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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was fact.

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

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Public Health Agency of Canada Act May 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I think it is absolutely critical that we share resources, in that we put our resources together to affect the health of all Canadians.

I must say that if I had had more time I would have spoken about disabilities and putting in a disabilities act, which is also important, but I will save that for another time.

When we look at what Quebec has done, we not only need to look at the fact that we should have national scope but we need to look at where things have been done right. I know my constitutions are envious of the community health centres in Quebec and to the extent it has been done in Quebec and in Ottawa Centre. We need to look at best practices and use those best practices in all provinces. I think the community health centre approach is the way to go. Quebec has done it, bar none. As I mentioned in my speech, we also need to look at best practices like the banning of cosmetic use of pesticides.

I quite agree with the member that we are better off when we put all of our resources together to positively affect all of our health services. When we see health issues that do not respect borders, we need to do that and the more we can the better.

Public Health Agency of Canada Act May 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House to speak to such an important bill with such an import role.

As my colleague from Winnipeg stated, there are many aspects to health that we need to confront directly and if we do not do it from a national perspective, then the health of all Canadians will suffer.

I want to touch on a number of issues in Bill C-5 and the role of the Chief Public Health Officer. If we take a look at what Canadians suffer from in terms of health concerns, we need to a lot more in the area of prevention.

My colleague already referenced the importance of what we put into our environment. We must ensure that what we put into our environment does not make us ill and later on requires us to use health services that are costly and scarce. It makes no sense if in the end those illnesses could be prevented.

Pesticides is an area that my colleague talked about and one which I have been active on in my own community. When we look at the pesticides that are put into our environment without any concern for the health of our children and those who are most vulnerable, it seems to me that we have a lot of work to do. As the member mentioned, there presently is a model in the province of Quebec where the cosmetic use of pesticides will no longer be allowed. I think that is something all provinces should be looking at. I am hopeful that when the bill is passed that the Public Health Agency will look at the Quebec model.

I would also like to look at the additives that we put into our food source. Today I spoke in the House about the importance of recognizing those persons who work in the public service and who have blown the whistle, not because they were trying to rock the boat but because they were looking out for the public good.

We recently had the mad cow or BSE crisis. Canadians should know that there were men and women working in the veterinary branch of Health Canada who cited the concerns around BSE two years before the crisis hit. We know the costs that were borne by those in the agricultural community. Many people lost their livelihood and many went through incredible turmoil in their own lives.

We also have a concern around the health of Canadians in general. Why? It is because our food source was contaminated. Our own officials within Health Canada, who blew the whistle on BSE, said that rendered beef cannot be fed to cattle. This is exactly what was happening.

We knew this information and had this information but there was no coordinated effort to deal with it. In fact, the recommendations that came forward were the recommendations that the premier of Alberta cited. What did the premier say? He said that we should be testing more of our cows, that we should not be feeding rendered feed to cattle and that there should be more money put into this jurisdiction.

In fact, the same thing happens presently and had been happening in Japan and Europe. Why? It is because those countries had gone through this crisis.

I think the role of having someone looking over the national concerns of public health is absolutely critical for the reasons I have mentioned when we look at the mad cow crisis. This could have been avoided. We could have responded to that crisis more quickly and more sensibly. The health and welfare of Canadians would have been put first and foremost.

Other areas in terms of prevention where I think we have failed and need to do more is on how we prevent persons who are living at the lowest margins from becoming ill. We know the key indicators of health when we take a look at where people live, what kind of housing they have, what access they have to health care, what kind of nutrition they have and what kind of food sources are available to them. We know that access to recreation facilities is important. People must be allowed to participate fully and not, with all due respect, the little bit that was given in the budget. We need to go much further than that so all our citizens can participate in a healthy, vibrant, active life.

Those are the things we need to be put on the table. This kind of purview by the Public Health Officer would allow for health promotion to take place so that we could truly get into preventing some of the ailments Canadians suffer from.

My background is that of a school teacher and I have seen, exponentially, the rise in asthma. At the school where I taught, only one or two students had asthma. If I were to go into any classroom in Canada today and asked how many kids had asthma, I would find that at least three or four students would put up their hands. Why is that? It has to do with the quality of our air, along with some other concerns.

What have we done to prevent the poor quality of our air and deal with pollution? We obviously have not done enough. This needs to be looked at through a national lens. I hope the Public Health Agency can look at this kind of thing and, in doing so, will offer some recommendations that will have some teeth. We do not want to see a report that just gathers dust like the Romanow report sadly did. We want to see a report that has efficacy, that will be heard, not just something that is tabled.

When the bill goes through committee it will be interesting to look at other jurisdictions to see if there are ways in which this will not just be a reporting mechanism to the Minister of Health, but that the recommendations have some teeth so that they will have traction and efficacy and that the health of Canadians will benefit in the end.

