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

Senate Reform Act December 8th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-7, An Act respecting the selection of senators and amending the Constitution Act, 1867 in respect of Senate term limits.

If only we could be so fortunate as to have the government amend the bill so that the Senate would be abolished, then this could be our last time to rise and speak about Senate reform. My NDP colleagues and I believe that the Senate needs to be abolished. Any attempt to reform the Senate would simply be window dressing to this very seriously undemocratic institution. As things currently stand, Bill C-7 introduces ineffective measures that will do nothing to fix the Senate.

What is currently wrong with the Senate? We often describe the Senate as a romantic place of sober second thought. However, we know the Senate is no such a place. Last year, rather than respecting the will of this House, as my colleagues have pointed out, the Senate killed Bill C-311, the climate change accountability act. The bill was passed in the House of Commons and voted for by elected members of this House. The Senate killed it and the government called a snap election.

In the words of our former leader, the hon. Jack Layton:

This was one of the most undemocratic acts that we have ever seen in the Parliament of Canada. To take power that doesn't rightfully belong to them to kill a bill that has been adopted by a majority of the House of Commons representing a majority of Canadians is as wrong as it gets when it comes to democracy in this country.

This spring the Senate killed another bill which was very important. Bill C-393 would have made it easier for people in developing countries to obtain more affordable life-saving medicines. It was a bill that would have saved lives. It was voted for by members of this House and killed by an unelected Senate.

To suggest amendments and return a bill to the House is one thing, but to kill a bill in this way, using sneaky tactics, is just plain wrong. It is disrespectful to the decision-making power of this democratically elected House.

Right now the Senate is basically full of political appointments, friends and failed candidates. That is what the Senate is right now. For instance, our Prime Minister appointed to the Senate three failed Conservative candidates from the last federal election. All three failed to win a seat in the election. Canadians decided on May 2 that they did not want to have these people representing them. Yet, here they are; they are in the Senate.

There are a number of things in the bill that do not fix anything at all. For example, the Conservatives make excuses for their appointments saying that they will use them to reform the Senate. This is clearly laughable.

Every day in this House the Conservatives trample on democracy. They ram bills through the House and committees without debate or examination, sometimes without even costing these bills. Then the Conservatives want members to believe that they actually want a more democratic Senate. They do not.

The reforms the Conservatives are proposing in this bill are completely inadequate.

First, under the proposed legislation, the Senate would become a two-tiered system with some elected senators and some unelected senators.

Second, the limit of one nine-year term means that senators, even elected ones, would not be held accountable for their actions in a subsequent democratic race.

Third, because the actual appointment process would not change at all, despite talk of increased democratic accountability, the bill does not actually introduce any check on the Prime Minister in the appointment process. Basically, it could be business as usual.

Fourth, because the bill would do nothing to address the distribution of seats in the Senate, the increase in power of an elected Senate would mean an unbalanced increase in the power in Quebec and Ontario. I come from British Columbia and that is not fair.

Fifth, perhaps the most important intended role of the Senate is its ability to represent women and minority interests. By making it an elected Senate and forcing any candidate that runs to do so under a party banner would only tighten the partisan stranglehold on the legislative process. Parties will drown out minority representation, like we have seen in Australia. There are examples in Australia where this has happened.

Sixth, the introduction of increased democratic legitimacy would give the Senate even more leeway to assert its own decision-making power, which could result in gridlock. We have seen that in the United States. This is counter to the productivity Canadians expect from their government.

There are solutions, and New Democrats and others have proposed them. The best solution to this democratic black hole, that is the Senate, is to basically abolish it. The Conservatives have been wishy-washy in the past and unable to decide what they want when it comes to the Senate. For instance, previous Conservative bills have called for a federally regulated electoral process while another bill called for eight year term limits. We can see clearly that what the Conservatives want is the appearance of reforming the Senate when, in reality, they stack it with their cronies and use it to kill legislation passed by democratically elected members of the House.

Unlike the Conservatives, New Democrats have unwaveringly supported the abolition of the Senate since the 1930s, and many Canadians agree that we need to abolish it and move on from this undemocratically elected institution. At the provincial level, both Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty in Ontario and NDP provincial Premier Darrell Dexter have called for the abolition of the Senate. In my province, Premier Christy Clark has said that the Senate no longer plays a role in Confederation.

We have seen from history that all provincial legislatures have abolished their provincial senates. The last one was done in 1968. Even the Prime Minister himself once said that the unelected Senate is a relic of the 19th century.

