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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was manitoba.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as NDP MP for Elmwood—Transcona (Manitoba)

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

Statements in the House

CN Rail January 29th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, it has recently come to my attention that the management at the Canadian National Railway car plant in my riding of Elmwood—Transcona has decided not to replace two large Canadian flags that have been on display in the plant for the last 10 years.

The flags were removed for a cleanup last year and were deliberately not replaced. The American manager has refused to replace the Canadian flags that the workers had in their work area, while prominently displaying both the Canadian and the American Stars and Stripes in his own office.

I invite the Prime Minister to join with me and share the cost of two new large Canadian flags to donate, on behalf of Parliament, to Canadian National Railway to display in the Transcona railway shops to continue the Canadian workers' proud tradition of patriotism.

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, our leader clearly understands that the economy is in very serious shape and getting worse by the day, not getting better and that we cannot dither as the government would do. We need stimulus now. People are unemployed. We need changes to the EI system. We need all kinds of activity going on, not simply retrenchment.

That is what we get when we have a Conservative government. Retrenchment and balancing the budget are more important than stimulus to the Conservatives.

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer that question. The coalition clearly will be looking at putting a lot of stimulus money into housing. The agreements are made public. We have very narrowly defined agreements whereby we will deal with the economy. Part of that will be putting unprecedented amounts of money into housing and dealing with the homeless issue among other serious problems that we are dealing with right now.

Once the government deals with the issue of whether it is staying or when it is going to go and when the coalition gets operating after Monday, as the member points out, we are going to see a lot of good things happen in the country.

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the member should take the issue up with her leader as to why, immediately after the 2004 election, he could not wait. He was tripping over himself to get over to talk to the Bloc and the leader of the NDP to approach the Governor General, cap in hand, to say that he wanted to take over the government, that Paul Martin did not a have majority government and that he would be there to lead a coalition with the Bloc and the NDP. If the NDP leader had not walked away and not pursued the whole issue, we would have seen a coalition two years ago of the current government and the Bloc.

Therefore, I do not know what she is talking about. If she needs a copy of the letter, I would be happy to give her a copy so she can take it up with the Prime Minister.

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the government clearly is a fiscally conservative government and it is averse to looking at a stimulus package when one is required.

Parties on this side of the House are looking at people's lives and unemployment issues and plants closing. It is just natural that we would want to do something about it. The Conservatives' response is to look at the bottom line, worry about whether the country is in deficit or not, start cutting back on expenditures, and start selling off Crown assets. This is nothing new.

In terms of how unstable the Conservatives really are, they introduced in the economic update a measure to eliminate the $1.75 per vote taxpayer subsidy and then turned around and withdrew it in 24 hours. They were going to eliminate the right to strike for civil servants until 2011, but a day later they eliminated that.

Talk about a very confused group of people opposite.

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the government and the Prime Minister have clearly changed their minds over a two year period here. When the Conservatives were in opposition back in 2004, the Bloc members were excellent coalition partners and they were actively seeking to overthrow the Liberal Party under Paul Martin. Two years later, they have had a miraculous change in view. Now it is an evil idea.

The Conservatives are making it sound as though we were overthrowing the government. They are making it sound as though there were a military coup in progress.

That is the kind of change the Conservatives have made. That is a very serious change because it really shows how far those people will go to stay in power.

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

They clearly will fit into a coalition at this point, but I am talking about a future time, during the life of this Parliament, when they have a new leader, a more moderate leader, a leader who is progressive like the old Progressive Conservative Party used to be. Who knows what sort of combinations and permutations will develop at that time. However, at this point, they are headed for disaster and they have very little time left.

I now want to deal with an infrastructure project in the Elmwood—Transcona constituency. The federal government has made money available for infrastructure projects across the country. As a matter of fact, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, my colleague and neighbour to the north, is in the House. She is very aware and very supportive of the need to avoid the closure of the Disraeli Freeway, which runs from my constituency to downtown. The traffic comes up into my constituency and into her constituency and affects over 100,000 people.

What the city is trying to do is shut down the bridge for rehabilitation for a year and four months, something it would never do in other parts of the city. We question why it would want to do it this way. Residents are outraged that the mayor would do this.

There are currently 5,000-plus people who have signed petitions for the addition of a two-lane span to the structure, which could be built for approximately $50 billion. That cost was suggested by the City of Winnipeg transit report three years ago. Page 12 of that report suggests that the two lanes are required--they will be required in 20 years anyway--and that they should be cost shared by the three levels of government, approximately $17 million from each level. Once the two-lane span is built, the existing four-lane span could be closed and rehabilitated.

