House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was farmers.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Members not seeking re-election to the 42nd Parliament June 9th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I am thankful for the opportunity to rise tonight and talk for a few minutes to my colleagues. As is so often the case when there is an important occasion before us, the first question is, “I wonder what I should wear”. This afternoon, as I was making the decision between a regular suit, which all of the other members in this place are wearing this evening, or my Speaker attire, I decided that I would at least bend the rules, if not break them, by speaking in the chamber dressed like this.

I have had the privilege to serve here for 11 years. When I started, I said to people that I thought ten years was going to be enough, and I was right. About two years ago, I started thinking about other things that I want to do in my life.

I served my first four years here as a regular member of Parliament. I sat on committees, I was a critic when we were in opposition, and I chaired the aboriginal affairs committee at one time, but I have served as one of the chair occupants for the past seven years. None of my colleagues in this place who arrived either in 2008 or 2011 have ever seen me in any role other than sitting in the chair in the place of the Speaker and playing referee, rather than combatant in the debate that takes place here.

I remember that when I became a chair occupant, one of my colleagues asked me why on earth I would want that job. He said, “it is like fighting to get to the NHL and then agreeing to be one of the referees”. I guess that there is some truth to that, but I also think that sitting in that chair takes a particular temperament and it is an important role that this place would not function without. It has been an honour to serve there, both under the hon. Peter Milliken, who was the former speaker, and the current Speaker, the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle.

Like my colleagues from Guelph, British Columbia Southern Interior, and Northumberland—Quinte West, who went before me, I would like to spend a significant amount of my time thanking people.

As it has been said, we all stand here on the basis of the team that we have. I can remember the day, back in the fall of 2003, driving in my car and listening to the radio when the announcement was made that the current Attorney General and the current Prime Minister, as leaders of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance, had agreed to a potential merger and that there was going to be a new Conservative Party. I can remember thinking that Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, which is my home, was one of those ridings that had had a split vote for several campaigns. In the last election before 2004, in 2000, those two parties together received 61% of the vote, so there was a sense that with a united Conservative Party there would be an opportunity to elect a member. I was the fifth person to put their name forward to run for the nomination. I absolutely was not the favourite at that time, but I worked hard through that process and was delighted when I was nominated later that fall.

I start there because I want to talk about my staff. I never say the people who worked for me, but they have worked with me for the past several years. I began with Peter Taylor, who is back in Lindsay. Peter helped me in my nomination campaign, the general campaign, and subsequently worked in my office for about eight years. He is still available to us. When someone is sick or if we need an extra body, he can come in and fill in. Peter is a friend and did a great job in helping me to do my job as the member of Parliament for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock.

Lisa Rodd is another woman who worked in my constituency office. Lisa also started with me back in 2004, and about three years ago, she left to become a consultant. She is still working with some of the same files, but working from home, where she can spend more time with her family.

Connie Pearsall has been running my Ottawa office since 2006. Many members in this place have two staff members in Ottawa. I run with one staff member, so Connie's job description has several bullets, with the bottom being “various duties as assigned”, which essentially means that anything that needs to get done, she does. I appreciate what she has done for and with me for the last nine years.

In my constituency office in Lindsay, Marnie Hoppenrath has been with me for about six or seven years. She previously worked in a provincial office and has a lot of experience. Kate Porter has also been in my Lindsay office for about five years. As we all know, if we have good front-line staff when someone walks through the door of our constituency office, if the people they meet are friendly and competent and, most important, empathetic, that really gets a relationship off on the right foot.

Like most MPs, I go home on the weekend and someone will come up and shake my hand and say, “Oh, thanks very much for that thing you did for me”. I kind of scramble a little bit and say, “Oh you're very welcome, I was pleased that we could be of service”, when sometimes I am not really sure what the person is talking about because it is actually my staff who have resolved the individual's issue.

Brenda Hymus is another woman who has worked in my office for several years. She is semi-retired and she fills in, in many ways. Andrea Coombs is the most recent addition. She has been with me for about a year and deals with communications materials.

What I find interesting is most of my staff members have been with me for more than five years, including my executive assistant, Jamie Schmale, who actually started in my office back in 2004. In fact, he ran against me in the nomination. I had not met him before, but I remember the first time we met as candidates running against each other. On the way out of the hall, my brother said to me, “If you win this thing, you should hire that guy”. I took that advice, and he has been my executive assistant and run my campaigns. In fact he is now the nominated Conservative candidate for our riding in the next election. I wish him success as he begins this journey.

