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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

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns May 8th, 2009

With respect to sole source contracts for goods and services issued by or on behalf of the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's Office only, for the last four years: (a) how many contracts have so been awarded; (b) who received the contracts, on what date and for what amount; (c) what good or service did they provide in return; (d) what was the duration of each contract; and (e) who was responsible for authorizing each contract?

Canadian Forces May 6th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, that is not good enough for the safety of our troops.

The Bush administration's use of private security contractors in Iraq led to abuses that were severely criticized. The people we have hired here are outside the military chain of command and not subject to our military laws, discipline or justice.

Why is the government using these private companies as cheap labour in the first place? Will the government commit to stop using private security contracts to protect our bases or to carry out military or paramilitary operations in Afghanistan?

Canadian Forces May 6th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the government has never met a job or an industry that it did not want to outsource or privatize, but when it comes to the safety of our dedicated men and women in Afghanistan, one would think it would draw the line. Apparently not.

The government is employing private security companies and hiring cheap labour to protect our bases. Is this the best we can do to protect our soldiers? There is something wrong with this mission if we cannot protect our military bases with our own troops.

Does the Minister of Defence honestly believe that this is the best way to keep our brave man and women safe?

Seal Hunt May 5th, 2009

Madam Chair, I listened with interest to the member for Wetaskiwin when he talked about the activity in the WTO. I speak with experience as a lawyer. It seems to me that going to the WTO is like going to court. We know they do not have a very strong legal position, so we go to court. Meanwhile, we are sitting down and negotiating with these very same people. Why would we say that we do not need to negotiate because we will go to court. Once we say that we will to a court, like the WTO, the people who they negotiate with will say that they do not need to talk about this because we have said that we will resolve it, so it is off the table. That seems to be a very backward step.

The member dealt with the issue of somebody being offside in the Senate. The Senate is the other place and it does what it does. The European parliament seemed to be very effective in passing resolutions with 50 people offside. It had a very effective resolution 500 to 50, or something like that. Why is unanimity such a big deal as it seems to effectively pass resolutions?

We need a government to be at the main table, act decisively and defend the interests of Canada where it counts.

Seal Hunt May 5th, 2009

Madam Chair, who do they think they are? They are not deciding whether Inuit people in Canada should be allowed to continue to hunt seals for their own use, for sustenance, for looking after their clothing needs, their food and all that goes with it. They have said as long as this is not happening for commercial reasons.

They may have made an exemption, but the exemption is not for commercial trading. The exemption proposes to recognize that it is okay for them to hunt by traditional methods. At the very least, it certainly is patronizing.

So my answer to the member is who do they think they are? They do not have control over what goes on in this country. They are trying to say they will not allow any marketing of these products, but they permit people to carry these products with them while they are travelling.

It is very patronizing at the very least. I would not go so far as to say it is racist, but it certainly is patronizing, and it has no place in a European parliament. I think they have got it wrong. Efforts ought to be made to ensure that the public of Europe is told that they have it wrong and that their national governments ought not to follow it; they should oppose it.

Seal Hunt May 5th, 2009

Mr. Chair, first of all, I do not think this is over yet and that we are just at a wake here. First reading has been given to this bill. and I do not think we should give up.

Someone asked me today if I thought the government had done enough. My answer was obviously not, because if it had done enough this would not have happened.

It goes back to the question that my colleague opposite asked: what advice do I have about changing the hearts and minds of the people of Europe? It is pretty obvious. We have to communicate with them. It obviously has not been done enough to convince their parliamentarians that they should have a more balanced view, that they should recognize that Canada is doing a lot to advance the cause of a proper hunt, with proper numbers and scientific evidence and ensuring the precautionary principle.

That obviously has worked. Canada has by its methods and efforts increased the seal population from 1.5 million seals in 1971, to 5.6 million or more today. Obviously this is not about sustainability. This is not about saving an endangered species. This is about something else.

I would venture to say that not one European in five hundred knows that the population of seals has increased by three or four times in the last 30 years. That is because the government has not told them.

