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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is colleague.

Conservative MP for Kitchener—Conestoga (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 43% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Armenia April 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as vice-chair of the Canada–Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group to remember the Armenian genocide of 1915. As we reflect on this tragedy of human history, we are reminded of the importance of protecting and promoting freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, values that we as Canadians value dearly. This first genocide of the 20th century was recognized by our Senate in 2002, by our Parliament in 2004, and by our Conservative government in 2006.

The Armenian-Canadian community has contributed positively in many ways to Canada's culture, economy, and spiritual life. The acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide should motivate each of us to do everything in our power to ensure that such a terrible tragedy never happens again and to build bridges of mutual respect.

As the Armenian community celebrates Easter, I extend to its members and to all Canadians my wishes for a happy Easter, in the words of one of their esteemed leaders, in the name of our risen and victorious Lord.

Ottawa River Watershed April 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise today to speak to Motion No. 104, brought to this House by the member for Ottawa South. As a former chair of the environment committee, and having lived in a primarily rural area of Ontario all my life, this topic is of special interest to me. It is critically important that we do all we can to protect our water, our land, and our air.

While today we are discussing an amendment made to this draft motion, an amendment that was made by the Liberals themselves, I will first read the original motion. Motion No. 104 reads as follows:

That the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development be instructed to undertake a detailed study with regard to the creation of an Ottawa River Watershed Council, which would bring a comprehensive, inclusive, co-management approach to the Ottawa River Watershed, in order to foster ecological integrity, sustainable economic opportunities, and quality of life; in its study, the Committee shall examine (i) the council membership, which would include, but would not be limited to, federal, provincial, regional, and municipal governments, First Nations, industry groups, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions, (ii) important indicators such as water quality, biodiversity, and shoreline integrity, in order to assist with the creation of a co-management plan and conservation strategy, (iii) the economic, cultural, heritage, and natural values within the Ottawa River Watershed; and that the Committee report its findings and recommendations to the House no later than December 2017.

The amendments that have been made to the motion are:

(a) replacing the words “the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development be instructed to” with the word “, in the opinion of the House, the government should”; (b) replacing the words “the Committee shall” with the words “the government should”; [and] (c) deleting all the words after the words “within the Ottawa River Watershed;”.

It is clear that the Liberals tabled this amendment to the motion because they did not support their member for Ottawa South in his original motion, as it was simply pandering to local stakeholders who are seeking an audience on a federal committee. Therefore, the purpose of this motion is now redundant and is a simple exercise to make sure that the member does not lose face within his own party; hence, the referral to the government for examination. This matter no longer requires valuable parliamentary time, as the member could simply have asked the responsible minister to evaluate whether her officials believe it would be worth establishing an Ottawa River watershed council similar to the Fraser Basin Council the member used as an example in his speech.

The Ottawa River received heritage status on July 15, 2016. This was granted by the environment minister, the member for Ottawa Centre. The Ottawa River, from Lake Timiskaming to East Hawkesbury, which is about 590 kilometres in length, now joins the Rideau Canal as Ottawa's second river to be classified under Canada's national river conservation program.

It is important to note that the Quebec side of the river is not subject to the heritage classification, as the Quebec government has repeatedly refused handing over control of this waterway to the federal government. In fact, the Quebec provincial government of the day, represented by the then provincial minister of the environment, the current federal member of Parliament for Outremont, took the position that the provincial government was not interested in participating in the designation process, as this could result in relinquishing provincial jurisdiction to the federal government.

The current Motion No. 104 is asking to set up a management plan for the Ottawa River watershed, with no authority to act in fully two-thirds of the Ottawa River watershed. The Province of Quebec has no interest in inviting the federal government to interfere in matters of provincial jurisdiction.

On December 2, 2016, the member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre tabled the motion we are debating today, calling for the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development “to undertake a...study with regard to the creation of an Ottawa River Watershed Council, which would bring a...co-management approach to the Ottawa River Watershed”. None of Canada's other 41 designated heritage rivers has been studied by a standing committee and tasked to determine members of a council.

As I stated earlier, I was chair of the environment committee, and as chair, I was proud to hear from Mr. Joe Farwell, the chief administrative officer of the Grand River Conservation Authority, in my riding. The Grand River, which runs through my riding, became the first river in a working landscape to be designated a Canadian heritage river, in 1994. There was no parliamentary committee created to appoint members to the conservation authority. I am proud of the work the Grand River Conservation Authority has done and continues to do today.

Let me share some facts about the Grand River watershed. It is made up of four other rivers that feed into the Grand: the Conestogo, the Nith, the Speed, and Eramosa. The combined length of all of the rivers and streams is about 11,000 kilometres. The watershed crosses four climate zones, Dundalk Upland, Huron Slopes, South Slopes, and Lake Erie counties, and crosses two forest zones, the Alleghanian and Carolinian.

