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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is chair.

NDP MP for Hamilton Centre (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply February 26th, 2018

A hundred and forty positions.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians Act January 31st, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Windsor West for his tour de force explanation on an issue that most of us have some idea of, but unless we are faced with it directly, do not fully understand. I appreciate very much the explanation behind what is really at play here.

I would ask my colleague to expand a bit on the issue of safety recalls. Again, those of us who are not experts in the field like him do still see that whenever there is a safety issue, an auto recall, the Americans seem to move very fast. Before we know it, those corporate heads are brought in front of committees publicly and are demanded to account for themselves. Here in Canada, we either get a very light echo of that or nothing at all. I would ask the member to expand a little on the difference between how quickly the Americans move when their citizens are at risk versus what happens here in Canada.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act October 26th, 2017

Now I am really shaking, Mr. Speaker, but I have been like this for a long time. That is just the way I am.

I think members of the official opposition have lost their minds. Why they would want to pick fights on a bill that reflects the horrible way they used their power is beyond me. My advice for them, and it is too late to give it and they would not want it anyway, would have been to just shut up and let it go. There is no win here.

I understand the member's points, and that is part of question period. He just needs to read the question in Hansard that was asked by my friend from Timmins—James Bay during question period. That is one example. He will see who is holding the Liberal government to account on that file just as we did with the previous government.

The facts still remain. The last government showed so much disrespect to the people of Yukon. That is why I feel so good about making it right.

It is crazy politics for members of the official opposition to nitpick in the hope of finding something they can say when they ought to be hanging their heads in shame and be thankful that it is finally being fixed.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act October 26th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am a little disappointed the member did not take a different course, but that is fine. Since she asked the same darn question she asked before, I ask her to read the answer given by my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. I agree with everything he said in answer to the exact same question.

If the member wants to go down that road, I have a lot more faith and trust in Bill C-17 in recognizing and respecting first nations rights. I understand that fully. I also understand the bill well enough to know that it will go a long way toward fixing the damage, the outrage, and the disrespect that the previous government showed as it dealt with this issue. At least now we are dealing with it properly.

I hope that answers the hon. member's question.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act October 26th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate. Normally one of the first things we do when we rise is to establish our bona fide credentials on what we are about to talk about, and I have none of that. The fact of the matter is that I love the north. I have been to Resolute in the Northwest Passage, and I urge members to take the time to see this magical place, a historical place. It gives a sense of the vastness of this beautiful country. The flight alone, being in a big jet and flying for hours and hours and looking down and knowing it is all Canada, is an amazing feeling, and it is a very magical place.

I want to say parenthetically that one of the things that struck me about Yukon was its beauty. At the risk of giving my friend from Timmins—James Bay problems with his own constituents, when he came back, he said it was so beautiful that he could live there. Remember the beauty of Ontario's north is also stunningly beautiful. Yukon is a wonderful place.

I have been to Iqaluit a couple of times, Yellowknife a couple of times, and Pond Inlet once. I represent downtown Hamilton, where we do not do a lot of mining, so it behooves me to try to find what I am going to do. I could come here and read a canned speech that covered all the details, which I did not fully understand. However, I decided I wanted to listen to the debate. I have read the material, and it is not that complicated a bill, but it is not straightforward either. It really does help if people sat in on the hearings or they live there.

It is a great feeling to see wrongs righted—and to be a part of that is a good feeling—aside from the politics of it, which need to be mentioned. The Cons are not in power now, but they were and they are not finished paying their price for all the things that many of us did not like. However, it is not the main focus today, and I will not be spending a lot of time on it, unless someone provokes me.

I was struck by the debate. Since I have been here, particularly when we are talking provincial or territorial specific issues, there have been some things that affect Ontario uniquely, but not that many. In the main, it usually affects broader parts of Canada, and I do not get a lot of Hamilton legislation per se. If I represented a territory like Yukon and a bill came forward, I really would hope that hon. members would try to ratchet up the honour of the debate just a bit, to recognize that it is not quite like all our other files. Because of Yukon's size, it does not always get a whole lot of attention, certainly not nearly as much as it deserves, but this is its moment.

As much as possible, it is important for us, particularly those of us from completely opposite parts of our great country, to show as much respect as we can, a little more than when we deal with regular business. I have been very pleased that is the debate here. There are some criticisms. It is hard to be have debate without any of that, but it is not the main focus. The main thing has been what is in the best interests of Yukon, the people, the first nations, and also what is fair and what is right, so I am pleased to support this.

