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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is program.

Liberal MP for Cape Breton—Canso (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 46.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, every day, more than three Canadians will die from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gherig's disease.

Many of its victims are in the prime of their life, such as Bill Corbett, the former Clerk of the House, and my former chief of staff, Richard Wackid, from the Liberal whip's office. We miss them dearly, as do many Canadians whose loved ones have succumbed to this disease.

Today, ALS Canada is in Ottawa to announce the result of the ice bucket challenge fundraiser in support of research.

We have seen television personalities, politicians, athletes and many other Canadians take up the challenge, including my own leader, the member for Papineau, who was very helpful in dumping a bucket of water over my head and my colleague's head, the member for Charlottetown.

I know many MPs in this House have also had water dumped over their heads to raise awareness and funds to fight this disease.

On behalf of my Liberal colleagues, and indeed all of us in the House, I congratulate ALS Canada for a job well done, and Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you for hosting this dedicated group of Canadians today.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciated the intervention by my colleague, the member for Ottawa South. It shed a great deal of light on many of the issues around the legislation.

However, getting back to his earlier question for the member for Yukon, I did not quite get the essence of the answer, or even if there were an answer by the member in response to the fair question posed about whether the senseless tragedy that took place here on the Hill recently could have been averted with changes to the regulations and laws.

I wonder if he has any sense as to where that rationale would come from?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns November 17th, 2014

With regard to government funding, for each fiscal year since 2007-2008 inclusive: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions, and loans to any organization, body, or group in the electoral district of Cape Breton—Canso, providing for each (i) the name of the recipient, (ii) the location of the recipient, indicating the municipality, (iii) the date, (iv) the amount, (v) the department or agency providing it, (vi) the program under which the grant, contribution, or loan was made, (vii) the nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan identified in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?

Child Poverty November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I get some “hear, hear”s from the government benches. That would be like saying “no hospital is a good hospital” or “no highway is a good highway”. It is just asinine.

The Conservatives say that the best approach to poverty is for everyone to have a job. Having a job is a big part of it for them. However, it is tough having a job if people do not have a roof over their head., if they do not know where their next meal is coming from, or if they do not know what is going to happen with their children when they go to work at that job. It is tough to have a quality job if they do not have access to post-secondary education or some type of training. If people do not have that security around themselves, then it is difficult to have that job.

That is part of our effort to address the complex issues that weigh on as to why it is such a great challenge and why there has to be a concerted effort and a plan to address poverty in this nation and to bring those numbers down. It is unbelievable that it is the 25th anniversary of the unanimous motion by this chamber in 1989. However, the fact is that there are still almost one million children who live in poverty in this country. Almost one in seven children continues to live in poverty in Canada.

It is important for the government to have a plan in place and then to work that plan. A plan would give focus to the issue. It would also allow federal agencies to go about their business and be able to view whatever initiatives they might be taking through a lens of wanting to address the issue of poverty. It would refocus our ability to work with the provinces, some of whom have had very successful and worthwhile initiatives. To have the federal government there as a partner and in support would be of great benefit. I do not think any Canadians take a great deal of pride in the fact that a nation as rich as Canada remains 20th in child poverty among the 41 wealthiest countries in the world. I do not think any Canadian thinks that is right and, obviously, we believe that we are better as a nation than to be 20th out of 41 nations.

Depending on what measurement we use, relative or absolute poverty, whatever the measurement might be, poverty rates or the number of Canadians being poor ranges from about 8.5% to 12.5% according to statistics from 2011. That is between three million and five million Canadians, including almost one million children. Research has shown that children from low-income families score lower than children from high-income families on various measures of school readiness, cognitive development, and school achievement, and that this gap increases over time with children of low-income families being less likely to attend post-secondary education and gain meaningful employment.

In the House last week, we talked about unpaid internships and how those are tilted toward wealthier families. There are children who have the support of their parents and have access to some type of support to take on an internship. However, the field is being tilted to the haves and the have-mores, as opposed to those who are struggling to make ends meet, who cannot afford to take those internships, so they miss a great training opportunity.

Children living in poverty have more behavioural problems later in life, such as drug abuse, early pregnancy, and increased criminality. Economic hardship in childhood has been linked to premature mortality and chronic disease in adulthood.

The depth of the problem with poverty is reflected in income, food, and housing insecurity. Addressing these factors will be key to reducing child poverty.

If will make some comments on income security. Children obviously remain poor when their parents remain poor. Income does matter. That means that any solution for child poverty must include efforts to increase the income, as well as employment opportunities, of parents, in particular single parents.

