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NDP MP for Hamilton Centre (Ontario)

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

Statements in the House

Finance May 16th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General regularly exposes government negligence and incompetence, and today is no exception. The latest report also reveals that the Liberals refused to give the Auditor General the information he requested. The power to access information is crucial to the AG's independence and is, in fact, protected in law. After being elected on promises of openness and transparency, the Liberals have deliberately stonewalled the Auditor General.

Why is the government undermining the Auditor General, and what exactly is it trying to hide from Canadians?

Privilege May 11th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it is actually a question of privilege.

Once again I find myself joining others who are rising to raise an issue of my rights being infringed. I rise, believe me, much more in sorrow than in anger, because the incident that happened occurred within less than an hour of my being at a PROC meeting where we were dealing with exactly this issue, privilege being denied in terms of access to the Hill.

I want to say at the outset that I would ask for just a couple of moments to describe what happened. In the interest of time and in fairness, because we are dealing with this at PROC, I will not be asking you, Mr. Speaker, to rule on whether this is a prima facie case, but I will be asking my colleagues at PROC to accept this as one more example of a challenge that we have to overcome.

Very briefly, I left my office in the Justice Building on my way over here. I did not lose a vote nor did I lose a chance to speak, but I did have a side meeting set up at the request of the Minister of Democratic Institutions, and I did miss that. There were implications for this.

I came out of Justice Building. I went to get on the green bus, and the driver said something to the effect that there was hardly any point getting on because the bus could not get up on the Hill because of demonstrators. I said that we should get on the bus and see how far we could go, and we would take it from there. There was one other colleague on the bus.

We got as far as the “car wash”, the vehicle security area, and we were stopped again. Another bus was in front us. After a few minutes, the driver had no idea when things were going to be freed up, so I got off the bus. I went over and talked to the immediate staff, the person who was doing traffic control. He did not know but said that it could be a delay of five to 10 minutes.

The driver had mentioned that all the people were walking up where the bus goes, and it was only just as we were arriving that security was putting up the fencing so that people could walk along on the Hill parallel to Wellington Street, but still leave room for the bus to go. Once that was in place, once we went through a bit of traffic management, we did finally get under way.

My point is this. Over and over, ad nauseam, we have raised the issue of the lack of planning. Once again, had that fence already been in place to accommodate the Canadians who are entitled to be on their Parliament Hill, there would not have been any stoppage. It again speaks to making the planning of member of Parliament's access to Parliament Hill a priority. We really are getting tired of saying this over and over again.

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude now, but I just want to say to my colleagues on PROC, by virtue of my not taking a lot of time to make this a big issue here, that I hope they will allow me to make this part of our review so that when we are looking at recommendations for change, it is both the case that you referred to us and this incident that has happened to me here today.

Privilege May 2nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am in my fifth Parliament, and I cannot tell you how many times we have already dealt with this issue at PROC. We hear every time that it will not happen again, and yet it does.

We understand when there is an emergency security issue, particularly if we are dealing with important guests from another country. We get that. However, what we have asked, and what has been ignored, is that in the planning of these events, in the planning of anything extraordinary on the Hill, there be a plan to take into account the constitutional right, not a traditional right or a nice little habit we have but our constitutional right, to have access to this place. It is for the simple reason that if a notorious government wanted to usurp our democracy, all it would have to do is lock us in our offices and hold the vote. It is clear in the Constitution that every member of Parliament has unfettered access to this place.

We have been told that the security people will take these things into account in the future. To one degree or another, I would take them at their word. I expect that they will, but it is insufficient. That is why I am saying that I have been through this many times.

When the hon. government House leader wants to know why we are making a big deal about this, it is because this is the one opportunity we have on this side of the House to say that our rights are important. When those rights are abrogated time and time again, we finally get to the point when we say enough is enough.

The leader of my party, the member for Outremont, has reminded Canadians that a major institutional shift has happened. This place used to be sovereign to us. By “us” I do not mean me. I mean whoever has the honour of sitting in the seat for Hamilton Centre and every other riding here. It is no longer our security services through our Speaker and our Sergeant-at-Arms. At the end of the day, it is now the government's police service in our House of Commons. King Charles would love it.

Since the government now controls 100% of our security, and since the government House leader is saying we should send it to PROC so we can solve this, I want an absolute, 100% guarantee from the government, because it, not us, is now in control of security, that at the end of the work PROC does, this will not happen again. I want that assurance from the people who control the security people here, which is the government, through the commissioner of the RCMP. It is not us anymore. I want that guarantee. Otherwise, the Speaker can understand very clearly why we are doing what we are doing here today.

