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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

Search and Rescue March 23rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, we all share in the shock and sorrow at the death of 17 offshore workers who lost their lives in the Cougar helicopter crash off Newfoundland's east coast.

As the Transportation Safety Board seeks the cause of this crash, questions are once again being raised about search and rescue response time, though it may not be a factor in this case.

After the Ocean Ranger disaster 27 years ago, a royal commission recommended that the Government of Canada ensure that a fully equipped search and rescue helicopter be stationed at the St. John's airport, nearest the offshore activity, now greatly increased.

Will the government now commit to implement this recommendation to ensure the safety of offshore workers?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act March 11th, 2009

Madam Speaker, maybe it has something to do with this synchronized problem that we have in the world, that all of a sudden the ideology overtook the government of free enterprise, no controls, no support of its own industry, just let it go loose and see what happens, laisssez-faire, descended in a synchronized way--

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act March 11th, 2009

Madam Speaker, that is a very good question and it applies to other shipyards as well, of course, but in particular in the Burin Peninsula, the shipyard in Marystown has been there. As most people, who know about that industry, know, shipyards often lurch from contract to contract with gaps in between.

We saw, for example, a fully occupied workforce in Marystown but once the contract was gone they all disappeared to find work somewhere else. They go off to Alberta or to New Brunswick, wherever there is a project, and getting a workforce back together for a contract is sometimes difficult to do.

A long term contract, such as the joint supply ships, would have given the industry a steady workforce for a long period of time, which would make a world of difference not only to those individual workers but for the whole Burin Peninsula and that whole community. That is the importance of having the kind of ongoing, planned procurement approach that we are calling for here today.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act March 11th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his comments on the shipbuilding industry and how the Liberal Party is working hard to help that happen. I do happen to agree with him on the air search and rescue. There does need to be a level of competency and a quick response.

The same kind of commitment to building that he is talking about in the aerospace industry needs to be applied to the shipbuilding industry. That is something on which we are looking for their support and we hope we will get it.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act March 11th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to join in the debate on Bill C-2. First, let me pay tribute to the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for carrying this debate on behalf of our party.

I come from a shipbuilding province, but I do not want to be parochial about this. We are a shipbuilding nation. My part of the country has been building ships for hundreds and hundreds of years for the fishing industry, going back 400 and 500 years.

We are building ships now. We have a modern shipyard in Marystown that is capable of terrific work. It was selected, in fact, for the joint supply ships for the Canadian navy, one of the two final bidders that were ready to roll and go to build these ships. What happened? At the last minute, or 72 hours before the election was called, the government cancelled the contract. The Canadian navy was about to issue a contract that was worth some $2.5 billion, which would have provided work, if Marystown was the successful bidder, and lot of people in my neck of the woods had every reason to believe that it would have been, to build those ships for six, eight or ten years of work and another fifteen or twenty years to provide the maintenance of them.

While Newfoundland and Labrador is part of the historic fishing, maritime, shipbuilding, boat building nation, we cannot forget that shipbuilding is a modern 21st century industry today. It is not part of the rust belt. Yes, ships are built of iron and steel, but they are also built with the most modern telecommunications and navigation facilities. They are built to rigorous standards. It is an industry of the future, requiring the highest degree of skill, technology and knowledge. It is a knowledge-based industry as well as part of the industrial base of our country.

It is something that requires the support of government to keep us in the game. What has happened is that other countries such as Norway have done that for their industry, for their people, for their prosperity and for their participation in the future of industry in the world, but we have not done that for ours. That is the reason why this should be out of this deal.

There are other problems with this deal too. The premier of my province has mentioned some of them. We are not using this opportunity to negotiate a free trade agreement to ensure that we remove the tariff, for example, from shrimp, which has been crippling the shrimp industry in the east coast for many years. This non-tariff barrier is being promoted now in the European Union by an attempt to ban seal products from a humane, controlled industry in the east coast.

We see no effort by the Government of the Canada to use these negotiations as an opportunity to extend our fishing jurisdiction outside the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. We still have to deal with an ineffective regime there.

Therefore, there other disappointments, but the big one, for which we are looking for support from both sides of the House, is our shipbuilding industry. We are trying to get some sense into the government, but we are also hoping that others on this side of the House will support our efforts. We are looking to the Bloc Québécois members who may be supportive, but we are also looking to the Liberals. So far I have not heard the Liberals participating in this debate and saying how they feel about this.