Unlike the Conservatives who have not consulted the provinces, New Democrats believe it is the responsibility of the government to consult all Canadians. To that end, New Democrats believe that the issue of Senate reform cannot be solved by this piecemeal bill. The issue of Senate reform needs to be put in a referendum, so Canadians themselves can decide how they want to deal with it.

The majority of Canadians support New Democrats in this proposal as well. There have been a number of polls done and I will mention one that was done in July 2001 by Angus Reid, which said that 71% of Canadians supported having a referendum on this issue.

In closing, I would therefore urge my Conservative colleagues to heed their small c conservative roots. We know how the House of Commons works, but we have no idea what would happen with an elected Senate. It would no doubt completely change the Canadian political system, but to what end we cannot be sure. The best solution to Senate reform is abolition.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police December 6th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, when a female RCMP officer came forward with serious allegations of sexual harassment, it took two years for the force to even acknowledge the complaint. Every day we are hearing more and more alarming stories of harassment, yet we see little or no action in response. This is yet another example of problems in the RCMP under the Conservative government's watch.

On this day, will the minister commit to a full-scale investigation of harassment inside the RCMP?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police December 5th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the growing number of allegations of sexual harassment in the RCMP is very disturbing. This weekend yet another constable came forward with allegations of near daily lewd comments and discrimination. Her case was so bad she had to quit the force.

The very integrity of the RCMP is at stake. Yet, the government is sitting on its hands. Why will it not stand up to protect these women? How does it plan on getting the harassment out of the RCMP?

Safe Streets and Communities Act November 29th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I have worked with police officers for 14 years. A number of them were my colleagues and I worked side by side with them in my former job at the Justice Institute in New Westminster. I have talked to many police officers over the years. As part of my former job, I did training with police. Many police officers have said that the number one thing they need is more front-line officers on the streets.

They have been asking for additional police officers and New Democrats have been asking for additional police officers. In fact, one of my first questions for the public safety minister was about getting more police officers on the streets.

Safe Streets and Communities Act November 29th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, we heard from a number of ministers at committee. We heard from Quebec, B.C. and a number of other provinces. The fact is this is basically offloading a federal cost to the provinces. I read in newspapers this morning that B.C. was already running a very high deficit. This is going to add additional costs to the provinces. Some of the programs that the provinces are responsible for, such as education, health care and schools, are going to be chopped as a result of the federal government bill.

Safe Streets and Communities Act November 29th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I may be new to the House, but I know what has been going on in the community. I have been listening to my constituents and there is huge support for the proposals that New Democrats are making. In fact, I have heard from many of my constituents who are dead set against this approach to the crime and prison agenda.

I do not have to look at the Conservatives' facts. I can look at the facts that are provided by the Auditor General. The Auditor General, in his June report, stated that the RCMP was woefully underfunded by the government and that we needed more front-line police officers so we could deter crime from happening in the first place.

Safe Streets and Communities Act November 29th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak at report stage of Bill C-10, the Conservative omnibus bill. The bill is actually made up of nine bills combined into one. It is a bill that the Conservative government is ramming through the House without proper scrutiny. We do not even know how much it is going to cost. Witnesses were barely given time to speak as they were forced through committee so quickly.

New Democrats proposed to the government that the bill be divided, so that the parts which would improve public safety and help protect our children could be passed at all stages immediately. I am the father of two young children. I know how important it is to protect our children. Unfortunately, the Conservative government rejected our proposals.

We also proposed amendments to the bill, which the Conservatives flatly rejected at committee. The Conservatives do not want to debate the real problem with this legislation or any other legislation they put in front of Parliament.

Every day in the House the Conservatives undermine democracy by shutting down debate prematurely without reason. New Democrats tabled a motion in the House last Friday in a last attempt to stop this because this is a democracy and Canadians deserve a real debate.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that Bill C-10 would cost the federal government $5 billion over five years and the provinces and territories somewhere between $6 to $10 billion. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is working to complete more detailed projections; however, he has to work basically in the dark because not all of the facts and figures have been provided to him by the government. The government has not provided adequate information so he can do his work.

Many critics suspect that the government's refusal to produce realistic costing documents is because it has no idea what the real price tag for Bill C-10 is going to be. Worse yet, the government wants to force this legislation into law before we have a chance to find out how much it is going to cost Canadian taxpayers.

