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  • His favourite word is departments.

Conservative MP for Parry Sound—Muskoka (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 55.70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Security Intelligence Service January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as I already said, there are regulations for this and we will demand answers. I have directed my officials to look into this matter.

I would say to the hon. member that it is a little rich coming from them. Maybe they were doing their research from one of the illegal offices they had that they still have not reimbursed the taxpayers for.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the travel directive of the Government of Canada is very clear. It states that the most economical means is to be selected given the nature of the trip when booking transportation, accommodations, and meeting facilities.

The government takes the management of taxpayers' money very seriously. I have already directed that officials look into this matter.

Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga is quite right. We have tried to listen specifically to the small and medium-sized enterprises and their specific concerns when we had our round tables and our discussions. I continue those to this day when I do my pre-budget round tables across the country. This is one of the items upon which I always touch.

It is clear that small and medium-sized enterprises do not have the ability, many times, to specifically dedicate people to deal with regulation on a daily basis. We have heard that. Just through our administrative work prior to this legislation coming before the House, we have reduced about 100,000 hours of regulatory burden that small businesses face. That is a tangible number.

We also heard dozens of ideas from small businesses of specific regulations that have no impact on health or safety but perhaps had some meaning or purpose 20, 30, or 40 years ago, but those regulations now do not have that same purpose. We are working our way through their suggestions on how to make those regulations either disappear entirely or be less burdensome.

Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is important to work together with other levels and orders of government where we can. I have done that myself. We have worked with various provinces—for instance, British Columbia comes to mind first—and have explained our red tape reduction efforts. That is part of it as well. When regulators come before Treasury Board, we do require them to have a tour d’horizon of other regulatory impacts and say whether they have had those discussions as well.

This is an important aspect. I contend that we are doing that. I thank the hon. member for raising it in this place as well.

Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is very specific and we have operated this way over the last couple of years. Health and safety impacts are exempt from the one-for-one rule. That is to say that regulators who are fixing a problem that will then have a positive impact on the health and safety of Canadians are not required to find another regulation to offset that particular rule.

I am not standing here saying that, with a wave of a magic wand, every single regulation is going to be off the books. No, of course not. There is a need for regulation. Those hon. members would be the first ones to stand up in the House and complain if we did not have rules in place to ensure the accountability of tax dollars. Some of the rules that the member referred to are there to make sure that, when a tax dollar is spent, there is accountability for that. They would be the first ones to complain if we did not do that.

Red Tape Reduction Act January 26th, 2015

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

It is always a pleasure to rise in the chamber to not only represent my department but also the people of Parry Sound—Muskoka. Our anniversary just came up for some of us. I am currently in my 10th year of representation at this point. I want to thank the people of Parry Sound—Muskoka for their confidence in me, but I want to talk about this legislation as well.

It is one of the first of its kind in the world and it will enshrine into law a rule that has been in place since April 2012 administratively in this government and it goes to our pledge to the people of Canada to continue to find ways to create new jobs, growth, rebuild our economy and create new opportunity. One of the ways we do that is by supporting small businesses in our communities and promoting small business growth throughout the country.

Our plan to reduce the administrative burden will of course help us achieve these objectives.

What would the bill do? Quite simply, when a new regulation that imposes an administrative burden is introduced, the law would require that another one be repealed. I think what we do is unprecedented in these kinds of operations around the world. Specifically, we monetize the value of the administrative burden and then declare that the monetary value be offset by other regulatory changes. I believe this enhances transparency and accountability. We further do so in an annual report that reports on the implementation.

However, it is important to note what the bill would not do. It would not compromise public health, public safety, or the efficient operation of the Canadian economy.

The bill would not compromise public health, public safety or the Canadian economy.

Some may ask why reducing red tape matters. Well, red tape gets in the way of jobs and growth and improving Canadians' lives. Complying with the information obligation of twelve of the most common federal, provincial, and municipal regulations in five sectors of the economy works out to a total cost of $1.1 billion per year for our small businesses. On average, the annual time per small business establishment to comply with legislative tax requirements was 15 hours, at an annual cost of $1,724 to these small businesses. This is a hidden tax that hits the little guy or gal hardest.

It is four years now since we launched the Red Tape Reduction Commission. We asked how red tape was killing jobs and we asked for recommendations on how to fix these problems. This commission went coast to coast. We had 15 round tables in 13 cities, with over 200 participants, along with online consultations and a dedicated website. We heard that Canadians needed one for one, and they needed what became known as the red tape reduction action plan.

We introduced this regulation as a pilot project in April 2012. It has reduced the administrative burden by $24 million and achieved a net reduction of 20 regulations.

To give an example, we changed the Corporations Returns Act to collect financial and ownership information on corporations doing business in Canada. Now only corporations with revenues of more than $200 million, assets of over $600 million, or foreign debt and equity over $1 million will have to report financial and ownership information. There are 32,000 businesses that will no longer be required to file this complex government return. This one change saves our small businesses $1.2 million per year.