Seal Hunt May 5th, 2009

Mr. Chair, I do not think we should go all the way, where we either get a ban or have a trade war.

We are talking about negotiations. Negotiations involve stating a position and fighting for it. What is it we want from these trade negotiations? Are we saying we want to have a free trade agreement and we are prepared to put all of our interests to one side to get “free trade”? Are we going to forget about the things that are important to us?

If it is important to us, then we make it a part of the negotiations. We do not have either a trade war or an agreement on everything. I am talking about an effective way of doing it.

I agree there is a problem with talking just to parliamentarians or just having delegations talk to governments. Perhaps someone from the government could tell us how much money the Government of Canada spent on advertising, trying to reach those hearts and minds, trying to find effective ways to get on television over there.

I do not know if this is the best example, but I am sure everybody in this House has seen the beautiful ads about Newfoundland and Labrador. They make the place look like the most attractive place in the world, encouraging people to come. I think I see nods from my colleagues from Newfoundland and Labrador, here and from all over the country, that these are magnificent ads. They attract people's attention.

Perhaps someone could tell us how much money the Government of Canada, with its resources, has spent trying to change those hearts and minds, trying to compete with the misinformation. I know it is expensive, but we are talking about protecting our way of life. We should not have to change because people are misinformed in other parts of the world.

Seal Hunt May 5th, 2009

I hear 18%, Mr. Speaker. We have to wonder whether this reflects the true opinion of the people of Europe, or whether these people are responding to mass campaigns of misinformation about the nature of the seal harvest.

There is a statement at the beginning of the resolution saying:


(1) Seals are sentient animals that can experience pain, distress, fear and other forms of suffering.

It goes on say:

--to ban all cruel hunting methods which do not guarantee the instantaneous death, without suffering, of the animals, to prohibit the stunning of animals with instruments such as hakapiks, bludgeons and guns,--

The European Union is not outlawing hunting. It is not saying that the 35,000 seals that are culled and presumably left to rot or dropped to the bottom of the ocean by Sweden are going to be protected by the European Union. It is aiming at the market for Canadian seal products.

By the way, the seal products we are talking about are seal meat, which is very high in protein, and seal oils, the most important part of which are omega-3 fatty acids that are processed for food products.

We are also talking about hides. They are not banning hides for cows or any other animals. They are not banning leather belts, which I am wearing today. They are not banning leather shoes. They are not banning any of the things that are part of humankind's use of animals in our daily life.

They are picking on this one particular thing, because this is the top of the line for those people who would actually like to ban all those other things. However, they do not have any support for it. They buy misinformation about the seal harvest and the whitecoat seal pup, the hunting of which has been banned for over 20 years. They are misinforming the public. They are using the public, and they have managed to get to these European parliamentarians.

I think we agree that this is wrong. The question is what we do about it There has been a lot of talk about the WTO. At the end of the day, that might be our only choice. However, there is a problem with that. We are now sitting at the main table, not with the European Parliament or these parliamentarians who get elected by less than 20% of the vote, but with the European Union.

We are dealing with the countries and the trade ministers who represent their individual countries. We are at the main table, and we should be there, saying that we have some problems. We have some problems with this proposed ban, which is a non-tariff trade barrier. We want that off the table, right away.

There are other things that my province is concerned about. The 20% shrimp tariff is hurting not only Newfoundland but the Canadian fishing industry. The Minister of National Defence knows a lot about that from his province as well.

But that is still there. I do not hear anybody saying this is going to be a precondition for our negotiations. We want to get rid of this. If we are going to remove barriers, that is a very important one. We have to have that first. This is where the action is. It is at the main table of these negotiations.

I do not want to see us in a situation in five years' time like the NAFTA agreement. On paper, it looked great. We had a free trade agreement. Meanwhile, the senators and congressmen in the U.S. invented and encouraged all these applications before the NAFTA to stir up trouble. They knew it was illegal, just as the European Council knows that this ban on seal products is illegal.

