House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was brunswick.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Saint John (New Brunswick)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Corrections and Conditional Release Act April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as I highlighted in my speech, I am very sincere about this being in response to a situation that occurred in my riding at a period of time when people felt very vulnerable. People were feeling left out of the system. They were feeling not a part of it, not understanding what was happening within their community, not aware until after it had already taken place. This bill simply would allow for the transfer of more information to communities that house these individuals when they are completing their sentence or when there are conditions applied to their sentence and they are re-entered into society.

There is nothing wrong with the public being aware of this. It would change nothing for the individual inmates. What it would do is provide peace of mind to constituents like mine and like the member's when the situation occurs in their communities.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act April 28th, 2015

moved that Bill C-642, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (high profile offender), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House tonight to start the debate on second reading of my private member's bill, Bill C-642. Before I begin, I want to thank my colleague the hon. member for Miramichi for seconding my bill. I certainly appreciate her doing that.

I feel very confident that my colleagues will see the wisdom of these proposed amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. This private member's bill would amend the act so as to require the Correctional Service of Canada to disclose certain key information regarding the statutory release of a high-profile offender. This would be accomplished by posting the required information on the service's website, as prescribed by the bill, and by also providing written notice with the disclosure of the information to the victim or victims. The legislation would also provide for community consultation related to the proposed release.

I introduced the bill in order to fulfill a commitment I made to the citizens of my community of Saint John after they were exposed to a situation that many felt was a major injustice, in 2013. The perceived injustice that I am speaking of was the introduction of three serious offenders into our community, without prior notice or without people even understanding who they were dealing with, what they looked like, what restrictions were imposed on them, or what was being done for the protection of the citizens in our area.

As an example of this, I would like to refer to a news article at the time that described one of these individuals, who had been convicted of raping eight women. He was sentenced to 37 years in prison. He qualified for statutory release and was released from prison to the Parrtown Community Corrections Centre, after having served two-thirds of his 37-year sentence. However, what got people quite concerned was that the news article stated that a recent assessment had indicated that this individual's risk to reoffend and commit another sexual assault was in the high end of the moderate range. That had community members on edge.

I want to highlight that this could happen in any community throughout Canada that is home to a halfway house that houses high profile offenders prior to their full release.

I want to say at the outset that I believe that we in society have an obligation to do our part to reintegrate individuals back into society once they have paid their dues. However, it cannot be done without looking after the mental and physical well-being of law-abiding citizens.

I stated back at the time that this whole situation unfolded in Saint John that there must be stronger rules to ensure more public disclosure of information surrounding the release of high-risk sex offenders in the application of conditions to the release that protect the public interest. I am no different from anyone else. I certainly consider Saint John to be a wonderful area in which to live, with a lot of support services for the people who need it. I believe we have an obligation to protect those who are vulnerable from potential risks. This is an area of responsibility that we all take very seriously, and we do in Saint John for sure.

Saint John, New Brunswick, is home to the Parrtown Community Correctional Centre, which is commonly referred to as a halfway house by most. We also have a strong chapter of the John Howard Society. Together they do great work helping prisoners re-enter life in the community. However, their job is not the protection of the public.

The National Parole Board and the approach we have taken to prisoner releases in Canada give the role of protecting the public to the police and to us, the lawmakers of Canada. We need to provide the police with the tools they require when doing their job. At the present time, it is left to the local police to decide if they will inform the public about the release of dangerous criminals. They must balance the right of the prisoner with the right of the public to know. This is not fair to the police and it is definitely not fair to the public.

There is another example in another news article from 2013 when this was unfolding in my riding. Another individual, different from the one I referred to earlier, was released from prison after having served a 12-year sentence for forcible confinement and sexual assault.

This was put out by the Saint John Police Force. The Saint John Police Force considered this individual to be a high risk to offend sexually and violently against females and other vulnerable persons. They went on to say that the Saint John Police Force was issuing this information in warning after careful deliberation about all related issues, including privacy concerns, in the belief that it was clearly in the public interest to inform the members of the community. It is quite extraordinary to have an article like that appear in the local newspaper. It certainly caused concern for many citizens in Saint John.

We need to protect the citizens of our communities that play host to these dangerous offenders as they are reintroduced in society.

