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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was going.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Brampton West (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Decoration Day June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, last weekend Decoration Day commemorated the sacrifices of Canadian and allied soldiers as they stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. I had the great privilege of attending two such commemorations in my riding over the weekend: one with Branch 15 of the Royal Canadian Legion and one with Branch 609. I have to say it is very encouraging how many cadets came out to those services to honour our brave men and women in the armed forces.

Brampton has a tradition on Decoration Day. Canadian flags are placed on the graves of all of our fallen soldiers and veterans. It was wonderful to see so many people come out and support the community on that day.

I want to personally thank Branch 15 and Branch 609 for making such great efforts to keep this tradition alive and making sure that we do not forget.

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the miracle about the proposals that come from the Liberal Party is that it has the answers to all the problems, when it is not in government.

When the Liberals were in government, they had no answers. That is generally their track record. The food mail program is a perfect example of that. How could a program designed to subsidize healthy and nutritious food for northerners be allowed to include snowmobile parts or a case of coke?

We need to have a program that actually delivers results. We think we have that program in nutrition north. I have talked about how it has reduced the average cost for a family of four by $137 a month. The volume of perishable food items has gone up by 25%. This program is actually delivering real results. The Liberal program did not.

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, obviously we are going to look at bringing additional communities into the program. That is one of the recommendations at which we are looking. We are trying to find a way to implement that.

However, the answer that is being put forward by the opposition is to just simply throw 50 names forward and add them to the list. As we have heard today in debate, there are issues with a number of the communities being mentioned. We cannot just put all these communities in the program without analyzing whether they qualify for the program or there is a need for them to be in the program.

Those are the steps we are going to undertake. We are going to review how we can expand the program to more communities. That is going to take time. We do not just want to do it automatically without doing the research.

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we accept the recommendations in the report of the Auditor General. The goal of the program, as I said earlier, is to ensure we have subsidized good, nutritious food for people in the north. As I stated, the subsidy has resulted in a reduction of an average of $137 a month for a family of four. The volume of perishable, nutritious food shipped to northern communities has increased by approximately 20%.

We will continue to work hard to find solutions to the existing problems. We always want to find ways to ensure the program is more efficient and benefits more people.

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to this motion. I have had the pleasure of sitting on the aboriginal affairs committee for a little over four years now and through my experience, our government's record is one of progress on many different fronts. Whether we look at something like nutrition north, water and waste water, housing, or the FNLMA, we are making real progress on issues that affect first nations.

Speaking specifically about nutrition north, we know for sure that our government has made a very clear commitment to providing northerners with healthy food choices. Given the critical role of a wholesome diet to people's well-being, we are determined, like other Canadians, that northerners have access to quality nutritious food. This is the raison d'être for the nutrition north Canada program.

We introduced the program in 2011 precisely to address the concerns that are raised in the opposition member's motion. We know the cost of living is high for residents of isolated communities all across Canada's north, whether we talk about food, heating oil, housing or transportation, and that is why we have taken action.

Nutrition north increases northerners' access to high-quality, healthy foods. It provides a subsidy to reduce the price of perishable, nutritious food. For the purpose of this program, perishable food can be fresh, frozen, refrigerated, have a shelf life of less than one year, and the items must be shipped by air. A higher level of subsidy is provided for the most nutritious foods, such as milk, eggs, meat, cheeses, vegetables and fruit.

The subsidy also applies to country or traditional foods that have been the staples of northern diets for centuries. The subsidy is available when country foods are purchased through local stores or from processing plants registered with the program. Customers in eligible communities can also purchase such food from registered northern retailers or order it directly from registered southern suppliers.

Northern retailers can claim the subsidy directly or order the food from registered southern suppliers, or country food processors and distributors can sell it in their stores. Eligible social institutions such as daycares can also order the food from southern suppliers. In all cases, the subsidies are passed on from retailers and suppliers directly to consumers.

Subsidies provided under nutrition north are customized to account for the differences in transportation and operation costs. This means that the more remote the community is, the greater the subsidy. For example, the subsidy in Grise Fiord is higher than the rate for Iqaluit. This program follows a market-driven model, which has proven to be a sustainable, efficient and cost-effective means of helping northerners access nutritious and perishable foods.

Not only are communities benefiting from nutrition north, enjoying nutritious food at the subsidized price, they are also enjoying greater accountability and transparency under this program than the predecessor program, food mail. To ensure the subsidy is being passed on to consumers, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has entered into formal agreements with a number of registered food retailers and suppliers. These retailers and food suppliers must confirm, on a monthly basis, that subsidy claims made under the program are valid and accurate and that the subsidy is being passed on to consumers.

A third-party claims processor verifies the invoices and waybills submitted to ensure that the claims being made are in fact valid. The department ensures that it receives clear and well-supported compliance reviews to assess the compliance of retailers and food suppliers with their obligations.

