Michael John SAVAGE

SAVAGE, Michael John, B.A.

Personal Data

Dartmouth--Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia)
Birth Date
May 13, 1960
consultant, manager, recruiting executive, sales manager

Parliamentary Career

June 28, 2004 - November 29, 2005
  Dartmouth--Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia)
January 23, 2006 - September 7, 2008
  Dartmouth--Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia)
October 14, 2008 - March 26, 2011
  Dartmouth--Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 2 of 178)

March 11, 2011

Mr. Michael Savage

Mr. Speaker, the point is when people serve in the Canadian Forces, that is their employer. The Canadian government is not only their employer, but also provides other benefits, just as it does to other people who get benefits from their employers and still are entitled to benefits from the Government of Canada. There is an awful lot of veterans in our country who are not receiving benefits, or cannot get benefits or have trouble getting benefits and they end up in the offices of parliamentarians. We can do a lot better.

Any time the minister has been in Halifax, he has been very gracious in ensuring that parliamentarians of all stripes are brought forward at meetings, commendation ceremonies and things like that. That does not happen with departments. It has been my experience that, as minister, he has been gracious in ensuring the veterans issue is as non-partisan as possible.

While we all support Bill C-55, any MP who meets with veterans in his or her office, and I meet with a lot of them, knows we need to do a lot more. This needs to be the start and not the end of the journey.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
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March 11, 2011

Mr. Michael Savage (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-624 brought forward by my colleague and my friend from Sydney—Victoria.

The member has a history of standing up for people who need help. His bill on extending employment insurance sick benefits from 15 to 50 weeks was a very well crafted piece of legislation as well. It passed through the House and went to committee where we heard from a number of stakeholders who said this is exactly what is needed. The bill passed at committee and came back to the House. It needed a royal recommendation which the government refused to give.

The member has done his homework, as he always does. He stands up for people who need help, whether it was getting money for the tar ponds, or whether it was forcing the government to come forward with money for the dredging of Sydney Harbour. He has always done the work. He has led the way, and I am sure he will do that for many years to come in this place.

Bill C-624 would protect beneficiaries under long-term disability plans by giving them preferred status. As my colleague said, this is not about pensions. This is about long-term disability. My NDP colleague who just spoke mentioned the Urquharts and the work that they have done.

I had the opportunity to meet with Nortel workers in my office. It is a very sobering experience to sit in an office with a number of people who have multiple sclerosis, cancer, crohn's disease. These people cannot work, not because they do not want to work, but because they cannot work.

All of a sudden the money they have to live on in long-term disability is being reduced in some cases by over $2,000 to $300 or $400 a month. I would like members to think about that. All members in this House make $150,000 or more. How would we be able to live on 20% of that salary? At least we would have the opportunity go out and work and add to that, but it is very difficult to do that when one has advanced multiple sclerosis or cancer. This is a fundamental issue of fairness. There are 400 Nortel workers affected by this and there are many others across the country. Imagine living on 20% of a salary that is pretty meagre to begin with.

I asked a question earlier in the House about what people with disabilities make in this country compared to what was paid out to the former Integrity Commissioner. The average salary for a person with a disability is $28,000 a year. Some of these people have families to support on that. Why add to that burden? It makes no sense.

Other countries have done this. Studies by the OECD and the World Bank indicate that well over half of the countries that we would consider comparable have some kind of pension protection. Countries like Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. have preferred status for people on long-term disability.

We pride ourselves in Canada on our social infrastructure. We pride ourselves on the way we stand up for people who need help but we do not always help them. This bill provides us with an opportunity to do that. This bill provides us with an opportunity to put a stake in the ground and say that this is patently unfair. We pride ourselves here in Canada on what we do to protect people who need help. Sometimes we miss that opportunity. We do things individually and collectively as members of Parliament to try to help the people in our constituencies. What happens to people whose companies have experienced a downturn and go bankrupt?

I had a similar experience in my constituency a couple of years ago. The Moirs plant, a well-known company in Dartmouth that has been there for many decades, all of a sudden went out of business. The union came to see me and asked me for help. Monte Solberg, who was the minister of human resources at the time, was somewhat helpful in that regard. The people at Service Canada went out of their way to ensure that we could help those folks. But they did not lose their pensions in the way the Nortel workers did.

