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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was agency.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Hamilton Mountain (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2004, with 34.81% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Transportation Amendment Act November 28th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, this may be my last chance to speak in the House as I will be retiring on election day. I guess my comments are directed toward the transport bill because I have been fortunate to use Air Canada and other airlines in Canada to travel to and from my riding.

I would like to thank the people of Hamilton Mountain, my constituency, for allowing me to represent them for 17 years. It certainly has been a privilege.

I would like to thank everybody who helped me get elected and has helped to keep me elected. We cannot do it on our own. They have helped me accomplish my work in the riding and across the country. Sometimes it is with a phone call or a letter, or sometimes it is with a cup of tea. However, it is those people who keep reminding us and phoning us, and saying we are not doing this or we are not doing that, or could we do this who keep us on the ball and ensure that we are doing our job right.

I would also like to thank my colleagues in the House, the staff in the House of Commons and the staff I have had over the years for their support. I am doing this just in case. I have tried over the years to thank everybody who has helped, but I always miss out on somebody. So I am hoping that I can cover everything now.

Finally, I would like to thank my family and friends who, as we all know, get neglected during this period of time. There can be months and years that we do not speak to our friends or have time to spend with them. So now I will have some time to spend with them and I will be very happy to do that again.

It has been a great privilege to work here on behalf of my riding and on behalf of Canadians. Again, I thank everybody who has had anything to do with making my time here on the Hill more pleasant.

Hamilton Police Services Awards June 20th, 2005

Madam Speaker, the Hamilton Police Services recently recognized the outstanding performance, courage and service of both its staff and the citizens of the Hamilton community.

Detective Troy Ashbaugh and Constable Don Sauvé were the recipients of the 2004 Members of the Year Award in recognition of the brave actions while off duty.

Citizen Sabrina Pelone was given the Award of Courage for risking her life to help someone else in danger.

Safety Patroller of the Year winner, grade 8 student Navneet Randhawa was recognized for her dedication in promoting the safety of all her classmates at Memorial Public School.

Division 10 received the James Elliott Safe Driving Award for the best police vehicle accident record.

Detectives David Doel and Hank Thorne were honoured with the Thomas J. Fitzgerald Memorial Award for excellence in forensic services.

Congratulations and thanks to these and to all other winners for making Hamilton a safer place to live.

Seniors Month June 13th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, June is Seniors Month. I want to recognize the contribution of seniors, particularly those in my riding of Hamilton Mountain.

With advances in technology and medicine, seniors are living longer, healthier lives while continuing to contribute to both the social fabric and the economic prosperity of Canada.

Sackville Senior Centre in my riding has approximately 1,400 active members participating in a variety of mentally and physically challenging activities.

The percentage of seniors in Canada is growing rapidly, which requires that we remain diligent in protecting health and pension supports.

The government has shown its commitment to seniors in the present budget by increasing the guaranteed income supplement, by increasing support to the new horizons program and by increasing support to caregivers. In fact, most of the features in the present budget will help seniors.

I thank all seniors for their support, enrichment and inspiration.

Tsunami Relief June 10th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the enormity of the tsunami disaster of December 26, 2004 continues to touch the world.

McMaster University philosophy Professor Alison Miculan and student Anushka Joseph recently travelled to Sri Lanka to see how they could help. They met women who, as a result of the tsunami, are widows. The women expressed that they dreamed of having homes and of being financially independent.

This August with the help of Relief Aid International, a non-profit organization from McMaster University, 20 to 30 people from Hamilton plan to travel to Sri Lanka. They will build a village for 50 of these women and their families and establish a local trade for the women to support themselves and their children. Professor Miculan has told us that the widows feel this project has given them back their freedom.

Congratulations to Professor Miculan and all those involved in the project for their contribution to the rebuilding efforts of Sri Lanka.

Job Finding Club June 6th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, I was pleased last week to announce the funding of $174,000 for a project at the Neighbour to Neighbour Centre in my riding of Hamilton Mountain. This money will go toward the centre's Job Finding Club. The program includes workshops on how to prepare for job interviewing and how to write resumes, employment counselling and computer orientation.

