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

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 December 5th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his hard work on behalf of his constituents.

As I said in my speech, when I talk to constituents in my riding and tell them that the middle-class tax break starts at $45,000 and potentially goes to almost $200,000, they just shake their heads, because that is not middle class in my riding at all. Of course, we put forward an amendment to bring that down to $20,000 so that people earning between $20,000 and $45,000 would be covered, but it was rejected by the government.

Also in my riding, poverty is an issue, as it is right across Canada. There is nothing in here that sets out a national strategy to deal with poverty.

On housing, there is hope, I suppose, but we need to see what is actually in the national housing strategy. Finding a home is the number one issue for people living in poverty.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 December 5th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for the question, because it gives me an opportunity to be more complete in my answer as to why Bill C-29 is not going to be supported.

First, the tax break for the middle class does not include the middle class in my riding, which starts at around $20,000. There is no national poverty strategy in the bill, which is really needed for Canada.

During the election, the Liberals promised to bring down the tax rate from 11% to 9% for small businesses. That never happened. There is no cap on credit card fees. Privatization of infrastructure is going to increase costs for Canadians. There is no indexing of the Canada child benefit. That is why we are not going to support Bill C-29.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 December 5th, 2016

Madam Speaker, as with many things in life, of course, the devil is in the details. What we would have liked to have seen is a better budget, for example, indexing of the Canada child benefit rather than waiting for five years to increase it. As inflation goes up over the next five years, the value of that contribution will decrease, bringing more people back down into poverty.

On infrastructure, as I said, it will depend on how the money rolls out and whether the government makes it easy for municipalities to access the money. We have a start that will benefit some Canadians, but in the end there are a number of improvements that would have made this budget much better.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 December 5th, 2016

Madam Speaker, it was only 13 months ago when I attended an orientation session for new members of Parliament here in Ottawa. There was a cameo appearance by the Prime Minister, which was very much appreciated by all of us. During that cameo appearance, he said that the role of opposition is to make government better. I fail to see how bringing time limitations on debate works toward that objective of making government better. However, I will do my best in the time I have to make some suggestions on how we can make this a better bill.

I want to start with the tax break for the middle class. In my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, when I tell people about the tax break for the middle class, which goes from $45,000 up to potentially $190,000, frankly, my constituents shake their heads. We put forward an amendment to try to bring it down to from $20,000 to $45,000, which was defeated in this House. I can assure members that the middle-class salary in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia is not $45,000 to $190,000.

With respect to small businesses, I am holding a series of sessions around the riding, meetings with small businesses, and bringing together a representative of the provincial and municipal governments, along with myself representing the federal government, to talk to small businesses about how we can help them get ahead. Interestingly, members will not find too much congruity between what small businesses at a meeting in Fernie had on their list and what is in the current bill from our friends across the floor.

I will read from their list of how to help small businesses.

With respect to payroll taxes, businesses want a clearer understanding of how they are being used. With respect to the temporary foreign worker program, the program is cumbersome and needs fixing. The $1,000 fee is too high, and there is no clear path to citizenship, so the turnover is high. They think there should be an increase in minimum wage. There is a need for subsidized affordable housing units. This is from small businesses.

Programs should be redesigned to be suitable for small businesses rather than just targeting medium-sized businesses and manufacturing. There is a real lack of support for small business programs. Youth employment programs should be expanded. A scientific development tax credit for sole proprietorships should be introduced, something which is not currently available. The digital technology adoption program should be redeveloped to include use by small businesses.

We need to recognize and rectify the reality of the digital divide in rural areas and small communities, which is a barrier to cloud-based systems, and redefine broadband to bring it to the level of modern requirements. Right now, the definition of “broadband” is too low in terms of speed.

Canada Post needs to reinstate more affordable shipping options, particularly for books. We have a book publisher in my riding. It can cost more to ship a book via Canada Post than the profit he makes on that book. Credit card fees are too high for small local businesses.

These are things coming right from small businesses, and, had they been included in this budget, it would have made it a much better budget for small businesses.

I want to turn now to helping people in real need. There are 15% of Canadian children who live in poverty. For aboriginal children, that number is 27%. In my home province of B.C., the rate of child poverty is even worse than the Canadian average, at 19.8%. The majority of these children have parents in paid work. If we think about that for a moment, one in every five children in British Columbia is living in poverty.

My colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot had a recommendation for Bill C-245 that would help fix some of that, by bringing in the office of the commissioner for poverty reduction and proposing a national council for the promotion of social inclusion and elimination of poverty.

Approximately 35,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night in the year, and one in five household is is at risk of homelessness because they spend over 50% of their income to secure shelter. However, over the past 25 years, while the population of Canada has increased by 30%, national housing investment has decreased by 46%. We need a national housing strategy. I know the government has one on the books, but we need to see the details to know whether that will really help the groups that need it.

This morning I met with a group called Inclusion BC, and number one on their list is also affordable housing for people who are living with challenges. They want housing to be integrated so that people with challenges are part of a regular community and not set aside in special housing. Affordable housing for all Canadians is really important moving forward. We need to hear a little more about what is in the budget around that particular initiative.

As a former mayor, I can say how important having access to dollars for infrastructure is, particularly for smaller communities. I was mayor of a community of about 20,000 people. When we look at the current formula that was in place for many years, it was a one-third formula. The municipality had to come up with the first one-third, the provincial government the second one-third, and the federal government the third one-third. For small communities, coming up with that first one-third is a real challenge. I will give a quick example. In Cranbrook, if we wanted to raise $1 million through property taxes, every 1% increase in property tax equalled $200,000. To raise $1 million to meet our one-third was a 5% increase in property taxes. One is not very popular as a mayor with a 5% increase in property taxes to cover one project.

As the infrastructure project funding rolls out, we need to make sure that the federal government provides at least 50% of the infrastructure dollars and that the provinces continue to provide their 33 1/3%, reducing municipalities' input to a little over 16%.

Infrastructure funding needs to be long term, so that municipalities can plan. It should not just be one year at a time. We need to change the definition of infrastructure. Those of us who have worked for municipalities know that infrastructure is generally considered to be sewer, water, roads, and storm drains. We need to have dark fiber and high-speed Internet as a basic fundamental piece of infrastructure in all communities moving forward.

It is great to see some money in infrastructure, but how that money rolls out is important. In 2014, the Conservatives announced a multi-billion infrastructure program, and none of it made it to us in the municipalities that year, at least in rural areas. In the end, my Conservative colleague at the time, who was our member of Parliament, blamed the province for not getting on board and getting the money out. However, we need to make sure that the infrastructure dollars actually make it into communities.

I want to talk a bit about private sector involvement in infrastructure. We had one project in Cranbrook prior to when I became mayor, which was our recreational complex. It was a private-public partnership. That partnership went bad, and the city had to buy out the private partner. We ended up with about 15-year's worth of loans, locked in at 8% and higher, that we could not get out of, even though as a municipality we could borrow money at about 2% from a special fund in British Columbia. From Cranbrook's perspective, privatization of infrastructure does not work.

The thought of selling airports or bridges to reduce this $30 billion to $40-billion deficit is absolutely the wrong way to try to get a deficit under control. We do not sell assets in order to pay down debt.

Those are a few of the ways that the budget could be improved. There are some good things in the budget, but there are many ways to make it better. I hope that we can see a better future for poverty, for small businesses, and the way that infrastructure is handled in Canada, and, of course, in Kootenay—Columbia.

Fisheries Act December 2nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, my riding of Kootenay—Columbia is located in the Rocky Mountains. For 10 years I was manager of visitor services with provincial parks for the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island and I know how important a healthy wild salmon population is to the economy, the environment, and, indeed the way of life that people enjoy on the coast.

I also spent a bit of time as a teacher and I know that, apparently, people need to hear things at least three times before they really start to remember and understand them, so some of the facts that members will hear today they will have heard once or twice, but for probably a third time as well.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to support my NDP colleague from Port Moody—Coquitlam and his private member's bill, Bill C-228. I want to thank the member for his many years of work as a champion for west coast wild salmon, the oceans, and coastal communities. I was proud to run under the 2015 federal NDP platform that included a commitment to transitioning salmon farms to closed containment and it is my sincere hope that the members of the House will take action to support what is clearly science-based policy and protect this important resource.

Wild salmon play a vital ecological, cultural, and economic role on Canada's west coast. They feed species at risk, such as orca whales, eagles, bears, and other large mammals, and carry essential nutrients deep into coastal forests during their spawning cycles up rivers and creeks. Wild salmon is an important food source for coastal communities and an integral part of west coast first nations' economy, diet, and culture.

