House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was north.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Northwest Territories (Northwest Territories)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 31% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Natural Resources May 19th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, EnerGuide is a program that makes economic sense. It saves homeowners, taxpayers and governments money. It reduces energy costs, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Recently the Conservatives have been suggesting that 50% of the EnerGuide spending goes to administration.

Could the parliamentary secretary tell us if the government considers funding for homeowner energy audits as administration in its calculation?

Budget Implementation Act May 19th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, my position and the position of this party is that we need to do away with the tax breaks that were instituted for the oil and gas industry, especially the oil sands in 1995 with the Liberal government under a previous leader, whom I will not mention, along with the Alberta government. Oil was $12 a barrel and it is $70 a barrel now. Those companies can stand on their own two feet. Why are we continuing to support them when there are perfectly valid green energy companies that could be providing great employment, great opportunities in Canada and need this kind of subsidy?

Budget Implementation Act May 19th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I do not really see much difference between Liberals and Conservatives when it comes to fiscal policy. While the Liberals were in power, we saw the corporate tax rate drop from 28% down to 21%. The Conservatives are going to put it down another couple of percentage points. This is giving up money.

There was a very interesting discussion about this in the newspaper a while back. An economist pointed out that this is costing our system an incredible amount of money right now and that money is not being reinvested by the corporations,. The corporate tax cuts that we have seen over the years have degraded the ability of government to provide the kinds of services that my hon. colleague across the way spoke so highly of.

I think we were all ready to see a change of government. It is a minority government situation, just like the last time. We have seen that there are votes again. We are dealing with a Conservative government that really has a fiscal policy similar to the one the Liberals had before.

The NDP is the only party that has really different answers for Canadians. That is why I was very happy to see the election happen when it did. Canadians will work with the results of that election.

Budget Implementation Act May 19th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure for the first time in many years to have the opportunity on behalf of the Northwest Territories to raise a critical voice about a federal budget. My comments will focus on three areas: how the revenue is being generated, impacts on the north, and protection of the environment, or rather the lack thereof.

A long time in municipal politics has taught me to first look at the revenue sections of a budget. It is pretty clear where the Conservatives plan to get their money and that is out of the wallets of ordinary Canadians. A 2% reduction to the general corporate income tax rate, doing away with the federal capital tax and the elimination of the corporate surtax will do nothing to help more working families.

Corporations, unlike ordinary citizens, can pick and choose where they will file their taxes. For the past few years the provinces and territories have been competing with each other in a race to the bottom for the lowest corporate tax rates. The federal government should take the opportunity to raise revenues from corporations while the provinces are giving them all these breaks.

Thanks to the Liberals, Canada already has a corporate tax rate well below the United States. Also, the corporations here have the benefit of public health care for their employees, so it seems unlikely that further reductions will do much more to attract corporations to this country.

The Conservative corporate tax breaks are nothing more than a crass political move to win favour with large corporations while those neo-cons turn their backs on ordinary Canadians. If the Prime Minister and his finance minister really wanted to help their constituents, they would have used the surplus found in the budget to deal with issues that matter to Canadians, such as health care, environmental improvement and post-secondary education.

Instead, the Prime Minister and his Minister of Finance decided to use the surplus contained in the budget to buy support from the largest corporations in Canada, in other words, to act like Liberals.

A further revenue concern I have with the budget is the cut to the GST. This ill thought out measure will also create turmoil in the way provincial sales taxes are dealt with. Once again, pressure will be on the less fortunate provinces with sales taxes to take up the tax room vacated by the GST cut.

As a northern MP, however, I must admit that the GST is a very unfair tax to people in remote communities across the country where the cost of living can run as high as 250% of that in southern Canada. The northern residents tax deduction was supposed to compensate for this, but the impact of this fixed amount of relief has been severely degraded by inflation over the 17 years since its inception.

With all the Prime Minister's talk about the importance of the north during the election, I had half expected to see a budget loaded with good things for the north. Apart from some urgently needed housing money, the Conservative budget does not provide anything that was not already promised by the Liberals.

