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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is things.

NDP MP for Windsor West (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 51% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Finance November 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I was hoping that we would get a bit more from the parliamentary secretary and a more serious response from the government on this. Here we really have the crux of everything when the member mentioned enlightened financial choices. The fact of the matter is that we can have all the enlightenment we want, but when the banks have in place an organized structural or institutional attempt to have their employees sell to Canadians products they do not need and given the cost of these products, it is nothing short of organized crime. It is an organized effort to move people's money to financial products that are not in their best interests.

Why are the government members not standing up for ordinary Canadians? The financial institutions are lobbying on their doorstep on an almost daily basis and are not getting the message that this is not only inappropriate, but also will be met with the same type of disdain and attitude. Canadians say they do not want to be ripped off anymore, not only in overt ways that are is clear, such as payday loans and fees for their bank accounts, but in less overt organized efforts to sway them into banking practices and products they do not need. That is organized and awful.

Finance November 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on an issue on which Canadians need some accountability and on which the Minister of Finance can stick up for Canadians. We know that the Minister of Finance has been under a lot of pressure because of ethical questions related to his own financing and his connection to legislation in the House of Commons. A question I asked, and something he can act on, is about the financial impropriety of banks related to employees feeling pressure to sell Canadians products, which they do not feel is ethical. In fact, a CBC investigation brought forth a number of bank practices that are extremely disconcerting, from a public accountability point of view.

The finance minister has been under intense lobbying by the banks. Prior to his coming to this chamber, they already had a cozy relationship, from his previous private job. There has also been an issue of ethics and conflict of interest related to Morneau Shepell over a number of different pieces of legislation in the House of Commons.

I would ask the minister to take specific action on the predatory practices of the banks, not only in terms of a bad environment for people and their investments but because employees are being pressured to sell Canadians products that they do not think are in their best interest. Those products are investments and other elements related to people's finances.

The banks are using predatory practices to pressure the sale of a number of different products that are not helpful to Canadians. When people think they are going to the bank to get some type of service, not only do they face overcharging related to service charges but they find out that the premiums they are paying, some of the highest in the industrialized world, are not even giving them the internal support of the bank.

I would argue that these types of predatory practices, because they fall under the Bank Act, are something we should have seen from the government and the minister, given that they have been so compromised in relation to the ethical issues around the Minister of Finance.

When the minister responded to me, I was quite surprised that he talked about the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. It is not an appropriate response, from the head of our finances, to say that we already have one little agency that will protect Canadians. We needed the Minister of Finance to say that he has been deluged by bank lobbyists in his office, in the government, and on the Hill. They clearly have influence.

It is a time for the minister and the government to step up, whether it is on payday loans or high credit card fees. We have some of the highest rates for small business in the industrialized world, and we cannot even move on that.

I am hoping today we hear about some type of backbone, especially given the compromised position of the government on this issue. Will the Liberals stand up for ordinary Canadians, especially since bank employees have been the whistleblowers?

National Security Act, 2017 November 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, we have to ask what the repercussions of all these breaches are.

Our men and women who are serving Canada so well in our intelligence agency and our law enforcement agencies need specific, clear rules, which cannot be reinterpreted, to do their jobs with such sensitive casework and files. I am concerned that Bill C-59 would not provide that framework and could undermine, quite frankly, what is necessary, which is confidence for them to be able to do their jobs, integrity with regard to privacy, and repercussions if there is a problem.

National Security Act, 2017 November 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is getting into some of the details, but I think the details are very important. When we start to look at the practical applications of those details and how it affects people's lives, it is a very pertinent and important question and very much germane to what I am concerned about with regard to personal privacy.

The member is absolutely correct with regard to the language. There is a contradiction there, which can become a discretionary call. We saw this before with the Maher Arar case and then other cases. If there are no clear, explicit rules for understanding how to move on an actual item of information or an individual, it can create immense complications for them. I know for a fact that when CSIS agents have decided, for whatever reason, and sometimes they are good reasons, I am assuming, to interview or intervene with a family in Canada, it is almost impossible to do so without the community knowing in one way or another. Even the most innocent elements can have a disastrous effect on a family and the perception of that family in the community. This is one of the reasons we cannot have these grey areas or contradictions that are in the legislation right now.

I come from a community of 200,000 in the general Windsor area. The greater Windsor area is larger than that. I can tell members that if there is some type of engagement with a family by CSIS, it gets beyond the personal boundaries, which can be quite complicated. Fishing expeditions, if they become that way, can have traumatic repercussions for families, including their children.

