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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is employers.

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

Social Development October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the Social Security Tribunal is streamlining its processes and the operations it has in place. It continues to develop and improve these processes in order to review cases as fairly and expeditiously as possible. We want a system that treats all people fairly and operates quickly for both taxpayers and the recipients and claimants for these appeals, but we have to make sure we get the job done right.

Since April 1, 2013, when it began its operations, the income security section of the general division has concluded more than 1,500 income security cases. As of April 1, 2014, in order to better manage the IS caseload, the tribunal implemented a new process to ensure that all appeals are treated fairly and efficiently, and that generally gives priority to the older cases. The ones that have existed the longest are going to be dealt with first.

Members have flexibility in choosing the form of hearing, which ensures that the parties will benefit from a fair and efficient appeal process that is convenient for all parties. There are 38 tribunal members dedicated to making decisions on IS cases alone, and the SST expects to achieve significant progress by the end of this fiscal year.

The SST is committed to providing a fair, independent, credible, and impartial appeal system for all Canadians.

Social Development October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity to address the question by the hon. member for York South—Weston regarding the Social Security Tribunal.

The tribunal began its operations on April 1, 2013. It was created to simplify and streamline employment insurance and income security appeal processes by offering a single point of contact for all cases.

The new appeal system operates from a different legislative and regulatory basis than the four former tribunals and includes two levels of appeal: the general division, which includes the income security and employment insurance sections, and the appeal division.

The income security section of the general division is responsible for old age security, the Canada pension plan, and CPP disability appeals, of which the latter represents more than 90% of the division's caseload.

On April 1, 2013, 7,224 appeals were transferred from the Office of the Commissioner of Review Tribunals. Approximately 3,500 new cases were received at the general division during the tribunal's first year.

During the first year, parties to all these cases were allowed a new 365-day period, provided by the regulations, during which they could file additional documents. Only if both parties signalled that they had no more documents to submit and file would they be able to proceed, and the tribunal could then, and only then, hear the case.

The good news is that in 2013-14 there was an 85% decrease in appeals to the SST compared to what was received by the Board of Referees previously.

Generally, the oldest cases are assigned first, and parties no longer need to confirm their readiness to proceed with a case. As well, parties are provided an opportunity to continue to file new documents closer to the hearing date, and all new documents received are shared with the other parties for a response.

All cases are assigned and dealt with by the 38 tribunal members who are dedicated to making quasi-judicial decisions on income security cases. These members can decide to hold a hearing through written questions and answers, teleconference, videoconference, or in person, or they can make a decision on the basis of the documents and submissions filed in the first place.

The decision is based on the particular case, with consideration of a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the complexity of the case, the number of anticipated parties and participants who will be involved, whether credibility is a prevailing issue, and any accommodation needs that have to be met to support the claimants. This flexibility in the choice of the form of hearing ensures that the parties will benefit from a fair and efficient appeal process that is convenient for all parties.

The new tribunal also continues to develop and improve its systems and operational processes to address all cases as fairly and as expeditiously as possible.

The Social Security Tribunal and its members are working hard to process the backlog as well as process the new cases that are coming in.

Our government believes that social programs such as employment insurance, CPP, and OAS are important to Canadians. That is why a faster, more streamlined approach to the process was introduced on April 1, 2014.

Teaching Awards October 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today the Prime Minister will announce the recipients of the Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence and for Excellence in Early Childhood Education. This year's awards will be presented to 54 recipients from across the country, and 17 of these will receive the national awards from the Prime Minister at an event in Ottawa later today.

As someone who actually led a couple of schools in Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, I was very fortunate to work with several very inspiring and excellent teachers. I know the rare qualities that teachers have to be able to deliver effective education to our young people.

The Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence recognize the outstanding elementary and secondary school teachers in all disciplines who, through the innovative use of communications and technology, help Canadian students meet the challenges of the 21st century, societally and economically.

