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

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of ideas. I think that a system of electronic locks on the doors that both the RCMP and the security service have the ability to lock from a distance would be a good idea.

When I look at the bollards that were installed, I think of how many terrorists ride scooters. They could simply scooter their way through there and not be stopped by that very expensive system that was put in.

There are things we should do, technical things that need to be accomplished on the Hill to provide safety. I do not have a problem with that. The Speaker and the technical security experts should come together to understand how to make this place safer. I do not think we have done a very good job of it yet. I think we can do a much better job.

However, what I do not want to change is the relationship of parliamentarians with their own security system. It is fine to change the building or the layout, but the most important thing that we do in this House is represent people as the authority of Canadians. We cannot give that up.

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to debate the motion before us and the amendments that have been made to it.

Of course, the NDP is not opposed to the idea of an integrated security force operating in the parliamentary precinct. That is an idea that most of us have a good feeling about and think would improve the general security of the place. However, the problem is what has happened here to start with and then looking at the details of the motion.

To start with, when we have an opportunity for parliamentarians to make the rules for Parliament, there should be a process that engages parliamentarians and not a process that comes from the Prime Minister's Office. That is not appropriate for dealing with the rules that govern us as parliamentarians. We all understand that, but the Conservatives seem to be willing to go along with the idea that a party of one gets to make the choices in this House of Commons for all of us.

What we have before us is a motion that calls on the Speaker to “invite without delay, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police...”

Therefore, once the motion is passed, the Speaker has his orders. He is going to invite, without delay, without discussion, the RCMP to lead operational security. That is the essence of what is happening here. Everything else around it is on qualifications that may or may not come into play. However, that is what will happen from this motion, which is what we are here for today.

We talk about the privilege of the House and the continued employment of our existing parliamentary security staff, but those are things that can or may be put into place, or they may continue in one way or another. However, it is that the RCMP would take over and lead operational security for this parliamentary precinct. That is what is going to happen.

How do we feel about the actions of the security team in October, which is what has driven the party of one, the Prime Minister, to put forward this motion?

We all saw what happened. We all have our ideas about what went wrong or right on that day. We can look back and ask ourselves if the people in our security service within this House, many whom have worked here for many years and recognize every one of us, were the most important element in what happened on that day. I think we can say yes. We saw what happened outside of the grounds.

We could say that there are technical issues outside of the grounds. Why do we not have electronic locks on the main doors in this place? Why do we not have secondary barriers on the roads leading up to this place? What are we doing about the people on two-wheeled vehicles who roar up the Hill? Nothing. We do have some technical issues on the grounds around Parliament that we need to deal with. We obviously have problems with access to the buildings when someone can walk in without anyone stopping them.

There are issues that need to be dealt with, but they are not issues that need to change the way that Parliament is run and the way parliamentarians take care of themselves. These are technical issues. They are issues that should be worked on by security experts who can put them in place, who can make sure that procedures outside the grounds and inside the House are adequate for our protection and respect the nature of Parliament. We do not need to change the relationship to do that.

My concern about the grounds goes back to an incident in September 2011, when members of the RCMP, in response to the Keystone pipeline protest, put up massive barricades. They shut down the main stairs leading up to the middle of the parliamentary grounds. They positioned people on tops of buildings. There was a crowd of 1,000 people, and they were very concerned about controlling it.

As a member of Parliament, I wanted to access the stairs. I told the RCMP that I wanted to stand on the stairs and talk to people in the crowd. The officers told me I could not do that. When I asked the officers under what authority were they doing this, they said the authority was in a book in the House of Commons. I told them to get the book. When they opened it, they apologized and told me to stand where I wished.

Those RCMP officers did not understand the relationship of parliamentarians to Parliament. Some of them are here for a year or two; some are here maybe a bit longer. They are not like our security staff. They do not understand the nature of Parliament and the parliamentarians who work here and represent Canadians within this building.

We do not want to see that change. We do not want to see the relationship we have with this building change over technical issues that should be fixed and can be fixed.

When I was transport critic in the last Parliament, I spent time on aviation security. It was clear that once security rules are put in place, they stay in place, whether they become rather insignificant and meaningless later on.

We went through a process in transport committee and we heard from many witnesses. When we begin locking the cockpit door of an airplane so that no one can enter it, it changes the nature of what can go into the cabin. An individual cannot open a properly locked cockpit door with a pair of scissors. Threatening someone in the cabin is then like threatening somebody anywhere else. Threats were made, so rules were finally changed.

The Israelis laugh at some of the things that we do here. They have the best security system in the world, but we get into a fixed position about what we think security is and we are then not adaptable to the changes that can take place.

