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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is question.

NDP MP for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply June 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to give a flippant response—although it is very tempting to say “How's that going, eh?” when it comes to the fissile treaty—because I believe that is a good thing for us to be doing. I would love to see progress on that treaty, but is the member honestly saying that we can only do one treaty at a time and we have no resources to pursue anything else while we are making very little progress on that treaty?

Using a view of history, I would dispute that it is useless, as the government continues to say, to hold talks to ban weapons when the nuclear powers are not there. We will absolutely be able to do this if we bring the pressure of the entire world to bear on those seven countries and, as I said, if we provide additional leadership in trying to cool off the conflicts that make those countries so fearful that they have to possess nuclear weapons. It is not a question of doing one or the other or saying that, because we are doing one thing, we cannot do any of the rest.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Victoria.

I am pleased and proud to rise today to speak in favour of this motion calling on Canada to support the draft convention on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Some of the things I will say at the beginning of my remarks are well known.

There are more than 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and about 95% of those are owned by the United States and Russia, but there is good reason to believe that the U.K., China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel also possess nuclear weapons.

It is important to note the second thing that most people who are tuned into this topic are aware of, that nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction that are not explicitly prohibited by an international treaty. That is why I am both shocked and appalled, although that phrase may sound trite, by the attitude of the government on this question.

More than 120 countries are participating in the negotiations. Yesterday I sat here during question period and I heard the Prime Minister call the negotiations “sort of useless”. His reason for calling these talks “sort of useless” was that the states that possessed nuclear weapons are not participating.

How will we make any progress on this issue if we do not apply pressure from the rest of the world on those countries that hold nuclear weapons? How will we get any of them to understand the necessity of renouncing not only the possible use but the possession of nuclear weapons?

There are really only two threats right now to the existence of humanity on this planet. One of those threats is global warming, and we have participated and the government claims leadership. Canada has participated in all of the international conventions to attack this main threat to humanity's existence.

We have not said that we will no longer participate in the Paris agreement because some leader of a country close to us does not believe that we should participate. That would be the same logic the Prime Minister used for not participating in the draft convention talks for the prohibition of nuclear weapons. It makes no sense to me. It is also a cavalier attitude that treats this issue as trivial. I would submit that this is anything but trivial, because it is the second threat to the existence of humanity on this planet.

Thinking back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the use of nuclear weapons at that time, these were very small weapons in comparison to what exists today. We found out later that they were the only nuclear weapons in existence at that time There were no great stockpiles and, if they had not worked, there were not lots more to try to use.

Today, 15,000 nuclear weapons exist and there is no guarantee, with the proliferation that has already taken place, with the number of countries that already have access to this technology, that we are going to be able to control this. There is no guarantee that we will be able to stop these weapons from falling into the hands of groups at a sub-state level, groups that we might want to label as terrorist groups. Who knows who might get access to these weapons because of the broad distribution of the technology at this point?

It is incumbent on us to take every action we can to make sure that nuclear weapons are destroyed and no longer available for use by anyone on this planet. It is like firefighting. We train firefighters. We get them to work as hard as they can on fire prevention as well as putting out fires. Firefighters do not just go to fires and turn on the hose. They work every day to try to educate the public and to identify threats. In this case, it would be far too late if we waited until nuclear weapons were used to then say it was tragedy and we should have done something.

This is like fire prevention. This is like disease prevention. I cannot understand not just the Prime Minister but other members on the other side whom I've heard saying just recently that this is a waste of time. One of the things we are short of is time. We are short of time on climate change. We are short of time in banning nuclear weapons. We need to make the best use if whatever efforts we can to make sure these weapons are destroyed.

