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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

Business of Supply June 10th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate. The member for Westmount—Ville-Marie who just spoke said that there is a healthy debate going on. I want to remind the members in the House that a healthy debate on this issue has been going on for, I believe, 56 years. This issue has been debated on and off.

Of course there are strong arguments on the merits of a national securities system, that it perhaps would be more efficient, less cumbersome and less costly. It would certainly be of great assistance to the six or seven smaller provinces that do not have the capacity to come forward with a very robust system of securities regulation.

On the other hand, we have very strong arguments, to which the member referred, regarding the autonomous nature of some of the businesses in certain areas of our big country, especially the province of Quebec with its unique culture and unique business and, I would consider, a very robust system of securities regulation, and also in Alberta, which relates perhaps more to oil and gas, and in British Columbia, which is more directed to mining. These are unique markets with their own autonomous systems.

There are arguments on both sides. The government has made it part of its policy and it has, and I suggest wisely, referred the matter to the Supreme Court to decide whether or not it is constitutionally legitimate, whether or not it is within the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada. It is my position before this House today that the debate really should not take place until that decision is rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada could come back and say that it is certainly well within the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada and the debate could continue. I also should point out that I believe that references have been started in the courts of appeal both in the province of Quebec and in the province of Alberta, which of course would carry on most likely to the Supreme Court of Canada.

If the Supreme Court of Canada states that the Parliament of Canada has no legislative authority to be involved in this matter, then my context in this debate would change dramatically.

Maybe the Supreme Court of Canada would come back with a hybrid decision that it is within the legislative authority of the Government of Canada but that there are caveats and conditions as to what we can or cannot do. Again the whole tenor and nature of the debate would change.

The motion reads in part, “a matter that is under the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and for which they have established” et cetera. Says who? That is a statement that originates from this motion. I believe it is a statement that was also made in the legislative assembly of the province of Quebec. It is a statement that has been made by other commentators, but there is a whole host of other commentators, scholars and lawyers that state the opposite.

It is my position that this debate really should take place after the decision is received from the Supreme Court of Canada. There are very contrasting and conflicting opinions on this particular issue. When we do get the opinion back from the Supreme Court of Canada, then I would suggest that the debate continue and we can debate the matter on the merits, based on the constitutional ambits as set down by the Supreme Court of Canada.

I suggest that was the right thing to do. It is not the way the Conservatives have always gone, especially in some of the crime bills and some of the bills dealing with Senate reform, but in this case we are getting an opinion from the Supreme Court of Canada as to the proper perspective for the debate.

Even if it did come back that it was within the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada, it is very clear from the legislation, and it has to be pointed out, that provinces, if they want to protect their own autonomy, if they want to, for their own political reasons, retain the securities infrastructure and system and the regulatory framework that they have, they are certainly entitled to do that. I do not think it would be in anyone's best interest to unilaterally take over the regulation of securities, if there are certain provinces, and I assume these would be the larger provinces, not the smaller ones, that wanted to retain the legislative jurisdiction.

As far as I am concerned, right now it is somewhat of a phony debate as to whether someone supports it or does not support it. We cannot have an intelligent debate not knowing the correct constitutional framework in which the debate will occur. A decision, as the previous speaker indicated, will be tabled by the Supreme Court of Canada within the next 12 to 24 months, at which time I suggest this debate could continue. Individuals from the different parties could bring forward their respective arguments and then we could go forward on a political basis.

Having said that, I am certainly not going to support the motion. With the matter presently before the Supreme Court of Canada, I believe the debate should be tabled. A bill has not been presented by the government House leader. There is no legislation before the House right now. I do not know why we are continuing to debate this.

Maybe the intent is to stop it in its tracks, but the whole issue ought to be subject to a full debate. However, it should be subject to a full debate within the correctly established adjudicated and constitutional framework so that people cannot make statements that it is a matter under the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of Quebec. It may or may not be correct and depending on whether it is or is not correct would very much frame the debate in the House.

