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Conservative MP for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley (Nova Scotia)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 52.50% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Canadian Museum of History Act June 17th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I was a teacher for many years. My background was in history and social studies as a teacher, an educational administrator and someone involved in curriculum development.
One of the things that concerns me greatly in Canada is that currently, only three of 10 provinces require Canadian students to take a history course to graduate high school. The delivery of education is a provincial jurisdiction, but that concerns me as a former history teacher. That means that a lot of Canadians are graduating, and have been graduating, and have not had to take a history course. All the provinces offer history as a course, but students are not required to take those courses to graduate. I think that is a shame.
As a federal government, we can encourage the provinces to deliver some history in their curricula by developing, as was said, virtual online courses for teachers so that they have the resources they need to include this in the curriculum.
If our small museums, as I mentioned, had these artifacts and displays, they could really celebrate what is great about this nation. Those artifacts could be moved around the country. Teachers from coast to coast to coast would be able to take their classes to a local museum.
It is awfully hard for a teacher in the Yukon to take a class all the way to Ottawa to see the Museum of Civilization the way it is now. This would enable that museum to send its artifacts and displays all the way to the Yukon through some of the funding we would allocate for this project. This would free up those artifacts and displays, and that is great for education in Canada.
Canadian Museum of History Act June 17th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question about why we want to change what is already working.
All we have to do is look to the south, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. That museum is referred to as America's attic. This would be a version of that in Canada, where we can celebrate what is Canada, what our people have done and what our achievements are. Not only would we be able to celebrate that here in Ottawa as the museum currently does, we would be able to partner with smaller museums from coast to coast to coast.
As anyone involved in museums knows, most of their artifacts and displays are kept in storage. We have literally a treasure trove of great artifacts and displays in storage 90% of the time. This would free those artifacts up. They would be able to travel around Canada and smaller museums from coast to coast to coast would be able to use these displays to attract new people.
Why would we change it? We would be broadening the scope. We would be using this initiative to support small museums from coast to coast to coast.
Canadian Museum of History Act June 17th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak in support of Bill C-49, which would establish the Canadian museum of history.
A lot has been said in previous debates about the need to ensure that the research capacity of the new museum would be as strong as the research capacity of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. I think we can all agree that research would be an important aspect of the activities of the new museum and its professional staff.
Research, either ongoing or related to a particular project, is at the heart of what great museums do and it would be at the heart of what the Canadian museum of history would do. In fact, the standing committee heard from Mr. Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, that in consultation with academics across Canada, the corporation has developed a research strategy, the first in its history. Mr. O'Neill indicated that this strategy will guide the work of the museum in its research activities over the next ten years, confirming that the research strategy would be used after the adoption of Bill C-49 and the transformation of the Canadian Museum of Civilization into the Canadian museum of history.
I have confidence in the dedication and professionalism of the museum and its staff. They will continue to do the work of research that needs to be done in order to execute the mandate of the museum and provide a valuable service to the Canadian public.
The museum's research strategy, developed in consultation with experts from within the museum and across the country, will guide research at the new museum. I can assure all hon. members that the absence of the word "critical" in the description of the museum's mandate will have no impact on the research capabilities it would have. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that the absence of the word “critical” may be a bit of a relief to some of the museum's researchers. Some members may ask why. Let me ask them how they would define “critical research”? The current text of the Museums Act does not define it. Would anyone suggest that, in the absence of the word in the text proposed by Bill C-49, the highly professional staff undertaking important research at the museum would somehow now abandon their professional ethics and judgment? I certainly do not believe so.
That is not what Bill C-49 intends and it is not what would happen. We would simply be allowing the new museum and the competent professionals who work there to have the freedom and flexibility to determine what research is necessary and how that research should be done.
If we are still concerned about this, let us look at what has been done elsewhere with some of the great museums of the world. The act establishing the Smithsonian Institute in Washington does not mention that research has to be "critical research". It talks about the increase and diffusion of knowledge across the country. Moreover, the word research is not even mentioned in the British Museum Act.
Let us also look at the modern of Te Papa, the groundbreaking museum in New Zealand established in 1992. Its founding legislation simply says that among its principal functions, the museum is to conduct research into any matter relating to its collections or associated areas of interest and to assist others in such research. Does it describe what kind of research? No. It leaves that to the highly trained professionals involved, and that is what the legislation should do.
Enlightenment and communication are central concepts governing the German Historical Museum in Berlin, a museum with impressive permanent and temporary exhibitions whose mandate and activities have been assessed and modernized over time. The absence of the word "research" in its mandate in no way diminishes the ability of the museum to carry out valuable research.
This museum has a long history of research. Research was carried out in the late 1800s, when the museum was part of the Geological Survey of Canada. The names Marius Barbeau and Diamond Jenness come to mind, both researchers who were known and respected around the world. Research was carried out when the museum was called the Museum of Man. The names Dr. J.V. Wright and Dr. William Taylor come to mind. In fact, Dr. Taylor, an archaeologist, was the director of the Museum of Man for many years.
