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NDP MP for Windsor West (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 51% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Resignation of Member September 22nd, 2016
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise and pay tribute to my colleague, the member for Calgary Midnapore. l have been elected to this chamber six times. The member has been elected seven times. I can empathize that our community's best option is to send us away. It seems to be one of the strengths of a community in this place.
I had a chance to pull the hon. member's first speech here in the House of Commons. I can imagine it. I remember my first days here and the nervousness. I am still always nervous, including today. When we lose that element, perhaps we lose some of that sincerity. However, the member set a good example every single day he came into the House. I was most impressed with him as a minister who would be doing his work tirelessly and also answering and participating in debate, even from members who were perhaps in a lesser role, at the back, not responsible for that critic area, or were just members in the chamber. I credit him for being one of the few examples of that in the chamber in the 15 years that I have been here. It is a tribute to the work he does.
When I look at the speech I wonder what the member was thinking, when just prior to his getting up to give his maiden speech, Mr. Dick Harris rose and said, “First of all, Mr. Speaker, let me assure the member from Thunder Bay that he will never ever find a Reformer kissing a Tory. That is a certain thing”.
Hence, his political career began in this chamber. He has been part of several different parties over the years. There has been the Reform Party and the Canadian Alliance Party. At one point they decided to get together. They had a brief marriage, so to speak, but when they discovered the acronym was CRAP they quickly disbanded. Henceforth we now have the Progressive Conservatives now in the Conservative Party. However, it is a tribute to the member that he has contributed in this chamber through several different elements related to his political parties, leadership, and putting himself forward. That is a very strong credit.
I listened closely to the member, and I want to quote some of his words, which are very apt for this discussion today. First, he thanked his staff. He used the words “public servants”, “professionalism”, “friends”, “proud Canadians”, “respect”, “thanks”, “collective”, “helpful”, “thoughtful”, “understanding”, “patience”, “unity”, “diversity”, and “aspire”. I would add, he also deserves similar words from me and many New Democrats. Even as a minister, he was approachable, he was a listener, and he was knowledgeable. He still is. It is not like he is gone forever. He is just gone from here.
It is fair to say and worthy to note just some of the offices and roles that he held as a parliamentarian: minister of national defence, minister of multiculturalism, minister of employment and social development, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, and secretary of state and parliamentary secretary to the prime minister. It is clear he has not been able to hold a job here and might have a similar challenge where he is going, but in all seriousness this shows how he has become very much an asset for all of Parliament, having that repertoire of experience.
Often, sensational things make the news, but it can be some of the most mundane things that we do not think about that are important. It can be a conversation, working on a committee, or doing something else that can lead to something as profound as a family being reunited, someone getting the support they need, or someone's life being changed because government services did something for them. Those things, which are often not noted in the big headlines, are certainly some of the things the member did and worked on in all of those roles.
He received awards in several categories, including best overall MP and hardest-working MP. His 20-hour work days was one of the reasons he got the latter award. I would say that the sleep deprivation may have interfered with some of his judgment, but in all fairness, there are several other awards that he was given that are probably too lengthy to note, but I personally appreciate his award from UN Watch for his courage in speaking out for others. He was not afraid to speak truth to the powers that be, something that we New Democrats often have to do.
We have fixed the problem where he is going, Alberta, but we are still a work in progress here in the House of Commons.
I do want to note two important things. He has often quoted John Diefenbaker, that “Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong”. That is heartening to this chamber.
I want to conclude by saying that I have mixed emotion in rising here today. I feel glee and excitement because I know that the member is leaving. No, I was just joking.
But truthfully, there are two things we can do here today as New Democrats in the House of Commons. First, we can most sincerely thank him on a personal level for his commitment. We can also thank his family and friends and the people in his life who helped put him democratically in this chamber, who did all that work and made all those efforts time and time again during elections, and the support of his family. They gave up parts of their lives too so he could pursue his work here today, which was time well spent in this chamber for this country.
That said, we obviously cannot wish him well on a professional basis because we are very proud of the Notley government. Here I would make the casual observation that both Brian Jean and Jim Prentice left this chamber to go to Alberta. I do not know if the Conservative Party is doing this on purpose, but it should quit sending us candidates from the federal party for us to defeat them provincially.
