House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • 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

Poverty June 17th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, there are currently at least 3.5 million Canadians living in poverty. This figure is totally unacceptable.

Poverty costs this country $90 billion, an amount that one Conservative senator has called wasteful. This is a loss of potential and a loss of tax revenue.

Yesterday we introduced a bold plan to end poverty in Canada. Will the Prime Minister admit to Canadians that we cannot afford poverty anymore? Will he finally show some leadership and commit to a comprehensive national poverty elimination strategy?

Poverty Elimination Act June 16th, 2010

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I have been supported in this work by the members for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and Chambly—Borduas as seconders, and also the members for Toronto—Danforth, Vancouver East, Winnipeg Centre and Halifax.

The purpose of this bill is to impose on the federal government the obligation to eliminate poverty and promote social inclusion by establishing and implementing a strategy for poverty elimination in consultation with the provincial, territorial, municipal and aboriginal governments and with civil society organizations.

This bill is an opportunity for real nation building where no one gets left behind, to build healthy communities and strong economies by taking advantage of the momentum created by the work being done at the human resources and social development standing committee and by the Dignity for All campaign.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions June 14th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table a petition from Canadian citizens from my community of Sault Ste. Marie who are extremely concerned with the increase in violent assaults against public transit, school bus, para transit and intercity bus workers across Canada.

The petitioners say that almost 40% of Canadian bus operators have indicated that they have been physically assaulted in their career. In 2008 alone, 2,064 assaults were reported by bus operators, an increase of 438 assaults over reported cases in 2007. They are also concerned with the safety of passengers.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act June 3rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member on a regular basis in Toronto at Queen's Park when Mike Harris was doing the very same thing as the Prime Minister is doing here, which is loading up bills with everything but the kitchen sink and then ramming them through because he has found a way to do that. I remember one of the Conservative deputy speakers of that day referring to omnibus bills as “ominous bills”, and they indeed are ominous.

What worries me is that this is the first real example. It is probably Guy Giorno's first chance to try this tactic in Ottawa. Does the member share the same concern I have, that once this precedent is set here and the government finds a way to ram through these all-encompassing bills with public policy implications all over the place, this may become a trend that we will all regret in the long run?

Jobs and Economic Growth Act May 31st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree with the member from Hamilton Mountain more in that she is absolutely right.

We have just done a two-year study of poverty at the HUMA committee. What we heard over and over again from people across the country was that they needed a number of things, such as a national housing program and a national child care program, but they also needed EI reform. We could do this immediately. We do not need to wait. This could be done tomorrow.

The government could have the support of everybody on this side of the House tomorrow to reform the EI system so that it worked better for people, so more people qualified, so that when they qualified they got more of the money they needed to pay those bills and so they could stay on EI longer, until the economy returns or they get that job that will help them pay the rent and feed their family again.

EI has to be a central part of any anti-poverty strategy the federal government takes on. We encourage the government to take hold of that report when we table it in this House, run with it and do something good for those who are most at risk and marginalized in our communities.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act May 31st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, at the outset I will confess that I am not an economist, nor am I an expert in financial matters. However, I do understand, from my own experience and from listening to my constituents, the difficulty that they are facing. All of them are heading toward a structural deficit in their life that they have never seen before.

I would suggest that the government needs to get real about what it is that we are facing. There are some things that it could do. We are inviting the Liberal Party caucus members to join us in challenging the government in away that does not allow it to take advantage of the road we are on.

I believe we do have some vehicles that we could use to manage this debt and deficit and to restructure our economy in Canada that would be way better than what is being proposed in Bill C-9.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act May 31st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to continue to challenge the government regarding its approach to the difficult times we individual families and workers are facing. At the outset, I am alarmed at what seems to be a lack of understanding by the government to what is happening out there, the real challenges we are facing in the economy both nationally and globally.

I suppose it should not surprise me. When the government introduced its action plan back in November of 2008, an action plan that almost brought the House down and might have led to a better, more progressive government holding fort in the country, it did not understand either the depth and breadth of the recession we were in and that it had to deal with, so it brought nothing forward. It prorogued the House, as it has a habit of doing, and then brought forward a plan in January of the following year.

I am surprised that Conservatives have not learned anything. They are not doing as so many other countries are doing, which is looking realistically at what is going on in the economy and in their communities.

Let us look for a second at what is happening in the world. We are now looking at the kind of debt that we have not seen, I would guess, probably for centuries in this world. Every country is struggling with what has happened in the last year and a half, trying to come to terms with it and put in place programs and plans to restructure their economies. They are looking at some pretty significant and frightening levels of debt.

For example, this year Portugal is facing an equivalent of 8.8% of its GDP in debt. For Spain, the figure is 10.4%. In Ireland, the Celtic Tiger many will remember, is looking at a debt of 12.2% of GDP. These are staggering numbers. Yet, because of the global nature of the way the economy works these days and that we have bought into in such a significant way, we are affected and will be affected by this.

