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

The Budget May 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I do not have a selective memory at all. I remember very clearly it was the prime minister at the time, the member for LaSalle--Émard, who did the deal. It was the prime minister at the time who signed the Atlantic accord.

The Budget May 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, with all the supposed benefits the member talked about, it is quite interesting that the provincial minister of finance said that what was in the budget was negligible in terms of its benefits to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The provincial minister said that it would not make much of a difference at all to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In fact, what we see in the budget is that taxes will rise, particularly for low income people in our communities. The taxes will rise by .5%. I do not see that as a benefit.

We can talk about 5 Wing Goose Bay, but where is the money for our Coast Guard vessel? There was $96 million on the chopping block when the hatchet came down on it, $25 million for threat emitters and ACMI pods, gone; $5 million for marketing and this is for Goose Bay and for Labrador, gone; $20 million in the ACOA diversification fund, cut, slashed. If he calls that good for the people of Labrador, I would be astounded at how he would arrive at that particular logic. There are aboriginal people who would benefit from the Kelowna accord. That is gone.

As we say, it is baloney that the member would even rise in the House and try to make a mountain out of a molehill of benefits.

The Budget May 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, first, at the start of my first full speech in this session of Parliament, I want to thank the wise, hard-working and kind people of the big land, Labrador, for the confidence they placed in me this last election. It is a tremendous responsibility that I have been given, to represent the full diversity of Labrador, the Metis, Innu and those who have made Labrador their home.

We were hoping the new government would live up to at least some of the promises it had made to us in the past two Labrador election campaigns, but we were sadly disappointed.

Let us sit back and view the budget and the government's record so far through a different lens.

During the election campaign this past winter, the Prime Minister wrote a letter to Premier Danny Williams, outlining a whole raft of very specific promises to Newfoundland and Labrador. The Prime Minister's letter covered many issues: retraining of fisheries workers; coastal custodial management of the fisheries outside 200 miles; a loan guarantee to develop the Lower Churchill; equalization reform; cost-sharing the completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway; a whole series of very specific promises to 5 Wing Goose Bay; and all kinds of other goodies.

Not one of these issues made it into the government's woefully thin Speech from the Throne. Not one of these is in the five priorities on which the government is focusing. The Prime Minister has forgotten his written promises to the people of Labrador and, indeed, the entire province.

Let us start by looking at fisheries.

The fishery, the backbone of the economy in the coastal part of my riding, is in crisis. Help is needed and it is needed now. The Prime Minister's letter promised to look at retraining fisheries workers. Setting aside the question of retraining for what, the budget is silent on this subject.

Our regional minister, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, was in the media a few weeks ago, saying that the Prime Minister was even willing to reconsider on the issue of an early retirement program, cost-shared with the province. Is that in the budget? No. This government simply does not view this as a priority.

The Prime Minister promised to extend Canadian jurisdiction beyond 200 miles to implement custodial management immediately and unilaterally. It was a bold promise, bait designed to hook the electors. Some people may have bit, but our nets are coming up empty. The Prime Minister did not back it up with even a dime.

Similarly, the Prime Minister and the very quiet Minister of Fisheries and Oceans were very loud when they appeared during the election campaign in Petty Harbour. They promised joint management of the fisheries between the federal government and the coastal provinces that wanted it. Again, not a dime.

I am very concerned about the budget for small craft harbours. Will the necessary funds be there to carry out vital work at fishing ports in my riding? I have heard that millions are to be cut from the small craft harbours budget. The government needs to come clean on this situation.

Still within fisheries, the commitment that the Liberal government had made to beefing up the Coast Guard's presence in Labrador, stationing a vessel in Goose Bay and increasing surveillance and hydrography in coastal Labrador has all been wiped off the table by the new government. Who spoke at the cabinet table for our interests when these projects were put on the chopping block and the hatchet came down?

On defence issues, the budget proves two things. First, the Conservatives overreached with their election promises. Their defence platform was grounded in strategic considerations: which ridings did they think were strategic, rather than which strategic considerations would shape our defence policies. Second, the Conservatives had no intention of keeping many of their promises.

