House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was actually.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Privilege April 6th, 2017

It was, but there is traffic.

At the end of the day, I was able to find a way to get to the House and carry out my functions—

Privilege April 6th, 2017

That is why we do have buses, yes. It is a good idea to have these buses.

However, Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day I am also able to plan for that long-term thought about where I should be, so when I hear the bells, I try to get out. It does not mean that there has not been a case, and the Speaker has ruled conclusively on this that a case of prime facie did occur. However at the end of the day, we all have this responsibility.

For me, one of the main issues is that we are spending an awful lot of time debating something, which is very important, but there are also other issues that are far more important to be debating in this House. There is government legislation, which I am sure both the opposition members and the Canadian public would like to see us debate to ensure that the agenda that we set forth in the last election is actually put forward and implemented in a concrete way. We are delaying getting to those bills because we are spending a lot of time debating whether a bollard was in the right place and whether people knew the proper procedures. I am certain, as I have already stated, that the security staff are now fully aware, and I am sure they have always been aware of the procedures on what should be occurring.

I always find it interesting when I read the House of Commons Procedures and Practice, which we were given when we first joined the House. In fact, as part of a little ceremony, we were given the pin to indicate someone is a member of Parliament and also the fine green book, and the clerk or deputy clerk said, “Good luck; I hope you enjoy your reading.” Inside it we can find on page 110 where it talks about physical obstruction, assault, and molestation. It also talks about other examples of obstruction, interference, and intimidation.

These are all very important. A number of cases are laid out, starting on page 110, previous examples that demonstrate the types of obstruction that have occurred and what was done to prevent them from occurring in the future. For instance:

In 1999, a number of questions of privilege were raised resulting from picket lines set up by members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada at strategic locations of entry to Parliament Hill and at entrances to specific buildings used by parliamentarians. One Member stated that the strikers had used physical violence and intimidation to stop him from gaining access to his office. On this matter, Speaker Parent ruled immediately that there was a prima facie case of privilege and the matter was referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Other related questions of privilege focused on the difficulties some Members had had in gaining access to their offices, thus preventing them from performing their functions and meeting their obligations in a timely fashion. After consideration, Speaker Parent found that the incident constituted a prima facie case of contempt of the House and the matter was also referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. In 2004, a question of privilege was raised regarding the free movement of Members within the Parliamentary Precinct during a visit by the President of the United States, George W. Bush. A number of Members complained that, in attempting to prevent protestors from gaining entrance to Parliament Hill, police had also denied certain Members access to the Parliamentary Precinct and thus prevented them from carrying out their parliamentary functions. Speaker Milliken found a prima facie case of privilege and the matter was referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

These are also very serious, extremely serious, in the sense that there were instances of protesters, barricades, incidents of police actually preventing, in a sustained and enduring manner, members from accessing the House and carrying out their functions.

In the case at hand, which is also very serious, nonetheless, I am certain that the security personnel for the House of Commons, for Parliament, were not sustaining a way of preventing parliamentarians from carrying out their duties. We could create a scale. I know people love things to be black and white, but does black and white ever truly exist? Do we always have to have a great divide, whether it is on the left or the right? Is there not ever some grey, where truth has colour from both sides of a story? When I look at this case, while it is very serious, which all of them are, I think it is perhaps, on a scale, a little less serious than protesters actively preventing and obstructing members from gaining access to the parliamentary precinct in order to carry out their functions.

I have also been on a bus when a vote is occurring. I tried to get off the bus because it was stuck in traffic. I asked the bus driver to let me off, but he said he could not let me off because it was not safe. I insisted on being allowed to get off immediately and the driver still said he could not. After a bit of discussion, I said I had about five minutes to get to the vote and asked to please be allowed to get off. The driver looked around and said he would let me off—

Privilege April 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the opportunity and the comments from the member from Skeena, though I must say I have heard in this House, in this debate, people talking not only about parliamentary privilege but also about rules and regulations, and we have to have a bit of leeway for people to get to the argument that they would like to make at the end of the day.

