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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is tax.

Liberal MP for Kings—Hants (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 39.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Economy January 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, with plummeting oil prices and stagnant growth, Canadians deserve leadership and certainty. Instead they have a Minister of Finance who dithers and delays the budget.

Yesterday the Parliamentary Budget Office warned, “There is...uncertainty right now...and not having a budget may actually add to that uncertainty.”

Will the government take the PBO's advice and table a budget in February to provide economic certainty to Canadians during this difficult time?

The Economy January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, if the minister is so sure that he can introduce a balanced budget this year without spending cuts, and deliver income splitting to the rich, why does he not introduce the budget as usual, in February? Clearly, according to what he is saying now, there is no fiscal reason or economic reason not to do that.

Is the real reason for delaying the budget to April a political one: to table a budget, perhaps in the middle of the Mike Duffy trial, to try to distract Canadians from yet another Conservative scandal?

The Economy January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the only thing this government manufactures is excuses. The reality is that the finance minister says he needs to delay the budget until he has heard from the economists. If the minister listened, he would hear TD Bank, and now the PBO, saying that he is heading toward a deficit, yet the minister insists that he can balance the budget while giving income splitting as a gift to the rich and without program cuts.

Now that he has heard from the economists, and they are contradicting him, will he stop dithering and table a budget to clear up this uncertainty he has created?

Business of Supply January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, in the current situation, it is very important that the government put forward an economic plan. I therefore support the NDP motion in that respect.

At the same time, we need to work more closely with the provincial governments on issues like minimum wage. I agree that middle-class families are having trouble making ends meet at a time when incomes have stagnated while the cost of living continues to rise. This is a problem in Canada and around the world.

The government should be working very closely with the provincial governments to develop post-secondary education programs, for example, in order to ensure that workers have the skills they need for the future. That would be another way to ensure progress for middle-class Canadians.

Business of Supply January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear. We do not support income splitting, which is unfair because it only benefits 15% Canada's richest. It does nothing for the other 85% of Canadians. However, it puts 100% of Canadian families deeper in debt by putting the government deeper in debt, because it is deficit financing. A tax cut like income splitting, which is highly regressive today, will be paid for through higher taxes in the future, and we do not support that.

The member spoke of free trade. We agree free trade is very important. The NAFTA is extremely important to the Canadian economy. Our relationship with the U.S. and Mexico are critically important, which is why I find it curious that the Prime Minister would have cancelled the upcoming summit of President Peña Nieto, President Obama and the Prime Minister in Ottawa. Why would he have damaged further our relations with our key trading partners in the NAFTA by cancelling that meeting?

Business of Supply January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, today I will speak about the Canadian economy and the challenges faced by middle-class Canadian families.

Conservative government mismanagement and also its lack of vision for the Canadian economy and its future has dashed the hopes of middle-class Canadian families. I would like to take a moment to reflect on the reality of Conservative management of the economy.

When it came to power in 2006, the Conservative government inherited a decade's worth of balanced budgets from Liberal governments as well as an annual surplus of $13 billion. It took the Conservatives just two years to turn that surplus into a deficit, and that was before the recession hit.

The Conservatives actually put Canada on the edge of deficit prior to the global financial crisis in 2008. Even in the most recent economic update, the government forecast shows that the economy's rate of growth would slow from one year to the next. That is the latest forecast from the government.

The economy is facing long-term structural challenges. These structural challenges existed before plummeting oil prices. The Bank of Canada has forecast that the economy's growth will decline in 2015 to 2.1% from the previously forecasted 2.6%. The TD's forecast is actually even lower, at 2%.

The Conservatives like to take credit for the country's favourable performance relative to other industrialized economies in weathering the 2008 recession, and it is true that we did get through the 2008 financial crisis better than other countries. However, the Economist magazines tells us that there are three principal reasons for that: first, Canada's banking system and the decision made by Prime Minister Chrétien and Finance Minister Martin not to follow the global trend of deregulation in the 1990s; second, with the fiscal management of the previous government, having taken more than $80 billion off the national debt, the Conservative government inherited the best incoming fiscal situation of any incoming government in the history of Canada; and third, oil, gas and minerals. Those are the three factors that helped Canada get through the 2008 financial crisis, and they have one thing in common: the Conservatives actually are not responsible for any of them.

It is important to realize that the more time has passed since the recession, the less robust Canada's economic recovery has been, especially in comparison with the U.S. In fact, the Economist magazine's article was “Canada's economy, Maple, resting on its laurels. Canada's post-crisis glow is fading”. That article was from last spring, a long time before plummeting oil prices.

Now it is clear, with the recent collapse of oil prices, that we cannot simply rely on fossil fuels, pipelines and minerals to be the sole drivers of the Canadian economy. The Conservatives have had a three-prong strategy. It has been oil, oil and oil. They have actually shortchanged other sectors, totally ignoring the manufacturing sector, where we have lost almost half a million jobs under the government.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Markham—Unionville.

Again, even before plummeting oil prices, Canada faced significant challenges, slow growth and a a soft employment market.

The number of Canadian jobless for over a year or more had actually doubled since 2008, and that was before plummeting oil prices. Even before plummeting oil prices, there were 200,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than in 2008. More young Canadians with good educations were unable to support themselves and were living at home with their parents. More Canadian parents and grandparents were going deeper in debt, in fact record levels of personal debt, because of their direct financial support of children and grandchildren. This was, again, before plummeting oil prices.

The reality is that the Conservative government has also raised taxes. It imposed a $330 million increase in Canadian tariffs in the previous budget implementation act. In fact, that took effect this month.

