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  • His favourite word is forces.

Liberal MP for Guelph (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 43.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Veterans Affairs November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives robbed our brave veterans when they cut over $1 billion instead of funding vital programs and services. They spent $750 million in self-serving ads and are cynically trying to balance the budget on the backs of veterans suffering from PTSD.

Veterans are waiting eight months for assistance. Veterans are travelling hours to see a case worker because Conservatives closed nine Veterans Affairs offices.

Why do the Conservatives pretend to support our veterans when the facts clearly show that they abandoned them in their time of need?

Petitions November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present this petition on behalf of some of the many Canadians who point out that not only does Canada have a social covenant with those who have served or are currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces but that this sacred obligation has existed for as long as we have been willing to send Canadians into harm's way and must be honoured now and forever.

Committees of the House November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North made reference to other recommendations that he did not have the opportunity to address. I wonder if he might inform the House of a few of those recommendations, particularly recommendation 19.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns November 7th, 2014

With regard to government funding, for each fiscal year since 2007-2008 inclusive: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions, and loans to any organization, body, or group in the electoral district of Guelph, providing for each (i) the name of the recipient, (ii) the location of the recipient, indicating the municipality, (iii) the date, (iv) the amount, (v) the department or agency providing it, (vi) the program under which the grant, contribution, or loan was made, (vii) the nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan identified in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?

Veterans' Week November 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Minister of Veterans Affairs for his remarks and add an additional thanks to my hon. colleague in the official opposition for his comments. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to speak this Veterans' Week on behalf of the Liberal Party.

In the shadow of the events of the past month, Remembrance Day takes on an extraordinarily special meaning this year. In less than a week, thousands of Canadians will gather at the National War Memorial, just feet from where Corporal Nathan Cirillo stood when he was slain standing guard over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Hundreds of thousands more Canadians will join them at cenotaphs, Legion halls, and other memorials remembering his sacrifice and that of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. These two men were murdered just days apart by individuals who would have us be afraid.

The words of my leader, the hon. member for Papineau, are particularly apt. He said:

They want us to forget ourselves. Instead, we will remember. We will remember who we are. We are a proud democracy, a welcoming and peaceful nation, and a country of open arms and open hearts. We are a nation of fairness, of justice, and of the rule of law.

Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Vincent died for these values, as did tens of thousands more Canadians who served our country with courage and honour over the years. We remember them all.

From its beginning a century ago, 625,825 Canadians fought in the First World War. A total of 61,082 never returned home, and 154,361 were wounded. In the Second World War, although the First World War was to be the war to end all wars, 1,086,343 served Canada; 42,042 died and 54,414 were wounded. In Korea, 27,751 Canadians served, and 516 gave the ultimate sacrifice, while 1,072 suffered injuries.

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers have served Canada as peacekeepers and have worn the blue beret, a lasting symbol of Canada's contribution to peace and order around the world. One hundred and twenty-one people have died for these values, and many more have been injured.

More than 40,000 Canadians served in Afghanistan. Most of us watched as each of the 158 Canadians who died returned home. The thousands who were injured, with wounds both visible and invisible, are our neighbours, co-workers, friends, and family.

Canada has never been reticent, when the call came to protect those vulnerable and in need, both at home and abroad, to say “Ready, Aye, Ready” and take up the cause for those values we hold dear. Even among us there are 13 members of this House who were ready to answer that call. I thank each of them for that service.

I never served in the Canadian Armed Forces. I remember Remembrance ceremonies at the Memorial Gardens while growing up in Guelph. They were always powerful but seemingly beyond comprehension. It was a reality far removed from my own. Then, when I was elected to the House of Commons, I had a couple of opportunities to spend time with our forces at CFB Wainwright and again on the HMCS Saint John. Both gave me a keener understanding of the lives of our forces and their resilience, skill, professionalism, and dedication.

However, it was not until I stood on Vimy Ridge this year, in the shadow of an immense monument to Canada's sacrifice in the First World War, that the enormity of the impact of war was made so clear. Before us stood a memorial, a testament to a conflict colossal in its overwhelming effect on the lives of all those who fought and died or returned and lived and tried to carry on in its wake. The contrast of something so beautiful serving as a reminder of the horror and cost of war was made even more stark by the sheep quietly grazing off to the side in areas still unsafe because of the unexploded munitions that lie dormant in the ground.

Early one morning as the trip drew to a close, I stood alone at the Essex Farm Cemetery on the outskirts of Ypres. This was where Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Guelph native, performed his work as a field surgeon in the Canadian artillery. It was here that McCrae's friend and student, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer died from wounds sustained in battle. It was here that he composed In Flanders Fields, a poem we all know.

