House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was particular.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Liberal MP for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 57% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Members not seeking re-election to the 42nd Parliament June 9th, 2015

Mr. Chair, thank you for hosting us on a very special evening on this just another day at the office, but what an office to be able to come to each and every day.

I want to take some time to reintroduce you, Mr. Chair and colleagues, to my riding, the place that I have served in the House for some 19 years, every since March 25, 1996, following a byelection. Five other of my colleagues were elected that day and we have been very best of friends ever since.

Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte is a treasure place. It is a place that I am so deeply proud to represent, mostly because it is my home. Before I reflect on my riding and all of its incredible people, its scenery and its heart, I also want to reflect on where I started in this place, because where I started is where I will finish.

My first days as a member of Parliament as I walked these hallowed halls were indeed very bittersweet. I started fairly early in a political career. I was the former executive assistant to a federal cabinet minister and went on to become an acting chief of staff to a premier. Then there was a byelection called for March 25, 1996 in Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte. Politics was very much in my blood. I thought about running. I asked many people. I asked the most important person in my life at that time, an important person who is still deeply and dearly in my life today, my dad. I asked him if I should run. He looked at me and said “You can do whatever you want. Just know I'll be with you”. I did run. I ran for the nomination and I won. Then I ran in the byelection and I won as well. That was seven or eight elections ago.

It has been an incredible journey, one that has been filled with ups and downs. My first days walking in these halls were indeed bittersweet because my dad, who was my best campaigner, had cancer, but I did not know it and he did not know it. We walked the campaign trail together, successfully winning in March. My greatest joy would be to spend part of my career walking with him in Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, my riding. He was here, just up above me, as I was sworn in. He passed away on July 27 at 7 p.m., just three short months later.

I would do anything; I would surrender all if I could spend one more day with him. However, if I were to ask him if he could share another day with me, he would tell me “You have to share the next day with the people that are most important to you”.

That became my fundamental philosophy, to understand who I am and who I represent and who is most dear to me. With my dad no longer by my side but always in my heart, I kept his values and I stayed as the member of Parliament seeking reconfirmation of election in 1997, in 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011. Finally, after 19 years of serving in this place, I said that maybe a change is due.

Nineteen years of living out of a suitcase is not easy. Nineteen years of representing the people of Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte has been a pleasure. As now with my own family, I knew that a time would come that a change was necessary, and I hope to offer in a different place for a very beautiful place, called Corner Brook, in the near future.

My reflections tonight are on Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte and the people whom I owe so much to. I want to very dearly and sincerely thank Lisa Snow, who came to my office in a moment of chaos and turned it into order, Bonita Costello, who grew and became my executive assistant, Jerome Ward, my principal adviser on all fisheries matters, the very creative Jeanette Mulrooney-French, and Susie Bugden, who helped keep order in the office.

I had tremendous opportunity in my 19 years here. I served as parliamentary secretary to several ministers, and I also served in the federal cabinet of Jean Chrétien as ACOA minister. I will never ever forget those days. As heady as they were, they were filled with great satisfaction and joy. I want to thank Debbie Vickers, Corey Hobbs, Ralph Meachon, Olivia Letemplier, Denise Allain, and several others who helped me in that job.

It goes without saying that we are temporary custodians in this place, but this place does leave an indelible mark upon us. It also has moments of great joy, but also moments of great strain on our families, as we all know. There are two very essential and important people I want to take a special moment to thank.

My wife, Denise Gibbons, is probably one of the sharpest political advisers I could ever have from the sense that she knows how to run a family and she also knows how to run me. She knows exactly what needs to be done.

I come from a very political family, and I guess it was only natural that Denise and I would become a part of each other's lives. My father ran for the NDP in 1958 and 1962. He was a great advocate of natural social justice. He was a great campaigner and supporter of mine. My father-in-law was the president of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador for several years.

When Denise and I were engaged to be married, we went to Monsignor Murphy, and in his dry Irish Catholic wit, noting my father's political allegiance and my father-in-law's political allegiance, he looked at the two of us and said, “I will consent to perform the sanctity of marriage, but we will all here today have to agree that this is very much a mixed marriage.”

That mixed marriage was a partnership that has served me so well. It produced for us a son, Gerry, who I love and adore more than anything. He has become my new rock and one of the reasons that, as much as I love this place, I must leave it. It is time for me to go home.

I want to continue to serve. I want to continue to serve the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, maybe now in a new role, if they will have me, as the MHA for Corner Brook district. Those days will come. Those days will be decided, but they will indeed come, as they always do. What shall be, shall pass.

