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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

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 2nd, 2009

Madam Speaker, I have a letter from the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, Lana Payne, addressed to me. I assume the six Liberal MPs from Newfoundland and Labrador have also received a copy of the letter, because she is asking all opposition members to take whatever steps are necessary to remove the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act from the budget implementation bill. We will have a chance to do that later today, so I hope the Liberals from Newfoundland will help to try to defeat this.

I do not know if there has been enough attention given to one of the things she complains about in the letter, that in the budget implementation legislation there is a provision that says that if an individual woman in the public sector files her own complaint through the Human Rights Commission, if a union supports and helps in that effort, the union will be fined $50,000 for helping one of its members apply to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

I wonder if the member for Winnipeg North would care to comment on the fact that a government would impose a fine on a union for helping a member file a human rights complaint. Is that something she has ever heard of before? I know I have not. I do not know everything that has happened in this country in the last 50 years, but this is a real shock to me.

East Coast Music Awards March 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, for over 20 years the East Coast Music Association has been celebrating the musical culture of Canada's east coast with the East Coast Music Awards. Great talents such as Lennie Gallant, Joel Plaskett, Great Big Sea, Gordie Sampson, Rufus Guinchard and many others have been recognized.

This past weekend the ECMAs were held in Corner Brook, hosted by Jian Ghomeshi and Damhnait Doyle, and featured the talents of Jill Barber, Ron Hynes, Rawlins Cross, Duane Andrews, Mary Barry and many others. The big winner this year was Hey Rosetta! from my own riding of St. John's East. Special recognition was given to the late Dick Nolan for his contribution to the music industry as a performer and pioneer recording artist.

We are all very proud of the talent and artistry of our musicians and songwriters, and the great contribution they make to our culture by providing just plain fabulous entertainment. The ECMAs are also an industry convention with workshops and showcases for emerging artists.

Congratulations to the winners. I thank the East Coast Music Association for its promotion and development of the music industry and for presenting such great talent at the ECMAs.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 2nd, 2009

Madam Speaker, yes, a lot of companies previously would not have been covered by this, but because of the low stock prices their market cap is so low they are vulnerable to takeover without any review whatsoever.

We have seen the attitude of multinational corporations--or transnational corporations, which I think is the preferred phrase these days--that have no concern whatsoever for the consequences in this country with respect to layoffs and things like that. It is a bad thing and it is open season.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 2nd, 2009

Madam Speaker, yes, it is rather ironic that during the election campaign when the Prime Minister was apprised of the fact that there were serious problems in the stock market, he said that this represented some good buying opportunities. The irony is that by opening up the foreign takeover opportunities, he is now wishing to make those buying opportunities available to capitalists, entrepreneurs and companies in the rest of the world when the stock prices are so low.

Some of these companies are now at fire sale prices. Despite the huge drop in the stock market, many people and companies have enormous cash reserves. This seems to be the wrong time to make it easier for foreign companies to take over Canadian enterprises by lowering the standard and not making it subject to review in many cases. I think the new rule now is $1 billion. There are many companies now available for takeover by foreign enterprises without a review of any kind. It is basically open season for Canadian enterprise to be gobbled up by those with strong foreign cash reserves. It is the wrong time to be doing this and I certainly oppose it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 2nd, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on the budget implementation bill. The amendments are being brought forward to try to take away some of the inequities that have been included in the bill, as previous members have stated. They are inequities that do not have much to do with the idea of having a package of financial measures to respond to the fiscal crisis, but rather adopts the government's approach to its agenda for our country, which varies considerably from that which our party supports.

I will review what has happened in the last few months in the country.

On November 27, we had the fiscal update, which to be fair and very polite ignored the fiscal reality. The government decided it was a good time to include three very prominent measures that caused quite a big furor in the House and across the country.

The first was an attack on the rights of women by declaring that pay equity was no longer something with which the Human Rights Commission was able to deal. It was to be eliminated from the remedies under the Human Rights Act and made something that would have to be bargained like any other item for collective bargaining.

