House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was military.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as NDP MP for St. John's East (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Won his last election, in 2019, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply November 5th, 2020

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary is repeating something that is incorrect. It is mentioned in our platform as published and was costed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Those numbers were released by the NDP on September 18 during the election campaign, so he cannot have his own facts. He can repeat something that is incorrect as long as he wants, but it does not change the fact that it was costed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer and was part of our campaign. The people who came up to me in the streets during the campaign talked about our platform and the importance of dental care to them—

Business of Supply November 5th, 2020

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to join the debate on the motion by the member for New Westminster—Burnaby on tax measures to support vulnerable Canadians.

We have been going through the most horrific health crisis in our country over the last eight or nine months. There has been the terrible, sad loss of over 10,000 Canadians, and we are still enduring the health consequences in the second wave in our most populous areas. We also know it has been a great burden to a lot of people whose vulnerability in our society has been greatly exposed by the loss of income, employment and opportunities during this pandemic because of the response to the necessary lockdowns.

More than a million more Canadians are unemployed today than were at the beginning of the pandemic. We are concerned about the consequences of the inequality that has been exposed by that. We knew about it. The New Democrats have been talking about it for many years, but now it is time for the rest of the country to realize that something must be done about the fundamental inequality in our country. The consequences for people are too great for us not to act now.

This is an opportunity to recognize that some of this inequality can be addressed by looking at where the significant money is and where it is not being shared equally. We do not want to see big corporations profiteer from a pandemic. We have seen responses to that in the past.

As the member for New Westminster—Burnaby pointed out in his most excellent speech, an excess profit tax was imposed during the Second World War. It was believed by all parties that companies making an excess amount of money, profiteering during the war, should have that excess profit taxed. The regular profit was not taxed. That is what we are calling for in this situation. Big corporations that have received excess profits during the pandemic should pay an excess tax on that.

The second thing we talked about in our platform, which was costed, was a wealth tax on the super wealthy, not an income tax. A lot of people have mussed over that. I know the Prime Minister has in response to questions. This would be a tax on people's wealth in excess of $20 million, not on the first $20 million but a tax of 1% on anything in excess of that.

These huge fortunes keep growing more than 1% every year and are not properly taxed. Those individuals do not pay their fair contribution to the rest of society. We want to use that tax to deal with some of the serious inequalities we have regarding income, health care and housing. Those are the three main issues that would be dealt with in the proposal we have to expand income security programs to ensure all individuals residing in Canada have a guaranteed liveable basic income.

We want to see health care expanded to include a national dental care program and a universal pharmacare program, which has been promised by the Liberals for more than 27 years. They still have not delivered on that. We want to see a meaningful implementation of the right to housing, with a significant plan known as “recovery for all", as well as a special indigenous, urban and rural and northern strategy delivered by indigenous people.

These items make up the essence of the motion. We are looking for support from the other parties in the House for that.

I am going to speak specifically to one aspect of our plan, which is the dental care plan. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the member for Spadina—Fort York, talked about the NDP not having it in our platform or having costed it. He is wrong on both counts. It was in our platform last year and it was costed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. It was a very doable and important measure that would make a significant change in the lives of millions of Canadians.

In fact, we also had it costed again this year in February and gave members of Parliament an opportunity to actually implement it by a change in the so-called middle-class tax cut, by taking the benefit of about $300 from the top of that of people earning over $90,000 and directing that money to provide a national dental care program, which would provide free dental care for families with an income of less than $70,000 per year.

That program is very important. Anyone who reflects on the situation of people in this country who do not have access to dental care knows that it is a major area of inequality in health care, in lifestyle and in getting a job. It comes with a stigma and affects their overall health. It is a shocking gap in the health care system.

We have a situation where if one has a bone broken, a fall or an illness, they go to the hospital or doctor and that is covered by medicare. However, if someone has an oral health problem, a toothache, a cavity or a lost tooth, it is not covered in most cases by our health care system.

We have people living all their lives, in many cases, from birth to death without adequate health care or with a patchwork of government programs here and there to help along the way. It is a significant inequality for rural and indigenous communities throughout the country in terms of lack of access to health care. It causes significant problems.

We are talking about a program that would cost $1.4 billion per year. It has been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. It would benefit over six million Canadians. The cost is actually up from last year's analysis because of the increase in the number of people who do not have access to health and dental care programs because they are no longer working in places that have a program for employees.

It affects the most vulnerable Canadians. It affects part-time workers who do not have access to programs. It affects young people who age out of existing programs when they turn 21 or, for students, when they turn 25. It is a situation that cries out for action by government. This calls out for redress.

I spoke about the opportunity we gave to all hon. members on February 25 of this year on an opposition day motion to make a change in the tax regime that would give every single person in Canada without a dental care plan an opportunity to have a basic plan available to them. Every single Conservative in the House and every single Liberal in the House voted against that plan. Of course, they all benefit from the same plan I do, which is a plan for dental care as part of the regime of benefits for members of Parliament.

