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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
Social Development June 13th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the Social Security Tribunal started its operations on April 1, 2013, and received higher than anticipated caseloads from the legacy tribunals. These income security legacy cases are all deemed ready to proceed as of April 1, 2014, according to the regulations. The SST is giving top priority to these legacy cases.
Business of Supply June 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the truth is, we are supporting these groups that she talks about. For youth, we have the youth employment strategy, with over $300 million in investment to support youth. We have strategic initiatives for older workers, trying to train them so they can get back into the workforce if they choose to keep working. We have lowered the tax burden over 160 times. The average family of four pays $3,400 less a year in tax.
All of the international data, studies and reports, show that the Canadian middle class is doing far better than their counterparts in other countries. We have initiated strong tax relief across the board for Canadians. We have specific programs so that we have under-represented groups getting training for the jobs that exist today and jobs that will exist tomorrow. Also, we are supporting employers getting skin in the game so they can help to train people for the jobs they will have.
We are taking these strong steps, and I do not understand why, with every one of these initiatives we put forward, the NDP constantly votes against them.
Business of Supply June 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, if the member remembers my speech, I talked about all of the different initiatives that our government has taken to support all facets of society, including tax reductions. I know that the NDP never supports them because it believes that governments should have all of the money and fund all kind of social programs. It does not trust Canadians who have the dollars in their pockets to make their own decisions on spending. That is the basis of the NDP.
The member talked about seniors. I know that she has a lot of seniors in her riding in British Columbia. When she protests against income splitting for families with children, taking money away from children across the country, would she also support the elimination of income splitting for seniors, which has benefited seniors from one end of the country to the other? Would she stand up and say that she is going to vote to take away income splitting for seniors?
Business of Supply June 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I do not know who is ignoring reality. All we have to do is to read the analysis from The New York Times study, which suggests that Canada's middle class has leapfrogged middle-income earners to the south of us. We have the richest middle-level earnings cohort in the world here in Canada. That is a fact. That was released in international studies.
Median income in Canada has climbed by 19.7%, since 2000. This matches the pace in Britain. We are ahead of Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, and Germany, and far ahead of the meagre 0.3% in the United States under the Obama administration.
I do not know who is ignoring reality, but I can tell members that the facts support that Canada's changes in tax policy and its investment in jobs and economic growth are showing great fruit. We hope that the opposition will get on board and support this.
Business of Supply June 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, if we look at the tax reductions that this government has made, we reduced taxes over 160 times since taking office in 2006. We have lowered taxes on Canadian families. As I mentioned in my speech, today the average of four can expect to pay up to $3,400 less tax than it did before we took office.
We have lowered taxes across the board. Small and larger businesses pay lower taxes and they are the economic drivers of our society. Today, we have a low corporate tax system that encourages foreign and domestic investment and that invites companies to come here, stay here and employ Canadians. It invites small and medium-sized businesses to expand and grow. Therefore, low taxes is one of the best ways to try to ignite our economy and continue to respond to what was the largest recession since the Great Depression.
We are on the right track, we are moving forward and our low-tax plan is bearing fruit. I want to thank my hon. colleague for supporting those initiatives that will create a robust industry in Canada.
Business of Supply June 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, of course I support tax fairness for families across Canada. My background is as a teacher. Two teachers who are married and making $50,000 per year each face a much lower tax burden than a welder who makes $100,000 a year and whose spouse stays at home with the children. There are two families, each making the same total income, but one family has to pay significantly less tax than the other family. That is inherent unfairness.
I know the NDP does not like to hear about any tax cuts or any tax reductions for Canadians, but we believe tax policies should treat all Canadians and Canadian families with children fairly.
Business of Supply June 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the memorial ceremony for the RCMP officers who were laid to rest today in Moncton very close to my riding. We always need to recognize and remember the sacrifice that our law enforcement officers are prepared to make each and every day to protect the greater society.
I am so pleased to be able to participate in this debate today. It gives me the opportunity to provide the House with clear facts regarding our government's record, which has raised the income of the middle class and reduced the tax burden on low and middle-income Canadians. That is why our government's top priorities remain creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity, and we will not be supporting this NDP motion.
Conservatives know that the best way to raise the income of Canadians and their families is through a strong and growing economy. This means ensuring that Canadians have the skills they need to fill well-paying jobs that a strong economy will generate.
We believe the private sector creates jobs, not governments. This is why the government has put in place appropriate policies to maximize the growth in job creation and reduce inequality by reducing taxes, increasing support for hard-working Canadian families, promoting trade investment, supporting key economic sectors, making education accessible and affordable, reducing barriers to labour market participation and being responsible fiscal managers of the Canadian economy.
