House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was forward.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for Calgary Centre (Alberta)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 27% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Accessible Canada Act May 28th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the hon. parliamentary secretary's presentation, and in particular how he noted that we are almost taking a whole-of-government approach to disability, from the national housing strategy to our infrastructure investments.

He noted that 20% of our national housing strategy, one in five, is going to be dealing with barrier-free design or universal design. I think that is so important. I spent eight months in the hospital when I had my spinal cord injury. I did not need to spend eight months there. However, there is no room anywhere in the community to be able to find that housing.

Could the hon. parliamentary secretary speak to how the national housing strategy dovetails with many of these Senate amendments and how it will allow more people with disabilities to take part in their community, to live in their community and to thrive in their community?

Accessible Canada Act May 28th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, knowing the minister responsible for this file and the passionate advocate she is for accessibility in the bill, I can assure the member that there will be no wrong door. People who work in these departments and head these organizations will know how to take accommodation requests. They will know how this legislation works and that moving forward on bettering the lives of people with disabilities in this country is foremost at every turn.

I believe the way the bill is crafted will lead to more success for people with disabilities rather than less, although there will always be an opportunity for us to learn, grow and continue to move forward in the spirit we intended.

Accessible Canada Act May 28th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his passion and advocacy for the betterment of the bill. Through his work, we can see that he is truly committed to ensuring equality of opportunity for people with disabilities in this country.

The process by which we arrived at this point on the bill reminds me of sausage making: We do not really want to watch it or smell it, but at the end of the day, we have to go through all the processes. Not only have we heard from the House floor and accepted and rejected amendments at committee, but there has been further due diligence from the Senate. I think we have arrived at a pretty good place, as we see all-party support here for this legislation.

In terms of the member's direct question, in my view, the no wrong door approach is better. By putting four different heads on this issue, after a time, people will know where to go. These bodies will have the relative expertise in their given area to be able to deal with the matter, hopefully on an expedited basis, and with this expertise they will be able to move the teeth of the legislation through their organizations.

Accessible Canada Act May 28th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of the passing of Bill C-81, the accessible Canada act.

It is so symbolic to speak during National AccessAbility Week, when we celebrate the contributions of persons with disabilities and promote accessibility and inclusion across our communities and workplaces.

I would like to acknowledge all the energy invested in the proposed accessible Canada act by all those who have worked so hard to get us where we are today: persons with disabilities, stakeholders, industry and all who play a crucial role in improving accessibility in Canada.

In 1991, I was the victim of a random act of violence that left me a C5 quadriplegic. My life changed forever, and I saw first-hand the everyday issues Canadians with disabilities face, including tasks as ordinary as getting out of bed, going to the bank or getting on a plane. These became real challenges that were significant hurdles. Things became significantly harder due to the inaccessibility of the terrain. The problem was not my disability; it was the barriers put in my way. For instance, stairs can be a heck of an impediment to my progress.

Since entering politics 12 years ago, one of my goals has been to help Canada become a community where people with disabilities reach their individual potential and are recognized and valued as citizens. That is why I am so proud of our federal Liberal government's new accessible Canada act, the most significant piece of legislation for the rights of persons with disabilities in over 30 years.

Before I talk about the merits of the bill, it is important to note that this is not some stand-alone legislation meant to be the only thing our government is doing with respect to moving forward the lives of persons with disabilities in this country.

Our national housing strategy contains a significant focus on accessible housing. This includes the five new housing projects funded so far in Calgary, in partnership with organizations like Horizon Housing, YWCA Calgary, HomeSpace and many more. In addition, our infrastructure investments are being implemented with accessibility in mind. We are helping to provide more university and training opportunities to assist people with disabilities in becoming more involved in our labour force.

The accessible Canada act truly belongs to the disability community and reflects the priorities of persons with disabilities. To get here, we heard from over 6,000 individuals and organizations through the most accessible consultations ever held by government. All people who contributed to the legislation did so because they understood the importance of using their experiences to help drive the change needed for a better tomorrow, where everyone is included and no one is left behind.

Over three years ago, our government worked to develop legislation aimed at removing barriers to inclusion, to ensure that all Canadians have an equal and fair chance at finding success.

One of the things my disability taught me was the critical role that government plays in people's lives. I have always looked at it this way: Whether a person is born of a rich family or one that struggles, whether a person is born with a disability or acquires one along the way, that person deserves an equal and fair chance at success. This act would help level the playing field and promote equality of opportunity.

This bill pursues a very important goal: to make Canada barrier-free. Everyone is ready and eager to see the bill passed, and the organizations with responsibilities under Bill C-81 are ready to act in accordance. The CRTC, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board have all testified that they are ready to implement their respective roles.

Of course, the road to inclusion has been fought for a long time by individuals and organizations across this country, organizations I was lucky enough to work with and within, such as the National Educational Association of Disabled Students and the Canadian Paraplegic Association of Alberta, which have been pushing these rights forward for many years.

Federal accessibility legislation and leadership at the national level have been long overdue. Canadians expect the Government of Canada to lead when it comes to accessibility. That is a responsibility that our government is taking very seriously. It is important to underscore that this historic bill reflects the work and commitment of the disabled community, whose priorities and concerns have been addressed and are reflected throughout the bill.

