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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was going.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Tobique—Mactaquac (New Brunswick)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 63% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Offshore Health and Safety Act March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. Basically, it would fill a gap in a grey area in the legislation. There was operational responsibility for safety under the accords, but the occupational health and safety side was not covered at all. When the person was tragically killed, there was much difficulty at the time assigning responsibility.

By mirroring this legislation, it would adopt very stringent occupational health and safety aspects. I commented that almost 200 pages are very detailed occupational health and safety aspects that were brought into the accord acts. When one reads through them, the number of occupational health and safety committees, the powers of the boards, and the power of the safety officers are phenomenal. They can actually stop work, and the workers can refuse dangerous work. It is tremendous. It also covers the transportation to the actual offshore platforms, which is the piece that was missing before.

Offshore Health and Safety Act March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. The root of the answer to that lies in the process that took place between the federal and provincial governments over a period of 12 years.

As I indicated, in 2007, the parties realized, all of a sudden, that the governance piece needed to be improved. Both levels of government had to work together to do that. Both provincial governments had actually passed their legislation. Therefore, their legislation would have had to change as well, so they would have had to go back to the drawing board. That is my understanding of the process that happened. As a result, it was important to make sure that there was no major change to the legislation that would necessitate a change to the mirror legislation in the provinces. Therein lies the answer to that question.

Offshore Health and Safety Act March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to follow some of my colleagues in the debate on Bill C-5. Having been a member of the natural resources committee for eight years, and having now left it, this was the last major piece of work I had the opportunity to work on with my colleagues from all parties. Unfortunately, I had moved prior to getting to clause-by-clause review, which would have been interesting. Nonetheless, I got a chance to listen to a lot of the testimony before committee. We had some great witnesses. We had very cordial discussion and a lot of good feedback. It was a good committee experience.

What I am going to talk about today is the importance of the offshore. I will spend a few moments on that. Then what I would like to do is to talk about what led to Bill C-5 and why it is important. Then I would like to talk about some of the major things the bill does and some of the comments made by Justice Wells.

Certainly, as a lot of people have said in testimony earlier today, we know how important natural resources are to our country, and specifically the east coast. As my colleague, the member for Halifax West, just pointed out a minute ago, we have a lot of people working on the offshore and the potential for expansion of that resource opportunity not only helps the folks in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, but also P.E.I. and New Brunswick, whether it be by providing services or by labourers actually going there. In some cases, it is a lot better trip for some of our families to be able to go to an east coast location, as opposed to travelling west.

For that reason, we want to continue to ensure that Canada's natural resource sectors remain open to investment that is market oriented and in the long-term interests of Canadians. We will ensure that the jobs, opportunities, and economic growth created by our natural wealth are available to all Canadians. In the Atlantic offshore, this wealth is chiefly in the energy sector, particularly oil and natural gas. The strength of Canada's energy sector is well established, but as strong as Canada's energy sector is today, it offers even greater potential for the future.

Canadians living in Atlantic Canada already know what a difference a strong energy industry can make to communities' quality of life. Offshore oil and gas has literally transformed the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. For example, in 2011, the energy sector in Newfoundland and Labrador employed nearly 5,000 people and accounted for roughly one-third of provincial nominal GDP. Between 1997 and 2013, the province collected about $7.8 billion in statutory royalties from offshore oil and gas. Now, as we begin 2014, the future is even brighter. The offshore energy sector in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia is still growing and the industry continues to invest billions of dollars in new energy projects.

Our government supports energy infrastructure projects that will create jobs and generate economic growth for Canadians, but it will do so only if these projects can be proven to be safe for Canadians and only after we have the proper reviews.

Our commitment to responsible resource development is made for environmental reasons as well as economic ones. Our plan will ensure that there is stronger protection by introducing tough new financial penalties for companies that do no comply with environmental regulations, and establishes new measures to strengthen Canada's world class pipeline and marine safety regimes. However, we have to remember that one of the major regulatory items is to protect people through a rigorous offshore safety regime. That is why we introduced Bill C-5, to ensure that offshore industries can carry out their activities safely.

