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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

Holidays Act June 15th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I want to thank everyone who has participated in the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day). I sincerely thank all the members of the Canadian heritage committee for their work after second reading, and reporting the bill back to the House with constructive amendments.

I want to thank the other members of Parliament who, over the past number of years, have introduced similar legislation, but for one reason or another did not make it all the way through the legislative process. These members include members from the Conservative, NDP, and Liberal parties. As well, I sincerely want to thank all of the organizations and individuals, both opponents and proponents, for their thoughtful and respectful contributions to the debate.

Most notably, and as the member a moment ago did, I want to recognize Wilma McNeill of Sarnia, Ontario, who has been a champion of this bill, and similar ones before it for almost 30 years. Her dedication to the issue of elevating the status of Remembrance Day is an inspiration, and I have enjoyed getting to know Wilma throughout this process. It has been a great privilege to put forward Bill C-311 and work with colleagues in getting this piece of legislation through the various steps in the House.

As I mentioned in my speech at second reading and earlier in the first hour of debate at third reading, the bill would afford Parliament the opportunity to do a couple of things. First, it would help fix inconsistent language in the federal Holidays Act, so that Remembrance Day would be put on an equal footing with other days such as Canada Day and Victoria Day in federal statute. This would elevate the status of Remembrance Day to ensure it is being properly recognized in federal law. A motion alone could not add the consistency and elevate the status of Remembrance Day by changing the language in the Holidays Act. Only another bill or act of Parliament can do that.

The other thing it would do is affirm Parliament's commitment to this important day of November 11 as a solemn day of remembrance in Canada. I believe it is important for us as parliamentarians to shine a light on the significance of this day, and state clearly why it is unique and deserving of prominence, while at the same time allowing us to reflect on the way we mark November 11 across our country.

I want to be very clear, as I have throughout this entire process at every single step. This bill would not and could not create a national holiday across Canada. That is not within the purview of Parliament to do. It is up to each province and territory to decide for themselves whether people get the day off work or school on November 11. This bill would not give anyone the day off who does not already have the day off. For federal employees, that day is determined through the Canada Labour Code.

Throughout the debate, the main contention raised against Bill C-311 is that the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command does not support the bill. First of all, I have tremendous respect and admiration for the Royal Canadian Legion, and the good work they do across Canada, especially in smaller communities, where not only is it a gathering place for veterans but in many ways is at the very heart of the community.

There are 14 Legions in my riding of West Nova, and I am so proud of the work they do in our community supporting veterans. I am also proud of the support they have shown me with this bill, and the great relationships I have built with them in my time representing them as their member of Parliament.

It was mentioned in debate that the matter of a national holiday for remembrance has been the subject of many resolutions at the national Legion conventions over the years. There has always been a healthy debate about it. In the end, the position has been to be against it. Bill C-311 would not and could not make a national holiday. Again, it will remain up to the provinces and territories to make those determinations.

At the heritage committee, while studying this bill, a Legion member and former president of the Kingston, Nova Scotia branch, Dave Geddes, came before the committee and said:

...when that came to the floor, it was never brought forward like this bill is—that it would be a federal one, and it would be up to the provinces to enact it as they see fit. I think that if it had been brought in that manner, you would have seen a different vote.

This bill and the intention behind it is definitely not what the Legion members were actually voting on in those resolutions. While I totally respect the point of view of the Dominion Command on this topic, I respectfully disagree, because this bill would not do what they seem to say it would.

With regard to the comments from the member for Edmonton Strathcona, there was no change to the bill in the first section. Therefore, it was not watered down.

In conclusion, we can all agree on the importance of Remembrance Day in Canada. We also share the desire to ensure this day appropriately honours the sacrifices, and I ask for passage of this bill.

Committees of the House June 13th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address this issue tonight, but it is not lost on me the passion many feel about this issue. It is a very important issue our House has considered and sent to committee. I want to say first that when I first learned of Bill S-217 and took my time to understand it, in a good faith effort, I knew there were some elements of the bill I did not agree with, but I thought the overall intention of the bill was noble and that the sponsor in the House was bringing it forward for the right reasons. I thank him for doing that.

