Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Kent (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 1993, with 63.81% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Petitions April 24th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, in the second petition, the petitioners draw to the attention of the House that 38 per cent of the national highway system is substandard and that Mexico and the United States are upgrading their national highway systems. The national highway policy study identified job creation, economic development, national unity, saving lives and avoiding injuries, lower congestion, lower vehicle operating costs and better international competitiveness as benefits of the proposed national highway program.
Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to urge the federal government to join with the provincial governments to make the national highway system upgrading possible.
Petitions April 24th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and pleasure once again to rise in the House pursuant to Standing Order 36 and present these petitions.
The petitioners state that Canada was founded on principles which recognize the importance of marriage and family to society. The petitioners request the House of Commons to enact legislation or amend existing legislation to define marriage as a voluntary union for life of one woman and one man to each other to the exclusion of all others.
This petition is from residents of London and area.
Criminal Code April 14th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I have been sitting here most of the afternoon listening to the speeches on Bill C-27. The hon. member for Hamilton-Wentworth asked a question about free speech. Before that the hon. member for Prince George-Peace River spoke and before him the hon. member for New Westminster-Burnaby.
I believe the word was disgusting. I can agree with that terminology because then the hon. member for Prince George-
Peace River went into artistic merit. Do we have artistic merit today?
What our censorship council or board is allowing us to see as adults and children is even more disgusting than the hon. member had said. I remember when "Gone with the Wind" was a little ticklish. I am not one to go to movies but some I have gone to and, I must admit, left are some of the worst degrading garbage I have ever seen. However, our censor board in Canada allows it. Is that allowed under freedom of speech?
There is child pornography and pedophiles. I do not think it is the government that is breaking down. I think it is families that are breaking down. When we see children 12 years of age and under causing vandalism after midnight or in the early hours of the morning and being picked up by the police, where are the families? What has happened to the families that children are allowed to vandalize and steal?
Thank goodness we have the Young Offenders Act to protect us. But what is happening to Canada and Canadian families? I believe there is a sincere breakdown in the families. But are we causing it through our government bills?
I have read in the media where our crime rates, according to the justice department, are down in Canada compared to the United States where crime is rampant. The article stated that putting these offenders in jail is not helping.
In the area where I grew up we never locked a door, never locked the car because the neighbour might want to borrow it. Today everything is locked up. Homes have security systems. However, crime has gone down. Every home in my area out in the country has been robbed.
I ask the hon. member to explain more of his views on how we can fight this. I think we as a government want to fight this but we need guidance.
Negative Option Billing March 10th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, Canadian cable subscribers are currently being ripped off by large cable companies with negative option billing. Right now, the cable monopolies are adding new specialty channels to existing services with a big price hike. The problem is that consumers do not have a choice in the matter. This is wrong.
I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Sarnia-Lambton for getting Bill C-216 passed in the House of Commons. This bill prohibits the crime of negative option billing by cable companies and defends the rights of Canadian consumers. The great cable revolt is still going on and the citizens of Kent and across the country are sick of being cheated by the cable companies.
As this bill sits in the unelected Senate, I would hope all sides of the House strongly encourage senators to get this important bill passed. If the rights of consumers are once again compromised by the lobbying of big business, Canadians will lose their faith-
Capitol Theatre Association February 17th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate all those involved with the Chatham Capitol Theatre Association in my riding. This historic theatre was slated for demolition to make way for a parking lot.
Local citizens got together to save it, and they are now trying to raise $2 million for renovation and restoration. The dream is to turn the building into a performing arts centre led by chairman Kevin McMillan, a world renowned baritone and Grammy award winner.
I am also proud of the federal government's efforts. It contributed $216,500 for job creation to help the theatre become a tremendous economic and cultural boost to the downtown area while preserving an important part of Chatham's history. The federal government is investing in communities and people. Bravo to the Capitol Theatre Association and its foundation of fantastic volunteers.
Corrections And Conditional Release Act February 17th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise in the House today to speak on this very important piece of legislation, Bill C-296, even if it is with tongue in cheek.