In spite of the traffic chaos this closure will cause, the mayor has charged ahead and refuses to ask senior governments for financial help. What we have suggested is that the local elected officials get together, agree and request that the federal government and the province of Manitoba make an offer to the city and put the money on the table. The mayor in the past has indicated that if the money was made available, he would certainly be prepared to do this. Regardless of whether the current government or a coalition government is in office, the elected officials at the same level represent all parties and we are united in our efforts to help out.

As I mentioned, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul is supportive; the provincial member for Transcona, Daryl Reid, is supportive; MLA Bonnie Mitchelson of the Conservative Party in Manitoba has been extremely supportive over the last six to eight months; Bidhu Jha from Radisson is supportive; and area city councillors are supportive. Russ Wyatt from Transcona is supportive. Jeff Browaty, who is a well-known Conservative, has been very aggressive on this file and wants to see this job done. My good friend Lillian Thomas from Elmwood has also been doing an excellent job pushing this whole issue at city hall.

We hope that in the next little while we will be able to come up with some sort of a conclusion. I might point out that the Prime Minister announced in June, a $70 million contribution as part of a three-way cost share project with the city of Saskatoon and the province of Saskatchewan to construct the Saskatoon Circle bridge. As a matter of fact, this announcement stayed on his website for the entire duration of the campaign, .

By the way, the plan is that the bridge in Saskatoon will be six lanes and is only going to carry 20,000 cars a day. The old Disraeli bridge carries 42,000 cars a day and has just four lanes. The federal government had money for a brand new six-lane bridge in Saskatoon for 20,000 cars a day, yet we in Winnipeg have a four-lane structure that is carrying 42,000 cars.

In terms of the costing on the main bridge, which it has been decided will be made into a triple P project, the city has really inflated the cost. We have compared the cost of the new Minneapolis bridge which was built only 500 miles away and the cost for the Saskatoon bridge. If we adjust the Winnipeg structure to the same size as those in Saskatoon and Minneapolis, we find that both of those structures could be built for around $190 million, yet the city is suggesting that somehow this triple P project is going to cost about $300 million to $350 million.

We have questioned the costing. We have given up the fight about whether it should be a triple P project or conventionally financed. It could proceed on a triple P basis. What we are asking for now is a separate project, merely adding these two lanes to avoid the closure at a cost of around $50 million. I am hoping that we can work out the details of that, whichever government happens to be in power, in the next few months.

I talked before about the issue of the common securities regulator but I never managed to finish my thoughts on the issue. Historically the provinces have resisted the issue and they are going to resist the issue again,. Whether or not we should have a national regulator is open to question. I think probably we should, but the reality is that the provinces will argue provincial jurisdiction.

If the federal government is able to negotiate with the provinces and have a regulator set up, we would want the regulator to have teeth, not to be the docile organization that many of these organizations are right now. The Ontario securities regulator would really be the main regulatory body. I mentioned that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, between the years 2002 and 2007, convicted 1,236 white collar criminals. In Ontario there were only two convicted.

Conrad Black was committing his white-collar crimes in Canada and it took the American regulators to put him in jail. It was not the Canadian regulators that did it.

There is hardly much point in setting up a national securities regulator that is simply going to act like the Ontario regulator does right now, which basically ignores and does not prosecute white-collar crime. I would make the observation that sometimes just setting up new structures and new legislation does not produce the wanted results unless there is an enforcement program and people in place who will do the enforcement.

The problem with this organization is that the people who are doing the enforcement are all hired from inside the industry. What we need are retired police investigators running the operation and not people from the securities firms that they are supposed to be regulating. There is not a lot of regulating going on from what we can see.

I have a number of other comments that I want to make, but I know my time is drawing to an end. The economic update that the Conservatives announced last week missed some very important issues. It missed employment insurance issues which we in the NDP caucus are very concerned about. It did not talk about increases in pensions and protection of pensions for our seniors. We would like to see the OAS increased by $100 a month.

What did the Conservatives talk about? They started out on page 3 of the document saying how terrible things were, how the economy was falling, dropping like a stone, and that we needed immediate action. We were sitting here in anticipation of some action to follow. What did they do? They never offered any of the changes. There was no stimulus package, which is needed to kickstart the economy. Instead, they talked about selling off crown assets. That is a real smart idea. They put it in their books as sales, but they did not identify how much they are going to get at fire-sale prices and what they are going to sell. Are they going to sell the CBC? Are they going to dismantle the Wheat Board and sell off the buildings?

If we are going to be buying assets, now is the time to be buying them at a very depressed price. The worst time for a government to sell off its assets would be during a downturn in the market. What kind of thinking goes on over there on the government side? That is just typical, normal Conservative ideology running its course--

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am dealing with the economic and fiscal statement. I recognize the diversions of the hon. member. I have been around Houses for a number of years, probably more years than he has been, and I know the tactics that he is alluding to here.