The GRCA manages floods and keeps the rivers flowing in dry weather with a network of seven reservoirs. Eighty species at risk are found in the watershed. More than 90 species of fish are found in the river system, about half of all species in Canada. Close to 250 species of birds have been reported at Luther Marsh Wildlife Management Area. Forest cover in the watershed was as low as 5% in the early 1900s, but today forests cover about 19% of the land.

River flows, reservoir levels, weather, and water quality are all tracked in real time by a large network of gauges that feed their data to the GRCA website around the clock. Municipal water systems draw their water from wells and the river system in contrast to most major Ontario communities, which depend on the Great Lakes.

I have had the privilege to visit a number of the streams and tributaries that feed into the Grand River and to see the great work that the GRCA has done in protecting our waterways, by creating buffer zones so cattle and other wildlife cannot enter into the streams, to allow grass and trees to grow, and cooling the water so fish which were not able to survive in the hot water are now able to come upstream, surviving in much cooler water. I have seen the good work it does in wetland restoration, working in partnership with Ducks Unlimited and other partners.

Motion No. 104 asks for yet another study to join the multitude of studies that have already been done on the Ottawa River and its watershed. The motion then asks for a study to justify the expenditure of more taxpayer dollars to create a new layer of bureaucracy to interfere with the lives of people who call the Ottawa River watershed home.

It is also important to inform the House that the detailed study that this motion calls for has already recently been completed. A detailed study of the Ottawa River watershed was done in preparation for the designation of the Ottawa River as a Canadian heritage river, and that was not done in the distant past. Less than one year ago, on July 15, 2016, this river was designated. I would encourage all members interested in this motion to look at that report.

This is not the first case in the House where we have seen the Liberals make environmental decisions based on politics instead of on the environment. One of the first actions of the government was to allow the dumping of eight billion litres of raw sewage from Montreal into the St. Lawrence River. It is certainly not a good environmental decision.

As much as possible, it is ideal that while we recognize the right of the federal government to impose certain things like this, we always try to take advantage of existing mechanisms like an organization that is already in place and pass the authority and control over, as much as possible, to more local entities that can be more directly accountable and responsive. Again, the Grand River Conservation Authority comes to mind as a gold standard in this regard.

When we have motions like Motion No. 104, we are asking the House of Commons as a whole to pronounce on something that has a particular impact on a particular region. Giving authority to those closest to that region creates maximum responsiveness to the needs of that community and it also creates far better accountability.

The hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke has done a phenomenal job in standing up for her constituents who stand to be greatly affected by what seems to be needless political decisions. The hon. member has stood up for those residents, specifically those in the rural parts of her riding, who will be asked to pay for this new level of bureaucracy being proposed in this motion. It will be those who live on the land who will be required to pay. She also did a great job of addressing the point of the negative aspects that the motion would create as it related to our relationship with the first nations people.

In light of all these items, I will not be supporting the motion. I encourage all my colleagues in this place not to support it either.

The Budget April 4th, 2017

Madam Speaker, my colleague mentioned standing up for the middle class during his comments. He also referred frequently to the farming or agriculture sector.

I wonder if he has had a chance to look at page 111 of the budget in English, because it talks clearly about advancing agricultural science and innovation, and $60 million is budgeted there for agricultural science and innovation. However, the fine print shows only $4 million of that is budgeted for the coming year.

When his colleagues have all agreed to today that this is a budget for all of Canada, does my colleague really think that an investment of $4 million this year and only $9 million next year, spread across the country of Canada, will make a significant impact on the ability of our farmers to innovate and improve their operations?

I am hoping he does not, and if he is honest I think he will have to admit that this is a pretty embarrassing budget when it comes to supporting the agricultural sector.

Questions Passed as Orders for Return April 3rd, 2017

With regard to the Canada 150 program: (a) how many employees or full-time equivalents (FTEs) have been assigned to work on the Canada 150 program; (b) how many employees or FTEs have been temporarily assigned to the Canada 150 program; and (c) what is the breakdown of departments and sections where the temporarily assigned employees or FTEs worked prior to being assigned to the Canada 150 program?

Questions on the Order Paper April 3rd, 2017

With regard to VIA Rail: (a) how much are the total expenditures VIA Rail has provided to Canada 2020 since January 1, 2016; (b) what is the breakdown of each individual expenditure in (a); (c) what was the purpose of each expenditure in (a); and (d) who approved each expenditure in (a)?

The Budget April 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her remarks and also for her great representation of a rural community.

