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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was consumers.

Last in Parliament December 2014, as NDP MP for Sudbury (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Victims Bill of Rights December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his great question and all the hard work he does in relation to human rights and many other files. The question he asked really leads to what our justice critic has been doing and continues to do in working with the government to try to make a bill better.

That is what this place is supposed to do. That is what we as elected members of Parliament are supposed to do to represent our constituents, different parties, and different ideologies. When the government presents a bill, we are supposed to try to make it the best bill possible for Canadians. That is why when bills go to committee and when we are standing here, we propose amendments, and we try to get the government to see that we can do better by listening to victims and to the many experts who have already testified at committee. However, when the experts and victims groups are telling us that they do not feel this bill goes far enough, that it is more just words on paper rather than a document that would go into effect and help victims when they need it, that is something that should be concerning.

I can relate to my prior career when there was an organization in Sudbury called victims' restorative justice. Volunteers were getting together with the victim and the person or criminal who caused the crime, to work together on trying to find some sort of restorative justice for that person. That was a great example of what we can do in finding other ways to help victims.

Victims Bill of Rights December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, thank you for clarifying matters for me. I do appreciate that.

In relation to the question asked by my hon. colleague, that relates to what our whole debate is about and what we are talking about here. It is great to be able to bring forward a bill and say that we have something here, but if the resources are not there to ensure that we can start providing the services to the victims, and whatever it is they need, then the bill is not doing its job.

That is where our concern lies with the bill. We do not think the bill goes far enough to ensure that we can give the resources and the services that the victims need and will ask for after the crime. I think it is important for us to continue to push the government to recognize that putting something down on paper is a good first step, but making sure that there is funding in place is the actual way to ensure we can help victims.

Victims Bill of Rights December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, let me begin my comments by stating unequivocally that in spite of the comments often lobbed against us in this place by the government side, New Democrats have always defended victims' rights. We want them to have access to the services and support they need. We have fought, and will continue to fight, each and every day to help victims across the country get the funding, support, and resources they need to overcome the physical and psychological trauma that results from often unspeakable actions perpetrated against them by the most heinous of criminals.

We need to start by looking at a little bit of the history of this bill. The Conservatives promised to enact a Canadian victims bill of rights, or CVBR, as it is often called, in 2006. Sadly, it has taken more than seven years for this promise to finally come to fruition. It was not until the 2013 throne speech that the Conservatives finally made good on their pledge to victims, when they announced that the government would introduce a victims bill of rights to restore victims to their rightful place at the heart of our justice system.

Statistics about the cost to victims from crimes perpetrated against them are startling and underscore the urgency of creating a system that puts victims' rights at the fore of the criminal justice system. For instance, a study released in 2011 by the Department of Justice Canada found that the total cost of crime is estimated to be $99.6 billion a year, 83% of which is borne by victims.

For the nearly two million criminal incidents that were reported to Canadian police services in 2012, more than 450,000 primary and secondary victims sought victims' services that year alone. Given that a large component of victims' service providers make heavy use of volunteers, clearly more resources are needed to ensure that victims can access the services they require when they require them. Here, 72% of victims' services providers made use of volunteers. Obviously, these volunteers deserve kudos and applause for their commitment to assisting victims of crime. However, it also demonstrates a dire need in our community for resources specifically dedicated to the victims of crime and their families.

Let me be clear. New Democrats support this bill and any effort to improve the circumstances of victims of crime. However, New Democrats also feel that this legislation should go further. It certainly does not meet the expectations the Conservatives have been setting since 2006. For instance, the Canadian victims bill of rights would not designate legal obligations for other stakeholders in the judicial system. It would simply provide access to a vague mechanism to file complaints with various federal departments, agencies, and organizations that have a role to play in the justice system when victims have had their rights infringed.

Complaints directed at provincial or territorial organizations, including the police, the crown, and any victims' rights organizations, would be processed directly under the appropriate province's or territory's law. The practicality of this can certainly be questioned, and no specific funds have yet been attributed to the implementation of these mechanisms for examining complaints or for helping out the provinces in this regard.

The victims bill of rights also includes preclusive clauses stipulating that the new rights be enforced within reasonable means and that they avoid interfering with the discretionary powers of the police or the crown, causing excessive delays, compromising investigations and or proceedings, and bringing procedures to a standstill. In addition to this, the Canadian victims bill of rights would not confer third-party stakeholder or observer status to those who represent victims at criminal proceedings.

In sum, while it is nice to have principles and to propose bills and charters, this bill would fail to establish a legal obligation for judicial system stakeholders to implement these rights and the resources required to do so.

Quite simply, the Conservatives have yet again failed to articulate a holistic approach to an issue, and have simply chosen to introduce legislation that sounds good from a public relations perspective, but will not have the full impact that victims of crime are seeking.

Teresa Edwards, of the Native Women's Association of Canada, articulated this point exactly when she appeared before the justice committee proceeding on Bill C-32:

We have a long way to go, and I really hope this legislation is not just another piece of paper that the government can point to and say it's doing something about victimization. We really need to translate that into action.... I do want to see action. I want to see results, and I want to see measured, concrete steps of how it's actually going to impact the lives of aboriginal women victims, so that we don't have to keep coming here.

While not surprising from this government, the recommendations from victims and the associations that represent them, as well as those of specialists and professionals who testified at committee, were largely ignored by the Conservatives, who also voted down all of the NDP's sensible amendments to incorporate these views into the scope of the bill.

