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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was need.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 35.10% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Questions on the Order Paper March 25th, 2011

With regard to possible tax evasion in Switzerland: (a) how many Canadians have been identified as having undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland; (b) what action, if any, has been taken by Canadian officials to recover unpaid taxes associated with Canadians' undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland; (c) how many identified Canadians have availed themselves of the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP) with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA); (d) how many identified Canadian accounts have settled with the CRA; (e) how much money has the CRA assessed as a result of investigating these secret banks accounts in Switzerland (i) in unpaid taxes, (ii) in interest, (iii) in fines, (iv) in penalties; (f) how much of the money in (e) has been collected; (g) how many of the cases are under appeal; (h) how many cases remain open; (i) how many more cases does the CRA anticipate will be opened; (j) how many cases have been closed (i.e., the full amount of taxes, interest, fines and penalties have been collected); (k) how much money in (j) has been collected (i) in unpaid taxes, (ii) in interest, (iii) in fines, (iv) in penalties; (l) how many account holders in the cases have made partial payment; (m) of the partial payments made, what was the (i) largest amount, (ii) smallest amount, (iii) average amount; (n) how much does the CRA anticipate it has yet to collect in (i) taxes, (ii) interest, (iii) fines, (iv) penalties; (o) of the amounts of money contained in the Switzerland accounts declared or discovered by CRA, what was the (i) largest amount, (ii) smallest amount, (iii) average amount; (p) on what date was the CRA first made aware of the names of Canadians with accounts in Switzerland; (q) on what date did the CRA begin its investigation; (r) on what date did the first audit of an individual account holder begin; (s) how many of the identified Canadians with bank accounts in Switzerland (i) have had their account or accounts audited, (ii) have had their account or accounts reassessed, (iii) have been the subject of a compliance action; (t) how many of the identified Canadians with bank accounts in Switzerland (i) have not had their account or accounts audited, (ii) have not had their account or accounts reassessed, (iii) have not been the subject of a compliance action; (u) how many tax evasion charges were laid; and (v) has the government made any changes to the VDP in the past 24 months?

G8 Summit March 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the government offers pennies for seniors and pennies for students, which is its tough on families agenda, but over $1 billion on a bloated G8 summit. The government will not even acknowledge that Canadians want answers.

On April 5 the report of the Auditor General into the $1 billion summit will be available. The question is whether Canadians will get to see it. Sheila Fraser's report on this is critical.

Will the government stop hiding information and ensure just for once it does the right thing and her work is made public as soon as it is ready?

Government Spending March 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Canadian families need a government that cares. After five years of an uncaring government, Canadians are more worried about how to pay for their children's education, how to care for their aging parents, where to find child care spaces, and how to get a secure pension.

There are people without jobs and jobs without people. Poverty is rising, food banks are full, and many are homeless. This is a serious time and yet the Conservatives chose to invest in prisons, untendered jets, big corporations, and a bloated G8 summit instead of students, seniors and families.

What is the minister going to say to all the people she has insulted and offended when she meets them on the doorstep?

Protection of Beneficiaries of Long Term Disability Benefits Plans Act March 11th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-624 brought forward by my colleague and my friend from Sydney—Victoria.

The member has a history of standing up for people who need help. His bill on extending employment insurance sick benefits from 15 to 50 weeks was a very well crafted piece of legislation as well. It passed through the House and went to committee where we heard from a number of stakeholders who said this is exactly what is needed. The bill passed at committee and came back to the House. It needed a royal recommendation which the government refused to give.

The member has done his homework, as he always does. He stands up for people who need help, whether it was getting money for the tar ponds, or whether it was forcing the government to come forward with money for the dredging of Sydney Harbour. He has always done the work. He has led the way, and I am sure he will do that for many years to come in this place.

Bill C-624 would protect beneficiaries under long-term disability plans by giving them preferred status. As my colleague said, this is not about pensions. This is about long-term disability. My NDP colleague who just spoke mentioned the Urquharts and the work that they have done.

I had the opportunity to meet with Nortel workers in my office. It is a very sobering experience to sit in an office with a number of people who have multiple sclerosis, cancer, crohn's disease. These people cannot work, not because they do not want to work, but because they cannot work.

