House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was citizenship.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Calgary Northeast (Alberta)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Safer Witnesses Act May 30th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, as recommended in the Air India report, the concerns over objectivity of entrance into the program has been addressed by changing the reporting structure of the witness protection program internally within the RCMP to increase its objectivity and independence.

These changes separate investigations and decisions on admission for the running of the program.

Safer Witnesses Act May 30th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to add my voice in support of Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act. As we have heard from my hon. colleagues, the bill would make important amendments to the witness protection program, which first came into effect in 1996. Before that time, Canada offered witness protection services to those who could provide critical information during a police investigation and court proceedings. However, it was practised on an informal basis. The 1996 act introduced more formality into the process.

As with many laws that have been on the books for a while, the original act is now in need of amendments to reflect our changing environment and to strengthen the protection provided to witnesses, as well as to those who protect them.

As we have heard in the House and at committee, the proposed legislation contains recommendations that have come from a few sources. They include the 2008 report by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, the 2010 Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182, and stakeholder consultations with the federal departments and agencies, the provinces and law enforcement agencies.

I would like to focus my remarks today on a couple of areas of proposed changes within the bill, which directly address the concerns we heard from our provincial stakeholders.

There are witness protection programs in five provinces, namely Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. The federal program differs from the provincial ones in some areas. Typically, the provincial programs are aimed at victims of violence who need support before and during a trial, which could include accompanying the witness to trial, temporary relocation or limited financial support. They have their own administrative criteria and are designed to meet the needs of their own law enforcement agencies.

The decision whether to refer a witness for possible admission into the federal program or provincial program rests with the individual police forces dealing with criminal investigations. They make their decisions on a case by case basis, depending on cost, threat level and the length of time the protection is needed. For complex federal cases, provinces may choose to refer their witnesses for consideration of admission into the federal program.

One of the loudest calls we have had from our provincial counterparts is the need to streamline the current process for obtaining secure identity changes for their protectees. The concern among the provinces is that the RCMP can currently only assist federal protectees for the purpose of obtaining the federal documents required for secure identity changes. What this means is that the provinces must temporarily admit their protectees into the federal witness protection program to allow the RCMP to assist in this process.

Many of our provincial stakeholders have asked that we change the current system, which they have told us can result in time consuming paperwork and delays. We agree. When we are talking about protecting individuals from potentially life-threatening risks, we cannot afford delays in processing their secure identity changes. We also agree that improving federal and provincial collaboration will help us move ahead with a more seamless witness protection service across the board.

As such, under Bill C-51, we propose to streamline this process through a new framework that will allow for provincial programs to be officially designated as witness protection programs. The designation process will work as follows.

First, a provincial authority responsible for the program, such as the attorney general, would make a request to the Minister of Public Safety who, once satisfied that the program has the capacity to protect its witnesses and its information, may recommend to the Governor-in-Council to designate the program. Once the program has been designated, the provincial official will be able to send a request to the RCMP for assistance in obtaining the federal documents required for a secure identity change for a provincial witness without having to first admit the witness into the federal program. Designation would only need to occur once.

I would note that we have also heard calls to remove the RCMP from the process completely so the provinces can request the secure identity documents directly from the federal departments. However, we believe it is more prudent and safer to keep the RCMP as the single point of contact for all document requests of this nature. There are many benefits to keeping the RCMP as a single point of contact. It helps ensure efficiency and enhances the security of the information and the safety of all those involved in the process. For these reasons, Bill C-51 would retain the RCMP as a liaison between the provincial and federal programs for the process of secured identity change.

A second area of change that directly addresses concerns of many of our provincial stakeholders relates to expanding the prohibitions of this program. As it currently stands, the Witness Protection Program Act only protects information about federal protectees. This is a legitimate concern raised by our provincial stakeholders and one which we have addressed in Bill C-51.

Under the proposed changes, the prohibitions of disclosure would be extended to include information about the witnesses, their designated witness protection program, as well as those who provide protection to these witnesses. This prohibition will apply across Canada. I should note these measures have been strongly supported by organizations that represent front-line police officers.

In addition, exceptions to the prohibitions of disclosure would also be clarified, allowing authorities at both the federal and provincial levels to fulfill their mandates, while still being mindful of the need to ensure the safety of protected persons.

At the federal level, this authority is the RCMP commissioner, while at the provincial level it is the official in charge of the designated program. For example, federal agencies will be able to share information about those protected persons who are also offenders being considered for release. At both levels, authorities would have the power to disclose information about protected persons if it was essential for the administration of justice, including if a serious offence were about to be committed.

It is clear that the Witness Protection Program Act is in need of amendments on a number of fronts. Bill C-51 is practical and comprehensive legislation that would do just that.