The proof is in the numbers. Since the depths of the global recession, Canada has demonstrated the strongest labour market performance of all G7 countries, with over one million net new jobs created since the pith of the economic recession in July 2009.
Indeed, because of this strong economy, the Canadian standard of living is one of the highest in the world. Canada's low-income rate has been dropping. In fact, it is at the lowest it has ever been. This is something the NDP like to ignore, but it is a fact.
Since the beginning of 2006, the take-home income of Canadian families across the board, and that is in all income groups, has increased by 10% or more. According to a recent Statistics Canada study, the median net worth of Canadian families is almost 80% more than the 1999 median and when adjusted for inflation, it is up 44.5% from 2005. Our government has helped the average Canadian family of four save close to $3,400 per year by cutting taxes over 160 times.
It is clear that our plan has been working and Canadians of low and middle incomes have seen real tangible improvements in their bank accounts.
It is not just Statistics Canada studies that are validating this approach. The Parliamentary Budget Officer in a recently released report entitled “Revenue and Distribution Analysis of Federal Tax Changes: 2005-2013”, identifies that middle and low-income earners have accrued the greatest financial benefit, specifically those in the 20 and 30 percentile of income earners, or those earning between $12,000 and $23,000. This group of households has accrued an average increase of 2.5% in after-tax income resulting from the major personal income changes since 2005.
This is because we understand how important it is to create the right environment for businesses to grow and create jobs. We recognize how vital it is to ensure that all Canadians have an equal opportunity to share in the benefits of a strong economy.
Through our jobs, growth and long-term prosperity approach, our government has effectively taken action that has improved the lives of Canadians at all income levels. This is why I find the NDP's motion so puzzling. The facts and studies validate our approach to creating the conditions for jobs and growth. I would think even the NDP would look at the hard facts and come to the conclusion that many Canadians have, which is that Canadians are better off today than they were in 2005.
The growing wealth of Canadians ought to be something that all parties can agree on, because each and every member wants to see less poverty and more Canadians with employment.
We are not saying that we are done. It is quite the opposite. We are saying that we are just getting started.
Canada currently has one of the lowest poverty rates among seniors in the world. It is lower now than it was under the Liberals, at 5.2% in 2011. The number of Canadians living below the low income cut-off is now at its lowest level ever. There are nearly 1.4 million fewer Canadians living in poverty under our Conservative government than under the Liberals.
Our government has removed one million Canadians from the tax rolls, including 380,000 seniors. Since we took office, there are 250,000 fewer children in poverty than under the previous government.
However, we are not satisfied. As the Minister of Employment and Social Development has pointed out, over and over again, there are still far too many people without jobs in Canada and far too many jobs in Canada without Canadians to fill them.
Our government believes more can be done with the training dollars we spend to lead to guaranteed jobs, which will improve the lives of Canadians and reduce overall inequality. We also believe that the best way out of poverty is a well-paying job. We believe the best way to reduce inequality is to create more jobs, and this can be done by improving and transforming our skills training system.
Let me outline some of the measures to transform the skills training system that will help Canadians get these available jobs and help Canada create more and better jobs.
As the economy has recovered, these skills mismatches along with labour and skill shortages have emerged in certain regions in certain sectors, highlighting the need to transform training and give employers a role in deciding where training dollars will go. This is why our government introduced the Canada job grant. The Canada job grant will encourage employers to invest more in skills and training and be involved in decisions to ensure that training leads to a guaranteed job at the end of that training.
The minister has reached agreements with all provinces to deliver the Canada job grant through the Canada job fund. The government is also committed to improving other labour market transfers to ensure that funds are being used to help Canadians obtain the skills they need for jobs in high-demand fields.
To this end, the government is renegotiating the labour market development agreements with provinces and territories. These are over $2 billion training funds that come directly from the EI account. Currently the human resources committee has been studying the renegotiation of these agreements, and as a member of that committee, I look forward to being able to recommend to the minister some ways that we could improve these agreements to better train unemployed Canadians for guaranteed jobs at the end of that training.
Our government is also investing $11.8 million over two years and $3.3 million per year ongoing from that to launch an enhanced job-matching service. This will provide job seekers with modern and reliable tools to find jobs that match their skills, and to provide employers with better tools to look for qualified Canadians to fill available jobs.
Through a secure, authenticated process, registered job seekers and employers will automatically be matched on the basis of skills, knowledge and experience. This proposed enhanced job-matching service will build on the launch of a modernized and easy-to-use consolidated national job bank.
