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

Holidays Act November 2nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the second provision, which is when November 11 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it was my intention that would be placed in the bill in order to standardize it to similar holidays mentioned in the Holidays Act, and that the following Monday would be the holiday. It was obviously never my intention that November 11 would not be celebrated on November 11. For other reasons, the fact that if this were done, it would need to be amended in the Labour Code and as this provision really has no effect, I have no problem with it being removed.

With respect to the other provision, that the Canadian flag fly at half mast, it sounded like a good idea until I started understanding the protocol regarding flags at half mast. I now understand there is no problem with the flag flying at half mast on Remembrance Day, that it is already in the protocol, and that it could cause other problems in the protocol. For example, if the Queen were in Ottawa on that day, her standard would fly over the Peace Tower and, by protocol, would never be lowered to half mast.

For those reasons, I have no problem with those sections being removed.

Holidays Act November 2nd, 2016

moved that Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise this evening to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day). At the outset, I would like to express my thanks for the work done on similar bills in previous Parliaments, most recently by former New Democrat MP Dan Harris, in the 41st Parliament, but before that by former Conservative MP Inky Mark and former NDP MP Chris Charlton.

In the last Parliament, in November 2014, Dan Harris's bill passed second reading in the House with near unanimous support. The 41st Parliament ended before the bill could be voted on at third reading.

The bill changes the wording and status of Remembrance Day in the federal 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, which currently has different language for Remembrance Day than the language used for Canada Day and Victoria Day. I believe that it is important to fix this inconsistency and properly recognize Remembrance Day in our federal legislation as a legal holiday.

More than simply correcting this inconsistency, however, I believe it is important that we continuously examine how we as Canadians remember the sacrifice of our fallen heroes and honour the service of past and present Canadian Forces members. In so doing, I am hoping that the bill will start a conversation across Canada about whether we are doing enough to appropriately recognize Remembrance Day.

Personally, I believe that it would be appropriate for Remembrance Day to be a statutory holiday in every province and territory in Canada so that it is marked from coast to coast to coast as a national holiday and a day of solemn remembrance. However, I completely respect that it is not within the purview of Parliament to enact such a law, and of course, the bill does not do so.

Nevertheless, I believe that if the bill is passed and our Parliament reinforces in this way the importance of November 11, it can give the provinces that do not already do so a good opportunity to revisit whether they want to mark Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday in their jurisdictions.

Bringing this forward makes us pause to reflect on why Remembrance Day is so important. Canadians are rightly proud of their country. We are so blessed to live in such a beautiful, diverse, and free society. We must never take for granted everything we are blessed with in Canada. We are 36 million people, but we are less than one-half of one per cent of the world's population, and we are so very fortunate to live here.

Our beautiful and peaceful country did not happen by luck. It was built by those who have gone before us, those who protected and defended our liberties, values, and rights, those who have served in our Canadian Forces.

Remembrance Day is on November 11, because that is the day in 1918 when the guns fell silent and the Great War ended. It has come to symbolize, mark, and solemnly remember those who paid the supreme sacrifice in the service of our country. From Ypres, Flanders Fields, and Vimy Ridge in World War I, to Dieppe, Italy, Normandy, and the Pacific in World War II, to Korea, peacekeeping missions, the Gulf War, and Afghanistan, along with other conflicts in tormented places around the world, our brave men and women have made us proud. We continue to honour them and the sacrifices of others who have gone before them. It is right that a grateful country such as Canada pays tribute and remembers our fallen.

For decades, Remembrance Day has given us an opportunity to gather together and pay tribute to all those who died while serving our country and to recognize the courage of current and former members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

All too often, we take for granted our values, institutions, freedom of association, freedom of speech, and right to make our own political choices without fear of reprisal. Our veterans, including many Acadians in my region, went to war overseas because they believed that the values and beliefs that we still share as Canadians were threatened. They were determined to protect, at all costs, vulnerable populations who were being oppressed by radical ideologists.

Remembrance Day reminds us of the importance of preserving this sense of freedom that our heroes wanted to protect and of our responsibility to keep the peace for which they fought.

