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Elsewhere

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for North Vancouver (B.C.)

Lost his last election, in 2008, with 37.37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Budget March 27th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, in regard to the government's new equalization formula, the finance minister had barely uttered the naive assertion that “the long, tiring, unproductive era of bickering between the provincial and the federal government is over” before several provincial governments began to criticize the budget, including B.C.'s provincial government.

By including property value in its new equalization formula, the government is equating property value with wealth, but if one looks more closely in my riding of North Vancouver and in many areas of B.C., where there has been a massive increase in house prices in the last few years, this is simply false.

In the week before the budget, the premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell, warned, “Anyone that says that your property values are in direct relation of your ability to pay doesn't frankly know a lot about what they're talking about”.

What did the Conservative trade minister, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, have to say? He said:

Everybody in the world knows that high real estate prices translate into de facto wealth, which is taxed by local governments amongst others. So I don't know why that wouldn't be part of the calculation.

The comments of the trade minister in attempting to defend this action confirm that even Conservative members from B.C. are out of touch with British Columbians and have little influence in the government's top-down decision making process.

In my riding of North Vancouver there is a serious housing crisis due to the booming real estate market. A couple who bought a home in North Vancouver 20 or 30 years ago for a fraction of what it is worth today have not seen a similar percentage increase in their personal income. Many are now seniors living on pensions who simply wish to stay in the house and the neighbourhood they have called home for decades.

It is estimated that property values in B.C. rose by 24% last year. Homeowner income did not rise by anywhere close to that amount and municipal property taxes are tied to property value, thereby creating further financial hardship for homeowners. If they sold their home to move elsewhere on the North Shore, or even to most other areas in Greater Vancouver, they would have to pay the same price for a similar house and therefore would find themselves in the same financial position.

To benefit from the increased value of their home, as is reflected in the government's equalization formula philosophy, they would need to buy a substantially less expensive home, which is difficult to find in North Vancouver and, for that matter, in most of the lower mainland of B.C. To see that wealth, they would have to move far away from their families and friends in their current communities.

It is clear that the government's new formula is out of touch with the reality on the ground in B.C. as evidenced by the provincial government's reaction to the budget, which echoed the official opposition's harsh criticism.

On child care, the government promised Canadians choice in child care in the last election and offered Canadians a taxable $100 for each child under six years of age, coupled with a plan to supposedly create child care spaces by offering businesses incentives to create them.

Fourteen months later, what has happened? After tearing up the child care deal signed with the provinces by the former Liberal government, specifically through the efforts of the hon. member for York Centre, the government has replaced them with nothing. Not one new child care space has been created in North Vancouver or Canada.

Because the funding is no longer flowing through those previous federal-provincial child care agreements, local child care facilities in my riding have been forced to cancel capital improvements and in many cases raise fees, sometimes by $100 per month. Thus, there is really no choice offered by the Conservative government. There is just one choice: take the $100 per month. This will not provide new spaces, nor will it make them more affordable or universal.

In this budget, the government has quietly abandoned its election proposal to have businesses create the promised 125,000 new spaces and will instead transfer a lesser amount to the provinces than our previous Liberal government had agreed to, but for children and parents it has been 14 lost months.

In a report released just yesterday by Dr. Fraser Mustard, a Companion of the Order of Canada and an internationally recognized expert in the field of early childhood development, he stated that Canada is ranked dead last among the 20 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. According to the report, Canada spends just .25% of its GDP on early childhood programs, whereas other developed countries spend up to 2%. Dr. Mustard described the programs and child care assistance that exist in Canada as a “chaotic mess”.

With such a massive budget surplus, the government could have done so much more. Instead, Canada is an international embarrassment and the government responds by reducing child care funding.

Adding insult to injury is the tax bill that parents are now receiving, which requires them to pay tax on the child care rebates already received. Revenue Canada's RC62 forms started arriving at homes several months ago. Judging by the reaction of parents in my riding to this Conservative child care tax bill, it is clear that the government has failed families on child care.

The budget also failed undergraduates in North Vancouver. While the budget did increase the number of students who will be eligible for Canada graduate scholarships, that represents assistance for only Canada's top 4,000 graduate students. While no one would argue that this is not an appropriate investment, the vast majority of students in Canada who are undergraduates will not receive a cent of assistance in this budget.

This means there is nothing for students at Capilano College in my riding, many of whom are enrolled in the successful Capilano College film program. The film centre offers programs that prepare students for a variety of career paths in the film production industry, and these are not necessarily students who will graduate and then leave our community. Many of these graduates will find local jobs in North Vancouver's film industry. North Shore Studios, located in my riding, is the major film producer in Canada and around the world.