If there is in fact, as some economists are predicting, a second dip to this recession, we will be affected. We will have to take action. I wonder, because I do not see it, if Bill C-9 situates us as a country to deal with this very difficult reality. When we put that together with what has happened in our communities and to the families and workers we represent, I would challenge the government to rethink what is before us and the proposals it has put forward.

For example, we are in a time when we should be restructuring and reworking our own domestic economy, not talking about free trade as if nothing happened last year or the year before, as if it is just business as usual. In fact, we should be going back to our communities, going back to that which helped us to become one of the strongest countries in the world and, I would suggest, has situated us to deal with the recession in a more stable and better way than many other jurisdictions have dealt with it.

Believe it or not, some Canadians are running out of EI, if they qualified in the first place. Some of those people are getting work, but it is work at much lower wages, so their standard of living and their ability to look after themselves and their families is in jeopardy. People who have already run out of EI are having to resort to living on welfare.

When the stimulus runs out, as it will in a big hurry, as is indicated in the budget, even the few jobs that now exist, which are paying less than the industrial jobs people had before the recession, will also be gone and we will have more people on unemployment.

I will go back to the point I made earlier. As countries around the world were running up serious debt, many Canadians had no choice but to deal with our very difficult economy. Many are facing the challenges of paying bills, paying rent and feeding their children. Some have gone into debt in a major way. As they have struggled with the difficult challenges, many have maxed out their credit cards and their lines of credit and have used up every bit of credit that is available to them. Now they are at a point where they have to deal with that.

I remember back in the middle of the recession attending a meeting in Sault Ste. Marie. An economist from Export Canada talked about the nature of the recession coming at us. He said that it was like a Tsunami, it would come in waves. He described three of the waves that had already hit, and we all identified with that. However, the wave that concerns me most is the one we are still waiting for, and in some instances it has already hit.

Those folks who have worked hard all their lives and have taken advantage of opportunities in their communities to put bread on the table and earn a decent living have maxed out their credit. Now they will have to default on that. Imagine what will happen when the stimulus money runs out, the jobs it created disappear and the economy still has not recovered and hundreds of thousands of people are unable to find jobs and start to default on their loans and credit. What do we do then? How do we respond to that? How do we help those folks? How do we restructure the financial world institutions that will be impacted in such a major way? It is the backing up of a system that I think we will have a very difficult time managing.

On a global level, countries will find it very difficult to deal with the rising amount of debt, together with much of our industry that is struggling at the moment with massive debt. Individuals and families will no longer be able to deal with the debt they have run up in order to keep body and soul together.

Short of Bill C-9, and I do not see anything in it that indicates any preparedness or even understanding of that reality coming at us, what does the government propose to do when that next wave, that next Tsunami hits, and we find ourselves at the beginning of what some economists have predicted that second dip?

I hope we will hear from the government at some point over the next few days just what its plans are.

Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma May 13th, 2010

Madam Speaker, Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma is a resilient community of people working together in the best interests of all those who call this wonderful part of Canada home.

Indicative of this effort to stay strong and build community now and for future generations is the way and the many times we gather to celebrate who we are, our story, culture and extraordinary contribution.

In the last few weeks I attended two such events.

First at the Marconi Club, where the families of the two soldiers we lost recently in Afghanistan, both of Italian origin, Scott Vernelli and John Faught, were given the I.A. Vannini Award.

The second was the Sault Ste. Marie civic Medal of Merit, where we honour citizens who reflect the best that we are, the highest honours our city gives. This year Father Bernard Burns, Harry Huston and the Comedics were chosen for their nurturing and care of, as I said that evening, the soul of the community.

Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2010 May 13th, 2010

Madam Speaker, of course I agree that all parties should be brought into discussions about new initiatives that are brought to the House. However, the government has a track record of not respecting that way of doing business.

I suggest to the member, to take it even further, that we should all be engaged, led by the government, in a discussion about our own domestic economy and how it is that we are going to right it so that once again, as it did years ago, it serves all of the people who are Canadian citizens, who call Canada home, who come here perhaps to make a new living for themselves, and reflects the real wealth that is being generated every day.

Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2010 May 13th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I would say to the member respectfully, just as I believe wholeheartedly that we as Canadians have the answers to our own challenges and problems, that the people of Colombia should be allowed that opportunity as well.

I do not think anyone can deny it, there are some very real concerns with Colombia and any kind of free trade agreement with Canada. I am talking regularly with steelworkers in my own community who tell me about colleagues and other steelworkers in Colombia trying to negotiate agreements with companies who are being actually shot and killed probably as we speak.

In speaking to human rights workers, Jesuits, church people who are in the Colombia area and working with groups of workers and civil society there, they are saying that there is no freedom to organize and to demand an economy that serves the local populace first. Then, if there is anything left over and any real good argument for entering into trade agreements with other countries, then Colombia should actually perhaps do that.

I suggest that we send a message to Colombia that it get its act in order, that it take care of the very grievous human rights situations and realities that are happening there, that we know are happening down there which we are hearing about every day. We ourselves should spend some time and energy reorganizing and restructuring our own economy so that everyone continues to benefit from it again. Then perhaps we can begin to look at what we can do in relationship to the rest of the world.