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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

Child Health Protection Act December 12th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have heard much of the same concerns from stakeholders. I agree that the promotion of sport and activity is important and essential for the health and well-being of our children.

We have discussed these issues with stakeholders and with the Minister of Health. I can assure the member that the government will be reviewing this to ensure there is no adverse effect on sport sponsorship programs for children.

Child Health Protection Act December 12th, 2017

moved that Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to stand here today as the sponsor of Bill S-228, the child health protection act.

I would like to begin by commending the hon. Senator Greene Raine for introducing this bill last fall, and for her tireless efforts to support healthy choices for our children.

This bill was grounded in the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology's own study on obesity in Canada, published in March 2016, and was debated by that committee during its review of the legislation.

It has long been established that advertising works. What I mean by this is that advertising is an effective tool for influencing potential customers' attitudes and behaviours. If this were not true, then advertising would not be a long-standing multi-billion dollar industry. This principle applies to all potential customers, including children. Now, more than ever, our children are exposed to a barrage of advertisements for unhealthy foods and beverages. It therefore follows that those who are marketing their products to children will be affecting children's eating decisions. In fact, recent trends confirm that this is indeed the case.

One in three Canadian children is either overweight or obese. We know that obesity is linked to chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. During my career as a physician, I witnessed these trends first-hand on a regular basis. I noticed 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. Public health data across many countries confirms that this trend is widespread. Alarmingly, whereas 20 years ago type 2 diabetes was a disease primarily of older adults, this diagnosis is increasingly being made in children. It is obvious that we need to take bold action now. Our children's health and lives are at stake, and they deserve better.

This issue falls squarely within the Minister of Health's mandate to introduce new restrictions on the commercial marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children.

The extent to which our children are exposed to the advertising of foods and beverages that are high in sugar, salt, and saturated fats cannot be overstated. For example, according to a recent study of the 25 million online food and beverage ads that Canadian children see every year on their favourite websites, 90% are for unhealthy products. As a result, our children are eating fewer fruits and vegetables than recommended and more unhealthy foods and beverages.

Taking action today to restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages means that we can help children have a healthy start in life, based on a foundation of healthy eating choices, and protection from the influence and manipulation of those who would market unhealthy foods and beverages to our children. Bill S-228 serves to provide such protection.

If Bill S-228 is to give our children the protection they deserve, it is imperative that, before being passed into law, we take steps to ensure that this legislation will withstand any legal challenges that may come about. This is why I will be introducing amendments to this bill.

The first amendment would change the definition of “children” from under 17 years old to under 13 years old. Although some stakeholders have expressed reservations with changing the age, it must be understood that there is a very real potential that this bill could be challenged in its present form under the law.

In recent months, as Health Canada has consulted with stakeholders, it has become increasingly obvious that 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. These are risks I cannot ignore, because a court loss could jeopardize this entire effort. The proposed change will allow us to take bold action to protect our most vulnerable populations now.

There is a strong precedent for defining a child as under 13 years of age in the context of advertising restrictions in the province of Quebec. In fact, the Quebec legislation withstood a charter challenge and was fully upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. That clear precedent supports the decision to amend the definition of children to those under 13. However, I will not stop there.

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 an additional amendment to Bill S-228 at committee. Specifically, I will move an 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.

The objective of the parliamentary review will be to monitor whether the lower age limit results in increased advertising to teenagers and whether any provisions of the act need to be adjusted to ensure the continued and full protection of our children.

I have also been informed that the Minister of Health has instructed Health Canada to invest significant resources over the next five years and to work closely with the health stakeholder community to ensure the necessary research is undertaken to determine whether new forms of advertising are impacting children and whether teens are being exposed to more marketing as a result of restrictions on marketing to younger children. I applaud the minister for her leadership in this area.

Through the parliamentary review of the legislation, the government will 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 work will ensure that, if necessary, we will have the data needed to support a broadening of restrictions at a future date.

While parents have an important role in choosing what their children eat, it is difficult for them to compete with or to completely control their children's exposure to marketing. Parents and caregivers deserve a supportive environment where children are not constantly targeted by unhealthy food marketing.

Bill S-228 is but one effort to tackle the epidemic of obesity and chronic disease in our country. If anyone doubts my resolve or the resolve of our government, he or she need only look at the comprehensive suite of measures we have under way. These initiatives range from restricting marketing to children; to new front-of-pack labelling to flag foods high in sugar, salt, and fat; and to a revamped Canada Food Guide.

