House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was meeting.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as Liberal MP for Miramichi—Grand Lake (New Brunswick)

Won his last election, in 2019, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House June 21st, 2021

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in relation to Bill C-205, an act to amend the Health of Animals Act.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

Members Not Seeking Re-election to the 44th Parliament June 15th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, this is to my hon. colleagues, my dear constituents and supporters, my hard-working team and my beloved family and friends.

I saw this day coming for many months, but I have been feeling somewhat sad about it.

For over five and a half years, I have had the privilege and honour to sit in this House and represent the good people of Miramichi—Grand Lake. I am very proud of what our government and I have been able to accomplish for our riding, but of course, there is still a long list of more things that need to be done. However, that will be passed on to our next Liberal MP from Miramichi—Grand Lake to pursue and deliver because today I wish to announce that I will not be the candidate for the next general federal election, but I will remain their MP until such a call is made.

It is always risky to thank people and acknowledge their work, because most of the time we end up forgetting people we really should have thanked. I hope that, if I forget anyone, they will forgive me. I will always be very grateful to them.

At this stage of my life, six years is really but a small portion of the time I have been up on my feet. Most of my life I have spent in my community with my family, building our business and being involved in local, provincial and national organizations.

The voice I brought to this House was not one of an acclaimed politician or one with tremendous legal or political science background, which I respect and admire, and such expertise is absolutely necessary in the House. No, my voice, which I believe is just as important, was one of rural, smart, hard-working people, including our vibrant indigenous communities.

I am glad that I was able to have it heard in so many different ways, such as with the privilege of sitting as a member of the fisheries and oceans committee and the agriculture standing committee, which I had the opportunity and honour to chair throughout my time as MP.

I was also able to have my voice heard in the many conversations and meetings with our cabinet ministers, my caucus colleagues and as chair of the New Brunswick caucus with my provincial colleagues.

Finally, I had the great privilege to have my voice heard by the right hon. Prime Minister, who I want to thank personally for putting his trust in me and for his strong support and confidence during my time as member of Parliament for Miramichi—Grand Lake. He made many visits to my riding in times of crisis to provide commitment and support, such as during the 2017 ice storm and the dark days of the payroll centre in my riding, but he also dropped in many times just to meet and have conversations with the people of Miramichi—Grand Lake.

Thank you so much, Prime Minister.Thank you for your guidance and for carrying us through this awful pandemic.

I must also recognize that I have learned and benefited so much from the many conversations and debates with all members of the House, whose friendships I will cherish always.

Our government accomplished some great things for our country and for my riding of Miramichi—Grand Lake. Even though there is still a lot more to do, our region experienced a great period of economic and social growth during my term.

I would like to list a few of those many accomplishments that we have been able to achieve in my riding. Of course, again, the payroll centre, which had just been opened by the previous government in my riding and, everyone will agree, was totally dysfunctional. We were able to secure and stabilize it with an additional 400 local federal jobs in my riding and proper investments to fix it and make it work.

Just a few of the many investments the government and I were able to secure are the refurbishing of the Minto town hall in my riding; Chipman water sewage treatment; the Chatham wharf; the new Napan Agricultural Show building; the new Miramichi Airport terminal; the auditorium, the hall dedicated to Lisa LeBlanc in my community of Rogersville; the roof for the Neguac Sportplex; the refurbishment of the Tom Donovan Arena in Renous; the new Anderson Bridge; the new water system for the the Village of Doaktown; an elementary school for our indigenous community of Elsipogtog; water and sewage for the villages of Neguac, Minto and Rogersville; and the renovation of Kouchibouguac National Park.

On the strategic economic front, my riding also benefited greatly from millions of dollars invested in our fishery sector with processing-plant upgrades, small craft harbours and stability funding for our fishers. There were millions of dollars of investment in our primary sector, in such areas as peat moss, the forestry sector, agriculture and also great investment in our summer and winter tourism industry.

On the social front, unprecedented investment in the Canada child benefit brings over $3 million to over 5,000 families in Miramichi—Grand Lake every month, along with our increased new horizon program and disability accessibility program to name a few. The doubling of the Canada summer job program, mental health investments, housing and immigration programs are all record high investments.

