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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was fact.

Last in Parliament February 2019, as Liberal MP for Kings—Hants (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 71% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Resignation of Member February 6th, 2019

“Failure.”

Resignation of Member February 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I was first elected on June 2, 1997. Today, nearly 22 years later, I am informing the House that February 10, 2019, will be my last day as member of Parliament for Kings—Hants.

Welcome to my unplugged tour. For 22 years I have worked hard and fought hard for the people of Kings—Hants, Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada, and it has been a wonderful honour.

In December, during our final days in Centre Block, I reflected on what the House of Commons means to me and on the debates and decisions that have shaped the Canada I love.

The House of Commons has not just been a place that has shaped my career; it has shaped my life. When I was first elected in 1997, a family like mine would not have been legally recognized in Canada. I feel privileged not just to have helped contribute in some small way to this progress as a parliamentarian, but also to have benefited from it as a citizen. That is one of the many reasons that today, as I leave public life, my belief in government, in Parliament and indeed in politics as a force for good is stronger than ever.

In this age of cynicism when the doubters tell us the government does not matter, I experience the living proof of government as a force of good every day in the sheer existence of my family. Government matters, politics matters and members of Parliament matter.

I have been elected seven times for two parties, and I have served under nine leaders. I have been a member of caucuses as small as 12 and as large as 184. I have served in a fifth-place party and in minority and majority governments. I am deeply grateful to the Right Hon. Paul Martin and the Right Hon. Prime Minister, the member for Papineau, for giving me the opportunity to serve in their cabinets.

I am proud of what our Prime Minister and what our government have accomplished for and with Canadians. I loved being part of his team.

Yes, I have enjoyed my time on the front benches, but let me tell all members that there is no such thing as a bad seat in the House of Commons. Members of Parliament do not need to serve in a cabinet to make their mark in history or to help build a better Canada. Do not ever take for granted the honour of being trusted by Canadians to forge the future of this country in this place, to improve the lives of people and to make a difference. Never take for granted the honour of serving our constituents. When members and their constituency teams help people, it changes lives.

I would like to read to members from an article from the Enfield Weekly Press, from my riding, dated May 11, 2005. The headline is “Gorman to Get Pension”. The article goes further:

A 90-year-old Gormanville woman couldn't have asked for a better Mother's Day gift.

Almira Gorman, who still lives in her own home in the community, is in line for about $27,000 in back benefits from the Canada Pension Plan.

Gorman didn't realize she was entitled to the payments and did not [initially] apply to receive them.

Government policy dictated she was only entitled to receive back payments for a period of up to 11 months, but that apparently changed....

That is the end of the article, but it is not the full story. My constituency office worked with me, and we fought hard for Mrs. Gorman. It was not easy to get her retroactive payment, but we found a way. My constituency team's work helped this elderly lady of modest income, who had raised a large family in rural Hants County, to get the money she deserved, and that enabled her to build an accessible bathroom in her house so she could continue to live at home. It changed her life.

Here in Parliament, the work we do as parliamentarians in the chamber, in caucus rooms, in committee rooms is very important. Being a member of Parliament is a fantastic platform to take on issues, to study, to learn, to build and defend ideas, to change people's minds and sometimes allow them to change our minds.

I spent 16 years of my career in opposition, and I found those years too, as a private member, to be so fulfilling in so many ways. I wish members opposite many more years to enjoy that.

We can make a positive difference in the lives of Canadians from any seat in the House of Commons. Just ask our friend, the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester, who has served his people, Atlantic Canadians and the people of Canada exceptionally well in a remarkable and accomplished career as a great member of Parliament.

In terms of partisanship, I have a unique perspective. I served in two parties, and I have great respect and affection for members of all parties. There are good people in every party, and while we have ideological differences, we all come here to serve, driven by the same desire to build a better Canada, and while none of us is perfect, every MP in the House must have something going for them. They must have some goodness in them. After all, they were able to earn the trust of their fellow citizens to become elected to this place. When we demonstrate respect for each other in this place, we demonstrate respect for the citizens who chose us as their members of Parliament, and the opposite is true as well.

