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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is trade.

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

Won his last election, in 2011, with 42.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North went through the amendment to the motion, but I wonder if he might expand on that amendment and why it is so important that the motion before the House be amended in that way.

Outstanding Contribution to Prince Edward Island October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise to commend Mr. Sterling MacRae for his outstanding contribution to Prince Edward Island.

Of special note is Sterling's impressive service through his involvement with the local fire department. Sterling, after 57 years as a volunteer fireman at the New Glasgow Fire Department, has decided it is time to retire from active duty. Imagine that: 57 years. Having recently celebrated his 80th birthday, he will now be an auxiliary member.

Sterling is a seasoned farmer. In fact, I caught up to him on Friday heading out to combine soybeans. He is also founder and co-owner of New Glasgow Lobster Suppers, started when the District Junior Farmers Organization, of which Sterling was a member, first bought it for its meeting place. These days, New Glasgow Lobster Suppers is owned by two farming families, the Nicholsons and the MacRaes, and patrons from around the world continue to enjoy wonderful meals and hospitality there.

We thank Sterling for his volunteerism and his commitment to the safety of his friends, community, and neighbours.

We wish him and his wife Jean well.

Assaults Against Public Transit Operators October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased as well to speak to Bill S-221, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against public transit operators).

I am supportive of the bill which, in summary, would amend the Criminal Code to require a court to consider the fact that the victim of an assault, as a public transport operator, to be an aggravating circumstance for the purposes of sentencing.

The key points related to the bill are that Canadians rely on public transport to get around, yet everyday five bus operators are assaulted. That is simply unacceptable. In this city, as we come into work each morning and go home each night, we see buses rolling along. It cannot be pleasant to go to work if one is worried about being assaulted or even shouted at, as many of them are.

We understand that 2,061 bus drivers were assaulted in 2011, with attacks ranging from being spit on and punched in the head to knife attacks and sexual assaults. That is entirely unacceptable, and this bill would go some distance toward addressing that.

The nature of their work certainly puts bus drivers at heightened risk, so we have an opportunity as parliamentarians to reduce that danger to bus drivers and take action to protect them.

By making it explicit that assaulting a bus driver is a criminal offence with serious consequences, this should, although it would not in all cases, deter these crimes. I would suggest as well that there be some education and notice, whether on buses or in bus terminals, that this is an offence. Maybe it would give people second thought as to whether they would treat bus drivers in an unacceptable fashion.

The Liberals support the bill in general. It is a private member's bill, but we have had discussions on it and there seems to be fairly widespread support in the House for Bill S-221.

I want to name a couple of my colleagues who have done fairly extensive work on addressing the difficulties that bus drivers face when they go to work everyday.

The member for Winnipeg North has spent a lot of time examining public transport in his city and holding discussions with drivers. He even did a ride along. It was truly an eye-opening experience to be with the bus driver and see what drivers faced over quite a number of hours. It is not like getting on the bus and getting off four or five stops down the road. The member for Winnipeg North certainly got a feel for what it was like to be in that workplace on a continuing basis.

Then there is the Liberal long-term member for Wascana, who introduced Bill C-533. The bill would make the nature of a victim's employment as an on-duty transit operator an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes in relation to all Criminal Code offences. I will talk a bit more about the views of the member for Wascana on this matter.

As well, there have been others who have introduced private members' bills related to this issue. There is Bill C-402, which comes an NDP member, and Bill C-637, which comes from an independent member.

Many members in this place are concerned about the issue and have put forward various proposals.

As I said earlier, the member for Wascana put out a blog today. He wrote:

With the support of transit employees, their unions, municipalities and other transit operators, police officers, the Canadian Urban Transit Association and others, I have spent the past year promoting legislation to better protect bus drivers and other transportation workers.

That bill was Bill C-533. Some aspects of that bill are related to and referenced in this piece of legislation.

As he stated in his article today:

These people provide vital services to the general public in all sorts of locations in all weather conditions and at all hours of the day and night. They are often on duty alone, operating powerful vehicles on public streets and thoroughfares. By the nature of their employment, they assume serious responsibilities for public service and safety, and put themselves in a vulnerable position.

He went on to say:

“Bill C-533 had earned broad public support, but remains on the Order Paper of the House of Commons. Such Private Member's Business is selected for debate and a vote by the luck of a draw. Other MPs from all other Parties have also advanced similar proposals from time to time. This is not a partisan issue that divides along political lines”.

A few months ago, a Conservative Senator (Bob Runciman) brought forward his own proposed “bus driver” legislation (Bill S-221).

That is the bill we are dealing with today.

It differs in detail, but is similar to mine in principle. The procedure applying to Senate Bills has allowed S-221 to move more quickly.

That might be something we need to consider here.

It has passed the Senate and is coming before the House of Commons today.

That is what we are debating. I and other members of my party encourage the House to support this piece of legislation.

