House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was languages.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Acadie—Bathurst (New Brunswick)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question because it is an important one. Self-regulation does not work.

Some people might not like what I am about to say, but with all due respect, big oil companies and big money-making corporations self-regulate only insofar as it puts cash in the bank. They have no problem with that. This government is on board. This is a dangerous game to be playing, though.

This is about oil companies and the possibility of a spill that could devastate the entire Chaleur Bay fishery—an example from my home turf—and the Gulf of St. Lawrence fishery too. If there is a spill, taxpayers will be expected to foot the bill because the government does not want to create regulations that require companies to pay compensation for that. I find that completely unacceptable.

If a company does not bear much responsibility should a spill occur, and if an incident would not cost the company much money, it has no reason to self-regulate.

What we have are practices that let these boats go full tilt. They sail at 50 knots. They go as fast as they can to maximize production and make money. If there is a spill, however, taxpayers are on the hook for that. All the companies do is declare bankruptcy; some have done so in the past. There is no guarantee. The only guarantee is the one provided by Canadian taxpayers, even though the government is responsible for protecting Canadian taxpayers, not just big oil companies.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

I will begin by congratulating the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, neighbouring my riding of Acadie—Bathurst. These ridings share Chaleur Bay, which is recognized by UNESCO as one of the 10 most beautiful bays in the world.

I also thank him for his work on major issues, which we are also facing, since we share Chaleur Bay. For those who do not know, this bay has lobster. People like lobster. There are also all sorts of beautiful fish, as well as crab, and we want to protect them. We have a responsibility to protect them because they are fishers' livelihood. People also like to eat them.

I rise today to talk about C-3, An Act to enact the Aviation Industry Indemnity Act, to amend the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Marine Act, the Marine Liability Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Even though we support this bill at third reading, we are extremely disappointed that the Conservatives rejected our proposals to broaden the scope of this bill. We proposed amendments, unlike the Liberals. They wanted to propose some at second reading, but they missed the boat, to use a Maritimes reference.

Our approach shows that we are ready to make tangible and comprehensive changes to protect our coasts, whereas the Conservatives are not. I would like to expand on the Conservatives' lack of credibility when it comes to marine and air safety issues.

If the true purpose of Bill C-3 is to promote greater tanker traffic safety, why did the government not seize the opportunity to cancel the cuts in the latest budgets and the shutdown of marine safety programs?

The Conservative government wants to protect our coasts with this bill, but let us look at its record: the closure of the B.C. spill response centre, the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station and the gutting of environmental emergency response programs.

It does not make any sense for the Conservative government to cut programs at marine communications and traffic service centres and environmental emergency response centres, because we know that tanker traffic tripled between 2005 and 2010 and is expected to triple again by 2016. Pipeline expansion projects are also expected to increase crude oil shipments from 300,000 to 700,000 barrels a day.

When faced with these facts, it is difficult to believe that Canadians' concerns are really being taken seriously.

I would like to remind hon. members that the scaling back of Coast Guard rescue capacity and facilities has affected more than just British Columbia. The Conservative government has threatened to cut facilities across Canada, including those in the eastern part of the country. Most notable is its irresponsible decision to close the Newfoundland and Labrador marine rescue centre.

The Conservatives also planned to close the marine search and rescue centre in Quebec City, which, like the Newfoundland and Labrador centre, often conducts rescue and emergency relief operations. In fact, it responds to nearly 1,500 distress calls a year.

As a result of public protest and the hard work of my NDP colleagues, the Conservatives were forced to reconsider their decision to close the marine search and rescue centre in Quebec City, and it is still open today.

I would like to commend my colleagues and the people of Quebec, who stood up to show how important this centre is.

If the Conservatives really want to protect Canada's oceans with this bill, why not broaden its scope?

The measures that the NDP wants to see in a bill to safeguard Canada’s seas include reversing Coast Guard closures and the scaling back of services, including the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.

We also want the Conservatives to cancel the cuts to the marine communication and traffic service centres, including the marine traffic control communications terminals in Vancouver and St. John's, Newfoundland. We have before us a bill that seeks to protect our oceans and tankers, but the government is closing the most important organizations for monitoring them.

We are also calling on the government to cancel the closure of British Columbia's oil spill response centre. It is unbelievable that the government would put forward this bill in the House of Commons and at the same time seek to close the oil spill response centre in British Columbia. Earlier, I was saying that crude oil shipments would increase from 300,000 to 700,000 barrels a day. Marine traffic is growing and the Conservatives are cutting the organizations that might be able to prevent catastrophes.

We are calling on the government to cancel cuts to the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research. The Conservatives even want to make cuts to a research centre. We are also calling on them to cancel cuts to key environmental emergency programs, including oil spill response in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia.

It is scary. It is scary to see where the government is going with this. Canadians should be scared to see what is happening on the energy and oil fronts. It is not new, and each year we see an increase in the use of our rivers and oceans, both the Pacific and the Atlantic. The government is shutting down everything that has been put in place to protect and monitor these bodies of water.

We are calling on the government to reinforce the capacity of petroleum boards—which is currently nil—to handle oil spills, as recommended by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board needs to build in-house expertise to manage a major spill, including an independent safety regulator.

