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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is veterans.

Liberal MP for Charlottetown (P.E.I.)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 39.50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions June 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition with respect to the drastic cuts at Canada Post, which will eliminate door-to-door delivery, close post offices, and drastically increase postage rates.

The petitioners, who are from Prince Edward Island, indicate that Canada Post is a public service that needs to be protected. They call upon the government to reverse the cuts and to look at ways to innovate.

Instruction to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs June 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.

First, I would like to speak about cuts. The minister said that there were no cuts, but that is not true. The head office of the Department of Veterans Affairs is located in Charlottetown. This office now has far fewer employees to serve veterans, and the same is true of other offices across the country. It is completely false to say that no cuts have been made.

The question I want to pose is with respect to the view of the government with respect to RCMP veterans. We know there was a class action lawsuit launched by Dennis Manuge against the government with respect to the clawbacks of their disability benefits. We know that at the same time that class action lawsuit was commenced, a companion lawsuit was commenced by RCMP veterans who were in the exact same situation.

The Conservatives settled the case with Dennis Manuge after they lost at the federal court. They refused for months to include the RCMP vets in that settlement and made the them wait for several more months before finally bringing them to the table.

What does it say about the view of the government with respect to the status of RCMP vets in the eyes of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Government of Canada?

Criminal Code June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have indicated on countless occasions my profound concern about the ongoing effort of Conservative members of Parliament who introduce bills allegedly to combat crime. I have repeatedly made my concerns known that these crime bills are undermining the coherence of the Criminal Code of Canada. Far too often we find backbench MPs introducing private members' bills primarily relating to crime and justice, and more often than not based on input from the Prime Minister's Office.

I am also concerned that these private members' initiatives are not properly vetted to ensure their charter compliance. Unfortunately, that concern applies to government bills in too many cases, which, when introduced, immediately raise serious constitutional issues.

To underscore this concern we need only look at what happened yesterday with the Minister of Justice, who yesterday and again today was telling the House and the media bizarrely that the Supreme Court's ruling last Friday somehow was a victory for his government. More specifically, he was suggesting that there was something in the court ruling that was a victory for Bill C-13 and Bill S-4. Never mind that in the reality in which most of us operate, the court ruling undercuts both of those bills.

When it comes to so-called tough on crime legislation, whether from the government or backbench MPs, we on this side are more than a little suspicious of their motives. Moreover, we are concerned whether or not these bills, and there are many, are constitutional.

Again, the overall impact of these bills is to make the Criminal Code incoherent, which is unfortunate. The Criminal Code should not be used as a political fundraising tool, and I submit that the government has used these private members' bills and other government bills for no other reason than to raise money.

Today, however, as I indicated earlier, we may have a rare exception to that rule. We are debating Bill C-590 in the name of the member for Prince Albert. It was certainly encouraging to hear him say that he is open to amendments that would seek to achieve the objective of the bill.

As we know, Bill C-590 would amend the Criminal Code to increase mandatory minimum penalties for impaired driving where the offender has a blood alcohol content more than double the legal limit.

Currently, there are minimums for drivers over the legal limit and for convictions of impaired driving causing bodily harm or death. In most provinces, a minimum jail time does not apply for a first offence. As I indicated in my question earlier, there is an exception in Prince Edward Island. That is how the case law has developed. But in most of the country there is no mandatory jail time for a first offender with a blood alcohol level of 0.08.

The hon. member will be pleased to know that today, after careful consideration and consultation with my colleagues, I have recommended to the Liberal caucus that we support Bill C-590.

My major concern is with the use of mandatory minimum jail sentences. The hon. member would know that we opposed in principle the use of mandatory minimums, and we do so because there is no evidence to suggest that they work or are effective in reducing crime. We believe that mandatory minimums should be the exception and not the rule.

We will support sending the bill to committee because we agree with the objective of the bill, and at committee, hopefully we will have an opportunity to hear how best to achieve that objective.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the member for Prince Albert for his effort. I believe he is sincere in that effort. I believe he is in fact seeking to make our roads and highways safer.