We do need to adapt, but we cannot throw out the baby with the bath water. We cannot make this Parliament less than it is. This is our watch. We are standing this watch. This is the watch that all of us in this Parliament represent at this time. What we do here to change the rules for how our Parliament behaves is important. It cannot be done simply at the whim of the party of one. The party of one does not have the right to do that to us in this Parliament. We all know what the party of one means here, and no one could deny that.

The differences between the RCMP and the security people in the House are really quite apparent. The security people here look on this as their career. They learn to work with us. They know each other and all of us personally. They understand how this place works when we are here and when we are somewhere else.

What is the likelihood of the RCMP understanding that? RCMP officers have a couple of years on the Hill and then move on. Some rookies from Regina might be brought in and put to work on the Hill. What kind of guarantee is that of the total understanding of the relationship of parliamentarians to Parliament, of respect for the people who work in here, of understanding our job and our authority within the House? There is no guarantee.

This is a dangerous place to go. We do not need to go there. We should go back and put this in front of a group of parliamentarians. We should come together and make an agreement among ourselves. We are not far away. Two amendments have been made to the government's motion, one from the opposition and one from the third party. We are not far apart. Let us bring them together. Let us put this together in a good fashion.

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this is the parliamentarians' watch here right now on the future of this Parliament, so of course it is very serious what we are doing today, and the speed at which we are moving is not appropriate.

There has not been an official report that parliamentarians have had a chance to review over the incident that happened in October, so three and a half months have gone by without that. We have not seen any of the improvements that the Chief Government Whip has talked about to understand what those do to the situation in Parliament. Without that kind of technical information, for us to move ahead with any kind of change to the philosophy and structure of the House is really unfortunate.

Will the Chief Government Whip put forward the information that he does have? When will we see that information?

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I hate to think what the cost of putting the bill through this process has been. It is expensive, and it takes away from other more important things that could be done within the current Parliament. For that matter, whether we vote on it today or tomorrow, the vote for us will be the same: we do not think it is necessary, and we are not going to vote for it.

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for that question, and I will repeat something from my speech that will answer it.

I said at the time that if there are regulations that are inappropriate that are within the purview of the government to change, well then it should change them, and do a decent job. It should do a review of regulations in one sector or another and get rid of the ones that are not required. However, to put forward a bill that says that if we put a new regulation here we will have to pull another one out there, willy-nilly, is really not the way government should operate.

We should operate from the basis of review, understanding, research, and conclusions, not from a point of view of putting up one and taking away another. It is really ridiculous and inappropriate for the way for the government should operate.

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, for his question. Of course, it is an interesting question. I think, perhaps, that as a rookie member of Parliament, he might not yet understand how Parliament actually works.

There is the government, and there is the opposition. The opposition opposes the government. It is an adversarial system we work in. For the Conservatives to continue to talk about our voting record on their budgets is facetious, because this is the system we live in and work in.

If we lived and worked in a different parliamentary system, where every person voted on every particular issue as they saw fit, then the Conservatives might have an argument, but they do not. They just have hot air.

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to talk about Bill C-21, an act to control the administrative burden that regulations impose on businesses. It is a good bumper sticker for Conservative politics later on in this year. It is also a bill that is in some ways very confusing.

If we take the basic premise that we will get rid of a regulation for every regulation we create, that logically says there are quite a number of regulations that do not need to be on the books right now. Why does the government not do some homework and identify the regulations that are not important to the Canadian public, to businesses and to the happiness of the Canadian state and simply eliminate those regulations? Would that not make more sense than tying up the time of the House of Commons with a bill that really does not nail anything down? It simply lays out a pattern that can or cannot be obeyed. It is sort of like the elections limits law earlier in my time in Parliament. People could follow it if they wanted or they did not have to follow it

The President of the Treasury Board may establish policy or issue directives respecting the manner in which the rules can be applied. We have another law that is really for public consumption. It really will not affect too much in the way that business regulations are set or not set in Parliament.

For instance, it says in the preamble of the bill that the one-for-one rule may not compromise public health, public safety or the Canadian economy. It is in the part of the bill that is not law. It simply talks about the bill. Where Conservatives outline their concerns about where we should not touch regulations on a one-to-one basis, it really is inappropriate, it does not work and it is not part of any requirement of government to follow.

Environment, immigration or human rights are not mentioned. A whole number of things are not mentioned. The Conservatives' thoughts are very different from their thoughts about foreign regulation or how to sell the Canadian public on the idea they are taking care of the economy, the economy being a very complex organism which has social, cultural and environmental aspects to it at all times.

I was a small businessman for many years in the Northwest Territories. I dealt with small businesses in limited markets under very difficult conditions. Regulations set out a pathway for businesses in many cases. They provide, and should provide, a mechanism by which business people can conduct their business in a good and proper fashion. That is the purpose of regulation. Regulations put everyone on a level playing field. Everyone is required to abide by regulations.

