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

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act April 9th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that all indigenous governments were involved in negotiating this agreement with Bill C-88, as well as the Northwest Territories government. It has the support of all of these governments because they will be at the table.

Obviously, governments can take actions to try to negate the rights of indigenous peoples. It depends on the government of the day. However, I know that the inherent policy of this government is to work with indigenous peoples. It is not to negate their rights, but to work with them in a collaborative approach.

Perhaps future governments of Canada will move forward in a different manner and try to negate those rights. However, I know that our government is committed to working with indigenous peoples.

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act April 9th, 2019

Niwakoma cuntik Tansai Nemeaytane Atawapamtikok.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to express my support for Bill C-88. I also acknowledge that we are here on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.

This important bill proposes to improve the regulatory regime that governs resource development in the Northwest Territories. Equally important, in my view, is the contribution Bill C-88 would make to reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

Throughout much of this country's history, indigenous peoples have been actively prevented from contributing fully to and benefiting equally from the social and economic prosperity that so many of us take for granted. Reconciliation and a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples will help create the conditions needed to close the socio-economic gap that persists between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians.

Today we have an opportunity to right some of the wrongs of the past and to unlock economic growth for indigenous peoples and all Canadians. We have a chance to create an environment that supports self-determination. This will not only be good for indigenous peoples but will be good for all of Canada.

The National Indigenous Economic Development Board has estimated that engaging indigenous people in the economy at the same rate as non-indigenous people would boost Canada's GDP by 1.5% and create almost $28 billion in economic growth. Several others have suggested that the number is actually much higher.

Reconciliation is a multi-faceted undertaking that ultimately must involve and engage all people in Canada, indigenous and non-indigenous alike. At the personal level, it involves confronting and erasing all prejudice, embracing fresh ideas and throwing out those racist ideas of the past. For the Government of Canada, it involves sweeping changes to legislation, policies and how we approach policy.

Allow me to quote the Prime Minister's description of the challenge facing Canada. He stated:

Reconciliation calls upon us all to confront our past and commit to charting a brighter, more inclusive future. We must acknowledge that centuries of colonial practices have denied the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples. The recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights will chart a new way forward for our Government to work with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples and to undo decades of mistrust, poverty, broken promises, and injustices.

The legislation now before us would support reconciliation in a clear and unequivocal way by re-establishing the land and water boards in a manner requested by indigenous communities themselves. The boards would enable three indigenous communities in the Northwest Territories, the Gwich'in, the Sahtu and the Tlicho, to influence resource development in their traditional territories in a direct and meaningful way.

Four years ago, Parliament endorsed legislation to restructure the regulatory regime governing resource development in the Northwest Territories. Part of this plan involved the amalgamation of four boards into a single entity, the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.

Soon after the plan became law, the Tlicho Government and the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated launched court actions against the Government of Canada. Both indigenous governments challenged Canada's authority to unilaterally eliminate boards that had been legally authorized years earlier. A 1992 comprehensive land claims agreement had established the Gwich'in Land and Water Board, which was given effect by the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act in 1998, for instance. In 2003, the Tlicho land claims and self-government agreement had authorized the creation of the Wek'èezhìi Land and Water Board.

The court challenges effectively put a halt to some of the restructuring measures included in the 2014 legislation under the Harper regime. The new Government of Canada agreed to work in co-operation with northern indigenous communities, including the plaintiffs in the court actions, to resolve the impasse and to restructure the regulatory regime in a way that would meet the needs of all concerned.

Representatives of indigenous groups, the Government of Northwest Territories and industry met with federal officials. The meetings inspired the Government of Canada to draft a legislative proposal and to share the draft with all interested parties.

This collaborative effort not only exemplifies the spirit of reconciliation but also illustrates reconciliation in action. It is “reconciliaction”, and it abides by the principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples established last year. For instance, principle 1 states, “The Government of Canada recognizes that all relations with Indigenous peoples need to be based on the recognition and implementation of their right to self-determination, including the inherent right of self-government.”

Principle 5 states, “The Government of Canada recognizes that treaties, agreements, and other constructive arrangements between Indigenous peoples and the Crown have been and are intended to be acts of reconciliation based on mutual recognition and respect.”

