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

Public Safety April 3rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about serious national security concerns especially at airports and the Minister of Transport is making superficial announcements and doing stunts at those very airports. His spy games are not the kind of oversight we need.

Canada's border guards are doing good work to keep Canadians safe, but two internal audits now spanning 10 years show they are not getting the support and oversight they need to keep our streets and communities safe.

Will the government provide the CBSA with the oversight it needs, or should we expect more of the peek-a-boo politics we see from the Minister of Transport?

Public Safety April 3rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, this week an internal audit at the Canada Border Services Agency found that the security of seized items is shockingly inadequate. Guns are being left unsecured and illegal drugs are being dumped in garbage cans. More shocking is the government's lack of response.

Justice O'Connor, the Auditor General and New Democrats have all called on the government to give the Canada Border Services Agency proper oversight.

Will the minister responsible now admit the government's failure to act and commit to provide the CBSA with the oversight it needs and Canadians expect?

Churchill Falls April 3rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, a very important event has taken place within the Canadian electricity market this week. For the first time in history, Newfoundland and Labrador is selling power from the Churchill Falls hydro project directly into the United States, through Hydro-Québec transmission lines.

It is a small amount of power, reserved from the 1960s deal that saw virtually all Churchill Falls electricity go to Hydro-Québec, which eventually reaped enormous windfalls, getting the lion's share of profits to the consternation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

But it is historic because it could be a first step and a building block for a Canadian power grid. It is based on a concept very much part of the American power grid, but new to Canada, called “wheeling rights”. The United States regulatory system requires participants in its electricity grid to allow others access to the grid through its facilities as a condition of participation.

Congratulations to Hydro-Québec and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and its parent, Nalcor, on this historic deal. We hope that this model can help show the way for the development of a true Canadian electricity grid, allowing cleaner, greener energy to be developed and marketed within Canada. We hope the federal government will step up to the plate and start playing a role in making this happen.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act April 3rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for his remarks. I think he did a good job in encapsulating the importance of this bill to provide for mobility of transfer, mobility of pension credits, and also portability within the RCMP.

There are some technical aspects of this, and I do not want to burden the parliamentary secretary, but we have heard some concerns raised that senior RCMP officers did not get credit for the six month training period for which officers are now paid but were not years ago. There may be an anomaly with these individuals not getting credit for their training whereas someone transferring in from the OPP or somewhere else might.

Is the minister prepared to say the government would look favourably upon perhaps some technical changes in committee that may be needed to reduce anomalies and to make sure that there truly is a level playing field? Can he comment on that?

Our party is fully supporting this bill. It is unfortunate that previous legislation passed in 1999 was not really brought in with proper regulations and made workable. I want to commend the government on doing this now. We will be supporting it, but we would like to look at some of the possibilities that certain changes might need to be made. Would the parliamentary secretary be able to comment on that?

Canadian Security Intelligence Service April 1st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, Canadians know that intelligence extracted through torture is wrong. The RCMP says that it is by definition unreliable. The Arar inquiry condemned it. Even the Conservative government has said that Canada has stopped even considering it as useful. Yesterday a senior CSIS official admitted that the spy organization does not rule out the use of information obtained through torture.

If the government still believes that information through torture is wrong, when will it rein in CSIS and stop this policy?

International Conference on Afghanistan in The Hague March 26th, 2009

Mr. Chair, we do have something to bring to the table. In fact there is a person who happens to be a Canadian who has a great deal of experience in this field, who can provide understanding and who has a contribution to make.

It is in furthering the tradition of Canada playing a leading role in diplomatic efforts at peace worldwide that we made this suggestion, because it is something that would bring about a greater opportunity for peace. We should not miss this chance. With the new administration in Washington, it can go two ways. We could conceivably take the wrong path by seeing the United States increase its troops which could increase the counterinsurgency to the extent that is happening now. Part of why we are going downhill is that more people are coming out, because of what are regarded as the negative aspects in Afghanistan. A force from outside the country, either an enemy force or an occupying force or just merely foreigners are not readily welcome in Afghanistan. Initially the Americans were welcomed to drive the Taliban out, but the increasing activity over the last number of years has started to turn sour with a lot of people and the Taliban are rising as a result of that.

