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Track John

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is going.

Conservative MP for New Brunswick Southwest (New Brunswick)

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

Statements in the House

Veterans Affairs June 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, 70 years ago, brave Canadian troops valiantly fought in the Battle of Normandy, on D-Day. This was a defining moment in our nation's history. Today, we and our allies pause to remember the sacrifice and legacy of these heroic Canadians.

Could the Minister of Justice please inform the House how our government is commemorating this important and historic day?

Tanker Traffic May 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will soon decide whether or not the massive Downeast LNG project in Washington County, Maine, will proceed.

Yet, there is just one colossal problem with this grand scheme. Maine has hundreds of miles of coastline with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean, yet the LNG tanker transit route to this proposed American facility must navigate through Canada's internal waters in Head Harbour Passage and then straddle the internationally shared waters of Passamaquoddy Bay, providing unique environmental, navigational, and safety risks.

The Americans concede they do not have the authority to establish or enforce the safety and security zones in Canadian waters. The U.S. Coast Guard has concluded that Washington will need to coordinate maritime traffic in our waters with Canadian authorities for LNG tanker traffic to proceed.

Our Prime Minister has said Canada will not co-operate in these discussions. Our government has told the American administration that we will not permit LNG tanker traffic to threaten the livelihood of Canadian fishing communities. Canada will not become a convenient doormat for the Americans.

The Environment May 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Council of Canadian Academies today released a report on hydraulic fracturing. Our government is already working with partners to study the impact of shale gas progress so more Canadians, and provinces in the east, can benefit from responsible resource development.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment give an update on the work being done across the country to protect our waters and land while developing this job-creating resource?

The Budget March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, unlike the leader of the third party, our Conservative government knows that budgets do not balance themselves. Waiting for someone else to make the tough choices is not what leadership is about.

Constituents from across my riding of New Brunswick Southwest were pleased to hear that, after making tough, deliberate choices, next year's federal budget will produce a surplus. By holding down government spending, introducing tax relief measures, and lowering Canada's debt to historic levels, we have accomplished this monumental task.

The other parties said it could not be done. The other parties said we were making the wrong choices. Making responsible choices that benefit hard-working taxpayers and their families is what our government has done and will continue to do.

Looking ahead, we are preparing another round of tax relief measures. These new tax saving measures will benefit hard-working taxpayers, their families, and the Canadian economy.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians Act February 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of points I would like to make in concluding this second hour of debate.

I appreciate some of the comments I heard from the other side, I believe referring to the bill as virtuous, which I suppose is good news, but at the same time questioning some of the motivations behind it. I am not going to respond to those. I am just happy to have support for this bill.

There are some amendments to this bill that I believe are necessary, which I referenced in the first hour of debate. As one hon. member noted, in the original draft of the bill I did suggest in drafting it that the penalties be invoked for any crime where the maximum penalty is two or more years. Upon reflection and consultation, as I stated some weeks ago, I felt that the threshold should be increased to five-year indictable crimes, elevating it to charges that would include, for example, breach of trust, theft, serious charges, because the consequences are serious for members of Parliament.

As well, this bill as drafted is very much in line with the law that exists currently in Nova Scotia. My bill was tabled on June 3, 2013, and would apply to any convictions after that date if it is passed here and in the other place, and ultimately receives royal assent. However, should it be successful and move on to committee, here is really the test that committee members should consider when weighing the merits of this bill. It is what I call the Lavigne test case. Senator Lavigne was convicted of fraud and breach of trust, yet he resigned from his position as a senator before he could be ejected, thereby keeping his parliamentary pension.

He was convicted of these crimes, which, as I said, have a threshold. The maximum is five or more years. However, he was only sentenced to six months. That really is the type of scoundrel we are trying to capture with this legislation: individuals who are convicted of serious crimes. It should not matter the amount of time spent in prison, but rather the crimes that people are convicted of in a court of law. That is the request I put to the committee for consideration as they look at possible amendments to this bill, beyond the ones I am suggesting. How would it work in practice with respect to an individual who has already gone through it? How do we ensure, going forward, that we do not see that kind of abuse again? I remember when Senator Lavigne was able to resign and keep his pension.

On that note, I will highlight what the law currently states. Currently, on the books for both the House of Commons and the other place, the Senate, if a member is convicted of a serious crime, he or she is to be evicted, and when that happens, that member loses his or her pension. The loophole, the out, is that he or she can resign before being ejected and in doing so can hold onto his or her pension. I believe we should close that loophole. If a member of either House is found to be guilty, their pension should be revoked automatically and that loophole should not exist.

I look forward to the committee's review and recommendations if we are successful going forward, as well as further consultation on this bill.