Following this approach soon produced a negotiated solution. We sat down and we negotiated. It is a solution articulated today in Bill C-88. However, to fully appreciate the value of the solution requires an understanding of how it came into being. This was not a case of the Government of Canada imposing its will on others. In fact, the bill before us incorporates the suggestions made by the negotiators representing other groups, including indigenous governments. They were central to this.

One change to the original draft legislation proposal relates to court jurisdiction for judicial reviews of administrative monetary penalties imposed under the regulatory regime. The change ensures consistency with exclusive jurisdiction of the Northwest Territories' Supreme Court under section 32 of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. A second modification to the original draft legislation aims to ensure consistency with comprehensive land claims agreements. New language was added to clarify consultation obligations related to administrative monetary penalties.

Is it not exciting to talk about administrative monetary penalties? These changes came about because the parties negotiated as equals in an atmosphere of mutual respect and mutual recognition of rights and responsibilities.

Should Bill C-88 become law, if it can make its way through this Parliament, its effects would also foster reconciliation. This is because co-management is central to the regulatory regime envisioned in the legislation now before us. Boards comprised of members nominated by northern indigenous governments and the governments of the Northwest Territories and Canada would render decisions about proposed development projects. Board decisions are legally binding on all parties, including developers. This means that northern indigenous governments would be fully able to exercise their right to self-determination.

The onus has long been on indigenous peoples to prove that their rights exist. For too long, indigenous communities have had to fight to exercise their rights. This is why reconciliation absolutely requires the Government of Canada, on behalf of all Canadians, to base all of its relations with indigenous peoples on the recognition and the implementation of existing rights.

On one level, Bill C-88 would repeal the amalgamation of land and water boards in the Northwest Territories. It would also modernize the regulatory regime governing resource development in the region. On a higher level, Bill C-88 would foster reconciliation with indigenous peoples across Canada. It would demonstrate to indigenous communities across the country that the Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation.

Hon. members of this chamber, the people's House, have an opportunity to show their commitment to reconciliation, and I encourage all of them to join me in supporting Bill C-88.

Committees of the House March 19th, 2019

They still do that? I did not know that.

My great thing is that in my time in the House, I know I exercise my rights as a parliamentarian. I will make decisions in the best interests of my citizens. I expect that from all parliamentarians here.

If members would like to take it up with individual members, they should. However, it is not up to the government to decide that for members of Parliament. That is not how it should work. We, as members of Parliament, have full rights to exercise our independence and our own decision-making.

Committees of the House March 19th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, when I was on the finance committee, when I first came to Parliament, people said that I would get my orders from the PMO or someone else. At no time did I ever have anyone tell me what to do.

In fact, I remember a number of occasions when I was on the finance committee and I asked harder questions than the opposition. There was a couple of times when journalists said that it seemed the member from Winnipeg Centre asked some questions that were even tougher than what the member for Milton asked or the member who was the former leader in the House for the second opposition from Rimouski.

I also remember having some discussions with my colleagues who sometimes did not like my questions. However, I was not there to please my colleagues. I was there to get to the truth.

Every member here is independent. At least, I assume we are. I heard that under previous governments, perhaps under the Stephen Harper government, that things were a bit more “by the book”, that members were told what to do. They took their orders. The government at that time would take people out of a committee and replace them with “ringers”, as they called them. Know what? I have never been replaced.

Committees of the House March 19th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I hear the member yelling at me across the House. I am going to answer his question. On the subject of the P3 and its costs, when we took office, we were forced to continue with it, because Montreal's infrastructure, its bridges, were deteriorating at an alarming rate. We made a commitment not to charge a toll. That is a done deal. There is no toll. This is a public asset for everyone.

If we had decided to stop the work and start over from scratch, the bridge would never have been built, and we would still be stuck with the old Champlain Bridge. It is important to finish building infrastructure, especially infrastructure that is so important to the economy of Montreal, one of our biggest cities. If a bridge collapses or is closed for whatever reason, the impact on our economy could be dire. This bridge is used by many trucks carrying goods and merchandise and many people coming into the Montreal area. Losing it would be devastating to our economy. That is why it is so important that this bridge be built. It will be completed in 2019. The end is in sight.

