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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

Employment Insurance January 29th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, with an ever growing unemployment rate of 6.6% and with monthly job losses in the thousands, now is the time to expand the employment insurance program. Unfortunately, in Tuesday's budget the government only offered half measures and not one additional worker will become eligible for EI benefits.

Canada's social safety net is supposed to help families when they fall. Sadly, too many of them are falling through the growing cracks.

For the sake of workers in Nickel Belt and across the country, it is imperative that the government make sweeping changes to employment insurance. The two-week waiting period should be eliminated. The number of hours required to qualify for benefits should be reduced. Benefits should be improved.

The government has missed its opportunity to protect working families affected by the recession and the Leader of the Opposition has decided to sell out the jobless in exchange for propping up the government.

The Budget January 29th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the member from the opposition mentioned the word “planet”. I have a question for the member. The Conservative budget, supported by the Liberals, does very little for the people on EI. For example, it does not eliminate the two week waiting period. They have extended EI by five weeks, but a lot of people cannot get on EI because the Conservatives have not reduced the hours.

He also mentioned that the Conservatives did not do very much for agriculture. The Conservative budget, supported by the Liberals, also attacks women's rights. He also said that the budget was full of smoke and mirrors.

Because the hon. member asked the Conservatives about the planet, what planet were the Liberals on when they decided to support the Conservative budget?

The Budget January 29th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of questions for the member from the government's side.

I also did a lot of consultation during the prorogation of Parliament. The people I spoke to were concerned about a lot of things. I am going to raise a couple of their concerns here today.

First , I would like to know why the budget, allegedly supported by the Liberals, does not include the elimination of the two-week waiting period for people applying for EI. As members know, during that two-week period people still have to pay their mortgages. They still have to pay for their hydro, and the kids still get hungry.

My second question concerns reducing the number of hours to qualify for EI, something else my constituents brought up. A couple of weeks ago I had someone in my constituency office who was missing seven hours to be eligible for EI. I would like to know why the Conservative budget, supported by the Liberals, did not include reducing these hours.

Employment Insurance Act December 3rd, 2008

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-244, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (removal of waiting period).

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the seconder of this bill, the member for Acadie—Bathurst.

This bill would remove the waiting period that precedes the commencement of employment insurance benefits after an interruption of earnings and repeals provisions that refer to that waiting period.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, there seems to be a lot of anger coming from members on the other side of the House. They should redirect that anger toward their leader and his chief of staff for bringing in an economic plan that hurts working Canadians, especially women, and removes the right to strike. If they had brought in an economic plan to help Canadians, we would not be in this situation right now.

We, the members opposite, have lost confidence in the Conservative government and it should resign right now.

The Economy November 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, this update does not meet the needs of the people of northern Ontario. With high unemployment rates, workers and their families are paying the price because this government refuses to act. The people of northern Ontario need new infrastructures and jobs, and older people need to know that their pensions are protected.

Why must families in northern Ontario pay for the government's inaction?

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply November 27th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, forestry is also very important in Nickel Belt. The $1 billion giveaway the Conservative government gave to the United States has not helped the Canadian forestry business.

We hope that in this session of Parliament, the Government of Canada will help the forestry industry right across Canada by guaranteeing some loans.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply November 27th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, if the government does not change the employment insurance rules, many people in northern Ontario will suffer. In fact, this week in Coniston, another company, Northern Heat Treat Ltd, was affected. It had been operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Forty employees were laid off and now it operates only eight hours a day, five days a week. Changes must be made to employment insurance to help these people.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply November 27th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway. I would first like to congratulate you on your election as a member and as Speaker. I look forward to working with you and the other members of the House.

I would also like to join my New Democratic Party colleagues in congratulating the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Official Opposition and the leader of the Bloc Québécois.

I want to thank the citizens of West Nipissing, French River, Rayside-Balfour, Valley East, Onaping Falls, Folyet and the communities surrounding Nickel Belt who have elected me as part of the second largest New Democratic caucus in the history of the party. I humbly acknowledge the trust they have shown in me and the responsibility they have given me. I assure them that I will work unstintingly and will not disappoint them. I am honoured by their trust and I am determined to be here always to stand up for them.

In addition, I would particularly like to thank my wife Marie-Claire, my daughter Johanne and my son Michel for their support and encouragement. It is because of them that I am here.

I am honoured to be here with those of my colleagues who have been elected for the first time, and I am eager to get to work with them.

We are facing one of the most significant events of our times. Across the globe, we are seeing banks collapsing, companies faltering and people losing their jobs. This is just the beginning.

Ordinary Canadians are worried. They were looking to the Speech from the Throne to give them an indication of the direction the government would take to deal with this problem.

