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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

CANADA NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATIONS ACT February 6th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I was very impressed with the comments by the hon. member for Halifax in many areas. I was particularly taken by her comment that our non-profit groups across Canada are doing the work that government used to do, should be doing and recently has not been doing adequately. It is particularly important that we support our non-profits across Canada in every non-bureaucratic way that we can.

The proposed Bill C-4 has a very narrow scope. It deals only with regulatory reform for non-profit corporations. Despite that, it manages to be incredibly lengthy. Reform is necessary. Better regulations are definitely needed, but not simply more.

I have two problems with this bill. First, it does not deal with the important reforms that this sector has wanted. Second, I have problems with the way it carries out the changes it does deal with.

Regarding my first point, this bill does not address the major concerns of the non-profit sector. Through years of consultations, including the voluntary sector initiative and its government counterpart, groups in the sector have made it very clear that they want and need the following: clarification and improvements in the charitable status process, help to secure stable and long-term financing and help to address advocacy needs. It is unclear how this bill will help them in these areas.

In the voluntary sector initiative's final report, the need for support for financial accountability and reform for the sector is clear. They ask for assistance in identifying and developing tools for financial management. They ask for accountability and the assistance to gain skills in these areas. This bill fundamentally changes the financial accountability of the sector, but training and skills development do not seem to be a part of the government's plan.

Non-profits have been clear that after years of reduced funding and less-secure funding, they need the means to conduct their businesses through social entrepreneurship in a more streamlined manner. Non-partisan political advocacy is currently ruled by what is commonly called the 10% rule, meaning that no more than 10% of any non-profit's efforts can go towards political advocacy. The sector remains concerned that this is an arbitrary number, difficult to measure and subject to abuse. The right of an organization to bear public witness on an issue that impacts their goals should not be marginalized.

A healthy civil society depends on not-for-profits being allowed to address the issues that are fundamental to their existence in the first place and to educate the general public, the media and the government. Charitable tax status is a long and complicated process. There are complaints that this process can take months or even years longer than it is supposed to. It is a complicated process that leaves too much room for error, delay and perhaps abuse. This bill does nothing to ease that process.

Non-profits have been clear that they want and need tax relief for volunteers. According to Imagine Canada, as the hon. member for Halifax has pointed out, the non-profit and volunteer sector is the second-largest per capita in the world, contributing over 7% to our gross domestic product. This sector has long been supported by some type of government tax incentive program.

I know that Canada's voluntary sector was not hoping for a complicated legalization of Robert's Rules of Order. I am finding it hard to see how 170 pages of complex new regulations, replacing a few pages in part II of the current Canada Corporations Act, could make life much easier for our non-profits and the volunteers who often run them.

If the government would be willing to spend as much time dealing with issues important to the sector as it has on regulating it, we could have a stronger voluntary sector in Canada. We do not need restrictive and complicated regulations that will all but exclude lay people from starting or running charities and non-profits.

In Thunder Bay--Superior North, we have various groups. The Royal Canadian Legion is in Geraldton, Marathon, Nipigon and throughout the region. We have Environment North, northwestern Ontario's long-standing voice for the environment. We have the Canadian Mental Health Association. We have PACE, People Advocating for Change through Empowerment, in Thunder Bay. We have NOSA, the Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen's Alliance. These are the kinds of groups that need support, not hindrance.

The second group is found in some of the rules and loopholes that this bill sets down. After we had the do-not-call registry debacle, which is achieving the opposite of what was intended in that people on the list are receiving more telemarketer calls, not fewer, Canadians are right to be wary of any more government regulations that will make it easier for people or organizations to access our private information.

Subclause 23(2) of the proposed bill gives debt obligation holders of the non-profit organization or any member within it access to the entire membership list in one convenient package. This is very worrisome. Anyone could sign up as a member, sign a form and access the whole membership list of, for example, the Canadian Red Cross. Who knows where that information would go? Foreign individuals or groups engaged in these activities would be virtually impossible to prosecute. This issue of privacy violation should be scrutinized carefully.

Regulatory reform would be a minor improvement for the non-profit sector, but it is not their main priority. Special attention must be paid to strengthening the privacy of member lists and minimizing the regulatory burden imposed on non-profits by this voluminous legislation.

I hope that our House members will pay due diligence to these concerns in committee.

The Budget February 6th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I will watch that.

The Liberal-Conservative budget does not address the major issues my constituents have brought up. In Thunder Bay--Superior North people have called for a fairer employment insurance system, real support for the forest industry and real money for local infrastructure needs for our communities.

When will the Minister of Industry speak up for Canadian industries and Canadian workers?

