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

Petitions March 10th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present three petitions from my community with regard to the imposition of the HST by the federal government.

The petitioners make the case that this will hurt families and indicate that it will hurt the economy. They are very much opposed to the federal government transferring this $4.3 billion, which would give the provincial government the money it needs to impose this unfair tax on the people of my province.

The Budget March 9th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right when he again points out the choices the government makes that are wrong. It is going to tax the ordinary working man and woman and small business in this country with this increase in the contribution that each will need to make in terms of employment insurance and, at the same time, roll out literally billions of dollars in tax breaks to corporations that are doing very well.

I do not see this as an intelligent choice. It is certainly not the choice that we will make as a caucus in this place. We are waiting for the government to indicate that it might do something different.

The Budget March 9th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I say to my colleague from London—Fanshawe that, absolutely, this is a stark example of the choices the government is making. It is going to continue to roll out billions of dollars in corporate tax breaks to financial institutions and big oil companies that frankly do not need it and cut funding to homeless shelters, people who are the most at risk and marginalized in our society.

What kind of a country are we building when those kinds of choices are made knowing the resources exist to do it differently?

The Budget March 9th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, 9/11 created a whole new regime of bureaucracy at borders which has impacted very negatively on trade and the free movement of people and goods back and forth across the border. I live on a border. Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario is the sister city to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Literally thousands more vehicles used to travel back and forth across that border every day. That was very important to the local economies of both of those wonderful cities.

The government makes choices that we in the NDP would not make. The Conservatives have decided that they will cut government yet again, a government that has already been cut to the bone in the interest of managing the present deficit and significantly because of the big corporate tax cuts made, frankly, by the former Liberal government as well, which have been rolled out to corporations over the last 10 to 15 years.

There is another way. There are other choices. We could invest intelligently in safety at our borders. We could use some of the money that we would recoup if we simply did not flow those corporate tax breaks any more.

The Budget March 9th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, this morning I will provide a few thoughts on the budget. I am pleased to be sharing my time with the wonderful member for Burnaby—New Westminster. He is a real champion in the House on many fronts, but none more important than the battle he is fighting on the international trade front and the free trade agreement which the government wants to impose on us and the people of Colombia.

I stand here today hopeful that we have an opportunity finally to make some choices that did not seem to be there for us until the last year or so. The inevitability of the economy becoming global and unregulated and that somehow that was going to be good for all of us was something we just could not seem to make any headway with.

I believe very profoundly that what happened last year in that economy, the collapse of the financial world and the impact on people everywhere on the planet brings us to a place recognized by Jim Wallis in the wonderful book he recently wrote entitled Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street.

We have the potential for a transformational moment in our history. We can make choices as a government. Government can become important again in providing leadership. We can do things that will be in the best interest of the people we serve and the planet that serves all of us.

We have a chance at this point to look at what went wrong in a very clear way, to name it and then to put forward a different vision for ourselves and those we care about, our country and indeed for the world. We have a chance to make different choices, as we in the New Democratic Party are saying these days, in this budget. We can make different choices.

Until last year, we believed almost religiously that government should be smaller, that government should play less of a role in the life of the jurisdiction in which it is elected to give leadership and that somehow if we deregulated industry and finance, it would serve us better, that it would be more efficient. We also believed that if we created a lower tax regime for industry and investment, the country would be better off. If all of us were honest with ourselves, we would see that that recipe is what got us to the dysfunction in the economy we experienced last year and the very difficult challenge that we continue to face today.

This does not have to be the way it is. We in this country do not have to continue to be driven by an ethos of greed and fear. We can choose to focus on the common good and making sure that everybody has enough.

I think back to my days as a young boy growing up in the small town of Wawa in northern Ontario. Some members may know where that is. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, 1,200 people mined ore, burned the sulphur out of it and turned it into sinter. We sent that to Sault Ste. Marie where 12,000 people turned it into steel.

That steel was sent across the country to communities in the Maritimes such as Saint John, where it was used in building ships. It was sent to Vancouver, Thunder Bay and Windsor, where it was used in making buses and cars. All of those industries had good jobs that paid decent wages. There were benefit packages that looked after families. There were pensions for people when they retired, so they could live in the dignity their work made them deserving of.

