House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was parks.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Kootenay—Columbia (B.C.)

Lost his last election, in 2021, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions June 18th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present e-petition 2176 with 706 signatures. This is one of the most pervasive and long-lasting issues, both in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia and across Canada, and that is the lack of affordable child care. As we all know, lack of affordable child care keeps a lot of people, particularly women, out of the workforce. We also need to make sure we are paying our child care workers appropriately.

The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to establish an adequately funded framework to ensure that affordable, licensed child care is universally available throughout Canada, not just in Quebec and the pilot project in British Columbia, and that child care workers are appropriately compensated.

The Environment June 17th, 2019

Madam Speaker, for months now, youth around the world have been marching on climate change and really leading the way for many leaders and many people in many countries. I am trying to understand, if this has been of such significance and so important to the Liberal government, why is it just now that we are debating this with two days left in the 42nd Parliament? How does that constitute a climate change emergency?

The Environment June 17th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I am the vice-chair on the environment committee, and last week we heard from the Parliamentary Budget Officer on the relationship between carbon taxes and the reduction of GHG and also the backstop plan, as it is called, that is being put forward by the federal government. The PBO said there is a direct relationship between having a carbon tax and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and he said that very clearly.

Second, I believe it is important to not always park truth at the door here. I do not often support what the Liberals are saying, but the PBO also said that 80% of Canadians would get a bigger rebate than the price in carbon tax was going to cost them. The wealthiest 20% would probably pay more than they would get in a rebate.

I would like to hear the member's comments on what the PBO presented at the environment committee last week on those two aspects.

The Environment June 17th, 2019

Madam Speaker, there is a sense of urgency among our youth. I have to give all credit to the youth who are really driving this question and making all politicians around the world pay attention to climate change. They are concerned about their future.

The member is absolutely right about the opportunity around green energy. Looking at the possibilities for geothermal, solar and wind and, in the ocean areas, tidal energy, it is amazing. What it means is that people do not have to travel from Newfoundland or other parts of the country, like from my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, to Alberta for gainful employment.

If we move to a green energy economy, those jobs will stay right at home. A person would not have to leave home, but could have a good job and a better future for their family, as well as for the economy. It is there; we just have to make sure that we do the transition properly.

The Environment June 17th, 2019

Madam Speaker, the member's question is absolutely fair.

Two or three years ago, there was an oil and gas convention here in Ottawa. I stayed afterward and met with a CEO for Suncor and asked her how difficult it was to transition their engineers from oil and gas into renewable energy. She said that some of them they can do it fairly easily while other ones require a bit more effort and training. Then just before Christmas, I heard a statistic for the first time, that 37% of the oil and gas workers have no post-secondary education. We absolutely need to have a transition that respects the jobs of all of the people who are currently working in the oil and gas industry, while moving to a new future.

When I speak with classes about pipelines, for example, I tell all of them that the pipe is not the problem; pipe is not bad in itself. However, when building a pipeline, it must be filled with something, and then it must be kept going for decades to pay for itself.

The question is, what kind of future do we want to see in Canada? The future that I see is a green energy future, not an oil and gas future. The pipe is not a bad thing, but it sets up a future that I do not think most Canadians would support in the long run.

The Environment June 17th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this motion, as the climate crisis is the greatest challenge of our time.

We recognize it as an emergency and accept that we have an imperative to act. The most recent report by the international Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that we have about 11 years to dramatically reduce fossil fuel consumption or face catastrophic climate change.

A recent report commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada found that Canada is warming at twice the global average. Another recent report found that one million species of plants and animals around the world are at risk, and one of the reasons is climate change. We heard from some excellent witnesses this afternoon at the environment committee on this really important but distressing topic.

It is clear that we are facing an urgent ecological crisis. For too long, governments and corporations have delayed taking meaningful action on climate change, and now we find ourselves with the floods and fires at our door. We have a moral responsibility to take rapid, ambitious action that will set us down the path to a more sustainable and equitable future.

This spring, many students in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia participated in school strikes as part of a global movement started by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. At the World Economic Forum, Ms. Thunberg said:

I often hear adults say: ‘We need to give the next generation hope’. But I don’t want your hope. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I do. Every day. And want you to act. I want you to behave like our house is on fire. Because it is.

I know that in my riding, many young people share this fear for the future. I have received passionate letters from grades 5 and 6 Ktunaxa students worried about polar bears and the environment. My granddaughter, Lalita, who is graduating from high school this month, at times worries about whether her generation will have a future at all.

