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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was farmers.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Conservative MP for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Fisheries Act February 13th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the easy answer to my colleague's question is that yes, this will cause negative problems. It will cost the consumers, who are Canadian taxpayers, more for the product, in this case hydro.

The changes in 2012 were done for a specific reason. They were done to still have a process where approvals could get done properly, but there were timelines put on them. I always point people who are opposed to anything and everything, and in this case, the people behind this bill, to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. For 25 years the government, environmentalists, and other organizations held up businesses who were willing to invest in the project. Really, all that the government was saying in 2012 was to set a reasonable timeline and tell the companies yes or no, not maybe. Tell them one way or the other, and if the answer is no, they will accept that. Then they will take their money and invest it in other Canadian projects, which is only good for jobs, business, and the economy. That is what this is about. However, Bill C-68 reverses that and makes it longer and more onerous.

Fisheries Act February 13th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, yes, the committee is part of the process. I thank my colleague in advance for his support of the reversal of some of the good things that had been reversed by this bill. We will put them back in place.

Fisheries Act February 13th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today, but I am not pleased about the topic or Bill C-68. This is a large bill that would have huge impacts on fisheries and fish stocks across Canada. The bill would also have wide-ranging implications for economic development, farmers, rural municipalities, and more, and I will get into that in detail.

As a relatively new member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, I was not on the committee when it studied the 2012 changes that were made to the Fisheries Act. However, I would like to focus a good chunk of my comments on the testimony that was heard during those hearings.

The committee started its study in October 2016 and presented a report to the House in February 2017. The committee heard from 50 different witnesses during the study and received over 188 submitted briefing notes. It was a very comprehensive study and I think would have been a useful tool for the government to use when it was drafting this proposed legislation. The study directly looked at the changes that the previous government made in 2012 to the Fisheries Act, which were changes that significantly improved the Fisheries Act.

One of the significant changes made in 2012 was a shift away from what is commonly referred to as “HADD”, which stands for harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. It is contained within proposed subsection 35(1) of the bill, where it states:

No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.

Essentially this means that any sort of development that could be seen to be harmful, altering, disrupting or destroying fish habitats, would be subject to an immense amount of review and red tape and could be stopped or prohibited. Furthermore, it is unclear what constitutes fish habitat. It was found that DFO and others played fast and loose with this term, and used a broad definition to apply this to waterways that really had no impact on fish stocks. This system was ineffective, a nightmare for development, and had no measurable success in protecting fish populations.

Of the things that were affected the most by this, I have some on my farms. They are waterways after a very heavy rain or first thing in the spring runoff, but other than that, they are dry and able to be farmed the rest of the year. However, the same things applied to them as what would apply to, say, the St. Lawrence River, which is totally ridiculous.

The change in 2012 brought in a much simpler and effective definition to ensure that fish were protected but that reasonable projects could still move forward. This new definition was as follows:

No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery.

This definition is much more effective and provides certainty and clarity for developers, farmers, fishermen, first nations, and more.

In the report from the fisheries and oceans committee, the third recommendation stated that:

Any revision of the Fisheries Act should review and refine the previous definition of HADD due to the previous definition’s vulnerability to being applied in an inconsistent manner and the limiting effect it had on government agencies in their management of fisheries and habitats in the interest of fish productivity.

Therefore, I am slightly confused as to why we are now seeing what looks to be a return to HADD in Bill C-68. It does not make any sense. The testimony is there in black and white, and that testimony, of course, came from witnesses.

For example, as I mentioned, the committee heard from 50 different witnesses and received more than 188 submitted briefing notes. Not one single individual or organization was able to present the committee with any scientific or legal proof of harm that was a result of the changes made in 2012. We all know that, at the time, the environmental associations and others threw their hands up in the air, yelled, screamed, and kicked that these changes would be the death of all fish in Canada, but the proof is just not there. Six years later, I think our fish are doing pretty good. However, it is my distinct fear that the government is simply returning to the pre-2012 provisions just to appease these groups.

The return of HADD in Bill C-68 would undoubtedly be used as a way for opponents of projects to prevent development projects from moving forward. Just look at the pipeline that was discussed in depth yesterday. By returning to this system, a system that had proven to be ineffective, the government is playing right into the wheelhouse of those who seek to halt, delay, and do whatever they can to stop all forms of development in the country. That has to end.

