House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Green MP for Thunder Bay—Superior North (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 8% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area Act June 17th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent for the following motion.

I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-61, An Act to amend the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole, deemed considered in Committee of the Whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage, and deemed read a third time and passed.

Rail Transportation June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, VIA needs a responsible government that leads and cares about effective passenger rail and board members who have knowledge, experience, and an informed passion for actually improving, not killing, privatizing, or declining passenger rail.

I fully supported the excellent VIA Rail Canada act tabled earlier this year by the NDP MP for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. It dealt with the necessity of passenger priority over freight and the reduction of the outrageous track-use charges to VIA by CP Rail and CN Rail, and it called for a basic national network alterable only by Parliament, not just by the Prime Minister.

Now it is time to get VIA back on track in a new way. VIA's board needs former Amtrak president David Gunn, a man who has real-world railway experience and the ability to actually save VIA. Therefore, I ask again, will the minister consider appointing Cape Breton resident David Gunn to our VIA board?

Rail Transportation June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am sad to report that VIA Rail is dying in the hands of the government. The results contained in VIA's annual report are abysmal. By virtually every measure, VIA is continuing a nose-down descent. Revenue is up slightly, but operating loss is climbing faster. Ridership, cost recovery and on-time performances are all dropping dangerously, but for many reasons they could be fixed, if we cared, if we chose to.

Canada is alone among the G8 nations in having no national transportation policy or strategy. We have cobbled together a hodgepodge of policies that lack coherence. When we expand our highway system, it is always called a critical investment. When we talk about passenger rail and the need for investment in that critical infrastructure, it is described as an endless subsidy.

Canadian innovators in modern rail, like Bombardier, sell their fast and efficient trains to other nations, while our passenger rail system continues to decline and decay. For example, VIA's program to rebuild the more than 30-year-old cars that are the backbone of VIA's Quebec-Windsor corridor operation was slated to cost about $99 billion with completion in 2013. This is 2015. Project costs have nearly doubled, and now will not wrap up until 2017.

Canada's passenger rail service has no legislative framework. VIA is crippled by inadequate investment and a lack of enlightened national rail policy favouring more, not less service.

The government is failing to improve our publicly owned passenger trains at a time when other nations are modernizing and expanding their systems. The Conservatives are deliberately starving VIA and are not giving it the modern tools to turn itself around as the U.S. Congress has given to Amtrak.

The government claims to be business savvy, but I see zero business smarts at work in their mismanagement of VIA. I observe waste and decay at the expense of Canadian taxpayer dollars or phony excuses about how VIA is supposedly, allegedly an arm's-length crown corporation that makes its own decisions.

In 2012, the government cut $41 million from VIA's annual operation. The Canadian, the country's only cross-country route, was cut from three trains a week to only two from October to April of each year. The Ocean, VIA's Montreal to Halifax route, was reduced from six times weekly to only three at that time, cutting VIA service to Atlantic Canada in half.

The cancellation of half the VIA route network and the abysmal treatment of our national rail passenger service can be brought down to one overarching problem: the total absence of a logical visionary passenger rail policy for Canada.

The fate of Canada's rail passenger system is hanging in the balance today. Misunderstood, underfunded and seemingly without a powerful champion in Ottawa, other than me, VIA still represents an important national resource and can and should be put on a firm footing that it has always required, but time is growing short. If we lose what remains of our rail passenger system, we will stand alone among the G8, among the G20 group of nations.

There are two no-cost steps that could kick-start VIA's revival. The first is legislation like that introduced by a private member from the NDP recently and voted down by the Conservatives to establish VIA's mandate, rights, obligations and relationship with respect to the exorbitant user fees of freight railways.

VIA has never had such legislation. This has always been at the heart of Amtrak's survival and success in the U.S.A.

As I finish, the other way to get VIA back on track without spending scarce public dollars is by filling the two vacancies on VIA's board with people who actually understand VIA and care.

