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

Questions on the Order Paper November 15th, 2010

With respect to the Enabling Accessibility Fund and the $45 million announced in Budget 2010, since February 2010 to the present: (a) how many applications were successful and received funding under this program; (b) how many and which projects were rejected; (c) for each successful application, what was the location and value of each project, broken down by province and federal electoral district; (d) what is the total cost of administering the program; (e) how much funding is left; (f) how many major projects under this program expanded or will expand existing centres; (g) what is the value of the successful applications for major projects that went towards (i) the construction of new centres, (ii) the expansion of existing centres; (h) how many of the successful funding applications for mid-sized projects went towards (i) renovating buildings, (ii) modifying vehicles, (iii) making information and communications more accessible; and (i) what is the value of the successful funding applications for small projects that went towards (i) renovating buildings, (ii) modifying vehicles, (iii) making information and communication accessible?

Media Literacy Week November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to recognize this week as national Media Literacy Week. The aim of this week is to encourage parents, educators and community leaders to integrate and practise media and digital literacy in their homes, schools and communities.

In an era where communication technology enables us to access multiple media sources, it is increasingly necessary that Canada's youth are equipped with the skills to decipher messages that they encounter.

The theme of this year's event is “Gender and the Media”. Young people and society in general are exposed to a variety of idealized images and gender features prominently in this regard. Positive aspects of popular culture can be harnessed to promote realistic and healthy role models to youth; however, repeated exposure to negative and unfair stereotypes that deal with body image and gender can affect identity and self-image.

It is important that Canada's youth are able to empower themselves through media interaction. This is one of the important objectives that Media Literacy Week aims to achieve. I thank the Canadian Teachers' Federation and the Media Awareness Network for their leadership and their continuing excellent work. It is a job well done.

November 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, to respond to a couple of points, my colleague said that the costs are different from what they were estimated to be. It is six months later and we are still waiting for the actual costs. It is about time we had some real costs.

He talked about a post-2001 world. In 2002 we hosted the summit for $93 million. The United States did it for $25 million. The United Kingdom did it in 2005 for $140 million. Germany did it for $124 million in 2007. For Japan it was $280 million in 2008. Italy did it for $124 million in 2009.

He said that the costs are buried. I doubt there is a more secretive command and control government in the world now, certainly not in the democratic world, than the one we have here. I find it hard to believe that costs would be buried any more anywhere else than they would be here.

Canadians are offended, and I think rightfully so, by the egregious amount of money that was spent, particularly on what the money was spent and the results that we got were very minimal.

Since then we did not get our seat on the Security Council. Canada's place in the world has gone down. We can do a lot better and it is not by spending--

November 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to follow up on a question I asked earlier in the session with regard to the costs of the G8 and G20 summits. The timing of the question that day was interesting. On the same day that the Government of Canada announced it would stop funding some lighthouses, including the famous Peggy's Cove lighthouse in Nova Scotia, it was funding fake lighthouses for the G8 and G20 summits. That unbelievably wasteful, extravagant decision contrasted so much with the historic and traditional nature of real lighthouses in coastal Canada. It was not just the $186,000 that was spent on a fake lighthouse. There was a fake Toronto stock exchange built at a cost of $208,000 metres away from the real stock exchange. There was the famous fake lake and fake animals as well. The Conservatives spend money like water off a fake duck's back. It is unbelievable. There was also the cost of communications around the G8 and G20 summits.

This spending has really hit a nerve among Canadians. They think at this point in time when the Conservatives have a deficit of $56 billion, to add another $1 billion is totally wasteful, inefficient, egregious and unnecessary, especially when we look at the cost of previous summits.

I want to bring people's minds back to 1995 when former prime minister Jean Chrétien and the regional minister, David Dingwall, announced that the G7 would take place in my home community of Halifax Dartmouth. It was big news. In fact, an article from that time states,

The Halifax Summit Office (HSO) confirmed today that its budget for this year's G7 Summit Meeting will be approximately $28 million.

And it came in on budget. The article went on to say:

The budget of the Halifax Summit Office encompasses all of the operational aspects of the Summit from staffing to printing and security.

The summit in Halifax was not a low-key event. People like Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and John Major came to Halifax. It was a wonderful summit. Even at that what was very interesting is that according to a news article of April 30, 1995, a spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said that the federal government was wrong to put that G7 summit in Halifax because the city needed too many government funded fix-ups. The spokesperson said that the federal government “should have chosen a location which would not cost that kind of money”.

The person who said that is now sitting in the federal cabinet as the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. In 1995, $28 million in his view was too much to spend on a summit and then his own government spent well in excess of $1 billion. People simply do not understand how that could possibly be the case. So much could have been done with that $1 billion.

