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

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns January 26th, 2015

With regard to the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor): what are the total annual expenditures, for each fiscal year from 2004-2005 to the present, for (a) the Northern Ontario Development Program; (b) the Community Futures Program; (c) the Economic Development Initiative; (d) the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund; (e) general administration; and (f) any other temporary or permanent program or service delivered by the FedNor during this time period that is not listed above?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns January 26th, 2015

With regard to Veterans’ Affairs Canada offices: how many clients have been served each year from 2006 to 2014 inclusively in each Veterans Affairs Canada office (excluding Service Canada locations, Operational Stress Injury clinics, and Integrated Personnel Support Centres), including the nine recently closed offices in Thunder Bay, Sydney, Charlottetown, Corner Brook, Windsor, Brandon, Saskatoon, Kelowna, and Prince George?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns January 26th, 2015

With regard to the Department of Veterans Affairs: how many clients were served each year from 2010 to 2014 inclusively at each Veterans Affairs office location, including the nine offices that have recently closed?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to creating any sort of park, whether it is municipal, provincial, or national, we should not look at it in a backward fashion. In other words, we should not look at creating parks in terms of what the minimum is that we can possibly do to create one and still get some political credit for doing it. This is about politics, as well; do not get me wrong.

Rather than that kind of attitude going into the creation of these wilderness spaces, perhaps the real question should be how we can make this large enough to ensure the ecological integrity of the whole park and the whole region.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that strikes me about this park, and one of the things that is really lacking, is the whole issue of protecting watersheds and everything that goes into those watersheds.

Members may not know, but just south of my riding, in northern Minnesota, not very far from my riding, there are three North American watersheds that meet. There are always commercial interests that want to shift water from one watershed to another or want to divert water from one watershed to another.

While I am no scientist, I do know that moving water from one watershed to another watershed is something that should not be done.

Protecting watersheds, just like in this park, is most important

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time.

Bill S-5 would create a national park in the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories. For geographical reference, the region is centred around the Mackenzie River and stretches towards the Yukon boundary with an incredibly beautiful mountain range and the magnificent wilderness of the Northwest Territories.

I had the pleasure some years ago to live in the Northwest Territories for a number of years. I can tell members that when I say the “magnificent wilderness of the Northwest Territories”, indeed that is what it is.

I guess we could think of this park perhaps as a Christmas present for the Sahtu Dene of the Northwest Territories, but there is a Scrooge there too, and I would like to talk about the Scrooge.

There were three options that were set out for the park. Option 1 was a total area of 6,450 square kilometres. It was developed to best protect conservation values while providing an open area around the existing mineral interests. Option 2 was a total of 5,770 square kilometres, which diminished the achievement of conservation goals and allowed more mineral potential to be available. Option 3, which is the one that was chosen by the Conservatives, was the smallest proposal, with a total area of 4,840 square kilometres.

Not everybody was happy with that third option. I will read a quote from Alison Woodley, the national conservation director for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, or CPAWS. She said:

Creating a new national park in Canada is always welcome news. But this boundary does not reflect the extensive scientific evidence of what’s needed to protect the ecological integrity of the Nahanni watershed, nor does it reflect the overwhelming support that was expressed for protecting the Nahanni headwaters during the public consultations.

That is just one example.

I do not want members to get the idea that we do not support national parks. Of course we support the creation of parks, but we question the government's motives, and we have some concern with the size of the park, including the omission of vital caribou breeding grounds and the lack of protection for source waters for the Nahanni River.

Section 16 of the Sahtu Dene and Métis Comprehensive Land Claim agreement sets out the terms and conditions for the establishment of a national park in the Sahtu settlement area. Included in these terms and conditions are several clauses for review of the plans for the park after a period of not more than 10 years. I say this because whichever government replaces this particular one next year will have a responsibility to ensure that this plan is reviewed as it moves forward. In fact, these sorts of plans should be like the veterans charter, for example. They should be living documents that continually get looked at.

Another person who was not very happy with the option chosen for the park was Stephen Kakfwi, the former premier of the Northwest Territories. He is quite disappointed in the way the boundary lines were drawn. He said in an interview that the Prime Minister is protecting the mining interests more than environmental interests. I will quote directly from an interview on August 23, 2012:

He’s taken the heart right out of it. The middle of it is carved out, so that mining can happen, dead center in the middle of this proposed national park.

There is another Scrooge here, and I use “Scrooge” in particular because, quite frankly, creating national parks is an empty gesture if there is no funding to go along with it.

In December 2013, the Toronto Star reported that there is an almost $3 billion backlog in deferred maintenance in Parks Canada. Of course, budget cuts have had a huge impact. Budget cuts have led to a 33% staffing cut in science in Parks Canada, which means that 60 out of 179 positions have been eliminated.

Add the 2013-14 budget announcement of spending on infrastructure in parks, and the picture is even more bleak. This year, meaning 2014, the government will spend on national parks—remember, I just said there is a $3-billion backlog in infrastructure—$1 million.

The government can create all the parks it wants, but without funding and careful protection of the ecological integrity of this, and of all national parks, the designation is relatively meaningless when we speak in terms of conservation.

Let me finish with a quote from our member for the Northwest Territories. He was speaking on the funding for national parks, in the House of Commons. He stated:

Across the entire north, there have been sacrifices on a number of occasions with national parks. What have we seen out of that? We saw the loss of over 64 positions throughout the three northern territories. The three northern territories carry 12 national parks in Canada. Twelve of the 44 national parks in Canada are in those three territories. The commitment of the people of the north to national parks is large.

Veterans December 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives said they needed to cut jobs at Veterans Affairs Canada, even while we hear from the Auditor General that the system is failing. Yet, the Conservatives have fired almost one-quarter of all Veterans Affairs staff.

