Thank you for visiting my website. I hope this offers you useful information on the work I am doing as Regina-Wascana’s Member of Parliament.
If you have any questions or comments about any federal program or service, or need help dealing with any department or agency of the Government of Canada, please don’t hesitate to contact my Constituency Office. It is an honour to serve our community.
Nearly 40 years ago, as a rookie MP representing the sprawling Saskatchewan riding of Assiniboia, it was my pleasure to work with the colourful and energetic Health and Welfare Minister of that era, the Honourable Monique Begin, to devise a new federal initiative to better support senior citizens in their local communities. It was called the “New Horizons” program.
That program provided seniors organizations across the country with a bit of money to build and operate local activity centres where seniors could gather, socialize and host a broad range of community functions. It was a huge success. We established vibrant New Horizons Seniors Centres in cities and towns all across Canada, and they proved to be significant assets.
Four decades later, the New Horizons program continues to do good work. It has, of course, been modified over the years, but the principle of funding local groups to develop programs and services tailored to the real needs of retired people at the community level has stood the test of time.
This past weekend, on behalf of my new Cabinet colleague, Jean-Yves Duclos, it was my privilege to announce over $1.8-million in new New Horizons funding to support four Saskatchewan organizations which are working together on innovative ways to help seniors deal with loneliness and isolation.
My congratulations to the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism, the Alzheimer’s Society, the Red Cross and the University of Regina. They are continuing the New Horizons’ tradition of finding good ways to improve the quality of life we can offer to Canadian seniors.
Another excellent example of the enduring success of good public policy is the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). It was created in 1997 by Jean Chretien and Paul Martin as a vehicle by which the federal government could invest in the physical and intellectual infrastructure necessary for Canada to be a world leader in scientific research, and thus attract and retain the best brainpower.
It has paid off handsomely. A major facility like the Canadian Light Source “Synchrotron” laboratory at the University of Saskatchewan is a key example.
Sound science and evidence-based decision-making are essential cornerstones for the new government which Canadians elected last fall. That means the CFI will have an increasingly important role to play in supporting major scientific undertakings.
Other vital players federally will be the National Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Genomics Canada, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, and others. Successful science will be a major driver of Canada’s future prosperity and well-being.
Last Friday provided a good illustration. On behalf of federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan, I was honoured to announce federal funding from the CFI for four important projects in Saskatchewan – one in physics at the University of Regina, another in community health and wellness at First Nations University, and two more at the University of Saskatchewan in the fields of food security and teaching strategies for children with learning challenges.
These projects are among 94 altogether that were announced last Friday at 33 different universities across the country, representing federal investments of some $20 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation. It’s all about building home-grown Canadian brainpower (including right here in Saskatchewan).
The CFI was a great idea 20 years ago, and it remains so today.
Reversing the previous Conservative government’s plan to diminish the value of Canada’s publicly-funded Old Age Security (OAS) system, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has confirmed that the eligibility age for old-age pensions will remain at 65 – just as he promised before last year’s federal election.
There are several good reasons why this is the right decision:
1. Hiking the eligibility age to 67 is not required to keep the OAS financially sound and affordable. This point has been examined and confirmed by independent experts at the University of Calgary, York University, UBC, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, several private sector firms, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the government’s own actuaries. So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
2. While public pension systems in other countries consume double-digit proportions of those other GDPs, Canada’s OAS takes up only a modest 2.5% of our GDP. As the Baby Boomer generation ages and becomes eligible for benefits, OAS costs in Canada are likely to rise to about 3.2% of GDP by the year 2031, and then gradually subside once again. This has to be well-managed, but it’s no threat to the nation’s fiscal integrity.
3. Limiting federal pension benefits would not make the needs of elderly people go away. It would just download the costs onto provincial social welfare budgets. In net terms, no public money would actually be saved.
4. Since the basic OAS is used by both federal and provincial governments to establish eligibility for a variety of other programs, benefits and services, delaying access to the OAS for two years would automatically block these other forms of assistance to seniors – multiplying the negative impact. The most crucial example is the federal Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) that goes to those with the lowest incomes.
5. The proposed OAS/GIS age change was entirely regressive because it would have hit hardest at those who were the most vulnerable – particularly low-income women living alone. They would have lost more than $30,000 over the two years between 65 and 67, and would be the least able to protect themselves.