I remember as a young kid having to plan for a certain time and to think about how I was going to get somewhere. I also remember when we had Barrack Obama here to give a speech. I was told by my party I had to be here three hours in advance, and I listened, and I still encountered some difficulties in getting past certain barricades throughout this city. I had a discussion with a police officer down by the Rideau Centre and he said, “You cannot go right now; we are waiting for perhaps the motorcade for the President”. We had a little discussion. We talked about parliamentary privilege and I moved through to the next barricade and at some point someone called someone and security came down and made sure I was able to get to the place where I was supposed to be so I could participate in the proceedings to listen to the President of the United States, and it was a great thing.

I am not saying that the members for Milton and Beauce were intentionally not doing something. I know they had the full intention of coming to the House to vote, and sometimes things happen. If we want, we can review again for a number of minutes and a certain period of time what exactly happened. We can read this ruling again: “At approximately 3:47 p.m., the bollards at or by the vehicle screening facility were lowered to allow for the arrival of a bus transporting journalists to Centre Block for the presentation of the budget. The media bus, under Parliamentary Protective Service escort, immediately proceeded to Centre Block. Seconds later, after the media bus had proceeded, a House of Commons shuttle bus arrived at the vehicle screening facility but was not allowed to proceed to Centre Block. In the ensuing minutes, two more shuttle buses arrived at the vehicle screening facility and were similarly delayed”.

I heard from the member for Beauce that he had to get out and start walking. According to the member from Okanagan, we all have different abilities in this place, meaning some of us cannot walk as well as others: some are younger, some are a bit older, some are younger but have a knee problem. Once in a while I have a knee problem as well.

Privilege April 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the opportunity to speak to this. I would like to start with a little quote, “With great power comes great responsibility”. I bet members do not know who said that, but it was Uncle Ben to Spiderman, Peter Parker. That is important. Not to make light of the situation, but it is incredible that we just spent two hours debating bollards and buses and whether people were able to get here on time.

I think the Speaker has made a very good ruling that is based on many of the precedents that have been set in this chamber, and those precedents, I think, speak to the civil servants who help run the facility here, who help run our institutions, who look after our security and are very aware, and more aware now, of what they need to do to ensure that members are not impeded in coming to the House.

I would also like to say that with great privileges there comes great responsibility. When I spoke with an elder of mine, Winston Wuttunee from Red Pheasant First Nation, he talked about responsibility, the ability to respond to a situation. He told me that when he was a young child, he would have to walk long distances to school and have to plan how long it would take for him to get there. I also remember this as a young child, having to walk 2.5 miles in order to arrive at my school on time. My mum had no money for buses. She had no money for gas for the car, and we had to do this with our own two legs, and take the time to plan out the 2.5 miles and say it would take around 45 or 30 minutes to get there, so I would need to leave at a certain time.

I know there is an idea as well that we often talk about. In this case, I was able to plan into the future. I knew when I needed to be at school. In this case, sometimes votes happen inadvertently or they happen at inopportune moments, but if we remember about this vote, we have to remember that at the end of the day, this vote was caused by the members of the Conservative Party, who forced this vote—

Privilege April 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the member that at the end of the day, we all have responsibilities in this chamber. With that responsibility has to come a sense that we have to be able to plan forward. When we hear the bells, we know we are supposed to come to this place in a reasonable time. We are not supposed to dilly-dally in our offices, or continue with meetings, even sometimes committee meetings. It is incumbent upon us to hear those bells and ensure our parties are aware of where we are and what we are doing so we can come to this place and exercise our privilege, our right, and our responsibility to vote.

The Budget March 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, in January and February I had the opportunity to visit 41 first nation communities throughout Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where I not only skied but also walked over 900 kilometres. On that trip I had the opportunity to have discussions with chiefs, council members, elders, youth, and people who were running child and family services systems. I discovered that in fact there are things that are being built in communities, such as water treatment plants and new schools. There are things that are happening, such as more educational opportunities and economic development.

When I was talking with the CFS workers, agencies, and authorities, I discovered that money is flowing and they have seen a funding increase, but obviously we are at the start of a conversation about this. I wish we could snap our fingers and fix all the wrongs of the past, but unfortunately that is just not going to be the case.

The member suggested that we are blowing an opportunity. However, the way budgets are often looked at is that people will criticize us if we spend money on certain people. For example, I do not consider spending, or blowing, $89.9 million over the next three years to preserve, protect, and promote indigenous languages and cultures as giving money away or as something that is not good for the Canadian state.

This is actually part and parcel. We cannot isolate things by themselves. We have to take a holistic view, which is an indigenous view. It is the ideal of the one in a unified sense. When we consider the spending, it must be taken as a unified whole, and what we do here has an impact over there.

