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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

Agriculture and Agri-Food June 6th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, we are all hearing more references to local food, a growing trend in food production and selling. As the name implies, local food is all about people buying and eating food produced in their local area.

There are three reasons people give for buying local food.

Number one is quality. Local food tastes better, offers superior nutritional value and is produced under Canada's world class food safety standards.

Number two is local jobs. By keeping food dollars in the local economy, people can support jobs and businesses in their own communities.

Number three is the environment. Consumers know that the more miles food travels, the larger its environmental footprint. Local food minimizes this impact.

The bottom line is that any reason to buy and eat local food is a good reason.

In the coming months, I encourage everyone to visit farmers' markets and stop at farm gate stands. It may take a few minutes, but I predict that everyone will appreciate and enjoy the local food they buy.

I know that local food is not the solution to every problem facing agriculture, but it does offer good opportunities for farmers in many parts of Canada.

Democratic Reform May 10th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, Canadians know that the best way for citizens to hold their government to account is to vote. Yet voter turnout has been in decline in recent years.

In 1958, 79% of eligible voters cast ballots. This plummeted to 60% in 2004. It is clear more needs to be done to encourage people to vote. With today's hectic lifestyles, many people identified school, work and family responsibilities as their primary reasons for not voting.

Could the Minister for Democratic Reform please inform the House what measures he has taken to increase voter turnout in Canada?

Electoral Reform April 30th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Motion No. 262, which proposes two initiatives in response to the 43rd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. First, the motion recommends that a special committee of the House of Commons be created to make recommendations on democratic reform issues. Second, it proposes that a special committee look into creating a citizens' consultation group and to report on this matter within six weeks.

I intend to oppose this motion for reasons I will make clear in my remarks today. I would also encourage other members of the House to oppose it.

There appear to be some fundamental inconsistencies in the NDP's approach to electoral reform and public consultation on democratic reform and electoral reform in particular. In this regard I noticed that one of the opposition day motions put forward by the NDP is that we should move immediately to implement electoral reform but that we should implement a specific type of electoral reform, that of a mixed member proportional system.

At the same time the NDP is putting forward Motion No. 262 to study our electoral system, it is also suggesting that we immediately reform our electoral system, and not necessarily in a way that reflects what the Canadian public may wish, but rather in a way that reflects the interests of the New Democratic Party. We can, therefore, all be excused for being confused about what exactly is the plan of the NDP with regard to democratic reform in general and electoral reform specifically.

Does the NDP want us to move immediately to implement a mixed member system, as it has stated on many occasions, or does the NDP want us to consult Canadians on electoral reform in advance, as suggested by Motion No. 262, and find out whether Canadians believe electoral reform is an issue they wish to pursue?

It seems that the NDP has not only prejudged the need for electoral reform, but is also prescribing for Canadians exactly what type of electoral reform Canadians should pursue. I find this interesting because there are a number of electoral systems that could be pursued should it be decided that reform is an advisable course of action.

Personally, I do not believe it would be advisable to barrel ahead to change our electoral system and change it to a specific electoral system before we even have any indication from Canadians that this is what they want.

I note that the sponsor of Motion No. 262 in the first hour of debate made it quite clear that she wanted the consultations to focus solely on electoral reform. From her remarks it did not seem that she and indeed her party had anything but a narrow focus on one single issue.

The question again is, does the NDP want to hear the views of Canadians on electoral reform, or does it want to prescribe for Canadians the type of electoral reform that it has apparently already decided on without consultation?

The actions of this government in the area of democratic reform stand in stark contrast to those of the NDP. We recognize that democratic reform is not a single issue. It is not just about electoral reform, as the NDP would have everyone believe.

Democratic reform encompasses a wide range of issues from political financing to improvements to our electoral system and the modernization of our democratic institutions. This was a fact that was recognized in the 43rd report, which was released in June 2005 but not acted on by the previous government.

The report's conclusions underline a whole range of issues beyond electoral reform that should be the subject of consultation. We need to be clear about the conclusions of the 43rd report if we are to act on them.

Let me read for members exactly what the report said. The report states that a citizens' consultation group along with the parliamentary committee should:

--make recommendations on the values and principles Canadians would like to see in their democratic and electoral systems.... [This] would take into account an examination of the role of Members of Parliament and political parties; citizen engagement and rates of voter participation, including youth and aboriginal communities; civic literacy; and how to foster a more representative House of Commons, including, but not limited to, increased representation of women and minorities, and questions of proportionality, community of interest and representation--

My question would be, why is the NDP focusing only on one aspect of democratic reform when there are so many other equally important issues?

