House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was forestry.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Thunder Bay—Rainy River (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Telecommunications May 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, almost a decade after the Conservatives took power, Internet access in parts of rural ridings like mine still needs to be improved. The government is only now introducing a new satellite fee structure. In a country where telecom companies make huge profits and Canadians pay some of the highest fees in the developed world, I am told by satellite companies that northern Ontario is not a priority.

What is the government going to do to ensure that rural Canadians, like my constituents in Thunder Bay—Rainy River, get access to affordable high-speed Internet now?

Officers of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment and Garrison Officers' Mess April 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend, It was my distinct honour to be invited to the 69th military ball hosted by the Officers of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment and Garrison Officers' Mess. Let me offer a special thanks to Major David Ratz and the entire 2015 ball planning committee for organizing a wonderful evening, with a special mention to the incomparable MacGillivray Pipe Band.

Canadians might not know that Thunder Bay is known as the “City of the Poppy”. On July 5, 1921, the Great War Veterans' Association, a forerunner of the Royal Canadian Legion, held their national organizational meeting in Port Arthur, Ontario. There, they approved the poppy to be worn on the anniversary of Armistice Day. Within a year, all Legion branches across the country wore the poppy as a means of remembrance.

Thousands of men and women from northwestern Ontario have served in the defence of Canada. Lest we forget.

Infrastructure April 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Thunder Bay city officials have announced that the federal government has rejected a gas tax fund request for the proposed Thunder Bay event centre.

This rejection comes despite the federal government already spending more than $800,000 on the project. The FedNor minister says the city is confused.

Will the infrastructure minister provide clarification about his decision, and will he pledge to work together with the city council so that Thunder Bay can access gas tax funding for this or other projects?

Petitions March 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, petitioners in my riding are calling on the Government of Canada to ensure that Canadian policies and programs are developed in consultation with small family farmers and that they protect the rights of small family farmers in the global south to preserve, use, and freely exchange seeds.

Military Contribution Against ISIL March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is a good question. We do not need to be one of the leaders in war. We need to be one of the leaders in reconciliation. We need to be one of the leaders in terms of humanitarian aid. We need to be one of the leaders in terms of war crimes. We need to be one of the leaders that moves forward to ensure that stability can get back into the region, but not through arms, not through weapons, not through war and, quite frankly, not through killing.

Military Contribution Against ISIL March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, on the surface, that question makes sense. However, it does not make sense when it is understood that ISIL will simply morph into something else. We could bomb ISIL for the next 20 years, but other groups will take its place.

If we look at Iraq now and the fighting that is going on there, I would suggest that the American involvement originally in Iraq really solved nothing. In fact, it has formed all kinds of other groups that are now fighting.

While it makes sense if we could actually get rid of the group completely and free up those homes and homeland for people to go back to, that would be ideal, but that it is an impossibility.

We need to ensure that those who are displaced have the wherewithal to continue to raise their families, grow and live and, hopefully, at some point, be able to gradually get back home.

Military Contribution Against ISIL March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately the last question was long and rambling, and I had a question for the minister. The minister talked about the barbaric acts of ISIL. One can argue that in any war there are always a lot of barbaric acts. I want to ask the minister a question, and perhaps she can talk to me later. What is the government doing to stem the flow of funds to ISIL forces? It is a good question and a legitimate one. Perhaps she will have an opportunity to answer that.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this today. I want to concentrate on the humanitarian effort, but I also want to concentrate on the our amendment to this motion and outline it for MPs in the House and those who are following this debate closely at home.

My belief is that the Conservatives have simply not been honest about this mission from day one. I believe they have misled Canadians about our soldiers being involved in ground combat and have failed to make the case for Canada's military involvement in the Iraq war. That is the premise on which I will base my comments.

Let me talk about the NDP amendment to the motion. I hope the government and the folks at home will listen closely. To me it makes sense, and I think it does to many Canadians.

We are calling on the government to end the participation of Canadian Forces in combat, air strikes, and advise and assist training in Iraq and Syria as soon as possible.

We are calling on the government to boost humanitarian aid in areas where there would be immediate lifesaving impacts, including assisting refugees with basic shelter and food needs, investing in water, sanitation, hygiene, health and education for people displaced by the fighting.

We are calling on the government to work with our allies in the region to stabilize neighbouring countries, strengthen political institutions and assisting those countries that are coping with a large influx of refugees.

We are calling on the government to provide assistance to investigate and prosecute war crimes.

We are calling on the government to increase assistance for the care and resettlement of refugees impacted by the conflict.

We are calling on the government to work to prevent the flow of foreign fighters, finances and resources to ISIL in accordance with our international obligations under United Nations Security Council resolutions 2170, 2178 and 2199.

We are calling on the government to put forward a robust plan of support for communities and institutions working on de-radicalization and counter-radicalization.

We are calling on the government to report back on the costs of the mission and humanitarian assistance provided to date on a monthly basis to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development until Canadian involvement is concluded.

