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Elsewhere

Last in Parliament May 2005, as Liberal MP for Richmond (B.C.)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 18.70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Chinese New Year February 4th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, Chinese New Year is an elaborate, colourful and joyous time when families and friends gather to celebrate over traditional new year foods and delicacies.

As the third largest ethnic group, with over one million Chinese Canadians, Chinese New Year has become a major celebration for many Canadians. Residents in my riding of Richmond, British Columbia invite all Canadians to join them in celebrating Chinese New Year with a national holiday across our land.

Please join me in wishing all Canadians a healthy, prosperous and successful Year of the Monkey.

Police and Peace Officers National Memorial Day September 26th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, this weekend, thousands of police and peace officers will gather on Parliament Hill to honour colleagues who have died in the line of duty.

They meet annually to keep their memory alive and to ensure that the magnitude of their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

This year a young officer from Richmond, British Columbia will be honoured. Jimmy Ng was just 32 years old and a six year member of the RCMP when he was killed in the line of duty in a motor vehicle collision last September.

Jimmy was a well-respected and dedicated police officer. His fellow officers paid tribute to his memory last weekend outside the Richmond RCMP detachment by unveiling a plaque in his name and his honour. His colleagues fondly remembered him as an officer who “led by doing and showing” and exemplified the RCMP's core values of honesty, integrity and professionalism.

Jimmy is truly missed.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions September 23rd, 2003

Madam Speaker, I wanted to take part in this debate on Motion No.394 put forward by the hon. member for Trois-Rivières for several reasons.

In a nutshell, this motion is to recognize Quebec as a nation. It states that, since Quebec did not sign the social union framework union of 1999, the Quebec government should therefore have, and I quote:

—the right to opt out of any federal initiative encroaching upon Quebec jurisdiction, with full financial compensation.

The hon. member's motion raises several questions I would be hard pressed to deal with in any degree of detail during the time allotted me. Still, I would like to touch on them and focus on those aspects that seem fundamental to me, that is, the concept of nation, as the Bloc Quebecois and my hon. colleague seem to understand it, the legitimate role played by the Canadian government in the social field, and the need for cooperation among partners in the Canadian federation.

First, let us agree that the Canadian social union is central to the life of the country. It refers not only to the wide variety of social programs available to Canadians from coast to coast, but also and more importantly to the underlying common values of compassion, generosity and solidarity. it is an essential and incontrovertible component of the Canadian identity.

When we look at all that has marked the building and shaping of our social union, we are struck by how this great and noble endeavour adapted to the times.

Following the constitutional amendment providing for the establishment of a national unemployment insurance program in 1940 and the passage of the appropriate legislation by the House of Commons the following year, Saskatchewan introduced a hospital insurance program in 1947, followed, two years later, by Alberta and British Columbia.

In 1957, the federal government offered to share costs with any province which introduced similar programs. In 1961, Saskatchewan innovated again, with universal healthcare. A few years later, the other provinces signed on to a program jointly funded by the federal government.

Over the course of the next few decades, other programs were introduced, which had a direct impact on the enviable quality of life enjoyed by all Canadians, including Quebeckers. By the end of 1990, the governments in our federation undertook to update Canada's social union by making it more efficient and tailored to the realities of the new century.

The motion before us does not refer to the need for closer cooperation between the countries' governments. It proposes that the House of Commons acknowledge Quebec as a nation. It is less about determining whether Quebec is a nation than it is about determining how we can work together, with all our partners in the federation, including Quebec, to improve our country and the policies in place, to better respond to the needs and aspirations of the Canadian public, including Quebeckers.

Numerous definitions can be given to the concept of nation, and we have heard a few. However, that is not the issue that Quebeckers want to see their governments spending their energy on and investing their efforts in. Quebeckers want to see their leaders work together and not get into semantics or, worse, break up a country that works well and one they have every reason to be proud of.

The motion mentions that the Government of Quebec is not a signatory to the social union framework. Allow me to describe the context in which the negotiations for this 1999 agreement were held. The negotiations took place during a first ministers' meeting that was held on December 11 and 12, 1997, at the end of which the heads of government expressed their will to work together in the many areas that were considered a priority by all the partners of the federation and by Canadians. The social union was at the heart of these discussions.