Having said that, I have followed this issue and some of the comments made by the second-last speaker were about efficient securities regulation. I am not going to disagree with that, but one issue I have found troubling for at least 20 years is the apparent lack of capacity right across Canada to enforce our securities regulation. I could list 50 or 60 cases where there was what I consider to be very serious fraud carried out on investors right across Canada. They are not Quebec situations; they go right across Canada. The provincial securities regulators just did not have the capacity, the wherewithal or the legislation to deal with the situation.

Perhaps the most grievous one that comes to everyone's mind, though it is a little old now, is the Bre-X case. I believe there were something like $2 billion of investors' money that disappeared. It just went. It was certainly fraudulent securities regulation, trading, everything, but in hindsight, was anyone ever convicted of a criminal offence? No. Was anyone ever convicted of any securities offences regarding this situation? No. Was there ever any money paid to any investor? No.

That repeats itself in the Michael Ritter and Earl Jones situations, et cetera. When one reads about it in the papers, one comes to the very stark conclusion that right across Canada, the provinces do not have the capacity to deal with these situations.

Studies have been mentioned. Someone previously talked about an efficient system. I have in my hand a study from November 2009 in which Pricewaterhouse ranked Canada as the fourth most fraudulent country out of 54 countries. The countries that were more fraudulent were Russia, Kenya and South Africa.

To summarize, this debate has been going on for 56 years. Legislation is not before the House. The matter has been quite correctly referred to the Supreme Court of Canada and I would like to continue the debate once the decision is rendered by that court.

Doug Harkness June 3rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Doug Harkness who for the past 40 years has been a tireless advocate for harness racing throughout Atlantic Canada. Doug died last Friday after a lengthy illness.

For the past 35-plus years, Doug has been the publisher of Atlantic Post Calls, harness racing's monthly journal in Atlantic Canada. Besides being publisher, he was also the editor, manager, photographer, advertising salesman and circulation manager. He did it all.

Every summer and fall, Doug would visit every track throughout Atlantic Canada. He would be writing articles, taking pictures and generally promoting the sport. One could say that he was a very unique type of journalist, totally involved and did it all.

Everyone involved in harness racing in Atlantic Canada will miss Doug Harkness. When the starter calls the horses to the starting gate this summer, it just simply will not be the same without Doug Harkness.

Our sympathies go out to his wife, Donna-Jo and her two children.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the member has indicated he is not embarrassed. I have a question about the money that was spent in the riding of the industry minister.

According to all media reports, $50 million were spent on curbs, roads, trees, landscaping, rinks, shrubs, signs and sidewalks, none of which had anything to do with either the G8 or the G20. What we had was a good old-fashioned political pork-barrel orgy. The sad part is this $50 million was paid for by the taxpayers of Canada. The sadder part is the taxpayers of Canada had to go out on the markets and borrow the $50 million.

Do the people who live and vote in the member's riding have any concerns about this $50 million expenditure, for which probity and any kind of proper spending was thrown to the wind? Do they have any concerns about paying this money back when the money is due to the bondholders?

Jobs and Economic Growth Act May 31st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am aware of those statistics. I am not going to stand here in the House and pretend I know the complete answer. They are concerning and disappointing, but not knowing the exact causes, I am not going to speak specifically to that.

On the whole issue of health care, this is an issue that deserves a much overdue very public debate as to where we are going on the funding of health care in Canada. The Toronto-Dominion Bank issued what I consider to be an excellent report. I urge everyone to read it. The report was just issued on Friday, setting forth some of the realities of health care funding across Canada. There are 10 points and I agree with perhaps 9 of the 10.

I think this is something that has to be read by members and all Canadians. There has to be a very public and open debate as to the whole funding of our health care system. The report states that if we do not do anything, health care costs will consume 80% of all government funding. In other words, we are going to have to close down universities, schools, roads, ports, and airports to pay for our health care system, which I do not think would be very good for Canadians.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act May 31st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do see many inconsistencies in the government's approach to taxation. I believe I talked about them during my speech.

On the air traffic security charge, it is my position, and I have studied this issue extensively going back to when the $14 charge was initially implemented, that it ought to be a user fee based upon what the actual costs are. Those costs should be very transparent and should be shown to Canadians.

