House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Nickel Belt (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Main Estimates 2015-16 June 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member. It was a great speech. I and the member are both from northern Ontario.

Today the list of offending senators was released. On that list are 15 Conservatives and 15 Liberals. Unfortunately, the Liberal from northern Ontario is in second place on the list, having misspent over $131,000. Unfortunately Rod Zimmer spent $176,000. She was in second place, followed in third place by another Liberal who was followed in fourth place by another Liberal.

Could my colleague from northern Ontario, the member for Timmins—James Bay, comment more on Senator Charette-Poulin from northern Ontario and how the people of northern Ontario have been betrayed?

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of Dementia May 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am always humbled by the privilege of standing in the House to represent the people of Nickel Belt. On this motion, on this issue of a national dementia strategy, I realize I stand to represent not only the people of Nickel Belt but also the millions of Canadians who are demanding a credible, real, national dementia strategy.

What is at play here is self-evident to many Canadians. This motion perfectly captures the Conservatives' politics, which have been on display here in Parliament time and again on issues vital to Canadians. This motion is more a child of spin and politics than a commitment to the leadership we are looking for. It gives the appearance of doing something to really help Canadians while staying the course on their own priorities.

Members will know that this motion appeared out of the blue a week before debate on my bill, which proposed a real, credible, national dementia strategy. It was a plan that would be anchored in a law, with leadership mandated from Ottawa. Canadians clearly wanted that.

The minister indicated that while initially opposed to the legislation, she had a change of mind. I believe the change of mind had something to do with the dozens of petitions being tabled in the House in support of a national dementia plan, the hundreds of municipal resolutions backing Bill C-356, and the growing number of provincial governments seeing the value of leadership from Ottawa that still respected provincial jurisdiction.

Canadians changed the government's mind. During many discussions with the minister and her representatives, we on this side of the House accepted all the amendments proposed to address their reservations. However, in the end, the government showed its true colours and abandoned its leadership and any legislative measure that it would be required to implement. This government's ideology and practice is to disregard authentic national strategies containing real measures that make things easier for Canadians.

This brings me to the vote held on May 6. Despite the fact that the government is now opposed to the bill and even though it has a majority in the House, the bill was defeated by one vote, 139 to 140. The media first talked about the confusion at the time of the vote. One Conservative member voted twice before withdrawing his support for the bill. Let me quickly say that the vote of 140 to 139 is a sharp reminder of the importance of every member's vote. Yes, bills can be passed or defeated by a single vote. The Conservatives have also heard about what their vote means since that night.

However, the vote was also a clear reminder of how we need to listen to the will of Canadians. Nine members of the Conservative caucus did so, voting for the legislation. I have recognized their votes in public comments. There were nine government MPs who joined our party and other parties to support real help for the 747,000 people now dealing with Alzheimer's or related dementia disease, plus the millions of people caught up in providing care and health services.

This motion cleverly includes so many elements from my bill and what is needed for a genuine national strategy, but this motion will not here and now help any of the people who are so in need of help.

This motion recognizes the important research initiatives that we on this side of the House enthusiastically applaud. It recognizes the federal-provincial discussions under way, while deploring the fact that they are painfully slow. The motion includes many of the basic elements of a strategy, but it makes no commitment to accomplish what that it sets out.

The real problem of the motion before us not being as binding as legislation is that, in the words of my colleague the member for Victoria, it risks being a “feel-good, do-nothing motion”. I will say more about motions versus legislation later, but in terms of recognizing what Canadians really need from the current government, we need to hear what they said in the wake of the defeat of Bill C-356 by one vote. Some of what they said, I cannot repeat. “Shame” and “disgrace” were some of the more polite words.

The Canadian Medical Association lamented the lost opportunity. Dr. Chris Simpson, president of the CMA, said:

The defeat of Private Member's Bill C-356 Wednesday night represents a lost opportunity to make lasting progress in the serious and growing problem of dementia in Canada. We remain one of the few industrialized countries to be without a national dementia strategy.

... Bill C-356 would have called on the government to set up a national dementia strategy. Canada would have been able to get to work making sure the health care system has the right resources to deal with this problem before it becomes overwhelming.

