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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was legislation.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Brampton West (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 35.00% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 21st, 2011

With regard to ecoENERGY projects in Nunavut: (a) what is the description of each project; (b) what is the expected cost of each project; and (c) what is the expected completion date of each project?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 21st, 2011

With regard to Recreational Infrastructure Canada projects in Ontario: (a) in which federal riding is each project located; (b) what is the description of each project; (c) what is the expected cost of each project; and (d) what is the expected completion date of each project?

Questions on the Order Paper March 21st, 2011

With regard to Recreational Infrastructure Canada projects in Saskatchewan: (a) in which federal riding is each project located; (b) what is the description of each project; (c) what is the expected cost of each project; and (d) what is the expected completion date of each project?

Questions on the Order Paper March 21st, 2011

With regard to Recreational Infrastructure Canada projects in Manitoba: (a) in which federal riding is each project located; (b) what is the description of each project; (c) what is the expected cost of each project; and (d) what is the expected completion date of each project?

Abolition of Early Parole Act February 16th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my friend on his very lucid analysis of the current situation.

Last night, in public safety committee, we heard from experts on two main points.

The first point was that victims would not helped by the bill at all. There are things that should be included, such as restitution, increased sentences, tax relief and those sorts of programs, but they have been ignored by both the Bloc and the Conservatives. The second point is women would be disproportionately affected negatively by these provisions.

Could my friend comment on why the Conservatives and the Bloc have ignored that and the women who would be affected?

Abolition of Early Parole Act February 15th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, we could have started with the Conservatives proposing that the public safety committee study this as a topic. They could have done that a long time ago. They could have done that before the first prorogation; they could have done that before the second prorogation. We had lots of time to do that, but they chose not to.

The Conservatives chose to wipe out the legislative slates twice and to reintroduce legislation. There was lots of time this House had to consider criminal justice legislation. However, after they voted against the Liberal amendments in the fall of last year, which would have stopped Mr. Lacroix, the public outcry was so strong that they and the Bloc, who both voted against the amendments, think they have to do something by invoking undemocratic closure.

Abolition of Early Parole Act February 15th, 2011

Obviously, discussions on the setting of agendas are in camera. To be honourable, we are not supposed to speak about that in the House of Commons and I am not going to violate that honour.

I will say that when it comes to setting the committee's agenda, we have divided it up approximately 50% between what the government wants to do and what the opposition wants to do. The government does not seem to be happy with that, which I understand because the government is trying to invoke closure and does not have much respect for the democratic process. The government thinks that maybe it should have 75% or 100% of the agenda rather than the 50%, which is actually more than the government's weight in the House of Commons.

Why does my colleague not think that studying something like the G8 and G20 summits is relevant? Does he think Canadians do not want to know why $1.2 billion was wasted in circumstances where London, England, spent $50,000 for security? Why would Canadians not want to know what the witnesses have admitted in saying that the government spent an extra $200 million because it divided the summit between Huntsville and Toronto, which was totally unnecessary?

Canadians have the right to know that the government chose to spend $200 million more by dividing it for political reasons.

Abolition of Early Parole Act February 15th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party believes in protecting Canadians, but there are two ways to do that. The government is focusing simply on damage control after the fact, after defeating the amendments in the justice committee last week, and now trying to change the parole rules.

Where is the money for enforcement? Where is the money for investigation? Why have the Conservatives cut money from the RCMP? Why do they ignore all of this?

My friend is right. Today when we were questioning the RCMP, we heard about further cuts to the RCMP. If we want our national police service to investigate these white-collar criminals and prevent them in the first place, which I would suggest is the first goal, then why are there continual cuts to these police services? Is it because the Conservatives do not have enough money? Then how about the $6 billion in tax cuts?