I would like to read into the record some testimony from Mr. Jeff Labonté, the director general of the energy safety and security branch at the Department of Natural Resources. He said:

The work on the legislative package before Parliament got under way almost a dozen years ago. It was following an accident in Nova Scotia in which a worker in a workplace was killed. In that particular accident, the accord acts originally separated operational safety, the operations of the technical units and things that are happening in the offshore, which was imbedded within the accord acts, and occupational health and safety as a separate area which fell under the provincial jurisdiction.

All of a sudden, we had a grey area here where it was hard to determine who was actually responsible, what would happen and who would actually regulate this going forward. That led to a 12-year process and our Bill C-5.

The bill is approximately 260 to 270 pages long. Members who were on the committee and actually went through the review know that roughly 200 of those pages took occupational health and safety regulations out and put them into the accord acts. It was to mirror the legislation between the provinces and the federal government. We want the offshore industries to abide by the most stringent standards. We need to identify and clarify things, and that was the reason we did that.

Interestingly enough, some of the earlier comments were about why this took so long. It started in 2002 and it was a 12-year process. A lot of us in the House, even if we have only been here a short period of time, understand that sometimes it can take a while to get federal-provincial deals negotiated. What ended up happening is that it went through a period until about 2007, when there was a realization that further work was needed on the governance aspect of the bill. It had to go back, and obviously there were a lot of iterations between the provinces and the federal government to make sure that the legislation was mirrored properly.

Those things took some time. We had some governmental issues with respect to the minority governments that happened during those times.

I believe it was under an NDP government in Nova Scotia that the legislation passed, and a PC government in Newfoundland. They are now waiting for us to do our process with Bill C-5.

The accord acts already provide the regulatory cornerstone for all oil and gas activities in the Atlantic offshore. They give the independent regulators, the two offshore boards we have been talking about this morning, the legal authority to regulate oil and gas activities on behalf of the Governments of Canada, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

They clearly establish the health and safety requirements within the accord acts. For the essential matters of occupational health and safety, and operational safety in the offshore, Bill C-5 fully clarifies the roles and responsibilities of all concerned parties, governments, regulators, employers, and workers.

The legislation also has other practical benefits and gives new powers to the offshore inspectors to further enhance safety. For example, inspectors will now be authorized to inspect anything, take samples, and meet privately with individuals. Further, inspectors will now have the power to conduct compliance audits on the vessels used to transport workers, and if the workers themselves have any safety concerns, Bill C-5 allows them to refuse to be transported to the offshore sites.

I just want to speak to the issue of the chief safety officer's power. It has been strengthened. In my experience in construction projects before coming into this area, it was always my understanding, whenever I went to a construction site, that the chief safety officer had full ability to shut a site down. They could do that carte blanche. That is independence. Even if those safety officers actually reported to project managers, they really had a higher calling and a higher power.

This safety officer, referring to some of the testimony from Mr. Jeff Labonté, said:

The final area that I will cover is that of the chief safety officer. First, to ensure that safety considerations are always represented, the legislation proposes that the position of the chief safety officer can never be held by a CEO of the board. In addition, a chief safety officer would have to review and provide written recommendations related to safety on all operational authorizations. This would formalize a process that both boards have already been following and is a practice of ensuring that safety is a priority. Chief safety officers would also be granted the power to allow regulatory substitutions.

As everyone knows, when we start talking about these regulatory substitutions, technology moves very fast in the offshore environment. For example, if a new piece of equipment comes out that is going to make workers safer, a chief safety officer would have the ability to authorize its approval to substitute it for something already out there.

Those are important things to make sure that our workers are safe, which this legislation and the regulations keep up.

During his appearance at the natural resources committee in December, Justice Wells spoke about the legislation. He said:

Somebody has worked hard—more than one person, I suspect—on this bill. I know that it's been under consideration for a number of years. Quite honestly, I think it's a good job and I think it will help to formalize some of the concepts that people knowledgeable about the industry and the regulatory people have thought about for some time. To see it enshrined—I hope to see it enshrined—in legislation is a good thing.

