House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was farmers.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as Liberal MP for Malpeque (P.E.I.)

Won his last election, in 2019, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Interparliamentary Delegations June 22nd, 2021

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group concerning its participation at the Canadian American Border Trade Alliance Spring Virtual Conference by video conference on May 3 and May 4, 2021.

Members Not Seeking Re-election to the 44th Parliament June 15th, 2021

Will you bring this place to order, Mr. Speaker.

Madam Speaker, who was there before, is my floor mate on the 12th floor of the Valour Building. Congratulations to her in her role in the chamber.

It does seem rather strange to be making this kind of statement virtually rather than in the chamber, where I am so honoured to have served for nearly 28 years. As members know, I am currently the third-longest serving member of the House, a whole four hours ahead of the member for Vancouver Centre, my oftentimes seatmate and wonderful colleague for all those parliamentary sessions in government, in official opposition, as the third party and again in government now. I will not say anything about her shoes, the ones we pretty much need sunglasses for to sit beside her.

This chamber is a place of history and of decisions, good and sometimes not so good, that have built this country to what it is today, a country that is recognized as one of the best places in the world in which to live. Sometimes we, from all parties, often through strenuous debate and sometimes late-night votes, have the opportunity to influence the legislative mandate and governance of this country. We may not always get our way, but this is the place, in this chamber, where we can have our say. It is intimidating in the chamber and inspirational at the same time. I have been honoured, as we all have been honoured, as one of a small percentage of Canadians over time who has called the House his workplace.

When I ran for the Liberal Party nomination for Malpeque in June 1993, it was a fairly active nomination that went into the wee hours of the next morning. I must thank each and every one of the candidates who has actively supported me ever since. The Malpeque executive, the campaign managers, the campaign teams, the people in communication and supporters are every bit as responsible for me achieving nine electoral victories as I am. I sincerely thank them for their active support and encouragement.

To the constituents of Malpeque, what can I say? It has been an honour to serve as their MP for the past three decades. Their support is very much appreciated, from my heart. Their active involvement, whether through visits to the office or on the streets, always meant good advice to keep me grounded and in touch with issues that matter in Islanders' lives.

Sometimes a constituent would go a little overboard, like the time during an election that a farmer friend of mine put a four-by-eight plywood sign along the highway demanding that the minister of agriculture and I get our butts over to the GATT negotiations and protect supply management. We did and we were successful, but he was very, very demanding.

Words cannot be found to express my appreciation to my family for their support. I was not supposed to get emotional. As all members in this place know, as MPs our time is really never our own. Worse, families may have to put up with our political procrastinations, which sometimes we think on first blush are brilliant, but that may not be true.

I give a huge thanks to Helen, my spouse, our children Kimberley and Jamie, and their extended families with Marc and Gaya. We are fortunate to have four grandchildren born during my time as a member: Alexander, Sophia, Ila and Fiara. Immediate family members always were, as they still are, available with advice, even when it was not asked for.

The unsung heroes for any member of Parliament work in our constituency offices: our constituency and Hill staff. At the constituency level, they deal with real-life issues that impact people daily on the ground such as EI, CPPD, immigration, seniors issues and many more. Casework is what we call it. There are too many past employees to name, but I thank them along with current folks Robin Moore, Alan Waddell, Kim MacDonald and Krystal Rice for their work on behalf of Islanders.

Much appreciation goes to Hill staff for their efforts in casework, research, legislation and a multitude of responsibilities in support of my efforts at committees on issues, legislation and the Canada-U.S. IPG. I give a big thanks to current staff James Auer and Jeremy Wains for their work on behalf of Canadians. There were many late nights spent working on those issues on Parliament Hill.

I also appreciate all the work my previous employees on Parliament Hill have done and I want to mention one: Michael O'Neill, who passed away following the 2015 election. We worked together for 22 years and he was always happiest when we were challenging our own government. There are many employees on Parliament Hill who assist us in our work, from parliamentary pages to clerks, security guards, cafeteria staff and janitors, translators, interpreters and analysts with the Library of Parliament. Their work does not go unnoticed, and I thank them on behalf of all Canadians.

I want to recognize one Library of Parliament analyst whose work with the Canada-U.S. IPG over many years has made possible the personal relationships many of us have with our American counterparts today, which truly assist in leading to cross-border solutions. I know I speak for my co-chair, Senator MacDonald, and past co-chairs Rob Merrifield and the late Gord Brown. I want to thank June Dewetering for her exceptional service to Canadians as a result of her knowledge of U.S. politics and her friendships with congressional and Senate leaders.

I have been fortunate to have served in many roles in Parliament. I have served on numerous committees, and as parliamentary secretary to fisheries and parliamentary secretary to agriculture. I thank Prime Minister Chrétien for appointing me to cabinet as Solicitor General. I remember vividly the call to Attorney General John Ashcroft when cabinet made the decision not to join the war in Iraq. That was an interesting chat with my U.S. counterpart.

