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Conservative MP for Nipissing—Timiskaming (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 36.70% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Petitions April 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise to present a petition on behalf of a number of residents. The petition calls upon Parliament to refrain from making any changes to the Seeds Act or the Plant Breeders' Rights Act through Bill C-18, an act to amend certain Acts relating to agriculture and agri-food.
Robotics Competition April 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, for the past 14 years, high school youth in my riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming have been competing in robot competitions through the Near North Student Robotics Initiative. The competition has become a true passion for youth and their families in our region.
Recently, North Bay hosted the first robotics competition in northern Ontario. Each team had six weeks to design and build a robot capable of completing challenges. Teams 1305 from North Bay and 5035 from Nipissing First Nation won two prestigious awards.
Youth with a passion in science, technology, and innovation have a bright future in our region. Canadore College has world-class aerospace and advanced manufacturing programs critical to establishing an aerospace centre of excellence. Our region is committed to creating jobs for these youth so they can continue their passion without leaving home.
I invite all colleagues to join me in a round of applause for these brilliant and exceptional technicians and engineers.
The Budget February 13th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hard-working colleague for that question. As I mentioned, it is a start, with respect to apprenticeship loans. Apprentices in the red seal programs would gain access to over $100 million in interest-free loans of up to $4,000, which is a great start, and 26,000 Canadian apprentices would benefit and help close the gaps. It is a new program. It is a start. I am sure it will grow and help youth in Canada in the future.
The Budget February 13th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is right. We have started. We have started with $40 million in apprenticeships. That is a start, just like the broadband program we started years ago. As I mentioned, it covers 98% of Canadians.
I will make the member a pledge. As soon as we can recover the $40 million in the sponsorship scandal, we will complete the rest of our apprenticeship program.
The Budget February 13th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, clearly the NDP, including its leader, continue to spread falsehoods in northern Ontario. He was up in northern Ontario just this past spring saying that all this money has disappeared from FedNor. The good news is that FedNor is the same. It is stable. When we are into a rationalization of government services, the status quo is good news.
As I mentioned to my hon. friend, I have achieved record funding with FedNor. FedNor continues to improve the lives and livelihoods of people in northern Ontario. FedNor is there in spades. Our government supports the full services of FedNor.
The Budget February 13th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to give my full support to economic action plan 2014.
This year's budget will continue Canada's global fiscal leadership. We have been leading the G7 in job creation and debt-to-GDP for some time now. This budget will deliver job creation and debt reduction, which are our government's key priorities. Reducing the debt plays a key role in job creation as it reduces government expense burdens, allowing for more spending on programs and support, and for job creation.
The budget also sends a strong signal of stability to businesses and investors. These financial management policies have elevated Canada to be one of the best places in the world to conduct business. Canada is envied around the world.
Most importantly, our government has achieved this result responsibly, not on the backs of taxpayers or with irresponsible fire-sales of important government assets. There will be no reduction in health care, equalization, or other transfers. In fact, they have all risen. In particular, the Province of Ontario will receive $19.2 billion in support from Ottawa in 2014–15, a 56% increase since our government took power in 2006.
Whereas the opposition parties have continued to push for excess and irresponsible spending, our government has stayed the course, invested in job-creating infrastructure and initiatives, and consistently decreased the tax burden on Canadian families. On average, Canadian families pay $3,400 less in taxes every year as a result of our government's initiatives and commitment to making sure Canadians keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets.
This budget is focused on key initiatives to keep our economy growing. I would like to cite a few measures in particular that mean a lot to my riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming.
First and foremost, the continued support for FedNor. FedNor, as members know, particularly in northern Ontario, plays a critical role in economic development. Since May 2011, I have been very successful in working with FedNor, and I am pleased that the funding has been secured in the budget.
Second, I argued along with my colleagues in northern Ontario for a fund targeted to small municipalities. I am hopeful that the announcement this afternoon will bear some fruit as part of the building Canada fund. These funds are important. These funds are for roads, bridges, and older water pipes.
Just over $300 million will be invested in broadband Internet access infrastructure in rural and northern Canada. This is an important measure. This is key for many residents in my riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming. With this infrastructure, 98% of Canadians will have broadband access. That is quite a feat.
Apprentices in red-seal programs will gain access to over $100 million in interest-free loans of up to $4,000. This is golden for my riding. Twenty-six thousand Canadian apprentices will benefit and help close the skills gap in Canada. Local businesses have complained about skills shortages, and this will help them meet the demand and create new jobs.
