House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was medical.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley (Manitoba)

Lost his last election, in 2021, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Elections Modernization Act May 22nd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the House that despite time allocation, this vote will be having all of the scrutiny at committee and by Parliament that it deserves. I will take no lessons from the party that invoked time allocation on this motion twice.

I would also like to clarify one of my answers. I said that 172,000 people did not vote in the 2011 election. I will correct that statement: it was in the 2015 election under the previous government's act that these people could not vote owing to lack of ID.

Elections Modernization Act May 22nd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is correct. As I referred to in my speech, 172,000 people in the 2011 election, according to Statistics Canada, cited lack of identification as the reason they did not vote. We are not suggesting the voter identification card is the only piece of identification that voters present. However, there are people, particularly a number of first nations people, who do not have any form of ID and need to rely on the voter identification card and vouching. These people, without these changes, would be denied the right to vote. We have evidence from the last election that thousands of Canadians had that right taken away from them.

Elections Modernization Act May 22nd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Halifax.

It is my honour to speak in favour of Bill C-76, the Elections Modernization Act. There are many important facets of the bill, but today I will focus on how this legislation would address barriers that prevent some Canadians from participating in the democratic process.

There are four groups of people that regularly encounter difficulties at the ballot box: persons with disabilities, those who have difficulty producing identification, electors living abroad for more than five years, and women and men who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Let me begin with electors who have disabilities, both physical and cognitive. Elections Canada has made efforts to help electors with mobility issues by introducing provisions to provide what has been referred to as level access. An example is providing ramps for wheelchairs at polling stations.

The bill would expand upon the options for persons with disabilities who, for reasons of their disabilities, would be better served by casting their votes in locations other than their originally assigned polling stations. Currently, to acquire a transfer certificate, an elector needs to apply in person to the returning officer or the deputy returning officer. Under the provisions of this bill, the Chief Electoral Officer would be given greater discretion as to how to provide that certificate, with an eye to making it easier for persons with disabilities to vote.

Another provision of this bill would expand the ability of electors with disabilities to be visited by an election officer to vote at home. This option would be available where the polling station was not accessible to the elector.

Another kind of barrier is encountered when electors come to the polls and find that they do not have the appropriate ID to provide their name and address. Following the 2015 election, Statistics Canada found that an estimated 172,000 electors who did not vote stated a lack of ID as the reason.

The bill before us would restore the authorization of the voter information card as identification at the polls and the practice of vouching by another eligible elector for the identity and residence of someone without the necessary ID.

Research has shown that when authorized, voter information cards have been beneficial to groups that have traditionally voted in lower percentages than the national average. These groups include students and indigenous electors. The research also demonstrates that seniors in residences and long-term care facilities use voter information cards as ID 73% of the time. These cards are readily identifiable, easy to use, and with appropriate safeguards, a secure way to establish a right to vote. Indeed, during a federal election, these cards are perhaps the most accurate piece of government-issued identification.

The Chief Electoral Officer has long recommended allowing these cards to be used. The bill before us would allow the Chief Electoral Officer to add the voter information card as an approved form of ID, at his or her discretion. To ensure the continued integrity of the process, an elector would still be required to show an additional piece of identification confirming identity, alongside the voter information card, as was the case prior to the adoption of the so-called Fair Elections Act.

The bill before us would also restore the practice of vouching as a method to make voting more accessible. Under the provisions of this bill, an eligible voter would be able to establish both the identity and the residence of an otherwise eligible voter who did not have ID. In other words, they could vouch for the voter.

Restoring vouching would make it easier for people without the required ID, such as individuals who are homeless, to vote. However, we would ensure that there were safeguards so that the vouching system was not abused. The person vouching would have to have proper ID and reside in the same polling division as the elector being vouched for. One elector would not be able to vouch for more than one other elector, and an elector who had been vouched for could not then vouch for another elector. This would prevent the practice of serial vouching, in which people might in effect vouch for each other.

This brings me to the third group currently denied access to Canadian elections: Canadians who have lived abroad for more than five consecutive years. Under the bill before us, electors who have lived more than five consecutive years outside of Canada would be entitled to vote. The electors would also no longer need to have a stated intention to return to Canada.

The current system provides non-resident voters with a wide choice among the electoral districts where their ballots could be counted. The bill before us would stipulate that non-resident electors would be required to vote in the electoral district corresponding to their last place of ordinary residence in Canada.

Finally, let me turn to the Canadian Armed Forces electors, whose voting rights are defined in division 2 of part 11 of the Canada Elections Act. These provisions were initially implemented to help armed forces personnel participate in the election process. Over the years, other parts of the act have been amended to reflect changing realities, but division 2 of part 11 has not. This facet is important to me because in Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley is a Canadian Forces base, 17 Wing Winnipeg, and other important military institutions that play a crucial role in the community.

