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Last in Parliament November 2009, as Independent MP for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley (Nova Scotia)
Won his last election, in 2008, with 69.01% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Resignation of Member April 30th, 2009
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to announce that this is my last day. I understand that I have served as a member of Parliament for 6,149 days. I just sent my letter of resignation to the Clerk and she sent me a letter back thanking me for it.
I want to say a few words and thank some people. I owe so much to this place and I want to take a few moments to acknowledge that.
Mr. Speaker, you and I were first elected in 1988 and we became embroiled in the free trade debate right away. A lot has happened in the chamber since that time. We have been involved in so many debates and had many great days. Some days were not quite so great, but they were all wonderful, interesting and rewarding. I am very glad to have had every single one of them.
I want to say how proud I have been to be a member of Parliament in this place. I have been proud to represent the constituents of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley and I want to thank them all very much for supporting me for so long, 6,149 days.
I want to thank all those who worked to help me get elected. It was a job to get me elected but somehow they managed. I appreciate the campaign teams that worked so hard.
I have been here through three speakers and eight leaders, nine counting myself. I have served under five prime ministers. Every one of them has been interesting and has taken a different approach to politics. It has been a learning experience for me and every single one of them has taught me something. I have learned a lot about myself since the time I came into the chamber. I cannot say how grateful I am for those lessons.
In fact, I have been here so long I realized today I have my own traditions. One tradition is that every time I walk down the halls, I look at the ceiling and arches, and think what a wonderful building and place this is. If people have never looked at the ceiling, they should. They should go to the Hall of Honour and try to figure out how the artisans could have ever put it together. It is absolutely a work of art.
There is not a day in my life here that I do not look at that ceiling. I am sure people wonder what I am doing, but I marvel at it. I know, Mr. Speaker, you are an expert cabinet maker and can put boards together, but I cannot. I do not know how the Hall of Honour was ever put together.
Another tradition is that every day when I leave the House, I walk down the driveway, and I cannot help it, I stop, turn around, look up at the Centre Block and ask, how could I be so lucky to work in this incredible building with incredible people?
I have yet another tradition that maybe some members do not share. Sir Charles Tupper's portrait is over the door through which we all come and go. Every day of my life here, I stop and say, “Hi, Sir Charles”. Sir Charles is my predecessor. He was prime minister in 1896. I was very young at the time but I feel like I know him because his portrait is there. When I was in caucus, his picture was on the wall. I always check to see how he is doing. He lived right across the street from my house. His house is still there, as well as the house I grew up in. I always felt a close attachment to Sir Charles Tupper. It is one of my traditions.
Every day that I am here I tell myself how lucky I am to work here. However, it is not just luck. An awful lot of people help all of us stay here. An awful lot of people help us do our jobs.
The one that helps me the most is my wife, Rosemary. Many members know her and know she is a wonderful woman. She has supported me and helped me through thick and thin. She stood behind me through everything. I want to tell her how much I appreciate her being with me through this. I hope she is watching.
I also want to thank her mother, Geraldine MacSween. She lives in Antigonish and her apple pies will solve any problem.
I want to thank my three children, Michael, Holly and Allison. They are all young adults out there helping people or running their businesses. I am very proud of them. They have made it through this but they pay a price when we, the members of Parliament, are away from home so often. We pay a price and they pay a price. It is a big challenge for them, and our children and spouses deserve a lot of credit.
I am absolutely sure that this business is more challenging for spouses than it is for the members. We see the good things. All they see are the bad things. A lot of good things happen here and I am so proud of that process.
I have to thank my staff, which keeps me out of trouble and in line. They do my work for me and help me get my job done. Sandra, Marie, Lorne, Bonnie and Sandi are wonderful staff, the best staff on the Hill. I want to thank my former employees, especially Nancy Baker, who kept me out of trouble for 10 years. I will always remember her for that.
I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker. You have been a wonderful Speaker. You are always there for us. You do not always give me the decision I want, but you always give me a decision. It is always fair and just and I agree with every one.
I want to thank the Clerk and the Table Officers who have been so good to me. They have always helped me with my questions, questions I should know the answers to and I do not, but they always help me anyway.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to the people who help us do our jobs, the people who clean our offices and serve our food here in the lobbies, the pages and especially the security guards who know us all by name. They make us feel at home and they make us feel like a really big part of this. I thank all of them.
I want to thank all the members of Parliament from all parties who have been friends with me, supported me and helped me. Last year when I had a serious health issue, I received cards, messages and phone calls from every corner of the House, and I appreciated that so much. The first card I received in the hospital was from you, Mr. Speaker, and that impressed everybody. I appreciated that so much. The second card was from the Clerk and the Table Officers. I thank all of you for that.