First, there is reconfirmation of the $500 million fund to deal with the impacts to the Northwest Territories communities by the construction of the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline. However, it is unfortunate that the fund has been tied to the project going ahead. If we wait until the project is going ahead, it will be too late to begin preparing for the impacts of the project. Funding is needed now to do the planning and preparation for mitigating the impacts of the pipeline's construction. Trying to put together the structures needed to deal with these impacts while they are occurring will cause them to never be efficient and effective.

It was also interesting to read this passage in the budget:

In order to mitigate the negative socio-economic costs of the project, and in light of the significant federal royalty revenues to be generated by the project, the Government of Canada will establish a $500-million fund.

It is rare that a passage causes me to do a double take, but this one really caught me. Do the Conservatives mean that royalties that should be going to the Northwest Territories in the first place will be used to provide for this fund? If that is the case, then once again we are being manipulated with our own money. Or does this passage mean the Northwest Territories will not be seeing resource revenue sharing and devolution for a long time?

I ask that because at the extremely low royalty rates set in place by the Liberals, it will take some time to make up half a billion dollars. As well, this royalty scheme in place on federal lands, established decades ago when oil and gas were relatively low priced, front loads all the tax and royalty breaks. It will be many years after project start-up before there are any revenues to speak of.

Is this any way for the government to manage for northerners their resource base, which is so vital to the development of the region?

A lot more money will be required to prepare the pristine Mackenzie Valley with its numerous small communities for the impact of a $500 billion gas industry, of which the pipeline is only the first step. A massive public works infrastructure fund, which should be funded from potential royalties, is absolutely required. Investment in infrastructure up front may see the significant reductions in project development costs, thus returning money to the public coffers.

On other northern funds in the budget, it was nice to see the finance minister understands the need for better housing in the north, but the approach the Conservatives have taken is, at best, a band-aid. A one time contribution of $50 million seems generous, but what has not been publicized is that the NWT will have to match this amount.

The budgets of the territories are already stretched thin due to federal cuts and arbitrary borrowing limits. Now these governments have to come up with additional funds to access the housing money. Just where exactly does the Minister of Finance expect the territorial governments to find the money? Mr. Speaker, I will tell you where they will find it; they will have to steal funding from other programs and services.

Finally, let me turn to how the budget deals with what is the most important issue facing all human beings, that of our changing climate. Dealing with Canada's commitment under Kyoto requires all of us to put conservation and energy efficiency first. The Conservatives, by name only, are firmly welded to the consumption bandwagon. The word “Kyoto” is not mentioned once in the budget. The words “greenhouse gas emissions” are only mentioned once and then only to give more funding to pulp and paper corporations to burn off their pollution to generate electricity. The words “climate change” appear only twice, both times to explain how funding to effective programs is being cut and shifted to a public transit tax benefit of dubious value.

This shows quite clearly that the government has no plan to deal with climate change. Without dollars, climate change plans announced by the government are nothing but window dressing. Without a major commitment to energy conservation, Canadians will suffer.

Canadians overwhelmingly want leadership from the federal government on the environment. Instead, we have a government that has become so focused on its few priorities it cannot see past its own nose, and a budget that buys votes today while selling out our future.

The Conservative plan for climate change is not made in Canada; it is made in the oil patch. It is a plan for increasing consumption of energy, which will do nothing but increase greenhouse gas emissions.

While a consumption based plan may be good for the Conservatives' buddies in the multinational oil companies, it is not good for the millions of Canadians who have to bear the full effect of climate change and the high cost of energy.

What was needed from the budget was a commitment to enhance and encourage the development of green energy sources. Instead of leaving huge tax breaks for the oil sands, the finance minister should have shifted the subsidies over to the green energy sector to encourage development there.

Once again, working Canadians are faced with a budget that places all the costs upon them, while those who could do more actually have an easier time.

The budget is nothing but a carny sideshow. It looks nice, it takes a poor family's money, but once we get past the elaborate facade, there is no substance.

