House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Their favourite word was communities.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as Liberal MP for Cumberland—Colchester (Nova Scotia)

Lost their last election, in 2021, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply February 20th, 2020

Madam Speaker, I have to say, first of all, that I am not the keeper of the Prime Minister's schedule. That is not in my job description, so I do not know what his plans are in the coming days or weeks. However, I do know that the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations is meant to meet with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs. They were prepared to go out west to do it, but now that the hereditary chiefs are coming to Ontario, I am hoping that might happen even more quickly.

I believe the next step is the dialogue and discussion that will take place with them.

Business of Supply February 20th, 2020

Madam Speaker, I do believe members have the right to get to work unobstructed, and it did bother me when that happened in British Columbia. It also bothered me when our Deputy Prime Minister was prevented from going into a legal office in Halifax recently. These things should not be occurring and, in fact, any kind of violence is not okay.

However, I do believe that many of the protesters are standing with the Wet'suwet'en people, and they are not paid protesters or renegades. As a member of the legislative assembly of Nova Scotia for 10 years, I stood up for the grandmothers who were being taken off their land by the RCMP in the Alton gas situation. I was actually asked to leave the House for that, so am I a crazy activist? I do not think so.

Business of Supply February 20th, 2020

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by recognizing that we stand on the ancestral land of the Algonquin people.

There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun
Long before the white man and long before the wheel
When the green dark forest was too silent to be real

These words by Gordon Lightfoot are ringing in my head these days, partly because of what is happening across Canada, but also due to the fact that I just read a fascinating story in Maclean's, which is a short history by Stephen Maher about the indigenous people of Canada and the CN Railway. It may help put some perspective on the current situation regarding the blockades.

Mr. Maher writes:

If you study Canadian history, you find similar stories of dispossession and subjugation from coast to coast. The Crown pushed Indigenous people aside, forced them to live in poverty on land that nobody else wanted, destroyed their traditional systems of governance, broke treaties at will, a period that ran from Confederation until 1973, when the courts granted an injunction to the James Bay Cree, temporarily blocking a hydro development.

For most Canadians, the railway has been a great boon, as Lightfoot described it: “An iron road running from sea to the sea, bringing the goods to a young growing land, all up through the seaports and into their hands.”

As Mr. Maher writes:

We can't expect Indigenous people to see the story that way.

When tempers get raw, and politicians talk forcefully about the importance of the rule of law, we would be wise to remember that the rule of law, and the Canadian Pacific Railway, brought ruin and death to Indigenous people.

I don't know how we are going to get through this winter and get the trains running again, but I believe our politicians and police should err on the side of caution, and we should keep in mind that our country only exists because of the lawful crimes our government committed to get the railway built.

This is very poignant. It is very poignant for all of us to consider this when we are talking about what is lawful and what is not.

I want to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.

Over the past few weeks, people have been troubled by what they are witnessing. Many people across Canada are asking what is happening in this country as they see the protests and the blockades, as they witness the goods not getting to them in Nova Scotia or out west, and as businesses are affected. They are questioning, too, whether reconciliation is still possible. Young people are questioning this. Indigenous peoples are wondering if their rights will be respected and, as they see the protests and blockades grow, they are questioning, “Can reconciliation still happen?”

I would like to say, yes, reconciliation is still possible and that this is a turning point on what I would call that vital path. We need reconciliation. Hundreds of years have gone by without reconciliation and now is the time to do it and get it right.

Many are impatient about climate action and a society that still relies on fossil fuels. Many in the business community and those who rely on jobs in the resource industry to support their families are afraid for their futures as well. There are workers who have been temporarily laid off. There are seniors who are anxious about the timely delivery of their medication. There are business owners who are worried about getting oil and gas to the people who need to fill their furnaces.

There are also protesters standing in the cold in allyship with the Wet’suwet’en people.

On both sides of this issue, people are upset and frustrated. I understand that, because this is about issues that really matter to Canadians, to indigenous people and to me, such as treaties, rights, livelihoods, the rule of law and democracy.

I fully agree that this situation must be resolved quickly. However, we also must be aware that this situation was not created overnight and it certainly was not created in the past four years.

It was not created because we have embarked down a path of reconciliation recently in our history. It was created because, for too long in our history, successive governments failed to do so. Therefore, finding a solution will not be simple. It will take determination. It will take hard work. It will take co-operation.