I am lucky that my riding is close enough to Ottawa that I get lots of school groups. I know some other members who are from provinces farther away do not have that opportunity and pleasure to welcome school groups, but my riding is three or four hours' drive away. When school groups come here, one of the points I always try to make with them is that public life is an honourable endeavour and that it matters, and it matters what we do; and that public life is broader than just serving in elected office, that there are many ways for people to serve their community, but it does matter.

Heaven knows that we take our share of lumps around this place, and there is lots of criticism in terms of people who make mistakes. It has been said before that 20,000 planes can land safely and that is not news, but if one crashes that leads the evening news. It is kind of the same around this place. I had been here about five years, and when I was walking in the building one day a security guard stopped me and I showed him my ID and he said, “You must be new here”. I said, “No, I have been here seven or eight years”. He said, “Why don't I recognize you?” I said, “I guess that's because I've never done anything ridiculous”. He laughed and I said, “But I'll bet you if I wanted to I could lead the news tonight and it wouldn't be by making an intelligent, rational speech in the House, but by doing something to draw attention”. It is the nature of this place that the fireworks get attention and that all the quiet good work that so many members do kind of goes so much unnoticed.

I would like to finish, as my colleagues have done, by thanking my family: my wife, Ursula, and my children, George and Molly. Five years after I was elected, they moved to Ottawa, so for the past five years my family has been here. I agree with what the hon. member for Guelph said, which is that I would encourage future Parliaments to investigate more family-friendly rules. All these votes at 6:30 in the evening could, in many cases, so easily be done following question period. I could not be here and I could not do this job without my family.

For me, unlike for my colleague from British Columbia Southern Interior, with whom I sat on the agriculture committee so many years ago, I am not retiring to go home. In fact, we are moving to South Korea where I will be teaching university, teaching politics, which is something I did a long time before I was elected. As well, my wife and I will be working with the North Korean refugee and defector community in terms of trying to make their lives better and trying to have an influence and work toward a positive resolution of that significant challenge in that part of the world.

Thanks to my family, thanks to my staff, thanks to my colleagues, and thanks to the House for this time this evening.

Main Estimates 2015-16 June 8th, 2015

The point raised by the member for Langley reflects back to comments made by the Chair 25 minutes ago, before the member for Timmins—James Bay began his speech, which is that the general practice in this place is that questions directly related to the Senate are not considered government business. Consequently, there are times, for example, in question period, when questions are ruled out of order for that reason.

However, the matter before the House tonight relates directly to the Senate. Just to correct something I said in a previous intervention, the matter before the House tonight is whether to fund the Senate. It is not, in fact, a de-funding motion; the question is whether to fund the Senate. A yes vote would be in favour of funding and a no vote would be opposing that funding. I want to make that clear.

What the hon. member for Langley has quoted from O'Brien and Bosc is correct. He read it from the book. The Standing Orders do not specifically say that is context that comes from O'Brien and Bosc in terms of guiding the debate in this place.

In the opinion of the Chair, the fact that this motion has been deemed in order to be brought before Parliament makes that the subject before the chamber. Members are debating whether, as parliamentarians, they are going to support this part of the main estimates. It is not a direct question in terms of the jurisdiction of the government. It essentially is a parliamentary question as to whether members of Parliament will fund the Senate or not. This is the context that puts it in order.

The second point is the general practice in this place, that members are restrained in their direct comments related to members of the Senate. In that regard, the member for Langley is also correct that this is the general practice in this place. However, there are matters in the public eye at this point, in the media, that relate directly to specific members of the Senate and the spending that takes place in the Senate. Those things do relate to the matter before the House tonight.

This is a long way of saying that with regard to the debate we are having tonight, there is a set of rules that is a little different than what is normally before this place in referencing members of the Senate. However, I would ask all members to be mindful of the fact that one of the reasons why members of the House of Commons avoid speaking directly about senators is because the senators are not in this place and do not have the opportunity to directly defend themselves and their actions. Therefore, I would ask members to be mindful of that.

