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Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for York Centre (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2000, with 71.08% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Member for York Centre May 13th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I rise to inform hon. members that after much thought and reflection, I have decided not to seek re-election in the forthcoming general election.
It has been an honour to represent the people of York Centre in the House of Commons these past ten and a half years. I want to thank them for their support and confidence. This decision draws to a close 32 years in elected office, starting as an alderman in the city of Toronto in 1970, mayor of Toronto in the 1980s, and then a member of Parliament, including eight and a half years as a cabinet minister in three portfolios.
I have always worked hard to make a difference in the lives of individuals and for the betterment of my city, province and country. Whatever endeavours lie ahead, I hope that in one way or another, service to the people of Canada will continue to be a part of my life. After all, as King George VI once said, “the highest of distinctions is service to others”.
In that spirit, I extend best wishes to all who serve in this House in future years.
Supply March 22nd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is thin. Again I do not think there is recognition of the fact that everything that is done as an initiative of this government does not necessarily find its way into legislation. A lot of it does. There was one piece of legislation introduced today on whistleblowing, a very needed piece of legislation. I mentioned the ethics counsellor. There have been some 12 bills in 7 weeks, so there is work being done.
The government's announcement on the agricultural program today and many other announcements show that the government is working. The government has been working day in and day out since it came into power on December 12. There are various committees doing various activities to improve the quality of life for Canadians.
Supply March 22nd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, there are resolutions passed in the House, but it does not necessarily mean they are being ignored by the government. The government may not agree. The government may examine these resolutions.
In fact, some of the resolutions that I believe the hon. member is talking about are ones that ask the government to “consider”. The government does consider many of these issues but may not agree with the direction that some hon. members in the opposition want to take things in. We think they are a little too far out there, the Alliance or the Conservatives, whatever they are called, in many of the positions they take.
The ethics counsellor, okay, they were promoting that. They can take a bow because we had put it into legislation. I think it is something that we all agree is absolutely necessary and this Prime Minister gave it a priority that we would do it.
Supply March 22nd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for York South--Weston.
Today is the first sitting of the House since the Conservative Party chose its leader on the weekend. I hesitate to use the words new leader because he is the same leader that the Alliance Party had. In fact this completes the takeover by the Canadian Alliance, formerly the Reform Party. It completes the takeover of the word conservative.
What has that party done the first day in the House after its convention? It has put forward a motion asking the House to recognize that the current government is not new. It is asking the House to indicate that it has no confidence in the government.
The Conservative Party's time would have been spent far more usefully, this first day back after its convention, if it had put something positive forward in the House, something that would have indicated its vision for Canada, something that would have indicated what changes it would like to make and what policies it would like to see brought forward for the benefit of Canadians.
Instead, what do we have today? We have a motion before us that simply says the current government is not new. That is silly. It is the same party, but it is a new government. What is the point of spending a whole day debating that? What is the point of spending a whole day debating whether the House has confidence in the government? The Conservative Party well knows the composition of membership in the House. The majority of people here are Liberals and will vote confidence in their own party. Conservative members know that. Why are they wasting this whole day?
We are not hearing any positive contribution from those members. They are not telling Canadians what they stand for. What we are hearing is petty rhetoric and a lot of mud slinging. It is very cheap politics that we are getting in support of their motion in the House today, and that is regrettable. Those members have wasted a lot of taxpayers' time. They have wasted a lot of time for Canadians when they could have been talking something more positive, that is if they have something more positive to put forward in terms of how they see Canada in the future, which might be different from what we as Liberals see.
The motion states that we have not put new legislation before the House. The House has been in session for about 6 or 7 weeks now and has in fact passed 12 bills. It has passed legislation dealing with a wide range of issues important to Canadians. We should not belittle that. That is what the House is here to do. We are here to try to improve the conditions under which Canadians live. Twelve bills inside of seven weeks is a pretty good record, but it does not stop there.
New legislation will be coming forward. One piece of legislation, with respect to a promise made by the Prime Minister to protect whistleblowers, was introduced today. He promised that legislation would be introduced by March 31 and today is March 22.
