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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 2019, with 27% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act February 4th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member for Windsor West to address the impact of the Navistar truck contract on his community and surrounding area, because not all those folks actually live in Chatham. When a situation of that magnitude impacts a city, a county and a community, it is a shame that we did not rectify it when we had the opportunity. As the hon. member said, a $250 million contract for trucks for our armed forces being built in Texas rather than Ontario just does not seem to work out well.

The member's riding is in Windsor, which is in close proximity geographically to Chatham. I would like him to comment on what happens to a community when it loses hundreds of well-paying jobs. What happens to United Way organizations in those communities? What happens to the non-profit organizations in those communities? What happens to the kids who want to play hockey or ringette or gymnastics whose parents no longer have the ability to fund those activities?

Perhaps my hon. colleague could comment on that.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act February 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is we need a carve-out and all it takes is courage on behalf of parliamentarians to simply say that we will carve it out.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act February 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that ships move things, and I guess vehicles do as well. Twenty-five percent of $130 million is somewhere akin to about $35 million, give or take $100,000.

We have seen trade treaties and tariff things eliminated before. The argument is always that it is over an extended period of time. The shipbuilders' association and the marine workers are saying that they understand it is over a period of time. They are asking for a re-training program and the opportunity to do what the Norwegians did for the same 20 years that we did not do, which is an industrial policy that talks about marine workers in the shipyards.

If the government were to do that and give them the same opportunities that Norway gave its yards, we probably might accept that trade-off. However, it seems to me that this is not what it is proposing. We are going to eliminate the duty and tariffs, and it will go. It reminds me of the auto pact. It did the same thing there. Ask me how the Big Three are doing today.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act February 2nd, 2009

Perhaps there might be if the money flows, Mr. Speaker, but then again the government has to ensure it does not cancel this one. Ultimately, we need to build up those abilities again.

The hon. member mentioned that we had to build these things overseas because we did not have the ability anymore. The reason we do not have the ability is because you let it slide away. You allowed those skills to erode. You did not give those workers the ability to work. You need to take some of your training money and reinvest in those workers and those yards—

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act February 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the government cancelled a lot of the programs. The government might reinstate them at some point, but right now they are not there. I looked at the budget and the amount of money that was allocated to build two new defence ships. The government cancelled the program because it said that it was too expensive. The government decided not to build them, so at this point they are not being built.

Even the Canadian Shipbuilding Association says that it is a shadow of its former self. The shipyards left in the St. Catharines area are not robust. In fact, just a year ago the port Welland dry dock had nobody in it because there were no boats to build and no repairs to make—

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act February 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, this trade agreement reminds me of the old adage that if one does not pay attention to history, one is bound to repeat it. It seems that in this case we may be repeating a mistake that was made not that long ago and many miles away. It reminds me of what happened in the dry docks in the U.K., which faced similar unfair competition. Hundreds of those dry dock workers came to work in the dry docks in this country which at that time were flourishing. Indeed, this country recruited those workers in the hundreds because of their skills and the value they could bring to our country's dry docks.

I remember that all too well. I was a youngster at the time and my father was one of those workers who came to this country as a dry dock worker. He was a shipwright by trade. Those who know the marine industry know the types of skills that entails. He brought his family here and obviously we stayed.

We left the U.K. because the dry dock in Clydeside where he had a job, while it had been there for over a century was going and is now gone. In fact the remaining piece on the Clydeside is a crane. On that crane is a large plaque commemorating the lives and the work of those shipyard workers who built those ships. It would be a shame if this country were to build that last crane and place a plaque on it in memory of all those shipyard workers in this country who have gone before and there would be no more again.

That is why it is so important as we consider this bill that we look at the parts that affect the shipbuilding industry and those highly skilled and valued marine workers who work in the shipyards day in and day out. They provide services to us. They build coast guard vessels, and hopefully soon will build Department of National Defence ships, provided that the government decides to do it here.

Quite often the United States is held in esteem by many nations throughout the world as being a country to look up to, a country to emulate, and a country that has great ideas. I agree with that. In fact the U.S. had a great idea called the Jones act. That act talks about U.S. ships that will be built with U.S. money, that will be built by U.S. workers in U.S. shipyards. It seems like a great idea, especially when using taxpayers' dollars.