New Democrats have long held this position. It is not something new for us. Canada previously held this position, and Canada previously has been a leader in trying to work against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Canada is part of the international treaties to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

It makes no sense to me that the government is not participating in these talks, and not just participating, but we should be leading the talks. We should be applying the pressure on those of our allies who have nuclear weapons, and we should be offering whatever support they need to make that decision. Is there some way, through this convention, that we can offer greater security to those who feel so threatened that they feel they need nuclear weapons? Let us have Canada stand up diplomatically and try to solve those problems, to provide the leadership on those problems so that countries no longer feel so threatened that they have to possess these weapons of mass destruction. Again, it is not just participating; it is being a leader. lt is putting forward the ideas through this treaty and through surrounding actions that will get us to a place where we no longer face this threat.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of standing with Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow, a Canadian citizen who, as a child growing up in Japan, was severely injured and lost many family members and friends as a result of that nuclear explosion. I am very proud of her and the campaign that she carries on. She received a standing ovation at the United Nations. I would challenge the Prime Minister to tell Setsuko Thurlow that her campaign is useless. I would challenge him to do that.

However, the government would not even meet with her. Liberals would not even show up when she was here to hear what she had to say. With her was Cesar Jaramillo, the executive director of Project Ploughshares, which has worked tirelessly against all kinds of weapons, but in particular against nuclear weapons. I challenge the Prime Minister to tell Cesar Jaramillo that the work he does for Project Ploughshares is useless work. It is beyond belief that we have a prime minister who was so cavalier about this issue in question period yesterday. It is beyond belief after the speech that the Minister of Foreign Affairs gave in the House saying that, given the instability of the world, it was incumbent on Canada to step up and take a leadership role and that, because the United States is withdrawing from its responsibilities, it is going to be a more dangerous world. A day after that the Prime Minister stood and said here is something we are not going to lead on; we are not going to lead on trying to get rid of nuclear weapons.

A day after that we had the new defence strategy released. I am a somewhat naive member of Parliament sometimes. Having heard the Minister of Foreign Affairs say we are are going to step up to take a leadership role, I actually expected to see that in our defence strategy. Instead, the defence strategy has not one new dollar for the Canadian military in this fiscal year, but promises for increased funding that are 10 and 20 years down the road.

The crises we face of international insecurity are now, not 10 years or 20 years down the road. Do not get me wrong. I have no complaint about a government that is going to plan for our future needs and equipment and that is going to cost those out properly. The problem I have is the gap between those promises and the reality we face every day in the Canadian military. We are about to take on a NATO mission in Latvia, which I and my party fully support. It is important to send a message to both Putin and Trump that the Baltics are NATO members and an attack on one is an attack on all. That is a very important mission for us.

We have also promised to take on a peacekeeping mission in Africa, another mission that I very much look forward to hearing about even though we are about six months late. How is the Canadian military going to take a leadership role in both those missions when its budget increase this year was less than the rate of inflation? We are asking it to take on new duties, which I am very proud of, with fewer resources than it had last year.

I am a bit confused about the government's real attitude to international affairs. What does it expect Canada to accomplish if we are going to leave the obvious avenues for leadership vacant? I call on all members of the House to think very seriously about the implications of Canada continuing to be absent from these negotiations that would lead to a treaty that would make nuclear weapons illegal and that would lead to a much safer and secure world. Yes, the task is hard, but Canada did not shrink from this when it came to the Ottawa treaty to ban landmines. We did not shrink from this when we advocated for the International Criminal Court. Why are we shrinking from that responsibility to lead at this point? I have no answer to that question, and I would like the government to explain to me why it is not taking that leadership role.

National Defence June 1st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, we know that torture and summary executions are immoral and run counter to Canadian and international law. They also alienate potential supporters in the fight against ISIS and produce information that is dangerously unreliable. The Minister of National Defence knows well the ongoing controversy surrounding possible Canadian complicity in torture involving Afghan detainees.

Now that the minister has decided Canadians should be advising and assisting Iraqi forces, in the face of recent evidence of gruesome torture and summary executions, will he now commit to a full investigation of our military co-operation with Iraq?

Business of Supply May 29th, 2017

Mr. Chair, certainly New Democrats have been very supportive of any of the leadership initiatives taken.

Back in August of 2016, the defence minister and the former foreign affairs minister together announced Canada would be committing about 600 troops and 150 police officers to peacekeeping missions in Africa. Here we are, almost nine months later, and these plans appear to be on hold. Can the Minister of National Defence tell the House what Canada's official position is on contributing to the global peacekeeping efforts in this increasingly unstable world? Are we going to be committing to a peacekeeping mission in Africa, or not?