Since the introduction of this controversial omnibus bill, we have seen a groundswell of concern from across this country. Opposition to the Conservative crime agenda has been steadily mounting. Experts from across the political spectrum have urged the government to rethink the sweeping changes to the criminal justice system that are contained in Bill C-10.

We have heard repeated warnings about huge costs to taxpayers, the crippling impact on our courts, and the enormous pressure that will be put on our already struggling corrections system. These serious warnings are simply being dismissed by the Conservatives without any explanation.

In response to questions about Bill C-10, the Minister of Justice recently commented, “We're not governing on the basis of the latest statistics”. Clearly, facts and evidence, and research were not a priority when the government was drafting Bill C-10, but neither was the cost to taxpayers.

Provincial leaders spoke out in committee against the bill. They have been very clear that they are not ready to bear the costs of the government's political agenda, nor do they agree with many of the measures contained in the bill.

The Canadian Association of Crown Counsel has spoken out and has said that Bill C-10 will overload prosecutors and jam our already stressed court system.

This so-called tough on crime agenda has already failed across the border in the United States, where governments are moving away from the same approach that the Conservatives are now proposing. States like Texas are now abandoning the mandatory minimum and three strikes policies that lead to ballooning prison costs, populations and skyrocketing costs to the taxpayers. States have found that these approaches have actually done little to prevent crime, but do a great deal toward bankrupting the states.

Canada should be learning from the mistakes of our neighbours, not repeating them. We need practical solutions on crime that improves safety in our communities, not old strategies that are expensive and proven to be failures.

There are some measures in the bill, like provisions that toughen laws around child luring, sexual exploitation of children, that we as New Democrats fully support, but there are also those that will do nothing to make our streets and communities safer places.

New Democrats believe that the primary goal of any legislation, any changes to our criminal justice system, should be public safety, safer streets and to protect our families and communities. A major way to accomplish this is by supporting cost effective crime prevention programs that really make a difference, something which the government has failed to address.

I spoke up about a program last week. There is a society in my constituency whose funding is being cut and it actually helps at-risk youth, educating them about self-esteem and getting back into school. The funding for this program is being cut by the Conservatives.

Our communities would be safer if the government focused on goals like putting more police on the streets and stopping gangs from recruiting our youth.

Conservatives always talk about how they are investing into policing, the front line officers. The facts are that the Auditor General, in the last report in June, pointed out that police officers were woefully underfunded to fight against gangs and crime. We need more front line police officers. Not only do they help prevent crime, but they help to deter crime. That is a good way to go about preventing crime in our communities.

We should ensure that our corrections system has rehabilitation programs that reduce the rate of re-offending. Unfortunately, the government is cutting funding to prevention programs like the Pathfinders about which I talked. Youth gang prevention programs are critical to the future of our children and the safety of our communities.

This Conservative approach is not smart on crime. Canadians deserve better. I urge the government to reconsider the real concerns of Canadians expressed by members of the opposition and people across the country.

At the last stage of the bill, I urge the Conservative members to consider the amendments proposed by New Democrats and I urge it not to push the bill through.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police November 29th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the government's out-of-touch management has brought the RCMP to a crisis point. There was bullying of the provinces in contract negotiations, there were allegations of pervasive sexual harassment, and now there are questions about whether there are enough front-line officers to protect Canadians.

The RCMP's annual budget has doubled over the last decade. RCMP headquarters is bursting at the seams. Why has the growth in front-line officers not kept pace?

Pathfinder Youth Centre Society November 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, youth gang prevention programs are critical for the future of our children and the safety of our communities.

The Pathfinder Youth Centre Society is an important organization in my community that helps at-risk youth by teaching them conflict resolution, personal responsibility and job skills while helping to build their self-esteem and confidence.

Cost-effective crime prevention programs like Pathfinders help our youth stay out of gangs and in school.

Unfortunately, I recently learned that the Conservative government will soon be cutting most of Pathfinders' federal funding.

The Conservatives' out of touch approach to crime ignores crime prevention and the safety of our communities. I urge them to restore funding to Pathfinders and support organizations like it across the country.

Copyright Modernization Act November 22nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, we have seen over and over where the Conservatives have been inflexible. They have been very extreme in their measures, whether it is the omnibus bill, the amendments being introduced by the opposition, or the gun registry data that the province of Quebec wants to use to establish its own gun registry.

Does the member think that a balanced approach would be more acceptable?