For our part, this government is taking a much different approach. First, rather than just thinking about a consultation process as suggested by Motion No. 262, we have actually taken action to implement a process as the government announced it would do in January.

As a result of the government's actions, a citizens' consultation process is under way. The process consists of two key parts. The first is a series of 12 deliberative forums, one in each province, one for the territories and one youth forum, each with a participation of 40 to 50 citizens who are roughly representative of the Canadian population. The second part is a telephone survey on a range of issues related to our democratic institutions.

The deliberative consultation process is well under way. Consultations have already taken place in British Columbia, Alberta, the territories, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

In contrast to the process recommended by Motion No. 262, the government sponsored process is consulting citizens on a broad range of issues. Each forum is addressing a common set of topics, including political parties, the electoral system, the House of Commons, the Senate and the role of the citizen. It will be noted that this is very similar to the recommendation of the 43rd report. Unlike the NDP approach, we are not focusing only on a single issue and we are not prejudging the views of Canadians on these issues.

Once the process is over, a report on the process will be prepared for the government. The government intends to take the results of these consultations very seriously and parliamentarians will continue to be engaged on these important subjects.

It appears that the government is pursuing a much more comprehensive approach to consultation than is proposed in Motion No. 262. Since the process is well under way, Motion No. 262 has become redundant and has been for some time now.

Apart from the consultation process, the government has engaged parliamentarians on a wide range of important democratic reform initiatives, as we indicated we would do in our electoral platform. I dare say that no other government in history has accomplished so much in this important area. Allow me to review some of the initiatives we have taken so far on this issue.

First, we passed Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act, which provides for some important political financing reforms, including a ban on corporate and union donations, and the reduction of contribution limits to $1,000. This will ensure that money and influence are not the determining factors in financing political parties and the parties can operate on a level playing field.

We have introduced practical and achievable legislation in the area of Senate reform, including Bill S-4, which would limit the tenure of senators to a period of eight years, and Bill C-43, which would establish a national process for consulting Canadians on their preferences for Senate appointments.

Of particular interest for this debate, the consultations proposed in Bill C-43 would not be carried out by means of a first past the post system. Rather, elections would be conducted using a proportional and preferential voting system called the single transferable vote, or STV system. It will be interesting to know the ultimate position of the New Democratic Party on Bill C-43 since the bill is proposing the introduction of a proportional electoral system which the NDP has been advocating for the House of Commons. Bill C-43 is an important initiative because for the first time Canadians will have the opportunity to have input into their selection of senators.

The government has also moved forward on an important initiative to improve the integrity of our electoral system. Bill C-31 includes important provisions to combat electoral system fraud, in particular through the introduction of requirements for voter ID. If passed, I believe the bill would make a tremendous contribution to ensuring that no election was tainted by the possibility of voter fraud.

The government is taking steps to increase electoral fairness through the introduction of Bill C-16 which establishes fixed dates for federal elections. If passed, this initiative would ensure that elections occurred once every four years and not just on the whim of a prime minister who might choose to call an election on the basis of whether or not his or her party was high in the polls.

The government has demonstrated a tremendous commitment to electoral reform. We are well on our way to meeting the commitments that we made to Canadians.

To conclude, I must encourage all members to vote against the motion for the reasons I have stated. Given that the government has already taken action to implement a public consultation process, Motion No. 262 is redundant. Not only that, but the government's process is much more comprehensive than was recommended by the NDP. It will not be focused only on electoral reform, contrary to the desire of the sponsor of the motion. It conforms largely to the recommendations of the 43rd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

The New Democratic Party has already decided prior to consulting with Canadians that the mixed member proportional system is the way to go. This government does not want to prejudge the views of Canadians on this important matter.

Might I add that the previous speaker made mention of several changes that she feels need to be made to the way that Parliament works. It is important to point out that the previous Liberal government was in power for 13 years. The Liberals moved forward on none of these provisions. I find that extraordinary.

Quite frankly, as someone who has had a lifelong interest in democratic reform, I am proud of the initiatives that our government has launched. I encourage all members of all parties in the House to support them when they come forward.

FedNor March 26th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I have a question regarding federal investment in northern Ontario.

Over the past 10 or 15 years I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in Ontario's north. I believe that northern Ontario is a treasure trove of human and natural resources and that the best is yet to come for that region. It is also my belief that the previous Liberal government did not do very much to realize this potential.

