House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was workers.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Davenport (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Copyright Modernization Act December 12th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, once again we have the laundry list of questions from the parliamentary secretary. Absolutely, Jim Cuddy is one of our great Canadian artists.

The problem we have here is that the balance with the government is never right. We have a parade of the captains of global industry who do not even need to knock on the door of the government. They get the red carpet every time they drive up to Ottawa.

The problem is that we do not hear enough voices from those who actually make their living on the ground in the arts and culture sector being able to speak to the government. Our job on this side of the House is to ensure we have an engaged debate on Bill C-11. It is also important that we bring some new ideas into this bill and, hopefully, the government will listen.

Copyright Modernization Act December 12th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues that the bill does not really address and one of the opportunities it misses is the idea of blanket licences. I come from a sector where we licence songs through a collective and those songs, whenever and wherever they are played, a portion of a revenue stream comes back to the creators of that content. The problem with digital locks is that they lock up the potential for further revenue streams for artists. Digital locks also do not provide the protection for content creators and owners because, as we have seen happen in the music industry, those locks can be circumvented. This is why the digital lock provision is troubling for us in our party.

Copyright Modernization Act December 12th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-11. In many ways, this bill and its predecessors are part of the reason I am here today. In 2006, I came to Ottawa as an artist to discuss copyright with the then heritage minister and the then industry minister. I came with a couple of other artists, Brendan Canning from the Broken Social Scene and Steven Page from the Barenaked Ladies. We came to talk to the government about what it was like to be a working musician and why we did not think suing fans was such a good idea.

One of the interesting things that came out of those meetings was that people were surprised that we did not want to sue everybody. That was the kind of thing the government had been hearing time and time again from those who had its ear, and those who had its ear were then, in 2006, and today, in 2011, the multinational media companies.

It is important to underline the fact that those companies, which employ many people and many of the people they employ are friends of mine and I, therefore, want to see a healthy and vibrant music business, but those companies do not speak for artists. They speak for the shareholders of multinational corporations. Their sole interest is in their bottom line, which is not necessarily the same as the bottom line of artists. It is also not necessarily the same bottom line that consumers have.

For example, we have many people in the arts and culture sector who look at the multinational corporations that, let us be honest, own most of the content that we are talking about here, and they have had historical struggles with these large entities.

One of the things about Bill C-11 and copyright generally is that there is an opportunity here to right some of the historical imbalances that we all know only too well. The musicians who barely eke by while the owners of their content makes millions upon millions. We hear those stories all the time. It has been noted that the music industry, like many of the creative fields, is a great place to get rich if one is lucky but a lousy place to make a living.

The copyright reform that we are talking about today is an opportunity to right some of that but this bill misses that opportunity by a mile. In fact, like the government on so many other occasions in this House, it likes to play politics. It likes to divide, rule, separate, hive off different groups and try to get them to bicker with other groups in its own effort to ram through legislation.

It is heartening to hear that the government is changing its tune about listening to the opposition around amendments. As we know, over the last several months in this House the government has not been interested in hearing anything form the opposition. In fact, when we have good ideas, it just rejects them. Occasionally, at the 11th hour it realizes there are some good ideas and that it had better rush them into bills only to discover that it cannot because it is too late. It is nice to hear that around Bill C-11 there is a willingness to listen.

One of the big issues for us on this side of the House is that artists get paid. I think Canadian society would agree that it is in our interest as a society to see a healthy, vibrant arts and culture sector.

However, when we have artists making below poverty wages to create the content that makes this country the rich and joyous place that it can sometimes be, it is incumbent on us in this place to look at ways in which we can foster a vibrant arts and culture sector so that more of the wealth that is created in this sector ends up trickling into the pockets of artists.

Forty-six billion dollars of Canada's GDP were created in the arts and culture sector in 2007. Twenty-five billion dollars in taxes for all levels of government in 2007 on an investment of $7.9 billion is pretty good. There are 600,000 workers in the sector, 4% of the Canadian workforce. This is perhaps my most favourite stat of all: Canadians spent twice as much on live performing arts in 2008 than they did on sports events. That is one stat that I particularly enjoy saying as often as possible.

