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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was report.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Charlottetown (P.E.I.)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act September 23rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, as my friend knows, I was not here in 1979 so I am not aware of any discussions.

We perhaps should not talk about suspicions but my suspicion is that this particular situation was not thought about nor debated. Of course, 31 years have transpired since then and it has not been raised in the House that I am aware of since then. Therefore, I think that is the situation.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act September 23rd, 2010

I thank you for your assistance, Mr. Speaker.

I have been around the House long enough to know that sometimes when something looks and sounds simple and is something that should be done quickly and expeditiously without a whole lot of debate or deliberation, we get into the whole area of unintended consequences. Sometimes what we did not really expect to happen happens, and sometimes we do not find out until a year or two later.

I certainly will agree that this bill as drafted should be passed by the House. The bill should go to committee to allow the committee to study it. In principle, I agree with it, but are there any unintended consequences that should be looked at? We do not want to cause anyone harm, especially people who are not involved in the particular situation.

Some unintended consequences have been raised this afternoon, such as the whole issue of universality. I do not see that as an issue myself. We have to look at why a person is eligible for the guaranteed income supplement, which is approximately $1,100 a month. The reason is it is a benefit available to every Canadian so that people can pay for their accommodation, food, transportation and other personal needs. This, or most of it, is all taken care of under the prison system. That is the situation.

Another situation that has developed and will be looked at by the committee is what the obligations are of the senior to a spouse or a child. I would not think it likely that there would be a child, but there could be, or maybe a dependent child. These are situations that will have to be looked at very carefully by the committee.

I do not know how a 65-year-old person living separate and apart from his or her spouse is treated with regard to GIS. I know the GIS per couple is less than that for two single people. I do not know how that situation is treated, but it is something that will have to be looked at because at the end of the day, we certainly do not want any adverse repercussions for the spouse, whose life is probably difficult enough. We do not want any adverse repercussions to him or her, especially not having been involved in the crime nor being in prison. Spouses certainly do not need any more grief in their lives by having their existing benefits cut.

Restitution orders have been raised by other members. Again, that will have to be looked at by the committee. There will have to be discussion about any ongoing support obligations to previous spouses or dependent children who are disabled. Is there an obligation to support that individual in the unlikely situation the prisoner may actually have children? Those situations will have to be looked at before the bill gets final approval by the House.

This point was also raised by a previous speaker, but I want to reiterate that this does not involve the eligibility of benefits under the Canada pension plan. In that particular case, if the incarcerated person was receiving CPP benefits, he or she would have paid into them when he or she was working. The person is certainly entitled to those benefits and will continue to receive them. This bill does not affect that entitlement whatsoever.

An issue has been raised, and this is where it gets very interesting, where I do see unintended consequences, although it does not affect the bill in its present form. The bill contemplates that the provinces may opt in and not pay the benefits to anyone who is incarcerated for more than 90 days. In the federal system the incarceration is in excess of two years. It is a much simpler system. I do not have the confidence in the provincial and federal governments to administratively deal with this issue.

I will describe a situation. If a senior citizen were incarcerated for 90 days, administratively that would mean that at a certain time of the month the person would have his or her benefits cancelled. Let us say that the person went to jail on September 15 and three months later the person was released, which would, of course, depend on a lot of circumstances. We can see the administrative nightmare. These people, because they are receiving GIS, which means they have no other income whatsoever and are living hand to mouth, I have a real concern administratively as to the capability of the provincial and federal governments to coordinate all their efforts to ensure these payments are stopped on time and, more important, started on time.

I know that is not the issue before the House today but I see that as a serious issue going forward if all the provinces opt in. From my dealings, I do not think the capabilities are there to make it a seamless administrative procedure to do this without causing all kinds of problems. Given the numbers we are talking about, I can see a situation in which the administrative costs would certainly exceed the benefits that would be saved on that particular issue when they start cancelling benefits for short periods of time. However, that is something for the committee.

I support the legislation because I, like most Canadians, was appalled when I first read about it. It is a situation that I, like most members of Parliament, never thought about. It was raised in one particular instance. I do not like making laws and discussing public policy based on one particular incident or one particular individual but this goes right to a public policy situation where approximately 400 eligible recipients are receiving benefits as we speak. In that particular case, it does warrant some response from the house.

It is my position that the bill should be passed by the House at second reading and go to committee for further study.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act September 23rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to participate in this debate.

The bill is fairly simple. It is not lengthy by any means. The bill would amend the Old Age Security Act to preclude incarcerated persons from receiving benefits under that act while maintaining entitlement to benefits for, and avoiding a reduction in the amounts payable to, their spouse or common-law partner. It would preclude individuals, who of course are over the age of 65, from receiving benefits under the old age pension or the old age supplement when they are incarcerated in an institution.