The provincial programs are a vital part of our network of witness protection in Canada and we are pleased that this bill has received positive response from the attorney generals of Saskatchewan and B.C. as well as the Canadian Police Association.

I am also pleased to hear today in the House that for a change the opposition parties have openly said that they will support the bill.

This legislation sends a clear signal that we are on the right track. I therefore encourage all hon. members to continue their support of the good measures this government brings from time to time.

Safer Witnesses Act May 30th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I will ask a direct question to my colleague, which is whether he and his party will support the bill or not.

Committees of the House May 21st, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I guess I have to repeat my answer because the hon. member seems to have missed the point. This program was introduced in Canada's action plan 2013. Consultation is going on and stakeholders are taking note of it. I can assure the member opposite that the stakeholders I have been consulting with are encouraged to see this kind of program and they do appreciate it.

Committees of the House May 21st, 2013

Mr. Speaker, too many jobs go unfilled in Canada because employers cannot find workers with the right skills. As I mentioned, there are always good results when it is a partnership and also when all stakeholders are involved. It is important to work with employers with a vested interest in keeping their employees for the long term and having their skills updated. It is important for all stakeholders to get involved and invest in the skills they require.

Committees of the House May 21st, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I honestly love this question. I do not know where the member lives, but I can tell her one thing: this program is introduced in the budget. I myself have already started consultations.

I will quote what I heard from the United Way president and CEO, Dr. Lucy Miller, and its vice-president and chief operating officer, Heather MacDonald. They said that the government's focus on skills training is in line with the United Way's project called All In. At Bishop McNally High School they started to invite high school dropouts back to school and were encouraging students in higher learning such as skilled trades and colleges.

I would encourage the member opposite to start consulting her constituents.

Committees of the House May 21st, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in favour of the motion and the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities entitled “Labour and Skills Shortages in Canada: Addressing Current and Future Challenges”.

The report acknowledges that the issue of labour and skills shortages is very complex and requires coordinated action on a number of fronts.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight what the Government of Canada is doing to close the skills gap. I would also like to address some of the opportunities our partners in the private sector have to be part of the solution.

Now is a critical time for Canada's economic recovery. While markets are fragile because of global uncertainty, Canada is still on the path toward economic growth and prosperity, but this growth can only be sustained if we have a skilled and knowledgeable workforce, which means that our workers must be equipped with the basic skills required to drive the economy. These skills are building blocks recognized in our government's budget, economic action plan 2013.

The economic action plan proposes new measures to connect Canadians with available jobs and to provide them with the skills and training they need to strive in today's economy. These measures include introducing the new Canada job grant, creating more opportunities for apprentices and providing employment support to underrepresented groups, such as people with disabilities, youth, aboriginal people and newcomers.

While significant money is spent on training, it is clear we can do better. There are still too many unemployed Canadians looking for jobs and too many businesses looking for workers.

I would like to focus on the Canada job grant, which seeks to connect Canadians looking to increase their skills with job creators who need skilled workers.

Mr. Speaker, I forgot to mention that I will be splitting my time with my colleague.

For example, a small dental practice in London, Ontario, might be seeking a new dental assistant. The current receptionist is interested in the position but is not qualified. The dentist is keen to retain this worker in her practice and contributes $2,500 toward a $7,500 Canada job grant. That also results in equal contributions of $2,500 from the federal and provincial governments to allow the receptionist to complete the dental assistant course at the local community college. The original receptionist works with the dentist to hire and train a new receptionist. Now working as a new dental assistant, the employee's wage has increased 25%. That dentist has managed to retain a committed and loyal employee and also has the additional flexibility to manage periodic employee absences by having an employee trained in several areas of the practice.

As members can see from the example, for the first time the Canada job grant is taking skills training choices out of the hands of the government and putting them where they belong: in the hands of job creators and Canadians looking for work.

Given the magnitude of the problem, we must ask all players, including employers and post-secondary institutions, to step up to the plate to address this very serious issue. This is especially true for Canadian companies that want their businesses to grow.

According to a survey conducted by the Conference Board of Canada, the average amount companies spent for employees on training and development in 2011 was $747. Companies allocated 1.5% of their payroll budget to training, down from 2% in the 1990s. As well, 51% of organizations plan to cut spending on training, and 33% of Canadian employees said they wanted to further their skills but did not.

Now that the recovery is starting to get a foothold, we believe companies should invest more aggressively in their employees' skills and in their future.

What we are saying is that our future balance sheets could be much better if we invested in the skills needed to propel our economy, and this is the central point in the report: that a concerted effort is required by everyone to tackle this important issue.