I had heard the words hundreds of times, worn the poppy every Remembrance Day and now stood between those crosses. Suddenly, I was aware of a small group of Canadian high school students on a similar pilgrimage of the remembrance trails of the first world war. They sat quietly, pondering the carnage upon the surrounding fields 100 years earlier and the transformation of those events into words written by McCrae.

I listened as they recited the poem, each of three stanzas recited one by one. It was as if I was hearing it for the very first time. Everything was still as the last student recited:

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In that single moment, I understood the fundamental truth of our sacred covenant to our veterans. Our solemn obligation, which we affirm every year at this time, cries out that we must not break faith with those who died. Therein lies our sacred obligation, that our commitment to their well-being, their families and all who return home to tell their story, is bound forever by the sacrifice made by those who lived and died on those fields and elsewhere.

Therein lies our sacred obligation. Our commitment to their well-being, their families and all who return home to tell their story is bound forever by the sacrifices of those who lived and died on those battlefields and elsewhere.

At Vimy, on Juno Beach, at Kapyong, Kandahar province, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and at the National War Memorial, they call out to us to honour that covenant through their sacrifice.

During this Veteran's Week, on Remembrance Day and every day, we must remember them.

Lest we forget.

We will remember them.

Holidays Act November 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-597, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day).

How fortunate it is that the debate takes place this week, ahead of our Remembrance Day constituency week. A week from now, most of us will be back in our ridings, gathered at cenotaphs and Legion halls, honouring the men and women, our friends and neighbours and family, who serve now and have served to protect Canada and Canadians. We live in a country built on the devotion and sacrifice of those men and women, the men and women who came before us in service to our country.

Canada may not have been born out of armed conflict or violent revolution, but the values established by the Fathers of Confederation and the men and women who lived here for centuries before them have been challenged from time to time by those who would try to impose their will and their values upon us. In those instances when the call went out, Canadians answered and were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. With them, we made a sacred covenant.

At Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach, in the Kapyong Valley and across Kandahar province, brave Canadian men and women fought for our freedom and for a world free from tyranny and oppression.

As a country, we have called on successive generations of Canadians to make great sacrifices, including accepting terrible circumstances, separated from their families and loved ones, accepting unlimited liability, and putting their futures and very lives on the line.

Many never returned. Those who did returned with wounds, visible and invisible. To them we owe a sacred obligation, an incredible debt. We owe this debt every day, though there is one day of the year in particular when Canadians stop and are more acutely aware of the depth of the profound sacrifice made by successive generations of Canadians.

The hostilities of the First World War came to an end formally at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, November 11, 1918, 96 years ago next week. The following year, King George V called on everyone in the Commonwealth to stop what they were doing at 11 a.m. on November 11 for two moments, not two minutes, but two moments of silence, to commemorate the Great War's armistice. Since that day, on or around the 11th, Canadians have come together to remember our fallen friends and family and to honour the courage and sacrifice of the living.

The bill brought before us by the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest would have us bring the language surrounding Remembrance Day in line with other important days governed by the Holidays Act and would move us down the road to changing how we observe the day as a country and as a people.

There may be some who are unaware of how we used to mark Remembrance Day. Following the appeal of King George V to mark November 11, a proposal was brought forward in the House of Commons to join the celebration of Armistice Day, on the Monday of the week of November 11, and Thanksgiving. While some were grateful for the long weekend, many veterans and a considerable number of Canadians found that the celebration of Thanksgiving at the same time as the sombre observance of the armistice meant that less than adequate attention was given to the memory of the 60,000 Canadians who perished in the First World War.

The Royal Canadian Legion, after its formation in 1925, petitioned Parliament to have Armistice Day observed exclusively on November 11. It was six more years before a bill was brought before the House of Commons to do just that, and at the same time, the name was changed from Armistice Day to Remembrance Day.

The first Remembrance Day, as we know it, was celebrated in 1931, and ever since, it has been celebrated at the National War Memorial and cenotaphs across the country as a solemn day to commemorate not just the dead and injured from the First World War but those from the Second World War, Korea, and Afghanistan and from peacekeeping missions in the Suez Canal, the Golan Heights, the Balkans, and Haiti.

How we celebrate Remembrance Day across the country is not consistent. Some provinces and territories, as has been mentioned, notably British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Yukon territory, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut mark November 11 as a paid statutory holiday. Federal public servants also are given the day off with pay. Other provinces such as Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, which incidentally make up more than half of the Canadian population, do not mark November 11 as a paid statutory holiday. Everywhere and every one marks the day in one way or another. Most often businesses are closed at least until noon or 1 p.m., so that Canadians have an opportunity to make it to one of the many ceremonies being held.

