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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was regard.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Windsor—Tecumseh (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Employment Insurance Act March 29th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I rise to reiterate the points made by my colleague from the Progressive Conservative Party about the inadequacies of the legislation being proposed, specifically the short list of the amendments and changes that would be made, depending upon the outcome of the vote. Many more issues need to be addressed and I will draw them to the attention of the House at this time.

One issue that has been of particular import to my riding in the last few months is the change concerning the 85% rule that is required in one of the regulations under the act. It establishes that if an employee does not return to work in a strike lockout situation, the reason must be because of lack of work and not because of lack of work or production generated as a result of the strike lockout.

The rule is wide open to abuse on the part of employers if after the strike lockout they wish to be vindictive. The offensive part of the regulation is that the employer is the one who is sought out and asked for information on whether the 85% rule is being met.

I wish to make a side point here. The 85% rule is not only with regard to 85% of the employees being called back to work but also 85% of production being restored. It is a double opportunity for the employer to have the final decision on whether individual employees will qualify. We had two recent situations in Windsor where this specific situation arose.

The interesting part is that as a result of work done by the CAW union and my office, the department reversed the original decision disqualifying all those workers. Literally hundreds of them were disqualified. I still have not had a response from the minister in terms of the interpretation placed on the rule, but there seems to be some policy where during certain periods of time the rule is not enforced. Our party's position is that the rule should be done away with completely. The general application of the act and the regulations should flow once a strike lockout situation has terminated.

Another concern I have, and one that I run across in my riding repeatedly, is with one of the penalties under the legislation. It is in regard to individuals who know that they will be unemployed and they make arrangements in all good faith to seek retraining.

The government is actively pressing individuals who are unemployed to upgrade themselves. It constantly publishes figures about the need for people to recognize that in the course of their working career they will be repeatedly required to return to some educational or retraining program in order to maintain full employment.

In spite of the figures that we have all seen, and the position that the government is taking, individuals who wish to return to work by way of upgrading their skills and knowing that they will need to do that in order to get favourable employment situations, are in effect penalized by being required to go without employment benefits for a full two week period. They leave the workforce, usually not voluntarily, and then they are without any form of income for a full two weeks while in an educational program.

It is particularly offensive to single parent families with children who rely on that income to have a waiting period of two weeks. It has a very negative effect, particularly for women in the workforce, as it forces them to go on social service benefits rather than get the retraining that they really require. Retraining would be much better for them as it would enhance the overall economy and it would be good of society. That is another change that is required and we see no signs of the government moving on it.

My final point deals with the inaction on the part of the government to deal with the taking of the money that has been paid for by both employees and employers to the tune of $35 billion. It has also refused to even acknowledge a responsibility to replace those funds.

If the government returned those funds, there is no question that the amount the employer or employee would have to contribute would be significantly reduced. We need those funds available in case of a significant economic downturn, which we may be confronting at this period of time.

We need action on the part the government on each one of those items. As Bill C-2 and the proposed amendments show, we are not getting it at this time.

Freshwater Exports March 28th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have always been able to depend on our plentiful supply of freshwater but now this precious resource is being threatened by the inaction of the government.

In British Columbia, there is an outstanding chapter 11 action under NAFTA. There are ongoing attempts in the Great Lakes to export bulk water.

Yesterday, Roger Grimes, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, announced that his government will reopen the issue of the bulk export of water, a move that under NAFTA would eliminate the ability of other provinces to ban the exportation of bulk water.

In fact, the government has brought forward legislation, Bill C-6, which would facilitate the export of our most precious water supply.

It is time the government showed some leadership and accepted its responsibility to protect our supply of freshwater. It is time we have federal legislation that would ban absolutely the bulk export of our freshwater.

Summit Of The Americas March 27th, 2001

Anarchists, that is what they are.

Summit Of The Americas March 27th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the Windsor-Essex county community was a major beneficiary of the auto pact. The term we always heard about the auto pact was managed trade and fair trade. We did not hear the same for free trade. The auto pact allowed Windsor-Essex county to develop, what was in fact historically a huge development, the auto industry in our area.

