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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was fact.

Last in Parliament April 2010, as NDP MP for Winnipeg North (Manitoba)

Won her last election, in 2008, with 63% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Health November 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have legitimate concerns about how to protect themselves and their children from the H1N1 virus. They are worried, concerned and afraid and they are especially worried about the government, whose plan for pandemic planning went off the rails this past week. Canadians want some answers. They are particularly stunned to watch the rich sail by to get shots at private clinics that they cannot afford.

My first question is, why is the minister allowing our precious supply of H1N1 vaccine—

Retribution on Behalf of Victims of White Collar Crime Act October 23rd, 2009

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. Bloc member for his question. I completely agree.

I will do this in English because it is so complex. The Norbourg scandal that resulted in Quebec's top financial regulator laying 51 security charges against Vincent Lacroix, founder of the investment fund company that bilked over 9,000 people, is a good example of why we need so much more to be done in this field.

The people who were defrauded by Norbourg were luckier than most Canadians. At least they saw some charges laid, but the role of the regulator in this scandal is also being examined. The role of l'Autorité des marchés financiers is part of an ongoing class action suit. Investors are claiming the regulator failed to stop the fraud.

What we are saying today is that it is time for a federal government that takes seriously these issues, that works with the provinces and not against the provinces, and tries to put in place a system with teeth, with legal and judicial changes that are absolutely necessary to effect the kind of change that my colleague is asking for.

Retribution on Behalf of Victims of White Collar Crime Act October 23rd, 2009

Madam Speaker, I certainly agree with my colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, in his call for efforts to crack down on fraudsters who bilk Canadians of their hard-earned dollars and who make personal gain by the extensive use of tax havens.

My point throughout this whole debate has been that the government needs to do much more than this little effort under Bill C-52, however significant it is. Many of the experts in the country today wonder whether the new legislation would be more effective than the current regime.

Eric Gottardi, a Vancouver criminal lawyer who is part of the Canadian Bar Association's criminal justice section, said:

I don't think it's going to have a significant impact. It's really a codification of existing principles. The reality is, it actually doesn't change much in how the law operates right now.

The experts say that a fraud of more than $1 million already earns a criminal a two year sentence in almost every case, and the newly announced list of factors that judges need to take into account when sentencing fraudsters is already part of the process. The list includes paying attention to the financial and psychological impact of the fraud, whether the offender broke licensing rules and standards, and the complexity of the scheme involved.

Others have said that the government misses the point. "It's pathetic," said Toronto-based forensic accountant Al Rosen. "The main issue is, no one is out there to chase those people in the first place".

That is really why I say the government has to go much beyond this. It must bring in a corporate Canada accountability bill. It must move on white collar crime in all of its aspects. It must ensure that we actually stand up for Canadians who have lost so much in the past and could be victims again unless we bring a comprehensive approach to the table.

Retribution on Behalf of Victims of White Collar Crime Act October 23rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate and indicate, as others have, our support for Bill C-52. We acknowledge that it is a step in the right direction by the fact that it sets a mandatory minimum sentence of two years for people convicted under section 380 and it takes measures to deal with widespread and rampant white collar crime in our society today.

However, like others have said in the debate, where is the rest of the strategy? Where is the meat that will really crack down on corporate and white collar crime? Why has the government been so slow to take this step? Why is it limiting its other actions on the question of a national securities regulator when what this country needs is a complete strategy dealing with white collar crime, and a corporate Canada accountability act.

That is my suggestion to the House today and it is something New Democrats have proposed in the past. I would urge the government to consider going beyond this tiny move in the right direction and consider comprehensive measures that Canadians are so desperate for.

The debate makes us all ask whether we are talking about good cops, bad cops or just no cops, which is the problem with respect to white collar crime. We know the situation is very serious. It has been estimated that Canadians lose billions of dollars annually to white collar crime. Canadians have said, time and time again to the current government and the previous government, that they want action in this regard. They have actually said, through significant polling, that white collar crime is at the top of their minds when it comes to crime in this country today. Recent polling has suggested that Canadians rank economic crime at the top of the list of other crimes. In fact, 67% of Canadians said that economic crime was their number one issue when it came to crime. That ranks just ahead of gang violence at 66%, gun crime at 54%, organized crime at 54% and terrorism at 14%. We can see very clearly that this is an issue that Canadians want government to do something about as quickly as possible.

For many Canadians, the bill today, no matter how significant a step, is really too little too late. I do not need to tell the House how many Canadians have been victims of white collar crime. We have been calling for action on this for a long time and so little has been done.