Abolition of Early Parole Act February 15th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, absolutely, it makes sense to consider the entire justice bill and legislation with regard to protecting victims in these circumstances. Rather than dealing with early parole provision on an alleged emergency basis and invoking undemocratic closure, why are we not considering mandatory restitution orders, like in the United States or other jurisdictions, so these victims do not have to spend money on lawyers, or go to court and sue companies?

With regard to Earl Jones, where is the money? Why is there not a mandatory restitution order against him now so the victims know they can attach his assets? Why do they have to sue?

The maximum sentence for these types of crimes is 14 years. Why is the law not stronger? Where is the enforcement and investigation moneys that the government could put in? Why is the focus simply after the fact? I will tell the members why. Last fall the Conservatives and the Bloc voted in the justice committee to defeat the Liberal amendments that would have stopped this.

Abolition of Early Parole Act February 15th, 2011

A minister just asked off mic, “Who is hiding what?” What is the government hiding in terms of the cost?

We will go to the public safety committee tonight after we have the vote on the bill, which will be successful, based on the coalition between the Conservatives and the Bloc. We will be sitting for four hours, until 11 p.m. or later. The way the motion is worded, if the amendments and study are not done within that period of time, the bill will be reported back to the House without any amendments.

They have already told the committee, “It does not matter what you do. It does not matter what you say. You have a certain amount of time and if we do not like what you are doing, the bill will come back to the House and will become law. So you are wasting your time anyway”.

We can go to the committee. The Conservatives can filibuster or there could be amendments, or no amendments, or whatever. We all know the bill will come back to the House. We all know that the coalition between the Conservatives and the Bloc will rush this bill through the House of Commons without proper consideration.

What are the costs? How much will this cost? They will not say. Tonight, in the public safety committee, I will be asking those questions. I will be asking: What will this cost? Why are we doing this? Why are we doing this now? What are the social implications of changing this law at this stage?

Maybe this is a good thing to do. Maybe the legislation as it is currently written should not be changed. Maybe the legislation should be changed slightly. The point is, Canadians will not have the opportunity to have their elected representatives provide that sober second thought in committee and in Parliament through proper debate, because the executive branch of government, supported by the Bloc, has invoked closure. In essence they are stopping the elected representatives of the Canadian people from properly considering this legislation in circumstances where there is no urgency.

I challenge the government. Why did it not do this for other measures? Where was closure invoked when it came to the economic crisis in Canada? We have had the worst economic situation in Canadian history since the depression. Where was closure invoked to help the Canadian people? Where was closure invoked for EI changes?

In March 2009 a motion was passed by the Parliament of Canada calling for EI changes to help Canadians weather the storm. The government ignored the motion, of course, which also is anti-democratic. There have been a number of instances. Paul Kennedy, Ms. Keen and a whole bunch of people who do not agree with the government are fired or their terms are not renewed, which is all anti-democratic. It is a pattern with the government.

We are in a situation where we will examine a piece of legislation under a gun tonight. We already know it will pass. We already know that amendments will not be passed. We will be faced with this without even knowing what we are doing.

If a closure motion is supposed to be for urgent matters, why have the Conservatives used it for this and only this and only after they refused to pass the amendments the Liberals suggested last fall? Those amendments would have prevented Mr. Lacroix from getting early parole. They could have done that then, but they did not.

After people found out they did not do that and Mr. Lacroix was released, now it is urgent to deal with the situation and invoke closure and anti-democratic processes. Once again, if the Conservatives like doing this and they say it is urgent, why do they never do it on economic issues? If they like to use an anti-democratic process to help Canadians, to protect Canadians, to take care of Canadians, why have they never used this when people are suffering, are unemployed, lack health care and pensions?

How about the Nortel pensioners? Let us talk about them for a moment. When they lost their pensions and medical coverage and did not get help in terms of bankruptcy proceedings, why did the Conservatives not invoke closure to help them? The Conservatives in the Senate were defeating that legislation because they did not care.