It is also important to note that nutrition north Canada monitors price trends, using the revised northern food basket. This measures the weekly cost of food for a family of four using current nutrition recommendations as detailed in the dietary reference intakes and the newest version of Canada's Food Guide.

The food basket, which is composed of 67 items, is calculated using an average community price for each item. This takes into account the nutritional requirements and food serving recommendations for a man and a woman aged between 31 and 50, and a boy and a girl aged between 9 and 13.

I could use more of my time to discuss further details of the program, but what is far more important is to discuss the results on the ground.

Since its inception in April 2011, nutrition north Canada program has been successful in lowering the cost of food in remote northern communities. The cost of the revised northern food basket for a family of four has been cut, on average, by 7.2% between April 2011 and March 2014. This actually works out to approximately $137 per month.

This drop in food cost is greater than anywhere else in the country. Thanks to retailers' efforts to maximize the impact of the subsidy on food prices, the northern revised food basket was 1.4% lower at the end of March 2014 than a year earlier.

In addition, the average annual weight of eligible items being shipped to northern communities has increased by approximately 25% since the nutrition north Canada program was introduced. This means that northern consumers now have access to a much wider range of nutritious foods at less cost.

The northern nutrition Canada program is achieving results in reducing food prices.

We are making progress and there is no question that affordable food in remote northern communities remains a concern that requires our continued concerted efforts. That is why, on top of nutrition north's existing annual subsidy budget of $53.9 million, our Conservative government committed in the 2014 economic action plan to enhance funding for the program.

On November 21, 2014, in fulfillment of this commitment, the government announced an additional $11.3 million in 2014-15 to increase the program's food subsidy budget. As well, we are implementing a new ongoing 5% compound annual escalator beginning this year.

These additional funds resulted in a subsidy budget for 2014-15 of $65,200,000 and $68,498,000 in 2015-16. This comes to a total of $133.7 million in direct retail subsidies over a two year period to ensure continued access to perishable, nutritious foods for northerners.

Of course, we do not pretend that all the problems have been solved or that we have all the answers. The Government of Canada is just one of many players with an important role in this file.

Since the 1970s, the federal government has gradually transferred responsibility for health, education, social services, housing, airports and language to the territorial, local and aboriginal governments. Members of all levels of government agree that finding ways to work together with other governments, aboriginal organizations and companies to address local food security issues and to further improve access to nutritious food is absolutely essential.

We are ready to do our part and we are more than willing to work with willing partners in the opposition to achieve greater success in the nutrition north program.

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, access to capital is and continues to be a very significant key in unlocking the economic potential of first nation communities. It is a means by which first nations can take charge of their own opportunities and their own future.

The first nations financial management board and the first nations finance authority have done a great deal to develop the fiscal conditions that make capital available for first nations. As a consequence, as we have seen, there is better infrastructure, greater economic opportunities and stronger investor confidence.

Could the parliamentary secretary comment on how important the study is that we are doing right now to try and find improvements for access to capital?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, one of the other things that I was talking about, and what we are studying at committee on the access to capital, is the first nations finance authority and how it worked over several years to create a $90 million bond.

On June 14, the first nations finance authority issued that inaugural bond of $90 million, and I can tell members from listening to witness testimony that they are exceptionally proud of the work that was done in order to achieve this.

Could the parliamentary secretary explain the benefits and provide examples of communities that participated in the issuance of that bond and why that process is so important?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, as I said earlier, the committee is currently studying access to capital issues. One of the things we have heard over and over again is how important access to the FNMLA is for first nation communities. Of course, it allows them to opt out of 34 land-related sections in the Indian Act.

Budget 2015 actually earmarks additional funds for new entrants into FNMLA. Could the parliamentary secretary explain to us how important it is that there are additional funds for new entrants into the FNMLA?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak this evening to explain some of the impressive work our government is doing to drive economic development on reserve to my colleagues. When we talk about that, one of the biggest issues is access to capital. Right now our committee is in fact conducting a study on access to capital. We have heard some very interesting and impressive testimony to deal with some of the issues that are faced by first nations communities.

When we are talking about access to capital, we are talking about funding to start a small business or to expand a business, to perhaps purchase a family home, or to leverage real property and entice investors from off reserve. This remains an enormous problem due to section 89 of the Indian Act, which prevents fee simple ownership. Therefore, it really limits the use of property as a security when trying to negotiate that type of financing. That type of financing is critical for most businesses off reserve, the ability to leverage real property. This is essential for entrepreneurs, small business and really anyone who is seeking any amount of capital to start or expand a business.

Our government understands how this can limit the potential of first nations, so we are working with willing partners to try to find a solution to the problem.

One of the solutions we heard about a bit earlier was the First Nations Land Management Act. This is a great piece of opt-in legislation. It allows a participating first nation to actually opt out of 34 land-related sections of the Indian Act. It gives a first nation the ability to manage its lands and resources. It also gives it the ability to operate at the “speed of business”, a phrase we have heard many times. The inability to operate at the speed of business has been an incredible impediment to first nations communities.