The reason I am mentioning these statistics is that the arts and culture sector is a major driver of the Canadian economy, which is partially why this bill is so important and also why we need to take a serious look at the bill because for artists this bill falls short. It falls short for consumers on a number of levels, too, and for businesses as well. There are many ways in which the bill needs to be looked at.

However, I will just step back for a second. When I first came to Ottawa in 2006 as an artist to talk about this bill, I was shocked by what I heard. I heard that the government had no ideas, other than to lock down content and sue consumers. The government asked if we had any better ideas. Since 2006, I think there have been a lot of good ideas but very few of them are reflected in the bill that we see before us.

I come from the music sector. I am a songwriter, composer and producer. Copyright is something that I rely on. It is something that has helped me make a living in this country as an artist, which is something I am very proud of.

We have an opportunity to make this bill a fairer, more balanced playing field for artists. One of the particular pieces of the bill that makes absolutely no sense to us is the broadcast mechanical. Why would the government take $20 million from broadcasters who are making a $2.5 billion a year business here in Canada? Why would it just pluck that out and let it go?

We in our party are against that and we will be tabling amendments at committee that will seek to change that part of the bill because we do not want to see artists not get paid. In fact, the bill takes us a step backward in terms of compensation for artists, instead of looking at the myriad of possibilities that the digital era presents for us in the arts and culture sector.

Copyright Modernization Act December 12th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments and to all the comments today with great interest because this is an important issue for me personally as well as for many artists in our country.

With respect to the bill, it strikes me that the government has listened to many people from large multinational media corporations and perhaps has not listened enough to the voices of artists. The government consistently likes to talk, for example, to those in the tar sands without talking to environmentalists, or talk to big media conglomerates without talking to artists. I see a trend emerging and I wonder if my colleague sees the same trend.

Taxation December 12th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government continues to ignore hard-working families in the GTA. We have predatory temp agencies that can have half a worker's salary. We have car insurance rates in places like Brampton that are some of the highest in the country. To make matters worse, the Conservatives make huge cuts to services that help settle new Canadians in our region. It is a pile on. The Toronto area is one of the most expensive places in the country to live.

Therefore, here is a low tax plan for the Minister of Finance. Why does he not make life more affordable for Canadians and cut the federal tax on home heating?

Fair Representation Act December 9th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague opposite very closely.

He said that Quebec's status in this House would remain the way it was prior to the implementation of the bill, if it passes. That is simply not true. The member knows that Quebec's seat representation would drop by a percentage point.

Why the vagaries around the language? The hon. member knows that is the case. Why is he trying to say the opposite?

Service Canada December 9th, 2011

That is very good to hear, Mr. Speaker. The reason there is a rise in EI claims is that too many Canadians are unemployed. There are a number of ways in which the government could show some heart but, in this particular instance, the government has chosen a totally different track.

First, the government cuts front line EI workers and now it is putting the kibosh on overtime. Consequently, families in Toronto, for example, who are unemployed, and there are many, are wondering how they will make ends meet.

The government could choose to be Santa Claus or choose to be the reindeer even. Why does it choose to be the Grinch?

Fair Representation Act December 9th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, democracy is not just about seat redistribution. When the member opposite talked about all the people coming into his office with EI issues and immigration issues, maybe the member opposite should start talking to his cabinet colleagues about why we are flooded with these issues. This is about democracy too.

I think my colleague on this side speaks to a very important issue which is that if we are going to actually serve our constituents better, many things need to be in place and this conversation around seat redistribution is an important conversation, but it is not the only one that is going to solve the democratic deficit here in this country.

Fair Representation Act December 9th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member heard me say that this is an exercise in nation building, not an exercise in partisan one-upmanship or, in my view, dangerous populism. We are talking about fair representation. Speaking of which, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville in June was quoted as saying that his party is not against the idea of Quebec getting more seats, but will wait to see the whole picture.

Canadians really wonder where the Liberals are on this issue because they seem to be all over the place. It bears mentioning that we are the only official party in this place that advocates for proportional representation. That is a key issue here.

