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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was sector.

Last in Parliament December 2022, as Liberal MP for Winnipeg South Centre (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2021, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Building a Green Prairie Economy Act December 6th, 2022

I request a recorded vote, Madam Speaker.

Building a Green Prairie Economy Act December 6th, 2022

Madam Speaker, I want to start by expressing some deeply held emotion. I love this country, every square metre of it, in English, in French, in indigenous languages and in the languages of the newly arrived.

The characterization of the bill as jurisdictional creep is simply not the case. In fact, the opposite is true. The Government of Canada has added leaves to the national table. This is an addition, not a subtraction, and it is inclusive, not exclusive. It seeks to unite, not to divide.

My respect for Parliament has grown by leaps and bounds. The wisdom of inviting witnesses to add thoughtful commentary and an opposition that has been respectful though occasionally dissenting are what a democracy is all about, and it is always rooted in strengthening the national fabric, woven as it is from those mini threads that make Canada the envy of the world. With resources, natural and human, comes responsibility to each other and to the world itself. How could we not be humbled by the greatness of this magnificent country?

If I have a favourite part of this bill, it is the report back to Parliament it would require. In one year, those who occupy these chairs, which will be filled with so many who for too long who have been denied, must be heard, and they must be heard with all of the magnificence of this diversity, which truly is the envy of the world.

I invite members to travel, as we all have, and let the conversation turn to what Parliament represents to so many in faraway places, many of whom, given the choice, would rather be here than where there are. They would look at this chamber as a place where people gather to improve themselves, where we look at accomplishment and we take the personal accomplishment to the national one, and it is no small feat. It is woven from these strands of all of the diversity that makes this the most magnificent place on earth.

For me personally, this is a wonderful moment. I listened to my friends in the Bloc talk about the French language, the identity of the French language, how deeply enmeshed language is with their culture, their identity and their sense of belonging in ways that make us whole. In my little corner of this country, on the Prairies, we strive to create wealth and a sense of belonging across a wide range of natural and human resources.

In wrapping up this debate, I want to thank the people of Winnipeg South Centre, without whose confidence this would never have been possible. For all those who raised their voices in support of this idea, some may say it is aspirational idea, and I can handle that. I can handle aspirations, especially when they are shared, and that is at the centre of what this bill is all about.

It is with gratitude, thanks and a deep respect for this institution that I humbly present this bill to my colleagues in Parliament.

Building a Green Prairie Economy Act November 30th, 2022

Madam Speaker, that question drives at the heart of stereotypes in the sense that only one point of view is representative of the Prairies or of Alberta or Saskatchewan. It is not true. It has the same diversity as any other region in the country, and we know that.

I always like to use the example of Michael Houghton, a Nobel Prize laureate who works at the University of Alberta. When we think of Alberta and insist on a stereotype, let that be our stereotype for Alberta, and erase whatever other stereotypes we may have.

Building a Green Prairie Economy Act November 30th, 2022

Madam Speaker, there is no jurisdictional creep here. This is within the federal jurisdiction. The bill seeks input from those who have a stake in the result of deliberations within that jurisdiction. There have been accusations that it is bureaucratic heavy. No, it is not. There are accusations that it is overreach, jurisdictional creep. No, it is not. In any case, there are accountabilities built into the legislation that will report back.

I hear the opposition on the basis of that jurisdictional or even constitutional division. I just do not believe it is going to happen. It should not happen. In any event, there is always the check and balance of public opinion. We should never underestimate that power.

Building a Green Prairie Economy Act November 30th, 2022

Madam Speaker, we will not progress in sustainable ways, and I use the word carefully, if we ignore those voices. I remember many, many years ago when I was on the board of directors at the CBC and I was interested in regional broadcasting and to understand how expensive it sometimes is in this far-flung nation to get to the last 5%. It is way more expensive.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s especially, when we would use microwave in order to hit remote northern communities, was it worth it? Of course it was worth it. How do we develop a public broadcaster if no single Canadian has the opportunity to witness what is on that radio dial or that television dial? It is the cost of the geography of being Canadian.

Is it worth it? Of course it is worth it. What would be the cost if we did not reach them, if we did not attempt that last mile? For smaller communities, absolutely. Then what do we do with what we hear? Listening and attempting to listen are really important, but if one does not take what one hears and rolls it into action that actually affects the lives of people, then it is pretty empty.

