- On the Parliament site
Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Victoria (B.C.)
Won his last election, in 2004, with 35.04% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Supply November 24th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, the member has quite rightly pointed out that money stolen from the public treasury and paid to the Liberal Party should be paid back. That is exactly what has happened. He has also called for transparency and for accountability in government. That is very appropriate, too. There should be.
Last Thursday United States authorities indicted Mr. Conrad Black of diverting some $51.8 million U.S. in the CanWest fraud scheme from Hollinger International shareholders and, this is interesting, from the Canadian taxpayers. Given the prominent role of Mr. Conrad Black and his associates, David Radler and Peter White, in the neo-con movement in this country over the last 15 years, would the deputy leader of the opposition be willing to have a release of the names of donors to the Leader of the Opposition's leadership campaign so that we could determine whether or not any of these moneys, which we only knew might have been stolen last week with this indictment, wound up in the campaign of the Leader of the Opposition?
Supply November 24th, 2005
Madam Speaker, I rose earlier to question the Leader of the Opposition, but I did not get recognized, so I will question the government House leader instead on the same subject.
We have had a great deal of discussion, quite appropriate discussion, on issues such as accountability and transparency, the possible use of taxpayers' money by political parties, and the actual use in some cases. The Leader of the Opposition failed to mention that the greatest area where we do not have transparency and where we do not have accountability is in the process whereby he became Leader of the Opposition. Nobody knows where the money that was contributed to his leadership campaign came from.
The reason I ask the hon. government House leader this question is that only last Thursday, a week ago today, Mr. Conrad Black, also known as Lord Black of Crossharbour, was indicted by the United States government of diverting some $51.8 million of United States funds in what is called in the United States by the U.S. government, the Canwest fraud scheme. This gentleman, with his two close associates, David Radler and Peter White, has been extremely prominent in the neo-Conservative media and in the neo-Conservative political movement in this country for the last decade and a half.
I think it is important. We are informed by the American government that this money was stolen from Hollinger International shareholders and the Canadian tax authorities. I would like to know from the hon. government House leader whether he is willing, at the request of the Leader of the Opposition, to have an investigation as to whether any of those moneys, which were allegedly stolen from Canadian taxpayers, wound up in the hands of a Canadian political party or in the leadership campaign of any Canadian political party leader?
Supply November 17th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I listened with considerable interest to the hon. member speak about the importance of democratic processes. He quoted Blackstone, the Constitution and the balance between legislative and executive branches, all of which are excellent. I also heard him refer frequently to other democratic principles but there is a fundamental democratic principle that he seems to have forgotten, and that is that we in the House follow rules. We have procedures and ways of going about it.
He talked time after time about the need to defeat the government. I disagree with him but, nevertheless, it is absolutely his right to bring such views forward. He then said that it was this government that was having trouble maintaining consistency. The fact is that his own party, month after month after month, since the tied vote in the House broken by the chair, has been saying that the government should immediately be defeated. That is fair enough, an official opposition is expected to do that, but what he cannot square in logic or in democratic principle is accepting a motion from the NDP that flies in the face of both, a motion that says it has lost confidence in the government but not yet. It is sort of like saying, oh yes, yes, yes, that it wishes to be in a certain state but, oh no, we cannot go there yet.
The member knows full well that the House of Commons and every other similar legislative body depends upon some fairly clear rules. The clear rule is that if there is to be a confidence vote, as there was last May, as the Tories can put forward or could have put forward at other times, then the House votes on it. If the government were to lose the vote there would then be an election because the government would resign. However this type of situation creates a forward looking system that is totally novel. They have not been able to give a single example anywhere in the British constitutional system of any other country which has had such a motion. They come forward with this concocted rubbish and say that if we do not follow it, it is undemocratic because three parties in the House believe we should follow it. I say that democracy is democracy and it means following rules. It is not simply the will of a majority.
Why has he reversed himself? Why has he turned himself into a pretzel as he tries to accept this motion instead of accepting the clear and constitutional position which the Conservative Party, up until recently, actually held?
Supply November 17th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, what struck me about the comments by the hon. member was the fact that he clearly indicated throughout his speech that he had confidence in the government and in the many things the government was bringing forward. He said that he wants these things to come along, to be voted on and that many of them he wants to see brought into law or into policy. Now, from what I heard him say, he clearly has confidence in the government.
He went on to complain about the fact that the Prime Minister would not accept something which is not within the normal rules of the House and not within normal parliamentary practice. He went on to say that because the opposition parties agree that this contorted, convoluted way of proceeding should be adopted, the Prime Minister somehow should ignore the normal procedure in the House and follow that.