Where is the closure on other issues? It is not used on anything else. There are urgent matters that Canadians need to deal with. Rather than spending yesterday and today debating closure on a non-urgent piece of criminal justice legislation, why are the Conservatives not dealing with economic issues? We have the largest deficit in Canadian history. Why were we not discussing that yesterday and today? The cost of living is going up exponentially. Why are we not discussing that and how to help productivity?

We have the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs which have been replaced with temporary, part-time jobs, or as I referred to yesterday, McJobs. Why are we not discussing job creation plans?

We experience embarrassment on the international stage. There is the situation with the UAE and the environmental conferences where we have received Fossil of the Year awards two years in a row. Why are we not discussing environmental issues on an urgent basis?

If the Conservatives love this anti-democratic procedure, there are many issues on which closure could have been invoked. However, they are invoking closure as a form of damage control. They are trying to tell Quebeckers and other Canadians that they are upset that Mr. Lacroix was released early, but they are not, because they had a chance last fall to stop that. They could have accepted the Liberals' amendments in justice committee, as I mentioned, but they refused to do that. So, what is the urgency of this situation?

In terms of what has occurred since the comments I made yesterday, I now have a letter from the Quebec bar. I will read this letter into the record. It is addressed to the Minister of Public Safety, and as a member of the public safety committee, it was forwarded to me. It is with respect to the bill and it reads as follows:

The Quebec Bar would like to state its opposition to Bill C-59 concerning accelerated parole and conditional release, which you introduced in the House of Commons on February 9.

I will pick up on that point. February 9, 2011 is when the bill was introduced. This is not something that has been languishing for two years.

The earlier bill, Bill C-39, died with the prorogation. We had two prorogations that wiped the slate clean of all legislation that could have been invoked and in law earlier. Without those two prorogations, this would have been addressed and that law would have been amended a long time ago, rather than continually reintroducing the same bills in the House of Commons. It is an anti-democratic part of the pattern of the government.

Going back to the letter, it states:

Firstly, the Bar is opposed to the retroactive effect of the proposed legislation. Like the Association des avocats en droit carcéral du Québec, we would like to point out that some people chose to plead guilty after considering the advantages of accelerated parole. Changing the sentencing rules after these people have made their decisions and their choices is unfair and opens the door to constitutional challenges.

Forget for the moment whether one agrees with that paragraph or not. That is not even the point of today's closure vote and the debate that took place yesterday. The point is there is an issue that needs to be discussed. We need experts to speak about whether the retroactive provisions are constitutional according to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution of Canada.

Yes, they do constrain the government. Conservatives may not like to think that, but they do. Experts should be testifying before the committee as to whether they are constitutional. If there is any reasonable doubt as to whether the provisions are constitutional, they should be either left out or there should be a reference made to the Supreme Court of Canada to let us know if they are.

It is absolutely unfair for the government to force people who have agreed to plea bargains to hire lawyers, spend money on legal fees, go to court and eventually seek a final ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada, if they can afford it, just to find out whether these provisions are constitutional. The minister has an obligation to provide an opinion and consider whether these provisions are constitutional, but how can that be done in a responsible manner when the government has invoked closure, there has been no debate and no witnesses have testified.

Based on the individuals on the witness list for tonight, which we have not heard from yet, I would be very surprised if testimony will be provided during the four hours allowed for the debate. I would be very surprised if anybody will have the expertise to comment about the constitutionality of these provisions.

In essence, the government is saying that it does not care and that it is going to invoke closure. It knows it made a mistake. It should have passed the Liberal amendments last fall that would have prevented Mr. Lacroix from being released. However, it did not do that, neither did the Bloc. They both voted against the amendments. Now it is trying to do something about it.

We are in a situation now where we will have a very short debate with no sober second thought and no proper consideration. Even if there is and even if the committee does not agree, it will come back within four hours anyway. It will be reported back to the House and then further amendments can be filed until 3 a.m. It sounds very urgent, but there is no urgency. The urgency was last fall when it was ignored and the Liberal amendments were defeated.