This budget does very little for rural communities. If we look at page 111, the Liberals champion a lot of the investments they are making in agriculture, but in reality, most of the investments that are promised in this budget are funded well beyond the next election cycle.

Just to give an example, there is advancing agricultural science and innovation for a total of $60 million. It sounds great until we look at the fact that only $4 million of that is budgeted for next year and $9 million is budgeted for the following year. The rest of it is all beyond the next election cycle.

I wonder if my colleague has concerns about these promises that go well beyond the election cycle but really do almost nothing for the current farmers and small businesses in our ridings.

The Budget April 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right on regarding the people who use this public transit tax credit. Very shortly after the budget was delivered, I heard from someone who uses this tax credit and it saves him up to around $150 a month. In my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga, the average person would save up to $150 a month, but in Toronto and some of the more urban areas where the cost of a transit pass is much higher, a rider would save up to $260 a month. Families would be looking at saving $500.

Again, my Liberal colleagues might not think that $500 is very much, but for the middle-class people whom I represent, $500 is a huge amount. It is a big incentive to help them with their taxes. More importantly, it increases ridership for the investment in infrastructure that we are borrowing money to build, which will be less than half full. Why would we not try to get more people using public transit?

The Budget April 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my colleague that it was the Conservative government that invested over $250 million in the light rapid transit system in the Waterloo region. We saw the advantage of that and there are many facets to why we did. First, it would help to intensify the development in the downtown area rather than having continual urban sprawl which eats up more and more agricultural land. The other thing that the government champions is trying to protect our environment. By adding people to the roads and highways of our communities, we are not protecting our environment. It is very important that we encourage more public transit riders and the way to do that is to incentivize it through tax credits. If it is not working for the lowest of the low, why not make it non-refundable rather than cancel it, when we are investing all this money in public transit? It makes no sense.

The Budget April 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.

It is my pleasure to rise to speak to the Liberal government's second budget.

One of the primary lessons we are taught in life starting at a very young age is that we are to learn from our past mistakes. This lesson is clearly lost on the Liberals. It seems that instead of learning from their mistakes, they have decided to double down on them and hedge all bets on their plan that is already clearly failing. As the voice for taxpayers from the great riding of Kitchener—Conestoga, I cannot let the Liberal government continue on with its reckless spending and failed economic plan for Canada without pointing out some of the major pitfalls and dangers ahead.

This budget, like the Liberals' first budget, has completely forgotten middle-class Canadians and those working hard to join them. They will need to work even harder now. With these past two budgets, the Liberal government has made life more expensive for Canadians while simultaneously shrinking their take-home pay. This has to stop.

The good people of Kitchener—Conestoga needed a break, and that is what they were hoping for in this last budget, but they certainly did not get one. Canadians are not looking for bigger, shinier promises that will cost millions but never produce jobs or economic growth. They are looking for common-sense solutions to our most pressing problems.

They want their paycheques to increase, which means lower payroll taxes. They want their children to grow up with good job prospects, and that means growing the economy and lowering taxes on small business. They want Canada to remain a safe country, and that means investing in our military. They want their commutes to work to be shorter so they can spend more time with their families. That means getting shovels in the ground and infrastructure projects built, not just announced over and over again.

Unfortunately, budget 2016 and budget 2017 did none of those things. This budget is proof that the Prime Minister is out of touch with the needs of working people.

Despite the Prime Minister's promise to return the budget to balance, he admitted on budget day that he has no intention whatsoever of returning our books to balance. Not only did the Prime Minister break his campaign promise to spend only $10 billion in deficit financing, but the upcoming deficit for the year ahead is $29 billion. The government, in four years, will add a whopping $100 billion to Canada's federal debt. The interest charges alone just for this year will be $24.3 billion, and that number increases every year for the foreseeable future under the Liberal government. By 2021, our interest costs alone will be $33.3 billion each and every year. Let us think about what good that $33 billion could be doing: increases to health care transfers, investments in palliative care, hospices, and home care, more money invested in infrastructure, or how about simply reducing our tax burden.

As I have already noted, this budget fails in many areas, but I will focus on three of them: Canada's infrastructure, our troops, and our farmers. The Liberal government often pats itself on the back for what it says is historic infrastructure funding. The truth is the only part of this funding that is historic is how far after the next election cycle this money is budgeted for. Very little of the funding that was promised has gone to roads and highways. We need shovels in the ground. We want people working. We want roads, bridges, and water treatment facilities built.

Ninety-four per cent of the announced infrastructure projects have not even started. This means that jobs are not being created and the economy is not being stimulated. Instead of coming up with a new plan that actually builds infrastructure and creates jobs, budget 2017 doubles down on the existing infrastructure plan and contains no new infrastructure spending beyond what was already announced in the 2016 fall economic update.