Growing up in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Remembrance Day was instilled in me to be a solemn day. My family always went to the cenotaph on Main Street for 11 o'clock on November 11. There were a lot of people who did so.

However, I must say that it is encouraging to see that the numbers of those attending such ceremonies right across my riding, all across Nova Scotia, and indeed, across Canada, have been increasing over the last number of years.

The main Remembrance Day ceremony in Yarmouth is now in the Mariners Centre, a hockey arena that is more accommodating of the large crowd and also for the many veterans who have mobility issues and cannot attend at the cenotaph. The cenotaph still has an excellent ceremony and there are a lot of people who attend at each place. I look forward to attending the Mariners Centre this year in order to share the occasion with many veterans from my area and also many citizens who will be there to mark the solemn occasion.

As important as these ceremonies are on November 11, I will never forget the veterans who would come into my school, when I was a child, in the days leading up to November 11. They would tell us their stories of sacrifice and valour, but also in their message was pride for our country and their love of peace over war. It touched me profoundly to see their emotion when talking about the horrors of war and about the terrible loss of a comrade. I believe these stories need to be taught throughout the year to our young people. However, it is at this time of year, in particular, near Remembrance Day, that they are especially poignant and meaningful.

A few years after high school, I was extremely fortunate to be selected to work as a tour guide at Vimy Ridge, France. The Canadian monument at Vimy and its place in our country's history are awe-inspiring. My time at Vimy Ridge and learning the history of Canadians who fought there reinforced, in my mind, the significant debt of gratitude our country owes to our forces and to our veterans.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was fought in April 1917, and in only a few short months, we will be marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It is significant that it is also in the year Canada will be celebrating its 150th anniversary as a country, as Vimy Ridge was the first time that Canadians from across our country fought together, shoulder to shoulder, as a cohesive formation and achieved a remarkable victory. Many believe that out of this event with its success but tragic loss, Canada's national identity and nationhood were born.

As members of Parliament, we will each be returning to our ridings next week and on Friday of next week, November 11, will be attending Remembrance Day ceremonies and events.

I know that there are many activities planned throughout my riding of West Nova throughout the whole day. Last year, I had the pleasure to attend the moving Remembrance Day ceremony at Kingston, Nova Scotia, and visited various events throughout the Annapolis Valley, home to 14 Wing Greenwood. I am so privileged to represent those members of the Canadian Forces and also the veterans who have contributed so richly to my community.

Like many of my colleagues, I will also be attending ceremonies in the days leading up to November 11. For example, on November 8, at the Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School, and on November 10, at Meadowfield elementary school, I will be attending Remembrance Day ceremonies with students and staff, as well as veterans, to honour and share in solemn remembrance those who have sacrificed so much for Canada.

In many schools next week, it is in fact marked as Remembrance Day week. Students learn about the history of our men and women in service to Canada and pause to reflect on their sacrifice. These are just a couple of the many ways that Remembrance Day is marked at schools in West Nova and in the days leading up to November 11. It is encouraging to know many young people will also attend Remembrance Day ceremonies with their families on November 11, or perhaps as part of the memorial club in Yarmouth, whose young members throughout the year, but particularly on Remembrance Day, demonstrate their pride in Canada and gratitude for our veterans.

I am very pleased that many veterans in West Nova and across Canada are supporting the bill. They believe, as I do, that it is important to draw attention to the significance of Remembrance Day.

One of the legions in my riding is the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 155 in Wedgeport, Nova Scotia. Over the past several months, I have been fortunate enough to attend two different ceremonies, where a member of a branch has been received into the French Legion of Honour for their incredible service and as a sign of France's respect for their contributions to the combat that led to the liberation of France in World War II.

Bernard Smith and Vernon Doucette joined two other members of the Wedgeport legion, Alcide LeBlanc and Wesley Spinney, in receiving the French Legion of Honour for their part in the liberation of France. Western Nova Scotia is very proud of these four gentlemen and their service to Canada in the cause of freedom. It is, indeed, very special that one small legion branch has four such heroes who have been recognized in this significant way.