If this were urgent in those circumstances, why has the government not done the same for economic matters? The people listening at home, those who have lost their jobs, or their houses or cannot afford their mortgages or pay for their kids' various extracurricular activities, might ask why the government has not invoked closure on some type of economic legislation to help them.

Why is one-third or more of the government's entire agenda “law and order” when all empirical objective experts have said, for a repeated number of years, that crime rates have gone down? Why is the government trying to make people think that crime rates are going up and that it is taking steps to protect them when that is not what is occurring?

Today I had the honour of reading a statement into the House. Another example is Bill C-5, the international transfer of offenders act. Last week the Minister of Public Safety stood in the House of Commons during question period and criticized the Liberal Party for opposing provisions of that legislation, which deals with the transfer of Canadians incarcerated abroad who seek to apply to be transferred back directly to a Canadian prison. It is from prison in a foreign country for a crime committed in a foreign country against a foreign citizen to a Canadian prison. The transfer, in most cases, makes sense if people are in a foreign country that does not have proper rehabilitation. In some jurisdictions, I believe even in the United States, foreign citizens cannot get rehabilitation, so they will get nothing.

Since most of these people will be released back into Canadian society anyway, by definition it would be good for them to receive rehabilitation. However, a lot of them will not get it unless they are transferred back to Canada.

A key point is this. If they have committed a crime in a foreign country to a foreign citizen but they are not transferred back to a Canadian prison before their sentence has been completed, then when their sentence is over and completed in the foreign jurisdiction, because they have a Canadian passport, they can come back into Canada, free and clear. They will have no criminal record. There will be no ties upon them in terms of our parole system. It will be like they never committed a crime.

Imagine some of the serious crimes that could have happened abroad and they were incarcerated for them. There will be no record of it in Canada and there will be no ties on them in Canada if we do not bring them back and put them in a Canadian prison before their sentence expires.

Is that not logical to do? Is that not the best thing to do to protect Canadian safety? However, when that question was posed to the Minister of Public Safety last week, rather than answer it, he attacked. That is what the government does.

My colleague from Ajax—Pickering is the recipient of almost daily personal attacks. He asks questions in the House of Commons in a logical and lucid manner, seeking to get intelligent responses, facts and figures, but the government attacks him personally, trying to turn the channel and not responding to its shortcomings in this legislation.

When the Minister of Public Safety was asked the question last week on the international transfer of offenders act, which once again makes perfect sense for the protection of Canadians, his response was to say “You are not thinking about Canadian victims.”

Let us think about that for a moment. He says that we are not thinking about a Canadian victims. This is about Canadians incarcerated in a foreign country for a crime committed in a foreign country to a foreign citizen. In these circumstances, we have asked the government why those people would not be brought back to ensure they have rehabilitation. If they are brought back early, they will then have a Canadian criminal record, they will go through the Canadian parole system and we will have some controls. With that stem, we can ensure we minimize the risk they will commit the same harm to Canadians living here.

Members can check the record, but his response was that we were not thinking about Canadian victims. What is this? It is rhetoric. There is no logic to it. Why can we not get honest responses that deal with the issues? Why can we not have a reasoned debate rather than mudslinging and personal attacks on our Liberal critic for public safety?

I will finish this letter from the Quebec Bar Association. It states:

Secondly, the Quebec Bar believes that before this bill is passed, it should go through the same process as all legislation, including a thorough study of the advantages and disadvantages of the current legislation and an impact study of the proposed changes. The findings of these studies should be made public so that there can be an informed debate on this issue.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Once again, that was a February 15 letter from the Quebec Bar addressed to the Minister of Public Safety, asking for sober second thought, to follow democracy, to consider this and make a responsible decision. Conservatives should not try simply to do something because they failed to pass the Liberal amendments last fall, with the help of the Bloc, which would have stopped Mr. Lacroix from being released.