As my friend pointed out, we lost that agreement last month, again because of a trading arrangement ruling. Our residents are very concerned about the consequences. We no longer have a fair trading arrangement.

Let me use one example. The Mexican jurisdiction, that economy, is building cars in significant numbers now. To compare the arrangements, on average a worker in Windsor in one of the large auto plants is earning in excess of $20 an hour. With benefits and all the rest it is roughly $30 an hour. The same auto worker in Mexico, building the same type of vehicle, is being paid on average $1 an hour. That is not fair trade. It may be, by some of the other definitions we have heard of trade, free trade. However, it is not fair trade.

The Mexican economy seriously undermines the position of labour in Canada and does little, if anything, to advance the cause of labour in Mexico.

Summit Of The Americas March 27th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst.

I rose at this time in particular because I sensed the debate is nearing an end. I want to spend a few minutes speaking about the impact that the trade agreements, NAFTA in particular, have had on the environmental position in the country.

Throughout this debate there have been various references made to some of the cases that have arisen. The one I want to mention, because I do not think it has been touched upon other than in passing, is the S.D. Myers v Canada case. The company was suing Canada, as it was allowed to do under the NAFTA agreement, because we would not export hazardous waste to the United States. We closed our borders to that.

We had the sovereign country of Canada taking a very environmentally sound position, one in fact that we were required to take under the Basel convention which deals with transboundary movement of hazardous waste. We were required under that convention to deal with our own hazardous waste. S.D. Myers wanted to treat our hazardous waste in the United States. When we closed our borders to that, the company sued us and won the decision. Canada ended up being punished for being a good international citizen, if I could put it that way. We followed the convention that we entered into in good faith with a number of other global partners but were then confronted under NAFTA to breach that convention.

One of the lawyers looked at this and speaking of the S.D. Myers v Canada decision said “It offers an interpretation of NAFTA rules that is so vague and confusing that it is tantamount to saying Canada is in breach of its NAFTA obligations because we say so”. I will come back to this later because one of the points I want to make is about the impact of NAFTA and trade agreements on our sovereignty, and more important on our democracy.

The other case I want to deal with is the Metalclad case to which other speakers have referred. From the environmentalist standpoint, it shows the essential lack of integrity that is part of the whole trade arrangement. I mean integrity in terms of protecting the environment.

This case involved a relatively impoverished municipality being faced with a claim that it had to accept toxic waste. Anyone would say that a municipality could not be forced to accept the waste. There is no arrangement in the world that should make a municipality take into its relatively impoverished municipal structure, by international standards, a huge toxic waste. Lo and behold to its surprise and shock it was told that it had to accept the dump. As we all know, that case is under appeal. Given the past practises of interpretations under NAFTA, one has to wonder about the possibility or even hope of success on that appeal. There are also a number of other cases.

A resolution was passed a week or so ago in the House and was supported by all parties I believe, except the NDP. It was moved by our friends in the Bloc. We voted against it out of concern for the environment. The resolution dealt with the softwood lumber issue. If we continue to go into these types of trading arrangements, we continue to expose ourselves to the types of rulings I just mentioned.

What we are really talking about in a trading arrangement, whether it be with the United States, Mexico or the rest of the hemisphere, is one that recognizes the sovereignty of Canada, recognizes democracy and recognizes our rights as a country to protect our environment, human rights and labour standards. We hear these themes on a continuous basis.

I would like to speak briefly about democracy. I made a list of the abrogation of democracy that we see and have seen since the free trade agreement which came in in the late eighties. At the top of that list is our loss of sovereignty. Faceless bureaucrats sit someplace making decisions that affect us.

In spite of the comments from my friend from Alberta, we have a situation where our youth feel that the only way they can express their opposition to these agreements is by taking to the streets, not as he suggested with violence in mind but simply exercising their democratic right to say this is their country, they live here and they have a right in terms of freedom of expression to say what the country is doing is wrong. What will they be faced with? Barricades and what, in effect, will amount to a police state in Quebec City in the latter part of April. This is something I can attest to very strongly. We faced the same thing in my home riding last June.

There is no opportunity in effect within the existing parliamentary system for these people to be heard. We do not get to vote on it. We do not even get to see the text. We are elected officials, elected by our constituents to come here and represent them and to act in their best interest. In fact we are muzzled.

