House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was french.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as Liberal MP for Sudbury (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2019, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House June 19th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I partly agree. I agree with him that the Portage software is a comprehension tool. It features a corpus of data. When it was created, it was intended to assist translators.

When a government employee used Google Translate to translate a sentence or paragraph, it became public. This was very worrisome, because potentially secret or very sensitive information could then become public. It quickly became apparent that what was needed was a specific internal tool created for the government, by the government.

However, we learned in committee that the Bureau had been decimated over the years and that there was some fear about the use of this tool. There were concerns that the purpose was to replace professionals in the public service.

Committees of the House June 19th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to discuss the Standing Committee on Official Languages’ report on the Translation Bureau.

Before I get into the substance of my speech, I would like to remind the House why this report was needed. Although I am very pleased to hear my Conservative Party colleague heap praise on official languages, for the past 10 years this was not the case. In fact, the reason we began an in-depth study of the situation at the Translation Bureau was because of the previous government’s cuts to the Translation Bureau and official languages.

The committee tabled a unanimous report. I congratulate my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Official Languages. However I must remind the House that it was because of deep, even harmful cuts to the Translation Bureau that we had to urgently undertake this study.

The previous government had asked the team to create software called “Portage”. It was supposed to translate all documents for us. The Conservatives believed that with this tool, the Translation Bureau’s services could be completely eliminated. We were told that the Translation Bureau used to have about 1000 employees. However, under Mr. Harper’s reign, this number shrank to 400. Official languages were not at all a priority, and the two official languages were not even respected in the House.

During the exhaustive study we conducted together, it became obvious that official languages had reached a very serious point in the House because the Translation Bureau had been undermined. Services were not respected. We, both in opposition and the party in power, met with people from the Translation Bureau. We listened to them and heard their suggestions because the Bureau’s survival was in crisis. I would even say that it was seriously compromised.

That is why I was proud when the Minister of Public Services and Procurement rose in the House on this matter and came to the Standing Committee on Official Languages to speak to us about it. There was no question of continuing what had been done under the previous Harper government, but rather of reinvesting in the Translation Bureau. In view of that reinvestment, we followed the committee's recommendations quite closely: we hired a new CEO; we created a new chief quality officer; and we agreed to hire 50 students a year over the next five years. That was one of our priorities. In fact, as I mentioned, the survival of the Bureau was threatened.

People around the world can see the quality of the work that Canada's Translation Bureau does for the federal government. Students could not really continue their studies in translation. There was no longer a place to get this essential training. As a result, things came to the point where young people were no longer taking this essential training. It was a priority for us to ensure that these young people were well trained and could continue the Translation Bureau's important work.

In addition, as I mentioned a little earlier, under the former government, the Portage tool was really aimed at eliminating the Bureau because a software program was now going to do everything. Based on our studies and all the questions we asked our witnesses, we found that, because of the errors or mistakes the software made, it was not a translation tool, but rather a comprehension tool. What was quite clear, and this is very important, is that Portage was a comprehension tool and not a translation tool.

Thanks to the efforts we have all made, the committee has submitted a substantive report. I am very pleased that the government has listened. It has put the recommendations in place, which means that the future of the Translation Bureau is no longer threatened. We will continue to reinvest in official languages, since official languages are very important for us, and we must ensure that we are reinvesting in the quality of translation on Parliament Hill, for everyone's sake. It is very important.

In a few words, under the Harper government, the Translation Bureau had been decimated. It had been brought to the point where it had gone from 1,000 employees to fewer than 400 employees. It was not a priority at all. That was the way the Harper government was going to balance the budget—on the back of official languages. That is why I am very happy that the committee came together to ensure that the government understood that reinvesting in official languages and the Translation Bureau was essential. That is what we did. We all came together to make sure this reinvestment was a priority.

The government listened. The Minister of Public Services and Procurement came before the committee and explained the reinvestments. She read the report and listened to the following recommendations: that we hire a new CEO, which the government has done; that a new position of chief quality officer be created, which has been done; and that more than 50 students be hired per year over the next five years, which was essential to the longevity of the Translation Bureau, and to ensuring the quality of the services that we offer. Because of all the cutbacks, there had been no young students brought in at all. Therefore, it was questionable where we were going and whether we could ensure the proper training of these young students. Canada is looked upon as one of the leaders in the world with respect to translation. Other countries look to us to see what we are doing and how we are investing in official languages, and they were questioning our commitment due to the cutbacks over the Harper years. I am glad to say that our government is committed to this. That was clear in its answer with respect to this report, and because of that we have reinvested fully in the Translation Bureau.

