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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was tax.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for South Shore—St. Margaret's (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 43% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada-Korea Economic Growth and Prosperity Act September 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is as real pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to the Canada-Korea free trade agreement.

Before beginning my comments, I would like to thank my colleague from Kelowna—Lake Country not just for his support for this particular agreement but also for his work on trade and on behalf of Canadian exporters during his tenure on the trade committee.

This free trade agreement is an ambitious state-of-the-art agreement covering virtually all sectors and aspects of Canadian-Korean trade, including trade in goods and services, investments, government procurement, intellectual property, labour, and environmental co-operation.

This free trade agreement, Canada's first with an Asian country, is yet more proof that our government is focused on creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians in every region of the country.

I would particularly like to focus on benefits of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement to Canada's fish and seafood industry. Surrounded by the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans and home to the Great Lakes, Canada has one of the most valuable fishing industries in the world.

In 2012 alone, the fish and seafood industry contributed more than $2.2 billion to Canada's GDP and provided some 41,000 jobs for hard-working Canadians. It is also the economic mainstay of approximately 1,500 communities in rural and coastal Canada.

Canada exports most of its fish and seafood. It is the world's seventh-largest exporter of fish and seafood products, exporting an estimated 73% by value of our fish and seafood production.

Asia is an important market for Canadian fish and seafood products, and with this dynamic market, it is rapidly growing in importance in global trade.

Canada has a proven ability to export to Asian markets, including South Korea. Between 2011 and 2013, Canada exported an average of $49 million in fish and seafood products to South Korea. However, there is still much room to grow in this vibrant Asian market, and Canada must act now.

I must say that during this debate I was able to listen to the words of the MP for Winnipeg North, although he mainly concentrated on volume and was a little light on facts. I have heard in this House that all of the parties intend to support this trade agreement and I thank the opposition parties for that.

However, let us be clear on the Liberal record on trade: in the 13 years they were in government, they signed three agreements. We have been in government for eight years and we have signed 43 agreements. There is no comparison.

Times were good when the Liberals were in government. The dollar was low and exports were high. It was not anything they did that caused that; rather, it was the free trade agreement signed by Brian Mulroney's government that caused that increase in dollars in the country. However, the danger of doing nothing in the good times was that when the recession hit in 2008-2009, we were left in a virtual trade deficit. We had to work extremely hard to find markets for our exports, and Canada is an exporting nation.

We took the risk of falling behind. We have not fallen behind. We have actually caught up; now we are moving forward again, and times are getting better.

Canadians well remember that the last time the Liberals tried to talk seriously about trade, they campaigned to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement. I was happy to see that once they got into government, they forgot their campaign promise, and Canada was actually able to move ahead on that.

Once fully implemented, the Canada-Korea free trade agreement would eliminate South Korea's tariffs on all fish and seafood products. South Korea's tariffs in this sector, which include fresh, frozen, and processed fish and seafood, run as high as 47%. With the elimination of tariffs, Canadian products would become more competitive, allowing Canadian firms to increase exports in this dynamic market. As we know, exporters from the U.S. and the EU are already benefiting from preferential access to the South Korean market.

Some of the products that would benefit from immediate tariff elimination include frozen lobster and Pacific and Atlantic salmon, whether fresh, chilled, frozen, or smoked. They currently have duties of up to 20%.

In all, 70% of fish and seafood tariff lines will be duty free within five years of the agreement's entering into force. All remaining duties in this very sensitive Korean sector will be entirely eliminated within 12 years.

The outcome for Canada's top fish and seafood export interests is on par with or better than those agreements obtained by the U.S. and EU. Compared to the U.S., for example, Canada obtained stronger results for fish and seafood for roughly half of Canada's key exports, including lobster, hagfish, and halibut. By year five, Canada will have duty-free access for more fish and seafood products than either the EU or the U.S. will have at their five-year mark under their respective FTAs with Korea.

The benefits do not end there. In addition to tariff elimination, this agreement contains robust provisions that will ensure that Canadian fish and seafood exports are not undermined by unjustified trade barriers. The chapter on sanitary and phytosanitary measures negotiated with Korea is a good example. In this chapter, Canada and Korea have agreed to build on their shared commitments under the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. The chapter fully recognizes the rights of the WTO members to take the sanitary and phytosanitary measures necessary for the protection of human, animal, or plant health, as long as they are based on science and are not used as disguised measures to unnecessarily restrict trade. Far too often we see phytosanitary measures becoming non-tariff trade barriers. The agreement we have signed with Korea should prevent that from happening. It also establishes a committee of experts who can collaborate and consult on phytosanitary issues to enhance bilateral co-operation. The committee will provide a forum in which issues can be discussed and resolved before they become major problems.

