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Liberal MP for Guelph (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 43.40% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but remark on the question by the member of the Conservative Party on the murdered and missing first nations' women and girls. Frankly, I have never heard such callous disregard for our first nations, and that has been shown by the present Prime Minister, who choreographed an apology and then did nothing to help them. However, that is not my question.
My question is about infrastructure funding. In order for our infrastructure to be properly built, we have to partner with municipalities and provinces. One partner is absent, and that is the Prime Minister. He declared that there would be all this money and then cut it down to $285 million in the first year, spread among all of the communities in Canada, which is not likely of much help.
Could the member for Winnipeg comment on the lack of leadership by the Prime Minister when it comes to infrastructure spending?
Veterans Affairs December 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, after 10,000 complaints last year, HRDC is getting 400 new staff to deal with the mess it created, and ministerial staffers are up 21%. Meanwhile, Veterans Affairs cut nearly 1,000 jobs, most of them front-line service delivery, the kind identified by the Auditor General as causing delays in veterans receiving the help they need. Veterans' calls are not being answered and their benefits are delayed and denied.
Why do veterans always come last with these Conservatives?
Request for Emergency Debate December 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 52, I rise today to request an emergency debating on matter demand urgent attention by the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the House as a whole.
Veterans Affairs Canada is in crisis. Information published by the department clearly demonstrates that it lacks adequate staffing to deliver the services necessary to meet the needs of veterans and their families and, quite clearly, Veterans Affairs Canada is missing the leadership necessary to serve the men and women who have served Canada.
In his message introducing Veterans Affairs Canada's 2014-15 report on plans and priorities, the minister wrote of the complex and changing needs of our veterans and that the department's processes must change for veterans in order for them to better access benefits and services.
The same report highlights that the first risk to the department is that “the modernization of VAC's service delivery model will not be achieved as expected, and will not meet the needs of Veterans, Canadian Armed Forces members, and their families.”
Worryingly, data from the Treasury Board on the population of the federal public service shows that as of September 2014, 949 full-time equivalents have been cut since 2008, approximately 25% of the Veterans Affairs Canada workforce, leaving the department at its lowest staffing levels since 2000.
Confronted with this information, the Prime Ministerstated, last Wednesday:
We have taken resources out of backroom administration, from bureaucracy. We have put it into services.
In stark contrast to that assertion, information from analysis of the departmental performance review shows that backroom administration suffered the fewest cuts, while programs like disability and death compensation and the health care program and re-establishment services, all frontline services, have suffered the most significant cuts.
To illustrate my point, the frontline program that oversees the disability pensions program and the disability awards program was cut by 341 positions, or a 33% reduction, since 2009.
The frontline program that oversees rehabilitation, career transition services, health care benefits, and the veterans independence program, among others, has seen a 20% reduction in staff over the same period of time.
Veterans Affairs Canada internal services, on the other hand, the backroom administration to which the Prime minister referred, only saw a 10% reduction.
The government has answered that despite these cuts and despite letting $1.13 billion in funding lapse since 2006, it has increased funding for veterans programs overall.
Now that we are aware that the department has been cutting staff in great measure, it becomes clearer why that money has lapsed: Veterans are coming forward and applying to these programs, but there are not enough staff to help them get the benefits they need and deserve in a timely way.
A benefit delayed is a benefit denied, and it appears that the government is in the business of denying benefits.
The Auditor General pointed out in his fall 2014 report that one veteran in five is forced to wait up to eight months for help from the current government and that Veterans Affairs Canada is largely unconcerned with “...how well veterans are being served and whether programs are making a difference in their lives.”
Standing Order 52 provides that the House can adjourn to hear an emergency debate provided that the subject of the proposed debate meets the conditions set out in subsections 52(5) and (6) of the Standing Orders, which state that you, Mr. Speaker, must grant an emergency debate if the subject of the proposed debate is within the scope of the government's administrative responsibilities and is within the scope of ministerial action; will not be brought before the House in reasonable time by other means; and relates to a matter of genuine emergency, requiring immediate and urgent consideration.
