House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was senate.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia (Manitoba)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

To the member, the Speaker is a Saskatchewan Roughriders fan and could not possibly give an opinion on this issue.

Mr. Speaker, I would say that the only person who can make this decision is a competent adult. It could be no one else, not a family member and not someone who holds a power of attorney. To me, it needs to be the individual and only the individual.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I have about as much luck of convincing my colleagues as I have of convincing the member on anything. We are all of our own making, and this is a very sensitive issue.

This is not a partisan issue, but it goes to the core of what it means to be Canadian. What we decide will affect all the Canadians who are alive today and every Canadian who will live in the future. Moreover, whatever Canada does, it will be a model for the rest of the developed world.

In short, I think we should look to what Quebec did. It took four and a half years. I thought Quebec did an excellent job, and it would be very wise to look at its process.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Vancouver East for her thoughtfulness in this debate, and my previous colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, for her eloquent words as well.

To the question, the motion today is one way to proceed; however, it will only be a small step, because we do not have time, which is really the enemy of the process. We have 12 weeks before the end of the session. We have a budget to debate and legislation that is already underway. We then have the summer break. Also, I suspect, although I do not know and have no inside knowledge of this, that there might be an election in the fall. All of this will eat up a lot of time.

There is the possible alternative of going through the Senate. That could be done if we could get agreement among the senators.

There are alternatives, but I think the bulk of this will be done after the election.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

In that case, Mr. Speaker, I will encourage viewers to read the Supreme Court ruling, as it is a very interesting and really sets out the parameters on which Parliament can act.

This morning in debate, the Hippocratic oath came up. In the court ruling, it specifically says that physicians will not be in any way obliged to conduct a physician-assisted suicide. Some people have said that the Hippocratic oath forbids such an action. I have printed the Hippocratic oath and would like to share it with hon. members. This is called the modern version, written in 1964 by the academic dean of the school of medicine at Tufts University and is used in many medical schools. It says, among other things:

If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

There we have it: the Hippocratic oath already contemplates both saving lives as well as ending lives.

In March 2014 I introduced two private members' bills on physician-assisted death. These bills would have replaced section 241 and created a framework to ensure that someone, a competent adult, wishing to end his or her life would be able to do so after going through a whole set of procedures and review by at least three doctors, and also a lot of safeguards to make sure that the individual knew what they were talking about, that they were aware of the resources available to them, be they hospice care, home care, palliative care, and so on.

My bill also outlined situations where there would be a lag time between when the request was made and granted and when the action would take place. I was quite open to amendments. Quite frankly, legislation like that would be the preferable way to do this. I would much rather have Parliament be supreme and make the rules, and then the Supreme Court interpret those rules.

We have a situation again where the courts are trumping Parliament. That is an issue for another time, but unelected, unaccountable judges should not be making laws. It should be elected representatives.

My bill is also before the Senate, which is another pathway, if the Senate were to choose to do so, to bring the issue to committee. I throw that out on the table by way of suggestion.

I will finally say the Canadian people are far ahead of the courts and parliamentarians on this issue. A recent huge poll that was done showed that 86% of Canadians support physician-assisted dying.

The question asked was about a serious incurable illness or condition with an advanced state of weakened capacity that is permanent, incurable, and results in unbearable suffering.

That is a harsh question, but Canadians support support physician-assisted death, and we should support the Supreme Court decision.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I will ask again later.

The reason I wanted to table the Supreme Court ruling is to make sure that we are all clear on what we are talking about. To do that, I am going to read a large section of the ruling. It says:

Section 241(b) and s. 14 of the Criminal Code unjustifiably infringe s. 7 of the Charter and are of no force or effect to the extent that they prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.

Then it gives the 12-month extension to deal with the ruling. It goes on to say that the reason there is a shift in the debate is that there is additional information from when the Rodriguez case was heard:

In particular, the law relating to the principles of overbreadth and gross disproportionality had materially advanced since Rodriguez. The matrix of legislative and social facts in this case also differed from the evidence before the Court in Rodriguez.