As all members can imagine, I have listened quite intently to almost every word from the member, not simply because he is such a great speaker, but because everybody in this place has been getting very close to the line tonight. I would again ask all hon. members to respect not only the letter of the law but the spirit of the rules that guide debate in this place.

In that context, the Chair is ruling that the speech by the member for Timmins—James Bay was in order. It is impossible to talk about the Senate without mentioning the Senate or senators. Therefore, in the opinion of the Chair, when the decision was made that the motion before the House was in order and was appropriate, that opened the door to this conversation tonight.

Questions and comments, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.

Main Estimates 2015-16 June 8th, 2015

The matter before the House tonight relates to the main estimates and specifically a motion from the official opposition to defund the Senate. That is the matter that is before the House. I have listened carefully to the member's speech and the member's speech touched on lack of justification for the Senate. If and when members make arguments that the Senate ought to be defunded because money is improperly or unwisely used, and the government members respond with a question that relates to the spending of money in other parts of the estimates, including in the House of Commons, this is where we sit. There is no specific Standing Order that relates to this. It would appear that the parliamentary secretary is intent on asking essentially a similar question to different members when they do this.

I go back to the point that I made a couple of minutes ago which is that the point of the rules is not to put an absolute limit on where you are allowed to go, but it is to guide behaviour of members in the House. I would ask members, including the parliamentary secretary, to keep the questions focused on the business that is before the House as it relates to the Senate. His contention that a standard that is being applied in the Senate ought to be or could be applied in the House of Commons is a rhetorical question. I am not sure that the parliamentary secretary needs to get into all of the specific details in order to make that point, if that is the point that he wants to make. If he wants to ask that rhetorical question, that would be acceptable, but to get into the detail of matters that are before the House that do not relate directly to the Senate will be ruled out of order by this Chair.

I would ask the hon. parliamentary secretary to put his question to the hon. member. For all hon. members that ask questions subsequently, again I would ask for members' co-operation to stick to the matter that is before the House related to Senate expenses.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

MAIN ESTIMATES 2015-16 June 8th, 2015

Before we resume debate and before I go to the government House leader, I understand that there has been some back and forth this evening in terms of what is or is not relevant. I commented before the last question, but again, to remind all hon. members, the matter before the House, which has to do with the main estimates, is specifically related to Senate expenses. There is a certain irony here in that in most cases, questions about the Senate are out of order and the House is to be dealing with matters before the House.

It strikes the Chair that the argument is that because the Senate is before this place, we cannot link it to the House. First of all, obviously it is the opposite of what we normally deal with, but I think the discussion about expenses in the Senate inevitably leads to discussions more broadly about expenses, and it would seem a very narrow drawing of relevance to suggest that members making reference to things that go on in the House of Commons is not allowed because we are only talking about the Senate.

I again go back to my earlier comment, which is that the rules are there not so that members can do whatever they can to get as close to the line as possible. The Standing Orders and the rules were agreed upon by all members to guide and manage debate in this place, and relevance is a part of that. The issue really is not what a member can get away with; it is about members being professional and parliamentary in terms of staying within what is relevant to what is before the House, and if all hon. members made a good faith effort to do that, I believe that this and all other debates would go more smoothly.

The hon. government House leader is rising on a point of order.

Member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock May 6th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, about six weeks from now, this House will rise for the last time in the 41st Parliament, and I will be one of the more than 35 MPs who have decided to leave this place, by choice.

I have enjoyed the 11 years I have spent here, but like all hon. members, I can only do my job because of the support I get from my staff. Therefore, I would like to thank my staff both here in Ottawa and back in Lindsay in my constituency office.

Beyond my staff, also like all members, I can only do this job because of the support I get from my family. As we approach Mother's Day, I would like to speak to the two most important women in my life, my mother, June Devolin, and my wife, Ursula Devolin. I thank them for the support they have given me over the years that allowed me to do my job in this place.

Citizen Voting Act April 30th, 2015

Before we proceed with the 30-minute question and comment period, pursuant to Standing Order 67(1), I would like to provide a brief explanation as to how we will proceed today.

The situation the House finds itself in at this point appears to be unprecedented. That is, the time stipulated in the Standing Orders for the start of statements by members, which today is 2 p.m., will arrive before the time for the 30-minute questions and comments period for the time allocation motion will have expired. Having not encountered this before, the Chair has had to consider how best to proceed in the interest of the House while, of course, respecting the rules and practices of the House.

