House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Surrey North (B.C.)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Drug-Free Prisons Act April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I have been in the House since this morning and I have listened to the debate very carefully. It is almost deafening that the government and Liberal members are not participating in this debate. Why? Surely, if the government is presenting a bill, it would want to defend it and root for it.

Is it because it is an indefensible bill? The title of the bill would not really address the real issue of drugs in prisons. It would just provide a legal avenue for the Parole Board to use urine samples to deny parole, which is already a practice. One would think that for a bill like this, the government would be getting up, cheering and defending it, letting Canadians know what is happening in the House of Commons.

Would the member care to comment on that?

Drug-Free Prisons Act April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley hit the nail on the head. Absolutely, we need to take proactive approaches to crime in today's society, and prevention is the best investment any government and any society could make.

There have been a number of shootings in the town of Surrey over the last month. There have been over 20 shootings. A young person was killed over the weekend. There are fears in my community that this will further escalate. Not only do we need more police, which the government promised back in 2006, but we also need additional preventive programs, preventive investment in communities, to ensure that young people are not getting into these types of activities. Unfortunately, I have talked to many organizations on the ground and the Conservatives have failed to make these vital investments in communities that would make them safe.

Many studies have been done. These are not Kijiji facts. These are academic studies from the United States and Canada where a minimal investment in crime prevention programs provides a huge return at the end. As the member pointed out, it costs a lot of money to keep someone in prison. Up to $150,000 is being spent per prisoner per year, but a fraction of that invested early on in gang-prevention programs in communities would make Canada a better place for all Canadians.

Drug-Free Prisons Act April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I could not have summed it up better than the member for Timmins—James Bay did. This bill has a fancy title and yet it has no meat. It pretends to do something that it will not really do. That is what has been happening with the Conservative government over the last four years that I have been here. The government pretends to be doing something, but actually does not do anything.

The member is absolutely right. The government spent $122 million over a three-year period to eradicate drugs from prisons. What was the result? The result was zero change. In the Correctional Service annual reports, I checked the random drug testing that was done and after this $122 million was spent, the rate of drugs in prisons was the same as before. There was no significant change.

Experts have been telling the government that if it is looking at the supply side, it also has to look at the demand side, which involves prevention and rehabilitation. The government put a chunk of money on the supply side, which had no effect on the amount of drugs getting into prisons, but on the demand side, it cut the preventive and rehabilitation programs that would cut the supply if there was no demand. I know it is hard for the Conservatives to comprehend something as simple as supply and demand.

The member is absolutely right. The government has run out of ideas. I think Canadians will show the Conservatives the door come October 19, 2015.

Drug-Free Prisons Act April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the short title of the bill is very misleading in the sense that we all aspire to have drug-free prisons, but there is nothing in the bill that is going to help us have drug-free prisons. The bill allows the Parole Board to use drug tests on prisoners to deny them parole. That is already happening. That practice is being used by the Parole Board.

This is a missed opportunity. The member is absolutely right. Today is budget day. The government has run out of new ideas for some concrete ways to make prisons a safer place for correctional workers and for the reintegration of individuals into society. Instead, the Conservatives have come up with a fancy name for a bill that has no impact whatsoever on the actual workings of the prisons or any sort of elimination of drugs.

The official opposition has always advocated for ways to reduce harm and reduce drug use in prisons. We will continue to do that. In 2015, we will bring in real concrete action, real concrete proposals to ensure that our prisons are safe not only for the workers, but also for the prisoners.

Drug-Free Prisons Act April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I see the member cheering. He can be sure that we will be forming the government in 2015.

There is one issue that comes up often, and we heard it when we were doing the study into drug-free prisons. If the Conservatives were truly interested in drug-free prisons, they would provide tools and investments for the CSC to have a proper intake assessment of inmates' addictions, and then provide the proper correctional program required.

Without addiction treatment, education and proper reintegration upon release, a prisoner will likely return to the criminal lifestyle and possibly create more victims. It is common knowledge that when a young person is brought into the prison system, it is a university for higher learning from other gangsters with respect to crime. Gangsters are a problem, as I have said, not only in my part of town, but also in prisons.

This is an issue we need to address. If the government were serious about addressing this issue, it would be looking at rehabilitation, looking at investing in our communities across this country, yet the government comes up with hollow titles and tries to pretend that somehow it is actually doing something.

This is a very small step which, yes, I will support, but at the end of the day, what the government is proposing is already being practised by the Parole Board.

Drug-Free Prisons Act April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to rise in this House to speak on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North, in this case to Bill C-12, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the so-called drug-free prisons act.

