House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was military.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Sackville—Eastern Shore (Nova Scotia)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent for the following motion which, coincidently, is currently on the order paper, standing in the name of the Minister of Veterans Affairs, that Bill C-58, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and to make consequential amendments to another act, be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans May 13th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in committee, the Minister of Veterans Affairs was extremely economical with the truth, blaming the opposition for the delay of passage of Bill C-58 when they themselves introduced a bill and never brought it back.

The Conservatives are shoving it in Bill C-59, an omnibus bill, knowing full well that we in the NDP will never vote confidence in the Conservatives.

Will the government now agree with our motion after question period to move Bill C-58 immediately to committee for immediate review?

Taxation May 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, unfortunately, the Minister of Veterans Affairs misled Canadians in the House, so I would like to ask unanimous consent for the following motion, which coincidentally, is currently on the order paper standing in the name of the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

I move that Bill C-58, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and to make consequential amendments to another act now be read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Business of Supply May 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is rather unfortunate that the government would waste taxpayers' dollars on these advertisements, really just to promote the Conservative Party of Canada. However, the reality is that it should be putting that money not just toward veterans' care, but toward our environment, people with disabilities, seniors, students to get a proper education, small business, et cetera. There are a lot of other areas to which the government could have allocated those funds.

Imagine closing offices and using that money for advertising. I think that veterans will be loud and clear come the next election, just like people were in Alberta. An orange wave is coming, and I advise my Conservative counterparts to get ready for it.

Business of Supply May 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, if my hon. colleague from Ontario had understood right from the beginning of my speech, I did say that the yardstick had moved ever so slightly with the new minister and previous ones. There is no question that, since I have been here, there have been slight improvements to the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are many veterans, and I have said this repeatedly not only in the House but right across the country, who receive excellent quality care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and special kudos go to the individuals who work at DVA to provide that excellent care.

At the same time, what we have to ask ourselves and the hon. colleague, if he has the chance to stand up again, is why would $1.13 billion of lapsed spending from 2006 until now go back to the Treasury Board? Many veterans were denied hearing aids. Many veterans were denied VIP. Many veterans were denied other services. That is not us saying that. That is Dennis Manuge having to go to court on the SISIP case. This case could have been settled out of court many years ago.

Yes, there have been improvements, but there is an incredibly long way to go for any member of any government or any party, for that matter, to ensure that all veterans are well looked after, because not one veteran is asking for a Rolex watch or a trip to Florida. They are asking for basic dignity, and that is the minimum that they deserve.

Business of Supply May 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the House that I will be splitting my time with the great member for the beautiful riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

Before I start speaking on today's motion, I want to give a plug for the Royal Canadian Dental Corps. It has supported the Canadian Armed Forces in every major combat, peacekeeping and peacemaking mission around the world for the last century, including World War I, World War II, Korea, the Balkans and Afghanistan. Its members have also worked with Kosovo refugees, trained mid-level providers for the Afghan National Army, provided oral health for Haitian earthquake victims and cared for under-served populations in the Pacific and Caribbean on U.S. navy missions.

These men and women have done a great service for our country, and today I would like to congratulate them on behalf of the entire House on the centennial of the Royal Canadian Dental Corps. As of May 13, it will have been in service for over 100 years. On behalf of all of us, I want to thank the Royal Canadian Dental Corps for its outstanding historic service, and for its many years to come.

We are here today to ask one simple question, which is what we do in opposition. We ask the government of the day a particular question. Ironically, this question has taken us all day, and we still have not gotten a confirmed answer. I myself have asked the following question probably 10 times to two different ministers, a prime minister and two different parliamentary secretaries, and even did a press conference on it with no response. We are asking the government a very simple question: Does it or does it not have a social, moral, legal and fiduciary responsibility to care for those it asked to put in harm's way?

It is funny, a former Conservative prime minister, Mr. Borden, once said that the government did. I wonder if the current Conservative Party does as well. However, we will find out soon enough from the votes here.

I will get back to the matter at hand regarding veterans' care.

First of all, I want to congratulate the new minister on his posting. There is no question that there is a different tone now from the previous minister. No offence to the previous minister, but it just was not his cup of tea I guess in this regard, to be completely frank, but it is not entirely his fault. The previous minister was following orders from the PMO and the PCO in how to run his department. However, the reality is, there is a different tone now and we see a different yard mark coming from the current minister.