The intention of the bill before us was clearly to make the treatment of Remembrance Day as a holiday more uniform. By asking for it to be observed much like Canada Day, it was clear the sponsor hoped to make it a statutory holiday so that all Canadians would have an opportunity to attend a ceremony and reflect on the importance of the day. Unfortunately, as it is written, the bill would not accomplish those particular goals.

While the bill would change the language of the Holidays Act to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday, the term “legal holiday” has no special status in law. The administration of holidays in Canada is accomplished through various pieces of legislation at both the federal and provincial levels, as was noted earlier, which include but are not limited to the Canada Labour Code, the federal Interpretation Act, the Excise Act, and the like.

I admire the intent of the bill as I admire any opportunity we have to make the observance of Remembrance Day more special and more accessible to Canadians. Whether we are ready for the day to be celebrated as a statutory holiday, again, is a different matter across the country. Veterans groups with whom I have spoken have some reservations. On the one hand they support any effort to increase awareness and elevate the importance of Remembrance Day to Canadians. However, as was mentioned, there are concerns with the side effects of a statutory holiday. A day off work and school might not lead to more Canadians attending ceremonies, rather they would just take the day off. Kids likely learn more while at Remembrance Day ceremonies at school, and on those rare occasions where the date would fall on a Sunday, giving a Monday off would seem out of the spirit of observance.

What the bill does accomplish is to lay the groundwork for a greater conversation about how we celebrate Remembrance Day. What greater time than this year, after the events of two weeks ago, when Corporal Nathan Cirillo was senselessly slain at Canada's National War Memorial and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed outside of where he worked, to consider how we celebrate?

There are no longer any generations of Canadians untouched by war or conflict. More and more people make their way to ceremonies. Perhaps it is time to discuss how we might make it easier for Canadians to do so. What greater time than the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War to give ample consideration to how we commemorate our Canadian Armed Forces and veterans, and how we observe our sacred obligation to them?

We agree with the member for Scarborough Southwest on possible amendments respecting protocol and the flying of Canada's flag at half mast.

I proudly support the bill because I believe it is the start of a much greater conversation.

Holidays Act November 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Scarborough Southwest for his sentiments and for bringing this motion forward. Anything that raises the profile of the plight of our veterans, the efforts they made on our behalf, is important to all Canadians, particularly our veterans.

I also have a question about his consultative process. Did he have the opportunity to speak to any of the legions, any vets or any other organizations representing veterans to see what their input would be about making it a statutory holiday as opposed to a holiday?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns October 29th, 2014

With respect to software developed by the government since January 2011 for use by any non-government entity or the public, including, without limitation, software programs, mobile applications, website applications, embedded systems, and all other programming done by or on behalf of the government: (a) what were all names for the software, broken down by dates of use; (b) on what date was the software released for public use, or on what day is its public release anticipated; (c) through what means is the software accessible by its intended users; (d) what was the total cost of developing the software; (e) what is the total revenue generated for the government by the software; (f) how many times has the software been downloaded, copied, or otherwise accessed by its intended audience; (g) how many times has the software been downloaded, copied, or otherwise accessed by anyone other than its intended audience; (h) for what reason was the software developed; (i) for what reason was the software released, or in the case where it has not been and will not be released, for what reason will the software not be released; (j) under what license was the software released; and (k) what are the file numbers and details of all ministerial briefings or departmental correspondence or other government records relating to the software, broken down by (i) minister or department, (ii) relevant file number, (iii) correspondence or file type, (iv) date, (v) purpose, (vi) origin, (vii) intended destination, (viii) other officials copied or involved?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns October 29th, 2014

With regard to internal trade barriers within Canada: (a) what does each department of the public service list as an internal trade barrier; (b) for how long has each department maintained a list of all existing internal trade barriers; (c) what are details on how this list is maintained and updated; (d) what are the materials prepared for the Minister, the Minister’s staff, or departmental bureaucrats on any and all of these meetings with provinces and territories advising on additions to the list of internal trade barriers; and (e) what are the materials prepared for the Minister, the Minister’s staff, or departmental bureaucrats advising on additions to the list of internal trade barriers?

Veterans Affairs October 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the veterans affairs committee was unanimous in its recommendations to improve the new veterans charter because eight more years of inaction for our veterans is unacceptable. The minister said he agreed with all the recommendations, yet in the nearly 500 pages of the government's recent omnibus budget bill, there is nothing in there for veterans—nothing at all.

Why, when these men and women were willing to sacrifice everything for us, will the minister not act on the things veterans actually need?