Our government has also taken steps to reduce barriers to labour mobility across provinces and territories by helping regulated occupations develop nationally accepted standards.
To reduce non-financial barriers to completing apprenticeship training and obtaining certification, budget 2014 introduced a flexibility and innovation in apprenticeship technical training pilot project, which will expand the use of innovative approaches to apprentice technical training.
In addition, budget 2013 allocated $4 million over three years to continue to work with provinces and territories to harmonize the requirements for apprentices, as well as examine the use of practical tests as a method of assessment in targeted skill trades. Apprenticeship training is an important part of the post-secondary education system, and is a key provider for the skills and knowledge necessary for jobs and growth.
To further assist Canadians with training for a career in the skilled trades, budget 2014 announced the Canada apprenticeship loan, which would expand the Canada student loan program to provide apprentices registered in the Red Seal trades with access to over $100 million in interest-free loans each year.
This action builds on the existing government initiatives to apprentices and employers to encourage apprenticeship training and stimulate employment in the skilled trades. The apprenticeship grants are designed to encourage more Canadians to pursue and complete apprenticeship programs in the Red Seal trades.
In budget 2014, the government committed to take steps to ensure that apprentices would be aware of the existing financial supports available to them, while they were on technical training programs through the EI fund.
These are all measures that the government is taking to ensure taxpayers are well served by the federal training dollars.
Our government recognizes that there are often challenges for under-represented groups, such as youth, people with disabilities, aboriginal people and newcomers to Canada, in obtaining the support they require for jobs and growth. Encouraging the participation of under-represented groups in the job market continues to be an important priority for all of us.
Our government provides over $6.4 billion to the provinces to support skills development and higher education.
I have already touched on two of the transfers, the labour market development agreements and the Canada job fund. There are other transfers, such as the $3.75 billion for post-secondary education that comes from the Canada social transfer, or the labour market agreements for persons with disabilities, which provides $222 million to the provinces for the targeted initiative for older workers.
In addition to the money that we transfer to the provinces to help under-represented groups, the federal government directly spends almost $1 billion on skills development and higher education. There is a youth employment strategy which invests $300 million to provide training, internships, work experience and education for young people. There is the apprenticeship incentive grant and the apprenticeship completion grant, which provide over $110 million to help apprentices.
There is a skills and partnership fund, which partners with employers to provide training for guaranteed jobs mainly in the resource extraction industry. There is the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy, which provides $336 million to support aboriginal labour market participation. There is the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities, which is providing real job experience for Canadians with disabilities.
It is very clear from what I have just outlined that our approach is working and we have been raising the incomes of Canadians and their families. We have targeted initiatives for many different Canadians, for many different jobs and much different training to ensure we provide fairness across the board. We are continuing to equip Canadians with the skills required to obtain and keep the well-paying jobs available today and in the future. We are continuing to make smart investments in programs that are having real results for under-represented groups.
The Conservative government will continue to focus on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity and put in place the appropriate policies to reduce inequality. That is why I will not be supporting this motion. I would encourage my colleagues opposite to look at the facts and reject the motion.
Canada Pension Plan June 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-591. I would like to first congratulate the hard-working member for Chatham-Kent—Essex for introducing this terrific bill. I hope that all parties will support the bill to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act to deny CPP survivor benefits and the OAS allowance to anyone convicted of murdering a spouse, common law partner, or parent.
As the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex has pointed out, no one wants to see criminals rewarded for their crimes. Certainly no one who pays taxes or who personally contributes to an insurance plan wants to see murderers receive a benefit for killing someone. Our government always puts victims first and has a strong record of bringing back fairness to the criminal justice system. I agree, and the government agrees with the member's bill, and I will be pleased to support the bill when it comes up for a vote. We will be making some technical amendments at committee. However, we believe that the crux of the bill meets the challenge.
I hope we will work with the opposition to see the bill pass quickly so that the human resources committee can study it this fall. As we have heard, there is all-party support for this legislation.
Let me describe the benefits we are talking about. When a contributor to the Canada pension plan dies, his or her surviving spouse, common law partner, and dependent children are entitled to certain benefits. Specifically, these benefits are the monthly survivor's pension plan paid to the spouse or common law partner, the monthly surviving child benefit for dependent children up to the age of 25, if they are full-time students, and a lump sum death benefit usually paid to the contributor's estate.
For a spouse, common law partner, or child to be eligible for CPP survivor benefits, the deceased contributor must have made significant contributions to the Canada pension plan. In the case of old age security, the surviving spouse or common law partner is entitled to the allowance for the survivor if the survivor is aged 60 to 64, has a low income, and has not started living with another partner.
