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Track James

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is finance.

Conservative MP for Edmonton—Leduc (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 63.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Retirement of Premier of Alberta September 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the retirement of my friend and provincial colleague, Dave Hancock. Dave recently announced that he would be stepping down as the 15th Premier of Alberta and as MLA for Edmonton—Whitemud, a position he held for 18 years.

Dave spent his entire provincial political career in cabinet, holding many key portfolios in government, including intergovernmental and aboriginal affairs, justice and solicitor general, government house leader, health and wellness, education, human services, advanced education, and deputy premier.

These key roles in government are a testament to his wealth of knowledge and breadth of experience. It has been a pleasure to serve with Dave representing southwest Edmonton for the past 14 years. He exemplified the best of public service in all of the various roles he held within government and will be remembered as a universally respected and thoughtful legislator, especially as a passionate advocate for children fulfilling their potential.

He is also one of the most decent men I know. I send best wishes to him, his wife Janet and all their family as they move on to the next endeavour, and I thank Dave very much.

Reform Act, 2014 September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise to speak very proudly in favour of the reform act introduced by my friend and colleague, the member of Parliament for Wellington—Halton Hills.

At the outset, I would like to commend him for the substance of this bill and the substantive debate that he has caused both here in the House of Commons and across the country, as well as the manner and the process that he has followed in presenting his reforms. He presented a first version of this bill last year and sought meaningful input from members of Parliament and Canadians across the country. In fact, I can personally attest to the fact that he came to my constituency and engaged directly with many people in the riding. It was an excellent example of real citizen engagement, and I want to thank him for that.

After receiving all of the input, he proposed two different sets of amendments. One he proposed as reform act 2014 and the second, I believe, he proposed on September 11. It is my understanding that the government, as well as members of the opposition, will be supporting the bill. He made a real effort to hear constructive criticism of the bill. I know there are people who were supportive of this legislation and wished that he had kept it in its original form, and I say to him that he has shown some courage and real flexibility in trying to get a piece of legislation that can be supported by a majority of the members of this House and, hopefully, a majority of the members of the Senate as well.

To review the reform act itself, it proposed three main reforms: restoring local control over party nominations, strengthening caucus as a decision-making body, and reinforcing the accountability of party leaders to their caucuses. The purpose of these reforms is to strengthen Canada's democratic institutions by restoring the role of elected members of Parliament in the House of Commons.

The proposals in the reform act would reinforce the principle of responsible government, something I will return to over and over again in this speech. It would make the executive more accountable to the legislature and ensure that party leaders maintain the confidence of their caucuses, something that has existed since Parliament began.

If one wants to review, especially on the Conservative side of the House, an excellent example of party leaders having to maintain the confidence of their caucuses, one only has to go back to perhaps the greatest parliamentarian of all time, Winston Churchill, who became prime minister during World War II, a period in which someone else held a majority of the seats of the House of Commons. A Conservative government had the majority of seats in the House of Commons and Churchill was not party leader, but that change was made, and I think for all of our sakes it was much better. That is certainly a historical example, especially for Conservative parliamentarians.

Responsible government, as we know, is the principle that the executive council, the cabinet, is responsible and accountable to the elected legislative assembly, the House of Commons, not the appointed governor. This was a change that was made in Canadian history.

Much of this debate has focused upon the present-day situation or the concentration of power that has occurred over the past 40 years, but I want to commend the member for Wellington—Halton Hills because he has tried to say that this is a fundamental realigning of Parliament, that one has to go beyond the present personalities and circumstances of today. We all have our present-day debates, but we need to think fundamentally of the relationship between the executive and the legislative. This is something that has, frankly, perplexed political thinkers since the advent of political activity and political organization, since people started distinguishing between the different roles that the executive and legislative, or those who dispense funds and those who raise funds, ought to have.

Why is it so important to restore the proper balance between the executive and the legislative? Why should we care about responsible government? In my view, democracy is the best form of government, to turn around one of Churchill's phrases, and parliamentary democracy is the best form of democracy. However, in order to truly be a parliamentary democracy, it must be both representative and responsible. It must be representative in that the legislative branch, members of Parliament, must be duly elected and accountable to their constituents. It must be responsible in that executive branch, the cabinet, the government, must be accountable to those legislators. It requires those two absolute functions.