Can the minister responsible for FedNor explain to the House what Canada's new government is doing to create a brighter future for northern Ontario?

Employment Insurance Act March 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join in the discussion today on Bill C-265. I would like to thank the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst for raising the important issue of employment insurance.

On a small personal note, during the last Parliament I was a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources and Skills Development and, while the member was not the regular NDP member of our committee, whenever there was a discussion about employment insurance he was certainly there putting his views forward.

Bill C-265 puts forth proposals affecting two key elements of EI. The first of these is the hourly entrance requirement for regular and special benefits. The bill proposes a reduced flat 360 hour entrance requirement.

Second, concerning the way in which benefit rates are calculated, the bill proposes establishing an approach based on the 12 best weeks of work over the last 52.

These proposals would have a profound effect on the program and, in determining if they are justified, it is important to see them in the broader context of today's labour market.

The Canadian labour market is continuing to perform exceptionally well. Statistics Canada data shows unemployment rates at the lowest level in about three decades. In addition, the share of the population that is working is at near record high levels. However, we know that even in times of high employment there are those who occasionally need the assistance of EI. Evidence indicates that the program is meeting their needs.

More than 83% of those who pay into the program and have a qualified job separation are eligible for benefits. In areas of higher unemployment, such as Atlantic Canada, the percentage of those eligible for benefits increases to more than 90%.

It is important to note too that the present system is also working well for those who wish to avail themselves of maternity, parental and sickness benefits. Evidence shows that more than 90% of employees could meet eligibility requirements for those EI special benefits.

Evidence also shows that not only are the EI eligibility requirements meeting the needs of Canadians, but so too is the time period over which claimants can receive these benefits. On average, individuals use less than two-thirds of their EI entitlement before finding employment. Even in areas of high unemployment, claimants rarely use more than 70% of their allotment. That is good news.

With respect to the bill's proposed calculation of benefits based on the 12 best weeks of work, I should remind the House that we are currently testing a pilot project in regions of high unemployment based on the best 14 weeks of work over the past 52 weeks.

This approach maintains elements of the program that evidence indicates have been successful in encouraging workforce attachment. Our aim is to balance providing adequate EI coverage while still encouraging individuals to accept all available work.

Until this pilot project is complete, we believe it would be premature to endorse any changes to the benefit rate calculation.

EI is there for Canadians, both men and women. In fact, I would like to address the misconception that has been raised in the House that EI is not serving the needs of women.

Looking first at access to EI, women's coverage rate is high. This is true for both regular and special benefits. According to Statistics Canada, for those who paid premiums and were laid off or quit with cause, 87% of women were eligible for regular benefits in 2005.

In the same year, among women with children aged 12 months or younger, over 85% received maternity and/or parental benefits if they had insurable employment in the previous year.

If we look more closely at maternity and parental benefits, we see that contrary to opinions raised in the House, EI is actually serving women better through enhancements made to the EI benefits. These changes include: extending benefit duration from six months to one full year; lowering entrance requirements to 600 hours of insurable work; waiving the waiting period for a second parent claiming the benefit; and, the ability to work while receiving parental benefits.

Women have greater access and better benefits while increasing their ability to maintain their labour market attachment. In fact, women accounted for 85% of claimants benefiting from those enhancements in 2004-05.

Women are also the principal beneficiaries of the family supplement provision, representing 74% of claims. Those benefits enable individuals in low income households with children to receive up to 80% of their insured earnings.

Clearly, EI has a strong track record in serving Canadian women in an effective and timely manner. I would also like to add that the Employment Insurance Commission monitors, examines and assesses how well EI is serving all Canadians.

The commission's annual monitoring and assessment report is tabled in Parliament each year. It provides comprehensive information on the effectiveness of EI, including analysis on the adequacy of EI benefits for both men and women. The report provides sound, gender based analysis that informs decision making on any potential EI changes.

We will continue to draw upon extensive monitoring assessment and evaluation of the program in this regard.

Canada's new government is committed to building a strong, competitive economy and a dynamic and flexible labour market. We introduced new measures in budget 2007 to ensure Canadians can continue to succeed and enjoy a high standard of living. This is what Canadians want.

As I stated earlier, our labour market is performing well.

Our government believes it is important that the EI program strike a balance between providing temporary income support for Canadians while they find new employment and keeping individuals active in the workforce. EI is working well to achieve this goal and to maintain this balance.

We will continue to monitor and assess the EI program and make changes when we have demonstrable evidence that change is warranted.

The proposals contained in Bill C-265 do not meet this criteria and, as such, we cannot support the bill.