The previous speaker is also on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. We did a report that was unanimous. In this House, getting a unanimous report from a committee is almost impossible these days, but we did it. There were 14 recommendations that we all agreed should be done immediately; not tomorrow, not next week, not next year, not piecemeal, but all 14 recommendations should be done immediately.

In fact, three-quarters of those recommendations are now approaching five years in recommendations; not one year, not five months, but five years. Some of these recommendations have come from the Royal Canadian Legion, the gerontological advisory board, the government's own advisory board on Veterans Affairs, ANAVETS and many other veterans and individuals who had come up with these recommendations many years ago. We formulated them into a report, and what do we do get six months to the day of that report?

Well, the previous minister said that we were going to do this in a piecemeal approach. The thing is, he was telling the truth, because Bill C-58 that the government talks about now is dealing with about three or four of those recommendations. We have not had Bill C-58 even come up for debate yet in the House let alone before the committee, let alone before the Senate, let alone before royal assent. The government is telling us to push it forward, but we have not even seen it again yet.

Now if the government is amiable to some alterations and amendments to the bill, I am sure we can get it passed like that, because there are some good elements in that legislation. However, in typical Conservative fashion, it falls woefully inadequate on the recommendations that were in our report.

I want to thank the current veterans ombudsman and the previous ombudsman for the work they have done in advising our committee on many of these things.

Let us go to the history of the Conservative Party. The current minister is the 11th minister we have had in my almost 18 years of service here. The problems with Veterans Affairs and the RCMP and their families did not start with the Conservative Party. They started long before with the Liberal Party. However, these problems have been exacerbated by the current Conservative Party.

Let me take everyone back to a meeting in New Brunswick in 2005 when the current Prime Minister was in opposition and Greg Thompson was a former minister of veterans affairs. When the Liberals were in power, they said in the Agent Orange or chemical spraying in Gagetown debate that they were only going to cover people for Agent Orange in 1966 and 1967, for the one month each time, when the Americans were there. They said that was what they were going to do. The Liberals said that.

Mr. Thompson was brilliant in his advocacy against that. He said there was no way the Liberals could allow that and that the Conservative Party, if it formed government, would never do that. In fact, the current Prime Minister, who was then in opposition, said the exact same thing. At a meeting, he said that all people affected by the chemical spraying in Gagetown from 1958 to 1984 would be looked after and there would be a public inquiry.

What happened in 2006? Those words were out the door. In fact, thousands and thousands of people have died because of the chemical spraying in Gagetown and very little in compensation was offered. I think around 7,000 people actually received what I call a $20,000 kiss-off. Many people, like Basil McAllister of Burton, New Brunswick, had to fight three VRAB decisions, two court cases over 10 years, to get further compensation for the chemicals that were sprayed on him.

Fortunately, though, people can rest assured that when the NDP forms government in October, we will have a national public inquiry into the chemical spraying in Gagetown. That is unacceptable and that is what we will do.

The money from the offices closed by the government went into advertising during the Stanley Cup playoffs. New Democrats will reverse that. We will not only reopen the offices but make them better than they were before and ensure that many more home visits happen for veterans who may wish to have someone come to their homes and fill out the forms properly. That is what we will do when we form government. In fact, there are many other things that we will do when we form government. Right now, we just have to wait and be patient. Soon it will be time for the Conservatives to find the exit door. I say that with great respect, of course, to my Conservative counterparts.

Let us go back to another promise the Prime Minister made to Joyce Carter of St. Peter's, Cape Breton. He told her in a letter, which he signed, not to worry because when Conservatives form government, as prime minister he would ensure that every single widow or widower of a deceased veteran would receive VIP service, not some of them, not a couple, not from New Brunswick, not from Nova Scotia, not from B.C., all would receive the VIP treatment. What happened? Almost four years after that date, some of them got the VIP treatment, not all of them.

That was another broken promise to the widow of a veteran. If someone can mislead the widow of a veteran, imagine what else that person could do to this country. That means nobody else is safe. It is unconscionable that the Prime Minister could have done that, absolutely unconscionable. She actually even had to come here to get that benefit. Unfortunately, not all of them received it even though it was promised to them.

Just today in the House of Commons the Minister of Veterans Affairs was asked a question. By the way, I should let every Conservative in the House know that every single time I have ever asked a question in the House of Commons, I have always provided the question in advance to the minister. Even though my own party completely dislikes that, I do it out of respect for the position of the minister.

