House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was fredericton.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Fredericton (New Brunswick)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 42% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions June 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present a number of petitions with regard to rural mail delivery.

The petitioners state that Canada has traditionally supported home delivery across the country in a timely and efficient manner. Many Canadian seniors, people who are sick and shut-ins, face significant obstacles to transportation.

The petitioners from Rusagonis, Royal Road, Marysville, Douglas, Lincoln, Noonan and McLeod Hill, in and around my constituency, call upon the House of Commons and the minister responsible for Canada Post to maintain the traditional mail service instead of implementing changes, causing people to travel long distances from their homes to receive their mail.

Rural Mail Delivery June 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I also commend the member for Oak Ridges--Markham for the timely use of his very fortunate draw in private members' business. What I would like to do today is put a practical and human face on the issues that this private member's bill is designed to deal with.

Last Monday, 1,150 homes in greater Fredericton were advised that there would be no mail the next day. As a result of that, by noon on Tuesday my office had received 60 calls and 100 by the end of the day. We called Canada Post when this happened to find out what was going on and were advised that mail delivery had stopped as a result of work refusal on the part of its employees in terms of rural home delivery. While safety issues could be applied in some instances in greater Fredericton, the same arguments could not apply to the vast majority.

In any case, for two or three days it was very difficult. Unlike my Bloc colleague, I would say that the president of Canada Post, under very difficult circumstances, did respond to our interventions and began the process of public meetings. Four meetings have been held so far. However, this is not a particularly pleasant exercise because constituents are very angry as this came as a complete shock to them. They received no notice. Many of the people we are talking about are seniors and many have disabilities. All of this happened right out of the blue. We are talking about cheques and other important communications that were not being received. These constituents were simply caught completely unaware.

Over the course of the next three or four days there was significant movement on the part of Canada Post and it started bringing in mailboxes. When we originally called we were advised that Canada Post would not be able to make any temporary arrangements for at least six weeks. As it happened, temporary mailboxes were put in place that weekend after the rather vociferous response within the community.

I welcome what the parliamentary secretary had to say about the government's support for this motion. I understand there are 840,000 similar rural mailboxes in Canada. There are now ongoing discussions within Canada Post as to what lessons might have been learned from this. If significant change is going to be made, and this is a significant change, it is hard enough to change things in an unemotional, calm atmosphere but if we add the dimension of injustice these people felt by virtue of the fact there was no notice, then it is more difficult to have that community forum exercise.

Good suggestions were made and my colleague alluded to many. The Minister of Human Resources and Social Development wondered about having the car reconfigured so the driver would sit on the other side. The reason this suggestion was made was because of the recurring movement problems involved with reaching over. These kinds of vehicles are used in other jurisdictions in the world for the same purpose.

Many people recognize that they live on streets where it is not just dangerous for the person doing the delivery, but it is dangerous for the people who receive the delivery in that fashion. Many of them recognize the need to have collective mailboxes but they are not the majority. That is not even close to a majority. It is very difficult to defend on a safety issue or a safety argument when, in the case of many of the residents, they are caught on a route that had some unsafe boxes, but certainly it does not apply to all, or even the majority of them.

I would also suggest that this should not be posed as a choice between rural home delivery and the safety of employees. It is the responsibility of Canada Post to figure out how to do this in a way that is safe for its employees. I take it from what the parliamentary secretary said that the government accepts that and would give that as a general policy direction to the Crown corporation.

I also want to pay tribute to the residents who, notwithstanding their anxiety, concern and outright anger in some cases, have in fact participated in these public meetings. In fact, residents have chaired the meetings. They have made a large number of very reasonable and positive suggestions. I will not go through the list because that has been done, but I want to pay particular recognition to Sue Johnstone with Canada Post locally in Fredericton who has been very helpful in facilitating these meetings. I think that they will continue.

Again, I want to make sure that no one, and there will be those that may try, should somehow ask the carriers to operate in unsafe conditions, nor should they ask the residents to somehow be responsible for the fact that they cannot be served in any way that is not safe. The reality is that those two competing objectives can be reconciled.

