- On the Parliament site
Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Ottawa Centre (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2000, with 40.01% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Canada Elections Act June 10th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, some candidates have spent $35 million. I am not sure how we would be serving democracy if we were to open a bank account with unlimited funds in order to get elected. I am not sure what interests would be served other than special interests when it came to spending that kind of money on an election.
After the bill goes to the Senate and is approved, it will be the pride of Canada. Canada is one of the finest democracies in the world and we will be setting an example for the rest to follow. I commend the provinces that have already gone ahead with something like this, in particular the province of Quebec as well as the province of Manitoba.
There will be problems with this legislation. There will be a need to amend the legislation. There will be a need to revisit it. As with other legislation that has gone through the House and the Senate, it has to be reviewed from time to time to make it perfect, to make it even more responsive to the needs of Canadians. Just because we may not like the location of a comma or a period in the legislation, or a paragraph is not in the chapter where we want it, those are not good enough excuses to oppose legislation that at the end of the day will serve the interests of Canada and the interests of Canadians.
There are things I would like to have seen in this legislation, such as making it mandatory for Canadians to vote in an election; in other words, every Canadian must, not can, but must vote with the provision of introducing fines for those who do not vote. I think there will come a time when that suggestion will become law. I hope that it will take place in my lifetime. I hope that we not only ban contributions to political parties but also make voting mandatory so we can better serve democracy and respond to the needs of Canadians even more efficiently.
Canada Elections Act June 10th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, I have listened to a number of my colleagues argue that this legislation should be delayed so that they can consult with their constituents and their political parties.
Members will probably recall that this is not a new issue that has been brought to the attention of the House or a committee of Parliament. In fact, it has been years since the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Kingsley, called on Parliament to take action on this issue and to introduce legislation that to a large extent reflects what is in this bill.
The government has shown leadership by taking action in response to the Chief Electoral Officer. The Chief Electoral Officer is entrusted by Parliament and the public at large to ensure that elections in Canada are transparent and fair and to ensure that our society is well served by a parliamentary system that has democratic elections. To a large extent this is not a new issue before Parliament.
Another point some of my colleagues have raised has to do with the notion of whether or not we should subsidize political parties. I am sure my colleagues are not suggesting that the government or the House should abolish the subsidy system that is already in place. We subsidize political parties after every election to the tune of about 22.5%. As well there is the 50% rebate that goes to individual candidates if they receive 15% support in their respective constituencies.
I am sure my colleagues are not suggesting that we do away with that. If my colleagues are not suggesting that, then what we are dealing with here is an increase in the percentage of the subsidy from 22% to the level the government is proposing, which is 50%. Where is the problem? The problem is we really do not know how to proceed with some of my colleagues on the opposite side. They were members of the committee that dealt extensively with the issue.
Members will recall that the bill was introduced on January 29, 2003. Today is June 10. The committee dealt with this bill for a number of months. About 14 hours and 50 minutes were spent on second reading alone, on February 11, 12, 17, 18 and 20. Bill C-24 was approved at second reading by the House on March 18, 2003.
The bill then went to committee. The committee held in excess of 11 days of public hearings with in excess of 37 witnesses and it spent four days on clause-by-clause study, for a total of 15 days. Bill C-24 came back on June 6 for the House to deal with it.
It is not a secret that my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance do not want to support the bill. They are on the public record as stating that they do not want this legislation to receive third reading.
All the complaints about time allocation and the fact that the government is attempting to pass a bill before the recess are only excuses. At the end of the day it does not matter how much time is given to my Alliance colleagues. We could give them the whole summer. If their intentions are such that they do not want to support the bill at third reading, it is irrelevant whether or not time allocation is used.
Members know full well that at some point decisions have to be made. This legislation has been before Parliament for close to six months. There has been plenty of time for each and every member of Parliament to consult with his or her constituents, riding association or political party. There has been ample time for them to bring forward their concerns and recommendations to the committee or the House. In my view, any extra time would not be time well spent. It would be a waste of time. That is why it is absolutely imperative for the House to deal with this issue as quickly as possible.
Since the bill came back to the House we have spent in excess of five hours at report stage. As a result, the House leader served notice of time allocation. We have to get on with the program. We have to move forward. We have to get our ducks in line so we can move collectively as a team. Canadians want us to take action. Many of my constituents have told me that they want Parliament to deal with this issue as quickly as possible.