One issue we will have to debate in the coming months and years is the alternatives which are available to us in what would be a much more democratic and useful trading arrangement with the rest of the world.

Species At Risk Act February 28th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, when I was concluding my comments yesterday I was addressing concerns that we have about the bill and specifically with the protection for the endangered species habitat.

With regard to the wide discretionary power of the minister to designate an endangered species, one of the problems we have with regard to the legislation is that if he ever does so there is a 30 month time lag during which only the nest, the den or the immediate locale where the species reside is protected. The protection does not extend to the habitat for the entire 30 months.

A prominent environmentalist has been quoted as describing this as protecting a bedroom while allowing for the destruction of the house and the bulldozing of the neighbourhood. It is a very accurate portrayal of one of the weaknesses in the legislation.

It will be our argument at committee where we will seek amendments that to be effective the legislation must make habitat protection mandatory, not discretionary, and that the exercise of that discretion be over a much shorter period of time.

Our second major concern with the bill is the methodology by which an endangered species is listed. COSEWIC, the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, has been tracking endangered species and placing them on a list for several decades now. The committee would continue to exist under the new legislation, but even though its decision is based on purely scientific methodology it would not be the final determinant of whether an endangered species is listed under the legislation and receives protection. That decision would only lie in the hands of the minister and may be based on any number of other considerations.

Our concern with this process is that it is subject to wide discretion. In spite of the fact that the bill has a number of provisions about community participation, making information available and claiming to protect vulnerable wildlife, everything hinges on the minister's discretion. There is no provision for how that discretion would be exercised. It does not have to be based on science. It may be based on the COSEWIC list, and then again it may not. There are no provisions for that.

I draw the attention of the House to the fact that there are 354 species on that list. Would they be protected after the bill is passed, assuming it gets passed? The answer is that they would not. There is no provision in the bill to make that already existing list a part of the legislation.

Again this is an item that must be addressed. We will be arguing strenuously both in committee and in the House that the legislation should incorporate that list by grandfathering it in so that species already at risk in the country would become protected immediately.

One other major issue is that the bill contains no provision, no detail or fleshing out around what compensation would be provided to people who are financially disadvantaged once the bill is passed and put into place.

The minister is indicating that perhaps there would be some provision in the regulations, but he is reserving the discretion to himself as to when it would be used. We would argue that we do not have a lot of confidence. A number of other existing pieces of legislation have been in place for 20 to 30 years where at various times it could have taken steps as a government to protect endangered species. It has never done so.

On behalf of the NDP I indicate that we do not believe people should be financially impacted negatively without compensation. Landowners must be assured that they are not facing personal losses if a species is designated on their property. Similarly it is our position that workers in various industries and communities that could be impacted by the legislation should be compensated.

We believe the guiding principle in this regard must be that the cost of protecting endangered species should be shared by all of us, not just the people on whose land endangered species happen to live.

One final major concern we have is with regard to the extent, geographically and jurisdictionally, that the legislation would cover. Let me throw out this one statistic. It will only cover five per cent of the country.

Recognizing that I am almost out of time, I will make one final point. The legislation is extremely weak with regard to protecting our migratory birds and animals. If they cross the border they will probably be protected in the United States but they will not be protected here.

The Environment February 28th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, like many Canadians I once believed that our country had a strong record on the environment, a record we could be proud of both at home and abroad.

However the sad reality is that under the Liberal government Canada in fact has a rather shameful record. This was made abundantly clear by the auditor general in his final report to the House yesterday in which he summed up 10 years of disappointment with the lack of federal commitment and action on the environment. He once again highlighted in his report the Liberal government's dismal failure to meet international and domestic commitments to the environment.

Repeated audits have condemned the Liberal government for failing to address important issues like urban smog, a particular problem in my riding, and others such as global warming, toxic substances, groundwater contamination and biodiversity.

The 1990 report of the auditor general asked of the environment department who is minding the store, a question that is repeated in yesterday's report but still remains unanswered 10 years later. The auditor general's report—

Energy February 27th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister of natural resources was in Washington discussing a confidential energy policy with the U.S. and eagerly promoting the massive expansion of oil and gas production in Canada to help the U.S. meet its energy needs.

