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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was concerned.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Independent MP for Nanaimo—Alberni (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Sir John A. Macdonald Day And The Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act June 7th, 2001

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on behalf of the official opposition to address Bill S-14, an act respecting Sir John A. Macdonald day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier day.

Sir John A. was born on January 11, 1815 and was of course our first prime minister. Sir Wilfrid Laurier was born on November 20, 1841, and was the prime minister of Canada from 1896 to 1911.

It is my understanding that the purpose of the bill is to designate January 11 of every year as Sir John A. Macdonald Day and November 20 of every year as Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day. I also understand that a variation of the bill was introduced in the last parliament only honouring Sir John A. Macdonald and to remove a partisan twinge in the other place, I say the other place is not represented by the elected commons and therefore that caveat does not play well here.

I would like to make clear that the bill does not ask for the declaration of a national holiday. It is simply recognizing two great Canadians.

We approve in principle any efforts to allow Canadians to appreciate their history. The fact that these two great Canadians come from different traditions is a very positive thing. We feel that the bill will put these dates on the parliamentary calendar, the national calendar and will provide an opportunity for teachers, for parents and for Canadian society to honour the memory of two great Canadians.

Inasmuch as there is no attempt to declare these days official holidays, there is no financial implications to Canadians, employers and otherwise. We think that is a very positive aspect of the bill.

In reflecting on the contribution of these great Canadians, I came across a debate about the contributions by Sir John A. Macdonald in the early days when they were considering this union. I would just like to state a brief quote where Sir John A. was speaking about this union. He said:

When this union takes place we will be at the outset no inconsiderable people. We find ourselves with a population approaching four millions of souls...And with a rapidly increasing population...our future progress, during the next quarter of a century, will be vastly greater.

That was received with cheers.

He went on to say:

And when, by means of this rapid increase, we become a nation of eight or nine millions of inhabitants, our alliance will be worthy of being sought by the great nations of the earth.

Hon. members responded “Hear, hear”.

It is interesting to reflect that at the time of independence, 1931, Canada's population was around 10.5 million.

Canadians need to reinforce our sense of identity. We do well to remember men and women of distinction who have contributed greatly to these institutions of democracy that we now labour to protect.

Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier are without doubt worthy of this recognition. We support the bill, and we hope that it will contribute to our appreciation of our history and our heritage as Canadians.

Food And Drugs Act June 6th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I thank you and all members in the House for indulging me in this matter.

In the last opportunity I had to address the issue I laid the foundation for the remarks that I will pick up on and continue with. The issue we are considering as we consider this bill is this: are GM foods safe? I believe the public does need some reassurance in this matter. What is the science behind it? We have heard a number of members address this issue. What are the long term effects of GM foods on humans and in the environment? Frankly, nobody really knows.

The argument that has been put forward as Health Canada's primary justification for the safety of these products is a substantial equivalence argument, that is, the gene inserted is one that is known and it produces a certain protein, that protein is available in other products and no evidence of harm in those products has been demonstrated, so therefore it should be acceptable. Frankly, the argument of substantial equivalence does not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

I would ask the hon. members in the House to consider that this argument of substantial equivalence was recently used in a reverse sense by the scientists who developed the oncomouse. We might remember that the oncomouse, developed by Harvard scientists, is a mouse that breeds cancer in all of its offspring, which is very useful for research. I am sure the mouse and its offspring, by the way, are very grateful to the scientists for introducing this.

The change was a very small change, 99.9% the same, but the difference to the mouse and its offspring was quite significant, I would suggest. On the one hand, in order to argue that this mouse was different and to get patenting rights the Harvard scientists argued that this mouse was substantially different. We hear scientists arguing both sides of this equation using the same argument, in one case to say that it is the same and in another case to say it is different enough that a mouse and its progeny can inherit cancer.

I am saying that the substantial equivalents argument does not stand up to the scientific precautionary principle. I am reflecting the recommendations of the Royal Society of Canada that recently reported to the health ministry on this matter wherein 14 distinguished Canadian scientists stated that the precautionary principle is not honoured by substantial equivalents.

I would like to mention that scorpion venom is being used in a baculovirus. Here is a virus being introduced not for food consumption per se but as a pesticide. It was found that the baculovirus slows insect growth, but by inserting a scorpion venom gene the kill rate was very high and effective.