It seems to me that the member simply does not have the courage of his convictions. Does he want the government defeated or does he not, as of now? If that is the case, I will have a much better idea of what I heard him say. However right now I am puzzled by his clear indication that he does not want the government defeated.
Supply November 17th, 2005
Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague from Vancouver Island as he rambled over a number of issues, but I really wonder whether he has thought through some of the issues that he raised. There are a number, but I will take up one for this comment and question, which is it is his criticism that any person who happens to have served in the House of Commons should therefore and thereafter not be considered for any appointment or public office. He made that abundantly clear in his references to David Dingwall that because that person had served here, somehow he should not be considered for any public appointment.
I point out to him that his predecessor, the Reform member of the House of Commons, Group Captain Fraser, was appointed by the Liberal government of the day, the Chrétien government, to the Veterans Appeal Board. In fact, the member would not be here if it had not been for the appointment of that gentleman to another position. Why was he appointed? Because he was qualified.
The government and Mr. Chrétien recognized that Group Captain Fraser had many qualities. I absolutely agreed as minister for British Columbia that this person was fully entitled to be considered for the appointment and in fact he got it, and so he should have. That is the predecessor of the member who got up in the House and said that those of us who have served in the House have no abilities and therefore should not be considered afterward. That is an insult to 308 members of the House of Commons who certainly should be considered for appointments, if they wish to put their names forward, following their time in the House.
It is a criticism I level also at the NDP. In fact the member for Ottawa Centre, when he ceased to be a member for a certain period, was appointed by the federal government to the Institute of Race Relations in Montreal. The leader of the NDP in Ontario was appointed ambassador to the United Nations by the federal government, an NDP politician. He is now, of course, the UN special envoy for HIV-AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis. There is Mike Harcourt, an NDP premier of B.C. In fact there is even an NDP premier of B.C. who happened to be appointed the Minister of Health of the Government of Canada.
I am saying that the hypocrisy of the Conservatives and the NDP on this issue of appointments needs to be challenged. The fact is there are people in the House who have come here with abilities. The hon. member can speak for himself as to whether or not he has them. I will leave that up to him and the people who have watched his performance on television. The fact is that people come here with abilities, and if they have abilities, they should not be barred from serving the Canadian people in some other capacity in the future simply because of public service here in the House.
It is time to stop this constant denigration of members of the House of Commons of all parties, but particularly the type of speech we just heard which boradcast criticisms on everyone who happens to have been elected for the majority party, in fact, still the party that has the largest number in the House and therefore is the government. That is the type of behaviour which casts aspersions on every member of the House. It criticizes every person who takes up public office, whether federally or provincially. It is a shame and should not be countenanced in this chamber.
It is fair enough to criticize on the issue of the sponsorship program, on the issue of the funds that went into the hands of people who did not earn the money. That is absolutely correct and positive. However, to broadcast criticism of that type is quite outrageous.
If we wished to broadcast criticisms of the Conservatives for what went on before, we would find that there was plenty, particularly when we think of the helicopter contracts of the Mulroney government.
Why does the member get up here and insult all 308 members of the House in the manner that he does? Why does he not get up here and be specific? Why does he not recognize that Group Captain Jack Fraser was a worthwhile member of the House, a worthy person for appointment, and people of other parties are also worthy of appointment when they get appointed, if that happens subsequent to their time in public life?
Pacific Gateway Act November 16th, 2005
I wish they would just listen. The reason they make mistakes is because they just do not listen over there.
The two problems of course are heavy metals, which have been dramatically reduced by source control. The other is gender bender pharmaceuticals. They would not necessarily be removed by any treatment. We find that in areas where we have treatment plants, gender benders go through at a substantial rate. Therefore, we are using source control. We are quite willing to put in treatment plants when the indications are that it would be a sensible expenditure of money.
Pacific Gateway Act November 16th, 2005
Madam Speaker, neither question is in the slightest way connected to the gateway bill.
Let me deal with the first question of the project to have a generating plant at Sumas just across the border in the Fraser Valley. The member is simply unaware. I must now tell the member, and he should understand this, that the way that project was turned down was on the basis of the science work done by Environment Canada. Without that work being presented in a dispassionate, scientific way, rather than as a partisan or political way, we would never have persuaded the authorities who were involved at the decision-making level to turn it down.
Rather than his statement that somehow or another my department that I was then responsible for was not involved, it was the key department. The member could get a large number of people who were quite willing to come to meetings, and there were plenty of them and I appreciate that work. They had a different role.