International Conference on Afghanistan in The Hague March 26th, 2009

Mr. Chair, I do not want the parliamentary secretary to mistake our position either. We recognize that there are extremists who will never come to the table and never seek peace, just as now, although there is peace in Northern Ireland after a long struggle, there are still extremists who in the last two weeks have killed people with a bomb. That is going to happen. We are never, ever going to eliminate that.

However, there are unfortunately growing elements who are working with and fighting with the Taliban now who have no interest whatsoever in the extremist ideology that breeds the kind of violence the member is talking about. Who are the elements who can be part of the peace process? I think the eminent persons are the group who, in addition to the diplomatic efforts and under the auspices of the UN, would be able to help that process by building some support that would lead to a formal process.

We are not being naive about this at all. We know we are never going to get rid of all extremists, but we need to isolate them to the point that those who are not part of that group are able to be part of the peace process.

International Conference on Afghanistan in The Hague March 26th, 2009

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to have an opportunity to join in this debate.

I am very glad to see that there is a debate tonight, what is called in our Parliament a “take note debate”. In other words, there will not be a vote on the matter but, because it is a matter of such great importance, Parliament sees fit to debate the matter and hear the views of all members who wish to participate on a matter of great national importance.

I congratulate the member for Ottawa Centre for bringing this matter to the House and thank the government for recognizing its importance and concurring in the need for a debate of this nature.

As we all know, the war in Afghanistan has cost Canadians very dearly. One hundred and sixteen Canadians have lost their lives in this conflict. We all share in the sorrow and the searing loss that their families have endured while doing their duty on behalf of their country. We all commend them for taking on this task on our behalf and doing their duty as asked of them by the government.

That does not mean that there are not differing views on what the mission in Afghanistan should be but it should not be the occasion for demagoguery, as I heard mentioned a little while ago. It should be the occasion for mature debate about the options that are available to us.

We have reached a very significant watershed in this country in this debate over the last few months. Indeed, throughout the world there has come to be a recognition that another way has to be found to see peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. It is important that we not miss this opportunity and that, therefore, we ought to use every means that we can to support the peace process.

I do not want to get into a debate or insult one side or the other about the suggestions that we have brought forward. The notion of an envoy, for example, has been brought forward. It is in the resolution that was passed by the House of Commons in March of last year. The Americans have an envoy, Mr. Holbrooke. So, an envoy is something that could be considered.

The UN conference itself, of course, is the bringing together of nations that are interested and that have played a role in trying to support the Afghan people and bring about a resolution. That is important, too.

As has been said here, the importance of having leaders of states and delegates of the United Nations participate is extremely important. There will not be a solution to the Afghanistan problem without leaders of states being involved, and that must include countries like Pakistan. There can be no peace in Afghanistan without the participation of Pakistan but that will take an effort of diplomacy, international co-operation and international persuasion, if I may use that term.

However, we do see some change in the climate and in the attitude toward Afghanistan and a more balanced approach, and we welcome that change. As my colleague from Churchill mentioned earlier, we do want to see Canada play a role that it prides itself in and that it tells its children and young people to be proud of, that Canada can play a significant role for peace in our world. We have done so in the past and may we continue forever to do so.

The suggestions that have been made by the member for Ottawa South and by our leader in a recent article in the National Post are ones that try to encourage the peace process by whatever means that could be helpful.

We do know that, despite progress, the situation in Afghanistan is in fact getting worse. We recognize now that it is militarily unlikely, if not impossible, to defeat the insurgents. Unfortunately, this type of military activity in fact breeds more recruits to the other side. It happened in Vietnam and it is happening in Afghanistan today. This is why there is a need now for the international community, be it the surge of the United States or other efforts, to increase the number of troops before we go further down the wrong path before we can find a solution.