Another important tool is the First Nations Fiscal Management Act. This is also opt-in legislation. This encourages first nations across Canada to establish property tax systems and strengthen fiscal management. It provides them with increased revenue raising tools, strong standards for accountability and access to capital markets available to other levels of governments. The act does this in three ways, through three aboriginal financial institutions: first, the First Nations Tax Commission; second, the Financial Management Board; and three, the First Nations Finance Authority. I will talk a bit about each.

The First Nations Tax Commission creates legal, administrative and infrastructure framework for first nations to establish property tax regimes. Property tax allows a first nations government to have a reliable stream of income that it can leverage into loans with other financial institutions to do all kinds of improvements on reserve.

The First Nations Financial Management Board certifies the financial management systems and performances of individual first nations. This ensures good governance and fiscal responsibility. It assists first nations in developing the capacity to meet their financial management requirements, provides the tools and guidance that will instill confidence in first nations financial management and reporting systems.

Finally, the First Nations Finance Authority issues bonds to borrowing first nations, secured by the revenue coming in from things like property tax and other revenues. The First Nations Finance Authority is a non-profit aboriginal government-owned and controlled institution built to provide all first nations and aboriginal governments, big or small, urban or remote, resource-rich or not, with the same finance instruments that other levels of government in Canada have at their disposal to build safe, healthy and prosperous communities. These bonds are sold on the market and provide participating first nations with an innovative way to access the capital required for economic development.

The First Nations Fiscal Management Act has been very successful, with strong and sustained demand from first nations to participate in the regime.

To build on this success, since 2007, the First Nations Financial Management Board, the First Nations Tax Commission and the First Nations Finance Authority have been working in concert with our government on a series of recommended changes to the act. These changes are designed to improve the legislation, reduce needless red tape and increase investor confidence. The overall goal is to improve the economic opportunities and well-being for first nations communities. In fact, we heard directly at committee during our study that changes were needed to make this operate more efficiently.

It makes me proud to say that Bill C-59, the budget implementation act, introduced on May 7, proposes 43 administrative and technical changes to the legislation. These changes would streamline participation in the regime by providing for first nations to be added by ministerial order rather than an order in council.

It would eliminate the duplication and needless red tape, and strengthen the confidence of capital markets and investors. For example, one proposed amendment would clarify that all certified first nations must remain in compliance with the certification requirements of the financial management board. This proposed legislation could have a significant and positive effect on first nations and I urge all hon. members to support it.

It is projected, and these projections are really quite exceptional, that if the act is amended as suggested, by 2020, a mere five years from now, 235 first nations will have opted into the regime, $70 million annually will be collected in property taxes, 100 first nations will have received certification from the First Nations Financial Management Board, and $1 billion in borrowing room will be available to borrowing members. This is the example of being able to leverage that revenue stream and turn it into funding for infrastructure projects on first nations reserves. This is an exceptional opportunity.

To date, the regime has been very successful and I welcome the opportunity for more first nations to become active participants. Demonstrating the potential advantages for first nations of this regime, in June of last year, 14 first nations from British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Ontario were part of the first nations finance authority's inaugural $90 million bond. The proceeds of this bond are being used for vital things, such as building roads, water, waste water systems, public buildings, as well as refinancing existing bank loans and economic opportunities both on and off reserve.

In fact, in some of the testimony heard at committee, this would allow a first nation community to save $140,000 a month, which is equivalent to building one house on reserve. The bond issuance was a significant achievement for first nations and the first nations finance authority.

Chief Terry Paul of the Membertou First Nation in Nova Scotia, which raised $21 million through the bond, and the chair of the FNFA, stated:

Today, First Nations have made a significant step forward as economic equals with other governments. Over the long-term, this will have a profound and positive impact in our communities.

The first nations finance authority is currently working toward issuing its second bond, which it expects to exceed $100 million later this year. Access to capital is the key to unlocking the economic potential of our first nation communities.

I now have some questions.

On May 7, 2015, the government took, as I stated, another important step to promote prosperity in first nations communities and introduced Bill C-59, which includes a number of amendments to the First Nations Fiscal Management Act. Earlier this year, the aboriginal affairs committee heard testimony from Manny Jules, Harold Calla and Ernie Daniels, all of whom had worked hard to identify ways that the act could be improved.

Could the parliamentary secretary share with the rest of the committee of the whole what the proposed amendments to the First Nations Fiscal Management Act intend to achieve?

Taxation May 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, our low-tax plan for families is working. Under our Conservative government, the tax burden on Canadians is at its lowest level in more than 50 years. As part of that, every family with children will benefit from our new family tax cut and enhanced universal child care benefit.

The leader of the Liberal Party told us yesterday that he would take away our family tax cut and replace it with a family tax hike. The Liberal leader is also ideologically opposed to income splitting, and quite frankly seniors should be worried. That is why Canadians know it is only our government that can be trusted to keep taxes low and protect the benefits they already receive.