Not everything finds its way into legislation. The government has a wide range of responsibilities to Canadians to act on matters of urgency. One of them was today. It may not be legislation in the current sense, but I am sure it will get into the finance bill. The government announced today almost $1 billion to the agricultural industry, particularly beef producers. This is a big boost to that industry at a very tough time. That is an important thing for the government to do, and it has spent the time to do it. It may not be what those members call new legislation, but it is part of the government's responsibilities.
The government's responsibilities with respect to the sponsorship program have been quite clear. The Prime Minister acted very swiftly on the report of the Auditor General. He acted very swiftly by appointing Mr. Justice Gomery to hold a public inquiry to look into the matter. We keep hearing about the work of the public accounts committee day in and day out. The Prime Minister also appointed a special counsel with a mandate to pursue all possible avenues for financial recovery.
I know that people across the country are upset about what has happened here, but the Prime Minister has moved very quickly and very decisively in action on that matter. This again shows that the government wants to correct this problem and to get on with the business of government, to get on with the issues that need to be dealt with, the issues that in fact were part of the active agenda that was promoted in the Speech from the Throne.
The Speech from the Throne on February 2 outlined a very ambitious agenda in many different areas. For example, on the issue that most Canadians feel is number one, health, some $2 billion in health care transfers to the provinces was confirmed. Two billion dollars goes a long way when we consider the other money that over the last few years has been transferred to help improve the health care system. That is going to help a lot.
On top of that was the announcement that there would be a new Canadian public health agency established, with a new chief public health officer. It would be something along the lines of the CDC in Atlanta, perhaps. This kind of operation that focuses on public health would help overcome some of the problems and would put us on a very positive course for being able to handle anything like SARS or any other public health disaster that may be inflicted upon us. That is going to involve legislation and that will involve the action of the government, so I do not understand why the opposition is trying to get away with the argument that there is nothing new.
On aboriginal Canadians, the Prime Minister made it clear that we are going work with first nations to improve governance in their communities. We are not going to just foist something upon them; we will work with them to create it. This will expand our successful urban aboriginal strategy. In my case, in Toronto there are many people of the first nations and the urban strategy is very vital to us. I know that people at times seem to be focused on what happens on reserves, but there are more of our aboriginal people living in cities and facing many very tough challenges. That was outlined in the Speech from the Throne.
The care of our children is another area. Part of that is accelerating initiatives for more quality child care spaces. In Toronto we badly need child care spaces to help families in which both parents are working. We need quality child care and quality early childhood education. Those are all important parts of helping our children. Our children are our most important asset, as has been said on many occasions. They are the investment in the future. Quality child care was announced in the Speech from the Throne. This is again another new direction.
Creating opportunities for Canadians with disabilities was also touched upon, particularly in regard to improving the fairness of the tax system for persons with disabilities and their supporting families.
The democratic deficit, as it is often called, was addressed extensively. The Prime Minister has been very committed to making the House work better for all Canadians and making all of us an important part of the decision making. This is as opposed to having it all concentrated in the Prime Minister's office or all concentrated in the cabinet. It is important that we all be part of it.
Addressing this not only will benefit the people on the Liberal side of the House, but it will benefit the people on the opposition side of the House as well and it will strengthen our committee structure. It also will strengthen our say in who gets appointed to the Supreme Court or many other different boards and commissions, and there will be a greater opportunity to scrutinize the estimates, the budgets and the programs of different departments. Those things are all important as well.
Finally, there is the new deal for cities or the new deal for communities, something I as a former mayor of Toronto am very interested in. We announced in the throne speech that in fact the GST was being waived on municipal purchases. This creates some $7 billion over 10 years. We announced that infrastructure was going to be expedited and that more would be done in terms of transit and housing. I hope we will hear more about that in tomorrow's budget speech.
It is wrong to say that the government has not introduced new legislation or has not brought about new work. It is wrong to say that the House has lost confidence. It is a waste of time to go through that kind of endeavour. We would have been far better to have heard from the Conservatives what positive contribution they want to make. All they wanted to do today was sling more mud and engage in petty politics.
Toronto Jewish Community March 22nd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I rise to condemn the anti-Semitic incidents that occurred in my riding of York Centre over the weekend.
Twenty-two tombstones on Jewish graves were upturned at Bathurst Lawn Memorial Park. Swastikas and genocidal slogans desecrated the Pride of Israel synagogue and the Eitzchaim Jewish Day School. Numerous United Jewish Appeal signs were defaced.