Here is another example: Health Canada has reduced its red tape by amending regulations in order to allow regulated pharmacy technicians to oversee the transfer of prescriptions from one pharmacy to another, a task that was previously restricted to pharmacists. This enables pharmacists to focus more of their time on direct patient care and on running their business.

This initiative has cut red tape by $15 million a year.

We also changed amendments for Northwest Territories and Nunavut Mining Regulations. We have simplified the licensing, we have encouraged holders of mineral claims towards development, and we have modernized the tenure system in this regard, which has saved over $600,000. Examples of successes like these are going to save almost 100,000 hours of wading through red tape per year.

I should mention that I am here as the President of the Treasury Board. It is the Treasury Board that in fact enforces this rule, and we have indeed ensured compliance.

What are the next steps?

It is time to take this highly successful pilot project and enshrine it in law.

We committed to this, I should add, in our Speech to the Throne, and that is why the bill is here in the House.

What is the message that we are sending by supporting this bill? What are we saying about Canada? We are saying that Canada is open for business. We are saying that we are on the side of job creators, and we are saying that government is committed to protecting Canadian businesses and employees and to growing the economy.

I will read into the record, if I might, some commentary on this bill, starting with Laura Jones, who is the vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She stated:

The federal government is showing tremendous leadership in implementing its ambitious red tape reforms. Wrestling with reducing red tape requires the ‘stick-to-itiveness’ and political leadership that we are seeing from Ottawa. It’s heartening that the messages that we are getting from the Prime Minister, [myself], and their colleagues that they are in this for the long haul.

Then there is Kevin Dancey, president and CEO of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, who stated:

We applaud the federal government's early accomplishments in reducing red tape barriers faced by Canadian entrepreneurs and business owners. The government's reiterated commitment to a sustained approach over the long-term is encouraging. A persistent approach is the remedy required to identify and develop solutions to effectively reduce the compliance burdens and associated costs faced by Canada's business community.

Also, there is Helen Long, president of the Canadian Health Food Association, who stated:

The government’s focus on the reduction of red tape has already made an important impact on our and many other industries.... CHFA and its members stand ready to support the government in its efforts to further reduce the red tape burden on Canadian business, and to allow them to focus on innovation and job creation instead of administration.

Finally, Carole Presseault, regulatory affairs, CGA Canada, stated:

These measures should give Canada’s small and medium businesses more time to focus on growth, innovation and job creation.

That is exactly the point. We want small businesses to focus on growth, jobs, and innovation in our economy.

I want to talk very briefly about the small business lens.

Introducing a small business lens to regulatory creation is part and parcel of this bill as well. Businesses that represent over 40% of Canada's private sector GDP and almost 50% of all jobs in the private sector have requested that when we look at regulation, we take the time to look at it from the point of view of the small business. How will the proposed regulation affect them and their ability to operate, innovate, and create new jobs?

Therefore, we have this is as part of the rules in our law as well. This will happen, this small business lens, when a regulatory change imposes over $1 million in annual nationwide costs and has an impact on at least one small business. That is the test.

Now, as a result, regulators will have to ask themselves if the information we are asking these small businesses for is already being collected by another government department. As a former small business owner myself, I can say that nothing drives one crazier than filling out a form in triplicate from one level of government or one government department and then, the next day, getting another form asking the same questions. We heard that from small businesses. I remember it well when I operated my own small business.

Therefore, we are demanding that regulators at Treasury Board know what is already being collected by another government department so that we do not have to overburden our small businesses, and we want this in the law if it is passed by this House.

Here is another question. Is there another way to regulate that would be less burdensome, rather than automatically saying, “We've got a problem.” We hear this all the time in Ottawa: “Folks, we've got a problem. We've got to solve a problem. How are we going to solve the problem?” The constant advice we get is, “Well, if we just pass this regulation, we would solve the problem.”

Maybe there is another way to solve the problem. Maybe there are other ways, if we use our noggins a bit, that we can solve the problem without overregulating our small businesses.

The third question is, are we communicating in plain language? I hear time and again from small businesses that understanding what government is asking of them is sometimes very difficult, so if there is going to be a burden, we want to let the burden be on the bureaucracy, on the regulators, to actually speak in plain language so that people can understand what they say.

This is part of a 20-point small business checklist that regulators would have to fill out and publish and have signed by the minister responsible as part of their package to Treasury Board before Treasury Board would consider whether this regulation was the right thing to do. Of course, this would mean greater transparency as well.

Very briefly, here are some other changes.

Service standards for 24 high-volume regulatory authorizations have been created, covering more than 60,000 transactions with businesses each year. There would be 32 departmental forward regulatory plans to let small businesses know what is coming around the corner. They would publish these forward plans so that small business has either the time to adapt or the time to react and say to government, “You know what? We understand what you're trying to do here. We agree that something has to be done, but maybe there's a better way to deal with it that doesn't involve, always, further regulating small businesses.”

