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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. 1 May 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, as a former mayor, I really appreciate a lot of the comments the member has made this morning about the needs. Certainly, we need a different formula in municipalities. That one-third, one-third, one-third formula was really difficult for small communities. Those communities also need money up front so they can actually be shovel ready with their projects. A lot of them cannot afford the cost of engineering studies to be shovel ready.

I also think we need to expand our basic definition of infrastructure. Traditionally, it has always been sewer, water, roads, and storm drains. I think we need to be adding dark fibre high-speed Internet as a basic piece of infrastructure in all our communities moving forward. It is really important, particularly to rural areas. Also, we need to move to multi-year funding so they can actually do some planning.

I would be interested in the member's thoughts on adding multi-year funding and dark fibre to his list of priorities.

Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act May 4th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-224, and I want to thank my colleagues for their very impassioned plea for the bill, particularly the member for Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam. I lived in Port Coquitlam for 10 years, and I am sure the constituents there very much appreciate this bill coming forward.

I want to begin by sharing with the House some of the headlines from my riding of Kootenay—Columbia in the recent weeks. These come from Cranbrook Daily Townsman and the Columbia Valley Pioneer, two of the many fine community newspapers we are fortunate to still have in Kootenay—Columbia.

On April 7, the Townsman headline was “[East Kootenay] getting eight ‘substance use’ beds from [Interior Health]”. The text reads:

These new beds for Interior Health are part of a large provincial initiative to improve care outcomes for individuals living with substance use challenges, said [the province's health minister].

The beds will provide a safe and supportive environment for clients [who have complex substance issues].

A few days later, there was another headline, this time from the Columbia Valley Pioneer: “Overdose reversal drug now available in BC without a prescription”. The text from this one is:

The goal of reducing the fatal effects of an opioid overdose among the B.C. drug-using community has recently gained momentum.

Health Canada revised the Federal Prescription Drug List on March 22nd to make a non-prescription version of naloxone, which is the life-saving antidote commonly being used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, more accessible to Canadians....

...making the medication more accessible to the people without a prescription [will help to save lives].

[This new measure] is separate from [B.C.'s] Take Home Naloxone program...[which] has trained over 6,500 people to recognize and respond to overdoses.... 488 overdoses have been reversed since the program's inception.

On April 15, going back to the Cranbrook Daily Townsman, the headline read: “B.C. declares drug overdose emergency”.

The B.C. government has declared its first-ever public health emergency to deal with the sharply rising cases of opioid drug overdoses across the province. ...the [emergency] measure will allow for rapid collection of data from health authorities and the B.C. Coroner's Service, so overdose treatment kits can be deployed to regions where there are new clusters of outbreaks.

There has been a steady increase in overdoses of drugs containing fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid made in Chinese drug labs and smuggled to Canada.

We have to do what's needed to prevent overdoses and deaths, and what is needed is real-time information, [said B.C.'s health minister]. Medical Officers need immediate access to information about what's happening and where so that they can implement effective strategies to prevent these tragedies.

We are in a crisis situation when it comes to drug overdoses. We must do everything we can to save those lives.

That is where Bill C-224 comes in. Bill C-224 would provide a good Samaritan exemption, ensuring that no evidence obtained as a result of responding to a drug overdose can be used to support possession of substance charges. This exemption would apply to any person at the scene when police or paramedics arrive.

The exemption would apply to all schedule I, II and Ill drugs, the common street drugs, but would only cover charges for possession. Production and trafficking charges would not fall under the good Samaritan clause. Let me say that again. The good Samaritan exemption in Bill C-224 would only apply to possession charges. Drug producers and drug traffickers will not be let off the hook.

The bill will also not in any way diminish our efforts to fight organized crime or to support communities affected by gang-related violence. Bill C-224 simply removes a barrier to medical help reaching a person who is overdosing in time to save them.

Some of the validators for the bill are the Pivot Legal Society and Canadian Drug Policy Coalition executive directors. They say:

Fear of prosecution has proven to be a barrier for people to call for help when they are with someone who's having an overdose. Only 46 per cent of respondents to a Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council survey said they would call 911 during an overdose situation. Seconds matter in these cases and saving a life shouldn't be weighed against facing a potential drug possession charge. Granting amnesty to Good Samaritans is a simple answer. The Liberals should move to pass this bill as quickly as possible.

A Facebook user, posting on Overdose Canada in support of this bill, said, “My son Austin would be alive today had those who witnessed his overdose called 911.”

