House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was poverty.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency June 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that minister for ACOA is unable to take any kind of criticism. Just the other day, the foot in mouth minister indicated that MPs should register as lobbyists simply because they support projects for community or business groups in our ridings, which is our job.

It is not clear if the minister's brilliant idea applies to all MPs or just opposition MPs. However, would he indicate whether or not he intends to register as a lobbyist when seeking funds for projects from ACOA or any other federal departments for the people of Central Nova?

Petitions June 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present two more petitions from people in my community.

The petitioners are concerned about the government's plan to kill the national child care deal. They are also concerned about the inequity of how the universal child care allowance will be distributed and that it will disproportionately helps people who need it the least in many cases.

I am pleased that my boss, the hon. Leader of the Opposition, will be in the riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour meeting with some of these people this weekend.

Government Policies June 14th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to thank the Conservatives for endorsing Liberal ideas by promising to honour the Liberal funding for the human rights museum in Winnipeg; by renewing the Norad agreement which builds on Liberal legwork; by continuing the Liberal commitment on funding for the new deal for cities and communities; by accepting the Liberals' national target of 5% renewable biofuel content in Canadian gas and diesel fuel; by using a Liberal government guide to propose a national security committee of parliamentarians; by using a Liberal bill which received royal assent in 1998 as the building block for Bill C-7.

Last but certainly not least, I thank the Conservatives for taking eight consecutive Liberal balanced budgets and introducing the first Conservative balanced budget in 80 years.

There has not been a word of thanks from the Conservatives.

Petitions June 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present two petitions on child care, as I have at least 20 times in this session. The people in my community are very concerned about the abandonment of child care. I must mention that one of the signatories is Sue Wolstenholme, who for decades has been a advocate of child care, particularly for those most in need in our communities. Last year she saw such hope and was so optimistic about the child care agreement that we had brought forward and which was agreed to by all the provinces. She is very concerned, as are many, that it has been abandoned. That is reflected in these petitions.

Employment June 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, no one from Atlantic Canada could stand up on that side of the House to defend Atlantic Canada. The Liberal Party will stand up for Atlantic Canada all the time.

I know the ACOA minister may not have the ear of the Prime Minister, which may explain the refusal to condemn a ridiculous plan, but this is not acceptable to Atlantic Canadians or anyone else.

When will the government learn to respect the real needs of unemployed workers and not just offer them a state sponsored westbound ticket?

Employment June 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, once again the radical agenda of the government has been shown and the attitude for ACOA laid bare for all to see.

The minister stood in the House not 24 hours ago and flatly denied a federal proposal to use taxpayer dollars to ship Atlantic Canadians off to Alberta like a herd of unemployed cattle. His own colleague asked: “What are we doing to send [them], either temporarily or permanently, across the get them into northern Alberta to keep the economy going...?”

I suppose this is the Conservative plan to defeat what they call the culture of defeat.

When will the minister apologize to all Atlantic Canadians for this radical policy?

Development Assistance June 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, we are fortunate to live in Canada, a wealthy country. Most of the world's population is not so lucky and much of the world suffers from extreme poverty. Well over one billion people live in absolute poverty. Half of the world lives on less than $2 a day and 50,000 people a day die from poverty-related causes.

It is hard not to believe that we value the lives of the comfortable more than we value the lives of the poor when we allow this to continue.

I have spoken in the House before about my support for reaching the millennium development goals of 0.7% of GNI for international development. I believe it is a reasonable target for a rich country.

We can take a positive step by supporting Bill C-293 introduced by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood on Wednesday, which would ensure that Canadian development assistance is focused on poverty reduction, and send it to committee as soon as possible.

Canada has increased its development assistance, but we need to recognize the daily crisis of poverty in much of the world and our responsibility as a wealthy nation to work toward its eradication.

Criminal Code June 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, in spite of the fact that I wanted to vote for the bill when I heard it would be introduced, I could find no evidence that it works or that it would reduce crime in Canada.

The Liberal government introduced mandatory minimums in the past on a reasonable basis but if we are going to bring forward legislation let us do it in a way that will actually make the streets of Canada safer. That should be the ultimate goal of any legislation dealing with crime.

Criminal Code June 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is not that it is too tough. It is that it is too stupid. I agree with that comment.

We do not introduce new laws based on anecdotes. We introduce them based on evidence. The article I referred to earlier was not Liberal talking notes or Conservative talking notes, as my colleague said. This is an article by a journalist who called the Minister of Justice and asked him what the law was based on and where the evidence was.

He was given five studies. When he checked them out, each of those studies turned out to be not quite what they were presented to be. They supposedly showed that mandatory minimums on gun crime and homicide had a huge impact. One researcher said, when contacted, “Conclusions are difficult to draw”. Another researcher concluded that “the laws did not reduce homicides”. Another suggested that “gun-related mandatory minimum sentences do little to reduce crime or gun use”. Another one said, “The consensus is that these sentences are not particularly effective”.

I will support legislation that is tough on crime and makes communities safer but it must be based on evidence, it must have a chance of succeeding and it must have a chance of making the communities safer for the people in Dartmouth--Cole Harbour and across Canada.

Criminal Code June 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate.

During the election campaign in January the issue of crime was prevalent in my riding, as I suspect it was in many ridings across the country. I look forward to supporting measures that might have some impact on reducing crime. I waited with some interest for the bill to come forward but I was a little disappointed, and I will explain why.

While we are debating this legislation today, the debate is more profound than that. We are debating how the country deals with fellow citizens, what happens to fellow citizens and how people should be convicted of an offence.