In addition to these fears, I have also heard from young people that they are confused and frustrated by the lack of action to address climate change. They feel let down by adults who have ignored the problem for decades. I recently attended a panel on climate change at Salmo Elementary School, where two students played an original song, part of which goes like this:

Why can't we just do it right, change the way we live our lives?
People always say we're fine. Why can't they just see the signs?

It is not just young people who are recognizing that there is an urgent need to act. Local governments are on the front lines and recognize the need to make our communities more resilient to a changing climate. Many local governments have already had discussions on the climate emergency, but we need all levels of government to recognize the scale of the problem and to commit to acting collaboratively.

ln my riding of Kootenay-Columbia, Nelson city councillor Rik Logtenberg established the Climate Leadership Caucus to join local councillors and mayors across the country together to advance climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts at the municipal level.

While there are many solutions that can be implemented by local governments, from waste to transportation, municipalities often lack adequate funding to do so. It is critical that the federal government work with municipal partners so that they have the capacity to be climate leaders. I want to thank Rik for his leadership. He is truly making a difference in convincing mayors and councillors across the country that everyone must play a part in fighting the climate change war.

Also in my riding of Kootenay-Columbia, the Regional District of Central Kootenay has recognized the urgent need for action and collaboration on climate change. The RDCK is a collection of mayors and rural representatives who come together on important issues. Recently, they put forward a motion recognizing that climate change is “an urgent reality requiring rapid decarbonisation of energy” and that “[p]reparing for increased resilience and adaptability is critical.” They went on to say that the RDCK “recognizes that the world is in a global state of climate crisis” and requires an imperative that all orders of government undertake “rapid and far-reaching' changes to building construction, energy systems, land use, and transportation.”

While the Liberals have brought this motion to recognize climate change as an emergency, over the course of this Parliament, they have failed to treat it as such. The Liberal climate change plan shelters the biggest polluters and fails to meet even Stephen Harper's weak targets. Earlier this month, the Liberal member for Beaches—East York tabled a private member's bill that acknowledges that the Liberal's targets are not enough. The member stated, “greater ambition is now required to meet our national, intergenerational and our moral obligations. Science demands greater action”.

Recent media reports suggest that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has said that the upcoming election is a chance to toughen Canada's climate change targets. While I welcome more ambitious GHG targets, the government has had the chance for nearly four years to adopt them. Further, the government has taken actions over the course of this Parliament that actively hinder effective climate action, such as the continued subsidization of the fossil fuel industry.

This spring, the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development found that the government failed to do a fulsome inventory of fossil fuel subsidies and did not consider long-term environmental and social impacts on an equal basis with economic factors in evaluating subsidies. The NDP is calling to immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies, so we can focus investment on renewable energy, public transit and energy efficiency, as well as ensuring a just transition for affected workers and communities.

While today we are debating the Liberals' motion to declare climate change an emergency, tomorrow the government will quite likely announce its approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, despite the National Energy Board's failure to consider the project's climate change impacts. This is not climate leadership. Quite frankly, it is climate hypocrisy. It is unconscionable that the Liberal government spent $4.5 billion of taxpayers' money on an old pipeline, with plans for expansion, at a time when we need to get serious about a rapid transition off of fossil fuels.

This bailout was a bad investment for Canadians, and the government should not pour more money into this project. Earlier this month, the hon. David Anderson, a former federal Liberal minister of the environment, wrote to members of cabinet, arguing that there is no economic justification for the project. He said that building a new pipeline will not change the market.

Instead of spending taxpayers' money on a pipeline expansion in the face of a climate emergency, we need a bold plan that reduces emissions while creating sustainable jobs for workers. The NDP's “Power to Change: A New Deal for Climate Action and Good Jobs” is a plan to do just that, by investing in priorities like renewable energy, public transit, energy efficiency and research and development. The United Steelworkers has said that this plan protects the planet and jobs, and I encourage all parties to have a close look at it.

As a vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, I am also pleased that the committee tabled two reports this spring, one entitled “Clean Growth and Climate Change: How Canada Can Lead Internationally”, along with a second report on forestry, agriculture and waste, with a total of 34 recommendations on how the government can and must do better in addressing climate change. Instead of partisan bickering over carbon pricing, we need all parties to agree to work together on implementing comprehensive solutions.

I look forward to reviewing the Conservatives' environment plan this week, and I hope it will acknowledge the serious imperative we have to act on climate change. One of the largest motivators I had to becoming a member of this House was the gutting of environmental regulations by the Harper government and its inaction on climate change. I sincerely hope that the Conservatives realize it is time for a new path forward. It is critical that fighting climate change becomes a non-political, non-partisan issue.