In 2013, the city of Saint John played host to three individuals, as I mentioned earlier, who were deemed to be dangerous offenders and who it was determined had a high chance of reoffending. Each was in jail for sex-related crimes, and the people of my community were alarmed when they learned of their release into the Saint John area. We had no idea what they looked like, where they were staying for sure, and what restrictions were placed on their movements, if any.

We were not made aware of their release into the community until after it had already occurred. Concerned citizens, as one can probably imagine, held rallies, signed petitions, and raised the issue in the media. They raised the issue with city council, provincial MLAs, and me, their member of Parliament.

At the time, I made a commitment to try to ensure that this situation was not repeated in Saint John or in any other community in Canada. I felt it was important for communities to have the information they needed in advance to allow the police and citizens to be prepared and to make sure that the victims of the people who had violated them were informed as well.

The Saint John city council passed motions about having access to more information about the people being released into the community. Again, I refer to another article at the time about these motions, when city council was debating this. In the motion, one of the councillors, the deputy mayor, actually, stated:

I believe it is important that we understand the process by which these types of offenders are released and how locations are chosen as well as what support is available from the Federal Government for those communities expected to accept such individuals.

She went on to say:

People are concerned, and rightly so. The absence of good information just exacerbates the concern. I would like to have accurate data to be able to decide what the issues are.

I have all the faith in the world in our law enforcement officials here, but I want to provide them with all the support I can to ensure that they understand the process and what supports are necessary and what resources might be available elsewhere to help them.

The deputy mayor made it clear that she was not asking for the disclosure of offenders' personal information. She went on to say:

I respect the fact that people who've been convicted of an offence served their time, and they do need to be able to re-establish a life for themselves. But at the same time, we do have a responsibility to our community to ensure that the quality of life is maintained for our citizens.

Obviously, as politicians, we are called upon to respond to many situations, and I did respond at that time to that situation talked about in another article. I went on to say in that article that I think the public needs to be aware of the nature of the release. With each of these individuals, there are conditions applied, and the public should be aware of the conditions that are applied. That was in a news article at the time.

That is the gist of what I am trying to say here today. As lawmakers, I believe we have an obligation to listen to people and to act in the interests of the majority. I undertook in 2013 to address the needs and concerns of the people of my riding. They were concerned and were looking to us to provide them with the protection and information they needed to make themselves feel good about walking the streets of their community.

I want to be very clear. Bill C-642 does not interfere with the rights of the inmate being released. It does not change the fact that they are being released. It does not deny them the protection provided by our Canadian justice and correctional system. What it does do is give the citizens of our country and the victims of crime more information and a sense that they are being treated fairly.

It makes the release of certain dangerous offenders become part of the public record.

It would no longer be the responsibility of the police in local communities to decide if certain information should be made public. This would also give the public and victims the knowledge that those certain individuals would not be able to quietly, under the veil of secrecy, enter their community and quite possibly reoffend before the community even knew they were there.

I must point out one very important point. This change would not apply to all offenders being released into our communities. It would only apply to the most dangerous offenders, as defined by schedule 1 of the act, and if the commissioner were to determine that the offence dynamics had elicited or had the potential to elicit a community reaction in the form of public or media attention.

I look forward to the members, my fellow lawmakers and protectors of the public, supporting this simple change that would give the general public the notice and the information they deserved when a dangerous offender was to be released into a community. We as elected officials must be responsible to our communities. We must take the steps that are needed to protect the people who make up our great country.

Some will no doubt argue that this is more tough-on-crime legislation. Let them. This is not tough on crime. This is simply informing members of the public of what is happening within their communities. It would provide a protection to the people who deserve to be protected. It would inform and involve members of the public in a key aspect of our justice system.

In this age of social media, especially at a time when municipal policing budgets are under strain, we must do whatever we can to keep the public informed with factual information for communities.

I look forward to the support of members for the bill and to their involvement with the protection of their constituents. In our modern world, information is key. People demand to know what is going on and, as elected representatives, it is our obligation to do what is expected of us, which is provide reliable and valuable information in a timely and predictable fashion.

I look forward to the support of my hon. colleagues and I am ready for any questions they might have.

Veterans Affairs April 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the leadership of our Prime Minister and the Minister of Veterans Affairs, our government has announced new initiatives that are further proof of our commitment to treat veterans and their families with care, compassion and respect.

Today we have officially expanded the eligibility criteria for the permanent impairment allowance, so more veterans are eligible for financial support each month. Even more, effective today, the earnings loss benefit is now calculated in the same way for reserve force veterans as it is for regular force veterans. This is about respect for reservists.

