House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservative.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for St. John's South—Mount Pearl (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns June 17th, 2015

With regard to government funding for the constituency of St John's South—Mount Pearl for each fiscal year since 2007-2008 inclusively: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions and loans to any organization, body or group, broken down by (i) the name of the recipient, (ii) the municipality in which the recipient is located, (iii) the date on which funding was received, (iv) the amount received, (v) the department or agency providing the funding, (vi) the program under which the grant, contribution or loan was made, (vii) the nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan identified in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline of the press release?

Questions on the Order Paper June 12th, 2015

With regard to the Department of National Revenue and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS): what is the number of constituents in the federal riding of St. John’s South—Mount Pearl who have qualified for the GIS in each of the last ten years?

Questions on the Order Paper June 12th, 2015

With regard to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the recreational cod and food fishery off Newfoundland and Labrador: (a) what is the estimated amount of cod caught in the recreational fisheries in each of the past five years; (b) what is the proportion of the codfish caught in recreational fisheries compared to commercial catches in each of the past five years; and (c) what is the estimated number of participants in the recreational cod fishery in each of the past five years?

Questions on the Order Paper June 12th, 2015

With regard to Transport Canada and the Crown corporation, Marine Atlantic: (a) what is this year’s total operating budget; (b) what is the federal subsidy for the 2015-2016 fiscal year; and (c) how much of the federal subsidy that has been set aside for Marine Atlantic over the past five years has not been spent?

Mining Industry June 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, hundreds of pensioners from Wabush Mines in Labrador had their health and life insurance benefits cancelled this week.

The previous owner of the iron ore mine has begun debt restructuring, and, as usual, the first to suffer are the retirees. Many of these people worked for the company for decades. They have been left with nothing. Their pensions may be next. They deserve to be treated better than this.

What will the Conservatives do to help these pensioners?

National Institutional Abuse Awareness Day Act June 2nd, 2015

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-683, An Act to establish a National Institutional Abuse Awareness Day.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to table a private member's bill calling on the Government of Canada to establish a national day of awareness for people who have been abused by clergy, lay officials, and institutions in Canada.

A national day of awareness would be a step on the path towards healing. By shining a light on the abuse, promoting awareness and education, decreasing stigma, and addressing the harm that has occurred through clergy, lay officials, and institutions as a whole, we can start to move forward.

This bill proposes that June 1 be set aside as the national day of awareness, because it is the beginning of the National Aboriginal History Month in Canada and the day the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland and Labrador closed Mount Cashel orphanage for good.

By setting aside a national day, Canadians can engage in their communities to work together to ensure that this never happens again.

I call on all members of the House to support this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, to the member's first point about the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador that had $371,000 in interest charges written off recently, by three major banks, I do not know why that was. The leader of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador has yet to come out and explain that. It is a little too close for comfort.

In terms of the banks, yes, we do have a healthy banking system in Canada. That is beyond a shadow of a doubt. However, credit card interest rates are too high and they are hurting Canadians, they are hurting Newfoundland and Labrador families, and our bank fees are too high. When there are profits in the billions, with one bank alone making $5 billion in the first half of this year, that says that balance has been lost, the balance between people and profit.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am not so much critical of the banks, although I have been, for sure. I am more critical of the Conservative government. It had an opportunity. The government said it would act on the opportunity in 2013 to ban pay to pay, and it did not do it. It said it would ban pay to pay in 2014, and the Conservative government did not do it.

Every year that costs Canadians $180 million in pay-to-pay fees, and times two, it is $360 million. That is how much Canadians, including Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, have had to pay because the Conservative government, which is so supportive of this motion, failed to act.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I stand in support of the motion:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ban all pay-to-pay practices by banks operating in Canada, through the enactment of a mandatory financial code of conduct to protect consumers.

I keep my finger on the pulse of my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, in Newfoundland and Labrador. I am constantly out and about in the community, on the doorsteps, in the coffee shops, on the streets, on the wharves and even in the boats. I ask my constituents for constant feedback about issues ranging from child care, climate change, pensions, poverty and, of course, all federal issues having to do with the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador. If it moves here in Ottawa and it affects my province, I am all over it; I am on my feet in this House.

Most of the feedback I have received to date, as a member of Parliament, has to do with banks; more specifically, bank fees, which people see as generally too high, and credit card interest rates, which people also see as too high, through the roof, actually.

Household debt in Canada is alarming. The total debt owed by all Canadians, at the end of March, was a record $1.8 trillion. We have gone a bit of a borrowing binge, that is how it has been described, living on credit.

However, I would say the banks have gone on a bit of a binge themselves. Household debt in Canada is at a record high, but bank profits are right up there, too. The top five banks in this country are making a killing. Profit is a good word. Profit is to be celebrated. Profit means growth. Profit means success.