That was not always the case. I have in my hand a report that was produced, with the support of Brian Tobin, a former premier of Newfoundland and former industry minister. It is called “Breaking Through: The Canadian Shipbuilding Industry”. This report came out with a whole series of recommendations produced through a consultation process led by a number of individuals called the National Partnership Project Committee. Part of that was the president of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada, Peter Cairns, Les Holloway, the executive director of the Marine Workers Federation, Philippe Tremblay from the Fédération de la métallurgie CSN and Peter Woodward from the Woodward Group of Companies. They made a very good presentation with a lot of recommendations for the shipbuilding industry, which would have assisted this industry. However, we have not seen those recommendations implemented.

I would ask the Liberals, both nationally and from my own province, to support the amendment that we put forward because it would be important, not only to our own province of Newfoundland and Labrador but to the whole country. We have heard of the importance of shipbuilding on the west coast. We know it is important in the Thunder Bay area and in the province of Quebec. We see shipyards struggling to maintain their place in the modern world.

One important recommendation for this shipbuilding project was to ask the Government of Canada to eliminate the peaks and valleys of procurement for the navy and the Coast Guard through more effective forward planning and thereby keeping order books and employment levels more consistent over the long term.

That is extremely important because we do need to maintain a significant plan and a significant capital investment. According to an article in the Ottawa Citizen a couple of weeks ago on the estimated demands and needs for the navy, it stated:

One area that could provide significant employment for domestic firms in the coming decades is federal shipbuilding. With the navy's warships and Coast Guard vessels rusting out and in need of replacement, there is an estimated $40 billion to $60 billion worth of work over the next 20 years.

Where this work will take place is the question marine workers across the country are asking. With the cancellation of the joint supply ships project back in August, concerns were being raised that the government had plans to go overseas, to go offshore. It went through a tendering process and then it gave up on it.

Now we see the government supplying the Canadian Forces without contracts. It is buying helicopters from the United States without any contracts. There is not even an opportunity for a competitive bidding process. That is shocking. The government acquired C-17s and C-130J transport planes from the U.S. with no contracts and no competitive bidding.

There is a concern that the new search and rescue aircraft will go to a non-competitive bid. Canadian companies have no opportunity to participate because the Canadian Forces, apparently, have their eye on a particular Italian plane manufactured in the U.S. and there does not seem to be any plans to even have a competitive bid for that.

What is going on? Have we lost our way? Every country in the world, when it comes to procurement for their army, navy and air force, look to their domestic industries, except Canada. What is wrong with us? Is there something that I do not know about? Maybe members opposite could tell us what is wrong with us. What is it about us that we cannot build our own ships to ply the seas and look after our air forces, transport and so on? Maybe members opposite have the answers. Maybe there is something going on that I do not know about, but we seem to have lost our way.

For some reason, a bunch of Liberals seem to be going along with the government. I do not understand that. The shipbuilding industry is a modern, 21st century industry in which we should be participating. Why we are not doing so, is absolutely beyond me.

In the minute I have left, I would ask members opposite to get up on their feet during questions and comments and explain to the House and to Canadians why they are not protecting, supporting and expanding the ship industry in Canada. Perhaps some of the Liberals could tell us why they do not care either.

What is the plan for the $40 billion to $60 billion that will be spent by the government alone on the shipbuilding industry over the next coming decade? That could make a big difference to the economy of parts of this country, mostly coastal areas that have been struggling over the past many years for all sorts of reasons, some having to do with the fishery. Why is it that we cannot ensure that this kind of work is being done in this country?

Business of Supply March 10th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou whether the experiences in Quebec are similar to those in my own province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We had a mill that operated for 100 years. There were negotiations going on in Grand Falls-Windsor concerning the continuation of the mill and some restructuring, but what was required was support from the Government of Canada for older worker adjustment so that they could support a restructuring that would keep the mill going. I raised this issue in the House in December. Nothing was forthcoming from the government. Conservatives talked about the communities fund, which helps after the mill closes, but there was nothing to keep the mill open.

Does the member have similar experiences in Quebec with any mill closures in recent weeks or months?

Correctional Service Canada March 4th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, focusing light is not enough. It is very clear that we need action. The investigative report concludes that the government's actions are wholly inadequate.

The violations in Ashley's case include keeping her alone and in segregation for all of her time in federal custody, against their own rules; failing to provide her with a proper mental health assessment and treatment; and the improper use of force.

The report has been on the minister's desk for eight months and he has failed to go far enough and fast enough to prevent deaths in custody.

How many more teenagers who need mental health care instead of hard time in jail will have to suffer, or even die, before the minister acts?

