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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was debate.

Last in Parliament September 2018, as Conservative MP for York—Simcoe (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act March 10th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, my concerns are much deeper than that. By nature, any chair who comes out of Parliament is going to be a partisan person. That is life. That is part of why the government wants a committee of parliamentarians. It is putting value in that democratic oversight, if that is what it is doing. My concerns are much deeper than that.

I think people have a sense that somehow a committee like this could have some substantive oversight. Let us take, for example, a serious intelligence failure, where we had questions about whether our national security agencies had done the right things. Could the committee actually go there with this, if it cannot ask for information and cannot investigate things that are part of an ongoing operation?

Let us take the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an example. The year 2001 was a decade and a half ago. Guess what? Investigations into that in the United States continue. There are people in Guantanamo Bay still today related to that in one way or another. There are folks around the world where they are trying to come up with cases for prosecution to pursue them. These things are all still very active a decade and a half later. By definition, an intelligence failure that would have led to an event like that here in Canada would be foreclosed from investigation by this committee because it would be dealing with an ongoing operation.

The fact is this is a committee that exists in name and decoration only with absolutely no powers. That is what the Liberal Party is proposing. It is very different from what anybody believed the Liberals were proposing when they were asking for the support of Canadians to form government.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act March 10th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, that is an optimistic hope. The committee might be able to do that on something that happened 25 years ago. However, the exclusions in this mean that the committee cannot deal with anything that is an existing operation. I have already laid out why anything that has happened in the past five to 10 years on the counterterrorism front still have threads out there as parts of active investigations. The committee is not going to be able to get the information.

The powers here, by definition, if there is an intelligence failure, the committee cannot go there and investigate that. If there is an abuse, the committee cannot go there because it is going to be part of such an ongoing evaluation, or it is going to be a threat or “injurious to national security”. Those are the magic words they are using.

If the committee thinks the priorities that the government is pursuing or that our intelligence agencies are pursuing are wrong, the committee cannot investigate that because that would be injurious to national security. If the committee thought that some of the techniques it wanted to look at were inappropriate, it cannot do that either because that would also fall under the exclusion that talking about that would be injurious to national security.

The fact is this committee would simply be a powerless paper tiger that exists for one purpose, like a window or hood ornament on a vehicle, to decorate the fact and suggest that the government has kept a promise that it has not really kept at all.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act March 10th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, one of the most important duties of any national government is the safety and security of its citizens. That is what people look to the government for, that is what they trust their government will do, and that is indeed one of our most important obligations here in this House, but more importantly for any government in Canada.

I come to this debate as a former public safety minister. While aware of the national security threats that we face as a country and how we work to deal with those threats, it also means that I understand full well that there are very good reasons that one might not want to have a committee such as this. Those arguments have been articulated in the past.

On the one hand, for example, one could argue that our national security agencies conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism and that the existing oversight mechanisms we have are adequate and do a fine job in providing oversight of those mechanisms to protect the public interest. I think all of us would agree that is indeed largely the case here in Canada today, and I think it is clear that the Liberal government has concluded the same, based on the approach it is taking to the bill.

The second argument that we hear from time to time is that we cannot really trust politicians, especially those with a partisan interest, with this kind of sensitive security information. If they see a partisan gain to be had, they will find some way to use that information to their advantage, even if it would hurt national security.

The Liberals have clearly concluded that they believe both of these two perspectives. However, they are stuck with a problem. The problem is that notwithstanding their conclusions on this front, they have this promise from the last election to establish an all-party national oversight committee. They feel they must somehow fulfill that promise. They noted when they were out campaigning that Canada is “the sole nation among our Five Eyes allies whose elected officials cannot scrutinize security operations”. Therefore, they come to us with a bill today that ensures that parliamentarians will not be able to scrutinize national security operations, i.e., their solution does not address what they say was their problem.

The Liberals' solution indicates that they do not believe we can trust politicians, which is one of those arguments for not having such a body in the first place. What we are dealing with here is a fascinating shell game. We are establishing something that has the name, national security committee of parliamentarians, but it is not a parliamentary committee; it is a committee of parliamentarians. It seems to belong to the Prime Minister as his personal group, but it is not a parliamentary committee. It has none of those privileges. It is simply an empty shell, with none of the powers we would think such a committee would have.

While we are going through a tremendous charade to pretend we are carrying through on a commitment to do something from the election, we are creating it in name but not in substance.