It is our responsibility as members to protect the rights of our brave women and men who protect us on a daily basis. Elections Canada has been working with the Canadian Armed Forces to determine the best way to facilitate voting by Canadian Armed Forces electors. The bill before us would provide Canadian Armed Forces electors with options for voting similar to those enjoyed by other Canadians. The statement of “ordinary residence” would be eliminated and Canadian Forces electors would be able to update their information like any other elector. This would enable them to cast their votes in the electoral district to which they have the strongest connection.

Since we now have fixed election dates, the Minister of National Defence would be able to designate election liaison officers to help facilitate the military polls before the writ is dropped. It is hoped that the percentage of Canadian Forces electors who cast a vote will increase in the next election as a result of these measures.

Each of the provisions I discussed will not only make it easier for Canadians to participate in elections but will also strengthen our democratic institutions and our democracy as a whole. I hope hon. members from all parties will support this bill and I look forward to a thoughtful and fruitful debate on this important matter.

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month May 1st, 2018

Mr. Speaker, today marks the beginning of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

As a motorcycle rider, Winnipeggers may see me riding my Triumph Bonneville down Portage Avenue or taking part in the upcoming TELUS Ride For Dad in support of prostate cancer research.

Riding a motorcycle is an exciting experience, and I am proud to be part of a strong community of motorcycle enthusiasts in Winnipeg. However, as an emergency room physician, I am all too familiar with the tragic consequences of motorcycle accidents, and in every case, a fatal accident could have been easily prevented.

Safety is everyone's responsibility. I would say to fellow riders that when they make a plan, they should share their plan. They should ensure that family and friends know where they are going. They should ride with a buddy who can provide assistance in case of a breakdown. They should always ride sober and watch their speed. Motorists are asked to be alert and to check their blind spots for smaller and hard to see vehicles.

By following these simple safety tips, the next life being saved could be theirs or mine.

Equal Opportunities West April 24th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise and share with the House the important work Equal Opportunities West is doing to assist persons with disabilities to secure meaningful employment. Its staff is dedicated to making sure each individual in its program is given the opportunity to succeed, and I am proud to support its efforts in the community.

Earlier this month, Equal Opportunities West received $450,000 from Western Economic Diversification to help entrepreneurs with disabilities succeed and thrive.

I want to share with the House that I will host my second annual community BBQ and e-waste drive in support of Equal Opportunities West. In 2017, we were able to collect over 3,500 kilograms of e-waste, and we are looking forward to topping that number this year.

I encourage everyone in Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley to stop by on June 9, drop off their e-waste, pick up a hot dog, and say hi to the amazing staff, volunteers, and participants at Equal Opportunities West.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving Act March 20th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House to provide the closing statement on my bill, an act respecting a federal framework on distracted driving. I want to thank all of my colleagues who stood here today and provided thoughtful and fruitful debate.

The last time I spoke to my bill in the House I shared the stories of Amutha and Senhit, who both had their lives taken away by the driver of another vehicle who was distracted by her cellphone and drove through a red light. Sadly, this story is not unique. The loss of a loved one by a distracted driver is an experience shared by families from coast to coast to coast.

Between the first hour of debate when I shared this story and today, more families in Canada have been added to a growing anthology of grief and sadness. Right now, statistics show that people are more likely to be the victims of a distracted driver than a drunk driver.

In my home province of Manitoba, last year was one of the safest for drivers since 1982, with a 32% decrease in fatalities from 2016. While this is a significant improvement, that statistic still represents 73 fatalities in 65 collisions. While a full analysis of the collisions is still under review, Manitoba Public Insurance has stated that distracted driving continues to be a primary contributing factor in fatal collisions.

It is time to address this issue.

Just as we were able to address drunk driving by changing federal and provincial legislation, by providing law enforcement with the necessary resources and tools, and educating Canadians on the dangers of drinking and driving, it is time to seriously address distracted driving.

My bill calls upon the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Transport to work with their provincial counterparts to develop a framework with six provisions on the collection of information; the administration and enforcement of laws respecting distracted driving; the creation and implementation of public education programs; the role of driver-assistance technology; the sharing of best practices among jurisdictions; and recommendations regarding possible amendments to federal laws, policies, and programs. When combined in a national framework, these can lead to common measures that will help curb distracted driving. This would be an opportunity for the federal government and the provinces, in the spirit of co-operative federalism, to expand the good work they have done together.

If a framework to prevent distracted driving can lead us to solutions to get people to not pick up their cellphones, can provide provinces with the right information, can provide law enforcement with the right tools and practices, can change technology in vehicles, and can save lives, then I have done my duty for my constituents and so has everyone in this chamber.

In my time in the emergency room I have set too many bones, I have patched too many wounds, and I have stopped too many people from bleeding out to not speak out. I have watched too many die. While I am no longer in the emergency room helping to treat victims of collisions and distracted drivers, I am here in the House to work with my colleagues and to the best of my ability to stop people from being victims at all.