The question was quite clearly about a 78-year-old veteran who served many years in the military, is injured, does not have much to live on, and wishes to enter into Camp Hill veterans hospital, run and administered by the Province of Nova Scotia, as World War II and Korean veterans do now. The province pays a small portion and the Government of Canada, through DVA, pays the rest. Twice now the minister asked whether I have lobbied the province to get him in there. I remind my Conservative colleagues that I have yet to see any legislation from anyone that says the care of veterans is a provincial responsibility. It is a federal responsibility.

On behalf of my party, I hope the Conservatives and other parties will join us in supporting this motion because it is critical that we do this. I want to say, in conclusion, that we should never regret growing old because it is a privilege denied to so many.

Lest we forget.

Veterans May 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, 10 times we have asked the question if there is a social obligation to care for veterans and 10 times we have not received an answer.

My question for the Minister of Veterans Affairs is this. Ernest Campbell, a 78-year-old veteran in Nova Scotia, was denied access to Camp Hill Hospital even though there were empty beds in that hospital, like there are empty beds across the country for modern-day veterans. The federal government will not pay for his medical care as it does for World War II and Korean veterans.

Will the minister now allow the heroes of our country, like Ernest Campbell, the opportunity to go into Camp Hill, paid for by the federal government?

The Netherlands May 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, today throughout the Netherlands people are celebrating and commemorating what happened 70 years ago with the liberation of the Netherlands at the hands of the Canadians and our allies. As a Dutch-born parliamentarian, I am very proud to stand on behalf of my family, my colleague from Sidney—Victoria and his family, and all of the other Dutch members of Parliament here to once again thank the one million Canadians who wore the uniform of Canada and liberated my parents. In fact, it was because of that military that my father said, “If they have a military like that, can you imagine what kind of country they come from?”

One of those heroes was featured on CBC last night, the great Ed Carter-Edwards, who was a pilot shot down and interned at Buchenwald. Last night the CBC told his very poignant story. At the end, he said he will never forget, but maybe he will forgive.

On behalf of the Royal Canadian Legion and all veterans organizations that keep alive the memories of those veterans I want to say, “Do not regret growing old, it is a privilege denied to so many.”

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns April 24th, 2015

With regard to the Veterans Independence Program (VIP) and the VIP expansion for survivors administered by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC): (a) how many veterans have received VIP benefits each year from 2006 to 2014 inclusive; (b) how many clients were reassessed for eligibility for VIP benefits each year from 2006 to 2014 inclusive; (c) how many clients reassessed for VIP eligibility each year from 2006 to 2014 inclusive were denied the benefit; (d) from 2006 to 2014 inclusive, out of those veterans who were denied the VIP benefit after reassessment, how many (i) appealed the decision, (ii) did not appeal the decision, (iii) had their benefits reinstated upon appeal, (iv) were denied further benefits upon appeal; (e) how many weeks did it take for VAC to reassess eligibility for VIP benefits each year from 2006 to 2014 inclusive; (f) how many individuals applied for the VIP expansion for survivors each year from 2006 to 2014 inclusive; (g) how many individuals received the VIP expansion for survivors each year from 2006 to 2014 inclusive; (h) of those mentioned in (g), how many qualified as (i) Guaranteed Income Supplement recipients, (ii) Disability Tax Credit recipients; (i) broken down by year, how many individuals who applied to the VIP expansion as listed in (f) were denied the VIP expansion; and (j) out of these veterans listed in (i) how many individuals (i) appealed the decision, (ii) did not appeal the decision, (iii) received this benefit upon appeal, (iv) were denied these benefits upon appeal?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns April 24th, 2015

With regard to the Last Post Fund and agreements in place with Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) related to funeral expenses: (a) for each year from 2006 to 2015 inclusive, how many requests to cover funerals and burial costs have been received by the Last Post Fund; (b) of the requests in (a), how many were (i) accepted, (ii) rejected; (c) of the requests rejected in (b)(ii), how many were denied because they did not meet (i) service-related disability qualifications, (ii) income threshold levels; (d) of the requests accepted in (b)(i), how many were from (i) traditional veterans (First World War, Second World War, Korean War), (ii) modern day veterans (post-Korea); and (e) of the requests rejected in (b)(ii), how many were from (i) traditional veterans (First World War, Second World War, Korean War), (ii) modern day veterans (post-Korea)?