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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
Business of Supply April 16th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I do not profess to know what is going on in the cabs in Toronto, being from a rural part of Atlantic Canada. My region needs the foreign worker program to support many businesses. Businesses have had to shut down because they cannot find available employees. We need to have a program that steps in and fills that gap. However, what we really need is to support education, training and the development of skills so that Canadians can fill available jobs. It works as a combination of our immigration system, our education system and our post-secondary education system to make sure that Canadians are trained for available jobs, whether they be in the agricultural industry or in the skilled trades in downtown cities like Toronto.
Business of Supply April 16th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the member for Malpeque talks about contradictions in one statement or another. One of his colleagues, referring to the temporary foreign workers program, said that temporary foreign workers were an important part of our economy and some of the best workers are temporary foreign workers. Then the same member said at a later date that the temporary foreign worker program had been consistently abused as a vehicle to replace Canadian workers with foreign workers.
If anyone is making contradictory statements, it is not the members of our party. It is the members of my opposition colleague's party.
As far as bringing in agricultural workers, in my riding we have a huge agricultural base and many farmers are using temporary foreign workers. There are no changes that we will make to make lives more difficult for those farmers. What we really need is to ensure we have the skills training and the job training necessary so Canadians who can fulfill those jobs.
I envisage a time in Canada where we do not need the foreign worker program because we will have more Canadians trained for the skills and jobs that are available.
Business of Supply April 16th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga—Streetsville today.
I am pleased to be here to speak to the motion on temporary foreign workers.
First, let me echo the comments of my colleagues that we are concerned about some of the recent matters highlighted in the media as of late. It is unequivocally unacceptable for Canadian companies to be laying off Canadians to replace them with foreign workers. I think that is something with which all members of the House would agree. As the minister has made clear in her statement on this matter, HRSDC officials are reviewing the matter.
In budget 2013, we committed as a government to make several changes to strengthen the temporary foreign worker program. Canadians must always have the first crack at any available job. We have been consistent on that position with the program.
Our government's focus from day one of this mandate has been on jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. Connecting Canadians with available jobs has been our mission. Through the expanded job alerts program, unprecedented funding for work sharing and skills training during the recession and targeting supports for older workers through the targeted initiative for older workers, our government has consistently put Canadians first.
Among the largest industrialized countries in the world, such as the U.S., Germany and Japan, Canada has the strongest record of growth and job creation throughout this economic recovery. Since the depth of the global economic recession, the Canadian economy has created over 900,000 net new jobs. Overwhelmingly, these are full-time, well-paying jobs in the private sector. We are doing well, but we cannot afford to become complacent.
The global economy remains fragile and the United States, our largest trading partner, continues to struggle with massive debt and modest economic growth.
Canadians may legitimately ask how, in a country with 7% unemployment, there could be a shortage of qualified applicants in any job. Yet, skills and labour shortages are a reality and they are affecting the ability of Canadian businesses to grow and compete. We have a mismatch on our hands between the skills that workers have and what employers need to hire to keep their businesses running smoothly and successfully.
The Prime Minister, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters and many others have called it one of the most difficult challenges Canada faces today.
Here are some more sobering statistics. When all professions are considered, it is estimated that by 2016 there will be 1.5 million skilled job vacancies in Canada. By 2021, that number will increase to 2.6 million skilled job vacancies. If we cannot find ways to fill our skills and labour gaps, we will lose ground significantly and all Canadians will suffer.
As someone from the Maritimes, I am all too familiar with those facts. In the Maritimes we now have the shipbuilding contracts coming to Halifax. We have the lower Muskrat Falls hydro project almost under way. There are going to be unprecedented opportunities for the skilled trades in my region. However, there will not be enough workers in the region to support this demand that will be there over the next decades. We need to invest now in training our workforce so people across the region can take advantage of this economic opportunity.
Our government is working hard to make this happen. We have made skills and training a central pillar of economic action plan 2013. With 18 years as a professional educator, it is the first budget in my memory that has education as its centrepiece. We are ramping up our efforts to give Canadians better labour market information so they can be better prepared for the jobs that are out there. We are encouraging employers to tap into demographic groups that they may have overlooked before, such as young people, aboriginal people, people with disabilities and workers over 55. We want as many Canadians as possible working.