At this time, I would like to take a moment to elaborate on the benefits pertaining to lobster. Lobster is an iconic Canadian crustacean, Canada's top and most valuable export in the fish and seafood sector. It is certainly an important product in my part of the world, in southwestern Nova Scotia. The south shore, along with West Nova, are the main lobster exporters in Canada. In 2013, Atlantic Canada's exports of lobster were worth $888 million and accounted for 95% of all Canadian lobster exports. Canada's exports of lobster to South Korea were worth an average of $18.2 million annually between 2011 and 2013. Again, we accounted for nearly 37% of Canada's total seafood exports to South Korea.

Current duties of up to 20% on lobster products faced by Canadian exporters will be totally eliminated. This summer we got a taste of what increased lobster trade with South Korea will look like. Korean Air Cargo launched weekly service to South Korea from Halifax to transport an expected minimum of 40,000 kilograms of live lobster. This happened only a few months after the announcement of the conclusion of negotiations on this agreement. This is the type of opportunity that can be generated across this country from coast to coast to coast.

Given the many benefits of the agreement, the stakeholders from the fish and seafood industry have shown great support for the Canada–Korea free trade agreement.

I will quote the Lobster Council of Canada, which supports the agreement:

...it will greatly enhance our industry's competitiveness in South Korea. Tariff elimination and improved market access for lobster exports helps to ensure long-term prosperity of our industry and the thousands of people it employs in [Nova Scotia].

It is not just about Nova Scotia. We have a huge inland fishery in Canada, worth nearly half a billion dollars, in the Great Lakes, Lake Winnipeg, Great Slave Lake, and Great Bear Lake. We have a major fishery in the Arctic Ocean for arctic turbot. We have a fantastic fishery in British Columbia. We are surrounded. We have a very viable wild fishery in this country and an aquaculture industry that will now have a marketplace for its products. For B.C. halibut and arctic turbot, we are looking at a reduction in tariffs of 10%. That is a huge difference for these fishermen and plant owners.

This is a great agreement. This is a smart agreement for Canada, and it is a great agreement for fish and seafood.

Book Launch in South Shore—St. Margaret's September 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to share the recent launch of a book in my riding of South Shore—St. Margaret's, entitled Firefighters of Lunenburg County: The Greatest Volunteer Success Story.

Back in April 2013, I had the honour of announcing funding of $25,000 for this project through the new horizons for seniors program. This book is certainly one of the many tangible results of what new horizons for seniors funding can achieve.

The book project steering committee and its team of volunteers were able to capture and celebrate the history of our local fire departments in Lunenburg County, paying tribute to the many men and women, both firefighters and auxiliary members, who built and continue to maintain our volunteer fire departments.

This book includes terrific photos and touching stories, and it is a very attractive and professional coffee table book.

As the member of Parliament for South Shore—St. Margaret's, I want to extend my sincere gratitude for the efforts and contributions made by our volunteer firefighters and auxiliary members, both past and present.

Privacy September 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about tax loopholes. The reality is that the offshore tax loopholes have been plugged. That hon. member voted against doing that, by the way.

There are occasions, and there have been occasions, when CRA officials in the course of their ordinary duties have uncovered evidence of drug trafficking, terrorism, child pornography and contracts for the commission of murder and have been restricted from conveying this information to law enforcement because of the privacy provisions and confidentiality provisions of the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act and the Excise Act, 2001, as I mentioned earlier.

We are not talking about opening this up like the wild west. We are talking about strict controls to ensure that the sharing of taxpayer information meets all legal requirements. The transfer of information will flow one way from CRA to law enforcement. Police forces cannot compel the CRA to seek out evidence of serious criminal activity on its behalf. Nor can they direct it, or transfer or collect the information.

This is a common sense response to a serious problem that existed because of privacy legislation. The privacy of Canadians will still be protected, and this is a responsible way to do it.

Privacy September 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member wants an answer, then she can only ask one question. She has about 15 questions there, so she would need several answers to answer them all. Her original question that started this late show was on the privacy requirements around Canada Revenue Agency.

There are occasions when government officials, in the course of their ordinary duties, may become aware of information that they think could be evidence of serious criminal activity. In such instances, most government officials are able to contact law enforcement with their findings and let the police take it from there. However, prior to June 19, the strict confidentiality provisions in the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, and the Excise Act, 2001, for the most part prohibited Canada Revenue Agency officials from communicating such evidence to law enforcement authorities.