Research continues to be carried out by the Museum of Civilization. I note that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage heard testimony last week from Dr. David Morrison, director of research and content for the new Canadian history hall. The research strategy recently developed by the Canadian Museum of Civilization is evidence of the central role that research will play in the Canadian museum of history. The research strategy includes subjects such as the changing north and aboriginal histories.
In Bill C-49, nothing will diminish the role of research at the Canadian museum of history. The capacity and power to conduct research can be found in clause 9 of this bill, just as it can be found in the power and capacity sections of the Museums Act. The absence of the word “research” in the purpose of the new museum does not reflect a disregard for the research function of the new museum. It merely reflects modern drafting standards, standards that define a broad overarching purpose, in other words, what the museum can do, complemented by a more detailed capacities and powers statement, in other words, how the museum will carry out that purpose.
In closing, I know that we are all anxious to ensure that the proud tradition of research in the Canadian Museum of Civilization will not be diminished in any way by Bill C-49 and the establishment of the Canadian museum of history. I know that this will not happen because I have faith in the professionalism and expertise of the museum and its staff.
Charitable Organizations June 14th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, charities do a wonderful job for our families and communities across Canada. They often have to do this with little money and few volunteers.
That is why it is unthinkable that any member of Parliament, let alone the Liberal leader, would collect his or her $160,000 MP paycheque and then turn around and charge charities for speaking fees, something which the Canadian taxpayers are already paying MPs to do. This shows a great lack of judgment and is also a disrespectful act toward the charities and the Canadian taxpayer.
Would the Minister of State for Finance please inform the House of the good work our government is doing to actually support charities?
Electronic Petitions June 12th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on Motion No. 428, sponsored by the member for Burnaby—Douglas, on electronic petitions. My colleague has a keen interest in the role of Parliament and its members and an awareness of the experience of other jurisdictions with electronic petitions.
I want to emphasize our government's commitment to a strong role for Parliament. All members know that our government's first act after forming government in 2006 was to pass the Federal Accountability Act, which made comprehensive reforms to the way Ottawa does business. As a result of this unprecedented legislation, government accountability has been strengthened, including accountability to Parliament. Our government has continued with further actions to promote democratic reform and open and transparent government.
Turning to Motion No. 428, the first part of the motion would instruct the procedure and House affairs committee to recommend changes to the Standing Orders and other conventions governing petitions so as to establish an electronic petition system. The second part would require the committee to consider, among other things, the possibility of a debate in the House outside of sitting hours when a threshold of signatures is reached.
The committee would have to table its report within 12 months of the motion being adopted. Under the terms of the motion, the committee would be required to include recommended changes to the Standing Orders and other conventions to implement the electronic petition system. In other words, the motion requires that the committee's report leads to the implementation of an electronic petition system for the House.
Our current petition system is set out in Standing Order 36, which is based on the principles of representative democracy and the fundamental role of the individual member of Parliament. It is widely used, and about 2,000 petitions were presented by members in 2012.
The rules require that petitions must be certified correct by the clerk of petitions before they are presented. House rules specify that at least 25 Canadians must sign a petition using the proper format, including a statement of grievance, and an address to the House, the government, a minister, or a member of the House, for a response.
Members table petitions on behalf of constituents as a routine practice, and it is recognized that members may not always agree on the views in the specific petition. Following the presentation of the petition, the government must respond within 45 calendar days.
I believe that our current system functions effectively. The system is transparent. Canadians are able to tune in to our proceedings to see what petitions are being presented, or they can view a list of petitions presented in the House in Debates or Journals of the House.
As we consider Motion No. 428, it is helpful to note the experience of other jurisdictions that have already embraced this type of system. Most jurisdictions have a petition system similar to our current approach and appear to be satisfied with that approach. Some jurisdictions have recently implemented electronic petition systems as part of their legislature or as part of their government's operations.
In 2011, the United Kingdom House of Commons authorized electronic petitions. Petitions with at least 100,000 signatures can have a debate in the House or in Westminster Hall, a parallel chamber to the house.
In 2012, the United Kingdom had over 25 hours of debate on electronic petitions with at least 100,000 signatures. To date, these debates have included national issues such as health care and pension increases, as well as special interests, such as eliminating welfare benefits for convicted 2011 London rioters, heart surgery at a local hospital, and eliminating the badger cull.
The United Kingdom's experience suggests that while electronic petitions could theoretically increase the participation of citizens in the petition process, they could also be used by orchestrated special interests to force their issues on to the parliamentary agenda.
Similarly, the We The People electronic petition system, established by the White House in the United States, whereby petitions with at least 100,000 signatures are publicly recognized, has been used to advance such topics as the Star Wars-inspired Death Star and the deportation of a CNN journalist.
As a result, some commentators have suggested that an electronic petitions system can undermine representative democracy by recognizing or debating divisive or frivolous issues. I would ask members whether they would want to create an electronic petitions system if that were the result in Canada?
