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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

Seniors February 28th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, budget 2018 demonstrates that our government remains committed to helping seniors live happy, healthy, and independent lives. Budget 2018 proposes to provide $75 million in 2018-19 through the Public Health Agency of Canada to support the healthy seniors project in New Brunswick.

Our government's commitment to engaging with communities throughout the Atlantic to develop policies and proposals that serve the interests of Atlantic Canadians remains a key focus. The healthy seniors project will support a range of research initiatives to examine how governments can better support seniors in their homes, communities, and care facilities.

Projects such as this will help our government better understand how care for seniors is delivered across Canada. This innovative approach demonstrates the importance of collaboration with our various partners and the incredible value of continuing to share learning and best practices for the benefit of all Canadian seniors.

Business of Supply February 26th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I will conclude by saying that considering—to use the same word that was used—the bomb that we were left, I think our ministers have done a tremendous job. We are working incessantly to fix the problem. We will fix it.

Business of Supply February 26th, 2018

Madam Speaker, one does not have to be a carpenter to know that without a foundation, it is hard to build a house. We are, right now, building the foundation and also keeping the house going.

The hon. member talked about minister Foote. I was in my riding three times with minister Foote and one could not find a better, more dedicated person. She made every resource available to make sure we would fix the problem that we inherited from the previous government. To say that nothing was done over that time is a complete fabrication by a government that really—

Business of Supply February 26th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for raising those questions.

Let me start by saying that I will always stand up in the House in support of pay centre workers in my region. They have been working seven days a week to fix the problem. Hats off to the people working back home because they are not to blame for any of this.

That said, when we rolled out the system, we had a backlog of 40,000 cases. There was no going back. People worked hard to fix the problem with what they had. We are still in the process of training people, and we are staying the course.

Business of Supply February 26th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in this debate. My colleagues who spoke before me have given a solid overview of this complex issue, the problems inherent to the pay system, and the measures the government is taking to fix them.

Let me be clear. It is completely unacceptable that public servants are not getting their pay at the appropriate time or in the correct amount. We have heard stories about the many negative consequences that have resulted from these pay problems. We fully understand the anger and frustration our hard-working public servants are feeling. The Minister of Public Services and Procurement has apologized for the extraordinary difficulties facing public servants and their families. As a former public servant herself, the minister is well aware of the valuable work done by public servants on behalf of Canadians. She has often reiterated her determination to do whatever it takes to correct this unacceptable situation. Our government has no higher priority than paying public servants the correct amount, as calculated by a reliable pay system.

Our public service is among the best in the world. As MPs, we see the work public servants do to help us do our job every day. For example, the work of MPs relies on the skills of our interpreters, who make it possible for us to communicate in the official language of our choice. They do a very good job, despite my very strong Acadian accent. These employees, like all public servants, deserve to be paid properly and on time.

I want to remind my colleagues that we are dealing with two issues, which are separate but very much related. The first is pay modernization. The old public service pay system was replaced by a new system, Phoenix, which is now used by approximately 100 departments and agencies. The second is pay consolidation, involving 46 departments and agencies, representing roughly 70% of the public service. As the Auditor General reported, 1,200 pay advisers were eliminated in those organizations and replaced with 460 pay advisers and 90 support staff at the public service pay centre in Miramichi.

This consolidation began in May 2012. Once Phoenix was launched, it meant that the centre was responsible for accessing Phoenix to initiate, change, or terminate pay for employees based on requests from these 46 departments and agencies. The over 55 organizations that retained their pay advisers have direct access to Phoenix to enter pay information for their employees into the new system.

As we know, Phoenix was fully implemented in April 2016. As the new system was rolled out, there were problems. However, as the officials from Public Services and Procurement Canada have told us, those cases were taken to be one-offs. It is also worth mentioning that in addition to these new cases, the pay centre was already dealing with a large number of cases, over 40,000, that had not been resolved prior to the launch of Phoenix.

There is no doubt that the hard-working employees at the pay centre and across the department were doing their very best to respond. I might add that I have toured the payroll centre, as it is in my riding, five or six times since it was opened. I have witnessed the hard-working people at the Miramichi centre. They are very hard-working people and take it very personally that people are not getting their paycheques on time.

They were determined to help their fellow public servants who were facing terrible situations without pay and who wanted to know when they were going to be paid. Their first priority was the employees not receiving any pay at all. These included new hires and students, or employees returning to work from extended absences. I want to recognize the efforts made across the public service to provide employees with emergency salary advances and priority payments.

The next priority was employees who were going on leave or leaving the public service. It would become abundantly clear that the calls for assistance had outstripped the department's capacity to respond.

This was a very difficult situation for the employees at the pay centre. They have worked nights and weekends to assist their colleagues. Every day they demonstrate tremendous dedication and character in very trying circumstances.