Fair Representation Act December 9th, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is Friday morning and everyone wants to speak on this important piece of nation building, which is what it is.

We have rural ridings that are large geographic areas that currently are struggling to gain access to their member of Parliament. We have large northern ridings that span the size of the United Kingdom. We have, of course, fast growing suburban ridings and more and more densely populated urban ridings.

In other words, we cannot accurately and fairly redistribute the seats just by looking at lines on a ledger. That is not what nation building is about. Nation building is about listening to the different voices in our country, listening to and responding to the different needs, realities, struggles, and hopes of the various regions in our country.

Oftentimes we say there are several different regions, but within those regions there are other regions. I would argue that the rural-urban dichotomy is one which we really need to think about and research, and thoughtfully proceed with more fair and balanced representation in this place on the basis of not just population numbers.

On our side of the House, we agree that these fast growing provinces need better representation. However, we on this side of the House also acknowledge and believe that the weight that Quebec currently holds in this place should be maintained. We believe those things. This bill does not achieve any of that. It does not go far enough for Ontario, Alberta or British Columbia, and it certainly does not go far enough for Quebec.

The government likes to bring in the bean-counters and we cannot build a nation with bean-counters. That is not how we have ever done that in this country. This is a living, breathing thing, and we need to respond to the realities of this country in a similar fashion.

In this current Parliament, we have seen the government run roughshod, essentially, over democracy in this place. We have seen it invoke time allocation nine times. Now we hear the Conservatives talk about how it is important for Canadians to have their voices heard in the House of Commons when at every opportunity they try to curtail that voice from actually being expressed here.

The Conservative members often talk about having discussed these bills ad nauseam and it being time to pass them. Meanwhile, we have 50-60-65-70 new members in the House of Commons. I think that the communities that these new members represent would like to have their voices heard in this place. We need to set this bill in the context of the government's propensity, whenever it feels it is in its favour, to run roughshod over parliamentary democracy.

We have several different, sometimes competing, interests. It is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians and it is incumbent upon the government, if it chooses to take that responsibility, to actually try to balance all of these concerns and to move forward in a way that builds this nation. The Conservative government likes to pit groups against each other. We saw that very early on when it tried to pit young workers against older workers in the lockout of CUPW workers.

We have seen time and time again that the reflex of the government is to divide. The reflex of the government is to play. As my hon. colleague over here said in his question/speech, it likes to come up with winners and losers. That is not what we are here to do.

We are here to bring people together, so that we create winners in this country, not some winners and some losers. That is what we on this side of the House believe in. That is why this bill does not go nearly far enough. It does not go far enough at all.

One of my colleagues opposite has said that Canadians deserve to have representation that is fair and balanced. We agree that Canadians do deserve that.

However, we have a system of first past the post, which has created a scenario where, on the government side, 39% of Canadians voted for the government and, on this side, 61% of Canadians voted for other parties.

When we are talking about how we are going to fix the democratic deficit in this country, certainly the conversations that Canadians are having, and I think the hon. member opposite would agree, are more about the issues and distortions that first past the post create in our country than they are about the redistribution of seats.

We have several questions before us. The Senate is another example. I do not see many people in this country storming my office, pleading with me to advocate on behalf of Senate reform. They are wondering why we are spending $100 million on a non-elected Senate that actually shuts down bills that this democratically elected House passes. That is shameful. That is why more and more Canadians question the validity of the Senate; that is not to question the validity of those good senators who do some good work. We are talking about the institution here.

We have significant issues before us. The reason that we are here is to advocate for fair representation. We have no disagreement that there are some issues that need to be solved here. There is no question about it.

Fast growing provinces are not accurately represented here. There is no question about it. However, at the same time, we as a country have passed a unanimous motion that the Québécois form a nation in a united Canada. It is incumbent upon us to maintain the weight that Quebec has in this House.

We need to move beyond the divide and conquest approaches of the government to actually truly fix the democratic deficit in this country, which certainly includes seat redistribution, but it also includes a real examination of our electoral system and first past the post.