Then there is the annual scorecard.

I released the first and second annual scorecard on the red tape reduction action plan so Canadians can see just how much progress we are making. The scorecard is independently vetted by a regulatory advisory committee.

In conclusion, let me put it this way: low taxes, less red tape, more growth, more prosperity, balanced budgets, safe streets and communities, and a belief that this is the best country in the world in which to live and in which to do business. That is our aspiration and that is our record, but we want to move forward as well.

Questions on the Order Paper January 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, in managing the federal benefit plans in a way that is affordable, sustainable, and fair for both plan members and Canadian taxpayers, the Government of Canada noted in Economic Action Plan 2013 that it would examine overall employee compensation and pensioner benefit with a view to aligning federal compensation with other public and private sector employers. The government worked with and consulted key stakeholders, including retiree representatives, with a resulting negotiated settlement reached with retiree representatives and federal public sector unions.

The government health care plan is a voluntary program that retirees can opt into. To have this choice is a privilege. The benefits of the plan are generous, with coverage included for hospital beds and therapeutic mattresses, hearing aids, psychological services, and $15,000 a year in nursing services. Retired employees may choose to join the government program or elect to join in any number of alternative benefit plans available to Canadians. It should be noted that the provision of health care benefits to retired workers is the exception in Canada, not the rule. Most public and private sector employers in Canada do not provide health care benefits to employees after retirement, as alternative plans are available.

Previously, the costs of the federal benefit plan were subsidized by Canadian taxpayers, with retirees paying 25% of the plan costs and Canadian taxpayers 75% of the costs. As a result of the negotiations, the costs of the voluntary supplemental plan will be split evenly between retirees and Canadian taxpayers. Canadian taxpayers should be aware of the health care benefits that they subsidize as part of the federal public servants’ retirement benefit package. It should be noted that this negotiated agreement does not apply to low-income pensioners, who will not be subject to the 50:50 cost-sharing measures.

With regard to (a), as of November 30, 2014, the following is the breakdown of Public Service Health Care Plan pensioner member participation: with regard to (a)(i), the federal public service, based on pensioners in receipt of a pension under the Public Service Superannuation Act: 205,843; with regard to (a)(ii), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, based on pensioners in receipt of a pension under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act): 16,171; with regard to (a)(iii), the Canadian Forces, based on pensioners in receipt of a pension under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act: 80,469; with regard to (a)(iv), the Veterans Affairs client group: 2,179.

With regard to (b), the pensioner contribution rate for a single member with supplementary coverage can be found at: http://www.njc-cnm.gc.ca/directive/index.php?hl=1&lang=eng&merge=2&sid=87

An exception is that a new PSHCP pensioner supplementary relief rate will be introduced effective April 1, 2015, and will be available at the above-mentioned site on January 30, 2015. The new provision is only available to those pensioners enrolled in the PSHCP on or before March 31, 2015, and requires an application to be submitted to the pensioner’s respective pension office. Following receipt of an application, eligibility is contingent upon the pensioner being in receipt of a guaranteed income supplement, GIS, benefit or having a single or joint net income that is lower than the applicable GIS thresholds in effect on the date application is received.

The pensioner contribution rates for a single member approved for the supplementary relief provision effective April 1, 2015 will be available on January 30, 2015, at the above-mentioned site.

Contribution rates are calculated based on plan experience. As a result, the rates for (b)(iii), April 1, 2016, (b)(iv), April 1, 2017, and (b)(v), April 1, 2018, have not yet been determined. It is anticipated that the rates for April 1, 2016, will be established in early 2016. Similarly, it is anticipated that the rates for April 1, 2017, will be established in early 2017 and that the rates for April 1, 2018, will be established in early 2018.

Access to Information December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I can refer the hon. member, as I would any hon. members in the House, to the fact that we have been publishing online all of the information of the public accounts. All of the supplementary estimates, all of the main estimates are available online. They can be cross-referenced for the first time. People can compare department by department, year to year and program to program. All of this is unprecedented, speaking to the open and transparent government that we are.

Access to Information December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as I already said, the government processed a record number of access to information requests, released a record number of materials, and had an improved turnaround time. Our government has processed nearly 54,000 access to information requests. That represents an increase of 27%, or over 10,000 more requests than last year. Over six million pages were released, an increase of nearly two million pages.

Access to Information December 8th, 2014

On the rights of Canadian journalists, Mr. Speaker, the Access to Information Act is for all Canadians, not just journalists. I want to assure Canadians of that fact.

Indeed, the Access to Information Act has been a success. There were 54,000 access to information requests completed last year. That is a 27% increase over the previous year. Some six million pages have been dispensed to applicants. We are an open and transparent government and will continue to be that way.