With increasingly urgent warnings from experts and more frequent and severe extreme weather events, it is clear that climate change is no longer a distant threat and that the cost of inaction is too great. I look forward to engaging with my constituents this summer in a series of town halls regarding climate change, as I know that addressing this challenge will require everyone getting on board. We must accept that climate change is an emergency for our planet and begin to act with a sense of urgency. Our children and grandchildren deserve no less.

Parks Canada June 12th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for the information and update.

The first call I had on this was in August 2016. The call was from a young woman working for Parks Canada who was going back to university. It was August. She had been employed since April and she still had not received a paycheque. She was concerned she was going to have to drop out of university because she did not have the money for her tuition. We were able to intervene successfully on her behalf.

There were other issues like people getting overpaid. The problem is that people might get overpaid by $1,000 and the government wants that $1,000 back, but they only get $700 on their paycheque, which leaves $300 that they have to try to get back from EI, Canada pension and other organizations. That is really not fair. Other people got paid an additional amount the next year, which put them into a different tax bracket for that year, unfairly. These are very serious issues affecting people. I have talked to Parks Canada and other employees who will not take assignments because of this.

Is there a time limit in mind for this to end?

Parks Canada June 12th, 2019

Madam Speaker, again I rise in the House to speak about the perpetual nightmare that is the Phoenix pay system, which continues to impact Parks Canada employees in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia.

It has now been over three years since this disaster was forced upon the public service. Despite never working from the beginning, those who implemented the system received performance bonuses. Meanwhile, thousands of hard-working public servants have not been paid what they have earned, when it is owed to them.

This pay system was ill-conceived from the beginning. It was taken off the shelf, with no consideration given to special circumstances such as acting pay, overtime or leave without pay. Parks Canada employees were especially impacted because many of them work under different pay statuses throughout the year, going from full time in the summer to part time or casual in the shoulder seasons. Every change in status brings concern to staff. Will they get paid next week? Will Phoenix issue a seemingly random payment amount?

My colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé brought up a Parks Canada Phoenix case from her riding yesterday during question period. That Parks Canada worker has not been paid since March. This week, and it is only Wednesday evening, I have received two new Phoenix casework files in my office, both from Parks Canada employees.

The NDP has raised this issue many times, both in and out of the House, since the problems started cropping up. We have proposed solutions, like paying employees the amounts owed directly to them, while keeping records. That way, hard-working Canadians are accurately paid the funds that they are owed by their employer.

It is starting to feel like these suggestions, these pleas, are falling on deaf ears. How many more times will constituents have to contact their MPs when they are at the end of their ropes, both financially and emotionally?

The previous Conservative government touted that the Phoenix pay system would save millions of dollars per year. Instead it is estimated that the government has spent more than $1.1 billion dealing with this broken system, and that number continues to grow. That is money that could have been spent improving the lives of Canadians or dealing with the climate crisis, if the Liberals had not rushed to roll out the Phoenix pay system despite warnings that it was not ready. Conservative and Liberal governments both own a piece of this failed system.

The Treasury Board president was quoted in a CBC article this morning saying, “We may have to have the old system in parallel with the new pay experiments as we go forward.” What are “pay experiments”? Meanwhile, we still do not know how long it will take to replace Phoenix or how much this debacle will cost.

When a new system is implemented, the government must ensure employee files are 100% accurate before they are transferred to the new system. Otherwise, errors will persist.

I do not want this to be a totally negative speech, so I want to take a minute to thank the Parks Canada employees and other federal public servants who have continued to provide excellent public service to Canadians while suffering under what at times must seem like a horror system. Their loyalty to Canada and their commitment to serving our country must be recognized and should be rewarded in collective agreements.

It is shameful that the government of a developed G7 country cannot pay its own employees properly and that it has let this problem persist for more than three years.

How will the government ensure that Phoenix's replacement is delivered in a timely way and will not be another failed, expensive experiment?

Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement Implementation Act June 11th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, free trade agreements with the Liberal government have now cost our dairy sector about 10%. From my perspective, two things should be protected in every trade agreement. Number one is our water and number two is our food and agriculture.

I wonder if the member cares to comment on whether continuing to lose agriculture to these trade agreements is the right thing to be doing.

Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement Implementation Act June 11th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the Nelson Star, which is a newspaper in my riding, has this headline today: “B.C. sawmills shutting down for another 2-6 weeks”.

I have 12 mills in my riding, of which about nine are family owned. They are shocked that there is nothing in the USMC free trade agreement, and no discussion at all, about the softwood lumber tariffs of 21% that have been in place for quite some time.

Could the member share with me why the government left softwood lumber out of the USMCA negotiations? It is at least as important in my riding, and in many others across the country, as aluminum and steel. What is the government going to do about it going forward?