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NDP MP for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia)

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

Statements in the House

National Defence November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, because of Conservative mismanagement, our navy now faces a seven-year period with no re-supply capacity. The minister's original plan has clearly fallen through. His promises that the navy's capabilities would be unaffected are in doubt. The minister will soon have before him a number of options to deal with this service gap. Could he share with us how much the Conservative government's mismanagement will cost Canadians?

Red Tape Reduction Act November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I feel duly admonished and look forward to my committee meeting.

The businesses in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour are responsible. They want to make sure that the way they are governed by regulation is done in a responsible manner. They are also concerned about issues such as food safety and health and safety, and even though it may slow things down a little here and there, they want to make sure that workers in their workplaces are safe and that the regulations will help that happen. If there is a tragedy or accident, that will surely not only slow down business but increase worker compensation rates.

Those are the kinds of things that people have to consider when they are looking at regulations. It is not a zero-sum game for just one side. All of the elements that go into whether a regulation is in the business interest or the public interest have to be considered.

Red Tape Reduction Act November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, let me respond this way. I enjoy attending the committee that the member chairs. He does a fine job. I have had the opportunity to attend other committee hearings that have been meeting over the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately, none of them were mine. The chair of the fisheries and oceans committee decided for some reason not to call a meeting and that is too bad, because there is important business. I commend him for having called his committee members together and for holding important meetings.

Red Tape Reduction Act November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise. I thank my colleague the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for sharing her time with me.

This is an important debate, because I do not think there is anyone in the House who represents constituents, including small and medium-size businesses, who would not be in favour of removing the administrative burden that regulations can sometimes impose on businesses. That would simply be nonsensical.

As has been stated by my colleagues, we are going to be supporting this bill moving forward from second reading to committee, where we will get into more of the details and make sure that the bill does what it says it will do and that it does not create too much harm. What we have come to learn about this government is that, once we get by the language, the words, and the public relations and get into the details, often things are not what were advertised.

My colleague who spoke just before me mentioned that she had a consultation in her riding, where she was out talking with small-business people about some of the things that needed to be done. I did likewise this spring. I sent out a letter to more than 2,000 businesses in my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour asking people for their input. I received a good response. I have to say, though, that not a lot of them said we have to get rid of red tape. People asked why the government cancelled the hiring tax credit for small business and why it continues to create problems in employment insurance, for example.

More recently, they asked why the government so badly bungled the jobs fund. It announced that it was going to take $500 million from the employment insurance fund and create what it said would be 25,000 jobs. Of course, the PBO quickly alerted us to the fact that its number crunching showed not 25,000 jobs but 800 jobs. It said the government would be creating jobs at a cost of $500,000 a job.

Therefore, when business people in my constituency hear that kind of foolishness they ask “What is it with this government?” They ask if it is serious when it makes proclamations like this, that it is going to reduce the administrative burden, get rid of the red tape, and make life easier, because every time the government turns around it makes life more difficult for business in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and, frankly, across the country.

I have been around here a little while. I have been in this business since the early 90s. I went through the 90s when the Liberals, both provincial and federal, were on this kick of removing red tape. What we saw more than anything was that the Liberals here in Ottawa were moving more toward voluntary regulation. We saw this, whether it was for businesses in the food production area, businesses like pipeline companies, others that had some impact on the environment, or transportation, like rail and truck transport, and so on. They were cutting inspectors and leaving companies to their own resources to self-regulate.

We found far too often—and now we have seen it again under this government—that all it takes is one tragedy, like Lac-Mégantic, and we realize the whole business of voluntary or self-regulation just does not work. It sounds good and it is meant to make things easier for these companies, but in the final analysis it ends up creating some great hardship, not only for individuals, families, and communities but also for the economy.

I listened earlier to a member speaking to whether or not we want regulatory change to come through the House. A regulation can be changed without coming to this House. I have seen it ever since 2012, when the government brought in changes to the Fisheries Act that basically gutted the act in terms of its ability to protect fish habitat and provide for proper conservation.

Regulatory changes that have continued to trickle through since 2012 are having an incredibly important and negative impact on the environment. The latest was a regulation that was Gazetted in the spring. It would permit aquaculture companies to use deleterious substances in the water in the process of farming, whether it be salmon or other types of aquaculture. It is a serious problem. That change might make it easier for the aquaculture companies that are operating those businesses, but to traditional fisheries, environmentalists, and people who are worried about water quality and the environment, it is a serious problem.

Another example is with respect to the CFIA. Not only has the government slashed and gutted the number of inspectors available to ensure that food is processed and transported safely, but it has also continued to change the regulations to allow these companies to regulate themselves.