This, only two days after 13 residences in neighbouring Thornhill were sprayed with anti-Semitic graffiti. This, on the weekend marking the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary, where 500,000 Jews perished. This, on the day marked by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This, on the streets of Toronto, here and now.
The League for Human Rights of B'nai B'rith Canada reports that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada has doubled in the last three years. This is unacceptable.
I call on all Canadians to stand with their Jewish neighbours to confront bigotry. I call on Canadian law enforcement officials to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable.
I ask the Government of Canada to consider new measures to combat the rising tide of extremism targeting Jewish Canadians.
Criminal Code February 24th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I am voting with the government on this, so I am voting in favour of concurrence, but against the motion.
(The House divided on Motion No. 2, which was negatived on the following division:)
Supply February 19th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my remarks, I am sure there will be some costs in this, certainly in terms of Norad personnel as part of the administration and operation of Norad's expanded role in all of this.
I do not believe that we should make any substantive capital cost contribution to ballistic missile defence. If that were the case, we could be looking at upwards of a billion dollars. We cannot afford that. I made that quite clear.
The Americans have not asked us for that and we cannot afford it. If we have an extra billion dollars, some of these other areas that the member talks about are where I would see investing it, although I must say in terms of search and rescue that when we got the new helicopters we certainly beefed up our operation there. When it comes to aerial patrols, we must remember that we do have other means now in radar and satellite opportunities.
There is no doubt that we need more money for the support of our defence operations, for the men and women who risk their lives for this country. If we had a billion dollars, I certainly could think of a lot of other areas that I would consider to be of higher priority, but we can still be with the Americans on our ballistic missile defence cooperation.
Supply February 19th, 2004
Yes, Mr. Speaker, it is good to define all of those things in the letter. As I said in my remarks, if this is going to be housed in any particular agency it should be Norad, which co-exists with the northern command of the United States. That clearly puts us at the table and puts us quite involved.
But the member is misinterpreting that letter when she suggests that the government has made a final decision. Obviously when the government has all the documentation in front of it, including a possible amended agreement with Norad, it can make a decision when it knows how the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed.
I frankly hope we will proceed with this, for the reasons that I have given. I think they are valid reasons in terms of the safety and security of Canadians. The government is not going to buy this thing and make a final decision until it has gone through these discussions. Obviously it wants to have it in detail.
I think that member would be the first one to criticize if the government came here and did not have all its i's dotted and t's crossed. The government is attempting to do that before the final decision is made and the House has every opportunity to give the kind of feedback that it feels represents what Canadians want or do not want in this case.
Supply February 19th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, this is the second time this week we have entered into a debate about ballistic missile defence, so let it not be said that the House has not had adequate opportunity to debate the matter.
In terms of the vote, we will have a vote on this before any decision is made by the government because the Bloc vote will occur next Tuesday. In terms of a free vote, I venture to say there will be more freedom on this side of the House than we will probably see on that side because I know there are people on this side of the House who do not necessarily favour the position that I am favouring, which is that I oppose this Bloc motion. I very much agree with the remarks that have been made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
We have to bear in mind that in the period since the end of the cold war there has been a proliferation in the world of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. We have seen a dispersal of technology throughout the world and the ability to use that technology to develop chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. We just heard in the last few days about nuclear secrets leaking out of Pakistan. In just the last year or two we have seen the development of longer range two stage missile systems coming out of North Korea, not just for their own use but perhaps for sale to others, as has been their past practice.
If this trend continues it is quite conceivable that over the next few years we could see the launching of a long range ballistic missile against a city in North America, and one carrying a nuclear or some other kind of warhead on it. It could be a deliberate action or it could be an accidental situation. I would think if that were to occur nobody in this room or in this country would object to sending up a defensive missile to destroy the incoming missile before it destroyed the city it was aimed at. I cannot imagine anybody being opposed to that.
That is what we are talking about here today. That is what the issue is all about. We are talking about a defensive missile. A defensive missile does not have a warhead on it. It would be launched from land or sea and would hit the incoming missile at such a high speed in outer space that the missile would be destroyed before it could hit its target, killing a lot of people and damaging a lot of our cities.