The Job Finding Club also provides critical resources such as Internet and job bank access, city transportation, and child care during workshops. The club boasts and impressive 90% success rate.

I applaud the centre for effectively teaching people the skills and providing the necessary tools and guidance for integration into the workforce. I thank Human Resources and Skills Development for providing this much needed support.

Cecilioni Award May 30th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate Dr. Brian McCarry, the 2004 recipient of the Dr. Victor Cecilioni Award for Environmentalist of the Year.

Dr. McCarry is a McMaster University chemistry professor who helped to develop an innovative process of analyzing water sediments and air pollutants. Health Canada estimates that almost 6,000 deaths a year can be attributed to air pollution. Dr. McCarry is determined to find the answers to some of our most pressing environmental concerns, in particular the effects of the environment on our physical well-being.

Among his many involvements he is the chair of Clean Air Hamilton. This group, comprised of local stakeholders and representatives from all levels of government, is committed to improving the air we breathe in the city of Hamilton.

Congratulations and best of luck to Dr. McCarry who has now been nominated for the 2005 Canadian Environmental Award in recognition of his achievements in the category of climate change.

Ontario Newspaper Awards May 5th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate the 2005 Ontario Newspaper Award winners.

The Hamilton Spectator was the evening's major winner, with nine awards. Jon Wells was the recipient of the Journalist of the Year award and the Wayne MacDonald award for narrative writing.

The ceremony also recognized the work of Hamilton Spectator sportswriter Scott Radley, arts and entertainment writer Graham Rockingham and portrait photographer Scott Gardner.

Other award winners from the Spectator include enterprise journalists Fred Vallance-Jones and Steve Buist, and the business news team of Natalie Alcoba, Steve Arnold, Tara Perkins, Joan Walters and Steve Buist.

Let me once again say congratulations to all the winners. Their accomplishments bring pride and recognition to the city of Hamilton. It is through their work that we are continually educated, enlightened and entertained.

I wish the best of luck to the Hamilton Spectator journalists who are finalists in the upcoming 56th annual national newspaper awards.

National Volunteer Week April 20th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague just stated, it is National Volunteer Week in Canada. This is an annual event to pay tribute to Canada's 6.5 million volunteers. It is estimated that the value of their work is over $14 billion a year. This contribution by Canadians of all ages is enormous, whether in sports, cultural activities or in helping each other in tough situations.

Volunteers are the backbone of a compassionate society. I challenge all Canadians to become involved in some voluntary activity. Whether big or small, their contribution will not go unnoticed and the philanthropic spirit of this country will grow.

This week we thank our volunteers for their contribution to the continued health and prosperity of our society.

Science and Engineering April 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School student Natalie Raso for her contributions and excellence in the field of science. Natalie was recently awarded first prize in the 45th annual Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair for her study on treating cancer using virus therapy.

Her success has earned her a spot at the Canada-wide science fair in Vancouver. She has also been chosen by a panel of experts to be a member of Team Canada, representing our country at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix next month.

Natalie commented yesterday that she is excited to be representing the Hamilton community and Canada to show people what great scientific achievements are happening in our city and country.

I once again extend congratulations to Natalie and wish her the best of luck in future competitions.

Employment Insurance Act April 12th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-280, which seeks to make changes in Canada's Employment Insurance Act and the Department of Human Resources Development Act.

The bill raises two key issues with respect to our employment insurance system. One is the proposed creation of an independent 17 member tripartite commission that would replace the current 4 member commission. The proposed commission is designed to be at arm's length from the government.

The other change is the treatment of the employment insurance account within the general accounts of the Government of Canada. The bill proposes to keep the account separate and under the control of the new commission.

These are important points. In fact, they are similar to issues that have already been raised by the Standing Committee on Human Resources and Skills Development which has made its own recommendations on these matters.

The government welcomes and takes seriously the standing committee's unanimous recommendations and is considering them very carefully. We pledge to report back to Parliament within the prescribed 150 days.

It is important to note that the government has already moved to address issues raised in the bill. In December 2004, the Government of Canada decreased EI premium rates for 2005. As a result, employee premiums are now down to $1.95 per $100 of earnings and the employer rates are down to $2.73 per $100 of insurable earnings.

