- Get e-mail whenever he speaks in House debates
- Subscribe to feeds of recent activity (what you see to the right) or statements in the House
- His favourite word is support.
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
The Environment December 2nd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, as I have highlighted, Canada remains committed to addressing climate change as highlighted by our actions and our leadership on this issue.
I have already alluded to these actions, which include our world-leading coal-fired electricity regulations. These regulations will make Canada the first country to effectively ban the construction of traditional coal units. We will be the first country.
In fact, in the first 21 years, these regulations are expected to result in a cumulative reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of about 214 megatons, equivalent to removing some 2.6 million personal vehicles from the road per year.
In terms of international actions, Canada has provided $1.2 billion in unconditional fast-start finance over 2010-12 to support mitigation and adaptation efforts in over 60 developing countries. This represented Canada's largest-ever contribution to support international efforts to address climate change. That is leadership.
We will continue to show leadership on this file. We are getting the job done, unlike previous governments.
The Environment December 2nd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the comments from my fellow Nova Scotian across the way.
Canada remains committed to its climate change targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and our action and leadership demonstrate this. Canada's latest emissions trends report projects that as a result of existing measures and actions from all levels of government, consumers, and businesses, Canada's GHG emissions in 2020 will be 734 megatons.
This means we have reduced emissions by 128 megatons compared to where Canada's emissions were projected to be in 2020 if no measures were taken to reduce emissions since 2005.
Canada has continued to demonstrate leadership on the international stage as well. Representing less than 2% of the global emissions of greenhouse gases, Canada understands the importance for any international climate change agreement to include the participation of and action from all major emitters.
That is why, at COP 19 in Warsaw, we continued to push for such an agreement, and the outcome from Warsaw firmly solidified that position.
Canada's leadership was also instrumental in achieving a breakthrough in Warsaw on an important initiative to help developing countries reduce deforestation and forest degradation, which account for nearly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
I would like to highlight that in addition to the negotiations at COP 19, Canada participated in important meetings, including the High Level Assembly of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. Being a top donor for the coalition, Canada's contribution has been significant and is leading to practical actions being implemented to achieve near-term emissions reduction.
Canadians should also be proud to know that this leadership is being recognized on the world stage. In fact, while the minister was in Warsaw, she heard from a number of representatives from other countries who thanked and praised Canada for its environmental record. This record includes a systemic sector-by-sector regulatory approach to address greenhouse gas emissions.
So far the federal government has contributed to reducing Canada's emissions through stringent regulations for the transportation and electricity sectors, two of the largest sources of emissions in Canada.
As a result of our action to date, Canada has strengthened its position as a world leader in clean electricity generation by becoming the first major coal user to ban future construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generation units. In 2025, passenger vehicles and light trucks will emit about half as many greenhouse gas emissions as 2008 models, and greenhouse gas emissions from 2018 model year heavy-duty vehicles will be reduced by up to 23%.
Our collective actions are achieving success. Between 2005 and 2011, Canadian GHG emissions have decreased by 4.8%, while the economy has grown by 8.4%. Moreover, per capita emissions are at an historic low of 20.4 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per person, their lowest level since tracking began in 1990.
Our government will continue to show strong leadership on this file.
Housing December 2nd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, it bears repeating that our government has invested an estimated more than $15 billion in housing and homelessness since 2006. These investments are improving the quality of life for low-income Canadians, individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, low-income seniors, persons with disabilities, recent immigrants, and aboriginal people.
Annually, the government spends $1.7 billion on existing social housing. The investment in affordable housing, which was renewed in economic action plan 2013, ensures that we will continue to invest in a range of affordable housing solutions in communities across Canada.
Rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all approach, we are giving the provinces and territories increased flexibility to design and deliver housing programs that address local needs and local circumstances. Our overarching goal is to continue to reduce the number of Canadians in housing need, which is something I am sure the hon. member for York South—Weston would support.
Housing December 2nd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for York South—Weston for, once again, bringing the issue of affordable housing before the House.
I am pleased to reiterate our government's commitment that Canadians in all parts of the country have access to safe, suitable and affordable housing. That commitment has been backed up by more than $15 billion in federal investment in housing and homelessness since 2006.
First, I would refer the hon. member to the 2012 annual report of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for the most up-to-date information on federal social housing investments. The Government of Canada provides $1.7 billion a year in funding in support of almost 594,000 households living in existing social housing, on and off reserve. Provinces and territories also contribute annually to this housing.