There is one last quote from John Diefenbaker that I think is a good way to conclude: “I never think of memories; I am still making history”.
I want to thank the member for making memories for his constituents, for this country, and for this chamber, and to wish him well in his next chapter.
Food and Drugs Act September 20th, 2016
Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Brampton East for a very good intervention, which also touched on several complicated issues related to this agreement.
I was also pleased to hear the discussion around CBSA. What I have raised on Bill C-13 is the question of organized crime, and particularly the goods that get into our country. The ports only check 4% of goods that come into our country, and they will be mixed, including now, with new types of materials and other things that are going to other countries.
Organized crime is one of the things that I have been pushing against with a number of different things, including my bill that will be voted on this Wednesday, Bill C-221. The bill would help eliminate $10 billion in organized crime from single-event sports wagering. We have British Columbia, Ontario, and other provinces onside to diminish organized crime in this country.
I ask the member if, in his opinion, CBSA would get enough resources to tackle the potential of organized crime, basically using Trojan horse trade coming in to allow other goods and services of contraband, which should not be coming into Canada, to go to other countries.
Food and Drugs Act September 20th, 2016
Madam Speaker, certainly some members know about better “wining” than others.
It is clear that the member gave a good speech today. I am interested in Bill C-13 going to committee. I do want to highlight this in light of some of the broader bills over the last number of years that have avoided committee.
The member for St. Catharines knows very well the importance of the auto sector. I would like to congratulate Unifor for reaching a tentative agreement with General Motors this morning, which will now go to an actual ratification vote.
Perhaps the member can highlight the importance of the automotive sector for his region, the importance of those jobs, and especially how committee can play a role to look at the potential issues we have to deal with, related to Bill C-13 and making sure the auto sector is thriving for this country.
Food and Drugs Act September 20th, 2016
Madam Speaker, I have raised this extensively because Bill C-13 would amend several pieces of legislation that deal with everything from poisons, to hazardous material, to other potential contraband coming into Canada. Organized crime uses this as a serious plank for operations, and that is why I spoke earlier about my private member's bill that will be up for a vote on Wednesday to send it to committee. It deals with single event sports betting in Canada, which amounts to $10 billion annually that goes to organized crime base, minimum. Last time, Joe Comartin's bill passed to the Senate, and since then there has been about $50 billion of estimated gaming revenue going to organized crime, with no public good.
There is $4 billion that goes offshore for other types of practices as well, and people are asking for regulation. This chamber will have a chance on Wednesday to strike first and fast at organized crime's number one tool, and I am hoping Bill C-13 could be the second tool for that issue.
Food and Drugs Act September 20th, 2016
Madam Speaker, yes, there will be amendments, and there will also be concerns raised with regard to the ports, where the volume of traffic coming into the ports is only checked at 4%. I submitted evidence yesterday, including from the minister's organization, the Public Safety Canada report that talked about how only 4% of containers that come into Canada are checked for contraband or illegal goods and how organized crime uses this as the number one element to get goods into Canada.
Interestingly enough, what was in the government report was the fact that contraband and illegal goods were mixed together, and this is something we will have to deal with. To summarize, we are going to need the proper resources. Instead of the government neglecting and cutting Canada Border Services Agency positions, we need to invest in it to ensure safety for CBSA personnel and for our country.
Food and Drugs Act September 20th, 2016
Madam Speaker, I actually did not raise the TPP during my speech, but I would be happy to answer.
The concerns the NDP members have raised, and they are concerns brought to us by many stakeholders, not just here in Canada but at the beginning of the discussions on the TPP, were that they were done in private and created an agreement that, basically, we cannot amend right now.
Let us imagine that someone went to buy an automobile—my personal preference, in terms of my riding, would be a Pacifica—and in trying to negotiate the sale was given a contract, with the only option being to sign that contract.
Later on, when there were discussions and hearings, as we are having, we heard concerns that people were not consulted during the creation and have no avenue to deal with the issue.
