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

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

Madam Speaker, I am delighted I will have a chance to speak to the bill later.

I have heard criticism from the government that seems patently absurd on the face of it. It has been asserted by the government that creating this new agency might increase costs and lead to a loss of jobs. It does not make any sense to me.

Would the member comment on that?

February 15th, 2011

Just by way of comparison, Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary suggested that we should be grateful that some projects in our ridings have been funded. My riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour received one grant in the amount of $50,000 for the Iona Presbyterian Church. The Minister of Finance received $15 million. That is $50,000 versus $15 million. This is an issue of fairness.

He talked about the enabling accessibility fund. When it was set up, it seemed to be a very noble cause. The fact that it has become a political football bandied around by the government is the shame of it. I will guarantee him and any Canadian that what a Liberal government would do for people with disabilities would dwarf anything that the Conservatives have done, any of the small bits of money.

When we look at the billions of dollars that they waste on things like G20 summits, planes, prisons and things like that, we can think about what that could do. Even the $6 billion we are talking about now in corporate tax cuts, we can think about what that could do for people with disabilities. We can think of what that could do for the Dartmouth Adult Service Centre in my riding which is applying for this fund. That is the kind of organization that needs the support. It should not be done politically, it should be done based on need.

February 15th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to follow up on a question I asked before Christmas. The question concerned the enabling accessibility fund. This is a fund that was set up a number of years ago by the government ostensibly to provide support to the disabled community by helping to renovate buildings to become more accessible for people with disabilities.

There was a problem with the fund when it was announced that the stipulations for what was called the large or major segment of the fund were brought into disrepute by people in the disability community. They suggested that these large amounts of money were set up specifically to apply only to projects in ridings of government members, including the Minister of Finance. In fact, at the time, Traci Walters, who was the national director of the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres, said:

Non-profit organizations are under-resourced and under-staffed--especially disability organizations...We do not have a team of experts who can pull something like this off within one month.

That was the timeline they were given. Of course, when the funding was announced it turned out that a total of $30 million out of the $45 million that was allocated for the entire fund, two-thirds of the money, went to two projects, one in the riding of the Minister of Finance, the other in the riding of a Conservative member from Calgary.

What made it even worse was when the other funding was announced there were 166 projects that were funded. To follow the math, 166 projects were funded totalling just under $6 million. Of those projects that were funded, 21 were in Liberal ridings, 15 were in Bloc Québécois ridings, 23 were in NDP ridings, and 107 were in Conservative ridings. This meant that 35% of the funding went in the smaller funds, and it went in incredibly disproportionate numbers to Conservative ridings. In fact, two-thirds of the money went to Conservative ridings.

A couple of years later the government replenished the fund. With the attention that was brought to it and the outrage by disability groups, one would think the Conservatives might have thought a little more about it and decided there should be a more equitable distribution. In fact, the funding was even more skewed.

What does this mean?

This means that the Government of Canada has set up a fund and is politically using it as a slush fund for its own members. It is taking money meant for disabled Canadians across the country and picking to which ridings the funding will go.

Most amazing is that one rural riding in Ontario received more grants than all of the GTA ridings put together. Why is that? It is because the GTA ridings were held by Liberal members of Parliament.

As MPs we all do our jobs. We represent disabled people across the country. This should be done fairly.

Last week I had the chance to meet, as I am sure other parliamentarians did as well, with two leaders in the disability community: Steve Estey, who happens to live in my area of Halifax and Dartmouth; and Vangelis Nikias. Steve is hearing impaired and Vangelis is visually impaired and they are leaders in the disability community. They have helped to negotiate and have worked on Canada's position going back to 2004, 2005 and 2006. They helped to negotiate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Disabled, a landmark achievement that countries across the world signed on to.

It took Canada almost four years to ratify that deal. Last spring the Government of Canada decided it would ratify the UN convention. Great celebrations were held across the country. I was at two of them. I was at the one in Halifax and the one in Ottawa. There was virtual jubilation in the disabled community that finally the government was recognizing that we could do more for the approximately four million disabled Canadians. Since then, we have had nothing.

My question for the parliamentary secretary tonight is: How could the government use funds like the enabling accessibility fund in such a political way?

Abolition of Early Parole Act February 15th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I was not planning on speaking, but the member said something that caught my attention. I think what he said, and he can confirm or deny it, was that there are members in the House who support the idea that a person who rapes a child should not go to jail.

The government talks about being tough on crime. If the Conservatives were half as tough on crime as they are on the truth, we would be further ahead.

MPs get together. We go to committee. Somehow it works most of the time, but when we come here or go out on the campaign trail, the truth gets lost in the fog.

I want to ask my colleague very simply, does he believe there is any single member of this House who believes that somebody who rapes a child should not go to jail?

Canada Winter Games February 11th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Halifax-Dartmouth is abuzz as the Canada Games kick off today. Athletes from across Canada gather in Nova Scotia to compete in 25 sports, to explore our beautiful province and to meet other young athletes and make lifelong friends. These will be fantastic games celebrating our best young athletes, but also celebrating Canada and featuring local culture and talent.

Congratulations to the organizers who have done a fabulous job preparing for these games. J.P. Deveau, a great Dartmouth boy, has worked tirelessly as chair of the board; and Chuck Bridges, vice-chair, and Chris Morrisey, the CEO, and their teams have ensured that these games will be fantastic now and will leave a great legacy for our community. A year ago, Canada was celebrating the Olympics, culminating in Nova Scotian Sidney Crosby's golden goal. Now we gather in Nova Scotia to cheer on our future Olympians.