What has made this difficult in this instance is that the committee that created the procedure, the modernization committee, does not seem to have envisaged this and so provides us no guidance, and in addition, no specific reason or justification for not interrupting to proceed with the statements by members, a procedure the Standing Orders clearly stipulate will start at 2 p.m.

Thus, this is what we will do in this instance.

There are, of course, opportunities for the House to resume and finish the procedure at a time determined by the government. Since, as I have said, we are in unchartered waters, the way we will proceed this time is not necessarily to be looked upon as a precedent. As always, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is responsible for reviews of the rules of the House, may want to look at this very question, and if it desires, provide the House with recommendations on how to proceed in such situations in the future.

In short, we shall begin the question and comment period now. It will be interrupted at 2 o'clock, when we will proceed with statements and following that with question period. When question period ends, we will resume the 30-minute debate and subsequent bell and subsequent vote.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth.

Azerbaijan Black January Tragedy January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, a couple of months ago we marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a great day that opened the door to democracy and human rights across Europe and beyond.

Today we mark a monumental anniversary of a different kind, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a word synonymous with the absolute worst of human behaviour.

Last week, the people of Azerbaijan marked a 25th anniversary of their own. Unfortunately, this was also for a terrible tragedy, one that came at the end of the Cold War. On January 19, 1990, in response to peaceful demonstrations in Baku calling for Azerbaijani independence, Soviet leaders sent in tanks and troops to viciously quell those gatherings. When the smoke cleared, 130 civilians had been killed and more than 700 more had been wounded. At the time, Human Rights Watch reported that “the violence used by the Soviet Army...was so out of proportion to the resistance offered by Azerbaijanis as to constitute an exercise in collective punishment.”

As chair of the Canada-Azerbaijan Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group, I have twice laid flowers for victims at the Martyrs' Alley memorial in Baku and heard first-hand accounts from Azari friends who were there that night.

This month, Canadians join with Azerbaijanis to remember those who died and recognize that, in the end, their sacrifices ultimately hastened the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War.

May they rest in peace.

Capital Experience November 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there is a special group of students in Ottawa. They are participating in a program I call a “Capital Experience”, where student leaders from each of the seven high schools in my riding come to Ottawa for three days each year to learn about career opportunities in public life.

They have visited Parliament, the Korean embassy, CBC's Power and Politics studio, the National Press Gallery, the University of Ottawa and the Prime Minister's Office. They have also met with representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, Results Canada and Summa Strategies.

I wish to thank those who shared their time with the students, and to thank the businesses and service clubs back in the riding that sponsored them.

Today, I welcome to Parliament: Mitchell Muscat from Brock; Aaron Haddad and Katherine Pinnegar from Crestwood; Haylie Cordick and Allison Gowanlock from Fenelon Falls; Curran Chambers and Krista Duncan from Haliburton; Emily Forbes, Brigid Goulem and Chardon Kozak from I.E. Weldon; Kayla Farewell and Megan O'Neill from L.C.V.I: Alexandra Kaczmarek and Jack Steinsky from St. Thomas Aquinas; and Justin Jeff from Apsley.

I ask my colleagues to join me in wishing these young people all the best as they make important decisions regarding their future careers.

National Health and Fitness Day Act October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, while I realize that having a Chair occupant rise on debate is a little like witnessing a solar eclipse, this is actually the second time I have had the opportunity to speak to this bill. I am delighted to speak on the subject of health and fitness as addressed in Bill S-211, which has been sponsored in the House by my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country and in the Senate by Canada's athlete of the century, Senator Nancy Greene Raine. This bill would establish a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians.

Before I begin my remarks, I would like to reference a couple of paragraphs from the bill itself, because they will explain what this is about and why we are doing it. It says:

Whereas the Parliament of Canada wishes to increase awareness among Canadians of the significant benefits of physical activity and to encourage Canadians to increase their level of physical activity and their participation in recreational sports and fitness activities;... Whereas the Government of Canada wishes to encourage the country’s local governments, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and all Canadians to recognize the first Saturday in June as National Health and Fitness Day and to mark the day with local events and initiatives celebrating and promoting the importance and use of local health, recreational, sports and fitness facilities;

This is an excellent bill, which I am hoping all members in this place will support. It is not a silver bullet, and it is not a panacea that will cure all the physical ailments of Canadians, but it is an important piece of a larger puzzle in terms of encouraging Canadians to be fit and active and to look after their own health and that of their children.

