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Liberal MP for Charlottetown (P.E.I.)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 39.50% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act March 6th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, as always I appreciate the passion that the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour brings to this place.
At the outset of his remarks, he described his party as one that is in favour of free trade. There are a couple of sayings that come to mind immediately. One is that they can “talk the talk, but not walk the walk”; and also, perhaps not in the context of this particular agreement, but in general, that “the perfect is often the enemy of the good”.
Given the member's statement that his party is one that supports free trade, other than the free trade agreement with Jordan, could he provide a list of the free trade agreements that his party has voted in support of?
Supreme Court Act February 28th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be able to speak to an important issue for Canada, namely its two official languages.
I believe that French is important. When I was elected for the first time, in 2011, I made a commitment to learn French for a number of reasons, the most compelling being that I felt it was important to be able to communicate with voters in their first language.
Charlottetown's Acadian community is flourishing, and the Carrefour de l'Isle-Saint-Jean is its cultural and educational heart. To be honest, I am quite eager to go back there for the annual Club Richelieu fundraiser tomorrow night.
Each week, when I am in Ottawa, I take an hour or two to learn French and practise. I do the same when I am at home, in Charlottetown. Learning the other official language has been very gratifying for me personally.
Prince Edward Island has a rich history in terms of French and Acadian language and culture, and we embrace it, knowing that Canada's linguistic duality is very important. It is not just a legal or constitutional matter. Promoting and understanding French can be a unifying force for us all.
Today we are talking about the role that the French language plays in the legal system. The bill introduced in the House is a legislative measure that, I can only assume, is driven by the member for Acadie—Bathurst's great sense of pride.
The hon. member is part of a different caucus, and that is not a criticism. I must say that I admire his passion and strong commitment to Canada's official languages as well as his dedication to ensuring institutional bilingualism in the courts. I hope he knows just how much respect members from both sides of the House have for him.
Let us move on to the bill. It would amend the Supreme Court of Canada Act and introduce a new requirement for judges appointed to the Supreme Court to understand English and French without the assistance of an interpreter. Some members will recall that the idea of amending the Supreme Court of Canada Act has been proposed in the House of Commons a number of times in previous parliaments. That includes a similar bill that was introduced by our former colleague, the hon. Denis Coderre, who is now the mayor of Montreal.
I am in favour of second reading of this bill, despite some minor reservations that I will come back to in a moment. I also believe that my colleague from Saint-Laurent—Cartierville is in favour of this, which convinces me a little bit more that this bill deserves to be studied and to be given second reading.
I invite our Conservative colleagues to support this bill so that it can go to committee, where it will certainly have a full hearing. In this way we will be able to evaluate the merits and the flaws of the bill and give the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights the opportunity to hear from experts.
I would like to say that I am very reluctant to use a private member's bill to amend such an important law. I would like to explain.
The Criminal Code of Canada is a vitally important piece of legislation that plays a major role in the day-to-day lives of Canadians. I believe that it should not be tinkered with by a frustrated member who would like to score some political points in his riding and, even worse, against his leader. However, the Criminal Code, which is so important, has unfortunately been deformed by a series of private members' bills introduced by Conservative backbenchers.
The purpose of these bills is mainly to fundraise by making it seem as though the Conservatives are fighting crime, while deliberately ignoring the evidence and the hard facts.
For the Conservatives, the Criminal Code is just a tool for garnering donations from people who do not understand the evidence and the facts and are convinced that vengeance is the only form of justice. The frequent use of private members' bills to amend criminal law has made the Criminal Code somewhat incoherent.
It is wrong to tinker with the Criminal Code, unless of course the goal is to slowly and surreptitiously amend it, with the support of the Minister of Justice, who perhaps prefers to resort to private members' bills because, unlike other bills, they are not subject to the usual process for ensuring compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I say that because the Supreme Court of Canada Act is also a piece of legislation that should be considered of the utmost importance given how the Supreme Court influences all our institutions.
This is a concern I have in general with the use of a private member's bill for what should be in the bailiwick of a government acting in consultation and in agreement on matters of such great national importance.
