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  • 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

Foreign Investment February 8th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, a company owned by the Chinese government wants to take over Aecon, one of Canada's largest construction companies. This company's international record has been generously described as problematic. Time and again, the Liberals and the Conservatives have threatened Canada's sovereignty by allowing the sale of local assets to foreign investors with links to foreign governments. In my riding, Aecon is shortlisted to build Canada's top infrastructure project, the Gordie Howe International Bridge to the United States.

What effects will this takeover have on the project? What does the United States think about Beijing controlling a company that runs the show on their soil?

Canada Elections Act February 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting to hear a Conservative member talk about the fact that there was no public subsidy with regard to the contributions for individuals, but we know as a matter of fact that it is done through tax deductibility, and when there is an increased campaign period, as in the last election, then more money from taxpayers is actually going back. It is interesting with regard to the threshold, which is 75% for the first under $400, and then after that it declines to around 50%, until the maximum. It is interesting as well that for municipal campaigns in Ontario, there is no tax deductibility. There is no public subsidy with regard to getting money back from contributions.

I would ask my colleague about whether or not, say for example, if they were not going to cap it at $200, perhaps what should be done is that maybe after the $200 eliminate the actual subsidy from taxpayers. That could be one of the potential models, to quit making other people pay for other people's donations.

Canada Elections Act February 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, this is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It really does not have a whole lot to do with changing our democratic institutions, the way we elect members and have a functioning modern democracy.

There is a massive public subsidy of the $1,500, in that the first $400 is 75% of taxpayer money and then there is a subsequent decrease. I introduced a bill that provided the same thing for charitable organizations, which are tied to a much smaller amount. One would think there would be the highest degree of accountability, openness, transparency, and expectations for the result that taxpayers get when the mere fact is that for every $1 under $400, they get 75% back. It becomes a massive public subsidization for the parties in our current system.

Could the hon. member comment about the fact that the public is so invested in massive subsidization?

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians Act January 31st, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his advocacy for steel, because that is part of what we have seen in the struggling elements of our manufacturing society. Canadian steel was the backbone of the auto industry not only in Canada but also in North America. Interestingly enough, the Auto Pact that was signed in 1964 by Canada and the Untied States was primarily in response to developing a mature, sophisticated auto industry for both of our nations, which led us to be basically a very solid manufacturing area, including the Hamilton area.

With regard to the recall issue, what we are going to see now, and what we have seen in the past, is that we are very much on the defensive because of cuts. The member for Trois-Rivières actually had in his amendments the redoubling of some of the efforts, supports, and availability of government investigative resources for auto recall.

In the U.S., there is a much more robust system for that. In fact, there is congressional and Senate oversight. Here, there is a complete void. There is a system in place in the United States that is structural, and the EPA is much more solid. Over here, we are basically docile, and we wait to see what pops up on its website and decide later on if it is an issue over here in Canada.

Let us look at Volkswagen. There was stunned silence from the government here while criminal and other investigations took place there. Consumers are protected and the streets are looked at, and we basically get the leftovers. This is the philosophy that has taken place here with regard to the current bill.

Again, it is quite remarkable, after being in the auto sector for so many years and seeing the displacement and the changes happen, that we are outside of it. Canada does not have a say, for example, on electric modification or a battery strategy for all the new technology that is taking place. We are being left out of that. Think about the fact that we are going to become more dependent upon research and development that is done outside of this country. Until we get a national auto strategy and rebuild ourselves to being robustly involved more than ever before, we will be dependent upon others for consumer protection, the safety of our streets, the safety of the products we purchase. There is value and resources that we put into that product.

Most importantly, we will have taken a pass for any type of discussion about the minister's decisions and how they affect Canadian consumers and public safety by allowing ministerial decisions in basically a black ops behind-the-scenes type of approach.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians Act January 31st, 2018

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, I am frustrated with the government's legislation. The reason it went through the Senate, I suppose, is that it is Conservative legislation. They did not want to overtly wear it, but want to be seen as having done something. They got somebody in the Senate to move it and it went through there as the primary source. That is why it is Bill S-2. A new sticker has been slapped on it.