The Harper government invested a lot of money to cut positions. It wanted to cut human resources and replace it with a computer program. A computer program would replace the quality of the great men and women who work at the Translation Bureau. What that did was reduce the credibility of what it was doing because it had a lot fewer human resources to complete the work. It was quite clear from the committee study that this computer program would not do the job the government had intended it to do. It was clear that this was not a translation program but more of a program to understand what needed to be translated. Therefore, it was not meant to be used publicly but to be used internally because of that.

I want to reiterate the importance of official languages to this government, as well as the investments we have undertaken in the Translation Bureau to re-energize it and make sure it will be maintained at the highest quality possible. However, it will take a while. Why? It is because of the cutbacks under the Harper government. That is why we are investing heavily and bringing people back on board, because we listened. We listened to the concerns of the people on Parliament Hill. We ensured that we maintained the quality and the capacity of official languages via the Translation Bureau. It makes our job on Parliament Hill so much easier. That goes to the essence of what Canada is, a bilingual country. Therefore, it is essential that we reinvest in the Translation Bureau to ensure the quality of what those men and women are doing for us. That is why I am so proud that the government listened to the report and has reinvested in the Translation Bureau. I am proud of the work that we, the members of the committee, have done together to create this great report to reinvest in official languages in Canada.

Business of Supply June 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, we have come from a process where it was 100% decided by the Prime Minister. He just picked whomever he wanted, and from there he or she was named.

We wanted to make it a more transparent, inclusive process and to attract the most highly-qualified candidate. In the process of the official languages commissioner, we chose from 72 applications. Anybody could apply. It was not that if people knew the Prime Minister, they knew they had a job. Anybody could apply, and 72 people applied. A third party evaluated the applications and decided on a short list that was then recommended to the appropriate minister.

This is an open and transparent process that we have never seen before. That is why it is a very effective process.

Business of Supply June 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, at this time the process is very clear.

Concerning what has occurred in the case of Madame Meilleur, I was on the official languages committee that actually interviewed Madame Meilleur, and everybody was unanimous about her qualifications. She qualified. However, partisanship took its place, took a toll, and that all came in. That is the result of what has happened to Madame Meilleur, who was qualified as a candidate, and all the parties were in agreement. That is the process that was followed. We had a qualified candidate.

What the NDP is proposing is to have a veto on the process. That is not acceptable.

Business of Supply June 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it is important to look at how far we have come.

We used to have a process whereby the Prime Minister alone selected the appointees. The Liberal Party decided to bring in an open and transparent process that anyone can participate in. A third party then conducts an independent evaluation and provides a short list of possible candidates. The Prime Minister's Office and the minister then choose the candidates that could be appointed. The process works.

The member for Victoria even raised a point of order in the House and asked the Speaker's office to rule on whether the process had been followed. The Speaker issued a ruling, and yes, the consultation process was followed, so the process is working at this time.

Business of Supply June 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to take part in this debate today to speak to the motion by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. He asserts that Standing Order 111.1 should be replaced and should include the creation of a subcommittee on appointments of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, and the subcommittee should comprise one member from each of the parties recognized in this House.

It is valuable to ensure that everyone in this chamber is clear about some of the fundamental elements that underpin our discussion today. It is helpful to ensure that we are working with a shared understanding of core facts. To that end, I want to put this debate in the context of how this motion proposes a fundamental shift in authority in the appointments of the officers and agents of Parliament positions that are subject to Standing Order 111.1.

Effectively, this motion suggests removing the authority of the elected government to make decisions with regard to these appoints and handing it over to the opposition parties, actually giving them a veto.

I would like to focus specifically on this very topic: the elected government's authority and its responsibility with respect to these appointments. It is important to look at this authority and responsibility in the broader context of how the Governor in Council appointments process works.

In February 2016, the Prime Minister introduced a new approach to the Governor in Council appointments, which supports selection processes that are open to all Canadians who are interested in applying. Indeed, a cornerstone of this approach is the government's commitment to Governor in Council appointments that achieve gender parity and that reflect Canada's diversity.

I also cannot emphasize enough that under this new approach some 1,500 Governor in Council opportunities can be seen by all Canadians and all parliamentarians. Included in this are the appointment opportunities for important independent leadership positions, including officer of Parliament positions such as the clerk of the House and the parliamentary librarian. Selection processes are open, and communication with the public is central to the approach.

The processes are transparent. Governor in Council opportunities and information regarding appointments made by the Governor in Council are available online to the public. Selection processes are based on merit. There is a rigorous selection process, with established selection criteria. The government has now completed more than 60 selection processes and has 100 selection processes under way.

The process for the selection of each Governor in Council appointment is based on the selection criteria that have been developed and advertised. Assessment of candidates is evaluated against those criteria.