We all know that drinking and driving remains a serious issue in Canada. The number of bodily injuries and deaths caused by impaired driving continues to be unacceptably high. By targeting impaired drivers with a blood alcohol over 160 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, the act would create a specific deterrent to the class of drivers who pose the greatest statistical risk.

By dealing severely with the worst consequences of impaired driving, which are bodily injury and death of third parties, the act would also emphasize the rationale behind deterring impaired driving. Limiting judicial discretion is problematic, but this is, indeed, a serious enough issue that it merits further examination.

It should be noted that impaired driving continues to be a particular problem in locations and provinces across the country, including, and especially, in my own province of Prince Edward Island. In Prince Edward Island, the provincial government is doing what it can to address this problem. Just in the last session of the provincial legislature, a law was passed that would mandate a special license plate for chronic offenders of the impaired driving laws. This would allow police, but not the general public, to identify those who fall into this category. This is the type of innovative thinking that is required to combat this problem, not the automatic default to mandatory minimum jail time that we so often see.

Also in our province, as I indicated, the case law has grown such that there are sentencing guidelines for impaired driving offences. Those sentencing guidelines require that every single person in Prince Edward Island who is convicted of a drunk driving offence, whether it is at 0.08, 0.16, or whether it is a first offence, should bring their toothbrush, as we say, because they are going to Sleepy Hollow for the weekend, at a minimum.

Here is some relevant background information. The Traffic Injury Research Foundation has found that impaired drivers with a blood alcohol level at 160 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood represent close to 70% of impaired drivers killed in car accidents. According to Statistics Canada, impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada.

Let me focus a bit on fatalities. It is estimated that in 2010, 2,500 individuals were killed in motor vehicle crashes in Canada. Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada estimates that, at a minimum, 1,082 of these fatalities were impairment related. In MADD Canada's opinion, the 1,082 figure is a conservative estimate, due to the under-reporting that results from the inability to conduct alcohol tests on surviving impaired drivers, and from the need to rely on police reports. Moreover, the figure underestimates the percentage of crash deaths that involve drugs, thus the recent sharp increase in driving after drug use was not factored into the 1,082 figure.

Additionally, that 1,082 figure does not include individuals killed in impaired crashes on waterways. It was estimated that there were more 135 boating deaths per year from 2006 to 2008. It appears that more than 50% of those boating deaths involved alcohol and/or drugs. That 1,082 also does not include fatalities arising from aircraft, trains, and industrial vehicles, such as forklifts.

Given the limits on this 1,082 figure, MADD Canada estimates that there are somewhere between 1,250 and 1,500 impairment related crash deaths in Canada each year. That amounts to three to four deaths per day.

I would like to turn now to the matter of injuries caused by impaired driving. In 2010, it was estimated that about 300,000 individuals were injured in motor vehicle crashes. MADD Canada estimates that approximately 64,000 of those individuals were injured in impairment related crashes. That is roughly 175 per day. This figure is limited to motor vehicle crashes only.

There is also information available on property damage. In 2010, it was estimated that approximately 1.7 million motor vehicles were involved in property damage-only crashes in Canada. MADD Canada estimates that approximately 211,000 of these vehicles were damaged in impairment related crashes. That works out to 578 per day.

Finally, there is the financial cost. Using a social cost model, impairment related driving deaths, injuries, and property damage-only crashes in Canada can be estimated to have cost $20.6 billion in 2010. This model is recent, it is based on extensive analysis, and it was prepared for the Department of Transport.

This bill would meet a positive policy objective. People who drink should not drive. That may seem like a simple suggestion to us here, but far too often, people do drink and then decide that they are okay to drive. This is never acceptable and, on that point, I believe the House is united.

