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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was actually.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Welland (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2021, with 32% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Wheat Board December 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Wheat Board is now owned by Canadians. It is a public company and its financial statements actually should be made public. Is it losing money? Is it making money? Well, we do not know, because no one on that side will tell anyone.

In addition to keeping the documents secret, the minister will not even confirm or deny that he is going to give this public asset away to a private company.

I have a really simple question for the minister. Will the government make the Wheat Board's financial documents public before it literally gives it away?

Agriculture and Agri-Food December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in 2012 the Conservatives cut one-third of the staff at the Canadian Grain Commission and said there would not be any impact. Well, surprise, there was. There were fewer inspections, and now buyers of Canadian wheat are complaining about under-weight shipments and variable quality. In fact, one foreign-based buyer found 850 kilograms of peas in what was supposed to be a wheat shipment.

Under the minister's watch, the commission cannot get farmers' grain to market, cannot assure the quality of the grain at market, and cannot even deliver the right quantity to the market.

When will the minister stand in his place, apologize to Canadian wheat farmers, and tell them that he intends to make it right and that he will stop failing Canadian farmers in the future?

Agriculture and Agri-food December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Farmers of North America, a group of more than 3,000 Canadian farmer investors, recently offered to buy the Canadian Wheat Board for—get this—about $250 million to $300 million, which they thought it was worth.

The Conservatives rejected the offer. They did not give a reason. They just said no.

Now, we hear the minister will hand over the Wheat Board's assets to the private sector for a grand total of—get this—zero. That is right: nothing, nada, no thank you; just give it away.

I ask a simple question. Why would the Conservative government give away these assets free to multinational corporations instead of simply selling to Canadian farmers and actually gaining a real value for Canadian farmers—

Agriculture and Agri-Food December 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we witnessed last fall what really happened when it came to the rail companies and this government. The government stood tall and said it would be tough with the rail companies. The reality? Grain really did not move. The government said that the fines would be daily, and now they are going to be weekly, so $300,000 a day has became maybe $300,000 a week. Now we find out that they have not fined anyone yet; not one rail company has been fined.

CN did not meet its targets. The government did not hold it to account.

When will the minister stand on her feet and say that the fines have been levied, the fines have been collected, and the government will stand for farmers, because right now it does not?

Agriculture and Agri-Food December 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we now know what the Conservative plan is for the Wheat Board and what it is really all about. The board has assets. It has railcars. It has real estate. It has freighters, but the minister came to the agriculture committee and said that it did not have any assets but is just over-leveraged and in fact is almost bankrupt and does not have any money at all. Then of course, his assistant deputy minister, in the next hour of testimony, said, “Well, not really”. What really is going on is that it is not over-leveraged, and it is actually paying out of its own financials on an ongoing basis.

Clearly, the government has some sort of hidden agenda for the Wheat Board. It intends to sell it off to the lowest bidder, which would give no money back to the public treasury, and worst of all, no money—

Veterans Affairs November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am interested in the industry minister's comment, because Industry Canada has lost $1 billion and cannot tell us where it went. It has no idea where it went. It went to the States? Who knows?

That is just one of many programs. It is a theme across the front bench. They constantly say it is the bureaucrats or it is somebody else's problem, but it is not their problem; they are only ministers. “I'm only the Prime Minister”, he says over there.

At the end of the day, the Auditor General clearly said they are failing veterans. Can someone over there, just anyone, stand up with a little humility and say to veterans across this country, “We are sorry for what happened to you and we will make it better”?

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my friend talked a bit about public research. I would like him to elaborate a bit more. The bill would allow public research with patented material up to a certain level, but not for commercial use. People could not actually commercialize it if they used it. If they could not actually make money from it, and there has been a decrease in public dollars actually going into public research, does the member have any fear or concern that the public research piece of the balance may actually decline? Where does he see it going? Even though they could get the material from a private company, they could not commercialize it, because it would be explicit that it was for non-commercial use.

Does the member see any threat to public research in the sense that there is a lot of stuff to work with but nothing to do? What effect would that have on farmers, ultimately?

