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

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I must say that since I became a member here in 2004, the advice the member has given me and a lot of other young parliamentarians, perhaps from many parties but certainly within our own, has been extremely valuable. I know how seriously he takes the House. In fact, I believe in the last term of Parliament he uttered more words here in the House than any other member of Parliament.

The member also has a background in finance. I am wondering if he might discuss with us his view of one of the priorities in the Speech from the Throne which is the 1% cut in the GST, eventually possibly 2%. There are a lot of economists who think that it is bad policy. I am not an economist, but I concur. I wonder if the member with his background, education and experience in finance might shed some light on how he views the 1% cut in the GST as economic policy.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend my new colleague to the House on his speech. I want to ask him specifically about a couple of things I thought were missing from the Speech from the Throne and see if he might have a few facts as to where he thinks the government may be going. He spoke a couple of times about opportunities for youth. The Speech from the Throne specifically addressed families in a lot of cases, that these were the priorities of Canadian families.

One of the key priorities for Canadian families is education, education in the public schools, but also post-secondary education. Many Canadian families, I am sure the hon. member would agree, are worried about how they will afford to send their children for post-secondary education, be it to university, community college, apprenticeship training or whatever.

The last government made great strides in research and innovation, taking Canada from the lowest in the G-7 to the top of the G-7 in publicly funded research. The issue now has become access to education. How will students afford a post-secondary degree.

We introduced things like millennium scholarships and the learning bonds, and last year in the economic update we introduced an expansion of the Canada access grants for Canadians most in need, which would be disabled Canadians, aboriginal Canadians as well as Canadians from low income families. In the campaign, it became an issue when we introduced a 50-50 plan to assist all Canadian families with education.

In light of the fact that education is such a priority, and the word “education” did not show up in the Speech from the Throne, I wonder if the hon. member might be able to share with me what he thinks the government will be doing to help Canadian students get post-secondary education.

Petitions April 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present another petition from concerned people in and around my constituency about the government's plans for child care.

They say, among other things, that 70% of women with children under the age of six are employed; that a $100 a month taxable allowance amounts to a small child benefit and will not establish new child care spaces; that child care is an everyday necessity; and that there is an urgent and immediate need for additional child care spaces.

The residents of Nova Scotia call upon the government to honour the early learning and child care agreement in principle and to fund it for a full five years.

Petitions April 10th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of presenting a petition today from people in my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour who are concerned about the government's plans to offer child care and specifically to rescind the agreement on early learning and child care. It says, among other things, that 84% of parents with children are both in the workforce, 70% of women with children under the age of six are employed, that a taxable $100 a month allowance amounts to a child benefit, and a meagre one at that, and will not establish new child care spaces.

As child care is an everyday necessity, they call upon the Prime Minister to honour the early learning and child care agreement in principle and to commit to fund it for five full years.

Petitions April 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present a petition signed by a number of people who are concerned about the government's plan, or what the petitioners consider to be no plan, for child care. The petitioners state, among other things, that 70% of women with children under the age of six are employed, that a taxable $100 a month allowance amounts to a child benefit and will not establish new child care spaces, and that child care is an everyday necessity in the country. The petitioners are calling upon the Prime Minister and the government to honour the early learning and child care agreement.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague on his speech. He has brought up some very good points that the House needs to be reminded of. Obviously the little bit of information that was in the throne speech acknowledged the condition that we have left the economy in.

One of the areas in which the previous Liberal government was so successful was the area of addressing the skills issues and developing Canada, specifically universities, through research and innovation. There has been $13 billion invested since 1998, taking Canada from near the bottom of the G-7 in terms of publicly funded research to a place at the very top of the G-7. Most recently, last year the government introduced specific measures to address accessibility for students, particularly those from low income families, low income Canadians.

I would like to ask my colleague a question. When we talk about “five priorities” for Canadians, would he agree with me that education might be one of those five priorities? Was he surprised to see that education was not even mentioned in the Speech from the Throne?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments, especially about my predecessor from Dartmouth--Cole Harbour, Wendy Lill, who was a very distinguished member. I am now tied with her in number of times elected. Of course, she got eight years and I do not have two yet, but that is the nature of the game.

There are all kinds of things we need to do on a lot of issues, but I would say to my colleague from Halifax that we did some significant things last year. We put some significant things in the economic update in November that followed on Bill C-48. I heard a lot from the NDP members last year that they wanted to make Parliament work. They said they would negotiate with the government. Both parties deserve credit for Bill C-48 but when it came time to implement it and the economic update, the NDP fell away and said, “No, we are going to go to an election”. The levers of power are now with people who think they can tax cut their way to better education, tax cut their way to child care.

We were making direct investments. It was the right approach. I hope that some of those things will be continued by the Minister of Finance.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I did not really detect a question, but I do want to respond.

First of all, I congratulate the member on his election. If he serves in this place with anywhere near the kind of distinguished record of his predecessor from Peterborough, he will be doing very well.

