's father was executed in his home because of his political beliefs and Mr. Melgar has himself received threats of personal violence.

I implore the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to do everything in his power to ensure that this family is not forced to return to El Salvador while their fate in Canada is being decided. He alone has the power to change their fate.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006 December 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would like to get the opinion of my hon. colleague. Often what happens when we seem to follow the bidding of Americans and their policies, the commentary is that we have to be very careful. We do not want to interfere with the good relationship we have. Yet, I have read and heard with regard to softwood lumber and other incidents that people in power in the United States do not understand why we do this and why we are so compliant to the wishes of our trading partner.

I would like the member's opinion on this aspect. Does he believe that if we stood strong in our beliefs that we would have respect from those people south of the border?

Petitions December 4th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition with over 700 names on behalf of Antonio Melgar and Santos Molina, refugees from El Salvador currently living and working in Oliver. They have been told they have to return while their hearing on their application for permanent residence on humanitarian compassionate grounds is reviewed. There are unstable conditions that are a danger to their lives if they go back. The petition is signed by the members of the community on their behalf.

Canadian Wheat Board December 4th, 2006

The fact is, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture has demonstrated a blatant contempt: July, the minister's hand-picked Wheat Board opponents meet to plot strategy; September, a sham task force is charged with dismantling single desk; October, outright interference with the director elections; and now in December, loyalty to single desk is a firing offence.

This is getting out of hand. He must reinstate the president and CEO. He must stop acting like a dictator.

When will the minister learn that the Wheat Board works just fine without him and reverse all the negative decisions made to date?

Canadian Wheat Board December 4th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the president and CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board, Adrian Measner, has been fired by the Minister of Agriculture. Mr. Measner was democratically chosen by the elected board of directors. He has performed in an excellent manner on behalf of that organization.

In an emergency teleconference Friday, the Wheat Board directors passed a motion calling on the minister to reconsider.

Will the minister agree today to listen to the CWB board of directors and reconsider this foolish decision?

Employment Insurance Act November 24th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak about Bill C-278, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (benefits for illness, injury or quarantine), and to continue the debate on this bill.

This bill will allow people who claim sickness benefits under the employment insurance program to receive benefits for a maximum of 50 weeks instead of 15 weeks, as the program currently provides.

I say that the bill will “allow” claimants to receive benefits, because they will not necessarily use the full 50 weeks, but will have access to benefits for a longer period.

The 2005 report on employment insurance by the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development indicates that roughly 32% of sickness benefits claimants in 2004-05 received benefits for 15 weeks. According to a survey, 75% of the 500 respondents stated that this period was not long enough. In addition, 76% of the respondents said they had missed more than 15 weeks of work.

Clearly, there is a real need to amend the Employment Insurance Act. But let us turn our attention back to the bill.

This bill is for the men and women, the workers who have been diagnosed with cancer or a serious illness, illnesses that may require medical treatment that lasts longer than the 15 weeks provided for in the Employment Insurance Act. We also have to consider recovery time, which is just as important and necessary to successful treatment.

Imagine being diagnosed with cancer and having to undergo treatment to beat the cancer and increase your chances of survival. Imagine having to choose between getting better and going to work. The last thing anyone would want to worry about is money and keeping a job. Regaining health becomes the only goal. Fighting the disease is the priority.

Those are the people for whom this bill was drafted and introduced in this House.

Why should a family worry about its finances when the mother is seriously ill? It seems to me that the most reasonable thing to do would be to try to ease the family's suffering. This bill gives us the power to do that.

This bill is intended for future mothers and pregnant women whose health, or whose baby's health, is at risk and therefore must stop all activity during their pregnancy. At present, these women who use all their sick leave in such situations are left with a shorter maternity leave and forced to return to work earlier than planned.

When the Liberal government extended maternity leave to one year, it was absolutely convinced of the importance of this year of leave. We of the NDP are just as convinced. For the best possible development, a newborn baby needs to form a strong emotional bond with his or her mother. This bond is formed over time and with the mother's presence.

What could be more painful for a mother than to have to return to work after only a few months spent with her newborn? This bill will allow these women to stay at home longer and take advantage of their full maternity leave with their baby. This is good news to the NDP.

This bill is also intended for workers who burn out at work. Burnout affects a vast majority of Canadians. Rest and reducing stress levels are two important remedies. People who must return to work after just 15 weeks of sick leave do not have the opportunity to recuperate and get back on their feet. Burnout symptoms often re-emerge, and the changes of getting over them are slim.

In 2005, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities tabled the report Restoring Financial Governance and Accessibility in the Employment Insurance Program. This report contained 28 recommendations, including Recommendation 27 which reads:

The Committee recommends that the government study the possibility of extending sickness benefits by 35 weeks for those who suffer from a prolonged and serious illness.

