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Conservative MP for Niagara West (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 49% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Petitions June 17th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition calling on the Government of Canada to maintain the listing of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a state supporter of terrorism, pursuant to section 6.1 of the State Immunity Act, for as long as the Iranian regime continues to sponsor terrorism.
Foreign Affairs June 10th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives passed the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. Just yesterday, the Ontario Superior Court gave victims of Iranian state-sponsored terrorism $13 million of Iranian assets held in Canada. Yet at the same time, the Liberals are cozying up to the Iranian regime. This is happening while Iran has thrown Canadian Iranian Professor Hoodfar behind bars for no reason.
Why are the Liberals cozying up to Iran when it continues to prove it will not change?
Foreign Affairs June 10th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs refuses to call the actions of ISIS genocide. Instead, he wrote a stern letter to the UN. Meanwhile, all of our closest allies have already made this important distinction. Shamefully, the parliamentary secretary thinks that somehow we are rushing our judgment.
Why are the Liberals letting thousands get slaughtered, while they wait for the United Nations to dictate our foreign policy?
Mental Health May 16th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, during Mental Health Week, I had the pleasure of participating in a very special mental health awareness campaign initiated by the Paul Hansell Foundation. The foundation and others took to Twitter and posted under #ConvoPlate in order to keep the conversation going around mental health and to finally end the stigma surrounding it.
I also attended the official launch of the #ConvoPlate campaign on May 5 and can confirm it was a tremendous success.
I would like to congratulate Brian Hansell, a good friend of mine, who also happens to be the founder of the Paul Hansell Foundation, on an incredible job around this project, as well as his tireless efforts to address mental health issues.
I would also like to thank my colleagues in this place who took pictures of the plate and posted them under #ConvoPlate on Twitter.
Again, I thank all who participated.
Mental health is one of those most important topics of our lifetime. I hope we can all encourage each other to talk about it, share experiences, contribute to causes, and end the stigma once and for all.
Criminal Code May 3rd, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I want to again thank the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his excellent work on the committee.
I would certainly support that. One thing that concerns me is how far the report actually went. While I appreciate where the government legislation landed and that it is not perfect, my concern is what will happen in the future as we look to review these kinds of things. What happens then? Do we push it further?
We have seen before that if we do not clearly articulate the legislation, it becomes very easy to push the limit, to move around the edges, and then say we thought it meant something else or maybe we could go in a direction that was not originally intended by the people who were there at the time.
I, by all means, would support a notion like that.
Criminal Code May 3rd, 2016
Mr. Speaker, that was one of the concerns I heard the most in my office. I mentioned earlier in my speech that caregivers approached me in my office from various religious nursing homes and nursing facilities, which obviously have a very conscientious view of life and how important it is to them. One concern they had was that in smaller communities, there may not be many doctors or people may not have as many options, maybe not even palliative care, for that matter. If a doctor did not want to perform that service, what would happen? Would it mean that the responsibility would go back to the nursing home or care facility? That is a concern.
To maybe echo the question back to the member, that is one of the things we need to strengthen. We need to ensure it is not just in the preamble but in the actual legislation, so there can be protection for those with conscience and want to act according to their faiths.
Criminal Code May 3rd, 2016
Mr. Speaker, before I get started, I want to congratulate my colleagues who sat on the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying. When legislation like this comes before us, we always sit long hours. I certainly want to thank the members of the Conservative party for the dissenting report. It was great to see that at least some of those ideas were worked upon in the legislation.
This House finds itself in a position where we must pass an effective regulatory framework to make way for medically assisted suicide. I am rising today to help ensure that this new framework respects the charter rights of physicians and patients alike.
It is my fear that the proposals put forward by the government in an attempt to bring our laws in line with the charter may in fact do the opposite. I believe there is a potential to break with the charter by not effectively protecting the rights of physicians to practise according to their freedom of religion and conscience.
Additionally, I fear that the government's promise to revisit this legislation in a few years simply gives it an opportunity to further expand it.
As a member of the opposition party, I feel compelled to warn the House of what I fear might happen if the bill is passed in its current form. I believe that decisions such as this can inevitably lead down a slippery slope.
While the government has chosen to forego many of the more contentious recommendations made by the joint special committee, Liberal and NDP members of that committee clearly felt confident in the recommendations. This leads me to believe that, in time, this law will be expanded even further to include those measures.
The Supreme Court was quite clear in its ruling. Access to assisted suicide was to be limited to a “competent adult” person who “clearly consents to the termination of life” and has “a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”
I am happy to see that the government has listened to some of the recommendations made by my hon. colleagues in their dissenting report. In that report, they referenced a system currently used in Quebec, where only patients aged 18 and older with severe incurable physical illnesses, and whose medical condition is characterized by an advanced and irreversible decline, can request medical help to die.
