- Get e-mail whenever he speaks in House debates
- Subscribe to feeds of recent activity (what you see to the right) or statements in the House
- 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
An Act to Bring Fairness for the Victims of Violent Offenders December 10th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, this is the second hour of debate on this legislation, which was introduced in the last session of Parliament. It is Bill C-479, the fairness for the victims of violent offenders act. I will support this legislation going to committee for consideration and, where necessary, for amendment. I want to underline the fact that Liberals want some amendments to this bill.
Again, the intent of this bill is to provide additional measures for victims of crime, in this case the ability to ensure that victims of violent crime have a greater legislated role in any parole actions related to offenders.
The major elements of the bill are that the bill would extend the period between parole reviews from two to five years for violent offenders who are not granted parole at first or subsequent reviews or whose parole has been revoked. This change would apply only to offenders incarcerated for violent crimes.
Ostensibly, this bill is aimed at relieving the victims of violent crimes or their families from having to attend frequent parole hearings. That is a good intent.
The bill does not alter the rules governing initial parole eligibility. The bill also contains uncontroversial changes that codify victims' rights already recognized and applied in the parole process.
However, the bill's evidentiary basis remains entirely unclear. The rationale for choosing a maximum interval of five years between parole hearings for those denied parole instead of, for example, four, as in the previous iteration of the bill, remains unclear. The impact of extending the maximum time between parole hearings on offender rehabilitation is also unclear. Study at committee would allow members to debate the bill's merits on the basis of evidence from expert testimony.
I would reiterate the concerns expressed by the member for Lac-Saint-Louis with respect to the constitutionality of the legislation. I note that the courts are now beginning to challenge the efficacy of the mandatory minimum sentencing and the manner in which the government has attempted to alter the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to support an ideological agenda based on public fear of criminal activity.
This is another in a long list of private members' bills coming forward from Conservative backbench members. They all may be great in terms of their intent, but these are members of the government, and this is the Criminal Code that we are dealing with. It is a complex, massive code. Coming forward with off-the-wall requests for legislation could jeopardize the very intent of what members want to do with this legislation.
I see members smiling on the other side. This is not a joking matter. We are talking about the Criminal Code of Canada. What is happening on that side of the House is that they are allowing Conservative members to come forward with little private members' bills from their own riding so they can cater to their own power base. Do they not realize that they could, in the process, have a court throw out the legislation and make a victim of the very person we do not want to make a victim? That is the possible consequence.
I will turn to the Correctional Investigator's message in terms of how the government is really dealing with its tough-on-crime agenda. In the beginning of the report, he speaks of the time in 1973 when the first correctional investigator was appointed for federally sentenced inmates. It was a time when there was rioting in prisons. There were burnings and real trouble within the prison system.
He made a point in his report that I want to quote.
Today, as my report makes clear, many of the same problems that were endemic to prison life in the early 1970s – crowding; too much time spent in cells; the curtailment of movement, association and contact with the outside world; lack of program capacity; the paucity of meaningful prison work or vocational skills training; and the polarization between inmates and custodial staff – continue to be features of contemporary correctional practice.
He is basically saying that what we are seeing under the government's justice, as it calls it, is moving back to a time that created riots in the prison system in the first place. That is not the answer to dealing with the justice system in a smart way.
With this specific bill, I would request, and will do so at committee, that the member present a list of experts and the evidence they provided, which he referenced in his remarks on May 10 of this year, as to his claim that “this bill has a sound legal and constitutional foundation”.
I will also be requesting that the member provide the evidence upon which this legislation was based. For example, upon what evidence did the member opposite base the determination that a period of five years between subsequent applications is justified? I trust that the member will provide that evidence at the committee.
I make note of the concern, given the recent case of Bill C-489, introduced by his colleague the member for Langley. In the course of second reading of that bill, the member gave the House the assurance that the bill was well drafted and was adequate. He did acknowledge that he was open to amendments, and indeed the elements of the bill were subsequently amended.
With regard to the amendments, there were six amendments to a bill with five clauses. Let me repeat that: six amendments to a five-clause bill. They were moved by members of the government on behalf of the Government of Canada. During this process, a representative of the Department of Justice was in attendance to ensure the amendments accorded with what even the government determined was the need to ratchet back on some of the extreme and likely challengeable features of the member's original bill.