These statutes should only be amended in circumstances that are of national significance and for which the implications are particularly meaningful to the whole of the country. Ideally, these types of changes should be driven by government, acting in a coordinated manner and in the national interest.
The hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst would surely agree with me that the constant tinkering with the Criminal Code, as an example, for purely partisan reasons is not the ideal.
I have similar concerns with respect to the Supreme Court of Canada Act. We should not, in normal circumstances, change such an important piece of legislation by means of a private member's bill. I say this knowing that one of my former colleagues, now the Mayor of Montreal, was one of the first to suggest changes to the Supreme Court of Canada Act that are now before the House.
We do not, however, operate in normal circumstances.
I do not believe that we have a government that acts consistently in the national interest, and I do not think that have a properly functioning democracy. We see this every day in the House, where Conservative members read scripts attacking others, heckle and shout at other members when they speak, and generally operate on the principle of division and negativity.
My assertion is merely confirmed with the their new unfair elections act, which is a transparent attempt by Conservatives to game the system for political advantage. We have, as Bob Rae rightly suggested, elected a motorcycle gang in Ottawa, a group that will do and say anything to win.
In normal times, when matters regarding the appointment of a Supreme Court justice arise, we would be assured that the process would unfold in a manner that was inclusive and meaningful. Canadians also expect matters related to the Supreme Court to be treated in a non-political way, and we expect appointments to be made to ensure a proper linguistic, gender, and regional balance as part of the process.
Again, these are not normal times.
We are reminded of the actions of the current Minister of Justice, who botched the appointment of Justice Nadon, an individual who was well respected and a capable jurist and who served on the Federal Court with honour. Justice Nadon endured public scrutiny and no doubt unwelcome attention simply because the current government mishandled the Supreme Court process.
Moreover, in order to fix the mishandling of the appointment of Justice Nadon, the Conservatives treated the Supreme Court of Canada Act with disdain, tacking on an amendment to the Supreme Court of Canada Act as part of a large budget omnibus bill. Such is the extent of the government's lack of respect for the court and for process.
This approach to the Supreme Court of Canada Act is completely at odds with how we should treat legislation of such significance. We should change the court's enabling legislation only when absolutely necessary, and not at the demand of a backbench MP, whether that person is from an opposition party or the government. That is my primary concern with the bill.
It relates not to the substance necessarily, but rather that we find ourselves with a government uninterested in dealing with the issue itself and to do so knowing that the issues around French language and linguistic duality are important and meaningful.
Let me close by again complimenting the member for Acadie—Bathurst for his effort. I hope that the hon. member will be open to answering some questions that I have on the substance of the bill when, hopefully, it makes its way to committee. That will require the Conservatives to do the right thing in the current context and allow the bill to go to a proper hearing.
Supreme Court Act February 28th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Acadie—Bathurst.
In spite of his spirited account of the role of the NDP in defending the rights of bilingualism in this country, I expect that he need not be reminded that this bill in its first instance had its genesis in the Liberal Party with the Hon. Denis Coderre.
My question is about process. Personally, I believe that the Supreme Court of Canada is important enough that the amendments proposed by this bill should be in a government bill and not a private member's bill.
It is not the member's fault that the government has not taken the initiative, but I would like to hear his opinion on that. Something as important as the Supreme Court of Canada should be handled by the government and not a member.
Employment Insurance February 28th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the EI cuts imposed by the Conservatives have pummelled the seasonal economy in Prince Edward Island and have united Islanders against the Conservatives and the political minister from Egmont. In a blatant attempt to save her job, Conservatives have created two EI zones, granting favourable treatment to the minister's riding while further penalizing those in urban and rural Prince Edward Island.
Why has the government pitted Islanders against Islanders in a desperate move to salvage the minister's seat?
Employment Insurance February 26th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, two cooks are working side by side for the summer at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers. Like many Islanders working seasonally, they require access to EI. One lives in Hunter River, the other lives less than three kilometres away in the rural community of Rennies Road. Before last week's announced changes, they both qualified for EI. Now just one qualifies and it is not the one from the smaller community.
