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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

The Budget April 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I caught most of the member's speech but I recorded it all. To help him out, I am going to binge-watch it this summer. It is called “Game of Drones”.

Finance April 1st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, if unmitigated gall were a currency here in Canada, I know we would have a lot of Conservatives driving Cadillacs because of what they did with the finances of this country.

When I look at Stephen Harper, I see he added $150 billion to the national debt. In 2009 it was a record $55 billion that he added to the national debt. We saw that year over year.

We know that our debt-to-GDP ratio has improved considerably since those Harper years. We will continue on this path to grow the economy and to make sure that young Canadians have the skills that they need to get those jobs and that those job opportunities are there for all Canadians.

Finance April 1st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, if I could first clarify for all those in the House this evening, there were a couple of misstatements by my colleague.

He talked about the management of the economy. The fact is that this government has created 800,000 new jobs since coming to government in 2015. The fact is that unemployment rates are at record lows. The fact is that the youth unemployment rate is at its lowest level since records have been kept. When we look at under-represented groups in our workforce—women, persons with disabilities and indigenous Canadians—we see that those unemployment numbers are at all-time lows, so we can feel a great deal of pride.

The other thing he mentioned was the fact that we changed the OAS eligibility age back to 65 after the Conservatives had moved it up to 67. That will keep 130,000 Canadians, the most vulnerable Canadians, from the poverty lines. That is what that measure will do.

Since we came to office, the government has invested in the things that matter to Canadians and to middle-class Canadians. One of our first actions was to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% of Canadians, while over nine million Canadians are benefiting from the middle-class tax cut.

We introduced the Canada child benefit, or CCB. Compared to the system of child benefits that it replaced, the CCB is simpler, more generous and better targeted to those who need it most. Indeed, nine out of 10 families are receiving more in child benefits than they did under the previous Conservative system. As a result, the typical middle-class family of four is receiving about $2,000 more in support than they did in 2015. This year, on average, families benefiting from the CCB will receive around $6,800 to help with the high cost of raising children. This benefit amount will continue to rise with the cost of living, as it has been indexed to inflation as of July 2018, two years earlier than promised.

It is worth reminding Canadians that the Conservatives voted against every one of these measures.

We have a plan to invest in and strengthen the middle class and to grow the economy, and the results are certainly beginning to show. There are strong employment gains for women, persons with disabilities and indigenous Canadians. The pace of job gains in these areas has been significant over the last three years.

Building on this momentum, we recently introduced in budget 2019 the next step to this plan. Our debt-to-GDP ratio has continued to come down. We know that in 2009, under the Conservatives, it was up to about 38%; it is back down now to about 31.5%.

We are on the right course. Canadians know that we are on the right course, and they will demonstrate that come October.

Canada Post Corporation April 1st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, again, my colleague across started his initial comments saying that the people on the government side would like to forget last fall and the legislation. In fact, there is one thing that I will not forget. It is the sanctimony from the NDP when they stood and fought against it.

It was a last-step solution. However, we know that NDP governments have brought in back-to-work legislation 15 different times. The member for London—Fanshawe, the member for Hamilton Centre and the member for Vancouver East all passed back-to-work legislation.

The one that really gets it for me is back in 1995 during the railway strike. I will read from Hansard, which says, “I want to make it clear that though we object to back to work legislation, we think it should be passed in all stages today. The strike has gone on long enough.” That was in response to legislation that came to the House in 1995.

Do members know who said that? It was this member's father. There is a time to bring in back-to-work legislation and Bill Blaikie was a member who I had a huge amount of respect for. He knew it at the time and I would encourage his son to maybe have that conversation.

Canada Post Corporation April 1st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague and I can certainly agree on the fact that in the best-case scenario both sides are able to sit down at the bargaining table and come out with an agreement that is of benefit to all. Unfortunately, there are instances that arise where such is not the case and an agreement is elusive. That is when governments have to take action.

As we have previously said, back-to-work legislation is a last resort solution. It is something that this government certainly did not take lightly. We did everything we could to support and encourage Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to reach that negotiated collective agreement. Throughout the process, which was going on for well over a year, the parties were assisted by federal conciliation officers, mediators and a special mediator. Alas, despite these efforts, the parties were unable to reach a new agreement.

As a last resort, the government tabled Bill C-89 in November 22 of last year. This set out the process by which the parties were required to work with an independent mediator-arbitrator and the employees would return to work. On November 26, Bill C-89 received royal assent, the rotating strikes ended and all postal services resumed on November 27.

Since Canada Post and CUPW were unable to agree on a mediator-arbitrator as per the process outlined in the legislation, our government appointed a former chairperson of the Canadian Industrial Relations Board to serve as the mediator-arbitrator to assist the parties in reaching a new collective agreement.