I hope that the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities will invite me to cut the ribbon at the inauguration ceremony someday. I think I gave a pretty good speech on this report.

Committees of the House March 19th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for that great question.

Regarding consultations, I will say this. In 2014, the Conservatives decided to name the bridge after Maurice Richard. He was a great Canadian, a great hockey player, but they did not even take the time to consult his family. They forgot. The family asked that the idea be dropped.

Committees of the House March 19th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I know members love to play games. I know there are all sorts of manoeuvres that can be made using the Standing Orders. Just yesterday, two motions were proposed by the Conservatives that delayed debate on Bill C-92.

We talk about relevance here, so I am going to talk about it. I do not believe the report has any mention of SNC-Lavalin, yet the member opposite raises this issue. What does that have to do with our debate?

I would like to point something out. Some believe that the justice department and its lawyers write legislation in stone and that it is so good that when it comes out of the justice department, no changes need to be made by parliamentarians. That is wrong. Parliament should have a role to play in making changes and debating those changes when they go to committee. Our role as a Parliament is to assert our power as parliamentarians to make changes in legislation.

Let us talk about the legislation on indigenous languages. Over 30 changes were made because people were willing to listen and make those changes, and that is great. Members should listen.

If this legislation, Bill C-92, requires more changes, we are willing to listen. I know some groups want to see some little differences and they want to see a little more power being given to indigenous groups. I know the Province of Manitoba has some concerns. However, these changes happen in committee and are made by the people who study this day in and day out and who are experts in this subject matter area. They have the best understanding, as they have been studying these issues for a number of years.

I trust the member opposite has a great expertise in this area and can bring great ideas to make those changes.

Committees of the House March 19th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak about the Champlain Bridge. This is a very important project for the people of Montreal, Quebec and Canada.

This infrastructure project began in 2007 when Le Journal de Montréal published an article about the need to build a 10-lane bridge across the river. A month later, Novaroute, a private firm, decided to conduct a study in order to publish a story about building a tunnel under the river. At that point, everyone had already known for more than 10 years that the bridge would have to be replaced, but the plan was several years in the making.

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts issued a report in response to the Auditor General's report. The Auditor General found that the Conservatives completely botched the job of ensuring that the bridge would be built in a timely manner and in the best interests of Canadians.

This report shows that the Conservatives mismanaged public funds. The Auditor General's report is astonishing. The report included a number of recommendations directed at the Harper Conservatives, who could have considerably improved their approach.

It is mind-boggling that the Conservatives are bringing these reports back to our attention to discuss them, but I will talk about them.

The reports indicate that, according to the Auditor General, the Conservatives did not even properly plan the bridge's construction. It is absolutely unbelievable that they did not even produce an adequate plan for getting the job done.

On October 6, 2011, the day after the announcement about replacing the bridge, an article reported that it would be a new bridge, not a tunnel, built through a P3, costing a maximum of $5 billion and that it would be ready within 10 years. Both the Office of the Auditor General and a government news release indicate that the decision to use a P3 model was made in 2011, a fact that is also supported by a news article. Deputy Minister Kelly Gillis said that the decision was made in December 2013, because that was when the government announced the accelerated timeline to replace the bridge in 2018, and the analyses carried out in 2012 and 2013 addressed the best way to complete the project quickly.

According to the Office of the Auditor General, the value-for-money analyses were of little use to decision-makers and contained many flaws favouring the P3 model. What is more, the department's analyses indicated savings that were unrealistic.

It was unrealistic. The Conservatives say that they are extremely good at managing the economy and public funds, but according to the OAG, the department's analyses were unrealistic. It took a Liberal government to get this bridge built and to make sure the work was done properly.

I would also note that the Conservatives wanted a toll on this bridge that would have cost every person who crosses the bridge five days a week $2,340 a year. It is unbelievable. That is $2,340 that would have been taken or practically stolen out of taxpayers' pockets. It is terrible when we think about it. Montrealers are lucky we are here now to manage the resources. The bridge is almost finished, and there is no toll. It is a bridge for public use. It is a bridge that everyone will be able to use. The Conservatives wanted this bridge to be used only by their wealthy friends.