I have to say that, standing here as a newcomer to Parliament, I am proud to be part of a government that has a true leader, one who will not simply pick up a sword and rush blindly into battle as others here seem to prefer, but who has deep empathy and compassion, who recognizes the gravity of the situation and, as our Prime Minister, is extending his hand in partnership and trust to the Wet'suwet'en people. What our government is attempting to do is create a space for peaceful, honest dialogue with willing partners.

As we heard from the Mohawk leaders, and from AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde last week, we need to resolve this impasse through dialogue and mutual respect. Therefore, we only ask that the Wet'suwet'en be willing to work with our federal government as a partner to find solutions.

They often remind us that trust has historically been betrayed after indigenous negotiations with Canadian governments. I, for one, remember that very well. I tell provincial, municipal and federal leaders that we must keep this in mind and it is why we need to do the right thing.

I was pleased to be able to say to the Prime Minister just this week that I feel he is on the right path. I stand with him. We cannot rush blindly into this. It needs to be done right and with mutual respect. I believe the reason we are facing this situation today is because of the history of broken treaties and lies by many governments and many people in powerful positions who betrayed our first nations people. For that I am truly sorry and very sad.

However, our common ground is the desire to arrive at a solution. We cannot resolve this alone. We need all Canadians to show resolve and collaboration.

Over the weekend, the Minister of Indigenous Services met with representatives from Tyendinaga, as well as with other members of the Mohawk nation. Now that the RCMP have agreed to step back, it is our hope the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs will meet with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, as she has requested.

This is our opportunity to bring these perspectives together because the alternative, the use of force, has been tried many times and those attempts at colonial control are not the path to reconciliation.

Despite having invested more than any other government to right historic wrongs and to close persistent gaps, we know there is still much more to be done. It is unacceptable that there are people who do not have access to clean drinking water, that indigenous women and girls still go missing and are murdered. It is unacceptable that indigenous people are still denied rights and lands.

We need to keep finding solutions. That can only happen by working together and listening to each other. In this country, we are facing many important and very deep debates. Canadians are impatient to see answers. People are frustrated that there is so much uncertainty. However, the debates in the House are very important. The language that is used is also extremely important. Yes, there is always a place for Canadians to protest and express their frustrations, but we need to ensure that we are listening to each other. We must be open to working together—

Business of Supply February 5th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, I was unaware of that particular rule and I am sorry.

Business of Supply February 5th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, I was in my seat when the vote was counted. The clerks said my name, I looked at them, I nodded and I sat back down.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation Act January 30th, 2020

Madam Speaker, again, this is the first time we have ever had women's and gender rights expressed in a free trade deal of this sort. I think that is a huge step forward.

Personally, having lived and worked in the United States as an actor, I came home to Canada and Nova Scotia because this is a much better country to live in. I will fight for Canada. I will stand up for Canada. I feel we are much better off here. We will always fight for our rights, for indigenous rights, for first nations, for women's rights and for multicultural rights because that is just the right thing to do, and we are Canadians.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation Act January 30th, 2020

Madam Speaker, I hear the member opposite, but when it comes to the 21st century and tech jobs and also IT, one can do that from anywhere. It is not necessary to be in one country or another. Many countries are working together on these types of jobs, and one can do them from a small place in Yarmouth and be in touch with somebody in the Carolinas. I think movement is a rather old-fashioned idea now. We can do things on screens. We can be talking to somebody from across the world on a screen and still be working together.

I think that, as I said, things can always be better, but given the circumstances we have now and with our trading partner to the south, we are doing extremely well. I am really pleased that we got the deal that we did.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation Act January 30th, 2020

Madam Speaker, I feel it is a lot better than it was, especially when we start at the beginning, when the Americans did not want to allow any subsidies whatsoever. As I stated in my speech, they were dead set to try to get rid of the things we had in Canada which they did not have in America. They wanted to get rid of supply management.

When I was running in the last election as a newcomer, I definitely supported supply management. It is so important. I know it is important for the dairy farmers in Quebec. The member has many different industries in Quebec for which this is very important.

Although I always believe we can do better, this was very good negotiations on our part with America at this time.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation Act January 30th, 2020

Madam Speaker, for over a year, Canada has been negotiating very hard for a modernized free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico, now called CUSMA or the new NAFTA. We knew how important it was to get it right and to get a fair deal that was good for Canadian workers and good for Canadian businesses and communities. We did everything in our power to protect jobs, create more opportunity for Canadian workers and their families and to ensure the growth of our economy. I believe it has paid off.

The new NAFTA will benefit Canadians from every corner of the country and will reinforce the strong economic ties between our three countries. I hope to see support from all colleagues in the House to get the job done.