A lot of the business people I have talked to in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour have been around a while and have heard the government say that it has to get rid of red tape. They are asking why it does not just do it. They are asking why there is all the fanfare. They want to know why we need a piece of legislation to make it law for the government to do what it should do in terms of following good administrative practices. I will talk to the businesses in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour more about this bill and about other things that the government is doing as it affects what they do.

I will finish on this point: the government wants to do things to ease the burden on business, but what about easing the business on Canadians in such areas as CRA tax forms, for example? I just saw a report on how academics who have looked at these forms have found them unintelligible. People cannot read them, let alone fill them out properly. We know what happens if people do not fill them out properly—any possible refund they may be eligible to receive is delayed, or they may end up paying interest. If the government is going to deal with issues of taking the administrative burden off Canadians, why does it not look at some of those obvious examples first, and then just get on with business?

As my colleagues have said, we certainly support this initiative. We have some concerns about how this bill is laid out and we will take the opportunity at committee to raise those points, bring in some amendments, and make sure that if the bill does pass, it will be in the best form it possibly can be as a result of our contribution.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns November 3rd, 2014

With regard to Employment Insurance (EI) for fiscal years 2012-2013 through 2014-2015 (year-to-date): (a) what was the volume of EI applications broken down by (i) year, (ii) region/province where claim originated, (iii) region/province where the claim was processed, (iv) the number of claims accepted and the number of claims rejected, (v) for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, by month; (b) what was the average EI applications processing time broken down by (i) year, (ii) region/province where claim originated, (iii) for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, by month; (c) how many applications waited more than 28 days for a decision and, for these applications, what was the average wait time for a decision, broken down by (i) year, (ii) region/province where claim originated, (iii) for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, by month; (d) what was the volume of calls to EI call centres, broken down by (i) year, (ii) region/province, (iii) for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, by month; (e) what was the number of calls to EI call centres that received a high volume message broken down by (i) year, (ii) region/province, (iii) for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, by month; (f) what were the national service level standards for calls answered by an agent at EI call centres, broken down by (i) year, (ii) region/province, (iii) for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, by month; (g) what were the actual service level standards achieved by EI call centres for calls answered by an agent, broken down by (i) year, (ii) region/province, (iii) for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, by month; (h) what were the service standards for call backs at EI call centres broken down by (i) year, (ii) region/province, (iii) for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, by month; (i) what were the service standards achieved by EI call centre agents for call backs, broken down by (i) year, (ii) region/province, (iii) for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, by month; (j) what was the average number of days for a call back by an EI call centre agent, broken down by (i) year, (ii) region/province, (iii) for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, by month; (k) what was the number and percentage of term employees, and the number and percentage of indeterminate employees, working at EI call centres and processing centres, broken down by (i) year, (ii) region/province, (iii) for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, by month; (l) what is the rate of sick leave use among EI call centre and processing centre employees, broken down by year; (m) what is the number of EI call centre and processing centre employees on long term disability; (n) what is the rate of overtime and the number of overtime hours worked by call centre employees, broken down by year; (o) how many complaints did the Office of Client Satisfaction receive, broken down by (i) year, (ii) region/province where the complaint originated, (iii) for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 by month; (p) how long on average did a complaint take to investigate and resolve, broken down by (i) year, (ii) for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 by month; and (q) what were the major themes of the complaints received, broken down by year?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, a few veterans and a few members of the Canadian Forces live in Dartmouth who would love to have a little chat with my friend opposite about what his government is doing to support the women and men who serve this country through the Canadian Forces. It is despicable in far too many cases.

I talked to a constituent the other day whose brother committed suicide after having served within the armed forces for 23 years. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. The government did not heed his cry for help and he ended up taking his life. That is what happens when, for example, $1 billion is left unspent in the Department of National Defence. Members opposite have to understand what this is about. This is real. This is not funny. These are not games. Real people, real families are being affected, and that is who I am talking about here today in my remarks.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the member for Winnipeg North because what has been happening with the cost of housing, particularly the cost of affordable housing in this country, is serious. That began to happen back in the late nineties when the Liberal government pulled out in a big way from supporting affordable housing strategies across this country. It was a shameful process to watch and it has continued under the Conservative government to the point now where it is estimated that there are 250,000 homeless families in this country. We simply have to do better.

The federal government has a responsibility to partner with the provinces to make sure that we not only fix the stock from the seventies and eighties that is falling apart but that we find other ways to provide new stock in our communities to make sure that affordable housing is available to Canadians.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to apologize for being passionate about what the Conservative government is doing to constituents in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. I will never be quiet when the Conservatives are making decisions that are having such an impact on people in my constituency and people across this country. If that offends the sensibilities of the member opposite, then he can go somewhere else, because this is my time.