However, a national strategy would involve all levels of government and introduce benchmarks, standards of care as well as timeframes. It would also give other levels of government and stakeholders a forum to point out the need for resources. Instead of a series of ad hoc initiatives, a national strategy is a long-term solution for a problem that will be with us for a long time.

Canadians want a real national strategy enshrined in law. That is what we have heard from municipalities, doctors, people with dementia, their caregivers, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, other religious leaders, CARP and other seniors' organizations, unions and many others.

The motion moved in the House reproduces, almost word for word, many of the provisions in Bill C-356. There is heavy emphasis on research, something we have always considered essential to any strategy. That is something that will only contribute to other aspects of a well thought-out strategy.

However, when we unpack this motion, and all its phrases, again we see that it will stay the course on what Ottawa has been doing, slowly and with so few results. There will be research. There will be discussions with the provinces. There is a nod to sharing of best practices and reports to the public, but with no real accountability or timelines.

There is little evidence of a comprehensive plan that also provides for early diagnosis and treatment. I do not see the continuum of care for people to remain at home and in the community, which is critical as our scarce acute care beds have many people who do not need to be in hospitals.

A real credible national dementia strategy would also now help those overwhelmed in the dementia workforce. For example, the motion mentions support for caregivers, but nothing about how and when. What resources will be given to these people now?

We on this side know the difference of a motion versus legislation. In another Parliament, we saw the passing of Mr. Broadbent's motion to end child poverty by the year 2000. It was unanimous. There was good will on all sides, but we know what happened with that motion. What will happen to this motion when there is no will of governments to follow up with real action and leadership.

We are reaching the end of this Parliament next month. We or others representing our parties will all have to face the voters in our ridings. Organizations like the Canadian Medical Association, CARP and others are advising voters to remember their MP or party votes on dementia. We are pleased on this side for having done our part in education, advocacy and building the momentum for a genuine national dementia strategy. There is no turning back.

Through Bill C-356 and our debate on this motion, Canadians will not be fooled by words any longer. They want a national dementia strategy to actually show up in their community to help their loved ones, their neighbours, their work colleagues, now. Canadians will not stomach more press releases, motions, promises or explaining of votes.

I will support this motion because I like mom, apple pie and everything that is said in Motion No. 575. Speaking of mom, the story of my mom and my family connected me to the millions of Canadians struggling with this health care crisis that dementia represents. She was a straight shooter. She would figure out fact from fiction about what the government says it does or will do.

We on this side are committed to continue the real work required to make this happen. I look forward to the new government in Alberta being part of that work. I look forward to a new government in Ottawa, a government led by my leader, that will lead on this file. Canadians deserve better than what we have.

Petitions May 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it certainly is an honour for me to rise in the House to present this petition from northerners who support our universal health care system. They want to ensure that every citizen of northern Ontario has access to the same high-quality service, wherever they live and regardless of their financial circumstances.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act No. 1 May 15th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île on a very good speech. My colleague serves the people of La Pointe-de-l'Île very well.

In her speech, she mentioned the Gogama derailment, which could have been very dangerous had it occurred two kilometres farther west. That would have put it right in downtown Gogama. It could have been another Lac-Mégantic. There was another derailment 40 kilometres from Gogama three weeks earlier.

Can the member tell us what the Minister of Transport is doing about rail transport's poor performance?

Petitions May 13th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the government to support a national strategy on dementia.

Petitions May 13th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions I would like to present today.

The first one is from many communities in Nickel Belt, including Warren, St. Charles, Field, Val Caron, and Hanmer, and it calls on Canadians to support their public health care system. The petitioners want to ensure that every Canadian has access to the same high-quality health care services wherever they live.

Health May 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Canada is one of the few G7 countries without a national dementia strategy, and the number of Canadians with dementia will double over the next 15 years. Canada needs a dementia plan now.

However, many Conservatives, including the Minister of Health, voted against my bill to create a national dementia strategy. A Liberal member's failure to stand up sealed the bill's fate.

Why are the Conservatives and the Liberals ignoring the looming crisis? Why did they not support this important bill?

Citizenship and Immigration May 7th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, francophone communities are in dire need of help, and they are sounding the alarm about their future. The official languages commissioner is also concerned. It is clear that the Conservatives' cuts to services that support francophone immigration outside Quebec could threaten the vitality of these communities.

When will the minister take the future of francophone communities across the country seriously and give them the support that they need?

