House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was particular.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Labrador (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply June 8th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to this important and wide-reaching motion. I congratulate my colleague from Halifax West for his initiative in bringing it forward.

There are many important points to make, but I would like to limit my time to several of the issues that are most important for the people in my riding.

One of the things the motion calls for is labour market partnerships. Through the economic and fiscal update of November 2005, our Liberal government had committed $3.5 billion over five years for a workplace skills strategy in partnership with the provinces. These labour market partnership agreements with the provinces would have promoted skills development, improved literacy skills and helped to bring aboriginal people into the workforce. Three provinces have already signed agreements, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I was hoping my own province would be able to do the same. But this initiative is now in limbo.

There was nothing in the budget, and the Conservatives will only say that the issue is part of the fiscal imbalance discussions with the provinces. Given that the Prime Minister's promise on natural resource revenues, also part of the so-called fiscal imbalance issue, has been demoted in his words “to a mere preference”, I would be very worried if I were a premier who had counted on a labour market partnership agreement.

We have heard a lot of bluster today from the Conservatives. They say they are committed to post-secondary education, but their actions speak for themselves. Instead of providing help for tuition costs, they provide a tax credit for $80 for textbooks. Instead of investing in post-secondary education for skills training, the Conservatives have cancelled $3.1 billion in Liberal initiatives to make post-secondary education more affordable. Instead of investing in research, the Conservatives have further weakened our universities and research institutes by slashing research spending.

There are real dangers in this approach. They are troublesome indeed. Not only does it exasperate the regional disparities among the provinces, where some provinces are better able than others, through public and donor support, to fund universities, but it is also short-sighted on the global scene. Not only do Canadians have to compete for ideas with the U.S. and Europe, increasingly we have to watch the emerging economic powerhouses in Asia and Latin America. In Labrador we are already very sensitized to the fact that we live in a globalized world. Domestic, political and economic concerns have led foreign countries to pull back from their traditional military training in Happy Valley-Goose Bay at 5 Wing.

The fishery has faced major market pressure and competition from overseas, not only from Europe but especially from China. Our mining sector does rise with demand in China and India, but also faces stiff competition from Australia, Africa and Latin America. We ignore the challenges of a global marketplace at our own peril.

We have to invest in our brightest minds today so Canada will continue to be an innovative place to work and invest. We need to invest in technologies and research that will ensure primary industries, like those in Labrador, remain competitive and that we add value to our economy through processing and manufacturing. This would be progressive.

Instead, we hear just today that the Conservative government has a policy where it wants to ship our brightest and best to northern Alberta. This is a policy that has been advocated by the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca and the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont.

On a lighter note, this would not be much of a solution because if all of us easterners went to northern Alberta, then there might be a few Conservative MPs who would find themselves on the unemployment line. That is for another discussion.

The motion also calls specifically for targeted initiatives to strengthen skills, job readiness and successful workplace participation among aboriginal peoples. My hon. colleague could well have had my riding of Labrador in mind when he drafted that part of his motion.

Tomorrow I will be attending the high school graduation in Sheshatshiu, one of the two Innu communities in Labrador. Too often we hear bad news about aboriginal communities, but Sheshatshiu is increasingly a good news story. This year's graduating class is one of the biggest in many years.

There is a real awakening to the importance of education and skills development among the Innu, Inuit and Métis communities in my riding. In recent years, we have seen increased participation in post-secondary education and the skilled trades. There are Inuit, Métis and Innu who have gone on to become nurses, doctors, engineers, lawyers, mechanics, carpenters and the like.

The development of the mine at Voisey's Bay has helped many aboriginal Labradorians enter the skilled trades. Not as many as I personally would like to see, but it is a start.

There are other developments on the horizon in Labrador: a massive resurgence in the iron ore mining industry; potential hydro developments; and renewed interest in our proven uranium deposits. If aboriginal and other Labradorians are to benefit from these developments, we have to be in on the ground floor.

For aboriginal people, in particular, the Kelowna accord would have made great strides in this regard. On November 24, 2005, the hon. member for Wascana, then finance minister, committed and booked over $5 billion in funding to meet the Government of Canada's commitments under Kelowna. Kelowna included $1.8 billion over five years for aboriginal education initiatives.

The Conservative government has torn up that agreement and tossed it aside. The money that we had committed is no longer available. The government has done so over the objections of every aboriginal organization in the country. It has done so over the objections of the premiers who themselves signed onto the Kelowna accord. It did so with the complicity of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP in precipitating an early election. I wonder what the aboriginal people in the respective ridings of the members in those two parties must think about what they have been involved in.

The government has put into jeopardy the real progress that Canada and Canadian first nations, Métis and Inuit people were starting to make in terms of educational attainment, skills and employment. I worry about the repercussions of these cuts not only for today, but for the many years and maybe for generations to come.

Strong social programs, including education and training and a commitment to aboriginal peoples, provide the basis for long term, strong economic growth. Few places is this more true than in Labrador. However, the Conservatives have stuck to their fend for one's self ideology. It shows up time and time again in their budget and in their program cuts. They are turning their backs on people and regions, which can use constructive programs. We are looking for a hand up, but the Conservatives only see such programs as a hand out. It is disgraceful.

It is for these reasons that I would urge my colleagues to support the motion put forward by the hon. member for Halifax West.