How many people in this country think they have a solid pension and/or disability plan? The people at Nortel certainly did. Who would have thought 10 or 15 years ago that Nortel would go under? Who would have thought this would happen? Who would have thought that their pension and their long-term disability was self-insured? They were not given any reason to believe that. All of a sudden, through no fault of their own, they are without luck.

There are enough problems for people already in this country, particularly through the economic downturn that we had. People at home spend nights at the kitchen table wondering how to make ends meet, how to pay for gas when the price of gas is where it is. They see articles about the price of food going up. The cost of sending their kids to post-secondary education has skyrocketed in the last couple of decades. People are sitting down everywhere across this country and asking, “How do I stretch what I make? How do I do it? What is my pension like?”

There are a million Canadians who probably think they have a long-term plan or a pension plan who do not even have it. Add to that the fact that three-quarters of people who work in private companies do not have pension plans to begin with. People are concerned. They are scared. They do not know where to turn.

Credit card debt is through the roof. People are being dinged exorbitant rates of interest on their credit cards. People just do not have the ability to stretch their paycheques to cover their expenses. They worry about paying for their kids' post-secondary education. Many of them cannot afford RESPs and things like them that perhaps we have the benefit and luxury of doing.

Government has a responsibility to assist in those areas. People do not ask that much from government, but what they do ask for is some consideration of their circumstances. They sit at the kitchen table trying to match what comes with what goes out. When what comes in goes down by 80%, who among us could survive that? We need to do more. We need to help.

This bill initially was brought forward by Senator Art Eggleton, who has done a lot of work on issues of poverty as well. He is somebody for whom I have great regard and respect. He has done a lot of work on the social condition in Canada.

This bill had a chance to be passed by the Senate just before Christmas. The night the Conservatives had their big Christmas party, the night the Prime Minister sang and played piano for his caucus, the night they were making merry in Centre Block, enough senators snuck away from the merriment to kill the bill.

Now my colleague from Sydney—Victoria has picked up the challenge. He said that someone has to stand up for these people. These are not people who are hurt because of anything that they have done. They are hurt because of circumstances beyond their control.

Let us think about who is at stake. Let us think about the people we are talking about. Let us think about people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, and other debilitating diseases. They are trying to survive on a pension of $2,000 or $3,000 a month, on top of which there are medical bills, on top of which there are all kinds of other concerns. All of a sudden, they are left defenceless and their income is chopped.

How do we tell people with advanced multiple sclerosis to go out and make the money that they have lost in their long-term disability? It cannot be done.

We need to do something. I have never been one to say that government has all the answers, because I do not believe that government has all the answers. Sometimes government does not even know the question. In this case we know the question and we know the answer. The question is, how do we stand up for workers who, through absolutely no fault of their own, have been let down by their company, who thought they were protected and it turns out they are not? They are looking to us to stand up and do something.

Well, we can do something. It is within our power to do something about the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. We have the chance to do it. Bill C-624 is a very important step.

Again I want to congratulate both Senator Eggleton and my colleague from Sydney—Victoria. I also want to thank my colleague from York West who is our critic for seniors. She has been tireless in her support of workers, whether it is on retirement or long-term disability issues. She has been on the front lines, making sure her voice is the voice for people who need a voice in Parliament.

If there is one thing we should all do as parliamentarians, it is stand up for people who need help. There are all kinds of people in this country who will stand up for people who do not need help. There are chambers of commerce and business organizations, labour unions and lots of other organizations. What we need to do as parliamentarians is stand up for those who do not have a voice, for those who are stuck in a situation that they did not create, over which they have no control, and out of which there seems to be no solution.

Bill C-624 is a solution.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Protection of Beneficiaries of Long Term Disability Benefits Plans Act
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March 11, 2011

Mr. Michael Savage (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on third reading of Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and the Pension Act.

According to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Bill C-55 is only the first step to addressing the concerns of veterans. However, we agree that it is a good first step and we congratulate the initiative.

The proposed legislation is a small step forward. We have supported the bill because our veterans need urgent help now and because the minister assures us that further changes will come. We hope this represents a significant change in thinking, in acting, that will address other gaps.