I am dealing with the economic statement and I will continue to deal with the economic statement, as presented to this House last week.

Paragraph two of the letter to the Governor General reads, “We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as a constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority.

“Your attention to this matter is appreciated”.

The leaders were asking the Governor General for a chance to form a government, which is exactly what is happening right now. That points to the hypocrisy of the current Prime Minister, that he would deal with the Bloc in good faith in those, in his view, good times, but now that things have turned against him, he changes the story. Now the Bloc are evil and attempts at coalitions are evil, when they are common throughout the world. It was okay to try to replace the Paul Martin government but now it is not okay to do the same to him when the shoe is on the other foot.

The language that those members are using borders on the ridiculous. They talk about overthrow, seizing power and staging coups but those were the same types of tactics that they were trying to use with the Paul Martin Liberals only two years ago. What short memories those people have. It is just beyond the pale to listen to this every day.

It is time for the Conservatives to look at admitting their defeat, to give up power gracefully and, as our leader has suggested, let nature take its course.

Instead, what they are following a scorched earth policy. They are trying to increase divisions within the country. They are ramping up a campaign against the coalition trying to cause all sorts of divisions within the country. That is not what a prime minister should be doing and not how a prime minister should be acting.

Hopefully, a defeated and a humbled PC Party will be replaced with a leader who has some humility and will be back in this House in the near future and be prepared to even join a future unity government. Over the last few days I have offered the members that opportunity and have suggested that they should be joining the coalition when they--

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I meant the Prime Minister.

We have the spectacle of the PCs raging about the Bloc when the Bloc voted with them for two budgets between 2004 and 2006. The Bloc were honourable members when they were propping up the PCs, but now they are seen as evil. We should give our head a shake on this one.

Conservatives are preaching personal responsibility. Well, they should start owning up to their own mistakes in the House. They should quit blaming the Bloc for their problems. As a matter of fact, the Bloc supported the Conservatives in the 39th Parliament on 14 confidence votes. The Conservatives sure have a short memory given their previous relationship with the Bloc.

The Conservatives were more than happy when the leader of the Bloc and the Bloc propped up the Conservative government to pass critical Conservative measures, including their April 2006 throne speech and both the 2006 and 2007 budgets.

For a party that says that it believes in personal responsibility, we do not see much of that over there. The mantra of the Conservatives is to blame someone else. Now that they find themselves at the brink and are going over the falls, do they blame themselves? No. They look around and try to blame other people.

I have a letter, dated September 9, 2004, addressed to the Governor General. that the Prime Minister signed when he was leader of the opposition. The letter has been distributed quite widely and I am sure we will find a way to distribute it more widely. I am sure all of the people in my riding of Elmwood—Transcona would appreciate a copy of this letter so they could see that on September 9, 2004, the current Prime Minister, the current leader of the Bloc and the current leader of the NDP wrote the following letter to the Governor General of the day. It reads, “Excellency,

“As leaders of the opposition parties, we are well aware that, given the Liberal minority government, you could be asked by the Prime Minister to dissolve the 38th Parliament at any time should the House of Commons fail to support some part of the government's program”.

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by congratulating the member for Kitchener Centre on his leadership speech and I wish him well in the ensuing campaign.

A week is a long time in politics and just last week opposition members were making conciliatory throne speeches. The Liberals were supporting the throne speech with the Bloc and the NDP planning to vote no. The government's survival seemed assured only one week ago. The throne speech even passed on division with no standing vote.

How did this situation change so suddenly? The economic and fiscal statement was presented without a stimulus package, which we and the other opposition parties were expecting, and that prompted action to be taken.

The Prime Minister is acting as though he has a majority government, much the same way that Joe Clark did some years ago, and we know what happened there. Clearly, the Prime Minister has not learned from Joe Clark's disastrous experience. However, unlike Joe Clark, the Prime Minister will not get his election. He has miscalculated terribly and now is about to suffer the consequences of those actions.

A coalition has been formed, not unlike coalitions all over the world. This one will govern and provide stability to the country. In fact, if the PCs had a moderate, personable leader, such as Peter Lougheed or Bill Davis from days gone by, a leader who could actually count, things might be different as we stand here today.

A leader like Bill Davis would have reached out to at least one of the parties and worked out an accord, worked out some sort of arrangement. That is why leaders like Gary Filmon, Bill Davis and David Peterson were successful. Joe Clark, Frank Miller and Stephen Harper are not. We have the spectacle--