There are many of us here who have regrets, and understandably so. This is not an easy life. I can honestly look in the mirror and into the eyes of the ones I love and say that I have no regrets because of those who I love. They have stood by me each and every step of the way. Without them I would be nothing. I wish I could be with my father. I cannot. Another day. I have my mom, and she is a great rock of support. She now needs my care a little more. I have my family.

This has been a great family while away for 19 years, but today is the day to say thank you and goodbye. I hope to see everyone again. I hope we can continue to work with each other in other capacities, in other roles. There is a lot of building to do in my province. There is a lot of building to do in Canada. If we continue on with the sense that we are all in this together one way or another, we all are a family, then I think we will all be better off.

Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte is a very special place, and if I could give one explanation of why people would see that to be true, there are sixteen UNESCO world heritage sites in Canada and two of them are in my riding of Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte. It is a reflection of the great natural and human history of the place, but it is also a reflection of the fact that it is where Canada first began, in many respects. It is one of the oldest places settled in all of Canada.

It has been a pleasure to be here. I want to thank my colleagues on the Conservative side, my colleagues in the NDP, and in particular my own colleagues here in the Liberal Party of Canada.

I have had great leadership and I look forward to great leadership from this place coming forward and making Canada a much better place. If I could have played a small role in that over my career as it was, that makes me proud. However, mostly, I am proud about being a friend to each and every member.

God bless. Best of luck to us all and I hope to see everyone soon.

Questions on the Order Paper June 8th, 2015

With regard to Marine Atlantic Incorporated: (a) what were the marketing, advertising and promotional expenditures of the company respectively for each fiscal year from 2008-2009 to 2014-2015, broken down by the cost of (i) in-house work effort for creation or planning, (ii) the use of outside consultants or other professional media, marketing and advertising agencies or services for the purposes of planning and creation, (iii) media buying by either an agency on behalf of Marine Atlantic Incorporated or directly by Marine Atlantic Incorporated; (b) based on the information provided in (a)(iii), what were the media buying expenditures, broken down by (i) radio, (ii) television, (iii) newspaper, (iv) magazine, (v) internet and social media, (vi) other forms print or electronic media; (c) based on the information provided in (b), what were the expenditures in each form of media, broken down by the trade or popular name of (i) the broadcast company, (ii) newspaper, (iii) magazine, (iv) internet site in which the advertisement appeared; and (d) did Marine Atlantic ever report to Parliament that promotional rates or marketing efforts were not appropriate for services such as the ones provided by Marine Atlantic Incorporated and, if so, has the view of the company changed, and, if so, why?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns June 4th, 2015

With regard to Marine Atlantic Incorporated, during fiscal years 1998 to 2007 and 2007-2008 to 2014-2015, respectively, while taking into consideration any transition to new accounting periods, and broken down by the specific route and by the specific vessel within the fleet that was involved: (a) how many times in each month of every year was a scheduled ferry crossing delayed, and how long did each delay last, due to (i) mechanical issues, (ii) weather related issues, (iii) a combination of weather and mechanical issues; (b) how many times in each month of every year was a scheduled crossing cancelled due to (i) mechanical issues, (ii) weather issues, (iii) other issues; (c) were there ever periods of time in which Transport Canada or Marine Atlantic Incorporated believed that Term 32 of the Terms of Union between Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada was not being fulfilled and, if so, what were these periods of time and what was understood to be the cause of the failure to fulfill this constitutional obligation; (d) did Transport Canada or Marine Atlantic ever receive advice from an outside consultant concerning the optimal ferry vessel size and vessel specifications for the Port aux Basques to North Sydney ferry service and, if so, of all the options that were analyzed, was there a particular hull size that was believed by the consultants to likely be the most optimal for operations on this service and, if so, (i) what was this hull size , (ii) what were there reasons given for this conclusion; and (e) what is the definition of the constitutional term “as traffic offers” in government documentation, and what are the specific service delivery standards or operational standards required for compliance with this constitutional obligation, in terms of traffic offering and the government delivering the transportation by means of the ferry service?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns June 4th, 2015

With regard to Transport Canada and Marine Atlantic Incorporated: (a) what were the costs incurred to refit each vessel to comply with Canadian safety standards or to refurbish or alter the vessels in any way before Marine Atlantic took possession of each vessel, for the (i) Motor Vessel (MV) Atlantic Vision, (ii) MV Blue Puttees, (iii) MV Highlanders; (b) what were the costs incurred to refit each vessel to comply with Canadian safety standards or to refurbish or alter the vessels in any way after Marine Atlantic took possession of each vessel in (a); (c) what were the annual lease costs paid out from 2008-09 to the present, as well as the anticipated annual lease costs for each vessel in (a); (d) what, if any, is the pre-negotiated purchase price for each vessel if they were to be purchased from their owners by Transport Canada or Marine Atlantic at the end of their current leases, for each vessel in (a); (e) what are the anticipated costs to Transport Canada or to Marine Atlantic of not renewing the vessel leases beyond the current terms and returning the vessels to their owners for each vessel in (a); and (f) based on the information in (e), what are the details of these costs?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns June 4th, 2015