The government cancelled programs like the Canadian Council of Learning, $80 million over five years. There have been cuts to literacy, cuts to victims of crime initiatives. Canadians understand the government wastes money and is the biggest tax and spend government in history. However, the government is showing its incompetence by spending $1 billion-plus on a weekend of meetings that were held in two separate locations. It could have been done a lot cheaper.

Other countries have done it cheaper. Italy, Japan, Germany, Russia held these meetings before and did it much cheaper than Canada did. It was an incredible amount of money to be spent at a time when we are reeling from the incompetence that already existed in the government's handling of the national finances. People do not accept that. It was too much. It was too rich. It was too extravagant. Canadians could not afford it and they made that known.

Persons with Disabilities November 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for people with disabilities has hijacked the accessibility fund, cancelled the PAL survey for active living and sat back quietly while the long form census, so important to disability groups, was changed.

After six years as an MP, three years as a minister and seven and a half months after we raised it in the House, why does the minister responsible for people with disabilities not have an accessible constituency office?

Persons with Disabilities November 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the enabling accessibility fund for people with disabilities was meant to support projects from across the country, not just in Conservative ridings. Yet over 90% of all funding went to Conservatives. It was quite the Conservative feast.

The minister has refused to be straight with Canadians about this fund. The facts, which that Canadian has such an aversion to, point to a full and complete abuse of the fund.

Could the minister responsible ensure that the next round of funding be available to all Canadians with disabilities, not just her Conservative colleagues?

Poverty October 29th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the fact is poverty rates in Canada are rising.

Last December, the Senate issued a report entitled, “In From the Margins”, a big study led by Liberal Senator Eggleton and Conservative Senator Segal. The government's response to that was to post an inadequate list of programs, which the minister just recited again and which have not made a difference.

Fighting poverty is good economics. It is good for Canada. It involves working with provinces, municipal leaders, schools, churches and community groups.

Why will the government not show some leadership, or at least show up in the fight against poverty?

Poverty October 29th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the human resources committee has completed its study on poverty in Canada. It will soon release its report after hearing from hundreds of witnesses across the country and experts around the world.

As poverty increased during the Conservative recession, the government has been missing in action on this file. Most provinces and territories now have anti-poverty strategies and they want the feds at the table. The United Nations even told Canada the same thing last year in the periodic review.

The government does not seem to care. The government chooses planes and prisons over people in poverty. Why is the government turning its back on people in need?

National Philanthropy Day Act October 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill S-203. The history of this bill goes back a ways.

For a number of years, Senator Jerry Grafstein and Senator Mercer have been working on producing this bill so that we can officially make November 15 philanthropy day in Canada. Both senators have a long history of philanthropic involvement, community involvement, and giving back to the community. They worked very hard at this.

In the last House it was S-217. It passed the Senate. It came to this place, and we moved it through the House. Then, and after prorogation it died and came back as S-203. It went to the Senate again, and I intended to bring it forward. As the member from Peace River said, he scrambled a bit and brought it forward.

The bottom line is that we now have an opportunity to come together as a Parliament and get this bill through.

It is important. It matters to many people. Like everyone in the House, I guess, I have been involved in a lot of not-for-profit organizations. I have been the President of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia, and I have served on the national board. I have worked with literacy, food banks, junior achievement, CNIB, and a number of organizations. We come to meet some fabulous people who give an awful lot to their communities.

When I travel in my own community, I am constantly amazed at the dedicated work that people do every day, like the people who gather in a church in the north end of Dartmouth every Wednesday to provide food to the poor. There are people like Doris McArcher, who has a clothing depot in a church in Dartmouth, where she collects clothes for people who need them. She does not ask them if they need help. In the winter, she provides the coats, pants, scarves, and hats because she knows that if people come to get her help it is because they need it.

A lot of faith-based people are doing this kind of work. They do this in the belief that God would want them to. There are people who do not believe in God who also do this kind of work. Whatever the motivation, these good people should be recognized.

In my own life, I have two active children who play hockey and soccer. They paddle on the great lakes in Dartmouth--Cole Harbour. My daughter is in Brownies, tennis, and golf. Even at the school, it is important to have volunteers because of the crisis in funding these days. None of these things would be possible without people who would coach, manage, and do the kinds of things that make it possible for kids to enjoy the activities that we want them to be part of.

In the church I go to, there are people like my wife who teach Sunday school, there are people in the choir, and there are people who fill other roles. These are all philanthropic acts and they are important.

We should never diminish the importance of people who give money. It is so important to give to those who do not have. My sister is involved in the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She is a fundraiser with the Canadian Cancer Society and is involved in AFP organizations like Imagine Canada, which is helping to build the philanthropic sector.

