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Conservative MP for Wild Rose (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 74.70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply March 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, let me try this again. The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor made an attempt to get a response but did not get an actual response from the member. He just referred to the fact that anyone could go to his website. He mentioned this before the procedure and House affairs committee of which he was formerly a member and of which I am a member.

I did check his website to verify the accuracy. I can tell members that what is found there is the same link we can find on the parliamentary website of a broad section of categories, but what we cannot find there is a detailed listing of his expenses for his travel or his hospitality. That is not there.

However, if we look at the websites of every member of the Conservative government caucus, that information is there.

I really want to know why he and the other members of the NDP do not seem to want to share this information with Canadians. Our government is very open and transparent about those expenses. The NDP seems to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into disclosure and accountability.

Why is it that the NDP does not want to disclose its expenses, in terms of travel and hospitality, to the Canadian public?

Liberal Party of Canada February 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal convention sounded like a blast from the past. Of course, without the promise of a tax increase, class warfare, deficit spending, and a national strategy on darn near everything, the Liberals just would not see it as complete.

Although I will spare Canadians a review of all of their proposals, the national energy strategy does sound terribly familiar. I wish I could say that the apple does not fall from the tree, but even that would be generous.

Canadians like Nathalie need not worry. Our Conservative government is saving her family of four $3,400 in tax relief this year.

I am glad that the Liberal leader recognized that Canadians' strength is between their ears, but looking at the Liberal leader's speech on Saturday night, I am left wishing he offered something more than a little nutty in between his. The leader of the Liberal Party is clearly in over his head.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member a question, because he has sat in on some of the procedure and House affairs committee meetings. Of course, as a member, I have been there as well.

I can say that Conservative government members on the committee are prepared to get down to work and look at this legislation. We have committed to a significant period of time in which we can have meetings and hear from witnesses from all across Canada. There are all kinds of opportunities for those people to be brought in to Ottawa or be heard through video conferencing and other methods; so we can hear from people.

As the minister has very eloquently said today in the House, he is looking to take former commissioner Jean-Pierre Kingsley's comment that the bill has an A minus and turn it into an A plus. We are obviously suggesting that we are prepared to get down to work. We want to hear suggestions and try to work to make this great bill even better, if that is possible.

However, as we know, the NDP members on the committee are intent on having their members of Parliament travel across the country. They seem to be holding their breath like little children for the opportunity to have their members travel across the country when we would like to just get down to work.

It seems as though the member and the Liberal Party are in solidarity with the NDP on this point of wanting to have members of Parliament travel across the country. I would like to ask the member why that is. Why does he not want to get down to work, hear from people about this legislation, and get down to business, as we on the Conservative government side want to do?

Fair Elections Act February 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to make it clear to the member that there would still be voter contact and the voter information cards that voters receive. I would like to make that clear to him so that misinformation is not out there. However, these voter card could not be used as an acceptable form of identification at the polls.

I would also point out that there would still be 39 different forms of ID that will be accepted at the polls. They would be very clearly outlined in the act. Elections Canada would communicate with voters about what those acceptable forms of ID are, how and where they are to vote, and all of the other things that have been identified as important for voters to be aware of so that we can enable them to participate in voting and encourage greater voter participation more generally through better knowledge of the acceptable forms of ID, along with where, when, and how they can vote.

I hope I have cleared up the member's misconceptions.

Fair Elections Act February 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I notice that the member is celebrating the Quebec Winter Carnival and is wearing the appropriate attire today for the occasion. I compliment him on that. It seems as though we often have exchanges in the House of Commons, which I always enjoy.

I find it unfortunate that the member and the New Democratic Party do not seem to see the value in some of the things we are talking about doing here, such as protecting voters from rogue calls with a mandatory public registry; giving more independence to the Commissioner of Canada Elections; cracking down on voter fraud; and simply making the rules for elections clearer, more predictable. and easier to follow. These measures would make the electoral process more efficient, make it harder for people who seek to break the elections rules, and make the electoral process more attractive and feasible for the honest people looking to take part in democracy, whether candidates or voters.

I find it unfortunate that the NDP will not support measures that would make our election laws fairer, simpler, clearer, and more transparent, and that would give better customer service to voters. These all seem to be very laudable goals. The fair elections act would go a long way to achieving all of them, and so it is unfortunate that the NDP is not supporting them.

Fair Elections Act February 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-23, Fair Elections Act, which has been introduced by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform.

In the most recent Speech from the Throne, our government committed to bringing forward changes to Canada's election laws that would clearly uphold the integrity of our voting system.