For instance, Sharlene Lange, the mother of a victim, testified before the justice committee that:

Beyond the sentencing stage of the process, the victims basically fall off the face of the earth. Rights need to go beyond the criminal process for this bill to even be a bill of rights.

Further, the very well respected former attorney general of Manitoba, Andrew Swan, voiced his concerns over the potential for the bill to be just a public relations exercise without the proper follow-through from the government, stating:

We don't want this to be an exercise where the federal government lays down some regulations, say they've done their job and then wash their hands of it.

He says that, if the government does not create a channel to make the bill enforceable, like Manitoba's support services office, then it is an empty gesture.

In conclusion, I would reinforce that New Democrats have been consistent in our support for victims rights. Being the victim of a crime can be incredibly traumatic, and our hearts go out to Canadians who are living through these experiences.

We believe that victims should be able to access support programs and have assistance as they navigate the justice system. It is critical that the government invest in victim services, crime prevention, and other smart solutions to keep our communities safe.

Finally, unlike the Conservatives, we want changes that will make a difference, not just proposals designed to get media attention.

As I am concluding, I just want to ensure that I said I am sharing my time with someone. I want to make sure I did. With that, I now look forward to the question and answer period.

Consumer Protection November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Interac is one of the most cost-effective modes of payment in Canada, but that is now at risk with MasterCard's announcement to enter the debit market.

At every turn, voluntary rules in the financial sector are flouted and exploited. Letting credit card companies co-badge cards and enter the debit market is currently forbidden under this government's voluntary code, but that is not stopping the credit card companies.

When will the minister recognize that his voluntary approach is not working, and when will he finally stand up for consumers and small businesses and put in place binding regulation that protects Canadians?

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this summer, over 260,000 Canadians participated in the ALS Canada ice bucket challenge, raising an astonishing $16 million. The icy plunge was taken by many politicians, including the leader of the NDP, while I had to endure a marathon ice water dumping to help raise funds that was supported by New Hot 93.5 in Sudbury.

However, ALS remains incurable. Around 3,000 Canadians live with the disease. Sadly, thousands will die of it, while thousands more will be diagnosed.

Initiatives such as this one have a clear impact on funding for research and treatment. Tens of thousands of Canadians participated, and that is the first step towards the ultimate goal of curing this disease.

On behalf of the NDP, thanks to all Canadian participants, and we applaud those at ALS Canada for raising awareness and money in hope of one day finding a cure.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns November 17th, 2014

With regard to complaints filed by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre since 2010: (a) what is the breakdown of complaints submitted by (i) phone, (ii) email, (iii) online form, (iv) fax; (b) what is the breakdown by province; (c) how many complaints have been filed regarding (i) advance fees, (ii) identity fraud, (iii) investment fraud, (iv) online auction fraud, (v) health fraud, (vi) counterfeit, (vii) fraudulent bankruptcy, (viii) property fraud, (ix) corruption, including, but not limited to, bribery, (x) other types of fraud; and (d) how many complaints have been resolved regarding (i) advance fees, (ii) identity fraud, (iii) investment fraud, (iv) online auction fraud, (v) health fraud, (vi) counterfeit, (vii) fraudulent bankruptcy, (viii) property fraud, (ix) corruption, including, but not limited to, bribery, (x) other types of fraud?

Telecommunications Industry November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, a proposal from Industry Canada has raised serious concerns throughout rural Canada.

It discussed taking spectrum away from rural Internet users and giving it to urban telecom companies. While the minister has claimed no one will lose Internet services as a result of this process, his public comments do not jive with the proposal.

Mayors are concerned, communities are concerned, and business owners are concerned. Can the minister assure Canadians that this will not end up as another example of the government leaving rural Canadians behind in the digital era?

Gasoline Prices in Sudbury November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, drivers in my riding of Sudbury are fed up with the unfair price of gas in our community.

Compared with neighbouring cities, Sudbury often pays 10¢ to 20¢ more per litre. To fill up one's tank, this could mean an extra $10 or $15, which adds up quickly in a northern community where for most people driving to work is not a choice but the only option they have.

In response to the growing unrest, since June more than 9,000 frustrated people have contacted the Competition Bureau, demanding an investigation into the price of gas in Sudbury, yet under the rules put in place by the current Conservative government, even such an overwhelming volume of complaints does not warrant an investigation.

If 9,000 complaints cannot force an end to unfair gas prices in Sudbury, then what can?

When will the Conservatives finally support the NDP's proposal to create an oil and gas ombudsman with a mandate to directly respond to the concerns of Canadians?

Telecommunications Industry November 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister should talk to the Small Business Matters coalition and it will give him a reality check on today's announcement. There is nothing to address hidden fees, nothing to address the egregious refund fees, nothing to do with the proliferation of the premium cards. It is just, again, a voluntary code that is toothless.

Canadian consumers are also upset. As they will tell the minister, they are fed up with the way they are being treated by the telecoms and the banks. The government announces with great fanfare one of its voluntary codes that apparently makes cellphone contracts clear, but the ombudsman put out a report today that complaints about misleading contracts are about 75%. When will they stop the unfair—

Consumer Protection November 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that this voluntary action by the credit card companies will not change a thing. While the minister was pleading with Visa and MasterCard to lower their fees by 10%, payment processor Chase Paymentech sent letters to small businesses raising their processing fees by 10%.

One uncompetitive fee goes down, another one goes up, and Canadians keep paying the highest fees in the world. Why could the Conservatives not bring in common sense regulations that would actually make a difference for small businesses?