I would like to acknowledge our critic on veterans affairs, the member for Etobicoke North. In the short time that she has been in the House, she has earned admiration from all sides for her diligent and very capable work. She is passionate about the issue of veterans. She has travelled extensively and met with veterans. One only needs to chat with her to understand how seriously, deeply and personally she connects with our veterans.

Just before Christmas she was in Nova Scotia speaking in the town hall on veterans' issues with the member for Halifax West. I had a chance to have her meet with some of my constituents. I remember sitting at a Starbucks, chatting with Bruce Grainger, who many people in the House would know. I am sure the members for Sackville—Eastern Shore and Halifax West would know Bruce. Bruce is a veteran who served our country with distinction. Now his concern is for other veterans. He has put forward some ideas for the minister that perhaps we need to bring more veterans into Veterans Affairs and on the review and appeal boards. We need to respect that kind of passion from Canada's veterans.

What we owe our men and women who have put the uniform on is to honour our sacred trust and to be there for them when they come home. That means working to improve their pay and benefits so they feel secure knowing their families will be looked after. That means working to improve care for wounded warriors, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. What we owe them is to provide the care they need until the end of their lives, for example, ensuring long-term care so no veteran should have to suffer dementia and PTSD in a facility not equipped to meeting his or her needs.

Sadly, instead of trying to repay our obligation, we have let them down on many issues. For example, too many veterans go untreated for PTSD, too many veterans have nowhere safe to sleep at night, too many veterans suffer traumatic brain injury. It was shameful when a 92-year old veteran in Edmonton said, “There's a long road to go to make this right and you must not give up speaking to us because we never did”, speaking of himself and his colleagues.

The minister tabled Bill C-55 on November 17, 2010. The proposed legislation brought together several of the fall announcements and would make changes to the new veterans charter, as called for by several veterans organizations, including the Royal Canadian Legion, and would introduce changes to the administration of the lump sum disability award. Specifically, Bill C-55 would amend parts 1 to 3 of the new veterans charter as well as part IV of the Pension Act.

There are important changes in the proposed legislation: at least $58,000 per year for seriously wounded or ill veterans, those too injured to return to the workforce; a minimum of $40,000 per year no matter what the salary when serving in the CF for those receiving the monthly earnings loss benefit; an additional monthly payment of $1,000 for life to help our most seriously wounded veterans who are no longer able to work; and improved access to the permanent impairment allowance and the exceptional incapacity allowance, which will include 3,500 more veterans.

On behalf of veterans, I must ask why the government waited four years to propose any change to the new veterans charter, which has been hailed as a living document, a work in progress that would be continually adapted to meet the changing needs of veterans.

I must also ask why Veterans Affairs Canada did not live up to its 2006 commitment to review lump-sum awards for a disability pension within two years.

While the minister promised new improvements to the lump sum payment, the government merely divided up the payment differently, for example, as a partial lump sum and partial annual payments over any number of years the recipient chooses, or as a single lump sum payment.

Despite this, parties came together to ensure the passage of Bill C-55 and its extra support for veterans because our veterans need urgent help now and because veterans organizations across the country, including the Gulf War Veterans Association of Canada, the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping and the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association have asked us to do so.

I come from an area with a rich military history. We recently lost retired Brigadier-General Ned Amy, who had served with such distinction. We have had many giants in Nova Scotia in military history. One of the great giants was a diminutive man who barely cracked five feet tall but made such a difference.

I think of sitting at the Battle of the Atlantic dinner with Murray Knowles, Earle Wagner and some of the great heroes who have served our country, many of whom went across the cold North Atlantic in the corvettes, the last one of which is HMCS Sackville, which is nearing the end of its useful life in the water and has to come ashore. One way the government could support what veterans want in recognition of what they have done for us is put money into the proposal to bring HMCS Sackville ashore in Halifax.

Dominion president Pat Varga spoke of this bill, saying:

This bill, as a first step, makes great strides in improving the New Veterans Charter and encompasses many of the recommendations made by the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group and the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. The Legion considers that further improvements are needed to the Charter on which we look forward to continue the ongoing dialogue with [the] Minister...