With regard to Transport Canada and Marine Atlantic Incorporated, for fiscal years 1998 to 2007, and for fiscal years 2007-2008 to 2014-2015, respectively, while taking into consideration any transition to new accounting periods: (a) what was the (i) annual parliamentary appropriation supplied to Marine Atlantic Incorporated, (ii) total annual revenue collected from users, (iii) annual gross revenue; (b) what was the percentage of cost recovery from users broken down by (i) company-wide operations, (ii) the Port aux Basques to North Sydney route operations, (iii) the Argentia to North Sydney route operations; (c) based on the information provided in (b), what capital and what operational inputs are generally included in items (i) to (iii) respectively; (d) what rates have been charged to users for each type of service offered by Marine Atlantic Incorporated during this period and what was the effective net rate for each such service, broken down by any (i) additional service fees, (ii) fuel surcharges, (iii) security fees, (iv) all other incremental fees or charges that may have been applied; (e) what was the first year that a fuel surcharge was applied to any rates; and (f) has there been a year in which the previous year’s fuel surcharge was rolled into or combined with the previously established rates, and subsequently, a new fuel surcharge established over and above the new rate?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns April 20th, 2015

With regard to the Small Craft Harbours Program of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, for each fiscal year since 2006-2007, or each calendar year since 2006, as appropriate, and broken down by Department of Fisheries and Oceans administrative region and province: (a) what was the total employment related to administering the program, distinguishing (i) program officers, (ii) project support technicians, (iii) other employees, providing those employees’ job titles; (b) what was the number of client service locations; (c) what was the total expenditure to administer the program; (d) how many harbour authority seminars were held; (e) how many harbour authority representatives were provided with funding, or reimbursed, relative to their travel expenses to attend harbour authority seminars; (f) what were the total grants and contributions to harbours or harbour authorities, distinguishing those made to (i) Core Fishing Harbours, (ii) Non-Core Fishing Harbours, (iii) Recreational Harbours; and (g) what was the total of grants and contributions made to, or in respect of, each individual harbour or harbour authority?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 31st, 2015

With regard to the operation of the federal Crown Corporation Marine Atlantic Incorporated (MAI) and the policy and operational oversight provided for MAI by Transport Canada: (a) what is Transport Canada’s rationale for its decision to acquire or charter new vessels of approximately 200 metres in length to renew the MAI fleet, in light of the fact that the MAI Board of Directors had previously approved their consultant’s recommendation that vessels of 175 metres in length would be best suited to the service; (b) what were the perceived advantages of the longer vessels that outweighed the increased likelihood that their operations would be inhibited by poor weather; (c) what was Transport Canada’s rationale for establishing a four-vessel fleet for MAI, given the 2005 Report from the Minister of Transport’s Advisory Committee on Marine Atlantic Inc. that had recommended a three-vessel fleet; (d) does MAI track delays that customers experience in order to make new bookings during peak times, (i) if so, what are the details of such delays for June to September 2013, and June to September 2014, (ii) if not, why not; (e) does MAI collect data on the delay between a customer’s preferred travel date and the date for which they are actually able to make a reservation for travel, (i) if so, what are the details of such delays for June to September 2013, and June to September 2014, (ii) if not, why not; (f) during times of traffic backlog (e.g., because of excess demand, mechanical failure or poor weather) is it MAI’s policy not to take new reservations, or allow vehicles to buy passage and enter the parking lots, until the backlog is cleared and, if so, why; (g) in what ways do the new collective agreements signed between 2011 and 2013 for MAI employees allow additional operational flexibility and potential for labour cost savings to MAI, compared to the previous collective agreements; (h) what measureable benefits has MAI received as a result of the new collective agreements; (i) is the loan for the MV Leif Ericson still being paid out of the operating budget and, if so, why; (j) other than the Canadian Forces Appreciation Fare, has MAI ever introduced any other fare options to give users more choice and increase fare revenue and, if not, why not; (k) is it MAI’s current policy to give tractor-trailers loading priority over drop trailers and, if not, why not; (l) did MAI apply to Transport Canada Marine Safety in order to be able to allow more drivers of tractor-trailers onboard restricted sailings and, if not, why not; (m) has an independent ombudsman ever been appointed to receive customer complaints regarding MAI’s service and, if not, why not; (n) how has the effectiveness of MAI’s maintenance management systems and practices improved since 2009; (o) does MAI track the average time between equipment failures, (i) if so, what trends have been observed in equipment performance measures since 2009, (ii) if not, why not; (p) what objective indicators has MAI established with respect to vessel turnaround time; and (q) what trends have been observed in the indicators mentioned in (p)?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 31st, 2015