Bill S-221 is not as broad in proposal as is Bill C-533. As the member for Wascana pointed out:

It applies only to certain specific offences in the Criminal Code, not every offence. And it doesn’t make any reference to persons coming to the aid of a bus driver under attack. On the positive side, it does include a useful definition of “transportation employee” that covers certain others like taxi drivers too.

From the outset, I do not believe many of us consider this legislation to be a partisan proposal or a partisan position. It is useful legislation and should be moved forward through this chamber quickly.

The member for Wascana continued:

Once it becomes law, transit operators need to launch prominent communications campaigns,

—as I said a moment ago—

informing the public that offences against people like bus drivers are serious criminal matters carrying serious penalties. And offenders will be prosecuted.

To come back to where I began, bus driver assaults in any fashion, whether it is language, spitting, or actual assaults, are a serious matter. These people provide a public service. They deserve a safe and secure workplace, and the bill should show that Parliament supports them in their workplace in having a safe environment to work in.

I am certainly pleased to support this legislation.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I guess the simple answer to that question is that Liberals are hopeful that within a year's time we will be able to get rid of the people who are putting those poison pills in the bottle. In that way, there will not be poison pills in the future, and there will be a government in this place that would be able to correct some of the concerns that I know the member has, as we do.

The fact of the matter is that those who are impacted by cyberbullying right now cannot wait a year. It is a difficult call, but it is a judgment call that we in the Liberal Party believe has to be made. We tried and fought hard to split the bill so that we could vote against those aspects, but we see the need for the cyberbullying part. It is a judgment call, and it is all about taking the right kind of leadership position.

I can assure everyone that the Liberal Party is up for providing leadership to Canada and Canadians, and we are going to vote in support of the cyberbullying side.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the member is suggesting that a low key for me is unusual. I do not know.

In any event, no, this is not the only bill. In fact, most of the government's bills are that way. The budget bill was a particular example. In it there were endless pieces of legislation that had no relation to the budget.

I expect we are going to see that the next budget has copyright in it. The real strategy of the government is to find a TV clip of someone to use as an attack ad. That is why it is going to be in the next budget bill. It is not going to be debated in its own right; it is likely going to be thrown into the budget bill.

The government is always up to those kinds of tricks. This is a government that believes in creating division and in wedge politics, and that is kind of sad to see in this country, because it is importing the kind of debate that we see south of the border, which is really divisive and often unproductive.

I know it would take a lot, but I would encourage the government to come to its senses and put legislation forward on the specifics of what the bill is supposed to deal with.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is not hard to justify. We cannot wait around. If the legislation had been split, it would have been easy, but the reality out there is that people are falling prey to cyberbullying every day. The risk is there.

The member is right that there are some terrible aspects to this bill, and hopefully a future Parliament can deal with them, but cyberbullying, in and of itself, is an urgent concern. Therefore, we feel obligated to support that particular part of the bill, knowing full well that we really do not support other aspects of it. However, we need to deal with that serious issue in Canadian society.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I get such a kick out of backbench members in the governing party. They are always on their feet saying “Well, my golly, you voted against that and you voted against this.” What foolishness.

In what happens at committee and in this place, there are always certain aspects that members may or may not like. Just because a member votes against a particular piece of legislation does not mean they dislike the whole of it.

The strategy of the government is such that their members and others can get up and say, “Oh, my goodness; you voted against that”, trying to use it politically.

Political business takes place during election times. Between elections, we should be doing good debate in here and respecting each other, instead of getting that kind of malarkey from the government side all the time.

Let me get to the member's point.

There are measures that the government has undertaken in terms of other aspects of dealing with cyberbullying beyond the Criminal Code, but a lot more needs to be done. That is what I am expressing in terms of this bill.

I would say to the member in conclusion that if the government had split the bill, as we asked it to do, then I think there would have been great support in this place on the cyberbullying side. The government could have then said that all parties supported what it was doing.

However, the strategy of the government is that it really does not want the opposition parties to support it. It likes to use the excuse that they voted the other way.

Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that I have about seventeen minutes left. I expect I will not use that, just to warn the next speaker who may be on the list, as I have spoken to this bill before.

Before question period, I was outlining that I was pleased but also troubled to speak to Bill C-13. I outlined that the Liberal Party is very supportive of the cyberbullying aspects of the bill, but troubled over the parts that are measures in the old Bill C-30 on lawful access, which so many Canadians spoke out against.

Efforts were made, and I am disappointed that the government did not accept those efforts by both opposition parties, to split the bill. It was not only the opposition members who wanted to split the bill; it was the new Privacy Commissioner and many others, including Carol Todd, who knows very well about the difficult and troubling aspect of cyberbullying.