The role we had was critical in having it turned down. There can be demonstrations. People can stand up and say that they do not like an American plant across the border. If we do not get the right information before the decision makers, which in this case was the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council and the other bodies involved, including the NEB, and it is not reliable, then we do not get the right decision.
The member's position is simple, unfortunately, and I guess based on some of the comments made in a partisan sense in his area rather than on scientific information.
On the second issue dealing with Victoria, the issue has been looked at by scientists from Washington state. Unanimously, there is no negative impact on the environment. That is my riding. I do know it is surrounded by ocean on three sides. We have seven treatment plants. Wherever there is a situation that requires them we put them in. However, there are two outfalls in the south end, Macaulay Point and Clover Point.
The capital regional district is now spending some $630,000 to have a complete review on it done by an international organization with outside people. We have had that done before by Washington state scientists, Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists, and University of British Columbia scientists. We have never had a recommendation.
In fact, last week the capital regional health officer said there would be no health benefits from treating sewage in Victoria. Why? I will explain it to the hon. member. The fact is vast amounts of fast moving well oxygenated seawater moving through at anything up to six knots does what a treatment plant does artificially. It oxygenates the sewage. It eliminates the problem of pathogens. Essentially, we wind up with nutrients, just as farmers do in the member's riding who puts manure on a field. The two problems that we are always watching closely that are always very important--
Pacific Gateway Act November 16th, 2005
Madam Speaker, this is an important point which all members of the House really must understand, particularly the comments from many opposition people associated with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and others who do not understand. If governments do not make infrastructure expenditures, we will not have the educated workforce that is needed. We will not have the transportation links that we need. We also will not have the myriad of other requirements of the modern state that make it possible for us to enjoy the high standard of living about which the preceding government speaker talked. We have not had these successes--
Pacific Gateway Act November 16th, 2005
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in this debate. I regret, however, that the conceptual approach to Pacific trade has not been stressed heavily by the two previous opposition speakers.
It is important to recognize what the approach is and not to get bogged down in whether there is a specific rail bridge, or highway crossing or left turn lane for trucks, which is a problem at the present time. Every one of us from western Canada, Ontario, Quebec or the Maritimes could probably come up with quite a long list of things in their ridings for which they would like federal money.
We have to recognize this is a very strategic issue. As we know, Canada was created because of the construction of western rail transportation links to British Columbia. That is why my province came to be in 1871 instead of 1867. However, because there was a considerable length of time, while the railway was being built, there were some doubts as to whether that connection with Canada would remain.
We have created the links and the fastest transportation system from the Orient to Europe. Crossing the Pacific by Canadian Pacific ships, or crossing Canada by Canadian Pacific Railroad or crossing the Atlantic by a number of shipping lines was the closest and fastest connection. We developed extensive trade through the port of Vancouver and eastern ports as well by that means.
This also should be looked at not just from the point of view of Canadian exports and imports, but as something which will allow us to continue that same type of development. This time it would not necessarily be to Europe. Through the United States, we would have the ability to bring goods in from China, South Korea, Japan and other countries of Asia. Then they could be distributed by rail throughout North America, Canada and the United States, and even Mexico as well. This is where we have some real advantages. I know that will be pursued because it has been the approach over time with our development of western transportation.
I had a look at the speeches of the opposition when this was first presented. The major criticism is that this does not do enough, and I believe $4 billion was mentioned as being necessary for transportation improvements in western Canada. Maybe it does not and maybe $4 billion is the correct figure. I am quite sure that if we all got together, we could work that up to about $10 billion or $15 billion quite easily, as we added little things or big things to the list.
We are starting with a more conceptual approach to the whole issue, not just of the port of Vancouver trade, or the port of Prince Rupert trade or the port of Victoria trade, but of the whole Pacific coast and the rest of Canada in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and right through to Ontario. A lot of trade will cross this link through the facilities, about which we have spoken, into Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes as well. As I mentioned a moment ago, they will also cross into the United States. Remember that this is an attempt to take a more strategic look.
The Vancouver airport has similarly attempted to place itself as the gateway. We have been talking about that time after time in the House and outside of it. Those of us who have been involved in public life in British Columbia over the last decade and a half and before have talked about the need to ensure that same concept of making the west coast the gateway for this tremendous development takes place in Asia as well.
I should add that the trade increases in the countries involved are extensive. We should never overlook the importance of Japan. Much of the talk has been about Korea. I gather the Conservative Party's first spokesman on this did not like the levels of trade with Korea. He thinks it is a hazard to us in some respects such as the automobile industry. That is fine. I think we can compete and he does not. That is a point we will see in due course.