Privilege April 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, my friend covered a lot of ground. I take much of what he has talked about as underscoring the difficulty the government has between understanding the difference between the executive, cabinet, and government and the rest of us who constitute Parliament.

Consistenly the Liberals seem to not only want to blur the lines but eliminate them, particularly in the case of control of security in here. Rather than it being under our collective control, it is now under the control of the Prime Minister diretly through the commissioner of the RCMP. That is totally unacceptable. At some point, we will get our Parliament back.

Given the mounting evidence that the government clearly does not know, or it does not understand, the important distinction between members of the executive council called cabinet versus the rest of us, and collectively we constitute Parliament, does my colleague share my feeling that in large part the government, the cabinet, sees the rest of us, especially those of us on the opposition benches, as a nuisance, as a minor irritant to get around rather than respect? That is my impression. Would the member share that viewpoint?

Marijuana April 10th, 2017

The first step. You know it's just the first step.

Standing Orders of the House of Commons April 5th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Prime Minister for taking so many questions today. I would also like to point out, again, that he managed to do this without changing a single rule. No need to unilaterally use the power to ram through the changes. He was able to do it within existing rules.

Will he now commit in this place that he will continue that spirit of co-operation? Will he agree that he will not use his unilateral majority to change the rules in this place and change how democracy works? Will he do that now, today?

Committees of the House April 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government House leader why she moved away from the approach of her predecessor who, as I mentioned in my remarks earlier, on January 28 of last year came into the committee, mentioned that his mandate was to work with House leaders to make the House of Commons more family friendly, and asked us to entertain that debate and discussion, which we did, with the understanding that the only things that would be in the report would be items that we agreed on. That led to this multiple-page report being here, and that we are all in support of.

Why did the government House leader abandon what was a proven, positive way to bring us all together, and instead head down this road that has led us to this ridiculous place?

Committees of the House April 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment my friend for the outstanding job he has done at PROC. He is not a member but has subbed in. He pushed close to six hours of continuous filibustering. As someone who has done that sort of thing, it is not easy. He did an excellent job.

The hon. member is new to this place but he understands that when we work together, we can produce. He has pointed out that it is impossible for us to get to that point while the government remains in its stubborn power grab mode. I concur with him totally, and I again thank him for the work he has done.

I ask the government to stop reflecting only its talking points and to start listening. The process that we are in now is not the one the very same government used a year go that gave us something positive. All we are asking for is the assurance that the process will be the same and that the only things that will be included in the next PROC report, like this one, are by all-party agreement. That is all that is being asked, yet somehow the government believes it is going to convince the media and the Canadian public that retaining the right to ram something through and expecting the opposition to just merrily start having discussions is a responsible, respected approach, when it is in complete violation with the approach it used before, which we complimented. How much more do we have to spell this out?

Committees of the House April 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, again, the government is insistent that the opposition should just be reasonable and start talking. What it is failing to accept is that the process that it has followed has made that impossible. The proof of that is where we are right now.

The member asked, in good faith, if I would like to have that kind of a discussion. Yes. Quite frankly, I enjoy working together and trying to find the language when we come from different places. It is a lot more stimulating and fun than just attacking the government and going for a headline. We have been doing that for decades, and it gets old.

What I really enjoy, though, is when all three sides come from different places and struggle to find language and an approach that we can agree on because it is for the betterment of all of us. That excites me. I enjoy that. I feel it is putting my experience to good use.

I am quite prepared to say yes to the member and commit our entire caucus to that process. Make it like we just did for the report in front of us, and we are more than willing to sit down. Maintain that the government has the right to unilaterally ram through what it wants if it does not like the way those negotiations happen, and it is not on.

Committees of the House April 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to join in the debate. I would like to start by coming back to the focus of what is actually on the floor, which is a report from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. It just happens that this report is on the family-friendly Parliament changes. My friend from Elmwood—Transcona made a great deal about the fact that the problem we have right now is not whether we agree with electronic voting, or Wednesdays with the Prime Minister, and Fridays off; our problem right now is on process.

We pride ourselves in being a sports nation. Most Canadians have had some kind of attachment to some kind of sports. We all know that the first thing to do is to decide on what the rules are going to be. When the committee did this report, the one that is actually in front of us right now, I cannot say—and when this motion came up, it was not on the agenda, and I did not have time to look at Hansard to see whether an express statement was made—that there would only be things included in this report—I was there, I was part of this—but only if we all agreed.

