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Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Don Valley West (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 53.36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Official Languages June 20th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, what is a billion dollars? Where is a billion dollars?

The heritage minister also has reintroduced a watered-down version of the court challenges program that blatantly excludes minorities that are not linguistic minorities. Women are excluded. Gays are excluded. The disabled are excluded. Visible minorities are excluded. This is nothing less than discrimination.

Why is the government refusing to allow all minorities to use the program and defend their rights?

Official Languages June 20th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, speaking of what is a billion dollars, here is a question about where is a billion dollars?

Yesterday, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages announced an official languages plan, but the $1.1 billion envelope was not included in the latest budget. This is troubling, because if the money has to come from somewhere else, other programs might suffer.

Can the minister tell us where the money for her official languages action plan will come from?

The Environment June 19th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, as you can see, I have not quite gone yet.

That is because now, today, more than ever, Canadians have a clear choice concerning the environment.

The Liberal green shift will offer big tax cuts to all Canadians: taxes down. The Conservative plan offers dead ducks on tailing ponds

While our plan offers an improved child care tax credit to help families, the Conservatives are completely abandoning those most in need.

While our plan offers credits to seniors and citizens living in rural areas, the Conservative plan offers unregulated hot air emissions from the environment minister.

While our plan will not—I repeat, will not—increase the tax on gas at the pump, the Conservatives are allowing gas prices to continually rise and—

Points of Order June 17th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order which really is not a point of order. For this, I beg your forgiveness, Mr. Speaker, but only after I have finished.

The two toughest decisions in politics are when to get in and when to get out. The tougher decision is when to get out, because in politics, one never knows what lies around the next corner, what new catastrophe or opportunity may suddenly appear just in time to change one's life forever. If one just stays on a little longer, who knows what may happen. Nowhere is this truer than in a minority Parliament. So, the temptation to stay on is great, just to see what happens next. In this regard, I am reminded of the British army officer whose men would follow him anywhere, just out of sheer curiosity; not, of course, that this reflects in any way on the management style of my current leader or his predecessors.

How extraordinarily privileged we are as members of this House, members of Parliament, to be part of great events as they unfold, witnesses to history, as we were last week when the residential schools apology was delivered, or as we were earlier in this Parliament when we were present for that remarkable debate on the question of a Quebec nation within a unified Canada.

Here in this place the stakes are high, the issues really matter, and we all feel we can make a difference. That is why we are drawn to politics. It is exciting, worthwhile and unpredictable. It is also a bit like playing the horses: addictive, potentially dangerous to one's health, and tough on family life.

I have enjoyed my fourteen and a half years here. I have learned a lot, made good friends in all parties and, I hope, in some small way worked with all of them to make Canada a better place.

In Arnold Bennett's novel, The Card, the countess asks of a rising young politician, “But with what great cause is he associated?” This is the question that each of us must ask of ourselves; not, “Am I great?” but “Is my cause great?”. Because the cause is always greater than we are, and each of us can take a greater pride in the causes we have advanced as members of Parliament than the formal titles we have achieved.

But none of us can serve our causes, or Canada, without the loyal support of the people who work with us and who make us look good. Over the course of fourteen years, I have been lucky enough to have worked with many talented and dedicated people and also, I would add, with many splendid parliamentary interns. I cannot name them all, but I want to make special mention of two long-time associates and friends, Kathy Kocsis and Andrew Bevan, and the current crew in Ottawa and Toronto, Catherine, Bo, Delaney, Jonathan, Steve and Angela.

As I look around this chamber, I also want to acknowledge my friends in all parties, in the Liberal caucus, the whole Liberal team on the Hill, my leader, the officers of this House and all the people who serve in it. I also want to recognize all the support staff of the committees and the Library of Parliament, all the men and women on the Hill who protect us, clean for us, serve us in the cafeterias and generally make our lives agreeable, and you, Mr. Speaker, for struggling so valiantly to create an atmosphere of non-partisan civility and camaraderie in a time of trouble.

I want to make special mention of the pages who buzz around so efficiently and have learned cheerfully how to interpret the eccentric demands of the member for Don Valley West, which he conveys by a unique form of sign language. Now here is a little lesson for the rest of you. Ready? Watch carefully: glass, ice, lemon, and make that fizzy water. What a legacy.