So for all these reasons, Justin Trudeau has made the right call.
Justin Trudeau’s government made significant progress last week in bolstering Canada’s vital relationship with the United States.
Managing that relationship successfully is every Prime Minister’s largest foreign policy obligation. It had frayed in recent years and needed fresh attention. Hard work through our first four months in office helped to lay the foundation for Mr. Trudeau’s truly remarkable visit to Washington – the first in nearly 20 years.
Canada and the United States share the longest and most lucrative unmilitarized border in the world.
It spans nearly 9,000 kilometres. There are 120 official crossings. Some 400,000 people move back-and-forth across that border every day. So does two-way trade valued at $2.4-billion every day. At one and the same time, we want the border to be safe and secure while trade across it remains a major source of economic growth and prosperity. If security concerns linger, the border thickens and the legitimate movement both of people and goods becomes more difficult.
As far back as 2011, the previous federal government entered into a security and trade initiative with the Obama administration known as “Beyond the Border”. But over time, other things got in the way, momentum stalled, and it didn’t get done.
Justin Trudeau came to office last November determined to reset the Canada-US relationship. As his official visit and the State Dinner last week demonstrated, Canada has made significant progress in barely four months – on international relations, economic issues, trade, the global battle against climate change, and a better-functioning border.
With respect to the border, we have three new arrangements to note:
It’s just so much more efficient and convenient for travellers to be able to clear US customs and immigration BEFORE they cross the border. Lost time on arrival is eliminated. And airlines get direct access to a vast array of domestic airports in the US which don’t have local customs facilities.
Various forms of preclearance have existed in Canada for more than half a century. Currently eight large airports offer the service – Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto Pearson, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax – plus there are some informal sites serving rail and cruise-ship businesses on the west coast.
A new comprehensive framework for preclearance will not only provide more jurisdictional clarity, it will also pave the way for a major expansion – first, in long sought-after facilities and routes like Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto and Jean Lesage Airport in Quebec City, the Rocky Mountaineer Railway in BC, and the train from Montreal to New York. Existing marine and rail operations on the west coast will be regularized. The best ways to pre-clear cargo shipments will be pursued. And the door has been opened to future preclearance venues in locations like Regina/Saskatoon.
Closing A Border Loophole
Unlike most other countries, Canada does not now collect any information on people leaving our country. We get full details about arrivals, but not departures. So, at any given moment, we are not sure who exactly remains in this country or for how long. This is a clear security gap and we need to catch up to the rest of the world.
So, we’ve launched a new Canada-US “exit” data arrangement. The data involved does not extend beyond the basic, non-intrusive facts that appear on Page-2 of everybody’s passport which are currently required to enter into the United States or Canada (plus the location and date of departure). No new requirements will be imposed on the travelling public.
For those who cross the border by land, the country into which they enter will simply send that passport information and departure details back to the country they just left – by definition, one country’s “entry” is the other country’s “exit” and vice versa. For those travelling by air, no new exchange of data will be necessary because each country will collect what is currently available directly and independently from airline passenger manifests.
Having basic departure information will help us respond more accurately to Amber Alerts about missing children, human trafficking, terrorist travel, immigration proceedings and visa applications.
Enhancing Air Safety/Protecting Privacy
So-called “No-Fly” lists have long been a standard feature of both domestic and global air travel. Based on their own intelligence and security analyses, countries identify specific individuals who pose serious risks to transportation security or are likely to travel abroad for the purpose of engaging in terrorism, and they are consequently denied access to airplanes.
This has serious implications, so we have involved the federal Justice Department to ensure the approach to listing individuals respects the Charter of Canadian Rights and Freedoms. As well, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner was and remains engaged for advice about privacy issues.
To ensure coherence, avoid mistakes and better protect individual rights and privacy, Canada will insist on several safeguards applicable to the sharing of our No-Fly list with the Americans. The purpose must be strictly confined to preventing transportation security threats or travel for terrorist purposes. There will be a procedure for de-listing the names of those who should not be on the lists. And we’ll have a joint process to better deal with situations in which innocent travelers are wrongly red-flagged as “false positives”.
Taken together, this is a significant set of initiatives in a strong, sensible border package that avoids “thickening”, enhances the smooth flow of people and goods, and improves safety, while safeguarding rights and privacy.
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