Some of my colleagues have raised the issue of American elections and the difference between somebody running for congress and somebody running for Parliament. We have a spending limit in Canada of close to $70,000 whereas south of the border they can spend millions of dollars to run for political office.
Canada Elections Act June 9th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, presently if somebody makes a contribution of $100 to a political party, the Government of Canada will reimburse that individual $75. In essence the government has increased the base from $200 to $400, therefore encouraging more contributions by the public at large to political parties.
In this proposed legislation the government will allow each registered political party to receive $1.75 per vote received in an election in recognition of the significant impact that the proposed prohibition on corporate and union donations will have on parties. This allowance will help political parties to run in an election without having the extra burden of having to raise the necessary funds. All they will have to do is ensure that they have a sound policy statement and a sound platform. If they can get the necessary support from the public, they will be able to generate more revenues.
My colleagues on the opposition side should argue that this is extremely positive news for all involved and for all members of all political parties since it will allow them to sell their ideas to the public and they will not have to chase nickels and dimes.
As a transitional measure, parties will receive the 2004 allowance in a lump sum as soon as possible after the coming into force of the bill, instead of quarterly arrangement about which the bill speaks.
Public financing in general, and in particular the public allowance, was probably the issue that drew more attention than any other issue during the public hearings. For the most part, it was a very positive discussion and people in general recognized the value of public financing, although they had different ideas about how the formula for providing the allowance should work. Others had already spoken about the merits of the bill and they had specific recommendations and adjustments to make to the bill. The committee and the government were very receptive to some of those suggestions.
With the remainder of my time, I would like to speak a bit on some of the benefits of Bill C-24.
It is important to recognize public financing in this debate, and how important it is when it comes to the political financing equations. I think we all agree that political parties are critical to the functioning of our democracy. Without strong political parties and party organizations, a healthy democracy would not function. Political parties in general perform a key role in mobilizing the voters, representing the views of all groups in society, as well as formulating policies, policy alternatives and recruiting future leaders.
Parties offer support to the democratic process and democratic government. They provide a key link between state and society. In view of the important role parties play in so many aspects of our democratic system, it seems obvious that they should be supported by the state. Otherwise, we run the risk that parties will be severely limited in undertaking their critical role in our democracy.
Political parties play a key role as structures through which citizens may participate in our political system. Throughout our history, parties have been the key institution through which citizens can express their political opinions and become actively involved in the governing of our society.
If there is a substantial variation in the resources received by parties, we run the risk that a perception will arise that some organizations have undue influence. The result can be that citizens become disaffected and reduce their linkage to parties and our democratic system in general.
By regulating the financial resources that contributors may provide to parties, in combination with public funding as is being proposed in the bill, we can ensure that a level playing field is created for all participants.
Finally, we must recognize the enormous cost of funding a political party in a modern democracy. Everyone in the House is aware that the cost of running an effective party demands the necessary resources in order to support it.
I want to urge my colleagues, in the name of democracy and in the best interest of the public at large, to pass the bill as quickly as possible.
Canada Elections Act June 9th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great honour to speak on this very important piece of legislation, Bill C-24, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act, political financing. I would like to focus my remarks on the public financing measures contained in the bill which have attracted a great deal of attention in the discussion today.
During the discussion of this issue, both in Parliament as well as during the public hearings held by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I believe it has been well established that the measures contained in this bill build on a long tradition in Canada, a tradition of public financing of the electoral system.
This tradition goes back to 1974 with the Election Expenses Act. Among other items, that legislation introduced public financing through post-election reimbursement to qualifying parties and candidates and income tax credit for contributions to registered parties and election candidates. What we are doing is building on what we already started back in 1974. However since that time all parties in the House of Commons have benefited from these measures.
It has also been well established that public funding is not new in Canada. In fact all provinces provide some form of public funding. Three provinces in particular, New Brunswick, Quebec and Prince Edward Island, provide for a public allowance. It is also particularly notable that Quebec has provided a public allowance since 1975 and the system is well received by Quebec residents, a fact which was underlined by the Quebec electoral officer when he appeared before the committee during its hearing on this bill. It is also well known that most democracies provide political participants with some form of public financing.