The suggestion of having eminent persons involved is one piece of the puzzle. None of this is all or nothing. I do not think we should stand here tonight and tear apart other people's ideas to move toward peace in Afghanistan and to develop a peace process that can have contributions not just from the diplomatic community and leaders of states but also from people who have knowledge of and respect for the multitude of people in Afghanistan itself.

It is not just helping the government of Afghanistan in a top down way to be more competent in managing the country, better accounting I think we heard it called earlier tonight. It is a laudable goal to have a better society. It was Robert Gates in the states who said that we are not going to build a democratic Valhalla in Afghanistan. It is just not realistic. We are talking about institutions that have taken our country and others hundreds and hundreds of years to develop. Let us face it, we are dealing with a country that is undeveloped by definition. It is backward, one might say, if we think that we are the pinnacle of progress.

There is an enormously high degree of illiteracy. It is a country with a population of 22 million people, 14 million of whom are under the age of 18, with a life expectancy of 43. Only 23% of the people have access to safe drinking water and 12% to sanitation. There is a very long way to go and it may take decades and decades of development assistance, even under the most peaceful of circumstances, to bring that country forward to the level where more and more people have access to education, schools and safe water.

There is a very long way to go on the development side, but it cannot be done while fighting insurgents who are encouraged to join this force because of the nature of the war going on around them. We have to find a way.

The question is about Canada's next step. Suggestions have been made about an eminent persons group and I will not repeat them. My colleague, the member for Ottawa Centre, has spent a lot of time thinking about these things and working on ideas. We in the NDP do not invent all these ideas, as has been said. We do not claim pride of ownership, but I think we bring to the debate something very important.

What can the eminent persons that we have suggested do to help? They have the context and previous experience that could open new avenues of dialogue with the key constituents and affected parties in Afghanistan. They can establish a basis for more formal talks. This is what is important. We need formal talks. There will have to be direct negotiations.

The group would have many advantages by broadening the scope of diplomacy and including more external actors. It would ensure the scope of engagement includes the people of Afghanistan themselves, not just the international players, because at the end of the day it is the people of Afghanistan who have the biggest stake in the peace and prosperity of their country. We need to have the women of Afghanistan involved and civil society representatives, not just the warring factions or those who happen to lead the Taliban these days or the warlords or others who have a stake on the ground.

It would maximize the engagement with the moderate elements of the insurgency, including those who are fighting with Taliban not for ideological reasons but for food and money to support their families. We need targeted engagement critical to isolating the small percentage of extremist ideologues among the insurgents. These were some proposals in an article by the NDP leader in last week's National Post.

These are important elements that need to be brought into this peace process and we have promoted that idea as one that would help and would engage us down this difficult path to achieving peace in Afghanistan because that is what we need to have. We need to have it happen quickly.

I know my time is up and I hope I can add some more in the questions and comments, but it appears my 10 minute section is up right now.

International Conference on Afghanistan in The Hague March 26th, 2009

Madam Chair, I was interested in the comments of the member for Ottawa South in relation to Canada's efforts in assisting the development of governmental agencies. He talked about accounting practices and various other roles in assisting in the development of an opposition.

Those are things, no doubt, that are good things, but in the manner in which he presents them, it seems as if this is a justification for a military mission or role. Surely, if that could be a justification, we would be in many countries of the world where there are no democratic rights, no opposition, no democratically elected government and very little in the way of needed development.

How is it that this is so important in Afghanistan, where we are talking about finding a solution for a military war that is going on now? Can we say that these are part of the goals that our military mission encompasses?

Point of Order March 26th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, my point of order refers to the response of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to the traditional question as to what will be going on over the next few days so that parliamentarians can prepare for debates. I did not understand that this was an opportunity for the government House leader to make partisan swipes at other parties of the House or engage in debate that cannot be responded to. Is that not an abuse of the traditions of the House?