Recent news stories about the use of the temporary foreign workers program have once again led to confusion and concern among Canadians. These stories have revived the persistent myth that our government's temporary foreign worker program is designed to undercut Canadian workers by giving employers access to cheap foreign labour.
There is a lot at stake here, so I want to tackle the myth of cheap labour head on.
The temporary foreign worker program has never been intended to save money for businesses by allowing them to ignore qualified Canadian applicants for jobs in favour of foreigners who would work for less money. The program has always been about filling vacancies where there are no qualified Canadian applicants. This is the most basic principle of the program. That is why we are reviewing and reforming the program to make it work better to ensure that Canadians always have first opportunity at available jobs.
As we have said many times, employers are required to do everything reasonable to find Canadian candidates for their job openings. Only when they cannot find a qualified Canadian are they allowed to hire from outside the country.
When companies are able to get foreign workers, it actually benefits Canadian workers, because when businesses expand, there is a ripple effect and more jobs are created.
The moment temporary foreign workers arrive in Canada, they have the same rights on the job as Canadians, including the right to be paid a fair wage. It is unfortunate that there is so much information out there, with big unions telling Canadians that temporary foreign workers are paid less than Canadians. Every employer must pay a temporary foreign worker the same wage it is paying its Canadian workers for doing the same job in the same location.
As I have said before, our government is aware of the concerns Canadians have with the temporary foreign worker program. The review we have undertaken would address these concerns.
Budget 2013 announced several initiatives we are pursuing in the coming months. We will require employers to increase the intensity of their efforts to hire Canadians before we judge them eligible to get temporary foreign workers imported into the country. We will, for example, expect them to advertise over a longer period, to a wider audience, when they have jobs available.
We will help employers which currently rely on temporary foreign workers to plan for transition to an all-Canadian workforce. We are proposing to introduce a fee for employers requesting temporary foreign workers so the Canadian taxpayer will not have to pay for these processing costs.
Our government will never stray from our commitment to strengthen the economy for all Canadians. We are going to do what it takes to ensure Canadians always have first opportunity at any available job. However, we do not need several more months of talking on the subject.
Budget 2013 has laid out concrete proposals for fixing the program. For that reason, I am asking the opposition to quit playing politics and work with us on positive solutions.
Therefore, I will not be voting for the motion. I urge all members of the House to join me in standing up for real action by voting against the motion.
The Budget March 26th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, on that issue, the minister in charge of education in Nova Scotia is interested in working with the federal government on the jobs grant program. She says that this an interesting program. She is going to negotiate and collaborate. This is an NDP minister in Nova Scotia. Therefore, I think there is more of this across the country with the provinces, which all realize we need to focus on jobs and skills.
In Nova Scotia alone we have a $25 billion shipbuilding program. We are going to need thousands of skilled tradespeople to fill those jobs in the maritime provinces. This jobs grant is going to meet that need. We are going to collaborate and work with the provinces to deliver on that goal.
The Budget March 26th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I find it laughable that a member of the Liberal Party is criticizing the support this government has provided to the aerospace industry after the decade of darkness the Liberals delivered to Canada's military. When we took over government from the Liberals, we had helicopters that would not go up and submarines that would not go down. It was a decade a darkness, as General Hillier said in his book. The damage that did to our aerospace industry was devastating. We are only beginning to recover.
Canadians can count on this government to continue to work with our aerospace partners. The aerospace industry supports this budget. We are going to continue to support those jobs because those are important manufacturing jobs, not only in my riding but across the country.
The Budget March 26th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the opposition often criticizes our government for failing to consult and for not listening. As part of this budget, we are going to start consulting with the provinces on skills training. Why is this important? It is important because last year alone there were over 250,000 highly skilled jobs available, but employers could not find people to do the jobs. We also had this large amount of people who could not find work.
We have a disconnect between available jobs and people with the skills needed to fill those jobs. We need to work together across the country with our provincial partners to put processes in place so we can match people who have the skills needed with the jobs that are available today. This plan is about that. There will be consultations with the provinces. The people who are worried about how this will affect their programs should not worry very much.