It seems to me that it is worth noting that the member across has conveniently forgotten about the many changes our government has brought forward for workers because this is about workers. We have passed legislation to modernize federal labour standards in this country, which have not been updated since the 1960s. These changes stem from extensive consultations with stakeholders who have told us the same thing, time and time again: The way Canadians work has changed, but federal labour standards have not.

The modern set of labour standards we have introduced will better protect Canadian workers, especially those who are most vulnerable, such as workers who are in part-time, temporary or low-wage jobs and it will help set the stage for good-quality jobs. This modern set of standards will also help ensure employees in precarious work are paid, treated fairly and have access to labour standards by introducing equal treatment protections.

These are just some of the measures that we have taken to show respect in our approach to labour as a government and in developing the labour laws that are needed for today's workforce, but also respecting collective bargaining, making sure that Canadian workers are shown respect and that the Government of Canada is there not to put its thumb on the scale.

Canada Labour Code April 1st, 2019

Madam Speaker, I am happy to join this debate on Bill C-420. I had to check my prepared text. I actually agreed with a number of points my colleague across the way made. I wanted to make sure that we had it right in the text.

I would like to use my time to speak about the current situation and where we are with the three prominent issues that arise from this piece of legislation: the use of replacement workers, the situation for pregnant and nursing employees, and the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. Through my comments I hope I will be able to share with the chamber and with colleagues the concerns the government has with this piece of legislation.

Let us start with replacement workers. The Canada Labour Code balances a union's right to strike with an employer's right to attempt to continue operating despite a work stoppage. The current provisions in part 1 of the code already limit the use of replacement workers. Indeed, federally regulated employers cannot use replacement workers to undermine a union's representational capacity. In fact, federally regulated private sector employers rarely use replacement workers. More often, management, supervisors and other non-bargaining personnel are reassigned to take the place of striking workers.

The current provisions in the code related to replacement workers are the result of a broad and comprehensive review that represents a carefully crafted compromise between the interests of employers and the interests of trade unions that could not be achieved through a private member's bill or through the private member's bill process.

In the past, both labour and employer organizations have been highly critical of changes being made to federal labour relations legislation through the use of private member's bills without prior consultation with all stakeholders.

The Canadian Labour Congress has said in the past:

...we urge the federal government to stop the introduction of one-off changes to the Canada Labour Code. Amendments should not be made through private members' bills. They should be made with concerted pre-legislative consultation that engages employers, unions and government.

Members who were in the House at the time will remember that one of the first actions our government took was to repeal the Conservative private member's bills Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, which upset the balance of rights and responsibilities between federally regulated employers and unions.

Good labour relations are a key element of an economic system, and indeed, of the prosperity of this country. If legislative changes are to be considered for part 1 of the code, let us do it the right way, through real and meaningful consultation and engagement with unions, employers and all stakeholders.

The current provision in the code was achieved through a thorough and meaningful tripartite process. It strikes a balance between the interests of unions and the interests of employers. It allows each side to exercise pressure on the other. If passed, Bill C-420 could upset that balance.

Regarding pregnant and nursing employees, the code currently contains provisions that give a pregnant or nursing employee the right to ask to be reassigned or to have her job modified, without loss of pay or benefits, if there is a risk to her health or the health of the fetus or the child. If a reassignment is not possible, the woman may take a leave of absence for the duration of that risk.

Also, an employee may be entitled to leave with pay to obtain a medical certificate or while waiting for her employer to respond to a reassignment request. Any additional leave is without pay. However, the employee may be entitled to benefits under an insurance plan or a sick leave program provided by the employer or to benefits through the employment insurance program.

As mentioned by my colleague across the way, the fact is that currently only Quebec specifically offers preventative withdrawal job protection with wage replacement for pregnant and nursing women.

If passed, Bill C-420 would put pressure on provinces and territories that do not have preventative withdrawal provisions. Moreover, our government is already supporting another related private member's bill, Bill C-243, an act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy, which was passed in the House June 14, 2017, and is currently being studied by the other place.

The purpose of Bill C-243 is to consult on the development and implementation of a national maternity assistance program strategy. The objective is to support women who are unable to work due to pregnancy and whose employer is unable to accommodate them by providing reassignment. If Bill C-243 passes, it would require consultations with provincial and territorial governments and other stakeholders. It is reasonable to believe that the results of such consultations would have an impact on the mechanism proposed in Bill C-420.

Finally, I will speak about the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. In 1982, the Constitution Act enshrined English and French as Canada's official languages. It also provided that they have equality of status in all institutions of Parliament and of the Government of Canada.