This plan would guarantee that all Canadians would have access to a dental care plan. It is something that is doable and that can be done for the kind of money that the Parliamentary Budget Officer talks about. It ought to be put in place in the interest of all Canadians and in the interests of equality.

Foreign Affairs October 30th, 2020

Madam Speaker, new evidence shows Wescam sensors, manufactured since April and exemptions to the Turkish embargo, ended up in Nagorno-Karabakh, used by Azerbaijani forces. Last month, Global Affairs suspended arms exports to Turkey while investigating allegations that Canadian sensors were diverted to Azerbaijan, but now the evidence is clear: The arms trade treaty requires Canada to prevent, detect and stop brokering of military goods to users other than intended customers and to stop exports used against civilians.

Will the minister release detailed results of his own investigation and cancel all arms exports to Turkey?

Indigenous Affairs October 28th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are questioning how Mi'kmaq fishers facing violence, threats and having their property destroyed are being served by the RCMP. The Minister of Indigenous Services publicly disagreed with the commissioner's assessment of the police response. Last week, the Assembly of First Nations announced Commissioner Lucki had lost their confidence and called for her resignation.

Indigenous people who are affected by systemic racism deserve leaders who can understand the problem. Could the Prime Minister explain why and how he still has confidence in the RCMP commissioner?

Criminal Code October 27th, 2020

Madam Speaker, I am here to speak to Bill C-238, which introduces an amendment to section 96 of the Criminal Code to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of three years for possession of a firearm known to be illegally imported into Canada and five years for a second offence. Second, it would increase the maximum sentence from 10 to 14 years and then impose a reverse onus for bail conditions for those who are charged.

We are very concerned about gun violence in our streets. We have heard descriptions of it from the member for Markham—Unionville. We know about the terrible situation in Toronto in particular. We have talked about it a lot with the member for Spadina—Fort York and the member for Markham—Unionville. We hear about it all the time.

We want stronger laws to keep guns off our streets. There should be much stronger laws and enforcement to prevent smuggling. We are very concerned about this but nothing is being done about it.

We also believe that it is the job of parliamentarians to pass legislation that is consistent with the Constitution of our country. People have talked about misgivings around mandatory minimums. The problems we have with the bill are not simply matters of misgivings. We know there are certainly problems with them with respect to the application of the laws to different individuals. It is also the obvious and well-known idea that racial discrimination occurs with mandatory minimums. It is one of the reasons why there are more Black and indigenous people in our prisons. That has been spoken about many times.

However, the real reason is that it is unconstitutional. The legislation to increase the length of the sentence from 10 to 14 years shows the courts and the judges that these are to be taken seriously and will result in higher sentences. When we talk about section 96 of the Criminal Code, section 95 of the Criminal Code on guns and possession of guns obtained by crime has similar mandatory minimums: three years for possession of a gun obtained by crime, or prohibited weapons that were armed or loaded or had ammunition readily available. Those mandatory minimums were struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Therefore, they are unconstitutional. They have no force and effect. They will not be given effect. We as parliamentarians ought not to be passing legislation that is clearly unconstitutional.

What is interesting about the case, R. v. Nur, is that the individuals who went to the Supreme Court of Canada had been sentenced to six and seven years in jail. The defence argued that the law was unconstitutional and the court agreed. It threw out the mandatory minimums in that case, but it upheld the sentences for the individuals because they were deemed appropriate. The court also threw it out because there were cases where that sentence would not be appropriate. Therefore, that law was not constitutional.

We have to make laws that are effective but that are also in keeping with our Constitution. In this case, increasing the sentence shows the seriousness of the crime. In fact, by increasing the sentence in Bill C-238, the maximum sentence one could get is up to 14 years. That sentence is higher than the sentence for the smuggling.

The law is a bit odd for that reason. It is unusual to see a law for possession of a smuggled gun to carry a higher sentence than for smuggling itself. However, that is the way the legislation is written. Perhaps that could be dealt with in the committee. The signal it sends with respect to the seriousness of the crime is very important.

To get back to the issue, we want to pass laws that are effective. We want to find ways of stopping gun violence in our cities. We know, of course, that most of the handguns we are talking about come from smuggling, so how do we get them away from the cities? They are not smuggled in Toronto. They are smuggled at the border.

We have seen a few things happen in the last number of years. One is that the number of border guards was drastically reduced by the Conservative government. Over 1,000 border guards were laid off, which was a reduction in the number of members of the CBSA whose job it is to look out for smuggling, and we have not seen any significant programs to tackle that. If we are going to tackle the crime, and if the crime is smuggling, we need to be tackling that crime at the border where the smuggling takes place.

