House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was projects.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for Edmonton Mill Woods (Alberta)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Main Estimates 2016-17 June 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, when I was appointed Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, I did not have any staff, so I had to start from scratch. I had to build my ministry from scratch. The only person who gave me support was the deputy minister, who I share with Transport Canada.

I had to hire a new chief of staff, parliamentary secretaries, my departmental political non-exempt staff. There are close to 24 people working in my office now, with the potential to grow up to 32 people. We are doubling our investments in infrastructure, from $60 billion to $120 billion over the next 10 years. I currently have those staff members, with the potential to grow that number.

Main Estimates 2016-17 June 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, infrastructure is about unlocking people's potential. Infrastructure is about public transit, about having safe places for people to go home to. Infrastructure is about providing homes for people who do not have them because they have ended up living on the street due to circumstances beyond their control.

Infrastructure is about women fleeing domestic violence and finding safe havens to escape that violence. Infrastructure is about early learning facilities for our little ones, so we can invest in the future by unlocking their potential. Infrastructure is about everything each and every day that Canadians use, whether they are buses that take us to work, or the waste water facilities that we do not notice because the municipalities have done a good job running them, or clean water, or the investments we are making in social infrastructure. It is about people.

Main Estimates 2016-17 June 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to be here this evening to talk about infrastructure.

Infrastructure Canada has an unusual history. It originally operated as a program, known as the infrastructure national office, which was administered by the Treasury Board Secretariat, until it was established as a department.

Between 2006 and 2016, the department has operated under various portfolios, often sharing ministers and deputy ministers. My predecessor, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean was also responsible for other departments when he was minister of infrastructure and communities. He held the Transport Canada portfolio for a period of time. He was the minister of intergovernmental affairs and president of the Queen's Privy Council, and he was the minister of the economic development agency of Canada for the regions of Quebec.

Infrastructure Canada, until November 2015, was never a stand-alone department with a dedicated minister and a dedicated deputy minister and their support staff. As minister for intergovernmental affairs and president of the Queen's Privy Council, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean was able to make use of the office space associated with these positions.

In November 2015, a dedicated Minister for Infrastructure Canada was appointed, and Transport Canada and Infrastructure Canada were separated into two different departments. However, one deputy minister remained in place with the responsibility for both departments, and he sat with Transport Canada employees in their dedicated office space and building a few blocks away from Infrastructure Canada.

On March 2, 2016, just over three months ago, a dedicated deputy minister for infrastructure was appointed. The same month, our government announced the first phase of our $120 billion 10-year plan to invest in Canadian communities. We committed to invest more than $10 billion in the next two years to our government's priorities: public transit, green infrastructure, and social infrastructure.

However, being able to deliver tangible results for Canadians requires space where we can work collaboratively and efficiently. We required offices for our support staff. When I was first appointed, my colleague the Minister of Transport was kind enough to loan us some office space in the short term. We looked at various options, including continued operations out of the Transport Canada offices, but ultimately the best option was to build a separate office space to consolidate all of our staff to one floor.

The department worked with Public Services and Procurement Canada to find space and create the new accommodations. Our working space, for up to 32 staff members, was created in accordance with Treasury Board and Public Services and Procurement Canada guidelines. As per the Treasury Board guidelines, Public Services and Procurement Canada reviewed the contracts and made sure there were no concerns from the Government of Canada's perspective.

In full support of the Government of Canada's commitment to openness and transparency, we proactively disclosed these expenses publicly last April. We bought furniture for 32 office spaces. We bought furniture for collaborative spaces and boardrooms, where we can hold our meetings. We also purchased furniture for the reception area, so that visitors can sit while they wait to meet with our team.

To be clear, the cost to build and furnish the space for 32 people, including an office for me, the deputy minister and our support staff, and the reception area was $835,000.

When I took office in November, I committed to working in collaboration with my provincial, territorial, and municipal partners. I committed to working in collaboration with other stakeholders, indigenous peoples, and our key partners, and I have done so. I have met with mayors, wardens, premiers, chiefs, parliamentarians, and ministers. I have met with stakeholder organizations, like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Canadian Urban Transit Association, and the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships.

In fact, after my visit to the city of Red Deer last March, Mayor Tara Veer said this:

The fact that a sitting federal infrastructure minister came to Red Deer to me bodes well for recognition of mid-sized cities and regional hubs...But it also built a relationship with the minister and our region so that in the future there is an open door for the municipalities of our region.

I have also met with city organizations like the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and the Vancouver and Toronto boards of trade. I have met with chiefs and elders from Treaty 6 First Nations, and chiefs from Treaty 8 First Nations. I met with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, and with the Fort McMurray Métis and with Saskatchewan chiefs just last month. It is through working closely with these partners and stakeholders and listening to their priorities for their communities that we have made it to where we are today.

Where we are is delivering on our commitment to invest more than $120 billion over the next 10 years. We announced in March that we would be providing more than $10 billion of new money over the next two years for public transit, green infrastructure, and social infrastructure, starting right away. We established the clean water and waste water fund, worth $2 billion, and the public transit fund, worth $3.4 billion. We shared the allocation details with the provinces and territories.

Our discussions around bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories are going very well. In fact, we will have good news to share very soon. These agreements will allow us to start investing infrastructure funds and start funding new projects, retroactive to April 1.

Since Canadians elected our government, we have announced 164 projects for nearly $300 million in federal funding across the country, leveraging almost $800 million of investments in Canadian communities, investments that will create jobs, grow the economy, and bring opportunities for the middle class.