That is the problem we have in the Conservative Party. I believe it is legitimate to have a perspective where we make those arguments and say we will not have a parliamentary oversight committee because of those reasons, because our existing system works well: “We think our bodies do well. We are concerned about trusting politicians.” We could say that, or we could say that those statements are not true: “We really do need to have parliamentary oversight.” Then, we can actually create it. The bill does not create it. It is consistent. In fact, one of the ironies is that the underlying premise of the argument that we cannot trust politicians is proven by this bill. The Liberals went out there and told Canadians they would do something, and they are not. They are doing something very different. They are proving that very argument by their actions in this case.

This committee, as I said, is not a parliamentary committee. It has none of the associated powers and privileges of a parliamentary committee, and, by its structure, is isolated and cut off entirely from this parliamentary process. Members will see that it does not have the ability to appeal to the rights that one has as parliamentarians by virtue of our long-standing traditions in this House of Commons, and which for centuries of the Westminister system has worked.

The body is not a parliamentary committee; it is a committee merely of parliamentarians. The bill before us ensures that the body cannot scrutinize ongoing operations, and it says that when the operations are complete then of course it can reflect upon them. However, in this day and age, there is no such thing.

As a former public safety minister, I can say that no investigation is ever complete. The principal threat that we face, as the public safety department and the government assess in their national security priorities documents on the terrorism front, is the threat of Islamic extremist terrorism. Every time we have had such an incident, though, even when the incident is over and the perpetrator may be killed, the fact is that investigations continue with the people they have dealt with, in the context they have had, and the networks they have, and these investigations continue on and on. By their very nature, they do not come to a conclusion.

By the definitions of the exclusions that have been created for this committee, they are effectively, de facto, excluded from ever dealing with anything of substance that is actually happening on the national security front. Then, ironically, most of all, the authority that it would be given to seek information, to ask for documents, the mandate it would be given and the realms in which it can investigate, are more limited than the existing oversight bodies that are doing their work. They are duplicative, but more narrow. They are not even in other areas. They are in the exact same areas, but they are more narrow.

Therefore, it is a paper shell that is being proposed by the government. It is a meaningless shell. It certainly underlines those two principal arguments that I made in the first case about why the government probably has come to the conclusion that it would not, if it had its preferences and had not made such a rash promise in the last election, be proceeding with this committee.

Let us deal with the first of those arguments, whether our existing national security organizations do their jobs well and have adequate oversight. I can say, I think without compromising any oaths or laws, that our Canadian Security Intelligence Service is highly professional. We are very fortunate to have it working for us. I believe the men and women in that organization are second to none. They provide a service to Canadians that has kept us safe countless times.

They resist any temptation to put themselves in the spotlight, to tell success stories of their work, but there is a myriad of success stories of their work. The threats that they have shut down, which we have never ever heard about, that they have neutralized, prevented from happening, have identified, and appropriately tracked to protect us are numerous. We can be very proud of the work of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. It is indeed highly professional.

I have heard occasional criticisms of individuals on the Security Intelligence Review Committee. After all, a lot of them are politicians and people like to criticize politicians. However, I have never heard any substantive criticisms of the work they have done being inadequate. We can conclude that both the organization and the oversight have worked very well.

Another one of the three organizations that we are dealing with, the Communications Security Establishment, is outstanding. It is a second-to-none, world-class operation, and we can commend its work. Fortunately, most of us do not know the work that it does, which is the way it is supposed to be, but I can assure everyone that it does outstanding work. I have never ever heard a single credible criticism of the quality of work done by the commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment. Again, it is high quality.

The RCMP is a bit of a different body. One of the difficulties is that we ask our police to spread themselves across an incredibly large mandate, everything from local and municipal policing to counterterrorism investigations, to dealing with money laundering, to dealing with very sophisticated financial transactions. It is a mandate that is truly broad, so their work is not always perfect. However, that being said, the work of Ian McPhail and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission has been excellent. I have not heard any credible complaints. They are providing very high-quality reviews.

When I look at these, I can see that the government has concluded there is not a problem. However, Liberals have talked about it in opposition, whipping up a frenzy of concerns. They do not really share that. They do not really believe that. At the end of day, they honestly do not believe politicians should have oversight. That is why they have created this limited scope, this inability. In fact, as I said, this body would become a pale duplication. It is a duplication of the existing oversight, but it is a pale duplication. The committee of parliamentarians will have less power than those existing oversight bodies that we talked about that are doing their work.

Not only will it have less scope, but the government almost implicitly in this bill acknowledges embarrassment that it is creating a body that is merely a duplication with fewer powers. It does that with an entire clause, clause 9 of the bill, that requires the review bodies and this new committee to “avoid any unnecessary duplication of work.” The government has actually acknowledged it is asking this committee to do the exact same thing. Just a little slice of it is all the government is going to let the committee do and please, no duplication.