All too often Canadians think that we do not spend their hard-earned taxpayers' dollars as wisely as we could. I guarantee that if we spent those hard-earned dollars that Canadians entrust to us on building ships, they would thank us. They would say that it was a wise investment, a good choice, an excellent idea.

We are entering into a trade agreement with countries like Norway. Norway has developed a strategy, and good for it. Norway should do what it has done over the last 20 years. Norway's shipyards are flourishing, efficient and well stocked with skilled workers.

During that same period of time we ignored our shipyards. We let them decline to the point that today one-third of the shipyards in this country operate at one-third capacity. That is a shame.

My riding of Welland encompasses more than the city of Welland. It encompasses Port Colborne. Almost half the Welland canal runs through my riding. The history of shipbuilding along that canal goes back to the 1800s. We want to see a flourishing shipyard industry in this country where marine workers are proud to build ships that fly Canadian flags.

What we are looking for is a policy that asks, what is wrong with Canadian workers? Why do we not want to invest in those Canadian workers? Why do we not want Canadian workers to build Canadian ships?

It amazes me, as someone who is new to this House, that every now and again it seems that we forget why we are here. Canadians sent us here to advance what they wanted to have advanced for them. If we went to a dry dock today, and I have not been to one in a while, during the election campaign, but I would be more than happy to go back, I believe those marine workers would say that they want us to spend that money on Canadian yards, on Canadian workers, building Canadian ships here, not in Norway. I think we would find, regardless of which political party we belong to, that those workers indeed would say that.

The simple matter is that that investment multiplies itself through an economy. If we had decided to tender that defence ship rather than saying it was going to cost us a few pennies more, we could have had that investment go in as part of a stimulus package that would actually help those dry dock workers and those communities flourish. Unfortunately, that has not happened.

My father first got hired in a place called Collingwood. Many members many not remember that Collingwood actually had a shipyard. We used to be able to look down its main street and we could see this great big ship at the end of the street. It looked like it was parked on the street, but indeed there was a dry dock there.

Across this land there were many places where there were dry docks. Unfortunately, too many of them have closed. It seems to me that what we ought to do is make sure that not one more yard closes in this country, and one of the ways to do that is to ensure that we invest and make sure that we actually put those workers back to work, building a fleet of ships that not only would they be proud of but this country would be proud of, and that would emulate the best in the world.

I have absolutely no doubt that we would build anything but the best. Our workers are the most highly skilled, and given a level playing field, can be the most competitive and efficient in the world. What they need is an opportunity. With this particular bill, those workers are not going to be given that opportunity.

It is amazing the folks that actually talk about getting an opportunity. Some inside the Shipbuilders Association would say, “Perhaps we ought to just let it go”, but that is a defeatist attitude. That is not the attitude of Canadian workers. Canadian workers do not have a defeatist attitude. In fact, Canadian workers are very optimistic. All we need to do is have some faith in those workers and put some investment in those workers, and indeed we would be building some of the finest ships, if not the finest ships, the world has ever seen. One of our friends in the association said:

--we're very good friends with them, and we don't mind doing that, but now we feel that they're putting the boots to us. Not only do they want us to buy their equipment, they want to build the ships in Norway, put their own equipment on them, and then send them to Canada. I think the government has to think a long time before it does that.

Why would he say that? There is more to a ship than just simply building a hull. There is all manner of instrumentation and high technology. Depending upon where it goes, if it goes into the oil fields, in the offshore, it becomes a very intricate piece of equipment that requires a great deal of technology. That type of technology is extremely important to this economy. We do not want to have that type of technology leave this country, since it is our offshore that these ships will be working in. I am sure our offshore workers on those drilling platforms would really want to see a Canadian ship, built by Canadians and flying a Canadian flag, heading out toward them as they work that platform.