Unfortunately, the Government of Quebec at the time decided not to be a party to the federal-provincial initiative for social policies. It was not until later, in 1998, that Quebec finally tried to take part in the negotiations.

The purpose of this motion is not to find a mechanism for improving social policies. The Bloc's objectives in this House are completely different, and this motion is more than enough to remind us of that.

This motion seeks only to paint a picture of Quebec as not being well served by the Canadian federation. It neglects to mention the considerable independence the provinces have within the country. Over the years, numerous arrangements, notably of an administrative nature, were made to allow the provinces to assume their full role within our federation. Quebec was not excluded from this movement.

Both levels of government are better able to agree because they both have a real desire, a political will, to reinforce the federation for the benefit of all. This desire must, however, come from both sides and not just ours. The Quebec government has lacked this desire since September 1994. This desire to cooperate, with respect for each other's jurisdiction, appeared with the election of Jean Charest as Premier of Quebec.

Not that intergovernmental relations between Quebec and federal government will be completely harmonious. Such differences are normal in a political system such as ours. Their resolution will require constructive, fruitful discussions based on the common good. Such differences will highlight our shared desire to build a future in keeping with our expectations and dreams.

This motion illustrates two different ideas of Canada's social union. The Bloc continues to talk about the right to opt out with full financial compensation. The governments in our federation have proposed a new vision. This vision is working, and the framework agreement of February 4, 1999, has implemented it. It has led to the creation of a new model of federal-provincial cooperation, the “race for the top” model. This model will first lead governments to agree on priorities and objectives.

This model proposes a flexible approach based on cooperation, and it reinforces the ability of governments to work together to achieve shared goals. It promotes consensus-building, innovation and experimentation, with consideration for diverse needs. This model has already been put to the test, and we can all be proud of it.

I am fully convinced that Quebeckers, like other Canadians, want to join this collaborative effort, and that all of us will be better off as a result.

Homelessness September 22nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the valuable contribution the national homelessness initiative has made to my riding of Richmond. Through this initiative, the government provided Chimo Crisis Services with $697,000 to help build a transition house for needy families. The homelessness initiative also provided $390,000 for a non-profit family housing development in Richmond.

Based on the success of the initiative and the continuing need to support homelessness people, the Government of Canada has renewed the national homeless initiative for an additional three years with a $405 million investment.

The continuation of the initiative will help communities, such as Richmond, to continue their efforts to reduce homelessness and to focus on longer term solutions, such as transitional and supportive housing.

User Fees Act September 18th, 2003

Madam Speaker, let me begin by acknowledging the efforts and the hard work of our colleague, the member for Etobicoke North, aimed at improving the management of user charging.

The government also shares his desire to improve the fee setting process. It is in that spirit that in August the President of the Treasury Board announced the revised external charging policy and this policy is now in effect. I believe it addresses many of the concerns raised by my hon. colleague. I am confident that a policy based approach is more effective than passing Bill C-212 into law. For those reasons I join with the government in not supporting Bill C-212.

The government demonstrated its commitment to make improvements to external charging when it launched its review of the policy. The government consulted with stakeholders in industry associations and firms which pay federal user charges. The government heard from members of Parliament and in particular, members of the Standing Committee on Finance.

The review found that stakeholders, generally, expressed support for the policy's underlying principles of equity and fairness. However, the review did raise a number of important issues, concerns that need a resolution. And the government has indeed responded with a revised policy.

The revised policy builds on this solid foundation to meet the concerns raised during the review, concerns like the key elements of our colleague's bill.

For instance, the revised policy strongly reinforces the link between fees and service performance. Now departments through stakeholder consultations must establish service standards and the action to be taken if these standards are not met.

Another example is the revised policy requires departments to communicate more clearly their dispute management processes and make them available to stakeholders.

In the review, the call of parliamentarians for more complete reporting on external charging was heard loudly and clearly and the impact on the policy is clear. Under the revised policy, departments will now annually report in much greater detail on cost, revenue and performance information to Parliament, and to the public as well, through the public accounts, annual departmental performance reports and annual reports on plans and priorities.