The department immediately set up a satellite unit responsible for pay in Gatineau. The department then added and staffed three other satellite pay offices in Shawinigan, Winnipeg, and Montreal to provide support. More than 250 pay advisors were recruited. It also opened a client contact centre to deal with employees' requests for assistance.

I believe it is important for us to have a good understanding of the challenge faced by Public Services and Procurement Canada, which had to recruit pay advisors in a short period of time. We felt the effects of the loss of some 700 pay experts, a situation created by the Conservative government. This loss had serious consequences, because the expertise of these pay advisors would have made a difference and surely helped resolve the problems.

I thank the public service unions that helped the department recruit staff for the pay offices. In conjunction with this collaboration, we came to an agreement that the government would dispatch IT experts to help fix the Phoenix system.

In the months that followed, priority cases were resolved with the help of additional resources, technological upgrades to Phoenix, targeted training, and other measures. The unions also asked the department to prioritize transactions related to parental and disability leave. The wait times for these types of cases was reduced.

The number of cases in the backlog also dropped. However, pay advisers had to direct their attention to other priorities. As tax time approached, employees were naturally worried about how incorrect pay would affect their T4s and tax returns. It took a lot of hard work to fix these problems, particularly overpayments. As soon as tax time was over, another major challenge arose.

As members know, our government inherited a situation where many employees did not have any collective agreements. In fact, some of the collective bargaining agreements had been expired for four years. Negotiators for the unions and the government were able to sign 21 agreements. However, this triggered the need to process retroactive payments, salary increases, and other allowances negotiated as part of these agreements. To meet this demand, more pay advisers were dedicated to working almost exclusively on these payments. This work also proved much more complicated than expected. Calculating retroactive payments going back as far as four years required data to be pulled from the government's now decommissioned pay system. With this additional work, the backlog of outstanding transactions grew.

It is also apparent that a more comprehensive approach to stabilizing the pay system was needed. The ministers' working group was established to bring a whole of government perspective to the table. The government also allocated $142 million for investment in people and technology. Another $56 million in new funding was provided in this year's supplementary estimates. In November, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and the President of the Treasury Board announced a series of measures aimed at stabilizing the pay system.

There is no greater champion of the interests of public servants than the Minister of Public Services and Procurement. I was pleased to see the minister visit Miramichi the day after she took over this portfolio. I should also point out that the Prime Minister went with her.

Stablizing the Phoenix pay system is now the top priority for all ministers and deputy ministers.

In closing, I want to commend our hard-working public servants who have been tackling these extraordinary challenges, for which they were not responsible. They simply want to know when they will be paid.

I also want to thank the dedicated public servants at the pay centre and satellite offices, as well as all public servants across all departments and agencies.

We are aware that public servants experiencing pay problems and those trying to help them are under tremendous stress. We will support these employees, and we will not stop until—

Agriculture and Agri-Food February 13th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, today is Canada's Agriculture Day, a day to celebrate the food we love and showcase our world-class farmers, ranchers, and growers from coast to coast to coast, of which I am one myself. Canadian agriculture is stronger, more innovative, and more diverse than ever and our government is committed to continuing this growth and investing in the future of Canadian farmers.

Could the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food tell us about today's announcement to build a strong future for Canadian agriculture?

Yvon Durelle December 12th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, Yvon Durelle, who is also known as the Fighting Fisherman, was born in the small Acadian village of Baie-Sainte-Anne in my riding of Miramichi—Grand Lake. Like many others of his generation, he left school at an early age to work on a fishing boat. However, Yvon developed a love of boxing and quickly earned a reputation as a tough opponent with a hard punch.

Capturing the Canadian middleweight championship in 1953, Durelle defeated opponents throughout Canada, the U.S., and Europe. Then came what was known as one of the most memorable fights in boxing history as he battled the great Archie Moore at the Montreal Forum in December 1958.

Boxing experts agree, Durelle was robbed of the world light heavyweight title that evening, but he gained the admiration of the boxing world and became a Canadian legend. I invite everyone to look up the fight and judge for themselves.

Yvon passed away in 2007, but his memory and story of perseverance lives on, as a billboard of the fighting fisherman welcomes everyone entering the community of Baie-Sainte-Anne.

Salaries Act December 12th, 2017

Madam Speaker, a short time ago in the House a member of the opposition referred degradingly to the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism as half a leader because of the two positions she holds. I am not sure if it was said because she is a woman.

Could the hon. government House leader and Minister of Small Business and Tourism tell the House how she is fully capable of managing to do such a great job in both roles?

Agriculture and Agri-Food December 11th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food entitled “A Food Policy for Canada”. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report.

Committees of the House December 4th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, entitled "Supplementary Estimates (B) 2017-18".