The second was an attack on collective bargaining rights, for which workers across the country have fought for decades. The indication that the government would refuse to honour agreements with workers was an attack on collective bargaining.

The third was something that also caused a big furor as well, and that was the attack on the changes that had been made to party financing in the wake of the Liberal financial sponsorship program scandal. Imposed were fair rules for financing our political parties.

We and the Bloc were opposed to the attack on those fair rules. The Liberals were extremely opposed. In fact, as a result of these measures and the failure to address the problem, the Liberals agreed to enter into a coalition to replace the government to ensure that these things would not happen and that the government would be able to respond to the needs of the people.

If all the rest is taken away, that is really what happened in December, just a couple of months ago.

As we know, Parliament was then prorogued through the application of the Prime Minister. We came back again on January 26. What do we have? We have some changes to the government's attitude toward the budget, but what has happened to those three major irritants that caused the problem for the Liberals back in December? All but one of them are still there.

We still have an attack on women. We still have the removal of the pay equity provisions from the Human Rights Act remedies. Women in the public service can no longer avail of the rights that many other Canadians have to seek remedy from the Human Rights Commission for a violation of pay equity in the federal sphere. They now have to go and bargain along with every other item on the agenda of a collective bargaining session and play with the give-and-take of hardball negotiations on the part of the employer, or not, or whatever takes place. Pay equity becomes another bargaining item along with holidays, overtime pay, vacations and various other things. Pay equity is one of the things that as part of these negotiations is totally wrong. However, it is apparently acceptable to the Liberal Party of Canada and to the Liberal opposition in the House. I find it astounding that this could be the case.

The other issue is collective bargaining. Part of the implementation act are the changes that would be brought about to ensure all the collective agreements in the federal public sector would be changed, with pay increases that have been negotiated or agreed to wiped out. That is being done at the drop of a hat by the government, supported by the Liberal Party of Canada.

One of the three major irritants that has been left out is the one which would take away party financing for the Liberal Party of Canada. Now the Liberal Party is supporting the government and the measures it is implementing, including the attack on pay equity, the attack on women and the attack on collective bargaining.

It is kind of ironic. There was quite a furor in the House in December. Every single member of the Liberal caucus signed the letter declaring their lack of confidence in the government, declaring their willingness to form a coalition government to govern the country and prevent the very things that we see them complain about every day in this House.

I was a little encouraged the other day. The member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl was entertaining some protestors from the Public Service Alliance of Canada who showed up at her office on Friday. They were protesting the fact that the Liberal Party was supporting the pay equity changes. According to news reports the member invited them in and she was asked whether or not there was any opportunity of hiving off those pay equity provisions from the budget implementation bill and dealing with them separately. The member apparently was interested in trying to do that but was not sure that it could be done.

I want her and all members in the House to know that there is an opportunity to hive off those sections of the bill. There are opportunities in this debate through report stage motions and amendments to vote against particular provisions of the budget implementation bill and pay equity can in fact be taken out and members can vote accordingly. I would certainly encourage them in that regard.

I am glad to see that the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl has an interest in that. I look forward to her supporting the amendment which would remove that. For any member of the Liberal caucus who would wish to register his or her objection to the removal of pay equity rights for women, there will be opportunities for them to do that today. Whenever it comes to a vote, I look forward to seeing the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl and others join with us in seeking to amend this legislation at least to the extent that it does not trample the rights of women when it comes to pay equity. It is a very significant issue for many people across this country and for the women who fought for pay equity.

Again and again I hear the President of the Treasury Board talk about how the Conservatives are fixing this. It took 15 years for women to achieve pay equity in the public sector. My question is, why is that? Who was in government forcing the women to spend 15 years fighting for pay equity? Who opposed these applications? Who opposed these measures before the Canadian Human Rights Commission? It is very obvious. Who was in power during those 15 years? During those 15 years, it was the Conservative government of Mr. Mulroney and then the Liberal government of Mr. Chrétien. Those were the governments in power. That is why it took 15 years, not because there was a problem with the system, but because both governments, the Conservative government and then the Liberal government, resisted every single step of the way to ensure that it took 15 years.