In the next few months, the federal government will complete and launch the Canada jobs grant. This program will indeed be an important measure in my community. Canadians and businesses will have access to training grants of up to $15,000, a key measure in the continued growth and development of our workforce.
Our federal government is committed to ensuring Canadians have access to job and skills training, and it will not allow politics to deny Canadians access to the training needed to gain employment.
The fifth measure that is indeed important for my riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming is innovation, research, and youth employment.
During a presentation last night by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, it indicated that we are among the world's leaders in innovation. It encourages our government to step up and keep up that pace.
There will be the establishment of a Canada first research excellence fund; $1.5 billion over the next decade will go to universities and post-graduate programs that would generate long-term economic opportunities for Canada; and up to $40 million will go to 3,000 youth internships, which will target youth unemployment in Canada as well as in my riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming; and an additional $15 million for up to 1,000 internships in small and medium-sized enterprises.
Therefore, Canada is on the right track. However, we need to remain focused, stay on course, and fulfill our commitments to Canadians.
I am proud of this budget. I am proud to support it. The federal government is on the right track to balanced budgets, continued low taxes, and continued global financial leadership.
Fair Elections Act February 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member makes an excellent point. That point, among others, will no doubt be debated when this bill gets to second reading. Hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.
My particular submission tonight was on the submission of electoral results, as I have repeated. We would like to support the clauses in the bill that eliminate that ban, as it would allow for freedom of speech. We believe in freedom of speech, even during elections.
Fair Elections Act February 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, as I pointed out in my remarks, my particular submission focused on the transmission of election results. That is what my speech was all about.
I agree with the government's position that section 329 of the Canada Elections Act, which currently prohibits the transmission of election results in electoral districts where voting is ongoing, should be repealed. It is unconstitutional.
We would like to ensure Canadians' freedom of speech, even during elections.
Fair Elections Act February 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to express my support for Bill C-23, the fair elections act, which was introduced by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. The fair elections act would ensure that everyday citizens are in charge of democracy by putting special interests on the sidelines and rule breakers out of business.
The fair elections act would implement 38 of the Chief Electoral Officer's past recommendations.
One of those changes is the repeal of the prohibition on the transmission of election results. I would like to focus my remarks on this change. The fact that Canada extends over six time zones, representing a time difference of four and a half hours from coast to coast, has an impact on polling hours in Canada and how election results should be released. In the early days of Confederation, the release of election results was not a concern, since communication technology did not allow for the transmission of results during voting hours. This changed with the introduction of telegraphic service.
In the 1930s, parliamentarians reported concerns about eastern results being telegraphed to western parts of the country, and extra newspaper editions being distributed to voters on their way to the polls. At that time, uniform voting hours, 9 a.m to 8 p.m. local time, were observed across the country, which led to a real-time difference of four hours between the closing of polls in the Maritimes and the closing of polls in British Columbia. In response to these concerns, the Dominion Elections Act, adopted in 1938, prohibited releasing election returns in electoral districts where the vote was ongoing. Accordingly, section 329 of the Canada Elections Act currently prohibits the transmission of election results in electoral districts where voting is ongoing. Anyone who wilfully violates the ban is guilty of an offence and liable on a summary conviction to a fine of up to $25,000.
Since the ban's implementation, practical and philosophical objections have been raised. From a practical perspective, the ban is difficult to effectively enforce in the age of modern communication technology and social media. Moreover, the ban could have the effect of penalizing Canadians for their normal communication behaviour. Philosophically, the ban is an infringement on freedom of speech.
In 1991, the report of the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing, more commonly referred to as the Lortie report, declared the ban obsolete and difficult to enforce, due to the developments in broadcasting and communication technologies such as the telephone and fax machine. As an alternative to the ban, Lortie recommended the adoption of staggered voting hours, highlighting that polls must not be open too early or close too late in any region. Hours were not to be too disruptive for voters or election workers, and conclusive results from Ontario and Quebec, which might be determinative of the election, were not to be known before the close of polls elsewhere in the country.
Parliament adopted staggered voting hours in 1996. This reduced the difference in time between the polls closing on the east and west coasts from four and a half hours to three hours. With these staggered voting hours, there was no longer any time difference between the closing of polls in Ontario, Quebec, and the three prairie provinces. There was only a 30-minute time difference between the closing of polls in central Canada and the Prairies, and the closing of polls in British Columbia. Thirty minutes was not deemed enough time for conclusive results from Alberta to Quebec to be determined and released by the media before later B.C. voters cast their ballots.