One impact that is not always clear to many is the impact farmers face due to the Fisheries Act, and it will be 10 times worse under a system that uses the HADD definition. When farmers are looking to expand or develop their farmland they can get caught up in reviews of their projects under the Fisheries Act. A return to HADD would make the lives of farmers much more difficult.

When testifying before the committee, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture stated that prior to 2012 there were lengthy bureaucratic applications for permitting and authorizations, but the 2012 changes drastically improved the timeliness and cost of conducting regular maintenance and improvement activities to their farms. CFA expanded on this by stating that it is the CFA's position that a complete revert—which we are getting from the government now—to reinstate all provisions of the Fisheries Act as they were, would be unproductive, would re-establish the same problems for farmers, and would provide little improvement. That goes back to the example I used of intermittent waterways on our farms being treated like they were fish habitat.

What is ironic about the attack on farmers in the bill is that today is Canada Agriculture Day. As we should be doing every day, let us recognize the important work that farmers do and ensure that their voices are heard. Farmers do not want to return to a pre-2012 system. In fact, no one but those that oppose development do. The government should stop catering to these interest groups and abandon this plan.

The reason these changes came about was members of Parliament from all parties came together for the rural caucus to come up with ways to improve things overall, whether it was agriculture, rural health care, or whatever. The changes that came from the bill in 2012 came out of discussions there. Just because the government has groups of people who are against anything going on in the country, to appease them, to try to get their vote, it is saying, “Okay, we'll give you what you want.” That is not the way to do business or to govern.

It is not just farmers that have concerns though. The Canadian Electricity Association said that Bill C-68 is “one step forward but two steps back”. It went on to state:

CEA is particularly concerned that the government has chosen to return to pre-2012 provisions of the Fisheries Act that address “activity other than fishing that results in the death of fish, and the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat”. In practical terms, this means that virtually any action, without prior authorization, could be construed as being in contravention of this Act. Consequently, the reinstatement of these measures will result in greater uncertainties for existing and new facilities, and unduly delay and/or discourage investment in energy projects that directly support Canada’s clean growth agenda and realize its climate change objectives.

To make a long story short, this is bad news for Canadian development, and will have no positive impact on the protection of fish populations in Canada. I urge the government to revisit the return of HADD and amend the legislation to ensure that economic development and environmental protections go hand in hand and not head to head.

I sit on the committee with my hon. colleague, the member for Avalon. I know he has the best interests of fish at heart, but I would ask him to consider agriculture in this. The examples are these intermittent waterways that are put back in the way they were before, which is just not right. It is a direct attack on agriculture and does not do anything for the environment, fish, or any other thing.

2018 Winter Olympics February 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the 2018 Winter Olympics are now in full swing and, unsurprisingly, Canadian athletes have been winning medals left, right, and centre at these games.

As of this morning, Canada was only one medal behind Norway for most medals won so far at the games. We will all be watching and cheering on our athletes throughout the games.

This week also marks an incredible milestone for my friend and colleague, Senator Nancy Greene Raine. Fifty years ago, on February 15, 1968, Canadians watched as Senator Greene Raine raced down the slopes in Grenoble, France to win gold in the women's giant slalom alpine skiing event. It was an incredible victory, and a moment that many Canadians remember to this day. She also won silver in the slalom.

As the 2018 Winter Olympics continue, I am looking forward to seeing more and more medals come home to Canada. From hockey to skiing to figure skating and more, I am sure Canada will own the podium in Pyeongchang. Go Canada go.

Child Health Protection Act February 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to once again speak to Bill S-228, which is about marketing to children. I only had the chance to speak to this motion for about two minutes when the bill was last debated. I will use my remaining eight minutes to comment on some new developments that have taken place since the bill was last debated.

The bill is being sponsored by the government as part of its healthy eating strategy and is one of four key pillars of this strategy. This objective is also outlined in the Minister of Health's mandate letter. Furthermore, her letter stated that she would introduce “new restrictions on the commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, similar to those now in place in Quebec”.

