House of Commons photo


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 Service of Canada April 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the government has pledged to find $22 billion in savings in its upcoming budget. This has led many to speculate on where the cuts will occur.

Public servants in Ottawa have been left in the dark about whether they will be asked to shoulder the burden of these cuts like they were with the previous government.

Will the President of the Treasury Board give his assurances to our public servants that they will not lose their jobs to pay for Conservative promises?

National Day of Mourning April 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, in 1991 NDP MP Rod Murphy sponsored an act respecting a day of mourning for persons killed or injured in the workplace. It proclaimed April 28 as National Day of Mourning.

According to the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, Canada's rate of workplace fatalities is now among the worst in the industrialized world. Employers and governments are failing on this front and working people are paying for this failure with their health and their lives.

In 1984, when the National Day of Mourning was initiated, 744 workers were listed as having died from workplace injuries. Twenty years later, in 2004, that number stood at 928. In 2003 the Westray bill finally gave courts the right to hold corporations criminally responsible for unsafe working conditions.

Today, the NDP recommits our efforts to create safe workplaces where employers take full responsibility for the health and safety of their workers and where the government enforces the rules that are in place.

Federal Accountability Act April 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her pristine analysis on what is generally missing and lacking in accountability with government. Specifically, one of the areas that I have concerns with is what happens now with a bill that does not have the accountability that we ask for in terms of things like democratic accountability. I think that is clearly lacking.

We asked for fixed election dates. We hear that there might be some movement there. We asked for making sure that when we are looking at accountability to Parliament that voters get the member of Parliament for whom they voted and they do not end up a couple of days later after the election with a member from a different party. It would be interesting to see how Canadians feel about that. I know that in my own office people have been contacting me about that issue.

The other issue is lobbying. There are some measures that are moving forward in the accountability act on lobbying, but one that is missing is what happens when somebody who had been lobbying government turns around and then is a recipient of government contracts. Will this be something that the government is going to act on and change in the bill because there seems to be a void?

Finally, the whole point of probity of the government into be it port authorities or crown corporations is the provision in the bill to allow the Auditor General to have scope into those areas. It would be important for us to know what resources are going to be afforded and particularly how much money is going to be afforded to the Auditor General to allow her or him to do that job.

Federal Accountability Act April 25th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have an observation. When we look at the present cabinet of the government, we see someone who has not in fact been elected and was appointed by the Prime Minister by way of going into the Senate. I think we have some problems at present.

I will say quickly that we are not talking about full proportional representation. If we were to go to the Law Reform Commission website, we could see what the model is. It is very sensible. Most Canadians who have seen it agree with the model. I look forward to further debate on electoral reform.

Federal Accountability Act April 25th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, our point as a party is that notwithstanding the fact that there is seemingly more independence in this process than the previous whistleblower legislation, we have concerns that whistleblowers going forward may see that their grievances are not being heard fully and independently by someone appointed by the Prime Minister. We need to look at the scrutiny of appointments by the Prime Minister. Perhaps this is something we could look at in terms of amendments. That is my first point.

My second point is about the remedy that would be in place for those grievances if the whistleblower was not satisfied or was not being heard. We have seen this time and time again with whistleblowers. In fact, some of the whistleblowers who have blown the whistle in this city and who are constituents of mine have blown the whistle one, two or three times. Each time they are fighting the cause and doing good work for Canadians, but they are being beaten down because there is no access to an appropriate remedy.

I am simply making the point that if at the end of day there is not a fair hearing for whistleblowers, they should be able to avail themselves of the court system, which is independent, not questioning the appointments of the judiciary, simply talking about the avenues in which they can go and the fact that we have oversight for those appointments for this tribunal process.

Federal Accountability Act April 25th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Skeena--Bulkley Valley.

I would like to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your appointment.

We are faced with an opportunity today to change the way things are done in the federal government. The legislation before us does take some important steps in remedying the lack of accountability and transparency between Parliament and government. However, there are some measures lacking that would make Parliament and government more accountable to Canadians.

