House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was veterans.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for West Nova (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 63% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Citizenship Act March 10th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today in support of Bill C-6. The bill will restore the fundamental principle of equality of citizenship, and also restore common sense to the process of becoming a Canadian citizen.

There are few privileges on earth greater than being a citizen of Canada. In our country, we cherish our freedom, our democracy, and our inalienable rights that attach to our citizenship. Canada has long been a beacon of hope and opportunity to many around the world. Our country is blessed to have been enriched by people who have become Canadians by choice.

In my riding of West Nova, we have an incredible history which started the foundation of the country, with rich contributions from Acadian, Mi’kmaq, Métis, British, and African Canadians. Also, we know that through many generations at Pier 21 in Halifax, many more immigrants began their lives as Canadians and together helped build this great country.

The most fundamental principle of the rule of law is that all citizens are equal before the law. We cannot have two classes of Canadians. Once someone is a citizen of our country, certain rights and privileges attach to that. They cannot be taken away. Bill C-6 restores the fundamental principle of our system of citizenship. It rightly seeks to reinstate this principle, which was taken away under the Conservatives' Bill C-24 in the last Parliament.

I have heard all kinds of claims by the opposition members in the debate so far on Bill C-6. However, the most intellectually frustrating argument I have heard is their claim that Bill C-6 leaves in the law the ability for revocation of citizenship in some cases. Therefore, the argument we are making on this side of the House, that it is fundamental that we cannot revoke citizenship, is somehow inconsistent with leaving that provision in the law. I have heard this from the other side. The argument has been made that Bill C-6 in fact creates two tiers of citizens. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the opposite is true. The bill remedies the fact that in Bill C-24 there are two classes of citizenship.

Does the opposition not see the obvious difference between taking away citizenship from someone who never would have or should have obtained citizenship but for fraud or misrepresentation, and revoking the citizenship of an otherwise valid citizen for egregious behaviour done after they have been conferred with all rights and privileges that come with citizenship? To my mind, there is a clear distinction between something being void ab initio, that meaning from the beginning. They were never citizens. That is the difference between something void ab initio and something voidable in the future for future behaviour.

Furthermore, do they not see that maintaining the integrity of our citizenship application process requires a mechanism to prevent those who would lie in order to become a citizen? What kind of system is reliable if there is no mechanism to withdraw from it people who have lied, committed fraud, or misrepresented the statements made in order to obtain the thing conferred upon them? Of course, to have a proper system of citizenship requires a mechanism for those people who have misrepresented themselves to the government to obtain the citizenship to take that away.

That is vastly different from saying that someone should have their citizenship revoked for something done after they have become a citizen. There is no causal link. There is nothing between their bad behaviour afterwards and their citizenship. Therefore, it is fundamentally wrong to suggest that because there are provisions that remain in the law to revoke citizenship for someone who should never and would never have been conferred citizenship, versus someone revoking their citizenship for egregious behaviour after the fact, that the law is flawed

Let me be clear about this. There is no question that the behaviour associated with revoking citizenship in Bill C-24 is egregious behaviour. It is intolerable. It is criminal. It is repugnant. That is exactly why the criminal law in this country, to the fullest extent, should make sure that those people go to jail. That is where they belong. It should not be used as a punishment to revoke their citizenship because it does in fact create two tiers of citizens. It creates citizens who have dual citizenship who could be subjected to having their citizenship revoked on future behaviour, versus those who are Canadian and only Canadian citizens.

There is a big fundamental difference. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. I know that line has been used on both sides of the House, but it is true. It is true that if we go down the road of having more than one class of citizenship, it will render less valuable the fact that someone is a Canadian citizen.

Being a dual citizen means that an individual is a Canadian citizen. However, a Canadian citizen is the same, whether or not they have more than one passport.

I submit that most Canadians understand this obvious difference. It is unfortunate that it is being advanced as a proper argument to maintain these elements from the previous Bill C-24. I note that these elements were part of the election campaign, and Canadians rejected those ideas in the last election.

Bill C-6 also reduces the length of time that someone must be physically present in Canada to qualify for citizenship. This would help immigrants achieve citizenship more quickly and change the requirements to three years within five years total. It will mean that applicants can apply one year sooner in order to join the citizenship of this country. This offers greater flexibility for immigrants who travel outside of Canada but maintain the timelines. It does ensure that a new Canadian has significant ties and links with our country to be a full and proud Canadian.