Many things have been brought forward by the legion. In the future, the Royal Canadian Legion would still like the department to address the amount of the lump sum payment, the $276,000. In Canada, disabled workers receive, on average, $329,000, Australian service members received about $325,000. British service members receive many times that figure. The legion feels those injured, while serving their country, should expect to receive at least the same amount awarded to civilian workers whose lives have been drastically changed by circumstances beyond their control.

This is a bill that parliamentarians from all parties are happy to come together and speak in favour of.

I want to talk about where we are in Canada today.

It is no secret that Parliament is facing a volatile time. There are serious issues being discussed in the chamber that go to the heart of our traditions and customs. There is a hardening of opinion on all sides and the stakes are high, indeed. It is a tense time and yet a delicate time and I do not think anybody knows for sure where this will end up.

It is happening in Parliament where the people of Canada have a voice. In Canada, we use words and not swords and we determine who governs our nation by using ballots and not bullets. However, privilege did not come by default. It was not inevitable. It is the dividend of the blood and sacrifice of those who left their homes and families, went to lands many never heard of before and put their lives on the line. Some never came home, and it happens to this day.

As we pass Bill C-55 and parliamentarians consider their responsibilities, let us remember the men and women who have given up the opportunities they had so we could do this in a free country. It is appropriate in this tumultuous time in Canadian democracy to remember that the veterans have brought us all and Parliament together. Once again, it is the men and women who have fought for Canada who have showed us how democracy should work. We can do much more to honour that sacrifice. I hope today is just the start.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
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March 11, 2011

Mr. Michael Savage (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-54. We have dealt with a lot of justice issues in the House. I follow all of them very carefully and, when I have the opportunity, I contribute to the debate. I am not a lawyer, although I have often been accused of being one, so I often let the people who have done this for a living handle the major bulk of the debates, but I have always been very interested, as are all members.

I am pleased to see Bill C-54. I think there is some work to be done, and with this piece of legislation, I wonder whether not being a lawyer is a detriment or not. One thing that makes us interested in this legislation in particular is our being parents, as many of us are, or grandparents. That is not to say that people who are not parents do not have an interest in what is happening with children.

I have a child who is now a teenager and one who is getting there rapidly. I worry about what happens with my children. People worry in this day and age with the new communications tools that are available to children. We try to monitor them, but there are lots of different things that people worry about when it comes to the exploitation of children.

I have organized how I am going to speak to this bill for the next few minutes. There could be up to 30 million Canadians watching this and I want them to be able to judge their time. This bill is important. I want to talk about the sexual exploitation of children, what happens and how often it happens. I want to set it in the overall context of the crime agenda of the government, and I will have a few comments about what people have to say about it. Then I will come back to the bill and conclude.

As has been noted, Bill C-54 seeks to amend the Criminal Code to introduce or extend mandatory penalties for crimes against children of a sexual nature and to introduce two new offences. We support this legislation. We are very concerned about the safety of our children. We recognize that times are changing and there are different threats to our children than used to exist.

It was the former Liberal government in 2002 that made it illegal to deliberately access a website containing child pornography. In an age where new technologies have the negative effect of increasing access of our children, we need to be responsible and have a look at the Criminal Code to ensure it is up to date.

This bill would introduce mandatory minimum sentences for seven existing Criminal Code offences, including sexual assault on a person under 16 years of age, luring a child, and conducting an indecent act in the presence of a child. It would also increase mandatory sentences for seven sexual offences involving child victims.

I think generally members of the House are going to support this bill. I am not sure but I think the New Democrats and the Bloc are going to support sending the bill to committee. There is a legitimate concern, which I understand and in many ways share, about mandatory minimums. They are controversial. There is a lot of conflicting evidence as to whether mandatory minimums work.

We supported mandatory minimums as a government. The Liberal government brought in some mandatory minimums. We do not think they work in all cases, which I will get to later, but we think in this instance they are appropriate.

The Department of Justice has a family violence initiative website. Let me preface my comments by mentioning people who have come to my constituency office, as people go to the offices of all members, with their concerns. It is pretty disconcerting when they visit their MPs to say they think the law needs to be changed because of something that happened in their own families and then they provide the details of what happened to their children.

