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

Fisheries and Oceans December 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, southwestern Nova Scotia depends on fishing, which is why I was so pleased last week when the Minister of Fisheries announced funding in excess of $18 million to be distributed through the Atlantic fisheries fund. The money will be invested in aquaculture, science, innovation, research and development.

Can the Prime Minister tell us what measures our government has taken to support fisheries across Canada?

Infrastructure November 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, having energy-efficient buildings is critically important to our government's efforts to reduce GHGs and to make our communities more sustainable. In my riding of West Nova, residents know that ensuring that our buildings are in a good state of repair now and for years to come is essential to our well-being.

Can the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities explain what steps our government is taking to ensure this is the case?

Criminal Code November 8th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my friend's speech, but there were a number of things that I cannot agree with.

First of all, the member indicated that it should not be up to a prosecutor to determine the seriousness of an offence. I wonder if my hon. friend understands that currently 152 Criminal Code offences are hybrid offences, some of which can be very serious, including sexual assault. Some of these hybrid offences can be completed in a range of ways. We trust our Crown prosecutors to make determinations on a case-by-case basis every day.

Would the member not agree with me that the Crown does an effective job dealing with the cases before it, based on the circumstances of the offence?

Criminal Code November 8th, 2018

Madam Speaker, through the testimony we heard at committee, it is obvious that the measures in this bill will go a long way toward dealing not only with the delays in our court system but with the unfairness as well. There is a patent unfairness that we see far too often when marginalized individuals come before the criminal justice system, and for one reason or another, are given conditions they cannot reasonably comply with and that are therefore breached. They do not comply with conditions they really had no ability to comply with.

It is important that the judicial referral hearings that are one aspect of this bill are put in place to not only deal with the backlog in our court system but to ensure fairness for all individuals who are facing a criminal charge.

Criminal Code November 8th, 2018

Madam Speaker, this bill does a number of things that will address the issue of delays in our courts. Does it fix every problem our criminal justice system has? No. Is it a positive step in the right direction? It one hundred per cent is. Therefore, I support the bill.

With respect to the administration of justice offences, the bill will get rid of the tremendous backlog in our provincial courts. With respect to the custodial sentences being applied to our youth, especially indigenous youth, as I highlighted in my speech, it will really get at the heart of many of the issues that are causing the delays. Of course, one bill does not fix all problems.

Criminal Code November 8th, 2018

Madam Speaker, this is an important question. I appreciate my friend raising it. Obviously, mandatory minimum penalties is an issue that has to be dealt with. Some mandatory minimum penalties are appropriate. There are others the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled are inappropriate and violate the charter.

It is important that the government take a comprehensive view to ensure that we get this right. That review is ongoing right now. We will make sure that we take the time to get it right and set the criminal justice system up for doing its duty every day to mete out justice in the best and appropriate way.

Criminal Code November 8th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be on the Standing Committee for Justice and Human Rights, and I know that our committee did good work in reviewing this proposed legislation.

I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-75 and will spend my time today outlining proposed changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, YCJA, in particular. These changes would focus on administration of justice offences and how they are dealt with in the youth criminal justice system.

As members may know, the YCJA came into force in 2003 and has significantly reduced the overall use of the formal court system and custody of youth. However, despite the overall success of the YCJA in achieving its goals, the treatment of young persons in administration of justice offences has remained an area of concern.

While the YCJA clearly encourages alternatives to charging for less serious offences, approximately 85% of youth accused of administration of justice offences are subject to formal charges, with many of these cases leading to custody. This is despite provisions in the YCJA that require consideration of all reasonable alternatives to custody in the circumstances. These high rates of charging and custody for administration of justice offences contribute to delays in the system and the overrepresentation of vulnerable youth, particularly indigenous youth, in that system for conduct that would not in and of itself be criminal.

The aim of the proposed youth reforms in Bill C-75 is to strengthen aspects of the currently used justice framework so that fewer young persons are prosecuted and incarcerated for administration of justice offences. In this regard, the bill would amend the YCJA to do several things. First, it would further encourage the use of alternatives to charges, such as extrajudicial measures and judicial reviews, in response to administration of justice offences. Second, it would ensure that the conditions imposed on youth at the bail stage or at sentencing are necessary to address the offending behaviour of the youth concerned, and which are required for criminal justice purposes. Third, it would further restrict the use of custodial sentences for administration of justice offences.

Bill C-75 would provide that extrajudicial measures, in other words, informal measures, such as police warnings or referrals to community-based programs, are adequate to hold a young person accountable for breaches of conditions or failure to appear at the bail stage and for breaches of community-based youth offences. An exception to this presumption, however, would arise in circumstances where the young person either has a history of breaches or where the breach caused harm or a risk of harm to the safety of the public.

In some cases, extrajudicial measures may not considered an adequate response to the breach. For such cases, the bill establishes the circumstances in which a judicial referral hearing, as set out in Bill C-75's proposed Criminal Code amendments, or the existing provision for reviewing community service set out in the YCJA would be used.