I received cards from every leader in the House, even the Conservative leader. Some members may not be aware of this, but we differ sometimes on certain things. However, he took the time to write me a note, and I very much appreciated that. I am sorry he is not here to hear that, but I appreciated the fact that he took the time to do write.
I want to take a minute now to tell the House a story about a member of Parliament who saved my life, and I am not exaggerating.
We all remember our colleague, Chuck Cadman. Chuck Cadman died of malignant melanoma. He did not have it diagnosed early enough to treat it. About a year after that, his wife hosted a clinic on the Hill. She had volunteer dermatologists come in and examine members of Parliament or anybody on the Hill who was interested in having a skin cancer screening.
I wanted to go, but could not because I had a conflict with my foreign affairs committee. However, for the first time in 16 years, the foreign affairs committee ended early, so I went. I did not think I had anything wrong with me. I just went. I was there for about five minutes and the dermatologist, Dr. Jim Walker, said, “You have malignant melanoma”. I had the same thing Chuck Cadman had. I had no idea. I had no symptoms. I was in the hospital the next day.
I only had that early detection because of the efforts of Chuck Cadman's wife, and I owe her so much. She is now the member for Surrey North, so I thank her for her efforts.
I tell this story because I received a tremendous benefit out of that. I would not be here today if she had not done that. I tell this story so maybe some day a member will say, “Maybe I'm not too busy to get that check-up. Maybe I won't put the committee before the screening. Maybe I'll go get a check-up”. I urge everyone to do that. The only reason I am here today is because she had that clinic.
I want to say, again, how very proud I am to be a parliamentarian and I am proud of this system. People do not give this system nearly the credit it deserves. It does work. It works better than it looks. I want to give one example of how it works, one of dozens and dozens of examples.
About a month ago, I raised two questions in question period concerning my riding and the rising sea levels because of climate change. The questions were answered, but after I received the answers, the Minister of the Environment invited me to meet with his deputy minister. He went through all the documentation that supported the issue and immediately put the steps in place to address the situation. That process is in place now. That is just one example and there are many more.
What people saw was the 35 second question and 35 second answer. They did not see the meeting with the minister and the deputy minister. They did not see the plan. They did not see the decision. Therefore, when something happens in the House, there is always a reaction, more than people see.
If I can leave members with one piece of advice, I urge them to try to find a way to let people know that positive things happen in the House. Yes, we have the opposition and the government, but we are not enemies. We are political opponents and we are all here for the same reason. Every member of Parliament has a purpose in being here. Every member of Parliament has a vote. We should try to improve the image of this place because it is better than people think.
I will now pass on to my final closing. Although it is really sad to be leaving today, I am very lucky to have a new job, which I start tomorrow. My new job is as the representative of my province of Nova Scotia in Ottawa. I get to represent the province and promote its strengths and its attributes. It will not be hard because Nova Scotia is the best place to live. It is the best place to start a business. It is the best place to go to school. It is the best place to go on vacation. Therefore, the job will be easy for me because Nova Scotia is clearly the best of everything.
I invite every member of Parliament to come to Nova Scotia to see all that we offer. If members cannot come to Nova Scotia, come on over to my new office at 350 Albert Street, have a little glass of Jost wine from Malagash, Nova Scotia and have a taste of Nova Scotia.
Automotive Industry April 23rd, 2009
Mr. Speaker, for the auto industry bailout to succeed, car dealers, truck dealers and recreational vehicle dealers must have access to wholesale and retail financing, but a lot of the companies traditionally involved in this are backing out, or withdrawing or limiting their participation.
Is there a plan by the government to provide wholesale and retail financing for the dealers, the retail industry that will deliver and sell the cars, trucks and recreation vehicles that will be helped with the auto bailout?
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for his answer, but that is quite a list of potential, frightening damage that we have to look forward to.
He is right, it is not only the Bay of Fundy, it is the entire coastline on the Atlantic and Pacific, but there are numerous studies that identify that the Atlantic Canadian coastline will suffer higher sea level rises than anywhere else because of changes in currents as well as and in combination with the rising sea level.
The potential damage that the parliamentary secretary just outlined confirms what we have been saying and what our concerns are, and I appreciate him doing that, but he also said that there are other coastlines that are vulnerable. The Government of Canada study that he referred to is really frightening in the extent of the damage.
Mr. Speaker, I rose back in February and then again later on regarding an issue that is of great concern to the people in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick around the Bay of Fundy, and that is the rising sea levels as an effect of global warming.
