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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was chairman.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Conservative MP for Dufferin—Caledon (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Justice October 4th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for St. John's East on his presentation to the House on this topic and in particular, for zeroing in on the topic of dispute resolution.

As a legal representative, my question is: Is one of the problems the lawyers? Litigation is very adversarial in family law matters. Dispute resolution already exists. Currently, a lawyer acting for one of the parties or indeed both lawyers could say they are not interested in dispute resolution and that the matter should go to the courts. This causes a problem because generally speaking, one of the parties does not have the resources to go all the way to the courts. The party has the resources to go to dispute resolution but not to the courts. That creates unfairness and more adversarial attitudes.

Would the proposed legislation correct this discrepancy? Is there something in the bill that would force the legal representatives to encourage dispute resolution?

Justice October 4th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary has raised an excellent point, the issue of disclosure in divorce or separation proceedings. One of the more serious problems is getting information from people who are self-employed when many of those people do not disclose to the Canada Revenue Agency what they are actually making. That happens all the time.

I appreciate that the government is trying to deal with this, because the most serious issue is obtaining disclosure. However, with that specific example in mind, there are many people who are self-employed, and just providing their income tax return does not reveal what their actual income is.

Business of Supply October 2nd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the Toronto Sun quoted a statement made by Bill Renton, the Woodstock chief of police, who was the chief investigator in Tori Stafford's murder. I would like to read a small portion of it and ask for the member's response. He said:

We question McClintic’s move to the healing centre at such an early stage of her just and proper guilty verdict of first degree murder and sentence of Life Imprisonment with no parole eligibility for 25 years. We also realize the family lives that life sentence every day that beautiful young Tori does not return home. They can hold dear the memories of their beautiful daughter, but they also hold in their hearts and minds the reminder of the heinous manner that Tori spent her last moments on this earth which haunt them continually. Such a reminder that haunts far too many, far too often.

I am a true advocate of our Charter, the Criminal Justice System and Correctional Services. I believe our Correctional System needs to be predicated on rehabilitation for those that have committed crimes and proven themselves worthy, however, I echo the concerns of a nation, that 6 years into a 25 year parole eligibility is unacceptable entrance into such a privileged program.

In other words, he is saying that it is inappropriate for this woman, who committed this terrible murder, to go to the healing centre. It is not designed for that.

Petitions October 2nd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by residents from my riding who are concerned with the attestation clause in the summer jobs program. The residents from Dufferin—Caledon ask that the Government of Canada remove the discriminatory requirement and allow Canadians to continue to exercise their freedom of belief and expression without facing institutionalized discrimination by the Government of Canada.

Divorce Act September 26th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, as we can well imagine, when couples who have children separate, their joint income is split in half and it causes poverty in many cases. People cannot live the life that they used to live. In many cases, it is women who suffer. The statistics show that more women suffer than men, but there are some men who suffer as well. It is not all women who have this problem.

That is going to reveal itself. I hope the bill passes and goes to committee where some of these issues will be brought forward.

The issue of crossing a border, people taking children out of a jurisdiction, is referred to in the legislation. I know there will be a considerable amount of time spent at committee dealing with that as well.

Divorce Act September 26th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I think the member is going to have to wait and see how the debate goes in the House and the issues that are going to be raised at committee. There are many experts, such as people in the family bar, the police, Children's Aid Society, and the list goes on and on, who I know will want to make representations.

Again, my view is that the bill is making the process less adversarial. There are lawyers, including my wife, whose entire practice is family law. I am told that almost 50% of the population have gone through some form of separation or divorce proceedings that involve children. The system cries out for change. It has been 30 years since the Divorce Act has been amended, and I congratulate the government for bringing the bill forward at this time.

Divorce Act September 26th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, as has been stated, family law has become extremely adversarial. There are terrible stories about how the parties treat each other and the effects of that on the child or children.