Although much remains to be done, our steady work with our first nations in housing, clean drinking water, language and culture teaching, and work on truth and reconciliation has made great strides. Of course, I am so proud of our unwavering commitment for the environment, whether it is our oceans protection plan, polluter-pay legislation and our plastic bans, and also our commitments to net-zero emissions by 2050. These measures will secure a livable planet for the next generation.

I also want to take the time to thank the mayors, council, businesses and local leaders from all communities in my riding for all their hard work and great co-operation.

I now want to take the opportunity to personally acknowledge and thank my office team: Ashley, Hannah, Roger, Bertrand, Christine, Marie‑Paule and Peggy, as well as my former staffer Josée and the late Louise.

I want to say a big thank you to them on behalf of myself and the people of Miramichi—Grand Lake who received absolutely professional service when they knocked on our door for help. I want my office staff to know that they helped a lot of people.

I also want to thank my campaign team and all my constituents in Miramichi—Grand Lake to whom I owe the privilege of serving in the House.

I also want to thank the House of Commons team from security to cafeteria workers, and from pages to all the support staff. I want them to know they are appreciated, indispensable and I really want to thank them from the heart. I have had great conversations with them and enjoyed my sidebars with security and everyone else. It was just great.

Finally, I want to thank the people who mean so much to me in my life and who have sacrificed a lot for me. To my daughter Vicky, her husband Gerard, my son Derek, and Sarah, and to my grandchildren Tristan, James and Joelle, I thank them and say, “pépère is back”. To my mom, my eight brothers and sisters and their extended family, I thank them for their support.

I also want to inform this House that I was not the only one serving the good people of Miramichi—Grand Lake. My wife Lise also accompanied me to so many events and took care of so many things for me so that I could do my job. She also served. Just a note to the Ethics Commissioner, she was not on the payroll, so it is fine. Her relentless work in keeping our family and business together is simply amazing. I can never thank her enough. She has been my rock, my safe harbour and my eternal love. I will say, and I hope she is okay with it, “I am back”.

Rail Transportation June 3rd, 2021

Mr. Speaker, we know how crucial rail transportation is for communities across the country, including in my riding, with VIA Rail's Ocean passenger train, which links Halifax to Montreal and the rest of the country. With the pandemic, many passenger rail routes, including this one, have been suspended.

Can the minister update this House on future plans to bring back this important and indispensable public transit system for our region?

Committees of the House May 28th, 2021

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, entitled “Main Estimates 2021-22: Vote 1 under Canadian Dairy Commission, Vote 1 under Canadian Grain Commission and Votes 1, 5 and 10 under Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food”.

The committee has considered the estimates referred by the House and reports the same without amendment.

Committees of the House May 12th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in relation to Bill C-206, an act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act with regard to qualifying farming fuel. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

Committees of the House May 4th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food entitled “Room to Grow: Strengthening Food Processing Capacity in Canada for Food Security and Exports”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

The Budget April 23rd, 2021

Madam Speaker, ever since the start of the pandemic, our government has been listening to small businesses and providing the support they need.

Would the parliamentary secretary tell us how budget 2021, which focuses on a strong, inclusive post-pandemic economic recovery, will help Canada's small businesses not only survive, but thrive?

Elsipogtog First Nation April 12th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, today I am filled with both deep sorrow and great joy.

On the opening day of my region's snow crab season last week, two members of the Elsipogtog First Nation, Seth Monahan and band councillor Craig Sock, also widely known as Jumbo, tragically lost their lives. The community has been mourning this great loss. I had the honour of having Jumbo present at my swearing-in ceremony in 2019. Seeing him sit in my seat in the chamber is a memory I will always cherish.

Before his passing, Councillor Jumbo, along with many in the community, had been working hard for many weeks toward the goal of having Elsipogtog named this year's Kraft Hockeyville. Well, the region came together to support a community in mourning Saturday night and it was named the winner. This will allow the rebuilding of the Chief Young Eagle arena, an integral part of the community.

The spirit and memory of Jumbo and Seth will live on in Elsipogtog, and I hope this great win will help members of the community with their healing.

Committees of the House March 12th, 2021

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, entitled “Supplementary Estimates (C) 2020-21: Votes 1c, 5c and 10c under Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food”.