Would the minister please consider appointing former Amtrak president and Cape Breton resident David Gunn to our Canadian VIA board?

The Environment June 15th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, that is some commitment. More pretty words, but when? This week? This Parliament?

I ask the question again today. I have not heard a straight answer. Will our Prime Minister keep his word? Will he seek unanimous consent by all parties in the House for the legal creation of the Lake Superior national marine conservation area before the House rises? Did the Prime Minister really mean what he said in Nipigon eight years ago, when he said that “There is no goal more worthy than the protection and preservation of Canada's natural environment.”?

Where is the promised money? Where is the real legislation, passed in the House, for the Lake Superior national marine conservation area? Those who care passionately about Lake Superior are waiting.

The Environment June 15th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, on May 15, I asked once again in the House why the Prime Minister has not kept the promises he made in 2007 and 2009 to create the Lake Superior national marine conservation area, the NMCA, and allocate and spend $20 million that he promised for that purpose, including a visitor centre and administration building in the town of Nipigon.

While the Prime Minister proclaimed in Nipigon, “there is no goal more worthy than the protection and preservation of Canada's natural environment”, eight years later little has been done.

Two years later, in 2009, the Prime Minister repeated his promise, which encouraged the Town of Nipigon to begin investing heavily in waterfront development. After eight years of waiting, the Town of Nipigon has yet to see a penny of that promised $20 million. Instead, the Conservatives have actually cut staff in Canada's national parks.

Nipigon is not the only town in Thunder Bay—Superior North that has waited fruitlessly for eight years. Towns and first nations along the spectacular north shore are all still waiting, including Marathon, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Pays Plat, Red Rock, Dorion, Shuniah, and Thunder Bay. I have been waiting a long time too.

In 1980, when I was a board member for the Wildlands League, we proposed this idea in our publication Wilderness Now. Later, Jake Vander Wal and I helped to co-create the Lake Superior Binational Forum and binational program, of which I was the first Canadian co-chair. Then I fought, along with Joanie and Gary McGuffin, for the creation of the Great Lakes heritage coast, which was later killed by the Ontario Liberal government.

There is a lot of blame to go around on why protection has been delayed for 35 years. I re-asked that question of our Prime Minister on Friday exactly a month ago. Five days later, like magic, or should I say like smoke and mirrors, Nipigon received a letter reaffirming that commitment. Then, on June 2, the Minister of the Environment introduced Bill C-61, called the Lake Superior national marine conservation area act.

That is great. However, I ask this question. Was this in response to my once again calling the Prime Minister to task, or is it part of a cynical plan to introduce a whole bunch of bills at the last minute of our parliamentary sitting with no real intent to pass them, or perhaps both?

The government has rammed a lot of dubious and contentious legislation through the House in far less than a month. I urge it to pass this important bill quickly. I doubt that anyone on the opposition side would oppose unanimous consent to create this ecologically important and long-awaited conservation area.

While the Conservatives continue to claim that they are somehow contributing to the preservation of the “world's largest freshwater protected area”, eight years later, north shore towns are still waiting.

Lake Superior is facing the effects of a warming climate. It has reached record low levels, 10 centimetres below the previous low recorded in 1926. The lake is 5o warmer than it was 30 years ago, and ice is down a whopping 80%. Lake Superior is one of the most important bodies of water in the world. It holds about 10% of the planet's fresh water, and biological diversity there is decreasing.

Eight long years ago, the people of Nipigon were told that they were going to receive federal funding for NMCA. Where is it? Will the Prime Minister finally keep his promise?


Mr. Speaker, the Green Party agrees to apply the vote and is voting no.


Mr. Speaker, the Green Party agrees to apply the vote and votes yes.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act June 15th, 2015

The Green Party agrees to apply the vote and votes no.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act June 15th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Green Party is pleased to apply this vote as yes.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 15th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Greens vote yes.