Interestingly enough, another group of scientists are using the baculovirus for liver modification because they find that this virus has access to human liver and brain cells. The two scientists do not seem to be considering that if virus A with scorpion venom should breed with virus B, a very close relative, the consequences for humans could be catastrophic. We need some science to reassure us that these things, which are very stable in the environment but very unstable when they reproduce, are not setting the stage for catastrophic consequences.

The scientific alarm bells are ringing. We cannot ignore the alarm bells. Need we remind ourselves of tainted blood, AIDS, or hepatitis C, believing that our blood system was safe. We might look at the Walkerton water system where officials had been drinking the water for years because they trusted their system was safe but failed to notice that something had changed.

The Prime Minister went to Europe and said that we had been eating these foods for years and that we were healthy. He said “Look at me, do I look sick”? However, that test fails the scientific principle in terms of best science practices.

If Health Canada and the CFIA wants to assure Canadians that these products are safe, we need to employ better science to satisfy Canadians. We need to use best science practices and that minimal risk is involved as was advocated by the royal society. We have an obligation to respect the right of Canadians to choose what they are consuming and give them a choice until the risk from these products is considered reduced.

Health Canada, in assuring these products are safe under present testing, is also exposing the taxpayers to extreme liability as well as potentially risking their health. We need better science around these products to assure Canadians that they are safe. We also need to consider what options are available, including the labelling issue, in order to satisfy Canadians until the scientific principle is better satisfied to reduce the risk of these products.

Food And Drugs Act June 6th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for permission from the House to resume. I did speak to the bill earlier. There was some confusion about me sharing the time with the hon. member. Therefore, with permission of the House, I am asking for agreement to speak again on this issue. I am just looking for the five minutes I missed the last time.

Canadian Coast Guard May 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, current estimates of $80 million being cut to $60 million sound like a 25% reduction over two years to me.

I wrote to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans regarding cutbacks in funding and programming for MCTS on the west coast. This week I received a reply from the minister advising me that training for these vital coast guard services and personnel remains a ministry priority.

The fact is that all training for staff in the Pacific region, including the ab initio entrance program, was suspended in November 2000. Why has the minister frozen funding for these vital services?

Canadian Coast Guard May 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, safety of life at sea, protection of the environment, and safe and expeditious movement of vessel traffic along Canadian waterways, which includes oil tankers, container ships, hazardous materials and warships as well as fishing and recreational vessels, are all monitored by MCTS.

Since 1995 the coast guard has been cut back to the bone. Current estimates slash another 25% from the MCTS budget. Cutbacks are putting lives and the environment at risk. Will the minister commit to restore funding for the protection that Canadians and mariners in Canadians waters depend upon?

Food And Drugs Act May 7th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to also share in this time of debate. This is a very important issue. I thank the hon. member for Davenport for bringing the matter before the House. It is a matter of concern to a lot of Canadians.

We are the party of free votes, so members may find that some of my remarks will differ a little from my colleague for Selkirk—Interlake. I would like to approach this from a health perspective since that is my primary concern and mandate on this side as deputy health critic.

I would like to begin with a few remarks about basic biology and the adult human body. We have a bunch of them in the House today. An adult human being represents about 80 trillion to 100 trillion cells. We represent a fantastic organization. If we think about it, there are 80 trillion to 100 trillion cells which are organized in about 200 different cell types in the body. They are very different. Bone cells are different from cardiac cells. Liver cells are different from nerve cells. Red blood cells are different from cartilage. Yet amazingly they are all read the same blueprint. The uniqueness that is expressed in us that makes us distinctly human is because of the blueprint, the DNA.

The genome project recently made a milestone contribution to the understanding of how our diversity and our uniqueness is expressed. It identified about 30,000 genes in a human being. The people were rather surprised because the humble fruit fly had about 13,000 genes.

The remarkable thing about the genome project was it found that as human beings we are remarkably alike, about 99.9% the same. Imagine there are about six billion people on the planet and as different as we are, genetically we are nearly the same. It is that very small difference which accounts for all the differences we attribute and make such a big deal about between us as human beings.

There is a law in science called the law of biogenesis. Basically it says that when it comes to reproduction, every kind produces its own kind: humans have humans; horses have horses; snakes make snakes; and flies make flies. It is in the blueprint that we find this tremendous variation.