We went even further back in those days because we believed in government. We believed in the ability of government to use the very generous tax base to provide supports and services for all Canadians and to create a competitive advantage for locally owned and controlled industry. We brought in health care, employment insurance, the Canada pension plan.

When the government brought in all of those very important and helpful institutions, we found that they became part of the Canadian identity. People around the world admired us for what we were able to accomplish together. We found that also created for us a very competitive advantage in the world as trade began to evolve and become global.

We found that having a healthy and well-educated populace was something in which investors were very interested. We found that providing health care through a government run system provided cost advantages to industry. The cost of health care can be very expensive, as we know when we look south of the border where our American friends are debating that today. That was a very great competitive advantage.

We found that when together we built the infrastructure, the buildings, roads, libraries, recreational centres in communities across this country, not only did it make those communities centres of excellence, but it was also very attractive to people looking for a place to set up shop, do business and create work. Back in those days communities, individuals, organizations and government worked together to make sure that was happening.

Some may say that was then and this is now. Yes, and government made choices back then. We have the opportunity to make choices here right now that could get us to a place where we hold dear those values once more.

Our country is so large, so vast and so remote, and so much of it is in the north. We really need to invest in transportation infrastructure. For example, in my riding people are looking for investments from the federal and provincial governments to make sure the railway does not go the path of so many of the country's corporate headquarters which have disappeared altogether or gone someplace else. We should make the necessary investments to maintain the vital links between communities and manufacturing centres and the markets in which they sell their goods. It should be done in a generous way that not only makes up for the lack of investment in those pieces of infrastructure over the last few years, but also in a way that indicates there is a future for towns like Wawa, White River, Marathon, Nipigon, Red Rock, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins. These communities are important. The resource base that has served the country so well continues to be an important element in Canada's economy going forward.

In one very specific instance, I ask the government to make a choice today to stop the unwarranted and unneeded rollout of further corporate tax breaks to entities that are doing quite well, thanks very much, and to invest those billions of dollars in things that will serve all Canadians better, such as health care and education. In this instance we need investment in the railroad to have a railroad to move freight, and also to once again look at the possibility of having a railroad to move people throughout the country. Canada's demographic is changing. The population is getting older. We are centralizing health care, for example, and people need to travel and our highways are not always the safest way to do it.

We need a huge investment in rail, for example, the same as we need it in health care and education. Investment is needed in all kinds of other important things to protect the environment and make this country the green economy that we all know it has the potential to become.

Points of Order December 10th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, in the interest of the discussion this morning and with all due respect, I want to remind the Speaker of a passage in the recent O'Brien and Bosc publication that suggests Standing Orders give members a very wide scope in proposing opposition motions on supply days. Unless the motion is undoubtedly irregular, and that is where the procedural aspect is not open to reasonable argument, the Speaker does not intervene. We suggest this is such a time.

Petitions December 10th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition this morning similar to the one that was previously presented calling for support for the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare. It is signed by 165 people from across my riding.

Provincial Choice Tax Framework Act December 8th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the member for Mississauga South make the same argument all day in this House to my colleagues as we fight on behalf of men, women and children across this province and the province of B.C., who are going to be hit with an 8% increase in the cost of almost everything come July of next year.

He is a Liberal. He is trying to wiggle off the hook, trying to have it both ways here. He cannot have it both ways: Either he is for it or against it.

If we held public hearings, I guarantee that the members would have hundreds of people coming forward, wanting to appear before the committee to tell us to stop this business and to stop the imposition of the HST.

Provincial Choice Tax Framework Act December 8th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. Today we are witnessing a real lack of democracy, a shortcoming in the approach of the government toward pieces of legislation that very directly affect every man, woman and child in this province and in the province of British Columbia. We are not willing to take the time necessary to hear them and to go through the public consultation process.

Last week I travelled to northern Canada, to British Columbia and Alberta, to talk to people about some very basic issues, such as how poverty is affecting them and what they think we as a federal government could do. Certainly no one in those consultations suggested for a second that we bring in the HST and raise the cost of living for them.

Provincial Choice Tax Framework Act December 8th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to finish what I started before question period.