It goes to my point. The government has all these backbenchers over there, but it is not bringing forward legislation in a comprehensive way on an issue as important as the Criminal Code of Canada. I believe we are getting 16 private members' bills on various subjects by members. As this bill clearly shows, it needed to be amended or the Department of Justice knew the bill would be thrown out by a court. The extent would be that it would create new victims as a result of the bill.
In the end, the bill was attempting to institute a mandatory minimum distance for offenders to have to maintain from the dwellings of the victims of specific crimes. It was amended in such a way as to add to the list of locations already in the Criminal Code from which a judge can currently apply a limitation on that of dwelling. We were told the whole intent and purpose of the legislation was so the judge could not use discretion, but the end result was that the ability of the judge to use discretion remains within the code.
In conclusion, we will support the bill going to committee. We will see if there will be amendments.
In closing, I want to underline that while we see some merit in this bill, we would prefer to see legislation from the government after they have talked in their caucus on various proposals in an all-encompassing way, in a way that fits legitimately within the Criminal Code of Canada. We do not want to see it add more risk to what a court might do in terms of challenging that legislation and throwing it out. It should be done in a comprehensive way, rather than these simple bills coming forward to play to the Conservative base.
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns December 10th, 2013
With regard to the Enforcement and Disclosures Directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), for the years 2003 to 2013, inclusive, by year: (a) what is the budget of the Directorate; (b) how many people work at the Directorate; and (c) what training does CRA staff receive in the prosecution of cases against overseas tax evaders?
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2 December 3rd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the remarks by the member for Ottawa—Vanier. He basically talked about workers' rights in Canada, especially in the public service.
We have been very fortunate in this country to have always had a reliable, non-partisan public service that was, until the last number of years, able to give advice to ministers, without fear of repercussions, in a non-partisan way. However, when I talk to people within the public service in this day and age, there is a tremendous fear. It is as if they are being attacked by ministers, by the President of the Treasury Board, and by the government itself.
There are a lot of public servants in the member's riding. I am seeing a real fear within the public service, and that has to be having an impact on morale and productivity.
I wonder if the member for Ottawa—Vanier is seeing the same thing, which is that ministries clearly do not accept advice they do not agree with. They have the right to turn it down, but instead of accepting that advice as good advice to consider, they seem to turn it around and attack the public service. I think all Canadians are the losers.
Navigable Waters Protection Act December 2nd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I rise to seek unanimous consent of the House for the following motion, that Bill C-551, An Act to establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians be deemed read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
The reason for this motion is that there is growing concern as to the accountability of our intelligence agencies and the proposal contained in this legislation would provide oversight. It was crafted with the current Minister of National Defence and the current—
National Defence December 2nd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the latest Snowden releases raise serious concerns about Canadian involvement in spying at the G20 meetings. The documents clearly show NSA support planning has been closely coordinated with its Canadian partner. That is with its Canadian partner. Either someone in the government authorized the illegal spying, or we have a rogue spy agency operating without any oversight.
Will the minister now support the establishment of a national oversight committee of parliamentarians so that this rogue spying does not continue?
Criminal Code December 2nd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-489. I would think that all members would support the intent of the legislation in principle, the necessity for those who have been victimized to be assured of some degree of security that the offender will maintain a certain distance from them.
The question that was often raised during discussions of the legislation at committee was whether the legislation, as drafted, was necessary and would withstand a constitutional challenge.
We have increasingly seen that the courts are beginning to respond negatively to the blank mandatory minimum sentences that the government has been imposing on virtaully any and all offenses.
No one argues that in some cases mandatory minimums are not required. No intelligent person argues, given the current government's use of this practice, that a full review of those sentences should not be conducted.
When the sponsor of the bill was asked in the House during second reading about his consultations prior to the bill's introduction as to whether the amendments proposed in the bill would meet a court challenge related to the charter, the member indicated that he had consulted, but he provided no evidence as to whom he had consulted. That I did find troubling.
Changes to public policy, and especially changes to the Criminal Code, should be done to meet a specific and widely held need. This is national legislation that would impact all Canadians. It is not a bylaw in a community or one that might apply to a specific part of a small community. It is the Criminal Code of Canada, and amendments to it should be based on evidence and due diligence.
