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Track John

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is pension.

Conservative MP for New Brunswick Southwest (New Brunswick)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 56.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Taxation February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, millions of families across Canada will benefit from our government's family tax cut and benefits plan, but New Brunswick residents are deeply concerned about a plan by the new provincial government that will allow the Liberals to raise highway tolls and taxes without first getting the consent of voters in a referendum. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is concerned that this is unfair, and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says that the Liberals are clearing the way for future tax increases.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance please update this House as to what our government is doing to keep taxes low?

Natural Resources February 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Canada's natural resource sector supports an impressive 1.8 million good paying jobs. It accounts for nearly 20% of our economy and provides government tax revenue for important services like health, education, and infrastructure.

Residents in my riding expect our government to create jobs and grow our economy, while, of course, protecting the environment. Most are eager to see more oil and pipeline development in New Brunswick.

Could the minister share with the House what we are doing to provide benefits for working Canadians?

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor. His explanation of the bill was both fair-minded and quite elegant. He did a good job explaining both the bill and also the rationale to hold parliamentarians to a higher standard because of the privileged position we hold in this House. The member has given me a few more minutes to address some other points. I am not going to explain what is in the bill, since he has done such a wonderful job already.

The bill does focus on some two dozen Criminal Code violations. These are all indictable offences, meaning they are serious crimes that members of this House or the other place would have to commit and be found guilty of in a court of law before a pension were revoked. That is an important part of this bill because it would take these decisions out of a political theatre and put them into a court of law where, because these are serious matters, those decisions should rest.

There is one aspect of the bill that I would like to address, and some points that I have heard in the first hour of debate and that have come up in discussions with colleagues here and elsewhere.

The first measure is that there remains in this bill some measure of partial retroactivity. Initially when I tabled this bill in June 2013, I suggested that convictions be retroactive from that date forward. In the committee, that was modified and the modification is acceptable so that the crime itself could have happened at any time before this bill, should it receive royal assent, came into effect, but the conviction would now have to happen on or after that date. Going forward, if this bill became law, it would still apply to malfeasance that occurred in the past. That is a good compromise, and I understand the reasons for that were dealing with potential court challenges. That was an amendment that I thought was wise and good.

This bill, after discussion over the last 20 months, does have and I hope it will have support from both sides of the House. When I first tabled the bill, I had suggested a floor of two years, that the maximum sentence be two or more years. However, upon consultation with members on both sides of the House at the first debate, I suggested that be moved to five years, within the Criminal Code and an indictable offence. In working with both sides of the House, trying to find a bill that would accomplish its objective—which, at the end of the day, was to penalize members who broke trust with taxpayers, members who through illegal activities misplaced or misused tax dollars—the bill was further refined in committee, with amendments I suggested in committee, to focus on violations like breach of trust, fraud, theft, and forgery, aspects that have to do directly with how we spend and use tax dollars in this place. Our role as legislators is to come here and decide on behalf of Canadians how tax dollars are going to be spent.

I will give one good example of why an across-the-board five-year threshold posed some challenge. I say this respectfully mostly for members in the official opposition who believe the bill has been weakened because of these changes. When we are at home in our riding, we drive around a lot. If we were to ever hit someone with our vehicle and kill him or her, the punishment is up to a five-year prison term. The point of this bill was never to capture someone or to have someone revoke or lose a pension through an error or momentary lapse of judgment; it was for deliberate theft of tax dollars.

To have an across-the-board blanket meant that a member in this House, because of a terrible accident, a tragedy and a crime but not something that was intentional, could very well be in a position of losing a parliamentary pension.

That is the rationale for focusing on the two dozen or so provisions in this bill that focus on infractions that deal directly with our duties as parliamentarians.

Recently a number of amendments have come forward from the official opposition that I must confess I disagree with. In fact, I actually thought it was the will of this House, as I was proposing these changes, to focus the scope of this bill on our actual duties. I can say that, because on December 10, 2013, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, when I suggested raising it to a threshold of five years, said:

However, as the member has already indicated, we would be looking and seeking amendments to change it to five years for a criminal offence and we have seen, I think, from the member, some willingness to compromise on that. That is welcome.