All the President of the Treasury Board has to do is say, “Hey, we are going to streamline this process. We are not going to resist. We are going to let the process take its course as it should”. All the Liberal members have to do is ensure that when the opportunity comes, they actually take this provision out of the budget implementation bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 February 12th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I know the member has a great interest in that issue and has stood steadfast for truth, justice and the right thing to do despite some personal costs to himself. I congratulate him for that.

Unfortunately, I cannot answer for the government. The government says one thing and does another, as it did to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. These rules that it talked about were actually imposed on Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. They were not agreed upon. Now that the rules work, whether in legislation or otherwise, to the benefit of these provinces, the government sets out the changes. These are not strictly equalization. These are designed to be offsets for natural resources.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 February 12th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, we do not live in a perfect world but I am assuming, since the member is a member of the Liberal caucus, that she was one of those who signed a document back on December 1 offering to participate in a government that would immediately deliver the economic stimulus that was needed in this country. In fact, a proposal was made to form a coalition government to do just that. This was done while the government was projecting surpluses for the next three years, ignoring the fact that there was a real need. It obviously did not anticipate that there would be a job loss of 129,000 jobs in December. It did not recognize the need nor did it want the stimulus.

I am assuming that she was joining with us in saying that stimulus had to happen starting in December, not now or later. We intend to ensure that people understand that we were there to do just that. We are still ready to do just that but this is not the budget to do it with.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 February 12th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, Canadians must be very discouraged, when over 60% of them voted against the governing party in the last election, to see it now carrying out its agenda with the help of the second largest party in the House, the Liberals. The expectation seems to be that the Liberal Party will somehow be rewarded for that in the next election. I think Canadians may have another point of view on that because they well know that there is at least one party standing up in this House to support them.

I would like to read what a professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School said about the budget:

Tuesday's budget shamelessly massaged numbers and tables to give a false impression that the tax cuts favour low-income earners. In true [Prime Minister] form, he has used the budget as cover to advance the Conservatives' vision of a good tax system – one that is less redistributive, and encourages heavier reliance on private savings to meet citizens' needs.

Whether one likes this vision or not, it is fundamentally inconsistent with the short-term goals of stimulating consumer spending and helping those who lose their jobs in the recession. The official opposition should have called him on that.

That fact is, it did not.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 February 12th, 2009

It seems to be, my colleague says. That is what I call a poison pill and it should not be put up with.

That is one good example of the kinds of things contained in this budget that are not really economic stimulus measures or even budget measures at all.

Another one is the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. One might wonder what that has to do with stimulating the economy. The argument is that any project less than $10 million is no longer subject to any review whatsoever or any standards set by the Navigable Waters Protection Act that protect our environment and the environment of the streams and rivers that are navigable waters. Is that an economic stimulation? No, it is not. It is, in fact, a diminishing of the standards of protection of the environment just because the project is less than $10 million.

Many a bridge, many a diversion and many an activity in this area cost less than $10 million and the amount of damage that can be done is considerable. Is this time sensitive? At the end of two years, is this gone? Is this designed to fast-track projects? No. This is designed to lower environmental standards and the protection of navigable waters, something that obviously the government desires and the official opposition is supporting.

Those are two of the many examples of how the budget fails in its own standard of providing economic stimulus in attempting to, supposedly, get the money out the door.

The government likes to criticize the NDP for holding up the government from getting economic stimulus out the door. We are doing our job to ensure that the people of Canada know what the government is doing, that we cannot take a bill like this and push it through the House in two or three days and expect no one to debate it or even know what is going on. This is the means for the public to know what the government is doing in this one-inch thick piece of legislation.

I have talked about a couple of poison pills. In addition to poison pills in the budget bill there is something that I would call more of a bombshell. That is the treatment of my province, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, by a significant huge penalty. The government decided to change the rules in the O'Brien formula and the application of the Atlantic accord to the detriment of my province to the tune of $1.5 billion over the next three years.