One of the fundamental responsibilities of a government is to protect its most vulnerable citizens and few citizens are more vulnerable than our children. I expect that everyone in the House can appreciate how significant Bill S-228 is for the health of our children today and for generations to come.

We will not let up in the fight to reduce obesity and chronic disease. I ask all members for their support on this important issue.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving Act November 30th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, this would complement that work. One of the things we have noticed is that there is very little data collection. That is one of the key parts of this bill. Right now, the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario are the only provinces collecting detailed data on this issue. This would help to complement the measure the hon. member is speaking of to further address this problem and increase road safety.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving Act November 30th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his kind words and his excellent question. I would agree there are many forms of distracted driving. This is merely one of them. It would take too long to enumerate all the different forms. There are people who are looking at their instrument consoles and changing radio stations. We have all probably seen people putting on makeup or combing their hair, or in one case, I saw someone shaving behind the wheel.

The member is right that we need to educate the public on all sorts of distracted driving. However, the bill is needed because new technology has taken off very quickly over the last few years. We have reached a point globally where more people have mobile phones on earth than do not. That factor has led to a sharp increase in the amount of distracted driving. I have identified this as a factor that we could perhaps intervene in to prevent further injuries and fatalities.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving Act November 30th, 2017

moved that Bill C-373, An Act respecting a federal framework on distracted driving, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand before my colleagues to debate my Bill C-373, an act respecting a federal framework on distracted driving.

Before I go into the detail about my bill, I want to take a moment to share a personal story. Amutha was the 17-year-old sister of a friend. In 2010, Amutha went to a Halloween party. That night, after the festivities wound down, she got into a Pontiac Sunfire with four other friends to go home. They were all responsible that night. They did not drink, and they made sure they had a designated driver to take them home safely.

Across the city, a young woman got behind the wheel of a Chevy Cavalier. At 2:55 in the morning, the driver of that Cavalier drove through a red light at the intersection of St. Mary's Road and Bishop Grandin Boulevard, and collided with the Pontiac Sunfire that Amutha and her friends were travelling in.

The driver of the Cavalier was speeding, had been drinking, and at the moment of impact was texting. Amutha, and Senhit, a friend of hers, died almost immediately, and two other passengers sustained life-altering injuries.

This event forever changed the lives of the families and friends of those five people who were in that car on that fateful night. I share this story because today we are going to be debating and discussing ideas, concepts, and statistics. I do not want Amutha, Senhit and their friends to be just more statistics. They had hopes and dreams. They had aspirations about what they could do in their lives, and their presence brought joy to their families and friends.

It would be a disservice to them and to their families if we lost sight of that.

Sadly, this story is not unique. It is an experience that many families share. During my time in the emergency room, I provided care to patients who, through no fault of their own, were victims of distracted driving. Tragically, some of these patients died as a result of their injuries. When I tell the House that last year 29 people died as a result of distracted driving in my home province of Manitoba, I want members to remember that the number 29 is not just a statistic and not just a number, it represents the families who will never see their loved ones again, the lives who suddenly stopped aspiring to help make our communities a better place, and the sons and daughters who will not have a parental figure to guide them through life.

While we have made great strides in changing dangerous behaviours like impaired driving and speeding, work still needs to be done on distracted driving. This is why I introduced this bill, and this is why I stand here before the House today.

Today we have the opportunity for the federal government to take a lead and address this issue. This bill calls upon the Minister of Justice, in collaboration with the Minister of Transport to work with the provincial and territorial governments to develop a federal framework to coordinate and promote efforts to deter and prevent distracted driving involving the use of hand-held electronic devices.

The framework would include six provisions on the following: the collection of information relating to incidents involving the use of hand-held electronic devices; the administration and enforcement of laws respecting distracted driving; the creation and implementation of public education programs; the role of driver-assistance technology in reducing the number collisions and fatalities; the sharing of best practices among jurisdictions; and, recommendations regarding possible amendments to federal laws, policies, and programs.

In order to fully understand and properly address this issue, we need to have the correct information to properly measure the effectiveness of any measures that are introduced. At the moment, we do not have that.

A report prepared on request by the Library of Parliament states:

There are several data limitations related to the compilation of statistics on the number of collisions and fatalities associated with distracted driving in Canada. In particular, there is neither a uniform definition of distracted driving nor a uniform data collection survey that is used across jurisdictions that would provide comparable cross-jurisdictional data.

Additionally, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation of Canada states:

While many jurisdictions have sought to improve data that are collected in relation to this important issue in recent years, at present it is limited for a variety of reasons.