A couple of things impressed me most. One is that the bill talks about and mandates the involvement of workers in the processes of safety. That was something that was important to me during the two years and three or four months that I was the inquiry commissioner.

Justice Wells was very clear in the committee that he was pleased with the offshore health and safety legislation. He was also clear that good has come of the government's adoption of his recommendations.

We also talked at length at committee with two individuals. They were Mr. Scott Tessier, who is the chair and CEO of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, and Mr. Stuart Pinks, who is the CEO of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. We had a significant opportunity to question those folks. In fact, one of them was actually a former chief safety officer. I asked him about the qualifications of the chief safety officers, the kinds of things they do, and the process. He said that he was the chief safety officer for a number of years and that there is a strict selection process for chief safety officers. They are often long-tenured employees who stay with these boards for very long periods of time and build up institutional knowledge so that they are able to continue doing their jobs effectively.

Some of the other things they talked about were privacy requirements. They are not allowed to publish certain types of things when it comes to safety. With this legislation, when it comes to safety, they would be able to publish this for the public.

A lot of what was said was that it is not just for the actual workers on the site but for their families as well. We always need to be concerned about their families. They should be able to see that everything is safe. What is actually happening is important to the families, as well.

Justice Wells and the two CEOs also talked about safety forums, which have now started. They have just conducted the fifth of these safety forums. They received a tremendous amount of feedback from the workers who now, as part of this important piece of the legislation, have three major rights. They have the right to know, the right to participate in the discussions, and the right to refuse dangerous work. They are all important aspects for these workers. These safety forums allow for these types of discussions to happen and for the appropriate actions to take place. I talked previously about the safety equipment and substitutions.

There was a lot of good feedback. The Unifor representative talked about the safety regulator. I am sure that someone will ask me that question during the questions and comments.

In summary, there is no doubt that Bill C-5 would significantly enhance worker safety in the offshore by creating a much more transparent safety regime, with clear responsibilities for all involved. Our Conservative government worked with our provincial partners on this. I want to emphasize that this was a partnership, because this legislation has to be mirrored at the federal and provincial levels. It would give us a much more modern, efficient, and stringent offshore safety regime, one that is supported by strong laws and standards that are second to none.

The Conservative government is committed to freer trade and to maintaining an open marketplace that welcomes investment. It is committed to providing a regulatory regime for major projects that is fair, transparent, and predictable. It is committed to enhancing Canadian competitiveness in the economic sector.

I am encouraged and really pleased to see that members from the opposite side are going to support this bill. It represents a big and important move of the yardstick forward in terms of offshore health and safety for our workers and in terms of the well-being of their families. I appreciate their support. Hopefully, we will be able to get this passed quickly.

The Budget February 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, obviously we have wealth that is growing. The OECD said we were the second best place to do business in the world, so that is obviously a ranking that has come up. Do we have to invest in innovation and other things to make us more productive? Absolutely, we do.

What I find very compelling is that we put this money into these research type activities, including in the automotive sector and others. We put in a $1.5 billion Canada first research excellence fund; we put accelerators and incubator funds in place; and the member votes against everything. We are not going to come back if the member keeps voting against everything.

The Budget February 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, actually the infrastructure program is $53 billion, with a long-term gas tax commitment to the communities in the budget. Also the bridge work is part of the building Canada fund, and also the minister of transport and infrastructure has actually had those negotiations in place with the provinces to actually see this money flowing.

When I talk in my riding, municipalities are very pleased with aspects of these commitments that have been made: the long-term predictability of the funds they are going to get, and the usage of them, not to mention the flexibility of the funds. The other side of it is the commitment to a disaster infrastructure fund, which is going to be key for communities like Hartland and Perth-Andover, a couple of my communities that were impacted by flooding.

The Budget February 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is a great opportunity to get up and speak on the budget.

I am very pleased to split my time with my hon. friend from Kildonan—St. Paul, a hard-working MP who does tremendous work on ending human trafficking.

I would like to address my comments specifically to three major imperatives that this budget helps to address, not only from the standpoint of the Canadian economy but also New Brunswick and eastern Canada as well.