West coast wild salmon is a key economic driver in the region, supporting a $102-million commercial fishery, a $326-million recreational fishery, and over 9,000 family-supporting jobs in coastal and first nations communities. Wild salmon is also an important contributor to the $783-million west coast wilderness tourism industry, which employs 26,000 people full time and roughly 40,000 people in total.

Coastal communities, cultural traditions, and complex ecosystems depend on a healthy west coast wild salmon population. Unfortunately, west coast wild salmon are under threat from sea lice, pollutants, and diseases coming from open net-cage fish farms. In British Columbia, the Fraser River salmon run historically topped over 100 million fish. Now, a run of 20 million to 30 million is considered exceptional. In 2009, only 1.4 million Fraser River sockeye returned to spawn. The NDP was a consistent supporter of the resulting judicial inquiry and of the important recommendations that came out of the Cohen commission.

It is important to note, though, that the devastating downward trend in our wild salmon population has continued, with indicators showing this year's salmon run to be just as low as the one that triggered the inquiry in 2009. Who is the major culprit? Open net fish farms have spread diseases and parasites to wild salmon populations; damaged ecosystems with feces and waste feed; and can kill whales, two in the last three weeks tangled in nets, and other marine mammals. Escaped farm salmon continue to end up in the wild population, further contributing to these problems.

Earlier this year, Dr. Kristi Miller of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans confirmed the presence of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation, or HSMI for short, in salmon samples collected from a B.C. fish farm located on the Johnstone Strait. The presence of this deadly salmon disease further raises the alarm that action must be taken.

Open net farms are located on essential wild salmon migration routes, including the Discovery Islands. If HSMI disease were to spread to wild salmon, already under threat from other diseases, including sea lice, the impact on the salmon population could be catastrophic. The Cohen commission recommended that the federal government apply the precautionary principle in relation to protecting wild salmon. The implementation of this principle means that when science demonstrates the existence of more than a minimal risk to our wild salmon population, the government is required to take action to protect it.

The Liberal government has claimed to be committed to the precautionary principle and protecting the wild salmon economy, but rather than take action to encourage closed containment fish farms, even in light of the overwhelming evidence pointing to the harms that they cause, the federal government has extended the duration of open net salmon farm licences from one year to six years.

The government also continues to allow diseased salmon to be transferred into farms on the west coast. At the same time, the Liberals have further allowed the destruction of wild salmon habitat by approving Site C hydro dam and Pacific NorthWest liquid natural gas developments.

Norway, Chile, and Scotland have all seen the negative impacts of open net farms on their wild salmon fisheries, leading to declining wild populations and collapses. We are now seeing the same potential problems in British Columbia. We need to learn from these examples and take action now to protect Canadian wild salmon.

Bill C-228 is part of the answer. This bill strengthens the Fisheries Act by requiring west coast fish farms to transition from open net pens to safe closed containment systems within five years. It also requires the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to develop, table, and implement a plan to facilitate the transition of the west coast salmon farming industry to closed containment—and this does need to be a transition—within 18 months of the bill receiving royal assent.

This is sound, science-based policy that has received widespread support from stakeholders. Professor Rick Routledge of Simon Fraser University has said, “the scientific evidence that has emerged over the past several years clearly shows that aquaculture-related parasites and viruses pose far more than minimal risk to Fraser sockeye, and to other wild Pacific salmon more generally.” He goes on to say, “The only way that I can see to safeguard this globally significant natural treasure from this very real threat is to require a rapid transition to closed-containment, land based facilities.”

Closed containment farming systems place a barrier between wild and farmed salmon, effectively eliminating some of the most negative impacts of open net salmon farming, and significantly reducing others. A transition to closed containment technology has many benefits for the wild salmon economy, including removing the threat of disease and parasites, reducing the need for antibiotics and chemical treatments in fish farming, allowing farmed salmon to grow to market weight faster, and commanding a premium price for an environmentally sustainable product, providing greater operational control to minimize investment risk and losses, and ultimately protecting our marine ecosystems.

These systems are already finding success in salmon production across Canada, led by Kuterra in B.C., and Sustainable Blue in Nova Scotia. There are also more than 70 licensed closed containment fin fish farms in British Columbia growing salmon, tilapia, crayfish, and trout.

As Aaron Hill of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society notes, “Closed containment aquaculture protects wild salmon from harmful viruses and parasites that can be spread by salmon farms. We shouldn't have to trade off the health of our wild salmon for aquaculture jobs, and if Bill C-228 passes, we won't have to. Moving to closed containment salmon farming is a no-brainer.”