Furthermore, in Quebec, the attending physician must ensure that his or her patient has clearly consented to physician-assisted suicide, ensuring, among other things, that it was not the result of external pressure, while also providing the patient with a full prognosis on the condition and possible treatment options along with the likely consequences.
Quebec physicians are free to act according to their conscience. If they do not want to proceed, they must refer the patient to an independent body which will contact another physician. Two independent physicians must confirm that the patient meets all of the criteria prescribed by the legislation.
Keeping in mind the Quebec system and considering the irreversibility of assisted suicide, we must acknowledge that the realities of this practice as a form of treatment permanently ends a human life. As such, we must exercise great caution to ensure that there are effective safeguards against any abuse of the system.
I understand that the Minister of Health has said that physicians cannot be prosecuted under the bill for failing to comply with a patient's desire to end their life. The absence of any specific mention of this in the legislation that was brought forward is troubling. Without a specific reference to the rights of physicians to act according to their conscience, I believe it will not be long before doctors are facing lawsuits for failure to comply with a patient who wishes to die.
Again, while I am glad to see the government has decided not to include certain recommendations that the committee made, I feel it is necessary that I voice my objections to them before the government decides to add them at a future date.
I am doing this because my constituents are very concerned about this issue. I have received dozens of letters and calls from people in my riding, and they all want me to warn of the consequences that opening this door may bring.
I will touch on some of the most at-risk parts of society as far as assisted suicide is concerned, namely the young, the elderly, and those who suffer from mental illness.
In the preamble to the bill, the government said that it would leave the door open for non-legislative measures involving requests for assisted suicide from “mature minors, advance requests and requests where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition”. This is where I take the most issue with this bill.
What the Liberals call “mature minors” are people who are not allowed to buy alcohol or vote, and people who are subject to a different set of criminal standards than adults.
The Government of Canada, for many decades, has been of the opinion that while all citizens are entitled to their constitutional rights, there are what we call reasonable limits on certain rights. What I mean by this is that the rights of an individual stop when they directly conflict with the rights of another individual. Therefore, there is no primacy of one constitutional right over another.
Now that the right to assisted suicide has been added to that list, I believe it should not now or in the future be made available to minors. When setting the voting age or creating the Youth Criminal Justice Act, governments create a different system for people who are not yet adults. The rationale for these differences comes from the medically accepted fact that the human brain is not fully developed until around the age of 18.
With respect to the possibility of providing assisted suicide to requests where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition, I have two points. First, the Supreme Court did not mention mental illness in its ruling. Second, the court said that individuals seeking assisted suicide must be fully competent.
To that point, I would ask the government this. When a predisposition toward suicide is often a side effect of mental illness, how are doctors supposed to decide when the decision to die is the true wish of the patient or merely the effect of their condition? Is this a decision that we really want to force upon our doctors?
Another group of individuals that I fear may be exploited as part of this system are the elderly. Elder abuse is already a well-known problem in Canada and, no matter what actions the government takes, it is difficult to stop it entirely. The inevitable consequences of access to assisted suicide is that the elderly are put at risk of being exploited.
In jurisdictions where assisted suicide is legal, there have been cases of elderly people seeking the service because they feel they have become a burden to their family or to society. There have been even worse examples, such as situations where the elderly person's own family has pressured him or her into seeking assisted suicide. We cannot allow this to become a feature of the system.
What we do need to do is to help our elderly folks, providing them with a better system of palliative care.
During last year's election, the Liberals promised to invest $3 billion on new palliative care. However, when the budget was released, there was nothing. I know that a number of my colleagues have raised this in other speeches, so I will not get it into in any greater detail. However, this is part of a broad theme of the Liberals breaking campaign promises during their high-spending agenda in many other areas.
Earlier, I spoke of my fears that the rights of doctors to operate according to their own conscience and religious convictions may be supplanted with this new right that the Supreme Court has granted.
I have seen arguments from people who say that doctors should have no right to deny such treatment, especially if they are working in isolated areas. To those people, I would say that we all have constitutionally protected rights, and one of those rights is that of the individual to practise their religion unhindered by the government. Each major religion in Canada disapproves of suicide in one way or another. Many of our doctors subscribe to and conduct themselves according to these religious beliefs. We cannot allow the rights of assisted suicide to replace the rights to practise one's religion or to follow one's conscience.
I want to add that I have had a number of religious nursing homes in my riding, Grimsby, Vineland, United Mennonite, saying “What happens if the doctors refuse? Does it now fall on us, as an institution, to try to carry out their wills?”
These are some of the things that I think need further discussion.