There were some positive items. I welcomed the general tone of the speech, with its call for co-operation and its conciliatory language. If the government is able to back up this new tone with action, then we are likely to see a productive Parliament that works for all Canadians.

The nods to the environment, the expansion of the retrofit program and the mention of a continental cap and trade program show that the government is slowly coming around to some of the policies Canadians have been demanding. The people of Nickel Belt understand and appreciate cap and trade. Decades ago, in a necessary effort to protect our environment, Inco was required to cap its sulphur emissions by a specific day or be fined. It capped its emissions. The environment is recovering from years of damage due to sulphur, and it is important to note that Inco did not leave town.

Yet even with these elements, most of the speech was too vague and indirect. It did not match the urgency or the depth of what is required to protect working families in this economy. Canadians were hoping for more from the throne speech, and New Democrats were expecting more.

There was no indication of how the government will reverse the growing doctor deficit. Five million Canadians do not have access to a family doctor and have to rely on clinics and emergency rooms for their basic care. For example, in my riding we face a health care crisis. Ambulances are backed up at the emergency room with ill patients, while beds in the hospital are taken by those who would be better served in long-term care facilities.

We need to know why FedNor has not stepped up to the plate in terms of requested funding for such a facility in Chelmsford. Such a facility would significantly ease the burden on our acute care hospital.

Although consumer bankruptcies in September were 20% higher than in August and although unemployment is projected to rise next year to 7%, there was no mention of how the government is going to fix the EI system. Recent rule changes to employment insurance mean that an unemployed person must exhaust savings before EI is even available. We need to make sure money will go right back into the local economy to create jobs, keep small businesses afloat and put food on the table.

In northern Ontario, we are already seeing the effects of the slowdown. Because of the low price of nickel, Xstrata has made changes to its plans for the lifespan of two major mines. First Nickel has suspended operations at its Lockerby mine in Nickel Belt, resulting in the layoff of 140 of its 160 workers.

We need bold and strategic measures for our economy. The 21st century is new and different, and tired old 20th century solutions will not work anymore.

First, let us introduce financial regulations that would protect consumers in this economy. Even though strong regulations have kept our banking sector comparatively stable, effects from global market turmoil are unavoidable. Stronger oversight is needed to track the $75 billion already given to secure banks. If assistance is given to any ailing sectors, taxpayers need a full accounting and, where appropriate, an equity stake in return. The federal government can protect consumers by ensuring that credit card companies stop hiking interest rates on cash-strapped families who miss a payment.

Second, let us invest in the new energy economy for 21st century prosperity. We do not have to choose between economic growth and fighting climate change. We can choose a new energy economy. We can put a price on carbon and harness the sun, wind and water. Canadian innovation can make us leaders in renewable technology and create green-collar jobs. We can begin creating thousands of jobs right now by energy-retrofitting our homes and buildings.

We can support our local businesses and agriculture. In my riding Don Poulin Farms, which recently could sell its potatoes to local stores, is now forced to ship its product to Toronto corporate chains. These chains then ship the product right back, to be sold in local stores.

Using resources to transport food over greater distances forces local farmers into hardship. It is environmentally damaging, it is an additional cost, and it could result in unnecessary job losses in Nickel Belt.

Third, let us invest in private sector enterprise and innovation through our research institutions. Our universities and colleges should lead the world in practical innovation. They have proven they are up to it. We must do more through incentives for job creation, better support for research and development, and innovation funding. A good start would be to allocate funding for the Centre of Excellence in Mining Innovation in northeastern Ontario.

Fourth, let us make strategic investment in infrastructure and in the real economy. Let us commit to an ambitious plan to partner with our communities to repair our crumbling cities, invest in public transit, and build affordable housing. We can ensure that our publicly owned transit systems are efficient and effective.

In my riding it is nearly impossible to find an apartment that is both available and affordable. The roads are among the worst on the continent. We have relied on raw resource exports for too long. We need credit guarantees for viable companies in forestry and mining and we need them now.

Fifth, but certainly not the least important, is to invest in our social infrastructure. Without a national skills training strategy to address our skills shortage, we will only compound the length and depth of the economic downturn.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.

In the United States, pensions are guaranteed up to $50,000. We have to have pension insurance plans to protect seniors today and in future generations. We can create more jobs in child care and in caring for the elderly, increase the number of doctors and nurses and provide better opportunities for members of the first nations.

The government has got to respect the 62% of Canadians who voted for change. This parliament has been asked to set aside its differences and overcome its traditional partisan quarrels. However, that does not mean giving the government carte blanche, which is what Canadians have denied it.

The government has to make compromises and the opposition has to be constructive. If those conditions are met, I am convinced that this parliament will be able to rise to our expectations and to the expectations of all Canadians.