House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was poverty.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act March 11th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on third reading of Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and the Pension Act.

According to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Bill C-55 is only the first step to addressing the concerns of veterans. However, we agree that it is a good first step and we congratulate the initiative.

The proposed legislation is a small step forward. We have supported the bill because our veterans need urgent help now and because the minister assures us that further changes will come. We hope this represents a significant change in thinking, in acting, that will address other gaps.

I would like to acknowledge our critic on veterans affairs, the member for Etobicoke North. In the short time that she has been in the House, she has earned admiration from all sides for her diligent and very capable work. She is passionate about the issue of veterans. She has travelled extensively and met with veterans. One only needs to chat with her to understand how seriously, deeply and personally she connects with our veterans.

Just before Christmas she was in Nova Scotia speaking in the town hall on veterans' issues with the member for Halifax West. I had a chance to have her meet with some of my constituents. I remember sitting at a Starbucks, chatting with Bruce Grainger, who many people in the House would know. I am sure the members for Sackville—Eastern Shore and Halifax West would know Bruce. Bruce is a veteran who served our country with distinction. Now his concern is for other veterans. He has put forward some ideas for the minister that perhaps we need to bring more veterans into Veterans Affairs and on the review and appeal boards. We need to respect that kind of passion from Canada's veterans.

What we owe our men and women who have put the uniform on is to honour our sacred trust and to be there for them when they come home. That means working to improve their pay and benefits so they feel secure knowing their families will be looked after. That means working to improve care for wounded warriors, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. What we owe them is to provide the care they need until the end of their lives, for example, ensuring long-term care so no veteran should have to suffer dementia and PTSD in a facility not equipped to meeting his or her needs.

Sadly, instead of trying to repay our obligation, we have let them down on many issues. For example, too many veterans go untreated for PTSD, too many veterans have nowhere safe to sleep at night, too many veterans suffer traumatic brain injury. It was shameful when a 92-year old veteran in Edmonton said, “There's a long road to go to make this right and you must not give up speaking to us because we never did”, speaking of himself and his colleagues.

The minister tabled Bill C-55 on November 17, 2010. The proposed legislation brought together several of the fall announcements and would make changes to the new veterans charter, as called for by several veterans organizations, including the Royal Canadian Legion, and would introduce changes to the administration of the lump sum disability award. Specifically, Bill C-55 would amend parts 1 to 3 of the new veterans charter as well as part IV of the Pension Act.

There are important changes in the proposed legislation: at least $58,000 per year for seriously wounded or ill veterans, those too injured to return to the workforce; a minimum of $40,000 per year no matter what the salary when serving in the CF for those receiving the monthly earnings loss benefit; an additional monthly payment of $1,000 for life to help our most seriously wounded veterans who are no longer able to work; and improved access to the permanent impairment allowance and the exceptional incapacity allowance, which will include 3,500 more veterans.

On behalf of veterans, I must ask why the government waited four years to propose any change to the new veterans charter, which has been hailed as a living document, a work in progress that would be continually adapted to meet the changing needs of veterans.

I must also ask why Veterans Affairs Canada did not live up to its 2006 commitment to review lump-sum awards for a disability pension within two years.

While the minister promised new improvements to the lump sum payment, the government merely divided up the payment differently, for example, as a partial lump sum and partial annual payments over any number of years the recipient chooses, or as a single lump sum payment.

Despite this, parties came together to ensure the passage of Bill C-55 and its extra support for veterans because our veterans need urgent help now and because veterans organizations across the country, including the Gulf War Veterans Association of Canada, the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping and the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association have asked us to do so.

I come from an area with a rich military history. We recently lost retired Brigadier-General Ned Amy, who had served with such distinction. We have had many giants in Nova Scotia in military history. One of the great giants was a diminutive man who barely cracked five feet tall but made such a difference.

I think of sitting at the Battle of the Atlantic dinner with Murray Knowles, Earle Wagner and some of the great heroes who have served our country, many of whom went across the cold North Atlantic in the corvettes, the last one of which is HMCS Sackville, which is nearing the end of its useful life in the water and has to come ashore. One way the government could support what veterans want in recognition of what they have done for us is put money into the proposal to bring HMCS Sackville ashore in Halifax.