We are all concerned about crime in our communities and it is certainly the case in Dartmouth--Cole Harbour. I have met with individuals who have been affected by crime, some serious, perhaps some less serious, but each criminal act has an impact on our communities, causing people to feel vulnerable and unsafe. I want to do something to help people feel safer in their communities.

As an MP who has been called upon to vote on Bill C-10, I have had the responsibility to ensure I support any legislation that is reasonable, effective, rooted in fact and evidence, and consistent with Canadian values. The bill, unfortunately, does not pass that standard. The legislation is not rooted in good law and not substantiated by evidence.

The Minister of Public Safety was quoted recently on the subject of minimum sentences as saying:

We also believe there will be a deterring effect from getting serious about serious crime.

I read an article by Dan Gardner who has written extensively on crime. He wrote:

Naturally, [the Minister of Public Safety] didn't cite any research in support of his conclusion. He didn't need to. The government “believes.” And as every man of faith knows, belief can conquer even the mightiest army of facts.

But for those of us in the reality-based community--the famously dismissive phrase of a Bush official--belief isn't good enough. We expect policy to be supported by facts and research. Perhaps that makes us lesser men and women, but we can't accept something as true simply because it's been given [the Prime Minister's] benediction. So where's the evidence that the government's radical, U.S.-style approach to criminal justice will make us safer? You won't find it on its website. There are lots of bold claims, of course. But in the press release and background information, there isn't a word about evidence.

It is clear that the Conservatives continue to serve up good politics under the guise of good public policy. This is not good public policy. The legislation would not address the real issues of crime, much of which is rooted in systemic poverty. Rather, the result would be a boon for those in the business of constructing prisons.

The American experience, which the government tends to look to for guidance, tells us a different story.

As an example, New York was the first state to limit the discretion of judges in sentencing. Lengthy sentences were required, 15 years to life, even for some non-violent, first-time offenders, many of whom would have received brief sentences, along with drug treatments and community service prior to those sentences.

Then, of course, there is the California “three strikes and you're out” law.

Not surprisingly, these mandatory sentences resulted in the increased number of Americans who went to prison and the cost of building and maintaining prisons.

By 1999, 6.3 million adults were under correctional supervision. By some estimates, the American government spent close to $40 billion on incarceration and, by the mid-1990s, California and New York were spending more on prisons than on higher education.

Some would suggest that anybody who disagrees with them on this is soft on crime. This is not the case. It simplifies an issue that is complex. I think the vast majority of crime is rooted in our inability to help those who most need to find dignity, those most in need, the poor.

We have not done enough to eradicate poverty in Canada. We all bear that responsibility. We have not done enough to ensure that all Canadians have the basic chance to succeed in life, especially for young kids from low income families. We need to do a better job of providing the means to have a decent and healthy breakfast and the opportunity to learn and not sit in a classroom hungry.

We need to ensure that those who cannot afford higher education obtain the means to do so they have the hope of an education which might lead to employment.

It is easy to introduce tough legislation, as the government would suggest. It is easy to throw people in prisons and when they run out of space to build new ones. However, if we are serious about building our communities and we care about our individual citizens, then we should stop creating policies that benefit the rich and hurt the poor. If we are concerned about communities, we should not provide tax breaks to those who need it the least, while penalizing the poor.

Let us not forget Mike Harris who, while cutting welfare and taxes, allowed the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.

If the government really cared about our communities it would not cut programs and child care, which we need, that attempt to build and help families while ensuring that children receive quality and accessible child care.

I believe the legislation speaks to the sort of John Wayne approach to the world: macho and seemingly tough but does not address the real issues of crime.

We can never excuse crime but we can explain why people find themselves in trouble. We need to address crime prevention with real policies and continue to address the outcome of behaviour and not the substance of issues that create crime.

I believe it is the responsibility of the government to put bills before us that are evidence based and will enhance the effectiveness of our criminal justice regime.

I know some members opposite do have a grudging respect for the charter, some may not, but many do. However, our charter is meant to protect individuals from the state and we need to ensure that any law we pass meets that constitutional test and that what we do here as legislators passes the proportionality test, meaning that we address and redress problems in a measured way.

Amendments to the code should not be ideologically driven. I believe, unfortunately, in this case that is the case. The bill before us today goes much further than the existing mandatory minimum sentences in the Criminal Code. Historically, mandatory minimums have been used with restraint. I note from a recent survey of judges, I think in 2005, indicated that over half of them felt that mandatory minimum sentences would hinder their ability to impose a just sentence.

Mandatory minimums on a widened scale undermine the fundamental principle of proportionality. The chief sentencing principles enshrined in the Criminal Code allow judges to set a sentence proportionate to the gravity of the offence. In some cases mandatory minimums may actually lead to fewer convictions and fewer penalties. The all or nothing approach could lead to charges being stayed or even withdrawn when they should go forward.

The people in my riding are concerned about crime and want to ensure that people who offend are punished. They understand that violence and crime affects us all and they understand that the solutions are complex. They understand that justice must be firm and fair, that we address issues like poverty and underemployment where people have little, but also take meaningful ways to make their communities safer.

I know and understand the devastating effect crime has on victims. I have seen it often in my community. I would vote for crime legislation that was tougher on crime. I would welcome legislation that was tougher on crime if it were evidence based and had a hope of being effective.

As a legislature, we act in ways that seek ways to enhance opportunity for people, especially those most in need. I will act in the way that ensures our communities are safe and our justice system is fair but tough on those who offend. However, what I cannot do is vote for a law that I consider to be a bad law, that is not rooted in evidence and that has no chance of succeeding.