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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

Financial System Review Act February 14th, 2012

There we go again, Madam Speaker. In how many other Parliaments in Canadian history has this happened? Have official opposition parties ever taken the proper role of the official opposition in saying it has the right and the responsibility to debate in the House, to bring an alternate voice to this chamber and to the Canadian people as to what they are hearing from the government? That is a fundamental principle of our democracy.

As I said in my opening comment, the use of time allocation is not a response to the normal process that the official opposition has used since this Parliament started. This process is being used by the government to curtail debate, to eliminate that alternative voice which the official opposition is responsible for bringing.

Again I ask the government House leader, does he realize how much he is undermining the democracy of this country by the repeated use of this process?

Financial System Review Act February 14th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, here we are again. This is the 16th time allocation motion since the 41st Parliament convened. There have been four in the last two weeks.

I want to mention the preposterous statement that was made last week when the government House leader moved another one of these time allocation motions. He was trying to justify his anti-democratic, abusive conduct in this House. As is so typical of people who abuse their power, he blamed the opposition parties, specifically the official opposition.

I practised family law for a good deal of my professional career as a lawyer. I did a lot of work on domestic abuse cases, both between spouses and partners and with regard to children. The same story was heard. The abuser would always say to the recipient of the abuse, “I am doing this because of what you did”. The abuser would not accept any responsibility.

There is a real victim here. I ask the government House leader if he recognizes the abuse he is perpetrating on the victims, who are the Canadian people, with this attack by the Conservative government on the democratic process.

Federal Framework For Suicide Prevention Act February 9th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise this evening and speak to this bill. I cannot say that about a lot of bills that I have spoken to. I would like to spend a few minutes to praise the author of this bill, the member for Kitchener—Conestoga.

The member's work on this has been exemplary. We were fortunate enough to co-chair an ad hoc committee that we put together on palliative and compassionate care. He was clearly a leader on that study. We were able to produce a substantive report that contained several chapters addressing the issue of suicide and suicide prevention.

I say, proudly, all parties contributed both their time and effort in the hearings that we conducted, in gathering witnesses together, taking the evidence and funding the committee. We did it all from our parliamentary budgets outside the regular course of events. Again, he was a stalwart in leading in all those areas. He did it from a core within his own soul, with the passion and caring that needs to be drawn to this issue in order to accomplish what he has accomplished. As a result of that, we have this private member's bill, Bill C-300, that very clearly sets out a framework from which Canada can finally address this scourge on our society.

I want to recognize the contents of the bill. It would create a framework for suicide prevention. It would recognize suicide as both a mental health and a public health issue. That was interesting. From some of the new evidence, he and I learned during the course of this that it was both a mental health issue and a public health issue. It would designate the appropriate entity within the Government of Canada to deal with and assume responsibility for the program.

The program would be designed to improve public awareness, disseminate information on suicide and on suicide prevention, and make statistics publicly available so that we would be more knowledgeable on the issue. It would define best practices for prevention. We saw that in Canada in a number of areas, but they tended to be isolated.

The agency would be designed in such a way as to promote collaboration and knowledge exchange within the NGO community, the health community, the provinces and the territories. More specifically, it would require the Government of Canada to enter into negotiations with the NGOs and the provinces and territories within 100 days of the bill receiving royal assent. It would set up an ongoing collaboration with all levels of government, along with the NGOs.

Within four years there would be a report back and every two years after that so that we could see what progress had been made. Perhaps if there were any changes to be made, we would address those.

The member and I were both taken aback by the fact that what came out in the course of those hearings was that Canada was in a very strange position. We had led the way. This is testimony from all sorts of experts we have in the country, including one from my own riding. I want to acknowledge the work that Dr. Antoon Leenaars has done in the area of suicide and suicide prevention. He is a psychologist in the Windsor area and a recognized expert in this area, not only in Canada, but across the globe. He has worked for a number of other governments in helping them implement the program that we developed in Canada and then never implemented.

We started working on this in 1993. We developed it. It is a model for the world. All of the other G8 countries have adopted and implemented it. They have reduced the suicide rates in their countries. We did not. To some degree it is a shame that we have not. All levels of government assume some responsibility for that. I want to repeat that the United States, England, Ireland, Scotland, Finland, Australia, and a number of other countries beyond the G8 have adopted it.

I want to also acknowledge the work of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. It has been a stalwart for a number of years in helping develop that program. Initially, it was an integral part and is continuing to push to finally get it into place.

I want to single out the province of Quebec. Its provincial government, I think I am safe in saying, has moved extensively in implementing this national program that the Canadian government was instrumental in developing but never implemented. In the course of its implementation over the years, Quebec has actually reduced its suicide rate by 50%. That is not unique but reflects what happened in other countries, where we saw similar reduction rates in suicide. Rates of 25%, 40% and 50% were very common in all of the countries that implemented the program that was developed in Canada. They saw a very successful response within their communities and a very substantial reduction in suicides.