What it also would do is make sure that we protect those jobs. When we talk about the Jones act, it has been in place since 1920. That is a long time. It will soon have its centennial anniversary of 100 years. Yet, it has never been repealed. It has never really ever been challenged, not under NAFTA, not under WTO. It just exists. Everyone acknowledges it. Everyone accepts it. Yet, when it comes time to protect Canadian workers, we cannot find the courage to have an exception for our workers, but we are quite happy to turn a blind eye, nudge, nudge, wink, wink and say it is “Only America, it is okay, let it be”.

It seems to me that we ought to have the same legislation here. We could call it whatever we want, Jones 2 if we like, but at least we ought to have an equal playing field. We would like to see a structured financial facility, an accelerated capital cost allowance for the industry, and an effective buy Canada policy for all government procurements.

When one looks at this sense of procurement, what does it really mean? It means spending hard earned taxpayers' dollars that we collect in Canada. The net beneficiary of course of collecting that money and spending it here would ultimately be the Canadian taxpayer who actually paid it in the first place. Some might say, “That might cost us a bit more”. Indeed, it might. Perhaps it will cost us $1.05 when we might have been able to buy it for $1.

However, it seems to me if we spent that $1.05 on a Canadian worker, that Canadian worker has to repatriate some of his money back in the form of taxes and that $1.05 that it cost indeed might only cost 85¢ by the time the 20¢ is paid back in taxes. Ultimately, we are 15¢ ahead on the $1. It seems like a bargain. Then again, I am not an economist.

I am just the member for the riding of Welland who remembers as a child all those boats being built and all those workers being employed. Now he sees the service facilities in his riding working at less than half capacity and in some cases shut down for periods of time, and has not seen a new ship built in those yards in a great number of years and would ultimately like to see that.

As my colleague from Nova Scotia said earlier, there is about $22 billion that needs to be put into infrastructure in the marine industry. It seems to me there is not a yard across the country that would not be busy if indeed we did that.

Unfortunately, we are not doing that. We are letting these yards dry up as if it does not matter, as if someone else will do it for us, and indeed they will. But when we no longer have the capacity to do it and someone else does, we are at the mercy of them and what they wish to charge us when we need those ships to go to those drilling platforms, to assist those workers, to resupply them, and to do all the necessary things that those rigs will need.

It would be a shame if indeed what we thought would be an effective trade deal turned out to be an expensive one for Canadians because we ended up not keeping a shipyard business.

Shipyards go back a long way and a lot further back than just the story I recounted as a youngster coming to this country with my parents. Shipyard building for a marine nation such as ours goes back hundreds of years. In fact, it was marine nations that actually were able to send ships here in the first place that ended up meeting the first nations of this country all those hundreds of years ago. It seems to me that what happened at that point was those marine nations understood the type of infrastructure that was here when it came to lumber and indeed created the marine industry that has lasted all those generations.

We need to continue to build on that. Andrew McArthur from the Shipbuilding Association of Canada and Irving Shipbuilding said:

So our position from day one has been that shipbuilding should be carved out from the trade agreement. We butted our heads against a brick wall for quite a number of years on that and we were told there is no carve-out. If the Americans, under the Jones Act, can carve out shipbuilding from NAFTA and other free trade agreements, as I believe the Americans are doing today with Korea, or have done, why can Canada not do the same?

It seems to me that is an extremely relevant question. Why can Canada not do that? We have the power in the House to do that. Even for someone who has been here for such a short period of time, I think it is day 16, but it seems to me that is what we are empowered to do. We actually have, as Mr. McArthur said, the power to do that. What a novel thought, that we would actually enact, take that sense of urgency that marine and other workers across this country are giving to us and say we have to act on behalf of them. The Americans did. Why would we choose not to? If it is good enough for American workers all those years ago in 1920, surely to goodness in 2009 it is good enough for Canadians. So I would ask the government to look at carving it out.

As my colleague said earlier, this is not a bad total trade agreement. There is just a piece on shipbuilding that does not fit what Canadian workers need to have. We want to carve the shipbuilding piece out. Let us do what other nations have done. They have ultimately, over the years, done similar things and there is no reason why we cannot do the same.