I went back through the debates we had in this House on this bill to be sure I understood the mood of the room. Member after member, from both sides, had suggested or debated or told this House that in fact we wanted to be careful, that we did not want to inappropriately strip a member of a pension for a violation that was not related to his or her duties. It was only as one of our colleagues found himself in violation of the Canada Elections Act that suddenly the debate became about widening it. This is a problem, because as we look at legislation, we have to be somewhat consistent in our approach.

I have correspondence from the Leader of the Opposition, who talks about our former colleague, Dean Del Mastro, who was found guilty of breaking the Canada Elections Act. The Leader of the Opposition said that this former member would have lost his whole pension under the restrictions of the Nova Scotia law, which states that any MLA convicted of a crime with a maximum sentence of five years or more in jail will lose the right to a full pension.

This is actually false, because this former member, while he was found guilty of a provision under the Canada Elections Act, was actually found guilty of a crime with a maximum penalty of one year. It did not reach the threshold, in my original bill, of two years. It does not reach the threshold of the penalty of the Nova Scotia law, nor did it ever reach the threshold of this bill, at five years. That is simply not true.

It is important, because the mood of this House was such that we wanted to focus on our duties as legislators and on the appropriation and disbursement of tax dollars.

Where are we? We have a bill today that has gone through several hours of debate, has gone through committee, and has had several changes to it proposed, which I think, by and large, have strengthened it.

I will not be supporting the amendments put forward by the official opposition, because I think they attempt to, at the last minute, the 11th hour, open this bill up in a manner that not even the Nova Scotia bill, which the NDP cites as the standard, does. In fact, they would endanger the likelihood of this bill passing the House, because it was both government members and opposition members who urged me throughout the process to be very focused in this bill and to go after penalties that are in line with our duties as parliamentarians.

Twenty months later, we have this bill before us, and I hope it will receive support on both sides of the House. I believe it will receive support on both sides of the House, and I urge members to support it so we can get it off to the Senate. I hope to see it become law before Parliament is dissolved in advance of the next election.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I find it laughable that the hon. colleague, with all due respect and deference, suggests that the Prime Minister does not understand the struggles of ordinary, hard-working Canadians, particularly when we look at the numerous policies that the government has put out with respect to benefiting workers through various tax credits, the doubling of the fitness credit for kids and, more recent, the family tax relief that was announced to be rolled out next year. Thankfully, we were able to do this because of the tough measures that were taken by the government over the last couple years as we moved to a balanced budget.

I would ask the member to answer a question that reflects on her own leader. How could her leader suggest that budgets balance themselves and do not require decisions to be made by the government of the day?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, predictable funding is key to other levels of government, which can rely on it year in and year out and plan around it, whether for one-off projects or ones over many years, which tends to be the case when it is larger infrastructure.

I will give another example where predictable funding has been very helpful. Since 2006, the beginning of our time in office, federal transfers to the Province of New Brunswick, my home province, have increased by 27% and this year stand at $2.6 billion, which is a very good amount of money for a small province like New Brunswick.

The point I want to make is that under our government, those transfers for health, social services, and equalization have gone in one direction every year, and that is up. We have managed to do this while we have looked at Ottawa's operations and reduced spending that was not in taxpayers' interest. At the same time and in parallel with the question about municipalities, this has ensured that the Province of New Brunswick can guarantee quality social programs going forward, unlike the changes the Liberal government made in its time in power when it cut health and education by 30%.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as the previous infrastructure program ramped down, the new program is ramping up. I hear a lot of talk in the chamber by the opposition about there being too few infrastructure dollars, but I have say that when I talk to municipal leaders back home, they are very pleased with the changes we made to the gas tax transfer, which at one point doubled. Then, of course, we took the additional step this year of expanding what would be eligible.

As a result, there are municipalities throughout my riding applying under that program to spend it in infrastructure areas in which they previously could not. At the same time, they are putting in new applications for the new building Canada fund that is going to see projects begin this year and every year going forward.

On that note, I might ask my hon. colleague a question. On one hand, he talks about the need to balance the books, but at the same time he constantly talks about the need to spend more. I would ask him which it is. Is it a question of balancing the budget or spending more? We believe one can do both if one is responsible and makes tough choices.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 December 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, hon. colleagues, there is good reason to be pleased with the 2014 economic action plan. Our hard work is paying off; it is paying dividends; and we are on track to realize a stronger and more prosperous Canada in the coming years.