This funding is provided under long-term agreements, covering a 25- to 50-year period, with housing groups that provide affordable housing to those in need. Contrary to what the opposition continues to say, there is absolutely no cut. At the end of these agreements, the government will have fulfilled its commitment and the funding will end.
At the same time, the mortgages on the properties would generally be paid off, allowing most housing groups to continue to provide affordable housing and to be free to operate their projects as they see fit. Collectively, housing groups will find themselves with billions of dollars in real estate assets, which they can use to best meet the needs and priorities of their communities.
I would remind the member opposite that this was a decision made by the previous Liberal government. It has always been the plan that once these long-term agreements came to an end, so too would the subsidy.
For those housing groups that need additional assistance, the federal government is providing significant funding under the investment in affordable housing. Funding is provided through provinces and territories, which have the flexibility to use the federal funding to design and deliver programs that meet local needs and priorities, including rent supplement programs that can be made available to housing providers once their existing operating agreements mature.
Further to this, just last month, my colleague, the hon. Minister of State for Social Development, announced new common-sense changes that would allow providers to keep any federal money they have left over in their subsidy surplus funds. Until now, these funds needed to be returned to the government once these operating agreements matured.
In fact, Nicholas Gazzard, the head of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, said that the CHF “warmly welcomed” the announcement and that co-ops can use federal funds to provide assistance even after their agreements have expired.
That is not all. Economic action plan 2013 renewed the investment in affordable housing with a $1.25 billion announcement of funding over five years, which provided $100 million over two years for new affordable housing in Nunavut. The funding will be implemented through amendments to existing agreements with provinces and territories with an effective date of April 1, 2014, ensuring continuity and delivery of programs.
Meanwhile, current federal funding for affordable housing continues to flow under the existing arrangements until March 31, 2014, leaving no gap between these announcements.
In addition to the $1.7 billion provided annually to support the existing social housing stock, the stimulus phase of Canada's economic action plan included an investment of more than $2 billion over two years to build new and renovate existing social housing. This funding has resulted in more than 16,500 housing construction projects and renovation projects across Canada, improving the living conditions for tens of thousands of Canadian families, while creating jobs and stimulating local economies.
Persons with Disabilities November 28th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, before I get to my prepared remarks, I would like to dedicate the speech I am about to make to a former student of mine named Thomas Moss. Thomas was a student I had in elementary school. He was disabled. He was stricken with Asperger's syndrome. With inclusion being implemented in the classroom, we were able to put many changes in place in the school system to support our children with special needs.
Thomas went through that system after inclusion was put in place in our school system. He was able to go through the elementary school system. It was not without struggles, but we were able to get him through. He excelled once he was in the secondary level, once he matured physically and emotionally, and then went on to Mount Allison University at an earlier age than his colleagues, graduated with honours from Mount Allison, was able to be successfully employed, and is doing very well now.
That is what can be achieved if we have the right things in place to support children with special needs and adults with disabilities. It takes the rest of society to accommodate them and meet their needs for them to be successful. That is what we are talking about here tonight.
That is why I would like to congratulate the member for Brant on this motion. It talks about how we as a society can adapt what we do and what we feel and what we know so that we can allow this section of Canadian society to be successful.
It is on us; it is not on them. They are doing their part; we have to do ours to make sure we reach out to this very accessible, very talented, and very employable group of Canadians. We are not adequately dealing with them to make sure that we find jobs for them.
In honour of that, our government's top priority is jobs and long-term growth. That is why we believe it is important for Canadians with disabilities to actively participate in the workforce within their communities.
This is why I am so supportive of the member for Brant's motion tonight. There are many opportunities that exist, but there are also many barriers in the way of people with disabilities as they struggle to get employment.
First, people with disabilities have to overcome obstacles every day just to get to work. Gaining access to job opportunities is a different matter altogether. Many preconceived ideas still linger within the rest of society. As the member across the way said, there are over 800,000 people with disabilities in Canada who have no job, but they are capable of working. Over 400,000 of them have post-secondary degrees.
Clearly, things must change. Information, education, and increased awareness are needed. We have to dispel the myths that have helped perpetuate the unemployment and underemployment of people with disabilities and special needs.
In 2012, the government created the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. The four members of this panel hold key positions with Deloitte, Loblaws, Tim Hortons, and the Neil Squire Society.
They enthusiastically accepted the challenge our Conservative government set for them: to consult directly with employers across the country to identify private sector successes and best practices in the labour market participation of people with disabilities.