In the same light of a good faith effort, it was passed at second reading to send to committee so we could study it further, hear from experts, and hear from those who every day deal with the bail system in Canada so we could understand better what impacts and consequences the bill may have that were not apparent, perhaps, at first reading of the bill. I hope that same courtesy will now be extended to those who listened to the testimony at committee and arrived at a different conclusion.

I voted in support of this at second reading, despite concerning elements in the bill, because I wanted to have the opportunity to study it in full. On the same night this was passed at second reading, we also voted on another bill, Bill S-201, the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act. That matter came before committee, and it was concluded by members of all parties to proceed with that bill, because it was good public policy.

The purpose of committee work is to go through a bill in a thoughtful, deliberative manner, listen to experts, have thoughtful discussions, ask good questions, and then come back to the House and make recommendations. That is what we are doing with the bill tonight.

I want to highlight that the essential element of the bill, as I saw it, was, in section 518 of the Criminal Code, changing the permissive “may” to the requirement “shall” lead evidence. That was the essential element. There were other provisions in the bill, however, that I totally disagreed with, because they were not the intention of the bill as I understood it. I appreciated the conversations we had across party lines to realize that the essential element of the bill was changing “may” to “shall”.

How did I approach this bill at committee? I looked at it as an opportunity to shine a light on our bail system in Canada, to understand the essential elements of the bill, and to then, based on the expert testimony, decide whether it was good public policy. One of the thoughts that came to mind throughout the testimony we were hearing was what applies to doctors: do no harm. I thought that was an important way to look at the bill. If we were changing our bail system and how it operates, we should do no harm.

I went in with an open mind and listened to witnesses with different perspectives on the justice system. The experts in the field dealing with bail hearings were the most important to listen to in deciding how we would go forward with this. I went in with an open mind, but I went in with the idea that we must do no harm.

The witnesses offered compelling testimony. I want to highlight, first and foremost, Shelly Wynn. Her testimony was heart wrenching, compelling, believable, and trustworthy, and I extend nothing but thanks to her for her courage in coming to our committee and for all the work she has done in highlighting the issue of bail in Canada.

We also heard from a number of experts. We heard from the Canadian Bar Association, the Ontario Provincial Police, Newfoundland police, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Canadian Association of Crown Counsel, defence lawyers groups, and individuals who have expert opinion to give on our system of bail in Canada.

All of those individuals came to the same conclusion and gave evidence based on the same rationale that this bill would do harm, would actually make our streets less safe, not more safe. The intention of the bill is to, as I understand it, close a loophole in the law to ensure that we are not allowing people out on bail who should be behind bars. The unintended consequences of this bill, however, would have exactly the opposite effect. It would make our streets less safe. It would put people out on the street who should otherwise be behind bars. Do not take my word for it. This was the expert testimony that we heard from police groups, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel, defence lawyers, and individuals who deal with this stuff every day and do not always agree on issues every day.

I want to go now through some of the issues that were raised. The first one is the possibility that this bill, in changing “may” to “shall”, leaving aside all of the other problematic elements in the bill, could have the possibility of raising the burden on the crown. At committee, Rick Woodburn, the president of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel, stated:

...if you make us prove it, our onus goes up; it doesn't go down. Keeping the individuals you want to keep off the street is harder, not easier.

This is the person who represents Canadian crown prosecutors, who deals with these issues every day.

Superintendent David Truax, the detective superintendent of the Ontario Provincial Police, stated:

Some of the language in the bill obviously proves the fact that...could obviously require the prosecutor to call each and every individual officer to prove each and every individual fact. That obviously would cause strain on policing resources, requiring more...witnesses, more documentation, certified documentation, affidavits, and the like.

Nancy Irving, who was chairing the Alberta committee reviewing the bail system in that province, indicated that the crown burden of proof will be uncertain under years of litigation.

With regard to the issue of delay, I think this was most compelling for me and the most convincing as to why this would be problematic because, in the end, after hearing all of this expert testimony, it was pretty well incontrovertible that there would become mini-trials at bail hearings. This is not a matter of a couple of minutes to get a criminal record. That is not the issue. There are several steps that have to be gone through in a bail hearing, one being the circumstances of the offence being presented to the court. This would cause uncertainty in our bail system. This would cause added resources, added court time, and not a matter of minutes, but delays in bail. People would have to set over bail hearings, perhaps. What would happen in the meantime to those who are supposed to have timely access to bail hearings?