In many ways, we are powerless to help these folks. We want to reach out and help them. One way we can help them, of course, is by bringing their stories to Parliament to try to make sure the laws of the land respond to their concerns and the wishes they extend.

The family violence initiative website states:

The sexual abuse and exploitation of children and youth may involve a range of behaviours....Sexual exploitation may involve prostitution as well as making children and youth participate in pornographic acts or performances for personal or commercial use.

Those are fairly serious issues. The question is:


Further on it states:

However, the available national data indicates that sexual abuse and exploitation of children and youth is disturbingly common in Canada.

It was not recognized as a problem in Canada until the 1984 Badgley report. All evidence we have indicates that this is a very serious issue.

As to the extent of sexual abuse and exploitation, in 2002, 8,800 sexual assaults against children and youth were reported to a subset of 94 police departments in Canada. This included 2,863 sexual assaults against children and youth by family members. This is pretty disturbing. Sexual abuse was the primary reason for investigation in 10% of all child maltreatment referrals to social service agencies.

There is some very good information in terms of types of sexual abuse. According to the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, the most common form of substantiated child sexual abuse in child protection cases was touching and fondling of children. It goes on to talk about other things that are more graphic than that, which I probably do not need to recite here but which need to be brought to the attention of parliamentarians.

Who is doing these crimes? The perpetrators are more often individuals who know the victim rather than strangers. About half of sexual assaults against children and youth reported to a subset of police departments in 2002 involved friends or acquaintances, while a quarter of those assaults involved family members. About 18% involved assaults by strangers. Most but not all are male.

There is a bit of a pattern. We have some information that has been gathered over the years on who is committing these heinous acts against our children. What has been done about it? There have been a number of pieces of legislation that have been brought to this House, mainly by Liberal governments over the years.

Bill C-2, introduced October 8, 2004, proposing amendments to the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act that are intended to protect children and others who are vulnerable. It lists all the things that it did, expanding the scope of existing offences, narrowing the availability of statutory defences, composing the creation of new offences, voyeurism, proposes amendments allowing children and other vulnerable witnesses greater access to aids. I will mention a few of them.

Bill C-15A, proclaimed into force in July 2002, created new Criminal Code offences.

Bill C-7, which is the Youth Criminal Justice Act, replaced the Young Offenders Act. It holds young people accountable for their actions through interventions that are fair and in proportion to the seriousness of the offence committed.

Bill C-79, proclaimed in 1999, amends the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act to facilitate the participation of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process.

I will not go through all of the bills, but they include: Bill C-27 in 1997; Bill C-46 in 1997; Bill C-41 in 1995; Bill C-42; Bill C-72; Bill C-126; Bill C-49; and Bill C-15. These are all relatively recent pieces of legislation that address the issue of sexual exploitation of children.

We have to accept the fact that there is a problem. Part of that is the changing technology, the changing way children communicate with other children and adults, and sometimes we do not even know who our children are communicating with. I am sure I am no different from any other parent in this place in that we try to keep an eye on those sorts of things. We want our children to be aware of what is happening around them.

We support this legislation. I want to put this in context of the greater criminal justice agenda of the government. Today, we have come together. I think all four parties are speeding up the process so that we can deal with this bill and get it to the Senate so that it can be adopted. The Minister of Justice no doubt is very appreciative of the support of all parties so that we can get this done. However, he has not always been so appreciative of the support of the Liberal Party.

One of my favourite letters that I have seen, and I am sure the minister has had a chance to look at it extensively, is one from February 4 of last year. Senator Cowan sent a very affectionate letter to the Minister of Justice responding to concerns the government had that the Senate was holding up all kinds of legislation. I wonder if the minister remembers that letter.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
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March 11, 2011

Mr. Michael Savage (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I recall when the member's private member's bill to extend EI sickness benefits to 50 weeks came to the committee that I was on and everybody supported it.

This bill that we are debating today died in the Senate. The member may recall the circumstances. It was the night that the Prime Minister was singing to his colleagues in the hall. However, enough Conservative senators snuck away from the bar and the merriment to kill the member's hopes and dreams in a vote in the Senate that night.

Is that the way legislation should be dealt with in either Houses of this Parliament?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Protection of Beneficiaries of Long Term Disability Benefits Plans Act
Full View Permalink