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Track Robert

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is deal.

NDP MP for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 36.30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question, and one that has been raised before in the House. One thing New Democrats have said is that the government is failing to recognize how important it is to have a properly balanced and diversified economy, and we have particularly talked about this in the area of trade. We are the only industrialized country in the G7 that does not have an industrial strategy to ensure we know what is going on in the various sectors of our economy, so that we sign trade deals that actually make sense for our economy and that we can adapt to changes in the world economy that have affected the natural resources industry.

Business of Supply January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North is absolutely correct. Why should we believe them?

However, let me take the opportunity to raise something else that is very serious, and that is the whole question of income inequality and the fact that, while the incomes of the top 1% have been surging for decades, typical Canadian families have seen their incomes fall over the past 35 years. When the data is examined, we understand that over the past 35 years 94% of the inequality, the gap we are talking about, happened under Liberal governments.

Business of Supply January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to talk about other governments. I am not going to talk about 10 years ago. However, I could, because that government was re-elected four times because it was providing important leadership in Saskatchewan.

However, I just want to ask that member this. The public debt of the federal government has gone from $457.6 billion in 2008-2009 to $618 billion. That is $161.3 billion in additional debt over the past seven years. Who is responsible for that? Whose policies are responsible for running up the debt and for putting future generations in hock?

Business of Supply January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak for a few moments on this important motion, a motion that was introduced by my colleague, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. It calls on the government to immediately present economic and fiscal updates to Parliament outlining the state of the nation's finances, in light of the unstable economic situation, and to prepare a budget that addresses the economic challenges faced by the middle class by creating more good quality, full-time jobs and by encouraging economic diversification.

It is important that the government has decided to postpone its budget from possibly this week or next to some time in April. It has not said exactly when. Conservatives have done that based on the fact that over the past year, oil prices have dropped by 40%. They have suggested that as a result of the unstable nature of the economy, they need more time, to do what exactly I am not sure, but I assume it is to work on the budget.

It is interesting, because the Conservatives are not going to change anything. Six months ago, when the price of oil was in the $80-a-barrel range, they said they were going to balance the budget and have a surplus. They brought in an income splitting plan that would cost $2 billion that would benefit only 3% of the Canadian population, the more wealthy families in this country, and there were other strategies to do that. Now that the price is in the area of $50, they say that they are still going to do the same.

What is it? Is it unstable economic times? Is it not unstable economic times? Are they going to have to change the budget, or are they not going to change the budget? Why are they waiting? If they are so convinced that they can hold the course, why do they not be clear with Canadians? Let us know. Canadians deserve to be treated like adults. They can handle the truth. They demand the truth, frankly. They want to know exactly what the government has in mind.

I listened to some of the speeches of the members opposite. I have been in this business a long time, and I should know by now not to listen, but I do, and I continue to get as tired and annoyed when I hear the nonsense about balancing the budget to prevent generations down the road having to pay the cost. That is a good sentiment, and I agree with paying our way. I agree with living within our means and making sure that we can afford to do what it is that we do. However, that is absolutely not what the government has done.

In 2008-09, the debt was just under $457 billion. In 2014, the budget debt is estimated to grow to $618.9 billion. That is an expense that future generations are going to be responsible for. I recognize the idea of balancing our books, the operating deficit, and having a surplus so that we can pay down that debt. However, that is not what the government has done. It has done just the opposite. It has confounded economic principles and has spent in the good times and not spent in the bad times to stimulate the economy. It completely flies in the face of the economy.

On top of that, Conservatives have put the handcuffs on the federal government's capacity to bring in revenues to deal with our operating expenses so that we can pay down that debt. They have forgone taxes from the corporate sector in particular, but also from wealthy Canadians, in the last four or five years, from 2010-14, to the tune $14 billion as a result of corporate tax cuts.

My point is that if we are going to keep reducing the fiscal capacity of the government to provide programs, to provide services, and to operate the things the current government does, then we are not going to be able to pay our bills when times get tough. That is the issue.

The Conservative government continued to spend in the good times. Now we are seeing the austerity program. It is chopping departments, laying off staff, freezing wages, and downloading to the provinces. Do members know that the total national debt in the public sector in this country has risen to $1.2 trillion? That is the amount the public sector owes. That is the amount all Canadians are responsible for.

We know that there is only one taxpayer. The federal government may be able to say, “We are lowering taxes and putting money back into the hands of wealthy Canadians and a few individuals from here and there, so we are able to reduce our operating costs”. However, it is downloading all that cost to not only provinces and municipalities but to individuals, to the point where we are running up a debt that is completely and utterly stifling.

The minimum wage in Canada since 1970 has increased by one penny. We have an infrastructure deficit, as determined by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, in the area of $200 billion. Who is going to pay that? If the government does not manage its ability to deliver programs and services and to make the kind of investments that are necessary, then someone is going to have to pay, but they are going to have to pay down the road.

This idea that the government is reducing taxes, that it is going to balance the budget, and that somehow it is going to benefit generations is absolutely nuts.

What we need, I believe, and what we have heard from this caucus, is a government that is going to start showing some confidence in Canadians, that is going to start making investments so that our young people are able to find work, meaningful work, in their communities, in provinces where they live, and are able to earn a reasonable, family-sustaining wage to help grow the economy, pay into pensions, and pay down the debt the current government continues to grow. Those are the kinds of investments we have laid out.

We have talked about affordable child care, $15-a-day child care. We have talked about leading the way with a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. Just today our leader talked about extending for two more years the accelerated capital cost allowance to ensure that we encourage businesses, industries, and manufacturers to make investments. We have done the same thing with the innovation tax credit to promote innovation, research, and development. We are proposing to cut the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%.