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the question; it is actually a very good one.

The organic association, to use an example, had real concerns about what this meant to their members. What we have seen when large corporations do things is that, justifiably, they do them to scale. They do them on a very large scale, and they do very limited numbers because those become the most profitable ones, and so they should. Why would they market something that is less profitable when they can market something that is more profitable? Their shareholders are looking for their company to be more profitable. That is the impact that consumers will see: less choice in the marketplace in the future.

The organic association is not so much concerned that their seeds will necessarily get commingled. It is more that folks now in the seed business may get out of the business because there will be less return through it and they should actually be in something else. There is a big concern that they will see a kind of homogenization and have fewer choices than exist now. There are those who believe the choices could still be there, but it remains to be seen.

Therefore, there is an impact for consumers down the road, and it will not necessarily be a positive one.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from my colleague from the agriculture committee.

This is an omnibus bill, as I maybe should have stated from the beginning, and there are a number of pieces in it. There are things under the Fertilizers Act and things under the advanced payment program, and there are a number of other things in the bill that we New Democrats fundamentally agree with, so my recommendation for my colleagues would have been a totally different one if the bill had been split.

We brought forward the advance payments program, even though the government had to make a major amendment to it, and justifiably so. It was probably the correct amendment, and we actually voted with the Conservatives on it. We would have voted for the advance payments program. It is what farmers actually wanted. The Conservatives heard farmers on that one. I will give them that. That is what we heard from farmers. There were a couple of other bigger groups that wanted an increase in the amount of money, but basically they heard them. On the Fertilizers Act, we would have voted for that one as well. There are big pieces of this bill on which we are in agreement. That is what farmers were saying, and that is what we heard from our witnesses as well.

However, the fundamental piece on which there was the most concern was the Plant Breeders' Rights Act, because that is about intellectual property. It is about who owns the intellectual property of a seed, which is the very life of a plant. That is the beginning of life for a plant. I do not mean to overdo it, but it is. We can buy seeds at Canadian Tire and grow carrots if we want. I would offer up to all of those who have never taken an opportunity to plant a seed and see something grow that they should do that.

Clearly, they want to own the very essence of a plant: the seed. They have won the day on that. The issue was how we balance it out to ensure that both parties who are involved in growing food for us as a nation are on a level playing field. Unfortunately, in this case the big companies won and the farmers, in my view, did not.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my friend from Timmins—James Bay sits on other committees, as many of my colleague do, watching how legislation comes about and whether we can enact changes to it or not.

He is right about farmers' privilege. As I said at the beginning of my speech, there is a difference in language and tone and in how we believe that farmers have a right to save seed versus their belief it is a privilege.

When we raise that with members on the government side, they say that it is the same. Our view is that it is not the same, that there is a significant difference between a privilege and a right. That became abundantly clear when we were going through the legislation. We can see the powers that the minister takes into his own hands when deciding a farmers' privilege on a case-by-case basis. The minister can eliminate some of the privilege of an individual farmer or a group of a farmers. He can say to them that they cannot have that privilege of saving that anymore, because he has decided against it.

It is arbitrary in my view. In our view, that was never the intention of the legislation. At least in civil court, and other areas, and even in the Criminal Code, when taking away someone's right of freedom and sending them to jail, there is due process. This does not give due process. It simply says “By fiat, I am the minister and I am eliminating this particular privilege.”

Even more draconian, the other side of it is that the seed company can now come to the minister on a case-by-case basis and say “Do not register that one. I do not want it registered.” Registration means that when they move on to something else, that may still be out in the marketplace for farmers to have. If all the seed companies make valid arguments and decide against this on a case-by-case basis, it eliminates farmers' ability to have a competitive marketplace,

If the decision is to not register, we will be in a lot of trouble. What will happen is that they will now own all of it. It will not be open, because the registration will be held by the company itself rather than being registered through CFIA. That will be extremely problematic.

I will guarantee that just as sun rises tomorrow morning, they will ask, on a case-by-case basis, to keep that private and not to register certain varieties of seeds as we move forward.