When I was elected in 2011, the global economy was still fragile following the 2008 great recession. It was a time of continued economic uncertainty south of the border in the United States, around the world, and at home. Our economy, while better than most, was still sluggish.

Indeed, voters in my riding of New Brunswick Southwest, which borders Maine and shares waterways with the United States, were well aware of the economic challenges facing U.S. workers and the U.S. government. A majority recognized that our economy was stronger and our outlook even then was brighter.

Today, as the result of several Conservative budgets, this government has created 1.2 million net new jobs since the economic downturn. I should say that government has not created those jobs, but perhaps it has worked to create the conditions for the hard-working men and women across the country. Businesses small and large worked together in the national interest to create those 1.2 million jobs.

Today, our government's foundation is strong. We have competitive tax rates, and we are marching toward a balanced budget. Overall, it is very fair to say that we have strong economic fundamentals.

We have done all this while maintaining transfers to the provinces and territories, which will continue to rise every year to a new record high. We have helped vulnerable families with children and seniors by taxing them less and ensuring important social programs and transfers are maintained and even enhanced. We have done this all along, while the Liberal and NDP opposition have called for higher taxes and more debt spending.

Under our plan, one million Canadians have been removed from the tax roll, including 380,000 seniors. I repeat, one million Canadians are no longer paying federal income tax. There are 1.4 million Canadians no longer living in poverty, including 250,000 children. The after-tax disposable income has risen by 10% across all income levels since 2006. These are real measurable benefits that have helped Canadians from coast to coast.

Of course, there are ongoing challenges, and in some parts of Canada, including my region, unemployment remains stubbornly high. However, recently, the federal government ratified an agreement with the Government of New Brunswick to deliver skills training for in-demand professions through the Canada jobs grant.

We remain focused on job creation and ensuring that the nation's economic fundamentals are strong and will continue to move the country forward. We should take great solace that, according to The New York Times, Canada's working families are at the top of the pack compared to other nations. This is remarkable news.

Of course, this is unpleasant news for the opposition, particularly the leader of the third party, who has attempted to depict a worsening situation for Canadians. In the end, the facts just do not bear that argument out.

On that score, it was with great regret that I read today that the new Liberal premier in my home province is moving to stop the fracking of natural gas in New Brunswick. This decision will slow economic growth; it will hurt job creation and cause more young workers to go west. Towns will begin to empty out, and there will be less money for important social programs, and so Premier Gallant is already calling for Ottawa to throw him a lifeline. He wants more transfers.

That is right: the premier is closing the development of natural gas in New Brunswick, yet insisting more tax revenues, earned by other provinces that do frack natural gas, be sent to his government. If it were not so cruel, we would note the deep irony of sending New Brunswick workers to work in the very same industry Premier Gallant is closing.

However, I digress. I will get back to the matter at hand, which is the 2014 economic action plan.

Our work, which has been ongoing over many years, continues in this budget implementation act. It began with Ottawa first looking internally and reviewing programs to ensure they delivered value for Canadians and Canadian taxpayers. As a result, direct program spending has fallen for three consecutive years, and we are on track for a fourth year, which I believe is a first in modern Canadian history. At the end of the day, this means we are delivering quality social programs, maintaining transfers to the provinces, delivering some tax relief, and doing it all within a balanced budget as of next year.

We have also reformed programs to take into account demographic changes, and we have made modest changes to EI in order to encourage more work and less reliance on the state.

This has all been hard work. I do not think there has been a riding in the country that has not been affected in some way or other by some of these changes. However, they have resulted in a number of things, such as a stronger federal balance sheet, a stronger national economy, and better fortunes for Canadians in the years ahead. I stress the hard work because, as has been said time and time again and will continue to be said right up until the budget next year, budgets do not balance themselves; they require hard work. If members believe budgets balance themselves, I would ask them to consider Greece, Detroit, or even Canada in the mid-1990s. However Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Martin qualified their efforts at the time, I am sure they would not have said that the federal budget balanced itself.