With regard to the recognition of landless bands and the recognition of Indian Status of members of such bands under the Indian Act: (a) how many landless bands have been recognized by Canada; (b) what are the recognized names of such bands; (c) by which legal instruments was each band recognized; (d) on what date was each band recognized; (e) what was the number of members of each band at the time of recognition; (f) what is the number of members for each recognized band today; (g) where were the original members of each band generally understood to have resided at the time of recognition; (h) where are the members of each recognized band generally understood to reside today; (i) for each band, did membership in the band result in a direct eligibility for enrollment with the Registrar of Indians for recognition of Status under the Indian Act; (j) what were the original eligibility criteria established for each band at the time the recognition order was proclaimed; and (k) what are the details concerning current eligibility criteria for bands to be recognized?

Request for Emergency Debate March 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 52, I would request that you rule on my request on an urgent matter regarding the ongoing delays and cancellations of the federally obligated ferry service to and from Newfoundland and Labrador. This is a growing and dire situation. It has been noted by many responsible individuals within Newfoundland and Labrador who have knowledge of the situation that there are indeed food shortages occurring in certain areas.

Marine Atlantic is a federal crown corporation that enacts a constitutional obligation on the part of Canada to operate, in accordance with the traffic offering, a freight and passenger service between North Sydney, Nova Scotia and Port-au-Basques, Newfoundland. The terms of union, which were enacted in 1949, prescribed this as a constitutional obligation. Further, that constitutional obligation exists, as stated in the terms of union, as traffic offers.

Ice conditions are one part of the question that needs to be debated and answered by the government. What exactly is causing these consistent delays and cancellations? Yes, there are ice conditions that are affecting the ferry service, but I would also note that it is the Government of Canada that operates the fleet of icebreaking services in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Given the fact that a constitutional obligation exists on the part of Canada to maintain this in accordance with the traffic offering, for the government to simply say that ice is impeding those operations, while it in fact holds the tools to continue to maintain these freight and passenger services, in accordance with the traffic offering, is not a fair statement.

I will also add to this request I raise under Standing Order 52 that it also is incumbent upon the Speaker to consider the fact that this matter of an essential service designation was raised by Canada in 2003. The Canadian Industrial Relations Board heard a case by petitioners and ruled that the constitutionally obligated Marine Atlantic ferry service was deemed an essential service and that its operation was critical to the health and safety of all Newfoundland and Labradorians.

I would point out that 90% of all perishable goods, 90% of all food items and groceries, enter the province by way of the gulf ferry service. Its failure to operate over the last several days and weeks means that those grocery items are in short supply. The fact that the Canadian government has not been able to provide adequate icebreaking services has led to a situation whereby the health and safety of Newfoundland and Labradorians is now in question.

Given the fact that a constitutional obligation exists on the part of Canada to operate this ferry service; given the fact that there has already been a quasi-judicial board ruling that states that this service is indeed an essential service and must be maintained, or health and safety will be compromised; given the fact that the Government of Canada operates and maintains the means for this service to continue to operate under all conditions, including with the provision of icebreaking services; given the fact that the Government of Canada also makes decisions with regard to the particular specifications of the ferries they employ for the operation of this service; given the fact that there has already been noted a serious health and safety concern that needs to be alleviated immediately; given the fact that there are no relative means for the House to pursue this question, as this is a complex issue for which concerns raised during question period would not necessarily be able to provide adequate answers not only for Parliament but for Canadians in general; and given the fact that a question has to be put, after an exploration of the facts, we would implore the Speaker to allow this emergency debate to occur so that the government can put forward its position on these matters and inform Parliament and all Canadians as to how exactly this evolved into this circumstance and what exactly it wants to do about it.

This is a matter of grave urgency, and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if you would provide us with an opportunity to further debate it.

Transportation February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we know that Marine Atlantic's 2015 corporate plan has not yet been approved by cabinet, but until then, the crown corporation's operating budget is very uncertain. The company has said that there is absolutely no doubt that cabinet will approve its five-year plan before the delivery of the Minister of Finance's budget, and full details of their funding will be available this spring.

Will the finance minister confirm that the five-year corporate plan will indeed be approved in this time frame, that more money will be in the budget for Marine Atlantic, and that this funding will be no less than last year's allocation?