If we were to look at the public financing measures in Bill C-24, we would see that, as I indicated a little earlier, it builds upon what we already had set up before. However it does change the percentage of contribution by the government from that of 22% to 50%, with a one-time reimbursement at 60% for the next election to assist parties as a transitional measure.
Polling expenses also would be added to the definition of registered election expenses and the ceiling for eligible expenses would be raised accordingly. The threshold for candidates to qualify for reimbursement of part of their election expenses would be lowered from 15% to 10%. I am sure members would agree with me that for at least two political parties in the House, some of their candidates as well as their parties, would be able to qualify under those members.
The rate of reimbursement of candidate election expenses as well would increase from 50% to 60%. An amendment to the Income Tax Act would double the amount of individual political contribution that is eligible for a 75% tax credit from $200 to $400, and all other brackets of the tax credit would be adjusted accordingly. As it is now, every time we give a $100 contribution to a political party, the Government of Canada reimburses $75 of that. Therefore, the--
Public Service Modernization Act June 3rd, 2003
Mr. Speaker, I am not a member of the committee. As well, I do not know the details of those amendments.
Sometimes an amendment dealing with an item comes before a committee and the amendment may have been dealt with through the legislation in one way or another. Other amendments may be redundant.
I do not know the details of the 100 amendments my colleague is talking about. I do know the three main concerns that the employees' reps have raised with me. They deal with the issue of merit. They deal with the issue of taking votes. They deal with the issue of essential services and when and how employees can go on strike and to what limit they can take that issue.
I would say that with all three points that I have raised with the minister, I am totally satisfied that when we go to the next step of implementing the legislation, they will be dealt with.
I would suggest to my colleague that the minister has made a very important point, in that she is willing to meet with the union to provide clarification in order to address some of the concerns that were raised.
Public Service Modernization Act June 3rd, 2003
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has long been a member of this House, and he is very familiar with its procedures. He is well aware that a bill gets introduced at first reading and that it is referred to a committee after second reading. Then, the bill comes back before the House for consideration at the report stage. Finally, there is a debate at third reading, but no amendments may be proposed.
Second, I do not know if my hon. colleague was listening when I said that the minister responsible for this bill said unequivocally yesterday—during a discussion we had about issues raised by the union representatives—that she is very willing to meet with them and to consider how to address positively the issues raised and how to resolve them. Finally, if further clarification is needed, the minister and the government will provide it.
Third, with regard to the process the government followed in introducing this bill, my hon. colleague, who is an experienced parliamentarian, is well aware that discussions took place with public servants. This bill did not just spring up out of thin air. Discussions were held.
As to the report, the parliamentary committee had the opportunity to discuss it. The union reps had the opportunity to appear before the committee and to make specific amendments in this regard.
When all is said and done, I did my duty as a member, which is to convey the wishes of my constituents. In this case, out of respect and duty, I must raise these points in the House and make known the government's response. As I indicated, I was very pleased with the minister's answer and with the clarifications that she and her team made yesterday.
There will be opportunities for input during the implementation phase, and the government intends to involve the union reps in policy development. They will therefore be able to work with the employers to find specific solutions to specific issues raised by the union reps.
I do not agree with my colleague that the government does not have good relations with its employees. That is simply not the case. I was here when the Tories were in power and I remember the kind of relations that existed between public servants and their employers. It was very sad. I remember those days when more that 60,000 public servants picketed on Parliament Hill. Relations were not that wonderful.
The member knows that all that has now changed. We have created a very positive relationship. Dialogue continues with the union reps. Our colleagues from the government side, the members of the Liberal caucus, talk with the union reps on an ongoing basis and I personally met with some union reps last week.
I am here today to convey to my colleagues, including the opposition members, the opinion of the unions who wanted some issues raised Parliament. This is what I have done today.
I also had the opportunity to speak with the minister. She told me quite categorically that she would agree to meet with them to find a solution, particularly regarding certain specific issues, and that clarifications would be provided on other issues.
Public Service Modernization Act June 3rd, 2003
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill C-25, the public service modernization act.
Before I start I want to congratulate the minister, the minister's staff and all those who have participated in the development of the legislation. I also want to thank every public servant who works for the Government of Canada. I am sure members will agree with me that this country is well-served by the fine, high quality public servants who keep the government functioning and who provide quality service to Canadians.