We know that recent times have been challenging. An Imagine Canada report from last August quotes a few statistics on the difficulties that charities are facing. For example, more than half of charities are experiencing increased demand for their products and services. Compared with 2009, more charities are reporting that they are at risk, experiencing increased demand, or both. The percentage of charities under high stress has increased to 17%. The financial situation of many charities has stagnated or deteriorated slightly. On average, charities report that revenues have dropped by 1.1%, while expenditures have risen by almost 4%.

It is always a challenge to get people to work in the not-for-profit sector, but now it is particularly difficult. Operating charities report that the average number of paid staff has decreased by 4.4%. In spite of the challenges, however, the level of confidence is high.

As a group, charity leaders are remarkably confident in the future, because the people who work in charities, in the not-for-profit sector, are optimistic people. They see the challenges but they do not shy away from them. They see the obstacles, but they decide that they are going to overcome them.

I think that this is an important thing. My colleague from Peace River spoke about growing up in his family. In my own family, which was a large, kind of boisterous family, we belonged to the Foster Parents Plan. We would make our donations, and we would write letters back and forth to understand what was happening with children in other parts of the world who were not quite so fortunate.

It is interesting to look at who gives money in Canada. It is not always people in big cities. It is not always people with deep pockets. Quite often it is people in places like Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and Pictou County. Some of the people one would think are not doing well economically are the ones who pitch in and help. It is part of the ethic of growing up in a small community. It is the old ethic of pitching in and helping out. If somebody's house is on fire, the place is rebuilt. If somebody needs help, a bake sale is held. The spirit of giving that seems to exist in many parts of small-town Canada carries on today.

There is no question that there are challenges in the fundraising sector for the not-for-profit organizations. People who raise money, like Peter Bessey from Scotiabank, who is heading up a campaign for the Canadian Cancer Society in Nova Scotia, face certain challenges. We have the power in this place to recognize these people. We can use the power that comes with being a member of Parliament. We know that what these people do matters. We know that what they do builds a better country. It is important that we take the opportunity, like the one that presents itself in Bill S-203, to recognize the people who build a better world.

Earlier this year, I had the chance to speak here about a woman named Ruth Goldbloom, who was the driving force behind Pier 21. My leader, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, had a chance to go to Pier 21. He had a chance to connect with relatives in his past. Pier 21 would not have happened if Ruth Goldbloom had not been the driving force. Ruth recognizes that all the people who have worked at Pier 21 are important, whether they have given $1 million, as seven people have, or whether they work in the gift shop to help people when they visit Pier 21. She believes that all these people deserve to be recognized.

The voluntary sector in Canada is huge and it cannot be replaced by paid work. It cannot be replaced by people who do things professionally. It cannot be replaced because there is not the commitment, the optimism, and the sheer dedication that happens in the voluntary sector in Canada. It is incumbent upon this House to recognize the people who do that work and in some way tell them that we appreciate them.

I am looking at an article in the Toronto Star entitled “Women are Changing the Face of Philanthropy”. The article refers to the hon. Margaret Norrie McCain, who is a great philanthropist in Nova Scotia. I will quote from this article:

Many women today use their influence to give more strategically, and in different ways, than men or women did in the past....They have adopted new models, such as giving circles, to bring like-minded donors together to pool their resources in support of a common cause. “Women give to organizations that they have some connection with,” says Maria Antonakos of Opus Philanthropic Strategies Inc.

Philanthropy has been around a long time in many different ways at many different levels. But it does change. It does reflect the marketplace. When we have a recession, as we have had over the last couple of years and continue to have, it hurts, and it disproportionately hurts organizations that deal with those people who need the most help.

We should recognize the work that people do. We should recognize those who give in small ways, but also the people who give big money, like those in my own community: the Risleys, the Rowes, the O'Regans, the Fountains, the Goldblooms, the Sobeys, the Jodeys, the Keatings, the McFees and Smithers, the Conrad family, the Spatsis, the Flemings, the Edwards, and the Dennis family, who own the Chronicle Herald.

These are the people who build Canada. Their work cannot be replaced. It is not about financially rewarding the people who are raising money. It is incumbent upon us and the Parliament of Canada to tell them that we understand what they do, we know it is important, we know it builds a better country. It builds a better community for all of us. We want to say thanks by making November 15 philanthropy day in Canada. I urge all members to support this bill.

National Philanthropy Day Act October 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I applaud the speech my colleague has made on philanthropy.

This Liberal bill has been a very important bill that has come from the Senate. Senators Grafstein and Mercer have worked on this for a number of years and put a lot of time into it. I am hopeful that everybody in the House will support it.

I want to ask him about one specific issue, just to get his point of view in terms of giving. As all members know, there is a very different benefit to giving money to politics than there is to giving money to charities in Canada. It is a much greater tax credit for supporting political parties, because politicians make the rules.

I wonder if my colleague would be supportive of changing the tax laws so that giving to the Heart and Stroke Foundation or the local food bank would be of equal benefit at tax time as giving to a political party.