Veterans Affairs Canada's responsibilities to veterans and their families is very much within the government's administrative responsibilities. In fact, we would argue that its responsibility is tied to the sacred obligation established by Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden during the First World War to care for those Canadians who fought for their country.
Much of what has occurred to date is a direct result of ministerial action.
Given recent response to our questions in question period, and the lack of opportunity to question the minister or departmental staff at the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, and in light of Parliament being headed toward recess for the holiday season, a season in which those veterans who suffer from PTSD and left unattended are at greatest risk, I believe this to be a truly urgent situation, deserving of the immediate attention of the House.
The men and women of this House and all Canadians owe a great deal to the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces who are willing to accept unlimited liability and sacrifice everything, including their lives. We owe a great deal to the memory of those who did lose their lives. We owe a great deal to their families. Canadians deserve answers and we, their representatives, must have an opportunity to ask questions relating to this crisis.
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns December 8th, 2014
With regard to ministerial delegations abroad, including those where individual Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Secretaries, or Senators represented the government, from 2010 to 2011 inclusive: (a) for each trip, what were the (i) total cost to each department concerned, (ii) total cost for accommodation, (iii) total cost for travel, (iv) total cost for gifts, (v) total cost for meals and incidentals, (iv) complete list of delegation members, (vii) complete itinerary, (viii) reason for each trip; (b) for each member of the delegation, what were the (i) total cost to each department concerned, (ii) total cost for accommodation, (iii) total cost for travel, (iv) total cost for gifts, (v) total cost for meals and incidentals, (vi) reason for inclusion on the delegation; and (c) for each contract for accommodations, (i) was the contract competitively or non-competitively sourced and, if not, (ii) what was the rationale for non-competitive sourcing?
Petitions December 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition from a number of Canadians from Surrey, B.C., who acknowledge that the current impaired driving laws are too lenient. The petitioners are asking for tougher laws and the implementation of a new mandatory minimum sentencing for those persons convicted of impaired driving causing death, and that the Criminal Code be changed to redefine the offence of impaired driving causing death as vehicular manslaughter.
Veterans Affairs December 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, savage cuts to front-line services are indefensible, and all the while the minister paid his managers hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses as they destroyed the department's ability to help our veterans, this on top of letting over a billion dollars for veterans go unspent, excessive wait times for mental health, and ignoring the unanimous recommendations of the veterans committee.
There was once a minister willing to stand up to the Prime Minister, but unfortunately Jim Flaherty is gone now.
Veterans Affairs December 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister misled the House when he said that the Veterans Affairs cuts were backroom cuts only. Disability and death compensation, lump sum payments, health care, rehabilitation, career transition, and the VIP program suffered the deepest cuts. These are front-line services that help veterans recover, find jobs, and assist them at home. The Conservatives can no longer deny the link between their cuts, mental health wait times, and billions in lapsed money.
Will the minister finally come clean and fix his mess at Veterans Affairs or find someone who can?
Veterans December 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, Conservatives claim all sorts of new funding for veterans, but it is a sham. Today, we learned that half of the so-called new programs the minister speaks of already exist, and experts say that it is a very meagre amount of money.
Conservatives claim in the House that they honour the sacred obligation, but that is a sham too, because in court they are still fighting Canadian veterans represented by the Equitas Society, claiming that no such obligation exists.
When will the Conservatives realize that “lest we forget” means both commemorating the dead and taking care of our living veterans, like Mark Campbell?
Veterans Affairs December 3rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it would be nice if he showed up to explain the main estimates.
Since 2008, the Conservatives have cut 949 positions or about 25% of the workforce. They let billions lapse and closed nine veterans centres, but they have still been able to increase Veterans Affairs advertising. It was $4 million in the spring and $5 million this fall. After chastising war service vets, running away from Jenny Migneault and failing to answer basic questions, is the real reason the minister has not yet been fired because he is really just doing the Prime Minister's bidding?