I would continue to at least look at some of the benefits and some of the challenges we have. On Bill C-13, I have talked a lot about organized crime and the exposure of our ports, with goods and services coming into Canada, which would expand, as would the problems we have with organized crime.
Interestingly, we are going to have a chance in this chamber very soon to deal with a bill on organized crime. It is my private member's bill, Bill C-221, which is up for a vote on Wednesday. That bill alone will end a $10-billion annual benefit, in cash, for organized crime in Canada alone, and $4 billion in Canadian money that goes offshore.
We can affect things right here, right now. This bill, C-13, will have further challenges if we want to tackle organized crime.
Food and Drugs Act September 19th, 2016
Madam Speaker, the question is very important and is one that I did not get a chance to discuss. As we are increasing our trade, which is good, we also require the same investment for our processing and our infrastructure. That is critical, because right now we are deficient on both fronts.
We are trying to build a new border crossing in Windsor, which was supposed to be built in 2013 and now has been delayed for the RFP process because they want to do a public-private partnership indefinitely. That is giving a lot of people cold feet, because the RFP has been sitting in a box, so to speak, for seven months.
We have to invest in those allocated resources necessary for infrastructure, but also CBSA. Our men and women, who are not only checking the devices and the things coming in, but are very important in protecting against organized crime. Put the workers who were laid off back to work. They were doing investigative work with the CIA, the FBI and the RCMP.
Food and Drugs Act September 19th, 2016
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate Bill C-13. As New Democrats, we support getting the bill to committee, but there are some serious questions that need to be addressed at committee.
Over more than a decade, I have seen an almost juvenile debate against trade or for trade. All these things turn off many Canadians, because they understand that trade created this country. Even in terms of the foundation of this country, there were different items that allowed for trade and sale. Some of the most severe, for example, were related to slavery. Canada and the British Empire were one of the first to end that trade practice, despite our neighbours to the south who continued that practice. It is part of the heritage of the area of Windsor West, which was the end of the Underground Railroad, where people came for freedom. They were a commodity.
Trade is ingrained, in a much more social fabric, and is part of our history.
Bill C-13 is very important and we should not underestimate it. Those who think it is just a maintenance bill have to go no further than reading the acts it is amending. The Food and Drugs Act is obviously very important for our health and items related to our food chain.
The Hazardous Products Act is significant. I come from a community where more than 30% of our daily trade with the United States goes along two kilometres of the border, and in that two kilometres, we fight daily to make sure that hazardous material crosses on a ferry system, in full compliance with the law, versus going over a bridge, where there is no way to get fire services to put out a fire in a truck that has chemicals or other things that should not be there. Unfortunately, in that process, some people in trucking institutions change the placard that says that it has dangerous or hazardous materials and has to cross at certain crossings. They will change that placard by taking it off or putting another one on to hide it so they can cross the border. Nobody sees them, at times, until they get to the other side. If there is such a thing as a spill, there is no containment and capture on the Ambassador Bridge. It seeps into our drinking water.
Another act needing amendment is the Radiation Emitting Devices Act. Nuclear waste is a significant issue that we as a country, and many other countries across the globe, have not taken seriously enough. I fought a campaign about four years ago to stop Great Lakes nuclear waste items, which were not emitters themselves but were contaminated from the work they did, from going on ships across the Great Lakes. Exposure would be like standing by the shore and getting an X-ray.
Imagine if there had been any problem with the turbines and they ended up in the Great Lakes. There was no recovery system for them. However, they were then to go all the way across the ocean to Scotland to be worked on, basically to be melted down, to be consolidated in a more solid form and come back across more highly radiated but smaller. We would end that process.
The point I am making is that even during the creation of nuclear waste, these items that we are amending through this process could even involve hospital things, the secondary nuclear waste. This relates to the current campaigning that we are working on right now, because the government has on the table a proposal to store secondary nuclear waste for up to 100 million years right next to the Great Lakes.
This waste material is to be put down a shaft the length of the CN Tower within a kilometre of the Great Lakes for 100 million years, and only three of these in the world. Two are closed in Germany, and the third in New Mexico caught fire a couple of years ago and radiated some of the people working there.