There are over 6,000 persons in my riding who work in the film industry. Film and television production add $100 million per year to the North Vancouver economy and an estimated $1.3 billion per year, every year, to the economy of B.C. There is no innovative thinking in this budget that would help foster growth in this local industry by helping students in my riding.

As the official opposition critic for the Asia-Pacific gateway, I was extremely disappointed by the budget's lack of action on gateway projects, as I have been repeatedly in regard to action on gateway projects since the government took office. Unfortunately, the Conservative government has made my job as critic far easier than I wish it were. Whether it be the bungled relations with our trading partners in the Asia-Pacific, specifically with China, which are well documented, or the watered-down commitment to gateway funding and the lack of a cohesive legislative gateway plan, the government has dropped the ball.

In this budget, the government has employed smoke and mirrors on gateway funding to make it appear that it has increased funding when in fact it has yet to honour its election promise to at least match the funding that was attached to the previous Liberal government's Pacific gateway strategy, which included $591 million over five years. Within that five year period, the Conservative government is still $44 million short of what was promised by the previous Liberal government.

In addition, the Liberal gateway investment was always considered a down payment. Unlike the Conservative government, our competitors to the south in U.S. and Mexico are not waiting until 2014 to ramp up port capacity and make critical investments in transportation infrastructure.

By breaking its gateway funding promises, the government is failing B.C. on the gateway at home and abroad through its amateurish approach to relations with our Asia-Pacific trading partners abroad.

For example, it was nine months before the minister visited China. It was 13 months before even a parliamentary secretary visited India. The government closed two consulate offices in Japan. This is not exactly the opportunity based approach we had in mind.

In the last election the Conservatives promised to add 2,500 municipal police officers to Canadian cities. Where was that promise in the budget? Nowhere. Municipalities in B.C., which had hoped the government would walk the walk, are now back on their knees begging for funds to add police officers.

Constituents in my riding want the government to be bold with health policy. I believe it is time for a national catastrophic drug plan to ensure that every Canadian is able to afford prescription drugs recommended by their family physician. It has been estimated that the cost of ensuring that no Canadian spends more than 3% of their annual family income on medication, devices and supplies is $500 million per year.

This government inherited a $13 billion surplus and it has not even honoured its election promises on health care, let alone adopt new strategies such as the catastrophic drug plan, which would help millions of Canadians. One example would be the two million Canadians with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who in many cases have to spend a disproportionately high percentage of their income on health care costs.

For a member of Parliament from B.C., this budget is as much about what is not in it as what is. Whether it is broken election promises or failing to provide anything new for our province, this budget proves that the Conservative campaign slogan to “stand up for B.C.” is as ridiculous as the finance minister's grasp of simple Canadian geography.

The Budget March 27th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

It is my pleasure to rise in the House today to participate in the debate on the government's budget. I will focus my remarks on how this budget affects my home province of British Columbia and specifically my riding of North Vancouver.

In short, this budget fails British Columbians and constituents in my riding in numerous areas, namely: its new equalization formula; its failure to create any new child care spaces in B.C. or across Canada; insufficient assistance for students; watered-down funding for the Asia Pacific gateway initiative; its failure to provide promised assistance to provinces and municipalities to hire more police officers; and inadequate action on health care.

As we sat in the House a week ago yesterday to listen to the finance minister deliver his budget speech, my parliamentary colleagues from B.C. and I could only shake our heads in disbelief as the finance minister described Canada. I will quote from his speech. He stated:

From the majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the rugged shores of Newfoundland and Labrador, many of the most beautiful places on earth are in Canada.

The problem with the finance minister's statement is not in his characterization of Canada's stunning natural beauty but in his geography. Most of B.C.'s land mass is in fact west of the peaks of the Rocky Mountains.

On the campaign trail, the Conservatives promised to “stand up for B.C.”. It appears there was not even anyone in the finance minister's office who could properly locate B.C. on a map, let alone stand up for our province's interests.

In regard to the government's new equalization formula, the finance minister had barely uttered the naive assertion that “the long, tiring, unproductive area of bickering between the provincial and federal governments is over”--

Forestry March 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister's budget speech claimed that Canada starts at the Rockies, but four million B.C. residents and all Canadians know he is wrong. This budget did not mention the pine beetle a single time in 477 pages. The Prime Minister and the finance minister have both falsely claimed that they have put $1 billion into the problem but they only budgeted $400 million last year.

There is absolutely no new money for this serious problem, only re-announcements.

When will the government do something for Canadians west of the Rockies?

Passports March 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the delays in issuing and renewing passports in Canada has become a national embarrassment.