An article in The Globe and Mail reported:

Amid mounting signs that the illegal form of the painkilling drug is expanding east from Western Canada, where it is linked to a surge in overdose deaths, health-care advocates say federal and provincial government leaders are not doing enough to address the problem.

Pivot Legal Society, in an article entitled “A three-point plan for ending overdose deaths”, wrote:

Research suggests that between 10 and 56 percent of people witnessing an overdose actually call for assistance.... We need to remove the barriers...

The NDP has a proud, progressive record of standing up for sensible drug policies that promote harm reduction and create safer, healthier communities. Supporting this bill is very much in keeping with this tradition.

Bill C-224 is about saving lives. More lives could be saved if users and witnesses did not hesitate to seek emergency assistance for overdoses.

New Democrats will always stand for smart, progressive, evidence-based policies that promote stronger, healthier, and safer communities. This bill does that, and it deserves the unanimous support of this House.

Criminal Code May 2nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, let me repeat what I said during my speech. I am not suggesting that the death of a pet and the death of a human are equivalent.

We need to take even more care that we get it right when we are talking about euthanasia using a human lens. I absolutely agree that palliative care is critical. We need to make sure that we have a national palliative care strategy to go along with this, but they need to go hand in hand if they are to move forward at all.

The story I told was what convinced me that if I had a choice, I would choose to die with dignity.

Criminal Code May 2nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I really do not think it is a lower standard. If we have the opportunity to declare our intent ahead of time and put it in writing, that at least gives us some opportunity to have some say over our future. If we reach the point where we cannot consent and we cannot not consent, and then we have no options at all. Therefore, at least having an opportunity to declare our wishes ahead of time is an improvement over not having any choice at all.

Criminal Code May 2nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, absolutely, I think that is missing from the current version of the bill. I think it is really important to give Canadians the opportunity for an advance declaration of what their wishes are, particularly if they know their disease is leading to a condition where they will not have the ability to make that decision themselves later on. Therefore, I do think that should be in the bill.

Criminal Code May 2nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-14, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other acts related to medical assistance in dying.

I support the bill at second reading. However, it does need to be amended.

I will start today with a story. Some years ago, my wife Audrey and I adopted a beautiful sable sheltie dog by the name of Princess Diana of Cornwall. She was named at a time when we lived on Cornwall Drive in Port Coquitlam, and the world was abuzz with a royal wedding involving two people named Charles and Diana.

Princess was a great dog. Unfortunately, when she was about 11 years old, she developed cancer. We were already living in our current home city of Cranbrook, located in the Rocky Mountains area of British Columbia. As the cancer progressed, Princess was living with more pain and discomfort. We consulted our local vet regularly. One day he told us that she was terminal and in a lot of pain and he thought the best thing we could do for her was to end her suffering. He asked us to bring her back the next day. We took her home to say our goodbyes, and the next day I brought Princess back to the veterinarian. He asked me if I would like to leave her with him or whether I would like to stay. I said I would stay. I held her in my arms and watched the needle go into her paw. She lay down and died in my arms. As I stood there with tears in my eyes, I thought that if I were ever in intolerable pain from an incurable disease, this is how I would want to leave this world, with a needle in my paw, lying in the arms of someone I love. I personally became a believer in physician-assisted suicide right there 20 years ago.

I am not suggesting that the death of a pet and that of a human are equivalent, though they certainly can feel much the same, as many who have loved a beloved pet will know. We need to take even more care that we have it right when we are talking about euthanasia through a human lens.

As members know, in February 2015, a unanimous Supreme Court ruling established the charter-protected right of competent adult Canadians who are experiencing enduring and intolerable suffering as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including a disease, disability, or illness, to access medical assistance in dying. We in the NDP are committed to implementing the Supreme Court order decision with balance and sensitivity, respecting the autonomy of patients, the rights of health care practitioners and vulnerable individuals, and the fundamentally personal nature of this issue to every Canadian; in other words, we need to get this legislation right.

Last week, when I was back in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, I met with Bendina Miller, the past president of the Canadian Association for Community Living. The CACL was one of the main supporters of the vulnerable persons standard, the purpose of which is to protect the vulnerable in Canada, as Bill C-14, medical assistance in dying, moves forward. While the CACL believes that the bill in its current form takes appropriate steps toward addressing the vulnerability of people living with a disability, it believes some improvements are required to meet the Supreme Court's intent that the legislation must provide fair access to assisted death and also protect vulnerable persons who may be influenced or induced to use the system to die.

The Canadian Association for Community Living recommends five areas of substantive amendment to this draft bill. I will summarize them here.

