House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was commissioner.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Independent MP for Avalon (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 18% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply April 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is nice to get into the debate today and speak to this motion. The motion raises very serious concerns about the proper use of government resources and government funds, and it raises questions about accountability.

First, to the movers of the motion, I have heard some members of the NDP talk about how they are vigilant in the public interest and public matters and issues that are important to Canadians, yet today we are dealing with this motion. I do not think that this is at the top of Canadians' list of important issues to be dealt with.

This is the same NDP that is now before the PROC committee to discuss its leader's actions in opening an office in Saskatchewan, where there are no NDP members. If we look at the job description, we see that it talks about assisting members of Parliament through outreach to their constituents so as to best represent them, but the NDP does not have any constituents there. The telling tale in the job description is under the qualifications, which ask for experience in election campaigns. It is clearly a breach of government resources and House of Commons resources to open up an office to carry out partisan activities. That is coming from the NDP.

Let me come back to this issue. Yes, we must hold the government to account. We need to know who flew on the taxpayer's dime and whether those costs were reimbursed in the appropriate manner. These are important issues to bring forward.

Let us be crystal clear that we also understand that the Prime Minister cannot travel on a commercial aircraft. Any time that the Prime Minister must travel, for whatever reason, he must travel under the protection of the Department of National Defence. Most Canadians and most parliamentarians understand and respect that.

However, the use of government aircraft for party business is a broader pattern of public resources being used for Conservative partisan purposes. It goes well beyond shuttling top Conservatives to partisan events. We will look at some of the examples.

Let us look at government advertising. This includes tens of thousands, even hundreds of millions, spent on high-cost, low-information government advertising, such as advertising the government's action plan. These advertisements are clearly meant to sway Canadians toward the opinion of the Conservative Party and are not government advertising.

It also includes over a quarter million, and still counting, to send out press releases. It goes on to talk about the government's websites. The government has just completely overhauled its websites and has moved away from providing information and toward more partisan advertising for the government.

We can then look at the Prime Minister's new 24 Seven website, which shows the farcical videos launched by the Prime Minister's Office. There are four staffers spending their time and using government-owned equipment to create these videos of the Prime Minister and senior Conservatives to promote nothing other than themselves and the Conservative Party. Many of these videos have had only a dozen hits. This is not a very good use of taxpayers' dollars.

To come back to the use of government resources to shuttle around cabinet ministers, we still have the former Minister of National Defence being airlifted by a search and rescue helicopter out of a fishing trip that he was on. This just goes to show the very poor planning of the government on this particular issue. The minister knew well in advance that he had a meeting and a press conference that had been planned for weeks on that particular day. He could have altered his schedule somewhat, but no, he decided to call in the resources of the Canadian military to airlift him out of a fishing camp.

Let us get back to the use of overseas travel and using these government aircraft to ferry delegations around the country and around the world. It is an important task. We have to be represented in the world and we have to provide transportation to these delegations. The problem is that a lot of these delegations do not truly cross partisan lines.

In the past, when Conservatives went to the Ukraine and other places, they invited other members of Parliament from all parties to represent the government and Parliament. However, we have seen more and more often that they are only using it for their own Conservative MPs and their buddies. One only needs to look down the passenger list of some of these delegations to see that they are all well-connected Conservatives, including donors and fundraisers. It shows a partisan face to the world when this is done.

To summarize, yes, Liberals are very concerned about the proper use of government aircraft, and we should be vigilant about it. If these uses cross the line, it is only right that the governing party reimburse Canadians fully and fairly for the expenses at fair market value. Unfortunately, we keep seeing many examples of the Conservatives harnessing public resources for clearly partisan ends. The use of government aircraft for Tory officials only came to light through access to information. That leads to the question of what else might be going on that has not yet come to light.

Where is the total respect for taxpayers' dollars? This is a government that rode in on the high horse of accountability. It might have been a pink My Little Pony, because everything they said they would not do, they have done. Where is the transparency and accountability?

Liberals will be supporting this motion. We look forward to hearing other members' opinions on it.

Newfoundland and Labrador March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, 65 years ago today, Newfoundland and Labrador carved out one of the most significant parts of its history by becoming a province of Canada. At one minute after midnight, on March 31, 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador became the tenth province to join Confederation, or, as we affectionately say, Canada joined Newfoundland and Labrador.

This date in Newfoundland and Labrador history saw the end of three years of intense and emotional debate, a debate inscribed in the history books of Newfoundland and Labrador and which still continues today in many kitchens and living rooms in my province. At the time, residents voted to join Confederation and made a very emotional decision to end their status as the oldest colony. My parents voted for the terms of union, and the terms of union that followed have influenced the relationship we share in Confederation and the way we are governed.

While we can stand at any time to debate the management of the fisheries affecting the province, the transportation link, or its fair share of natural resources, today we stand as proud Canadians and proud Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. As Joey Smallwood believed, we also believe that Confederation was the beginning of a revolution in Newfoundland and Labrador. We continue to work hard to secure our place in Canada.

Offshore Health and Safety Act March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague who attended the committee hearings a question. There has been a lot of discussion about recommendation no. 29, the recommendation made by Chief Justice Wells in his inquiry. The government is acknowledging that it is not putting it in this bill.

At committee, was it the stance of Chief Justice Wells that recommendation no. 29 was still an important recommendation?

Offshore Health and Safety Act March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for St. John's East for his intervention and acknowledge that he has been around this file on the offshore for some time. I am going to lean on him for his knowledge and expertise in this matter to follow up on a question that I tried to ask the minister regarding the Ocean Ranger and Chief Justice Alex Hickman's commission.