The Budget March 21st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, today I want to express my appreciation to our provincial and municipal colleagues. Conservatives believe that each level of government should have adequate resources to deliver the services for which they are responsible. Our Minister of Finance has listened and responded to their requests for fairer treatment and more predictable funding.

One example is the GST rebate for municipalities. Until now, the rebate was only 57%. Now it is 100%. This may not sound like much, but for a single large purchase, such as a $200,000 grader, savings will now exceed $5,000.

Another example is the extension of the gas tax fund. Municipalities now have a seven year commitment to help them develop their capital plans. In my riding, Kawartha Lakes will receive $1.7 million this year, $2.2 million next year and $4.5 million each year thereafter to meet local infrastructure needs.

We respect and value our colleagues at the provincial and municipal levels. We are doing our part to help them do their jobs.

Business of Supply February 22nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, immigrants are a positive force in Canada. I would also be concerned if I heard people use the word “immigrant” or referred to immigration in some negative light. We need to take every opportunity to remind people that the vast majority of us are descendants of immigrants. We need immigrants in Canada.

In terms of what we are doing, several things have been identified already. We have reduced the landing fees, especially for families. That is certainly a step in the right direction.

As to foreign credentials recognition, people come here from other countries and bring their professional or technical skills set and they have to wait two or three years to find out whether they can actually practise in their fields. We have all heard the stories of professionals and others delivering pizzas or driving taxis when they could be working as engineers and doctors.

In my rural riding there are two doctors in a small community who both come from Hungary. Both are women who were born in Hungary and are now practising medicine in Canada. The residents of that community are absolutely delighted that these two foreign trained doctors are living in the community and providing medical services.

If immigrants can practise their skills and trades, they will be welcome in any community in Canada.

Business of Supply February 22nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague from Nipissing knows, while I am not from northern Ontario, I have spent a lot of time in the north. I have a great fondness for northern Ontario and some of the issues and challenges faced in the north. As I said before, there are administrative and management challenges. The member is right; people should not have to wait two years to get that kind of an answer.

Northern Ontario was built by immigrants and not 100 or 200 years ago, but a lot of the communities there were built by immigrants in the last century. One of the challenges that I know exists in northern Ontario is that communities are actually trying to figure out how to get more immigrants to go there so that they can add to the local economy and add to the quality of life in the north.

That is something I feel strongly about. First of all, individuals such as the woman mentioned, should not to have to wait that long. That is something we have to do better. Second, specifically for northern Ontario, I hope--

Business of Supply February 22nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today on the matter of immigration and citizenship in Canada.

The motion before the House states:

That, in the opinion of the House, immigrants to Canada and persons seeking Canadian citizenship are poorly served by this government.

I have only been here two and a half years, but I think this may be the poorest worded motion that I have seen yet. There is no substance to it. It does not suggest anything, it is not specific and it is shallow. It is actually a pretty accurate reflection of the level of discussion I often hear on this issue from members in the Liberal Party.

I have learned a couple of things in the few months since I have been on the committee. First, issues of citizenship and immigration are very important. I visited the offices of Immigration Canada out in Vancouver. When I went in the back room, I saw all the files, I realized that every file represented a person. These are not changes to tax laws or other technicalities. There are real live people on the other side of those files, and it is important those be dealt with fairly and quickly.

It seems to me that the challenges facing the department are administrative and management in nature. These are not ideological issues. These are not partisan issues. I think every person in the House, in fact, every person in Canada understands we are a nation built on immigration. We need immigration and we will continue to need it in the future. This is the reality.

How do we manage this process? How many a year come into Canada? How do we ensure that we get the people our economy and nation needs? At the same time, how do we deal with those people fairly so when they get here, they are able to contribute to life in Canada?

As I think has been said already, there are several chapters in terms of Canadian citizenship. From 1867 until 1947, there was no Canadian citizenship per se. It was not until after the second world war, after 1947, that we had Canadian citizenship. In 1977, 30 years later, there was a re-write of the Citizenship Act and the rules around citizenship changed. Now we find ourselves 30 years later, in 2007, discussing the same issue again.

One of the issues that has been in the news recently is the notion of lost Canadians, people who have lost their citizenship or, in some cases, lost proof of their citizenship. The reason this exists for some people is because some of the rules have changed and have not been very well understood by many people.

Recently, the necessity for many Canadians to get passports for the first time has brought many of these problems to light. They are not new problems, but they have come forward for the first time.