These major improvements taken together with the other revisions demonstrate that retaining a policy based approach has many advantages over Bill C-212.

It should also be noted that the bill and the policy are in many ways in sync, in terms of their underlying objectives of improving accountability, transparency and service delivery. But there are, however, important functional and operational differences.

The policy is more compatible with existing accountabilities in that it is consistent with the notion of ministerial responsibility, namely that ministers are responsible for the fees and charges emanating from their departments. It respects the existing roles of cabinet committees and it strengthens reporting to parliament through existing vehicles, notably the public accounts, departmental performance reports and reports on plans and priorities.

Via this reporting, the role of members of Parliament and committees is also strengthened. Committees can and should call for the departmental officials or ministers and stakeholders alike to question them on the charging activities of their departments.

I believe that this approach, while maintaining the gist of our colleague's bill, is a more balanced one. Bill C-212's perspective appears to be based on the issues known to affect a relatively low number of regulatory programs.

Bill C-212's provisions would remove flexibility and incur additional costs and workload in all programs with charges, not simply the ones that have been the focus of stakeholder concerns. For example, it suggests that every department establish an independent dispute management process, when in fact the policy review indicated that most departments were handling disputes to the satisfaction of their stakeholders.

Bill C-212 also contains explicit consequences for departments that miss their service standards. The revised policy shares this concern with service commitments and departmental performance but its approach is proactive, not punitive, and focuses on consultation and reporting on achievement. It requires consultation on feasible options that can be taken if standards cannot be met. This openly recognizes that a one size fits all consequence, like the fee rebate envisioned by the bill, may not be the best response in all cases.

If paying users are right in saying that service improvement is the key issue, as I believe they are, then we must examine each case on its own merits and find solutions that fit the specific circumstances case by case.

Rebates will not provide a useful signal for a program where funding constraints have an impact on service. They will simply reduce funding and increase red tape.

In that light fee rebates are not a consequence only for the department but for the stakeholder too because they want to see the service improved, not worsened by a focus on disputes, conflict and punishment.

Bill C-212 in general will overhaul authorities and accountabilities as we presently understand them in Parliament but its consequences are not clear and are potentially negative in nature.

For example, it does not define, but appears to fully endorse, the concept of independent dispute resolution.This needs to be fleshed out or we risk undermining the principle of ministerial accountability with no clear vision of how responsible decision making is to occur. The policy by comparison provides greater clarity, as it recognizes a role for independent advisory panels in providing recommendations to ministers.

By passing the bill into law, paying users would be able to take their disputes to court thus potentially giving Canada's judiciary the final say on external charging practices. Bill C-212 would effectively reduce Parliament's role rather than strengthen it.

It is for these reasons, with all due respect to the hard work and solid approach taken by our colleague from Etobicoke North that I feel strongly that Canadians are better served by working within our existing policy based approach.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act September 17th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour to rise today to discuss Bill C-49 and to speak forcefully for the bill as the member of Parliament for Richmond. Richmond is in one of the fastest growing areas of this great country of ours, the greater Vancouver area, and in one of the fastest growing provinces, British Columbia.

The bill would ensure that Canada's new electoral boundaries are put in place as soon as possible and give the government the flexibility that it needs and that democracy needs to go to the people to ensure that the changing dynamics and demographics of our country are represented.

The bill's concept is simple, but its purpose is essential. It would achieve more effective representation for all Canadians with the least possible delay by ensuring that Canada's electoral map reflects our changing demographics.

The Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons has explained the rationale for the bill, its context, and why it is important to accelerate the effective date of the 2003 representation order. I would like to go through some of the points contained in the bill.

Electoral redistribution is essential to the vitality of our electoral system. It would renew our national electoral blueprint by ensuring that the floor of the House fully reflects the communities we come from and that the voices of all Canadians are properly heard.

The periodic readjustment of electoral boundaries is critical to maintaining this vitality and is necessary if our system is to remain truly representative. Timely redistribution acknowledges a reality that we all live and breathe, that the Canadian population is dynamic and is in constant state of flux.