There were two amendments by the Conservatives and several by the NDP, but of the 15 amendments, the most glaring one was from the member for Trois-Rivières. He did this in a very constructive manner. Everybody on the Hill knows that he is a very constructive individual, not only in the NDP caucus, but on the Hill in general. One amendment was for an annual report to Parliament from the minister, so at least we would know a little more about the deals the minister is making behind closed doors. It is not even a compelling story for all of the things that we should know about, but at least we would know.

The interesting thing about this, which is my frustration, quite frankly, is that it has taken so long for us to even get out a recall. This bill would give us auto recall after all of these years, but once it has passed through both chambers, when will we see another amendment? It will probably not be until after all the renovations to this place are finished, after we come back to this chamber from West Block, and it is finally reopened to the public, and 20 years after that. That is when we are most likely going to see another change.

Meanwhile, not only is the auto age right now curious, in terms of its research, development, and change, but it is a revolution. It is significant. It is like the platinum age of auto development right now. It is not only the very unusual types of materials being used but it is also the technology. All of those things are in this global industry, which will be pumping in different brands, different vehicles, and different changes to our city streets and the way we move around in society.

One thing in the bill is that if a recall that has caused death, injury, collision, or damage, the minister, under a clause for new technologies, can give a waiver and carte blanche. That is astounding in this new age. We will have experimentation on our streets, experimentation with tonnes of steel and glass. It does not sound reasonable.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians Act January 31st, 2018

Mr. Speaker, this bill originated in the Senate, the unelected chamber. The member, his government, and the cabinet should want to take this seriously and do what the people of Canada democratically elected us to do. They expect consumers to be protected and that public safety is number one. When transparency and accountability are on the floor of the House of Commons at least annually, then we will have a serious discussion.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians Act January 31st, 2018

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the bill. I commend my colleague, the member for Trois-Rivières, who has not only done an excellent job on the bill, but has also been very constructive in his approach to it.

Bill S-2 is an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and make consequential amendments to another act. However, most important is that it is about providing auto recall for Canadians.

The problem we are faced with is the fact that the bill is so underwhelmingly negligent in fixing the problem. It is nothing short of breathtaking, given the tragedies that have taken place and the historic recalls in auto manufacturing. Right now, the Takata airbag scandal has affected many motor vehicles, and Canada has had to beg for inclusion. We have no rights whatsoever with regard to consumer safety protection and the bill is such a weak response to this. I am rather shocked about that.

The member for Trois-Rivières proposed 15 amendments at committee and none of those amendments were accepted by the Liberals, which is shocking. The previous Conservative government tabled a bill for auto manufacturing recall prior to the last election. I believe it was Bill C-62. The Conservatives only had two amendments to this legislation. Therefore, this is a tweaking of Conservative legislation. It is not surprising that there were only a couple of amendments from the Conservatives.

However, during the election campaign, consumers told me that they wanted more consumer safety and environmental protections. This bill is a slap in the face. It also becomes a wider problem, given Volkswagen has an offence against it for auto manipulation and recall. This is not only being criminally investigated in the United States but in other places in the world. There is also the Takata airbag scandal. These are prime examples of current standards, which Canada does not get and will not get with this legislation. This is ironic. The legislation will marginally improve the situation of auto recall.

The first and foremost thing to recognize is that this is a significant consumer and environmental protection issue and all of us should be concerned about this and Canada's competitiveness.

This is even more important because of our diminished capacity under the new auto revolution taking place for manufacturing. We are becoming more dependent than ever on foreigners to produce vehicles necessary for a modern economy and for transportation use. This affects the air we breathe, our safety, and the way we are able to compete in the world. Because of successive Conservative and Liberal governments and their inaction on the auto file and trade practices, Canada has gone from number two in the world for auto assembly to 10. That means we are increasingly dependent upon foreign vehicles coming into our country. That should point us in a direction of having more accountability because the corporate board rooms in Beijing, New York, in Washington, and other places in Europe are almost exclusively making decisions that affect us and our families when it comes to safety, consumer selection, and environmental degradation related to the use of automobiles and other manufactured vehicles.