The Budget February 6th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to analyze the finance minister's budget. I was disappointed to see that it contains so little for the communities of northwestern Ontario. I am equally saddened to see that the Liberal leader has led the Liberal Party down the same bold path trail-blazed by Mr. Dion.

He silently condemns the budget with one breath, and then he rubber-stamps--

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act February 6th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, we understand the need for bringing our corporations act into the 21st century. However, we are rather disappointed that a fairly straightforward six page present act has been expanded into a rather bloated a one hundred and seventy page document. We believe there will be need for amendments to the bill.

We are particularly concerned that the bill would increase the record keeping and regulatory burden on non-profits, especially the small non-profits. It seems to treat the average legion social club the same as it treats the Red Cross of Canada. We are concerned that the record keeping requirements will become onerous.

We hope there will be some trimming down and some thought given to that sort of thing. What we seem to have is a 170 page expansion and legalization of Robert's Rules of Order.

The Budget January 30th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of his remarks, the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga did a magnificent job of listing the challenges that are facing small businesses, workers and families across his riding and, of course, across Canada.

Thunder Bay--Superior North has serious problems in the forest industry and the budget has absolutely zero in it other than a tiny amount for marketing and research and development money for forestry. There is nothing for loan guarantees and nothing for targeted investments. We have a mill in Marathon that is at risk. Terrace Bay and Schreiber have lost one paper machine. Nipigon, Red Rock and Dorion have lost two mills. Greenstone has lost two mills and the forest work that goes with it. The list goes on.

I am an NDP member and a proud one, and I am a small business person. I would like to ask the hon. member why we seem to be about to replicate the worst deficit in the history of Canada under the Mulroney government of $42 billion to $45 billion. We are headed that way now. Why are we giving $60 billion in tax cuts to large corporations but only $1 billion to EI workers who are in desperate trouble?

The Budget January 30th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, it is with interest that I heard the hon. member for Brant speak with pride about a relatively small amount of tax cuts for the middle class. When I did my 13 community road tour, people said that they do not want a small tax cut that they would use to buy a Chinese television. What they want is investments in Canada and in northwestern Ontario. They want health care and clean water. They want an urban aboriginal strategy, not just an on reserve strategy. They want child care. They want adequate funding for aboriginal students who currently, through INAC, get along on half the stipend that the province of Ontario provides to non-aboriginal students. They want mass transit and a rail system across Canada that we can be proud of. Rather than renewed moneys for old technologies and nuclear and oil, they especially want sustainable energy, such as solar, wind and water.

Why is the hon. member for Brant not willing to invest in a Canada that we can be proud of?

The Budget January 30th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises many good points about how the building Canada fund has not flowed and he has made good points about the credibility of the Prime Minister to deliver what his lips say.

However, my question for the hon. member for Newton—North Delta is simple. Given that his words indicate he has little, if any, confidence in the Prime Minister, the government and this budget, why did he vote for the budget?

The Budget January 29th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative budget, rubber stamped by the Liberals, had virtually nothing for forestry across Canada, and especially in northwestern Ontario. Tomorrow the fate of Thunder Bay Fine Papers may be decided in court in Thunder Bay.

The Minister of Industry has ignored this issue. I have repeatedly called his office and urged him to take action to save this unusual and unique mill, urging him to do what it takes to save Thunder Bay Fine Papers. He does not seem to care.

This mill is the only mill in Canada that makes the coated, value-added, glossy papers that we all use and appreciate for fine art, for coffee table books and for the political flyers that we all send to our constituents at election time.

How can we get the Minister of Industry to save the mill, to save thousands of jobs in Thunder Bay, to save the only mill in Canada that makes this kind of fine paper? How can we get the minister to notice, to care and to take action?

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the member from Scarborough has done a really good job of demonstrating that the Conservatives and the Prime Minister have been ruling as though they had a majority when they do not.

I would like to add that if we had proportional representation, as 97% of the democracies in the world have, the Conservatives would only have 117 seats, the Liberals would have 81 seats and the New Democrats would have 57 seats. There would be 23 greens in the House. Under such a system, the separatists, of which the Prime Minister and the Conservatives are so fearful, would have 19 or 20 seats.

Would the hon. member from Scarborough care to comment on whether the Liberals have come to the point where they would like to support proportional representation as we move toward real democracy?

The Economy December 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, northern Ontario cannot wait any longer for economic stimulus. One hundred and thirty workers in Greenstone have lost their jobs in the last few days just in time for the holiday season. Companies like Longlac Wood Industries have raised the alarm with the government for years to no avail.

Families in northern Ontario want a government that will act to protect their jobs, their savings, their homes, but the government has refused to take action. How can northern Ontarians have any confidence in the Conservative government?