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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
Veterans Affairs December 11th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, at least 160 Canadians who bravely served this country died by suicide over the last decade.
The current Conservative government was warned two years ago by the Auditor General that it was unprepared for dealing with veterans' mental health. It was told again this year that the wait time for mental health services was unacceptable. That any member of the Conservative government can stand up and say that they are doing a good job without any sense of shame is an insult to the memory of anyone lost because of their inaction.
The minister has allowed us to get to this point of crisis. When will he do the right thing and resign?
Government Contracts December 11th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, while we believe the Conservatives should have long ago invested in mental health services for those who serve, they seem incapable of announcing money for military mental health without skirting into questionable ethical grounds.
Today's announcement of a new centre of excellence includes funding of a half a million dollars from military contractor General Dynamics Corporation, which receives tens of millions of dollars in contracts from the Conservative government.
In its rush for good news announcements, does the government really not see the conflict of interest created by General Dynamics Corporation contracts with DND?
Veterans Affairs December 10th, 2014
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
One would think his parliamentary secretary would have better answers for his failure on this file by now.
Now that his deep cuts to service delivery have been exposed, the minister is scrambling to refill these frontline positions, including in the communities where he closed regional VAC offices. However, we still see evidence that the most serious cuts have been to staff delivering benefits and that money is going from the front line to his back room.
Why do our veterans have to beg for the services they deserve?
Veterans Affairs December 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, for the additional millions the minister is spending on communications and political staff instead of on veterans' benefits, one would think that his parliamentary secretary—
Motor Vehicle Safety Act December 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity today to speak in support of Bill C-603, a bill to make side guards on heavy trucks mandatory, a bill that has the potential to save the lives of Canadians and to make our roadways safer.
I want to thank the member for Brossard—La Prairie for bringing this important issue before this House. There have been far too many avoidable fatalities in recent memory associated with pedestrians and cyclists being overtaken by transport truck trailers. We need to take action now to prevent further loss of life.
We have all heard the tragic accounts of young men and women, pedestrians and cyclists, whose lives have been cut short by an accident that would clearly be avoidable and easily addressed through government action legislating side guards on heavy trucks.
The dangers represented by large trucks to pedestrians and cyclists are not a recent phenomenon. Ten years ago, a young daughter of a close friend of our family was killed while biking after she was caught under the wheels of a transport truck. Side guards would have prevented this tragedy. At 21 years old, she should have been able to use the roadway in safety. It is in her memory and the memory of so many others that I support this bill today.
From the evidence available to us, we know that mandatory side guards on heavy trucks would greatly reduce the risk and the number of fatalities and serious injuries on our roads each year. A recent study from the United Kingdom found that these side guards reduced the fatality rate by 61% in instances when a cyclist hit the side of a truck. This type of collision is by no means a rare occurrence. Evidence from the United States between 2005 and 2009 shows that more than half of all cyclist and 29% of pedestrian accidents involved the victim succumbing to the hazards of falling under the side of the truck.
To say this is exclusively a provincial matter is clearly an attempt by the government to shift responsibility from the current federal government to the provinces. The federal government knows it has a responsibility, through the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, to take action. The legislation's mandate is as follows:
...to regulate the manufacture and importation of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment to reduce the risk of death, injury and damage to property and the environment.
Enacting Bill C-603 is well within the federal government's mandate in this respect. Across Canada, municipalities are moving to install side guards on their trucks and heavy equipment. They recognize the clear and obvious need for these measures in the promotion of personal and vehicular safety.
The federal government has an obligation to participate in this discussion and the solution. This includes working with the provinces through Bill C-603 to enact positive change.
These side guards are mandatory in Japan. They are mandatory in the United Kingdom, and they are mandatory across the whole of Europe. Why does Canada always resist sound evidence and the positive experience of other countries?
I think Ontario's former chief coroner spoke for all of us when he said:
I don't know what more evidence is needed before one just moves forward to do something which is known to save lives.
Surveys show that two-thirds of Canadians have indicated a desire to cycle more, but they cite safety concerns as a significant obstacle to doing so. We want Canadians to get out and about and get healthier, and the federal government's refusal to act is not only preventing people from getting more active but is endangering those who do.
There would be significant economic, environmental, and health impacts from this policy. The economic benefit of these side guards is clear. Numerous studies have shown that they can decrease fuel consumption by as much as 20%, a result of the streamlining effect of these safety guards. Our own National Research Council estimates that the 230,000 truck trailers across our country would save over 400 million litres of gas annually. Those are very significant savings for Canadian businesses.
Enabling more cyclists to be on the road and ensuring their safety would also be part of a larger strategy to reduce the burden on Canadian commuters. Every year, cities experience increased traffic congestion. Any of us trying to get out of Ottawa to the airport or the many of us who travel in or across Toronto know how frustrating and wasteful sitting in traffic can be.
Municipalities and provincial governments struggle to provide adequate transportation infrastructure in the face of ever-rising costs. Keeping up with the demand for roadways is an impossible task. We must look to providing alternative means of transportation and encourage an increase in pedestrian and cyclist activity as part of a progressive strategy that would curtail our transportation and infrastructure costs from spiralling further out of control.
Canadian motorists make an average of 2,000 trips each year of less than three kilometres. Guaranteeing safety for pedestrians and cyclists would encourage many more to get out and bike instead of hopping in the car. However, it is tougher to ensure our safety and the safety of our loved ones when we hear tragic stories like those of Jenna Morrison and Mathilde Blais and the too many countless others who have needlessly lost their lives.
Encouraging cycling also contributes to reducing carbon emissions where it can reduce traffic congestion. If transportation accounts for nearly 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, and truck side guards are proven to reduce carbon emissions by 1.1 million metric tonnes annually, then ensuring the safety of cyclists has the added benefit of reducing Canada's environmental footprint.
It is no secret that the current government has no desire to address the environmental issues facing Canadians, but even members on the government benches do not want to see carbon emissions increase further year after year.
Finally, let us consider the personal health benefits derived from biking and walking. Obesity continues to be a growing problem across our country. Encouraging physical activity impacts the quality of life Canadians experience, now and in the future. Better health outcomes would obviously reduce the strain on our health care system and would increase our quality of life.
The economic, environmental, and personal health benefits are all substantial and clear to many, if not most, Canadians, but when it comes down to it, I still think twice when my children and I go out on our bikes together or we bike alone. We cannot expect to get more Canadians to adopt alternative means of transportation if they do not feel safe. The House has before it a great opportunity to help create a safer environment for cyclists and pedestrians.
The government fails to advance any reasonable or convincing argument for why we should not be acting on this right now. Simply, it is allowing ideology to restrict the advancement of vehicular and pedestrian safety that would also contribute to our health and to environmental sustainability and that would save taxpayer dollars.
Creating a safe environment on the roads needs to be part of the federal government's commitment to its citizens. Yet by not supporting this bill, it is abandoning its key responsibility to ensure their safety. Canadians want action on this issue, and the bill before us presents some very good steps in that direction.
The government has a responsibility to act now, not in a few years, when it thinks a new technology may be available, especially when solutions are available now. The House has seen what can happen when parliamentarians work together to make meaningful change for Canadians, build on something, and create legislation and regulation that work in the best interests of our constituents.
Why does the government have an aversion to this bill going to committee, where all the evidence can be reviewed? What does it fear? I support sending this bill to committee, and I would suggest that members opposite do the same.
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?