The report was entitled “Rethinking DisAbility in the Private Sector”. It was the outcome of several months of intense work. As the panel mentioned in its report, we all have abilities; some are just more apparent than others. I would argue that we all have abilities, but maybe people just have not taken the time to notice.
The panel took up the challenge of showing what people with disabilities are capable of accomplishing and how the private sector can better use this untapped pool of talents and skills, and the panel succeeded.
For example, the report highlighted in over half of the cases, workplace accommodations are cost-free, and in 37% of the cases that require expenditures, the average cost amounts to about $500. Now, $500 is not a lot of money to spend to get a highly qualified, talented employee. Most employers across the country would agree with that.
Our government agrees with the report and has acted on many of its recommendations already, including a proposal to create the Canadian employers disability forum in economic action plan 2013.
Our government supports the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities, which provides support for employers to hire persons with disabilities across Canada. In 2012, we provided additional temporary support with over $30 million over three years. Economic action plan 2013 took this one step further, proposing permanent ongoing funding of $40 million a year starting in 2015-16. We are investing millions to support this initiative.
This investment is enabling us to promote job opportunities and assist individuals who have little or no labour force experience to prepare for, obtain, and keep a job, or to become self-employed. Unfortunately, both the New Democrats and Liberals voted against this measure when they voted against budget 2013.
Several other steps were recently announced in economic action plan 2013, many of which align with the recommendations of the panel. For example, a new generation of labour market agreements for persons with disabilities will be in place in 2014. As well, there will be additional funding for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, some of which will support research related to the labour market participation of people with disabilities. In addition, as mentioned earlier, there will be support for the creation of a Canadian employers disability forum, as recommended by the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, and the extension of the Enabling Accessibility Fund on an ongoing basis to support construction and renovations related to improving accessibility for people with disabilities, including in the workplace.
That said, this government is doing its part, but government cannot and should not have to do everything alone. Employers must and can do more to hire and train people with disabilities.
Employers from across the country have told us that the skills shortage is the number one barrier to growing their businesses. At the same time, we have this large pool of talented people available for work, many of them already trained and others just needing a little more training. We need to match employers with this subset of disabled Canadians to ensure we better grow the economy of the entire country. I would argue that what is good for people with disabilities is also good for employers and also good for Canada.
We need to encourage Canadian companies to hire persons with disabilities as they look for their future labour market needs. We are seeing unprecedented labour shortages in several sectors and in several regions, and this is likely to grow as the population grows older and retires. Clearly, private sector employers must find better ways to develop this untapped pool of skilled workers existing among people with disabilities and ensure that their workplaces can accommodate their needs.
I would encourage employers to take advantage of the Canada job grant to help create guaranteed jobs for persons with disabilities. I believe the Canada job grant is a perfect way to train persons with disabilities to ensure that they have the skills and training to fill the jobs that are currently going unfilled across the country. The Government of Canada's job grant will be available to all Canadians, and despite the rhetoric, that includes the most vulnerable Canadians as well.
As the expert panel indicated, employers know better than governments when it comes to understanding what training is required. The Canada job grant will directly link Canadians with employers and available jobs. We cannot afford to forgo the talents of thousands of people who want to work, have the ability to work, and have the skills to do the work. We must act, which is why I am pleased to stand in support of Motion No. 430.
I will close by saying there are many like Thomas Moss out there across this country, young people who have been highly trained and who have the skills necessary to do a great job for employers. All they need is a chance.
It is up to us and the rest of society and employers in this country to engage with the government and with this talented pool of employees. Working together, we can do this for Canada. Let us ensure we go out there and hire some of these disabled Canadians and put them to work. They will not let us down.
Cyberbullying November 21st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to ensuring that our children are safe from online predators. Yesterday we delivered on our commitment to ensure that children are better protected from cyberbullying by introducing the protecting Canadians from online crime act.
Cyberbullying goes far beyond average schoolyard bullying and, in many cases, crosses the line into criminal activity. Our legislation would prohibit the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. It would empower the courts to remove intimate images from the Internet and give them the power to order the seizure of computers, cellphones, and other devices used to commit the offence.
As we have seen far too often, cyberbullying destroys the lives of children. It clearly demands a stronger criminal justice response. That is what this legislation would provide. I ask all members of the House to stand up, protect the children of this nation, and support this legislation.
