- His favourite word was poverty.
Last in Parliament March 2011, as NDP MP for Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario)
Lost his last election, in 2011, with 37% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Health March 22nd, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I recently sat on a panel on health care organized by the seniors health advisory committee in my riding. Leaders from different health organizations, including the Local Health Integration Network, the Sault Area Hospital, and the Red Cross all agreed that more assisted housing was the most important need in our region. In the estimates, we see support for this program coming to an end.
Matthews Memorial Hospital and the Finnish Resthome Association have projects ready to go. Will the government renew this important initiative?
Petitions March 21st, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to table a petition in the House that I am sure my colleagues will support. It is one of hundreds of petitions out there across the country right now in support of Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada. I am happy to stand in support of this. It is an act that would go a long to bringing the federal government back into the game where eliminating poverty in the country is concerned and establishing a national anti-poverty strategy.
Poverty March 9th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, the suffering in our communities shows the government is dead wrong. The Conservatives are writing off the potential of so many of our citizens. Four million Canadians still live in poverty. The jobs being created are part-time, low wage and without benefits.
Today, the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction expressed its deep disappointment in the government, saying that a national poverty strategy is essential in building the country's prosperity.
Does the government understand that it needs to lead on this issue? Does it know that Canadians expect leadership in the fight against poverty?
Poverty March 9th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, the government's refusal to implement a national poverty strategy is an insult to our vulnerable citizens. For three years, the human resources committee has heard from 260 witnesses who have overwhelmingly called for Ottawa to lead in the fight against poverty. Their testimony showed, without a doubt, that Canadians expect to see a plan to address this issue. However, it now seems clear they cannot expect that type of leadership from the government.
When will the Conservatives ditch their ideology and stop writing off so many people?
Madam Speaker, we all wish it were as simple as the Conservatives lay it out to be.
We again heard the list of initiatives that the government claims have been put in place to help those who are most at risk and in need in our communities. We in the NDP know from the reports that are coming out subsequent to those initiatives, however minimal they might be, indicate that they are not doing the job, that more people are falling further and further behind and that more people are having to turn to food banks, for example, to supplement their food intake in any given month.
The member suggested in his answer that if we could somehow get more people working and put in place a labour market strategy, that would deal with the many complicated and difficult challenges of those living in poverty. We know that is just not true. It is too simple an approach. It is certainly part of the answer. A comprehensive national anti-poverty strategy is what we should be looking at but it will not do the trick.
I suggested earlier that we are now discovering that literally hundreds of thousands of working men and women in this country, working year round, full time and collecting minimum wage, are still living in poverty and having to turn to food banks for their food. The government needs to and can do better.
There is a report on the table that was approved by all parties in the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. It needs to look at that—
Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to expand on a question that I have asked the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development in the House on a number of occasions over the last couple of years.
We continue to get answers that are not satisfactory, which indicates that either the minister or the government does not really understand the depth and the breadth of poverty that exists in our country and does not understand that report after report has been delivered by reputable agencies studying these kinds of matters. These reports have been tabled in Ottawa for the federal government to see. Yet the government refuses to acknowledge there is a problem and work with others to do something about it.
A day before I asked that specific question, a report had been by Campaign 2000. It noted that poverty had a direct cost to health care, criminal justice, social services, lost productivity and lost opportunities in our country. The Food Banks of Canada report, which came out only a couple of years ago, indicated that the cost of poverty to the economy of Canada was upwards of $90 billion a year.
All I am asking the government to do is indicate to me, given that six provinces are already moving on their own anti-poverty strategies, what it proposes to do to fix this very glaring and obvious problem and take care of those who it has a fundamental responsibility for, those who are most at risk and marginalized in our communities and across our country.
We have had a further report in the last month or so from Food Banks of Canada called “HungerCount 2010”. The statistics it keeps of who comes in, how many times and who they may be show that, on all accounts, the numbers are up across the board. People are now having to turn to food banks to supplement their dietary needs. No longer are people getting the kind of assistance they need, whether it is through a job or some government program, to feed themselves and their children and to do it in an efficient fashion so they might take advantage of opportunities to better themselves.