When I was speaking to the legislation in December, I had a great deal of concern that the government was not, in fact, following the Quebec model. The model in Quebec, when it comes to marketing food and drink products to children, is based on an age limit of 13. Originally, Bill S-228 set out that companies would be prohibited from advertising to any children under the age of 17, which is certainly far off from the model in Quebec.

Since then, the minister has announced that the government would be looking to amend the legislation so that the age limit would be 13. I am very pleased to see that the government will move forward with that amendment. It is important. An age limit of 13 is far more reasonable and is more reflective of the model I believe we are aiming for. I look forward to seeing those amendments brought forward.

However, the Quebec model focuses solely on advertising and does not contain labelling and packaging bans, bans on testimonials and endorsements, bans on sales promotions, or bans on sales. All of these are currently possible restrictions in Bill S-228. They would certainly create a system that was far more restrictive than the one in Quebec. Therefore, the bill goes beyond the minister's mandate letter and does not truly accomplish the goal of introducing a model similar to Quebec's.

I would welcome amendments to Bill S-228 that would ensure that the legislation did not include the activities I just outlined. We need to be as close to the Quebec model as possible, and that would certainly help the bill get much closer.

I also have a number of concerns about how vague Bill S-228 is. The bill would essentially pave the way for the Department of Health to create regulations for marketing to children. In fact, the only truly defined aspect of the bill is the age limit. Everything else is left to the discretion of Health Canada. This is concerning, because we have already seen Health Canada deem foods like milk and beef unhealthy in its review of Canada's food guide.

Bill S-228 would amend the Food and Drugs Act to give Health Canada the power to define unhealthy food or to set out the criteria for determining whether a food is unhealthy. It is unclear what kinds of food would actually fall under the scope of this legislation. Over-consumption of anything, instead of moderation, is not good, but to define milk and beef as unhealthy is absolutely not true and is very insulting to the dairy and red meat industries.

Furthermore, the bill is vague about what kinds of advertising would be deemed to be targeting children. This would again be left completely to Health Canada to implement through regulations. Given that the bill is so broad, it is difficult to know what exactly we would be agreeing to in passing Bill S-228. The bill needs to be more clearly defined so that we can be sure that Health Canada would not have the power to unilaterally start regulating our food and beverage industries without evidence to suggest that these regulations would have a positive impact.

Further still, the legislation would leave Canadian food and beverage companies at an unfair disadvantage. Under this legislation, Canadian companies would be unable to advertise on websites, social media, and apps that may be intended for adults but are popular with children. However, foreign companies would not face these same restrictions. This is unfair and could have significant economic impacts. It is another attack on Canadian small businesses.

There is also some significant hypocrisy when it comes to this legislation. I find it interesting that on the one hand, the government is hell-bent on eliminating advertising to children for food and beverages, while on the other hand, it is allowing our children to possess certain amounts of marijuana.

Furthermore, under this legislation, marketing to children by the food and beverage industry would be prohibited, but alcoholic beverages would not face the same restrictions. It does not make sense at all. For example, a 13-year-old watching Hockey Night in Canada would be able to watch a commercial for Budweiser, but Tim Hortons would be prohibited from advertising hot chocolate or Timbits. It does not make sense.

In closing, I am fully in support of measures that promote healthy eating and good nutrition for our children. However, I am not supportive of broad and unclear legislation that would put significant regulatory power in the hands of Health Canada without any legislative direction.

The minister made a number of promises in relation to this legislation. She said that the bill would not target companies that sponsor sports programs, such as Timbits hockey and soccer. I am pleased that the minister has made this promise. However, until I see it included in the bill, I am sceptical and do not trust that this will in fact be the case. I want to see it first.

I support the intent of the legislation. However, the bill needs some significant work at committee to ensure that there are clear and defined objectives. The current draft of the bill would leave uncertainty, and it would leave all decision-making power in the hands of Health Canada. We need more direction.

I have another concern. One of the government MPs has said that we should go beyond the legalization of marijuana and that all drugs should be decriminalized. It just blows my mind. We are talking about the health and safety of kids, and everything the Liberals say and do contradicts that.

With that, I am done for the day.

Groundhog Day January 31st, 2018

Mr. Speaker,

Once again on Friday February 2nd
Wee Wiarton Willy will be beckoned.