Support for Volunteer Firefighters Act November 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, it is great to be here tonight to talk about our volunteer firefighters across this country and this current legislation before us.
Like the previous Liberal speaker, my good friend from Cape Breton—Canso, I am from a very large rural riding. We have over 33 fire departments, 30 of which are staffed solely by volunteers. There are over 650 volunteer firefighters in my riding.
I know many of them. We have worked with them. We have worked very hard to push the volunteer firefighters tax credit, which gave those volunteer firefighters a few dollars off their taxes so that they could better represent their communities as volunteers and get the training and put in the hours they need to protect those communities. That was a great initiative by this government. I was pleased to support the volunteer firefighters tax credit with the rest of my colleagues on this side of the House. In 2011, over 37,000 volunteer firefighters engaged in the volunteer firefighters tax credit.
The basis of that tax credit was the fact that each volunteer spends about $3,000 if they put in 200 hours a year. The rationale behind that tax credit was that we really should not benefit as a federal government from the taxes paid by people doing such a tremendous volunteer service to their community.
As a result, we instituted a $3,000 tax credit. It put about $450 into the pocket of each and every volunteer firefighter who served his or her community for 200 hours a year. That was a great initiative. I want to give credit to the Minister of Finance, the greatest finance minister in the G7, for doing that, and credit to the Prime Minister for supporting our caucus in pushing that piece of legislation through.
In my own family we have a great legacy of service as volunteer firefighters. My grandfather served as a volunteer firefighter for over 40 years, from 1925 to 1965. When he came back from World War I, he immediately joined the fire department. He had several Dalmatian dogs throughout his life. I grew up with those dogs. Many times he would take me to the local fire department, so I spent a lot of hours of my youth in the fire department, not only sliding down the pole but learning a lot of things that my mother probably did not want me to learn, because as we know, those volunteer fire departments are made up of a lot of young fellows, and they tend to sometimes get out of hand and have a lot of fun and build camaraderie that is very valuable in any volunteer organization.
It is that camaraderie that we have to support, because these people are donating their time. They are away from their families and they are ready to go out at a moment's call to protect their community. As part of a volunteer fire department with people like my grandfather, they know what a valuable contribution they are making, and it is a contribution that communities value.
With regard to this legislation, the question is this: what problem is this legislation actually trying to solve? The bill proposes to amend the Canada Labour Code in order to provide employment protection for volunteer firefighters in a federally regulated workplace. It would only affect about 4.9% of volunteer firefighters, or 4,200 volunteer firefighters across the country.
The bill proposes to offer volunteer firefighters protection from employer reprisals, based on the premise that a lack of protection when it comes to volunteer absences is discouraging people from volunteering as firefighters.
In my riding and in many communities, that is absolutely not the case. Employers and other people in the communities support the volunteer fire department, bar none. Small businesses and medium-sized businesses want volunteer firefighters working in their establishments because they are community leaders. They actually bring people into those businesses, because people know that the business supports valuable volunteer hours that are being dedicated from the volunteer firefighters who work in their businesses. In fact, volunteer firefighters are probably some of the employees most sought after by small and medium-sized businesses in my riding and in many other ridings across the country.
Over the past 18 years, the labour program has not received any complaints of a reprisal related to volunteer firefighter duties, not one complaint. Out of 3,000 collective agreements, only two include provisions on volunteer firefighter duties. According to these numbers, it is fair to claim that this is not a significant issue to volunteer firefighters themselves.
Lastly, during a recent review of part III of the Canada Labour Code, the issue of volunteer firefighter protection was not raised once by stakeholders. The lack of complaints on this issue suggests there is no real issue to be addressed. For those reasons, we will not be supporting the bill, but that does not mean we do not appreciate and support those who generously and courageously volunteer their time to keep our communities safe.
Our government recognizes that volunteer firefighters play an invaluable role. To put that in perspective, in 2012 there were over 3,000 volunteer fire departments in Canada, the majority of which served small and medium-sized communities. For many of these communities, the fire department, the only emergency service available, is provided by volunteers. It goes without saying that these courageous volunteers are deserving of the federal government's support and that is why we introduced the volunteer firefighter tax credit.
The second issue brought up by the bill is the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. This remains a challenge, particularly for small communities. On the east coast, where I live, a lot of younger people have moved to the cities because of employment troubles in some areas on the east coast, which we are addressing through the job grant, the shipbuilding contract, the west-east pipeline and the Muskrat Falls project. Our government is standing behind the east coast when it comes to jobs.