If one surveys the early histories of Parliament, as I have done recently, especially excellent works like J.R. Maddicott's The Origins of the English Parliament, which I recommend to everyone in this place and across the country, one will see that the powers of the executive, meaning the king or queen, during the early Parliaments actually existed outside of Parliament.

Parliament started as sort of a council of advisors, some from the property classes, some from the ecclesiastical classes, and even at that time they started two important functions that we continue today. That is, they started challenging the sovereign with respect to the raising of money, taxes, most often to fight wars, and with respect to the review of spending.

These two essential functions that Parliament still fulfills today, in terms of ways and means motions and the estimates process, actually started centuries ago in these early parliaments. However, at that time the executive power actually resided outside of Parliament with a king or queen. What happened over time was that these executive powers moved, in effect, from the crown to the advisors of the crown, the privy councillors, as they are still called today, and over time to ministers of cabinet and the prime minister within the legislature.

This was a very fundamental change that occurred over many years. Is this wrong? Some may perceive there is an actual problem with this. In fact, the Americans, in my view, saw this as a problem and chose a different system. They opted for a different system and very formally separated the executive—the president and the administration—completely from the Congress, which is the Senate and the House of Representatives.

It is very straightforward to ensure formal responsibility between the executive branch and the legislative branch. It is also simple to ensure that American citizens have more than one vote and can split their votes. They split the votes between a vote for the president and a vote for a member of the Senate or a member of the representatives.

As we know, Canadians have one vote. They have a vote for their member of Parliament at the federal level. I do not see having the executive within the legislature as a problem. In fact, I think it is a benefit. I think one of the beauties of the parliamentary system is that it is organic. As Edmund Burke would say, it's one of the advantages of the parliamentary system. It can respond to situations. It is a benefit to have the executive residing within the legislature.

What needs to happen then is responsible government. All parliamentary democracies must ensure, with this real transfer through the history of executive power from the sovereign to the privy council, the cabinet and the prime minister, that we have responsible government where the executive resides within the legislature and is responsible to the legislature. It is much more complicated than the American system. I think it is better than the American system, but we must ensure that responsible government applies.

In my time remaining I want to address some of the concerns that have been raised. It is very difficult to do so because some of the concerns were raised by people who have raised issues about political parties. I think members of all political parties have raised concerns about MPs possibly usurping some of the role of political partisans in terms of selecting or deselecting leaders. However, the role of caucus, in terms of having responsibility for the leadership, has always been there throughout history. My view is caucus members will respond to it in a very meaningful way.

I was in a situation in my first term in Parliament where we had a very destabilizing situation. It would have been helpful in fact to have a set of rules to guide us in how to deal with that in a much quicker way.

Second, I appeal to those who say the bill has been amended too much and not enough has been retained from the original bill to pass. The member for Wellington—Halton Hills has introduced a piece of legislation and has tried to be as constructive as he can to get support from all political parties so it has near unanimous support to pass in the House.

I therefore ask all members of Parliament to support this important bill to redress the imbalances that have occurred over decades in our country. The powers of the executive have grown and the strength of the legislative branch, unfortunately, has diminished. We need to restore the proper balance between the executive and the legislative. A true parliamentary democracy requires representative institutions, but it also requires responsible government. We need to honour these fundamental traditions of our parliamentary democracy.

Finance June 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, innovation and investment are the key drivers of the Canadian economy leading to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. That is why our government launched the venture capital action fund.

Yesterday, the Minister of Finance was on hand to announce a significant private sector led investment in helping Canada's entrepreneurs and innovative startups.

Could the hard-working, dapper and affable Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance provide the details of this very important announcement?

Petitions June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand today and present a petition on behalf of many Albertans who are calling upon the government to act to stop the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

Committees of the House June 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Finance

The report is entitled, “Youth Employment in Canada: Challenges and Potential Solutions”. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

As it is the end of the session, I would like to thank very much all of our hard-working staff, our clerk, our analyst, and all the legislative staff for their excellent work on what will probably be our last report of this session.