In plain English, they got more information, more empirical information. That is why their decision is different. The court continued:

The prohibition on assisted suicide is, in general, a valid exercise of the federal criminal law power under s. 91(27) of the Constitution Act, 1867, and it does not impair the protected core of the provincial jurisdiction over health. Health is an area of concurrent jurisdiction, which suggests that aspects of physician-assisted dying may be the subject of valid legislation by both levels of government, depending on the circumstances and the focus of the legislation. On the basis of the record, the interjurisdictional immunity claim cannot succeed.

Insofar as they prohibit physician-assisted dying for competent adults who seek such assistance as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring and intolerable suffering, ss. 241(b) and 14 of the Criminal Code deprive these adults of their right to life, liberty and security of the person under s. 7 of the Charter. The right to life is engaged where the law or state action imposes death or an increased risk of death on a person, either directly or indirectly. Here, the prohibition deprives some individuals of life, as it has the effect of forcing some individuals to take their own lives prematurely...

People are taking their lives prematurely to avoid the terror of what might happen. That is what it says in English vis-à-vis the legalese.

I will go on and ask again if I could have unanimous consent to table, in both official languages, the Supreme Court ruling, Carter v. Canada.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for unanimous consent to table, in both official languages, the Supreme Court ruling in Carter v. Canada, which is essentially what we are talking about today.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member intently. I cannot help but reflect that there is an undertone of partisanship which does not suit this debate, as other members from all sides have suggested. On the issue of time, we already have 12 months and an extra 6 months seems to be reasonable if that means we get a better law.

I would remind the House that the member and the party had years to bring forward opposition day motions or legislation on this issue and have not. The member was a minister of public health in the previous government and did nothing on this issue.

I introduced a private member's bill. I wish the member would support something in that realm.

The fact is that to now say that the Liberal Party is all for it is a little bit disingenuous. When the Liberals had the chance, they did nothing about it.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, what we are debating today is a motion to set up a committee to try to collect information so that the government can draft legislation to meet the Supreme Court of Canada deadline.

I am concerned about the 12 weeks. That is not a lot of time. A budget is coming up. We have the regular legislative stuff that we deal with all the time. There is the summer break and then there will be an election. Nothing is really going to happen until after the election on October 20, and it will take a couple of weeks for the government to get organized, so we are looking at November. We really are talking about a couple of months.

I wonder if Parliament should not recommend to the Supreme Court an extension of the 12-month timeline. Would the member agree with that?

Assisted Suicide February 17th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this month, the Supreme Court made a historic decision in Carter v. Canada. The unanimous ruling to strike down the prohibition on physician-assisted death is a decision that the vast majority of Canadians support.

I wish to congratulate organizations such as Dying With Dignity Canada and the many other individuals, such as the Carter family, who brought this issue back to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has said that a competent adult should have more options at the end of life. Those options should be based on their own life experience, ethics, morals, and religion.

The Supreme Court ruling mirrors the spirit and the letter of my private member's bill on this issue. This Parliament and Canadians must respond to this new empowerment of the individual. This is not a partisan issue. We can discuss it with dignity, mutual respect, empathy, love, hope, and mercy.

Railway Safety Act January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the bill brought forward by the member for Winnipeg South Centre, who has done an outstanding job in her first term, the first of many terms in Parliament.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about our government's efforts to improve the safety of Canada's national rail system through current regulatory action and, more specifically, through Bill C-627, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act to further enhance the protection of Canadians, property and the environment.

I believe we all would agree that rail transportation is one of the utmost important modes of mobility in our country. Canada's railways are vitally important to our national economy. They are the most fuel efficient form of transportation in the movement of goods in interdependent transportation systems.

Although Canada's railway system is one of the safest, railways are not without risk. Increased rail traffic means increased chances for rail accidents, which disrupt freight, commuter and passenger services. This leads to lost revenue, increased public costs, reduced productivity for customers and in some cases terrible fatalities.

Canada has a robust rail safety program with strong federal rail safety rules and regulations in place to ensure that the safety and the protection of the public is a top priority.

The Railway Safety Act is the cornerstone of the federal rail safety regime in Canada. It provides Transport Canada with the responsibilities to oversee railway safety through inspectors and audits, supported by strong safety education and awareness.