There are so many other stories like theirs across my riding and across our country. We honour their sacrifices and living legacies, and also remember the many men and women who have donned a Canadian Forces uniform in our history, who did not return home, and who did not have the chance to have us thank them for their valiant and brave service to Canada.

As it relates to the bill, in addition to modifying the language to make Remembrance Day a federal legal holiday and have the same status in the Holidays Act as Canada Day, the bill also purports to do two other things.

First, subclause 3(2) provides that if November 11 falls on a weekend, similar language to that of Canada Day be used to make the following Monday a holiday.

Second, subclause 3(3) provides that on Remembrance Day, the Canadian flag on the Peace Tower shall be lowered to half mast.

Upon reflection and consultation with my colleagues, I realize that both of these provisions are, unfortunately, problematic. I am, therefore, very open to these provisions being deleted from the bill by amendment at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, where the bill will be referred to should it pass a vote in the House after second reading. In fact, I am very happy to propose them directly to the committee if this is to be done.

The main objective of the bill and the motivation I had in putting it forward in the first place is not furthered by either of these provisions.

Let us, in this 42nd Parliament, do what is right. Let us recognize Remembrance Day as a federal legal holiday, put it on the same level in the Holidays Act as Canada Day and Victoria Day. We can also provide the occasion to the provinces that do not already recognize Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday to revisit how Remembrance Day is observed in their jurisdiction.

From McRae's famous poem that echoes through the ages:

To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Let us then do our duty and not break faith with those who have died for Canada. Let us do all we can to ensure we honour their sacrifice. I believe Bill C-311, in a modest way, would help in that cause, and that is why I ask for the support of my colleagues.

I ask all Canadians right across our country to please show their respect for our veterans and our fallen, wear a poppy, and attend a Remembrance Day ceremony next week.

Lest we forget.

High-Speed Internet October 25th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, in my beautiful riding of West Nova, too many rural communities do not have access to quality, reliable, high-speed Internet service.

In 2016, Internet has become an essential service in the digital economy. Some people in my riding cannot watch this proceeding online, access government services, do their banking, or even check their email. Businesses such as seafood exporters cannot adequately communicate with their customers overseas, and tourism operators have trouble promoting their operations and attracting prospective visitors to our part of the world.

I was pleased that budget 2016 committed $500 million for extending and enhancing high-speed broadband coverage in rural and remote communities. I certainly look forward to continuing to work with our government and our provincial and municipal partners along with industry to ensure that we link communities across West Nova and rural Canada to the rest of the world with high-speed Internet.

Justice October 20th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the judiciary plays a key role in Canada. It upholds the rule of law, ensures that laws are followed, and helps protect the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

We recognize that Canadians want and deserve a judiciary that reflects the diverse face of Canada. Would the Minister of Justice please update the House on the superior courts appointments process?

Holidays Act September 30th, 2016

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day).

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to introduce my private member's bill, an act to amend the Holidays Act, regarding Remembrance Day.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Gatineau for being the seconder on the bill.

Similar versions of the bill have been introduced by former members of Parliament from the NDP, the Conservative Party , and the Liberals, including in the 41st Parliament where it received nearly unanimous support on a vote at second reading.

Every year, on November 11, ceremonies are held across Canada to remember those men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice for our country. We have the privilege of living in a free and democratic country, thanks to the valour of those brave Canadians who fought to protect our rights and freedoms. It is with a deep respect for members of the Canadian Forces and our veterans that I put forward the bill that would officially recognize November 11 as a solemn day of remembrance by including it as a federal legal holiday.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Tourism September 27th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to highlight Nova Scotia's exceptional tourism season this past summer.

While the final numbers are still being tallied, Nova Scotia is on track to having the best tourism season ever, with over a million visitors enjoying what our beautiful province has to offer.

The Yarmouth and Acadian Shores region in West Nova saw a 17% increase in tourist traffic this year, in large part, due to the new The CAT ferry between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine, and the Fundy Rose between Digby and Saint John.

Many small business owners and tourism operators in my riding have had a banner year.

Supporting these ferries is vital to the growth and prosperity of Atlantic Canada. They get our products to market and bring visitors to our shores.

I look forward to continuing to work with colleagues from all levels of government, to ensure the viability and sustainability of these important ferry links.

