House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was great.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for Cape Breton—Canso (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 74% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Members Not Seeking Re-election to the 43rd Parliament June 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, that is pretty cool. I am just wondering, looking in the gallery, if there is an open bar in the gallery for the first time. This is a great treat. I want to commend the House leaders for allowing this to happen, for members to come out and have a final speech. There have been some really cool things said in the chamber.

As many members who have been here for a while and through a few Parliaments would know, not every parliamentarian necessarily gets a final speech. Sometimes it is a concession speech back at headquarters. This is far more civilized. I am really happy that I am able to join in with so many colleagues I have served with over the last number of years.

I rewrote this thing about 12 times. I am a bit nervous, although not as nervous as the first time I almost spoke in this House. I would like to share that story here. Our chief of staff in the whip's office, Charles-Eric, was on the whip's desk at the time. I was a newly minted parliamentarian. My good friend and colleague from Sydney—Victoria and I had come here, and we did not know a lot about parliamentary procedures or anything. We were elected in November. We sat for about a week, just to get some housekeeping done. Then we had the Christmas break and came back in February.

It was about the third week back, and I had not had an opportunity to do my maiden speech yet. I did not know a whole lot about the mechanics of the House. I walked into the government lobby, and Charles-Eric said, “Mr. Cuzner, we have to have you speak. We can't let the debate die. You have to do a speech.” I said, “Chuck, I have never spoken in the House before, I don't know what to do.” He said, “No, no. Here's the speech from Marlene Jennings.”

Some of you would have served with Marlene, a great member of Parliament, strong on women's issues. She always pushed the issue of women of colour and opportunities for women of colour. He said, “She hasn't shown up and the debate is going to collapse. You have to do the speech.” My reading skills are not bad, so I said, “Yeah, I'll do it, give me the speech.”

He gave me the speech. I was sitting where my good friend from Niagara Falls is. We were on the rump over there. I had the speech in hand, and I ran around. Reg Bélair was the Deputy Speaker at the time. I said, “Reg, what do I do?” He said, “I'll give the one-minute warning to the Speaker, and then I'll call your riding, you'll get up and begin to speak.” I thought, okay, I can do that.

I started reading the speech, and I got halfway through the second paragraph when I saw the one finger go up. Next thing I saw was the beads of sweat dropping on the paper. I said to myself that I did not have time to read it, so I had better scan it. I scanned it, and it was five pages of French. Now, going through my mind was, okay, what is the tempo. I was thinking, “Mr. Speaker,” trying to get the tempo down.

He was ready to go. As you do, Mr. Speaker, he did not have the technology of the lowering arm at the time. He was edging out of his seat, and my heart was just pumping and I was sweating. I had a five-page speech for 10 minutes of air time. Marlene Jennings came racing through the doors. She was in the top row over there. She took her place, huffing and puffing. Reg Bélair got up and said, “The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.” He looked over me and said, “You're off the hook.”

I had the speech and I was in a state. I was trying to get settled down. I was looking at the last paragraph in the speech, “Growing up in Montreal as a young black woman”. I know that I was in such a state that I would have read that into the record that day. I am glad I did not. It is in the record now.

I am going to try not to be partisan or too emotional because my good friend, the Minister of Veterans Affairs said his bladder is too close to his eyes. He said that is something that no speaker should want. I am also not going to be too long.

I just want to thank some people, and obviously the good people of Cape Breton—Canso. Six times, they have put their trust in me and asked me to represent them here in the chamber. They should know that every day I go to work it is with respect to the trust that they have put in me. That is how I go about my business. I would do anything for them except re-offer. However, it was an absolute pleasure to work with them and to see so many good things happen within our riding.

I want to thank the volunteers. I have a big rural riding. I have 54 volunteer fire departments, so it is a big, expansive rural riding. We had a lot of fun with the elections and the volunteers came out. It is just their level of commitment. We have, with all parties, those party stalwarts who come out and believe in the democratic process. They want their team to win and they come out and do everything they can. I continue to be amazed by them and inspired by them. I want to thank them for their work over so many years. We should all thank our volunteers.