In addition, the creation of a new electronic petitions system and the addition of extra sitting hours for the House to debate petitions with a high number of signatures would be costly at a time of fiscal restraint. Furthermore, the requirement to put in place a process to verify thousands of online signatures could have a tremendous cost and prove to be quite onerous.
The member for Burnaby—Douglas has said that the electronic petitions would also “empower citizens to communicate their concerns to their elected representatives and to have the opportunity to set the agenda for debate in Ottawa”. As all members know, each day Canadians have many options for contacting their individual member of Parliament or the government. Members are regularly present in their constituency. We all have staff in both our constituency offices here in Ottawa and in our constituency, to help constituents with their requests, which often come through email or other electronic means. I would ask members whether an electronic petition system would improve our ability to serve our constituents.
As mentioned earlier, Motion No. 428 presupposes an outcome for the work of the procedure and House affairs committee, which would undermine the principle that committees are masters of their own affairs. It is one thing for the House to instruct a committee to undertake a study, but this motion oversteps the principle that the committees are masters of their own proceedings.
I sit as a member of the procedure and House affairs committee. It is a good committee. One of the reasons it works so well is that, at least in general, the opposition parties and the government tend to work collaboratively rather than being confrontational. There are times when we cannot come to agreement, but this tends to be the exception rather than the norm. Oftentimes the procedure and House affairs committee is able to come up with solutions that all parties can agree on.
Unfortunately, this motion does not allow for that type of solution. The motion prescribes the committee's resolution before the committee has had the opportunity to research the issue. I would ask the members whether they want to support a motion that would reduce the independence of House committees and the ability of members of committees to manage their own affairs.
In conclusion, the idea of electronic petitions may be novel to some, as on the surface it purports to increase constituent interaction with members of Parliament. However, international experience suggests that of the many countries who have considered this issue, many have decided not to implement this type of system.
The system is open to abuse by special interests, and in addition, the new electronic petition system would be costly. This is at a time when, at least on this side of the House, we are trying to save taxpayers' money rather than spend it. The wording of the motion would also undermine the principle of House committees being masters of their own affairs.
Before I finish, let me add that the procedure and House affairs committee is examining the Standing Orders. One of the issues that the committee could decide on is to review the effectiveness of a petitions approach. If there are areas of improvement needed, we could discuss that when we look at that larger study.
However, for the reasons I have stated, and there have been many, I am not prepared to support the motion at this time.
Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada June 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, our government is focused on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians. With last month's almost record job growth, we have now achieved a million net new jobs since the depths of the recession in 2009. Ninety per cent of these jobs are full-time and 80% are in the private sector, a great record of growth.
While we continue to focus on economic growth, the NDP leader continues to protect the tax offenders who lie within his caucus.
One of these tax offenders' tax issues was a matter of public court records, so how could that member possibly be selected to run as a candidate? Why was he named as a critic, and how can he possibly still sit in the NDP caucus? Obviously, the NDP leader thinks there is a higher priority in defending the tax evaders within his caucus than in standing up for Canadian taxpayers.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 31st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech intently. She talked about the dozens of consultations that took place between members of Parliament, the Minister of Finance, members of the finance committee and Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
I know that we had finance consultations in my riding, and across Atlantic Canada. Can the member expand on what she heard in those consultations and how we have implemented that in the budget bill?
The Canadian Museum of History Act May 28th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, in many small rural communities in particular, and I have taught in several of those, they might have a local museum that really celebrates their community's history, the history of that small area of our country. The elementary children would go there, maybe in first or second grade. Then probably in third or fourth grade another teacher would take them down to the same museum and see the same artifacts. Then they might go there again with a different teacher in the eighth or ninth grade. This would give them the ability to maybe see something like Terry Fox's van, which will travel the country from our national museum. It would provide new artifacts—
The Canadian Museum of History Act May 28th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, we have all kinds of museums across the country. We have the museums of science and technology across the country. Our government has done an amazing job of funding new museums, particularly our national museums. I think of Pier 21 in Halifax close to my riding, which celebrates immigration. I talked about it in my speech.
We have increased the funding for museums across the country. This program will allow artifacts from the national museum to travel across the country.
However, I do not think we have to take any lessons on history from the Liberal Party when it has a leader who said that all the best prime ministers came from Quebec. He said Mulroney, Trudeau and Chrétien, as if there were never a prime minister ever elected before 1968. That is the Liberal Party's legacy.
The Canadian Museum of History Act May 28th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, in fact, that is the centrepiece of this. Not only are we going to build a great museum in Ottawa that people can travel to, both domestically and internationally to visit, there will be the ability for great treasures that are contained in that museum to move across the country so all Canadian can enjoy them.
I am very proud that we are one of the few nations in the G8 that, during this time of economic difficulty across the globe, has increased the funding for arts and culture. When all the other countries are cutting that money, we are increasing it. This is another step we are taking to support our small museums, in our rural communities in particular, giving them opportunities that they have not had before.