Right off the bat, I want to thank the Minister of the Environment for his prompt response, both in trying to understand the problem and bringing the people that needed to understand it, and then also the actions he took to start the process to assess the potential damage. It is exactly what should have been done and I appreciate his actions very much.
This all came from a study done by the United Nations panel on climate change, which identified the Bay of Fundy as one of the two regions in Canada, and in fact all of North America, which would be most vulnerable in the case of rising sea levels, which is accepted now as something that will happen. There are different versions of how bad it will be and exactly when it will happen, but it is very consistent. All of the studies by academics, the Government of Canada, and the United Nations panel on climate change predict that sea levels will rise. It is just a matter of how much and when.
It does not matter how much it rises in the Bay of Fundy, it is going to cause damage. Communities, like Advocate, which are actually below sea level at high tide and are only protected by a dike system will be flooded if the sea levels rise any amount at all.
I do believe that the Bay of Fundy will be affected more than any other region because everything is exaggerated in the Bay of Fundy. A tide which is six or seven feet high outside of the Bay of Fundy can be 30, 40, or even as high as 50 feet in the Bay of Fundy, so any rise in sea level will have an exaggerated effect at the head of the Bay of Fundy. Many communities in Nova Scotia, such as Truro and Advocate, Parrsboro, and many in New Brunswick, such as Moncton, Dorchester, Memramcook and Sackville, will be very vulnerable to extensive damage.
I asked at the time if the minister and his officials would start a process to do a review. They have now, I understand, developed a process where they are going to map the present dike lands between Amherst and Sackville, which is the right thing to do. They are going to do a projection of sea level rise. They are going to do coastal erosion rates. They are going to build a model to reflect the sea level rise and they are going to identify the dikes, infrastructure, buildings and communities that are going to be at risk.
Again, I believe that this is exactly the right thing to do and the right steps to take in the right order, so I do not have many pointed questions for the distinguished parliamentary secretary, but I would like to ask him if he has any more information on this study.
My understanding is that there has been $800,000 set aside to do this study on the area in the Bay of Fundy between Amherst and Sackville, which is generally agreed will be the most vulnerable because it is at a very low sea level there. I wonder if he has any information that he could share with the House, and if he does not, could he agree to provide it at a later date.
Infrastructure April 1st, 2009
Mr. Speaker, in my prebudget submission, the mayor of Truro, the mayor of Colchester County, and the province of Nova Scotia all highlighted the Truro civic centre as a high priority for stimulation money. The province, municipality and the communities have all provided their contributions. On March 12, I raised this issue in the House of Commons about the federal contribution. Since then, similar projects have been announced. I wonder if the minister could let Truro know when it might expect an answer on its application for the civic centre?
The Environment March 26th, 2009
Mr. Speaker, I just sent the Minister of the Environment parts of three reports that predict that rising sea levels will affect Nova Scotia more than most other areas.
The first report is the United Nations report that predicts that all highway and rail links to Nova Scotia could be severed. The second is a Government of Canada study that predicts the town of Truro could suffer catastrophic damage. The third report says that changes to ocean currents will result in the eastern seaboard having the highest sea level increase on the planet.
Could the minister outline the steps his department is taking to assess the future risk and outline his action plan to deal with the rising sea levels in Nova Scotia, and specifically on the Bay of Fundy?
War Veterans Allowance Act March 25th, 2009
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-345, An Act to amend the War Veterans Allowance Act (allied veterans).
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to table this bill today. The purpose of the bill is to amend the War Veterans Allowance Act to restore access to war veterans allowance benefits to allied veterans who did not reside in Canada when they began serving with an allied force or at an any during their service or who resided outside of Canada for any time after 1996.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Infrastructure March 12th, 2009
Mr. Speaker, in my prebudget submission to the Minister of Finance, I highlighted the Colchester Civic Centre as a priority by the province and the municipality as an infrastructure project that is shovel-ready. In fact, the province has already committed $10 million to the project, the municipality $11 million and the community $4 million.
Both the mayors of Truro and the municipality of Colchester wrote to the minister in December asking for federal participation.
I wonder if the minister could indicate when a positive answer might be forthcoming?
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 12th, 2009
With regard to the federal emergency preparedness funding to the provinces and territories over the last five years for firefighting equipment: (a) how much funding has the government contributed to those specific projects which involved the purchase of firefighting equipment through the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP); (b) what is the specific breakdown of the government's emergency preparedness contributions, by province and territory; and (c) other than the JEPP program, what other funding has been made available to the provinces, territories and municipalities to specifically support the purchase of firefighting equipment?