Petitions February 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I present a petition from my constituents on the changes that are happening at Canada Post. I, of course, have made my own views on the subject known by writing an article locally in the Saint Croix Courier. These are nonetheless the opinions of my constituents, and I table them with respect.

Legalization of Marijuana February 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this morning the Liberal justice critic told CBC Radio that a survey I sent to my constituents is fearmongering, because it reported the outcome of the Liberal plan to legalize marijuana. I noted that the Liberal leader had smoked weed as an MP while voting for tougher penalties against drug dealers; that the Liberal leader had promoted his plan to school kids in a school; that the Liberal policy is to legalize pot; and that the Liberals plan to sell marijuana in stores.

The Liberals do not want Canadians to know what will happen if pot if legalized, yet I take their leader at face value when he said, “My vision of what the legalization of marijuana would look like is loosely based on how we control alcohol”.

There are only two examples of how government regulates the sale of controlled substances: alcohol and tobacco. What other models are there? Alcohol is sold in stores all over Canada. Under the Liberal plan, pot too will be available in local stores, and if it is not, why legalize it?

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians Act December 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I believe it does because if we go through the Criminal Code we will see the crimes that are generally covered by that, first and foremost, involve a kind of scheming. They are not crimes that one would fall into by accident. More to the point, it is a maximum penalty of five or more years. That does disqualify a whole range of activities that someone could fall into through a lapse of judgment, for example. I would have to ask the member, because I am short on time, to review the Criminal Code.

What is important to avoid here is an example where someone like Lavigne is found guilty of breach of trust and then sentenced to six months, keeping his pension. This bill was designed, not with the penalty that was handed out, the jail time, but with the crime the individual is charged with. It would have to be a serious crime to trigger the loss of a pension.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians Act December 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I have been asked about that, the question of a spouse or dependent and how they might be impacted by the bill. I have a couple of thoughts on it.

The first is that we should not treat ourselves in a manner that is terribly different than ordinary Canadians. For example, if someone goes to prison today and that person has a spouse, it is difficult for that family but it is something they do without support from the state. Similarly, in my riding, if someone, for example, defrauds a government program, they not only could go to jail but they also lose the funding of that program, say employment insurance as an example. We do not, as a government or a country, make special restitutions for those kinds of examples.

Therefore, I am a bit wary of proceeding on a path as they did in the other place, where members are ejected but continue to collect their benefits in a way that I think is a bit offside with Canadian taxpayers.

My solution is that, should a member find himself or herself in a situation where they were disqualified from their pension, under Bill C-518 the amount that had been contributed by the member would be returned to the member with interest. That is no small amount. We currently pay about $11,000 or $12,000 a year toward our pensions. That is going to rise to about $38,000 a year, starting after 2016. If we look at that amount over 6 or 10 years, we begin to approach a fairly healthy amount, between $300,000 and $500,000 approximately. Therefore, that addresses the hon. member's concerns to a degree.

Having said that, if that is an avenue that other members want to pursue, I would be open to hearing about it. However, again, I would not want to have a loophole that is too large here, because the point of the bill is to send the signal to people to not break the rules. If they do not break the rules, the pension will be there for them.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians Act December 10th, 2013

moved that Bill C-518, an act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act (withdrawal allowance), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to start the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-518. Quite simply, this bill would penalize crooked, law-breaking politicians who fleece taxpayers by taking away their pensions.

I was the national director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation when the scandal surrounding former senator Lavigne unfolded. Like many Canadians, I was appalled at the details of the case. He quite literally stole money from taxpayers. He was ordered to repay tens of thousands of dollars for improper travel expenses. He used publicly funded staff to do his own personal chores. He was convicted in a court of law for breach of trust and fraud. Yet, while that man currently sits in prison, he is still collecting a taxpayer-sponsored pension because of a loophole.

Mr. Lavigne technically resigned as a senator before he was kicked out. According to the rules, when senators resign they get to hold on to their pension. Only when senators are forced out of office for breaking the law, or are otherwise disqualified, will they lose their pension. However, if they quit before they have the chance to get fired, they will be paid a parliamentary pension. That is exactly what Mr. Lavigne did. He fleeced taxpayers while in office and now he fleeces them still.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation calculates that former senator Lavigne is receiving $67,000 per year from his publicly funded pension. That is more than most Canadians earn from honest work in a full-time job.

More recently, we saw Mac Harb retire from the Senate after it was discovered that he had also been fleecing taxpayers. He qualifies for a pension estimated to be over $100,000 per year. The police are investigating his actions. Should he be charged and convicted, he will be in the same boat as disgraced former senator Lavigne, with taxpayers footing the bill again.