My time has been chewed up by an irrelevant question but nonetheless I want to take this opportunity to say that this process is shameful. It does not serve the interests of Canadians and it certainly does not serve the interests of the people of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, and that is how I plan to vote on Bill C-43.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to stand for a few moments to talk about Bill C-43.

I indicate that I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Beauport—Limoilou.

I have to say that I speak to the bill with a feeling of frustration and disappointment in this process. We have a bill that implements a budget to fund an organization that spends over $200 billion a year. It is a budget implementation act that consists of 460 pages. It affects dozens of pieces of legislation, things such as, for example, a scheme that the government has come up with to use workers' and employers' money, though mainly workers' money, to fund a supposed job creation plan that the Parliamentary Budget Officer said is going to cost over $500,000 per job. It has those kinds of provisions in it, yet members are being provided four days to debate the bill.

Four days sounds like a paltry amount, but let us take a look at how many hours that is. One of those days is Friday, when we will have two hours in which to debate Bill C-43. Because of the fact there will be a joint session to hear from the President of France, Monday will be considered a Wednesday, so we will have another two hours. If we stretch it out, we might get a total of 12 hours to discuss the bill.

Some of the Conservatives often say I am wasting my time. It is my time and I will use it the best way I know how. I am talking about the concerns of my constituents. Not only is the process a sham, but how could anyone possibly analyze a document of this size and this complexity in 12 hours?

Let us look for a second at what the government actually does with its budget. I talked about the fact that the budget of this country is over $200 billion. We found out just yesterday that more than $18 billion in spending that had been budgeted for programs, infrastructure and capital spending lapsed. In other words, it was not spent on what it was intended for. For example, close to $1 billion that had been budgeted for the Department of National Defence was not spent.

What does that mean? That means that the men and women who protect our country, who go on training and operations here and around the world, do not have the equipment they need in order to conduct their activities. It means that bases such as Shearwater in Nova Scotia have to shut down their arenas, pools and chapels because they do not have the money to repair the infrastructure. That is what it means when we say money lapsed that had been budgeted to be spent in areas and operations that were deemed required by someone in order to make sure those particular services were appropriate. Bridges and roads have gone without the funds necessary to properly operate.

Here we are talking about legislation to implement a budget that is frankly fanciful to begin with to a large extent. The government does not have a clue what it is doing. It does not have a clue. Member after member on the government side stands and says that they are a small business person so they know how to run things and manage money.

If small business owners managed their businesses in this fashion, they would not be doing it very long because they would not have a roof over their business, they would not have stock because they would not be able to transport stock, and they would not have employees because they would not be able to ensure employees in the workplace were safe. What I am talking about is the responsible management of the resources of the people of this country.

The Prime Minister is out this afternoon making announcements. How can we believe those? It is like the plan that was announced in 2007 to build between six and eight Arctic offshore patrol vessels. In fact, they were going to cut steel and the first one was going to be started in 2013. That was last year. That is what the government promised. Conservatives went through at least two elections with the big promotions behind that, but it has become increasingly clear that the money is not going to be there. They are not going to be able to build six to eight Arctic offshore patrol vessels. They will be able to build maybe four and if they keep delaying things they way they have been, it is going to be three.

Why is that important? It is important because we went through a process that we supported and one of the places that was awarded to build those ships was in Nova Scotia. There are hundreds and thousands of men and women around that region who are depending on those jobs. They are now travelling out west to find work. They are counting on that investment that was promised to them by the government, by the Prime Minister, and as every single day goes by it becomes increasingly apparent it is not going to come to fruition.

We will not know about it probably until after the next election, because somewhere, somehow, the Conservatives will get a welder and a blow torch and cut some steel somewhere and say, “this is what you are going to get if you elect us”, when in fact they know that the money is not there. The Minister of Public Works knows. It is just like the F-35s. It is just like the replacement helicopters for the Sea Kings. Conservatives just cannot seem to get it right. They cannot get the equipment into the hands of the men and women who serve this country and that is shameful.

That is what we are here to talk about. We should be talking under Bill C-43 about whether or not we can believe anything that is in this document of 460 pages that talks about implementing the budget, a budget that frankly proves time after time to be fanciful. That is the concern that my constituents have, that the government is not able to produce the goods.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated hearing from my colleague, the member for Yukon. He is a member who I think is engaged on a fairly regular basis in different ways with his constituents, talks to them about what is going on here, listens to what they have to say, and takes those issues quite seriously.

Does the member not think it is a bit odd—maybe not to his constituents but to a lot of other constituents who are represented by members of this House who will not have an opportunity to talk about the budget implementation act, which is associated with a budget of over $200 billion, is over 460 pages, and deals with dozens of different pieces of legislation—that we are being asked to not speak to it for four days but for a maximum of 12 hours. Does he not think that is undemocratic and unfair to my constituents, let alone his?