I want to now talk on the issue of delay. Rick Woodburn said the following:

Bail hearings don't take five minutes. They take somewhere between half an hour and two hours, on average. That's for a bail hearing where you just pass information up, hear from a surety, and hear some evidence—about two hours.

If this bill passes, bail hearings will double and triple in time, and it is not necessary.

My colleague across the way just referenced Dr. Cheryl Webster a moment ago in support of his conclusion. He should take her word then when she said the following:

...[it] stuck me...[that it is going to add to court delay with] the higher evidentiary burden.... Any additional time taken during the bail process puts cases even closer to being thrown out for violation of the constitutional right that an accused be tried within a reasonable amount of time.

Professor Anthony Doob stated:

The bill that you have before you will expand the bail process for everyone at a time when...everyone agrees that court delay is a problem.

The Canadian Bar Association echoed the same comments.

I think it is important for us, in a good faith effort in reflecting on this bill, to understand that bail review does need to happen. Our government is committed to doing that. We are committed to working with all sides of the House to make that happen. This bill would not achieve its intended aims.

Yarmouth Sports Hall of Fame May 30th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, West Nova has a rich sporting heritage, with five sports halls of fame throughout the riding that actively work to showcase our local sports heroes and history.

Earlier this month, I was honoured to attend the induction dinner of the Yarmouth Sports Hall of Fame where the following achievements were recognized: David Sisco, a two-time national special Olympic gold medalist in powerlifting; Imrich Kiraly, who has won numerous medals in international and national track and field events; the 1972 bantam B hockey team, which brought home Yarmouth's first provincial hockey title; and Yarmouth's 1977 beaver B baseball team, which went undefeated in their season and clinched the provincial title.

What is more, in 2015, the hockey team from École secondaire de Par-en-Bas won the division 3 high school provincial championship for the first time.

I invite my colleagues to join with me in congratulating these exceptional athletes and all those like them in communities large and small, right across Canada.

Regional Economic Development May 12th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, Atlantic Canada is home to a wide range of communities, each of which has its own vibrant history.

We all face unique challenges when it comes to strengthening and diversifying our economy. Innovative sectors, especially those that are export driven, are an important part of the new growth strategy for Atlantic Canada.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development explain the commitments made in this important region?

Holidays Act May 4th, 2017

Madam Speaker, it is very important to ensure that intergenerational knowledge is there to commemorate these important days of remembrance and sacrifice so these stories can be shared and that young people not only participate in these acts of remembrance, but understand what it means to serve their country and to have sacrificed for their fellow citizens. It is very important we ensure that young people are involved in these types of wonderful ceremonies.

Holidays Act May 4th, 2017

Madam Speaker, my hon. friend and I serve on the veterans affairs committee together, so I know the importance of this for both of us.

With respect to it being a legal holiday, and I believe the question was asked at committee, I think if we have a plain language reading of the bill right now, most Canadians would say that Remembrance Day is being treated differently from the other two days. The effect given by adding the word “legal” will elevate it and ensure that it has the same consistent language, and is treated at the same level as other important days, such as Canada Day. It adds that consistency to the language, on a plain language reading of it. I believe we should correct that error, and we can do that, while at the same time shining a light on this important day, and affirming Parliament's commitment to honouring the sacrifice and service of our brave veterans.

Holidays Act May 4th, 2017

moved that Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to rise in the House this evening to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act with respect to Remembrance Day.

I want to sincerely thank the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for examining my bill, listening to witnesses, and making changes to the bill that I completely agree with. In fact, at second reading, I had mentioned that I would be suggesting those changes to the committee, and those changes were recommended by the committee.

My bill changes the wording and status of Remembrance Day in the Holidays Act by making it a legal holiday, like Canada Day and Victoria Day. It is intended that this amendment will correct the Holidays Act that currently has different language regarding Remembrance Day than the language used for Canada Day and Victoria Day.

I believe it is important to fix this inconsistency and properly recognize Remembrance Day in our federal legislation as a federal legal holiday. More than simply correcting this inconsistency, however, I believe it is important that we continually examine how we are remembering the sacrifice of our fallen heroes and honouring the service of past and present Canadian Forces members.