These measures, and others in the support for veterans and their families act, are some of the ways our Conservative government is ensuring ill and injured veterans and their families have benefits that will span their entire lives.

Public Safety March 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the RCMP announced that it had arrested an individual in Prince Edward Island who had plans to commit acts of terrorism. The RCMP has confirmed that it had grounds to suspect that he intended to commit a terrorist offence.

Can the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness please update this House on this situation?

Business of Supply March 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question, because I, too, share his excitement about the coming federal budget. With some of the new measures I talked about in my speech, I see why he is excited and anxious to see the Minister of Finance bring that budget into the House so Canadians can start benefiting from some of the tax benefits and measures we are planning to introduce.

I can only ask my hon. colleague across the floor to please be patient. He will get to realize the benefits, the same as the rest of Canada.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to address the question from the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. In fact, I am glad this question has been raised.

Our government is keenly focused on creating jobs, economic growth, and long-term prosperity for Canadians. In fact, since the depth of the global recession in 2009, the Canadian economy has posted one of the strongest job-creation records in the G7 over the recovery, with nearly 1.2 million net new jobs created. These are overwhelmingly full-time, private sector jobs in high-wage industries.

However, the recent report released by CIBC highlights a problem our government has been feverishly working to solve over the past few years. The report clearly states that workers need the right skills to meet the demands of the labour force. The problem is not the decline in well-paying jobs; the problem is that there are not enough Canadians with the right skills to fill the jobs that are available. In other words, we have too many people without jobs and too many jobs without people.

How do we deal with this challenge? First, we must take action now to help Canadians get the skills and training they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow. That brings me to one of our government's top priorities: helping Canadians get the skills they need for the available jobs.

We understand the need for accurate and robust labour market information to help Canadians make the best possible decisions when it comes to training and education. We are also collaborating with the provinces to share labour market information. Better labour market information is a good start, but we also need to change some attitudes.

While Canada has the highest proportion of post-secondary graduates of people aged 25 to 64 among OECD countries and the G7, 53% to be exact, a degree does not guarantee a job. Where are the jobs, one might ask? Many of them are in the trades.

Let me give hon. members of the House an idea of the demand for trade workers. BuildForce Canada says we will need more than 250,000 construction workers in the next 10 years. The mining industry says we will need more than 125,000 workers by 2020, and the petroleum industry says we will need more than 125,000 workers by the year 2022.

The Conference Board of Canada, last summer, found that Ontario is losing out on over $24 billion in economic activity and $3.7 billion in provincial tax revenues annually because employers cannot find people with the skills they need. Why is it so difficult to find people to fill these jobs? The answer is simple. Not enough young people are choosing to enter the skilled trades.

In a study completed by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum in 2013, fewer than half of high school students said they would consider a career in the skilled trades. That is a big problem. Right now, in some Red Seal trades, nearly half the workforce is over the age of 45. We need to work together to inform young people about the opportunities in the skilled trades, opportunities to do fulfilling work and to earn a good living.

Our government is also working to support apprentices. For example, we have introduced apprenticeship grants. To date we have issued over 500,000 grants. There are two types of grants available to apprentices in a Red Seal trade. The apprenticeship incentive grant provides $1,000 to apprentices who complete their first and/or second year or level, up to $2,000. The apprenticeship completion grant provides $2,000 to apprentices who have completed their training and have obtained their journeyman certification. In total, an apprentice can get $4,000 from our government with these two grants.

Additionally, we have introduced the apprenticeship job creation tax credit, the tradesperson's tools deduction credit, flexibility and innovation in apprenticeship technical training, and the new Canada apprentice loan. This new measure provides apprentices in designated Red Seal trades with up to $4,000 in interest-free loans per period of technical training. These interest-free loans will help apprentices with the cost of training, which can be particularly difficult while they are supporting their families. These loans remain interest free until apprentices leave or complete their training programs, for up to a maximum of six years. They will also encourage more Canadians to consider careers in the skilled trades.

We need to work with other stakeholders in both the private and public sectors to find a long-lasting solution to our labour issues. By working more closely with employers we can ensure that training is better aligned with the job opportunities in different regions in different sectors.

At the same time, businesses also need to have a stake in the outcome. If employers want their concerns about skills shortages to be taken seriously, they have to show that they are contributing to a solution. One way this can be done is through the Canada job grant. Through this grant, the government provides up to $10,000 per person toward the direct cost of training, with the employer contributing, on average, an additional one-third of these costs.