This bill recognizes that and I hope addresses it.

Building a Green Prairie Economy Act November 30th, 2022

moved that Bill C-235, An Act respecting the building of a green economy in the Prairies, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great pleasure for me to rise in the House on behalf of the people of Winnipeg South Centre. It is with particular passion and enthusiasm that I talk about this bill, which is so important to my region of the country and indeed the country as a whole.

I will begin with some words of praise about the committee process itself.

As my friend, the member for Winnipeg North, knows so well and as we experienced together in the Manitoba legislature, when we ask the public, when we ask witnesses to comment on a bill, every time they improve it. When we think that we have looked at every nook and cranny of a piece of legislation, all of a sudden, our oversights are picked up by others who may not be quite as immersed in the detail that we have been, in my case, for many months or, on another level, maybe many years. I do have to say that this bill was improved, and I want to thank the witnesses for making these improvements possible.

Also, I am thankful for the tone and tenor, which is sometimes partisan. It is sometimes difficult, particularly for those of us who have some pride of authorship, to know that perfection is elusive. There are oversights, and there are better ways of doing things. Indeed, the process of the committee itself indicated that in a way that I think was very important. There have been amendments that have been proposed and agreed to by members of the committee, in some cases on division and in some cases not, and they are common-sense amendments.

For example, the original bill talked about an 18-month timeline for the framework to be developed. However, things take too long around here. Sometimes the pace of change is more important than the change itself. To move the period from 18 months to 12 months made a lot of sense, and it was immediately accepted.

Also, there was not enough thought given to the role of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, which is an essential part of the prairie region with our capacity to grow and with the importance of taking what we grow and moving it internationally. For example, the province of Saskatchewan is the most trading province of all. More than 60% of what is produced in Saskatchewan is exported internationally. Increasingly, it is not just the natural resource or the product. It is the value-added production, which is creating jobs right across the region and making a difference for the producers who are actually the essential lifeline.

Speaking of lifelines, the work of committees is the lifeblood of Parliament. It is where some of the heavy lifting is done. It is where parliamentarians come together, seek common cause and seek to align aspirations in the national interest, which is precisely the essential element of this bill. There was not any reference to jurisdictional creep, because there is none. This is respectful of constitutional jurisdictional divisions in Canada, which are the essential note of Canadian federalism. It moves from time to time and is in constant flux as circumstances change.

However, I am very happy to report that, through witnesses and other ways in which we could discern public opinion, such as through letters, conversations and the associations that came forward to make their views known, this bill has been substantially improved. I am very grateful for that and for the capacity of the committee. Through representing all kinds of opinion across the country, we were able to align essentially in the same place, which I think is so important.

The framework adds leaves to the national table. It reaches out to people and says, “You should be here.” Who are the “you”? It is provincial governments, indigenous communities and leadership, NGOs, unions and municipalities. To invite people to tables where they have never been invited before, in itself, is major progress in the way in which our federalism grows. Sometimes it happens at a pace that makes some of us feel impatient, but if we are patient we will end up in a better place than where we began.

That is the story of how we were able to move this bill along incrementally, but in ways that are impactful and will be, it is my hope, not just for tomorrow and next month but for years to come. When I am asked by people what impact I think this bill, if passed into Canadian law, would have on the way in which we do business as a nation, my answer is, from zero to changing the way we do business as a nation.

The missing ingredient is political will. The political will would have to come from implicated ministers within the Government of Canada and within their own jurisdictions. However, to have the value-added from provinces, municipalities and indigenous communities is the missing ingredient. They would have to report back, and do it within 12 months.

We can debate what number is the best number, but what should not be debatable is that there must be accountability. If a group of people is given a job to do but no timeline and no way in which to be accountable for the work they do, it is pretty empty. This bill is not empty. It is full of promise.

Here is snapshot of some of the problems we face on the prairie. I had hoped to travel in traditional ways, by airplanes, railways and buses, to give speeches in Saskatoon and Edmonton, and points south and west. However, I am glad we changed our minds and made it a virtual tour. If I had relied on airplanes, I would have had to wait for the only plane from Saskatoon to Edmonton. I would have been on the ground and sitting on an uncomfortable chair for seven and a half hours.