At one point in time when this was proposed, I thought that as a former public safety minister, it would be great for me to be on this committee. Now I look at this committee as it is being proposed by the government, and it is such a meaningless shell. I can assure every member in this House who is interested in serving on it that they are going to find it a very frustrating and empty experience, because they are not going to see too much and they are not going to have much power to actually do anything. Certainly, it is a far cry from a substantive committee such as we see, for example, south of the border.

Income Tax Act March 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, this idea of a heritage tax credit to preserve the historical aspects of our community and make them richer places to live is an idea that is long overdue, an idea whose time has come.

I want to thank all those who have spoken in support of this from all sides of the House. In particular, I want to thank the members for Cloverdale—Langley City and Kingston and the Islands, not just for their excellent workmanlike detailed addresses, but also for all their hard work in assisting me with this proposal.

It is indeed, as those addresses indicate, a non-partisan bill. This is not a partisan effort. It is very much a product of the work of previous governments, both Liberal and Conservative, under which the foundations of this tax credit have been developed in this proposal, and it is a benefit to all of Canada. That is why all of us are indeed advocating for it.

I want to address a couple of criticisms that were made in the first hour of debate of the bill. The first is that its benefit, in terms of providing a tax credit, produced an inequality in that it was applying to some homeowners and not to others.

I would put it to the House that the inequality that exists is when we ask certain homeowners through a heritage designation to take on that private burden of supporting the public benefit. It is a real cost to them to have to support a heritage building. We are in fact working toward addressing that inequality by easing that burden somewhat, saying that if an individual is to take on the public burden of restoring a heritage building from which we all benefit, and at a much higher cost than normal construction, we will help ease that a little bit and take that step toward equality of providing that public benefit.

Another critique was, in fact, kind of the opposite. It was a suggestion that there are already tax credits in place for donations to preserve heritage buildings. Those tax credits apply to exactly the people who will not be able to benefit from this tax credit, and the people who would be able to benefit from this tax credit cannot benefit from those already in place. Those are to non-profit organizations, not to private individuals or businesses who are being asked to preserve heritage buildings.

In fact, once again, we are filling a gap that exists. The criticism there is indeed misplaced, and in fact the bill goes some distance to level that playing field and improve that overall. I certainly want to set that record straight.

Finally, there is some suggestion that there are floodgates here, that with so many heritage properties, there is no way of knowing what the cost of this will be. In fact, people know well what the cost would be within the government, as they have assessed it, and it is a very modest cost compared with things like the project to restore these buildings here on Parliament Hill that are very important heritage buildings for our country. It is a small fraction of that, and in fact the entire design of the bill contains those costs and keeps them under control. It is a taxpayer-responsible bill.

Only properties on the national historic sites register would quality, a relatively limited list. The credit would be only 20%, in contrast with the 25% in the U.S., and of course the capital cost allowance is not that much of a benefit; it is simply a changing of the period of time over which a normal writeoff would occur, to a little bit faster writeoff. Therefore the actual bottom line impact for the taxpayers is limited, but the incentive for the person or the business to undertake the heritage restoration is significant.

I think those critiques ring a little bit hollow. I appreciate them, but I think overwhelmingly we have an opportunity here to pull together and build stronger communities through supporting the restoration of heritage buildings in all our communities, those heritage buildings that make them so important.

That is why so many communities, municipal councils, have weighed in to support this. I will just read a list of some of them that have so far indicated their support: Pincher Creek, Alberta; Edwardsburgh/Cardinal, Ontario; City of New Westminster, British Columbia; Calgary, Alberta; Town of Halton Hills, Ontario; Town of Atikokan, Ontario; City of Windsor, Ontario; municipalité de Saint-Felix-de-Kingsey, Quebec; Township of Machar, Ontario; Town of Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan; City of Victoria, British Columbia; municipalité de Palmarolle, Quebec; City of Terrace, British Columbia; District of Chetwynd, British Columbia; Ville de Saint-Lazare, Quebec; Ville de Cookshire-Eaton, Quebec; Town of Hearst, Ontario; municipalité de Pike River, Quebec; Municipality of Central Elgin, Ontario; County of Brant, Ontario; Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, Ontario; Municipality of Kincardine, Ontario; Calder, Saskatchewan; Town of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

I see that my time is up well before I can get to the end of that list, but it gives members some indication of the breadth and depth of support all across this country from municipal councils and the people who are charged by us day to day to preserve those communities, their built heritage, and to build great places to live. They support this; they are foursquare behind it. That is why I encourage all members of the House to express their support for this bill.

Petitions March 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, commemorative medals have been issued by the Government of Canada on significant milestones in the country's history to recognize the contributions of everyday Canadians to their communities. These contributions mean so much to so many, but too often go unnoticed and unacknowledged.

