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

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 February 11th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I share the concern of the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North about the forest industry. Abitibi just recently closed a mill in our province and, in fact, closed it early. It could not wait to close it because it saw the opportunity for support from the government, but it did not come.

A few moments ago, the member for Outremont talked about some poison pills in this budget implementation bill. There are a lot of them there but there is no bigger poison pill to me in this budget than the actions that were taken by changing the formula for the equalization payments, such that the promises under the Atlantic accord to compensate Newfoundland and Labrador were gutted to the tune of about $1.5 billion for that province. That is $3,000 per capita, which for Ontario would be $22 billion and $14 billion for Quebec. Here we are talking about a province with the highest rate of per capita debt of any province in the country.

Would the member care to comment on the kinds of poison pills that the government is prepared to insert into this budget's measures?

RCMP February 4th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, police officers are often the unsung heroes of Canada who put their lives on the line every day to keep our families and communities safe. They deserve our full support. Why then has the government done the unthinkable and unilaterally cut the wage increases that RCMP officers and their families were given and were counting on?

How is it the Prime Minister has millions of dollars to stack the unelected Senate with Conservative friends, but not enough for an RCMP wage hike that the RCMP was granted by Treasury Board last June?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act February 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the explanation of the government whip, but we have had the same experience with the infrastructure funds where there are billions of dollars on the books but they are not being spent, so what good does it actually do? I thank him for his comments, but we will be looking actively for that money being spent.

I see the $175 million in this budget for the 98 vessels on a cash basis, and perhaps the member can explain to me whether I am right in assuming that a cash basis means that if we do not spend it in this budget year, then it is not on the books, that it is gone and it will not be spent. I think I am right in saying that, but if the member is right when he says that other projects are on the books, then we look forward to his government making an announcement as to when the joint supply ships will be constructed, and when that tender will go out again so we can see some action on it.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act February 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, surely, this is all it is doing. It is saying this is okay because it is stretched out over 15 years. Somehow or other the industry is supposed to respond to this on its own while we are competing with an industry that has been built up, supported, developed, subsidized, and nurtured by a government such as Norway, a country with one-third of the population of Canada but that has done a very good job of managing its internal resources, looking after its people, and making sure that when it develops an industry it is an industry that can compete in the world.

We have for example Norse Hydro which is participating in the offshore of Newfoundland and Labrador to a greater extent, through Statoil Hydro which is participating in the offshore of Newfoundland and Labrador with 12% of one project and 18% of another. They are active players in our offshore as a government agency. Norway has done this kind of work in ensuring that it is an international player in shipbuilding, in aquaculture, in salmon marketing, and all sorts of industries that it nurtured and developed. Shipbuilding is one of them.

We have to do the same if we hope to compete. Just sort of staging a withdrawal or staging out tariffs is essentially a staged withdrawal from being a competitive player, if one does not do the work on the ground to make it happen.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act February 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member on his standing ovation in Switzerland for his support for supply management in this country. I have not seen him getting many standing ovations on this side of the House on the actions of his government with respect to the Wheat Board either.

If the minister is actively supporting supply management and prepared to defend that in international agreements and in all international efforts, I want to thank him for that. I think that is what the government has to do and has to do vigorously.

As to his comments about the NDP being free traders at heart but simply do not support free trade agreements, what I said was that we believe in fair trade. Fair trade has elements of free trade, but it has elements of ensuring that we do not go into a free trade agreement and expose ourselves to the elements that other countries have built up through subsidies and through long-term industrial policies in their countries and then come knocking at our door and say, “We'd like to have a free trade agreement, remove barriers so we can come in and penetrate an industry that you haven't done a very good job of protecting”.

That is what we are saying here, that it is an industry where Canada has failed to have a proper policy. I guess the government's budget is a good example of that. There is reference made to shipbuilding and the importance of shipbuilding in the decline, but then where is the response? The response is to say, as the government whip said, “We've got all this work on our books but we're not going to do it. We're not going to do it in this budget”. We have an economic stimulus budget that is being bragged about as the greatest level of stimulation to be put into the economy in decades, but what is there for shipbuilding?

Out of the $64 billion deficit that the government plans to run in the next two years there is $175 million allocated for shipbuilding. That is not enough.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act February 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the bill before the House, Bill C-2, on the European Free Trade Association trade agreement. It is important to understand what we are talking about. There are only a few countries involved: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. There is also an agreement on agriculture between Canada and the Republic of Iceland and various agreements related to the Norway and the Swiss federation on agriculture as well. They are part of the bill.