Dominion president Pat Varga spoke of this bill, saying:

This bill, as a first step, makes great strides in improving the New Veterans Charter and encompasses many of the recommendations made by the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group and the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. The Legion considers that further improvements are needed to the Charter on which we look forward to continue the ongoing dialogue with [the] Minister...

Many things have been brought forward by the legion. In the future, the Royal Canadian Legion would still like the department to address the amount of the lump sum payment, the $276,000. In Canada, disabled workers receive, on average, $329,000, Australian service members received about $325,000. British service members receive many times that figure. The legion feels those injured, while serving their country, should expect to receive at least the same amount awarded to civilian workers whose lives have been drastically changed by circumstances beyond their control.

This is a bill that parliamentarians from all parties are happy to come together and speak in favour of.

I want to talk about where we are in Canada today.

It is no secret that Parliament is facing a volatile time. There are serious issues being discussed in the chamber that go to the heart of our traditions and customs. There is a hardening of opinion on all sides and the stakes are high, indeed. It is a tense time and yet a delicate time and I do not think anybody knows for sure where this will end up.

It is happening in Parliament where the people of Canada have a voice. In Canada, we use words and not swords and we determine who governs our nation by using ballots and not bullets. However, privilege did not come by default. It was not inevitable. It is the dividend of the blood and sacrifice of those who left their homes and families, went to lands many never heard of before and put their lives on the line. Some never came home, and it happens to this day.

As we pass Bill C-55 and parliamentarians consider their responsibilities, let us remember the men and women who have given up the opportunities they had so we could do this in a free country. It is appropriate in this tumultuous time in Canadian democracy to remember that the veterans have brought us all and Parliament together. Once again, it is the men and women who have fought for Canada who have showed us how democracy should work. We can do much more to honour that sacrifice. I hope today is just the start.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, there are many reasons to support this motion from our colleagues in the Bloc today.

However, I want to take advantage of my colleague from the human resources committee, the member for Chambly—Borduas who, along with myself and others, notably the member for Sault Ste. Marie and our chair from Niagara West—Glanbrook, who travelled across Canada and met with hundreds of witnesses representing thousands of people. He talked about poverty and homelessness, and really got a sense of just how desperate the lives are of so many Canadians who were helped so little by the stimulus package. Many of these people will now be asked to help repay, making their lives even worse.

He joined me earlier this week when we met with a number of faith leaders from Canada. Every faith community in the country is saying that it needs action on poverty. The faith leaders were as disappointed as we were in the minister's response to the poverty report that took three years to complete. My view of the response is that seldom has so much been written about so many things while saying so little.

It was not so much the response as it was the way the minister snuck it into the House. Usually when the government announces something, it announces it eight times. She did not even have a press conference or say a word. She snuck it into the desk in the House of Commons. What does that say about the government's approach to those Canadians who are truly vulnerable and need assistance from their government?

Poverty March 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is International Women's Day. Women, including single moms and elderly single women, suffer from poverty and it is getting worse under the government.

How can the minister justify $6 billion for corporate tax cuts and billions of dollars for jets? By the way, spending billions of dollars on megaprisons is not a national housing strategy. A fraction of that money could lift so many women and families out of poverty.

Canada's faith leaders are part of the call for action. The minister's choices are hurting Canadians. Did she even read that poverty report? Does anybody over there care about Canada's poor?

Poverty March 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, today faith leaders from across Canada are meeting in Ottawa, talking to politicians about poverty and discussing the human resources committee report on poverty that was tabled in the fall.

Under the government, poverty is rising dramatically, by 25% in fact, and the government refuses to address it. The minister snuck her response to the poverty report into Parliament without so much as a word. Why not? It is an insult to Canadians who live in poverty, just as she insulted people on EI and Canadians who used child care.

If the Conservatives refuse to listen to Parliament, the UN, or all the social advocates, what do they say to Canada's churches that want action on poverty?

Canada Post Corporation Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-509 introduced by our colleague from Brandon—Souris. I want to commend him for his initiative and diligence. I know how long he has been working on this. He is a good member of Parliament and works hard. Although I have not had the pleasure of seeing him chair committees, I have heard from others that he is a wonderful chair of the committee, being very fair and reasonable. Therefore I particularly want to commend him on Bill C-509, as well as my colleague from Mississauga—Streetsville, who has been supportive and worked hard on this file.