All of a sudden the money they have to live on in long-term disability is being reduced in some cases by over $2,000 to $300 or $400 a month. I would like members to think about that. All members in this House make $150,000 or more. How would we be able to live on 20% of that salary? At least we would have the opportunity go out and work and add to that, but it is very difficult to do that when one has advanced multiple sclerosis or cancer. This is a fundamental issue of fairness. There are 400 Nortel workers affected by this and there are many others across the country. Imagine living on 20% of a salary that is pretty meagre to begin with.

I asked a question earlier in the House about what people with disabilities make in this country compared to what was paid out to the former Integrity Commissioner. The average salary for a person with a disability is $28,000 a year. Some of these people have families to support on that. Why add to that burden? It makes no sense.

Other countries have done this. Studies by the OECD and the World Bank indicate that well over half of the countries that we would consider comparable have some kind of pension protection. Countries like Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. have preferred status for people on long-term disability.

We pride ourselves in Canada on our social infrastructure. We pride ourselves on the way we stand up for people who need help but we do not always help them. This bill provides us with an opportunity to do that. This bill provides us with an opportunity to put a stake in the ground and say that this is patently unfair. We pride ourselves here in Canada on what we do to protect people who need help. Sometimes we miss that opportunity. We do things individually and collectively as members of Parliament to try to help the people in our constituencies. What happens to people whose companies have experienced a downturn and go bankrupt?

I had a similar experience in my constituency a couple of years ago. The Moirs plant, a well-known company in Dartmouth that has been there for many decades, all of a sudden went out of business. The union came to see me and asked me for help. Monte Solberg, who was the minister of human resources at the time, was somewhat helpful in that regard. The people at Service Canada went out of their way to ensure that we could help those folks. But they did not lose their pensions in the way the Nortel workers did.

How many people in this country think they have a solid pension and/or disability plan? The people at Nortel certainly did. Who would have thought 10 or 15 years ago that Nortel would go under? Who would have thought this would happen? Who would have thought that their pension and their long-term disability was self-insured? They were not given any reason to believe that. All of a sudden, through no fault of their own, they are without luck.

There are enough problems for people already in this country, particularly through the economic downturn that we had. People at home spend nights at the kitchen table wondering how to make ends meet, how to pay for gas when the price of gas is where it is. They see articles about the price of food going up. The cost of sending their kids to post-secondary education has skyrocketed in the last couple of decades. People are sitting down everywhere across this country and asking, “How do I stretch what I make? How do I do it? What is my pension like?”

There are a million Canadians who probably think they have a long-term plan or a pension plan who do not even have it. Add to that the fact that three-quarters of people who work in private companies do not have pension plans to begin with. People are concerned. They are scared. They do not know where to turn.

Credit card debt is through the roof. People are being dinged exorbitant rates of interest on their credit cards. People just do not have the ability to stretch their paycheques to cover their expenses. They worry about paying for their kids' post-secondary education. Many of them cannot afford RESPs and things like them that perhaps we have the benefit and luxury of doing.

Government has a responsibility to assist in those areas. People do not ask that much from government, but what they do ask for is some consideration of their circumstances. They sit at the kitchen table trying to match what comes with what goes out. When what comes in goes down by 80%, who among us could survive that? We need to do more. We need to help.

This bill initially was brought forward by Senator Art Eggleton, who has done a lot of work on issues of poverty as well. He is somebody for whom I have great regard and respect. He has done a lot of work on the social condition in Canada.

This bill had a chance to be passed by the Senate just before Christmas. The night the Conservatives had their big Christmas party, the night the Prime Minister sang and played piano for his caucus, the night they were making merry in Centre Block, enough senators snuck away from the merriment to kill the bill.

Now my colleague from Sydney—Victoria has picked up the challenge. He said that someone has to stand up for these people. These are not people who are hurt because of anything that they have done. They are hurt because of circumstances beyond their control.

Let us think about who is at stake. Let us think about the people we are talking about. Let us think about people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, and other debilitating diseases. They are trying to survive on a pension of $2,000 or $3,000 a month, on top of which there are medical bills, on top of which there are all kinds of other concerns. All of a sudden, they are left defenceless and their income is chopped.