Across this country thousands of frustrated Canadians have agonized over the possibility that their travel plans would collapse for lack of a passport. A process that should take 20 days now takes up to 60 days or longer. People are waiting for hours in long lineups at passport offices.

Who is responsible for this mess? It is certainly not the overworked passport office employees who are doing their best under difficult conditions to serve the public. No, it is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the government who had over a year's advance notice of the new requirements for passports who are responsible. They did nothing to prevent this nightmare. There were no staff increases, no process improvements, nothing.

Now the citizens of Canada are paying for the Conservative government's inaction, such as families whose carefully planned holidays have had to be cancelled, often with financial loss or penalty.

Canadians demand and deserve better service from their government. A minister and government who could not or would not plan ahead for a problem they knew was coming is not acceptable.

Criminal Code March 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comment made by the member opposite, but I would like to point out that during the last three years, for example, and I can speak to my record in the House, repeatedly I have supported law and order bills that got tougher on crime, in several cases voting with the opposition at the time from my own point of view, on things like Carley's law and others.

My concern has been that if we are going to have laws, not only do they have to appear to be tough, but they really have to be tough, and they also have to be smart. As the previous member mentioned, we have to attack both the prevention aspect and the punitive aspect, and we have to protect the community as well. We have to ensure that the perpetrators or the accused and the convicted are removed from society for an appropriate period of time to provide safety and to give them a chance to be rehabilitated so they can come back into society as productive citizens.

My concern with respect to what I have seen of the bills presented by the government is there has been a lot of show and not much go. I appreciate that coming from the other side of the House the member will have a different point of view, but it seems to me that rather than having a comprehensive approach, the government has a scattergun approach that does not really focus on the broader issues, which we need to deal with in regard to justice in the community.

Criminal Code March 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, our party certainly agrees that crime prevention is equally as important as dealing with the aftermath of crime in the sentencing and in the laws.

My colleague spoke earlier about the efforts being taken in the municipality of Surrey, for example, on a very comprehensive crime prevention program that was put in place following a visit by the RCMP and the Surrey municipality to the U.K. where a crime prevention program focusing on the causes of crime has resulted in significant reductions in certain criminal activities.

We need to have a comprehensive approach, which I think I mentioned in my comments about the RCMP in North Vancouver, which includes programs like Block Watch, Citizens on Patrol and community policing. It is a case of getting awareness out there, getting the community involved and then dealing with the other aspects, such as homelessness, drug addictions and the social programs that are involved in the communities.

We need to do both but we need to ensure we provide adequate deterrents as well for the safety of the community and hence, why we need to ensure there are appropriate laws that indicate that Canada and our communities take the transgression of breaking those laws seriously.

Criminal Code March 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (reverse onus in bail hearings for firearm-related offences).

I have long been a strong advocate for tough, smart and effective law and order measures in my riding of North Vancouver. In my previous role as mayor of the district of North Vancouver, I worked closely with local law enforcement officials to address crime and justice issues in our community and to ensure that North Vancouver is safe for residents and families.

Superintendent Gord Tomlinson and the North Vancouver RCMP detachment do excellent work in our communities with a comprehensive policing approach which includes working with concerned members of the community to ensure we are all doing our part.

The North Vancouver block watch program immediately comes to mind. Designed to build safer neighbourhoods by providing support, guidance, training and resource materials to develop and operate neighbourhood block watch programs, block watch has flourished in my riding by informing and engaging citizens about keeping our neighbourhood safe.

The North Vancouver RCMP also facilitates the local citizens on patrol program which utilizes local volunteers to monitor areas where the community is requesting more patrolling and where history and statistics demonstrate crime is more likely to occur.

Volunteers are paired up, given a combination cell phone-radio and they patrol in their own vehicles looking for any suspicious activity, which they phone in to the RCMP. The volunteers receive training on what to look for and how to react when they observe suspicious activity.

The decision to start this program in North Vancouver was prompted by the success of similar programs in Coquitlam, Mission and Vancouver, and it is part of the way the RCMP is expanding its level of service throughout British Columbia through the use of enthusiastic local volunteers.

As well, community policing offices located in neighbourhood shopping centres across North Vancouver are staffed by local volunteers and provide a friendly local face and convenient location for residents to come to for information on policing services and crime prevention programs.

While Bill C-35 makes appropriate changes to better deal with those already charged with firearms related offences, we cannot forget the value that preventive measures, such as block watch, citizens on patrol and community polices offices, have in preventing crimes from being committed in the first place.

While I have always been an advocate for being tough on crime, government can do more to prevent crime in the first place. We can be tough and smart on crime at the same time, while building safer communities with a view to future generations. Constituents in my riding understand this. It is therefore disappointing to see the government is more content playing politics with its law and order agenda.