It has been my privilege to serve under three prime ministers while in government: Prime Minister Chrétien, Prime Minister Martin and the current Prime Minister. They carry a heavy responsibility, as all prime ministers do. I have sincerely enjoyed chairing the finance committee and working with members of all parties.

I will say that I came with tremendous experience from having been president of the NFU, and I had seen much of Canada. I firmly believe that Canada as a country can be stronger than the sum of its parts. I have seen the country from coast to coast, and I want to give a bit of advice. Members of Parliament have to know this country, and we are a little too restrictive on the travel that MPs are allowed to do. When I first started, before there was the Internet, members were able to take tours of the country. We could see it, meet people on the ground, understand it and see their lives in real life. This place has to get back to that again to give MPs the opportunity to know their country.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize you and all of the previous Speakers for attempting to keep order in the House, mostly successfully, although one Speaker cut me off during the chicken dance I was doing with the member for Carleton.

Let me close with this. I said yesterday in remarks, and you say in your prayer, Mr. Speaker, that we are fortunate to have the freedom, opportunity and peace that we enjoy in Canada. That is so very true. It has been my honour to work with and serve the residents of Malpeque, and it has been my honour to work with all members across political lines. It is the discussion, it is getting to know each other and it is the debate that, at the end of the day, makes for better policy and a better country.

Members Not Seeking Re-election to the 44th Parliament June 15th, 2021

How come I am the first one up, Mr. Speaker?

The Environment June 14th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a personal point of privilege. I will not take much of the House's time because I know that time is very precious in this place. However, I believe strongly that it is in this place, the House of Commons, that announcements that affect members should be made.

Today, I am announcing that I will not be re-offering as the candidate in the riding of Malpeque in the next federal election. Tomorrow evening, I will be joining with others not running for speeches and to give heartfelt thanks.

As members know, the election is scheduled for October 2023, but rumours abound there may be one before then. Certainly, the media seems to be pushing that rumour. On the off chance that an election is held before then, I want to give others ample time to consider representing my party in the riding of Malpeque.

It is close to 28 years since I was first elected to this chamber, and when there in person, I am always in awe of its traditions, its history and the opportunity it provides for members to have a say in the legislative mandate and governance of this country.

I am proud to be a Canadian. Yes, there have been moments, as recent events showed, that none of us are proud of in our history. However, I do believe we learn and move forward. We are recognized as one of the best places to live in the world. As stated in our daily prayers, we have the “freedom, opportunity and peace that we enjoy.”

It has been my honour to work with and serve the residents of Malpeque for nine terms. I am thankful for the opportunity to say these few words, and I will join with others tomorrow evening.

National Strategy for a Guaranteed Basic Income Act June 14th, 2021

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on private member's bill, Bill C-273, an act to establish a national strategy for a guaranteed basic income, sponsored by my colleague, the member for Davenport, who is also a colleague at the finance committee.

I congratulate the member for Davenport for putting into a legislative format what has been discussed for years. In fact, various concepts of a basic income guarantee have been attempted over many decades, but for one reason or another there is less than complete documentation on how those systems worked, if it was even completed.

There was a program that was mentioned by another speaker in Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970s, which was a different time from now. The data is really not available in a substantive way. The most recent trial, at least in this country, was the Ontario basic income pilot, brought in as a pilot project by the previous Wynne government, which was then cancelled by the incoming Ford government before any results were known. I think there was a lot of hope in that project that it would give us a baseline of how a guaranteed annual income would work.

Bill C-273 does not preconceive what is the best or the perfect basic income approach, but the bill sets the stage to try different pilots, to attain data in real time and to monitor results. It basically pushes the federal government to provide leadership in this national strategy.

Bill C-273 would require the Minister of Finance to develop and table a strategy to assess implementation models for a guaranteed basic income program in Canada. What the bill is really saying is that there could be different models. The government would be responsible for assessing them, for attaining the data. The act would require development, in consultation with key stakeholders, including industry, indigenous communities and governments, as well as municipal, provincial and territorial governments.

I heard what some of the other speakers on this bill said, some in opposition to it. My good friend from Joliette, who is also a member at the finance committee, said that this would require a constitutional amendment. Not so. This concept could vary from province to province. What we really need is the data to assess whether it would really work as well as some people suggest it would. There would be all kinds of consultations and the federal government would be required to do that under this bill.

The act outlines specific measures that the strategy must contain, including pilot project, national standards and measures for the collection and analysis of relevant data. I think that is key. I talked to a friend on the weekend who said that a guaranteed annual income is just going to be like CERB was with people not wanting to work. I do not think that is necessarily the case. People may improve their education. They may go for better jobs. They may look for better-paying jobs. As a strong supporter of a guaranteed annual income approach, I am willing to put my beliefs on the line. I believe it would work. I believe people would still want to work. I believe it would address the poverty issues that we have in this country.