This party believes in trade. We believe in fair trade. I know a lot of members across the way would like to guffaw about that. They seem to think that free trade is a thing we do by taking off our warm coats and exposing ourselves to the cold for reasons of fashion. It is fashionable to talk about free trade and trading with other countries.

Our party believes in fair trade. We have a lot of examples of that. The Auto Pact is one of them, where there is a fair trade agreement between Canada and the United States dealing with trade and very important commodities at serious risk today. However, the government has a very one-sided view on trade, and that is knock down the barriers and we will have free trade. However, when it chooses to do it, it seems to choose to do it with people who have already put their own industry in a position where they are anxious to enter into a free trade agreement with Canada because Canada is not willing to protect its own industries.

We have heard various speeches this afternoon. I was particularly impressed by the speech by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, who has been on the shipbuilding file ever since he entered the House of Commons. I have worked with him over the years on this file, as well as with other members of the shipbuilding industry, in particular, the Marine Workers Union. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador was very interested in this, as well. Newfoundland and Labrador has a great interest in shipbuilding. The Marystown shipyard, with the Cowhead facility, has been active in building up its capacity and ability to actively participate in shipbuilding ventures. We have been following this file tremendously.

In fact, if the government of the day and the previous governments listened to the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for the last I think 11 years, we would have a shipbuilding industry that would be able to compete on a level playing field with Norway and we would not be probably in this position opposing this aspect of the bill. We would have had what Norway has had for the last 10 or 15 years. It used to be called an industrial policy on shipbuilding.

I know industrial policy is a very unfashionable word among the think tanks of the right, industrial policy as opposed to this whole notion of “let the free enterprise system do everything”. It is some ideological mantra that has got us where we are today in the world with the collapse of the international financial markets and the stock market as a result of this blind ideology of deregulation, free trade and lack of concern over the ways in which governments can and should regulate industry, protect their national interests and ensure that the kinds of things that should be happening are happening.

We are a coastal nation, as has been mentioned before today. We have the longest coastline in the world, the Arctic, the Pacific and the Atlantic, areas where we have a national interest, whether it be on the east coast with respect to protection of our fisheries and coastal protection in general, environmental protection in the Arctic, which is very important, and in the Pacific as well. Yet we have a situation where we do not really have a shipbuilding industry policy.

I listened to the minister of state, the chief government whip. I am glad to hear that all these shipbuilding projects are, I think he said, on the books.

The books were presented to the House of Commons the other day. I did not see all these projects. I did not see the joint supply ships back on the books. I did not see the Arctic icebreakers that we need and which the government said it has to have in order to ensure our Arctic sovereignty. I did not see them on the books in the budget.

Here is a budget that is supposed to provide economic stimulus to the industrial workers of Canada. If the contract for the joint supply ships alone had gone to the Marystown facility, it would have provided about 20 years of long-term stable work, the construction phase for about eight or ten years and a longer term maintenance project for the joint supply ships, which is something that Canada needs. We all know we need it. The government knows we need it, but what did it do? A couple of days before the election was called it shut down that project. It shut down that bid.

Why did the Conservatives do that? They said the price was too high. The price was too high because the project was initially costed back in 2002. The government never made any allowances for the increase in costs of procurement and materials, labour and everything else in between. Of course, when the price eventually came in, it was over what was anticipated in terms of the budget.

There is something wrong with a government that is not prepared to recognize that if we do not move fast on projects, the costs will obviously go up and we still have to decide whether or not we need these facilities and ships.

I listened carefully to the budget and I did not hear very much about shipbuilding, but I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised when I looked in the budget documents, the big thick book that we got with the budget. Lo and behold on page 172 of the budget there is actually a section called “Shipbuilding”.

I was very enthused because I thought that the joint supply ships would be put back, the Arctic icebreakers would be built and we would see a serious attempt by the government to recognize the needs of the shipbuilding industry in Canada. What did I find? There is a recognition of the importance of the industry with 150 establishments, 30 shipyards across the country, recognizing, contrary to what the minister of state has said, that everybody is thriving. The budget itself recognizes that in recent years the industry has experienced decline in demand which has been exacerbated by the economic downturn. The Minister of Finance must need to hear from the government whip, who would inform him that everybody is thriving and everybody is busy. However, that is not the case.