This bill, as people know, is about the book rate. Bill C-509 is an act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials). It has had various incarnations before. The history of this bill is well known to people in the House, having been documented in debate on the bill's previous incarnations. The book rate has existed for a long time, since 1939. There are 2,000 libraries using the rate. In 1997, the rules were changed so that the book rate would not to be funded by the Government of Canada, the result I think of the WTO, but instead by Canada Post.

This bill has the support of a number of people, including a person who is very important to me, someone who has been my constituency assistant since I was elected in 2004. I snatched her away from the Dartmouth library. She is very passionate about books, literacy and the work of libraries. She told me that if I did not support this bill, she would not be my employee. For that reason, for Peggy and many others, I am pleased to support this bill. I want to let the House know that Peggy Landes has worked for me these six and a half years and will be leaving me at the end of this month to go on to better pursuits with her husband, but her work will continue in my office.

The Canadian Library Association, in a toolkit it prepared, indicated three reasons the book rate is very important. I want to read those into the record. The library book rate:

Ensures equitable access to documents located in libraries across the country and made available to all Canadians;

Supports the intellectual needs of remote northern and rural communities; and

It is the principle underpinning the concept that the collections of all libraries are a national asset accessible to all Canadians and as such supports education and lifelong learning as well as helping to maintain Canada’s global competitiveness and productivity

There is an issue with productivity in this country. There are demographic pressures coming down the street and staring us in the face right now. We are going to need more productive employees in this country and more people with post-secondary education. Frankly, we do not have high enough literacy rates, even though we have a very educated population. We need to do everything we can to ensure that people are educated to the extent of their abilities, not only for their benefit but also of the country as a whole. More and more Canadians are going to need post-secondary credentials. If they do not get them, the problem in Canada of jobs without people and people without jobs will continue and likely get worse, because people have not been matched with those jobs.

I want to support this bill from the point of view not only of rural communities but also of people with disabilities, a group that I spend a lot of time with. There are many Canadians with disabilities who do not have access to some of the benefits that many other people do. They use libraries to a high degree and we need to ensure that continues to be the case.

When we look at ways of improving and building Canada, recognizing where we are in the world and understanding how to go forward, we come across things like libraries, museums and other cultural institutions. In my own community of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, there is the new Dartmouth library. I say it is new though it was built in about 1988. However, it is a fabulous improvement over the old library and has become part of the regeneration of the downtown Dartmouth area, and has served a very significant purpose. Moreover, in the spring of last year, the Woodlawn Public Library opened up.

Libraries like these can be fabulous gathering places not just for adults but also for children in particular and, in many cases, for seniors. These people come together not only to enjoy the library but also the benefits it provides in terms of being a community gathering spot for people to exchange ideas and to catch up.

I want to mention museums. There is the Dartmouth Heritage Museum, which is really only a shell of what it could be. As a young guy, I grew up in the great community of Dartmouth. I was one of seven children and my father was a doctor. He used to leave us at the old Dartmouth museum and go across the bridge to deliver a baby, and would come back two, three or four hours later and we would still be there looking at the models in the museum.

It is a shame that the old Dartmouth museum is now mostly housed in a warehouse in Burnside. We need funding for the new Dartmouth museum and I will fight for it. As well, the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm that recognizes the heritage of the great farming community of Cole Harbour and people like Melvin Harris and many others who have helped to build that community.

In terms of culture, Dartmouth is the home of hockey. If the member for Kings—Hants or other members from areas like Windsor, Nova Scotia, Kingston, Ontario or even Montreal, Quebec were here they would dispute that. However, I encourage them to have a look at the book, Hockey's Home: Halifax--Dartmouth by Martin Jones which clearly documents that hockey started on the lakes in Dartmouth.

I mention all these things because we cannot go wrong when we fund and continue to support those cultural institutions like libraries, museums and interpretation centres. I think of the Shubenacadie Canal that runs through Dartmouth and all the way through Nova Scotia. It is now going through a capital campaign. These are the things that government needs to be involved in.