I am willing to say that we should do a pilot. Let us put our beliefs on the line. Those who oppose the bill, saying that it will be a waste of money, which people will spend on drugs or whatever, should put their beliefs on the line. Let us actually do a sincere pilot where we collect the data in real time and prove it one way or the other. That is where I think we should be going. The minister, at the end of the program, would also have to prepare a report on the results of implementation two years after the tabling of the strategy. I think that is really important.

Let me turn to subclause (3)(a) in the bill, which states “establish a pilot project in one or more provinces to test models of implementation of a guaranteed basic income program.”

I come from Prince Edward Island, a province that has shown a willingness at the provincial level for the province as a whole to be one of those pilot projects. The member for Charlottetown and I have met with countless groups on the guaranteed income approach, and this province would be absolutely ideal for a pilot project.

There is the province as a whole; then bigger communities, smaller communities, rural ones and urban ones; hospitals and schools; and only 158,000 people. We could have a pilot project over time in Prince Edward Island. There is the willingness on the provincial side, which passed a motion in the legislature, to work with the federal government to attempt one of those pilot projects. This is really what we need. It would provide the evidence to show whether the system works or does not work.

Subclause (3)(d) reads “collect and analyze data for the purpose of assessing, for each model tested.” That is where we need to be. We need to do the pilots. I would suggest to do three across the country. I know there is some interest in B.C. and maybe in a bigger urban area as well, but do the pilot projects, monitor the data and assess it.

Then we all as members of Parliament, regardless of what our position is, would have the concrete evidence in real-time based on data that has monitored how it impacts people, their health, their income, their community and how it impacts people in the workforce. We would have evidence on whether people are willing to go to work or increasing their education and looking for higher-paying jobs. That is the kind of information we need and that is what I really like about the member's bill. There are no preconceived notions, only that we should do the experimentation.

I want to close by mentioning former Senator Hugh Segal. He is quoted in an article by Jamie Swift in the Whig Standard, in which he talks about his book Bootstraps Need Boots: One Tory's Lonely Fight to End Poverty in Canada. Senator Segal has long been an advocate of a guaranteed annual income for dealing with the poverty issue in Canada. This is a way to find out if it really works.

Ed Prebinski June 10th, 2021

Madam Speaker, I rise to honour the life of Ed Prebinski of Cornwall, P.E.I., who passed away last month.

Ed, a veteran, served for 42 years in Canada's Armed Forces, joining at age 16. His postings were all over the world, including Germany, Cyprus and as an NCO at the Canadian embassy in Tehran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. His medal rack was full of international honours, too many to name.

A 1982 posting brought him to CFB Summerside and he never left the island for work again, spending the rest of his career at Veterans Affairs and Foreign Affairs and retiring in 2003. Following retirement, his passion became helping to deliver medical humanitarian aid to destinations like Cuba, sometimes several times a year, with Not Just Tourists; even a hefty generator was delivered to Haiti. Ed could cajole substantial medical supply donations and even get a break from the airlines.

We thank Ed for his service. We salute him. We offer condolences to Lynne and family.

Committees of the House June 7th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Finance. It is in relation to Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 19, 2021 and other measures. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

On behalf of the committee, I want to thank all involved and give a special shout-out to the Library of Parliament analysts, who went the extra mile in providing background information, briefing notes and analysis to all members. As well, I thank the research folks of all parties, who prepare their members with background information and questions from often very different perspectives. Finally, I thank the ministerial staff, who also offer advice from their point of view. It all adds up to better information, better legislation now and ideas for the future.

Income Tax Act May 5th, 2021

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to get the opportunity to speak a little further on Bill C-208, an act to amend the Income Tax Act regarding transfer of a small business, a family farm or a fishing corporation, which is sponsored by the member for Brandon—Souris.

As members know, Bill C-208 is now at third reading stage. How did it get here? Simply put, Bill C-208 has had considerable debate in the House and was referred to the finance committee, which I chair. I will make a few comments on what witnesses had to say before committee in a moment. The finance committee referred the bill back to the House without amendment.

Bill C-208 has a long history, and it criss-crosses the political landscape. It was first introduced by the current member of Parliament for Bourassa, a Liberal, two parliaments ago. In the last Parliament, the same bill was brought forward by Guy Caron, an NDP member. Now, in this current Parliament, it is sponsored by the member for Brandon—Souris, a Conservative member.

This long history, across all major political parties in the House, certainly shows that there is a need to bring fairness and equity from a taxation perspective to the transfer of family farm corporations, fisheries enterprises and small family businesses. Quite honestly, it is long past time that this problem was fixed.

