- On the Parliament site
Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Welland (Ontario)
Lost his last election, in 2011, with 14.00% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Mr. Speaker, tonight's adjournment proceedings arise from a question I asked on February 27, 2008, regarding a crisis facing the Canadian auto industry. The question I asked relates to an automotive plant located in the riding of the Minister of Justice, and the response I received from the minister was insufficient.
Edscha is an automotive parts supplier located in the riding of Niagara Falls. The company employs approximately 150 people and it recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. In late 2007, one of the companies to which Edscha supplies auto parts provided notice that it was withdrawing from its contract. This particular company decided it would instead pursue a contract with a Korean supplier.
The loss of this contract is very worrisome for Edscha and its employees. The company will experience a major loss of income with the possibility that many workers may lose their jobs. This particular case is also representative of a larger problem facing the auto industry throughout Canada.
Employees at Edscha as well as other auto workers in Niagara are afraid that this is an example of the growing trend of Canadian jobs being outsourced to cheaper overseas competitors, especially since the Conservative government is on the brink of signing a Canada-Korea free trade agreement. They fear the situation will only get worse.
Over 100 auto employees across the Niagara region have written to the Minister of Justice expressing their concerns over the current negotiations to create a free trade agreement with Korea. Many are concerned that should Canada sign a free trade agreement, it may lead to further job cuts within the Canadian auto industry, especially at Edscha. Many fear that such a free trade agreement would not necessarily ensure fair trade.
The response of the Minister of Justice, an influential member of the Conservative cabinet, has been nothing short of appalling. He has turned his back on his own constituents and has left them feeling frustrated and humiliated by his lack of concern. These constituents have reached out for assistance from their member of Parliament and he has ignored them. He has offered them no reassurance that their jobs would be protected, simply nothing. These employees deserve more. These employees demand more.
The Minister of Justice indicated in his response to my question that he was quite influential in getting the federal government to invest $2 million in Edscha. However, the sum of which the minister speaks was in fact a loan. What is incredible is that this loan was paid back 16 years ago. Can you believe it, Mr. Speaker? Suggesting that he is there for this company and its employees in the current crisis is shameful.
The minister has done nothing to date to assist the workers at Edscha. His claim that a free trade agreement with Korea will also be fair for Canadians cannot be guaranteed, certainly not for Edscha workers.
Income Tax Act April 15th, 2008
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, you admonished my hon. friend about the partisan nature of his speech, which has little relevance to his colleague's bill, which many of us think is a very good idea. I wonder if it might be time to move on, like you said you would do.
Mr. Speaker, no matter how the hon. member chooses to gloss his communications policy, it is all-controlling and certainly smacks of censorship. It is just not acceptable.
As a northern country, Canada is particularly vulnerable to climate change. This gives Canadians an even greater responsibility to protect the planet, a responsibility that the Conservative government has unfortunately abandoned.
The consequences of climate change are likely to be catastrophic. Canada must be a leader at the international negotiations on the next phase of the Kyoto protocol. Reductions in greenhouse emissions must be achieved globally.
Canadians can depend on the Liberal Party of Canada to promote cooperation between progressive parties and progressive countries so that each of us at home and together internationally can work toward a richer, fairer, greener world for the citizens of today and the generations of tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, this evening's adjournment proceedings arise from a question I asked the Minister of the Environment on February 1, 2008.
Scientists at Environment Canada are being muzzled by the minister, and I am afraid this represents a continuing trend of censorship by the Conservative government, which moved me to ask the question.
In April 2006, Mark Tushingham, a scientist from Environment Canada, was releasing his science fiction novel about global warming. Tushingham was scheduled to speak about his book and to talk about the science behind it. However, the environment minister at the time stopped the scientist from speaking publicly about his own fiction book. What would we call that? Censorship.
In January 2008 this trend of censorship continued. The Conservatives fired the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission just hours before she was set to appear before a parliamentary committee to speak about the Chalk River isotope crisis. Canadians were prevented from hearing her important testimony on an issue which concerned public safety. The Conservatives fired her out of a partisan interest and interfered with an independent government agency.