This situation is unacceptable. That is why I want to change the law to close the loophole that is currently letting politicians who abuse their office and swindle taxpayers get a taxpayer-funded retirement. That is what this protecting taxpayers and revoking pensions of convicted politicians act will do.

First, it would add a clause to the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act to take into account the situation where a senator or a member of Parliament is convicted of an offence that arose out of conduct that occurred while that individual was in office. It would do this by using the same mechanism that is already in place for politicians who become disqualified from holding their office. The law already takes into account a situation where senators are deemed disqualified. It states that senators will receive their pension contributions plus interest and not a penny more as a lump sum when he or she “...ceases to be a Senator by reason of disqualification or was expelled from the House of Commons”.

Whenever senators or members of Parliament are found to have committed reprehensible crimes while in office, whether or not they are still holding that office, they should have their pensions taken away. I am sure my colleagues will agree with me that we must get rid of the loophole that currently lets crooked politicians keep their pensions if they quit before they get fired. Thus, under my bill, convicted parliamentarians would not receive a pension but would be reimbursed only their pension contributions plus the earned interest.

Second, what I also want to accomplish with the bill is to make sure it will be applied for all future convictions of politicians, including for past malfeasance. For this reason, I have included a section clarifying that the charges contained in the bill would apply with respect to any person who is or was a member of the Senate or House of Commons and convicted after the date I introduced the bill, which was June 3, 2013.

Police investigations are currently under way to look into possible criminal breach of trust, theft or fraud. Charges may be forthcoming. If any of these potential charges result in a conviction, I would want to know that this loophole was closed in time.

Some have wondered if this bill, which would revoke the parliamentary pension of convicted politicians, is legal and have asked the following. Can the law be modified to repeal an entitlement? Can it be applied retroactively to the near past when the bill was tabled? Can it include a crime that occurred before even the tabling date?

I can answer with certainty; the answer is yes. Yes, we can repeal a parliamentary entitlement and, as I mentioned previously, the law already provides under what circumstances that can be done.

Indeed, I believe most analysts would agree there is not an issue on a go forward basis, that is, when the crime, the criminal charge, and the conviction, all happen after the bill is law, should it become law. However, of course, life is not that simple. We have several difficult cases before us now. They demand a remedy to protect taxpayers.

With regard to retroactivity to convictions after the tabling date of June 3 for crimes committed before that date, the answer again is yes and yes, and again with certainty. It can be done, for it has already been done.

Legislation passed earlier this year in Nova Scotia strips the pension of any lawmaker convicted of a crime for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment of no less than five years. The start date for that law was May 6, which was when the bill was tabled in the provincial legislature. The result was that in June an independent MLA lost his pension after pleading guilty to fraud and breach of trust charges arising from an expense scandal. He collected tax dollars after filing ten false expense claims in 2008 and 2009. Today he is not eligible to receive an MLA pension.

I believe that taxpayers expect similar accountability from Parliament. We have an opportunity to stand with taxpayers, should any parliamentarian be found guilty of a serious crime in the future.

Some have expressed concerns that the bill is too harsh. The bar that I have set in the bill would strip the pensions away from any MP or senator who commits a crime with a maximum punishment of two years or more.

During my consultations, it was brought to my attention that there are some crimes in the Criminal Code with a maximum penalty of two years, for which I do not think a politician should lose their pension. There are many different crimes. I will not go through the entire list, but I hardly think that a member of Parliament should lose their pension for being convicted of blasphemous libel. Neither do I think it is necessary to strip a pension away from someone who gives a false alarm of fire. It is also conceivable that somebody could technically be guilty of crimes without the offence being so egregious that it should be grounds for losing a pension.

I think all hon. members would agree that if we were to proceed with the bill, we should do so thoughtfully and carefully, to avoid unjustly revoking a parliamentary pension. I am therefore open to suggestions for improving the bill in this regard.

The best suggestion I have heard so far, and with which I agree, is to limit the scope and to raise the bar. The bill currently would apply to any federal statute, again, with a penalty of two years or more as the maximum. I think it would be fair to limit the scope to only include the Criminal Code.

As I mentioned a moment ago, the bill would apply to violations for which the maximum penalty is two or more years. It would be fair to raise the bar and only consider indictable offences in which the maximum penalty is five or more years. I will therefore be moving and endorsing this higher five-year threshold at amendment stage. In doing so, this federal act would be virtually identical to provincial law in Nova Scotia.

I believe that my bill is an appropriate response to the unfortunate actions of a handful of people. Both of these modifications would keep the spirit of the bill entirely intact. Fraud and breach of trust would both still result in a loss of pension.

The message I want to send is very simple. If a senator or an MP steals from taxpayers, they do not deserve to have taxpayers buy them or fund them a gold-plated retirement. I trust all hon. members would agree.