CANADA LABOUR CODE September 26th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on his fine speech.

During the election campaign, I certainly heard in many parts of my riding opposition to what the Conservatives had brought in with Bill C-377 and Bill C-525.

I wonder if the member could highlight some of the reasons he thinks the Conservatives brought that in, why it was so unfair and unpopular with workers, not only in my riding but across the country, and why it is important to make sure that we repeal those bills now.

Business of Supply September 22nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear that the government has taken the issues of indigenous peoples in this country extremely seriously. We have met and consulted with first nations right across the country and put record investments of $5 billion into the education of people who need it. With regard to the Minister of Justice, she works closely with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. They will do the right things for Canada's first nation people. On this side of the House we are committed to getting it right for first nations and we will do exactly that.

Business of Supply September 22nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's question, and I certainly serve with him on the justice committee and respect his thoughts.

With regard to the process we have laid out, it is an inclusive one that includes Parliament. In fact, we had the Minister of Justice come before our committee of Parliament to answer questions. There will be a further opportunity to question former , who leads the independent advisory board. She will come before our committee and answer questions about the new process.

Let us compare it to the former process. That former process was done in secret, was not transparent and did not carry the confidence of Canadians. I am confident that this new system will have the confidence of Canadians and serve Canada well for many years to come.

Business of Supply September 22nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is really a pleasure to rise today in support of the motion proposed by the member for Niagara Falls. I had the pleasure of serving with that honourable gentleman on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and I very much respect his long service in the House and also to Canada.

At the outset, I want to sincerely thank the Hon. Mr. Justice Thomas Cromwell for his service to Canada and also for being an excellent lawyer, law professor at Dalhousie law school, and judge of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal and finally the Supreme Court of Canada. He is an extraordinary jurist with common sense and the common touch. He certainly has done Nova Scotia very proud, and I wish him much health and happiness in his well-deserved retirement from the Supreme Court of Canada.

Of course, his retirement as of September 1 means that a new judge of the Supreme Court of Canada will be appointed. This impending retirement is what has prompted the new process as well as the debate in the House today, and I welcome that debate.

I would like to outline my connection and interest with regard to this matter in particular. I am a lawyer from Nova Scotia and I am on the justice committee as well. I was called to the Nova Scotia bar in 2008 and practised law in my hometown of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, until I was honoured with the confidence of the people of West Nova on October 19, 2015. In my practice, I worked both as a barrister and as a solicitor and had the opportunity to argue cases at all levels of courts in Nova Scotia. I also had the occasion while articling to assist on a case and actually attend at the Supreme Court of Canada. It was a matter involving a lobster-fishing licence and its nature as tangible property. Clearly that was a case that mattered very much to the region of Atlantic Canada, and it was important that there was knowledge on the Supreme Court of Canada with regard to the different regions that were implicated.

I also served as president of the Western Counties Barristers' Society, and had the opportunity in such capacity to represent members of the bar and also to get to know members of the bench and their impeccable qualities both as jurists and as people. I am incredibly impressed by the calibre, hard work, and dedication of the judges in Nova Scotia. I also know from my colleagues across Atlantic Canada that our judges and jurists are as good as any in Canada, and of course Canada has one of the most respected judiciaries in the entire world. By extension, I have no doubt that there will be excellent applicants from Atlantic Canada for consideration in the new process. Of course the new process requires that the independent committee have at least two jurists from Atlantic Canada be considered for the appointment.

I certainly support that an Atlantic Canadian be selected as the next member of the Supreme Court of Canada. However, why did we need a new process? It is an excellent process that we have instituted, that this government has brought forward. It is independent. There is an advisory board, which is led by a former Progressive Conservative prime minister, Kim Campbell. She has the respect of this side of the House in doing a good job. I believe it shows some question on the current Conservative Party's judgment to not have confidence in the independent advisory board that is led by a former prime minister who was a Progressive Conservative.

The reason that we need a new process, though, is pretty clear. The former government had a process that lacked transparency and lacked the confidence of Canadians. The appointment and the mess they made of the appointment of the Supreme Court justice, when they advanced Marc Nadon, became an absolute distraction from the work of Parliament and an absolute distraction from the good work of the Supreme Court of Canada.