By selective breeding, different traits or characteristics can be emphasized within any particular species. An example is the tremendous variation found in canine species or even in selectively bred roses. However, from the beginning of time the law of biogenesis has held true: every kind brings forth its own kind.

Historically the development of improved crop characteristics has evolved in the same way as selective procedures found in other species, such as human, canine, butterflies and roses, selecting from the gene pool within the species.

Health Canada's approach to date with genetically modified foods has been to say that food should be judged by the quality and nutritional value rather than how it was made. What makes GM foods and GMOs different is that modern biotechnology has pressed beyond the marvellous gene pool that defines each species, with the intent of inserting a gene from a different species. This is a major departure from what the world throughout the ages has known.

Are GM foods safe? What are the long term effects of GM foods on human beings and on the environment? Frankly, no one knows for sure.

I might address the argument of substantial equivalence, that is, saying that a genetic change is so small that it does not change the outcome. However, that argument is frankly not supported by an investigation done by the Royal Society, which looked into the matter at great length. It rejects the concept of substantial equivalence as precautionary for the safety of these foods.

There are many concerns raised about genetically modified foods in terms of the biological implications. When a novel gene is introduced the context is changed and the long term effects of that in regard to human illness have not been adequately studied.

To quote the Royal Society, the panel said:

As a precautionary measure, the Panel recommends that the prospect of serious risks to human health, of extensive, irremediable disruptions to the natural ecosystems, or of serious diminution of biodiversity, demand that the best scientific methods be employed to reduce the uncertainties with respect to these risks. Approval of products with these potentially serious risks should await the reduction of scientific uncertainty to minimum levels.

In conclusion, it is my view that if we intend to introduce biological changes the world has never seen, we have an obligation to ensure that best science practices—

Hepatitis C Month May 1st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, May is Hepatitis C Month in Canada. It is a time when we pause to reflect on the great human tragedy caused by tainted blood. We think of the families who have lost loved ones and we are reminded of those who struggle each day of their lives fighting this deadly disease.

Tragically, the government has victimized many for a second time by refusing compensation. I remind the health minister of his own words, “...I don't think that those claimants should have to spend their lifetime in litigation”. Yet that is exactly what is happening.

Not only are those who were infected before 1986 being mistreated by the minister, many who were promised compensation have yet to be paid. They have been waiting for over three years. The minister's record on hep C is shameful.

I would like to commend the Mid-Island Hepatitis C Society, led by Sue White of Ladysmith, and my colleague, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, for organizing last year's first ever hepatitis C candlelight vigil in Nanaimo.

Again today vigils will take place across Canada remembering the victims and raising awareness of hepatitis C.

National Defence April 30th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign of 1993 the Prime Minister stated zero helicopters for the Canadian Armed Forces. That was eight years ago. The need to replace the helicopters was obvious then.

Now they are known as the ancient Sea Kings, the geriatric Sea Kings, the venerable Sea Kings, but they have also been called flying coffins. When could the Canadian Armed Forces expect to receive delivery of its first helicopters? I ask the minister to give us a date.

National Defence April 30th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, how could our Canadian forces be considered combat ready when they are not even peacetime ready?

Some 12 of 41 Sea Kings have crashed. Seven crew members have been killed. There have been equipment failures. There are 30 hours of maintenance for every hour of air time. Downed crew were forced to use a personal cellphone to call for help. This is not only demoralizing our forces but it is an international embarrassment.

Will it take a further loss of life to move the government to finally deliver the equipment that our forces desperately need?

Brant Festival April 5th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, today it is my pleasure to announce a very special event that will be happening on Vancouver Island. This weekend the oceanside area of Parksville and Qualicum Beach is hosting the 11th annual Brant Festival. The festival celebrates the arrival of thousands of black brant geese migrating from Mexico to Alaska.

Birdwatching, nature hikes, art exhibits, wood carving competitions and lectures by renowned wildlife experts are all part of the festivities.

Highlighting this year's festival is the official dedication to the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve. The United Nations has awarded official recognition to the unique ecological attributes, from the 1,817 metre elevations of Mount Arrowsmith, to the 300 metre depths of the Strait of Georgia, and our beautiful coastal communities.

The biosphere designation will help promote conservation and responsible development. I wish to extend congratulations to festival organizers and to Dr. Glen Jamieson, president of the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Foundation, and his team on achieving the MABR designation.