In actual fact, when it came in at $14 I knew it was not $14. I was actually the only MP who blew the whistle on this. I said, “No, this is wrong”. Successive governments admitted that they were wrong with the $14, and it was reduced to something like $6 or $7 per person.

It has come up briefly since then, but again it should be a transparent, user fee based on exactly what the costs are.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act May 31st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be given an opportunity to rise today in the House to speak to the budget bill.

I want to speak about the budget, but also in connection with the previous four Conservative budgets, and comment generally on the direction in which the government is taking this country. I want to align myself with the majority of Canadians who think this country is going in the wrong direction.

I want to associate myself with those Canadians out there who are of the opinion that there is a positive role for the federal government, that it has been, and it can be again, a positive influence on the lives of Canadians. It can and ought to take further action on a whole host of issues that very much affect our society. I am talking about our rate of productivity, the major demographic transition that the country is presently undergoing, the major issue facing Canadians regarding post-retirement income security, the major issue of family poverty and specifically child poverty. It is my view that we can do more to make us more egalitarian, more prosperous, and more productive, and of course, we can do a lot more than we are presently doing in facing the environment issues that the country is presently facing.

Some may say that we are talking about an either/or situation. The Conservatives say they cannot do anything about poverty, because then they might have to reduce health care, but they fail to mention that there is a direct correlation between poverty and health. They cannot do anything about the environment, because that might in some way prohibit or compromise corporate tax cuts. What they fail to mention is that there is a very close connection, a correlation, between a very healthy environment and a healthy economy.

When we look at some of the challenges facing society, such as child poverty, productivity, the pension issues, the deficit, literacy, and the environment, apart from a few things such as the excellence in research project that was announced a couple of weeks ago, which is excellent, there is very little in the budget that would give any Canadian any optimism for the future.

What are the issues that we have to talk about as a society? We have to start here and talk about the major demographic change that is under way in Canada right now but will get worse and worse every day, every month and every year for at least the next 20 years.

Many of us in the House are part of that cohort, that generation referred to as the baby boomer generation, generally between the ages of 45 and 65, who will begin to retire in large numbers very shortly. It will actually reach the rate of approximately 1,200 people per day. Because of this, we will develop a situation where we will have people without jobs, but more importantly, or worse, more significantly, we will have jobs without people.

Much has been written about the baby boomers, but it is my premise that no generation in the history of mankind cared less about the generations that followed than the baby boomer generation. It does pain me somewhat to say that, because I am very much part of that generation.

We as a society have a fundamental obligation to leave the world a better place than we found it. That is from the view of the country's finances, and we have had much discussion here in the House about the very large, significant and growing deficits that this country is incurring, and from the point of view that every child have an equal opportunity. That starts at early childhood development and continues through education. It continues in post-secondary education, but it does not end there. It continues with lifelong learning.

From the point of view of poverty, literacy, skills-training issues, and most importantly, from the point of view of the horrendously important challenges facing Canada, the best country in the world, on the issue of climate change and other environmental issues. This fact becomes painfully obvious when we read the budget and the previous budgets of the government.

From a financial point of view, the government inherited a $13-billion surplus. It spent like a drunken sailor. There were tax decreases, some wise and some very foolish. As a result, this year and next year, we are left with the largest deficit in the history of this country.

Comparing the amount of the deficit, although large, to other countries, other countries' deficits are larger, but that does not reflect the fact that Canada is not a unitary government. If we add the federal deficit and all the deficits being incurred by the provincial governments, it is horrendous. The question that has to be asked every minute of each day is who is going to pay it back. The answer to that question is our children and generations to come.

Another issue that is not talked about at all in the House is our lagging productivity rate. We are behind the United States and have been for some years. Each and every year we are falling further and further behind. There are a number of reasons for this that are not being addressed by the government. We have to become more competitive.

Some of the root causes are our education system, lack of support for post-secondary education, lack of support for training and education, lack of research and development and innovation, but mainly the lack of innovation, and we see in our business sector some of the infrastructure deficits that were talked about last weekend by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, removing some of the disincentives to work, and of course, one of the most important issues is literacy. We do not hear those issues being talked about in the House.