These are not isolated incidents. Last February, Dr. Arthur Carty resigned his position as national science adviser for being censored. The Prime Minister trashed his advice and refused to listen to his recommendations. He was ignored because his views on global warming were not consistent with the agenda of this environmentally unfriendly government.
Finally, just last month the well-known British environmental journal entitled Nature made reference to this censorship of which I speak. The journal criticized the Canadian government order given to Environment Canada that all correspondence be routed through the minister's office for an approved response. It is appalling to know that Canadian scientists must have their information vetted by Ottawa political hacks before being able to speak to the media. This type of censorship is unacceptable in a free and democratic country. Canadians have a right to know what these experts have to say.
This pattern of behaviour by the Conservative government is as frightening as it is unacceptable. Freedom of thought and freedom of speech are two fundamental values of Canadian society. Conservatives have put these values at risk for their own political purposes. In the end, it is the environment and the health of Canadians that will suffer now and in the future.
This government has failed to show any concern for the environment. It has refused to endorse the Kyoto accord, even going so far as to not attend a ceremony to honour Canadian scientists who won the Nobel Peace Prize for their report on international climate change. What will it take for the government to accept that global warming exists? It continues to let Canadians down with its lack of commitment to address climate change.
The government promoted a culture of transparency, but not when acting as stewards of the environment. Will the minister stop muzzling these experts and allow them to voice their opinions? Will the government exhibit openness and inform Canadians of the truth? Will the minister stand up for our environment and for Canada?
Judges Act April 14th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, those 31 vacancies exist today and the 20 new positions that we are creating would be in addition to them. If my understanding is correct, that would give us a total of 51 vacancies that would have to be addressed. Those positions are not filled at the snap of a finger. People apply for the positions. The applications are vetted. It is a long process. It will take the government some time to fill not only the existing vacancies but certainly the additional positions that are being created by this law.
The member's concerns are compounded by the situation. The sooner we address this, the better.
Judges Act April 14th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, I think the answer lies in the agenda of the justice minister as to which legislation he wanted to bring forward. This would have been very simple to reintroduce and get through the House. As I indicated in my address, this bill could be law today and we could be addressing the backlog. This has not happened and it is disappointing. What can I say? We are here now. It is disappointing that we did not do this two years ago, but it could now move forward quickly and become law.
Judges Act April 14th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, I stand today to address the act to amend our Judges Act, proposed by the hon. Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
From the outset, I would certainly put on the record that our party supports efforts to appoint additional judges to deal with the increasing backlog in our superior court system. As we have heard many times today, justice delayed is justice denied, and we see examples of this all too frequently.
When there is a backlog, judges' schedules are overcrowded and they also suffer from the stress of the overcrowding, as do their staffs. It is not only the litigants to the process who are concerned and are impacted, but the judges themselves, and all that that means. Sometimes certain judges may become ill as a result, and that only compounds the necessity of increasing the number of appointments.
This bill, however, does nothing to address our party's concerns about the Conservative government's attack on judicial independence. This is so important and at the same time, the Conservative government, I respectfully suggest, has stacked the Judicial Advisory Committee to ensure that the justice minister's chosen representatives have a majority voice on every provincial judiciary advisory board.
This partisan tone certainly will not fare well in the future and I think we need independent individuals who are not swayed by a certain political ideology in order to improve and preserve the independence of our judiciary.
Actually, this is the same government that went out of its way to make a large number of patronage appointments to Canada's judiciary, including the Prime Minister's own former campaign manager in New Brunswick, the former president of the Conservative Party in Quebec, and the party's former chief money-raiser in Alberta.
There was much to-do in the previous Parliament about partisanship and when the members opposite were in opposition, they were vehement in their opposition with such suggestions of partisanship. What happens when they get in the government? They ignore that.
I would also point out that even the chief justices of the Supreme Court, like Beverley McLachlin, have also had a reason to criticize the government for its attacks on judicial independence.
The Conservative government claims that this legislation is being introduced to help alleviate the backlog in the provincial superior court system and to help provide justices to the independent tribunals which are being set up to adjudicate first nations specific land claims. Certainly, this has not been addressed for a considerable period of time, and we need additional judges to deal with some of these land claims that have existed for too long. It is important to move forward with additional judges to help get these out of the way.