We know this from our experience and from the census data that reveals the shift of people moving from province to province, from town to city, and from centre to suburb. Newcomers arrive on our shores, children are born, communities blossom and sometimes disappear. The only constant thing is change itself. We must ensure that our electoral system accommodates and reflects these patterns.

There is no other area in this country which I believe better reflects these points than the greater Vancouver area. The greater Vancouver area will see an influx of three seats which is in keeping with the demographics and not only internally in the province. The interior has lost a seat but the greater Vancouver area will gain a seat. We have also seen people from all over the world come to the greater Vancouver area. My City of Richmond has had an increase in population of 22,000 people since the last census. My colleague across the floor from Surrey will see the addition of two seats as well as shifts all over.

That is why we must move quickly on the bill. We must ensure that our electoral system accommodates and reflects the patterns that I and other members have discussed prior to me rising today. That is why our Constitution wisely requires a redistribution after each decennial census in order to ensure that the electoral map reflects the changing face of Canada and that it does so in a timely fashion. As I mentioned, in 10 years Richmond has seen a population increase of 22,000 people. The greater Vancouver area has seen an increase of at least 40,000 or 50,000 people.

Though often regarded as the rallying cry of American independence, this principle is no less deeply enshrined in our country. Indeed, along with the rights of all citizens to vote in free and fair elections, this is the very touchstone of democracy.

What does this have to do with the bill that we have before us today? A great deal, because we are now in a situation where Canada's new electoral map has been finalized. The independent commissions have done their work. Hearings have been held and decisions have been made. An updated electoral map, presenting a truer reflection of Canadian reality, is ready. All that remains is to bring the new boundaries into effect.

Naturally, some period of adjustment is necessary to enable the election machinery to catch up.

Elections Canada and political parties must orient themselves to the new ridings. This cannot happen overnight, nor should we underestimate the amount of work which would be involved. That is precisely why the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act provides for a grace period of one year.

At the same time, we must remember that the longer that implementation of new boundaries is delayed, the longer we remain with an electoral map that is outdated and not as representative as it could and should be.

The period of adjustment should be as short as is operationally possible. That is why I am gratified that the Chief Electoral Officer has indicated that Elections Canada could be ready to proceed with the new boundaries by April 1, 2004. This is four and a half months sooner than the grace period provided by statute, meaning that Canadians would have an electoral map that better reflects their demographic face much sooner in the greater Vancouver area, in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and right across the country.

What does this mean in practice? Why is it important that the new ridings be in place as soon as practically feasible? For one thing, the new electoral map will increase the size of this House by seven members.

British Columbia and Alberta will receive two new seats each and Ontario three. It is important to those provinces that their relative increases in population be reflected in the composition of this Chamber. To do otherwise would work a serious disservice to their citizens. However, even in provinces that do not gain seats, the need to proceed with redistribution as soon as possible is also important.

We can all think of ridings whose populations have grown dramatically since the 1991 census, with all of the challenges that growth presents for the members concerned and their constituents. The situation is not unique. It is not fair to allow this situation to prevail any longer than absolutely necessary. To do so would unnecessarily jeopardize the principle of effective representation that lies at the heart of Canada's electoral democracy.

In its definitive first pronouncement on the meaning of the right to vote as enshrined in our Constitution, the Supreme Court of Canada identified effective representation as the core principle that must guide electoral redistribution. The court's eloquent words remind us of what is at stake. As Madam Justice McLachlin stated:

Ours is a representative democracy. Each citizen is entitled to be represented in government.

Obviously, that is why periodic redistribution is critical. However, as Madam Justice McLachlin continued:

But parity of voting power, though of prime importance, is not the only factor to be taken into account in ensuring effective representation...Factors like geography, community history, community interests and minority representation may need to be taken into account to ensure that our legislative assemblies effectively represent the diversity of our social mosaic.

I am not suggesting that we have reached a point right now where we must act today. What I do know is that implementing Canada's new electoral map sooner rather than later and with the least possible delay is the best means to avoid having a lack of representation here in Canada and diluting the true representation Canadians ought to have in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, but also in changes that are occurring within the other provinces.

Let me conclude by asking all members of all parties to join with me in supporting the bill and delivering more effective representation to all Canadians with the least possible delay.