I also want to address literacy. I have spoken many times on this issue in the House of Commons. For a nation as wealthy as it is, Canada has very high illiteracy rates. We have had cuts to literacy over the past few years, notably the first year of the present government. It cut literacy to the tune of $17.7 million. It disempowered local literacy organizations.

One of the saddest meetings I have had as an MP was not with somebody in my own constituency but from a neighbouring constituency who came to see me. He said that he did not have a lot of education but that he had a job and was able to take care of his wife and kids. In fact, he was offered a promotion but the problem with the promotion was that he was afraid he would be forced to take the literacy test. He thought it might not only kill his promotion but might put his current job in jeopardy.

Those are the Canadians we need to be helping. It is the Canadians who not only do not have the skills but those who do not have enough and those who need to upgrade their skills. Literacy, being a key component, is a key reason I commend my colleague from Brandon—Souris for bringing this bill forward.

Disadvantaged Canadians, whether they are people with disabilities or low income families that cannot afford to buy new books, these are people who benefit from the book rate. I want to commend librarians from coast to coast to coast. I think of the librarians I knew when I was growing up in the schools and in the Dartmouth Library. They are very patient people who do not ask for very much except for those things that through their efforts will benefit other Canadians. I think we really need to encourage that.

In Nova Scotia, one of the great pioneers of children's literacy is Dr. Richard Goldbloom, a pediatrician and Order of Canada recipient. He is one of the most significant and dedicated pediatric surgeons in this country. He started a program at the IWK-Grace Health Centre. When kids were born, the parents, regardless of income, all received a package of books to take home so that these parents could read to their children on a regular basis. All families received this package of books and, for some families, it made a huge difference. We need to encourage literacy from the earliest days.

Some people might suggest that we do not need early learning and child care in this country, perhaps believing that children do not start to learn until they are six years old. We know they start to learn as soon as they are born or even before that and literacy is important. I think that keeping the book rate ties into that issue very well.

I want to read a letter from the Canadian Library Association that all MPs received. It was dated last May and speaks to the fact that once again it is pleased to offer its support to my colleague's bill. It reads:

[CLA and] the entire library community remains concerned about the sustainability of the Library Book Rate, which contributes to the public policy goals of literacy, lifelong learning, inclusion, and vibrant communities.

I thank people like Heather Neish who sent a letter to me from my constituency encouraging this to continue. I thank all the people who have worked in libraries in my own community of Cole Harbour, Dartmouth and all across Canada, and people like Peggy Landes who brought words, not just markings on a page but words that bring meaning to life for Canadians.

I again commend my colleague from Brandon—Souris for this most important bill. I am sure all members in the House will support it.

Political Financing March 2nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Federal Court of Appeal eviscerated the flimsy shield that the government has been using to try to justify the in and out scheme and the illegal rebates Conservatives tried to swindle out of taxpayers.

Conservatives call it an administrative dispute. Canadians call it fraud. One MP who signed off on the fraudulent rebate scheme is the current President of the Treasury Board. Ten thousand dollars was funnelled in and out of his riding.

When will taxpayers get back the dirty money that he is sitting on and when will he apologize for his role in this scandal?

March 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the hallmark of Liberal governments is that we clean up Conservative messes and turn them around. In fact, it was under the Liberals that poverty was reduced very significantly from the mid to late 1990s to the point that it had gone down to 9.5% both for child poverty and for poverty. Now it is back up to 12%. That is the legacy of this government so far. It has absolutely no concern for those Canadians most in need.

Every organization that has looked at this knows this. We can name them: Campaign 2000, Citizens for Public Justice, Make Poverty History, Canada Without Poverty. In my own area there are the Faces of Poverty, the housing coalitions, the people who are working at the ground level on poverty. They know what we need. Not one of them would say that what we need to do is further reduce corporate taxes when corporate taxes are already 25% below the United States. They would say that we should invest in people, in families, in early learning and in helping our parents when they are aging. They would say that, for heaven's sake, we should at the very least stand up as a responsible government in a country as traditionally generous as Canada and accept that as the federal government we have a responsibility to help those most in need.

People just need help. We will figure out those details. There are all kinds of things the government can do but it needs to stand up and do something for the people in Canada who need help. That is what they deserve.