However, we are not coasting on our successes; we are building on them. When we announced $10 billion in budget 2016 for our infrastructure investments, we said it was for infrastructure work that could begin right away. We encouraged our partners to think of rehabilitation work that had to be put off for too long. We said that we wanted to renew the existing infrastructure, while we worked toward a plan that would support the long-term infrastructure investments that we knew were also needed.

We are referring to that as phase 2 of our plan. This is the phase that will focus on large-scale projects that take years to plan, design, and build, projects that we know our partners want to do and that will have a transformative effect on communities.

We have committed to announcing phase 2 of the long-term plan in the next year. It will be built through collaborative discussions and consultations so it can meet the needs of the communities across the country.

Through the upcoming summer months, I will continue to engage with my provincial, territorial, and municipal partners. I will be engaging with indigenous peoples and other key stakeholders to craft a plan that meets their needs. This includes attending conferences and events where we can host ministerial round tables.

My staff and I have reached out to all of our colleagues from both sides of the House to ensure we hear from Canadians across the country. My parliamentary secretary is leading these consultations and he will speak more about them later.

In my time as a bus driver, as an Edmonton city councillor, and now as a federal minister, I have conducted myself in an open and transparent manner. I have spoken at length about my belief in the principles of collaborative working relationships, of partnerships, and of honest, direct communication. I have held myself to a high standard and have expected my office to act in the same manner.

In that spirit, my department has posted on our website an unprecedented level of information, including the funding remaining in existing programs for each province and territory. We have posted project level information and funding amounts for all of our programs on the government's open data portal. We have shared the letters that were sent to the provinces and territories, which specifically detail their allocations under the new infrastructure programs and the changes we have made to old programs.

As I mentioned earlier, the costs that we incurred as part of the set-up of the new office for up to 32 people were posted in that same spirit of openness and transparency.

People often ask why we include social infrastructure as part of our broad-based infrastructure plan. People think that investing in roads, bridges, transit, water, waste water is the only infrastructure investment we can make. Those are very important and critical investments.

We committed to invest in social infrastructure because we felt that investment in affordable housing, investments in ending violence against women, investments in early learning, investments in cultural and recreational facilities would unlock people's potential.

I have experienced the power of infrastructure. I am the Minister of Infrastructure, but I am also the minister because of infrastructure. The transit buses that I took to work, the libraries where I went to learn English changed my life. The people on my bus who I took to work, the people who came home from work using public transit, those are the people on whose behalf we build the infrastructure.

Let me close by telling a story of a young mother of three children who was on the verge of being homeless. She called my municipal office looking for support and help. We were able to provide her with a secure, stable, affordable place to live through the agencies that served Edmonton. Within one year, that mother was able to turn her life around. Her children were back in school and succeeding at school. She had a job that she could hold because of that access to housing, that access to support services that she needed to put her life together. That is the power of infrastructure.

That is why we are investing in communities and why we need to do it now. That is why we are investing $120 billion in public infrastructure, public transit, clean infrastructure, and social infrastructure, to make our communities more inclusive and welcoming for people to live, to make our communities more resilient to climate change, to ensure we invest in projects that matter to Canadians from coast to coast to coast. That is our vision for infrastructure.

We have created a dedicated ministry with a dedicated minister, a dedicated deputy minister, dedicated staff, and a dedicated space to deliver on those commitments.

Ministerial Expenses June 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the expenditures the hon. member is referring to are for 32 staff members. As for the fridges, furniture, and paintings she is talking about, the only painting hanging on my office wall is the map of Canada.

As the Conservatives well know, we did not have a dedicated minister and deputy minister before—

Ministerial Expenses June 7th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, before November 4, 2015, Infrastructure Canada did not have a dedicated, stand-alone minister's office. We did not have a stand-alone DM's office, and we did not have a space for our staff members.

The expenditures the member is referring to were to provide office space for the minister and the deputy minister and a space for all of our staff members, as well as to consolidate them on one floor. The department followed all the Treasury Board procurement guidelines. All contracts over $10,000 have been proactively disclosed.

Infrastructure June 7th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the hon. member for Davenport for her enthusiasm on this topic.

Our government is investing $60 billion over the next 10 years in public transit and green and social infrastructure. The city of Toronto will receive $840 million in phase one, which can include active transportation, as we currently develop our second term, phase two, long-term plan.

Bike paths can also be funded through existing programs, such as the gas tax fund.

Infrastructure June 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, our government's commitment to building the Gordie Howe international bridge is unwavering.

Nearly 30% of the surface trade, as the hon. member has mentioned, crosses at this very important crossing. It is very critical for us to continue to grow our trade with the United States. The first step of the process, where we listed all the companies to build this bridge, has already happened. We are on the next stage—

Ministerial Expenses June 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I answered the question on expenditures, and I do not know which part of my answer the hon. member does not understand.

This is a stand-alone ministry that did not exist before. We did not have a dedicated DM. We did not have a dedicated minister to deliver the commitments that we made to Canadians.

In the past, the previous government wasted two construction seasons not making a single investment in communities. We want to do things differently. That is why we are delivering on the commitments we made to Canadians.

Ministerial Expenses June 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, we are proud that we have committed to invest $120 billion to support public transit, to support investment in affordable housing, to support investment in cultural and recreational facilities, to make our infrastructure more resilient to climate change.

Unlike the previous government, we are delivering on those commitments right away, instead of waiting for two years and missing two construction seasons and leaving Canadian communities behind.

Ministerial Expenses June 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the expenditures the member is referring to are to provide office space for the minister, for the DM, as well as for the staff members to support the minister and the DM.

We are focused on delivering on the commitments that we made to Canadians. That is why we are consolidating on one floor the entire ministry: to create efficiencies and live up to the expectations of Canadians in order to deliver on our commitments for infrastructure.