We want the Canadian Coast Guard to work collaboratively with its U.S. counterparts and conduct a parallel study to examine the risks additional super tanker traffic would cause in Canadian waters.

If the Conservatives really wanted to take marine safety seriously, they could have—and should have—expanded this bill. We know that the Conservatives are making these modest changes in an attempt to calm British Columbians' well-founded fears about new oil pipeline projects and the inevitable increase in oil tanker traffic that would result from new pipeline construction.

The people of British Columbia are right to be worried about potential spills resulting from the increase in tanker traffic. Oil spills have proven inevitable with oil tanker traffic. The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation has recorded nearly 10,000 accidental oil spills globally since 1970.

That should tell the government to be careful. Given all the cuts it has made in various areas, it is, as I said earlier, very scary.

The government needs to shoulder its responsibilities. This bill does not go far enough. We will support it because, while it is not much, it is better than nothing. However, it should go further.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Winnipeg North was quite mixed up at the beginning of his speech. He did not know which bill it was or what he should talk about. I think he is still mixed up, because we are debating third reading. It is not going to committee. That is over. We are at third reading, and the bill is not going to committee. I just wanted to help him a little bit.

At the same time, would he agree with me that the Liberals were in government for a long time, before the Conservatives, after the Conservatives, and before the Conservatives again? They were in government for many years. This is a problem that has existed for a long time, where government lets companies themselves be responsible for the security of people, then when an accident happens, it is too late.

The government has a responsibility to put the security mechanisms in place to ensure that people do not get hurt. That happened during the Liberal government, too. We should not be talking about this bill in 2014. It should have been there a long time ago. It is not the first incident that has happened in this country.

Would he agree with me that the Liberals failed to do that when they were in power?

Employment Insurance September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in the past, 90% of workers were eligible for employment insurance benefits. Now, less than 40% of them are.

The Conservatives and the Liberals limited access to employment insurance. They cut benefits and diverted money in order to balance the budget at workers' expense.

It is a disgrace that governments in our country would do such a thing.

Will the government keep dipping into the employment insurance fund and showing disrespect? What did workers do to the Prime Minister to make him hate them so much that he is still making cuts at their expense?

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the fish plant workers are not in the jurisdiction of the federal government, and we all know that. However, what I said was that, if we had the leadership of the federal government with respect to minimum wage, it would have an impact across the country in every province. I used the example of people working in the fish plants to show that, if the federal government would take leadership on the minimum wage, it would encourage the provinces to do it also. That is what I said. I surely did not mislead.

With respect to the other question of the 100,000 workers, that is not people who are working for the government. We have all kinds of people who are working in different jurisdictions across the country in the federal government, who are under the $15 minimum wage. That should be corrected through this motion.

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I had a hard time understanding and accepting what the member said her government has done. It is the same government that talked about the $100 for child care. After people do their income tax they have to report that as income and have to pay it back, so I do not know where the $100 is.

It is the same government that went against the right to refuse work when we worked so hard to have that law put into place across the country. That is the government. She is the same person who got up as a member of the government to justify how they could remove the right to refuse unsafe work. I remember that, and members could go to the blues and read in her speech how abusive they were of that. The government believes only that workers are a bunch of abusers and that it had to do that. It is the same government that legislated the postal workers back to work. It is the same government that legislated Air Canada workers back to work.

I do not know if members remember, but every time the Conservatives got up in this House it was always to hurt the men and women who work hard in this country. That is what they have done. What we want to do with this motion is make sure we have a place for the workers and respect that with a minimum wage that makes a bit of sense.

Business of Supply September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to this motion on the minimum wage.

People who know me know that I have a lot of experience in labour relations, negotiations and all those sorts of things. I was also a member of a committee set up by the New Brunswick government to study the minimum wage.

I would like to respond right away to the member for Cape Breton—Canso. He rose and asked where the NDP members were in 1996, and he mentioned that they voted with the Liberals. The story there is that in 1996, the federal minimum wage was $4 an hour. It was higher in all the provinces. The federal government was lagging behind. Rather than keeping its minimum wage at $4 an hour and introducing a bill to make the federal minimum wage higher than that of all the provinces and thereby showing leadership to workers by ensuring that they would be treated well, it decided to do what the provinces were doing. The federal government would apply the provinces' minimum wage, which at the time was higher than the federal wage. It was a winning formula. To put it bluntly, it was better than nothing.

If we look at the situation between 1996 and the present, I think that that had a negative effect. The federal government should have come up with a formula to increase the minimum wage in order to set an example for the rest of the provinces and show respect for workers. Instead, the federal government said that it was not generous, that it would align itself with the provinces and do as they did.

The problem is that companies under federal jurisdiction act in the following manner. Instead of creating jobs in their province, they move from one province to another, wherever the minimum wage is the lowest. They want to exploit workers in Canada. This does not just happen in the third world; it also happens here in Canada.