These alternatives would be the preferred approach when appropriate, and the use of formal charges for administration of justice offences would be discouraged, except as a last resort.

I would now like to talk about the use of conditions as part of the youth criminal justice system.

Many people believe that the problems with administration of justice offences are rooted in the myriad of conditions imposed on youth. The concern is that, in many cases, the conditions set the youth up for failure, leading to new charges and perpetuating the youth's involvement in crime.

Dr. Jane Sprott, a professor at Ryerson University, who has focused her research over the past decade on the YCJA and issues surrounding bail and the use of bail relief conditions, in her testimony before our committee, stated:

there are numerous broad-ranging conditions placed on youths, and many times those conditions appear to be crafted with broad social welfare aims that go far beyond the purpose of release conditions....

The use of these broad welfare or treatment-based conditions is problematic for a variety of however well intended...they're unlikely to achieve their desired goals and can actually do more harm in a variety of ways, one of which is setting the youth up for failing to comply.

The youth justice proposals in Bill C-75 would require greater scrutiny at the front end to ensure that any conditions imposed were reasonable in the circumstances and necessary for a valid criminal law purpose, such as ensuring the young person's attendance in court or protecting the safety of the public.

Furthermore, conditions could not be imposed on a young person unless he or she would reasonably be able to comply with those said conditions. Finally, the bill would prohibit the imposition of conditions or the detention of young persons as a substitute for appropriate child protection, mental health or other social measures.

As I mentioned, the use of custody in relation to administration of justice offences committed by young persons remains an area of concern due to the fact that 35% of these cases are resulting in custody. Bill C-75 would modify the criteria for youth custody by providing that custody could not be imposed on the basis of prior failure to comply with non-custodial sentences, unless the prior failures resulted in actual findings of guilt. In other words, evidence alone of prior failures would not be sufficient.

In addition, the bill would provide that if a youth justice court was imposing a sentence for a breach at the bail stage or for a failure to comply with a community-based sentence, custody could not be imposed unless the young person caused harm, or a risk of harm, to the safety of the public in committing the offence currently before the court. These changes would make it less likely for administration of justice offences to lead to custody for youth.

In closing, it is a pleasure to be a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and I can assure my hon. colleagues that we did a comprehensive study of Bill C-75. While I know that there were legitimate disagreements between members of the committee, there were also a number of amendments made that were unanimously adopted that strengthened the bill.

I thank the many witnesses who gave their time and expertise to assist the committee through testimony and written submissions.

I am confident that these reforms I have touched on today would contribute to a more efficient youth criminal justice system and a better justice system overall. They would free up court time so the more serious criminal matters, both on the youth side and the adult side, could be dealt with in a timely fashion and in line with the parameters set out in the Jordan decision. That is why I support passage of the bill and urge all my hon. colleagues to do so as well.

Points of Order November 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the point being raised. It is important, of course, that it be put in context. I appreciate the fact that many members have risen and restated similar sorts of things, but it is important to always put them in the context of the argument.

As previously referenced, disorder did not come to the committee until the chair announced the attempted adjournment. However, the then chair did not have the implied nor the expressed consent of members present to do so, nor was a motion to adjourn presented and voted upon. There was, therefore, no legal basis on which to adjourn the meeting.

As it actually happened, the chair announced her decision on a point of order to adjourn the meeting, and it was obvious that she was going to be confronted with a challenge to her ruling. People wanted to speak. She gavelled down and darted out of the room. She left the room, leaving the association staff, including the secretary, who we always call the clerk, and the analyst alone at the table, and conforming to the rules, not moving, as the meeting had not been properly adjourned.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, however, is silent, and this is an extremely important point and a novel one, as far as I have understood the points on the point of order that have been raised, on when a vice-chair can assume the chair. In practice, the chair of a committee will often get up for personal reasons. It is such a common practice that in three editions of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, no clerk or author has felt it necessary to elaborate on this. However, the chair of the House may sometimes tend to personal matters and have some other member take his or her place.

In the case of the NATO Parliamentary Association meeting, as the meeting had not, in fact, adjourned, and there was no legal basis to do so, it was not only permissible but an obligation of the vice-chair to step in and resume the meeting, given that quorum remained, quorum being 20 members, according to chapter 11 of the NATO Parliamentary Association constitution.

Any claim that Conservative members are making with regard to the fact that this was a takeover of the meeting by a vice-chair is completely incorrect. Moreover, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, the other vice-chair, also stepped up to the head table and made no effort to intervene when the member for Etobicoke Centre carried on the meeting, and thereby, I would submit, acquiesced until the motion of non-confidence was approved on the floor.

A senator overtook the chair to oversee the election. Nominations were called from the floor, and only one name having been offered, the member for Etobicoke Centre was acclaimed.

Further, had the meeting been legitimately adjourned, the clerk of the committee, bound by the rules of this institution, would also have risen and left, but he remained at the table for the duration.