I could not agree more. We can protect our environment and our jobs with this safe, reliable, proven technology. Bill C-228 provides us with a historic opportunity to protect wild salmon and the wild salmon economy. As our nation's federal representatives, we in this House have a responsibility to pursue a long-term vision for Canada's natural heritage.

As Andrew Wright of The Willow Grove Foundation has said, “Closed containment holds the promise of creating a diversified enduring rural economy with no environmental impacts. It allows wild and farmed salmon economies and ecosystems to thrive.”

Canada can become a world leader in closed-containment technology, providing jobs for first nations and our rural and coastal communities, while also taking a science-based approach to protecting our environment. I strongly urge all members of this House to support Bill C-228, and to protect the national treasure that is wild salmon for generations to come.

Jumbo Glacier December 2nd, 2016

Ki'suk kyukyit, Mr. Speaker.

At the centre of the majestic Purcell Mountains in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia is Qat'muk, the Jumbo Valley birthplace of the grizzly bear's spirit and the traditional land of the Ktunaxa First Nation. This area is also part of an ecologically significant wildlife corridor and the site of the proposed Jumbo Glacier ski resort.

For nearly 25 years, thousands of Kootenay—Columbia residents have been battling alongside the Ktunaxa Nation to preserve Qat'muk and to keep Jumbo wild. That fight came to Ottawa this week. with the help of Wildsight and Patagonia, in the screening of the documentary film Jumbo Wild at the Museum of Nature, and by the Ktunaxa's challenge in the Supreme Court of Canada to have their aboriginal spiritual practices and beliefs legally recognized.

Today I would like to celebrate in the House the efforts of the Ktunaxa and all of the residents of Kootenay—Columbia who fight to preserve our wild and spiritual spaces. Their efforts are very much appreciated.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, as the member was listing some of the other uses of the park, I was reflecting on the Group of Seven painting that sold last night for over $9 million at auction. Sometimes people do not give nature the credit that it is due in terms of its economic value, in a number of ways.

Today, the Friends of the Rouge issued a release. There are two things that they are looking for in terms of potential amendments to the bill. The first one was the implementation of pre-existing greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, Rouge Park, and watershed plans. The second was the addition of surrounding public lands to create a healthy and sustainable 100-plus kilometre square National Rouge Park.

I wonder if my friend and colleague would like to comment on those.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, when we think about ecological integrity in a place like Rouge, we think about a marsh area, for example. Maintaining ecological integrity in a situation like this means keeping the marsh as a marsh and not putting a parking lot in, for example, to provide access to the park. If there is a particular piece of forest land with unique species, it means keeping it as forest land.

Protecting ecological integrity means trying to ensure that the species that are there, particularly rare and endangered species, will continue to be there in the future. That can done at a small level or a larger level. In the case of an urban park, this can happen on a very small level, but it is really important to protect the ecological integrity.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, when we live in an urban area and have small pockets of important ecological areas, those ecological areas are important not only on their own but for their educational value to the people who live around them. We can use these areas to teach people about the importance of conservation and national parks.

I lived in Winnipeg for many years. The Living Prairie Museum, in Winnipeg, has one of the last remnants of protected tall grass prairie anywhere. That little ecosystem, right in the city of Winnipeg, has to have special protection and special management if we are going to make sure that this particular ecosystem survives.

We absolutely need more national urban parks across Canada. They are also good for the soul. They are good for helping with nature deficit disorder. It would be a good thing to have more of these in the future.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank the member across the aisle for his lifelong dedication to national parks.

While I have the opportunity, I have to say that the parks and protected areas committee we have been working with should serve as a model for other committees, because the members have stayed focused on principles throughout the discussion on ensuring a better future for national parks. It has been great to be part of that committee.

In terms of ecological integrity, the Rouge is one of the most biologically diverse areas in all of Canada. There is definitely opportunity, as we can see from what has happened in the past, to work on ecosystem restoration in Rouge park, whether they are small or larger ecosystems. Ecological integrity was key to getting this park transferred from the province to the federal government. It wanted a sense of comfort that there would be strong protection of ecological values. I think that is potentially where we are going with Rouge park.

When I was not managing parks, I worked on private land conservation for two years. We can absolutely have well-managed agriculture and conservation protection side by side, because a well-managed agricultural piece of land contributes to conservation far more than a paved parking lot.