I am very proud to wish the nominees all the very best and thank them for their hard work and dedication to ensure that Canadian youth live, grow, and thrive.

Housing October 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in terms of housing, we have initiated a new program: housing first. This is an evidenced-based program, which delivers for low-income Canadians who need housing.

Just think how difficult it must be to try to apply for a job when an individual has no address that they can fill in on the form.

Housing first gives someone a place to live that allows them to participate in employment and get a job. That is what we are doing. It is evidenced-based. It is working. The opposition should get behind it.

Seniors October 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, no government in the history of this country has done more for seniors in Canada than the Conservative Party of Canada.

We have introduced income splitting. We have doubled the pension income credit. We have increased the maximum GIS earnings exemption to $3,500; automatic GIS renewal when the filed annual income tax was 96% last year. We have increased the age credit twice. There have been tax savings of $2.2 million. There are many other things that we have done.

We stand behind the seniors in this country.

Employment October 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we have overhauled the program to ensure that employers have to give Canadians first crack at all available jobs. We have had a consistent position on this. That is not the case for the Liberal Party. Yesterday, the Liberal candidate in Edmonton Centre publicly asked for a regional relaxation of the rules so they could bring more temporary foreign workers into Canada. Yet, in the Toronto Star, the Liberal leader argued that the temporary foreign worker program needs to be scaled back dramatically. Which way do they want it?

The Liberals are shamelessly saying one thing in western Canada and the exact opposite in eastern Canada.

Our position is consistent: Canadians must always come first, for every available job.

Service Canada Mandate Expansion Act October 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this debate concerning Bill C-247, presented by my hon. colleague, the member for Guelph.

First let me say how much I appreciate the time and effort that the hon. member has put into drafting this bill. I would also like to thank the member for his willingness to collaborate with us on potential changes that we can work together on to continue to strengthen the proposed piece of legislation.

Currently the bill is somewhat technical. It is a proposal that would make Service Canada the single point of contact in the Government of Canada for reporting the death of a Canadian citizen or a Canadian resident. Service Canada would then, in the words of the bill, have responsibility “...in respect of all matters relating to the death” of that person.

At first glance, the proposal seems very straightforward. The intent of making things simpler for the relatives of a deceased person is a laudable goal and one we fully support. Cutting red tape for grieving families is something I believe all parties should get behind and support strongly.

As we examine the bill as it is written, there are some costs and practical consequences that are not necessarily straightforward, and they will need to be considered during the committee hearings.

Currently Bill C-247 would require any federal program that wants to be notified of a death to become the authorized user of the social insurance number, since the number would be required to ensure the complete and accurate matching of client information. Without this number, errors and incorrect stoppage of benefits or services could occur, and we all want to avoid that.

Although the bill's intent is to enable citizens and residents to communicate only with Service Canada to resolve any outstanding issues related to a death, it would also expand the mandate of Service Canada to include the responsibility of notifying a host of other departments and other programs. This would happen as soon as the estate of the deceased person informed Service Canada of the death.

Since the social insurance number is an important piece of information linked to an individual's identity, expanding the process to include other programs that do not currently have the authority to collect and receive information linked to the social insurance number is something that we need to resolve and give careful consideration to before making any changes in that area.

As well, to implement the bill as proposed, processes would need to be established to ensure that we are receiving the information from the right person: the representative of the estate. This would require verifying both the person's identity and their authority to represent the estate of the deceased. The individual would need to bring the proper identification and documentation. This would create a cumbersome process for individuals dealing with the death of a loved one. We want to avoid that at all costs.

We think it is best if we work to improve the system that is currently in place.This would ensure that the privacy of Canadians would be protected while providing a streamlined approach for death notification. That is why we intend to introduce friendly amendments to the bill in committee to address the problems I mentioned and to make this a stronger piece of legislation. The amendments we are proposing would ensure that key Government of Canada programs that require death information are authorized to use the social insurance number.

