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Conservative MP for West Nova (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 47.00% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs in relation to a study on the Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act, statutory review of the Act.

We are delighted that this is a unanimous report of all the members involved and in the House. I certainly want to thank them for their co-operation, which is a very positive thing. I also want to point out that the analysts did a terrific job in their supporting effort. We are very pleased that this report is in the House right now.

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, actually, I liked your answer on the topic very much.

In this study that we just finished, which we will hear more about tomorrow, we heard from some 55 or so witnesses who came before us. There were a variety of differences in opinion on the programs, and some would disagree with each other on occasion, and so on. We were careful not to go into why they were there or if they were from a particular organization or group, unless they registered that they were with an organization such as Wounded Warriors, et cetera.

The safe answer would be that we have heard from many different individuals, as veterans, with many different ideas. We tried to listen to them all.

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, certainly I know as a veteran the member understands that it is a good thing we are hearing from the veterans. It is called democracy. We believe it is important we hear what they are saying first hand. Even if we do not agree, or do not necessarily like what is being said everyday, it is important that we hear it. This is part of the progress of saying that an initiative may have not worked a hundred per cent and that maybe we have to review it.

However, it never means that we start with a premise that nothing is being done for the veterans. That is just absolutely wrong. There is a lot of good stuff and let us not leave that sense of fear among veterans that there are no good programs and services. What we have to do is ask how we improve on them. How do we ensure that this initiative really does work for the veterans? That is our challenge and I believe if we work together, it will work and it will be very successful.

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that a very productive member of the committee has just asked the question. I cannot talk about what amendments may or may not take place. It will be given a very thorough review.

I agree that one of the problems we face has caused a lot of distress for veterans, and that is the gap between when they leave the military and when Veterans Affairs picks up. We have to realize, with great commitment, that the benefit of the doubt has to be given to the veterans. Sometimes that seems to get lost in the process.

Whether veterans are recognized immediately is a challenge we should never let go of because if they are medically discharged from the military, we have to respect the fact that they are leaving their military career, not by choice, but because of the result of something that happened. They therefore should get full consideration when they are looked at in these types of programs.

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it seems everyone is in tune with the topic this evening, so I will try to continue.

We are talking about Bill C-27, and a lot has been covered on the bill itself. I look at it as one step toward what we are trying to do for veterans, together. There are probably a lot more steps that we have to take, and we realize that.

I will not go into details about the bill itself. That has been covered quite a bit. However, I would like to go into some of the background of what we have been attempting, together, members, private sector and veterans, to try to improve the lot of veterans and the opportunities for veterans.

For us in the House, it basically started with the new veterans charter. The whole idea was to move from an era where veterans were simply pensioned off rather to concentrating on getting veterans back into society. Those leaving the military should be given opportunities to get upgraded, to get skills and to find opportunities to transition into a full life within their communities.

I think every member of the House shares that wish and ambition. I do not think this is a political issue per se, although we do tend to get a little fixed sometimes on the difference of opinions. The reality is that our country expects us to honour these veterans. Our country expects us to invest in our veterans.

We know that taxpayers in fact have invested a lot in initiatives that take place right across the country. To quote a former veterans affairs minister, Hon. Greg Thompson, “Can you ever do enough for veterans?” We all know the answer is no. It is always a work in progress. There is always a lot that has to be done. Tonight is an example of one small step in the direction of trying to answer some of the questions they have, such as training opportunities, transition opportunities and certainly job opportunities. Not that government alone is ever going to fix it, but government has to set its own. Government has to work with the private sector. It has to work with the veterans groups.

Do we always agree? Absolutely not, whether it is members in a committee or whether it is people from various veterans groups themselves.

At the end of the day, we have to realize that over the years many military members have successfully retired into Canadian society and have not needed veterans affairs services. They are not clients of veterans affairs. They have successfully transitioned, in many cases on their own. With their wonderful training and mental outlook they have on life, they have become very productive members of society in a second career.

There are those who need our help. There are those who are really challenged either by mental or physical difficulties, some in active duty and some maybe in training exercises, but the kind of pressure and incidents they have run into means we have to pay attention to their needs.

What I have observed around the country, and in my particular riding, is there are those who are doing things and it is not government. One example I think of with great pride is Maple Grove Education Centre in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. It has a memorial club, all students, all volunteers. They built a monument to the Afghan soldiers who passed away. They did it with their own fundraising. It is an amazing memorial to those people who they believe, as young Canadians, sacrificed for the future and the betterment of our country, and did their bit in the world because they were asked to.

Surely, if young people can get that message, we can all understand the opportunities out there. We do have to listen. We will disagree. We will never totally be on the same page as to what is right and wrong, but we have to continue to make progress. We owe that to the military and to the veterans in our country.