When I spoke for a few minutes about this a few weeks ago, I mentioned that it is a challenge that members of Parliament face. Access to good food and not much time to exercise is a combination that causes many members in this place to struggle with their weight, their health, and their fitness.

I hear some “hear hears” from some of my colleagues.

It is important for all Canadians. We have one body we have to make do with from the time we are children until the end of our lives. There are things we can do. Modern medicine really is filled with miracles in terms of interchangeable parts. However, every time I see something on television from Cuba, and I see one of those old 1950 vintage cars, it always reminds me that those taxi drivers knew that they had a car and were not going to get another one. They had to look after it and learn how to repair it and how to maintain it. The fact was that it was just going to have to do them for a long time. For people, it is the same thing. Whether we are in our 20s, 40s, or 70s, we have one body.

Years ago we thought about health and fitness mostly in the context of living longer. That is still part of it, but most of us have figured out that it is about the quality of the life we enjoy. When we see someone in their golden years who can still ride a bike, go downhill skiing, or do other physical activities, we are reminded that they did not get there by accident. They probably looked after their health over the years. That is why they are still able to be active in those later years.

About a year or so ago, when I turned 50, one of my friends said that I was playing the back nine now. I had not really thought that somehow I was over the hump and that I was teeing off on the 10th hole, but it is probably true. It reminded me that it is important for all of us to mind our health. I have two young children, and I try to remind them of this at the same time.

Obviously, there are all the economic arguments for good health, at a macro level, for our country and society. We all benefit if we all stay in better shape, because it reduces acute health care costs. However, I would suggest that there is a stronger argument than that, and it is the central point I would like to make, which is that it is about quality of life and staying healthy and fit so that we can do the things we all want to do.

This bill today is part of that. It is to encourage other levels of government, such as municipalities, to open facilities, whether they are squash clubs, hockey arenas, or curling clubs, for one day each year so that people who are not familiar with them can go in and try these activities and see if they enjoy them.

It is an opportunity to remind all of us, adults and children, that there is actually an abundance of recreational facilities in many of our communities. Sometimes we go by them many times without ever setting foot inside. Having a day set aside to focus on this would remind Canadians that it is important.

I really want to tip my cap to my colleague, the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, who is a true leader in this area. He leads a group of parliamentarians on Tuesday mornings on a run. He leads another group on Thursday mornings for a swim. He is leading by example. Even though it does not show up in the name of his riding, the area he represents includes the town of Whistler, which was home to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Anyone who has ever visited Whistler will know that recreational activities are pretty much what make that place and are what attract so many people there.

It is not surprising to me that he is the one pushing this. He has been joined by one of our senators, Canada's athlete of the century for the 20th century. They are a perfect set of bookends around this idea. I would really encourage all members not only to support the bill but to actually take to heart the sentiment captured by the bill and get involved themselves and encourage friends, family, and constituents to do the same.

Business of Supply September 29th, 2014

No. I will respond.

The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has raised a question of relevance. I am sure the irony is not lost on some members of the chamber that there is a discussion today about questions and whether the Speaker ought to be more proactive in terms of ruling on issues of relevance. I am also not certain whether the hon. parliamentary secretary structured his comments in such a way as to test the bounds of relevance today.

There is a specific motion before the House and as is often the case, members take the principle embodied in a specific motion or bill and then speak about the principle and then expound in quite a different direction in terms of another example of another issue that might relate to that same principle, even if it quite obviously does not reflect what is before the House.

Members in this place have raised the question of relevance many times. My colleagues and I in the Chair have risen to respond, pointing out to all members that the responsibility rests with them to keep their comments relevant to the matter that is before the House. The Chair gives significant latitude to members to do so in the understanding that members will not deliberately, or in some cases in almost a provocative way, stray from that to talk about something that is in fact quite unrelated.

With all of that as a preamble, I would remind the hon. parliamentary secretary of the actual motion that is before the House today and ask that he keep his comments related to that. If he takes some small detours that is understandable, but long detours that relate less to the matter start to get close to that line. I am quite certain that the hon. member would not want to put the Chair in that position.

With that, I give the floor back to the hon. parliamentary secretary.