The first imperative is the opportunity in the resource sector, which is especially important for New Brunswick. However, I also want to stress the importance of dealing with some pending issues in the resource sector, specifically in the forestry industry. This is a major issue now impacting Quebec and southern Ontario, and fairly soon New Brunswick and the rest of eastern Canada as well.

The second imperative concerns the infrastructure for supporting our businesses, especially our small businesses and communities. I would like to talk a little about the imperatives from an infrastructure standpoint of assets, as well as the most important asset, which is developing our people to fill the jobs that we are going to need in the future.

The third imperative is reducing the challenges and costs to small business with respect to our regulatory burden.

First, on some of the major investments in the forestry sector, I was very pleased to see us continue with our investment in the forestry industry's transformation, which is very important. It leverages what we have done in the past with respect to the pulp and paper green transformation fund, a fund that has helped a lot of our pulp mills not only improve their processes but also decrease their environmental footprint.

It is great that the forestry industry has such innovation, especially in some cases in new Brunswick with the innovation there in some of our hardwood products. However, it is important to stress that we need this industry and we need the trees to help it, which is why I was so pleased to see an investment of $18 million to proactively combat the spruce budworm.

If we look back to the 1970s, about 30 years ago in Atlantic Canada and northern Maine, somewhere in the order of 50 million hectares was impacted by the spruce budworm, which has a cyclical pattern and is now coming back. It has come down through Quebec. It is near the New Brunswick border, and in some cases in northern New Brunswick at this point in time.

There is almost 7.2 million hectares of forest land in the province of New Brunswick and almost half of that, 3.1 million hectares, is susceptible to the spruce budworm. The challenge is that the spruce budworm could devastate the industry because the trees it infects become unusable. Therefore, we are looking at getting in at the front end and investing in a program to help disrupt the mating patterns of the spruce budworm, which will allow us to target specific spraying in the areas that will need it when the pest arrives.

It is interesting to look back at what it cost to have the last spraying program, not to ignore the fact that they used fenitrothion back then, a chemical not approved by Health Canada today. In the absence of a proactive strategy, it is estimated that we would probably go through eight to ten years of spraying, costing somewhere in the order of $400 million to $600 million. A spraying program that large is not something that provinces and governments could undertake, not to mention that a lot of the planes we used for the spraying program a number of years ago are no longer available. Therefore, this is an important aspect to make sure that we continue not only to help our businesses innovate but also to have the forest products there for them.

The third aspect is the opportunity in the resource sector. Given new Brunswick's financial situation, it will be pursuing some resource-based industries, and, as everyone is quite aware, the energy east pipeline.

This is a significant investment that is potentially coming to New Brunswick. When the announcement was made for the pipeline, which would carry 1.1 million barrels a day, not only was the oil important but also the initial investment that Irving was talking about, an extra $400 million to $500 million for a terminal, as well as the employment it would create. Those are great spinoffs for us. The $28 million the budget proposes for the NEB to review these projects is very important.

As far as creating the infrastructure is concerned, I am very pleased with the budget. We see tremendous opportunities in Canada. Here I would just give the example of persons with disabilities. There are about 800,000 people out there with disabilities who would love to work but probably have no place to work at this point in time. This is a huge untapped potential for the Canadian economy. Therefore, the $200 million in the budget for the labour market development agreements to develop that resource is tremendous for us.

In addition, the $1.5 billion Canada first research excellence fund and the accelerator and incubator funds are going to be important for small businesses to innovate and generate new ideas so that we can create employment. As many members from Atlantic Canada would know, especially in New Brunswick, about 90% of our businesses have less than 10 employees. There is a very entrepreneurial spirit. Therefore, that type of investment continues to be very important for us.

The other items I would like to talk about are broadband, and the long-term infrastructure plan, specifically the gas tax, which would be made more flexible to allow communities to invest for the long-term, allowing them to plan and count on those dollars.