Now the government's fiscal position is eroding. The TD Bank has forecast a potential $4.7 billion deficit if oil prices do not recover. Similarly, the Conference Board of Canada has issued a report saying that the drop in oil prices will reduce government revenues by $4.3 billion.

These economic circumstances call for vision and leadership from the federal government, and certainty. In fact, we have had anything but certainty from the Minister of Finance or the government. The Minister of Finance postponed the tabling of a budget to April, at the earliest. Even in the best case scenario, where a budget is tabled in April, there will be a lack of parliamentary scrutiny as the House of Commons is due for a two week break in April.

Also troubling is the apparent rift within the government when it comes to how to cope with the budget surplus that is now evaporating.

The Minister of Employment and Social Development said:

We won’t be using a contingency fund. A contingency fund is there for unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters.

On the other hand, the Minister of Finance said:

The contingency fund is there for unexpected and unavoidable shocks to the system [like] the oil price decline--which was a dramatic one--would fall in that category.

The fact that two senior Conservative economic ministers have two totally separate and different positions on something as fundamental as the budget does not inspire confidence among the investment community or among consumers.

The dilemma over how to avoid a fiscal deficit would not have presented itself in the first place if the government had not recklessly painted itself into a corner with pre-election commitments to income splitting and other tax expenditures. This was the opposite of leadership. The government was pandering to its base for political advantage. It was doing everything it could to create a notional surplus on the eve of an election to fund its pre-election spending. It took no account of the potential volatility of commodity prices.

It is plain and simple. The government mismanaged the fiscal situation. It let Conservative ideology and politics take priority over the practical demands of governing and fiscal responsibility.

The government should now prepare and table a budget that acknowledges the uncertainty and provides some level of leadership. It should not wait until April to do this. The government should retreat from its income splitting commitment because it is costly and it would benefit only 15% of Canadians. We heard from the former minister of finance, Jim Flaherty, on this, and he expressed concerns that it was unfair.

Before plummeting oil prices, income splitting was unfair. After plummeting oil prices and its fiscal impact, it is unaffordable. It is important to realize that any tax cut like income splitting, which only benefits 15% of the richest families, and deficit financing will require all Canadians to pay higher taxes in the future.

The Bank of Canada has shown leadership. It recognized the turbulence faced by the Canadian economy and it cut the key interest for the first time in almost five years.

Despite the warning from economists, the TD Bank and others, the Minister of Finance said, “the Canadian economy is in good space”. This is out of touch with the emerging reality, and out of sync with the concerns of middle-class Canadian families. It is also indifferent to the needs of average Canadians.

It is important to realize that the Conservative government has not provided certainty to Canadians, and it has not provided a plan for jobs and growth. A plan for jobs and growth was needed before plummeting oil prices. We need a plan for jobs and growth even more today.

A Liberal government would invest in plans for jobs and growth in three principle ways. It would invest in infrastructure. We have never had a better time to invest in infrastructure than today. We would invest in people and skills. We would invest in innovation.

A Liberal government would invest in jobs and growth. Canadian families are looking for leadership and investment in jobs and growth, a real plan.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns January 26th, 2015

With regard to the administration of the Access to Information Act: (a) what are the criteria and what is the process by which the government judges that a request made under the act is frivolous or vexatious in nature; (b) what are the titles, dates, and file numbers of the documents in which the criteria and process are set forth; (c) for each government institution, how many requests has the institution processed since January 1, 2014; (d) of the number of requests in (c), how many were considered frivolous or vexatious according to the criteria and process set out in (a); and (e) for each government institution, what were the ten most recent requests processed which, in the opinion of government, are frivolous or vexatious, providing the file number of the request, the text of the request, and the category of requester, distinguishing the following categories, (i) academia, (ii) business (private sector), (iii) media, (iv) organization, (v) member of the public, (vi) decline to identify?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns January 26th, 2015

With regard to travel paid for by government departments and agencies for Members of Parliament and Senators other than the minister, Minister of State, or Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the department: since 2010-2011 inclusively, (a) what was the total cost for each trip; (b) what was the cost for each trip, broken down by (i) transportation, (ii) accommodation, (iii) meals and incidentals, (iv) gifts; (c) what was the reason for each trip; (d) what was the name of the Member of Parliament or Senator on each trip; (e) what was the itinerary for each trip; (f) was the Member accompanied by staff and, if so, what was the cost for the staff member or members, broken down by (i) transportation, (ii) accommodation, (iii) meals and incidentals, (iv) gifts; and (g) was a press release issued regarding the trip and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?

Questions on the Order Paper January 26th, 2015

With respect to each expenditure contained in each budget or budget implementation bill since fiscal year 2006-2007, inclusively: (a) has the Department of Finance done an economic impact analysis of the expenditure; (b) if the answer to (a) is affirmative, what is the date, name and file number of any record which constitutes part of that analysis; (c) has the Department of Finance relied on any economic impact analysis of any organization outside government on the expenditure or not; and (d) if the answer to (c) is affirmative, (i) which organizations analysed the measure, (ii) what is the date, name and file number of any record obtained from that organization which constitutes part of that analysis?

The Economy January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I guess it is that minister and not the Minister of Finance who speaks on behalf of the government when it comes to the budget.

On January 14, the Minister of Finance said that his budget projections accounted for the lower price of oil; yet the next day he said that the impact of the oil price was complex, and he postponed the budget until April.

Which of the minister's stories should markets and Canadians actually believe? More fundamentally, why is the minister creating instability when he should be strengthening the reputation of Canada in the world by introducing a real plan for jobs and growth?