However, is there a point when profit crosses the line into unfettered greed?

In the first two quarters of their fiscal years, Canada's top five banks amassed more than $16 billion in profits. RBC, alone, had broken records by pulling in almost $5 billion in only the first half of the year. I would say banking binge is pretty accurate.

I can tell members what drives me. My pet banking peeve is going to an ATM that is not with my bank but still one of Canada's big five and being charged $3.00 to withdraw cash over and above my own bank fees. That is obscene. I will go without before I pay that $3.00. It is the principle. It happens right outside this House, down on Sparks Street. I consider it gouging and I take that personally. I also take my business elsewhere.

One of our New Democratic Party proposals is to cap bank fees at federally regulated ATMs, those machines owned by chartered banks, at 50¢. The banks would still walk away with a healthy profit at 50¢ a transaction, but that is another topic.

Today's motion is about pay-to-pay, paying to pay a bill. Do members find that offensive? I do. Canadians, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, should not have to fork over their hard-earned dollars to receive a bank statement or to pay a bill.

When was the last time members went into a restaurant and had to pay extra for the check, for the honour of being handed the check, or paying the check? That is what is pay-to-pay fees amount to: paying a fee to pay a bill.

Canadians will pay up to $180 million this year alone just to receive bank statements. No one should be punished, charged, for receiving bank statements or paying their bills.

These fees that charge extra for the bill itself unfairly target seniors, about 40% of whom do not use the Internet. These fees unfairly target those without Internet access, which amounts to one in five homes in Canada, according to Statistics Canada. These fees unfairly target families already struggling to pay their bills. Forty-six per cent of households with incomes below $30,000 a year do not have Internet.

In the 2013 Speech from the Throne, the Conservatives promised to end pay-to-pay policies so customers would not be charged extra to receive paper bills.

The Conservative budget 2014, last year, promised that again. However, then when it came to taking action the Conservative budget excluded banks from the stopping of pay-to-pay fees. It excluded them when it had a chance. It was $180 million in 2013 and another $180 million in 2014. That is a total of $360 million that Canadians had to pay because the current Conservative government failed to act.

Last year, the Conservative government blocked telecommunications and cable companies from charging fees for paper bills. Why were the banks not included? I do not have an answer to that question. Mr. Speaker, do you have an answer to that question? I have asked around and I cannot get an answer. There is dead silence from that side of the House.

I was in this House today during question period when the Minister of Finance rose to his feet to say the government will be supporting this motion. Does he expect a pat on the back for that? He supports this motion, but when he had an opportunity to change the law of the land to stop banks from charging pay-to-pay fees, his government failed to act. It stopped short.

Sitting in this House today, watching the government in question period for example, it is obvious that the current government is on its last legs. The minister supports stopping the banks from charging pay-to-pay fees, but he did not outlaw those fees last year when telecommunications companies and cable companies were blocked from charging fees for paper bills. Again, the question is why not? The Conservatives are all over the place.

It reminds me of the finance minister's unexpected announcement last week that he is prepared to hear proposals to expand or enhance the Canada pension plan. The Conservatives had written off that idea, but now in an election year with no mention of it in the recent federal budget, they are possibly open to it. I just shake my head. They are all over the place. However, that is also a good thing, because it will not be long now and we will have a change of government.

I have a final word on banks. I am old enough to remember a day that when we called a branch we actually got someone from the branch on the phone. That is getting harder and harder to do. Banks are almost cold in terms of personal touch, and they are very calculated. It seems now to be all about the numbers. I cannot remember the last time I heard of a bank giving someone a break by writing off interest or forgiving a loan.

Yes, though, I can remember. An interesting news story broke back home in Newfoundland and Labrador over the last week. It was over how three major banks, Scotiabank, CIBC and the Royal Bank, wrote off $371,000 in interest charges to the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador relating to a loan for the 2003 election campaign. It is a rare occurrence for an individual Newfoundlander or Labradorian or an individual Canadian to get a break from the banks.

We are being charged for paper bills; bank fees are too high; credit card interest rates are shocking; and, bank profit is measured in billions. In the meantime, the only one getting a break that I know of is the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. That is not nearly good enough.

I will end on this: It will not be long now.

International Trade May 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, actually, it is the government, with its complete intransigence, disrespect and refusal to match its words with actions, that is putting Canada's trade deals at risk.

The Conservatives promised my province of Newfoundland and Labrador a fund for fisheries marketing and research in exchange for giving up local fish processing requirements. Then they changed the rules mid-game and reneged on that promise.

Will the Conservatives finally live up to their word and give Newfoundland and Labrador the transition fund we were promised?