The last piece I would like to talk about is reducing the burden for small and medium-size business. As I indicated, a number of these small businesses are very much alive and well in New Brunswick. Reducing red tape in the CRA and the 800,000 remittances that small businesses have to submit, and having an impact on almost 50,000 of these businesses via the budget, will be of real help. I say this because at the end of the day, many of them do not have people devoted to paperwork. They do not have the resources to devote to those types of things. It is very important that this save them money to actually invest in other parts of their business.

I would also like to talk about internal trade. Recently in a state of the province address, the Premier of New Brunswick commented on internal trade. He thought that our signing the CETA deal was actually easier than our dealing with internal trade within Canada. I think he is absolutely right, and so we need to continue to work co-operatively with the provinces on that.

My third point is about tax simplification. I was very pleased to see the minister talk in the budget about introducing legislation that would simplify the tax system from the standpoint of all of the unlegislated tax measures out there that governments have not implemented. It would be shameless self-promotion for me to say that some of that was based on Bill C-549, my private member's bill. I am very pleased that the minister put that in the budget for us to address.

Before I close, I would point out that we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our volunteer community. There are a couple of things I would like to point out here that I think are very important. There is the tax credit for search and rescue people. Here I would note the tremendous group at the York Sunbury Ground Search and Rescue, which I know the member for Fredericton is very knowledgeable about. There is also Tobique Ground Search and Rescue in my riding. They have done a tremendous amount of work and a lot of volunteering to keep our communities going.

I would be remiss not to point out our recreational fisheries conservation partnership, which has allowed a lot of our conservation groups, including the Miramichi Salmon Association and other organizations, to undertake very important work on the river system in order to preserve and improve fish habitat.

The budget has created and dealt with three imperatives: the opportunities in New Brunswick, how to set out infrastructure in terms of people and assets to make those opportunities happen, and how to get out of the way so that small businesses can actually get their work done.

Business of Supply February 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as I pointed out before, consumers can look online and see the different rates and different charges for different accounts. It is easy to see that information.

I think the member is clouding the issue of bank fees and ATM fees, because 75% of these transactions take place at people's own banking institutions.Therefore, in many cases, people are actually not paying a transaction fee. I think we are muddying the waters on those two fees.

Business of Supply February 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I talked about the ATMs and their being linked. We cannot separate the issue. It is a service.

With respect to banks profits, raising taxes is not going to happen. We are certainly not looking at a high-tax environment. I can tell the NDP members that in addition to not supporting this motion, I suspect that they should not wait for us to have a carbon tax in the budget. They should not wait for us to raise CPP taxes. They had better not wait for us to raise corporate taxes, because we will not do that.

At the end of the day, we should also look at these corporations, which pay significant dividends to pension funds and others. Those are accruing to seniors and are benefiting our communities.

Business of Supply February 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there are two issues. I will tackle the second one first on opportunity cost. I think there is a huge opportunity cost in not having these, especially in some of our communities. I can point to some of the rural communities in my area. There would be a significant drive for people to actually go to get money, because the closest place could be 30 to 40 miles away. In many cases, we have a significant number of seniors in our rural areas. In some of these rural areas there has never been a bank. It is beginning to be harder for some of these seniors and folks to actually get out and travel. From that standpoint, it has actually been made better.

With respect to the points on the charges, I am hopeful that these consultations we are having will be helpful in that regard.

I would suggest that there would be a minimum of a couple of dollars added to charges once these ATMs are handed over to a private operator as opposed to the banks. That will happen more and more, because the low-volume areas will just dry up without the higher cost.

Business of Supply February 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the short answer to that is, yes. I think there is a role for the government to play in the regulatory environment. I talked about the financial code and the consultations we are having. We have actually seen some very good information from these cross-country consultations, which could very well lead to some very good ideas and suggestions about how some of this could be regulated.

However, I also believe that in many cases, from my point of view, having that information out there makes me an informed consumer. When I am an informed consumer, I make better decisions. I know the product I am purchasing. In fact, a number of consumers, as I pointed out before, have actually backed away from some of these ATM machines because of the information that has been provided. I think those are good things. That is a good start, and there is probably more to do.