We have just been through one of the most difficult recessions I have experienced in my lifetime. Before the recession 2008, we had a significant number of poor people. We have had an onslaught of poor people since then and there are no new programs to directly speak to the specific needs of that group of people. This group of people is growing.
In the middle of all that, we discovered that we now have hundreds of thousands of people, and a lot of them are new immigrants to our country living in places like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal and cities across the country, who are working full-time, year-round, on minimum wage and who are still living in desperate poverty because there is not enough affordable housing available.
People who have looked at the question of poverty and who have taken the time to look at what we might do to make a huge difference in that area are calling for is a national housing strategy. The Standing Committee on Human Resources tabled a report with the government last June. We are expecting a response by the middle of March.
Could the parliamentary secretary tell us what might be in the government's response that would indicate it understands the depth and the breadth of the problem and will it actually do something about it?
Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario Act February 16th, 2011
Madam Speaker, the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming has brought forward an excellent bill. It would go a long way toward stopping the federal government from treating northern Ontario like a second-class citizen and instead treat us like a colony. The provincial and federal government have to get beyond that and give us the resources and support we need to live up to our potential.
The member will know that I consulted widely on this bill at one time. One question I was asked was how we defined northern Ontario. The only difference in the bill I championed a couple of years ago and my colleague's bill is the definition. My bill suggested that northern Ontario start and end at the French River and the Mattawa River. My colleague has chosen to include Parry Sound—Muskoka in the catchment area as the areas that would be affected by the bill if it goes forward.
Why did my colleague make that decision?
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act February 14th, 2011
Madam Speaker, I listened intently to the speech by the member. Frankly, I need to say right off the bat that I was disappointed in her accusing us. We come here every day and work very hard on behalf of our constituents and the people of Canada to do the business of the House and to do it in a way that respects the rules of the place rather than playing petty politics.
When I first came to Ottawa, what impressed me about Bloc members was their knowledge and understanding of the rules of this place and how they insisted that we follow them. I worked on committees with a number of Bloc members who, on occasion, would challenge us all to get back to the procedures of the House and ensure that everyone had a fair opportunity to participate, to ask questions and to make statements on their points.
I have been in politics for over 20 years and it seems to me in this instance we are leaping over those rules and bringing in what I have always considered a breach of my responsibilities by not allowing me the time that I and my colleagues need to participate in the process.
Another thing that disappoints me is that I see a shift here. Again, I always saw the Bloc as a group looking for broader and bigger ways to deal with issues of criminal justice. The Bloc considered the impact on society as a whole and how we might do things to fix the system that would limit the opportunity for people to do what some of these people have done, which, no question, was bad and wrong and they should be challenged and punished.
I would like the member to respond to those two observations.
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act February 14th, 2011
Madam Speaker, I ask this question of the member because I know he is a thoughtful person.
I have sat through a number of debates in this House where we have moved aggressively to make it rougher and tougher for people who come in conflict with the law. We buy into an approach to criminal justice that has been tried in other jurisdictions and found to be wanting.
A police friend from Los Angeles told me how gangs are dealt with there. They tried the tough on crime approach, of giving people longer sentences, not allowing for parole and probation, that kind of thing. He found that it made the situation worse.
Would the member share with me why we would be moving with such haste on a subject on which perhaps we should be talking about what is better for the whole of society? Where do healing and reconciliation come into his scheme of things? Does he not think we should be spending more time thinking about that and looking at ways where that might be the end result? He and I know that when healing, forgiveness and reconciliation happen, we are all better for it, including the perpetrator and the victim.
The Economy February 14th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, people in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma work hard and are watching their money. No one is telling me Canada should buy $35 million worth of fighter jets. No one is telling me Canada should build more prisons. No one is telling me corporations should have more tax cuts.
My region has among the highest unemployment in Ontario. What I hear is people want good-paying jobs. They want adequate, universal health care without the shortages of doctors and crowded hospitals. They want affordable housing for seniors and supportive housing for others, including persons with disabilities. They want investment in people, in services, in creating real opportunities. They want investment in education.
They want a Canada that looks after the vulnerable and leaves no one behind. That would be a Canada of compassion and justice. That would be a government which actually knew how to manage people's money.