The fair elections act would make our laws tough, clear, and easy to follow. It would make life harder for election lawbreakers and put the focus back on honest people taking part in democracy.

The bill implements 38 of the Chief Electoral Officer's past recommendations, and it also brings to light concerns raised by Canadians, by various groups and think tanks, Elections Canada, and parliamentarians.

The fair elections act would ensure that everyday citizens are in charge of democracy by putting special interests on the sidelines and rule breakers out of business. The bill also makes it harder to break elections law. It closes loopholes to big money and imposes new penalties on political impostors who make rogue calls. It empowers law enforcement with sharper teeth, a longer reach, and a freer hand.

The fair elections act would give more independence to the Commissioner of Canada Elections, allowing him or her control over their staff and their investigations, empowering him or her to seek tough new penalties for existing electoral offences, and providing more than a dozen new offences to combat big money, rogue calls, and fraudulent voting.

Let me expand a bit on some of those tough penalties and new offences. What the fair elections act proposes is tougher criminal penalties for elections offences, such as setting a maximum fine of $20,000 on summary conviction, or imprisonment for up to one year; and $50,000 on indictment, or imprisonment for up to five years, for the following offences: obstructing an election officer, voting more than once, offering a bribe, making false statements to have a person deleted from the register of electors, or applying for a ballot under a false name.

It is also very important to note that candidates or official agents who are convicted of these offences would be prohibited from being a member of the House of Commons or holding any office in the nomination of the crown or of the Governor in Council for seven years.

It increases the maximum fines for the more serious election offences, such as taking a false oath, or making a false or erroneous declaration to election officials. It increases the maximum fine for all strict liability offences, such as failure to appoint an agent or an auditor. It increases the maximum fine for third parties that are groups or corporations that fail to register as a third party.

It also increases the maximum fines for offences applying primarily to broadcast corporations, such as advertising during a blackout. It increases penalties for political financing offences that do not require intent, and also severely increases those offences, such as failure to provide a quarterly return or a financial transactions return.

It also provides for a number of new offences, which I will highlight. One of them relates to registration on the list of electors. These are things like compelling, inducing, or attempting to compel or induce, any other person to make a false or misleading statement relating to their qualification as an elector. It relates to political financing rules, such as knowingly making indirect loans, or registration on polling day, such as registering when not qualified to vote.

It relates to non-compliance with the proposed voter contact registry, such as failing to keep the scripts and recordings used in the provision of voter contact calling services. I will focus on some of those provisions in a little more detail further on in my speech.

It also proposes new offences relating to voter deception. There are actually no provisions in the current act that would make it an offence to impersonate political agents or elections officials. The bill would amend the Canada Elections Act to add the offence of impersonating or causing another person to impersonate a candidate, a candidate's representative, a representative of a registered party or registered association, the Chief Electoral Officer, a member of the Chief Electoral Officer's staff, an election officer, or a person authorized to act on behalf of the Chief Electoral Officer.

There are some very serious new provisions in the bill in relation to getting tough on those who would look to cheat and defraud our election system.

It also cracks down on voter fraud by prohibiting vouching or voter information cards from being used as acceptable forms of ID. The Neufeld report, which was commissioned by Elections Canada relating to administrative deficiencies at the polls in the most recent 2011 election, indicated that there were irregularities in 25% of the cases where vouching was used.

What the fair elections act would do, as I indicated already, is that it would end vouching and require that Elections Canada communicate what forms of ID would be accepted at polling locations, so that voters would know before they head to the polls what they need to bring.

As I have already said, it would prohibit the use of voter information cards as a form of acceptable identification. However, it would very clearly outline what forms of ID are acceptable. This would allow Canadians to continue to have 39 authorized forms of ID to use when voting. There is a very comprehensive list of ID options that could be brought to the polls. That would be very clearly communicated to voters so they are well aware of what those forms are for identifying themselves in order to exercise their voting rights.

It would also make the rules for elections clearer, more predictable, and easier to follow. Complicated rules can often bring unintentional breaches. Unfortunately, that could intimidate people from taking part in democracy. That is why the fair elections bill would make the rules for elections more clear, more predictable, and easier to follow.

In order to follow the rules, parties must know what they are. That means the fair elections act would seek to ensure that the Chief Electoral Officer provides a 30-day comment period to members of the advisory committee of political parties that would be established under the act before publishing a proposed guideline or interpretation note.