The government has put tremendous effort into bringing about an act to, as one might say, put the house in order. Some of the key objectives of the bill are to ensure a transparent hiring process in the public service, to look at the issue of merit in the public service, to improve employee-employer relations, to deal with issues affecting the services that we provide Canadians and many other issues that will render the public service even more efficient in the way it conducts its business.
However, like every legislation that comes before the House, it goes to committee and consultation. As well, witnesses appear before committees with ideas and suggestions.
I must admit, Mr. Speaker, I am standing before you today a bit late with what I have to put before the House basically because the information came to my attention at a very late hour. It was after the House dealt with the report stage of Bill C-25, as well as after the committee had the chance to deal with the bill.
I had a meeting last week with a representative of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Mr. Edward Cashman, who is the regional executive vice-president for the national capital region who was elected to this position. I want to congratulate him on his election and that of his colleagues who came with him to make a presentation concerning Bill C-25.
This was the first interaction I had with the representatives of the union on these issues. As far as I was concerned, there was widespread support for the bill. In essence, I concluded that because my office had not received any kind of a communication to the contrary. We did not receive the amount of calls we normally would have received on legislation that comes before the House.
Nonetheless, that is not to say that the concerns raised by Mr. Cashman, on behalf of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, are not important concerns for which the House needs to take note.
I have promised Mr. Cashman two things. The first was that I would put on the record some of the concerns that his group outlined and brought to my attention, and that I would speak with the minister and her office with regard to the points that the union reps raised.
The points that were raised were in three categories. One of the issues the union people raised dealt with merit. They were concerned that the changes to merit could create a situation where there could be abuse by managers when it came to staffing.
The second point raised by the union rep concerned essential services and the issue of voting. On the issue of essential services, they wanted to know what would constitute an essential service employee.
The union also had a concern on the notion of voting. If there is a strike vote, the union is mandated to notify all those who are in the work unit. Members of the union told me that this might be somewhat problematic in that in some cases when a strike vote is called they may or may not be able to communicate with every person who works in the unit simply because some of them may not be members of the union. As a result of that, they may have difficulties dealing with this issue.
I have raised all three points with the minister and she has assured me that, first, she is willing to meet with the union rep at the earliest possible opportunity; and second, she is eager to ensure that once the bill goes through the House and the policy is introduced to do the implementation, the employee reps will be included in the consultation process that will be taking place and that in fact their views will be heard. The minister is willing to address some of the points and hopefully she will provide answers that will meet the interests of the public servants, both in terms of employees as well as employers.
On the notion of merit, I have been told that the merit laws, by virtue of this legislation, have been made stronger than they were before.The clause that has been included in the legislation would not only ensure that employees meet the minimum and basic requirements, but that the employer looks for additional qualifications the potential employee may have, such as language skills, level of education and other talents that might be of use in the public service. It not only talks about the minimum requirements, which would bring it into harmony with what existed before, but it goes beyond that.
In other words, I wanted the employee to score a certain percentage, but also I wanted it to go beyond that. If they have the qualifications and could score even more that would be an asset and that would be taken into consideration. This was the explanation the minister provided to me. It is a positive thing to consider and to look at in a positive fashion.
However, in addition to that, I have been informed that in the event the agent of the employee, which is the union, has a concern about a specific item it would still have the ability to appeal it or question it. In this particular case I think it is a positive thing. It would give the employee rep the opportunity to question in the event something like that takes place.
The second concern raised by Mr. Cashman deals with the potential for abuse by an employer. Provisions in the act make it difficult for an employer to do that. In essence it strengthens the merit clause and makes it literally impossible for an employer to abuse its position. Should that take place, then the employee representative as well as the employee would have provisions under Bill C-25 to appeal and go to the next step.
I would like to raise the points of union representatives specifically and put them on the record for the interest of the House. While I know we are in third reading and there is no provision to introduce any type of amendment at this stage, I want to put them on the record because I promised Mr. Cashman I would do so.