Twelve years ago, Canadians were shocked to learn the sordid details of a too good to be true deal gone bad. Hon. members will remember the Bre-X scandal. It rang the alarm bells. Thousands of investors saw millions of dollars lost overnight as a corporate hoax was revealed. Did we learn from that? No. What followed was Magnex, Livent, Corel, CINAR, Cartaway, Golden Rule, Castor Holdings, Norbourg, Portus, Nortel, Conrad Black, Bernie Madoff, and the list goes on and on.

Investigations are launched, but very seldom are people put behind bars and criminal charges upheld. This is not right, obviously, for these are not victimless crimes. It is truly an urgent issue for Canadians and it is time for the government to come forward with a complete set of strategies and policies to protect investors and employees.

Back in 2004, the Governor of the Bank of Canada used the term “wild west” to describe Canadian financial regulations. I think that was an appropriate description of what was happening all around us. He, along with many others, called for government to do something about the wild west and to put in place measures that would bring some order to the wild west and, in fact, to hire a sheriff to get the job done.

Every other country in the G8 has done something to deal with corporate crime and introduce sweeping accountability rules, every one except Canada. It is time to do something about this issue and bring in rules for investors. It is time to protect employees who blow the whistle on corporate fraud. It is time, after years of Liberal neglect and Conservative indifference, to bring in rules that will reduce corporate crime and white collar crime in Canada.

I have a few suggestions to make, and this is consistent with our previous announcement for having a corporate Canada accountability act.

The first point I want to make has to do with the regulatory field. As the member for Elmwood—Transcona mentioned in his question, I do not think it is good enough to simply call for a national securities regulator without the rest of the pieces of the puzzle in place. It ignores the fact that many provinces, in the absence of any kind of federal leadership, filled that vacuum with their own initiatives. The passport system actually took off and is now active across this country.

We do not need a national securities regulator in this country. We need a Canadian body that coordinates provincial securities regulators and brings a unified response to this whole area. A pan-Canadian approach is needed. Forget the challenges to the Supreme Court. Forget the bullying in this House. Let us start to do something about the whole package that is required and not one single issue, either in terms of a national securities regulator or, in the case of this bill, one particular move with respect to the Criminal Code.

Second, we need new accounting oversight committees and independent auditors. They should be legislated, similar to what happened in the United States and Australia as a result of the Enron scandal. Canadian executives should face new provisions for disclosure to shareholders and changes in law to ensure that independent board members are truly independent.

We also need to fight for Canadian workers and businesses. We recommend that the government bring in much more stringent whistleblower protection and apply the regulations that we now have and enhance them so that there are new rules for corporate perks.

Yesterday in the United States, we saw President Obama stand up to the automobile executives who are ripping off consumers and turning to the government for a handout, all the while flying in their private jets and flitting off to exotic summer retreats. Finally, someone in this world has stood up to that kind of ripoff and corporate crime and has said that enough is enough. That is what we need to do in this country.

Finally, as part of this overall plan, we need to ensure that Canada is no longer known as a place where people can squirm away from corporate fraud. We need to put in place the right provisions to police the financial wild west. That means an increased and independent mandate for the RCMP integrated market enforcement team, bringing in international standards in Canadian corporate accounting and law, and an examination of new laws to prevent non-compete payments.

We have been through Bre-X. We have been through Nortel. Just yesterday, people gathered on the steps of the Parliament buildings to express their deepest concerns and cries for help because their life savings have been lost as a part of the Nortel sale. That company had previously squandered public moneys and had been ordered to pay $2.7 billion back in 2006 to shareholders as a result of a lawsuit under U.S. securities law.

In the United States, there is the Sarbanes-Oxley law, which actually has the teeth to crack down on white collar crime. We in this country need something similar that approaches this issue from a comprehensive point of view. We need corporate accountability. For too long, Canadian investors and companies playing by the rules have shouldered the burden of fraud. Ordinary Canadians lose big because of corporate fraud and cooked books, and the prosperity gap only widens.

Let us begin today with a campaign for fairness in the markets and for a corporate Canada accountability act to ensure that the government and the ministers responsible admit the problems and help Parliament fix it. We cannot do nothing at this point. The government knows that it can take this kind of commitment from us to the bank.

Petitions October 23rd, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to table a petition regarding Canada's access to medicines regime.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to support my private member's bill, Bill C-393, that proposes changes to this regime to make it possible for generic drugs to flow more effectively, efficiently and quickly to countries in need, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

They want this to happen because 14,000 people die every day from diseases, such as HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, diseases that are preventable if these countries were to have access to medicines that we take for granted in this country.

Health October 23rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure how we tell the difference between Conservatives and Liberals on this critical issue.

This year actually marks the 25th anniversary of the Canada Health Act, but it is in danger due to years of government neglect and lack of funding.