Following a comment period, an additional 30 days would then be provided, in terms of notice for regulated entities, of the new interpretation. After both the comment and the notice period, which is a total of 60 days, the CEO would then formally issue the guideline or the interpretation note. It would also publish a proposed advance ruling or written interpretation of any question related to the Canada Elections Act within 45 days of a request from a registered party, and then provide a 30-day notice period before it is formally issued as well.

The advance ruling would be issued by the CEO and would be binding on him and on the commissioner. This is very important. It would also maintain an online registry, which would be available to the public, of the complete text of final guidelines and interpretation notes that have been issued, as well as of any written opinions containing advance rulings that have been issued. That would allow access by parties and individuals of interpretations and guidelines so they could be applied equally and fairly to all involved.

The fair elections act would also ban the use of loans that have been used in the past to evade donation rules. It would repeal the ban on premature transmission of election results, which would uphold free speech. It would provide better customer service to voters and establish an extra day of polling.

In the case of disagreements over election expenses, it would allow an MP to present the disputed cases in the courts and to have judges quickly rule on it before the CEO seeks the MP's suspension.

It would also protect voters from rogue calls, with a mandatory public registry for mass calling, prison time for impersonating elections officials, and increased penalties.

What I will do now, Mr. Speaker, is devote the remainder of my time to describing these particular measures, beginning with the creation of a registry for voter contact services.

In respect to telemarketing and automated dialing that would take place during an election period, the fair elections act would take the very important step of creating a new registry for voter contact services. The bill would require registration with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC. Telephone service providers that are engaging in voter contact, or any other person or group engaging in the use of telephone service for voter contact purposes, would be required to register in the voter contact services registry contained at the CRTC. Moreover, any person or group using internal services to make automated calls for voter contact purposes, would also have to register with the CRTC under this legislation.

The bill would require any person or group using a telephone service provider for voter contact purposes, or making automated calls for these purposes, to have their identity verified by providing identification to both the CRTC and to the telephone service provider. Third parties who are groups or corporations would have to register with the CRTC for any calls that they make as well.

In addition, the bill provides that registrations would be made publicly available 30 days after polling day, and that registrations must be available to the CRTC officials within 48 hours of a call being made for voter contact purposes. The bill would also require recordings of messages that are sent by using automated calls and scripts of live messages used by telephone service providers to be kept for one year from the date of the election. The dates of these calls would also have to be maintained in that registry.

In addition to the strict requirements of the new registry, the disclosure requirements for political parties, candidates, and electoral district associations with respect to expenses incurred for voter contact services by telephone would also be strengthened. In particular, the bill provides a new obligation for political entities to specifically identify expenses for voter contact services by telephone, and to include the name of the company and the amount of the costs incurred on their election returns. The proposed amendments would enhance transparency and consistency in reporting such expenses, and would have the further advantage of assisting with enforcement of the Canada Elections Act.

To encourage compliance with the rules, the fair elections act would strengthen the penalties regime by first increasing, by 10 times, the penalties for preventing or attempting to prevent a voter from voting. Penalties for doing so would increase from $2,000 currently, to $20,000 on summary conviction; and from $5,000 currently, to $50,000 on indictment. It would also increase the maximum fines for the more serious election offences, such as taking a false oath or making an erroneous declaration to election officials, again, from $2,000 to $20,000 on summary conviction, and from $5,000 to $50,000 on indictment.

The fair elections act also proposes tough new offences, including a new offence for impersonating election officials or political entities. It would be an offence for a person to falsely represent that they are a candidate, a representative of a candidate, a representative of a party or a riding association, a chief electoral officer, Elections Canada, or any other election officer. The maximum penalty for this offence, if prosecuted on indictment would be $50,000, five years in prison, or both. This is in line with other increased penalties provided for in the bill. It would be considered a corrupt practice if the offence was committed by a candidate or an official agent. A person who is found guilty of a corrupt practice would be prohibited for seven years from being elected or sitting in the House of Commons, or holding any office in the nomination of the crown or the Governor in Council.

In addition, the fair elections act proposes other new offences, including for providing false information to an investigator, or obstructing an investigation, and for non-compliance with the proposed voter contact registry, including for providing false information or failing to provide identification when registering.

I would also note that the fair elections act proposes a further measure to assist elections officials with their important work relating to the potential misuse of automated telephone calls. It will clarify in law that neither Elections Canada nor elections officers make unsolicited calls to voters.

At this point, it would be appropriate for members to recall that on March 29, 2012, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs heard the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, on allegations of misuse and abuse of auto-dialed calls during the 41st general election. During that meeting, the Chief Electoral Officer expressed the view that the enforcement mechanisms provided for by the Canada Elections Act could be improved. That is precisely what the fair elections act would achieve.