I have 18 years as a professional educator. This is the first budget I can remember that has education and training as a centrepiece. As an educator, I am pleased to see that in the budget.
The Budget March 26th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of economic action plan 2013, a budget focused on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
When we ran in the election of 2011, we asked the Canadian people for a mandate, which included balancing the budget within the term of that mandate, by 2015. This budget presented by the Minister of Finance with the support of the Prime Minister of Canada would keep us on track to having that budget balanced by 2015.
As we move toward a balanced budget, there are three paths we could take.
The first path is to raise taxes, and many governments across Canada have taken the challenge to balance their budgets by raising taxes. However, that is not the path this Minister of Finance took. That is not the path of this government. We will not balance the budget by raising taxes on the people of Canada.
In fact, since we were elected in 2006, we have cut taxes for the average Canadian family by $3,200, and we are still going to balance the budget by 2015. By lowering the tax burden on the people of Canada, we are increasing the jobs, growth and productivity of our country. Low taxes mean more jobs. More jobs means more productivity. That is the path we are taking.
The second path we could have chosen was to cut the transfers to the provinces, as we saw the Liberal Party do the 1990s. Those transfers are valuable to provinces as they try to deliver on the priorities of Canadians in terms of education and health care. We saw billions of dollars taken back from the provinces in terms of those transfer payments in the 1990s, which saw hospitals close, nurses laid off, teachers laid off and Rae days in Ontario. We do not want to go back to that path. We will not support that.
This budget does not cut any transfers to the provinces. In fact, since we took office in 2006, the federal government has increased transfers each and every year. The transfer for health care, the social transfer and transfers for equalization have all been increased each and every year, which is more support for the provinces. Even though we are increasing that support for the provinces, we are still on the path to balance the budget.
In fact, since 2006 when we took office, we have increased those transfers from the federal government to the provinces by more than $20 billion to a record high in 2013-14 of $62 billion. This is an incredible amount of money that our provinces can use to support health care; to support education; to pay doctors, nurses and teachers; and to support other social programs in their provinces. That is an incredible commitment the federal government has made to the provinces, and we are keeping that promise.
My own province of Nova Scotia has seen the transfers from the federal government increase in 2006 from $2.2 billion to almost $3 billion, which is an increase of almost $700 million. That $700 million is a lot of nurses, teachers and support for the priorities of Nova Scotians, and that is contained in this budget.
The third path is the one we chose to balance the budget. It is the path that looks first into government spending to make sure we focus government spending in a pragmatic and prudent way, focusing on the priorities of Canadians. That is what we see in this budget. The budget supports my constituents in a large rural riding on the east coast because it focuses on the same priorities: jobs, growth and prosperity. It supports industries that are needed in my riding that hire the vast majority of the constituents I represent here in Ottawa.
For example, this budget supports infrastructure. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities asked this government to support infrastructure: waste water treatment plants, roads, bridges and all the infrastructure needed to attract business to rural parts of Canada. This is infrastructure that is needed both in urban and rural Canada. This budget focuses on that.
The build Canada plan, which sunsets next year, put in billions of dollars and worked with municipal leaders across Canada to support infrastructure development. However, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities asked the government to do a longer-term deal in this budget, which we have done.
It is a 10-year deal for the new building Canada plan, adding $53 billion for infrastructure from coast to coast to coast, for roads, bridges, recreational centres and waste water treatment plants. These are the projects that this fund will help, which will help build the economy in rural and urban parts of the country.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities also asked the government to support it again with the gas tax. We all know that in previous budgets we made the gas tax allowance permanent. That was asked for and delivered. In this budget, we are indexing the gas tax allowance to protect the municipalities from inflation so they can count on that money. It will be continued at an indexed rate so they know they will not be hurt by inflation. That was asked for by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities made and something we delivered on.
Does it support the budget? Absolutely. It stated:
Today's budget delivers significant gains for Canada's cities and communities. We applaud the government for choosing to continue moving our communities forward even as it meets its immediate fiscal challenges....This is also a budget that delivers real gains for Canadians...it will spur growth and job creation while laying the foundation for a more competitive economy.
In Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, there is a large forestry industry. Does this budget support the forestry industry? These are the guys who go out in the woods and cut the trees down. Not only does it support them, but the truckers who transport the logs to the sawmills. It supports the sawmill workers who turn the logs into lumber. It supports the manufacturers who turn the lumber into products which we export not only domestically but worldwide. This is a strong budget in support of the forestry industry.
The Forest Products Association of Canada supports this budget. It stated:
—(FPAC) welcomes the additional support for innovation and market development unveiled in today’s budget and also applauds the government’s focus on skills training....We applaud the government for its continuing support for the forest products sector even at a time when tough measures are needed to reduce the deficit. This is a strategic future-oriented decision that demonstrates ongoing commitment to the transformation of the industry.
We have support from the forestry industry for this budget.
In my riding, agriculture is a heartbeat. It employs literally thousands of my constituents. There are blueberry producers, dairy farmers, beef farmers and poultry farmers. There are agriculture producers who have created innovative products. There are fruit producers in the riding. This government and this budget supports the agriculture sector. It is expanding our markets internationally. It is investing in research and innovation so agriculture producers can develop new products and sell them in new markets. This is a strong budget in support of research, innovation and agriculture and supports, in particular, the extension of international trade so we can produce and export our agriculture products to new markets.
What does the agriculture community say about this budget? The Canadian Cattlemen's Association stated:
The CCA welcomes Budget 2013 and appreciates the Federal Government’s continued commitment to innovation, competitiveness, market development, regulatory cooperation, and addressing labour shortages. These are the top priorities for our industry and for the CCA.
That is strong support for this budget by the agriculture community and the industries that are important in my riding.
Also in my riding there is manufacturing, which is centred around the aerospace industry. There is an IMP plant in Amherst, which employs 400 people. There is an IMP plant in the Halifax airport region, which employs over 1,200 people. There are 1,600 of my constituents who are directly employed in the aerospace industry. I know there are many thousands in the Quebec aerospace industry who put dinner on the table for their families due to direct employment by the aerospace industry.
What does the aerospace industry say about this budget? It stated:
—(AIAC) is very pleased with measures announced in the Economic Action Plan 2013...The measures announced in [this budget] constitute an excellent short-term response to the Aerospace Review report...
Therefore, there is support for this budget by that industry.
This budget supports my riding, the agriculture community, the forestry industry, the municipalities, infrastructure and the aerospace industry. Many of my constituents will benefit very much from the implementation of this budget. I ask all my colleagues in the House to stand and support economic action plan 2013.
Last Post Fund March 22nd, 2013
The last post fund is the fund we use to show respect to our veteran soldiers, the ones who fought at Juno in Normandy, the ones who fought in the jungles of Burma, the ones who liberated millions of Europeans in World War II, a generation of soldiers who are coming to the ends of their lives.
Our government has answered their request to respect them by increasing the Last Post Fund from $3,600 to $7,300 to help and support their families with the funeral.
We need to show these veterans respect, both in life and in death. Our government has answered that call.
I call upon the opposition to stand and vote in favour of this budget. If it votes against budget 2013, it will be voting against every veteran across our country.
Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada March 20th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, last week, the NDP leader travelled to Washington D.C. to attack Canadian jobs and Canada's national interests. While he was down there, he made it a priority to sit down for dinner at a posh downtown hotel to take up the cause of a man convicted of shooting a front-line Chicago police officer, not once, not twice, but three times. That heinous and violent attack left police officer Terrence Knox paralyzed until his recent death.
On this side of the House, we make it a priority to put the safety of Canadians first. The NDP's policy is to go south to recruit foreign criminals to come to Canada. Let me be clear. On this side of the House, our Conservative government will not permit foreign criminals who have no right to be in Canada to come to our country.
Putting forward policies like this is precisely the reason the NDP cannot be trusted by Canadians.
Canada Labour Code March 8th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-464. The bill would amend the Employment Insurance Act to double the maximum number of weeks of parental benefits for new parents who are blessed with multiple children from a single pregnancy, or who adopt more than one child at the same time.