Prior to the election last November, Ed Broadbent and the NDP demanded changes in ethics and accountability. The New Democratic Party proposed the following set of ethical reforms.

First, we called for democratic accountability for MPs. This means that no MP would be able to ignore his or her voters by leaving the party that he or she ran for and crossing the floor to another party without first resigning their seat and running in a byelection. We must put an end to the political opportunism that accompanies the backroom dealing in floor crossing and the accompanying job offers for personal gain. This simple rule would help to restore a measure of trust that has been replaced by voter cynicism. It is unfortunate that this measure was not included in this accountability legislation. My party is committed to banning floor crossing and will continue to demand this accountability measure for Canadian voters.

Second, we believe that election dates must be fixed. The date should be every four years, unless a minority government is brought down because of non-confidence. The large majority of the world's democracies do not give the party in power the right to determine when to call an election. The prime minister and the ruling party use this measure to ensure that elections are called at a time that is most beneficial to their re-election bid. This is anti-democratic. Fixed election dates would add fairness and transparency around elections for Canadians.

The power of the prime minister to set election dates has other negative effects on the way our government operates. Much of the business of government stays on hold when the possibility of an election looms. The longer the period of uncertainty, the less that we are able to accomplish for the voters who sent us to Parliament. This measure was also not included in the accountability legislation.

Third, we called for spending limits and full disclosure on leadership contests. As Ed Broadbent pointed out, parties are not private clubs. The legislation does include a ban on all corporate and union donations, something with which this party agrees. However, while we have strict spending limits on election campaigns, candidates and local riding associations, the amount spent by those seeking to lead their parties is limitless. This is a major deficiency in accountability to the citizens of our country who finance our parties. Often a new leader of a party will become the Prime Minister of Canada before facing the general electorate. We deserve to know as much about how he or she arrived at the most powerful office in the country. This new legislation does not accomplish this and that is unfortunate. In a democracy, leaders of parties should not be chosen simply by the virtue of unlimited access to money.

Our fourth demand was electoral reform. In the recent Speech from the Throne the government committed to involving parliamentarians and citizens in examining the challenges facing Canada's electoral system and democratic institutions. I am encouraged by this, but I am also aware that serious reform will take serious action. In Canada every vote should matter. Ninety per cent of the world's democracies, including Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and Wales have abandoned or significantly modified their original electoral system. However, this is the same electoral system that still exists in Canada.

Not only would we attain a House of Commons that numerically better reflects the way people vote, but with much better regional representation in all party caucuses we would more likely have better decisions and more thoughtful debates on regionally divisive and other important issues. In addition, empirical evidence drawn from other countries strongly suggests that women and minorities would be much better represented in the House of Commons.

I believe it is imperative for Canada to change its electoral system so that Canadians can receive what they voted for and have their elected officials work on their behalf in the most meaningful and positive way. I, for one, will welcome the day when the mindless exchanges in our question period cease to be the standard by which Canadians judge our national political behaviour. My party will continue to work to ensure that our present electoral system is improved, making us more accountable to Canadians.

Our fifth objective was the elimination of unregulated lobbying. While this new act toughens regulation of lobbyists, including “Ed's clause” to ban success fees, it falls short of ending the practice of awarding government contracts to firms that also lobby government. There is also nothing to stop anyone from going to work for a lobbyist; he or she is stopped only from being a registered lobbyist.

The sixth measure in the NDP ethics package was a change to the way government appointments are made. The New Democratic Party has proposed that the government develop skills and competence related criteria for all government appointments, that these criteria be publicly released, and that committees scrutinize appointments.

This new act does create a new process that would improve the way government appointments are made, including a new public appointments commissioner, whose own appointment is now called into question given his links to the government. However, this process for appointments is kept with the PMO and therefore is not independent. The unfair and unethical patronage practice of government appointments must end. The NDP would ensure that any Canadian who qualifies for these positions on boards, commissions and agencies would have equal access and thus again bring accountability to all Canadians.