I can certainly say, if we look at Hansard, that that was the working assumption. The proof positive would be that the government was very much pushing its idea of Fridays off at that time. It was the Conservatives and New Democrats who made it crystal clear at the beginning, the middle, and at the end of our discussion on that subject that there was no way in heck that there was going to be unanimity. Liberals can make all the speeches they want. They can have the floor; we would not dream of denying them that. However, they should understand that as it is right now, neither opposition party is willing to accept that.

When one turns to this report, one would start looking through to see what happened to the Fridays. I know every member has read every page and word of this report, because we are voting on it. However, I would remind people, in case they have forgotten since they read it, there is no reference to Fridays because everything in the report was agreed upon by the entire committee.

My friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, said if there were only one agreement, how would we guarantee that there would be tangible results? This very report shows that we can do it. That speaks to how we run Parliament, which is why we all work under the implied understanding that if we did not all agree, it does not go in the report. That is exactly what happened, and the report is here now because it was approved with all-party agreement. There were things that members did not agree with that are not in the report. What is agreed to goes in the report and what is not agreed to does not go in the report.

As we talk process, as I share some side comments with the former government House leader, what is really interesting is again harkening back to my friend from Elmwood—Transcona talking about process. I am not showing everyone some arcane documents, but the document that is actually the focus of what we are doing, and it is only here because we all agreed.

Not only that, but on the process of how this was approached, again, I was here. Do members know how this started? It started when the previous government House leader, the current government's previous House leader, wanted us to undertake this study. It sounds familiar, right? That is exactly what the current House leader asked us to do, except the previous House leader did not just drop a document out there in the public domain, in the middle of a constituency week, with really no comment and no consultation. It was just, “There you go”.

The previous House leader, when the government wanted us to undertake a study, showed the respect the government said it was going to show more of to committees. He showed the respect of coming to the committee, presenting his thoughts, and making reference to his mandate, which I would like to underscore and which is on the front page of the report. The mandate letter the previous Liberal government House leader had stated:

Work with Opposition House Leaders to examine ways to make the House of Commons more family-friendly for Members of Parliament.

The first thing that veteran House leader did was come to the committee, have the respect to present what the government wanted us to do, and ask us to undertake it, which we then did, under the assumption that we would only put things in the report that we all agreed on, which we did. We had quite a number of significant changes that are going to make things better for the work-life balance of members of Parliament.

What is the problem? Why are we not doing the same thing? In this case, it was the official opposition formally asking the government, since it brought papers and we were not really sure what was going on, because we did not get the courtesy visit we got from the previous House leader, when we could ask questions. We just had this thing kind of dumped out there. The first thing that happened was, guess what? There was an amendment on the floor calling on the government to acknowledge that it will not make any changes unless there is all-party agreement.

Normally, what should have happened, if we followed the process we did with this, is that the government would have said, “Of course. What's the big deal?” We would have had a fast vote.

Now, as we are wasting all this time, we would have been discussing the very issues the government has asked us to undertake. Instead, look at the mess it has got us into.

I wish I had more time. I only have two minutes? That is what happens when we are having fun. I will do this as quickly as I can.

The government is the one that did not and would not adjourn that committee meeting, which pushed us into 24/7. Technically, in parliamentary la-la land, down the hall in one of the committee rooms it is still only a week ago last Tuesday. That is the bizarre situation we are in. The government amped that up, not the opposition. The government decided that it was going to take it from a filibuster in committee to a filibuster that overtook the committee.

All we are asking is to recognize that we cannot have honest and free give-and-take negotiations, or discussions, that are actually equal and fair and are going to get somewhere as long as the government still maintains that it has the right to ram them through afterwards. We cannot have that kind of discussion. I have been at the negotiating table. It is like saying to a company when at the table, “No matter what you offer, we are going to strike”. The government is basically saying, “We are going to negotiate with you, we are going to listen to you, we are going to be fair-minded, until you want to do something we do not agree with, and then we are going to utilize our majority and ram it through anyway”.

That is why we are in this jam. It is the government's doing. The same government, a year ago, did it the right way, and we did not have any problem. There were no filibusters. There were no accusations of a power grab.

The very report that we are looking at here now is the result of the same process that we should be undertaking, and yet the government is still, to this moment, refusing to accept the fact that it does not have the moral right to change the rules of the House unilaterally, without the agreement of the other participants. That is not on.