The government's response is to have a shipbuilding program, so called, that involves $175 million to build something in excess of 90, what it calls, vessels. Someone talked about conveyances or vehicles a few minutes ago, but the government calls them vessels. What are these vessels? Sixty new small craft and 30 environmental response barges. The last time I looked, a barge was not exactly a ship. It goes in the water and it floats, but I do not see it as the kind of thing we would regard as a major undertaking in the shipbuilding industry. Obviously it is very necessary, do not get me wrong, and I was delighted to see the term “shipbuilding” being used.

I was delighted to see the recognition of the importance of shipbuilding, but I was very disappointed to see that what was involved here was new small craft. It does not say how small they are. Thirty barges, five lifeboats and there were three inshore science vessels. Those are important. One is home ported in Mont-Joli, Quebec, one in Shippagan, New Brunswick and one in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick, so there are two in New Brunswick and one in Quebec. Again, we do not know how big they are. We do not know whether they play the same kind of role as the very important scientific vessels that have been operating off the east coast for the last number of years.

We see vessel extensions as part of the project. The Cape Roger, whose home port is St. John's, is one that will be given a major repair.

There is something called vessel refits. There are 35 vessels scheduled for refit. These vessels are not large craft. There are 60 small craft, 30 barges, 5 lifeboats, and 3 inshore vessels. There are 98 vessels being built along with a number of major refits totalling $175 million. As the minister of state would know, when dealing with the building of ships, that is not a lot of money, $175 million for 98 vessels, not counting the ship repairs and the major refits that are involved. That money is spread out very thinly across the country.

What we did needed to see was a recognition that a national shipbuilding program was going to be part of an ongoing effort by the government to ensure that we have a shipbuilding industry that is able to compete. It is one thing to talk about how this is going to take place over 15 years and is gradually going to go down, but what are we going to be doing in the meantime?

If the Liberal government back in the 1990s, and the Conservative government, both the current one and previous one, had listened to what the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore was saying throughout the years, we would have a shipbuilding policy and we would not be complaining about the problems of engaging in competition with Norway. This really should be taken out of the trade agreement, the same way it was taken out of the free trade agreement with the Americans.

Countries protect their interests when they are dealing with trade deals. That is why, for example, the Americans refused to repeal the Jones act. The Jones act has been around since 1920. It is a piece of legislation that protects American shipbuilding under the guise of defence. The Jones act says that with respect to commercial travel, one cannot travel between two ports in the United States without having a ship that has been built in America, is manned by Americans, is owned by Americans and operates within America. It cannot be done, unless it is on that kind of ship. Canada has no such policy. America refuses to get rid of that policy. We do not have an equivalent policy in Canada.

It appears that we have no desire to develop a shipbuilding policy that is going to protect our workers and our industry before we are forced to run head to head with the Norwegians. The shipbuilding industry has asked to have this excluded from the agreement with good reason. The industry knows what Norway has done to build and support and protect its shipbuilding industry for the last 15 years. If there was a commitment, if we had an industrial plan laid out, a long-term commitment of government funds, it might be a different story, but we have not seen that.

There is an opportunity at this time when governments are being given permission by all the economists, the public and other nations of the world to engage in economic stimulus. The conditions are most favourable for the kind of investment we are talking about, and the response from the government is $175 million to deal with 98 smallish--and I do not want to put them down totally--but smallish projects for the Canadian coast guard.

No doubt these vessels are needed. No doubt their refits are needed. We have seen inadequacies in our coast guard. In fact we have seen situations where the coast guard was so inadequately financed that the ships were staying in port. The ships were not going out because there was not enough in the budget to pay the diesel fuel to move the ships around, to protect our coastal waters, to protect our environment, to inspect the fisheries. They were staying in port because the government was not giving them enough fuel. That is the state of the support for our coast guard.

We see some change. At least the coast guard will be given some vessels that it needs, but it is not being given the support for the important role it should be undertaking in protecting our waters for environmental reasons, in protecting our Arctic sovereignty, in ensuring that fisheries patrols are carried out efficiently and effectively. These are the kinds of things that should be part of a modern, industrial, coastal nation such as Canada and they are absent here.

There is another aspect of this agreement which I will only touch on briefly because other members have talked about it. It goes back to the whole notion of fair trade. Why is it that Canada does not protect to the degree required the supply management system? It is an important way that we secure our food supply. Food security in an uncertain world is becoming more and more important. It is going to become even more important as we see the ravages of climate change on food production in other parts of the world, as well as in Canada.