Our government supports all Canadian families, including multiple-birth families. However, our government cannot support the bill because it would contradict the intent of the Employment Insurance Act.
Please let me explain. EI is not a social welfare program where an individual's financial needs and personal circumstances are determinants in deciding whether or not he or she is eligible. EI is an insurance program. This means that eligibility criteria and entrance requirements apply to all claimants equally.
The Employment Insurance Act is very clear in terms of the treatment of multiple births for the purposes of receiving parental benefits. It states that the maximum number of weeks that could be paid in EI parental benefits as a result of a single pregnancy or adoption is 35 weeks. Parental benefits are intended to support parents in balancing demands of work and family by providing the flexibility they need to stay home and care for their newly born or newly adopted children.
The Employment Insurance Act provides flexibility, allowing moms and dads to share the weeks of benefits as they see fit. They can either be taken consecutively or concurrently, providing flexibility for those families. In addition to the 35 weeks, the mother is also entitled to 15 weeks of maternity benefits. The principle underlying maternity benefits is that the mother should be protected from an earnings loss caused by her physical inability to work or to seek work in the weeks surrounding the birth.
There is considerable evidence that shows that parental care in the first year of life is critical to parent-child bonding and to establishing a foundation for subsequent growth, development and learning. That is why our government provides a full year of EI maternity and parental benefits and requires only 600 hours to qualify for those benefits.
In Canada, access to EI maternity and parental benefits is high. Women continue to make up the vast majority, which was 86.5% of the claims in 2011. However, the number of claims for men is increasing, and this signals that more couples are sharing the benefits between men and women.
Canadian families are a priority for our government. We have done a lot recently to help families going through a difficult period. Our government is also supporting the parents of critically ill or injured children, by creating a new EI benefit of up to 35 weeks for those parents under the Helping Families in Need Act. We have also amended the Employment Insurance Act to facilitate access to sickness benefits for parents should they fall ill while receiving EI parental benefits.
We have also made amendments to the Canadian Labour Code, to ensure employees in federally regulated industries have job protection and are not penalized when they have to take time off work for the special circumstances that I previously mentioned. The Canada Labour Code covers about 128,000 workplaces and close to one million people across Canada. These people work in federally regulated industries, such as transportation, communications, banking and crown corporations.
Our government is helping Canadian families in other ways as well. We have introduced changes so that military personnel in Canada who must report for duty have improved access to parental benefits. Through the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act, our government extended access to EI special benefits, including maternity and parental benefits, for self-employed people who opt in to the EI program. We have also provided greater flexibility under the EI program for parents who foster children and have committed to adopting them, through earlier access to parental benefits.
We believe that families are the bedrock of our society. That is why each year we spend billions of dollars in transfer payments to the provinces and territories to support early childhood development and child care. We also help Canadian families through direct spending and targeted tax relief. For example, the Canada child tax benefit, the working income tax benefit and the national child benefit supplement provide income to support low and middle-income families across this nation.
Our government will not waiver from its commitment to support the well-being of our country by investing in the bedrock, which is our families.
Canada's economic action plan has further strengthened the universal child care benefit to help 1.5 million families and more than 2 million young children every year. An estimated 22,000 families have been lifted out of poverty since this benefit was introduced. Working parents are important to our economy, so we have invested heavily in the creation of new spaces for child care.
As members can see, our government supports parents in many ways. Working parents are vital to a strong and prosperous economy. That is why we want to help them balance work with their family responsibilities and their family obligations. That being said, we will not change the fundamental nature of a national program such as EI that has already proven to be flexible and adaptable to parents' needs. Time and time again our government has demonstrated its commitment to helping families.
Our government has costed this bill at around $100 million a year, and that does not include the cost of administration of the bill. This would be in addition to the $8 billion a year cost to Canadian taxpayers that EI measures that the NDP would like to create, including a 360-hour work year. The result of implementing the NDP's EI agenda would see a 40% increase in EI premiums, which would be economically crippling to these people in fragile economic times.
While our support for families is clear, it is also clear that Canada cannot afford the risky financial plan of the NDP, the one it has for Canadian taxpayers. I would encourage all members of the House to vote against this legislation.