National Security Act, 2017 November 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, one cannot help but look to the past to see how we got here today with this bill, Bill C-59, because it really comes from the framework of Bill C-51. It is one of the reasons New Democrats will be opposing this bill, just as we opposed Bill C-51. At least we had an honest debate with the Conservatives about our position on Bill C-51, whereas the Liberals said they had concerns but then voted for Bill C-51, then later ran on a platform to get rid of Bill C-51.

Now we are stuck with Bill C-59. Their objective is clearly to muddy the waters so much that nobody will be able to follow this outside of the House of Commons, aside from experts in security intelligence. People are having to follow House of Commons debates on a regular basis, which is very difficult to do when there are so many things happening.

There still is interest out there. The bottom line is whether the privacy of Canadians will become unhinged by national security issues that undermine our civil liberties. When I look at some of the perspectives of Conservative members on civil liberties, I am, quite frankly, surprised that in this case, with Bill C-59, they do not have more backbone to raise issues about that balance, especially given the fact that one of their members, who very much has a strong civil libertarian background, nearly became leader of their party.

I can say this much about Bill C-51. Civil liberties and privacy are essential for a modern and functioning democracy. One of the continuing concerns with Bill C-59 is the assembly and distribution of personal data. It is real. There are people, such as Maher Arar and others, whose lives have been turned upside down because their personal information was used in a way that exposed them, their families, their business and personal contacts, and the people in their lives. It was an organized decision by our government agencies, the RCMP and CSIS, to exchange information with foreign powers related to that personal, private information. As Bill C-59 goes to committee, the Privacy Commissioner has expressed those concerns.

There are several cases in Canadian history where this has been germane to the concern people have about their privacy. I would argue that it has become even more difficult for individuals because of the use of electronic information for everything from taxes, to banking, to social exchanges, to employment. It is not as if this information is captured and stored in a vault somewhere that has very little exposure to third parties. The reality is that there are breaches. Other governments are actively attempting to break through Canadian databases on a regular basis, even countries we supposedly have decent relationships with in terms of trade, commerce, and discourse. There are attempts to abuse Canadian privacy.

Numerous mistakes have been made, over decades, when Canadians' personal information has been released by accident. I point to one of the more interesting cases we have been successful in. It showed the malaise in government. It was when the Paul Martin administration of the Liberals outsourced data collection for our census to Lockheed Martin through a public-private partnership. Basically, the Canadian census data collection component was outsourced to an arms manufacturer, which was compiling our data at public expense, because we were paying for it. When we did the investigation, we found that the information was going to be compiled in the United States. That would have made that information susceptible to the USA Patriot Act, back in 2004 or 2006. That would have exposed all our Canadian data, if it was going to be leaving the country.

Thankfully, a lot of Canadians spoke out against that. First, they had personal issues related to an arms manufacturing company collecting their personal information, especially when that company was producing the Hellfire missile and landmine munitions, when Canada had signed international agreements on restricting the distribution of those things. They also felt that the privacy component became a practical element with it moving out of the country. Thankfully, that stopped, and we amended it at that time.

The Government of Canada had to pay more money to assemble that data and information in Canada, so it cost us more. What the Liberals were trying to do was export the jobs, ironically, outside the country. The vulnerability of the Canadian data we were paying for was out of the country, then we had to pay a premium to bring it back and keep it in the country. That practice has ceased. We recently had the innovation committee confirm that, when the census committee came before us.

With Bill C-59, I still have grave concerns about the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act. It appears that most of the changes are going to be cosmetic. The Privacy Commissioner has alluded to that as well. When CSIS and other government agencies have that information, when is it scrubbed when it is provided? When is it no longer used? When is it no longer stored? When can it potentially be exposed by accident or for a reason?

Bill C-59 would put several laws in place. I want to note that there was extensive public consultation on it. The reality is that Bill C-51 was criticized by civil liberty advocates in “Our Security, Our Rights: National Security Green Paper, 2016”. The public feedback we had from that review was related to people's personal privacy and how it would be used.

I want to make sure we are clear that this is not a mythological issue. It has actually been noted. On November 26, the Federal Court issued a ruling on CSIS bulk data collection. The electronic data of people over a 10-year period was clearly something that concerned Canadians.