The parliamentary secretary just a moment ago said that it is important to reduce bureaucratic expenses. Now the Conservatives want us to believe that their top 60 bureaucrats actually needed half a million dollars in bonuses. I guess that is not a bureaucratic expense.

It is nonsense. Why did they not use that money to actually help veterans?

National Fiddling Day Act November 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order arising out of question period.

I misspoke when I said the government had returned $7.5 million to the treasury last year from FedNor. What I really meant to say was that $11 million has been returned over the last four years, along with a $30 million cut to the FedNor budget.

I apologize to the minister for my lack of mathematical skills.

Regional Economic Development November 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, people in my region rely on FedNor, but I was shocked to learn that the total lapsed spending at FedNor, money that was approved by Parliament but not utilized, is in the millions of dollars. Last year alone, the Conservatives spent $7.5 million less than planned on FedNor's main fund.

Given our economic challenges in northern Ontario and the need for development in the Ring of Fire, here is an easy question. Why did the minister return the money approved by Parliament to the treasury?

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act November 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am supporting this bill at second reading. It is important to refer the bill to committee because some amendments should be made to the bill, and the committee should hopefully take care of that and then bring it back to the House.

Let me just outline that very quickly with a little background.

The bill is a resumption of a bill that was tabled in 2010, which we also voted on at the time. The bill would require that before soliciting bids for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal immovables and federal real property, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services give preference to the concept that promotes the use of wood, while taking into account factors such as cost and greenhouse gas emissions.

I say “amendments” because I am not entirely happy with the wording of the bill where it says “give preference to”. I believe there is a better way to say this, perhaps “compare materials” or something of the kind. I certainly hope there will be some amendments to the bill.

The important part of this bill is not only the use of wood, and I will talk about why that is important in Canada. The government could save money with this bill, using more wood in the construction and repairs of federal buildings.

A life-cycle cost analysis produced by the U.S. defense department some years ago demonstrated that wooden structures cost 40% less per square foot than steel or masonry structures. Construction cost was 37% less for wood. Operation and maintenance costs were 55% less for wood than for other materials. This would help not only our wood industry, particularly the specialty wood industry.

When we think of forest products and the use of wood, and a lot of people think of 2x4s and maybe pulp for pulpwood, and if we are to make our forest industry as diverse as possible, let us think of the construction of buildings, of beams, of curved beams, of the sorts of main parts of structures of buildings where we could find new uses for forest products.

I want to briefly mention what has happened to the forest industry in the last number of years. I will go through some facts and figures because it is very instructive. I will talk about direct employment in our forest industry, meaning those who actually work with the wood. It is usually indicated in the forest industry that for every direct job there are three indirect jobs, so we can extrapolate how important these jobs are, have been and were to Canada, and what we have lost in the meantime.

In general, since 2008, with the big downturn in Canada and the rest of the world, we have lost 30% of its forestry jobs. The hardest-hit provinces were: Quebec, where the losses were 32.3% in direct jobs, and I am not talking about indirect jobs because that would be much more; Ontario, 34.2%; and British Columbia, 29.7%. All of the provinces had a loss. Newfoundland and Labrador had a net loss of 55.8% of its forest industry.

It is incumbent on us in Ottawa to ask how we can move forward with a very vibrant forest industry, which we have and have had, and help to ensure that forest products are used to their fullest extent and with their best possible uses. This bill would go a small way in that direction.

I like to think that the forest industry has perhaps bottomed out in terms of job losses. In my riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River, in Fort Frances, the mill closed two years ago and is now going to be completely shuttered, and these losses still continue. In fact. in northern Ontario, if I remember my figures correctly, we lost 44,000 forestry jobs. That was more than half the forestry jobs that we had in northern Ontario. It was a huge loss. That is one of the reasons I am supporting this bill at second reading.

It is important to note that in Canada the national codes, the federal codes, allow for the safe use of wood while providing occupants appropriate protection from fire, earthquakes, or storms, so if people are thinking that wood will not do the job that concrete will do, for example, they should know that it can do the same job.

A bill with these amendments that I was talking about would just make sure that when there is a federal building project, wood would be considered. The bill is not binding. The purpose is really to establish that wood is one of the options available and should be considered.

Annual sales of Canadian forest products are about $57 billion and represent about 12% of Canada's manufacturing GDP. Even with these huge job losses across the country, the forestry sector is still one of the country's biggest employers. It has activities in more than 200 forestry communities. Many of them are in northern Ontario, but others stretch right across Canada. Two hundred communities depend on forestry to provide their tax base, to provide employment, and to make these communities vibrant.

I want to talk about Quebec very briefly. The wood charter has been adopted so that managers of public projects can systematically evaluate the option of using wood in producing a comparative analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions of materials. I think it is important to note that wood compares favourably with other building materials, such as steel and concrete, which consume 26% to 34% more energy and emit 57% to 81% more greenhouse gases than wood. As well, on average each cubic metre of wood captures one tonne of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

We can think of it in environmental terms. I talked about cost and I talked about environmental terms, and wood just simply makes sense.

It is important for us in this place to show that we support forestry workers right across this country and that we support the use of local products, provided these products comply with the standards in effect across this country. We want the government to make judicious choices by giving consideration to life cycle and cost analysis when considering wood.

By the way, the government already has a policy on leadership in energy and environmental design. It is called LEED certification. It is a rating system recognized as the international brand of excellence for green buildings.

In any number of areas, the use of wood is something that should be considered. I will be supporting this bill at second reading, hoping to get it to committee where we will see an amendment or two that will make this bill even better and perhaps more palatable in this place. I will be following this bill very closely and, quite frankly, so will Canadians in 200 forest communities right across this country.