First, the role of distraction in crashes is difficult to determine at roadside since drivers are unlikely to admit to engaging in distracted behaviours behind the wheel, particularly in the event of a crash. Without direct observation by police or reports from witnesses, or rare conditions being present, such as a phone in hand, distraction may not be recorded as a factor.

Second, while some distraction data are collected, it is often not possible to analyze these data in terms of individual or specific distraction-related factors simply because of the breadth of factors that may play a role.

Finally, data comparisons across jurisdictions is also difficult as each may utilize a slightly different definition of distraction (perhaps in accordance with legislation), collect different levels of detail, categorize distractions using different groupings, or have different types of charges that police may apply based on the Highway Traffic Act.

The report concludes:

To date, measures of distraction or effectiveness of strategies are fairly limited and not comparable across jurisdictions. Often measures are process-oriented, and outcome measures such as crashes cannot be directly linked to results of specific initiatives in order to gauge effectiveness.

A federal framework can help create a means for cross-jurisdictional data collection with uniform definitions on distracted driving and can be an important tool in measuring the effectiveness of current provincial and territorial legislation and programs.

One of the criticisms I have heard regarding this legislation is that using a hand-held communication or electronic device while driving is already illegal. This statement is true, in most of Canada. In Nunavut, there is no law prohibiting the use of a hand-held electronic device while driving. There is legislation prohibiting careless driving, but none specifically addressing this issue.

Additionally, there is a range of penalties across Canada with varying degrees of severity between jurisdictions. A federal framework can help jurisdictions create a degree of consistency, but most important, a federal framework can determine the effectiveness of the administration and enforcement of these laws. The World Health Organization, in its 2015 Global Status Report on Road Safety, stated:

To date, there is little information on the effectiveness of interventions to reduce mobile phone use while driving. As a result, a number of countries are following an approach that has been known to be successful in addressing other key risk factors for road traffic injuries. Legislation prohibiting the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving exists in 138 countries, and a further 31 countries prohibit both hand-held and hands-free phones. However, due perhaps to difficulties enforcing this legislation, there remains little evidence of the effectiveness of such measures: in the Netherlands, mobile phone use has been banned since 2002 but there is mixed evidence about the impact of this measure.

The health and safety of Canadians is of the utmost importance to all levels of government in Canada and if the laws that are in place are not properly protecting Canadians, then we need leadership at the federal level to address this issue. I would like to reinforce that the bill does not make any activity illegal. It asks the federal government to take a leadership role in ensuring the efficacy of our country's laws.

Informing the public of the dangers associated with distracted driving is paramount to reducing incidents of collisions and fatalities. Just like with impaired driving, people need to be informed of the serious consequences of their actions if they take their eyes off the road to check a message or send a text.

I bring up impaired driving because this is a similar behaviour that we have been able to change because of education and awareness campaigns. It was not too long ago that the words, “one more for the road”, could be heard at a party or a bar before someone left for the night. Right now, it is socially unacceptable for someone to encourage another person to have another drink before they get into a car, and I am certain that there are members here today who have stopped someone from getting behind the wheel if the the person has had too much to drink.

We need to treat distracted driving as though it were the new drunk driving. We can do that by changing behaviours and educating Canadians.

According to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation's report on distracted driving in Canada, there have been examples of successful campaigns involving multiple levels of governments with law enforcement and stakeholder participation that have been able to reach a wide audience. However, there were limitations. The report states, “it was also recognized that more active methods of engagement in terms of emotional appeals, social norming, and tailored messages to specific audiences were needed.”

Additionally, there are still troubling behaviours in drivers. For example, according to the Canadian Automobile Association, 69% of Canadians think it is unacceptable to text at a red light, but 33% still admit to doing it.

A federal framework can help establish parameters for what is needed to implement a successful awareness and education campaign from coast to coast to coast.

The issue of distracted driving involving the use of hand-held communication devices is a result of new technologies. There will always be new advances, but now comes the opportunity to determine if these new technologies can be adapted to reduce the number of collisions and fatalities.

Transport Canada's report, “Transportation in Canada 2011, Comprehensive Review”, states:

Transport Canada has an ongoing driver distraction research program to better understand the safety implications of new technologies and to identify distraction countermeasures.

I am glad this ministry is treating this seriously. Measures are being considered for special features; for example, a phone app that would divert calls to an inbox while driving above 10 kilometres an hour. However, it would be important to determine what recommendations can be gathered from stakeholders and the provinces for a federal framework.

