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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

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Madam Speaker, let me answer that question with another part of my speech that I did not get to because I was interrupted by the Conservatives opposite.

I had a conversation yesterday with two union leaders in St. John's, one of whom told me a story about a senior postal worker, a women with 30 years' of seniority. She does not need to be on the picket line. She can retire any day because her pension is safe, but she heard the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons on Thursday and it motivated her to walk the line. It motivated her to continue the fight, because what is so important and what long-time workers see as so important are the pensions and benefits for the people coming behind them. That is what is so important.

I hope that answers the hon. member's question.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Madam Speaker, if the Conservatives got the point, they would take the legislation off the table. Let me answer the question with the end of my speech, that the attack on postal workers must not be tolerated, that the attack on rescue centres must not be tolerated, that the attack on Canadian labour must not be tolerated. Our way of life, the Canadian way of life, must be defended. I was not supposed to be here today, but the line has been drawn. I could be nowhere else.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Could you confirm with the desk officers that I actually received 10 minutes? I do not think I did.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I have stood in this chamber in recent days and used words like “senseless”, “reckless”, “hasty” and “indefensible” to describe the actions of the Conservative government. We have one of the worst search and rescue response times in the world. We should be improving our services, not cutting them. Most of the great fisheries of Newfoundland and Labrador are endangered. Now our people are in danger.

The cost-cutting move by the federal government will reportedly save $1 million. I mentioned that in a question this past week for the Prime Minister and the exact same thing happened: a member opposite clapped. In that case, it was the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca. Hundreds and thousands of Newfoundlanders have moved because of the destruction of our fisheries. The Conservatives have closed our marine centre and lives are endangered, and he clapped.

What price is the Government of Canada prepared to pay to put on the value and safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians? The shores of Newfoundland and Labrador are about as far away from Ottawa as one can get in the country. Rallies such as today's in St. John's send a clear signal to the Government of Canada there is no price too high to pay for the lives of our mariners.

I was expected to be in St. John's today, but I stand before members today representing the people of my riding, of my province, on another front, in another battle that has been waged by the Conservative government against the Canadian labour movement, against the workers of our country and all they stand for and all they work for, against the pensions and benefits that make Canada one of the most enviable countries in the world. It seems the Conservative government is content to leave labour stranded at sea with our mariners, stranded in a sea of uncertainty.

The legislation we debate in the House would force the 48,000 locked out postal workers back to work for less money than was offered by Canada Post, back to work with a two-tiered wage and benefit package. For new workers who join the federal crown corporation, they would have to work five extra years to qualify for a pension.

If the Conservative government will attack the pensions of the 48,000 workers of Canada Post, who will they attack next? Whose pensions will they go after? Federal public servants, will they be next? Are they safe? The employees of other crown corporations, will they be safe? Who is next? If this contract is allowed to be imposed on the postal workers of our country, which labour union will be next?

This is just the beginning. Look off to the horizon. Do members see the job cuts off in the distance? They are there, make no mistake.

The rally today on the waterfront of St. John's, a rally that will be held within sight of one of the wonders of my world, The Narrows, the entrance to our 500-year-old port, will draw more than worried mariners and their families. It will draw more than fishermen and fisherwomen, the ones we have left. The rally will also draw worried members of one the federal government's largest unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

The PSAC is holding its Atlantic Regional Convention in St. John's this weekend. The union fears the closure of the search and rescue centre signals the start of cuts to the entire public service, as many as 1,000 job losses in the Atlantic region alone. Whose job will be next? They, too, the workers of our country, are sending out a distress call and it falls on deaf Conservative ears.

On Friday afternoon, I spoke on the telephone with the two labour leaders of the 850 locked out postal workers in Newfoundland and Labrador, members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Their membership is not prepared to live with a two-tier pension plan, one pension for existing workers and another less attractive pension for new employees. If the Conservative government has its way, the postal workers will carry the burden of diminished benefits, on top of the mail.

The union leaders told me Friday that, as of 2010, their pension plan was fully funded, to the tune of $15.3 billion. Why are the workers being broadsided? Why is their pension plan being targeted when Canada Post made $281 million in 2009? Why?