Further, as we go forward with 840,000 of these boxes across the country, the most important lesson that should be learned from this unacceptable execution has to do with notice. It has to do with public consultation before the fact so that the communities can engage in offering their own understanding of the roads, understanding of locations, understanding of what is convenient and possible within their communities. As I say, change is not something that is embraced easily. We do not need the complication of anger, emotion and so on.

I also want to recognize a few individuals who have gone out of their way in an obviously volunteer capacity. John Moreau of Rusagonis outside of Fredericton has been going door to door since last Monday circulating petitions. There will be a large number coming forward. I do not think we can let up in this. As an hon. colleague from the Northwest Territories said earlier, it is one thing for the government to support the private member's motion, but it is quite another to make sure that it is executed better in the future.

Jackie Philips of Rusagonis chaired a meeting in that community. Again, these are volunteers in their local communities and some of these meetings were charged. We should be appreciative of them for doing this.Don Stewart is going door to door in MacLeod Hill and Royal Road. That would include the part of Fredericton where I live. Earl Holland in the local service district of Noonan chaired a meeting and has been making calls around the community.

There is a resolution here as we go forward. Again with 840,000 boxes this can be done in a way that is acceptable to the communities. People are not unreasonable. People would not want the employees of Canada Post to put their health and safety at risk, but in the spirit of this private member's motion, and as has been accepted by the parliamentary secretary, this is about a commitment by the government to rural home delivery and not something other than that, unless there are a minor number of instances where it has to be done differently. All other things should be done basically as a responsibility of Canada Post.

We cannot blame these citizens for fearing that this would be seen as an opportunity by the government, because I know that some have said that this is an opportunity, to move to a different place. I was glad to hear the parliamentary secretary tell the House that not only does he reject that notion, but that he intends to support this private member's motion.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is right to point out the necessity of making the kind of investment that the member for Halifax West refers to in the motion, having to do with competitiveness, post-secondary education, and those groups in society that need particular investments, Canadians with disabilities, first nations, Métis, Inuit Canadians, so they can be part of the future of the country in a prosperous country.

There is a recognition that knowledge, skills, investment in research and innovation will be the critical investments in the future. It comes quite naturally that people will talk about those long term investments because at the end of the day, in many cases, it will require resources.

I mentioned earlier that we have moved the yardstick dramatically in terms of publicly funded research in Canada. In our case in Atlantic Canada, we have improved our percentage of national research from under 3% to just about 5%, and we are 7.5% of Canada, but that is not quite enough. Those kinds of investments require a vision to make that investment make sense. This vision is sadly lacking in the government.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I will turn it right back to the hon. member and talk about disingenuous. If he cared anything for post-secondary education, he would not have pulled the plug on the fall update last year and those kids would have got the money. He ganged up with the Conservatives to bring the government to power, so he can answer for that.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to engage in this debate. I thank the hon. member for Halifax West for his good judgment in bringing it forward at this time.

I see that the hon. member for Halifax West is discussing the contents of the debate with the parliamentary secretary for human resources and skills development even as we speak, so I extend congratulations for that level of cooperation, but I have to bring to the attention of the members on the other side the fact that the Conservative Party, when running for office, had committed to something pretty spectacular for students, that being a dedicated transfer. The students interpreted that it could be as much as $4 billion a year. That did not happen.

I have always been of the view that it would have to be a dedicated transfer to the provinces. Perhaps that will be the reason why the government will not end up doing that, but it speaks to the need to provide money to deal with the very specific question of access. I know that the Conservatives speak of the fact that they used the money available to them at year end, as a result of legislation last year, to do infrastructure investment. That is a good thing, but it certainly falls well short of what would have happened had they actually acted on the fall update, as was available to them.

The reality is that students in Canada need significant tuition relief. What was proposed in the last election by our party was that we would make available $6,000 in tuition relief for each student. By comparison, what they got was in fact $80 for book relief. My son at Acadia University in Nova Scotia advises me that this would in fact allow students to purchase half a book--if they could buy half a book.