The Department of Employment and Social Development already has administrative procedures, based on common law principles, that prohibit a spouse, common law partner, or child from receiving survivor benefits if the department is informed that the person has been convicted of the murder of an individual and is the survivor and consequently the primary beneficiary. The problem is that there is no provision in the law to prevent these provisions from actually being paid. What C-591 would do is give clear authority, raise the visibility, and increase transparency to ensure that no one could benefit financially from murdering a spouse.
The member for Chatham-Kent—Essex will be requesting that the Minister of Employment and Social Development write to the provinces and territories to raise awareness of this bill and new legislation so that no one convicted of murder would be benefiting from the crime. We believe that the member's approach is the right approach, and we will be pleased to support it.
Thankfully, death at the hands of family members is not all that common in Canada, and the convicted murderers are not always eligible for these benefits anyway. However, over the last decade, an average of 48 people a year have been charged with spousal murder. Most of these were young men charged with killing their wives or female partners.
Each year between 2003 to 2012, an average of 21 individuals in all age categories were accused of killing a parent or step-parent. Among them were approximately five or six persons accused who were between the ages of 18 and 25. Only three of the accused were under the age of 18. Age 25 is the upper limit for eligibility for a child survivor benefit under the Canada pension plan.
That is why it is so important that Parliament pass the bill, because if even one person can benefit financially from killing a spouse, this is one too many.
The member is correct to proceed carefully with C-591, because it must be both fair to victims and fair to due process. First, this legislation would apply only to people who have been convicted of murder rather than to those who have been charged with murder. It is a basic principle of common law that a person accused of a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty. If the minister learns of a conviction, however, the individual would not only be disqualified from receiving survivor benefits but would also be required to pay back any survivor benefits he or she might already have received. This legislation would be retroactive.
If, however, such individuals eventually had their convictions reversed on appeal, their benefits would then, of course, be reinstated. This is the right approach, the fair approach, and the reasonable approach.
This law would not apply to minor children who have murdered a parent. The surviving child benefit is received not by the child but by that child's parent or guardian on the child's behalf to help cover the costs of caring for that child. We do not want to demand repayment of those children's benefits from a grieving widow whose child has been convicted of murdering her spouse.
What if the murderer was between the ages of 18 and 25 and a full-time student who would normally be eligible for the child benefit following the death of his or her parent? In such a case, the individual would be treated as an adult and would be rendered ineligible for these payments.
I would like to point out that this law would not prevent CPP death benefits from going to the estate of the murdered person. However, it would prevent the death benefit from going directly to the spouse or adult child convicted of the murder.
The government expects that victims organizations and family members would notify Employment and Social Development Canada in the event of these kinds of cases to help ensure that murderers would not benefit from their crimes. To help facilitate this, the government would engage directly with victims advocacy groups and stakeholder groups so that they could easily notify the department when someone was convicted of the murder of someone whose death could otherwise entitle them to a CPP or OAS benefit. In fact, the bill would increase the visibility of the issue, and we expect that it would increase notifications from individuals and groups.
I would like to commend the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex for introducing this bill and for all the hard work he continues to do in representing victims across Canada. This proposed legislation would restore fairness to victims and their families. Therefore, I highly encourage my fellow members to join with us, support this bill, and support it in passing quickly.
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, as I said, I can remember the finance minister standing in the House and addressing opposition questions similar to this one on this deal. This government conducted a tough negotiation with the United States of America, and we made sure that we put a negotiation in place to protect the privacy and the economic concerns of people who might be affected by this legislation that was put forward in the United States.
As for the actual financial costs, those will have to be determined as we move forward, because we cannot predict what is going to happen in the future. However, I can say that we will invest whatever money it takes to protect the finances and privacy of all Canadians who could be affected by this legislation.
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, first of all, the hon. member talked about the surplus the Liberals apparently left our government with. However, back in those days, around 2004-2005 and before our government took over, there was a huge issue in this country that was called the fiscal imbalance between the provinces and the federal government. We had provinces across the country complaining about the federal government's cuts in transfers and the way it had treated the provinces and caused this fiscal imbalance.
We do not hear the provinces complaining about the fiscal imbalance anymore, because when this government took over, the finance minister and the Prime Minister made changes to the equalization formula and fixed that problem.
When the member talks about the $13-billion surplus, that was done on the backs of the provinces. We did something different. We have done it in a different way.
On the member's second issue, veterans, we are investing more than $700 million per year, which more in support of our veterans than that party did when it was in office. No party has invested more in support of the health and welfare and future of our veterans than the Conservative Party of Canada. I stand firmly behind the supports we are putting forward to veterans.