Our government, in response to that, and as part of economic action plan 2014, amended the relevant legislation to allow the CRA to disclose some taxpayer information to law enforcement agencies in very specific, relevant circumstances if the information was related to serious criminal activity. This change reflects a 2010 recommendation from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD. It permits the CRA to provide taxpayer information to an appropriate police organization when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the information could provide evidence of specific serious offences such as drug trafficking, terrorism, child pornography, and contracts for the commission of murder. Those are all serious crimes that all Canadians would agree are reprehensible and should be shared with law enforcement.

There seems to be some confusion among members of the opposition about the intentions and goals of the changes to Bill C-31. Our government takes the protection of Canadian taxpayers' information extremely seriously. We appreciate the confidence and the trust that individuals and businesses place in CRA as a cornerstone of Canada's voluntary tax system. However, we also believe that not being able to report evidence of a possible serious criminal offence is at odds with the value Canadians place on the principles of justice, fairness and support for the victims of crime.

Let me be clear. If a CRA employee detects evidence of serious criminal activity in the normal course of his or her duties, relevant information may only be shared with police if authorized by legislation. The law is very specific about the narrow set of circumstances that would allow such information to be shared. CRA officials take their responsibilities to apply due diligence to such a sensitive matter extremely seriously, and I have full confidence they will carry out this responsibility with the highest level of professionalism and discernment.

Quite frankly, I find it extraordinary that the member opposite would not favour such common-sense reforms to protect the public. Is she advocating that in the course of his or her duties, a CRA auditor who uncovers evidence of a commission of a criminal offence of drug trafficking, child pornography or a commission to commit murder, because of the legislation as it exists, that person should not be able to share that with relevant police organizations? That is what she is suggesting.

Business of Supply September 23rd, 2014

For two hundred bucks.

Business of Supply September 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, it is not about one party working with another party. It is about whether something is correct or incorrect.

The hon. member sat there when the member for Kings—Hants talked about the support for the Liberal 1998 project. The hon. member was here at that time, as I was, and the member for Kings—Hants voted against that budget.

Speaking of selective memory, we have total selective memory on the Liberal side. The reality is that he is incorrect.

Our plan would allow for jobs to be created. The Liberal plan would be a disincentive. It would end up that they would be giving them a holiday. New hires would not affect the EI plan immediately, but eventually they would have to start paying into it.

The whole point of our Conservative strategy on EI is to make EI self-supporting. If we continue with that plan, we can continue to reduce the level of EI remittances across the country from $1.88 to $1.47 and at the same time continue to make EI self-supporting and encourage employers to hire more employees.

Business of Supply September 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that on this particular job credit, small businesses in my riding are ecstatic. This will include nearly 90% of the small businesses across Canada that pay remittances of less than $15,000 in EI payments. To a small business, $15,000 worth of EI payments is a lot of employees. Most of the time we think of small business as having 20 or 30 employees. We are talking about 300 or 400 employees, in many cases. It is a real incentive to continue to hire more.

What we have done as a government is get rid of the Liberal practice of taking the EI surplus and putting it into general revenue. We are making EI self-sustainable. This continues to allow EI to be self-sustainable, plus, it is an incentive for employers.

Business of Supply September 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, before beginning debate, I should let the House know that I intend to split my time with the member for Prince Edward—Hastings.

With this motion, my hon. colleagues are suggesting that somehow the government job credit for small businesses is nothing but an incentive to lay off employees. As I mentioned in my first question to the member for Kings—Hants, it is a little difficult for us to wrap our heads around the logic, and I suspect it is difficult even for the Liberals, that somehow any government, not just this government with a reputation of creating jobs, would take any action to reduce the number of jobs available. It is truly ludicrous.

What we are doing is exactly the opposite. The small business job credit will lower EI premiums for small businesses by 15%. Over the next two years, the premium reduction will save employers $550 million, money they can use to hire more Canadians.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates the credit will create 25,000 person-years of employment over the next two to three years. The Minister of Finance also confirmed that in 2017, EI premiums will go from the current $1.88 per $100 of earnings down to $1.47 per $100 of earnings. This means that employers will have more money to invest in things like training and increasing wages, and workers will have more money in their wallets at the end of the day.

Our government has a responsibility to create the right conditions for economic growth, and it is clearly one that we do not take lightly.