Under the new process, everyone who feels qualified to fill the responsibilities of positions can apply online. Only candidates who apply online, however, will be considered. This creates an even playing field for all individuals interested in Governor in Council positions and who want to put forward their candidacy.

This is an appointments system that is designed to bring forward highly qualified people.

For officer and agent of Parliament positions, there are legislative provisions that involve Parliament. There are also statutory requirements for these positions whereby one or both houses of Parliament must be consulted, and approval of one or both houses is required before an appointment can be made.

In recent weeks, what defines consultation has been a topic of considerable debate in both chambers and in the public. The governing legislation for each of these positions is silent on the nature and scope of this consultation. This government has consulted by writing to the leaders of the recognized parties in one or both houses, as required by statute, providing the name of the government's proposed nominee and encouraging comment from the leaders.

I would like to remind this chamber that on May 29, Mr. Speaker, you ruled on an earlier point of order by the hon. member for Victoria concerning the consultations conducted in a recent nomination process.

Let us be very clear. While consultation is a first and important step in the parliamentary process, it is not the only one. The appointment of an officer or agent of Parliament must be approved by resolution of either one or both houses. Before that can happen, the nominee for the position is traditionally invited to appear before the appropriate House committee or committees. These appearances are forums where members can delve more deeply into the proposed appointee's credentials and qualifications and for the committee to provide a recommendation to the House.

This is all currently provided for in the Standing Orders and allows for a more diverse perspective, as opposed to referring each time to the same group of committee members.

At the end of the day, however, the government, through the Governor in Council, has the responsibility to make that decision.

The member's motion being debated today essentially proposes an opposition veto that would remove the right that all members have to vote on an appointment of an officer of Parliament, regardless of the committee's recommendation. This cannot, and should not, be delegated to a small subcommittee of four members of Parliament.

Robust and more open, transparent, and accountable public institutions help the government remain focused on the people it was meant to serve. Strong rules enhance the trust and confidence of Canadians in our elected and appointed officials and in the integrity of public policies and decisions.

This motion proposes the very opposite of openness, transparency, and accountability, which is why I cannot support it.

Sudbury June 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to welcome to Parliament Hill many groups from the happiest city in Canada, Sudbury, which have come to advocate for the projects they believe will continue to make Sudbury a great place to live.

Sudbury is a microcosm of Canada.

It has a majority Anglophone population, is one-third francophone, and has an urban indigenous community. As Canada was, Sudbury was built on the backs of hard-working immigrants. It is a city rich with an abundance of minerals, but its greatest asset is its people.

World-renowned poets, musicians, and visual and performing artists live in Sudbury.

Researchers and innovators have reshaped the moon-barren landscape with over 15 million trees, restocked 330 lakes with fish, and created a Nobel Prize-winning science lab two kilometres underground.

Sudbury is home to Science North and Dynamic Earth, the second- and eighth-largest science centres in Canada, and is home to the iconic Sudbury Wolves hockey team. Without a doubt, it is the mining innovation capital of the world.

I am proud to welcome all of these persons from my home in Sudbury.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1 May 9th, 2017

Madam Speaker, one of the first things I did when I was elected in 2015 was to take stock of where we were with respect to the housing issue in Sudbury and northern Ontario. This issue is across the board. It is not just a northern Ontario thing, not just a Toronto thing. It is an issue across Canada. That is why I was so proud to see, in the last budget, historic investments in housing. However, again, it cannot happen overnight. It is just not a one-time hit. We need to invest over a long period of time, say over the next 10 years. People need to be assured that there is stable funding for housing to make a difference in the middle class and those working hard to join it.

I hear my colleague loud and clear. These investments are important. They will make a big difference in my riding and across Canada.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1 May 9th, 2017

Madam Speaker, talking about reconciliation, we have invested record amounts with our first nations. It is a long-term relationship that we need to build back. There is no doubt that our past relationship is not something to be proud of, but it is important for us to build the relationship back again. It will not happen overnight. It is a long-term investment. It is a strong change that we need to make happen together. That is why in northern Ontario we have received investments first-hand. These investments are a start not an end. They are a start to reconciliation.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1 May 9th, 2017

Madam Speaker, what I am very proud of is these are long-term investments. This is not short term. We are not looking at the next few years. We are looking over 10 years. These are long-term investments that families need. When we invest in housing, we cannot just do it over a number of years. It takes a long time to implement, to make sure the money gets on the ground, and it is done well.

With respect to families, I have been hearing from them at the doors, right now, that the child tax benefit is life-changing for them.

That is why I am so proud of these investments. Again, these are not short term. They are long-term investments in Canadians.