On the issue of non-payment, Ontario in particular has a process where collection can be made. Sometimes that has not proven to be successful. All of us could tell of situations where the deadbeat dads have gotten away with something, but on the whole, the purpose of this legislation is to try and deter the system from becoming more adversarial, and if anything, to make the system become less adversarial.

Divorce Act September 26th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-78, which, as has been said by the minister, is an an act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another act.

As has been said, it has been 30 years since we have seen substantive amendments to the Divorce Act. In that time, the courts and the family law bar have been moving forward with modernizing divorce proceedings in Canada with updated language and terminology aimed at making the process less adversarial. It is good to see that the government is moving forward with legislation to bring the statute in line with the direction the family law sector has been moving in for several years now. While support for these amendments is by no means universal, they are generally being well received by the family law bar, at least in terms of the research that I have gone through in the response to Bill C-78.

Since its tabling in May, there has been a fairly steady stream of commentary, mostly in the legal press, regarding the bill and most of it has been positive. The bill's focus on updating the language surrounding controversial terms such as custody and access and replacing that with language that places the emphasis on parenting responsibilities, parenting time, parental decision-making, etc., is a positive one, in my view.

The language of the current statute is clearly adversarial and establishes a winner and loser scenario in which one parent wins custody of the child over the other. In the already emotional situation of divorce, this adds to the tension and is clearly not in the best interests of the child. With this change in language, my hope is that, should the bill make it to committee, the ramifications beyond the courts and involved parties with the new terminology will be looked at closely.

While many judges and family law practitioners have been using this less adversarial language for years now, other parties that have less direct involvement in divorce and custody proceedings are still rooted in the 30-year-old terminology this bill seeks to replace. I am thinking of Children's Aid societies, schools, law enforcement and others who may be called to intervene in disputes. They are operating under the existing language of custody and access. How will they react to this new language? Will their own enabling legislation or internal rule sets require changes as a result? How will they adapt? My hope is that the justice committee takes a long and detailed look at these potential rough spots.

The road to this set of reforms has been a while in coming. In 2013, the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, which is known as the Cromwell committee, published its final report calling for meaningful change in the family justice system. Specifically, the committee report called for particular emphasis on increasing the use of consensual dispute resolution methods. It also recommended the language of custody and access be replaced by the language of parental responsibility and contact.

In preparing for this debate, I reviewed some of the case law that is of significant importance to the bill. In particular, I would like to quote a 2015 case from the Court of Appeal of Ontario, known as M v. F, 2015 ONCA, at page 277. This is with respect to the old terminology of custody and access and its tendency to produce a culture of winners and losers.

From paragraphs 38 to 40 of the decision, the appellate justice wrote:

[38] The Ontario legislation does not require the trial judge to make an order for custody. Section 28(1) (a) of the CLRA is permissive, not mandatory: The court … by order may grant the custody of or access to the child to one or more persons.

[39] For over twenty years, multi-disciplinary professionals have been urging the courts to move away from the highly charged terminology of “custody” and “access.” These words denote that there are winners and losers when it comes to children. They promote an adversarial approach to parenting and do little to benefit the child. The danger of this “winner/loser syndrome” in child custody battles has long been recognized.

[40] It was therefore open to the trial judge to adopt the “parenting plan” proposed by the assessor without awarding “custody.” It was also in keeping with the well-recognized view that the word “custody” denotes “winner” so consequently the other parent is the “loser” and this syndrome is not in the best interests of the child.

Therefore, we see in this instance that the words “custody” and “access” have been causing trouble for a long time, and the bill's proposed move away from them should be viewed positively. How that plays out on the ground remains to be seen, of course. Divorce is, by definition, an emotional experience and with children in the mix, reason sometimes escapes the participants.

Another emphasis of the bill is to encourage those involved in divorce proceedings to use alternative dispute resolution mechanisms rather than resort to litigation. Again, I view this as a positive step. Litigation over children is very expensive and potentially very destructive. It is certainly almost never in the best interest of the child. Moving away from litigation and moving towards alternative dispute resolutions such as the use of parenting coordinators, family justice counsellors, mediators or arbitrators will go some distance in protecting children from the fallout of adult litigation.