Let me begin by congratulating my colleague, the hon. member for Scarborough Centre, for the innovative intestinal fortitude to table the bill. This bill could be seen as being somewhat controversial. However, the facts tell the truth. One out of three offenders released from correctional institutions goes on to commit another offence. This is simply unacceptable. What is the point of having prisons if the offenders just keep coming back? It is expensive, unnecessary and does not solve the problem of crime in this country. This bill offers a reasonable solution to the revolving doors of our prison systems.
Canada does boast one of the best correctional services in the world and it is indeed internationally recognized. My cousins in Michigan always point to our prison system in Canada and how their murders escape to Canada and we fight to keep them here so that they will not be hanged. The prison system effectively serves the purpose of deterring crime, punishing offenders as well as rehabilitating them.
According to section 3(b) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the purpose of the federal correctional system is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by assisting the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community as law-abiding citizens through the provisions of programs in the penitentiaries and in the community. I worry about the victims when these prisoners are release, though.
More specifically, section 76 obliges the correctional service to provide a range of programs designed to address the needs of offenders and contribute to their successful integration into the community.
The mandate is already in place to offer these programs to offenders. This piece of legislation ensures that offenders take advantage of these programs before they go back into society. It is astounding that in the last decade we have released 70,000 federal offenders back into the community. Most of these were released with early parole. However, as I said earlier, one in three of these offenders is returning to commit more crimes. This begs the question what can we do.
Twenty-five years ago when an offender participated in rehabilitative programs they focused on job training or schooling that would help the offender readjust into the working world. Today these programs focus on social issues such as alcoholism or sexual violence, which attempts to solve the underlying problem behind many of the crimes committed.
Not only are these programs better suited to target the problems of the offenders and an attempt to solve them, they are cost effective as well. Years ago we would group all offenders into one category. Rehabilitative programs only work for a select group. Now we are more aware of the criminal mind and we can tailor our programs to work effectively.
John Gillis, the Atlantic regional special advisor to correctional services says: "Offender correctional treatment plans can also now be used to zero on the program needed by individual offenders, as well and when and where they are needed. This allows more effective and selective management of specific cases and precious resources". In times of fiscal restraint these programs can reduce the number of return offenders to our jail cells.
I hope in the future I will be able to finish my speech.
Criminal Code February 13th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak today on legislation that is precedent setting and very important to all. The issue of gambling in society has always been a contentious one. I am generally against gambling because I have seen its negative effects. Whether or not we like it gambling is an age old form of entertainment that is here to stay. Today the gaming industry is estimated to generate $1 trillion worldwide.
Another thing that is here to stay and is taking the world by storm is the Internet. Industry experts estimate that there are 50 million Internet users worldwide and this figure is increasing by 10 per cent per month. It is natural to assume that these two popular pastimes would somehow come together. The results are Internet casinos that are becoming a very lucrative business and are completely unregulated and completely untaxed.
In Canada we have done a pretty good job of controlling our gaming industry through an earlier federal-provincial agreement. The provinces now reap the benefits of regulated gaming. I think everyone is aware of the astounding profits made from provincially run casinos. My riding is just northeast of Windsor, Ontario, where millions of Americans and other tourists flock to the slot machines, blackjack and roulette tables. This has become a prized possession for the Government of Ontario because of the amount of foreign dollars it gives directly to the province.
Regulated gambling seems to work for Canadians. It can offer an extremely popular form of entertainment. It also does a great job of subsidizing our taxes, not to mention that it generates employment.
Internet casinos can offer many of the same benefits. However right now they are not benefiting anyone except the occasional winner of a hand of poker. As it stands right now, Internet casinos are almost entirely based offshore in remote locations where the laws affecting gambling are not very strict, places like Antigua or Equador.
Via the Internet we can play the tables or the slots from the luxury of our own offices or home computers anywhere in the world. I can be sitting in Wallaceburg playing a round of poker with a gentleman in Hong Kong, a lady in Australia, and the dealer is dealing the cards from the Caribbean. Best of all, nobody has to know. The gamblers earnings as well as the earnings of the casino go completely untaxed. This is exactly what is going on.
The bill proposes a reasonable solution to the problem of unregulated gambling on the Internet. Instead of letting Internet casinos make millions on an island in the South Pacific, the bill is asking Canadians to take a better look at the benefits of this industry in our own backyard. If Canadians have accepted regulated gaming establishments then why not regulate Internet gaming as well? By allowing Internet casinos in Canada we can effectively limit the dangers involved in gaming and regulate the casinos activity.