Another element of Bill C-6 that I find very good is the part of the bill that restores the 50% credit, for international students in particular, who spend time at one of our amazing schools in this country. It does not make any sense to take away the credit for those individuals whom we hope to attract, for whom we are competing with other countries around the world to have them live in Canada, to participate in our country. It does not make any sense at all to make it harder for them. We are competing with other countries around the world to attract the best and brightest, and we must do what we can to ensure that they stay here.

They have links with Canada. They obviously have a linguistic connection, either English or French, or perhaps both, in order to attend one of our universities or post-secondary schools. Therefore, it makes sense with those links, those connections, their intelligence and innovation, that we should be attracting and doing everything we can to encourage these students to become part of the Canadian family.

We know that Bill C-6 also amends the age range for the language requirement. Bill C-6 proposes to amend the age range for those required to meet language and knowledge requirements from 14 to 64, to those aged 18 to 54, removing a potential barrier to citizenship for applicants in both the younger and older age groups.

All Canadians are free to move outside of Canada, of course, and this is a right guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many Canadians enjoy that privilege and maintain their strong ties and connections and pride in Canada. It is right and correct that Bill C-6 repeals the June 2015 change that required adult applicants to declare that they intend to continue to reside in Canada. This is a prime example of previous modifications to our law that treat certain citizens differently.

Bill C-6 attempts to remedy changes that were made that are against the rule of law, against the best traditions of this country, and that is why I will proudly support Bill C-6.

Citizenship Act March 10th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite mentioned in his speech that this legislation would do nothing to help the long line of immigrants waiting to become citizens. Bill C-6 proposes to reduce the number of days needed for international students by reinstating 50% of their time here credit. It would also reduce the time that they are in Canada, from four out of six years to three out of five years in order to apply as citizens.

Would my friend agree that these measures would help those who want to become citizens and reduce the waiting time?

Income Tax Act March 7th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that members on this side of the House support the tax-free savings account. What we are talking about is the increase that was made last year to almost double the contribution to the tax-free savings account and whether that was a fair and proportional way to allocate those resources.

The tax-free savings account is an important savings tool. That is why we support returning it to the way it was in 2014. There is no disagreement there. It was brought into effect in 2009. In 2010, 2011, and 2012, the maximum contribution remained at $5,000. Then in 2014 it went up, based on the rate of inflation, to $5,500. We want it to go back to the 2014 level, which is fair and proportionate. We do not agree with doubling it in an election year. We do not agree with doing it for less than reasonable purposes.

I wonder if my friend would agree with me that restoring it to the 2014 level would be fair and equitable. We on this side of the House support the TFSA.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISIL February 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on one thing the member mentioned. She said that she did not see any measures in our motion to prevent radicalization. I would like to draw her attention, in particular, to clause (b) of the motion, which sates, “improving the living conditions of conflict-affected populations and helping to build the foundations for long-term regional stability of host communities, including Lebanon and Jordan”.

Would she agree with me that it is important to have regional stability and that this part of the motion, in particular, will help stop the spread of violent extremism by providing stabilization to a region that is certainly in conflict and whose people are becoming refugees, which feeds into radicalization? In my opinion this motion will help address that problem. Would she agree with me on that?

Heritage Day February 16th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, yesterday marked the second annual Nova Scotia Heritage Day. Heritage Day is an annual reminder of our province's past and an opportunity to honour the remarkable people, places, and events that have contributed to our unique heritage.

The 2016 honouree was Joseph Howe, the self-taught owner of the Novascotian newspaper, who laid the foundation for the freedom of the press and who brought responsible government to Nova Scotia in 1848 as premier.

We are proud of our heritage in my riding of West Nova. The cultural diversity in my region plays a huge role in the history of our province and our country.

On behalf of my hon. colleagues, I want to congratulate Nova Scotians on observing Heritage Day 2016. In the years ahead I look forward to celebrating many other contributions that have enriched our province and make it such a great place to live.