The member before me was saying that the title was almost laughable. In fact, I was laughing when she pointed that out, because there is nothing in this bill that would take any concrete steps to prevent drugs entering prisons or to help those in prison to get off drugs.

There is only one small aspect to the bill, and it is a small bill of three or four pages. It is not detailed. The only thing this bill would really change is that it would add a provision to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that would make it clear to the Parole Board that it would use a positive result from a urine test or a refusal to take a urine test for drugs in making its decision on parole eligibility. That is all it would do. Basically, it would give legal authority to the Parole Board to use drug tests or urine tests of prisoners to determine eligibility for parole. Here is the kicker. The practice is already in place. The Parole Board already does this. The only thing the bill would do is give it the legal authority, so nothing else would change. That is why the title of this bill is laughable. It is called the drug-free prisons act.

I have yet to hear any Conservative get up in this House and explain it to this House. None of the Conservatives, or the Liberals for that matter, are getting up to explain to us how this would prevent drugs in our prisons. If the Conservatives were really concerned about preventing drugs, there would be a more concrete effort made to address the demand for drugs in prisons, rehabilitation, and those kinds of initiatives. However, there is nothing in this bill that would lead us to hope that one day we will have drug-free prisons, although it is a great aspiration to go toward drug-free prisons. The Conservatives come up with hollow titles for bills that somehow pretend that things are going to happen.

Yesterday, on the opposition day motion, we were talking about the oil spill in English Bay. The Conservatives have been throwing around the idea of a world-class response. We saw what happened in English Bay when the toxic oil was spilled, and it was not a world-class response. It took six hours to reach the spill. Is that world-class? The Conservatives frame things with fancy titles. I have to give them one thing; they are very good at coming up with fancy names for their bills.

The problem is that the legislation itself is hollow. It does not address what we need to address. If they were really concerned about addressing drugs in prisons, they would bring more concrete proposals to this House, and we would be happy. We have always supported having concrete initiatives to ensure that we have safe prisons, drug-free prisons, and prisons that have a good work environment for the people who work in those difficult situations.

I have visited a prison. I was on the public safety committee, and we were studying this very issue of drugs in prisons.

We had a number of hearings. We heard from Corrections Canada staff, experts and many stakeholders throughout Canada. I can say that the majority of those people at committee were of the opinion that we need more rehabilitation in prison to curb this menace in prisons.

I know that Conservatives do not like facts and figures, and they even have trouble with business and economics when it comes to supply and demand. I will get into that in a minute, but I want to go back to the amount of money the current government has spent trying to prevent drugs from getting into prisons and what the result has been.

In 2008, the Conservatives decided to invest, over three years, $122 million to bring in sniffer dogs and ion machines to prevent drugs from getting into prisons. The result of that three years of spending a substantial amount of money was that random urine tests done at the beginning and random tests done at the end did not show any difference. Basically, the amount of drugs in prisons before was still present afterward, even after spending $122 million on interdiction. At the same time, the programs to help these individuals get off drugs were being cut.

In terms of supply and demand, the Conservatives are trying to cut the supply, yet on the demand side, they are not helping those individuals get off the drugs. Sometimes I wonder if the Conservatives actually understand what economics is all about or if they understand the law of diminishing returns.

I had a chance to visit two medium-security prisons in Kingston, the Kent Institution in the Harrison Lake area, and the Matsqui Institution in Abbotsford. I had a chance to sit down with the prisoners, and I asked the warden to step outside. Some of the prisoners were on a committee representing other prisoners. I asked them point blank what had changed in the last three years since the government had started the interdiction program and had spent $122 million of taxpayers' money. I asked if I could get drugs in the prison. They said, yes, sure I could, and then asked what type of drug I would like. When I asked what had changed, they said the only thing that had changed was that the price of drugs had gone up to five or six times what it was before. They could still get the drugs, but the price had skyrocketed. That was the result of the effort by the Conservative government to stop drugs from entering prisons.

Then I asked if they wanted to get off drugs. I said that surely they wanted to get off this stuff and be clean when they got out. I asked what was needed for them to be off drugs. They told me that they needed rehabilitation programs to help them get off these drugs.

The majority of people going into prison, 80% or 90%, have some form of addiction. This is well documented. However, if there are no rehabilitation services or programs to get into when they get to prison, how are they supposed to manage?

This was what the prisoners were asking for. They wanted programs available to them when they got to prison so that they could access those services and get off these drugs. There would be less demand for these drugs, and we could reduce the supply of drugs coming into prisons.