The report had 136 recommendations to improve the offshore oil industry. The government has only implemented 90 of those 136. That leaves 46 recommendations unfulfilled from that particular inquiry. My question is whether any of the 46 recommendations have made their way into this legislation to improve the offshore off of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.

We talked about the other inquiry, and there were two recommendations left out, but I am curious about the Ocean Ranger inquiry. Have any of the 46 recommendations that have been left undone made their way into this legislation at all?

Offshore Health and Safety Act March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in the minister's speech she referred to the Ocean Ranger disaster. Following that particular disaster, Chief Justice Hickman headed a royal commission on the Ocean Ranger. There are still some outstanding recommendations from Chief Justice Hickman's report of almost 20 years ago.

When putting the bill together, did the government look at any of the recommendations of Chief Justice Alex Hickman's royal commission on the Ocean Ranger disaster?

Privilege March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege under the provisions of Standing Order 48, alleging obstruction by the Minister of State for Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, ACOA, as per the notice that I provided to you. I will be asking you to make a prima facie case, finding that a breach of privilege has occurred concerning a response to an order paper question which was tabled in the House. Specifically, the minister has changed the process and now intentionally interfered to obstruct from releasing information pertinent to my riding, therefore impeding my ability to perform my duties.

Some other questions of privilege raised in the House concerning order paper questions have been deemed to be a question of the accuracy of the answer to the question.

Mr. Speaker, I agree that you are not able to determine the accuracy of the answers to order paper questions, and I would not raise a question of privilege to do so. I understand that these historical cases did not constitute a prima facie case breach of privilege.

However, the breach of privilege that I am rising on today does not question the accuracy of the answer provided by the minister of ACOA, as I did not receive an answer that provided the requested information. Unfortunately, I have to rise with a question of willingness by the minister to provide important information from his department.

All members know that, as outlined in the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, a question may be placed on the order paper by a member to seek answers from a department pertaining to public affairs. The context of my question was to see what projects ACOA had approved in the riding of Avalon.

It is important that I briefly present the facts that led to this breach of privilege, as it is important to understand that this is not a question of accuracy; it is a question of why the minister was willing to provide answers to the questions in the past but now refuses to provide answers to the same questions. Again, this is not a question of accuracy, but concerns the willingness of the minister to co-operate and provide an answer.

I have placed a past order paper question concerning projects funded in part or in full for my riding through ACOA. On each occasion, the minister has provided a detailed list of all approved projects within the riding. The information provided had detailed lists, including project descriptions, locations, applicants, approval dates, and funding levels. The information was provided as such.

This brings me to the question of privilege concerning a response to the most recent order paper question, No. 176, where I asked for a list of projects that ACOA has funded in my riding during a more recent time period. Unfortunately, the answer did not provide the information that was previously provided, by simply stating, “ACOA does not track projects by riding”.

This is a definite change in the direction of the department, and I feel it is wrong that the minister has provided this answer to the House. In the past I have obtained the requested information from the department, and now the minister has become secretive and refuses to provide information.

It is relevant to understand that order paper questions have always been accepted parliamentary privilege in order for all members of the House to receive answers to important questions on public affairs. The minister for ACOA has unfortunately obstructed this long-standing privilege to receive such answers, and my work as a parliamentarian has been infringed upon.

The question I asked, in 2010, was answered and the information was provided. Unfortunately, we now have a minister that has intentionally interfered with my ability to obtain the same information for a later period. It is wrong and we need to ensure that parliamentary rights are protected. I ask you to review these facts and ensure we are not heading down a path whereby ministers get to decide when they will provide answers to these important questions.

I would conclude and quote Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, page 239:

Untruthful, equivocating, prevaricating, insulting, and trifling actions have been held in the U.K. to be contemptuous, as has the refusal to answer to questions.

Mr. Speaker, if you do find a prima facie case of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Petitions March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition from several hundred residents of Chapel Arm in my riding who are very upset about the closure and reduced hours of the postal office.

The petitioners call on the Government of Canada and Canada Post to maintain, expand, and improve postal services and cease any proposal to reduce hours and diminish services to the residents of Chapel Arm in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Energy Safety and Security Act March 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the comments by the member, especially when he talks about Newfoundland's offshore and the some 8,000 people who work on the offshore. Again, I am going to ask the question that I asked earlier.

First, I would compliment the government and the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board for implementing most of the recommendations of Justice Wells' inquiry into the Cougar flight crash. However, when are the government and the Offshore Petroleum Board going to implement all the recommendations, not just some of them, from this inquiry? Some of these recommendations are even outstanding from the Ocean Ranger disaster in the east. There are still some recommendations that need to be implemented. Recommendation 29 is one of them, which calls for an independent Offshore Petroleum Board safety regulator. These are very important recommendations coming from a very serious accident in our offshore. When is the government going to implement all of the recommendations?

Energy Safety and Security Act March 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, coming from an oil-producing province as I do, we know full well when tragedy strikes in the offshore oil and gas field. We need look no further than the Cougar flight of a few years ago, just shortly after I was elected.

When is the government going to fully implement all the recommendations of Justice Wells' inquiry into the offshore oil; in particular, recommendation 29, which calls for an independent safety review board that would oversee the offshore oil, and other recommendations like the run-dry on helicopters? This was a serious inquiry, it had a number of recommendations, and it is time that government implements all the recommendations in the Wells Inquiry.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 6th, 2014

With regard to the Department of National Defence and its commitment to the Air Cadet Flying Program: (a) what changes will take place for 2014 and what are the projected budget savings; (b) will the role of the Air Cadet League of Canada change in 2013 or 2014; (c) will the Air Transport Association of Canada play a role in the program in 2013 or 2014; (d) how many individuals participated in the Air Cadet Flying Program in each year from 2010-2013; and (e) how many individuals are projected to participate in the program for 2014 and 2015?