We, as parliamentarians, must ensure that the proper safeguards are in place to prevent exploitation of the system. That is why I join with my colleagues on this side of the aisle in cautioning against moving too fast and too far on this issue.
Our goal, first and foremost, should not be to extend assisted suicide to patients, but to protect patients from it. By this, I mean a strong regulatory regime is required, one that would ensure that only those with incurable diseases and unconscionable suffering are granted access to this treatment.
We cannot make this a common form of treatment. It must be the absolute last resort.
This is by far the number one reason that my constituents have written to my office in recent days. I tell them what I am saying right now.
We cannot allow this system to become the norm. We must ensure that the first priority of this legislation is to protect human life. We cannot allow minors, whether mature or not, access to a system that ensures they have no future. We need to partner with the provinces and tackle mental illness rather than making suicide a more valid alternative. We also need to further the partnership to support palliative care.
I know that I am very fortunate. In Grimsby, we have the McNally House Hospice, which is well sponsored and well looked after in the community. I know in the greater region of Niagara that we have a number of facilities that people support in a big way. They give access to late-in-life care to more elderly members of society, therefore reducing the risk of elder abuse. I believe that is very important, and I realize that is not what every community has in this country.
We must, above all else, treat this issue with the same care that we would expect our doctors to provide to us.
The Budget April 12th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I know the member did not intend to debate the job that Ms. Wynne has been doing in Ontario. We would need another full day on that one and on the disastrous legacy of her government.
The member's question was around the Ring of Fire and resource development. Once again, I look at programs like FedNor, FedDev, and some of the regional agencies, and they do have their place. These are important.
For development in the north, I do not think there is anything more important than getting the Ring of Fire right. It has been a lost opportunity, as far as I can see. We could do a much better job of coordinating efforts there. There is a whole bunch of assets there and resources that, quite frankly, if we could get our act together, we could do a great job at not only extracting those resources, but creating jobs for our north and for indigenous communities as well.
That was a great question. My concern is that there is more to be done in Ontario. If we could get that right, we would have a thriving economy in the north.
The Budget April 12th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, once again, this is one of the issues we have. Individuals who have more money to spend does something.
We have to understand that with a population of 35 million people, and I know the member across the way understands this, for us to increase our GDP, we need to sell goods outside the country.
One of the greatest challenges we have is free trade deals. I did not actually mention TPP. We have heard mixed signals from the government on where it stands, and the compensation it will provide agriculture groups, which we negotiated.
One of the most important ways we increase the GDP in our country is by ensuring we have places for our businesses to sell goods. There is certainly a benefit to selling goods locally, and we need that to happen. However, for businesses to really grow, we need to sell those goods outside our country.
With an almost $2 trillion economy, we know 35 million people are not actually driving that as much as businesses and exports. This is one of the things I believe will help improve the standard of living for all Canadians and will create more jobs in the future.
The Budget April 12th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, since this is my first chance in the House to actually spend more than 60 seconds asking questions or doing S. O. 31s, I want to take the opportunity to thank my constituents for the opportunity to represent them again in Niagara West for the fifth straight time. I certainly want to thank all the volunteers who helped out and those who created donations, because we realize campaigns do not work unless we have the finances to make them happen.
I also want to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the member for Cariboo—Prince George.
My perspective in talking about the budget today will be around small business and confidence, as well as some other things.
I have a concern when I look at creating jobs. I realize that governments do not actually create jobs, but they create a set of circumstances that create a climate that gives businesses confidence to invest in the country.
In looking at some of the things that our government did in the last nine years, I will use the acronym TIRE to put in perspective all the things we did to try to give the economy confidence and give Canada a great reputation on the world stage as a place to invest. That has been borne out by a number of articles. As a matter of fact, in January, Forbes rated Canada as the number one country in the G20 to do business in.
Let us think about that. Considering what went on over the last number of years and the great economic meltdown around the world in 2008, Forbes Magazine is saying In 2016 that Canada is number one in the G20 as a place to do business. That is because of all the hard work our government did over the last 10 years.
Here is why I use the acronym TIRE.
The “T” in TIRE is because we reduced corporate taxes. One of the things I will talk about is not dealing with the small business tax reduction, which I think is important. There were also the trade deals that we fostered with over 51 countries, including the TPP, which is the most recent one. We can look at how we lowered taxes for corporations, which made us one of the lowest-taxing jurisdictions in the G7. When global companies are deciding where they are going to invest money, they take a lot of things into consideration, and that is certainly one of them.