By allocating public transit funding based on ridership, the Liberal government is disadvantaging Canada's growing communities in favour of already developed large urban centres. I am thinking of the Waterloo region. Too often our medium-sized communities are left to fend for themselves. Of course, a bridge in Wellesley township will never have the traffic volume crossing it that an inner-city bridge does, but that does not mean it is not important to the growth and health of our local economy.

Municipalities need good and safe infrastructure, but they also need programs that are easy to access without miles and miles of red tape, programs that provide predictable funding and do not leave small and rural communities behind. Even if the government is bent on favouring the large urban centres and funding major public transit projects, why in the world would it take measures to decrease ridership on public transit? This makes no sense. We should be increasing the tax credit, not eliminating it.

An adult monthly pass holder in my riding would be losing out on about $150 per year, or the equivalent of almost two months' worth of bus passes. Talk about encouraging people to take transit. Getting 12 months of public transit for the cost of 10 is a fantastic incentive. I have not heard even one of my colleagues on the other side of the House defend this policy decision, but I think I know why. It is totally indefensible.

There is all this while the Liberal government has introduced its plan for a carbon tax. Let me get this straight. The Liberals are raising the price of gasoline and raising the cost of taking the bus. Do the Liberals think that all Canadians can just work from home? This makes absolutely no sense. The Conservatives will continue to hold the Liberals to account and push for open, transparent, and accountable infrastructure funding for our communities, and plans to increase ridership on public transit, not decrease it.

The budget turns its back on our men and women in uniform who stand up to defend our values and our democratic freedoms. For the second year in a row, the budget contained nothing for our men and women in uniform. Instead, the Liberals cut $8.48 billion that had been earmarked for military equipment purchases. Coupled with last year's cuts, the Department of National Defence now faces a $12-billion shortfall. National defence is clearly not a priority for the Liberal government.

In an era of reckless Liberal spending, it is appalling that the largest cuts are consistently at the expense of our Canadian Armed Forces. Recent examples include the Liberals' decision to pull our CF-18s out of the fight against ISIS, their preference for fourth generation fighter jets, their lack of increased support for our Ukrainian allies, and their failure to advance important procurement projects. All of these suggest that the current Prime Minister does not have our national defence as a high priority and expects other countries to do the heavy lifting.

While Canada's allies have committed to modernizing their military capabilities and spending 2% of their GDP on defence, the Prime Minister is being dangerously naive. Despite the clear need for investments in Canada's national defence, the finance minister stated recently that the government believes the military is “appropriately provisioned”. I will continue to stand up and point out that we need to provide the resources that our Canadian Armed Forces deserve. We want them to be able to carry out the tasks that we give them, and more importantly, to return home safe to their families.

I would be remiss if I did not talk about our farmers. As a farmer myself and an MP for a riding that has a strong farming community, these hard-working Canadians are always a priority for me. Unfortunately, they do not seem to be much of a priority for the Liberal government. Budget 2017 does nothing to support this hard-working Canadian farmer class. So much for standing up for the middle class.

In fact, farmers and fishermen may face higher insurance premiums resulting from the Liberals' decision to scrap the income tax exemption for insurers of farming and fishing property. In addition, the Liberals have indicated they plan to eliminate the income tax deferral for grain producers. By failing to provide any details regarding the next agricultural policy framework, the Liberals have left Canadian farmers in the dark. What support programs will they have in the future, if any? New money for science and innovation is focused on climate change and soil and water conservation, but fails to provide support for new business risk management approaches for farmers.

The Liberals are promising to launch a full review of rail service in western Canada, but farmers are getting tired of waiting. They need dependable rail service to get their crops to market.

It is clear the government has turned its back on the middle class in favour of its rich friends. We saw this in the beginning with its so-called middle-class tax cut that benefited people making over $160,000 but did absolutely nothing for Canadians who make the average income in Canada of $50,000. Now we are seeing the middle class left behind again by increasing payroll taxes and eliminating the public transit tax credit. I am afraid to even think about what they have in mind for the middle class next year. Canadians should hold on to their wallets.

For the sake of my constituents in Kitchener—Conestoga and with their best interests in mind, I will be voting against this budget. It is heading in the wrong direction and is pushing our debt on to our children and grandchildren. We owe it to them to do better.

The Budget April 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, just to follow up on the last question, the very least they could have done was make it a non-refundable tax credit so that it would actually help those who need to use public transit.

My greater concern is found on page 251 of the budget, where we see an incredible rise in the total debt that the government is incurring. This year $24.7 billion will be paid in interest, and in 2021 $33.3 billion will be paid in interest.

I wonder if my colleague shares my concern that we are borrowing money on the backs of future generations and simply pushing this cost onto our children and grandchildren.