I want to thank my staff: Rosemary MacIntyre; Jill Horwath; Geoff MacLellan; Derek Jerrott; Laurel Munroe; Kris Kolanko; Cathy Coffin who has been with me so long; Joel Bowen, with whom we solved a lot of the world's problems late at night; Pete Cullen, who is here tonight, and I hired him twice so it is Pete and re-Pete; and Dalton Wakely and we still do not know what Dalton did but I am sure he did a great job.

I served as the chief opposition whip for two years. I want to thank the whip staff: Nathalie, Mélanie and Patrick. Again, we can all sort of relate to that. I brought Vince MacNeil over from the Senate, and Vince was a great addition to our team here on the Commons side after a career on the Senate side.

As we live here and work on the Hill, everybody appreciates the work that the House officers do. The security guys, the maintenance staff and the whole crew were wonderful at their jobs. I thank so much my caucus colleagues, past and present, and also my old roommate from Sydney—Victoria, 13 years. Our thoughts are with our good friend from Beauséjour, the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs. I thank our past leaders.

A.J. MacDougall, former warden of Inverness County, said this right after we got elected and Rodney MacDonald was a minister in the Progressive Conservative government in Nova Scotia. He said that the people in Inverness County will expect us to work together and get along to provide for the people. I have always tried to do that.

I will just share my favourite story and I will wrap up.

There have been a lot of great moments in this House and a lot of concerning moments in this House. In the wake of 9/11 and the United States going into Iraq, I was serving as Prime Minister Chrétien's parliamentary secretary at the time. I came to his office in preparation for QP. There was a phone call earlier in the day and he was speaking with Tony Blair. He was sort of the elder statesman on the scene, so Mr. Chrétien took the call and leaned back in his chair in Mr. Chrétien's style and said, “Hello Tony”. They had a conversation and Mr. Chrétien said that if we did not have the multilateral support of the UN on this, Canada would not be going in.

Anyway, Tony Blair made the decision to go in and we know how that turned out. At the time, Mr. Chrétien said that there was going to be a mess left behind, and how do we clean that up? We were getting pounded hard every day by the Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Harper was hitting him every day. However, he knew that he would stand alone and defend that position, and I think the history books show that decision was a great moment for this country.

I also want to thank the journalists. I think they are a key pillar to this democracy.

I am not sad to go. I am just happy to have had the opportunity to be here. Everybody talks about the poems and asks if I am going to do a poem, but no, there is an entertainment tax with the poems. I took my responsibilities seriously but I never took myself seriously.

I will close by taking the chance to say to you, Mr. Speaker, who has been a good friend for a long time: Rodger, over and out.

Employment May 31st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, this gives me an opportunity to remind the hon. member that, yes, the Conservatives did cut temporary foreign workers, those who were working in the processing sector, and changed the rules to make it more difficult. The sector told us at the time that the Tories pushed the whole House back just to tighten the clothesline.

We are putting in additional resources. We have more bodies on the ground, and we will see a change. We will see an improvement in that service.

Labour May 31st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Fleetwood—Port Kells, who has been a strong advocate and has quite often mentioned his concern around this issue of the negotiations. We believe, as a government, that a resolution is best found when labour and business sit, and when times need it, government assists.

I am really happy that our minister made the trip to Vancouver to encourage both groups to come to a resolution. We are really happy that a tentative agreement is now in place. I want to thank those who have given so much. From our labour department, Peter Simpson, who we call—

Public Safety May 31st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, obviously, the increase in the number of jobs created in this country, the million new jobs, has put additional pressures on the work force. We have seen an almost 50% increase in the demand for temporary foreign workers in the province of Quebec. We have put additional resources on the ground, as far as agents who are dealing with these cases are concerned. We hope to resolve the backlog shortly.

Labour May 16th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Winnipeg Centre for his obvious passion for working on behalf of Canadian workers. With the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Winnipeg Strike, I want to thank those pioneers for what they did.

Unions matter. Unions represent people, people who work hard, support their families and contribute to their communities and to the national economy. Unions fight for the middle class and have been a driving force behind historic progress made for workers.

Our Prime Minister and our government stand with workers today and every day.