How do we tell people with advanced multiple sclerosis to go out and make the money that they have lost in their long-term disability? It cannot be done.

We need to do something. I have never been one to say that government has all the answers, because I do not believe that government has all the answers. Sometimes government does not even know the question. In this case we know the question and we know the answer. The question is, how do we stand up for workers who, through absolutely no fault of their own, have been let down by their company, who thought they were protected and it turns out they are not? They are looking to us to stand up and do something.

Well, we can do something. It is within our power to do something about the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. We have the chance to do it. Bill C-624 is a very important step.

Again I want to congratulate both Senator Eggleton and my colleague from Sydney—Victoria. I also want to thank my colleague from York West who is our critic for seniors. She has been tireless in her support of workers, whether it is on retirement or long-term disability issues. She has been on the front lines, making sure her voice is the voice for people who need a voice in Parliament.

If there is one thing we should all do as parliamentarians, it is stand up for people who need help. There are all kinds of people in this country who will stand up for people who do not need help. There are chambers of commerce and business organizations, labour unions and lots of other organizations. What we need to do as parliamentarians is stand up for those who do not have a voice, for those who are stuck in a situation that they did not create, over which they have no control, and out of which there seems to be no solution.

Bill C-624 is a solution.

Protection of Beneficiaries of Long Term Disability Benefits Plans Act March 11th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I recall when the member's private member's bill to extend EI sickness benefits to 50 weeks came to the committee that I was on and everybody supported it.

This bill that we are debating today died in the Senate. The member may recall the circumstances. It was the night that the Prime Minister was singing to his colleagues in the hall. However, enough Conservative senators snuck away from the bar and the merriment to kill the member's hopes and dreams in a vote in the Senate that night.

Is that the way legislation should be dealt with in either Houses of this Parliament?

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act March 11th, 2011

This very good letter outlines some facts. It said:

I was puzzled to read reports in which you defended the latest Senate appointments as necessary to allow your Government “to move forward on [y]our tackling-crime agenda.” You accused the Liberal opposition of having “obstructed that agenda in the Senate.”

If members knew Senator Cowan as I do, they would know that he always assumed the most purest of motives about anybody. He said:

I can only assume that you have been misinformed as to the progress of anti-crime legislation. In fact, as I am sure your Cabinet colleague, Senator Marjory LeBreton, would tell you, the overwhelming majority of your Government’s anti-crime bills had not even reached the Senate when [the] Prime Minister...chose to prorogue Parliament. Indeed, an honest examination of the record compels one to acknowledge that the greatest delays to implementation of your justice agenda have resulted from your own Government’s actions--sitting on bills and not bringing them forward for debate, delaying bringing legislation into force, and ultimately, of course, proroguing Parliament. That action alone caused some 18 of your justice-related bills to die on the Order Paper.

He goes on in his helpful way to further enunciate the status of those bills. He says:

Your Government introduced 19 justice-related bills in the House of Commons. Of these, 14 were still in the House of Commons at prorogation. Of the five justice bills that passed the House of Commons and came to the Senate:

two passed the Senate without amendment;

one (the so-called Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime bill) was tabled by your Government in November in the Senate but not brought forward for further action after that;

one was passed with four amendments and returned to the House of Commons which did not deal with it before Parliament was prorogued; and

one was being studied in committee when Parliament was prorogued and all committee work shut down.

He goes into a bit more detail on exactly what happened with the government's alleged tough on crime agenda.

There have been a number of initiatives and we have been supportive of just about all of those bills. However, we have had concerns because some of the bills have come to us with very little or misleading information. I think about what we could do for the health of our children. One of those, in fairness to the minister, is to deal with it in the way that Bill C-54 would.

When we look at any societal problem, we need to do two things. We need to ask if there are regulations in place that ensure we are protecting our children from being exploited or hurt in this manner. There not only needs to be a legislative response but also a response that looks at the causes of the issue that we are trying to prevent.

If we could invest more money in the boys and girls clubs, we would need less prisons. If we could invest more money in early learning and child care, we would need less prisons. The studies on the impact of early learning and child care on criminal behaviour are absolutely amazing. If we want to reduce the amount of money that we need to spend on prisons, then we should invest in reducing poverty.