Unfortunately, we have not come to the realization that Bill C-51 was a flawed bill from the get-go. It was not a bill New Democrats could support, and Bill C-59 would just put a mask over that bill.

The Environment November 1st, 2017

Madam Speaker, if it is based upon science, then maybe, perhaps, the parliamentary secretary will explain why Ryden's Border Store, located just across the border in Minnesota, was one of the coordinates that was actually looked at for the alternate location for this particular project.

I will leave my comments specifically to that, because the other location that was identified was a bridge in Burlington, Ontario. However, let us just find out why it is that this review process came back with Ryden's Border Store, just across the border in Minnesota as one of the coordinates in the area as identified by OPG.

Let us talk specifically about the science of how that meets the minister's test of mettle in this case.

The Environment November 1st, 2017

Madam Speaker, I rise again today to bring an issue to public attention and to try to seek clarity and at least some direction from the Liberal government with regard to the environment and the storage of nuclear waste, and respect for municipalities, including aboriginal communities, and another nation, the United States. I am talking about an idea that was conceived more than a decade ago to store low-level and intermediate nuclear waste within limestone one kilometre from the Great Lakes, something that has never been done before and is certainly very controversial.

The fact that we need to understand is that the Great Lakes and the fresh water it supplies to the trillion dollars in industry in the region, including shipping, and the surrounding environment and the basin of civilization that developed out of the Great Lakes are at risk from this proposal. It is no surprise that 23 million people have participated in motions and hundreds of municipalities in official objections to this proposal.

Most recently, we were able to delay this process enough to have Ontario Power Generation complete an alternative site selection process for its original submissions. The type of work it came back with is indicative of the entire process. I say this because it had GPS locations for alternative sites that included a bridge in Burlington, Ontario, and second, a store that was actually in the United States off the Minnesota border in Grand Portage. The mere fact that those two locations were identified by GPS by the OPG should say something about its entire philosophy of storing nuclear waste for the next 100,000 years underground in what is basically a new type of venture next to the Great Lakes. This is certainly not with the competency one would expect for the legacy that we will, as a result, stuff into the backpacks of future generations, including the costs for our children.

I would also say that given the record of environmental stewardship that Canada likes to claim on the international front, we should make sure that we actually live up to some of those commitments. I know that the United States Congress, Senate, and other bodies have objected to this, as well as municipalities. Lo and behold, it was Joe Clark as Canadian foreign affairs minister at the time who asked the United States to back away from it and not to put nuclear waste and disposal facilities off the Great Lakes, which the United States agreed not to do.

Again, I rise with the objective of finally getting the government to live up to its stated philosophy of protecting the environment first. The mere fact that this idea continues to have some type of breath to it is unacceptable. I am hoping not to hear a canned response by the parliamentary secretary, but a good debate as to why the Liberals would even want to consider going down this path and not just end it once and for all now.

Cannabis Act November 1st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, one of the points of clarification I would like to have is regarding something that is important to border ridings like mine. Here I refer to the issue of criminal records and continuing criminalization of possession. Say, for example, I represent a number of truck drivers who were caught with marijuana at 16 or 17 years of age and charged with a federal criminal offence, which in now on their record. They have gone through the rest of their lives with no other records but still have this one hanging over them. This is causing problems at the border despite the fact they drive for one of the big three and have no other record.

Would the member and the Conservative Party support decriminalization and pardoning of these people so that those records from something that might have taken place 20 or 30 years ago do not cause unnecessary traffic tie-ups at the border and problems for someone who has had no subsequent criminal record? For these cases, would the Conservatives support making sure that those individuals no longer have a criminal record?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns November 1st, 2017

With regard to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) signed between Canada and the United States: (a) what is the list of all organizations that have received funding from the government related to this agreement; (b) what is the list of programs that are funded by the related funding; (c) what is the total of all funding, broken down by fiscal year, from the government under the GLWQA; (d) what is the total of all future approved funding for this fiscal year under Budget 2017; and (e) how does the Government of Canada's funding compare to that of the United States Government over the same period of time?

Transportation Modernization Act October 31st, 2017

Madam Speaker, on the airline passenger bill of rights, I have a quick and simple answer. Gerry Byrne, a Liberal who was in this House for many years, more than a decade, I believe, passed a motion calling for a passenger bill of rights that was equal to that of the Europeans and the United States. If my memory serves me correctly, the Liberals supported that Liberal. This bill does not even include that basic element, which is a shame.