It is astounding that we would not want to be at the forefront of that. One only needs to look at the issues related to software and the manipulation of it, the difficulty of defining what the problems are, and the consequences of that. This should be motivation enough for us to be more proactive on this issue.

As noted by the member for Trois-Rivières, the legislation would give the power to the minister to recall, but it allows the backroom corridors and the dark halls to make the decisions, which will never even come to Parliament. It becomes an exclusive decision by the Minister of Transport and he can do side deals in private about which we will never know. That is something to think about.

I was very active on public safety issues with respect to the Toyota Prius and Volkswagen files in particular.

Regarding the Prius, it was the denial by Toyota. It said that software was causing a braking problem with its vehicles. This was causing accidents, costing people their lives, and a series of different things. It received such heightened activity in the United States. Its safety was considerably more advanced than in Canada. Sadly, this bill will not really improve that situation in Canada. In fact, it is so modest that we will not even see the same reciprocity that U.S. consumers and public safety advocates received in regard to this.

The CEOs of Toyota went to Washington, and in front of Congress and the Senate, they apologized. They never did the same in Canada. They knowingly and wilfully misled the people, those who bought their products and drove them on our city streets, going to soccer games, to schools, and to work. The United States took it far more seriously. What did it get out of it? It has more research and development as a result of the decision with Toyota. Its consumers received better treatment than those in Canada. There also was a higher degree of accountability and conviction than there was here. This will be a problem of accountability for Canada as the current law stands.

If we look at the Takata airbag issue, we cannot recall them as things currently stand. If we do under this bill, the minister can cut a backroom deal with the company and there will be no consequences. We will not know. It will never be published. It will never be tabled, as the member for Trois-Rivières wanted to do, once annually in the Parliament of Canada.

Why would the Liberals oppose that? Why would they oppose the mere fact that taxpayers expect the Minister of Transport to protect them and their families, their safety, and ensure there is accountability for the products they buy, especially given the amount money these products cost. Why would they not want to table annual reports in Parliament, at least identify the problems, show how the minister dealt with them, and show how he or she worked on behalf of Canadians, for safety, consumer protection, and accountability of the many foreign companies?

I will add this caveat to it. My father, who recently passed away, was a CEO at Chrysler for many years. We witnessed first-hand the erosion of the Canadian corporate boardroom as more and more decision-makers were moved from Canada to the United States. We used to have a Canadian president of Chrysler. One of the biggest champions was Yves Landry. We had successive ones after him. Eventually, we became a surrogate training ground for American CEO company presidents. A successive wave of them came here.

Things have changed in the auto industry for a series of different reasons. However, we now have a slanting of foreign decisions that will take place, which can influence and affect Canadian consumers. If members are interested, they can look at Volkswagen. There was a corporate, accountable, organized crime attempt to mislead not only the public but also transportation agencies in their investigations of its vehicles, which had emission devices that were designed to create different results so it could claim “clean diesel”. There are many documentaries and court cases with respect to this.

However, an entire manipulative corporate-run culture, which is not short of organized crime, misled consumers, government departments and agencies about the products it was putting on the streets, which were affecting our air quality. That is a reality. It is happening right now, and continues to happen.

The scenario being presented to Parliament right now is that the Minister of Transport could do a one-off agreement with companies, if he or she wanted to, and we would never know why. We would never know the decisions. We would never know how far it went back. That is unacceptable. The Minister of Transport should be the person to shield Canadians from the organized attempts of an industry that has a history of some of these practices. There are many out there that do not have that culture or prescribe to those things. However, when we go through recall lists of companies that have been involved in the auto industry over the generations, this is an unfortunate part of what has taken place.

When we have five tonnes of steel and glass that needs to be safe all the time, we need to ensure there is accountability for people. For heaven's sake, we would at least think from a consumer protection and disposable income perspective, there would be a genuine interest to ensure vehicles are safe, people will get what they have paid for, and it will define the terms and conditions agreed upon. This is being paid for over several years. It is not a decision that is made in the moment where people just pay for it, then have buyers' remorse later on. These are income purchases for a vehicles, which people put their babies in, take their loved ones to work, or to play, or use for business. It is one of the most expensive things a person will ever purchase where instantaneously its market value will erode significantly. People say they are investing in cars, but they are not. It is a cost, but they will never get their value out of it, unless they are luxury vehicles they hold on to for generations to come. As soon as they drive that vehicles off the lot, the value goes down.