Also, in the programs that should have come forward but did not and are necessary, according to the proposal by the member for Halifax West, is a proposal having to with programs for first nations, Métis and Inuit Canadians. The reality is that $1.8 billion was booked in the Kelowna accord to deal with education and that has been abandoned by the government. Anything else the Conservatives may say falls well short of what that would have been able to accomplish, not only in the context of resources but also in terms of the consensus that it arrived from.

Also, the programs for Canadians with disabilities would have been a wonderful opportunity to make a significant investment to allow for Canadians with disabilities to enter the labour market at a time of labour market shortages. It is the 25th anniversary of the International Year of Disabled Persons and I would have liked to see something in the budget on that. I welcome it being brought to our attention by the member for Halifax West.

Mr. Speaker, I am advised that I have forgotten to tell you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Labrador.

In terms of access to post-secondary education, the government simply has failed, either to meet the commitments that it made or to honour the commitments that we made. Either way, students would have been a lot better off.

Having said that, I note that skills and skills development also have been mentioned. Again, let us talk about the Kelowna accord offering educational opportunities, both in post-secondary education and in elementary school programs, in which we had collaborated with the provinces to deliver education in the provinces to build a system that would have the kinds of results that were targeted over 10 years. All of that went for naught as the government has refused, so far, to honour that accord.

I bring to the attention of members the fact that in the fall we will be debating a motion that I am bringing forward to allow for families of children with autism to receive support from the government so that they can also contribute to their maximum ability in the labour force.

The next item I would like to speak to has to do with R and D. My hon. colleague from Beauséjour mentioned that in my province of New Brunswick, the province is shrinking in regard to the position in terms of educational achievement relative to the national average, and the space is growing larger.

The reality is that the investment in Atlantic Canada in R and D by the federal government, while it has grown in the last 15 years from a little less than 3% to 5%, still falls short of what would be a simple per capita calculation. If knowledge is the basis of the economy of the future and our part of the country is receiving less investment than others, then we cannot expect to close the gap in terms of prosperity between our region and the rest of the country.

The reality is that on research, as was mentioned by the member for Halifax West in one of the earlier speeches from the government side, during the past 15 years Canada has in fact moved itself into the position of being the country with the most federally funded research in the world per capita. We do not compare with the rest of the world in terms of private sector investment, nor do we compare with the rest of the world in terms of other state investment, but at the federal level we in fact lead the world. This has meant that we have increased funding for the granting councils, for SSHRC and NSERC. The Medical Research Council became CIHR. We have done a lot of innovative things with regard to research.

In the research chairs program, we introduced the idea of a 6% set-aside for universities where the research share in the nation was less than 1%. It meant 120 research chairs for universities that otherwise would not have been able to acquire the same number of chairs necessary to move the region forward. That was not just for Atlantic Canada. That would have been for small universities across the country.

We also introduced the indirect costs program. I think the member for Halifax West identified the indirect costs program specifically. It is so helpful to small universities. If a small university has one or two or three scientists, the cost associated with supporting their work is almost the same as if the university has 25 scientists. The reality is that there has to be a way for the federal government to support those small universities to do the kind of research that is so important for the future well-being and prosperity of the country.

So for all those reasons, I want to commend the hon. member for Halifax West. I think this is one of the crucial issues facing the country in terms of equity, in terms of opportunity that would be available so that no student in the country who would otherwise be able to attend post-secondary education of any type, vocational, academic or otherwise, would be denied for lack of funds.

I think that is critically important, not just on the equity argument but also because it is in the long term best interests of the economy of Canada to have an educated workforce. Either way we look at it, the reality is that the member for Halifax West has brought to the House's attention a glaring omission. The reality is that it should have been there and it was not.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the member said that he had recently visited Fort McMurray with the member of Parliament for Fort McMurray—Athabasca and that there was a labour shortage there.

The member for Parliament for Fort McMurray—Athabasca happens to be the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. As the parliamentary secretary to the minister for communities, I wonder how he views the position that he took this morning before the human resource development committee suggesting that the Government of Canada should do more to encourage and allow Atlantic Canadians to move to Fort McMurray, Alberta to deal with the labour shortage.