Like my constituents, the Liberal Leader of the Opposition, the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, understands this and is not soft on crime as the Conservative government is attempting to portray him with its latest republican style smear campaign.

A Liberal government would sit down to negotiate with the provinces to give municipalities more money to hire more officers and give the RCMP an extra $200 million to hire 400 officers for rapid enforcement teams across Canada that would boost local police and communities in their fight against guns, gangs, organized crime and drug trafficking.

Unlike the Conservative government, we will walk the walk and not just make hollow promises when fishing for votes. A Liberal government would also give provinces more money to hire more crown attorneys to speed up trials and to establish organized crime secretariats in every province, similar to Ontario's very successful guns and gangs task force to fight organized crime.

In addition, we will actually fill the judicial vacancies that currently exist across the country. How can the Conservatives claim to be tough on crime when they sit on their hands as judicial vacancies grow and the courts get more and more backlogged by the day? That is not providing justice for Canadians. Justice delayed is justice denied.

There are examples at all court levels of charges being dropped due to unreasonable delays in proceeding to trial. It is not good enough.

While the government has failed to convince Canadians it is capable of doing more than just talking tough on crime, let us turn to Bill C-35.

Bill C-35 would amend the Criminal Code of Canada to provide that the accused will be required to demonstrate, when charged with certain serious offences involving firearms or other regulated weapons, that a pre-trial detention is not justified in their case. These offenders have shown they are a danger to the public simply by using a firearm in the first place. Why should the onus be on a prosecutor to oppose bail being given in light of the serious nature of the crime for which they have been charged? Surely our law-abiding citizens deserve to feel protected from perpetrators of serious crimes.

The bill also introduces two factors relating to such offences that the courts must take into account when deciding whether the accused should be released or detained until the trial. Bill C-35 would require the courts to specifically consider: first, the fact that a firearm was allegedly used in the commission of the offence; and second, the fact that the accused faces a minimum penalty of three years or more imprisonment if convicted.

I strongly support amending the Criminal Code to add this provision. Police officers in my riding support this change, and constituents who simply want safe communities for their families support this change.

In addition, the Liberal opposition supports this change and we have demonstrated that in the House on repeated occasions.

For the fourth time in the past six months, the Liberal opposition this week attempted to get this bill and several other justice bills we are prepared to support, Bill C-18, the DNA identification act, Bill C-22, the age of consent bill, and Bill C-23, criminal procedures, passed without delay through all stages of consideration by the House. Had all members of the government and the NDP agreed, these bills could have cleared the House yesterday and now be on their way to the Senate as we speak. They would have been closer to law and the Liberal proposal would have advanced more than half of the government's entire justice agenda.

That is what my constituents in North Vancouver want. They do not care about politics or the next election. They just want safer communities and results from the minority government. It is too bad the Conservatives are not more interested in getting results than getting headlines.

I support Bill C-35 because I believe that the offences for which it would require a reverse onus for bail provisions are serious and that the bill would help ensure a safer community in North Vancouver.

These offences include any one of the following eight serious offences committed with a firearm: attempted murder, robbery, discharging a firearm with intent, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, kidnapping, hostage taking or extortion.

In addition, the reverse onus provisions will be required for any indictable offence involving firearms or other regulated weapons if committed while under a weapons prohibition order: firearm trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking or firearms smuggling.

I am more than comfortable with a change to the Criminal Code that would require individuals charged with these offences to make the case why they should be back on the streets while awaiting trial. I know citizens in my riding, who are going above and beyond to do their part to create a safe community, such as Block Watch and Citizens on Patrol, would be more than relieved to know there will be less of a chance of encountering individuals charged with such offences.

The government, in its effort to unjustly brand the Liberals as soft on crime, repeatedly attempts to assert that the opposition is opposed to these reverse onus measures as they are not in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While this party's commitment to the charter is unwavering, such an assertion is factually incorrect. It is true that the charter protects the presumption of innocence and the right not to be denied bail without just cause pending trial but within this basic presumption, however, bail can in fact be denied in order to ensure that the accused does not flee from justice, to protect the public if there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will reoffend and to maintain confidence in the administration of justice.

Although the prosecutor usually bears the onus of demonstrating why an accused should be denied bail, there are currently situations where it falls to the accused to demonstrate that detaining him or her is not justified. For example, the onus already shifts to the accused if they are charged with: an indictable offence committed while already released on another indictable offence; if they fail to appear in court or allegedly breach a release condition; for certain organized crime, terrorism or security of information offences; for drug trafficking, smuggling or drug producing offences; and, if they are not ordinarily a resident of Canada.