While the minutes of the proceedings will not be published until the next annual general meeting, the clerk would not have been able to update the NATO Parliamentary membership page to reflect the new chair had the rules been followed.

I would like to raise one other point that was mentioned that I have not heard rebuttal on, and that is the point regarding the nomination process. The procedure in the constitution is with respect to the entire executive committee. This is a novel and unique situation, I would submit, based on the vote of non-confidence. The vote of non-confidence had yet to be voted upon, and it would have been premature for the clerk to seek nominations, because that was not decided until the meeting itself

Those are my respectful submissions.

Points of Order November 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate the important debate that is happening today and I know members on the opposition side of the House are all speaking in support of the opposition motion; however, I want to rise briefly in response to the point of order which was raised by my friend the member for Perth—Wellington on October 31, and to provide additional information and argument as the Speaker deliberates on the numerous submissions that have already been presented on this issue.

First of all, the original point of order was brought up in response to Standing Order 151, relating to the safekeeping of records and control of House officers and staff. The argument that was raised in the original point of order was made that the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association website had been updated to reflect the new chair and this was in violation of Standing Order 151, as the clerk or his delegate had not accurately recorded the results of the meeting.

However, I submit that this assertion is false and incorrect. The meeting was duly constituted, duly held and the results of the meeting were accurately recorded. In fact, the agenda was voted on by the membership under the then chair, creating an order of business that needed to be dealt with before an adjournment could be conducted. I was at the meeting along with many of my colleagues.

The member for Perth—Wellington continued that the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association meeting that took place on October 30 was “unlawful and illegitimate”. An unlawful and illegitimate meeting could not have been held as the clerks work for the constitution of the association and the Standing Orders of the House before they work for the chair, and the necessary arrangements for an illegal meeting would not have taken place. This can be demonstrated by the fact that the meeting itself was called when the chair was herself the subject of a non-confidence motion. Had the chair had the power to overrule the clerk's following of the written rules, the meeting could easily have been delayed out of existence.

The member then went on to say that the meeting was intended to orchestrate a coup. In fact, it was a motion of non-confidence brought on by members who had, as the name of the motion suggests, lost confidence in the chair. Were members who object to the meeting confident that the chair had the confidence of the membership, they would have worked to achieve a speedy vote and demonstrate that confidence.

As work needed to be done and action needed to be taken in order to welcome and accommodate representatives from our allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the next weeks and within very narrow timelines, the option of waiting for the next regular annual general meeting to express non-confidence was not a possibility. The chair needs to have the confidence of the membership to carry out their duties.

The Conservative whip and numerous other Conservative members of Parliament have also risen on this point of order, though no one has cited any standing order other than Standing Order 151 on record keeping by the clerk.

According to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, chapter 20, on committee proceedings, which applies to standing joint committees, and which I would suggest is the most similar structure in the rules that we have for parliamentary association meetings, there is only one situation in which a chair can unilaterally adjourn the meeting and that is if there is disorder.

The important point here is that the chair can only adjourn the meeting to address disorder. At this meeting, however, which I attended, disorder only happened after the meeting was attempted to be improperly adjourned and the chair left the meeting. Also, there was disorder, but it was after the attempted improper adjournment.

Conservative parliamentary staffers were drinking alcohol and singing from previously prepared songbooks, which demonstrated an obvious planning of these obstructive tactics. It is, I believe, without precedent for a member or members to encourage boozed-up staffers and provide them with prepared songbooks in an attempt to undermine the decorum of a meeting and it demonstrates a particular lack of judgment and lack of respect for this place.

The acting chair had to call the Parliamentary Protective Service through the Sergeant-at-Arms into the meeting room in order to remove the disrupters, the disrupters who, as I note, planned this disruption in advance and planned their obstruction of our duties here as parliamentarians. Members of the Parliamentary Protective Service do an amazing job keeping this place safe, allowing us to be able to fulfill our duties as parliamentarians. I think it is unacceptable for members in this place to encourage to create disorder and require the need for the Parliamentary Protective Service to intervene.

Now, about the rules and about the attempted adjournment specifically, the members, all of them Conservative, all referenced the adjournment of the meeting, and the member for Mégantic—L'Érable elaborated on what he deemed the inappropriateness of a vice-chair assuming the seat upon the premature departure of the chair.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice is clear about the adjournment of meetings. The relevant section is in chapter 20, on committees, entitled “Adjournment”, where it states:

A committee meeting may be adjourned by the adoption of a motion to that effect. However, most meetings are adjourned more informally, when the Chair receives the implied consent of members to adjourn.

National Defence November 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, a month ago, in Halifax, was the naming ceremony of Canada's first Arctic and offshore patrol ship. It was the first naval ship built in Canada in 20 years and our government delivered it.

As part of “Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada's Defence Policy”, we committed to building at least five Arctic and offshore patrol ships to bolster the Royal Canadian Navy's capabilities.

Shipbuilding is an important part of our local economy. Could the Minister of National Defence explain how our government is continuing to create significant opportunities for Nova Scotians while ensuring our navy has the tools it needs.