This includes recognizing sign languages as the primary language for communication by deaf persons in Canada, clarifying that nothing in the act or its regulations limits the duty to accommodate of regulated entities, ensuring the timely implementation of this legislation toward the realization of a barrier-free Canada by 2040, and recognizing intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination that persons with disabilities may experience.

The bill, built on the principle of “Nothing for us without us”, belongs to the disability community. Moving forward, the community's continued participation will be absolutely essential for the bill to be effective.

In many ways, the bill puts into legislation the best practices that top organizations follow. Looking back, I was very lucky to have institutions like the University of Calgary, with instructors who recognized the support I needed, or organizations like the one I practised law with, Dentons Canada, where I was very lucky to have the company provide the voice-activated computer and the assistance I needed to make it through my daily work.

I have been likewise very lucky in the accommodations I received when I was at the Alberta legislature and here, at the House of Commons. I have had incredible support from my wife, my family and my long-term caregiver, Liza, who have always stepped in and done all the things that were simply very difficult for me to do.

However, people with disabilities should not have to rely on this kind of luck. That is why we need legislation. With this legislation, we are creating a system whereby barriers are identified and removed proactively, and we are establishing enforcement mechanisms to ensure that regulations are respected and followed by businesses and areas under federal jurisdiction. It would create avenues for accessibility complaints through a “no wrong door” approach, and it would provide for oversight and monitoring of these issues and emerging accessibility issues.

By legislating National AccessAbility Week and bringing Canadians together to recognize the valuable contributions of persons with disabilities, this law would send a clear message that systems will be designed inclusively from the start. With the accessible Canada act, we are strengthening the collaborative approach for a country that is fully accessible and inclusive, where everyone has an equal and fair chance at success.

Persons with Disabilities May 27th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, it is National AccessAbility Week, and this is an opportunity for all of us to recognize the contributions of Canadians with disabilities, and to help raise awareness about the need for greater accessibility and inclusion in our society.

While our government is breaking down barriers, many still exist. Can the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility inform the House how our government is taking action to ensure an inclusive, accessible Canada for all?

Canada Child Benefit May 14th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I believe that whether a child is born of a rich family or one that struggles, that child deserves every opportunity to build his or her life. That is precisely what the Canada child benefit is accomplishing. The CCB is making significant impacts on lives across this country. In Calgary, there are over 100,000 families receiving this benefit.

I recently spoke with Melanie. Melanie has three children. The Canada child benefit has helped her to find stable housing and to purchase groceries and school supplies. The CCB is making a real difference in her life. There are many more Melanies in my constituency.

The good news is that since 2015, we have cut child poverty in Alberta by 50%. However, more needs to be done. That is why we are increasing the CCB this summer and helping more families find more success.

Indigenous Languages Act May 9th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I am from Calgary Centre, the traditional home of the Treaty 7 people, including the Blackfoot, Stoney-Nakoda and Tsuut'ina people. I talk to people from that region, and they know how important this bill is, not only for preserving the indigenous languages, but also for passing on that education component to the youth so that they can continue to strive and thrive, and have that sense of culture.

I would like to applaud the member for his speech, particularly for recognizing many of the good works the government has done, including investments in education, reversing boil water advisories, embracing Jordan's principle to ensure that services are available for first nations children at the same standard as they would be otherwise, and continuing to revamp our foster care system to embrace a more indigenous approach with families.

I was really struck by how the member connected the work we are doing on the 94 principles of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We adopted this work in the last campaign, and we are making progress. I would like to hear more from the member about how this connects to the work we are doing, and how it is fundamental to really seeing a nation-to-nation relationship with our indigenous peoples.

Business of Supply May 7th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I would like to applaud the member for his speech and in particular for his referencing things we have done to make life more affordable for Canadians, such as the Canada child benefit, our infrastructure investments and our national housing strategy, which is going to see $40 billion invested in affordable housing to reduce homelessness by 50% and also has green components to make our economy stronger.

Could the member comment on the fact that we are not only bringing in a price on pollution but we are ensuring that we move forward in the right way on the Trans Mountain pipeline to ensure big projects get built? Could the member just comment more on that balance, on how we are going to do that to move forward through to a better Canada?

Young Volunteers May 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, today's young Canadians are the most educated, connected and diverse generation this country has ever seen. They have the curiosity needed to learn skills and the ambition required to work hard and succeed. That is why I am thrilled to welcome to Parliament today a group of young advocates from Engineers Without Borders at the University of Calgary and especially my good friend Marigold Mioc, a recipient of the 2019 Diana Award for community service. These great Canadians are here to talk to us about the 2030 sustainable development goals and how we as parliamentarians and policy-makers can continue to work to achieve them.

For too many years, politicians and parties neglected young voices. I encourage today's leaders to listen to our future leaders. We can learn a great deal.

Affordable Housing May 2nd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, it is difficult, if not impossible, to build a life without a home. By next summer, an empty downtown lot in Calgary will be home to an affordable rental apartment building.

With 74 units for people at risk of homelessness, it is the fifth major Calgary housing project to receive support from our federal Liberal government. Importantly, 16 units will be wheelchair accessible, and the building is designed to achieve 41% energy savings.

This project would not have been possible without our government's historic national housing strategy, as well as support from the HomeSpace Society, the Resolve campaign, the Calgary Homeless Foundation and philanthropist David Bissett.

Thanks to their hard work and efforts, countless more Calgarians will be able to stop worrying about trying to have a roof over their head and start building their lives.