These are very important issues that affect our productivity, which in turn affects our prosperity, which again affects the future financial health of each and every Canadian. One specific issue regarding productivity I want to mention is the Atlantic gateway project of 2007. It was announced that there would be $2.1 billion, to the government's great credit, over the next five or six years to improve main highways, ports and border crossings throughout all provinces in Atlantic Canada. It would make the region more competitive and it was very much a step in the right direction. The government did this with great fanfare. There were many press releases and press conferences; whatever one can name, the government did.

Specifically, there was $137 million allocated for 2007-08, $221 million for 2008-09, $283 million for 2009-10, and $335 million for 2010-11. Of the 2007-08 money that was actually appropriated, $137 million was untouched; and in the next three years, there was never any mention whatsoever of the $221 million, $283 million and $335 million. In other words, it died on the vine. We have no idea where that project is now. We have no idea where the initiative stands. This is very disappointing to me, as a member of Parliament who comes from Atlantic Canada.

I come back to the issue of child poverty. There is a correlation between child poverty and health, child poverty and education, child poverty and productivity, and child poverty and future interactions with the criminal law system. However, again, that issue will never be mentioned by the government.

Presently, 40% of Canadians do not have the literacy or numeracy skills to compete in today's knowledge economy. If they lose their job, it is with great difficulty that they find another one. Again, that is an issue that we will not hear mentioned in the House.

I would like to spend my last minute talking about the environment. I pulled out the platform of the 2006 government. The promise was that a Conservative government would:

Address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), with a made-in-Canada plan, emphasizing new technologies, developed in concert with the provinces and in coordination with other major industrial countries.

There is no greater example of intergenerational inequity than that. The government has done absolutely nothing. It replaced that with the “Turning the Corner” regulation. It has done absolutely nothing. Now it is saying that it will be do whatever the United States does, which is basically transferring our sovereignty to our southern neighbour.

In closing, I made some of those points that I think are very important. These are issues that simply should not be left to future generations. Each of these issues should not have been included in this budget.

Privilege May 26th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I just want to speak briefly on the comments from the member across about the workings of a chair of another committee.

I have never heard those comments in this House before, and I find them totally inappropriate. They are wrong. The chair of that committee obviously has the confidence of the committee, or he would not be there. For a member to use a point of order or a question of privilege to get up in this House and attack the chair of a committee of this House is wrong, Mr. Speaker, and I urge you to rule on that. If that were the case, it would just be a free-for-all here.

While I am up on my feet, I recall that the government House leader published a booklet three or four years ago that instructed committee chairs as to how to shut down the committees by ignoring witnesses, avoiding witnesses, and doing anything—this went on for 65 pages—to obstruct the workings of the committees and hence, Parliament.

I think it would be instructive and helpful to this debate to have that document tabled in the House. I seek unanimous consent for that.

Committees of the House May 12th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the following reports of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts: the 13th report of the committee, being on Chapter 2, Selecting Foreign Workers Under the Immigration Program of the Fall 2009 Report of the Auditor General; and the 14th report regarding the main estimates 2010-11, vote 15 under Finance.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the 13th report.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns May 6th, 2010

With regard to the $2.1 billion earmarked in the Budget Plan 2007 for the new Gateways and Border Crossings Fund: (a) what is the detailed breakdown explaining how much of the $2.1 billion allotment has been spent; and (b) for each individual project, (i) what is its description, (ii) where is it located, (iii) what is its projected cost, (iv) how much of the money has been spent?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns May 4th, 2010

With regard to the transfer payment contributions for the Gateways and Border Crossings Fund in the fiscal years 2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011: (a) what is the fiscal breakdown of the program objectives; (b) what is the explanation of the program objectives; (c) what are the results of the program objectives; (d) what are the performance indicators and targets used to audit the performance of the program objectives; (e) how much was originally budgeted for the fund; (f) how much was included in the estimates for the fund in the four aforementioned fiscal years; and (g) how much has been spent from this budget allocation, including a complete listing of the proposed projects?