In the spirit of non-partisanship, I would be remiss not to recognize Canada's first openly gay member of Parliament, Svend Robinson, who is with us today. His courage in 1988 made it easier for me, coming later, to live my life openly and honestly and to become Canada's first openly gay cabinet minister in 2004.

As members embark on their lives in this new chamber, I embark on a new chapter in my life. I feel grateful, and I want to thank some people.

For starters, I want to thank my family, including my 95-year-old father, Clifford Brison, who is watching this from home. I understand they put new batteries in his hearing aid. Dad used to pass out campaign flyers at the front door of Sobeys for me.

I want to thank the people of Kings—Hants, who stuck with me through thick and thin, seven elections and 22 years. They were there for me when I came out in December of 2002. They stood by me when I came out again in December 2003, this time as a Liberal. They had my back during some of the big debates, including when I was part of a cabinet that legalized same-sex marriage in 2005. They celebrated with Max and me when we married at our home in Cheverie in 2007. I want to thank the people of Kings—Hants for the love and respect they have afforded not just to me but to my family, Max, Claire and Rose.

I want to thank all the volunteers who have knocked on the doors and put up the signs, and I want to invite all of them to our last big barbeque at home in Cheverie this summer. It will be our 23rd annual Kings—Hants barbeque—I forgot to tell Max—and they will be able to enjoy hearing me belt out Conway Twitty's Hello Darlin' one last time.

I want to thank my constituency staff, who over the years have included the late, great Audrey-Ann Murphy, Pat Taylor, Tanya Moore and more recently Evan Fairn. They have helped improve the lives of thousands of their fellow citizens.

I want to thank my friend of 40 years and long-time staff member and organizer of all my campaigns, Dale Palmeter. Dale has given me very direct advice for 22 years, and I am sure in my next chapter he will continue to do so.

I want to thank Tisha Ashton, who is with me here today. For 17 years she has provided me with flawless, or usually flawless, policy advice. Edward Rawlinson has been with me for 13 years and Adèle Desjardins has worked with me for 22 years. Adèle started her House of Commons career over 50 years ago, in 1968, working for the Right Hon. Robert Stanfield, and she served the Right Hon. Joe Clark for many years. I am the only one she has served who is not a right hon. I tried, but it did not work. Merci beaucoup, Adèle.

I want to thank my minister's office teams, some of whom are here today. These are wonderful, exceptional, loyal people, who are smart and decent, and most recently helped me execute this final chapter of my political life, code-named internally “Brixit”.

I want to thank the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra, who is not only an excellent member of Parliament but has been and is a terrific Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board.

I want to thank our world-class public servants, from the wonderful officials in my departments to House of Commons security to the staff of the parliamentary restaurant, including of course Marguerite, and our parliamentary pages. They have all taken such good care of me and of all of us.

I especially want to thank the House of Commons interpreters. I know that they have had trouble following my French from time to time. I am sure that I was one of the biggest challenges of their careers. In fact, one of the greatest gifts life has given me has been the chance to perfect my French as an MP.

Lighten up, folks. That was a laugh line. This is a tough crowd. For goodness' sake, in my absence, could you bring a sense of humour back into this place? Reverse the full humorectomy that has fallen on the House of Commons.

In closing, there are three reasons I am moving on.

First, after 22 years as an MP, I am proud of what I have helped to accomplish, and I am leaving under my own steam.

Second, I am ready for a change. At 51, I have the runway to take on new challenges in a new career, and the energy to pursue exciting opportunities.

Third, and most important, is my family. For me, there are three miracles in the gallery today: Maxime, Rose and Claire.

Some people become parents easily, some even accidentally. For Max and me, the journey to parenthood was neither easy nor accidental. I have been so blessed in so many ways to have this lovely family. The most important roles or titles I will ever have are being husband to Max and daddy to Rose and Claire.

Long after I have left public life, I will be bringing my children back here to remind them that Parliament matters. This is where brave lawmakers, nation-builders, members of Parliament and senators helped build, and will continue to build, a Canada that is one of the truly rare places in the world where a family like ours is possible.

There is a tradition in rural Nova Scotia churches. I have gone to a lot of funerals over the years. There is a reading that ends with, “Miss me, but let me go.”