Criminal Code June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member across for bringing in this bill. We share the objective of trying to get drunk drivers off the road, but I think it is important that any measures we bring forward to achieve that objective are proven and are based on evidence.

The member indicated that Saskatchewan does not have a proud record with regard to drunk drivers. Neither does Prince Edward Island, although one thing that is done in Prince Edward Island is that every single person convicted of drunk driving in Prince Edward Island spends time in jail. I believe we are the only province that does that. The case law has developed such that there is a policy at the provincial court that it happens.

It has not done the trick. We still have the highest incidence of drunk driving, so while we share the member's objective, we know that mandatory minimum sentences do not work. However, the bill brings in mandatory minimums as the only tool being offered to solve this complex social problem.

My question for the member is this: is there any evidence anywhere that he can point to that indicates that mandatory minimums will achieve the objective that he seeks? I appreciate he said that he is open to other suggestions at committee. Are there any that he can bring forward here and now, other than mandatory minimums, that stand a better chance, based on evidence?

Justice June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we witnessed a remarkable admission from the justice minister. By moving Mr. Justice Mainville from the Federal Court, with a brief stopover at the Quebec Court of Appeal, he indicated his clear intent to put him on the Supreme Court of Canada.

It is clear that he has a legal duty to comply with not just the spirit but the letter of the Nadon decision. If the minister believes that he is acting constitutionally, will he now release the departmental advice he has received that validates his decision to move Justice Mainville from the Federal Court to the Quebec Court of Appeal?

Petitions June 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of several Prince Edward Islanders who are concerned about the cuts at Canada Post. They are concerned that 6,000 to 8,000 workers will lose their jobs and that this will disproportionately affect the disabled and seniors. These petitioners are saying that Canada Post offers a public service that needs to be protected, and call upon the government to reverse the cuts to services and to look for ways to innovate in areas such as postal banking.

Justice June 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, earlier in question period, the Minister of Justice was asked a question with respect to the appointment of Justice Mainville. He said that he believes his wealth of legal knowledge will be welcome at the Supreme Court and will be of significant benefit to the Quebec Court of Appeal.

Will the Minister of Justice confirm that the government intends to appoint Justice Mainville to fill the upcoming Quebec vacancy on the Supreme Court, and thereby do indirectly what it cannot do directly?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act June 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, does the parliamentary secretary accept that there is probably no one more vulnerable than someone under the age of 18 selling sex on the streets? If he accepts that this is the case, then would he also accept that someone who is under the age of 18 would always be in a place where someone under the age of 18 is reasonably expected to be? If he accepts that, then anyone who is under the age of 18 will always be subject to criminal prosecution for communication.

Was it the intention of the Conservatives to pick the most vulnerable people in our society, saying that they were following through on what the Supreme Court wanted them to do by giving them a criminal record?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act June 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague on the justice committee for her speech and for reminding us that this all arose out of the Bedford decision and for reading back to us the portions of the Bedford decision to refocus the discussion.

She indicated in her speech that she has heard from advocates for decriminalization and has heard from advocates for the Nordic model. I am sure she would agree that what we have before us is neither. The made-in-Canada amendments bring what may have been a Nordic model starting point much closer to a made-in-Moscow bill.

Could the hon. member comment on the made-in-Canada sledgehammer that has been added to the Nordic model, and why that offends what the Supreme Court of Canada had to say?

Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act June 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there were actually more than a few things in her speech with which we could agree. The Liberal Party is in support of the measures that are contained in the bill that govern human trafficking. If they could be hived off, that would be something we could support. What we do not support are the potential constitutional problems.

The member spent much of her speech talking about the awful situation in countries that have legalized or decriminalized prostitution, such as Germany. There were options available to the government. She spoke passionately against one, legalization or decriminalization. The other option, which the government has chosen, which is really the approach used in Russia, with a few tweaks, is a prohibitionist model. Would she not agree that there were other options in the middle that would be closer to what the Supreme Court of Canada directed and would more properly and more adequately protect those who are vulnerable?