The Budget March 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, when I speak to the minister, I know she is very concerned about the child welfare system. Right now the system is completely broken, but throwing more money at it will not make the system better. Often it is not a question of more money. For instance, we could put more money into the system, but there is the great chance we would take more children from their parents because we would provide incentives for doing that. There would be more incentives and more money to take those children.

Currently in Manitoba, 11,000 kids are in care of the state. I have been pushing for a total reform of this entire system. I have members of my staff working on this. I have cases on child and family services. We all care about this, but we will have to sit down as indigenous peoples and have a deep and profound conversation about how we raise our children, how we look after them, who is supposed to look after them.

Our children in many communities have become a natural resource, our greatest natural resource, but not in the good way we often use in the House. They have become a natural resource in the sense that they are a product passed from person to person who can generate money. I do not want to imply that foster families are not doing a good job, because there are many great foster families.

We really need to be thoughtful and considerate about the direction in which we move. I hope one day we will have the funding that goes along with it, but we have to really reform the system beforehand.

The Budget March 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, as we gather here to debate the merits of the 2017 budget, let us recognize that we are here on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. It is a meeting place of first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. It is also the national capital of all Canadians.

This budget is about investing, not just in traditional budget items like bridges and roads, but in people, because they have become la raison d'être. They are the most important thing in this budget.

As I was rereading the throne speech from December 4, 2015, I read the words of Governor General David Johnston, which state:

First and foremost, the government believes that all Canadians should have a real and fair chance to succeed. Central to that success is a strong and growing middle class.

We can see that this budget goes a long way to deliver on that ideal. It makes a great difference in the lives of many people. For instance, we are significantly boosting federal support to provinces and territories by $2.7 billion over six years to help more unemployed and underemployed Canadians access the training and employment services and supports they need to find and keep good jobs.

We are also investing $225 million over four years to identify and fill skill gaps in the economy to help Canadians be best prepared for the new economy.

Also, there is the Canada caregiver credit, which is a new credit that will provide better support to those who need it the most, and will be given to caregivers whether they live with their family members or not. It will help families with caregiving responsibilities. This new Canada caregiver credit will provide tax relief on an amount of $6,883 in 2017 in respect of expenses for care of dependent relatives with infirmities, including persons with disabilities.

The forces of inertia, of immobilization, of standing still, of 10 years of darkness characterize what happened in the past decade of the ancien régime. It may give voice to an opposition, but as the Governor General has said on December 4, 2015:

Let us not forget...that Canadians have been clear and unambiguous in their desire for real change. Canadians want their government to do different things, and to do things differently.

Budget 2017 proposes to increase financial support for Canada's clean technology sector by making available more financing to clean technology firms. Nearly $1.4 billion in new financing, on a cash basis, will be made available to help Canada's clean technology firms grow and expand.

Budget 2017 also proposes to invest $400 million over five years, starting in 2017, to support projects that develop and demonstrate new clean technologies, that promote sustainable development, including those that address environmental issues, such as climate change, air quality, clean water, and clean soil.

Budget 2017 also proposes to adopt clean technology in Canada's natural resources sectors, with $200 million over four years, starting in 2017, going to Natural Resources Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

This is not all. In housing, budget 2017 proposes to invest more than $11.2 billion over 11 years in a variety of initiatives designed to build, renew, and repair Canada's stock of affordable housing, and help ensure that Canadians have affordable housing that meets their goals.

I think about the 1,500 homeless people who I find in my riding. They are asking for housing not just in the suburbs, but in their neighbourhood where they can receive supports so they can be successful as well, where they do not have to end up in a prison or the emergency wards taking up valuable resources, but where they can find the resources that society should provide them and they can be housed and healthy as well.

This is what our plan and our budget propose to do.

Our Governor General goes on to state:

Because it is both the right thing to do and a certain path to economic growth, the government will undertake to renew, nation-to-nation, the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples, one based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.

This is perhaps one of the greatest budgets we have ever seen for indigenous peoples, and perhaps for all Canadians, $828.2 million over five years to improve health outcomes for first nations, Inuit people, and communities, including mental health services. The opposition should be excited about this.