Since the power is in our hands, proverbially as they say, that is the thing I have learned in the House, then why not utilize it? Why not indeed act upon it? That would be a novel thought for the House to protect Canadian workers at a time when they are most vulnerable, at a time where we can actually do something for them. They would say to us that we made the right choice, a great decision, and indeed had an effect on their lives, not only theirs from a personal perspective, but their families, their communities and ultimately this country. That would be a magical moment for a new person in the House like me, to actually say, when I leave this place, that we made a difference in the lives of Canadians. This is our opportunity.

It would be a shame for us to let that opportunity pass because ultimately we will be held to account for those opportunities that we let pass. I do not necessarily mean in elections. Ultimately, we have to look at what we have done as a lifetime of work for our fellow citizens, our communities and our country. That is the test we hold ourselves to when we make a difference, not whether to get re-elected, but whether we made a difference for Canadians. This is an ample opportunity to make that difference.

I would ask the government and my colleagues on the opposition benches to take a hard look at this piece of legislation and take the opportunity to act on behalf of Canadian workers, just like the Americans did with the Jones act, and exempt this piece on shipbuilding, so that it defends shipbuilding workers in Canada and allows them to get back on equal footing.

Employment Insurance Act February 2nd, 2009

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-279, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (amounts not included in earnings).

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague from Acadie--Bathurst for seconding this bill.

The purpose of this bill is to ensure that those hard-working Canadians who have been working all the time and are indeed entitled to severance pay, keep that severance pay. At a moment in time when every penny counts for hard-working Canadian families when they are laid off, it needs to continue to be in their hands. To take that money away from them before they are eligible to collect employment insurance is a travesty.

It is an insurance plan that workers and their employers have paid into. It is not the benevolence of government that gives them money. It is their money that they are actually repatriating to themselves.

The workers in my constituency of Welland are extremely hard hit by this economic downturn. In fact, this very day, Lakeside Steel has laid off 84 more workers and is closed for the entire week. Before all of their savings are gone, workers ought to be entitled to employment insurance, and their severance packages and their pensions ought to be secure.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

The Budget January 28th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am interested in my colleague's comments concerning employment insurance, especially as it relates to the transition and training fund as proposed in the Conservative budget yesterday. It is an awfully big number, $8.3 billion. However, when one starts to look at that number and breaks it out, over half of it goes to those who already work. There are $4.5 billion in the fund to ensure that EI premiums will not go up for the next two years.

If one is working, one does not collect employment insurance. That also includes employers that pay into the fund. They will get a holiday as far as the premiums are concerned, whereas that money could been have targeted towards those who do not work. However, when it comes to those who are vulnerable, those who do not collect employment insurance, when we start to break out the moneys, it is lower and lower.

Would my hon. colleague like to comment and perhaps tell us the impact that would have on vulnerable Quebec workers who do not qualify for employment insurance and the lack of adequate funding for those particular training programs?

Employment Insurance January 28th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the government had a monumental moment in history to move Canada forward, an opportunity to provide Canadian families with a real sense of hope and stability.

As we witnessed in the budget delivered yesterday and in the announcement by the Liberal Leader of the Opposition to join in supporting the Conservatives, this monumental moment has been lost.

Thousands of Canadians have already lost their jobs this year and changes to employment insurance proposed by the government failed to provide the change needed to support and protect Canadian workers.

Not one worker in my riding of Welland nor in the rest of this country will qualify for EI benefits because of the budget. After all, if workers cannot access the program, an extra five weeks of nothing is still nothing.

The government, with the support of the Liberals, has chosen not to expand eligibility. It has chosen not to eliminate the waiting period. Together the Liberals and Conservatives have failed to provide stability and hope to the people of Canada.

The Conservatives and Liberals have chosen to balance the books of employment insurance on the backs of Canadian workers. This is unacceptable and will not be supported by New Democrats.

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I was shocked when I heard that the current Prime Minister signed a letter on September 9, 2004, along with the leaders of the PQ and the NDP, asking the then Governor General to allow the replacement of the then government of Paul Martin.

Why was it okay to try to replace the Paul Martin government and now it is an evil idea to do basically the same? Could the member sort out the hypocrisy of the Prime Minister?