We also have some concerns that a hard deadline might drive up costs and at times would not be realistic, but to ensure that the progress is tracked, we will be proposing that annual reporting to Parliament be included as part of this bill. In addition, we are advancing an incremental approach to improve notification of death services in a client-focused procedure.

The bill has shown that Service Canada has a long way to go in communicating with Canadians on the processes that are currently in place. I will not go into detail on the current processes, as they were discussed during the first hour of debate, but I can say that in the short term we will be improving communications and developing a strategy to give Canadians easier access to the relevant information they need when a death of a loved one takes place.

Service Canada will update its website and clarify the messaging regarding the steps to follow in the event of the death of a Canadian resident or Canadian citizen. This will include listing the federal programs and departments currently informed of the passing of an individual and what steps should be taken, including informing other programs and other departments. Examples would be the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for fishing licences and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for Indian status cards.

At the same time, Service Canada will work with key stakeholders, including the Funeral Service Association of Canada, to explore ways that the estate or survivors can be better informed.

The department will develop an outreach strategy to tell survivors which federal programs and departments are automatically informed and which ones they need to inform. The department will set out what benefits survivors may be eligible for and for which ones they may need to apply.

Over the longer term, we intend to work with programs and departments to gradually eliminate the need for separate notification procedures and to continue working to develop a government-wide approach that will be more efficient and eliminate any duplication.

We are committed to the highest level of and efficiency in service delivery. The government is constantly looking for ways to improve service delivery and making the best use of taxpayer dollars.

I am pleased that my colleague across the way who brought the bill forward is open to constructive amendments. We are going to work together constructively and collaboratively to deliver the best legislation on behalf of all Canadians.

I hope my colleagues will find these amendments to be acceptable and join us in voting in favour of the bill at second reading.

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act September 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, on that note, we recently negotiated a free trade agreement with the European Union. Looking at what happened with South Korea, we did lose some market share, which we now have to pick up. Does that not bode well to the advantage Canada is going to have with the European free trade agreement since the United States is now just beginning negotiations with that body?

Social Development September 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, of course we encourage the Social Security Tribunal to execute their appeals as quickly as possible and as efficiently as possible, but they have to take the time to make sure they get it right.

We want to make sure that all Canadians, as they have their appeals heard, are treated fairly and efficiently. However, the data information has to be there, has to be collected, and has to be administered. Then the tribunal has to look at it and compare it to the correct criteria to make the effective decision.

This is not only for those people who are having their appeals heard but also for Canadian taxpayers, to ensure that people who deserve to have their appeals approved actually get them approved and receive the funds that are due to them. It is also to make sure that people who do not meet the criteria are treated fairly and that the taxpayers are treated fairly.

We have a system now that we put in place. We have added extra staff to administer the system. We are making sure that all Canadians, including Canadian taxpayers as well as those who are having their appeals heard, are treated fairly.

Social Development September 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague's question this evening is about the Social Security Tribunal.

We have taken steps to actually increase the efficiency of this tribunal. We now have added 22 new employees to the tribunal. They will be working shortly.

We are doing what we can to make sure that all Canadians who have their claims appealed at the Social Security Tribunal are treated fairly and efficiently in a timely manner. That is why we have added more staff.

It is true that we did have a larger than expected backlog coming from the former tribunals, the former system, as we transitioned to this new system. This new system was put in place in 2013, and as I said, we have added more staff.

We are making sure that Canadians are treated fairly. We are seeing some good results from this. In fact, because we added an extra layer within the department, people are having their appeals heard within the department before they actually get to the tribunal. Now 90% of EI cases are actually being solved at the departmental level, before they actually have to go to the tribunal.

The new system is working. We did have a backlog. The backlog will soon be taken care of. We will have an efficient system that not only delivers better for the people who have their appeals heard at the Social Security Tribunal, but one which is also better for the taxpayer. It is a more efficient and better system.