Under the Railway Safety Act, Transport Canada's rail safety program is responsible for developing, implementing and promoting safety policies, regulation standards and research.

Transport Canada's oversight role includes monitoring railway companies for compliance with rules, regulations and standards, as well as for the overall safety of railway operations through audits, inspections and investigations. It will take appropriate action when required.

Transport Canada monitors and inspects the operation of 31 federally regulated railway companies and approximately 40 local railway companies. Railway safety inspectors located in five regions across the country are key in maintaining and improving the safety of our national rail industry. They inspect railway tracks and equipment and monitor operations on a regular basis.

Following the tragic events in Lac-Mégantic, Transport Canada took decisive action to improve railway safety and the transportation of dangerous goods by requiring that any person who imported or offered the transport of crude oil conduct classification testing, ensure that railway companies shared information with municipalities, which would further support municipal emergency planners and first responders, and that the least crash resistant DOT-111 tank cars be removed from dangerous goods service.

To address the Transportation Safety Board's recommendations in its final report on the Lac-Mégantic derailment, Transport Canada issued an emergency directive that required railway companies to meet standardized minimum requirements for handbrake applications and implement additional physical securement measures. Moreover, Transport Canada is recruiting additional staff to carry out more frequent audits.

Recruiting additional staff with engineering and scientific expertise for oversight of transportation of dangerous goods is another important component of the reforms.

Transport Canada, in response, is also creating a process for increased information sharing with municipalities, and also researching the properties and behaviour of hazardous materials and Canadian crude oil.

To reiterate, in its commitment to a safe rail transportation system, not only for communities across the country but also for Canada's economic well-being and further strengthening of the federal railway safety regulatory regime, Transport Canada has accelerated the development of several key recommendations. To be more precise, the department accelerated the development of five regulatory packages to address the recommendations of the Rail Safety Act review panel on rail safety; to respond to the recommendations of the Office of the Auditor General's fall 2013 report; and to further improve the railway safety and strengthen the department's regulatory oversight and enforcement capacity.

The new railway safety administrative monetary penalties regulations were published in the Canada Gazette, part 2, on October 22, 2014, with a coming into force date of April 1, 2015. The regulations introduced a new tool in the rail safety program's enforcement regime that could be used to ensure compliance with the Rail Safety Act, as well as regulations, rules, orders, and emergency directives made under it.

Amendments to the transportation information regulation would improve data reporting requirements to better identify and address safety risks before accidents happen. This would improve safety by supporting better planning and performance measurement, allowing for more focused audits and inspections and targeted programs that address specific safety issues.

New railway safety management systems regulations are being developed to replace the existing regulations that came into force on March 31, 2001. They were the first of their kind in the federal transportation sector and introduced a formal framework that helps railway companies integrate safety into their day-to-day operations.

Besides increasing our level of protection from accidents and negligence, these new regulations would further advance a strong and enduring safety culture in the railway industry for years to come.

In addition to these regulatory actions stemming from the review, Transport Canada is also developing grade crossings regulations to efficiently manage and enable safer grade crossings. This would lead to reductions in collisions, fatalities, injuries, and property damage, and the potential for environmental disasters resulting from a spill of dangerous commodities. All individuals who use grade crossings, whether they are walking, driving a car, or a passenger on a train, would benefit from improved safety.

All these regulations are ·expected to come into force within the next year to build upon the existing strong rail safety program and federal railway safety rules and regulations in place to ensure the safety and protection of the public. They all complement Bill C-627 to provide Canadians with the safest railway system possible.

Furthermore, the Government made a commitment in the 2013 Speech from the Throne to ensure that adequate resources will be available to hold federally regulated railways accountable in the event of an incident.

The Railway Safety Act provides the department with the power to protect people, property, and the environment from potential harm by ensuring that railways operate safely within a national framework.

Under the Railway Safety Act, Transport Canada has a variety of tools available to enforce compliance and to respond to safety concerns or threats to safe railway operations, such as a notice and order to respond to threats to safe railway operations, a ministerial order to inform a regulated party of a particular rail safety problem and ordering them to address that problem, and prosecution.

There are many efforts to make our national railway system safer. Our nation was built on the railway and we will grow stronger with a safer railway as we move forward into the 21st century.