I also want to thank the people of Don Valley West, who have supported me through five elections; my constituency association and its long-serving president, Dennis O'Leary; Pam Gutteridge, my first and last campaign manager; and above all, my family, especially my wife, Trish, helpmate indeed, and my son, Ian, who made it all possible and who have been my greatest supporters. I should also mention that my son, Ian, graduated today from grade eight, just as I am graduating from grade fourteen and a half.

In politics it is always important to pick our moment to leave before the moment picks us.

And what a moment. I am lucky to have a new career as the headmaster of the Toronto French School. I am returning to my roots, to the education of young people and, even better, to the French language.

As I say goodbye, I leave with my idealism intact. I leave with a certain regret, but also with satisfaction and pride at having been one of the select few, a member of the House of Commons of Canada, one of you, one of us.

Thank you, merci, au revoir, goodbye.

Federal Sustainable Development Act June 13th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Chair for his kind remarks and his friendship over the years, which will continue even after I leave this place.

I would like to express my gratitude to all the parties in the House for their support and cooperation in bringing Bill C-474, the federal sustainable development bill, to this stage and providing very helpful suggestions for its amendment.

I would also like to acknowledge those who have contributed to the drafting and revision of Bill C-474. The bill reflects, to a large degree, the work of the David Suzuki Foundation with input from the Natural Step Canada group. It was developed and amended through extensive consultation with the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The person who has worked harder on this bill than anyone, who has negotiated with all the parties and legislative council and environmental groups, is one of our own parliamentary interns, Delaney Greig, for whom I predict a great future. She was ably assisted by my legislative assistant, Bo Romaguer.

The original reason I chose to put forward Bill C-474 was a universal dissatisfaction with the existing departmental sustainable development strategies process. The system of departmental reports has received criticism from both Conservative and Liberal ministers of the environment, from former commissioners of the environment and sustainable development and from the green ribbon panel that was established last year to review sustainable development strategies process.

Specifically, there has been broad recognition of the need for greater accountability in the sustainable development strategy process and for a coherent, overarching federal strategy developed at the heart of the government.

These are exactly the changes made under the federal sustainable development bill.

Bill C-474 calls for the development of a federal sustainable development strategy containing goals and targets developed by the Minister of the Environment with cabinet oversight. The federal strategy will be examined by Parliament, an advisory council and the commissioner prior to its coming into force. A progress review will occur every three years through a report to Parliament and a corresponding assessment report from the commissioner. Further, departmental sustainable development strategies will be required to comply with and contribute to the federal strategy and will also be assessed.

Moving through committee, a number of amendments have been made to Bill C-474 to eliminate the need for a royal recommendation, as the Speaker has earlier recognized, and to draw in features that reflect the interests of all the parties represented here today.

As the government was contemplating changes to the sustainable development strategy process, it considered the route laid out in Bill C-474. Bringing together our thinking and theirs, we have amended Bill C-474 to satisfy all four parties. We have all had to put a little water in our wine.

Working on Bill C-474 has been a constructive and collaborative experience. The bill before us in the House today is a tribute to the way in which parties can work together in this place, in committee, in a minority Parliament, where committees are not always so collegial.

In particular, recognition is due to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, who has shown leadership by bringing forward constructive amendments and building support for Bill C-474 among his colleagues, in committee and in the House. I also thank him for his very kind words about my retirement.

I also want to acknowledge the support of the members of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP.

Given the atmosphere of cooperation around our efforts to improve sustainable development planning in the federal government, we look forward to ending debate in the House of Commons on Bill C-474 today. Although this will lack the theatrics of a vote, I have elected to request that the House adopt today Bill C-474 with the required technical amendments that have been moved so that it may progress to the Senate before we adjourn for the summer.

I must express to all members my appreciation for their assistance in enabling this bill to progress to this point and, if it is the will of the chamber, sending it on to the Senate. Bill C-474 will make sustainable development a priority at the heart of Canada's government for our future generations. I am honoured to have been able to shepherd this legislation through the House of Commons as my last act as a member of Parliament.

