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

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply April 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, climate change is an issue that will come on like a gangbuster in the next while. We cannot stop the forces of nature with bricks and mortar. On the Arctic coast, people in the community of Tuktoyaktuk have for years been putting in brick rip-rap to prevent the erosion of their community but that is not working because the forces of nature are stronger.

When we see the rising of the sea and the increased storms that occur at times of the year, these are things that drive a change in climate. The effect on the animals, the birds and the feeding grounds in the Arctic as well from these rising sea levels and from these increased storms is very significant.

There is much scientific work going on right now to determine the true impact on our migratory bird populations.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply April 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, yes, the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline is an important issue and, as I mentioned in my speech, we need to address it as a gas industry.

The problem we have with many of the environmental processes and assessments that have gone on in the past is that governments have tended to take projects in isolation from the likely results of their future development.

When we look at a project like that, we need to look at it in the context of what it will create for us in the Mackenzie Valley and how we can best judge the impacts of the full project and the full development of this rather larger gas industry with estimates about a third of the total reserve that Alberta had when it started out?

I fought three elections saying that the concept of developing northern gas for Canadians is a good idea but of course we need to have projects that work for ourselves. The purpose of my speech today was to point out the necessity for northerners to be listened to on projects such as the Mackenzie Valley project.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply April 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from Trinity—Spadina.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of the Western Arctic who provided me with the honour and privilege of representing them in the House.

My riding, unlike most, represents a complete Canadian jurisdiction, the Northwest Territories. With an area of over 1.3 million square kilometres, the riding is the second largest in the country. It is home to Canada's pristine river, the Mackenzie River or, as the Dene say, the Deh Cho. The Mackenzie drains much of western Canada into the Arctic Ocean and is the key geographic feature of this vast land.

The people of the Northwest Territories are as varied as the great land they live in. The over 40,000 people who call the Northwest Territories their home include Chipewyan, Cree, Tlicho, Slavey, Gwitch'in, Inuvialuit and Métis, as well as Canadians from all parts of the country and newcomers from all parts of the globe.

These people live side by side, working and playing together to build homes for themselves and their children. It is the diversity of culture that is one of the strengths of the Northwest Territories. We are small in number but strong in heart and we truly represent Canada.

The human history of the Northwest Territories stretches back thousands of years, starting with the Dene who lived in harmony with the land for generations before the first non-aboriginal people arrived.

The Northwest Territories became part of Canada in 1870. It took on its present shape in 1999 following the creation of Nunavut.

The future for the Northwest Territories has the potential for greatness. It is blessed with an abundance of natural resources which, if developed in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner, will add much to Canada's economy.

During the election campaign, the Prime Minister made many references to the importance of the north to Canada and yet I was surprised and disappointed that there was not one mention of Canada's north in the opening address. It seems that once again we have a government that is all talk and no action. The people of the north have already suffered from 12 years of that style of government under the Liberals. Are they to continue suffering?

The people of my riding have a long list of issues that for too long have either been ignored by the federal government or, when it has addressed these issues, the government takes care of its own interests first rather than those of northerners.

Many members of the House may not be aware that the powers of the three territories are delegated from Ottawa rather than entrenched in the Constitution. It is this Parliament that determines what northerners may have control over. Because of this, Parliament has a fiduciary responsibility to the people of the Northwest Territories as well as to those who live in the Yukon and Nunavut. Northerners are tired of living under a colonial regime that, like all colonial regimes, robs the colony and serves its own interests.

The people of the Northwest Territories need action from the government on their political development. As I mentioned, the law outlining the authorities of the Government of the Northwest Territories is outdated but this is just the tip of the iceberg. For too many years the federal government has dragged its heels in the negotiation of self-government and land claims. Further, for those claims that have been settled, Ottawa has failed to properly implement them.

Until Ottawa settles all outstanding claims, truly recognizes the inherent right to aboriginal self-government and the charter right of public government, the political development of the Northwest Territories will remain stagnant.

After the lack of strategic direction provided by the federal government in the development of our diamonds, northerners are concerned about how future resource development will be handled by the federal government. We are all aware of the ongoing hearings into the Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline. The process is taking too narrow a focus on the scope and impact of the development. What is needed here is a strategic environmental assessment of all the development that will flow from a major gas industry in the Mackenzie Valley.

One of the key pieces of legislation here is the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. This federal legislation places almost all of the control of the Northwest Territories' vast natural resources in the hands of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development with only non-binding advice from appointed representatives of aboriginal claims groups and common citizens of the Northwest Territories. This process under the Liberals has meant that the resource management decisions have been made with the interests of Ottawa put ahead of those of the Northwest Territories.

The result has been that the vast resources of the north, be they mineral, oil and gas, have been given away to multinational corporations by the federal government, by anybody's standards, at fire sale prices. To add insult to injury, even at these cut rate royalties the government, according to the public accounts, earned over $270 million in the 2004-05 fiscal year from the NWT's resources while the people of the Northwest Territories only earned $3.5 million. I dare any member of the House, especially those from Alberta, to call this fair.

The Northwest Territories needs a fair financing agreement with Canada. Right now the federal government claws back nearly every cent that the Northwest Territories raises. This means that the economic development of the Northwest Territories benefits my constituency very little. There are increased costs due to economic development but without the benefit of increased revenue from this development the reality is increasing funding shortfalls for essential programs such as education, health care, municipal infrastructure and social housing.

I also call on the Minister of Finance to fund the north based upon the real cost of programs and service delivery. Due to the north's small population and vast distances between communities, per capita funding comes nowhere near meeting those real costs.

