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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

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, on playing games with respect to the last post fund, the member and I served together on the veterans affairs committee when the last budget was brought down, and the member would know that in the last budget the government budgeted $65 million for the last post fund knowing full well that there was absolutely no possible way that money would be spent. Therefore, that money would lapse and go against the deficit.

My question for the member is twofold. First, can he stand up and tell us how much of the $65 million that was budgeted in the last budget has actually been spent on veterans? We both know the answer. Second, with this $108 million that he speaks of, are the Conservatives going to do the same thing?

Democratic Reform April 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister just indicated that the Commissioner of Elections Canada has the same powers as police who are investigating serious crimes. That is not true. The police have the power to intercept private communications, commonly known as a wiretap.

Will the minister now agree to amend the act to give that power to the commissioner of elections, which would make his answer true, or will he correct his answer?

Democratic Reform April 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the commissioner of elections has asked for the power to compel witness testimony during an investigation. It is the same power that the director of competitions has in investigating deceptive telemarketing and price fixing.

We believe that rigging an election is more, not less serious than price fixing.

Does the minister agree, and, if so, will he amend the act to give the commissioner the power that he seeks?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat difficult for me to provide any insight on that issue since there are no rail lines in Prince Edward Island anymore. They were abandoned about 40 years ago. It is true that we need a national transit plan, and it is true that our infrastructure is too old. This country has an infrastructure deficit. It is true. Unfortunately, railways are now a part of P.E.I.'s history.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will start by saying that I was badly misquoted. I certainly did indicate that the finance minister is to be commended for his service to the citizens of Canada, but his record, unfortunately, is extremely disappointing. I pointed that out in the speech.

In terms of regional disparity and income inequality in this country, those two problems continue to plague us and are particularly prevalent in my part of the country. While the former Minister of Finance is to be commended for his service to Canada and the fact that he has won respect across the aisle, there have been a lot of people left behind, and they certainly include the constituents in my region.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this budget implementation bill.

The government has introduced this bill in order to implement the provisions contained in the budget that was delivered just over a month ago in the House of Commons. The budget was the ninth budget from the former minister of finance, the hon. member for Whitby—Oshawa. I would like to take this opportunity to wish the minister well in his future endeavours, and to thank him for his service to Canada and his home province of Ontario, where he served for many years in the provincial legislature. The former minister has earned a great deal of respect on both sides of the aisle, including mine. That does not mean that I agree with everything that has occurred since 2006; actually, it is quite the opposite.

There has been much that has transpired since 2006 that has negatively impacted the Atlantic region of the country, my province of Prince Edward Island, and indeed my home city of Charlottetown, a city that is coined “the birthplace of Confederation”. It is a constituency for which I am immensely proud and honoured to serve.

Canada is an enormous country. Sometimes it is worth remembering just how large it is. It is home to a proud people from diverse backgrounds. We are a country of languages, culture, and geography, but we are bound together by a common citizenship. We have a duty to strengthen the bonds of that shared citizenship, if for no other reason than to enhance our sense of unity. I believe that the Canadian government has a critical role to play in this regard.

When I think of citizenship, I think of rights. I think of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the diversity of our languages, our culture, the anthem, and, yes, hockey. For those reasons and many others, we have managed to maintain, in difficult times and in good times, the sense of Canadian pride. I am further reminded of this as a member of the House of Commons, where I see individuals from across the country, from all parties, all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, attempting to do their best for Canada.

When I think of citizenship, I think of shared responsibility. A budget, any budget, whether it is a family budget or a federal budget, is constructed on the basis of one's means, the amount of income one has, and the obligations we all have that require certain expenditures. A federal budget provides insight into the values of the government of the day. It certainly provides insight into its priorities. It gives insight into whether or not it seeks to strengthen the spine of our citizenship. Do we craft a budget to leave out the vulnerable, to pit one region against another, to pit one Canadian against another, or do we seek to strengthen the spine of our citizenship?

The Canadian government is the only government with the obligation to act in the interests of all Canadians and, in the case of the budget, to allocate its collective resources in a way that signals we are all equal and we are all to be treated fairly, knowing that every region and province has particular needs. I am sorry to say that much of what the current government has done since 2006 has hurt people. It has hurt good people in my community and province. Much of what it has done has loosened the bonds of unity and shared citizenship. Allow me to give a few examples of what I mean by that.

I believe it is the role of the Canadian government to provide services that are equal and accessible to all Canadians, regardless of where they reside. That, to me, is fundamental. I reject the notion that the role of government is to get out of the way, that there is no role in levelling the playing fields of opportunity. This idea has seeped into our national discourse over the last eight years.

I reject the notion that we are merely taxpayers and not citizens, implying that the only voices that matter are from those whom the Conservatives call taxpayers. We are more than taxpayers; we are Canadians. There is a large number of fellow Canadians who do not pay income tax simply because they do not make enough money to pay taxes. For example, there are seniors who have spent their whole life contributing to Canada and who now, perhaps in the twilight of their years, do not pay taxes because of their low income. Are they any less Canadian?

Are the poor to be left out of the national conversation simply because they do not fit the definition of the so-called taxpayer? Is that really the central component of our citizenship? Our shared citizenship is much more meaningful than this myopic view. Unlike the members of the current government, I do not want a government that always gets out of the way; I want a government that makes a difference for all Canadians, not just those who are successful in life or who have means.