The current Conservative government loves to boast that the best plan for poverty is jobs, as I said earlier. However, the jobs being created are increasingly low-paying, low-quality jobs that hinder, not help, people from escaping the cycle of poverty. Forty-four per cent of poor households in Canada had at least one member working in 2011. That is, forty-four percent of those living in poverty had jobs. That could partly be attributed to the rise in precarious low-wage employment. Temporary employment continues to increase while high-quality, full-time jobs are becoming increasingly scarce.

Since the current government took office—and I have said this in the House before—there has been a 66% increase in the number of Canadians working for minimum wage. Canada has the third-highest proportion of low-paying jobs among the world's wealthiest countries, according to a recent Morgan Stanley report. Food Bank Canada's annual study, entitled “HungerCount 2014”, found that one in six households using food banks is working or recently just lost their jobs.

Affordable child care allowing parents to be active participants in the workforce is an essential component of a child poverty reduction plan. If a parent cannot secure it, it is unlikely he or she could sustain sufficient or meaningful employment.

Food security is also essential. Almost 850,000 people used food banks in 2014. That is a 25% increase since 2008.

In the recent study tabled, “HungerCount 2014”, 37% or almost 300,000 people helped by food banks are children, and 45% of households that use food banks are families with children, with nearly half of those being two-parent families. First nations, Metis, and Inuit account for 4% of the population and make up 14% of those who use food banks.

Wrapping up, I will reference the human resources committee study tabled in 2010, “Federal Poverty Reduction Plan: Working in Partnership towards Reducing Poverty in Canada”, which recommended:

...that the federal government immediately commit to a federal action plan to reduce poverty in Canada that would see, during its first phase, the implementation of the recommendations in this report.

It is a complex issue, but it is one that we as a nation as wealthy as Canada have to work toward.

There are so many components to it, but it is essential that the current government—and if not the current government, the next government—must be seized with this issue so that we can help lift Canadians out of poverty and break that cycle.

Child Poverty November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to joining this debate and putting some comments on the record with regard to the motion before us today.

I remain astounded that the government is supporting the motion and patting itself on the back for taking great measures. I will refer to a number of measures within the body of my speech here telling us that we have not been doing a good job. Certainly poverty is a complex issue. It is an incredibly difficult issue to deal with, and I do not think the government does a good job on complex issues. If they cannot fit it on a bumper sticker, the Conservatives do not do a good job. “No tax is a good tax” is the one they like to refer to.

The Environment November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the government has said it would only help with the cleanup of the MV Miner should the hulking wreck off Scaterie Island present a navigational or environmental threat.

Two years ago the minister presented the Province of Nova Scotia with a baseline assessment of 6.6 tonnes of asbestos and no fuel on board. The reality is that they have already taken off 30 tonnes of asbestos and are aware of a significant amount of fuel still on board.

The government has signed off on the towing permits and the towing approvals. Does the government now understand that with this environmental threat it has a responsibility to assist?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns November 5th, 2014

With regard to government communications: for each announcement made by a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary in the National Capital Region between January 1, 2007 and October 15, 2013, both dates inclusive, in a location other than the parliamentary precinct or the National Press Theatre, what was the (a) date; (b) location; (c) purpose or subject matter; (d) name and portfolio of the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary; and (e) what were the amounts and details of all expenses related to making each such announcement?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns November 5th, 2014

With regard to materials prepared for ministers or their staff, from June 4, 2014 to the present: for every briefing document prepared, what is (i) the date on the document, (ii) the title or subject matter of the document, (iii) the department's internal tracking number?

Employment November 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that in the past year 80% of the jobs that have been created are part-time jobs. He also knows there are 66% more Canadians working for minimum wage since his government took power. He should also know we have the third highest proportion of low-wage jobs among the richest countries in the world. This is nothing to be really proud of.

Is the minister not troubled that one in six Canadians who go to a food bank come from the working poor? Honest Canadians trying to feed their families are being forced to go to food banks. Does this not trouble him?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns October 30th, 2014

With regard to Part III of the Canada Labour Code: (a) which recommendations from the 2006 comprehensive review of Part III of the Labour Code conducted by Commissioner Harry Arthurs has the government (i) implemented, including when and why, (ii) not implemented and why; (b) what measures has the government implemented since 2006 besides those listed in (a), including (i) the rationale for implementation, including listing any studies and their document or reference number that was done to support the change, (ii) when the changes were implemented; and (c) what studies has the government undertaken on making changes to Part III of the Canada Labour Code since 2006 not listed in (b), including the rationale for undertaking each, and their document or reference number?