Mr. Speaker, thank you, and miss me, but let me go.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency Act January 31st, 2019

A cost-benefit analysis. You are right.

Main Estimates, 2018-19 June 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to be here tonight to pose a question for my friend and colleague from the Conservative Party. Of course, I would gently remind him that it was the Conservative government that in fact was taken to court by the Parliamentary Budget Office for not sharing information on spending with Parliament. Furthermore, it was the Harper Conservative government, the first government in the history of the British Commonwealth, to be found in contempt of Parliament for not providing the necessary information on government spending to Parliament.

Beyond that, I would refer the member to the measures that are listed very specifically in the estimates in annex 1, which will give him, granularly, the amounts of money being expended, specifically by the department or agency.

I would also give him the opportunity to benefit from the monthly updates on how much money was allocated and how much is remaining, which will be available when he uses a search engine to look at Treasury Board Canada budget implementation vote 2018.

Furthermore, if he looks at the departmental results framework, he will find that in fact this is unprecedented in terms of transparency to Parliament. However, I fear the hon. member would not know the difference between a frozen allotment and a slush fund at this point, having heard his comments tonight—

Main Estimates, 2018-19 June 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I would like to help my colleague with his research. If he would like information about how each amount is spent, he can consult the website or use Google. All he has to do is search for the following phrase:

“Treasury Board Canada budget implementation vote 2018”, and as such, he will have monthly updates on how the funding has been allocated and how much is remaining. In fact, he does not have to wait until the fall of 2019, although I suspect that after the election, in the fall of 2019, he will continue to have a fair bit of time on his hands to do this kind of research from one of those seats over there. However, I appreciate very much his optimism and professionalism in this House.

Main Estimates, 2018-19 June 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I believe the hon. member's question was specifically on Public Services and Procurement Canada.

To go through that, the investments will be $307 million, through the 2018-19 main estimates, for PSPC to stabilize the government's pay system. That is a mess we inherited from the Harper Conservatives, who, in cutting $70 million from the budget at that time, eliminated 700 pay advisers and created the genesis of the situation we have now.

Also, $275 million will be invested to maintain and repair real property. The Government of Canada, through Public Services and Procurement Canada, manages about seven million square metres of office space. Of that, 3.5 million square meters are owned, and 3.5 million are leased. That will help repair real property. There are a lot of deferred maintenance issues in our real property portfolio that simply need to be addressed.

It will also include $52 million to be invested to find a simpler and better procurement solution. We know the importance of using modern tools and digital technology to improve the relationship between the Government of Canada and the people we serve. That includes the vendor community, which is why we are investing to make it easier to do business with the Government of Canada, grow their businesses, and provide great services for the people.

Main Estimates, 2018-19 June 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the question.

Let me start off by saying that it is patently obvious we have to diversify our international trade relationships. That is why our Minister of International Trade, our Prime Minister, and our whole team are working very hard to sign free trade agreements such as the CPTPP and CETA.

Diversifying our relationships is of vital importance. We need to make sure that our businesses, be they large or small, have the means to increase prosperity and create middle-class jobs. That is an important part of our plan.

It is also crucial that we enhance economic opportunities available to women across Canada, and our commitment to that is clear in the latest budget.

Main Estimates, 2018-19 June 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, Treasury Board is not only acting more rigorously than under the previous government, but is acting more transparently.

I suspect the hon. member is familiar with the search engine Google. If he were to google Treasury Board Canada budget implementation vote 2018, he will see monthly updates on how much of the funding has been allocated and how much remains. If he wants to go further to understand the activities of departments and really follow the money, he could use that search engine, Google, and google departmental results framework with the name of a department. He will not only see greater information and clarity on the activities of the department, but he will see, for the first time ever, that our government is reporting on results of investments. We are not just focused on outputs, on how much we are spending, but we are focused on outcomes, what we are achieving.

Further, if he would like to google Treasury Board Canada departmental plans, he can review the annual plans for each department.

I have great respect for the hon. member and I have great respect for—

Main Estimates, 2018-19 June 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I would draw the attention of the hon. member to the words of the Auditor General, who did recognize that our government could not move funding arbitrarily from one of these commitment to another, one of these investments that are listed quite clearly in annex 1 of the main estimates and referred to in the supply bill, without coming back to Parliament.