The following is another recommendation from the Office of the Auditor General:

After completing the construction of the new Champlain Bridge, Infrastructure Canada should create realistic benchmarks for construction costs, risk evaluation, and efficiency rates in value-for-money analyses, for use in future requests for proposals for infrastructure projects.

This seems to make perfect sense, but former Conservative infrastructure ministers Lawrence Cannon and Denis Lebel did not understand it. They did not know what they were doing. I want to share another quote from the report:

Without obtaining results of durability analyses in advance, Infrastructure Canada could not know whether the proposed bridge designs would meet the expected service life requirement before it signed a contract with the selected bidder. [For instance]...they did not fully assess several deterioration mechanisms—for example, frost damage and the compounding effect of all deterioration mechanisms. As a result, [the OAG] performed comprehensive durability analyses on the designs of key non-replaceable components of the new bridge. In [its] analysis, [it] did not find design problems that would affect the examined components’ ability to meet their expected service life.

I would like to come back to the passage stating that Infrastructure Canada could not know whether the proposed bridge designs met the expected service life requirements. The Conservatives were so inept and incapable of managing public assets that they were not even able to figure out if this bridge would last. The bridge would be built and then perhaps one day collapse. A bridge should last at least 100 years and ideally 125 years.

According to the Auditor General, the Conservatives did not know if it would last because they did not even evaluate this requirement. Ten years ago, several people died in Montreal because of how certain structures were built. It is disgraceful that the Conservatives did not even take the time to evaluate this properly. We are now here to debate this issue. It is disgraceful that the Conservatives continue to put forward the proposals of Stephen Harper, Denis Lebel and Lawrence Cannon. We are pleased that they are no longer in power. We have come out of this decade of decay and poor management of our economy and public assets. They should be ashamed.

Now, I would like to remind members that we are supposed to be debating Bill C-92.

We are supposed to be debating Bill C-92, which is about the children, youth and families of first nations, Inuit and Métis. We are not debating that right now because instead we are doing what the Conservatives want, which is to debate this infrastructure report. This is an infrastructure report that demonstrates the poor management of the Conservative Party when it was in power, regarding the public good in Montreal with respect to the Champlain Bridge. Therefore, we are not debating this very important bill concerning child welfare for our children.

When I gave my maiden speech in the House of Commons three years ago, I spoke about child welfare. The speech was about the 11,000 kids in care in the province of Manitoba.

Since that time, I have had the opportunity in my riding, one of the poorest ridings in the country, to speak with mothers and fathers who have had their children taken, such as Chantelle Hutchison, who drove all the way from Brandon, Manitoba, to see me in Winnipeg to advocate to, somehow, get her child back, her little girl. I keep this photo of the little girl above my stove so that when I am cooking in my apartment here in Ottawa I remember why I was elected. Even though we were not able to help the mother get her child back, I hope if Chantelle is listening right now she knows that this legislation we have here today is because of her hard work advocating not only on behalf of her child but for the thousands of children and families in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and right across the country.

This legislation is so important that I call on the Conservatives to not play games anymore and to stop debate on this report, which I am sure is very important, but this child welfare bill is so important it needs to move forward. It needs to move on through this House and to the Senate. If we spend a lot of time playing these games, this legislation will not become law and we will not effect change. We will continue doing the same things we did with the Indian residential schools.

I will admit that I was mean to the Conservatives. However, I will throw them what I hope is a rose. I was proud when Stephen Harper stood in the House and gave the apology for the Indian residential schools, because it was a defining moment in the history of our nation. We were able to come together in a good way. We had indigenous leaders here. We had all-party support. The apology was made and then we built a stained glass window just outside the old chamber to commemorate it, so that every time we as parliamentarians go through our door, in and out of that chamber, we remember the Indian residential schools. I think this law is like that.

Indian residential schools were about placing children in large institutions. However, back in the sixties we slowly changed how the system worked. We started to place children up for adoption. We call that the sixties scoop, the stolen generation. Then, in the eighties, we stopped using adoption and started placing them with foster families in child welfare. We continue to do that today. It is extremely sad that it continues. We are perpetuating the same mistakes of the past but in a different way. It is more diffused. Instead of concentrating children in one place, we are spreading them around society.