The Liberal government at the time did not consider this recommendation and never took the necessary steps to implement it. As for the Conservative members, they did not support the report but they did support this recommendation.

The NDP is pleased to note that the Liberal Party has changed its mind and is tabling a bill on this matter in this House. I can only hope that the Conservative government will support this bill given that it supported this recommendation when the report was studied.

Today we are talking about health—the physical and mental health of Canadians. What is more precious than health? As parliamentarians we must adopt the best measures to ensure the quality of life of our citizens.

The NDP supports this bill and will vote in favour of Bill C-278 to enhance the dignity of the people, the well-being of citizens, to provide relief to families and to support the sick in their struggle.

The Québécois November 24th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, we have a couple of concepts here. We have the idea of a nation within a country and we have the nation that we are talking about, Quebec. We have the nation of first nations. We have other nations who have a right to call themselves a nation within our federal context. However, the question that my hon. colleague addresses, that of poverty, that of injustice, vis-à-vis our first nations, is not acceptable.

In order to keep our country together, it is imperative that we address those concerns. We are only as rich as the poorest people. We are only as rich as those people who live in those outlying area, who can have access to water, and who can have access to all the good things that we all desire.

The Québécois November 24th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have an opportunity today to speak in the House about my country, Canada. One of the reasons why I decided to go into federal politics is that I firmly believe in Canadian unity. That being said, I have been thinking about this issue for years, especially about Quebec's place within our federation.

The NDP recognizes that Quebeckers form a nation. At its convention, held just two months ago in Quebec City, the NDP supported without any hesitation the national character of Quebec, as it has done for 40 years. We believe in a strong Quebec within a united Canada. We also believe that ordinary Quebeckers will be better served if Quebec remains within Canada.

What does all that mean for me, a Vancouver-born Canadian of Russian and Ukrainian origin whose mother tongue is Russian? In my family, we were able to keep our culture and still be proud to be Canadians. I arrived in Quebec City in 1975 to learn French. I recall living on Crémazie Street. I was taking language training at the university and was beginning to understand the Quebec culture.

Since then, Quebec has become a special corner of my country, a place not like any other. I have had the opportunity to live in every major region of Canada and I must admit that every time I go back to Quebec I feel at home.

This might seem a little odd to my friends living in the West, but those who have spent time in Quebec think the same way. I have had the honour of living in Quebec a number of times: for a summer course in Chicoutimi; for three months in Trois-Rivières in 1989 with my wife: a few months in Quebec City; for visits with my friends in Thetford. In fact, I went to see them this summer before our convention in Quebec City.

In the 1990s, I was a French immersion teacher in British Columbia. At the time, I twice had the opportunity to bring a group of students to Thetford. That is when I first met my friends, the school teachers and their families. We have remained friends ever since. Every time I go there, I feel like I am going home. I want to thank Mike, Robert and Jocelyn.

It was thanks to SEVEC, the society for educational visits and exchanges in Canada, a federal program, that we were able to go on these exchanges. Is there a better way to get to know one another? Is there a better way to see both parts of the country? I was also able to send students to Quebec through a six-month exchange program. They spent three months in Quebec, and the Quebeckers spent three months with us. Imagine what it is like for a young student from British Columbia to stay and live with a Quebec family for three months. There is also the Katimavik program, which encourages young people to travel throughout Canada. It is important. I urge this government to maintain this program and every program of this nature.

All that is my personal experience, what I have been through and what I will continue to do. I met my wife, an American, in Martinique through a federal bursary program in the summer of 1986. French is our language of love. She is the one I spent three months with in Trois-Rivières and she is the one I went with to visit my friends in Thetford. When she speaks French I can even detect a slight Quebec accent.

I am not here to bring in so-called logical arguments to make sure Quebec continues to play an integral and important role in a united Canada. We know that there are many of those arguments. I am here to share with my colleagues, and especially with my friends from Quebec, my profound and heartfelt beliefs.

I hope with all my heart that the people of Quebec will decide to remain with us in the Canadian family.

Finally, we know that there are external forces that want to destroy our country and put pressure on us. I am alluding here, for example, to those who want to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board, who advocate corn dumping in Quebec and Ontario or want us to abide by the so-called global rules.

It is by remaining united, from coast to coast, that we can fight those external forces and preserve Canadian sovereignty.

A united Canada, independent and strong, will guarantee that the Quebec nation remains a full and strong member of the Canadian federation.

Petitions November 24th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition with over 100 names asking that terminator technology in Canada be banned. The fact that seeds are made sterile and that seed saving is key to the livelihoods farmers, the petitioners call upon Parliament to enshrine in legislation a permanent national ban on terminator technologies to ensure that these are never planted, field tested, patented or commercialized in Canada.