My point is that there is an onus on the government to ensure the sustainability of that investment in that product. I am proud of the New Democratic caucus, which has supported me for numerous years to get the right to repair passed. I have fought for this. This shows one of the reasons we need more transparency. The right to repair was finally passed as a voluntary agreement, and it was supported in the House of Commons. It is like getting a field goal instead of a touchdown when we get a voluntary agreement. At least it has some elements to it, and that is what the industry wanted.

However, what happened was that automotive companies were treating Canada differently, especially compared to the United States, when it came to vehicle repairs. Not only did it affect the safety of the vehicle, but also its environmental emissions and our choice as a consumer. In Windsor, I could get my vehicle fixed in Detroit, Michigan by driving two kilometres and crossing over, but I could not get it fixed in Windsor even though it was an electronic program that literally cost cents to transmit to the business in Windsor. It was prevented from coming into Canada. This is because in the United States its environmental protection act requires companies to provide on a program, or piece of equipment, or tool or training that to the after market.

For example, Canadian Tire, small garages, medium-sized mom-and-pop shops, all of those different places were denied even the access to purchase the proper training, equipment, and software. It is becoming an issue again. They have blocked that out.

What does that mean? It means that vehicles in Canada were on the road longer, without their safety being approved or improved, in terms of maintenance. Their emissions were higher, and their performance was lower. The complications for fixing those things were heightened. Consumers had to pay more to take it to a dealership.

It is not like there is not an organized element related to dealing with an industry which at times has been stubborn. Many of those organizations and companies finally came to the table. I congratulate them. We had General Motors at that time. We had Ford, and eventually, Chrysler. However, it took a long time. It took two years out of my life just to get that moving in Canada.

Now we have some more problems. That is a story for another time, but it is very much germane to this. I believe when people make a purchase of this magnitude and it has such an influence on them as individuals and for their families, and for the safety of Canadians, the best thing the Minister of Transport could do is be transparent for all of Canada.

We look at some of the specifics of this bill and we have to wonder why. What has the minister done? He has limited some of the amendments that we had on recall and cost. In the bill the maximum and minimum for fines and penalties are very much non-existent in many respects. They are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is unbelievable, given the cost of it, and having to repair it, and given the consequences of having improperly fixed vehicles, and the process and inconvenience of actually getting that done, that we actually fine at such a low amount.

Monetary penalties are capped at $4,000 for a person and $200,000 for a company. That is unbelievable. I would like to say it is like a slap on the hand, but it would not even be noticed. It would not be felt. We are talking about multi-billion dollar companies.

Again, there is a message being sent there. The message is that Canada is not serious about this. That is what we are telling them. The biggest issue related to that is the basic fact that an amendment was put forward on that by the member for Trois-Rivières. It was not only in line with the expectations of what consumers would want, but it was in line with what U.S. consumers get with regard to fines and penalties.

We talk about reciprocity in trade, elements related to that, and consumer goods going back and forth between Canada and the United States. I live near the border, and I can say that if we are going to be involved in a market system like this, the very least we should expect is what our neighbour gets. We always have to step up to American standards on many different products and services in the auto sector. It is excellent that we do so, because we have an integrated industry. The vehicles go back and forth across the border. However, at the very least we should expect that consumers would receive the same reciprocity. The sticker price is pretty well the same, if we are not paying a little more. However, we should be able to expect the same elements, the same bumper, the same terms and conditions for insurance, the same support for customers. That would be the reasonable approach if we are actually paying for it.

The minister has done none of that with regard to this bill. The minister has even put in the bill a limitation of two years for what he can do. He has unnecessarily handcuffed himself. We saw that with Volkswagen which became a decade of deceit with clean diesel. It is out there. It has been happening, and not only just for a short period of time but for a long period of time.

New Democrats are very concerned with the situation. It is not even a band-aid.

Air Transportation January 30th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the rebuttal for that is quite easy. The legislation has passed and is now in the Senate, and then we will wait for the Canadian Transportation Agency and other bureaucrats to come back at some future date to protect Canadians. It is just a joke.