I would also like to quickly highlight the fact that the fair elections act would provide for better customer service for voters. Many people in the House and elsewhere have often expressed their concern about our voter turnout levels. One of the things that most non-voters told Elections Canada in its survey was that there were practical reasons preventing them from voting in the last election. For example, 17% said it was due to the fact they were travelling; 13% said it was their work or school schedule; 10% said they were simply too busy; and 7% cited lack of information. That is just to name a few of the reasons. I believe that better customer service would help to remove some of those practical obstacles expressed by voters.

For example, one of the things the fair elections act would do is to provide more voting days by increasing the advance polling days. It would help to reduce congestion at the polls by providing for more elections officers to be appointed, and by appointing liaison officers to facilitate communication between his office and returning officers in the riding. The act would also allow registered parties and electoral district associations, rather than simply candidates, to recommend names for elections officer positions at the polls, and those nominations would be required to be earlier to allow more time for training, which hopefully would allow better customer service and more efficient voting at the polls.

Obviously our government is fully committed to addressing the current shortcomings in the Canada Elections Act that stand in the way of cracking down on the misuse of mass calls. The proposed changes I have mentioned are significant measures that would help clean up such alleged abuses and prevent potential future abuses. The proposed new rules would be enhanced by the additional requirement to outline expenses incurred for voter contact services by telephone, and by strengthened enforcement of the Canada Elections Act through strong penalties for violations of the act, and by tough new offences. Additionally, our government's proposed voter contact registry would be an essential tool to investigate any telephone calls that attempt to obstruct the electoral process, and would comply with the March 2012 House of Commons motion calling for action on this very subject. These important measures represent a clear move forward in strengthening Canada's election system by helping to ensure that elections officials have the necessary tools to both investigate effectively and to punish appropriately any abuses of automated telephone calls in our electoral processes.

The initiatives in this bill would also encourage greater compliance with the rules of the electoral regime, thereby helping to restore any loss of confidence in the integrity of our elections system.

For the reasons I have described today, I believe that the reforms proposed in this legislation would have positive effects for our electoral system, and I call on all members to support the swift passage of the fair elections act.

Democratic Reform February 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of State for Democratic Reform about the bill he introduced today to protect the fairness of federal elections.

The fair elections act would ensure everyday citizens are in charge of democracy by putting special interests on the sidelines and rule-breakers out of business.

The bill would also make it harder to break elections laws. It would close loopholes to big money, would impose new penalties on political impostors who make rogue calls, and would empower law enforcement with sharper teeth, a longer reach, and a freer hand.

Could the minister please give us more details on the bill and its importance?

Veterans Affairs January 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, November 11 is an important day of remembrance. It is one where we set aside our differences and remember our veterans for their sacrifices. That is except for, of course, the senior Liberal veterans spokesman who went on national television on November 11 and slammed Canadian veterans, suggesting that providing money to them is like hanging a case of beer in front of a drunk.

It is incredibly sad that 79 days later the leader of the Liberal party continues to stand by the member and his reprehensible and false comments. I call on the leader of the Liberal Party to reject this overtly partisan behaviour of his senior veterans spokesman and find someone else who has his facts right.

Canadian Tourism Award December 3rd, 2013

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to offer my heartfelt congratulations to David Morrison, a pioneer, builder and dynamic leader in the travel and tourism industry. The Tourism Industry Association of Canada will be awarding Mr. Morrison with a lifetime achievement award at this year's Tourism Congress.

Since becoming president of Brewster Travel Canada in 1980, Mr. Morrison has taken a leadership role within the industry, recognizing the importance of forging partnerships to the mutual benefit of all. He has served on the board of directors of the Canadian Tourism Commission, was president of the Banff Chamber of Commerce and later contributed to the formation of Banff's first tourism body, the Banff & Lake Louise Tourism bureau.

As chair of the parliamentary tourism caucus, it is my pleasure to thank David Morrison for his many contributions to Canada's growing $85-billion tourism industry.

The Economy December 2nd, 2013

Mr. Speaker, while the NDP continues to oppose our government's responsible plan to support job creation and economic growth, its only suggestion is to raise taxes.

As if imposing a job-killing carbon tax was not enough, just last week, the NDP leader confirmed his intention to impose a multi-billion-dollar tax hike on job creators. What is more, he wants to do this while we continue to cope with the challenging global economy.

Could the Minister of State for finance please update this House on the state of Canada's economy and what our government is doing to support job creation?