He commented that we are not here to discuss what was not included in the throne speech but what is included. I would not have hit 10 minutes if I had done that. I would have hit two minutes because there really is not very much in the throne speech. That is why I wanted to talk about issues that are of most importance to Canadians.

When I travelled around my constituency during the election and throughout last year, families told me they were concerned about education and where their children would go to school. In my province tuition is extraordinarily high. Nova Scotia has the highest tuition fees. That is a provincial government responsibility, but it is also a federal government responsibility.

In the campaign we came forward with a fifty-fifty plan to ensure that all Canadian students would get half of their first year and half of their last year undergraduate program as well as expanding the Canada access grants in the economic update. This would allow lower income Canadians, Canadians with disabilities and aboriginal Canadians to have access to university. That is very important. I say sincerely that I am not without hope, but I do hope that the government recognizes and keeps some of those things that we brought forward in the fiscal update and understands the importance of education.

I met today with student leaders from the Canadian Federation of Students. I met with a university representative. They had to look long and hard to find any reference to education in the Speech from the Throne. We need to give them some more hope that the good work the Liberal government did last year and in years previous will be continued. I hope that happens.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply April 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, allow me to congratulate you on your new position. It is a significant position for a new member of the House. In the short time we have had to chat, I am sure you will fill it admirably and with respect for this institution and its members.

I also want to congratulate the new government and its members, as well as all members who have been elected to this important place.

I would also like to express my gratitude to the people of my constituency, Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who have once again placed their trust in me as their member of Parliament. I am honoured to represent them and I am privileged to work on their behalf in the House of Commons and, more particular, back home.

I would also like to thank my family, which I am sure is not watching, my wife Darlene and my children Emma and Conor, whose support, patience and love are the biggest part of my life.

I would also like to talk about the election that I just went through in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. It was a positive election, a fair election, in contrast perhaps to the rest of the country. We debated issues and people made their decision. I am deeply grateful to the people who put so much time into my campaign and those who believed that I stood for values in which they believe.

I also want to acknowledge my opponents in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and recognize them. First, is Peter Mancini who, as people here may recall, was a member of Parliament from 1997 to 2000. Peter was my opponent, but he was not my enemy. I value the contribution he has made to his community and I respect his commitment to principles and party.

Likewise, my Conservative challenger was a decent man by the name of Robert Campbell, a former RCMP officer, very dedicated and committed. Elizabeth Perry from the Green Party spoke passionately on a lot of issues, not the least of which were the national day care program which she supported as well as the issues of the environment.

I enjoyed getting to know all these people, those whom I did not know and those whom I did, and I am proud of the race that we fought.

This place means an awful lot to me. I do not take it for granted and I do not take for granted the privilege of being here. One need only consider the great debates that have taken place in this chamber. We recall the contributions that members of all parties made, people who brought distinction to the House.

Like all members, it is my hope that I can continue to make a contribution to debate and put forward ideas because that is what this is about. We should exchange ideas and debate their merits, and we should do so with respect and with openness, willing to acknowledge that no one person or party has the monopoly on what is right. It is through debate we sometimes find compromise and solutions.

My comments today will be consistent with things I have said before, since my election in 2004. The things in which I believe do not change as I find myself on a different side of the House.

Yesterday the new Conservative government put forth a plan that will be the source of some of these debates. As the government, it is their right and their responsibility to set an agenda, to place it before Parliament and to make a case for it.

None of us here were surprised by the content of the throne speech. We all understood the Conservatives would bring forth five key areas that they believed were important for them and for the country. There will be issues I hope on which we can all find some areas of compromise, the main issues like justice, national defence and accountability. We can work through those and hopefully can find some common ground. It is my intention to make Parliament work.

Today I would like to address the throne speech, both for what was included and what was not included.

First, I will address what was included. I want to comment on two of the issues with which I take exception.

The first is the issue of the goods and service tax. In a column on March 18, 2006, Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail referred to the Conservative commitment to cut the GST as:

--a $5 billion political bribe.... Cutting the GST mildly stimulates an economy that doesn't need it. As politics, it's great; as economics, it stinks.

I happen to agree with him on that issue, as do a great many economists. I would also suggest that not only was the GST promise made to score political points, it does nothing to assist low income Canadians. The primary beneficiaries will be those who are wealthy.

What would really help is to have the government help working and low income Canadians and for the government to do the right thing and maintain the commitment made and implemented by the previous Liberal government to lower personal income taxes for low and middle income Canadians, building on a record of one million Canadians who have come off the tax rolls altogether since 2000.

Since being elected I have met regularly with anti-poverty groups in my area. They know that reducing consumption taxes is no way to help those most in need and it is inherently unfair, and I think that is right.

Another issue, and one that has been talked about before and emerged in this House, is the issue of child care. I remember getting a call from the Growing Place: Early Education Centre Ltd. in my riding. People who had never been involved in politics and in most cases people whom I had never met were very concerned about the Conservative plan. They believed it would unravel 18 months of hard work by the Liberal government and the social development minister who, because of his efforts, had signed child care agreements with all 10 provinces. These people were not political activists. They were parents who know the burdens that we all feel and the hopes that we all have for our children.