Therefore, the single-source location for this experiment is something that we have opposed. A more progressive and thoroughly exhaustive approach to dealing with this nuclear waste is needed, as opposed to just saying, “Okay, we're going to put here, we'll give you some cash, you guys deal with this. You'll get some jobs, hooray, and we'll leave this for somebody else 100 million years from now to deal with”. Even the most stringent heavy nuclear waste facility could only last 10,000 years at best with the estimates they are making. Therefore, these issues that we can change here with Bill C-13 are very important.
The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act is another issue that would change here. It worries me, with the bill before us, and I want to see some of the testimony that comes forward. The background work that I have done on some of the counterfeit and knock-off items that are coming into Canada and also being used across the world relates to the proposed legislation, which would potentially make it easier for the movement of those materials.
People might think right now that maybe it is just a knock-off of a favourite Marvel t-shirt, sports t-shirt, or whatever it might be. It is not a big deal for them. However, when we look at the data and the research, often the people making those things are children. Instead of going to school, they are being exploited to produce those items.
At one time this parliament had an all-party committee that I co-chaired with Dan McTeague, a Liberal at the time, and we had a Conservative member, James Rajotte, formerly of the Canadian Alliance and then Conservative Party. We had several meetings on the types of items, and it was not just those handbags and t-shirts. There were counterfeit items, like circuit boards, which were in hospitals. They had CBS standards stamped right on them. Therefore, installers, electricians, and others could not determine which were the knock-offs versus the others. We heard about other types of issues, including plane and automotive parts getting into the manufacturing assembly process.
Why, when we look at Bill C-13, is this very important? It is because we are amending some other acts that would increase some of the trade, which can be good for jobs and can be good for some of the processing that we do in this country, but it comes with some risks. How do we mitigate the risks?
What I mean by that is the fact that we only screen about 4% of the containers coming into our ports in this country. We have around 10,000 trucks going through the Windsor-Detroit corridor per day. We have a compliance rate that is one of the best in the world, and an oversight rate that is among the most stringent.
Meanwhile, we only screen 4% of the containers coming in to ports like Halifax, Montreal, and Vancouver. We have heard about a number of different things, as I mentioned, related to knock-offs and counterfeits. In that, we also have drugs, some of them are not just illicit drugs but prescription drugs that are getting across the border. This act also calls for issues related to the Pest Control Products Act, chemicals that are listed in Canada. The act would now make us compliant with the WTO. With all those goods and services coming into Canada, it would give us the provision to do some screening, and I would argue that we would actually have better response. We could send them back, store or keep them, or we could redistribute them.
I have been supportive, to a degree, of that type of thing, and I will give my Conservative colleagues credit on this. I had a bill on invasive carp in the last session of Parliament, and it was passed through regulations. We had a big campaign on it. The bill was about allowing invasive carp that come from the United States into Canada to be seized by CBSA officers. Without waiting for Fisheries and Oceans officials, because in certain areas we do not have those people, the CBSA officers could then send those fish back to the United State right away or destroy them.
Here is a quick lesson for people. Invasive carp stand high when they are stood up. They eat everything so that nothing else gets food. It is an invasive aquatic species that has destroyed the Mississippi River and the heritage there, and it is sold illegally in Canada. It is seen as a delicacy, and there are other types of uses. We have been fighting to keep this out. There is an electrical fence in the Mississippi to try to keep them out of the Great Lakes, but they come across into Canada.
My bill, with some penalty improvements and a number of things, was graciously accepted by the then government and it was implemented. Now we do not have to wait for Fisheries and Oceans officials to come before sending back the invasive carp. As an interesting side issue, the reason it is so important is that the invasive carp, like the Asian carp, can live in packed ice for 48 hours. They have “zombie-like characteristics”. They can be taken out of the ice, thrown into a tank, and they will wake up. The danger is that they are not just getting into the Great Lakes but into Ontario with its thousand-plus lakes, and in other lakes across this country. They are stored in ice to be sold to market, but some people have been releasing them into those lakes. If they happen to be females that are going to give birth, we have a real risk there, and we are seeing this more.