There have been tests on this new system, and that has been pointed out. Some have been successful and some have failed, but there is no doubt that the technology is on its way to being perfected. The most recent tests have been more successful, even using decoys, which is a more sophisticated system.
The kind of system we are talking about is not star wars. It does not lead to an arm's race. It is entirely defensive. It does not lead us down the path either of the weaponization of outer space. It is completely a defensive response to an offensive weapon.
I do not believe we will see the Americans go the route of weapons in outer space, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs has said, certainly for quite a number of years. However, even if they ultimately did, there is no reason that we have to be with them. In fact, we should not be there with them on weaponization of outer space because we oppose it. It is clearly a policy of the government.
There are those who will say that if we go down the path of ballistic missile defence, it is a slippery slope leading to the weaponization of outer space. No, it is not. We clearly indicated in the war on terrorism that we would go to Afghanistan with our American allies but we did not go to Iraq. We made a decision that we felt was in our national interest. We went to one; we did not go to the other.
Similarly, we can support land and sea based defensive missiles but not weapons in outer space. Nor do we have to go with any substantial capital expenditure. The Americans have not asked us for that kind of assistance. They have already provided the capital costs in their budgeting for this system and, quite frankly, we could not afford it in any event. There could be some costs with respect to administration, such as operational issues or having additional personnel at Norad, but we should not be participating with any substantial capital costs.
People will ask about all the other terrorist threats, such as people bringing in anthrax in a suitcase or countries sending in a cruise missile, which is not a ballistic missile or the same kind of thing.
Yes, those possibilities are there, and yes, action, needs to be taken and has been taken since 9/11 to better protect against them, but that does not make a ballistic missile defence system any less valid. It is one of the possible threats that we could face.
If it sounds like this system is a fait accompli, in terms of the United States, it is. However it is not something that was invented by the Bush administration. I know the leader of the NDP likes to talk about it in that regard. In fact, it is the subject of legislation, the national missile defence act, that was passed in 1999 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The current president has said that he will implement it and that he will deploy a limited number of missiles in Alaska and California starting this fall.
I think there is a need to get on with this discussion with our American allies because if they are going to make decisions that affect the safety and security of the people of North America, then it is in the interests of Canada to be at the table. Being at the table, to me, as a former defence minister and one knowledgeable about this entity, involves Norad.
This joint agency between Canada and the United States has existed for over 40 years. It monitors anything that comes into the airspace of North America. It can detect aircraft, any object coming from space and incoming missiles. Originally it was designed to detect strategic bombers coming in over the North Pole from the Soviet Union as it existed in those days, but today it still plays a very important role in detecting anything happening in or over our continental airspace.
On September 11, 2001, Norad was vital. It quickly moved to protect our airspace. In fact, there was a Canadian general in the command position at the time of the disaster. Make no mistake about it, Canada does play a key role in Norad.
Norad can detect anything coming in but it only has jet fighters, like CF-18s, to respond to whatever comes in. Defensive missiles are a missing component of its capabilities.
Finally, we need to work this out in a Norad context. If we do not, then the Americans will be making these decisions on their own and we will be left standing outside the door. It will, I assure members, marginalize Norad. We cannot afford to have this happen. We need to be there. We need to be part of the information sharing, the consulting and the decision making process. This is in the interests of Canadians and it is in the interests of our safety and security.
Middle East February 18th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to yesterday's statement by the member for London—Fanshawe condemning Israel for the construction of a security fence.
We have to remember the realities that have forced Israel to build this protective barrier. Israel has been targeted by an unprecedented campaign of terror that to date involves 136 suicide bombings, resulting in 925 fatalities and more than 6,100 people injured. The Palestinian Authority chooses not to stop this strategy of terror. This context is missing from the member's statement.
Moreover, the member's reference to concentration camps in the West Bank and Gaza is unacceptable. It makes a mockery out of the Holocaust.
Though not a measure of choice, the security fence is a measure of necessity. Where built to date, the presence of the fence has resulted in a 30% drop in suicide attacks.
This is not a land grab. This is a temporary security measure that could be undone once the Palestinian leadership lives up to its responsibilities. Simply put, no terror, no fence.