When choosing to go the litigation route, parents can often lose sight of the fact that their children stand to be adversely affected by the litigation process. Indeed, they can even become weapons used by one or both parties to the litigation, to the great detriment of the child or children. Efforts to protect children against adult litigation are commendable and it is a positive aspect of this proposed legislation.

Another aspect of the bill seeks to establish a framework for the relocation of a child. The bill would establish a shifting burden of proof when one parent wishes to relocate. If the parties have substantially equal parenting time assigned by the court, the relocating party bears the burden of establishing that the relocation is in the best interest of the child. If the child spends the vast majority of their time with one party, the other party must establish that the relocation is not in the best interest of the child. The court retains flexibility to make adjustments to existing orders when determining these arrangements, again, in the best interest of the child.

I mentioned earlier in my comments this afternoon that while the overall reception of the bill has been positive, the reaction has not been universally so. Some critics have argued that the bill's lack of a rebuttable presumption for equal shared parenting as the default position for any divorce negotiation is less than ideal. They point to social science research that suggests that the default position of equal shared parenting leads to better outcomes for children. Of course, equal shared parenting is not always ideal, which is why they suggest that a default position should be rebuttable. The lack of this default position in the bill is a detriment for these critics.

Others have noted that replacing the terms “custody” and “access” with parenting-based terms would not substantially reduce the conflict that can be central in divorce proceedings. Some predict that the fights between parents over custody would, in future, turn into fights over who has “decision-making responsibility”, another term in the legislation. They claim that it is inherent in the process. There is clearly some work here for the members of the justice committee, should the bill pass second reading.

I trust my colleagues will seek out the views not only of the family bar but of all those who have an interest in supporting the decision of the courts in divorce matters, as well as experts in research and academia who make this their field of study. This would require a broad range of witnesses who will no doubt have suggestions for improvements to the bill. I would encourage the government side not to reject those suggestions out of hand but to consider them in light of this legislation's more positive, less adversarial approach to divorce proceedings in Canada. There may well be room for improvement here.

In closing, I for one am generally positive about the direction the bill seeks to take and look forward to the deliberations at the committee stage. I am sure they will be enlightening for all members.

Accessible Canada Act September 26th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I think most of us in the House have had some experience with someone with a disability. I have spoken many times about ALS, and every June I try to give a statement on ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. My father succumbed to ALS. He went through the stages of using one cane to two canes to a walker to a wheelchair to a bed to a point where he could not eat on his own. This was obviously very difficult for my family, but we learned a lot of things. For example, we learned that not all doors in businesses or people's houses are wide enough to allow a wheelchair through. We learned the difficulties of just doing simple things, such as the assistance that people need when going to the bathroom. One of my colleagues talked about ramps. There are other simple things, such as how to get into an elevator with a wheelchair.

I do not really have a question for my colleague, but I would like to congratulate the government for bringing this bill forward. I could sit and talk about the many things the Conservative government did, but others can do that. I simply want to congratulate the government for making an effort to deal with people with disabilities.

Dufferin—Caledon September 26th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, three cultural organizations in my riding are each celebrating 25 years next month. Theatre Orangeville is one of Ontario's best local theatre companies. Under artistic director David Nairn, its commitment to the community is legendary, offering diverse productions and programs for those with developmental disabilities through its partnership with Community Living Dufferin.

The Museum of Dufferin just had a grand re-opening after significant renovations. Showcasing the history of Dufferin County's pioneers, the Museum of Dufferin is also dedicated to connecting with our youth to make history a living part of the community.

In The Hills magazine highlights country living in the Headwaters region. This independent, locally owned publication focuses on telling stories about our region's cultural highlights, making it a must-read for locals and visitors alike.

To honour their 25th, Theatre Orangeville, In The Hills and the Museum of Dufferin are recognizing 25 amazing Headwaters youth under age 25 who will be our future.