Instead of encouraging policies that promote renewable energy resources and energy efficiency, the government is on a course to greatly increase the burning of fossil fuels and production of harmful emissions.

Why is the government putting the energy demands of the U.S. ahead of our environmental and our international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Species At Risk Act February 27th, 2001

Madam Speaker, although I have addressed the House on a few occasions and have asked some questions, this is the first opportunity I feel I have had to recognize the results of the November election: the support and confidence that was placed in me by the constituents of Windsor—St. Clair.

I acknowledge their support and all of the work my supporters did for me, the canvassing and phone calling. It is difficult to put that into words. There are certain specific groups I would like to acknowledge as well. I will start with my family, my wife of 31 years and my three children who were very active in my campaign and have been strong supporters of mine both in this past election and in the two previous times that I ran. I acknowledge that publicly.

A couple of other groups were of particular support to me. The labour movement in the city of Windsor is very strong and a great deal of those members came out and supported me, both on election day and in the campaign leading up to the vote.

There is another group I specifically want to mention. I promised that I would give it credit as one of the significant groups that made the difference in the outcome in my winning or losing since the results were very close in my riding. That group is the citizens who at one time worked in the United States but then came back to live in Canada in their retirement years. They were faced with a significant change in the tax regime put in place by the government. They feel very keenly about this travesty of justice and intend to pursue it. I will also pursue it on their behalf until that travesty of justice is remedied. I wish to acknowledge those people who supported me throughout the campaign and voted for me on election day.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-5, which in common parlance has become known as the endangered species legislation. This is not the first time the legislation has been before the House. In fact the original bill was put before the House in 1994. The government in both its red books and throne speeches has constantly promised the legislation. Here we are seven years down the road, in fact eight years from the time it was first elected, and we still do not have the legislation.

This procrastination and inaction unfortunately is all too typical of the government's record on the environment. It is not a good record whatsoever. We have not seen any new environmental legislation since 1993. There have been some amendments but no dramatic changes in the regime governing and protecting our environment.

We have absolutely no legislation right now that in any meaningful way protects our endangered species. That is interesting. If we look at the polling the government has done, there is extremely strong support in Canada for legislation to protect our endangered specifies. A recent poll conducted by Pollara, which was commissioned by the federal government, found that 94% of Canadians in all regions support federal endangered species legislation. More important, one should note that 74% of people living in rural communities support mandatory, not discretionary, habitat protection legislation.

In spite of the fact that we have broadly based support from environmental groups, labour unions, scientists and industry spokespeople calling for strong and effective endangered species legislation, we still have none as of right now.

The bill before us in the form of Bill C-5 is basically, with minor changes, the same bill that was before the last parliament as Bill C-33. Interestingly both Bill C-5 and Bill C-33 are substantially weaker than Bill C-65 which was introduced by the government back in 1996.

Based on good, solid scientific evidence at the present time we have 354 endangered species. It is a stark reminder that our natural heritage is under threat. The rate at which species disappear is historically at an all time high.

Worldwide we are experiencing more extinctions of natural species at any time in our history since the disappearance of dinosaurs. The current extinction rate is over 10,000 times the natural rate. To put it another way, historically an average of two to three species per year became extinct due to natural causes. Currently this year and in the previous few years about two to three species disappear every hour, all because of human causes. At the present rate scientists are telling us that we could lose 25% of the earth's species in the next 30 years.

Let us take a look at Canada. We have our own problems. In the past 150 years 27 species have become extinct. Let us compare that to the figure I gave earlier. At present 354 endangered species or at risk of extinction are on our list. The list is growing every year. An additional 40 species have been added in the last two years, since 1999.

As a country we have been waiting for almost a decade for the legislation. In 1992 at the earth summit, Canada committed to establishing legislation that was specifically aimed at protecting our vulnerable species. Canada was one of the first signatories to that accord. Yet here we are in 2001 and we are still reviewing the legislation.

In addition, the bill before the House is fundamentally weak. Let me turn to one of the major weaknesses of the legislation. We were promised by the Liberal Party and by the government that the legislation would protect the species at risk. What we have now is not a shall bill, that is we shall protect, but a maybe bill, that is we may protect them.