Fisheries and Oceans February 4th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week, a fishing boat called the Jill Marie and its crew ran into trouble off the coast of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

As we know, our oceans can become dangerous for fishermen, with unexpected changes in weather.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard explain to the House the response of the Canadian Coast Guard to this crisis situation?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply January 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I respectfully disagree with the member opposite. I outlined in my speech quite clearly some of the things that were being done to help families that were struggling, including the Canada child benefit. We look at the ability that will provide to families, certainly in my riding, that are having difficulty making ends meet. It is means tested and tax free. Putting money back in the pockets of those who need it the most is an important investment that our government is committed to doing.

With regard to seniors, I clearly outlined in my speech some of the measures that were being taken to assist seniors who were living in poverty. My friend asked a question a moment ago exactly on that point.

With regard to the federal minimum wage in particular, this was an election campaign commitment by the New Democratic Party. It would affect zero people in my riding. It is not a measure that would increase the wealth of anybody in my riding or help them to make ends meet.

Certainly, discussion with the provinces about what we can do to alleviate poverty is important, such as investments in social infrastructure, ensuring people have affordable housing. These are important investments that our government is committed to doing.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply January 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is an important component of the way we will improve the lives of seniors. I have many seniors in my community, and during the campaign it was apparent to me, in talking to them and going into their homes, that they were having financial difficulties.

The commitments that have been made in our campaign platform and also enunciated in the Speech from the Throne clearly identify that assisting single seniors in particular and, as I mentioned, adding 10% to the GIS for those single seniors would go a long way in helping these folks to pay their bills.

There are other measures that are being introduced to help seniors in the future, certainly working with the provinces on extending the Canada pension plan and also ensuring that the health care system is adequately meeting the needs of those especially in rural areas where sometimes they cannot get access to the medical help they need.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply January 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise for the first time in this magnificent chamber to speak on behalf of the great people of West Nova. I am very proud to have the privilege of representing the 83,000 people who live in my riding. I sincerely thank them for the confidence they have placed in me to be their voice in this important national dialogue.

West Nova has been called a microcosm of rural Canada. From Waterville to Pubnico and in every wonderfully charming community in between, my riding boasts an incredible wealth of natural riches, industrious people, and a fascinating history. However, like other rural places in the Maritimes and across Canada, we face significant challenges: an aging population, transportation difficulties, and not enough good jobs. This is why I am so encouraged by the Speech from the Throne and the opportunity that this 42nd Parliament offers to make real change happen for all Canadians, including rural Canada and most particularly West Nova, from my perspective.

As we approach Canada's 150th birthday celebrations in 2017, it is important to recognize the story of our incredible history as a country. The Speech from the Throne clearly stated that diversity is Canada's strength, and the intersection of diversity and our history is clear in West Nova. Four founding peoples of Canada are rooted in the history of my riding. The story of western Nova Scotia is Canada's story.

Canada is bilingual and multicultural, and my riding, West Nova, has a rich history that deserves to be shared and recognized in that context.

Acadia was born in Port Royal, the cradle of the first francophones in North America ever since Samuel de Champlain created a settlement there in 1605. Close ties were forged between the Acadians and the Mi'kmaq as the two founding peoples intermingled.

In nearby Annapolis Royal, a royal charter was signed, creating the province of Nova Scotia in 1621. It is through this charter that Nova Scotia later received its coat of arms and flag, representing its relationship with Scotland. Following the War of American Independence, a large number of black loyalists arrived in Nova Scotia between 1783 and 1785, representing the largest group of African birth and African descent to come to Nova Scotia at any one time. It is this rich diversity—Acadian, Mi'kmaw, Métis, British, and African Canadians—that contributes to the character and vitality of West Nova.

The Acadian communities of Baie Sainte-Marie and Argyle possess a vitality that drives their rural economic development. For example, the Université Sainte-Anne, the only French-language post-secondary institution in Nova Scotia, makes a major contribution to the cultural and creative industries in my region.

I should also note that promoting our country's official languages is inextricably linked to promoting and creating French second language learning opportunities. That is why I support a throne speech that encourages the use of the country's official languages and commits to investing in Canada's cultural and creative industries.