Just this week, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development snuck in a totally inadequate response to a poverty report done by all members of this House, including members of her own party. We have heard from people like Don Drummond and just about every social policy organization, including the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. We have seen the impact that can be made on reducing criminal justice by investing in reducing poverty. We would see huge reductions in health costs as well. A report organized by the food banks in Ontario, which Don Drummond was part of, said that by reducing poverty we would reduce criminal justice costs in Ontario alone by some $600 million in a year.

We are on a failed course in terms of criminal justice. Those who the government emulates on criminal justice, who are the hard right Republicans in the United States, have had an epiphany, a change of course.

Newt Gingrich, who will be running for president in 2012, was one of the architects of this new tough on crime agenda. It was part of the contract with America in, I believe, 1994. The Americans were saying that they needed to invest in prisons, that they needed to spend money on our prisons, that they needed to put people behind bars because that is how to deal with these situations.

On January 7, 2011, Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post titled “Prison reform: A smart way for states to save money and lives”. This is an amazing document that repudiates the alleged tough on crime agenda of the eighties and nineties that put so many Americans behind bars. The article reads:

There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential. We spent $68 billion in 2010 on corrections--300% more than 25 years ago. The prison population is growing 13 times faster than the general population. These facts should trouble every American.

Our prisons might be worth the current cost if the recidivism rate were not so high, but...half of the prisoners released this year are expected to be back in prison within three years. If our prison policies are failing half of the time, and we know that there are more humane, effective alternatives, it is time to fundamentally rethink how we treat and rehabilitate our prisoners.

That is a pretty powerful statement.

What Mr. Gingrich is calling for is a Conservative response to what the Conservatives caused in the last two or three decades with this “tough on crime” approach, which has not reduced crime. In fact, the article goes on to say:

Some people attribute [this] to more people being locked up. But the facts show otherwise. While crime...some of those with the largest reductions in crime have also lowered their prison population. Compare Florida and New York. Over the past seven years, Florida's incarceration rate has increased 16 percent, while New York's decreased 16 percent. Yet the crime rate in New York has fallen twice as much as Florida's. Put another way, although New York spent less on its prisons, it delivered better public safety. Americans need to know that we can reform our prison systems to cost less and keep the public safe.

Asa Hutchinson was quoted recently in the Globe and Mail on March 3 talking about these same issues. Part of that article reported that:

Because of tough criminal justice policies in the United States, one in every 100 American adults is behind bars--up from one in 400....

Mr. Hutchinson was also stated:

The United States has five per cent of the world’s population but 23 per cent of the world’s recorded prisoners.

That was an admission that there was a failed policy brought into the United States to jail more people and spend more money on prisons. The problem is that it did not reduce crime, but it cost a lot of money. We know the condition of the American economy and the situation that it is in.

The case is very clear. In all cases, throwing more money into prisons and locking more people up does not work. We are not be looking at the causes of crime and the root issues that create criminal intent in our young people. We are not investing in early learning and child care. We are not doing very much to equalize out the opportunity. It does not need to be all kinds of government spending. It could be targeted support for our wonderful Boys and Girls Club.

Tomorrow I will be bowling in Halifax for the Big Brothers Big Sisters. Let us think about the work it does to reduce crime in our communities and the work it does to mentor young Canadians so they do not, as a first instinct, think about becoming a criminal but instead think about the dignity and self-worth they have as individuals. Those are the kinds of things we should be investing more in if we are going to be reducing crime.

I appreciate the minister's indulgence in being here for the discussion on this debate. I commend him on this bill but, overall, I think the justice agenda of the government is taking us in a wrong direction. We cannot even get the exact costs of what the government is proposing in terms of building these mega prisons. It seems that building more prisons is the Conservatives' answer to a national housing strategy but it is not. If we want to keep people out of prison, one way to start is to ensure people have a roof over their heads when they go to sleep at night. We need to provide those kinds of supports that Canadians need.

I am pleased to support this bill. Our Liberal critic, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, has worked very hard on these issues and will also support the bill. It is a sensible bill under the circumstances. We worry about our kids and we want to give them all the tools they need to be happy, healthy and productive adults. From a government point of view, there is a responsibility on us as legislators to recognize that the world is changing.