The bill was not split. However, regardless, we do feel within the Liberal Party that cyberbullying is such a scourge on society that we are going to have to put not only a little water in our wine, but a fair bit, in fact, because we are very seriously troubled over aspects of the bill. This tends to be what the current government does. The Conservatives will put a couple of good points in the bill and add a whole lot of other material that should not be in that particular bill.

The Liberals believe that a balance must be struck between civil liberties and public safety, particularly when it comes to warrants that may be intrusive and overboard. We do not support the measures that were in Bill C-30, which the government had to withdraw because of Canadians' outrage. The problem is that some of those points are back in this bill. Some of this bill duplicates the rejected Bill C-30, such as word-for-word reproductions of the changes to subsection 487(c.1) of the Criminal Code; and all but one-word changes to subsection 492.1 and section 492 regarding warrants.

We are very concerned about efforts to reintroduce “lawful access”, which the Conservatives promised was dead.

Though the title is the “protecting Canadians from online crime act”, nobody would be protected under this act. In typical government fashion, this is all about punishment rather than prevention. Complex problems like cyberbullying require more than blunt additions to the Criminal Code. This omnibus bill touches everything from terrorism to telemarketing, and cable stealing to hate speech. It is an affront to both democracy and the legislative process in the way it was handled.

If it had been split, what could have been a bill on cyberbullying, which probably would have had the unanimous support of the House, is no longer possible. What is seen from us is reluctant support because we have to, regardless of the consequences, deal with the cyberbullying side. That is certainly why I am troubled.

I want to turn to a couple of quotes that outline the extent of the problem in terms of the way that the government has dealt with this bill.

There was an editorial in The Globe and Mail, on November 22, entitled “Not Without a Warrant”, from which I will quote:

Under current law, a wiretapping authorization will only be issued by a judge if police can show a “reasonable ground to believe that an offence has been or will be committed.” But under Bill C-13, wireless wiretaps can be authorized on the looser standards of “reasonable ground to suspect.”

The editorial goes on:

Why not make police applications for a wireless wiretap clear the same, high legal hurdle as a traditional wiretap? And why is the government burying all of this inside an unrelated piece of legislation covering the highly emotional topic of cyberbullying? Parliament should be debating and voting on each measure separately, on its merits. Once again, the Conservative government is engaging in unnecessary legislative acrobatics. Time to cease and desist.

I will read one more. This is an editorial, also on November 22, from the Ottawa Citizen, entitled “More than 'cyberbullying'”. I will just read a piece of it:

If the government wants to make cable theft a criminal offence, or increase police powers to track online communication, it is perfectly within its rights to propose those things. There is no reason to bundle it in with a bill that has an entirely different purpose. The announcement about the bill calls it “legislation to crack down on cyberbullying.” This suggests the Conservatives never learned the main lesson from the Toews' debacle, and are still trying to bundle and brand their legislation instead of simply defending it on its merits.

We are certainly not the only ones who are troubled about how the government approaches these bills, rams stuff through committee, and fails to give proper legitimate debate to each item on its own merits, so that at the end of the day this place can be proud, on all sides, of what we have passed.

However, as I said, the cyberbullying issue is of such an urgency that we cannot deep-six, if I could put it that way, that aspect of the bill that we do not like. We are forced to vote on a bill that we are troubled over, and, reluctantly, we will.

However, we will put a red flag on all areas infringing upon privacy that we are concerned about, and hopefully in a future Parliament we will see democracy break out in this place, where committees can do their job, as the founders of this country envisioned it would be done.

Let me close by saying that on the cyberbullying aspect, the Criminal Code is not the only instrument that needs to be embellished, if I could put it that way, in order to deal with the problem of cyberbullying. We believe that these legislative measures alone are insufficient to combat cyberbullying, and we urge the government to commit to a broader, more holistic strategy to deal with cyberbullying.

It would also include public awareness resources for parents and kids. In other words, there has to be an education campaign, a publicity campaign, whether it is police forces, or community leaders, or whatever, who go into our school system to talk about the problem of cyberbullying and how this new technological world that we live in can haunt us, and, in fact, is used to haunt certain individuals in society.

In order to save time, I will close my remarks. I appreciate having had the opportunity to speak at third reading of this bill.

Public Safety October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister failed to answer my question.

However, let us turn to what was said at the public safety committee two days ago. CSIS confirmed there were 80 individuals who returned to Canada after being involved in terrorist activities abroad. The RCMP said that a number of individuals were under risk investigation. Yet the minister, speaking from written notes and referring to the 80, stated that they had, “violated Canadian law”.

How many have ben charged? Are the remainder being tracked?

Public Safety October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, on a set-up question, the government used the chair of the public safety committee to ask the minister about an alarming American news story with respect to a threatened attack on a Canadian mall.

The security agency under the minister's authority had to know that this was old information, not accurate and misleading. Such inaccuracies can only undermine the confidence of Canadians in the minister.

For what purpose was the Minister of Public Safety using such misleading misinformation? Will he come clean with Canadians today?