Business of Supply June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have so much respect for my colleague in this that I have to return to the subject.

The criticism from the other side is that targeted tax measures like income splitting, like pension income splitting, ought not to be done because they would not benefit the entire population. If we look at pension income splitting, that is true. It does not benefit people in my age group. If I look at my parents, they are both school teachers. They have pensions that are very similar. They do not benefit as much from the policy. However, there are many Canadians across this country who benefit from pension income splitting who are very positive on that.

I think it is incumbent upon the official opposition to be very clear with respect to that policy. Would it reverse the policy of pension income splitting that was put in place by this government in 2006?

Frankly, if the NDP ever forms government, I could see the member as a possible minister of finance. He is going to have to make that decision.

I think the NDP needs to be clear with Canadians as to where it stands. Does it support the pension income splitting that was put in place in 2006, and if not, would it seek to reverse that policy?

Business of Supply June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech and for the work he does on the Standing Committee on Finance.

I would like to address the income inequality issue that we studied at the finance committee. We issued a report and we talked about the need for support for general measures like health care, education, and social services that our government has funded at 6% year over year and 3% year over year.

We also talked about targeted measures like the working income tax benefit, which I believe has not been mentioned on the other side of the House. I would like members opposite to comment on the benefit of that program that specifically targets low-income working families and individuals to ensure that they get ahead.

I do want to focus my remarks and ask the member opposite to comment on pension income splitting. If I understood him correctly, he was in fact quite critical of the measure brought in by our government in 2006 to allow pensioners to split their income. In fact, he said this was sort of a foreshadowing of what would happen under income splitting generally. Pension income splitting has been a resounding success. I have certainly heard it across the country. Pensioners come up and say that they have been able to keep much more of their income in their pockets.

I would just ask the member to clarify NDP policy on this. The NDP opposed it at the time, but does the NDP still oppose pension income splitting, and would it reverse that policy if it were given the opportunity?

Committees of the House May 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Finance in relation to its study on the main estimates 2014-2015.

As well, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Finance in relation to Bill C-31, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

Energy Industry May 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge the contributions of a great Albertan and a great Canadian. Dr. Eric Newell is well known by many members of the House as a source of wisdom on the responsible development of Canada's oil sands . His vast knowledge led him to a storied career in Canada's petroleum and energy industries. In this regard, he is perhaps best known for his 14 years as the CEO of Syncrude.

Dr. Newell is also well known for his contributions to higher education, notably the University of Alberta, and his passion in ensuring the success of aboriginal people in Canada.

In 2008, the Alberta government tasked Dr. Newell with building and chairing the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation. This organization funds initiatives to achieve actual and sustainable greenhouse gas emission reductions. This organization is now in the midst of its Grand Challenge, through which innovative thinkers from around the globe are invited to put forward ideas on how to turn a liability like carbon into a useful asset.

I am honoured to consider Dr. Newell a friend. He, and other energy visionaries like him, leave me with nothing but optimism about the future of Canada's energy industry.

Edmonton Oil Kings May 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate the Edmonton Oil Kings on their victory as the 2014 Memorial Cup champions, the third national championship in franchise history. This team defined courage, strength, and resilience, as it overcame adversity all season, and especially through the playoffs.

In the Memorial Cup tournament, it played two monumental games against Val-d'Or, losing the first in double overtime and then winning the second in triple overtime to advance to the final. This set up a matchup against the powerful Guelph Storm, a team that had a record-setting year in the Ontario Hockey League. The Oil Kings were down a goal at the end of the first period, but their resilience showed once again, as they skated, checked, and scored to a decisive 6-3 win over their OHL counterparts.

At the end of the game, the players hoisted the cup, but also the sweater of their friend and teammate Kristians Pelss, who passed away following last season. The emotions were evident as each player celebrated his victory but mourned the loss of the teammate to whom the team dedicated this year and this title.

Congratulations to all of the players, their coaches, and the entire Edmonton Oil Kings organization on an inspirational season and an amazing Memorial Cup victory.