Is that the policy of the Government of Canada? Does the member believe that is how we deal with unemployment in Atlantic Canada?

I did not hear the member mention first nation Canadians, as he talked about the need for more labour in Alberta generally but in Fort McMurray particularly, which is the fastest growing community in Canada in terms of young first nations students. He also did not mention the fact that the Kelowna accord had set aside $1.8 billion for education over five years to deal with the very significant problem and challenge of the first nations community, which would have benefited the country and the community. His government chose not to do that and I wonder how he would respond to that given the labour shortage in Alberta.

Atlantic Canada May 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives, with a $13 billion surplus, had an unprecedented opportunity to make the strategic investments necessary to Atlantic Canada. However, they have squandered that chance.

The budget failed to even mention Atlantic Canada or regional economic development. Not only did it fail to renew the Canada strategic infrastructure fund for this year to advance many worthy projects in the province, there is no new money for the Atlantic innovation fund or ACOA's other programs.

Under our leadership, momentum was gaining in Atlantic Canada through the innovation agenda. The fact that this government is investing just one-tenth of what we had invested in federally funded university research shows it does not understand or believe in research and development.

To the Conservatives, R and D means review and diminish.

Atlantic Canada remembers that it was the Prime Minister who stated that Atlantic Canada suffers from a “culture of defeat”. With the lack of funding provided to Atlantic Canada in its first budget, it is clear that the Conservatives have no interest in giving our region the tools we need to succeed.

Fisheries April 26th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the government has decided not to honour a commitment made to salmon growers in the province of New Brunswick.

Last July the government announced a $20 million aid package to assist this important industry and make it sustainable for the future. Now, as confirmed yesterday by the fisheries minister, the Conservatives have cut this assistance in half and are reportedly taking the funds from ACOA.

What is most unfortunate is that the regional minister for New Brunswick has suggested that the aid package was not approved by cabinet. This is simply not the case. I would like to thank the hon. member for Halifax West for his work on the file at the cabinet level, where it was in fact approved.

While we stepped up to the plate, Premier Lord's government once again remained on the sidelines, failing to provide the necessary loan guarantees that the industry needed. We were there and were pleased to help salmon farmers, but sadly it is another example of the Lord government abdicating its responsibilities and letting down the people of New Brunswick.

2006 Winter Olympics April 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate the athletes and staff from New Brunswick who represented our province at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy.

We are particularly proud of Russ Howard and the Canadian men's curling team, who captured the gold medal in men's curling. Mr. Howard is the first New Brunswick athlete, and at age 50 the oldest Canadian, to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

I also wish to recognize our other athletes who competed: Serge Despres of Cocagne in bobsleigh, Milaine Thériault of Saint-Quentin in cross-country skiing, and Shawn Sawyer of Edmundston in figure skating.

Our coaches, officials and mission staff also contributed to the great showing by our athletes, including: Jay Keddy, Betty Dermer-Norris, Mark Fawcett, Derek Doucette, Stéphane Hachey and Sally Rehorick.

Each member of the Canadian Olympic contingent did a spectacular job. As a country, we should all be very proud of their achievements.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, this is a good example of the benefit of the relationship that the former government had with the municipalities, and I hope the government carries it forward.

The green fund is a result of the original infrastructure Canada program. The green fund was carved out of that program. It was used by the Canadian Federation of Municipalities for the very purpose of being innovative and to reward communities that wished to do something innovative in terms of greening the country and, in particular, in their infrastructure programming.

My colleague asked if I would commit to that fact. The reality is that during my tenure as minister responsible for infrastructure, the amount of the municipal rural infrastructure program that had to be green went from 50% to 60% of the total. In my own province of New Brunswick it is 80%. Our commitment to the environment and using the infrastructure program for environmental purposes is obvious.

I do think large investment in infrastructure has to be considered not only for the capital that it provides to municipalities, but also for the relationship that the capital investment has made. It allows us to engage in greater planning, share best practices and, as the hon. member mentioned, innovative practices as well.