The Conservative government talks about how billions of dollars in cuts are imminent. The Maritime rescue centres, the pension packages, the federal jobs. Who is next? Where will it end? I asked that question on Friday of the union leaders in St. John's and they had an interesting answer. They said that the only people left were their children. They said, “If we don't stand up and fight for our younger workers right now, there will be nothing to fight for in the future”.

One of the union leaders in St. John's told me about a senior postal worker, a woman with 30 years seniority. She does not need to be on the picket line. She can retire any day because her pension is safe. However, she heard the Leader of the Opposition's speech in the House of Commons on Thursday and it motivated her to walk the line.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I was not supposed to be here today. I was expected back in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl to speak at what is predicted will be the largest rally in years, a rally on the St. John's waterfront, the size of which has not been seen in my home province in decades since the fall of the fisheries in the early 1990s. Thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are expected to turn out.

The rally is in protest of the closure of the Marine rescue centre in St. John's. The centre handles marine distress calls, more than 400 per year, 25% of which are actual at-sea emergencies. The Conservative government plans to close the search and rescue centres in St. John's and Quebec City next year, transferring the jobs to Halifax. People fear the closure of the rescue centres will endanger lives.

I have stood in this chamber in recent days—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I heard the member opposite ask the hon. New Democrat member how he would feel about people not showing up for work. I would remind the member opposite that the post office workers did show up for work. They were actually locked out.

I have a question for the New Democrat member. Would you, as a small-business owner, cut the guts out of your employees' pension plan?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned how this is about an adjustment to the cost of running Canada Post. Let me repeat something from my speech. Perhaps the hon. member was not listening.

In 2009, Canada Post made a net profit of $281 million and the hon. member talks about an adjustment to the cost of running Canada Post. This is about drawing a line in the sand. If the Conservatives go after the pension plan of Canada Post employees, let me repeat a question I posed several times in my speech: Who is next?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, for me it is all about cutting to the chase and getting to the point. What has been proposed here is a two-tier pension plan: one pension plan for existing workers of Canada Post, and another pension for new employees, a pension plan that is not as good. A two-tier pension plan is not good enough.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the number one issue during the 2011 federal election campaign in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl was pensions. It was the number one issue for seniors. It was the number one issue for working people.

For seniors, their concern was how to get by on a fixed income. Seniors asked me not to forget them when I went to Ottawa. I have not. I will not.

There is a lot of talk in Newfoundland and Labrador these days about fog, and not just the type that creeps in off the North Atlantic and shrouds the outports and cities, but F-O-G, the acronym for food, oil, and gas. The cost of necessities like food, oil, and gas continues to rise as fixed incomes remain just that, fixed.

Seniors struggle with the question of how to pay for the rising cost of living while on fixed incomes like pensions. I could not count the number of seniors I visited in their homes and apartments over the course of the election who came to their doors in hats, mitts, and winter coats. They dressed that way in the middle of the afternoon in their own homes because they could not afford to turn on the heat. They asked me not to forget them. I will not.

Seniors were not the only ones concerned about pensions. We heard the concern from young people, working couples, who spoke to me at their doors about how they are supposed to prepare for their retirement when they can barely get by in the prime of their working lives. They can just manage to pay the bills. In some cases, they cannot.

We heard the concern from middle-aged firemen who questioned how they could afford to retire on modest pensions, given the clawback on the Canada Pension Plan.

I can tell you this. The fog in Newfoundland and Labrador, the fog in Canada, is getting thicker.

One of the central issues in the dispute between the 48,000 locked out postal workers and Canada Post is pensions. As the New Democrat labour critic said in the House of Commons on Thursday, the pension plan is in danger. As the NDP opposition leader said so eloquently on Thursday, Canada Post wants to create a two-tier wage and benefit package. New workers who join the federal crown corporation would have to work an extra five years to qualify for a pension--five years.

Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says:

...proposals to institute two-tier wages and benefits for new Canada Post employees [is] unwarranted and unfair to young Canadians, who are already facing unemployment rates.

They are extremely high as it is.

Here is a direct quote from Paul Moist:

There are no such things as two-tier rent or mortgages: young and new workers don't get a discount on utility or grocery bills. “It's outrageous to say young workers don't deserve the same wages and benefits for doing the same work.”

Young people have a hard enough time as it is paying off student loans and incredibly high credit card interest rates, which this Conservative government, as we know, will not do anything about.