Another objective was to ensure serious reform to access to information legislation. I am sad to say that access to information reform is limited in this act. While it is expanded to include seven officers of Parliament, seven crowns and three foundations, comprehensive and meaningful reform has not been included in the act but instead has been sent to committee as a draft bill and a discussion paper. Canada badly needs the improved Access to Information Act. Canadians want more access to information about their government. My party is committed to accomplishing these objectives.

My colleague from Winnipeg Centre has worked tirelessly on this matter over the last two sessions of Parliament. His proposed changes would lead to the real openness and transparency that Canadians want in Ottawa.

I would like to conclude by discussing the long awaited legislation to provide for the protection of persons who are involved in the disclosure of wrongdoing in the workplace. These workers provide support for the government's agenda and must be protected against retaliation when they honestly and openly raise concerns that are evident to them in the workplace. This is the only way for Canadians to become aware of any wrongdoing, either ethical or legal, in the government departments they support. These women and men have been waiting too long for this protection from their government.

This act allows for disclosures to be made directly to the commissioner, who would now have the authority to deal directly with complaints both from public servants and the public. The NDP supports the initiative to remove the process whereby allegations were made to a middle person before a complaint was brought to the commissioner.

We are concerned, however, that whistleblowers would not have the right to seek remedy through the court system even as a last resort and also that in cases of retaliation a whistleblower would be referred to a “tribunal” headed by judges who are appointed by the Prime Minister. However, we are confident that we can influence the necessary changes to this act so that it is truly accountable to all Canadians.

Canada's Commitment in Afghanistan April 10th, 2006

Mr. Chair, I want to clarify a couple of points before I put my question to the member. I think it is perhaps important for some of the members on the government side to know where this party stood even prior to 9/11 on the issue of Afghanistan, particularly with regard to the Taliban. I would be curious to at some point discuss with them their role in holding to account the absolute horror that was going on in Afghanistan with the Taliban.

I am sure that when they found out what was going on with the Taliban in Afghanistan they, like my colleagues and other people in our civil society, signed petitions and tried to push the UN to challenge the Taliban because of what was going on in that country at that time. I am also sure that they are aware of the period between 1992 and 1996, when 50,000 Afghans were slaughtered by the warlords and in the civil war that ensued. I am sure that each one of them made sure the UN knew what was going on and I am sure they called for action.

My question for the member is this. In light of the facts of what we have heard of the concerns around potential human rights abuses with the third party, concerns that we and others have raised, is it not now time to look at the rules of engagement that our government has signed on to with the Afghanis?

In light of the fact that there are concerns being raised in the media, concerns that the press and other experts have cited, that perhaps those whom we turn over to the Afghanis might end up on the wrong side of what we consider Canadian values, in light of that, we should, if we can, do what the Netherlands has done. That is, we should guarantee access to prisoners so we can ensure that the men and women we support over there are not doing it under the auspices of something other than the values we all hold dear.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply April 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Ottawa South. Indeed, I had the pleasure of knowing his father and the quote at the end of his speech were wise words that I hope we do all abide by. In fact, my father and his father went to high school together.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the constituents of Ottawa Centre for electing me to this place and I hope to stand in as good a stead as my predecessor, Mr. Broadbent.

I have a question and a concern about the environment. I share the hon. member's concerns about the environment, and about the challenges we all face with clean air and clean water. As the member will know, as he has been a resource on the environment to which others have turned to, we have not met the challenges that were presented to us through the Kyoto accord.

I would like to put aside the partisanship for a minute and talk about real solutions and ideas about how we can tackle the concerns of clean air and clean water. As a school teacher, I have been saddened to see the levels of asthma escalate over the years. If anyone has had the unfortunate opportunity to go into our emergency wards recently, they will see that it affects more and more children every day.

Does the hon. member see the solution for dealing with the problems with our air quality and clean water in the area of legislation? Particularly, one of the solutions our party has put forward and that I strongly advocate is to have a clean water and a clean air act.