First, Bill C-14 should be amended to extend the current requirement for judicial oversight until such time as a study of the merits and implications of the bill allows them to be clearly understood.

Second, included in the bill should be an explicit legal requirement to identify, explore, and record the sources of a person's suffering, and an attempt to address the motivations of his or her request for death.

Third, Bill C-14 should be amended to meet the requirements of the Carter decision and should specify that a voluntary request for medical assistance in dying cannot be made as a result of external pressure or any form of inducement.

Fourth, Bill C-14 should be amended to specify that the minister “will” make, not “may” make, regulations regarding the mandatory reporting of information about requests and the provision of assisted dying.

Fifth, it should mandate a palliative care or other professional evaluation to ensure patients' rights to informed consent by having information about the full range of available treatments and supports that could ease their suffering.

The bill should not proceed without an enhanced national palliative care strategy, which is clearly missing in the Liberal government's 2016-17 budget.

Back in November, I had the pleasure of meeting new members of Parliament from all of the parties represented here in the House, except the Green Party. I was struck by how consistent the words were from all of my colleagues. They said they were here to work collaboratively to build a better Canada. It was very encouraging for me as a new MP, because that is also why I am here.

When I am back home in my riding sharing with my constituents what we are doing here in the House, I tell them that we are working on three bills in particular that would fundamentally change Canada, going forward: first of all, proportional representation voting; second, legalizing marijuana; and third, physician-assisted suicide.

This is the first of those three bills to come to the House for debate and further study, and we need to work together collaboratively to build a better future for Canadians. The bill would do three things: maximize one's willingness to live through expanded palliative care, ensure that our vulnerable citizens are protected, and give our citizens the Supreme Court assured right to choose to die in the arms of someone who loves them, if they are experiencing enduring and intolerable suffering as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition.

Let us amend the bill collaboratively and give Canadians the best possible outcome on this very important and emotional issue.

Rafting Industry in British Columbia April 19th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, after 40 years of successful and safe operations, the rafting industry in Golden, B.C. has been notified that due to safety concerns, it will no longer be allowed to cross Canadian Pacific Railway's tracks to access the lower canyon of the Kicking Horse River.

The rafting industry is a major economic driver in Golden, and community and industry leaders believe that a simple rail crossing, with safety education for employees and guests, can resolve these concerns. Now, CP is refusing to allow any kind of crossing at all.

CP cannot have it both ways. It cannot insist that the tracks are unsafe to cross and then refuse to make the crossing safer. To make matters worse, this news comes just before the start of the rafting season.

I rise in the House today to stand with Golden's rafting industry, and to call on the government to get this issue resolved now.

The Budget April 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech. He has much to be proud of in his riding. However, I would like to bring him back to October 13, 2015 during the election. His party stated:

To help close the funding gap and improve outcomes for First Nations students, we will invest new funding each year in core funding for kindergarten through grade 12 programs. This will include money committed by Stephen Harper that has yet to flow, plus an additional $300 million per year in incremental funding, totalling $750 million per year by the end of our first mandate. Over the next four years, this represents a $2.6 billion new investment in helping First Nations students learn and succeed.

How does the member reconcile the fact that his government extended the funding timeline by an extra year for first nations, to five years, resulting in a $800-million shortfall in comparison to the party's initial promise?

Citizens in Kootenay—Columbia March 10th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize the work of 14 of my constituents who have recently been honoured by the Governor General with the Caring Canadian Award, including Robert Lenard Cutler, Dollie Kaetler, Donna Kutzner, Eric Kutzner, Heather More, Tanna Patterson, Gertie Brown, Julie Ewashen, Thelma Johnson, Christine Munkerud, Terje Munkerud, Nicole Nilsson, Jean Syroteuk, and Merve Syroteuk.

From providing medical care in Haiti, to protecting wildlife, to supporting people living with disabilities, these caring Canadians have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place.

I also want to honour two more of my constituents who will receive Medals of Bravery for their rescue efforts: Constable Kevin Johnson and Michael Robert Henderson.

Sincere thanks to all of them for their important contributions to Kootenay—Columbia and to Canada.

Petitions March 7th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today with a second petition from Kootenay—Columbia constituents concerning proportional representation, this time from Nelson, Balfour, Yahk, Passmore and Winlaw.

It is very clear this is not a petition in favour of preferential ballot, which is really a second-past-the-post system. This is all about proportional representation. It is important for democracy. It is important for encouraging youth and disenchanted citizens to vote.

I encourage the government to take it seriously when it comes times to look at proportional representation.