March 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to follow up on a question that I asked in the House some time ago. The question came about on the day that the food banks of Canada released their hunger count for 2010 showing that food bank usage in Canada was up 9%, which meant that over two years food bank usage was up by 28% overall. We are closing in on a million Canadians who use the food bank on a regular basis.

When I asked the question, I used a comparison because governments make choices. The comparison I used was that the government had very little interest or motivation to help those most in need. For example, it spent $8,704 on a power cord for the G8 summit, as part of the billion dollar boondoggle for the meeting that happened in June of last year. Those are the kind of choices that offend and insult Canadians.

Poverty has been increasing. This was evidenced not only by the hunger count that came out last November, and which comes out ever year, but also by a report from the Citizens for Public Justice and their partners, World Vision, which showed that in the last two years poverty in Canada has been on a steady increase. In fact, poverty has gone up from around 9.5% to 12% and child poverty has gone up from 9.7% to 12%. These are startling figures. This means that many Canadians, our neighbours, people that we see, are not making it and they are not enjoying the wealth that is Canada. The tragedy is that they received no benefit from the stimulus package.

It is a double whammy for the poorest people, for those who are in poverty and for those who are near poverty because not only did they get no benefit from the stimulus, but we can be sure as shootin' guaranteed that they will be the ones who will be victimized by the cuts to pay for the Conservative mismanagement of the economy.

I will give another comparison and a particularly startling one. Yesterday we had a report about some 80 members of the government caucus doing a blitz on Canada's economic action plan. This was a $6.5 million media campaign, paid for by the taxpayer, to promote the action plan on radio and TV. This was $6.5 million in a very short period of time to promote an action plan that was totally out of action but it could not find $7 million to fund KAIROS over five years. These are the kinds of things that offend Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

KAIROS is made up of Canada's leading church organizations, supported by radicals like Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Mennonites and Evangelical Fellowship. It is ridiculous that the Conservatives make these choices and do nothing for those most in need but can at the same time spend money on those things that benefit them. That is not a good deal for Canadians and it does nothing for those who are the poorest. I would suggest that it is unconscionable and offensive.

My colleague who will answer this question is on the human resources committee. We have just completed a major study on poverty. We know the things we need to do to reduce poverty. We need to invest in early learning and child care in order to give every child an opportunity to learn. We need to invest in programs that will give people the opportunity to go on to post-secondary education.

However, whenever we raise these questions, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development insults Canadians by suggesting that any plan that calls for early learning and child care forces Canadians to have other people raise their children, ignoring the fact that some 70% of Canadians are two income families. She insults Canadians on the issue of employment insurance as well.

There is a growing movement in this country of people who are interested in fighting poverty. It includes everybody from faith groups to business organizations to labour organizations to provincial governments, six of which already have anti-poverty plans. What it does not include is the federal Government of Canada which has refused to have an anti-poverty plan and which told the United Nations, when it told Canada specifically that it should have an anti-poverty plan, no, that it was not its problem.

There are people who are falling behind, people who are way behind and people who need help. I think Canadians, by and large, want to help those who need assistance, and instead the government turns a blind eye. We need to have some assistance for those living in poverty and the government is standing by and doing nothing.

Literacy February 17th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, today around the world, 774 million adults lack basic literacy skills and one in five adults, mostly women, cannot read or write at all. Canada's literacy statistics are just as alarming for a country as wealthy as our own.

Literacy is not just about reading and writing, it is more than just understanding words on a page. Literacy is a powerful tool to eradicate poverty and to advance people socially and economically. Those who cannot access literacy skills are tragically left behind in society and, thanks to the government, we are leaving far too many people behind.

In the 2006 budget, the federal government announced it was cutting $1 billion worth of what it called wasteful programs. Part of that was a $17.7 million cut to adult literacy programming. One in three Canadians who struggle with literacy every day do not think much of that.

By improving literacy skills, a person increases his or her chances to find employment, to lift oneself out of poverty, find or create opportunities and make great contributions to the community.