As a senior defence official once told me, the hon. member for Carleton—Mississippi Mills, now our defence minister, was writing cheques with his mouth that he could not be cashed. That has been proven right.

The Conservatives promised, and I am quoting directly from their own campaign literature, “a Conservative government led by the Prime Minister would ensure the employment at CFB Goose Bay does not decline and encourage increased flying training operations at CFB Goose Bay”.

In his letter to the premier, the Prime Minister said that his government, “will also maintain a foreign military training program at 5 Wing Goose Bay and actively encourage increased allied flying activity”.

They have a funny way of fulfilling these promises.

I have spoken in recent weeks with several former base employees, former because since the Conservatives came to power, they have lost their jobs at this facility. Only in Conservative math could fewer employees equal employment not declining.

On the flight training file, the Conservatives have encouraged increased flight training by cancelling a major flying exercise scheduled for this year. They have killed the funding for ACMI pods and mobile threat emitters, a $25 million investment that the Liberal government was solidly committed to. It would have significantly boosted Goose Bay's status as a flight training centre. It has been cut by the Conservative government. It is off the table.

The Liberals had put $5 million toward aggressive marketing of Goose Bay as a flight training centre. Guess what? This is yet another of the reallocations and cost savings that the Conservative government has made in order to pay for its political program.

Not only are the Conservatives reneging on their promises to keep allied air forces at Goose Bay, they are backtracking on their promises regarding Arctic sovereignty. The Conservatives promised to make Goose Bay an important point for exercising Canadian sovereignty in the north. A year later they were making the same promise to just about every base in the country and for the same reason: to win votes.

Now we see the real extent of the Conservatives' supposed commitment to Arctic sovereignty. The Arctic deep water port that was to have been a component of this promise has been cancelled. Our existing military infrastructure at Alert has been downsized. Half the personnel are to be cut. Less than a year after promising the rapid response battalion as a special arrangement for Goose Bay, the Prime Minister promised rapid response battalions for almost every province in the country. The budget is also silent on the unmanned aerial vehicle squadron that the Conservatives promised as well.

This is not a defence policy. This is a political chicken in every political pot, as it were. One hand takes it away and the other hand does not giveth. It is like that commercial: Rapid response battalion? Millions of dollars. UAV squadron? Millions of dollars. The value of a Conservative defence promise? Worthless.

On equalization, this budget thankfully reveals the Conservatives' true colours. In the past few months the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs have both made snide and disparaging comments about the Atlantic accord agreements reached last year with my province and Nova Scotia.

In the Conservative budget papers the truth emerges in the form of a direct attack on the Atlantic accords. Is the government really committed to the principles in the Atlantic accords? How can the Conservative members from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia continue to sit within a government that has blatantly attacked the same deal that they were supposedly all in favour of just a few months ago?

This budget is also silent on the Trans-Labrador Highway. The premier has said that the Prime Minister in a January letter agreed to cost share the completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway on a fifty-fifty basis. I would point out, of course, that the federal government during Liberal administrations had put almost half a billion dollars into the Trans-Labrador Highway. If the province had matched federal Liberal contributions, the highway would have been done years ago. However, the Conservatives still have not put that election pledge into action, not in the throne speech and not in the budget.

On aboriginal issues, the Conservatives have torn up the Kelowna accord. The Liberal government budgeted over $5 billion to meet our commitments to first nations, off reserve, Métis and Inuit peoples. The money would have gone toward health, housing, safe water, education and other important initiatives to bring aboriginal living standards up. It was historic and our people were looking forward to the benefits. Instead, this budget offers a pittance for the Innu and Inuit and absolutely zilch for the Métis who face the same challenges in respect of housing, drinking water and other issues that the Kelowna accord was going to tackle.

Last week the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development dismissed the Kelowna accord as nothing more than a press release. The government says it will meet the Kelowna targets, but without the Kelowna funding. It has replaced the Kelowna accord with the Conservative bologna accord. It is bologna and the members opposite know it. This is a disgrace. It is a major setback for aboriginal Canadians. It is time for the government to honour the deal signed in Kelowna.