I know most of us went through the Day of Honour not long ago. Next to the Greenwood air base in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, in the village called Kingston, there was a big turnout of veterans, military and interested community citizens.

Some time ago I was fortunate to be on a special committee of the House, looking at Afghanistan. We had a lot of witnesses and heard a lot of stories. The one that struck me was from a very brave woman from Afghanistan who said to us that we should remember that Canadians would get impatient with the progress that was taking place, but that we were making a difference. Our military had made a huge difference. There were now water supplies where there had not been before. Thousands of young girls were being educated and it was now over seven million. She asked us to understand that it was not her husband's view as a male about women that would make a difference, it was her son's view. It was a generational change and that was what the military had done in helping a foreign country, in helping people they did not even know because they knew it was the right thing to do.

Our job is to look after those who are coming home. Our job is to provide opportunity. Our job collectively as parliamentarians is to understand and honour these people who have done so much for us. Tonight we are looking at one step, one piece of the progress we are going to make on this long road. We get frustrated sometimes in thinking about what could be or what should be. We have to remember, as we get in an animated conversation, there are a lot of good initiatives in place. A lot of good things are happening. A lot of progress is being made. Certainly a lot of people are gaining because we all have ensured they get the services and support they need. It is not the end of the story. It is not the end of the road. There is a long way to go and we have to keep at it.

I know we get quite worked up sometimes as parliamentarians. We get exercised over issues and details, but at the end of the day, I believe every member in the House believes and supports the military and supports the veterans. Whether we agree or disagree, at the end of the day we have an obligation to ensure initiatives take place that will support and help our veterans. They are watching us and measuring what we are doing. It is not about whether we agree or disagree. It is whether we together make progress where in a few years down the road we can look back and say that we supported the charter when it came in. It is supposed to be a living document. It is supposed to help veterans make the transition. All parties agreed when it first came in that it was the right way to go. We have to keep working to ensure it is the right initiative and the right document with the right results. We owe that to our veterans.

I will not go on any longer except I certainly hope we will support this initiative, not because it is the end of the progress and the end of the road we are travelling, but it is one step we can measure and put forward that offers more opportunity. Whether it is enough or not enough, we can debate that on and on. I expect there will always be a debate about whether we can do more. I believe we always will find that yes, we can, but let us do it together.

Marine Mammal Regulations May 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by thanking my colleagues from around the House for understanding the importance of this bill and showing their support for it. We know there are many industries in the world that are perhaps not universally supported, yet we recognize that different areas have different priorities in the different job-creating industries.

The seal hunt in Canada is an extremely important industry for certain parts of the country. That is why it is important we recognize it as a legitimate, long-standing, and now today a very humane and protected industry. It is one that supports a lot of communities and provides a lot of income to very important family circumstances, and it is one on which many people depend. The fact that it is done humanely and that it has got to be done safely is a concern of our government, of course.

Bill C-555 is a modest bill. I am sure there will be more adjustments down the road, but the real purpose in providing this larger, kilometre-wide area of protection is simply to ensure the safety of the seal hunters and those who observe the seal industry.

Those who do it legitimately and those who have concerns or questions, as long as they are registered, are fine. They have the right to express their opinion. However, there are those who would disrupt the industry, and it has happened before. What the bill says is not only to protect the sealers but the Coast Guard and the rescue and policing efforts as well. It has to be very clear that anybody who gets closer than that kilometre distance is in fact creating a serious danger to all concerned, and they will be dealt with accordingly.

I will not repeat the many very good points made by several members here. However, we have the obligation to ensure that legitimate industries and businesses and people engaged in legitimate activities deserve our full support and recognition. That is why this bill, in a modest way, moves to add to that protection and ensure the industry stays viable, stays sustainable, and stays an important part of our Canadian landscape and economic activity going forward.

I would like to thank everybody for their participation. I look forward to the bill passing.

Battle of the Atlantic May 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today I am honoured to pay tribute to the longest military engagement of the Second World War: the Battle of the Atlantic, a true Canadian triumph.

Through the courage and efforts of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Merchant Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force, Canada played a key role in helping maintain the allies' crucial supply routes through the North Atlantic. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the Germans quickly asserted their strength on the high seas, blocking the supply chains from North America to Britain.

This was a hard-fought victory that came with a heavy price for Canada. More than 4,600 courageous men and women died at sea during six years of relentless enemy attacks and some of the most severe conditions imaginable.

We proudly remember with everlasting gratitude the remarkable memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our great country.

Lest we Forget.

Marine Mammal Regulations March 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have learned a lot in preparing for this bill in terms of the incredible importance in the north and the communities that really depend on this activity, certainly in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Even in the member's area, the coast of B.C., there is interest in what goes on.

There are a lot of issues that go on in the seal business. We talked about whether there are too many seals. This particular industry has been established. It had a black eye decades ago. There are images, such as of Paul McCartney and his wife out on the ice, and it becomes very dramatic. By the way, that in itself was a safety issue, but we will leave that one alone.