In Canada we value social programs. We value the common citizenship that they invoke. Child care could be one of those.

Now the new government will disregard the hard work of the provinces and the federal government and replace it with a $100 a month taxable allowance. The government plan does nothing to address the real issue of child care spaces. The Conservative program does not do anything to support training, or new equipment for child care facilities, or wage enhancements for workers.

Let me be clear. The government proposal is not about child care. It is more about a view that government has no role to play in ensuring equality of access and opportunity. It is that rugged individualistic vision that we often see from our neighbours to the south. I believe the government is wrong on the issue of child care and I will argue that.

Let me talk about what I think is missing most notably from the speech.

Notwithstanding the substantive disagreements I have with some of the five proposals, what is most alarming is the absolute lack of mention of education, environment, international development.

How can the government suggest to Canadians that it is serious about moving Canada forward when one of the most critical issues facing Canada is our need to develop human capital through skills education and training, yet this was not even mentioned in the speech? While most G-8 countries and emerging economies, China, India and Brazil, continue to invest resources and focus on improving skills development, the Speech from the Throne does not mention education. It is inward looking and is the wrong approach for Canadians.

How will the government follow up on the brilliant record of the previous government in investing in research and innovation, putting Canada at the top of the G-7 in publically funded research, reversing the brain drain and helping to build a strong economy, the one that the government has now inherited for a while?

Today the challenge is student access, a challenge that was being addressed through direct investments in students, especially those in need, those most marginalized, aboriginal Canadians, Canadians with disabilities, low income families. There are those who suggest that skills training is the single most important issue facing Canadians, but it was not in the throne speech. The Speech from the Throne is supposedly designed to help families, but how can it ignore one of the biggest concerns that families have: educating their children?

As well, what are we to think of the absence of any mention of regional development? This is an area that is very important in Atlantic Canada.

Already we have seen this government treat Atlantic Canada poorly. For the first time in modern history there is no cabinet representation from the province of P.E.I., yet the Prime Minister found it fit to appoint his chief fundraiser from Quebec to the Senate to be the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

We see continued neglect shown to Atlantic Canada. The Prime Minister appointed a part time minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, but there are parliamentary secretaries from Toronto and Calgary. The fact that this new government would downgrade ACOA to a minor portfolio led by a part time minister perhaps speaks volumes about this government's view of Atlantic Canadians in general. Perhaps we do not count. Perhaps it is time we were saying that Atlantic Canada wants in, at least in this government.

Further, what are we to think of there being no mention in the Speech from the Throne of the Kelowna accord, an accord that is so important to our aboriginal communities?

What about our place in the world, specifically international development and assistance?

The Speech from the Throne is really not a speech from the throne but a brochure from the throne. It is a tiny document because the ideas are small. There is no vision that will make a real difference for Canada. The agenda of the government is narrow and inward looking and disappointing.

I want Parliament to work and I think all parties need to make it work. I came here to discuss these issues, to debate legislation, to forge a better country, and I will do my part. But I believe the throne speech misses more than it hits. I do not believe that we can address the future of a country without suggesting how we will educate its citizens, how we will develop its regions, how we will care for its children or how we will ensure greater equality for those most marginalized. Those are the issues that I came here to discuss and the issues for which I stand with my colleagues.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply April 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, let me say how nice it is to see you back in the seat in which I have become accustomed to seeing you.

I would like to congratulate the member for Toronto—Danforth on his speech, on his re-election, and on the modest gains he achieved for his party. I am glad those gains did not reach Nova Scotia and specifically Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, in spite of his many visits and best efforts, and the efforts of a very strong New Democratic Party candidate who did serve in the House before.

The member spoke of the achievements of Bill C-48 in last year's budget where the Liberal government and the New Democrats reached agreement on investing in some important priority areas, one of those areas being post-secondary education, specifically the issue of access for Canadians.

In the last seven or eight years we have made huge strides in investing in university infrastructure through research, development and innovation. The challenge now, I would suggest and I would agree with most members of his party, is student access.

Bill C-48 was an important piece of legislation. Unfortunately, when we came forward to implement that $1.5 billion, in fact it was more than $2 billion, for those Canadians who most needed assistance: aboriginal Canadians, low income Canadians, persons with disabilities, the hon. member chose to go to an election.

My colleague speaks of inaction. That was action. I say very sincerely, that was an unparalleled historical investment in students, but forces were joined to have an election. That was his choice. I am not here to debate the past, but we had an opportunity to achieve results.

Now we have a government that believes students can tax cut their way to an education at university, at community college, and maybe through apprenticeship training.

Following yesterday's pamphlet from the throne, which was pretty thin on education, how confident is my hon. colleague that the government will actually improve access, will actually make life better for Canadian students, particularly those in the margins who need assistance and who would have received help through our legislation last year?