The program also works in Canada. It was implemented in the province of Quebec fairly extensively. Quebec still wants to do more and if this program is put into place at the federal level, it will complete the work it wants to do. Again, there was a 50% reduction. On an approximate basis, there are 4,000 suicides every year. If we implemented this across the whole country, we would be talking about saving 2,000 lives on an annual basis. The faster this bill gets through the process, receives royal assent and is implemented, the faster we will begin to reduce these deaths in our society. These deaths are so tragic not only for the victims but their families, friends and communities more generally.

I want to finish by again congratulating and acknowledging the work of the member for Kitchener—Conestoga. We need more parliamentarians like him.

Business of the House February 9th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives told Canadians in one election after another that they would come to Ottawa and change Canadian politics and be more accountable, more democratic and more transparent. Instead, they have undertaken a sustained attack on centuries of parliamentary tradition, the most serious attack, I honestly think, we have seen in the history of our country and Parliament.

The procedural guillotine, the use of time allocation and closure motions to shut down debate in this chamber, was designed to be used as an extraordinary mechanism in extraordinary circumstances, not as a routine measure. That is what it has become, a routine measure.

There is a word for the abuse of power to change laws and muzzle the opposition: tyranny. Yes, the tyranny of the majority. I do not know if the member is aware that misuse of closure is a radical departure from the traditions of this House and of other British parliamentary systems around the world. I do not know if the Conservatives believe that their majority gives them the right to act without the opposition and without debate in which views differing from their own are expressed.

I finish with this question. Will the government House leader commit to the House to cease using this measure? He has used it repeatedly, a record majority of times now. Will he cease using it and stop using the anti-democratic process he has used over 15 times now?

Foreign Affairs February 9th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, it is not a message from Canadians. That is not where we are at. The Conservatives have lost their way on this point.

The government is now saying that torture is okay. So much for being the law and order government. In this case it may as well torture people right here in Canada by the message its sending out.

Then yesterday, or the day before, the Minister of Justice was out publicly advocating for people to shoot warning shots. We heard that prisoners should hang themselves. We heard that from the Conservatives. People should shoot from the hip. Torture is okay. Those are the messages we are getting. This is not the wild west; this is Canada.

Foreign Affairs February 9th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, that is not the message Canadians are getting.

Yesterday, the Minister of National Defence acted irresponsibly by suggesting that the Air Canada Centre was a prime target for terrorists. Then the Minister of Public Safety soon followed with his own hypothetical scenarios about planes full of Newfoundlanders being blown up. All of that to back up the government's irresponsible message to other countries that Canada is in the market for information based on torture.

The government should oppose torture, no question about it. When will it rescind the directive?

Foreign Affairs February 9th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, there is no compromising when it comes to torture. Either we are for it or we are against it. The government says that it does not employ torture, but it is okay if others do so. The Conservatives would use information obtained at any cost. The Conservatives cannot ignore international conventions. The government is not above the laws of Canada. The law is the law.

Where is this government's respect for Canadian law?

Copyright Modernization Act February 8th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I was going to start off by saying, another day, another motion to terminate, to muzzle debate in this House, another anti-democratic motion, but that would not be fair to the government.

What I should be saying is, another week, another motion to muzzle debate, to terminate debate, to strike severe blows to the democracy that should be functioning in this Parliament. Because, including this motion, this will be the 15th time that the government has moved either closure or time allocation in 73 sitting days. That is more than one a week now. The speed at which the government is bringing in these motions to terminate debate, to strike blows to democracy is occurring more rapidly than at the start of the session.

Every time it happens, one more record is set that belies anything but that this Parliament is being turned into a farce. We are not being given the opportunity, either on this side of the House, in opposition, or on the government side, the people in the backbenches in particular, to have any meaningful debate on bills that are before this House on issues that are confronting this country. The government is shutting down debate repeatedly.

I say to the minister responsible for this, and to the House leader, how many more times will we see this? Will I have to stand every single day to face these motions?

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act February 7th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I must admit that I was a bit surprised today by the government House leader having to read this motion. He has done it so many times, I would have thought he could have simply stood and, from memory, repeated the same motion.

Since this Parliament started, we have had one closure motion and we are now seeing our 13th time allocation motion. There have been 12 since Parliament returned in September of last year. As always, every time this happens it is a new record for the government.

We really need to wonder what the government is so scared of in terms of the debate. I think this is the first time, however, that the motion puts time allocation both on report stage and on third reading. We have not even had any indication from the government as to when time will be allocated on the calendar for third reading.

I wonder if the minister could tell us when the debate on third reading will start?

Income Tax Act February 6th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, in spite of the protest of innocence by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, let there be no doubt at all that this is a frontal attack on the labour movement in this country. It is also an indirect but very clear attack on a number of other rights that Canadian citizens and residents have in this country: the right of association; the right, quite frankly, to privacy; and the right to freedom of speech within the right of association. The bill undermines all of those rights, if not completely doing away with them in some cases.

To stand in this House, as the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale just has, to say this is all about accountability and transparency and not about ideology is totally false.

Let us understand the context of the bill. The Bush Republicans did the same thing in the United States. However, they did not go nearly as far as the bill before us does. I have two quotes on the ideology, strategy and tactics behind this. The first is by Newt Gingrich, one of the leading members of the ideological right in the United States, who said that requiring detailed disclosure on union advocacy activities would “weaken our opponents and encourage our allies”.