I support Bill C-54 and I urge other members to do the same.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act March 11th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-54. We have dealt with a lot of justice issues in the House. I follow all of them very carefully and, when I have the opportunity, I contribute to the debate. I am not a lawyer, although I have often been accused of being one, so I often let the people who have done this for a living handle the major bulk of the debates, but I have always been very interested, as are all members.

I am pleased to see Bill C-54. I think there is some work to be done, and with this piece of legislation, I wonder whether not being a lawyer is a detriment or not. One thing that makes us interested in this legislation in particular is our being parents, as many of us are, or grandparents. That is not to say that people who are not parents do not have an interest in what is happening with children.

I have a child who is now a teenager and one who is getting there rapidly. I worry about what happens with my children. People worry in this day and age with the new communications tools that are available to children. We try to monitor them, but there are lots of different things that people worry about when it comes to the exploitation of children.

I have organized how I am going to speak to this bill for the next few minutes. There could be up to 30 million Canadians watching this and I want them to be able to judge their time. This bill is important. I want to talk about the sexual exploitation of children, what happens and how often it happens. I want to set it in the overall context of the crime agenda of the government, and I will have a few comments about what people have to say about it. Then I will come back to the bill and conclude.

As has been noted, Bill C-54 seeks to amend the Criminal Code to introduce or extend mandatory penalties for crimes against children of a sexual nature and to introduce two new offences. We support this legislation. We are very concerned about the safety of our children. We recognize that times are changing and there are different threats to our children than used to exist.

It was the former Liberal government in 2002 that made it illegal to deliberately access a website containing child pornography. In an age where new technologies have the negative effect of increasing access of our children, we need to be responsible and have a look at the Criminal Code to ensure it is up to date.

This bill would introduce mandatory minimum sentences for seven existing Criminal Code offences, including sexual assault on a person under 16 years of age, luring a child, and conducting an indecent act in the presence of a child. It would also increase mandatory sentences for seven sexual offences involving child victims.

I think generally members of the House are going to support this bill. I am not sure but I think the New Democrats and the Bloc are going to support sending the bill to committee. There is a legitimate concern, which I understand and in many ways share, about mandatory minimums. They are controversial. There is a lot of conflicting evidence as to whether mandatory minimums work.

We supported mandatory minimums as a government. The Liberal government brought in some mandatory minimums. We do not think they work in all cases, which I will get to later, but we think in this instance they are appropriate.

The Department of Justice has a family violence initiative website. Let me preface my comments by mentioning people who have come to my constituency office, as people go to the offices of all members, with their concerns. It is pretty disconcerting when they visit their MPs to say they think the law needs to be changed because of something that happened in their own families and then they provide the details of what happened to their children.

In many ways, we are powerless to help these folks. We want to reach out and help them. One way we can help them, of course, is by bringing their stories to Parliament to try to make sure the laws of the land respond to their concerns and the wishes they extend.

The family violence initiative website states:

The sexual abuse and exploitation of children and youth may involve a range of behaviours....Sexual exploitation may involve prostitution as well as making children and youth participate in pornographic acts or performances for personal or commercial use.

Those are fairly serious issues. The question is:

HOW WIDESPREAD IS SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN CANADA?

Further on it states:

However, the available national data indicates that sexual abuse and exploitation of children and youth is disturbingly common in Canada.

It was not recognized as a problem in Canada until the 1984 Badgley report. All evidence we have indicates that this is a very serious issue.

As to the extent of sexual abuse and exploitation, in 2002, 8,800 sexual assaults against children and youth were reported to a subset of 94 police departments in Canada. This included 2,863 sexual assaults against children and youth by family members. This is pretty disturbing. Sexual abuse was the primary reason for investigation in 10% of all child maltreatment referrals to social service agencies.

There is some very good information in terms of types of sexual abuse. According to the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, the most common form of substantiated child sexual abuse in child protection cases was touching and fondling of children. It goes on to talk about other things that are more graphic than that, which I probably do not need to recite here but which need to be brought to the attention of parliamentarians.