Today we see that many people in West Nova have opened up their hearts to Syrian refugees, with generosity of spirit. Several communities across my riding have assisted the good people who have been welcomed, whether they be organizations like the Yarmouth Refugee Support Group or the Annapolis Royal Community Assisting Relocation, or church groups like the Digby Wesleyan or Hillgrove United Baptist Church, our communities are enriched by the part we are playing in Canada's national project on Syrian refugees. They enrich our communities and make us a stronger country.

Canada is a strong country not only because of its people, but also because of its natural riches. This is as true in West Nova as anywhere in the country. My riding is blessed with the world's finest seafood. Lobster, scallops, and haddock are fished in our waters off southwestern Nova Scotia, and the fertile lands in the Annapolis Valley have world-renowned apples, crops, and now the amazing wineries producing excellent wines. These incredible products of the highest quality depend on a clean environment that nurtures and fosters an abundance of harvest. This is the most basic example that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. We must ensure not only that these riches are enjoyed today but that the quality and bounty with which we are blessed are preserved for generations to come.

Also, the Bay of Fundy off our shores is a true natural wonder. With the highest tides in the world, there is vast potential for the development of new technologies that would harness the incredible tidal power and produce clean, powerful energy. Such development would spur economic activity and reduce carbon pollution in the move toward renewable and sustainable energy. Also, there is tremendous opportunity for wind power generation with a steady and consistent source on and off our coast.

Investments in such clean technologies to seize the emerging opportunities would not only help our country meet its obligations to combat climate change, it would produce lots of good jobs and further potential to export such technological innovation as well.

With our natural riches and friendly people, West Nova has unrealized potential to attract new businesses and tourists. We have many quant towns and villages dotting our riding. I invite all Canadians to experience the hospitality and charm of one of our beautiful bed and breakfasts, or visit Kejimkujik National Park to see the vast and pristine wilderness and many lakes of the interior of Nova Scotia. Commitments to provide additional resources for our national parks is very welcomed in West Nova, especially as we look to celebrate our great outdoors as part of our national celebration in 2017.

Ensuring we have transportation links available to get people and goods in and out of our area will be key to future economic development as well. Going forward, investments in these types of infrastructure, as enunciated in the Speech from the Throne, will certainly benefit the important transportation issues and others that we have in West Nova.

The Canadian Forces Base at 14 Wing Greenwood is an exceptionally key part of West Nova, not only because of the economic benefits that it provides for our area but because we are proud of the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces and their families that live, work, and retire there. As a result, I have the good fortune of representing many veterans, not only in the valley but across West Nova, and also across generations. I am therefore fully supportive of the commitment to not only have a better equipped military, but also a government that takes care of our veterans as a first priority. Re-establishing mental health facilities, restoring lifetime pensions for injured veterans, and ensuring their families get greater support, are the right things to do.

Because of our shared history, culture, and our natural riches, the residents of West Nova enjoy a good quality of life. We want people to live, work, and raise their families there in dignity. However, as I went throughout the riding during the election campaign it became clear that far too many seniors in West Nova were finding it difficult to make ends meet and in fact were living in poverty. The commitments to seniors are very important to my constituents. They should be secure in the knowledge that their incomes on old age security and the guaranteed income supplement will keep up with the rising cost of living. After working many years Canadians deserve a dignified retirement, starting at age 65. That is why I support a plan to restore the eligibility age from 67 to 65 for the OAS and GIS. Assisting single seniors by increasing their GIS by 10% will make a big difference in improving the quality of life for many of the good people I represent.

An aging population also means an increased strain on our local health care resources. I fully support the government's commitment to work with the provinces and territories to develop a new health accord. As demographics change so too do the challenges faced by smaller provinces like Nova Scotia to deliver reasonably comparable health care services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation. The quality of life for families in West Nova is paramount to ensuring we have thriving communities and healthy kids. The investments the government has outlined in the throne speech will go a long way to providing the help we need to ensure we have the country we want for our next generation.

Therefore, let us come together as the 42nd Parliament and be worthy of those who have gone before us in this place. Let us work together in constructive dialogue, offering different points of view on difficult matters, but doing so in a manner that respects each other and respects the decency and goodwill of the people we are elected to represent.

I look forward to working with all of my hon. colleagues and moving Canada forward in our pursuit of peace, order, and good governance.