With an estimated 175 million Internet users by the end of 1997 the potential revenues are astounding. New security measures and software are making Internet users more comfortable with the idea of Internet commerce, cybercash or Visa and MasterCard transactions.
Many countries around the world are realizing the potential of Internet gaming. They have determined that the Internet is a popular reality that cannot be controlled. Other countries have also realized the fiscal benefits of regulated gaming. In order to minimize and eliminate fraud and illegal activity, we should permit regulated Internet casinos in Canada.
I have recently discovered the benefits of the Internet. My grandchildren are using it every day for their homework and other projects. It can be a great tool. However, it can also be abused. It is the job of the government to avoid illegal and fraudulent activity on the information highway. If Internet casinos were legalized, then regulated, we could essentially end these problems.
I support the bill by the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood for those reasons. I would encourage members from all sides of this House to consider the benefits of this legislation.
Petitions December 2nd, 1996
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured once again to present, pursuant to Standing Order 36, a petition from not only my constituents but the constituents of other members. The petitioners are from Wallaceburg, Chatham, Paincourt, Ridgetown, Tilbury, Charing Cross, Blenheim, North Buxton and Port Alma.
The petitioners state that there are profound inadequacies in the sentencing practices concerning individuals convicted of impaired driving charges. Canada must embrace a philosophy of zero tolerance toward individuals who drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Victims of the crime of impaired driving must be given the highest priority as reflected by their statements prior to sentencing of anyone convicted of impaired driving. In the case of impaired driving causing death or injury, sentencing must reflect the severity of the crime.
The petitioners pray and request that Parliament proceed immediately with amendments to the Criminal Code that will ensure the sentence given to anyone convicted of driving while impaired or causing injury or death while impaired reflects both the severity of the crime and zero tolerance toward this crime.
Impaired Driving December 2nd, 1996
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak in complete support of Motion No. 78, that the government should consider strengthening penalties in those sections of the Criminal Code that deal with impaired driving offences. I am honoured to speak on this motion immediately after the mover, the hon. member for Prince George-Bulkley Valley who gave an excellent speech. I have always been of the firm conviction that if it makes sense I will support it. This motion makes a lot of sense.
I feel it is important to state that this issue goes beyond our party lines. The fact that this motion was introduced by the hon. member for Prince George-Bulkley Valley of the Reform Party, supposedly my opponent, has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that strengthening penalties for those who commit an impaired driving offence is a good idea.
I previously supported the hon. member's bill, Bill C-201, which called for amending the minimum sentence of seven years for impaired driving causing death. Although, unfortunately, that bill was narrowly defeated, I believe this motion will accomplish the same principle.
Drunk driving is a very serious offence. It is high time that our courts have a tool to discipline and deter an offence which often ends in death. People, especially young people, are dying every day due to impaired driving and we have to try to stop it.
Recently the Ontario government attempted to crack down on drunk driving offences by imposing an automatic 90 day licence suspension for drivers who blow over the legal alcohol limit or who refuse a breathalyser test. This is a step in the right direction, but it certainly does not go far enough. These drivers can easily appeal on the grounds of mistaken identity or the inability to give a breath sample for medical reasons. Besides that, a 90 day suspension is an administrative tool for the government and does not act as a real deterrent. We need to impose a sentence which will make an impaired driver think twice about getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.
I come from a rural part of southwestern Ontario and I am sad to say that I often see the reality of impaired driving close to home. Where there is an absence of public transportation or taxi cabs, young and old alike will often get into their vehicles after a night out and attempt to drive the dark, back country roads. I am sad to say that I have often witnessed horrific accidents due to drunk driving right on the corner of my property. That is not to say this is exclusively a rural problem. Nevertheless, without any alternative form of transportation we have to send a clear message to people in rural Canada that driving drunk is dangerous, if not deadly.
It is my belief that the sections of the Criminal Code dealing with impaired driving do not act as a sufficient deterrent. Currently there is a 14 year maximum sentence available for impaired driving causing death. How often is it imposed? It is similar to our old gun laws, some of the toughest in the world, but never enforced by a lenient justice system. Indeed, most sentences are for one or two years, even with a previous conviction. It is a joke.