We are calling on the government to continue to offer its resolute and wholehearted support to the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces who stand on guard for all of us. I am sure everyone in the House agrees on the last one.

There is a concern, which I have heard from a number of constituents over the last few days, that the Prime Minister is taking us from what we call mission creep to what I guess we could call mission leap, sort of sleepwalking Canada into a wider and ever-widening conflict without any real accountability or exit plan. The Prime Minister indicated the other day that Canada would be there until the end. That sounded like George Bush, but it does not sound like anyone on that side reads history. There is no end. Wars morph and re-morph into something else.

We just have to look at Lybia, which, arguably, is worse off now than it was when we were part of a coalition that intervened there. Afghanistan, arguably again, is not any better off for us having been there. As things change and morph, I would suggest that there really is no end.

The Conservatives have repeatedly misled Canadians about what is happening on the ground, from the combat role being played by our special forces to the cost of the mission, even going so far as to break the law and hiding information from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

Let me be clear. Canada has no place in this war, and there is a better role for us to play. We should be helping save lives on the ground now, by addressing the deepening humanitarian crisis unfolding in both Syria and Iraq.

There are some unanswered questions, and these are the sorts of questions that I am beginning to get in ever larger volumes from my constituents. Contradicting statements from the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence and senior military officials have left my constituents and many Canadians confused about what our troops are doing in Iraq.

In October 2014, Chief of the Defence Staff General Tom Lawson told the media that the mission had evolved, while the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence maintained that exchanging fire with the enemy at the front lines was part of Canada's original advise and assist mission.

By refusing to call this a combat mission, questions are being raised about the effect on the risk allowance and danger pay made to members of the forces. The Conservatives have refused to provide clear answers about the criteria for success in this mission or about an exit strategy.

Despite repeated questioning from the New Democrats and the Parliamentary Budget Officer since September of last year, the government only released details of the incremental costs of the mission on February 16 of this year. The full costs of the mission are still unclear. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that the full costs will be at least six times higher than the incremental costs.

What I really want to talk about today are the humanitarian needs in Iraq. It is important to give some statistics and to give people listening to this debate a really clear understanding of the humanitarian crisis that exists.

As we hear in the news every day, humanitarian conditions in Iraq continue to deteriorate. The United Nations has declared the situation the highest level of emergency. Since January of this year, an estimated 2.5 million people have been displaced, and the conditions they are living in are worsening every day.

Of the 2.5 million people displaced so far by this conflict, at least 20% have critical protection needs, including those related to trauma and sexual violence. This is compounded by the regional effects of the Syrian crisis, with neighbouring countries still trying desperately to deal with refugees and violence in Syria. Neighbouring countries that would typically host refugees from Iraq are already overwhelmed by high numbers of refugees from Syria.

Canada should continue to focus on humanitarian needs of displaced communities, including minorities that have been the worst affected, and the host communities caring for them. Food prices continue to rise throughout the region, particularly in Iraq.

Children are disproportionately affected by armed conflict and by displacement. Canada should increase its focus on the welfare for children. Over 70% of internally displaced children remain out of schools across Iraq. Over half a million children between the ages of 6 and 17 are not accessing education services.

What are the immediate needs? They are water, sanitation and hygiene, food security, shelter, health, protection, including psychosocial support and education.

Where can Canada help? The New Democrats have urged the government to boost humanitarian aid in areas where there would be immediate life-saving impact, like building winterized camps for refugees, water, sanitation, hygiene, health and the list goes on.

Seniors March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, every day that the Conservatives fail to produce a budget is another day that they are failing Canadians, especially seniors living in poverty. Introducing a budget is the most basic responsibility of a government, but the Conservatives cannot even manage to do that. Provincial governments are being forced to introduce budgets without any certainty. It is unacceptable and is yet another failure in a decade of Conservative mismanagement.

Canadians are working harder but are falling further behind. Enough is enough. It is time to replace the current Prime Minister, repair the damage he has done, and lift seniors out of poverty. The NDP has a plan to do exactly that. We will return the eligibility age for OAS to 65, increase the GIS to eliminate poverty among seniors, and increase the CPP so that every person can retire in dignity. That is what seniors deserve, and that is what an NDP government will deliver.

Pensions March 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of State for Seniors, because the Conservative government has been absolutely cynical in its treatment of seniors.

According to a recent study from the University of Montreal, raising the age of eligibility for old age security will significantly increase poverty and inequality among Canadian seniors. This will have a serious negative impact on the health and life expectancy of poor seniors.

Will the Minister of State for Seniors stand in her place and tell Canadians why she is insisting on pursuing this offensive policy that will increase poverty and destroy the quality of life for our most vulnerable seniors?

Respect for Communities Act March 13th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I think my Liberal friend would agree that the Conservatives are taking Canada in the wrong direction with this bill. After 10 years in office, we know and we see that the Conservatives have done environmental, social and economic damage to Canada. This bill is just another good example of that happening.

Does the member agree?