Citizenship and Immigration May 7th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, francophone communities outside Quebec need francophone immigrants. Currently, only 2% of immigrants outside Quebec speak French even though the minimum quota is 4%.

The Commissioner of Official Languages reported that the Conservatives have closed regional offices and reduced funding for immigrants. Minority communities have sounded the alarm because their future is at stake.

Will the Conservatives finally take the future of francophones in Canada seriously?

National Strategy for Dementia Act May 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, for my closing remarks I would like to read parts of two letters. The first one was sent to the Hill Times by Matthew Dineen, who writes:

As Canadian delegates left for the G8 Summit on Dementia in England in late 2013, I made the following comment concerning our country’s lack of a national dementia plan: “We must act. A national dementia strategy is imperative for Lisa, Justin, Rebecca, Peter and so many others,” (The Hill Times, Dec. 9, 2013). A little over a year later, as my 46-year old wife’s frontotemporal dementia condition continues to advance, my message has become far more urgent for her, our children, and millions of Canadians.


Three weeks ago, the Conservative government announced it opposes Bill C-356, a bill for a national dementia strategy introduced by NDP MP [for Nickel Belt]. It is concrete legislation that, if passed, will mandate action for a national plan. Largely ignored in the mainstream media, this government decision is bound to harm aging Canadians and their caregivers unless enough Conservative MPs do the right thing and support this private member’s bill.

I remain hopeful this can happen.

On March 13, [the MP for Nickel Belt] noted in second reading debate that an agreement was in place to pass the bill with Conservative support, given the NDP had accepted in discussions the government’s proposed amendments.

Just to clarify, every amendment that the Minister of Health wanted added to the bill was added, and every article that she wanted removed from the bill was removed, and we are not infringing on provincial matters.

He goes on to say:

Sadly, the Conservatives backed away, introducing instead a motion by MP [from Bruce—Huron], which captures the government’s work on dementia and uses language and issues named in C-356....But what the Conservatives call their national dementia strategy is in fact a research strategy alone, a plan that does not immediately help patients, caregivers, and the dementia workforce. As important as research is, it does not help keep our loved ones with Alzheimer’s or related dementia diseases in the home.

A “feel good” motion might get unanimous approval in Parliament with no referral to committee, no hearing from stakeholders, [doctors, caregivers and, most important, the person with dementia] and especially no binding law to enforce the plan.

Work by many key stakeholders this past year has ignited a discussion about the impending dementia tsunami in Canada—750,000 people currently diagnosed (a figure that will double in a generation) plus the three to four caregivers (on average) each patient has—meaning the disease directly affects more than three million Canadians....A real plan would help caregivers like Tanya Levesque of Ottawa....

A motion doesn’t help our caregivers.

It goes without saying that the issue of dementia should be non-partisan....I believe individual MPs looking at the evidence and hearing from constituents will do the right thing.

The second letter that I want to read from was written by Bill Heibein of the Ontario Dementia Advisory Group of Kakabeka Falls. It states:

Group urges passage of MP’s dementia bill

We are a group of people living with dementia in Ontario. Our group was formed in the fall of 2014 with the purpose of influencing policies, practices, and people to ensure that we, people living with dementia, are included in every decision that affects our lives.

Our vision is for people living with dementia in Ontario to be directly involved as experts and at the centre of our own care. Our first of three goals is to be involved in the development and implementation of public policy that will affect people living with dementia across Ontario....When you have dementia, you worry about the time. How much time do you have before you get worse, are moved into a long-term care facility and die.

Yes, research is important. But so is our current living ability. We need an integrated national strategy, which will help drive our provincial strategy

In closing, I urge all MPs to support this bill. It is too late for my mom, but it may not be too late for their parents, their brothers, their sisters, their spouse, their children and for the person sitting beside them today. However, most important, it is not too late for the members themselves. It is also not too late for them to do the right thing for many Canadians living with dementia.

I thank all of the people who supported and helped me to bring dementia to the forefront and on the minds of many Canadians. Matthew Dineen, Fran Linton, Lorraine Leblanc from the Alzheimer Society of Sudbury, Manitoulin, the Alzheimer Society of BC, the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, Alzheimer Society of Canada, my assistant Rick Prashaw and many more. I thank them very much.