I am very much moved by my colleague who is, I am sure this House will appreciate, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. When he speaks on issues affecting first nations, we can hear a pin drop in our caucus. We could hear a pin drop in this House when he speaks, and what he had to say about Bill C-17 sort of set the tone for me as I came into this honourable chamber. In speaking to Bill C-17, the member said:

I want to acknowledge the importance of this legislation. There is a lot of talk today about nation-to-nation reconciliation and so on and so forth. This is one example of how to get it right. This is one example of how to proceed.

That alone, I have to say, would be enough to make me vote for this bill.

I want to also just mention, as an aside, that my friend from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo happened to mention, “from a 100,000-foot level”, and then went on to make a couple of comments. I just want to take a few seconds to tell this great story. It is about a colleague of hers. We were at committee. One of my favourite expressions when we are doing things like this is “from 30,000 feet”. That just happens to be the number I like. I said, “from 30,000 feet”, and then I went on and on as of course I can do. Laurie Hawn, a former Conservative MP, a great guy, took the floor right after I said my “from 30,000 feet” and really went after them and tore them right apart, and he said, “Chair, I have to say that I am a former fighter pilot and do you know what you see from 30,000 feet? Nothing.” I always thought that was one of my favourite committee stories, and it certainly speaks to Laurie's sense of keeping us all on our toes.

As members can tell, I do not have an incisive speech on the details, and if my friend from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo wants an opportunity to lay me wide open on that issue, now is that opportunity.

However, I did want to stand and express my respect for the government. I want to express my respect for the minister and for the member for Yukon for righting a wrong. I believe there has been a certain level of co-operation even on the part of the official opposition, which along the way has taken a couple of cracks, but in the main, this House is showing the kind of respect and concern for a part of our country that does not get talked about a lot but is clearly one of the jewels of our great country. I look forward to standing up and casting my precious vote in favour of Bill C-17.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act October 26th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member from both of his times here in this place. I know him particularly as the chair of PROC, and so I know him as a person who is not very partisan. I am sure that reflects both him and his territory. I say that because I would not ordinarily ask this kind of question in this kind of circumstance. However, because it is this hon. member, I am quite comfortable asking, and I know I am going to get a fulsome answer.

So far, it sounds as if most of the major players affected by Bill C-17, or that have an interest, are onside, with maybe a couple of questions and clarifications. However, I would ask the hon. member this. Are there any entities in Yukon, anyone affected, either entities or individuals, that are still offside, with still more work to be done, or would he answer me that, no, virtually all of the players who have a vested interest in Bill C-17 have had their issues addressed in the bill, or at least they know that any details are still going to be followed through?

If he could give me that assessment from his territory, I would appreciate it.

Pensions October 26th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, more and more Canadians are experiencing the harsh reality of losing their pension and benefits when a company goes bankrupt. Sixteen thousand Sears Canada employees are worried there won't be any money left to pay their pensions after Sears completes its bankruptcy proceedings, especially after company executives rake in their millions in bonuses. For anyone who worked for U.S. Steel or Nortel, this is an all-too-familiar story.

Far too many companies in Canada are hiding behind the outdated bankruptcy legislation that puts workers at the end of the line. Severance is lost, benefits are cut, and workers only get a fraction of the pension they have earned. When a pension is ripped off this way, it is gone for good. For retirees, it amounts to nothing less than legalized theft.

Unless this government takes immediate action to protect workers' pensions, their jobs are on the line next.

Theatre Aquarius October 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, last month Theatre Aquarius in my riding of Hamilton Centre opened for its 45th season. From its humble beginnings in a school auditorium, Theatre Aquarius has grown into one of Canada's premier theatre companies and welcomes more than 100,000 visitors each year to the Dofasco Centre for the Arts.

Along with its world-class productions, Theatre Aquarius works to support Canada's next generation of performers through its theatre school. The theatre school strives to help develop the skills of local theatre artists and provide expert training and mentoring to aspiring performers in the areas of acting, musical theatre, dance and movement, voice and music, physical theatre, mask, and play creation. Theatre Aquarius is also leading the way to promote programs aimed to make theatre more accessible to a wider audience and to get more people engaged in the performing arts.

As a former board member, I would like to congratulate Theatre Aquarius on this historic anniversary and send best wishes for a wonderful 45th season. Break a leg.