A medal was issued for our Confederation in 1867, the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation in 1927, the Centennial in 1967, and the 125th anniversary in 1992. However, as part of the Liberal war on history, there will be no medal honouring the country-building contributions of Canadians on the 150th anniversary of Confederation. The tradition is being ignored and community-leading Canadians are being forgotten.

The petitioners from Wilkie, Saskatchewan, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, call upon the government to respect tradition and recognize deserving Canadians, and reverse its decision to cancel the commemorative medal for the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

Land Line Telephone Service March 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, commemorative medals have been issued by the Government of Canada on significant milestones in our country's history to recognize the contributions of everyday Canadians to their communities, contributions that mean so much to so many but too often go unnoticed and unrecognized. A medal was issued for our Confederation in 1867, the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation in 1927, the centennial in 1967, and the 125th anniversary of Confederation in 1992, but as part of the Liberal war on history, there will be no medal honouring the country-building contributions of Canadians on the 150th anniversary of Confederation. The tradition is being ignored, and community-leading Canadians are being forgotten.

Petitioners from Armstrong, British Columbia, call upon the Government of Canada to respect tradition and recognize deserving Canadians and reverse its decision to cancel the commemorative medal for the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

Canadian Heritage March 7th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal war on history is marching relentlessly forward. The most recent victim is a Canadian crusader for human rights, a pioneer in the global struggle against apartheid in South Africa. A champion of the little guy, he gave us our Canadian Bill of Rights. This is why the Government of Canada honoured his legacy by establishing the John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award. The award has recognized individuals fighting for freedom and democracy around the world. Yet, as it did with the Canada 150 medals, the Liberal government is in the process of abolishing that John Diefenbaker award.

Why is there this Liberal war on history?

National Defence February 24th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, this year marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation and the 100th anniversary of the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge.

The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum in London, Ontario has a display on the victory at Vimy Ridge. Among the medals and artifacts one finds the words, “Whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line they prepared for the worst.”

Our Canadian heroes were not prepared for the latest in friendly fire from the Liberals in Ottawa. Why is funding for this museum and its Vimy exhibit being cut off by the Liberals this anniversary year? Why this Liberal war on history?

MPP for York—Simcoe February 24th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, this week saw a record set at Queen's Park. The member of provincial parliament for York—Simcoe, Julia Munro, became Ontario's longest-serving female MPP ever. Julia became well-known in our community when she led the successful fight to stop Bob Rae's NDP proposal to locate North America's largest landfill site on the shores of Lake Simcoe.

A history teacher, Julia went on to teach the NDP a lesson it would never forget, and made some history of her own, as she went on to become the MPP for Durham—York and joined Mike Harris in painting Ontario blue. In the legislature, she has served in many roles, including as deputy speaker for the 40th Parliament.

Having served the residents of York—Simcoe for more than 21 years, she has a track record of fighting intrusive big government and working for individual freedom. Her electoral track record of success reflects the affection that York—Simcoe residents have for Julia Munro.

It is an honour to stand in the House of Commons today and pay tribute to the amazing work that Julia Munro has done for our community and for the province of Ontario in her work at Queen's Park. I congratulate Julia.

Business of Supply February 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. First of all, Patrick Brown, the leader of the Ontario PC Party, has been quite clear in his opposition to Ontario's implementation of the federal carbon tax. He has called it a tax grab, because that is what it does. It simply taxes people for their use of carbon. It takes the money out of their pockets and gives it to the government to spend on things that in no way are going to help those people. It does not achieve revenue neutrality that way. It is spent on things like $15,000 car subsidies for Teslas for millionaires. That is not at all the kind of policy we would have. It is that kind of bad policy we oppose.

Our approach in government was to work very closely with our other major continental partner, the American government, the Obama government, on a continent-wide policy. The principles were clear: not adopt any taxes or any carbon pricing that put us at a competitive disadvantage and work together with them on a continent-wide policy so that our employers are not put at a disadvantage. The approach of this government has been exactly the opposite. It is to forget about a partnership, forget about using our leverage to get the Americans to do the right thing, just unilaterally disarm, impose taxes on our businesses, taxes on our consumers, while the Americans appear to be moving in the opposite direction. That ensures that we are not just hurting businesses and families through outright taxes, but through competitive disadvantage we are going to lose employers, jobs, economic competitiveness, and we are going to hurt our economy.

That will effectively reduce energy consumption, no doubt. However, if the policy is to reduce energy consumption by killing the economy and jobs, that is a very reckless policy. That is the policy of this Liberal government and the Ontario Liberal government through the carbon tax it has imposed, which only hurts families.