In that regard, I would put on the record the following exchange. It does not minimize the impact of criminal activity on any individual but places in context the wider concern, which may not exist, according to the member who proposed this legislation.
On November 5, 2013, the following question was posed to the member:
Do you have any numbers on how many people who would be impacted by this bill specifically have found themselves in a situation of having the offender within two miles of their residence?
The answer from the member for Langley was “no”.
Again, the intent of the bill is worthy of support, but what remains troubling is that no evidence as to the extent of the problem is apparently available, and it should be.
Extending from these issues is that the bill itself was subject to a number of amendments in key areas that were of concern to members and witnesses. As a case in point, the bill in its original form mandated that an offender could not reside within two kilometres of the victim and that there would be a requirement that the offender be obligated to have knowledge of the residency of the victim or where the victim could be present.
When asked how the two kilometres was reached, the member indicated that his intent had originally been to set it at five kilometres, and it was reduced to two kilometres to take into account smaller community situations. However, the two kilometres appears now to have been arbitrarily set, the same way five kilometres was. The bill has now been amended in regard to both provisions.
On strict adherence to the two kilometres, government members, on behalf of the government, eliminated the mandatory two-kilometre restriction, allowing judges the discretion, which they currently have under the Criminal Code, to allow, and I will quote the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe at committee, who moved the amendment, “the courts to impose greater or lesser geographic restriction where it is reasonable to do so”.
National Defence November 28th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative spin on this issue is just not good enough. Spying during the G20 makes one wonder if there were other reasons for those extensive expenditures. Was the fake lake so expensive because it had miniature submarines and underwater cameras? Were the number of gazebos so expensive because they were hot wired to the NSA? Security of this nature has to go right up to the top. The Prime Minister has to be involved right up to his eyeballs.
Would the Prime Minister come clean and tell Canadians why he provided access and facilitated this illegal activity?
Employment Insurance November 27th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, information provided in the P.E.I. legislature yesterday showed P.E.I. had a net loss of 1,100 people to out-migration, the highest number in 30 years. Why? It is because of the Conservative government's changes to employment insurance, which are an attack on the seasonal industries and seasonal workers, yet the regional minister allowed that young people should move away for better lives.
Why does the minister think it is okay for P.E.I. to lose its youth and split families asunder, and why does the minister champion policies that force islanders to leave?
Business of Supply November 26th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I certainly do, but only the Prime Minister can tell us for sure, and he is constantly spinning the issue himself, and those around him are trying to spin it as well.
My colleague from Guelph talked about the $32,000. It seemed okay from everything I see. The “good to go” really meant it was okay to spend $32,000 out of the Conservative fund, with the approval of the senator in the Senate. However, when they realized that it was more money than that, then it was not okay to go with the $90,000 that Nigel Wright paid privately. Both are the same principle.
Mr. Speaker, I ask you, when is a bribe a bribe? That is clearly what it was. It was a payoff, auditing of the Senate report, as a result. Now we have a massive cover-up by the whole of the Conservative Party. What we are seeing here today is not just the Prime Minister's Office anymore. It is the whole of the backbench along with it.
Business of Supply November 26th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for that question and I think it is a good one.
Personally, where I come from, I believe that we need a real debate on the Senate in the future. However, I do not agree with the abolition of the Senate; not at all. I think the Senate often does good work, but the problem we are dealing with here is with some individuals who certainly went astray and whether the Prime Minster was involved in that scenario of bribery and cover-up. His office certainly was and we know that, but was the Prime Minister himself involved? This is an opportunity, as I said, for him to come clean.
I will go back in terms of answering the member's question on the Senate.
I was a former farm leader and had the opportunity to appear before House of Commons committees and Senate committees in, I guess we could call it, a former life. I will say that the Senate reports on those agricultural issues for which I was before its committee were always more non-partisan, although it can be a problem. Those reports were well researched and were good reports. Whereas, with the very nature of this place, we are a little more partisan, so I think we ought to be careful on the Senate issue.
I do believe that we need that sober second thought, but without the other issue that has not been talked about here on the Senate. I do not care whether it is Liberal, Conservative or NDP. We have to find a way to manage the absolute power that is in the PMO. The Senate, to a great extent, is the last stop. When we have backbenchers like we have over here who are not willing to stand up and challenge the Prime Minister, then in effect we are almost in a democratic dictatorship.