It is in the spirit of cooperation which has characterized the debate on this bill, and having consulted with the government and opposition parties, I would like to ask for unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of this House, at the end of today's debate on Bill C-474, standing in my name on the Order Paper, all report stage motions be deemed adopted; the Bill be deemed concurred in at report stage with further amendments; and be deemed read a third time and passed.

Federal Sustainable Development Act June 13th, 2008

moved:

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-474, in Clause 15.1, be amended by replacing line 19 on page 6 with the following:

“into force of section 18.1 of this Act, remain in”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-474, in Clause 16, be amended

(a) by replacing line 33 on page 6 with the following:

“11(3) of the Federal Sustainable Develop-”

(b) by replacing line 1 on page 7 with the following:

“(c) any agency set out in Schedule 2 to”

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-474, in Clause 18, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 14 on page 8 with the following:

“justesse des renseignements qu'il contient”

Canadian Forces May 30th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, Canadians from coast to coast will be celebrating Canadian Forces Day, an occasion that allows all of us to pay tribute to the bravery and courage of the men and women serving in the Canadian Forces.

From Haiti to the Sudan, from the Congo to the Golan Heights, and of course, in Afghanistan, our soldiers continue to provide peace and security in some of the most troubled regions of the world.

The importance of these celebrations can never be overstated as we hold close in our thoughts and prayers those who wear our uniform: our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our friends, who fight for the freedom of the Afghan people and who stand on guard for the security of our own proud nation.

I ask all members of the House to join with me today in celebrating Canadian Forces Day this Sunday, and to thank those who have worn and continue to wear the uniform of the Canadian army, air force and navy. Their sacrifices for our freedoms are their enduring legacy.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act May 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, to the extent that there is a climate change policy of the government, I would be very hard pressed, generous as I am and creative as I am, to find a connection between a nuclear strategy and a climate change plan and also one in which we saw the wealth creating component of our future climate change plans as being part of the mix, that when we think of climate change and the future we have to think of technologies and how we can actually make money by being green and by doing the right think.

I would locate this larger debate about nuclear power in that context about innovation and wealth creation.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act May 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, three points were raised, and very valid ones, by my colleague.

First, he raises the question of establishing true costs. However, in any discussion of true costs, we have to compare, for example, what the true costs are of coal-fired electrical generating plants. Do we take into account the true cost to health when the particulate goes up? Do we take into account the true long term cost of global warming? Therefore, I am in favour of true costs, but they have to be compared on a wide basis.

Second, on the issue of subsidy, I think that is right. This is an industry, certainly through AECL and its research side, that needs to be subsidized. It needs to be controlled by the Government of Canada because it is such a crucial technology and it is also one which, if mishandled, has very dangerous and negative consequences. Therefore, I do not shy away from the notion of subsidizing a technology which takes us to a new place and will enhance our export capacity.

Finally, on the subject of unlimited liability, I guess the issue is if we were to change it from $650 million to unlimited liability, would we in fact destroy the possibility of there being a nuclear power future for Canada and the world?

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act May 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support Bill C-5 in its unamended form, particularly in light of the discussion which I have been privileged to hear today in the House.

I want to pick up on the points that were raised by my colleague from Mississauga—Erindale, which had to do with a number of fundamental questions about the future of nuclear energy in this country which underlie this bill. I also want to echo what my colleague from Western Arctic said, that as we think about that future, we have to think about not only the interests of the nuclear industry, but also the interests of the whole population of Canada.

First, at the deepest level, this bill raises a number of very profound questions about the future of nuclear power in Canada, about the future of AECL itself, about the future of the nuclear regulator, about the future of Canada's own Candu reactor, the future of evolving nuclear technologies around the world, competitive technologies to the Candu reactor and, indeed, the future of nuclear power around the world.

It is evident that the great change which has occurred in the debate about nuclear power has been driven by climate change. This has radically altered the terms of debate. It has radically altered the way in which we think about these issues.

I can say that as a long-time environmentalist, I have been one of those who, over the years, has had reservations about the nuclear industry. I have moved from that position to one of being agnostic, but today, as I weigh the odds, the chances and the dangers, I now find myself on the side of a nuclear future for Canada. I believe that inevitably, nuclear power will be an increasingly important component of our national energy portfolio in the years to come.