We have to recognize that part of our responsibilities as a government and as a people is to ensure that food supply is available when we need it, that production is here, and that the people who are engaged in the production have an opportunity to make a reasonable living. They play an important role in ensuring that our economy is safe from the kind of vicissitudes that can occur when trading goes awry or when food supplies go awry and we do not have the kind of supply that we have built up through a totally free trade system coming from other nations.

Supply management is part of that. It is a building block for a fair trade system and should be protected better than it is in this particular agreement.

Supply management plays an important role in ensuring that production occurs across our country. Some of our colleagues from Quebec have spoken about the importance of the dairy industry to that province and I agree. In Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, by securing part of the quota for industrial milk, it has been able to build its post-production with commercial milk, yogourt and other dairy products. These are value-added products from industrial milk quotas protected by the supply management system, a necessary kick-start to an industry that would have great difficulty growing on its own, especially with the cheap products coming in from outside the region, because they have had an opportunity to build up an industry over a longer period of time.

These are the two main problems that we have with the agreement. Why is it that there cannot be a carve out of the shipbuilding industry? It should be taken out. In the absence of a rather robust and long-term commitment for shipbuilding and industrial policies in this country, our shipbuilding industry will be put at risk. This is something that we do not want to happen.

Those are my remarks. I would be pleased to respond to any questions or comments from members on this matter.

The Budget February 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, this budget fails the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This Conservative budget will cut the equivalent of $3,000 for every man, woman and child in the province.

After years of struggling to stand on our own, the Prime Minister, with the complicity of the Liberal Party, is sticking it to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Will the finance minister confirm that Newfoundland and Labrador will be short-changed over $1.5 billion, $415 million this year alone?

The Budget January 29th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Brampton—Springdale on her very eloquent remarks about the inadequacies of the budget and the need for hope.

Let me tell the House what one constituent wrote to me about child care. She said:

It took me six months to find child care for my new child. I now have to return to work early in order to be able to afford my child care which I have to pay for immediately in order to keep my spot. I have a well-paying job, however, more than one full paycheque each month will go to child care.

P.S. I also know a social worker who has to take an unpaid leave of absence from her job because her child care provider quit and her child does not turn two until April and she cannot find anyone to care for her son.

Does the hon. member worry about women and families like that across the country who need child care? As I say, the member was very eloquent until the part when she spoke about probation and her new role as a probation officer for the government.

I wonder if she can tell us why, if she does care about the issues she talked about, she was unable to join with us in creating a government that would provide the kind of hope and answer the kind of needs that people like my constituent and the people she mentioned desire, and desire to have immediately in this country.

The Budget January 29th, 2009

Madam Speaker, the hon. member and I share the view there are many changes in the EI system that could have been part of the budget that would provide direct stimulus by putting cash in the hands of people who are unemployed and who would spend that money. This would be stimulative in effect but also beneficial to the individuals involved.

In my province of Newfoundland and Labrador the fishermen's union, for example, has been calling for significant changes to the EI system, recognizing there is a $54 billion surplus historically that has been collected from workers and employers for the purposes of EI but has not been spent for that purpose. There is a historical surplus that can be directed to increase the eligibility requirements.

We have a situation now where less than 40% of the people who are unemployed actually get access to the employment insurance benefits. The small change that has been made is certainly helpful to those who end up being on employment insurance for a long period of time, but it does not make one single person who was not eligible before eligible now, and that is a shame. This could have been remedied easily, yet the government has failed to do that.

It is a major defect in the budget. It ought to be rethought and the government should change its policy and do something for unemployed workers. This needs to be done.

The Budget January 29th, 2009

Madam Speaker, obviously we know that the changes in equalization announced last fall will affect a number of provinces, including the province of Quebec. It is not one that affects Newfoundland directly because this is a different problem and a different issue and has to do with specific changes to the way the formula is implemented.

However, to answer directly, yes, we share the concerns of Quebec and other provinces that are losing equalization payments as a result of the unilateral action of the Government of Canada in this matter, and we have indicated our support for the proposed subamendment. Therefore, the answer is yes. We understand that this affects five or six provinces, Quebec probably being the most seriously affected. We do not want to see this happen. We want to see provinces able to respond to the opportunities.

Whether we support the budget or not, if the infrastructure program is going to be in place, provinces have to be able to participate in it and equalization is one of the means they have at their disposal to provide support for municipalities to get some of these projects going.