Before I continue, however, I want to say how proud I am to be sharing my time this afternoon in this debate with the member for London—Fanshawe. She is a really wonderfully hard-working, intelligent, articulate member with whom I have had the pleasure of serving for a number of years in government and in the Ontario legislature, where she served as a parliamentary assistant to the Minister of the Environment and then subsequently as a junior minister with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation.

The member for London—Fanshawe has worked tirelessly in her own community as an advocate, particularly on behalf of women, the at-risk and the marginalized, and she continues that work as a member and critic in our caucus in speaking out on issues that particularly affect women and their livelihood.

I am always pleased to stand up beside caucus members in the NDP caucus because we have such a wealth of talent here. They are people who work very hard and are very sincere and committed to the issues that we as a party continue to champion in the instance of fairness of justice for all.

That brings me to the debate we are having here this afternoon, the debate on the imposition by the federal government of a harmonized sales tax program that will see, at the end of the day, an increase of 8% in the cost of a lot of goods and services that those in our communities who are finding it very difficult to make ends meet as it is will not be able to afford.

Before question period I said that I wanted to speak on behalf of the people from northern Ontario. I listed a few of the ways that they will be impacted. I said also that I wanted to speak on behalf of the communities of Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma in my riding. I continue to get emails and phone calls from people from across the riding. I want to share a few of their thoughts with you this afternoon. This is only a small sampling of the strong feeling and opposition that I am hearing from my constituents.

There is a gentleman, Bob Kehoe, who wrote to me that we need to block the HST at Parliament.

Another person, Mr. Foster, also said, “Please stop the HST. I struggle enough as it is”.

I will share with members a little note that was sent to me by Charles Dawson from my riding. He says, “My name is Charles Dawson and I consider myself to be a middle class income Canadian. I am very upset about the whole HST that is basically being forced upon us. I have two children and have them involved in lots of sports and activities, and to be honest, I have very little extra money. This extra 8% imposed on more items would definitely make things much harder for my family. I wanted to let you know in hoping that my voice can make a difference”.

I place those thoughts on the record here this afternoon as symbolic of a larger strong feeling coming out of the Sault Ste. Marie riding about this imposition of the HST in partnership with the provincial Liberal government in that province.

I also want to share a brief comment from a local editorialist in The Sault Star, who lives out in the district, so that people will realize and understand that I speak not only on behalf of people from the city of Sault Ste. Marie but also on behalf of the folks out in the district, the rural part of my riding.

As Mr. Keenan points out, there are often differing views on issues, depending on whether people live in the city or in rural Canada. In this piece, Mr. Keenan says:

Spending half my time in the Algoma district and the other half in the Sault, it is nice to get two perspectives on things, and on this proposed HST, all I hear is condemnation.

That is the strong view of many in my riding. It is certainly the strong view of my caucus, the member for London—Fanshawe and the constituents on whose behalf they speak here in this House today in this very limited debate on this very important public policy, a policy that will in fact cost people dearly.

I said earlier that I want to also put on the record my very sincere and deep concern. I have travelled the country twice now to hear from people in at least 15 communities on the issue of poverty and about the struggles of those who live on the margins and are most at risk and vulnerable in our society in this great, wealthy country of ours.

Certainly one of them, the most important, and often the first that comes up, is the question of how they can afford the basics. It is the question of how they can, with the limited income they have, pay for the things they need, the things that keep them, their children and family members going from day to day.

They tell me that they are stretched to the very limit. There is no place else for them to go. Some people who work all year, full time, for minimum wage, particularly if they are living in large centres where the cost of living is high, are saying very clearly that they cannot make ends meet.

They cannot pay for the basics in life. They cannot feed themselves and their children with healthy, nutritious food. They cannot pay the rent. They cannot involve their family members in the things they should be able to be involved in to participate in their communities. Another imposition of a further cost to them will be devastating. They are saying they do not know what they will do.

I plead with the government to please think twice. It still has a few hours today. This will end tonight; we will vote on it tomorrow, and ultimately, next July, there will be another 8% added to the cost of some very basic items for ordinary citizens in my riding and across northern Ontario, and for the poor in Ontario and British Columbia.

This is going to be very difficult, and I would ask those who are supporting this measure to please rethink it.