The report, “Eroding Public Medicare”, also found evidence that wait times are highest in areas with the most privatized clinics. Canada's health care system is regarded as an example of public focused patient-oriented care.

Why is the Conservative government following the Liberals' lead in continuing the erosion of medicare?

Health October 23rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, currently across Canada there are 42 for profit MRI and CT clinics, 72 for profit surgical clinics, and 16 boutique physician clinics.

In the groundbreaking study, “Eroding Public Medicare”, evidence was found to suspect 89 possible violations of the Canada Health Act in five provinces, including selling two-tier health care and billing patients extra for medically necessary services.

The number of private clinics has been growing steadily since the big cuts to health care in the 1990s. Will the government act on its promise to fix health care and enforce the Canada Health Act?

Criminal Code October 22nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill. I think I speak for all of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, although this is private members' hour, that I sense a consensus in this chamber and a great deal of support for the initiative that is before us.

It would only be appropriate to acknowledge the hard work of Senator Grafstein, who has been promoting and who initiated this bill many years ago. It has taken quite a number of years to get to this point due to various elections, prorogations, starts and stops, and here we are in 2009 with a bill that would make a difference in terms of sending a clear message to the world that this country stands firmly against terrorism and does so by way of suggesting that suicide bombing represents a terrorist act.

Some would argue that is redundant, that in fact there is legislation that already covers that. Some would suggest that we do not really need this bill because it is covered. As Senator Grafstein himself has said, this bill would send a clear message of abhorrence and condemnation to those who would praise, plan or incite suicide bombing against innocent citizens.

Sometimes that is as important as anything else we do in this place. Whether this is redundant or not is beside the point. It matters because it would send a very strong, clear message that we in this House, representing Canadians from all walks of life, stand together against any expression of terrorism, specifically with respect to suicide bombers.

We know, by all accounts, that we are dealing with a very serious threat on a regular basis. I will quote from Senator Grafstein's speech that he made in February of this year, in which he said:

Suicide bombing has become an all too frequent practice in many countries throughout the world. Thousands of civilians are killed and maimed to advance a cause based on falsely implanted expectations of glory and martyrdom. We say no cause can justify suicide bombing.

He went on to say:

Bill S-206 aims beyond those who strap explosives to their bodies and look where they can cause maximum pain, suffering, death and dismemberment. It will help focus on those who promote terrorism by teaching, organizing and financing the killers in the name of ill-conceived ideology, distorted belief or abhorrent political conviction. The amendment will assist law enforcement agencies to pursue the individuals promoting this heinous tactic.

That says it all. We do not need long debates on this matter. It is just so obvious that we all need to be behind this effort. What we need to do today is give a clear voice, as soon as this debate is over, that we agree with this bill and have it become law as soon as possible. We can then use the moment to actually talk about some of the other initiatives that need to happen in this regard.

On that basis, I would like to also acknowledge the work of other groups and individuals who have been trying to find ways to stem terrorism in our society today. I would mention the work of the Canadian Coalition Against Terror and the work of Danny Eisen, Sheryl Saperia and Maureen Basnicki who, as all of us know, have been active on this Hill advancing other ideas with respect to terrorism and trying very hard to develop ways to combat terror financing and, by extension, terrorism itself. There is another initiative on that front coming from the Senate that we also should look at very seriously and ensure its hasty passage.

With respect to the bill at hand, Senator Grafstein has worked for many years in collaboration with many individuals who have been part of this group called Canadians Against Suicide Bombing. As we know, there have been five previous prime ministers who have supported this initiative and we know that other major leaders of high public profile in this country also support this bill. I think particularly of my former leader, Ed Broadbent, who has been very much in favour of this approach and very much onside with this initiative.

Let us take this moment to congratulate Senator Grafstein for pursuing this over many years. Let us ensure that we do what is only right and what reflects Canadians' values. Let us ensure the bill's hasty passage.

Health October 6th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the minister would suggest experts like Dr. Joanne Langley of Dalhousie University and Dr. Neil Rau, an infectious disease expert, are wrong and that she is right. What Canadians would hope is that she would stop this mantra of “trust us, don't worry, be happy”, start to clear up the confusion that is out there and come clean with Canadians.

The best thing she could do is tell Canadians that she is calling for a meeting in her office today of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Medical Association and the College of Family Physicians of Canada. She could do that today and clear up—

Health October 6th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I do not think the Minister of Health really appreciates just how concerned Canadians are in the face of such confusing, conflicting advice and information. The best thing the Minister of Health could do today is to tell us how she responds to those scientists who have said, very clearly, that the vaccine to be safely tested and available for all Canadians will take until at least late in November to the beginning of December. That is totally in contradiction to what the minister is saying.

Could she clarify how a safe vaccine will be available in—