In the section that deals with prohibitions and enforcement, division 14, the union asked for the following:
That Bill C-25 in Clause 2 be amended by deleting lines 11 to 17 on page 84.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 2 be amended by deleting line 20 on page 84 and replacing it with: “189(1) or section 195 is guilty of an”.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 2 be amended by deleting line 28 to 29 on page 84 and replacing them with: “contravenes section”.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 2 be amended by deleting lines 7 to 11 on page 85.
Then we move on to the merit clause. In essence the union would liked to have sees the following:
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by deleting line 15 on page 126 and replacing it with: “person to be appointed meets the”.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by deleting lines 19 to 29 on page 126.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by deleting line 6 on page 127 and replacing it with: “graph 30(2)(a)”.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by replacing lines 36 and 37 on page 128 and replacing them with: “paragraph 30(2)(a)”.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by replacing lines 40 and 41 on page 128 with: “-cations referred to in paragraph 30(2)(a), other than language”.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by deleting lines 7 to 16 on page 129.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by deleting lines 34 to 40 on page 129.
All these amendments would have been in order if they had been made at the committee level. If in the event a member of Parliament was unable to introduce them under special circumstances, Mr. Speaker, you could have made a ruling whereby the amendments could have been introduced in the House during report stage.
Unfortunately that was not the case. The amendments did not come in at a time where it could have been possible to introduce them, either at committee or at report stage. Therefore, for the interest of the House, I have tabled them here. There may have been other amendments that did not come to my attention, and I would suggest that as the bill sees its way through the House on the way to the Senate, that the union representative will have an opportunity at that time to go to the Senate and make those suggestions there.
However I would like to stress the importance of the union working with members of Parliament on both sides of the House, like it happened in this case. Unfortunately, it arrived at the last minute.
I hope in the future the relations between both the employee representatives and the employers will move to the next step, and that is a positive cooperation, a dialogue, a cohesive interaction whereby the minister will be informed at an early stage when legislation is about to come before the House and where a discussion will take place in an atmosphere of willingness to move things forward in the best interests of both the union and the government.
I remember the Prime Minister once stating that the government looked at its public servants as being a part of the solution, not part of the problem. That is really what has defined the government, what has defined the actions of this minister and what has defined the actions of all members on this side of the House. We look at the public service employees as being a part of the solution. They are a part of the team that makes the country so great, one of the greatest countries in the world.
Having said all that, it is my hope that this legislation will go through the House and that at the earliest possible opportunity the union representatives will take the minister on her offer, which she made to me yesterday, to meet with them. The minister is willing to talk specifically with regard to the concerns that have been brought to my attention and that I have brought to the attention of the minister on their behalf. Specifically, they deal with some of the details and clarifications that are required in my view to bring about a positive conclusion to this legislation.
This is long overdue. We know the Auditor General raised a number of concerns dealing with the public service act and some of the provisions within that act. I am happy to see this coming before Parliament at a very opportune time, not only to deal with the concerns raised by the Auditor General in her latest report but to address some of the issues which need to be addressed as well.
I thank the House for giving me the opportunity to speak on this very important issue. I thank both the government as well as the union for giving me the opportunity to speak today.
International Aid May 26th, 2003
Mr. Speaker, a major earthquake struck Algeria last week, causing over 2,000 deaths, as well as leaving over 8,000 people injured and over 1,000 people homeless.
Could the Minister for International Cooperation tell us what with and how the government is responding to this emergency?
Foreign Affairs May 2nd, 2003
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific to tell the House whether or not he is aware of any progress that has been made in establishing democracy in Burma. As members know, on May 6 last year the chair of the national league for democracy was released from her house arrest.
Can the minister brief us as to whether or not there has been any progress since that time?
Sea Lamprey Control Program May 2nd, 2003
Mr. Speaker, Ontario's quarter million lakes and rivers hold about one-third of the world's fresh water supply. The Great Lakes in particular, which define most of Ontario's border with the United States, account for a large portion of Canada's fresh water supply. The Great Lakes are also the source of a $4 billion a year fishery that supports thousands of jobs.
I would therefore like to congratulate the hon. member for Huron—Bruce for his efforts to prevent a $1 million funding cut to the sea lamprey control program. The sea lamprey is a non-native aquatic species that invaded the Great Lakes in the early 20th century and is known to devastate numerous species of fish.
It is critical to maintain funding for a highly successful program that is key to ensuring the future health and economic well-being of the Great Lakes and those who are living around it.