House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was elections.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Toronto—Danforth (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, on a brief point of order, I want to put on the record that when my colleague referred to “my colleague”, he did not refer to me, as might be interpreted in the context.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would sincerely like to thank my colleague for his speech, because I think it was very honest. He talked about how this legislation is about national security in a very broad way, and the legislation is.

The legislation is called, falsely, the “anti-terrorism act, 2015”, but with so much in it, it goes much beyond that. I wonder if my colleague thinks that part of the problem we have had in this debate is that the government has been presenting the bill as being almost entirely about combatting terrorism when, for example, in the new information sharing act, when the Conservatives define “undermining security of Canada”, seven of the eight headings are not about terrorism. One is about terrorism.

Would the member agree that we would all be further ahead if the government had not been spinning the bill constantly as being only about terrorism?

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague from Winnipeg North if he could firmly go on the record one way or the other about what the position of the Liberal Party is, considering the general position is in favour of the bill. A huge part of this bill has to do with the pre-authorization by judges of violations of Canadian law or of infringements of the charter, with no limits in the act other than that they could not engage in bodily harm, affect the sexual integrity of a person, or obstruct justice.

There are all kinds of problems. There would be secret judicial proceedings. CSIS itself would decide whether or not to go to a judge. There would be no oversight after a judge's pre-authorization of interference in the form of disruption. All commentators with a legal background have completely panned this provision as completely incompatible with the role of judges.

As the party of the charter, as the member likes to say, I would like to know whether or not my colleague is in support of this new system.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate some of the effort by my colleague to indicate some of the safeguards in the bill. Nobody is saying that safeguards were not written in, in certain ways. However, this bill lacks adequate oversight and review and equivalent powers for oversight agencies to match the beefed-up powers in this bill for CSIS and other agencies that can now exchange information more broadly than they could before. It does not beef up their powers; it just means that they have more information to use their powers with. That is a huge problem.

I would ask my colleague this. Would he accept that one of the strongest critiques of the sharing of information act is that these new provisions do not come with the corresponding power for review bodies to share information for a more integrated form of review? That is one of the central concerns of the commissioners who have spoken out against the bill.

Citizen Voting Act May 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, with respect, the issue of whether or not my point is valid cannot be ruled on in advance of me making the point. I am trying to argue that the Thursday statement and the practice that surrounds it is directly relevant to the vote that has taken place.

Therefore, if I cannot continue to explain that, I do understand and will accept your ruling. However, I need to explain the argument in order for you to understand why I do believe it is not the case that unanimous consent simply being given in these circumstances is in and of itself valid.

Citizen Voting Act May 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is not nonsense.

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that I am asking you to rule that unanimous consent cannot be given in these circumstances. That is the matter before the House. In order for—

Citizen Voting Act May 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to be as clear as I can on this. When I say “the business before the House”, I do mean the giving of unanimous consent in a way that is contrary to the rules of the House. I am trying to make the point that in fact—

Citizen Voting Act May 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the reason I am raising this point of order is that the failure of government MPs to give unanimous consent to seeing the clock at 1:30 p.m. compromises the integrity of the Thursday statement and of the organization of House business that relies on it.

Let us look at pages 488 and 489 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, by O'Brien and Bosc, which I will refer to for the rest of the intervention. Mr. Speaker, it is very important that I indicate what it says about the Thursday statement in order for you to understand the point of order. With regard to the Thursday statement, it states:

Each Thursday, after Oral Question, the Speaker recognizes the House Leader of the Official Opposition, or his or her representative, to ask the Government House Leader, or his or her representative, about the government orders to be considered by the House in the succeeding days or week. The Government House Leader then proceeds to outline for the House what business the government intends to bring forward. This practice is commonly known as the “Business Statement” or the “Thursday Statement”. The Weekly Business Statement is not referred to in the Standing Orders but is permitted subject to the discretion of the Chair....

A bit further along, it says:

The Weekly Business Statement was inaugurated on September 23, 1968, when the then President of the Privy Council, in announcing the business the government intended to call the following day, stated that a new practice would begin whereby on every Thursday the government would outline its intentions for the forthcoming week and then respond to questions. Prior to this, it had been the custom of the Government House Leader to announce, at the close of each sitting day, the business to be considered the next day.

Finally, in O'Brien and Bosc:

The Speaker has stressed on many occasions that the time provided for this Statement should not be used by Members as an opportunity to engage in negotiations or debate. The Speaker has also not been inclined to consider the question of House business at any time other than on a Thursday during a week of regularly scheduled sittings. On occasion, the Government House Leader has used this period to request the unanimous consent of the House to propose, without notice, motions related to the business of the House.

With that rule, effectively that practice, in mind, it is important to note what the House leader said yesterday in the Thursday statement. It is very key to know what he said, because it is completely contradictory to what is happening right now in the House. He said:

After this statement, we will—

Citizen Voting Act May 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on that a little. I just want to make sure that the government is at least open to seeing scenarios that could be a problem. For example, one of the most frequent sources of Canadians going abroad for up to two years, sometimes three years, is graduate students. They often go abroad, to London, Paris, or wherever, after having been at a university. Their last place of residence is only defined as where they were at university, versus picking up on the fact that the last place of residence could be either there or where their parents reside. The problem is a lot of their compatriots will have gone. They will not have anybody who is able to vouch for their previous address.

The question is whether we can make sure that in those kinds of circumstances, and it might only affect a couple of dozen or a couple of hundred people, these special cases that can easily be imagined, are taken care of in the committee. I am just hoping that my colleague who is a member of the procedure and House affairs committee will be able to assure me that this kind of situation will be looked at closely.

Citizen Voting Act May 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely thank my colleague across the way for a considered speech. It seemed to respond to various critiques that have been offered already.

First, as to the administrative challenges point, the chaos or nightmare scenario actually has nothing to do with voters voting from outside Canada. One thing the government is not acknowledging is that the new subsection 143(2.11) would change the rules for identity within Canada. The government may not realize this, but with regard to some of the criteria, such as, “an entity that is incorporated or formed Act of Parliament...otherwise formed in Canada”, Elections Canada's view is that this is incredibly difficult to interpret with respect to complex structures of corporations and what the words “formed by” mean, because it is not a legal term known under Canadian law at the moment.

The chaos has to do with how this would actually change the identity rules for what the Chief Electoral Officer is able to authorize in Canada. That is my only point. When we hear from the Chief Electoral Officer and his officials, it is at that point when we will hear whether this is going to be a problem. It is not about the other side of things. Our concern there is the increased difficulty—not chaos, but just difficulty—of being able to vote after the writ has dropped.