As a result of the staggered voting hours, conclusive results from only 32 Atlantic Canada ridings were available to later voters west of New Brunswick. The Lortie report noted that the release of results from the 32 ridings would not constitute a major problem.
At the time the report was released, there were only 295 seats in the House of Commons, meaning that the 32 ridings made up 11% of the seats in the House.
Simply put, staggered voting hours address the underlying rationale for the ban, which is that knowledge of which party will form the government could have an impact on voter behaviour in western Canada.
The ban has also been the subject of litigation. Following the 2000 general election, Mr. Paul Bryan was charged with an offence for having posted results from Atlantic Canada on his website while polls were still open in the rest of Canada. Mr. Bryan challenged his conviction on the basis that the ban was contrary to freedom of expression, guaranteed under our charter. The case was argued before the Supreme Court of Canada, which released its decision in 2007. While the court was unanimous that the ban limited freedom of expression, a majority of the court found the limitation to be reasonably justified, as it promotes voter information parity and public confidence in the electoral system.
Even though the court upheld the validity of the prohibition, Parliament is still free to repeal or alter the ban. One of the majority justices who wrote a set of reasons for the judgment went so far as to note specifically that “...Parliament can of course change its mind. Within constitutional bounds, policy preferences of this sort remain the prerogative of Parliament, not of the courts”.
The constitutional validity of the ban is again before the courts. During the 41st general election, the CBC and Bell Media launched a challenge to the ban, arguing that in the era of social media, it no longer promotes information equality.
It is useful to consider the effectiveness of the ban, since the Lortie Commission concluded that the ban was obsolete.
As I have noted, the original purpose of the ban, adopted in 1938, was to prevent western voters from knowing the formation of the government prior to casting their ballots. This justification has been eclipsed by the staggering of voting hours adopted in 1996. This ensures that only election results from Atlantic Canada can be known to late voters west of New Brunswick.
No evidence suggests that voters would lose confidence in the electoral system if these results were communicated to them. This appears to have been confirmed during the 2004 general election, when the Chief Electoral Officer suspended the ban on the premature transmission of election results. The British Columbia Supreme Court, in R. v. Bryan, had declared the ban unconstitutional, while the British Columbia Court of Appeal had agreed to hear an appeal. Its judgment upholding the ban would not be rendered until after the election was held. Therefore, the Chief Electoral Officer relied on the existing state of the law and suspended the ban, which allowed media to communicate results from Atlantic Canada to late voters west of New Brunswick.
There is no indication that the results from the 2004 election were tainted by the suspension of the ban. The ban was once again enforced during the 2006, 2008, and 2011 general elections and subsequent by-elections.
In the 2008 general election, there were reports that Yukon's cable provider, Northwestel, prematurely let the east coast telecasts through to the territory's customers.
During the 2009 by-election, Elections Canada asked a newspaper to remove from its website a story that revealed initial results from a constituency, but it did not take measures to prevent discussion of by-election results on Twitter.
In 2011, an error caused the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to briefly broadcast results from Atlantic Canada 30 minutes before the polls closed in central and western Canada and an hour before the polls closed in British Columbia.
There is other evidence that the ban is often contravened. In a nutshell, with Lortie in mind, the right of Canadians to communicate and engage with one another about elections is essential for Canadian democracy.
A ban on the premature transmission of election results is an unnecessary restriction on freedom of speech in an era when social media and other technologies are widespread. A ban on the early transmission of election results is outdated.
Our government is also following through on its commitment to Canadians to repeal a ban on the premature transmission of electoral results in the fair elections act. This change reflects the ruling of the Supreme Court and our government's commitment to uphold every Canadian's right to freedom of speech.
For these reasons, I encourage all members to support the elimination of this provision in the act.
Health Award January 30th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, every day, countless Canadians accomplish exceptional feats for their communities and for their country. Dr. Aroha Page, a national health care leader in my riding, is no exception.
Earlier this month, I was proud to recognize her with the national Nursing Faculty e-Health Award, sponsored by the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing and Canada Health Infoway.
Dr. Page is a world leader in health care projects. She has been working with 91 Canadian universities and colleges to implement a new digital health curriculum. This will be the first time digital health is introduced to Canada's health curriculum, to ensure that Canadians have the best care and treatment. It is the passion, leadership, and hard work of people like Dr. Page that strengthen our communities and help make Canada the great place it is.
Colleagues in the House, please join me in recognizing Dr. Page and, indeed, all of the unsung leaders across Canada who dedicate themselves and their work to their neighbours, community, and country.