Those are investments. That is working with the people in our constituencies across the country, from one end to the other, to grow the economy, to build strong communities that families can grow and can thrive in. That is the kind of leadership we need. That is why we need to support the motion introduced by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

Public Safety January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about disaster relief for the provinces. The current government, without any notice, has tripled the threshold to qualify for disaster relief. In Nova Scotia, for example, that means that in the past 20 years, they would have had to forgo $20 million.

The question is really simple. Why is the government downloading again to the provinces? Why does it figure the provinces have to carry this on their own?

Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time, not the two minutes, but what is left of it thereafter.

I am pleased to rise and speak for a few minutes on Bill C-21. I have listened to much of the debate. It is interesting to note that it is always said that if regulation and red tape were removed, that would be of benefit to small business.

Regulations, like laws, have been established to protect our economy and our communities and to ensure the proper operation of our economy and our communities to the benefit of small and large businesses and individual citizens, and to try to ensure their safety through the administration of our food and transportation systems, and others.

If the government is not paying attention to regulations and to ensuring that counter-productive, wrong-headed, and inefficient ones are not dealt with, then it is not doing its job. Wrapping up that commitment under a cute little title called “one-for-one” is not going to make any difference. Many of the small business people that I talk to in my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour are not easily fooled by this kind of sloganeering and campaigning.

All the government wants to be able to do with Bill C-21 is to ensure that when the election is called, it is able to put up a sign repeating the slogan that it has reduced red tape. The government should be doing its job and making sure that it gets rid of inefficient regulations while ensuring the protection of Canadians.

Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raised a concern, and I would like her to speak to it a bit more.

One of the issues and concerns that members of this caucus had about the bill was that there was nothing in it, other than in the preamble, that protected health and safety regulations and ensured that the health and safety of workers throughout this country were protected.

We are concerned about this aspect because the current government does not have a good record when it comes to safety regulations. The Conservative governments and the Liberal governments before them have been very much in favour of voluntary regulation. That is the direction that they followed as it relates to both transportation and food security.

I would like to ask the member if she would comment. Regardless of the concerns that have been raised, regardless of the fact that the Conservatives continue to say that this bill would not affect health and safety regulations, can the member explain why she thinks the government failed to accept any of our amendments that would have ensured that the protection of health and safety regulations was spelled out clearly in the text of this bill?

Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I too want to congratulate my colleague for the new file he has taken on, working with small business and bringing concerns to the House.

I would like him to expand a little more on the fact that there is nothing right now that prevents the Conservative government, or any other government, for that matter, getting rid of any regulations that are outdated, are not working, or are in the way. Part of the problem, of course, is that the government has gutted so many of the departments of public servants that maybe that is one of the activities that is not being done. “One-for-one” is a cute little phrase and we can see it as a campaign slogan, but there is absolutely nothing that prevents a good, responsible government, with solid administration, from actually doing the job of making sure that regulations are up to date and effective.

My concern is what the member has talked about, the whole issue of the safety of transportation, food safety, and safety in other areas. I would like the member to comment, if he would, on those points and any government worth its salt not being on top of this without a cute little slogan.

Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I was interested in some of the comments that my friend and colleague made about the bill. It sounded as though he may think that the one-for-one idea is a bit of a gimmick as it relates to the current government's commitment to actually removing red tape, especially in light of the fact that I hear from small- and medium-sized businesses that they are frustrated to the nth degree when it comes to dealing with issues like eligibility on employment insurance forms, for example, and all of those issues. The government keeps piling on these requirements and does not seem to be worried about red tape.

As well, there was the point the member brought up on the infrastructure program. Municipalities have to jump through hoops that are delaying the moving of money out of government offices by upwards of 18 months now, I think he said. It is incredible, frankly.

I would like to ask the member to expand on what I think is his conclusion, which is that the bill and this one-for-one business are simply nothing more than a gimmick.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns January 26th, 2015

With regard to Service Canada: for the past five fiscal years, (a) how many staff in the Integrity unit have been allocated in each year to (i) Employment Insurance (EI), (ii) the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), (iii) Old Age Security (OAS), (iv) Canada Pension Plan (CPP); (b) what is the average caseload for EI inspectors annually; (c) how many EI overpayments have been made annually by number and by amount; (d) how many EI overpayments have been collected annually by number and by amount; (e) how many EI overpayments have been written off annually by number and by amount; (f) what is the average caseload for CPP inspectors annually; (g) how many CPP overpayments have been made annually by number and by amount; (h) how many CPP overpayments have been collected annually by number and by amount; (i) how many CPP overpayments have been written off annually by number and by amount; (j) what is the average caseload for OAS inspectors annually; (k) how many OAS overpayments have been made annually by number and by amount; (l) how many OAS overpayments have been collected annually by number and by amount; (m) how many OAS overpayments have been written off annually by number and by amount; (n) what is the average caseload for TFWP inspectors; (o) what is the number of Service Canada employees on long-term disability leave every year, excluding those on parental leave, in total and broken down by (i) EI call centres, (ii) EI processing centres, (iii) CPP and OAS call centres, (iv) Labour Market Impact Assessment processing centres; (p) what is the definition for the performance indicator “future expenditure reduction” for the Integrity Section listed in the 2013-2014 Departmental Performance Report; and (q) what has been the Department’s performance on “future expenditure reduction” annually, broken down by (i) EI, (ii) CPP, (iii) OAS?