My point is that with this new bill, it will be interesting to see some of those things taking place. However, my concern is about the workers and the obligations of sending illicit products into our country that have a high degree of risk. With this agreement, we would get that type of a benefit, but here is the drawback, and it is a serious one. If Canada is not the point of destination for something that is not approved, we have to allow it to be moved to another point. Someone could be shipping something that, for example, contains mercury that is legal in another country, or perhaps asbestos, which is another banned substance. That has been in everything from drywall to crayons for kids. These materials that are not regulated in Canada then escape our laws here and they move through. That is a best-case scenario.
That is assuming that there is no potential for those products to get further into Canada through our systems, whether by rail, plane, car, truck, or any way whatsoever. We have to rely upon the shipper to do that.
We have talked a bit about trade and competition and other things like that. I saw the Prime Minister in China. I want members to think about this. I have heard the same argument over and over again, that if we could just make sure that we have access to China and other countries, they will change their practices, they will not use children, they will not use cheap awful labour with humanitarian discrepancies, and they will not use the environment basically as a subsidy for production.
One of the things I am most proud of, and I give credit to the Liberals for eventually changing this, is that it used to be legal in Canada for an environmental fine or penalty to be a business-related expense. That is what happened. I arrived in Parliament in 2002-03. I could not believe it. Individuals could get half of their money back from a fine or a penalty. This was a judge's ruling. Say for example that a company poisoned a river and was later fined for doing so. That company could claim up to 50% of the fine as a business-related expense. There were drug cases involving illicit drugs on the market that were marked wrong and were sold to men, women, and children in Canada. Those companies were later fined for marketing infringements. Unbelievably they could claim up to 50% of that fine as a business-related expense. That is unbelievable. It would be like a person receiving a $100 speeding ticket and then getting $50 back because they were on their way to work and it could be put down as a business-related expense. That is the way the law worked when I arrived here.
Think about this. It was a bigger argument than just the injustice of that. It was the injustice to the fair competitor who was doing the right thing, the company that was not draining oil in the auto shop out back, the company that was not processing meats and other products and disposing of them and not making sure viruses were not taking place. It was the farming community that did not use pesticides and other types of operations as a subsidy versus their competitors using illegal activity. They would have to compete against this illegal activity. We still see this behaviour taking place. I give the Liberals credit for this. At that time it was the Canadian Alliance, the precursor Conservative Party. We all finally agreed on a motion that I made at the industry committee. We did not budge from it and it was changed in the budget, so that is no longer the case. It is about fair practices. That is why Bill C-13 is going to be interesting; it relates to fair practices in China and other places.
I will quote from an organized crime research brief. Some people might think that this is a New Democrat conspiracy using a document from Public Safety Canada, a review that it had in our courts on organized crime. The number one methods and techniques used by organized crime groups include smuggling methods and concealment techniques such as the use of shipping containers, concealing contraband among legitimate imported goods by using fraudulent shipping documents, and the use of transit countries and co-operation among different criminal groups. That is the problem. Therein lies some of the challenges in terms of the use of those containers that we currently have a problem on, but only at 4%. They could contain lead toys, materials not approved by Health Canada, or other materials that should not be in our consumption stream.
This is a serious piece of legislation. It is about Canada competing with other countries. It is also about Canada competing with other rules that may or may not sync up with our values.
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns September 19th, 2016
With regard to employment levels at the National Research Council, for each year since 2005: (a) what was the total number of employees (full-time equivalents); (b) what was the total number of researchers, scientists, or engineers; (c) what was the total number of employees with doctorates, broken down by job category; and (d) what was the total number of project managers or business support staff?
Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act June 16th, 2016
Madam Speaker, this is an opportunity we will not have again. We will not have it for this Parliament, unless the Liberals decide to actually introduce it as part of their process.
We have heard testimony on gaming accountability from international and domestic police and others who have testified to the veracity of the exposure we have from unregulated, unaccountable, single sports betting that is taking place in backrooms, bars, basements, and back halls and through organized crime. Sadly enough, with the click of a mouse, it is also being done by our youth.
Let us send this to committee. Let them hear the evidence, and let us move on.