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018 May 14th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, this is a great opportunity for me to thank the member for Sydney—Victoria. We served together for 19 years, we lived together for 13 years and I have taken lessons from him out of both experiences.

The greatest lesson in perseverance I have learned would be in the energy, effort and tenacity he showed on the project that was the Sydney tar ponds. North America's toughest and biggest environmental tragedy was the Sydney tar ponds. When he came to this place, he was seized with making sure that the people in our community were able to deal with that. It was not easy.

He was like Diana Ross and with Senator Al Graham, I was like one of the Supremes, but he pushed that through Nova Scotia caucus and Atlantic caucus and through Ontario and national caucus to the finance minister and the Prime Minister's Office to get $280 million to clean up North America's worst toxic site. The people in Cape Breton and Nova Scotia should always be very thankful. I am very proud of the job he did on that particular file.

Of course, as I said, I lived with him for 13 years. As far as cleaning up goes, he was much better as an MP than he was as a roommate.

I had the great opportunity to spend a bunch of time with his great family, Pam and Mieka and Josh and Jonah. Josh and Jonah moved in with us for a little bit, and in the Eykings, they were like earwigs: They were everywhere. I said that I had to get out of that place.

However, it was beautiful because his boys were older than mine. When we first started, the member had sort of a curly Afro. Then Josh hit his teens, and it disappeared soon after. He used to always say, “Listen, bulldog, don't worry; your time will come” as my boys got older, and they did. He was able to mentor me on how to deal with problem children. He has turned out to be a loving husband and a great father.

We did have a great deal of fun, but one of the first things we had to do as rookie members of Parliament was get on a flight to Cape Breton to deliver the message that the federal government was getting out of the coal mining business. That was a tough one. For friends, family and the whole community, there was a nervousness and a fear coming out of that. It was a tough one for us to deliver.

The current Minister of Public Safety was in natural resources at the time, and with Prime Minister Chrétien and finance minister Paul Martin, we were able to put the supports and transition measures in place that allowed the community to shoulder the impact of that tough decision.

We went through a lot of stuff together, and the Harper Conservatives gave us a lot of stuff to work with. It was sort of a veritable buffet when they closed the Veterans Affairs office and made cuts to CBC. We were able to stand together with our communities and take those things on.

Through all this, know that there is no finer family man and no greater gentleman in this chamber. There is no greater guy in this place. There have been all kinds of good people who have come through here and provided us with the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.

I know that the member for Sydney—Victoria is retiring only from Parliament and that he will lead an active life in his retirement. I know he will enjoy it, and he deserves it. It has been fabulous getting to know him. I consider him a friend.

All the best.

Youth Employment May 14th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Saint John—Rothesay's preamble was absolutely spot-on. After 10 years of Conservative rule, we saw the highest youth unemployment records in the history of the country. After three and a half years of Liberal rule, we now see the lowest records in the history of youth unemployment in this country, because we said we would invest in innovation and we would invest in skills training. That is what we promised we would do, and that is what we did, even better than advertised.

Employment May 10th, 2019

Madam Speaker, that is great advice.

I want to thank my colleague from Nepean for asking that question, because we know that this question would never come from the Conservatives. They are embarrassed to see the success of the government, with almost twice as many jobs created by the government than by the Harper Conservatives, with a million jobs since coming to power and 106,000 in the last month alone.

We said we were going to invest in innovation, in people and in job creation. We promised that; we delivered it, as advertised.

Questions on the Order Paper April 5th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the cost of a fair wages policy will depend on the scope and requirements of the policy, including the industries affected and the level of wages prescribed, as appropriate. These have not yet been determined and are subject to a ministerial decision that has not yet been taken.

Employment April 5th, 2019

Madam Speaker, certainly the record numbers of jobs grown by this government since coming to power has had an impact across the country, specifically in Quebec. We recognize that.

I have an interesting read on my night table, Right Here, Right Now, a book by former prime minister Stephen Harper. In the book, he admits that they really jigged up the temporary foreign worker program. We are putting additional resources into the program. We are going to fix it. If we can, we are going to “unjig” it.