All in all, this is a budget that favours the wealthy. It benefits people who do not need the help and does not help the people who need the benefits. This budget leaves a lot of unanswered questions. What programs and services are going to be slashed? How will my constituents be better off when the Conservatives raise their income taxes?

This budget, like Conservative policy generally, leaves rural areas of the country out in the cold. It turns its back on the most needy and vulnerable in our society.

For all these reasons, I cannot support this budget.

Aboriginal Affairs May 4th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the government is trying to sell aboriginal people a case of diet Kelowna: little flavour, none of the punch and truly tasteless.

It talks about meeting the Kelowna targets. Talk is cheap but the government is cheaper.

With less money than was agreed to in 2005, nothing for the Métis, nothing for health and nothing for education, will the minister admit that he has broken his promise to aboriginal people and denied progress for us, the aboriginal people of Canada, for generations?

National Defence April 26th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence.

We learned this week that the Conservatives have killed their election promise to build an Arctic deep-water port. In the past few weeks the minister has openly contemplated that he would transfer 5 Wing Goose Bay out of his department's jurisdiction, and is about to strike another blow to the community by seizing the Goose Bay Airport Corporation's landing fees. It only took a couple of months, but people are losing their jobs now.

Could we be assured that the government will stop back-sliding on its northern commitments, and when will we see some action on 5 Wing Goose Bay?

Curling April 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, on February 24, ordinary life drew to a halt across Newfoundland and Labrador. All eyes were focused on Pinerolo, Italy and the curling rink of Brad Gushue, Jamie Korab, Russ Howard, and from my riding, Mark Nichols and Mike Adam. Not only the best in Canada, this rink proved that they are the best in the world, winning the gold medal for Canada in the 2006 Winter Olympics in a spectacular final.

Gushue and Korab from Newfoundland and Nichols and Adam from Labrador became heroes to the entire province. With the addition of Ontario and New Brunswick's curling statesman, Russ Howard, they became the pride of all of Canada.

My constituents and I have since had the pleasure of meeting members of the Gushue rink at the recent Labrador Winter Games and at events in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Wabush and Labrador City. We are proud of their historic accomplishment. We admire their exemplary sportsmanship. We wish them continued excellence in the sport of curling.

Miss Canada Galaxy October 20th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents and colleagues, I rise to congratulate Sherylynn Butt of Labrador, who was crowned Miss Canada Galaxy last week.

In 2003 Sherylynn was named Miss Newfoundland and Labrador. She has since participated in other competitions and will represent Canada in the international Miss Galaxy pageant next year.

Sherylynn, a flight attendant with Provincial Airlines, has a degree in sociology and physical anthropology and is pursuing a degree in education. Bilingual in English and French, with some Russian thrown in for good measure, she is active in charity work.

She has achieved many things since her days at home in Red Bay, population 250, and her grandparents' home in L'anse au Loup, but she has never forgotten her roots on the coast of Labrador.

Sherylynn is an articulate young woman of poise and inner beauty who is a role model and an outstanding ambassador for Labrador and now Canada. I join with her family, friends, colleagues, the people of Red Bay and all of Labrador in sending Sherylynn our very best wishes for her success.

Fisheries September 26th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the shrimp fishery of Newfoundland and Labrador is very important to my constituents and to the men, women and families who depend on it for a livelihood, but European tariffs on shrimp continue to harm this vital industry. Will the Minister of International Trade tell the House what actions the government has taken against these tariffs?

Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act June 15th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I rise today to voice my support for Bill C-56 as a Labradorian, a Métis and a Canadian.

In this my maiden speech, I will take the opportunity to thank the people of Labrador for their tremendous support throughout the last weeks and months. By their support they have given me the privilege and honour to be in this House and to speak to Bill C-56, the Labrador Inuit land claims agreement act.

I will begin by extending congratulations and thanks to the negotiators on all sides for their dedicated efforts. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the steadfast determination, patience and perseverance of the Labrador Inuit. These qualities are evident in the agreement that is now before us.

On January 22, 2005, history was made with the signing of the Labrador Inuit land claims agreement. This tripartite agreement of the Labrador Inuit Association, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada represents a major milestone. It is the first agreement between the Labrador Inuit and the Crown and it is the first treaty in Atlantic Canada to include land claims and self-government. I trust that it will not be the last but that it paves the way for similar treaties in Atlantic Canada and particularly in Labrador for the Innu and the Métis.