We have a serious issue in Canada as it relates to the incomes of most Canadians, and the widening gap between those who are doing well and those who are living paycheque to paycheque or worse. We do not knock success. We do not knock the people who work hard and have done well in life. Nor should we knock those who have not had the same opportunities in life, who struggle in poverty, sometimes generational poverty. We should not knock those people, then, who look to government to give them a hand up, not a handout, but a hand up. It is a message that we are all in this together and that when a large swath of our fellow citizens find themselves in a vast and wealthy country with little opportunity or hope, we have a duty to intervene, to help create opportunity.

I am reminded of the great work of community-minded people across the country, and in my hometown, who day in and day out help and advocate for more opportunities for those who are less fortunate. For over two decades, and I include my own party in this regard, we have failed to adopt a real national anti-poverty strategy. Despite the best efforts of the previous government, we did not do enough. We should have a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy, but we will not under the current government, for no other reason than that with the wave of an imperial hand, the Prime Minister of Canada has declared that caring for the poor is a provincial responsibility. It is so myopic and so unwilling to take leadership to make a difference for those in need.

The Conservative government has all but abandoned its role in health care in Canada. In doing so, the Conservatives have abdicated the Canadian government's historic role and responsibility to ensure equal and universal access to health care. That is what I mean by shared citizenship, the programs and the values that drive them and that strengthen our shared citizenship.

Then there is the matter of unemployment insurance, a program that has been decimated by the current government. In the case of my home province, the recent changes that make it harder to qualify have hurt families, caused hardship and worry. In far too many cases, they have left too many Canadians feeling left out, rejected, or, worse, made to feel like the members of the government think they are lazy or cheaters. Is this the type of shared citizenship that Canadians want or expect from their Canadian government? Is this what Canadians deserve?

What about the matter of infrastructure support and nation building? We embrace today, with a sense of reverence and sentimentality, the notion of nation building as reflected in the railroad, a railroad that linked Canadians from coast to coast to coast. When it was not possible to link islands like Prince Edward Island on land, we were linked by ferry. Or, in the case of another significant investment in infrastructure, we are reminded of the Trans-Canada Highway, again, a big and ambitious endeavour that links Canadians. These great projects helped build, literally and figuratively, this country and provide in part that sense of shared citizenship. The current government has cut its build Canada infrastructure fund by 87%. It is astonishing to think that the Conservatives would allow these cuts to occur and then cynically open the spigot for an election campaign.

On Prince Edward Island, we expect that the Canada jobs grant will be exactly like per capita funding for health care, exactly like the civil service cutbacks. The provinces that have less will be penalized and the richer onces will benefit. This has started to play out. We feel kicked to the curb, again. Never in the history of this country have we had such a narrow view of the role of the Canadian government. In the Conservative view, people are on their own. If they succeed, “Great. You're welcome”; if they do not, well that is their fault.

We can do better and we must do better. This budget is an abject disappointment for the people of Prince Edward Island and Charlottetown.

Charlottetown April 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, 2014 marks the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, the event that hosted our Fathers of Confederation.

This week, Charlottetown hosts the East Coast Music Awards. Although Atlantic Canada is famous for its fiddle music and kitchen parties, Charlottetown will experience all genres of music this week. Rock, pop, R&B, folk, jazz, blues and more will be on full display at the numerous venues around the city.

The East Coast Music Association is over 1,000 members strong and provides an invaluable local community for emerging and established artists from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and my province of Prince Edward Island. P.E.I. alone boasts artists like Meaghan Blanchard, Tim Chaisson, Paper Lions, Irish Mythen and more.

I wish to thank the East Coast Music Association for recognizing the value of Charlottetown's history, venues, hotels, restaurants and, most importantly, its people. We are proud to welcome such a regionally important event to Prince Edward Island's capital city.

Business of Supply April 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I realize that this discussion has now gotten a little away from the motion, but I cannot resist the opportunity to join this discussion.

I am from Charlottetown, P.E.I., the only province in Canada that no longer has a district office. That district office is now staffed by a caseworker from Saint John, New Brunswick, who is there on a six-month contract. That is the situation.

Throughout this past week, the Confederation Bridge has been closed due to storms. The veterans in P.E.I. who were supposed to be getting personal attention in the past week have had none because there are no front-line workers. They have to come from another province.

I do not have a question, but I do have a comment directed at the person who asked the last question. Veterans are being drastically shortchanged, and that member is absolutely correct when he says so.

Business of Supply April 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North started his remarks by recounting the history of proactive disclosure in this place and properly indicated that it was the Liberal Party that took the lead with the proactive disclosure of expenses. The Conservatives then followed and, several months later, it appears that now the NDP is on side.

I wonder if the member could provide, for the benefit of the House in general and the NDP in particular, what the post-proactive disclosure world is like? How have his constituents responded? Has it changed the way in which he has been able to do his work? Just for the benefit of the NDP, which is not yet there, what is it like once members start proactively disclosing their expenses?

Justice March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, could the government explain how in an alleged period of austerity since 2006 the government has spent more than $482 million, almost half a billion dollars, on outside lawyers? There have been lots of cuts to public servants, cuts to social programs, cuts to EI, cuts to veterans, cuts to railway safety, cuts to health care for retired workers, cuts to infrastructure, but lots of money for legal fees.

How can the government defend such outrageous expenditure while real people suffer?