Taxation May 18th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, in the late 1980s the Mulroney government brought in the northern residents tax deduction. This was intended to deal with the high cost of living in the north and, when first introduced, did much to right the balance.

However, it has fallen behind. With continuously rising costs of living and 13 years of Liberal inaction, it no longer provides northerners across the country with the relief they deserve. Since 1989 the consumer price index for Yellowknife has gone up by about 50% and is higher in smaller communities in the north.

I ask the government to raise the residency portion of the deduction by 50% and to further index increases so as to keep pace with the ever increasing costs. Recently the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories voted unanimously to ask Parliament to increase the deduction.

I ask the government to heed the voice of northerners and increase this deduction.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006 May 18th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, my question for the hon. member goes to the issues he raised around support in the budget for aboriginal people. He spoke about the Kelowna accord and the failure of those dollars to show up in a meaningful way in this budget.

Over the past many years we have seen a status quo or a decline in the standard of living and the opportunities aboriginal people have in our society.

Does the hon. member feel that the Kelowna accord, which would have delivered $5 billion over a number of years, had adequate funding to deal with the large problems facing over one million of our citizens across the country? Maybe the hon. member could outline how he feels those dollars would have given aboriginal peoples across the country the opportunity for a better future.

Business of Supply May 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about the forests of Canada and the impact that climate change has on them, we can see it quite readily. I do not think anyone in the House is turning his or her back on that. We need a forest strategy, a survival strategy in those forests, to take out the trees, to find ways we can use that in an effective fashion to build some local autonomy.

We have done so little on biomass in Canada. We could look to the Scandinavian countries where they use their forests with intensity and they have produced great results from that. We could take a lesson from Finland on how to manage these forests and how to deal with these types of issues in the forest so we can turn this environmental disaster into something we can deal with in a reasonable fashion. That requires bold action, money and the efforts of the provinces and federal government working together.

Business of Supply May 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that we cannot simply look for band-aid solutions to deal with these problems. We need to take an active and bold interest in how we deal with energy across the whole country.

The fact that greenhouse gas emissions have gone up by an incredible percentage in Canada shows us that the problem will not be solved easily. We need to take bold action. We need to look at the energy supply industry first. Then we need to look at serious conservation efforts that can drive Canadians to reduce, reduce and reduce.

Business of Supply May 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Ottawa Centre.

It is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise to speak on the issue of the Kyoto protocol and the accord that comes out of it. I have spent many years looking forward to the time when we will address greenhouse gas issues in an acceptable and bold fashion and will move forward on this.

The importance of Kyoto is really about what it meant to the world community when, in an organized fashion, we finally put forward a treaty that looked to reduce the consumption of the world's resources. One hundred and eighty countries bought into the concept of the need to conserve the earth, the need to conserve the resources that we have, to husband them, to use them effectively and to use them in a fashion that does not upset the ecosystem. That truly is a marvellous achievement in international politics. We cannot step back from that, we simply cannot.

I commend the motion made by the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, because everything that we can do helps, but in regard to the motion I have to say that we cannot let inter-jurisdictional wrangling delay action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is a international issue, a global issue and an issue that in this country we have to deal with as a national issue.

I had the opportunity to sit on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' green municipal fund. This is really quite a good organization. That was one thing the Liberals did that was pretty good. It gave some money to another organization to organize a green effort. That speaks to the past government, but when it gave money to that other organization, the Parti Québécois would not allow the municipalities in Quebec to participate in the program. They missed the opportunity.

We had many wonderful projects from Quebec and what did we get out of them? We did not even get a chance to fund those projects. So we have to be careful with jurisdictional issues. We have to look at this holistically and in a forward thinking fashion, covering the whole of Canada and the world.

The heating of our planet will affect every human being. While jurisdictional issues must be considered, we cannot allow them to be a distraction from the real objective, which is to reduce the carbon dioxide that we are pouring into the atmosphere and that will change the earth for our children and our children's children.