In education, we have invested $165 million over five years to support post-secondary education and skills training for indigenous peoples. We have also increased funding to the post-secondary student support program by $90 million over two years beginning in 2017. There will be $25 million over five years to Indspire. This will fund bursaries and scholarships for 12,000 Métis, Inuit, and first nations youth in our country, ensuring they can get the education so they can build communities, their families, and a life they deserve.

It is not even done. There will be $18.9 million over the next five years and $5.5 million every four years thereafter to support indigenous youth and sport programs. When we have crises in many of our communities among our youth, we need to ensure they are healthy. To be healthy, they need to do sports. We need to ensure they are active, that they have good mental health. We know from empirical studies that if we are active, our mental health is often better.

That is not all. There will be $225 million over the next 11 years to improve housing for first nations, Métis, and Inuit people who live off reserve; $4 billion over 10 years on social and green infrastructure funding to build and improve infrastructure in first nations and inuit communities; $21.4 million over four years to support the development of renewable energy projects in indigenous and northern communities that rely on diesel for electricity and heating, by continuing the northern responsible energy approach to community heat and electricity programs. That is good for the environment because diesel is not a clean fuel. We need to ensure people have access to clean technology.

There will be $83.8 million over five years to integrate traditional indigenous knowledge of our elders, to build better understanding of climate change, and inform adaptation actions and to enhance indigenous community resilience through infrastructure planning and emergency management. In communities where even the risk of flooding has not been truly evaluated, we will ensure we can evaluate it so if there is flooding or environmental change, we can do it in a good way.

There will be $26.4 million over five years, starting in 2017, to support indigenous collaboration on climate change and $18 million over five years to implement a climate change and health adaptation program for first nations and Inuit communities, including support for surveillance and monitoring activities, risk assessment, laboratory diagnostics, as well as health profession education and public awareness campaigns.

One of the things I love so much about the budget is the fact that we are starting to talk about culture. Culture is so important to me as a traditional indigenous person. There will be $89.9 million over the next three years to preserve, protect, and promote indigenous languages and cultures. That warms my heart. When I go to my sun dance, I can look my brothers and sisters in the eye and tell them that this Canada will represent them and will ensure they have a place in our country.

There will be $25 million over five years to launch a pilot indigenous guardians program, a program which I supported in the finance committee and ensured was in our pre-budget report.

There will be $250 million over five years to renew and expand Pacific and Atlantic integrated commercial fisheries initiatives and to augment indigenous collaborative management programming.

There will be $8.6 million over four years to develop the indigenous tourism industry. So many of our young people do not have the education they need, but they often have skills. It might not be a diploma, but perhaps they know to do a very good powwow dance. They can entertain people, but they never get paid for it.

There are so many things we can do.

I remember a story about a man I met just last weekend at a powwow, Gordon Kent. He has been homeless for many years, and it was very hard for him. It would have been easier if he had received these supports earlier on. He would have been able to get off of the streets and his drug addictions. I met him at the powwow where he was dancing, where he was trying to rehabilitate himself and become a better person. The thing he wants to do most of all is to ensure that our young people do not follow the path that he chose, that they can choose the good path right when they are young, so they can look to him sometimes to see what not to follow, but what they should do later on in life. This budget is truly for Gordon. Hopefully, we will be successful for many more of our young people.

Tapwe akwa khitwam hi hi

Petitions March 10th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting a petition with hundreds of signatures by the citizens of Winnipeg. They call on the Canadian government to pass a resolution to establish measures to stop the Chinese Communist regime's crime of systematically murdering Falun Gong practitioners for their organs, to demand that Canadian legislators pass legislation to combat forced organ harvesting, as well as to publicly call for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong people and practitioners in China.

Alfred Barr March 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, yesterday Master Corporal Alfred Barr of the Royal Canadian Air Force's 435 Transportation and Rescue Squadron based out of Winnipeg was tragically killed in a training accident near Yorkton, Saskatchewan. As a reservist and former full-time member of the Canadian Armed Forces, I, along with many other members of this House, know the importance that the uniform carries and the weight that it bears on their families, friends, and communities.

Every day men and women of our search and rescue community don their uniforms and risk their lives to fulfill their motto, “That others may live”.

Yesterday's loss is a reminder of the selflessness and sacrifice that exemplifies their profession and the professionalism of all members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

On behalf of all of my colleagues, I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Master Corporal Barr and to the search and rescue community in which he proudly served.