In fact, former prime minister Harper and his government called into question the integrity of the Hon. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. This was uncalled for. This was dangerous to the independence of the judiciary, and in doing so, tried to undermine one of Canada's fundamentally most important institutions to our democracy and the reputation of a person whose integrity, professionalism, and honour are beyond reproach.

Further, the Conservatives undermined confidence in the court itself by introducing private member's bills that sought to get around the charter certification here in Parliament as well as introducing pieces of legislation and passing them with their majority, knowing that they did not meet the constitutional provisions of the charter. The level of hypocrisy that we are hearing today from the other side of the House, in saying that the Liberal Party does not respect the integrity of the court, is quite simply laughable.

Why will the new process carry the confidence of Canadians? Here is why. It is because it is inclusive and requires functional bilingualism to be considered. We know that 13 of the last 15 appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada have been bilingual jurists and that is now considered the norm in appointing judges to the Supreme Court of Canada. This would ensure that the process chooses someone who is functionally bilingual, which is important because there are nuances in the law. Canada has two official languages, English and French. It is important for people who appear before the Supreme Court of Canada to have confidence that they can speak either official language of this country and the nuances of the law will be understood.

The process also seeks diversity, lends itself to confidence through its independence, and also ensures that judges of the highest calibre in this country are appointed. Almost all of the recent appointments, as I mentioned, have been bilingual, and it reflects the functional bilingualism that is important to Canada being officially bilingual.

Over the past number of years, we have seen growing diversity on the bench and bar across Canada. We need to continue to appoint excellent jurists at all levels, including superior courts in the provinces, which will develop a broader, more diverse pool of judges to select for the Supreme Court of Canada. This process is a starting point to ensure not only that judges will have the requisite level of experience and knowledge on the lower courts but that they will be well positioned to merit the seat on the Supreme Court of Canada.

We have seen and must continue to strive for diversity in our law schools, but ultimately, diversity among those on the bench will not only properly reflect Canadian society, but most importantly, encourage more people who have not traditionally been represented as jurists to get into the profession of law, which is so fundamental to our democracy and systems here in Canada.

On the custom of regional representation, I have heard, time and again, the argument made today that Atlantic Canadian MPs are not standing up, that we have been silent on the issue with respect to this new process. I am a member of the justice committee, as I mentioned, and on August 11 I had the pleasure of the justice minister appearing at committee. This was brand new. It was the first time that a minister had done so in contemplation of answering the questions of parliamentarians about the new process.

I had the pleasure of welcoming the minister, along with my committee colleagues, that day, but I also clearly stated that the custom of regional representation has served Canada well as a country. I was not silent that day. I said that this is an important custom that must be respected. The motion today asks for that support and that is why I am proudly supporting the motion. However, it is also important to reflect Canada's regional diversity, which is what the new process is all about, respecting and reflecting the diversity not only of regional representation but of bilingualism, of diversity, and of indigenous peoples being appointed to the court.

The Conservatives attempted the narrative recently that standing up for Atlantic Canada is something they are doing and that the 32 Atlantic MPs are not doing. Stephen Harper infamously said that Atlantic Canada had a culture of defeat. We saw a culture of defeat. It was the 32 seats in Atlantic Canada that defeated the Conservatives in the last election.

That was because the Conservatives had disrespected Atlantic Canada during the 10 years they were in government, reneging on the Atlantic accord, making EI changes that were unfair, slashing funding for cultural heritage such as the Acadians and our official languages, disrespecting veterans, not considering Atlantic Canada when the health transfers were changed, and a lack of respect for the environment. The Conservatives will have to excuse Atlantic Canadians for finding their newfound interest in Atlantic Canada a little insincere.

On the other hand , Atlantic Canadian MPs have been hard at work representing their constituents, working together to advance an Atlantic growth strategy, which includes innovation, immigration, tourism, and supporting small business.

I will stand up for Atlantic Canada, and most particularly for West Nova, every single day of the week, not just on this issue but on all issues. I have done so at committee and will do so again, along with all of my colleagues.