The reality is that there could be thresholds and minimum and maximum penalties. That is often done in regulations. It is often done in legislation. It is a very common practice. To suggest otherwise is fraudulent and is also a distraction from the actual issue here, which is that the government is not doing the work necessary to protect airline passengers. It could simply pass that in legislation. Having those thresholds and targets would at least provide parameters. They can also be easily changed in this chamber if the government actually wants to do the work.

This is a pattern of behaviour coming out of the Department of Transport, the minister, and the parliamentary secretary, where they do not want to do the hard work necessary to protect people and to be accountable, leaving it to the Senate and whatever the senators are going to do with it. If they change it, it comes back here; if they do not change it, it is basically a toothless tiger.

It is actually going to be brought forward by clandestine meetings by the industry, which will meet with the agency. We know that the agency has a history of not following through with complaints, or with investigations that have had many people complaining about them in the first place.

We need to take this seriously, and that requires the action of parliamentarians. That is what we were elected to do. That is what people expect. That is what we should be doing right here, right now.

Air Transportation January 30th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise again on an issue that is very important for Canadian consumers and travellers, which is the call for an airline passenger bill of rights. I asked this question, and the right hon. Prime Minister answered it, basically saying he was proud of the work of the Minister of Transport. Unfortunately, there is not much work to talk about with regard to an airline passenger bills of rights because it was lumped together with three other bills in the House of Commons as part of a general package. Worse than that is the fact that there are no specifics in the passenger rights bill being presented. I know the Prime Minister may not have to worry about these things because he flies in the government's plane, the Aga Khan's plane, or those of other friends and acquaintances, but the reality is that most of us who travel as general passengers face a number of obstacles, for which we want and expect a set of rules.

Europe has a robust system that is understandable, and the United States has a system that is understandable, and most important, there is clear language that defines what takes place. The government has passed a bill that does not talk about the specifics of the rules of the game with regard to cancellations, which could be due to delays related to mechanical difficulties or rerouting or could be caused for appropriate reasons, such as bad weather. There are a number of issues with regard to remuneration for meals and accommodations. All people want is to know what their rights are and to have a say.

Europe has a very specific way of doing this. The same is true with the United States. There are issues of delay and tarmac rights. There has been a series of unfortunate incidents on airplanes not only in Canada but internationally that got a great deal of attention in the media. Hearings have taken place in the United States to protect consumers. In the U.S. there have been very overt and public cases where people have been dragged off of planes and injured, whereas in Canada there have been a number of situations where passengers have languished for hours, with feces in the aisle because people are not allowed to go to the washroom or the washroom has not been emptied. The rerouted plane has to sit in a holding pattern, with people having very few rights. In fact, people have resorted to calling 911 just to get water or some sort of attention.

The minister in this case has tabled a bill in which he is leaving this all to regulations and back-door lobbying by the airline industry. There was no attempt in the legislation to specifically identify what the parameters or compensation would be or have at least a participatory element for the public and for Parliament. Quite frankly, it is a way of not doing the job.

Similarly, the Minister of Transport has taken a hands-off approach with regard to auto recall. We will see that in Bill S-2 when it is next debated. Even today in the House, when members asked for leadership with regard to environmental property of which the minister is the custodian, he basically passed the buck again. He is not interested in the details, in sharing information, or in setting standards.

The Prime Minister answered this question saying he was proud of the work, but there has not been any work. In fact, leaving the decisions for bureaucrats in back rooms and through back doors to be lobbied by the industry and others is not a way for democracy to run. All the minister has to do is try.

Transport January 30th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, last night the City of Windsor unanimously asked the federal government to partner on the crucial environmental property of Ojibway Shores. The property is currently under the stewardship of the Windsor Port Authority, which has threatened to destroy it by developing it as a commercial opportunity.

This is not acceptable. My community will never allow it. We stopped them before and we will stop them again. We will not let this happen to this ecological treasure for all of Canada.

Will the government show leadership on this environment and constructively work with the port authority and my community to make sure that we have a model of success?

We need leadership now. Will the minister finally step up?