It is outrageous, in a dynamic region of our country that produces so much wealth, that we cannot figure out a way to move people by any mode of transportation. That is an outrageous reality. It is a snapshot in time. It is one example of many, but it is a real one that affects people every day of their lives as they try to move around this dynamic region.

What about the prairie region itself? We have been creating wealth since we became a nation, and since the western provinces became part of Canadian Confederation. In a dynamic region where wealth is created, we love to have endless debates about how we are going to distribute the wealth in our country. My colleague thinks there should be more spent on health care. My other colleague thinks it should be spent on education. Frankly, I want a lot more money for symphony orchestras. We have to talk more about cement infrastructure. We have to talk about the poet, the artist and the musician. This is what is really distinctive about who we are.

Any discussion about the prairie region goes well beyond the traditions of infrastructure and bridges, or even support for producers and value-added production. It has to extend to wealth creation, which is the job of the private sector. Government is better at determining how we distribute the wealth, for which it should be accountable. As a Liberal who feels very comfortable with this balance between distribution and creation, I think it is an important distinction to make.

I want to thank the institutions of Parliament, which I think in this case have produced exactly what they ought to produce. Hopefully, it will be a result that will make people feel even more comfortable with the prairie region. The beauty of the bill and the template that is implicit in it is that it is equally applicable to other regions. Who is going to argue against this kind of inclusion of putting leaves in the table with the knowledge that people have been asked? If we do not ask, then we will not benefit from the wisdom that they no doubt will be able to share with the rest of us.

I rise here with a sense of gratitude to the committee, to colleagues, knowing that it is going to come back. There will be accountability and there will be measurement. I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to move along this notion of the next chapter of federalism and wealth creation. For that I am grateful.

Jewish Refugees November 30th, 2022

Mr. Speaker, in honour of Jewish refugee day, I would like to commemorate the nearly one million Jews who were forced into exile from Iran and other countries in the region beginning in 1948.

This forced migration was marked by a religious persecution and even genocide. Many individuals and families found safe harbour here in Canada. The communities that thrive today contribute so much to the diverse mosaic of the Canadian identity. Anti-Semitism and racism of all kinds remain a part of the lived experience for people in Canada and around the world.

One of our best defences against this can be found through education. B'nai Brith, Canada's oldest Jewish advocacy organization, will host a virtual commemoration of the story of Jews from Iran and Arab lands this evening. The event can be accessed through the B'nai Brith website. It is through education that we can build our defences against hatred in all of its forms.

Fall Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2022 November 16th, 2022

Mr. Speaker, that is a fulcrum that changes over time. To centralize or decentralize is a function of circumstance and I do not think that we should be rigid or ideological about which way we choose, because circumstances change all the time and we have to be nimble enough to know where we want to be and how to get there with some fundamental values at the centre of what drives policy. I mentioned those in my short remarks about wealth creation and wealth distribution. We have to respect jurisdiction; otherwise, nothing is going to get done.

I understand where the question is coming from, but I also believe that, rather than giving an answer that could be framed as ideological or framed always within the context of decentralizing or centralizing, it is better that we be nimble and responsive to the particular circumstances of the moment.

Fall Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2022 November 16th, 2022

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by complimenting my hon. friend. I have said this to him privately and I am going to say it publicly. He is a role model for me in his capacity to speak French. I do not know when he began the study of it, but he sure is good at it. I am envious, I must say. For those of us born anglophone, looking for every way in which we can improve our facility in the second official language is something to be admired, and I admire him for it.

We all want fairness in tax policy and in public policy that extends even beyond our shores to the extent that we are able. We have been saying, and we continue to say, that if we cannot establish a fair tax system, we will not carry the confidence of Canadians. There are many ways in which that can be done, including the ways that my hon. friend suggests.

Fall Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2022 November 16th, 2022

Mr. Speaker, we can call it a carbon tax, or we can call it a price on pollution. The emphasis is important. There have to be market mechanisms to impact behaviour. Even small-c conservative economists and Conservative politicians of today, yesterday and, presumably, tomorrow, understand that is a very important component in the basket of initiatives governments ought to be taking to make sure we are maximizing our potential to move to a more sustainable production of energy, as the world is being directed by the decisions made in the marketplace every day.

I agree with my hon. colleague and friend on how important protecting the producer community is. She and I are from Manitoba. It is part of our lifeblood. It is part of the way we live, and it will be an integral part of our future.