One of 450 cases before the minister now is in my riding. A Canadian born in Ontario moved to Australia in the 1960s. He played hockey there and was asked to play on the Australian Olympic hockey team in 1968. His citizenship was quickly rushed through. It was 30 or 35 years later, when he moved back to Canada, married and worked here. When he went to get a passport, he discovered he was no longer a Canadian citizen. We have been working on that situation and we are going to get that resolved.

The other day when the minister was at committee she said that she had a two track process. The first track is to deal with the cases as they come forward. When individuals think they should be a Canadian citizens, but for some reason are told they are not, she will deal those one on one and assign a staff member to each case to get those cleaned up. At this point there are about 450 of those cases.

I was shocked recently when I heard other members of the House say that the number of lost Canadians was not in the hundreds or even in the thousands, but possibly in the tens or hundreds of thousands, even possibly one million. Those are crazy numbers. I do not know what the answer is, but I do know the minister has made a commitment that she and her staff will deal with them individually to resolve those cases.

The minister also said when she was at committee the other day she recognizes that some changes are needed within her department. She also recognizes that there is a vast amount of experience sitting around the citizenship and immigration committee table. She expressed a willingness and an interest in working with us moving forward and not to act unilaterally. That is the right course of action and is responsible on her part. I go back to my first point which is that this is neither an ideological nor a partisan issue, that is the appropriate way to go forward.

What I find frustrating is that I regularly hear members of the Liberal Party suggest either directly or through innuendo that somehow the Liberal Party is the party of immigration and by extension that other parties are not parties of immigration and even may be anti-immigration. This is patent nonsense.

The Liberals want to move into this top line number of admitting 250,000 or 280,000 or 300,000 people. We can pick whatever number we want as a target, we can set the bar as high as we want. The bottom line is we have to fix the management of the department so that these cases are dealt with more quickly and we get rid of the backlog. At that point we can have an honest discussion about possibly increasing the number of immigrants coming to Canada.

My staff and I actually looked at the number of immigrants who have landed in Canada from 1980 through until 2005. We made this simple little graph that I will table. The graph shows how the number of immigrants has changed from year to year.

What is really obvious when we look at this graph is that starting at about 1984-85 until about 1993-94 there was a dramatic increase in the number of immigrants coming into Canada every year. After 1993-94 it went up and down and up and down. Last year it finally got back to the level it was at in 1993.

I said that immigration is not a partisan issue but I cannot help but notice that it was under the last Conservative government that the number of immigrants coming into Canada grew consistently year after year after year and that during the 13 years of Liberal rule, it dropped and then it went up, and then it dropped some more and then it went up, and finally after 13 years, it probably got back to where it was.

If I accomplish nothing else here today, I would like to tell Canadians and I would like to remind my colleagues on the Liberal side that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. When the Liberals want to turn this into a partisan issue in terms of the Liberal Party being a party of immigration, that is patent nonsense, number one. Number two, my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, talked about the fact that we cut the landing fees in half. He said that after 10 years of resettlement fees being frozen in Canada, it was this government that increased it by over $300 million in the budget this year.

I believe that this government and the minister are making a good faith effort to deal with these issues, to try to expedite these processes, so that when people come to Canada, they can quickly start to make contributions not only to Canada and to our economy but to themselves and their families. Whether we are talking about foreign credentials recognition or whether we are talking about not putting people in a $1,000 hole when they get here, we are taking concrete steps to actually improve the process so that the department works better and we can bring the immigrants into Canada and we can treat those people fairly.

Today's motion suggests no remedy. It does not say we should do x, y and z to fix this problem. It just says that immigrants and persons seeking citizenship are poorly served by this country.

Immigrants coming to Canada could certainly be served better and people seeking Canadian citizenship could certainly be served better. Those are things this government intends to do and are things on which the minister is working. When people want to make the point that our system is not perfect and could be improved and if we work together we can improve it, I will buy that. But for members of the Liberal Party to suggest that somehow management of this file and dealing with immigrants and citizenship issues in Canada is one of the Liberals' strong suits and something they are proud of, as my colleague the parliamentary secretary said, three times the Citizenship Act got to the cusp and then there was an election, and two of those three times it was a Liberal majority government that dissolved itself.

I look forward to answering questions people have. I look forward to working on this file. I look forward to improving the situation for all Canadians.

Committees of the House December 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have said on several occasions today that if the argument is that this group ought to be brought to Canada on the basis of the fact that they are refugees, they are not refugees. If they want to come to Canada as economic immigrants, they have the opportunity as do millions of others around the world.