It will be his very first prediction
Done with fervour & conviction

While he's a rookie in groundhog circles
He'll be far more famous than Steve Urkel

He'll talk to Mayor Janice in groundhogese
And do it all with a glamourous ease

Take Alberta's brown coated Balzac Billy
His prediction skills make him look silly

Or Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam
Whose prediction record is simply a sham
And Pennsylvania's Puxatawney Phil
He can't hold a carrot to our “Wee Will”
I will be there when he comes out of his cage
I'm convinced Wee Wiarton Willie will be the new rage
With his glistening white fur coat
He will instill in Wiartonians eternal hope
When he declares that beautiful thing
There's only 6 more weeks until spring

Child Health Protection Act December 12th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, at this time of the year, I want to wish you, all of the pages, staff, and colleagues a very merry Christmas and a very happy and prosperous 2018.

It is a pleasure to speak today to Bill S-228. While the intent of the bill is something we should all support, and I certainly do, more than one member has talked about its unintended consequences. I met today with members of Canada Soccer and Sports Matters, who are very concerned about programs. Everyone is very aware of the Timbits hockey and soccer programs and a number of others. These could be in severe jeopardy of not complying with this bill if the regulations are not done right. That is a concern.

Salaries Act December 12th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Thornhill for a great question and his obvious understanding of the issue.

I mentioned the project that was approved under the auspices of northern Ontario but actually benefited a company in southern Ontario, in Mississauga—Malton. It does not matter how the letters are moved around on that, it all adds up and spells “inappropriate”.

Mr. Speaker, you come from northern Ontario and you know how important this kind of funding is in rural, isolated, northern communities. When we are trying to help these municipalities, the last thing we would do is give that kind of project to somebody nowhere near the area. It just smells a little when it comes from the minister's own riding.

I know the minister, and I have a lot of respect for him. However, if he and I were standing and talking in the House, even he would say this does not look good. I would call it downright inappropriate.

Salaries Act December 12th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I thank my disoriented colleague across the way for his question.

The bottom line here is that, if he wants to talk about accountability, openness, and all of that, which was in his question, all he has to do is be present every day from 2:15 to 3:00 in the House. He will find out all about that. That is what is unofficially known as “non-answer period”.

Maybe before he stands up and makes a statement as he just did, he could view or sit in on that, and shake his head like the rest of us when no questions are answered. The finance minister has been asked a number of questions in this House. He never answered them when he was present, and now he just does not come to the House.

Salaries Act December 12th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it is a big task to fill the shoes of my colleague who just spoke. He obviously has a great grasp of the effects of this bill.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act. This bill has been touted by many members across the way as just a simple bill that must be passed as quickly as possible. They would like members of this House to believe that there is nothing controversial in this bill and that everyone should be on board. My hon. colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, even went so far as to say that this bill is indeed a simple and straightforward housekeeping bill. We all know it is more than that, and I respectfully disagree with that statement.

Bill C-24 is much more than a simple piece of housekeeping legislation. There are numerous changes in this bill that would have lasting impacts on a number of regions in Canada. Today, I would like to set the record straight. I would like to explain the concerns I have with this bill, as well as my concerns with the way the government has rushed this bill through the process by trying to make people believe that the bill simply contains housekeeping measures.

First, my major concern with this bill is that it would formally eliminate the positions of the six ministers for regional development agencies. As we know, the previous government maintained a system of six different development agencies, with a minister of state assigned to each. The agencies represented six unique regions of Canada and included one for Atlantic Canada, one for Quebec, one for the north, one for southern Ontario, one for northern Ontario, and one for western Canada. These agencies were tremendously successful in ensuring that regional economic interests were represented at the cabinet table.

The Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development website even states the following:

Canada’s Regional Development Agencies help to address key economic challenges by providing regionally-tailored programs, services, knowledge and expertise that:

Build on regional and local economic assets and strengths;

Support business growth, productivity and innovation;

Help small- and medium-sized businesses effectively compete in the global marketplace;

Provide adjustment assistance in response to economic downturns and crises; and

Support communities.

Despite all of the important work that I just listed, the Prime Minister has stated that he believes that regional development agencies represent a bad kind of politics, whatever he means by that. I know that the Prime Minister and I disagree quite a bit when it comes to politics; that is not really a state secret. However, there is a difference between politics and governance, and I, for one, believe that having a regional economic development minister at the cabinet table fighting for his or her regions of interest is a very effective way to govern.