Since the economic downturn, we have had a steady increase in employment, low interest rates and the kind of economic growth that has made us the envy of other countries. We got here by implementing concrete measures to ensure Canadians have the skills they need for the jobs that are in demand. That is a big part of it. On the other side of the coin is how we are supporting employers to ensure they continue to grow their businesses and create jobs for Canadians. The small business job credit is simply the latest step in a broader plan to support job creation in our country.

Another element of our plan, as members know, is the Canada job grant, an employer-driven approach to help Canadians gain the skills and training they need to fill available jobs. So far we have finalized agreements with all of the provinces and territories, and six of them are already accepting applications from employers with a plan to train people for jobs. Matching employers with employees across this country will continue to create jobs across Canada. What this means is that employers can be sure they will have an employee with the skills that the job requires. It means as well that there is a real job at the end of the training.

We are also partnering with several colleges and training institutions to get more businesses directly involved in ensuring there is a better matchup between skills taught and skills wanted. That is also why we invest so much in apprenticeships. However, support for apprentices will not accomplish much if it is difficult for people to hire them. To change this, the government has provided tax credits for employers who hire eligible apprentices.

Employers can also take advantage of provisions in the EI system for supplemental unemployment benefits or SUB plans. Employers with a registered SUB plan can provide supplemental payments to EI benefits for temporary periods of unemployment due to a temporary stoppage of work, training, illness or injury. So far close to 3,000 employers across Canada have approved SUB plans, and over 887,000 workers are benefiting from these payments. The SUB plan, among other things, solves a major challenge for employers who hire apprentices. It means that employers can pay up to 95% of their apprentice's regular salary, while the apprentice is completing his or her technical training at college.

Our priority is clear. Since the depths of the global recession we have implemented a range of measures to create jobs and prosperity for all Canadians, and we are seeing the results. Canada's economy is performing well in the context of the weakened global economic recovery. We have created over 1.1 million jobs since July 2009, and over 80% of these jobs have been in full-time positions. Nearly 80% are in the private sector and 65% of those are in high-wage industries.

As I said, this job credit for small business is the latest measure in a much broader plan, a plan that includes a commitment to a national EI program that is more reflective of, and responsive to, local labour market conditions and that stimulates job creation. The job credit we announced two weeks ago intends to do just that.

However, it is increasingly clear that the Liberal leader does not have a plan for the economy. He believes that budgets balance themselves, and now he is trying to make us believe that taxing small businesses would somehow create jobs. In fact, it is the opposite. The Liberals' plan for employment insurance would cost Canadians nearly $6 billion. This would lead to a massive increase in payroll taxes, with an increase in EI premiums of nearly 50¢, and would kill thousands of jobs.

If we take a look at just one part of this plan, the 45-day work year, its cost alone would be over $4 billion. Other parts of their plan are equally thoughtless, including $3 million to provide EI for prisoners. They would compensate perpetrators of crime.

It is abundantly clear that we do not need the measure that our Liberal colleagues are proposing today. Therefore, I urge all members not to support the motion. This applies particularly to the members of the NDP, who I am sure do not need to be reminded of their record of being the least democratic party in the House, without a single dissenting vote against the party line since becoming the official opposition.

In closing, I know my colleague from Prince Edward—Hastings has more to add to this speech. What we have here is flawed Liberal logic backed up by flawed NDP logic. Really, the facts speak for themselves. This is a good incentive. It would create jobs across this country. This is legislation we need. We do not need the naysayers.

Business of Supply September 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the comments of the member for Kings—Hants with respect to EI premiums. I could not follow his logic and I could not remember the same voting record either.

In 1997 and 1998, that member and I sat in the same party and voted against the Liberal budget that had those changes to the EI account, yet his memory has been very selective.

I would like to quote the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which dismissed the ridiculous claim that somehow employers would lay off employees. It stated:

Some have suggested companies will lay off staff or hold off hiring just to stay under the threshold to receive the credit. I’ve got news for them, a small business owner doesn’t have time to research the eligibility requirements and then carefully manage their payroll to receive a few hundred dollars over two years.

Any statement based on any kind of information that we have out there will tell us that employers have embraced the small business hiring credit. It will generate more jobs in Canada, not fewer, and I still do not understand the member's logic.

Canada Revenue Agency September 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, that question is just nonsense. I will go back to my first answer.

First of all, let us be clear. One thing that the NDP hates are the facts, so let me be clear. The CRA is not reducing the number of auditors, nor the number of tax evasion and tax avoidance experts. As a matter of fact, our audit team has been increased by 750 individuals.

The NDP may not like numbers, but the numbers do not lie.