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

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act October 15th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for Halifax for challenging us to be careful in terms of what we put in place because it has long ranging consequences.

I heard the member who spoke before her talk about the fact that Canada has been lucky in that we have not had any disasters other than natural. I wonder if maybe it is more than luck. Canadian society has evolved as a society that is tolerant and inclusive and the government has come forward in most cases and developed programs over the years that support people so we do not get into positions where we have one group of people who are desperate and in need as opposed to another. There is a mentality or an environment in Canada that precludes us attracting the kind of devastating attack that we have seen in other parts of the world.

Could the member comment on the fact that sometimes we hear people saying that we are lucky as opposed to Canada has been thoughtful in the way it has evolved as an inclusive, tolerant society, and we need to continue down that path?

Child Care October 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Social Development.

We now have a commitment in the throne speech to a national child care program. This is a benchmark after years of promises by Conservatives and Liberals in election campaigns. I just crossed the country meeting with and listening to the child care community. There is great expectation out there.

Can the minister assure us that this new program will be enshrined in legislation, and be publicly funded and publicly delivered?

Agriculture October 7th, 2004

Mr. Chair, I do not know if he is confused, but this is the federal Parliament here. We are talking about the response to this very tragic and not to be trifled with issue for farmers in my riding, and I am assuming his riding as well.

We are talking to the federal Minister of Agriculture and trying to explain to him why this program is not working and why it is that our farmers are still in stress out there.

Agriculture October 7th, 2004

Mr. Chair, if the minister thinks I am confused, he ought to meet with the farmers in my riding. There were about 120 at a meeting a few weeks ago and there was lots of confusion about the way that money flows, or does not flow, from the federal ministry and from the provincial ministry. I am glad to hear the minister say tonight that there is in fact new money. I want him to know that we will hold him to that because we will be watching.

We have a significant number of farmers in our area who did not qualify for CAIS this year who thought they would. They played by the rules. They thought they understood how the formula worked. They applied thinking that they would get that money. They were counting on that money to get them through this winter and to hold the banks at bay, but it did not come. There is no cheque in the mail. There is no money. These folks have been through a couple of really tough years.

The minister has to get out and talk to some more farmers. I suggest that he is probably talking to some of the leadership and some of the organizations that represent farmers. They may not be giving him the full story. He needs to get down into the grassroots and talk to farmers, like the one that is here tonight. I suggest he take a few minutes tonight to talk with my constituent who drove nine hours to be here to listen to this debate and to perhaps contribute in some way if he could to clarify the situation by letting us know what is happening to him and his neighbours.

Agriculture October 7th, 2004

Mr. Chair, I want to thank the member for Timmins--James Bay, our critic for agriculture, for giving me some time tonight. I also want to thank the constituents of Sault Ste. Marie and area for their confidence in me so that I could be here tonight standing in my place to speak up on behalf of the farmers of Algoma and all farmers across Canada and tell the government it has to stop playing games with the lives and livelihoods of some of our best people. Either there is money or there is not. This is a cynical, dangerous game the government is playing.

As I understand the program, the money being made available is a charge against the CAIS program. For those who do not know about the CAIS program, it does not work. I am also led to believe that the remaining money in is included in this package as well. The minister needs to be clear about what money is really available, how much, how much is new money and how someone can apply. None of this has been done. Farmers are making life-altering decisions without proper and adequate information. Let me explain.

If the CAIS program is used to flow the money, nobody knows if they will qualify because of the formula which looks at a farmer's last five years of financial information, and drops the highest and lowest. The industry has been so volatile it is just plain difficult for anybody to know.

Many farmers in Algoma who were expecting to qualify for CAIS this year have not. As a matter of fact the family that is here tonight has told me that they know of 20 to 25 farmers in the Algoma area who have received letters of denial for CAIS for this year. Cheques that are desperately needed for the cash flow for the families to get through the winter and keep the banks at bay will not be there. My hunch is they are not qualifying because they received BSE money last year and it is affecting their formula.

That is precisely what they are afraid of with this new program. It is going to drive farmers further into debt and disqualify them from applying in subsequent years. The minister needs to come clean on this. This is no way to treat the people who produce our food.

Let us look at TISP as an example of the kind of game that is being played here. When TISP was first announced, it was to be $150 per animal. Then it was decided it would be $80 per animal. When the money finally flowed, it was $56 per animal. How can anyone plan anything with that kind of fluctuation and reduction? It left approximately $30 million in that envelope which the farmers who applied and qualified could have used. That money should have been transferred without complication once it was determined there was money left. Now we are told it has been folded into this new money.

We are also told there is really no new money in the package to increase capacity to slaughter and to process. It is loans and loan guarantees. As my colleague from Timmins--James Bay said, this will not create one new plant. It will enrich the already existing operators and continue to bankrupt small farmers.

I say to the government, get real. Get out there and talk to some farmers. Talk to the gentleman here in the gallery tonight who drove nine hours to be here for this debate because it is so important to him and his neighbours. He left his farm and work and drove here to say by his presence that he and his neighbours are in trouble and they need the government's help.

The minister needs to make new, real money available and get it to the farmers now with no strings attached. The minister needs to put new, real money into support for new processing capacity across the country so at the very least we can bring some competition and some real market discipline to the industry. Otherwise we should get ready for bankruptcies, fewer farmers, and even greater reliance on the U.S. based food processing and distribution systems.

Child Care October 7th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, we now have a Speech from the Throne commitment to a national child care program. This is a benchmark after 20 years of promises from both Conservative and Liberal parties in election campaigns.

I have been across the country over the last month meeting with and listening to the child care community. There is great expectation. Canadian families are all now waiting for the details, timelines, legislative framework and a commitment of money.

We have an opportunity in this minority government to have this promise finally delivered. We New Democrats will be working hard to ensure that it actually happens and is rooted in the principles of quality, universality, accessibility, developmental, inclusive and affordable. We also insist that it be publicly funded and delivered, and that it be enshrined in legislation.