During an earlier discussion at third reading, it was suggested by the government spokesman that just maybe the bill could provide opportunities for tax avoidance. I would agree that tax avoidance is a legitimate concern. However, I must point out that at the finance committee we heard from 17 witnesses, and every opportunity was given to address the concern of tax avoidance. We called on the public and Finance Canada to provide witnesses and propose amendments, to anybody who had those kinds of concerns.

I certainly appreciate that the assistant deputy minister of the tax policy branch and the senior director of the tax legislation division in the tax policy branch appeared and answered questions, and their comments appear in the transcript for the finance committee for anybody who wants to see it. To be fair, they did outline some concerns, especially as it relates to what is called “surplus stripping” for the purpose of tax avoidance.

Where does that leave us? On the one hand, we have concerns being expressed by officials, and I do take their concerns seriously. On the other hand, we have a broad section of witnesses who expressed a serious and immediate need for a way to transfer a small business, farming corporation or fishing enterprise without facing unfair taxation when transferring to a family member. We do not see amendments to the bill that would fix this alleged problem.

I would even agree with those who might say that private members' bills are not the best vehicle to change tax policy. They are not. However, we simply cannot allow this inequity disadvantaging intergenerational transfers to family members to continue. It is time to accept the only change that is on the table to fix the problem, and that happens to be Bill C-208.

The sponsor of the bill, the member for Brandon—Souris, gave about the most concise and clear example of this inequity in the tax system. He said:

The second example was a father wanting to sell his farm to his son to fund his retirement. If the father were to sell his farm to a stranger, he could use his capital gains exemption on the sale, resulting in an effective tax rate of 13.39%. However, if the farmer sold his farm to his son, that sale would be recorded as a dividend rather than a capital gain, and the farmer would pay 47.4% in tax. That is a huge difference, and I think we can all agree that it is completely unfair.

The second quote is from Ms. Robyn Young, president-elect of the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada.

She said this:

In closing, this is an issue of equity and fairness. Business owners should not be penalized for selling their business to a family member. Tax implications should never be a consideration when making the decision to sell a business to a family member.

There were many other good witnesses I could quote and make the point on this serious inequity, including the UPA, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, other farming and fishing organizations, the tax manager at Deloitte, underwriting companies and more, but I think members get my point.

The backbone of many communities are small businesses, farmers and fishermen. Those who can pass a business down from generation to generation create the history and the character of many of our communities in the country. We need to give every opportunity for those families to make that transfer.

It is absolutely true that during this pandemic the federal government has been there in every way possible to support Canadians, businesses, farmers and fishermen. Tax policy, however, should not cause a disincentive to transfer to the next generation. Tax fairness should be the cornerstone on which to encourage intergenerational transfers. This bill would move tax policy in that direction.

Finance Canada, and the government for that matter, always have the option to put forward corrections in a ways and means motion if concerns expressed before committee do arise in reality. That, in itself, is a safeguard. They have the ability to do that fairly quickly through a ways and means motion. However, farmers, fishermen and small business owners, with respect to the unfairness of this taxation system, have been waiting for this change for years.

We have to put the shoe on the other foot. Instead of having those families that want intergenerational transfers sitting in the wings waiting for something to happen, we have to pass this bill and put the shoe on the other foot. If there is a problem, then government has the ability to fix that problem. I am encouraging others to recognize this problem.

I, for sure, will be supporting Bill C-208, and I hope others can do the same.

Lobster Fishing Season April 30th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, my statement today was to wish all lobster fishermen safety and success as they sail out from the shores of Prince Edward Island on this scheduled opening day for the spring lobster fishery. The traps have been on the wharves for days, the boats well-tuned and now loaded to the brim with buoys, traps and gear as fishermen and their crews expected to head out before dawn on what is known as “setting day”.

However, in the two lobster fishing zones adjacent to the island, mother nature had a different idea, and in the interest of safety, DFO delayed the season until Monday.

By Monday, may the seas be calm with but a gentle breeze, and as fishermen set their traps on that day, may the catches be abundant and the prices strong as they arrive back to safe harbour. Islanders and those beyond are awaiting their first delicious feed of lobster from the clean, cool waters around our island shores.

Again, we wish our fishermen a safe and prosperous fishing season.

Proceedings on a Bill entitled An Act to Provide for the Resumption and Continuation of Operations at the Port of Montreal April 28th, 2021

Madam Speaker, like the minister, I would prefer not to have to take this legislative route, but I do not believe we are offered any other solutions.

I have reported to the minister that I have been hearing from the agricultural community and fertilizer companies that fertilizer crop protection products are tied up in the Port of Montreal. If they do not get delivered, we will have a disaster on the ground in terms of crop production in Atlantic Canada.

Has the minister heard those same kinds of concerns, and is that part of the reason why this must be done?