That gets me back to the Inuit Tapirisat and the Inuit Circumpolar Council. They released a press release on March 27, indicating that the Council of the European Union was told by its own legal advisors that the proposed EU-wide ban on imported seal products would contravene both the EU Charter and their obligations under the World Trade Organization. So what are they doing? They are doing it anyway.

That is what the Americans do. The American government does not do that; it stands by and allows someone else do it. What happens? Let us talk about softwood lumber. We know the story of softwood lumber. What happened? The government eventually caved in. It caved in on softwood lumber because of costs, loss and everything else. We do not have a great record in standing up for these things. While we have a chance and we are at the main table, let us get the action happening there.

I was asked what I thought of the WTO in an interview today. I said, well, the WTO is there, but if I am sitting at the main table with the European Union and I start talking about the ban on seal imports, the European Union is going to say it understands we have a problem with that; it understands we have taken it to the WTO; that is where it should be resolved. It will then want to talk about something else.

That is the problem. That is the logical problem. That is the political problem. The political problem is not here. It is there. The government must be prepared to commit to going there and saying at the main table that this is an issue about which we are concerned.

I hope that from this debate tonight the consensus will be that it is a significant enough trade problem for Canada to take action. We want our Prime Minister, Minister of International Trade and representatives to bring this up at the main table to try to resolve it there.

Seal Hunt May 5th, 2009

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to have an opportunity to join in this debate. I welcome the fact that all parties have agreed to take the time of Parliament to debate this extremely important issue to the people of my province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I want to acknowledge the contribution of other members to the debate and welcome their participation. The member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine is certainly an ally of the sealers in our province and in the fight that has been going on for many years to recognize the fact that the seal harvest is an important part of the economic activity of Canada. We have also heard from speakers on the other side of the House who underscored this point as well.

Members on both sides of the House agree that this is an important issue. It is an important issue for Canada. It is an important issue for Canadians. It is important because our government has an obligation to defend the industry, the culture, and the livelihood of Canadians.

The seal harvest and the seal fishery play an extremely important role in the economy, culture and livelihood of the Inuit people all across the north. The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Inuit Circumpolar Council have been active in this fight as well. Mary Simon participated in a TV program today. I am going to refer later in my speech to a press release issued by them a couple of weeks ago which has some importance here.

I would like to put on the record very clearly that we are dealing with an industry, and a form of livelihood, that is humane, that is market-driven, and is sustainable. We do not tolerate inhumane practices. Our sustainable harvest is based on solid science, sound conservation principles, and by using the precautionary principle when setting quotas.

These extremely important principles are applied to this animal harvest, which is a legitimate form of economic activity that has been going on, as others have mentioned, for several hundred years in Newfoundland and Labrador after a European settlement, but for many centuries and perhaps thousands of years by our brothers and sisters among the Inuit. We have an obligation to preserve this harvest and I think there is agreement on that.

We might need to put this into a little perspective.

It seems hard to get a copy, but I have a copy of the resolution that was passed today. It was first reading of a document, so it is not all over yet by any means. We are talking basically of a first reading adoption of a set of regulations of the European parliament. There are other steps to go before the countries of the European Union seek to act upon this resolution. I do not think it is too late, but we may have lost the PR campaign in dealing with the European parliamentarians.

We are concerned about our voting record in Canada and the percentage of people who vote in our elections. I invite members to find out what percentage of the European population actually votes in the European parliamentary elections. I see one of my colleagues pointing his thumb down. I think we might be talking about 20% or less.

AbitibiBowater May 4th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, last week I asked the Minister of Finance to take action to help seniors who were being kicked off their AbitibiBowater pensions. Eight hundred people are affected, some as old as 94.

He shrugged off their plight, saying they should take it up with the provincial government. That was both callous and wrong.

Federal legislation regulates bankruptcy and insolvency rules, and right now, employees are at the end of the line to get what they are owed in severance and retirement payments.

Will the minister now take action to change the rules to protect employees' benefits, or will he continue to side with the bankers and lenders at the expense of ordinary people?