Within the economy, there are some rules and conduct that can make business work. Therefore, regulations are very important. To simply deal with regulations in this rather cavalier fashion, saying that for every new regulation we create we are going to take one away, is patently absurd.

Let us go back to the environment. The Conservatives have been changing environmental laws to help large resource developers to effect their businesses better in the three northern territories. That has not worked very well for them. With the changes to the NWT environmental legislation that occurred last year along with devolution, they are now in court with first nations over those changes.

Now we have uncertainty in the Northwest Territories about how development is going to proceed because of those changes. Now the government has decided to do a somewhat similar thing in Yukon with Bill S-6. It would make changes to the Yukon environmental legislation.

The bill has created a firestorm among first nations and ordinary Yukon citizens right across the territory. The people of Yukon understand that the best way for developers to proceed is with the full understanding and co-operation of first nations.

What the government has done in both territories is created this chasm and brought legislation forward which has the exact opposite effect of what it says it is trying to do. I think this bill will probably be similar in some ways.

As I said earlier, if regulations are not appropriate, they should be taken down. We should not wait until another regulation comes along to decide that a regulation is not appropriate anymore. That really is an unbelievably inane way of conducting government.

The NDP has some sensible suggestions for small business. What are we going through right now in Canada? We have a dollar that has dropped by about 20%. What does that do for small businesses that want to innovate and expand their production base, much of which would be imported machinery?

What we need is an innovation tax credit to encourage investments in machinery, especially at this time when we are dealing with 80¢ dollars that have to buy equipment from countries that have a better exchange rate, like the United States.

The NDP tax innovation credit is a good idea. It is an idea for 2015, for the situation in which we exist today. The New Democrats would also extend the accelerated capital cost allowance, which would allow businesses to quickly write off the cost of processing equipment and machinery. This allowance is set to expire this year. At the very time it is needed most, it is going to expire.

Hopefully over the course of this year, as the government changes, we will be able to put some of these things into effect.

As well, cutting the small business tax rate from 11% to 10% and then to 9% is a good solid idea. Small businesses create jobs, they grow communities and they provide services to those who would not have them otherwise.

We do not see multinational corporations investing in small business in my communities in the Northwest Territories. We see the average Joe, the person who has a few dollars and wants to make a difference putting that to work in his community. A lower tax rate for those people ensures that the money will circulate within the economy.

Lowering the tax rate for multinational corporations with multitudinous shareholders all over the world means that the money is dispersed to other sources, dead money in many cases, sitting in banks, good to no one at all. Perhaps we should have a look at other ways to activate that money. That is something the NDP government can look at as it moves into the future.

I have a minute left, and that is probably all the bill deserves. It is really does nothing. The way it is set up it will be meaningless in the future. It is just another wasted effort on the part of the Conservative government to try to show how it can use symbols rather than real work to persuade Canadians that it is on their side.

Business of Supply February 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, at some point in my colleague's speech, which was a good speech and which I listened to in its entirety, he seemed to lose the focus of the question today, which is about the nature of an agreement made between two governments in this country. He said it was a fantasy of the NDP that there was some problem with this agreement. That is not the case. Obviously, the government of Newfoundland, the party that is aggravated by this action of the federal government, is the one that has brought this into focus at this time.

We have entered into a debate to talk about an agreement between governments in this country. My colleague has spent his time extolling the virtues of a particular free trade agreement, which really does not enter into the basic question being asked, which is why the government reneged on its deal with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador on the arrangement they had made to deal with the problems that were going to come to the fishing industry through this trade deal.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act January 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very much in favour of greater oversight of these bodies by Parliament in a fashion that would provide us with quicker answers than we received in regard to the Air India incident. That showed me how important it is to interact continually with the intelligence agency to understand what it is doing, why it is doing what it is doing, where its shortfalls are, and how the agency can be improved. Without that, I think there is extreme danger to Canadian values because it simply does not give the intelligence agency the opportunity to look carefully at what it is doing and to ensure it is doing things according to every law we have in place now. I think that goes without saying.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act January 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, to put a number on it in that regard is really difficult.

However, what I was trying to point out was that after the Air India incident, in which 300 people were killed, we did certain things. Most of them dealt with the physical security of our airports. We tried to better coordinate the agencies engaged in dealing with terrorist incidents within our country. We took some actions there; we did not change the law. We took actions within the services that we provide to Canadians to protect them to ensure that we did manage to maintain the same level of personal liberties and freedoms through that time.

Now, we are in a different time and we have had a number of deaths. They were terribly unfortunate and no one wants to see any of this happen, but, of course, it is part of any society that these things do happen. Now, as a result, are we going to make these changes? Now, are we now going to reduce these freedoms? Now, will we send out our intelligence agency to play a larger role in the international community? I do not find that appropriate.