The hon. member for Prince George-Bulkley Valley once told me of a sad story in his riding where three family members were killed by a drunk driver with previous convictions who was sentenced only to three and a half years. People are justifiably outraged by these kinds of sentences. They do not at all reflect the views and the concerns of average Canadians.
In the United States the transportation research board has suggested a tough crackdown on repeat drunk drivers, which would include impounding vehicles and police stakeouts of people convicted of driving under the influence. The board's committee said that current policies in Canada have been effective in discouraging most people from drinking and driving. However, there remains a group of persistent drunk drivers who do not appear to be deterred by the threat of social disapproval or legal punishment.
According to the report, repeat offenders are four times more likely than other drivers to take part in a fatal traffic accident. Twelve per cent of drivers involved in alcohol related crashes had at least one prior conviction. An interesting study in the New England Journal of Medicine in August 1994 entitled ``The risk of dying in alcohol related automobile crashes among habitual drivers'' came up with some revealing conclusions.
The scientists linked about 3,000 drivers to their driver history files. The study showed that aggressive intervention in the cases of people arrested for driving while impaired may decrease the likelihood of a future fatal alcohol related crash.
In the United States, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among people between the ages of one to 34. Almost 50 per cent of all traffic fatalities are related to alcohol. Furthermore, 40 per cent of the people in the U.S. will be involved in an alcohol related crash at some time during their lives.
Similar figures are available for Canada. In 1994 87,838 people were charged with impaired driving. More astonishing is that in 1994, 1,414 people were killed as a result of impaired driving, which is three times higher than our murder rate.
The government has fervently committed itself to imposing gun control to help reduce crimes committed using a gun. Unfortunately it is a lot easier to get a driver's licence than to get a gun licence and according to these statistics a car is even more of a lethal weapon.
It seems that the attorney general of Ontario, Mr. Charles Harnick agrees with me. He says: "Drinking and driving is the number one cause of criminal death and injury in our society, and alcohol is the greatest single factor contributing to automobile accidents in Ontario". But this problem goes beyond the borders of Ontario. It is a national issue. Transport Canada found that there were 113,731 injuries as a result of impaired driving accidents. To make it more clear, that means there are 3.8 deaths and 311 injuries per day, due to drunk driving.
Last week the government introduced some tough legislation to crack down on smoking. The principal incentive was the cost to the health system. Everybody knows that smoking inevitably leads to ill health. But if everyone knew that just one fatal drunk driving accident costs the Canadian taxpayer $390,000, I think more people would be up in arms about the high cost of getting behind the wheel after drinking. If this is not a very serious national issue, I do not know what is.
Motion No. 78 is worthy of the support of members of all sides of the House. We are here to represent our constituents as well as the betterment of all Canadians. I truly believe that toughening the Criminal Code to crack down on impaired drivers would benefit every Canadian.
I remind my colleagues that partisan politics have no place in Private Members' Business. This is a votable motion and I will certainly be voting in its favour.
My brother-in-law was in a Scandinavian country, I cannot recall which country it was, but the law there stated that if you are picked up with the smell of alcohol on your breath, it is an automatic one-year suspension of your licence. If you are charged the second time you lose your licence for life. I think our laws, in comparison, are very lenient.
As I mentioned previously, within one mile in my area, more than five people have been killed because of impaired driving. I live on a dead end road where there is very little traffic. However, it is sad to meet the families of these people who were killed in these accidents. It never leaves them.
I appreciate the opportunity to be able to speak on this bill.
Trade November 25th, 1996
Mr. Speaker, last week we were honoured by the visit of Chilean President Mr. Eduardo Frei. As chair of the Canada-Chile Friendship Group, I am proud that Mr. Frei's first visit to Canada is in tandem with the signing of a very important bilateral trade agreement.
Chile is a thriving democracy whose similarities with Canada go beyond geographical beauty. In an era of worldwide trade, our relations with Chile are a stepping stone to more trade negotiations with other countries in our hemisphere.
I am certain that the agreement with Chile will benefit Canadians from coast to coast. This trade agreement will make it much easier for Chile to one day enter into NAFTA.
I am sure I speak for many of my colleagues by congratulating the Prime Minister and the Minister for International Trade for signing this free trade agreement with the people of Chile.