The Canada job grant is part of the new Canada job fund, an agreement through which the government provides $500 million annually to the provinces and territories for investments in skills training. We are working very hard to give Canadians the support they need to prepare for the job market.

Another way to help fix the problem is to start by acknowledging that our education and training systems urgently need reform. Provincial governments need to realize that the choices they made in the 1970s and 1980s, and in my home province in the 1990s, to gradually downgrade vocational education were very shortsighted. Forty years ago, most high schools offered vocational training, but now the number of technology courses taken by secondary school students has dropped dramatically. We need to change this. That is why today I want to call on all families, and society's leaders in general, to lend their voices by telling younger Canadians that choosing a career in the trades is not about settling for second best. These are well-paying, honourable, and rewarding careers. They help build self-worth, pride, and ultimately, strong and healthy families.

Our government believes strongly in the need to change hearts and minds when it comes to jobs in the trades. When it comes to the skills-gap issue, we cannot address it in isolation. We have to attack it from all angles. I want to assure members that we are definitely doing that.

We also cannot forget about a key segment of our population, a very educated segment: new immigrants. In fact, they hold a disproportionate number of graduate degrees. They account for nearly half of all Ph.D. holders and 40% of master's recipients. Unfortunately, despite their qualifications, skilled immigrants are chronically underemployed. According to the 2014 labour force survey, the unemployment rate for recent immigrants last year was 12.9%. That is nearly double the unemployment rate of the general population.

Over 70% of economic immigrants to Canada are unable to work in the fields for which they are trained, and that is really unfortunate. Why should foreign-trained doctors and other professionals be driving taxis and waiting tables because of the lengthy and expensive processes they have to go through to have their credentials recognized in Canada? Not only is this a terrible waste of human potential, it is also a serious loss to our own economy.

Our government is committed to improving the foreign-credential process in Canada, and we have taken important action in this regard. We have invested $50 million to develop a national framework to streamline foreign-credential recognition for key occupations. We have been meeting with regulatory authorities representing engineers, nurses, dentists, physicians, engineering technicians, and other occupations to learn the best ways to streamline their credential recognition.

Our government's work on foreign-credential recognition began years ago. In 2011, we made a commitment to provide loans for recent immigrants to help pay for skills training and accreditation. In 2012, we kept that promise when we introduced the foreign credential recognition loans pilot project. For many new immigrants, getting traditional loans can be very difficult. This partnership between the federal government, financial institutions, and community organizations gives internationally trained workers modest loans to help cover the costs of having their credentials recognized so that they can find jobs in their fields more quickly.

Just recently, our government also launched a new panel on the employment challenges for new Canadians as part of the action plan to improve foreign-credential recognition for internationally trained professionals. We are also continuing to provide financial support to improve credential recognition in 24 target occupations that represent over 80% of newcomers.

Our government recognizes the financial challenges many Canadians are facing today. That is why we are keeping taxes low for families. For parents, this means that they will have more to invest in their children's futures. This in turn will help the next generation of Canadians who will grow up to participate in the workforce and the economy.

It is clear to me that supporting strong families and preparing Canadians for jobs go hand in hand. Canadians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. The low-income rate has been declining and now sits at an all-time low, using the most recent comparable data.

Canadian families in all income groups have seen increases of about 10% or more in their real after-tax and after-transfer incomes since 2006. We want to keep this momentum going, and investing in the well-being of all families is the best way to do it. That is why our government is proposing new measures to help make life more affordable for families.

Let me explain to the hon. members of the House how we are keeping taxes low for families.

I am proud to say that we have proposed enhancing the universal child care benefit by providing almost $2,000 per year for each child under the age of six and by introducing a new benefit of up to $720 per year for each child aged six through 17. More than two million new families will now benefit from the universal child care benefit, for a total of about four million families nationwide.

This direct financial support provided by the Government of Canada helps parents while allowing them to choose the child care option that best suits their family's needs. Whether people work in the paid labour force or stay at home with their children and live in a small town, rural community, or large urban centre, these benefits are having a real and measurable impact.

That is not all we are doing. Our government is also introducing a new family tax cut. The family tax cut is a federal non-refundable tax credit that would allow a spouse to transfer up to $50,000 of taxable income to a spouse in a lower-income tax bracket. More than 1.7 million families in Canada would have more money in their pockets, something our government is very proud of.