The new NAFTA also maintains our country's preferential access to the United States and Mexico, which are Canada's largest and third-largest trading partners respectively, while modernizing long, outdated elements of the North American Free Trade Agreement. This includes labour obligations regarding the elimination of employment discrimination based on gender.

This new NAFTA is the very first international trade deal that recognizes gender identity and sexual orientation as grounds for discrimination in its labour chapter. That is very worthy of our support. This includes our obligations regarding the elimination of discrimination based on gender. That is huge.

When it comes to supply management, the U.S. starting position was to completely dismantle Canada's supply management. The U.S. summary of objectives for NAFTA renegotiation was to eliminate the remaining Canadian tariffs on imports of U.S. dairy, poultry and egg products. Our government has defended our supply management system. This agreement will provide some market access, but most important, the future of supply management is now not in question. This is very good for our dairy farmers and for many of the farming sectors.

Our farmers and our dairy producers will be compensated and dairy farmers can start receiving their first cheques this month. In Nova Scotia, we are very pleased about that.

I forgot to say, Madam Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Vancouver Centre.

Another aspect of the trade agreement, which is important to Nova Scotia, is agriculture and seafood as well. Our government has worked extremely hard to negotiate and to defend these interests of Canadians. We protected the North American agriculture and agrifood trade. We have protected the Canada-U.S. bilateral agriculture trade of $63 billion; the Canada-Mexico bilateral agricultural trade of $4.6 billion; and through the new NAFTA, we have also made gains for farmers. Through CETA, the CPTPP and the renegotiation of NAFTA, the biggest free trade deals in Canada's history, we have been able to preserve, protect and defend this supply management system.

When it comes to forestry, we feel that Canada's forestry industry supports really good jobs across the country, especially in Nova Scotia, which is important to me. However, we feel the U.S. duties on Canadian softwood lumber are unfair and unwanted. Work remains of this.

Nova Scotia remains Canada's number one leader in seafood exports, with more than $2 billion in exports or 29% of Canada's total seafood exports. The U.S. remains our closest and largest market, but China is now second, with an increase of 36% of our seafood in the last few years. We hope the new virus does not affect us too much. We have seen some effects momentarily, but we hope that it does not last.

Finally, our government will always stand up for our cultural industry, because it means protecting a $53.8 billion industry, representing over 650,000 quality jobs for Canadians. That is 75,000 jobs in Quebec alone.

The new NAFTA has important benefits for Quebec, including preserving the cultural exemption. It gives Canada flexibility to adopt and maintain programs and policies that support the creation, distribution and development of Canadian artistic expression or content, including in the digital environment. This is very important to creative industries. As a former actor, writer, producer, I for one know how important that is to our bottom line.

That is why Canada stood firm to protect the cultural exemption and our economic interests during the renegotiation of the new NAFTA. We will always defend our cultural sovereignty, because that is the right thing to do for Canada.

When it comes to the environment, the new NAFTA has a new enforceable environmental chapter. This replaces the separate side agreement of before. It upholds air quality and fights marine pollution. We believe that commitments to high levels of environmental protection are an important part of trade agreements. After all, without the environment, we do not have an economy. These protect our workers and they protect our planet.

When it comes to drug prices, our government knows how proud Canadians are of our public health care system. As Canadians, this is part of our identity. We do not have to sit here arguing whether universal medicare is good; we know it is. We also know that the affordability of and access to prescription drugs remains an important issue for so many Canadians, especially our seniors.

That is why budget 2019 takes bold, concrete steps to lay the foundation for national pharmacare, like the creation of a new Canadian drug agency. This is an important issue for our government. Our government will always stand up for our public health care system, and the changes to data protection for biologic drugs may have an impact on costs. I can assure the people that we will work with the provinces and the territories on the potential impact of these changes.

We have worked hard to achieve a very good deal that will benefit all Canadians. The enforceable provisions that protect women's rights, minority rights, indigenous rights and environmental protections are the strongest in any Canadian trade agreement to date. Of that, I believe we can all be very proud.

Petitions December 13th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition that is very important to my riding of Cumberland—Colchester. The petitioners call upon the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to honour their commitment to have an independent study to thoroughly review the potential risks of moving Nova Scotia's RCMP OCC from Truro, Nova Scotia, to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. They also call upon the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to immediately halt the move of the Truro OCC to Dartmouth and to immediately halt all work related to the move pending the outcome of a thorough independent review and risk assessment.