Two separate statutes regulate the language of work in Quebec: the Charter of the French Language, enacted 1997, and federally, the Official Languages Act, enacted in 1969 and revised in 1988.

While the government is sensitive to the preference of francophone Quebeckers to work in French, there is little documented evidence that francophones face difficulties working in French in federally regulated private enterprises in Quebec. In fact, according to the 2016 census in Quebec, an increasing number of workers whose mother tongue is English or another language use French as their main language at work or equally with English. About 48% of workers whose mother tongue is another language primarily used French at work in 2016. That is compared to 46.5% in 2006. Similarly, about 25% of workers whose mother tongue is English mainly used French at work in 2016, compared to 23% in 2006. That is an increase in both measurements. Moreover, the federal labour program has never received a complaint from a federally regulated private sector employee in Quebec concerning an inability to work in French. Indeed, in 2013, a government report concluded that these employees are generally able to work in French in their workplaces.

One last thing I must point out is that corporations active in Quebec, including those incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act, are already required, under provincial law, to comply with the Charter of the French Language, which includes having a French name when registering to carry on business in Quebec.

There we have it: Canada's current position when it comes to replacement workers, pregnant and nursing employees and the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. Now that members can see the full picture, they can understand why the government cannot support Bill C-420.

Business of Supply February 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the way made a comment about the sports tax credit, which had been referenced earlier.

When there is a tax credit or incentive, there is the hope to prompt some kind of a positive response. That is why that measure would be brought forward. However, if we look at the participation rates from 2000 on, participation rates, year over year, in sport were pretty steady. After the Conservatives introduced the tax credit in 2007, there was no discernible increase in 2008, 2009 or 2010. The one year we had an increase was in 2003, and that was because the women's hockey team won the Olympic gold medal in Salt Lake City. That happened because the previous government had believed in investing in facilities, leadership and coaching.

Does the member not see that targeted investments make far greater sense and pay far greater rewards than boutique tax credits?

Agriculture and Agri-Food February 1st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, our government has helped create 800,000 jobs across the country, 190,000 jobs in Quebec alone. That has put pressure on the workforce in Quebec. We are working with the Government of Quebec. With respect to processing, we have added additional resources.

After having experienced the Conservative cutbacks over the last number of years, we have reinvested in those who are able to process and enter data. We hope we are able to support the farmers who need those workers.

Canada Post Corporation January 30th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I would have hoped that my colleague, who I have spent a fair amount of time in this House with, might have taken the opportunity to apologize to organized labour in this country for the affront the Conservatives placed on them over the 10 years they were in power, for the disregard they showed collective bargaining in this country over their 10 years in power.

We believe in a tripartite approach to labour relations. We believe in collective bargaining, and that is how we will go about our business as long as we are in government.

Canada Post Corporation January 30th, 2019

Madam Speaker, the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke made a reference, early on in her comments, to collective bargaining. I know it is somewhat obscure for the member, having gone through 10 years of the Stephen Harper government, who showed nothing short of distain for organized labour and collective bargaining in this country while they were in power. We saw that time and time again. A record four times they used back-to-work legislation in their last Parliament, and there were two other occasions when they had it on the shelf. They were ready to pull it off the shelf during labour disputes. It was pretty much a template for back-to-work legislation: insert labour organization here and insert date here. We saw it time and again.

We saw bills like Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. Might I add that the government the member was part of did not even have the courage to submit them as a government. Conservatives put them through the back door through private member's legislation and brought them to the House to try to put it to organized labour in this country. Yes, we have a different approach to organized labour and to collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining is something this government believes in, and back-to-work legislation is an absolute last resort. We know that Canada Post and CUPW had been in negotiations for over a year. There was no sign of a settlement. There was no indication that a settlement could be reached. We had time and time again sent in mediators and arbitrators. At the end of the day, we knew that the rotating strikes being undertaken were hurting the Canadian economy, and we knew that we had to take action to make that situation right.

CFIB identified in a survey that it impacted almost two-thirds of Canadian businesses. During that critical time of the year, I know that in my riding of Cape Breton—Canso, businesses that make their stake between November and Christmas in the export sector were being impacted not just by delays in the mail but by the uncertainty that was being created by the rotating strikes. That is why we ended up taking the initiative, and as a last resort, tabled back-to-work legislation.

We know that the piece of legislation we tabled was considerably different from the legislation tabled by past the Conservative government, where there was a prescription for a resolution. We put in an arbitrator who would look at factors around health and safety issues and gender parity on wages. Those were issues we felt were imperative, and that is where the situation lies now, in the hands of Elizabeth MacPherson. We thought it was the best way forward, not just for the corporation, not just for the workers, but for all Canadians.