Ensuring that Canadians have the skills required for the jobs of today and tomorrow is critical to achieving our top priorities of job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians. A shortage of workers with the right skills can mean forgone business opportunities for Canadian enterprises, lost productivity for Canada, and lower living standards and fewer employment opportunities for Canadians.

Let me quote a few experts on the skills shortage facing Canadians.

In August 2012, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said that a shortage of skilled labour is the main operating challenge facing business owners in Newfoundland.

Susan Holt, the New Brunswick Business Council CEO, said on February 24, 2012:

There are more shortages in the higher-skilled positions but we still have 30 per cent of respondents highlighting challenges in filling low-skilled positions.

Perrin Beatty, the president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said on February 8, 2012:

...what I'm hearing from businesses is they cannot get their hands on the people they need to allow them to expand and be more competitive.

As committee members heard as they travelled to all regions in Canada, the skills gap is real and it is holding back our economy from fully developing. We want to ensure every Canadian can find a place in the job market, because Canadian employers need every last one of them.

Highlighting youth, economic action plan 2013 proposes several strategic investments to help them at different stages of their education and careers.

For example, to make maximum use of education and talent of recent graduates, we will invest through the career focus program to support 5,000 more paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates and we will also improve labour market information for young people considering careers in high-demand fields such as the skilled trades, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

These youth-focused initiatives are accompanied by supports for persons with disabilities, aboriginal people and newcomers that will help meet the employment needs of Canadian businesses and improve individuals' job prospects.

With initiatives such as the Canada job grant, we are addressing the real needs of workers and employers.

By working collaboratively, employers, industry, educational institutions and governments can ensure that our workforce can keep Canada competitive and prosperous for the long term.

This is why we are pleased to provide our support to concur in this report.

Privilege May 9th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I feel I need to address the question of privilege raised by my hon. colleague opposite regarding my private member's Bill C-425, which amends the Citizenship Act. From the time I tabled my bill, I have been clear in saying that I am open to friendly amendments that are in line with the aims and intent of my legislation, which is to create more pathways to integration, reward those who put their lives on the line for Canada and underscore the immense value of Canadian citizenship.

The second part of my bill revokes citizenship from a person who demonstrates deep disloyalty to Canada and Canadian values. My colleagues opposite want the House to believe that amending my bill to articulate acts of terrorism is not in line with the original intent of my bill. I can tell the House, as the author of the bill, that strengthening it to include acts of terrorism in addition to treason is well within my stated aims and intentions.

I also want to remind my colleagues opposite that as feared, the threat of terrorism has become very real to Canadians in recent days and months. I believe we, as members of Parliament and members of the committees of this House, have an obligation to take these threats seriously and need to be able to deal efficiently and effectively with the issues that touch the lives of Canadian citizens in a timely manner.

The members opposite perhaps forgot that a national poll conducted on this matter showed that over 80% Canadians agreed that the citizenship should be revoked of those who commit acts of terrorism. I hope my colleagues opposite are not using delay tactics to thwart the will of Canadians, but from this side of the House I am afraid that it looks as though they are. Perhaps they should be clear about their intentions. Do they oppose stripping citizenship from convicted terrorists? If they do, they need to come clean and say so.

Adding serious convicted terrorists to my bill wholly conforms to the spirit and intent of my legislation. I have been talking about stripping the citizenship of those who act against our Canadian values and commit violent acts of disloyalty. Being a terrorist is absolutely against our Canadian values and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

I would hope the opposition members would appreciate an extra three hours to debate my bill and make their case. Perhaps they could use the extra time to clarify their position. Do they support removing citizenship from convicted terrorists or not? Canadians need to see their Parliament able to act and act quickly in the interests of safety and security of its people.

I urge opposition members to stop playing politics with this issue as it can have dire consequences. Or they should tell Canadians why we need to keep convicted terrorists in Canada. The House should be allowed to have a debate regarding the scope of my bill, especially in the light of recent, timely events that have put homegrown terrorism front and centre in the minds of Canadians and have put Canada's reputation at stake at the international level.

Committees of the House May 9th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on International Trade entitled, “Report on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement Between Canada and India”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to that report.

Tourism February 28th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism is leading a Canadian delegation in India. India is a very important emerging market for our tourism sector. Being born, raised and educated in India, I have a good story to tell.

Last year a record-breaking number of Indian travellers visited Canada. Indian travellers are now among our top 10 international travellers to visit Canada.

Our Conservative government is working with industry to capitalize on this growth. Because of the significant improvements made to the visa application process, thanks to the Minister of Immigration, we are now in a position to welcome even more Indian travellers this year.

This is not only strengthening our relationship with our Indian friends; it is also creating jobs and growth in Canada.