Criminal Code September 15th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying that Bill C-45 should be supported as it will make a great contribution to promoting safety in the workplace. As was stated earlier on, the hearings of the standing committee had their origins ultimately in the Westray tragedy, and I believe all members wish to do what they can as legislators at the federal level to eliminate as much as we possibly can, deaths and injuries on the job.

The Criminal Code is not the primary way of promoting safety. Strong laws governing the workplace, like those which this government introduced into the Canada Labour Code, vigorous inspection of farm factories, mines and other high risk work sites and training workers and supervisors in the best safety practices are the first line of defence. However the Criminal Code does represent the judgment of Parliament as to what conduct is so harmful that it must be treated with the utmost severity.

Within the code there are distinctions in the severity of the sentence possible, ranging from the most minor offences punishable only on summary conviction to the most serious punishable by life imprisonment. Causing death by criminal negligence is among those offences that are punishable by life and causing bodily harm is punishable by 10 years of imprisonment. Despite the fact that these provisions have been in the code for many years, prosecutions of corporations for death and injury in the workplace have been rare. These changes in Bill C-45 should lead to more accountability for the most serious cases of endangering workers.

Members of the House may be interested to know that outside experts in the field have come to the same conclusion. Cheryl A. Edwards, a lawyer in private practice in Toronto, wrote an article in the August 22 edition of the Lawyers Weekly . The opening paragraph of the article states:

On June 12, 2003, the prospect of both regulatory and Criminal Code prosecutions emanating from a serious workplace accident became much more real. The federal government introduced anticipated amendments to the Criminal Code in Bill C-45, which, if passed, will create positive occupational health and safety-related duties for corporations, individuals, and other parties defined as “organizations”. Bill C-45 will make it easier to convict those parties of criminal negligence for workplace safety violations.

Let us then deal with Bill C-45 as others have, but I would like to also elaborate on this point. What are the elements of Bill C-45 that will enhance the effectiveness of the Criminal Code in holding corporations accountable for safety?

First, there will be the positive duty imposed on those who undertake or have the authority to direct how another person does work to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to any person arising from that work. Application of existing criminal negligence provisions would mean that those parties that fail in this duty and show wanton and reckless disregard for safety in doing so could be found criminally negligent.

Similar duties already exist in statutes and regulations governing the conduct of various businesses and even in the common law. Placing the duty, however, in the Criminal Code is an important signal that Parliament intends that everyone take their responsibility for worker safety very seriously.

The criminal negligence sections of the code already impose a legal duty on parents and spouses to provide the necessities of life and on anyone who undertakes to administer surgical or medical treatment to another to use reasonable knowledge, skill and care. It is right that the duty to protect workers and the public from foreseeable harm be placed in the Criminal Code and so treated in the same way as these other duties.

The mere fact that the legal duty is in the code may also serve to simplify some prosecutions. It can also serve as a wake-up call to those who direct work. Reckless disregard of the duty of care can lead to imprisonment for a very long time.

With respect to corporations that are charged with criminal negligence, the rules for attribution of liability set out in the proposed new section 22.2 of the Criminal Code will make it somewhat easier to establish liability of the corporation than is the case under existing common law rules.

Those rules establish a two step procedure. First, the crown would have to show that the actions of a single corporate representative or group of representatives demonstrated a lack of care that constituted a breach of the new legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm. Then the crown would have to show that a senior officer either acted or failed to act in a way which was in a marked departure from that which could be expected of a senior officer in the circumstances.

Both representative and senior officer are defined. Corporations will be liable for the physical acts and the omissions of the director, partner, employee, member, agent or contractor of the corporation. An important innovation of the proposed reform is that the courts will not have to seek a single person who both committed the negligent act or omission and was a directing mind of the corporation. Bill C-45 provides that conduct by two or more representatives can be added together to constitute the negligent conduct.

For instance, if we consider a death or injury in a mine, there may have been a series of errors by employees and supervisors that all contributed to the accident. If a single employee turned off three separate safety systems and miners were killed as a result of an accident that the safety systems would have prevented, the employee would probably be prosecuted for causing death by criminal negligence but the mine operator might not depending on the particular facts. Did the employee act in defiance of direct orders or did the employee act in accordance with company policy and practices?