To put that in perspective, this is not about capping equalization payments. This is not even equalization payments. This is a formula designed to ensure that Newfoundland and Labrador is the primary beneficiary of its offshore resources. That fight was fought by Newfoundland and Labrador. It started off with the Atlantic accord of 1985. What we have is the government changing the rules because the rules work in favour of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The government does not like that, so it is going to change it: $1.5 billion of backdoor changes to the rules, unilaterally effected by the government with no consultation and no foreknowledge. In fact, it was only ferreted out in the budget lock-up by officials from the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador when they saw the number for transfers to Newfoundland and Labrador reduced by $460 million. It is a shocking treatment of a partner in Confederation.

We know that if the comparable number was applied to the province of Quebec, it would be $14 billion. If it were applied to Ontario, it would be $22 billion. The number is $3,000 for every man, woman and child in Newfoundland and Labrador. That is a bombshell and it should be recognized as such.

I know my colleagues from Newfoundland and Labrador in the House voted against the budget once but I understand that was a one-time permission granted by their leader and that they will be supporting the budget implementation bill and all other budget measures. That action speaks for itself and I will not say any more about that.

We have a budget bill that not only has these poison pills but it also does not do the job for the people who actually need the help. The previous speaker, my colleague, referred to the fact that not one other person in the country is now eligible for employment insurance in the worst downturn that we have had since the Great Depression. The government has added five weeks to the back end. If people are unlucky enough to be on employment insurance for the full length of the existing measure, they will get an extra five weeks.

We have had someone cost out that measure and it will cost the government $11 million. “Thank you very much”, say the unemployed in this country. It is $11 million when the budget that was presented to the House projects a $64 billion deficit over two years. That is not helping people who need the help.

The budget has failed those people and the people of this country. It does not deserve the support of the House and certainly does not deserve the support of the official opposition.

What is ironic is that every time members from the official opposition ask questions in the House and complain about the budget what do they get? The government answers, “You supported it. You're with us on this one”, and the official opposition can say no more.

We are not prepared to do that. We are here to fight the budget and we are here to fight the government.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 February 12th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to join in the debate on Bill C-10, the act to implement the budget measures. For the public who are watching this, I am holding up a copy of the bill, which is about an inch thick. The bill was tabled in the House a number of days ago, I believe on February 6, and it contains some 500 pages of measures that are used to implement the budget and amend a whole series of acts. Also contained in these measures, as the previous speaker just indicated, not just budgetary measures, but measures that are designed to change public policy in important areas.

I will use a couple of examples referred to earlier in the debate as poison pills as part of the budget. One example is the change to pay equity. Pay equity, as we know, is an important human right. The importance of equality of men and women is recognized in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is also recognized in the Canadian human rights code and the Canadian Human Rights Commission has been a vehicle for the achievement and the definition of those rights in this country for many years.

It is important to understand what the government has done. The Conservatives said that these rights were no longer subject to review, adjudication and enforcement by the Canadian Human Rights Commission but that they must be done through collective bargaining. Now that sounds on the surface reasonable, but I practised labour law for in excess of 25 years in this country and I will give a bargaining 101. Bargaining 101 is when one side puts its proposals on the table and the other side puts its proposals on the table and then both sides negotiate. Since when did human rights become negotiable? In every set of bargaining, people put their wants and their demands on the table, which could be 5, 10 or 12. They might want a pay increase, more holidays and so on, but now they are asking for equality too. The other side agrees but wants to know what the people will give up to get equality. The answer should be “nothing” because people are entitled to equality as a human right as recognized in the Canadian human rights code and embodied in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, the government has now made that a subject of negotiation. In the public sector there are men and women. The men are being told that if they want equal rights for women, then they must give up something in terms of pay, in terms of vacation or in terms of benefits. What are we doing here? Are we setting up a conflict between men and women in the public sector? Is that what the government wants?