We are dealing with a principle here and I agree with the principle. It probably does not apply to a lot of people. My research indicates it is in the vicinity of 400 individuals across Canada. We are not talking about an awful lot of money. It is $2 million on a pan-Canadian basis, but it is the principle. I would suggest it was an anomaly that was never caught by anyone. The situation right now is that there are approximately 400 individuals who are perhaps not receiving all the GIS, as it would depend on other sources of income they have, but they are receiving benefits from the taxpayer while they are incarcerated in a federal institution.

Again the standard situation is probably individuals who committed serious crimes. They probably turned 65 while they were incarcerated and they are getting this money. I think I speak for most Canadians that they are offended when they hear this. They do not think their taxpayers' money should be used for that purpose and they think it should be stopped. I think the vast majority of Canadians certainly will support this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of noise in the House and I would ask for your assistance.

Questions on the Order Paper September 20th, 2010

With regard to the development of Prosperity Mine by Taseko Mines Ltd., will Schedule 2 of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations, under the Fisheries Act, be amended to include Fish Lake, also named Tatzan Bay, located on the list of admissible tailing impound areas?

Questions on the Order Paper September 20th, 2010

With regard to the Advance Contract Award Notice files nos. D1120-09-1116, D1120-09-1120, D1120-09-1121 and D1120-09-1122 of the Public Service Commission of Canada: (a) what are the reasons for changing the contracts into multi-year options; and (b) have Public Service Commission officials consulted with the designated consultants to tailor the contracts to the concerned individuals?

Questions on the Order Paper September 20th, 2010

With regard to the Knowledge Infrastructure Program and the announcement on page 242 of Budget 2010 that “upgrades to infrastructure at the University of Prince Edward Island will create over 300 jobs and inject about $30 million into the economy”: (a) what is the description, including the projected costs, of the upgrades to infrastructure that will take place at the University of Prince Edward Island; (b) what is the outline as to when these infrastructure upgrades will begin and when they will be completed; (c) what is the detailed breakdown of the financial commitments by the University of Prince Edward Island, the provincial government of Prince Edward Island and all other parties involved in funding the upgrades to infrastructure at the University of Prince Edward Island; and (d) what are the details of the process by which the figure of 300 jobs was calculated?

Committees of the House September 20th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the following four reports of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts: the 15th report on selected departmental performance reports for 2008-09 Department of Industry and Department of Transport; the 16th report on chapter 2, “Risks of Toxic Substances” of the fall 2009 report of the Commission of the Environment and Sustainable Development; the 17th report on chapter 1, “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Programs” of the fall 2009 report of the Auditor General; and the 18th report of the committee on chapter 8, “Strengthening Aid Effectiveness - Canadian International Development Agency” of the fall 2009 report of the Auditor General of Canada.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, the committee requests the government table a comprehensive response to these four committee reports.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act June 14th, 2010

Madam Speaker, the member gave what I consider to be a very accurate and historical context to the situation.

The bill has been before Parliament a number of times but on each occasion the government prorogues Parliament it suspends the bill. We now have the Prime Minister's Office saying that it will prorogue Parliament every year.

Could the member explain for the people who are watching this at home just what prorogation does to these bills once they are introduced, debated, sent to committee and then the House prorogues?

Business of Supply June 10th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, again, this highlights the debate. The member talked about a political issue. He quoted a senator and he quoted Ted Morton, whether it is good for Alberta or bad for Alberta, but these are political discussions which should be had after we get the ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada.

To answer his last comment, Prince Edward Island is a province with 134,000 people. It does not have the capacity to deal with the sophisticated fraud that is going on in Canada now. As for the two people from Alberta that he quoted, I refer the member to the recent Michael Ritter situation in which $270 million was bilked, mostly from U.S. investors. I think that very little was done by the Alberta Securities Commission. These situations repeat themselves right across Canada.

Again, this is a political debate that should be had after the Supreme Court renders its decision.

Business of Supply June 10th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the member prefaced the question whether it is good for Quebec, but he asked why we would refer this to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The third sentence of the motion states, “a matter that is under the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of Quebec”, and my question is, says who? That has never been adjudicated on by the Supreme Court of Canada. That statement may be correct, or it may be incorrect, and based upon whether it is correct or incorrect would very seriously determine the parameters of this debate and the opinion of every person who participates in the debate. I think it is quite legitimate to get whether or not it is within the legislative jurisdiction of Quebec or it is within the legislative jurisdiction of Canada.