Recruitment is still a challenge, but that is being addressed within the communities and departments themselves. Based on a survey, less than 20% of respondents said that a lack of employer support was the problem with recruitment. That is a small percentage. If the lack of employer support is not a significant factor in recruiting volunteers, then why would we pass the legislation? If anything, it would only create cumbersome regulations and red tape, which may actually throw a wrench into a program that is already working.
From my own experience as a school principal in a small community with a robust volunteer firefighter department, I actually had a volunteer firefighter serve on the staff of the school where I served as principal. He was a physical education teacher named Brad Smith. We had an agreement that if a fire took place during school hours when he was teaching a class, a staff member would immediately cover his class while he hustled out the door to go fight the fire and save the community. Many times he went to fight a fire that was taking place at the home of one of the students in the school.
That is the type of arrangement and flexibility that exists among employers, staff, volunteer firefighters and the places they work. It is a system that works because communities support this initiative. They know how valuable it is. If we start messing around with a system that works and throw a bunch of regulations and bureaucratic red tape into this, we are going to disrupt a system that is currently very effective for volunteer firefighters and employers across the country.
Some people say they are like reservists and reservists need protection from employer reprisals. We know that. For those in the military who have to serve on weekends, during the week or are required to go away when our country calls them, there is protection for them. I totally agree that protection is absolutely necessary. The difference between reservists and volunteer firefighters is that, although reservists get pulled away and need protection, we can plan for that because it is on a defined basis. It is known when they are going to be gone, how long they are going to be gone, and employers can plan around that.
Volunteer firefighters are gone for indeterminate amounts of time. We do not know if they are going to be gone for four hours or 20 minutes, depending on the call. We do not know if they are going to be gone for two or three days if it is a large fire. That flexibility has to be in the system and in the negotiations between volunteer firefighters and their employers or supervisors, and that is what currently exists. It is because of this uncertainty that we need to keep the system the way it is. It is a system that works and deals with the flexibility needed to support firefighters.
This predictability makes the formal approach to managing absences from work more acceptable. We can deal with it because employers know they might be gone at a moment's call, but we have a system in place to deal with it when it happens. We have a system in place because we have negotiated that beforehand and that is the way it works across the country.
All kinds of volunteers across this country offer their time and energy to help others in need. I believe volunteers are the backbone of their communities. They are certainly a force of good in small towns. In my opinion, volunteer firefighters are at the top of the heap when it comes to volunteers. They are our most necessary volunteers. They are the ones we need because they protect our property and our lives, and they have to risk their own lives to do it.
Canadians can count on our government to always support volunteer firefighters and to put regulations in place that help them and solve problems that actually exist. We stand behind volunteer firefighters, but this is not legislation we can support.
OECD Study on Well-Being November 5th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, a report released today by the OECD shows that Canada is world leader when it comes to the well-being of its citizens. The report says:
Canada performs exceptionally well in measures of well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top countries in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index.
Canada scored near the top for education, health, housing, skills, social connections and life satisfaction, in addition to low long-term unemployment rates and our low crime rate.
Our Conservative government's low-tax plan for jobs and growth is helping to reduce poverty and increase the long-term prosperity of all Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The facts speak for themselves. There are now fewer Canadians living below the low income cut-off than ever before in the history of our country.
Our Conservative government will continue to focus on what matters to Canadians: jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
Employment October 30th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Peace River for his diligent efforts on behalf of workers in his riding.
The Conservative government believes that employers are best positioned to make decisions about skills training, not government bureaucrats. That is why our government is introducing the Canada job grant next year. This grant will help Canadians access skills training that leads to a guaranteed job at the end of that training.
The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business are among many organizations that said the status quo simply does not work and that they support putting decisions in the hands of job creators.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2 October 28th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, we know that calls from the opposition to spend more and more is what we typically hear. That is what we typically see from NDP governments when they are in place around the country.
In answer to my colleague from Burlington, a tremendous member of Parliament, who has actually completed several long runs in my province, he understands that what we are doing, particularly in Atlantic Canada, is investing in the future. We are making sure we keep taxes low. We are bringing our deficits down and returning to a balanced budget. We are making key investments in key projects that are going to lead to jobs and growth, like the urban shipyard deal, a $25 billion deal; like Lower Muskrat Falls; like the west-east pipeline. It is targeted spending, making sure we also keep our taxes low, our deficits low and return to a balanced budget in 2015.