Correctional Service Canada March 4th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the office of the correctional Investigator made public his report on the events leading to the sad and terrible death of Ashley Smith, a mentally disturbed teenager who choked herself to death while correctional officers stood by watching.

Howard Sapers concluded that her death was preventable and he warned that such deaths could happen again.

Why has the government failed to implement recommendations made time and time again that could have saved Ashley Smith's life?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the amendment to the budget implementation bill.

I would like to take up a little of what the member for Papineau was saying when he was concerned about the options that are available to the House at this time. He talked about one option being supporting the budget, supporting the government, showing confidence in the budget, making a compromise, et cetera. He referred to the alternative as an “unstable coalition”.

On the other hand, the argument that was made, and made quite quite strongly, was that the coalition proposed between the Liberals and the NDP had a very stable form of government that would have got us through two budget cycles without the threat of the kind of thing that is going on now, the so-called compromises against principle that the member is being forced to make. We would have an agreement that would last us through two budgets and we would have stability.

We have members from the Liberal opposition now saying that in June they will call an election. They will call an election in June, or at the first opportunity--not March, but June. They were saying they did not read the budget and were going to vote against it, but now they are saying that in June they will trigger an election.

What kind of stability is that? What kind of stability do we have with this government in power and the Liberals ready to pull the trigger at any time it suits them? When the terms of their probation are not being met, they will pull the trigger.

Every day we see members opposite, ministers, and the Prime Minister rubbing the Liberals' noses in the support that they are giving to them. I cannot believe they can get away with it. I am here every day. I hear the Liberals complaining about the government. Then I hear members of the government say that the Liberals are voting for all this stuff and that they are supporting them. They are not even thankful for the Liberals' support. They are not even giving the Liberals anything, not a crumb, even though they are asking the Liberals to go against their principles.

The member for Papineau should read this letter. I am sure he has a copy. It is a letter from CAUT complaining about pay equity. What do they say? They say that there is a breach of Canadian commitment to international conventions. They say there is a breach of section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was brought in by former Prime Minister Trudeau. It is a breach of constitutionally protected labour rights. It is a breach of the principles of democracy and all those things.

The government is rubbing the Liberals' noses in it, making them vote for it and support it. Why? Is it in the interests of stable government? This is not stable government. According to the Leader of the Opposition, this government is on probation, the terms of the probation can be broken at any time, and they will pull their chain. I do not see any chain pulled by the members opposite. In fact, they are so secure that they are ready to rub the Liberals' noses in it every single day.

The people of this country are able to watch that. They know what is going on. There is a lot of talk about being responsible and compromising and all that, but the people of this country see what is happening here. They know that prior to the budget being brought down, our leader said that if the government came up with a budget that had any merit, we would easily adapt those matters into a budget for the coalition. That could be done very quickly and could implement any measures that were desirable.

The motions before the House today to amend the budget, to remove these odious provisions in relation to pay equity, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and other things, are an opportunity for the opposition members to stand on their feet and support the principles they say they believe in, but we do not see any evidence of it before the House.

I know I have a few more minutes and the House will be moving on to other business. If it pleases you, Mr. Speaker, I can end here and let you move to other business, or I can keep on till the time is up. I see it is comme ci, comme ça. I can keep going. I might not get as enthused, knowing that I will be cut off in a minute or so.

The Navigable Waters Protection Act is now being gutted by the government, gutted in provision after provision. Even to determine whether a waterway is a navigable waterway is now at the discretion of the minister. Each and every step of the way, it is up to the minister and the opinion of the minister. If the minister makes such an order, he can do so. That takes away the protection of the waters my colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina, was talking about, in her experience in canoeing on navigable waters throughout this country. The changes that can be made to those waterways will now be at the discretion of the minister, instead of being subject to a proper evaluation and an environmental assessment, and that is wrong.

I urge members on both sides of the House, even government members, to vote against it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great care to the enthusiastic remarks of the member for Papineau. I was curious about his characterization of the role of the NDP. I believe what we said was that we lost confidence in the government. From the speech of November 27 and over the following days, given what was going on, we had no confidence that the government could produce a budget or do anything that was going to please the people of this country.

The hon. member for Papineau, along with all his colleagues, signed the letter and agreed.

What I would like to ask the hon. member is this: when did he actually regain confidence in the government? He is concerned about reading things, so was it after he read the budget, after he read the documents that were put out, after he read the section dealing with pay equity with all the detail there? The budget said we will fine a union $50,000 if it assists any of its members in pursuing a pay equity claim. Is that when he got confidence in the budget and decided to support the government? Can the member tell us that?