The Prime Minister talks about the fiscal imbalance. A per capita approach to funding for the north will not solve our fiscal imbalance. For years the Northwest Territories has been calling on Ottawa to lift the arbitrary borrowing limit of $300 million placed on the Government of the Northwest Territories. To quote our finance minister during this year's budget speech, “reflects an outdated and unreasonable view that we cannot make sound financial decisions on our own”.

The Northwest Territories wants nothing more than a fair shake when it comes to financing from Ottawa. There should be one objective when discussing financing with the Northwest Territories and that is to ensure that the people of the north receive the same level of government service programs that other Canadians receive.

Another issue that my constituents would like to see some action on by the federal government is helping them deal with the high cost of living in the north. In the late 1980s the last Conservative government brought in the northern residents tax deduction to help northerners offset the high cost of essentials such as food, housing, fuel and transportation. Set at a maximum of $15 per day, this deduction has not changed in 18 years.

I call upon the Conservative finance minister to do what his Liberal predecessor would not: increase the residency portion of the northern residents tax deduction by 50% and to index the deduction to the consumer price index for the north.

Another issue that the people of the north want addressed by Ottawa is climate change. While the government says that we need to rework our commitment to climate change, the people of the north will suffer. The effects of our warming planet are already being felt in the north. Many experts believe the decline of the caribou numbers, as well as other animals such as polar bears, are directly related to climate change. In addition, record high temperatures endanger the boreal forest as well as communities along the Beaufort Sea where rising sea levels and increased storms are devastating the coastline.

The people of the north cannot wait while the environment minister reworks Canada's commitment to greenhouse gas reductions in order to suit the needs of large corporations. Action is needed now.

Canada's north is an integral part of this nation's cultural identity. In the coming years it will become vital to this nation's economy through the supply of natural resources. As the Prime Minister noted so many times during the election campaign, the north is an important part of Canada's sovereignty.

However it is time the federal government realizes that northerners are Canadians with interests that must be respected. The north is not Canada's colony and it is time the federal government stopped acting as if it were. It is time the federal government realized that Canadians' love of our land, our status as equals and our concerns for the future of our children and grandchildren stretch from sea to sea to sea.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply April 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am looking for the minister's direction in terms of the need for the northern territories to receive better than per capita funding for health care. When it comes to wait times and making health care more available to people, then of course there are also higher costs with that.

How is the minister going to approach this issue with the northern territories?

Ekati Diamond Mine April 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your election.

I rise on an issue of immediate importance to my constituents: the strike by the members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada workers at BHP Billiton's Ekati diamond mine. These 400 workers are fighting for the basic Canadian labour standards of seniority, pay equity and fair wages in their first contract with this huge multinational corporation.

BHP Billiton has responded with delaying tactics and by continuing to make contract proposals that have been rejected time and again by the workers.

I have been informed that BHP Billiton, a multinational with profits in the billions last year, has said it will continue to operate using private contractors who are not part of the union. This decision could lead to a long and difficult dispute.

The people of the Northwest Territories want to see this dispute resolved quickly but fairly. By and large, northerners get very little from the exploitation of their resources, other than some jobs and business opportunities. Northern workers put up with harsh conditions and long absences from their families in order to work at these mines. It is only right that they be treated fairly by their employers.

Because the non-renewable resources of the Northwest Territories are controlled by the government, these workers are regulated under the federal labour code. I ask both the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Minister of Human Resources to take an active interest--

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member indicated that the GST cut this government has proposed will benefit all Canadians. This statement needs some clarification.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recently released a report that shows that the benefits from this tax were extremely skewed for upper income Canadians. Some 48% of families in Canada have incomes of $40,000 or less. The average take for these families from the Conservative cut will be less than $120. On the other hand, the top 5% of families earning $150,000 will average almost $1,000 in tax benefits.

Does the hon. member, who quite obviously fits into the $150,000 bracket, feel that he is representing all his constituents when he supports this government on this particular tax measure?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I too wish to congratulate you on your acceptance of the Deputy Speaker position.

The member spoke about development of infrastructure programs, but he missed one. Although it is not directly related to the federal government, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities green fund is very important. I had the opportunity to sit on that fund for five years. We invested innovatively in infrastructure to achieve green results across the country.

We need to invest in our country in ways that can lead us to a greener future. Investments that simply mimic growth, that do not use the best available technology, that do not move the country forward in ways that are useful to the greater good of the environment and for the citizens of the future are infrastructure investments that are not worthwhile.

Would the member agree that the importance of infrastructure investment toward improving our green future is something the government should take very strongly in the next while?


Mr. Speaker, in the presentation of my hon. colleague from Yukon I noted with some interest some of the issues he has raised in terms of the development of a northern strategy. This strategy was put forward to the territorial leaders and to the people of the territory as an answer, as a vision. In my territory, it then turned into a sum of money, some $40 million.

That sum of money was then turned over to the territorial government. It did not find an answer for it either. It simply turned the money over to the communities to do with as they saw fit, so the Liberal support for the north and for a strategy there was somewhat limited. I would hope that in this Parliament we can put together a strategy for the north that will work, that will have some impact on the many serious issues facing the north, issues that really and truly need the attention of the House and Canada.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for the history lesson on the Liberal Party of the last 13 years. The Liberals certainly did reduce the deficit, but they created a human deficit.

Right now, with this new throne speech, I do not think we not see much hope of changing that deficit, a deficit that denies Canadians productivity in their own lives, that denies Canadians and their children the opportunity to move past the problems they may have within their own living.

If the corporate tax rate that was in place before the Liberals got in had been in place today, there would have been an extra $60 billion raised by the government. This year, the corporations have put only $20 billion of that back into the economy in investment. There is a real loss to our economy.

What does the member think of the tax position of this throne speech? Is it going to change any of the things he and his party did for Canadians during their 13 years of government?