I gave the following speech on Saturday, March 7, during the leadership convention of the New Democratic Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.
I woke up this morning and my first thought was it’s a great day to be a New Democrat.
I had a wonderful time at Lorraine’s event last night — the music by the Michael family, the speeches by her closest friends, the atmosphere of respect, love and hope.
It’s funny, but it's not until the eve of Lorraine’s leaving that I really got to know her and all that she’s done for social justice all over the world.
Lorraine was some cute sliver of a youngster, too.
There was a rally in Gander this past week with hundreds of fishery workers from every nook and cranny of the northeast coast.
There must have been a dozen speeches.
Lorraine got behind the podium, on her stool, and — as was said last night at her tribute dinner — she was a giant.
Lorraine spoke without notes, just passion, compassion, and concern for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
Lorraine Michael stole the show.
I’m here today to deliver a federal caucus report.
And I’ll do that — I’ll give you a federal caucus report — but it will from a Newfoundland and Labrador perspective.
I can’t help it, it’s how I see the world, and it’s how I deliver all my messages in the nation’s capital.
I left the House of Commons last week incredibly frustrated.
Oh I gave a speech.
The speech I gave was on a ghost ship full of diseased cannibal rats — that’s the Newfoundland and Labrador perspective I mentioned.
The speech I gave was on a private member’s bill — Bill C-638 — an act to amend the Canada Shipping.
The bill would give the Canadian Coast Guard the regulatory power to take action before a derelict vessel becomes a problem.
Now when I think of a derelict vessel why do I think of a ghost ship full of diseased cannibal Canadian rats?
Because that’s how the Lyubov Orlova, the Russian cruise ship that was tied up in St. John’s harbor for almost two years, was to become known as.
The Orlova became a rusty, dirty smudge on the waterfront after she was apprehended by the RCMP and left to rot.
To make an incredible story short, she was to be towed to the Dominican Republic for scrap but she broke her towline, drifting dangerously close to our offshore oil platforms.
The Orlova broke a couple of more toelines and then drifted over to Europe where the British press warned people about how a ghost ship crewed only by Canadian cannibal rats was about to crash into the coast.
So this bill that I spoke on in the House of Commons would give the Canadian Coast Guard the regulatory power it needs to take action before a derelict vessel becomes a problem.
And the Orlova was a perfect Newfoundland and Labrador example.
I also spoke in that speech about the Monolis L, the paper carrier that sank off our northeast coast 30 years ago with 500 tonnes of oil on board.
The wreck that leaks oil more often than not.
The wreck that is an ongoing environmental catastrophe.
The wreck that the federal Conservatives have — to date — refused to clean up permanently.
We won’t stop until the Monolis L is dealt with.
We won’t stop holding the Harper Cons to account; we won’t let up for a moment.
We won’t stop standing up for Newfoundland and Labrador.
So I gave that speech last week in the Commons, but I left Ottawa incredibly frustrated.
Not because the Conservatives announced their intention to vote against that bill — they do that with most every bill we introduce.
I was frustrated because the speech I was most anxious to give was on the Harper Government’s anti-terrorism bill — Bill C 51.
In the words of Michael Harris, “These days Harper sounds like George W. Bush after a third martini.”
Bill C-51 gives more sweeping investigative powers to Canada’s security agencies, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service — CSIS.
In the words of my leader, Tom Mulcair, “The Conservatives are once again offering us a false choice. We should not have to choose between our freedom and our safety. It is our duty to protect both for everyone at all times, at every opportunity and in every way.
We can and we must have both at the same time. We are convinced that we can have them both.”
I wanted to speak on Bill C-51, but I couldn’t.
There was no opportunity; there was no time.
I’ll get to the reason why in a moment.
I wanted to talk about Oct. 22 and the shootings in Ottawa.
The sound of gunshots in the Hall of Honour, and the smell of gunsmoke in Parliament.
Lying on the floor, on my belly, behind an overturned table, hiding from the possibility of being killed.
I describe it as my foxhole moment.
I wanted to talk in the House of Commons about fear, and how we must not let fear rule us, about how we must not allow fear to steal our sacred rights and freedoms.
But I couldn’t speak; there was no time.
The Conservatives introduced time allocation limiting the debate after our second or third speaker.
It was the 89th time since the Conservatives came to power that they have introduced time allocation or closure to limit debate.
Eighty nine times — the most in history.
In the words of our own Rex Murphy, “we should not abridge our liberties or set up mechanisms to abridge them without the fullest and most strenuous scrutiny and opposition we are capable of."
That can’t happen with the Conservatives.
I seconded another bill in February that was introduced by Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer, a bill to try and stop the Conservatives contempt of Parliament.
The bill would seek to amend the Parliament of Canada Act so governments are barred from packaging unrelated material in omnibus bills.
From stuffing dozens and dozens of amendments and acts into an omnibus bill so that there are times that MPs don’t know — can’t have any idea of exactly what we’ve voting on.
That contempt of democracy, that contempt of Parliament, must stop.
The Liberals are just as guilty with omnibus legislation.
That was one of their favourite parlour parliamentary tricks too.
Don’t get me started on the Liberals — they’re voting for the anti-terrorism bill and plan to fix it in terms of oversight when they’re in power.
Talk about entitlement.
That’s the same Liberal party that announced support of the Canada-EU trade deal before the acronym CEDA was out of Harper’s mouth.
Fine print? Contract? Sure none of that matters.
According to the Liberals, Stephen Harper can be trusted.
We know that’s not true.
Harper betrayed Newfoundland and Labrador —again — on the Fisheries Investment Fund as part of CETA.
I introduced an Opposition Day motion recently calling on the federal Cons to honour their promise to the province.
But honour and Conservatives don’t belong in the same breath.
We lost that motion — not for lack of effort.
I gave a statement in the Commons in December about a Russell Crowe tweet where he said, “I love Newfoundland.”
My statement asked why the Conservatives don’t they love Newfoundland and Labrador.
Where’s the love — right here (to taps to the heart).
Going back this week to the Commons, we won’t let up on Newfoundland and Labrador issues.
Not for a second.
Make no mistake, Jack Harris and I stand on guard for Newfoundland and Labrador at every opportunity.
I consider Jack a friend and a mentor. It took him a while to warm up to me, but he did …
I was interviewed on the night of Oct. 22nd, the day of the Ottawa shootings after we were let out of lock up.
I saw Jack at a bar — we all needed a good stiff drink — and I told the reporter interviewing me that it was the first time Jack Harris gave me a hug.
Yeah, I let that slip.
When it comes to the defence of Marine Atlantic funding — and the demand that the service be affordable and reliable — we stand on guard.
In ensuring that fisheries management policies work for our coastal communities, and that the principle of adjacency is recognized — not just with northern shrimp, but with all of our resources on land and at sea — we stand on guard.
When it comes to people like Don Cherry who calls us barbarians and savages for prosecuting our seal fishery — we stand on guard.
When it comes to families, and workers, and pensions, and seniors, and veterans, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Always Newfoundland and Labrador.
We stand on guard.
And that’s your federal report.