It is a little rich, coming from the Conservatives, to talk about openness and transparency to Parliament or respect for the Parliamentary Budget Officer. In the last Parliament, the PBO had to take the Harper Conservatives to court to get information on government spending. Furthermore, the Harper Conservative government was the only government in the history of the British Commonwealth to have been found to be in contempt of Parliament by Mr. Speaker Milliken for not providing the information required by Parliament to do our work.

Main Estimates, 2018-19 June 14th, 2018

moved:

That Vote 1, in the amount of $465,000, under Northern Pipeline Agency — Program expenditures and contributions, in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, tonight, I am pleased to speak about the 2018-19 main estimates, which I tabled on April 16. The main estimates provide information to support the government's request that Parliament approve $276 billion in spending to deliver programs and services in the fiscal year starting April 1, 2018. This includes $113 billion in planned voted expenditures, and $163 billion in statutory expenditures.

The main estimates support two appropriation bills, the first Appropriation Act No. 1, 2018-19, approved $31 billion in interim funding for voted expenditure requirements in the first three months of the fiscal year. The second Appropriation Act No. 2, 2018-19 will approve the remaining $82 billion. Through these main estimates, the government continues to make important investments in the priorities of Canadians: growth, progress, reconciliation, and advancement as part of our plan to grow and strengthen Canada's middle class.

We are also delivering on our commitments in a manner that is open, transparent, and accountable to Parliament.

Canadians and the parliamentarians representing them have the right to know how public funds are being spent, and to hold government to account.

That is why we made changes to the estimates process to make it easier for Canadians and parliamentarians to track expenditures. For the first time in recent history, the main estimates will include all budget measures announced in this year's budget.

This is a major step forward, and it has been made possible in part by changing the tabling date of the main estimates to mid-April, after the budget. In the past, new initiatives announced in the budget did not appear in the main estimates because the main estimates were tabled before the budget. Parliamentarians were left largely in the dark about how spending announced in the budget would be allocated to departments. The Globe and Mail rightly called the system bad to the point of absurdity, with spending estimates usually coming before the budget and in a different accounting format, rendering them virtually meaningless. As the Globe put it, “It's a discredited practice that has only served to keep MPs in the dark about how tax dollars are being spent.” That is why our government has taken steps to address these problems and strengthen transparency to Parliament.

We have revised the Standing Orders so that the main estimates are much more likely to be tabled after the budget. To do this, we have added the new budget implementation vote to the main estimates. Changing the sequencing allows the 2018-19 main estimates to include all the measures announced in the budget for this year. Therefore, today, parliamentarians have a document in front of them that is relevant and complete so they are better able to hold government to account for how it spends tax dollars. By law, this money can only be spent on the measures announced in the budget tabled on February 27, 2018. Treasury Board, as a central agency, does not have any discretion to use the funds for any other purpose. Parliamentarians can now trace each and every allocation from this new central vote to a specific line in the budget. That is table A2.11 in the budget, and in the main estimates in annex 1.

Allow me to address some of the concerns that have been raised recently about the budget implementation vote. Let us take the assertion that the budget implementation vote does not allow sufficient oversight by parliamentarians. As someone who has served in this House for over 21 years, I respectfully disagree. In fact, parliamentarians still have the opportunity to study and vote on the budget and the estimates and the appropriation bills for the main and supplementary estimates. In both the budget plan and the main estimates, they have a detailed disclosure of the measures to be funded from the central vote. Former parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, recently called the detailed table in the 2018 budget, “a 'clear signal' that the federal government wants and is working to give a more accurate figure of the year's upcoming spending”.

Parliamentarians will also be able to see allocations to departments and remaining balances for the line-by-line budget measures in monthly reports online and in the next available estimates.

I would add that former Department of Finance officials and economists, Scott Clark and Peter DeVries, gave budget 2018 an A grade for fiscal credibility, writing:

With respect to transparency the 2018 budget provides more detailed financial analysis and information than any budget that we can remember, and we go back a long way. For critics of the budget who felt such information was lacking, they should perhaps take the time to read the Annexes.

Let me now turn to the suggestion that the constraints placed around the use of the funds in the budget implementation vote are not sufficiently binding. This is completely untrue.