Who is doing these crimes? The perpetrators are more often individuals who know the victim rather than strangers. About half of sexual assaults against children and youth reported to a subset of police departments in 2002 involved friends or acquaintances, while a quarter of those assaults involved family members. About 18% involved assaults by strangers. Most but not all are male.

There is a bit of a pattern. We have some information that has been gathered over the years on who is committing these heinous acts against our children. What has been done about it? There have been a number of pieces of legislation that have been brought to this House, mainly by Liberal governments over the years.

Bill C-2, introduced October 8, 2004, proposing amendments to the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act that are intended to protect children and others who are vulnerable. It lists all the things that it did, expanding the scope of existing offences, narrowing the availability of statutory defences, composing the creation of new offences, voyeurism, proposes amendments allowing children and other vulnerable witnesses greater access to aids. I will mention a few of them.

Bill C-15A, proclaimed into force in July 2002, created new Criminal Code offences.

Bill C-7, which is the Youth Criminal Justice Act, replaced the Young Offenders Act. It holds young people accountable for their actions through interventions that are fair and in proportion to the seriousness of the offence committed.

Bill C-79, proclaimed in 1999, amends the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act to facilitate the participation of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process.

I will not go through all of the bills, but they include: Bill C-27 in 1997; Bill C-46 in 1997; Bill C-41 in 1995; Bill C-42; Bill C-72; Bill C-126; Bill C-49; and Bill C-15. These are all relatively recent pieces of legislation that address the issue of sexual exploitation of children.

We have to accept the fact that there is a problem. Part of that is the changing technology, the changing way children communicate with other children and adults, and sometimes we do not even know who our children are communicating with. I am sure I am no different from any other parent in this place in that we try to keep an eye on those sorts of things. We want our children to be aware of what is happening around them.

We support this legislation. I want to put this in context of the greater criminal justice agenda of the government. Today, we have come together. I think all four parties are speeding up the process so that we can deal with this bill and get it to the Senate so that it can be adopted. The Minister of Justice no doubt is very appreciative of the support of all parties so that we can get this done. However, he has not always been so appreciative of the support of the Liberal Party.

One of my favourite letters that I have seen, and I am sure the minister has had a chance to look at it extensively, is one from February 4 of last year. Senator Cowan sent a very affectionate letter to the Minister of Justice responding to concerns the government had that the Senate was holding up all kinds of legislation. I wonder if the minister remembers that letter.

Persons with Disabilities March 11th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are outraged at the $534,000 of hush money paid to the former integrity commissioner. That is an obscene amount of money. The average adult with a disability in Canada makes $28,503. We need to think about that. That is about one-twentieth of the current cost of silence that the government pays.

A year ago, the government finally ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities but since then has done nothing. If the Conservatives had true integrity, would they not pay less to cover up their mistakes and a little more for people with disabilities?

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act March 11th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore is a very passionate defender of veterans and veterans rights.

Last Friday I met with somebody who had been employed in the military in Gagetown. This individual had medical evidence indicating he had been afflicted with a disease that he contracted from serving in Gagetown. Because he finished his service a few months before the deadline of 1960 to 1970, he does not qualify. These arbitrary deadlines of who qualifies for programs and who does not leave a lot of veterans at home. They leave a lot of veterans without any support.

I do not dispute the number mentioned by the member. We were told at committee that the number was supposed to be 2,500. If it is less than that, then that is wrong.

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act March 11th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the point is when people serve in the Canadian Forces, that is their employer. The Canadian government is not only their employer, but also provides other benefits, just as it does to other people who get benefits from their employers and still are entitled to benefits from the Government of Canada. There is an awful lot of veterans in our country who are not receiving benefits, or cannot get benefits or have trouble getting benefits and they end up in the offices of parliamentarians. We can do a lot better.

Any time the minister has been in Halifax, he has been very gracious in ensuring that parliamentarians of all stripes are brought forward at meetings, commendation ceremonies and things like that. That does not happen with departments. It has been my experience that, as minister, he has been gracious in ensuring the veterans issue is as non-partisan as possible.

While we all support Bill C-55, any MP who meets with veterans in his or her office, and I meet with a lot of them, knows we need to do a lot more. This needs to be the start and not the end of the journey.