On the other hand, if three employees each turned off one of the safety systems, none of the employees would likely be subject to criminal prosecution because each one thought there would still be two systems in place to protect the workers. Under existing rules for attributing liability, the mine operator could very well also escape prosecution because no single person was negligent. However under the proposed rules, the fact that the individual employees might escape prosecution would not be a bar to the prosecution of the corporation. After all, the corporation through its three employees turned off the three systems.

Not only is proving the act of negligence going to be easier under the reforms but finding the wanton and reckless disregard for safety that is necessary for a conviction of the corporation is also going to be easier. The fault of the corporation is found through the actions and omissions of a senior officer, which is defined to include persons who play an important role in establishing the organization's policies, and persons responsible for important aspects of an organization's activities, and in the case of a corporation includes directors, the CEO and CFO.

The existing test developed by the courts is, as people have alluded to, quite restrictive. In the leading case, the Supreme Court referred to the person having so much authority in the corporation that the person could be considered the directing mind, alter ego or soul of the corporation. While the Supreme Court recognized that a corporation could delegate enough authority to managers that the corporation would have more than one directing mind, it is clear that the court is looking for persons on the very highest rungs of the corporate ladder.

Again, in the words of Ms. Edwards in the Lawyers Weekly :

The proposals do not eliminate the “directing mind” doctrine, as it would still be necessary to prove culpability of a senior official. However, the doctrine would be altered to eliminate the requirement to show [their] direct involvement, and it would be altered to allow the actions of lesser corporate representatives to make the organization party to the offence of criminal negligence.

This clearly signals an expectation that senior management take a proactive role in health and safety matters. The conduct of senior management could very well come under unprecedented scrutiny from investigators.

It is not only Ms. Edwards who expects Bill C-45 to have a major impact. In an article in Worksite News, Norman Keith, another lawyer from Toronto specializing in occupational health and safety issues wrote:

Bill C-45 extends legal duties to a new level that will likely include foremen, lead hands, and even co-workers. The requirement “to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task” goes farther than any current OHS legislation in Canada. Nova Scotia requires employers to be responsible for members of the public at or near the workplace, however, Bill C-45 casts the net farther to include all persons that may be affected by the work or task.

It is certainly my hope and expectation that Ms. Edwards' prediction of “unprecedented scrutiny” and Mr. Keith's prediction of “a higher level of accountability” will come true.

In passing Bill C-35, Parliament will be responding positively to the Westray tragedy. The new rules and the positive duty combined should ensure that the Criminal Code serves to attribute liability in a way that is fair to workers and their employers when there has been death or injury at work.

Public Service Integrity Officer September 15th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing 32(2), I am pleased to table, in both official languages, two copies of the first annual report of the Public Service Integrity Officer for the period 2002-03.

B.C. Forest Fires September 15th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, this has been one of the most challenging summers in history for the people of British Columbia. As we are all acutely aware, we have endured months of ferocious forest fires.

Communities like Kelowna, Cranbrook, Okanagan Mountain Park and others suffered through a summer of uncertainty, multiple evacuations and devastation. Thousands of firefighters, including 2,000 military personnel, continue to fight the fires. Firefighters from the B.C. Fire Service, Ontario and Saskatchewan are doing their best to protect and save communities.

On behalf of all members of the House, I extend our sympathies to those who have been displaced by the fires and our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the thousands of firefighters who have risked their health and lives in doing their duty. They are true heroes and incredible Canadians.

Taxation June 13th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, in April 1999 the federal government started requiring Canadian residents to report their foreign assets in an effort to reduce tax evasion. This is a laudable goal which unfortunately has resulted in negative unintended consequences.

Would-be investors feel this is an unnecessary breach of their privacy and some immigrant investors avoid compliance by changing from resident to non-resident status.

Studies have shown that the foreign asset disclosure rule has taken some $1 billion out of the B.C. economy by discouraging investment. Therefore I urge the Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions to review the foreign asset disclosure rule to encourage new business and new investment in British Columbia and indeed in all of Canada.