Today let us recognize those who assist learners, those who bring meaning to words and who open the doors to better lives for those who struggle with literacy for their benefit and the benefit of all of us.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario Act February 16th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak tonight to this important bill, Bill C-309, put forward by my colleague from Nipissing—Timiskaming. This is an important piece of legislation brought forward by an important and fine member of Parliament. I had the pleasure of being elected to this House in 2004, and since that time I have pretty much sat beside the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming. I have seen how hard he works, how seriously he takes his duties and how connected he is to his community on a whole range of issues.

The bill tonight speaks to that commitment to the community of northern Ontario. The importance of regional economic development agencies in general must never be underestimated. Canada is such a vast country, diverse both in terms of culture, ethnography, geography and in every other way.

From region to region, Canada is different and from one province to the next, and even within provinces. In the province I come from, Nova Scotia we have Cape Breton, the Annapolis Valley, the French Shore in Southwestern Nova Scotia and we have Halifax-Dartmouth. The legislation should reflect those differences across Canada but even within regions.

I want to speak from my own experience with our regional development agency, ACOA, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and its value to Atlantic Canadians. I believe the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming would acknowledge that ACOA is a pretty good model. The bill we are talking about today in some ways can trace its origins to the work that has been done by ACOA.

ACOA has done so much good work. One of the key things is it has recognized that Atlantic Canadians are smart and innovative people who have ideas they want develop and market. One of the things that was missing is that Atlantic Canada is not a haven of venture capital.

The Liberal government looked at ACOA and asked why not use this as a way to spur innovation and research so that Atlantic Canada can grow not only now, but for generations to come?” The Atlantic innovation fund was set up. I want to acknowledge Senator Moore. He is still in the Senate and is one of the people who came up with this idea, the rising tides document that came out around 2000 and led to the introduction of the Atlantic innovation fund.

These permanent development agencies with stable core funding really help regions to develop economic potential that is unique to their geography and their demographics. Hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity is at risk of not being used, in other words, of going untapped.

Bill C-309 would establish a permanent and annually funded regional economic agency in northern Ontario as an essential step to building a more secure and stable economy in the region.

The member pointed out that there does not now exist a federal government program that aims to contribute to economic development in northern Ontario. FedNor falls under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Industry and is essentially now used as a tool, quite often for punishing and bribing of the parties concerned. It is a program, not an agency. It is constantly under threat of having its budget easily cut or eliminated altogether. That is not the way to encourage regional economic development.

Under previous Liberal governments there was never any threat to funding, so perhaps it was not as important in those days. The member acknowledged in his speech that it was not as necessary 10 years ago as it is today because of the threats, the whims, the enemies list of the government. Anything that is left to the whim of a ministerial decision, as we have seen with the minister responsible for CIDA what can happen when a minister gets piqued at something. It is gone pretty quickly.

As my colleague pointed out, the Liberal government at that time actually increased FedNor's core funding to $52 million. The fact is since the Conservatives took office, FedNor's budget has been slashed by close to $7 million a year. This bill is designed to ensure that FedNor will not be subjected to further cuts.

Some people asked why did the Liberals not do it? My colleague answered that question. It was not necessary then, perhaps it might have been useful. If we had anticipated that the Conservatives might be coming in, perhaps we would have done that to protect northern Ontario.

In short, the bill seeks to promote economic development, economic diversification and job creation in communities throughout northern Ontario. As an agency, as opposed to a simple program, FedNor would demand greater accountability and will be required to report to Parliament on a regular basis.

Right now, each of its counterparts as a regional development agency has an act of Parliament establishing it as a separate entity. This legislation would mean that the federal government requires the consent of Parliament to change or alter the powers and mandate of FedNor. That sort of stability is absolutely essential for any initiative that aims at regional economic development.

Economic planners and communities need to be able to plan, knowing full well that they can count on an agency, staffed and mandated to be a regular partner with the region's players. To make FedNor into an agency through an act of Parliament is not only good for the region, it is good for accountability and transparency. As a separate agency under the FAA, FedNor would be required to file detailed financial performance reports for tabling in Parliament.

To conclude, let me say that this bill is not about bureaucracy, it is about accountability. It is not about politics, it is about good policy. It is not about cost, it is about benefit. It is about northern Ontario. I congratulate the member. I urge all members to support it and for the government to provide a royal recommendation.