Irish Heritage Month March 10th, 2021

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to address Motion No. 18, sponsored by my good friend from Etobicoke—Lakeshore, which seeks to have the House recognize March of every year as Irish heritage month. Over the course of our history we have seen many waves of Irish immigration to Canada. Historical records show that Irish immigrants came to Canada as early as the 16th century, when Irish fishermen first came to the Grand Banks off Newfoundland.

This shows that, contrary to popular belief, some did leave Ireland prior to the Irish potato famine. This includes my own ancestors, brothers John and William Finnigan, who arrived in Nova Scotia around 1800. Also, I would like to mention the interesting fact that the new U.S. President's mother is Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden. Perhaps our genealogy meets somewhere in the past.

Intensive immigration from Ireland began around 1819. At this time the majority of the thousands of immigrants who were arriving in Canada each year were from Ireland. Starting in 1845, many Irish immigrated to Canada to escape the potato famine, also known as the great hunger. The catastrophic failure of the potato crop, which the Irish depended on as a main form of sustenance, caused many families to go hungry. The primary food source for millions of people was eliminated for several years, and the crops would not recover until around 1852.

Those who could left Ireland. During this time, masses of Irish immigrants poured into Canada. They did so at great risk, by travelling on dangerous and overcrowded ships. The unsafe and unsanitary conditions in which people lived while making the journey across the Atlantic to Canada created the uncontrolled spread of disease. Thousands had their journey across the Atlantic cut short by disease, and many ended up in graves on Grosse-Île, Quebec, or Partridge Island off Saint John, New Brunswick, where the immigrants were quarantined upon their arrival.

During this time, a perhaps lesser known but equally important island also acted as a key quarantine station. This was Middle Island, located in my riding of Miramichi—Grand Lake. In 1847, the shipLoosthauk left Dublin bound for Quebec. Typhus and scarlet fever quickly spread among both crew and passengers. The ship was forced to abandon its destination and found itself on the Miramichi River. Local doctors gave up their practices to focus solely on the sick and dying patients, and local businessmen assured their safe passage to Middle Island.

In total, some 250 Irish immigrants died and are buried on Middle Island. In 1984, a Celtic cross, unveiled by Ireland's ambassador to Canada, was erected on the Island and dedicated to the immigrants who were laid there to rest. Some who made the journey from Ireland did not make it across the ocean before succumbing to disease. While there are partial records of those who died at sea during the journey to Canada, a complete record will never be known. Some immigrants' graves are marked by the Celtic cross, while others only have the ocean as their headstone.

It is certain that famine was the cause for many to flee their country, and that the journey from Ireland to Canada was harrowing for many. However, the story of the Irish in Canada is not only one of disaster. It is also one of success, and many of us are a product of this very success.

Upon their arrival in Canada, many Irish gravitated toward ports, cities and areas that offered high employment opportunities. While these areas were mainly on the east coast and in Ontario and Quebec, some did venture farther out west, as some of my colleagues mentioned earlier.

According to David A. Wilson, who authoredThe Irish in Canada, the Irish quickly adapted to Canadian life and by 1871, the percentage of Irish who were merchants, manufacturers, professionals, white collar workers and artisans was virtually identical to that of the population at large. While it would be naive to think that there were not struggles during the early decades after their arrival, as for many immigrant communities who came after them, the Irish endured and pushed forward to become an important part of the foundation of Canadian society.

I must take this opportunity to highlight the great contributions of the Irish people in my riding of Miramichi—Grand Lake. The city of Miramichi holds the longest running Irish festival. We pride ourselves on being this country's most Irish city and Canada's Irish capital, although I think some of my hon. colleagues may want to challenge us on that. We take great pride in our Irish ancestry and many Irish flags fly proudly in our region. Many people in my riding work actively to keep our Irish roots and heritage known for generations.

I must highlight my good friend Farrell McCarthy, who founded the Irish Canadian Cultural Association of New Brunswick to do just that. The association fosters awareness of the traditions, history and artistic expression of the Irish people. The Irish-Canadian history and identity is definitely born of struggles, but beyond that it is a fierce history that shows that with perseverance, hard work and faith, people can rise up and build a life for future generations. Again, many of us are proof of just that.

The establishment of Irish heritage month would provide Canadians of all backgrounds the opportunity to learn about, appreciate and celebrate the many contributions that Canadians of Irish heritage have made to Canada.

I thank hon. members for allowing me to speak on this motion that seeks to mark part of our diverse and multicultural heritage.