This latest decrease represents the 11th consecutive reduction in EI premiums since 1993. This means employers and employees will pay some $10.5 billion less in premiums this year than they would have paid under the 1994 rates and, at the individual level, it means employees who make maximum contributions are paying $485 less this year in annual premiums than if the 1994 rates were still in place. This is good news.

The government has also committed to put in place a new rate setting mechanism for EI premiums. Our recent federal budget has done exactly that. Following public consultations, the government pledged to develop a new permanent rate setting mechanism based on five key principles: first, premium rates should be set transparently; second, changes should be based on independent expert advice; third, expected revenues from premiums should correspond to expected program costs; fourth, rate setting should mitigate the impact on the business cycle; and fifth, premium rates should be relatively stable over time.

The proposed new rate setting mechanism is built on the experience that has already led to steady reductions in EI premium rates and it takes into account the views of stakeholders and the standing committee of the House of Commons.

Under the proposed new mechanism, the EI chief actuary would estimate the break-even rate for the coming year. He would then provide a report of this calculation to the EI Commission. The commission would then make this report public as soon as possible. Stakeholders would be consulted, after which a rate would be set by the commission for the coming year. Fifteen cents would be the extent to which an employee premium rate could change from year to year. Our goal would be to ensure premium rate stability and limit any negative impact on the business cycle. The last thing we would want is to see a spike in premium rates during an economic downturn.

In addition, the legislation sets out that the rates for 2006-07 will not exceed $1.95. This is intended to provide additional premium rate stability through the transition to a new rate setting mechanism.

Finally, the Government of Canada would have the authority to override the rates set by the commission, if it were in the public interest to do so, through an order in council.

Let us look now at the proposal in Bill C-280 to separate the employment insurance account from the general accounts of Canada.

In the 1980s the government of the day, a government of a different political stripe than today, acting on the advice of the then auditor general, moved to consolidate the EI account with the government's general account. This was more than a bookkeeping move. It was based on sound public policy principles.

Consolidating the accounts, means the government bears the full responsibility for the obligations of the program.

It is important to remember that some years ago serious concerns were being raised that the old unemployment insurance account was not sustainable because it was operating at deficit. At that time, Canadians were concerned that the program's obligations were greater than its revenues, but were comforted by knowing that the payments were supported by the Government of Canada.

Today the EI account is on a much more sustainable footing and the principle of the government responsibility for paying benefits under the program remains.

Moving the EI account out of the government's general account and to an independent agency requires careful analysis of its effects on the accountability and the government's obligation to pay benefits.

I would also remind the House that from an accounting perspective, today's Auditor General, like her predecessors, also believes the EI account should be consolidated with the government's general account.

In testimony to the public accounts committee on November 2004, for example, the Auditor General said:

--this is the correct method of accounting and it complies with accounting standards for government as promulgated by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.

She also said:

--I have trouble imagining that the employment insurance program could be excluded from the government's summary financial statements, which include all government activities.

Separating the EI account from the government's overall accounts, as Bill C-280 proposes, may not be consistent with the opinions of the Auditor General.

Finally, there is the issue of structure of the EI commission that Bill C-280 proposes. The bill would replace the current four person commission that administers the EI account by creating a new 17 member commission. I am not sure how the number 17 was arrived at, but I wonder about the implications of this proposal. For example, would a commission more than four times as big cost more than four times as much to operate? If it did, would these funds not be better used to provide benefits to Canadians?

There would also be the issue of achieving consensus on decisions among such a large number of individuals. The current commission is composed of two senior public officials, along with one person representing employers and one representing employees. It is important to note that only one of the two senior public officials gets a vote, which reinforces the parity issue among the three partners. Having a much larger group requires careful examination in terms of cost and effectiveness.

The government is committed to monitoring and assessing the EI program to ensure that it remains responsive to the Canadian people. The Speech from the Throne reiterated this commitment and the February budget as well as the EI program enhancements announced following the budget acted on it.

Clearly, the government has demonstrated its willingness, indeed its desire, to assist workers to adapt to today's labour market, while keeping EI flexible and responsive to the needs of Canadians.

It is for the reasons I have outlined that I am unable to support the legislation changes proposed in Bill C-280.