Halifax is the place to be for the next two weeks. We will see people at the venues, at the oval, at Celebration Square and on the streets. Book tickets, get to the games. It is going to be rocking all the way through in Halifax for the Canada Games.

February 10th, 2011

Madam Speaker, when the parliamentary secretary speaks about never instituting a plan, that is factually wrong. In 2004-05 the Liberals negotiated a deal with all of the provinces and territories in this country that allowed for provincial jurisdiction to be respected and for the unique needs of provinces.

I would remind him that an ancestor of the current Conservatives, Mr. Mulroney, campaigned on early learning and child care back in the 1980s. He did not have a chance to deliver on that, but he was a Progressive Conservative and, hence, the difference.

My question for the parliamentary secretary, who I work with in committee, is for him to put away the talking points that some apparatchik gave him in the lobby. I ask him to put that stuff away and just look over here and answer one simple question. It not a difficult one, but a very easy question. Can he assure me that it is not the position of the Government of Canada to cancel or change the one-year parental leave, which I think Canadians have come to value hugely across this country, but the very program on which his government was in court citing evidence and casting disrepute about?

Is it the position of the Government of Canada to change that parental benefit? Yes or no? It is a simple question.

February 10th, 2011

Madam Speaker, last week I had an opportunity to ask a question in the House about early learning and child care. We have talked about that a number of times in the House.

What made that such an important question was that at that very time the government's human resources department had a lawyer in a tribunal citing evidence that cast disrepute upon the extended parental leave that was brought in by the Liberal government of 2000. It was cited as evidence.

My questions for the Minister of Human Resources were: Was that the position of the government now and was that a new part of its tough-on-families agenda?

I did not get an answer to that question. What I and all Canadians did get were insulting comments from the minister who suggested that not just the Liberals but also parents who use child care were not taking the best care of their children. I believe that was particularly insulting to many Canadians.

The issues of early learning and child care go far beyond parental leave. As members in the House will know, a study by UNICEF ranked Canada as tied for last position out of 25 nations on the 10 major benchmarks for early learning and care.

The fact that the government believes learning begins at the age of six and not before is a woeful condemnation of the government's record and is somewhat crazy. In fact, learning probably begins in utero, I would suspect. Certainly, as soon as children are born they begin to learn. Anyone who has children knows that, and we are not doing a very good job in this country. We have wonderful parents and are fortunate to have fabulous people working in early learning and care.

I had the chance to visit Bow Valley College a few weeks ago and meet a class of many new Canadians and others who are studying early learning and child care in preparation for providing this service to Canadians. We have great people in the system. We are just not treating them with enough respect. We are not putting enough money into training and accreditation. We need a national system of early learning and care. We have gone through all of the reasons why it is good for families and society, but on occasion the economic argument gets lost.

I want to inform the House of a 2009 government-funded study conducted by the Centre for Spatial Economics. Economist Robert Fairholm found that investing in child care provided the greatest economic benefit of all sectors of the Canadian economy by being the single biggest job creator. Investing each million dollars in child care would create 39.54 jobs, almost 10 times the number of jobs generated by a million dollars invested in construction spending. In other words, a billion dollar investment would create 40,000 jobs in this country. Every dollar invested in child care would increase the economy's output by approximately $2.30, meaning the sector has one of the highest GDP impacts of all the major sectors.

This is not just an issue of educating our children and allowing them to be more socially adjusted. That is part of it. However, this is an economic argument as well.

I want to quote from the National Crime Prevention Council of Canada:

Studies have repeatedly shown that high quality ECE reduces the delinquency rate among disadvantaged children. It also increases their likelihood of completing high school and obtaining employment—which are strong protective factors against criminality.

On any measure we can use, investing in our children and in early learning and care, or investing in the future of Canada, pays off not only socially and for the individual family but also for the country of Canada from an economic as well as a social point of view. That is why it is so important to people.

For the parliamentary secretary, is it the position of the Government of Canada to get rid of that one-year parental benefit and go back to six months?

Business of Supply February 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to ask a question of my distinguished colleague from Westmount—Ville-Marie. I know he has done a great deal of work in the research and innovation area. Canada was a world leader in public investment in innovation and research from 2000-2005. In the last few years, we have gone backward a bit.

Does the member think some of this $6 billion could be more effectively used to improve productivity by investing in innovation and research?

Business of Supply February 8th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I was intrigued by a comment my colleague made when he said that the success of a nation should be determined by the well-being of the people.

There is an organization in Atlantic Canada called GPI, Genuine Progress Index, which looks at a whole series of things.

Yesterday, we had the Canadian Federation of Medical Students here saying that even though they were in medical school, we needed to get people who are not like them into medical school.

I know my colleague does a lot of work on education and I wonder what he thinks we could do if we could invest some of that money in education, particularly for those who cannot get to post-secondary education now?

Business of Supply February 8th, 2011

Madam Speaker, a couple of months ago a constituent told me of a circumstance that I think of today. He and his family started saving for a vacation a few years ago. It was going to be their 25th anniversary. They put money away. They planned it over three or four years. When it was time for the vacation, the wife had lost her job in the Conservative recession. They had to change their plans. Would it have made sense for them to go on vacation, even though they had saved up for it, even though they planned for it?

It is the same thing that my colleague referred to, in terms of events changing.

I wonder if he would comment on that. Does it make sense to continue with the plan? It may have been very prudent in 2007 before we were hit with the recession. However, like families, we have to make decisions. The decision that we have made is this is not affordable at this time. It does not make sense at this time. It does not invest in Canadian families the way Canadian families would like.