The Liberal opposition has made repeated efforts to have Bill C-35 fast-tracked through all stages of the House only to be blocked by the government. The Liberal Party's support for measures similar to those found in Bill C-35 go well beyond this debate today and even this 39th Parliament.

I was pleased, as were law enforcement and residents in North Vancouver, with our party's proposals during the last election in support of the reverse onus bail hearings for firearms related offences.

Our position on this issue has not changed. Canadians sent us to Ottawa to work together and that is what the Liberal opposition is attempting to do with our proposal to fast-track Bill C-35 and the three other bills.

The Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act, MITA, from the previous Parliament, will be reintroduced later today as a private member's bill by the Liberal justice critic and the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. I can only hope the government will not block this bill too. The government needs to prove that it is more interested in getting results than headlines.

I will continue to support Bill C-35 and I encourage the minority Conservative government to work with this Parliament, including the Liberal members, and pass these laws that will enhance Canada's Criminal Code and justice system. Families in my riding want these bills passed. Police officers favour these changes and I stand here today to demand that the government listen to Canadians and do the right thing.

Trade December 13th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the inexplicable cuts of the meanspirited, ideological government continue to baffle Canadians. The cuts have hurt Canada's ability to be competitive in a global market: $250 million for the global success fund, $109 million for our trade commissioners, and $60 million to showcase Canada to the world. These are all gone. These cuts will hurt our Pacific gateway strategy to grow import and export businesses across Canada.

Why is the government determined to dismantle our strong economy by crippling--

Softwood Lumber November 10th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, here is another broken promise.

Before the election the Conservatives said they would demand that the U.S. government play by the rules on softwood lumber and return more than the $5 billion in illegal softwood lumber tariffs to Canadian producers. Nothing less would do. However, the agreement they signed with the U.S. did not get all of Canada's money back. They did not tell the truth. They even went so far as to leave a $1 billion tip for the U.S.

How can Canadians believe the government?

Criminal Code November 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to address Bill C-9.

The bill was amended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and I was pleased to support the amended bill when it came before the House at report stage this past Wednesday evening. I commend the members of the justice committee for their efforts, and particularly the member for London West for her diligent work on this bill and all justice legislation that has come before this 39th Parliament.

I have taken a keen interest in law and order issues and safe communities throughout my time in elected office. Prior to becoming the member of Parliament for North Vancouver in 2004, as mayor of the district of North Vancouver, I worked closely with local police, legal and judicial officials to continually monitor crime, law and order and sentencing issues in our community.

My constituents in North Vancouver, like all Canadians, want to be safe in their homes and communities and, as elected officials, it is our duty to ensure that the laws we craft in this place achieve that goal and do not have unintended consequences because they were rushed through Parliament without proper consideration.

I support the principle of Bill C-9 as it was originally tabled by the government in May, namely, the tightening up of the use of conditional sentencing. However, the amendments made to Bill C-9 at committee were necessary and they improved the bill. They certainly do not gut the bill, as some government members and the Minister of Justice have suggested. In fact, this bill provides that a person convicted of, first, a serious personal injury offence as defined in section 752 of the Criminal Code; second, a terrorist offence; or, third, a criminal organization offence, prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more, is not eligible for a conditional sentence, nor can a conditional sentence be given where a minimum sentence for the offence applies.

We have heard rumblings that the Conservatives are planning to use justice issues as a wedge issue in the next federal election, and it appears this strategy has already begun. The Conservative government has introduced 11 justice related bills in this House, knowing full well that due to the short life of minority Parliaments, some of these bills will die on the order paper. In the next election, the Conservatives will then try to convince Canadians that all other parties are soft on crime, wrongly suggesting that we delayed or blocked this legislation.

In fact, the Liberal justice plan will fast-track 6 of the 11 justice bills, but this is typical of its style of politics. The Conservatives have yet again looked south at their republican idols and pulled a page from the Bush-Rove playbook, namely, “you either agree with us, or you're with the enemy”.

Despite the recent efforts of the party opposite, this is not the United States and this strategy will not work. It is dishonest. The Liberal Party and Liberal members in this House are not soft on crime. We want effective, smart laws. Despite what the Conservatives may try to convince Canadians, they know where we stand and the Conservatives know that I stand for effective, smart law and order measures.

I understand my time is running out. I had much more to say but I will say that we are pleased, from the opposition side, to have made our offer to fast-track the bills initiated under the former Liberal government, plus two new ones, for a total of 6 of 11 bills, and to get on with making thoughtful, smart improvements to Canada's Criminal Code, not for political gain but for the safety and well-being of Canadians.