Promoting jobs and economic growth has been our number one focus for the last three and a half years, and it will continue to be our focus going forward until every Canadian who wants a job has one. We have done this through supporting businesses by reducing red tape, making it easy for them to invest, hire, and sell their products.

We have frozen EI tax and have provided EI payroll tax savings for small businesses through the small business job credit.

We are supporting apprenticeship and training programs, and we have also expanded our infrastructure programs. We have done this through the new building Canada plan, which will provide $21.8 billion over 10 years through the gas tax fund. Incidentally, the gas tax fund has been indexed, meaning that, as inflation goes up, our municipalities across the country will see modest increases every year to account for that inflationary loss.

We are spending $10.4 billion over 10 years under the GST rebate to municipalities, ensuring that when they spend money it will benefit their constituents.

We are spending $14 billion under the new building Canada fund to support major projects right across this country.

This is real spending that will have a benefit on communities from coast to coast and ensure that infrastructure is upgraded so our products can get to market, our men and women can get to work, and products—whether coming across by land, air, or sea—are able to get across this continent to markets in the United States, within Canada, or overseas.

The budget also has to be taken in context with our overall trade agenda, where we will see greater market access in Asia and in Europe. That is something I talk about an awful lot when I am home, because many of the industries in New Brunswick are closer to major markets in western Europe than western Canada. If people are selling something like live lobster, they want to make sure the product gets to market while it is alive and fresh.

The other area we focused in on is responsible resource development. We will continue to do that through the energy east pipeline, running throughout the entire country and into the Saint John refinery in New Brunswick, in particular, as a way to ensure that more hard-working New Brunswick men and women have jobs in their home province. Therefore, when they get up in the morning and go to work, they can come home at night and spend time with their families, as opposed to having to travel across the country for work that they could be and should be doing in New Brunswick, whether building a pipeline, refining oil, or fracking natural gas.

In conclusion, these measures that we have pursued have benefited Canadians and Canadian families. I look forward to seeing a balanced budget 2015 and the additional opportunities that our future measures will bring.

Natural Resources November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant had a very simple message during this year's provincial election for anyone wanting to frack natural gas in New Brunswick: “You're not welcome here”. Now, after just two months in office, the Liberal premier's clear message is not so clear. Donald Arsenault, the minister of energy, now says that he will allow “some” fracking. Premier Gallant now says there are different “types” of moratoriums he will consider. This is unbelievable double-speak.

New Brunswick will succeed by allowing the development of its God-given natural resources. I stand in the House today to tell the premier that it is time to eat crow, admit he was wrong about fracking, and signal to the rest of the world that New Brunswick is open for business. My constituents want a better New Brunswick, full of good, well-paying jobs, and a strong economy. That industry can deliver that, so let us get on with it.

Taxation November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Canadians know that the Liberal leader will raise taxes and make life more difficult for families. Whether through a job-killing carbon tax or clawing back our Conservative government's new tax breaks for families, the Liberal leader promises a high-tax, high-debt agenda.

Just yesterday, prospective Liberal candidate Bill Casey confirmed on CTV news that his new party will both raise taxes and cut programs. Voters will see past Casey's stunt to further his own political agenda.

Indeed, the people of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley know that a Liberal government would resurrect the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry, introduce a carbon tax that will raise the price on everything and add more debt that will destabilize our economy.

Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley can count on our Conservative member of Parliament and this Prime Minister to lower taxes, protect law-abiding hunters and stand up for all Canadian families.

Canadian Determination October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the attack in Ottawa yesterday morning was an evil attempt to hurt and kill innocent, unsuspecting Canadians, men and women living their daily lives, working and even visiting our nation's capital.

Our first thoughts must be with our fallen heroes this week, Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, and also with those in hospital recovering from their injuries. They and their families are in our prayers, as are all our Canadian Forces members, including those in and near my riding at CFB Gagetown.

Yesterday's act of terror signified more than just an attack on innocent people. It was an attempt to strike at our democracy and instill fear and doubt in our minds. That was the outrage we all shared yesterday.

The fact that we gather here today in Parliament, determined to continue our work and not be cowed by ISIL-inspired terrorism, demonstrates that this attack failed. It is also a sign that any attempt to intimidate Canada or threaten our democratic way of life will fail.

God bless Canada. We remain strong and free.