Also, we should recognize that there is a tremendous increase in China trade which has taken place. I have had the privilege of seeing that. I also had the privilege of living a good part of my life on the other side of the Pacific in then British crown colony of Hong Kong , now the autonomous region of China. Before me, my father spent some 30 years in Hong Kong. There has been a close family connection with the Pacific transportation link that had the family partly in Hong Kong and partly in Victoria.
There is a tremendous opportunity in China, but we must not overlook the opportunity in Japan. Once again, I would differ with my Conservative friends across the way who have said that somehow to deal with China, we have to link up with Japanese companies. That is not the case. We can compete directly. We can link up with Japanese companies, European companies, American companies or companies from anywhere else in the world. However, there is no need to think that there is any particular country which will be our logical and obvious partner in a general sense for trade with China, any other country other than China itself.
This proposal, as has been pointed out rather frequently, is for a council. The criticism that has been made is that the council has some $30 million or $35 million allocated, under the approach outlined by the hon. the Minister for Multiculturalism when the bill was introduced, and that this is somehow too much or extravagant. Those criticisms may be correct. Time will tell.
However, as I mentioned to my hon. friend from Edmonton who spoke earlier today, my concern is more the issue of duplication of roles. We have the gateway council. It is only advisory to the various governments. Therefore, the representative from the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan or British Columbia who sits on the gateway council will be unable to negotiate or discuss with any authority to make decisions. That is a weakness at which we will have to look.
It seems to me that frequently we set up councils of this type. Then when they in turn report to the provincial government of British Columbia, the federal Department of Transport, the Alberta minister of overseas trade or the Manitoba minister of agriculture, as the case may be, we start to get a disaggregated voice and we do not have the correct line authority to make decisions.
If the council is to be so important, all governments should consider giving it the authority to make such decisions and giving it a separate budget much greater than $30 million. However, if on the other hand we just want the views of a wide-ranging number of people, I have to admit I kind of wonder why the Government of Canada and Minister of Transport would not pick up the phone to the Alberta minister of trade, or the British Columbia minister of forests responsible for wood exports or something like that. We know what will happen. We know those intergovernmental connections will be made. Therefore, I see the role of the council as being a bit difficult to envisage in the smooth working system of decision making which I think should take place.
That is something we have to watch for, and we certainly will. The costs of it are definitely very important.
I would like to quickly point out however, as a British Columbia member of the House, that there has been strong support for the gateway concept. The Premier of British Columbia, the hon. Gordon Campbell, has been very supportive. He said:
It is critical that we recognize our [transportation] infrastructure reaches beyond the mountains....This Gateway will invite jobs and opportunities into the country, and invite people to come and trade through Canada to provide their goods to North America.
That was a very positive statement. We recognize and thank Premier Campbell for those comments.
Gordon Houston, the president and CEO of the Vancouver Port Authority, called the initiative a “great announcement”. He said:
The federal government's announcement of $600 million in funding for infrastructure and programs to enhance the Pacific Gateway takes British Columbia's ports a giant step closer to realizing the tremendous economic potential of expanding Asia-Pacific trade...
Fred Green, the executive VP of CP Rail, praised the announcement as:
--an encouraging sign to the private sector...The federal initiative helps further strengthen the Pacific Gateway as a key access point for all of North America. It also complements the Province of British Columbia's efforts to reinforce the importance of the gateway.
Bruce Burrows is another very important player in the transportation sector. He is the acting president and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada. He praised the strategy for helping to fast track infrastructure needed to “enhance Canada's role as a preferred trading partner with China”.
Mr. Burrows also said:
--the federal funds to be spent on Canada's international trade routes, coupled with the railways' own operational and capital spending plans, will help them cope with their customers' significant growth in overseas trade.
Many others have added comments.
Kevin Evans, vice-president of the Retail Council of Canada, welcomed the strategy “as strengthening Canada's position as a trading partner with China”. The Canadian Trucking Alliance talked about this. Peter Marshall, vice-president for western Canada for CN Rail, praised it. I will not go on. There is very strong support for this strategy, and I am trying to give a flavour of it.
I come back to where I started this discussion. In debates like this we have to recognize the importance of taking an approach which is beyond simply specifics of political advantage on a day to day basis. We need to spend public money to get good infrastructure. If we do not, the private sector does not have a prayer of taking advantage of economic opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region. I hope this final point is well understood. We have heard it misapplied and misunderstood time after time by the opposition. We need to have public expenditures at a level for a number of--