If the Conservative government will attack the pensions of 48,000 workers at Canada Post, who will it attack next? Whose pension plan will it go after? We know whose side the Conservative government is on. Canada Post made a net profit of $281 million in 2009 alone. Who will directly benefit from the five extra years that new Canada Post employees will have to work? Not the workers, I can tell you that.

The labour minister stood on the floor of the House of Commons on Thursday and spoke about the damage to the Canadian economy for the Canada Post strike, which she was corrected on--it is not a strike; it is a lockout. The use of the word “strike”, as the opposition leader pointed out, to use his words, “is a brazen example of propaganda”.

The labour minister said the damage to the economy from the lockout could be significant. What about the damage to pensions? Would the minister describe that as significant? Whose pension will be next?

The labour minister says Canadians cannot go on without postal service.

I can say this with authority, the authority of the hundreds of pensioners and working people I spoke to during the campaign in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, Canadians cannot go on without pensions. Let me ask again, whose pension will be next?

Is the ultimate goal of the Conservative government to weaken the voice of workers? Is that part of the strategy? Is that the new Conservative action plan? Is the true goal, as the opposition leader said, to make profit while taking advantage of workers? As has been said before, it is a race to the bottom, except for those on the top.

The Conservative government's back to work legislation gives the employer, Canada Post, the advantage in the labour dispute. The legislation will force employees back to work for less money than Canada Post last offered. Whose side is the Conservative government on? Not the workers of Canada Post, that is obvious.

During the federal election, the MP for St. John's and I met the workers of the Canada Post headquarters in St. John's early one morning. By early, I mean 6 a.m. We shook hands in the parking lot as the workers arrived for their shifts, and it was bitter cold. The workers mentioned how they may be headed toward job action, and as New Democrat candidates we vowed to be there for them.

When I was back in my riding two weeks ago, I visited the workers again outside the Kenmount Road station. They had set up an information line and served lemonade. It was still cold, but the lemonade was good. The workers were generally young. They were fired up. They were concerned about benefits and what they had to lose. They have a lot to lose.

There was a story Thursday in the news back home about how a Newfoundland Supreme Court judge issued an injunction against locked out Canada Post workers in eastern Newfoundland. Canada Post had complained that workers in St. John's and Mount Pearl were blocking access to the post offices, using vehicles, picnic tables, palllets and what Justice Robert Hall described as vigorous picket lines.

The injunction prohibits workers from blocking access to people walking by and calls for any barricades on picket lines to be removed by Thursday night. I am sure they were. The workers of Canada Post are good, law-abiding citizens, but can we blame the workers for being vigorous in their attempt to secure their future? Can we blame them? Again, if this is allowed to happen to the 48,000 workers of Canada Post, who will be next? Let me ask again so it will sink in, who will be next?

The Conservative government keeps talking about how Canada led the world in weathering the recession, but the Conservative government also talks about how cuts are on the horizon, billions of dollars in cuts. Who will pay for the savings? The working poor? The young? The old? Pensioners?

When it comes to pensions, six out of ten Canadians rely solely on CPP or QPP, other government assistance or some savings, modest savings, I might add. I got that statistic from the Globe and Mail. Here is a quote from the Globe and Mail:

Pension experts estimate that about 30 per cent of the population will be poorer in retirement, sometimes significantly, and the share grows every year.

Here is another quote from John Gordon, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada:

The agenda of this government is to take on unions and do away with free collective bargaining. This is what this is about,

I can tell hon. members what the New Democrats are about. They are about working Canadians. We are about Canadian families. The labour minister made a snarky remark Thursday in this chamber about how labour unions have a hotline to the New Democrats. When Canadians call the New Democrats about issues that are critical to them, issues that are critical to families, issues that are critical to their future, Canadians can call the New Democrats. We do not put them on hold for big business. We do not put them on hold for anyone. We answer the call.

Search and Rescue June 23rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, last night, the Prime Minister spoke with the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and, despite objections from everyone, except, it would seem, the hon. member from Labrador, the Prime Minister confirmed that he has no intention of reversing the decision to close the search and rescue centre in St. John's.

This so-called decision reduction measure will reportedly save $1 million a year.

Could the Prime Minister tell us exactly what price he is putting on the safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?