Federally Funded Health Research September 28th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Kitchener Centre for today's motion. His knowledge and his passion for health clearly came through in his remarks, and in his professional capacity as a pharmacist he is certainly well suited to bringing a motion of this sort to us.

There is one thing I want to mention parenthetically. It is just a comment and it is not directly on the motion, so the hon. member has nothing to worry about. It is just an observation in terms of how we are doing our business here.

It seems to me that to an increasing extent, we are passing private members' motions that give direction to committees. That is all well and fine, because the House is the boss of all committees, but we also live under a rule that states that committees are masters of their own destiny, and it is hard for committees to have that kind of control if the House is forever sending things from here that tell a committee what its next priority is. I am just mentioning that in passing. There is no easy solution, but it is something we may want to keep an eye on as we continue to go forward.

I will certainly be supporting the motion, especially since it talks about funding and coordinating health research. The examples that the member gave were instructive and helpful, and I appreciate that.

The motion talks about increased benefits to the public resulting from federally funded health research with the goal of lowering drug costs and increasing access to medicines. It is interesting to note that this motion has come forward on the very day that the parliamentary budget officer has brought out a report talking about the benefits to Canada, her citizens, and the financial bottom line if we implemented a national pharmacare program. I have no doubt that as this idea continues to be looked at, more evidence will show how many Canadians are not taking their drugs because they cannot afford them.

I just make the point that doing research is really good and coming up with new treatments is fantastic, but at the end of the day, much of that treatment is pharmaceuticals. That is the reality. I am no health care professional, but it seems to me that if all this research that the public has paid for shows, for example, that a certain kind of treatment along with a certain pharmaceutical could improve a life, cure a problem, and make people well, but a growing number of Canadians cannot afford those drugs, then of what benefit is the research to them? Of what benefit is the research if they cannot use the final product, with the final product being the drugs that go with the treatment? In my humble opinion, moving at lightning speed to get a national pharmacare program is at least as important as increasing the funding for health research.

I would remind my hon. colleagues that Tommy Douglas was voted the greatest Canadian in large part because of his vision of universal health care, but Tommy is the one who also said that universal health care is not complete until we deal with pharmacare and ultimately dental care. That was the vision. Our greatest citizen, who made such a profound difference in our quality of life through our universal health care system, said “Keep in mind, my fellow Canadians, that this is only part of the job.”

Then we link that with this fantastic report that was just tabled today from the parliamentary budget officer. It says:

The mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) is to provide independent analysis to Parliament on the state of the nation’s finances, the Government’s estimates and trends in the Canadian economy; and, upon request from a committee or parliamentarian, to estimate the financial cost of any proposal for matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction.

The executive summary states:

In September 2016, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health asked the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) to provide a cost estimate of implementing a national Pharmacare program...This paper estimates the cost to the federal government of implementing this particular framework for Pharmacare. It incorporates PBO’s assumptions of the potential savings resulting from a stronger position for drug price negotiations, consumption or behavioural responses of providing coverage, and potential changes in the drug market composition.

Under the executive summary, the PBO goes on to say:

After accounting for pricing and consumption changes, PBO estimates total drug spending under a national Pharmacare program would amount to $20.4 billion, if implemented in 2015-16. This represents savings of roughly $4.2 billion.

We have a world-class analysis from the parliamentary budget office, who is accepted by all of us as being non-partisan. It has said that Canadians would have access to the drugs and pharmaceuticals they need for their health. Access was part of the motion. It says access right in there.

This would be for everyone, all the time. There would be no one sitting down at the kitchen table anymore deciding if they are going to have to cut the pills in half, because that is the only way they can also afford food. That is gone. If they need drugs, they would be provided, the same way we approach health care. If they need hospital services, they go to the hospital and get the services. No one asks for a credit card. No one checks their bank account. If they are a Canadian, and need the health service, that is why the hospital is there.

Under Tommy Douglas's vision, and from the PBO report, every Canadian could have access to the drugs and pharmaceuticals they need, and we would save over $4 billion. That is a motion I could get behind, to bring in national pharmacare. There is no longer a good argument of any sort to not do this.

As much as I support what the hon. member is doing, on the federal funding, if we do not have access to the drugs that are needed, that research will go to waste for those individuals who do not take the drugs they need.

I thank the member for the motion. I will be voting for it. However, a national pharmacare program is the answer to many of the issues the member is raising, and it is the priority for the health care of Canadians.

Federally Funded Health Research September 28th, 2017

Madam Speaker, what happened with the Qs and As?