Therefore, I hope we can stop debate on this lovely report. I am sure the committee members worked very hard on it. I can continue hammering away on the Conservatives if they would like. I can do it all in French, with all the costs. However, what I really want to get to is this. I think the legislation, Bill C-92, should go to committee. If we can get it passed at second reading and to committee, we can have the debate, we can hear what indigenous organizations and indigenous peoples want, deal with the legislative amendments from some provincial governments and come to a conclusion.

It was mentioned in the debate about the indigenous languages legislation from last night, which is very important, how over 30 amendments were table dropped. That does not mean the government was just willing to table legislation and not see any changes at all. It means it was willing to consult and listen to people. I think it is important that things are not written in stone when it comes out of the justice department so that improvements can be made through public discussion. That is what needs to happen with this law. It is great to debate and get people on the record here in this chamber, but what we really need is to have this legislation move on to committee, because that is where we will see that change.

I am going to leave the House with a statistic. We know there are 11,000 kids in care. We know that every day in Manitoba a newborn baby is seized, a newborn baby is taken from the mother, sometimes for good reason and sometimes not. In Manitoba, if someone was in the child welfare system and they give birth, there will be a note on their health file and if they give birth in the Manitoba health care system, their child will automatically be taken.

I see men and women come into my office, week after week, trying to get a letter of recommendation, not for immigration purposes, not for a visitor visa, but to say that they are a good parent. I look at the certificates and all the training they have gone through to become good parents and to prove they are good parents. It is strange that they have to get certificates to prove they are good parents. Not everyone else has to do that. I never had to do that. I am sure most of the members here never had to prove that they were a good parent.

However, that is what happens day in and day out in this country for some of the poorest citizens who cannot afford lawyers, who cannot afford to really advocate on their own behalf, who are sometimes only 18 or 19 years old, who got pregnant and who want to love their child.

I know there are people who will say online or will write me to say that there are terrible people who need to have their children taken. The Province of Manitoba, through the Health Sciences Centre research branch published a report looking at child welfare, and 87% of all children taken are taken not because of issues related to abuse but are taken because of issues related to poverty. That leaves 13%. Incredibly enough, that 13% is where we have allegations of abuse. Of that 13%, only 12% are substantiated abuse. This means that in the vast majority of cases, there is no abuse involved. It is just because people are too poor to look after their own children, or for other issues.

That is a travesty of justice in our age. That is why it is important that we have some consensus to stop debating report 51 and move on to Bill C-92, a historic piece of legislation that will affect great change across our nation, which is needed now, before this Parliament ends, while we have the opportunity and the chance.

Do not let this occasion slip through our fingers. Whether members win in this upcoming election or not, every parliamentarian who participates in this debate on Bill C-92, who lets this legislation move forward, will be able to look at themselves in the mirror. When they are at home and wondering why they lost or won that election, they will be able to look themselves in the eye at two o'clock in the morning and know that they made a difference.

Filipino Student Leadership Conference March 1st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, kamusta.

Over 100 Filipino Canadian youth gathered in Ottawa this past weekend for their first national leadership conference. Hosted by the Filipino Students Association of the University of Ottawa, they launched this phenomenal event to affirm their beliefs that our democratic principles are vital to our common future, and to underscore their vision that political participation is not limited to running for political office but extends to knowing how people's concerns are heard and how positive change happens.

Their panel discussions and workshops heard from the community's trailblazers in politics and civil service and from academic scholars and leaders in the media and business. They heard from their keynote speaker, the hon. Dr. Rey Pagtakhan, who is from Winnipeg and served in the House with great distinction, on the theme of “Politics: A truly noble calling”. Canada's multiculturalism policy is proud to support this type of civic engagement, which fosters citizenship values, nurtures the nobility of politics and enriches our collective heritage.


Indigenous Affairs February 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister often says, no relationship is more important to our government than the one with indigenous peoples. It is in that spirit that the government committed to work nation-to-nation with indigenous partners and implemented the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as all 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. The UN has declared 2019 to be the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Can the Prime Minister explain to the House what the government is doing to support indigenous languages?