Furthermore, we are introducing a $1,000 increase in the maximum dollar amount that can be claimed for the child care expense deduction, effective in the 2015 taxation year. The government also proposes to double the children's fitness tax credit from its current limit to $1,000 for the 2014 and subsequent tax years and to make the credit refundable for 2015 and subsequent tax years.

As children grow up, families need better access to post-secondary education. That is why, through the Canada education savings program, the government encourages families to start saving early for their children's education. Modest-income families benefit from the Canada learning bond. The Canada learning bond is $500 the federal government deposits into a registered education savings plan, better known as an RESP. A child may be eligible for another $100 per year, up to a maximum of $2,000. Most importantly, parents or primary caregivers do not have to contribute any of their own money to receive the Canada learning bond.

When they open an RESP, parents can also receive the Canada education savings grant. The federal government adds between 20% and 40% of contributions to the RESP, depending on income, with a lifetime maximum of $7,200 per child.

On this side of the House, we are proud of the range of support we provide for Canadians throughout their entire lives. From education and training to immigration and lowering the tax burden, we are helping Canadians create a better economic future for themselves and for our country as a whole.

Business of Supply January 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, obviously the member missed the point I tried to bring forward in my speech, and I apologize for not being able to articulate that more effectively.

However, the point was that it is about delivering results. That is the point I was trying to make. The Prime Minister of this country has delivered results over and over again. As my colleague has said several times here today, there have been more than 300 meetings with various premiers since he came into office, and results were delivered over and over again.

That is where Canadians are seeing the benefit. They are seeing benefits for their own individual needs in their own individual provinces. That is what Canadians want. They want action on the issues they face personally. As far as photo ops go, we can leave them for the leader of the third party.

Business of Supply January 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from my colleague. I have had the benefit of serving the people of my province at the various levels of government. I served at the municipal, provincial, and now federal level.

When I served at the provincial level, I served in the capacity of the chief of staff to the premier, as well as being a minister of the Crown. When I was chief of staff to the premier, we had the benefit of dealing with three different prime ministers during that timeframe.

I have to say that, throughout all of those meetings we had with those prime ministers, any of the work we got done, any of the results we achieved, any of the progress we made for the province of New Brunswick was basically done in one-on-one meetings.

I have to be very frank. Every province is different. Every province's needs are different. When we sat down on a one-on-one basis with the prime minister, the premier, the chief of staff from the prime minister's office, and the chief of staff from the premier's office, we were able to iron out the details. We were able to get the job done and delivered for our constituents.

As I said previously in my speech, that is what Canadians want. They want us to put aside the rhetoric. They want us to put aside the photo ops, as my colleague said. They want us to deliver results for them.

Business of Supply January 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate, as the member said, the opportunity to convince him of the respect the government has for the relationship with the provinces.

We certainly respect the positions of the provinces and want to ensure that they have sustainable, dependable funding. As the member refers to, one of the things we have done is have discussions with respect to the health transfers. We have guaranteed that the provinces will see growth in that health transfer, going forward. We have made sure to continue to build upon that growth. People can depend on that, not like with the governments in the past that cut transfers to programs, such as social programs and health funding, which are so vital to the lives of the provinces and their citizens.

Our government has done no such thing. We continue to grow the transfers to the provinces. We are very proud of that. When we talk about respect, there is no better way to demonstrate respect than by keeping our word, and that is what this government does.

Business of Supply January 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from the member opposite. I do appreciate his bringing it close to home for me, because that is where all politics belong. All politics are local.

When he talks about the relationship between the province and the other partners, whether it is the municipalities, first nation communities, or the like, he is so right that they talk about wanting to have a relationship upon which they can depend. People want results. They want results when they work together with different partners. As I said in my speech, we are delivering results and have been delivering results.

When the member takes it back to the energy discussion and debate, he is right when he talks about the energy east pipeline and the benefits that would come to my riding in particular, to the refineries and to the community as a whole. The citizens from my riding are excited about the prospects that lie with the energy east project. They are excited about the potential we have to play such a huge role in the building of this great nation, bringing this nation together. One of the things they are so happy about, when they talk about the energy east potential, is that this government put in a definite timeline to have this project approved. This government did that. It is not a discussion that will go on and on. This is a government that has developed a practice of delivering results, and this is a perfect example of having a definitive timeline when it comes to projects such as this.