Annex 1 of the main estimates details, line by line, the limitations of the vote. It includes specific measures, departments, and maximum funding available for budget 2018 through the central vote. In addition, as I mentioned, on page 261 of the TBS main estimates, we reiterate these details.

Treasury Board cannot allocate additional funds or otherwise reallocate funding from other initiatives to support these programs.

Let us say, for example, that circumstances change, and the government proposes increasing funding for a budget measure identified in the budget implementation vote. The result would be that a separate funding decision would be required. Parliament would then be asked to approve the items separately in future estimates. I will provide an example.

Budget 2018 proposes a number of important investments, including $154 million to the Department of Health to address the opioid crisis. These funds are reflected in the 2018-19 main estimates budget implementation vote. Let us say that over the course of the year the opioid crisis worsened and the government decided it needed to invest more. If the government wanted to increase funding for this, or for any other budget measure identified in the budget implementation vote for that matter, a separate funding decision would be required and Parliament would be asked to approve the items separately in future estimates.

I spoke with the Parliamentary Budget Officer about the idea of amending the wording of the vote to create even more clarity and provide him and Parliament with even greater assurance. I am pleased to report that based on that conversation, we have amended the vote wording in the appropriation bill to incorporate by reference the details in annex 1 of the main estimates.

I invite members to turn to page 29 of the supply bill, which states, “Authority granted to the Treasury Board to supplement any appropriation of a department or other organization set out in Annex 1 to the Main Estimates for the fiscal year, for an initiative announced in the Budget of February 27, 2018, and set out under that department or other organizations name in that Annex, in an amount that does not exceed the amount set out opposite that initiative in the Annex.”

With this amendment, it is even clearer that funding may only be provided for the measures, amounts, and organizations detailed line by line in annex 1 of the main estimates.

It is also worth noting that Auditor General Michael Ferguson has said “he’s less concerned by the $7-billion vote because...the government is bound to the line-by-line promises.” He said, “You have to allocate it”, funding for the budget measures, “on that basis, you can’t just decide somebody else should get more and somebody else can get less. To me that’s not the authority that they’ve been given by Parliament.” We wholeheartedly agree with the Auditor General.

Finally, I would like to address the view that the initiatives to be funded through this vote are not reflected in the departmental plans, that there remains a lack of alignment between the budget initiatives and the planned results. Allow me to clarify that alignment between the main estimates and departmental plans has not changed. Instead, we have actually improved transparency by including budget 2018 funding in a central vote managed by the Treasury Board Secretariat.

As the year progresses, parliamentarians will be able to better track budget allocations because they will be reported in the monthly online reports; the next available supplementary estimates; the departmental results report, after the fiscal year has ended; and through a budget implementation tracker on the GC infobase. This is a level of transparency not available in previous estimates that parliamentarians have been debating and voting on for years.

I would now like to talk about budget 2018 and highlight some of the measures our government is taking for the middle class. Canadians want to ensure that more and more people benefit from a growing economy.

That includes Canada's talented, ambitious, and hard-working women. By supporting women entrepreneurs, reducing the gender wage gap, and increasing the participation of women in the labour force, we are helping boost economic growth for all Canadians.

Budget 2018 also aims to close the gap between the living conditions of indigenous peoples and non-indigenous peoples, facilitate self-determination, and advance recognition of rights.

As of today, 63 long-term drinking water advisories on reserves have been lifted, but there is still much more work to be done. Our government is committed to ending long-term drinking water advisories on public water systems on reserves by March 2021, and we are making greater investments through budget 2018 to try to beat that deadline.

To help address employment gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous populations, we are investing $2 billion over five years to create a new indigenous skills and employment training program.

Budget 2018 also creates new opportunities for innovators since its invests nearly $4 billion over five years to support the next generation of Canadian researchers. This is the most significant investment ever made in basic research in Canada.

Through these estimates, we are investing in the priorities of Canadians. We are creating economic growth for the middle class and those working hard to join it. In addition, we are making important changes that will improve the clarity, transparency, and accountability of government spending. In doing so, we are continuing to raise the bar on openness and transparency to Parliament and Canadians.