Even if we funded and built no new nuclear plants in this country, Canada would have been having a nuclear future for a long time anyway. If we consider the very lights in this chamber, two out of every five lights in this chamber and in Ontario are powered by nuclear power. Forty per cent of all the power currently generated comes from nuclear generators.

Their importance becomes all the more compelling, because we know what the future of coal fired energy plants is in this province. That is to say they will be eliminated, which puts an even greater burden on nuclear power certainly in this part of the world for the future. There is no existing alternative source of energy on the scope and scale of nuclear power which can replace coal fired generating plants.

Second, the climate change argument puts us in a world in which we have to balance off risks. That is what we are here for. We are here to make choices. To govern is to choose.

On the one hand, a world in which carbon dioxide continues to increase exponentially along with other greenhouse gases puts us into a perilous future when we would reach an increase in world temperature of plus 2°C. This would take us to a place we have not been in many generations and millions of years, versus the well-known risks of nuclear power, which have been nuclear accidents, terrorist threats or how we dispose of nuclear waste. These are not trivial matters, but we have to choose. We have to decide what is the greatest peril and can we manage the risks on the other side.

Bill C-5 itself and the debate about its amendments is about risk management, about somewhere between zero liability and limitless liability. The committee came down and decided on $650 million, increasing it from $75 million. That is about risk management.

The problem with climate change is that this is not a manageable risk if we continue not to do anything about it. That is the challenge, that we are in a potentially runaway situation. Nuclear power must be part of the answer to that.

The third point I would like to make is that around the world we do see a renaissance of nuclear power. There are currently operating in the world 439 nuclear power reactors. They have been operating for a collective number of 10,000 reactor years of experience. There are now 200 new nuclear power plants being planned around the world. During the entire nuclear power period there have been only two accidents: Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Only one of those, Chernobyl, had fatalities associated with it, and there is no denying that was a major, major accident.

However, what we do forget as we think about risk is what happens as a result of the emissions from coal and power plants every year from mining. The number of deaths every year associated with coal mining so that we can actually power coal fired generating plants far exceeds the number of deaths associated with the Chernobyl disaster, and yet we never balance out those risks. That is what our job is as legislators, to balance choices, to balance risks and try and do the best we can for the future.

The fourth point I want to make is about nuclear waste itself. It is a problem which ultimately is technologically controllable. The exciting part, if I may say so, about nuclear waste is that it represents a potential future source of energy which we have not found a way of exploiting yet. There will be a new generation of reactors which will be able to extract from our existing nuclear waste energy almost on an indefinite, time unlimited basis. It is true we do not know exactly what that road ahead looks like of using nuclear waste for new power, but we also know that if we do not get on with change what our future looks like in a world of plus 2°C climate change. That we have a much stronger sense of. Again we have to choose; we have to balance.

My fifth point is that we have in AECL, a world leader, a company which has led the nuclear revolution not only in power but in medical isotopes and other areas. It deals with an evolving technology which has a tremendous future. Someone somewhere in the world, some industrial group is going to be developing the next generation of nuclear plants and the question is why should Canada, pioneers in this area, leaders for half a century, not be that somebody? Why should we leave it to France or to General Electric if we are going to be having a nuclear future in any event?

This brings me to the sixth point which is national interest. We have had interesting debate recently on a Canadian owned company, MDA, which developed RADARSAT and the Canadarm, as to what our national interest is in high tech companies. The government has said, and I credit it with this, that for things like space technology, this is in the national interest. I would argue that AECL is in the same vein. It is in our national interest to give this technology the resources and the support to take us to the next level and to take that technology to the world to see it not only in terms of contributing to the climate change debate but to wealth creation.

Finally, by passing Bill C-5, clearly we are anticipating a long life ahead for nuclear power in Canada, otherwise we would not have this bill. This might as well be a future where Canada is a leader. As the member for York Centre used to put it in his former life as a hockey player with the Montreal Canadiens as they got ready to play a game but they were feeling a little discouraged, “Well, since we have to play the game anyway, we might as well win it”. I think the same is true of nuclear power.