Business of Supply May 29th, 2017

Mr. Chair, given that the Prime Minister and the minister attended the NATO summit on May 25, did they present the outcome of this defence review there? Did they talk about what our priorities are going to be at NATO before it was presented in the House or to Canadians, or did they go there and have nothing to say? Which is it? Either they went to NATO with empty hands or they have already presented the findings of this review to our allies in Europe before they ever presented it to Canadians.

Business of Supply May 29th, 2017

Mr. Chair, once again, I am not getting the answer from the minister that I would like. As a parliamentarian who was sent here to represent my constituents, I would like for us to have a chance to have a full debate of that Canadian defence review here in the House, followed by a debate or a reference to the committee, so that hearings could be held in committee on that defence review. Otherwise, it is the Liberal defence review, not the Canadian defence review, if it is not presented in the House.

The other peculiar thing I find with the defence review is that the minister keeps saying that it will be the solution to the funding problems. Therefore, why, in this budget, was there no set-aside for new initiatives under the defence review? If you were really serious that the defence review was going to provide this extra money, where is the set-aside in the budget? Where is the funding in this budget, or do we have to wait for another future budget down the road for any of these new initiatives from the Canadian defence review to actually take place? Where is the money for it? Why was there not a set-aside in this budget?

Business of Supply May 29th, 2017

Mr. Chair, the minister has referred several times to the June 7 date for announcing the defence review. I would like to ask him now for a specific commitment that the defence review will be presented in the House, tabled in the House, and that we will be able to hold hearings, either a debate in this general House or at committee, so that all parliamentarians can participate in evaluating what the minister is proposing in the Canadian defence review.

Will it be presented here on June 7, or will it be somewhere else? Will we be able to debate this new defence strategy here in the House?

Business of Supply May 29th, 2017

Mr. Chair, we are also seeing the Canadian Armed Forces right now in a period when we have the largest recapitalization needs we have ever had in the history of the Canadian Forces.

In particular, I, of course, am concerned as a member who represents a naval riding with the national shipbuilding strategy, which was approved by all parties in the House and which is really going to be the mechanism by which we renew the navy. My concern is that we have had deferrals, or reprofilings, and putting things off into the future, all kinds of terms have been used, first, again, started by the Conservatives and then followed up by the Liberals so that we now have about $3 billion deferred by the Conservatives, then another $3 billion deferred by the Liberals, and now another $8 billion deferred off to the future.

When we are talking about buying equipment, with the rate of inflation in the military of 3% to 4% to 5%, and we are putting off things 10 years down the road, how are we actually going to buy the same amount of equipment we were supposed to buy with this money? We are obviously going to get 40% to 50% less, at minimum, of the same kinds of equipment, the same kinds of ships that we were going to get with the original allocation. Where is the funding to sustain things like the national shipbuilding strategy?

Business of Supply May 29th, 2017

Mr. Chair, I have to say that I am disappointed with that answer. I was hoping to get a clear commitment since we all know that information derived from torture is not only illegal under international law, but is almost always useless, as people under torture will say exactly what they think people want to hear in order to stop the torture. I am very disappointed that the minister has not given us that assurance.

I want to move on to some other things since we only have a short time this evening with the minister. I actually want to talk directly about the budget. I know the people sitting in front of the minister have huge books full of numbers and I have numbers on my desk. Numbers are difficult to discuss, but the one thing that we have seen in the budget is that the operational budget for the Canadian military peaked in 2012 and began to be cut by the Conservatives.

Where it has not been literally cut, it has been increased by less than the rate of inflation. When it is increased by less than the rate of inflation, obviously something has to give. We cannot keep sustaining the same activities year after year if the funding does not go up with the rate of inflation. The rate of inflation in the military, as we all know, is somewhere between 3% and 4.5%.

In the main estimates and the operational budget for the military this year, the Canadian Armed Forces appear to have received significantly less of an increase than the rate of inflation. How can they continue all the things we are asking them to do on our behalf when they get less money than they need to carry out those tasks?

Business of Supply May 29th, 2017

Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the minister to give us the assurance in the House that if Canadian Armed Forces do come across these instances of torture or similar kinds of instances that we will stop our co-operation with the Iraqi government forces.