Whereas I am aware of the government's reservations about this legislation, I am committed, if the bill passes, to making significant amendments to it in committee in order to address these concerns. I call upon the support of all of my colleagues to help me pass this legislation and save lives.

Health March 2nd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, March is Nutrition Month, and this year's theme is “Unlock the power of food”. Our food choices are among the most important decisions we make every day for our health. We are seeing significant discussions among Canadians about the role food choices play in a healthy lifestyle. Can the Minister of Health update the House on our government's important actions with respect to healthy eating?

Business of Supply March 1st, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I have one question, and it is a simple question that could be answered with yes or no.

If an organization believed in its core mandate that LGBT people were unacceptable and refused to hire someone that was LGBT, would that organization deserve to receive government money, yes or no?

Child Health Protection Act February 12th, 2018

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand here among my colleagues and thank them all for their efforts and thoughtful debate on the child health protection act. I also want to thank Senator Nancy Greene Raine for her tireless work on the legislation and for entrusting me with helping to shepherd it through the House of Commons.

Childhood obesity is an epidemic. We know obesity is linked to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. During my career as a physician, I noticed more and more of my patients who presented were overweight or obese, and I was seeing instances of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in younger and younger people. This bill takes concrete steps to address this issue.

I have heard concerns that the bill would interfere with consumer and parental choice. Nothing could be further from the truth. The legislation focuses squarely on marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children and does not dictate what can be served or sold.

It is an axiom that advertising plays a role in dictating preferences and choices. Companies would not spend billions of dollars if that were not the case.

Children in today's society have a marked preference for unhealthy foods in large part because they face a barrage of ads targeted toward them that encourage that preference. If we were to restrict children's advertising to healthy foods, this would help encourage preferences for healthy foods.

I have heard critics ask what proof there is that such an approach would achieve the desired objective.

Although it is notoriously difficult to conclusively prove causality in any public health measure, it should be noted that in 1971, Quebec passed the Consumer Protection Act, forbidding all advertising of unhealthy foods to children less than 13 years of age. In the intervening years, Quebec has achieved the highest rate of fruit and vegetable consumption among children and the lowest child obesity rates in Canada.

Whereas correlation does not necessarily equal cause and effect, we can find no other cause for this positive trend, and we are confident this trend will continue if established nationally.

As I stated previously, should the legislation pass second reading and be referred to the Standing Committee on Health, I will be submitting amendments to it.

The first amendment would change the definition of children from under 17 years of age to under 13 years of age. During Health Canada's consultation with stakeholders, it has become increasingly obvious any regime built on restrictions aimed at older teenagers would be subject to considerable legal risks associated with the restriction on freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There is a strong precedent for defining a child as under 13 in the context of advertising restrictions in Quebec, and the province has withstood a charter challenge that was fully upheld at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Recognizing there is evidence showing the vulnerability of teenagers to marketing, as well as the experience in Quebec where industry shifted marketing efforts to teenagers when restrictions were imposed on younger children, I will move another amendment to require Parliament to conduct a mandatory review of the legislation, with a particular focus on the definition of children, within five years of the act coming into force. Through the parliamentary review of the legislation, the government would also be obliged to report publicly on compliance with the bill and on progress toward our common goal of healthier children of all ages. This would ensure that, if necessary, we would have the data needed to support a broadening of restrictions at a future date.

Additionally, the Minister of Health clarified that sports sponsorships would be exempt to ensure activities promoting healthy lifestyles and choices would continue. This has been a concern for many of my colleagues, and I want to assure them little league hockey and other youth sports activities will not be jeopardized.

Before I wrap up, I want to make one quick aside.

Over a decade ago, I was involved in the debate on indoor smoking in Manitoba, as it is both a public health and occupational health issue. At that time, in an attempt to deflect, a number of people challenged me by saying that obesity was a much bigger threat than smoking, and asked what I was doing about that. Well, now, 15 years later, they have their answer. I am doing something to combat childhood obesity, and everyone in this chamber has the opportunity to do the same.

I am calling upon all members for their support to show we are united in fighting this epidemic.

Status of Women January 31st, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I recently had the pleasure of meeting with community leaders from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, which educates Canadians about the plight of impoverished people and supports women in their search for social and economic justice.

While we have made great strides, and this government is committed to making the involvement of women the priority in all of Canada's activities in fragile states to enable women and men around the world to have an equal voice and equal rights and to live equally in safety and security, more needs to be done.

Women play a key role in conflict prevention and resolution as well as in building and sustaining an inclusive, lasting, and fair peace. When women are better represented in parliaments, those nations are significantly less likely to resort to violence in response to a crisis. This proves that a woman's place is in the House, in the Senate, and on the executive.

Let us continue to commit to stand alongside women and organizations that strive to build a more just and peaceful world.