One way or another, once prisoners do their time, they will be out in society. We have a captive audience where we can provide rehabilitative services and programs that will help them get off of these drugs and reintegrate into society when they are released from prison. It becomes much easier to reintegrate if they are off of any substances they were taking before they went to prison. As I said, a high percentage of prisoners are addicted to drugs or alcohol when they get to prison. That is the record.

If we are really serious about curbing the use of drugs in prisons, we also have to look at the demand side and at helping those individuals get off drugs. However, the Conservative government has made cuts to rehabilitation services and programs that would help curb drugs in prisons.

Today is budget day. I know that this is going to be the last budget for the Conservative government, because it will not be presenting a budget next year. I can assure the House of that, because I have heard from my constituents and people from across the country that this is the Conservatives' last budget. If the Conservatives are really concerned about curbing drugs in prisons, they have a last opportunity. Let us make an impact. Talk to the Minister of Finance. Talk to the Prime Minister. Talk to cabinet colleagues. Let us make this real. Let us make that investment in this budget to ensure that we have rehabilitation programs not only in prisons but in our communities.

There have been over 20 shootings in my hometown of Surrey over the last 35 days or so. That is very disturbing to me as a father and as a representative from Surrey North. This is happening in my backyard. There is a gang war going on. There are drug deals going on. There is a turf war going on. Unfortunately, what we had feared happened just the other day. One young man was killed, and there are fears that the violence will escalate because of this tragedy on the weekend.

I urge the government to invest in the very programs that are going to make our communities safer instead of coming up with these hollow, laughable names for bills that do nothing to make our communities safe. Let us make real investments in our communities. Let us fund programs.

I have a motion in the House asking for long-term, sustainable funding for youth gang crime prevention programs. I have talked to service providers in my community that help youth and provide services to at-risk youth. What they have been telling me is that the programs that have been funded through the Canadian government have been cut by the Conservatives over the last number of years. If we are going to make investments in our youth and in safer communities, it is these kinds of programs we need to make investments in.

I have talked to the individuals who provide programs to these at-risk kids, and the results are fabulous. There has been about an 80%-85% success rate in these youths being able to graduate from high school. However, I have seen in my own community that the Conservative government has made cuts to the very programs that help our youth get on the right path and that help make our communities safer.

If the Conservatives were concerned about making our communities safer, instead of presenting hollow, laughable bills in this House, they have an opportunity, their last opportunity, because they will not get that opportunity next year, to commit to making that very investment. When they formed government in 2006, they said they were going to do things differently than the party in the corner over there, the Liberal Party, yet they have failed to do that. They are basically doing the same thing. They are shuffling chairs at a table on the Titanic. It is not helping. If they were really concerned about ensuring the safety in our communities, they would be making investments.

The bill has a very narrow scope that simply gives direction to the Parole Board to legally use the fact that a prisoner failed to provide a urine sample as a tool to deny parole. As I have said before, the Parole Board has been using this practice. There is nothing concrete in this bill, the drug-free prisons act, that would actually enhance or provide for safer working conditions, safer prisons, drug-free prisons.

There is absolutely nothing in the bill, yet the Conservatives have come up with a fancy name to have people believe that somehow, magically, out of the sky there will be drug-free prisons. Frankly speaking, this is their 10th year in government and I think they are running out of new ideas on how to provide for Canadians, whether it is safer communities, providing services, enhancing our health care, or whether it is working toward having a pharmacare program and a day care program.

The Liberals promised a day care program, a child care program, back in 1972. They did not deliver on that. The Conservatives said that they would make hundreds of thousands of spaces available, yet they have not delivered. We have an idea. We will be bringing in child care programs throughout this country once we form the government in 2015.

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the number one responsibility of any government is to ensure that our citizens are safe and our environment is protected. Unfortunately, what I have seen in the last four years is cut after cut, not only to the Coast Guard and emergency services on the west coast but across the country. That is not how to govern. If a government's number one priority is safety of its citizens and the environment, it should be making investments to ensure it is keeping its citizens safe at all times. Unfortunately, this government has failed to deliver. I hear it from my constituents. I see it in papers across the country.

It is time that the government support this very minimal motion we are bringing forward, that immediate steps are taken to ensure safety on the west coast.

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for the hard work he does in the House, and also for his question.

The bottom line is that the official opposition will not be burying its head in the sand. We know the record of the government. We will continue to speak up on behalf of constituents, whether from Surrey North, British Columbia, or coast to coast to coast.

I often talk about polluter pays. I know I do not have enough time to get into it in this segment of questioning, but polluter pays should be the principle we are guided by. If someone pollutes, they should pay for it. Unfortunately, under this government, the polluter does not pay; the taxpayer is left holding the bag. That is not fair to Canadians across the country.