The bill amends paragraph 24(3)(b) of the Judges Act to create the authority to appoint 20 new judges to the provincial and territorial superior trial courts. In particular, the superior courts in Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Nunavut are experiencing serious and growing backlogs and delays. Nunavut, in particular, faces severe challenges in providing access to justice for its aboriginal communities. Certainly, we look forward to more aboriginal judges too in our territories.
The remaining provinces are experiencing significant strains, particularly in the family court branches of the courts, as a result of population growth. As of January of this year, there were currently 31 judicial vacancies that the Minister of Justice is responsible for filling, so if we add that 31 with the additional 20, we still have a significant backlog in judicial vacancies. There are also 10 vacancies in the provincial Court of Appeal and the provincial Supreme Court.
The specific claims tribunal, which I mentioned briefly, will have the authority to make binding decisions where specific claims brought forward by first nations are rejected for negotiation, or where negotiations failed. Based on the federal government's analysis of the specific claims workload, it has been estimated that the new tribunal will require the equivalent of six full time judges to manage approximately 40 claims per year. These claims are dispersed across the country, some in my area of Ontario, with the greatest number arising in British Columbia, and some of the most complex cases originate in Ontario and Quebec.
It is anticipated that six new judges will be appointed to the superior court of these provinces in proportion to their respective share of the specific claims caseload. It is intended that this infusion of new judicial resources will allow a number of the superior courts to free up their experienced judges, so that they may be appointed to a specific claims tribunal roster.
The roster will consist of up to 18 judges who will be appointed as tribunal members by the governor in council on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice. These judges would be assigned, likely on a part-time basis to specific matters by the tribunal chairs in consultation with the chief justice of the affected court.
To support these additional requests for judges, the provincial and territorial courts have provided the federal government with detailed proposals containing statistical data and information on relevant geographical and cultural factors that impact judicial resource needs.
They have made their case and it is time to proceed with this legislation with all due dispatch. As I indicated, the government and courts of the jurisdictions provided statistical data and information with respect to the average sitting hours or days per judge, evidence of trends in case volumes, backlogs and delays, and information on relevant geographical and cultural factors that impact judicial resource needs.
There is a perception that perhaps the judiciary is a position that people would aspire to because of perhaps an easy workload. I suggest this is very wrong. Our judiciary is very diligent and it works very hard, has long hours and certainly is most deserving of the compensation it receives.
There is currently no authority under the Judges Act to appoint new judges to any of the provincial superior trial courts and this amendment would provide the government with that flexibility, to respond to objectively substantiated requests for new provincial superior trial court judges at present. It would also address the new demands of the specific claims tribunal.
I suppose my only complaint is that we should have moved forward on these some time ago, months ago, perhaps as soon as the new government took office. In the previous Parliament similar legislation was before the House and when the House fell of course, because of the intervening election call, the legislation died. It could have been immediately introduced and it could have in fact been law today.
We have been well aware of the backlog and the government should certainly have moved forward much sooner to respond to it. The delay has not only exacerbated the situation of backlogs, but also it has exacerbated the conflicting situations of the trials and the litigants who are in the system waiting for their day in court.
In moving forward with the appointments, I urge the government to be aware of the need for francophone judges who are fluently bilingual. This would be especially important in my region of Niagara, in Ontario and certainly in my constituency of Welland.
The appointments process will no doubt come under scrutiny and perhaps the partisan flavour of appointments may become a concern once again. In the previous Parliament, and at the urging of the members opposite who were then in opposition, the appointments process was certainly reviewed and alternative suggestions were made. In fact, there was a review of the proposed applicants. This was done to advance the idea that capable, qualified applicants be considered for these positions.
Heretofore, the vast majority of our judicial appointments have been excellent with men and women, I would say, of the highest quality. In fact, Canada is known throughout the world for the quality and expertise of its judiciary and we hope this phenomenon, this policy and practice will continue.
I did question the inclusion of police officers in the evaluation of applicants when the Conservatives introduced some new changes. It certainly feeds into their law and order agenda, but it takes away from the independence and impartiality of the selection board. I would encourage my friends opposite to revisit that situation. Certainly, judicial appointments should be independent of any type of influence and made objectively of the highest quality individuals.