They do the same job, but gerrymandering will force one to welfare. This advances the political interest of the minister, but how is it fair?
The Budget February 25th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member for Calgary Centre talk about how the budgets have been good for all Canadians, and it made me wonder when she last went to Prince Edward Island.
The economic policies of the Conservative government have devastated our seasonal economy. That devastation was made worse by an announcement on February 20 to treat some islanders differently from others with respect to employment insurance. The cuts made to the civil service were about 5% across the country, but double that in Prince Edward Island. We have also been particularly hard hit by the decision of the Conservative government to put a $3-billion gap in infrastructure funding.
My question for the member comes back to her theme that the budgets have benefited all Canadians. Are all Canadians only those who have had the good fortune of finding oil buried underground from hundreds of years ago?
The Budget February 25th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member started out with a couple of comments with respect to what has been in the Last Post Fund in this and in the last budget, and then later in his remarks he said that we should not take anything that anyone says at face value.
One of the things he said was that in the last budget there was $65 million in extra money allocated to the Last Post Fund. That is one thing that should not be taken at face value, and here is why.
Yes, there was mention of $65 million in the budget, but the Last Post Fund spends about $10 million a year. It is true that in the last budget the government doubled the amount for which veterans would be eligible for a funeral. Assuming the same number of eligible veterans, that would double the amount of expenditure under the Last Post Fund from $10 million to $20 million. The amount the Conservatives put in the budget was $65 million. They put $65 million in the budget for one reason: they had no intention of spending it. It is going to be impossible for veterans to be able to avail themselves of that. The $65 million is going to lapse and become part of the budget balancing exercise. It is what is called balancing the budget by stealth. That is what it is.
Does the member agree that this balancing of the budget by stealth is tantamount to balancing the budget on the backs of veterans, and that the $65 million in last year's budget is nothing but a ruse?
Heart Month February 13th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, February is Heart Month in Canada. Today, heart disease and stroke takes one life every seven minutes, and 90% of Canadians have at least one risk factor.
There is much we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones. The Heart and Stroke Foundation continues to make a real difference in reducing death and disability caused by heart disease and stroke, and taking a lead in health promotion and prevention.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation's 2014 report on the health of Canadians reveals that, despite great gains, there is still room for improvement.
There are indicators that our new generations are not as healthy as their parents. We owe it to our children to give them a chance to grow up healthy and to embrace a lifestyle that includes exercise and wholesome food.
We also need to continue to do our part in the ridings we represent, by informing our constituents about the importance of active living.
This is also our opportunity to create healthy environments and communities that make the healthy choice an easy choice. By supporting the Heart and Stroke Foundation this February, we can make a real difference for all Canadians.
Fair Elections Act February 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, while I realize that the focus of the hon. member's speech was the transmission of election results, we believe that a serious flaw in this legislation is the failure to answer the call of Elections Canada officials for more power to investigate electoral fraud, and in particular, the power to compel witnesses to testify under oath to aid an investigation.
This is a power that resides with the director of competition in a corporate context. One offence under the Competition Act, strangely enough, is deceptive telemarketing. Presumably, the director of competition can compel someone to testify under oath to aid an investigation for deceptive telemarketing. However, if that deceptive telemarketing is an electoral fraud case, that power is not available. Elections Canada has asked for it, but it is not in the act.
I would have thought that the government would be quite interested in giving additional powers, certainly powers equal to those of the director of competition, to find out who the bad people were who got into its database and participated in the robocall scheme. If that is, in fact, the case, why have these powers not been included in the act?
Fair Elections Act February 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, this member would be in a unique position to answer this question, given his experience in business and politics.
One of the offences covered under the Competition Act is deceptive telemarketing. One of the powers afforded to the director of competition under the Competition Act is the power to compel witnesses to testify, under oath, before a charge is laid. A complaint of the Chief Electoral Officer is that he was ill-equipped to do the robocalls investigation, which was deceptive telemarketing in a political context, if you will, because he did not have that power.
As someone who has had experience in business and in politics, would the hon. member explain why the director of competition has greater tools to investigate deceptive telemarketing practices than Elections Canada does?