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, that shows the priorities of the government. It is going to be spending $7.5 million on advertising the budget it is bringing in tomorrow, taxpayers' money, yet it is failing to fund $750,000 for the Coast Guard at Kitsilano. That shows the priorities and the lack of initiative from the government.

Canadians expect better. I know British Columbians expect better. Be assured, if the government's priorities are not changing, the government will, come October 19.

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

As always, it is an honour to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents in Surrey North, especially today, because this issue is very near and dear to them.

I have often spoken about the need to protect the pristine waters off our coasts to ensure that we have a viable tourism industry, a viable recreation industry and a viable fisheries industry. Many individuals depend on having these waters protected and their jobs protected.

I have pointed out previously that it is sad to see what happened in English Bay, a jewel of Canadian inlets where parks are located. Hundreds of thousands of people live around the area where the bunker leaked fuel in the middle of the bay. We have been pointing out for a number of years the need for protection and the need to ensure that if this ever happened, we would have proper resources to deal with it. Not only that, we have seen an increase in tanker traffic, and marine traffic in general in English Bay, yet we have seen a reduction by the government in the number of safety valves that are available.

What are the facts in regard to this bunker fuel that was leaked in the middle of a bay in downtown Vancouver? Let us start with the closing of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. The Conservative government closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station after many attempts by not only the opposition parties, but many British Columbians who were concerned. I raised concerns in the House that the closing of Coast Guard stations would have a detrimental effect on the west coast way of life.

Someone called 911 and reported the spill, but it took 12 hours before authorities notified the City of Vancouver, the very people who were supposed to ensure that the public did not go to the beaches and ensure the safety of the general public. To me, 12 hours to respond is not a world-class response; it is more of a Mickey Mouse operation. It took six hours for authorities to get a boom installed to ensure the oil was contained. That is a lot of time before containing what was spilled there.

The former commander of the Coast Guard base that the government closed was quoted in Vancouver media as saying it would only take six minutes to get the Coast Guard to the spillage area. How much damage can be done in the time from six minutes up to six hours? We have heard in the House where the oil went. It was spotted about 12 kilometres away from the original spill.

In six minutes, the Coast Guard could have been there and we would have had some form of containment. However, because the government closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, it took six hours before we could get a ship there. That is not responsible. That is not expected from the Canadian government. I know British Columbians do not expect that from the current government, and New Democrats have been calling on the government to ensure that response time would be much shorter if it were to occur again.

In addition to the closure of the Coast Guard, the government has also closed the Vancouver environmental station. Environmental emergencies went through the station, and the marine mammal containment program. That was closed by the government. Those are some of the facts. If we are going to see an increase in traffic in English Bay and Burrard Inlet, we need to have proper safety valves to ensure that if there were an accident that we take steps to ensure it is contained.

As well, the Auditor General has been clear that Canada is not prepared for even a moderately sized oil spill, yet the Conservatives choose to ignore it. I do not know if they choose to ignore it or they do not believe in it, but I can assure members that people from my constituency, from Vancouver, and all along the coastline of British Columbia expect a much better response than there has been from the current government with its gutting of the protections needed in our marine environment.

One can only imagine what would happen if this were a bigger spill. We cannot even contain bunker fuel, which is about 3,000 litres. Can anyone imagine what would happen if a big tanker were to have an accident? Imagine the devastation it would cause to the environment and the fisheries. The devastation would cost jobs in British Columbia. Port Metro Vancouver supports tens of thousands of jobs, and I cannot imagine having a bigger spill from a bigger tanker going down. It would be devastating, not only for our environment but for the economy, because many people depend on the coastal waters of British Columbia

New Democrats have been calling on the government to establish more safety regulations and safer navigation of the waters off of British Columbia. We should be listening to the experts. The experts are meeting in Ottawa this week: the ITF Canadian maritime coordinating committee and CMWC representatives of all of Canada's maritime unions, which include the SIU of Canada, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, The Canadian Merchant Service Guild, the International Longshoremen's Association, the BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union, and CUPE Local 375.

The ITF Canadian maritime coordinating committee and CMWC have unanimously adopted supporting the NDP motion, and make special note of the recent oil spill from the Cyprus-registered, Greek-owned Marathassa. It was further noted that under the current maritime provisions of CETA, this vessel would be permitted to operate within Canada's coastal waters, which is presently reserved for Canadian-owned and Canadian-registered vessels adhering to Canadian law.

I hope that members of the Conservative Party, especially the ones from British Columbia, will stand in the House, support British Columbians, and help to pass this motion.