I will come back to this issue because, back in New Brunswick, I was part of the team advising the minister on the minimum wage. I remember I went before the committee saying that they should raise the minimum wage in New Brunswick by $1. I remember that the rest of the committee said that it would not work like that. The minister was prepared to raise the hourly wage by 25¢. Had the recommendation not been for 25¢, there would have been no increase. I for one was not there to say what the minister wanted to hear; I was there to advise him that the increase should be $1 instead of 25¢. That was my position on the issue.

These wages resemble slavery. Today, people have minimum wage jobs. Most of these people are women and they need to have one, two or three jobs. I am sure that the people back home understand what I am saying because that is what they tell me in their community. There is not a member here, in the House of Commons, who can tell me that, when they met with their constituents, they were told that the minimum wage was too high. Not a single member, whether Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Bloc, Green Party or whichever other party, went to their constituency and met with workers who said that the minimum wage was too high and needed to be cut. It is quite the opposite.

The cost of living has gone up. The increases to the minimum wage have led to a completely unacceptable level of poverty. That is why I say that the federal government has a responsibility to show leadership and set a minimum wage that is higher than that of any of the provinces.

It has to step up and tell the provinces that this is unacceptable.

New Brunswickers are not second-class Canadians. Our minimum wage should not be lower than Ontario's, which is $11 per hour. People in New Brunswick work just as hard as people elsewhere in the country. They can do the same work, so they deserve to have the same minimum wage. Just because people are from the Maritimes does not mean they should be the poorest people in the country.

The government has an opportunity to show leadership. The NDP wants to take the lead so it can help workers. I have never seen the Conservatives come to the House of Commons with a bill to protect working men and women. Quite the contrary. They pass bills to kill unions and undermine workers' strength. That is what the government is doing.

When the time comes to vote on minimum wage, I hope they will take the workers' side for once. That is something they have never done since coming to power in 2006. They would rather talk about how the NDP voted against their budgets and how they wanted to lower the GST from 7% to 5%.

When we suggest raising workers' wages, they say no right away. They would not touch that with a 10-foot pole. They legislated Canada Post and Air Canada employees back to work. They introduce private members' bills to get rid of unions, the very unions that worked so hard to negotiate pay increases, pension funds and health care for workers. The Conservatives are working against that.

For once, they have the opportunity to stand up and say that the federal government will establish a federal minimum wage. It is not normal for a federal government not to have a minimum wage set in its legislation. The reason the previous federal Liberal government got rid of it is that the government did not have the courage to increase the minimum wage. Instead it shifted the responsibility to the provinces. It is too bad, but that was not the right move.

Under the current circumstances, the right thing for the government to do for workers would be to show leadership and prove that it is taking care of them. These men and women get up in the morning and work hard to build our country. It takes more than money. They need money to feed their families and we owe them respect.

As legislators, out of respect for the workers, we must legislate an increase in their salaries to ensure they are not being left in poverty as it is happening now.

I would like to see a Conservative stand up and deny the fact that there are workers living below the poverty line because of minimum wages. They are forced to take on two or three jobs. These men and women have to work for one employer in the morning, another in the afternoon and a third one on the weekend.

That is what the people of Acadie—Bathurst back home tell me. I challenge anyone here to stand up and tell me it is not true that workers are living below the poverty line. For example, fish plant workers earn minimum wage their entire lives instead of a decent salary.

I am proud of this motion and I hope the other political parties are too. If they vote against it, their true colours will show, as they did during the vote on the cuts to employment insurance.

The Liberals took $57 billion from the EI fund and the Conservatives made it legal to steal from the EI fund. Today, they are still not prepared to support workers. It is not right. Out of respect for the men and women who have built this country and continue to do so, we have a responsibility to legislate in order to provide them the best working conditions, not take them away.

This motion gives us the chance to do that. It gives us the chance to show national leadership, across the country, and show what Canada is made of and what we want to do. This will then give the provinces the chance to follow suit.

Victims Bill of Rights Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that you are going to check the blues, because I never heard him say that he understood the question. He said he missed the beginning of the question. That is what he said. That is going to set a precedent. If you are going to honour what an hon. member says when he stands, that means we only have to stand and say we understand the question, and you will never know if we understand or not. There has been a practice in the House for the 17 years that I have been here, and if you make that decision, it means the practice will be changed.

Official Languages June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives continue to neglect official languages and the Francophonie.

A number of programs in the roadmap for official languages, launched over a year ago, have not even started, and several organizations are waiting for their funding. Some are even living off their credit line. It is unacceptable to penalize minority communities.

Can the Minister of Canadian Heritage tell us what she is going to do to fix the situation, and when the organizations will receive their money? They may not survive the wait.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, our soldiers have never used cluster munitions and will never use them.

Our soldiers encounter these when they go to war. Some lose their lives. Civilians also lose their lives. This is not unusual during times of war, when soldiers are fighting for their country, but 98% of cluster munitions casualties are civilians.

These kinds of bombs do not take out a single person or building. They affect everyone in the area, including children, and these people all become victims.

We will oppose this bill because it does not do enough. We cannot accept it. If we were to accept it we would be accomplices of the Conservatives and we will not be accomplices. This bill does not do enough to protect the world by requiring that cluster munitions be destroyed and removed forever and by requiring that we not use them.