We have not seen any action on that. We need an effective law to actually stop the smuggling, and we need enforcement by officials, police forces and the CBSA to actually do that. We try to stop drugs from coming over the border, and we should be putting an equal effort into ensuring that guns are stopped at the border as well.

In the case of sentencing, of course, it must fit the crime. This is a significant and serious crime, and it is up to the courts to do that. However, if the law we are passing is going to be deemed to have no force or effect, and there is very little doubt that this is an unconstitutional law, then we should not be passing it because it is not going to do any good.

There is little evidence that these mandatory minimums actually act as a deterrence. In fact, we heard the member for Spadina—Fort York talk about the cycle of people coming out of prison every five years and committing crimes again. Obviously, it is not doing any particular good if being in jail for several years is not doing anything other than turning people back out to the streets to commit crimes again.

We have to deal with the root causes of these problems, and they have to be rooted out with the kind of programs that we have been talking about. We also need the efforts by the police to ensure we have less smuggling going on and treat organized crime in a much more serious way.

Another thing that happened in the last five years was that several hundred serious investigations into organized crime by the national police force were laid to one side after the tragic shooting in Ottawa in 2014 of Nathan Cirillo and the subsequent attack on Parliament Hill. Resources from the RCMP were diverted to look out for similar activities across the country, and they were diverted away from the organized crime files they were working on.

In fact, instead of putting more resources in place to do that, they were actually taken away from organized crime files. The result was, and this has been demonstrated, over the next several years gang activity, mafia-style activity and organized crime activity actually increased. There was more access to guns and cash, and that increased as a result of a lack of enforcement.

We have to deal with enforcement. We have to deal with the root causes of gun violence, and we have to make sure we have laws that are actually constitutional. We are members of the Parliament of Canada. We must have respect for the constitution of our country and pass laws that are actually effective and that deal with the problem. Let us do that.

It has been suggested, for example, by the member for Markham—Unionville, that it is effective to have people in jail for a few days after being arrested for these things. Well, that is a very easy thing to fix, is it not? We do not have to put in laws that are unconstitutional to do that. If it is demonstrated that there ought to be a cooling-off period, that could be put into law as well.

Let us find the tools to do the job. Let us try to ensure we have laws that are not only effective, but also constitutional. Let us do the job right, and see if we can work together to make that happen.

Criminal Code October 27th, 2020

Madam Speaker, the smuggling does not occur in Toronto, of course, and we are opposed to these handguns getting loose. What about the border itself? What efforts does the member propose to actually stop smuggling at the border? The Conservative government got rid of over a thousand border guards when it was in power.

Criminal Code October 27th, 2020

Madam Speaker, the hon. member just gave a very compelling speech. I hope all members of the House get to listen to it, because not only is it compelling but it is also very persuasive.

She was talking about her age and her memories going back to when she first experienced a gay marriage on television. Not long ago, it was very frequent that individuals would talk about homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, debunking it and belittling the reality of individuals who were gay or lesbian. We have come a fairly long way in that, and now we are here talking about conversion therapy being wrong, not in a unanimous view, but we are very close to unanimous in terms of it being wrong. There may be some details we need to talk about.

Would the member comment on the issue of body affirming, which seems to be another way being used, particularly in dealing with transgender people, to seek to change them, get them to conform to a particular identity and live happily after, but there is no—

Business of Supply October 26th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I was present for the question and the question was dispensed, so I do not know if that makes any difference. The member would not have heard anything if he had been listening.

Public Safety October 23rd, 2020

Mr. Speaker, when asked about the grossly inadequate RCMP response to violence against Mi'kmaq fishers in Nova Scotia despite ample warning, the commissioner said that they were “managing this issue.” Most people watching what is happening would agree with Senator Murray Sinclair who said that this answer “flies in the face of the evidence.”

The Prime Minister has defended the commissioner. The Minister of Indigenous Services has been less than supportive. What does the minister in charge think? Is it time to look for a new commissioner or does he think she is “managing the issue?”

Fiscal Stabilization Program October 19th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, the fiscal stabilization program must be overhauled to get money to provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador suffering from serious loss of revenue.

Becoming a have province has been great for Newfoundland and Labrador. We became so because of the oil revenues and royalties, and the many thousands of workers and their families earning good incomes and living better lives because of it. It also meant that we no longer qualified or required payments under the equalization, the constitutionally-mandated program to address inequities between the provinces.

However, equalization does not help the sharp dip in revenues experienced by oil producing provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta and Saskatchewan recently exacerbated by the downturn in markets due to the pandemic. The fiscal stabilization program is aimed at that, but it needs to be retooled and upgraded with funding sufficient to address the serious financial crisis facing these provinces.

The Liberal government needs to step up now and fix the fiscal stabilization program to provide the needed help.