Another right-wing U.S. activist, Grover Norquist, said:

Every dollar that is spent [by labour unions] on disclosure and reporting is a dollar that can't be spent on other labour union activities.

This was designed from an ideological standpoint, and in the case of Canada, from a big business, multinational standpoint. The support behind the bill comes from that same group, and that is what is driving it. This is not about accountability and transparency. The level of hypocrisy of the government in this regard I think speaks clearly to that. This is an attack on the labour movement in this country.

The bill, to a certain degree, is modelled after the legislation at the federal level in the United States, but it goes much further. For instance, the law in the United States only covers the national unions and the national association of unions. In Canada, it would cover every single union organization, even some of the trusts they have set up around health and safety and the environment and a number of activities they carry on for which they have trust funds. It would cover every single one of those organizations, including the small union local, several of which I have in my riding and that have an executive of four or five people with no full-time staff.

The member is being disingenuous at the very best with the House when he suggests this is not much more than what unions already have to prepare by way of reporting. That is absolutely false.

I repeat, the bill in the United States does not go nearly as far as this one does. However, even in the United States the national unions found they had to assign two people to it for almost half the year to do the additional reporting the bill required.

I cannot be much clearer than this in estimating the consequences of this, just as some of the labour movement cannot be much clearer, because the bill before us would allow for more information to be required of unions by way of legislation. Of course, we have not seen those regulations and would not see them for some time. However, just in terms what is being required of unions to report, it would increase dramatically the amount of reporting they have to do.

There is another pattern that I see here. I happened to be in Russia when Putin was still the head of the government, where he had developed a strategy that required a lot of human rights groups, a lot of NGOs, to do an excessive amount of reporting. It was phenomenal. I will give the member from Surrey credit for not going quite as far as Putin did in that legislation. However, it was clearly designed to undermine the human rights groups in Russia because of the amount of material they had to report.

The bill, to some degree, is modelled after the same type of experience, which has had the effect in Russia of destroying a number of the groups. Some have gone underground because they could not do the reporting.

Therefore, we have two nice models here, that of the right-wing Republicans in the United States and that of Putin in Russia. In both cases, they are very clearly attacking those specific groups. In the U.S. it is the labour movement; in Russia it is the human rights movement and those NGOs.

The other point I want to make in terms of the context of this is that it is quite clear, including from the survey the member mentioned, that the information is available and the Canadian public and union members are not aware of it. In addition to that, according to the Fraser Institute, which analyzed the U.S. legislation, the information required was extensive and highly complex. Again, here I would point out that the bill before us would at least double the amount of information that unions in Canada will have to provide.

The Fraser Institute, in September 2006, when it looked at the legislation and its effect in the U.S., stated that due to the large amounts of information available:

It is very difficult and time-consuming for an average person to easily obtain a realistic idea of the financial performance of a union—

Thus, while the U.S. legislation does disclose a great deal, it does not do so in a way that facilitates analysis and comprehension by average, interested citizens.

When the labour movement did the analysis, what happened there, as was the intention right from the beginning, was that large corporations wanted to know about the organizing activities of the labour unions that might be trying to organize the work force or the collective bargaining process. They got the information and used it extensively. This was really private information that in the past had never been disclosed and they used it against the labour movement, quite effectively in a number of cases.

In this case, Bill C-377 goes much further in terms of organizing activities. It even requires the disclosure of expenses with regard to whom they hired as their lawyer. That part of the bill is going to get struck down by a court fairly early on; no court in this land is going to allow that part of it to stay. The bill simply does not accomplish the purpose the member talks about, because it is so complex in terms of the amount of detail that unions will have to give. That was the U.S. experience, and ours is going to be even worse if we go ahead.

However, the people who are really after this, the people supporting the bill, the large corporations and the right-wing in our country, would be able to do so because they have the resources to use this data effectively to thwart organizing drives and other campaigns that a union may take on. That is what it is designed to do. It has been a very effective mechanisms in the United States to in fact accomplish that, and it is going to be even worse here. That is what this bill is all about.

It is important to appreciate as well that the Canadian people understand that information from the current reporting is available to all union members, either by way of provincial legislation or union constitution. Again, we have a problem with the bill because it probably extends itself into provincial territory, which will probably result in part of it to be struck down as well. Seven of the ten provinces require this information to be given to union membership. Every union constitution that I am aware of also requires consolidated financial statements to be given and made available to every single member of that union.

Let me finish with one final point and that is about the costs, which I believe the member is being disingenuous about with the House. There would be a huge increase in red tape from this file. If the government in fact follows through to enforce this, the number of people it will have to hire, we estimate, is somewhere in the range of at least a hundred people. A whole new data system would also have to be developed to analyze all of the data. We are talking of tens of millions, if not into the hundred million dollar range on an annual basis, of what it is going to cost.

If the government does not follow through, the information would simply be available and the big corporations would be able to use it against unions. That is what it is all about. One way or another, it would have the effect that the member wants, which is to give his “allies”, as Newt Gingrich put it, this information to fight their enemies.