We just have to turn to what has happened in the past with reports from auditor generals or other royal commissions when really good work was done but, sadly, not enacted. I hope the scope and the efficacy of the public health office will be something that is not just seen as symbolic but something that will be action oriented.

I want to touch on an area that is near and dear to me, and that is the area of mental health. This is Mental Health Awareness Week. I believe most Canadians are aware of the fact that it is an issue that has been stigmatized for far too long. I would like to see provisions put into the Canada Health Act so that we can take this issue seriously. Hopefully it will become one of the primary focuses of the Public Health Agency. This area has been stigmatized for far too long. It requires resources so that Canadians can have an active, healthy participation in their respective communities.

Public Service May 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, again, these men and women have put their careers on the line for the sake of better government. No one has asked for the $1,000 cash reward, which the government has dropped into the whistleblower legislation. What is required is real protection for anyone whose actions unveil serious wrongdoing in government.

Will the government commit to undoing these past wrongs and call off the courts against these innocent men and women and, instead, give them the compensation they deserve?

Public Service May 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, we have examples of public servants who, through their disclosures of serious wrongdoing in past governments, have saved taxpayers millions of dollars. Yet we continue to harass these men and women through the courts, causing them serious financial hardship and emotional stress for simply being ethical.

Is the President of the Treasury Board prepared to give assurances that the government will compensate past whistleblowers whose claims are proven correct?

Norad May 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of things I would like to clarify with the member. Much has been said tonight about the events of 9/11. One of the things that occurred to me is that at the time Norad was not the kind of command and control operation that really had any efficacy with regard to what happened to the twin towers. Indeed, one could think back to the Maginot line in terms of what our capacity is. We are dealing with a very different kind of war. That has been mentioned many times.

With regard to the fact that we now have a nation talking about pre-emptive strikes using nuclear capabilities, is my colleague not concerned in terms of the arrangements we are entering into with the United States that this could put us in some jeopardy and in fact in some danger?

Petitions May 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of my constituents regarding child care cuts by the government and the fact that they will not receive the child care they want.

The Conservative government proposed a taxable $1,200 allowance as an income measure, which does not support child care. Even as an income measure, it will discriminate against families with employed mothers by giving them less financial assistance after tax than families in which one parent stays at home. I submit this on behalf of my constituents.

Darfur May 1st, 2006

Mr. Chair, before the debate tonight I asked an expert, Bo Cuit, what he thought of this situation. Bo is an expert on this because he is a Sudanese refugee. Bo lives with my mother in the house where I grew up and has lived there for the last two years. He walked out of Sudan with his brothers, one who was a child soldier and saw things that we would never think of seeing nor experiencing.

I told Bo about this debate tonight and I asked for his advice. Bo is a young man of few words and he basically said, “Tell them that they do not want to have the same mindset and the same guilt that Bill Clinton has over Rwanda”.

I wonder what the hon. member thinks of those comments. We are perplexed as to what to do but does the member not believe that this is a time for action and not to sit by and wait?

Darfur May 1st, 2006

Mr. Chair, I want to direct my comments and questions around our capacity to respond, and it is twofold. One is in the way of human resources, which has been referred to a bit tonight, and the other is in the way of financial capacity.

I turn to the estimates in the so-called blue book. On the pages that deal with foreign assistance, we see on page 1-17 that we are looking at an increase to CIDA and we are looking at a decrease of 38% in our international assistance to the transfer payments. That has to do with the fact that we had made some payments in forgiveness to the countries of Iraq and Montenegro.

What I do not see here, notwithstanding the fact that Sudan is referenced in the comments on CIDA, is the kind of commitment that we have seen to some of the other countries in terms of debt forgiveness. I have to question that and I look to tomorrow's budget.

However, we have a real dilemma as bystanders. We are bystanders in some ways because we do not have the human capacity and, what I see from the estimates document, we might very well not have the financial capacity.

I would like his comments on that, particularly on our financial capacity. Does he feel, having gone over the estimates in the blue book, that we are in a position where we can respond financially? Quite frankly, $10 million is not enough.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act April 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I took some interest in my colleague's points around who builds this infrastructure and who owns this infrastructure. Recently we have had many years in which we have seen the so-called P3 arrangement not work for the best interests of Canadians, particularly in infrastructure, particularly when we are building infrastructure that is for the public yet there are certain people who are making profits on it, notwithstanding the fact that we know it is private companies that actually do the building.

What I am talking about is seeing a private consortium that takes over the infrastructure and then turns around and asks the citizens of this country to pay yet again. I certainly would not like to see that happen. I wonder if the member would comment on that.

Public Service of Canada April 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the public service creates jobs in Ottawa the same way that the car industry creates jobs in Oshawa and the steel industry creates jobs in Hamilton. With all due respect, no MP from those centres would stand idly by while their communities were at risk of political job losses.

The people of Ottawa demand to know the government's plans with respect to the public service. Will the President of the Treasury Board give us those clear assurances?