At the signing ceremony, the president of the Labrador Inuit Association, William Andersen III, described the significance of the agreement this way:

The Agreement...provides for certainty and rights and creates clarity for the future. It will allow us to build on the partnerships we have begun, to work toward sustainable development, economic growth and social justice.

I believe that Mr. Andersen's simple and direct statement perfectly encapsulates the spirit and content of this historic agreement.

In expressing my support for this bill, I would like to remember the late Lawrence O'Brien, a former colleague, a friend and an hon. member of this House.

Mr. O'Brien, the first Labrador native to be elected member of Parliament, had a vision for his homeland that he worked tirelessly to realize. He understood that finalizing this agreement, and all that it represented, would be a significant step toward fulfilling his vision and would bring significant benefits to the Inuit and to all Labrador. Mr. O'Brien said:

Labrador has enormous geography, enormous potential and an enormous role to play in this country.

Mr. O'Brien believed fervently in Labrador's great potential and was committed to ensuring it was realized. While I and many members of this House are greatly saddened by Mr. O'Brien's passing, we are also filled with gratitude for his many contributions to Labrador and Canada.

Of particular interest to Mr. O'Brien was the creation of a national park in the Torngat Mountains of northern Labrador. I am pleased to say that the agreement before us today goes a long way to fulfilling that dream.

The Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve of Canada will be created as a result of the agreement and this act. The park reserve includes approximately 9,600 square kilometres of pristine wilderness that will be enjoyed for generations to come. It will protect an area of spectacular Arctic wilderness, including mountains, fjords, river valleys and rugged coastal landscapes. It is home to a variety of wildlife, including the world's largest caribou herd, as well as other smaller, distinct herds.

Mr. O'Brien would be proud to realize that his dream, and the dream of so many other Labradorians, was coming true in such an historic fashion.

The land and resource rights the Labrador Inuit will have in these areas will enable them to exercise greater control of their future and direct social and economic development. The provisions of Bill C-56 will help the Labrador Inuit overcome the lingering effects of past injustices.

Bill C-56 could not be more timely, because the Labrador Inuit are prepared to exercise faithfully and effectively the responsibilities that come with self-government. The Labrador Inuit maintain a profitable development corporation and a health commission along with a successful housing association and various cultural and educational programs.

The Labrador Inuit have drafted and approved a constitution that defines the roles and responsibilities of the Nunatsiavut government. It will ensure that the Nunatsiavut government and the Inuit community governments are accountable, both politically and financially, to their constituents.

Last year, the agreement at the heart of Bill C-56 earned the overwhelming support of Labrador Inuit voters, another important step toward self-government. The benefits of land claim and self-government agreements are numerous. The time has come for the Labrador Inuit to realize those benefits.

Bill C-56, in clarifying issues related to the ownership and management of land and natural resources, will also establish the type of stable environment readily sought by investors. The bill will preserve the traditional land- and sea-based economy upon which Inuit have depended for thousands of years. With respect for land and culture at the core of all investment decisions, a new era of economic and social development can begin.

I have read and heard at first hand some of the compelling and incredible stories of the people of northern Labrador. I have come across the words “together we are stronger”, a powerful phrase which embraces the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Bill C-56 brings together the Nunatsiavut government, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada, but I will note something that I personally believe in: this will also bring together the many people of Labrador. Those words ring true not only in the context of Bill C-56, but they ring true for the people of Labrador: “together we are stronger” and together we can realize the great potential that we have in Labrador and that each of us contributes to the other. I say those words from the heart, not only from the lips.

Also, I urge the House to join with me in supporting this historic piece of legislation, in supporting the Labrador Inuit land claims agreement and the tools that it will provide to enable the Labrador Inuit to govern themselves and their lands. Let us realize the tremendous opportunity before us to move together and create a future for Labrador that will enable all of us to build on past successes and gain greater control of the future.

I thank all members of all parties for their cooperation in getting this bill through in the interests of those most affected, the Inuit of Labrador.