Soon we will also have to deal with the question of compensation for our judges. I respect it is just as important that they be well compensated and earn good salaries for the very serious work they do, the long hours they put in and the importance of making impartial judgments. It is a difficult task and they should be compensated for the hours that they put in.
That is about the end of my comments on the Judges Act. I would hope that we move forward on this legislation and pass it. It is important and necessary, and it is needed now. I would hope that there would be all party support for this; I would see no reason why there would not be. I certainly will be standing in favour of this bill.
Canada Marine Act April 9th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, I would like to provide the House with some background on this legislation.
On November 16, 2007 the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities introduced Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence. This bill is very similar in most respects to its predecessor, Bill C-61, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act and other Acts, which was introduced in the House of Commons on June 22, 2005 by the previous Liberal government. That bill died on the order paper with the dissolution of Parliament without having gone beyond first reading.
In 1998 during the Liberal government's term in office the Canada Marine Act received royal assent. The Canada Marine Act was the first comprehensive legislation to govern several aspects of Canada's marine legislation.
In addition, the act allowed for the establishment of the Canada port authorities and continued the divestiture of certain harbour beds.
The Canada Marine Act assisted in the commercialization of the St. Lawrence Seaway and provisions for further commercialization of federal ferry services.
In 2003 the Canada Marine Act was subject to a legislative review.
Since 2003 Transport Canada has carried out a number of studies from which it was able to compile several recommendations to improve the Canada Marine Act.
Canada's 1995 policy framework for federal ports focused on the elimination of over-capacity and a new governance structure to support a more commercial system.
Global trading patterns have not changed the context in which the federal ports operate. Port modernization is required to ensure that ports have the tools needed to compete in a global trade environment and to support the government's new national policy framework for strategic gateways and trade corridors.
Currently, Canada port authorities are located at St. John's, Belledune, Halifax, Saint John, Sept-Îles, Saguenay, Quebec, Trois-Rivières, Montreal, Hamilton, Windsor, Thunder Bay, Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Prince Rupert, and Vancouver, which has been amalgamated with the Fraser River and the North Fraser.
The amendments would include: a modification of the act's purpose; modification of a port authority's access to federal funding; adding provisions regarding the power of a port authority to borrow money; providing additional regulatory powers to the governor in council; adding provisions regarding port amalgamation; modifying provisions regarding the appointment of directors of port authorities; and finally, adding a penalty scheme and streamlining certain other important provisions.
The Liberals supported the bill at second reading in order to send it to committee for further study.
I would like to elaborate on the amendments, the first one being access to contribution funding.
Canada port authorities would be permitted to apply for contribution funding related to infrastructure, environmental sustainability, and the implementation of security measures. The borrowing limits are a tiered approach. They would be implemented to permit larger Canada port authorities, those with $25 million in operating revenues for three consecutive years, to move to a commercially based borrowing regime. Certain Canada port authorities would be subject to a code that governs borrowing in their letters patent rather than a fixed borrowing limit, as well as enhanced accountability requirements.
Under the amalgamation provisions, the legislation would include a provision that would allow for a consistent approach to facilitate any potential future amalgamations of CPAs and would complement the regulations established in May 2007 with respect to amalgamation.
With respect to governance, the bill incorporates new proposed amendments related to governance that are more responsible to Canada port authority needs and promote a more stable, long term management framework.
Government Policies March 14th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, let us not beat around the bush. Four of this government's most prominent ministers continue to insult the intelligence of Ontarians.
Ontario deserves its democratically allotted seats. Ontario does not deserve this unaccountable government. Two to one, Ontarians believe in a balanced approach, not a Mike Harris approach to its economy. Ontarians deserve a government and its elected Conservative MPs to step up and represent them.
Will the Conservative government apologize for the actions of its ministers?
Government Policies March 14th, 2008
Mr. Speaker, in this most unaccountable government: the environment minister is implicated in the Larry O'Brien bribery case while doing more damage than good to the environment; the health minister ignores his promise on hospital wait times; the finance minister undermines Ontario's economy by calling it “the last place to invest”; and the government House leader insults his province's premier.
Why is the Prime Minister sitting back and allowing his gang of four to wreak havoc on this country the way they did on Ontario when they were at Queen's Park?