Additionally, the Manitoba provincial road safety committee announced a road safety plan, with strategic recommendations that included considering the need for a coordinated approach and legislative amendments to guide the use of autonomous vehicle technologies as a measure to reduce traffic collisions as a result of distracted driving.

The same report also recommended collaborating with other provincial, municipal, and territorial partners on road safety research initiatives, including comprehensive data collection and consistency. This recommendation aims to strengthen consistency and consensus for data collection, address potential data gaps, and enable better interjurisdictional data comparison and evaluation. This is why I have also included in my bill a provision for a federal framework to include the sharing of best practices among jurisdictions.

Addressing distracted driving is not a partisan issue, it is a Canadian issue, and one that has undoubtedly impacted all of us here in this House in one way or another. As a runner and motorcyclist, I have lost count of the close calls I myself have had with distracted drivers. In fact, only one week ago, within an hour of discussing this bill with my colleagues, I was about to cross the street in front of Parliament when a white SUV ran a red light, nearly hitting me. The driver was oblivious that he ran a red light because he was deep in conversation with someone on his mobile phone.

There is a pressing need for a response and a leadership role to be taken by the federal government. This is why I am asking for support on all sides. If a framework to prevent distracted driving can save one life, then we would have done our duty for Canadians.

I look forward to the questions from my colleagues and for a fruitful and thoughtful debate on this issue.

Veterans Affairs November 24th, 2017

Madam Speaker, while Canadians have removed their poppies, we must always remember the sacrifices of our brave men and women.

Recently, I had the honour of travelling with my fellow colleagues to attend the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele.

Witnessing how the people of France and Belgium remembered and honoured the sacrifices that our country made during the First World War, and standing on the hallowed ground where the Canadian Corps advanced across the valley, which was a treacherous morass, and captured and held the Passchendaele Ridge was a moving experience. It is one that I will continue to remember during my service for our brave men and women in my role on the veterans affairs committee.

As a physician, it was especially poignant to see the memorial of John McCrae, himself a physician, and read his immortal words In Flanders Fields that continue to impact us today.

I would like to thank Veterans Affairs Canada, the organizers of our delegation, the Anavets Assiniboia Unit #283, and the Charleswood Legion #100 for the articles given to the Ypres Historical Society, and the people of Ypres who welcomed our delegation with open arms.

Report Stage November 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I was curious as to the hon. member's mention of the rates of impaired driving due to cannabis in Colorado and Washington. When serving on the health committee, I received correspondence from the attorneys general of both Colorado and Washington that states that they did not have comparable detection methods before and after legalization and that comparable numbers do not exist. It also shows that since legalization, when they first started collecting data under the new regime, they found a decrease of 12% in impaired driving in both states. I would like to know how the hon. member would respond to that.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley November 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the important work of Connie Newman and Doug Mackie, two outstanding individuals in my community.

Connie Newman was bestowed the Manitoba Council on Aging Recognition Award for her tireless work with numerous advocacy groups for seniors. I had the pleasure of working with her personally to address the issues facing seniors in my riding.

Doug Mackie opened the first Men's Sheds in Manitoba, to create a community space where senior men could help each other get through difficult times. Members have credited Doug and Men's Sheds as having given their lives renewed purpose. Doug was selected as one of 150 leading Canadians for mental health, and I look forward to highlighting Doug's great work at our upcoming Spirit of Giving event on November 18.

It is community members like Connie and Doug who define the best of Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley as a welcoming and inclusive place for all, and it is my honour to stand in the House to recognize their achievements.

Cannabis Act November 1st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, this is subject to review in three years. We have been advised by many jurisdictions that it is best to provide it in a stepwise pattern.

One of the things we are addressing is making legal a substance that is illegal, and one of the problems is that there is a substantial black market. We need to put firm criminal penalties on those who might be dealing. Thirty grams is a limit that someone might reasonably carry without dealing. One might say that this is arbitrary, but every criminal offence such as this has a limit. If I am driving a vehicle and my blood alcohol level is 0.079, I am within the law. If I am at 0.08, I am now a criminal. This is similar, and we must set these rules. Again, this is subject to review, and if we find that in the interest of public safety this needs to be changed, it can be.

Cannabis Act November 1st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, municipalities have the right to make rules regarding real estate, and if they wish, could make such laws.

I should add that many of these dangers with respect to large units are suppositions. When I asked a member of the Ontario Provincial Police at the health committee, who surmised exactly that number, a 400-unit block that might have 200 units growing cannabis, what information had been used to make that supposition, the answer was that he had no facts to back that statement up.