What we are finding from reasonably thinking people in Canada is that, whether or not they like the industry, it is a legal, legitimate industry that provides a lot of income and support to families. In that case, if it is going to be done, which it is, then people want to see the industry protected in the right way. Nobody believes those illegal activities should be condoned or supported. This is one more effort to make sure the illegal activity is controlled.

Marine Mammal Regulations March 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, more in recent years, the department and the coast guard have become concerned. Those who are licensed can get very close. They are monitored. There are people from government constantly monitoring the activity.

The most notable incident was when a environmentalist group brought a boat in several years ago. They did indeed get up into that range and did start breaking up a lot of ice. What was apparent then to the authorities was that the ice could easily break at that distance, within the half nautical mile. That became a major concern.

I did meet with industry, and I am not aware that it had concerns about monitoring and policing. That is certainly something I would pass along. I do know they welcome and support the extended distance, because when their folks are out standing on the ice, the last thing they want to worry about is the ice disappearing below them.

We are heading in the right direction. If there is more needed down the road, I am sure we will be quite prepared to look at it.

Marine Mammal Regulations March 6th, 2014

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-555, An Act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence).

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Yukon for seconding this bill. I know he is quite passionate about the topic.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-555, An Act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence). I believe that this is a sensible proposition and one that deserves the support of the House.

The proposed change to the Marine Mammal Regulations is straightforward and to the point. Essentially, it seeks to increase the distance unauthorized persons must maintain from seal harvesters. The bill would change the safety distance to a full nautical mile instead of the present half nautical mile.

The House should endorse this bill to show that we support the legitimate economic activities of the sealers. We should provide as safe an environment as possible for them to work in. Each day spent on the ice is a day spent on the ragged edge of safety, and that is without opponents putting the sealers lives in danger by disrupting the seal hunt.

This bill would serve to strengthen the safety aspect of the Marine Mammal Regulations and enhance the government's ability to enforce the requirements set out in the regulations. To be clear, the intention is to preserve the authority and discretion of the Governor in Council to modify the regulations in the future through the normal regulatory process, as opposed to having to do it by legislation.

For decades now there have been many radical groups that have wanted to disrupt the seal hunt, but there are also those who legitimately want to monitor the hunting up close. Any person can apply to Fisheries and Oceans Canada for a licence to observe the seal harvest, and I want to stress that this is a licence to observe and not a licence to intervene. Any person failing to respect the condition of the licence can indeed be fined or arrested. Thankfully, these incidents have been few and far between.

Indeed, the government can and will refuse to issue licences to anyone who intends to disrupt the seal harvest or otherwise interfere with sealers' activities. Under the regulations, anyone convicted of violating the conditions of a sealing fishery observation licence may not be eligible for another licence in the future.

There are those who do not want to comply and do not want licences. They simply want to disrupt the seal hunt. These are the people we must be concerned with.

It is the safety concerns pointed out by DFO officials that we are working on. The recommendation is to go from a half nautical mile buffer to the full nautical mile to ensure that people will not be able to break up the ice when they approach.

I want to point out that there have actually been recorded incidents in the past when large, unlicensed vessels have been there simply to disrupt the livelihoods of sealers. When these large vessels are out on the ice floes where the sealers legally are, the ice can be broken a long way away. Big ships within a half nautical mile have indeed caused some very dangerous situations in the past. We are not saying that we can stop them forever, but what we can do through this bill is keep them at a safe distance. That is what we are really asking for.

The additional cushion would ensure that seal harvesters could go about their jobs without the fear of disruption from vessels that come too close to the sealing activity.

We fully support the legitimate seal industry. We are steadfast in saying that the seal harvest is a humane, sustainable, and well-regulated activity. This is not an attempt to disguise or hide the seal hunt. This bill would do nothing to change the rules under which legitimate licensed observers must carry themselves. Any attempt to paint this as a way to hide the hunt is more of the same misinformation that has been going on for some time.

Our government fully supports the Canadian sealing industry, as I have said. For over 300 years, it has been in business. It would ensure sealers' safety in carrying on this long-standing and crucial industry.

The Canadian sealing industry has a highly professional workforce committed to upholding high standards in the harvest efforts. Our government is doing what it takes to ensure that the harvest remains as safe as possible. While we respect the right of individuals to form opinions on any matter, we will not accept illegal activities that attempt to disrupt a legitimate industry such as the seal hunt.

The government will continue to defend the seal hunt as an important source of food and income for coastal and Inuit communities. We stand behind the thousands of Canadians who depend on the seal harvest to provide a livelihood for their families. We are defending those Canadians who rely on the harvest to maintain their culture, tradition, and quality of life.

I encourage all members of the House to support this bill and help ensure the safety of our sealers.