Rather than having individual ministers represent specific regions through the regional development agencies, the Prime Minister has opted to concentrate this power within one minister, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, a minister from Mississauga—Malton, a minister for everything. How can the Prime Minister honestly expect that a minister from the GTA will be able to effectively fight for Atlantic Canada, western Canada, the north, Quebec, and the list goes on?

We are already seeing that the Prime Minister's new system is not working. For example, just last fall, the government awarded $150,000 in funding that was earmarked for northern Ontario to a company based in, get this, southern Ontario, Mississauga—conveniently, I might add, in the riding of the minister for everything, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and member for Mississauga—Malton. When did it become part of northern Ontario? The Bruce Peninsula is a three-hour drive north of there, and we cannot even get it designated as part of northern Ontario. I think maybe the compass might have been a little faulty in the Prime Minister's Office.

Furthermore, in Atlantic Canada it has been reported that there has been a threefold increase in processing times at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, known as ACOA, since the Prime Minister put the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development in charge of the agency. Quite simply, the system is not working. It is pretty clear. I do not believe that the government has the right to give anyone lessons when it comes to the kind of work that our regional economic development agencies do for Canada. While these agencies work hard to deliver funding and ensure that businesses have what they need to succeed in their regions, the Liberal government calls business owners tax cheats, comes up with schemes to tax small businesses, and cannot seem to get any money out the door for important infrastructure projects.

For anyone in rural Canada, and I am one of those MPs who represents a large rural area, infrastructure is non-existent. It is just not there. Major transit projects—and I have nothing against those—get funding in the big cities, while rural Canada gets shafted again.

In fact, in rural Ontario in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, there is a certainty of feeling that we are being forgotten. Important projects are being left on the back burner while the government focuses solely on big city initiatives. FedDev Ontario, the federal economic development agency for southern Ontario, consistently worked to deliver important funding. By the way, the previous government filled that void and put FedDev in there, because there was nothing for southern Ontario before. With this government's inability to get infrastructure out the door, as I said, and now the elimination of FedDev, I am very concerned about what the passage of this bill would mean for rural infrastructure.

Another concern I have with this bill is in regard to the three ministerial positions that are created in the bill but not yet filled. Bill C-24 would create a total of eight new Liberal ministerial positions. In part, this is to accommodate the five minister of state roles that were filled after the 2015 election. However, there are three new positions created with no one to fill them. It really begs the question: Why create positions that are not needed, unless this government has a plan to fill these positions?

If it is the government's plan to fill these positions, I do have some suggestions. For example, let us put in an associate minister of finance. This would be very helpful. That way, the Minister of Finance could actually recuse himself from conversations about pension legislation that directly benefits his family company. We could also use a Minister of International Trade. My apologies, but with the bungling of NAFTA, the stalling TPP negotiations, and the embarrassing fiasco in China last week, I almost forgot that we already have one. Perhaps we could use a minister for rural affairs, instead of a minister of everything from Mississauga—Malton, though I'm not sure the government cares much about communities with a population less than 50,000. In fact, I am very positive about that. The government should be open and transparent and tell us what these mystery positions are all about.

Finally, I would like to conclude by stating that I am very concerned about the pace at which the government is moving on this legislation. I am told that, when the government operations committee studied this legislation, the only two witnesses were the government House leader and one professor. There is no partisanship there, is there? I have been involved and have chaired a number of committees over the years. I can say that having only two witnesses appear before any committee is simply unacceptable and it is certainly not the norm. In no way would it be possible for the committee to complete a full study of this bill or any bill.

Furthermore, I have learned that the topic of regional development agencies was not even discussed at the committee stage. What was the study about? This is unacceptable, and again shows that the government has no intentions of actually talking about this or consulting, whether it is through committee or the public. All they are about is trying to push this bill through as fast as possible.

With that, I am happy to take questions from my hon. colleagues. Before I do, I may not have another opportunity before we break for Christmas, so I would like to take a brief moment, Mr. Speaker, to wish you, your staff, and all my colleagues and members of this House a very merry Christmas and wish everyone all the best in the upcoming year.