The bill contains rampant discretion in favour of the minister and the cabinet. All that it requires the government to do is to consult and report. It does not require it to protect when push comes to shove even one species. They could take these consultations from the scientific community, from the rest of the country, and could ignore them. Given their history, that is likely what they will do.

Bill C-5 is much weaker than the legislation of our partners in the United States and even in Mexico.

I will go back again to some of the public surveys on what the country is prepared to accept in the legislation. Most Canadians have told us that they are prepared to accept economic consequences in order to protect our natural species. Eight out of ten Canadians advocated placing restrictions on industries that pose a threat to endangered species and they are willing to accept the limitation of activities, such as forestry, mining and even tourism.

I will digress for a moment and talk about my own region. In the riding beside mine we have the smallest national park. About 10 years ago it became obvious that we had to limit the number of people allowed into that park. We had to cut the number in half because of the danger it posed to some of the fauna in the park. The public accepted that. There was an educational process and the general community understood the risk the park was at and they accepted the fact that they would have to curtail their activities in the park and the number of times they could go there. It was not easy for them to do but they did accept it. I suggest that is true for the rest of the country. We are prepared to take those losses.

I will now go to the three points that I wish to cover in terms of the weakness of the legislation. The first and foremost weakness is the lack of habitat protection. It is estimated that humans are responsible for almost all the species extinctions that occur, but that within that framework habitat loss is responsible for over 80% of the species' decline in Canada.

If this legislation is passed it will not protect habitat at all. I will compare that situation to the United States and Mexico. In both cases they have passed legislation that not only protects the species but also protects their habitat. Our legislation is simply proposing to make that protection discretionary in the hands of the minister and the government. If species are deemed worthy of protection then we should be protecting them.

Divorce Act February 23rd, 2001

Madam Speaker, I rise to address this bill. By way of background, I am bringing to this the perspective of having practised family law almost exclusively for some 15 years and then significantly for another 12 or 13 years in the province of Ontario. I have also instructed in family law at the local law school as a sessional instructor and I have been a sessional leader at the bar admission course in Ontario as well.

There is a point I particularly want to address. If I understood the comments of the author of the bill, he is interested in avoiding what at times is the inevitable conflict between parents in the course of a marriage breakdown. I have to say to the member that my experience tells me the presumption he wishes to build into the legislation would inevitably have the effect of heightening both the amount of litigation that would go on and the level of hostilities between the parents.

In that regard, I draw to the House's attention some of the statistics he gave on the breakdown that exists in the country in terms of how custody arrangements are finalized. Members may recall that he made the point that in approximately 85% of all custodial arrangements custody resides with the mother of the children and some 6% or 7% with the father of the children, the remainder being joint custody arrangements.

As a bit of an aside, that 6% is a substantial increase from the time I first started practising law. I think it reflects some change in society and society's orientations and particularly in the orientation of women and mothers to be willing to look at a custody arrangement. It also reflects, I think importantly, the amount of additional time that male members of society are taking with the children in wishing to have that type of arrangement.

However, I want to come back to the reality of the process when marriage breaks down. What will occur, I prophesy, is that of the 80% of mothers who attain custody we will have a much greater number of them going to court if this type of bill and presumption are passed into legislation. We will have them going to court to rebut that presumption in order to establish sole custody in their names.

The end result is that instead of having 10% of all cases going to substantial litigation, which is the figure he quoted, we will have a greater number. As an aside, I can point out that does not mean those cases go to trial and are determined by a judge. What that means is simply that they are lengthy and protracted litigation, which oftentimes ultimately end up in settlement in any event.

However, what we will be having is a number greater than 10% in our courts. If we are really sincerely interested in protecting our children from the abuse they suffer from the litigation process, we will want to avoid this. I can speak to that personally from the fairly substantial number of contested custody cases I was involved in. There is emotional abuse of children as they suffer their way through the protracted battles between their parents. This proposed legislation would only heighten that.

From that perspective alone we would have to oppose this proposed legislation. There are a number of other points we could make regarding the validity of the presumption, but recognizing that it is this time of the week, I will leave my comments at that.