The “I” in TIRE is with regard to infrastructure, investments, and immigration reforms. We did a number of things around infrastructure. The new government is committed to infrastructure as well, which I think is great, because these are important things, but our previous government had unprecedented investments in infrastructure around this country and certainly in my region of Niagara as well. We were able to accomplish a number of things over a short period of time that have made Niagara a much better place to be. Not only were there a number of infrastructure projects there, but work was also done at the border, which enhanced transportation and a number of different things.
The “R” in TIRE is for research and development and red tape reduction. I had the opportunity to sit on a red tape reduction round table, and one of the things we heard was that red tape continues to be an issue for businesses in terms of their confidence when they have to deal with a bunch of red tape issues in one country versus another. It is an important issue. It is something that I hope the new government will continue to pursue, because, quite frankly, we can look at red tape once and have a commission to deal with it, but one of the laws of government or bureaucracy is that red tape will always continue to creep back in. We need to be diligent on this issue, and the current government needs to be committed to pursuing it.
Last, the “E” in TIRE is for entrepreneurship and the economy. As I mentioned previously, Forbes said that the best place to invest within the G20 is Canada, and I think we need to focus on entrepreneurship and small business. One of my concerns is reflected in some of the commitments made earlier by the current government, which is that business needs to have the confidence to know that if they invest money and move forward with something, the rules are not going to change and they can count on the rules of engagement as they move forward. One of the things we need to continue to do in this country is nurture small business and entrepreneurs.
One of the things our previous government did was to set aside $400 million for a venture capital fund, which is a good start, but I do not think it goes nearly far enough to address one of the most serious issues that small business has in this country, which is access to capital.
One of the reasons why we have hotspots in the U.S., whether it is Boston or Silicon Valley, is that there is a lot of money there. Yes, there is a lot of other factors. There are very smart people, but we have very smart people Canada. Access to capital continues to be one of the things that we will need to change in our country if we are to be more effective and have a chance to attract the businesses. Businesses need grow.
What sometimes happens is we get a great idea, we move forward and then we lack the ability to raise additional funds, so businesses invariably go next door because there is a lot of cash and big private markets and equity markets down there. These are some of the things we need to do to move forward.
In light of that, one of the promises the Liberals made, and they campaigned on it before the election, was that they would continue to lower the small business tax. This is one of the underlying factors in confidence, where small businesses could decide, or SMEs in general, how they invest and how they grow. If things do not line up that make it easier for them to do these things, then they will either sit on their funds or they will have a lot of other opportunities.
A number of manufacturers in my riding said that they could not believe the offers they were getting from the southern U.S. to move there. We are not just talking about taxes, but other things like energy costs, which are crazy. I realize that is a provincial issue, but all governments need to be concerned about this. It troubles me when I hear manufacturers in my riding say that the only reason they are here is because they are committed to the community, that they have roots there because they grew up there. It is great for the individuals who do that, but we are competing in a global economy for dollars, for talent and all these other things that go into it.
The Liberals promised to reduce small business taxes to 9%. Now they have said that they will not do that, and that concerns me. Once again that undermines the confidence of small businesses to make a difference in moving forward.
Another challenge was challenge dealing with the whole issue of EI. It is great that we look out for the most vulnerable, but we need to be careful over time. Businesses have to pay those premiums.
We have talked about CPP expansion. On the surface, that is a great idea. The challenge, though, is there is only one taxpayer, and that is individuals and businesses. They have to bear the brunt of that.
The challenge I have from that point of view is that we continue to place more burdens on small businesses. We continue to not look at all the other things that affect what is going on. Then what happens? There is a lack of confidence and businesses may decide not to invest additional money here. They may decide to move to other countries such as the United States. That is troubling because the previous government worked very hard over the last nine years to instill that confidence.
As we saw in various articles written about our country over the last number of years, whether it was Forbes or Fortune, all indicated that Canada was on the right track.
I also want to talk a bit about the comments of the parliamentary budget officer in trying to determine the budget. It is interesting that the opposition gave us a hard time when we were in government. It talked about how we did not listen to the PBO, that we were not open, transparent, and all those things. Now the parliamentary budget officer is saying that there is no openness or transparency. Once again, whether it is changing or playing down forecasts of long-term spending plans, how can the public understand what is really going on? The Liberals campaigned on the ability to be open and transparent.
Unfortunately, 10 minutes is not nearly enough time to talk about all the issues that one would talk about in the budget. However, Canada is facing a number of issues right now, whether it is dealing with pipelines and our resource sector, or a whole bunch of other things.
As a government, the Liberals have to create confidence for businesses. My concern is with the number of broken promises already. No one forced the Liberals to campaign on those promises and now they are reneging on some of them. Ultimately, that creates instability among SME's and businesses in general and causes them to question whether the Liberals will keep their word, As a result, those funds can actually flow to other places. Businesses, as we know, are the ones that create jobs.