I grew up and live in the north and I have seen the change in the north. The Mackenzie Valley is predicted to be the centre of the largest temperature increase in North America. That fact is on the ground already.

In Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic coast, shoreline erosion due to rising sea levels and much more violent storms that come from the greater heating of the earth and sky have forced people from their homes. They have seen parts of their communities washed away.

Animals throughout the north have been affected. Right now we are dealing with a crisis in caribou herds right across the whole country, including northern Quebec, because the change in climate affects animals first. They are the ones that live off the land. They are the ones whose breeding patterns change due to differing temperatures and inaccessible food supplies because of changes in climate.

Across the north, winter roads, vital for the resupply of communities and mines, are melting earlier. This past winter large diamond mines in the Northwest Territories were impacted tremendously by the loss of the winter roads. There has been an increase in forest fires in our boreal forest. There has been an increase in pests throughout the forests of Canada, including the north where spruce budworm has killed many of our trees. Across the Mackenzie Valley, permafrost, thousands of years old, has been melting away. These are all indicators of climate change.

When good managers or wise people see indications of change or of something going wrong, they should look to fix it. The Liberal government saw indications of change, but did nothing to fix it. If I were a mechanic, I would say they put some engine additive in the machine of Canada and revved it up even higher. The Liberals hoped these problems would go away, but they did not. Now we have a Conservative government that is not going to take a hopeful approach. It is going to ignore these problems completely.

We see a change in attitude toward China and India. There is this attitude that the more advanced countries should move ahead on Kyoto and developing countries can catch up. We are demanding that these countries not follow in our footsteps, but lead us instead. I do not think that is correct.

We are in Afghanistan touting our democracy. We can beat our chest a bit about that. We have a House of Commons. We have all we need to be a democracy. Do we have the answer to Kyoto? Do we have the answer to greenhouse gas emissions so we can tell these other countries what to do? Canada should be leading on this issue.

The government does not have a plan other than to continue consumption. We just have to look at what has happened over the last number of years. We have ramped up production of oil and gas across the country in a remarkable fashion. In the mid-nineties, the Liberal government, along with the provincial Conservative government, gave huge tax breaks to the tar sands in Alberta when oil was $12 a barrel. It is $70 a barrel now. Those tax breaks are still there. The rampant development that is taking place there is hurting the whole community. People from Fort McMurray tell me they do not want this kind of development. They want an orderly development. Now we are a full freight train of development on the tar sands with very little return to the government. This is having a dilatory effect on the environment. We need to change some tax policies.

Natural gas is another matter. We used to have a 25 year reserve of natural gas for our communities, but we have ramped up its production to the point where we are now down to an eight year reserve. We are selling off our natural gas as quickly as possible. The Conservative government's approach is to send people over to Russia to set up contracts for liquefied natural gas. We can export our Kyoto problem over to Russia where it will use 40% of the energy involved to liquefy the natural gas and send it back over to Canada. That is not a solution for Canada or the world. That is just more consumption. We need a government that puts conservation and those values first.

We need to provide support to our communities. They are the base where conservation changes can be made. We need to put national economic instruments in place that can drive the development of renewable energy such as wind, solar power and biomass. Our wind energy industry has to survive with a Liberal stipend that is one-third of what it is in the United States. This is not the kind of support this fledgling industry needs.

Solar is much left off. There is much to say here. We will not finish this Kyoto debate today. It will go on for quite a while in this Parliament.

I commend the work of the Bloc in bringing forward this resolution, but we will be back at this again.

The Budget May 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her speech. I want to talk more about the issue surrounding the cutting of energy conservation in homes. Right now we are facing a crisis in the natural gas industry in North America. Supplies are short. The Minister of Finance has said that he wants to go to Russia to find more supply for our homes in Quebec and Ontario. What we need right now is more investment in energy conservation, and we do not see it in the budget.

Will my colleague outline how this could be changed over the years ahead to make a better effort for Canadians under energy conservation?