Employment June 8th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, today in the human resources committee the hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca asked about the measures being taken to help EI recipients find work in Alberta. The department responded that they are not doing nearly enough. We now understand the true aim of the Conservatives' measly bus pass rebate: anything to get Atlantic Canadians, rural Quebeckers or northern Ontarians on the next train west.

The Prime Minister and the Conservatives have no plan for rural and remote regions, but we are not waving the white flag. Will the Prime Minister admit that he still believes that Atlantic Canada, in his words, suffers from a culture of defeat, and apologize?

Petitions June 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to present a petition from constituents in my riding concerning the fishery.

The petitioners call upon the government to immediately implement adjustment measures to adjust the crisis in the fishery. These measures include early retirement, economic diversification and training programs.

I fully concur with the position of my constituents and I hope the government will respond favourably.

Aboriginal Affairs May 30th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, after hearing the repeated responses of the Conservative government, I would like to know, should I use a spoon or a shovel?

We have heard the empty spin, but it is completely out of touch with reality. Canadians know and aboriginal leaders have made it clear that the Conservative stance on Kelowna is completely unacceptable. The government is abandoning Canada's commitments for no other reason than because it was made by a Liberal government.

When will the Conservatives stop the games and honour the $5.1 billion deal that all provinces, all aboriginal peoples, and all Canadians reached at Kelowna?

Aboriginal Affairs May 30th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, regardless of the empty rhetoric from the Conservative government on its commitment to aboriginal communities, Canadians know that the Conservative budget completely abandons the Kelowna accord commitments.

Aboriginal leaders like Phil Fontaine, Jose Kusugak and Clement Chartier have described the Conservative gutting of the Kelowna accord as an unacceptable step backward for Canada. Aboriginal communities need action now.

Why have the Conservatives turned their backs on the Kelowna accord and set adrift Canada's aboriginal peoples?

Girl Guides May 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the achievement of nine Rangers, one of the senior branches of the Girl Guides of Canada, from the 1st Happy Valley Ranger Unit in my riding of Labrador.

Rangers Chantelle Callahan, Victoria Bolger, Alicia Broomfield, Lucy Niles, Amy Norman, Vanessa Fewer, Samantha Gillingham, Jennifer Mitchell and Ruth Kearney were recently awarded the Canada Cord, one of the Guiding movement's most prestigious honours.

Eight of these young women, along with Guiders Cathy Fewer, Karen Barnes and Kelly Norman, have spent this past weekend in Ottawa taking in many of the capital's great attractions. I was honoured to meet them during their visit to Parliament Hill today.

On behalf of my constituents, I would like to extend sincerest congratulations to these Rangers on their accomplishments and wish them every success wherever their future endeavours may take them. They are both proud Labradorians and proud Canadians.

Natural Resources May 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, Premier Danny Williams says that the Prime Minister promised during the election campaign and in writing to provide a loan guarantee for the $9 billion Lower Churchill hydro project in my riding. Last month in St. John's, the Prime Minister said that talk of a loan guarantee was premature.

This week the premier announced that he would go it alone, once he got enough money from Ottawa to go it alone. Premier Williams is confident that his loan guarantee is in the bank.

I am sure the Prime Minister will want to keep my constituents in Labrador, the owners of this resource, informed as to his government's plan. How big of a loan is his government willing to guarantee for the Lower Churchill development?

Points of Order May 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, following question period today the hon. member for Saskatoon--Wanuskewin raised a point of order emanating from my question.

Specifically, the hon. member said that I had attributed remarks to him respecting, in his words, “race-based sentencing”. The hon. member opposite denied making such remarks and asked that they either be placed on the record or that I or the hon. member for Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill River retract our comments.

I wish therefore to clarify the member's request and draw the attention of all members to statements he made in this place on October 23, 2003, at approximately 6:05 p.m. concerning provisions of the Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act. He said:

Presently the Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act include sections that instruct sentencing judges to “pay particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders”. These provisions can result in more lenient sentences for offenders based on race.

Furthermore, I would also like to hereby table for his information and for all members, and for the record, a true copy of a press release issued by the hon. member for Saskatoon--Wanuskewin on October 24, 2003, which is available on the member's website. It states:

The Liberal government sentencing reforms adopted in 1996 created a two-tier system of justice--one for aboriginals and one for non-aboriginals. These provisions can result in more lenient sentences for offenders based on race.

Having refreshed the memory of the member for Saskatoon--Wanuskewin regarding his regrettable remarks on this topic and placed them on the record here, he may wish to withdraw his point of order.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for unanimous consent to table this document.

Aboriginal Affairs May 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin insists that Canada's judicial system is race-based and too lenient on aboriginal peoples. These prejudicial comments are unbecoming to the position, which the Prime Minister has bestowed on him. This is another stain on the shirt of the uncaring Conservative government.

Aboriginal Canadians and committee members have lost all confidence in the chair. Canadians deserve better. Again, will the hon. member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin stand here now and declare that the first matter of business on tomorrow's committee agenda will be to submit an unequivocal apology and tender his resignation as chair?

Aboriginal Affairs May 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the chair of the aboriginal affairs committee with regard to the agenda of the committee.

Despite a history of disparaging remarks, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin remains the Prime Minister's anointed chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

With a motion of non-confidence now before the committee, it is clear that he no longer has the confidence of this chamber. Therefore, I would ask the committee chair this. Will the first item on the agenda at the next meeting be his unequivocal apology and a tendering of his resignation as chair of the committee?