I hope my bill will also have the added ability of affirming Parliament's commitment to this important solemn day of remembrance right across Canada. It is important to ensure that we shine a bright light on Remembrance Day and remembrance-type services at any opportunity we get.

Last month, I had the honour to attend the Vimy 100 commemoration in France as part of the Canadian delegation. It was an amazing experience to share with veterans and youth, as well as other fellow parliamentarians who were with the delegation.

We toured battlefield sites and cemeteries to remember our fallen. The interaction between the youth and the veterans was an amazing thing. There were two youth from each province and territory in Canada. It was wonderful to experience how they worked together to honour the sacrifice of our brave soldiers who fell in duty in World World I at Vimy, but also how they were able to share stories and engage in conversation with veterans who were on the trip and also, in many cases, family members of those who had fought at Vimy Ridge. I think it is important to celebrate at every opportunity, to make sure that our history is remembered for generations to come.

One of the interesting veterans on the trip was Ed Peck. I had an opportunity to speak to Ed on a couple of occasions during the trip. He is from British Columbia. He is a veteran of the Second World War, and participated in the liberation of Holland. He told me about his father, whose name was Cy Peck, who was actually a sitting member of Parliament during World War I and fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

This amazing connection between generations and between people who serve in this place, as Mr. Peck did, is an incredible testimony to the dedication in service to our country. Mr. Cy Peck was the only sitting member of Parliament to ever win the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Amiens, I believe, in 1918. It is an amazing story which, upon reflection, ties very well into what my bill is attempting to do in elevating the status of remembrance in our country, and ensuring that our history is remembered for generations.

The ceremony on April 9 at Vimy was also an incredible opportunity as a collective experience for young people and veterans alike to share with all Canadians. There were more than 25,000 Canadians, many of them youth, from across our country who were able to attend that ceremony. Many of them had fundraised on their own in order to participate. This is a wonderful symbol for many years to come, a remembrance of sacrifice by our veterans, that will be in good hands.

Whenever we as Canadians have an opportunity to raise the profile of Remembrance Day and shine a light on its significance for our country, I believe it is worthwhile.

The bill was sent to the Canadian heritage committee, which oversees the Holidays Act. There were a number of proponents who spoke in favour of the bill. Some of them had the opportunity to explain why they thought it was important to insert the word “legal” into the context of the Holidays Act.

Mr. Dave Geddes, upon being asked what he thought adding the term “legal” to the term “holiday” would mean, said:

First, I think it would show our veterans that the government really does care. I understand that you people do, but to do this on our 150th birthday, for the veterans.... I think you would get 100% support from them.

Mr. John FitzGerald from Newfoundland and Labrador said:

I agree. Yes, I think changing would help. It gives it prominence. It gives it an importance and a weight—or I can use the word “gravitas”—that it deserves, and that our history and our duty to remember and honour our veterans and those who put themselves in harm's way even today in our Canadian Forces deserve.

That's my short answer.

Also appearing was Wilma McNeill, who has been a champion of modifying or making language consistent in the Holidays Act for many years. She is a strong supporter in favour of the bill. She said:

Yes, I agree that putting it up in the status with Canada Day and Victoria Day will help. Maybe it will wake up some of the provinces and they'll come on board. I think it's very important that we have it, and then it will be there forever. It won't be taken away.

This is the time to do it, as everybody is making celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the birth of Canada. Wouldn't this be a great way to honour our veterans once and for all for the sacrifice? When we think of what they did for us.... We live in a democracy, free, and we can do whatever we want, and it's because of the veterans.

Those were some of the testimonies given at committee in support of the bill.

Comments were made by a representative of the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command as well. We talked about this at second reading, the fact that it had not supported the idea behind making it a statutory holiday in all jurisdictions. It was certainly saying that to the committee. However, the main point it raised was twofold. First, schoolchildren should be in school on November 11 to ensure they were learning about Remembrance Day. Second, if it were made a day off for everyone, people would treat November 11 as just another day off.

I have the utmost respect for the Royal Canadian Legion, and I have canvassed this issue with many legion members at the legions in my riding and across Canada. Many of them, and all of them in my riding in particular, support the bill.

The Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command put forward those two reasons for not supporting my bill. I believe it is in error. The bill has nothing to do with giving people the day off work or school. It cannot do that. It is not within the purview of Parliament to pronounce or legislate on such things. That is up to the provinces. The bill does not and cannot encroach on the jurisdiction of the provinces. Therefore, it is a moot point.

However, if we take the arguments themselves on their merits in any event, in jurisdictions where it is a day off for schoolchildren, it works very well. In Nova Scotia, in Veterans Week and leading up to November 11, many veterans are able to come into the schools to participate with schoolchildren and explain to them why remembrance is so important. The children then have the opportunity on November 11 to attend a cenotaph with family and with veterans and share in that collective experience, as I mentioned before when I saw the students and veterans participate in at Vimy on April 9.

Becoming just another day off is another argument used for people getting the time off work. Again, this has no ability to do that and it has nothing to do with it. That is completely up to the provinces. This is simply modifying language in the federal act to make it consistent with other days.

We see increasing numbers at Remembrance Days services across Canada, most particularly in Nova Scotia. Because of the Remembrance Day act in that province, they have the ability to attend those services.

Therefore, I would respond that the possibility people would take it for granted and just treat it as another day off is incorrect. I believe that year after year people are showing more reverence, and more importance and emphasis is being placed on Remembrance Day. The more we can use education and ensure that children are being taught why Remembrance Day is so important, the better off our country will be. This is a valued and important day of reflection for many Canadians. I think that because of increasing attendance, especially in jurisdictions where people do have the day off work, that is not a proper argument for not supporting this bill, especially since it does not do what is claimed it would do, which is to give people the day off in any event.

The other aspect of this bill that I would like to highlight is that at committee I was asked by some members who did not support the bill at committee stage why this was not simply brought as a motion rather than a bill if all it is to do is elevate the status and shine a light on it. The reason is quite simple. In addition to shining a light on this important day, and ensuring that Canadians know that Parliament is affirming its commitment to honouring and commemorating this important day of November 11, it actually does something tangible. It fixes an inconsistency which may well have been a drafting error made many years ago in the Holidays Act by leaving out the word “legal”. The word “legal” holiday is there for Canada Day and Victoria Day. I would submit that it should be there for Remembrance Day as well.

In conclusion, I believe this bill is well reasoned and is a modest bill in what it actually does. It adds consistency of language in the Holidays Act. It elevates Remembrance Day to the same status as Canada Day and Victoria Day in federal statute, and it does affirm Parliament's commitment to ensuring that this very important day of reflection and gratitude to our fallen and all of those who serve is given its due respect. Therefore, I would ask all of my hon. colleagues to support my bill, Bill C-311, and ensure its passage.

Veterans Affairs May 4th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, last month I had the honour of travelling to France for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It was an immense privilege to stand where, 100 years ago, four Canadian divisions came together to claim their place in the history books. I was humbled to speak to the family members of soldiers who came home from that battle that changed men. While they may not have had the words at the time, mental health injuries and PTSD were a reality then, and they are, unfortunately, the reality for many of our men and women in uniform today. What is the Minister of Veterans Affairs doing to address the mental health needs of veterans and their families?

Fisheries and Oceans April 12th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, my riding, West Nova, depends heavily on the fishing industry, which is at the core of our rural economy and of our identity.

Could the Prime Minister provide us with details on how the new Atlantic fisheries fund helps support the fishing industry in my home province of Nova Scotia and throughout Atlantic Canada?

Port-Royal April 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to represent a region with such enormous historical significance for Canada.

In 1605, Samuel de Champlain, among others, was welcomed by Membertou at Port-Royal, extending an enduring hand of peace and friendship between the Mi'kmaq and Acadian peoples.

Port-Royal was the first permanent European settlement in Canada. Unfortunately, in the CBC miniseries Canada: The Story of Us, which purports to tell the story of our nation, Port-Royal was not even mentioned, nor was the history of the Acadians, their settlement, their deportation, or their development into a people who have added so much to the rich culture of Atlantic Canada.

I urge the CBC to review these serious omissions and correct the historical record. The story of western Nova Scotia is an important part of Canada's story.

I invite all Canadians to visit our beautiful area this year on Canada's 150th anniversary and learn about the region's essential contribution to the foundation of our country.